The Upaniṣads are the earliest source Vedic texts wherein can be found the roots of all later Hinduism. It is in these texts that we find notions such as yoga, karma, moksha, ātman, reincarnation, bhakti, etc., first clearly expressed. All later Hindu schools of yoga trace their origins back to, so they stand as the foundation of all traditional Hindu spirituality. The Upaniṣads are also the main canonical texts for the variegated Vedānta traditions, which base their various understandings of the relationship between Brahman, the Absolute Truth, the ātman, the individual soul or consciousness in all embodied beings, and the world.
This course will engage the most famous and oft-quoted selections from the primary Upaniṣads – reading passages from the longer and more archaic Upaniṣads, such as the Brihadāranyaka and Chāndogya, as well as the entirety of the shorter Upaniṣads, such as the Katha and Iśa. We will find the earliest seeds of Indian philosophy in these texts, as well as beautiful metaphorically delivered expressions of the spiritual quest.
The course will also consider the opening verses of the Vedānta Sūtra, a text which sets out to systematize the unsystematic material of the Upaniṣads. Here we will encounter the interpretative lenses of two important Vedånta traditions – that of Advaita (non-dualist) Vedānta of the 8th – 9th-century theologian Śañkara (the lineage from which the great 20th-century Śivānanda stemmed) and that of the vishishtādvaita tradition of the 12th-century theologian Rāmanuja (the lineage from which the renowned Krishnamacarya hailed), which allows a more dualist understanding of the relationship between Brahman and the ātman. Thus we will trace the influence of these texts on the orientations of these two great masters, Śivānanda and Krishnamacharya, who stand behind much of exported Western yoga.
Edwin Bryant received his Ph.D in Indic languages and Cultures from Columbia University. He taught Hinduism at Harvard University for three years, and is presently the professor of Hinduism at Rutgers University where he teaches courses on Hindu philosophy and religion. He has received numerous awards and fellowships, published six books and authored a number of articles on Vedic history, yoga, and the Krishna tradition. In addition to his academic work for the scholarly community, Edwin's Penguin World Classics translation of the Srimad Bhagavata Purana, the traditional source for the story of Krishna's incarnation, is both for Indology specialists as well as students and those interested in Hinduism from the general reading public and the yoga community.As a personal practitioner of yoga for 35 years, a number of them spent in India studying with traditional teachers, where he returns yearly, Edwin strives to combine academic scholarship and rigor with sensitivity towards traditional knowledge systems. In addition to his academic course load, Edwin currently teaches workshopson the Yoga Sutras, Bhagavad Gita, and Hindu Philosophy at yoga studios and teacher training courses throughout the country. His translation of and commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (North Point Press, a division of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009) is specifically dedicated to contributing to the growing body of literature on yoga by providing insights from the major pre-modern commentaries on the text with a view to grounding the teachings in their traditional context.