Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad Introduction
Shukavak N Dasa
Copyright©Sanskrit Religions Institute, 2016
The Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upanishad is the largest and most important Upanishad, comprising over 600 verses, which is about the size of the Bhagavad Gita. It is the oldest Upanishad, predating Buddhism, and is thought to be composed about 700 BCE. There are 6 chapters divided into 3 topics. Chapters 1 and 2 form the ‘honey-talks’, (madhu-kāṇḍa) so called because last section, 2.5, uses the word madhu (honey) 17 times. This sections discusses the relationship between the individual soul and God. Chapters 3 and 4 form the Yājñavalkya-dialogues (Yājñavalkya-kāṇḍa) where various speakers, one by one, question Yājñavalkya, the greatest teacher of his time. And finally, chapters 5 and 6 form a supplement section (khila-kāṇḍa) that discusses various ways of worship and meditation. This Upanishad is part of the Yajur Veda and is one of the ten Upanishads commented upon by both Shankara and Madhva Acharyas, who built opposing Vedanta theologies partly based on how they interpreted this Upanishad. The Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upanishad has, therefore, had a tremendous influence on the later development of Hinduism.