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The Upanishads: one of three new editions of the books in Eknath Easwaran's Classics of Indian Spirituality series You are what your deep driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny. - Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (IV.4.5) Over two thousand years ago, the sages of India embarked on an The Upanishads: one of three new editions of the books in Eknath Easwaran's Classics of Indian Spirituality series You are what your deep driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny. - Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (IV.4.5) Over two thousand years ago, the sages of India embarked on an extraordinary experiment. While others were exploring the external world, they turned inward - to explore consciousness itself. In the changing flow of human thought, they asked, is there anything that remains the same? They found that there is indeed a changeless Reality underlying the ebb and flow of life. Their discoveries are an expression of what Aldous Huxley called the Perennial Philosophy, the wellspring of all religious faith that assures us that God-realization is within human reach. The Upanishads are the sages' wisdom, given in intense sessions of spiritual instruction in ashrams, in family gatherings, in a royal court, in the kingdom of Death himself. And Easwaran shows how these teachings are just as relevant to us now as they ever were centuries ago.


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The Upanishads: one of three new editions of the books in Eknath Easwaran's Classics of Indian Spirituality series You are what your deep driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny. - Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (IV.4.5) Over two thousand years ago, the sages of India embarked on an The Upanishads: one of three new editions of the books in Eknath Easwaran's Classics of Indian Spirituality series You are what your deep driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny. - Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (IV.4.5) Over two thousand years ago, the sages of India embarked on an extraordinary experiment. While others were exploring the external world, they turned inward - to explore consciousness itself. In the changing flow of human thought, they asked, is there anything that remains the same? They found that there is indeed a changeless Reality underlying the ebb and flow of life. Their discoveries are an expression of what Aldous Huxley called the Perennial Philosophy, the wellspring of all religious faith that assures us that God-realization is within human reach. The Upanishads are the sages' wisdom, given in intense sessions of spiritual instruction in ashrams, in family gatherings, in a royal court, in the kingdom of Death himself. And Easwaran shows how these teachings are just as relevant to us now as they ever were centuries ago.

30 review for The Upanishads: The Classics of Indian Spirituality

  1. 5 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    I find it interesting how pervasive is the mystic idea of unity. From transcendentalists to scientists to Buddhists to Christians to Hindus, I hear this same thing emphasized repeatedly—everything is one. Physicists wax poetic about how our bodies are made of star-dust. Biologists and naturalists wonder at the unity of life on earth. Christians celebrate the infinite simplicity of God. Spinoza's philosophy proclaims the oneness of all reality. Walt Whitman had this to say: And I know that the I find it interesting how pervasive is the mystic idea of unity. From transcendentalists to scientists to Buddhists to Christians to Hindus, I hear this same thing emphasized repeatedly—everything is one. Physicists wax poetic about how our bodies are made of star-dust. Biologists and naturalists wonder at the unity of life on earth. Christians celebrate the infinite simplicity of God. Spinoza's philosophy proclaims the oneness of all reality. Walt Whitman had this to say: And I know that the hand of God is the elderhand of my own, And I know that the spirit of God is the eldest brother of my own, And that all the men ever born are also my brothers… and the women my sisters and lovers And here is Herman Hesse: Slowly blossomed, slowly ripened in Siddhartha the realization, the knowledge, what wisdom actually was, what the goal of his long search was. It was nothing but a readiness of the soul, an ability, a secret art, to think every moment, while living his life, the thought of oneness, to be able to feel and inhale the oneness. Opening yourself up to this realization is the corner-stone to many words of wisdom I've so far come across. When it is written in Ecclesiastes, “There is no new thing under the sun,” what else could this mean that reality is ever the same, that all change is superficial, that all is one? Just so in The Upanishads, where it is written that “He who perceives all beings as the Self, how can there be delusion or grief for him, when he sees this oneness everywhere?” This equating self with cosmos can also be found in Plato. In fact, the Socratic injunction to 'know thyself' takes on a different meaning in this context. Since, for Plato, the soul of a man is that which takes part in the realm of ideals, knowing this soul puts oneself in more intimate contact with this ultimate reality. So self-knowledge is the key to wisdom, and wisdom consists in the knowledge that all is one. To quote again from The Leaves of Grass, “I celebrate myself, / And what I assume you shall assume, / For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” The parallels with Plato are actually astounding. In both Plato's works and The Upanishads, the soul is likened to a driver on a chariot. Both systems divide the self or soul in similar ways. Both have an idea of reincarnation. And in both systems one finds the idea that true enlightenment comes from detached introspection. I suspect that the intellectual knowledge that the universe is, in a sense, one thing, is not really what wisdom is all about. That we are made of materials created by exploding stars may be factually correct; but the statement's emotional power does not come from that fact, but by what the fact implies—that you’re troubles and anxieties pale in comparison to the miracle of being alive in the universe. And truly, it is a miracle. I think scientists, Christians, Hindus, Platonists, and Buddhists can all agree with that. To quote Bill Bryson's fantastic A Short History of Nearly Everything: To begin with, for you to be here now trillions of drifting atoms had somehow to assemble in an intricate and intriguingly obliging manner to create you. It’s an arrangement so specialized and particular that it has never been tried before and will only exist this once. For the next many years (we hope) these tiny particles will uncomplainingly engage in all the billions of deft, cooperative efforts necessary to keep you intact and let you experience the supremely agreeable but generally underappreciated state known as existence. But Wittgenstein might have said it best: "Not how the world is, is the mystical, but that it is."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Adrian Anderson

    This book first exposed me to the deep, Deep, DEEP wellspring of spirituality that is to be found in the Indian tradition. The concept of Atman and Brahman and the interchangeability was so in keeping with my person beliefs that the first reading left me shaken. I am from the Bible belt where our preachers call Indians (and others) idolaters, polytheists, blasphemers and fuel for hellfire. But on reading the Upanishads one realizes that they are closer to monotheism than is Christianity with it's This book first exposed me to the deep, Deep, DEEP wellspring of spirituality that is to be found in the Indian tradition. The concept of Atman and Brahman and the interchangeability was so in keeping with my person beliefs that the first reading left me shaken. I am from the Bible belt where our preachers call Indians (and others) idolaters, polytheists, blasphemers and fuel for hellfire. But on reading the Upanishads one realizes that they are closer to monotheism than is Christianity with it's Trinity... All is One, there is only Brahman, indeed no other. As the Rig Veda says - "Truth is One, the Wise merely refer to it in manifold ways." The Upanishads are much more than religious texts. They are SPIRITUAL and urge the aspirant to look within his own heart for the answers and not to external sources, people, or rituals. There and there alone is it to be found, within your own self. My favorite mahavakya - Tat tvam asi - Thou Art That. Favorite Upanishads of mine are the Kena, Mundaka, Brihadaranyaka, Katha. To anyone with an open mind, a truth seeker - you cannot help but marvel at them. Very succinct and full of Ooooooh and Ah ha! moments! Highly recommended!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elena

