Upanishads to fire Sunita Williams’ spiritual odyssey in space

published on September 15, 2012

AHMEDABAD: When Sunita Williams is thousands of miles above the earth taking a bird’s eye view of the universe from her space shuttle window, she will try to understand universal truths of the Upanishads. The Indian American astronaut — who will spend six months in space from July 14 — is carrying with her an English translation of one of the most important Hindu scriptures.

Her father, Deepak Pandya, is hoping that the farther she goes from earth, the closer she will come to understanding her Indian roots. It was his idea that she carry a copy of the Upanishads with her.

“The last time she went into space, I had given her a copy of the Bhagavad Gita,” Pandya told TOI. “She was full of questions when she came back. She wanted to know why it became necessary for Krishna to narrate the Gita, what were its eternal teachings, was it not possible to gain similar knowledge from other works, and many such questions. I feel that she will find some of the answers in the Upanishads.”

Pandya, himself a Shiv bhakt, says that up in space his daughter will perhaps be able to better chart her spiritual journey with the Upanishads assisting her.

“All the same, we don’t discuss space when she calls amid her preparations,” Pandya adds. “We have normal father-daughter conversations.”

The astronaut is all set to go into quarantine ahead of her second space odyssey after which it will become increasingly difficult for the family to stay in touch with her. Williams last worked aboard the International Space Station for six months in 2006. She will take off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with two other astronauts, a Russian and a Japanese.

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