What is your assessment of the Upanishads


A Upanishad (Sanskrit: उपनिषद् upa-ni-ṣad f.) is a text belonging to the most recent part of the Veda; comes from the words Upa, Ni and Sad. Upa means "near, at", ni means "lower", and the Sanskrit verbal root (Dhatu) sad means "sit down, settle down". So Upanishad actually means to sit near, that is, one can understand the wisdom of the Upanishads when one sits near a teacher. That is why the Upanishads are also called secret doctrine.

The Upanishads are the most important of the ancient Indian scriptures. They are the foundations for Vedanta. Upanishad are parts of the Indian scriptures called Veda. They form the last and philosophical part of these writings. The oldest of the 108 Upanishads were made around 800 BC. Written in BC. They deal with the essence of the four Vedas and thus form the basis of Vedanta. The Mahavakyas (great sayings) come from the Upanishads. The Yoga Upanishads (Sanskrit: yogopaniṣad), which deal specifically with the yoga path.

Sukadev on Upanishad

Transcription of a lecture video (2014) by Sukadev on Upanishad

Upanishad is a Sanskrit word and means “to sit at your feet”. Upanishad is a genre of writing, a genre of text. Upanishad is the last part of the Veda. Veda is the oldest collection of scriptures that is still in use today. In the Veda are the oldest, especially texts in an Indo-European language. Veda is the primal knowledge of mankind. Veda has four parts. For one, there are four Vedas, Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. And each of the four Vedas in turn has four parts. There are the Samhitas, the hymns, there are the Aranyakas, the Explanations, the Brahmanas, the further explanations for the Brahmins, and there are the Upanishads.

Upanishad is, so to speak, the metaphysics or the spiritual philosophy behind the Veda. The Upanishads are also considered the secret knowledge. It is knowledge that touches the depths of being human. Vedanta is explained in the Upanishads. Vedanta, the philosophy of the absolute. In Vedanta there are the Mahavakyas, the great sayings: “Tat Twam Asi. That, the infinite, that is you. Aham Brahmasmi. I am Brahman. Ayam Atma Brahman. That self is Brahman. Prajnanam Brahman. Consciousness is Brahman. "

To this day, the Upanishads are the best representations of the highest reality. There are many Upanishads, usually one speaks of 108 Upanishads. Shankaracharya commented on some of these, and Shankaracharya's comments on the Upanishads are still among the best exposition of the Vedanta philosophy. And so one speaks of the twelve most important Upanishads as the classical Upanishads. At Yoga Vidya we have also published the most important Upanishads as books so that you can read them in German.

You can find much more about the Upanishads on our website at www.yoga-vidya.de. There you will also find the translations of the most important Upanishads, so you can also read the Upanishads in German.

The Upanishads - Introduction by Paul Deussen

Article from “Upanishads. The Secret Doctrine of the Veda ”in the translation by Paul Deussen, edited by Peter Michel, Marix Verlag, 2nd edition, 2007, Wiesbaden, pp. 19-28.


Beyond is abundance
On this side there is abundance,
From abundance comes abundance.
If one takes the abundance from the abundance,
So nothing remains but abundance!

(Quote from the Isha Upanishad)

1. The Vedic Age

Anyone who talks about the Vedas inevitably faces the dilemma of having to deal with history and myth. If for the orthodox Hindu the Vedas are in truth unmanifest, the expression of absolute Brahman that is only fully recognizable to the seer, then for the western Indologist they represent the first written evidence of an early high culture. While the dating of the first civilizations in the Indus valley continues is shifted backwards and the Harappa culture from the fourth millennium BC is no longer considered to be the actual origin, academic opinion with regard to Vedic literature has remained relatively constant. The drafting of the Rig Veda, the oldest part of the written Vedas - we will ignore the myth in the following - dates from around 2000 to 1500 BC. BC. The earliest Upanishads cannot be predicted before 1000 BC. And one sets the end of the Upanishad epoch "around the time around 500 BC.

The Vedas are divided into four areas. The Rig-Veda contains the sacrificial hymns to the gods; the Samaveda is the Veda of the chants (Saman) and serves to a certain extent as a musical complement to the Rig-Veda; the Yajurveda is the Veda of sacrificial sayings and the Atharvaveda is named after the high priest (Atharvan) who performed the ordinances and recited the mantric sayings.

The four Vedas were then divided into three sections. The Samhita (collection) contains the proverbs, hymns and prayers to be used; the Brahmana the necessary theological explanations; while the sutras briefly summarize the content of the Brahmanam. The theological part, the Brahmana, is then again divided into three parts, Vidhi, Arthavada and Vedanta. The latter, the end or completion of the Veda (Veda Anta), contains the Upanishads. They represent, as it were, the conclusion and climax of the Vedic age.

In order to understand the meaning of the Vedic revelation in its depth, it is advisable to let three outstanding representatives of the Indian spirituality of the 20th century have their say, who represented their own tradition from inner realization. Vivekananda, India's first great ambassador to the West, wrote in his "Jnana Yoga": "You have to know that in India the Vedas are considered more sacred than even the Bible by Christians. The Christian idea of ​​revelation is the divine inspiration of a person But according to the Indian view things exist only because they are in the Vedas. From the Vedas and through the Vedas all creation came into being; all knowledge is in the Vedas. Every word is holy and eternal, eternal like the soul , without beginning or end. The totality of the creative spirit is contained in the Vedas, and in this light they are viewed. Something is moral or immoral because the Vedas so designate it. "[1]

A similar assessment can be found in the "Autobiography of a Yogi" by Paramahansa Yogananda. "In the rich literature of India, the Vedas (root: Vid: to know) are the only texts that do not have an author. The Rigveda (X 90.9) ascribes its hymns and stories to a divine origin and tells us (III 39.2 ) that they come from "ancient times" and were later clothed in a new language. Since the Vedas were communicated to the Rishis (seers) from one age to another through divine revelations, it is said that they are Nitjatwa, which means "timeless validity ", own.

