Sri Aurobindo's - 'The Life Divine' - The Human Aspiration - Chapter I

Track Running The Human Aspiration - Track 702

In India, after the Vedas – I told you that there are four Vedas: Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, Atharva Veda – after these four compositions were ready several developments took place in India where this knowledge which was contained in the Veda got veiled, obscured, even misunderstood. Over years and centuries the knowledge of the Veda got obscured. Then there came about a period when a number of investigators arose. Just as in the Vedic period there were hundreds of seekers, similarly in this period also, hundreds of years after the Veda, a large number of seekers again arose in India. And they tried to recover what was in the Veda. Not only did they recover, but in respect of the knowledge which was contained to the Veda, they brought that knowledge into a final form. The form in which they expressed their findings and the sharpness which came out as the result of it, was so great that those who read the compositions now, say it is a culmination of the Veda.

Culmination is a word which, in Sanskrit, is called anta. When you reach the end, it is called anta. (The word end is similar to the word anta, because there may be a connection between Sanskrit and English.)

As it was supposed to be the end, the culmination, of the Veda therefore, they called it Veda anta, and combined together: Vedanta. Vedanta is nothing but the end of the Veda. This Vedanta consists of a number of small compositions which are called Upanishads. There are about two hundred of them, but at least twelve are regarded as the principal ones. In the course of our studies we shall study at least one or two of them, so that you have a firsthand knowledge of it. They are short so it won't take too long.

They are called Upanishads because… the word Upanishad is constituted by three words: upa, ni, sad. Sad means to sit. (There is also a connection between the word sit and sad. Even the word assied in French, is very much connected with the word sad. Because if you see the spelling of the word assied you will see that at the end there is d, although silent in the pronunciation.) So sad is to sit, ni is close – to sit close – and upa means near. When you sit near and close, and you hear from the teacher, by sitting very near to him, it is called Upanishad. All that was told by the teacher to the students when he sat close and very near, whatever was composed in that content, is therefore called Upanishad. That which has been communicated to the student, when the student sat very close and near the teacher. The word also has a very inner meaning. It is when you sit very close and near the teacher that you can communicate best what is secret knowledge. Whenever you want to say something very deep, very subtle – you will see that you may read hundred books, but if you visit a teacher and sit with him, what he can give you in five or ten minutes of talking, will be incomparable. There are certain things that you cannot communicate by writing, by giving discourses from a high platform. You can explain certain things only when you almost whisper them into the ears of the pupil. When you sit very near and you explain. That is why in India a great value was given to this tradition or situation where students can sit near the teacher –they may sit even in silence. It is said that the teacher communicates best when he speaks least, when he hardly speaks and yet a few words uttered are sufficient.

Ekam eva addvitiyam is a Sanskrit word. The teacher simply tells you ekam eva addvitiyam: "One without the second". He does not explain what it is. Mother said: Super School, Last School, After School, No School. These are like Upanishadic words. You have to find out what they mean afterwards, you may contemplate on and on and on and try to understand. Similarly, this is one of the famous sentences of the Upanishads: "Ekam eva addvitiyam", "One without the second". There is only one reality. All this is One, there is no second reality. This is what it means. This is one of the greatest sentences of the Upanishads. There is only One without a second.

We shall come back to this sentence again, but now I introduce two other words. These two other words are Nyaya and Sankhya. These are two Sanskrit words, but in fact Vedanta is a Sanskrit word, Upanishad is a Sanskrit word, Nyaya is a Sanskrit word, Sankhya is a Sanskrit word; you cannot escape Sanskrit at all when you come to philosophy. So we should be ready to receive Sanskrit words and try to understand them.

Actually, there is a rule in Greek philosophy: anybody who wants to study Greek philosophy has to study Greek. If you want to study German philosophy you should learn German. Even today these rules apply in all outside universities. Similarly, there is no rule, but there ought to be a rule, if you want to study Indian thought, Indian philosophy, then you should learn Sanskrit, because for five thousand years this philosophy has been written in Sanskrit. As against only a thousand years, during which this philosophy has been written partly in Sanskrit and partly in so many different languages. Consider the value of five thousand years and one thousand years. So, if a philosophy has been written in Sanskrit for so many years and if you want to really go into the heart of it, Sanskrit is inevitable.

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