    A remarkable collection of writings that somehow manages to sketch out the lineaments of the perspective of our highest realization. The uncanny thing is that these scattered linguistic sketches, left behind by diverse personalities separated by vast gulfs of historical change, nonetheless somehow manage to come together into a unified picture of what it'd be like, experientially, to grasp the unity of the real through the fully realized unity of the self. These luminous fragments express an A remarkable collection of writings that somehow manages to sketch out the lineaments of the perspective of our highest realization. The uncanny thing is that these scattered linguistic sketches, left behind by diverse personalities separated by vast gulfs of historical change, nonetheless somehow manage to come together into a unified picture of what it'd be like, experientially, to grasp the unity of the real through the fully realized unity of the self. These luminous fragments express an understanding of what wisdom consists in that is quite different from what we're used to in the Western tradition. As such, they bear testimony to an aspect of the human condition that our own tradition has left largely uncharted. Here, wisdom is bearing experiential witness to (rather than merely theoretically conceiving) the unity of the real. These fragments provide an insider's glimpse into the goal, once realized, of the philosophic quest. That self-knowledge is the first and last of knowledge, both its presupposed foundation and its ultimate culmination, is something both East and West agree on. Both remind us that our ultimate goal, rightly conceived, is epitomized by the Delphic-Socratic motto "Know Thyself." Knowing that through which all else is known alone can provide us with the principles by which we can characterize the underlying unity of all knowledge and human experience alike. These fragments also show that we need to mine outside the Western tradition for insight into the self. They show what attaining the goal of all our intending would be like, what it'd be like to occupy the center which the Socratic method has endlessly circumnavigated, but never penetrated. From a philosophical point of view, these texts are fascinating because they refute the foundational tenet of the Western philosophical tradition; that is, they refute the basic, inherited Platonic belief that the way of conceptual abstraction is sufficient to attaining the real. They give voice to our most fundamental regulative intuition: that irreducible unity and continuity are the mark of the real. This intuition of unity guides the quest for knowledge of the principles of things. "Who sees the many and not the ONE, wanders on from death to death. Even by the mind this truth is to be learned: there are not many but only ONE. Who sees variety and not the unity wanders on from death to death." (Katha Upanishad) And to this same intuition of unity must we also circle back at the end of our theorizing if we're not to sink into despairing nihilism, which is another word for the loss of a vital, sustaining connection between self and world. Abstraction, etymologically, derives from the Latin word for “separation.” Right at the outset, the process of abstraction places us in a stance that is at a remove from the object and from ourselves, hence its impersonal character and its difficult-to-specify relationship with particular, concrete, individual events and real-world details. Of course, as these texts show, this adopted existential stance of separateness is a developmentally advanced form of pretend-play: we merely choose to disregard the all-embracing context we find ourselves in in order to wrest a myopic flicker of clarity here and there. The patchwork created by the sum total of these myopic flickers is our synoptic theory. But, if the Upanishads are right, any such approach to the unity of things is flawed, in principle: “That which cannot be perceived by the eye, but by which the eye is perceived That alone know as Brahman and not that which people here worship.” (Kena Upanishad) The experientially transformative comprehension of the Atman/Brahman unity seems almost like the first, and perhaps also the last, word of wisdom. It seems to most fully describe our true, inescapable starting point, which is paradoxically also our most unattainable goal – as they put it, “the goal of all longing.” It turns out that the hardest place to get to in existence is one's own home! This is part of the agonizing logic of the situation we find ourselves in. As Tagore put it, “The traveler has to knock at every alien door to come to his own, and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost shrine at the end.” These fragments teach us that we are ignorant of our true happiness, which lies in, as Max Zeller put it, learning to “relate to a life situation in the deepest sense: not from the standpoint of the ego that bemoans its fate and rebels against it, but from... the greater inner law that has left behind its small birth, the narrow realm of personal outlook, for the sake of renewal and rebirth.” That is, getting what we want is not what we really want. It is not what fills the gaping void at the center of the personality which drives us towards consummation and fulfillment. What we most hunger for is to find that mode of relation that reveals the world as a home. It is to relate to the world on the level of what we call spirit, not sense. This is the meaning of the demand for greater unity that we find ourselves oftentimes making and which lies at the source of all our discontents, whether intellectual, moral, aesthetic, emotional, or otherwise. The Upanishads show how beneath our familiar pseudo-self, our constructed self, lie much deeper reserves by which we can relate ourselves to the real. Ultimately, what they show is that the self just IS its characteristic mode of relation to the real (Atman is Brahman). And it is not until we attain a unity of the personality at this underlying level that we can begin to grasp the unity of things. Attaining unity within is the way to grasping unity without. Ultimately, the startling realization that the pursuit of self-knowledge leads us to is that our true center of gravity is to be found outside ourselves. “The bond that attaches us to the life outside ourselves is the same bond that holds us to our own life,” as William Barrett put it. In this, then, lies the insufficiency of theoretical knowledge. A theoretical grasp is not sufficient to transform the unity of the personality. It abstracts from the unity of the situation of encounter, and in so doing, it cannot draw on the full reserves of the personality to register reality in experienced witness. Because attaining unity within the self is the precondition for discerning the unity in things, conceptualization cannot sufficiently specify the content of our relation to the world. So the consummation of the philosophic quest to grasp the unity of things can never be found in a purely theoretical grasp (though I'd add that such is probably an invaluable part of the means). As a slight aside, the exclusive reliance on theory is perhaps the cause of the classic problem of "akrasia," or of ineffective wisdom, in Western ethics. Theory just doesn't seem to be enough to drive knowledge home such that it transforms our motivational core, or the way that we see and feel things. Theoretical knowledge doesn't alter the register in which our experience transpires. As an abstract acquisition, a piece of “intellectual property,” our theoretical understanding leaves us suffering and desiring as we did prior to acquiring it. It remains inert in some unused compartment of our psyche, while our lives run on much as they did before. Thus, it doesn't by itself change our predispositions to act in ways that run against our principles. Sometimes, it doesn't keep us from destroying ourselves, each other, and our world. In contrast, what the Upanishads offer is a view of philosophy as a way of life that is a corrective to this weakness. The true goal and measure of knowing, they show, is a personal transformation that reorients our mode of relation to the world. Wisdom is not merely an inert cognitive acquisition, but a more fully realized mode of our being that enriches and deepens our whole capacity to respond to every situation of life. This is wisdom coming home, as it were, enhancing our capacity to act in ways that enhance life. This point is perhaps best brought home in the story of Svetaketu, in the Chandogya Upanishad. In the beginning of the story, Svetaketu prides himself on his having acquired conceptual knowledge of Brahman. His father's instruction, however, shows him how empty such an acquisition is if it stops short, as it does in his case, of existential realization of the discursively represented insight. This story is perhaps the most damning critique of a purely theoretical approach to wisdom because it shows how such an approach fails to make the vital transition to the existential realization and integration of learned insight. Until Svetaketu experiences the heart of the insight for himself, he does not know it. There are some truths that belong only to experience. They have to be lived through. This gives suffering perhaps the only meaning it has; it too has the potential to bring insight and transformation. Such truths cannot be spoon-fed to us through formal learning, but can only be acquired through personal seeking and struggle. Ultimately, the Upanishads claim also an ontological transformation effectuated in the nature of the self following the attainment of this level of perspective, which modern secular readers will wonder at, if they stop long enough to reflect: “Who sees all beings in his own self and his own self in all beings, loses all fear.” (Isa Upanishad) Anyway, the radiant simplicity of this order of truth - which is after all the truth that we live by, that fuels our psyches, as food and water fuel our bodies - is as innocuous, as ineffective, and as insipid as the dust under your feet and the water in your cells. It comes as no surprise that such perennial wisdom is worthless in the world. It is not the kind of insight that you can cash into a theory, or a research program that you can stamp your name on. It can never figure as the principal player in some blockbuster Theory of Everything (and, if these writings are right, it will be the literally vital ingredient that will always be missing in all such synoptic attempts). Instead, what forms the currency of our intellectual world, ultimately, are those lesser unities that provide us with stylish forms of abstraction from the concrete situation we find ourselves in. Perhaps the closest symbolic approximation of lived truth that we can get are just such luminous fragmentary glimpses as we are given here, which somehow manage to gesture to an underlying constitutive background unity, which alone is understood as significant. Trying to take seriously the possibility of casting doubt on the foundational Platonic creed that the unity of the real can be reflected by our cognitive processes of abstraction asks us to basically re-examine the ground (that we think) we're walking on and to consider that maybe it is but a thin, projected veneer – a reified construct of cognitive process. That is a hard pill to swallow. I think that right here, at the entrance, is where most Westerners (like myself) are most likely to be lost. Yet, unless we make the effort of placing even this cherished belief, as self-evident and rational as it seems to us to be, into question, we cannot pierce the letter and grasp the vision of the Upanishads. The effort to bring the spirit of these letters to life seems like a part of my own life's work to shed the nagging sense of irreality that haunts even my everyday life. I often find myself appalled when I am reading along, and suddenly, the letters fall on my deaf ears. Somebody knocks at the door, and it rings hollow inside. Reading such works is not just uplifting, as others say. It is also incredibly sad, because they ask us in this way to confront our own emptiness. I am reminded at such times that giving in to my spiritual complacency is accepting premature death, and that I must continue to go against the grain of my complacent nature if I am to realize more and more of the meaning to which these words try their best to gesture. It is a bit bewildering for me to see how something so fragmented as these texts are could speak of unity more eloquently than other perfectly finished philosophical systems manage to. Perhaps it is true, in an ultimate sense, that every system and every model is nothing but a counterfeit unity, and that without this active vision of unity that these fragments gesture to, all knowledge is empty acquisition. The Upanishads not only offer a picture of what the consummating vision of philosophy might look like, of what it'd be like to look upon the world from the stance of our own highest realization. They also provide a kind of common threshold to the religious life for people otherwise wary of that dimension of our experience. I'd agree with Mascaro's introduction though, which seems to suggest that the universality of the Upanishads is their very limitation, and that later developments in Hinduism (the Bhagavad Gita), as well as in Christianity, more fully specify religious experience in its concreteness. They are a threshold, not the main chamber. Ultimately, you must choose one specific path or another in the building, if you choose to go in. Though they help us to touch base with what is called the soul (as well as help us put some flesh on this strange term through speaking to that level of our being); the larger question of God still largely remains behind the scenes. And yes, writing a Goodreads review of the Upanishads is lame and weird.

