Thursday, December 12, 2013

Swami Dayananda: Message of the Upanishads - Part 1

I assume that audience consists of informed people with some background of Vedanta. Perhaps you have attended my talks also. It is always nice to see you all over the many years that I have been talking.  I speak of the human problem, and hence I do not have difficulty speaking to audiences all over the world. Everyone is human and is able to appreciate the human problem.

Upanishad is the name of the book as well as the subject. Book is named after the subject like even Indian History, Astrology etc.
Upanishads form a part of the Vedas. Krishna Yajurveda contains the Taittiriya and Brihadaaranyaka Upanishads, Shukla Yajurveda has the Prashna, Brihadaaranyaka etc, Saama Veda contains Kena and Kathopanishads. Rig Veda includes Aitareya, and Atharva eda has Mundakya Maandukya Upanishads.

‘Upa’ (near) ‘Ni’(certcertainty) means ascertained knowledge of the self which is most near. ‘Sad’ comes from the root ‘sad’ and has 3 meanings – that which loosens (visharati), destroy (avasaadayati), and that which lead towards(gamayati).  Self knowledge loosens bonds of samsara (anartha vraataan visharati), destroys ignorance and limitions (avidyam avasaadayati) and leads one to the Absolute (Brahma gamayati).  

Veda Pramaana
We come to know about the world generally through 5 means of knowledge -  Sense Perception (praatyaksha), Inference (anumaana), Illustration (upamaana), Presumption (arthapatti), a nd  Negation (anupalabdhi).  All the knowledge that we gather is primarily through our sense organs. Even inference and other means of knowledge depend on sense perception to a great extent.  Even the knowledge of the Big Bang theory is derived by our observation of light from stars and galaxies that are over 50 billion light years away and need giant rakshasa telescopes to detect their presence.
The Vedas provide a sixth means of knowledge – the Word (shabda).  Punya, Paapa, Heaven, Rebirth, etc are all revealed knowledge in the form of words. We are familiar with these concepts as form part of our culture that we learned from our elders (vriddha vyavaahaara) who in turn learnt from their elders.  The ultimate source of this traditional knowledge is the Vedas as revealed to ancient masters. 

Belief: Beyond Reason
The Vedas reveal things that are beyond reason, as in Heaven, Punya, Paapa, etc.  All these comes within the scope of belief.  These beliefs cannot be verified as they have to do with the afterlife.  However these beliefs cannot contradict reason.... they are not unreasonable unlike the beliefs of other religions that talk of a permanent heaven.  For us, Heaven is impermanent.... a glorified holiday resort that results from for our good karma. Nothing in heaven is permanent including Rambha, Urvashi. You cannot marry them, nor are they going to be permanent residents of heaven. They are expatriates. All residents there are expatriates on temporary visa including Indra the lord of heaven. To say that heaven is eternal is a contradiction in terms.... totally unreasonable.  For us, Heaven, Punya, Paapa etc. are matters of belief. They are beyond reason as they cannot be proved by logic. But neither can they be dismissed by logic, hence we know them through revealed the word (shabda).

Indirect and DIrect Knowledge
The Upanishads are part of the Vedas and reveal a truth about you.  You are not what you think you are. You are the absolute reality of creation.  This is not a mere matter of belief but is subject to verification. Things like heaven and Punya Paapa which cannot be directly verified but only indirectly known. Howver in the case of the self, direct verification is possible here and now. That is because the Aatma is not an object and is self evident – it does not depend on external means of knowledge.  The result of knowledge is immediate. The shaastra says that the knower of the absolute becomes absolute.

Human Beings are Self Conscious
Animals, i am told, belong to 2 categories – vegetarian and non vegetarians. Non vegetarian animals generally prey on vegetarian animals only.  This means that non-vegetarian animals have only one agenda .... i.e. to look out for prey to satisfy their hunger. Vegetarian animals have two main agenda.... they search for plant food to satisfy their hunger, as well as watch out for predators from whom they need to run away from.
Human beings have another agenda in addition to the above two. They are self conscious beings and judge themselves as wanting and finite. They look for conditions which will make them feel complete. Animals too are self conscious but only to a certain degree. A dog will recognize another dog as a member of its own species even if it is a Chihuahua sitting in someones coat pocket.  The Chihuahua too will bark and protect its own territory... being a territorial animal. But human beings are given to self judgement and this makes them judge themselves as wanting and inadequate. The self concept involves the notion that body is the self. Body is imperfect, knowledge is imperfect, resources are inadequate,  
Even with all perfect conditions, , the self conscious person judges himself as a wanting person. People ask me what is the purpose of life. I see this purpose as enjoying complete self acceptance and freedom from the human seeking. Human seeking is a spiritual problem, and self acceptance is the solution.

Brahmavid aapnoti Param
The Upanishads provide the answer to this problem of human seeking. We are going to examine a section of Taittireya Upanishad -
     Brahmavidaapnoti Param, Tadeshaabhyukta
     Satyam Jnaanam Anantam Brahma,
     Yo Veda Nihitam Guhaayam Parame Vyoman
     So~shnute Sarvaan Kaamaan Brahmanaa Vipashchiteti
Brahmavid aapnoti param. The knower of Absolute becomes Absolute... enjoys the ultimate gain (Parama Purushaarthah).  

I have no difficulty talking about this knowledge in India. In no other culture is this concept present. You are the whole. You are the limitless source of creation. India is a Punya Bhoomi. The Hindu culture permeates the entire land. Even if you ask “where is God?” to a tribal in any remote part of the country, that person without any learning and literacy replies that God is everywhere. Vedanta is a part of this tradition. You are the whole.

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