Minor Upanishads, Foreword, and Gist of Muktikopanishad and Sarvasara-Upanishad
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The Upanishads (also spelled "Upanisads") are Hindu scriptures that constitute the core teachings of Vedanta. The oldest date to the 500s BCE, and the latest were composed in medieval and early modern times. The Upanishads speak of Brahman (Universal spirit) and Atman (individualized spirit, soul) as actually one and the same "substance". Upanishads describe subtle experiences and perhaps parts of a handed-over faith of old, but do not explain all experiences very well and with crystal clear wording. That is the good reason for the great many Upanishad commentaries that exist.
Eleven Upanishads are considered part of the sacred canon of Hinduism. They are Aitareya, Brihadaranyaka, Taittiriya, Chandogya, Kena, Isa, Svetasvatara, Katha, Mundaka, Mandukya, and Prasna. Two more Upanishads are often added to that group. For example, in F. Max Müller's Upanishads translation in the "Sacred Books of the East," the extra Upanishad is called Maitrayani. However, there are many more Upanishads: Hindus reckon with 108 Upanishads. Twelve of them are commented on by Adi Shankara. [Compare]
The following is extracted from the foreword of the work Thirty Minor Upanishads, which was translated by K. Narayanasvami Aiyar and published by him in 1914.
Many years ago, the Sanskrit Scholar Sundara Sastri and K. Narayanasvami Aiyar worked together to translate Upanishads that had not been translated into English before, and Aiyar succeeded in republishing these translations in book form after he had revised them and added a few more. In their work, Sastri and Aiyar found there were many editions of the Upanishads in Calcutta, Bombay, Poona, South India and other places, but that the South Indian editions were in many cases fuller and more intelligible and significant.
The Upanishads they translated were loosely classified under the headings of (1) Vedanta, (2) Physiology, (3) Mantra, (4) Sannyasa and (5) Yoga. The Upanishads that come under the headings of Vedanta and Yoga are the most important.
Aiyar teaches with general Hinduism that Atma(n) is the only Reality, and that the Upanishads are not intended for mere intellectual people and others. He teaches that the Atma in the heart may be realised, and then the Atma in all universe is realised too. However, so long as the Atma in the heart is not realised, the universe will not be realised as Maya (a God-okayed fabric of figurative dust).
In modern days when a subject is taken up, all the available information is given in one place in a systematic manner. But not so in the Upanishads, Aiyar holds. "Take the subject of Pranas which refer to life itself. In one Upanishad, one piece of information is given, another in another and so on." I suggest that all the different pieces are not equally rewarding.
Upanishads on Vedanta and Yoga lay stress on certain centres [chakras] in the human body for development. The 12 major Upanishads as well as the Vedanta Upanishads in the Sastri and Aiyar book deal with the heart and the heart alone, while the Yoga Upanishads treat of many centres including the heart. In Yoga-Upanishads, that do not focus on the heart alone, or mainly the heart, certain subtle centres in the human body are spoken of as rather essential for development - another form of development, perhaps.
A fold of Hinduism says that Jivatma (the human soul) is an amsha or portion of Paramatma, or God, who is conceived of as eternal existence, infinite knowledge, and unlimited power: Being, Consciousness, and Bliss-Joy. In Sanskrit: Sat, Chit, Ananda, or Sat-Chit-Ananda. The well developed soul comes to realize it takes part of that nature. And other folds of Hinduism teach otherwise. In Vedanta there are schools of thought that differ in how "soul and God" are to be understood. [See e.g. Wikipedia, s.v. "Vedanta" for more.]
Vedanta Upanishads are aimed at those who want to have a development of the heart mainly, by focusing attention on it all day long, and not only in yogi manners, and Yogic Upanishads appeal perhaps to those who are more flimsical? and yet want to have a development of the soul as Being, Consciousness, and Bliss-Joy.
Each Upanishad is said to belong to one of the Vedas. However, even among the twelve Upanishads edited by Max Muller and others, some are found in the existing Vedas and others not, Aiyar points out. So, some Upanishads are found in the Vedas and others not, no matter what many try to tell us.
