Last updated on 13th Nov. 2018
Some background first. I come from the Iyer community and the sub-community of Kerala Iyers within it. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iyer :
Iyer (also spelt as Ayyar, Aiyar, Ayer or Aiyer) is a caste of Hindu Brahmin communities of Tamil origin. Most Iyers are followers of the Advaita philosophy propounded by Adi Shankara. The majority reside in Tamil Nadu, India.
Main article: Kerala Iyers
Iyers have been resident of the princely state of Travancore from ancient times. The Venad state (present Kanyakumari district) and the southern parts of Kerala was part of the Pandyan kingdom known as Then Pandi Nadu. There were also many Iyers in Venad which later on grew to be the Travancore state. The old capital of Travancore was Padmanabhapuram which is at present in Kanyakumari district. There has also been a continuous inflow from Tirunelveli and Ramnad districts of Tamil Nadu which are contiguous to the erstwhile princely state of Travancore.
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So Adi Shankara has been the big man for my community. In my own case, I recall reading a book on Upanishads in English when I was around 13 years old or younger, which was in our home. My father was into reading such spiritual books and that's how I came across it.
And then, of course, the Vedic rituals were an important part of Brahmin family life, including in my boyhood and youth. So mantras like the Gayatri mantra, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gayatri_Mantra, were revered as powerful mantras that can save us from problems even in material life. I mean, it was believed to be a divine shield for us boys who had been through our sacred thread investiture ceremony. Any problem in life, no matter how big - chant the Gayatri mantra for divine help to get out of the problem.
I should also mention that my family is from the Sama Veda tradition, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samaveda.
But from a spiritual philosophy point of view, I was enchanted by the Upanishads (also referred to as Vedanta, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vedanta) and read many, many books on it in English but usually with the Sanskrit shlokas (verses) too which I could read and chant (its Devanagari script, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devanagari, is common to Marathi and Hindi which I was quite familiar with). But I could understand the literal meaning of the Sanskrit shlokas only to a small extent unless word by word translation to English was provided, and which, thankfully, was provided in some of the English books on Upanishads that I read.
So I grew up to be mainly an Upanishads guy, meaning the Upanishads were the highest spiritual philosophy and divine revelations of Hinduism for me. I must add here that in my youth I was skeptical about the miracles attributed to Krishna, Rama and other Avatars in Hindu scripture like the Puranas. I admired Krishna and Rama as depicted in Hindu scripture but was not sure whether they were real figures who performed the great miraculous things attributed to them in Hindu scripture.
But I did not have that skepticism towards the Upanishads in general. I believed them. Why? I don't know clearly. I should also say that this belief in the Upanishads was not backed by any direct experience of the divine revelations they proclaimed, and I was clearly aware of that lack of direct experience. So, to put it simply and brutally, at my individual level, Upanishads were talk stuff but not walking-the-talk stuff :-). And the latter remains the case today too, but less so than earlier :-), which is a big achievement given my many human flaws, and for that achievement I am deeply grateful to the teachings, example and guidance of my beloved and revered Gurudev, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
There are notable people from my Iyer community who have contributed to writings on Upanishads/Vedanta. Here are some of them from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Iyers:
*) Chandrashekarendra Saraswati (1894–1994), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chandrashekarendra_Saraswati, former pontiff of the Kanchi Mutt. [He was revered as Kanchi Swami and Kanchi Periyavar or Periyava in some of my family circles during my youth. I developed reverence for him then but I don't think I have read works of his on Upanishads and I did not get the privilege and blessing of having his Darshan.]
*) Ramana Maharshi (1879–1950), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramana_Maharshi, saint and spiritual leader of Mount Arunachala. [I have been deeply influenced by Ramana Maharshi's writings. I consider him both through his writings and writings by others about his life as well as pics and videos of him, as one of my spiritual Gurus.]
*) Sivananda Saraswati (1887–1963), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sivananda_Saraswati, yogi who lived in Rishikesh, in the foothills of Himalayas. [He founded the Divine Life Society in 1936, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divine_Life_Society. I have been influenced by his writings. Swami Chinmayananda, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinmayananda_Saraswati, was his disciple. I have had the Darshan of Swami Chinmayananda in my youth in Mumbai and I have also read and been influenced by his writings and discourses.]
