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1) What is Brahman/Atman/Self and what is its relationship to nature of individual man/woman according to the Upanishads and 2) how does the Bhagavad-gita (Gita) suggest to pursue the realization of the idea of the Upanishads. How many and what kind of paths are made available according to the Gita?double spaced.





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New developments in the Upanishads
• Brahman and unified vision of the ultimate reality
• Nature of existence
– Karma, rebirth, and samsāra
– Liberation (moksha)
• Release from the wheel of existence
• Methods of liberation
– Paths (yoga) to liberation I
• Knowledge—immanence of Brahman—”Thou art That”
Liberation (moksha)
Release from the samsāric existence
• Paths (yoga) to liberation II
– Asceticism and meditation
• Control the mindcontrol the senses
– Analogy of the chariot: Katha Upanishad
Analogy of Chariot: Katha Upanishad
• Chariot = body
• Horses = senses
• Charioteer =
• Reins = mind
• Passenger (‘enjoyer’) =
Katha Upanishad
“Know the Atman as Lord of a chariot; and the body as the chariot itself.
Know that reason is the charioteer; and the mind indeed is the reins.
The horses, they say, are the senses; and their paths are the objects
of sense. When the soul becomes one with the mind and the senses he is
called ‘one who has joys and sorrows’.
He who has not right understanding and whose mind is never steady
is not the ruler of his life; like a bad driver with wild horses.
But he who has right understanding and whose mind is ever steady is
the ruler of his life, like a good driver with well-trained horses.
He who has not right understanding, is careless and never pure,
reaches not the End of the journey; but wanders on from death to death.
But he who has understanding, is careful and ever pure, reaches the
End of the journey, from which he never returns.
The man whose chariot is driven by reason, who watches and holds
the reins of his mind, reaches the End of the journey, the supreme everlasting
Katha Upanishad
“…The wise should surrender speech in mind, mind in the
knowing self, the knowing self in the Spirit of the universe,
and the Spirit of the universe in the Spirit of peace…Sages say
the path is narrow and difficult to tread, narrow as the edge
of a razor.”
Asceticism and meditation
not for everyone!
Paths to Liberation (moksha): III
bhakti (devotion)
The Religion of the Epics (ca. 400BCE-200CE)
compiled in honor of Vishnu
• Beginning of “theism” with non-Vedic gods emerging
– Assimilation of local, tribal gods/goddesses into “Hindu”
• Use of popular stories/mythologies as teaching vehicle
• Stories of the struggle for world order
• Combine theism with socially ideal conduct or duty (dharma)
– Mahābhārata
• Bhagavad-gītā (Songs of the Lord [Krishna]) embedded
– Rāmāyana
Religion in Society
Duty (dharma) and Liberation (moksha)
A theme of Bhagavad-gītā
• Vedic social institution of duty (religious and social
• Social class x stage of life = duty (The Laws of Manu)
– Class: priest, warrior/politician, commoner, servant
– Stage of life: student, householder, hermit, homeless
– Warrior’s duty and its consequence
• A key theme of Bhagavad-gītā
Bhagavad-gītā (ca. 300-100BCE) and
Beginning of Theism
• Religion in society
– Offers a solution to the dilemma of liberation and social
duty for members of warrior class
– Mitigate the severity of karma doctrine
• Problem of strict causal relationship between karma
(action) and its consequences
• Creative/mysterious power of God (māyā)
– Incarnation/manifestation of God (avatāra)
– Open-ended canon of gods (see Eck, Darśan)
– “330 million gods”
Bhagavad-gītā (ca. 300-100BCE)
• A compilation by several authors
• Philosophy: assimilates Vedānta and Samkya-Yoga ideas about
– Nature of man
• Speculation about material and non-material
constituents (see Basham, “The Bhagavad-Gītā…”)
– Nature of Brahman as God/Vishnu
“Though I am unborn, though My Self is eternal, though I
am the Lord of Beings, I resort to my own material nature
[prakrti] and taken on [empirical] being, by my mysterious
power (māyā)”
Vishnu and his incarnation (avatāra) as boar
Udaigiri, Madhya Pradesh, Hindu caves 4th-7th century
Vishnu, Kajuraho, 11th century
Bhagavad-gītā (ca. 300-100BCE)
• The cult of Krishna (non-Vedic origin)
– Incarnation of Vishnu, a Vedic god
– His provenance in local, popular religion
– Manifestation of all other gods
– All other gods as his manifestation
– Krishna’s counseling of Arjuna, a member of warrior class
Lord Krishna said, “O
Arjuna, behold My
divine, transcendental
forms with hundreds and
thousands of variegated
types and variegated
colors and forms”.
