This work is significant in being the product of a single-minded pursuit and undivided
devotion and incompleting it with success the author has immortalized himself. The peculiar
characteristic of this hole-hearted dedication is that it hasn’t got the least trace of any
commercial intent, nor is the strenuous effort motivated by any personal gain.
In this esoteric work the author interprets to us the actual text of Sankara Bhashya on the
world’s most ancient and lofty attestation of the science of the self, which combines the
eternal rules that govern the phenomenal universe and the intangible cosmos, too rational to
be rejected by infidels, too experiential to be ignored by scientists, too rebelliously
truthful to be bound by priestly rituals. This book, which is the valuable product of a
life-long study and research, can well claim the merit of offering unerring guidance to any
sincere student of Indian philosophy.
When Nalanda University was ransacked, two surviving monks managed to salvage the most
precious manuscripts from the pillaged library. While ferrying this priceless cargo, water
started entering the boat. The two exchanged glances and the story goes that without a word
the elder monk jumped into the river, sacrificing his life for knowledge. May I take the
liberty to say that this 5th volume in the ‘Prasthanathraya’ series, conceived by an exegete
nonpareil- the late Vidyabhooshanam, Vidyavachaspati V Panoli, like the earlier volumes would
qualify for inclusion in such a category of invaluable works. Of unique significance is the
the fact that it is for the first time in publishing history that exegeses of the major 10
Upanishads, Bhagvat Gita and Brahmasuthra Bhashyam, collectively known as ‘Prasthanathrayam’
is being brought out as a single volume.
Every generation had lived under the delusion that they were passing through the most
turbulent period in history. With us the delusion has turned reality. We can claim the dubious
distinction of being the first species on vasundhara, to have contrived to bring about its won
doom and that of amazing biodiversity. This is in contrast to the five mass extinctions
recorded in the last six hundred million years, precipitated by natural causes. As we labour
under the shadow of imminent catastrophe, the mind more than ever seeks solace in ancient
texts of wisdom.
Perhaps, more than even in the empirical sciences, the rigour and ligic of brutal enquiry is
manifest in the Upanishads. For it is a craving after the truth that will set us free from
delusions. Our land has been singularly blessed in numbers by such women and men obsessed with
this search after the essence of existence. The last such sage, Sri Ramana Maharshi, spent a
whole saintly lifetime exploring a single question: ‘naan yaar?’ (Who am I?) The realization
that the cessation of our life would register as much in the panoply of creation as an
infant’s burp in a raging thunderstorm, should lead us to be less egoistic and more caring.
Even otherwise, as we ponder the existential insignificance of our days, running like a
vanishing shadow in the last rays of a setting sun, it is the life of the spirit that sustains
us. A knowledge beyond the compass of science, which cannot conceive of anything greater than
the lengthiest time lapse of 2*10:17 seconds (time taken by a ray of light to traverse the
conjectured radius of our universe, known as cosmic chronon) or anything shorter than the
atomic chronon of 10:-23 seconds, beyond which it is impossible to calculate a process with
anything less. Thought it is assumed that there is a corresponding upper bound and lower bound
mental chronon, the spiritual guidance of texts such as these shatter such professed limits of
consciousness. The teachings of the Gita straddle the entire gamut of human experience
captured between these two extremes. Similarly, the esoteric knowledge of the Brahmasuthra
Bhashyam enables souls to navigate over the ocean of knowledge.
The house of Mathrubhumi has always been committed to serving the cause of the society that
sustains us. Even while disseminating information, the core competency of our organization, we
have always been alive to fostering the values of compassion and humanity, catholic values
common to religions. In a society increasingly rent by the inequality predicament, thus it
becomes more relevant to propagate words that will usher us into the light of compassion and
It is a great honour on behalf of the Mathrubhumi to offer this work to the reading public.
