Introduction to the Bhagavad-Gita (5)

[For the Disciple—A Guide]

The Upanishads and the Vedas

The Vedas are the most ancient of India's records now known. Some, even more ancient sources, are said to be stored in secret libraries in various parts of the country. They are said to be only accessible to dedicated students of spiritual wisdom. Vyasa is a title showing respect, for one of the members of the hierarchy of the highest Gurus (teachers), whose prototypes are the seven Rishis of primordial and ancient Humanity. They are Those who, mystically, are said to have presided over "creation" (the reincarnation of the world and its myriad of beings in this Universe).

The Vedas are four in number: the Rikh, the Sama, the Yajur and the Atharva. Vedic literature is further divided into four groups: the Sanhitas-hymns, the Brahmanas-rituals and sacrifices, the Aranyakas-philosophy and allegory, and the Upanishads-philosophical and moral instructions.

Over one hundred Upanishads are known; of these eighteen are considered major, and on these Sri Shankaracharya has written commentaries. They are: Isavaga (or Isa), Kena, Katha, Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Aitareya, Taittiriya, Chandogya, the Brihadaranyaka, and finally the Bhagavad-Gita which is to be found in the Mahabharata, an Itihasa, or history).

As customary, the Vedas and their accompanying explanations, called Brahmanas (commentaries, explanations, used by the Brahmins), and Upanishads (expositions and illustrations of the secret meanings for the chelas) are written in a seven-fold code, capable of being interpreted in six ways, besides the seventh which can only be read correctly by a Sage, a Rishi. There are seven hundred slokas or verses in the Gita, distributed in definite proportions among the 18 (10+7+1) Chapters—suggesting a numerical relation to the "seventeen rayed" Central Spiritual Sun of our Universe.

The Secret Doctrine and the Gita

H.P.B., in The Secret Doctrine, gives in the first volume a survey of the sevenfold division of the Universe. A devoted student, using this hint can recover the use of the mystic "keys" as he proceeds. He will find his inner progress represents increments in understanding that opens to him the depths of meaning underlying the merely objective.

Besides the Brahmanas and the Upanishads, the student will find in Indian lore: the Puranas (ancient commentaries), and the Itihasa (history) of vast cycles, and of events overseen by rulers of the past, these are often made into myths and allegories, to present living ideals for personal use in daily life by those who desire to learn and improve in this vast school we call our Earth. Indian life, away from the pressures of western civilization, still finds areas of seclusion, where the ancient sacred stories are recited so as to feed the flame of intuition burning in the heart.

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