The Upanishads (Devanagari: उपनिषद्, IAST: IAST|upaniṣad, also spelled "Upanisad") are Hindu scriptures that constitute the core teachings of Vedanta. [cite book | last = Brodd | first = Jefferey | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = World Religions | publisher = Saint Mary's Press | date = 2003 | location = Winona, MN | pages = | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = 978-0-88489-725-5 ] They do not belong to any particular period of Sanskrit literature: the oldest, such as the Brhadaranyaka and Chandogya Upanishads, date to the late Brahmana period (around the middle of the first millennium BCE), while the latest were composed in the medieval and early modern period. The Upanishads realize monist ideas, some of which were hinted at in the earlier texts, and they have exerted an important influence on the rest of Hindu and Indian philosophy.

The philosopher and commentator Shankara is thought to have composed commentaries on eleven mukhya or principal Upanishads, those that are generally regarded as the oldest, spanning the late Vedic and Mauryan periods. The Muktika Upanishad (predates 1656) contains a list of 108 canonical Upanishadscite book
author = Sris Chandra Sen
year = 1937
title =The Mystic Philosophy of the Upanishads
publisher = General Printers & Publishers
isbn =
Chapter: VEDIC LITERATURE AND UPANISHADS. p. 19: "..according to the Vedas to which they are supposed to belong, ... The muktika list of 108 upanishad is as follows:"] and lists itself as the final one. Dara Shikoh (d. 1659), son of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, translated fifty Upanishads into Persian. Max Müller (1879) was aware of 170. Sadhale, in his massive verse index IAST|"Upaniṣad-vākya-mahā-kośa", has drawn on 223 different extant texts that call themselves by this name. [S. Gajanan Shambhu Sadhale, "Sri Garibdass Oriental Series", no. 44. (Delhi: "Sri Satguru Publications," 1987).] Additionally, parts of earlier texts, of Brahmanas or passages of the Vedas themselves, are sometimes considered Upanishads.


The Sanskrit term "IAST|upaniṣad" derives from "upa-" (nearby), "ni-" (at the proper place, down) and "sad", that is "sitting down near" a teacher in order to receive instruction [Cf. Arthur Anthony Macdonell. A Practical Sanskrit Dictionary. p. 53.] - "laying siege" to the teacher, as Schayer puts it. [ Stanislaw Schayer. Die Bedeutung des Wortes Upanisad. Rocznik Orientalistyczny 3,1925, 57-67) ] Monier-Williams adds that "according to native authorities "upanishad" means 'setting to rest ignorance by revealing the knowledge of the supreme spirit');..." [Monier-Williams. "A Sanskrit-English Dictionary". p. 201. [http://www.ibiblio.org/sripedia/ebooks/mw/0200/mw__0234.html] Web version accessed 1 April 2007.] A gloss of the term "IAST|upaniṣad" based on Shankara's commentary on the IAST|Kaṭha and IAST|Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upanishads equates it with "Ātmavidyā", that is "knowledge of the Self", or "Brahmavidyā" "knowledge of Brahma".Fact|date=April 2007 Other dictionary meanings include "esoteric doctrine" and "secret doctrine".


The Upanishads speak of a universal spirit (Brahman) and an individual soul, (Atman) [Smith 10)] and at times assert the identity of both. Brahman is the ultimate, both transcendent and immanent, the absolute infinite existence, the sum total of all that ever is, was, or shall be. The mystical nature and intense philosophical bent of the Upanishads has led to their explication in numerous manners, giving birth to three main schools of Vedanta. Shankara's exegesis of the Upanishads does not describe Brahman as the God in a monotheistic sense; he ascribes to it no limiting characteristics, not even those of being and non-being.Fact|date=April 2007 Thus, Shankara's philosophy is named advaita, "not two" as opposed to dvaita, founded by Madhvacharya, which holds that Brahman is ultimately a personal God, to be aligned with Vishnu, or Krishna ("brahmano hi pratisthaham", "I am the Foundation of Brahman" Bhagavad Gita 14.27). The third major school of Vedanta is Vishishtadvaita, founded by Ramanujacharya and it has some aspects in common with the other two.

