The word "upanishad"

Charles Wikner WIKNER at
Mon Dec 2 07:30:13 UTC 1996

In response to Martin Gansten's enquiry about the word "upanishad",
the following (rather old personal) notes (using Latex2.09 + Velthuis)
may contain some references of interest:

Charles Wikner.

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\underline{\underline{\Large{\dn upani.sad}}}\hfill 30 June 1993\vspace{2mm}

{\large{\dn upa-ni-}$\surd$\,{\dn sad}\,}{\small +}{\large\,{\dn pratyaya kvip}}

\key{\bf Dictionary}

1.~{\em upa-ni-\d{s}ad} ({\em upa-ni-}$\surd${\em sad}) {\sc mw} 201/1
to sit down near to, to approach, set about.

2.~{\em upa-ni\d{s}ad} {\sc mw} 201/1 f.~(according to some) the sitting 
down at the feet of another to listen to his words (and hence, secret 
knowledge given in this manner; but according to native authorities 
{\em upani\d{s}ad} means `the setting at rest ignorance by revealing 
knowledge of the supreme spirit'); the mystery which underlies or rests
underneath the external system of things; esoteric doctrine, secret
doctrine, mysteries or mystical meaning, words of mystery; a class of
philosophical writings (\ldots\,their aim is the exposition of the 
secret meaning of the {\em Veda\/}, and they are regarded as the source 
of the {\em Ved\={a}nta} and {\em S\={a}\d{m}khya} philosophies).

{\Large{\dn upa||}} {\sc mw} 194.3 towards, near to, (opp.~to {\dn apa}\/)
by the side of, with, together with, under, down

{\Large{\dn ni||}} {\sc mw} 538.3 down, back, in, into, within

{\Large$\surd$\,{\dn sad}} {\sc mw} 1138/2
sit down, sit upon or in or at \ldots\\
to sit down before, besiege, lie in wait for, watch.\\
sink down, sink into despondency or distress, become faint or wearied
or dejected or low spirited, despair, pine or waste away, perish.\\
to put in distress, afflict, weary, exhaust, ruin, destroy.

{\em upa-}$\surd${\em sad} {\sc mw} 209/1 to sit upon, to sit near to, 
approach, revere, worship; to approach asking, request, crave for \ldots

{\em ni\d{s}ad} ($\surd${\em sad\/}) {\sc mw} 561/3 to sit or lie down or 
rest upon; to sink or go down (as a ship); to be afflicted, suffer pain;
\ldots\ to set, found, establish, appoint.

\key{\emb Dh\={a}tup\={a}\d{t}ha}

{\large{\dn .sad.l bhvaa@ pa@ a@ 18-2 vi"||}}\\
{\large{\dn .sad.l tu@ pa@ a@ 36-2 vi"||}}

[Incidentally, this is an example of a {\dn dhaatu} beginning with
the letter {\dn s} which changes to {\dn .s} (when preceded by 
certain letters), and thus, for brevity, listed in the {\dn dhaatupaa.tha}
with this letter changed.]

{\large{\dn vi"}} {\sc mw} 991/3 n.~dissolution, killing, slaughter

{\em vi-}$\surd${\em s\d{\={r}}} {\sc mw} 992/2 to be broken or shattered or
dissolved, crumble or fall to pieces, waste away, decay; to be scattered 
or dispersed; to be severed from; to be damaged or destroyed; perish.

{\dn vi} {\sc mw} 949.3 apart, asunder, in different directions,
to and fro, about, away, away from, off, without.\\
Expresses division,distinction, distribution, arrangement, order, opposition,
deliberation; sometimes opposite to idea in simple root, or intensifies idea

$\surd${\em s\d{\={r}}} {\sc mw} xxx/x to crush, break, rend.

{\large{\dn gati}} {\sc mw} f.~going, movement, gait, deportment, motion in 
general \ldots\\
path, way, course, place of issue. Origin, reason, means, art, method.

$\surd${\em gam} {\sc mw} 346/3 to go, move, go away, set out, come, 
to go to or towards, to approach.

{\large{\dn avasaadana}} {\sc 105/1} n.~oppressing, disheartening

{\em ava-}$\surd${\em sad} {\sc mw} 104/3 to sink (as into water); 
to sink down, faint, grow lean; become exhausted or disheartened, 
come to an end, perish.

