“Kaivalyopanishad is a rare piece of jewellery in the vaults of the Hindu Culture.  Some stanzas are the precious pendants of beauty that enrich this piece of  jewellery”.
  - Swami Chinmayananda

Kaivalyopanishad, though not  coming under the category of ‘Big Ten’ (Major Upanishads), is very popular  because of its poetic language, logical development of ideas and analytical  delineation of sublime philosophy. Its style is lucid, projection clear and the  contents rich. All of these makes  this Upanishad command the rapt attention of the seekers. This Upanishad is from the Atharva Veda.

Kaivalya means Absolute Oneness, The  State of Being Full, The Whole, the means to achieve which is the subject  matter of this Upanishad. Thus Kaivalya is simply another name for Liberation, The  ultimate goal of human existence, namely, gaining Self Realization, Self-Recognition  as Brahman, as Paramatma in one’s own oneself. There are twenty six mantras in  this Upanishad.

Peace Chant
The Upanishad opens with a Peace  Invocation, as follows:
Aum! O Gods, with our ears may we  hear that which is auspicious; Adorable Ones, with our eyes may we see that  which is auspicious; while praising the gods with steady limbs, may we enjoy the  life that is allotted by the gods. May Indra of ancient fame be auspicious to  us; may Pusan and Visva-Devas be propitious to us; may Tarksya, of unhampered movement,  be well disposed towards us; may Brihaspati ensure our welfare. Aum! Peace! Peace!  Peace!

The Upanishad
Like every other Upanishad, here  also a teacher and a student are involved. The student seeks knowledge and the  teacher responds. The student’s request and the teacher’s response together  constitute the Upanishad. It may be noted that the student here is not of the  average type nor the teacher is any one other than the very Creator, Brahma ji.

Then Asvalayana, the  student, seeking knowledge, approaching respectfully and reverentially his  Great Teacher, Brahma, The Creator, said as follows:”

The word ‘Then’ is a very significant  word. It means, through proper preparation, when one has become ready to absorb  the knowledge that one is seeking. This readiness on the part of a student is  dependent on his success in his sadhana chatushtaya.

In the Vedantic literature, Asvalayana is  well-known as a great teacher of Rig Veda. Even today, many who belong to the  tradition of Rig Veda follow the Vedic rituals formulated by Rishi Asvalayana.  Before he became a great teacher, Asvalayana is said to have received his  education in Brahma Vidya from Lord Brahma, The Creator, who is referred to as Lord  Parameshti., The Great Teacher.

For our purpose, Asvalayana could  be any well-qualified student, seeking knowledge from any distinguished teacher  who can always be referred to as Parama Guru as a mark of respect. Thus a  well-qualified student, Asvalayana, approached a distinguished teacher, and said  as follows:

1. Addressing the  teacher as Bhagavan, O! Lord. O! Respected Teacher, please teach me Brahma  Vidya which is the most exalted among all forms of knowledge, since it is about  the highest purpose of human existence, and it is about The Absolute Reality  behind all forms and names of transient reality.

What exactly he wants to know  about Brahma Vidya?

He wants to know that knowledge  which is constantly being sought by all people who are blessed with the predominance  of Sattva Guna - all the highest among devotees of Parameswara. The only  thing such people constantly seek is Total Union with Parameswara and nothing  less. That  destination they seek appears deeply hidden somewhere beyond the reach of one’s sense  organs. Therefore, the student seeks the help of the teacher to give him that knowledge by  which a wise man  can quickly, naturally and spontaneously reach the highest Purusha totally  eliminating, all vasanas or sins  of the past obstructing the realization of That  Knowledge

There are two words here, namely,  quickly and highest Purusha which we must understand clearly. It always takes  time and effort to create the conditions necessary for gaining any knowledge.  But when the conditions are proper, the knowledge itself takes place naturally  and spontaneously, because knowledge is object-centered. When The object of  knowledge, and the means of gaining that knowledge are properly aligned,  knowledge always takes place spontaneously, independent of one’s will.

For example, if an object is in front  of my eyes, and if my mind and eyes are properly aligned towards that object, I  see the object as it is, naturally and spontaneously, without any special  effort.
The situation is different with  respect to any action, because action is centered on the will of the person.  One may will to do the action or not to do the act or do it in a different way.  In each case, the result is bound to be different.

Who is Paratpara Purusha? Para is  Unmanifest, and Apara is manifest. For example, a huge tree can come from a  tiny seed, but one cannot see the tree in the seed. Therefore, with respect to the  tree, which is Apara- manifest, the seed is Para - unmanifest.

But each seed is unmanifest only  with respect to a particular tree. There are countless trees and hence  countless seeds, which means, there are countless unmanifest and manifest  beings. If there is ONE unmanifest being which includes all the manifest beings,  that all-inclusive ONE is Paratpara Purusha. That Paratpara Purusha is Purushottama  according to The Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 15) which includes both Kshara and  Akshara and at the same time transcends both. That Purushottama is Brahman, The  Absolute, and The Reality of all that exist.

Asvalayana is asking his teacher  to teach him how to reach naturally and spontaneously That Unmanifest,  All-inclusive Absolute Reality, which expresses itself as a universe of multiple  forms and names.

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