(16 September 2002)
The reason for doing Socrates and Plato with you was the following; you cannot understand western mentality, western mind, unless you are well grounded in Socrates and Plato. This was preceded by my talks on the Veda and Dharma. The reason was that you cannot understand the Indian mind or the eastern mind without understanding the Veda and the concept of Dharma. If you want to start the synthesis of the East and the West, which is one of the goals of Auroville itself, you should have a good grounding of the Veda and the concept of Dharma on one hand and Socrates and Plato on the other.
So, I might say that you have already been put on the train of the meeting of the East and the West. You’ve only been put on the train, not that you have even started the journey, or if started, you have just you have started the journey and it's a long way to go. Actually, these are the things that remain with you for your whole life. Mother once told me, what should be the duration of our education, so Mother said, ‘there are certain things, which you can study over a short period but there are certain things which are to be learnt for the whole life’.
How East and West can meet together is a great subject, which is to be learnt throughout your life. Even today after years of my studies, I must tell you that I'm still a student in this subject, how to bring East and West together. So, if you have been put on the train, it itself is a great fortune. There is no university in India, which has done this kind of the course that you are doing with me. I can tell you confidently because I'm quite aware of what is being done in the eastern universities and what is being done in the western universities. There is no course in which over a period of one or two years, and very briefly, without burdening the students they have been put on the train of Veda and Dharma, on one hand and Socrates and Plato on the other. There is no university in the country and the world where these four lessons are given almost side–by–side. So you might say that it is in Auroville only that has provided this great opportunity. And I'm very happy that we have gone through this exercise.
On the same train, I want to present to you Aristotle. All those who are new now, they may not have that benefit which you have already but it doesn't matter, one can start the train anywhere in this world. One can start even with Aristotle directly without understanding Socrates and Plato provided that you have the material. I've written this article in such a way that right from the beginning of Greek thought, Socrates and Plato up to Aristotle, are summarised very briefly in three pages, which is a very good exercise. I have spoken there of Parmenides, Pythagoras, Socrates and Plato in these three pages. I have introduced all that is to be learned basically of Greek thought as a kind of a preface to Aristotle.
The importance of Aristotle in western thought is so enormous that for 2000 years in the western history after Aristotle, he was considered the authority in every subject, whether it was science, or philosophy, or even theology. Many people do not know that a lot of Christian thought, Christian theology was based on Aristotle. What was his concept of God? That concept of God has influenced the Catholic thought of Christianity.
Secondly, Aristotle was a great scientist. How do animals behave, how do animals grow, how do they develop, what are animals physiologically, in what way do the animals resemble human beings. These are very important questions scientifically and he had done a tremendous exercise in this field. Many of his students were given this special work, you go and live near the coast and see how the fish or the sea animals behave and give an account and scientific accounts were made by the disciples and students of Aristotle. And surprisingly, there is a dialogue on animals written by Aristotle. One day, I will deal with the dialogue on animals, how animals are much better than human beings, that is to say how intelligent they are, it is just to show that intelligence is not the monopoly of human beings.
Now examples of this kind were multiplied by Aristotle. He had one very great advantage; Alexander the Great was this pupil, and as you know, Alexander made a big expedition starting from Macedonia right up to Persia and India. It's a big expedition, if you see the geographical map; sometimes you should see the map only to understand the expedition of Alexander. And since he was a pupil of Aristotle he had given standing orders to soldiers whenever they found some good material, good observations, so you might say that he had a huge army to support his enquiry—very fortunate circumstances.
