As we all know that Upanishads were written to understand Vedas. Some great scholars also said that they are the branches of Vedas. My question is related to it. Yesterday in a library, I was reading some books and then I found a book written by Dr. Surendra KR Sharma. The name of the book was in Hindi Kya baloo ki bhit par khada hai Hindu dharma (Does Hinduism stand on the wall of sand). On page no. 344.enter image description here

In this book he quoted Mundak Upanishad 1:1:5. I am giving the English translation by Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. enter image description here

So my question I am confused now that Why Vedas are called inferior in Upanishads?

  • 4
    Vedas are Apara meaning secondary and Para Vidya is the Brahm Gyan. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Para_Vidya there were two different kinds of knowledge to be acquired – 'the higher knowledge' or Para Vidya and 'the lower knowledge' or Apara Vidya. The lower knowledge consists of all textual knowledge - the four Vedas, the science of pronunciation etc., the code of rituals, grammar, etymology, metre and astrology. The higher knowledge is by which the immutable and the imperishable Atman is realized, which knowledge brings about the direct realization of the Supreme Reality, the source of All.
    – user16530
    Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 7:00
  • the vedas are divided into the karma kanda, work portion, and the jnana kanda, knowledge portion. What you are calling 'the vedas' in your question is the karma kanda. It gives the knowledge of how to live a dharmic existence with rituals, hymns, etc. The jnana kanda of the vedas is the upanishads, They are not separate from the vedas. They are called the Knowledge portion because they deal with Brahman and the realization of Brahman, how to escape from dharma. Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 7:29
  • @ManuKumar That is an answer. Please write it as an answer. Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 8:24

4 Answers 4


The Vedas are divisible into two parts which are Purva Mimamsa or Karma Mimamsa dealing with rituals for Dharma, Artha, Kama and Gyana Kanda or Uttara Mimamsa/Upanishads for Moksha. Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha together are Purusartha or purpose of society and its beings. Upanishads have called Purva Mimamsa as inferior when compared to Gyana Kanda Vedanta.

Mundaka Upanishad Chapter 1

  1. Saunaka, a great grihasta, having duly approached Angiras, questioned him “What is that, O Bhagavan which being known, all this becomes known.” (3)
  2. To him he said “There are two sorts of knowledge to he acquired. So those who know the Brahman say; namely, Para and Apara, i.e., the higher and the lower.
  3. Of these, the Apara is the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda, and the Atharva Veda, the siksha, the code of rituals, grammar, nirukta, chhandas and astrology. Then the para is that by which the immortal is known.
  4. That which cannot be perceived, which cannot be seized, which has no origin, which has no properties, which has neither ear nor eye, which lias neither hands nor feet, which is eternal, diversely manifested, all-pervading, extremely subtle, and undecaying, which the intelligent cognized as the source of the Bhutas. (6)
  5. As the spider creates and absorbs, as medicinal plants grow from the earth, as hairs grow from the living person, so this universe proceeds from the immortal.
  6. By tapas Brahman increases in size and from it food is produced; from food the prana, the mind, the Bhûtas the worlds, karma and with it, its fruits.
  7. From the Brahman who knows all and everything of all and whose tapas is in the nature of knowledge, this Brahma, name, form and food are produced.

Importance of Brahmgyan over memorizing Vedic Karma kanda alone, was also explained by sage Yagyavalkya to Gargi and sage Uddalak to his son Shvetaketu.

Brihadarayanka Upanishad 3.8.9. He, O Gārgī, who in this world, without knowing this Immutable, offers oblations in the fire, performs sacrifices and undergoes austerities even for many thousand years, finds all such acts but perishable; he, O Gārgī, who departs from this world without knowing this Immutable, is miserable. But he, O Gārgī, who departs from this world after knowing this Immutable, is a knower of Brahman.

Chandogya Upanishad Chapter 6

1.1. Āruṇi had a son named Śvetaketu. Once Āruṇi told him: ‘Śvetaketu, you should now live as a brahmacārin. No one in our family has not studied the scriptures and has not been a good brāhmin’.

