‘Upanishad’ is not (just) the name of a literature #3

Jagadguru Sacchidananda Shivabhinava Nrisimha Bharati

Sri Gurubhyo Namaha

These are quick notes for Brahma Sutra Bhaashya (authored by Sri Shankaracharya) classes that were taught by Swami Paramasukhananda, which I was a student of during 2011-2013. What I feel like recording I record. They are not a substitute for live classes, but done as my cogitation.

For other such short notes, check – https://vairaagya.wordpress.com/tag/brahmasutranotes/

  • Prasad.


The two meanings of Upanishads are given based on etymology. Now the third meaning is given as “Rahasyam (रहस्यम्))”, which means “secret”, “secret teaching”. It means that the Atma Vidya which is the teaching of the Vedanta (of the Upanishads) is a secret teaching.

Why is Atma Vidya a secret teaching ?

Because of three reasons.

  1. Adhikaaris are rare: It is not given to all, in the sense that those who are really qualified for it are very less. The qualified person, the adhikaari, for Atma Vidya is one who is possessed with all the spiritual qualities, starting from the ability to discern all the finite attainments from the Infinite, which is truly desired by oneself. Further this person should be able to keep himself away from the pursuit of finite things. Since such people are extremely rare, the prevalence of teaching to such is also rare, hence the Upanishad means “rahasyam”, that is which not given to all. Even if a gracious Acharya tries to reveal it to someone who does not have the requisite adhikaaritva, the understanding may not go in, or, it may also be understood wrongly.
  2. Acharyas are rare: Because of the same reasons mentioned above, Acharyas are also rare. All Acharyas were adhikaaris at some point who have had to persevere along the journey of shravana-manana-nididhyaasana to clearly understand and assimilate their knowledge. Because of this, the quantum of Acharyas in the world is also less, hence the Upanishad is called “rahasyam” in this respect.
  3. Accepting the teaching is rare: Even if an adhikaari shishya meets a bonafide Acharya, the path of understanding and assimilating Vedanta is not quickly completed, since the qualifications acquired by the shishya may be of a middling nature. The shishya has to further persevere by service to the Guru, by sticking to a life of values, by studying and cogitating on the Shastra arduously, by a life of discipline, etc. so that the Atma Vidya can be assimilated thoroughly. Otherwise, the understanding remains half-baked. Hence even in a Guru-shishya relationship, the Upanishadic teaching is found to be rare.

Thus these are the three meanings of the word “Upanishad”. Combining these we have –

“Upanishad is that rare knowledge which is to be gained from a qualified Guru, understood and assimilated properly, and which after gaining will destroy the problem of suffering (samsaara) and confer the highest and unblemished happiness (Ananda).” 

At this juncture, a questioner asks –

Now given all of your claims that Upanishad is not simply literature or words of the Veda, but rather the knowledge, then why should we study the Upanishad? Maybe there is another way to get Atma jnaana than studying the Upanishads?

This is to be answered by the Guru.




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