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Thread: 10 upaniṣad-s worth studying...

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    10 upaniṣad-s worth studying...

    hari o
    ~~~~~

    Namasté
    c.smith wrote some time back,
    I have secured a translation of many of the Upanishads and would like opinions on which I should read first. I am still getting my bearings in the Hindu faith and hope that the Upanishads can satisfy my desire to learn more.
    I thought to address this. It was addressed before but thought to 'freshen' the response and add a few more ideas to the post.

    One may ask, How many potential Upaniṣad-s are there? As many sakha-s सख ( tree ) or branches, some call recensions found in the veda¹. But how many? Well, the ṛg veda has 21 recensions, yajur veda (from yajus - worship, sacrifice) has 109, some say 101; the sāma veda (from sāman - song or tune; and sā is 'sin destroying') has 1000; The atharva veda (atharvan - brahmā's eldest son to whom he revealed the brahma-vidyā) has 50 recensions & some say there are 9 .

    Hence a total of 1,180 recensions. From a numbers perspective this 1180 can be viewed as 1+1+8+0 = 10 , the sum of the digits of 1,180. This 10 says Fullness of the Relative field of life = 1, and Fullness of the Absolute level of life or 0. This 10 is the Fullness of saguṇa + nirguṇa = Brahman. The subject of 10 has been discussed in past posts for those that have interest http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/showpost.php?p=32719&postcount=15

    Why then do we hear of 10 core (mukhya¹) upaniṣad-s ? Or 13 found in the brahma sūtras? We also hear of the 10 ( some say 11) core upaniṣad-s that Ādi Śaṅkara-ji commented on. The muktika upaniṣad helps us here.
    This upaniṣad is a discussion between Śrī Rāma and Hanumān-ji. Śrī Rāma says the māṇḍūkya (frog) upaniṣad's wisdom is enough to bring liberation (kaivalya). Yet if one does not achieve this via this upaniṣad , then the 10 must be considered. If not the 10, then the 32 and one then should stop. He then says if desiring mokṣa without the body then read the 108. So , Śrī Rāmaḥ offers us a roadmap.

    10 upaniṣad-s are associated with the ṛg veda.
    16 upaniṣad-s are associated with the sāma veda
    19 upaniṣad-s are associated with the white yajurveda
    32 upaniṣad-s are associated with the black yajurveda
    31 upaniṣad-s are associated with the atharvaveda
    = 108 upaniṣad-s recommended in the muktika upaniṣad

    Let's take a look at the 10 core upaniṣad-s Śrī Rāma recommends. I took the liberty of adding the most brief description - I look to stand corrected by those that wish to increase the accuracy of the description or expand the notion as one sees fit.
    • īśāvā upaniṣad - The inner ruler ; all THIS ( meaning all of creation) is covered by the Lord
    • kena upaniṣad - Kena or 'who or by what ' moves this world? This creation?
    • kathā upaniṣad - Dialog or kathā with Death (Yama) as the guru; As a side note sometimes this upaniṣad is written as kaṭha ,meaning a pupil or follower; this can be assigned to the student in this upaniṣad named naciketa.
    • praśna upaniṣad - 6 questions (praśna) are asked by 6 students to the master mahaṛṣi pippalāda . The 6 questions
      are most delightful and insightful to read.
    • muṇḍaka upaniṣad - The shaving (muṇḍaka or muṇḍa) for the shaved ones - the sānnyasin. Distinction between para vidya and apara vidua ( higher and lower) knowledge.
    • māṇḍūkya upaniṣad - Frog (māṇḍūka). It reviews consciousness and its various forms. It's thought this upaniṣad is called 'frog' as the mind leaps from one state of consciousness to another. Also the Lord of the waters Varuna, a symbol for consciousness, assumes the shape of a frog as the ṛṣi and praises oṃ in the upaniṣad.
    • aitareya upaniṣad - Aitareya is the ṛṣi madhidasa aitareya. The upaniṣad addresses the unity of the individual with the Supreme - some say the relationship of the micro and the macro. Another view is ātmashatka or the 6 sectioned (or branched) discussionn on ātman - the only Reality.
    • taittirīya upaniṣad - Birds or partridges (taittiri's).; from food to bliss - this upaniṣad covers a complete field of wisdom, that is unparalleled.
    • chāndogya upaniṣad - Meter (chandas of sāma veda); chant, sāma and yajya - the path of wisdom and the re-valuation of upāsana (worship, adoration in the light knowing vs. just performing.
    • bṛhadaraṇyaka upaniṣad - The great forest book; That is, as it's an ārayaṇaka आरण्यक forest, forest-born, produced in a forest; it is thought one takes this book for retreat. It contains a 'forest' i.e. rich, flourishing, offers of knowledge. Some say life is a forest i.e. no clear path, and this Upaniṣad assists in finding one's way.
    These are considered core as suggested from the muktika upaniṣad. If we added śvetāśvatara upaniṣad the 11th, some say, are the core upaniṣad-s of Ādi Śaṅkara-ji's commentaries.

    If we added 2 additional upaniṣad-s, kauṣītaki brāmaṇopaniṣad and mahanārāyaṇopaniṣad gives us the 13 upaniṣad-s of Veda Vyāsa's brahma sūtras. The 12th & 13th upaniṣad just mentioned is still a question in my mind. I have not studied these two in depth to my liking.
    That said, and as a point of reference, if you add-up all the sukta-s of the top 10 upaniṣad-s, the bṛhadaraṇyaka and chāndogya upaniṣad-s make up the lion's share of writing & śloka-s when compared to all of the 13 put together…just a wealth of knowledge.

    praṇām

    words and references
    • mukhya - being at the head or at the beginning , first , principal , chief , eminent
    • the numbers I quote are from the muktika upaniṣad ' In each branch there is one upaniṣad' says Śrī Rāma
    • upāsana उपासन- adoration , worship
    Last edited by yajvan; 23 November 2014 at 07:17 PM.
    यतस्त्वं शिवसमोऽसि
    yatastvaṁ śivasamo'si
    because you are identical with śiva

    _

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    Re: 10 upaniṣad-s worth studying...

    Thanks for this informative post. My first book of Upanishads contained 13 but some of them had portions removed. So I got another translation of them which had 12 complete Upanishads and this one looks good and has notes. I've not gotten to reading it yet.
    The Vedas declared that the son rescueth the father from a hell called Put. ~ Celestials [Sec. 231 of Adi Parva - Mahabharata]

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    Re: 10 upaniṣad-s worth studying...

    hariḥ oṁ
    ~~~~~

    namasté

    Quote Originally Posted by Visvamitra View Post
    Thanks for this informative post. My first book of Upanishads contained 13 but some of them had portions removed. So I got another translation of them which had 12 complete Upanishads and this one looks good and has notes. I've not gotten to reading it yet.
    I am happy you are pursuing this knowledge. My approach ( not that you need follow) is to read one upaniṣad by several authors. This now becomes 'beyond reading' and enters into study.

    One author ( among the many) that I find excellent is svāmī muni nārāyaṇa prāsad. His writing is not only clear and crisp, his translations are very insightful. I am a better person for reading his work.

    praṇām
    Last edited by yajvan; 31 August 2010 at 09:54 PM.
    यतस्त्वं शिवसमोऽसि
    yatastvaṁ śivasamo'si
    because you are identical with śiva

    _

  4. #4

    Re: 10 upaniṣad-s worth studying...

    Thanks for the detailed description yajvan-ji.

    Quote Originally Posted by yajvan View Post
    hariḥ oṁ
    ~~~~~

    namast



    I am happy you are pursuing this knowledge. My approach ( not that you need follow) is to read one upaniṣad by several authors. This now becomes 'beyond reading' and enters into study.
    Do you mean one upanishad (translated) by several authors published in different books?

    Wouldnt it be, that the different translations simply being a matter of choice of words. Therefore how can it be a study? Because the original text being in sanskrit, the original meaning also being uncertain.

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    Re: 10 upaniṣad-s worth studying...

    Quote Originally Posted by Kumar_Das View Post
    Thanks for the detailed description yajvan-ji.



    Do you mean one upanishad (translated) by several authors published in different books?

    Wouldnt it be, that the different translations simply being a matter of choice of words. Therefore how can it be a study? Because the original text being in sanskrit, the original meaning also being uncertain.
    That's why you read multiple translations, so that the meaning can become clearer. You can compare and contrast the different translations to try and figure out the meaning by finding the most common themes.

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    Re: 10 upaniṣad-s worth studying...

    hariḥ oṁ
    ~~~~~

    namast kumar_das,

    Quote Originally Posted by Kumar_Das View Post
    Do you mean one upanishad (translated) by several authors published in different books?

    Wouldnt it be, that the different translations simply being a matter of choice of words. Therefore how can it be a study? Because the original text being in sanskrit, the original meaning also being uncertain.
    Riverwolf explains it well. Let me add another idea. Knowledge is different in different states of consciousness.
    You may read one author's translation and he/she resides in one level of consciousness and hence the translation takes on that 'color' of consciousness. Another author will have another view based on his/her level of consciousness. Hence if I read different authors, I get different views AND my level of awareness/consciousness & comprehension is also growing and changing. So, to look at multiple translations, one extracts the maximium value.
    As Riverwolf said ' compare and contrast' one translation to another. One school or thought to another - this brings the greatest level of appreciation of the knowledge that is offered.

    praṇām
    यतस्त्वं शिवसमोऽसि
    yatastvaṁ śivasamo'si
    because you are identical with śiva

    _

  7. #7

    Re: 10 upaniṣad-s worth studying...

    I understand what you say yajvan-ji.

    But when I want to read a specific scripture, all I care about is that specific scripture. As such I want to know just what it means.

    The translations i.e different insights by others may come afterwards.

    For all I know those translations may be out of context or misinterpretations. I dont think its the best thing to do. I mean taking chances... dont you agree?

    pranam

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    Re: 10 upaniṣad-s worth studying...

    hariḥ oṁ
    ~~~~~

    namasté kumar_das,

    Quote Originally Posted by Kumar_Das View Post
    I understand what you say yajvan-ji.
    But when I want to read a specific scripture, all I care about is that specific scripture. As such I want to know just what it means.
    The translations i.e different insights by others may come afterwards.
    For all I know those translations may be out of context or misinterpretations. I dont think its the best thing to do. I mean taking chances... dont you agree?
    pranam
    Yes, what you say makes perfect sense. Let me offer this other POV ( not different, just extending the conversation) for one's kind consideration.

    We are talking about two things:
    • The translation of the saskt śloka-s ( text)
    • The commentary and insight of the saṃskṛt śloka-s ( text)

    Because saṃskṛt is so flexible the words have mutiple meanings.
    Example - the word/sound nāma . This is found in many śloka-s , and written nāmaḥ नामः
    Now nāma has the following meanings:
    • by name i.e. named , called
    • indeed , certainly , really
    • nāma is used for nāman meaning 'sometimes'

    This nama ( without the long ā ) by itself means pasture or ground. And sometimes namaḥ is used for namas - to bow , reverential salutation , adoration by gesture or word i.e. rāmāya namaḥ.

    This is my point: It takes skill to ferret out the correct translation that brings meaning and depth to the śloka.

    What 'skill' then am I looking for that suggests mutiple authors may be valuable? It is called ṛtambharā prajñā - luminous wisdom that is carried out , brought out, some may say sung out.

    Where do we find this concept or idea? Patañjali’s yogadarśana (the yoga sutras of Patañjali) calls it out in the 48th sūtra and reads this way:

    ṛtambharā tatra prajñā
    Supreme Truth (ṛtambharā) inner wisdom (prajñā) rises, and prevails in that place (tatra)
    That is, a level of consciousness that only sees the truth. The wise also call this full of unalloyed Truth. One's awareness holds truth, sees truth, with no trace of misconception.

    This ṛtambharā happens when one gains proficiency; This proficiency can be called pure consciousness, yet the technical term used by patañjali-muni is nirvichāra¹.

    Hence for me, for one that studies, this is an invaluble approach - to compare and contrast different authors. Some resonate with ṛtambharā prajñā , others , well, not so much but are on the right path.

    praṇām

    words
    1. nirvichāra - If the reader has interest, this is the subject matter found in Chapter 1 (samādhi pada) and is part of 4 samāpati's or engrossments of the mind)
    Last edited by yajvan; 22 November 2015 at 08:16 PM.
    यतस्त्वं शिवसमोऽसि
    yatastvaṁ śivasamo'si
    because you are identical with śiva

    _

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    Re: 10 upaniṣad-s worth studying...

