In my presentation, I would like to discuss one of Johannes’ arguments about existence of the Greater Magadha culture which is based on the analysis of selected fragments of the Upanisads (Kauṣītaki, Bṛhadaraṇyaka and Chāndogya). My main objection is that Johannes (similarly to many other researchers of classical Indian philosophy) choses from the Veda (I use this word generally, as the texts which include the four Vedas, the Brāhmaṇas, the Āraṇyakas and the early Upaniṣads) only those passages which seem to make a general sense even when they are taken out of their context. My concern is that their knowledge of the Vedic thinking is not based on careful reading of the texts — Johannes refers to a handful of passages from this huge pre-Buddhist corpus. The reason why he does not read the Vedic texts is expressed by him explicitly: ‘It is understandable that Kiparsky, and so many others with him, find it hard to think of the Aṣṭādhyāyī as contemporaneous with the Brāhmaṇas, those storehouses of magical thought (p. 203)’. Reading the Brāhmaṇas is just a waste of time!
In my books (2010, 2016/18, forthcoming), I show that the Vedic thought developed in a way any human thought develops: in the earliest texts, the fundamental assumptions about world and human beings are settled which are then elaborated by the successive generations in various ways. This means that one cannot understand the Brāhmaṇas without the knowledge of Ṛgveda and other Saṃhitās, and Āraṇyakas and Upaniṣads, without knowlegde of the Saṃhitās and the Brāhmaṇas, and moreover, the Epics without the knowledge of the Veda. I am aware that my knowledge of this huge corpus is not sufficient either, but I have read and analysed at least a part of it for the last 20 years.
I will not be able to discuss all the quotations from the Upaniṣads Johannes analyses in his book (I have discussed them to some extent in Jurewicz 2016/18). I will focus on Yājñvalkya’s teachings presented in the BU 3-4. Johannes discusses BU 3.2.13, 4.4.3, 4.4.4-7, 4.4.22 to convince us that there is a novelty in Yājñvalkya’s thinking which is adopted by him under the influence of the Greater Magadha culture. I will show how the meaning of these fragments is different when we see them in context. Yājñvalkya refers and elaborates earlier Vedic thought and there is nothing in his argument that would make us to assume any external influence.