The advancement of ancient Indian thinking was significantly influenced by the Upanishads. Many sectarian groups, schools of Hindu philosophy, and even modern religions like Buddhism and Jainism benefited greatly from the knowledge they contained. Only an understanding of the Upanishads can account for the depth of Hinduism's philosophy. Otherwise, it would have continued to be a religion of repetitive rites and rituals and would have been open to obscurantism and superstition. Some Upanishads, like the Isa Upanishad and even the Bhagavadgita, mention the two different aspects of knowledge. They can also be referred to as vidya and avidya. The path to liberation and immortality is through jnana kanda, or self-knowledge, which is referred to as vidya. Those who achieve it travel the bright route of the eternal gods to the world of Brahman (devayana). Avidya is the understanding of sacrifices, ceremonies, and rituals, as well as knowledge of the outside world, that enables people to please gods and achieve their goals. In extreme circumstances, it results in punishment in the lower, darker worlds as well as rebirth, anguish, and pain.
Some of the unique types of Upanishads are-
Kenopanishad : The first two components of the Kenopanishad are written in verse, and the last two are written in prose. The Supreme Brahman, the unchanging reality that underlies the phenomenal universe, is the subject of the poem form, whereas the Supreme God, Isvara, is the subject of the prose form. Only those who are able to focus on the fundamental truth of the cosmos and remove their attention from worldly concerns can attain knowledge of the Absolute. It aims to identify the root of man's existence through a sequence of fundamental questions and answers, and to develop his self-awareness until it is equivalent to the Absolute-Reality or Brahman.
Mundakopanishad : This Upanishad is a combination of enlightened words by different gurus who want to teach the future generation about the existence of the Absolute Reality or Brahman. It starts off with identifying Brahman as the creator of the cosmos and knowledge incarnate.
Kathopanishad : The timeless truths are presented in the form of a story in one of the most beautiful Upanishads. With some modifications, the story is adapted from Taittiriya Brahmana. The Taittiriya Brahmana also tells the same tale, with the exception that in the Upanishad, liberation from birth and death is solely possible through knowledge, however in the Brahmana, it requires the performance of an unusual sacrifice.
Prasnopanishad : As the name suggests, this Upanishad deals with philosophical questions divided into chapters with their responses. The first three questions are of the metaphysical variety but lack a concrete response, and thus end up being a part of common folklore. The Essential concepts of Complete Liberation (moksha) and the significance of the OM sign in Hinduism are also discussed in the Prashnopanishad.
Chandogya Upanishad : Often referred to as “Madhu Vidya”, the Chandogya Upanishad is an eight-chapter text that covers a wide range of Hindu philosophical ideas, including the chanting of Om, good and evil, space, the universe as a whole, the Soul and Self, oneness with the world, and Brahman. It is a lyrical composition with a meter and emphasizes chanting, song, and language.
Q1. What is the central belief of the Upanishads?
Upanishads believe that Brahman exists in the Atman of each and every human being.
Q2. Why are Upanishads also called Vedanta?
As Upanishads spoke mostly about Vedas in a conclusive detailed manner, Vedanta was the perfect name for it, as the word meant “the end of the Vedas”.
Q3. Which Upanishad is most important?
Upanishads, also known as Mukhya Upanishads, are the most importnat and widely
studied Upanishads of Hinduism – Katha, Kena, Isha, Mundaka,
and Maitrayani. All the 4 Vedas are compositions of different texts. The
Brhadaranyaka and the Chandogya are the two earliest Upanishads. They are
edited texts, some of whose sources are much older than others.
Q4. Which Upanishad is smallest?
Mandukya Upanishad is the shortest of all the
Upanishads, and is assigned to Atharvaveda. It is listed as number 6 in the
Muktikā canon of 108 Upanishads. It is
in prose, consisting of twelve short verses, and is associated with a Rig Vedic
school of scholars. It analyses the entire range of human consciousness in the
states of waking (jagrat), dream (swapna), and dreamless sleep (susupti). It
discusses the syllable, Aum; presents the theory of three states of
consciousness; and asserts that Aum is Brahman – which is the Whole – and that
Brahman is this self.
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