Reading the Upanishads – Part Three

I thought it would be nice to read along through some scriptures and discuss the passages. I have a translation of the Upanishads done by Eknath Easwaran, a teacher whom I deeply trust and love. In this book there is an introduction before each translation with some insight from Easwaran.

Here is a link to the Amazon page for the book I have:

I want to thank Seeker for pointing out that it is good to look at different translations. This is not an ideal rendering of the Sanskrit and even getting all the Sanskrit, there are still elements open to interpretation. What I’m doing here is a very basic level look, so if you find it interesting, I would definitely encourage you to read other translations, learn more, and continue to aspire to full understanding!

The third verse is as follows in the Easwaran translation…

Those who deny the Self are born again

Blind to the Self, enveloped in darkness,

Utterly devoid of love for the Lord

I like this verse, it is lyrically beautiful even in the English. The upper case Self refers to our inner being who is divine. A lower case self indicates the illusion that ego puts out of who we think we are (and the limits we believe we have).

It makes sense to me that those who have not understood their essential nature yet are born over and over. It is interesting how that is connected to love for the Lord. Once we realize ourselves, I believe love is what we find. We are in darkness and sadness until we see that there is nothing but love. I wonder if that comes at the same time: a realization of the Self along with instant love of the Lord. Or do you use one as a stepping stone to the other?

***

This week I tried out the passage meditation. I did find it to be peaceful. From the description of how to do it, it seems like you are supposed to say the words of the passage extremely slowly, letting each syllable sink in. That didn’t work so well for me. It had the effect like when you say a word over and over and it starts to sound all weird and you can’t process what it is anymore. And when Easwaran says that the inspirational passage is sinking into you and becoming a part of you, I’m not sure that the random syllables I was reduced to by thinking it so slowly were really helping inspire my subconscious. However, when I allowed myself to acknowledge the meaning of the passage as I was saying it without thinking about it or analyzing it, I found that to be very peaceful and inspiring. That may mean I was doing it wrong, but I had some good result.

Meditation is coming in handy for me in an unusual way. I remember one of my teachers telling me many years ago that repeating the mantra when trying to get to sleep is a bad idea because the mantra has its own energy. However, I am not finding that to be true. I’ve always had an extremely hard time falling back asleep after I wake up. Part of that is because when I was growing up, going back to sleep after being awakened was forbidden. It was like a sin to do so! They suggested getting up even if it was 2:30 in the morning and you were woken by a cat knocking over a trash can outside. The few times I tried getting up after being awakened in the night, it was pretty miserable. I felt tired, like a zombie, and had no motivation to really do anything that early. Even though I am really a morning person!

So now when I get woken up, I lay in bed and cannot get back to sleep, which is also miserable. I’ve been struggling because I started taking my basal body temperature a few months ago. Basically, if you’re a girl, you take your temperature at the same time every morning before doing anything else (even sitting up) and chart it to learn more about the cycles of your body. I wanted to understand my cycles better and it’s great for that, but you also have to take the temperature after at least four hours of uninterrupted sleep, so that means I have to set my alarm clock quite early to make sure I don’t accidentally wake up well before I’m supposed to take my temperature. It’s been a bit torturous as I then can’t get back to sleep!

The mantra has helped. The last week I have been laying back down, closing my eyes, and repeating my mantra instead of letting my mind wander and I have been getting back to sleep successfully! So, long story to say that I found an interesting use for the mantra I was given.

My goal this coming week is to think of everyone I meet as family, thinking of them as sister or mother or brother or uncle.

 

About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • seeker

    Hi Ambaa,

    I love looking at different ways things are interpreted; even if things are in English, words can mean so many things.

    I found four alternate translations and all have an interesting slant.

    To the godless worlds covered with gloomy darkness,
    Go all the people, when departing (from this world) who are slayers of their souls.

    A note with this one said that in comparison with
    The state of the supreme soul, the most exalted
    Worlds of the gods are godless. It goes on to say
    That the slayers of their souls are ignorant about
    The nature of them.

    Sunless are these worlds and enveloped in blind gloom whereto all they in their passing hence resort who are slayers of their souls.

    After leaving their bodies, they who have killed the Self go to the worlds of the Asuras, covered with blinding ignorance.

    Worlds there are without suns, covered up with darkness.
    To these after death go the ignorant, slayers of the self.

    I was struck by how all four referred to killing the Self; slaying something is an action, generally with intent.also the Self can’t actually be slain except perhaps in terms of Easwaran’s word “deny”; if we deny something, it doesn’t affect the reality of the thing, just our ability to see it. Therefore we “slay” it and it is no longer a part of our lives.

    • Ambaa

      I wonder if it means to slay the small self? One thing that I took away from Sanskrit classes was that the same word is used for both. Atman means myself whether that’s the small ego self or the big universal self.

      • Drekfletch

        My translation:
        ‘Demonic’ are those worlds called,
        in blind darkness they are cloaked
        Into them after death they go
        all those people who kill the self

        Coming right after a verse about work/action in life, I’d hazard a guess that it’s supposed to be an ‘as above so below’ analogy. If you kill the small self, you enter a dark and blind world. If you deny the Self, you are born again with the veil of ignorance still blinding you.

  • Sandeep

    I try to do Pranayama before meditation…Doing Pranayama in Morning with AUM Chanting in mind..Relaxes each and every cell of my body..I feel more fresh and Relaxed after Pranayam as compared to what i feel after 8 hr sleep..More focused and calm

  • seeker

    I wonder if it refers to our ability to slay our own souls as part of the reality we live in. If I refuse to acknowledge that I have a soul and that there is something beyond my own ego, aren’t I symbolically “slaying” my soul. The human mind can slay reality; for instance, the person who repeats the same kind of self-defeating behavior over and over and expects the result to be different.

  • seeker

    After I wrote the above, I came across the following quote from Dag Hammarskjold:

    God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illuminated by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.


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