The Vedas were originally phonetic revelations that were heard directly by the Rishis (Shruti) and essentially contain songs and recitations. These 100,000 verses of the Vedas were not written down for several millennia, but passed on orally by the Brahmin priests. Neither paper nor stone are immune to the temporal decomposition phenomena. The Vedas, however, have survived from one age to another because the Rishis knew the superiority of spirit over matter and knew that the spiritual kind of tradition is the best. For what can be compared with the "tablet of the heart"? "

The figure of the "Rishi", the great seer of the Vedic age, is also of central importance in the tradition of the Upanishads. The Rishis were not the creators of the Vedas, they only gave back what they had seen as spiritual truth in meditation and immersion. Sri Aurobindo, who wrote two extensive volumes on the Vedas and tried with his "Integral Yoga" to integrate Eastern and Western ideas on a new, higher level, interprets the Vedas as esoteric initiation writings. "The Vedic Rishi were mystics who kept their inner knowledge for the initiate; they protected them from the general public through the use of an alphabet of symbols which could not be understood without initiation, but which was perfectly clear and systematic once the signs The symbols were grouped around the idea and forms of the sacrifice, because the sacrifice was the universal and central institution of the authoritative cult. "[2] This sacrifice gained a double meaning in the sense of the Vedic tradition, because on the one hand it was the act of sacrifice for the gods, but on the other hand it was also the inner sacrifice of self-conquest and self-giving. For Sri Aurobindo the language of the Vedas was symbolic and aimed primarily at the processes taking place in humans. "The gods of the Veda represent the universal forces, descended from the consciousness of truth that established the harmony of the world."[3] But behind all forms of the divine, behind the most varied of names, Aurobindo saw an all-unifying divine source. This led him to believe that Vedic revelation should be called monotheistic. "Their teaching is monotheistic, and the Vedic gods are various names of the one deity; at the same time they are a designation of your power as we see it at work in nature."[4]

This interpretation shows one of the basic problems of the mystical or esoteric interpretation of a religious tradition. There can be no doubt that Vedic teaching in Hinduism has led to a vulgar polytheism in broad strata. But similar things can easily be proven in other spiritual traditions, so it makes sense to focus on the great mystics instead of getting lost in the depths of superstition. Arthur Schult saw in his valuable study on "The Wisdom of the Vedas and Upanishads" the one GOD behind the multitude of Vedic gods. "When one of the gods is invoked, all the others seem to disappear or merge into it. Every god that is just invoked is the only god. The gods are alike, form a secret unit , opposing gods, as in Homer's gods. The famous linguist and ethnologist Max Müller called this kind of godly life henotheism, in which polytheism and monotheism are united in a peculiar way "[5]

The Atharvaveda proclaims in one of his hymns the insight which the wise hermits of the Upanishads were supposed to convey to their disciples:

"He alone is the one, the only one, only one.
The gods (devas) are one in him. "Atharvaveda XIV, 4

II. The Origin of the Upanishads

The Upanishads, as the crowning final part of the Vedic tradition, were also passed down orally for many centuries. While the four Vedas emphasize the mythological or the ritualistic element even more, in the Upanishadic texts, although the older ones are still associated with one of the four Vedas, the philosophical speculation and the esoteric-initiatic tradition come to the fore. This development is expressed in Indian society through the increasingly influential Vedanta school, which found its most important representative in Shankara in the 9th century. The more ritualistic and ceremonial followers of the Veda gather in the Karma Mimansa school.

The word "Upanishad" already indicates the special tradition or initiation tradition. It is made up of the syllables "Upa" (near), "Ni" (down) and "Shad" (sit) and describes a teacher-student situation in which the student sits next to his revered master and listens to his teaching. The Benedictine monk Henri Le Saux, who went to India and there under the name Swami Abhishiktananda realized a synthesis between Upanishadic wisdom and Christian mysticism, saw in the word a correspondence between macro- and microcosm. "The word" Upanishad "must originally have meant: mysterious correspondences or interrelationships. In fact, the Upanishad doctrine usually progresses from correspondence to correspondence: in the cosmos, in the human body and in the spirit, until one finally discovers the highest" correspondences ", the Provide the key to everything. "[6] These "correspondences" usually do not reveal themselves to the student through his own effort; they need the help of an enlightened master.

