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Place of Upanishads in Vedanta
Central Theme of the Upanishads
Canons of Interpretation
Methodology of the Upanishads
Delineation of a Supreme Lord is the Central Theme
IshAvAsyopanishhad (Available for download.)
The Upanishads have been perennial sources of spiritual knowledge. The word upanishhad means secret and sacred knowledge. This word occurs in the Upanishads themselves in more than a dozen places in this sense. The word also means "Texts incorporating such knowledge." There are ten principal Upanishads. Other than these, a few more like Shvetaashwatara and KaushiTaki are also considered important. Though it is known that even before Sri Shankara, commentaries were written on the Upanishads, these have been lost. Sri Shankara's commentaries on the principal Upanishads are the earliest available. Sri Ramanuja has not written any commentaries on them, but a later disciple Sri Rangaramanuja has written them. Sri Madhvacharya has written commentaries (bhaashya-s) on the ten principal Upanishads. Interpretation of passages from these and other Upanishads is also discussed by him in his Suutra-Bhaashya, which is mainly about the interpretation of Shruti texts and also in his other major works like Anu-vyaakhyaana, Vishnu-tatva-vinirNaya, and Tattvodyota.
Place of Upanishads in Vedanta
Modern thinkers generally hold that the earliest literature of India is the Vedas, of which Rg Veda was the first to be composed. These were hymns in praise of nature gods, which emphasised ritualism and had little philosophic content. Some have even attempted statistical analysis of the number of times individual god names were taken up for praise and concluded that Vishnu , later extolled as the Supreme God, has fewer hymns than the more common Indra, Agni and Varuna. Subsequent compositions called braahmaNa-s and araNyaka-s both in verse and prose contain attempts in explaining philosophical and cosmological questions. Upanishads were composed next in order and contain the highest flights of philosophical speculation in Vedantic thought. While perhaps it is comforting to reduce the entire source material of Vedanta philosophy into a well ordered scheme which the modern mind can easily understand, there are serious discrepancies in this theory. Vedantins who profess the Vedic streams of all hues have traditionally believed that the Vedas and Vedanta literature is apaurushheya, not composed by anyone (including God) and hence beginningless and eternal. Even the name used for the Vedas for thousands of years of human memory -- Shruti indicates this fact, which is also justified by rigorous logic. Far from being a collection of disjointed hymns, which the Vedas are made out to be by people ignorant of them, there is in them a thread of unity of thought, in describing a Supreme Being, who is different and who is the inner controller of all other beings , including the so called nature gods. The artificial division of the mass of Vedic literature into karma kaaNDa (dealing with rituals) and j~nAna kANDa dealing with Philosophy is untenable, in the context of the three fold interpretation of the Vedas, explained for the first time by Sri Madhva, in his Rgbhashya.
According to Madhva, the Brahma Suutra's OM gatisAmAnyAt.h OM clearly indicates the decided position of its author, Veda Vyaasa, that all the Vedas, believed to be infinite in extent, have eka-vaakyata unity in stating the conclusion. Be as that as may, the ten principal Upanishads contain the essence of the philsophical teaching of the entire Vedic religion. The Brahma Suutra, composed by Veda Vyaasa, accepted as the authority for the correct interpretation of the Vedas refers to a number of well known Upanishadic texts and gives clues regarding their correct and consistent interpretation. All the different founders of Vedanta schools have started from the basic position of the infallibility of the Vedas, Upanishads and the Brahma Suutra and have tried to justify the claims that their own conclusions are in accordance with them.
