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Chapter Summary

The central theme of the Upaniṣads is the identity between ātman and brahman. However, the two concepts and the relationship between them undergo complex modifications over time. Brahman, the cosmic force, is often regarded as the foundation of the world or as the material cause of the universe (Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad). Ātman is described as a creator in the Aitareya Upaniṣad, a personal deity in parts of the Kaṭha Upaniṣad and the oldest layers of the Śvetāśvatara. Theistic strands are found in the very oldest of the Upaniṣads, in the depictions of ātman and brahman as personal divine creators. The one person who was the most influential in creating an Upaniṣadic canon from all the numerous Upaniṣads in existence in the 7th–8th centuries C.E. was the Advaita Vedānta philosopher Śaṅkara.

Keywords: ātman; Śaṅkara; Aitareya Upaniṣad; Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad; brahman



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