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Abstract Cover Sheet


Over 3000 years of philosophical speculation characterizes the development of religious thought in India. The origins and early development of the key terminology with which Vedic and post-Vedic speculations about the nature of the self and its relationship to cosmos has not been examined. The subtlety of the UpaniSads and the philosophy of Vedaanta arose from a web of rhythmic hymns upon which the priests were said to weave both the identity of the individual and the cosmos.

As early as the Rig Veda, dating to 1800 B.C.E., a complex conception of the self centered upon tanuú (presence, body) and tmán (itself, himself) in a cosmos where the divine and human realms were intricately interconnected. During this early period, the dominant terminology of the later tradition, aatmán and púruSa, were relatively uncommon. The developing significance of tanuú and tmán as they changed over time with the increased references to aatmán and púruSa is a remarkable phenomenon of religious development which has remained unnoticed.

This study presents the first comprehensive examination of these words and a pool of fifteen terms related to the self which include references to the physical body, mental processes, and life throughout the Rig Veda and the previously unexamined texts of the Black Yajur Veda. The inprecedented breadth of this study necessitates a new application of philological examination to each attestation of each term in its synchronic context according to linguistic and semantic categories of analysis. These findings are then correlated with the diachronic change over time using electronic editions of the key texts and Hypertext Mark-up Language to track every occasion of each word according to the internal chronology of each text. This is the first such use of Hypertext to precisely examine over 1000 years of conceptual development.

The development and integration of competing notions of the self in this early period have been placed in a precise chronological framework offering the first clear view of the birth of Indian speculation about the self in the early Vedic religion.



John Robert Gardner

An Abstract
Of a thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Religion
in the Graduate College of The University of Iowa
May 1998

Thesis supervisor: Associate Professor Frederick M. Smith