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Connections between Different Realms of Being: Upanisads Expository Essay

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Updated: Apr 22nd, 2019

Introduction

The term upanisad has attracted the attention of many scholars. In fact, the term has created a schism between the older generation of scholars and more recent experts in this field. For example, the older generation of scholars views this concept in terms of the relationship that exists between a teacher and a student.

In essence, they view the concept as a form of teaching. On their part, more recent scholars in this field view the concept in terms of the different realms of being. To this end, they view it in terms of the various connections between the various realms of being.

The current essay is written against this backdrop. In this essay, the author explores the idea of connections as a way of understanding upanisads.

To this end, the author will analyze the various characteristics of the people who enjoyed this work in the past. In addition, the author will analyze what these people expected in a literary work and other cultural products. Their expectations will be analyzed in the context of their relationship with upanisads.

Overview

Upanisad is a name that has Hindu origins. The word encompasses upa and shad connotations. The former segment of the word literally means to “sit”. On its part, the latter segment translates to “near.” From an etymological point of view, the word refers to “sitting down near”. The translation simply refers to the act of seating at the feet of an enlightened instructor.

The instructor referred to here is a teacher offering intimate spiritual instructions to the student. It is important to note that the instructor is different from his students in the sense that he has retired from the world of ashram where students exist.1

Different scholars have described upanisad concepts in different and compelling ways. Their descriptions vary depending on their belief systems. For example, Olivelle describes the term upanisad in terms of connections. Olivelle is one of the modern scholars who have written a lot around this concept. He describes the term as the connection between different realms of being.2

In the sections that follow, the author of this paper will discuss the existence of different realms of being with regards to Upanisad. Before embarking on this analysis, however, it is important to first give a brief historical background on the origins of upanisad. The historical context will help analyze and understand this term better.

Upanisads: Themes and origins

Upanisad is thought to have emerged between 800 and 500 BCE. It emerged during the later Vedic period. There are more than 200 forms of upanisads, but only about 14 of them are regarded as important. The 14 forms include, among others, the Isa, Mandkya, chandogya, and Katho.3

It is important to point out at this juncture that the 14 upanisads are not meant for instruction or inspiration. On the contrary, they are meant to be elongated by an illuminated instructor based on their personal experience.

Students exhibit intellectual deficiency that is in accordance with the various upanisad doctrines. As such, the intellectual realm of being tries to connect with the inadequate intellectual realm to enable the brain deal with relations and other things. To this end, direct perception and intuition is what encompasses full understanding as far as intellectuality is concerned.4

Basic connections and principles in the upanisads

There are basic principles and connections associated with the upanisads concept. They include, among others, explanation of the concepts of life, death, existence, as well as knowledge.

In addition, the element of skepticism is distinctively shaped by the existence of principles like samsara, karma, and moksha. The principles above describe the kind of connections that exist between different realms of being.5

Samsara, according to Doniger and Olivelle, literally means reincarnation.6 In this regard, it is believed that after death, souls are reborn and come back as another being. There are different realms with regards to this reincarnation. The realms encompass, among others, animals, humans, and even other gods.

Such gods attain the realm in a specific way. Some involve death and resurrection.7 Therefore, samsara may also be regarded as a continuous flow. The concept is prominent in different religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism among others.8

Karma is another concept that describes the connections between different realms of being. The concept refers to the effects of actions and deeds that determine the kind or quality of life in a given cycle. With regards to human beings, the concept dictates the future destiny of a person. Such a destiny is determined on the basis of what was done by the person in a previous life cycle.

In essence, what this concept means is that what went into one cycle will come out or be reflected in the next life cycle. Adherents of different religions believe that there is no distinct beginning or end to these vicious cycles. They seem to build on (and into) each other.

Connections between these different realms may lead to discomfort. That is why individuals should struggle and avoid events that may lead to such discomforts in a later cycle.9

Karma leads into another concept that is believed to help beings not to deviate from the norm. Moksha, as a concept, is very important. It sets one free from samsara. The latter revolves around death and rebirth. From an eschatological point of view, moksha is liberation from ignorance. Such liberation leads a person to a path of enlightenment and self realization.10

Yoga is another concept through which an individual can realize or achieve supreme reality. For instance, it is believed that karma leads to maksha. Apart from karma, there are other forms of yoga that leads to liberation. They include, among others, bhakti and jnana. The former is an aspect of devotion, while the latter is an element of knowledge.11

Section Summary

From the analysis provided in this section, it is clear that there are different connections existing between realms of being. The author agrees with Olivelle’s assertion that upanisad is the connection between different realms of being.

