General theme of the Upnishads (1)

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General theme of the Upnishads.

The main theme of the Upnishads is to surrender to God (brahm) and receive liberation from the bondage of maya (the cosmic power or the material power) and enter into the eternal state of the Divine Bliss. The Upnishads distinguish the celestial gods from the Divine forms of God.
The 33 celestial gods.

The Brihadaranyak Upnishad says that there are mainly thirty-three gods who are important in the celestial world in terms of the performance of Vedic rituals and the yagyas. Other celestial gods are affiliates to them. They are: eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas (forms of sun god), god Indra and god Prajapati.

The eight Vasus are: agni (god of fire), prithivi (goddess of the earth), vayu (god of the wind), antarikch (god of the space), aditya (sun god), dyo (god of the luminous sky), chandrama (moon god) and nakchatra (god of the nakchatras, asterism. Nakchatras are 27, called Magha, Rohini etc.)

These gods are associated with Vedic ceremonies only. They have no concern with God realization.
General definitions of soul, maya and God.

1. Souls are unlimited in number, infinitesimal (anu) in size, initially Divine in quality but eternally blemished by maya, so they are eternally bound by their karmas which are unlimited in quantity. They are part of the Divine power called jeev shakti which is affiliated to chit shakti of God. These are the souls that are under the bondage of maya. All of the souls have a chance to realize God if they follow the guidelines of selfless devotion (bhakti) to God. There are also unlimited number of such souls that are beyond the bondage of maya. They all live in the Divine abodes of their worshipped form of God as described in our scriptures.

2. Maya is a single limitless and lifeless power of God. It has three qualities, sattva (pious), raj (selfish) and tam (evil) that represent its existence when it is evolved into the form of the universe. In the state of absolute dissolution of the universe, maya stays in God in an absolutely dormant form along with the souls that are under its bondage.

3. God. Eternal, omnipresent, all-Blissful, all-Gracious, all-kind and all-loving Divine personality is God. His prime forms are: nirakar (formless aspect of God), Vishnu, Shiv, Durga, Ram and Krishn. Nirakar is established in the personal form of God, and all the personal forms of God are established in the personality of Krishn Who reveals the richest and most intimate form of the Divine Bliss, so He is called the supreme personality of God (poornatam purushottam).
Illusive nature of the world.

The Upnishads tell about the illusive charm and the fleeting pleasures of this world and also of the celestial abodes called the heaven. The Mundkopnishad says,

It means that the ardent ritualists observing Vedic discipline realized that the eternal (Divine) happiness cannot be found by Vedic observances. So, they renounced them and considering them as mayic deceptions they surrendered to God. Every person has an inherent weakness of leaning towards mayic attractions, and thus, he keeps on running after the mirage of illusive hope of receiving happiness through sensual gratifications or other egoistic activities of receiving name and fame in the world. His life ends, but the search for happiness never ends. Thus the Upnishads say to renounce the hope (nirvedmayat) of receiving happiness from worldly objects and beings and wholeheartedly turn towards God
The Upnishads give two facts: (1) The first one is that the soul does not belong to maya or the mayic world because it itself is an eternal, infinitesimal and Divine entity
and (2) the second one is that the soul has a natural and eternal relationship with God. The Upnishads describe this fact with their aphorism like tattvamasi (Chand. 6/8/7). It means: (a) (tatsadrisham tvam) Soul (in its pure form) is substantially the same as God, like a drop of the ocean and the ocean itself. (b) (tasya tvam) Soul belongs to God as it is eternally related to Him. Souls are unlimited in number.

But the truth is that the souls in the mayic realm are eternally blemished with the association of maya which is an eternally existing delusive power of God that appears and multiplies itself in the form of this world.

Thus, a person has to recognize this truth, that he is under the bondage of maya and so he has to renounce his ignorance by properly understanding the fact that he does not belong to this mayic world, he only belongs to his Divine beloved God with Whom he has all kinds of sweet relationships, and after knowing that he has to love Him wholeheartedly and selflessly.
The terms atma and brahm in the Upnishads.

The word atma technically means ‘the Divinity’. So, in the Upnishads, except for a few places, the word atma has been generally used for God, the absolute Divinity, like:

Brihadaranyak Upnishad says, “The supreme Divinity (God) should be desired by a soul to be visualized.” Aitreya Upnishad says, “The supreme Divinity (God) existed before the creation of this universe.”

The word brahm means the absolute Divinity Who is absolutely great and makes a soul great like Himself after God realization.

In the Upnishads the term brahm mostly refers to the personal form of God and occasionally to the impersonal (nirakar) aspect of God, just like the verse 7 in the Mandukyopnishad. The reason is that the nirakar aspect of God or nirakar brahm is formless and actionless and so it cannot even Grace the souls or become the creator of the universe or do any other thing of any kind. It is only the ‘purush,’ the personal form of God, Who does all those things. The Upnishads describe the Gracious kindness of God awarding liberation and His abode to the souls, and the creation of the universe etc. This is the work of the personal God only, that’s why there is very little description of the nirakar (actionless) brahm in them.