RLG205H5 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Shvetashvatara Upanishad, Neti Neti, Mandukya Upanishad
QUESTIONS FROM LECTURES
What are the major elements of the class (VARNA) social structure and how does caste
(JATI) social structure differ from the class (VARNA) social structure?
The Aryan Varna Class system began from 1500 BCE till 200 BCE at which point the
untouchables were added into the system and it conformed into the Jati caste system which had
The Varna class system is based on colour as the Jati system is based on cleanliness.
The Aryans were the lighter-skinned as the aboriginals were the darker skinned
The Varna Class system:
1. Brahmans/Brahmins (SATTVA or ‘goodness’) consist of priests, religious elites, learned class,
culture bearers. They study and teach the Veda and smriti and must sacrifice both for himself and
others. They are the highest tier and are not twice born. They must instruct the other two twice
born tiers in Vedic lore, but on no account should instruction be givien to a Shudra. This would be
a sin and punishment is in the pains of hell.
2. The Kshyatriyas (rajas or ‘energy’) are the warriors and rulers among whom were included the
‘kings’ or tribal chieftains, nobles and military. They have polital elite. They are twice born since
they are able to sacrifice and be born into a higher tier or within the same class. They duty is to
protect their subjects, to expand his kingdom by fair means or foul, if necessary by war. They must
take part in war, kill or be killed while facing enemy.
3. The Vaisyas (mixture of ‘energy’ or ‘dullness’) are the merchants, the common people, the
tradesmen, herders, peasantry, artisans
4. The Sudras ( tamas or ‘dullness’) are servants/ slaves. They are not able to sacrifice nor have
sacrifice on their behalfthus were unable to be born again. They are not allowed to associate with a
higher class member. They were forbidden all access to Veda.
5. The untouchable
There was rivalry among the Brahman and Kshatriyas, with the defeat of the Kshatriays. At this
time the Brahman gave themselves sacred power and privileges. They were now gods among men
and even spoken as gods of gods.
In 200 BCE at which time the untouchables were added, the system was considered the Jati caste
system and the upper classes were subdivided based on cleanliness.
Jati caste system: one is born into their caste based on their previous life karma. They must marry
within their caste (COMMMENSALITY) and eat with a member of own caste(ENDOGAMY).
There are sets of rules governing acceptable occupationd, foods, marriage, and association with
other jatis. In the Jati caste system the untouchables vs. mom were highly segregated. There were
rules forbidding eating, drinking, smoking with member of different caste.
Who are INDRA and AGNI and what are their characteristics and functions in Vedic
Vedic Indians declared three classes of priests, warriors and peasants were identical with Agni
(fire-god), Indra (warrior God) and visve devah (all-gods)
God is centered on 33 deities: Indra, Agni
In classical Sanskrit, the word Indra means ‘lord’ or ‘king’. Indra is the warrior king and is the
most popular of the gods. He is the god of storm. He is the chief deity and the god of war(later)
and rain, the greatest concerns of the people at that time. He creates order in the world and he has
many forms. He separated the heavens and the earth by defeating Vrtra, a snake-dragon
representation of chaos and obstacles. Another Vedic myth describes his defeat of Vrtra using
wind and a thunderbolt as his weapons, enabling the monsoon rains to end. Indra must be
strengthened with the drink soma, provided by worshippers, to accomplish this task. Indra's
weapon, which he used to kill Vritra, is the thunderbolt (Vajra), though he also uses a bow, a net
and a hook. He delights in drinking Soma. He is the god of war.
Agni is the fire god who sends the soul of the dead to heaven where it is in perfect, carefree bliss.
(Agni is known for sacrifice). He is a brahman therefore he is a priest and he is the son of earth and
He is the mediator between gods and men and he wrestled demons.He is the elements that binds
together the world: in heaven he is the sun, in atmosphere he is the waters, in the storm cloud he is
lightning while on earth he is kindled by hands of men.
In the CHANDOGYA UPANISHAD, Chapter 6, UDDALAKA ARUNI, the father, uses
symbolic analogies to teach his son, SHVETAKETU, the meaning of ATMAN. What is the
basic teaching that symbolized by the bees-honey and rivers-ocean analogies?
1. ATMAN in the UPANISHADS can mean either an INDIVIDUAL SOUL or one
COSMIC SOUL as the COSMIC SOUL. ATMAN is identical with BHAHMAN, the
ABSOLUTE GROUND of BEING (SAT)
It (SAT, BEING) (ATMAN or BRAHMAN) created by itself – “ Would that I be many.
“ONE gives rise to the many
2. BEE-HONEY: POLENS (MANY) forms(ONE) “ add distinctive flavers: here ATMAN
means both INDIVIDUAL SOUL (pollens) and HONEY (COSMIC SOUL or
3. RIVERS-OCEANS – Rivers are the SAME ESSENCE (water) as OCEANS –
INDIVIDUAL SOULS (ATMAN) are of the same ESSENCE as BRAHMANS-
SPIRITUAL and ETERNAL
4. UDDALAKA concludes” THAT is REALITY(SAT-BEING);THAT is ATMAN
(COSMIC SOUL); THAT are THOU”, The INDIVIDUAL SOUL (ATMAN) comes from
the COSMIC SOUl (ATMAN or BHAHMAN) and retunrs to the COSMIC SOUL –
SHVETAKETH; gains JNANA
What is meant when the Upanishads, especially the BRIHADARANKYAKA UPANISHAD,
describe BRAHMAN or ATMAN as ‘NETI, NETI’ “not this, not that”
“Neti, Neti” means not this, not that. It can give analogies but they must be experiences. It is
impossible to describe and must be experienced.
The turning point is reached with the Upanishads and their dual search for the eternal ‘self’
(atman) within man and the eternal ground of the universe outside him (Brahman).
It is “Neti, Neti”, not this, not that. It cannot be described and must be experienced. It is a state of
total consciousness or unconsciousness. It is Sat-Cit-Ananda (being, consciousness and bliss). It is
a state demonstrated in the Maitri Upanishad when one is in the Turiya state. It is the silence once
It can be interpreted as the negation of all conceptions of self, which is similar to the Anatta
doctrine of Buddhism.
In the Brhadaranjaka Upanishad, when yajnavalkya was questioned by his students to describe
god, he could only say it is not this, it is not that (neti neti) This is unlimited, amorphous,
colourless, characterless and formless universal spirit is omnipresent and omnipotent and like
cosmic energy, it is pervasive, unseen and indescribable
In the SHVETASHVATARA UPANISHAD who is the One God who “rules over the
perishable and the self (JIVATMAN) and who is identified with BRAHMAN?
The One God who “rules over the perishable and the self (JIVATMAN)” and who is identified
with BRAHMAN is Shiva known to be a vicious and dark figure or diety is rather a good diety in
the Upanishad whom masters over the perishable and imperishable. He who creates and protects,
he who rules over the world. The use of the term god as the one ruler of the universe is used
alongside a shift in the Upanishads from Absolutism to more Theism. The tendency to use the term
a god culminates in the Shvetashvartara Upanishad and using the term of God, as the one supreme
being begins. The Shvetashvatara Upanishad was between 600 – 200 BCE and in this Upanishad
Ishwara was the one great being.
In the MANDUKYA UPANISHAD three psychological states, the waking state, the dreaming
state and the deep sleep state are used as analogies to meditational states. Briefly,
characterize each state and its relationship to RAJA YOGA.
a. Waking state – “Outwardly cognitive”, the senses are active on objects of the external
world – subject-object duality
b. Dreaming state- sleeper “falls” asleep; hence, exists in the mind- mind-mind
object;dreamer-dream; Though TAPAS (Mediatational heat or concentration) the
Mediatator withdraws his senses into the mind (STEP 5. PRATYAHARA); The
MEDITATOR holds his minds fast to a mind objects (STEP 6. DHARANA)
c. DEEP SLEEP STATE – “The sleeper dreams no dream whatoever”MIND ObJECT fuse;
state of UNCONSCIOUSNESS; BUT in STEP 7. DHYANA (MEDIATATION) the