Yoga Vacation Program
April 29 — June 20, 2023

Chandogya Upanishad Immersion

Chapters 4, 5, and 6

Swami Paramananda Giri

What is the Chandogya Upanishad Immersion?

It is a 1.5 month of Vedanta Immersion offering a deep dive into the Upanishads.

What does the Chandogya Upanishad Immersion involve?

The Mahatma (great saint or sage), Swami Paramananda Giri, will be chanting the original Sanskrit verses in the daily morning class from 8 to 10 am. Following the chanting, Swami Paramananda Giri will will translate the verses to English and will teach the traditional commentary of Adi Shankaracharya and Ananda Giri. This method is the most authentic way to study and practice Vedanta and has been utilized for thousands of years in India to help spiritual speakers grasp the answers to such questions as: What is the Self? Who am I?

The practice of listening to a great saint or Mahatma relay the knowledge of the Vedas, ancient scriptural texts in India, has been the foundation for spiritual liberation for countless people. This immersion offers the doorway through which moksha or true freedom is attained.

It is not necessary to attend the entire 1.5 month immersion, but we ask that you if you do choose to join, to attend once per day during your stay—the immersion consists of 1 morning class from 8 am to 10 am, leaving plenty of time to attend both of the daily satsangs, one yoga class, both of the delicious vegetarian meals, as well as to enjoy the ashram grounds.

What is Vedanta? 

Vedanta is a school of Hindu philosophy. It translates to the “end of the Vedas” or the “end of all knowledge”. It reflects the ideas that emerge from the study of the Upanishads, which deal with topics such as knowledge and liberation. Vedanta, or the study of the Vedas (the oldest scriptures of Hinduism), form the basis of Jnana Yoga, the Yoga of Knowledge.

What are the Upanishads?

The Upanishads are the most recent part of the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism. While earlier parts of the Vedas deal with mantras, various benedictions, rituals, and ceremonies, the Upanishads deal with meditation, philosophy, consciousness, and various ontological knowledge (that is, the knowledge pertaining to the nature of being). In short, studying the Upanishads is studying what is Real and what is Unreal. It is the study of the Self.

What study Vedanta? Why partake in the immersion? What are the benefits of studying with a Mahatma like Swami Paramananda Giri? 

This course is a classical example of the practice of Jnana Yoga (the Yoga of Knowledge), which consists of:

  • Savanna, listening to the teachings of the Upanishads
  • Manana, reflecting on their meanings
  • Nididhyasana, divining into deep meditation on the insights that one receives from the reflection

Mahatmas such as Swami Paramananda Giri are among the most senior teachers of traditional Advaita Vedanta in India. They rarely—if at all—travel to the West/anywhere outside of India. In India, Mahatmas teach in the most traditional high Vedanta institutions such as the Kailash Ashram. These spaces are not even accessible to lay people!

10 years ago, Swami Swaroopananda, the acharya or spiritual director of our ashram, started to invite these Mahatmas to come to the Bahamas for a long stay (1-3 months) to teach in-depth intensive Vedanta Courses. He did so to allow the ashram’s Swamis, Brahmacharis, and senior staff the opportunity study Vedanta in the appropriate, traditional, and authentic way. These courses are open to all who are at the ashram (guests, karma yogis). They are offered for free and there is no tuition for attending the courses.

What will you study with Swami Paramananda Giri in Chapters 4, 5, and 6 of the Chandogya Upanishad?

The fourth chapter of the Chandogya Upanishad opens with the story of king Janasruti and “the man with the cart” named Shakatavan Raikva. The moral of the story is called Samvarga Vidya—Air, asserts the Upanishad, is the “devourer unto itself” of divinities because it absorbs fire, the sun at sunset, the moon when it sets, and water when it dries up. In reference to man, Prana (also known as the vital breath, life-principle) is the “devourer unto itself” because when one sleeps, Prana absorbs all deities (eyes, ears, and mind) inside man.

  • The Upanishad presents another symbolic conversational story through that of Satyakama, the son of Jabala, in parts 4.4 through 4.9. This legend depicts the conversations of Satyakama with a bull, a fire, a swan (Hamsa) and a diver bird (Madgu). Respectively, these 4 (the bull, fire, swan, and diver bird) symbolize Vayu, Agni, Āditya and Prāṇa. From these creatures, Satyakama learns that the forms of Brahman rest in all cardinal directions (north, south, east, west), world-bodies (earth, atmosphere, sky and ocean), sources of light (fire, sun, moon, lightning), and in man (breath, eye, ear and mind).
  • In parts 4.10 through 4.15, the third conversational story is presented through a student named ‘Upakosala’. In this story, Upakosala has a conversation with sacrificial fires that inform him that Brahman is life, Brahman is joy and bliss, and Brahman is infinity.

The fifth chapter of the Chandogya Upanishad opens with the declaration: “Indeed, he who knows the noblest and the best, becomes the noblest and the best.”

  • In parts 5.3 through 5.10 of the Chandogya Upanishad, we are presented with “Pancagnividya”, also known the doctrine of “five fires and two paths in after-life”.
    • The two paths of after-life, states the text, are Devayana – the path of the Devas (gods), and Pitryana – the path of the fathers.
  • Part 5.11 opens with five adults seeking knowledge. The adults are described as five great householders and great theologians that come together to hold a discussion to answer the questions: what is our Self and what is Brahman
    • The five householders approach a sage named Uddalaka Aruni. Uddalaka Aruna admits his knowledge is deficient, and suggests that they all go to the king Asvapati Kaikeya, who knows about Atman Vaishvanara. Vaisvanara literally means “One in the Many”.

The sixth chapter of the Chandogya Upanishad contains the famous “Tat Tvam Asi” (“That Thou Art”) precept. Tat Team Asi is regarded by scholars as the sum-total or one of the most important of all Upanishadic teachings. The precept is repeated nine times at the end of sections 6.8 through 6.16 of the Upanishad.

  • In part 6.9, the Chandogya Upanishad states that all Selfs are interconnected and one. This part concerns itself with the fact that the inmost essence of all beings is the same, that the whole world is One Truth, One Reality, and One Self.

Swami Paramananda Giri joined the prestigious Sri Kailas Ashram Brahma Vidya Peetha in 2001 and was initiated into Naishtika Brahmacharya by Shrimat Swami Vidyananda Giriji Maharaj. He was initiated into Sannyasa shortly after. He studied Panineeya Sanskrit grammar, Nyaya of Kapil, Patanjali Yoga Darshan, Prasthana Traya of Advaita Vedanta, and other subsidiary texts of Vedanta. Swami Paramananda Giri currently resides in the Tattvamasi ashram, and teaches Vedanta and Sanskrit to his students.

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