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Central Theme of the Upanishads
Sri Shankaracharya and some of his modern followers take Monism or Atmaikya, and Absolutism or nirguNa-brahmavaada to be the central theme of Upanishads. Consequently, Idealism or the world being merely a projection, which is unreal, is also taken to be a tenet of the Upanishads. Thus upaasanaa (worship) and bhakti (devotion) are relegated to a secondary position, being needed only up to a point in the spiritual evolution of the soul. Liberation, the final goal of spiritual development becomes less attractive, as the seeker loses his own identity in his merger with the Absolute. The entire process of Creation delineated with such great care in the Upanishads is reduced to a mere illusion. Texts describing Brahman, the Supreme Being, as sarvaj~na (all knowing), sarva-shaktimaan (All Powerful) are also relegated to be descriptions of Ishwara or the Saguna Brahman, who is also a product of the universal Avidya, while Brahman is actually nirguNa or without any attributes in absolute reality. Some of the richest material in the Upanishads delineating the glory of God, the process of creation, prescribing different methods of upaasanaa, Eschatology, recommending meditation, devotion etc. have to be relegated to a secondary position, as they are essentially dealing with the machinations of the unreal Avidya, which vanishes into "nothing," when the soul is liberated and discovers its identity with the formless and attributeless Brahman. In other words, much of Upanishadic texts are worthless and untrue in the domain of the final reality. On the other hand, a few passages are elevated to decisive importance, as they can be interpreted, in a limited sense, to convey Monism. Anyone who has an acquaintance with the deep and mystical atmosphere conjured up by the Upanishads can not accept this position. The central theme of the Upanishads is not Monism but Monotheism, the concept of an all pervasive, immanent supreme being. He is not nirguNa (attributeless), but is guNaparipuurNa -- full of all possible auspicious qualities. The very word brahma indicates this basic delineation of the Supreme Lord. Such a theme brings all the rest of the passages in the Upanishads into proper focus and makes them fully meaningful and essential for the aspirant. All of them will contribute in one way or the other to the development of this central theme and none of them will look secondary or suprefluous. In the larger context of the Vedanta, as a whole, the Vedas, Brahmana-s, Aranyakas, Upanishads and the great Epics which include the other Prasthaana texts -- Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Suutra are woven into a glorious tapestry of the indescribable but realizable, fathomless but understandable glory of the Supreme Person, who has been extolled by great devotees in all Bhakti compositions. The artificial concept of two Brahmans, Saguna and Nirguna simultaneously existing, though totally different in essence, created by Monism to explain away the wealth of texts describing the glory of the Lord is done away with, with a simple explanation of nirguNa being One who completely transcends the three guNa-s -- sattva, rajas and tamas constituting prak.rti, which is responsible for the world as we know it.
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Canons of Interpretation
It is not very difficult to decide between guNaparipuurNa and nirguNa Brahman being accepted as the purport of the Upanishads. There are well-known canons of interpretations, priority and preference laid down for the purpose, which are accepted as valid by all schools. These are:
However, the Niravakaashatva and Upajiivyatva criteria are not strictly followed in the Advaita tradition, leading to undue priority being accorded therein to Monistic-looking texts or passages, and the relegating of others to secondary positions. This has led to another criteria being evolved by the Advaita school, viz., tatvaavedaka and atatvaavedaka. These are defined as passages which expound the final truth or a tentative position, which is shown to be incorrect after due examination. Such a basis would have to be primarily arbitrary, as it seperates the innately valid Shruti-s into two groups depending on whether they appear to support Advaita or otherwise. There is nothing available in the Shruti-s themselves to determine this, and to decide on the classification on the basis of the purport of the Shrutis, which is yet to be determined is admittedly invalid. Another basis relied upon by Advaita, to relegate a group of Shruti-s to a secondary position is that they are anuvaadaka. Any Shruti text which appears to speak of something that can be known from some other valid means such as pratyaksha (direct cognition) is given this handicap and considered as inferior in value to one, which can be known only by Shruti pramANa. In fact, this is the exact opposite of even the modern concept of evidence, which considers corroboration as a factor which strengthens the evidentiary value, particularly when each source has independently concluded the same. In view of these adverse features, these criteria peculiar to Advaita are not accepted by other commentators.
Sri Madhva has shown in his compositions, especially in his Brahma Suutra Bhaashya, Anu-vyaakhyaana and other Suutra-prasthaana compositions that application of these principals de novo, without any bias, to the Upanishads yields only a guNaparipUrNa Brahman and not the attributeless nirguNa Brahman of Advaita.
