Sunday, July 31, 2011

Svetasvatara Upanishad in The Thirteen Principle Upanishads -- London: Oxford University Press, 1954

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the Svetasvatara Upanishad is a relatively brief theological section describing the god Rudra. As with other Upanishads, the Svetasvatara Upanishad focuses on Braama and the Atman as the fundamental cosmic reality. Its fundamental nature is underlined by stating that it is higher than the supreme god, Rudra, who is described in nearly Yahwehistic terms.

To start, however, the Svetasvatara Upanishad describes Brahma as the first cause of everything in the universe and assures the reader that knowledge of Brahma is the path to liberation. This is accomplished through performing sacrifices and by abiding by the rules of yoga. The discussion of Rudra then appears abruptly and dramatically. He is "The One spreader of the net...Who rules all the worlds....Rudra (the Terrible) is the One....He, the Protector, after creating all beings, merges them together at the end of time." He is the creator of heaven and earth and all the gods.

But having exalted Rudra, the Svetasvatara Upanishad goes on to say that Brahma is higher than this. While using some terminology that appears to personify Brahma, Brahma is described as immanent in all things. The distinction is critical in comparing Hinduism with the monotheistic religions of the West. Through Zoroastrianism and then Judaism, Western religions have more or less discarded polytheism and establish monotheism as the core of their dogma. Of course, there are strands within Western religions which conceive of God as a personal god and other strands which do not; however locating creation and gods within a cosmos where the divine ground is supremely venerated has little parallel in Western religions. In contrast, the Svetasvatara Upanishad would suggest that the while the world might be composed of many gods (with Rudra their ruler), the fundamental point of religion is not the veneration of a god or gods, but the recognition of the supreme reality. Liberation for us is no different than liberation for the gods; that is, we all must seek understanding of the world that lies behind (or beyond) the apparent world of our thoughts and senses.

No comments:

Post a Comment