1.2. Śvetaketu went to his teacher’s house at the age of twelve. After studying all the Vedas, he returned home when he was twenty-four, having become very serious and vain, and thinking himself to be a great scholar. [Noticing this,] his father said to him: ‘O Śvetaketu, you have now become very serious and vain, and you think you are a great scholar. But did you ask your teacher for that teaching [about Brahman]—

1.3.‘—that teaching by which what is never heard becomes heard, what is never thought of becomes thought of, what is never known becomes known?’ [Śvetaketu asked,] ‘Sir, what is that teaching?’.

1.5. O Somya, it is like this: By knowing a single lump of gold you know all objects made of gold. All changes are mere words, in name only. But gold is the reality.

1.7. [Śvetaketu said:] ‘Surely my revered teachers did not know this truth. If they knew it, why should they not have told me? So please explain it to me, sir.’ His father said, ‘Let it be so, my son’.

2.1. Somya, before this world was manifest there was only existence, one without a second. On this subject, some maintain that before this world was manifest there was only non-existence, one without a second. Out of that non-existence, existence emerged.

2.2. The father said: ‘O Somya, what proof is there for this—that from nothing something has emerged? Rather, before this world came into being, O Somya, there was only existence, one without a second’.

2.3. That Existence decided: ‘I shall be many. I shall be born.’ He then created fire. That fire also decided: ‘I shall be many. I shall be born.’ Then fire produced water. That is why whenever or wherever a person mourns or perspires, he produces water.

3.2. That god [Existence] decided: ‘Entering into these three deities [fire, water, and earth], as the individual self, I shall manifest myself in many names and forms’.

3.3. Sat [Existence] thought, ‘I shall divide each of these three deities threefold.’ Then, having entered into these three deities as the individual self, he manifested himself as names and forms.

Thats why, after Buddhism spread in India during reign of Ashoka, many leftout Hindus attached themselves to Purva Mimamsa for Dharma,Artha and Kama naturally, and Adi Shankaracharya, champion of Uttara Mimamsa defeated Buddhists and followers of Karma Mimamsa like Mandana Mishra in scriptural debates and made them enter into Sanyass or Bhakti Hinduism of Puranas.


We should also read the next verse (1:1:6) in continuation for understanding Mundak Upanishad 1.1.5

Please read the following:

We cannot go to the Veda directly and understand anything out of it unless we are proficient in these six auxiliary shastras, or scriptures, called śikṣā kalpo vyākaraṇaṁ niruktaṁ chando jyotiṣam. All these, says the great Master, together with the original Vedas—the Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda—**should be considered ***as lower knowledge.*

They purify our minds and enlighten us into the mysteries of the whole of creation. They purify our minds because of the power that is embedded in the mantras and the emotional or religious awareness that is stimulated within us on account of the meaning that we see in the mantras, the blessing that we receive from the sages, who composed the mantras, and also the special power that is generated by the metre.

All these put together create a religious atmosphere in the person who takes to the study of the Veda. It is great and grand, worth studying. It will lift us to the empyrean of a comprehension of values that are not merely physical, but superphysical. Yet, it is not enough. There is a ‘but’ behind it. What is that greater knowledge, which is higher than this mentioned?

Atha parā yayā tad akṣaram adhigamyate: That is the higher knowledge with which alone can we reach the imperishable Reality. Learning is different from wisdom; scholarship is not the same as insight. One may be a learned Vedic scholar and very proficient in the performance of sacrifices and the invocation of gods in the heavens, but eternity is different from temporality.

All these glories of the Veda are in the region of time, and the Eternal is timeless. What is that timeless thing, that which is called Imperishable?

Yat tad adreśyam, agrāhyam, agotram, avarṇam, acakṣuḥ- śrotraṁ tad apāṇi-padām, nityam vibhuṁ sarva-gataṁ susūkṣmaṁ tad avyayam yad bhūta-yonim paripaśyanti dhīrāḥ (1.1.6)

That great Reality is to be encountered in direct experience.

  • Adreśyam: that Reality which is not capable of perception through the eyes;

  • agrāhyam: that which cannot be grasped with the hands;

  • avarnam: which has no origin;

  • agotram: which has no shape or form;

  • acakṣuḥ-śrotraṁ: which has no sense organs like us;

  • tad apāṇi-padam: which has no limbs such as feet, hands, etc.;

  • nityam vibhum sarva-gataṁ susūkṣmaṁ: which is permanent, eternal, all-pervading, subtler than the subtlest;

  • tad avyayam: which is imperishable;

  • bhūta-yonim: which is the origin of all beings;

  • paripaśyanti dhīrāḥ: heroes on the path of the spirit will behold that great Reality within their own selves.