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Methodology Of The Upanishads
The Upanishads have their own unique style. Their exposition is in four different ways:
Normally, it is not difficult to ascertain the purport of the texts in the first two types. In some cases, the questions and answers are of the reductio-ad-absurdum type and the correct conclusion has to be drawn. In the cases 3 and 4, it is more difficult to ascertain the purport, as which aspect or shade of meaning of the simile or illustration is being used to illustrate the meaning. However, clues are available in the wording of similes etc and also in the following passages. These have been exploited effectively by Sri Madhva in his interpretations. Symbolisms employed by the Upanishads are essentially of 3 types -- Nature symbolism, sacrifices and sacrificial items used as symbols, and mystic sound syllables such as Aum being used as symbols. These need careful study. Many symbols, similies, illustrations, and episodes are repeated in different Upanishads, sometimes with slight changes. A good many verses are also repeated. The correct meaning can be derived by applying the supreme test of consistency to the different occurences, in addition to the other criteria mentioned earlier.
The Brahma Suutra indicates three main guidelines to understand the purport of the Upanishads:
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Delineation Of A Supreme Lord Is The Central Theme
The central theme of Upanishads is Monotheism or the delineation of a Supreme Being as the cardinal principle of the universe. This is designated as Brahman, Atman, Akshara, Akaasha, PraaNa, etc. In the Upanishads, Akaasha and PraaNa can also mean the element Akaasha, the deity Vayu etc. The meaning applicable in a particular text has to be derived with the help of attributes mentioned therein. The Supreme Principle is described as the Creator, Sustainer, Regulator, Destroyer, Enlightener and Liberator of all. It is also the one and only Independent Principle upon which all other entities are dependent. It is Immanent and Transcendent. It admits of contradictory features of everyday experience being present in it simultaneously -- aNu (atomic) and mahat.h (infinite), etc. Being Infinite in all respects, it cannot be comprehended by anyone completely. It has no drawbacks or blemishes of any kind. It directs all and is not directed or constrained by anyone. It is absolutely independent in its very nature and essence, functions and comprehension and innate unlimited bliss, none of which need any element external to it for its completeness. All others derive their limited qualities and capacities from it. It is thus described as Sat, Chit and Ananda in its essential nature. The features of the Supreme Lord are described almost in all the Upanishads. PraaNa occupies an important place in the Upanishads next only to the Supreme being. The Chhaandogya and ShaTprashna Upanishads, in particular, bring out the role of PraaNa, who is His chief aide and is superior to all other deities. He is however eternally and completely subservient to Lord Vishnu, the Supreme being. Upanishads clearly distinguish between the Supreme Being and other souls. Their basic differences which are in their essential nature itself are contrasted in several texts. The metaphor of the two birds, one reaping the fruits of its past deeds and the other not doing so is found more than once. The Causus-belli of the Upanishads -- to enable the souls to attain liberation by the grace of God, would be totally incongruent and lost, if they have no locus standi in their essential nature as distinct fron the world and the Lord. Upanishads are also clear about the reality of the external world (other than the souls) and state it clearly more than once. prakrti or primordial Nature is the material cause of the world, while God is the efficient cause. The text eka vij~nAnena sarvavij~nAna does not support the Vivarta theory of Advaita, which reduces the external world to an unreal state in essence. A number of upaasana-s are described. The importance of shravana, manana etc. Is stressed. The need of vairaagya (detachment from material entities), bhakti (devotion towards the Lord), etc., for the aspirant in his efforts to achieve salvation is delineated. The doctrine of prasaada (God's grace) is mentioned more than once. Eschatology is described through texts explaining devaayaNa and pitraayaNa. Thus all that is necessary to pursue the spiritual path is covered in the Upanishads. With a view to give a more detailed picture of the contents of each of these Upanishads, a summary of the subjects dealt with along with essential points in each is now given under separate headings.
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This Upanishad belongs to the Vaajaseneyi Samhita of the Shukla (White) Yajur Veda and forms the last chapter of this Samhita. It is also called a Mantropanishad, as it forms a part of a Samhitâ.
This Upanishad has three special features.
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This belongs to the Talavakara Brahmana of the Saama Veda and is also called Talavakaropanishad.
Who Directs Us?
The Upanishad asks three questions at the outset:
All these questions have but a single answer. He who gives the power of seeing to the eye, hearing to the ear, thinking to the mind and power to move to PraaNa directs their respective activities. He is evidently the Supreme God. Those who realise that He is the director of the mind, senses and even of Mukhya PraaNa, will attain liberation. This takes us to the question of the nature of God.
Those who think that they know Him fully do not really know Him, as they have not comprehended His Infinite nature. On the other hand, those who think that they do not know Him fully, know Him, as they have realised His Infinite nature. The knowledge of God to the best of one's ability is adequate for one's salvation. The presence of God as the Inner resident and controller of all is brought out by an interesting story of ahaMkaarakhaNDana (humbling the pride) of Agni, Nasikya Vayu and Indra in this Upanishad.
The exposition of the sarva-prerakatva and the sarvottamatva of the Supreme Lord is the key note of this Upanishad.
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This belongs to Taittiriiya Shaakhaa of the Krishna Yajur Veda and is in the form of a dialogue between Yama and Nachiketas.
Yama offers Nachiketas three boons as a compensation for having kept him waiting for three days at his door. Nachiketas asks for the following three boons:
Three Boons Asked by Nachiketas:
The discussion around the third and most important boon granted by Yama is the central theme of this Upanishad. Yama tries at first to dissuade Nachiketas from asking this question, by offering him many temptations such as wealth, progeny, kingship, etc. Nachiketas steadfastly refused all these offers and insisted on knowing whether God regulates the souls even after death and Liberation.
This question is specially relevant for the period after Liberation, as some systems do not accept even the separate existence of souls after Liberation, while some accept equality of the souls with God after it.
Yama congratulates Nachiketas on his steadfastness in obtaining sacred knowledge and sets the distinction between shreyas and preyas -- the Good and the Pleasant. Normal worldly interests such as family, property, etc., constitute the second category, while interest in God is the first. Yama expresses his happiness that Nachiketas has chosen shreyas.
The rest of the Upanishad is an excellent exposition of the nature of God, the fact of His being a regulator after death and Liberation, necessity of controlling the senses and the methodology of Yoga.
He is called Hamsa as He is free from all defects and is the essence of every thing. His presence in Mukhya PraaNa is special, for various reasons. He is present in all men, prak.rti, Sky, antariksha, in the senses and everywhere. He regulates all these entities in all states.
A number of adhikaraNa-s in the Brahma Suutra such as guhAdhikaraNa, vAmanAdhikaraNa, etc., derive their name and subject matter from KaThakopanishhad. A number of passages from this Upanishad are referred to in the Suutra-s. These are shown in the khaNDaartha of Sri Raghavendra Swami in the respective places.
The main teachings of the KaThakopanishhad may be summed up as follows:
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This Upanishad is in four sections. In each, there is a portion in prose, followed by verses which explain and support the points made in prose earlier. Some verses which are considered part and parcel of the Upanishad by Sri Madhva, are considered as part of the Gaudapada-karika, in the Advaita tradition. B N K Sharma has discussed the controversy whether they form part of the Upanishad in detail in several papers, and has conclusively proved that they are indeed a part. The main points to be noted in this context are:
ayaM AtmA brahma
This expression in the second passage means that the guNapUrNa Brahman conveyed by Om and AtmA present in all entities who regulates and controls, is one and the same. The word AtmA does not refer to the individual souls, but to God who is immanent in them. akshara or Brahman conveyed by OM, and AtmA present in all as their inner controller is the same. Thus, God's characteristic of sarvaniyAmakatva is brought out here. The context of giving an exposition of the meaning of Om and the purpose of the statement ayaM AtmA brahma show that the identity of the jiiva and God is not plausible. On the other hand, three important characteristics of God, guNapUrNatva, trikAlAtItatva and sarvaniyAmakatva are conveyed with the minimum of words. The Upanishad also clearly explains the correct interpretation of the words OM, AtmA, Brahman, and akshara, all of which denote Brahman by describing Him with His special attributes.