  4. 5 out of 5

    MihaElla

    What is spirituality? And what is enlightenment? These are not authentic questions, as a matter of fact. The first thing I should ask (myself) is "Who am I? "What is this consciousness inside me?". But it is always easier to transform an existential inquiry into a philosophical question. Thus, the existential is forgotten and the philosophical becomes very significant. On a funny note, what is this all non-sense about. Spirituality cannot be defined. It's something one has to explore alone and by What is spirituality? And what is enlightenment? These are not authentic questions, as a matter of fact. The first thing I should ask (myself) is "Who am I? "What is this consciousness inside me?". But it is always easier to transform an existential inquiry into a philosophical question. Thus, the existential is forgotten and the philosophical becomes very significant. On a funny note, what is this all non-sense about. Spirituality cannot be defined. It's something one has to explore alone and by himself. Being fully aware (I am not!) - that's what it means to be enlightened! To be ordinary, to enjoy, create, live life with an extraordinary intensity, with passion - this is enlightenment. Of course, this is not an esoteric response. But why would an esoteric answer be needed? Enlightenment is a natural phenomenon, but the moment I am asking "What is enlightenment and how to become enlightened?" then I'm starting to have problems. It's just like I would ask, 'What does it mean to be a human? How can I become a human? But maybe all you need is to stand in front of a mirror and look at yourself - you will see that you are already a human. Enlightenment is natural, non-enlightenment is my own action. The Upanishads’ vision is that the universe is a totality, that it is indivisible - it is an organic whole. The parts are not separate, and don’t let yourself be misled by appearances, they are all interconnected, united. Nothing is insignificant, nothing is smaller than anything else. It is a unifying vision, a synthesis: the part becomes the whole, the whole becomes the part. The Upanishads and their attitude is completely individual. Here's what the word "upanishad" means - to be in deep communion with the Master. The Upanishads are very realistic, very pragmatic. An upanishad is a communion between two hearts. This is also the meaning of the word "upanishad" - a very strange thing: just sit by the Master ... and right there something wonderful is happening between the two. The flame extends from the heart of the Master to the heart of the disciple. The Upanishads do not believe in perfection, but in totality. A perfectionist is a neurotic being. In fact, every perfectionist is crazy: and if he does not become a madman, it means he is not a perfectionist. It is impossible to be healthy yet perfectionist at the same time. Life is perfect in one sense: it is perfectly imperfect. That is why there is evolution, movement, if it is perfect, then it would die. Life continues to flow, always moving from one end to the other. There is no end ... there will never be an end. The aim or goal is never touched. Life is not focused on a goal, but on the journey. Life is a pilgrimage.... *** A fost odata un calugar zen renumit, Nansen. El traia intr-o padure deasa, departe de Tokio. Intr-o zi a venit la el un profesor de filosofie, de la universitatea din Tokio. Profesorul intra in coliba si zise: "Spune-mi ceva despre spiritualitate. Spune-mi ceva despre eul launtric." Nansen spuse: "Pari obosit dupa atata drum, fruntea ti-e transpirata, asa ca odihneste-te putin, destinte-te putin, si eu am sa-ti pregatesc un ceai." Batranul Nansen pregati ceaiul, iar profesorul se odihni. Insa odihna era doar superficiala, nu si interioara. Cum sa se odihneasca un profesor? Imposibil! El vorbeste intruna inlauntrul sau. Nansen aduse ceaiul, puse o ceasca in mana profesorului, turna ceaiul si continua sa-l toarne pana cand ceaiul incepu sa se reverse in farfurioara. Atunci profesorului i se facu teama ca, in curand, ceaiul avea sa curga si pe podea. Asa ca spuse: "Opreste-te! Esti nebun? In ceasca mea nu mai incape ceai, nici macar un strop." Nansen incepu sa rada si spuse: "Esti foarte grijuliu cu ceaiul si ceasca, si stii bine ca atunci cand ceasca este plina nu mai incape in ea nici macar un strop. Si ma intrebi de spiritualitate, de meditatie. Esti atat de plin pe dinauntru incat nu mai intra nici macar un strop. Asa ca mai intai du-te afara, goleste-ti ceasca, si pe urma intoarce-te. Daca nu esti gol pe dinauntru, n-am sa-mi irosesc energia turnand in tine."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Girish Kohli

    'Upanishad' means 'sit down near me'. That is its true meaning. Isnt it so simple? Doesnt the meaning of Upanishad remind you of your grandfather or grandmother telling you a story. That is exactly what the Upanishad is. The Upanishad is one of the oldest Hindu scriptures (after the vedas) but that doesnt mean only Hindus can read it. The beauty of the Upanishads is that it never talks about Hinduism. It is a work that explores the metaphysical truths of Human existence. If you read carefully, you 'Upanishad' means 'sit down near me'. That is its true meaning. Isnt it so simple? Doesnt the meaning of Upanishad remind you of your grandfather or grandmother telling you a story. That is exactly what the Upanishad is. The Upanishad is one of the oldest Hindu scriptures (after the vedas) but that doesnt mean only Hindus can read it. The beauty of the Upanishads is that it never talks about Hinduism. It is a work that explores the metaphysical truths of Human existence. If you read carefully, you will find traces of Christopher Nolan's "Inception" and Einstein's "theory of relativity" in the Upanishads. This translation by Eknath Easwaran is my first attempt at reading the Upanishads and I had a great time reading it. I never felt like I was reading a boring book on spirituality (whatever that means) or Hinduism. Few know that Shahjahan's eldest son, Dara Shikoh (a scholar in his own right) had translated the Upanishads and regarded it as the "Kitab al maknun" mentioned in the Quran. This fact was hard to believe until I read the Upanishads and realised that it is truly a work that transcends religious belief. It is a work that solely focuses on the human soul. The book is full of small anecdotes that help explain death, soul, Godliness, energies, cosmic consistency, time and many other metaphysical concepts. Its a great confluence of the scientific world and the world of faith. The Upanishads is the true middle ground of the intellect and the soul.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Vegan Viajo

    Right up there w the Bible and Quran, but if I had to choose I'd say Hindu text I've read thus far is my favorite. There's so much love and drama in the text it always leaves me wanting more and I feel more accurately describes reasons our world is so unpredictably crazy

