Athato Brahma jignyasaa ! ......

“ Athato Brahma Jigyaasaa!

The Upanishads.

Vedas consist of Samhitas, Brahmanas , Aranyakas and then come Upanishads

It is also said that these four also conform to the four stages of life namely Brahmacharya ( bachelor) , Grihastha ( married) , Vanaprastha (forest Dweller), and Sanyasa. As a bachelor the student was supposed to study the Samhita and Brahmana. As a Grihastha he is supposed to practice the mantras as per rituals prescribed in Brahmana. As the couples enter Vanaprsatha as a forest dweller they are supposed to practice Aranyaka. Aranyaka prescribed the sacrifice by meditation and symbolic worship. The final stage of Sanyasa is the culmination of a way of life where in the Sanyasin is free from all desires, attachments and is absorbed in contemplation of Brahman. It is for him the Upanishads are meant for. Upanishads are concerned about direct experience of Brahman.

Thus Brahmacharin studied Samhita, The householder followed the injunctions of Brahmana, The forest dweller practiced contemplation according to Aranyaka and the Sanyasin was guided by the exalted wisdom of Upanishads'

Upanishads are supposed to number one hundred and eight. One Hundred and eight Upanishads are enumerated in Muktika Upanishad, which belongs to Yajurveda. The great Sankaracharya wrote his commentaries on Isa, kena, Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Aitareya, Taitereya, chandogya, and Brihadranyaka Upanishad. These are regarded as major works.

The word Upanishad is derived from Sad with two prefixes Upa and Ni which mean near and totality. The etymological meaning of Upanishad is - 'knowledge which when received from a competent teacher loosens the bondage and enables the student to attain Self'.

In the strict code of the early Aryan life the Upanishads also specify the qualifications of a student of Upanishad (Ref Brihadarnyaka Upanishad, Chandogya Upanishad). The student must have attained purity of heart and must be able to discriminate between real and unreal and renounce the unreal.

The aspiring students were subjected to severe ordeals by the Gurus. Katha Upanishad details the ordeal of Nachiketa in acquiring the knowledge. In Prasna Upanishad the Guru Pippalada demands that his Sishyas spend a year of austerities , after which they can ask any questions. In Chandogya Upanishad the Guru Prajapati asks Virochna and Indra to go through years of penance before they can receive the knowledge.

The Upanishads are acknowledged as part of the "Prasthana trayas" , which consist of Upanishads, Bhagavadgita and Brahma Sutras. In fact the later two are also dependent on Upanishads. Hence the Upanishads occupy a central space in Vedanta. 

Upanishads are called Sruti-prasthana , being part of Sruti , the one that was revealed. Bhagavdgita is called Smriti-Prasthana , being part of Mahabharata which is called a Smriti . Brahma Sutras are called Nyaya-Prasthana . This is based on the fact that the teachings of Vedanta are presented ina logical order !

Worldview of Upanishads:

 That Upanishads have been translated into other languages . Shajahan's son Dara Saiko got Upanishads translated to Persian. Anquetil Dupperon translated the Persian version to Latin. Schopenhauer who read the translation was profoundly influenced to say. .. “ In the whole world there is no study so beneficial and so elevating as the study of Upanishads

om tat sat