(Bhagavad-gītā, ch.11)
Arjuna said to Krishna:
“As You have declared Your Self to be, O Supreme Lord, even so it is. I desire
to see Your supreme form, O Supreme Person…
I see You possessing numberless arms, belies, mouths, and eyes, infinite in
form on all sides. Neither Your end, nor Your middle, nor yet Your beginning
do I see, O Lord of the universe, O omniformed.
Wearing the crown and bearing the mace and the discus, a mass of splendor
radiating on all sides, I see you—hard to gaze at—all around me, possessing
the radiance of a blazing fire and sun, incomprehensible…
These hosts of gods here enter into You and some, in fright, extol You with
folded hands. And bands of great seers and the perfected ones, crying “Hail,”
praise You with manifold hymns of praise…”
Vishnu, Krishna, and Arjuna
Paths (yoga) to Liberation in the Bhagavad-gītā
• What is not new:
– Knowledge
• Intellectual method; “higher” knowledge
• Knowledge of religious truth/the ultimate reality
– Mediation and asceticism
• What is new and emphasized:
– Devotion (bhakti) and action/work/duty (dharma)
• Practical method
• Liberation accessible to all
• Reconciliation between
– duties (class and gender specific) and their moral
consequences (doctrine of karma)
Paths (yoga) to Liberation in Bhagavad-gītā
• Devotion (bhakti)
– Liberation through God, a divine personality
– Inclusiveness and egalitarianism
“No devotee of God [Krishna] is lost”
– Simplicity and practicality
“If a man offers me with devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit,
or a sip of water—that loving gift of my devotee I
Duty (dharma) and Liberation (moksha)
• Vedic social institution of duty (religious and social
• Social class x stage of life = duty (The Laws of Manu)
– Class: priest, warrior/politician, commoner, servant
– Stage of life: student, householder, hermit, homeless
– Warrior’s duty and its consequence not compatible with
the goal of liberation (moksha)
• Arjuna’s dilemma, a key theme of Bhagavad-gītā
[Krishna said:]
“Even the devotees of other divinities, who worship them, being endowed
with faith—they, too, O son of Kunti, [actually] worship Me alone, though not
according to the prescribed rites…
Worshipers of the gods go to the gods; worshipers of the ancestors go to the
ancestors; those who sacrifice to the spirits go to the spirits; and those who
worship Me come to Me.
A leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, whatever is offered to Me with devotion—
that proffered in devotion by one whose soul is pure, I accept…
Thus will you be freed from the good or evil fruits that constitute the bondage
of actions. With your mind firmly set on the way of renunciation [of fruits],
you will, becoming free, come to Me.”
Arjuna’ dilemma in Bhagavad-gītā
– Krishna’s instruction
• Renunciation in action; not
renunciation of action
• Desireless action: detachment
from the fruit of the action
• Action involves only physical
body, self/soul is eternal
• Action as an offering to God
[Krishna said:]
“Just as the unwise act, being attached to their action, even so should the wise
act, O Bharata, but without attachment, and only with a view to promoting the
solidarity of society…
Renouncing into Me all actions, with your mind fixed on the Self, and becoming
free from desire and all sense of “my-ness,” do you fight freed from your spiritual
Actions do not cling to Me, for I have no yearning for their fruit. He who knows
Me thus [and himself acts in that spirit] is not bound by actions…
He whose undertakings are all devoid of motivating desires and purposes and
whose actions are consumed by the fire of knowledge—him the wise call a man of
Renouncing all attachment to the fruits of actions, ever content, independent—
such a person even if engaged in action does not do anything whatever.”
Redefinition of Yoga in Bhagavad-gītā
Yogin (yoga practitioner) is
“the one who, possessed of faith, worships me with his
mind absorbed in me”
Comparison with the Upanishads idea of non-duality
between Brahman/Ātman and self/ātman through
Arjuna’s Dilemma
– 6:14 min.
An excerpt from 1989 BBC production of Mahabharata
Indus Valley Civilization and
Roots of Indian Religions
• The largest of the 4 ancient civilizations (Egypt,
Mesopotamia, India, China)
• More than 1500 sites of settlement
• 2 major cities/sites: Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro
2 Major Sites of Indus Valley Civilization
States and Places in and around Indus Valley Today
Rise and Decline of Indus Valley Civilization
Theories and interpretations
• 2600-1900 BCE: height of economic expansion and urban
• 1900-1300 BCE: decline of cities and culture
– Invasion of a foreign nomadic people (Aryans)
• Contested and controversial theory
– Overextended political and economic networks
– Climate change and the drying up of major rivers
• Continuity of Indus valley culture to later cities (600-300
BCE) along the Ganges and Yamuna river valleys
– Theory by George Dales and Jonathan Mark Kenoyer
Indus Valley Culture
• Technologically advanced architecture
– Straight street
– Standardized designs
– System of weights, standardized scales, measurements
• Water wells
• Bathing quarters (ritual use?)