I. prapaJNcho yadi vidyeta This verse is interpreted as follows --
II. vikalpo vinivarteta, etc. This verse is also interpreted as follows --
These interpretations will remove the erroneous notion that these two verses state jaganmithyatva. This subject is discussed threadbare in the Vishnu-tattva-vinirNaya and other texts.
The main teachings of the MaaNDuukyopanishad can be summed up as:
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This belongs to Atharvaveda. The central theme of this Upanishad is to give an exposition of Akshara. Before this is given, it also gives an idea of Paravidya and Aparavidya.
The three illustrations thus show that:
The Upanishad also explains tatvas.rishhTi, yaj~nas.rshhTi, etc. In this context, an important point stated here is that there is no difference between God and His s.rshhTikaarya (act of creation), j~naana (universal all encompassing knowledge), bala (strength, capacity), etc. This is especially brought out in the passage purushha eva idaM vishvaM karma, tapo, brahma, etc. The Upanishad thus rejects any difference between God and His attributes. The same doctrine is also stated in the passages ekameva advitiyaM and neha nAnAsti kiJNchana, etc. All these texts state the abheda (non-difference) between God and His Attributes, and not the abheda of Advaita (Identity of God with the souls).
The first statement brings out the fact that the liberated soul being free from aj~nAna or avidyAdoshha attains similarity with God in respect of being free from sorrow, enjoying bliss etc. God and the soul are similar to each other as they are Bimba and Pratibimba. This similarity has been eclipsed by avidyA, etc., earlier and is made manifest in the liberated state. This fact brought out in this text leaves no room for jiiva-brahmaikya or identity. The second text states that the liberated souls stand together with God and in tune with His will. In the context of this passage, there is a reference to the deities of 15 Kalas, the deity controlling the Karma and the liberated soul. All these stand in tune with His will. It is therefore incorrect to take this text in isolation and read identity between the liberated soul and Brahman. The illustration of rivers joining the sea, in the next passage indicates attainment of God and not Identity with Him. It is also stated that the liberated soul casts away his prAk.rta form, name, etc., and attains his svarUpabhUta form and name. The reference to parAtpara purushha is a reference to Sarvottama (greater than all) God. Therefore, there is no scope for interpreting any texts in this context as favoring Identity.
The main teachings of the Atharvanopanishad may be summed up as follows:
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This Upanishad belongs to the Pippalaadashakha of Atharva Veda where six sages ask six questions to Sage Pippalaada. The answers given deal with some aspects of Vedanta which have also been dealt with elsewhere, but clarify and elaborate the points. The questions and answers are given briefly here.
I. Who Creates Living Beings And Nonliving Matter?
Kaatyaayana asks the first question.
Pippalaada elaborates the process of creation as follows:
Prajapati desired to create beings and thought about it. He created at first Rayi and PraaNa (Bharati and Mukhya PraaNa) as the first couple. He then entered into them and created the Sun and Moon. The first couple also entered into the Sun and the Moon, through whom Prajapati created all other things. Tejas (energy), Ap (water) and Anna (food) are mUrta (having a physical body). Prakrti, etc., are a-mUrta. Rayi entered mUrta and PraaNa into amUrta. They activated the utpAdana shakti (ability to cause transformation) and assisted the process of creation. Rayi and PraaNa are also the presiding deities of dakshiNAyana (Southern solstice) and uttarAyaNa (Northern solstice), k.rshhNapaksha (fortnight ending in new moon day) and shukla paksha. (ending in full moon day), etc., and assist the process of creation. Finally Rayi in the wife and PraaNa in the husband also assist procreation.
Prajapati, the Supreme God, is the Creator of all at all stages. Rayi and PraaNa assist Him at all stages for creating deities and other sentient beings, non-living matter or entities, both mUrta and amUrta, the time spans of dakshiNAyana, uttarAyaNa, etc. Prajapati's role of creation extends from the first divine couple of Rayi and PraaNa, to the normal wife and husband, and to all parents. Thus Prajapati, the Supreme God is the Creator of all.
II. Who Is Superior Among The Deities?
Bhargava asks the next question: Which deities take care of the created beings and enable them to understand things? Who is the leader of the deities?
