108 Upanishads

(The order as given in the Muktika Upanishad) With commentary on the first 10 Upanishads by Swami Nirmalananda Giri.

Hindu Temple, Indonesia Compiled by Richard Sheppard

But by what means is the Kaivalya kind of Moksha got? The Mandukya Upanishad is enough; if knowledge is not got from it, then study the Ten Upanishads. Getting knowledge very soon, you will reach my abode. If certainty is not got even then, study the 32 Upanishads and stop. If desiring Moksha without the body, read the 108 Upanishads. Hear their order. (Muktika I-1-26-29).

Kaivalya: Emancipation; state of absolute independence.

Moksha: Liberation.

108 Upanishads

  1. Isa*

  2. Kena*

  3. Katha*

  4. Prasna*

  5. Munda*

  6. Mandukya*

  7. Taittiri*

  8. Aitareya*

  9. Chandogya*

  10. Brihadaranyaka*

  11. Brahma

  12. Kaivalya

  13. Jabala

  14. Svetasva

  15. Hamsa

  16. Aruni

  17. Garbha

  18. Narayana

  19. Paramahamsa

  20. Amritabindu

  21. Amritanada

  22. Atahrvasirah

  23. Atharvasikha

  24. Maitrayini

  25. Kaushitakibrahmana

  26. Brihajjabala

  27. Nrisimhatapini

  28. Kalagnirudra

  29. Maitreya

  30. Subala

  31. Kshurika

  32. Mantrika

  33. Sarvasara

  34. Niralamba

  35. Sukarahasya

  36. Vajrasuchika

  1. Tejobindu

  2. Nadabindu

  3. Dhyanabindu

  4. Brahmavidya

  5. Yogatattva

  6. Atmabodha

  7. Naradaparivrajaka

  8. Trisikhi

  9. Sita

  10. Yogachudamani

  11. Nirvana

  12. Mandalabrahmana

  13. Dakshinamurti

  14. Sarabha

  15. Skanda

  16. Tripadvibhuti-Mahanarayana

  17. Advayataraka

  18. Ramarahasya

  19. Ramatapani

  20. Vasudeva

  21. Mudgala

  22. Sandilya

  23. Paingala

  24. Bhiksu

  25. Mahat

  26. Sariraka

  27. Yogasikha

  28. Turiyatita

  29. Sannyasa

  30. Paramahamsaparivrajaka

  31. Akshamalika

  32. Avyakta

  33. Ekakshara

  34. Annapurna

  35. Surya

  36. Akshi

  1. Adhyatma

  2. Kundika

  3. Savitri

  4. Atma

  5. Pasupata

  6. Parabrahma

  7. Avadhutaka

  8. Tripuratapini

  9. Devi

  10. Tripura

  11. Katharudra

  12. Bhavana

  13. Rudrahridaya

  14. Yoga-kundali

  15. Bhasma

  16. Rudraksha

  17. Ganapati

  18. Darsana

  19. Tarasara

  20. Mahavakya

  21. Panchabrahma

  22. Pranagnihotra

  23. Gopalatapini

  24. Krishna

  25. Yajnavalkya

  26. Varaha

  27. Satyayani

  28. Hayagriva

  29. Dattatreya

  30. Garuda

  31. Kalisamtarana

  32. Jabali

  33. Saubhagyalakshmi

  34. Sarasvatirahasya

  35. Bahvricha

  36. Muktika

* = Followed by Commentary by Swami Nirmalananda Giri.

Isavasya Upanishad

Translated by Vidyavachaspati V. Panoli

Om ! That is full; this is full, (for) from the full the full (indeed) arises. When the full is taken from the full, what remains is full indeed. Om! Peace! Peace! Peace!

  1. Om. All this should be covered by the Lord, whatsoever moves on the earth. By such a renunciation protect (thyself). Covet not the wealth of others.

  2. By performing karma in this world (as enjoined by the scriptures) should one yearn to live a hundred years. Thus action does not bind thee, the doer. There is no other way than this.

  3. Those worlds of Asuras (demons) are enshrouded by blinding gloom. Those who are the slayers of the Self go to them after death.

  4. Unmoving, It is one, faster than the mind. The senses cannot reach It, for It proceeds ahead. Remaining static It overtakes others that run. On account of Its presence, Matarsiva (the wind) conducts the activities of beings.

  5. It moves; It moves not. It is far; It is near. It is within all; It is without all.

  6. He who perceives all beings in the Self alone, and the Self in all beings, does not entertain any hatred on account of that perception.

  7. When a man realizes that all beings are but the Self, what delusion is there, what grief, to that perceiver of oneness?

  8. That (Self) is all-pervading, radiant, bodiless, sore less, without sinews, pure, untainted by sin, the all-seer, the lord of the mind, transcendent and self-existent. That (Self) did allot in proper order to the eternal Prajapatis known as samvalsara (year) their duties.

  9. Those who worship avidya (karma born of ignorance) go to pitch darkness, but to a greater darkness than this go those who are devoted to Vidya (knowledge of the Devatas).

  10. Different indeed, they say, is the result (attained) by vidya and different indeed, they say, is the result (attained) by avidya. Thus have we heard from the wise who had explained it to us.

  11. He who knows both vidya and avidya together, transcends mortality through avidya and reaches immortality through vidya.

    1. To pitch darkness they go who worship the Unmanifested (Prakriti). To a greater darkness than this

    2. go those who are devoted to the Manifested (Hiranyagarbha).
  12. Different indeed, they say, is the result (attained) by the worship of the Manifested and different indeed, they say, is the result (attained) by the worship of the Unmanifested. Thus have we heard from the wise who had explained it to us.

  13. He who knows both the Unmanifested and the destructible (Hiranyagarbha) together, transcends death by the (worship of) the destructible and attains immortality by the (worship of ) the Unmanifested.

  14. The face of the Truth (ie., Purusha in the solar orb) is veiled by a bright vessel. Mayst thou unveil it, O Sun, so as to be perceived by me whose dharma is truth.

  15. O nourisher, pilgrim of the solitude, controller, absorber (of all rasas), offspring of Prajapati, cast away thy rays, gather them up and give up thy radiating brilliance. That form of thine, most graceful, I may behold. He, the Purusha (in the solar orb), I am.

  16. Let (my) vital air (prana) now attain the immortal Air (all-pervading Self); then let this body be reduced to ashes. Om, O mind, remember – remember that which has been done, O mind, remember – remember that which has been done.

  17. O Fire, O Deva, knower of all our actions or all our knowledge, lead us by the good path for enjoying the fruits of actions. Liberate us from our deceitful sins. We offer thee ever more our words of adoration.

Om! That is full; this is full, (for) from the full the full (indeed) arises. When the full is taken from the full, what remains is full indeed. Om ! Peace ! Peace ! Peace !

Here ends the Isavasyopanishad, as contained in the Sukla-Yajur-Veda.

Isha Upanishad Commentary

Commentary on the Isavasya Upanishad–by Swami Nirmalananda Giri

Seeing All Things in God

An instructive story

Just before going to India for the first time in 1962, I had the great good fortune to meet and hear Sri A.

B. Purani, the administrator of the renowned Aurobindo Ashram of Pondicherry, India. From his lips I heard the most brilliant expositions of Vedic philosophy; nothing in my subsequent experience has equaled them. In one talk he told the following story:

In ancient India there lived a most virtuous Brahmin who was considered by all to be the best authority on philosophy. One day the local king ordered him to appear before him. When he did so, the king said: "I have three questions that puzzle-even torment-me: Where is God? Why don't I see Him? And what does he do all day? If you can't answer these three questions I will have your head cut off." The Brahmin was appalled and terrified, because the answers to these questions were not just complex, they were impossible to formulate. In other words: he did not know the answers. So his execution date was set.

On the morning of that day the Brahmin's teenage son appeared and asked the king if he would release his father if he-the son-would answer the questions. The king agreed, and the son asked that a container of milk be brought to him. It was done. Then the boy asked that the milk be churned into butter. That, too, was done.

"The first two of your questions are now answered," he told the king.

The king objected that he had been given no answers, so the son asked: "Where was the butter before it was churned?"

"In the milk," replied the king.

"In what part of the milk?" asked the boy.

"In all of it."

"Just so, agreed the boy, "and in the same way God is within all things and pervades all things."

"Why don't I see Him, then," pressed the king.

"Because you do not 'churn' your mind and refine your perceptions through meditation. If you do that, you will see God. But not otherwise. Now let my father go."

"Not at all," insisted the king. "You have not told me what God does all day."

"To answer that," said the boy, "we will have to change places. You come stand here and let me sit on the throne."

The request was so audacious the king complied, and in a moment he was standing before the enthroned Brahmin boy who told him: "This is the answer. One moment you were here and I was there. Now things are reversed. God perpetually lifts up and casts down every one of us. In one life we are exalted and in another we are brought low-oftentimes in a single life this occurs, and even more than once. Our lives are completely in His hand, and He does with us as He wills."

The Brahmin was released and his son was given many honors and gifts by the king.

The Isha Upanishad opens with the answer to the question as to God's "whereabouts."

He is within all

"In the heart of all things, of whatever there is in the universe, dwells the Lord." Whatever we experience, whether through the inner or outer senses, it is a covering of the Lord (Isha). Since it conceals, it necessarily blinds, confuses, or inhibits us. It is a door closed in our face. Tragically, throughout lives without number we have not known this simple fact and have as a consequence believed that the experienced, whether objective or subjective, is the sole reality and have dissipated life after life in involvement with it to our pain and destruction. A door is never the way out: the way out is revealed when the door is moved aside-eliminated. Not knowing this, either, we have clawed, hammered, and hewn at the door-at least in those lives when we were not adulating and worshiping it or calling it "God's greatest gift to us"-to no avail. The root problem is our believing in the door's reality, thinking that it is the beginning, middle, and end. Only when it disappears will we see the truth that lies beyond "things."

We must not just get "inside" things, we must get to their heart. And how is that done? By getting into our own heart, into the core of our own being. There everything will be found. The key to the door is meditation.

Another viewing

Prabhavananda has conveyed the ultimate message of these opening words of the Isha Upanishad. The literal translation, however, gives us another view which we should consider: "All this--whatever exists in this changing universe--should be covered by the Lord." Rather than speaking of piercing to the heart of things, the literal meaning is that the Lord should be seen covering-that is, enveloping-all things. This has two meanings.

1) What I have just expressed, that we should experience-not just think intellectually-that God is encompassing all things, that we should not see things as independent or separate from God, but as existing within God. And this vision should extend to us: we, too, exist only within Him.

2) In our seeing of things, God should always be between us and them. First we should see God, and only secondarily see the "things."

The renowned Swami (Papa) Ramdas in his spiritual autobiography In Quest of God writes of his initial spiritual awakening in these words: "It was at this time that it slowly dawned upon his mind that Ram was the only Reality and all else was false....All thought, all mind, all heart, all soul was concentrated on Ram, Ram covering up and absorbing everything."

In the Bhagavad Gita, considered to convey the essence of the Upanishadic wisdom, both Prabhavananda's and the literal translations are put together when Krishna tells Arjuna that the wise see God in all things and all things in God.

He IS all

If we accept the foregoing, then we will take the next step and experience that "He alone is the reality." This can be understood more than one way. We can conclude that God alone is real and everything else is unreal. The problem with that is our tendency to equate "unreal" with non-existent, and wrongly belief that everything is only an illusion, that it has no reality whatsoever. The great non-dual philosopher Shankara explained the accurate view by likening our experience of things to that of a man who sees a rope in dim light and mistakes it for a snake, his mind even supplying eyes that glitter and a mouth that hisses at him. When light is brought, he sees that there is no snake, only a rope. The snake was not real, but his impression, however mistaken, was real. The snake was not real, it was nonexistent; but the impression of the snake was real and did exist. The rope was the reality and the snake was an illusion overlain on it. In the same way God is the reality and everything else is illusory like the snake. But illusion does exist. Denying it gets us nowhere; we have to deal with it by seeing through it, by dispelling it. Then we will see the reality: God. After that we can progress to the understanding that even though our interpretation may be wrong, what we perceive does have a real side to it, and that is God Himself. Hence, all things are God in their real side. The "wrong" side is in our mind alone. We can say that God is the reality of the unreal, which we need to see past. And that is the whole idea of the opening verse of the upanishad. He alone is real; He is all things.

Be at peace

"Wherefore, renouncing vain appearances, rejoice in him." All of our sorrows and troubles come from our mistaking vain appearances for reality, from our looking at them with our outer eyes instead of beholding God with the inner eye. But we are addicted to those vain appearances-we have to admit that. Yes, we are even addicted to all the pain and anxiety they bring us. That is foolish, but is it any more foolish than it is to be addicted to drugs or alcohol-or to people that harm us? We are insane on certain levels; this world is a madhouse for people of our particular lunacy. The sooner we understand this and resolve to be cured and released, the better things will be for us. For from "things" we will move on to God-perception.

For this reason the yogis, those who seek God in meditation, should be the most cheerful and optimistic of people. If we look to God we will see only perfection and rejoice in it; if we look at ourselves, others, and the world around us we will see only imperfection and be discontent. Depression comes from looking in the wrong place. It is the bitter fruit of ego-involvement, of ego-obsession. The remedy is not to have "high self-esteem" but rather to have God-esteem. And since we live in God, we will see the divine side even of ourselves and be ever hopeful. Once God spoke to a contemporary mystic and said: "I am He Who Is. You are She Who Is Not." Now to the ego that may sound hateful, but to the questing spirit it is a liberating assurance. The unreal which we call "me" need not be struggled with: it is only a ghost, a shadow. Bringing in the light of God-contact will reveal that to be the truth. Then we will be at peace and in perfect joy. What a burden is lifted from those who come to know that God alone is real and true, and that we need only look to Him. When we look within we find Him as the heart of our selves.

We must renounce unreality. As I say, we are addicted to it, so we will have to struggle to break the terrible habit of delusion, just as those addicted to the hallucinations produced by drugs have to break away from them and discard them forever. Then we will "rejoice in Him."

Desirelessness

"Covet no man's wealth." Why? Because it does not exist! It is just a bubble destined to burst leaving nothing in its place. There are no "things" to covet or possess. They are the fever dreams of illusion from which we must awaken. No one really owns anything-firstly because the thing (as we perceive it) does not exist, and the "man" does not exist either; and neither do we-as least so far as our perceptions of "them," "it," and "me" go.

God and I in space alone And nobody else in view. "And where are the people, O Lord!" I said. "The earth below and the sky o'erhead And the dead whom once I knew?"

"That was a dream," God smiled and said, "A dream that seemed to be true, There were no people, living or dead, There was no earth and no sky o'erhead There was only Myself-and you."

"Why do I feel no fear," I asked,

"Meeting you here in this way, For I have sinned I know full well, And there is heaven and there is hell, And is this the judgment day?"

"Nay, those were dreams," the great God said, "Dreams that have ceased to be. There are no such things as fear or sin, There is no you-you have never been- There is nothing at all but Me."

Living a Life Worth Living

How to live

“Well may he be content to live a hundred years who acts without attachment who works his work with earnestness, but without desire, not yearning for its fruits–he, and he alone.”

It is generally felt that this verse–and other passages from scriptures and books on spiritual life– indicates that one hundred years is the normal lifespan for a human being. On the other hand, the figure of one hundred years may also symbolize the complete lifespan of a person, however brief or long, the idea here being that not one moment of our life need be a burden nor should we ever wish to shorten our life by a single breath–that life should be lived in fulfillment with peace and happiness all the way through. That this is possible has been shown well by the saints and Masters of all religions and ages. We need only know how to do it; and these words give the way.

Acting without attachment and desire

In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna draws very clearly for us the picture of a person who lives in anxiety and misery and him who lives in peace and contentment. Both may be living in exactly the same situation, for it is not external conditions that make us happy or miserable, but our reaction to them. Krishna makes it quite plain that the secret of happiness or misery lies in the absence of two things: attachment and desire. Those who live in attachment to externalities, anxious to fulfill desire, must suffer and live in frustration. On the other hand, those who live without egoic desire are perpetually at peace.

Nonattachment

Krishna not only holds out the ideal for us, He also tells us how to accomplish it.

“Perform every action with your heart fixed on the Supreme Lord. Renounce attachment to the fruits. Be even-tempered in success and failure; for it is this evenness of temper which is meant by yoga.”

(2:48)

“In the calm of self-surrender you can free yourself from the bondage of virtue and vice during this very life. Devote yourself, therefore, to reaching union with Brahman. To unite the heart with Brahman and then to act: that is the secret of non-attached work.” (2:50)

“When your intellect has cleared itself of its delusions, you will become indifferent to the results of all action, present or future.” (2:52)

“The world is imprisoned in its own activity, except when actions are performed as worship of God.

Therefore you must perform every action sacramentally, and be free from all attachments to results.”

(3:9)

“Whosoever works for me alone, makes me his only goal and is devoted to me, free from attachment, and without hatred toward any creature–that man, O Prince, shall enter into me.” (11:55)

‘Therefore, a man should contemplate Brahman until he has sharpened the axe of his non-attachment. With this axe, he must cut through the firmly-rooted Aswattha tree.” (15:3)

“No human being can give up action altogether, but he who gives up the fruits of action is said to be non-attached.” (18:11)

“When a man has achieved non-attachment, self-mastery and freedom from desire through renunciation, he reaches union with Brahman, who is beyond all action.” (18:49)

In other words, keeping the mind on God frees us from egoic attachment to our activities. This is an extremely high ideal and one very hard to attain; yet we must strive for it through the practice of meditation, for only the clarity of vision reached through meditation can enable us to live out such a lofty ideal.

Working with earnestness

Lest we think that negative or passive indifference is detachment, or that carelessness and shoddiness in our daily work is spiritual-mindedness–a view that prevails in much of the Orient and among many in the West–the Upanishad plainly tells us that the wise man “works his work with earnestness.” This is really a great portion of the Bhagavad Gita’s message: that we must work with skill to the best of our abilities–that is our part–while leaving the results to God–that is His part. In that way we truly are “workers together” with God in our life. Sri Ramakrishna said: “If you can weigh salt you can weigh sugar,” meaning that if a person is proficient in spiritual life he will be proficient in his outer life as well. That does not mean that all yogis need to become great successes in business or some other profession, but it does mean that they need to work with the full capabilities they possess and do absolutely the best they can–and no more; that is, they need not worry about the results. In this way they will be at peace both internally and externally.

Without desire

The real cankerworm in the garden of our life is desire, whether in the form of wanting, wishing, yearning, desiring, hoping, demanding, or craving. Whether to a little or a great degree, desire destroys our hearts and our chances for inner peace. Desire is a wasting fever which drives us onward to spiritual loss. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” As Wordsworth wrote: “We have given our hearts away–a sordid boon!” I have spent my entire life watching people gain a little bit of the world and lose their souls. And ultimately they lost the world, too, either in the changes of earthly fortune or through the finality of death.

“And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Desirelessness is not a zombie-like passivity, a kind of pious vegetating. Far from it. Krishna lauds the desireless in these words:

He knows bliss in the Atman And wants nothing else. Cravings torment the heart: He renounces cravings. I call him illumined. (2:55)

Not shaken by adversity, Not hankering after happiness: Free from fear, free from anger, Free from the things of desire. I call him a seer, and illumined. (2:56)

The bonds of his flesh are broken. He is lucky, and does not rejoice: He is unlucky, and does not weep I call him illumined. (2:57)

The tortoise can draw in its legs: The seer can draw in his senses. I call him illumined. (2:58)

The abstinent run away from what they desire But carry their desires with them: When a man enters Reality, He leaves his desires behind him. (2:59)

The desireless who have fulfilled themselves in God are the most alive, happy, and satisfied of beings. Surely they–and they alone–are “content to live a hundred years.” For them there is no talk of death being a “blessed release” (which it is not), for they are already freed in spirit.

Spiritual Suicides

“Worlds there are without suns, covered up with darkness. To these after death go the ignorant, slayers of the Self.” (“Verily, those worlds of the asuras are enveloped in blind darkness; and thereto they all repair after death who are slayers of Atman.” This is the translation of Swami Nikhilananda.)

The Upanishadic seer opens by speaking of the way of fulfilled and joyful life: seeing the Divine in all things, and living on the earth according to Divine Law. But this is not the only world in which we can find ourself as we move through a cycle of continuous birth and death–birth into one world after having died out of another, or another birth into the world where we were just living. When we speak of “birth” we usually think only of physical embodiment on this earth. But when we die in this world we are born into an astral world where we remain for some time and then die to that world and become born back into this world. Although this world remains virtually the same–despite the fact that every generation thinks it is a great advance over previous eras–we can spend time in a vast array of astral worlds, positive and negative, pleasant and unpleasant. The earth becomes a kind of stable place of return for us. Or is it?

Many births, many worlds

Although the earth accommodates a wide range of spiritual and psychological evolution, the astral worlds are more specialized. There is an astral world for every degree of consciousness. These worlds can be classified just as sentient beings are classified. That does not say much, since each person can have a different set of criteria for such classification. But the masters of wisdom have generally agreed: there are two basic kinds of people–suras and asuras, those who dwell in the light and those who live in the dark. “Divine” and “demonic” are commonly used to translate sura–or deva–and asura. A sura/deva is in the light, an asura is not. Sometimes a person dwells in the dark by choice, but most often it is a state of ignorance rather than negative volition. Because of this we need to avoid a “deva is good, asura is bad” reaction in all cases, though there are instances when this is accurate, and to repress it would be foolish–and asuric!

The sixteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita

Practically speaking, however–that is, looking at the result of manifesting those natures–it is just that simple. An entire chapter of the Bhagavad Gita is directed to this manner of divine (devic) and demonic (asuric) nature as it manifests in human beings. I know it is pretty lengthy, but it is so insightful and complete that it merits inclusion here. Sri Krishna speaks:

“A man who is born with tendencies toward the Divine, is fearless and pure in heart. He perseveres in that path to union with Brahman which the scriptures and his teacher have taught him. He is charitable. He can control his passions. He studies the scriptures regularly, and obeys their directions. He practices spiritual disciplines. He is straightforward, truthful, and of an even temper. He harms no one. He renounces the things of this world. He has a tranquil mind and an unmalicious tongue. He is compassionate toward all. He is not greedy. He is gentle and modest. He abstains from useless activity. He has faith in the strength of his higher nature. He can forgive and endure. He is clean in thought and act. He is free from hatred and from pride. Such qualities are his birthright.

