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The Beginner’s Guide to the Upanishads
More filters. Sort order. Jan 25, Roy Lotz rated it really liked it Shelves: religion-mysticism-theology , oldie-but-goodie , orientalism. I find it interesting how pervasive is the mystic idea of unity. From transcendentalists to scientists to Buddhists to Christians to Hindus, I hear this same thing emphasized repeatedly—everything is one.
Physicists wax poetic about how our bodies are made of star-dust. Biologists and naturalists wonder at the unity of life on earth. Christians celebrate the infinite simplicity of God.
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Spinoza's philosophy proclaims the oneness of all reality. Walt Whitman had this to say: And I know that the han I find it interesting how pervasive is the mystic idea of unity. Walt Whitman had this to say: And I know that the hand of God is the elderhand of my own, And I know that the spirit of God is the eldest brother of my own, And that all the men ever born are also my brothers… and the women my sisters and lovers And here is Herman Hesse: Slowly blossomed, slowly ripened in Siddhartha the realization, the knowledge, what wisdom actually was, what the goal of his long search was.
It was nothing but a readiness of the soul, an ability, a secret art, to think every moment, while living his life, the thought of oneness, to be able to feel and inhale the oneness. Opening yourself up to this realization is the corner-stone to many words of wisdom I've so far come across. In fact, the Socratic injunction to 'know thyself' takes on a different meaning in this context. Since, for Plato, the soul of a man is that which takes part in the realm of ideals, knowing this soul puts oneself in more intimate contact with this ultimate reality.
So self-knowledge is the key to wisdom, and wisdom consists in the knowledge that all is one. In both Plato's works and The Upanishads , the soul is likened to a driver on a chariot. Both systems divide the self or soul in similar ways. Both have an idea of reincarnation. And in both systems one finds the idea that true enlightenment comes from detached introspection. I suspect that the intellectual knowledge that the universe is, in a sense, one thing, is not really what wisdom is all about. And truly, it is a miracle.
I think scientists, Christians, Hindus, Platonists, and Buddhists can all agree with that. To quote Bill Bryson's fantastic A Short History of Nearly Everything : To begin with, for you to be here now trillions of drifting atoms had somehow to assemble in an intricate and intriguingly obliging manner to create you. For the next many years we hope these tiny particles will uncomplainingly engage in all the billions of deft, cooperative efforts necessary to keep you intact and let you experience the supremely agreeable but generally underappreciated state known as existence.
But Wittgenstein might have said it best: "Not how the world is, is the mystical, but that it is. View all 22 comments. This book first exposed me to the deep, Deep, DEEP wellspring of spirituality that is to be found in the Indian tradition.
5 Philosophies From The Upanishads The World Needs Today
The concept of Atman and Brahman and the interchangeability was so in keeping with my person beliefs that the first reading left me shaken. I am from the Bible belt where our preachers call Indians and others idolaters, polytheists, blasphemers and fuel for hellfire. But on reading the Upanishads one realizes that they are closer to monotheism than is Christianity with it's This book first exposed me to the deep, Deep, DEEP wellspring of spirituality that is to be found in the Indian tradition.
But on reading the Upanishads one realizes that they are closer to monotheism than is Christianity with it's Trinity All is One, there is only Brahman, indeed no other.
There and there alone is it to be found, within your own self. My favorite mahavakya - Tat tvam asi - Thou Art That. To anyone with an open mind, a truth seeker - you cannot help but marvel at them. Very succinct and full of Ooooooh and Ah ha! Highly recommended! View all 36 comments. Jul 21, Elena Holmgren rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites.
A remarkable collection of writings that somehow manages to sketch out the lineaments of the perspective of our highest realization. The uncanny thing is that these scattered linguistic sketches, left behind by diverse personalities separated by vast gulfs of historical change, nonetheless somehow manage to come together into a unified picture of what it'd be like, experientially, to grasp the unity of the real through the fully realized unity of the self.
