Reading the Upanishads

Sri Aurobindo enlightened spiritual teacher and author of many books including Integral YogaA profound breakthrough occurred today. After all these years on the spiritual path, I’m finally reading the Upanishads.

Sri Aurobindo’s Books

For a week, I’ve been reading A Practical Guide to Integral Yoga. It contains highlights from Sri Aurobindo’s various writings and organizes them by subject. Yesterday I arose from an afternoon nap with a sudden desire to find out which of Sri Aurobindo’s books I should read next.

After a short search online, I found the Sri Aurobindo ashram website that contains all of his original writings. I read through the beginning of each book and was drawn to two of them: Essays on the Gita and The Upanishads. I already have both books in paperback version. Yet for some reason I’ve never read them.

Most people will find Sri Aurobindo’s writings intimidating. He addresses profound, complex spiritual subjects. His sentences are often 50 words long. And his books can be more than 500 pages long. Yet I’m undaunted. I look forward to reading about the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. After all these years of sitting on the shelf, they now seem to be calling to me.

Fixating on the Upanishads

Today I awoke fixated on the Upanishads. I wanted to learn more about how they came into existence. And I wanted to find the best translation of the Upanishads to read first.

When exploring a new area of spirituality, I find it invaluable to read books written by enlightened teachers. They are one with the infinite. And their enlightened presence infuses the words that they write.

Most seekers make the mistake of reading spiritual books only for the ideas they contain. Yet you progress spiritually by moving your awareness beyond the limitations of the ego and the thinking mind. Concepts can only point to an experience that the mind cannot understand.

By reading the words of an enlightened teacher your system is exposed to his enlightened presence. And eventually you learn how to attune to that higher state on your own, even when you are not reading an enlightened teaching.

As I have advanced along the path, I’ve become more sensitive to various forms of energy. The infinitely subtle energy found within an enlightened teaching is pleasurable. And it is difficult to get through books written or translated by people who are not spiritually advanced. The words are tainted by the author’s remaining karma, and they vibrate at a lower level. So I decided to only read translations of the Upanishads that contain an enlightened presence.

Sri Aurobindo was a liberated soul. Yet his writing style is complex. Perhaps there is a simpler translation of the Upandishads I can read first, before diving into Aurobindo’s book.

There are many translations of the Upanishads. Many of the authors refer to the translation and commentary written by Adi Shankara in the eighth century. He was an Indian philosopher and writer who founded Advaita Vedanta. I found a five-volume translation of Shankara’s writings on Internet Archive. The books contain a great deal of information. Yet the writing is complex, and the translators are not enlightened. The original Sanskrit written by Shankara is probably infused with his enlightened presence. Yet that was lost in the translation to English. So I continued the search.

Many people who read the Upanishads recommend the translation by Swami Prabhavananda. I found it on Internet Archive and began reading the first Upanishad in the book—the Isha Upanishad. After a few moments my mind stilled, and I was deeply immersed in the formless.

It has been a while since my mind has become so still. The last time occurred while reading Guru Vachaka Kovai, and I couldn’t speak for many hours. While writing these words I reflect back on the experience, and I am there again as if I never left.

I don’t know much about Prabhavananda. Yet it is evident he achieved a high spiritual state as his translation manages to keep the enlightened presence found in the original teaching.

I emailed Prabhavanda’s translation of the Upanishads to Wayne and Karen. Then I called Karen to tell her about the book. While dialing, I wondered if I would be able to speak when she answered the phone. I could, so I told her what had happened. While we were on the phone she began reading the book. And I noticed that her mind and energetic state became still.

Through grace spiritual obstacles have been removed, and I have been guided to the Upanishads. I will read the translation by Prabhavananda. And then I’ll read Aurobindo’s translation and commentary. I wonder what other spiritual experiences await.

O thou self-luminous Brahman remove the veil of ignorance from before me, that I may behold thy light.
— Aitareya Upanishad, translation by Swami Prabhavananda


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