“When a man is born with demonic tendencies, his birthright is hypocrisy, arrogance, conceit, anger, cruelty and ignorance.

“The birthright of the divine nature leads to liberation. The birthright of the demonic nature leads to greater bondage. But you need not fear, Arjuna: your birthright is divine.

“In this world there are two kinds of beings: those whose nature tends toward the Divine, and those who have the demonic tendencies. I have already described the divine nature to you in some detail. Now you shall learn more about the demonic nature.

“Men of demonic nature know neither what they ought to do, nor what they should refrain from doing. There is no truth in them, or purity, or right conduct. They maintain that the scriptures are a lie, and that the universe is not based upon a moral law, but godless, conceived in lust and created by copulation, without any other cause. Because they believe this in the darkness of their little minds, these degraded creatures do horrible deeds, attempting to destroy the world. They are enemies of mankind.

“Their lust can never be appeased. They are arrogant, and vain, and drunk with pride. They run blindly after what is evil. The ends they work for are unclean. They are sure that life has only one purpose: gratification of the senses. And so they are plagued by innumerable cares, from which death alone can release them. Anxiety binds them with a hundred chains, delivering them over to lust and wrath. They are ceaselessly busy, piling up dishonest gains to satisfy their cravings.

“‘I wanted this and today I got it. I want that: I shall get it tomorrow. All these riches are now mine: soon I shall have more. I have killed this enemy. I will kill all the rest. I am a ruler of men. I enjoy the things of this world. I am successful, strong and happy. Who is my equal? I am so wealthy and so nobly born. I will sacrifice to the gods. I will give alms. I will make merry.’ That is what they say to themselves, in the blindness of their ignorance.

“They are addicts of sensual pleasure, made restless by their many desires, and caught in the net of delusion. They fall into the filthy hell of their own evil minds. Conceited, haughty, foolishly proud, and intoxicated by their wealth, they offer sacrifice to God in name only, for outward show, without following the sacred rituals. These malignant creatures are full of egoism, vanity, lust, wrath, and consciousness of power. They loathe me, and deny my presence both in themselves and in others. They are enemies of all men and of myself; cruel, despicable and vile. I cast them back, again and again, into the wombs of degraded parents, subjecting them to the wheel of birth and death. And so they are constantly reborn, in degradation and delusion. They do not reach me, but sink down to the lowest possible condition of the soul.”

Am I an asura?

What are the basic traits that render someone an asura? The Upanishad has already given them: 1) spiritual blindness, 2) spiritual darkness, 3) spiritual ignorance, and 4) engaging in deeds that “kill” the awareness and the freedom of the eternal, immortal, divine self. The first three are what dispose us to the fourth, destructive trait. Krishna has already given us quite an exposition of the ways of the asuric personality, but it can all be summed up in their effect: the negation of consciousness of the individual spirit. Now this point that spiritual ignorance is a matter of unawareness of the individual spirit, our own atman, is particularly important because many asuras think to hide their status under an externalized cloak of religiosity, of supposed belief in and dedication to God. But this is all nonsense. Saint John the Apostle comments that no one can legitimately claim to love God Whom they have not seen if they have no love for their fellow human beings whom they have seen. In the same way, it is absurd to pretend that we know or are aware of the infinite Spirit when we are not aware of the finite spirit–our own self–which is right within us. This is why Buddha simply refused to speak about God or gods, and insisted that each one must seek for nirvana alone, rejecting all other matters as harmful distractions.

Another Upanishad states that if we learn about water from a single cup of water we can then know about oceans of water. In the same way, if we come to truly comprehend our nature as spirit we will be able to know God the Infinite Spirit. Thus self-knowledge–knowledge of our spirit–is essential. Shankara says that until we know the self we are all asuras in the absolute sense, but if we are seeking to know the self I expect the distinction is not so drastic.

An asura, then, is one whose life and thought obscure and darken the inner consciousness so the true self remains unknown and buried–often even unsuspected as to its existence. It has nothing to do with what philosophers and theologians say about it; the matter is thoroughly pragmatic. Do we or don’t we, are we or aren’t we? Verbal claims mean nothing here. State of being alone matters.

The worlds of the asuras

Because it is their will, asuras are born over and over in worlds “enveloped in blind darkness” at the time of their death, earthly or astral. Naturally our thoughts go to the ideas of “hell” so beloved to all religionists, east and west, whether it is the absurdly simplistic fire pit of Christianity or the horrifically complex and lurid hell(s) of Hinduism, Taoism, or Buddhism. But what is this world in which we presently find ourselves–a world ravaged with hatred, violence, disease, cruelty, and aggressive ignorance and greed? The fact that there is also kindness, love, mercy, and toleration in the world makes it even more crazy: schizophrenic and schizophrenogenic (making us crazy). No wonder The Onion, a satirical magazine, ran an article entitled: “God Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder.” It might seem blasphemous, but it is the preposterous religion prevailing in the West that is blasphemous, and the satire is just pointing it out.

Someone once asked Paramhansa Yogananda if he believed in hell. Paramhansaji smiled and asked: “Where do you think you are?” A very good question, indeed.

We write our own ticket by the way we think and act. No amount of rationalization or assurance from others will change this fact. If we seek darkness we will find darkness; if we seek the light we will find the light. Nothing more; nothing less.

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

Just be aware of the consequences.

The Undivided Unmoving Self

The teachings of the upanishads are the supreme expressions of the eternal wisdom, the eternal vision of the Vedic Seers. Consequently, though simple in their mode of expression, they can be extremely hard to grasp. The rishis lived in a state of consciousness almost opposite to that of most of us. But it is possible of attainment, and so the wise cultivate it. Yet we need guidance along the way, and need to carefully look into the upanishadic dicta for that guidance. There are many things that we need not know, but the truths embodied in the upanishads and their inspired summary, the Bhagavad Gita, must be known by all who would ascend to higher life. So they merit our intent consideration.

The four levels of understanding

During the last week of his earthly life, Jesus was in Jerusalem at the Passover season. At one point, while speaking to the crowd, he prayed: “Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him.” And of course a third contingency heard nothing. This is how it is in this world of unreality when Reality impinges on it. According to the level of development, so the encountering individual reacts to the impingement.

In Indian philosophy there are a lot of numerical divisions, but one of the most prevalent is that of Four. To list some: there are four ages (yugas) of human history, there are four modes of consciousness (waking, dreaming, dreamless sleep and turiya–consciousness itself), there are four stages of dharmic life (student, family, semi-solitary, and monastic), and of course there are four castes (shudra, vaishya, kshatriya and brahmin). All of these relate to the evolutionary development of the individual (as Krishna says: guna and karma) and are fundamentally a matter of internal disposition and capacity. These four levels (is it an accident there are four Gospels?) are depicted in this event. Some people heard what was spoken and knew it was the voice of God; some heard a voice–not the actual words– and thought it was an angel speaking; some heard an indistinct sound and thought it was thunder; and others (no doubt the majority) heard nothing at all. It is not an event that matters as much as our comprehension of it.

Yes, that is everything: comprehension. And that takes place only according to our state of inner development. Krishna spoke of this in the beginning of his instruction to Arjuna at Kurukshetra, saying: “There are some who have actually looked upon the Atman, and understood It, in all Its wonder. Others can only speak of It as wonderful beyond their understanding. Others know of Its wonder by hearsay. And there are others who are told about It and do not understand a word.” Here again are the four levels of comprehension. We pass from one to another in ascending steps only through inner cultivation–in other words, only through meditation, but meditation supported by a entire way of life that facilitates it–in other words: dharma. For if there is neither the practice nor the support for the practice, little will result in the way of developing consciousness. And if consciousness is not developed the teachings of the great sages will be little understood by us, and perhaps greatly misunderstood or just not understood at all.

Sri Ramakrishna told about a certain group of yogis who were wont to challenge a person with the words: “What station are you dwelling in?” By “station” they meant the habitual state of the individual’s mind. The next verse of the Isha Upanishad is not easy to grasp because it speaks of a mode of being far different from our usual condition. So it will be a real test as to what “station” of consciousness we are dwelling in, as we try to decode it. Here it is:

“The Self is one. Unmoving, it moves swifter than thought. The senses do not overtake it, for always it goes before. Remaining still, it outstrips all that run. Without the Self, there is no life.”

“The Self is one”

“One” has two meanings in Eastern thought: 1) number and 2) quality. This a very important point, since many controversies have arisen philosophically simply because Western thinkers tend to limit “one” to a numerical value only. The incredibly bitter and violent controversy over the so-called “Monophysite heresy” in early Christianity in which tens of thousands of Egyptians and Syrians were killed by the armies of the Byzantine empire, took place only because the Italian-Byzantines could not grasp what the “heretics” meant by the simple word monos when applied to spiritual matters. Both meanings, number and quality, have significance for us who, like the Four Kumaras, are intent on the knowing of the self.

The principle that the self is one should set us to thinking about our own present self-concept and– perhaps even more important–the way we live out our self-concept. Many people think one thing intellectually (or at least verbally, for public consumption) and think another instinctively. For example, I knew a minister who was once challenged by a self-styled atheist who spent about an hour expounding the “truth” of atheism and the folly of theism. When he was finished the minister said: “There are two points about all that you have just said. One: it is complete nonsense. Two: you do not believe a word of it yourself.” The man threw his right hand up in the air and declaimed: “I swear to God in heaven that I do!”

Somewhere I have already mentioned that an Eastern Christian theological student once remarked to me that the worse thing that had ever happened to Western Christianity and Western philosophy in general was the invention of the “pie chart”–those round diagrams divided into “slices” that plagued us throughout school in many subjects, from mathematics to sociology. “People have come to think that they are conglomerations of pieces that make up a whole, rather than a single homogenous being,” he explained. How many times do people speak of having several “roles” in life or of wearing many “hats.” Fragmentation is a terrible plague destroying our capacity to either see or attain unity-integration of our being. We think it is all right to be multiple persons. Where this all began with us is buried in the past, but the present reality cannot be denied. Drawn out from our center of unity, we say: “I am a businessman, a spouse, a parent, a citizen…” etc., rather than: “I am a single person who functions in the area of business, marriage, parenthood, citizenship…” etc. This no small thing, and certainly not merely a philosophical nicety. This is a serious mental and spiritual disorder. Being both fragmented and dispersed in our energies and awareness, rather than operating from a central point of order, the mirror of our life is shattered into innumerable fragments that cannot convey any coherent image of our “face.” The unity that is the true image is defaced, effaced, and even erased–as far as our consciousness is concerned, even though our true nature can never be altered in any manner. Struggling and submerged in the illusion of multiplicity, the truth of our unity is far from us. For we are not just one numerically, we are absolutely one in nature. This is an eternal truth that must be regained by us. How to do so? By the only process that really unifies the consciousness: meditation.

“Unmoving, it moves swifter than thought”

How can the self move swifter than thought and yet be unmoving? This is not some koan-like platitude meant to faze our mind in relation to self-knowledge; it is simple fact. The self, the spirit, is completely outside of time and space (which are illusions, anyway), yet it can scan time and space, moving backward and forward simply because of the fact that it is one. Being one in the truest sense, the self is everywhere–since there really is no “where” at all. The self is truly Whole and therefore all-embracing. It moves swifter than thought, because a thought requires a time–however small–to arise or be expressed. The self, in contrast, exists only in the Now. The questions “Where did I come from?” “Where am I going?” “What was I in the past?” and “What shall I be in the future?” are valuable because they set us on the quest to the discovery that we do not come or go, nor do we have a past or future–only a Present. When Sri Ramana Maharshi was at the end of his physical embodiment he commented: “They say I am ‘going,’ but where shall I go?” Some years later Sri Anandamayi Ma visited Ramanashram. When the Maharshi’s disciples asked her to stay there, feeling that in her they had “refound” their guru, she simply remarked: “I neither come nor go.” This is true of us, as well.

“The senses do not overtake it, for always it goes before”

The self does not move, but it is “always before” the questing senses in the sense that it is always out of their reach. The Mandukya Upanishad, speaking of the consciousness of the self, of turiya, describes it as “not subjective experience, nor objective experience, nor experience intermediate between these two, nor is it a negative condition which is neither consciousness nor unconsciousness. It is not the knowledge of the senses, nor is it relative knowledge, nor yet inferential knowledge. Beyond the senses, beyond the understanding, beyond all expression,…it is pure unitary consciousness, wherein awareness of the world and of multiplicity is completely obliterated. It is ineffable peace. It is the supreme good. It is One without a second. It is the Self. Know it alone!” Who can say any more?

“Remaining still, it outstrips all that run”

The self is unmoving, as we have been told. Hence, any “movement” is incompatible with it and blots it from our awareness. That which moves cannot possibly perceive it, nor can any process of movement (including the labyrinthine ways of so much “yoga”) ever result in touching or seeing it. Rather, movement must cease, as Patanjali points out in the very beginning of the Yoga Sutras: Yoga is the cessation of movement in the mind-substance. In other words, when we stop “running” we will rest in our self.

“Without the Self, there is no life”

This is perhaps the hardest lesson for human beings to learn: Without the Self, there is no life. We may engage in frantic activity, running here and there and “accomplishing” tremendous things, indulging the senses to the maximum and immersing ourselves in ambitions, emotions, and “relationships,” but through it all the truth is simply this: we are dead, mere wraiths feeding desperately on a shadow life that is no life at all–not even a poor imitation. In the self alone do we find life. How hard this is to learn, and how much harder it is to follow through on, for it inevitably leads to the total renunciation of all that is not the self–in other words, to the renunciation of everything we hold dear and identify with as being ours and our “self” when they are no such thing at all. This is a bitter insight in the beginning, but as our inner eye begins to adjust to the truth of it, we find it the source of greatest joy.

Who knows the Atman Knows that happiness Born of pure knowledge: The joy of sattwa. Deep his delight After strict self-schooling: Sour toil at first But at last what sweetness, The end of sorrow.

He knows bliss in the Atman And wants nothing else. Cravings torment the heart: He renounces cravings. I call him illumined.

Not shaken by adversity, Not hankering after happiness: Free from fear, free from anger, Free from the things of desire. I call him a seer, and illumined.

The recollected mind is awake In the knowledge of the Atman Which is dark night to the ignorant: The ignorant are awake in their sense-life Which they think is daylight: To the seer it is darkness.

This is the state of enlightenment in Brahman: A man does not fall back from it Into delusion. Even at the moment of death He is alive in that enlightenment: Brahman and he are one.

So, with his heart serene and fearless, Firm in the vow of renunciation, Holding the mind from its restless roaming, Now let him struggle to reach my oneness,

Ever-absorbed, his eyes on me always,

His prize, his purpose.

“When a man has achieved non-attachment, self-mastery and freedom from desire through renunciation, he reaches union with Brahman, who is beyond all action.”

A great deal is involved when we sincerely pray: “Lead me from death to immortality.”

The Ever-Present Self

“To the ignorant the Self appears to move–yet it moves not. From the ignorant it is far distant–yet it is near. It is within all, and it is without all.”

“The Self appears to move–yet it moves not”

We have just covered the fact that, being outside of the illusions of time and space, the self neither “moves” nor goes through any type of change whatsoever. Yet it “experiences” a multiplicity of externalities as the unmoving witness–momentarily caught up in the movie and thinking it is inside it and undergoing the changes in the scenario. Just as imagining seeing or doing something is not the same as seeing or doing it, so observing the motion picture of countless lives with their attendant joys and sorrows is not the same as actually being born, living, and dying over and over. But we are deluded into thinking so, and the upanishadic sage is endeavoring to wake us up, just as we awaken someone who is having a nightmare and calling out in pain or fear. We, however, having become accustomed (even addicted) to the nightmare, are a lot more difficult to awaken.

“It is far distant–yet it is near”

Since the self is existing in eternity, transcending any degree of relativity, it could not be “further” away from the relative realm of experience (not existence, because the relative does not actually “exist” at all except as an illusion). On the other hand, since relativity is only a concept, the self is the nearest possible because it alone is actually present!

At the end of the Syrian Jacobite Liturgy the celebrant gives a blessing beginning: “You who are far and you who are near….” The reference is not to those who are at the back of the church and those who are at the front, but to those who are far and near in their minds and hearts.

For those who are immersed in the illusion of relativity, nothing could be further away than the transcendent self. Yet, since as I have said, the self alone is ever present, it is nearer than any relative experiencing. It is, as the Kena Upanishad says, the “ear of the ear, mind of the mind, speech of speech. …also breath of the breath, and eye of the eye.”

“It is within all, and it is without all”

Nothing can exist apart from the self–even an illusion. A hallucination is a “thing” even though it is solely mental. The self is the substratum upon and within which everything subsists, the screen on which the light-and-shadow play of “life” is projected. It is itself the basis of all that is perceived. From one perspective it can be said that the self (consciousness) is inside everything. From another, since it is forever separate from all things, it can be spoken of as outside–alien to–all things. Whichever way you say it, the idea is the same: the self never touches any “thing.”

The effect of “seeing true”

“He who sees all beings in the Self, and the Self in all beings, hates none.” Here we come to the practical application of what the upanishad is telling us about the self. (This is the inestimable value of the Bhagavad Gita. Where the Upanishads express spiritual mathematics in a usually abstract manner, the Gita outlines both the upanishadic principles and what the result will be when they are followed or realized, defining spiritual realities in practical, observable terms.)

If we never lose sight of the self, then we will be able to perceive what is not the self. And since what is not the self is not even real, why would we hate it? Conversely, how could we hate or be averse to the real self? This vision is the foundation of dynamic even-mindedness.

It is also the absolute end of all delusion and negative reaction to it, for the upanishad concludes: “To the illumined soul, the Self is all. For him who sees everywhere oneness, how can there be delusion or grief?”

The All-Embracing Self

“Where one sees nothing but the One, hears nothing but the One, knows nothing but the One–there is the Infinite. Where one sees another, hears another, knows another–there is the finite. The Infinite is immortal, the finite is mortal.”

“To the illumined soul, the Self is all. For him who sees everywhere oneness, how can there be delusion or grief?

“The Self is everywhere. Bright is he, bodiless, without scar of imperfection, without bone, without flesh, pure, untouched by evil. The Seer, the Thinker, the One who is above all, the Self-Existent—he it is that has established perfect order among objects and beings from beginningless time.”

“The Self is everywhere”

Being outside of time and space the self is both everywhere and nowhere–depending on one’s point of reference. One thing is definite: the self cannot be separated from to any degree and is always present in the fullest measure. This being so, we need not seek the self, but only realize it. We are always seeing, touching, and living in the self, yet we do not recognize it, just as fish have no perception of water because of its intimate and integral connection with them. The self is even more immediate to us than is water to the fish.

The most practical application of this truth is simple: We should always we aware of the self and centered in the self. And that is done by the continual meditation and japa of Om.

“Meditate on Om as the Self.”

“The Self [atman] is of the nature of the Syllable Om. Thus the Syllable Om is the very Self. He who knows It thus enters the Self [Supreme Spirit] with his self [individual spirit].”

“Directly realize the self by meditating on Om.”

“The syllable ‘Om’ is the self.”

“Earnest seekers who, incessantly and with a steady mind, repeat ‘Om’ will attain success. By repetition of the pure ‘Om’ the mind is withdrawn from sense objects and becomes one with the Self.”

“Bright is he”

In the Katha Upanishad it is said of the self: “Him the sun does not illumine, nor the moon, nor the stars, nor the lightning–nor, verily, fires kindled upon the earth. He is the one light that gives light to all. He shining, everything shines.” The self is illumined by no external light, but rather illumines all itself. We could shine the brightest of lights into the eyes of a dead man and he would see nothing. But if the self is present to enliven him, then he will. The self is known–seen–by the self, and therefore it is called swayamprakash: self-illumined. Hence only those in contact with their self can be said to possess illumination to any degree. Those who under the banner of “devotion” obsess on external practices and deities can only dwell in the “light that is darkness.” We must seek illumination in the self alone, keeping in mind that God is the Self of the self, that to seek one is to seek the other.

Sukram, the word translated “bright,” also means pure in the sense of being of such perfect clarity that no light is obscured. For it is from the core of the self that the Pure Light of God shines forth. Therefore, as just pointed out, to attain self-knowledge is to realize both the atman and the Paramatman. Only when we are centered in our self can we see God, and only when we are centered in God can we truly know our self.

In a flawless crystal, what do we see? Nothing. So also, in the self there is nothing seen, for all “things” are transcended, and pure Being alone remains in our consciousness. Wherefore the Chandogya Upanishad tells us: “Where one sees nothing but the One, hears nothing but the One, knows nothing but the One–there is the Infinite. Where one sees another, hears another, knows another–there is the finite. The Infinite is immortal, the finite is mortal.”

“Bodiless”

Obviously the self is not material, but it is necessary for us to further realize that the self never touches materiality, that in never “has” a body in the sense that it is integrated with a body and either affects it or is affected by it. This is extremely important, for religion (and a lot of “yoga”) usually leads us astray by getting us to be involved in a multitude of activities that–including intellectual study and conceptualizations–are taking place only in the various bodies (koshas) and therefore have nothing whatsoever to do with the self, and hence are usually irrelevant. It is true that we need to purify and refine the bodies so they will cease to veil or obscure the self, but we should understand that the entire process takes place outside the self and never affects the self to any degree.

It is also necessary to comprehend that the self is not really “in” the body(ies) at all, for by its very nature it cannot be encompassed or contained by anything, including the body. “They are contained in me, but I am not in them,” says Krishna. And the same is true of our own self.

To realize the self we must disengage our awareness totally from the bodies, although in the practice of meditation we use the bodies as stepping-stones to approach the self and eventually transcend them altogether. So we need not reject the bodies–simply have the correct perspective regarding them.

“Without scar of imperfection”

Imperfection can occur only in the level of relativity. Being eternally outside of relative existence it is not possible for the self to ever be “marked” for either good or bad–neither of which even exists for the self. In Yoga Sutra 1:24, Patanjali describes the Supreme Lord, saying: “Ishwara is a distinct spirit, untouched by troubles, actions and their results, and latent impressions.” The relevant idea here is that God is beyond all action and therefore incapable of either incurring karma or of being conditioned or affected in any way by action–since He never acts. Exactly the same is true of the self.

