Summer Study

It is normally at the time of exams that one seeks God in order to try and increase the grade in a subject that you have not learnt all semester. I have been doing that for the past 17 years. Last year after my incompetency was proved in examination, I decided to take a different approach.

I decided to take to atheism and it has not disappointed me so far. Why? In theism, you expect God to rescue you. Therefore the effort that you put in is generally reduced. When depending on no one but oneself then you reach a point where you are giving in your maximum.

I have however, given every point of view a chance but none have attracted me so far. During this exam I plan to cut down on a lot of activities that I do – some of which you are witness to through this weblog. This gives me one quantity – time.

So, far about 1 hour everyday I shall read and summarise here a section of the Upanishads. I seek to follow the words of one, Aubrey Menen in my pursuit. Some of his books have been banned – which is generally, in relation to religion – a good place to start. I shall then apply my own knife and see how it cuts.

Menen’s advice with regards to the Upanishad is quite straight forward –

“The Western reader has a wide variety of translations to choose from in several languages. The translators are often very gifted, but when they come to the word atman most of them fall flat on their faces. They call it “the soul”, which it is not. The reader should be more wary. He is much in the position of Adam when he named the animals in the Garden of Eden. To call a tiger a ‘tiger’ Adam had first to see the beast. So is is with the atman. You cannot really know what it is until you have found it, and that can only be done by going off alone and looking for it. Once you have found it, you really do not care what it is called, because it is so much your own private business.

However, a distinguished Indian and scholar S. Radhakrishnan, faced up to the problem. He dismissed out of hand the word ’soul’. Instead he chose the word ’self’. It was the best that could be done, and that is why the Western reader, whatever the translation he is reading, should keep Radhakrishnan’s the Principal Upanishads beside him for checking. Parts of Radhakrishnan’s English translation are eminently readable, parts not. The Western reader should begin with the seventh section of the eigth chapter of the Chandyoga Upanishad.

Then he should shut himself alone in some quite place and think.”

I shall take Menen’s advice of being wary. I shall not do what he suggests – shutting myself in a room and thinking. I like to walk in the crowds, observe and think. I shall follow his advice on where to start reading the Upanishads. I have with me Eknath Easwaran’s The Upanishads. I shall only read the translations and create the meaning for myself by taking into consideration everything I have learnt till now.

These notes will become part of my notebook. I shall post them on  the blog whenever I can!!

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