Wednesday, January 8, 2020




Beyond the senses is the mind, beyond the mind is the intellect, higher than the intellect is
the Great Atman, higher than the Great Atman is the Unmanifest."

( Katha Upanishad)

Katha Upanishad is the widely read Upnishad in  the world. It has been translated into  Persian, French ,German, Latin and lately Polish.  Some known admirers of this Upnishad are ; Dara Shikoh ,  Max Muller, Arthur Schopenhauer, Edwin Arnold, Walt Whitman , Henry David Thoreau, Warren Hastings , R W Emerson , and Swami Vivekananda . Dara Shikoh got the Upnishads  translated into Persian in 1657. From Persian, Upnishads were translated into French and Latin. Albert Camus had read the French translation.

According to Schopenhauer, Plato  and Aristotle were also influenced by the wisdom of Upnishads more specifically by Katha Upanishad. He goes on to say that the practice of  questioning the reality is a gift to human civilization . This gift  travelled in different directions  from India . Many scholars believe that Pythagorus,  who had travelled to India,  brought Indian philosophy and thought to his land.

Swami Vivekananda writes:-

" One of the most poetical of the Upanishads, the Katha Upanishad, begins with the inquiry: “When a man dies, there is a dispute. One party declares that he has gone for ever, the other insists that he is still living. Which is true?” Various answers have been given. The whole sphere of metaphysics, philosophy, and religion is really filled with various answers to this question. At the same time, attempts have been made to suppress it, to put a stop to the unrest of mind which asks, “What is beyond? What is real?” But so long as death remains, all these attempts at suppression will always prove to be unsuccessful. We may talk about seeing nothing beyond and keeping all our hopes and aspirations confined to the present moment, and struggle hard not to think of anything beyond the world of senses; and, perhaps, everything outside helps to keep us limited within its narrow bounds. The whole world may combine to prevent us from broadening out beyond the present. Yet, so long as there is death, the question must come again and again, “Is death the end of all these things to which we are clinging, as if they were the most real of all realities, the most substantial of all substances?” The world vanishes in a moment and is gone. Standing on the brink of a precipice beyond which is the infinite yawning chasm, every mind, however hardened, is bound to recoil and ask, “Is this real?” The hopes of a lifetime, built up little by little with all the energies of a great mind, vanish in a second. Are they real? This question must be answered. Time never lessens its power; on the other hand, it adds strength to it." 

 Katha Upanishad is a dialogue on death .A dialogue between an aspiring disciple, Nachiketa, and the ruler of Death ,Yama. Death  kept  troubling  Camus's mind as a philosophical mystery and the most pivotal  issue confronting human civilization  . As writer, Camus pursued four  fundamental issues  : The absurdity of human condition, the inevitability of death, the fundamental need of  individual liberty , and a relentless search for happiness. The Katha Upanishad deals with all the four  .  The knowledge of this  Upnishad made Camus's  thinking totally  different from the other writers of his age. I find Camus's "Outsider"  loudly echoing Katha Upanishad. Camus believed that life was absurd. Man has not to stop at this thought. His business is to generate happiness to overcome this absurdity. To overcome the absurdity, he choses struggle and   struggle leads him  to happiness. This is the message of Upnishads more specifically Katha Upanishad. 

Camus says :-

" Dreams are real as long as they last. Can we say more of life?" 
Not many among us know that this is the message of Upnishads.

I quote four Shlokas from Katha Upanishad.The fundamental thought in these Shlokas  is evident in Albert Camus's philosophy.
"No mortal ever lives by prana, which goes up, nor by Apana, which goes down. Men live by something different, on which these two depend."

( Though ,in simple terms, Prana means inhaled air and Apana is what is  exhaled , Camus interprets it  as  the material world that sustains life and the waste that is generated in order to sustain life.)

Beyond the senses is the mind, beyond the mind is the intellect, higher than the intellect is the Great Atman, higher than the Great Atman is the Unmanifest. 

( This is Camus quest for ultimate happiness by embarking on a struggle that surpasses mind and intellect )

"When all the ties of the heart are severed here on earth, then the mortal becomes immortal. This much alone is the teaching. "

(Camus developed the concept of attached detachment in human relationships from this message of Upnishads . It brought him close to what he propounded  as  freedom of choice and individual liberty to lessen human suffering ) 


" As the sun, who is the eye of the world,
can not be tainted by the defects in our eyes nor by the objects it looks on, So the one Self, dwelling in all, cannot be tainted by the evils of the world ,For this self transcends all."

( For Camus, this  shining self is truth)

If one  reads Camus, one is touched by the nobility of the spirit appearing in his work.This nobility  is his style,  characteristic and quality that differentiates him from other writers.His characters put up a profound and intense struggle  to tear apart the mysteries of absurdity of existence. They might not succeed in this mission but their struggle is visible  everywhere . The special quality of his work quoted in his Nobel Prize citation was, "his illumination of the problems of the human conscience in our time". Truth was also intensely searched and sought after by  the ancient Indian sages. The Upanishads contain the earliest records of Indian search and struggle to arrive at the  truth  of human existence in relation to the cosmos .

Camus's 'Plague ' also reiterates many  concepts from Upnishads and Bhagwat Gita . The character of  Jean Tarrou , the saint without God, is the best example.

(Avtar Mota)


Apart from Katha Upnishad, I also read two books of  Dr. Sharad Chandra ( Ph.D in Comparative Literature with Camus and Indian Philosophy as specializaion) .Dr Sharad Chandra says  that Camus was not an athiest. Her books in French have been accepted in France . Catherine Camus who runs Camus Centre in Paris has not rejected them.  Catherine is Camus's daughter..For this new upnishad link of her work on Camus , She earned  the prestigious Grand Prix du Rayonnement de La Langue Francaise from the Academic Francaise in 1992.

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