By Swami Harshananda
Types of Upaniṣads
Upaniṣads are the basic scriptures of Vedānta philosophy. Modern scholars generally divide it into two groups:
- The Major Upaniṣads
- The Minor Upaniṣads
The words ‘major’ and ‘minor’ do not refer to their size. It denotes the importance given to them by the three well-known ācāryas named as:
- Śaṅkara (A. D. 788-820)
- Ramānuja (A. D. 1017-1137)
- Madhva (A. D. 1238-1317)
Commentaries have been written on the ten Upaniṣads. Even 3 or 4 exposition of the Brahmasutras are also authored. These works are generally considered ‘major’, since they may be taken as more ancient and authoritative.
The number of the minor Upaniṣads is considerably large. Among them one group of Upaniṣads goes by a common term ‘Tāpin'. They are five in number:
- Ganeśatāpini Upaniṣad
- Gopāla- tāpini Upanisad
- Narsimhatāpinī Upanisad
- Śrīrāmatāpinī Upanisad
- Tripurātāpini Upanisad
All of the above, except the last, are further divided into two parts:
- The purva (former)
- The uttara (latter)
Content of Gopāla-purvatāpini Upanisad
The Gopāla-purvatāpini Upanisad is assigned to the Atharvaveda. It has 49 mantras divided into 6 ‘Upaniṣads’ or sections. It is in the form of a dialogue between some sages and a brāhmaṇa. This brāhmaṇa was a knower of Brahman.
This portion gives a short description of the usual Kṛṣṇa-form which facilitates meditation on him. This is followed by the mantra of Gopālakṛṣṇa for purposes of japa. The mantra has five words and hence it is called ‘pañcapada’. The mantra is:
"Klim Kṛṣnāya Govindāya Gopijanavallabhāya svāhā."
The repetition of this mantra ultimately leads to moksa or liberation.
Śṛṣṭi or creation of the world has always remained a mystery. In answer to a query regarding the same, the brāhmaṇa replies that the Lord creates the world out of the eighteen letters of the mantra. This mantra also confers Self-knowledge on Maheśvara-Śiva. It is also identical with Vāsudeva (Kṛṣṇa) himself. A beautiful hymn of obeisance to Śrī Kṛṣṇa is given next.
The Upaniṣad ends with the statement that singing hymns to Kṛṣṇa and meditating upon him will result in freedom from trans-migratory existence.
- Govinda is the ‘one who is known by the Vedas’.
- Gopījanavallabha is ‘dear to the gopīs’ or ‘the basis of the world-appearance’ or ‘the inspirer of all sciences’.
- Anañga-gāyatri mantra is "kāmadevāya vidmahe, puspā-bānāya dhīmahi, tanno’nañgah pracodayāt".
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore