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Altar of Words: Text and Ritual in Taittirīya Upaniṣad 2

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Abstract The following study examines the nature and purport of the Upaniṣadic text, focusing on the second chapter of the Taittirīya Upaniṣad. This chapter exhibits structural aspects that parallel those of the brick altar constructed during the Vedic ritual of agnicayana, “piling of the fire-altar.” An analysis of the chapter in light of the interpretations of this ritual in the Brāhmaṇas leads to a new understanding of the text. Rather than being primarily a revelation of doctrine, the text is a manual for a variant, verbalized form of the “piling of the fire-altar.” The verbalized agnicayana includes a ritual construction of the self (ātman) as an altar, created not by bricks, but by the words of the Upaniṣadic text.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Comparative Religion, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem Mount Scopus, 91905 Jerusalem Israel


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