The Sanskrit word Upanishad comes from the verb ‘sad’ which means ‘to sit’ and ‘upa’ connected with latin ‘sub’ under. The whole word would mean the sitting for learning at the feet of a Master or Guru.
The Upanishads are part of the Vedas and the Sanskrit verbal root of “Veda” is ‘Vid” which means ‘to know’. Hence Vedas mean knowledge.
Originally there was one Veda which was passed down by word of mouth but later the Vedas were divided into four parts: Rigveda. Samaveda. Yajurveda and Atharvaveda.
The Rigveda is the most ancient Veda. It contains a collection of hymns all sung in praise of different objects of nature. The Samaveda contains hymns that were meant to be sung at the Soma sacrifice by a special class of singing priests. The Atharvaveda is a collection of hymns dealing with spells and magical charms for the healing of diseases and the control of evil spirits. The Yajurveda contains mantras that are to be followed in a sacrifice.
I would like to end the chapter by quoting what Schopenhauer. the German philosopher, had to say about the Vedas:
“Access to the Vedas is the greatest privilege this century may claim over all centuries. In the whole world there is no study so beneficial and so elevating as that of the Upanishads. It has been the solace of my life-it will be the solace of my death”.
The knowledge that our Hindu scriptures have left us have tremendous educational value for our physical, mental as well as spiritual growth.
Our scriptures have been likened to a compass, which is essential for the captain (intellect) to steer away from the tempests (passions of the mind) and safely take us across the waters of the world.
The fantastic treasure in the form of literature, culture, arts and Ayurvedic medicine is our inheritance.
There is no end to the gems that can be discovered from the vast treasure left to us by our ancestors. If only we care to look for them. Adi Sankaracharya called it “the accumulated treasure of spiritual truths discovered by the Rishis”.
Let us then learn to pick out like a good jeweler, the choicest gems from our vast heritage of which we, as Indians, are true heirs, and apply them to our lives to make them more meaningful.
After all, it is in every human beings hand to make of his life what he will, and no person or circumstance can be held responsible if he does not use his God given faculties to the maximum use for his, as well as humanity’s benefit.