“Without bone, without flesh”

Obviously the self has no body–that has already been said–so why this statement about the self being without bone or flesh? The idea being presented is that the self has no “inner” or “outer.” It has no essence as a substratum or framework (skeleton) which can become the ground or basis of another, external entity that is an extension of mutation of itself. The self has neither parts nor appendages (upadhis). It is thoroughly homogenous and absolutely one. It cannot be “more” itself or “less” itself. There are no gradations or shadings in the self. It simply IS.

“Pure”

We have already considered the purity of the self and need only add one more point: The self is also “pure” because there is nothing intervening between the self and anything else–including God. It is absolute and direct without admixture of any kind.

“Untouched by evil”

Obviously the self is untouched by evil, for it is not touched (affected) by anything at all or at any time.

“The Seer”

The unwitnessed witness is the self. In truth there is no other witness on the individual level because the senses, mind, and intellect are mere energy constructs that have no consciousness of their own. The eye never really sees, nor does the ear hear. No more does the brain or intellect. Rather, the spirit that is consciousness witnesses their messages, therefore the upanishadic seer said: “The Self is ear of the ear, mind of the mind, speech of speech. He is also breath of the breath, and eye of the eye. Having given up the false identification of the Self with the senses and the mind, and knowing the Self to be Brahman, the wise, on departing this life, become immortal.” And of Brahman it was said: “He who knows Brahman to be the life of life, the eye of the eye, the ear of the ear, the mind of the mind–he indeed comprehends fully the cause of all causes.”

Regarding the self and the Self of the self, Krishna stated:

Watching over the ear and the eye, and presiding

There behind touch, and taste, and smell, he is also

Within the mind: he enjoys and suffers

The things of the senses.

“The Thinker”

Not being the brain, only its witness and not its possessor, the self is here called “the thinker” only as an attempt to convey the idea that it is the self that both witnesses and knows what it is witnessing. It is not just a screen on which the motion picture of life is projected, nor is it a consciousness of objects alone without cognition of their nature. An infant or an animal perceives exactly what an adult human being perceives, but has no idea what it is perceiving–or even that it perceives, in many cases. The self, on the other hand, does indeed know and comprehend what is presented to its view. And because of its proximity the will and intellect respond to the stimuli, mirroring the consciousness that is the self. Consequently they are often mistaken for the self or wrongly supposed to have a consciousness and intelligence of their own.

“The One who is above all”

There is nothing higher than the self, nothing beyond the self. What about God? God and the self being one, even God should not be thought of as beyond or above it. Further, Brahman is not a “thing” in a hierarchal chain of being that It could possibly be said to be “above” or “below” any thing whatsoever.

This statement is extremely practical, for it is impossible to conduct a spiritual life without the correct perspective: the spirit is supreme. Not only is everything lesser that the spirit, in truth everything else is nothing in comparison. Those who do not hold this conviction really have no spiritual life in the truest sense. God First. God Alone. This is the only correct perspective.

“Devotees seek to know him by study, by sacrifice, by continence, by austerity, by detachment. To know him is to become a seer. Desiring to know him, and him alone, monks renounce the world. Realizing the glory of the Self, the sages of old craved not sons nor daughters. “What have we to do with sons and daughters,” they asked, “we who have known the Self, we who have achieved the supreme goal of existence?” No longer desiring progeny, nor wealth, nor life in other worlds, they entered upon the path of complete renunciation.”

“The Self-Existent”

The spirit never had a beginning. It always was. Again, this does not mean that the atman is separate from Brahman, or in any way independent of Brahman. Brahman being self-existent and eternal, so also is the self. It is necessary for us to realize that NOTHING conditions or really affects the self–that it is absolutely independent of all objects, places, or conditions. Otherwise we fall into the labyrinth of confusion and false identities

“He it is that has established perfect order among objects and beings from beginningless time”

Once again, the unity-identity of the individual self and the Supreme Self cause the upanishadic rishi to make a statement that applies to both, although we are used to thinking only in terms of the Absolute Self. Really, hardly any of us–being conditioned by Western religion–actually believe that there is “perfect order among objects and beings from beginningless time” or at the present moment. This reminds me of an incident in the life of Sri Ma Anandamayi. One of those ever-present I Am Going To Make The World A Better Place types once remarked to her that he wanted to attain realization so he could work to make the world a perfect entity. Mother instantly replied: “Who do you think that it is not perfect right now?” And of course it is. It is a mess because we are entities that at the moment need to work our way through a mess! When we come to the point where order is what we need, we will be transferred to an orderly world. This one will remain as it is for those students of life who also need to find themselves in the midst of a mess. The world is a mirror of our mind. We may like to be Pharisees who think we are not as those around us–but we are. Everything we see in this world is in our mind to some degree, otherwise we would not be here. If we do not like what we see, then we should change ourselves. There is no other remedy, and there certainly is no escape from the necessity for change.

So it is we ourselves that have brought us into this world and provided for ourselves everything we need to evolve through reacting to and solving the problems set before us. A person who whines and pities himself does not learn and therefore is continually faced with the same situations. Have you ever known the kind of person that perpetually complains about being “let down” by others, or those that have a list of people or situations that “hurt” or cheated them? They are simply slow learners that deserve no pity, for they are doing it all to themselves. Every day Theravada Buddhists monks recite verses of wisdom, some of which say: “I have nothing but my actions; I shall never have anything but my actions.” There it is. Being lazy, cowardly, and egotistical, we hate these truths. But they are the truth and until we face them we will keep on whirling and whining, blaming God, the universe, and everybody else but the real culprit: ourselves. (Note I say “ourselves,” not “our selves.”) Cosmic Destiny is determined by each one of us. God simply has nothing to do with it except for providing us the environment in which we can work out our will. We can see from this that a lot of petitionary prayer and “surrender to the divine will” is idiotic and gets us nowhere. The day we start taking full– and exclusive–responsibility for our past, present, and future is the day we will begin moving toward real perfection.

Perspective on Life

The Full (Purna) picture

“To darkness are they doomed who devote themselves only to life in the world, and to a greater darkness they who devote themselves only to meditation. Life in the world alone leads to one result, meditation alone leads to another. So have we heard from the wise. They who devote themselves both to life in the world and to meditation, by life in the world overcome death, and by meditation achieve immortality.”

Wise teachers have pointed out that even though non-duality is the actual state of things, in our present condition of being netted in Maya we need to know that all is one but live as though duality is also real. The world may not be ultimately real, but we need to work through the puzzles presented to us by relative experience.

Two serious errors can be committed by the thoughtful aspirant: 1) the conclusion that since “none of it is real” nothing really matters and there is no need for spiritual endeavor; and 2) the conclusion that since only the spiritual is real we should ignore the external and the material aspects of life and put all our attention on the inner spiritual side of life. But right there the error is uncovered, for the spiritual is only a “side” of life–as is the material–and together they make the two-sided whole. Or we can look at it in an even better and truer way: the material is the spiritual and therefore demands and deserves our full attention as well as the obviously spiritual aspects of life. This is the meaning of the Vedic verse beginning purnamadah purnamidam:

That is the Full, this is the Full.

The Full has come out of the Full.

If we take the Full from the Full

It is the Full that yet remains.

The two are really–and always–the One. To reject or turn from one is to reject and turn from the All. It cannot be without meaning that the bases of Sanatana Dharma–the Vedas, the Upanishads, and the Brahma Sutras–were written by sages who lived fully in the world with families and their attendant responsibilities, including that of making a livelihood. Of course it was the Satya Yuga then, and earthly life was very different from life in our present age. Nevertheless, those who like to excuse themselves from striving for self-realization by citing their involvement in “the world” and worldly responsibilities should consider the historical facts. (And anyway, where exactly do they think the monastics are living?)

From darkness to greater darkness

“To darkness are they doomed who devote themselves only to life in the world, and to a greater darkness they who devote themselves only to meditation.”

The Purna, the Full (it also means the Complete) is one, yet it is dual. This makes no sense, but considering the limitation of our intellects that should be no surprise. It is our intuition that must come into function when we begin dealing with these higher spheres of reality. We, too, are dual, being image-replicas of the Divine Archetype. Just as God is both relative and absolute, both immanent and transcendent, so are we on a miniature scale. We, too, then, must learn to function fully in both spheres, for since they are essentially one, if we do not so function we will be partial, incomplete, and therefore faulty rather than perfect–which originally meant to be complete rather than without fault. (“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”)

One of the fundamental errors of dualistic religion–Christianity in particular–is its setting of the material against the spiritual and thereby insisting that the material must be rejected and the spiritual alone embraced. This produces deep spiritual psychosis, for it is simply impossible to do and also involves a rejection of an eternal part of ourselves (and God). Sanatana Dharma in contrast makes it clear that the two are really one and must both be cultivated–according to the principles of dharma, of course–for us to attain the consciousness of perfect unity in ourselves and in God.

Those who “devote themselves only to life in the world” become sunk in the limitations of materiality and addicted to its vagaries. Egoism and intense selfishness and exploitation of both the world and those living in it with us can be the sole result of such a limited focus. Having only a perspective of mortality, the higher nature of the individual is suppressed to give free rein to the “dog-eat-dog, every-man-for-himself” attitude that must arise from preoccupation with external existence. Having no idea of the true nature of either the world, ourselves, or our fellow human beings, only chaos and destruction can come to us.

On the other hand, those “who devote themselves only to meditation” or abstract philosophizing to the exclusion of material considerations and practical living, come to a worse result: complete psychological disintegration (literally) and alienation from any form of reality. Hypocrisy also results, because to even eat and drink is to admit the necessity of physicality, and that food must come from somewhere, so dependence on “the ignorant and astray” becomes necessary. It reminds me of a cartoon I saw years ago in an emigre Russian newspaper just after the United States had supplied the Soviet Union with incredibly huge amounts of grain and saved their economy and the life of millions. Two old ladies were sweeping the street in Red Square. One was saying to the other: “It is good we did not kill all the Capitalists; otherwise we would have starved to death.” How can a person justify living off those whose earthly involvement they despise and condemn? The Bhagavad Gita discusses this matter thoroughly and points out the folly of the “spirituals” who pretend to have transcended worldly concerns.

We must function in both matter and spirit. Both elements must be integrated through the following of dharma to complete the picture and solve the evolutionary puzzle. The material must be spiritualized and the spiritual must be materialized in the sense of making both practical and beneficial to one another. In this endeavor the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita are indispensable, for: “Life in the world alone leads to one result, meditation alone leads to another. So have we heard from the wise.”

From death to immortality

“They who devote themselves both to life in the world and to meditation, by life in the world overcome death, and by meditation achieve immortality.”

Life is not just some maze to be somehow gotten through, or a Monopoly board with random advances and regressions–and there is certainly no Get Out of Jail Free! Rather, life demands the fullest exercise of the two faculties that mark human beings out from the rest of earthly life-forms: developed reason and intuition. Intelligence of the highest order is necessary. This does not mean that the aspirant needs to be an “intellectual,” but he must be intelligent. Stupid people simply do not make it–mostly because stupid people never seek it. Nor can the seeker’s intelligence be kept on the shelf for only occasional use and amusement. At all times the yogi must be keenly aware of what is going on in his life sphere and ever seeking to understand and work out the mystery. As already said, he needs highly developed intuition as well. Both these are only produced by meditation. This is because both intelligence and intuition (direct knowledge) are divine attributes. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna declares himself to be intelligence (7:10; 10:34) and the knowledge of the mystic (9:12). In the Katha Upanishad Brahman is said to be the “intelligence of the intelligent,” and in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad the sage Gargya says: “The being who dwells in the heart as intelligence–him I meditate upon as Brahman.” I am not speaking of cunning or cleverness or “savvy;” many stupid–and most evil–people possess them. I am speaking of the intelligence which only arises in those who are of highly evolved consciousness.

It is those who possess right intelligence and right intuition that can live both the inner and outer lives simultaneously–not first one and then the other in alternating cycles–in a spiritually productive (i.e., evolutionary) manner. By doing so they will accomplish two things. One: they will come to understand the real meaning and purpose of all they experience and do and thereby learn the lessons for which they came into relative existence. Two: they will come to experience (not just intellectually think) that the two are really one, manifestations of the One. Having seen the One in all, they have attained immortality even in this mortal life.

A final point. Notice that the upanishadic sage speak of being devoted to the outer and inner lives. This means steadiness and regularity in practice as well as adamant adherence to the required disciplines such as yama and niyama. But most important it means wanting, even loving, to lead the outer and inner lives according to the precepts of dharma. There is no place here for grudging admittance of necessity, of stingy eking out of the barest minimum that is required, grumbling and resenting and wishing it need not be so. Such persons should not even try. They are not just losers, they are losses.

See the perspective of a Christ! Crucifixion was the most horrible of deaths, yet according to Saint Paul: “Jesus… for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame.” What a different perspective from the morbid and sentimental carryings-on over the passion of Jesus that Christians engage in. Loving the world and the body that links them to the world, nothing seems to them more painful or tragic than the torture and death of that idol. But Jesus hastened to the mockery, the scourging, and the crucifixion for the joy that was set before him. Not wonder he has been misunderstood and rejected through the ages by those who bear his name.

Reinforcing the idea

“To darkness are they doomed who worship only the body, and to greater darkness they who worship only the spirit. Worship of the body alone leads to one result, worship of the spirit leads to another. So have we heard from the wise. They who worship both the body and the spirit, by the body overcome death, and by the spirit achieve immortality.”

The basic idea of these verses has already been covered, but we should notice the use of the word “worship.” We are used to thinking of worship only in relation to God, but it comes from an older form, worthship, which meant to acknowledge the value and significance of something. Therefore Swami Prabhavananda was wise in selecting this word for his translation.

The lesson here is the need to value both body and spirit. I know that Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other,” but we are striving to be not men but gods, so we are going to have to manage it. And anyhow, we are not interesting in serving the body or the spirit but in mastering them.

The body is the instrument of evolution, so to despise and neglect it under the guise of spirituality is foolish. Any machine that malfunctions should be repaired, not despised and tossed away, the body included. Also, hidden within the body are many doorways to higher consciousness. Therefore the body must be worked on to become the evolutionary device it is intended to be. The first step is purification, and that includes two major factors: celibacy and vegetarian diet. There is no getting around it. Just take a look at those who are not purifying themselves in these two ways and you will have proof enough. All the rationalizing and mind-gaming in the world cannot contravene the truth: brahmacharya (continence) and ahimsa (non-killing), are absolute essentials for those who seek higher consciousness. Let us take a look at what the Chandogya Upanishad tells us about food.

“Food when eaten becomes threefold. What is coarsest in it becomes faeces, what is medium becomes flesh and what is subtlest becomes mind. Water when drunk becomes threefold. What is coarsest in it becomes urine, what is medium becomes blood and what is subtlest becomes prana. The mind, my dear, consists of food, the prana of water.”

“That, my dear, which is the subtlest part of curds rises, when they are churned and becomes butter. In the same manner, my dear, that which is the subtlest part of the food that is eaten rises and becomes mind. The subtlest part of the water that is drunk rises and becomes prana. Thus, my dear, the mind consists of food, the prana consists of water.”

Body and mind come from the food we eat. Thus our food must be both as pure as possible and also blessed by being offered to God. And the conduct of the body must be as pure as possible and its deeds worthy of being offered to God. Action and thought determine the quality of body and mind. Ethics and good thoughts are also essential, but purity of body and mind is the crown jewel. Through these means both body and spirit are truly worshipped and immortality is gained.

Seeing Beyond the Sun

Upanishadic tradition

The final four verses of the Isha Upanishad are recited at the cremation of bodies in India, and are a prayer for ascension to the higher realms that are beyond the compulsion of rebirth in this world. These deal mainly with the sun. Throughout history and throughout the world the sun has been worshipped or considered a symbol of divinity. The full comprehension of the spiritual nature of the sun was discovered in India untold ages ago and embodied in the upanishads.

Light beyond the light

“The face of truth is hidden by thy golden orb, O Sun. That do thou remove, in order that I who am devoted to truth may behold its glory.”

The sun illumines us and shows us what we assume to be reality. But actually that “seeing” veils the Truth (Reality) behind that veil. Therefore we seek to pierce beyond it. However, the sun actually is that Reality, and we must approach it and petition for the removal of its outer light in order that we may behold its inner Light. (More on this later.)

The golden orb

The “golden orb” has more than one meaning, all of which are significant.

1) The most obvious meaning of the golden orb is the sun itself. All plant, animal, and human life on this planet depend upon the sun. It is the subtle powers of sunlight which stimulate growth and evolution. Sunlight particularly stimulates the activity of the higher centers in the brain, especially that of the pineal gland. Even in the depths of the earth a sensitive man can tell when the sun rises and sets above him. The sun appears to illuminate us, but it is a light that covers the Light in order to lead us to the Light. We must use it to go beyond it.

2) All things have an inner and outer life, and that includes the sun. We may say that there is the outer sun of the material universe, and there is also the metaphysical sun of the psychic universe. They operate simultaneously, being the same thing. The sun truly awakens us in the deepest sense. As the germinating seed struggles upward toward the sun and out into its life-giving rays, so all higher forms of life reach out for the sun, which acts as a metaphysical magnet, drawing them upward and outward toward ever-expanding consciousness. The Chandogya Upanishad discusses it in this way: “Even as a great extending highway runs between two villages, this one and that yonder, even so the rays of the sun go to both these worlds, this one and that yonder. They start from the yonder sun and enter into the nadis. They start from the nadis and enter into the yonder sun.…When a man departs from this body, then he goes upwards by these very rays or he goes up with the thought of Om. As his mind is failing, he goes to the sun. That, verily, is the gateway of the world, an entering in for the knowers, a shutting out for the non-knowers.”

The solar rays do not just flow into this world, they also draw upward through the sun and beyond. In the human body the process of exhalation and inhalation is related to solar energy, and much of the solar power on which we subsist is drawn into the body through our breathing. The solar rays do not just strike the surface of our body, but actually penetrate into the physical nerves (nadis). The nadis are also the channels in the astral body that correspond to the physical nerves. Just as the electrical impulses flow through the physical nerves, the subtle life force, or prana, flows through the subtle nadis and keeps us alive and functioning. The prana, then, is a vehicle for the solar energies that produce evolution.

When the individual comes into manifestation on this earth he passes from the astral world into the material plane by means of the sun, which is a mass of exploding astral energies, not mere flaming gases. And when the individual has completed his course of evolution within this plane, upon the death of his body he rises upward in his subtle body and passes through the sun into the higher worlds, there to evolve even higher or to pass directly into the depths of the transcendent Brahman.

3) The golden orb is also the entire creation, the means by which through experience the individual spirits can evolve to perfect conscious union with God. Without it we would be unable to attain that union. Yet, just as we use a ladder or stair to ascend and then step beyond it, in the same way the creation is meant to be eventually transcended. We must therefore keep both these aspects in mind while living in this world.

4) The golden orb is also our own mind–that which perceives the world around us and the intelligence which comprehends what is going on and directs our lives accordingly. Potential is not enough; there must be actualization. It is our mind alone that can lead us beyond the mind, our intelligence alone that can lead us onward to intuition. At all stages the mind and intelligence are “golden,” but if we allow ourselves to become stagnated at any point they rapidly “tarnish” and turn from beneficial to harmful. Immersed in this creation, we are like the fish that must keep perpetually moving for they will die of suffocation if they come to a standstill. If we do not move forward we shall move backward–and often mistake it for progress. We must Get On and Get Beyond.

5) Our own self (atman) is also the golden orb. We must come to know our self–our true self–and delight in the self and wonder at its nature. But that is not enough. We must then pass onward to experience the Self of our self, the Paramatman. In a sense we transcend the self–but of course we do not, since the Supreme Self and our individual self are one. This transcendence must ever be kept in mind, for out of ignorance and even laziness a lot of people like the idea that we need only enter into the experience of our self and that is the end. The same wrong-headed view abrogates the need for our evolution and assumes that if we must smash the machine we will get the picture–or even worse, that there is no picture to see or even a seer to see it. However cleverly this view may be worded or how sophisticated it appears, it is nihilism of the deadliest sort, a ruinous pitfall.

6) The golden orb is also the evolutionary impulse within all things which, though life itself to the evolving spirit, yet urges us to continual transcendence of its various stages until we transcend it as well. It is a golden stair that urges us onward to the heights where it cannot come.

The Supreme Sun

The ultimate Golden Orb is the Supreme Self. That is what we are striving toward by the five means just cited. Being transcendent, how shall we reach it? By means of Its immanence within the world in the form of the sacred syllable Om, the Pranava, the Life-giver.

“That which glows [i.e., the sun] is Om,” says the ancient Aitareya-Brahmana (5.32). The life-producing energies of the sun are the energies of Om. Om is the sun of body, mind, and spirit, the Life-Giver of all. All plant, animal, and human life on this planet depends upon the sun. It is the subtle powers of sunlight which stimulate growth and evolution, awakening us in the deepest sense. Sunlight is the radiant form of Om. The sun initiates the entire solar system into Om. Human beings are solar creatures, therefore to intone Om is the most natural thing they can do.

“Now, verily, what is the udgitha is the Om. What is Om is the udgitha. And so verily, the udgitha is the yonder sun and the Om, for the sun is continually sounding ‘Om.’” The most significant part of this verse is the statement that “the sun is continually sounding ‘Om,’” indicating that the evolutionary energy of the sun is a manifestation of Om. Our life depends on the light of the sun, thus our life is also a manifestation of the power of Om. The japa and meditation of Om aligns us with the solar powers that are Om and thereby greatly increase our life force and the evolution of all the levels of our being.

“Even as a great extending highway runs between two villages, this one and that yonder, even so the rays of the sun go to both these worlds, this one and that yonder. They start from the yonder sun and enter into the nadis [astral “nerves”]. They start from the nadis and enter into the yonder sun.…When a man departs from this body, then he goes upwards by these very rays or he goes up with the thought of Om. As his mind is failing, he goes to the sun. That, verily, is the gateway of the world, an entering in for the knowers, a shutting out for the non-knowers.” We have already cited this, but there are more meanings for us to explore. The prana, the breath, is a vehicle for the solar energies that produce evolution, and so we join Om to our breathing and merge it into the pranic flow. This practice conditions our subtle levels so that at the time of death we will be oriented toward the solar powers and can ascend upon them–especially if we continue our intonations of Om even after the body has been dropped. Those intonations will guarantee our ascent into the solar world. Those who have imbued themselves with the Pranavic vibrations will enter through the solar gate, whereas those who have not done so will be shut out by it and compelled to return to earthly rebirth.

