Open main menu

Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 1.djvu/91

This page needs to be proofread.

such etymologies, which probably were never intended as real etymologies, in our sense of the word, but simply as plays on words, helping to account somehow for their meaning. The Upanishads, no doubt, were meant to destroy ignorance and passion, and nothing seemed more natural therefore than that their etymological meaning should be that of destroyers[1].

The history and the genius of the Sanskrit language leave little doubt that upanishad meant originally session, particularly a session consisting of pupils, assembled at a respectful distance round their teacher.

With upa alone, sad occurs as early as the hymns of the Rig-veda, in the sense of approaching respectfully[2]:—

Rig-veda IX, 11, 6. Námastâ ít úpa sîdata, 'approach him with praise.' See also Rig-veda X, 73, 11 I, 65, 1.

In the Khândogya-upanishad VI, 13, 1, a teacher says to his pupil, atha mâ prâtar upasîdathâh, 'come to me (for advice) to-morrow morning.'

In the same Upanishad VII, 8, 1, a distinction is made between those who serve their teachers (parikaritâ), and those who are admitted to their more intimate society (upasattâ, comm. samîpagah, antaraṅgah, priyah).

Again, in the Khândogya-upanishad VII, 1, we read of a pupil approaching his teacher (upâsasâda or upasasda), and of the teacher telling him to approach with what he knows, i. e. to tell him first what he has learnt already (yad vettha tena mopasîda[3]).

In the Sûtras (Gobhilîya Grihya-sûtra II, 10, 38) upasad is the recognised term for the position assumed by a pupil with his hands folded and his eyes looking up to the teacher who is to instruct him.

It should be stated, however, that no passage has yet been met with in which upa-ni-sad is used in the sense of pupils approaching and listening to their teacher. In the

  1. The distinction between possible and real etymologies is as modern as that between legend and history.
  2. See M. M.'s History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, p. 318.
  3. See also Khand. Up. VI, 7, 2.