Greg Goode goode at DPW.COM
Wed Oct 8 09:03:44 CDT 1997

At 09:23 AM 10/8/97 -0700, Jonathan Bricklin wrote:

>The "I" can be denied the same way that the snake is denied.  One of the
>problems with beginning with "I am" is the same as beginning with "I
>think", the problem begins before the ergo.   Amness and thinking there may
>be, but what is this I?   Look at "I think."  This phrase, in itself,
>depicts no actuality.

I agree totally with this.  In specific acts of thought, "I think" does
not really occur.  It was meant to be representative of any instance of
mental activity.  Means it itself isn't really a thought.

This reminds me of Ramana's "I-thought."  I'll admit I've always had
trouble even finding it, not to mention tracing it to its source.
Can someone tell me what it is?  It's described as the first thought
that supposedly occurs after waking from sleep.  A component of almost
every other thought occurring to the person.  Is this too (like the cogito)
a generic, representative thought?  Or is it a thought whose object is the
personal "I"?  This body/mind complex doesn't have very many
thoughts whose object is the body/mind complex abstracted from everything


>From  Wed Oct  8 09:31:03 1997
Message-Id: <WED.8.OCT.1997.093103.0400.>
Date: Wed, 8 Oct 1997 09:31:03 -0400
Reply-To: chandran at
To: "Advaita (non-duality) with reverence" <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
From: Ram Chandran <chandran at TIDALWAVE.NET>
Organization: Personal
Subject: The Upanishads, the Mystics of the Vedas
Comments: To: Advaita List <advaita-l at>
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The Upanishads, the Mystics of the Vedas

        The main objective of this article is to illustrate that a rich
treasure of philosophical materials are available in the Upanishads.
Secondly, this article hopes to condense the essence of the Upanishads
for the curious audience and to motivate them to go and look for other
detailed works.  The written verses of Upanishads in Sanskrit are
difficult to comprehend because they contain deep insight to the
problems of religion and human thought.  The Upanishads contain the
universal and eternal truths of the Vedic hymns.  They contain spiritual
experiences, expositions, theses on fundamental questions like what is
life, birth and death.
        The history of Hinduism shows, there are several levels of thought and
experience that gave rise in time to several  schools of philosophy.
Hinduism, the oldest of the world religion, is founded on the sacred
scriptures, called Vedas.  Hindu Scriptures are broadly classified into
Sruti, Smriti, Itihaasa, Puraana and Aagama.  Vedas constitute Sruti
(heard and transmitted).  Scriptures, compiled by the great sages,
Yaajnavalkya, Manu and Paraas'ara are known as Smriti (remembered and
collated).  Itihaasa (history) comprises of the two epics: Raamaayana
and Mahaabhaarata written respectively by Vaalmeeki and Vedavyaasa.
Vedavyaasa also wrote the eighteen Puraanas and eighteen Upa-puraanas.
The purpose of each purana is to emphasize a specific "Hindu Value."
Each purana is a well written drama with a virtuous hero, an evil
villain, other supporting characters on either side!  The hero is the
favored deity, the Supreme Reality and all other deities are made
subservient to the one deity extolled in that puraana.  The Aagamas
constitute prayers and rituals and are more specific to the construction
of temples and worship of idols.
        Rig, Saama, Yajur and Atharva Vedas are the primary source of Hinduism
and they are treasured as our most ancient heritage.  Staunch hindus
believe that Vedas are eternal and consequently never created!  The
subject-matter of the vedas is classified into three categories: Karmaa,
Upaasanaa, and jnaana. Karmaa discusses obligations of each individual.
Upaasanaa provides guidance for divine communion and worship.  Jnaana is
the philosophical disquisition about Brahman, the supreme reality.
        The four important phases of Vedic revelation contain
Mantras(Samhitas), Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and the Upanishads.  The
Mantras or Samhitas are the Vedic hymns orally passed from generations
to generations.  The Brahmanas are prose expositions of the hymns
describing the rituals and performance of yajnas and tapas. They discuss
rituals and sacrifices, the hymns to be sung, and the gods to be
invoked. They also define the duties of the officiating priests. The
Aranyakas and the Upanishads articulate the mystical elements of the
Mantras.  Aranyaks and the Upanishads came into existence as a result of
an intellectual revolt against the ritualistic dominance.
        The Upanishads (more than hundred), are parts of Vedas and are spread
all over.  It describes the relationship between Atman, the human soul
and Brahman, the universal soul. Of the eleven major Upanishads, one is
from Rigved (Aitareya), five are from Yajurved (Katha, Taitiriya and
Shvetashvatar from Krishna , Ishavasya and Brihadaranyak from Shukla),
two from Samved (Ken and Chhandogya) and three from Atharvaved (Prashna,
Mundak and Mandukya).  Some are from Aranyaks, some from Brahmanas and
one (Ishavasya) from Samhita.  So chronologically they are not the last
parts of vedas.  However, in terms of evolution of the thought process
or flowering of thoughts they represent the last phase of the Vedas.
Because of this reason, the philosophy is known as the Vedanta.
        Although the seed of Upanishadic thoughts is found in some early hymns
of Rigved (Nasadiya Sukta 10-129), real metaphysical problems began to
be discussed only in the Aranyak phase when the quest for truth began in
earnest.  Since the  Vedic literature was compiled by different sages
over a period spanning many centuries, it is not surprising that the
flowering of thoughts occurred at different times in different places.
In the sense of ascendance of knowledge, therefore, the Upanishads
represent the culmination  and, hence, the appelation Vedanta.  In a
literal sense the Upanishads do not constitute the end of Vedas but
within the process of the quest of truth they do represent the pinnacle
of the Vedic literature.  The subsequent literary works consisting of
purans and the epics generally attempted to either summarize the ideas
of Upanishads or expound on some of them.
        The Upanishads compare God to a spider that weaves its web out of its
own body and lies at the center of it.  There is general agreement that
the principle and source of the universe is Brahman.  The resolution of
the relationship between Brahman and the universe is the central theme
of Vedanta, and the Upanishads.  The relative standpoint is Saguna
Brahman, the manifestation of Brahman by the human soul, viewed through
the human spectacles.  Nirguna Brahman, is the absolute standpoint,
where Brahman is God as He views Himself independently.  Sankara's
Advaita Vedanta explains why Brahman, individual soul (Atman),  and the
Universe is not different.  Madhvacharya's Dvaita Vedanta describes the
conception of God with the basic assumption that Brahman, individual
souls, and the world are different. The Taittiriya Upanishad using the
story of the enlightenment of Bhrigu, the son of Varuna explains the
ideas of creation and realization. The universe has five orders of
beings: material objects, living plants, conscious animals, intelligent
human beings and God in bliss.  The four important ingredients to
realize SELF, are Annam (food), Prana (air), Manas (consciousness),
Vijnana (knowledge).  The goal of human life is ananda (bliss), the
