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The early Upanishads are the conceptual bases of much of later Hindu thought and practice.
The Upanishads are a collection of religious and philosophical texts, which were written in India probably between c. 800 BCE and c. 500 BCE. In this one, the text has seven lines in the Devanagari script, which is used to write Sanskrit, and Hindi.
The regular structures that we see around us – the cycle of the seasons, for example – are said to be the result of a cosmic sacrifice.
Through the offerings of the inner being, an individual moves towards what is depicted as the highest goal of human existence in Hinduism – being freed from the cycle of rebirth.
The Brihad-Aranyaka Upanishad was produced around 800 BCE, somewhere in northern India, within groups that spoke Vedic Sanskrit. The Upanishads are a collection of religious and philosophical texts, which were written in India probably between c. 800 BCE and c. 500 BCE, during a time when Indian society was starting to question the traditional Vedic religious order.
The Upanishads deal with, amongst other topics, the relation between the human individual and the divine reality, and are some of the classical foundations of Hindu thought and spirituality. Some of the key concepts of philosophical and religious Hinduism such as Atman, Brahman, and others, appear in the Upanishads.
The Upanishads were passed down orally from guru to disciple for several centuries before being committed to writing.
Are there links to current religious practices or a modern equivalent?
The early Upanishads are the conceptual bases of much of later Hindu thought and practice. Various practices relating to self-control, mindfulness, and so on, are traceable to statements, although sometimes terse and enigmatic, in the Upanishads.
The Upanishads are one of the key sources of Hindu beliefs relating to time, the cycles of rebirths (samsara), and the eternal self (Atman).
The Upanishad seeks to build upon some Vedic notions of sacrifice. This means that, roughly, the regular structures that we see around us – the seasonal cycles, for example – are said to be the result of a cosmic sacrifice. In early Vedic texts, because the cosmic sacrifice created all life, it has to be repeated by the Vedic priests on earth with offerings such as cereals, vegetables, and so on.
The Upanishads take up this basic theme but instead of the sacrifice involving external offerings such as cereals, they focus on the internal offerings of the vital breaths, the life force, the mind, the senses, and so on. This is called ‘interiorising’ the sacrifice. Through these offerings of the inner being, an individual moves towards what is depicted as the highest goal of human existence in Hinduism – being freed from the cycles of rebirth.