It is not easy for the Westerner of the 21st century to suddenly adopt this structure. Between the Upanishadic epoch and the present there is perhaps a little too much rationality, a little too much enlightenment, a little too much materialism and atheism. In addition, terms such as master (guru), initiation or enlightenment are not entirely unencumbered for the spiritually interested. This is completely different when one is prepared to immerse oneself in the tradition of the Upanishads. "The Upanishadic experience has nothing to do with any religion, just as little with logic or epistemology. It belongs to a different order. It is the final experience of the human spirit, which religions have to face just as they had to face mythical ones in the past and then put the logical categories of thought. "[7] Caution should be exercised when using the word "final", but Henri Le Saux was more likely to suggest the transcendent dimension of the Upanishadic experience. The Rishis of the Upanishads are not concerned with theological speculation, but with the realization of a new consciousness. A consciousness in which the master feels as not separate from the Absolute Spirit (Brahman), but also as not separate from his disciple - without dissolving into an unsubstantial nothing. According to Vedanta, the Upanishadic experience is the highest self (Atman) realization that is possible for a person. Because of this self-understanding, the Upanishads acquire an over-historical dimension, as it were. "The background on which the Upanishads developed is incomparably more universal than that of the Bible and even the Gospel, for Jesus is a historical person, and without a relationship with his person through time, Christianity is not possible. The Rishi The Upanishads, like the Buddha, have no personality to which he attaches importance or a history to relate to. The discovery of the Buddha is the discovery of everyone, the discovery of the rishi is available to anyone who is ready to pursue the inner search and who longs for liberation. The discovery of the ultimate ground of being and self is accessible to every human consciousness! In reality, it is precisely in and only in where the human being realizes himself, regardless of the environment he is. "[8] With the emergence of the Upanishads, an epoch began in human consciousness in which the mediating role of the classical religions was overcome - even those that did not even exist at that time. The Upanishad rishi tries to let his disciple find his own way. He does not see himself in the role of a priest, which the student needs in order to be able to step before the face of God again. In the deepest sense of the word, the "guru" is a guide, someone who drives away the darkness of ignorance. The best way to use a signpost is to read your message and heed it. "Who would", so a bon mot from Krishnamurti, "be so unreasonable and worship the signpost?"

III. The message of the Upanishads

"Lead me from madness to reality!
Lead me out of the dark into the light! "

This call is in the Brihadaranyaka, one of the oldest Upanishads. This makes the basic note of the Upanishadic message clear - knowledge and enlightenment. The seers of the Upanishads want to free their disciples from the darkness of ignorance and allow them to enter into the light of Divine Reality. All great interpreters and commentators of the Upanishads therefore always point out that the attempt to understand the Upanishads in a purely intellectual way is doomed to failure from the outset. The essence of the Upanishads is trans-rational, but not irrational. You have to approach it from the SPIRIT, not the mind. Once one has entered their secret, one feels a bliss (ananda) that is far beyond all perishable human joys. The Taittiriya Upanishad eloquently elaborates on this in its chapter on "Ananda".

In the brilliant introduction to her Upanishad edition, Bettina Bäumer also points out the methodological component of the Upanishadic message."Upanishad therefore means both the method, the means of meditation and learning from a master, as well as the goal, the union or enlightenment. As an example of the first meaning, the Mundaka (II, 2,3) designates the Upanishad as a bow, as the great weapon with which one hits the target, the immortal, whereby the arrow is supposed to be sharpened through meditation (III, 11) The second meaning becomes clear at the end of the Taittiriya Upanishad (III, 10,5), where the Enlightened One exclaims, "I have overcome this whole world! I am shining like the sun (and also) he who knows this! This is the Upanishad! ""[9]

You wanted to a If you choose the central statement of the Upanishads, it would be summarized in the word non-duality (A-dvaita). The supreme insight of the Upanishadic rishis is that of non-dualistic reality. Swami Abhishiktananda (H. Le Saux) meditates on the searching person: "He is looking for God in a corner of space. And God fills the whole space and he is outside of space. He is looking for God at a point in time, in a past, that is over, in a future that will be. But God is outside of all time, and eternity is present in every moment of time. "[10] We find a classic paradox of mysticism mapped out here, the age-old question of transcendence and immanence. God is present in creation, in the innermost part of man - and is nevertheless the whole of the other. The rather unconscious unity of the Vedas becomes in the Upanishads a conscious experience of the divinity of man, which does not lead to an undifferentiated pantheism. In order to counteract this danger, in order not to misunderstand the unity of self (Atman) and God (Brahman) as a drop in the primordial sea, Sri Aurobindo uses in his commentary on the Upanishads to linguistically exaggerate the concept of God as parabrahman. "The Supreme is pure being, absolute existence, sat. It is existence because it is alone, there is nothing else being that possesses any supreme reality or any being independent of its self-manifestation. It is absolute existence because it is alone Is and nothing else actually exists; it must necessarily exist by itself, in itself, and for itself. There can be no cause for its existence, just as there can be no goal for its existence; there can also be no increase in give him another diminution, for increase could come only through the addition of something external to him and diminution through loss of something external; but for Brahman there is nothing external. He cannot change, for if it happened in any way he would become an object of time and causality. It cannot have any parts either, because then it would become the object of the law of space. It is beyond imagination genes of space, time and causality, which he creates as phenomenal conditions of manifestation, but which cannot determine its origin. Hence he is Parabrahman, is absolute existence. "[11]

Although this god pervades the totality of creation in a radical otherness, the rishi of the Upanishads experiences himself as one with him in his enlightenment. God and the self are not separate, but united in an incomprehensible way in the innermost core of being. The four great words (Mahâvâkyas) of the Upanishads try to grasp this mystery in language, if this is at all possible in the limited human expression.

