UPANISHADS

UPANISHADS


Kena Upanishad 1,1 to 1,4 verses, Samaveda, Sanskrit, Devanagari

While there are numerous upanishhads (1180), 108 of them are considered genuine (given by the list in Muktika upanishhad). Eleven of them including Katha-Upanishad, Mundaka Upanishad, Taittirîyaka-Upanishad, Brihadâranyaka Upanishad, Svetâsvatara Upanishad, Prasña Upanishad, Maitrâyana Brâhmana Upanishad, Isha Upanishad, Kena Upanishad and Chandogya Upanishad are considered the most significant or "major" upanishhads since they have been commented upon by the major acharyas (teachers) of various traditions. Upanishhads means 'to sit down near' because they were explained to the students sitting near the feet of their teacher.

According to the BBC: “The Upanishads were so called because they were taught to those who sat down beside their teachers. (upa=near, ni=down, shad=sit). These texts developed from the Vedic tradition, but largely reshaped Hinduism by providing believers with philosophical knowledge. The major Upanishads were largely composed between 800-200 B.C. and are partly prose, partly verse.Later Upanishads continued to be composed right down to the 16th century. Originally they were in oral form. [Source: BBC |::|]

“The early Upanishads are concerned with understanding the sacrificial rites. Central to the Upanishads is the concept of brahman; the sacred power which informs reality. Whilst the priests (brahmins) had previously been the ones who, through ritual and sacrifice, had restricted access to the divine, now the knowledge of the universe was open to those of the high and middle castes willing to learn from a teacher.” |::|

In the introduction to the "Hindu Scriptures", R.C. Zaehner wrote: “The Upanishads investigate the nature of reality and their main conclusion is that in both the universe at large and in the individual human being there is a ground of pure Being which is impervious to change."

Sri Aurobindo (1872 - 1950), a translator of The Upanishadic translations: “The Upanishads are Vedanta, a book of knowledge in a higher degree even than the Vedas, but knowledge in the profounder Indian sense of the word, JnanaJnana. And because it is only by an integral knowing of the self that this kind of direct knowledge can be made complete, it was the self of the Vedantic sages sought to know, to live in and to be one with it by identity. And through this endeavour they came easily to see that the self in us is one with the Universal Self of all things and that this self again is the same as God and Brahman, a transcendent Being or Existence, and they beheld, felt, lived in the inmost truth of man´s inner and outer existence by the light of this one and unifying vision. The Upanishads are epic hymns of self-knowledge and world-knowledge and God-knowledge. “


Prashna Upanishad, Sanskrit, Devanagari script

Chandogya Upanishad 3.13.7 reads:
There is a light that shines beyond all things on Earth,
beyond us all,
beyond the heavens,
beyond the highest,
the very highest heavens.
This is the light that shines in our heart.

Websites and Resources on Hinduism: Hinduism Today hinduismtoday.com ; Heart of Hinduism (Hare Krishna Movement) iskconeducationalservices.org ; India Divine indiadivine.org ; Religious Tolerance Hindu Page religioustolerance.org/hinduism ; Hinduism Index uni-giessen.de/~gk1415/hinduism ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Oxford center of Hindu Studies ochs.org.uk ; Hindu Website hinduwebsite.com/hinduindex ; Hindu Gallery hindugallery.com ; Hindusim Today Image Gallery himalayanacademy.com ; Encyclopædia Britannica Online article britannica.com ; International Encyclopedia of Philosophy by Shyam Ranganathan, York University iep.utm.edu/hindu ; Vedic Hinduism SW Jamison and M Witzel, Harvard University people.fas.harvard.edu ; The Hindu Religion, Swami Vivekananda (1894), Wikisource ; Hinduism by Swami Nikhilananda, The Ramakrishna Mission .wikisource.org ; All About Hinduism by Swami Sivananda dlshq.org ; Advaita Vedanta Hinduism by Sangeetha Menon, International Encyclopedia of Philosophy (one of the non-Theistic school of Hindu philosophy) ; Journal of Hindu Studies, Oxford University Press academic.oup.com/jhs ; Hindu Texts: Sanskrit and Prakrit Hindu, Buddhist and Jain Manuscripts Vol. 1 archive.org/stream and Volume 2 archive.org/stream ; Clay Sanskrit Library claysanskritlibrary.org ; Sacred-Texts: Hinduism sacred-texts.com ; Sanskrit Documents Collection: Documents in ITX format of Upanishads, Stotras etc. sanskritdocuments.org ; Ramayana and Mahabharata condensed verse translation by Romesh Chunder Dutt libertyfund.org ; Ramayana as a Monomyth from UC Berkeley web.archive.org ; Ramayana at Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org ; Mahabharata Online (in Sanskrit) sub.uni-goettingen.de ; Mahabharata holybooks.com/mahabharata-all-volumes ; Mahabharata Reading Suggestions, J. L. Fitzgerald, Das Professor of Sanskrit, Department of Classics, Brown University brown.edu/Departments/Sanskrit_in_Classics ; Mahabharata Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org ; Bhagavad Gita (Arnold translation) wikisource.org/wiki/The_Bhagavad_Gita ; Bhagavad Gita at Sacred Texts sacred-texts.com ; Bhagavad Gita gutenberg.org gutenberg.org

