The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

Here at the monastery the Ganapati Kulam is busy developing the next issue of Hinduism Today. One of the articles called “From the Agamas” now features Upanishads translated by Sarvapelli Radhakrishnan, an Indian philosopher, author and statesman. He was India’s first Vice President (1952–1962) and second President (1962–1967).

The following is a translation of the Brhad-Aranyaka Upanishad—chapter 2, section 4—meaning “Of the Great Forest.”. This longest and most revered Upanishad features the dialogue between a great sage, Yajnavalkya, and his wife Maitreyi. Yajnavalkya has just reached a critical juncture in his life where he is about to leave home in the pursuit of truth, or Self-realization. Maitreyi shares his yearning for immortality, and so the parting dialogue between them turns into a deep session of “spiritual instruction” -- one of the meanings of the word Upanishad.

“Maitreyi,” said Yajnavalkya, “I am about to go forth from this state. Come, let me make a final settlement between you and Katyayani.” “My lord,” said Maitreyi, “if all the world’s wealth were mine, would I be immortal through those means?” “No,” replied Yajnavalkya, “Your life would be the same as that of the rich. Of immortality, however, there is no hope through wealth.” Maitreyi then asked, “Of what use then are money and material possessions to me? Please tell me, bhagavan, of the way that leads to immortality.”
“Ah, Maitreyi, you have always been dear to me, even more now that you have asked me about immortality. Come, sit down, I will explain to you. Reflect deeply on what I say.”

…The final article will be published in the months ahead

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