• System of waste-water drains
• Skilled artisans: jewelry, ornaments, art objects, pottery
What does the presence of large “bathing” area suggest?
(Ritual) bathing in the Ganges
What does this bird’s eye view suggest?
Seals: long-distance trading network suggested
Writing system: 250-270 characters or symbols, undeciphered
Male animal motifs; proto-Shiva image?
Antecedents of Yoga practice?
Pottery and evidence of skilled artisans
Pottery as burial goods
No elaborate temples or monuments, but what was he?
Female figurines
Vedic Religion and “Hinduism” in India
Ancient India
Indus River Civilization and Vedic Religion
• Http://
4:39 min.
Recommended film
for a review of Indian religiosity then and now
• The Mahābhārata (a documentary)
52 min.
Includes references to Western religious concepts and practices for
Indian Religion and Textual Sources Thus Far…
a quick review
• Indus Valley Civilization
– No textual evidence found as of today
• Vedas
– Collections of hymns and incantations for ritual use
• Upanishads
– Philosophical speculation about the nature of man and
the ultimate reality, paths to liberation
• Epics
– Emergence of devotion as a viable path to liberation
Medieval Hindu theism
Puranas (“ancients”; ca. 400-1000 CE)
• Principal scriptures of theistic Hinduism
– Sṃṛti (“that which is remembered)
• Stories/mythologies of ancient gods/goddesses,
• Sources of medieval Hindu sectarianism
• Worshippers of Shiva (Shaivite):
– Vāyu Purāna
– Incarnation as an ascetic
– Lingam as the symbol of his creative power
Shiva, a yogi/ascetic
dissolution of the universe as a state of meditation
Seals from the Indus Valley Civilization
Proto-Shiva image ?
Shiva Lingam (phallus)
-Aniconic Image
-Two Parts: Shaft and Yoni/
Male and Female
-Shiva’s great creative
-the sacred within the
Shiva lingam & yoni (left)
One thousand lingam (right)
Bhubaneshwar, Orissa
• The Preserver
– God of dharma (duty, right action)
– Model king
• Dreams the Universe
– Manifestation of his supreme maya (mysterious power)
• The 10 avataras
– Incarnates to preserve dharma
Purānas (“ancients”; 400-1000 CE), cont.
• Worshippers of Vishnu (Vaishnavite):
– Vishnu Purāna
– Cosmogony
– Cyclical pattern of time: evolution and
devolution of the universe
– Krishna
• As avatāra of Vishnu
• As cowherd (Krishna Gopāla)
– Images of cowherd maidens as devotees
of Krishna
“preserver” of dharma
numerous forms of manifestation (avatara)
Krishna, an avatara of Vishnu, and his devotees
Popular images of Krishna
God Krishna and devotee Radha
Shaivite holy man (left) and a pilgrim (right) with tilaka
Modern day Vaishnavites
Images of Shiva (left) and Vishnu (right)
on the bank of Ganges River, Varanasi
Trinity: Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva
Trinity: Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva
Ganesha, the elephant god
• Lord of remover
and creator of
• Lord of scholars
• One of the most
popular deities
Ganesha, elephant god, Bhubaneshwar, Orissa (left)
Annual celebration of his “birthday” (right)
Puja (devotional worship)
see Eck, Darśan

A hospitality ritual
Sequence of acts of service and respect
Iconic images in homes and temples
‘Seeing’ (darśan) and use of other senses for worship
– Images as the living presence of the divine
• Dominant form of religious practice from the 6th century
Image preparation and pūjā
Creation and consecration of images
• Purification of the image makers
• Consecration of the created images in ritual using pure
• “Opening eyes” of an image: breathing life (prana, breath)
into the image
• Puja
– Waking and putting it to bed
– Washing, bathing, clothing, offering (with mantra) of
food, flower, light, incense, circumambulation, verses
of praise
Public puja
Krishna temple and musicians,
Mumbai (Bombay), Maharashtra, India
Public puja
Ganesha temple, Mumbai
Legacy of Epics and Puranas
Sonic Expressions (songs) of Popular Theism
• Origin in the Tamil-speaking area of South India (4th-9th
cent.) and spread throughout India
– Non-Aryan root of Tamil language and its speakers
• Poet-saints (male and female) of humble origins
• Use of vernacular language of the region
• Influence of Epics and Puranas in ideas and deities
• Highly emotional intensely personal
• Served religious as well as social purposes
Sonic Expression (songs) of Popular Theism
• Singing of hymns in adoration of great gods
– Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, Ram, Devi, etc.
– Formless deity without attributes (nirguna)
• Cf. Brahman in the Upanishads
• Shankara’s non-dualism
– “He who knows only the Gītā is not wise; nor is he who
knows only the sacred books [Vedas]. He only is wise
who trusts God”
Shiva bhakti
Manikkavachakar (8th cent.)
“I am false, my heart is false, my love is false; but I, this
sinner, can win Thee if I weep before Thee, O Lord, Thou
who are sweet like honey, nectar, and the juice of sugarcane!
Please bless me so that I might reach Thee.”
Sectarian Theism
• Continuation of Vedic/Brahmanical orthodoxy in its
intellectual and practical form
• Synthesis of devotion and Vedic authority
• Modification of Shankara’s non-dualism (8th/9th century
– Due to ignorance, diversity is superimposed on Brahman
• Rope as snake analogy
– Individual self = reality + illusion
– Real self is Brahman
– Individual self as finite is an illusion
Ramanuja (1017-1137?)
• Systematizer of Shri Vaishnava sect (Vishnu)b
• Brahman has attributes (saguna)
• Bhakti-yoga as the best option to liberation
Vishnu bhakti
Tukaram (16th-17th cent.)
“I saw my death with my own eyes. The occasion was
incomparably glorious. The whole universe was filled with
joy. I became everything and enjoyed everything. I had
always clung to one place, locked up in egoism. By my
deliverance from this, I am now enjoying a harvest of bliss.
Death and birth are now no more. I am free from the
littleness of “me” and “mine.” The Lord gave me a place to
live and I am proclaiming him to the whole world.”
New dimensions in medieval Hinduism
• Goddesses
– Sources: Epics and Puranas; local folk religion
– Consorts (female energy) of great male gods, Shiva and
Vishnu, etc.
– Autonomous or great male gods as their servants
• Devi, Shakti, Durga, Sarasvati, Kali
At a temple dedicated to Kali
Bhubaneshwar, Orissa
Kali (eternal time)
Hindu temple, Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh
11th century
A microcosm of the universe
Goddess, Khajuraho Hindu Temple, 11th cent.
• Role of goddesses
in Tantra (esoteric
• Use of male-female
• Use of body as an
instrument to
restore original
India as Devi’s living body
The goddess of Ganges River Ganga
Ritual dedicated to the goddess of Ganges River
Varanasi, India
Nightly ritual dedicated to the goddess of Ganges River
Included in the Mahabharata documentary
One page response question #1
• 1) What is Brahman/Atman/Self and what is its
relationship to nature of individual man/woman according
to the Upanishads and 2) how does the Bhagavad-gita (
Gita) suggest to pursue the realization of the idea of the
Upanishads. How many and what kind of paths are made
available according to the Gita?
Requirements: date and name, double spaced. No hand-written response
please. Due in class on Tuesday 10/17.
Note: No need to repeat the above questions so that you can use the entire
page for your response.
330 Million Gods
– 52 min.
Review of Vedic Religion I
(?-1000 BCE-600 BCE)
• Continuity or rupture from Indus valley civilization to Vedic
• Religion of ritual and its specialists, brahmin
• Tradition of Vedic scriptures and role of seers
• Potency of sacred sound and its function in ritual
• Illustration in “Altar of Fire” (1975 documentary film)
• Polytheism and henotheism
– Multiplicity and fluidity
• Cosmology, cosmogony and social classes
Vedic religion II:
Religion of the Upanishads (“sitting near”): ca. 700-200 BCE-
Before the Upanishads:
Speculative tendency in the Vedas
• Beginning of Indian philosophy in Rigveda
– Question of origin of existence: Vedic agnosticism
• Rigveda 10.129
“Who really knows? …”
What is the origin of the world?
Earliest speculative/agnostic philosophy of mankind
“…Who really knows? Who will here proclaim it? Whence
was it produced? Whence is this creation? The gods
came afterwards, with the creation of this universe. Who
then knows whence it has arisen? Whence this creation
has arisen–perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not–
the one who looks down on it, in the highest heaven, only
he knows–or perhaps he does not know.”
—Rigveda 10. 129
The Upanishads
• Transition from Vedic religion of ritualism to the philosophical
exploration in the Upanishads
– Shift from society to individuals
• Query about the nature of man and beyond
– Where are we from?
– Who are we?
– What are our potentials?
– What is the nature of reality beyond us (material
The Upanishads (“sitting near”): ca. 700BCE• Open category of texts
• Classical Upanishads, 13-18 core texts
– Vedānta (Veda+anta; the last phase of the
development of Vedic textual tradition)
– Criticism of Vedic ritual performance
– Philosophical, speculative, experimental
• Nature of ultimate reality and its relationship
to man
• The search for redemptive knowledge
– the truth that will set one free from the
unsatisfactoriness (dukkha) of life
Key concepts and practices of the Upanishads
• Brahman
– The …
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