Introduction to Sri Aurobindo’s The Upanishads

The Upanishads clearly rank with the greatest spiritual and philosophical writings of mankind.  They have been revered for their beauty of expression and for the philosophical issues they address in a way that can benefit all, regardless of the particular religious or spiritual tradition one follows.  They are considered to be a universal body of expression of mankind’s highest aspirations and seeking for truth.

While many have undertaken to translate the Upanishads, Sri Aurobindo’s work deserves a special place.  Sri Aurobindo brought more than just scholarly efforts to this work.  It is informed with experience and spiritual practice, which allows him to enter into the spirit of the Upanishads and communicate it to us.

Sri Aurobindo has also added his own extensive commentaries to several of the key Upanishads, the Isha and the Kena, which together provide deep insight into the philosophy expressed in the Upanishads.

The Upanishads were not originally written as “philosophy”.  Rather they were intended to aid the teacher in communicating certain spiritual truths and practices to the chosen disciples.  With the right openness of spirit, it is possible for us to re-create these truths within our own lives.  This book provides a key to that effort and thereby justifies “yet another” translation of, and commentary on, the Upanishads.

The Upanishads provide a bridge from the symbolic age that gave birth to the Vedas, and refer to themselves in various places to be “the secret of the Veda”.  Deep study of the Upanishads can help unlock the tremendous spiritual force that has lain hidden in the ancient Vedic tradition under its veil of symbol and double-meanings, intended to communicate to the initiated while keeping the inner meaning secret from those not prepared to understand and apply that meaning in a positive way in their lives.  In today’s world, where ancient knowledge is so critically needed to address the challenges of modern-day life, we now have an opportunity to truly appreciate and apply “the secret of the Veda” as developed in the Upanishads.

For this study, we intend to take the approach of bringing together translation and commentary systematically for each Upanishad treated, rather than following a page-by-page approach as set forth in the volume at hand.

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads

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