Upanishads RIG VEDIC
* Aitareya * Kaushitaki
* Chandogya * Kena
* Brihadaranyaka * Isha * Taittiriya * Katha * Shvetashvatara * Maitri
* Mundaka * Mandukya * Prashna
* Bhagavad Gita * Agamas
RELATED HINDU TEXTS
Puranas BRAHMA PURANAS
Shastras and sutras
* Chronology of Hindu texts
* v * t * e
THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS INDIC TEXT . Without proper rendering support , you may see question marks or boxes , misplaced vowels or missing conjuncts instead of Indic text.
The UPANISHADS (
Upanishads are commonly referred to as
Vedānta , variously
interpreted to mean either the "last chapters, parts of the Veda " or
"the object, the highest purpose of the Veda". The concepts of
Brahman (ultimate reality) and Ātman (soul, self) are central ideas
in all of the Upanishads, and "know your Ātman" is their thematic
Upanishads are the foundation of
More than 200 Upanishads are known, of which the first dozen or so are the oldest and most important and are referred to as the principal or main (mukhya ) Upanishads. The mukhya Upanishads are found mostly in the concluding part of the Brahmanas and Aranyakas and were, for centuries, memorized by each generation and passed down orally . The early Upanishads all predate the Common Era, five of them in all likelihood pre-Buddhist (6th century BCE), down to the Maurya period . Of the remainder, 95 Upanishads are part of the Muktika canon, composed from about the last centuries of 1st-millennium BCE through about 15th-century CE. New Upanishads, beyond the 108 in the Muktika canon, continued to be composed through the early modern and modern era, though often dealing with subjects which are unconnected to the Vedas.
Along with the
Bhagavad Gita and the
With the translation of the Upanishads in the early 19th century they also started to attract attention from a western audience. Arthur Schopenhauer was deeply impressed by the Upanishads and called it "the production of the highest human wisdom". Modern era Indologists have discussed the similarities between the fundamental concepts in the Upanishads and major western philosophers.
* 1 Etymology
* 2 Development
* 2.1 Authorship * 2.2 Chronology * 2.3 Geography
* 3 Classification
* 4 Association with
* 5 Philosophy
* 5.1 Development of thought * 5.2 Brahman and Atman * 5.3 Reality and Maya
* 6 Schools of Vedanta
* 7 Similarities with Platonic thought * 8 Translations * 9 Reception in the West * 10 See also * 11 Notes * 12 References * 13 Sources * 14 Further reading * 15 External links
The authorship of most Upanishads is uncertain and unknown. Radhakrishnan states, "almost all the early literature of India was anonymous, we do not know the names of the authors of the Upanishads". The ancient Upanishads are embedded in the Vedas, the oldest of Hinduism's religious scriptures, which some traditionally consider to be apauruṣeya , which means "not of a man, superhuman" and "impersonal, authorless". The Vedic texts themselves assert that they were skillfully created by Rishis (sages), after inspired creativity, just as a carpenter builds a chariot.
The various philosophical theories in the early
Upanishads have been
attributed to famous sages such as
There are exceptions to the anonymous tradition of the
other Vedic literature. The
Shvetashvatara Upanishad , for example,
includes closing credits to sage Shvetashvatara, and he is considered
the author of the Upanishad. Scholars believe that early Upanishads,
were interpolated and expanded over time, because of the differences
within manuscripts of the same
Scholars are uncertain about the exact centuries in which the
Upanishads were composed. The chronology of the early
difficult to resolve, states philosopher and
Phillips, because all opinions rest on scanty evidence and analysis
of archaism, style and repetitions across texts, and are driven by
assumptions about likely evolution of ideas, and presumptions about
which philosophy might have influenced which other Indian
Patrick Olivelle says that "in spite of
claims made by some, in reality, any dating of these documents that
attempts a precision closer than a few centuries is as stable as a
house of cards". Some scholars have sought to analyse similarities
* The Brhadaranyaka and the Chandogya are the two earliest Upanishads. They are edited texts, some of whose sources are much older than others. The two texts are pre-Buddhist; they may be placed in the 7th to 6th centuries BCE, give or take a century or so. * The three other early prose Upanishads — Taittiriya , Aitareya , and Kaushitaki come next; all are probably pre-Buddhist and can be assigned to the 6th to 5th centuries BCE. * The Kena is the oldest of the verse Upanisads followed by probably the Katha, Isa, Svetasvatara, and Mundaka. All these Upanisads were composed probably in the last few centuries BCE. * The two late prose Upanisads, the Prasna and the Mandukya, cannot be much older than the beginning of the common era.
