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VINE VOICEon 26 August 2010
Decades ago I plugged through a book called "The Thirteen Principle Upanishads", at the time I found it very useful. However I am the type of person that needs someone to tell me when my shoe is untied. Not so much a guru as an explication or guide to what I am about to read so I can slow down and look for those points besides the one I find on my own.

I perused through the Upanishads books available and found I had already purchased this as a series. I then decided to also re-purchase this in the kindle edition. I do not know if it is his classical background or just skillful presentation; however Eknath Easwaran is perfect at showing you what is about to be presented and tying it back to the concrete or classical world. I now realize it was not that I just wanted to reread the Upanishads but to understand and dwell on them. Thank you Eknath Easwaran.

You might want to do what you are not supposed to do with mysteries and go to the back of the book first to view the Glossary firs for pronunciations and the descriptions of all the different players.

Be sure to read his other books.

The Bhagavad Gita (Classics of Indian Spirituality)
The Dhammapada (Classics of Indian Spirituality)
Classics of Indian Spirituality
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In the Upanishads there are two selves. They are symbolized by two birds sitting on a tree branch. The one bird, the self with a small "s" eats. The other bird, the Self with a capital "S" observes. The first self is the self that is part of this world. The second Self is merely an observer that doesn't take part and is in fact beyond the pairs of opposites such as pleasure and pain that dominate our existence. This Self is formally called the Atman. In an important analogy, it is said that the Atman is the drop of water that glides off of the lotus leaf into the ocean of Brahman, with Brahman being the entirety of all that there is, in other words, God, the God beyond all attribution.

This presentation of the Upanishads--necessarily a selection, of course--by Eknath Easwaran is the best single volume that I have come across for the following reasons:

First, the translation by Easwaran is readable, edifying and congenial to the Sanskrit in so far as that is possible. The poetry in the original language and the word play are lost in translation as is always the case with poetry and highly symbolic language, and especially language that is meant to be taken on more than one level. However Easwaran's notes after each Upanishad help to give us an idea what the original is like and give the reader a feel for the some of the nuances.
Second, the chapter introductions and the concluding essay by Michael N. Nagler lend insight and clarity to the reader's understanding.
Third, the selections themselves and what is included in the selections are efficacious. By that I mean the ideas and the "feel" of the expression, the psychology, and the philosophy of the Upanishads and the larger Vedic tradition are made manifest. Some voluminous translations give us much more of the repetition and ritual than we need, while some volumes give us perhaps not enough.

In this regard I want to call the reader's attention to the slim volume The Ten Principal Upanishads (1937) by the poet W.B. Yeats, and Shree Purohit Swami. Easwaran's book contains more of the Upanishads and offers a more extensive commentary, but Yeats and Purohit are more poetic. I recommend that the reader read both books. Alas Yeats's book is out of print and so you'll have to find it at, probably, a college library.

Here is how Easwaran translates the invocation to the famous Isha Upanishad:

All this is full. All that is full.
From fullness, fullness comes.
When fullness is taken from fullness,
Fullness still remains.
Om shanti shanti, shanti

Now here is how Yeats and Purohit have it:

This is perfect. That is perfect.
Perfect comes from perfect.
Take perfect from perfect; the remainder is perfect.
May peace and peace and peace be everywhere.

I think the former is perhaps truer to the spirit of the philosophy of the Upanishad, but I think the latter is more poetic.

The Upanishads, usually acknowledged to be the culmination of the wisdom of the Vedas, form the basis for Hinduism as well as serving as a wellspring for Jainism, Buddhism, Taoism, and yoga. Many ideas central to these ways of life are found in the Upanishads. In particular the Bhagavad Gita finds its inspiration and even some of its expression and even a bit of its form in the most famous and most often read Upanishad, the Katha. Nachiketas of the Katha becomes Arjuna of the Gita, while Death becomes Krishna of the Gita.

In his essay, Nagler writes, "Taken as a whole, the Upanishads contain the raw material of a profound philosophy."

In the tradition of India, philosophy and religion are not separate as they usually are in the West. In truth all religions contain not only religious ideas, but philosophical ones as well; but more than anything, religions are psychologies--guides on how to live life, and how to die. In the Upanishads we do not die. Death happens only to the bird that eats. Our real essence, the Atman is eternal, and therefore death is an illusion, a compelling illusion to be sure, but one that can be tossed off through an understanding that "thou art that" ("tat tvam asi") meaning that you and the universe (or Brahman) are one. Nagler writes, "Indian religious systems hold as a core belief that the individual is not that which dies but is instead the forces which brought the body and personality into existence and will continue shaping its destiny after what we call death..." (p. 287).

Easwaran is the author of many books on religion. I was particularly impressed with his book on The Bhagavad Gita (1985; 2000). See my review at Amazon.
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on 27 February 2011
Eknath Easwaran's translation goes straight to the heart of the Upanishads. It is immediately clear that Easwaran was not primarily driven by scholarly or poetic ambitions. He was a spiritual practitioner himself, and as such, his aim was to help other practitoners on their path. In this context, it is important to note that the Upanishads can be seen as a universal teaching - not limited to "Hinduism".

Where other translations loose themselves in scholarly indicisiveness, this translation lends its clarity from the author's own experience with the subject matter - and that clarity also makes it beautiful.
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on 27 January 2013
Although I'm relatively new to the world of Eastern spiritual texts, Easwaran's translation (as well as the other two in this series "Classic's Of Indian Spirituality") is lucid and clear, with helpful introductions throughout that explain the significance of each Upanishad, and it's context within the culture and history of ancient India.

The work itself is effortlessly transcendent, and Easwaran leaves untranslated the concepts that are indescribable in a western tongue, allowing a more personal reading, and for the ideas to become clearer as one progress's through the text.
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on 1 January 2011
This is a great example of a modern translation and commentary of the Upanishads. I would certainly recommend this edition as it provides clear commentary after each section. There is a glossary and notes at the back. For anyone interested in the Upanishads, this book will help you to persevere with your journey!
Very interesting.
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on 28 June 2013
Easwaran introduces the concepts advised in Vedanta for a spiritual life beautifully. I really feel close to the men and women who wrote the Upanishads when I read his words. On every page there is a thought worth pausing for. For me it was like reading a gentler James Joyce.
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on 7 January 2013
I had no prior knowledge, the book is an easy read with clear concepts. I would definitely recommend it
I would have liked to seen more relations between the upanishads and the vedas/gita… being explained.
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on 12 July 2013
This book is an easy to understand translation of The Upanishads and highly recommended if you are doing yoga courses or just want to delve that bit further into Yoga
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on 22 January 2008
The main good point about this book is that it gives you notes before hand as to what to expect from the upanishads. It describes the meaning behind each one. But apparently not all of the upanishads are written about here. Although this is said to be the best and clearest version to comprehend it is not necessarily a book to be read once. If you are not a very good reader and don't want read over paragraphs a few times in order to take it in,i don't think this book is a good one.However if you are interested in the roots of indian spirituality or/and on a course on yoga this seems a the most clear interpretation for first timers.
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on 6 July 2013
This edition is particularly helpful. It definitely helps one to understand what is potentially a difficult text to understand.(I found it hard)
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