The Upanishads

Breath of the Eternal

800 - 300 BCE Vyasa | 1996 Frederick Manchester and Prabhavananda

5 Stars
Photo by Yogesh Pedamkar

Experiences from spiritual masters

3 January 2022

The Upanishads are one of the oldest and most profound spiritual texts one can find. It truly captures the sense, beauty and spirit of both the original texts and the actual spiritual experiences themselves, just as promised on its cover. These are a no-brainer for anyone looking for something to reflect upon when experiencing the depth and meaning that comes with deep meditation.

In simple terms, amazing!


  • Paperback:‎ 210 pages
  • E-book: 238 pages
  • ISBN-10:‎ 087481040X
  • ISBN-13:‎ 978-0874810400

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"The Upanishads" is a collection of ancient Indian spiritual texts that form the basis of Hindu philosophy. These texts were written between 800 and 500 BCE and are part of the Vedic literature, which includes the four Vedas. The book, translated by Frederick Manchester and Prabhavananda, presents the essence of the Upanishads in a clear and accessible manner for modern readers.

The Upanishads contain dialogues between teachers and students, exploring deep philosophical questions related to the nature of reality, the self, and the ultimate purpose of existence. The texts emphasize the pursuit of spiritual knowledge and the importance of self-realization. Key concepts in the Upanishads include Brahman (the ultimate reality), Atman (the individual self), and the relationship between the two.

These learnings and insights from "The Upanishads" provide a comprehensive understanding of the ancient wisdom and spiritual teachings contained within these sacred texts. By studying and applying these teachings, seekers can embark on a path toward self-realization and spiritual liberation.

Important learnings and insights

  1. The Oneness of Reality
    The ultimate reality, Brahman, is the underlying principle of all existence, emphasizing the interconnectedness of everything in the universe.
  2. Self-realization
    The realization of one's true nature (Atman) and its unity with Brahman is of paramount importance in the Upanishads. This self-realization leads to spiritual liberation (moksha).
  3. The Pursuit of Knowledge
    Spiritual knowledge should be actively sought through meditation, introspection, and dialogue with wise teachers, according to the Upanishads.
  4. Karma and Reincarnation
    The concepts of karma (the law of cause and effect) and reincarnation (the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth) are introduced, emphasizing that our actions in this life influence our future lives.
  5. Inner Guidance
    The ultimate source of knowledge and wisdom lies within ourselves, and by turning inward, we can access our inner guidance and deepen our understanding of reality.
  6. Non-duality
    The non-dual nature of reality is highlighted, asserting that there is no fundamental distinction between the individual self (Atman) and the ultimate reality (Brahman).
  7. The Impermanence of the Material World
    The transient nature of the material world is also stressed, highlighting the importance of focusing on spiritual pursuits rather than seeking temporary pleasures and attachments.
  8. The Role of the Guru
    The importance of finding a qualified spiritual teacher (guru) is emphasized in order to guide seekers on their path to self-realization and spiritual awakening.
  9. Detachment
    Practicing detachment from worldly desires and attachments is encouraged in the Upanishads, as it allows individuals to stay focused on their spiritual path.
  10. Spiritual Practices
    Meditation, self-inquiry, and contemplation are among the spiritual practices recommended in the Upanishads to help seekers attain self-realization and a deeper understanding of reality.
  11. The Importance of Ethics
    Ethical living is emphasized in the Upanishads, with values such as truthfulness, non-violence, and self-discipline guiding individuals on their spiritual journey.
  12. The Power of Mantras
    The use of sacred chants or mantras are highlighted as a means of connecting with the divine and attaining spiritual insight.
  13. The Four Stages of Life
    As outlined in Hinduism (ashramas), each stage has specific duties and responsibilities to guide an individual's spiritual progress throughout their lifetime.

