The Upanishads: 'The Himalayas of the Soul'



"If a Bible of India were compiled, ... eternal treasures of old wisdom and poetry would enrich the times of to-day. [...] Amongst those compositions,.... the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita would rise above the rest like Himalayas of the Spirit of man." (Introduction of Juan Mascaro's 'The Himalayas of the Soul', 1938)

 The Upanishads were first introduced into Europe around the time of the French revolution, a fact which Carl Jung saw as itself highly symbolic:
The enthronement of the Goddess of Reason in Notre Dame seems to have been a symbolic gesture of great significance to the Western world- rather like the hewing down of Wotan's oak by the Christian missionaries. For then, as at the Revolution, no avenging bolt from heaven struck the blasphemer down.
It is certainly more than an amusing coincidence that just at that time a Frenchman, Anquetil du Perron, was living in India, and, in the early eighteen-hundreds, brought back with him a... collection of fifty Upanishads which gave the Western world its first deep insight into the... mind of the East. To the historian this is mere chance without any factors of cause and effect. But in view of my medical experience I cannot take it as accident. It seems to me rather to satisfy a psychological law whose validity in personal life, at least, is complete. For every piece of conscious life that loses its importance and value- so runs the law- there arises a compensation in the unconscious. We may see in this an analogy to the conservation of energy in the physical world... . [...] Now the doctor in me refuses point blank to consider the life of a people as something that does not conform to psychological law. A people, in the doctors eyes, presents only a somewhat more complex picture of psychic life than the individual.
And so we can draw a parallel: just as in me, a single human being, the darkness calls forth the helpful light, so does it also in the psychic life of a people. In the crowds that poured into Notre Dame, bent on destruction, dark and nameless forces were at work that swept the individual off his feet; these forces worked also upon Anquetil du Perron, and provoked an answer which has come down in history. For he brought the Eastern mind to the West, and its influence upon us we cannot as yet measure. Let us beware of underestimating it! So far, indeed, there is little of it to be seen in Europe on the intellectual surface: some orientalists, one or two Buddhist enthusiasts, and a few sombre celebrities like Madame Blavatsky and Annie Besant. These manifestations make us think of tiny, scattered islands in the ocean of mankind; in reality they are like the peaks of submarine mountain-ranges of considerable size." (Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, 1932). 
 Arthur Shopenhauer discovered Anquetil du Perron's annotated Latin translation in 1814, just prior to his writing The World as Will and Idea (1818). In the Introduction he wrote:
the access to [the Vedas], opened to us through the Upanishads, is in my eyes the greatest advantage which this still young century enjoys over previous ones, because I believe that the influence of the Sanscrit literature will penetrate not less deeply than did the revival of Greek literature in the fifteenth century
Writing in 1868, Eduard Von Hartmann, in his The Philosophy of the Unconscious,  wrote:
the Hindus... have in effect implicitly possessed the whole history of philosophy, presenting in figurative and undeveloped form what we exhibit only too abstractly through only too many writers and volumes.
After Oswald Spengler had already said ( in his Decline of the West) that the first couple of decades of the 21'st century would be defined by a kind of interregnum for Western 'civilization', Arnold Toynbee, the Oxford historian of civilizations, predicted that at the close of the 20th century the world would still be dominated by the West, but that in the 21st century 'India will conquer her conquerors.' The same presentiment was expressed by Carl Jung when he wrote that although the West had conquered the East materially, the East would conquer the West in spirit

The following excerpts are from Juan Mascaro's 1938 translation of the Upanishads titled The Himalayas of the Soul: Translations from the Sanskrit of the Principal Upanishads, reissued in 1967 as a Penguin paperback with a new introduction and called simply The Upanishads.

Isa Upanishads

There are demon-haunted worlds, regions of utter darkness. Whoever in life denies the Spirit falls into that darkness of death.

Who sees all beings in his own Self, and his own Self in all beings, loses all fear.
When a sage sees this great Unity and his Self has become all beings, what delusion and what sorrow can ever be near him?

Into deep darkness fall those who follow the immanent. Into deeper darkness fall those who follow the transcendent.

O life-giving sun, off-spring of the Lord of creation, solitary seer of heaven! Spread thy light and withdraw thy blinding splendour that I may behold thy radiant form: that Spirit far away within thee is my own inmost Spirit. 

