by Swami Krishnananda
The Chhandogya Upanishad is one of the most prominent among the major group of philosophical and mystical texts constituting one of the threefold foundation of India's spiritual lore, the tripod of Indian Culture, being constituted of the Upanishads, the Brahmasutras and the Bhagavadgita. While the Veda Samhitas are the recognised primary source of divine inspiration, their hidden intention, purported message, is supposed to be prominently revealed in the Upanishads. The Vedas are said to be capable of a variety of interpretation - a knowledge of the adhidaiva or the transcendent divinity, adhibhuta or the created universe, adhyatma or the deepest subjective consciousness, adhiyajna or the field of action and sacrifice, and adhidharma or the function of law and order. Though, in a restricted sense, the adhyatma, in this mentioned classification, may appear as an insight into the perceiving and knowing subject as distinguished from its involvements in the objective universe and the transcendent divinity, thus categorising the Upanishads as records of inward revelations of the ancient sages, yet, the Upanishads constitute Adhyatma-Vidya or knowledge of the pure self in a wider sense, inasmuch as the self can be envisaged in the different degrees of its connotation and the many levels of its expression. God above, the universe outside, the society of persons and things in the midst of whom one's own individuality may be included, are all, in the final analysis, comprehended within the status of the Absolute Self, so that, in its broad outlook the Upanishads may be considered as a groundwork in whose light may be studied every branch of knowledge and learning.
Among the ten major Upanishads, the Chhandogya and the Brihadaranyaka stand above others in their grand stature and majesty, these two texts being viewed by scholars as representing the cosmic and the acosmic aspect of Reality. In the Brihadaranyaka there is a preponderating emphasis on the ultra-spiritual nature of every plane of existence and stage of evolution, a rather super-idealistic sweep of all the phenomena of experience. The Chhandogya, however, tries to be more realistic in its rather matter-of-fact consideration of the issues of life. This is the reason why, evidently, there is a prevalent feeling that the Chhandogya is saprapancha (considerate as to the visible forms of experience), while the Brihadaranyaka is nishprapancha (transcendent to all available experience).
This exposition of the Chhandogya Upanishad is, perhaps, the most in-depth study ever made of its philosophical and spiritual message, and goes certainly as a companion to the author's interpretative exposition of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad in a separate volume. Herein, the first chapter constitutes a brilliant study of the Panchagni-Vidya and the Vaishvanara-Vidya sections occurring in the fifth chapter of the original text. This single chapter of the book may well form a classical presentation of a grand theme for the cosmical meditations characteristic of the Upanishads in general. The second chapter expounds the great content of sixth chapter of the original, constituting the instruction of Sage Uddalaka to his son Svetaketu. The third chapter is a study of the seventh section of the original, dealing with the majestic Bhuma-Vidya, being the teaching of Sage Sanatkumara to Narada. The fourth chapter studies the eighth section of the original, which actually concludes the Upanishad. The Samvarga-Vidya and the Sandilya-Vidya occurring at other places in the Upanishad are also included in the end as pieces of stimulating meditation of absorbing interest. The internal details of this vast study of the Upanishad can be gathered from the list of contents appended herein.