Category Archives: Upanishads

New book release: Living the vision of oneness

“The purpose of this book is to put in perspective the pursuit of knowledge and the essential role of one’s personal transformation within this pursuit. Many dimensions of human growth are articulated in a comprehensive manner to help the reader integrate, assimilate and incorporate the realities of existence revealed by the Gita in one’s daily life.”
“We are confident that a reader would find the detailed exposition in the book useful to embark on the journey of personal and spiritual development with clarity and confidence. Practical examples and case studies from real life are discussed so that it is easy for readers to grasp the concepts and apply them to their daily life. The tone used is more personal and conversational, and is meant to engage the reader to reflect on his or her own life.”

To order the book, go to our website page for more details



Retying Yoga timeless tradition to its spiritual core

Suggested reading:

Patanjali Yoga Sutras – Translation and Commentary in the Light of Vedanta Scriptures

by AK Aruna 

A book that has been just published and that is really worth reading as it brings together the tradition of Yoga back to its’ spiritual core’ which is the Upanishads.
To know more about its content, the author and buy it on line, you can visit
Note that a preview of the first pages is also available on this website.
Excerpts from Web Page of
(with the permission of the author)
Description of “Patanjali Yoga Sutras”

Composed over two millenniums ago, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali remains the philosophical thread that unites the ancient and current world of yoga. Yet, its many translations are underwhelming, lacking connection to reality and practicality.

Innumerable forms and sects of yoga have come and gone in between. Obsessed with gaining special powers over mind and body, yoga’s re-tellers have clouded its history in a mystical mist of fantastic claims. It is human nature to crave powers to radically change our lot in life. These layers of dazzle and glitter have over the centuries led us further away from yoga’s spiritual core. The sutras’ clear, logical, and practical path has been blurred and lost.

Radically breaking with this mystical tradition, A. K. Aruna seeks to reclaim for us this fountainhead of yoga by retying the understanding of these sutras to the even more ancient source of spiritual knowledge and yoga—the Upanishads.

Unlike the yoga tradition infected by desires for powers over the mind, body, and the world, the Upanishad tradition has remained essentially true to yoga’s spiritual core rejection of seeking any glory or power in the world. Glories and powers are time-bound. They fade and disappear with their seekers. They are not different from the gatherings of wealth and power of anyone in the countless generations of our ancestors. When the body dies, the temporal gains are lost. If there is an afterlife, the surviving gains are cashed out in equally time-bound heavenly rewards.

The Upanishads eschewed limited pursuits in order to seek an ultimate goal that was not time-bound. In this still pure form of the yoga of seeking ultimate, timeless truth, the words of Patanjali become crystal clear and practical. Yoga shines in timeless relevance.

A. K. Aruna’s Patanjali Yoga Sutras: Translation and Commentary in the Light of Vedanta Scripture has brilliantly refocused the light on the Yoga Sutras. This is a must read for those who wish to understand and to carry on yoga’s timeless tradition unclouded by the distractions of the past.

The brain from top to bottom

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Among the subjects which are indirectly connected to the vision of Vedanta and therefore worth exploring are the brain, the human behavior, the emotions and the nature of consciousness.

I found the following website to be an amazingly rich source of information on these subjects. It is called ‘The brain from top to bottom’ and is an initiative affiliated and funded by the Canadian Institute of Health, Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and addiction.

It includes different subject matters from the most recent ‘The emergence of consciousness’ to ‘Emotions and the brain’ and ‘Pleasure and pain‘ to cite a few of them. What is remarkable is that the topics can be explored at different levels of explanation (beginner, intermediate and advanced) and organization (social, psychological, neurological, cellular, molecular).

As an illustration, one can go to the different sub topics for ‘The emergence of consciousness’ at the psychological and beginner level : What is consciousness, Philosophical positions on consciousness, Theories of consciousness in cognitive sciences, Flaws in classical model of consciousness.These sub topics can be explored at an intermediate or advanced level.

To know more about the sense of I, the self, the unconscious and consciousness according to Vedanta, you can view and download the pdf article ‘Psychology in Vedanta’ by Swami Dayananda Saraswati.

Am I the body? How real is the body?

I am so identified with the body that the attributes of the body are taken to be mine and I conclude that ‘I am tall, thin, blond, 40 years old, etc.’. In other words I am confined to this body, subject to birth, aging and death, sorrow and joy. How true is that conclusion?

