Upangas can be looked at like an instruction manual, a Step 1, Step 2 explanation of the progression of gaining Knowledge. It starts with almost basic, fundamental gut feelings and leads to a fullness of all Knowledge on the highest level of life. When you read about all the different categories within Upanga, it’s important to understand that they are just names for those different stages. Nyaya, for example, is the first one. It deals with very basic, fundamental principles (laws or concepts). It ends in Vedanta which is called the end of the Veda, completion of Knowledge of the Totality and how all things fit into that. Not just as theory, but also as direct experience.
Vedangas deal with the process of gaining Knowledge as it is experienced by the individual. It is often associated with grammar, if for no other reason than grammar conveys the essence of Vedanga so beautifully. Let’s look at the evolution of grammar. It starts with the baby’s phonetics of “Mama.” Fundamental letters and syllables. Then it goes to the next stage of Vedanga that deals with words; then the next, sentences and sentence structure (grammar); then onto the syntax of the sentences, how they are phrased; and then onto the conveyance of the essence of a piece of literary work, for example an article—the gist, the meaning, contained in the paragraphs. Then it ends in a perfect expression—articulation, with mathematical precision, of the nature of everything. Jyotish means light—fully seeing the light, fully understanding and articulating, and full mastery over all the laws of nature.
The progression of both Upangas and Vedangas goes from Rishi through Devata to Chhandas, then back through Devata, returning to Rishi.
Regarding Vedangas, when a child says “Ma,” the child feels oneness with mother. Mother is the totality, everything. Then as the child goes out into the world, he goes through the processes (Devata) that bring him to the understanding of other, the objective world (Chhandas). Then through deeper and deeper understandings of everything the child has learned, that Chhandas goes through permutations (Devata) that brings him back to Rishi, the Self. But now full knowledge of the Self (Jyotish), full depth, full grandeur, total depth of understanding, seeing the light. So Vedanga starts with the self as Mommy (Ma is me), goes to knowledge of the objective world, and returns to full knowledge of the Self in Jyotish.
Upangas goes through the same cycle. It starts with the seed fundamental threads (Rishi) that weave the fabric of Knowledge. Then it gets more specific about the nature of the different threads (Devata) and then how they weave into notions of other (Chhandas). Next they become unified as a complete sense of the nature of the object which points back to the direction of the Self. As this is analyzed in more detail (Devata), it leads back to the totality of Knowledge contained in Vedanta. So Upangas go from fundamental building blocks, threads of Knowledge as concepts, then weaving the fabric to create an understanding of the objective world, and then returning to full knowledge of everything held within the Self (the Rishi value).
Upangas are sort of like an instruction guide coming from someone speaking within the Absolute and explaining the progression of gaining Knowledge.
Vedangas are like an explanation of the experiential process that one would go through in their search for Knowledge, starting with the most simple experience in Mama and leading to the ability to give full expression of Knowledge. Vedangas is the experience of the evolution of the experience of gaining Knowledge starting with reaching out to Mommy, reaching out to the totality, and culminating in a full embodiment of the totality of Knowledge in all its grandeur, finally seeing the light (Jyotish).
Upangas and Vedangas Revisited
The following is just restating the above understanding in another way. Hopefully, it will make it all clearer.
Both Vedangas and Upangas deal with the process of gaining Knowledge starting with the basics that dwell within the individual, developing those until it includes the entire objective world, and then continuing to unfold until the knowledge comes back to the Self in its fullness, where the Self is one with all that is.
The Upangas view this process from the perspective of someone in the home, in the Transcendent, viewing and coaching people that are going through the process of gaining Knowledge in the outer world. It is as if the person inside the home is calling out to the seeker, offering the seeker a step-by-step approach to gaining Knowledge—these are the Shastras, the how-to teachings of the Vedas. Of course, the seeker’s experience comes from Smriti, memory. The calling out is really the pull of Smriti, that place deep inside the seeker.
Upangas start with fundamental elements of Knowledge, like basic fundamental rudimentary principles. It builds on those principles to develop an understanding of the objective world. Then it continues until the understanding of the unity of the objective world with the subjective Self is understood in its full glory, which is called Vedanta, the end or fulfillment of the Veda.
Vedangas are the same process, but as it is experienced not by the observer who is already within the home, but by the seeker himself. Grammar illustrates this beautifully. A baby starts with one syllable sounds. Then they are built upon to create words and then sentences, describing the objective world. Then as it returns back to the subjective, the Self, the Rishi, the syntax of the sentences becomes important because it starts carrying the unique individuality of the seeker, the gist of the meaning that lies deeper than the words. That process continues as the seeker can more and more fully articulate what is contained within himself, who it is and what it is he truly is, and how he is one with everything. That process culminates in Jyotish, the light of Knowledge—full understanding, articulation, and expression of the unbounded power of the Self with mathematical precision.