The Milky-Way over the Himalayas


Kena Upanishads  


Who sends the mind to wander afar? Who impells these words? Who is the spirit behind the eye and the ear?
It is the ear of the ear, the eye of the eye, and the word of words, the mind of mind, and the life of life.

What cannot be spoken with words, but that wherey words are spoken. [...] What cannot be thought with the mind, but that whereby the mind can think. [...] What cannot be seen with the eye, but that whereby the eye can see. [...] What cannot be heard with the ear, but that whereby the ear can hear.

He comes to the thought of those who know him beyond thought, not to those who imagine he can be attained by thought. He is unknown to the learned and known to the simple.

He is seen in Nature in the wonder of a flash of lightning. He comes to the soul in the wonder of a flash of vision. His name is Tadvanam, which translated means 'the End of love-longing'.

Katha Upanishads


When the wise rests his mind in contemplation on our God beyond time, who invisibly dwells in the mystery of things and in the heart of man, then he rises above pleasures and sorrow.

When the wise realize the omnipresent Spirit, who rests invisible and permanent in the impermanent, then they go beyond sorrow.

The light of the Atman, the Spirit, is invisible, concealed in all beings. It is seen by the seer of the subtle, when their vision is keen and is clear.

Sages say the path is narrow and difficult to tread, narrow as the edge of a razor.

When the wise knows that it is through the great and omnipresent Spirit in us that we are conscious in waking or in dreaming, then he goes beyond sorrow.

There is a Spirit who is awake in our sleep and creates the wonder of dreams. He is Brahman, the Spirit of Light, who in truth is called the Immortal. All the worlds rest on that Spirit and beyond him no one can go.

As fire, though one, takes new forms in all things that burn, the Spirit, though one, takes new forms in all things that live. He is within all, and is also outside.

The Tree of Eternity has its roots in heaven above and its branches reach down to earth. It is Brahman, pure Spirit, who in truth is called the Immortal.

Brahman is seen in a pure soul as in a mirror clear, and also in the Creator's heaven as clear as light; but in the land of shades as remembrance of dreams, and in the world of spirits as reflections in trembling waters. 

One hundred and one subtle ways come from the heart. One of them rises to the crown of the head. This is the way that leads to immortality; the others lead to different ends.

Prasna Upanishads


The sun is life and the moon is matter. 

'Life is the fire that burns and is the sun that gives light.

Even as a man casts a shadow, so the Spirit casts the shadow of life... .

In the heart dwells the Atman, the Self. It is the centre of a hundred and one little channels. [...] From each one of them come a hundred channels more.

Rising by one of them, the living power of Udana leads to the heaven of purity by good actions, to the hell of evil by evil actions, and if by both again to this land of man.

Then Sauryayani Gargya asked: Master... Who is that Spirit that beholds the wonder of dreams? Who enjoys the mystery of sleep with no dreams? Who is that Spirit on whom all the others find rest?
The sage replied: As when, before darkness falls, the rays of the setting sun seem all to become one in its circle of light, though at the hour of sunrise they all spread out again, even so all the powers of the senses become one in the higher power of the mind. [...] Then people say 'he sleeps'.
But in the city of the body the fires of life are burning: they sleep not. Apana is like the sacred home-fire for ever kept burning from father to son. 

Even as birds, O beloved, return to their tree for rest, thus all things find their rest in Atman, the Supreme Spirit.
All things find their final peace in their inmost Self, the Spirit... .

As when rivers flowing towards the ocean find there final peace, their name and form disappear, and people speak only of the ocean, even so the... forms of the seer of all flow towards the Spirit and find there final peace, their name and form disappear and people speak only of Spirit. 

Mundaka Upanishads


  Perform them [the actions of devotion] always, O lovers of the true: they are your path of holy action in this world.
When the flames of the sacred fire are rising, place then in faith the sacred offerings.

The dancing flames of the sacred fire are seven: the black, the terrific, that which is swift as the mind, that which is dark with smoke, the deep red, the spark-blazing and the luminous omniformed flame.
If a man begins his sacrifice when the flames are luminous, and considers for the offerings the signs of heaven, then the holy offerings lead him on the rays of the sun where the Lord of all gods has his high dwelling.
And when on the rays of sunlight the radiant offerings raise him, then they glorify him in words of melody: 'Welcome', they say, 'welcome here. Enjoy the heaven of Brahma won by pure holy actions.'
But unsafe are the boats of sacrifice to go to the farthest shore... . The unwise who praise them as the highest end go to old age and death again.
Abiding in the midst of ignorance, but thinking themselves wise and learned, fools aimlessly go hither and thither, like blind led by the blind.

