Among the prevalent misconceptions pertaining to the Upanishads or the Vedantic literature is that it is meant only for those who have renounced the world and its material pursuits.
But, even a cursory glance at any of the Upanishads will suffice to enlighten us on the value of the knowledge contained therein and its applicability in mundane life.
The Mundaka Upanishad is a good example of such profound and elevating concepts. This Upanishad propounds four main streams of thought, all of which have an immense bearing on man’s life. It first identifies two main levels of knowledge, the lower and the higher.
Secondly, it describes this world as emanating from that one supreme power. Thirdly, it says that the benefits that accrue from rituals are only transitory and finally it declares that the knowledge of the highest reality is what must be aimed at to be attained.
The opening prayer itself is a lesson on weeding out the unnecessary sensory bombardment which we are subject to.
It is an appeal to hear only that which is auspicious, see only that which is good and with strong and able limbs, lead our lives in the proper manner for the duration that has been allotted to us.
Through a succinctly phrased question asking ‘by knowing what does everything else that is to be known become known?’, this Upanishad distinguishes all knowledge other than that of the highest immutable power as lower knowledge and that the knowledge of the supreme power is the higher knowledge that must be striven for.
The origin of the universe is depicted beautifully and tellingly with three analogies.
“Just as a spider sends forth its silken threads from its body, just as vegetation springs forth from this earth and just as hair grows on the human body, this universe arises from that immutable power”.
This power is the witness to every act of ours, is without beginning or end or form. It is from this immeasurable, eternal power that all other beings, celestials, animals, birds, food, natural phenomena, all issue forth, just like sparks of similar kind emanate from a blazing fire.
This power is the very self of all beings. Search for and try to understand this self, which should be the ultimate quest of men. (One is reminded of Bhagawan Ramana Maharshi’s words here).