The Upanishads have been translated by a number of people who preach about God and religion. They tend to work translations of the Upanishads into saying what they want for marketing. The translations have been adapted to reflect their own understanding of the world but more importantly adapted to talk about God, religion, kindness, Seva, helping and a lot of other concepts that promote them to exploit the nativity of gullible people. The Upanishads have also been translated by yet another set of people who have tried to apply word-to-word translations by studying the Sanskrit language for history and sake of archeology without applying context to it. These, to me has made no sense at all when read as a whole. In fact in a lot of places I have looked at it and said “How foolish? Why would any person with intelligence have even said this? And by no means were our ancestors fools!!!” All that these translations seems to do is falsely promote the idea that the Upanishads are just some random texts and sentences with maybe one or two pearls of wisdom and philosophy which only superstitious people follow.
It is a shame that the one and only important aspect of our lives – the truth about the underlying “I” – is lost to us because of a few inconsequential translations, misunderstandings and besmearing by a few select individuals. While definitely, I do not claim to have done justice to the wealth of information the Upanishads have documented, I have tried to bring out the fact that we need to approach the Upanishads with an open mind, with a fresh start leaving pre-notions behind and changing the context under which the Upanishads are read to start understanding what they are trying to tell us.
A simple example. One of the common questions that science tries to answer is how did this universe form? The popular theory is “big bang”. According to the big bang theory the universe expanded from a very high density high temperature state. Big bang theory traces the high density all the way back a singularity which is the big bang or rapid expansion followed by cooling which created favourable environment for formation of subatomic particles.
There is a missing part to this puzzle which only now scientists are starting to question. This explains matter creation, but what about awareness? How did awareness start to form? Science currently only deals with matter, forces and fields and investigations related to or of matter. We have physics that works with matter, waves, forces and fields, quantum physics that goes all the way down to the smallest photon, which is, but just another form of matter. We have chemistry which deals with molecules and reactions of molecules again matter. We have biology (plant or animal) / medical / physiology which deals with organic matter, body, neurons, brain, bones, anatomy anything but related to matter. But the underlying core of any living organism is “awareness” without which this body is just a cadaver. Yet, it is not understood by us on how this awareness is connected to matter? How can matter which is formed of electrons, protons, neutrons become aware of itself? Or any other matter? When and how did this awareness start? Sure the smallest living organic entity is amoeba, but do we know that an amoeba has awareness? While we talk about big bang theory for matter, was it also big bang for awareness? Are we as sentient beings just pure matter? Or is it a very lucky interplay of matter, forces and fields? Or is it a culmination of evolution of matter and evolution of some other “field” (I will call it “field” for lack of any other describing word) which, when gelled correctly together form sentient beings?
While we have traced back on matter, the ancient people who wrote the Upanishads appear to have traced back on what is called “The self or the truth”. For eg., the Nasadiya Suktam from Rig Veda states:
nāsa̍dāsī̱nno sadā̍sītta̱dānī̱m nāsī̱drajo̱ no vyo̍mā pa̱ro yat kimāva̍rīva̱ḥ kuha̱ kasya̱ śarma̱nnaṁbha̱ḥ kimā̍sī̱dgaha̍naṁ gabhī̱ram
na asat asin no sat tadanim: Neither untruth exist nor truth exist then na asit rajo no vyoma: Neither exist space nor sky paro yat kim avari vah: Which, what covered this kuha kasya sarmann ambhah: where whose protection matter kim asid gahanam garbira: how exist abyss inexhaustible
Putting it all together:
Then, neither the untruth nor the truth existed. Neither the space nor ether existed. Which or what covered all this? Where and whose protection was matter? How did this inexhaustible abyss exist?
This describes the state before any of this universe existed and definitely describes the confusion around what we call singularity. Later on the following is claimed:
kō addhā vēda ka iha pra vōchat kuta ājātā kuta iyaṃ visṛṣṭiḥ | arvāg dēvā asya visarjanē nāthā kō vēda yata ābabhūva
ko addha veda ka iha pra vochat: who certainly know what here about which being spoken kuta ajata kuta iyam visrstih: whence arose how this distinct creation arvag deva asya vidarjane: later Gods abode created na atha ko beda yata abaa bhuva: not then who know where beginning come into being
Putting it together:
Who knows with certainty what is being spoken about here? How did this distinct creation arise? The Gods were created later, then who knows when it first came into being?
Isn’t this what we are also saying about the Big Bang? This has been echoed in a number of Upanishads which I have tried to translate. It gets us to think what have we translated wrong that we are not understanding the whole of Vedas or Upanishads correctly? Is there merit in trying to relook at the current translations and retranslating by taking into consideration that they actually are not talking about divinity, religion or God but about life and the world around us?
This is my contribution towards spreading awareness that the Upanishads have a wealth of information if only translated with the correct context.