Imagining religious ritual and gifts of charity as the final good, the unwise see not the Path supreme.

But those who in purity and faith live in the solitude of the forest, who have wisdom and peace and long not for earthly possessions, those in radiant purity pass through the gates of the sun to the dwelling-place supreme where the Spirit is in Eternity.

This is the truth: As from a fire aflame thousands of sparks come forth, even so from the Creator an infinity of beings have life and to him return again.
But the spirit of light above form, never-born, within all, outside all, is in radiance above life and mind, and beyond this creation's Creator. 

Mandukya Upanishads


Atman, the Self, has four conditions.
The first condition is the waking life of outward-moving consciousness, enjoying the... outer gross elements. 
The second condition is the dreaming life of inner-moving consciousness, enjoying the... subtle inner elements in its own light and solitude.
The third condition is the sleeping life of silent consciousness when a person has no desires and beholds no dreams. That condition of deep sleep is one of oneness, a mass of silent consciousness made of peace and enjoying peace. 
This silent consciousness is all-powerful, all-knowing, the inner ruler, the source of all, the beginning and end of all beings. 
The fourth condition is Atman in his own pure state: the awakened life of supreme consciousness. It is neither outer nor inner consciousness, neither semi-consciousness, nor sleeping-consciousness, neither consciousness nor unconsciousness. 

This Atman is the eternal Word OM. Its three sounds, A, U, and M, are the first three states of consciousness, and these three states are the three sounds
The first sound A is the first state of waking consciousness, common to all men. 

The second sound U is the second state of dreaming consciousness. 

The third sound M is the third state of sleeping consciousness. [...] 
The word OM as one sound is the fourth state of supreme consciousness. It is beyond the senses and is the end of evolution. It is non-duality and love. He goes with his self to the supreme Self who knows this, who knows this. 

Svetesvatara Upanishads

I sing the songs of olden times with adoration: may my own songs follow the path of the sun. Let all the children of immortality hear me, even those who are in the highest heaven. 

The chariot of the mind is drawn by wild horses, and those wild horses have to be tamed. 

These are the imaginary forms that appear before the final vision of Brahman: a mist, a smoke, and a sun; a wind, fire-flies, and a fire; lightnings, a clear crystal, and a moon.

There is ONE in whose hands is the net of Maya... . He is the same at the time of creation and at the time of dissolution. 

Like a tree everlasting he [Brahman] stands in the centre of heaven, and his radiance illumines all creation.

May God, who in the mystery of his vision and power transforms his white radiance into his many-coloured creation, from whom all things come and into whom they all return, grant us the grace of pure vision. 

There are two birds, two sweet friends, who dwell on the self-same tree. The one eats the fruits thereof, and the other looks on in silence. 

Of what use is the Rig Veda to one who does not know the Spirit from whom the Rig Veda comes, and in whom all things abide?

He is... the root and the flower of all things. 

In the unfolding of his own nature he makes all things blossom into flower and fruit. He gives to them all their fragrance and colour. 

He is the wandering swan everlasting, the soul of all in the universe, the Spirit of fire in the ocean of life. 

If ever for man it were possible to fold the tent of the sky, in that day he might be able to end his sorrow without the help of God.          

Maitri Upanishads


There is a Spirit who is amongst the things of this world and yet he is above the things of this world. He is clear and pure, in the peace of a void of vastness. He is beyond the life of the body and the mind, never-born, never-dying, everlasting, ever ONE in his own greatness. He is the Spirit whose power gives consciousness to the body: he is the driver of the chariot.

At the end of the worlds, all things sleep: he alone is awake in Eternity. Then from his infinite space new worlds arise and awake, a universe which is a vastness of thought. In the consciousness of Brahman the universe is, and into him it returns. 

There is something beyond our mind which abides in silence within our mind. It is the supreme mystery beyond thought. Let one's mind... rest upon that and not rest on anything else. 