The ninth chapter of the "Taittiriya Upanishad" says:

::"He who knows the Bliss of Brahman (divine consciousness)... does not distress himself with the thought "why did I not do what is good? why did I do what is evil?". Whoever knows this (bliss) regards both of these as Atman (self, soul), indeed he cherishes both as Atman. Such, indeed, is the Upanishad, the secret knowledge of Brahman.

The key phrase of the Upanishads, to Advaita Vedanta, is तत् त्वं अिस "Tat Tvam Asi" (That thou art). Vedantins believe that in the end, the ultimate, formless, inconceivable Brahman is the same as our soul, Atman. We only have to realize it through discrimination. (However, interpretations of this phrase differ.) [ Tat tvam asi in Context. Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 136, 1986, 98-109 ] Verses 6, 7 & 8 of Isha Upanishad:

::::"Whoever sees all beings in the soul and the soul in all beings...
What delusion or sorrow is there for one who sees unity?
It has filled all. It is radiant, incorporeal, invulnerable...
Wise, intelligent, encompassing, self-existent,
It organizes objects throughout eternity.

The Upanishads also contain the first and most definitive explications of the divine syllable Aum or OM, the cosmic vibration that underlies all existence. The mantra "Aum Shanti Shanti Shanti" (the soundless sound, peace, peace, peace)is often found in the Upanishads. Devotion to God is foreshadowed in Upanishadic literature, and was later realized by texts such as the Bhagavad Gita. [Catherine Robinson, "Interpretations of the Bhagavad-Gītā and Images of the Hindu Tradition: The Song of the Lord." Routledge Press, 1992, page 51.]

List of Upanishads

"Principal" Upanishads

The following list includes the eleven "principal" ("mukhya") Upanishads commented upon [http://www.cs.memphis.edu/~ramamurt/u_intro1.html#NDAUTHOR] by Shankara, and accepted as shruti by most Hindus. Each is associated with one of the four Vedas (Rigveda (Unicode|ṚV), Samaveda (SV), White Yajurveda (Unicode|ŚYV), Black Yajurveda (KYV), Atharvaveda (AV));

# (Unicode|ṚV)
# (ŚYV)
#IAST|Taittirīya (KYV)
#IAST|Chāndogya (SV)
#IAST|Kena (SV)
#IAST|Kaṭha (KYV)
#IAST|Muṇḍaka (AV)
#IAST|Māṇḍūkya (AV)
#IAST|Praśna (AV)

The IAST|Kauśītāki and IAST|Maitrāyaṇi Upanishads are sometimes added. All these date from before the Common Era. From linguistic evidence, the oldest among them are the IAST|Bṛhadāraṇyaka and Chāndogya Upanishads. The Jaiminīya Upaniṣadbrāhmaṇa, belonging to the late Vedic Sanskrit period, may also be included. Of nearly the same age are the Aitareya, Kauṣītaki and Taittirīya Upaniṣads, while the remnant date from the time of transition from Vedic to Classical Sanskrit.

The older Upanishads are associated with Vedic Charanas, Shakhas or schools; the Aitareya and IAST|Kauśītāki Upanishads with the Shakala shakha, the IAST|Chāndogya Upanishad with the Kauthuma shakha, the Kena Upanishad with the Jaiminiya shakha, the IAST|Kaṭha Upanishad with the Caraka-Katha shakha, the IAST|Taittirīya and IAST|Śvetāśvatara Upanishads with the Taittiriya shakha, the IAST|Maitrāyaṇi Upanishad with the Maitrayani shakha, the IAST|Bṛhadāraṇyaka and IAST|Īṣa Upanishads with the Vajasaneyi Madhyandina shakha, and the IAST|Māṇḍūkya and IAST|Muṇḍaka Upanishads with the Shaunaka shakha.