{\dn ava} {\sc mw} 96/1 off, away, down

\key{\bf Commentators}

The word {\em Upani\d{s}ad} has been derived variously by various scholars.
``The Western scholars,'' says Prof.~Max~M\"{u}ller, ``are agreed in deriving 
{\em Upa-ni-\d{s}ad} from the root {\em sad} to sit down, preceded by the
two prepositions, {\em ni\/}, down, and {\em upa\/}, near, so that it expresses
the idea of session, an assembly of pupils sitting down near their teacher
to listen to his instructions.'' He himself also holds this view though he 
admits the word never occurs in this sense anywhere.\\
{\small\sc Swami Madhavananda, Introduction p.~vii, Minor Upanishads}

This knowledge of {\em Brahman} is called `{\em Upani\d{s}ad\/}' because 
it entirely removes this relative world together with its cause from those 
who betake themselves to this study.\\
{\small\sc \`{S}a\d{m}kara, Introduction p.1, B\d{r}had\={a}ra\d{n}yaka

The word `{\em Upani\d{s}ad\/}' denotes {\em Brahma-Vidy\={a}} 
or Theosophy, inasmuch as
its etymology is applicable to nothing else. The prefix `{\em upa}' means
`near'; and nothing can be nearer than one's own inner Self, since all 
things are said to be more or less near with reference to the inner Self.
The three meanings of the root `{\em sad\/}'\,---\,namely, to decay, to go
or know, to destroy\,---\, are applicable to Theosophy, as the blessed 
{\em Suresvar\={a}c\={a}rya} has distinctly shown. 
Thus, Theosophy is called {\em Upani\d{s}ad} (1) because it leads 
{\em \={A}tman\/}, the Self, very \underline{near} {\em Brahman} 
who, in Himself, is devoid
of duality, and thereby brings about the \underline{decay} 
of {\em avidy\={a}} or
unwisdom and its effects; or (2) because it destroys that {\em avidy\={a}}
or ignorance of the true nature of one's own Self which is the root of all
evil, and gives one to \underline{understand} 
that the Supreme Being who is devoid of all
duality is none other than one's own \underline{inner} Self; or (3) because
it \underline{destroys} altogether all germs of outward activity by way of 
cutting up their root ({\em avidy\={a}\/}).
As the means of acquiring the knowledge of Theosophy, the treatise is identified
with Theosophy and is itself called {\em Upani\d{s}ad} as the plough is 
sometimes spoken of as a living.\\
{\small\sc Vidyaranya, Introduction p.~1, Taittiriya Upanishad}

{\em Vidy\={a}} (knowledge of {\em Brahman\/}) is called {\em Upani\d{s}ad}
because, in the case of those who devote themselves to it, the (bonds of)
conception, birth, decay, etc., become \underline{unloosed}, or because it 
\underline{destroys} (those bonds) altogether, or because it \underline{leads}
(the devotee) very \underline{near} to {\em Brahman\/}, or because therein
the Highest Good is \underline{seated}. As intended to produce this knowledge, 
the treatise is also called {\em Upani\d{s}ad\/}.\\
{\small\sc \'{S}ankara, Introduction p.~11, Taittiriya Upanishad}

Knowledge is called {\em upani\d{s}ad} by virtue of its association with 
this significance; It (viz.~knowledge) splits up, injures, or destroys 
the seeds of worldly existence such as ignorance etc., in the case of
those seekers of emancipation who, after becoming detached from the desire 
for the seen and unseen objects, approach ({\em upa-sad\/}) the knowledge 
that is called {\em upani\d{s}ad} and\,\ldots\,who then deliberate on it with
steadiness and certainty ({\em ni\/}). \ldots\ Or the knowledge of 
{\em Brahman} is called {\em upani\d{s}ad} because of its conformity 
to the idea of leading to {\em Brahman\/}, inasmuch as it makes the seekers 
after emancipation\,\ldots\,attain the supreme {\em Brahman\/}.\\
\ldots~knowledge\,---\,is also called {\em upani\d{s}ad} by virtue of its
bearing the meaning (to loosen) of the root ({\em sad\/}), inasmuch
as by leading to the result\,\ldots\,it weakens or loosens such 
multitude of miseries as living in the womb, birth, old age, etc., 
continually recurring in lives hereafter.

{\sc Objection}: Is it not a fact that by the word {\em upani\d{s}ad\/},
the readers refer to the book in such sentences as: ``We read the 
{\em upani\d{s}ad\/},'' and ``We teach the {\em upani\d{s}ad\/}''\,?

{\sc Answer}: Though, from this point of view, the meanings of the root 
{\em sad}\,---\,such as loosening the causes of the world, viz.~ignorance
etc.\,---\,are inapplicable with regard to a mere book, and applicable to 
knowledge, still this is no fault, since the book, too, being meant for 
that purpose, can justifiably be denoted by that word. \ldots\ Thus with
regard to knowledge, the word {\em upani\d{s}ad} is used in its primary
sense, while with regard to the book it is used in a secondary sense.\\
\ldots\ the subject matter of the knowledge is\,\ldots\,a unique thing,
viz.~the supreme {\em Brahman} that is the indwelling Self. And the purpose
of this {\em upani\d{s}ad} is the absolute cessation of the transmigratory
state, which consists in the attainment of {\em Brahman\/}.\\
{\small\sc \'{S}ankara, Introduction, Ka\d{t}ha Upanishad}


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