A selection of these spiritually enlightening stories
is given here so that we may understand clearly the
deep significance of the Vedas. Life transforming
in character, these ancient stories have perennial
Why stories? One can tell the tenets of the scriptures
straightaway as terse Sutras. Of course, they can be. But
the sages themselves lived lives embedded in various
contexts ranging from family, statehood, and nation and,
above all, in the context of the recurring riddles of death
and immortality. It is from these contexts that texts of the
Upanishads speak to us.
In his stimulating study of the story-telling and the
Upanishad experience, Johanna Grinshpon (Dept. of
Indian Studies, Hebrew University, Israel) points to this
aspect and notes the various contexts which provoke
reflection only to arrive at the truth of Brahman as the
abiding presence. He says: the Upanishad narrative is
about "the complacent householder awakened to an ascetic's superiority (and his 'own' inferiority); the childless
wife (bereft thereby of immortality); the young student
afflicted by desires of many kinds; the boy insecure because
of his unknown father's identity; the vain son perplexes
by his father's riddles; the scholar full of scholarly ye'
important knowledge; the boy insistent on his perception
The range of these characters is inclusively holistic
and the spectrum of issues they debate surface with a1
much urgency, if not more, as they did when they went
debated by the sages, and their words in environmental
conditions conducive to the required reflection. The
scrotal episodes encapsulate almost every issue that we
face even today.
Revered Swami Tattwananda's original edition retained its preeminence and its popularity. It is now being
reissued in a more compact form. It has been my privilege
to be associated with this reissue. My immense gratitude
to Swami Bodhasarananda who suggested that I should
do the needful for this reissue.
Finally, there is a fascinating coincidence that the tradition of narrativising of basic spiritual truths has been taker
to much more accessible ways of absorption by the enchanting tales and parables of Sri Ramakrishna. The Great Mastel
is a great, masterly storyteller. In their own inimitable we)
they bring out the issues that the Upanishads narratives
Teleological it is appropriate that the book should come
under the aegis of Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati.
It would not be out of place to state briefly what
the Upanishads are and what they signify. The Vedas
are primarily divided into two parts, the Samhitas and
the Brahmanas. The hymns as collected together form
the Samhita. That part of the Vedas which explains the
Samhitas is known as the Brahmanas. They deal primarily
with the technique of offering sacrifices. The Aranyakas
give us the essence of the Vedas.
The term Aranyaka signifies that it is the message of
the forest, as taught in the hermitages to which the sages
resorted in order to attune themselves to the infinite. The
Upanishads form the concluding part of the Aranyakas.
According to Sayanacharya, the word Upanishad means
secret knowledge. The Upanishads are secret teachings.
Brahmavidya, or the knowledge of the Atman, is imparted
through them. The Upanishads form the Jnanakanda, or
the knowledge portion of the Vedas. They are the wisdom
books, as contrasted with the Karmakanda, which deals
with rituals. Thus the Samhita, Brahmana, Aranyaka and
Upanishad together constitute the Veda. One hundred
and eight Upanishads are considered to be authoritative.
Shankaracharya has written commentaries on eleven of
In the following pages, an attempt has been made to
explain the hidden significance of some of the stories given
in the Upanishads and to bring to light the philosophy
that lies embedded in them.
From these stories, we may come to know much about
the social, moral, political and religious condition of Vedic
India. They also throw a flood of light on the origin, history
and development of Brahmavidya, or the knowledge of
the Supreme, together with the method of imparting that
knowledge and the effects of its attainment. In addition
to laying stress upon life's highest values, the Upanishads
give us an insight into the application of those values as
exemplified in the dedicated lives of the sages and the
kings who worked for the good of humanity at large.
Book's Contents and Sample Pages
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