Foreword 2: Extracts from K. Narayanasvami Aiyar's Foreword
Some of these thirty Upanishads are culled from the Aranyaka-portions of the Vedas so-called because they were read in the Aranya (forest). Upanishads were regarded as the crowns of the Vedas, since it was held that the knowledge embedded in them, led a searching person to Atma, the goal of life.
The translator of this collection of Minor Upanishads found the time to republish and revise Upanishad translations and add some more translations. He points out that there are many editions of the Upanishads to be found in India. His selection includes Upanishads arranged under the headings of (1) Vedanta, (2) Physiology, (3) Mantra, (4) Sannyasa and (5) Yoga. But these are not hard and fast divisions, in that some Upanishads contain material that fits into both one and two of the headings.
The translator considers the Upanishads under the headings of Vedanta and Yoga to be the most important. The twelve major Upanishads as well as the Vedanta Upanishads deal with the heart alone. In Ancient Egypt a pure heart from moral living was likewise held to be the most important. When the heart is made pure, or as Upanishadic writers suggests, "the heart-knot is broken", then the Atma in the heart can be realised. And as long as the Atma in the heart is not realised, the universe will not be realised as Ekam Sat, "Oneness Is" and such things.
In the Upanishads all the knowledge bearing upon a subject is not put forward in one and the same place. We may have to wade through many passages and books to collect ideas on a subject. Take the subject of Pranas which refer to life itself. In one Upanishad, one piece of information is given, another in another and so on. And unless we study all of them and sort them more or less ad lib, we may not even think of reconciling their seemingly discrepant statements, if that is a road to better understanding. So what is prana? Many dictionaries offer definitions, and some lexicons. I suggest you go to them - first, for that is a good help, since fit definitions contain the gist of many and divergent definitions, to the end that you get a simple grip. Advanced Learner's Dictionary offers this terse definition: "(in Hindu philosopy: the force that keeps all life in existence." Wikipedia offers some more (s.v. "Prana"). Some books describe prana at length and how to make use of it by breathing methods and regimens. One such book is Prana and Pranayama [book data at bottom]
The soul identifying itself with the body thinks it lives for the life-term of the body only; cooped up by the brain, it imagines, it has only the knowledge circumscribed by the brain; carried away by the pleasures of the senses, it whirls about in the midst of them. But when it wakes up, it finds itself to be of the same nature as the eternal, all-knowing One - funneled through the heart (your core or soul side), as it is suggested by "He is my Self within the heart." [Chandogya Upanishad 3; 14, 3 ff. In Nikhilananda, p. 32]
The monkey warrior, Hanuman, asks Rama: "What are Vedantas?"
Rama: "Through the out-breath of Myself, the Vedas were generated as many."
Hanuman: "How many are the Vedas and their branches? What are the Upanishads? Please, tell."
Rama: "The Vedas are said to be four in all, and their branches are many. So also the Upanishads. The oldest Veda, Rigveda, has twenty-one branches. There are 109 branches in Yajurveda, and one thousand branches in Samaveda. And there are fifty branches in Atharvanaveda. In each branch, there is one Upanishad."
Hanuman: "Is there one kind of salvation only, or several kinds of it?"
Rama: "There is only one true emancipation. Further, the twice-born who is of virtuous conduct and who, without diverting his intelligence on any other, meditates suitably on Me, the All-Atma, attains Samipya (nearness) to Me.
"Certain Upanishads can do away with the three Bhavanas [of doubt, vain thought, and false thought], conferring Jnana and Vairagya, and destroying the three Vasanas [impressons of book-lore, world and body].
"The 108 Upanishadsmust not be imparted to an atheist, an ungrateful person, one intent on vicious actions, one having no devotion towards Me, or one who loses his path in the cave of books. On no account shall they be given to one devoid of devotion. Only after a thorough examination should they be imparted to a disciple doing service (to a Guru), to a well-disposed son, or to one of a good family, and being of bright enough.