realization of SELF (Tat Tvam Asi).  Human being, in the scale of
spiritual progression, has dual personality.  They are partly animal and
partly god, moving in two worlds, the world of Nature and the world of
Spirit.  The Taitriya Upanishad suggests the path of spiritual
progression.  The path has movements from food, life, mind, knowledge,
and ultimately to Brahman, the SELF.  By eliminating all the limitations
of the body, mind and intellect, the SELF can be realized.  The human
being is potentially divine, and that can overcome the world and break
the bonds, and ultimately can realize the SELF.  The Mundaka Upanishad
states " As the flowing rivers disappear in the sea, losing their name
and form, so does a wise man freed from name and form go into the Divine
Spirit greater than the great."   This experience has different names at
different times, as Prana, Jyotis, Akasa, Brahman, Atman, Ananda, or
simply as Sah.
        The Doctrine of Karma and Samsara In support of the realization of
SELF, Upanishads outlines several additional explanations.  The universe
has the natural tendency to guide the realization by the human soul.
The natural forces of the universe maintain the balance between the
material objects, living plants, conscious animals, and intelligent
human beings.  The transition from human consciousness into divine
(transcendental) consciousness is a long and laborious process.
Ordinarily, within the span of a single lifetime, it is not feasible to
transit from human to divine.  Life is a continuous journey, carried
over and continued through the succeeding lives till the attainment of
SELF realization.  The Doctrine of Karma and Samsara rationalizes the
role of the soul during the transition between the lives.  The law of
Karma rationalizes the purpose of the movement.  Rebirth is dependent on
moral behavior in a previous phase of existence and life on the universe
is transient.
     In the Upanishads, it is no longer a question of rewards and
punishments meted out by an external judge.  The human beings become the
architect of their own spiritual fortunes, no longer subject to chance
or the will of an hypothetical God.  The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad states
that the actions of the human beings decide the outcome.  The doer of
good becomes good, the doer of evil becomes evil. One becomes virtuous
by virtuous action and sinful by sinful action.  As is his desire so is
his will, as his will so is the deed, he does, and whatever deed he
does, that he will reap.  Ultimately, being Brahman, he goes to
     The Bhagavad Gita elaborates the doctrine of Karma-yoga,
established in the Upanishads.  The Karma-yoga is the solvent of the Law
of Karma.  It is an effective spiritual discipline for persons who seek
knowledge of God or knowledge of SELF.   According to this doctrine, all
works done in a spirit of renunciation and sacrifice with no desire for
their fruit lead not to rebirth but to moksha or Self-realization.  In
nature, the behavior of plants and trees is in the spirit of
renunciation and sacrifice with no desire.  The  path to moksha, is no
desire!  Desires are the root cause of deaths and births.  Work done
without any desire for personal gain, becomes spiritual action.  Action
should be natural and spontaneous, prompted by the circumstance.    An
excellent example of this spontaneity is the blooming of the flowers
during the morning sunlight (J. Krishnamoorthy's Video Discourse).  It
is not the renunciation of the action itself, but renunciation of the
gains from such action is important.
        The Path to Self-realization - Sravana, Manana, and Nididhyasana: What
are the guidelines to reach the goal of life?  What type of life one has
to lead in order to realize God?  The answers to these questions are not
directly addressed in the scriptures.  It is impossible to outline the
path of Self-realization because such a possibility is a logical
contradiction.  Rightly, the acquisitions of knowledge, the cultivation
of virtues, the development of character and the discharging of the
duties of the citizen are the only true concerns of the scriptures.
However, there are hints and suggestions with regard to the essential
pre-requisites of spiritual illumination.  It is not the knowledge of
scriptures but the realization of the SELF that brings liberation to the
spirit of the human being.  The Sanskrit sloka " Mantravideva asmi na
atmavit." illustrates the true perspective in the quest for knowledge.
Infinite knowledge on Mantras does not  lead one to
        Vedanta, the philosophy of life derived from the scriptures, is an
elaboration of the path to Self-realization.  The Brihadaranyaka
Upanishad discusses the essence of Vedanta in greater depth.  The
discussion between Rishi Yajnavalkya and his wife, Maitreyi elaborates
the essence of Vedanta. The three recognized states to the path of
Self-realization are:  Sravana, Manana and Nididhyasana.  Sravana is the
study of scriptures under a qualified Guru.  Manana means constant
reflection upon what has been learnt so that intellectual conviction may
be produced in the mind.  Finally, Nididhyasana implies meditation that
helps to cause a direct realization of the unity of things in God.
Knowledge should lead to experience, intellectual conviction should
result in perception.  That is why meditation comes in the last stage of
the spiritual journey.  Again the scriptures insist that successful
completion of the states are neither necessary nor sufficient for
        Patanjali, the greatest authority on Yoga, discusses the different
kinds of meditation techniques from the scriptures.  Yoga, the practice
of meditation is deep thinking.  Human beings meditate in their daily
work to get knowledge and power.  The Yogi practices yogas with a
specific goal in life.  A genuine yogi has no interest in the enjoyment
