The Upaniṣads are the root or foundation (mauli) of all Vedas (śruti), the sacred scriptures of Hinduism. Each Veda is divided into four parts: saṁhitā, brāhmaṇa, āraṇyaka, and upaniṣad, which are meant for different stages of life: brahmacārīs (students), gṛhasthas (householders), vānaprastha (retirees), and sannyāsīs (renunciants). The Vedas comprise rituals (yajñas), hymns (stutis), and praises (stotras).
The Science of Vedas
The Upaniṣads describe the science of yajñas, stutis, and stotras–why yajñas must be performed and how one can be purified by chanting stutis and stotras. For example, the first stuti of Ṛg Veda is dedicated to Agni, the fire god. The Upaniṣads raise the question of how by chanting Agni stuti, one’s heart will be purified. Because the Upaniṣads speak about the science of the other three portions of Vedas, they are considered the basis or foundation of Vedas.
The Bhagavad Gītā, also known as the Gītopaniṣad, is a part of the epic Mahābhārata. It is divided into three parts consisting of six chapters each. The first six chapters deal with karma yoga, the path of action; the second six chapters deal with bhakti yoga, the path of devotion; and the third six chapters deal with jñāna yoga, the path of knowledge. The saṁhitā and brāhmaṇa portions of Vedas deal with karma yoga, which consists of yajña, dāna (charity), and tapa (austerity). The āraṇyaka portion of Vedas (also known as the upāsana khaṇḍa) deals with bhakti yoga, which involves meditation and worship. The Upaniṣads (also known as the jñāna-khaṇḍa) deal with jñāna yoga, which reveals the ultimate truth. The teaching pattern of the Gītā is precisely according to the Vedas. The last six chapters of the Gītā describe why the first twelve chapters were spoken and how karma and bhakti yoga work.
The Confidential Knowledge
The Bhagavān, the Supreme Lord, gave confidential knowledge to Arjuna, his friend and disciple, because He knows that we get the desired result quickly if we act with proper understanding. We want the result of bhakti quickly. The desire to get mukti (liberation) quickly is technically called mumukṣu, which is a concept in Śrī Sampradāya philosophy. Such a person wants to understand how bhakti principles work to follow them appropriately and achieve perfection quickly.
The Number and Essence of Upaniṣads
We don’t know how many Upaniṣads were there originally as we have lost most of them. Two hundred and thirty-two Upaniṣads are available, and one hundred and eight Upaniṣads are the main ones listed in Muktikā Upaniṣad, which describes the way to attain liberation. The Upaniṣads together worship the holy name of Bhagavān. They worship a ray of light that emanates from the tip of the toenail of the lotus feet of the Bhagavān’s name. All the Upaniṣads loudly proclaim that the essence of life is to take Bhagavān’s name and there is nothing equal to Bhagavān’s name. The essence of Upaniṣads is Bhagavān’s name and worshiping the lotus feet of the holy name, indicating that Bhagavān has a form (Śyāma Sundar).
The Universal Message of the Holy Name
The Bible also states, hallowed be thy name: let Bhagavān’s name be worshiped. In the Old Testament, which the Jews follow, it is stated that one should take Bhagavān’s name. But the Jews thought Bhagavān’s name was so tremendous and respectable that they were unqualified to chant. Consequently, they did not take Bhagavān’s name in the past, and today, they forgot that they were supposed to take Bhagavān’s name.
The holy name is the universal message for all people of all times and places. One should glorify the holy name and take shelter of the holy name. One should practice chanting all the time. Then one will achieve all perfection. Gradually, Bhagavān’s name will guide us on the path of bhakti.