Review of “The Ten Principal Upanishads”

“Neither neglect your spiritual nor your worldly welfare. Always learn and teach. Forget neither God nor Ancestor.”


The Ten Principal Upanishads, this edition translated and edited by Shree Purohit Swami and W. B. Yeats, are the most sacred texts of the Hindu religion. These are not God’s words to man, but an incarnation of revelation captured by Rishis that contain the ultimate Truth and the knowledge that leads to spiritual emancipation that are considered the distillation of the best of Vedic metaphysical and speculative thought. From the Upanishads the central doctrines of Hinduism are derived, the philosophy of yoga is developed, and through dialogue with Buddhism that a number of sects on both sides emerge. This is what Paramahansa Yogananda and many other yogis have studied throughout their lives. Worth nothing, a number of the benefits of such practices as those written about within are increasingly being verified by modern Western science – both as it relates to mental health, healing and general social welfare.

This particular collection contains only ten of the traditional one-hundred and nine Upanishads and are intended as an introduction to the uninitiated. The specific texts of this collected are titled thusly: Isha, Kena and Katha, Prashan, Mundaka, Mandukya, Tattiriya, Aitareya, Chhandogya and Brihadaranyaka. The text is different from the one I studied at the International Meditation Institute in that it has removed a number of the repeating phrases that are of a ritualistic nature that are normally interspersed throughout. Thus while it is not the best edition for a religious scholar, the essence of it – the delineation of the path of Spirit and its importance for life – remains. This conceptual translation is not, however, without its own merits. Yeats, a poet, maintains some of those mantra-like refrains (i.e. “May peace and peace and peace be everywhere.”) and has musical qualities and well-worded conceits.


Each lesson within the collection of Upanishads meditates upon and interrogates themes ranging from the correct means of thinking so as to avoid disturbing thoughts but also how to properly fixate on the eternal Spirit that animates all human beings and material things. As progress is made in the pursuit of the Spirit, one comes closer to finding enlightenment and ending the cycle of re-birth. The essence of their teachings is that Truth cannot be known intellectually, but embodied through continued action inflected with faith. There are various stages in a person’s development towards moksha, or liberation, as well as reasons for why they may not achieve is.

Various forms of Vedic practices

Speaking on the myriad components of spirits, the Upanishads state the following:

“Worship spirit as the support, be supported; worship Spirit as the Great, become great; worship spirit as the mind, become mind. Bow down to Spirit as the sole object of desire, be the goal of all desire; worship Spirit as the master of all, become the master of all”

It is because of such passages, and many others like it, that a large number of corporate cultural leaders are embracing and encouraging others to use Mindfulness practices – which is a de-sacralized form of Hinduism/Buddhism – in the workplace.

I’ve certainly seen how such practices help increase creativity, presentness and productivity while decreasing tension in the workplace. I am, however, suspicious of such initiatives unless it’s practiced from the top down as otherwise it seems to me to encourage the type of workplace apathy that leads to larger social issues (i.e. you shouldn’t ask for a raise when you’re worth it, but instead just be happy with what you have as you are Spirit). All in all, however, meditation, yoga, chanting, reflective silence, and other Vedic practices, are beneficial as it helps to realize the Spirit. I’ve been reading this book prior to and after my yoga practice at Flying Tree Yoga school, found myself feeling lighter as a result of it and will likely reread it again soon.


In closing, here’s a great video by Alan Watts on what the Spirit is: