In association with Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, ISKCON Bangalore hosted a unique six-day national conference on the Message of Upanishads from June 29 to July 4, 2014 at its Multi-Vision Theatre.
Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan was founded in the year 1938 by Dr. K. M. Munshi in Mumbai with the objective of promoting and propagating Indian culture, values and the Sanskrit language. The Bengaluru center of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, operating from 1965, had joined hands with ISKCON Bangalore in July 2013, to organize a week-long conference, Veda Samvada, to propagate and popularize the message of the Vedas.
Over 90 scholars participated in this conference and presented scholarly papers. The tremendous response generated from this programme inspired the Bhavan to plan a similar conference titled
(Message of Upanishads)
The purpose of the conference was to communicate the message of the Upanishads to the common man and youth in particular, who have the ability to absorb them and improve the quality of their life, thereby benefiting themselves, the society and the world at large.
A Brief Note on Upanishads
Our scriptures are enlightened expressions of exceptionally awakened minds in quest of Truth.
The Vedas are the most ancient religious texts in the world. They are described as apaurusheya: superhuman. Sri Madhvacharya said: vedanam prathamo vakta harir eva yato vibhuh: The transcendental words of the Vedas emanated from the mouth of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
From the Vedas evolved the Upanishads, which enquire into the nature of living entities, the universe or the material nature, and the Supreme God. The term Upanishad means an intimate session between the teacher and the taught (sitting near the teacher and understanding the purpose of the Vedas).
The Upanishads contain the philosophical essence of the Vedas and are therefore called Vedanta. Veda means knowledge, and anta means the end. In other words, proper understanding of the ultimate meaning of the Vedas is called Vedanta knowledge.
Will Durant (1885-1981), American writer, historian, and philosopher said: “Upanishads are the oldest extant philosophy and psychology of our race; the surprisingly subtle and patient effort of man to understand the mind and the world.”
Even scientists like Niels Bohr (1885-1962), Erwin Schrodinger (1887-1961), Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) and Albert Einstein (1879-1955) found the true meaning of Physics in Vedas and Upanishads.
The founding fathers of Quantum Physics – Niels Bohr, Erwin Schrodinger & Werner Karl Heisenberg (1901-1976), were avid readers of Vedic literatures. While formulating their ground-breaking theories they found their experiments to be consistent with the knowledge expounded in Vedas.
Niels Bohr, a physicist of Danish origin, said, “I go into the Upanishads to ask questions.”
Werner Karl Heisenberg, a notable German theoretical physicist stated: “After the conversations about Indian philosophy, some of the ideas of Quantum Physics that had seemed so crazy suddenly made much more sense. Quantum theory will not look ridiculous to people who have read Vedanta.”
There are more than two hundred texts which go under the title of Upanishads. However, only hundred and eight of these are considered authoritative and out of these the following 11 are regarded as ancient and principal Upanishads.
- Kena Upanishad
- Prashna Upanishad
- Mundaka Upanishad
- Mandukya Upanishad
- Taittiriya Upanishad
- Aitareya Upanishad
- Chandogya Upanishad
- Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
- Shvetasvatara Upanishad
By systematic study of these Upanishads, we can gain the knowledge that will help us discover our true self and thus we can realize the real purpose and ultimate goal of life.
Inauguration (June 29, 2014)
Today, the entire world has realized the universality of the messages contained in the pages of these sacred texts of India. The conference, hence, focused on discussing the message of Upanishads with reference to the following topics.
- Relevance of Upanishads in modern day life
- Relevance of Upanishads in the field of education
- Messages in legal system, business and governance
- Science in Upanishads
- Life Sciences in Upanishads
- Guidelines for political system
The conference was inaugurated by Hon’ble Justice R. C. Lahoti, Former Chief Justice of India. Chief Guest Nadoja Dr. G. Venkatasubbaiah, well-known Lexicographer, launched a book on the previous conference Veda Samvada. Sri Madhu Pandit Dasa, President of ISKCON Bangalore, was present as the Guest of Honor and launched 50 DVDs on Veda Samvada.
In his Keynote Address Prof. K. Ramasubramanian, Professor, Department of Humanities, Social Sciences and Sanskrit, IIT Bombay said: “The primary goal of Upanishads is to enable a person to understand the true nature of oneself.” Taking examples of some episodes from Upanishads he elaborated how these different episodes in the Upanishads help us in acquiring certain virtues to understand the Truth.
Describing the Upanishads, Hon’ble Justice R. C. Lahoti said, “The great ideas given by Upanishads are rational, powerful, argumentative and convincing. Upanishads never encourage magic or miracles. They approach the truth in a straightforward manner. They open the door for enjoyment but teach the youth to go inward and find the real and unlimited joy within themselves.”
Dr. G. Venkatasubbaiah pointed out the inclination of the present youth towards the Vedic literatures and appreciated their eagerness to not merely chant, but to know the meaning of these sacred texts.
Sri Madhu Pandit Dasa gave a brief account of the history of modern science from the time of Newton up to the discovery of quantum mechanics. He explained how the knowledge of matter, space and time as explained by the modem scientific theories is very fundamental to Vedic knowledge.
Sri Madhu Pandit Dasa said, “Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Erwin Schrodinger and Werner Heisenberg who were scientific giants, significantly noted for developing the quantum mechanics, were in touch with the Vedas and particularly the Upanishads.”
