What Our Upanishads Says About Metaphysical? – Answered!

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The philosophy of the Upanishads was the philosophy of the seers. They pursued the problem of metaphysics throughout their life.

Hence one finds gradual evolution in the idea of the Ultimate Reality in the Upanishads.

The seers enquired into the Ultimate Reality from different standpoints and persisted in their enquiry till the Reality was fully known.

Hence the philosophy of the Upanishads is not a cut and dried philosophy of one or more philosophical minds, but a process of spiritual evolution continuing from generation to generation.

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Cosmo-Theo-Psychological Search:

According to Prof. Ranade, the metaphysical problem of the Upanishads was a “Cosmo-theo-psychological problem.” The seers of the Upanishads first sought the Ultimate Reality in the creation of the world. When they were not satisfied in their search in the cosmic field, they tried to enquire from the religious standpoint.

After being disappointed here also, they searched for it in the psychological field. It is here that they found the ultimate principle of self. Later, they realized that the truth got from psychological enquiry is the same as that got from Cosmo-theo- psychological and theological enquiry.

Thus in the end they reached that ultimate knowledge which is the essence of the Self, the Nature and God i.e., that of psychological, cosmological and metaphysical fields. This is the one Ultimate Reality, the secret Brahman Thus, the metaphysical problem of the Upanishads was ultimately solved in mysticism.

1. Search in Physical Elements:


The Vedas represent the infancy of Indian philosophy and religion, when man took the physical powers as ultimate. In the Upanishads human thought had become more mature and so they realized that the natural powers are not the ultimate reality, but only external powers. In the Chandogya Upanishad, in the parable of Satyakama Jabala and his disciple Upakosala, this transition has been testified.

But here the place of natural powers has been taken by physical powers of the body. Thus, according to the Chandogya Upanishad, the ultimate reality is the eyes or the energy of the body. In the Maitri Upanishad, it is conceived of as the sound which is heard when the ears are closed.

2. Search in Psychological Elements:

Gradually, the enquirer could not be satisfied by these physical elements and so they tried to seek their satisfaction in the psychological realm. In the Kaushitaki and Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, one finds references to psychological henomena.

3. Search for Cosmic Reality:

But in due course even the psychological phenomena failed to satisfy the enquirers and they sought for the Ultimate Reality in the creation. In the Upanishads, axiological argument has been used to prove the existence of Brahman. In the Chandogya Upanishad, the word Tajjalan has been used to explain that the creation, sustenance and the destruction of the world, are in Brahman.


According to the Maitri Upanishads, “that from which all these living things have been boon, in which they live and lastly into which they will be merged, that is Brahman.” Thus even the natural powers were taken as the powers of the Ultimate Reality. In the parable of the war between the gods and the demons in the Kenopanishad, it has been pointed out that there is one ultimate power behind nature and the mind of man, and that is Brahman.

All the objects of the world shine due to Brahman. In the words of the Kathopanisad, “The sun does not shine before Him; the moon, the stars, the lightning do not shine before Him; what to say of the fire. By its shining, all these shine; by its light all these are lighted.”

4. Reality as Essence & Cosmological Argument:

Brahman in the subtle essence pervading the whole living and non-living world. In the parable of the fruit of the Nyagrodh tree in the Chandogya Upanishad, it is this principle which has been explained. The physical world is the external manifestation of that subtle essence. The soul is the essence of all things. Thus there is one essence behind both Mind and Nature and metaphysically both are one and the same.

5. Physico-Theological Argument:

Along with the cosmological argument there is attached the physico-theological argument. The teleological argument is also a form of this argument. According to physico-theological argument, Brahman controls the whole order of the universe and saves it from going on the wrong path. According to Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, the sun, the moon, heaven, earth, days, nights, months and years, seas and rivers, etc., follow their own course due to the order of Brahman.

6. Search for God:

Besides the cosmic field, the inquisitive seer searched for the Ultimate Reality in spiritual field as well. This search began with the discussion about the gods. In the Vedas, hundreds of gods and goddesses have been accepted. Gradually, their importance decreased. Ultimately, the idea of a God of gods is found. In the Upanishads, this God of gods was identified with the self.

In the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, in the discussion between Yajnavalkya and Vidagdha Sakalya, it was concluded after much reasoning that Brahman alone is the God of universe whose body is the earth, physique is the fire; mind is the night, which is the ultimate end of all human souls.

In the Svetasvatar Upanishad, one finds theistic references. According to theistic conception, God has a personality. He is one. He is the creator, the sustainer and-the destroyer of the universe. He is the master of all. He is omnipresent and omnipotent. The Nature and time are guided by him. He is the only knower. He has all the qualities. He is beyond the present, past and the future. His power is expressed in the form of knowledge and activity. He is neither cause nor effect. He is the only cause of everything. It should be noted here that according to Svetasvatar Upanishad, god is also the self of all.

7. God as Immanent:

At some places, the Upanishads have described God as immanent According to the Svetasvatar Upanishad, God is present in the fire, water, herbs, plants and the whole universe. In the Chandogya Upanishad self has been explained to be all-pervading through the analogy of the dissolution of salt in water.

Just as salt is present in every part of saline water, similarly the imper­ceptible soul is present everywhere. God has also been described as transcendent. In the Svetasvatar Upanishad God has been described as immanent and transcendent in the same verse. “God is standing silently in heaven like a tree and yet the whole universe is filled by Him.” After failing to get satisfaction by the search of reality in the created physical world, the enquirers tried to find it in the psychological field.

In the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad king Janka presents several psychological views regarding the Ultimate Reality in the context of the discourse between him and Yajnavalkya. Yajnavalkya calls all of them partial truths, because only the soul is the Ultimate Reality. In the Kenopanisad self had been called the ear of ears, the mind of minds, the speech of speech and the life of lives.

In it, the soul is said to be the inner-most essence of the physical and psychological phenomena. In the parable of Indra, Virochana and Prajapati in the Chandoyga Upanishad the self has been called the state of waking, dreaming and sleeping respectively, and lastly, it is said to be the pure self-consciousness arrived at by the psychological analysis of the three states viz., waking, dreaming and sleeping.

8. Ontological Proof:

The Upanishads have presented ontological proof of the existence of the self by taking truth as knowledge. In the words of the Taittiriya Upanishad, “The ultimate Brahman is existence, knowledge and infinite.” Similar­ly, in the Aitreya Upanishad the Prajna has been described as all gods, five elements, all beings, the eye of all material and non-material things and of the whole universe and lastly the Brahman itself.

Thus the ultimate reality has been accepted as Prajna or consciousness. This Prajna is the net result of the Upanishad enquiry into the creation, and the spiritual and psychological worlds. It is to prove this ultimate reality that various types of proofs have been used. It is the existence, the knowledge and the infinite. It is the Brahman. It is God and it is the essence of the entire mental and physical universe.

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