Upanishads and Vedas are two terms that are often confused as one and the same thing. Actually they are two different subjects for that matter. In fact Upanishads are parts of Vedas.
Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva are the four Vedas. A Veda is divided into four parts, namely, Samhita, Brahmana, Aranyaka and Upanishad. It can be seen from the division that Upanishad forms the last part of a given Veda. Since Upanishad forms the end part of a Veda it is also called as Vedanta. The word ‘anta’ in Sanskrit means ‘end’. Hence the word ‘Vedanta’ means ‘the end portion of a Veda’.
The subject matter or the content of the Upanishad is normally philosophical in nature. It speaks about the nature of the Atman, the greatness of the Brahman or the Supreme Soul and also about the life after death. Hence Upanishad is called as the Jnana Kanda of the Veda. Jnana means knowledge. Upanishad speaks about the supreme or the highest knowledge.
The other three parts of the Veda, namely, Samhita, Brahmana and the Aranyaka are called together as Karma Kanda. Karma in Sanskrit means ‘action’ or ‘rituals’. It can be understood that the three parts of the Veda deal with the ritualistic part of life such as the conduct of a sacrifice, austerity and the like.
Veda thus contains in it both the ritualistic and the philosophical aspects of life. It deals with the actions to be performed in life and also with the spiritual thoughts that man should cultivate in his mind to read God.
Upanishads are many in number but only 12 of them are considered principal Upanishads. It is interesting to note that Adi Sankara, the founder of Advaita system of philosophy has commented on all the 12 principal Upanishads. The other major teachers of various sects of philosophical thoughts have quoted a lot from the texts of the Upanishads.
The Upanishads are ancient Hindu scriptures that contain philosophical and spiritual teachings on a wide range of topics. They are considered to be some of the foundational texts of Hinduism and have had a significant influence on the religion. In this blog post, we will compare the Upanishads with other ancient spiritual texts.
One way in which the Upanishads can be compared with other ancient spiritual texts is in terms of their historical context. The Upanishads are part of the Vedas, a collection of ancient Hindu scriptures that are thought to date back to the 8th century BCE or earlier. They are considered to be among the oldest sacred texts in the world. Other ancient spiritual texts that are similar in terms of their historical context include the Tao Te Ching and the Analects of Confucius, both of which are ancient Chinese texts that are thought to date back to the 6th century BCE.
The Upanishads are considered to be the crown jewel of the Vedas and are seen as the most important and influential texts of the collection. They contain teachings on the nature of the self, the nature of the universe, and the nature of the ultimate reality. They explore the relationship between the individual self and the ultimate reality, and offer insights into the nature of consciousness and the role of the individual in the cosmos. The Upanishads are meant to be studied and discussed in the context of a guru-student relationship and are seen as a source of wisdom and insight into the nature of reality and the human condition.
Another way to compare the Upanishads with other ancient spiritual texts is in terms of their content and themes. The Upanishads contain philosophical and spiritual teachings that are intended to help people understand the nature of reality and their place in the world. They explore a wide range of topics, including the nature of the self, the nature of the universe, and the nature of the ultimate reality. Other ancient spiritual texts that explore similar themes include the Bhagavad Gita and the Tao Te Ching. The Bhagavad Gita is a Hindu text that contains teachings on the nature of the self and the ultimate reality, and the Tao Te Ching is a Chinese text that contains teachings on the nature of the universe and the role of the individual in the cosmos.
A third way to compare the Upanishads with other ancient spiritual texts is in terms of their influence and popularity. The Upanishads have had a significant influence on Hindu thought and have also been widely studied and revered in other religious and philosophical traditions. They are seen as a source of wisdom and insight into the nature of reality and the human condition. Other ancient spiritual texts that have had a similar level of influence and popularity include the Bhagavad Gita and the Tao Te Ching. These texts have also been widely studied and revered in various religious and philosophical traditions and are seen as sources of wisdom and insight.