Mundak Upanishad 1.1.5 was saying that mere learning Vedic mantras of Vedas is not sufficient to attain the Ultimate Wisdom. That is why it is calling the Vedas as Inferior to the ULTIMATE KNOWLEDGE.

  • How it is related to my answer? Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 5:22
  • 2
    @SanatanDarshan: Did you read my answer? We have to read Mundak Upanishad 1.1.6 alongwith Mundak Upaniad 1.1.5.Then we will understand the meaning. Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 5:24
  • Vedas are eternal. It's not bound to region of time. :)
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 6:01
  • 1
    @TheLittleNaruto: I am not contending the authority of the Veda. The OP asked about a verse from Upanishad. I had explained the inner meaning that the content of the Veda is Superior to the mantras of the Veda. :-) Commented Jan 4, 2020 at 6:05

Vedic karma Kanda and Jnana Kanda are both far below spiritual experience.

They study the Vedas and discuss. But they do not realize the Ultimate Reality just as a spoon does not know the taste of food.

The head carries the flowers, the nose knows the scent. The people study the Vedas. But, very few persons understand the same. Not knowing the Reality of the self, a fool is infatuated by the sastras.

When the goat stands in the shed, the shepherd seeks for it in the well in vain. The knowledge of the sastras is not competent to destroy the infatuation accruing from worldly affairs.


Having studied the Vedas and realized their essence the wise man should leave all the sastras just as one desiring corn leaves the husk.

Just as one satiated with nectar has no use of food, no one who is in search of Reality has anything to do with the sastras.

One cannot obtain release by reading the Vedas or the sastras. Release comes from experience, not otherwise, O son of Vinata.

[Garuda Purana, Dharma Khanda, Chapter XLIX]


The Upanishad verse in question refers to the Vedas interpreted only ritualistically, as inferior. It does not negate the importance of Vedic knowledge itself. Because we see the same Upanishad talk about the Vedas in high regard.


तस्मादृचः साम यजूंषि दीक्षा यज्ञाश्च सर्वे क्रतवो दक्षिणाश्च

From the Atman, came the Rk, Sama, Yajus, consecrations, yajnas, all holy works and holy donations.


क्रियावन्तः श्रोत्रिया ब्रह्मनिष्ठाः स्वयं जुह्वत एकर्षिं श्रद्धयन्तः ।
तेषामेवैतां ब्रह्मविद्यां वदेत शिरोव्रतं विधिवद्यैस्तु चीर्णम् ॥

This Brahmavidyā should be taught only to those who regularly perform all the rituals (kriyāvanta), are well-versed in the Vedas (śrotriya), committed to Vedic learning (brahmaniṣṭha), who perform their own yajnas (svayam juhvata), and have truth-belief in the Atman.

So clearly, the Upanishad feels that the prerequisite for learning about Brahman is to be completely leading a committed Vaidika lifestyle and a wise knowledge of Vedas. This shows that the Upanishad knew about the secret spiritual teachings in the Vedas hidden under symbolism. It only criticises the superficial application of Vedas.

  • superficial application as in yajnas ?
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Commented Jun 26, 2020 at 3:33
  • @TheLittleNaruto superficial i.e. like a business transaction, without deeper understanding of the symbolism.
    – RamAbloh
    Commented Jun 26, 2020 at 4:07
  • Thanks understood.
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Commented Jun 26, 2020 at 4:08
  • @RamAbloh you have come very close in solving the riddle which Sriman Madhvacharya gave solution 1000 yrs back.. The great Acharyas Sankara and Ramanujaacharya made their commenteries of brahma sustra based on 10 mukhy upanishad alone. its only Madhvaacharya included vedas. He is prologue for understanding vedas by giving commentries on 40 suktha, after many acharya of madhva tradition gave tikka tippani.. In short Appara when veda is refferred literally as it is by rhitvik and prohits..It is Para when veda is reffereed to mukhya artha that is vishnu
    – Prasanna R
    Commented Nov 11, 2020 at 17:20
  • Hello sir, Sir can you kindly have a look at my question and please help me when free? Sir really sorry to disturb you. Its purely philosophical question. Please hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/44919/19211 Commented Feb 26, 2021 at 13:29

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .