Updated on: Thursday, December 23, 2021, 08:07 PM IST

Guiding Light: How to study the Upanishads

he Upanishads can bless you with self-realisation if you are fortunate to study from a traditional teacher

Any traditional discipline in India is always studied from a teacher, someone who is steeped in knowledge and who is familiar with the methodology of teaching. This is true for every discipline — from the Veda, yoga, Sanskrit, astrology, astronomy etc. More so, in the study of the Upanishads also known as Vedanta in which the subject matter is not available for my sense organs or my mind to objectify.

In understanding this knowledge, the subject-object and the process of knowing or experiences all resolve into one. Therefore, this body of knowledge that reveals the reality of yourself as limitless, free from time and space has to be handled by an expert. You may have some experiences on your spiritual journey, but the reality which is unconditioned by time and space is not available for an experience, which is within time and space. Therefore, the truth is not experiential, though many people claim to have some experiences about it.

A truly spiritual master will have a chuckle. So, what does the traditional teacher have? All that he has are the words of the Upanishads. Now, the printed word, of course, is lifeless, cold and like any other word, has a finite meaning. With finite words, he has to reveal the infinite. The Upanishad and the teaching tradition go together in Vedanta. If you separate the two one will get mere academic studies, which will not bless the student with self-knowledge. In the methodology, a finite word is used with other finite words, such that the finitude of the words disappear, and limitless reality is pointed out.

A prepared person can grasp it and say, ‘Yes, this is true, this is what I am.' This is a delicate process, which involves a traditional teacher and a prepared student. Outside the pages of the Upanishad rarely is there a fully prepared student. The teacher gives enough logic and exercises to help the person prepare. The Upanishads can bless you with self-realisation if you are fortunate to study from a traditional teacher.

(The writer is the founder of Aarsha Vidya Foundation. You can write to him at


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Published on: Friday, December 24, 2021, 07:00 AM IST