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The Upanishads

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The Upanishads, the earliest of which were composed in Sanskrit between 800 and 400 bce by sages and poets, form part of the Vedas - the sacred and ancient scriptures that are the basis of the Hindu religion. Each Upanishad, or lesson, takes up a theme ranging from the attainment of spiritual bliss to karma and rebirth, and collectively they are meditations on life, death and immortality. The essence of their teachings is that truth can by reached by faith rather than by thought, and that the spirit of God is within each of us - we need not fear death as we carry within us the promise of eternal life.

First published January 1, 501

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 536 reviews
Profile Image for Roy Lotz.
Author 1 book8,091 followers
June 7, 2016
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."
Profile Image for Krishna Chaitanya.
68 reviews122 followers
December 22, 2020

Having taught the Vedas, the teacher says:
"Speak the truth. Do your duty. Neglect not
The scriptures. Give your best to your teacher.
Do not cut off the line of Progeny. Swerve not
From the truth. Swerve not from the good.
Protect your spiritual progress always.
Give your best in learning and teaching.
Never fail in respect to the sages.
See the divine in your mother, father,
Teacher, and guest. Never do what is wrong.
Honor those who are worthy of honor.
Give with faith. Give with love. Give with joy.
If you are in doubt about right conduct,
Follow the example of sages,
Who know what is best for spiritual growth.
This is the instruction of the Vedas;
This is the secret; this is the message."

Profile Image for Adrian Anderson.
91 reviews13 followers
March 30, 2011
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!
Profile Image for فؤاد.
1,032 reviews1,677 followers
March 27, 2018
آیین برهمایی
جهان بینی برهمایی، یکی از بی نظیرترین مکاتب فلسفی-عرفانی شرق است که بنا به عقیده ی بسیاری، تأثیری عمیق در عرفان پيشا مسيحى( فلوطین)، عرفان مسیحی و عرفان اسلامی گذاشته است.
مهم ترین اصل این جهان بینی این است که جهان هیچ حقیقتی ندارد و تنها "نمود"ی بدون "بود" است، مانند تصاویری که در رؤیا می بینیم. تمام این جهان، تمام این تصاویر، تمام این "نمود"ها، ساخته ی "بود"ی واحد، بی شکل و درک ناشدنی است که "براهمان" نامیده می شود. "براهمان" در درون تمام اشیا جاری است، اما با حس درک نمی شود، بلکه راه درک کردنش، فرو رفتن به درون خود، و یافتن آن در اعماق خود است. و این وظیفه ی سالک است: با مراقبه و ریاضت، از تصاویر بی حقیقت رنگارنگ بگذرد و به جوهر هستی برسد، در آن جاست که به جوهر شادی می رسد.
این آموزه، بعدها در سنت اسلامی با تغییر اندکی به "وحدت وجود" تبدیل شده است.

اوپانیشادها
آیین برهمایی در طول دوره های مختلف تغییرات زیادی کرده است و از آیینی بدوی به آیینی فلسفی-عرفانی تبدیل شده است. هر یک از این دوره ها کتب مخصوص خود را داشته اند، از جمله "ودا"ها که مخصوص دوره ی اول بوده اند. اوپانیشادها، محصول دوره ی فلسفی-عرفانی آیین برهمایی است. این کتاب خود از چند کتاب کوچک تر تشکیل شده که هر یک، "اوپانیشاد" نام دارند. واژه ی "اوپانیشاد" به معنی "زانو زدن نزد استاد" است و مجازاً به معنای "تعلیم". در نتیجه، اوپانیشادها را می توان به معنای "تعالیم" یا "آموزه ها" دانست.
کتاب از اساطیر دینی، حکایات عرفانی و سرودهای آیینی تشکیل شده است.

از کتاب:
آدمى در آغوش دلبرش، درون و برون، همه را از ياد مى برد. در آغوش "براهمان" نیز درون و برون، همه را از ياد خواهد برد. آن جا هر هوسى به هدفش مى رسد، "براهمان" يكتا هوسش مى شود. هوسى ديگر نيست؛ و آدمى به آن سوى اندوه مى رسد.