Indeed it is a honour doubled, for one of the greatest consolations in my life has been my
knowing intimately the late master Panoli, who himself sat at the feet of the revered teacher,
Sahitya Kesari Pandit P. Gopalan Nair of kollengode. The work on this master book of knowledge
was started by Vidyavachaspathi V. Panoli, who unfortunately passed away before the could
finish this noble task. The greatest tribute paid to the revered Sri. Panoli is that of the
former Judge of the Supreme Court, Sri. V.R. Krishna lyer, who in his foreword to the second
volume of “Upanishads in Sankaras’ commentaries in his own words… Not many have the vision nor
the passion, nor indeed the erudition needed for the great undertaking. Vachaspati, by his
performance, is challengingly seeking to prove his competence.” It was left to Dr. M.R. Rajesh
to complete the unfinished portion, whose contribution also I am pleased to acknowledge.
God’s ways are mysterious. When he himself is a mystery of mysteries, how can his ways be
The longest pilgrimage of life has come to its final stage. There were before me insuperable
difficulties that seemed to scatter on dust what little I have done. But the eternal deity
removed all of them in mysterious and miraculous ways.
I have only prayers to offer together with my soul’s devotion to that eternal deity who make
my path smooth.
I must also offer prayers to my departed master, Sahityakesari Pandit P. Gopalan Nair
(Kollengode) at whose feet I had laid my soul in devotion and whose living touch I feel on all
my limbs even today, twenty six years after his leaving the mortal coils.
It was nothing but a blissful experience to go into the inmost recesses of the Upanishads with
the commentaries of Sri Sankaracharya on them. The Acharya’s sententious style of writing, his
tersely aphoristic expressions and his intrepid arguments- all this and all these make his
writings a wonder for all time, not only in the sphere of Advaita Vedanta, but also in the
vast field of the world’s literature, for such is the rare gift of the right word he possessed
together with the acutest intellect.
This longest pilgrimage went on for a space of eight and a half years during which the scripts
on the ten major Upanishads beginning with Isavasya and ending with Brihadaranytha, including
the Karika of Sri Gaudapadacharya on the Mandukya Upanishad, could be brought into a complete
shape. The work took another three and a half years for printing. Undivided attention had to
be bestowed again on it continually during this period for making corrections and alterations.
It goes without saying that a work which runs into 3400 pages in four volumes, and which
necessitates the use of five different types in Sanskrit and English demands one’s constant
watch. Thus this tittle work took in all twelve years for assuming its final shape.
Let me with all modesty point out that this work is not a mere translation of Sankara Bhashya,
as could be seen from the facts given below. The Hindu’, Madras, while reviewing my earlier
work, “Gita in Sankara’s own words”, made the following remarks:
“This is an interesting book which goes beyond what a purely loyal, textual translation could
do towards assisting in the understanding of the Gita. Indeed the author has provided a full
measure of his capabilities in this field.”
The same observation is true of ‘Upanishads in Sankara’s Own Words also, for the method of
writing is identical in both the cases. Further, the introductory and explanatory notes and
the footnotes provided in ‘Upanishads in Sankara’s own words’ are much more exhaustive than
those in the Gita. Thus the whole scope, sole aim, goes beyond a mere textual translation.
If I am asked what moment in life was felt to be most sacred and serene, elevating and
inspiring I must point to the occasion when the first volume of this work was released by
Justice Sri V.R. Krishna lyer on 14.8.1991, for it marked the accomplishment of the humble
little task to which His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and himself had set me. As already
pointed out in the preface to the first volume, this pilgrimage would not have become
possible, if an exalted personage like Justice Krishna Lyer was not there in the fore front to
give the impetus. Besides, he blessed this venture with a very valuable and exhaustive
foreword in which he breathed the breath of inspiration and said, “An epic, exceeding 3000
pages, where Adi Shankara is walking into a twenty-first century library, is not a mean
achievement.” This vision was prophetic, for the Government of India has since then purchased
the copies of all the published volumes for use in hundred University libraries in India.
Moreover, he was too good to refuse me, whenever I approached him for his advice or
intervention in matters connected with this work. I firmly believe that it is owing to the
accumulated virtue to my past lives that I could win his approbation. By this act of
kindliness, Justice Sri V.R. Krishna lyer has made me his eternal slave and I shall ever be
proud to lay claim to it. I express my gratitude to him with all my heart’s devotion.
