Copyright© 2005, Ray Douglas

About the Author

Ray Douglas lives in England, and spent much of his early life in Africa where he experienced what he calls the first glimmering of spiritual awareness. He is a great believer in the maxim: Seek and ye shall find. For the past forty years he has been following the spiritual path of Subud—Susila Budhi Dharma—which has helped many people in the pursuit of their spiritual goal, and enabled them to become aware of their own inner dimension. It is this inner self that receives the real benefit of spiritual blessings.

Many people however, so he says, confuse the occult with the spiritual, and his writings aim to make the difference plain. The Essence of the Upanishads embodies spiritual wisdom, which holds true whatever your own religion may be.


The Sanskrit word "Upanishad" means, roughly, a sitting. It suggests a gathering of faithful seekers seated beneath the chair of one who has some spiritual wisdom to impart. We would probably call it a sermon, or talk. There are over a hundred of these "talks" still in use by Hindus. The oldest is some 2800 years old, and contains probably the purest message. Over the next two thousand years Upanishads continued to be written down, but their message became obscured beneath layers of increasingly imaginative myth and multiplicity. Some would say they grew richer in that distinctive flavour of the East, and indeed it is this veneer of Hindu tradition that tends to be valued and upheld today. The blander flavour of truth lies concealed and largely forgotten beneath the garnish. Perhaps this is the reason why Hindu sacred writings are difficult to understand. Studying them seems to lead, all too often, to the "ritual of charms, incantations and incense" which may prove an emotional balm but can do nothing for the soul. The reason for this strange cloaking process is probably twofold. Firstly, the ancient records acquired an injection of gods, goddesses and heroes derived from numerous local religions, in much the same way that pagan festivals have been incorporated into Christianity. Secondly, following an esoteric tradition by no means limited to the East, divine truths were deliberately hidden and guarded as the exclusive property of an inner circle of initiates.

Like all religions, and probably more than most, Hinduism has allowed its followers to become sidetracked by ritual and complication. There are said to be two distinct attitudes towards religion - the one wilful, the other submissive: "magic", gods, asceticism, and "ways", working in opposition to obedience and simple worship. The pure message of the Upanishads is simple and submissive, but wilful acquisitions and "explanations" tend to cloud its purity. This book commits the sacrilege of omitting all the names, parables and personalities of Hindu mythology, to rediscover the simple and very beautiful message of spirituality that is THE ESSENCE OF THE UPANISHADS.

Ray Douglas


The narrative has been arranged, not necessarily in the sequential order of the original Upanishads, but so as to reflect the progress of man's understanding and aspirations through his contemplation of the highest. Earliest thinking man praised the sun as the highest, and from this simple worship grew the concept of One Almighty God. With the development of complex personality he becomes increasingly preoccupied with the painful mysteries of birth and death. He feels torn with the pangs of desire, the more painful as he becomes uncomfortably aware of their destructive effects. Though his innocence diminishes as he learns to distinguish between good and evil, he never completely loses awareness of his own soul. Folly, he now realizes, leads his soul along a dark path of continual reincarnation. Wisdom, on the other hand, leads him to hope for that redeeming spark of divinity - Spirit entering the soul of man - that can set his foot on the final supreme path.

Chapter 1

The Wonder of Nature

The sun rises in golden glory, ancient god of all ancient prayers; supreme light and fire, giver of life to all beings. The sun rests on the earthly seasons and shows its glory in a different manner each day.

The sun rises in the east, but its light bathes in life all that is in the east, the south, the west, and the north. The sun gives light and life to all that lives.

In his youth the sage meditates on the rising sun, saying: "You bring the promise of life and purification in your rising. Include me in your glorious promise."

In his middle years the sage meditates on the noonday sun, saying: "You rose in glory to purify the world. Allow me to bask in the blessing of your purification."

In his dying years the sage meditates on the setting sun, saying: "You brought hope and glory and purification to the world. Take me with you to the glory of worlds unseen."

What is the source of the universe? Shall we think in terms of abstract time? Or of the nature of things? Or of chance, and the permutation of possibilities? Above all these is a power who knows. The power of a lord, hidden within his own creation, who rules over all sources - time, and space, and matter.