“By means of Om he [the meditating yogi] sees the way, the way along which his prana goes; therefore one should always repeat It so that he goes along the right way: through the heart-gate, the air-gate, the gate which leads upward, and the opening of the gate of liberation which is known as the open orb [the sun.]” Those who continually invoke and meditate upon Om during their lifetime will remember Om at the time of death, and by means of Om will ascend to the sun and beyond into the real Beyond.

“‘It is said: ‘Indeed the sun is this Om;’ therefore one should meditate and make himself ready to unite himself with it.” Sunlight is the radiant form of Om. The sun initiates the entire solar system into Om. Human beings are solar creatures, therefore to intone Om is the most natural things they can do.

“At the time of departure from this world, remember Om, the Lord, the Protector” says the Yajur Veda. Krishna states in the Bhagavad Gita: “At the hour of death, when a man leaves his body, he must depart with his consciousness absorbed in Me. Then he will be united with Me. Be certain of that. Whatever a man remembers at the last, when he is leaving the body, will be realized by him in the hereafter; because that will be what his mind has most constantly dwelt on, during this life. Therefore you must remember Me at all times, and do your duty. If your mind and heart are set upon Me constantly, you will come to Me. Never doubt this. Make a habit of practicing meditation, and do not let your mind be distracted. In this way you will come finally to the Lord, Who is the light-giver, the highest of the high.” Whatever we think of most during life we will think of at the time of our death, and that will determine our subsequent state. Those who continually invoke and meditate upon Om during their lifetime will remember Om at the time of death, and by means of Om will ascend to the sun and beyond into the real Beyond.

Qualified seers

Simply wanting a thing does not make it happen or come to us. In the same way, spiritual daydreaming is fruitless. Therefore, he who petitions for the removal of the golden orb describes himself as “I who am devoted to truth.” He is one who wishes to pass from the unreal to the Real, to no longer live in the magic of Maya, but to move onward to the Reality behind all appearance. And he does not just seek truth or think about it–he is devoted to truth. Only those “may behold its glory.”

Stop! so I may Go

“O nourisher, only seer, controller of all—O illumining Sun, fountain of life for all creatures–withhold thy light, gather together thy rays. May I behold through thy grace thy most blessed form. The Being that dwells therein even that Being am I.”

In Indian philosophy God is often thought of as Mother. This verse bears that out, speaking of the divine as the Nourisher of all beings, the Fountain of Life. God the Mother is frequently addressed in Sanskrit hymns as Jagata Janani, Jagata Palani–the Birthgiver and Nourisher of the world (jagat). In Eastern Christianity, one title given to the Virgin Mother Mary is “Life-giving Spring.” God is also the Seer of All, the Ruler of All, as this verse indicates.

The petitioner then makes an interesting request: “Withhold thy light, gather together thy rays.” How is this? Why does he not ask that the light should flood down upon him? Because the “light” he is speaking of is not the Absolute Light, but the light of relative existence which by its nature veils that Ultimate Light. He asks, then, that God withdraw the light of temporality in order that he might behold and enter into the Light of Eternity.

This has a yogic aspect, as well. We must withdraw all the scattered “rays” of our energies and awareness and unite them to our inmost consciousness. We must gather up that which is dispersed and fragmented and restore our original state of unity. Meditation is the only way this can be accomplished.

The vision

“May I behold through thy grace thy most blessed form.” Two questions arise (or should arise) at these words. What is the grace of God? What is the form of God?

The grace of God is not some kind of favor or “goodie” dropped into our lap by God. Nor is grace something occasionally dispensed by God as a special token to the chosen. All that exists–either relatively or absolutely–is the grace of God. There is nothing that is not the grace of God. If we like, we may say that the grace of God is the Divine Plan for our liberation. And the creation, gross and subtle, is the means for the realization of that Plan, and is itself Grace Divine. So to petition God for grace is as silly as fish in the ocean praying for water. It is inseparable from us! The grace through which we behold God is the great onward movement initiated by God at the inception of the cosmos.

The Form of God is not a form such as that experienced in relative existence, but is the Substance, the Light, from which all forms arise. It can be said to be formless, and yet all forms exist within it eternally. As Sri Ma Anandamayi frequently said: “Nothing is lost There.” The Form “of” God IS God.

When we see God we also see ourselves in God and can then declare: “The Being that dwells therein even that Being am I.”

“Then Satyakama, son of Shibi, asked him [the Rishi Pippalada]: ‘Venerable Sir, what world does he who meditates on Om until the end of his life, win by That?’ To him, he said: ‘That which is the sound Om, O Satyakama, is verily the higher and the lower Brahman. Therefore, with this support alone does the wise man reach the one or the other.’…If he meditates on the Supreme Being [Parampurusha] with the Syllable Om, he becomes one with the Light, the Sun. He is led to the world of Brahman. He sees the Person that dwells in the body, Who is higher than the highest life.…That the wise one attains, even by the mere sound Om as support, That Which is tranquil, unaging, immortal, fearless, and supreme.”

The Final Aspiration

The poet Browning wrote of “the end of life for which the first was made.” That is a lovely expression, but very few really believe it and therefore rarely think of their life’s end. Those of us who seek liberation must from the very beginning be looking toward the end we desire. In the next to the last verse at the close of the Isha Upanishad we are given the perspective we should be living with every moment of our life if we would truly “come to a good end.”

Now

“Let my life now merge in the all-pervading life. Ashes are my body’s end. OM….O mind, remember Brahman. O mind, remember thy past deeds. Remember Brahman. Remember thy past deeds.”

Emily Dickenson wrote: “While others hope to go to heaven at last, I am going all along!” This is the only way for those who would succeed in spiritual life. Nothing should be delayed for the future–it is all now or not at all. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation”

There are many partially awakened people who know that God is the only real goal. Yet they delay their endeavor. “After I get this,” they say, “then I will really dig in and seek God.” But they never do, for as soon as one little short-term goal is reached another arises that seems even more demanding. I know a woman that claimed she would intensely seek God the day after her only child graduated from high school. But then it became after his graduating from college. Then after he was married and “really settled down.” Death found her anticipating still another “after which,” but it was all over. And by her foolishness she had created in her mind the habit of postponing spiritual life, a habit that will surely carry over into the next life and perhaps into others.

How often do we think that the vision of God will somehow interfere with our life–when in reality we have no life outside that vision. Silly children, we dawdle and dally until the night falls, that “night in which no man can work” which Jesus warned us about. “Now or never” happens to be the simple truth.

Merging in Life

Many people want to “embrace life” so they can egocentrically possess it and exploit it to the full. But they have no idea what life is. Just the opposite, for what they think is life is really death. “The all-pervading life” is the only life, for that is God. And the necessity is not to find or see God as an object (again, to possess), but to merge with God in complete unity-identity. That is, our consciousness must be completely merged in the infinite Consciousness, and irrevocably so. Just as a cup of water poured into the ocean cannot be drawn back out of the ocean, so we need to attain that state of unity which can never be reversed. Many yogis paddle their feet or go for a quick dip in the ocean of Satchidananda, but the goal is to unite with that ocean, to merge in it and become totally one with it. Consequently at ever moment of our life we must be holding in mind and living out the sankalpa: “Let my life now merge in the all-pervading life.”

Those who are unfit for union with God become all anxious and even fearful when they hear about merging with the Divine. “O! will I go out of existence?” they quaver. “What will happen to me?” Over and over again they plunge headlong into the sea of rebirth, never raising such questions about relative existence, but “going for it” heedlessly. Only when confronted with God do they develop prudence and caution. Jesus has assured us, though: “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” This is because we are truly negative–that is, we are absolutely backwards one hundred and eighty degrees. Consequently what we think will annihilate us will immortalize us, whereas what we think will make us live will destroy us.

Like the great master, Yogananda, we must pray: “Let me drown in Thine ocean and live!”

Understanding the destiny of the body

It is not a simple thing to rid ourselves of the conditionings of billions of lives wherein we identified completely with the body. Even when we have evolved enough to identify more with the mind and the spirit, still the body claims the majority of our attention–and attachment. It is completely reflexive with us, overriding any emotional or intellectual factors to the contrary. Therefore we must continually affirm in word, attitude, and act: “Ashes are my body’s end.” This will only seem painful or pessimistic if we are still identifying with the body. But if not, it will be as happy a statement as an affirmation that our prison is going to evaporate into dust.

We have died many times (or thought we did), but that did not free us at all. And in many lives we were no doubt cremated. Still, that accomplished nothing. Evidently there is a deeper meaning to the “ashes” that are the body’s end. It is the fire of wisdom that turns our “bodies” into ashes. Let us then be busy stoking the fires of yoga and getting on with the burning. Sadhus wear gerua, orange-red color, to remind them of the fire of discrimination and spirit-knowledge that must be perpetually burning in order to reduce all that impels us into embodiment to the ashes of freedom.

Flying from fear,

From lust and anger,

He hides in me

His refuge, his safety:

Burnt clean in the blaze of my being,

In me many find home.

The blazing fire turns wood to ashes:

The fire of knowledge turns all karmas to ashes.

When the “bridges” of all bodies, subtle and gross, have been burned in the holy fires, then we will pass on into the kingdom of Infinity that is our eternal birthright.

Remember!

How to kindle the ignorance-consuming fire? The upanishadic sage continues: “O mind, remember Brahman. O mind, remember thy past deeds. Remember Brahman. Remember thy past deeds.”

“Remember Brahman” is extremely easy to say, but how is it done? The Upanishads do not waste our time, but go straight to the mark, saying:

“I will tell you briefly of that Goal which all the Vedas with one voice propound, which all the austerities speak of, and wishing for Which people practice discipline: It is Om.”

“Om is the Supreme Brahman.”

“God is the Syllable Om.”

“Om is Brahman, the Primeval Being.”

“That [Om] is the quintessence of the essences, the Supreme, the highest.”

“Om is Brahman.”

After the battle of Kurukshetra, before which he had spoken the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna again spoke to Arjuna at length. In that conversation he told him: “The gods, rishis, and the nagas, and the asuras, approaching Prajapati [the Creator], said to Him: ‘Tell us the highest good.’ To them who were inquiring about the highest good, the Venerable One said, ‘Om, which is Brahman in a single Syllable.’”

“The monosyllable Om is the highest Brahman,” said the sage Manu, and Patanjali summed it all up by simply saying: “Its repetition and meditation is the way.”

To remember Brahman we engage in the japa and meditation of Om–simple and direct.

“One should meditate on this Syllable [Om].”

“This [Om] is the best means [of attainment and realization]; this means is the Higher and Lesser Brahman. Meditating on Om, one becomes worthy of worship in the world of Brahman.”

“The Self [atman] is of the nature of the Syllable Om. Thus the Syllable Om is the very Self. He who knows It thus enters the Self [Supreme Spirit] with his self [individual spirit].”

“Taking as the bow the great weapon of the Upanishads [Om], one should place in It the arrow sharpened by meditation. Drawing It with a mind engaged in the contemplation of That [Brahman], O beloved, know that Imperishable Brahman as the target. The Syllable Om is the bow: one’s self, indeed, is the arrow. Brahman is spoken of as the target of that. It is to be hit without making a mistake. Thus one becomes united with it [Brahman] as the arrow becomes one with the target. He in Whom the sky, the earth, and the interspace are woven, as also the mind along with all the pranas, know Him alone as the one Self. Dismiss other utterances. This [Om] is the bridge to immortality. Meditate on Om as the Self. May you be successful in crossing over to the farther shore of darkness.”

“Then Satyakama, son of Shibi, asked him [the Rishi Pippalada]: ‘Venerable Sir, what world does he who meditates on Om until the end of his life, win by That?’ To him, he said: ‘If he meditates on the Supreme Being [Parampurusha] with the Syllable Om, he becomes one with the Light, the Sun. He is led to the world of Brahman. He sees the Person that dwells in the body, Who is higher than the highest life.…That the wise one attains, even by the mere sound Om as support, That Which is tranquil, unaging, immortal, fearless, and supreme.”

“The knower of the real nature of Brahman that is identical with the Pranava, should cross all the formidable streams [of samsara] with the ferryboat of the Pranava.”

“He who utters Om with the intention ‘I shall attain Brahman’ does verily attain Brahman.”

Alternating remembrance

The thorough practicality and good sense of dharma is one of its most striking features: it works. And it works very well. So it is meaningful that the upanishad tells us to remember Brahman, then remember our own past deeds, then remember Brahman, and then remember our own past deeds in a kind of alternating current. This is to keep us from falling into two serious errors: 1) being so focused on the “spiritual” that we do not pay attention to what is really going on with us, and 2) becoming so obsessed with ourselves that we utterly leave God out of the picture. Patanjali lists swadhyaya–introspective selfstudy–as an essential ingredient of yoga practice. Yet this self-study must be done in the greater context of divine consciousness: “In thy light shall we see light.” Only in the divine light can we see things as they really are.

So we should meditate on Brahman through Om, and outside of meditation we should look at our past, comparing our past deeds and our past states of mind with our present deeds and mental condition. This will reveal to us whether we are truly progressing or not. I knew a woman who sincerely believed that God was appearing to her in meditation and talking to her so sweetly, making her feel so holy and pure. Then she would come out of meditation and be unspeakably cruel to her daughter, both physically and mentally. In meditation she was an angel, but outside of meditation she was a devil. Wrong meditation gives us a wrong image of ourselves, but right meditation shows us the truth about both God and ourselves.

Of course we have to have a correct memory of our past. Many people are so blinded to the truth about themselves that when they learn to meditate they start saying: “My mind used to be calm, but it has gotten so restless,” or: “I used to be a nice person, but now I am just a wreck and falling apart.” The reality is that their mind was always restless, but not being introspective they did not realize it. They were also a complete ruin, mentally and spiritually, but they had no eyes with which to see it. Now they do, and they foolishly blame meditation. On the other hand, people who are practicing a wrong form of meditation (or a right form wrongly) do become increasingly restless and increasingly negative. I know of several kinds of meditation that really do bring about the mental and spiritual disintegration of those who practice them, and often the physical degeneration, as well. But those who meditate according to the teachings of the upanishads will have no problem.

End of Isha Commentary:

Kena Upanishad

Translated by Vidyavachaspati V. Panoli

Om ! May my limbs, speech, vital air, eyes, ears, strength, And all the senses be fully developed. All that is revealed by the Upanishads is Brahman. May I never deny Brahman: May Brahman never disown me. Let there be no repudiation (from Brahman); Let there be no infidelity from my side. May all the Dharmas extolled by the Upanishads shine in me Who am intent on knowing the Self. May they shine in me ! Om ! Peace ! Peace ! Peace !

I-1. Wished by whom is the mind directed to fall (on its objects)? Directed by whom does the foremost vital air move? By whom is wished this speech which the people utter? Who is the radiant being that unites the eye and the ear (with their objects)? I-2. Because He is the ear of the ear, the mind of the mind, the speech of speech, the vital air of the vital air, and the eye of the eye, the wise, freeing themselves (from the identity with the senses) and

renouncing the world, become immortal. I-3. The eye does not reach there, nor speech, nor mind, nor do we know (Its mature). Therefore we don’t know how to impart instruction (about It). Distinct indeed is That from the known and distinct from the unknown. Thus have we heard from the ancients who expounded It to us. I-4. That which is not uttered by speech, that by which the word is expressed, know That alone to be Brahman, and not this (non-Brahman) which is being worshiped. I-5. That which one does not think with the mind, that by which, they say, the mind is thought, know That alone to be Brahman, and not this (non-Brahman) which is being worshiped. I-6. That which man does not see with the eye, that by which man sees the activities of the eye, know That alone to be Brahman, and not this (non-Brahman) which is being worshiped. I-7. That which man does not hear with the ear, that by which man hears the ear’s hearing, know That alone to be Brahman, and not this (non-Brahman) which is being worshiped. I-8. That which man does not smell with the organ of smell, that by which the organ of smell is attracted towards its objects, know That alone to be Brahman, and not this (non-Brahman) which is being worshiped.

II-1. If you think, ‘I know Brahman rightly’, you have known but little of Brahman’s (true) nature. What you know of His form and what form you know among the gods (too is but little). Therefore Brahman is still to be inquired into by you. I think Brahman is known to me. II-2. I think not I know Brahman rightly, nor do I think It is unknown. I know (and I do not know also). He among us who knows that knows It (Brahman); not that It is not known nor that It is known. II-3. It is known to him to whom It is unknown; he to whom It is known does not know It. It is unknown to those who know, and known to those who know not. II-4. When Brahman is known as the inner Self (of cognition) in every state of consciousness, It is known in reality, because one thus attains immortality. Through one’s own Self is attained strength and through knowledge is attained immortality. II-5. Here if one has realized, then there is accomplishment. Here if one has not realized, then there is utter ruin. Having realized Brahman in all beings, and having withdrawn from this world, the wise become immortal.

III-1. It is well-known that Brahman indeed achieved victory for the gods. But in that victory which was Brahman’s the gods reveled in joy. III-2. They thought, “Ours alone is this victory, ours alone is this glory”. Brahman knew this their pride and appeared before them, but they knew not who this Yaksha (worshipful Being) was. III-3. They said to Agni: “O Jataveda, know thou this as to who this Yaksha is”. (He said:) “So be it.” III-4. Agni approached It. It asked him, “Who art thou?” He replied, “I am Agni or I am Jataveda”. III-5. (It said:) “What is the power in thee, such as thou art?” (Agni said:) “I can burn all this that is upon the earth.” III-6. For him (It) placed there a blade of grass and said: “Burn this”. (Agni) went near it in all haste, but he could not burn it. He returned from there (and said:) “I am unable to understand who that Yaksha is”. III-7. Then (the gods) said to Vayu: “O Vayu, know thou this as to who this Yaksha is”. (He said:) “So be it”. III-8. Vayu approached It. It said to him, “Who art thou?” He replied, “I am Vayu or I am Matarsiva”. III-9. (It said:) “What is the power in thee, such as thou art?” (Vayu said:) “I can take hold of all this that is upon the earth”. III-10. For him (It) placed there a blade of grass and said: “Take this up”. (Vayu) went near it in all haste, but he could not take it up. He returned from there (and said:) “I am unable to understand who that Yaksha is”.

III-11. Then (the gods) said to Indra: “O Maghava, know thou this as to who this Yaksha is”. (He said:) “So be it”. He approached It, but It disappeared from him. III-12. In that space itself (where the Yaksha had disappeared) Indra approached an exceedingly charming woman. To that Uma decked in gold (or to the daughter of the Himalayas), he said: “Who is this Yaksha?”

IV-1. She said: “It was Brahman. In the victory that was Brahman’s you were reveling in joy”. Then alone did Indra know for certain that It was Brahman. IV-2. Therefore, these gods viz. Agni, Vayu and Indra excelled other gods, for they touched Brahman who stood very close and indeed knew first that It was Brahman. IV-3. Therefore is Indra more excellent than the other gods, for he touched Brahman who stood very close and indeed knew first that It was Brahman. IV-4. Its instruction (regarding meditation) is this. It is similar to that which is like a flash of lightning or like the winkling of the eye. This is (the analogy of Brahman) in the divine aspect. IV-5. Then (follows) the instruction through analogy on the aspect of the individual self. (It is well- known that) the mind seems to attain to It, that It is continually remembered by the mind, and that the mind possesses the thought (regarding It). IV-6. That Brahman is known indeed as Tadvana (worshipful or adorable to all beings); That is to be worshiped as Tadvana. To him who knows It thus verily all beings pray. IV-7. (Disciple:) “Revered sir, speak Upanishad to me.” (Teacher:) “I have spoken Upanishad to thee. Of Brahman verily is the Upanishad that I have spoken.” IV-8. Of this knowledge austerity, self-restraint and action are the feet, the Vedas are all limbs and truth is the abode. IV-9. He who knows this thus, with his sins destroyed, becomes firmly seated in the infinite, blissful and supreme Brahman. He becomes firmly seated (in Brahman).

Om ! May my limbs, speech, vital air, eyes, ears, strength, And all the senses be fully developed. All that is revealed by the Upanishads is Brahman. May I never deny Brahman: May Brahman never disown me. Let there be no repudiation (from Brahman); Let there be no infidelity from my side. May all the Dharmas extolled by the Upanishads shine in me Who am intent on knowing the Self. May they shine in me ! Om ! Peace ! Peace ! Peace !

Here ends the Kenapanishad, as contained in the Sama-Veda.

Kena Upanishad Commentary

Commentary on the Kena Upanishad–by Swami Nirmalananda Giri

The Mover of the Moved

In the world we see a prime duality: cause and effect. Yet, we see no cause for the world itself. Inquiry into its cause naturally arises. The lazy and the cowardly insist there is no cause and pursue their exploitation of the world and its inhabitants. The worthy and the bold, however, seek to know. Many are the theories set forth by profound thinkers. But those who have gone beyond thought into pure knowing have unanimously told us of the cause, and in that insight have also come to perfectly understand the effect–the world and all within it.

The question

The Kena Upanishad opens with a question that is answered in the rest of the upanishad.

“At whose behest does the mind think? Who bids the body live? Who makes the tongue speak? Who is that effulgent Being that directs the eye to form and color and the ear to sound?”

This is one of the few philosophical questions that really matter, for if we come to the wrong conclusion it will cloud, or even distort, our understanding of life. For example, if we say God, or Nature, or happenstance, we will in essence be saying that we have nothing to do with our existence, that a force far beyond us is making all this occur to us, that we are like seaweed being carried along on the wave of the sea, able to yearn for situations and things but unable to bring anything about. If we are theists we believe that if we somehow do the needful, in response God will give us what we want, but still it will be his doing and beyond our capacity to accomplish or even hold on to once we have it. This view of ourselves as utterly helpless and therefore utterly insignificant in the vast universe will cripple and frustrate us, distorting us profoundly. You Are Nothing becomes the watchword of our life–a life which bears that maxim out. Hopeless and helpless we drift along, controlled by everything that is other than us. This is truly a living hell.

Into this darkness shines the realization embodied in the upanishads, a realization that we will somehow recognize from deep within us, for that realization is ours on the inmost level of our existence. We do not learn the truth–we recognize it.

All right, then: who makes the mind think, the body live, the faculty of speech to manifest, and causes the senses to operate?

The answer

“The Self is ear of the ear, mind of the mind, speech of speech. He is also breath of the breath, and eye of the eye. Having given up the false identification of the Self with the senses and the mind, and knowing the Self to be Brahman, the wise, on departing this life, become immortal.”