64 significant notes

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  • 6%The literal meaning of upanishad, "sitting near devotedly," brings picturesquely to mind an earnest disciple learning from his teacher. The word also means "secret teaching"-secret, no doubt, because a teaching vouchsafed only to those who are spiritually ready to receive and profit by it.
  • 7%important characteristic arises from the fact that the Upanishads are the work of saints and seers. Their authors were concerned with reporting insights which came to them in thought or vision, not with making these insights superficially coherent. They were not builders of systems but recorders of experience.
  • 8%He who engages in these things attains to concentration And is no longer a slave to his passions; Devout, self-controlled, disciplined in spirit, He rises to fame and is a blessing to mankind.
  • 9%The real study, say the Upanishads, is not study of themselves but study of that "by which we realize the changeless." In other words, the real study in religion is firsthand experience of God.
  • 10%He who sees all beings in the Self, and the Self in all beings, hates none. To the illumined soul, the Self is all. For him who sees everywhere oneness, how can there be delusion or grief?
  • 10%They who devote themselves both to life in the world and to meditation, by life in the world overcome death, and by meditation achieve immortality.
  • 12%He truly knows Brahman who knows him as beyond knowledge; he who thinks that he knows, knows not. The ignorant think that Brahman is known, but the wise know him to be beyond knowledge.
  • 18%The ancient, effulgent being, the indwelling Spirit, subtle, deep-hidden in the lotus of the heart, is hard tc know. But the wise man, following the path of meditation, knows him, and is freed alike from pleasure and from pain.
  • 18%The Self, whose symbol is OM, is the omniscient Lord. He is not born. He does not die. He is neither cause nor effect. This Ancient One is unborn, imperishable, eternal; though the body be destroyed, he is not killed.
  • 19%The Self is not known through study of the scriptures, nor through subtlety of the intellect, nor through much learning. But by him who longs for him is he known.' Verily unto him does the Self reveal his true being.
  • 20%he who has discrimination, whose mind is steady and whose heart is pure, reaches the goal, and having reached it is born no more.
  • 20%The senses of the wise man obey his mind, his mind obeys his intellect, his intellect obeys his ego, and his ego obeys the Self.
  • 20%Soundless, formless, intangible, undying, tasteless, odorless, eternal, without beginning, without end, immutable, beyond nature, is the Self. Knowing him as such, one is freed from death.
  • 20%Fools follow the desires of the flesh and fall into the snare of all-encompassing death; but the wise, knowing the Self as eternal, seek not the things that pass away.
  • 21%What is within us is also without. What is without is also within. He who sees difference between what is within and what is without goes evermore from death to death.
  • 23%If a man fails to attain Brahman before he casts off his body, he must again put on a body in the world of created things.
  • 23%Above the senses is the mind. Above the mind is the intellect. Above the intellect is the ego. Above the ego is the unmanifested seed, the Primal Cause.
  • 25%"Prana, the primal energy, is the sun: and Rayi, the form-giving substance, is the moon. "Be it known that all this universe, that which is gross and that which is subtle, is one with Rayi. Therefore is Rayi omnipresent.
  • 28%"The Self dwells in the lotus of the heart, whence radiate a hundred and one nerves.
  • 30%"Venerable sir, if a man meditate upon the syllable OM all' his life, what shall be his reward after death?" And the master answered him thus: "Satyakama, OM is Brahman-both the conditioned and the unconditioned, the personal and the impersonal. By meditating upon it the wise man may attain either the one or the other. "If he meditate upon OM with but little knowledge edge of its meaning, but nevertheless is enlightened thereby, upon his death he will be immediately born again on this earth, and during his new life he will be devoted to austerity, continence, and faith, and will attain to spiritual greatness.
  • 30%"By virtue of a little understanding of OM a man returns to earth after death. By virtue of a greater understanding he attains to the celestial sphere. By virtue of a complete understanding he learns what is known only to the seers.
  • 32%there are two kinds of knowledge, the higher and the lower. "The lower is knowledge of the Vedas (the Rik, the Sama, the Yajur, and the Atharva), and also of phonetics, ceremonials, grammar, etymology, metre, and astronomy. "The higher is knowledge of that by which one knows the changeless reality. By this is fully revealed to the wise that which transcends the senses, which is uncaused, which is indefinable, which has neither eyes nor ears, neither hands nor feet, which is all-pervading, subtler than the subtlest-the everlasting, the source of all.
  • 33%wise, self-controlled, and tranquil souls-who are contented in spirit, and who practice austerity and meditation in solitude and silence-are freed from all impurity, and attain by the path of liberation to the immortal, the truly existing, the changeless Self.
