UPANISHADS! Actually, just every day when I come and sit here and utter that word, “Upanishads”, the way the truths are overflowing, verbalization becomes a big job! Finding ideas is not at all a big job; verbalizing them has become a big job!
There are tons of books and tons of authors. But, this book, Upanishads, to tell you honestly, if I have to put it a little poetically, the words feel shy to introduce Upanishads! Words feel shy to introduce Upanishads! If a child asks, ‘What is the size of an apple?’, you can show like this (Swamiji gestures with his hands). ‘What is the size of a pumpkin?’, you can show like this (Swamiji again gestures with his hands). If the child asks, ‘What is the size of the Planet Earth?’, can you show like this? (Swamiji spreads his arms wide). No! This is not in any way signifying the size of the Planet Earth! You can show, ‘This big!’ (Swamiji again spreads his arms wide). But, that is in no way signifying the size of the Planet Earth! That is in no way doing justification to the size of the Planet Earth! Please understand! So, what will I do with these words to introduce Upanishads? I can only pull my mouth like this and say, “It is this big!’
The way they introduce you to you, the way they introduce the world to you, the way they introduce god to you, the way they introduce life to you, nothing can be compared to Upanishads. Whether the purity of the substance they are delivering, or the poetic way they are expressing, or the very sound in which they have nicely embedded the vibrations of Kundalini awakening! Upanishads not only have a linguistic and poetic importance, meaning, they have even phonetic importance. Even phonetically they are important. Actually, by the religious historians classifying Upanishads under Hinduism, they brought a great respect to Hinduism. And, of course, Hindus are the inheritors. It is our inheritance, no doubt. But we need to live it and share it with the world. It does not belong just to us. Please understand, we might have been inheritors, but it does not belong just to us; it belongs to the whole universe!
Actually, I am feeling so much to start talking on the verses, on the Upanishads! And I feel I have not done justice to introducing, I have not set the context; because, only from the right context it should be taught. I have not set the context. I have to set the context.
“Upanishad” means, “sitting”, that’s all! Just “sitting”! We can give the meaning “sitting at the feet of the Master”, or, “sitting with the Divine”. But the word “Upanishad” means, “sitting”, that’s all! When you sit, when YOU sit – I don’t say your body sits; I am not saying your body sits – when YOU sit, Truth is revealed!
Upanishads! See, when the rishis sat within them in Samadhi, their whole being started vibrating, reverberating with the sacred truths. The whole being started vibrating and reverberating with the sacred truths. The Cosmos started singing through them. The Cosmos started radiating through them. That expression is Upanishads! That expression is Upanishads! Upanishads! That is why, in Sanskrit, we define a “Rishi” as “Mantra Drashta” – “who sees mantra”, understand? Not “the one who writes mantra”, or “listens to mantra”. No! “Who sees mantra”! Means, when you are experiencing, always even the sound will be perceived by the eyes, understand?. If the sound is heard by the ears, you are “hearing”. If the sound is perceived by all five senses, you are “experiencing”. So, sound, even seen, mantras seen, when your eyes experience sound, the lines you experience are only called “Akshara”.
Please understand, our rishis experienced each sound. अ (“ah”), when they experienced that sound (the sound अ – “ah”), what was the line through which their eyes experienced that sound, that line becomes “Akshara”. They were so highly evolved, so free of worries, all their survival needs are fulfilled, and they were in such high space. That is the beauty!
Ganga (the River Ganges), Ganga is responsible for the Upanishads, I tell you. The way she made the Ganges Valley rich! All the basic needs she provided. She supplied everything! Fortunately there was no war; no need for them (the rishis) to fight or defend. All the natural energies were supporting. All the needs are fulfilled. And no need to fight for survival. That ambience, that space created such an amazing possibility, such an amazing possibility – “such an amazing possibility”, that is the right word I will use – such an amazing possibility for them to sit within themselves with the Cosmos, with the universe, with Nature. Existence has started singing about itself through them.
