Review of Anirvan’s “Kena Upanisad” by Brahmachari Bhudevachaitanya

Dear Friends and Well-wishers of Overman Foundation,

Born in the town of Mymensingh in Bangladesh, Shri Anirvan (1896—1978) knew the Astadhyayi of Panini by heart and daily recited a chapter from the Gita by the time he was eleven years of age. After completing his studies, he took sannyasa and became Nirvanananda Saraswati. Later he dropped the ochre robes and changed his name to Anirvan. His first book was a Bengali translation of Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine though the centre of his studies was the Vedas on which he had acquired a rare mastery. He is best known for his Veda Mimamsa which was published in three volumes.

Kena Upanisad consists of the four sections of the fourth chapter of the Jaiminīya Brāhmana Upanisad of the Sāmaveda. It begins directly with Brahman as its subject matter and tells us in first two parts how it is impossible to know or attain Brahman by our ordinary senses including mind. To realize Brahman we have to open ourselves to higher intuitive levels of mind. In the third and fourth parts, the Upanisad beautifully speaks about the unknowable Brahman and about the subjective and objective ways of its realization through an allegorical story about Gods led by Indra on one side and Yaksha and Umā Haimvatī on the other. Brahman has to be meditated upon and realized as “Tad Vanam”—“That most Delightful Dear One”.

A review of Anirvan’s Kena Upanisad (distributed by Overman Foundation) penned by Brahmachari Bhudevachaitanya of Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University (Belur Math) has been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation. The said review was originally published in the January 2014 issue of Prabuddha Bharata.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

Kena Upanishad

Kena Upanisad: Author: Anirvan; translated into English from Bengali by Gautam Dhrmapal. Number of pages: 246. Price: Rs. 225. ISBN 978–81–88643-40-0. Distributor: Overman Foundation, Kolkata.

The Upanishads are a fountainhead of strength and bliss. Equipped with Acharya Shankara’s commentary they are all the more enjoyable and elevating. Down the ages many saints and savants have tried to render this literature easy for ordinary minds. Traditional commentators apart, there have also been mystics and scholars who have attempted original interpretations. Kena Upanisad by Anirvan, aka Swami Nirvanananda Saraswati, is one such exposition.

The elaborate introduction by Gautam Dharmapal, who translated the book from Bengali, throws light on various topics and tunes the mind to follow the style of explanation in the following pages. Thoughtful inclusion of the life of the author has enriched the volume. Right from explaining the words to the philosophical implication of the verses, the author has maintained originality of thought, a unique aspect of the work. The preface attempts to bring out the deeper dimensions of the peace chant of this Upanisad.

Extensive study of and sound grasp over scriptures are palpable in the pages and the author’s in-depth knowledge of the Panini’s system of grammar does not go unnoticed. Certain enigmatic verses have also received original treatment. It is difficult, however, to say how well such interpretations will be received by the traditional students of Vedanta. While several subjects are touched upon in the course of explaining the text, one feels that no definite system of thought is built up while commenting on the mantras. Nevertheless, the book is no doubt a good spur for innovative study of scriptures. Swami Vivekananda wanted Indians to think originally, and the present edition is a fine example. Though the author has, at times, gone off the beaten track in dealing with the Upanisad, yet unlike some Indian scholars who were swept off their feet by pernicious colonial Indology, his loyalty to Indian culture is charming and wins him plaudits.

Finally, the translation deserves a word of praise. Gautam Dharmapal has not hesitated to transcend the limitations of the English language in coining his own terms and honing the syntax to efficiently convey the most powerful of languages, Sanskrit. For instance, abhinivesha is translated as ‘contracted attachment’ (142), ‘one has to take the path of unwardisation’ (135), and vi-chiti has been translated as ‘the light of their searching vision’ (154).

On the whole, the book is definitely good and deserves to be read.

Brahmachari Bhudevachaitanya

*

Advertisements

Anirvan’s “Aitareya Upanisad”, “Sahitya Prasanga”, “Atmakatha” and “Smriti Tirtha”.

