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The Upanishads and Hindu Philosophical and Religious Traditions


The Upanishads and Hindu Philosophical and Religious Traditions The Trimurti was systematized in the Puranas composed during the Gupta Period (320-540 CE), after the ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Upanishads and Hindu Philosophical and Religious Traditions

The Upanishads and Hindu Philosophical and
Religious Traditions
Themes from the Upanishads
1. Impermanence and Permanence
  • The world of sense objects is impermanent, but
    there is a permanent, enduring reality.
  • This permanent reality is sat-chit-ananda
  • When sat-chit-ananda is viewed as an external,
    cosmic reality, it is called Brahman. When
    viewed as the inner reality of the individual
    person, it is called Atman.

2. The Brahman Reality
  • Many of the Upanishads teach that Brahman is
    non-duality, and identical with Atman.
  • Non-dual sat-chit-ananda appears or manifests as
    the multiplicity of objects in our experience.
    What endures is one, but its name and form
    (nama-rupa) is many.
  • The non-dual conception of the Brahman/Atman
    reality implies ultimate reality has no
    attributes (nirguna) and is thus not a personal

The Non-Dual interpretation of Brahman implies
that gods represent different provisional
manifestations of formless Brahman.
The Trimurti (three forms) represent formless
Brahman manifested or immanent in the cosmic
processes of creation, preservation, and
dissolution/recreation of the cosmos. This is
the meaning of the mantra OM or AUM.
Brahman as Personal God
  • The Upanishads also refer to Brahman under
    various attributes (saguna Brahman), including
    those indicative of personhood knowledge, will,
    and moral goodness (Svetasvatara Upanishad,
  • Some passages in Mundaka Upanishad subordinate
    imperishable Brahman to the supreme Purusha
  • Other later Upanishads emphasize personal theism
    (e.g. Katha, Isa, and Svetasvatara).

Atman and Personal God
  • Brahman as the Supreme personal being implies
    that atman (the true Self) and the Absolute are
    distinct, though intimately related to each
  • This also suggests a plurality of atman
    realities, as multiple finite manifestations of
    the infinite essence of Brahman.
  • The true Self of each person is to Brahman what a
    wave is to the ocean.

3. The Human Condition
  • The impermanence of the world is found also in
    the human disposition to identity Self with the
  • The separate self is the atman reality
    conditioned by attachments to sense objects.
  • Attachment identifying the Self with the body
    or mind (thinking, perceiving, and sensing).

  • Where there is a separate self, there is
    unhappiness, lack of peace, lack of satisfaction
    or fulfillment.
  • By virtue of its self-understanding, the
    separate self is by definition separated from
    the permanent sacred reality that alone is the
    peace or fulfillment it seeks.
  • The self-understanding of the separate self is
    really a form of ignorance (avidya).

4. Spiritual Practice
  • The Upanishads refer to a variety of spiritual
    practices by means of which the separate self is
    dismantled and true peace (ananda) is realized.

Separate Self
Attachment to Sense Objects
  • Since the separate self is grounded in attachment
    to sense objects, the dissolution of the
    self-separate self is by way of non-attachment,
    which is facilitated by three practices
  • Discrimination (jnana) between what is enduring
    and non-enduring.
  • Meditation (dhyana) on the inner Self or God as
    the enduring reality.
  • Love or devotional service (bhakti) to the Self
    or God.

The Upanishads and Hindu Philosophical Traditions
Sankhya Philosophy
  • Oldest systematic philosophy of the Hindu
    traditions, extending back to the period of the
  • Central concepts the distinction between matter
    (prakriti) and consciousness (purusha).
    Liberation from samsara requires cultivation of
    practices to realize the Self as consciousness
    unconditioned by matter.
  • Sankhya is dualistic there are many true selves.
  • Sankhya is atheistic, since belief in a god is
    not part of Sankhya.

Raja-Yoga of Patanjali
  • Patanjalis Yoga Sutras (circa 100 BCE 500 CE).
  • Ones true Self is purusha or atman, buried
    beneath the layers of a separate self.
  • Yoga is chitta-vritti nirodha, stilling the
    thought forms of the mind by practices of moral
    virtue, discrimination, meditation, including
    physical posture and breath control.
  • Belief in a personal god is included in the Yoga
    Darshan. Its a marginal element, though, since
    what is essential for liberation is individual
    self-effort not the grace of a god.

  • Originating with Shankara (circa 9th century CE)
    - the systematic elaboration of the Upanishads.

Shankaras tradition of Vedanta is Advaita
Vedanta, advaita meaning not-two. This school
of Vedanta adopts a radically non-dual
understanding of reality.
  • By contrast, Bhakti Vedanta traditions affirm
    that Brahman is ultimately a personal reality,
    the true self of each person is distinct from
    Brahman and each other, even though they are
    intimately related.

Vedanta in the United States
  • The Advaita tradition came to the United
    States in the last quarter of the 20th century
    through the teachings of Swami Vivekananda
    (right), the great disciple of 19th century guru
    Sri Ramakrishna (left).

Vedanta in the United States
  • The Bhakti tradition came to the United States
    in the 1960s under the guidance of A.C.
    Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of the
    Hare Krishna movement (a species of Vaishnavism)

Devotional Hindu Religious Traditions
Textual Sources
  • Theism (belief in a single Supreme personal
    being) emerges in many of the later Upanishads
    (8th-6th centuries BCE).
  • Theism is an important motif in the Epic
    literature of India beginning around the 5th
    century BCE.
  • The Bhagavad Gita (circa 300 BCE), for example,
    emphasized the ultimately personal nature of
    ultimate reality (Brahman), as well as its
    manifestation in human form as Bhagavan (Lord)

  • The Puranas
  • Hindu devotional traditions are also based on the
    various texts called the Puranas, which were
    composed largely during the Gupta period (circa
    320-500 century CE), and revised during the
    medieval period.
  • The Puranas are conceptually influenced by
    aspects of both the Upanishads and Epic
    literature. As such they are an interesting blend
    of non-dual philosophy, cosmology, and theism.

The Puranas
  • The Puranas are essential for understanding
    worship of the gods in the mainline devotional
    traditions of India today.
  • Although acknowledging many of the different gods
    of the Hindu pantheon, the Puranas demonstrate
    the rise in popularity of the worship of Vishnu
    and the worship of Shiva as the Supreme being.
  • Some of the Puranas are written from a sectarian
    viewpoint in which Vishnu or Shiva is the Supreme
    being, and all other gods are subordinate

Bhakti Renaissance
  • Between the 6th to 9th centuries CE, bhakti
    traditions grew in intensity in South India among
    many poets and mystics, and by the 11th century
    were widespread in North India.
  • The worship of Vishnu (Vaishnavism) and Shiva
    (Shaivism) as the Supreme being were the
    prominent general forms of religious worship in
    the Bhakti traditions.
  • Bhakti traditions emphasized the loss of ego in
    total surrender and love for God, often rejecting
    more formalized aspects of religious worship
    (formal temple worship, yoga, and theology).

Contemporary Devotional Traditions
Vaishnavism Worship of Vishnu or Krishna as the
Supreme Being.
Vaishnava Traditions
  • Vaishnavism designates a variety of different
    traditions centered on the worship of Vishnu (or
    Krishna) and his many expansions or
  • Some Vaishnava traditions (dvaita) are strongly
    dualistic in nature, affirming a distinction
    between God, the world, and souls. Others
    (Vishishtadvaita) are non-dualistic with
    qualification souls are part of Gods being.
    Others (Gaudiya Vaishnavism) affirm the
    simultaneous difference and non-difference
    between the Self and God.

Shaivism Worship of Shiva as the Supreme
Being. Saiva Siddhanta Dualistic Shiva and
the devotee are distinct. Kasmir Shaivism
Non-dualism Shiva and the devotee are
non-distinct, whose essential nature is
Shaktism Worship of Shakti or Devi the Divine
Mother as the Supreme Being. Rooted in the
Puranas and Tantric texts. Less clearly defined
than Vaishnavism and Shaivism. Often
indistinguishable from Shaivism.
Smartism Worship of ones own chosen deity as
one among many different manifestations of
formless Brahman. Philosophically grounded in
Advaita Vedanta.
Truth is one, but the sages call it by different
names. Rig Veda
  • Steven Rosen, Essential Hinduism (Westport, CT
    Praeger, 2006).
  • R.C. Zaehner, Hindu and Muslim Mysticism (New
    York Schocken Books, 1969), Chapters 2-4.
  • R.C. Zaehner, Hinduism (New York Oxford
    University Press, 1972).
  • Swami Prabhavanda, The Spiritual Heritage of
    India A Clear Summary of Indian Philosophy and
    Religion (Hollywood, CA Vedanta Press, 1979),
    Chapters 1-3.
  • Gavin Flood, Introduction to Hinduism (Cambridge
    University Press, 1996).
  • Hans Torwesten, Vedanta Heart of Hinduism (New
    York Grove Press, 1991), Chapter 1.
  • Dominic Goodall (ed.), Hindu Scriptures
    (Berkeley, CA University of California Press,