Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mundaka Upanishad

The Mundaka (Sanyasi) Upanishad is one of the most important Upanishads, which is focused on the path of knowledge. The objective of the Upanishad is to make the aspirer of knowledge realize that the Supreme Knowledge is that in which the distinction between the knower, the known and the knowledge disappears.

It starts off with a dialogue between Shaunaka and Rishi Angiras with the question: "What is that by knowing which all is known? " Angiras replies that knowledge is two-fold, the Vedas, linguistics, rituals, astronomy and all the arts are the lower knowledge, while realizing the Self is the higher knowledge. In the rest of the Upanishad, Angiras deals with describing what the Self is and how to get to realize it. In a display of the free thought of that age, he even decries the rituals and people performing them - calling them deluded and ignorant of the higher knowledge.

According to Rishi Angiras, to achieve the Self people must do meditation, be pure in their heart and conquer their senses. A person who desires to achieve it needs to seek a teacher who has realized the Self, and once he fills his heart in love and conquers his senses and passions, the teacher will reveal it to him.

But the most important part from this Upanishad is for Indians and the motto "Satyameva Jayate, Na Anritam" meaning that "Truth always wins, not the untruth", something that is quoted ad nauseum in Indian governmental institutions. This motto has been usually stripped of the rest of the part surrounding it, and hence loses its importance to the general public. People are often seen deriding it, and most say that absolute truth cannot win, you will need to lie in some instances to win. Actually, this statement appears in a section of the Upanishad, saying that the Self is the truth, the Ego is falseness, and one should strive to achieve the Self, since relying on the Ego alone one will be defeated. The practice of truth, penance, brahmacharya and the acquirement of correct knowledge are preparations required to achieve this goal. Nested in this context, the motto acquires a new power in which one might have never seen it before. It also aligns itself with the generic Upanishadic objective of assisting the person to realize the Self. I am quoting below that part of the Upanishad in which the phrase appears. The bolded statement below is the motto in question.

Part III [1]

1) Like two golden birds perched on the same tree,
Intimate friends, the ego and the Self
Dwell in the same body. The former eats
The sweet and sour fruits of the tree of life
While the latter looks on in detachment.

2) As long as we think we are the ego,
We feel attached and fall into sorrow,
But realize that you are the Self, the Lord
Of life, and you will be freed from sorrow.

3) When you realize that you are the Self,
Supreme source of light, supreme source of love,
You transcend the duality of life
And enter into the unitive state.,

4) The Lord of Love shines in the hearts of all.
Seeing him in all creatures, the wise
Forget themselves in the service of all.
The Lord is their joy, the Lord is their rest'
Such as they are the lovers of the Lord.

5) By truth, meditation and self control
One can enter into this state of joy
And see the Self shining in a pure heart.

6) Truth is victorious, never untruth,
Truth is the way; truth is the goal of life,
Reached by sages who are free from self-will.

7) The effulgent Self, who is beyond thought,
Shines in the greatest, shines in the smallest,
Shines in the farthest, shines in the nearest,
Shines in the secret chamber of the heart.

8) Beyond the reach of the senses is he,
But not beyond the reach of a mind stilled
Through the practice of deep meditation.

9) Beyond the reach of words and words is he,
But not beyond the reach of a pure heart
Freed from the sway of the senses.

10) Sages are granted all the help they need
In everything they do to serve the Lord.
Let all those who seek their own fulfillment
Love and honor the illumined sage.

1) The Upanishads - Eaknath Easwaran
2) The Mundaka Upanishad - Swami Krishnanand