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Monday, June 1, 2015

Major Upanishads - 6


Aitreya Upanishad: This is part of Aitreya Aranyaka of Rg Veda. The main theme seems to be “life after death”. 

It starts with Cosmology of how the ONE became many. Part 1 is a remarkable piece and gives the foundations of many of the basic Vedic thoughts such as Brahman, Atman, Devas and the five primordial units of life-forms. Some passages in Part 1 indicate that Prana (vital energy) is the foundation of life (similar to Kaushitaki Upanishad).

A commentary on Part 2 suggests that there are 3 “Self”s” or Souls. They are: The all-pervading Consciousness (also Brahman according to Vedantha and Purusha according to Samkhya);  the Devas, the first created entity being Brahma or Hiranyagarbha or Indra; and the transmigrating soul, also called Atman by Vedantha or Jiva. The sequence of cosmology according to this plan is – Brahman, the creator or Brahma and various elements and creatures. (3:1:3).

One of the four mahavakya is from this Upanishad. This states: "Prajnanam Brahma", which means "Consciousness is Brahman".

In another commentary to 3:1:2, Sankara quotes Kaushitaki Upanishad thus: “That which is the vital force (prana) is intellect (Mahat or Buddhi); that which is intellect is the vital force”. It seems that life and intellect are intertwined according to these observers. That does make sense based on current knowledge of life and consciousness. There is no consciousness without life. Without consciousness we will not be aware of life. 

What fascinated me more is how close these views are to the views of Socrates and of Plato. Plato’s writings of the teachings of Socrates says that “those with intelligence are superior to those without intelligence”. Intelligence is not possible without a “soul”. Therefore, “the Creator implanted reason in soul; and soul in body” (page 43 of Timaeus and Critias Penguin Classiscs 1977).

According to this view "This world came to be through God’s providence, a living being with a soul and intelligence”.  There are three kinds of souls as created by God, according to Plato (Socrates). They are the world soul, the souls of the stars and the planets and the human soul. 

When we try to equate these ideas from ancient Greece with those of the Vedas, the “living” is equivalent to the breath or prana; the human soul may equate with atman or jiva in the individualized mode and intelligence equates with Mahat or Buddhi. The world soul is akin to Brahman; the soul of the planets and stars is akin to the Devas.

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