The Upanishads and Christianity

"The Christian must try, in the depths of himself, at the same time to experience the nonduality of being, which is the basis of the Vedantic experience, and the experience of divine sonship, the ineffable nonduality of father and son, in the unity of the spirit, which constitutes the experience of the Christian faith. "[12]

It was above all the Benedictines who, partly with their own ashram in the south of India, led the dialogue between Vedanta and Christianity, and had their most important representatives in Henri Le Saux (SwamiAbhishiktananda) and Bede Griffiths. Above all, Le Saux, who later withdrew completely into solitude, kept revolving around the Upanishadic experience of unity in his meditations. For him, the insights of the great Rishis offered the long-sought key to come to an acceptable understanding of a Trinitarian conception of God. Le Saux had recognized: "That Christ is essentially the first of a multitude of brothers. The pleroma is essential to the Incarnation. Every single human consciousness down to the last - they are all created" for the praise of the glory of his love "- was necessary for it the glory of God should be full, so that that glory might be revealed as the Father, in His exalted freedom, ordained. "[13] In order to underpin this unorthodox doctrine of the Trinity, Le Saux saw the Upanishads as the key, since they alone seemed to reveal an experience of universal sonship with God for him. "The Trinity is only understood in the experience of Advaita (nonduality). Jesus lived this tearing and fulfilling experience of nonduality (with the Father), an experience that reveals itself in a splendor, in a light, in a glory, which surpasses everything, which snatches everything from you, which leads beyond everything: gift of wisdom, deep essential unity (connatura-lité), explosion that no one can escape who has 'felt' ... "[14] The Trinitarian experience becomes a cosmic revelation for Henri Le Saux. The Father (Brahman) reveals himself in the Son (Atman) through the Spirit - and this revelation is universal! Everything created is ultimately the SON; and everything that has been created is ultimately connected back through the SPIRIT and united with the FATHER. For Le Saux this ultimately means the Mahavakya "Aham Brahmasmi".

Le Saux, Griffiths and other Christians who thought in this Upanishadic Trinitarian tradition were repeatedly attacked by Orthodoxy and suspected of heresy, especially pantheistic. Above all, this criticism falls short because it obviously does not understand the secret of the Upanishadic experience. Bettina Bäumer makes this very clear in her Upanishads edition. "Advaita, the denial of duality, of duality, is not to be dismissed as monism or pantheism, even if such tendencies were not always excluded later. Like all Upanishadic statements, advaita must be understood in the context of mystical experience. It means the ultimate inadequacy of one Splitting reality into subject and object, and above all the impossibility of projecting God or the transcendent onto the side of the object, nor can the mere transference of the divine to the subject do justice to ultimate reality. As Swami Abhishiktananda (Henri Le Saux ) emphasized that the experience of advaita is the greatest purification of the Christian concept of God. "[15]

The dialogue between the experience of the Upanishads and Christian mysticism is only just beginning. It was only in the second half of the twentieth century that Christians attempted to really plumb the depths of the Upanishadic revelation. It was an extremely fruitful dialogue, which should now be expanded to take a further step towards a "world religion of the heart"[16] that alone will be able to resolve the religious conflicts of humanity.


  1. ↑ Vivekananda, Jnana-Yoga Vol. 1, Freiburg undated, p. 195.
  2. ↑ Sri Aurobindo, Hymns to Mystic Fire, Pondicherry 1972, p. 466.
  3. ↑ Ders., The Secret of the Veda, Pondicherry 1971, p. 71.
  4. ↑ Ibid., P. 29.
  5. ↑ Arthur Schult, The Wisdom of the Vedas and Upanishads in the Light of the West-East Problem, Bietigheim 1962, p. 57f.
  6. ^ Henri Le Saux, The way to the other bank, Cologne 1979, p. 49.
  7. ↑ Ibid., P. 134.
  8. ↑ Ibid., P. 135.
  9. ↑ Bettina Bäumer, Liberation for Being. Selection from the Upanishads, Zurich 1986, p. 25f.
  10. ↑ Le Saux, Weg, p. 26.
  11. ↑ Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Pondicherry 1972, p. 16 f.
  12. ↑ Le Saux, Weg, p. 7.
  13. ↑ Le Saux, Indian Wisdom - Christian Mysticism. From Vedanta to the Trinity, Lucerne 1968, p. 155.
  14. ↑ Ders., Weg, p. 9.
  15. ↑ Bäumer, p. 41.
  16. ↑ cf. Peter Michel, World Religion, Grafing 2001.

The Upanishads - by Swami Sivananda

Swami Sivananda, the Indian yogi, doctor and sage, writes about the Upanishads as follows:

The philosophical teaching known as Vedanta is also known as Uttara Mimamsa. The founder of the Vedanta philosophy system was BadarayanaVyasa. The Purva Mimamsa School was founded by Jaimini, a student of Vyasa. The difference between the two schools is that in Purva Mimamsa in general the mantra part of the Vedas is examined more closely, while Uttara Mimamsa is devoted to the teaching of the Upanishads in the Vedas. In other words, Purva Mimamsa deals with the KarmaKanda, while Uttara Mimamsa deals with the JnanaKanda.

The Upanishads as part of the Vedas

Sri Skankaracharya, the great teacher of Vedanta

The Brahma Sutras of Badarayana or Sri Vyasa are called Vedanta Darshana. They are so called because they are based on the Upanishads, the last and final part of the Vedas. These Brahma Sutras are the result of harmonizing the seemingly contradicting Upanishadic texts of Badarayana. The Bhashya (commentary) on the Brahma Sutras, written by Sri Shankaracharya, is known as SarirakaBhashya.