پدر از ميان مى رود. مادر از ميان مى رود. جهان از ميان مى رود. خدايان از ميان مى روند. خير و شر از ميان مى رود.
آدمى به آن سوى اندوه مى رسد.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,568 reviews55.5k followers
September 12, 2017
The Upanishads, Anonymous
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: بیست و دوم ماه اکتبر سال 2009 میلادی
عنوان: اوپانیشادها - کتابهای حکمت؛ نویسنده: ناشناس؛ مترجم: مهدی جواهریان؛ پیام یزدانجو؛ تهران، نشر مرکز، 1387؛ در 287 ص؛ شابک: 9789643059804؛ موضوع: کتابهای مقدس - هندوئیسم - قرن 5 پیش از میلاد
اوپه نیشدها (اپانیشادها)، شامل مباحث فلسفی، دینی و قسمتی از کتاب ودا، و نیز اذکار و سرودهای خدایان و برهمنان و شرح آیین قهرمانی هندوان و جز آن است. این کتاب، که در حدود 600 سال پیش از میلاد یعنی حوالی ظهور مذهب بودا تألیف شده، از معنی، هدف زندگی، غایت جهان و ارتباط بشر با نیروهای نامرئی عالم گفت و گو می‌کند. عارفان هند این کتاب را کتابی جهانی می‌دانند، یعنی کتابی که همیشه در دل دوستداران دین و حقیقت در میان کلیه ملل عالم مؤثر است. اوپه نیشدها نخستین تألیف از افکار فلسفی مرتب هندوان، و مبنای فلسفه ی هند از آغاز تاکنون، و منبع الهام عارفان جهان و مورد توجه همه فِرق، حتی مادیون و پیروان بودا، بوده است. از فلاسفه مغرب زمین: شوپنهاور، انکتیل دوپرون و دویسن آن را حائز اهمیت دانسته‌ اند. پروفسور دویسن معتقد است که امروز اوپه نیشدها پیش هر هندوی برهمن، حُکمِ انجیل عیسویان را دارد. اوپه نیشدها و ویداها، از کهنترین اثرهای مکتوب هند و آریائی به شمار است، و هندوان آنها را آسمانی و کلام خداوند میدانند. متن از کتاب: 1- خوبی و خوش آیندی دو چیز جداگانه هستند. هر یک از این دو هدفی دیگر دارد. برای شخص مصلحت آن است که از این دو، خوبی را اختیار کند. آنکه خوشآیند را انتخاب کند، هدف خود را از دست داده. خوش و خوب هر دو به شخص رو مینهند، و شخص خردمند در مواجهه با آن تشخیص میدهد و خردمند خوب را اختیار میکند، نه خوش آیند را. و مردم احمق بر وجه اخذ و ذخیره خوشآیند را اختیار میکنند. 2 - هوش، عالیتر از حواس است و مافوق هوش وجود واقعی ست، و مافوق وجود واقعی عقل بزرگ است، و در فوق آن وجود غیبی است. اما فوق وجود غیبی شخصی (ذاتی) است که محیط کل است، و نشانی ندارد. کسی که آن را پی برد آزاد میشود و به عالم جاودانی میرود. ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for MihaElla .
189 reviews318 followers
July 1, 2019
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."
Profile Image for Sinem A..
448 reviews246 followers
July 3, 2018
Bu kadar eski bu kadar sağlam metinler okumak insanı gerçekten oldukça etkiliyor. Din ile felsefeyi bütünleştirmesi , hayat, tıp, doğa , insan gibi konularda bugün bile geçerli bilgilerin temelini görmek şaşırtıcı olduğu kadar düşündürücü de.
Profile Image for Elenabot.
39 reviews438 followers
July 24, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Girish Kohli.
Author 1 book18 followers
July 16, 2012
'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.
Profile Image for Vegan Viajo.
54 reviews7 followers
July 12, 2012


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
Profile Image for Richard.
259 reviews59 followers
May 7, 2008
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.
Profile Image for Nilguen.
168 reviews54 followers
March 26, 2022
Since the age and roots of Hinduism reach to prehistorical times, manifestations in writing emerged much later on, including the vedas and, hence, the Upanishads. However, the Upanishads have often been called the purest source of India’s spiritual tradition.

