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Introduction to Kathopanishad

Today (10/3/21) we started our session with the opening prayer “Sahana vavathu” which happens to be the Shanti Mantra for the Kathopanishad.

As fellow seekers, we agreed that our spiritual journey has entered a stage where we all need to take this study more seriously and try to apply our knowledge into our daily activities. Our goal this year is to make our study of Kathopanishad more interactive and reflective.

We all competed (sattvically of courseJ) in a vedantic quiz. We graciously applauded Rahulji when he won, without any bad feelings (I thinkJ)

We briefly described the structure of Vedas. Each of the 4 vedas has Karma Kanda portion which is referred to as Veda purva portion which is elaborate and a smaller Jnana Kanda portion which is also referred to as Upanishad or Vedanta.

The benefits we get out of Karma Kanda, when properly performed, fulfill our desires in this life and also desire of reaching higher heavens in the after-life. Karma Kanda refers to the rituals that can be physical (yajnas), verbal (chanting) and mental (upasana) generally in front of a vedagni or vedic fire. One important thing to remember is the benefits that come out of Karma Kanda are always temporary.

Jnana Kanda on the other hand, when properly understood and followed, can afford liberation in this life as well as freedom from birth-death cycle after this body dies. This result is permanent. Jnana kanda gives methods to purify and calm one’s mind and make it ready to receive Jnana and assimilate it.

We also reminded ourselves that these yagnas that are referred to in our vedas need not be the exotic yagnas performed with fire and ghee. Our daily activities (eating food, bathing) and long term activities (going to college and earning a degree or working in an office) are also yagnas. Basically, we are giving up something to gain something - which is precisely what a Yagna is. What one gives up and what one gains depends on their character and virtues.

Then we defined what Upanishad is based on Adi Shankara’s bhashyam:

Upa: Near (teacher or knowledge) or Nearest (True Self)

Ni: With conviction and without a doubt

Sat (Shad): Ultimate Truth or destroy ignorance or loosen attachments

We can define Upanishad as: “reaching Ultimate truth about Self without any doubts by sitting near a Guru and Shastra and in the process destroy ignorance and loosen our bondage”.

This shows that studying Upanishad is needed right now in our lives to destroy our ignorance and loosen bondage.

We gave an example of a baby and mother. When the baby is enamored with toys and playing, mother is focusing on other duties. But once the baby gives up toys and starts crying mother drops everything and attends to the baby. Similarly, as long as we are enamored by the material world, God lets us play. Only when we realize the impermanency in these material gains and are ready to give them up, He will show us the path of Jnana with as much compassion as a mother has for her baby.

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