By Syamal K Chattopadhyay
26 May 2008
If Vedic literature were a tree, its trunk is samhita and its branches, Brahmanas, which contain Aranyakas as its leaves and Upanishads as its flowers and fruits. The Upanishads are Vedantas — the ant or end of Vedas.
Conceptually, the samhita, mantras or riks are revelations and expressions of wonder felt by the human mind. These ultimately crystallise into philosophical pronouncements in the Upanishads. It is not certain how many Upanishads have been written.
During Akbar’s period a Upanishad in the name of the Allah was also written and it was called Allah Upanishad. Any composition to explain Vedas in general was called as Upanishads later on.
The Upanishads do not tell us to be otherworldly. They tell us to be part of the perceived world, performing all earthly and social duties while we simultaneously aspire for spiritual progress. Perform all duties without attachment. Your karma should never be a baggage.
The first shloka of the Ishopanishad tells us how to enjoy worldly things and how to live. The whole universe belongs to the omnipotent power and it permeates through all things. Whatever is enjoyable in the universe, enjoy by renouncement. Do not aspire for the other person’s wealth.
The Ishopanishad says not to avoid one’s worldly duties and obligations; ensure only that you are never attached to it. A person should always be conscious that this whole universe is pervaded by a Supreme Power. So whatever things of enjoyment come one’s way one should enjoy them without any greed or attachment. One cannot afford to say that this is mine and that is his.
Everything that we find belongs to the Supreme Power. And considering this one should make effort to live for a hundred years.
Kama, krodha, lobha, moha, mada and matsarya originate only by way of attachment. With no attachment you become free of all these evils. Gradually you become a free soul and do not remain bound by your surroundings any more.
The last two Ishopanishad verses speak of the evaluation of a human being who has just departed from this world.
“That now I am dead, my body is being put under flames of fire. So it is the only right time when you, fire, before consuming my body you evaluate me. You evaluate everything all that I should have done and all that I had done”.
As a soul or jivatman you existed even before birth and you will continue to exist even after passing away from this world. The Upanishad asks us to pray that let agni or fire destroy the body and then lead us further to the rightful path.
It is customary to pray for peace before the hymns or mantras of Upanishads are uttered. These prayers are called Shantipath. We pray for peace and freedom from three kinds of troubles: spiritual, physical or worldly and those caused by reasons beyond human control.
We pray for peace from these troubles because we want to make our mind calm like the placid sea and free from all troubles.
These hymns tell us how we should behave in our daily life. The hymn invoking peace in the Rigveda says our utterances should firmly come out of our mind, with no variation between our mind and speech.
However, sometimes the hymns invoking peace become highly philosophical and they guide us to the real meaning of life as the hymn invoking peace in Shukla Yajurveda: “That is whole, this is also whole, the whole or fullness originates again from the whole, if one takes away the whole out of whole only the whole remains”.
Source: Times of India