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Many Paths to One God

The Upanishads (Vedanta)

The Upanishads were so called because they were taught to those who sat down beside their teachers. (upa=near, ni=down, shad=sit).

These texts developed from the Vedic tradition, but largely reshaped Hinduism by providing believers with philosophical knowledge.

The major Upanishads were largely composed between 800-200 BCE and are partly prose, partly verse.

Later Upanishads continued to be composed right down to the 16th century. Originally they were in oral form.

The early Upanishads are concerned with understanding the sacrificial rites.

Central to the Upanishads is the concept of brahman; the sacred power which informs reality.

Important Upanishads 

Brihadaranyaka, etc.

The glory of God

Look around you, and see God's glory in all that lives and moves. Enjoy the glory of God by wanting nothing for yourself. Regard nothing as belonging to you; and envy nothing that belongs to others. When you know in your heart that all things belong to God, then all things will bring you pleasure.

If you possess nothing, then you will become an instrument of God. Your work will be his work. And as an instrument of God, you will be perfectly free.

God himself never moves; yet he is swifter than thought. God is stationary; yet the senses can never perceive him. God is beyond the mind and the senses. God stands still; yet he overtakes even the fastest athlete. God is like a calm lake, and also like a stream flowing down a mountain.

God travels, and yet he does not travel. He is far away, and yet he is near. He is within all beings, and yet he is outside all beings.

Those who find God within themselves, and find God in others, lose all fear. Those who are at one with all beings, and discern the unity of all beings, lose all sorrow.

God is light, and all comes from him. God has no body, and so cannot be hurt. He is pure, and so cannot be tainted by evil. He is both immanent and transcendent; he is below and above; he is everywhere.

Isa Upanishad

The Upanishads

The Upanisads are diverse in character and outlook. They recognize intuition rather than reason as a path to ultimate truth. They also represent a strong reaction against the merely ritual and sacrificial duties on which stress had been laid earlier. 

The Upanisads are supposed to be 108 or more in number. Twelve of them are generally recognized as the principal units. The Isa Upanisad begins with the statement that whatever exists in This world is enveloped by the Supreme. It is by renunciation and absence of possessiveness that the soul is saved. 

In the Kena Upaniad, the Goddess Uma Haimavati in the form of Supreme Knowledge expounds the doctrine of the Brahman or Supreme Entity. 

The Katha Upanisad embodies the aspiration of Naciketas, who declined his father's offer of property and went into exile, making his way to the region of Yama, the God of Death. Naciketas, in his dialogue with Yama, declines all the worldly possessions and dignities offered by Yama and asserts that all enjoyments are transient and the boon he asks for is the secret of immortality. In This Upanisad occurs the famous saying "The knowledge of the Supreme is not gained by argument but by the teaching of one who possesses intuition"

In the Mundaka Upanisad occurs the verse which is the germ of the Bhagavad-Gita . People who perform actions and are attached to the world are pursuing a futile path, and This Upanisad, accordingly, declares: "Let the wise man, having examined the world and perceived the motives and the results of actions, realize that as from a blazing fire sparks proceed, living souls originate from the indestructible Brahman and return to Him. All doubts disappear and the attachment to work subsides when the Supreme Being is cognized."

These basic doctrines are further expounded in the Taitiriya Upanisad, which contains this famous verse repeated in other Upanisads: "May we both (teacher and disciple) be protected; may we both obtain sustenance; !et both of us at the same time apply (our) energies (for the acquirement of knowledge); may our reading be illustrious; may there be no hatred (amongst us). Peace, peace, peace."

In the more recent Svetasvatara Upanisad is found a summary of the main Upanisadic doctrines, and the idea of devotion to a personal God is also developed. 

The Chandogya Upanisad, one of the earliest, states that the main doctrines of the Upanisads, were first expounded by the Kshatriyas and not by the Brahmins. Later, as is evident from the Kausitaki Upanisad, the Brahmins took up the intensive study of philosophy. The contrast which is often drawn between Brahminism and Hinduism is therefore not based on a right appraisal of the facts.

Excepted From: Hinduism by Dr. C.P.Ramaswami Aiyar, et.al., 
The Gazetteer of India, Volume 1
, Publications Div., Government of India, 1965.

The process of dying

A heavily laden cart creaks as it moves along the road; in the same way the body groans under the burden of life as death approaches. When the body grows weak through old age or illness, the soul loosens itself from the body, as a mango or a fig loosens itself from its stalk; and thus it prepares to begin another life.

The soul gathers the powers of life to itself, and descends with them into the heart. 
As life leaves the eye, and returns to its source within the soul, the eye no longer sees. 
As life leaves the nose, and returns to its source within the soul, the nose no longer smells. 
As life leaves the tongue, and returns to its source within the soul, the tongue no longer tastes. 
As life leaves the mouth, and returns to its source within the soul, the mouth no longer speaks. 
As life leaves the ear, and returns to its source within the soul, the ear no longer hears. 
As life leaves the mind, and returns to its source within the soul, the mind no longer thinks. 
As life leaves the skin, and returns to its source within the soul, the sense of touch is lost.

By the light of the heart the soul leaves the body; and as the soul leaves, the powers of life follow.

Since the soul is consciousness, the body loses consciousness as the soul departs; and the soul carries the spiritual effects of all that the person has done, experienced and known.

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4;3.35-36; 4.1-2

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