Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER I: THE PLACE OF THE UPANISHADS IN THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY - The Thirteen Principal Upanishads
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CHAPTER I: THE PLACE OF THE UPANISHADS IN THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY - Misc (Upanishads), The Thirteen Principal Upanishads 
The Thirteen Principal Upanishads, translated from the Sanskrit with an outline of the philosophy of the Upanishads and an annotated bibliography, by Robert Ernest Hume (Oxford University Press, 1921).
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THE PLACE OF THE UPANISHADS IN THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY
Almost contemporaneous with that remarkable period of active philosophic and religious thought the world over, about the sixth century bc, when Pythagoras, Confucius, Buddha, and Zoroaster were thinking out new philosophies and inaugurating great religions, there was taking place, in the land of India, a quiet movement which has exercised a continuous influence upon the entire subsequent philosophic thought of that country and which has also been making itself felt in the West.
The Aryan invaders of Hindustan, after having conquered the territory and gained an undisputed foothold, betook themselves to the consideration of those mighty problems which thrust themselves upon every serious, thoughtful person—the problems of the meaning of life and the world and the great unseen powers. They cast about on this side and on that for explanation. Thus we find, for example, in the Śvetāśvatara Upanishad (1. 1):—
In childlike manner, like the early Greek cosmologists, they accepted now one thing and now another as the primary material out of which the whole world is made. Yet, again like the early Greek philosophers and also with the subtlety and directness of childlike insight, they discerned the underlying unity of all being. Out of this penetrating intuition those early Indian thinkers elaborated a system of pantheism which has proved most fascinating to their descendants. If there is any one intellectual tenet which, explicitly or implicitly, is held by the people of India, furnishing a fundamental presupposition of all their thinking, it is this doctrine of pantheism.
The beginnings of this all-pervading form of theorizing are recorded in the Upanishads. In these ancient documents are found the earliest serious attempts at construing the world of experience as a rational whole. Furthermore, they have continued to be the generally accepted authoritative statements with which every subsequent orthodox philosophic formulation has had to show itself in accord, or at least not in discord. Even the materialistic Cārvākas, who denied the Vedas, a future life, and almost every sacred doctrine of the orthodox Brahmans, avowed respect for these Upanishads. That interesting later epitome of the Vedānta, the Vedānta-sāra,1 shows how these Cārvākas and the adherents of the Buddhistic theory and also of the ritualistic Pūrva-mīmāṁsā and of the logical Nyāya appealed to the Upanishads in support of their varying theories. Even the dualistic Sāṅkhya philosophers claimed to find scripture authority in the Upanishads.2 For the orthodox Vedānta, of course, the Upanishads, with Bādarāyana’s Vedānta-Sūtras and Śaṅkara’s Commentary on them, have been the very text-books.
Not only have they been thus of historical importance in the past development of philosophy in India, but they are of present-day influence. ‘To every Indian Brahman today the Upanishads are what the New Testament is to the Christian.’3 Max Muller calls attention to the fact that there are more new editions published of the Upanishads and Śaṅkara in India than of Descartes and Spinoza in Europe.4 Especially now, in the admitted inadequacy of the existing degraded form of popular Hinduism, the educated Hindus are turning to their old Scriptures and are finding there much which they confidently stake against the claims of superiority of any foreign religion or philosophy. It is noteworthy that the significant movement indicated by the reforming and theistic Samājas of modern times was inaugurated by one who was the first to prepare an English translation of the Upanishads. Rammohun Roy expected to restore Hinduism to its pristine purity and superiority through a resuscitation of Upanishadic philosophy with an infusion of certain eclectic elements.
