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What is the real subject matter of the Upanishads? – Swami Tejomayananda

In all the four Vedas there are the three sections of karma, upasana, and jnana. The jnana section is comprised of many Upanishads. Even though there are more that 108 Upanishads in the Vedas, the knowledge taught in them is the same – the knowledge of the self.

For all of us living here in this world, questions such as, “Who am I, what is this world, and where did it come from?” eventually arise. The first question is related to myself and my own true nature, while the second question relates to the nature of the world that I see around me. Our desire for the knowledge that will answer these questions is fulfilled in the Upanishads. They tell us that Brahman is the origin of this creation and is also our own true nature.

The next question we would want to ask is what is Brahman? Brahman is that from which we all beings are born, that by which they are sustained and that unto which they return.

Swami Tejomayananda
Source: Hindu Culture – An introduction – Page 42 - 43

An explanation of above passages:

The Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, are divided into four main sections: Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, and Atharvaveda. Each Veda consists of various texts, including hymns, rituals, and philosophical teachings. Within these Vedas, there are three primary paths or sections of spiritual practice known as karma, upasana, and jnana.

Karma: The karma section deals with rituals, actions, and duties prescribed for individuals according to their societal roles and stages of life (ashramas). These rituals are believed to generate positive karma and lead to spiritual growth and material prosperity.

Upasana: Upasana refers to worship or meditation practices aimed at cultivating devotion, concentration, and closeness to the divine. This section emphasizes the importance of prayer, meditation, and other spiritual disciplines as a means to connect with the divine and purify the mind.

Jnana: The jnana section comprises the philosophical teachings of the Vedas, particularly the Upanishads. Jnana, meaning knowledge or wisdom, focuses on the understanding of the true nature of reality, the self (atman), and the ultimate truth (Brahman). The Upanishads explore profound philosophical concepts such as the identity of the individual soul with the universal consciousness, the nature of existence, and the path to self-realization or enlightenment.

While there are more than 108 Upanishads, traditionally considered to be minor and major Upanishads, the essence of the knowledge imparted in them remains the same – the realization of the self or the atman. Despite variations in style, language, and emphasis, the overarching theme of the Upanishads is the exploration of the fundamental truths of existence and the quest for spiritual enlightenment.

Therefore, within the jnana section of the Vedas, the Upanishads serve as a repository of spiritual wisdom and insight, guiding seekers on the path of self-discovery and liberation from the cycle of birth and death (samsara). The unity of their teachings underscores the profound and timeless nature of the knowledge of the self as elucidated in these sacred texts.