Definition and Description of Terms

Upakosa

Upakosa is one of the many mythical expressions of Hindu philosophy. In a mythical story of the Seven Vazirs, Upakosa is regarded as the wife to Vararuchi. When Vararuchi was away, Upakosa attracted many suitors, including the domestic priest of the King. Others included the Guard’s Commander and the young prince. The suitors annoyed her with their importunities.

Upakosa hatched a plan to not only expose them, but also to punish their persistent behavior. The story is called Upakosa and the Four Lovers. It is constantly used to teach people how to avoid the bother of people who want to exploit them.12

Upakosa is importuned by the three suitors and decided to teach them a lesson by persecuting her husband. She welcomed each one of them at intervals. The arrangement was that by the time the second one was arriving, the other one was taking a bath.

The second was told that Vararuchi was around and was having a bath. He would be hidden in a bin full of feather. All of them are treated this way. They were later embarrassed and chased out of the door. The whole village snapped at them and made fun of how they were running away.13

Mahadevivyakka

It is another term common in Hindu philosophy. It refers to a 12th century mythological poet from the Karnataka region. The name was coined by a woman named Akka Mahadevi. It literally means elder sister Mahadevi of South India.14 Akka Mahadevi was in love with her Lord and she created poetic phrases that referred to him as Chenna Mallikarijuna. The term meant the Lord who is as white as jasmine, the glittering object.

Akka Mahadevi remains a household name in India, especially in Karnataka region. She is famous for her poetic and mythological expressions. For instance, she is of the opinion that many people know her name. However, many people forget that she had dedicated her entire life to Lord Shiva. She refused to live a luxurious life and opted to wander around. She was referred to as the wandering poetic saint who expresses her praises to Lord Shiva.15

As an anachronistic expression, Mahadevivyakka is important as it empowers women. Many women associate themselves with Mahadevvyakka phrases. The expressions are regarded as declarations made by a woman. They touch on monotheism and related belief systems. The concept, therefore, expresses the belief that there is only one God through declarations and praises to Lord Shiva.16

Allama Prabhu

Allama Prabhu is a mythological saint found in poetic expressions called Vachanakara. The expressions originated from the Kannada language during the 12th century. They regard Prabhu as the patron or the master of the saints. Prabhu is regarded as the undisputed spiritual saint famous among the Lingayata. Lingayata are those devoted to God Para Shiva.17

Allama Prabhu led to a movement that changed the entire Karnataka. It is also present in the Trinity of Linyatism activities. It spurred socio-religious activities characterized by poetic expressions that reshaped Karnataka and the surrounding regions. The socio-religious movement involved a number of prominent persons. They included Lady Akka Mahadevi, who is regarded as the most prominent female poet.18

Prabhu is a common term in India. It is used in reference to Supreme Lord. The name is also used by male devotees when addressing each other, especially for the first time. Is some regions in Asia, the name of a devotee is appended to Prabhu.

In some instances, the name is also used when referring to royalty. Therefore, Allama Prabhu is a word associated with leading a saintly life. It is also used when referring to those who are devoted to religious aspects of Allama Prabhu.19

Vira-Saiva (veera-shaiva)

The religion was introduced by Panchacharyas in the late 11th century. It became popular in early 12th century. Basavana was one of the prominent persons who made Veerashaivism popular in 12th century. The religion was a shift from the common Hinduism and centered on Lord Shiva. The shift was in the form of linga and up to date, it is famously referred to as Lingayatism.20

Individuals who are devoted to this faith are referred to as Langayats, Vera-siva, in religious terms, means absolute reality. The authority of the Vedas and agamas takes precedence in these devotions. Other Hindu beliefs, including Karma, were abolished by those who followed lingayatism.21

The Veershaiva or Lingayat encompasses five important spiritual souls that define the belief system. The five included Renukacharya, Vishwaradhya, and Marularadhya. Many people are of the opinion that the five spiritual souls are related to Linga Shiva. They are teachers who have a lot of experience.

