THE UPANISHADS

THE UPANISHADS- Along with the sacred, domestic and philosophical hymns, an ancillary canon came into existence as a comment upon them. There were three later Vedas: the Sama, Yajur and Atharva Vedas, dealing respectively with liturgical verses to be sung, with magical incantations to be pronounced, and with sacrificial formulae to guide the ritualists. Manuals of ritual (called Brahmanas), of which the Satapatha Brahmana was an important example, specified practices to be carried out in the homes of the elite, as well as in public at specially constructed altars. Two further commentaries speak of the mystical meanings of certain Rigvedic hymns. These are called Aranyakas, or forest texts (containing knowl- edge so secret it should be learned only in the seclusion of the forest), and the Upanishads, which are now considered to contain secret knowledge of salvation and the nature of deity, and to have been a major influence on the later Buddhist theology. In one of the Upanishads, the β€˜he’ of the creation hymn cited above is a more abstract, cosmic quality rather than a person:

He encircled all, bright, incorporeal, scatheless, sinewless, pure, untouched by evil; a seer, wise and omnipresent, self-existent, he dispensed all things well for ever and ever.6

In another, somewhat later, Upanishad, divine agency is personal and theistic. Shiva is identified with Rudra, and later devotional conceptions of deity are adumbrated:

There is one Rudra only, they do not allow a second, who rules all the worlds by his might. He stands behind all things, he made all of the worlds, and protects them, and rolls them up at the end of time.

The Lord lives in the faces of all beings … He lives in the inmost heart of    all, the all-pervading, all-present Shiva.7

The Indic world of the Rigveda was restricted to a region defined by the Sar- aswati and Indus rivers, together with the tributaries of the latter; that is, principally to the Punjab and the mountains of the northwest, with but little of the Ganges basin. Later Vedas, however, do speak of the Ganges and a fire-marked course to the Sadanira, or modern Gandak River, that demar- cated an early Indo-Aryan frontier.

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