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The Upanishads by Swami Paramananda

The Upanishads

by Swami Paramananda

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The Upanishads, the most influential of which are included here, have been studied and meditated upon for a thousand centuries, well before any of them were written down.

I am not sure about the quality of translation, or the authority of the Commentary provided by Swami Paramananda. {Without "comment" on how he got his inappropriate first name, he fails to translate many concepts. I am not suggesting that Sanscrit words are all translatable--perhaps none are. But we ought to be able to translate the words for hunger, fear, destiny, envy and love upon which worlds turn. The word "consciousness" appears to frustrate the Swami. True enough, it is obvious that most people do not behave as if they are aware of themselves or others. So, is there a word for what we actually have? Or do we imagine this in different ways? Does each culture redoubt in Guilt by association?}

The collection includes four of the earliest spiritual texts, although none are dated with certainty, and the authors are unknown. The Upanishads were compiled from "Hindu" teachings first written around 1500 BC. They are among the earliest writings on human consciousness. (Portions of the Gilgamesh epic in Sumer go back to 3500 bc.)

These sacred texts are said to reveal truth about God, the Ultimate Reality and spiritual salvation. The Upanishads were passed down from gurus to those who were looking for spiritual truths and guidance for life.

There are hundreds of Upanishads, but twelve are considered the most essential. In this book, Paramananda selects four significant Upanishads: Isa, Katha, Kena and Mundaka. Each one begins with a peaceful chant. The verses are presented in question and answer form. Why this is so is never explained. Is this really a great "teaching technique"? What about technical knowledge? Is this an admission that the guru is himself just fishing?

Isa speaks of the pervading deity. It also tells readers there are means of doing actions while still evading and even renouncing the fruits of actions. It tries, and fails, to be "practical".

Katha is a popular "story-telling" portion of the Upanishad. After revealing the tales of many gods, Paramananda seems to suggest a monotheistic basis of Hinduism arises from the meaning of the word "Om."

(Clearly, Hindus are no closer than "Christians" to being able to articulate a description of God. No religious system has ever made sense of "monotheism". Apparently it is impossible to have a "belief", and no one "believes in One God". People have filled the world with ancestors, angels, and spirits bearing their hopes and prayers to some heavenly shore.)

(A flying ass took Mohammed to Heaven. Pegasus should be worshiped, as more deserving for performing valuable services, and more worthy for knowing the actual pathway to heaven, with a nocturnal demonstration as a practical matter.)

Kena provides a short but complex description of consciousness.

Mundaka explains an eternally recycled creation spiral, and the path to heaven. While relying upon "eternal verities" and reincarnating spiritual personalities, it does seem to be a grace to imagine such a path, and a thing to be admired that there may be folks seeking that path.

There is little in these Upanishads that is scientific. The conclusions are keen insights, often logical, often quite beautifully expressed, but rarely the result of repeated experiments with explanations drawn from data. If a human being does nasty things, then after death, they karmicly return as a lower order of life. This certainly explains the sheer abundance of beetles, mosquitoes, protozoa, and viral forms of quasi-living mineralized colloidal dust. It does not explain why almost every dog is more noble than almost any man. ( )
  keylawk | May 10, 2014 |
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'The Upanishads' are early philosophical texts of the Hindu religion. 'The Upanishads' represent the loftiest heights of ancient Indo-Aryan thought and culture and are regarded as direct revelations of God. Because these teachings were usually given in the stillness of some distant retreat, where the noises of the world could not disturb the tranquility of the contemplative life, they are known also as Aranyakas, Forest Books. This version is a translation by Swami Paramānanda, who also provides valuable insights through his commentary. Paramānanda was an important Swami, mystic, poet, and an innovator in spiritual community living.… (more)

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