Upanishads and the Forest Sages
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.
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
6) Atman: the reality that is the lasting and indispensable basis of one’s being
a) Soul as pure consciousness: four states
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
Any locations on the map exercises and information from the course Timeline (top of syllabus) can appear on a quiz or exam.