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About The Upanishads for Awakening

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The sacred scriptures of India are vast. Yet they are only different ways of seeing the same thing, the One Thing which makes them both valid and ultimately harmonious. That unifying subject is Brahman: God the Absolute, beyond and besides whom there is no “other” whatsoever.

The thirteen major Upanishads are the fountainhead of all expositions of Brahman. The word “upanishad” itself comes from the root word upasana, which means to draw or sit near, and is usually considered to mean that which was heard when the student sat near the teacher to learn the eternal truths.

We do not know who wrote the Upanishads. This has a distinct advantage in that the image of a historical, finite personality does not intervene to obscure the revelation handed on to spiritual aspirants.

The authority of the Upanishads rests not upon those who wrote them, but upon the demonstrable truths they express. They are as self-sufficient and self-evident as the multiplication tables or the Table of Elements. They are simply the complete and unobscured truth. And realization of that Truth alone matters.

With penetrating insight, Abbot George Burke illumines the Upanishads’ practical value for spiritual seekers. With a unique perspective from a lifetime of study and practice of both Eastern and Western spirituality, he presents the treasures of the Upanishads in an easily intelligible fashion.

★★★★★ “[Abbot Burke’s] ability is to really distill complex and potentially obscure spiritual texts into direct explanations of how to achieve self-realization. An amazing addition to Abbot Burke’s catalog of enlightening explanations.”
–Michael Sabani


Excerpts from The Upanishads for Awakening

Verily, this whole world is Brahman, from which he [the individual] comes forth, without which he will be dissolved and in which he breathes. Tranquil, one should meditate on it. (3.14.1a)

We have already been told that Brahman is all, but this half of the verse adds a practical instruction. “Tranquil, one should meditate on it” is an interpretative translation of two words: shanta upasita. Literally, they mean: “Draw near peacefully” or: “Go near peacefully.” Upasana means to sit or draw near, and is usually understood to mean either worship or meditation.

(In the Greek original of the New Testament the word translated “prayer” is prosevki, which also means to draw near. The Greek word translated “worship” is proskuneo, which has the same meaning.)

God is the Light that shines within each one of us.The important thing to realize is that true worship and meditation are both an inner process, for God is the Light that shines within each one of us. So to draw near to that light we must turn within. As Jesus said: “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, See here! or See there! For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).

The inner search must be done shanta–peacefully. This is a major key in yoga. All meditation must be done calmly and carefully in a relaxed manner, otherwise it will be impossible to perceive and assimilate the subtle states of awareness which meditation is intended to produce. The mind must be as still as a mirror to really meditate, and meditation alone produces that stillness.

Meditation is being described by Saint Paul when he says: “We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Corinthians 3:18).

That is why in the book of Revelation, which Paramhansa Yogananda said is a book about yoga, it says that a “sea of glass” like a great mirror is before the throne of God, and that the saints “stand” upon it (Revelation 4:6, 15:2). This symbolizes the perfectly still mind of the yogi by which he experiences higher realities.

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Therefore find your enjoyment in renunciation.

All of our sorrows and troubles come from our mistaking vain appearances for reality, from our looking at them with our outer eyes instead of beholding God with the inner eye. But we are addicted to those vain appearances; we have to admit that. Yes, we are even addicted to all the pain and anxiety they bring us.

That is foolish, but is it any more foolish than it is to be addicted to drugs or alcohol, or to people that harm us? We are insane on certain levels; this world is a madhouse for people of our particular lunacy. The sooner we understand this and resolve to be cured and released, the better it will be for us. For from illusory things we can move on to God-perception.

For this reason the yogis, those who seek God in meditation, should be the most cheerful and optimistic of people. If we look to God we will see only perfection and rejoice in all things. If we look at ourselves, others, and the world around us we will see only imperfection and be discontent.

Depression comes from looking in the wrong place. It is the bitter fruit of ego-involvement, of ego-obsession. The remedy is not to have high self-esteem but rather to have high God-esteem. And since we live in God, we will see the divine side even of ourselves and be ever hopeful.

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Life is not just some maze to be somehow gotten through, or a Monopoly board with random advances and regressions, and there is certainly no Get Out of Jail Free. Rather, life demands the fullest exercise of the two faculties that mark human beings out from the rest of earthly life-forms: developed reason and intuition. Intelligence of the highest order is necessary.

This does not mean that the aspirant needs to be an intellectual, but he must be intelligent. Yogananda actually said that stupid people cannot find God. (This is because stupid people do not seek God.) Nor can the seeker’s intelligence be kept on the shelf for only occasional use and amusement. At all times the yogi must be keenly aware of what is going on in his life sphere and ever seeking to understand and work out the mystery.

As already said, he needs highly developed intuition as well. Both of these are only produced by meditation. This is because both intelligence and intuition (direct knowledge) are divine attributes. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna declares himself to be intelligence (7:10; 10:34) and the knowledge of the mystic (9:12). I am not speaking of cunning or cleverness or “savvy;” I am speaking of the intelligence which only arises in those who are of highly evolved consciousness.

Read the first article in The Upanishads for Awakening: The Story of the Upanishads

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