From the Jacket:
The direct experience of Reality, expressed through various appellations like God, Brahman etc. and the endeavour there of is known as Mysticism. The Upanisads are the earliest literature of mysticism not only of India but also of the whole world. They are vivacious with the highest mystic truths and experiences that man could ever achieve. All aspects of mysticism find abundant expression in the Upanisads. The book MYSTICISM AND THE UPANISADS is based on an extensive survey of Upanisadic mysticism and that of other prominent religious of the world. The work highlights the varieties of mystic experiences and expressions manifest in Upanisads and elsewhere, in addition to methods for achieving the mystic goal. The comparative analysis of Upanisadic mysticism with that of other important world religions not only reflects the scholarly depth of the author but also makes the work a unique contribution to the literature on mysticism.
About The Author
Dr. Indulata Das, born in 1956 in Balasore, Orissa, has the distinction of being the best graduate with Sanskrit Honours, Sambalpur University, Orissa in 1976. She did her MA (Sanskrit) from Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in 1978. With a brilliant academic career, she joined the Orissa Education Service as a Lecturer in Sanskrit in the year 1979. She was awarded the degree of Ph. D. by BHU in 1995. Having taught in various Government Colleges, she is now serving the State Council of Educational Research and Training.
Dr Das is a well-known creative writer in Oriya. Apart form contributing about two hundred article in various daily papers and literary magazines, her published works include one novel, four story books, one book on Oriya language and grammar and translation of Sanskrit drama (Swapnavasavadattam). Beside, she has a number of research articles to her credit, published in various research journals. Her commentaries on Sankhya Karika and Patanjal Yoga Sutra are in print.
Since the dawn of creation, man has been incessantly craving for happiness. The material world has failed miserably to pacify the conflagration of human desire to enjoy a boundless bliss. The objects of pleasure, instead of extinguishing the desires, have manifolded them. Man is yet to overcome his sorrows with the help of the objects of the material world.
Having realised the insufficiency of the outer world, we the venerable sages of the past had turned the direction of their expedition from the outer world to the inner one and discovered the ever-coveted treasure of treasures, the peace, the respite of the soul, the happiness eternal. The exploration of man ended fruitfully. The sages did succeed in discovering the path to endless bliss.
Without consuming the results selfishly, the kind- hearted, magnanimous, benevolent sages wanted to transmit the secrets of their adventures to the world through deserving posterity, who could successfully pass on the same to others, without causing it to perish on the way.
For the careful protection and transmission of this precious knowledge, it was unavoidable to impart it to the deserving, the reliable person, who could, not only acquire it, but also preserve it and carefully pass it yet to another person, for further transmission. Since the deserving disciple received the serious knowledge from the competent master in an intimate atmosphere, the knowledge has been significantly named UPANISAD which literally means "sitting near" signifying the intimacy of the disciple and the teacher which further signifies the gravity and seriousness of the knowledge.
The Word Upanisad The word "Upanisad" has been derived from the root "sad" by prefixing "upa" and "ni" and suffixing "kvip" to it. The root "sad" stands for three meanings', viz. split up, go and loosen.
In accordance with the triplicity of the rootal meaning, Sankara presents threefold definition to the term Upanisad. First, it is the knowledge which destroys the seeds of worldly existence like ignorance etc. Secondly, it is the Brahmavidya or the knowledge of Brahman, which leads the aspirants to Brahman. Thirdly it also signifies the knowledge, which loosens or weakens the miseries of hovering in a womb, birth and old age etc’. Upanisad, according to Sankara, can also mean the valuable scriptures, which contain the mentioned knowledge just as ghee is called longevity indirectly.
Sayana defines it as Brahmavidya or theosophy. The prefix according to him, means "near", and nothing other than one's own self (which is Brahman) is nearer to a being.
Max Muller takes the word to mean an assembly. Says he, "The history and the genius of the Sanskrit language leave little doubt that Upanisad meant originally session, particularly a session consisting of pupils, assembled at a respectable distance round their teacher".
According to Deussen, "Certain mysterious words, expressions and formulas which are only intelligible to the initiated, are described as Upanisads".
Oldenberg tries to derive the word Upanisad from "Upasana"
Being the last and the most essential part of Vedas, it is called Vedanta. Svetasvatara Upanisad" views that "Brahman" rests in the Upanisads, which are the essential parts of the Vedas.
Number of the Upanisads
It is hard to determine the actual number of Upanisads. The Muktikopanisad considers 108 Upanisads to be the most important of them, remaining silent about the total numbers. Darasikoh has translated 50 Upanisads to Persian. Paul Deussen has translated 60 Upanisads but accepts 14 as authentic. Max Muller translated 11 Upanisads whereas Hume translated l3 of them.
According to Gargyayana, the actual number of the original Upanisads is 16, four belonging to each Veda. In accordance with the need of the time, they were subsequently elaborated into one hundred and eight and two hundred and fifty by Brahmanas and Rsis respectively. So the Upanisads amounted to three hundred and fifty six, which are only commentaries on the original sixteen’.
It shows that there are a number of Upanisads counting at least more than 108. Sankara has commented on 11 Upanisads viz. Isa, Kena, Katha, Prasna, Mundaka. Mandukya, Taittiriya. Aitareya, Chandogya, Brhadaranyaka and Svetasvatara, which are regarded as the most important ones. But it is yet to be decided whether the commentary on Svetasvatara is by Adi Sankara or not.
Source and Subject Matter
The Upanisads form generally the last chapters of Bhahmanas related to the Samhitas of different Vedas and mainly deal with the knowledge of Brahman, the immanence of Brahman in the world and the identity of the individual self with Brahman. Occasional discussions are also found on the exposition of the knowledge of Om and other matters, like different -Vidyas, meditation and the practice of Yoga. A brief description of the sources and the subject matters of the major Upanisads is as follows: