Monday, February 7, 2011

About Brihadaranyaka Upanishad - Upanishad from Sukla Yagur Veda

The holy corpus of the Veda, which is the repository of eternal knowledge and wisdom, is divided into four Books, known as Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda. In each of the four Vedas a distinction, has been made according to content and form: (1) Samhita; (2) Brahmana; (3) Aranyaka; (4) Upanishad.
The Samhita is a collection of hymns or prayers, to God in various Manifestations, containing also formulae necessary in the sacrificial use of these hymns, known as Mantras. On a practical basis, the Samhitais to be considered as the chief Veda, and it is the Samhita that people have in their minds mostly when they refer to the Vedas, the study of the Vedas, the greatness of the Vedas, or holding the Vedas as the foundation of India’s spiritual and religious outlook of life. The Mantras are addressed to divinities, Devasas the infinite forms of the Supreme Being, these forms of divinities being regarded as the gradational accessible approaches to the Creator by the corresponding levels of evolution and comprehension of the worshipper, the devotee, or the seeker.
The word ‘Samhita’ means a collection of the Mantras belonging to a particular section of the Veda, which are either in metrical verses (Rik) or sentences in prose (Yajus) or chants (Sama). The Rigveda Samhita consists of 10580 Mantras or metrical verses; the Samaveda Samhita contains 1549 verses (with certain repetitions the number is 1810) many of which are culled from the Rigveda Samhita. The Sama hymns are modulated in numerous ways for the purpose of singing during either prayer or sacrifice. The Yajurveda Samhita consists of two recensions known as the Krishna (black) and the Shukla (white), and consists of prose sentences and long verses. The Atharvaveda Samhita, while it is included among the four sections of the Veda, is generally not studied as a prayer book and is used only during certain specific forms of sacrifice and also for incantations of different kinds to receive benefits to the reciter, both material and spiritual.
The Brahmanas teach the practical use of the verses and the chants presented in the Samhitas. However, the Brahmanas, though they are supposed to be only sacrificial injunctions for purpose of ritualistic utilisation of the Mantras of the Samhita, go beyond this restricted definition and contain much more material, such as Vidhi (a directive precept), Arthavada (laudatory or eulogising explanation), andUpanishad, (the philosophical or mystical import of the chant or the performance).
The Aranyakas are esoteric considerations of the practical ritual, which is otherwise the main subject of the Brahmana. The opening passage of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, in which the horse-sacrifice is treated as a symbol, would serve as an example of how a ritualistic symbol and material is used as a cosmological concept for purpose of religious contemplation and philosophic meditation. The Panchagni-Vidya of the Chhandogya Upanishad may also be cited as an illustration of a cosmological or astronomical and physical event being taken as a spiritualised symbol for mystical contemplation.
The Upanishads, except the Isavasya, which occurs in the Samhita portion of the Yajurveda, occur as the concluding mystical import and philosophical suggestiveness of some Brahmana or the other. The philosophical sections of the Brahmanas and Aranyakas are usually detached for the purpose of study, and go by the name of Upanishads, brought together from the different Vedas to form a single whole, though it appears that originally each school of the Veda had its own specialised ritual textbook with an exegesis or practical manual. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad belongs to the Shukla-Yajurveda group and is the most elaborate of them all, touching on almost every issue relevant to human life, and rising to such heights of philosophic genius as may rightly be considered as the greatest achievement of the human mind in history.
There is also a tradition that the Brahmacharin, or the celibate student (which is the first part of the dedication of human life) occupies himself with a study of the Samhita; the Grihastha, or the householder (which is the second part of the dedication of life) is expected to diligently perform the rituals detailed in the Brahmanas in relation to their corresponding Mantras from the Samhitas. The Vanaprastha, or the recluse, the hermit (the third part of the dedication of life) rises above prayer as a chant and performance as a ritual, and busies himself with pure inward contemplation of the more philosophical and abstract realities hidden behind the outward concepts of divinity and the external performances of ritual. The Sannyasin, or the spiritually illumined renunciate (the fourth and concluding part of the dedicated life) occupies himself with direct meditations as prescribed in the Upanishads, whose outlook of life transcends all-empirical forms, outward relations, nay, space and time itself.
Among the ten Upanishads, the Isa, Kena, Katha, Prasna and Mundaka may be regarded as more introductory, providing preliminary details of a more or less preparatory nature in the understanding of the great truths of the universe. The Kathopanishad, with its musical tone, literary excellence and homely message of the value spiritual, should, indeed, form a fitting text for the beginner in the study of the Upanishads. It is sometimes held that the Brihadaranyaka is a vast commentary on the suggestions made in the Isa Upanishad, while the Brihadaranyaka has a certain internal connection with the precise adoration of the Almighty sung in the Purusha-Sukta of the Samhita. The Mundaka also serves as a good introduction.
But it is the Brihadaranyaka, Chhandogya, Aitareya, Taittiriya and Mandukya, that rise above the level of ordinary instruction and stand as most exalted specimens of a direct encounter with Reality. The Brihadaranyaka is like an omnibus, where anything can be found anywhere. The Chhandogya is more realistic form, and, while it covers a very wide range of subjects like the Brihadaranyaka itself, is characteristically different in make, and presents itself as being more intimate with the hearth and the home and the more concrete values capable of easy comprehension. The Aitareya is the story of creation, cosmology. The Taittiriya is many-sided, but its main issues are psychological, explaining the composition of the individual, thus forming, together with the Aitareya, a practical text on the story of creation. The Mandukya Upanishad is very brief and seems to sum up the intentions of all the Upanishads in just twelve Mantras, dealing, as it does, with the structure of levels of reality as indicated in the stages of consciousness, namely, waking, dream and sleep, suggesting thereby the presence of a Transcendent Universal, timeless and eternal.
The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is a veritable research reservoir and may be taken up for intensive study by those who are pure in heart, sincere in their aspirations, and wholly devoted to a Godly life.

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