Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

aka Brihadaranyakopanishad

"The Brihadaranyaka is the greatest of the Upanishads; and Sri Shankara's bhashya on this Upanishad is the greatest of his commentaries on the Upanishads. The Brihadaranyaka is the greatest not only in extent; but it is also the greatest in respect of its substance and theme. It is the greatest Upanishad in the sense that the illimitable, all-embracing, absolute, self-luminous, blissful reality — the Brihat or Brahman, identical with Atman, constitutes its theme. And, according to Sri Shankara, it may be said to be the greatest Upanishad, also for the reason that it comprehends both the upadesha or revelation of the true nature of the mystic experience of the Brahman-Atman identity and the upapatti or logical explanations of that great doctrine of Advaita through the employment of the dialectic modes of argumentation known as jalpa (arguing constructively as well as destructively for victory) and vada (arguing for truth). Sri Shankara's Brihadaranyaka-bhashya is the greatest of his commentaries on the Upanishads in the sense that the great Acharya shows in this bhashya, in a very telling manner, how the great truth of Brahman-Atman identity forms the main purport of all the Vedantic texts in general and this great Upanishad in particular, and maintains by means of his powerful dialectics that the interpretations and views of others are unsound and untenable — those advanced by the Vedistic realists (Mimamsakas), the creationistic realists (Vaisheshikas and Naiyayikas) and the advocates of the doctrine of bhedabheda (difference--cum-identity) like Bhartriprapancha."

- Swami Madhavananda

"The Yajur-Veda Samhita has two forms: the Krishna (Dark) and the Shukla (White). The Taittiriya Brahmana is included in the Krishna Yajur-Veda, and the Shatapatha Brahmana in the Shukla Yajur-Veda. The Shukla Yajur-Veda was revealed to Yajnavalkya through the grace of the sun god. Hence, through a derivative meaning, it is also called the Vajasaneyi Samhita, and the Shatapatha Brahmana, the Vajasaneyi Brahmana. Both the Samhitas and the Brahmanas have a number of shakhas, or recensions, deriving from their original teachers. The Shatapatha Brahmana has two recensions: the Kanva and the Madhyandina. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad forms the concluding portion of the Aranyaka of both recensions. Shankaracharya has written his commentary on the Kanva recension. The last two parts of the Brihadaranyaka and the first part of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad describe a rite called the Pravargya Karma. Hence they really form one section. Thus the first part of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad may be regarded as the third part of the Brihadaranyaka. This Upanishad forming the concluding part of an Aranyaka is called an Aranyaka Upanishad, and not a Samhita Upanishad (as is the Isha Upanishad), because it does not belong to a Samhita.

The literal meaning of the term Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is “Great Forest Upanishad.” Shankaracharya, in the Introduction to his commentary, says that this Upanishad, consisting of six parts, is called “Great” (Brihat) because of its length and profundity, and “Forest” (Aranyaka) because of its having been taught in a forest. It contains both teaching (upadesha) and reasoning (upapatti) in support of the teaching. The theme of the book, as of all Vedantic treatises, is the absolute identity of Atman and Brahman. This identity has been established by the well-known logical method of jalpa (argument repudiating the views of opponents) and vada (reasoning for the purpose of discovering Reality)."

- Swami Nikhilananda

Reference Texts

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