Upanishads

{oo - pan' - i - shadz}

General Information

The Upanishads are chronologically the latest portions of the Vedas, the sacred texts of Hinduism. The earliest Upanishads, probably dating from 900 to 600 BC, represent the first development of philosophical reflections in Sanskrit literature; later works have also been accepted from time to time as Upanishads. According to a widespread tradition the oldest Upanishads are the Isa, Kena, Katha, Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittiriya, Aitareya, Chandogya, Brhadaranyaka, Svetasvatara, Kaushitaki, and Maitri Upanishads. The material they comprise is part poetry, part prose. They contain didactic stories, allegories, and passages for meditation, a number of which are repeated in more than one Upanishad or elsewhere in the Vedic corpus.

The fundamental concern of the Upanishads is the nature of reality. They teach the identity of the individual soul (atman) with the universal essence soul (Brahman). Because they are the final portions of the Vedas, they are also known as Vedanta, "the end of the Vedas," and their thought, as interpreted in succeeding centuries, is likewise known as Vedanta.

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Karl H Potter

Bibliography:
P Deussen, The Philosophy of the Upanishads (1960); E Easwaren, The Upanishads: A Selection (1987); N A Nikam, Ten Principal Upanishads: Some Fundamental Ideas (1974); S Sharma, Life in the Upanishads (1985).


The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

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