Vedas and Upanishads. Be sure you have the chronology that I handed out so that you can refer to it as we read various texts. Vedic Thought and Deities .
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The Vedic texts are very ancient and began as an oral tradition. They have a ritual orientation and help to give life meaning. The recitation of the texts is meant to join all being together and to renew life with sacred energy.
The various deities in the text symbolize fundamental powers of existence. Agni symbolizes the power of fire in both its creative and destructive aspects. 1/3rd of the Vedic hymns are related to this. Indra is the lord of the thunderbolt and symbolizes the courage and strength needed to protect families and communities. Vac is the goddess of speech and communication. Varna is the king of the gods and is custodian of rita (order).
We are looking the these Vedic texts to have some understanding of the texts which form the foundation for Indian philosophical thought. The texts are rich and worth your reading at some point in your life.
Many of the Schools of Indian Philosophy are grounded in these texts
Look at the Creation Hymn from the Rig Veda on pages 6-7 of your text. Notice that the hymn begins with a question about what was prior to existence and non-existence. As humans, our conceptual thought can think only in these categories. Yet, the question pushes us to try to experience something that is prior and that cannot be expressed by language. The closest the hymn comes is to name this “that one.” The hymn uses the language of paradox to try to point to that which is prior, but ends by reaffirming that knowledge cannot go beyond existence and non-existence. Notice the search for wholeness and unity.
Look also on page 8 at verse #12 in the Hymn of Man. This is about creation by means of sacrifice of primordial man. The verse is important because it sets the theoretical conception of society as divided into four varna (classes, but literally colors). These are the brahmin—sometimes you will find Brāhamanas-(priests and intellectuals), the kshatriyas (warriors), the vaishya (people), and the shudra (servants). The Aryans would have constituted the first three groups.
The Upanishads, while also very ancient texts, are more philosophical. They explain principles and supply reasons. As you look at the examples in the textbook, think about two questions and two terms. Look for these in the texts.
What am I, the ultimate self? The texts name that ātman. Human knowledge focuses on objects, but knowledge of ātman is different. How do we know ourselves as self? Notice on page 20, in verse 6, the claim that ātman is Brahman. Also look at how the various texts suggest that there are layers of self that we must work through to experience ultimate self. The Chandogya Upanishad is particularly focused on this.