The Upanishads

Translated by Swami Prabhavandanda

The Upanishads (“The Breath of the Eternal”) comprise the philosophical and concluding portion of the Veda, written as prose rather than as hymns. The Upanishad means “sitting near” and conjures the image of a pupil sitting near his guru. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said, “The study of the Upanishads has been the solace of my life, and it will be the solace of my death.

The “Upanishadic truth” is “You are that,” meaning that the individual is one with God. Homogeneity is the essence of the Upanishads; all is homogeneous. The universe and all its contents are one with God. “The Self is Brahman, and Brahman is all.” The prologue of every chapter ends with the words “Peace – peace – peace” as the ultimate admonition. Many positive principles of conduct are espoused, all those that you might expect (or find in other religions) regarding conduct. We teach by example, by our actions and by our most casual words. Renunciation of the ego of selfishness is its essence.

On balance, it is a short text that is simple on its surface and profound between its lines. It sets a positive mood and should bring comfort (peace) to many. On the negative side, it didn’t uplift this reader enough to justify reading it. There are better Hindu scriptures. The Bhagavad Gita is surely one. Hinduism has much to offer, but The Upanishads does not seem to be the best place to start.