Importance of the Upanishads

Sanderson Beck, a writer, peace activist and philosopher, wrote: “The Upanishads have been perennial sources of spiritual knowledge. The word upanishhad means secret and sacred knowledge. This word occurs in the Upanishads themselves in more than a dozen places in this sense. The word also means "Texts incorporating such knowledge." There are ten principal Upanishads. Other than these, a few more like Shvetaashwatara and KaushiTaki are also considered important. Though it is known that even before Sri Shankara, commentaries were written on the Upanishads, these have been lost. Sri Shankara's commentaries on the principal Upanishads are the earliest available. Sri Ramanuja has not written any commentaries on them, but a later disciple Sri Rangaramanuja has written them. Sri Madhvacharya has written commentaries (bhaashya-s) on the ten principal Upanishads. Interpretation of passages from these and other Upanishads is also discussed by him in his Suutra-Bhaashya, which is mainly about the interpretation of Shruti texts and also in his other major works like Anu-vyaakhyaana, Vishnu-tatva-vinirNaya, and Tattvodyota. [Source: dvaita.org]


yoga is rooted in the Upanishads, or so they say

“Modern thinkers generally hold that the earliest literature of India is the Vedas, of which Rg Veda was the first to be composed. These were hymns in praise of nature gods, which emphasised ritualism and had little philosophic content. Some have even attempted statistical analysis of the number of times individual god names were taken up for praise and concluded that Vishnu, later extolled as the Supreme God, has fewer hymns than the more common Indra, Agni and Varuna. Subsequent compositions called braahmaNa-s and araNyaka-s both in verse and prose contain attempts in explaining philosophical and cosmological questions. Upanishads were composed next in order and contain the highest flights of philosophical speculation in Vedantic thought. While perhaps it is comforting to reduce the entire source material of Vedanta philosophy into a well ordered scheme which the modern mind can easily understand, there are serious discrepancies in this theory.

“Vedantins who profess the Vedic streams of all hues have traditionally believed that the Vedas and Vedanta literature is apaurushheya, not composed by anyone (including God) and hence beginningless and eternal. Even the name used for the Vedas for thousands of years of human memory -- Shruti indicates this fact, which is also justified by rigorous logic. Far from being a collection of disjointed hymns, which the Vedas are made out to be by people ignorant of them, there is in them a thread of unity of thought, in describing a Supreme Being, who is different and who is the inner controller of all other beings, including the so called nature gods. The artificial division of the mass of Vedic literature into karma kaaNDa (dealing with rituals) and j~nAna kANDa dealing with Philosophy is untenable, in the context of the three fold interpretation of the Vedas, explained for the first time by Sri Madhva, in his Rgbhashya.

“According to Madhva, the Brahma Suutra's OM gatisAmAnyAt.h OM clearly indicates the decided position of its author, Veda Vyaasa, that all the Vedas, believed to be infinite in extent, have eka-vaakyata unity in stating the conclusion. Be as that as may, the ten principal Upanishads contain the essence of the philsophical teaching of the entire Vedic religion. The Brahma Suutra, composed by Veda Vyaasa, accepted as the authority for the correct interpretation of the Vedas refers to a number of well known Upanishadic texts and gives clues regarding their correct and consistent interpretation. All the different founders of Vedanta schools have started from the basic position of the infallibility of the Vedas, Upanishads and the Brahma Suutra and have tried to justify the claims that their own conclusions are in accordance with them.

Central Theme of the Upanishads

Sanderson Beck, a writer, peace activist and philosopher, wrote: Sri Shankaracharya and some of his modern followers take Monism or Atmaikya, and Absolutism or nirguNa-brahmavaada to be the central theme of Upanishads. Consequently, Idealism or the world being merely a projection, which is unreal, is also taken to be a tenet of the Upanishads. Thus upaasanaa (worship) and bhakti (devotion) are relegated to a secondary position, being needed only up to a point in the spiritual evolution of the soul. Liberation, the final goal of spiritual development becomes less attractive, as the seeker loses his own identity in his merger with the Absolute. The entire process of Creation delineated with such great care in the Upanishads is reduced to a mere illusion. [Source: dvaita.org]

“Texts describing Brahman, the Supreme Being, as sarvaj~na (all knowing), sarva-shaktimaan (All Powerful) are also relegated to be descriptions of Ishwara or the Saguna Brahman, who is also a product of the universal Avidya, while Brahman is actually nirguNa or without any attributes in absolute reality. Some of the richest material in the Upanishads delineating the glory of God, the process of creation, prescribing different methods of upaasanaa, Eschatology, recommending meditation, devotion etc. have to be relegated to a secondary position, as they are essentially dealing with the machinations of the unreal Avidya, which vanishes into "nothing," when the soul is liberated and discovers its identity with the formless and attributeless Brahman. In other words, much of Upanishadic texts are worthless and untrue in the domain of the final reality. On the other hand, a few passages are elevated to decisive importance, as they can be interpreted, in a limited sense, to convey Monism.


