The Upanishads do not concern themselves with mere theories. They raise direct questions regarding the source of thought, the essence of our being and are as relevant today as they were 2000 years ago.
The Isavasya proclaims the all-pervasiveness of this totality of consciousness which is here called Isha, the Lord, and urges one to let go the narrow and self-centered identity we are caught up in and rejoice in the flow of the infinite wholeness of Life.
The word Kena means Who. This Upanishad concerns itself with the question of ones ID. Is there a separate I or is it merely a term used to describe the totality of cognizance. Is there an I beyond the limited, self-centered ID?
The Mandukya examines the same idea but in a different way, exploring the states of consciousness all human beings experience namely, the waking state, the dream state and the deep sleep state, and postulates that there is a common experiencer in all these states, a witness, not affected by the states and which is the totality of consciousness called Turiya represented by the Pranava, OM.
The Upanishads represent the high watermark not only of Hindu Philosophy but of spiritual literature anywhere in the world. These marvellous discourses and dialogues between self-realized seers, known as Rishis, and one or more disciples, contain powerful and eloquent statements regarding the ultimate reality in its multifarious facets. They have been well described as providing an ‘ecstatic slide show of reality, a privileged glimpse of the unitive vision in which all thing are one in a world aflame with God’. They contain some of the most eloquent passages such as – ‘I have seen that Great Being shining like a thousand suns beyond the darkness; it is only by knowing that being that we can achieve immortality’ and again, ‘Hear O children of immortal bliss, you are born to be united with the Divine; follow the path of the illumined ones and be united with the Supreme Being’.
The universal truths articulated in the Upanishads have formed the basis for numerous commentaries down through the centuries, beginning with the luminous insights of Adi Shankaracharya. In our own times Sri Aurobindo, Sri Krishnaprem, Dr Radhakrishnan, Swami Ranganathananda, Eknath Ishwaran and other great seers and sages have produced commentaries and interpretations on various Upanishads. The Upanishads are enduring and unfailing sources of inspiration, and their impact grows with each successive reading. One of my favourites is the Mundaka which I have translated and upon which I have attempted a short commentary.
The author of this book, Sri Mumtaz Ali, popularly known as ‘M’, has spoken extensively upon the Upanishads, based on his personal experience. The fact that a person born a Muslim should have such a deep insight into the Hindu tradition proves once again that the spiritual path accepts no boundaries. The three Upanishads upon which M has commented are among the most important – the Ishavasya, which is always given pride of place in any list of Upanishads, the Mandukya which expounds the deeper symbolism of the sacred symbol Aum, and the Kena where we have the marvellous allegory of the Devas who thought they had won a victory, whereas actually it was the victory of the divine Brahman. In this Upanishad we come across Shiva and Yaksha, whose identity the Devas are unable to comprehend, and are also introduced to Uma, Haimavati, the many splendoured daughter of the Himalayas, who appears as the mediator between the Devas and the Supreme Brahman.
In these talks M has expounded in a clear and cogent fashion various aspects of these three great texts. I have pleasure in commending this book to spiritual seekers and students of Hinduism around the world.
— Dr. Karan Singh