Prasthana Trayi

“Jnapakam hi shaastram nakaaraka“ says Adi Shankara. Shaastram will tell us what we do not know but will not create something which does not exist. As rightly said by Sami Vivekananda, man cannot create anything. Everything is nothing but discovery, because it exists already.

The “I” factor, ego, makes man believe that he is instrumental for everything whereas he is just an instrument in the hands of the supreme power. Ego or I is the self which is immersed in action, feelings and thoughts. Soul or atman is devoid of such action, feelings and thoughts. It is a mere witness or spectator to the happenings in the universe.

The essence of Upanishads is – Sat chit anand (sat – absolute truth, chit – consciousness, ananda 
bliss) i.e. realisation of eternal truth which is consciousness and absolute happiness or bliss.
Prajnaanam brahma – the supreme power is nothing but consciousness says Aitareya Upanishad (Rig Veda 3.3.).

Consciousness is timeless

Man carries with him the baggage of the past, present and anxiety of the future, that creates this complex situation for him. If man sheds the baggage of past and the anxieties of future, he can live in the present. Living in the current moment enables man to detach himself from the past and future.

When this detachment is practiced continuously he will reach a stage where he is equally detached from the present, even though he lives in the current moment. Man becomes an observer of events though he is a part of such events. Such observation over a period of time makes man realize that he is part of the consciousness or supreme power.

When one identifies himself as part of the supreme power he does not feel that he is the doer of his actions, or be possessive of desires, because the I factor or ego gets dissolved and the soul gets united with the supreme power. Such shunning of ego and its related desires leads to nishkaama kriya, which is a saatvik approach (purity and goodness) that does not contain rajo guna ( full of activity and passion) or tamo guna (inactivity and inertia) as explained in Bhagavad Gita.

Sravana, manana, nididhyaasana

People learnt Upanishads in the olden days by sitting down near a guru (master) and listening to him who used to explain through a question answer session. Hence sravana or listening is a pre requisite to learn the essence of Upanishads through a guru.

Brahmasutra contains the teachings of the Vedanta in an orderly and logical manner. One has to deeply reflect or ponder to understand the logic in Brahmasutra. Hence mananam or contemplation that involves deep thinking is essential to understand the essence of Brahma Sutras. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (II.iv.5) defines Nididhyasana as meditation for the realisation of the self.

The beauty of Bhagavad Gita is that it advises man to perform his duties unmindful of the results. In a materialistic world, one cannot be devoid of action or karma. However, by continuous practice one can reach a stage where he/she can perform his duties or karma without bothering much about the results. This is possible only when one is detached from the materialistic world though he is still a part of it.

True detachment comes not when one shuns the action or karma, but only when one elevates himself from a doer to observer in the material world. In other words, he will perform his duties or karma as a matter of routine but he is not keen about the outcomes, since he does not have any expectations from those outcomes and he is equanimous to both positive as well as negative results. This equanimity towards the outcomes of one’s actions or deeds is niskaama kriya.

When one evolves from a doer to observer, he is detached from the material world and this is the first step in meditation. In due course, this meditation enables the person to realize that the entire universe is nothing but consciousness and he is not only part of the universe, but he is the universe.

Desires have two qualities- to acquire worldly knowledge, and to get comforts from material things in the world. Upanishads enable one to transcend beyond the desires mentioned above and to identify oneself with Aatman which is part of the Parabrhahma.

The Vedas (purva mimamsa) prepare the ground for the seeker in pursuit of eternal truth through ritual practice, understanding the elements of the cosmic world and how to live in harmony with the rest of the universe for a peaceful co-existence. Whereas Upanishads (uttara mimamsa) make the seeker migrate to the next level in realization of the eternal truth through a philosophical approach.

Brahmasutra elevates the seeker to a much higher level to evolve him spiritually through contemplation whereas Bhagavad Gita preaches how one can practice the spiritual path in his daily life by aligning one’s thoughts with his/her actions through a detached approach. Understanding the essence of Upanishads, Brahma Sutras and Bhagavad Gita (collectively known as prasthana trayi) leads to peaceful co existence of man with the rest of the universe.


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About the Author

B.N.V. Parthasarathi
Ex Senior Banker, Management and Financial Consultant, Visiting faculty at premier B Schools and Universities. E mail- [email protected]