This video gives us some insights into how Vedanta inquires into the nature of the body. Is this body real? Can I find a tangible substance that I can call the body?

The inquiry leads me to see that it is mithya in terms of reality; it has an empirical reality but not an absolute reality. It is only a name for different forms within forms which are put together and changing all the time. It also shows that I cannot be the body since I, as a subject, is the one who objectifies its changing conditions.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

With all our warm thanks to our friends Elodie and Dino from Paris, who shot this video in Rishikesh in September 2008 on the banks of Ganga, during one of our intensive retreats.

To know more about this inquiry, some links to our website

[1]. What is satyam & mithya?

[2]. if I am not the body, what is the nature of I?

The vision of Upanishads explained through the form of Shiva as a Teacher (Daksinamurti)

This is the presentation I made at National Museum in Bangkok on 19th November 2009 and which is available on Slide Share. To view it full screen, click on the ‘full’ icon at the bottom of the video screen.

I chose to speak during this talk about various representations of Lord Shiva as a teacher (Daksinamurti). Why this choice? Because it conveys in a condensed and visual manner the entire philosophy and vision of Upanishads. Thus it makes us have access and understand the Indian psyche and culture, as it is lived throughout the ages, from the ancient times to today. Also, Daksinamurti as a teacher brings into the picture the teaching element, which is missing in the well known figure of Shiva as a Dancer. Indeed the relationship between teacher and student is a key to understand Hinduism as it was and is lived today, since it is essentially a teaching tradition.

The Upanishads start by our sense of inadequacy, dissatisfaction, limitation at various levels since as human beings, we are confronted to the vastness, powerfulness, unpredictability and complexity of the universe. Our helplessness and thirst for meaning is represented by the Banyan tree as the background. The banyan tree stands for an endless life of becoming with secondary roots perpetuating further this human predicament. Its roots are getting more and more entrenched, making us unable to find any lasting satisfaction in life. What we want is to find our way out of this thick forest and put an end for good to this sense of limitation.

The palm leaves in the left hand represent the sacred texts (Upanishads) which are capable of giving us knowledge of the reality of ourselves and the universe. They reveal to us that the conclusion about myself, that I am limited, is wrong and comes from the ignorance of my real nature. In their vision I am already free from any limitation. Teaching is done for me to discover this fact. Nature of the individual, the universe and its cause are inquired into very systematically with the help of an evolved methodology of teaching, handled by a teacher. The student who desires to put an end to his sense of inadequacy and limitation chooses to expose himself to the words of a teacher, reflect upon them with the help of reasoning and contemplate upon their meaning.

The gesture of knowledge (cin mudra) expresses the content of the teaching : ‘you are that’, you are the limitlessness you have been endlessly seeking through all your pursuits. It reveals the identity between you, the individual (index finger) and that, the cause of the universe (thumb). Just like wave and ocean when they are equated are found to be essentially nothing but water, all that is here is one limitless being, and that you are.

However, my experiences seem to suggest that I am distinct from everything else and hence I am small. If each name and form in the universe that I see is different from me and from each other, then there can not be oneness and I can not be limitless. Again, the representation of Daksinamurti shows how these apparent differences in names and forms resolve into one as Daksinamurti (the cause of the universe) is containing the whole universe. According to the Vedic model, this universe, with all its varied forms and characteristics, is in fact made of five elements— space, air, fire, water and earth. Space is represented by a drum, in his right hand, which encloses empty space. Next air is represented by the ‘bandana’ holding Daksinamurti’s hair in place against the wind. In his left hand, the torch represents fire. Water is shown by sacred river Ganges, in the form of a Goddess, on Daksinamurti’s head. Earth is represented by the material of which Daksinamurti is made.

Further, the universe consists also of the sun, moon and stars. Sun (all luminous bodies) and moon (all planets) which are seen above the head of Daksinamurti are also not-separate from the cause. Then there are people, who are the disciples of Daksinamurti, sitting at the base of sculpture.

Finally, Daksinamurti wears a male earring in the right ear and a female earring in the left ear. This is a way to suggest that the cause of the universe is both maker and material, the intelligent and the material cause. Both female and male implies also he/she/it is neither male nor female.

The vision indicated here is that the whole universe including me, —the one who is looking at the world, with all its galaxies, planets, stars and all things unknown to me,  is not separate from its cause. In other words, ‘all that is here, is one Isvara [all knowledge and power]‘ (Isha Upanishad). Manifested in the various forms of the universe, it pervades, permeates, sustains and supports the whole universe. All different names and forms in universe are in fact not separate from Isvara (the cause). Just like in Ocean, all the different waves are not separate from the cause (Ocean).

The teaching goes one step further, by resolving the equation ‘you are that’ shown in the gesture of knowledge. The truth of ocean is water, that is why truth of every wave which is part of ocean is also water. With this analogy, we can understand how truth of cause of the universe is one limitless being. And the truth of every form which is part of universe (including me, the individual) is also one and limitless being. There is only one limitless being, and that you are.

Three other elements in the form of Daksinamurti (rosary of beads, bull and dwarf) represent the areas in which we have to grow, some of the various ways to become prepared for this knowledge and see it intimately. The bull stands for dharma, justice and virtue. To be able to assimilate and understand this vision, I have to be in harmony with the ethical universal order and live a life of values, compassion, giving, non violence. The dwarf who is shown under the right foot is Apasmara holding a sharp knife that can tear off our being. It stands for the ego who is trying to preserve its reality. It can also be seen as the unconscious which keeps on interfering in our life and which needs to be processed and neutralized. Mala of beads which usually evokes religious disciplines indicates a life of relating to Isvara (the cause), to what is, to be alive to the grand order which is manifest in the form of various orders such as the physical, biological, psychological, epistemological orders, etc.

To conclude, the form of Daksinamurti presents us in a very complete manner the human quest of freedom from limitation and inadequacy. It points towards the essence of the teaching of Upanishads : there is an essential non-difference, an identity between the individual and the cause of the universe, Isvara. Both the individual and the cause of the universe being essentially one limitless being. Finally it reveals the ways to achieve this knowledge and gain the absolute freedom (moksa) through exposing ourselves to the teaching of the texts, inquiring into their meaning, leading an ethical life, relating to the total and mastering our body and mind.

Surround me with your presence & In amazement I wake up…Rabindra Sangeet

Two more poems of Rabindranath Tagore, that Nandita and Shubhra kindly translated from Bengali to English and shared with us. They are both from Gitobitan, a collection of songs written and put to music by Tagore, popularly known as Rabindra Sangeet.

The first poem is a prayer to the Friend which invites Him to ‘be in my heart’ , ‘through joys and sorrows’, ‘in all I do in this world’.

During meditation, by invoking Him and seeing very intimately its Presence in one’s life, one can assimilate  the knowledge of the nature of this all knowledge and power (Isvara) unfolded by the Upanishads. This is how we can make our understanding of Isvara complete, an understanding that sinks in, permeates our whole being and thereby transforms us.

Stay with me dear Friend,

In all I do in this world,

Knowingly or in prayer;

Be in my heart;

Come slowly dear Lord,

Through my joys and sorrows,

In my laughter and tears;

Surround me with your presence,

In all I do in this world;

Be in my heart through knowledge,

Or when in prayer.

In the second poem, the poet expresses his wonder as he sees the presence of all knowledge and power manifested in the form of the order pervading the sky and stars, his own body and the nature around him.

The sky abounds with suns and stars,

The world with life,

I have found my place in the midst of it all;

So in amazement my music blossoms

And I sing my song.

The rhythm of timeless time, with which

The universe swings,

Runs in my veins too, pulling me through,

In amazement, I wake up and sing my song.

I have tiptoed on grass, on my way to the forest,

Surprised by flowering scents,

Elated to see these joyous gifts strewn around,

In amazement I wake up and sing my song.

I have put my ears to the ground,

I have heard the music

I have poured my soul into the earth’s bosom,

I find The Unknown in the midst of all that is known,

In amazement my mind awakens and I sing my song.

What is limitlessness ?

This is the first video of a series we are planning to post soon on our website Discover Vedanta, the Yoga of Objectivity. Even if it can be slightly improved technically, it is worth watching because of the  striking simplicity and elegance of its content.

When one hears for the first time from the Upanishads ‘you are limitless’ it may seem preposterous. Watch how Neema Majmudar unfolds in a brief and powerful manner the vision of Vedanta about ourselves, just by looking into the word  ‘limitless’ (anantam in Sanskrit).

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Notes :

1. All our thanks to Dino who shot this video last year in South India during our intensive retreat !

2. In case you’re having trouble playing a video on You Tube and it gets stuck at one point (and will not continue to load), or plays in a choppy fashion: please go the You Tube help at