    Quote Originally Posted by Kumar_Das View Post
    I understand what you say yajvan-ji.

    But when I want to read a specific scripture, all I care about is that specific scripture. As such I want to know just what it means.

    The translations i.e different insights by others may come afterwards.

    For all I know those translations may be out of context or misinterpretations. I dont think its the best thing to do. I mean taking chances... dont you agree?

    pranam
    What you've just described is a risk when you read any translation. No translation from languages such as Sanskrit into English can be perfect, since the languages are so different. Sometimes, different translators will translate words differently. Confusion can certainly arise from this.

    I understand that maybe you simply want to know what it means, but even that will require multiple translations.

  10. #10

    Re: 10 upaniṣad-s worth studying...

    Quote Originally Posted by yajvan View Post
    hariḥ oṁ
    ~~~~~

    namast kumar_das,


    Yes, what you say makes perfect sense. Let me offer this other POV ( not different, just extending the conversation) for one's kind consideration.

    We are talking about two things:
    • The translation of the saskt śloka-s ( text)
    • The commentary and insight of the saṃskṛt śloka-s ( text)
    Because saṃskṛt is so flexible the words have mutiple meanings.
    Example - the word/sound nāma . This is found in many śloka-s , and written nāmaḥ नामः
    Now nāma has the following meanings:
    • by name i.e. named , called
    • indeed , certainly , really
    • nāma is used for nāman meaning 'sometimes'
    This nama ( without the long ā ) by itself means pasture or ground. And sometimes namaḥ is used for namas - to bow , reverential salutation , adoration by gesture or word i.e. rāmāya namaḥ.

    This is my point: It takes skill to ferret out the correct translation that brings meaning and depth to the śloka.

    What 'skill' then am I looking for that suggests mutiple authors may be valuable? It is called ṛtambharā prajā - luminous wisdom that is carried out , brought out, some may say sung out.

    Where do we find this concept or idea? Patajalis yogadarśana (the yoga sutras of Patajali) calls it out in the 48th sūtra and reads this way:

    ṛtambharā tatra prajā
    Supreme Truth (ṛtambharā) inner wisdom (prajā) rises, and prevails in that place (tatra)
    That is, a level of consciousness that only sees the truth. The wise also call this full of unalloyed Truth. One's awareness holds truth, sees truth, with no trace of misconception.

    This ṛtambharā happens when one gains proficiency; This proficiency can be called pure consciousness, yet the technical term used by patajali-muni is nirvichāra.

    Hence for me, for one that studies, this is an invaluble approach - to compare and contrast different authors. Some resonate with ṛtambharā prajā , others , well, not so much but are on the right path.

    praṇām

    words
    1. nirvichāra - If the reader has interest, this is the subject matter found in Chapter 1 (samādhi pada) and is part of 4 samāpati's or engrossments of the mind)
    Namaste yajvan-ji,

    I agree entirely with the difficulty of understanding the true underlying meaning due to the nature of Sanskrit.

    However my reasoning is;

    If the translations are the real meat of the bite. Then the scriptures are worthless on their own.

    This is not the actual case.

    The translations themselves seek the support of the scriptures. They contain meanings, but they dont have meanings on their own. The scriptures are the ones who give rise to those interpreted meanings.

    Reading something and acquiring that understanding from it requires brains. And I dont want other brains to be involved in my own thinking.



    What you are saying essentially is this.

    A person says something. And 5 other people hear this.

    And they all repeat what they claim that that they heard. But all these 5 arent the same.

    And you're expecting me to know what that the person said from the other 5 people without asking from the person directly.

    I think its all interesting with the guess work involved in trying to decipher what the person actually said from the 5 of them. But it remains at that.

    Each of the 5 person will say "well I heard this from him, and this is what I think of it..."

    So, again, this is secondary.

    Its not wrong, but its not the foremost and prime.

    So like you said its a "study". And I agree.

    It requires skill to try and estimate what the actual person might have had said via intuition. Whole heartedly agreed.

    So perhaps the question here is "should we read the translations first, try to understand, then read the original. Or the other way around?"

    I think its the other way around, reasoning as stated in the first part of this post.

    pranam

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