  7. 5 out of 5

    Trenton Judson

    There is a magic to this text that comes alive inside those warm places in the bottom of your stomach as you read it. The connectivity and the power of the self that this book teaches are invaluable to any person of any ethical, moral, or theological background. I first had a strong desire to read this book after reading Somerset Maugham's "The Razor's Edge" and found myself going back and back to the quote on the first page from The Upanishad's that reads: "The sharp edge of a razor is There is a magic to this text that comes alive inside those warm places in the bottom of your stomach as you read it. The connectivity and the power of the self that this book teaches are invaluable to any person of any ethical, moral, or theological background. I first had a strong desire to read this book after reading Somerset Maugham's "The Razor's Edge" and found myself going back and back to the quote on the first page from The Upanishad's that reads: "The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to salvation is hard." This quote has always really reached me because it describes a single human day, those days that make up so many of our lifetimes, that idea that each day is a struggle to find integrity and honor and the salvation of self, but that that struggle is worth it. I believe that all people should at sometime read this book, it really helps you understand yourself, if you read it openly, and with the intent of wisdom, which is how all books should be read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Littrell

    Important volume on one of humanity's greatest religious works In the Upanishads there are two selves. They are symbolized by two birds sitting on a tree branch. The one bird, the self with a small "s" eats. The other bird, the Self with a capital "S" observes. The first self is the self that is part of this world. The second Self is merely an observer that doesn't take part and is in fact beyond the pairs of opposites such as pleasure and pain that dominate our existence. This Self is formally Important volume on one of humanity's greatest religious works In the Upanishads there are two selves. They are symbolized by two birds sitting on a tree branch. The one bird, the self with a small "s" eats. The other bird, the Self with a capital "S" observes. The first self is the self that is part of this world. The second Self is merely an observer that doesn't take part and is in fact beyond the pairs of opposites such as pleasure and pain that dominate our existence. This Self is formally called the Atman. In an important analogy, it is said that the Atman is the drop of water that glides off of the lotus leaf into the ocean of Brahman, with Brahman being the entirety of all that there is, in other words, God, the God beyond all attribution. This presentation of the Upanishads--necessarily a selection, of course--by Eknath Easwaran is the best single volume that I have come across for the following reasons: First, the translation by Easwaran is readable, edifying and congenial to the Sanskrit in so far as that is possible. The poetry in the original language and the word play are lost in translation as is always the case with poetry and highly symbolic language, and especially language that is meant to be taken on more than one level. However Easwaran's notes after each Upanishad help to give us an idea what the original is like and give the reader a feel for the some of the nuances. Second, the chapter introductions and the concluding essay by Michael N. Nagler lend insight and clarity to the reader's understanding. Third, the selections themselves and what is included in the selections are efficacious. By that I mean the ideas and the "feel" of the expression, the psychology, and the philosophy of the Upanishads and the larger Vedic tradition are made manifest. Some voluminous translations give us much more of the repetition and ritual than we need, while some volumes give us perhaps not enough. In this regard I want to call the reader's attention to the slim volume The Ten Principal Upanishads (1937) by the poet W.B. Yeats, and Shree Purohit Swami. Easwaran's book contains more of the Upanishads and offers a more extensive commentary, but Yeats and Purohit are more poetic. I recommend that the reader read both books. Alas Yeats's book is out of print and so you'll have to find it at, probably, a college library. Here is how Easwaran translates the invocation to the famous Isha Upanishad: All this is full. All that is full. From fullness, fullness comes. When fullness is taken from fullness, Fullness still remains. Om shanti shanti, shanti Now here is how Yeats and Purohit have it: This is perfect. That is perfect. Perfect comes from perfect. Take perfect from perfect; the remainder is perfect. May peace and peace and peace be everywhere. I think the former is perhaps truer to the spirit of the philosophy of the Upanishad, but I think the latter is more poetic. The Upanishads, usually acknowledged to be the culmination of the wisdom of the Vedas, form the basis for Hinduism as well as serving as a wellspring for Jainism, Buddhism, Taoism, and yoga. Many ideas central to these ways of life are found in the Upanishads. In particular the Bhagavad Gita finds its inspiration and even some of its expression and even a bit of its form in the most famous and most often read Upanishad, the Katha. Nachiketas of the Katha becomes Arjuna of the Gita, while Death becomes Krishna of the Gita. In his essay, Nagler writes, "Taken as a whole, the Upanishads contain the raw material of a profound philosophy." In the tradition of India, philosophy and religion are not separate as they usually are in the West. In truth all religions contain not only religious ideas, but philosophical ones as well; but more than anything, religions are psychologies--guides on how to live life, and how to die. In the Upanishads we do not die. Death happens only to the bird that eats. Our real essence, the Atman is eternal, and therefore death is an illusion, a compelling illusion to be sure, but one that can be tossed off through an understanding that "thou art that" ("tat tvam asi") meaning that you and the universe (or Brahman) are one. Nagler writes, "Indian religious systems hold as a core belief that the individual is not that which dies but is instead the forces which brought the body and personality into existence and will continue shaping its destiny after what we call death…" (p. 287). --Dennis Littrell, author of “Yoga: Sacred and Profane (Beyond Hatha Yoga)”

  9. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    I thought this would be another primary source to understand the history of Hindu thought, and while it did that, it was so much more. It was a fundamental tool in changing the way I look at God, the world, and my place in it. One of the most important reads I've ever had.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    At an earlier point in my studies of Eastern religion and philosophy, I would easily have awarded this work 5 stars and would likely have placed it on my "favorites" shelf. When I first began my journey into Eastern religion with the Bhagavad Gita many years ago I was mesmerized by the ideas and was drawn in by the oneness with the universe that such works promoted. Since then and before reading The Upanishads, my understanding of Eastern religions and ideas has been influenced by the likes of At an earlier point in my studies of Eastern religion and philosophy, I would easily have awarded this work 5 stars and would likely have placed it on my "favorites" shelf. When I first began my journey into Eastern religion with the Bhagavad Gita many years ago I was mesmerized by the ideas and was drawn in by the oneness with the universe that such works promoted. Since then and before reading The Upanishads, my understanding of Eastern religions and ideas has been influenced by the likes of (but certainly not limited to): the writings of Gurdjieff, Kahlil Gibran, Thoreau and Emerson, the Tao Te Ching, the Dhammapada, the ideas of Thich Naht Hanh, the writings of the Beats (and particularly Kerouac) and the I Ching. While there are differences to be found in many of these works, there are also central similarities: focus on the oneness of the universe, a poetic sensibility, a call to mindful meditation, the search for Truth, development of the self, an anti-dualism. It is not that the message of The Upanishads is not profound, but that I encountered it after already reading so many of the same ideas (many of them influenced by these writings, as is the case with Emerson) that I found myself less enchanted than I would have been had I picked up this work say 5 years ago. As a work of great influence The Upanishads certainly stands up there with the likes of the Gita, the Tao Te Ching and the Bible (predating many of these by hundreds of years). And when one situates it not in the order one reads it, but in the historical time period in which the work was written, it is certainly a very impressive work, setting forth many influential ideas, and especially the image of the wheel, which makes its first appearance in this work as a symbol used to represent the process of birth-death-rebirth. In this sense and in the sense that the work has many quotable poetic lines and wonderful images (the idea that all nectars gathered by bees, for instance, are different, but yet combine to make one honey), it is a work of great value that should not be underestimated (and this is not my intent here in the least). It has certainly cast a very large shadow and is a work that should be read by any interested in Hinduism or Buddhism, or Eastern religion/philosophy in general. But, if one has already read many works on these subjects, while there is beauty to be found in The Upanishads and while many works have probably drawn their wisdom from this classic, it is unlikely that this work will contribute any more information than one has already gained in their studies of other works in the Eastern philosophical cannon.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sean Blake

