Maitrayaṇiya Upanisad

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Maitrayaniya Upanisad, MaitrayaNiya Upanisad, Maitrayaniya Upanisad


The Upaniṣads are a treasure-house of spiritual wisdom. One of the more ancient Upaniṣads assigned to the period 2000 B. C. but not classed among the major ones is the Maitrāyanīya Upanisad (also known as the Maitri Upanisad) since it was originally taught by the sage Maitri and belongs to the Maitrāyanīyaśākhā (śākhā = recension) of the Krsna Yajur- veda.

The longer version as available now has seven prapāṭhakas or chapters and 73 mantras, both in prose and in poetry.

The Upaniṣad starts with the story of the king Bṛhadratha who renounced his kingdom and did severe austerities to realise the ātman. A sage, Śākāyanya by name, came to his place whereupon the king fell at his feet and begged him to teach about the Ātman. Being pleased with his earnest entreaties, the sage started teaching him.

The Vālakhilyas, the tiny sages, had got this wisdom from Kratu Prajāpati and the sage Maitri taught the same to Śākāyanya. The various and varied teachings of this Upaniṣad may be summarised as follows: The ātman, though encased in the body, is really free. This ātman is full of many blessed qualities and enlivens the body with consciousness. The whole crea-tion has emerged out of Prajāpati (the Lord of creatures). In this body there are two selves, the jīva (individual Self) and the para (Supreme Self). The Para or Brahman is attained by vidyā (knowledge), tapas (austerity) and cintā (meditation). There are several gods like Agni (fire), Vāyu (air), Āditya (sun), and the trimṅrtis (Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Rudra); but they are all manifestations of the same Brahman. The other topics dealt with are: Praṇava or Oṅkāra; the three worlds bhuh, bhuvah and suvah; gist of the Gāyatrī mantra; taking food compared to a sacri¬fice; importance of time as a cosmic element; some methods of yoga which are similar to the ones described in the Yogasutras of Patañjali (200 B. C.); descrip¬tion of the muktapuruṣa or the liberated person. Mentioning of the kings of the Solar and the Lunar dynasties, a knowledge of astronomy, familiarity with the Sāṅkhyan metaphysics and an indication about the existence of the fine-arts like drawing and dramaturgy—these are some of the specialities noted in this Upaniṣad.


References

  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore