Tat Tvam Asi (Notes on Chandogya Upanishad, Chapter Six) (Text, Transliteration, Word-to-Word Meaning and Detailed Commentary)

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Back of the Book

The Upanishads are the foundation of Vedanta. The Chandogya Upanishad is one of the ten major Upanishads. It is a very comprehensive work covering a variety of topics like various forms of worship and meditation, the theory of creation, the path to liberation etc. The range of topics covered makes it interesting and complete, benefiting a variety of seekers.

The crux of the Chandogya Upanishad is found in the sixth chapter wherein the famous Mahavakya- 'Tat Tvam Asi' is declared. Here the Upanishad presents Brahma Vidya (the knowledge of the Supreme Truth) in a drama- dialogue style, as a discussion between the Guru-father, Uddalaka Rishi and his disciple-son, Shvetaketu. The central teaching of Vedanta- the oneness between the individual and the Supreme Truth, is brought home by striking similes and apt metaphors.

Swamini Vimalananda has a good grasp of the subject. Her style of narration makes the text easy to understand. Her lucid notes are sure to benefit the reader.

The dream is the projection of the mind. Everything of the dream enjoys the same degree of reality. Yet some person, thing or transaction of the dream has the special power to wake us up.

The seventh chapter of the Chandogya Upanishad, which is a dialogue between the great Sage Sanatkumara and his younger brother, turned disciple, the famous Narada, makes us realize that all knowledge is the play of words alone- name eva etat. Yet the words of the text have the unique power not only to prepare us but also finally awaken us to our infinite nature, which alone is all bliss bhumaiva sukham.

Swamini Vimalananda has added relevant notes to make the subject easier to grasp.

Introduction

Besides good health and physical comforts, man needs emotional fulfillment, intellectual satisfaction and spiritual unfoldment to be happy. However, to gain total happiness, he needs to know his own true nature (Self-knowledge). The experiments and experiences with Self-knowledge by hundreds of seers over many millennia has only proved its utility and validity for all times. Many great men the world over, accept the glory of this knowledge and they have therefore made it an integral part of their lives. Many who have spent most of their life without it, have regretted their loss. Spiritual practices and Self-knowledge should become part of one's life right from childhood. To acquire it and pass it to the next generation becomes the bounden duty of one and all.

The Veda-s or Sruti-s are the roots of the tree of Self-knowledge. Its main branches are the Smrti-s (the Bhagavad Gita etc.), the Purana-s (Bhagavatam etc.) and the Itihasa-s (the Ramayana, Mahabharata), Various compositions and works of saints and sages are its secondary branches. Those who gain this knowledge and live a spiritual life are the fruits that contain the sweet juice of fulfillment. They have in them the seeds of knowledge which they pass on to the next generation of seekers who in turn attain fulfillment. Thus the knowledge is carried on, blessing generation after generation, through ages.

The Veda-s as books are four in number Rg, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva. Each is divided into four partsMantra, Brahmana, Aranyaka and Upanisad-s. The Mantra portion \ contains prayers in praise of the beauty, bounty and powers of Nature. The chanting of these help man to expand his vision, from the narrow limits of home and family to the infinite universe full of glory and grace. The Brahmana-s describe various rites and rituals. They also talk of the various worlds or fields of experiences that can be attained through performance of rituals and about transmigration and rebirth. The Aranyaka portion contains various forms of worship of and meditation on deities and ways to propitiate them and invoke their blessings. The Upanisad-s propound the Supreme Truth and its attainment by Self-knowledge leading to liberation.

The Veda-s are also categorised into three sections--- Karma Kanda (Mantra and Brahmana, Upasana Kanda (Aranyaka) and Jnana Kanda (Upanisads). Man is born with three faults (dosa-s)---Mala (the impurity of the mind), Viksepa (restlessness) and ajnana avarana (ignorance of the Self).

By the performance of our duties, dedicating them to a noble altar, free of ego and ego-centric desires i.e., following of the Karma Kanda (understood in present times as Karma Yoga), the mind is freed from likes, dislikes, anger, greed and the like. Upasana i.e., forms of meditation and worship, make the mind subtle and single-pointed. The Jnana Kanda i.e., Self-knowledge, removes our ignorance of our true nature.

Only a pure, subtle and focused mind can gain abidance in Self-knowledge. Therefore, even though Self-knowledge alone gives true happiness, the first two sections of the Veda-s play an important role in preparing the mind for Self-knowledge. Thus the Veda-s are designed to-be a perfect solution to the inherent problems of human life.

The Chandogye Upanisad forms part of the Brahmana-s of the Talavakara section of the Sama Veda. In size, it ranks second among the ten major Upanisads. It has eight chapters. Like all Upanisad-s its main topic is the knowledge of the Truth (Brahma Vidya). However, the first five chapters mainly describe a variety of rituals (karma-s) and methods of worship and meditation (upasana) catering to different types of people. The last three chapters mainly propound Self-knowledge.

This Upanisad introduces us to endearing and earnest seekers of Truth like Narada, Satyakama and Svetaketu and compassionate teachers like Aruni, Sanatkumara and Prajapati. The stories and dialogues between different Guru-s and disciples teach us many important lessons of life. From the story of Ibhya in chapter I, one learns how to be steadfast yet not rigid or stubborn in following one's vows. In chapter VIII, one learns from Indra, sincerity and the patience required to gain great goals.

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