The ear, mind, speech, breath, and eye are only instruments, only messengers. The one who causes them to function, the hearer of hearing, the witness of the mind and thought, the understander of speech, the source of the breath and the seer of seeing, is the Atman, the Self. External experience may be illusory, but if we trace the illusion back and back to the perceiver of perception we will find the reality that is the Self. In a motion picture we see so many images, so many illusions, but when the picture stops we see the pure white screen that was behind it all the time, without which no picture would have been possible. Such is the Self. Knowing the Self to be none other than Brahman, the Absolute, rebirth is no more.

Swami Prabhavananda has translated the word dhira as “the wise,” but in actuality dhira means those who are steadfast–in this instance those who are firmly established in the practice of yoga and in the realization arising from yoga.

Brahman the inexpressible

Brahman is beyond all sensory perception or intellectual comprehension. Yet we can infer the existence of Brahman by that which It causes to occur, by the consciousness that does perceive and comprehend. So in conclusion the upanishad says this, which really needs little comment:

“Him the eye does not see, nor the tongue express, nor the mind grasp. Him we neither know nor are able to teach.

“Different is he from the known, and different is he from the unknown. So have we heard from the wise.

“That which cannot be expressed in words but by which the tongue speaks know that to be Brahman. Brahman is not the being who is worshiped of men.

“That which is not comprehended by the mind but by which the mind comprehends–know that to be Brahman. Brahman is not the being who is worshiped of men.

“That which is not seen by the eye but by which the eye sees–know that to be Brahman. Brahman is not the being who is worshiped of men.

“That which is not heard by the ear but by which the ear hears–know that to be Brahman. Brahman is not the being who is worshiped of men.

“That which is not drawn by the breath but by which the breath is drawn know that to be Brahman. Brahman is not the being who is worshiped of men.”

When the upanishad says that we do not know Brahman, it refers to intellectual knowledge. Therefore, as it continues, we cannot “teach” Brahman as an intellectual subject.

When it says that Brahman is different “from the unknown” it is not speaking of Brahman’s unknowability, but rather that Brahman is not an unknown object that in time the intellect will come to know.

The most striking part of this passage is the statement that “Brahman is not the being who is worshiped of men.” This presents two significant points. First, that Brahman is not an object, but the Eternal Subject, and consequently cannot be worshiped as an object. Second, “men” cannot relate to Brahman at all, but those that have passed beyond all relative identity can experience Brahman as their own Self.

Knowing that is Ignorance, and Unknowing That is Knowing

At the beginning

All classical commentators say that in this second part of the Kena Upanishad the first two verses are a dialogue between a teacher and a student, and the remaining three verses are an exposition of the discussion. First, the teacher says to the student:

“If you think that you know well the truth of Brahman, know that you know little. What you think to be Brahman in your self, or what you think to be Brahman in the gods–that is not Brahman. What is indeed the truth of Brahman you must therefore learn.”

The student responds:

“I cannot say that I know Brahman fully. Nor can I say that I know him not. He among us knows him best who understands the spirit of the words: “Nor do I know that I know him not.”

To help us in this, here is the translation of Swami Gambhirananda:

“[Teacher:] If you think, ‘I have known Brahman well enough,’ then you have known only the very little expression that It has in the human body and the little expression that It has among the gods. Therefore Brahman is still to be deliberated on by you.

“Student:] ‘I think [Brahman] is known. I do not think, “I know [Brahman] well enough;” [i.e. I consider] “Not that I do not know: I know and I do not know as well.” He among us who understands that utterance, “Not that I do not know. I Know and I do not know as well,” knows that [Brahman].’”

That may have only compounded the bewilderment, but we can untangle it with patience. These verses are excellent examples of the difficulty we have when we try to speak the Unspeakable and explain the Unexplainable.

An easy mistake

Brahman is not only everywhere, but actually is all things. (This, too, we cannot exactly comprehend, and to express it simplistically is to make things much worse.) Because of this, it is easy for those who have experienced only a hint of Brahman–even a hint of Which is tremendous–to say: “Now I know Brahman.” But that would be like someone who has seen a cup of seawater saying: “Now I have seen the Sea.” If we do not know Brahman fully, we cannot truly say that we know Brahman at all. Yet, there is a knowing that is beyond the intellect and is both knowing and unknowing in an experiential sense. This is why a medieval mystical English text on the knowledge of God is called The Cloud of Unknowing. When we know Brahman we know that It cannot known in the human sense of knowing. The same concept is held in Eastern Christianity, where it is said that God cannot be seen, but you must see God to realize that He cannot be seen.

Is all this said to confuse and mystify us? No; but it does have the purpose of our giving up the hopeless attempt to comprehend Brahman intellectually.

So the teacher says that to think we know Brahman when we have just glimpsed a hint of Its existence is a mistake. The clever student, however, points out that we can dimly know something of Brahman. He then points out that when come to truly know Brahman we will understand that we both know and do not know Brahman, that it is foolish to say either, “I know Brahman,” or “I do not know Brahman.” In wisdom, the two go together.

If you still do not get the idea, do not worry. The upanishadic author assumed we might not, so he gives us this verse to clear things up:

“He truly knows Brahman who knows him as beyond knowledge; he who thinks that he knows, knows not. The ignorant think that Brahman is known, but the wise know him to be beyond knowledge.”

Practical experience

The knowledge of Brahman is not an intellectual matter, and neither is it incapacitating, despite the common misconception that mystical vision renders us unfit for practical life. So the next verse tells us:

“He who realizes the existence of Brahman behind every activity of his being whether sensing, perceiving, or thinking–he alone gains immortality. Through knowledge of Brahman comes power. Through knowledge of Brahman comes victory over death.”

To live in unbroken consciousness of God is liberation. Liberation is possible even here in this world, while living in the body. For the upanishad continues:

“Blessed is the man who while he yet lives realizes Brahman. The man who realizes him not suffers his greatest loss. When they depart this life, the wise, who have realized Brahman as the Self in all beings, become immortal.”

The Blessed

“Blessed is the man who while he yet lives realizes Brahman. The man who realizes him not suffers his greatest loss. When they depart this life, the wise, who have realized Brahman as the Self in all beings, become immortal.”

Swami Nikhilananda renders this verse: “If a man knows Atman here, he then attains the true goal of life. If he does not know It here, a great destruction awaits him. Having realized the Self in every being, the wise relinquish the world and become immortal.”

Here and now

It is affirmed over and over in the upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita that perfect realization and liberation is possible even here in the world. This is one of the glories of Sanatana Dharma. It does not hold out some vague “bye and bye” hope to be realized only after death–a sure trait of fraudulent religion. The truth of the Eternal Religion–including Yoga–can be proven at every moment of our life, just as advances in science, especially in physics and astronomy, reveal the truths intuited by the sages of India thousands of years ago.

We need to hold firmly to the fact that we can overcome ignorance and bondage in this very lifetime, that we need not think it will take many incarnations to come to enlightenment. The Bhagavad Gita, particularly, emphasizes the immediacy of our spiritual potential. “Faith”–another trait of false religion–is not needed, either. Our practice of yoga and the resulting maturation of consciousness will enable us to see, experience, and demonstrate the great truths of the upanishads.

What about doubts? They mean nothing, any more than blind beliefs. In some instances, a negative rejection of truth on the subconscious level masquerades as doubts and can hinder our progress. But honest doubts cannot. I could cite for you many instances in which I not only doubted something, I denied its possibility, but still I came to see for myself the truth of what I had not believed. My practice of yoga kept pushing the frontiers of my insight into areas that I had ignorantly thought were superstition or silly. And my doubt and denial did not delay even for a moment my coming to understand the truth I had disbelieved.

This is why no scripture of India is considered to be the “word of God,” the supreme and final authority. Scriptures, like spiritual teachers, can only point the way, but they cannot definitively state “the truth.” Yet through interior development there is nothing that can elude the yogi in his quest for reality. This is why Krishna speaks of Abhyasa Yoga–the Yoga of Practice–as the foundation for those who wish to really know.

The great loss

Those who do not realize God suffer the greatest loss, for they “lose” themselves and God. What, then, is left for them? Nothing. Desolate they wander in the desert of their own barren minds and hearts. Shankara says that the mahati vinashtih, the great destruction, is interminable birth and death in the material world with all is attendant pains, sorrows, and fears.

The great gain

On the other hand, the wise whose consciousness is steadfastly fixed in God, turn away from the world–or more exactly, from the bonds and blandishments of the world–and become immortal (amritam bhavanti) by entering forever into Immortal Brahman.

Blessed are those who live their lives in the perspective of this single verse. Realization and attainment shall be theirs. For them immortality shall be their assured and eternal future.

Approaching Brahman

The Kena Upanishad is quite brief, and now concludes with a story and a short reflection on the story. Here is the story:

The victory of the gods

Once the gods won a victory over the demons, and though they had done so only through the power of Brahman, they were exceedingly vain.

They thought to themselves, “It was we who beat our enemies, and the glory is ours.” Brahman saw their vanity and appeared before them. But they did not recognize him.

Then the other gods said to the god of fire: “Fire, find out for us who this mysterious spirit is.” “Yes,” said the god of fire, and approached the spirit.

The spirit said to him: “Who are you?” “I am the god of fire. As a matter of fact, I am very widely known.”

“And what power do you wield?” “I can burn anything on earth.”

“Burn this,” said the spirit, placing a straw before him. The god of fire fell upon it with all his might, but could not consume it. So he ran back to the other gods, and said: “I cannot discover who this mysterious spirit is.”

Then said the other gods to the god of wind: “Wind, do you find out for us who he is.” “Yes,” said the god of wind, and approached the spirit.

The spirit said to him: “Who are you?” “I am the god of wind. As a matter of fact, I am very widely known. I fly swiftly through the heavens.”

“And what power do you wield?” “I can blow away anything on earth.”

“Blow this away,” said the spirit, placing a straw before him. The god of wind fell upon it with all his might, but was unable to move it. So he ran back to the other gods, and said: “I cannot discover who this mysterious spirit is.”

Then said the other gods to Indra, greatest of them all: “O respected one, find out for us, we pray you, who he is.” “Yes,” said Indra, and drew nigh to the spirit. But the spirit vanished,

And in his place stood Uma, God the Mother, well adorned and of exceeding beauty. Beholding her, Indra asked: “Who was the spirit that appeared to us?”

“That,” answered Uma, “was Brahman. Through him it was, not of yourselves, that you attained your victory and your glory.” Thus did Indra, and the god of fire, and the god of wind, come to recognize Brahman.

The Divine Power

This is a very straightforward account. The “gods” are mostly the intelligent faculties of the individual human being. The “doctrinal” element is very simple: the senses and mind cannot comprehend Brahman, but Its truth can be revealed by the Divine Feminine aspect of God, Mahashakti or Adishakti, the Great, Primal Power that is the dynamic aspect of Brahman, the Prakriti–Divine Creative Energy– that is inseparable from Purusha–the Supreme Spirit. God the Father is Unmoving Consciousness, whereas God the Mother is Moving Consciousness. The entire field of creation is Mother, the Father being the Transcendental Witness of Her manifestations. The Mother is the Divine Ladder which we ascend to the Bosom of the Father.

Prakriti proceeds from Purusha, the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father.”

The fundamental idea of the “dance” of the Creative Energy before the “face” of the Supreme Spirit is found in the book of Proverbs where she speaks of herself, saying:

“The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made any thing from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made. The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived. neither had the fountains of waters as yet sprung out: The mountains with their huge bulk had not as yet been established: before the hills I was brought forth: He had not yet made the earth, nor the rivers, nor the poles of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was present: when with a certain law and compass he enclosed the depths: When he established the sky above, and poised the fountains of waters: When he compassed the sea with its bounds, and set a law to the waters that they should not pass their limits: when be balanced the foundations of the earth; I was with him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times; playing in the world.” The Divine Mother dances the dance of creation before the witnessing Lord.

Although Prabhavananda used the expression “Uma, God the Mother,” the Sanskrit phrase is Uma Haimavatim. Uma in Indian history, was the daughter of King Himalaya, and so was called Himavati. She was considered a manifestion (avatara) of the Divine Mother aspect of God. Uma is a name often given the Divine Power. But Shankara has a different, and interesting interpretation of Haimavatim. He say it means “one who was as though attired in dress of gold.”

This is most intriguing, because in the Bible we have similar imagery of the Divine Mother, the Queen– sometimes called “the King’s Daughter” because She emanates from the King–being dressed in gold. David wrote: “Upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir.” And a few verses later: “The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold.”

In the book of Revelation we find: “There appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun.” In this instance the “gold” is the light of the sun.

The elements

“The god of fire, the god of wind, and Indra—these excelled the other gods, for they approached nearest to Brahman and were the first to recognize him.”

As said above, in this upanishadic story, the “gods” are mostly the intelligent faculties of the individual human being. However, Agni, Vayu, and Indra are representative of the primeval Elements fire, air, and ether. These are “closer” to the Self, to Brahman, than are the earth and water elements, whose faculties are smell and taste. The faculties of fire, air, and ether respectively are sight, touch, and sound. In meditation we see light of various colors, experience sensations that are the inner modes of touch, and in our silent japa of Om hear the inner mental sound. These are three revealers of the presence of the Self/Brahman. However:

“But of all gods Indra is supreme, for he approached nearest of the three to Brahman and was the first of the three to recognize him.” The etheric body is the nearest to the Self, and its faculty of sound is that which unites our consciousness with Brahman. Thus etheric sound is the supreme “god” by which we “recognize”–perceive–Spirit.

Brahman in all

Brahman and Shakti (Power) are in reality one. Sri Ramakrishna often used the simile of fire and its power to burn. Fire is the Purusha and the burning power is the Prakriti. It is not amiss to say that Prakriti is the Effect of the presence of Brahman–is Brahman Itself. The upanishad recapitulates this, saying:

“This is the truth of Brahman in relation to nature: whether in the flash of the lightning, or in the wink of the eyes, the power that is shown is the power of Brahman. This is the truth of Brahman in relation to man: in the motions of the mind, the power that is shown is the power of Brahman. For this reason should a man meditate upon Brahman by day and by night.”

Wherefore: “Brahman is the adorable being in all beings. Meditate upon him as such. He who meditates upon him as such is honored by all other beings.”

It is the presence of Brahman which draws us to seek after or value an object. As the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says:

“It is not for the sake of the husband, my beloved, that the husband is dear, but for the sake of

the Self.

“It is not for the sake of the wife, my beloved, that the wife is dear, but for the sake of the Self. “It is not for the sake of the children, my beloved, that the children are dear, but for the sake of the Self. “It is not for the sake of wealth, my beloved, that wealth is dear, but for the sake of the Self. “It is not for the sake of the Brahmins, my beloved, that the Brahmins are held in reverence, but for the sake of the Self. “It is not for the sake of the Kshatriyas, my beloved, that the Kshatriyas are held in honor, but for the sake of the Self. “It is not for the sake of the higher worlds, my beloved, that the higher worlds are desired, but for the sake of the Self. “It is not for the sake of the gods, my beloved, that the gods are worshiped, but for the sake of the Self. “It is not for the sake of the creatures, my beloved, that the creatures are prized, but for the sake of the Self. “It is not for the sake of itself, my beloved, that anything whatever is esteemed, but for the sake of the Self.”

The proof of this is the fact that when we successfully meditate on Brahman other sentient beings will sense the presence of Brahman in us and value us accordingly.

It is now up to us

The teaching is wonderful, but it is not enough. The student of the upanishadic sage intuits this, but comes to a wrong conclusion, asking: “Sir, teach me more of the knowledge of Brahman.” But the teacher responds: “I have told you the secret knowledge.” Naturally, the student will assume–as would we–that the “secret knowledge” is the philosophy about Brahman, etc. Therefore the teacher continues:

“Austerity, self-control, performance of duty without attachment–these are the body of that knowledge. The Vedas are its limbs. Truth is its very soul.”

The importance of this perspective simply cannot be exaggerated. The Secret Knowledge is not philosophic formulations: It is practice–what Krishna calls Abhyasa Yoga, the Yoga of Practice. The Vedas are only its adjuncts. Truth is at its heart to be realized by the practitioners. Tapasya, self-mastery, and karma yoga form the body of the secret knowledge. There are no effects without a cause. These three “cause” the knowing of Brahman. about which the sage concludes:

“He who attains to knowledge of Brahman, being freed from all evil, finds the Eternal, the Supreme.”

End of Kena Commentary:

Katha Upanishad

Translaetd by Vidyavachaspati V. Panoli

Om ! May He protect us both together (by illumining the nature of knowledge).

May He sustain us both (by ensuring the fruits of knowledge). May we attain the vigour (of knowledge) together. Let what we learn enlighten us. Let us not hate each other. Om ! Peace ! Peace ! Peace !

1-I-1. Out of desire, so goes the story, the son of Vajasrava gave away all his wealth. He had a son named Nachiketas. 1-I-2. Though young, faith possessed him as presents were being brought; he thought: 1-I-3. Water has been drunk (for the last time by these cows), grass has been eaten (for the last time); they have yielded all their milk, and are devoid of (the power of) the organs. Those worlds are indeed joyless where he goes who offers these. 1-I-4. He then said to his parent, "father, to whom wilt thou give me?" A second time and a third time (he said it). To him he (the father) said, "To Death I give thee." 1-I-5. Of many I go the first; of many I go the middle most. What purpose of Yama could there be which (my father) will get accomplished today through me? 1-I-6. Think how your ancestors behaved; behold how others now behave. Like corn man decays, and like corn he is born again. 1-I-7. Like Vaisvanara (fire), a Brahmana guest enters the houses. Men offer this to propitiate him. O Vaivasvata (Yama): fetch water (for him). 1-I-8. Hope, expectation, association with the effects (of these two), pleasant discourse, sacrifice, acts of pious liberality, sons and cattle – all these are destroyed in the case of the man of little intellect in whose house a Brahmana dwells without food. 1-I-9. O Brahmana, since thou, a worshipful guest, hast dwelt in my house for three nights without food, let me make salutation to thee. O Brahmana, may peace be with me. Therefore, ask for three boons in return. 1-I-10. O Death, let Gautama (my father) be relieved of the anxiety, let him become calm in mind and free from anger (towards me), and let him recognise me and talk to me when liberated by thee. Of the three boons, this is the first I choose. 1-I-11. Ouddalaki, the son of Aruna, will recognise thee as before and will, with my permission, sleep peacefully during nights and on seeing thee released from the jaws of Death, he will be free from anger. 1-I-12. There is no fear in heaven; nor art thou there; nor is there any fear from old age. Transcending both hunger and thirst and rising above grief, man rejoices in heaven. 1-I-13. O Death, thou knowest the Fire that leads to heaven. Instruct me, who am endowed with faith, about that (Fire) by which those who dwell in heaven attain immortality. This I choose for my second boon. 1-I-14. I will teach thee well; listen to me and understand, O Nachiketas, I know the Fire that leads to heaven. Know that Fire which is the means for the attainment of heaven and which is the support (of the universe) and located in the cavity. 1-I-15. Death told him of the Fire, the source of the worlds, the sort of bricks (for raising the sacrificial altar), how many, and how (to kindle the fire) and he (Nachiketas) too repeated it as it was told. Then Death, becoming delighted over it, said again: 1-I-16. The exalted one, being pleased, said to him: "I grant thee again another boon now. By thy name itself shall this fire be known; and accept thou this necklace of manifold forms". 1-I-17. Whoso kindles the Nachiketas fire thrice and becomes united with the three and does the threefold karma, transcends birth and death. Knowing the omniscient one, born of Brahma, bright and adorable, and realizing it, he attains to surpassing peace. 1-I-18. He who, knowing the three (form of brick etc.,), piles up the Nachiketa Fire with this knowledge, throws off the chains of death even before (the body falls off), and rising over grief,

rejoices in heaven. 1-I-19. This is the Fire, O Nachiketas, which leads to heaven and which thou hast chosen for the second boon. Of this Fire, people will speak as thine indeed. O Nachiketas, choose the third boon. 1-I-20. This doubt as to what happens to a man after death – some say he is, and some others say he is not, – I shall know being taught by thee. Of the boons, this is the third boon. 1-I-21. Even by the gods this doubt was entertained in days of yore. This topic, being subtle, is not easy to comprehend. Ask for some other boon, O Nachiketas. Don’t press me; give up this (boon) for me. 1-I-22. (Nachiketas said:) Since even by the gods was doubt entertained in this regard and (since) thou sayest, O Death, that this is not easily comprehended, no other preceptor like thee can be had to instruct on this nor is there any other boon equal to this. 1-I-23. Ask for sons and grandsons who will live a hundred years. Ask for herds of cattle, elephants gold and horses, as also for a vast extent of earth and thyself live for as many autumns as thou desirest. 1-I-24. If thou thinkest any other boon to be equal to this, ask for wealth and longevity. Be thou the ruler over a vast country, O Nachiketas; I shall make thee enjoy all thy longings. 1-I-25. What all things there are in the human world which are desirable, but hard to win, pray for all those desirable things according to thy pleasure. Here are these damsels with the chariots and lutes, the like of whom can never be had by men. By them, given by me, get thy services rendered, O Nachiketas, do not ask about death. 1-I-26. These, O Death, are ephemeral and they tend to wear out the vigour of all the senses of man. Even the whole life is short indeed. Be thine alone the chariots; be thine the dance and music. 1-I-27. Man cannot be satisfied with wealth. If we need wealth, we shall get it if we only see thee. We shall live until such time as thou wilt rule. But the boon to be asked for (by me) is that alone. 1-I-28. Having gained contact with the undecaying and the immortal, what decaying mortal dwelling on the earth below who knows the higher goal, will delight in long life, after becoming aware of the (transitoriness of) beauty (Varian) and sport (rati) and the joy (pramoda) thereof. 1-I-29. O Death, tell us of that, of the great Beyond, about which man entertain doubt. Nachiketas does not pray for any other boon than this which enters into the secret that is hidden.

