The Mundaka Upanishad is what one might call the moral heart of the Upanishads, since rather than explain who or what Brahman or Atman is, or how the world works, the Mundaka Upanishad recommends or even promotes a response to the world.
It is in this Upanishad that we find Sarva Karma Sannyasa, or the renunciation of all action.
Some will see where I am going with this, and they will try to stop me by saying, “Wait, the Mundaka Upanishad is only promoting that renunciation for monks. The teacher there is responding to monks, so of course he is going to promote their way of life.”
And while that may be true, the historical fact is that this renunciation has been and still is promoted beyond the monastery. As in Christianity and Judaism and Islam, the priestly life has been sold as superior, and the idea of renunciation has infested all levels of life.
The Buddha promoted it, and through him Buddhism has promoted it all over the world, to all people who are interested in achieving peace, happiness, spirituality, or enlightenment.
Schopenhauer promoted it, and most modern gurus promote it. It is sold in every modern yoga class, either subtly or unsubtly, explicitly or implicitly.
Every yoga class in 21st century America ends with shavasana, the corpse pose, which is now treated mainly as relaxation after exertion, but which was originally a short bout of Sarva. Who has better renounced all action than a corpse?
Beyond that, the idea of Mukti or Moksha is not limited to monks. All of Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism are based on liberation from Samsara, escaping the cycle of death and rebirth.
It would be hard to deny that, since Mukti is part of the word Muktika, and is promoted in the Muktika Upanishads, which are the basis for all these religions or sects. Every Indian knows of Samsara and Moksha, not just monks.
Monks may spend more time pursuing “serious” things like this, but they are considered more holy for it, and this holiness cements the idea throughout the entire culture, as it was meant to. Renunciation is not an esoteric idea in Indic religions, it is the heart of all of them.
This should have seemed strange to any reasoning person, especially a person such as Schopenhauer, who considered himself reasonable above all other things.
It should have seemed strange, since Schopenhauer also argued that people are innately greedy. They have desires that want to be filled. For such people, renunciation should not be intuitively appealing.
How could you make it appealing, much less build a religion around it? You could do so only in a world of ubiquitous and constant suffering. The Indic religions, like the philosophy of Schopenhauer, were a response to suffering. More than that, they were a regimen.
They took suffering as the given, then built the religious response around that, as an alleviation of suffering.
Remember, suffering is the first of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, as well as the first postulate of the Upanishads. Without the suffering, there would be no reason to promote renunciation. You simply could not sell the idea of renunciation to a people who were happy.
Pacific Islanders weren't interested in any of our religions, east or west, until we had thoroughly corrupted them, and neither were Native Americans.
Once people were miserable, we could then sell them our religions as a remedy for their induced pains. The modern medical establishment works on the same principle.
What is most amazing is how close Schopenhauer was to realizing this. His entire philosophy—along with most of the modern philosophies then and now—was a reaction against Christianity.
But why react against Christianity? Because you were suffering from it. This is what Nietzsche understood. Remember, Nietzsche was at first a disciple of Schopenhauer, then turned against him.
It was precisely because he recognized the ineptitude of Schopenhauer's response that he turned against him. Schopenhauer called Hegel a clumsy charlatan, and Nietzsche finally understood that Schopenhauer was another.
Nietzsche saw that Schopenhauer had at first renounced Christianity as a source of induced suffering, but then had embraced the Mundaka Upanishad as a bandage for this suffering.
Schopenhauer had thereby traded suffering for an even greater suffering, had traded illogic for an even greater illogic. He apparently didn't understand that it was the renunciation in Christianity that he was suffering from in the first place
Like a man who is beaten by his wife. She dies and he finds a new wife who will beat him even more. He has forgotten it is possible to marry a woman who doesn't beat him at all. Without the beating, the suffering is gone, and the need for renunciation is gone with it.
Nietzsche was brilliantly able to diagnose Schopenhauer's illness, which was the pathology of attachment to suffering. The sufferer becomes so inured to his suffering, he thinks only of a palliative, forgetting the possibility of a complete cure.
Schopenhauer was so thankful for the palliative of Indian renunciation, he forgot that Christianity could be cured outright.
I am not saying Atheism is the cure, since it neither medicated nor cured Schopenhauer's suffering, and since I have no intension of promoting Atheism.
It didn't do much for Nietzsche, either, though he wasn't a very successful Atheist. He wasn't very good at believing life was meaningless, and he almost succeeded in creating his own new religion, one that was able to fill Christianity's void without replacing it with a variant.
