Essence of the Upanishads is a translation and commentary on the Katha Upanishad , an ancient Indian scripture. Foreign non-English editions have also been published in several languages. The majority of the book is a commentary on the Katha Upanishad , divided into 12 chapters in two major parts entitled "Dialogue With Death" and "The Journey Through Consciousness. The translation is described as "made particularly for use in meditation "  see the author's method of Passage Meditation. The third edition includes a previously unpublished introduction  in which the author states:.
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By Eknath Easwaran. The Upanishads, old before the dawn of history, come to us like snapshots of a timeless landscape. The Gita condenses and elaborates on these insights in a dialogue set on a battlefield, as apt a setting now as it was three thousand years ago.
And the Dhammapada, a kind of spiritual handbook, distills the practical implications of the same truths presented afresh by the Compassionate Buddha around BC. These translations proved surprisingly popular, perhaps because they were intended not so much to be literal or literary as to bring out the meaning of these documents for us today. For it is here that these classics come to life. They are not dry texts; they speak to us. Each is the opening voice of a conversation which we are invited to join — a voice that expects a reply.
So in India we say that the meaning of the scriptures is only complete when this call is answered in the lives of men and women like you and me. Only then do we see what the scriptures mean here and now. Chesterton once said that to understand the Gospels, we have only to look at Saint Francis of Assisi.
Similarly, I would say, to grasp the meaning of the Bhagavad Gita, we need look no farther than Mahatma Gandhi, who made it a guide for every aspect of daily living. Wisdom may be perennial, but to see its relevance we must see it lived out. In India, this process of assimilating the learning of the head into the wisdom of the heart is said to have three stages: shravanam, mananam, and nididhyasanam; roughly, hearing, reflection, and meditation.
These steps can merge naturally into a single daily activity, but they can also be steps in a journey that unfolds over years. Often this journey is begun in response to a crisis.
It was not until I reached a crisis of meaning in my mid-thirties, when outward success failed to fill the longing in my heart, that I turned to these classics for wisdom rather than literary beauty. Since that time I have dedicated myself to translating these scriptures into daily living through the practice of meditation.
The book in your hands is one fruit of this long endeavor. Such a presentation can only be intensely personal. In my translations I naturally let the texts speak for themselves; here I make no attempt to hide the passion that gave those translations their appeal.
To capture the essence of the Gita, the Upanishads, and the Dhammapada, I offer what I have learned personally from trying to live them out in a complex, hurried world. I write not as a scholar, but as an explorer back from a long, long voyage eager to tell what he has found.
Yet however personal the exploration, these discoveries are universal. So it is not surprising that at the heart of each of these classics lies a myth — variations on the age-old story of a hero in quest of wisdom that will redeem the world. In the Upanishads, a teenager goes to the King of Death to find the secret of immortality. In the Gita, standing between opposing armies on the eve of Armageddon, the warrior-prince Arjuna seeks guidance from an immortal teacher, Sri Krishna.
And behind the Dhammapada lies the story of the Buddha himself, a true story woven into legend: a prince who forsakes his throne to find a way for all the world to go beyond sorrow in this life. These old stories are our own, as relevant today as ever. Myth always involves the listener.
We identify with its heroes; their crises mirror ours. Their stories remind us not only what these scriptures mean but why they matter. Like the texts themselves, they seek a response in our own lives. So this book is both the fruit of a journey and an invitation.
But this place is really no more distant than the heart, so if you find that this description calls you to your own voyage of exploration, my highest purpose in writing will be fulfilled. We have added a previously unpublished introduction and made some minor revisions — including the removal of dated references — suggested by the author before his death, in Other than that, the text stands as he left it. This is a personal exploration of the fundamental ideas of the Upanishads, among the earliest sources of Indian spirituality, and the light they throw on how to live today.
My focus is practical: what I have found most meaningful in my own life, after decades of the practice and teaching of meditation. The Upanishads are probably the oldest body of wisdom literature in the world. Though removed from us by thousands of years, the insights they give into the nature of the phenomenal world, the human mind, and the underlying reality called God are as dazzling today as ever.
And the questions they pose never become dated. They are new for every human being, fresh for every generation, because they are questions that each of us has to answer for ourselves.
Out of hundreds of these documents, one in particular appeals to me as the essence of the Upanishads. Lyrical, dramatic, practical, inspiring, the Katha Upanishad embraces the key ideas of Indian mysticism and presents them in the context of a mythic adventure that everyone can relate to: the story of a young hero who ventures into the land of death in search of immortality.
Following this cue, I have laid out this book too like a journey. In the Katha, insights are scattered without regard to order, like flares bursting at random to illumine a hidden landscape; and the central concepts are taken for granted, which can be baffling for readers in a different culture thousands of years later.
Here those concepts and insights are presented systematically in the course of exploring deeper and deeper levels of personality. Taken this way, the Katha provides a comprehensive answer to the central question of all philosophy, Who am I? The Upanishads are the earliest instance in history of the perennial philosophy: the discovery that beneath the incessant change of the phenomenal world lies a changeless reality that can be discovered deep in consciousness by following disciplines that are essentially the same regardless of culture or religion.
Spinoza might have been quoting the Upanishads when he summed up this discovery thousands of years later in one simple sentence: The finite rests upon the Infinite, and the Infinite is God. This is the language of philosophy, but the Upanishads are not philosophy. They do not state opinions, expound theories, or dictate dogma. They record experience, direct encounters with a land beyond change. In Sanskrit they are darshana, sightings.
