Upanishads and the Forest Sages

 

The Upanishads

 

1)   Jnanamarga – the way of knowledge.  First appears in the Upanishads

a)    New characters on the scene: Forest Sages

b)   New context of learning: Guru-Chela

c)   Respected throughout Indian society at all levels

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

e)    Jnana implies a religion based on secret wisdom – taught by sages, based in mystical experience, esoteric sources

2)   Karma and Samsara:  two basic concepts that inform the notions of dharma and moksha.

a)    Karma: law of cause and effect by which one reaps what one sows.

i)     “karma” means “works,” “deeds”

ii)    All actions, particularly moral actions, have predictable effects – each person is responsible for every action he or she performs; every action will influence one’s future

iii)  One’s present conditions, character, circumstances are all the result of past actions

iv)  Textual and popular understandings of karma

b)   Samsara: as the cycle of rebirth / as the flux and flow of creation

i)     The cycle of birth and rebirth

ii)    One’s present life = one of a long chain of lives, countless lives in human and non-human forms (including existence as deities)

iii)  Hierarchical order of all species in existence, such as caste

iv)  Samsara as the fluid and changing universe

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

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

b)   Reaction against tradition, criticism of priestly trads.

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

4)   Moksha

a)    Heaven is temporary, no permanent refuge

b)   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)

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, one underlying reality

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)    Soul as pure consciousness: four states

 

Renunciation (Sanyasa)

7)   General features

a)    Action leads to rebirth and suffering

b)   Detachment from action, or even non-action, leads to spiritual emancipation

c)   Complete detachment, and therefore spiritual emancipation can be achieved through asceticism and methods of making consciousness focused and concentrated

d)   World renouncer = sanyasi

 

TERMS:

 

1.    Jnanamarga

2.    Karmamarga

3.    Upanishads

4.    Sanyasa/Sanyasi

5.    Karma

6.    Jnana

7.    Samsara

8.    Moksha

9.    Guru

10.Chela

11.Brahman

12.Atman

 

Any locations on the map exercises and information from the course Timeline (top of syllabus) can appear on a quiz or exam.



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