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Thread: Modern study of Upaniṣads?

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    Modern study of Upaniṣads?

    Namast, all,

    I started the new year by enrolling in a few correspondence courses, partly for the sake of widening my knowledge and improving my discipline in study, and partly out of curiosity, to see what "official" institutions had to say about Hindu ideas and texts.

    One of these classes teaches via video lectures by the professor. In the week 3 lecture, an introduction to the Upaniṣads, the professor related this story:

    "I think I said in the very beginning, the Upaniṣads are not widely read at all and not widely known within contemporary Hinduism, outside a small group of very learned scholars and paṇḍits. I remember doing a course - this course, actually, on the Upaniṣads - with the Brahmin community in East London, and I remember the first class I asked, "What do you know about the Upaniṣads" and was greeted with absolute silence, then one voice from the back said, We know they exist...
    They were aware of a body of literature called Upaniṣads, but within their religious life, they had never seen the need to delve into them. Not that they were bad Hindus, just the opposite! but the form of Hinduism that they practiced didn't involve a study of the Upaniṣads, and I think that would be fairly typical."


    Is it, as the professor suggests, a fairly common Hindu attitude? To consider the Upaniṣads mostly unnecessary to religious practice and study, and/or to largely ignore them? This tale made me sad. But do you think it speaks only of the London community, or might someone addressing a modern Brahmin group anywhere encounter the same response?

    Indraneela
    ===
    Oṁ Indrāya Namaḥ.
    Oṁ Namaḥ Śivāya.

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    Re: Modern study of Upaniṣads?

    Quote Originally Posted by Indraneela View Post
    Namast, all,

    I started the new year by enrolling in a few correspondence courses, partly for the sake of widening my knowledge and improving my discipline in study, and partly out of curiosity, to see what "official" institutions had to say about Hindu ideas and texts.

    One of these classes teaches via video lectures by the professor. In the week 3 lecture, an introduction to the Upaniṣads, the professor related this story:

    "I think I said in the very beginning, the Upaniṣads are not widely read at all and not widely known within contemporary Hinduism, outside a small group of very learned scholars and paṇḍits. I remember doing a course - this course, actually, on the Upaniṣads - with the Brahmin community in East London, and I remember the first class I asked, "What do you know about the Upaniṣads" and was greeted with absolute silence, then one voice from the back said, We know they exist...
    They were aware of a body of literature called Upaniṣads, but within their religious life, they had never seen the need to delve into them. Not that they were bad Hindus, just the opposite! but the form of Hinduism that they practiced didn't involve a study of the Upaniṣads, and I think that would be fairly typical."


    Is it, as the professor suggests, a fairly common Hindu attitude? To consider the Upaniṣads mostly unnecessary to religious practice and study, and/or to largely ignore them? This tale made me sad. But do you think it speaks only of the London community, or might someone addressing a modern Brahmin group anywhere encounter the same response?

    Indraneela
    ===
    Oṁ Indrāya Namaḥ.
    Oṁ Namaḥ Śivāya.
    Vannakkam Indra: I think his observations are very accurate. But I'm not terribly disheartened. Given how we've wrapped ourselves into this rat race of money chasing and more, many find little time to do anything much religious, let alone read scripture. I think it would be really helpful if someone would publish those calendars that give one quote per day, something like that, where a person could read the quote while pouring coffee, or publish such quotes in day planners.

    My take is that many people find tackling scripture too daunting, as they look at it as a whole piece, rather than a page at a time. I know that's the reason my Guru wrote 3 books with 365 daily lessons each. That way it's manageable, and you don't get scared off by length or depth.

    Aum Namasivaya

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    Re: Modern study of Upaniṣads?

    Quote Originally Posted by Indraneela View Post
    Namasté, all,

    I started the new year by enrolling in a few correspondence courses, partly for the sake of widening my knowledge and improving my discipline in study, and partly out of curiosity, to see what "official" institutions had to say about Hindu ideas and texts.