Stephen Phillips places the early Upanishads in the 800 to 300 BCE range. He summarizes the current Indological opinion to be that the Brhadaranyaka, Chandogya, Isha, Taittiriya, Aitareya, Kena, Katha, Mundaka, and Prasna Upanishads are all pre-Buddhist and pre-Jain, while Svetasvatara and Mandukya overlap with the earliest Buddhist and Jain literature.
The later Upanishads numbering about 95, also called minor Upanishads, are dated from the late 1st-millennium BCE to mid 2nd-millennium CE. Gavin Flood dates many of the twenty Yoga Upanishads to be probably from the 100 BCE to 300 CE period. Patrick Olivelle and other scholars date seven of the twenty Sannyasa Upanishads to likely have been complete sometime between the last centuries of the 1st-millennium BCE to 300 CE. About half of the Sannyasa Upanishads were likely composed in 14th- to 15th-century CE.
The general area of the composition of the early
northern India, the region bounded on the west by the upper Indus
valley, on the east by lower Ganges region, on the north by the
Himalayan foothills, and on the south by the Vindhya mountain range.
There is confidence about the early
Upanishads being the product of
the geographical center of ancient Brahmanism, comprising the regions
of Kuru -
Videha together with the areas
immediately to the south and west of these. This region covers modern
While significant attempts have been made recently to identify the exact locations of the individual Upanishads, the results are tentative. Witzel identifies the center of activity in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad as the area of Videha, whose king, Janaka, features prominently in the Upanishad.
Chandogya Upanishad was probably composed in a more western than
eastern location in the Indian subcontinent, possibly somewhere in the
western region of the Kuru-
Panchala country. Compared to the
Principal Upanishads, the new
Upanishads recorded in the Muktikā
belong to an entirely different region, probably southern India, and
are considerably relatively recent. In the fourth chapter of the
Kaushitaki Upanishad, a location named Kashi (modern
MUKTIKA CANON: MAJOR AND MINOR UPANISHADS
There are more than 200 known Upanishads, one of which,
Upanishad, predates 1656 CE and contains a list of 108 canonical
Upanishads, including itself as the last. The earliest ones such as
the Brihadaranyaka and
Upanishads date to the early
centuries of the 1st millennium BCE, and the latest to around the mid
2nd-millennium CE during a period of Islamic invasions and political
instability. Various scholars include the earliest 10, 11, 12 or 13
Mukhya (major) or
Principal Upanishads , all composed in
the 1st-milliennium BCE. The remainder 95 to 98 are called "minor
Upanishads", and were likely composed between the last centuries of
the 1st-millennium BCE and about mid 2nd-millennium CE. These are
further divided into
Upanishads associated with
Sannyasa (renunciation, monastic life),
Some of the
Upanishads are categorized as "sectarian" since they
present their ideas through a particular god or goddess of a specific
The Aitareya, Kauṣītaki and Taittirīya
Upanishads may date to as
early as the mid 1st millennium BCE, while the remnant date from
between roughly the 4th to 1st centuries BCE, roughly contemporary
with the earliest portions of the
Each of the principal
Upanishads can be associated with one of the
schools of exegesis of the four
Rig Veda Only one recension Shakala Aitareya
Sama Veda Only one recension Kauthuma Chāndogya
Shukla Yajur Veda Vajasaneyi Madhyandina Isha and Bṛhadāraṇyaka
Atharva Two recensions Shaunaka Māṇḍūkya and Muṇḍaka
Paippalada Prashna Upanishad
There is no fixed list of the Upanishads as newer ones, beyond the Muktika anthology of 108 Upanishads, have continued to be discovered and composed. In 1908, for example, four previously unknown Upanishads were discovered in newly found manuscripts, and these were named Bashkala, Chhagaleya, Arsheya, and Saunaka, by Friedrich Schrader , who attributed them to the first prose period of the Upanishads. The text of three of them, namely the Chhagaleya, Arsheya, and Saunaka, were incomplete and inconsistent, likely poorly maintained or corrupted.