1-II-1. Different is (that which is) preferable; and different, indeed, is the pleasurable. These two, serving different purposes, blind man. Good accrues to him who, of these two, chooses the preferable. He who chooses the pleasurable falls from the goal. 1-II-2. The preferable and the pleasurable approach man. The intelligent one examines both and separates them. Yea, the intelligent one prefers the preferable to the pleasurable, (whereas) the ignorant one selects the pleasurable for the sake of yoga (attainment of that which is not already possessed) and kshema (the preservation of that which is already in possession). 1-II-3. Thou hast relinquished, O Nachiketas, all objects of desire, dear and of covetable nature, pondering over their worthlessness. Thou hast not accepted the path of wealth in which perish many a mortal. 1-II-4. What is known as ignorance and what is known as knowledge are highly opposed (to each other), and lead to different ways. I consider Nachiketas to be aspiring after knowledge, for desires, numerous though they be, did not tear thee away. 1-II-5. Living in the midst of ignorance and deeming themselves intelligent and enlightened, the ignorant go round and round staggering in crooked paths, like the blind led by the blind. 1-II-6. The means of attaining the other world does not become revealed to the non-discriminating one who, deluded by wealth, has become negligent. He who thinks, ‘this world alone is and none else’ comes to my thraldom again and again. 1-II-7. Of the Self many are not even able to hear; Him many, though they hear, do not comprehend. Wonderful is the expounder of the Self and attainer, proficient. The knower (of the Self) taught by an able preceptor is wonderful.

1-II-8. This (Self), if taught by an inferior person, is not easily comprehended, for It is variously thought of. Unless taught by another (who is a perceiver of non-difference) there is no way (of comprehending It), for It is not arguable and is subtler than subtlety. 1-II-9. This (knowledge of the Self) attained by thee cannot be had through argumentation. O dearest, this doctrine, only if taught by some teacher (other than a logician), leads to right knowledge. O, thou art rooted in truth. May a questioner be ever like thee, O Nachiketas. 1-II-10. I know that the treasure is impermanent, for that which is constant cannot be reached by things which are not constant. Therefore, has the Nachiketa Fire been kindled by me with impermanent things, and I have attained the eternal. 1-II-11. The fulfilment of all desires, the support of the universe, the endless fruits of sacrifice, the other shore of fearlessness, the extensive path which is praiseworthy and great, as also (thy own exalted) state – seeing all these thou hast, intelligent as thou art, boldly rejected (them). 1-II-12. The intelligent one, knowing through concentration of mind the Self that is hard to perceive, lodged in the innermost recess, located in intelligence, seated amidst misery, and ancient, abandons joy and grief. 1-II-13. Having heard this and grasped it well, the mortal, separating the virtuous being (from the body etc.,) and attaining this subtle Self, rejoices having obtained that which causes joy. The abode (of Brahman), I think, is wide open unto Nachiketas. 1-II-14. Tell me of that which thou seest as distinct from virtue, distinct from vice, distinct from effect and cause, distinct from the past and the future. 1-II-15. The goal which all the Vedas expound, which all austerities declare, and desiring which aspirants resort to Brahmacharya, that goal, I tell thee briefly: It is this – Om. 1-II-16. This syllable (Om) indeed is the (lower) Brahman; this syllable indeed is the higher Brahman; whosoever knows this syllable, indeed, attains whatsoever he desires. 1-II-17. This support is the best; this support is the supreme. Knowing this support one is magnified in the world of Brahman. 1-II-18. The intelligent Self is not born, nor does It die. It did not come from anywhere, nor did anything come from It. It is unborn, eternal, everlasting and ancient, and is not slain even when the body is slain. 1-II-19. If the slayer thinks that he slays It and if the slain thinks of It as slain, both these do not know, for It does not slay nor is It slain. 1-II-20. The Self that is subtler than the subtle and greater than the great is seated in the heart of every creature. One who is free from desire sees the glory of the Self through the tranquility of the mind and senses and becomes absolved from grief. 1-II-21. While sitting, It goes far, while lying It goes everywhere. Who other than me can know that Deity who is joyful and joyless. 1-II-22. The intelligent one having known the Self to be bodiless in (all) bodies, to be firmly seated in things that are perishable, and to be great and all-pervading, does not grieve. 1-II-23. The Self cannot be attained by the study of the Vedas, not by intelligence nor by much hearing. Only by him who seeks to know the Self can It be attained. To him the Self reveals Its own nature. 1-II-24. None who has not refrained from bad conduct, whose senses are not under restraint, whose mind is not collected or who does not preserve a tranquil mind, can attain this Self through knowledge. 1-II-25. The Self to which both the Brahmana and the Kshatriya are food, (as it were), and Death a soup, how can one know thus where It is.

1-III-1. The knowers of Brahman and those who kindle the five fires and propitiate the Nachiketa Fire thrice, speak of as light and shade, the two that enjoy the results of righteous deeds, entering within the body, into the innermost cavity (of the heart), the supreme abode (of Brahman). 1-III-2. May we be able to know the Nachiketa Fire which is the bridge for the sacrificers, as also the

imperishable Brahman, fearless, as well as the other shore for those who are desirous of crossing (the ocean of samsara). 1-III-3. Know the Self to be the master of the chariot, and the body to be the chariot. Know the intellect to be the charioteer, and the mind to be the reins. 1-III-4. The senses they speak of as the horses; the objects within their view, the way. When the Self is yoked with the mind and the senses, the wise call It the enjoyer. 1-III-5. But whoso is devoid of discrimination and is possessed of a mind ever uncollected – his senses are uncontrollable like the vicious horses of a driver. 1-III-6. But whoso is discriminative and possessed of a mind ever collected – his senses are controllable like the good horses of a driver. 1-III-7. But whoso is devoid of a discriminating intellect, possessed of an unrestrained mind and is ever impure, does not attain that goal, but goes to samsara. 1-III-8. But whoso is possessed of a discriminating intellect and a restrained mind, and is ever pure, attains that goal from which he is not born again. 1-III-9. But the man who has a discriminating intellect as his driver, and a controlled-mind as the reins, reaches the end of the path – that supreme state of Vishnu. 1-III-10. The sensory objects are subtler than the senses, and subtler than the sensory objects is mind. But intellect is subtler than mind and subtler than intellect is Mahat (the Hiranyagarbha). 1-III-11. The unmanifested (avyakta) is subtler than Mahat (Hiranyagarbha) and subtler than the unmanifested is Purusha. There is nothing subtler than Purusha. That is the end, that is the supreme goal. 1-III-12. This Self hidden in all beings does not shine. But by seers of subtle and pointed intellect capable of perceiving subtle objects, It is seen. 1-III-13. Let the wise man merge speech in his mind, merge that (mind) into the intelligent self and the intelligent self into the Mahat. (Let him then) merge the Mahat into the peaceful Self. 1-III-14. Arise, awake, and learn by approaching the exalted ones, for that path is sharp as a razor’s edge, impassable, and hard to go by, say the wise. 1-III-15. By knowing that which is soundless, touchless, formless, undecaying, so also tasteless, eternal, odorless, beginningless, endless, subtler than Mahat and constant, man is liberated from the jaws of death. 1-III-16. Narrating and hearing this eternal story of Nachiketas told by Death, the intelligent man attains glory in the world of Brahman. 1-III-17. Whoso, becoming pure, causes this supreme secret to be recited before am assembly of the Brahmanas, or at the time of Sraddha, that (ceremony) secures for him infinite results, secures infinite results.

2-I-1. The self-existent damned the out-going senses. Therefore one sees externally and not the internal Self. Someone (who is) intelligent, with his eyes turned away, desirous of immortality, sees the inner Self. 2-I-2. The unintelligent go after outward pleasures; they fall into the meshes of wide-spread death. But the intelligent, having known immortality to be constant, never covet here objects that are inconstant. 2-I-3. By the self (a man knows) form, taste, odor, sound, touch, and the sexual joy. What remains here (unknowable to the Self)? This verily is that (thou seekest). 2-I-4. Knowing that great and all-pervading Self by which one sees (the objects) both in the sleep and the waking states, the intelligent man grieves no more. 2-I-5. Whoso knows the self closely, the honey-eater, the supporter of the vital airs and the lord of the past and the future, will not henceforward protect himself. This verily is that (thou seekest). 2-I-6. He who perceives the First-born that came into being from Tapas (Brahman) before the waters, and that, entering into the cavity of the heart, is seated there, he perceives that very Brahman. This

verily is that (thou seekest). 2-I-7. (He who perceives) this Aditi that comes into being as the Prana, comprising all the gods, that is manifested along with the elements, and that, entering into the cavity of the heart, is seated there, he perceives that very Brahman. This verily is that (thou seekest). 2-I-8. The (sacrificial) fire lodged in the two aranis, even as the foetus is carefully borne by the pregnant woman, is fit to be worshipped every day by men who are wakeful and possessed of oblation. This verily is that (thou seekest). 2-I-9. On that from which the sun rises and in which it sets, are fixed all the gods. None ever goes beyond that. This verily is that (thou seekest). 2-I-10. What indeed is here is there; what is there is here again. Whoso here sees as though different, passes from death to death. 2-I-11. By mind alone is this attainable; there is no difference here whatsoever. Whoso here sees as though different, passes from death to death. 2-I-12. The Purusha, of the size of a thumb, dwells in the body. (Realizing Him as) the Lord of the past and the future, one does not (henceforward) want to protect oneself. This verily is that (thou seekest). 2-I-13. The Purusha of the size of a thumb is like a smokeless flame and is the Lord of the past and the future. He certainly exists now and shall certainly exist tomorrow. This verily is that (thou seekest). 2-I-14. As rain-water fallen on a mountain ridge runs down the rocks, so does one seeing the selves differently run after them alone. 2-I-15. As pure water poured into pure water remains the same only, so does the Self of the thinker who knows thus become, O Gautama.

2-II-1. The city of the unborn whose knowledge is like the light of the sun, consists of eleven gates. Meditating on Him, one does not grieve and, becoming free (from bondage), one becomes liberated. This verily is that (thou seekest). 2-II-2. As mover (sun), He dwells in heaven; (as air), He pervades everything and dwells in inter-space; as fire, on the earth; as guest, in the houses; He dwells in men; dwells in the gods; dwells in truth and dwells in space. He is all that is born in water, all that is born on earth, all that is born in sacrifices and all that is born on the mountains; He is unchanging and great. 2-II-3. (He) raises the prana upward and casts the apana downward. All the gods worship Him who is adorable and seated in the middle. 2-II-4. When this Self seated in the body is torn away and freed from the body, what remains here? This verily is that (thou seekest). 2-II-5. Not by prana, not by apana does a mortal live; but all live by something else on which these two depend. 2-II-6. I will describe to thee, O Gautama, this secret ancient Brahman and also what becomes of the Self after death. 2-II-7. Some jivas enter the womb for assuming bodies; others go into the unmoving, in accordance with their karma and with their knowledge. 2-II-8. This Purusha who is awake when all are asleep, creating all things cherished, is certainly pure; that is Brahman; that is called the Immortal. All worlds are strung on that; none passes beyond that. This verily is that (thou seekest). 2-II-9. Just as fire, though one, having entered the world, assumes a separate form in respect of every form, so does the in-dwelling Self of all beings, though one, assume a form in respect of every form, and is outside it. 2-II-10. Just as wind, though one, having entered the world, assumes a separate form in respect of each form, so does the in-dwelling Self of all beings, though one, assumes a form in respect of every form and is outside it. 2-II-11. Just as the sun, which is the eye of the entire world, is not tainted by the external impurities

seen by the eyes, so also, the in-dwelling Self of all beings, though one, is not tainted by the sorrows of the world, It being external. 2-II-12. Eternal happiness belongs to the intelligent – not to others – who realize in their hearts Him who is one, the controller and the in-dwelling Self of all beings, and who makes the one form manifold. 2-II-13. Whoso among the intelligent realize the Self in the (inner space of the) heart as the eternal among the ephemeral, the consciousness among the conscious, who, though one, dispenses the desired objects to many, to them belongs eternal peace, not to others. 2-II-14. How shall I know that indescribable and supreme Bliss which they think of as ‘This’? Is It self- luminous or does It shine distinctly, (making Itself perceptible to the intellect), or does It not? 2-II-15. There the sun shines not, nor do the moon and the stars, nor do these lightnings. How (then) can this fire (shine)? Everything shines after Him that shines. By His light shines all this.

2-III-1. This peepul tree with root above and branches down is eternal. That (which is its source) is certainly pure; that is Brahman and that is called immortal. On that are strung all the worlds; none passes beyond that. This verily is that (thou seekest). 2-III-2. All this universe, evolved (from Brahman), moves in prana (in Brahman); the most frightful like an uplifted thunderbolt. Those who know this become immortal. 2-III-3. For fear of Him, fire burns; For fear of Him, shines the sun; For fear of Him, Indra and Vayu function; For fear of Him, death, the fifth, stalks on the earth. 2-III-4. If one could know here prior to the falling of the body, (one becomes liberated); (if not), one becomes fit to be embodied in the worlds of creatures. 2-III-5. As in a mirror, so in one’s intellect; as in a dream, so in the world of manes; as seen in water, so in the world of the Gandharvas; as in the case of shade and light, so in the world of Brahma. 2-III-6. The intelligent man, having known the different nature of the senses originating separately (from their causes), as also their rising and setting, does not grieve. 2-III-7. The mind is subtler than the senses; subtler than the mind is the intellect; Mahat (Hiranyagarbha) is subtler than the intellect; subtler than Mahat is Avyakta (Unmanifested). 2-III-8. But subtler than Avyakta is Purusha, all-pervading and without a linga (distinguishing mark) indeed, knowing whom a mortal becomes freed and attains immortality. 2-III-9. His form does not stand within the scope of vision; none beholds Him with the eye. By the intellect restraining the mind, and through meditation is He revealed. Those who know this become immortal. 2-III-10. When the five senses of knowledge are at rest together with the mind, and the intellect is not active, that state they call the highest. 2-III-11. That steady restraint over the senses they regard as yoga. Then one becomes vigilant, for yoga can indeed originate (in one) and can be lost (as well). 2-III-12. Not by speech, not by mind, not by the eye can It be attained. Except in the case of one who says, ‘It exists’, how can It be known to anyone else? 2-III-13. The Self should be apprehended as existing and also as It really is. Of these two (aspects), to him who knows It to exist, Its true nature is revealed. 2-III-14. When all longings that are in the heart vanish, then a mortal becomes immortal and attains Brahman here. 2-III-15. When all the knots of the heart are cut asunder here, then a mortal becomes immortal. Only this much is the instruction. 2-III-16. There are a hundred and one nerves of the heart. Of then, one goes out piercing the head. Going up through that, one attains immortality; the others serve for departing in different ways. 2-III-17. Purusha of the size of a thumb, the inner Self, is ever seated in the heart of all living beings.

One should, with steadiness, separate Him from one’s own body as stalk from the Munja grass. One should know Him as pure and immortal; one should know Him as pure and immortal. 2-III-18. Nachiketas then, having acquired this knowledge imparted by Death, as also the instructions on Yoga in entirety, attained Brahman having become dispassionate and deathless. So does become any one else also who knows the inner Self thus.

Om ! May He protect us both together (by illumining the nature of knowledge). May He sustain us both (by ensuring the fruits of knowledge). May we attain the vigour (of knowledge) together. Let what we learn enlighten us. Let us not hate each other. Om ! Peace ! Peace ! Peace !

Here ends the Kathopanishad, as contained in the Krishna-Yajur-Veda.

Katha Upanishad Commentary

Commentary on the Katha Upanishad–by Swami Nirmalananda Giri

The Past is the Future

In very ancient times a man named Vajrabasa decided to perform a rite intended to give the performer great merit. The rite entailed the giving away of all the performer’s possessions. However he had no such intention, and instead was going to give away only his cattle–and of them only the useless ones: the old, the barren, the blind, and the lame. His son, Nachiketa, observing this, came to his father and said: “Father, do not repent thy vow! Consider how it has been with those that have gone before, and how it will be with those that now live. Like corn, a man ripens and falls to the ground; like corn, he springs up again in his season.”

There is no use denying it: we all follow in the path of Vajrabasa on occasion, though some do it more exuberantly. This is especially deadly in the realm of spiritual life.

I well remember when two newly-made Indian friends from South India asked me wonderingly: “What is an ‘Indian giver’?” When I said it meant someone who promised but did not deliver, or who gave and then took back, they were really bewildered. But when I explained that it was not the Indians who were the “givers” but the deceitful white men, they understood–and to my confusion thought it was very funny. (When I told them about “Honest Injun?” and “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” they laughed till they cried, and thereafter frequently asked: “Honest Injun?” when I told them something.) It is not funny when we are “Indian givers” in spiritual life, just as double-tongued and devious with God and our own spirit as the politicians were with the Native Americans.

One of the funniest and most typical examples is found in the comic motion picture, The End. In one scene Burt Reynolds is swimming in the ocean about to drown. He starts shouting out to God how much of his income he vows to give if he survives. The percentage goes up and up to the total amount. But then he sees that there is a chance he may make it back to shore. So the percentage starts dropping in proportion to how near he gets to the land! Finally he is telling God that he will be giving nothing, and if God does not like it, that is just too bad. We are very much (often exactly) like that ourselves. When we think we are not going to have something, or will have no use for it, we generously offer it to God or renounce it. But the moment we see a need or a use for it, then we announce to ourselves that God would not expect us to hand it over or renounce it.

Many people start out spiritual life with great enthusiasm, ready to dedicate and sacrifice in order to attain liberation. But as time goes by, the sands in the hourglass of will and interest grow less and less, shifting back to the bottom level of ego and the material life until what remains is so feeble and negligible it would be better if it, too, were eliminated in honesty.

The principle that we reap only and exactly what we sow is an absolute in spiritual life. Here are Saint Paul’s words on the subject: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Fainting is a very real possibility for all of us, and that is why these warning words of Nachiketa were written in the upanishad: “Father, do not repent thy vow! Consider how it has been with those that have gone before, and how it will be with those that now live. Like corn, a man ripens and falls to the ground; like corn, he springs up again in his season.”

The law of reaping what has been sown–and conversely not reaping what has not been sown–is to be taken most seriously in all aspects of life, but especially in spiritual matters. Solomon cautions us: “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for…better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.” The question here is not that of God being angry or sad at our non-payment, but the negative effect our own perfidy will have on us directly. It is not God that rewards and punishes, but our own self, and its justice is inexorable. So asking God to release us or forgive us means positively nothing–it is our own self we are dealing with and it cannot be gotten around in any degree whatsoever.

Sad to say, there are many examples of “those that have gone before” who foolishly reneged on their own selves and suffered the consequences, from simple unhappiness to abject and long-lasting misery, and even death. This latter is no exaggeration, I know of examples myself. If you will excuse me, I will not cite any examples at all, for it is simply too bleak. Just do not be one yourself! But I will tell you the principle I have seen demonstrated over and over again: Whatever a person abandons his spiritual life to keep or to gain will be (usually abruptly or even violently) taken away from him and he will never regain or restart his spiritual life in this incarnation. I have never seen an exception. Never. (I am, however, not speaking of merely risking or retarding the personal spiritual life–we all do that just from making mistakes or from silly foibles–but of the actual giving up and turning from, even rejecting of, one’s spiritual life and obligations. This is fatal.)

At every step of our spiritual life we must keep in mind the law of cause and effect and “consider how it has been with those that have gone before, and how it will be with those that now live.” And lest we think that if we escape the karmic reaction in this life we are “home free,” Nachiketa added: “Like corn, a man ripens and falls to the ground; like corn, he springs up again in his season.” So there are future lives in which our neglect can come to fruition in many forms–all inimical to our further progress.

Of course, the words of Nachiketa only have meaning to the wise. As Krishna told Arjuna: “Even a wise man acts according to the tendencies of his own nature. All living creatures follow their tendencies. What use is any external restraint? If a man keeps following my teaching with faith in his heart, and does not make mental reservations, he will be released from the bondage of his karma. But those who scorn my teaching, and do not follow it, are lost. They are without spiritual discrimination. All their knowledge is a delusion.”

Seeing Death, Seeing Life

Visiting Death

Long ago a man named Vajrabasa undertook a ritual to gain divine favor, but deliberately performed it in such a way that only misfortune could accrue to him rather than good. His virtuous son, Nachiketa, tried to reason with him, but in response he uttered the curse: “Thee I give to Death!”

Nachiketa was no ordinary son. He was an accomplished yogi, one who could penetrate into the unseen worlds, and in keeping with his unjust father’s unjust words he went to the realm presided over by Yamaraja, the King of Death. Yama welcomed him with great respect and told Nachiketa to ask three favors from him. Being a worthy son of an unworthy father, his first request was that his father should suffer no anxiety about his fate, but that his anger should be appeased so that when Nachiketa returned home his father would acknowledge and welcome him. Yama agreed.

Next Nachiketa asked to learn the sacrificial rite that leads to heaven. Yama agreed to that also and taught him. Then Yama asked him to make his third request. The upanishadic text continues:

“And then Nachiketa considered within himself, and said:

“‘When a man dies, there is this doubt: Some say, he is; others say, he is not. Taught by thee, I would know the truth. This is my third wish.’

“‘Nay,’ replied Death, ‘even the gods were once puzzled by this mystery. Subtle indeed is the truth regarding it, not easy to understand. Choose thou some other boon, O Nachiketa.’

“But Nachiketa would not be denied.

“‘Thou sayest, O Death, that even the gods were once puzzled by this mystery, and that it is not easy to understand. Surely there is no teacher better able to explain it than thou–and there is no other boon equal to this.’

“To which, trying Nachiketa again, the god replied:

“‘Ask for sons and grandsons who shall live a hundred years. Ask for cattle, elephants, horses, gold. Choose for thyself a mighty kingdom. Or if thou canst imagine aught better, ask for that–not for sweet pleasures only but for the power, beyond all thought, to taste their sweetness. Yea, verily, the supreme enjoyer will I make thee of every good thing. Celestial maidens, beautiful to behold, such indeed as were not meant for mortals—even these, together with their bright chariots and their musical instruments, will I give unto thee, to serve thee. But for the secret of death, O Nachiketa, do not ask!’

“But Nachiketa stood fast, and said: ‘These things endure only till the morrow, O Destroyer of Life, and the pleasures they give wear out the senses. Keep thou therefore horses and chariots, keep dance and song, for thyself. How shall he desire wealth, O Death, who once has seen thy face? Nay, only the boon that I have chosen–that only do I ask. Having found out the society of the imperishable and the immortal, as in knowing thee I have done, how shall I, subject to decay and death, and knowing well the vanity of the flesh–how shall I wish for long life?

“‘Tell me, O King, the supreme secret regarding which men doubt. No other boon will I ask.’

