This book is the only comprehensive introduction to Advaita Vedanta that traces the history of this tradition by means of primary sources. The sources (in translation) are drawn from Sanskrit texts by some of the most important Advaitic thinkers. The editors have filled in the appropriate background materials to make this a book through which readers can understand Advaita Vedanta both in terms of cultural history and philosophy. The book reveals the classical form of this great tradition of thought showing how it actually functioned in Indian culture and demonstrates its distinctive philosophical achievements. Most often associated with the great 9th century sage Sankara, Advaita Vedanta is the most important and influential school of philosophy in India. However, unlike Western philosophy, the goal of this Indian wisdom tradition is spiritual liberation in life. The translations in THE ESSENTIAL VEDANTA are representative of the major traditional Sanskrit writings on this ancient but vibrant system of thought.