Reading the Upanishads-Part One

Reading the Upanishads-Part One January 14, 2013

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:

The first of the principle Upanishads is the Isha. “Isha” means the supreme being, so this is a scripture about the supreme being. It begins with a Vedic prayer, as each Upanishad does. The prayer opening the Isha Upanishad is known as The Perfect Prayer.

Om Purnamadah Purnamidam Purnat Purnamudachyate

Purnasya Purnamadaya Purnamevavasheshyate

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

I have always heard this translated as

That is perfect, this is perfect, perfect comes from perfect

Take perfect from perfect, the remainder is perfect

May peace and peace and peace be everywhere

Easwaran translates it as

All this is full. All that is full.

From fullness, fullness comes.

When fullness is taken from fullness,

Fullness still remains.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

When people use the phrase “well, nobody’s perfect” I think of this prayer. No, I think, everyone is perfect. I feel like this is a way of saying that everything is right with the world and all is unfolding as it is meant to. That can be hard to believe sometimes, but most of the time I see the big picture of the universe and it seems on track. What do you think? How would you interpret this prayer?


The first verse is as follows in the Easwaran translation…

The Lord is enshrined in the hearts of all.

The Lord is the supreme Reality.

Rejoice in him through renunciation.

Covet nothing. All belongs to the Lord.

 This passage seems to be about not claiming things. It can be difficult for me to draw the line between obtaining things to live and not coveting and hoarding stuff. When I read something like this, it makes me picture myself as a conduit that is completely open, things passing through from the universe to where they need to be. I try to renounce by being mindful of the needs of those around me. If I encounter someone who needs something, I try to see if there’s any way that I can provide it. The things that I have are not just for my own use, but also for the use of anyone who needs them.

It is really helpful to remember that all the stuff and all the money and all the things around me all belong to the Supreme Reality. Nothing is ever just mine.

To me that doesn’t mean not having stuff or denying yourself things. I think it’s okay to buy things and to have things, as long as one is not too attached. To me renounciation is an acknowledgment that the item ultimately belongs to the universe even while I own it and use it.

I have to be careful not to go too far into depriving myself to a point of harming myself because I feel guilty for having things. I’ve done that a lot in the past, but it is not a peaceful existence and so I do not think it is the proper way for me to interact with things. I try now to rejoice in gratitude when I have things and rejoice when I am able to give those things to others to help them. I attempt to not hold anything back for myself, but to be open to giving what I have when I see a need. That is a work in progress!


How did I do with my goal from last week? Pretty well.

I tried to put my trust in the universe and I was rewarded with some really nice experiences. I felt well cared for.

  • My lease on my apartment is up in March and I am looking to move to a new place. The exact apartment I wanted became available and I was worried there might not be one in March. I went to the new place to get more information and they looked at their records, told me that the family had put in notice but hadn’t left and the apartment wouldn’t be ready until…March. Even the staff was amazed at how perfectly smoothly I obtained the exact apartment I wanted
  • My boyfriend and I were going to a geeky gift exchange on Saturday and we still needed to get a present for it. At the grocery store the first thing I saw on the shelf was a Star Wars lego set on sale for the exact amount we were supposed to spend.

Little things like that just kept happening and it felt really nice. I didn’t have to manufacture anything, it could just come to me. I hope the same will be true as I have trust that my boyfriend will find his dream job as his current job is shutting down at the end of the month.

My goal this coming week is to find quiet moments to come into the present and just be instead of always entertaining myself with a book or iPod.

What is your goal for this week?

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  • I talked about this in one of your earlier articles, perhaps in an indirect way, but it’s worth stating. Jeramy is right. There is all this stuff that attaches to your original nature, such that you interact with the outside world through that stuff, which acts like the interface between your core and what the outside world sees. What often happens is that a person is shaped by their experiences, and before long, the person doesn’t realize or forgets what has happened, and the person becomes those cultural things, the beliefs, and can’t distinguish between him/herself and those things. It’s the interface that you use to navigate the physical world you find yourself living in. I think what is key is being able to reach yourself at the base level, and then building upward from there, which is what I have been doing my whole life. Struggling to throw off things that were made to seem important to me, or even more so, keep them off me, from landing on me. In terms of permanence or attachment to many things, a lot of that is largely resolved in my life.

    So for a long time, I have seen three layers: One, my core self, which only I can see, no one else; Two, the interface which is my body, clothes, language, manners, (those four things, everyone sees and knows about me), knowledge, even memories that my core self uses to try to live successfully in the world; and three, the world that I find myself in. There is clearly a separation between myself and my body, and that of my body and the world it is in. I believe that I am not my body, but that I use it to get around in this world and otherwise interact with people. The way I would look at it is that the pole I use to reach way up or the tractor I use to carry or move things is a mechanical extension of my body that is part of the outside world. As far as the self core goes, that’s just it. That’s all there is, the energy, the sense of self-awareness. When my body dies, the two layers surrounding me may shed away, leaving me with just myself, and I may or may not remember explicitly what I just went through in this life, and then I may find myself born anew somewhere else.

    If I were god or goddess who had created/helped created this world, I sure would have inserted a life cycle loop somewhere, so I could live endlessly forever if I wanted to. Maybe some people have figured this out and have purposefully avoided moksha because it’s so darn fun and interesting to live life on Earth as a human, especially if you have somehow figured out how to jump from wealthy family to family, or how about from skill-talented person to the next one! A question I have is, what happens to the spiritual apparition called memories, experiences? It has to go SOMEWHERE, as it is a part of energy. Maybe it is passed back up to something that is collecting this information, this history, and I’m once again free to live another life unencumbered, or, that I retain my memories, but they are made inaccessible through some sort of memory dampening structure, hidden very cleverly from eventual human discovery, so as not to spoil the new adventures of each succeeding life. To experience life with a fresh slate, a fresh perspective, so you can experience once again the joys of discovery, of learning, the wonder of an amazing, new experience, and so on.

    Could it be that the destruction phase of the world is so that we are robbed ourselves of the ability to find out everything there is to know about the body, which would cause the remembrance of everything we are ex-mortally (in a nonmortal, or spiritual state), and end up terminating this world at once? Maybe that’s the purpose of Kali Yuga? The human nature as I observe it has the entire range of possible expression, from motives of good will to everyone first before oneself to that of ulterior motives that serves only the self at the expense of everyone else, even in indifferent, cold blood. Because of our preoccupation with our bodies in the Kali Yuga, we are perhaps trying to figure out how to live forever, or at least as long as possible before dying, and with this knowledge or ideas (I can’t tell if this is true or I just have a gigantic, creative imagination), we may end up figuring out how to reach out outside the world we live in for answers as to how all this got started. It’s pretty much like the movie, Matrix. Only the world must be destroyed before this possibility is manifest, and then the world is reset before starting over again. We have no idea what goes on out there in the ex-mortal, spiritual world that we cannot see with our physical eyes.