Hamro dharma

Upanishad 1


The Upanishads are regarded as part of the Vedas and as such form part of the Hindu scriptures. They primarily discuss philosophy, meditation, and the nature of God; they form the core spiritual thought of Vedantic Hinduism. Considered as mystic or spiritual contemplations of the Vedas, their putative end and essence, the Upanishads are known as Vedanta (”the end/culmination of the Vedas”). The Upanishads do not belong to a particular period of Sanskrit literature. The oldest, such as the Brhadaranyaka and Chandogya Upanishads, may date to the Brahmana period (roughly before the 31st century BC; before Gita was constructed), while the youngest, depending on the canon used, may date to the medieval or early modern period.

The word Upanishad comes from the Sanskrit verb sad (to sit) and the two prepositions upa and ni (under and at). They are sacred tests of spiritual and philosophical nature. Vedic literature is divided into karmakanda containing Samhitas (hymns) and Brahmanas (commentaries), and gyanakanda containing knowledge in the form of the Aranyakas and Upanishads. Thus each Upanishad is associated with a Veda, Isha-upanishad with Shukla Yajurveda, Kena-upanishad with Samaveda, and so on.

The earliest Upanishads may have been composed between B.C. 800 and 400.There have been several later additions, leading to 112 Upanishads being available today. But the major Upanishads are ten, Isha, Kena, Kattha, Prashna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittiriya, Aitareya, Shwetashwatara, Chhandogya and Brihadaryanyaka. The teachings of the Upanishads, and those of the Bhagavat Gita, form the basis of the Vedanta philosophy.

The Isha-upanishad emphasizes the identity of the human soul with the divine soul. The Kena-upanishad discusses the qualities of the divine essence (Brahman) and the relationship of the gods to the divine essence. The Katha-upanishad, through the story of Nachiketa, discussed death and the permanence of the soul (Atman). The fairly long Chhandogya-upanishad develops the idea of transmigration of souls. The rihadaryanaka -upanishad, the longest of the Upanishads, bears the message of the completeness of the divine essence, and the associated peace. As literary remnants of the ancient past, the Upanishads � both lucid and elegant – have great literary value.

The Upanishads are a continuation of the Vedic philosophy, and were written between 800 and 400 B.C. They elaborate on how the soul (Atman) can be united with the ultimate truth (Brahman) through contemplation and mediation, as well as the doctrine of Karma– the cumulative effects of a persons’ actions.

Upanishad means the inner or mystic teaching. The term Upanishad is derived from upa (near), ni (down) and s(h)ad (to sit), i.e., sitting down near. Groups of pupils sit near the teacher to learn from him the secret doctrine. In the quietude of the forest hermitages the Upanishad thinkers pondered on the problems of deepest concerns and communicated their knowledge to fit pupils near them. Samkara derives the word Upanishad as a substitute from the root sad, ‘to loosen.’ ‘to reach’ or ‘to destroy’ with Upa and ni as prefixes as termination. If this determination is accepted, Upanishad means Brahma-knowledge by which ignorance is loosened or destroyed. The treatises that deal with brahma-knowledge are called the Upanishads and so pass for the Vedanta. The different derivations together make out that the Upanishads give us both spiritual vision and philosophical argument. There is a core of certainty which is essentially incommunicable except by a way of life. It is by a strictly personal effort that one can reach the truth.

The Upanishads more clearly set forth the prime Vedic doctrines like Self-realization, yoga and meditation, karma and reincarnation, which were hidden or kept veiled under the symbols of the older mystery religion. The older Upanishads are usually affixed to a particularly Veda, through a Brahmana or Aranyaka. The more recent ones are not. The Upanishads became prevalent some centuries before the time of Krishna and Buddha.

The main figure in the Upanishads, though not present in many of them, is the sage Yajnavalkya. Most of the great teachings of later Hindu and Buddhist philosophy derive from him. He taught the great doctrine of “neti-neti”, the view that truth can be found only through the negation of all thoughts about it. Other important Upanishadic sages are Uddalaka Aruni, Shwetaketu, Shandilya, Aitareya, Pippalada, Sanat Kumara. Many earlier Vedic teachers like Manu, Brihaspati, Ayasya and Narada are also found in the Upanishads.

The Upanishads (Devanagari: उपिनषद्, IAST: upaniṣad) are regarded as part of the Vedas and as such form part of the Hindu scriptures. They primarily discuss philosophy, meditation, and the nature of God; they form the core spiritual thought of Vedantic Hinduism. Considered as mystic or spiritual contemplations of the Vedas, their putative end and essence, the Upanishads are known as Vedānta (“the end/culmination of the Vedas”). The Upanishads do not belong to a particular period of Sanskrit literature. The oldest, such as the Brhadaranyaka and Chandogya Upanishads, date to the Brahmana period (roughly before the 7th century BCE; before Gita was constructed), while the youngest were composed in the medieval or early modern period.


