Man’s preoccupation with the phenomenal world and of the living beings in it has always motivated him to explore and learn about its nature and functions. He is also driven by some aspiration. When the goal pertains to worldly matters — owning a house, achieving a status, securing a good job, etc., — he foresees it as an experience and strives to attain it. But once these are fulfilled, he still remains unsatisfied and restless.
There is neither a sense of true happiness, nor peace of mind. This discontent feeds his desires and becomes the cause of further entanglement in the cycle of Samsara. But there lingers in him a deeper longing for something permanent, an inner yearning which is not clearly defined in his perception. The Upanishads tell us that there is a situation that can give us a fulfilling experience which is of the essence of consciousness, said Swami Atmashraddhananda in a discourse.
The Mundaka Upanishad makes a clear distinction between the higher knowledge of the Supreme Brahman (Para Vidya) and the lower knowledge of the empirical world (Apara Vidya). The latter is the mundane knowledge gained from the Vedas (Rg, Yajur, Sama and Atharva) and also of rituals, phonetics, grammar, astronomy and so on. The former is the knowledge by which one knows the changeless Reality. “By this is fully revealed to the wise that which transcends the senses — which is uncaused, indefinable, which has neither eyes nor ears, neither hands nor feet, which is all pervading and which is subtler than the subtlest and is the everlasting source of all.”
The Vedas are as timeless as the Supreme Brahman and as infinite too; they are believed to be His very breath as well. So it is only natural that interest in spiritual matters should begin with the study of the Vedas. Vedas mean knowledge and the word comes from the root ‘Vid,’ meaning ‘to know.’ Originally the Vedas were handed down in the oral tradition and were not in the form of any text. Only recently whatever of the Vedas was available had been codified and published. When the profound truths of the Upanishads become an integral part of our understanding, we begin to realise the purpose of our existence.