The background setting of each Upanishads is so different, but the truths radiated by them are all so beautifully synchronised. One reveals the truth about the universe, one reveals the truth about humans, one reveals the truth about death, one reveals the truth about life. It is like all our questions are blasted, and you are there in the cognition of the Cosmos, and the whole Cosmos is there in your cognition. Cosmic Cognition! When the Cosmos is in your cognition, you are in the Cosmos’ cognition! When Cosmos is in your cognition, you are in the cognition of the Cosmos! The Cosmic Cognition! To put a human being into Cosmic Cognition whatever understanding is required, everything is beautifully presented and repeated, understand. Presented and repeated! And all the possible doubts which can arise are answered. That is why I am saying, it (Upanishads) belongs to the whole universe. We may have it, but it belongs to the whole universe. See, it is like a pharmaceutical company, it has a formula for cancer, drug to cure cancer. That company may own it, but the drug itself, the cancer drug itself belongs to the whole world. Whoever has cancer should be provided with that drug. Same way, we may own the Upanishads, we may have inherited it, but it belongs to the whole world. Whoever is suffering with delusion, Maya, illusion, should be given these Upanishads. We should share with them.
Fortunately, the first ever book I was introduced to in my life, before even any schoolbook entered my life, the first ever book I was introduced to, is the Upanishads by Isakki Swamigal. And still we have that copy with us; we have that book; the four major Upanishads, Tamil translation. At that time, I cannot read; he (Isakki Swamigal) will read and give explanations. Kuppammal will ask questions, and he will give answers. And, actually, only through that book I even learnt the alphabets! Fortunately, even the language was taught to me only by my gurus. I did not go to school that regularly to learn something from that school. I went to school whenever there were no festivals in the temple, when I was free, which is less than sixty days in a year. Please understand, Tiruvannamalai Temple has at least three-hundred days festivals in a year! And in those sixty days, sometimes it will be summer holidays for the school, and weekends. Anyhow… Because I learnt the language to study the Upanishads, that book has become so part of me! It is actually a Tamil translation and Commentary. I can literally just repeat the whole book! I can just literally repeat the whole book!
Sometimes Kuppammal will read the book, and Isakki Swamigal will explain. She will ask some real serious questions, and Isakki Swamigal will answer. I will not ask anything, I will not talk anything. I will never ask any question. I will just sit and listen.
Suddenly Kuppamal asked Isakki Swamigal, ‘Swamiji, this fellow is not asking any question. I think he is not understanding anything.’
Then Isakki Swamigal laughed and said, ‘No, I am observing; throughout all these days, his eyes have expanded and are very attentive, but his eyebrows never hit each other having a doubt or question in his head. So, through his body language and facial expression, I know he is understanding the whole thing, he is internalizing the whole thing.’
That is the first time I understood that if your eyes are wide open, you are attentive; and if your eyebrows are hitting each other, you are a little confused or you have a question, you are not able to cognize that part. What a subtle study of the body language! If you do like this (Swamiji frowns, bringing his eyebrows together), it means there is some part you don’t understand, you are not cognizing; but if you do like this (Swamiji opens his eyes wide open), you are just imbibing!
He said, ‘His eyes are wide open, awake, alive, available, receiving; but his eyebrows never hit each other showing any doubt or unable to cognize it. And I saw his inner-space is completely imbibing it, internalizing it.’
I bow down to my gurus – guru and paramaguru – who introduced the Upanishads to me in this body, offer my gratitude to them before entering into the Upanishads. Please understand, I may be a born enlightened being, or I may be an incarnation, whatever. But, in this body, these great Masters have introduced the Upanishads to me. So I bow down to both of them with my gratitude –guru and paramaguru. With their blessings, and with Mahadeva’s grace, invoking the presence of all the rishis, I am bringing these great Upanishads to all of you.
