From the Back of the Book:
India has millennia-long tradition of spirituality and metaphysical thought. In its worldview, the Absolute/Supreme Reality defines all verbal descriptions - though it is visualizable in countless ways. The Upanisads, accordingly, are diverse expressions of the one vision of this very Reality. The Mundaka, however, holds a special place in the writings of the genre: not because of its emphasis on sraddha (belief) - often in one's guru, but primarily for its vehement denunciation of the Vedic ritualism. Which perhaps explains why sannyasins (the renunciate monks) treat this Upanisad as a spiritual authority for the way of life they have chosen to live. Here is a brilliant, critical interpretation - in contemporary idiom - of the Mundaka Upanisad, showing how a seeker can cogitate/meditate upon the Supreme Reality - or, in other words, how one can have the transcendental experience cosmic Consciousness.
The book looks afresh at some of perpetually puzzling questions that Mundaka addresses - questions, like for instance: What is the nature of Brahman, the one Casual Reality? How can a seeker know it? Who can be eligible for its knowledge? Offering an indepth, analytical commentary on this time-honoured text, Swami Muni Narayan Prasad presents at once appropriate metaphors, analogies and, these besides, backgrounds to the varying contexts that not only elucidate various philosophical terms and concepts in all their underlying shades of meanings, but also provides rich insights into the Upanisad.
Complete with the original Sanskrit text and its Roman transliteration, this work is a must for all ken on discovering the essential meaning of the Upanisadic thought and meditation upon" wisdom's ineffable core".
About the Author:
Swami Muni Narayana Prasad is the Regulating Secretary of the famous Narayana Gurukula, a guru-disciple foundation set up by Nataraja Guru, the disciple-successor of Narayana Guru. A disciple of Nataraja Guru, who was initiated as a renunciate in 1984, Swami Muni Narayana Prasad has traveled round the world teaching Indian philosophy, with special emphasis on the Upanisads. He has been associated with the philosophical magazine, The Gurukulam as the editor for twelve years and continues to be one of its chief contributors. The author of many works, his publications in English include Basic Lessons on India's Wisdom, Karma and Reincarnation, Vedanta Sutras of Narayana Guru and Commentaries on the Katha, Kena, Prasna, Taittiriya, and Aitareya Upanisads.
The flower of Indian wisdom, the Upanisads reveal the Eternal Reality. Their teaching transcends the bounds of time and space. Their relevance to the age we live in becomes evident only when elucidated in a way that is natural to the thinking habits of this age. Most of the available commentaries on the Upanisads, are either those of masters who lived and taught centuries or even millennia ago, or are elucidations on those commentaries. A modern mind in search of the secret teaching, which the word upanisad implies, needs an interpretation of it in a form familiar to this age. It is this need that urged Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yati, Head of the Narayana Gurukula Foundation together with myself to take on the project of writing new commentaries on all the major ten Upanisads - he on the Brhadaranyaka, Chandogya, and Mandukya, with myself on the rest. Guru Nitya's commentary on the Brhadaranyaha in three volumes is already published and the one on the Chandogya is in the making. My commentaries on the Kena and Taittiriya are already in print and those on the Katha and Prasna will follow. My Isa Upanisad commentary has already appeared on a different format, as The Basic Lessons on India's Wisdom.
It is the philosophy of Sri Narayana Guru, a philosopher saint and the epicentre of a great social transformation in Southern India, who lived in the latter part of the last century, and the guidance that I received from his chief disciple and successor who is my own Guru Nataraja Guru that has enabled me to delve into at least some of the deeper aspects of the Upanisadic wisdom. My prostrations go to the feet of these two Gurus.
Unlike the other Upanisad commentaries, I happened to write the present one while living in an asrama in the remote island state of Fiji in the South Pacific. Having no one else with whom to exchange ideas while writing, I have failed to offer sidelights on many issues that have since surfaced for discussion, which in the presence of other serious students would have been the case. This however was made amends for later in my commentary on the Prasna Upanisad, considered to be subsidiary to the Mundaka, Upanisad, which I wrote after reaching India on my return from Fiji, after having an open discussion on every minute aspect with a team of research scholars and seekers.
As in the case of the others, this commentary was also first written in my mother tongue, the Malayalam Language, which I translated afterwards into English. Mrs Sheilah Johns in England edited it simply out of her love for the wisdom of India. My gratitude to her is boundless.
The dissemination of ancient wisdom is greatly needed in our modern age to rescue it from its many imbalances. D.K. Printworld of New Delhi has taken on this need of the age as the soul of their business. It is on account of this passion that they bring out all these Upanisad commentaries.
This commentary may simply be regarded as the attempt of a modern mind to understand the ancient wisdom of India.
The Upanisads form the basic texts of Indian wisdom. Are they religious scriptures, or simply outpourings of philosophical visions? To answer this question we need to equip ourselves with a clear notion of the core of what makes a religion a religion.
A religion as such is marked by certain basic tenets it believes in, based on which its entire edifice is erected. A Christian, for example, has to believe that Jesus was the son of God, that he underwent the vicarious suffering of crucifixion out of his love for the human race in order to save it from the original sin, and that he bodily ascended into heaven on the third day after he was buried. Likewise, Islam too has its basic tenets - that none but Allah is adorable and that Mohammad was his last messenger. Do the Upanisads insist on any such inviolable basic tenet? No. They enjoin us instead to closely observe the world we live in, our life, its changefulness and activities, and to know the Truth the unchanging Reality underlying all. If unable to discover that Reality on one's own, one will have to get the guidance of a Master a guru, an enlightened one - by approaching him with full faith (sraddha) and asking him relevant questions. Realizing the one Supreme Reality, either on one's own or with the help of a Master, is what makes life fully fruitful and what man needs finally to attain. Such in general is the nature of the Upanisadic message, the Mundaka Upanisad being no exception. Thus basically the Upanisads are different expressions of the one vision of the one Reality. The rsis; when they uttered these words of vision, were not inspired by the zeal of a religious missionary or of a messenger of God, or even that of the propounder of a new vision. Countless are the ways the one Reality is visualizable, as each Upanisad manifests.
What Indian thought, particularly Vedanta, has in it in the place of dogmatic belief in religions is sraddha, itself translatable as 'belief.
Sraddha, a seeker's undoubting belief in the veracity of the words of instruction of his immediate guru as also in those of former masters recorded in texts like the Upanisads, is quite unlike any religious dogma. It is merely an attitude a seeker develops towards his guru. It is absolutely essential for the seeker to realize the Reality on his own, through his intense cogitation and meditation. That which is to be cogitated on and meditated upon is provided initially by the guru, the realized person. His assurance and initial instruction on the final certitude are accepted by the seeker in full faith. Such instruction may contain even the final words of wisdom teaching such as tat-tuam-asi (That Thou Art), still remaining mere words good to be believed in, for the seeker. Only on attaining the final enlightenment on his own does he become convinced of the veracity of such words, which until and unless realized thus are a matter of mere belief for him. Once realized, it is no more a belief but an accomplished fact. Yet that accomplishment was possible only because he believed in it initially, which led him to cogitate on it and to meditate, and on attainment, fully satisfied, he congratulates himself for initially believing in those words. Being such, sraddha; is no dogmatic belief. By this simple belief in the guidance given by an accomplished Master, the seeker is provided with a firm base whence to begin his journey so that the end result would also be certain. Fully enlightened as to what Reality is, he no longer feels the need for any belief. Mundaka is an Upanisad that gives much emphasis to the sraddha aspect.