Therefore in the field of science he was supposed to be one of the foremost forerunners of modern science, it is only after Darwin and later on that his researches were surpassed that was only recently in the 19th century. Aristotle who lived in the fourth century BC, up to the 19th century he was the leader, forerunner in the field of logic. In the field of logic, which is the science of valid thought, how do human beings think when they are right on the right track, is a subject of examination. How do they react, what is the operation in the mind when the mind is on the right track of valid thought, of correct thought? As you know, the human mind is full of complexities. There are correct thoughts and there are incorrect thoughts, people think rightly and people think incorrectly and there are prejudices by which people think wrongly. There are biases in favour, and partiality therefore, you think wrongly, you think in favour of that person in spite of all the contrary evidence, you may have some kind of prejudice against somebody, whatever the evidence you give you will think wrongly about him these are incorrect thoughts. Aristotle examined how the human thought works when it's on the right track, when human thought is correct and he examined it very minutely and developed a science of it. The science which deals with the processes of right–thinking is called Logic.
You must have heard the word logic very often, but what is the meaning of logic,− how the human mind works. What is the process of the human mind when it is on the right track, as a result of which it can come to a correct conclusion. This is the study of logic and his study of logic even today, every student of philosophy, every student of logic is required to study in every university in the world. You cannot be a philosopher; you cannot be a logician, without a good foundation in what Aristotle said about logic even today.
It is true that during the last century, during the 20th century particularly, a new science of logic has emerged. But you can see from the fourth century BC, up to the end of the 19th century, that logic meant only what Aristotle taught about logic. There was no change, except a little change made by Leibniz, about whom I've talked to you earlier. Leibniz was the only one who made some change in Aristotle's system of logic. But right from his time in the fourth century BC up to the end of the 19th century, logic remained the same as what Aristotle had laid down and that is the importance of Aristotle.
In the field of metaphysics, what is metaphysics, we talked about it quite a lot. Metaphysics is a kind of a science but not exactly a science. If you mean by science a body of systematic knowledge; it is science. But usually sciences dealing with processes of things, there is a difference between process and the source of the process. When you study the source of the process, it is metaphysics, when you study the processes, it is science. He discussed the question as to what is the source of all the motion in the world. He gave a notion of what is called the ‘unmoved mover’ as a source. He said the world is moving but at the root of it, there is a reality, which is unmoved, which does not move and yet it moves everything else. So he gave the term, which is called the ‘unmoved mover’. It's a very interesting concept, to which we should come back in the Upanishad also, when we deal with it. Unmoved mover, who moves not and yet moves everything else, this is the highest concept that he arrived at in metaphysics. And this concept even now is still current. Many philosophers even though they may differ from Aristotle still respect this notion even today. There are many people who are Aristotelians, even until today they expound the philosophy of the unmoved mover. So, you can see the influence and power of his thought of metaphysics.
In the field of literature even till today, there is no book on criticism of literature, which does not start with Aristotle, at least in the West. There is no book on criticism of literature, which does not use what is called rhetoric and poetics of Aristotle. He wrote a book on the subject, Rhetoric and Poetics.
What is poetry and what is the meaning of image in poetry that is rhetoric. Rhetoric is actually a science, a study of image making, various kinds of images that you can make, various forms of images is rhetoric and what is poetry itself, the vision in poetry the element of beauty in poetry is poetics. And what is the science of image making and the forms of images, is rhetoric. You must have heard what is called figures of speech. When I look at this book and address the book: ‘Oh! Book, reveal your knowledge to me.’ It's an image, as if I'm talking to the book; the book is a living being, its poetry.
If you read ‘Vikram Urvashiyam’ of Kalidasa, you should read once the story of Vikram and Urvashi in which, it is a beautiful play written by Kalidasa, and one of the most important poetical exposition is the frenzy of Vikram, when Urvashi, his beloved is lost, she just disappears, she was just there and now she's no more there, this is the condition in which he was put, she is lost; she is not to be found anywhere. He is in a state of frenzy and he looks at the elephant and says to the elephant:’ ‘Oh! Elephant you've stolen the gait of my wife.’ This is a figure of speech, “Oh! Elephant, you've stolen the gait of my wife because you walk exactly as my wife walks. How could you get this gait except from my wife? So, surely you know where my wife is, please tell me where she is, explain to me.” And the bird sings and he says: “this singing only my wife knows how to sing, you can only get it only from my wife, so you must know where my wife is.” He goes around like a mad man and he's a madman. It is one of the highest points of poetics where the image making is so great that when you are crowded with images, they come upon you. It's a very big study, how many kinds of images human beings can make and without images there is no poetry.
