Smt. Sarojini Varadarajan has been a keen student of Vedanta for several years. As a disciple of Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati, she attended a Vedanta course conducted at Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Coimbatore. She has been listening to my classes also directly audio recordings. She has the habit of taking notes and sharing them with other seekers. When she submitted the manuscript on my Mundakopanishad-bhashyam classes, two years back I could see the amount of effort that has gone into it. Due to various commitments, I could not take the responsibility of editing and publishing this useful work. She did the editing herself and published the book a year back, which was released by Sri Swami Dayananda Saraswati.
I am vary happy to know now that she has edited, and setting the Kathopannisad also published along with the bhasyam based on my Kathopanisad-bhasyam classes.
I congratulate Smt. Sarojini Varadarjan for her effort. May this book reach the hands of many deserving students of Vedanta.
The Kathopanisad is an upanisad hich is present in the brahmana portion of the Katha sakha of Krsayajurveda. The upanisads are referred to as Vedanta woing to their location at the end of the Veda. They contain the knowledge that frees an emotionally mature mumuksu from all senses of limitations, here and now itself. Each upanisad tries to explain the same truth in a different metrology, hoping that one way or the other the people would ultimately be able to understand the one and only ultimate truth that one is actually not the body-mind-complex that one can objectify but the atma which is non-different from the one and only Brahman, which one cannot objectify. The guruparampara (teaching tradition) unfolds this upanisadic knowledge in such a way that they are assimilable.
The KAthopanisad is one of the ten upanisads which have been commented upon by Sri Adi Sankaracarya. Sri Swami Dayananda saraswati talking about Sankarabhasyam says that Sankaracarya presents the whole sampradaya in his commentary. He says Sankaracarya tells us how the words are to be looked at, what exactly is the meaning of a given word, why that meaning etc. Ths it is all a highly analysed upanisadic teaching. Shri Swami Paramarthananda a highly respected teacher in the guruparampara and a disciple of Sri Swami Dayananda Saraswati taugh this Kathopanisad in his weekly classes in Chennai along with Sankarabhasyam in a very simple and lucid manner. This book is primarily based on those talks.
The purpose of this book is to enable the reader to understand and revel in the teaching of the Kathopanisad. This book contains the mantras in Devanagari along with the Roman transliteration, anvaya (prose order) for the mantras, a summary and detailed meaning the mantras. Most important it includes the text of Sankarabhasyam, and a lucid explanation of the same.
The significant feature of the book is to keep the explanation of the upanisad of text and bhasyam true to the original Sanskrit text as closely as possible. As part of the teaching Swami Paramarthananda has said a lot more to make the purport of the text clear. The additional part has been carefully separated and placed at the beginning of each mantra along with the introduction to the mantras. Thus all that was taught by Swamiji has been retained, but segregated and re-arranged as described to facilitate the understanding of the bhasyam with greater ease. For the very same reason, each of the Sanskrit words of the bhasyam have been transliterated and put in brackets at the appropriate placed. Further, whatever extra words had to be used to make the teaching clear, which are not in the commentary have been also put in the same brackets. Therefore as you read you will observe that some brackets contain both transliterated words as well as English words with a long dash like this (-) in between. Extra reference notes also have been provided along with the explanation of the bhasyam. Thus the book is intended to be a valuable resource and reference for vedantic students at all levels.
After Swami Paramarthananda's lectures on Mundaka upanisad was released Swami Saksakrtananda said to me "why don't you compile Swami Paramarthananda's lectures on Kathopanisad into a book as well?" This induced me to happily take up this work inspite of my age and health as I thoroughly enjoyed compiling Swamiji's lectures on the Mundaka upanisad.
If not for Swami Saksakrtananda' s encouragement, I could never have brought this book into print. Brahmacari Sankarji helped me in the form of correcting the book by patiently and diligently going through my manuscript checking each word. He also did a wonderful job of proof-reading. I am greatful to him for this. I have also to mention in this context my life partner of fifty years Sri. Varadarajan who also encouraged me in this project. This is my present to him on his eightieth birth day. Last but not least I have to thank Ms Ambika for helping me in the final stages of formating the book.
I dedicate this book with pranams to pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati and to Pujya Swami Paramarthananda to both of whom I own this knowledge.
The Vedas are the basis of all vedantic study as well as religious rituals. The subject matter of Vedas in the early portion consists all about how to perform the rituals invoking the concerned devatas, whereas the later portion consists all about the knowledge of the cause for this whole universe, and the nature of atma. Both these are not known to us, and therefore we have to know them through the Vedas only.
Thus the Vedas give us in the first part, rituals and duties, which will contribute to a religious and ethical or dharmic life. Because of such a life style one 'may' develop a love for freedom called moksa. For such a person the last portion of Veda, known as upanisad gives the liberating teaching of one's true self. We know that Vedas are four, but upanisads can be many, as one Veda has more than one upanisad. However, it does not thereby mean that the subject matter of the various upanisads is different. The subject matter of all upanisads is same, to know Brahman as oneself, only the approach to the teaching varies from upanisad to upanisad.
