Upa-ni-shad is made of three words. Shad is to sit, to settle, to approach – to approach a master, to sit by his side in a settled, silent state. And from the prefix upa which means near, close, in tune with, in harmony, in communion…When you are settled, sitting silently by the side of the master, doing nothing, running nowhere, then a harmony arises between you and the master, a closeness, an intimacy, a nearness, a possibility of communion, the meeting of the heart with the heart, the meeting of the being with the being, a merging, a communion. And ni meaning down, surrendered, in a state of prayer, in a state of egolessness.
This is the whole meaning of the word upanishad: sitting in a settled state, unconfused, clear, approaching the master in egolessness, surrendered, in deep prayerfulness, openness, vulnerability, so that a communion becomes possible.
This is upanishad – what is happening right now between you and me. This sitting silently, in a deep, loving, prayerful mood, listening to me not through the intellect but through the heart, drinking, not only listening – this communion is upanishad! We are living upanishad, and that is the only way to understand what Upanishads are. It has to become an alive experience for you.
The Vedas consist of all kinds of knowledge of those days. They are a kind of Encyclopedia Britannica, of course very primitive, at least ten thousand years old – at least – it is possible they are far more older. Scholars are not decided; there is great controversy about the time when Vedas were composed. The possibility is they were not composed at one period, they were composed at different periods. There are people who say they are at least ninety thousand years old; so from ninety thousand years to ten thousand years, a long stretch of time.
The Vedas are called Samhitas; Samhita means a compilation, encyclopedia. They contain all kinds of things, all kinds of information of those days. Upanishads are pure religiousness, nothing else. Each single word is a finger pointing to the moon. They are not compilations of all kinds of knowledge; their whole insistence is for immediate experience of that which is. The emphasis is on direct experience, not borrowed – not from scriptures, not from others. It has to be your own truth; only then it liberates.
Jesus says: Truth liberates. Certainly truth liberates, but it has to be your own. If it is somebody else’s, then rather than liberating it imprisons. Christians are imprisoned. Jesus is liberated. Hindus are imprisoned, Krishna is liberated. Buddhists are imprisoned, Buddha is liberated. Liberation comes by experiencing the truth on your own; it has not to be just an accumulation of information, it has to be an inner transformation.
The emphasis of the Upanishads is for immediate and direct experience of godliness. And why borrow when it is possible to drink directly from the source? But information seems to be cheap. transformation seems to be arduous. Transformation means you will have to go through a great inner revolution; information requires no revolution in you, no radical change in you. Information simply is an addition: whatsoever you are you remain the same, but you become more and more knowledgeable.