The Upanishads: Breath of the Eternal

From the book translated by Swami Prabhavananda and Frederick Manchester

The oldest and source scripture is called the Vedas. There are 4: Rik, Sama, Yajur and Atharva. Each is divided into two parts: work and knowledge. Sama, focuses on spiritual truth and is called – Upanishads. Twelve major Upanishads are Isha, Kena, Katha, Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittiriya, Aitareya, Chandogya, Brihadarankyaka, Swetasvatara, Kaivalya.

Isha Upanishad:

Life in the world and life in the spirit are not incompatible. Work, or action, is not contrary to knowledge of God, but indeed, if performed without attachment, is a means to it. On the other hand, renunciation is renunciation of ego, of selfishness, not of life. The end, both of work and of renunciation is to know the Self within and Brahman without, and to realize their identity. The Self is Brahman, and Brahman is all.

 Kena Upanishad:

The power behind every activity of nature and of man is the power of Brahman. To realize this truth is to be immortal.

 Katha Upanishad:

The secret of immortality is to be found in purification of the heart, in meditation, in realization of the identity of Self within and Brahman without. For immortality is simply union with God.

 Prasna Upanishad:

Man is composed of such elements as vital breath, deeds, thought and the senses – all of them deriving their being from the Self. They have come out of the Self, and in the Self they ultimately disappear – even as the waters of a river disappear in the sea.

 Mundaka Upanishad:

Since the manifold objects of sense are merely emanations of Brahman, to know them in themselves is not enough. Since all the actions of people are but phases of the universal process of creation, action alone is not enough. The sage must distinguish between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is of things, acts and relations. Wisdom is of Brahman alone; and, beyond all things, acts and relations, he abides forever. To become one with him is the only wisdom.

 Mandukya Upanishad:

The life of a person is divided between waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep. But transcending these three states is superconscious vision – called simply The Fourth (Turiya).

 Taittiriya Upanishad:

People, in their ignorance, identify themselves with the material sheaths that encompass the true Self. Transcending these, a person becomes one with Brahman, who is pure bliss.

 Aitreya Upanishad:

Brahman, source, sustenance and end of the universe, partakes of every phase of existence. He wakes with the waking man, dreams with the dreamer and sleeps the deep sleep of the dreamless sleeper; but he transcends these three states to become himself. His true nature is pure consciousness.

Chandogya Upanishad:

Brahman is all. From Brahman comes appearances, sensations, desires, deeds. But all these are merely name and form. To know Brahman one must experience the identity between him and the Self, or Brahman dwelling within the lotus of the heart. Only by doing so can a person escape from sorrow and death, and become one with the subtle essence beyond all knowledge.

 Brihadarankyaka Upanishad:

The Self is the dearest of all things, and only through the Self is anything else dear. The Self is the origin of all finite happiness, but it is the pure bliss, transcending definition. It remains unaffected by deeds, good or bad. It is beyond feeling and beyond knowledge; it is not beyond the meditation of the sage.

 Swetasvatara Upanishad:

Meditation can be learned, and it must be practiced according to accepted rules. By its means it is possible to realize the personal Brahman, who, in union with Maya, creates, preserves, and dissolves the universe, and likewise the impersonal Brahman, who transcends all forms of being, who eternally is, without attributes and without action.

 Kaivalya Upanishad:

The sage who by faith, devotion and meditation has realized the Self and become one with Brahman, is released from the wheel of change and escapes from rebirth, sorrow and death.

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