There are two ways of contemplation of Brahman: in sound and in silence. By sound we go to silence. The sound of Brahman is OM. With OM we go to the End: the silence of Brahman. The End is immortality, union and peace. 

Even as fire without fuel finds peace in its resting-place, when thoughts become silence the soul finds peace in its own source. 

...a mind which longs for truth finds the peace of its own source... . 

When the mind is silent... then it can enter into a world which is far beyond the mind: the highest End. 

The mind should be kept in the heart as long as long as it has not reached the Highest End. This is wisdom, and this is liberation. Everything else is only words.  


Kaushitaki Upanishads


When a man is speaking, he cannot be breathing: this is the sacrifice of breath to speech. And when a man is breathing he cannot be speaking: this is the sacrifice of speech to breath. 

The breath of life is the consciousness of life, and the consciousness of life is the breath of life.  

Taittiriya Upanishads


If a man places a gulf between himself and God*, this gulf will bring fear. But if a man finds the support of the Invisible and Ineffable, he is free from fear. 

* i.e., 'The Cloud of Unknowing', circa late 14th Century.

Chandogya Upanishads


Wherefrom do all these worlds come? They come from space. All beings arise from space, and into space they return: space is indeed their beginning, and space is their final end.

Even as all leaves come from a stem, all words come from the sound OM. OM is the whole universe. OM is in truth the whole universe.

There is a Light that shines beyond all things on earth, beyond us all, beyond the heavens, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the Light that shines in our heart.

There is a Spirit that is mind and life, light and truth and vast spaces. [...]  He enfolds the whole universe, and in silence is loving to all.
This is the Spirit that is in my heart, smaller than a grain of rice, or a grain of barley, or a grain of mustard-seed, or a grain of canary-seed, or the kernal of a grain of canary-seed. This is the Spirit that is in my heart, greater than the earth, greater than the sky, greater than heaven itself, greater than all these worlds.

He enfolds the whole universe and in silence is loving to all. This is the Spirit that is in my heart, this is Brahman.

We should consider that in the inner world Brahman is consciousness; and we should consider that in the outer world Brahman is space. These are the two meditations.

There lived once a boy, Svetaketu Aruneya by name. One day his father spoke to him in this way: “Svetaketu, go and become a student of sacred wisdom. There is no one in our family who has not studied the holy Vedas and who might only be given the name of Brahman by courtesy.”

The boy left at the age of twelve, and, having learnt the Vedas, he returned home at the age of twenty-four, very proud of his learning and having a great opinion of himself.

His father, observing this, said to him: “Svetaketu my boy, you seem to have a great opinion of yourself, and think you are learned, and are proud. Have you asked for the knowledge whereby what is not heard is heard, what is not thought is thought and what is not known is known?”

“What is that knowledge, father?” Asked Svertaketu.

“Just as by knowing a lump of clay, my son, all that is clay can be known, since any differences are only words and the reality is clay; Just as by knowing a piece of gold all that is gold can be known since any differences are only words and the reality is only gold…”

Sventaketu said: “Certainly my honored masters knew not this themselves. If they had known, why would they not have told me? Explain this one to me, father.”

"So be it, my child. Bring me a fruit of the banyan tree."
"Here it is father."
"Break it."
"It is broken, Sir."
"What do you see in it?"
"Very small seeds, Sir."
"Break one of them, my son."
"It is broken, Sir."
"What do you see in it?"
"Nothing at all, Sir."

Then his father spoke to him: "My son, from the very essence in the seed which you cannot see comes in truth this vast banyan tree. Believe me, my son, an invisible and subtle essence is the Spirit of the whole universe. That is reality. That is Atman. THOU ART THAT."

In the centre of the castle of Brahman, our own body, there is a small shrine in the form of a lotus-flower, and within can be found a small space. We should find what dwells there, and we should want to know it.
And if anyone asks, 'What is it that dwells in a small shrine in the form of a lotus-flower in the centre of the castle of Brahman? What should we want to find and to know?' we can answer:
'The little space within the heart is as great as this vast universe. The heavens and the earth are there, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars; fire and lightening and winds are there; and all that now is and all that is not: for the whole universe dwells within our heart.'

The Milky-way over the Himalayas
'What you see when you look into another person's eyes, that is the Atman... .'
'And who is he whom we see when we look in water or in a mirror?'
'The same is seen in all...' 

