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Essence of the Upanishads: A Key to Indian Spirituality

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  482 ratings  ·  54 reviews
Through his interpretation of one important Upanishad, an ancient wisdom text, Eknath Easwaran shows how the timeless Indian tradition offers guidance on how to live today. Lyrical, dramatic, and inspiring, the Katha Upanishad presents the core ideas of Indian mysticism in a mythic story all can relate to — the adventure of a young hero, Nachiketa, who passes into the king ...more
Paperback, 252 pages
Published August 25th 2009 by Nilgiri Press (first published 2009)
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Feb 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: yoga
A new favorite. The Upanishads are ancient mystical texts exploring the meaning of life. Along with the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, they round out the major classical yoga texts that yoga students and teachers study these days. Easwaran wrote my favorite translation of the Gita, so I was interested in his take on the Upanishads. In this book, he fleshes out the text of one Upanishad, the Katha, to show us how its wisdom can be useful in our everyday lives.

Basically, it comes
Tandava Graham
Nov 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spiritual-misc
This is a good book, but didn't seem to be quite what I thought it was going to be. Easwaran goes through the story of the Katha Upanishad in the first two chapters, with commentary and spiritual interpretation, which is more or less what I expected. Then the following 10 chapters seem to be his own representation of the spiritual path, without much reference back to the source text.

His perspective seems to focus on the "problem" of the spiritual path -- how we can't be truly happy following ou
Apr 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Though there is humor sprinkled amongst the text, this is not a book of light reading. Actually, in a mostly clear, organized way, the author starts with the Hindu/Buddhist premise that there is no birth or death because the true self exists in its own right and is separate from the physical body. So when a person dies, the self continues and typically joins with a new body around the time of its birth. From what I gather, the goal in life is to join with the eternal self, which is no easy matte ...more
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spiritual, religion
Exceptionally simple! I have read other works of Eknath Easwaran and have found his writings so lucid that explains complex concepts in an exceptionally simple way. The book brings out the essence of Katha Upanishad, one of the primary Upanishads and the most read one. The book is not necessarily structured in the same way but nonetheless the themes are definitely retained. I quote the themes just for a reference.
1.The son questions his father
2.The theory of good versus dear
3.Atman exists, the t
Jun 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Often the search for meaning starts with a sense of restlessness that can carry us all over the earth. We soon realize the outer world has boundaries, but the mind is boundless. There is a vast world waiting within the mind, and time and space have very little meaning in its realms. The best comparison is the sea: its surface is constantly changing yet deep below are mountains larger than the Himalayas, gorges deeper than the Grand Canyon, creatures that spend their life where light has never pe ...more
Deeparnak Bhowmick
Mar 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not quite what I expected when I picked up the book, this book takes up the Katha Upanishad as a primary premise and discusses it in the first couple of chapters of the book. The rest of the book is the author's own experiences and philosophies that he has learnt in the course of his spiritual journey.

Nevertheless, it is a captivating read - It covers the more complex aspects of spirituality and meditation in a very simplified and relatable way. This book is recommended to anyone who is genuinel
Aarti Iyer
Sep 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Sprituality and such a complex subject explained so well
Ravi Raman
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Read this over a period of time, and it soaked in deeper. Some of the Upanishads are fanciful and metaphysical, while others seem more practical. After a full reading, it seems that the range of nature in writing was purposeful. After all, how else to appeal to so many people with varying tastes? The presence of talking animals and lore-filled tales have their place. The commentary and intro/conclusion sections are very enlightening. I have a feeling I will be reading this book many more times.

Victor Negut
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is not what I expected. I was hoping for a detailed description of the Upanishads, this is a very loose description. However, Eknath Easwaran was a great writer and the imagery in this book are even better than usual.

Though it has elements of a self help book, it is still really well done and a worthwhile read. This book would be especially good for two types of people:
1. Those who know the Upanishads well and simply want a good way to see their implications in today’s world.
2. Those who d
Juan Rivera
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lecturas-2018
In religions rituals are perhaps the things that most distance us from the encounter with the divine.

And all religions in the mystical aspect have much to teach.

Personally, Hinduism catches my attention, because it is the beginning of human spirituality.

Because of their antiquity the Upanishads are perhaps the oldest sacred books of any religion. And the book "Essence of the Upanishads: A Key to Indian Spirituality" by Eknath Easwaran; It contains your basic ideas.

The book praises meditation for
Aran Chandran
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As a guide into the subject, the author is very eloquent in providing contemporary metaphors and pulling from eastern and western literature to provide an excellent primer.

There’s a lot of concepts and some sections probably requires rereading and contemplation before moving on to the next subject.