The Upanishads are pertinent to the centrally religious manifestations of Hinduism. The main idea is that all living creatures inhabit the Self, which also created the world. Human beings finding their Self will also find peace upon their death, whilst meditation is the main path to find the Self.

First, the Upanishads offer a noble, exalted vision of human nature. Second, the Upanishads are wrapped in a good bit of mythology and ritual. Third, the Upanishads are scientific and experiential.

The Upanishads deal with all essential topics such as birth, death, and life thereafter.
The manifestation promotes the idea of prioritizing the well-being of human beings instead of glorifying any godly might.

The Upanishads depict a repository of picturesque writing, though most pictures from prehistorical times are no longer comprehensible in today´s world.

The book deals with the mystical secretive knowledge that is conveyed by Brahmans to students. Since the manifestation in writing emerged much later in times, it has been the modus operandi to convey the knowledge orally.

The Upanishads are not only an informative read, but also very lyrical verse by verse and conveys patience in repetitive knowledge transfer.

Note: Upanishad = ‚sitting down near’, a mystical text given by illuminated seers, attached to the end of one of the Vedas.
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Profile Image for Trenton Judson.
192 reviews7 followers
October 22, 2012
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.
Profile Image for Mahdi Lotfi.
446 reviews106 followers
August 21, 2017
اوپانیشادها (تلفظ دقیق‌تر ولی کمتر رایج: اوپَه‌نیشَدها) یا ودانتا از کهنترین متون مینوی آئین هندو هستند که به دوره برهمایی بازمی‌گردند. اوپانیشادها تأثیر شگرفی بر فلسفه و دین هندو داشته‌اند و مفاهیم باطنی این آئین را بیان نموده‌اند.
از میان متون دینی هندوئیسم، اوپانیشاد، توجه دین‌پژوهان را بیشتر به خود جلب کرده‌است، زیرا این متون اوج و پایان آموزه‌های ودایی (ودانته) است، که نمایانگر گذر از چندخدایی و گرایش به یک‌خدایی و وحدت وجود است.[۱]
در اوپانیشادها تبیین «حقیقتی» که ساری و جاری در همه پدیده‌های جهان است، جایگزین سرود و ستایش ایزدان و ایزدبانوان شده‌است. مشخصه اصلیِ این متون گذر از عین به ذهن و عبور از اندیشیدن درباره شگفتی جهان خارج به تأمل درونی است.
در اوپانیشاد، نمودها و پدیده‌های طبیعی مانند: باد، آب، آتش، آسمان، و خورشید که ایزدان مورد پرستش هندوان بودند به عنوان جلوه‌ای از وجود خدا دانسته شده‌اند.
Profile Image for Dennis Littrell.
1,078 reviews43 followers
July 23, 2019
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)”
Profile Image for Zahra Dashti.
357 reviews103 followers
February 6, 2017
دو سه روزه دارم کتاب اوپانیشادها رو می خونم (کتاب های مقدس هندوان). هندو ها به تناسخ اعتقاد دارن ، ولی این تناسخ برای همه رخ نمی ده. می شه اینجور گفت این تناسخ برای اونهایی رخ می ده که تو زندگی به کمالی که باید نرسیده اند و یگانه هستی یا روح رو نشناخته اند و باهاش یکی نشده اند. برای همین دوباره به زندگی پست دنیا (به شکلی نوعی از آفرینش) بر می گردند و این چرخه اونقدر طی می شه که یا یگانه هستی رو بشناسند ، یا همچنان این چرخه ادامه پیدا کنه. اما کسی که یگانه هستی یا روح رو بشناسه ، از چرخه تناسخ و زندگی پست دنیا خارج می شه و با روح یکی می شه. نکته جالبی داشت ، برخلاف چیزی که شاید فیلم ها و داستانهایی که در اونها به تناسخ اعتقاد دارن نشون می ده، در نظر هندوها ، تناسخ یک فرصت دوباره برای بهتر زندگی کردنه ، نه اینکه صرفا آدمها بتونن از زندگی لذت ببرن یا این یه نعمت مسرت بخش باشه. در واقع حکم امتحان جبرانی رو داره، نه اینکه مقطع بالاتر یا ادامه یه سیر لذت بخش باشه.

