Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Upanishads


“The Upanishads are spiritual treatises of different length, the oldest of which were composed between 800 and 400 B.C. Their number increased with time and about 112 Upanishads have been printed in Sanskrit. Some were composed as late as the fifteenth century A.D.” (7). These writings present Hindu philosophy and teachings, and the term “Upanishad” means “sitting down near,” as one would sit near a teacher or master. The Upanishads generally can be considered wisdom literature, or mystical writing. They share much with what we know to have been Pythagoras’ understanding and that of, perhaps, Socrates, at least as filtered through Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” “Theology may help to make clear our thoughts, but its relation to spiritual vision is that of grammar to living language, or of poetics to soul-uplifting poetry” (26). The 19th-century German philosopher Schopenhauer said that reading the Upanishads “has been the consolation of my life, and will be of my death” (qtd. 8)

ISA UPANISHAD

“He [the Spirit] moves, and he moves not. He is far, and he is near. He is within all, and he is outside all.
Who sees all beings in his own Self, and his own Self in all beings, loses all fear” (49).

KATHA UPANISHAD

“How unwise is the man who does not give hospitality to a Brahmin! He loses his future hopes, his past merits, his present possessions” (55).

“Tell me what you see beyond right and wrong, beyond what is done or not done, beyond past and future.”
“I will tell you the Word that all the Vedas glorify, all self-sacrifice expresses, all sacred studies and holy life seek. That Word is OM” (59).

“Who sees the many and not the ONE , wanders on from death to death.
Even by the mind this truth is to be learned: there are not many but only ONE. Who sees variety and not the unity wanders on from death to death” (63).

“The soul may go to the womb of a mother and thus obtain a new body. It even may go into trees or plants, according to its previous wisdom and work” (64).

PRASNA UPANISHAD

“Master, whence came all created beings?”
“In the beginning, the Creator longed for the joy of creation. He remained in meditation, and then came Rayi, matter, and Prana, life. ‘These two’, thought he, ‘will produce beings for me'” (67).

“Those who worship thinking, ‘We have done sacrifices and pious works’, attain only the regions of the moon and return to life and death. That is why those sages who desire children and the life of the family follow the path of the South….
But those who in search of the inner Spirit follow the spiritual path of the North with steadiness, purity, faith, and wisdom attain the regions of the sun” (68).

“OM, or AUM, has three sounds….
The three sounds not in union lead again to life that dies; but the wise who merge them into a harmony of union in outer, inner and middle actions becomes steady: he trembles no more” (73).

MUNDAKA UPANISHAD

“Abiding in the midst of ignorance but thinking themselves wise and learned, fools aimlessly go hither and thither, like blind led by the blind” (77).

“As rivers flowing into the ocean find their final peace and their name and form disappear, even so the wise become free from name and form and enter into the radiance of the Supreme Spirit who is greater than all greatness.
In truth who knows God becomes God” (81).

MAITRI UPANISHAD

“Whenever the soul has thoughts of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ it binds itself to the lower self, as a bird with the net of a snare” (101).

“The sound of Brahman is OM. With OM we go to the End: the silence of Brahman. The End is immortality, union and peace….
The sound of Brahman is OM. At the end of OM there is silence. It is a silence of joy. It is the end of the journey where fear and sorrow are no more” (102).

TAITTIRIYA UPANISHAD

“Oh, the wonder of joy!
I am the food of life, and I am he who eats the food of life: I am the two in ONE….
I am that food which eats the eater of food” (111-112).

CHANDOGYA UPANISHAD

“What you see when you look into another person’s eyes, that is the Atman, immortal, beyond fear, that is Brahman” (122).

“They have seen but they have not understood. They have not found the Atman, their soul” (123).

BRIHAD-ARANYAKA UPANISHAD

“This universe is a trinity and this is made of name, form, and action.
The source of all name is the word, for it is by the word that all names are spoken. The word is behind all names, even as Brahman is behind the word….
Those three are one, ATMAN, the Spirit of life; and ATMAN, although one, is those three” (127).

THE SUPREME TEACHING

“When all desires that cling to the heart disappear, then a mortal becomes immortal, and even in this life attains Liberation” (140).

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WORK CITED

The Upanishads. Trans. and Intro. by Juan Mascaro. NY: Penguin Books, 1965.