2.H.1 Mundaka, Upanishad (1.2.11-13), presented by Anantanand Rambachan


“Those meditators of resolved mind, who live on alms, who pursue their duties along with meditation dwelling in the forest, are freed from papa, and through the solar path they enter the world where the immortal Purusha of imperishable nature dwells.” (11)

“A reflective person, after examining worldly gains achieved through action, understands that the uncreated (infinite) cannot be created by finite action, and develops detachment.

To know That (infinite), he should go, with sacrificial twigs in hand, to a teacher who knows the scriptures and who is fixed in the infinite (brahman). “ (12)

“To that student who has approached properly, who has a calm and controlled mind, that wise person should teach that knowledge of brahman, by which he knows the imperishable truth.” (13)


The Upanishads (ca. 500BCE or earlier) are spiritual dialogues between teachers and students that are found at the end of the each of the four authoritative Hindu sacred texts known as the Vedas. They are regarded as offering the highest wisdom of the Vedas.

This text is one of the clearest statements on the insights and circumstances that motivate entry into the spiritual life. A human being, who engages in reflection on the nature of her actions and the outcomes produced, discovers that actions, which are by nature finite, are capable of producing only finite and hence limited results. Such results are ephemeral and transient and leave us in a condition of want and incompleteness. Without such a reflective discernment, we become susceptible to greed,that is rooted in the illusion that we will overcome our inner sense of incompleteness by the multiplication of desires for the finite. By examining our life-experiences we come to understand that this assumption is like the attempt to extinguish a raging fire by pouring oil into the flames. The fire only burns with renewed intensity. This deep recognition of the limits of finite gains, whether such gains refer to knowledge, wealth, pleasure, power or fame, is what motivates our entry into the spiritual life.

Dissatisfaction with the finite, in one form or another, leads to the quest for the Infinite.

The Mundaka Upanishad text presents this existential discontent as resulting in an outlook of detachment (nirvedam). Detachment must not be equated with hate, disgust or rage towards the finite. It is a healthy freedom from unrealistic expectations about finite objects and gains that is the outcome of analysis of one’s experiences. It is the understanding that although we have legitimate needs that are satisfied by finite objects, there is a more fundamental human need that is not addressed by any finite gain.

Along with identifying the conditions that turn us to the spiritual quest, this Upanishad text also identifies and names the object of this quest.

It suggests that at the heart of every human desire is a search for the uncreated (akrtah). This uncreated is synonymous with the infinite, referred to in the Upanishads as brahman. This fundamental orientation towards and longing for the infinite explain also the failure of the finite to satisfy us. The text does not leave the seeker in despair but advises that her quest for the infinite ought to be pursued with a guidance of a teacher who is learned in the scriptures and whose life is rooted in that infinite. We are given here a description of the human problem(diagnosis), an identification of its resolution (prognosis) and the way to liberation (therapy).

— Christian response by Timothy Wright

— Christian response by Philip Sheldrake

— Buddhist response by Ruben Habito 

— Jewish response by Alon Goshen-Gottstein