The Vedas, each of which consists of four parts called Samhita (collection), Brahmana (ritual explanation), Aranyaka (forest treatise) and Upanishad (philosophical teaching text), are also divided into two large sections, namely the Karma Kanda or Section of Actions and the Jnana Kanda or Section of Knowledge. The section of actions leads man to the world through happiness and enjoyment in Svarga or heaven, and the second, the section of knowledge, leads man to moksha or liberation. The parts Samhita and Brahmana form the Karma Kanda and the Aranyaka and the Upanishads form Jnana Kanda, the section of knowledge.

Brahma Vidya, or the knowledge with which we attain Brahman, is the subject of the Upanishads. The Upanishads as the last part of the Vedas represent the philosophy of Vedanta, literally the end of the Vedas. Due to the structure of the Rig Veda and other texts, it is said that there are four Vedas. They are branched out in many ways, and so it is with the Upanishads. There are 21 subdivisions in the Rigveda. In Yajurveda there are 109, in Samaveda 1000, in Atharvaveda 50. In each subdivision there is an Upanishad.

The word Upanishad

The word Upanishad is formed by adding (...) the prefixes Upa and Ni to the root Shad, which has the following meanings:

1) smash, kill,
2) reach and
3) loosen, release.

The word Upanishad indicates the knowledge of the experienceable being, which is memorably described by the work to be commented on. On the basis of which etymological process this knowledge is indicated by the designation Upanishad will now be explained.

Knowledge is called the Upanishad because of its importance, that it destroys and shatters the seeds of samsara like ignorance and all the rest of those spiritual seekers who, having freed themselves from all attachment, have no more desires for things, who they saw or heard of; who acquire the knowledge called the Upanishad, explained below, and then meditate on the knowledge by keeping their minds firmly fixed on it (...) The seeker is freed from the clutches of death. The knowledge of Brahman is also called the Upanishad because it leads to Brahman; it makes it possible for the spiritual seeker who has freed himself from all attachment to attain the highest Brahman (...). When he has attained Brahman, he becomes free from all blemishes and immortal (...).

Yoga stories from the Upanishads

Even the knowledge of Agni is contained in the term Upanishad, through its connection to the meaning of the root 'shad', "to loosen, to free". Because the knowledge of Agni, the firstborn, the connoisseur, (...), provided hints for reaching heaven and thus loosened and relieved the extent of misery, such as growing up in the womb, birth, old age, etc., that is in this World repeated over and over again. (...) Once the seekers have reached heaven, they are immortal.

One might object that students also apply the term Upanishad to the book when they say we want to study or teach the Upanishads. This is not a mistake, as the meaning of the root 'shad', e.g. B. the destruction of the cause of samsara, etc., can not only be associated with mere action, but also relates to knowledge; and mere action can also be denoted by this word, since it serves the same purpose as ghee is also said to be truly life.

The word Upanishad is therefore used in its original sense in connection with knowledge, but it is also possible to use it in a secondary meaning in connection with work / action. Thus those who are really ready to acquire the knowledge will be advanced by the mere analytical explanation of the word Upanishad. The entire preoccupation with knowledge brings about complete liberation from the shackles of samsara by attaining Brahman.

The meaning of the Upanishad can be both as it diminishes the numerous evils such as conception, childbirth, old age, illness etc. in people who open themselves to this knowledge of Brahman and approach it with faith and devotion, or because it affects people shows the way to Brahman, or because it completely destroys the cause of samsara like ignorance etc. So this to the different meanings of the root 'shad', which follows the prefix Upani.

Rama and the Upanishads

Rama says to Hanuman: “The only means of attaining ultimate liberation, taken in isolation, is the Mandukya Upanishad, which is sufficient for the salvation of all spiritual seekers. If Jnana (knowledge) is not attained through this, then by studying the ten Upanishads you will first attain Jnana and then My place. O son of Anjana, if your knowledge is not firmly established by this, then study the 32 Upanishads in detail. You should be set free. If you long for Videha Mukti, then study the 108 Upanishads. "

The Upanishads are the mystical experience of the Rishis. The Upanishads, the Gita and the Brahma Sutras are called Prasthanatraya. They are the three authoritative books on Hindu philosophy. Every teacher who claims the title Acharya (Master) and wants to found a new philosophical school must write a commentary on these three important books. All the Acharyas of the past such as Sri Shankara, Ramanuja and Madhava wrote commentaries on these books.

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Vidyas in the Upanishads

Meditate with the vidyas and experience unity

- An article from the Yoga Vidya Journal No. 40 Spring 2020 by Swami Nirgunananda -

Vidyas are meditation techniques in the Upanishads. When we work with them, they can lead us to the realization of unity, the absolute.

What does "Vidya" mean?

The Sanskrit word Vidya means, among other things, "knowledge, insight, wisdom, teaching, instruction, learning, science". In the Upanishads the term Vidya is used both for meditation and in the sense of Jnana (highest knowledge), because the Vidyas as meditation techniques can help to the highest knowledge and realization. Another term for meditation in the Upanishads is "Upasana" (meditation and worship).

In connection with the meditation techniques from the Upanishads with which we are concerned, the words “Vidya” and “Upasana” are mostly used synonymously and mean deep meditation in order to gradually dissolve the binding effects of human thought and action. The vidyas are means both for a fulfilled ethical life in harmony with Dharma, the cosmic order, as well as for the realization of the Supreme.