The distinguishing feature of poetry as distinguished from prose is that poetry is basically image making, if there are no images, it is not poetry. You read Sri Aurobindo’s, ‘Savitri, almost every line is an image and what a wonderful image, glorious images. When you read a description of Savitri, when she was a young woman, Sri Aurobindo describes her as ‘A parable of Dawn’. Imagine the image, all the beauty of the dawn, what an image, the greater the image making; the greater the poetry that you have. In the fourth century BC, Aristotle wrote a full science on this subject, on rhetoric and even today, all poets in the Western world refer to the poetics of Aristotle this is the greatness of this man.
In the article that I gave you, I have given one quotation from his politics. He has made a good study of various constitutions because what is politics basically? It's a science and art of organising society that is politics. One supreme problem of society is how to keep people together, this is the central problem of human life. How to keep a family intact, how to keep a group intact, how to keep an army intact, how do you keep social workers together, hold the people of the country together, hold the people of the world together,− this is the supreme problem of politics. Therefore, human beings have tried to find different forms; monarchy is form by which you can keep the people together, aristocracy, oligarchy and democracy are other forms and beyond democracy of which Sri Aurobindo has spoken and which we are trying here.
But you cannot know, unless all over world history have tried their best to keep society together and evolved different forms and each form that is being evolved has merit but also a defect. Aristotle in the fourth century BC examined all the different forms, which is very interesting. He, as it were, anticipated various kinds of forms of organisation and he has criticised every form and has suggested how you can combine the defects and the merits of all the forms and can keep them together, which is a great alchemy.
Until now, nobody has been able to do it, how to keep all the different forms together, to take their merits and eliminate the demerits and put them together. This is a great science by itself. His book on politics even today people read it and nobody is regarded in the West as a good student of politics, unless he has done Aristotle. Even until today, when many theories have developed and many other things have developed but unless you are founded in Aristotle you are not a good student of politics at all. Nobody will pass you even in B.A. if you do not know what Aristotle has said in politics.
Ethics is another subject; his ethics is one of the most famous books on the subject. What is ethics? Ethics is the science and art of ideal conduct. When can you say that your conduct is ideal, is the best, highest, when can you say you have acted in the best possible manner? How do you judge it? It's a very difficult subject and he wrote on this subject and he came to the conclusion that there are many human beings, who are good from time to time, they are ideal from time to time but he said you should not give them the label of virtuous, those who are good and virtues from time to time, don't call them virtuous. He said virtue is a habit, unless every time the action is ideal, which emerges from you automatically all the time as a habit, only then you're virtuous. Like breathing, for example, you breathe automatically, effortlessly, like a habit. Only when the ideal action proceeds from you and what is ideal action, it is the ‘mean’ between two extremes.
It is a very difficult art; it is easy to be excessive on one side and excessive on the other side. You can be excessively generous and people say he's virtuous but he said: ‘no, you can be excessively miserly and you say it is a vice but no, can you combine miserliness with generosity together. Avarice and generosity you combine together, when you can combine together that is the mean arrived that is ideal conduct. So, his theory was of the “mean”, virtue is a mean, which should become a habit with you. These two words are to be remembered in ethics, ‘habit’ and ‘mean’ that which is average between the two excesses. This is a very difficult art, you can be one excessive or another excessive it is easy. It is easy to be excessively generous; it is very easy to be excessively miserly but to be miserly at the right moment and to be generous at the right moment, in the right measure, in the right proportion, that is the most difficult thing,− that is his definition. You may agree and you may not agree; today there is a lot of debate on this subject but Aristotle has ruled the idea of ethics for thousands of years.
