(Last Updated on : 16/07/2015)
In the tranquility of forest hermitages the Upanishad thinkers excogitated on the problems of the deepest concern and communicated their knowledge to befit the requirement and necessity of the pupils near them. The visionaries of Upanishad therefore adopted a certain reticence in communicating the truth by the aura of the philosophy of Upanishad. Hence Upanishad became a name for a mystery, a secret, a discreet rahasyam, communicated only to the tested few. The methodology of Upanishad is thus unique, pointing towards the discreet communication between the Upanishad thinkers and their pupils.
Upanishads have their own unique style and the systematic explanation style of Upanishad can be categorised in four different ways like dialogue with questions and answers, narration and episodes, similes, illustrations and metaphors and most importantly, symbolism. The ideal of man's ultimate blessedness, the perfection of knowledge, the vision of the Real in which the religious hunger of the mystic for divine vision are satisfied are ideally responded amidst the unique methodology of Upanishad through the systematic style of dialogues, narratives, similes and symbolism.
This matchless methodology of Upanishad indeed ascertains the purport of the texts. The stylistic approach of dialogues with question and answer and the elaborate episodic narrations ideally unfurls the deepest truth of life in an eloquent way. On the other hand the abundant usage of the simile or illustration further aids in illustrating the meaning while throwing light on the methodology of Upanishad. The practice of investing things with symbolic meaning thus contours the base of the methodology of Upanishad while making the text a representation of the timeless truths of eternity. Symbolisms employed by the Upanishads are essentially of three types. While Nature symbolism is common in the methodology of Upanishad, it is the usage of the sacrifices and sacrificial items as symbols and the use of the mystic sound syllables (such as the Aum as symbols) silhouettes the methodology of the Upanishad.
Brahma Sutra, the aphoristic summary of the teaching of the Upanishads,
However indicates three main guidelines to understand the purport of the Upanishads:
tattu samanvayaat.h -- The total material available on the point of study in the entire Shruti literature has to be taken into account and interpreted correctly
gati samaanyaat.h - The entire Shruti literature has the same purport and apparent contradictions are resolved by proper study and interpretation.
sarvavedaantapratyayam.h -- The underlying purport of the Upanishads is found to be one consistent truth, which when understood fully will lead to the realization of the Ultimate Reality.
In the midst of dialogues, symbolism and narratives what exist is an evolved methodology of teaching deeply embedded in the Upanishads which has been transmitted from one generation to the other. By this methodology of the Upanishad the student is gradually taken from where he is, to a point where he cannot but see the ultimate reality.