Aruni (fl. c. 8th century BCE), also referred to as Uddalaka or Uddalaka Aruni or Uddalaka Varuni, is a revered Vedic sage of Hinduism. He is mentioned in many Vedic era Sanskrit texts, and his philosophical teachings are among the center piece in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and Chandogya Upanishad, two of the oldest Upanishadic scriptures. A famed Vedic teacher, Aruni lived a few centuries before the Buddha, and attracted students from far regions of the Indian subcontinent; some of his students such as Yajnavalkya are also highly revered in the Hindu traditions. Both Aruni and Yajnavalkya are among the most frequently mentioned Upanishadic teachers in Hinduism.
According to Ben-Ami Scharfstein, a professor emeritus of Philosophy at Tel Aviv University, Uddalaka Aruni was one of the first philosophers in recorded history. Debiprasad established Uddalaka Aruni as the first ‘natural scientist’ in the intellectual history of mankind.In the Chandogya Upanishad Aruni asks metaphysical questions concerning the nature of reality and truth, observes constant change, and asks if there is something that is eternal and unchanging. From these questions, embedded in a dialogue with his son, he presents the concept of Ātman (soul, Self) and universal Self.
Although nothing is known about his parentage and life, we know that he was born in modern-day Bihar. He was a very learned rishi. He had a daughter named Sujata and son named Shvetaketu.
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The name Aruni appears in many of the Principal Upanishads, in numerous verses. For example:
Sage Aruni is revered in the Hindu tradition, and like many of its revered ancient scholars, later era scholars from the earliest times attributed or named their texts after him. Some of these treatises include:
One very important work of Debiprasad ‘Science and society in ancient India’. In this book he established Uddalaka Aruni as the first ‘natural scientist’ in the intellectual history of mankind. He wrote, ‘Uddalaka collected observations as far as his historical conditions permitted him and even went on diligently to make experiments to understand nature and man.’
According to his theory, there are three elements which make up the living things, each of it is a power. The elements are heat(also heat),water and food(meaning plant).He believed the primal creation due to desire emanated hear/light, light having same desire emanated water from itself, then water having the same desire emanated food from itself, which according to him explains why there is plenty of food when it rains .Aruni explained that the existent entered these three elements and when it entered, it caused the elements to contain something of other two .Fire, for example not only contains heat but also other two elements.
One of the most well-known teachings of Atman appears in Chandogya Upanishad as the instruction of the Uddalaka Aruni to his son Shvetaketu. Uddalaka begins his explanation that one can know about the universal of a material substance from a particular object made of that substance. For example, by means of something made of clay, one can know clay; by means of an ornament made of copper, one can know copper. He gives an example for atman-brahman doctrine :Just as bees collect nectar from different sources, but when gathered together they form an undifferentiated mass; just as different rivers after flowing into the ocean become one with the ocean, similarly Atman resides individually in every being but merges with the Brahman and becomes one with it. Uddalaka next asks his son to put some salt in a glass of water. Shvetaketu does so. Upon being asked by his father to fetch the salt, Shvetaketu could not find it as it had dissolved in the water. Next, Aruni asks his son to taste the water. Upon being found salty, Aruni preaches Shvetaketu instruction on the Ultimate Reality.
He says, ‘You don’t perceive that one Reality (sat) exists in your body, my son, but it is truly there. Everything which is has its being in that subtle essence. That is Reality! That is the Soul! And you are that, Shvetaketu!"
Uddalaka Aruni is said to have systematized the Vedic and Upanishadic thoughts. Many Mahavakyas are ascribed to sage Uddalaka Aruni. Among those, "Tat Tvam Asi" (That thou art) of the Chandogya Upanishad is an oft-quoted thought in Hinduism. Its teacher is Uddalaka Aruni and the student his son Svetaketu.
His teachings extend beyond metaphysical speculations and philosophy. Parts of his works contain the seeds of Indian atomism, because of his belief that "particles too small to be seen mass together into the substances and objects of experience". Some scholars such as Hermann Jacobi and Randall Collins have compared Aruni to Thales of Miletus in their scientific methodology, calling them both as "primitive physicists" or "proto-materialist thinkers".
The Adi Parva describes Aruni as a disciple of Sage Ayoda-Dhaumya. Once a flood took place in the fields of the ashram. A breach was formed in the embankment. Dhaumya sent Aruni to stop the water from entering the embankment. After a long time, Aruni had not returned. So, Dhaumya went out to find Aruni. The latter lying in the breach of the embankment to prevent the water from entering it. Because of his loyalty, Aruni is also known as Uddalaka Aruni as a mark of his preceptor's respect.