While browsing for my next book to read, I stumbled upon a title that immediately grabbed my interest. A single book that delves into the diverse topics of the Vedas, Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita, foundational texts of Indian spiritual tradition, is not often encountered. The commentaries provided on these ancient scriptures offer invaluable insights for beginners seeking a fundamental understanding. Yet, for those already immersed in spirituality, this book promises to enrich their comprehension of the scriptures complex topics.

This book on the topics of the Vedas, Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita is based on Shri Chinmoy’s original talks at American universities and colleges in the early 1970s. Sri Chinmoy Kumar Ghose, a spiritual guru, taught meditation in the U.S. He spent almost 20 years practicing spirituality at Sri Aurobindo Ashram before moving to the United States. During his 43 years in the West, he founded numerous meditation centers around the world and mentored thousands of pupils. He is well-known for skillfully combining Eastern spirituality and Western dynamism.

The Vedas

The Vedas are the oldest surviving literature of India, and among the oldest literature anywhere in the world. Inspired seers or rishis, who saw eternal truths in experiences of enlightenment, composed it over many centuries and transmitted those truths in the form of sacred speech. This was later compiled by the seer Veda Vyas into 4 compilations.

The four Vedas are, the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda and the Atharva Veda. The Rig Veda deals mainly with the forms of prayer. In the Rig Veda the message of human evolution begins. It tells us the meaning of existence and of man’s contribution to the world. The Yajur Veda deals with worship and rituals. The Sama Veda deals with music. The Atharva Veda deals with medicine, science and magic formulas.

The Vedas have the eternal wisdom. When we live in the mind, we cannot go beyond the judgment of destiny. Our human will is at the feet of destiny. However, when we live in the soul we have free will. This free will is the will of the supreme. The Vedic mantras, or incantations help us develop willpower in boundless measure. In Rig Veda, more emphasis is laid on mental and inner philosophy than on ritual, which is the Vedic way of life. Aspiration and meditation loom large in philosophical wisdom. In the heart of philosophy, the light can be discovered and in the body of the ritual, the light can be manifested. The characteristic of the Vedic and Upanishadic age is reflected in the below verse as well, which means, “Go forward, fear not, fight”. Progress, constant progress was the characteristic of those ages.

Prehi abhīhi dhṛṣṇuhi

Rig veda

The Vedas embody intuitive visions, divine experiences and life-illumining realities. The Rig Veda inspires us by the saying “The vessels of truth carry men of good deeds across the ocean of ignorance.”

The Upanishads

The Upanishads come from the Vedas. The Vedas lack a proper order, resembling a storehouse where everything is present. However, some sections are considered unimportant to the modern world. The Upanishads take inspiration and aspiration from the Vedas but have their own originality. The Upanishads also go by the name Vedanta, signifying “the end of the Vedas”. But the spiritual meaning of Vedanta is “the cream of the Vedas, the pick of the inner lore, the aim, the goal of the inner life”. The Upanishads tell us that there are two types of knowledge, namely; a higher knowledge, i.e., the discovery of the soul, and a lower knowledge, i.e., the fulfillment of the body’s countless demands.

The Upanishads are the obverse of the coin of which the reverse is consciousness. Inner strength dethrones the idol installed by fear and doubt. The Self cannot be won by mental brilliance but only with an aspiring heart and a dedicated life. When the inner sun shines, it destroys the darkness of millennia. The self, the transcendental self, is referred to as the inner sun. As per the scriptures, God’s grace has already dawned on us, since without the grace of God we could not have stepped onto the spiritual path in the first place. In one’s inner journey, a fundamental element is aspiration, a key factor enabling individuals to surpass the limits of ignorance. Furthermore, the spiritual ladder encompasses three crucial stages: inspiration, aspiration, and realization.