The main Shakta Upanishads, for example, mostly discuss doctrinal and interpretative differences between the two principal sects of a major Tantric form of Shaktism called Shri Vidya upasana . The many extant lists of authentic Shakta Upaniṣads vary, reflecting the sect of their compilers, so that they yield no evidence of their "location" in Tantric tradition, impeding correct interpretation. The Tantra content of these texts also weaken its identity as an Upaniṣad for non-Tantrikas. Sectarian texts such as these do not enjoy status as shruti and thus the authority of the new Upanishads as scripture is not accepted in Hinduism.
ASSOCIATION WITH VEDAS
Upanishads are associated with one of the four Vedas—
Yajurveda (there are two primary versions or Samhitas of
the Yajurveda: Shukla
Muktikā Upanishad's list of 108
Upanishads groups the first 13
as mukhya , 21 as Sāmānya
Vedānta , 20 as
Sannyāsa , 14 as
Vaishnava , 12 as
Shaiva , 8 as
Shakta , and 20 as
Ṛigveda 10 Aitareya , Kauśītāki Ātmabodha , Mudgala Nirvāṇa Tripura , Saubhāgya-lakshmi , Bahvṛca - Akṣamālika Nādabindu
Shukla Yajurveda 19 Bṛhadāraṇyaka , Īśa Subala , Mantrika , Niralamba , Paingala , Adhyatma , Muktika Jābāla , Paramahaṃsa , Bhikṣuka , Turīyātītavadhuta , Yājñavalkya , Śāṭyāyaniya - Tārasāra - Advayatāraka , Haṃsa , Triśikhi , Maṇḍalabrāhmaṇa
Atharvaveda 31 Muṇḍaka , Māṇḍūkya , Praśna Ātmā , Sūrya , Prāṇāgnihotra Āśrama, Nārada-parivrājaka , Paramahaṃsa parivrājaka , Parabrahma Sītā , Devī , Tripurātapini , Bhāvana Nṛsiṃhatāpanī , Mahānārāyaṇa (Tripād vibhuti) , Rāmarahasya , Rāmatāpaṇi , Gopālatāpani , Kṛṣṇa , Hayagrīva , Dattātreya , Gāruḍa Atharvasiras , Atharvaśikha , Bṛhajjābāla , Śarabha , Bhasma , Gaṇapati Śāṇḍilya , Pāśupata , Mahāvākya
Total Upanishads 108 13 21 19 8 14 13 20
The Upanishadic age was characterized by a pluralism of worldviews.
Upanishads have been deemed 'monistic', others, including
Katha Upanishad , are dualistic . The Maitri is one of the
Upanishads that inclines more toward dualism, thus grounding classical
Upanishads include sections on philosophical theories that have
been at the foundation of Indian traditions. For example, the
Chandogya Upanishad includes one of the earliest known declaration of
DEVELOPMENT OF THOUGHT
Part of a series on
* SAMKHYA * YOGA * NYAYA * VAISHESHIKA * MIMAMSA
* CHARVAKA * ĀJīVIKA * BUDDHISM * JAINISM
* Shaiva : Pratyabhijña * Pashupata * Siddhanta
TEACHERS (Acharyas )
ACHINTYA BHEDA ABHEDA
* Kanada , Prashastapada
------------------------- SHASTRAS AND SUTRAS
* Hinduism * Other Indian philosophies
* v * t * e
While the hymns of the
Kaushitaki Upanishad asserts that "external rituals such as
Agnihotram offered in the morning and in the evening, must be replaced
with inner Agnihotram, the ritual of introspection", and that "not
rituals, but knowledge should be one's pursuit". The Mundaka
The performance of all the sacrifices, described in the
Maitrayana-Brahmana, is to lead up in the end to a knowledge of
Brahman, to prepare a man for meditation. Therefore, let such man,
after he has laid those fires, meditate on the Self, to become
complete and perfect. — Maitri
The opposition to the ritual is not explicit in the oldest Upanishads. On occasions, the Upanishads extend the task of the Aranyakas by making the ritual allegorical and giving it a philosophical meaning. For example, the Brihadaranyaka interprets the practice of horse-sacrifice or ashvamedha allegorically. It states that the over-lordship of the earth may be acquired by sacrificing a horse. It then goes on to say that spiritual autonomy can only be achieved by renouncing the universe which is conceived in the image of a horse.
