1. What are Upanishads?

Upanishads are part of the four Vedas, the ancient wisdom of the East.
2. What are the Vedas?

Thousands of wise utterances called ‘mantras’ compiled into four books, throwing light on many sciences and forming the basis of India’s spiritual traditions.
3. What are ‘mantras’?

A mantra is a piece of utterance, originally in the form of sound that was heard by mystics, and later brought down to written form.
4. What do Vedas teach?

Vedas cover two areas broadly: dharma, a human being’s duty in life and brahma, the transcendental reality.
5. What do Upanishads teach?

The Upanishads primarily teach Brahma, the reality that transcends time and space.
6. How many Upanishads exist?

Most scholars accept 108 Upanishads, while a few more are also widely recognized.
7. Which of the Vedas contains the Upanishads?

Each of the four Vedas contains several Upanishads, all of which add up to 108 or more.
8. What are the four Vedas called?

They are Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharva Veda.
9. What is an example of an Upanishad from each of the four Vedas?

Aitareya from Rig Veda, Ishavasya from Yajur Veda, Kena from Sama Veda and Mandukya from Atharva Veda.
10. What does dharma, the first teaching of the Vedas, cover?

Dharma covers a large number of rituals (karma) as well as numerous forms of ‘qualified meditation’ (upasana).
11. What purpose do rituals serve?

Rituals (karma) are meant to purify our mind.
12. What do forms of ‘qualified meditation’ (upasana) achieve?

Forms of upasana are meant to give us concentration of mind.
13. How does knowing Brahma help?

Knowing Brahma (Brahma-jnana) brings about liberation of the soul.
14. What is liberation?

Liberation (moksha) is when the soul is not bound by the limitations of the body and the mind. It is also cessation of reincarnation (punar-janma).
15. What is reincarnation?

Reincarnation (punar-janma) is when the soul takes a new body, following death in an earlier life.
16. What is a soul?

A soul (jeeva-atma) is the spirit that dwells in a body – human or otherwise – and continues to exist even when the physical body perishes.
17. Do animals also have a soul?

Yes, animals and plants also have souls.
18. How do Upanishads help in bringing about liberation?

Upanishads reveal the truth of the pure soul (Atma). If we understand their teachings, and own the vision, we get liberated.
19. How can mere understanding liberate us? Do we not have to do something?

Just understanding (vidya) liberates us because our bondage is due to ignorance (avidya).
20. How can mere ignorance cause bondage?

Ignorance can cause bondage just as ‘not knowing the rope’ causes imagination of a snake and the consequent fear and other agitations.
21. Is our bondage therefore mere imagination?

Yes, it is all an illusion of our mind.
22. How does our mind get rid of this illusion?

The revelation of the Upanishads dispels illusion, just as light makes the imagined snake go away (and reveal the rope lying there actually).
23. Many have studied the Upanishads. Why have they not got enlightened?

Though they have studied and are talking about the wisdom of the Upanishads, certain impurities in their mind have prevented them from owning the vision.
24. What should they do to own the vision?

They should stay with the sublime teachings and question their false identification (with the body and mind) incessantly, till the last traces of egoism die out.
25. What is a typical ‘revelation’ of the Upanishads?

“That thou art” which, in modern English is, “You are (already the divine truth) that (you are seeking to find).” It is ‘tat tvam asi’ in Sanskrit.