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          FROM  THE  UPANISHADS ...                                      

    Oct 05, 2013

[ I ]

O men !

All things in universe are animates of Isha – 

This Conscious Fulness that pervades each.

Remember and renounce

While you keep, associate with

And consume, to enjoy all these.

For, whose is this wealth that you discover 

And so value in all things

In and about you ?

Isavasya Upanishad or Ishopanishad, from which the above verse is adapted, is one of the oldest; in fact, considered the first. It constitues the 40th, also the last, Chapter of Shukla Yajur Veda. The preceding 39 chapters deal with various rites and rituals meant to engage the aspirant with himself and different things along particular way, through a laid guided process. Its expert on the spot was known as Adhvaryu, quite as that of Rig Veda was Hotra and that of Sama Veda was the Udgatra. The fourh one, called Brahman, had no active role; he would be concentrated on the entire process and would 'spiritually' correct any error in performance of act or speech.

The value of the Upanishads, however, does not rest upon their antiquity, but upon how it connects us things valuable in ourself : our origin, where we are not yet divorced from this whole that includes us. That is its all-important value for all times and people everywhere. There is nothing personal, racial or local in them. To best appreciate them, we have to regain that environment in which there are no idols or any mediate emotional or intellectual form religions and sciences have imposed on this living universal being, to educate us about it. Which is what vedic rituals and chants facilitate.

We then attain a unifying significance that goes beyond the Upanishads, their time and place; nay, that is its inestimable value ... for the whole of mankind. Howsoever we chart our philosophy, now and in future, this truth will remain permanent and unshaken.

The Upanishads were first introduced to the West through a Persian translation made in the 17th Century. Over a century later, the distinguished French scholar, Anquetil Duperron, brought a copy of the manuscript from Persia to France and translated it into French and Latin, publishing only the Latin text. Despite the distortions, its light shone with such brightness that Schopenhauer observed : 

"How entirely does the Oupnekhat (Upanishad) breathe throughout the holy spirit of the Vedas ! How is every one, who by a diligent study of its Persian Latin has become familiar with that incomparable book, stirred by that spirit to the very depth of his Soul! From every sentence deep, original and sublime thoughts arise, and the whole is pervaded by a high and holy and earnest spirit." 

Again, he says : "The access to (the Vedas) by means of the Upanishads is in my eyes the greatest privilege which this still young century (1818) may claim before all previous centuries."

This testimony is borne out by the thoughtful American scholar, Thoreau, who writes : "What extracts from the Vedas I have read fall on me like the light of a higher and purer luminary which describes a loftier course through a purer stratum free from particulars, simple, universal."

The first English translation was made by a learned Hindu, Raja Ram Mohun Roy (1775-1833). Since that time there have been various European translations--French, German, Italian and English. But a mere translation, however accurate and sympathetic, is not sufficient to make the Upanishads accessible to the Occidental mind. 

Professor Max Muller, after a lifetime of arduous labor in this field, frankly confesses : "Modern words are round, ancient words are square, and we may as well hope to solve the quadrature of the circle, as to express adequately the ancient thought of the Vedas in modern English."

    The penultimate verse of this short Upanishad :

[ II ]

Now, this breath, senses and vitality

Merge in immortal immanence.

And the body reduces to ash...

O' Being !

Behold me. Recall my deeds.

Behold me. Recall my deeds...



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