Isha Upanishad Verses 1 to 3, Shukla Yajurveda, Sanskrit, Devanagari


“Anyone who has an acquaintance with the deep and mystical atmosphere conjured up by the Upanishads can not accept this position. The central theme of the Upanishads is not Monism but Monotheism, the concept of an all pervasive, immanent supreme being. He is not nirguNa (attributeless), but is guNaparipuurNa -- full of all possible auspicious qualities. The very word brahma indicates this basic delineation of the Supreme Lord. Such a theme brings all the rest of the passages in the Upanishads into proper focus and makes them fully meaningful and essential for the aspirant. All of them will contribute in one way or the other to the development of this central theme and none of them will look secondary or suprefluous. In the larger context of the Vedanta, as a whole, the Vedas, Brahmana-s, Aranyakas, Upanishads and the great Epics which include the other Prasthaana texts -- Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Suutra are woven into a glorious tapestry of the indescribable but realizable, fathomless but understandable glory of the Supreme Person, who has been extolled by great devotees in all Bhakti compositions. The artificial concept of two Brahmans, Saguna and Nirguna simultaneously existing, though totally different in essence, created by Monism to explain away the wealth of texts describing the glory of the Lord is done away with, with a simple explanation of nirguNa being One who completely transcends the three guNa-s -- sattva, rajas and tamas constituting prak.rti, which is responsible for the world as we know it.”

Organization of the The Upanishads

Sanderson Beck wrote: “The Upanishads have their own unique style. Their exposition is in four different ways: 1) Dialogue with questions and answers; 2) Narration and episodes; 3) Similes, metaphors and illustrations; and 4) Symbolism. [Source: dvaita.org]

“Normally, it is not difficult to ascertain the purport of the texts in the first two types. In some cases, the questions and answers are of the reductio-ad-absurdum type and the correct conclusion has to be drawn. In the cases 3 and 4, it is more difficult to ascertain the purport, as which aspect or shade of meaning of the simile or illustration is being used to illustrate the meaning. However, clues are available in the wording of similes etc and also in the following passages. These have been exploited effectively by Sri Madhva in his interpretations. Symbolisms employed by the Upanishads are essentially of 3 types -- Nature symbolism, sacrifices and sacrificial items used as symbols, and mystic sound syllables such as Aum being used as symbols. These need careful study. Many symbols, similies, illustrations, and episodes are repeated in different Upanishads, sometimes with slight changes. A good many verses are also repeated. The correct meaning can be derived by applying the supreme test of consistency to the different occurences, in addition to the other criteria mentioned earlier.

“The Brahma Suutra indicates three main guidelines to understand the purport of the Upanishads: 1) tattu samanvayaat.h -- The total material available on the point of study in the entire Shruti literature has to be taken into account and interpreted correctly by applying the canons of interpretation. 2) gati samaanyaat.h -- All the Shruti literature have the same purport and apparent contradictions are resolved by proper study and interpretation; 3) sarvavedaantapratyayam.h -- The underlying purport of the Upanishads is found to be one consistent truth, which when understood fully will lead to God-realization.”


Aitareya Upanishad, Sanskrit, Rigveda, Devanagari script, 1865 CE manuscript


“It is only the lack of utilisation of the guidelines fully and properly that has led many commentators to derive Monism and Absolutism out of Vedanta. Traditional monistic commentators had a committed approach towards "proving" their school irrespective of the actual correct meanings derived from Vedanta texts. Modern neo-Vedantic scholars have very limited equipment in terms of knowledge and intelligence with which to exhaustively use the critical apparatus, and have hence made a thorough mess in their interpretations, which often conflict with or misinterpret the positions adopted by the senior scholars whose lead they are supposed to be following. “

Central Theme of the Upanishads: Delineation Of a Supreme Lor

Sanderson Beck wrote: “The central theme of Upanishads is Monotheism or the delineation of a Supreme Being as the cardinal principle of the universe. This is designated as Brahman, Atman, Akshara, Akaasha, PraaNa, etc. In the Upanishads, Akaasha and PraaNa can also mean the element Akaasha, the deity Vayu etc. The meaning applicable in a particular text has to be derived with the help of attributes mentioned therein. [Source: dvaita.org]

“ The Supreme Principle is described as the Creator, Sustainer, Regulator, Destroyer, Enlightener and Liberator of all. It is also the one and only Independent Principle upon which all other entities are dependent. It is Immanent and Transcendent. It admits of contradictory features of everyday experience being present in it simultaneously -- aNu (atomic) and mahat.h (infinite), etc. Being Infinite in all respects, it cannot be comprehended by anyone completely. It has no drawbacks or blemishes of any kind. It directs all and is not directed or constrained by anyone. It is absolutely independent in its very nature and essence, functions and comprehension and innate unlimited bliss, none of which need any element external to it for its completeness. All others derive their limited qualities and capacities from it. It is thus described as Sat, Chit and Ananda in its essential nature.

“The features of the Supreme Lord are described almost in all the Upanishads. PraaNa occupies an important place in the Upanishads next only to the Supreme being. The Chhaandogya and ShaTprashna Upanishads, in particular, bring out the role of PraaNa, who is His chief aide and is superior to all other deities. He is however eternally and completely subservient to Lord Vishnu, the Supreme being. Upanishads clearly distinguish between the Supreme Being and other souls. Their basic differences which are in their essential nature itself are contrasted in several texts. The metaphor of the two birds, one reaping the fruits of its past deeds and the other not doing so is found more than once. The Causus-belli of the Upanishads -- to enable the souls to attain liberation by the grace of God, would be totally incongruent and lost, if they have no locus standi in their essential nature as distinct fron the world and the Lord. Upanishads are also clear about the reality of the external world (other than the souls) and state it clearly more than once. prakrti or primordial Nature is the material cause of the world, while God is the efficient cause.