of powers because they are barriers to Self-realization.  The scriptures
discuss the true form of meditation, the path to Self-realization.  The
Upanishads outlines the details of Upasanas, the preliminary steps of
meditation.  The  Upasanas include the choice of symbol or object to
represent SELF, the mystic syllable AUM, and other key elements.  Prana
(breath), Asana (posture), Pratyahara (training of mind for detachment),
Dharna (concentration of mind to specific part of body), and  Dhyana
(get the power to think) are the critical elements of the upasanas.  The
last part of meditation is Samadhi, the total absorption.  In this state
of the mind, the yogi rejects the external part, the object of
meditation, and contemplates only its essence.
     The word AUM is primordial and uncreated sound. The mystics
absorbed in contemplation, when their minds and senses are withdrawn
from the world heard the sound AUM.  AUM, often written OM (to rhyme
with home), is the most sacred word in the Gayatri mantra, which
contains the essence of Vedanta.  This is an effective symbol of
Brahman.  The Upanishads describe AUM as the symbol of the Atman, or
individual soul, in its various aspects.  The unique sound of A, U, and
M represents the Atman free from the experiences of the relative world,
Turiya, the pure consciousness.  Joseph Campbell in his book "Power of
Myth" confirms the eternal significance of AUM. The televised version
of  "Power of Myth" was shown in Public Television and copies of the
video version are available in public libraries.  Dr. Campbell affirms
the fact that sound of AUM actually comes without the movement of lips.
No vocal sound is possible without moving lips and AUM is a known
        The sound of AUM is Divine: First, the sound of AUM is eternal. Second,
the body, mind and intellect stands still at the time of recitation of
AUM.  Finally, AUM is a symbolic representation of Brahman.  For
advaitists, AUM represents "Self-Realization."  For Dualists, AUM
idealizes Lord Krishna (See Bhagavad Gita: Chapter VII, Verse 8: "I am
the symbol AUM in all vedas" and Chapter VIII, Verse 13: "He who utters
the word AUM, will leave the body and come to me").
        States of Consciousness and Transcendental Consciousness: There are
four states of consciousness, waking, dream, dreamless sleep, and
Turiya, (self-realization).  The state of waking consciousness contains
the impressions derived directly from the objects presented to the
senses.  The state of dream consciousness fills with impressions not
directly from the objects but from the images of objects stored in the
memory.  At the state of dreamless sleep, not only the senses and but
the mind is quiescent.  Here there are no impressions and the mind is a
temporary cessation of normal consciousness. Finally, the fourth state
of consciousness, Turiya, where the subject is permanently free from the
principle of objectivity.  The person has the positive experience of
Atman, the liberated spirit and this experience is not within the
experience of ordinary persons.  This state according to Mandukya
Upanishad is neither cognitive nor non-cognitive, it cannot be seen,
cannot be described, and  cannot be designated.  This is the state of
the realization of Atman, the knowledge of oneness of the SELF, where
the world ceases to exist!
        All creatures seek happiness, and most of them seek the lowest quality
and for the shortest duration.  True happiness consists in expanding our
souls in every direction and reaching out in brotherly union with other
souls, to that universal spirit who is the perfection of knowledge,
beauty and love.  This path to true happiness is Pravritti Marga.  The
acquisition of knowledge, the worship of beauty, and the thrilling
experience of love is only knowing the different phases of knowing the
SELF.  This is Nivritti Marga, the path of concentration.  The internal
world and the external world needs equal attention  to reach the
transcendental consciousness.  The Bhagavad Gita says, " He who sees
that the way of renunciation and the way of works are one, he sees
        Conclusion: Sharma, in his book, The Upanishads-An Anthology, states
"It may be remarked that this aspect of the Upanishadic teaching,
bearing on what is now called Nature mysticism, as well many other
aspects, is either lost sight of or is reduced to a cold hardened
doctrine in most of our later scriptures, without the warm enthusiasm
and the profound mystic insight of the original seers."   Parthasarathi,
a well known scholar of Vedanta, in his book Vedanta Treatise, states  "
The goal of all religions is one and the same.  To unveil your real
Self.  To discover your true nature.  To draw out the divinity in you."
The Upanishads and Gita contain the essence of vedanta and specifically
the thoughts on creation, the creator, and the salvation.   The stories
of Nachiketas in Katha, of Bhrigu in Taittiriya, Janaka in
Brihadaranyaka, and of Satyakama,  Upakosal, Svetaketu and several
others in Chandogya are good illustrations of Vedanta. I do not pretend
that I have possessed the necessary skills to understand and unravel the
profound facts. On the contrary, I am certain that I have exposed my
ignorance and please forgive my errors.  The ideas are taken from the
excellent book by Sharma D. S., The Upanishads - an anthology, published
by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.  However, Ram Chandran is responsible for all
the errors and omissions

Sharma, D. S. The Upanishads - an anthology, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan,
Bombay, 1975.
A. Parthasarathy, Vedanta Treatise, Vedanta Life Institute, Bombay,
Swami Nikhilananda, Hinduism, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Madras,
McCormick, Alvena, The Mystery of Creation, Central Chinmaya Mission
Trust, Bombay, 1986.

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