پ ن : نمی دونم تونستم منظور رو برسونم یا نه!
Profile Image for فؤاد.
1,032 reviews1,677 followers
January 2, 2017
نقل است که زمانی داریوش شایگان، قسمتهایی از اوپانیشادها را برای علامه طباطبایی می خواند و ترجمه می کرد. علامه فرموده بودند اين كتاب چه معانی بلندی دارد و کاش قبل از اتمام المیزان، این کتاب را خوانده بودم.
و نيز نقل است که فرمودند برخى الهامات الهى بر ارباب اديان ديگر مى شده است، و اوپانيشادها جزء همان الهامات غيبى است.

همين طور معروف است که شوپنهاور همیشه این کتاب را در کنار میزش مى گذاشته و مطالعه مى کرده و مى گفته: بزرگترين تحول در زندگی من از خواندن اوپانیشادها بود و همچنان که تسلای زندگانی من بوده، تسلای مرگ من هم خواهد بود.
Profile Image for Ben.
811 reviews47 followers
January 8, 2014
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.
Profile Image for Jonfaith.
1,821 reviews1,323 followers
September 14, 2021
In the cosmos there are only eaters and the eaten. Ultimately, all is food.

I am not sure why I chose to read this. I do know why I finished it: insomnia. I have been up since 00:30 in a strange state without angst. Thus the glosses on deep sleep and the dreaming life jarred a stray nerve or two. I did proceed, admiring the lyrical bend but not the cosmology. I suppose that isn't the point. Schopenhauer and Calasso both appear deeply influenced by The Upanishads and perhaps I wanted to adorn such, with whatever fleeting vanity that would involve. I am distrustful of ways which reject thinking and dialectic.
Profile Image for Sean Wilson.
190 reviews
July 21, 2019
"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."

Profile Image for d.
219 reviews156 followers
Read
September 11, 2017
Lectura decepcionante aunque necesaria para mi futuro acercamiento a la obra de Schopenhauer. Hay una voluntad de adoctrinación muy fuerte y un culto personal al Brahman bastante polémico. Ni en belleza ni en brutalidad material se acerca a los pocos textos budistas que he leído.
Profile Image for Pavelas.
128 reviews9 followers
August 10, 2022
Nekyla abejonių, kad Upanišados - ne tik religinis, bet kartu ir filosofinis tekstas. Tai indų liaudies* metafizika, ilgą laiką perdavinėta iš lūpų į lūpas ir tik vėliau užrašyta. Pagrindinė mintis, kaip aš suprantu, yra tokia (aš vartoju vakarietiškus terminus, aišku, originale viskas labai supoetinta). Subjekto sąmonė visą laiką į kažką projektuojama - subjektas mato, girdi, lyti, svajoja, sapnuoja. Normaliom sąlygom subjekto sąmonė negeba atsiriboti nuo objekto, joje visą laiką kažkas sukasi kaip potyriai arba kaip prisiminimai, arba kaip sapnai. Tačiau miegas be sapnų yra ta būsena, kai mūsų sąmonė yra visiškai tuščia ir į nieką nenukreipta. Upanišadose sakoma, kad tokioje būsenoje mes susiliejame su objektu ir tampame su juo vieniu. Kitaip tariant, kai subjektas nieko nesuvokia, jis tampa objektu. Ir čia visas Upanišadų mokymas skatina tai perprasti ir per jogos praktikas išlavinti sąmonę, kad ji tokią būseną pasiektų nemiegant. Taigi tikslas - pasiekti subjekto ir objekto vienovę, kuri Upanišadose vadinama atmanu (arba kitaip - brahmanu). Upanišadose daug paralelių tarp mikrokosmo ir makrokosmo, sakant, kad žmogus, kaip atmanas, iš esmės savyje talpina visą pasaulį.