Chandogya Upanishad vivarana, Whish manuscript collection, Kahle-Austin Foundation, Sanskrit, Grantha script


“ The text eka vij~nAnena sarvavij~nAna does not support the Vivarta theory of Advaita, which reduces the external world to an unreal state in essence. A number of upaasana-s are described. The importance of shravana, manana etc. Is stressed. The need of vairaagya (detachment from material entities), bhakti (devotion towards the Lord), etc., for the aspirant in his efforts to achieve salvation is delineated. The doctrine of prasaada (God's grace) is mentioned more than once. Eschatology is described through texts explaining devaayaNa and pitraayaNa. Thus all that is necessary to pursue the spiritual path is covered in the Upanishads. With a view to give a more detailed picture of the contents of each of these Upanishads, a summary of the subjects dealt with along with essential points in each is now given under separate headings.”

Creation of the World According to the Upanishads

Creation of the World According to the Upanishads: 1) There was nothing whatsoever here in the beginning. By death indeed was this covered, or by hunger, for hunger is death. He created the mind, thinking 'let me have a self' (mind). Then he moved about, worshiping. From him, thus worshiping, water was produced. . . .
2 . . . .. That which was the froth of the water became solidified; that became the earth. On it he [i.e., death] rested. From him thus rested and heated (from the practice of austerity) his essence of brightness came forth (as) fire.
3) He divided himself threefold (fire is one-third), the sun one-third and the air one-third. He also is life [lit., breath] divided threefold, . . . (Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad, 1, 2, 1-3.) [Source: S. Radhakrishnan (editor and translator), “The Principal Upanishads” (New York: Harper & Row, 1953), PP. 151-2, 399, 447-9,, Eliade Page website]

1) The Sun is Brahman-this is the teaching. An explanation .thereof (is this). In the beginning this (world) was non-existent. It became existent. It grew. It turned into an egg. It lay for the period of a year. It burst open. Then came out of the eggshell, two parts, one of silver, the other of gold. That which was of silver is this earth; that which was of gold is the sky. What was the outer membrane is the mountains; that which was the inner membrane is the mist with the clouds. What were the veins were the rivers. What was the fluid within is the ocean. (Chandogya Upanishad, III, 19, 1-2.)

The sage Uddalaka presents another view: in the beginning was Being alone: 1 In the beginning, my dear, this was Being alone' one only without a second. Some people say 'in the beginning this Was non- being alone, one only; without a second. From that non-being, being was produced.'
2) But how, indeed, my dear, could it be thus? said he [i.e., the sage Uddalaka], how could being be produced from non-being? On the contrary, my dear, in the beginning this was being alone, one only, without a second.
3) It thought, May I be many, may I grow forth. It sent forth fire. That fire thought, May I be many, may I grow forth. It sent forth water. . . .
4) That water thought, May I be many, may I grow forth. It sent forth food. . . . (Chandogya Upanishad, VI, 2, 1-4.)


Katha Upanishad, Sanskrit, Grantha script, Whish Manuscript Collection


Katha Upanishad: Ancient Inner World Model of Man

The Katha Upanishad narrates a conversation between a sage by the name of Naciketas and Yama, the god of death, in which much concerning the nature of the Inner Nature of Man is presented. The following selection compares the Nature of the Inner Man with the configuration arrangement of a horse-drawn chariot.

Part of Chapter III of the Katha Upanishad reads: [Like] light and shade [there are] two [selves]
[One] here on earth imbibes the law (rta) of his own deeds:
[The other,] though hidden in the secret places [of the heart],
[Dwells] in uttermost beyond.
So say [the seers] who Brahman know,
The owners of the five fires and of the three Naciketa fires. [Source: "Hindu Scriptures", translated and edited by R.C. Zaehner (Oxford, Everymans University Library, 1966]

We may master the Naciketa fire,
[Sure] bridge for men who sacrifice,
Seeking to reach the [further] shore
Beyond the reach of fear, -
[The bridge that leads to] Brahman,
Imperishable, supreme.

Know this:
The self is the owner of the chariot,
The chariot is the body,
Soul (buddhi) is the [body's] charioteer,
Mind the reigns [that curb it].

Senses, they say, are the [chariot's] steeds,
Their object the tract before them;
What, then, is the subject of experience?
'Self, sense and mind conjoined,' wise men reply.

Katha Upanishad: Chapter I

Chapter I of The Katha Upanishad reads:
[A certain] Usan, son of Vajasravas,
gave away all his property.
He had a son called Naciketas;
And as [the cattle to be distributed as] the fee for the sacrifice performed
were being brought near,
faith entered into him, boy though he was,
and he thought:
"They drink water, eat grass, give milk, insensitive:
Joyless the worlds to which the giver of these must go!" [Source: "Hindu Scriptures", translated and edited by R.C. Zaehner (Oxford, Everymans University Library, 1966]

He said to his father,
"Daddy, to whom will you give me?"
[And he said it] a second and a third time.
His father said to him:
"I'll give you to death".

[Naciketas speaks:]
Of many the first to go.
Of many the middlemost,
What is Yama (Death) to do with me,
For today I'm his concern?


Yama Teaches Naciketas

Look back, [how fared] the first,
Look forward, [how fared] the last:
Like a corn a man grows up,
Like corn he is born again.

Like a fire a Brahman guest
Enters a house;
To appease [his fiery anger],
Bring water, [Yama,] Vivasvat's son.