What is the source of mankind? Shall we think in terms of the laws of necessity? Or of the elements? Or of the power of sex in nature, and the union of woman and man, ruled by pleasure and pain? Above all these is a power who knows. The power of the lord rules over all creation, and the life, passions and soul of man.

Creation rises and grows from the eternal, as plants sprout from the earth, as thread issues from a spider, and as hairs spring from the head.

The lord is exalted in nature and in the music of man. He is the everlasting lord of all. When the wise see the lord in all creation, they find peace and rest and are freed from sorrow.

There are many whom men call gods, and they too are heirs to the glory of the lord.

Lord of the earth and of fire: may this world of materiality and wealth belong to those who adore you!


Lord of air and the breath of life; may this life-giving atmosphere, like a tree with roots in the earth and leaves in the sky, remain with those who adore you!

Lord of the sun, of warmth and light; may the rays of your energy which quicken the beasts of the earth long shine on those who adore you!

Space is filled with the powers of fire, air, water and earth, but these are all subject to matter. Without life they cannot exist. Life is greater than matter.

The human body is filled with the power of mind, voice, eye and ear, but these are all subject to matter. Without life they cannot exist. Life is greater than matter.

When long awaited rain falls on parched earth, all creatures rejoice in the knowledge that food will grow in abundance. In the same way life descends on matter to sustain all beings by their own natures.

When life rises - as when a queen bee rises and all her subjects must rise with her - so the powers subordinate to life must rise. When life settles - as when a queen bee settles and all her subjects must settle with her - so the powers subordinate to life must settle and put themselves to good use.

Who is the lord of matter, and who the lord of life? Whence comes matter, and whence comes life? There is one alone who rules the worlds with his power: lord of life and lord of matter. He regulates the passions of men and of those whom men call gods. He keeps all creatures in his watchful gaze, allowing them full rein, but correcting those who need his correction.

There is none greater than God. When God sleeps, all worlds and creations of life and matter held within his supreme consciousness must surely disappear.

In the beginning God created life, and he created matter. Life and matter together form the basis of all beings on earth. The sun is life; the moon is matter, reflecting the life of the sun.

The power of thunder and meteor is in the hands of God. From fear of him, fire burns. From fear of him, the sun shines. From fear of him, the winds and clouds move across the face of the earth. From fear of him, death goes on its way.

As every particle and every planet is bathed in the light of sun and stars, though separated by the blackness of space, so everything in creation, however isolated, is ruled over by the glory of God.


The breath of consciousness flows to God through infinite channels of perception, yet he is above all powers and all channels. He is ruler of all, and the everlasting refuge of all beings.

If mankind be the wood and consciousness the fire that is not yet seen, the whirling fire-stick of God is set in motion by life. The mystery of God comes to light, and all-purifying fire enters the awareness of man.

God is seen in the beauty, energy, and destructive power of the elements; in all nature, and the lives of wild creatures. God encompasses the hearts of men bound up in the cares and sorrows of this world. God sends the gift of consciousness to guide the hearts of men to freedom from their bondage of suffering.

He is the one in whose power lie the infinite sources of creation: root, flower and precious seed. God's seed is universal consciousness, sown in God's mind at the very beginning; at the very beginning of all systems of time.

He makes his humblest creations in nature to unfold, blossom and fruit, as his own nature unfolds, blossoms and fruits. He gives them all their colours and fragrances, and the wherewithal of life. Above all gods and goddesses, he alone is the one who rules the universe.

The wonder of nature, with its infinite form and colours, the sages call illusion. But God created illusion as he created all things, and all creatures of nature are contained within his infinite splendour.

Sacrifice and ritual are illusion, and the lives of men are bound by illusion, so say the sages. But all things in creation - sacred books, sacrifice, ritual and prayer - are in the hands of God. Illusion is the power of wonder in this world, and he alone is the giver of wonder, and blessings and peace.

There is one alone in whose hand is the fabric of illusion, the bondage of fate, the secret of destiny. He gave men hands to work, and bird wings to fly. He watches when creations commence, and he watches when creations are destroyed. Those who comprehend him will find immortality.

By the grace of God, the mystery of vision transforms the radiance of pure white light into the many colours of creation. As all colours originate in pure white light, and to pure white light they surely return, so all God's creatures originates in God, and to God they shall surely return.

May God grant us the grace of pure vision. In seeing the purity of white light behind all colours, may we see the purity of truth behind all creation.


