India has a long tradition of philosophy, metaphysics and ethics enriching both, the material well being and spiritual redemption of the people. This tradition was highly developed during the Vedic period and it has passed on from generation to generation developing the social and spiritual life of the common people.
When exactly did this tradition commence is shrouded in mystery as it has continued beyond millennia. Upanishads from the concluding part of the Vedas. In them we observe the profound philosophical thoughts based on the bedrock of experience, rather than just speculative polemics. The ineffable spiritual revelation is expressed in a language which is both intuitional and logical. This is aptly conveyed in the Upanishads.
Paul Deussen surmises “The Upanishads are not only source of Indian spiritual thought but contain seeds of all world religions. “This gives Upanishads a universal dimension and makes its spiritual message a common heritage of entire mankind.
I have great pleasure in introducing to the lovers of Indian culture the present work on the stories of the Upanisads. It has been a time honoured practice in India to explain some of the abstruse and abstract points of metaphysics and logic with the help of narratives and anecdotes. They have served as the means to get at the subtle points in their appreciation in proper perspective. The system has consistently been followed in texts like the Brahmanas, the Upanisads, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Puranas. As keys to the age-old wisdom of India they need proper notice of the people in a style they could appreciate. This is precisely what is sought to be attempted in the present monograph.
Proper presentability is the prime requisite of a good story. Interest in it has not only to be created, it has to be sustained all through. The educative content of it has to flow out of it and not flow into it. This is demanding enough even for an original story writer but is formidable for its reteller. He has the unenviable task of presenting it in a new setting without deviating in the main from the original narrative. Further, he has to re-tell each narrative as a unit independent in itself outside the base of the context in which it appears in the original. This may well strain all his ingenuity and innovativeness. Shri Jaikishandas Sadani has pressed both these to the full in the present case and has come out with a monograph which reproduces Upanisadic stories in all their vivid contours.
Regrettable though it may be, it is a fact that the present generation is fast moving away from its moorings. To bring it back to them is a deeply-felt desideratum. Sermons would be too crude a means to achieve this. They may cause diffidence, if not revulsion. An indirect approach in this is more likely to succeed than the direct one. The present generation needs to taste the ancient wisdom in an expression it can appreciate. And that is the motivating force behind the present attempt.
The medium used here is English for the idea is to reach through it those sections of society, in particular, which not being familiar with Sanskrit may not have an access to the old literature of India and all that it embodies. When something of it is dished out to them in an attractive lay-out, they may feel drawn to it and may be, they like to have something more of it. If that happens, the present monograph would have more than served its purpose.
Forming the last part of the Veda-alternately called Vedant for that reason, the Upanisads represent the thinking process, the Jnanakanda in contradistinction to the ritualism, the Karmakanda of the earlier part of it, the Samhitas, the Brahmanas, and the Aranyakas. Herein the teacher and the taught sit close to each other – that is the literal meaning of the word upanisad: upa + ni + sad, to sit (sad) very close (upa + ni), the teacher explaning the high philosophy and the taught raising queries to elicit more information about certain points for their better grasp. A lot of knowledge changes hands through this method which being conversational even modern pedagogy appreciates quite well. All that the teacher is called upon to explain is not clear, or perhaps cannot be clear by the nature of the topic which has a lot of mystique in it. He has, therefore, to take recourse to legends and anecdotes to bring his point home. The legends and the anecdotes may not all be just myths, some imaginary stories. They may well represent some actual happenings which tradition sought to preserve and may have a particular relevance to a sociologist in unraveling many a mystery of human existence. Satyakama Jabala may not just have been a legendary figure. He might have been the remnant of the age when one-man one-woman relationship would not have become the norm in society, when merit and not birth was still accorded the premium. So would have been Svetaketu who would not take to studies under the fondling care of his father, howsoever, learned he might have been and had to be sent out to another teacher for education which when acquired had inflated his ego to the extent of making him proud and conceited in achieving mastery over a number of lores and which needed to be curbed in preparation for acquiring true knowledge. In the same vein the other stories, dialogues and parables are revelatory of profound spiritual truths, with far reaching impact on the philosophical, sociological and moral values of great significance.
The stories of the Upanisads have, therefore, appeal for points more than one. They also represent a genre of writing that was taking shape in hoary past and which was to flower into a finished literary form in the later periods. Short and the crisp dialogues have an air of reality about them and in their appeal transcend time and space.
Shri Jaikishandas Sadani, a reputed author of many a work, has a knack of presenting the old as if it were very new. With his facile pen he not only creates but also re-creates what had already been in existence. In the present monograph this faculty of re-creation of his has asserted itself in full. The stories of the Upanisads have been re-told here in a manner that they have acquired a new shade thereby. It is indeed a treat to go through the present work which being a piece of art is a joy for ever.
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