This is the last of the series of Upanisad commentaries initiated by Narayana Gurukula, as planned by Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yati and myself together.
Ever since the great Advaita
Sankara wrote his famous commentaries on the ten major Upanisads, what other commentators have done so far is elaborate on Sankara's ideas. Deviating from his line of thought seems to be considered a sort of sin. We, on the other hand, felt it imperative to take a fresh look at the Upanisads given all the modern developments of thought in science as well as philosophy. We had the good fortune of getting sufficient guidance from our guru, Natraja
Guru. Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yati took up the onerous task of writing commentaries on the two largest Upanisads, Brhadaranyaka
He asked me to comment on the rest of the ten. Incidentally, he had already written his commentaries on the Isa
and Mandukya Upanisads;
so I had to deal with only six Upanisads. Of course, my commentary on the Isa Upanisads
had already formed part of my book Basic Lessons on India's Wisdom
, a textbook for beginners in Vedanta. Guru Nitya did complete the commentary on the Brhadaranyaka
in three volumes which were published by Messers D. K. Printworld. My commentaries on the six Upanisads were written one by one and all were published by the same publishers. Guru Nitya's old age disabilities did not allow him to step on the other major task of commenting on Chandogya Upanisad
. As it became clear that he would not be able to take up the job, I decided to do it myself.
One of the hurdles I found in entering the essence of the wisdom teaching of the Chandogya Upanisad and the method of presentation it adopts was the relevancy of the first three chapters which deal only with Vedic rituals (Karma-Kanda). Sankara's commentary also did not help find a solution to the problem which I felt was a major one. Repeated reading of stanzas and sections, one by one, revealed how the Upanisad pictorially explicates the historical fact that the wisdom section (Jnana-Kanda) of the Vedas is an outgrowth of the ritualistic section ( karma-kanda). Such a phenomenon in the history of culture is known as dialectical revaluation, a concept very dear to, and widely made use of, by Nataraja Guru in his writings. I have tried my best to clarify the nature of this dialectical revaluation both in the "Introduction," and the commentary. This discovery laid wide open before me the scheme of the development of the thought of the present Upanisad, and it made the writing of the commentary with a regular flow very easy.
A group of Gurukula inmates and research scholars was around me to have a detailed discussion on each stanza. Later the commentary was dictated to them in Malayalam. I, then, sitting alone in my room, translated it into English the same day. The Malayalam and English versions of the commentary were thus prepared simultaneously. I am thankful to all those who helped me with ideas during the discussions.
Mrs. Kala Krishnan Remesh of Bangalore and Dr. Peter Oppenheimer of the United States, both long-time Gurukula friends, took much pain editing the book. Both of them did it as a service to the cause of wisdom, particularly as restated by Narayana Guru. Over and above all, it was the clarity of the philosophy of Narayana Guru that shed light on every Mantra of this intricate Upanisad.
Messers D. K. Printworld of New Delhi, from the very beginning, has shown much interest in publishing these commentaries as well as other books including those of Nataraja Guru and Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yati.
Narayana Guru used to encourage orators on religious matters to give public talks on Upanisads interpreting them independently. This encouragement of the Guru has always been the main inspiring force for writing all these commentaries, sometimes daring to deviate from the already available traditional path.
I offer this commentary as an altar -flower at the feet of Narayana Guru and of my Nataraja Guru, as well as of my predecessor-guru, Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yati.
Chandogya is the most intriguing of all the Upanisads. It begins with directing the priests of a Soma-Yaga to see the hidden wisdom significance in what they perform and recite as a brute ritual. This sublimation of ritualism gradually leads us to perceive the entire life system as a Yajna held in and performed by Brahman. The next step this perception leads us to is "Sarvam Khalvidam brahma" (everything here indeed is Brahman). Then the inquiry as to what this Brahman is begins. The answer we arrive at is "tat tvam asi" (That thou art). Finally, we realize "atmaivedam sarvam" (atma) indeed is everything here, or myself indeed is everything here). From this self-identity with "everything," with Brahman, we never return to our identity with individuated forms about the world of becoming.
The present commentary explicates in a rational way how thinking progresses in this Upanisad, along with unravelling its schematic, structural, and dialectical intricacies, both subjective and objective, both universal and particular.
Swami Muni Narayana Prasad is the guru and Head of Narayana Gurukula, a Guru-disciple foundation open to all, irrespective of caste, creed, gender, religion, or nation, aimed at promoting the Science of the Absolute (Brahma -vidya) as restated by Narayana Guru. A disciple of Nataraja Guru and Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yati, he has travelled widely teaching Indian Philosophy. He has authored around seventy books in the Malayalam language. His English books are commentaries on the Kena Katha, Prasna, Mundaka, Taittriya, Aitareya and Chandogya Upanisads, Vedanta Sutras and Darsanamala of Narayana Guru, Vedanta up to Narayana Guru, Karma and Reincarnation, Basic Lessons on India's Wisdom, The Philosophy of Narayana Guru, Life's Pilgrimage Through the Gita, Collected Works of Narayana Guru, and Narayana Smrtih.