Strength, Strength, O Man, Be Not Weak

In his lecture on 'Vedanta and Its Application to Indian life', Swami- Vivekananda says:

'Strength, strength is what the Upanishads speak to me from every page. This is the one great thing to remember, it has been the one great lesson I have been taught in my life. Strength, it says, strength, O man, be not weak. Are there no human weaknesses- says man. There arc, say the Upanishads, but will more weakness heal them, would you try to wash dirt with dirt? Will sin cure sin, weakness cure weakness .... Ay, it is the only literature in the world where you find the word abhih, 'fearless', used again and again; in no other scripture in the world IS this adjective applied either to God or to man .... And the Upanishads are the great mine of strength. Therein lies strength enough to invigorate the whole world.

'The whole world can be vivified, made strong, energized through them. They will call with trumpet voice upon the weak, the miserable, and the down-trodden of all races, all creeds, all sects, to stand on their feet and be free. Freedom physical freedom, mental freedom, and spiritual freedom are the watchwords of the Upanishads.'

The Brhadaranyaka, the longest of the Upanishads, IS, as its name implies, a big (brhat) forest (aranya) of philosophical thought and spiritual inspiration. Four outstanding personalities illumine its pages-- two men and two women Janaka, the philosopher-king, Yajnavalkya, the philosopher-sage, Maitreyi, the deeply spiritual wife of Yajnavalkya, and Gargi, the vachaknavi, the 'gifted woman speaker and philosopher' who is foremost among the questioners of Yajnavalkya in philosophical debate.

The Upanishad expounds, through its fascinating dialogues conducted by these outstanding and other lesser person all ties, the central theme of all the Upanishads, namely, the divinity of man and the spiritual solidarity of the whole universe in Brahman.

It contains another of the four mahavakyas) namely, Aham Brahmasmi-- 'I am Brahman', besides the Ayam Atam Brahma of the Mandukya, already referred to. It dares to characterise Brahman as 'the fearless,' and presents its realisation by man as the attainment, here and now of the state of absolute fearlessness and fullness of delight.

From Obscurity to Prominence

It goes to the eternal credit of Sankara that, through his masterly commentaries on the principal Upanishads, he brought out of obscurity this immortal literature, as also the great Bhagavad Gita, and made them accessible and intelligible to a wider audience; and that audience has been steadily widening ever Since, aided by the contributions of subsequent commentators, thinkers, and sages, until, in the present age, thanks to the techniques of modem western civilization, the whole world has become its actual or potential audience.

Sankara's commentaries on these Upanishads, especially on those passages of theirs pregnant with philosophical and spiritual import, are masterpieces of philosophical discussion illumined by deep spiritual insights. His masterly handling of the Sanskrit language all these commentaries gives us a prose which IS marked by brevity and vigour, simplicity and poetic charm.