The Upaniṣadic episteme

Jonardon Ganeri

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The Upaniṣads are a polymorphous collection of anecdotes, parables, and dialogues. The earliest date from around or before the sixth century bce, later ones written for many centuries afterwards. The two oldest Upaniṣads, the Bṛhadāraṇyaka and Chāndogya, were both composed before the time of the Buddha. They are symbolic, evocative and inspirational, plastic in meaning and, as with all canonical scriptures, hermeneutically pliable. Their function is to stimulate and to challenge, but they should not be taken as models of close conceptual analysis or theoretical system-building. There is, nevertheless, a broad theme and the elements of a common vision in the Upaniṣads. The fundamental idea of the Upaniṣads is that there are hidden connections between things, and that knowing what these connections are is a profound source of insight. Indeed, the term upaniṣad means a hidden connection, or possibly a secret teaching. As Joel Brereton puts it very well: Each Upaniṣadic teaching creates an integrative vision, a view of the whole which draws together the separate elements of the world and of human experience and compresses them into a single form. To one who has this larger vision of things, the world is not a set of diverse and disorganised objects and living beings, but rather forms a totality with a distinct shape and character.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Upanisads
Subtitle of host publicationA Complete Guide
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9781317636977
ISBN (Print)9781138795051
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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