The Katha Upanishad may be regarded as a most appropriate introduction to spiritual life in general. The story with which the Upanishad begins provides the proper foundation for commencing a study of the science of the higher life of man. From the exoteric ritual of the performance of sacrifice and charity by Sage Vajasravasa, the Upanishad takes us to the spiritual longing of the seeker, Nachiketas, which moves along a definite pattern of development. In the movement from the outward liturgy of Vajasravasa to the inner aspiration taken towards the higher consciousness. The second step is the rise from temporal relationships to the universal significance of all things, found in the all-comprehensive Vaisvanara, known also as Hiranyagarbha in its higher manifestation, and as Virat in its lower universal form, represented in the second boon granted by Yama. The third step is the ascent from the universal to the Absolute, which is the third boon asked for by Nachiketas, but most reluctantly granted by yama, after subjecting him to a severe test in the form of supernormal temptations of sense and ego, to which even the best minds cannot but succumb when placed in Favourable circumstances. The Upanishad leads us on to the theme of yoga proper, Yoga is to be understood in the sense of that integral method whereby the individual is attuned to the Supreme Being. It is neither a creed nor a tradition, but the law governing the universe, and made manifest in the conscious activity of every awakened individual. The Upanishad is the basic text of this sublime theme.
The contents of the present book form the theme of the discourses which the Swamiji delivered for seven days during the Sadhana Week held at the Headquarters of the Divine Life Society, in the year 1973, before an audience of seekers of varied endowments and differing capacities on the path of spiritual practice. Hence, the lectures bear, naturally, an informal and personal touch of the teaching style, and this also explains the conversational accent maintained throughout, rather than a stricter form of expression usually associated with a deliberately written text.
The First Discourse starts with the present state of human perception and understanding in its empirical set-up; and explains the exoteric sacrifice (yajna) of Sage Vajasravasa to gain celestial ends; the query of Nachiketas; the meeting of Nachiketas and yama, the Lord of Death; the three boons Nachiketas requested for; the temptations on the was; the persistence of the seeking soul; the distinction between the pleasant and the good in world-experience.
The Second Discourse explains the meaning of the pleasant and the ultimate good; the error involved in the desire for pleasant sensations of the body and the ego; the point concerning life here and hereafter; the patter of world-experience as analysed; the spiritual import of the Upanishad teaching; the three stages of the mystic ascent of the soul outlined in the three boons offered to Nachiketas.
The Third Discourse points out the disciplines that are necessary for the pursuit of the Inner Life; the need for a spiritual guide; the nature of the higher knowledge; the seven stages of meditation on Reality; the characteristics of the final goal of life.
The Fourth Discourse Delineates the super-logical nature of Reality and its knowledge; the methods of yoga described through the analogy of the chariot of the human individuality in its relation to Reality, as the most practical part of the whole exercise of spiritual endeavour; the difficulties on the path; the subtleties of the Inner Say of the Spirit.
The Fifth Discourse investigates the intellectual processes in sensation, perception and cognition's the techniques of abstraction, concentration and meditation; the nature and experience of the merger of the individual in the Universal.
The Sixth Discourse expounds the glorious march of the soul along the path to the Absolute; the higher yoga of the Consciousness and its supernal attainments.
The Seventh Discourse clinches the mystery of life and death; and the methods of communion with the Supreme Being.
We are confident the students of philosophy and yoga will find, on a close study, that one rarely does come across a presentation to be placed in one's hands in which the fire of the soul burns so brightly through its pages.
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