[Advaita-l] advaita vedānta & the upaniṣads

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Mon Mar 29 12:29:00 CDT 2010


I had saved this post for response back in January, but got sidetracked
with other discussion threads. Sorry for the late response, but better
late than never.

> Let me start here, how many?
> One may ask, How many potential Upaniṣad-s are there? As many sakha-s सख ( tree ) or branches, some call recensions found in the veda. But how many? Well, the ṛg veda has 21 recensions, yajur veda (from yajus - worship, sacrifice) has 109, some say 101; the sāma veda (from sāman - song or tune; and sā is 'sin destroying')has 1000; The atharva veda (atharvan - brahmā's eldest son to whom he revealed the brahma-vidyā) has 50 recensions & some say there are 9 . 
> Hence a total of 1,180 recensions. From a numbers perspective this 1180 can be viewed as 1+1+8+0 = 10 , the sum of the digits of 1,180. This 10 says Fullness of the Relative field of life = 1, and Fullness of the Absolute level of life or 0. This 10 is the Fullness of saguṇa + nirguṇa = Brahman. The subject of 10 has been addressed in earlier emails from this forum. 

Actually, that would not be the correct way to look at the textual
tradition. We cannot correlate the number of upanishat texts with the
number of veda SAkhA-s on a one-to-one basis.

For example, within the taittirIya SAkhA of the kRshNa yajurveda, we
have the mahAnArayaNopanishat in addition to the more well-known
taittirIyopanishat. What is more generally called the taittirIyopanishat
is also traditionally broken down into three components. In the brahma-
yajna ritual, there are the lines, "sAMhitIr devatA upanishadas tarpayAmi,
yAjnikIr devatA upanishadas tarpayAmi, vAruNIr devata upanishadas
tarpayAmi", which point to the ancient division of the taittirIyoupanishat
text into separate sections. They are also called vallI-s, SikshAvallI,
AnandavallI and bhRguvallI. If you look at how saMhitA, brAhmaNa and
AraNyaka portions are arranged within the taittirIya branch of yajurveda,
these three "chapters" of the taittirIyopanishat, followed by the mahA-
nArayaNopanishat, are actually the 7th to 10th chapters (prapAThaka-s)
of the taittirIya AraNyaka. And there are also variant readings preserved
traditionally even within one SAkhA, e.g. the so-called drAviDa pATha 
and Andhra pATha variations within the mahAnArayaNopanishat.

Similarly, in the Sukla yajurveda, what is called the ISopanishat is a section
of the Sukla yajus saMhitA, while the bRhadAraNyakopanishat consists of
multiple chapters of the Satapatha brAhmaNa. All the other well-known
upanishat texts find a place (or places) within the brAhmaNa and AraNyaka
portions of their SAkha-s.


Thus, the upshot is that there are more than one upanishad texts within
a given SAkhA; an upanishat can be a sub-set of the brAhmaNa and/or
AraNyaka portions of the veda text special to that SAkhA (ISOpanishat is
an exception, in that it occurs within the saMhitA); and an upanishat can
consist of multiple brAhmaNa-s or AraNyaka chpaters. So, the distribution
of the upanishad texts within the veda tradition is much more complex and
does not allow us to assign one per SAkhA. The muktikopanishat statement
"teshAM SAkhA anekAs syus tasUpanishadas tathA" is meant in a general 
way, not that there is one and only one upanishat text per SAkhA.


Needless to say, adding the digits in 1180 to give 10 does not arise at all.



> Why then do we hear of 10 core upaniṣad-s ? Or 13 found in the brahma sūtras? We also hear of the 10 ( some say 11) core upaniṣad-s that Ādi Śaṅkara-ji commented on. 

This has to do mainly with the way the brahmasUtra-s were put together by
bhagavAn bAdarAyaNa. Almost every upanishat text covered by the sUtra-s
independently discusses the entire subject matter of vedAnta and teaches
different upAsana methods as means to realize brahman. The brahmasUtra-s
string together various textual references from these and the mahAbhArata
(predominantly from the gItA) in order to establish, on a logical and self-
consistent basis, that one brahman is taught in all these texts. That is why
the brahmasUtra is the nyAya prasthAna (here nyAya = logic, not nyAya as
an independent darSana) in addition to the Sruti (upanishat) and smRti (gItA,
plus a few others) prasthAna-s.


The bulk of the citations in the brahmasUtra-s, as per all the commentators,
are from the chAndogya and bRhadAraNyaka texts, which as you have already
noted, are also the most voluminous texts. All four veda-s are represented 
in the citations made in the brahmasUtra. If you take Sankara bhagavatpAda's
bhAshya as the guiding commentary on the sUtra-s, you will notice that about
13 upanishat texts form the bulk of the sources, but you will also notice that
there occasional references to a few more texts, e.g. jAbAla. We also have

independent bhAshya-s by Sankara bhagavatpAda on the 10 most important
texts, which are well-attested and traditionally studied. 




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