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Monday, December 1, 2014

Major Upanishads - 1


For a long time I have been convinced that our ancestors had a great view of what the important elements of LIFE are. I have also felt that the followers have all interpreted the original teaching in a way that necessitated elaboration of esoteric concepts such as soul and spirit. In the process they started different schools and some of the followers of these schools have become so attached to “their” school and “their” masters that they have become closed-minded.
 In addition, we now have a better understanding of the physical aspects of the Universe which means that many of the metaphysical concepts will have to be reinterpreted in light of actual, verified and verifiable facts. Both Buddha and Sankara asked us to do so.  This is why I have felt that each one of us should go back to the originals, read them for ourselves and not blindly follow older interpretations, however much we respect the authors.  

When I read the major Upanishads and synthesize what they say with modern physics and neurobiology, where do they take me? Here are some ideas:   

1, Isa Upanishad: (Shukla Yajur Veda). In summary, it states that true wisdom does not simply come out of  knowledge of the supernatural or of the natural. It comes only with the realization “So aham asmi”, which means “I AM HIM (SELF)”.  This “so aham asmi” is one of the 4 mahavakyas or great revelations of the Upanishads. 

Sloka 16 refers to Sun as pushan in Sanskrit. That word means a “nourisher”. Sun is also called “solitary traveler” and “controller”, both of them appropriate. Then he is “surya” which on the basis of its verb root means “one who secures” the vital forces and rays and “makes them his own”. In the next sloka it says: “let my vital force attain the immortal all-pervading” air.  

One gets the impression that the saints and seers who wrote those words easily recognized that vital force or breath (used synonymously as prana) and the sun, the source of energy (surya) are the two primary requirements for life. This point is made in almost all the Upanishads. Prana is specifically emphasized in  Kaushitaki Upanishad.  

This idea shows up again in Katha Upanishad, Section 3. Based on Rg Veda I. cxv. 1, the Sun is considered the Self of all that move and do not move. It is responsible even for the up (prana) and down (apana) movements of the big Prana or the vital force. It says that breath depends on some other force which is in each body. In light of modern knowledge, we can say that breath is necessary for energy exchange and the source of energy is Sun. In that respect Sun is the Self of all because without life no one can think of the Self.