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Upanishads

Upanishads

The Upanishads, literally teachings received while sitting at the feet of a master, are a set of writings produced in the first millennium B.C.E. in India, which had been the most important in defining the general perspective of that set of religions generally referred to as Hinduism. Transmitted to the West in the nineteenth century, they became a major source for contemporary belief in karma and reincarnation, and through Theosophy were integrated into the teaching of Western occult thought.

The first era of Indian thought was built around the Vedas, writings which suggest that India's ancient culture was built around the celebration of nature, the activity of the deities in the world, and the propitiation of the gods in acts of devotion, temple sacrifice, and the following of rules. The Upanishads represent a radical shift in perspective that developed around 1000 B.C.E. The authors of the Upanishads launched a search for the unifying reality behind the visible universe.

There are 13 Principle Upanishads, which summarize the whole of the teachings, and numerous lesser supportive documents. They critique the Vedas and are often referred to as the Vedanta, or "end of the Vedas. " Rather than outward acts of temple worship, the Upanishads call for an inward search for the ultimate principle of reality (called Brahman) and a mystical union with that principle. Brahman is the source of the visible world that goes through a continuous process of being created, sustained, and destroyed. Brahman is hidden by maya (illusion), that aspect of the world that conceals reality from us.

The essential mystical insight offered by the Upanishads is the identification of Brahman with Atman. Atman is the essential core of the individual self. The implication is that to reach the inner essence of oneself is to discover ultimate reality. It is upon this identification that disciplines of concentration and meditation and ultimately the practice of yoga are based.

According to the Upanishads, individuals are trapped in maya. Lost in maya, we face a continuous series of incarnations, the exact nature of any incarnation being the result of the consequences of actions in prior lives (karma). To escape maya one must focus upon reality, the yogic path being the ideal process for pursuing that focus. It is also recognized that such a focus can lead to selfishness. To prevent such an error, the Upanishads recommend the cultivation of virtues such as detachment and self-control, and call for the performance of one's social duties.

The Upanishads now exist in several translations in English and other Western languages, though the 1879 translation by world religions scholar Max Müller was the important early one which built support for Indian perspectives in the West. In 1893, Swami Vivekananda brought the teachings of the Vedanta to the West and established it throughout the Vedanta Societies that grew out of his work. Through the twentieth century, numerous commentaries on the Upanishads were published and circulated by the many Indian religions operating in the West. Equally important, insights from the Upanishads, freed from the texts, have permeated Western esoteric and metaphysical groups through which they have been popularized among a public unaware of their origin.

Sources:

Beidler, William. The Vision of the Self in Early Vedanta. Delhi: Motilal Barnarsidass, 1975.

Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli. The Principal Upanishads. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1953.

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Upaniṣad

Upaniṣad (Skt.). In Hinduism, the genre of texts which end or complete the Vedic corpus. For this reason they are also called Vedānta, ‘the end of the Veda’. The word ‘upaniṣad’ itself is usually understood to mean ‘esoteric teaching’, the preferred etymology (upa + ni + śad, ‘to sit close by’) referring to the proximity necessary for the transmission of such teachings. The Upaniṣads, as texts, developed out of the earlier speculations on the Vedic ritual contained in the Brāhmaṇas and Āraṇyakas. In number they are counted by some as being over 200; traditionally, there are 108, listed at the beginning of Muktika Upaniṣad. Nine show a clear relationship to preceding brāhmaṇas or āraṇyakas. Six more are commented on or mentioned by Śaṅkara. Radhakrishnan, in his work The Principal Upaniṣads (1953), included eighteen. The central teaching of these early upaniṣads is that the Self (ātman) is identical to the ultimate ground of reality (Brahman). He who realizes this finds liberation (mokṣa) from the cycle of suffering (saṃsāra) embodied in birth, death and rebirth. This speculative perspective, extolling the way of knowledge (jñānamārga), became a point of departure for much of Indian philosophy, particularly the various schools of Vedānta. The later Upaniṣads, composed under Purāṇic, Tantric, or devotional influences, are less philosophical and more sectarian. Their importance is not so much for the history of philosophy in India as for an understanding of its popular religion.

The major Upaniṣads are Aitareya, Bṛhadāranyaka, Chandogya, Īśa, Kaṭha, Kauṣītaki, Kena, Mahānārāyaṇīya Maitri, Māṇḍūkya, Muṇḍaka, Praśna, Śvetāśvatara, Taittirīya.

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Upanishads

Upanishads (ōōpăn´Ĭshădz), speculative and mystical scriptures of Hinduism, regarded as the wellspring of Hindu religious and speculative thought. The Upanishads, which form the last section of the literature of the Veda, were composed beginning c.900 BC Of the 112 extant Upanishads, about 13 date from the Vedic period and the remainder are later, sectarian works. The principal early Upanishads develop answers to questions posed in the Rig-Veda and the Brahmanas regarding the real significance of the Vedic sacrifice and the source and controlling power of the world and the individual. They are best known for their doctrine of brahman, the ultimate and universal reality of pure being and consciousness, and the identity of brahman with the inner essence, or atman, of the human being. This equation is expressed in the famous utterances "That art thou" and "All this is brahman." The Upanishads are not a systematic exposition of concepts but a heterogeneous compilation of material from different sources. In addition to brahman-atman teachings, they contain information about allegorical interpretation of the sacrifice, death and rebirth processes, and yogic practice and experience. They are the basis for the later philosophical schools of Vedanta.

For bibliography see Veda.

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Upanishads

Upanishads

The Upanishads are a collection of sacred texts that form one of the foundations of Hindu religious thought. The most important of these texts, written between about 600 and 300 b.c., deal primarily with the nature of humans and the universe. Originally passed on orally, these works were eventually collected and written down by wise men called rishis.

The texts of the Upanishads are said to hold the "hidden meanings" of the religious practices and ideas presented in the Vedas, an older collection of sacred texts. Hindu beliefs based on the Upanishads are known as the Vedanta, which means that they came after the Vedas.

Rather than focusing on religious ritual and practice, the Upanishads are philosophical works that explore the nature of reality and meaning of life. One of their central teachings is the idea that behind the everyday world is a timeless, unchanging reality or spirit, called brahman, that is identical to the inner essence, or atman, of the human being. Unity with brahman and knowledge of the hidden reality behind existence can be achieved through yoga, which involves philosophical investigation and the highly disciplined practice of meditation.

ritual ceremony that follows a set pattern

The Upanishads also present the Hindu idea of reincarnation, in which individuals are reborn again and again as other living creatures. The main purpose of the Upanishads is to help individuals gain the mystical knowledge that will release them from this continuing cycle of death and rebirth.

See also Brahma; Hinduism and Mythology; Rig-Veda; Vedas.

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Upanishads

Upanishads (Sanskrit, ‘session’) Texts of Hinduism, constituting the final stage of Vedic literature. Written in prose and verse, they take the form of dialogues between teacher and pupil. They are of uncertain authorship and date from c.650 bc or earlier. Often referred to as the Vedanta, the Upanishads speculate on reality and man's salvation. See also Brahmanism

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Upanishad

Upanishad each of a series of Hindu sacred treatises written in Sanskrit c.800–200 bc, expounding the Vedas. The Upanishads mark the transition from ritual sacrifice to a mystical concern with the nature of reality; polytheism is superseded by a pantheistic monism derived from the basic concepts of atman and Brahman.

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Upanishad

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