Upnishads (September 2013)

Hello folks,
The topic for this month’s hawan is Upanishads. In the last four months, we covered four Vedas. In the ancient times, to explain the divine knowledge of the Vedas, Rishis gave discourses to the inquisitive minds. These discourse have been compiled to form the Upanishads. The literal meaning of the word Upanishad is “to sit near”. Because the students understood the meaning and untangled the deep significance of Vedas while sitting close to Rishis, these books are called Upanishads. 
For centuries, the Upanishads have acted as stars in the sky directing and guiding humankind in picking the right choices in life. What is the right path, where should I go, will it take me to my goal, what is my goal – such were the questions that arose in Nachiketa’s heart, Maitri’s heart; and they continue to arise in the heart of today’s generation. The answers and explanation in the Upanishads are as convincing, contemporary and fresh today as it were centuries ago.
Here, I am including a snippet of the foreword Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, an Indian philosopher and statesman who was the first Vice President of India and the second President of India from 1962 to 1967,  wrote for Ekadashopanishad (a compilation of eleven Upanishads).
“Human progress is built on acts of faith. The acts of faith on which our civilization is based are to be found in the principal Upanishads. When we are now setting out on a new era in the life of our country, we must go to the Upanishads for our inspiration. They contain the principles which have molded our history from its earliest dawn. Where we have failed, our defeat is due to our infidelity to the teachings of the Upanishads. It is, therefore, essential for our generation to grasp the significance of the Upanishads and understand their relevance to our problems.
The texts of the Upanishads are not to be read simply. They are meant for mediation. Take, for example, the very first verse with which this book opens:
Ishavasyam idam sarvam, yat kim cha jagatyam jagat
Tena tyaktena bhunjitha, ma gridhah Kasyasvid dhanam.
Know that all this, whatever moves in this moving world, is enveloped by God. Therefore, find your enjoyment in renunciation; do not covet what belongs to others.”
While there are large number of Upanishads (more than one hundred), eleven are considered most important.
This month, kids will research on the Upanishads. Ideas for the assignment include but not limited to are providing an overview of the Upanishads, expounding on a specific Upanishad, reciting a shloka [from the Upanishad] with detailed meaning etc .
Please take the research of the topic [with kids] as an opportunity to learn about this gem of Hindu scriptures.
Harsh Mendiratta