Vedic Religion (cont.)
● There is a subtle, eternal reality behind the world experienced by the senses
● This reality is also identical with the essence of human beings
● Upanishads call this imperishable world-soul brahman or atman
● Brahman refers to Absolute reality and atman refers to the corresponding divine "self" at the
deepest levels of a person
○ Each of us have an atman, a soul that is identical to the brahman, the world
○ External factors like hair color and skin tone are extraneous and irrelevant to who you
● Theistic Upanishads teach that brahman and atman are a single deiry deep within one's being
● Known as a generic god Ishvara ("Lord") or specific god such as Shiva, Vishnu, etc.
○ Deep within themselves, people are actually gods.
○ God exists in every molecular level
● Difficult to perceive this reality
● Only discerned through disciplined practice of yoga & meditation
● This releases one from the cycle of birth and death (samsara)
Atman & Brahman
● Seeing no difference between one's self (atman) and brahman & between brahman and
universe, one is released (mukia) from birth and death (samsara)
Connotation of "Upanishad"
● "Upanishad" derives from the verb "sad" (to sit) + prefixes "upa" ("near") and "ni" ("down")
● Guru = spiritual teacher
● Students seeking spiritual guidance sit at the feet of a guru
● Typical for forest-dwellers and renunciants who have retired to forest to practice meditation
○ People get direct instructions from gurus, which eventually led to the "upanishad"
● Students received "secret lessons" in the form of dialogues, riddles, speculations
○ Poetic methods of teaching
● Such "secret lessons" codified and known as "upanishads"
● Not meant for general public
Internalization of Sacrifice
● Earliest Vedic literature are hymns & chants composed by Rishis ("seers") (cira 1200 BCE)
● This is developed into a ritual system by priests in the Brahmana texts (circa 1000-800 BCE)
● By the 9th century BCE, individuals & groups left home to meditate in forest retreats
○ Recall: Kshatriyas were administrators and were sponsors/patrons to the Brahmans to
preserve cosmic order
○ 8th century: Kshatriyas were not as interested in supporting the Brahmans and went on
to serve individual