Hope and expectation, conviviality and good cheer,
Sacrifice, its merit, sons, cattle, - all of this
The Brahman wrests away from the man of little wit
In whose house he, nothing eating, dwells.

[Yama, the god of death, returning after three days' absence and finding
that Naciketas has not received the hospitality due to Brahmans, says:]
Since for three nights, O Brahman, thou hast dwelt
In [this] my house, an honoured guest, [yet] nothing eating.
I now salute thee, Brahman, may it go well with me.
Three boons [I grant] thee, choose [what thou wilt].

[Naciketas speaks:]
Let my father's ill-will be stilled, let him be well disposed,
Let his anger with me melt away, O Death:
Let him greet me kindly, dismissed by thee:
Of the three boons this the first I choose.

[Yama speaks:]
Thy father, Auddalaka Aruni, as before
Will be well pleased [with thee] dismissed by me;
His anger spent, how sweet his sleep at night will be,
When he [again] beholds thee from the jaws of Death set free.

[Nicaketas speaks:]
In paradise there is [no such things as] fear;
Thou art not there, nor shrinks one from old age.
Hunger and thirst, these two transcending,
Sorrow, surpassing, a man makes merry in paradise.


Yama on a buffalo

O death, thou understand the fire that leads to paradise;
Declare it [then] to me, for I have faith:
The heavenly worlds partake of immortality;
This do I choose as my second boon.

[Yama speaks:]
This [too] I will declare to thee, - take note of it;
The fire that leads to paradise, I know it well.
Know that [this fire] can win [thee] worlds unending,
It is the ground (pratistha) [of all], hidden in secret spaces.

[And so] he told him of [this] fire, the world's beginning,
[He told him] of the firebricks, how many and how to be disposed.
And [Naciketas] repeated [all] just as he had said it:
Well satisfied with him Death spake again.

"To thee again today I grant another boon:
This fire shall bear thy name, no other;
Accept this garland variously contrived.

Who thrice performs the Naciketa rite,
With the three [Vedas] concludes a pact,
And performs the three works [prescribed],
He transcends both birth and death:
Knowing that God adorable who knows
What is Brahman born,
And realizing Him,
He attains to peace and what is absolute.

Who thrice performs the Naciketa rite,
And understands all three,
Who, knowing them, builds up the Naciketa fire,
He thrusts afar Death's fetters, sorrow surpassing,
And makes full merry in the heavenly world.

This is the Naciketa fire, thy very own,
Leading to paradise;
This didst thou choose as thy second boon;
This fire will men proclaim as thine indeed.
Naciketas, [now] thy third boon choose!"

[Naciketas speaks:]
When a man is dead, this doubt remains:
Some say, "He is," others again, "He is not,"
This would I know, by thee instructed, -
This is the third of the boons [I crave].

[Yama speaks:]
Of old the gods themselves this doubt assailed, -
How hard it is to know! How subtle a matter (dharma) !
Choose thou another boon, O Naciketas;
Insist not overmuch, hold me excused in this.

[Naciketas speaks:]
"Of old indeed the gods themselves this doubt assailed, -
How hard it is to know!" S, Death, hast thou declared.
Thou alone canst tell it forth; none other is there like thee:
No other boon is there equal to this in any wise.


Tibetan Yama

[Yama speaks:]
Choose sons and grandsons to live a hundred years,
[Choose] wealth in cattle, horses, elephants and gold,
Choose wide property in land, and thou thyself
Live out thy years as many as thou wilt.

Or shoudst thou think this this is a boon [at all] equivalent,
Chooses riches and long life;
Be thou of the great ones in the land:
I grant to thee enjoyment of all thou canst desire!

Whatever a man could possibly desire
In [this] the world of men,
How hard to win,
Ask anything thou wilt at thy good pleasure, -
Fair women, chariots, instruments of music.
The like of these cannot be won by [other] men:-
All these things I give thee, bend them to thy service.
O naciketas, ask me no futher concerning death.

[Naciketas speaks:]
The morrows of a man, O Death, wear down
The power of all senses.
A life though [lived] entire is short indeed;
Keep [then] thy chariots, keep thy songs and dances!

With riches can a man never be satisfied:
When once we've seen thee, [how] sha;; we riches win?
So long as we'll live as thou [for us] ordainest;
This, then, is the only boon that I would claim.

What mortal man, grown old and wretched here below,
Could meet immortals, strangers to old age,
Know them, and [still] meditate on colours, pleasures, joys,
Finding [some] comfort in this life however long.

Wherein men, puzzled, doubt, O Death, [that tell us];
What [happens] at the great departing tell us!
That is the boon that's hidden in secret places:
Therefore no other [boon] doth Naciketas choose."

Katha Upanishad: Chapter II

Chapter II of The Katha Upanishad goes:
[Yama speaks:]
The better part is one thing, the agreeable another;
Though different their goals both restrict a man:
For him who takes the better of the two all's well,
But he who chooses the agreeable fails to attain his goal. [Source: "Hindu Scriptures", translated and edited by R.C. Zaehner (Oxford, Everymans University Library, 1966]

'Better' and 'agreeable' present themselves to man:
Considering them carefully the wise man discriminates,
Preferring the better to what only pleasure brings:
Dull men prefer the 'agreeable',-
For the getting and keeping [of what they crave].