In similar fashion, Vedic gods such as the Agni, Aditya, Indra,
Rudra, Visnu, Brahma, and others become equated in the
the supreme, immortal, and incorporeal Brahman-Atman of the
Upanishads, god becomes synonymous with self, and is declared to be
everywhere, inmost being of each human being and within every living
creature. The one reality or ekam sat of the
According to Jayatilleke, the thinkers of Upanishadic texts can be
grouped into two categories. One group, which includes early
Upanishads along with some middle and late Upanishads, were composed
by metaphysicians who used rational arguments and empirical experience
to formulate their speculations and philosophical premises. The second
group includes many middle and later Upanishads, where their authors
professed theories based on yoga and personal experiences. Yoga
philosophy and practice, adds Jayatilleke, is "not entirely absent in
the Early Upanishads". The development of thought in these
Upanishadic theories contrasted with Buddhism, since the Upanishadic
inquiry assumed there is a soul (Atman ), while
BRAHMAN AND ATMAN
Two concepts that are of paramount importance in the Upanishads are Brahman and Atman . The Brahman is the ultimate reality and the Atman is individual self (soul). Brahman is the material, efficient, formal and final cause of all that exists. It is the pervasive, genderless, infinite, eternal truth and bliss which does not change, yet is the cause of all changes. Brahman is "the infinite source, fabric, core and destiny of all existence, both manifested and unmanifested, the formless infinite substratum and from which the universe has grown". Brahman in Hinduism, states Paul Deussen , as the "creative principle which lies realized in the whole world".
The word Atman means the inner self, the soul, the immortal spirit in an individual, and all living beings including animals and trees. Ātman is a central idea in all the Upanishads , and "Know your Ātman" their thematic focus. These texts state that the inmost core of every person is not the body, nor the mind, nor the ego, but Atman – "soul" or "self". Atman is the spiritual essence in all creatures, their real innermost essential being. It is eternal, it is ageless. Atman is that which one is at the deepest level of one's existence.
Atman is the predominantly discussed topic in the Upanishads, but
they express two distinct, somewhat divergent themes. Some state that
Brahman (Highest Reality, Universal Principle,
Being-Consciousness-Bliss) is identical with Atman, while others state
Atman is part of
Brahman but not identical. This ancient debate
flowered into various dual, non-dual theories in Hinduism. The
The idea put forth by the Upanishadic seers that Atman and Brahman are one and the same is one of the greatest contributions made to the thought of the world.
REALITY AND MAYA
Main article: Maya (illusion)
Two different types of the non-dual Brahman-Atman are presented in the Upanishads, according to Mahadevan. The one in which the non-dual Brahman-Atman is the all inclusive ground of the universe and another in which empirical, changing reality is an appearance (Maya).
The Upanishads describe the universe, and the human experience, as an interplay of Purusha (the eternal, unchanging principles, consciousness) and Prakṛti (the temporary, changing material world, nature). The former manifests itself as Ātman (soul, self), and the latter as Māyā . The Upanishads refer to the knowledge of Atman as "true knowledge" (Vidya), and the knowledge of Maya as "not true knowledge" (Avidya, Nescience, lack of awareness, lack of true knowledge).
Hendrick Vroom explains, "the term Maya has been translated as 'illusion,' but then it does not concern normal illusion. Here 'illusion' does not mean that the world is not real and simply a figment of the human imagination. Maya means that the world is not as it seems; the world that one experiences is misleading as far as its true nature is concerned." According to Wendy Doniger , "to say that the universe is an illusion (māyā) is not to say that it is unreal; it is to say, instead, that it is not what it seems to be, that it is something constantly being made. Māyā not only deceives people about the things they think they know; more basically, it limits their knowledge."
In the Upanishads, Māyā is the perceived changing reality and it co-exists with Brahman which is the hidden true reality. Maya, or "illusion", is an important idea in the Upanishads, because the texts assert that in the human pursuit of blissful and liberating self-knowledge, it is Maya which obscures, confuses and distracts an individual.
