The Upanishads: Foundational Scriptures of Hinduism
Online via Zoom
This is a reading and discussion course on some of the key texts forming the basis of the mystical Advaita Vedānta tradition of Hinduism. The Upanishads, dating as far back as 800 BCE, constitute the final and most profound strata of the ancient Vedic scriptures. First composed before the invention of writing, they were originally transmitted orally from teacher to student in a long and unbroken lineage. The Upanishads impart esoteric meditation practices, mantras, and philosophical insights purportedly leading to the achievement of moksha, or release from the phenomenal universe. In this course, we will read selections from three of the oldest and greatest of these: • The Brihadāranyaka Upanishad • The Chandogya Upanishad • The Katha Upanishad
In addition, we will take up selections from the foremost Hindu thinker, Shankara (c. 800 CE), who based his philosophy squarely on a monistic interpretation of the Upanishads. The central tenet of Shankara’s thought was that there is ultimately only a single spirit permeating all of reality. Ultimately, therefore, there is no difference between one being and another, for at their core all are One. Yet the world of māyā (cosmic illusion) continues to delude embodied creatures, and for this reason practice and effort are required in order to achieve moksha.
About the instructor
Ned Beach holds a PhD in Philosophy from Northwestern University and a second doctorate in Religious Studies from Stanford. He taught for three decades at various colleges and universities, the longest stint being at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, from which he retired as Professor Emeritus in 2013. Since then, he has also taught occasional courses at the University of Maine, Orono.