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A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1

Particularly a session consisting of pupils


When

the main interest of sacrifice was transferred from its actual performance in the external world to certain forms of meditation, we find that the understanding of particular allegories of sacrifice having a relation to particular kinds of bodily functions was regarded as Brahman, without a knowledge of which nothing could be obtained. The fact that these allegorical interpretations of the Pancagnividya are so much referred to in the Upani@sads as a secret doctrine, shows that some people came to think that the real efficacy of sacrifices depended upon such meditations. When the sages rose to the culminating conception, that he is really ignorant who thinks the gods to be different from him, they thought that as each man was nourished by many beasts, so the gods were nourished by each man, and as it is unpleasant for a man if any of his beasts are taken away, so it is unpleasant for the gods that men should know this great truth. [Footnote ref 1].

In the Kena we find it indicated that all the powers of the gods such as that of Agni (fire) to burn, Vayu (wind) to blow, depended upon Brahman, and that it is through Brahman that all the gods and all the senses of man could work. The whole process of Upani@sad thought shows that the magic power of sacrifices as associated with @Rta (unalterable law) was being abstracted from the sacrifices and conceived as the supreme power. There are many stories in the Upani@sads of the search after the nature of

this great power the Brahman, which was at first only imperfectly realized. They identified it with the dominating power of the natural objects of wonder, the sun, the moon, etc. with bodily and mental functions and with various symbolical representations, and deluded themselves for a time with the idea that these were satisfactory. But as these were gradually found inadequate, they came to the final solution, and the doctrine of the inner self of man as being the highest truth the Brahman originated.

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[Footnote 1: B@rh. I. 4. 10.]

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The meaning of the word Upani@sad.

The word Upani@sad is derived from the root _sad_ with the prefix _ni_ (to sit), and Max Muller says that the word originally meant the act of sitting down near a teacher and of submissively listening to him. In his introduction to the Upani@sads he says, "The history and the genius of the Sanskrit language leave little doubt that Upani@sad meant originally session, particularly a session consisting of pupils, assembled at a respectful distance round their teacher [Footnote ref 1]." Deussen points out that the word means "secret" or "secret instruction," and this is borne out by many of the passages of the Upani@sads themselves. Max Muller also agrees that the word was used in this sense in the Upani@sads [Footnote ref 2]. There we find that great injunctions of secrecy are to be observed for the communication of the doctrines, and it is said that it should only be given to a student or pupil who by his supreme moral restraint and noble desires proves himself deserving to hear them. S'ankara however, the great Indian exponent of the Upani@sads, derives the word from the root _sad_ to destroy and supposes that it is so called because it destroys inborn ignorance and leads to salvation by revealing the right knowledge. But if we compare the many texts in which the word Upani@sad occurs in the Upani@sads themselves it seems that Deussen's meaning is fully justified [Footnote ref 3].


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