About this Book:
The Upanishads in themselves contain the essence of the Vedas. The philosophy taught by them has been a source of solace for many, both in the East and the West. There are men in the West with whom the Upanishads serve as constant companion.
The idea behind the present plays is that the sublime Truths propounded by the most ancient Books of Knowledge, the Upanishads, may be brought within easy grasp of even the busiest man. So that, even as a book, it may serve its purpose; the cream of the Upanishads is extracted and presented in a homely style.
Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj had been, throughout his writings, stressing upon the value of practice as contrasted with mere theory in spiritual realization. He had taken pains to express in easy and intelligible language the abstruse portions of the text so that the most valuable teachings can be readily understood by one and all. The songs he had introduced bear the mark of his personality and are vivid and vigorous. They are soul-stirring.
The songs of the drama condense the entire teaching and, if got by heart, will furnish material for the meditatively inclined to ponder over the instructions.
About the Author:
Born on the 8th September, 1887, in the illustrious family of Sage Appayya Dikshitar and several other renowned saints and savants, Sri Swami Sivananda had a natural flair for a life devoted to the study and practice of Vedanta. Added to this was an inborn eagerness to serve all and an innate feeling of unity with all mankind.
His passion for service drew him to the medical career; and soon he gravitated to where he thought that his service was most needed. Malaya claimed him. He had earlier been editing a health journal and wrote extensively on health problems. He discovered that people needed right knowledge most of all; dissemination of that knowledge he espoused as his own mission.
It was divine dispensation and the blessing of God upon mankind that the doctor of body and mind renounced his career and took to a life of renunciation to qualify for ministering to the soul of man. He settled down at Rishikesh in 1924, practised intense austerities and shone as a great Yogi, saint, sage and Jivanmukta.
In 1932 Swami Sivananda started the Sivanandashram. In 1936 was born The Divine Life Society. In 1948 the Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy was organized. Dissemination of spiritual knowledge and training of people in Yoga and Vedanta were their aim and object. In 1950 Swamiji undertook a lightning tour of India and Ceylon. In 1953 Swamiji convened a 'World Parliament of Religious'. Swamiji is the author of over 300 volumes and has disciples all over the world, belonging to all nationalities, religions and creeds. To read Swamiji's works is to drink at the Fountain of Wisdom Supreme. On 14th July, 1963 Swamiji entered Mahasamadhi.
Prostrations to Satchidananda Para Brahman, who is the prop, basis and source of everything! Salutations to all Brahma Vidya Gurus or the preceptors of knowledge of Brahman! Among the Upanishads the Kathopanishad occupies and unrivalled place. It gives, in a nutshell, the solution to the greatest problem which has faced all mankind from time immemorial, the problem of the Life and Death. Fear of Death, has always haunted the ignorant man and, unable to find a cure for it, the maddened man has been running amok hither and thither in search of a solution. The uncertainty of life drives him to seek happiness and like a monkey he jumps from one branch to the other tasting the apparently sweet (and bitter) fruits which, only give him unceasing pain in the stomach. Where then lies the solution? What exactly is Death, the horrible? Can we get over this formidable disease; and, if so, how?
These questions, our ancients have answered for us. Science has progressed by leaps and bounds in the past one or two centuries; it is now a tree with many branches spreading over the entire humanity shutting out the Sun of Supreme Knowledge. In our admiration for the shady branches, we have not cared to peep through them, to go beyond them, to face the Sun-the very Life of life itself. Our ancients were Masters of this spiritual Science; not content with the acquisition of that Degree, they have left for us as a rich legacy the immortal fruits of their research. One such-the Kathopanishad-gives us the answer to the Eternal Question; and what more, a practical answer. It has come right down to brass tacks: "Do this-thou shalt be free from Death." They declare.
We first have a hint on what not to give as charity-useless things, "stale plantain." Then we get a glimpse of the reverence shown in days of yore to a guest and how miserable they were if a guest had, even unintentionally, been neglected. Third, you are given an example of the temptations that a seeker after Truth comes across and of how they have all to be brushed aside, with the conviction that they are but ephemeral; the difference between "Sreyas" (good) and "Preyas" (pleasant) is emphasized here, of which the wise choose the good discarding the "pleasant" as worthless. Only they are eligible to receive Knowledge. The importance of approaching the proper Guru (preceptor) is then brought out. After explaining the significance of Om, the imperishability of the Atman, the Upanishad declares that the subjugation of the senses and the mind is of paramount importance for the realization of the Self. While discoursing about Brahman, we are told that it can be attained only by the mind purified by the study of the Srutis, by the practice of the instructions given by the Spiritual Preceptor, by the practice of the fourfold means and constant meditation. Further on, clear, concise and comprehensive instructions are given on the method of meditating on Brahman, besides an abundance of theoretical knowledge of Brahman, Atma, transmigration and Prakriti. Inter alia, the essential unity underlying the variegated manifestations is stressed, with the admonition that he who sees difference runs down quickly to darkness and is caught in the wheel of births and deaths. Lastly, the imperative necessity of keeping a constantly vigilant eye on Yoga Sadhana is brought out; and "the essence of Sadhana" is given in a few words.
This should, after you have read it or seen it enacted, open your eyes to the hidden treasures of Knowledge that are within your easy reach. You have yourselves to blame for not seizing them; you have closed your eyes against them and you imagine you are impoverished! Open your eyes! Let the Upanishads serve as your inseparable companions; they will throw a beam of light on the path of Freedom. There is not easier way to conquer Death.
Finally, let us pray, with the Upanishadic Seers; May He protect us! May He cause us to enjoy the bliss of Mukti! May we all exert ourselves to find out the true meaning of the scriptures! May our studies be fruitful! May we never hate each other! Let there be peace everywhere!
Glory to the Upanishads! Glory to the seers of the Upanishad! May their blessings be upon us all!
The dialogue at the opening of the Katha Upanishad seems to be based upon a passage in the Taittiriya Brahmana which refers to the tradition about Nachiketas. The whole body of the Upanishad is built up as an exposition of the teaching that we can pass from mortality to immortality. Probing into the exposition, we detect a harmonious blending of the paths of Yajna, Yoga, Bhakti and Jnana. Of these, the last occupies a prominent position because Yama goes on from point to point revealing to Nachiketas the mystery of the Brahman, the Universe and the individual souls. But the other three paths are not left out.
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