    One of these classes teaches via video lectures by the professor. In the week 3 lecture, an introduction to the Upaniṣads, the professor related this story:

    "I think I said in the very beginning, the Upaniṣads are not widely read at all and not widely known within contemporary Hinduism, outside a small group of very learned scholars and paṇḍits. I remember doing a course - this course, actually, on the Upaniṣads - with the Brahmin community in East London, and I remember the first class I asked, "What do you know about the Upaniṣads" and was greeted with absolute silence, then one voice from the back said, We know they exist...
    They were aware of a body of literature called Upaniṣads, but within their religious life, they had never seen the need to delve into them. Not that they were bad Hindus, just the opposite! but the form of Hinduism that they practiced didn't involve a study of the Upaniṣads, and I think that would be fairly typical."


    Is it, as the professor suggests, a fairly common Hindu attitude? To consider the Upaniṣads mostly unnecessary to religious practice and study, and/or to largely ignore them? This tale made me sad. But do you think it speaks only of the London community, or might someone addressing a modern Brahmin group anywhere encounter the same response?

    Indraneela
    ===
    Oṁ Indrāya Namaḥ.
    Oṁ Namaḥ Śivāya.
    Namaste
    I just had a discussion with a member that has now been banned that elucidates some of the reasons why knowledge of the vedic tradition, including the upanishads which belong to the uttara Mimamsa tradition, is not so widespread in India and why it is incorrect to consider all of Hinduism vedic.
    There is a lot of nonsense and unrelated comments posted in this thread,so i extracted the relevant information and tried cleaning up unnecessary elements so that you do not need to go through all the drivel posted. Here is the result:


    There are many different ethnics and spiritual traditions that make up Bharata Dharma, not all of them are vedic. Only a small percentage of Indians are allowed to study the Vedas and the brahmin community is and was only a tiny minority following their specific rules and regulations, besides that exist many other sampradyas as ancient as the vedic, that do allow all people of all communities regardless of birth or gender to develop spiritually within their traditions, thats why the larger part of Hindus are not studying the vedic shastras but practice according to the rules laid down in the Agamas Tantras and Puranas besides following different local oral traditions.

    Vedic religion was in the beginning just practised by a tiny community and participation was also restricted by birth into this community. It only slowly spread from the north west about 3500 years ago into other regions and mixed with the indigenous religions and spiritual traditions. These local religious traditions had their own traditions differing from those of the brahmin community these already included idol worship and other elements of modern hinduism that are non vedic, since prehistoric time. There are prehistoric archeological remains showing shakti idols long before there were any traces or archeological remains, or any written vedic religious texts, or any other traces of brahmanism. The presence of idol worship etc. in Hinduism clearly predates the later influence of the relatively small brahmin community that was following the vedic Religion. In later times the veda gainend influence, the influence of this community spread all over india and both traditions existed side by side. Modern Hinduism is still primarily agamic and not based on the vedic religion, but of course today also contains vedic influences.

    A late result of this early admixture of communities are the puranas, they combined vedic influence with teachings of those agamas and tantras, which predated the puranas, that teach practises and philosophy which probably reach back to prehistoric times.

    Worship of stones, trees, idols, lingas, jars and other objects predate the vedas by far and practises such as these have always remained the religion of the majority of the indian population that were non dvijas.
    Vedic religion is neither the most ancient nor the most widespread tradition in India. The majority of hindus were not allowed to even listen to vedic recitation or read the upanishads until westerners descrated these vedic rules and published and translated these texts and made them available to all interested.

    The vedic ritualism is much more elaborate than the agamic or puranic and these vedic Yagyas are also very expensive to arrange, another reason why vedic religion was only practised by a small elite that could afford to sponsors these events. The vedic tradition is far from being only intellectual or philosophical, what the study of the Upanishads may suggest, it is also highly centered around the correct performance of costly and elaborate sacrifices.

    Still today local religious traditions are mostly oral traditions, scriptures are not necessary to practise a religion, and certainly cannot tell us how old a tradition is. We have many religions all over the world that go back to the stone age like the australian aborigines that do not have a single book. Agamas were written down in the middle ages but some of the content goes back to pre vedic times.

    Vedas also existed as an oral tradition before they were written down and still are only partially recorded in script, books are only a reminder they still have to be studied with a Guru from mouth to ear to be valid, all else, like self study, is still considered invalid.