The role of His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in this venture is definitely significant.
Undoubtedly, his utterance of benediction, coupled with the personal magnetism of Justice Sri
V.R. Krishna lyer, had led to this work’s creation. Since I have given a detailed account of
all this in the preface to the first volume, I don’t add anything further here. The Maharishi
is one of the Maha Purushas I have seen in this life and it has been my rare privilege to have
got myself introduced to him by Justice lyer. I express my gratitude to His Holiness Maharishi
Mahesh Yogi from the innermost depth of my heart.
The part played by Sri M.P. Veerendrakumar, Chairman & managing director, The Mathrubhumi
printing & publishing Co. Ltd. Is equally significant. The book, “Upanishads in Sankara’s Own
Words” has become a reality to-day. It has found a place in almost all the University
libraries in India. When I pause to reflect how this has become possible, I am constrained to
bend my knee before the unsullied virtues, indomitable courage and strong will of Sri
Veerendrakumar who took the bold initiative to publish this work, for it was well-nigh
impossible to imagine that a person other than himself or an institution, or a society would
readily come forward to publish this work which runs into volumes and the yield of which could
not be predicted then. This I speak from firm conviction, for all my earlier pursuits to find
out a publisher for this work had virtually failed. It is here that Sri Veerendrakumar proved
himself to be a man among men by coming foreward to publish it, disregarding all the impending
This cyclonic Jain has a Hindu brain, although he hugs to his breast the purest tenets of his
own cult. Of all the systems of thought, Advaita-Vedanta has filled his very being with its
irresistible charm, and once he went so far as to say:
“Sankara’s message is unique. In the whole world there is none to excel it, for every word has
been written to the rigorously logical effect, and no approach to God can be more rational
than that of his. My thoughts reach God more fully when I base them on the unerring guidelines
provided by the Acharya in his commentaries. The more I try to follow closely the thoughts of
the Acharya in his commentaries. The more I try to follow closely the thoughts of the Acharya,
the more I dwell in them, more and more has this conviction come to me”.
Even a staunch follower of Hinduism who is supposed to have studied the Indian philosophy in
the traditional way cannot be seen to possess such a fiery conviction as stated above, as far
as the sane and sacred teachings of the great Acharya are concerned. Much less to speak of the
ordinary religionists. Sri Veerendrakumar has, by publishing this work, served the cause of
Hinduism in a better and effective way than what the so called religionists who claim
themselves to be the saviours of Hinduism could do. And by that act of nobility coupled with
the boldness of spirit and sincerity of purpose, he made me his captive and no ransom will be
sufficient to redeem the debt. May the omniscient Lord and the Rishis of yore shower their
grace on him? I express my gratitude to him from the inmost shrine of my heart.
I shall be failing in my duty if I do not acknowledge my indebtedness to Sri P.V. Chandran,
Managing editor, The Mathrubhumi Printing & publishing Co. He who, apart from being the
managing editor of the Mathrubhumi, is acclaimed and accepted as a successful and commanding
business man with very wide repute, has always been a silent but strong supporter of all
genuine causes of religion, faith and culture, as evidenced by his own statement (in the
publishers note dated 1.3/93, Vol. III) which runs as follows:
“It is not with a view to make gain that we have undertaken to publication of this work. Our
only aim consists in popularizing the time-honoured spiritual teachings of this ancient land.”
The support extended by him to the publication of this work is very valuable. I thank Sri P.V.
Chandran from the depth of my heart.
I also thank Dr. C.K. Ramachandran, M.R.C.P. (London), Calicut, with all gratefulness for the
genuine interest ha has taken in this work from beginning to end, with an adoration surging up
from his inborn passion for the ancient lore.
My sincere thanks are also due to Sri P.M. Shasheendran, Manager- Production, The Mathrubhumi
Printing & publishing Co., for the care and attention he has bestowed at all levels on the
production of these volumes, laying stress on elegance and excellence.
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