  • 37%The Self is not to be known through study of the scriptures, nor through subtlety of the intellect, nor through much learning. But by him who longs for him is he known. Verily unto him does the Self reveal his true being.
  • 37%When death overtakes the body, the vital energy enters the cosmic source, the senses dissolve in their cause, and karmas and the individual soul are lost in Brahman, the pure, the changeless, the infinite.
  • 38%Whatsoever has existed, whatsoever exists, whatsoever shall exist hereafter, is OM. And whatsoever transcends past, present, and future, that also is OM.
  • 38%The first aspect of the Self is the universal person, the collective symbol of created beings, in his physical nature - Vaiswanara.
  • 38%The second aspect of the Self is the universal person in his mental nature - Taijasa.
  • 38%The third aspect of the Self is the universal person in dreamless sleep - Prajna.
  • 39%The Fourth. It is pure unitary consciousness, wherein awareness of the world and of multiplicity is completely pletely obliterated. It is ineffable peace. It is the supreme good. It is One without a second. It is the Self. Know it alone! This Self, beyond all words, is the syllable OM. This syllable, though indivisible, consists of three letters-A-U-M.
  • 47%everything that breathes, the beings that walk and the beings that walk not. The reality behind all these is Brahman, who is pure consciousness. All these, while they live, and after they have ceased to live, exist in him.
  • 55%Narada once came to Sanatkumara and asked to be taught. To Sanatkumara's question, "What have you already studied?" Narada replied that he had studied all the branches of learning-art, science, music, and philosophy, as well as the sacred scriptures. "But," said he, "I have gained no peace. I have studied all this, but the Self I do not know. I have heard from great teachers like you that he who knows the Self overcomes grief. Grief is ever my lot. Help me, I pray you, to overcome it." Sanatkumara said: "Whatever you have read is only name. Meditate on name as Brahman."
  • 56%This world and the other worlds we understand through insight. Meditate on insight as Brahman."
  • 84%Eternal is the light of consciousness; immortal is the Self.
  • 84%When his body becomes thin through old age or disease, the dying man separates himself from his limbs, even as a mango or a fig or a banyan fruit separates itself from its stalk, and by the same way he came he hastens to his new abode, and there assumes another body, in which to begin a new life.
  • 85%After death he goes to the next world, bearing in his mind the subtle impressions of his deeds; and after reaping there the harvest of his deeds, he returns again to this world of action. Thus he who has desire continues subject to rebirth.
  • 89%This vast universe is a wheel. Upon it are all creatures that are subject to birth, death, and rebirth. Round and round it turns, and never stops. It is the wheel of Brahman. As long as the individual vidual self thinks it is separate from Brahman, it revolves upon the wheel in bondage to the laws of birth, death, and rebirth. But when through the grace of Brahman it realizes its identity with him, it revolves upon the wheel no longer. It achieves immortality.'
  • 91%Sit upright, holding the chest, throat, and head erect. Turn the senses and the mind inward to the lotus of the heart. Meditate on Brahman with the help of the syllable OM. Cross the fearful currents of the ocean of worldliness by means of the raft of Brahman-the sacred syllable OM. With earnest effort hold the senses in check. Controlling the breath, regulate the vital activities. As a charioteer holds back his restive horses, so does a persevering aspirant hold back his mind.
  • 92%As you become absorbed in meditation, you will realize that the Self is separate from the body and for this reason will not be affected by disease, old age, or death. The first signs of progress on the path of yoga are health, a sense of physical lightness, clearness of complexion, a beautiful voice, an agreeable odor of the person, and freedom from craving.
  • 92%As a soiled piece of metal, when it has been cleaned, shines brightly, so the dweller in the body, when he has realized the truth of the Self, is freed from sorrow and attains to bliss.
  • 92%The one absolute, impersonal Existence, together with his inscrutable Maya, appears as the divine Lord, the personal God, endowed with manifold glories. With his divine power he holds dominion over all the worlds. At the periods of creation and dissolution of the universe, he alone exists. Those who realize him become immortal.
  • 92%He punishes those who break his laws. He sees all and knows all. May he endow us with good thoughts!
  • 93%Thou art the supreme Brahman. Thou art infinite. Thou hast assumed the forms of all creatures, remaining hidden in them. Thou pervadest all. Thou art the one God of the universe. Those who realize thee become immortal.
  • 93%I have known, beyond all darkness, that great Person of golden effulgence. Only by knowing him does one conquer death. There is no other way of escaping the wheel of birth, death, and rebirth.
