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Monday, October 3, 2011

Katha Upanishad

The Upanishads is probably boring to most people. It's 3,000 years old and has no sex or violence in it. Romance novels, wars and sports take up most of our money and time which indicates where our values lie. Not many people are interested in knowing what some ancient people say about emotions and a higher self. It's all too dull, monotoneous and dry. Why spend the time when life is so short?

This is the whole point - life is short. There is a greater meaning to life than just being intertained and stimulated during waking hours. There is a world beyond one's self that is often overlooked. This is what the Upanishads are trying to say, and they do a marvelous job of it. Not only that, they explain how to go beyond one's self-absorbed existence and into a wider, more beautiful reality.

I found Katha Upanishad easy to read. Not only that, it is interesting and to the point when it comes to how to go beyond the lower self. The writing has to do with a conversation between the disciple Nachiketus and the King of Death (Yama) about the Hereafter. The young disciple queries Yama about how he can go beyond the selfish self and attain immortality. Immortality he learns is not immortality of the body and the mind. Yama explains to Nachiketus that there are two selves, the apparent self and the real Self. To know the real Self is to truly exist beyond mind and body. Yama explains that in both the universe and the individual human being is something greater and grander, and that something is a pure Being - a higher Self which never changes - it is the immortal Self.

In order to reveal and know the real Self one must be non-judgmental, steady and clear of mind and have a pure heart. Only three requirements but they are difficult ones. First of all, how can one be non-judgmental? Think about it. We make judgments every day and it takes practically no effort at all. I look at a person and may think, "Boy is she fat" or "That person who just passed me going 70 MPH is sure an idiot." It happens automatically.

And what does it mean "to be clear of mind?" According to Katha Upanishad in order to have a clear mind one must put the mind and all the senses to rest. The thinking mind cannot waver. It must be steady and at ease with no worries or thoughts of the past or the future. It must be completely in the present moment.

Then there is the third requirement - to "have a pure heart?" According to Katha Upanishad a pure heart is one with no desires. Well, that doesn't seem to be easy does it? This evening I desired to have some ice cream and I did. To not have that desire I would have to have a clear mind - a mind without thoghts of the future. The thought of ice cream sure was a thought of the future.

So, how does one become non-judgmental, clear of mind and have no desires? According to this scripture you only have to do two things. That's all I could find; just two things. They are: meditation and yoga. Katha Upanishad doesn't get very deep into how to meditate or what kind of meditation one should do. "In the heart he (real Self) is revealed, through self-control and meditation. Those who know him become immortal." That's about it as far as meditation goes. As far as yoga is concerned not much is revealed here either. "This calm of the senses and the mind has been defined as yoga. He who attains it is freed from delusion."

I've been meditating and doing yoga for 15 years. I think I know what the real Self is and I believe I have experienced it several times but, unfortunately, not for long periods. Several times while meditating I have experienced going beyond the ego and the self but it was only for 10 or 15 minutes. Maybe that's better than nothing. During the day; while carrying on various activities like yoga, biking, working, driving and walking I have a sense of the real Self. I know that I am not this mind and body and can observe the lower self thinking all kind of thoughts and the body moving around but is that being the real Self?

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