    "It has been the solace of my life, it will be the solace of my death." Arthur Schopenhauer Schopenhauer's simple words state just how incredible and illuminating this text is. The Upanishads explores consciousness, cosmology, creation and transcendence. It seeks to explain the nature of reality, the nature of the Self, states of consciousness, the cycle of life and death, the cosmos, compassion and meditation. "The deathless Self meditated upon Himself and projected the universe As evolutionary "It has been the solace of my life, it will be the solace of my death." Arthur Schopenhauer Schopenhauer's simple words state just how incredible and illuminating this text is. The Upanishads explores consciousness, cosmology, creation and transcendence. It seeks to explain the nature of reality, the nature of the Self, states of consciousness, the cycle of life and death, the cosmos, compassion and meditation. "The deathless Self meditated upon Himself and projected the universe As evolutionary energy. From this energy developed life, mind, The elements, and the world of karma, Which is enchained by cause and effect." When you read this you see in some way that these sages were talking about the Big Bang, the creation of the universe. In their words, they were laying down quite possibly the earliest foundations of the most universally accepted theory of the creation of the cosmos. Brahman is that ever driving cosmic force, the source of creation, evolution, life, the source of all phenomena, the principal essence of the universe. From this I will end my review with the following passage: "The universe comes forth from Brahman, exists in Brahman, and will return to Brahman. Verily, all is, Brahman."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Roxanne

    The Upanishads, translated by Eknath EaswaranThe Upanishads are a group of ancient wisdom texts. Each individual upanishad is named for the sage who delivered its teaching, long ago; each one describes in flashes of insight how to explore your own consciousness, how to come closer to the Divine. Some of the upanishads take the form of a story: a student (or a wife, or even a king) implores a great sage (or even Death itself) to share holy secrets. Most of the upanishads rely on classic natural The Upanishads, translated by Eknath EaswaranThe Upanishads are a group of ancient wisdom texts. Each individual upanishad is named for the sage who delivered its teaching, long ago; each one describes in flashes of insight how to explore your own consciousness, how to come closer to the Divine. Some of the upanishads take the form of a story: a student (or a wife, or even a king) implores a great sage (or even Death itself) to share holy secrets. Most of the upanishads rely on classic natural images - birds, trees, water - that make the metaphors timeless and appealing even thousands of years after they were written. It's impossible to write an unbiased book review of a cherished spiritual text - how could I possibly critique the writing style or the structure of a book like this? So this review will be a little more personal. I loved The Upanishads. They called out to me in a way other spiritual books, including the Bible, just haven't. I expect to keep The Upanishads by my bed, read them again and again, consult different translations, flip through seeking guidance. It can be a difficult book, and I don't ever expect to understand it fully, but I loved it. While the text itself is beyond critique, the translation and the version I can comment on. I really like Eknath Easwaran's translations (I also read his version of the Bhagavad Gita). Easwaran is well-versed in Sanskrit and in Hindu spirituality, and before becoming a spiritual teacher was an English professor, so he has all the tools to create both a beautiful and accurate rendition. Easwaran also writes the introduction, which I found helpful for putting The Upanishads in their historical context and setting the stage for the sort of text I was about to read (since when I started I really had no idea what I was getting into). This volume also includes a brief 2-3 page introduction before each upanishad, written by Michael Nagler. These I also found informative, and it was helpful to look as I read for the points that Nagler had called out as being important, but I think I would have preferred to read the upanishad first and then read Nagler's summary of it. Nagler also writes a lengthy afterword, which I did not find very useful. The end matter includes a glossary and a section of notes, which I didn't realize were there as I was reading the upanishads, and I think I'm glad I didn't know they were there - I'm the sort of person who will flip back and forth consulting the notes, and I'm glad I was able simply to experience the upanishads on this first read rather than analyzing them academically. There will be plenty of time to look at the notes and read other translations. The glossary might have been helpful a few times, though, and I imagine it would be very useful to someone who hasn't spent the past ten months up to her ears in yoga philosophy. Overall, I would say that if you're new to Hindu spirituality, I wouldn't recommend starting with The Upanishads - the Bhagavad Gita is a much more accessible book for most people. For me, though, The Upanishads was more inviting, more enthralling than the Gita, and more accessible too. The first time I read the Gita I walked away thinking that it was nice and all but nothing great, and I needed the lectures and discussion of my yoga teacher training course to put the Gita's systems in context and help me understand what I was reading. With The Upanishads, I felt like I could really hear the sages speaking directly to me: faraway, murky, blurred voices, sure, but I could hear it. I look forward to listening again and again.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    I highly recommend this translation of the Upanishads. The translator was both a Master of English as well as Hindu himself and a religious scholar. When reading, keep in mind that every world was chosen with you in mind to convey as much as possible of the original meaning. To me, this book is full of wisdom that anybody can appreciate. It's the furthest thing from outdated or antiquated, and hints at a kind of spiritual existence and life that is 'just beyond the curtains', so to speak, and I highly recommend this translation of the Upanishads. The translator was both a Master of English as well as Hindu himself and a religious scholar. When reading, keep in mind that every world was chosen with you in mind to convey as much as possible of the original meaning. To me, this book is full of wisdom that anybody can appreciate. It's the furthest thing from outdated or antiquated, and hints at a kind of spiritual existence and life that is 'just beyond the curtains', so to speak, and that the writers of each Upanishad could only try to describe to us through words. It's kind of like trying to convey a very surreal dream to a friend. You can't share the experience or the exact images you saw, but you can try and describe them to the best of your ability in words to help your friend get as close as he can without having had the experience himself. To Hinduism, or at least my understanding of it, experience is always key, but snippets like that help to light the way for others to eventually experience everything themselves. Read the verses in light of each other, on their own, and ect. There are a world of meanings to every line. This is truly a fascinating read. Go for it! :D

  14. 5 out of 5

    Oakshaman

    The essence of the twelve principle Upanishads _If you have ever been intimidated by the multi-volume scholarly translations of the Upanishads, then this book is for you. I still marvel at how Prabhavananda and Manchester managed to encapsulate so much of the core content and meaning of the twelve principle Upanishads in such a slim volume. Yet they did- and it works. This translation was originally produced in 1948 for the Vedanta Society of Southern California but it still holds up as one of The essence of the twelve principle Upanishads _If you have ever been intimidated by the multi-volume scholarly translations of the Upanishads, then this book is for you. I still marvel at how Prabhavananda and Manchester managed to encapsulate so much of the core content and meaning of the twelve principle Upanishads in such a slim volume. Yet they did- and it works. This translation was originally produced in 1948 for the Vedanta Society of Southern California but it still holds up as one of the best. I have reread this book more times than I can remember- and yet I still reach new realizations in the interwoven, holographic whole. It isn't dogma or theology- it is the direct experience of saints and seers who have touched on divine union transcendent of time. _Of course if you truly understand these oldest of mystical scriptures then you could condense them down still further to: Brahman is true, the world is false, The soul is Brahman and nothing else. _Or if that is a bit wordy for you, then you can sum up the Upanishads, and all the Vedas, with: "Tat tvam asi" (Thou art that.) _Most people need to work up to the true understanding of these statements with a bit more commentary, however....

  15. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Prasetyo

    This is the best translation of The Upanishads that I found, the author, like other great teachers, is experiencing the wisdom so deeply that he can translate the sacred text with the way that you can really understand and experiencing it's meaning. It contains a chapter introduction, and a notes. The Upanishads is the true treasure of India.

  16. 4 out of 5

    K.D. Rose

    One of the most beautiful books of religious text that reads like poetry. The only book I rate comparable from ancient religious texts anyway, is The Song of Songs.