You can see, I've counted so many subjects in which his supremacy has been recognised. You cannot understand Western thought, unless you understand Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. And Aristotle cannot be understood unless you understand Plato, Plato cannot be understood unless you understand Socrates; this is the interconnection of the three. That is why I started with Socrates with you and I spent a good deal of time with you on Socrates because Socrates’ life itself is a great lesson.
So, when you feel necessary, when you feel inclined, I shall be happy to discuss Aristotle with you but I'm giving you my lesson. Keep it with you as a gift and you're free to study on your own, in a No School system, this is Super School but it is also a No School system. Study it, whenever you feel like and if you have difficulties and you have questions, when I come here, let us have a session on it.
The second paper that I'm giving to you is Sankhya. Why have I chosen this particular subject, Sankhya? I have already given you something of the Veda and something of Dharma. But neither Veda is philosophy, nor is Dharma a philosophy, they belong to a different domain. If you at all want to give any label, you can say Veda is Knowledge and it is a science of living, Veda is, if you want to give a label. The most difficult science in the world is the science of living, people don't sufficiently recognise it.
There is a word, which is called the ‘art of living’, which is easier, science of living is much more difficult. Art can be a partial expression but science has to be comprehensive. You can be fashionable, even without being profound this is a normal experience of life. You can curl your hair in a particular fashion, you can put on your dress in a particular fashion, you can walk in a particular style, you can behave in a particular style, all that is art of living. But science of living takes you to the profundities of living of what is life; you enter into the entire process of life. You cannot have science of living; unless you know the beginning of life and the end of life otherwise it’s not a science. Science is a complete, comprehensive knowledge of all aspects of life and then only you can develop a science.
You can teach a child how you should behave, how you should eat, how you should drink, how you should sleep, but if you want to understand life itself, you must be able to tell your students or your child, what is the origin of life, what are the different manifestations of life; hundreds and thousands of manifestations of life. In what direction all life is moving, what are the goals that life is seeking and the study of all the goals, the interplay of goals is the Veda. Veda is great because of this profound knowledge of all aspects; those who composed the Vedas were masters of life. This is a science, which is not at all known today that there is a science of living; nobody teaches you the science of living anywhere at all. There is physics, chemistry, biology but science of living, such a subject is not even recognised. So, when you study the Veda, you are actually a master. You are actually entering into a mastery of what is living, what is life; the most difficult subject in the world is the science of living.
You should be able to stand above life to see what life is from above. Just as when you want to study, what is the prism? You should be able to hold the prism in your hand, you should be able to observe it from above, from all sides then you can say this is a prism, you can describe the prism fully only when you are able to rise to the top and examine it. Similarly if you want to know what life is, you have to stand above life, you should be a master of life. Normally we are so engaged in life that we become part and parcel of life itself and we are unable to observe it. You are rolled in life; therefore you cannot detach yourself and see it as it is. You should be able to observe, for observation you go out of life and observe it from above and then describe what it is. This, the Vedic seers were able to do and they had done.
So you have done Veda, which is not philosophy, you have done a science of living. You are only being introduced; I must say Veda is a very huge body of knowledge. The few lectures that I given, are only the portals, a few doors which have been opened, it is a profound study of life. You keep it in your store, one day we will study this subject also because as I said there are certain subjects which are to be studied over the whole life. Veda is such a subject, which is to be studied throughout the whole life and you’ll do it, I'm sure about it. You know, there are certain things which once introduced; you can never leave, even if you want to leave, they come again and again, this is a great beauty. Veda is such a subject that once you have heard about it, one day you will come back to it.
Dharma is not a science, is not a philosophy, it is still something else, it is something akin to ethics but yet not ethics itself. It's a profound perception of the gradations of ideal conduct, applicable to different individuals differently at different stages that is dharma. Ethics is usually considered to be a study of ideal conduct for everybody, whether you are a child or adult or whatever but dharma is a very dynamic concept, it tells you what is ideal conduct at different stages of life appropriate to different individuals. It’s a very difficult subject in which you are already introduced; I have already given you the definition of Dharma. The ten characteristics, which have been given of dharma, you can refer to your earlier notebooks, which you have understood and we have already gone into it, profound study for your whole life, we will come back to it again and again.
But Sankhya, why did I select Sankhya above all. One of the reasons for these classes is to summarise the most important aspects of knowledge, as rapidly as possible. That is what I mean by Super school. Super school is a field in which the most important elements of knowledge are summarised as rapidly as possible. This whole idea of Super school, which Mother has given: reflect more and more on it—it is something so profound. I don't think this concept exists anywhere in the world. We are so fortunate in Auroville that we can have it, we can develop it. As I told you nowhere in the colleges and universities students are benefited by Veda on one side, and Socrates and Plato on the other simultaneously. It takes a lot of time before people come to understand these two trends of thought as easily as you have done here.
Similarly if you want to master, what is called philosophy in India, the best way, this is the key as it were, if you want to open the doors in Indian philosophy, not Indian dharma nor Indian science of living but Indian philosophy,− Indian metaphysics, one of the easiest ways of entering into Indian metaphysics or Indian philosophy is Sankhya. You cannot truly understand any branch of Indian philosophy without a good grounding in Sankhya, and since our purpose is to summarise knowledge as rapidly as possible, without burdening you with so much details I would simply say begin with Sankhya. And also because Socrates, Plato and Aristotle come closest to Sankhya. They are also western philosophers as I said; western philosophy cannot be understood properly without Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Similarly you cannot understand Indian philosophy without a good foundation in Sankhya and it so happens that these three philosophers come closest to Sankhya it is very interesting. Transition from Plato to Sankhya is very easy, therefore, you can see that there must have been (this is a speculation) at one time, some common source from which Western and Indian thought has developed because both come very close together. If you go to the roots, the beginnings of Indian philosophy and the roots of Western philosophy, you find so much similarity between the two. Therefore, those who say east is east and west is west, are not true. This whole idea of this division that East will always remain eastern and West will always remain western is not true and the demonstration is that if you see what is Sankhya, and what is Plato, you see so much of similarity between the two. That is the reason when you start Indian philosophy you will begin with Sankhya or this is my recommendation, begin with Sankhya, other things will fall in their place. I brought this paper for you; again, it is a paper for No school, not for Super school but for No school, so study Sankhya when you find time, study Aristotle when you find time and study by yourself, study on your own.
Now I am told that it will be a good thing if I, however, take these classes for Upanishads. I readily feel very happy about it because of the fact that if you examine Indian history on one side and Western history on the other, you will find parallels. The Vedic knowledge is a parallel at a certain stage of Greek history, in what is called Orphism. There was a movement in ancient Greece called Orphism, Eleusinian philosophy, Eleusinian thought, Eleusinian occultism, Eleusinian mysteries. So there is a correspondence between the Vedic mysteries and Eleusinian mysteries, there is a parallel, there is a parallel to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle to Sankhya and others but with regard to the Upanishads, there is no parallel. It’s a very important fact to be understood that there is no parallel in the history of the world, something that corresponds to the Upanishads, is a very important insight that Sri Aurobindo has given.
There is no parallel in any history of the world, which corresponds to this Upanishadic period; such a period existed only in 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 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 would 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 that every student in Auroville and everybody who 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 characteristics 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, knowledge can also have a veil and one of the most effective ways of concealing is 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 languages, 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 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 the Greek language. But apart from these words, even if you understand words, there is another kind of veil of deeper symbols.
When I say, a horse has come to my house and I look out, 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 a 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.
The students and the teachers are asking, what is Agni? The word which was used in the Veda, nobody understands the meaning of this word. Now because the name means fire and surely the Vedic Rishis do not speak of this fire, it is like a horse has come to me, is not horse, its energy, similarly, what is Agni?
These people who came at a time when the Vedic knowledge was buried in symbolism, was not understood; a period came when there was a very strenuous striving, you might say that they could not live longer unless that knowledge was derived. In the known history of the world, no people at any point of time had turned to this kind of striving that these Rishis of the Upanishads did, at that time. Eleusinian mysteries were similar to the Vedas but there was no period in Greece, where the people of Greece tried to understand the mysteries of Eleusinian times, it was lost. A few parables remained, a few legends remained, what exactly was the meaning of Eleusinian mysteries even today nobody knows because there was no attempt to find out. Like in Egypt, for example, had a secret knowledge. Even today people visit pyramids and they see the hieroglyphics of pyramids, what do they stand for? There was no period in history where the Egyptian mysteries and knowledge were discovered, they are lost. We don't know, there are pictures, there are diagrams, which are of various kinds but we do not know, what was the knowledge? There was no period in Egyptian history corresponding to Upanishads.
Unveiling the symbolism of the past, strictly to find out that true knowledge which was there, not ordinarily, to be sure that this was the knowledge. One can interpret it in one's own way and say, ‘Oh! This must have been the meaning. No, they did not strive in that ordinary manner; they strove with a special method of unveiling; which I'll come to later on. What was the method of unveiling; this is one special meaning of the stir and quest of the Upanishad.
What was the second quest? The intensity of the quest is very special in the Upanishads. You can have the intensity of any kind of quest in the world; there are many people who make a quest. Many people have sacrificed their life for wealth, for example, like Alexander. But for attaining knowledge, to be ready to give your life for the sake of knowledge,—that's the intensity, people were prepared to give up anything and everything that was the quest and that is the mark of the Upanishad.
You find the dialogue between Yajnavalkya and Maitreyi (Maitreyi is the wife of Yajnavalkya). Yajnavalkya was a great Rishi, he had amassed great wealth because he had won many trophies, to use the modern terminology many prizes; where thousands of cows were offered to him with gold coated on the horns of the cows. Many such prizes were won by Yajnavalkya, lot of money and he got a call and decided to give up everything. And he prepared himself to give up everything, he divided the wealth that he had into two portions, between two wives he had, Katyayani and Maitreyi.
Maitreyi said to her husband, ‘Lord, even if I have, not only this wealth but the wealth of the whole world, shall I be free’, this was a question. Yajnavalkya’s answer was, ‘no’, if you're looking for freedom you must have knowledge.’ So Maitreyi then said, ‘I don't want this wealth.’ She gave up and she said, ‘I'll follow you in your pursuit of knowledge; all this means nothing to me.’ This is a speciality of the stir and the quest to give up everything.
Like the people who have come to Auroville. Why, for the quest of knowledge and the embodiment of knowledge. This is the Indian style, the Indian soul; Upanishads live constantly in the story of India.
Buddha had everything in life, he had a palace for winter, palace for summer, palace for the monsoon and hundreds of damsels to serve him, a beautiful wife, a very handsome child, a very benevolent father and the whole kingdom where he was loved, what more does he want? At one stroke, overnight he gave up everything in search of true knowledge. It is because of this tradition which was set up in the Upanishads. You should have the courage and you should have no attachment to anything. If knowledge is the object of your quest, this idea that knowledge is supreme, if any achievement is to be attained it is knowledge and for the attainment of knowledge you should be able to sacrifice everything. This intensity, this stir is the mark of the Upanishads. The Rishis, whose names we will study in the Upanishads are those who were prepared for this kind of abandonment and renunciation. This is the second characteristic.
What is the third characteristic? This quest was not confined only to a few people, it was not confined only to the learned, it was spread all over, it’s a great speciality. In human society and human stories you get one or two great people, who were ready to renounce everything but not here.
There was the child; Jabala’s son, he was prepared for everything and anything to gain knowledge. A son who did not know who his father was. There was Ajatshatru, the King, there was Raikva, the cart driver, there were learned people like Yajnavalkya and Maitreyi, like Gargi, very learned.
This quest was spread over all the sections of society and Sri Aurobindo says in a few pages of the Upanishads, the entire story of this quest is inscribed. And you can see their stir and the quest of the people of the Upanishads. That is why the Upanishads constitute a story of people, which is unparalleled.