How old they are we cannot know; long before they were written down, they were passed from generation to generation in a meticulously faithful oral tradition still practiced today, so that by the time they emerge in written form, they seem almost to come from beyond the beginning of time.
Given this antiquity, it is amazing how directly they speak to us now. We hear in them the voice of the Eternal, always immediate, always new, always seeming to speak to each of us personally — to you and me. This should not surprise us. The Upanishads are ageless precisely because they describe realities that do not change. And that is how they have always been revered in India: not as written works but as elements of an immutable landscape, the very bedrock of reality.
Explorers seeing the Himalayas for the first time record what they see, but the records are not the experience. Yet they have been put into words, so each Upanishad strains language with the passion to communicate what cannot be expressed.
Reading them reminds me of that extraordinary scrap of paper on which Blaise Pascal recorded a similar encounter — a precocious mathematician and one of the finest stylists in the French language so struck dumb by this experience that he can only scrawl down fragments:.
Shankara, an Indian mystic of equal authority, was more poetic: Words turn back frightened there, unable to cross. And Mechthild of Magdeburg, lyrical even in her prose, confides, Of the holy things that God has shown me, I can speak no more than a single word — no more than a honeybee can carry away on its feet from an overflowing jar.
Whatever this experience is, though beyond words, it is full of meaning; we can see that from the transformation of personality that follows. Yet how can ordinary people like you and me hope to learn from the records of such experiences if ineffability and random insight are their hallmarks?
Some might say we cannot; we must simply take them as they are. But today especially there must be many who, like me, need not only to wonder but to understand; and for that, words and intellectual discrimination must be pressed back into service to give at least some sense of what is beyond their reach.
If we could put these visions all together, we might have a map that brings into clear relief the whole inner geography of the spirit. Yet the Upanishads themselves provide no such map, and without one, it is difficult to assemble these fragments into a coherent whole.
In addition, however they may thrill and inspire us, their practical meaning is often far from clear: so obscure, in fact, that even to their contemporaries, the word upanishad came also to mean secret because to understand them requires the practice of spiritual disciplines — a long drawn-out and demanding affair that excludes those unwilling to make it the focus of their lives.
In other words — not surprisingly, perhaps — to understand the Upanishads, one must actually go to their source oneself. With such a guide, however, the essence of these luminous documents can be brought to light, and two or three in particular stand out with special appeal for anyone today who wants to understand what this great adventure is all about.
Of these, as I said, the Katha Upanishad is a personal favorite, powerful, poetic, and practical. As Upanishads go, it is relatively late — perhaps only three or four thousand years old, recent enough to gather the insights of earlier Upanishads into one luminous outpouring.
Virtually all the fundamental ideas of Indian spirituality are found there, not presented systematically but fully developed; and since these are really the cornerstones of the perennial philosophy, the Katha might be said to contain the fundamentals of mysticism anywhere.
In it we find elements of theory and practice that are elaborated later in the Bhagavad Gita and sometimes even reminiscent of the Compassionate Buddha. The similarities with the Gita are especially interesting. Both works are dialogues, in which a human being receives from an immortal teacher instruction into a higher mode of living. In both, too, the central questions are ones that have been asked since the earliest times: Who am I?
What is the purpose of life? How am I to live? Most important, the very essence of both is choice. They present alternative ways of living, show their consequences, and then leave it to us to choose. This is a very positive, practical approach. Problems become challenges; living wisely becomes an adventure requiring daring, determination, and skill.
The settings alone suggest this: the Gita unfolds on a battlefield; the Katha, in the shadowy kingdom of Death. In its barest form, the story that provides the framework of the Katha is found in the oldest of Hindu scriptures, the Rig Veda. A boy is told by his father to go where his ancestors have gone. He joins the dead, but his faith and courage impel the King of Death, Yama, to show him how to return to life.
Like a great dramatist, the anonymous seer who left us the Katha Upanishad took this mythic fragment and lifted it into a masterpiece of spiritual instruction. Nachiketa is no longer a faceless figure; he comes alive; we recognize him. Like Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, he stands for you and me, for everyone with a deep drive to know what life is for and why we are here.
And Death is the perfect teacher — direct, challenging, never one to mince words. In this book I try to bring these lofty insights back again to earth so that we can recognize their wisdom in the events of everyday life. Then we discover, perhaps with some surprise, that a visionary document thousands of years old actually provides a framework for understanding ourselves, the world, and even the daily news. Presented this way, despite its ecstatic vision, the Katha is far from otherworldly.
Essence of the Upanishads : A Key to Indian Spirituality
Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support? Among the oldest of India's spiritual texts, the Upanishads are records of intensive question-and-answer sessions given by illumined sages to their students - in ashrams, at family gatherings, in a royal court, and in the kingdom of Death. The sages share flashes of insight, extraordinary visions, the results of their investigation into consciousness itself. The Upanishads have puzzled and inspired wisdom seekers from Yeats to Schopenhauer.
Essence of the Upanishads: A Key to Indian Spirituality
ESSENCE OF THE UPANISHADS A Key to Indian Spirituality : Eknath Easwaran
By Eknath Easwaran. The Upanishads, old before the dawn of history, come to us like snapshots of a timeless landscape. The Gita condenses and elaborates on these insights in a dialogue set on a battlefield, as apt a setting now as it was three thousand years ago. And the Dhammapada, a kind of spiritual handbook, distills the practical implications of the same truths presented afresh by the Compassionate Buddha around BC. These translations proved surprisingly popular, perhaps because they were intended not so much to be literal or literary as to bring out the meaning of these documents for us today. For it is here that these classics come to life. They are not dry texts; they speak to us.