The Upanishads, the ancient Hindu scriptures, are the core of Indian philosophy. These are the works that explore the metaphysical truths of human existence. Of all the Upanishads, the Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad is not only one of the oldest, but also one of the greatest. It is greatest in respect to its theme and substance. This Upanishad deals with the never-ending, all-embracing, self-luminous and blissful reality known as the Brahman (identical with the Atman or the self). It is considered both as a forest of knowledge and a mine of wisdom. Divided into six chapters, this Upanishad tries to explore the real meaning of almost every aspect of human life. ‘Brihadaaranyaka, the Great Upanishad – Understanding Brahman and the Ultimate Reality’ by Kadambari Kaul is a recent work which deals with this Upanishad. This book is an innovative transcreation of the Brihadaaranyaka.
Kadambari Kaul’s this work is one of the best works that I have come across on Upanishads. And, there are valid reasons for my statement. First, the writing in this book is not only legible, but also enlightening. Trancreating ancient Sanskrit verses with an aim to give a smooth reading to the prospective readers is not an easy job and the author should be credited for doing this job brilliantly. Second, the power of the self this book teaches is invaluable to any person of ethical, moral or theological background. The book effortlessly forces you to think hard and ponder over the meaning of self over and over again. Third, the book beautifully captures the poetic beauty of the Upanishad without diluting the intense philosophical points. Additionally, the book discusses the complex philosophy with ease without adding any unnecessary confusion. Fourth, an eclectic array of elucidations and detailed commentaries make this book an interesting read. In other words, this book does not bore you. I had a great time reading it.
Kadambari Kaul’s this take on Brihadaaranyaka can be termed as a wonderful makeover of one of India’s greatest philosophical treasure house. As already mentioned, the language of the book is simple, clear and fully comprehensible. While some books dealing with Upanishads become voluminous and complex in nature, some books give us less than what readers really want. The book under review is neither a thick and mind-numbing volume, nor a book that gives you a feeling of something missing. One of the greatest achievements of this book is that it leads you to think various aspects of your own life. The concept of Atman and Brahman and the interchangeability shakes your thinking cap and leads you to look into your own heart for the answers of a number of questions. Upanishads are often considered as religious texts. However, as this book highlights, this is not the case. The Upanishads are much more than that.
This book is not the first book written by Kadambari Kaul. Her earlier works ‘Gautama Buddha – A Noble Life’ and ‘Verses from the Dhammapada’ have already collected rave reviews. Now, with this book, she has shown her honest endeavor to throw light on the various philosophies embedded in one of the great Upanishads.
Many people wanted to know more about the Upanishads. However, they always get frightened by the multi-volume scholarly translations. Well! This book is for them. It is an easy ride and they will enjoy it thoroughly. Most importantly, this book provides an opportunity to learn a lot about Hindu spirituality. A well-researched work, this book will definitely be liked by the readers.
Go for it! I would highly recommend it.
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange of an honest review.