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The Upanishads

The Upanishads, also known as Vedanta, are the culmination of the Vedas, both philosophically and chronologically. The Upanishads form a part of the Shruti shastras. They have inspired and sustained the faith of the Hindus over the millennia. Swami Harshananda, a senior sanyasi and scholar of the Ramakrishna Order, writes, "By advocating the ultimate triumph of the spirit over matter, of man over nature, the Upanishads have created, strengthened and preserved a great tradition of spirituality.... No school of thought, no religious movement, of the subsequent periods in the history of India has remained untouched by their influence, if not pervaded by them." The Upanishads are philosophical dialogues that contain the core of Vedic philosophy and thus form the fundamental jnana-kanda of Hindu philosophy.

Tradition asserts that there are more than 200 Upanishads. Among them ten are the oldest and prominent, on which Adi Shankaracharya had written his commentaries. They are Isha, Kena, Katha, Prashna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittiriya, Aitareya, Chandogya and Brihadaranyaka. Some also add three other ancient Upanishads, the Shvetashvatara, Kaushitaki and Maitri, to this list of principal Upanishads. The Upanishads explain the spiritual truths through dialogues anecdotes, allegories and stories.