Hinduism - What Is A Upanishad?


The Vedas, the oldest and most authoritative Hindu sacred writings, have a new textual layer.

The literal translation of the term upanishad is "to sit close [a teacher]," but its actual meaning is "hidden instruction." The Upanishads represent a clear departure from the Brahmanas, the Vedic literature that came before them, in which the primary purpose was to give out the precise processes for completing very intricate sacrificial rituals.

In contrast, the Upanishads were more interested in theoretical and abstract issues, such as the basic character of the universe, the essence of the human person, and their interrelation.

The Upanishads come to the conclusion that the universe's essence is an impersonal reality known as Brahman, and that the human being's essence is known as the "Self" (atman).

The unity of Brahman and atman, and hence of the macrocosm and microcosm, is the basic understanding and primary message of the Upanishads.

This identity is one of the most essential Hindu religious beliefs, and it continues to underpin religious thinking today.

Although the later ones were definitely affected by the older ones, the twelve or thirteen oldest upanishads are a collection of individual writings rather than a unified group.

The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad and the Chandogya Upanishad are the two oldest.

Each one is significantly longer than the others put together; it is presented in prose as a series of conversations between great sages; the Sanskrit language is plainly more ancient in them; and the concepts are embryonic and immature.

The Isha, Kena, Katha, Prashna, and Mandukya are later upanishads that are much shorter, written in verse, and have well-developed ideas.

Some of them establish the concept of theism, but it isn't until the Shvetashvatara Upanishad that the Supreme Being is recognized as a deity, in this instance Rudra, in the Shvetashvatara Upanishad that the Supreme Being is identified as a god.

The Upanishads would have been passed down orally from master to student for most of their existence, making it unlikely that they were widely recognized since they would have been hidden and closely guarded teachings.

The Upanishads are significant for the speculative questions they pose, as well as the fact that many of their teachings are still held to be fundamental assumptions in Hindu religious life today: the concept of an eternal Self that gives a being continuous identity; the concept of reincarnation (samsara) commensurate with one's deeds; the concept that some single unifying power lies behind the world's apparent diversity; and the conviction that this can be attained only through individual realization The Upanishads were crucial in the development of Hindu philosophical systems, notably Advaita Vedanta, which shares this overarching stress on inner realization, as works holding the religious authority of the Vedas.

Robert Ernest Hume (trans. ), Thirteen Principal Upanisads, 1965, contains information on the Upanishads themselves.

Also see philosophy.

~Kiran Atma

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