As time went on, the economy grew, allowing students some free time to move over long distances for philosophical and theological debate.

From about 700-600 BC, a number of Indian men stopped relying on communal rituals and instead depart to the forest in solitude, where they engaged in meditative practices to attain salvation.

They began to locate the solution to the problems of their day not in the society as a whole, but in the mind of the individual. These forest philosophers became the ideal of India’s spiritual quest.

Since they often left their families, wealth and status and started to live in the wilderness, they are often called renouncers. Others, however, continued to be married and be part of a household, while some even became the personal philosophers of local kings.

Their teachings are collected in a series of texts called the Upanishads. The word ‘upanishad’ literally means ‘to sit down beside’, referring to the passing of wisdom from teacher to student.

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