“Until we learn the unity of life, we live in fear.”The Upanishads
The Upanishads are some of the oldest philosophical and spiritual texts in the world. These oral teachings were compiled in written form sometime around 1000 BC. Literally meaning “to sit down beside”, the name reflects the tradition of students sitting at the feet of teachers to learn the great lessons of life. They are a fabulous resource for those of you who wish to explore a deeper spirituality and way of seeing the world around and within us.
The Upanishads, like the Bible, are a collection of teachings from multiple sages. They are primarily dialogue about the key questions of life, often debated in public between gurus of the time and always taught from guru to disciple. They ask questions such as Who am I? What is the purpose of life? What is God and how am I connected to God? This inquiry led into study of nature, the workings of the mind, the inner God, connection as human beings, and more. The lessons found and insights gained apply even to this day with very little need for explanation or cultural translation.
The key teaching of the Upanishads is simple yet complex:
Atman = Brahman
(Individual self = Universal Self)
In Sanskrit, the phrase “Tat tvam asi,” or “You are That,” says it all. You are that which you seek.
“NOT THIS, NOT THIS”: Brahman, God, the Divine does not possess any distinguishing features. We, as humans with our limited minds, cannot possibly understand or concieve of the true beauty and expansiveness of the Divine. Our ego tries to label it, confine it to a box. But this is useless work that only serves to keep us feeling separate from the whole.
The Upanishads teach us that the Divine is everything and everyone. One of my favorite quotes that embodies this idea is not from the Upanishads themselves, but from a book that my dear friend Brian McCormick loved:
Remember, the moon is reflected in one drop of water as is the entire ocean—so it is with God. He is reflected in each living thing—in a grain of sand as the entire shore, one star as the whole universe. Each animal as in all creatures.”Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant that Ever Lived
There is something for everyone in the Upanishads. That is part of the beauty of it, how all encompassing it is. I strongly encourage you to explore the text and use it to use as a starting point for your continued study of the self.