[Taken from "Wisdom of the Ancient Sages: Mundak Upanishad / by Swami Rama. Honesdale, PA, The Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy of the USA. 1990.]
Purpose of Upanishad
The Vaidik literature is perhaps the most ancient record of the man today. This literature is like a dense forest which very few people can tread through. Who do, they find a garden, full of fragrant flowers in the end. Many Rishi have enjoyed the fragrance of those eternal flowers. These Rishi have followed the disciplines of spiritual path with mind, speech and actions, then only they could come to this spot. And this spot is the knowledge of Upanishad. The subject matter of the Upanishad is beyond the perception of senses; even the mind cannot fully grasp it. These teachings are not at all dogmatic, but are universal, not limited to time, space and causation. They are perennial.
Almost all teachings are centered towards Moksh (emancipation, or liberation). All Upanishad explain the Aatmaa (soul) with Brahm (Absolute Truth, or Purush, or God). When a person wishes to solve the great mysteries and riddles of life, he turns towards the Upanishad literature. Upanishad say - "look within, find within, see within." When he finds that his Aatmaa is Brahm, then only he finds calmness, happiness, bliss and wisdom.
The word Ved comes from its Sanskrit language root "Vid", which means "to know", or "wisdom". They preserve the words of wisdom, which is known as "Shabd Brahm". Mundak Upanishad says that in th4e beginning Brahm (Hari) taught Ved to Brahmaa, the first-born. When Brahmaa was in deep meditation, he heard a sound "Aum". It is known as the essence of Vedic wisdom. Then this syllable changed into several sounds, the vowels and consonants of the alphabet. Then Brahmaa with the help of that alphabet uttered the Ved hymns and Mantra.
The Vedic utterances are called Shruti, which means "to hear". Because they were heard in deep meditation by great Rishi. This knowledge was transferred to their disciples. It remained as heard literature for many centuries. It is divided in two main branches - Karm Kaand and Gyaan Kaand. Karm Kaand is related to Karm (actions), rituals, and sacrifices. These provide a means and lead one to materialistic prosperity on Earth and felicity in Heaven after death. While the Gyaan Kaand explains the methods of knowing the higher dimensions of life through which one can attain Moksh. The people got this knowledge were great Rishi - "Seers of Truth". In those days, there was no distinction or discrimination between men and women, so there were both men and women as Rishi. Both equally shared spiritual life and attained spiritual heights.
The Ved contains two types of literature - Mantra and Braahman. The Mantra section is also called as Sanhitaa, which means "putting together" or a collection. It is a compilation of hymns and prayers used in sacrifice ceremonies. Among these sacrifices, Som is the most important sacrifice. Sacrifice is a process of sacrificing the fruits of one's actions. While the Braahman contains the rules and regulations related to the precise methods of performing ceremonies. These Braahman were further extended to "Aranyak" (forest literature) - guidelines to forest dwellers. Since they were living in forests, they did not have materials for rituals, so their way of worship was internal and symbolic. These methods of worship were first at mental level and then to spiritual level.
In those times a human being life was supposed to be 100 years and it was divided in four Aashram - Brahmcharya, Grihasth, Vaanprasth and Sanyaas. The first 25 years of the life were to spend as a student observing Brahmcharya rules with celibacy to learn art of living and to reach goal of life. During the next 25 years , he observes Grihasth Aashram. He would marry, produce children, make sacrifices etc. Marriage was not only to produce children or for pleasure and joy, it was the means for liberation. During the next 25 years, he was supposed to live in Vaanprasth Aashram assigning his social responsibilities to his grown-up children. He might or might not live in forest, but would not involve in worldly and social activities. During the next 25 years, he took Sanyaas, followed restricted way of life, renouncing all worldly cares and desires, dedicating their life in search of Truth with mind, speech and actions. They eventually became the spiritual leaders. It is for these people the Upanishad - the concluding portion of Aaranyak, were intended.
Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/05
Updated on 10/04/13