Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XI: CONCLUDING ESTIMATE - The Thirteen Principal Upanishads
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CHAPTER XI: CONCLUDING ESTIMATE - 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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Such is the philosophy of the Upanishads in what may very probably have been its order of development. Many tendencies made up the process; and perhaps centuries elapsed between the first and last of the speculations recorded, from the Bṛihad-Āraṇyaka and the Chāndogya to the Maitri. The thinkers were earnest in their search for truth, and they unhesitatingly abandoned conclusions which had been reached, when in the light of further reasonings and new considerations they were proved inadequate. The changes from the first realistic materialism to the final speculative idealism form an interesting chapter in the history of philosophy. Their intuitions of deep truths are subtile with the directness and subtlety of new seekers after truth. In a few passages the Upanishads are sublime in their conception of the Infinite and of God, but more often they are puerile and groveling in trivialities and superstitions. As Hegel, a keen appreciator and thorough student of the history of philosophy, estimated it, ‘If we wish to get the so-called pantheism in its poetic, most elevated, and, if one will, its coarsest form, we must look for it in the Eastern poets; and the largest expositions of it are found among the Indians.’
As it was suggested before, so it must be emphasized again that, although at first the order of exposition here followed was in all probability the historical order in the progress of thought in the early Hindu philosophy, yet there are not the chronological data in the Upanishads upon which an unquestioned order can be maintained throughout. The Bṛihad-Āraṇyaka, Chāndogya, Taittirīya, Aitareya, Kaushītaki and Kena 14-34, from their structure and literary characteristics, as well as from their contents, are quite certainly assigned to the earlier group of the Upanishads. But even in them there is a variety of philosophical doctrines which are not in the same stage of development. The heterogeneity and unordered arrangement and even contradictions of the material make it difficult, indeed impossible, to set forth in systematic exposition a single system of philosophy. The purpose has been, therefore, to discern the different tendencies that are undoubtedly present in the philosophy of the Upanishads and to present them in what seems to be the most probable order of development. For the purposes of exposition there have been followed out and connected with each other certain lines of thought which in the actual development of the philosophy could hardly have been as independent as they are here set forth.
The thought of any people and of any generation is exceedingly complex, consciously or unconsciously containing certain elements from the past, which are being gradually discarded, and also certain presentiments of truth which are only later fully recognized. Yet in it all there is a dominant tendency which may readily be discerned. So in the Upanishadic period there were mythical cosmologies inherited and accepted, whose influence continued long after they had logically been superseded by more philosophical theories. In the main, however, there was an appreciation of idealism. This, having seen in the psychic self the essence of the whole world, and having identified it with Brahma, reacted against the realistic philosophy which had produced the concept of Brahma; and then it carried the Ātman, or the purely psychical, element over into the extreme of philosophical idealism.
Pantheism it may, in general, be called; for, although very different types of philosophy have been shown to be represented in the Upanishads, pantheism is their most prevalent type and the one which has constituted their chief heritage. Still, even as pantheism, it is hardly the pantheism of the West, nor is it the monism that is based upon science. It is like the simple intuition of the early Greek philosopher Xenophanes, who (after a prior course of cosmological theorizings similar to those in the Upanishads) ‘looked up into the expanse of heaven and declared, “The One is God.” ’ (Aristotle’s Metaphysics, 1. 5.) Can such faith in such form, although it has laid hold of the profound truths of ultimate unity and spirituality, be expected to furnish the highly inspiring religion of progress and the elaborately articulated philosophy, correlated with science, which modern India demands?
Before that question can be answered, it will be necessary to find out exactly what the revered Upanishads do actually say. Sanskritists, historians, philosophers, religionists—all who are interested in India’s past and concerned about India’s future may find here something of what each is already seeking in his separate line. In particular, there will be found by the sympathetic reader throughout these thirteen principal Upanishads the records of that eager quest which India has been pursuing through the centuries, which is tersely expressed in the Bṛihad-Āraṇyaka Upanishad in its first division (at 1. 3. 28):—
The Upanishads have indubitably exercised, and in the revival of Sanskrit learning and of the Indian national consciousness will continue to exercise, a considerable influence1 on the religion and philosophy of India. To present their actual contents by a faithful philological translation, and to furnish a clue to their unsystematic expositions by a brief outline of the development of their philosophical concepts, is one of the needs of the time and has been the aim in the preparation of this volume.
[1 ]Evidenced, for example, in the recent establishment by a Hindu of Bombay of a valuable annual prize for the best exposition and defence of some doctrine of the Upanishads or of Śaṅkara.