CHENNAI: The Upanishads, which are the primary scriptural source for Vedanta, lend themselves to be interpreted according to the central doctrines of the different philosophical viewpoints. These texts are generally in the form of dialogue between the Guru and his disciple so that a spiritual seeker can relate to their teachings. The advantage of such a conversational style is that the doubts that normally arise during spiritual quest often become resolved while studying them.

In his discourse, Sri Muthukrishnan said the subject matter of the Upanishads was enquiry into the nature of the Self (Atman, Brahman). The objective of perusing them is to gain Self-knowledge, which will result in liberation from bondage. Just as a mother feeds each one of her children according to its specific requirement, so also, the Upanishads while expounding spiritual knowledge address different levels of spiritual aspirants. The thrust of the teachings is to direct the seeker’s mind within because the human mind and the senses are outward bound. Like the musk deer searching for its fragrance all over the forest without realising that it is emanating from its own body, man out of ignorance searches for joy in the outside world unaware that the source of eternal bliss is within. To realise this truth one has to seek a Guru. It is important to develop the insight to see everything as the manifestation of the Self and also discern the Self in all.

As the object of enquiry is the Self within, spiritual knowledge has to be experienced. The Self is described as “subtler than the subtle” and hence the process of realising it requires one-pointed concentration. The Upanishads prescribe many forms of meditation to enable the mind to grasp the Self.

The Mundaka Upanishad uses the analogy of the bow and arrow to explain how to meditate on the Self: “Taking hold of the bow… one should fix on it an arrow, sharpened with meditation. Drawing the string with a mind absorbed in Its thought, hit… that very target that is the Immutable. Om is the bow; the soul is the arrow; and Brahman is called its target. It is to be hit by an unerring man. One should become one with It just like an arrow.”