"Something like this is stated in a Rik (verse): "Vidya (Saraswati) went to a Brahmana greeted him thus: 'Protect me. I shall be thy treasure. Do not confide me to the envious, to one not treading the right path, or to the rogue.
"Persons desirous of emancipation and having developed the four means of salvation should, with presents in their hands, approach a Guru full of faith, of good family, proficient in Vedas, scripture-loving, of good qualities, straightforward, intent upon the welfare of all beings, and an ocean of compassion; and after studying under him the 108 Upanishads according to the rules,, he should ever keep studying, thinking and reflecting upon them."
Hanuman: "What is Jivanmukti?"
Rama: "Jivanmukti is accomplished through human efforts. Regarding it, there are verses: 'The efforts of man are stated to be of two kinds, those that transcend scriptures and those that are according to scriptures and tend to Reality. Chitta has to be fondled through human efforts. Practise the state of a mind devoid of Vasana [sense-impression and other mind-waves]. Through the abandoning of the [thought of the] reality of the universe, Vasana does not arise. So long as you are without a mind of great discrimination and are not a knower of the Supreme Seat, so long should you follow whatever has been decided by the teacher and the authorities of the sacred books.
"The Vasanas of enjoyment decay in time.
"To the tree of the mind having the ever-growing branches of modifications, there are two seeds. One is the fluctuation of Prana, and the other is the firmness of Vasana.
"Through the force of the practice of Dhyana: supreme bliss.
"We should seek the effulgence within.
"The following is said in the Rig [-Veda] also: 'The wise ever see the Supreme Seat of Vishnu."
Turiya is that state during which Atma is a witness to the three states of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep.
Karta (the actor) is the one who possesses the body and the internal organs through their respective desires proceeding from the idea of pleasure and pain.
Kutastha is he who is found without exception in the Buddhi of all creatures from Brahma down to ants, and who is shining as Atma and dwells as witness to the Buddhi of all creatures.
Antaryamin is the Atma that shines as the ordainer.
Who is Pratyagatma? He is of the nature of truth, wisdom, eternity and bliss. He has no vehicles of body. He is abstract wisdom. He is of the nature of mere consciousness. He is that which shines as Chaitanya and Brahman.
Who is Paramatma? He is associated with truth, wisdom, eternity, bliss, omniscience, etc.
What is Brahman? Absolute Consciousness devoid of particularities, which is Sat (Be-ness), which is without a second, which is bliss and which is Maya-less.
And what is Satya (the true)? It is the Sat (Be-ness) which is the aim of the Vedas. It is not affected by the three periods of time and continues to exist during them. It is that which is. It is one without a second.
And what is Jnana (wisdom)? It is self-light.
And what is Ananta (the eternal)? It is without origin and destruction. It is not subject to birth, growth, manhood, decay, old age and death). It is free from all Upadhis. It permeates the created universe.
And what is Ananda (bliss)? It is the seat of all sentient beings, pure, and of Chidananda (consciousness-bliss).
There are three kinds of "substances", Sat (Be-ness), Asat (not-Be-ness) and Mithya (Illusion). Sat alone is Brahman. Asat is that which is not. Mithya is the illusory ascription to Brahman of the universe that is not.
What is fit to be known is Brahman, the Atma alone.
What is Maya? The root of not-Atma is Maya. She appears in Brahman like clouds, etc., in the sky, and seems indescribable.
This Upanishad and the next form a glossary of some of the terms of Vedanta.
'Sarva-Sara' is the all-essence or quintessence.
The organs of sense, action, and the internal organs of Manas, Buddhi, China and Ahankara, each is animated by a Devata or intelligential principle. Muktikopanishad and Sarvasara-Upanishad in short online
Aiyar, K Narayanasvami, tr. Thirty Minor Upanishads. Madras: K. N. Ayar, 1914.
Nikhilananda, swami, tr. The Upanishads. Abridged ed. New York: Harper/Cloister, 1964.
Niranjanananda, Swami. Prana and Pranayama. Munger, Bihar: Yoga Publications Trust, 2009.
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