  17. 5 out of 5

    David Withun

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  18. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    A wonderful translation of what may be one of India's greatest philophical treasures. The language in Easwaran's translation is simple, clear and understandable. It manages to convey perfectly the poetic beauty of the Upanishadic texts, without adding any unnecessary confusion to some of the intense philosophical points. As this is the first edition of the Upanishads I have read, I have no other copy to recommend or to compare it by. However, Easwaran's edition also comes with a very useful A wonderful translation of what may be one of India's greatest philophical treasures. The language in Easwaran's translation is simple, clear and understandable. It manages to convey perfectly the poetic beauty of the Upanishadic texts, without adding any unnecessary confusion to some of the intense philosophical points. As this is the first edition of the Upanishads I have read, I have no other copy to recommend or to compare it by. However, Easwaran's edition also comes with a very useful glossary at the back of the book to fill in gaps in the knowledge of some of the Sanskrit terminology that cannot be fully justified in the English language. The commentary at the back of the book was also an invaluable bit of help in understanding the various interpretations of some of the verses. The prologues by Michael Nagler to start of each text wonderfully summarise each of the Upanishads, and explains their basic history, meaning and religious significance. If you are interested in finding out how Hinduism views the nature of the soul and its relation to the Supreme Reality, this book is a great place to start. Highly recommended for both the hesitant but curious newcomer, and the intrepid philosophical scholar. The Upanishads are a set of texts that can be read and mulled over time and time again.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Philip

    Just discovering these early Hindu texts. Compared to the thinking of many today's mainsteram religions, the concepts put forth here are progressive, if not outright radical. An expansive god-view/understanding is presented that is accessible. Also, a nice introduction to was what once simply my ignorance and chaotic undertanding of the complexity of Hinduism. As far as the translation goes, since this is my first reading so nothing to compare it to...but it's certainly understandable and as Just discovering these early Hindu texts. Compared to the thinking of many today's mainsteram religions, the concepts put forth here are progressive, if not outright radical. An expansive god-view/understanding is presented that is accessible. Also, a nice introduction to was what once simply my ignorance and chaotic undertanding of the complexity of Hinduism. As far as the translation goes, since this is my first reading so nothing to compare it to...but it's certainly understandable and as accessible as the concepts that are put forth. A must read for anyone feeling limited by their current religious/spiritual/faith/god doctrine.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    I actually read the Project Gutenberg release of this classic Indian text on Hinduism. It's a short 17,000 word translation by a Hindu mystic that visited Boston in 1909. Even though the translation is 90 years old it brought the message of the text to life for me, and the insightful commentary by the translator helped to get the message across of the book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    I'm such a nerd. I read this during the Packer game.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Book #3 in 2012's survey of holy shit (#2 was Confucius's Analects etc.). Overall this collection of disparate mystical writings by long-dead Hindus is the early frontrunner for my Most Philosophically Stimulating Sacred Text award. I almost wrote Theosophically, but their ideas exercised my love of wisdom more than they conveyed to me any wisdom about god. (Screw you, too, Blavatsky! i know you're listening.) I disagreed with most of the metaphysical claims. I quibbled frequently. I pooh-poohed Book #3 in 2012's survey of holy shit (#2 was Confucius's Analects etc.). Overall this collection of disparate mystical writings by long-dead Hindus is the early frontrunner for my Most Philosophically Stimulating Sacred Text award. I almost wrote Theosophically, but their ideas exercised my love of wisdom more than they conveyed to me any wisdom about god. (Screw you, too, Blavatsky! i know you're listening.) I disagreed with most of the metaphysical claims. I quibbled frequently. I pooh-poohed and tsk-tsked ad nauseam. I made snotty gibes. I might've even told the book to fuck off a couple times. Especially by the end when the nagging winds of repetition overwhelmed my ever-threadbare patience. But some of the ideas conveyed had never occurred to me and probably never would have if them old nutters hadn't written them down lo those ~2 millenia ago. Some readers might conclude from such an experience, "It was as if they were written explicitly with me in mind," but iMeMy don't succumb to that particular brand of solipsism: iMeMy will stick with, "This is some deep shit, yo." (Skip to the end of this llllloooooonnnnnng review if you'd like to read some quotes from the experts; they'll give you a better sense of what's waiting for you inside this book.) Translation suggestion Read several side-by-side if you really want to get a decent sense of what the original text might've meant. These works were originally secrets for initiates (and their sons) only that were shared only in private conversations for hundreds of years before finally being written down more than 2000 years ago. Do you s'pose the odds are good that anybody nowadays can translate them with a great degree of precision? Alternately, you could learn to read Sanskrit. (Note: advice coming from a guy who read one English translation and skimmed bits of Nikhilananda's.) Next up, another Hindu treasure, the Bhagavad Gita, as translated by and commented upon by none other than Mohandas K. Gandhi (i believe the K stands for Kowtipper). If you have bothered to read this far and have an opinion on this matter, please help me. After the Hinduism, Buddhism is my next stop on the world tour of holy shit. I think i oughta read Digha Nikaya (Buddha's long-winded stuff) first cuz allegedly it's the sacred text most capable of catalyzing a conversion ... and i'm up for a challenge after the Ups. Or i could go for short and simple: Kindle CheapAss's™ edition of Max Müller's translation of The Dhammapada (Buddha's sayings) (you'll prolly wanna check out this edition instead). Or, behind door number three, Big B's life story, Bodhicharyavatara (the life of the Bodhisattva). By the way: the goal of the holy shit world book tour To learn something about many of the world's Great Religions simply by reading their sacred texts (i ain't a-goin ta no church and i ain't personally interviewin no devout believers!). My biggest non-philosophical takeaway from the Upanishads is that i can't learn much of anything about the practice of Hinduism from it. Critical texts drive this point home to a certainty and convince me that all sacred texts might have the same relationship to their faiths as practiced by their devotees. We humans declare something to be holy writ, and then there's what we humans do with it, including but not limited to literally and figuratively wiping our asses. Allow iMeMy to dig up some o' the deep shit i mentioned earlier (i.e., i'm gonna babble and babble and babble so you'd be wise to go read something else now; e.g., it's a good time to scroll down to the experts' quotes) the 3 (or 4, or 7?!) levels of consciousness So, i've only ever thought of the Conscious and the Subconscious. I'm limited that way. Like i'm kinda unable to think of more than zero gods. Anyway. The Hindu gurus pointed out for me that there's awake, asleep-and-dreaming, and asleep-but-not-dreaming. This last one ... it's a tricksy one. where does the Self go during dreamless sleep? Good bleeping question. I'm going along, existing nice and steady and aware and all, then i choose to sleep, and then at some point unknown to me and completely irrelevant to my wishes, i just don't exist anymore. And it's as if nothing exists anymore, not me, not you, not any thing at all. (By the way, iMeMy frequently succumb to this kind of solipsism.) I've heard/read arguments that fearing death because it might mean the utter annihilation of the Self/soul is as silly as fearing sleep because during sleep one always completely loses consciousness for at least a little while ... and nobody fears that, right? Uh, perhaps, but maybe that's what little kids fight so strenuously when they're too young to be capable of expressing such thoughts? how does the Self come back from dreamless sleep? Another good bleepin question. It just happens. We don't make it happen. And if you tell me that it's simple brain chemistry, then are you tellin me that i'm actually just a biomachine? (I hope not, cuz them's fightin words.) I mean, i know there are all kinds of things that my body does without me willing them, but this is my consciousness and lack thereof we're talkin about. Even though "Absence of proof does not mean proof of absence," i can't think of any other consciousness-related actions that happen unwittingly. And what about creatures to whom we attribute lower consciousnesses? Do bears lose consciousness during long periods of hibernation? They can't be actively dreaming the whole time. Is it harder to bring the bear Self back from that long sleep? And what about worms? Thanks to last night's torrential rains, this morning i saw my first sidewalk-languishing worms of the neoSpringtime. Assuming they're underground all Winter and assuming they're not dancing around down there in the frozen earth, what happens to their already limited consciousnesses during the longdarkfreezetime? [i'm sure you've guessed it by now, but none of these exact discussions is literally covered in the Upanishads; these details are merely idiosyncratic tangents] the Self (atman) and the Über-Self (Brahman) Everybody has an iMeMy that's most uniquely iMeMy to them and that iMeMy seems to be separate from every other most-uniquely-Him/Her; that uniqueness is the Hindu concept atman (fairly translated as "soul"). And then there's Brahman. Brahman is to the Universe what atman is to each of you. So, the Universe has a soul. Except Brahman actually is the Universe. Including you. Including iMeMy. Including our "individual" atmans. And everything yearns to become part of Brahman. The yearning one feels, that's awareness separateness and awareness of the inadequacy of separateness. Unity is what everyone seeks. I'm not totally in love with this idea, but it does get me thinking. And i definitely do not dig the orthodox Hindu view that the absolute absorption of the individual Self into Brahman is the ultimate bliss ... iMeMy wanna hang on to my Self, pretty please and thank you very much Mr Brahman sir ... that's the kind of solipsist i am. Consciousness Is The Universe, that is. Consciousness. That's where everything came from. THAT is the Big Bang. There was no consciousness / There was no-consciousness. And then ... Is. Like the transition to/from asleep-not-dreaming. It blows my mind. I promise i'm not high. Maybe that would make it even mindblowier; i really wouldn't know, but iMeMy can't help but consider the possibilities of hallucinogenics and psychotropics. I've always wondered what makes me conscious and what the hell is consciousness? How can anything be conscious and how is it different from something like a rock which i presume has no consciousness? that brings me to the infinite line metaphor My first idea for a personal attempt to trap Brahman within a finite image was the universal sea of seltzer water metaphor, but i've given up on that one. I hope you know of Etch A Sketch™ or even Harold and the Purple Crayon. Start by picturing Harold's simple drawings or the simple things that most of us are capable of drawing with an Etch A Sketch. Now imagine you have your favorite drawing implement & medium. Imagine a simple line drawing of a house, like what you would've done at 5 years old. Now, draw that picture in one continuous line. And now do it in one continuous line that never crosses itself. And now the same restraints plus it must have 3-dimensional perspective. Can you imagine being able to draw a truly 3-dimensional house this way? How about a 3-dimensional house that persists in time for 5 minutes and accounts for (i.e., displays) all movement inside and outside? Now add the following inward and outward quantum leaps: include everything everywhere always, even thoughts and feelings and possibilities and .... That one continuous never-doubling back, never-intersecting line is the Oneness of the interconnectedness of everything. Delving deeper into matter only reveals the hyperintricacy of Brahman's line-drawing. And that beautifully simple English preposition works in both directions: the line-drawing is "of Brahman" in the sense that Brahman creates it (by being), but it's also "of Brahman" in that the line-drawing depicts Brahman because Brahman is that which Is. The guru has just walked up to me to say for the umpteenth time, "Neti, neti [not that, not that]," so i shall finally stop trying to explain (capture) the infinite. Come to think of it, you don't gotta read the Upanishads, you only gotta read what i have wroten here, you lazy luckouts. The Ups prolly ain't gonna do it for you. Especially if the stuff i already writed gets you excited. I don't know, whatever, read the Ups or don't read the Ups. Read pieces parts. Read about pieces parts all. I thought it was pretty cool stuff in the abstract, but ultimately i wouldn't dedicate 12 years of my life to studying under a guru in the hopes of holding the winner in this particular universal lottery. As usual, i've told you nothing (very little?) about the book that i am ostensibly "reviewing." What some truly smart people have said about the Ups From Eknath Easwaran's intro:[They] are not philosophy. They do not explain or develop a line of argument. They are ... "something seen," and the student to whom they were taught was expected not only to listen to the words but to ... make their truths an integral part of character, conduct, and consciousness. (22-23) [Only] a few ever hear these truths; of those who hear, only a few understand, and of those only a handful attain the goal. (24) [The] sages of the Upanishads wanted more than explanations of the outside world. They sought principles that would unify and explain the world within the mind. If the observer observes through the medium of consiousness and the world too is observed in consciousness, should not the same laws apply to both? (28; clearly this point is debatable, but...) What do they [the Ups] report? They tell us, first, that whatever we are, whatever we may have done, there is in each of us an inalienable Self that is divine.... [Love] is the first and last commandment of this realization, for the same Self dwells in all.... They call us to the discovery of a realm deep within ourselves which is our native state.... They place us at home in a compassionate universe, where nothing is "other" than ourselves--and they urge us to treat that universe with reverence, for there is nothing in the world but God.... Last, most significantly, the Upanishads tell us that our native state is a realm where death cannot reach, which can be attained here in this life by those willing to devote their lives to the necessary purification of consciousness.... In this compassionate view life becomes a kind of school in which the individual self is constantly evolving, growing life after life toward a fully human stature. The goal is realization of one's true nature: not matter, embodied or disembodied, but the uncreated Self. (42-45)From Michael M Nagler's afterword:First, the Upanishads offer a noble, exalted vision of human nature.... Second, while [they] are wrapped in a good bit of mythology and ritual, that wrapping comes off pretty easily. What we are left with is pure mysticism: a penetrating and remarkably comprehensive vision of Truth.... Third, [they] are scientific [errrm...] and experiential [OK, sure]. They don't say, "Believe this"; they say, "This we have seen...". More: their outlook is nonjudgmental. (295-296) Tradition has isolated four powerful formulaic utterances (mahāvākyas) embedded in the early Upanishads. One is sarvam idam brahma, "All is Brahman".... (316) The others are ayam ātmā brahma, "The Self is Brahman," prajnām brahma, "Consciousness is Brahman," and aham brahmāsmi, "I am Brahman." (335; note re: quote from 316) Not surprisingly, "You are That" (tat tvam asi) is one of the mahāvākyas (316; which apparently makes five mahāvākyas?)From Paul Deussen's The Philosophy of the Upanishads:[The] leading ideas of the Upanishads [are] the doctrine, namely, of the sole reality of the Atman, of its evolution as the universe, its identity with the soul... (8) This identity of the Brahman and the atman, of God and the soul, is the fundamental thought of the entire doctrine of the Upanishads. (39) The necessary premises of all religion are, as Kant frequently expounds: (1) The existence of God, (2) the immortality of the soul, (3) the freedom of the will (without which no morality is possible). These three essential conditions of man's salvation—God, immortality, and freedom—are conceivable only if the universe is mere appearance and not reality ([to use the Hindu word for it] mere maya and not the atman), and they break down irretrievably should this empirical reality, wherein we live, be found to constitute the true essence of things. (45) The teaching of Yajnavalkhya [a prominent sage depicted within the Ups] ... is a daring, uncompromising, eccentric idealism (comparable to that of Parmenides), which is summed up in three propositions: ... (1) The atman is the knowing subject within us.... (2) The atman, as the knowing subject, is itself unknowable.... (3) The atman is the sole reality. (399-400)Why iMeMy am not a Hindu As stated earlier, i just can't give up my Self like i'm supposed to. I love my Self too much to let it go EVEN if that means guaranteed blissful (but selfless) unity with The Ultimate Oneness of Everything (my term). (cf. Why I Am Not a Hindu whose author has much more quotidian quibbles agin this religion.)