Thou, Naciketas, has well considered [all objects of] desire,
[Ali] that's agreeable in form,-thou has rejected them;
Tllou wouldst not accept this garland of wealth compacted
In which how many a man has been [dragged down,] submerged !


Different, opposed, wide separated these,-
Unwisdom (avidyda) and what men as wisdom know
Wisdom [it is that] Naciketas seeks, I see;
Not thou to be distracted by rnanifold desire.

Self-wise, puffed up with learning, some
Turn round and round [emprisoned] in unwisdom['s realm];
Hither and thither rushing, round they go, the fools,
Like blind men guided by the blind !

No glimmering have such of man's last destiny,-
Unheeding, childish fools, by wealth deluded:
'This world alone exists, there is no other,' so think they;
Again and ever again they fall into my hands.

Many there are who never come to hear of Him,
Many, though hearing of Him, know Him not:
Blessed the man who, skilled therein, proclaims Him, grasps Him;
Blessed the man who learns from one so skilled and knows Him !

How difficult for man, though meditating much,
To know Him from the lips of vulgar men:
[Yet] unless another tells of Him, the way (gati) to Him is barred
For than all subtleties of reason He's more subtile,-
Logic He defies.

No reasoning, [no logic,] can attain to this Idea;
Let another preach it, then is it easily cognized.
[And yet] hast thou achieved it, for steadfast in truth art thou:
May there never be another like thee, Naciketas, dear,
To question [me about it].

I know that what's called treasure is impermanent,
For by things unstable the Stable cannot be obtained.
Have l, then, builded up the Naciketa fire,-
By things impermanent have I the Permanent attained?

The winning of desires is the foundation of the world,
The unending fruit of sacrifice is the bourn of fearlessness-
[All this] hast thou rejected, wise and steadfast
For thou hast seen that this foundation broadly based
ls [Brahman,] worthy of great praise.

Let a wise man think upon that God,
Let him engage in spiritual exercise (yoga) related to the Self
[Let him think upon that God,] so hard to see

Deep hidden in the depths, dwelling in a secret place
Firm-fixed in the abyss, primordial;
Then will he put behind him both sorrow and [unstable] joy.

Let a man hear this and understand,
Let him take hold upon this subtile [God],
Let him uproot all things of law, -rejoice,
For he has won That in which [alone] he should find joy:
A house wide open is Naciketas [now], I see.

[Naciketas speaks:]
Other than righteousness (dharma), other than unrighteousness,
Other than what's done or left undone
Other than what has been and what is yet to be,-
This that thou seest, tell it forth !


Brahma

[Yama speaks:]
The single word announced by all the Vedas
Proclaimed by all ascetic practices,
[The word] in search of which men practise chastity
This word I tell [thee now] in brief.
Om - this is it.

The Imperishable Brahman this,
This the Imperishable Beyond (para):
Whoso this Imperishable comes to know,-
What he desires is his.

Depend on This, the best;
Depend on This, the ultimate:
Who knows that on This [alone all things] depend,
In the Brahman-world is magnified.

This wise one is not born nor dies;
From nowhere has He [sprung] nor has He anyone become;
Unborn is He, eternal, everlasting and primeval,-
He is not slain when the body is slain.

Should the killer think I kill,
Or the killed "I have been killed",
Both these have no [right] knowledge:
He kills not, is not killed.

More subtile that the subtile, greater than the great,
The Self is hidden in the heart [secret place] of creatures [here]:
The man without desitre, [all] sorrow spent, beholds It
The majesty of the Self, by the grace of the Ordainer.

Seated he strides afar,
Lying down he ranges everywhere:
This God is joy and joylessness,'-
Who but I can understand Him?

In bodies bodiless,
In things unstable still, abiding
The Self, the great Lord all pervading,-
Thinking on Him the wise man knows no grief.

This Self cannot be won by preaching [Him],
Not by sacrifice [or intellect] or much lore heard;
By him alone can He be won whom He elects:
To him this Self reveals his own [true] form (tanu).

Not he who has not ceased from doing wrong
Nor he who knows no peace, no concentration (asamahita)
Nor he whose mind is filled with restlessness,
Can grasp Him, wise and clever though he be.

[Though some there be] for whom the dignity
Of both Brahman and prince are as a dish of rice
With death its sauce [and condiment],-
[Yet] where He is,- [this] who really knows?

Katha Upanishad: Chapter III

Chapter III of The Katha Upanishad reads: [Like] light and shade [there are] two [selves]
[One] here on earth imbibes the law (rta) of his own deeds:
[The other,] though hidden in the secret places [of the heart],
[Dwells] in uttermost beyond.
So say [the seers] who Brahman know,
The owners of the five fires and of the three Naciketa fires. [Source: "Hindu Scriptures", translated and edited by R.C. Zaehner (Oxford, Everymans University Library, 1966]

We may master the Naciketa fire,
[Sure] bridge for men who sacrifice,
Seeking to reach the [further] shore
Beyond the reach of fear, -
[The bridge that leads to] Brahman,
Imperishable, supreme.

Know this:
The self is the owner of the chariot,
The chariot is the body,
Soul (buddhi) is the [body's] charioteer,
Mind the reigns [that curb it].


Brahma on Hamsa

Senses, they say, are the [chariot's] steeds,
Their object the tract before them;
What, then, is the subject of experience?
'Self, sense and mind conjoined,' wise men reply.
Who knows not how to discriminate
With mind undisciplined the while,-
Like vicious steeds untarned, his senses
He cannot master, -he their charioteer.