This upanisad known as Kathopanisad belongs to Krsna-yajurveda. It is called Kathopanisad because it was given by Katha rsih, who was a disciple of Vaisampayana rsih, who in turn was a disciple of Vyasa. This upanisad has two chapters called adhyayas, and each adhyaya has three sections called vallis. These six vallis comprise of 119 mantras.The upanisads generally give their teaching through a dialogue between the teacher and the student. In Kathopanisad also the teaching starts in the same way, in the form of a dialogue between the acarya who happens to be here lord Yamadharmaraja himself, and the disciple Naciketas. The dialogue is in the form of a coversation (samvada) between the two, and not in the form of vada, a heated argument. We usually connect Yamadharmaraja to death, sorrow pain etc and are afraid of him, but in fact he is a great jnani, an exalted jrva who after gaining lot of punya and jnanam, has come to this exalted post. He merely performs his duties in accordance to the jrva's karma. Sankaracarya indicates all this by using the words 'bhagavate' and 'brahma vidhya-acarya', in his introduction to the upanisad.
Sankaracarya has written a beautiful bhasyam, a commentary on this upanisad. On the whole we have Sankaracarya's commentary on ten upanisads among which the bhasyams of Mundakopanisad and Kathopanisad are relatively simpler, because Sankaracarya here does not enter into other systems of philosophy but confines to the text only.
Sankaracarya in his introductory bhasyam to this
upanisad gives the derived meaning of the word upanisad. The word upanisad is originally derived from the root 'sad'. This root has got a pair of prefixes (prefix is what comes before the root) - 'upa', and 'ni' as well as a suffix (suffix is what comes after the root) -'qvip'. In Sanskrit suffixes are unique. Its role is, that it appears at the end of the root, which is a verb and converts it into a noun and then disappears and therefore the suffix is not visible to us. So the root 'sad' has become the noun upanisad, along with four components - 'upa' 'ni', 'sad', and 'kvip'- the invisible component. Two prefixes, 'upa' and 'ni' join the root, 'sad' before it takes the form of the word upanisad, and together, they form the word upanisad. According to Sanskrit combination (sandhi) rules, when you join 'upani' with 'sad', then the letter's' in 'sad' will get converted into letter 's'. The word upanisad is thus formed which finally means, the knowledge of Brahman, a teaching that can destroy sarnsara and give moksa, or at least weaken sarnsara when given to a qualified student who seeks it with commitment.
Why is it said that the knowledge of Brahman either destroys sarnsara or at least weakens samsara? It is said so, because in this upanisad besides nirguna brahmavidya, saguna brahmopasana is also given, in the form of viratopasana. Therefore the derived meaning of the word upanisad can be taken, as being based on either nirguna brahmavidya or brahmajnanam, or on saguna brahmavidya or saguna brahmopasana. When you give the nirguna brahmavidya meaning, then the word upanisad conveys the meaning of destroyer of sarnsara and the one that leads to moksa, But when you give the saguna brahmavidya meaning then the upanisad conveys the meaning of one which merely weakens samsara because only nirguna brahmavidya can destroy samsara, where as saguna brahmopasana can only weaken samsara by taking the upasaka to brahmaloka. Sankaracarya very elaborately comments upon this in his introductory commentary. In this context he raises a doubt and clears it as well, in his usual style.
The doubt is regarding the word upanisad, whether its primary meaning refers merely to the words in the upanisad or to the knowledge conveyed by those words. This doubt does not usually arise in books of other subjects because the words there have no other use except to convey the knowledge, but in the case of the upanisads it is different, as some people merely chant the upanisads, without bothering about the meaning, as it is also a form of traditional learning of the upanisads. Therefore the words of the text are also called upanisad. Thus in this case, the textbook containing the words is also called upanisad, and the knowledge generated by them is also called upanisad. Therefore which is the primary meaning and which is the secondary meaning? Having raised the question, Sankaracarya himself answers it. He says that since the meaning of upanisad is to destroy samsara and since the mere words of the text cannot do it, and since it can be done only by the knowledge generated by the words, the knowledge therein and not the words therein should be taken as the primary meaning of the word upanisad. The mere words of the text can only be the secondary meaning of the word upanisad.
Sankaracarya ends his introduction by talking about anubandha-catustayam, which consists, firstly the eligibility of the candidate, secondly the subject matter, thirdly the purpose of the book and finally the connection between the means and the end, which we shall see soon. But before that comes, the prayer part known as santi pathah. In every upanisad, at the beginning there is a prayer chanted by both the teacher and the student. The words of the prayer are very meaningful and clearly tell what the prayer is for.
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