These luminous fragments express an und A remarkable collection of writings that somehow manages to sketch out the lineaments of the perspective of our highest realization. These luminous fragments express an understanding of what wisdom consists in that is quite different from what we're used to in the Western tradition. As such, they bear testimony to an aspect of the human condition that our own tradition has left largely uncharted. Here, wisdom is bearing experiential witness to rather than merely theoretically conceiving the unity of the real.
These fragments provide an insider's glimpse into the goal, once realized, of the philosophic quest. That self-knowledge is the first and last of knowledge, both its presupposed foundation and its ultimate culmination, is something both East and West agree on. Both remind us that our ultimate goal, rightly conceived, is epitomized by the Delphic-Socratic motto "Know Thyself.
These fragments also show that we need to mine outside the Western tradition for insight into the self. They show what attaining the goal of all our intending would be like, what it'd be like to occupy the center which the Socratic method has endlessly circumnavigated, but never penetrated.
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From a philosophical point of view, these texts are fascinating because they refute the foundational tenet of the Western philosophical tradition; that is, they refute the basic, inherited Platonic belief that the way of conceptual abstraction is sufficient to attaining the real.
They give voice to our most fundamental regulative intuition: that irreducible unity and continuity are the mark of the real. This intuition of unity guides the quest for knowledge of the principles of things. Even by the mind this truth is to be learned: there are not many but only ONE. Who sees variety and not the unity wanders on from death to death. Of course, as these texts show, this adopted existential stance of separateness is a developmentally advanced form of pretend-play: we merely choose to disregard the all-embracing context we find ourselves in in order to wrest a myopic flicker of clarity here and there.
The patchwork created by the sum total of these myopic flickers is our synoptic theory. This is part of the agonizing logic of the situation we find ourselves in. It is not what fills the gaping void at the center of the personality which drives us towards consummation and fulfillment. What we most hunger for is to find that mode of relation that reveals the world as a home. It is to relate to the world on the level of what we call spirit, not sense. This is the meaning of the demand for greater unity that we find ourselves oftentimes making and which lies at the source of all our discontents, whether intellectual, moral, aesthetic, emotional, or otherwise.
The Upanishads show how beneath our familiar pseudo-self, our constructed self, lie much deeper reserves by which we can relate ourselves to the real. Ultimately, what they show is that the self just IS its characteristic mode of relation to the real Atman is Brahman.
And it is not until we attain a unity of the personality at this underlying level that we can begin to grasp the unity of things. Attaining unity within is the way to grasping unity without. Ultimately, the startling realization that the pursuit of self-knowledge leads us to is that our true center of gravity is to be found outside ourselves. In this, then, lies the insufficiency of theoretical knowledge.
A theoretical grasp is not sufficient to transform the unity of the personality.
The Upanishads by Anonymous
It abstracts from the unity of the situation of encounter, and in so doing, it cannot draw on the full reserves of the personality to register reality in experienced witness. Because attaining unity within the self is the precondition for discerning the unity in things, conceptualization cannot sufficiently specify the content of our relation to the world. So the consummation of the philosophic quest to grasp the unity of things can never be found in a purely theoretical grasp though I'd add that such is probably an invaluable part of the means.
As a slight aside, the exclusive reliance on theory is perhaps the cause of the classic problem of "akrasia," or of ineffective wisdom, in Western ethics. Theory just doesn't seem to be enough to drive knowledge home such that it transforms our motivational core, or the way that we see and feel things. Theoretical knowledge doesn't alter the register in which our experience transpires. It remains inert in some unused compartment of our psyche, while our lives run on much as they did before.
Thus, it doesn't by itself change our predispositions to act in ways that run against our principles. Sometimes, it doesn't keep us from destroying ourselves, each other, and our world. In contrast, what the Upanishads offer is a view of philosophy as a way of life that is a corrective to this weakness. The true goal and measure of knowing, they show, is a personal transformation that reorients our mode of relation to the world.
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