Dear Friends and Well-wishers of Overman Foundation,

It gives me immense pleasure to announce that Overman Foundation has taken up the distribution of five notable books in English and Bengali.

Shri Anirvan (8 July 1896—31 May 1978) was a great scholar and philosopher who had mastered the Astādhyayi of Pānini at a very early age. After completing his formal education he renounced the world and became Nirvanananda Saraswati. But after a few years he dropped the ochre robes and changed his name to Anirvan by which name he became known to the world at large. He spent a number of years in Lohaghat (Almora) where Madame Lizelle Reymond, a Swiss spiritual seeker, joined him and literally took him to the West through her books. Shri Anirvan later shifted to Shillong in Assam and finally to Kolkata where he spent his last years. His first book was a Bengali translation of Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine which was described as a “living translation” by Sri Aurobindo himself.

cover of aitareya upanisad

Translated from Bengali to English by Shri Gautam Dharmapal, Shri Anirvan’s Aitareya Upanisad is the translation of the second volume of the Upanisad Prasanga Series written by him and published by the Burdwan University in 1969. Aitareya Upanisad belongs to Rigveda. Aitareya Brāhmana is one of the Brāhmana of Rigveda and Aitareya Aranyaka is at the end of the Brāhmana. It has five Aranyakas. The last four chapters of the second Aranyaka is Aitareya Upanisad. Shri Anirvan had discussed and interpreted Aitareya Upanisad in the light of Aitareya Aranyaka. In his insightful introduction, he has also discussed all the relevant subjects contained in the Aranyaka in detail.

Comprising 270 pages Aitareya Upanisad is available at a price of Rs. 250 (Two Hundred and Fifty) only.

cover of sahitya prasange

Sahitya Prasanga is a collection of essays compiled from the letters of Shri Anirvan written in Bengali to two of his followers. These essays—which deal with the various aspects of Bengali Literature—include interesting themes like “Poetics and Poetry”, Tragedy”, “Men and Women in Literature”, “Spiritual Literature”, “Vulgarity in Vaishnava Padabali”, “Comparative Evaluation of Vaishnava Philosophy and Western Philosophy” to name a few. The major attractions of this collection are thought-provoking articles on Rabindranath Tagore and Vaishnava poets like Jaidev, Vidyapati, Chandidas and Jnandas.

Comprising 112 pages Sahitya Prasanga is available at a price of Rs. 120 (One Hundred and Twenty) only.

cover of atmakatha

Atmakatha is the anthology of Anirvan’s autobiographical writings and memoirs and other themes of spiritual interest compiled aptly from his published works and unpublished correspondence in Bengali. In these writings, he has commented on his early life, his formative spiritual experiences and the development of his inner self. The book also features his dynamic outlooks about traditional Guruism prevalent in Hindu monasteries, asceticism and human life in general.

Comprising 224 pages Atmakatha is available at a price of Rs. 300 (Three Hundred) only.

cover of smriti tirtha

Through chapters based on the locales in Bengal where the dramatic events in Sri Aurobindo’s life played out, Anshu Banerjee’s Smriti Tirtha draws the reader back to the years 1906 to 1910, when Sri Aurobindo was at the centre of the freedom movement. Using multiple sources and first-hand accounts, the story is rich with details of the life and activities at such locations as 12 Wellington Square, Sri Aurobindo’s revolutionary headquarters, the National College at Boubazar Street where Sri Aurobindo acted as principal, the office of Bande Mataram in Creek Row, the house on Grey Street from where he was arrested in April 1908, Alipore Jail, the Sessions Court where he was acquitted, and Chandernagore, his place of seclusion before he departed for Pondicherry.

Comprising 168 pages Smriti Tirtha is available at a price of Rs. 150 (One Hundred Fifty) only.

To place an order for these aforesaid books, please write to the following email address:

overmanfoundation@gmail.com

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee

Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*