From the Jacket
The Upanisads form the concluding portions of the Veda and are, therefore, called the Vedanta or the end of the Veda. The number of the Upanisads in not fixed. The collection of Upanisads translated by Darashikoh into Persian contained 50 Upanisads. The Muktika Upanisads gives a list of 108 Upanisads. There are about 112 Upanisads published by Nirnaya Sagar Press. But only ten Upanisads which were commented upon by Sankaracarya are taken to genuine and most authoritative.
The Upanisads, which tech that life and death are only different forms of one and the same being and which aim at the release from mundane existence by the merging of the individual soul in the world-soul through correct knowledge, have been hailed as the inspired utterances of the mystics for centuries. In them the whole of the later philosophy of the Indians is rooted.
About the Author
Paul Deussen is one of the foremost Western scholars who have devoted their lives to understand an interpret the philosophy of the Upanisads. His Sechzig Upanisads des Veda has remained for a long time inaccessible to the common Indian reader owing to its German language. It is now for the first time appearing in English translation, which is a work of the late Professor V.M. Bedekar and Dr. G.B. Palsule.
Professor V.M. Bedekar (1902-78): Educated at Pune and Bombay, became Professor in Pratap Collage. He authored a number of research papers (over 100); Translated E. Frauwallner's Geschichte derindischen Philosophie (2 Vols.) and O.M. Hinze's Tantra Vidya into English.
Professor G.B. Palsule (1921- ) holds a doctorate from Poona University; was Research Fellow, Bhandarkar Oriental Institute (1949-56); Sub-Editor, Sanskrit Dictionary Dept. (1956-64); Reader, Centre of Advanced Study in Sanskrit, University of Poona (1975- ) and authored four Sanskrit plays.
The Upanisads are for the Veda, what the New Testament is for the Bible; and the analogy is not mere external (formal) and accidental but such as is full of great profundity and is founded, in general, on the laws of development of religious life manifested in both the fields (of literature).
In the childhood of mankind religion lays down commands and prohibitions and emphasises them through promise of reward and threat of punishment; it thus concerns itself with the egotism, which it presupposes as the real core of man and beyond which it does not lead.
A higher state of religious consciousness is attained with the knowledge that all works (deeds or actions), which depend on fear or hope as their driving motives, are worthless from the point of the eternal destiny of man, that the highest function of existence consists not in the gratification of egoism, but in its own complete heightening (sublimation) and that in this state (of heightened consciousness), our true divine essence attains a break-through through the individuality as through a shell or a husk.
That childlike standpoint of the validity of actions is repre- sented in the Bible through the rules in the Old Testament, and correspondingly in the Vedas through what the Indian theolo- gians name the Karma-Kanda (the part devoted to rites and ritual), under which name is included the whole literature of the hymns and the Brahmanas with the exception of the parts like the Upanisads, interlaced here and there in between. Both the Old Testament and the Karmakanda of the Vedas proclaim a law and set forth the prospect of reward for the observance of that law and of punishment for its transgression. The Indian theory has the advantage that it can remove or transfer the requital (of actions) partly to the world beyond and thus avoid conflict with actual experience; the theory of requital, in the Old Testament, however, restricted to this existence, creates many dilemmas. On the other hand, the distinctive character of the Biblical 'validity of the law' lies in the fact that, in com- parison with the Indian one, it is less concerned with going beyond the ritual directions and on account of that reason, lays greater emphasis on the moral, 'unpunishable' conduct of life. From the point of the interest of human society, this advantage is very great; but by itself and from the point of 'moral' worth of actions, there is basically no difference whether man exerts himself to offer service to an imaginary god or to his own fellow-beings. Both these, so long as one's own well-being is present before the mind, however vaguely, are a mere means towards this egotistic aim and, therefore are, like the egotistic aim itself, worthless and objectionable from the point of moral considerations.
This knowledge breaks new ground in the New Testament, when it teaches the worthlessness of bad actions and in the Upanisadic teaching which lays down that all, even good, actions are objectionable. Both the New Testament and the Upanisads make salvation dependent not on any actions of one's own doing but on a complete transformation of the whole natural man. Both consider this transformation as a deliverance from the fetters of this whole empirical reality, rooted in egotism.
