Kaivalya Upaniṣad

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Kaivalya Upaniṣad is a minor Upaniṣad classed among the Śaiva Upaniṣads. It is assigned to the Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda. There are 25 mantras mostly in the śloka meter. This Upaniṣad concludes with an advice to repeat the Satarudriya or Rudrādhyāya. It helps the unenlightened jiva to get enough purity of mind. It ultimately leads to the kaivalya or liberation.

Content of Kaivalya Upaniṣad[edit]

Significance of Brahmavidyā[edit]

The sage Āśvalāyana approaches Brahmā (creator). Brahmā is called as Parameṣṭhi here. The sage requests him to teach brahmavidyā, knowledge of Brahman, so that he can destroy all the sins and attain the highest Puruṣa or God. After advising the disciple to cultivate faith and devotion to know the Truth, Brahmā declares that this knowledge can be attained only by tyāga or renunciation and not by rituals or progeny or wealth. Those who have obtained the knowledge of Vedānta and have purified themselves through sanyāsayoga or the spirit of renunciation, go to Brahmaloka. They attain final liberation at the end of the cycle of creation, when even the Brahmaloka gets dissolved in the Supreme Brahman.

Mode of Attaining Brahmavidyā[edit]

In order to get this, the aspirant has to meditate on Lord Śiva along with his divine consort Umā,[1] in the lotus of the heart. He should sit in a suitable posture in a lonely and pure place which is conducive to the yoga practice. When the meditation attains the stage of samādhi, he realizes his identity with the Lord. He becomes one with Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Śiva, Indra, prāṇa (vital airs) and kāla[2] Having united with past, present and future, he transcends to death. The teacher then describes the process of meditation on the inner Self by giving the analogy of the araṇis which are used to generate fire for Vedic sacrifices.

Nature of Jiva[edit]

The topic discussed next is that of the jiva.[3] In reality he is the Supreme Soul[4] from whom the whole universe evolves. This soul is apparently in the bondage due to the effect of māyā.[5] Due to this apparent bondage, he experiences the three states of consciousness. These three states are:

  1. Waking
  2. Dream
  3. Deep-sleep

Brahmā then teaches Āśvalāyana that the jīva in essence is the pure consciousness. It witnesses all the three states. In reality it is the Brahman itself. This realization of identity frees him from all the bondages.

Last part of the Upaniṣad describes the subjective experience of a realized soul. It is smaller than the smallest, bigger than the biggest. It is without limbs and parts. It can get the complete knowledge without the aid of the senses. The realized soul is accounted as Śiva himself.


  1. Umā is also known as Pārvatī.
  2. Kāla means time.
  3. Jiva means the individual soul.
  4. Supreme soul is the Paramātman.
  5. Māyā means creative, illusory power of the Lord.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore