There is no parallel in any history of the world, which corresponds to this Upanishadic period; such a period existed only in the Indian history. Upanishads are peculiar to India and that is why India cannot be understood by anybody unless, he understands the Veda and also understands the Upanishads. You cannot understand India because as Sri Aurobindo says, even casually Upanishads are a record of a stir; they are a result of a quest. A quest of a kind in which the soul of India was born that is a speciality of the Upanishads. It is the Upanishads which marked out, what is called Indian temperament, which is to be found everywhere. Anybody in the Indian soil, it is as if given to him as a gift. The stir and the quest that you find so much in the Upanishad, it is as if, it were distributed in every part of the soul and soil of India, they partake of this quest, this stir. What was the stir, what was this quest; this is how I will like to begin my talk on the Upanishads.
What is a speciality of that stir that quest? Just as, if you want to understand Auroville, where we are living, we are breathing, you want to understand Auroville without understanding the soul, the quest of Auroville. What is the quest of Auroville, what are we looking for, what are we striving for. What are we doing, what is it that moves us, why are we meeting together, why are we quarrelling with each other why, because of the quest that quest is very much connected with the Upanishads. If you do not know the Upanishads, you will not understand Auroville, where we are living that is a fundamental foundation of Auroville, therefore, when I was told that we must deal with the Upanishads, I was very happy.
I had prepared for Aristotle, I had prepared for Sankhya, I had not prepared for the Upanishad at all. I was very happy because I found every student in Auroville and everybody is a student in Auroville should have a good grounding in the Upanishads. Upanishads for which there is no parallel in the history of the world. It is only peculiarly Indian. It is the Upanishads, which have kept and given a seal to the Indian temperament, Indian dharma and Indian consciousness.
There are three characteristic of this temperament, particular quest of the Upanishads. The first aspect of Upanishad is to unveil a system of knowledge, which was already available but which was hidden behind symbolism. There was a fund of knowledge, great knowledge but that knowledge had become buried; it had become too much encrusted, curtained, as it were. There was a kind of a veil over it and the veil consisted of a language. There are many kinds of veils in the world, even the dress we're putting on, is a veil. Similarly, the knowledge can also have a veil and one of the most effective ways of concealing, is the language.
You must have seen children inventing a language, when they want to speak privately to each other, which others cannot understand, you have some gestures. All language, every word is a symbol, actually every word in every language is a symbol and therefore, languages are automatically a veil and when you want to speak, you use a language that language is a veil. Unless you don't know the language, you don't understand what is being spoken, if I don't know Greek and if somebody speaks Greek to me, it is a veil, I cannot understand it. I must learn Greek; I must learn the symbolism of Greek language. But apart from these words, even if you understand words, there is another kind of veil of the deeper symbols.
When I say, a horse has come to my house and I lookout there is no horse outside, what do I mean? The word horse is a symbol of something. If I have understood with one of my students that whenever I use the word horse, it means energy has come to me then only he and I will understand. If I say to somebody that horse has overpowered me, heat has come into my body, and I am overpowered by it. I don't say horse has come into my body; it is another kind of symbolism. Horse the word is understood as horse, horse is horse; there is another meaning, deeper meaning.
Veda was written in this symbolic language and that's the important point to remember. There is a secret of the Veda because it is a symbolic language and the meanings of the symbols were lost in due course of time. When these meanings were lost there was a tremendous effort on the part of people, who belonged to the period of the Upanishads to strive strongly, what is the meaning of the symbolism and then to derive that knowledge, you might say to cut the veil there was a stir and a quest of what? To cut the veil in which the Vedic knowledge was lost, was buried and there was a tremendous effort and it is not an ordinary effort but a tremendous effort to cut the veil of symbolism and to derive from it the real meaning that was attempted to be conveyed through this symbolism that was one great stir and quest.