Part Two: Classical Hinduism: A way of knowledge
By the middle of the first millennium, Hinduism seemed to enter a more reflective stage. The writings from this period of time such as the Upanishads, reflect a more philosophic inquiry into the nature of existence, the nature of human beings. Sacrifice of course does not go away, but now focus on the spiritual meaning of sacrifice. In fact, the Upanishads are interested in the meaning behind everything – the meaning behind life, even the meaning behind the gods themselves.
The answers formulated in the Upanishads were and still are profound. For example, they concluded that all the gods were manifestations or representations of a single reality - the one God – the power of the universe- which was called Brahman. Second, they reasoned that if Brahman is the soul of the universe so to speak, he is present in all things – and especially in human. Thus, the soul of human beings called the atman is nothing less than part of Brahman.
The major figure now is not the priest, but the sanyassi – the individual who renounces the world to meditate and seek wisdom.