Knowledge of Brahman as a solution to fear in the śatapatha brāhmaṇa/br̥hadāraṇyaka upaniṣad

Journal of Indian Philosophy 35 (1):33-102 (2007)
In The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James suggests that the human experience of a fundamental and existential uneasiness can be found at the core of most religious traditions, and that these traditions constiute essentially a proposed solution to this uneasiness. The present investigation focuses upon the notion of uneasiness, particularly fear, and its solution in the early Hindu tradition. Through a close examination of textual expressions of both desire and fear from the R̥gveda, the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, and the Br̥hadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad, it is proposed that “liberation” in the early Upaniṣadic period, or at least the precursor to the traditional notion of liberation, actually meant freedom from fear, rather than freedom from karma or saṁs̥ra. The Br̥hadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad suggests that the origin of duality is desire, and duality necessarily results in fear. By relinquishing the sorts of desires so frequently expressed in the earlier vedic literature, together with an understanding of the essentially non-dual relationship between the ātman and brahman, a state of complete freedom from fear (abhaya) may be achieved.
Keywords Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa  Br̥hadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad  Fear Desire  William James
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DOI 10.1007/s10781-007-9012-x
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