But why do we need a deliverance out of this existence? "Because this existence is the realm of sin and evil" answers the Bible. "Because it is the realm of error or ignorance" answers the Veda. The Bible sees the corruption in the willing part of man, the Upanisads see it in the knowing part of man; the Bible promotes the transformation of the will, the Upanisads the transformation in knowledge. On which side lies the truth?- Were man a mere will or a mere knowledge, we would, corres- pondingly, have been able to decide in favour of one or the other interpretation. But man is at the same time a willing and a knowing being; so that great transformation, in which the Bible and the Upanisads discover salvation, will have to be brought about in both the spheres; it will, according to the Biblical view, soften the heart petrified in natural egoism and make it capable of practising righteousness, love and self- negation -and secondly, hand in hand with it, it will, at the same time, anticipating Kant's doctrine, allow the knowledge, which the Upanisads advocate, to dawn on us, to the effect that this whole world-order, entirely spatial, i.e. manifold, i.e. an egoistic world-order only depends on an illusion (maya) inborn in us through the constitution of our intellect, that there is an eternal being beyond space and time, beyond plurality and becoming, which comes into manifestation in all forms of nature and which I feel and find to be whole, undivided as my real self, in my innermost being, as the Atman.
Undoubtedly, according to Schopenhauer's great teaching, the will and not the intellect forms the core of man; equally undoubtedly, the preference of Christianity is for the promotion of the rebirth of the will, which is the really central and the essential one. -But at the same time, there is no doubt that the man is not mere will but is also, at the same time, intellect. Therefore, that Christian rebirth of the will can be surely demon- strated, on the other side, as the rebirth of knowledge, just as the Upanisads teach it. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" so the Bible demands. -But whence comes this demand, that I feel in me and not in the other? - "Because" here intervenes the Veda (the Upanisads) providing clarification, "thy neighbour, in truth, is thy own self and what separates thee from him is mere illusion". -As in this particular case, so also it is on all points between the two systems. The New Testa- ment and the Upanisads-both are the highest products of religious consciousness of mankind. If one does not cling to the externals, he will find that both these do nowhere, at no point, stand in irreconciliable contradiction but serve, in the most exquisite manner, to elucidate and supplement each other.
An example may show the value which the Upanisads have for us from the point of the pattern of our Christian consciousness.
The Veda i.e. 'the sacred knowledge' embraces the entire literature held by the Indians as super-human and inspired. The Vedic Literature is organized into four sectors which are as follows:
I. Rgveda, the Veda of the verses (Rc)
11. Samaveda, the Veda of songs (Saman)
Ill. Yajurveda, the Veda of sacrificial texts (Yajus)
IV. Atharvaveda, so named after Atharvan, a mythical priest of the past ages.
The arrangement of all this stuff in these four sectors depends on the fact that the four chief priests belong to a festive Soma Sacrifice:
I. The Hotr, who invites the gods by reciting the verses (Re),
II. The Udgatr, by whose songs (Sarnan) the sacrifice is accompanied,
III. The Adhvaryu who carries out the holy rites, while muttering the sacrificial texts (Yajus).
IV. The Brahman, the chief priest who leads the whole ceremony, without interfering in the rules of the sacrifice.
The handbook of the Hotr is the Rgveda, that of the Udgatr is the Samaveda, that of the Adhvaryu the Yajurveda. On the other hand, Brahman has no special handbook but he must know all the three Vedas mentioned above. Only artificially and in a later period, there was estab- lished a connection with the Atharvaveda, a collection of apocryphal matter which distinctly exhibits this characteristic in all the parts of which it consists.