But he who does know how to discriminate
With mind [controlled and] disciplined,-
Like well-trained steeds, his senses
He masters [fully], -he their charioteer.
But he who knows not how to discriminate,
Mindless, never pure
He reaches not that [highest] state (pada), returns
To this round of never-ending birth and death (samsara).

But he who does know how to discriminate,
Mindful, always pure,
He gains [indeed] that [highest] state
From which he's never born again.

The man whose charioteer is wisdom (vijnana),
Whose reins a mind [controlled],
Reaches the journey's end [indeed],
Vishnu's final state (pada).

Higher than the senses are the [senses'] objects
Higher than these the mind
Higher than mind is soul (buddhi),
Higher than soul the self, the 'great'.

Higher than the 'great' the Unmanifest,
Higher than that the ''Person':
Than 'Person' there's nothing higher;
He is the goal, He the All-highest Way. [refuge]

This is the Self, deep-hidden in all beings,
[The Self that] shines not forth,-
Yet it can be seen by men who see things subtile,
By the subtile soul (bouddhi), [man's] noblest part.

Let the wise man hold tongue and mind in check,
Submit them to the intellectual (jnana) self;
Let him submit this intellect to the self [called] 'great',
And this to [that] Self which is [forever] still (santa).

Arisel Awakel Your boons you've won!
[Awake and] understand [them] !
A sharpened razor's edge is hard to cross,-
The dangers of the path,-wise seers proclaim them !

Beyond the 'great' abiding, endless, beginningless,
Soundless, intangible, It Lows not form or taste or smell,
Eternal, changeless,-[such It is,] discern It !
[For only so] can ye escape the jaws of death.

Wise men who hear and utter forth this deathless tale
Concerning Naciketas, told by Death,-
These shall win greatness in the Brahman-world.

Whoso, well versed therein, shall spread abroad
This highest mystery
Among assembled Brahmans or at the commemoration of the dead,
He is conformed to infinity,-
To infinity he's conformed !

Katha Upanishad: Chapter IV

Chapter IV of The Katha Upanishad reads:
The self-existent [Lord] bored holes facing the outside world;
Therefore a man looks outward, not into [him]self.
A certain sage, in search of immortality,
Turned his eyes inward and saw the self within. [Source: "Hindu Scriptures", translated and edited by R.C. Zaehner (Oxford, Everymans University Library, 1966]

Fools pursue desires outside themselves,
Fall into the snares of widespread death:
But wise men, discerning immortality,
Seek not the Stable here among unstable things.

By what [one knows] of form and taste and smell,
Sound, touch and sexual union,
By that [same thing] one knows:
'What of all this abides?'

By what one sees these both,-
The state of slee, the state of wakefulness
'That is tne self, the great, the lord,'
So think the wise, unsorrowing.

Who knows this honey-eating self,
The living [self] so close at hand,
Lord of what was and what is yet to be
He shrinks not from him.

Who descried him from among contingent beings
As first-born of fervid penance,
As entering into the secret place [and there] abiding
He is the first-born of the waters.

Who comes to be by the breath of life (prana)
Who entered into the secret place [and there] abodes,
Aditi, pregnant with divinity,
Was born from among contingent beings.

The all-knowing [fire] concealed between the fire-sticks
Like an embryo well nurtured by a woman with child,
Should every day be reverenced by wakeful men,
Bearing their offerings to him, the fire.

From whence the sun arises,
To whither it goes down
Thereon are all the gods suspended;
None passes beyond this.

This in truth is That.
What [we see] here is also there beyond;
What there, that too is here:
Death beyond death does he incur
Who sees in this what seems to be (iva) diverse!

Grasp this with your mind:
Herein there's no diversity at all.
Death beyond death is all the lot
Of him who sees in this what seems to be diverse.

Of the measure of a thumb, the 'Person'
Abides wilhin the Self
Lord of what was and what is yet to be:
No need to shrink from Him.

Of the measure of a thumb, [this] 'Person',
Resembling a smokeless flame,
Lord of what was and of what is yet to be:
He is today, tomorrow He.

As rain that falls in craggy places
Loses itself, dispersed throughout the mountains,
So does the man who sees things (dharma) as diverse,
[Himself] become dispersed in their pursuit.

As water pure into pure [water] poured
Becomes even as [that pure water] is,
So too becomes the self of him,-
The silent sage who knows.

Katha Upanishad: Chapter V

Chapter V of The Katha Upanishad reads:
Whoso draws nigh to the city of eleven gates [body]
Of him who is not born, whose thought is not perverse,
He grieves not, for he has won deliverance:
Deliverance is his ! [Source: "Hindu Scriptures", translated and edited by R.C. Zaehner (Oxford, Everymans University Library, 1966]

As swan he dwells in the pure [sky],
As god (vasu) he dwells in the atmosphere,
As priest he dwells by the altar,
As guest he dwells in the house:
Among men he dwells, in vows,
In Law (rta) and in the firmament;
Of water born, of kine, of Law (rta),
Of rock-[He], the great cosmic Law !

He leads the out-breath upward
And casts the in-breath downward:
To this Dwarf seated at the centre
All gods pay reverence.

When the embodied soul whose dwelling is the body
Dissolves and from the body is released,
What then of this remains?

