A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 1

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1922 | 212,082 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of the names of the upanishads (non-brahmanic influence): a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the second part in the series called the “the earlier upanishads (700 b.c.— 600 b.c.)”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 2 - The names of the Upaniṣads; Non-Brahmanic influence

The Upaniṣads are also known by another name Vedānta, as they are believed to be the last portions of the Vedas (veda-nta , end); it is by this name that the philosophy of the Upaniṣads, the Vedānta philosophy, is so familiar to us. A modern student knows that in language the Upaniṣads approach the classical Sanskrit; the ideas preached also show that they are the culmination of the intellectual achievement of a great epoch. As they thus formed the concluding parts of the Vedas they retained their Vedic names which they took from the name of the different schools or branches (śākhā) among which the Vedas were studied[1]. Thus the Upaniṣads attached to the Brāhmanas of the Aitareya and Kauṣītaki schools are called respectively Aitareya and Kauṣītaki Upaniṣads. Those of theTāṇḍins and Talavakāras of the Sāma-veda are called the Chāndogya and Talavakāra (or Kena) Upaniṣads.

Those of the Taittirīya school of the Yajurveda form the Taittirlya and Mahānārayaṇa, of the Katha school the Kāthaka, of the Maitrāyaṇī school the Maitrāyaṇī. The Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad forms part of the Satapatha Brāhmaṇa of the Vājasaneyi schools. The īśā Upaniṣad also belongs to the latter school. But the school to which the Śvetāśvatara belongs cannot be traced, and has probably been lost. The presumption with regard to these Upaniṣads is that they represent the enlightened views of the particular schools among which they flourished, and under whose names they passed. A large number of Upaniṣads of a comparatively later age were attached to the Atharva-Veda, most of which were named not according to the Vedic schools but according to the subject-matter with which they dealt[2].

It may not be out of place here to mention that from the frequent episodes in the Upaniṣads in which the Brahmins are described as having gone to the Kṣattriyas for the highest knowledge of philosophy, as well as from the disparateness of the Upaniṣad teachings from that of the general doctrines of the Brāhmanas and from the allusions to the existence of philosophical speculations amongst the people in Pāli works, it may be inferred that among the Kṣattriyas in general there existed earnest philosophic enquiries which must be regarded as having exerted an important influence in the formation of the Upaniṣad doctrines. There is thus some probability in the supposition that though the Upaniṣads are found directly incorporated with the Brāhmanas it was not the production of the growth of Brahmanic dogmas alone, but that non-Brahmanic thought as well must have either set the Upaniṣad doctrines afoot, or have rendered fruitful assistance to their formulation and cultivation, though they achieved their culmination in the hands of the Brahmins.

Footnotes and references:


When the Samhitā texts had become substantially fixed, they were committed to memory in different parts of the country and transmitted from teacher to pupil along with directions for the practical performance of sacrificial duties. The latter formed the matter of prose compositions, the Brāhmanas. These however were gradually liable to diverse kinds of modifications according to the special tendencies and needs of the people among which they were recited. Thus after a time there occurred a great divergence in the readings of the texts of the Brāhmanas even of the same Veda among different people. These different schools were known by the name of particular Śākhās (e.g. Aitareya, Kausītaki) with which the Brāhmanas were associated or named. According to the divergence of the Brāhmanas of the different Śākhās there occurred the divergences of content and the length of the Upaniṣads associated with them.


Garbha Upaniṣad, Ātman Upaniṣad, Praśna Upaniṣad, etc. There were however some exceptions such as the Māṇḍūkya, Jābāla, Paiñgala, Śaunaka, etc.

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