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Upanishads

The Upanishads (Sanskrit: , IAST: Upani?ad, IPA: [up?nid]) are a collection of philosophical texts which form the theoretical basis for the Hindu religion. They are also known as Vedanta, the end of the Veda. In the purest sense, they are not Sruti[citation needed](revealed truths) but rather commentaries which explain the essence of the veda (revealed knowledge). The Upanishads are found mostly in the concluding part of the Brahmanas and in the Aranyakas.[1] All Upanishads have been passed down in oral tradition. More than 200 Upanishads are known, of which the first dozen or so are the oldest and most important and are referred to as the principal or main (mukhya) Upanishads. With the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahmasutra (known collectively as the Prasthanatrayi),[2] the mukhya Upanishads provide a foundation for several later schools of Indian philosophy (vedanta), among them, two influential monistic schools of Hinduism.[note 1][note 2][note 3] Historians believe the chief Upanishads were composed over a wide period ranging from the Pre-Buddhist period[6][7] to the early centuries BCE[7] though minor Upanishads were still being composed in the medieval and early modern period.[8] However, there has been considerable debate among authorities about the exact dating of individual Upanishads. The Upanishads were collectively considered amongst the 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written by the British poet Martin Seymour-Smith.[9] Their significance has been recognized by writers and scholars such as Schopenhauer, Emerson and Thoreau, among others. Scholars also note similarity between the doctrine of Upanishads and those of Plato and Kant Etymology The Sanskrit term Upani?ad derives from upa- (nearby), ni- (at the proper place, down) and ?ad (to sit) thus: "sitting down near", implying sitting nea a teacher to receive instruction[12] or, alternatively, "sitting at the foot of ..(teacher)", or "laying siege" to the teacher.[13] Monier-Williams' late 19th century dictionary adds that, "according to native authorities Upanishad means 'setting to rest ignorance by revealing the knowledge of the supreme spirit.'"[14] A gloss of the term Upanishad based on Shri Adi Shankara's commentary on the Ka?ha and Brihadaranyaka Upanishad equates it with Atmavidya, that is, "knowledge of the Self", or Brahmavidya "knowledge of Brahma". Other dictionary meanings include "esoteric doctrine" and "secret doctrine".[15] [edit]Classification There are more than 200 known Upanishads, one of which, the Muktika, gives a list of 108 Upanishads this number corresponding to the holy Hindu number of beads on a mala or Hindu rosary. Modern scholars recognize the first 10, 11, 12 or 13 Upanishads as principal or Mukhya Upanishads and the remainder as derived from this ancient canon. If an Upanishad has been commented upon or quoted by revered thinkers like Shankara, it is a Mukhya Upanishad,[1] accepted as shruti by most Hindus. The new Upanishads recorded in the Muktika probably originated in southern India,[16] and are grouped according to their subject as (Samanya) Vedanta (philosophical), Yoga, Sanyasa (of the life of renunciation), Vaishnava (dedicated to the god Vishnu), Shaiva (dedicated to Shiva) and Shakti (dedicated to the goddess).[17] New Upanishads are often sectarian since sects have sought to legitimize their texts by claiming for them the status of Sruti.[18] Another way of classifying the Upanishads is to associate them with the respective Brahmanas. Of nearly the same age are the Aitareya, Kau?itaki and Taittiriya Upanishads, while the remnant date from the time of transition from Vedic to Classical Sanskrit.