About the Book
We are constantly feeding and dressing and indulging our bodies, but how often do we nourish our soul? Shwetaashwatara Upanishad, the rare gem amongst the Upanishads, teaches us just how to do that. Indeed, it is the priceless oyster in which the pearl of Vaidika philosophy glows with an ethereal light.
What is the cause of this Universe, that is obviously so beautifully ordered? Who is in control of it... since we definitely are not? From where have we arisen? What are we doing here? What is our goal? These are eternal questions the Upanishad asks. It answers them by scientifically eliminating various possibilities. The final answer, however, is hidden from the rational brain, and requires deep contemplation to ferret out.
We are blessed to have the answers served to us, as if on a platter, by the enlightened Yogi named Shwetaashwatara. While his grounded wisdom flings open the doors and windows of our minds, his devotion overwhelms us with its sheer intensity. The Shwetaashwatara Upanishad is indeed a gem to treasure!.
About the Author
Uttara Nerurkar is a B.Tech. in Chemical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. She worked for 15 years in leading chemical engineering and software companies, her last stint being as a Software Researcher at Infosys Limited, where she served for over eight years. As a researcher, she co-authored a book on software engineering for Tata Mc Graw Hill. Her research papers have been published in international software magazines and journals, such as Dr. Dobb’s Journal and IEEE Software Journal, and presented at international conference.
Since 2001, Uttara has been pursuing the path of Adhyaatma and studying the Vedas, Upanishads, Darshan Shastras and other Indian philosophical treatises, along with Sanskrit. She has studied at the feet of Swami Brahmadevaji, Smt. Amrutvarshini Bhatt, Acharya Anandprakash, Acharya Satyananda Vedageesh, Smt. Pushpa Dixit and many other gurus of different schools of thought. Her intensive studies have been recognized by experts. She presented a paper on Nyayadarshanam, the ancient Indian text on Logic and reasoning at the prestigious 16th World Sanskrit Conference, Bangkok, 2015. Another of her papers on the same text was published in India’s foremost philosophical journal- journal of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research. She has presented her studies on other ancient Indian philosophical texts in many other national and international conferences. She regularly writers in renowned Vaidika magazines like Dayanand Sandesh, Vedavaani, etc. and gives discourses on Vaidika subjects in various community forums. She has been teaching the Upanishads, Manusmrti, Bhagawad- geeta, etc., as also Sanskrit, for the past ten years.
She strongly believes that the knowledge that is contained in our ancient texts is extremely relevant today. She has been trying to spread this message by giving presentations to schools and colleges, speaking at various national and international conferences, and producing video in English, Hindi and Tamil that are freely available on YouTube. Her message is to echo the clarion call of Swami Dayanand Saraswati of the Arya Samaja- ‘Go back to the Vedas’.
This book presumes no prior knowledge whatsoever from the reader of the Vedas, the Upanishads, or, Indian spritiual tenets, in General. In fact, it has irigniated from the class notes recorded for the students of just such
a class taken in 2014 on the little known Shwetaashwatara Upanishad. It has been written for people who are curious about ancient Indian texts such as the Upanishads but are not familiar with Indian philosophy in general, and who are therefore unable to understand some aspects of these texts which are critical, but whose explanations are not lucid enough for the first-time reader.
Thus, the explanation of the verses has been reinforced with full explanations of generic concepts of Indian Philosophy, wherever it has been found necessary. At no point will the reader be left wondering what a particular word or statement means. The subject matter itself being very deep, the language has been kept as simple as possible.
I do hope that it will be of help for those who, like me in my previous avatar of a software professional, have little idea of the intricacies of ancient Indian thought and find it difficult to navigate in this unknown territory. I have tried to keep it brief, yet explanatory, with the busy individual in mind. Please do read the Introduction in order to make your foray into this Upanishad smooth!
I wish the reader an exciting journey of discovery!
Upanishads lie at the very core of ancient Indian spiritual thought. They are highly revered by Indians and the rest of the world alike. They contain answers to the deepest mystical questions that have troubled man since the beginning of time. They delve into the mystery of the nature of this universe, its purpose, the entities that inhabit it, the relationship between them and the ultimate goal of life. Due to this esoteric subject matter, they are considered Upaangas, or a Subordinate part, of the Vedas- the supreme revered books of the Hindus. Some even call them ‘the essence of the Vedas’, though this epithet may not be entirely justified.
Their antiquity can only be guessed as it lies in the hoary past. Of the 200-odd Upanishads that are available today, ten Upanishads are considered the most authoritative. They are called the ten principal Upanishads. These include Isha, Kena, Katha, Prashna, Mundaka, Maadookya, Taittareeya, Aitreya, Chhandogya and Brihadaaranyaka, laid down in this mnemonic verse.
Shwetaashwatara Upanishad is not one of them. However, it is considered the eleventh due to its importance and clear exposition of spiritual matters. It is also an apt Upanishad for beginners as, firstly, it uses direct language and is not as symbolic as the other Upanishads; and secondly, because it has a lot of Vaidika verses borrowed in too. This gives a useful introduction to some of the most beautiful Vaidika verses.
The Upanishad is divided into six chapter, with 113 verses in all (16,17,21,22,14,23, respectively). The metres of the verses are typically Trishtup and, in a few cases, Anushtup. These are very popular metres in Sanskrit works. Other metres occur in only a handful of verses.
Understanding the following basic concepts of Indian spiritual thought, which are themselves in line with Vaidika precepts, will be very helpful for beginners.
1. There are three eternal entities in this Universe-
a. Inanimate matter, Prakrti, which has a base primordial form at the beginning of the Universe that transforms to yield the whole multiplicity of objects we see around us. These transformations are transient, and return to their basic form upon complete destruction.
b. Individual souls, Jeevaatmaas, that reside in each living being and are animate.
c. The one Supreme Soul, Paramaatmaa, or God, who is animate and is the creator, controller and destroyer of the Universe.
2. The Universe comes into existence as Srishti, expands and diversifies over the period of creation, or Kalpa. It ends in Pralaya when everything is reduced to its primordial form. This lasts as long as the Kalpa. The world period of a Kalpa and Pralaya comprises a ‘Day of Brahma’. The cycle repeats itself ad infinitum. Like a rotating wheel, it has no beginning or end to it. This may be termed a ‘cyclical infinity’.
3. The material body is the abode of the soul. When the body encompassing a soul dies, the soul continues to exist. It moves on to another body made of matter in an eternal cycle of birth, death and re-incarnation. God never occupies a body.