Apart from Basavana, there are other prominent personalities that have made contributions to the emergence of Lingayatism. They include, among others, Allama Prabhu and Akka Mahadevi. Therefore, it can be stated that Veera-shaiva is the kind of devotion centered on Lingayatism. It glorified Lord Shiva in the form of Linga doctrines.22

Annamaya

Annamayya, also referred to as Annamacharya, is another Hindu saint. He lived between 1410 and 1503. He was the first Indian musician to compose songs that were referred to as sankirtanas. The songs he composed praised Venkateswara, a Hindu God known as Vishnu.23

The music produced is in the form of keertana. It involves eulogizing and praising. During devotions, the songs involve one person calling out as the others respond through chanting. The keertana songs are common in carnatic, a kind of music found in Southern India.24

Annamayya is recognized for many things. He not only led a saintly life, but also devoted himself to Bhagwaan Govinda with the help of other saint musicians. Bhagwaan Govinda refers to Vishnu. The latter simply means the one who has graduated and recognized by Vedas. Over 36,000 sankeertanas have been composed and are used in Vishnu devotions. However, only 12,000 can be found today.25

In summary, Annamayya is the origine of songs and poems used in worshiping Vishnu. The praise involves expression of love, as well as arguing and quarreling with Vishnu. Apart from surrendering to the Venkateshwara, the songs are also used by the devotees to confess their sins to God.26

Bibliography

Buitenen, Van. The Maitrayaniya Upanisad: A Critical Essay, with Text, Translation, and Commentary. Gravenhage: Mouton, 2001.

Doniger, Wendy, and Patrick Olivelle. “Upanisads. The World’s Classics.” The Journal of Asian Studies 56, no. 3 (1997) : 829-901.

Mittal, Sushil, and Gene Thursby. The Hindu World. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Olivelle, Patrick. Ascetics and Brahmins Studies in Ideologies and Institutions. London: Anthem Press, 2011.

Olivelle, Patrick. Language, Texts, and Society Explorations in Ancient Indian Culture and Religion. London: Anthem Press, 2011.

Olivelle, Patrick. The Dharmasuì-tras the Law Codes of AÌ„pastamba, Gautama, BaudhaÌ„yana, and VasistÌ£hÌ£a. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Sastri, Nilakanta. A History of South India from Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar. New Delhi: Indian Branch, Oxford University Press, 2002.

Vail, Lise. “Unlike a Fool, he is not defiled: Ascetic Purity and Ethics in the Samnyasa Upanisads.” Journal of Religious Ethics 30, no. 3 (2002) : 373-397.

Footnotes

1. Patrick Olivelle, Language, Texts, and Society Explorations in Ancient Indian Culture and Religion (London: Anthem Press, 2011), 59.

2. Ibid, 63.

3. Nilakanta Sastri, A History of South India from Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar (New Delhi: Indian Branch, Oxford University Press, 2002), 104.

4. Sastri, 105.

5. Patrick Olivelle, Ascetics and Brahmins Studies in Ideologies and Institutions (London: Anthem Press, 2011), 69.

6. Wendy Doniger and Patrick Olivelle, “Upanisads. The World’s Classics,” The Journal of Asian Studies 56, no. 3 (1997) : 834.

7. Van Buitenen, The Maitrayaniya Upanisad: A Critical Essay, with Text, Translation, and Commentary (Gravenhage: Mouton, 2001), 72.

8. Lise Vail, “Unlike a Fool, he is not defiled: Ascetic Purity and Ethics in the Samnyasa Upanisads,” Journal of Religious Ethics 30, no. 3 (2002) : 378.

9. Vail, 379.

10. Patrick Olivelle, The Dharmasuì-tras- the Law Codes of AÌ„pastamba, Gautama, BaudhaÌ„yana, and VasistÌ£hÌ£a (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 85.

11. Sushil Mittal and Gene Thursby, The Hindu World (New York: Routledge, 2004), 43.

12. Vail, 380.

13 Ibid 381.

14. Olivelle, Language, Texts, and Society, 87.

15. Ibid, 89.

16. Olivelle, Ascetics and Brahmins Studies, 73.

17. Olivelle, Language, Texts, and Society, 89.

18. Olivelle, The dharmasuì-tras, 88.

19. Ibid.

20. Vail, 386.

21. Ibid, 385.

22. Ibid.

23. Ibid.

24. Ibid.

25. Olivelle, Ascetics and Brahmins Studies, 89.

26. Ibid, 90.

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