Back of the Book
The Upanishads are the foundation of Vedanta. The Chandogya Upanishad is one of the ten major Upanishads. It is a very comprehensive work covering a variety of topics like various forms of worship and meditation, the theory of creation, the path to liberation etc. The range of topics covered makes it interesting and complete, benefiting a variety of seekers.
The crux of the Chandogya Upanishad is found in the sixth chapter wherein the famous Mahavakya- 'Tat Tvam Asi' is declared. Here the Upanishad presents Brahma Vidya (the knowledge of the Supreme Truth) in a drama- dialogue style, as a discussion between the Guru-father, Uddalaka Rishi and his disciple-son, Shvetaketu. The central teaching of Vedanta- the oneness between the individual and the Supreme Truth, is brought home by striking similes and apt metaphors.
Swamini Vimalananda has a good grasp of the subject. Her style of narration makes the text easy to understand. Her lucid notes are sure to benefit the reader.
The dream is the projection of the mind. Everything of the dream enjoys the same degree of reality. Yet some person, thing or transaction of the dream has the special power to wake us up.
The seventh chapter of the Chandogya Upanishad, which is a dialogue between the great Sage Sanatkumara and his younger brother, turned disciple, the famous Narada, makes us realize that all knowledge is the play of words alone- name eva etat. Yet the words of the text have the unique power not only to prepare us but also finally awaken us to our infinite nature, which alone is all bliss bhumaiva sukham.
Swamini Vimalananda has added relevant notes to make the subject easier to grasp.
Besides good health and physical comforts, man needs
emotional fulfillment, intellectual satisfaction and spiritual
unfoldment to be happy. However, to gain total happiness, he
needs to know his own true nature (Self-knowledge). The
experiments and experiences with Self-knowledge by
hundreds of seers over many millennia has only proved its
utility and validity for all times. Many great men the world
over, accept the glory of this knowledge and they have
therefore made it an integral part of their lives. Many who
have spent most of their life without it, have regretted their
loss. Spiritual practices and Self-knowledge should become
part of one's life right from childhood. To acquire it and pass
it to the next generation becomes the bounden duty of one
The Veda-s or Sruti-s are the roots of the tree of
Self-knowledge. Its main branches are the Smrti-s (the
Bhagavad Gita etc.), the Purana-s (Bhagavatam etc.) and the
Itihasa-s (the Ramayana, Mahabharata), Various compositions
and works of saints and sages are its secondary branches.
Those who gain this knowledge and live a spiritual life are the
fruits that contain the sweet juice of fulfillment. They have in
them the seeds of knowledge which they pass on to the next
generation of seekers who in turn attain fulfillment. Thus the
knowledge is carried on, blessing generation after generation,
The Veda-s as books are four in number Rg, Yajur,
Sama, and Atharva. Each is divided into four partsMantra,
Brahmana, Aranyaka and Upanisad-s. The Mantra portion
contains prayers in praise of the beauty, bounty and powers
of Nature. The chanting of these help man to expand his
vision, from the narrow limits of home and family to the
infinite universe full of glory and grace. The Brahmana-s
describe various rites and rituals. They also talk of the various
worlds or fields of experiences that can be attained through
performance of rituals and about transmigration and rebirth.
The Aranyaka portion contains various forms of worship of
and meditation on deities and ways to propitiate them and
invoke their blessings. The Upanisad-s propound the
Supreme Truth and its attainment by Self-knowledge leading
The Veda-s are also categorised into three sections---
Karma Kanda (Mantra and Brahmana, Upasana Kanda
(Aranyaka) and Jnana Kanda (Upanisads). Man is born
with three faults (dosa-s)---Mala (the impurity of the mind),
Viksepa (restlessness) and ajnana avarana (ignorance of
By the performance of our duties, dedicating them to a
noble altar, free of ego and ego-centric desires i.e., following
of the Karma Kanda (understood in present times as Karma
Yoga), the mind is freed from likes, dislikes, anger, greed and
the like. Upasana i.e., forms of meditation and worship, make
the mind subtle and single-pointed. The Jnana Kanda i.e.,
Self-knowledge, removes our ignorance of our true nature.
Only a pure, subtle and focused mind can gain abidance in
Self-knowledge. Therefore, even though Self-knowledge
alone gives true happiness, the first two sections of the
Veda-s play an important role in preparing the mind for
Self-knowledge. Thus the Veda-s are designed to-be a perfect
solution to the inherent problems of human life.
The Chandogye Upanisad forms part of the Brahmana-s
of the Talavakara section of the Sama Veda. In size, it ranks
second among the ten major Upanisads. It has eight chapters.
Like all Upanisad-s its main topic is the knowledge of the
Truth (Brahma Vidya). However, the first five chapters
mainly describe a variety of rituals (karma-s) and methods of
worship and meditation (upasana) catering to different types
of people. The last three chapters mainly propound
This Upanisad introduces us to endearing and earnest
seekers of Truth like Narada, Satyakama and Svetaketu and
compassionate teachers like Aruni, Sanatkumara and
Prajapati. The stories and dialogues between different Guru-s
and disciples teach us many important lessons of life. From
the story of Ibhya in chapter I, one learns how to be steadfast
yet not rigid or stubborn in following one's vows. In chapter
VIII, one learns from Indra, sincerity and the patience
required to gain great goals.
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