Quest for Freedom & Divinity

Each major Upanishad is a pathfinder in the forest of experience that comprises human life. It offers us the intuitive knowledge and the inner courage to find our way through the labyrinth of curves and dead ends, doubts, and subterfuges. Vivekananda, the great saint, said “Freedom – physical freedom, mental freedom, and spiritual freedom – is the watchword of Upanishads“. To achieve freedom, we need energy, power, and spirit. One verse from Katha Upanishad that Swami Vivekananda often quoted was “Arise, Awake, and learn by approaching the great ones“. It is only through inner peace that we can have true outer freedom. Existence is everywhere, but existence has its value only when divinity is visible in it.

Uthishtata, Jagrata, Prapya Varanibodhata

KATHA upanishad

We have to go beyond the domain of the physical mind with the help of philosophy, religion, spirituality, and yoga. The seeking mind operates in philosophy. The crying heart operates in religion. The illuminating soul operates in spirituality. The fulfilling goal operates in yoga. When we fulfill the demands of philosophy, religion, spirituality, and yoga, God fulfills all our demands. God himself will energize us and be our aspiration and self-control by working through us.

The Bhagavad Gita

The Gita is an episode in the book of the ancient epic, Mahabharata. It is God’s Vision immediate. The Gita is God’s reality direct. The sage Vyasa conferred upon Sanjaya the miraculous psychic power of vision ,i.e, clairvoyance to see the incidents taking place at a strikingly great distance so that he could narrate it to Dhrtarastra. There are 700 verses in the Gita, that mainly consists of the utterances of Sri Krishna, the rest of the verses are from Arjuna, Sanjaya, and Dhrtarastra. The immortal Sage Vyasa authored it around 600 B.C.

The Bhagavad Gita is the epitome of the Vedas. It is the purest milk drawn from the udders of the most illuminating Upanishads, intended to feed and nourish the human soul. It reveals the way to achieve the victory of the higher self over the lower self by the spiritual art of transformation, i.e., physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual. Life lives the life of perfection when it lives in spirituality, i.e., in spirituality, it stands far above the commands of morality and the demands of duty.

Physical & Mental Perspective

Through the divine art of contemplation, the aspirant follows the path of knowledge. Through the dynamic urge of selfless work, the seeker follows the path of action. He who follows the path of action is by nature simple, says Sri Krishna. Action binds us only when we bind action with our likes and dislikes. In the subsequent chapter, Sri Krishna highlights the hostile enemies of man, i.e., desire and anger. Insatiable desire drives life into a bed of thorns when satisfied, and conquering desire transforms life into a bed of roses. Sri Krishna tells about pleasure and pain in a similar way. “Sense-pleasure ends in pain. Hence sense-pleasure is shunned by the wise. Constant self-control is the real and perpetual happiness“.

Next, I would like to highlight the topic of service mentioned in the book. Service can do many things for us. First of all, we should know that service done in a divine spirit is the greatest opportunity that we have in our possession to kill pride and vanity and to obliterate the stamp of ego. Sri Krishna guides us on how to control the mind when he says, “The mind is unsteady. To curb the mind is not easy. But the mind can be controlled by constant practice and renunciation“. Here, the advice is to practice meditation constantly and renounce ignorance.

Psychic & Spiritual Perspective

In the subsequent chapter, I came across a fascinating discussion about Aum. Even though books can provide knowledge about Aum, living an inner life marked by aspiration is the key to achieving the true understanding of the meaning of Aum. Such a life propels the aspirant to elevated states of consciousness, fostering accelerated progress both internally and externally.

Being God’s own instrument is the greatest pride and the ultimate achievement, as it infallibly signifies acceptance as His very own.

“Nimittamatram bhava”

Bhagavad Gita

If we approach the lord who assumes the human form and who plays his divine game in the field of his manifestation, our success will undoubtedly be easier, quicker and more convincing, to a degree which our physical minds would not believe possible.

The one endowed with spiritual qualities is more practical than anybody else. The forces divine guide, protect, and illuminate his life. Fear fears to stay with him who has perfect faith in God. The outer man is what his inner faith is. With our faith we can create, control, conquer, and transform our fate.

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