Every sound, every letter, every word, every line of these Upanishads is vibrant with a powerful, a powerful cognition! Powerful cognition! Powerful cognition!
Actually, still the Upanishads keep India alive! It is Upanishads which is the backbone of India! Upanishads is the backbone of the concept of “Bharat”. Upanishads are the backbone of human spiritual aspirations and realizations. All the spiritual aspirations and realizations we have, put together, is Upanishads. Upanishads are the embodiment of billions of people’s millions of years of spiritual realization.
Upanishads! There is nothing which is left out in the Upanishads. There is not a single word unnecessary in the Upanishads. You can neither edit them nor comment on them. “Commentary” means: something is left unexplained; you need to explain. “Editing” means: something extra is there which is not required. No! No editing is possible, no commentary is possible. Editing is not only not possible, it is not permissible. Commentary is permissible, but, I tell you, it is practically not possible, because, there is nothing which is unexplained. All Commentaries are repetitions or highlighting of some ideas which they wanted to highlight, that’s all; whether it is Shankara, Ramanuja, Madhwa, or whoever wrote “bhashyas”, commentaries. I am telling you, Commentaries on Upanishads is not possible. It is permissible as dharmically, but not possible. May be Shankara wanted to highlight some concepts which is in the Upanishads; so he highlights in his Commentary. May be Raamanuja wanted to organize it in a certain way and present it for you to become enlightened; so he highlights some of the things. Highlighting may be possible, commenting itself is not, because, there is nothing left unsaid in these great Upanishads. There is nothing unsaid!
Before climbing the Arunachala Hill to light the deepam (lamp), those devotees will prostrate in front of the hill and go around and apologize to Him for climbing by putting their foot on the hill. I am exactly in that mood! Before entering into the Upanishads, before even uttering them through my mouth, I just wanted to surrender to Veda Matha and the Upanishadic rishis that, ‘Let me not do any disrespect to the sathyas (truths), tattwas (principles), words, sounds, the whole Upanishads. Let me just radiate whatever is your intentions. Let it be presented as you all wanted.’ Because, you cannot comment on it! See, if there is something left unsaid, you can comment on it. See, editing is neither possible nor permissible; that is one of the great things! All acharyas, even the people who don’t accept Hinduism, had the basic ethics of “no editing”. We may accept or not accept. See, for example, there are some paragraphs in the Upanishads that Ramanuja may not accept; but no editing. He never did it! And same way, Charvakas – materialists – they may not accept some of the verses; but no editing. Even Buddhists who don’t accept Vedas, they may not accept some of the Upanishads, but no editing. Buddhists accept one Upanishad – Mahanirvana Upanishad. They don’t accept other Upanishads. But, no editing! Even the palm leaves maintained in Buddhist libraries, monasteries, when you pick up the Upanishads, you will see it is so authentically penned down; no editing, no manipulation, no distortion. I bow down to this great Indian lifestyle, culture, tradition: even enemy’s books, even the books you don’t accept, you don’t manipulate, edit, or distort! What an honesty and integrity! What an integrity! Same way, the archives of the Shankara Mathas, if you go and collect and see the palm leaves of some of the Buddhist sutras, I guarantee, it will be hundred percent the truth, and exactly as it is! They may not accept Buddhism, but never ever anyone will dare to interpolate, manipulate, or add, delete words. “This is the original Buddhist Prajñāpāramitā Sutra”. We won’t accept, but we won’t manipulate, we won’t do interpolation. You can go to any Buddhist monastery, university, library, and pick up their version of Upanishads. It will be as authentic as the palm leaves you can recover from the original Hindu monasteries. There will never be any confusion! The original text! That is something unimaginable integrity! The honesty to Vani, Saraswathi! Respect to Vani, Saraswathi!
This Upanishads, which is the lifeline of Vedic Tradition, lifeline of Hindu Tradition, lifeline of Bharat, is a joy even to remember, I tell you! It is a joy to remember Upanishads!