Some will say that Schopenhauer's Upanishad medication at least kept him out of the asylum, and while that is true, it isn't therefore a strong argument for his philosophy. A monk avoiding the asylum is sort of like a lifer avoiding a hanging. It is a technicality, at best.
What I am saying is that I find it curious that Schopenhauer freely chose to replace the nihilism of Christianity with the even greater nihilism of the 5th Upanishad.
He chose to replace the induced suffering of 18th century Christianity with the induced suffering of 6th century BC priestly Indian monks.
You see, to chose no suffering instead would have been to invalidate his previous suffering. That invalidation would be more painful than the original pain, so he found himself in a no-win situation.
He was also in a no-win situation because no matter how well he disproved Christianity, he still lived in a Christian culture. A disproof is not equivalent to a destruction, and he didn't feel free to act according to his new philosophy.
That is, he didn't feel free to be gay or to play with young girls or whatever it was he really wished to do. So even though he didn't believe in the culture around him, it still made him suffer.
In fact, he suffered all the more without the belief in his culture, since his misery could no longer be rationalized as being in the service of some greater good. He had to find another service for his suffering, another way to justify it, and the 5th Upanishad gave him that.
His failure to act was then not timidity, it was service to a purer religion, one that demanded renunciation and praised it as the greatest holiness.
Sufferers are addicted to their suffering, and cannot countenance invalidating the years they have been married to it. This is why you can't discuss suffering with Indians.
For them to even contemplate the idea that most suffering in India is unnecessary and avoidable is more painful than the suffering itself, since it means they are in some sense guilty.
If you go along with a system of institutionalized suffering, you are in part responsible for that suffering, and that idea is unbearable. It is far better to suffer yourself, because you can then include yourself in the list of victims.
Christians are often pathologically attached to guilt, and wallow in it, but Indians are adept at avoiding all signs of guilt, even when it is merited. That is, guilt is on our religious shortlist but it isn't on theirs.
Their entire religious structure shields them from what we call guilt, and it is impossible to lead an Indian along that line of argument. To even look sideways at the idea that some or most suffering was avoidable would be to invalidate the entire history and structure of India
We do the same thing here, of course—though in slightly different ways—and Christianity encourages the same sort of institutionalized and induced suffering, and the blindness to it.
Jesus either said, “the poor you shall always have with you, but the Son of Man you will not always have,” or it was allowed by Christians to be inserted into their scriptures. Either way it is a beastly thing to have to read from someone who is sold to you as holy.
While it is true that some suffering is unavoidable—and that suffering may even be a desirable ingredient of life, giving it richness—it is also true that a large part of the suffering of the past was unnecessary, avoidable, and added no possible richness.
Even more than that, it was induced. Manufactured. Anyone who has studied history, and especially the history of religions, knows that the priestly classes of all religions have thrived by inducing pains which you could then pay them to alleviate or mitigate.
When they weren't inventing new methods of suffering, they were using existing suffering to their own ends, interpreting it as the wrath of the gods that only they could quiet.
For instance, if you had lost a child, the priests had no problem telling you it was your fault. You had failed to make the right prayers or had spit in the wrong place or had worn the wrong clothes to temple or something.
Only the right number of coins in their plates could solve the problem. So suffering+guilt=priestly wealth.
This is why Nietzsche thought the Indic religions were cleaner than Western religions: at least the former dispensed with the guilt. The Eastern priests didn't need to double your pain to gain power over you.
In the east it wasn't suffering+guilt=wealth. It was suffering+renunciation=less suffering for the rich and more riches for the priests. But in neither the east nor the west was there any idea of addressing the causes of the suffering.
Suffering has always been a goldmine for priests, and the last thing they want to do is cure it. As with doctors, there is no interest in curing. What is wanted is permanent and expensive treatment.
Or think of energy providers. We hear a lot about free energy, which would cure a lot of suffering. But energy providers don't want free energy. Nobody gets rich from free energy. What is wanted is expensive energy.
Large parts of the US government also subsist on this plan. The Department of Homeland Security manufactures a terrorist threat and then sells the taxpayer an expensive and permanent solution to that fake threat.
Suffering, expense, and problems are induced, because all three make people rich. If you aren't happy, you might consider the possibility that it isn't because you are unenlightened. It is because thousands of people work very hard every day to be sure you aren't happy.
It is their job to make you unhappy, and they are very good at it. No one has a financial interest in your health or happiness: it is your sickness and suffering they depend on and profit from. If you are healthy and happy, they see you only as an untapped market.
But back to the Mundaka Upanishad. I don't think it would be possible to create a more perfect anti-religion or example of anti-holiness.
It isn't just suffering which is taken as a given. Suffering is a given, so suffering is not the root of the problem here. It is the use of natural suffering by the priests to manufacture unnatural suffering, and thereby a permanent base for themselves.