Note that Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, my beloved and revered Gurudev, has graciously visited both Ramana Maharshi as well as Swami Sivananda Saraswati. Update: I thought I had read an article some years ago that Sathya Sai had visited Ramanashram when Ramana Maharshi was alive. A correspondent asked me about it but I could not locate any such article stating that. So perhaps I have made a mistake in saying that Sathya Sai had visited Ramana Maharshi.
To know more about my family history, please visit my post: My family history and how we moved from traditional South Indian Brahmin occupations to others over generations, http://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/2016/07/some-info-and-speculation-about-my.html, 11th July 2016.
Given that background, I wanted to share with readers, the satisfaction I have about some of my writings in area of Chandogya Upanishad Chapter 6 being ranked highly by Google. My Chandogya Upanishad posts seem to get regular visits - but not many visits per day, sometimes just 1 or 2 in a day. Some details are given below. Note that all these searches were done using incognito Chrome browser window so that any bias towards my name is reduced/removed. I also confirmed that the result rankings are similar on Google search done on my LYF (Jio) smartphone.
Google search for: Chandogya Upanishad Chapter 6
lists two of my posts/docs as the 4th and 5th results
4th: Chandogya Upanishad – Chapter 6 (Dialogue between Uddalaka and Svetaketu) – Some Shlokas, https://iami1.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/chandogyachapter6someshlokas.pdf
5th: Divine revelation gems from Chandogya Upanishad: Chapter 6 (Dialogue between Uddalaka and Svetaketu), https://iami1.wordpress.com/2018/04/08/divine-revelation-gems-from-chandogya-upanishad-chapter-6-dialogue-between-uddalaka-and-svetaketu/
The above posts capture the vital part of Chandogya Upanishad's Advaita teachings including its most famous Tat Tvam Asi (You are that) Mahavakya. That I have been able to contribute to literature freely available on the Internet, which comes in the top-ten Google Search results for suitable search terms, and which contribution either directly shares Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba's commentary on it and my understanding of it, or indirectly reflects Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba's commentary along with my understanding of it, is a matter of great satisfaction to me. Chandogya Upanishad is from the Sama Veda, and since my family comes from the Sama Veda tradition, I am really happy about this.
I should also say that Google Search for Chandogya Upanishad in general does not list my posts as my posts focus only on some part of Chapter 6 of the Upanishad. So my work is certainly NOT a scholarly piece of work on Chandogya Upanishad. But it focuses on the essential Advaita message of it including the great Mahavakya of Tat Tvam Asi. That is the vital, vital part of this Upanishad, in my considered view.
I also would like to share that as an Iyer, I am happy to note that some Google searches on Iyer related contributions on some spiritual stuff (Vedanta, existential reality and God and Science) show my posts and/or my "Who am I? I am I .." book within the top ten results. Some examples of it are given below. I must also mention that Iyer surname is not used by all Iyers. So the Google searches using Iyer term may not be showing results for writings of Iyers who do not use Iyer in their name.
Google search for: Iyer Chandogya Upanishad
lists my above mentioned posts as 1st and 2nd results.
Google search for: Iyer Vedanta
does not list my stuff in the top-ten as expected as there are many noted Iyer surname people contributors to literature on Vedanta. But I was quite pleasantly shocked to see that my Pothi.com book, "Who am I? I am I - Ultimate Existential Reality Answer; Vedanta; God and Science conversation", https://pothi.com/pothi/book/ravi-s-iyer-ultimate-existential-reality-answer-vedanta-god-and-science is listed as the 18th result (on Page 2 of Google search results)!
Google search for: Iyer existential reality
lists my book as the top results. I think this is because the term 'existential reality' is not used so often in Indian spiritual literature. The term existentialism, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existentialism, is a noted one in Western philosophy - I got exposed to it when I read one of Jean-Paul Sartre's, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Paul_Sartre, books in my 20s. I liked the term. But I have used the term 'existential reality' in my writings as a simple English language term meaning the reality of one's (my) existence - reality of one's (my) life/living. I am NOT well read on Western philosophy and on Existentialism part of Western philosophy.
