On the function of saṁhitā in the Saṁhitā Upaniṣad

Stephanie A. Majcher*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The Saṁhitā Upaniṣad [SU] is a little-known Vedic text that presents ‘typical’ Upaniṣadic teachings on the truth of identity alongside seemingly out-of-place descriptions of rites used to protect oneself against enemies and even against death. The difference between these contents is striking, but what it has to tell us about the SU’s main concerns is vulnerable to historical and text critical methods that rely on structure, style, and linguistic archaism to divide texts into discrete strata. What if the modern text critical practice of individually identifying and classifying textual contents obscures the use and meaning of the word saṁhitā in the SU? Is it possible that the SU’s diverse contents are intrinsically related? This article explores these questions through a close examination of a sequence of passages illustrating the contrast that has led previous scholars to see the SU as miscellaneous in character and lacking internal coherence. Through this examination, I identify a wider context for saṁhitā in the specific relationship the SU depicts between the person (puruṣa) and speech (vāc). I argue that the SU’s treatment of saṁhitā draws upon an understanding of recitation in the perspective of one’s vulnerability and the dynamics involved in developments of personhood. These findings allow the SU to emerge as an intriguing and coherent text that merits closer examination and establishes a promising approach for the study of the R̥gvedic Āraṇyakas.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)447-468
    Number of pages22
    JournalJournal of Indian Philosophy
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


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