Pippalaada answers that tattvaabhimAni deities of AkAsha, vAyu, etc., take care of the respective things. Mukhya PraaNa is the leader of them all and is superior among them. He quotes an episode to illustrate this. Once, the tatvAbhimAni deities thought that they could manage their respective roles in a living body, without the presence and leadership of Mukhya PraaNa. To show them the error of their thinking, Mukhya PraaNa started moving out of the body. Immediately they were all forced to move out and were no longer able to take care of the respective functions of the body. They realised that Mukhya PraaNa was superior and controlled them also. They also saw that when Mukhya PraaNa returned to the body, they were able to perform their functions as before. The deities then praised Mukhya PraaNa by describing him as one who enables everyone else such as Indra, Surya, Agni, etc., to play their respective roles in controlling the various parts of the body. The senses such as the eye, ear, etc., and their abhimAni deities (controlling deities) function only under the direction of Mukhya PraaNa, who controls life itself. He is the leader of all the other deities and is superior to them. How ever, Mukhya PraaNa also functions under the control of the Supreme Being, Vishnu.
In answer to the first question, Pippalaada had said that Prajapati creates through Rayi and Mukhya PraaNa, and now in answer to the second question, he is explaining that through Mukhya PraaNa and the tatvAbhimAni deities under his control, Prajapati takes care of all created things and gives them understanding. All these are under the absolute control of Prajapati, the Supreme being.
III. Who Created Mukhya PraaNa And How Does Mukhya PraaNa Function?
Ashvalaayana asks the third question: Who created Mukhya PraaNa? How does the latter enter the body and take five forms? How does he come out of the body?
Pippalaada answers that the Supreme God creates Mukhya PraaNa. The latter has five forms -- PraaNa, Apaana, etc. These forms are of two kinds: The first set are the very forms of Mukhya PraaNa himself, and another set of five -- those who have arisen from these forms. These forms are located in different parts of the body and perform their respective functions. There are one hundred and one chief naaDi-s in the body, all of which have further branches and subbranches. The grand total of all these comes to 72,000. Vyaana functions through these naaDi-s. Mukhya PraaNa takes the soul away at the time of death, in his Udaana form. Thus Mukhya PraaNa plays very vital roles in the functioning of the body. However, he does so under the control of Vishnu.
IV. Whow Regulates Dream And Deep Sleep?
Gaargya asks the fourth question: When the soul is asleep, which of the senses and their presiding deities are withdrawn? Who shows dreams to the soul? How does the soul get happiness in deep sleep?
Pippalaada answers that during the dream state, the ten senses such as the eye, ear, etc., are withdrawn and their presiding deities also withdraw to the Taijasa form of the Supreme Being. The faculty of manas (mind) is not withdrawn. However, during deep sleep, this faculty is also withdrawn. The presiding deities of all ten senses and the mind are withdrawn to the Praajna form of the Lord, during deep sleep. Both during dreams and deep sleep, the five PraaNa-s are active and are not withdrawn. Dreams are shown by God. The soul experiences happiness during deep sleep, as he is close to the Supreme Being at that time. The most important point to be noted is that all the senses and their objects, their controlling deities and even Mukhya PraaNa are always under the control of God and function because of Him. The Supreme Being endows them with their respective capacities and all are eternally dependent on Him. He is Akshara. Those who know Him as such reach Him. The texts -- sarvaM pare Atman.h sampratishhTate and sarvameva avisheshha have to be understood in this light.
V. With Which Hymn Should One Meditate Upon God?
Satyakaama asks the fifth question: With which hymn should one meditate upon God and what is its effect?
Pippalaada answers -- One should meditate upon the Supreme Being with Omkaara, which conveys God. He further elaborates as to how the meditation of each syllable of Omkaara leads to special appropriate results.
VI. Who Is ShhoDashhakalA Purushha?
Bharadwaja asks the sixth question: Who is the Purushha (Person) with shhodashhakalA (16 attributes) and what are these?