  23. 5 out of 5

    Philip Cartwright

    A fascinating, sometimes haunting, sometimes baffling read. Of course, these sacred scriptures don't give a full picture of Hinduism by themselves - for that I'd need greater familiarity with the numerous ceremonies, chants, rituals and stories that go with them. Nevertheless, the Upanishads provide a mesmerising window onto what is (for me) a very foreign world. I hesitate to attempt much analysis of such a venerable text - especially after just a first read-through. But I will offer this: on A fascinating, sometimes haunting, sometimes baffling read. Of course, these sacred scriptures don't give a full picture of Hinduism by themselves - for that I'd need greater familiarity with the numerous ceremonies, chants, rituals and stories that go with them. Nevertheless, the Upanishads provide a mesmerising window onto what is (for me) a very foreign world. I hesitate to attempt much analysis of such a venerable text - especially after just a first read-through. But I will offer this: on one level the Upanishads provide a means of connecting mankind to the world (and by "the world" I mean not just the earth and its objects, but celestial objects, gods and spirits). It spells out a web of intricate symbolism whereby everything stands for something else and everything is connected to everything else. Everything grasps and is grasped. But on another level, the symbolism is a means of transcending the world. Here, of course, I'm thinking of Brahman: the great unknowable that stands at the heart of all existence and can only be defined by a series of negations: "Not__ Not__ Not__". As the Upanishads progress this notion of Brahman increasingly takes centre-stage. Consequently I found the mystical message became increasingly familiar: the perceived world is an illusion, wealth is a trap, etc, etc. I'm not criticising this, but I did find the earlier books (the Brhadaranyaka and Chandogya Upanishads) intriguing precisely because they are more ambiguous or elusive on the issue. The Oxford World's Classics edition has a helpful introduction and detailed end-notes. Finally, one of the many verses that caught my eye: I do not think that I know it well; But I know not that I do not know. Who of us knows that, he does know that; But he knows not, that he does not know. It's envisioned by one who envisions it not; but one who envisions it knows it not. And those who perceive it perceive it not; but it's perceived by those who perceive it not. Kena Upanishad, Chapter 2