The Supreme Knowledge - the highest knowledge

In the book "The Supreme Knowledge - Reveiled Through Vidyas in the Upanishads", Swami Brahmananda describes and explains 101 of these vidyas from the twelve most important Upanishads. Swami Brahmananda was one of Swami Sivananda's senior disciples, an excellent scholar of the scriptures and Vedanta.

In the introduction he writes: “Concentration on a certain topic leads to thoughts and active efforts being directed and focused on the object of concentration. This concentration leads to contemplation and meditation. One begins with contemplation on concrete divine aspects or symbols and finally the meditation process culminates in pure being, where Chit (absolute consciousness) becomes one with Sat (absolute being, existence in itself), both of which are ananda (absolute bliss) at the same time. In such meditations the meditator becomes one with the Absolute on which he / she is meditating. "

From the individual to the universal to the absolute

Not all vidyas are suitable for everyone. Some are very complex, in several stages and mostly also in a very mystical-esoteric language, so that they are not easily accessible to us today. In many cases, however, they have in common that one goes from the individual to the universal and from there beyond everything that can be grasped.

A simple example: One meditates first on the light and the sight of the eye (individual level), then on the light and rays of the sun (cosmic level) and then on that which gives the sun and eye the power of seeing, and that, which "shines out of itself", that is, has no further cause itself, but is the cause in itself. The meditation begins with intellectual reflection and gradually leads to the fact that the mind comes into higher vibrational / consciousness levels and intuitive knowledge and realization can take place.

Mahavakyas and Neti-Neti

The more well-known Vidyas include the Mahavakyas (great statements / formulas):

and the Neti Neti technique, with which everything is gradually negated that is perceived as an "object" (separate from the meditator) and only pure being and awareness remains without concrete content.

The "Isha-Vidya" - meditation on the divine - from the Isha-Upanishad

The Isha Upanishad begins with the following verse:

"Ishavasyam-idam sarvam yat-kincha jagatyam jagat,tena tyaktena bhunjithah ma gridhah kasya-svid dhanam. "

Literal translation according to Swami Brahmananda:

"All this, whatever moves in this world, should be covered by the Lord. Protect yourself or enjoy through that renouncement. Do not covet or cherish any desire for any world, for whose is wealth? "

“All of this that moves in this world should be covered by God. Protect yourself and enjoy yourself through this renunciation. Do not strive for external possessions and have no wishes for them, for to whom do all possessions belong? "

Swami Brahmananda explains:

Usually we “cover” the world with duality; we see all kinds of different, separate things and forms that have nothing to do with each other or with us. The Isha-Vidya instructs us to instead see the divine essence in all its manifestations, for in reality the world is nothing separate from God, but an expression of the absolute.

And he gives an example: there are rings, bracelets, necklaces and so on made of gold. These forms are only names that we give to the essence, gold. If we now try not to see the chain but the gold in the necklace, we “cover” the necklace with gold, so to speak. But what is nothing else than recognizing what it really is.

"Protect yourself and enjoy yourself / enjoy through this renunciation" means: "Renounce" the idea of ​​a world separate from you with many different objects. Realize that on one level everything is interrelated, connected, a cosmic organism. And when we really become aware of this and we realize it to a certain extent, Vairagya, the letting go, the “not wanting” - because ultimately nothing and everything that we are and have “belongs” to us, can change at any moment or be taken from us. And at the same time we can gratefully accept and enjoy everything we have and get, because we know

a) it is not permanent,
b) it is a loan from God and
c) we are part of this divine organism and emerge from it

a deep trust that we are always safe and secure and that ultimately everything that happens is good for us from a higher point of view.

This knowledge leads to the fact that we think and act less and less ego-related, but simply let what wants to happen flow through us. This way of life protects us from the wheel of rebirths.

Meditation with the Isha-Vidya

Meditation on the divine

Perhaps you would like to try this meditation once and see whether it suits you and does something in you. Sit in your meditation posture. Gently close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths in and out.


Inhale, consciously take in air and prana, life energy. Exhale, consciously let the air and breath flow out.

Inhale, air flows into you from the outside - so you are connected and one with the air and the space that surrounds you. Breathe out, let the air flow out again and thus connect inside and outside. Keep breathing a few more times.


Notice your body sitting on the pillow, mat, blanket, or chair.

Feel the connection to the earth and at the same time through your breath to the air, to the space.

Become aware: you are part of the earth, and via the earth part of the planetary system and above part of a larger system and above that part of the whole universe. The whole universe is ultimately the physical expression of the divine, the absolute, which manifests itself as this infinite universe with all its wonders and at the same time transcends everything. Think about it for quite a while. Let it sink in


Sometimes it happens that the intellectual thinking then turns into a "feeling" - you no longer think that you are part of this whole, but you feel it.


After a while it may happen that this feeling turns into a being - it is you. You are suddenly one with this whole. You are the whole.

When your spirit is absorbed in this vibration, simply enjoy this vastness, this pure being and the joy that completely fills you.


If you notice that concrete thoughts, ideas, emotions are reappearing in your mind, then "cover / envelop them with God". Imagine and feel that they are an expression and a part of the cosmic mind and spirit.


Likewise, when certain situations or people arise in the mind, feel this divine essence in them from the heart. Ultimately there is nothing but this divine. The world, every form of expression, is filled with it.

Meditate in this or a similar way in these steps and just let what wants to happen and what develops intuitively happen.

Close the meditation with three Om and a blessing mantra if you want and take this feeling of connectedness and divine essence with you into your everyday life.