Pippalada answers that the Supreme God Himself is that Purushha. The abhimAni devata-s such as PraaNa, ShraddhA, etc. (who are the controlling dieities), are the sixteen kalA-s. These are different from the 16 Kalas which constitute the linga shariira of the soul, which are created by God to enable the soul to get God-knowledge. After Liberation, the abhimAni devatA-s of these kalA-s attain God -- God is called shhoDashhakalA Purushha for this reason.
Through the six questions and answers, this Upanishad brings out the importance of Mukhya PraaNa, Omkaara and ShhoDashhakalA Purushha.
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The Taittiriiyopanishad belongs to Krishna (Black) Yajur Veda and forms the 7th - 9th chapters of the Taittiriiya Aranyaka. The Narayana Upanishad is the 10th chapter of this Aranyaka.
This Upanishad is arranged in three VaLLi-s or sections. The second and third sections discuss Brahmavidya, while the first one discusses certain preliminary matters which are required to assist the study of Brahmavidya.
The shAntimantra of this Upanishad is quite interesting. It makes a specific reference to Vaayu by namaste vAyo and describes him as pratyaksha (visible) Brahman. These references bring out that the Supreme Being is specially present in Vaayu, who is also called Brahman here to show that he possesses much higher knowldege as compared to the rest of the deities. He is also the abhimAnidevatA of the five Samhita-s mentioned.
The prayer yachchhandAsaM..., etc., for the necessary intellectual ability to acquire spiritual knowledge, to get appropriate disciples, to use the tongue, ear, etc., for the recitation and listening of the glory of God, etc., is a beautiful prayer, which comes after the samhita-s. Let my tongue be sweet, let my ears listen to great things, let my knowledge be protected from evil, etc., are the points in this prayer that specially merit attention. Appeal to God to secure good students with good conduct, temper, intelligence and coming from many gotra-s (lineages) is very touching. A good teacher prays: like water flowing naturally, let students flow towards me; like months rolling on over the years, let the students roll over to me. The teacher wants to establish a good reputation by teaching such good students.
The Upanishad also brings out the importance of R^ita, satya, dama, shama, etc., which are essential ingredients for acquiring sacred knowldege. svAdhyAya (self-study) and pravachana (discourse) are specially stressed here.
In the text -- AtmanaH AkAshaH sambhUtaH, etc., the process of Creation is explained. An important point that is worth noting is that God not only initiates Creation, but intervenes at every step. He Creates the first step, enters into it, Creates the next, and so on. Therefore, the expressions AkAsha (space), vAyu (gas), etc., not only refer to these elements, but also to the immanent Brahman, who really does Creation. From AkAsha to Purushha, the whole process is due to His Creative activity.
The passage -- satyaM j~nAnaM anantaM that gives the definition of Brahman, the five forms of Brahman -- annamaya, prANamaya..., etc., and the exposition of the process of Creation are the important topics of Taittiriiya, the very first two adhikaraNa-s, and AnandamayAdhikaraNa of the Brahma Suutra derive their subject matter from the Taittiriiya. This Upanishad thus makes very important contributions to Vedanta philosophy.
From the above brief summary of the seven Upanishads, it is clear that Delineation of the Supreme God is the central theme for all of them. The seeker is advised to follow certain upAsana-s, develop bhakti (devotion), vairAgya (detachment), etc., undertake shravaNa (listening), manana (assimilation), etc., and attain Liberation with the grace of God. Upanishads are not merely documents of speculation for intellectuals, but are fully Theistic texts developing the concept of a Supreme God. They also provide knowledge and Vision of God to the seeker.
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yo vipralambhaviparItamatiprabhUtAn.h vAdAnnirastakR^itavAn.h bhuvi tattvavAdam.h | sarveshvaro haririti pratipAdayantaM Ana.ndatIrthamunivaryamahaM namAmi ||That doctrine which quells all positions arising out of ignorance and deceit, is Tattvavaada;
|| bhAratIramaNamukhyaprANA.ntargata shrIkR^ishhNArpaNamastu || || shrI gurubhyo namaH hariH OM ||
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This section is due to Prof. K.T. Pandurangi. Transcription and web placement by N.A.P.S. Rao and Shrisha Rao respectively.
Created October 5, 1996; last updated October 5, 1996.