Author: Karthikeyan Sreedharan

The Science of Prashna Upanishad

Praśna Upaniṣad is one of the three Principal Upaniṣads belonging to Atharva Veda; we have already seen two, Māṇḍūkya and Muṇḍaka. Praśna in Sanskrit means question; this Upaniṣad is fully set in question-answer format and hence the name. In this Upaniṣad six seekers ask one question each and Ṛṣi Pippalāda (पिप्पलाद) answers them all. We discuss these answers in this article, which is the eighth in the series. Unique features of this Upaniṣad are, first, its precision in the postulations on the origin and existence of beings and second, its psycho-spiritual expositions on the power of human will power...

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The Science of Mundaka Upanishad

“SATYAMEVA JAYATE (सत्यमेव जयते)” is the national motto of India. All Indians do know it; but, most of them may not know that this is part of an Upanishadic mantra. Yes, it forms part of verse 3.1.6 of Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad, which is the subject of discussion in this article; this is the seventh in the series ‘The Science of Upaniṣads’. Muṇḍaka belongs to Atharva Veda and consists of six parts (Khaṇḍas) arranged in three sections which are known as Muṇḍaka(s). Each verse is numbered by the section, part and serial numbers; accordingly 1.2.3 indicates verse 3 of part 2...

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The Science of Mandukya Upanishad

In the series ‘The Science of Upaniṣads’, it is Māṇḍūkya (माण्डूक्य) Upaniṣad that we now take up for study and rational review; this is the sixth in the series of eleven Upaniṣads. Māṇḍūkya belongs to Atharva Veda, together with two other Principal Upaniṣads, Muṇḍaka and Praśna. What the word Māṇḍūkya signifies is not definitely known; in the study of the Upaniṣad it is not significant either. Māṇḍūkya is the smallest of the eleven Principal Upaniṣads under our review; it has only 12 verses, numbered serially from 1 to 12. Nevertheless, it is the tersest of all, expounding in a...

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The Science of Kena Upanishad

In this article, which is the fifth in the series ‘The Science of Upaniṣads’, we propose to study Kena (केन) Upaniṣad. This is very small in size, but, content-wise amazingly terse and succinct. Also called Talavakāra Upaniṣad, it belongs to Talavakāra Brāhmaṇa and contains four parts, of which we concentrate on the first two parts, since it is in them the rational thoughts on the nature of Brahman are expounded. The other two parts are fable-like in nature depicting the already stated ideas in mythological terms with some elucidation on the modes of meditation upon Brahman. Verses in the...

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The Science of Katha Upanishad

Kaṭha (कठ) Upaniṣad is the fourth in the series of eleven Principal Upaniṣads that we have taken up for rational review. This Upaniṣad is unique in content, since it deals with, in detail, the question of what happens after death. Apparently to add authenticity to the assertions made, the Upaniṣad supposes that the issue is explained by the Lord of Death himself. The subject-matter is presented as a dialogue between Lord of Death called Mṛtyu and a young boy by name Nachiketas. (The word mṛtyu – मृत्यु in Sanskrit means death; in the study of this Upaniṣad we use...

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The Science of Ishavasya Upanishad

Īśāvāsya (ईशावास्य) is the only one among the Principal Upaniṣads which is part of a Samhita. It is the end part of Śukḻa Yajurveda (Kāṇva recension), consisting of 18 verses in poetry. Being part of a Samhita is a testimony for the authenticity and ancientness of the Upaniṣad. While taking up the study of this very small Upaniṣad, we confine our analytical endeavour to the limits that we have already set, in the case of our previous studies. This Upaniṣad derives its name from the opening word of its first verse. Īśāvāsya means abode of the Ruler; Īśa is...

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The Science of Chandogya Upanishad

In this part of the series ‘The Science of Upaniṣads’, we take up for study, the Chāndogya Upaniṣad (छान्दोग्य). Previously we studied Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad and as an introduction to that study we had made the following observations defining the perimeters of our analytical reach in unravelling the scientific spirit of the Upaniṣadic thoughts. “Upaniṣads are not like ordinary spiritual texts which dwell on glorification and appeasement of an almighty god through prayers, rituals and offerings, with an intention to secure protection, prosperity, happiness and long life. The primary concern of Upaniṣads is not the physical life as such, but...

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The Science of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

This Upaniṣad stands first in size among Principal Upaniṣads; content-wise also this has a unique place. It forms the end part of Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa (शतपथ ब्राह्मण) belonging to Śukla Yajurveda and contains six chapters, in prose. Each chapter is further divided into sections called Brāhmaṇa(s), which in turn are again divided into sub-sections. Therefore, a reference to any part of the Upaniṣad is made by denoting the chapter, section and sub-section; for example 1.2.1 indicates chapter 1, section 2 and sub-section 1. Chapter 1 The first chapter contains six sections. The first section describes a Sacrificial Horse, which actually...

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The Science of the Upanishads

Upaniṣads are treasures of Indian spiritual thoughts of ancient times. The ten most ancient Upaniṣads belong to the period of 1500 BC to 600 BC, according to commonly agreed estimations. They are called the Principal Upaniṣads and are considered to be the most authentic ones. There is another Upaniṣad by name Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad belonging to a later period, but viewed at par with the Principal Upaniṣads, considering the dexterity and erudition with which the subject matter is dealt with therein. In this discussion whenever we refer to Principal Upaniṣads, it may be understood to include Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad also. There...

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Understanding Sanatana Dharma

Dharma is a very familiar term in Hindu epics, purāṇas and other literary works that highlight the ideal ways of human life. We find the term in the major Upaniṣads and Bhagavad Gīta also, used in varying senses like virtue, righteousness and religious duties. Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad says in verse 1.4.14 that Dharma is instrumental in making the world flourish; in the beginning, it was created on finding that world was not flourishing through the earlier creations of four Varṇas. Taittirīya Upaniṣad (1.11.1) insists that Dharma should be strictly observed in life, without fail. In Chāndogya 2.23.1 three types of...

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