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PHILOSOPHY: The Upanisads and Vedanta

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McGill University
Religious Studies
RELG 252
Davesh Soneji

To discuss: The Upanisads and Vedanta Upanisadic Knowledge What the point of human life? Its not just about living an ethical life, but also, there is another worldly aim. The Upanisads are philosophic or speculative texts that provide meaning for VEDIC ritual. Since they are the last of the sruti texts they are also known as the vedanta (“End of the Veda”). (They also form basic texts of the philosophical school called the Vedanta that develops later.) They belong to the category of sruti and they have no Authors and are thought to have been transferred through the insight of the sages called RISHIS. Thus many of these texts are structured as dialogues or “teachings” between the RISHIS and the students (transmitted in an oral tradition, similar to the earlier VEDIC ritual material). Many of the upanisads starts with a student asking a question and then the teacher (Rishis) holding the upanisadic knowledge transmits that knowledge to the student. That is the basic structure. The idea of a Rishi is very important in relation to the Sruti. The rishis are important because they are able to tap into the sruti and bring down this ever- flowing knowledge. The relation between Vedanta (a philosophical school which emerged much later) and the Upanisads is the Non-dualistic thought (that is characteristic of all the major Upanisadic texts). Upanisadic/Vedantic Ideas About Ultimate Reality: Brahma (absolute reality, close to God or an Absolute Deity) Atman (self, soul) (it is what is moving from body to body and is getting encased from one body to another, one vessel to another) Rebirth is not the only aim; rather there is a larger worldly goal In their very essence, in their core, Brahmin and Atman is the same thing (this is where we get the idea of Non-dualistic) All Dualisms have their resolution in Brahman. ---> Buddhism did not believe in Brahman and Atman. How is this relationship between Brahman and Atman understood? Brahman is the origin. Moksha is seen as the merging of the multiplicity into Brahman. Fire and sparks are not different from each other. The Fire is the source of the spark and when the spark dies down, it returns back to fire (a cycle) Everything in the universe is connected is the idea. The self inside an animal form is not different from the self in the human form. All is connected to absolute reality. A complex connection web Moksha: the resolution of multiplicity to singularity, Brahma It is the ultimate aim of life. The Upanisads also stress asceticism and withdrawal from worldly life. They posit that liberation from the cycle of birth and death comes with knowledge from Brahman, combined with the discipline of renunciation. “Knowledge of Brahman” refers to a realization of the ultimate non-duality of all existence. Brahman is the only true thing that exists and all else is false. IMPORTANT FOR ESSAY (If I focus on evolution of Moksha for example) The way to Moksha is the realization of Brahman, the one truth that exists, the idea of singularity (the collapse of dualism) Later development: th
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