May God grant us the grace of pure vision. May we see him in the infinite life-forms of earth. May we see him in the heart of all things, as acknowledged by wise men. Dwelling in the infinite, he watches over this world of time.

God may be seen in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars. God may be seen in the fire, in the waters of the earth, and in the movement of the wind. He is the creator of all, and without him nothing could exist.

God may be seen in this boy, in that girl; in this man, in that woman. God may be seen in the old ones hobbling with sticks. God may be seen in the newborn child at its mother's breast. God may be seen in all the joys and follies of mankind.

God may be seen in this little bird, in that tiny creature. God may be seen in the storm clouds that conceal the lightning; in the seasons of the year; in the mighty oceans. All worlds, heights, depths and conditions have their origin in God.

God may be found in essence, as fire is found in wood, water in untapped springs hidden beneath the ground, cream in the milk, or oil in the dry seeds of oil-rape. God may be found in the soul through sincerity, patience and self abnegation.

The glory of God is as a wheel revolving ceaselessly in the universe; the eternal mandala, linking the many with the one. Its turning creates the current of time, spinning the mysteries of Spirit and the human soul.

A wheel of power is creation, the outer rim of life - light and darkness working together. The inner rim is carved of the elements - space, fire, air, water and earth. In human terms the elements encompass the mind - the means whereby we are made aware; the means whereby we act.

The wheel of creation has many spokes. In human terms the spokes are strengths and weaknesses, errors, joys and achievements. They are the senses and their objects, the feelings and desires. Bound with a rope of innumerable strands, the hub of this wheel is the whole of nature, the earth and its creatures.

Whether it revolves or revolves not, whether it rolls or rolls not, whether it spins or spins not, the wheel of creation creates illusion in the mind of man - the illusion that there are many, where in truth there is but one.

Caught up in the net of illusion, we cry: What is the source of life? By what power do we live? What is Spirit? Where do we find eventual rest, and who rules over our joys and sorrows?


Through meditation, the wise say: The power of God, hidden within his own creation, rules over all sources of the universe - life and Spirit, time, and the fate of his creatures.

Spirit moves as light and fire and wind. The sun is all fire and light, radiating heat and stirring the wind. When the sun sets, its light goes to the moon; and the wind still moves over the earth. When the moon sinks, its light goes to the lightning flash; and the wind still moves over the earth. When the lightning fades, its light goes to heaven; and the wind still moves over the earth.

Sunlight creates strange forms and shapes as it shines on mountains and lakes and living creatures; but light is all one, and Spirit is all one, both inside and outside.

The wind moulds itself to strange forms and shapes as it blows through an empty building; but the wind is all one, and Spirit is all one, both inside and outside.

Without Spirit, lightning would be stilled and earthly fires extinguished. Without the light of Universal Spirit, sun and stars would be darkness. Without the light of sun and stars, moon and earth would be in darkness. All these shine with the reflected light of Universal Spirit, and his radiance illumines all of creation.

Within the golden throne room of Spirit there is no need for sun or moon, nor stars. They draw their light from him, and his light is more radiant than all other lights. He casts fresh light on all creation, and brings man to a new understanding.

Spirit shines when the sun is cold, when all fires are extinguished. He is smaller than the smallest, yet contains all worlds and beings within himself. He is life - the word, the mind, and the truth. There is only one goal of man that he will survive death.

The elements - fire, air, water and earth - space, and all things visible and invisible, all find their peace in Spirit. Spirit in the soul of man finds peace in Universal Spirit. Universal Spirit rests in God.

In Spirit is woven the fabric of sky, cloud, earth and space. In him words are silent and thoughts unrequired. He is the bridge of immortality. Know him as the one, the soul of God, and forget all other.

When God ended his work and rested, he created a bond of love between his soul and the soul of all things.

The soul of a man enjoys the bodily senses as a bee sips the nectar of beautiful flowers. With Spirit, he becomes the lord of all time, past, present and future.


The soul of man is wise and foolish, strong and weak. The power of God is infinite and omnipresent, watching over his creation. In between is nature, the place where the soul languishes, waiting for the loving touch of Spirit.

Nature is created for the sake of the soul - the means whereby to feel, to taste, to explore, to grow away, and to return with wisdom renewed. Mankind is fated to grow away from the love of God in order to return with wisdom renewed.