“Whereupon the King of Death, well pleased at heart, began to teach Nachiketa the secret of immortality.”

The mystery

As Yama told Nachiketa, even those powerful beings that control the forces of the cosmos have been puzzled by the mystery of whether those who have gone beyond death can be said to exist or not to exist. Reflective human beings have agonized over the same problem. When they came to Buddha with the question he refused to give any answer, saying that whichever he told them they would misunderstand and distort his words. So he said nothing. Consequently, to say that Buddha taught the non-existence of an immortal self and individual immortality is perhaps an even worse distortion than that which he sought to avoid through silence.

Yama, however, was not talking to word-juggling ignoramuses, but to an eminently qualified inquirer. Yet, testing the strength of Nachiketa’s interest in such a profound matter, he attempted to dissuade him from pressing the question. When that failed, he resorted to that which has effectively deflected “seekers” through the history of humanity. He offered him long-lived and prosperous progeny, vast material wealth and possessions, unlimited pleasure and unlimited power, and finally, dominion over even the subtle worlds and all that is therein. Throughout countless ages the mere promise or prospect of such acquisitions have turned awakening consciousnesses from the path of immortality and led them further into the morass of mortal life. But Nachiketa could not be moved from his original resolve to learn the truth regarding immortality.

The Katha Upanishad cannot have been unknown to Jesus when he lived and studied in India, and it can be speculated that it was in the context of the teachings of this upanishad that he asked his disciples: “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” I have to admit that when as a primary grade-schooler I first heard this verse read out in church, I immediately thought: “No. The real question is: ‘What will a man take in exchange for his soul?’” Through the years I kept questioning as to whether things were a blessing for life or a bribe to embrace inner death. This, too, we see so often. From those early years and even till now I have seen so many bribes offered and taken, all of them cheap and paltry compared to what the seekers would have gained if they had turned away from the offers. And as I have pointed out, in every instance the promise was withdrawn unfulfilled or the “gain” was ruthlessly wrested from their grasp and they were left broken and empty. People do not need to die to become “lost souls.” The suffering may not be eternal, but it is no less terrible for that. I can truthfully say that throughout my life the most desolate souls I have met were those that said to me with sad nostalgia: “I used to be…,” and then mentioned some abandoned spiritual calling or involvement. The wheels of life were grinding them down and tormenting them with the bitter memory of their loss along with the impossibility of their regaining that which they had so carelessly and foolishly tossed aside for “life” long ago.

Let us attend!

In Eastern Christian worship the exclamation “Let us attend!” is usually uttered before some special reading or prayer is about to be intoned. We should indeed attend to the words of Nachiketa when he replied to Yama’s offer:

“These things endure only till the morrow, O Destroyer of Life, and the pleasures they give wear out the senses. Keep thou therefore horses and chariots, keep dance and song, for thyself. How shall he desire wealth, O Death, who once has seen thy face? Nay, only the boon that I have chosen–that only do I ask. Having found out the society of the imperishable and the immortal, as in knowing thee I have done, how shall I, subject to decay and death, and knowing well the vanity of the flesh–how shall I wish for long life? Tell me, O King, the supreme secret regarding which men doubt. No other boon will I ask.”

In Christianity and Buddhism a great deal of emphasis is placed on the memory of death as a universal principle and the particular mortality of each one of us. In the West this is superficially shrugged off as morbidity and “unhealthy,” but it can be salutary indeed. It was only sensible that Nachiketa, having come face-to-face with Death, should disregard all that which the human race has been madly seeking throughout its existence. For in the East (including Christianity) only that which lasts forever without any change is considered Real. Everything else is unreal, illusory. Therefore that which can change and pass away is even now essentially nothing. Who, then, would value any such? There is no need for a lengthy philosophical analysis of psychic niceties or suchlike. The fact of their evanescent nature turns all desired objects to mere fantasies in the consciousness of the wise.

“Whereupon the King of Death, well pleased at heart, began to teach Nachiketa the secret of immortality.”

The Good and the Pleasant

“The good is one thing; the pleasant is another. These two, differing in their ends, both prompt to action. Blessed are they that choose the good; they that choose the pleasant miss the goal.”

How simple and direct these words are! When, after years of being soaked (sometimes drowned) in mere religion, when I found dharma one of the most beautiful and wonderful things about it was its incredible simplicity. The religion I had had before was simplistic–childishly so–but at the same time it was complex, convoluted and tangled, because that was state of mind that had produced it and which it produced in those unfortunate enough to accept and follow it. (Many avoided the problem by professing the religion but not really following it.) In contrast, the profound dharma was also as simple as the great ocean, gathering all into unity. I had tried reading Western philosophers and theologians, and found them impossible to understand–mostly because they were not really saying anything. The first time I opened a book by Shankara, the greatest philosopher India has ever produced, it was with real anxiety. Would I break apart on the rock of his verbiage? Not at all. Every sentence was so exquisitely clear, every concept so unbelievably simple–and equally vast and deep. I understood why: Shankara knew by his acquisition of Divine Consciousness. When Shankara talked to me God was speaking. And God knows how to communicate.

Neither Shankara nor the Upanishads or the Gita really require a commentary. All a “commentator” can really do is expand what is already there so we do not rush from point to point in the original text and miss so much of it. Actually, all my commentaries are really Pauses and Reflections. There is no need to explain to you what those sacred texts mean. You can easily understand them for yourself. So all I am really doing is ruminating over them with you. We are digesting them together. It is very satisfying. At least to me–I hope it is to you, also.

The good and the pleasant

“The good is one thing; the pleasant is another.” This does not have to be the situation–the problem is in us. Since the good dissolves the ego and frees us from its seemingly eternal domination and bondage, it is only natural that those who are inured, even addicted, to its rule will find the good bitter in the extreme. In the closing chapter of the Bhagavad Gita Krishna speaks of the one who chooses the good: “Deep his delight after strict self-schooling: sour toil at first but at last what sweetness, the end of sorrow.” Who would not choose this? Just about everybody. Why? Because it requires “strict self-schooling.” We have to educate and deliver ourselves. Neither God nor any holy being can do it for us. Therefore those who cling to their ego-addiction avidly “take refuge” in and “surrender” to and “place all my trust” in God, gods, gurus, saints, teachers, a religion, and whatever, knowing at least subconsciously that it will not work, for they alone can do the needful. The Holy Ones have already done all they could do for them. They have given the message and pointed out the way. Now it is their turn to get to work. Otherwise nothing will happen. And in their perversity this satisfies them completely, though they cover it up with religiosity and “devotion.” Those who do wish to achieve the good must shake off their self-hypnosis and begin the labor. They will be surprised at how pleasant it really is, and in time will come to realize that they were enjoying pain and avoiding the real pleasure that is found only in spiritual life.

Krishna describes the pleasant as essentially “sweet at first but at last how bitter: that pleasure is poison.” It is not just harmful–it is deadly. Saint Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of Saint John the Evangelist, wrote of those who, drinking a sweet drink that contains poison, “sweetly drink in their death.” “Aren’t we having fun?” “Come on–live!” “What are you afraid of?” “Why don’t you find out what it is all about?” “What do you know about life?” These are the desperate appeals of those whose consciousness is awakened enough for them to be tormented by the example of those who have more fully awakened and who “touch not the cup–it is death to the soul.”

The wise know that the good and the pleasant utterly differ in their ends. The pleasant leads to ever more addiction, a craving for ever-increasing intoxication, and finally complete collapse and destruction.

"When senses touch objects, the pleasures therefrom are like wombs that bear sorrow.They begin, they are ended. They bring no delight to the wise."

On the other hand:

"Self-controlled, cut free from desire, curbing the heart, and knowing the Atman, man finds Nirvana that is in Brahman, here and hereafter."

“For when a man’s heart has reached fulfillment through knowledge and personal experience of the truth of Brahman, he is never again moved by the things of the senses. Earth, stone and gold seem all alike to one who has mastered his senses. Such a yogi is said to have achieved union with Brahman. Then he knows that infinite happiness which can be realized by the purified heart but is beyond the grasp of the senses. He stands firm in this realization. Because of it, he can never again wander from the inmost truth of his being.”

The good also leads to complete collapse and destruction–the collapse and disintegration of the ego and its attendants, ignorance and desire. Then:

He knows bliss in the Atman, and wants nothing else. Cravings torment the heart: he renounces cravings. I call him illumined.

The man of faith, whose heart is devoted, whose senses are mastered: he finds Brahman. Enlightened, he passes at once to the highest, the peace beyond passion.

His mind is dead to the touch of the external: it is alive to the bliss of the Atman. Because his heart knows Brahman his happiness is for ever.

Already, here on earth, before his departure, let man be the master of every impulse Lust-begotten or fathered by anger: thus he finds Brahman, thus he is happy.

Motivating forces

“These two, differing in their ends, both prompt to action.” Both the good and the pleasant impel us to actions, but they do so in completely different ways.

The good points us to the way of benefit in a completely intelligent and non-emotional way. For example, the good never motivates us by selfish means such as promising reward or threatening punishment–this is the way of evil, including much of religion. The good motivates us toward itself simply by revealing its inherent value.

The pleasant is altogether different. It only shows us its external appearance. It does not reason with us, but entices or even compels us to seize it. The pleasant only shows us its immediate or short-term effect, but completely hides from us its long-term effects and blinds us to its inherent defects. The archetypal example of this is found in the Bible. There we are told that “when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat.” Here we see all the problems with the pleasant: only the external is considered, emotion and instinct come to dominate and eclipse reason, and the ultimate effect is completely unapparent.

In sum, the good reveals but the pleasant conceals. It is necessary that we see the good as truly good and the pleasant as harmful and even evil. This is not easy.

The bigger picture

One of the problems with prevailing religion of all kinds is its incredible small-sightedness. Like the pleasant-oriented and pleasant-obsessed ego which it supports and feeds, it is concerned with only the moment at hand or with goals that are utterly irrelevant to the real nature of the human being. When we understand who/what we really are, then alone can we comprehend what is the sole purpose of our existence: conscious union with the Absolute. In light of this the upanishad concludes: “Blessed are they that choose the good; they that choose the pleasant miss the goal.” So the discrimination between the good and the pleasant is no light matter.

A genuine test of character

In the twenty-fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew we find a parable about foolish and wise souls. Most of us do not really care if we are foolish, just as long as no one labels us so. But we should care, and so the upanishad continues its teaching, saying:

“Both the good and the pleasant present themselves to men. The wise, having examined both, distinguish the one from the other. The wise prefer the good to the pleasant; the foolish, driven by fleshly desires, prefer the pleasant to the good.” There is a lot of truth in these few lines, some of it embarrassing, but nevertheless beneficial for us. (The good is not the pleasant, even in philosophy.)

“Both the good and the pleasant present themselves to men.” Whatever may be the excuses we may make for ourselves, even portraying ourselves as weak or victims, no one, NO ONE, forces anything upon us in life, however much it may seem otherwise. Rather, the good and the pleasant simply “present themselves” to us. We are totally responsible for our response to them, although, like Adam and Eve back in Genesis, we try to put the blame on someone else, on some external factor.

It is really essential to us as we move through life (hopefully forward) that although our deluded experience seems just the opposite, in reality all “things” are completely neutral–it is our response to them that really gives them any character such as good, bad, destructive, positive, etc. A little thought will show this. The deadliest poison is harmless if we do not make contact with it. Conversely, the best medicine is worthless if we do not consume it. Or think of this: garbage seems heavenly food to a starving person, but not to someone who is well fed; a child’s toy means nothing to a mature adult. Nothing has an innate ability to draw or force us–all the drawing and forcing is in our own mind as it responds to the object. We can blame no one at any time. It is all in us. If there are no grass seeds in the soil no grass will grow. The seeds have to be in us to sprout and grow and bear fruit as thinking, willing, and acting.

“The wise, having examined both, distinguish the one from the other.” Viveka, the ability to distinguish between the real and the unreal, between the true and the false, between the transient and the permanent, is indispensable for the serious spiritual aspirant. The wise possess and exercise this faculty, the eye of wisdom, by deeply examining whatever is presented to them and discerning whether it is the good or the merely pleasant they are being confronted with. Intelligence comes into the foreground, feeling and emotion being banished from the mental field altogether. Human beings operate either rationally or instinctually-emotionally. The wise are rational at all times. At all times. For example, real love is clearsighted–never blind–whereas infatuation masquerading as love is both blinding and blindness.

Preferring and driven

If two people are walking, one toward the north and the other toward the south, the difference between them is very little–just the direction they are facing. But in the matter of the wise and the foolish the differences are profound, for they are rooted in their very being, especially the mind and intellect. Even as a child I always thought that the statement of Abraham to Lazarus that “between us and you there is a great gulf fixed,” was spiritually symbolic, that a great gulf did indeed lie between the Godwards and the earthwards. The upanishad is outlining this nature of this gulf for us by describing its effects on both.

The wise prefer the good–they are not enticed, coerced, or “somehow drawn” to the good. They intelligently–yes, intellectually–prefer it because they know its nature and its effects. This is true of everything in their life, mundane, mental, and spiritual. This is markedly true in the matter of religion. The religious expression of the wise is always, peaceful, clear, intelligent, informed, and practical–it works.

The foolish, however are not so. They truly are a “troubled sea” “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind” as Isaiah and Saint Paul observed. “Driven by fleshly desires,” it only follows that they prefer the pleasant to the good, for the “flesh” cannot even perceive the good to any appreciable degree; but they create a lot of illusions about it–all negative and self-assuring. Their religion is subhuman, of course, catering to their emotions and their demands for the indulgence of their whims and vices. However educated they may be, or how boring and dry their church services, still animality reigns and all manner of subhuman behavior is sanctioned and even elevated and “spiritualized.”

Wallowing in the sty of their comforting and indulgent religion, they cast many a contemptuous (and secretly guilty) glance at those who are not so, and create many a bon mot about their “unnatural denial and repressions” hinting of sinister implications for those who “run away from life” and “refuse to face themselves,” and “expect too much from themselves and others.” But they are still only talking pigs. Even though they like to say they are “only human” and that God understands they are.

Driven by pleasure/pain, their humanity becomes submerged in the animality impressed in their subconscious by millions of incarnations in subhuman forms. Merely possessing a human body is no guarantee of humanity. The redoubtable Dr. Bronner in a conversation with one of the monks of our ashram referred to some people as “not yet HUMAN!” He was right. A house does not make a home and a human body does not make a human. Humanity only dawns when intelligence dominates and wisdom is gained. We need not be intellectual in the academic sense, but we must be intelligent. Then if we use our intelligence there is a chance we may become wise and thereby cross the great gulf.

The plain facts

Chances are Nachiketa never got voted “most popular” of anything and may not even have been “a good mixer.” But Yama assessed him quite highly, saying: “Thou, O Nachiketa, having looked upon fleshly desires, delightful to the senses, hast renounced them all. Thou hast turned from the miry way wherein many a man wallows.” Now this is a thumbnail portrait of a wise human being, but it is a test of the wise and the foolish. The wise will accept it and the foolish will not. So we should take a square look at it and our reaction will tell us which we are.

First of all, Nachiketa is not naive or “innocent.” He knows what is going on, even if most things should not be going on. He has not turned away, but has deeply looked into the desires of the flesh and the delights of the senses. He knows what the fake life of the foolish is all about, and he has renounced it ALL–not just a little bit or even most, but the whole mess. Why? Because he does not identify with the flesh and the senses, but with the intelligence and his true self that is pure consciousness. He knows he is not the perishable body.

“Thou hast turned from the miry way wherein many a man wallows,” says Yama. Nachiketa sees that the world of body-sense enslavement is a suffocating bog–not just ugly and repulsive to the wise, but deadly. He knows, with Jesus, that: “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” He also knows that in reality once a person has reached the level of human evolution he cannot really live like an animal without dire consequences, including terrible suffering. As humans we have simply gone beyond that to which the foolish cling to so obsessively.

This is strikingly illustrated in Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son found in the fifteenth chapter of Saint Luke. After wasting his inheritance, the man hired himself out to a pig farmer. This is a symbol of someone who has enslaved himself to the lower nature and the senses–pigs that wallow in filth, eat garbage, and demand more. “And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.” Like nearly all of us, the poor soul wants to feed on and be satisfied with the garbage that the pigs revel in, grunting: “This is living!” But it cannot be; we are not pigs; we are not the senses or the body.

No matter how much we desire to regress to animal living, we cannot really do so. And usually only pain will wake us up from such folly. When we do wake up, like the Prodigal we will resolve: “I will arise and go” forward in the path of evolution, leaving the sty and its pigs behind. The rising and the going will not be easy, but there simply is nothing else for a true human being to do. Moreover, the path will not be long, though it may seem so, for time drags when we are having struggle and pain. Jesus indicates this, saying: “when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” All the perfected souls that have taught us about spiritual life have assured us that the effort required of us is but a token–nevertheless a token that must be paid. If we can but get a glimpse or conceive a bit of what it will be to have arisen and travelled the way, then the price will seem so small. Amazingly, Saint Paul tells us that Jesus “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Just think: the joy. This should be our perspective, too.

Again, renunciation is the way of immortality.

The Way of Ignorance

The Two Ways

Yama, the King of Death, praises Nachiketa, saying: “Far from each other, and leading to different ends, are ignorance and knowledge. Thee, O Nachiketa, I regard as one who aspires after knowledge, for a multitude of pleasant objects were unable to tempt thee.”

It is interesting to note that the concept of Two Ways of human life are to be found in all religious traditions. Jesus spoke of the Broad Way and the Strait Way, and when they met in Jerusalem and issued a joint spiritual letter, his apostles began by saying there are two Ways in this world. Long before that, the Katha Upanishad spoke of the Way of Ignorance and the Way of Knowledge.

The Way of Ignorance is the subject of the three verses we will be considering, but first Yama tells us the key trait of one who aspires to knowledge: he cannot be tempted by the pleasant. This is because he sees its nature and its results. The pursuers of the Way of Ignorance are not such as Nachiketa, and Yama now tells us about them and the results of their walking in that Way.

The Way of Folly

“Living in the abyss of ignorance yet wise in their own conceit, deluded fools go round and round, the blind led by the blind.” That certainly is plain speaking! Let us go through this verse bit by bit.

Living in the abyss of ignorance. This word “abyss” is very disturbing in this context. It indicates that the condition of ignorance is profound–not something than can easily be removed or escaped. Rather, the person is sunk deep into the darkness of ignorance, so deep that he cannot see anything but darkness, so deep that he can hardly be extricated from it–at least in this life. It is not that his condition is utterly hopeless, but that he simply has neither awareness nor interest. If that dawns, he is on his way out of the abyss. But most of the time it does not happen. In a routine of the Firesign Theatre, a disease is described with the concluding words: “The only cure for which is death.” In many (actually most) cases of abysmal ignorance this is the truth. The individual requires another birth before he can arise from the depths. Until then he should be left alone.

Yet wise in their own conceit. Somewhere I read the words: “The problem with ignorance is that it picks up confidence as it goes along.” Since ignorance is a by-product of ego, as ignorance increases so does egotism. Increasing in this alternating cycle, invincible arrogance and invincible ignorance arise, take hold and consume the ignorant person. This is really an ugly picture; but an accurate one. Thinking themselves wise, how can the ignorant ever see the truth about themselves–both the higher and the lower selves–and try to rectify themselves? They cannot. Not content to revel in their private kingdom of ignorance, they then set about to aggressively expand it through influence of others. And if they cannot influence they will dominate and bully until they have extended their sphere of darkness. Again: ugly but accurate. Living in the fantasy-land of ego, they sink deeper, believing that they are rising.

Deluded fools go round and round. Cycling in confusion, the foolish spiral downward, seeming to go up and down but really only going down and down. In their minds they veer back and forth, up and down, agitating themselves and others, but in actuality they just keep on sinking. Because of this they continually go round and round in the wheel of birth and death, perpetually bound to the torture wheel of samsara–and reveling in every moment. They have discovered the secret of happiness in this world: unconsciousness.

The blind led by the blind. Ignorance as well as misery loves company, in fact needs it desperately and thrives on it. Supporting each other they stumble through this world until death claims them and they get to do it all over–and over and over. When they are not being the leader and the led, they are the pusher and the pushed, the dominating and the dominated, the victimizer and the victim–alternating in these two roles, they reel onward and downward.

Blind to eternity

“To the thoughtless youth, deceived by the vanity of earthly possessions, the path that leads to the eternal abode is not revealed. This world alone is real; there is no hereafter–thinking thus, he falls again and again, birth after birth, into my jaws.”

Rendered heedless of the truth about his condition through involvement with materiality–both his body and objects in the world–and deluded by what he thinks is going on, the ignorant never sees the way beyond the abyss in which he dwells. He simply cannot see it, just as we cannot hear frequencies beyond the range of our hearing or see things beyond the range of our sight. He is deaf and blind to spirit in all its aspects. Even if by some chance he should seek the way, if he finds it he will not know it, nor if he come face to face with the way will he realize it. Just the opposite. He will despise and deny it, even denouncing it as delusive or evil. On the other hand, he will exult in devilish religion, teachers, and practices, seeking them out and devoting himself to them. Let me give two examples I know of personally.

A great master used to plead with a young man to learn meditation, assuring him that his progress would be rapid and he would be liberated in this life. But he did not get initiated. When the master was about to leave his body he told his disciples that if the man ever came to the ashram and expressed an interest, one of them was to initiate him immediately. He never did. But a dozen or so years later one of the biggest frauds the “yoga world” has ever produced came to town charging money for a worthless technique. The man was in poor financial condition, and could not really afford it, but he immediately slapped down the cash and got initiated into nothing.

Two Buddhist friends of mine visit a prison and instruct the inmates in Buddhist philosophy and spiritual practice. They are practicers of the Pure Land School of Buddhism. Whenever they try to get the prisoners to chant the liberating name of Amida Buddha they refuse and insist that they chant Tibetan “power mantras” instead. They love bondage and lust after control. They belong where they are.

“This world alone is real; there is no hereafter” is thought by many of the foolish, but there are many more who do not actually think it but live as though they did. Denial of spiritual realities is done more by deeds than by words. It does not matter how devoutly or spiritually we may think, if we live carelessly and materially, as centered on our ego as any ignoramus we would regard as “unspiritual.”

This is the real test. Thinking the material world alone is real, the ignorant return to it again and again, living in the jaws of death. If we do the same, then we are fools. If we do not, then we are wise.

