Aitareya Upanishadis is regarded as one of the most important spiritual texts included in the Rigveda. This Upanishad includes the fourth, fifth and sixth chapters of Aitareya Aranyaka. It is one of the four layers of the Rigveda.
Before we try to understand what is Aitareya Upanishad, Let us try to understand what is an Upanishad and the history of Hinduism related to it.
What Are The Four Upanishads?
Upanishads are basically the oldest scriptures of Hinduism. They are Sanskrit texts that provide religious teaching to you. One can also relate to them as the foundations of Hinduism. Most parts of the Upanishads deal with meditation, philosophy and scientific knowledge. Whereas, some part of the Upanishads is about mantras, spiritual ceremonies and rituals. The Upanishads are the foundation of spiritual ideas and beliefs in India. The idea presented in the Upanishads is the core of Spiritual enlightenment and life around it.
There are a number of Upanishads, out of which 108 Upanishads are included in the list of sacred books and are officially accepted as genuine.
All the Upanishads are indeed associated with the four Vedas –
- Rigveda: Rigveda is a collection of 1028 Sanskrit hymns. They are spiritual prayers in reference to various Hindu Gods.
- Samaveda: Samaveda is related to chanting mantras and hymns. They are spiritual prayers offered during a sacrifice or in praise of God.
- Yajurveda: Yajurveda offers detailed ideas about the various conditions at the time of sacrifice and sacred rituals and ceremonies.
- Atharvaveda: Atharvaveda will bring in the details of everyday life for you.
Apart from the categorical association of Upanishads into the four Vedas, the two more important concepts related to the Upanishads are Brahman and Atman.
Brahman defines the ultimate reality whereas the Atman is the Inner Self. Brahman is the material cause of all the existence around us. It is genderless, eternal truth and bliss that can never change. Brahman is the ultimate source of creative principle that the universe is grown from. Whereas, Atman is the inner self you own. The immortal spirit of an individual, animal or plants is the central idea of your inmost core. Atman is the spiritual essence in all creatures and it is ageless.
Like we discussed earlier, Aitareya Upanishad is related to Rigveda, let us discuss the three philosophical themes around which Aitareya Upanishad revolves. First, man and the world is the creation of Atman. Second, Atman undergoes a threefold birth and Third, the essence of Atman is consciousness.
Three Philosophical Themes Of Aitareya Upanishad
First Chapter: Creation
Aitareya Upanishad deals with the creation of the world and its beliefs around the creation of the same. The First Chapter of the Aitareya Upanishad explains the creation of the world. It states that all living beings emerge from the self and desire to have company. It also states that Brahman created the cosmic being, Purusha, by first creating the organs and then, he created the body. Hunger and thirst were introduced so that the body can engage itself in otherworldly activities. The activities were introduced so that the body would seek nourishment and survive the world. A Spiritual body could handle all this, with the help of spiritual energy gained during penance.
Once the body was subjected to hunger and thirst, food was created, from where the energy could be received. The body could secure food and digest it. In addition to the same process, breathing was added. Breathing helps you digest the food and keep your body running. It helps to distribute your nutrients all over the various organs that your body is made of.
After the creation of the body, God designed three important points of focus in a man’s body and decided to enter through an aperture in the head. He settled himself in the eyes, the mind and the heart. The first chapter of the Aitareya Upanishad is totally focused on how a body and a soul are part of God’s creations of the world and how he designed them to continue the spiritual journey of a soul on this planet.
Second Chapter: Rebirth
The Second Chapter of Aitareya Upanishad revolves around the idea of rebirth upon the earth. It basically describes the triple births of humans. According to the same, the first birth happens when the karma enters the body of the male, through food, air and water and settles in his semen. The second birth is scheduled when the mother womb is fed with the semen, through sexual union and this, the soul becomes the part of the fetus. Finally, the third birth is the time when a baby emerges from the mother’s womb after 9 months. This is the soul’s final entry to the mortal world.
As per Aitareya Upanishad, the father and mother play a very important role in bringing a child to this world. Apart from god and destiny, a man and woman’s union is of core importance here. The Aitareya Upanishad makes it clear that the fetus in a woman’s womb is a greater responsibility bit, the father also plays an important role in this cycle of birth and rebirth.
Third Chapter: Salvation
Aitareya Upanishad has the creation, birth and death of a soul from this planet. So, in the final and third chapter, the departure of a soul from this world is being discussed. This helps the soul return to its ancestral world. The souls are brought to this plane filled in with the cycle of birth and death. They are subject to numerous rebirth or liberation according to their deeds. To achieve liberation from this planet, one should keep in check the deed they do in their journey through life.
The spirit is pure and so, it grasps knowledge and grows wisdom and desire. Everything that God creates is also guided by him and it is all a greater task to keep something hidden. When you attain a level of supreme intelligence in combination with peace and calm, one can achieve liberation.
In all three chapters of Aitareya Upanishad, the description of self-manifestation is provided. The journey of the soul from creation to birth and death is explained thoroughly. The Upanishad is important to understand the development of the body. It gives you a detailed explanation about the spiritual being and thus, deal with birth, rebirth and reincarnation. It denotes Brahman as the supreme being of self.
With all the above study there has been a conclusion made, that Brahman himself is the creator of all, and he is the one who provides everyone with multifaceted powers. He is worshipped by everybody. The gods such as Indra, the five elements and creatures born are all creations of the Brahman, The Power of Brahman is knowledge itself. The entire universe exists due to this supreme power and thus, he is the Paramatma, who alone is to be worshipped. The Aitareya Upanishad concludes with an assertion that the woman has all the knowledge of everything that exists in this universe. Moreover, the beauty of death reaches the supreme. It teaches the concept of attaining salvation and thus, being immortal after getting out of the cycle of birth and death.
The knowledge of Hindu scriptures and their application to daily life is never-ending. Try and read more about the Vedas, Upanishads and the Hindu scriptures and you will understand the process of life, birth and death are all related.