[Advaita-l] advaita vedānta & the upaniṣads

yajvan yajvan at san.rr.com
Mon Jan 18 12:33:51 CST 2010

hariḥ oṁ


In a previous post regarding advaita vedānta , I  referred to the prāsthana-traya , or the 3 sources or foundations of advaita 
vedānta and the  upaniṣads.

I thought it worthy to offer a brief on the ~top 10~ Ādi Śaṅkara-ji commented on;  As susual I  look to be corrected,
and/or have the conversation extended so more fluent knowledge may come from the post.

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. 

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. 

The muktika upaniṣad helps us here
This upaniṣad is a discussion between Śrī Rāma and Hanumān-ji. Śrī Rāma says the māṇḍūkya (frog) upaniṣad's wisdom is enough to bring liberation (kaivalya). Yet if one does not achieve this via this upaniṣad , then the 10 must be considered. If not the 10, then the 32 and one then should stop. He then says if desiring mokṣa without the body then read the 108. So , Śrī Rāmaḥ offers us a roadmap. 
10 upaniṣad-s are associated with the ṛg veda.
16 upaniṣad-s are associated with the sāma veda
19 upaniṣad-s are associated with the white yajurveda
32 upaniṣad-s are associated with the black yajurveda
31 upaniṣad-s are associated with the atharvaveda
= 108 upaniṣad-s recommended in the muktika upaniṣad

Let's take a look at the 10 core upaniṣad-s Śrī Rām recommends. I took the liberty of adding the most brief description - I look to stand corrected by those that wish to increase the accuracy of the description or expand the notion as one sees fit.

īśāvā upaniṣad - the inner ruler ; all THIS ( meaning all of creation) is covered by the Lord 
kena upaniṣad - kena or 'who or by what ' moves this world? This creation? 
kathā upaniṣad - dialog or kathā with Death (Yama) as the guru; As a side note sometimes this upaniṣad is written as kaṭha ,meaning a pupil or follower; this can be assigned to the student in this upaniṣad named naciketa. 
praśna upaniṣad - 6 questions (praśna) are asked by 6 students to the master mahaṛṣi pippalāda . The 6 questions
are most delightful and insightful to read. 
muṇḍaka upaniṣad  - The shaving (muṇḍaka or muṇḍa) for the shaved ones - the sānnyasin. Distinction between para vidya and apara vidua ( higher and lower) knowledge. 
māṇḍūkya upaniṣad - Frog (māṇḍūka ). Consciousness and its various forms. It's thought this Upanishad is called Frog, as the mind leaps from one state of consciousness to another. Also the Lord of the waters Varuna, a symbol for consciousness, assumes the shape of a frog as the ṛṣi and praises oṃ in the upaniṣad. 
aitareya upaniṣad - Aitareya is the ṛṣi madhidasa aitareya. The upaniṣad addresses the unity of the individual with the Supreme - some say the relationship of the micro and the macro. Another view is ātmashatka or the 6 sectioned ( or branched) dissertation on ātman - the only Reality. 
taittirīya upaniṣad - Birds or partridges (taittiri's).; from food to bliss - this upaniṣad covers a complete field of wisdom, that is unparalleled. 
chāndogya upaniṣad - meter (chandas of Sāma veda); chant, sāma and yajya - the path of wisdom and the re-valuation of upāsana (worship, adoration in the light knowing vs. just performing. 
bṛhadaraṇyaka upaniṣad - the Great forest Book; That is, as it's an ārayaṇaka आरण्यक forest, forest-born, produced in a forest; it is thought one takes this book for retreat. It contains a 'forest' i.e. rich, flourishing, offers of knowledge. Some say life is a forest i.e. no clear path, and this Upaniṣad assists in finding one's way.

These are considered core as suggested from the muktika upaniṣad. If we added śvetāśvatara upaniṣad the 11th, some say,
are the Core Upanishads of that Ādi Śaṅkara-ji's commentaries. 

If we added 2 additional upaniṣad-s, kauṣītaki brāmanṇopaniṣad and mahanārāyaṇopaniṣad gives us the 13 upaniṣad-s of Veda vyāsa's brahma sūtras. The the 12th & 13th upaniṣad just mentioned is still in-question in my mind. I have not stuided these two in-depth to my liking. 

That said, and as a point of reference. If you added up all the at all the sukta-s of the top 10 upaniṣad-s, the bṛhadaraṇyaka and chāndogya upaniṣad-s make up the lion's share of writing & śloka-s when compared to all of the 13 put together…just wealth of knowledge.


the numbers I quote are from the muktika upaniṣad ' In each branch there is one upaniṣad' says Śrī Rām 
upāsana उपासन - adoration , worship 

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