Christianity did this with great success, brilliantly adding guilt to the mix to immediately double the dosage of suffering. But the Eastern religions are even more perfect, since they have managed an even more complete reversal of nature.
They have no need to double the dosage with guilt, since the original dosage was already maximal and fatal. The fatal dosage is completely contained in the first postulate of these religions, and it needed no later accelerators or adjuvants.
And because the fatal dosage is contained in the first postulate, it is out of sight. Just as mathematicians tend to closely check all lines of a proof except the first line, religious people tend to argue least about the most fundamental assumptions.
For some reason, scientists let the first postulate hang. Because it is an assumption, they let it be. We see the same thing in religions, where the most important things are hidden at the ground level, and are rarely or never questioned.
A lot has been written about reincarnation being the foundation of Eastern religions, and whether that idea is true or false. But I have seen very little or nothing written on the accompanying idea that reincarnation is a trap. These religions start with a set of assumptions:
Assumption three is where the poison exists, and it is rarely questioned. It is insidious because it seems to follow from the previous two assumptions. But it doesn't follow at all. In fact it is upside down. It is a precise inversion of what should follow in any healthy religion
Lao-Tze's philosophy was much closer to this conception of life than the religion of the Upanishads or the Buddha, and Nietzsche was also moving toward this conception, although his philosophy remained polluted by many of the negatives of Christianity.
He had recognized the inversion and was trying to flip the world back over. But he had lived head downwards too long and could not survive the blood rushing back to his feet.
He also continued to live in an inverted culture, and hadn't the power to flip all those around him. Even if he had successfully righted himself, he would still have been a bird flying north in a flock flying south.
The Mundaka Upanishad is a perfect priestly poison because if you accept the idea that life is a negative cycle that needs to be escaped, you have not only doubled your dosage, as with guilt, you have raised it to a large exponent.
Let us say you have lost a child. That is your natural dose of suffering, which most people have been able to outlive.
A Christian priest at his historical worst would have doubled your suffering with some sort of guilt. But even then, the suffering would be limited to the one event.
The Eastern priest, though, had found a way to take that one instance of suffering and not just double it, but to magnify it a thousand times. He did this by defining the suffering as the prime aspect of all life, and then undercutting your entire life by telling you it is a trap
Instead of suffering for the loss of your child, you now suffer every moment, for every thought and action you have. Even the high points of your life are part of this general trap, and you can be made to suffer for them, too.
In this way, these Eastern religions are far more insidious than modern Atheistic science, which only tells you your life is meaningless. But life as a trap is even worse than a meaningless life.
A meaningless life is morally flat. It is neither positive nor negative. But the ideas of Samsara and Moksha give life a strong negative aspect. Life is worse than meaningless, it is a cage that you should and must escape.
It is a bad thing, a thing you have been yoked with as a punishment. If you believe that, you are more likely to live your life like a prisoner, which is precisely what most religions and governments have desired you to do.
Just as it is worse than Atheism, Hinduism has also been worse than Christianity. Christianity was bad enough, since it demoted the importance of this life in favor of an afterlife. You resigned yourself to the present in favor of future expectation.
The churches and governments floated empty promises in front of your face to prevent you from acting against them now—which allowed them to steal everything you had more easily. But the Indic religions were even worse, since they explicitly defined this life as a sort of hell.
For the lower classes it was an outright hell, but even for the upper classes it was only a hell with minor amelioration. If you were reborn into any class, it was because you had not yet completed your punishment. You had not yet renounced the trap of life.
This is why I read Schopenhauer and even Nietzsche with amazement. Nietzsche was much harder on Christianity than he was on Indic religions, and I have to think he didn't look very closely at the latter.
I also read Thoreau and Emerson and Salinger in amazement, on this issue at least. Although at most times they all spoke more like Lao-Tze than the Buddha, they never seemed to recognize the crushing nihilism at the root of these Indic religions.
And I am amazed to see my friends and acquaintances turning away from Christianity only to turn toward Buddhism or Hinduism. They can't seem to see that they are simply trading one set of crafty priests for an even craftier set of priests.
If I am not promoting Atheism, what am I promoting? I am not promoting anything. Your mental and spiritual life is your responsibility and your achievement. I am no guru. I don't want your spiritual money or your blessing.
Well then, what method of spiritual health do I follow? Can I at least tell you that? I can. I have found by personal experience that the more you cleanse your life of the old religions, the less need you have of any religion.
The addiction mostly evaporates, that is, and old questions lose their fascination. You are no longer vexed by the old inconsistencies, because you realize they were all manufactured to vex you.