  • 93%This great Being has a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, and a thousand feet. He envelops the universe. Though transcendent, he is to be meditated tated upon as residing in the lotus of the heart, at the center of the body, ten fingers above the navel.
  • 94%Subtler than the subtlest, greater than the greatest, the Self is hidden in the heart of all creatures. Through his grace a man loses his cravings, transcends grief, and realizes him as Brahman Supreme. O Brahman Supreme! Formless art thou, and yet (Though the reason none knows) Thou bringest forth many forms; Thou bringest them forth, and then Withdrawest them to thyself. Fill us with thoughts of thee!
  • 94%Thou art he from whom sprang The three worlds. Maya is thy divine consort-Wedded to thee. Thou art her master, her ruler.
  • 95%Thou art lord and master of Maya, Man is her slave. With Maya uniting, thou hast brought forth the universe.
  • 95%The universe is thy Maya; And thou, great God, her lord, Wherever the eye falls, There, within every form. Thou dwellest.
  • 96%Thou dost pervade the universe, Thou art consciousness itself, Thou art creator of time. All-knowing art thou. At thy bidding Maya, Thy power divine, Projects this visible universe, Projects name and form.
  • 96%Thou art the Primal Being. Thou appearest as this universe Of illusion and dream. Thou art beyond time. Indivisible, infinite, the Adorable One-Let Let a man meditate on thee Within his heart, Let him consecrate himself to thee, And thou, infinite Lord, Wilt make thyself known to him.
  • 96%Destroyer of all sins-Thou art seated in the heart. When thou art seen, Time and form disappear. Let a man feel thy presence, Let him behold thee within, And to him shall come peace, Eternal peace-To none else, to none else!
  • 96%If the truths of these scriptures are meditated upon by a man in the highest degree devoted to God, and to his Guru as to his God, they will shine forth. They will shine forth indeed!
  • 97%Be devoted to Brahman. Meditate on him unceasingly. Not by work, nor by progeny, nor by wealth, but by devotion to him and by indifference to the world, does a man reach immortality.
  • 97%Retire into solitude. Seat yourself on a clean spot and in erect posture, with the head and neck in a straight line. Be indifferent to the world. Control all the sense organs. Bow down in devotion to your Guru. Then enter the lotus of the heart and there meditate on the presence of Brahman-the pure, the infinite, the blissful.
  • 97%The mind may be compared to a firestick, the syllable OM to another. Rub the two sticks together by repeating the sacred word and meditating on Brahman, and the flame of knowledge will be kindled in your heart and all impurities will be burnt away.
  • 97%He, as the Self, resides in all forms, but is veiled by ignorance. When he is in the state of dream that men call waking, he becomes the individual self, and enjoys food, drink, and many other pleasures. When he is in the state of dream that men call dreaming, he is happy or miserable because of the creations of his mind. And when he is in the state of dream that men call dreamless sleep, he is overcome by darkness, he experiences nothing, he enjoys rest.
  • 98%At death he is born again, and the circumstances of his new life are determined by his past deeds and by the habits he has formed. He continues to live in the three states of consciousness-waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep. As long as he continues in these states, he is the individual self. He, as the Self, is infinite, indivisible; he is consciousness, bliss. In him are merged all the three states of consciousness. From him are born mind, life, and the senses; earth, air, water, fire, and ether. He is the reality behind all existence.
  • 98%He who made this great spectacle of waking. dream, and dreamless sleep-he I am. I am Brahman: know this, and break all bonds.
  • 98%In the three states of consciousness, whatever appears as the enjoyer or the object of enjoyment, I am the witness thereof, separate from all. I am pure consciousness. I am the eternal Shiva.
  • 98%I am without hands or feet. My divine powers none can conceive. I see, though without eyes. I hear, though without ears. I know all, but none knows me. I am infinite wisdom. I am the One to be known through the scriptures. I am the knower of all scriptures. Merit or demerit does not affect me. I was not born; I have neither body, nor senses, nor mind. I, the Supreme Self, dwell in the lotus of the heart. I am pure. I am One without a second.
  • 99%Brahman, the absolute. impersonal existence, when associated ciated with the power called Maya-the power to evolve as the empirical universe-is known as Hiranyagarbha, the First-Born.
  • 100%Gandharvas, Pittis, Devas, etc., are beings of a higher order than man. According to the Upanishads, here and elsewhere, many worlds, inhabited by various beings, make up the universe.
  • 100%The sages declare that this door of bliss, the highest center of spiritual consciousness, technically known as the Sahashrara, the thousand-petaled lotus, is situated in the center of the brain. When the yogi's mind. absorbed in meditation, reaches this center, he realizes his unity with Brahman.