Everyone of these three priests required for carrying out his duties (A) a Samhita (collection) which provided him with the material of hymns and texts to be employed by him; (B) a Brahmana (theological elucidation) which imparted to him the directives for the right use of this material during the sacrificial service; the extensive contents of the Brahmana can be classi- fied under three rubrics or categories : as (a) Vidhi (directives) (b) Artha- vada (explanation of an exegetical, mythological and polemical type) and (c) Vedanta or Upanisad (theological and philosophical reflections about the essential nature of things). The last mentioned category was called the vedanta (the end of the Veda, later meant as the final goal of the Veda) because it was, as a rule, located at the end of the Brahmana; it was also called the Upanisad (literally 'confidential session' with the teacher. later meant as 'secret lore') because it used to be imparted to the pupil towards the end of the period of instruction, wider circles of pupils being excluded. Besides the Samhita and Brahmana ; (C) every Veda has a Sutra (a manual) belonging to it; the contents of the Sutra are parallel to those of the Brahmana, in so far as the Sutra reproduces them in a short, 'well- arranged form and completes them into a systematic whole. Accordingly Vedic literature is divided into twelve sub-divisions :
c. Vedanta (Upanisad)
Everyone of these twelve sub-divisions is however, available not in a simple but repeatedly in a manifold form. Every one of these four Vedas was taught in different Sakhas ('branches') i.e. Vedic Schools which deviated so much from one another in the treatment of the total material, that in course of time different works of parallel contents developed out of them. This deviation or difference is not so considerable in the case of the Samhita because its contents had become already too fixed, and if at all, restricts itself as to differences of recension or redaction. But this difference is dis- cernible all the more in the case of the Brahmanas and the Sutras such that, as every one of the four Vedas continued in different Sakhas and each one produced its own Brahrnana and later, under repeated shifting of names and conditions, its own Sutra. We can leave here the Sutras out of account; they arose, as the word shows, mainly in the post-Buddhistic period and are, presumably, to be understood as an attempt to get oriented on new lines vis-a-vis the massive material of the Vedic sacrificial character, after people had got alienated from the Vedic sacrifice for a long period of many cen- turies, on account of the blossoming of Buddhism and of its anti-sacrificial tendencies. However, whatever may be the case, the Sutras in any case, do not belong in the strict sense, to the Vedic canon which encompasses only the Mantra (hymns and sacrificial texts) and Brahmana (theological elucidations) and finds its conclusion, with the concluding chapters of the Brahmanas, as their name Vedanta (the end or concluding part of the Veda) already signifies. Only till the period which is inclusive of the Vedanta, the inspiration of the Veda extends itself, whereas the Sutras are no more regarded as inspired and they no more enjoy the authority of the Sruti (revelation) but only that of the Smrti (tradition).
Every Sakha had accordingly its own Brahmana which contains in Vidhi and Arthavada the ritual textbook and in the Vedanta i.e. the Upa- nisad the doctrinal textbook of the school. The Upanisads are, there- fore, originally nothing else than the doctrinal textbooks of respective Vedic schools; from this it becomes clear that all of them (such as belong to the older period) treat the same contents - the doctrine of Atman or Brahman - sometimes briefly, sometimes at length, in a manner which, more or less, deviates from text to text. Accordingly, there must have been as many Upanisads as there were Vedic Schools, and when, indeed the Muktika- upanisad (Indische Studien III, 324) asserts, that there had been 21 schools of the Rgveda, 1000 of the Samaveda, 109 of the Yajurveda and 50 of the Atharvaveda, it follows therefrom that there must have been 21+1000+109 +50=1180 Upanisads. In reality, however, the state of things was much simpler, so far as the number of the Sakhas, which, as we actually know, restricts for every Veda only a few Upanisads.
Each of these Sakhas had, therefore, its own Brahmana and its Upa- nisad joined or annexed to it. However, this annexure was not directly joined to it but used to be mediated to the supplement of the Brahmana through an Aranyaka i.e. (a text) prescribed for study in the forest, which usually contained an Upanisad embedded in it and according to its stress and content formed the transition from the Brahmana to the Upa- nisad. This relation between Brahmana and Aranyaka (together with the Upanisad contained in it) appears to have been based on the Brahmanical ordering of life, according to which every Arya, after he had completed his period of life as Brahmacarin (Brahman-student) had to pursue in his next period of life viz. manhood (youth) as a Grhastha (householder), the sacri- ficial cult or had to make arrangement for its expenses and after that with approaching old age, had to leave his house and family according to the instructions under the rules in that behalf and live alone in the solitude of the forest in order to practise as Vanaprastha (a hermit in the forest) penance and meditation, whereby the real sacrifice not mostly practicable in this condition, was replaced by a mental or spiritual pursuit of the same according to its deep and mystic meaning. What for the Grhastha was the Brahmana, was for the Vanaprastha the Aranyaka. The Aranyaka contained the Upanisad which, already studied in studenthood, i.e. already committed to memory (because, there was still no written record), now, however, with old age and death approaching, offered at last a fully intelligible final explanation of the nature of the world and of man's own self.
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