The Upanishads in a Nutshell

The Upanishads are probably the most valuable part of the Vedic literature. They are however, almost forgotten. This 10 minute discussion will give you the big picture of how you can use the wisdom of the Upanishads in your daily life. Below is the full transcript. Enjoy!! -Tim and Vie

The Spartan Mind Strength Podcast, the podcast for mental grit and resilience. Hosted by Vie Binga and Tim Ganley. Hello, this is Tim! And this is Vie! And we welcome you to another episode of the Spartan Mind Strength Podcast! This episode is actually going to be a series on the Upanishads. We’ve been asked by several people to talk more about the Upanishads. But because they are so intense, we’re just going to do 10 minute talks. So this is going to be the start of the Upanishads in a Nutshell. Stay tuned, we’ll be right back.

So in the new series of keeping everything in a nutshell, tell me what are the Upanishads? In 10 minutes or less, go! Okay, wow! The Upanishads to me are – First, what does the word mean? Okay, all right. Well, Upanishads means – it has a couple of different translations actually because it’s a Sanskrit word. In Sanskrit every word is like a mini dictionary, it depends on the context, it depends on how you use it. So Upanishads can mean to sit by, to sit by a teacher at the time and listen to what they are saying.

But that teacher was not just someone random, that teacher was one of the ancient sages that were actually reciting  – because at the time nothing was written everything was transmitted orally –  a teacher who was reciting the ancient wisdom of the Vedas. But not just the Vedas, it was a particular chapter of the Vedas, say a particular section. 

And what are the Vedas? So the Vedas are – again it’s a Sanskrit word –  the Vedas are four main books and it’s the oldest documented philosophy that we have. And actually the word veda means to have seen as in to know. It’s actually very similar to a Greek word, the Greek word oida which means I have seen – Indo-european languages. 

Very nice! So the Upanishads come from the Vedas, the Vedas are the oldest written philosophy (or science, or whatever you want to call it) out and the Upanishads is a section of each of the Vedas. And what do they basically – I know it’s more than just basically – but can you give me a quick understanding of the Upanishads?

Yes. The Upanishads say – okay most of the Vedas talk about all the rituals and gods and universe and the higher force and all the sacrifices we should be making to please the gods and whatever, whatever. But what about us as human beings right here right now? What’s going on with us? Who are we in relation to all the stuff that the Vedas talk about?

So instead of being afraid and concerned about those higher forces that govern everything we do, let’s see what’s going on with us inside us and what we can do. We are not any lesser than the gods the Vedas talk about because we are here, so we must matter. That’s where the Upanishads come in. The Upanishads give power to the human being. The Apanishads are about the human being understanding how much power they have within themselves, in order to do greatness in this lifetime.

Ok, and Ayurveda is part of the Upanishads? Ayurveda is part of one of the Vedas, the Atharva Veda, the newest Veda. And Ayurveda says – okay we have this body, how can we use it in the best way we can to do greatness in this lifetime? 

Okay, what is yoga as far as the Vedas? We know that yoga is not part of Ayurveda. Is yoga part of the Vedas or the Upanishads? Yoga, actually yoga as it is written by Patanjali because that’s where yoga is first actually formally documented, in the Patanjali Sutras – yoga is a lot newer than Ayurveda and a lot newer than the Upanishads. So yoga is a modern phenomenon, it’s not ancient wisdom. You can call it ancient but it’s not as old as Ayurveda or the Upanishads.

Actually there’s only a couple of handful of poses, right?  Well hatha yoga is completely modern but even the Patanjali Sutras even the yoga philosophy – that someone will say well I’m not talking about the poses I’m talking about the sutras the little threads – even that is a lot newer than the Upanishads and a lot newer than Ayurveda.

Excellent. So to sum up the Upanishads, can you do that quickly? The Upanishads say that we are more than the physical body and we are more than our mind. Also, we are more than our breath. There is something more to this existence. So where the Upanishads come in is – let’s say you focus on this existence.  If you focus on this existence as we see it, it’s ever-changing, right? Everything changes. And that’s where the whole stress of life comes in. Because everything changes. So if we focus on possessions, we get bored, we lose them, whatever. If we focus on other people, we get bored, we lose them, whatever. If we focus on the weather, we get bored, we lose it, whatever.

Everything changes, right? But the Upanishads say that if you pay enough attention to this existence, if you start controlling what your body wants and what your thoughts want and the way you behave, then you’re going to realize that there is something deeper that never ever changes. And that’s our higher self. And that’s where comfort comes in and confidence. There is, there is something more. 

So the Upanishads say that, when you say I am cold or I am tired, that’s not you. There is something deeper than that, that recognizes that your body feels cold, that your body feels tired. When you say I am angry, that’s not you. There is something deeper that recognizes that your mind is angry. Because if you say I’m angry and then you make an effort to think of something that makes you happy, you’re going to become happy and your anger is going to go away.

So in 10 minutes you’re going to have completely different thoughts. So that means that there is something deeper and that thing that’s deeper, your little buddhi as the Upanishads call it, that’s your higher self and that never changes. So once you make that a habit in your everyday life you’re going to feel much more content, you’re going to find joy a lot more often than you already do. And that’s power. Excellent. 

Until next time, much much love from both of us. Na’maste kala! May we all be well, adapt and thrive! If you found today’s show helpful, please give us a rating, a review, or both, and subscribe to the podcast and never miss an episode. As always, na’maste kala which in Greek means may we all be well.

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