Upanishads (c. 1000-650 BC)

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The Upanishads, the commentaries in verse of the great teachers of Hinduism on the sacred texts of the Vedas, are central to the Hindu religious canon. The name Upanishad roughly translates to "sitting at the feet of the teacher." The names of 108 of the teachers are known. The first were active around 1000 B.C., and the largest number sometime around 600 B.C. For the most part the commentaries are based on the final verses of the Vedas. The collection of teachings derived from them is called the Vedanta, or "conclusion of the Veda."

The Upanishads deal with many issues, including morality and the nature of eternal life. A central question concerns the relation of the self to an "ultimate reality," which can be understood only if the seeker of truth moves beyond his or her initial perceptions through meditation. Here the idea of a single, all-powerful divine creator is developed. The ultimate purpose of knowledge is to find the path to reunion with this Supreme Being.


Nikhilananda, Swami, trans. The Upanishads: Katha, Isa, Kena, and Mundaka. 2 vols. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1949.

Mueller, F. Max, trans. The Upanishads. London: Oxford University Press.

Hume, Robert Ernest, trans. The Thirteen Principal Upanishads. 2d ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1921.

Radhakrishnan, Swami, trans. The Principal Upanishads. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1969.


The biographical material about the author originally appeared on The Goodrich Room: Interactive Tour website.

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