They are also being taken up and exploited by a certain class who have found a rich reward and an attractive field of operation in the mysticism and credulity of India. Having hopes for ‘the Upanishads as a world-scripture, that is to say, a scripture appealing to the lovers of religion and truth in all races and at all times, without distinction,’ theosophists have been endeavoring to make them available for their converts.1
Not only have the Upanishads thus furnished the regnant philosophy for India from their date up to the present time and proved fascinating to mystics outside of India, but their philosophy presents many interesting parallels and contrasts to the elaborate philosophizings of Western lands. And Western professional students of philosophy, as well as literary historians, have felt and expressed the importance of the Upanishads. In the case of Arthur Schopenhauer, the chief of modern pantheists of the West, his philosophy is unmistakably transfused with the doctrines expounded in the Upanishads, a fact that might be surmised from his oft-quoted eulogy: ‘It [i. e. Anquetil du Perron’s Latin translation of a Persian rendering of the Upanishads] is the most rewarding and the most elevating reading which (with the exception of the original text) there can possibly be in the world. It has been the solace of my life and will be of my death.’2
Professor Deussen, the Professor of Philosophy in the University of Kiel (Germany), has always regarded his thorough study of the Vedānta philosophy as a reward in itself, apart from the satisfaction of contributing so largely to our understanding of its teachings. For in the Upanishads he has found Parmenides, Plato, and Kant in a nutshell, and on leaving India in 1893, in an address before the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society,1 he gave it as his parting advice that ‘the Vedānta, in its unfalsified form is the strongest support of pure morality, is the greatest consolation in the sufferings of life and death. Indians, keep to it!’
Professor Royce of Harvard University deemed the philosophy of the Upanishads sufficiently important to expound it in his Gifford Lectures,2 before the University of Aberdeen, and to introduce some original translations especially made by his colleague Professor Lanman.
So, in East and West, the Upanishads have made and will make their influence felt. A broad survey of the facts will hardly sustain the final opinion expressed by Regnaud: ‘Arbitrary or legendary doctrines, that is to say, those which have sprung from individual or popular imagination, such as the Upanishads, resemble a gallery of portraits whose originals have long since been dead. They have no more than a historical and comparative value, the principal interest of which is for supplying important elements for the study of the human mind.’3
Historical and comparative value the Upanishads undoubtedly have, but they are also of great present-day importance. No one can thoroughly understand the workings and conclusions of the mind of an educated Hindu of today who does not know something of the fountain from which his ancestors for centuries past have drunk, and from which he too has been deriving his intellectual life. The imagery under which his philosophy is conceived, the phraseology in which it is couched, and the analogies by which it is supported are largely the same in the discussions of today as are found in the Upanishads and in Śaṅkara’s commentaries on them and on the Sūtras. Furthermore, although some elements are evidently of local interest and of past value, it is evident that the pantheism of the Upanishads has exerted and will continue to exert an influence on the pantheism of the West, for it contains certain elements which penetrate deeply into the truths which every philosopher must reach in a thoroughly grounded explanation of experience.
The intelligent and sympathetic discrimination of these elements will constitute a philosophic work of the first importance. As a preliminary step to that end, the mass of unorganized material contained in the Upanishads has been culled and the salient ideas here arranged in the following outline.
[1 ]Translated by Col. Jacob in his Manual of Hindu Pantheism, London, 1891, pp. 76-78. Text published by him in Bombay, 1894, and by Bohtlingk in his Sanskrit-Chrestomathie.
[2 ]See the Sarva-darśana-saṁgraha, a later summary of the various philosophers, translated by Cowell and Gough, p. 227 (2nd ed., London, 1894).
[3 ]Deussen, The Philosophy of the Upanishads, tr. by Geden, p. viii, Edinburgh, 1906.
[4 ]Max Muller, Lectures on the Vedānta Philosophy, p. 39.
[1 ]The Upanishads, by Mead and Chaṭṭopādhyāya, p. 5, London, Theosophical Publishing Society, 1896. See also The Theosophy of the Upanishads (anonymous), London, Theosophical Publishing Society, 1896, and The Upanishads with Śankara’s Commentary, a translation made by several Hindus, published by V. C. Seshacharri, Madras, 1898 (dedicated to Mrs. Annie Besant).
[2 ]Parerga, 2, § 185 (Werke, 6. 427).
[1 ]Printed as a pamphlet, Bombay, 1893, and also contained in his Elements of Metaphysics, English translation, p. 337, London, 1894.
[2 ]Royce, The World and the Individual, 1. 156-175, New York, 1900.
[3 ]Regnaud, Matériaux pour servir à l’histoire de la philosophie de l’Inde, 2. 204, Paris, 1878.