chapter  3
13 Pages

The Upanis.ads

Anyone acquainted with the story of the unfolding of Indian philosophy is aware of the fact that the Upanis.ads, the foundational texts, are multifaceted, versatile, and address a plethora of logical, epistemological, grammatical, linguistic, hermeneutical, psychological, physiological, and phenomenological theories. The Upanis.ads, formally part of the Vedas, set forth the nature of ultimate reality, self, foundation of the world, rebirth, immortality, to name only a few. They are generally taken to signify the esoteric teachings imparted orally by the Gurus (spiritual teachers) to their disciples. Such teachings were not meant for common persons. The Upanis.ads clearly command “no one who has not taken a vow think on this.”1 Eventually, such expressions as “paramam guhyam” (the greatest secret)2 came to be used for the Upanis.ads. Thus the Upanis.ads gradually came to signify the highest knowledge which was received from the teacher, a sort of secret instruction, which could only be imparted to those students who were qualified to receive it. The prefix “upa,” denotes “nearness”; ni, means “down,” or “totality”; and sad, “to sit,” “to attain,” or “to loosen.” Etymologically, a disciple humbly approaches the teacher, to gain esoteric knowledge of the totality to break away from the bondage of the world. In this oral erudition, the guru and the pupils engaged in discussions and debates that added to the erudition and eventually became incorporated as part of the textual tradition.