The Vedas have two parts: the Karma Kanda that teaches the various ways for fulfillment of man’s desires through rituals, prayer and worship; and the Jnana Kanda that reveals the path to liberation through enlightenment. The Upanishads, forming part of the Jnana Kanda, bring about the value of enlightenment, the ultimate goal of human existence, Swami Atmashraddananda said in a lecture.
The Upanishads comprise mantras and are termed rahasya vidyas . Their import is sacred, hidden, profound, subtle and hence not easily accessible. Only a refined mind can intuit the actual significance. Spiritually competent people alone (who have opted for the discipline of meditation and contemplation to seek this knowledge) have experienced it through revelations.
This does not underplay the role of effort and scholarship to unravel the in-depth meanings. More than conscious effort, an intuitive grasp is also indicated when grappling with the concepts they carry. Preceptors such as Adi Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhwa have written commentaries on them to propagate the truths they contain. The oral traditional of knowledge transfer from Guru to Sishya in times of yore was systematic and highly disciplined. The disciples were encouraged to do self-study ( swadhyaya ). The first step was to repeat the Gayatri mantra. It is believed that the repetition makes the mind clear and pure to grasp the subtle thoughts and inner essence.
The Mundaka Upanishad derives its name from the root, Mund, meaning to shave. The removal of the hair by shaving is symbolic of shedding one’s ego, the evil in us and of the errors in us. The idea is that once these are eliminated, one is liberated. This higher wisdom is obtained only through renouncing the worldly attractions.
The Upanishads teach fearlessness. Fear is the root cause of evil. The fear goes away when we realise that there is a substratum in this world that never dies. This is the Self that is the underlying truth in all creation. This is not the ego self that is identified by name and forms as big or small, black or white. This knowledge should be brought to all.