By Andre Haralyi
The Sanskrit term “Upaniṣad” is derived from upa (near), ni (down) and sad (to sit), i.e. sitting down near. It makes reference to the student sitting down near the teacher while learning secret doctrines. In the Monier-Williams Sanskrit Dictionary the word Upaniṣad received an additional meaning: “setting to rest ignorance by revealing the knowledge of the supreme spirit.”
More than 200 Upaniṣads were written over a long period of time starting around the 8th century B.C.E. and going all the way up to Medieval times. The first thirteen are the oldest and considered to be the most important ones. They are referred to as the principal or main (mukhya) Upaniṣads.
Known as the book of revelations, the Upaniṣads are also referred to as śruti (what is heard or revealed) and therefore without authorship. The knowledge found in the Vedas and the Upaniṣads was revealed to the ancient sages without their effort while in a state of profound inspiration.
They represent the collection of texts on human consciousness concerning the nature of the ultimate reality (Brahman) and the path of liberation (mokṣa). The concepts of Brahman (Ultimate Reality) and ātman (Soul, Self) are central ideas in all the Upaniṣads. Self-Realization, reincarnation and breaking the cycle of death and rebirth are their focus.