How Many Upanishad
The Upanishad are found as the concluding part of the Braahman and in the Aaranyak. All Upanishad have been passed down orally. More than 200 Upanishad are known and the oldest and most important are referred to as the principal Upanishad. The Muktikaa Upanishad gives a list of 108 Upanishad (Listed below). With the Bhagavad Geetaa and the Brahm Sootra, known collectively as the Prasthaan Trayee, the main Upanishad provide the foundation for several later schools of philosophy (Vedaant). Historians believe that the chief Upanishad were composed over a wide period ranging from the Pre-Buddhist period to the early centuries BC, though minor Upanishad were still being composed in the early modern period. However, there has been considerable debate among authorities about the exact dating of individual Upanishad.
The Brihadaaranyak and the Chhaandogya are the most important of the Chief Upanishad. They represent two main schools of thought within the Upanishad. The Upanishads also contain the first and most definitive explications of the divine syllable Om, the cosmic vibration that underlies all existence.
The Mantra "Om Shaanti Shaanti Shaanti", translated as "the soundless sound, peace, peace, peace", is often found in the Upanishad. The path of Bhakti or "Devotion to God" is foreshadowed in Upanishadik literature, and was later realized by texts such as the Bhagavad Geetaa.
Some Mahaa Vaakya (Great Sayings) from the Upanishad
The Upanishad are primarily presented as conversations between two persons rather than expository statements of philosophy or ideology.
Shree Aadi Shankar has provided commentaries on 11 Chief Upanishad.
Gaudaapaad was the first person to expound the basic principles of the A-Dwait philosophy in a commentary on the apparently conflicting statements of the Upanishad. Gaudaapaad lived in a time when Buddhism was widely prevalent in India. His main work is infused with philosophical terminology of Buddhism, and uses Buddhist arguments and analogies.
A-Dwait literally means non-duality, and it is a monistic system of thought. It deals with the non-dual nature of Brahm and Aatmaa. The A-Dwait school is said to have been consolidated by Shankar. He was a pupil of Gaudaapaad's pupil Sri Govind Bhagavatpaad. Shankar's views of A-Dwait are straightforward developments of the Upanishad and the Brahm Sootra and he offered no innovations to these, while other scholars found sharp differences between Shankar's writings and the Brahm Sootra.
The Dwait school was founded by Madhwaachaarya.
The third school of Vedaantis the Vishisht A-Dwait, which was founded by Raamaanujaachaarya. Vishisht A-Dwait is a synthetic philosophy of love that tries to reconcile the extremes of the other two monistic and theistic systems of Vedaant. It is called Sri-Vaishanavism in its religious aspect. While the Dwait insists on the difference between the Brahm and the Jeev, the Vishisht A-Dwait states that God is their inner-Self as well as transcendent.
The Chhaandogya Upanishad parodies those who indulge in the acts of sacrifice by comparing them with a procession of dogs chanting Om! Let's eat. Om! Let's drink.
The Mundak launches the most scathing attack on the ritual by comparing those who value sacrifice with an unsafe boat that is endlessly overtaken by old age and death.
The pattern of reducing the number of gods in the Ved becomes more emphatic in the Upanishad. When Yaagyavalkaya is asked how many gods exist, he decrements the number successively by answering thirty-three, six, three, two, one and a half and finally one. Vaidik gods such as the Rudra, Vishnu, Brahmaa are gradually subordinated to the supreme, immortal and incorporeal Brahm of the Upanishad. In fact Indra and the supreme deity of the Braahman, Prajaapati, are made door keepers to the Brahm's residence in the Kaushitakee Upanishad.
In short, the one reality or Ekam Sat of the Ved becomes the Ekam Eva A-Dwiteeyam or "the one and only and sans a second" in the Upanishad.
Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/05
Updated on 10/04/13