Lecture 5
The Upanishads,Teachings on Wisdom

I. The Literature of the Upanishads.

A. End of Vedas. Upanishads as Vedanta, "end of the Vedas." Each of the Vedic Samhitas has Brahmanas (ritual texts), Aranyakas (forest books) and Upanishads affiliated with it.

B. Beginning of philosophical reflection (Sankara in 8th century, Advaita Vedanta; Ramanuja in the 11th century, Qualified Advaita Vedanta, etc.) Seeds of Yoga traditions (Katha, Svetasvatara); Theistic traditions (Isa, Svetasvatara)

C. Jnana, wisdom, as aim of the Upanishadic teachings. Other ideas emergent: rebirth, transmigration; karma; asceticism; renunciation

II. Contexts of the Upanishads

A. Period of ferment, 6th century B.C.E., with urbanization, social instability, and a plethora of teachers and seekers.
B. Kshatriyas, kings as seekers and teachers
King Janaka asks Yajnavalkya, "What light does a person have?"
[Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.3]
C. Women as seekers of wisdom. Gargi asks Yajnavalkya, "On what is it woven, warp and woof?"Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 3.8]
D. Satyakama Jabala, born out of wedlock, asks after his lineage. [Chandogya Upan.4.4]

III. Knowledge of Sacrifice.

A. From exoteric to esoteric emphasis in ritual of sacrifice.
Knowledge of the yajna as most important (Brihadaranyaka 1)
B. Interpretations of sacrifice in Upanishads.
1. A person is a sacrifice, pranayama, breath-control (Chandogya 3.16ff.)
2. brahmacharya, celibate student life is sacrifice (Chandogya 8.5).
3. Sacrifices as "unsafe boats" for the crossing (Mundaka 1.2.7).

IV. Knowledge of Brahman, the Real.

A. Meanings of Brahman: Sound, mantra, prayer; People who know the mantras and prayers, i.e. the brahmanas or brahmins; Class of ritual texts (Brahmanas); the Supreme Being, Ultimate Reality.
B. Dialogue of Gargi and Yajnavalkya (Brihadaranyaka 3.8ff.)
C. Kena Upanishad: Brahman challenges Agni/Fire; Vayu/WInd

V. Knowledge of Atman, the Self or Soul.

A. Kena 1.1: By what, by whom does the mind think?
B. Dialogue of Prajapati and Indra (Chandogya VIII.7 ff.) on the Self.
C. The Contest of the Senses in which Breath, prana, wins
(Brihadaranyaka VI.7ff.).
D. Dialogue of Uddalaka and Svetaketu (Chandogya 6).
Sat, meaning the Real, at the heart of all.
It is like the invisible inside of a fig seed, from which grows the tree.
It is like the taste of salt in water, pervasive but invisible.
Tat tvam asi. "That thou art, Svetaketu."
E. Teachings of Yajnavalkya (Brihadaranyaka 4.4.22)
Neti, neti, neti, "That soul is not this, not this, not this. . ."


asato ma sad gamaya (From untruth lead me to truth.)
tamaso ma jyotir gamaya (From darkness lead me to light.)
mritorma-amritam gamaya (From death, lead me to immortality.)