Upanishads: "Brihadaranyaka Upanishad" and "Mandukya Upanishad"

Upanishads are a part of the trilogy of scriptures which Vedanta (a school of Hinduism) is based on. (The other two are Brahma Sutra and Bhagavad Gita). An Upanishad is the last part of a Veda (a sacred Hindu scripture) and, unlike the first part of Vedas which gives strict injunctions about rituals and ethics as well as the forms of meditation, it is exclusively dedicated to philosophical discussions as to how to obtain the real wisdom, or reach enlightenment (Nirvana or Samadhi).

There are said to be 108 important Upanishads, and Shankaracharya, the founder of Advaita (non-dualistic) Vedanta left his commentaries on about 10 Upanishads.

Among these ten, Guhen Kitaoka's personal favourites are "Brihadaranyaka Upanishad" and "Mandukya Upanishad".

"Brihadaranyaka" exclusively expounds the identity of the real self (Atman), and the Universal, transcendental Self (Brahman), and claims that only real, experiential knowledge of this identity can lead us to the domain of Samadhi or Nirvana (i.e., enlightenment), and that no rituals, ethics or meditation can bring it to us. This Upanishad also claims that what our eyes cannot see, our ears cannot hear, our nose cannot smell, or our mouth cannot taste, etc., namely what exists behind our five senses and uses them is our real self, and that this self is both transcendental and immanent, and is never born or dies.

Incidentally, this "something" behind our five senses is Brahman in the Vedantic terminology, and is universally suggested by a wide range of genuine mystics. For instance, Lao Tze indicates this something beyond duality in his Tao Te Ching, and the Buddha does the same in his "Heart Sutra", which has become a sacred scripture recited by the millions of followers of Shingonshu, the Japanese Buddhist sect of Tibetan origin.

Mandukya Upanishad deals with three philosophical problems; the nature of consciousness, the nature of subjective and objective experience, and the nature of causality, mainly from the point of view of the Vedantic concept of the "three bodies". The three bodies are the waking body, the dreaming body and the sleeping body, and Atman (the real self) is closely related to Turiya, meaning the "fourth state of consciousness which integrates and transcends these three bodies".

The conclusion of Mandukya Upanishad is that time, space and causality are all illusion. This conclusion is all the more striking because of the paradigm shift which modern thought has been undergoing for some time, after the modern quantum physicists like Einstein, Heisenberg, Schroedinger, etc. came to the same conclusion as this Upanishad which is worth being called "Philosophia Ultima".

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