The word ‘Upanishad’ mean ‘sitting devotedly near’. The Upanishads are revealed by God at the commencement of each cycle of creation to the worthy few Rishis. It is sitting at their feet that we have to learn them.
The Muktikopanisad gives a list of 108 Upanishads, out of which the principal Upanishads are
The minor Upanishads are sometimes grouped as follows:
a) Shaiva Upanishads
b) Sakta Upanishads
c) Vaisnava Upanishads
d) Yoga Upanishads
e) Samnyasa Upanishads
The Shaiva, the Sakta and the Vaisnava Upanishads deal with respective cults of Shiva, Devi and Visnu. The Yoga Upanishads supply a lot of information about Hathayoga and Rajayoga based on the Yogasutras of Patanjali and other works. The Samnyasa Upanishads deal exclusively with monasticism, its ideals and practices.
Various Commentaries on the Upanishads
Sankara is the earliest and the first to comment upon the Upanishads. His bhashyas or commentaries, further elucidated by the tikas or glosses of Anandagiri (13th century) are invaluable source books to unlock the wisdom of the Upanishads.
Ramanuja has not commented upon any of the Upanishads though he has tried to amplify some of their concepts in his Vedartha Sangraha. Rangaramanuja (circa A.D. 1600) has completed the work by commenting on all the major Upanishads Madhva (A.D. 1197-1276) has written brief commentaries on all the ten ancient Upanishads upon which some like Raghavendra Tirtha (A.D. 1595-1671) have written glosses.
A later writer, Upanishad Brahmayogi, has done remarkable work by commenting on most of the minor Upanishads.
Q1. How many books are there in
are close to 200 Upanishads but the best known are the 13 which are embedded in
Vedas known as Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda,
Veda. The most well-known Upanishad is the Chandogya Upanishad. The Muktikā
Upanishad contains a list of 108 canonical Upanishads. These are further
divided into Upanishads associated with Shaktism (goddess Shakti), Sannyasa
(renunciation, monastic life), Shaivism (god Shiva), Vaishnavism (god Vishnu),
Yoga, and Sāmānya
(general, sometimes referred to as Samanya-Vedanta). These
Vedik texts assert to be an Upanishad, thereby a Śruti.
Most of these sectarian Upanishads, for example, the Rudrahridaya Upanishad and
the Mahanarayana Upanishad, assert that all the Hindu gods and goddesses are
the same, all an aspect and manifestation of Brahman.
Q2. What are the questions discussed
in the Upanishads?
main questions are
a. What happens after death?
goal in life should be to attain self-actualization so that after death it can
return home (to the Brahma).
b. Is there any life after death?
or the cycle of birth and rebirth, If a soul fails in its dharma or deed in a
lifetime, then it has to take birth again. On completion of its dharma, it
attains moksha or complete salvation and is reunited with its origin, the
c. Why should sacrifices be
d. Is there anything permanent in
the universe, which lasts even after death?
e. how does life interface its
relation with nature and senses?
Q3. What is the main purpose of
Upanishads developed from the religious-philosophical system of Brahmanism
which maintained that the creator of the universe, and the universe itself, was
a Supreme over Soul they called Brahman. Generally,
the Upanishads are concerned with the nature of reality, the individual soul
(atman), and the universal soul (Brahman) and with the theory of the
transmigration of souls and the nature of morality. Various ideas about the
relationship between Atman and Brahman can be found, and later commentators tried
to harmonize this diversity. The
main philosophy of the Upanishads is Upasana (worship) and Bhakti (devotion).
The Upanishads give importance to the worship of one God. They explain the
Hindu concepts of karma, dharma, samsara, and moksha.
Q4. Which type of book is Upanishads?
Upanishads are late Vedic Sanskrit texts of Hindu philosophy that form the
foundations of Hinduism. They are the most recent part of the Vedas, the oldest
scriptures of Hinduism, and deal with meditation, philosophy, consciousness,
and ontological knowledge. Earlier parts of the Vedas deal with mantras,
benedictions, rituals, ceremonies, and sacrifices. While
among the most important literature in the history of Indian religions and
culture, the Upanishads document a wide variety of "rites, incarnations,
and esoteric knowledge" departing from Vedic ritualism. Of all Vedic
literature, the Upanishads alone are widely known, and their diverse ideas,
interpreted in various ways, informed the later traditions of Hinduism.
Q5. Which is the largest Upanishads?
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (Sanskrit: बृहदारण्यक) is the largest and Principal
Upanishads scripture of Hinduism. A key scripture to various schools of
Hinduism, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is tenth in the Muktikā
or "canon of 108 Upanishads". The
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is estimated to have been composed about the 7th-6th
century BCE, excluding some parts estimated to have been composed after the
Chandogya Upanishad. The Sanskrit language text is contained within the
Satapatha Brahmana, which is itself a part of the Shukla Yajur Veda. The
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is a treatise on Ātman
(Self), includes passages on metaphysics, ethics, and a yearning for knowledge
that influenced various Indian religions, ancient and medieval scholars, and
attracted secondary works such as those by Adi Shankara and Madhvacharya.
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