Išties Upanišadose galima įžvelgti tam tikrų panašumų su vakarų filosofija. Kantas sakė, kad žmogui pasiekiami tik fenomenai, tai yra, jo potyriams ir jo prietaisų jutikliams prieinamos daiktų savybės, o daiktų savaime (noumenų) tikroji prigimtis, kad ir kokia ji bebūtų, jam neprieinama. Šopenhauris buvo susipažęs ne tik su Kanto darbais, bet ir su pirmąkart vakaruose pasirodžiusiu lotyniškuoju Upanišadų vertimu, liko sužavėtas ir savo filosofijoje nusprendė atskleisti, kas yra ta tikroji Kanto minėta daiktų prigimtis. Pasak Šopenhauerio, visa ko pagrindas yra vienas - valia. Visi daiktai susiveda į šią veržlia ir negailestingą valią, ir ji yra viena visiems pasaulio daiktams. Čia galima brėžti paralelę su Upanišadų atmanu, kuris taip pat yra visa ko vienintelis pagrindas, o pasaulyje regima įvairovė yra tik Majos skraistė, apgaulingai slepianti nuo mūsų tikrąją atmano prigimtį, kuri slypi vienyje. Vėliau, jau XX a. fenomenologija, kaip ir Upanišados, sutelkė visą dėmesį į žmogaus sąmonę. Tik fenomenologija apsiribojo sąmonei atsiveriančių fenomenų analize, o Upanišados fenomenus nuvertina ir sako, kad svarbūs ne fenomenai, bet sąmonė savaime, kuri, kai ji tuščia, susilieja su atmanu (absoliutu). O labai panorėjus, sąsajų su Upanišadomis galima įžvelgti net ir Platono filosofijoje. Juk Platonas žymiojoje olos alegorijoje tvirtino, kad mes gyvename šešėlių pasaulyje ir nematome tikrosios dalykų prigimties, kuri slypi idėjose, o ne regimybėse. Šiuo atveju panašumas į Upanišadų Majos skraistę gana akivaizdus.

Man atrodo, pasaulio traktavimas kaip regimybės nėra savaime akivaizdus ir intuityvus. Bent jau mūsų laikais natūralesnis atrodo požiūris, kad mes gyvename pasaulyje ir esame vienas iš jame esančių daiktų, kuris turi protą ir galbūt sielą, ir kuris bando išgyventi. Ir vis dėlto įvairiuose pasaulio kraštuose ir įvairiais laikotarpiais buvo žmonių, žiūrėjusių į viską “iš vidaus”, iš “mano perspektyvos” ir vertinusių pasaulį tik kaip tai, “ką aš patiriu”. Ir iš tikro, žiūrint labai preciziškai turbūt neįmanoma visiškai neginčijamai įrodyti, kad žmogaus gyvenimas iš tikrųjų nėra tik jo sąmonės projekcijos (a la matrica). Dekartas atskleidė tą pamatinį principą, jog mano egzistavimą patvirtina tai, kad aš mąstau. Bet pasakęs “A”, Dekartas neišdrįso pasakyti “B” - tai yra, kad mano egzistavimas visiškai nereiškia, kad galima įrodyti pasaulio, kuris mane supa, egzistavimo už mano sąmonės ribų.

*tiesą sakant, toks įvardijimas netikslus, norėjau pasakyti, kad Upanišados neturi konkretaus autoriaus. Vis dėlto prieigą prie jų galėjo gauti tik aukščiausios brahmanų ir kšatrijų kastos, bet ne žemesnėse kastose esantys liaudies atstovai.
Profile Image for Oakshaman.
15 reviews32 followers
June 18, 2009
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....
Profile Image for Erin.
6 reviews
March 9, 2012
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
Profile Image for Daniel Prasetyo.
48 reviews10 followers
August 25, 2012
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.
Profile Image for PaulyReads.
6 reviews
March 26, 2022
In my spiritual quest I am striving to read primary texts as often as possible in order to learn ancient wisdom from the source, unadulterated by modern editorializing. While this translation of the Upanishads is neither literal nor comprehensive, it is an accessible primer on what I consider to be the heart of its contents—its philosophy. The Upanishads themselves are a latter-era commentary on the Vedas, the oldest Hindu scriptures, and for that reason are also known as Vedanta, or the last part of the Vedas, which itself includes various philosophical offshoots such as Advaita Vedanta.