Overall, the Upanishads are an important and influential ancient spiritual text that can be compared with other ancient spiritual texts in terms of their historical context, content and themes, and influence and popularity. They offer a rich source of spiritual and philosophical teachings that continue to be studied and revered by people around the world.
The Upanishads are ancient Hindu scriptures that are considered to be some of the foundational texts of Hinduism. They are part of the Vedas, a collection of ancient religious texts that form the basis of Hinduism. The Upanishads are written in Sanskrit and are thought to date back to the 8th century BCE or earlier. They are considered to be among the oldest sacred texts in the world and have had a significant influence on Hindu thought.
The word “Upanishad” means “sitting down near,” and refers to the practice of sitting near a spiritual teacher to receive instruction. The Upanishads are a collection of texts that contain the teachings of various spiritual masters. They are meant to be studied and discussed in the context of a guru-student relationship.
There are many different Upanishads, and they are divided into two categories: the older, “primary” Upanishads, and the later, “secondary” Upanishads.
The primary Upanishads are considered to be more foundational and are thought to contain the essence of the Vedas. There are ten primary Upanishads, and they are:
The secondary Upanishads are more diverse in nature and cover a wider range of topics. There are many different secondary Upanishads, and they include texts such as
Narasimha Tapaniya Upanishad
Advaya Taraka Upanishad
Jabala Darsana Upanishad
These are just a few examples, and there are many other secondary Upanishads
The Upanishads contain philosophical and spiritual teachings that are intended to help people understand the nature of reality and their place in the world. They explore a wide range of topics, including the nature of the self, the nature of the universe, and the nature of the ultimate reality.
One of the key ideas found in the Upanishads is the concept of Brahman. Brahman is the ultimate reality and is seen as the source and sustenance of all things. It is described as being eternal, unchanging, and all-pervading. According to the Upanishads, the ultimate goal of human life is to realize the unity of the individual self (atman) with Brahman. This realization is known as moksha, or liberation.
Here are some examples of Sanskrit text from the Upanishads:
“Aham brahmaasmi.” (From the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad) This phrase translates to “I am Brahman,” and reflects the belief that the individual self is ultimately one with the ultimate reality.
“Tat tvam asi.” (From the Chandogya Upanishad) This phrase translates to “Thou art that,” and is similar in meaning to the above phrase, emphasizing the unity of the individual self with the ultimate reality.
“Ayam atma brahma.” (From the Mandukya Upanishad) This phrase translates to “This self is Brahman,” and reflects the belief that the true nature of the self is the same as the ultimate reality.
“Sarvam khalvidam brahma.” (From the Chandogya Upanishad) This phrase translates to “All this is Brahman,” and reflects the belief that the ultimate reality is present in all things.
“Isha vasyam idam sarvam.” (From the Isha Upanishad) This phrase translates to “All this is pervaded by the Lord,” and reflects the belief that the ultimate reality is the ultimate source and sustainer of all things.
The Upanishads also teach the concept of reincarnation, the belief that the soul is reborn into a new body after death. The form that the soul takes in its next life is believed to be determined by the actions and thoughts of the previous life, a concept known as karma. The goal of the Upanishadic tradition is to break the cycle of reincarnation and achieve liberation.
Yoga and meditation are also important practices in the Upanishadic tradition. These practices are seen as a way to quiet the mind and achieve a state of inner peace and clarity. They are also believed to help the individual realize the unity of the self with the ultimate reality.
The Upanishads have had a significant influence on Hindu thought and have also been widely studied and revered in other religious and philosophical traditions. They are seen as a source of wisdom and insight into the nature of reality and the human condition. The teachings of the Upanishads continue to be studied and practiced by Hindus today and are an important part of the Hindu tradition.
What do we mean by Founder? When we say a founder, we mean to say that someone has brought into existence a new faith or formulated a set of religious beliefs, principles and practices which were not in existence before. That cannot happen with a faith such as Hinduism, which is considered eternal. According to the scriptures, Hinduism is the religion of not just humans. Even gods and demons practice it. Ishwar (Ishwara), the Lord of the universe, is its source. He also practices it. Hence, Hinduism is God’s Dharma, brought down to the earth, just as the sacred River Ganga, for the welfare of the humans.
Who is then the Founder of Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma)?
Hinduism is not founded by a person or a prophet. Its source is God (Brahman) himself. Hence, it is considered an eternal religion (Sanatana dharma). Its first teachers were Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma, the creator God revealed the secret knowledge of the Vedas to gods, humans and demons in the beginning of creation. He also imparted to them the secret knowledge of the Self, but due to their own limitations, they understood it in their own ways.
Vishnu is the preserver. He preserves the knowledge of Hinduism through countless manifestations, associated gods, aspects, saints and seers to ensure the order and regularity of the worlds. Through them, he also restores the lost knowledge of various Yogas or introduces new reforms. Further, whenever the Hindu Dharma declines beyond a point, he incarnates upon earth to restore it and revive its forgotten or lost teachings. Vishnu exemplifies the duties which humans are expected to perform upon earth in their individual capacity as householders within their spheres.
Shiva too plays an important role in upholding Hindu Dharma. As the destroyer, he removes the impurities and confusion that creeps into our sacred knowledge. He is also considered the universal teacher and the source of various art and dance forms (Lalitakalas), Yogas, vocations, sciences, farming, agriculture, alchemy, magic, healing, medicine, Tantra and so on.
Thus, like the mystic Ashvattha Tree which is mentioned in the Vedas, the roots of Hinduism are in heaven, and its branches are spread out on earth. Its core is divine knowledge, which governs the conduct of not only humans but also of the beings in other worlds with God acting as its creator, preserver, concealer, revealer and remover of obstacles. Its core philosophy (the shruti) is eternal, while it changing parts (smriti) keep changing according to the time and circumstances, and the progress of the world. Containing in itself the diversity of God’s creation, it remains open to all possibilities, modifications and future discoveries.
Many other divinities such as Ganesha, Prajapati, Indra, Shakti, Narada, Saraswati and Lakshmi are also credited with the authorship of many scriptures. Apart from this, countless scholars, seers, sages, philosophers, gurus, ascetic movements and teacher traditions enriched Hinduism through their teachings, writings, commentaries, discourses and expositions. Thus, Hinduism is derived from many sources. Many of its beliefs and practices found their way into other religions, that either originated in India or interacted with it.
Since Hinduism has its roots in the eternal knowledge and its aims and purpose are closely aligned to those of God as the Creator of all, it is considered an eternal religion (Sanatana dharma). Hinduism may disappear from the face of the earth due to the impermanent nature of the world, but the sacred knowledge which forms its foundation will remain forever and keep manifesting in each cycle of creation under different names. It is also said that Hinduism has no founder and no missionary goals because people have to come to it either by providence (birth) or personal decision due to their spiritual readiness (past karma).
The name Hinduism, which is derived from the root word, “Sindhu” came into usage due to historical reasons. Hinduism as a conceptual entity did not exist until the British times. The word itself does not appear in literature until the 17th Century A.D. In medieval times, the Indian subcontinent was known as Hindustan or the land of Hindus. They were not all practising same faith, but different ones, which included Buddhism, Jainism, Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Brahmanism and several ascetic traditions, sects and sub sects.
The native traditions and the people who practiced Sanatana Dharma went by different names, but not as Hindus. During the British times, all the native faiths were grouped under the generic name, “Hinduism” to distinguish it from Islam and Christianity and to dispense with justice or settle local disputes, property and tax matters.
Subsequently, after the independence, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism were separated from it by enacting laws. Thus, the word Hinduism was born out of historical necessity and entered the constitutional laws of India through legislation.