The Vedas are the fountainhead of all Indian philosophical tradition and spiritual practice. The teachings in the Rig Veda were preserved over centuries by oral tradition alone and was put into writing ~1700–1100 BCE. This collection of writing is one of the world's oldest spiritual, philosophical and scientific texts. The teachings are broken down into detailed external practices, different forms of spiritual worship, and finally an explanation of what we realize when we do the practices.
Diving into ancient texts can be intense, so I recommend beginning with the Upanishads, what we can experience through dedication the practice of yoga (meditation), as known by the ancients.
I enjoy the sweetness of the Upanishads which reminds us that what is at the root of the universe, and what is at the root of our existence, is the same identical principle. Just as a drop of ocean water has all the same properties of Mother Ocean, so are we just a drop of Mother Nature. This realization is the ultimate goal of yoga; merging with that Light beyond all lights, the deeper import and mystery that exists in all things.
The term Upanishad has 3 meanings: 1) That which destroys the ignore-ance of the individual Soul. 2) That which guides the Seeker toward the highest. 3) That which loosens our attachment to the material world and our mortal physical self.
If that sounds powerful, it’s because it is!
My first favorite is the Katha Upanishad, The Pursuit of Power and Freedom, with translation and commentary by my teacher Pandit Rajmani Tigunait. Panditji writes; ‘It is an ageless book, for it contains timeless wisdom. It presents us with fully mature knowledge pertaining to acquiring health, wealth, peace and happiness without sacrificing the higher purpose and meaning of life.’
He goes on to say; ‘If all books and information contained in them happened to vanish from the face of the earth, the wisdom of the Katha Upanishad, tucked away in the remotest corners of the human mind, would find its way to germinate, blossom, and reintroduce all the tools and means that the human race needs to build a society. It is the most precious gift that the sages of India gave to mankind.’ So…if life as we know it is wiped off the face of the planet, the guidelines revealed here build society in harmony and peace.
This short text is simply a story about the student Nachiketa, and his Teacher, Death. He earns 3 boons from Death. If you could ask Death anything, what would you ask? Find out what Nachiketa asks, and experience the depth of the answers that are revealed each time you re-read this short text. Taking control of your destiny starts here.
My second favorite is the Ishopanishad – the Book of Wisdom with translation and commentary by Himalayan Master, Swami Rama. One of the shortest yet most profound, it weaves spirituality, psychology, epistemology (the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion), and guidelines for personal and social improvement. This can be a very difficult text to comprehend, but Swami Rama’s explanation is clear and practical. He notes that despite our material wealth and technology, despite our great discoveries in science and medicine, we still have not achieved peace within society or ourselves. He shares the secrets to finding the how to navigate what spans between each birth and death, and find inner peace and harmony. This is a text of joy and luminosity.
My third favorite is the Mandukya Upanishad – the Eternal Witness: OM, commentary by Swami Rama. The knowledge of the Upanishads is called Shruti – that which was heard or revealed. This revealed knowledge is ‘that which flows from the infinite library of the eternal’. This text helps us understand the 3 states of Sleeping, Waking and Dreaming and the fourth state beyond, which is achieved during Yoga Nidra – the state of Turiya. This fourth state is beyond mind, body and that which has been learned. It itself is Truth. The text describes how OM is the eternal sound, and represents this progression of higher awareness, and how to experience it through the practices.
I love to book shop in the Wisdom Tradition of the Himalayan Institute - I’m never disappointed!
Dedicated to Trai - thanks for asking, and thank you for your practice.