The Vedic origins of Brahmanism

Posted on February 3, 2015 by shantanup

In this blogpost I have collected together exchanges on Brahmanism in Religious Forums which I quote for the reader to assess for themselves. Brahmanism is the conception of Brahman as the Entity that is all that exists.

Makaranda: Brahman is not created nor is Brahman finite. The Taittiriya Upanishad defines Brahman as Satyam Jnanam Anantam. There is nothing higher than Brahman, it is the highest. Me: The term infinite means what is beyond the detection capacity of humans. So the Universe by this definition is infinite. And Brahman being the sum of the physical energy and consciousness energy is also therefore infinite. Does not the Taittriya Upanishad treat the words Brahma and Brahman interchangeably? Makaranda: The term infinite or ananta means without end or boundary or limitation. It does not merely indicate that which is beyond the means of knowledge (the correct word for that is aprameya). Brahman is not merely the sum of the universe. There is a difference between Brahma-Ji and Brahman. Me: Can you point to the scriptures that show this difference between Brahma-ji and Brahman? Makaranda: The meaning of the two words has been explained to me by my teacher (and is following after Shankaras commentary). You can also use the word avyakta (unmanifest, not available to empirical dealings) to indicate that which is arupa, arasa, asparsha, ashabda, agandha etc. Ananta relates to the purnatvam of Brahman. Brahman can never change, never perish, never decrease or increase, never be sublated or made into a limited object. So in a sense it is okay to say that Ananta means beyond sense detection, but it also means so much more specifically. Me: So Brahman is the atheistic replacement for God, except that God is finite in the real meaning of the word. Makaranda: Eh, I dont know what you mean. Ishwara is Brahman. What does atheism have to do with anything? Me: What is Ishwara made of? Makaranda: Ishwara is Brahman (Sat, Chit, Ananda) plus its power of Maya. Me: So it (Brahman) has a plus something that is part of itself? Makaranda: The Maya Shakti is not existing independently of Brahman, either. Me: Is what is perceived by us of the universe ‘maya’ so that we live in a dream/illusion? Shivasomashekar: Brahman alone is real. Nothing exists except Brahman. Which is why all perceived duality cannot be real (including time and space). The belief that duality is real, is the illusion and this apparent duality is Maya according to Advaita. Obviously, other Vedanta traditions offer very different definitions for Maya. ________________________________________________________________________ Makaranda: Tat tvam asi indicates aikyam between oneself and Brahman, who is beyond this universe of names and forms. Upanishads are Vedic texts. That is why they are called Vedanta. Me: What is there in the Vedas that is consistent with or a repeat of ‘Tat tvam asi’? Makaranda: Tat tvam asi is a vedic statement.It occurs (and is repeated as a refrain) many times in Chandogya Upanishad of the Samaveda. Me: Can you point to the precise words in the four Vedas for this statement, please? Makaranda: Please refer to the mahavakya in the sixth chapter of the Chandogya Upanishad. It occurs repeatedly (maybe 12 or so times). It is hard to miss (Smilie inserted). Me: Well you could not point to the precise words in Sama veda that means Tat Tvam Asi, but look what this reference (Samaveda – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) apparently says about Sama Veda and the reference to it in the Bhagavad Gita:”The Sama Veda, Samveda, or Samaveda (Sanskrit: सामवेदः, sāmaveda, from sāman “melody” and veda “knowledge”), is the third of the four Vedas, the ancient core Hindu scriptures, along with the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atharva Veda. It ranks next in sanctity and liturgical importance to the Rigveda. It consists of a collection (samhita) of hymns, portions of hymns, and detached verses, all but 75 taken from the Sakala Sakha of the Rigveda, the other 75 belong to the Bashkala Sakha, to be sung, using specifically indicated melodies called Samagana, by Udgatar priests at sacrifices in which the juice of the Soma plant, clarified and mixed with milk and other ingredients, is offered in libation to various deities. The Brihat sama is given special importance by the lord Krishna in the Bhagavat Gita in Chapter 10 called the “Vibhuti Yoga”. Here the god Krishna tells about the great souls, valuable materials and supreme objects which have taken their perfect forms on Earth and among them the lord says he is the existing spirit of the Brihat Sama.” Makaranda: You will have to excuse me for not providing direct quotations from the text as I am currently travelling in India and do not have the text to hand, but I can assure you that the mahavakya is to be found in the sixth chapter in the dialogue between Uddalaka Aruni and his son Shvetaketu. The words tat tvam asi appear directly as a refrain many times. Please look for yourself if you require further clarification. Me: I am not interested in any dialogues that may have taken place between any two individuals, nor in the mahavakyas of the Upanishads: I am only interested in the exact words (hymns and mantras) of the Vedas. If you can point to any ideas in these hymns and mantras that show the contents of the mahavakyas and subsequent development please provide them when you are in a position to do so. ________________________________________________________________________ The Upanishadic Mahavakyas for Brahmanists are are ( a. prajñānam brahma – “Prajña[note 1] is Brahman”[note 2], or “Brahman is Prajña”[web 3] (Aitareya Upanishad 