  24. 4 out of 5

    Julian Meynell

    I read the version translated by Juan Mascaro and I want to talk about his treatment before moving onto the work. I found Mascaro's introduction to be a bit flaky. Mascaro is fundamentally a mystic who tries to see all religions and most great figures in literature and philosophy as reflecting the same one mystical reality. While of course there is some merit in that view, it hides more than it reveals. In the translation, this gave me some concerns where Mascaro is using Christian language and I read the version translated by Juan Mascaro and I want to talk about his treatment before moving onto the work. I found Mascaro's introduction to be a bit flaky. Mascaro is fundamentally a mystic who tries to see all religions and most great figures in literature and philosophy as reflecting the same one mystical reality. While of course there is some merit in that view, it hides more than it reveals. In the translation, this gave me some concerns where Mascaro is using Christian language and I was not sure if it was accurate translation or a reflection of Mascaro's philosophical agenda. Also, apparently the entirety of the Upanishads is about equal in size to the Bible and its hard to tell then how reflective this sample is of the whole. Having said all that, Mascaro's translation is good and has a lot of literary power in its plain language use. It seemed to me a well worth reading selection, but I was left with the intent to read the whole of the Upanishad's at some point in the future. The Upanishad's themselves are good. The selections in this book are very much the core religious doctrines, but their expression is beautiful and they were a pleasure to read. In many ways I preferred them to the Bhagavad Gita which is really my only relevant point of comparison. I do think that they are more interesting and insightful than most other religious texts, although I am at heart a Spinozist and I was often struck by how close they were to the doctrines of Spinoza. Probably every person who was to be literate and understand the major ideas of the world religions should read them. They are also very pretty. However, the Bible could be made to look a lot more pretty than it really is, if a selection this small was made of it. Anyway, you should probably read this book, and I should probably read the whole thing at some point in the future.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    "Om. Poornamatha Poornamitham Poornatpoornamudachyathe Poornasya Poornamathaya Poornamevavasishyathe Om Shaanthi! Shaanthi! Shaanthihi!" -(The peace chant from Brahadaranyaka) Translated by Sankaracharya as:- "Om. That (Brahman) is infinite, and this (Universe) is infinite. The infinite proceeds from the infinite. (Then) taking the infinitude of the infinite (universe), it remains as the infinite (Brahman) alone." The author's translation:- "All this is full, all that is full. From fullness, fullness "Om. Poornamatha Poornamitham Poornatpoornamudachyathe Poornasya Poornamathaya Poornamevavasishyathe Om Shaanthi! Shaanthi! Shaanthihi!" -(The peace chant from Brahadaranyaka) Translated by Sankaracharya as:- "Om. That (Brahman) is infinite, and this (Universe) is infinite. The infinite proceeds from the infinite. (Then) taking the infinitude of the infinite (universe), it remains as the infinite (Brahman) alone." The author's translation:- "All this is full, all that is full. From fullness, fullness comes. When fullness is taken from fullness, Fullness still remains." Manthra is to be chanted as it is. Translation may make it a beautiful prayer, but it will lose its beauty and effect if chanted in any language other than Sanskrit.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Julie Kelly

    The Upanishads is an amazing book about spirituality in India. It takes you on a jorney of the self and allows you to realize and understand that the mind is what dominates the life for example what you desire is what you basically get. The Unipanishads as a book is sometimes hard to grasp but well worth persevereing with just as its sister book the Bhagavadgita

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ajay

    One of the most beautiful read i have come across. This book consists of 11 major Upanishads and 4 minor Upanishads. Very good commentary and in simple language.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    There is some truth in the Upanishads, a word in Sanskrit which means, "a sitting, an instruction, the sitting at the feet of a master," but there is so much which is fluff and simply not true. Truths: "the wise man chooses the path of joy; the fool takes the path of pleasure." p. 58 "What lies beyond life shines not to those who are childish, or careless, or deluded by wealth." p. 58 "the foolish run after outward pleasures and fall into the snares." p. 62 "There is the path of wisdom and the path There is some truth in the Upanishads, a word in Sanskrit which means, "a sitting, an instruction, the sitting at the feet of a master," but there is so much which is fluff and simply not true. Truths: "the wise man chooses the path of joy; the fool takes the path of pleasure." p. 58 "What lies beyond life shines not to those who are childish, or careless, or deluded by wealth." p. 58 "the foolish run after outward pleasures and fall into the snares." p. 62 "There is the path of wisdom and the path of ignorance." p. 58 "Abiding in the midst of ignorance, but thinking themselves wise and learned, fools aimlessly go hither and thither, like blind led by the blind. Wandering in the paths of unwisdom..." p. 77 Falsehoods: "..By ruling this castle (the castle of the body), man is free from sorrows and, free from All bondage." p. 63 "When All desires that cling to the heart are surrendered, then a mortal becomes immortal." p. 66 "He is beyond thought and invisible, beyond family and colour. He has neither eyes nor ears; he has neither hands nor feet. He is everlasting and ominpresent, infinite in the great and infinite in the small. He is the Eternal whom the sages see as the source of all creation." p. 75

  29. 4 out of 5

    Erik Akre

    How could I ever "rate" this book? I do so by observing the influence it has had on my own thought, or the mirroring I saw of that thought in its words. A masterwork: so ancient as not to be evaluated as you would contemporary books on philosophy or "spirituality." They are petty and tediously long-winded in comparison. I have taken from these poems a sense of nourishment that comes from somewhere deep down. As I read them, I felt something welling up to quench a thirst that I only barely knew I How could I ever "rate" this book? I do so by observing the influence it has had on my own thought, or the mirroring I saw of that thought in its words. A masterwork: so ancient as not to be evaluated as you would contemporary books on philosophy or "spirituality." They are petty and tediously long-winded in comparison. I have taken from these poems a sense of nourishment that comes from somewhere deep down. As I read them, I felt something welling up to quench a thirst that I only barely knew I had. They awakened something that was already there. From so long ago, they will forever hold their message fast for those who will study and understand. They are a compliment to any meditation practice one might have, also interesting as bewildering history. Who were these people, and what kind of civilization had they built among these ideas?

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy

    While often referred to as Hindu scripture that constitute the core teachings of Vedanta, The Upanishads is really more of a collection of meditations. It is not a theology. They are the kind of meditations that are relevant in any age: what is the nature of love, of the spirit, of the unseen but always felt forces in our universe. But they are not "thoughts" about these things. If you are looking for philosophy, go elsewhere. One does see the glimmer of the Buddhism that Hindu inspires. The While often referred to as Hindu scripture that constitute the core teachings of Vedanta, The Upanishads is really more of a collection of meditations. It is not a theology. They are the kind of meditations that are relevant in any age: what is the nature of love, of the spirit, of the unseen but always felt forces in our universe. But they are not "thoughts" about these things. If you are looking for philosophy, go elsewhere. One does see the glimmer of the Buddhism that Hindu inspires. The oneness of soul and of other beings, the all relate-able to the one, and that sort of thing. The translation is certainly more old-school, and one can't help but get the feeling that the Sanskrit is being read by Christian eyes. Hard to explain exactly why I feel that way, but if you read this translation, maybe you'll sense it, too.

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