Translated from the Sanskrit, “upanishad��� literally means “sitting down near” which reflects how its teachings were passed down orally from teacher (guru) to student (sishya). The Upanishads focused on and developed the philosophical core of Hinduism and helped shift the religion away from the ritualism of the Vedas to a perennial philosophy for all time. In simple terms, my humble understanding is as follows: every individual has a soul (atman) that is connected to and part of the ultimate, divine spiritual reality that pervades everything (Brahman). We do not realize this unity because the material world we are born into creates an illusion (maya) of separateness and duality between us and Brahman. However, through various techniques called yoga, we can manifest our inherent divinity and reconnect with the divine (moksha). This spiritual realization can be achieved through knowledge (jñāna yoga), devotion (bhakti yoga), selfless work (karma yoga), meditation (raja yoga), or a combination of all the above.

This particular translation provides short summaries of each of the major Upanishads. A representative verse is as follows:

Like two golden birds perched on the selfsame tree,
Intimate friends, the ego and the Self
Dwell in the same body. The former eats
The sweet and sour fruits of the tree of life
While the latter looks on in detachment.

As long as we think we are the ego,
We feel attached and fall into sorrow.
But realize that you are the Self, the Lord
Of life, and you will be freed from sorrow.
When you realize that you are the Self,
Supreme source of light, supreme source of love,
You transcend the duality of life
And enter into the unitive state.

The Lord of Love shines in the hearts of all.
Seeing him in all creatures, the wise
Forget themselves in the service of all.
The Lord is their joy, the Lord is their rest;
Such as they are the lovers of the Lord.

By truth, mediation, and self-control
One can enter into this state of joy
And see the Self shining in a pure heart.

Truth is victorious, never untruth.
Truth is the way; truth is the goal of life,
Reached by sages who are free from self-will


Reading these poetic verses being great peace and serenity to the reader, which also reflects the bliss brought on by achieving oneness through yoga. I found myself instantly at peace and sometimes brought to tears due to the purity and elegance of the verses. I can only imagine what reading the original Sanskrit is like.

The elegance of Vedic thought was quite striking to me, because Hinduism writ large is overflowing with details and variations that overwhelmed me as a child. I think that is why, as a lover of philosophy, I gravitate towards Vedanta as it’s easier for me to grasp. There is one phrase in particular that, in just three words, encapsulates the heart of the Upanishadic philosophy and Advaita Vedanta, or non-dual unity with the divine. Those words are: Tat tvam asi (“Thou art that”). A story in the Chandogya Upanishad recalls how the guru Uddalaka lovingly repeats this phrase over and over to his student Shvetaketu to help him realize the fundamental unity of existence. When the boy struggles to understand, his guru likens him to a tree, a bird, and the ocean, repeating the phrase Tat tvam asi, Tat tvam asi, Tat tvam asi:


As the rivers flowing east and west
Merge into the sea and become one with it,
Forgetting they were ever separate rivers,
So do all creatures lose their separateness
When they merge at last into pure Being.
There is nothing that does not come from him.
Of everything he is the inmost Self.
He is the truth; he is the Self supreme.
You are that, Shvetaketu; you are that


The above is not only a memorable story, but a practical reminder that when you are lost in the chaos of material life, you too can invoke this phrase to remember your divine connection and practice manifesting it in the here and now. As such, the Vedas forthrightly provide a pragmatic approach to life. This is not an esoteric mysticism but a life philosophy, and you are asked not to believe it because of authority but through personal experience. Perhaps that is why Vedic thought has persisted for so many centuries, as it is rediscovered anew by each generation as they embark on spiritual journeys of their own.
Profile Image for Brett C.
768 reviews156 followers
May 2, 2021
This was my first attempt into Hindu literature. I can say I liked what I read. The mystical texts are poetic and pertaining to living a better, more meaningful life. The book contains 11 Upanishad texts and then a few Minor Upanishads. The afterword was about Hinduism in a modern world. This was extremely helpful in explaining various aspects of the Upanishads. The glossary in the back was also very helpful. I intend to reread this as needed in hopes that I may gain some further insight I overlooked the first time!
Profile Image for Roxanne.
Author 1 book52 followers
December 1, 2011
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.
Profile Image for Philip.
4 reviews1 follower
December 26, 2008
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.
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