Saturday, 15 February 2014

Shatapatha Brahmana



    The Shatapatha Brahmana (शतपथ ब्राह्मण śatapatha brāhmaṇa, "Brahmana of one hundred paths", abbreviated ŚB) is one of the prose texts describing the Vedic ritual, associated with the Shukla Yajurveda. It survives in two recensions, Madhyandina (ŚBM, of thevājasaneyi madhyandina śākhā) and Kanva (ŚBK, of the kāṇva śākhā), with the former having the eponymous 100 chapters (adhyayas), 7,624 kandikas (parts) in 14 books, and the latter 104 chapters, 6,806 kandikas in 17 books.


Date of composition

    Linguistically, the Shatapatha Brahmana belongs to the latest part of the Brahmana period of Vedic Sanskrit (i.e. roughly the 8th to 6th centuries BCE, Iron Age India).
    According to Julius Eggeling, the final version of the text was committed in 300 BCE, although some of its portions are "far older, transmitted orally from unknown antiquity". Jan N. Bremmer dates it to around 700 BCE.

Contents

    Among the points of interest in the text are its mythological sections, including the myths of creation and the Deluge of Manu. The creation myth has several similarities to other creation myths, including the use of primordial water (similar to the Bible), the explanation of light and darkness, the separation of good and evil, and the explanation of time. The text describes in great detail the preparation of altars, ceremonial objects, ritual recitations, and the Soma libation, along with the symbolic attributes of every aspect of the rituals.
    The 14 books of the Madhyandina recension can be divided into two major parts. The first 9 books have close textual commentaries, often line by line, of the first 18 books of the corresponding samhita of the Yajurveda. The following 5 books cover supplementary and ritualistically newer material, besides including the celebrated Brhadaranyaka Upanishad as most of the 14th and last book.
    The Shatapatha Brahmana of Madhyandina School was translated into English by Julius Eggeling, in the late 19th century, in 5 volumes published as part of the Sacred Books of the East series. The English translation of Kanva School was done by W.E. Caland in 3 parts.

Yajnavalkya

    Yājñavalkya (Devanagari: याज्ञवल्क्य) of Mithila was a legendary sage of Vedic India, credited with the authorship of the Shatapatha Brahmana (including the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad), besides the Yoga Yajnavalkya and the Yājñavalkya Smṛti. He is also a major figure in the Upanishads.