3.3 of the Rig Veda) b. ayam ātmā brahma – “I am this Self (Atman) that is Brahman” (Mandukya Upanishad 1.2 of the Atharva Veda) c. tat tvam asi – “Thou art That” (Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7 of the Sama Veda) d. aham brahmāsmi – “I am Brahman”, or “I am Divine”[5] (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10 of the Yajur Veda) Mahāvākyas – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia I was unable to find the source material from the Vedas so can someone please produce the verses of the Rig Veda (3.3); Atharva Veda (1.2); Sama Veda (6.8.7) and Yajur Veda (1.4.10) respectively so that their relationship to these Mahavakyas can be studied? Makaranda: I think you have a problem understanding the relationship between Vedas and Shruti. The four Vedas are divided in to particular portions. Upanishads are the final portion of each Veda, that is why they are called Vedanta. If I am quoting Upanishads, I am quoting the Vedas. As noted in the wikipedia article, for example, the Chandogya Upanishad occurs at the terminus of Sama Veda. The Aitareya Upanishad is with the Rig Veda, and so on. The Mahavakyas are statements of Shruti (Vedic statements) which, according to Advaita, sum up the innermost essential message of the Vedas (viz, ones Self is Brahman). Me: Do you have the exact Vedic verses and mantras, yes or no? If not, how can you call yourself a Vedantist. If you are not a Vedantist but just an advaitist of course you do not need the reference to the Vedic verses. ________________________________________________________________________ Me: Yes that is right. Upanishads are separate to the Vedas. Shivsomashekhar: What are you basing this on? The Veda comprises of the Samhitas, Brahmanas and Aaranyakas (which includes Upanishads). Are you not accepting the standard definition of the Veda? Me: When were the Aaranyakas added to the Samhitas and Brahmanas? Shivsomasekhar: There is no simple “when” for any of this literature, as they were all built over time (Samhitas, Brahmanas and Aranyakas). Some Upanishads like the Brhadaranyaka, Chandogya and Kena are very old and may predate some Samhita/Brahmana literature. Makaranda: They are not separate. You do not know much about Hinduism, do you? Let me quote Wikipedia which seems to be your main source of knowledge, to educate you a little bit: There are four Vedas: the Rigveda, the Yajurveda, the Samaveda and theAtharvaveda.[11][12] Each Veda has been subclassified into four major text types – the Samhitas (mantras and benedictions), the Aranyakas (text on rituals, ceremonies, sacrifices and symbolic-sacrifices), the Brahmanas(commentaries on rituals, ceremonies and sacrifices), and the Upanishads (text discussing meditation, philosophy and spiritual knowledge). Me: Are the Brahmanas not entirely to do with worship, rituals, sacrifices and ceremonies in terms of the mantras and procedures to be used by Brahmins in society? -why should that also be in the subdivision of Aranyakas? Shivsomashekhar: It should be noted that what I have written above is the traditional position. There are other new-age, modern views on the subject. For instance, Dayananda Saraswati claimes only the Samhitas were Veda and not the rest. Similarly, there may be other new age views on the subject differing from the traditional view. We can always create a new view ourselves, but we need to be clear on what the traditional viewpoint is and that we are differing from it. Me: I have no problem with Brahmanists developing the Upanishads to ponder on their ideas on Brahman, and attribute it to verses in the Vedas as long as they are perfectly clear about what they are doing and so identify the most original specific material for all their discourses. ________________________________________________________________________ HinduismKrishna: I think Bhedavadi are not fit even to hear ‘Tat twam asi’ or ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ like Mahavakya-s. Those Mahavakya-s have profound knowledge which is impossible to be understood through maligned mind- ‘bheda-Pradhan’. Bhedavadi thinking on Mahavakya-s is just like powerles person talking on what is power. The meaning of those MAhavakya-s can be best understood who’s Chitta-Shuddhi and sharp and subtle thinking. First one has to purify oneself through Bhakti and then meditate on those ultimate VAkya-s, that is the essence of entire Veda. There’s no necessity to question over Advaitian’s understanding if you don’t know how they perceive ‘Aikyam’. All know duality has been greatly criticized by Veda, mainly Upanishada. Me: First, no one should be a Bhedavadi where truth is concerned. Om means focussing on truth. The bhakti should be directed at truth alone, not God. If the bhakti to truth is perfect, then and only then God Sri Krishna might come to the gyan yogi to reveal the bheda. Second, please tell me what you mean when you say that ‘First one has to purify oneself through Bhakti’? How did you do that and how do you continue to do that if it is not through Om? Third, meditating on the Mahavakyas is brainwashing oneself, which is not the essence of Vedanta that requires contemplation on truth.

Comment: It appears to me that the same bulk of texts that have been compiled as Vedas are used by Brahmanists and Sanatan Dharmists to justify their own conceptions of reality. But when they were compiled and by whom? Is the compilation of what is to be regarded the Vedas justified? Should not these religions be taken out of the Vedas which should remain as revelations with a divine purpose? For this the contents of the Vedas should be limited in terms of its subclassification.

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