Moksha, Brahman, and Atman



1)   Late Vedic Religion and the Moksha-Centered Traditions

a)    A new form of religious life that doesn’t center on ritual and social duties

b)   Jnana (“mystical knowledge”) implies a religion based on secret wisdom – taught by sages, based in mystical experience, esoteric sources

2)   The Upanishads = “secret teaching,”  “sitting at the feet of,” “connection or equivalence”

a)    100s of Upanishads, but 13 principle Upanishads = shruti

b)   Reaction against tradition, criticism of priestly trads.

a.    A stratified caste system in place, supported by notions of karma and rebirth.

3)    In the great cycles of time: Individual, society, history = insignificant.  Even the gods are trapped in the cycle and eventually fall moksha.


4)   Moksha

a)    Suffering pervades human existence: the endless cycles of suffering, death, rebirth:  “May the evil of death not get me” (Brh Up), “To hoary and toothless and drooling old age may I not go” (Chan Up)

b)   See Embree p.31 Mundaka Upanishad

c)   The Solution = moksha.  Liberation from the endless round. 

d)   A new concept of the ultimate reality

5)   Brahman: A single pervasive power and essence, source of all things

a)    “That from which these beings are born; on which, once born, they live; and into which they pass upon death – seek to perceive that?  That is brahman!”

b)   Totality of sacred words in the Veda; gives unlimited power to sacrifice; Essence of the entire world; the power that reside s in all beings, including the gods

c)   Svetaketu (boy) and Uddalaka (his father): Sve hasn’t heard of world soul

d)   Fleeting names and forms outside (nama rupa), one underlying reality [See Chandogya Upanishad, Embree p.36]

e)    Brahman is the essence and source of the whole phenomenal world

6)   Atman: the reality that is the lasting and indispensable basis of one’s being

a)    Atman as pure consciousness: four states [See Chandogya Upanishad, Embree p.33]

i)     Waking life

ii)    Dreaming sleep

iii)  Dreamless sleep

iv)  Atman

7)   The secret revealed:

a)    Tatvamasi: “You are that”.  Atman = Brahman