Neither by breathing in nor yet by breathing out
Lives any mortal man:
By something else they live
On which the two [breaths] depend.

Lo! I will declare to thee this mystery
Of Brahman never-failing,
And of what the self becomes
When it comes to [the hour of] death.

Some to the womb return,-
Embodied souls, to receive another body;
Others pass into a lifeless stone (sthanu) In accordance with their works (karma),
In accordance with [the tradition] they had heard (sruta).

When all things sleep, [that] Person is awake,
Assessing all desires:
That is the Pure, that Brahman,
That the Immortal, so they say:
In It all the worlds are stablished;
Beyond it none can pass.
As the one fire esconced within the house
Takes on the forms of all that's in it,
So the One Inmost Self of every being
Takes on their several forms, [remaining] without [the while].

As the one wind, once entered into a house,
Takes on the forms of all that's in it
So the One Inmost Self of every being
Takes on their several forms, [remaining] without [the while].

Just as the sun, the eye of all the world,
Is not defiled by the eye's outward blemishes,
So the One Inmost Self of every being
Is not defiled by the suffering of the world,-
[But remains] outside [it].
One and all-mastering is the Inmost Self of every being;
He makes the one form manifold:
Wise men who see Him as subsistent in [their] selves,
Taste everlasting joy, -no others.

Permanent among impermanents, conscious among the conscious,
The One among the many, Disposer of desires:
Wise men who see Him as subsistent in [their] selves,
Taste of everlasting peace, -no others.

'That is this ' so think [the wise]
Concerning that all-highest bliss which none can indicate.
How, then, should I discern lt?
Does It shine of itself or but reflect the brilliance?

There the sun shines not, nor moon nor stars;
These lightnings shine not [there], -let alone this fire.
All things shine with the shining of this light,
This whole world reflects its radiance.

Katha Upanishad: Chapter VI

Chapter VI of The Katha Upanishad goes:
With roots above and boughs beneath
This immortal fig tree [stands];
That is the Pure, that Brahman,
That the Immortal, so men say:
In it all the worlds are established;
Beyond it none can pass. [Source: "Hindu Scriptures", translated and edited by R.C. Zaehner (Oxford, Everymans University Library, 1966]

This whole moving world, whatever is,
Stirs in the breath of life (prana), deriving from it:
The great fear [this], the upraised thunderbolt;
Whoso shall know it [thus], becomes immortal.

For fear of It the fire burns bright,
For fear [of It] the sun gives forth its heat,
For fear [of It] the gods of storm and wind,
And Death, the fifth, [hither and thither] fly.

Could one but know It here [and now]
Before the body's breaking up . . .!
[Falling] from such [a state] a man is doomed
To bodily existence in the 'created' (sarga) worlds.

In the self one sees as in a mirror,
In the world of the ancestors as in a dream,
In the world of the heavenly minstrels as across the waters,
In the world of Brahman as into light and shade.

Separately the senses come to be,
[Separately] they rise and fall,
Separately are they produced, -so thinking
The wise man grieves no more.

Higher than the senses is the mind,
Higher than mind the soul (sattva)
Higher than soul, the self, the 'great',
Higher than [this] 'great' the Unmanifest.

Higher than [this] Unmanifest the 'Person'
Pervading all, untraceable (alinga) [sexless]:
When once a creature knows Him, he is freed,
And goes on to immortality.

His form is not something that can be seen;
No one beholds Him with the eye -
By heart and mind and soul (manis) is He conceived of:
Whoso knows this becomes immortal.

When the five senses (jnana) stand, [their action stilled,]
Likewise the mind; and when the soul (buddhi)
No longer moves or acts, -
Such, have men said, is the all-highest Way.

Yoga,' this is how they think of it,-
[It means] to check the senses firmly, still them:
Then is a man freed from heedlessness,
For Yoga is origin and end.

[This Self] cannot be apprehended
By voice or mind or eye:
How, then, can He be understood,
Unless we say - HE IS?

HE IS - so must we understand Him
And as the true essence (tattva) of the two:
HE Is - when once we understand Him thus
The nature of his essence is limpidly shown forth.

When all desires that shelter in the heart
Of [mortal] man are cast aside (pramuc-),
Then mortal puts on immortality, -
Thence to Brahman he attains.

When here [and now] the knots [of doubt]
Are all cut out from the heart
Mortal puts on immortality:
Thus far the teaching goes.

A hundred veins (nadi) and one pervade the heart -
Of these [but] one extends up to the head:
By ascending this [a self] fares on to immortality -
The rest, at death are dissipated everywhere.

Of the measure of a thumb is [this] Person,
The Inmost Self, in the heart of creatures abiding ever.
Stand firm! and from thy body wrench Him out
Like pith extracted from a reed.
Pure and immortal He: so know Him !
So know Him: pure and immortal He !

So did Naciketas learn this [holy] science
By Death declared, and all the arts of Yoga: [ways of putting it into practice]
Immaculate, immortal, to Brahman he won through -
And so shall all who know what appertains to Self.

May he bring aid to both of us,
may He bring profit to both of us.
May we together make a manly effort;
may this lesson bring us glory;
may we never hate each other.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Indian History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “Encyclopedia of the World's Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures: Volume 3 South Asia” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); “The Creators” by Daniel Boorstin; “A Guide to Angkor: an Introduction to the Temples” by Dawn Rooney (Asia Book) for Information on temples and architecture. National Geographic, the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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