UPANISHAD – A scripture from the last of the four divisions of the Vedas

The meaning of upanishad is “to sit near attentively.” They usually consisted of a metaphysical discussion between the sage and a disciple. There are 108 Upan­ishads traditionally, although only a dozen, the so-called major Upanishads, are in every list. Minor Upanishads are still being written.
In the early Vedic period, before the Upanishads were recognized as author­itative, there was a three-fold division of the Vedas: the Samhita (collection of hymns), Brahmanas (commentaries), and Aranyakas (forest texts). The Upan­ishads formed the last (anta) part of the Vedas, also called Vedanta (from veda and anta).
The Vedas were the earliest Indian scripture and have always had the great­est authority. However, that does not mean that if a story or a figure is not men­tioned in the Vedas, it is considered untrue or without authority. In fact, there were a number of ways of resolving such a problem. First, it could be said to be additional revelation and therefore compatible. Or, it could be new (that is, not mentioned in the Vedas) and a necessary supplement, given the declining spir­ituality of each of the four yugas. New revelations were needed for the kali yuga, the one we are in now. Many more ways were available to allow for dis­crepancies and even contradictions to the Vedas in later Puranic and Tantric mythology.
One major Upanishad, the Isha, presented a woman sage teaching the devas (gods) about the Absolute (Brahman). Some of the important Upanishads are the Taittiriya Upanishad, Mandukya Upanishad, and the Brihadaranyaka Upan­ishad. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is the longest Upanishad. The Upan­ishads are known as one of the foundational pillars (prasthanatreya, “three pillars”) of Indian thought. Because of their deeply philosophical and medita- tional approach, the Upanishads provide few myths—and only several names of sages with some ideals like union (samadhi) with the Absolute (Brahman).

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