Shatapatha Brahmana
   The Shatapatha Brahmana (c. 700 B.C.E.) is one of the most important texts for the interpretation of late Vedic ritual (see VEDAS). Its treatment of certain ritual ideas may have strongly influenced later Hindu philosophical developments. This BRAHMANA is attached to the White YAJUR VEDA.
   The most important part of the Shatapatha Brahmana is its elaboration on the grandest of public Vedic rites, the AGNICHAYANA or “build-ing of the fire altar.” It explains this ritual as a reenactment of the sacrifice of the primordial man or PURUSHA, which created the universe. The ritual thus becomes a cosmic process transcend-ing every mundane action. The various BRAHMINS performing the ritual identify themselves in turn with various aspects of the universe; one Brahmin is water, another the Sun, another the wind, and so on.
   This was the first Brahmana in the Vedas to make explicit the central notion that the ritual itself could represent all of reality, both seen and unseen. Over the centuries, as the ritual actors identified more and more with the ritual itself, an esoteric or highly secret form of ritual emerged, carried out within the body of the Brahmin rather than on a public ground. The priest (a highly initiated Brahmin) began to identify himself not only with the ritual, but with all reality. Thus was created the background for the philosophy of the UPANISHADS, in which the identity of the individual self merged with the ultimate reality, the BRAHMAN.
   Further reading: G. V. Devasthali, Religion and Mythol-ogy of the Brahmanas: With Particular Reference to the Satapatha-Brahmana (Poona: University of Poona, 1965); Naama Drury, The Sacrificial Ritual in the Sata-patha Brahmana (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1981); Julius Eggeling, trans., The Satapatha-Brahmana: Accord-ing to the Text of the Madhyandina School, 5 vols. (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1963).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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