But isn't this “lack of religion” the same as Atheism or agnosticism? Not at all. Disinterest in manufactured vexations is not Atheism, since it doesn't imply a disinterest or disbelief or doubt in meaning or even gods.
I don't disbelieve in gods or in meaning, I just don't know anything about them, and have no trouble admitting it. I have questions just like anyone else, but don't see any way to answer them. And I find I can get along very well without answers.
It is not the lack of answers that causes suffering, I have found. It is the belief—planted in you by priests—that life is not worth living if you don't know these things. It simply isn't true.
I am universally curious, but I have never expected to know everything. The things I don't know do not cause me pain. They are just grist for the morrow.
Which is not to say that my spiritual life is nonexistent. Far from it. I bow down before all beauties, from flowers to trees to stars, since all are equally beyond my comprehension. I give thanks to everything around me, of which I am but a small part.
In chapter 1 of Walden, Thoreau says this:

While that may be overstating the case, his point is well taken. For me, religion or spirituality has never been a way to relieve suffering or beg indulgences.
It is useful mainly as a method for giving thanks, broadly and nearly indiscriminately, to the four or six directions and to anyone or anything that is there to receive it.
But isn't this just barbarism or paganism? Isn't it pantheism? Maybe, although I no longer worry myself with tags. The priests have tagged these notions with their own epithets, in order to control them. They need to attack every idea they aren't selling.
But I have to believe that even if there are gods as discrete entities, and even if they don't inhabit trees or the Sun or Moon, they could not mind if we thank them via these things we can see. They must take into account our limited knowledge.
Just as we wouldn't expect cats to obey our rules, the gods can't expect us to obey theirs. The “revealed” religions are such a melange of contradictory advice and obvious claptrap, they can't blame us for being confused.
If we have the proper respect for the world around us, they must forgive us specific errors of worship. They would not punish misaimed gratitude.
I can't believe that any god ever damned the ancient peoples for worshiping trees or animals or heavenly bodies, as long as they cared for one another and the world around them.
In the same way, I can't believe any god or power would look with a smile on modern people destroying the Earth, simply because they did it in the name of the correct monotheism.
No god worth praying to through any channels can look kindly on carelessness, disrespect, or ingratitude. No god or power can look kindly on priests defining life as a trap or cage, simply to profit from it.
I don't think we know everything or can know everything, even about limited things like an atom or photon. But that doesn't mean we can't know anything. We can discover partial answers to any number of questions, and have. Science can produce real understanding.
My critique of science has not been a general critique. I have not critiqued it as a spiritual person or a religious person. I have not Deconstructed it. I have not even advanced a Humean or Godelian critique, claiming it gives us no real knowledge.
My critique of science has been a specific critique of modern science, and the ways it has cheated on its own foundations in the past century or so. I have never argued that science or rationalism are fundamentally flawed. Science has been promoted beyond its actual merits.
The modern Atheists try to make us choose between science and religion, or between material and spirit, but those divisions are manufactured like most everything else.
Newton did not recognize those divisions, and neither did Galileo, even while he was in prison at the behest of the Pope.
These divisions, like the vexations, benefit those who are trying to sell you their faction or fiction, but once you stop buying you realize the divisions were illusory.
The Atheists have their products to promote just like the priests. They have their TV programs and research and colliders and magazines to sell and they think the non-religious are more likely to buy. So they are apt to propagandize you as viciously as the priests and politicians
In fact, the modern Atheist is very likely to be both priest and politician, working for both the government and the church of the government— which is commerce. By simply refusing to buy, you confound both priest and politician, Theist and Atheist.
I would like to suggest that Schopenhauer's real redemption and salvation was his poodles and cats and other furry friends, which we are told he doted upon. This is what kept him out of the asylum, not his books.
Oh, that we could have given Nietzsche a golden retriever!—we might have saved him his collapse. Schopenhauer claimed he read from the Upanishads daily, but I don't tend to believe it. That all looks like a pose to me.
What I can imagine he did do daily is care for his animals, which shows his humanity above all else I have read of him. Denied the company of young women or men, he made due with pets. Considering what he thought of women, this was probably all for the best.
If Goethe's flings are painful to read about, what would Schopenhauer's have been, if he had found the courage to fling? They would have been disasters of the first order.
Which means that although Nietzsche's exhortations to the healthy man to act freely on his impulses may have been right, some limited renunciation by the unhealthy may also be called for. Renunciation as the first postulate of a religion is nihilism.
Schopenhauer's renunciation of women was probably a sign of good sense, a relief to the women around him, and insurance of his dignity and permanent reputation

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