BBC In Our Time - Upanishads Listening Guide


This is an optional listening guide to help you understand the assigned material. Below you will find questions to consider as you listen. You can find the original audio material by clicking here. Important terms are noted.

[0:11] Introduction – Which questions “lie at the heart” of the Upanishads? What is their style?

[1:23] World of the Upanishads – What was the “state of Indian civilization” at the time the Upanishads first start to appear? Terms: “coalesce”, “metaphysical”, “cosmological”, “immortal”, and “reincarnation”.

[5:27] Textual History – How are the Upanishads transmitted? Terms: “oral”, “elite”, and “redaction”. What does it mean to say the Upanishads are in the form of dialogues?

[10:29] Audience – Who reads these texts and why? Terms: “patron”, “patrimony”, “syllable”, “sage”, “utterance”, “cosmogony”, “etymology”, and “analogy”. What does it mean to “live by knowledge”? Pay attention to the idea of the dakshina and its role with Vedic religion.

[17:31] Brahman What is Brahman in the Upanishads? How is it described in the Upanishads? Terms: “transcendent”, “eternal”, and “pervade”. Note the examples from the Chandogya Upanishad, Mundaka Upanishad, and Kena Upanishad.

[20:29] What are the “two different ways in which conceptually we can approach the use of Brahman”?

[21:50] Atman – What can the Sanskrit word atman mean? Pay attention to the various answers and examples. Terms: “immaterial”.

[23:18] Dialogues – What examples of dialogues are given? Who was the sage Yajnavalkya? Here, a “brahmin” means priest and is a different word from theBrahmanexplained above.

[26:35] Religious Themes – What is “monism”? What is “pantheism”?

[28:08] Reincarnation – What is reincarnation? How is it explained in the Upanishads?

[29:56] What is the relationship of reincarnation to personal identity?

[31:17] Moksha – What does the Sanskrit word moksha mean?

[35:04] Influence – What is the later influence of the Upanishads in religious thought? What are the Brahma Sutras? Who was Shankara and what did he do with these texts?

Vocabulary (Sanskrit in italics)

coalesce

metaphysical

cosmological

immortal

reincarnation

oral

elite

redaction

patron

patrimony

syllable

sage

utterance

cosmogony

etymology

analogy

dakshina

Brahman

transcendent

eternal

pervade

atman

immaterial

monism

pantheism

moksha