Topics at the conference
The conference featured over 90 scholars from all over the country who presented their papers over the six days of the conference. The scholars and specialists discussed the impact of Upanishads on Purāṇas, Mahakavyas, Modern Sanskrit Works, literatures of various languages (Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada, English) and the works of Western Philosophers.
They also analyzed various concepts based on the Upanishads. Some of these topics generated great interest in the audience.
- Nature of World according to Upanishads (Dr. S. Sudarshan Sharma, Tirupati)
- Nature of Liberation according to Upanishads (Prof. B.G. Sreelakshmi, Bengaluru)
- Nescience according to Upanishads (Sri Rajagopala Sharma Ghanapaati, Bengaluru)
- Creation according to Upanishads in the light of Big Bang Theory (Dr. N.V.C. Swamy, Bengaluru)
- Consciousness in Upanishads (Dr. A. Ramaswamy Iyengar, Bengalore)
- Upanishads – Karma Mimamsa vs. Brahma Mimamsa (Dr. Ramakanth Pandey, New Delhi)
They also presented the Upanishads as explained by great acharyas like Shankara (Prof. T.N. Prabhakara, Bengaluru), Ramanuja (Prof. Areyar Sri Ram Sharma, Melukote), and Madhwa (Prof. Haridas Bhat, Bengaluru). Various other disciplines like Psycholology, Astrology, Ecology, Music, Management were also discussed in the light of Upanishads.
- Ecology in Upanishads (Dr. Satyanarayan Chakravarty, Kolkata)
- Astrology in Upanishads (Dr. T. S. Vasan, Bengaluru)
- Psychology in Upanishads (Dr. R. Shankar, NIMHANS, Bengaluru)
- Upanishads and Jurisprudence (Dr. R. Venkat Rao, Bengaluru)
- Upanishads and Music (Dr. T. S. Satyavathi, Bengaluru)
- Upanishads and Management (Dr. T.V. Raju, Bengaluru)
Prof. M. A. Hegde from Sirsi presented a paper on the Classification and Antiquity of Upanishads. The Upanishads can be classified in various ways: either based on the Veda it belongs to…
- Aitareya Upanishad is from the Rig Veda;
- Chandogya Upanishad and Kena Upanishad are from the Sama Veda;
- Isopanishad and Brihadaranyaka Upanishad are part of the Shukla Yajur Veda;
- Kathopanishad, Taittiriya Upanishad & Shvetasvatara Upanishad from Krishna Yajur Veda;
- Prashna Upanishad, Mundaka Upanishad, Mandukya Upanishad belong to Atharva Veda.
… or they can be classified as Shaiva Upanishads, Shakta Upanishads, Vaishnava Upanishads and so on. The professors and researchers presented these various classifications and their expert opinions.
Shatavadhani Dr. R. Ganesh, Bengaluru presented a paper titled Upanishads and Bhagavad-gita.
Sri Stoka Krishna Dasa, Vice President, ISKCON Bangalore gave a talk on The Universal Principle of Isavasya from Upanishads.
Sri Bharatarshabha Dasa, Head of Public Relations Department at ISKCON spoke on Chaitanya and Upanishads.
Sri Shukadeva Dasa, Head of Spiritual Education Services, ISKCON Bangalore presented a paper titled Upanishads refer to Absolute Truth as a Person.
The other topics discussed are:
- Mahakavyas in Upanishads (Dr. M.L.N. Murthy, Tirupati)
- Stories in Upanishads (Dr. H. V. Nagaraja Rao, Mysuru)
- Upasana in Upanishads (Dr. T.V. Satyanarayana, Mysuru)
- Poetry of Upanishads (Dr. Nagarathna Hegde, Bengaluru)
- Subhasitas in Upanishads (Prof. Srinivasan, Bengaluru)
- Role of Guru in Upanishads (Prof. S, Muralidharan, Bengaluru)
- Aum in Upanishads (Prof. G. Shivarama Agnihotri, Bengaluru)
- Yoga and Upanishads (Dr. H. R. Nagendra, S-VYASA, Jigani)
- Law and Legal Logic in Upanishads (Sri. K.G. Raghavan, Bengaluru)
- Women in Upanishads (Dr. Y. B. Prabhavathi, Bengaluru)
- Pancheekarana in the light of Upanishads (Sri Sridhara Dixith Swamiji, Sagar)
The event also featured sessions for chanting of Upanishads, dance performances and classical music recitals based on Upanishads.
Valedictory Programme (July 04, 2014)
Shree Shree Raghaveshwara Bharathi Swamiji, the 35th Pontiff, Shri Ramachandrapura Mutt, Hosanagar graced the occasion as the chief guest and felicitated Prof. Hare Krishna Satapathy, Dr. Mumtaz Ali, Dr. H.V. Nagaraja Rao, Dr. M.L. Narasimha Murthy, Dr. S. Ranganath and Dr. Satyanarayana Chakravarthy.
Prof. Hare Krishna Satapathy, Vice-Chancellor, Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha, Tirupati who delivered the Valedictory address said, “We require the message of the Vedas and Upanishads in order to form a knowledge-based society. Once the message of these sacred texts is promoted and propagated, we are sure that we can have an atmosphere which will be filled with the mutual coexistence and universal brotherhood.”