Alternatively, you can start with something that touches you deeply and arouses astonishment and awe in you. Many people find this easy, for example when you look at the starry sky or imagine it, a beautiful sunrise and sunset, a sublime mountain landscape, a beautiful flower or a tree. You can try to see this divine in this first and then expand and transcend it in meditation.

You can also try to pause from time to time in everyday life and become aware of a moment: Everything, even the most everyday activity, is essentially divine. Because if “God” is infinite and omnipresent, he / she / it must also be in what I am doing and what is happening to me. You will notice that over time your attitude towards life as well as your view of things and life change, that you can deal more calmly with the challenges of everyday life and that you have great inner strength, security and deep inner peace even in difficult situations will have.

The Upanishads - Philosophy at the End of Knowledge

An article by Shivapriya Angela Große-Lohmann, published in Yoga Vidya Journal No. 26 - No. 31

Part 1

(from the Yoga Vidya Journal 27)

Shivapriya Angela Große-Lohmann has embarked on a journey into Vedic philosophy. In the first part of the Upanishads series, we learn what makes your excursus so special, and we go straight to the first chapter. This series is interesting for everyone who wants to deal with the traditional and philosophical backgrounds in order to get a deeper understanding of the yoga universe.

The Upanishads are considered the philosophical part of the Vedas, the end of knowledge (Veda = knowledge, Antart = end). Based on this definition alone, it seems extremely attractive to get closer to this end of knowledge!

The following considerations on the Upanishads, as compiled in the work: Classical Upanishads, The Wisdom of Yoga, Yoga Vidya Verlag), are the result of regular meetings with a group of interested yoga teachers with whom these considerations were discussed.

We read the Upanishads together and then discussed the commentaries on them that are presented below. Our discussion results have already been added to the considerations presented. It is thanks to the participants Shrimayi Susanne Rauch, Nidia Uta Naumann, Sundari Silvia Beyer and Manuela Schramm and their feedback that I have overcome my concerns and now present the results in this form.

I ask you to consider the following before starting reading: The comments are not to be understood as scientifically founded research results! Rather, they were created very intuitively and without much use of secondary literature, which, by the way, is also rather rare. Nevertheless, I occasionally refer to biological relationships. The biological facts are presented in an extremely simplified manner in the context given.

Biologically educated readers can be assured that in other contexts I can explain these facts much more clearly and precisely, but here I am talking about something else: I would like to explain the findings that result from the original texts with facts known in our time, simply to make the meaning of these texts understandable in our time.

This became particularly clear to me when reading Sri Sankaracarya's “The Heart of Vedanta”, which in the chapter on creation gives a very detailed assignment of the elements and the origin of the various bodies. He is based on the knowledge of his time and can thus make himself understood in his time. I very much ask you to understand the recorded biological references in this sense.

In my opinion, no simple explanations for scientific contexts can be read almost one-to-one from the Upanishads.

But from my point of view it makes sense to make the statements of the Upanishads clear with the knowledge of our time. That's what it's all about for me. At this point it is also important for me to refer to the Upanishads themselves.

The longer I occupy myself with the texts, the greater my respect and admiration for the author and the timeless wisdom I have recorded.

If you get involved in the texts, they touch everyone very deeply and help to better understand oneself and our position and our tasks in this universe. Studying the Upanishads is immensely enriching.

This is how the well-known Mahavakyas, the four great statements of Vedanta,

Prajnanam Brahman - Brahman is consciousness Aham brahmasmi - I am Brahman Ayam atma brahma - This atman is Brahman Did twam asi - You are that

constantly in depth, sharpness and meaning. The picture we have of ourselves and the world is becoming ever clearer, which, as I have observed, is a really fascinating process for each individual. With this in mind, I can only hope that the comments will stimulate as many people as possible to come to terms with the Upanishads and find their own access to these universal truths.

Part 2

After entering the first chapter in the last edition, we now continue with the story of creation in the imaginary world of Vedic teaching. Pay particular attention to the similarities with the Bible, Genesis about the creation of the world and man. In this part we read about the creation of the world, Atman. The next journal will focus specifically on the human body and its senses.

The following names of the Upanishads refer to the book "Classical Upanishads" from Yoga Vidya Verlag.


Preliminary remark:

The Aitareya Upanishad belongs to the Aitareya Aranyakas of the Rigveda. It consists of 3 chapters = Adhyaya, which are divided into different parts = Khanda.

The theme of the Aitareya Upanishad is creation. Chapter one explains the origin of the consciousness that is in the world.

The second section explains the origin of food in the broadest sense (what makes us live in the world, what binds us, what gives us experience) and the consequences of the existence of these possibilities, namely the creation of the body.

The third section deals with the nature of Brahman.

We are used to refer to the force that ensures that this world with all its possibilities emerges as a veil, a cover around the truth, as the force of illusion, as maya or deception. It is interesting that in older Indian Sanskrit Maya is used in the neutral sense of supernatural power, miraculous power. If one engages in the Aitareya Upanishad, one begins to understand this approach.

The creation of the world with all creatures is something wonderful, it holds for all creatures and beings the possibility of experiences and ultimately of knowing who they really are. That is why this world and the power that creates it is actually great, without it we would not exist. With this in mind, I like the term magic much better. Maya is the miraculous power, the magic that creates everything. The fact that it must ultimately be overcome if we want to advance to the truth does not diminish the importance of the world for us and thus the power that it generates!