    A non brahmin will not be accepted to study and practise in the vedic tradition, not in the past and not today, it is open to a single community, even among these, only a few, today as well as in in the past, have had the time, resources and dedication to find a valid Guru and master this topic.

    For the different paths you need different qualifications.  If there are communities that do want to share their knowledge only with their clansmen i think they have the right to have that privacy and secrecy, the principle of Qualification (skt. adhikari) is also practised by the traditional tantric and agamic traditions, just here it should not be based on birth, race, clan, or gender.

    Today a few people try to change birth based qualifications, but the general rule still holds good In traditional smarta smapradaya it was last year the first time that a non dvija was admitted for the study in Sringeri.

    The agamas and tantras contain descriptions of many deities and concepts that are alien to the vedic tradition but are the foundation of modern Hinduism.

    Tantra or Agama is a tradition open to all communities while the vedic path was to be practised only by the Brahmin community. There are a lot of tantric and agamic practices orthodox Brahmins following the vedachara cannot take part without loosing their status of purity. If Brahmins practise tantra they can only adapt very little for purity reasons. This shows that a huge part of Hinduism did develop independent of vedic society.

    In Hinduism you have the vedachara and the tantrachara or kaulachara and vamachara and other agamic tradition like shaiva siddhanta and agamic Vaishnava lineages. Shramana and Jaina and also Buddhism are non vedic indic traditions but they are normally considered outside of Hinduism since they reject the Vedas entirely. The vedic path is or was at no point in Indian history the only or even the dominant spiritual tradition of India.

    Vedic shastras consist of Samhitas, Brahmanas and Aranyakas and some of the early Upanishads. That is uttara and purva Mimamsa darshanas. Even modern so called "Vedanta" is not solely vedic but an admixture of teachings stemming from diverse sources, including folk belief, content of the agamas, tantras, puranas, yoga, vedanta and other darshanas.

    Samkhya, Yoga and other ancient Hindu schools of thought do not belong to the Mimamsa tradition , and do not necessarly involve the study of the upanishads these traditions are also Hindu, but not vedic.

    Medieaval and modern Vedanta has assimilated many concepts from Agamas, Tantra, Samkhya and Yoga, berides being based on the Upanishads so the title Vedanta is in many instances today, even where it is used regularly, nonetheless not really appropriate.

    The term Vedanta should refer only to the traditional oral study of the upanishads under the tutelage of a Guru where knowledge still is transfered from mouth to ear. True understanding of the Upanishads and other advanced shastras is only possible through an oral Guru Shisya Relationship, same is especially relevant for the study of tantric and agamic shastras, because the Guru must transmits the subtle shakti, the power that will unlock the mysteries. Intellectual study cannot transfer what is called in the tantras "pratibha" divine intuiton a necessary prerequiste for the study of advanced topics.

    The word "agama" does primarily not denote a collection of books but what is apprehended directly by the Guru in his divine intuition what has been handed down to him by his master, in a tradition that in the agamas and tantras began with Lord Shiva and was passed down and kept alive by a chain of human , siddha and divine Gurus for Millenia and this is what has to be transferred to the disciple now, not that what is contained in a book.
    Last edited by MahaHrada; 09 February 2012 at 09:56 AM.

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    Re: Modern study of Upaniṣads?

    Namaste,

    I say, bring back the banned member to make corrections to the one-sided long post above.
    We want to give Indraneela the benefit of multiple viewpoints.

    Pranam.

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    Re: Modern study of Upaniṣads?

    Quote Originally Posted by Believer View Post
    Namaste,

    I say, bring back the banned member to make corrections to the one-sided long post above.
    We want to give Indraneela the benefit of multiple viewpoints.

    Pranam.

    i am not that long winded usually actually i hate long winded postings. And this is even redundant of course... ->Starting self hate <-

    message too short...says the board

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    Re: Modern study of Upaniṣads?

    hari o
    ~~~~~~

    namast&#233;

    For those with a burning desire to know (mumukṣu&#185, the upaniṣad-s are a cool breeze to one's intellect.


    We can look at upaniṣad in this manner, upa-ni- sad
    • upa - towards , near to (opposed to apa , away) , by the side of , with , together with , under
    • ni - down , back , in , into , within
    • sad = sat - Being, existence itself; it also means wise , venerable ; yet the 2nd definition of sad is also 'to sit down before '
    So we can see upaniṣad means to set down near the wise (sat).

    Now why do I mention this ? It suggests that the highest apprecation of this body of knowledge is revealed by setting down near the wise.

    It suggests if one is just picking this book up off the shelf it may prove unattactive - that more is needed for its apprecation then direct reading.

    And here is the 2nd insight - one can sit down near the wise, yet too one can settle down into ( within ) 'sat' that resides in one's own Self. This is the 2nd way of looking at this: For maximum benefit , sit near the wise , and sink back within your own Being.

    These 2 things bring maximum value to the aspirant with the burning desire to know ( mumukṣu); I have found this to be true.

    praṇām

    words

    mumukṣu - eager to be free (from mundane existence) , striving after emancipation
    Last edited by yajvan; 07 February 2012 at 07:04 PM.
    यतस्त्वं शिवसमोऽसि
    yatastvaṁ śivasamo'si
    because you are identical with śiva

    _

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    Re: Modern study of Upaniṣads?

    Namaste,
    Quote Originally Posted by Indraneela View Post
    Is it, as the professor suggests, a fairly common Hindu attitude? To consider the Upaniṣads mostly unnecessary to religious practice and study, and/or to largely ignore them? This tale made me sad. But do you think it speaks only of the London community, or might someone addressing a modern Brahmin group anywhere encounter the same response?
    If we look closely, the OP did not request any information whatsoever on Upanishads or any of the other scriptures. The question was/is if the Upanishads are generally ignored by Hindus. Boy, ask for a cup of coffee and they serve you a 50 course dinner. So generous!

    Pranam.

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    Re: Modern study of Upaniṣads?

    hari o
    ~~~~~~

    Quote Originally Posted by yajvan View Post

    namast&#233;

    For those with a burning desire to know (mumukṣu&#185, the upaniṣad-s are a cool breeze to one's intellect.
    Now why do I mention this ?
    A question may be , yajvan is there a reason you offered what you did ?
    Yes. Let me connect the dots. Indraneela writes,
    They were aware of a body of literature called Upaniṣads, but within their religious life, they had never seen the need to delve into them. Not that they were bad Hindus, just the opposite! but the form of Hinduism that they practiced didn't involve a study of the Upaniṣads, and I think that would be fairly typical."
    The notion is this... without proper instruction, over time, a subject can be excused; Oh , I tried to read this and just do not know where its going, why should I pursue it. It is not part of my personsal experience.

    This was the point being made. Knowledge and its apprecation comes with the expanision of ones own comprehension. One without the other ? The words are just words on a page, nothing more.

    How to make this knowlege valuable and lively ?
    And here is the 2nd insight - one can sit down near the wise, yet too one can settle down into ( within ) 'sat' that resides in one's own Self. This is the 2nd way of looking at this: For maximum benefit , sit near the wise , and sink back within your own Being
    So 'the cup of coffee' that is offered is fresh, big, rich, filled with the cream of knowledge.

    praṇām
    यतस्त्वं शिवसमोऽसि
    yatastvaṁ śivasamo'si
    because you are identical with śiva

    _

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    Re: Modern study of Upaniṣads?

    I suppose I have a bit of the opposite problem - I've read the principal Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita and now I only wish I had some books explaining the more Vedic aspects of Hinduism. But alas, I have not yet found a highly recommended English translation of the Vedas.

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    Re: Modern study of Upaniṣads?

    Quote Originally Posted by Believer View Post
    Namaste,

    If we look closely, the OP did not request any information whatsoever on Upanishads or any of the other scriptures. The question was/is if the Upanishads are generally ignored by Hindus. Boy, ask for a cup of coffee and they serve you a 50 course dinner. So generous!

    Pranam.
    Are you suggesting that beside that my post is being long winded one sided and redundant, it is also off topic to explain the Reason why the upanishads are neglected by Hinduism?

    Please answer just "Yes" or "No" everything else will be regarded as off topic and ignored.
    Last edited by MahaHrada; 08 February 2012 at 03:06 AM.

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