The Upanishads

Anti-Ritualism in the Mundaka Upanisad Echoed through Kabir

The strong current of anti-ritualism as expressed in the Mundaka Upanisad has reverberated throughout Hinduism, penetrating the thoughts and attitudes of the later Sant poets regarding the nature of bhakti, proper devotion. While the Mundaka and the body of writing of the Sants emanate from different contexts and offer different suggestions on bhakti, the two texts remain in general accordance.

The Mundaka attacks ritualism bluntly in the form of a discourse. The Mundaka expresses the ritualists' perspective that "immortality in rites" follows from the consciousness which ultimately emanates from Brahman and consequently turns again to Brahman (1.1.8) . Part of the text involves a description of the totality required from devotional rites, that an insufficient performance of all rites would rob one "of his worlds, up to the very seventh" (1.2.3), and that one who performs all the prescribed rites, deeds, and offerings would be carried by one's very oblations "to where the king of gods resides, / the only place to reside" and told, "'This is yours, this Brahman's world, / built by good deeds and rites well done'" (1.2.6).

The Author's response is sharp in both its...

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