Google search for: Iyer God and science
lists my Pothi.com book, "Who am I? I am I - Ultimate Existential Reality Answer; Vedanta; God and Science conversation" as the 2nd result! I find this to be very satisfactory. As a Physics graduate and a retired international software technologist, I have used my knowledge in these areas to explore and capture important parts of the current early 21st century God and science conversation in my book. So that capture of the conversation has become a noted by Google Search engine contribution from this Iyer! I am very happy about that.
Note that the above search terms deal with general spirituality without using the name of Sathya Sai Baba in the search terms. Essentially my work over the past few months on my book, "Who am I? I am I - Ultimate Existential Reality Answer; Vedanta; God and Science conversation" and some additional work on associated blog - iami1.wordpress.com, has resulted in this Internet search engine (Google) driven attention. It is not a matter of pride for me but it is a matter of satisfaction that my understanding of these matters are being accessed and read by some (very few) people via Google search engine. [I try to avoid pride in my particular spiritual path; others may view pride for good achievements as an important thing in their spiritual path and/or approach to life in general, and I respect their view.]
As a writer, a source of satisfaction is when readers read and hopefully benefit from the writings. And as the above topics are very close to my heart and my spiritual quest, I am very satisfied. So I thought of sharing that satisfaction with readers.
Noted later that Google Search for: God and science conversation India
lists my above mentioned Pothi.com book as the 20th result (last result in 2nd page of default 10 results per page).
Google search for: God and science book by Indian
lists my book as the 13th result (2nd page of results).
Google search for: God and science conversation book by Indian
lists my book as the 7th result.
Of course, if the word India or Indian is omitted from Google search then my book is not seen in the first few pages of results that I checked. But it is good to note that if somebody searches specifically for a God and science book by (an) Indian, my book appears within the first 20 results.
Given below are some comments from my Facebook post, https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2336152309934666, associated with this post:
In response to comment (slightly edited) "Problem with upanishads and shankara adwaita is it is more philosophical.For Common man it is tough to digest. Practicablity is the problem.", I (Ravi S. Iyer) wrote:
Yes, Upanishads are not for the common man. Bhakti is the easy path for the common man.
In response to a comment about these spiritual paths having the danger for family men that they will lose interest in family and worldly life, I wrote (slightly edited):
In today's times, for family people, sadhana on Jnana Marga lines of Upanishads is not appropriate, IMHO. Bhakti and Karma Margas are more suitable.
However, for unmarried and unattached people who have been blessed with Vairagyam, Jnana Marga can be very fulfilling.
In response to comment, "if we truthfully practice bhakthi/ thantra/jnana to its core,gradually we Will reach to a stage of madness.not sure how much i am right,this is what i observed." I wrote (slightly edited):
No, I am very sure of that. However, as Shirdi Sai Baba said, one has to have a Guru who will guide. Note that the disinterest a realized soul like a Ramana Maharshi showed to worldly matters should not be confused with madness. .... But, for most people, Vairagya is a process that may take its own sweet time - many years, decades or perhaps even lifetimes. The world is an illusion - however it is a very attractive illusion :-). One has to work out one's karma and work out one's vasanas before one can naturally (and not in a forced artificial manner) be unaffected by worldly stuff.
In response to comment, "you are right.actually we should practice these things under a guru.But now if we go in search of guru they will teach us how to market ghee and biscut😊." I wrote (slightly edited):
:-). That is a problem today, I agree. However, I do think that earnest brahmachari seekers who go in search of such masters will find them in the course of time. Getting the right Guru for one's spiritual quest is not an easy or simple thing, I think. One has to make the effort to find them. ... But if one is in family life then such seeking of an Advaita and Jnana Marga Guru is inappropriate. Bhakti & Karma Margas are the appropriate paths then.
[I thank wikipedia and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above extracts from their website on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]