RG ST 3 Lecture 5: RG ST 3 Lecture #5

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University of California - Santa Barbara
Religious Studies

Vedic Religion (cont.) Central Teachings ● 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 really are ● 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
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