Life

    According to traditional accounts, Yājñavalkya was the son of Devarāta and was the pupil of sage Vaisampayana . Once,Vaisampayana got angry with Yājñavalkya as the latter argued too much to separate some latter additions to Yajurveda in being abler than other students. The angry teacher asked his pupil Yājñavalkya to give back all the knowledge of Yajurveda that he had taught him.
As per the demands of his Guru, Yājñavalkya vomited all the knowledge that he acquired from his teacher in form of digested food. Other disciples of Vaisampayana took the form of partridge birds and consumed the digested knowledge (a metaphor for knowledge in its simplified form without the complexities of the whole but the simplicity of parts) because it was knowledge and they were very eager to receive the same.It is believed that Yājñavalkya underwent this process at midday and became ignorant. Consequently, descendents of Yājñavalkya are not considered brahmins at mid-day.
The Saṃskṛt name for partridge is "Tittiri". As the Tittiri (partridge) birds ate this Veda, it is thenceforth called the Taittirīya Yajurveda. It is also known as Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda or Black-Yajurveda on account of it being a vomited substance. The Taittirīya Saṃhitā thus belongs to this Yajurveda.
Then Yājñavalkya determined not to have any human guru thereafter. Thus he began to propitiate the Sun God, Surya. Yājñavalkya worshipped and extolled the Sun, the master of the Vedas, for the purpose of acquiring the fresh Vedic portions not known to his preceptor, Vaiśampāyana.
The Sun God, pleased with Yājñavalkya penance, assumed the form of a horse and graced the sage with such fresh portions of the Yajurveda as were not known to any other. This portion of the Yajurveda goes by the name of Śukla Yajurveda or White-Yajurveda on account of it being revealed by Sun. It is also known as Vajasaneya Yajurveda, because it was evolved in great rapidity by Sun who was in the form of a horse through his manes.The rhythm of recital of these vedas is therefore to the rhythm of the horse canter and distinguishes itself from the other forms of veda recitals. In Sanskrit, term "Vaji" means horse. Yājñavalkya divided this Vajasaneya Yajurveda again into fifteen branches, each branch comprising hundreds of Yajus Mantras. Sages like Kanva, Madhyandina and others learnt those and Śukla Yajurveda branched into popular recensions named after them.
    It is important to note that within the hierarchy of Brāhmaṇas, certain sects believe in the Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda while others practice from the Śukla Yajurveda.
    Yājñavalkya married two wives. One was Maitreyi and the other Katyaayanee. Of the two, Maitreyi was a Brahmavadini (one who is interested in the knowledge of Brahman).The descendant sects of Brahmans are the progeny of the first wife Katyaayanee. When Yājñavalkya wished to divide his property between the two wives, Maitreyi asked whether she could become immortal through wealth. Yājñavalkya replied that there was no hope of immortality through wealth and that she would only become one among the many who were well-to-do on. When she heard this, Maitreyi asked Yājñavalkya to teach her what he considered as the best. Then Yājñavalkya described to her the greatness of the Absolute Self, the nature of its existence, the way of attaining infinite knowledge and immortality, etc. This immortal conversation between Yājñavalkya and Maitreyi is recorded in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.
    Wisdom of Yājñavalkya is shown in Brhadaranyaka Upanishad where he gives his teachings to his wife Maitreyi and King Janaka. He also participates in a competition arranged by King Janaka about the selecting great Brhama Jnani (knower of Brahman). His intellectual dialogues with Gargi (a learned scholar of the times) form a beautiful chapter filled with lot of philosophical and mystical question-answers in Brhadaranyaka Upanishad.He was then praised as the greatest Brahmajnyani by all the sages at the function organised by king Janaka. In the end, Yājñavalkya took Vidvat Sanyasa (renunciation after the attainment of the knowledge of Brahman) and retired to the forest.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Upanishads



    The Upanishads (Sanskrit: उपनिषद्, IAST: UpaniṣadIPA: [upəniʂəd]) are a collection of philosophical texts which form the theoretical basis for the Hindu religion. They are also known as Vedanta ("the end of the Veda"). The Upanishads are considered by orthodox Hindus to contain revealed truths (Sruti) concerning the nature of ultimate reality (brahman) and describing the character and form of human salvation (moksha). The Upanishads are found mostly in the concluding part of the Brahmanas and Aranyakas and have been passed down in oral tradition.    More than 200 Upanishads are known, of which the first dozen or so are the oldest and most important and are referred to as the principal or main (mukhya) Upanishads. With the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahmasutra (known collectively as the Prasthanatrayi), themukhya Upanishads provide a foundation for the several later schools of Vedanta, among them, two influential monistic schools of Hinduism. The mukhya Upanishads all predate the Common Era, possibly from the Pre-Buddhist period (6th century BCE)  down to the Maurya period.. The remainder of the Muktika canon was mostly composed during medieval Hinduism, but new Upanishads continued being composed in the early modern and modern era, down to at least the 19th century.    The Upanishads were collectively considered amongst the 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written by the British poet Martin Seymour-Smith.Their significance has been recognized by writers and scholars such as Schopenhauer, Emerson and Thoreau, among others.    Scholars also note similarity between the doctrine of Upanishads and those of Plato and Kant    The Sanskrit term Upaniṣad translates to "sitting down near", referring to the student sitting down near the teacher while receiving esoteric knowledge. Monier-Williams' Sanskrit Dicitonary adds that, "according to native authorities Upanishad means 'setting to rest ignorance by revealing the knowledge of the supreme spirit.'" A gloss of the term Upanishad based on Shri Adi Shankara's commentary on the Kaṭha and Brihadaranyaka Upanishad equates it with Ātmavidyā, that is, "knowledge of the Self", or Brahmavidyā"knowledge of Brahma". Other dictionary meanings include "esoteric doctrine" and "secret doctrine". The term occurs in the name of the Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana, an early text of Vedanta, which is not counted as an Upanishad but as an Aranyaka.