Saturday, 26 March 2011

Upanisadic Thought


Under the Vedic thought although some thought way of devotion (BhaktimArga) as the only path to highest truth and highest good, there were some others who viewed the things differently too. They who were within the Vedic culture started to think that the development of spirituality is far greater than performing sacrifices. This new trend (style) evolved through BrAhmaNa and Āranyaka periods and became quite free dominant in the üpaniSadic era. During this time, the new themes like rebirth and efficacy of kamma came to be interested more in the religious arena.

With the spiritual development some of the practitioners achieved super normal knowledge, with them they could observed past lives of beings also they foresaw the rebirths of beings. With them they perceived personal conviction, the efficacy of kamma, rebirth etc. Such super normal knowledges also misled the followers and on the other hand by the facts that they used the same perception to establish some fundamental Vedic concepts, such as creation theory and Soul view. BrahmajAlasutta of DN explains of them as follows.

îdha bhikkhave ekacco samaNo vA brahmaNo vA AtappamanvAya, padhAnamanvAya anuyogamanvAya sammAmanasikAramanvAya tathArUpaM cetosamAdhiM phusati. YathA samAhite cite anekavihitaM pubbenivAsaM anussarati.

=O monks! Here some recluses and Brahmins reached the concentration of mind due to restrainments, striving, serious engagement and good one pointedness as they recollect various former lives in that concentrated mind.”

Accordingly, we can see the existence of two main kinds of Brahmins in the üpaniSadic period, the first group of them followed the way of devotion (Bhakti marga or Karma mArga) and the other followed the way of knowledge (ÑAnamArga). So we see some of the Brahmin texts condemning the sages. Brahmins were reluctant on the emergence and development of ÑAnamArga as it was against to their viwes of one’s fate.  This new rise of the moment of spiritual development can be traced back to pre-vedic era as we saw earlier. When the Brahmins were reluctant about the growth of those ascetics who encourage spiritual development Ksatriyas supported this new moment very much.

With the üpaniSadic thought new ideas and theories related to the existence of man came into be, some of them were the circle of births and deaths (saMsAra), liberation (vimutti), soul (atta), rebirth (punabbhava), emancipation (nibbAna) and engagement in spiritual development (yogavutti). With these new ideologies mental culture (bhAvana) occupied the most supreme place in the religious life and that itself promoted a new religious tradition called samaNa tradition which was against Brahmanism. Upanisadic way of thought widened the horizons of thought in the religious atmosphere. One of their main focuses was to rebuild the relationship between individual’s soul (pudgalātma) and universal soul (Jagadātma/Paramātma/BrahmA). This is called non-dualistic philosophy at the end of the Veda (Advaitavedāntadarshaöa).

Additional note

Evolution of Vedic Religious Thought
            1. Vedic period
            2. Brahmanic period
            3. Āranyaka period
            4. Upanisadic period

In the periods of Vedic and Brahmanic the Indians believed and held strong idea on BhaktimArga (way of devotion). But in periods of Āranyaka and üpaniSad they had little by little changed into the spiritual development in search of what is highest good and what highest truth is. That period is called ÑAnamarga (way of wisdom). As time went on accordingly there were many eras and traditions in against to each others on account of they were not satisfied with what prevailing culture and practices were. Vedic Brahmins emphasized on sacrifice and the creator God (jagadAtma, paramAtma, brahmAtma) and individual soul (pudgalAtma). In the real sense there is only one soul called BrahmAtma but owing to impurity the individual soul was separated from brahmAta.  In the Upanisadic Brahmin era the sacrifice was not much put into practice than bhAvana (mental culture), because they were in a problem of believing.  So Upanisadic Brahmin wanted to prove advancement of brahmAtma and pudgalAtma through mental development. Because of mental culture a new tradition arose among them called sraman tradition. In sramana tradition majority did not believe in brahmAtma while some believed in pudgalatma.

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