In the Muktika Upanishad's list of 108 Upanishads the first 10 are grouped as "mukhya" "principal". 21 are grouped as Sāmānya Vedānta "common Vedanta", 23 as Sannyāsa, 9 as Shākta, 13 as Vaishnava, 14 as Shaiva and 17 as Yoga Upanishads. [cite web
title=.:SAKSIVC: Vedic Literature: Upanishads: 108 Upanishads:.
] [cite web
title=Muktika Upanishad
publisher= TheTheosophicalPublishingHouse,Chennai
last=Translated by Dr.A.G.Krishna Warrier

hakta Upanishads

Later Upanisads are often highly sectarian: this was "one of the strategies used by sectarian movements to legitimate their own texts through granting them the nominal status of "Śruti"." [harvnb|Holdrege|1996|p=7,426n] For the most part, the canonical Shakta Upanishads are sectarian tracts reflecting doctrinal and interpretative differences between the two principal sects of Srividya upasana (a major Tantric form of Shaktism). As a result, the many extant listings of "authentic" Shakta Upanisads vary in content, reflecting the sectarian bias of their compilers:

"Past efforts to construct lists of Shakta Upanisads have left us no closer to "understanding either their 'location' in Tantric tradition or their place within the Vedic corpus. [...] At stake for the Tantric is not the authority of "sruti" per se, which remains largely undisputed, but rather its correct interpretation. For non-Tantrics, [it "is" a text's] Tantric contents that brings into question its identity as an Upanisad. At issue is the text's classification as "sruti" and thus its inherent authority as "Veda"." [Brooks, Douglas Renfrew, "The Secret of the Three Cities: An Introduction to Hindu Shakta Tantrism", The University of Chicago Press (Chicago, 1990), pp. 13-14.]

Of the texts listed in the Muktika Upanishad nine are classified as Shakta Upanishads:

# "Sītā" (AV)
# "IAST|Annapūrṇa" (AV)
# "Devī" (AV)
# "Tripurātapani" (AV)
# "Tripura" (RV)
# "Bhāvana" (AV)
# "Saubhāgya" (RV)
# "Sarasvatīrahasya" (KYV)
# "IAST|Bahvṛca" (RV)

The list excludes several notable and widely used Shakta Upanisads, including the "IAST|Kaula Upaniṣad", the "IAST|Śrīvidyā Upaniṣad" and the "IAST|Śrichakra Upaniṣad".


Further reading

* Edmonds, I.G. Hinduism. New York: Franklin Watts, 1979.
* Eknath Easwaran citation |title=Upanishads|year=2007 |publisher= Nilgiri Press|isbn=9781586380212|
* Embree, Ainslie T., ed. The Hindu Tradition. New York: Random House, 1966.
*citation |last=Holdrege |first=Barbara A. |title=Veda and Torah |year=1995 |publisher= SUNY Press|location=Albany |isbn=0791416399|url=
* Merrett, Frances, ed. The Hindu World. London: MacDonald and Co, 1985.
* Pandit, Bansi. The Hindu Mind. Glen Ellyn, IL: B&V Enterprises, 1998.
* Smith, Huston. The Illustrated World’s Religions: A Guide to Our Wisdom Traditions. New York: Labrynth Publishing, 1995.
* Wangu, Madhu Bazaz. Hinduism: World Religions. New York: Facts on File, 1991.

External links

Original text

* [http://sanskrit.gde.to/doc_upanishhat/ Upanishads at Sanskrit Documents Site]
* [http://www.swargarohan.org/Upanishad/main.htm Several Upanishads, Devanagari text, in PDF]
* [http://www.sub.uni-goettingen.de/ebene_1/fiindolo/gretil.htm#Upan GRETIL]
* [http://titus.uni-frankfurt.de/indexe.htm?/texte/texte.htm TITUS]


* [http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/upan/index.htm Translations of major Upanishads]
* [http://www.bharatadesam.com/spiritual/upanishads/aitareya_upanishad.php 11 principal Upanishads with translations]
* [http://www.sankaracharya.org Translations of principal Upanishads at sankaracharya.org]
* [http://www.tititudorancea.org/z/vedanta.htm Upanishads and other Vedanta texts]
* http://www.worldwidewonder.co.cc
* [http://www.kavitakosh.org/mridul.htm Hindi poetic translations of Upanishads by Dr Mridul Kirti]
* [http://www.celextel.org/108upanishads/ Complete translation on-line into English of all 108 Upaniṣad-s] [not only the 11 (or so) major ones to which the foregoing links are meagerly restricted] -- lacking, however, diacritical marks

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