God with his Spirit is pure consciousness, the creator of time. God is all powerful and all knowing, the creator of space, suns, and whirling planets. Under his rule are the elements, and the evolution of life.

God with his Spirit is hidden in all things, at the innermost soul of all beings. Pure consciousness, beyond the laws and conditions of nature, beyond the understanding of man, he watches over all the works of his creation, great and small.

When all worlds come to an end, and all creatures sleep the sleep of oblivion, God with his Spirit is awake in eternity. From the infinite space of his supreme thought, new worlds arise and stir. The whole universe rests in the consciousness of God, and to pure consciousness it will return when God wills.

Beyond the darkness of space, between the vibrations of light, is a region where neither day nor night exists, nor matter, nor space, nor emptiness, nor fullness. Only God with his Spirit is there, in that glorious region of splendour, from whence came all light, and from whence came all ancient wisdom.

Some men say: "There is but one life; there is but one universe." Others say: "There are many; we have countless lives, and there are countless worlds of men."

Both are right. The one who speaks lives once and is dead. The one who lives and gives the power of speech lives for ever.

In meditation a wise man saw the river of life rushing in full spate, flowing from a fountain of consciousness; fed by five turbid tributaries of the senses, with high waves whipped up by the winds of passionate breath; with five great whirlpools full of sorrow and loneliness, and five rocky ravines echoing with danger and pain.

Along the turgid river of life flies a solitary swan with whistling wings - the human soul seeking quiet waters on which to rest. While she flies with a restless heart she despairs of finding peace; but when Spirit guides she is shown a tranquil lake with clear water and sheltering reeds.


The mind that flits like a butterfly through the garden of desires, sipping here and there and caring not for the future, flies to life and death again in the never ending cycle of nature.

A caterpillar, coming to the end of its leaf, reaches across and gains another leaf. The soul, leaving one body behind, reaches across and gains another body.

There are three great powers in nature, created to govern the minerals, the plants, and the animals. When the soul of man is governed also by these powers, he strays blindly along the paths of illusion, wandering endlessly from death to death.

Human forms and human senses return to the elements when death dictates. The self with its content - the knowledge of all its past actions - is the seed of life to be sown and watered in the lush fields of eternity.

Earthly trees have their roots in earth, and the birds nest in their branches. But the trees of eternity has its roots in heaven, and its branches reach down to earth to protect mankind from danger.

God dwells deep in the mystery of all beings according to their multitudinous forms and habits. He directs nature, and gives his creatures their instincts each according to its needs. Those who comprehend him comprehend everything.

The flow and interflow of earthly souls is like a multicoloured tapestry which God weaves, spreading it over the living world, and withdrawing it at will.

As the silkworm lies hidden within its cocoon of silk, so God is hidden within the elements; within nature; within our innermost thoughts. God is revealed in the love of his Spirit.

From God came Spirit. From Spirit came space. From space came air. From air came air. From air came water. From water came earth. From earth came plants. From plants came beasts. From beasts came man.

God has given men power over the beasts. By the interflow of souls, power exercised without tranquility draws men downwards. His children become unwilling recipients of his brutality; they bear the fruits of his passions.

As a newly hatched spider finds the freedom and stillness of space by casting forth its own thread, so the soul of man finds freedom and peace by casting forth sin and folly.

Who is the God of nature whom we should adore? The one God alone, creator of all, in whose glory heaven and earth reside, who rules this world of men, and all its living creatures.


Who is the God of love whom we should adore? The one God alone, of infinite forms - smaller than the atom, and larger than the planets - eternal in the mystery of his creation. In the God of love may be found everlasting peace.

Rain falling on the mountain top runs down the rocks on all sides, fragmented like the mind of man who thinks he sees many where there is one. Rain falling on the ocean becomes one with the ocean, like the soul of a man who sees one where others see many.

Ancient goddess of nature, both finite and infinite, who appeared amongst the fiercest elements but can rest peacefully in the heart; this is all one.

Glorious sun, as the seed of life in a mother's womb; the hidden place whence comes the rising sun and the place where it sets; this is all one.

Universal Spirit, born in the beginning before the great waters spread across the face of the earth; who moves swiftly in the fiercest elements but can rest peacefully in the heart; this is all one.

Life is truly one.


Copyright© 2007, Undiscovered Worlds Press