From the Altar of Fire to Yoga – Coherence and Concept of the Kaṭha Upaniṣad


Dominik Haas

  • Supervision: Marion Rastelli

The famous Kaṭha-Upaniṣad has often been said to be incoherent and contradictory. Most of those who tried to interpret it could not reconcile the Vedic fire ritual with the methods of gaining mystical insight and the yoga practices the text teaches. My master's thesis tries to explain how such a heterogeneous text could have been compiled. In my opinion, the Upaniṣad was created to defend the existence of an immortal soul against the "nihilistic" view purportedly propounded by Buddhism. By identifying the traditional goal of going to Heaven after death with the final release from the cycle of rebirths, the text’s aim was to legitimize yoga anew as an old Brahmin practice. Analysis of its cohesion and coherence indicates that the Kaṭha-Upaniṣad cannot be said to contain a self-consistent textual core. Rather, it was conceived to combine different religious goals and practices right from the very start.