The Sanskrit term upaniṣad literally means “sitting down beside”.[1]

Monier-Williams notes that “according to some the sitting down at the feet of another to listen to his words (and hence, secret knowledge given in this manner); but according to native authorities upanishad means ‘setting at rest ignorance by revealing the knowledge of the supreme spirit…”[2] It derives from upa- (near), ni- (down) and sad (to sit), referring to the “sitting down near” a spiritual teacher (guru) in order to receive instruction in the Guru-shishya tradition.

Other dictionary meanings include “esoteric doctrine” and “secret doctrine”.

A gloss of the term upaniṣad based on Shankara‘s commentary on the Kaṭha and Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upanishads equates it with Ātmavidyā, that is “knowledge of the Self“, or Brahmavidyā “knowledge of Brahma”.[citation needed]

[edit] Place in the Hindu canon

Scholars of the Vedic books consider the four Vedas as poetic liturgy, collectively called mantra or samhitā-, adoration and supplication to the deities of Vedic religion, in parts already melded with monist and henotheist notions, and an overarching order (Rta) that transcended even the gods.[citation needed]

The Brāhmana were a collection of ritual instructions, books detailing the priestly functions (which first were available to all men, and so concretized into strictly Brahmin privilege). These came after the Mantra.

Vedanta, is chiefly composed of Āranyakas and Upanishads. The Aranyakas (“of the forest”) detail meditative yogic practices, contemplations of the mystic one and the manifold manifested principles. The Upanishad basically realized all the monist and universal mystical ideas that started in earlier Vedic hymns, and have exerted an influence unprecedented on the rest of Hindu and Indian philosophy.

The philosopher and commentator Shankara (8th century) composed commentaries to eleven Upanishads. These mukhya Upanishads are generally regarded as the oldest ones, spanning the late Vedic and the Mauryan periods. By the 17th century, there was a large number of Upanishads: The Muktika Upanishad (predates 1656) lists 108 Upanishads. The number of Upanishads translated into Persian by Dara Shikoh (d. 1659) is 50. There are also counts that give a total number of Upanishads in excess of 108: Max Müller (1879) is aware of 170, and there are other counts in excess of 200 or even 300. The category of Upanishads has remained somewhat permeable, with the later additions being highly sectarian, perhaps representing “one of the strategies used by sectarian movements to legitimate their own texts through granting them the nominal status of Śruti.”[3]

[edit] Contents

The Taittiriya Upanishad says this in the Ninth Chapter:

He who knows the Bliss of Brahman, whence words together with the mind turn away, unable to reach It? He is not afraid of anything whatsoever. He does not distress himself with the thought: “Why did I not do what is good? Why did I do what is evil?”. Whosoever knows this regards both these as Atman; indeed he cherishes both these as Atman. Such, indeed, is the Upanishad, the secret knowledge of Brahman.

Taittiriya Upanishad Chpt 9 (II-9-1)

The Upanishads hold information on basic Hindu beliefs, including belief in a world soul, a universal spirit, Brahman, and an individual soul, Atman (Smith 10). In Sanskrit, the word Brahman has two genders (masculine, Brahmâ, the creator-god or Brahman, neuter, the Absolute). A variety of lesser gods are seen as aspects of this one divine ground, Brahman (different from Brahma). Brahman is the ultimate, both transcendent and immanent, the absolute infinite existence, the sum total of all that ever is, was, or ever shall be. Shankara‘s exegesis of the Upanishads describes Brahman not as God in the monotheistic sense; he ascribes to it no limiting characteristics, not even those of being and non-being.[citation needed] Thus, Shankara’s philosophy is named advaita, “not two.” Dvaita philosophy is a very different interpretation. Founded by Madhvacharya, this school holds that Brahman is ultimately a personal God, Vishnu, or Krishna (brahmano hi pratisthaham, I am the Foundation of Brahman Bhagavad Gita 14.27). Vishishtadvaita, founded by Ramanujacharya is the third major school of Vedanta, and it has some aspects in common with the other two.

Who is the Knower?
What makes my mind think?
Does life have a purpose, or is it governed by chance?
What is the cause of the Cosmos?


The sages of the Upanishad try to solve these mysteries and seek knowledge of a Reality beyond ordinary knowing. They also show a preoccupation with states of consciousness, and observed and analysed dreams as well as dreamless sleep.

[edit] Philosophy

Due to their mystical nature and intense philosophical bent that does away with all ritual and completely embraces principals of One Brahman and the inner Atman (Self), the Upanishads have a universal feel that has led to their explication in numerous manners, giving birth to the three schools of Vedanta.

The Upanishads are summed up in one phrase तत् त्वं अिस “Tat Tvam Asi” (That thou art) by the Advaita Vedanta and they believe that in the end, the ultimate, formless, inconceivable Brahman is the same as our soul, Atman. We only have to realize it through discrimination.

The Upanishads also contain the first and most definitive explications of aum as the divine word, the cosmic vibration that underlies all existence and contains multiple trinities of being and principles subsumed into its One Self. The Isha says of the Self (Verses 6, 7 & 8 of Isha Upanishad):

Whoever sees all beings in the soul
and the soul in all beings
does not shrink away from this.
In whom all beings have become one with the knowing soul
what delusion or sorrow is there for the one who sees unity?
It has filled all.
It is radiant, incorporeal, invulnerable,
without tendons, pure, untouched by evil.
Wise, intelligent, encompassing, self-existent,
it organizes objects throughout eternity.

Isha Upanishad Verses 6, 7, & 8

Aum Shanti Shanti Shanti” This, too, is found first in the Upanishads, the call for tranquility, for divine stillness, for Peace everlasting.

Dara Shikoh, the Muslim sufi, and son of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, translated the Upanishads in Persian in order to find in it elements of monotheism that might pave the way for a common mystical bond between Islam and Hinduism..

[edit] List of Upanishads

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[edit] “Principal” Upanishads

The following is a list of the eleven “principal” (mukhya) Upanishads that were commented upon[2] by Shankara, and that are accepted as shruti by all Hindus. They are listed with their associated Veda (Rigveda (ṚV), Samaveda (SV), White Yajurveda (ŚYV), Black Yajurveda (KYV), Atharvaveda (AV)).

  1. Aitareya (ṚV)
  2. Bṛhadāraṇyaka (ŚYV)
  3. Īṣa (ŚYV)
  4. Taittirīya (KYV)
  5. Kaṭha (KYV)
  6. Chāndogya (SV)
  7. Kena (SV)
  8. Muṇḍaka (AV)
  9. Māṇḍūkya (AV)
  10. Praśna (AV)
  11. Śvetāśvatara(KYV)

The Kauśītāki and Maitrāyaṇi Upanishads are sometimes added to extend the canon to 13. They are also the oldest Upanishads, likely all of them dating to before the Common Era. From linguistic evidence, the oldest among them are likely the Bṛhadāraṇyaka and Chāndogya Upanishads, belonging to the late Vedic Sanskrit period; the remaining ones are at the transition from Vedic to Classical Sanskrit.

[edit] Canon by Vedic Shakha

The older Upanishads are associated with Vedic Charanas (Shakhas or schools). The Aitareya Upanishad with the Shakala shakha, the Kauśītāki Upanishad with the Bashakala shakha; the Chāndogya Upanishad with the Kauthuma shakha, the Kena Upanishad, and the Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana, with the Jaiminiya shakha; the Kaṭha Upanishad with the Caraka-Katha shakha, the Taittirīya and Śvetāśvatara with the Taittiriya shakha; the Maitrāyaṇi Upanishad with the Maitrayani shakha; the Bṛhadāraṇyaka and Īṣa Upanishads with the Vajasaneyi Madhyandina shakha, and the Māṇḍūkya and Muṇḍaka Upanishads with the Shaunaka shakha. Additionally, parts of earlier texts, of Brahmanas or passages of the Vedas themselves, are sometimes considered Upanishads.

[edit] The Muktika canon

See also: Muktika Upanishad

The Muktika Upanishad contains a list of the 108 canonical Upanishads of the Advaita school, and lists itself as the final one. The first 10 are grouped as mukhya “principal”. 21 are grouped as Sāmānya Vedānta “common Vedanta“, 23 as Sannyāsa, 9 as Shākta, 13 as Vaishnava, 14 as Shaiva and 17 as Yoga Upanishads.[citation needed]

[edit] Shakta Upanishads

For the most part, the canonical Shakta Upanishads are sectarian tracts reflecting doctrinal and interpretative differences between the two principal sects of Srividya upasana (a major Tantric form of Shaktism). As a result, the many extant listings of “authentic” Shakta Upanisads are highly variable as to content, inevitably reflecting the sectarian bias of their compilers:

“Past efforts to construct lists of Shakta Upanisads have left us no closer to understanding either their ‘location’ in Tantric tradition or their place within the Vedic corpus. […] At stake for the Tantric is not the authority of sruti per se, which remains largely undisputed, but rather its correct interpretation. For non-Tantrics, [it is a text’s] Tantric contents that brings into question its identity as an Upanisad. At issue is the text’s classification as sruti and thus its inherent authority as Veda.” [4]

Of the Upanishads listed in the Muktika only nine are classified as Shakta Upanisads. They are here listed with their associated Vedas:

  1. Sītā (AV)
  2. Annapūrṇa (AV)
  3. Devī (AV)
  4. Tripurātapani (AV)
  5. Tripura (RV)
  6. Bhāvana (AV)
  7. Saubhāgya (RV)
  8. Sarasvatīrahasya (KYV)
  9. Bahvṛca (RV)

The list excludes several notable and widely used Shakta Upanisads, including the Kaula Upaniṣad, the Śrīvidyā Upaniṣad and the Śrichakra Upaniṣad.


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