The Upanishads are works of deep philosophy and have a unique place in the religious literature of the world. They play the greatest and the most important role in the history of Indian thought. The project focuses on the Upanishad’s and its conception of the atman and the Brahmin.
The word 'Upanishad' means the secret or mystical teaching which a pupil imbibes from his teachers. The word 'Upanishad' is derived from the roots 'upa' (near),'ni' (down) and 'sad' (to sit) i.e., sitting down near. Groups of pupil sit near the teacher to learn from him the secret doctrines. Shankra derives the word Upanishad as a substantive from the root 'sad' to reach or destroy, with the 'upa' and 'ni' as prefixes. By this derivation, Upanishad means Brahma knowledge, by which ignorance is loosened or destroyed. Since the Upanishads are regarded as teaching the highest truth, they could be imparted only to those who were competent to receive and benefit by them; and such competent pupils could be only a few at any given time so the meaning "secret" came to be attached to the term "Upanishad".
The Upanishads are generally reckoned as the concluding portions of the Vedas, hence called the Vedanta. The philosophy of the four Vedas was lost in the ritualism of the Brahmans; hence followed the Upanishads which represent the age when Indian philosophy was passing through a transition. Though the Indian philosophic thought had its first seed in the Vedas, yet the ritualistic approach of the Brahman swallowed its real character. Therefore it found suitable outlets in the Upanishads. '
Upanishads and the Atman and Brahman
The place of the Upanishads in Vedic literature
The Upanishads are usually attached to appendices to the Aranyakas which are again attached to the Brahmans; yet we find in some cases that subjects which should be discussed in a Bahmana are introduced into the Aranyakas and sometimes fused into the Upanishads. This shows that these generally grew uP in on process of development and were regarded one literature, inspite of the differences in subject matter. The Bhramanas were intended for the householders, the Aranyakas for those who in their old age withdrew into the solitude of the forests, and the Upanishads for who renounce the world to attain salvation by meditation. The ancient philosophers of India looked up upon the Upanishads as being an entirely different path of knowledge (jnanamarga) as opposed to the path of works (karma-marga) which forms the content on the latter. Orthodox Hindu view holds that whatever maybe written in the Veda is to be interpreted as commandments to perform certain action, or prohibitions against committing certain others (nisedha). No person had any right to argue with any particular Vedic commandment is to be followed, far no reason can ever discover that, and it is only because reason fails to find why a certain Vedic act can lead to a certain effect that the Vedas have been revealed to show the truth path of happiness. The Vedic teaching is to show the Karma-marga, the performance of Vedic duties of sacrifice, etc. The Upanishads however do not require the performance of any sacrifices, but reveal the ultimate reality, a knowledge of which means emancipates a man. Sankara, the most eminent exponent of the Upanishads, holds that they are meant foe such superiority, and for whom the Vedic duties have ceased to have any attraction. Those who perform the Vedic duties belong to a stage inferior to that of those who no longer care for the fruits of the Vedic duties, but are eager for final emancipation; the latter alone are fit to hear the Upanishads. Brahmanas and the Early Upanishads
The passage of the Indian mind from the Bhraminic to the Upanishadic thought is probably the most remarkable event in the history of philosophy. In the later Vedic hymns monotheistic ideas of great excellence were developed, but these differ from the absolution of the Upanishads. The...