SCHOOLS OF VEDANTA
The Upanishads form one of the three main sources for all schools of Vedanta, together with the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahmasutras . Due to the wide variety of philosophical teachings contained in the Upanishads, various interpretations could be grounded on the Upanishads. The schools of Vedānta seek to answer questions about the relation between atman and Brahman, and the relation between Brahman and the world. The schools of Vedanta are named after the relation they see between atman and Brahman:
* According to Advaita
Vedanta , there is no difference.
* According to
Other schools of Vedanta include Nimbarka's Dvaitadvaita, Vallabha's Suddhadvaita and Chaitanya's Acintya Bhedabheda. The philosopher Adi Sankara has provided commentaries on 11 mukhya Upanishads.
Advaita literally means non-duality, and it is a monistic system of
thought. It deals with the non-dual nature of
Brahman and Atman .
Advaita is considered the most influential sub-school of the Vedanta
Shankara in his discussions of the Advaita
referred to the early
Upanishads to explain the key difference between
Hinduism and Buddhism, stating that
Hinduism asserts that Atman (soul,
self) exists, whereas
* "Prajñānam brahma" - "Consciousness is Brahman" (Aitareya
Although there are a wide variety of philosophical positions
propounded in the Upanishads, commentators since
The second school of
Vedanta is the Vishishtadvaita, which was
Ramanuja (1017–1137 CE).
Ramanuja disagreed with Adi
Shankara and the Advaita school. Visistadvaita is a synthetic
philosophy bridging the monistic Advaita and theistic
The third school of
Vedanta called the
According to the
SIMILARITIES WITH PLATONIC THOUGHT
Several scholars have recognised parallels between the philosophy of
Various mechanisms for such a transmission of knowledge have been
However other scholars, such as Arthur Berriedale Keith , J. Burnet and A.R. Wadia , believe that the two systems developed independently. They note that there is no historical evidence of the philosophers of the two schools meeting, and point out significant differences in the stage of development, orientation and goals of the two philosophical systems. Wadia writes that Plato's metaphysics were rooted in this life and his primary aim was to develop an ideal state. In contrast, Upanishadic focus was the individual, the self (atman, soul), self-knowledge, and the means of an individual's moksha (freedom, liberation in this life or after-life).
Upanishads have been translated into various languages including
Persian , Italian ,
Anquetil Duperron , a French Orientalist received a manuscript of the
Oupanekhat and translated the Persian version into French and Latin,
The first German translation appeared in 1832 and Roer's English
version appeared in 1853. However, Max Mueller's 1879 and 1884
editions were the first systematic English treatment to include the 12
Principal Upanishads. Other major translations of the
been by Robert Ernest Hume (13 Principal Upanishads), Paul Deussen
RECEPTION IN THE WEST
German 19th century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer , impressed by the Upanishads, called the texts "the production of the highest human wisdom".
The German philosopher
Arthur Schopenhauer read the
It has been the solace of my life, it will be the solace of my death.
Another German philosopher, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling , praised the ideas in the Upanishads, as did others. In the United States, the group known as the Transcendentalists were influenced by the German idealists. Americans, such as Emerson and Thoreau embraced Schelling's interpretation of Kant 's Transcendental idealism , as well as his celebration of the romantic, exotic, mystical aspect of the Upanishads. As a result of the influence of these writers, the Upanishads gained renown in Western countries.
The poet T. S. Eliot , inspired by his reading of the Upanishads, based the final portion of his famous poem The Waste Land (1922) upon one of its verses. According to Eknath Easwaran , the Upanishads are snapshots of towering peaks of consciousness.
Juan Mascaró , a professor at the University of Barcelona and a
translator of the Upanishads, states that the
Paul Deussen in his review of the Upanishads, states that the texts
emphasize Brahman-Atman as something that can experienced, but not
defined. This view of the soul and self are similar, states Deussen,
to those found in the dialogues of
There is not what could be called a philosophical system in these
Upanishads. They are, in the true sense of the word, guesses at truth,
frequently contradicting each other, yet all tending in one direction.
The key-note of the old
Upanishads is "know thyself," but with a much
deeper meaning than that of the γνῶθι σεαυτόν of the
Delphic Oracle . The "know thyself" of the
Upanishads means, know thy
true self, that which underlines thine Ego, and find it and know it in
the highest, the eternal Self, the One without a second, which
underlies the whole world. —
* Hinduism portal
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