One of the three basic Texts of Vedanta is “Upanishad”. Other two are Bhagavad-Gita and Brahma-Sutra. Together these three Texts constitute “Prasthana Traya”: known as Triple canon of Vedanta. Upanishads constitute the revealed Texts, known as “Sruti Prasthana”. Vedanta is the name given to them because they are End means concluding part of the Veda. Bhagavad-Gita is “Smriti-Prasthana”, which occupies an unique place in Vedantic tradition. A popular verse compares the Upanishads to the cows, The Bhagavad-Gita to the milk, Sri Krishna to the milk man, Arjuna, the Pandava Hero to the calf and the wise people to the partakers of the milk. The third of the canonical text is “Brahma-Sutra” which is regarded as “Naya-Prasthana”.
In this post we will discuss about Upanishads in brief:
Salient features on Upanishads:
- Upanishad = Upa + Nishad: Spiritual knowledge obtained by disciples sitting near or at the feet of The Guru [ means the Teacher].
- Scholar says that Upanishads were composed during 4000-5000 BC. Some says: 2000-14000BC.
- Nowhere it is mentioned about any author n the Upanishads. No date of origin can be fixed.
- Teachings were imparted in stillness, noise free environment like forests where tranquillity can not be disturbed. Those Upanishads are known as Aranyaka and these were specially intended for Vanaprastha.
- Teachings were transmitted orally and hence called as “SRUTI”.
- Value of Upanishad for Mankind is for all time, all places and all ages. Lessons in Scriptures are very practical and applicable for modern world as it was for Indo-Aryan period.
- Upanishads were transported to western countries initially through Persian translation[1700 AD].
- French scholar Anquetil Duperron brought a copy of manuscript from Persia to France. Later on it was translated in French and Latin.
- First English translation was made by Raja Ram Mohan Roy. [1775-1833].
- Every Upanishad begins with a Peace mantra.(shanti path).
- There are 108 Upanishads. Among them 10 Upanishads are considered as Principal Upanishads.
- Who Am I? What is this Universe? Whence and how we are born? What is mortality or Immortality? What is Atman or Brahman? What is liberation(from cycle of birth)? What is death?- All questions have answers in Upanishads.
The Ten Principal Upanishads are:
1) IshaVasya Upanishad: Occurs in the Samhita portion of Shukla Yajur Veda.
2) Kena Upanishad: It is embedded inside the last section of the Talavakara Brahmanam of the Samaveda.
3) Katha Upanishad: Belongs to Katha Branch of Krishna Yajurveda.
4) Prashna Upanishad: Comes from the Brahmana portion of the Atharva Veda, belonging to Pippalada Sakha.
5) Mundaka Upanishad: It is Part of Atharva Veda.
6) Mandukya Upanishad: The Mandukya Upanishad, belongs to Atharva Veda. It is the shortest of all the Upanishads with 12 verses and placed in the 6th position in the list of Ten Principal Upanishads.
7) Taittiriya Upanishad: It is a part of the Krishna Yajur Veda and placed in the seventh position in the list of Ten Principal Upanishad.
8) Aitareya Upanishad: Belongs to Aitareya Aranyaka**(Teachings in the forest), part of Rig-Veda.
9) ChAndogya Upanishad: It is part of ChAndogya Brahmana of the Sama Veda
10) BRRihadAraNyaka Upanishad: It forms the fourteenth Kanda of Satapatha Brahmana of “Shukla Yajurveda.” This is the biggest one.
ब्रह्म` ~ “Brahman” : The Principal word in Upanishad: What is It?
First of all, we need to know the true meaning of “Brahman” [ब्रह्म`]
Brahman: IT is That which is Absolute, fills all space, is complete in Itself, to which there is no second and which is continuously present in everything, in every being and everywhere. It is homogeneous in nature.
The word ब्रह्म` “Brahman” will be used repeatedly. Meaning of Brahman is VAST. This is to be noted here that the word “Brahman” does not refer to any Cast , Creed or Sect. According to Vedanta the word ” Brahman” has been derived from the root word “brh” which means growing or expanding and suffix “man” added to it signifies absence of limitations. In Vedanta, the word Brahman is a neuter gender and hence it is referred as pronoun ” That”. It is very difficult to describe Brahman, which is ultimately indefinable, indescribable, and utterly beyond all human comprehension. Brahman can not be described through senses alone. Vedanta has however taught us how to realize Brahman which is “Supreme Consciousness”.
The oneness of Soul(Jiva~Atman) and GOD(Param Atman), the ultimate Truth is the principal essence of all Upanishads.
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Pictures shown below are relevant to the Text of Upanishads.