Personally I feel the subject tries too hard to convince the reader of the potential to avoid death by trying to be one with divinity. It’s probably the only section that I found non practical and no
Cris Walrath
Apr 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is writen by a man who was born in the Eastern philosphy culture but understand the dificulty others from the West would have with the original text (symbolism, identities, etc.). He does a wonderful job without trying to "convert" and one can safely say the ideas in this are universal to all religions. ...more
Dec 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One word to describe this book is "Enlightening". Indeed it is a guide to discover our true Self.It starts off with story of Nachiketha and unfolds the mystic side of sojourn of the Self.I recommend it to anyone who wants to experience the journey of self-discovery.The book is profound and has a lasting impact. ...more
Dec 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Really Powerful Insights To The Upanishads
J. Maximilian Jarrett II
Dec 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An excellent, very clear, insightful and inspiring presentation of the core teachings of a global spiritual classic. Highly recommended!
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have read.
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great ancient wisdom in a good translation.
Collin Reynolds
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the single best analyses of Indian thought and scripture. Life changing.
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
spiritual distillation of Upanishads
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good book to begin understanding the Upanashads.
Anonymous Hindu
Sep 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Words cannot express the wisdom that lies in this book. The book gives a very concise overview of the key concepts in the Upanishads in a clear and scientific way without bringing in too many terminologies. The author has done a great service by reinterpreting the Upanishads in the modern context so that once again Upanishads can be lived in our daily lives. The book contents are only 10-15% theory. The rest is filled with interesting stories, anecdotes, observations from the modern as well as t ...more
Kreeti Shakya
May 09, 2015 rated it liked it
The book starts with a story from Katha Upanishad about Nachiketa and continues with the author's elaboration on the essence of Upanishad. The book presents many valuable points about what the Upanishad says. However, I was disappointed by the fact that the story-telling that started in the first two chapters was replaced by essay like structure in the rest of the lesson. All in all, the book is a good read - simple to understand and filled with humor and metaphors. I just wished the story that ...more
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
So, this book was not exactly what I expected, since I was anticipating a more academic interpretation of the particular Upanishad in question, given that Easwaran is the translator of most of the preferred English translations of classical Indian literature. That said, it was a surprisingly accessible and practical approach to Indian mysticism/spirituality, and I ended up enjoying it far more than I thought I would.
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Vasanth Gopal
May 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
As usual Eknath is very lucid and is an ideal precursor for the other book "Upanishads". ...more
Sol Smith
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing

Dang, y’all. What a stirring book. I thought that I was getting a translation of “The Upanishads,” as Easwaran is supposed to have an excellent one (and I just finished reading his translation and analysis of the Bhagavad Gita), but this is not that. This book is much more like what you would get if a great teacher was not doing a word-for-word translation, but instead gave a culturally relevant transposition of the Upanishads. Using the original text, his own experience, and wisdom from his pra
May 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Upanishads are the philosophical part of Vedas. Both Bhagwat Gita (poetry of War) and Dhammapada (life of Buddha) both fall in line with this segment of philosophy. The Katha Upanishad tells story of a boy who goes and questions the God of death about meaning of life. The overall message is of compassion and empathy together with clarity of mind. What stops us is our conditioning and upbringing (Samsara) The primary way to be independent of the Ego as well as distracting senses is to reach highe ...more
Apr 29, 2020 rated it did not like it
Through the course of this book I was hoping to grasp a brief understanding of Upanishad's intentions. However to my disappointment I found the book to be more intended to portray opinions on ways for modern man to deals with societal problems rather provide an objective commentary on the parent title it leverages.

One of the infuriating aspects of self help books such as these is the intention to dictate solutions to problems as opposed to facilitating the readers to develop solutions with the
Purbesh Mitra
Sep 14, 2020 rated it liked it
I did the mistake of taking this book as some sort of explanation of some verse(s) of the Upanishads. But it only gives a superficial description of the Katha Upanishad. Although it might be a good starter for someone who wants to taste the flavor of Vedantic mysticism, but still the author could have been a little more elaborate and might have dived into a detailed philosophical discussion. The book might spark some enthusiasm in some teenager mind who has no clue about philosophy, but the cont ...more
Justin Chiu
Sep 06, 2020 rated it liked it
The Katha upanishad is a fable of a teenager who meets with Death and asks him about the purpose and meaning of life. Death in response, teaches him about our various false conceptions regarding who we think we are and talks about Atman, the innermost layer of our consciousness, the 'true self' which resides in every creature.

In this book, the author didn't really explain/discuss much about the Katha Upanishad but rather, used it as a launching point to expound on his various thoughts and philos
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Eknath Easwaran (1910–1999) is the originator of passage meditation and the author of more than 30 books on spiritual living.

Easwaran is a recognized authority on the Indian spiritual classics. His translations of The Bhagavad Gita, The Upanishads, and The Dhammapada are the best-selling editions in the USA, and over 1.5 million copies of his books are in print.

Easwaran was a professor of English

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