'The spirit that wanders in joy in the land of dreams, that is the Atman, that is the Immortal beyond fear: that is Brahman.'

'The spirit who is sleeping without dreams inthe silent quietness of deep sleep, that is the Atman, that is the Immortal beyond fear: that is Brahman.'

The wind has not a body, nor lightning, nor thunder, nor clouds; but when those rise into the higher spheres then they find their body of light. In the same way, when the soul is in silent quietness it arises and leaves the body, and reaching the Spirit Supreme finds there its body of light. 

Know that when the eye looks into space it is the Spirit of man that sees: the eye is only the organ of sight. [...] When one says "I am speaking," it is the Spirit that speaks: the voice is the organ of speech. When one says "I am hearing," it is the Spirit that hears: the ear is the organ of hearing. And when one says "I think," it is the Spirit that thinks: the mind is the organ of thought. It is because of the light of the Spirit that the human mind can see, and can think, and enjoy..."   

Brihad-aranyaka Upanishads

The source of all forms is the eye, for it is by the eye that all forms are seen. The eye is behind all forms, even as Brahman is behind the eye. 

To Janaka king of Videha came once Yajnavalkya meaning to keep in silence the supreme sercret wisdom. But once, when Janaka and Yajnavalkya had been holding a discussion at the offering of the sacred fire, Yajnavalkya promised to grant the king any wish and the king chose to ask questions according to his desire.

What is the Soul? asked... the king of Videha

Yajnavalkya spoke: 
It is the consciousness of life. It is the light of the heart. For ever remaining the same, the Spirit of man wanders in the world of waking life and also in the world of dreams. He seems to wander in thought. He seems to wander in joy.
But in the rest of deep sleep he goes beyond this world and beyond its fleeting forms.
For in truth when the Spirit of man comes to life and takes a body, then he is joined with mortal evils; but when at death he goes beyond, then he leaves evil behind.
The Spirit of man has two dwellings: this world and the world beyond. There is also a third dwelling-place: the land of sleep and dreams. Resting in this borderland the Spirit of man can behold his dwelling in this world and in the other world afar, and wandering in this borderland he beholds behind him the sorrows of this world and in front of him he sees the joys of the beyond. 

When the Spirit of man retires to rest, he takes with him materials from this all-containing world, and he creates and destroys in his own glory and radiance. Then the Spirit of man shines in his own light.

Abandoning his body by the gate of dreams, the Spirit beholds in awakening his senses sleeping. Then he takes his own light and returns to his home, this Spirit of golden radiance, the wandering swan everlasting. 
Leaving his nest below in charge of the breath of life, the immortal Spirit soars afar from his nest. He moves in all regions wherever he loves, this Spirit of golden radiance, the wandering swan everlasting. 

So they say that one should not wake up a person suddenly, for hard to heal would he be if the Spirit did not return. They say also that dreams are like the waking state, for what is seen when awake is seen again in a dream. What is true is that the Spirit shines in his own light. 

Even as a great fish swims along the two banks of a river, first along the eastern bank and then the western bank, in the same way the Spirit of man moves along beside his two dwellings: this waking world and the land of sleep and dreams. 

As a man in the arms of the woman beloved feels only peace all around, even so the Soul in the embrace of Atman, the Spirit of vision, feels only peace all around. the ocean of Spirit the seer alone beholding his own immensity. 

...when the Spirit that lives in the eye has returned to his own source, then the soul knows no more forms. 

Even as a caterpillar, when coming to the end of a blade of grass, reaches out to another blade of grass and draws itself over to it, in the same way the Soul, leaving the body and unwisdom behind, reaches out to another body and draws itself over to it. 

The Soul is Brahman, the Eternal. 
It is made of consciousness and mind: it is made of life and vision.

As the slough of a snake lies dead upon an ant-hill, even so the mortal body; but the incorporeal immortal Spirit is life and light and Eternity

'I have found the small path known of old that stretches far away. By it the sages who know the Spirit arise to the regions of heaven and then beyond to liberation.'

...let the lover of Brahman follow wisdom. Let him not ponder on many words, for many words are weariness. 

This is the world of the Spirit, O king. Thus spoke Yajnavalkya.
O Master. Yours is my kingdom and I am yours, said then the king of Videha.    

Stars over the Himalayas