PROLOGUE ON UPANISHADIC STUDIES
While studying Upanishads we come across repeated references to ceremonials, sacrifices, worship of gods and discussions as to the efficacy, which confuse the deeper enquiry as to Life and After. We get more confused because of the persistence in Hinduism even now of the core of ceremonial practices and beliefs as in the early Vedic period not concentrating much on their spiritual wisdom. It is therefore necessary to have a clear understanding on the early Upanishadic Thoughts and Values Anticipated that brought forth gems of Upanishads each in its own inimitable style to take us to spiritual path and guide us towards spiritual evolution.
The deeper understanding of the sacrifices and its various components, mantras, implements, recitation parts should be our major focus. A critical study of full text of longer Upanishads (major Upanishads) would be ideal for comprehending the mind of our forefathers of Sanatana Dharma, who brought us the Wisdom of Vedas in their elucidation of Life and After. Fortunately we have the invaluable commentaries on these Upanishads from great Gurus Sankara, Madhva, Ramanuja and others. Mahaa Naaraayan Upanishad could be a good start as it carries a cross section of all Vedas and Upanishads as well as mantras used in present day ceremonial religious practices and worships.
Before going deep into these Upanishads themselves it is worthwhile to get an overall view of those early thoughts and concepts focusing more on Upanishadic approach and giving a meaning to the earlier ritualistic approach of no proper explanation. The sages who were involved in it knew about it but it was not comprehendible to later generation till some great saints arrived on the scene. An attempt has therefore been made to give an overall picture of early Upanishadic approach in the following three discourses:
- Upanishads and their Basic Thoughts
- Upanishads' Perception
- Ultimate Values of Upanishads
Probably to this may be added the discourse "Life Science of Hoary Past Crystallizes in Ayurveda--discourse already delivered and "Yajna, the Vedic Sacrifice" yet to be delivered. Life Science was later brought into the fold of Vedas as you know by now.
The great knowledge and Values that Upanishads bring us are too numerous but can be briefly summarized in the words of the great philosopher Swami Vivekananda of recent times who has won International acclamation:
"The Upanishads are the great mines of strength. Therein lies strength enough to invigorate the whole world; the whole world can be vivified, made strong, energized through them. They will call with trumpet voice upon the weak, the miserable and the downtrodden of all races, all creeds and all sects, to stand on their feet and be free; freedom, physical freedom, mental freedom and spiritual freedom are the watchword of Upanishads"
Probably Vivekananda could have been inspired by the Srivaiashnava Saints called Azhwars, Saivite saints called Nayanmars and other saints who illuminated the world of ignorance though many of them are drawn from low castes including Harijans but worshipped as deities in Temples.