Self- Study Upanishads - 2
What to Pack: Longing
Now, let’s prepare for the trip. The first thing is, What to pack? We will leave the snorkel and sunscreen behind, and instead take the main pre-requisite for entry: sincere longing to know the truth. The Katha Upanishad says, (pg 27)
The Self is not known through study of the scriptures, nor through subtlety of the intellect, nor through much learning. To one who longs for him, the Self, reveals itself.
The Upanishads were considered rahasya, secret teachings, offered only to people in the latter stages of life, those who were ready to look at the world in a new way.
In most of the Upanishads, students are tested for their sincerity before they are even given the teachings that we will receive tonight. For example, in one story from the Chandogya Upanishad, Indra, the Lord of all Gods, actually has to come back 5 times, for a total of 101 years, before he gets the entire teaching he has been seeking. In another story in the same Upanishad, a young boy named Jabala is left sitting with a sickly herd of cows for years, until he finally returns to his teacher. Clearly dedication is called for.
So for our journey, we need only pack our sincere longing, and that longing will do all the rest for us. Oh, and one more thing… a little bit of courage will help as well. Because the welcome sign at the airport of our Big Island of the Upanishads greets us with this warning, from the Katha Upanishad (pg 30):
Like the sharp edge of a razor, the sages say, is the path.
Narrow it is, and difficult to tread.
The journey into the teachings of the Upanishads is not like going to Kauai, where the water gently laps Hanalei Bay, and the fish are right there at your feet. If you want a soothing philosophy that tells you, eat, drink and be merry, this is not it. If you want a self-help path that says, all you have to do is believe you are great, this is not it. The philosophy of the Upanishads indeed proclaims your greatness, but, there is work to do and they spell it out. Hence the warning, “Narrow it is, and difficult to tread.” This journey is for the dedicated and the fearless seeker.
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