First Adhyaya, First Khanda

1. In the beginning this world was atman alone; there was nothing else to open your eyes. He considered: “I want to create worlds.” Instead of “he”, with the inevitable association of a male entity, we are certainly allowed to think and say the neutral absolute. It is interesting that here Atman is mentioned in the first place, and not Brahman. It is not the unchangeable, unborn truth, the power behind all appearances, but a special aspect of this power, the part that wants to experience something, so to speak, and thinks up the world for it.

2. There he created these worlds: the flood, the light spaces, the dead, the water. That one is the flood, beyond heaven, heaven is their ground. - The light spaces are the air space - The dead is the earth - What is below it, these are the waters.

One should actually expect that Atman creates the known five elements: earth, water, fire, air and space (Akasha). But he only made four, and then others. Therefore, it is certainly not about the concrete matter of which this world consists, but rather about what is behind this matter, namely the well-known three qualities sattwa, rajas and tamas, which in their characteristic mixture form the matter in the first place . That which is beyond heaven, which uses heaven as ground, can only be the quality that we associate with the purity of heaven, i.e. sattwa. The earth is referred to as the dead, which suggests that the quality of tamas is meant here. What is below her are the waters; Before something can be dead, it has to be alive, moving and changing, one could also say flowing like water, i.e. connected to the quality of rajas. The light spaces, which are the air space, clearly fall out of this scheme.

part 3

(from Yoga Vidya Journal # 29)

We took a closer look at the creation of the world with the Aitareya Upanishad in parts 1 and 2 of this series. We learned that first of all the 3 basic qualities sattwa, rajas and tamas emerged as inherent in all matter. In the next step, the archetype of all living beings is formed from consciousness, which represented the basic structures, properties and tasks and contained the entire potential of all living beings.

The creation myth from the Ait Areya Upanishad

The mouth and Agni, the fire

In the first step, the mouth differentiates itself (in the embryonic development of many animals, the so-called primordial mouth emerges, from which the intestinal tube and internal organs later develop). The mouth is associated with speech, and speech is associated with Agni, the fire. Here, too, the following statement comes to mind: “In the beginning there was the word”.

Nobody can do without the ability to communicate, it is a central individual ability of living beings in this world, it is not only characteristic of each individual living being, but each species develops its own communication techniques.

Agni stands for: fire, will, purity, transformation. This can also be applied to communication. Every individual has to find the will to communicate, which also costs energy.In the end, it is the job of communication to make the world a little better (to increase the level of purity there is), even if it is used often enough for exactly the opposite.

The nose, vayu and the wind

Next, according to the Aitareya Upanishad, the nose is formed, from it the Prana, and from it Vayu (wind, air). Prana is our life energy, in the narrower sense the rising energy that is associated with inhalation. This describes another important function that must be present in all living beings so that they can live: They have to absorb energy.

But Prana also stands for the connection between the gross and the subtle body. The subtle energy must be able to flow into the matter so that it is animated, so to speak. In yoga the function is assigned to the pranic body. The Prana becomes Vayu, which stands for air in general, the air element, but also the god of the wind.

This connection is interesting in that it turns our common notions of cause and effect upside down. According to the statements of the Upanishad, the function (nose - prana) is created first, then the medium, the basis, namely the air space - the god of the wind as a prerequisite for the creation of the material wind that blows through the world.

Or to put it another way: According to the Aitareya Upanishad, the wind and air only exist because living beings need a way to absorb energy, because they need a connection between the gross and the subtle.

The eyes and Aditya, the sun

The face develops from the eyes, and from it Aditya. The eyes are an important system of perception in living beings. During embryonic development, they are the first to form from the nerve tube. On the mechanical basis of the eyes, areas of the brain can enlarge and grow.

The eyes and the face with the other senses enable a perception of the world that looks different for every living being. This applies both to individuals of one species who develop a very individual view of the world, and even more so to different species that perceive different parts of the world.

For example, just remember that insects see a different spectrum of light or that dogs have a more intense sense of smell. Overall, it makes perfect sense to assume that organs of perception are needed if a living being is to survive in this world. So at the beginning the basic ability of perception has to develop. Aditya is associated with this ability to perceive.

Aditya stands for the sun, which is used again and again in later texts as an image for the absolute. Adytia is also a class of gods, they are the sons of Aditya, the infinite consciousness. And this is where it gets exciting, because we get the first indication of what we actually get all of our perceptual abilities for: to recognize the absolute!

Maya, the force that creates all of this, is therefore aimed at something positive: we are to know the truth

The ears and the regions of the sky

In the next step, the ears are created, from these the hearing and from them the dishes, the regions of the sky. It is interesting that here the hearing is not associated with acoustic perception, but with the regions of the sky or spatial directions.

The Vishuddha Chakra (throat center) with the element Akasha, space, is also connected to the hearing. So this is not about the development of the ability to perceive, this has already been associated with the development of the eyes. The ear not only contains the organs with which we can decipher acoustic signals, it is also the seat of our sense of balance.

If we stick to the idea that this text of the Aitareya Upanishad explains to us the emergence of a first ideal consciousness, from which the concrete different living beings of the different species can then emerge, the view opens up to the crucial question: What does such an ideal living being actually have to do still be able to, if it can already communicate, transform and perceive energy?

A clear answer: It must be able to orient itself in this world, it must be able to perceive the cardinal points and be able to move in space - and that is exactly what is possible with the differentiation of the ears.

According to the text at hand, the skin then differentiates itself, from it the hair and from it the herbs and trees.

Part 5