The Mystery of the Self

Seeing is not always seeing and hearing is not always hearing. In some instances it is misperception, and in others it is no perception at all. This is illustrated by an incident from the life of Jesus. While speaking to the people, he prayed: “Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him.” Four levels of perception are manifested here. One level knew that God had spoken, another thought that an angel had spoken, another thought it had only thundered, and the fourth did not hear a thing.

As a rule, phenomena can be classified in fours. The four castes spoken of in Indian scriptures are not social strata based on physical birth, but four levels of awareness–in fact, they correspond to the four responses to the speaking of God that Saint John has recorded in this Gospel passage. Krishna follows the same classification in the Bhagavad Gita, saying: “There are some who have actually looked upon the Atman, and understood It, in all Its wonder. Others can only speak of It as wonderful beyond their understanding. Others know of Its wonder by hearsay. And there are others who are told about It and do not understand a word.” But it is the Katha Upanishad we are looking into at the moment, so let us see what Yama had to say to Nachiketa about this matter of understanding the Self (atman).

“To many it is not given to hear of the Self. Many, though they hear of it, do not understand it. Wonderful is he who speaks of it. Intelligent is he who learns of it. Blessed is he who, taught by a good teacher, is able to understand it.”

The “silent” majority

“To many it is not given to hear of the Self.” Most people–by far the most people–have never heard of the Self and never will in this lifetime. Oh, yes, they will hear about an immortal soul/spirit that a tyrannical God will reward or punish according to His whim, but the real nature of that spirit as part of– and therefore one with–the Supreme Reality and therefore supreme reality itself, eternal, immortal, and indivisible, will never be even hinted at nor will they come up with the concept on their own. Further, it will not be even suggested to them, either from within or without, that the spirit nature is the Self– nothing more–and is the only true identity they can ever have.

Being unchanging, this Self cannot be affected or changed by anything–no, not even by God. It is what it is, just as much as God is what He is. It is, therefore, not only the most worthwhile thing for us to get involved with, it is the only thing we can possibly be involved with. Everything else is illusion. This glorious truth of the Self, known only to the seers of Sanatana Dharma (there are others in various religions that hold this, but they are looked upon as mavericks and heretics by those groups), must be the sole perspective in which we view our present situation as consciousnesses experiencing the process of evolution. (It is the ever-shifting dance of prakriti to which we have become attached that evolves; we are ever the same, ever the One.)

Living in the silence of ignorance, what can they do? Not much, obviously.

The uncomprehending

“Many, though they hear of it, do not understand it.” This is true of many who, though ostensibly adherents to Sanatana Dharma, really do not get the idea–especially about the Self. These are those that frequent temples, ashrams and saints as a kind of insurance against calamity and trouble. Then there are those that only run to those holy places when problems arise. Obviously they have no degree of comprehension regarding the Self.

Neither do most who profess to understand the Self. This is seen by their words and deeds. If someone believes the building is on fire we can tell it by their attempts to get out. Similarly, if someone believes in the truth about the Self they will order their entire lives accordingly–not just assent to the concept. To know the Self, to enter into the fullness of its consciousness and being, will be the focus of their life and thought.

Sri Ramakrishna often said that if a thief learned of a great treasure being kept in the room next to where he was living, he would not be able to sleep for thinking about how to break through the wall and get it. In the same way, those who really understand about the wonder of the Self will not rest until they have (re)claimed the Treasure for themselves. Spiritual purification and spiritual practice are the means for breaking through the wall and claiming the prize.

We have a dilemma here, also: Only those who understand about the self will be motivated to engage in tapasya to realize it fully; yet only those who are engaged in tapasya can have any glimmer of the self and be motivated to practice! The solution lies in the fact that in time the Self begins to urge us to its realization, that we will intuit the presence of the Self and start moving toward the point where, when we hear about it, we will accept and act upon what we hear.

It is interesting to see that Yama does not mention those who reject or deny the truth of the Self. Apparently to him they do not even exist.

Wonderful

We joke sometimes about the exaggerations of the theatrical and motion picture industries. “It is colossal! Magnificent! The greatest ever!” and suchlike continually pour out in conversation and advertisements. The song, Hollywood, assures us that out there “you’re ‘terrific’ if you’re good.” Divinity, on the other hand, has a somewhat different viewpoint, so Yama tells Nachiketa: “Wonderful is he who speaks of it.” He is not speaking of a parrot, a spiritual phonograph, but of one who speaks with awakened awareness–even if not from perfect knowledge or realization. “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” The implication here is that we should seek out and only listen to those who speak of the Self, from the Self, and in the perspective of the Self. Theology is usually only so much distracting noise, and so is most “religious” and “spiritual” talk. Buddha likened a true teacher or teaching to a finger pointing at the moon–only that which points us to our own Reality is itself real and worthwhile. Such a teacher or teaching is wonderful indeed.

Intelligent

The word “stupid” gets tossed about in casual conversation as much as does “wonderful,” and no one relishes being thought stupid. (Few care whether they actually are stupid, just as long as nobody notices or points it out.) Yama, with his very definite perspective, assures Nachiketa that the intelligent person is the one who pursues knowledge of the Self. This is done in two ways: listening to or reading the teachings about the Self of those who have themselves known the self, and–most importantly–by actively seeking to know one’s own Self through careful analysis (swadhyaya) and spiritual practices, most especially meditation. This latter point is very necessary for us to grasp. Intellectually intelligent people love learning–and they should. However, it is easy to fall into the trap of studying all the theory and not getting down to any practice to determine the validity of the theory.

Saint Silouan of Athos said that delight in the study of theology was the false mysticism of the ego. When Swami Turiyananda first met Sri Ramakrishna he was intensely studying Vedanta for at least six hours a day. Upon hearing of this, Sri Ramakrishna was astounded. “What else does Vedanta say except that Brahman alone is real, the world is illusory, and the Self and Brahman are one?” he asked. “So why do you need six hours of study for that?” Turiyananda had the good sense to understand, and began to devote himself to japa and meditation in order to know the Self–not just know about the Self. In the West it is a common error to assume that knowing about something is the same thing as knowing it. More than once I have read in catechisms that knowing God is accomplished by reading the catechism! That is stupid.

Blessed

To be wonderful and intelligent is good, but to be blessed is the ideal. So Yama concludes: “Blessed is he who, taught by a good teacher, is able to understand it.” This is because a good teacher does not just impart theoretical knowledge, but reveals to the student the practical means by which he can open his understanding through meditation to behold and know the Self. Krishna, being the Supreme Teacher, instructs Arjuna in the Gita about meditation, saying: “If he practices meditation in this manner, his heart will become pure.” “He must be…united constantly with me in his meditation.” “The practice of serenity, sympathy, meditation upon the Atman, withdrawal of the mind from sense-objects, and integrity of motive, is called austerity of the mind.” “Make a habit of practicing meditation, and do not let your mind be distracted. In this way you will come finally to the Lord, who is the light-giver, the highest of the high.”

How to Either Know or Not Know the Self

Let the student (who is often a “buyer”) beware

“The truth of the Self cannot be fully understood when taught by an ignorant man, for opinions regarding it, not founded in knowledge, vary one from another. Subtler than the subtlest is this Self, and beyond all logic. Taught by a teacher who knows the Self and Brahman as one, a man leaves vain theory behind and attains to truth.”

By “the truth of the Self” is meant both the philosophical, scriptural truth and the direct perception of the truth experienced in meditation. However Yama is at this point speaking more on the side of learning the intellectual truth about the Self, its nature, and its possibility of realization.

We all know the incredible and impenetrable tangle of theologies that constitute what most people think are the religions of the world. The reason for this is simple: most (almost all) teachers of religion are fundamentally ignorant. Ignorant not in the intellectual sense, but in the intuitive sense. Since we do need an intellectual road map to help us in our search for direct experience of the Self, this is a serious matter. For an attempt to figure out the truth of the Self in a purely theoretical manner will only add to the prevailing confusion. We will just become one more voice in the cacophony of ignorant religion or philosophy. Nothing is worse than an ignoramus that believes he has an “inside track.” As Jesus observed: “If the ‘light’ that is in thee be [actually] darkness, how great is that darkness!”

Consequently, it is a most detrimental thing to come into the orbit of an ignorant teacher and accept his words–and even worse to act on them. Some years back there was a most interesting motion picture called Apprentice to Murder. It was based on the actual experience of a man who as an adolescent came into contact with a “wise man” in the southern hills. This man conducted a kind of church whose members studied a nineteenth-century book of what might be called folk magic. He had genuine psychic abilities and really did work miracles. This boy became his student and ended up being jailed as an accomplice in the man’s murder of someone he considered a “black magician.” This is a rather drastic example, but frankly it is much less destructive in the long run than involvement with many contemporary teachers, some of the worst of whom are in the yoga world. To be confused is worse than being merely ignorant, and being flawed and distorted by wrong yoga practices is even worse.

Beyond the intellect

“Subtler than the subtlest is this Self, and beyond all logic,” says Yama. Being subtler than the subtlest, the Self cannot possibly be perceived by any sense–including those of the subtle bodies–or conceived of by even the highest and subtle reaches of the intellect. Yet, the Self can be known. This is possible only when “taught by a teacher who knows the Self and Brahman as one, a man leaves vain theory behind and attains to truth” through the practice of meditation, instruction in which a qualified teacher will give. This really marks out the knowledgous teacher from the ignorant teacher. The ignorant teacher will only expound theory, “proving” what he teaches by intellectual means. The worthy teacher may say much the same words, but will point the student to the means by which he can attain the vision of the Self. He will establish the student in the practice of correct meditation, without which nothing that is real can possibly be known.

A bit more. Yama tells us that the teacher should be one who knows–not a rhetorician or theoretician. Now it is impossible for us to look into the consciousness of a teacher, so how will we know he has real knowledge? We cannot in an absolute sense, but Yama gives us a trait that at least assures us the teacher is not altogether astray: He will affirm the oneness of the Self and Brahman. No matter how cleverly, convincingly, and cutely he may speak, however much he may appeal to our emotions and deluded intellects, if he does not insist on the unity of the Self and Brahman, saying with the Chandogya Upanishad “THAT THOU ART,” he is unworthy and to be turned away from. Unhappily, there are a lot of ignoramuses who appeal to egotistical fools by saying: “You are God.” The true teacher says not that we are God, but that God is us. There is an infinite difference. Furthermore, the real teacher does not just tell us this fact, he instructs in the means to find it out for ourself. These two traits must be present before we even begin to think about accepting a teacher as a valid guide.

The ultimate test of a teacher is our own capacity, made accessible to us by his instruction, to leave all speculation behind and enter into the Reality that is both Brahman and the Self while remaining ever One. Then all the gods and sages will say of us what Yama said of Nachiketa: “The awakening which thou hast known does not come through the intellect, but rather, in fullest measure, from the lips of the wise. Beloved Nachiketa, blessed, blessed art thou, because thou seekest the Eternal. Would that I had more pupils like thee!”

From the Unreal to the Real

Eternal values

There is an obscure Protestant song entitled “With Eternity’s Values in View.” Musically it is not much, but philosophically it is profound. We are not temporal, mortal beings, and if we live our life as though we were, then only confusion and chaos can result. Instead we must see ourselves as eternal beings presently dreaming the dream of evolution–a dream whose culmination is awakening, toward which all of our attention and awareness should be focused. Nachiketa knew this, but Yama underlined it, telling him:

“Well I know that earthly treasure lasts but till the morrow. For did not I myself, wishing to be King of Death, make sacrifice with fire? But the sacrifice was a fleeting thing, performed with fleeting objects, and small is my reward, seeing that only for a moment will my reign endure.” What are a billion years compared to eternity? Not even a glimmer. Why, then, do we scramble after such short-lived earthly goals, goals that even if attained prove to be worthless since they vanish away so quickly? Why do we continually deny our eternity and affirm the delusion of temporality? Because we identify thoroughly with that which is temporal and finite.

Buddha and two fools

Buddha once encountered two deluded ascetics. One always behaved like a dog and the other like a water buffalo. No explanation is given for their behavior. Perhaps it related to some deity worshipped by them. For example, a dog would be related to Bhairava, a form of Shiva, and a water buffalo to the goddess Durga. However it might be, they wanted to know from Buddha what the results of their way of life would be. He refused to answer, but they kept insisting, so he told them plainly that if they were lucky they would be reborn as a dog and a water buffalo, and if they were unlucky they would find themselves in astral hells corresponding to their aberrative life and thought. As anticipated by Buddha, they wailed and fussed and went away without gaining any sense or rectifying their foolish ways. We are just like them, except we are hypocrites, claiming to believe in the eternal, unconditioned Self and acting just the opposite.

The dilemma of the gods

It is true that there is nothing on this earth we cannot attain if we put forth the effort. In previous creations human beings performed elaborate rituals to become “gods” in this creation, including Brahma the creator. They succeeded, and the result was that they suffer more pain and anxiety than human beings do and are more subject to mental aberrations than humans. Furthermore, they are bound until the end of this creation cycle to fulfil their offices and can in no way shirk or abandon them. So they are more bound than any human being could ever be. In other words, their heaven has turned out to be a hell. Still their main anxiety is fear over falling from their exalted status and returning to human form. They have learned nothing from their experience. (Do we?)

A metaphysical fact

“But the sacrifice was a fleeting thing, performed with fleeting objects, and small is my reward, seeing that only for a moment will my reign endure.” Within this lament of Yama is embedded a profound truth regarding spiritual life.

Only the spirit is eternal and everlasting. Everything else, however highly evolved or sacred, is temporal and impermanent. However long-lived they may be, in time they will dissolve back into the primal energy of manifestation and we will lose them–never really having “had” them at all. Consequently, the wise seek only for the eternal spirit, though using the material and the temporal to aid them in their search. For example, physical health is not enlightenment, but it certainly makes the enlightenment process easier. Material sufficiency relieves us from anxiety and helps us pursue spiritual life without distraction. And so forth.

Discipline is essential for material life, and even more so for spiritual life. Yet, discipline will not take us to the goal–it will greatly facilitate our going, but we must never mistake proficiency in any discipline or practice for spiritual attainment. In the same way, any type of yogic practice that does not deal directly with Consciousness will not result in enlightenment. Like discipline, it may help us in our ascent to higher awareness, but it must not be mistaken for that awareness.

“Sadhana” means spiritual practice that leads to the revelation of the Real (Sat). The temporal does not lead to the eternal, therefore real sadhana must begin and end in spirit consciousness. No material procedure is sadhana, nor is any externally-oriented practice sadhana. The only true sadhana is the turning inward of the mind and the perception of the inmost spirit. In other words, meditation alone is sadhana–meditation free of all mechanics and gimmicks, simple and direct, leading to the ultimate Simplicity that is the Self. We must begin with spirit if we are to end with spirit. That is why Patanjali briefly outlines the nature of God, telling us that “His manifesting Word is Om,” and concluding: “Its japa and meditation is The Way.” For constant japa/meditation utilizing the Eternal Om will render us an Infinite Reward.

In just a few more verses the Katha Upanishad encapsulates it thus: “Of that goal which all the Vedas declare, which is implicit in all penances, and in pursuit of which men lead lives of continence and service, of that will I briefly speak. It is–OM. This syllable is Brahman. This syllable is indeed supreme. He who knows it obtains his desire. It is the strongest support. It is the highest symbol. He who knows it is reverenced as a knower of Brahman.”

The truth

All truth is a two-edged sword. It tells us what IS and what IS NOT. The truth about the Self and Brahman also tells us what is not the Self or Brahman. Those of us who are clinging to the unreal will find this painful or at least uncomfortable. But we have to let go of the unreal to lay hold of the Real. If we do not like this fact we need not bother with Real, but keep on whirling around in our little hamster wheel we call life. But the wise listen and act upon Yama’s next words to Nachiketa:

‘The goal of worldly desire, the glittering objects for which all men long, the celestial pleasures they hope to gain by religious rites, the most sought-after of miraculous powers—all these were within thy grasp. But all these, with firm resolve, thou hast renounced.”

To enter into Life we turn away from all fulfillments of material and temporal desires, no longer attracted by their false glitter. Nor do we aspire to some heaven or heavenly pleasures offered to us by ego-oriented religion–things that also end as painfully as the joys of earth. Even miracles mean nothing to us, for they occur only in the realm of duality, the realm of death.

Where is Life?

Seeing that Nachiketa was yearning to pass from death to Immortality, Yama continues: “The ancient, effulgent being, the indwelling Spirit, subtle, deep-hidden in the lotus of the heart, is hard to know. But the wise man, following the path of meditation, knows him, and is freed alike from pleasure and from pain.”

First of all, before analyzing this, it must be realized that Yama is talking about us. Certainly, we are finite and God is infinite, but substantially (essentially) we are the same. So Yama is talking about our true nature in these amazing words, and we should consider them accordingly.

Ancient

We are puranam–ancient. God is called the Purana Purusha, the Ancient Person. Since we coexist with Him, we, too, are ancient. Shankara in his commentary explains that in this context puranam does not just mean incredibly old, but everlasting. That is, we, too, are primeval beings. “There was never a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor any of these kings. Nor is there any future in which we shall cease to be,” Krishna tells Arjuna in the Gita.

Our eternity is very hard for us to grasp even theoretically because we have been caught in the time-space web for ages beyond calculation. Creations have come and gone as we barely crawled along the evolutionary path. We just cannot conceive of eternity, for it is not time without end, it is that state of being which lies beyond time. Actually, we are living in that state right now, but have completely lost sight of it and imagine we are immersed in the sea of constant change, of constant birth and death with their attendant sufferings.

To view ourselves as eternal, immortal beings is therefore most important, for without that perspective “life” will totally overwhelm us, drowning us in illusions without either numbering or end. Yet when we step back, withdrawing our consciousness into our own reality, it will end instantly. It is the stepping back and withdrawal that takes the time.

Effulgent Being

Devam means “shining one.” We are ourselves “the light that shines in darkness” for we are a living part of the Light of Life. Consequently we must turn within for illumination. Until we are perfected in that in-turning we do need some external lights such as holy books and teachers, but it is unwise to become dependent on any outer source of knowledge. Eventually we must get it all from within, having become swayamprakash, self-illumined.

Certainly we should be discontented with our present ignorant and bound state of being, but there is no room here for condemning or loathing ourselves for being sinners, weak, foolish, etc. Our discontent with our present state should arise from our conviction that we are ourselves divine–for devam means that as well. We are living far beneath our selves. Knowing that, we should turn around, stop our descent, and begin ascending to our real place–far beyond any childish heaven or relative condition of any type however exalted.

Since we are self-effulgent, all guidance must eventually come from within. We may not be able to tap the inner light right now to the needed degree, but in time our atma alone must be our guide through and beyond this life. We must learn to rely on our capacity for pure Knowing.

As a child and a young man I looked upon myself as a “Bible-believing Christian,” so naturally I believed that Jesus Christ was the Light of the World. But it was only when I found the wisdom of the Upanishads that I really believed Jesus when he said: “Ye are the light of the world.” For the fundamental necessity is to realize that we are the Light also. “God is light” and so are we, for we and God are one, not two. No one who claims to be spiritually enlightened can teach otherwise, “for with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.” The Light of God reveals the Light of our own Self. The closer we get to our real self, the closer we come to God, and vice versa. Then “the sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.” For we shall know ourselves as Light and Glory. This is not egotism, for in the Light the ego melts away. “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”

Indwelling Spirit

“Indwelling spirit” not only tells us that we are pure consciousness by nature, but the important fact that our consciousness is the noumenon which dwells at the heart of all phenomena. That wherever there is any “thing” there are we as the reality that is the substratum of all existence–even of illusion. That is why we find our selves if we pierce the veil of illusion or look within. We are omnipresent.

Subtle

We do not perceive the Self because our conditionings from aeons of relative existence has coarsened our perceptions. Experiencing materiality over and over and over again has oriented and confined our awareness to the grossest levels of existence. Further, it has oriented and confined our awareness to externalities. Any reflective person can readily understand the need to turn our awareness inward to perceive the self, but more is needed: we must refine our minds, rendering them more and more subtle so they can eventually see the Most Subtle: the Self.

Meditation refines the mind no doubt, but we have to do more than that, otherwise an entire life will simply not be enough time to produce the requisite refinement. Therefore Patanjali in Yoga Sutras 2:30,32 lists the necessary means for the physical and psychic refinement without which the Self cannot be realized to any degree. They are:

) Ahimsa: non-violence, non-injury, harmlessness

2) Satya: truthfulness, honesty

3) Asteya: non-stealing, honesty, non-misappropriativeness

4) Brahmacharya: sexual continence in thought, word and deed as well as control of all the senses

5) Aparigraha: non-possessiveness, non-greed, non-selfishness, non-acquisitiveness

6) Shaucha: purity, cleanliness

7) Santosha: contentment, peacefulness

8) Tapas: austerity, practical (i.e., result-producing) spiritual discipline

9) Swadhyaya: introspective self-study, spiritual study

10) Ishwarapranidhana: offering of one’s life to God

All of these deal with the innate powers of the human being–or rather with the abstinence and observance that will develop and release those powers to be used toward our spiritual perfection, to our self-realization and liberation. Equally important is their effect on our minds: harmonization, strengthening, and refinement.

These ten factors and successful meditation are actually interdependent. Without meditation they are impossible to accomplish, and without their steady and complete observance meditation becomes impossible. This is why after nearly forty years of the “yoga boom” in this country nothing significant has been accomplished spiritually. A lot of money has been made, organizations formed and exalted over the lives of their members, and a great deal of folly and neurosis has resulted (what to say of virulent scandals) but that is all. Why? Because these ten needful elements are utterly omitted from the spheres of their existence. They are never mentioned, much less advocated. The only exception is ahimsa–limited only to opposition to war. This is because everybody wants to be nice and the pop-yoga movement was born during the “Hell no, we won’t go!” war-protesting hip era. However, the most obvious personal application of ahimsa: advocacy of abstention from the eating of animal flesh, is usually absent.

The sensible aspirant cannot do otherwise than make these ten disciplines part of his life if he truly wishes to render himself capable of beholding the Self and living as the Self.

Deep-hidden in the lotus of the heart

Why are we out of touch with God and our Self? Because we are skimming on the surface of “things” while Reality is “deep-hidden in the lotus of the heart”–the Core of All. Actually, Reality is deep-hidden in the core of the things we are experiencing. We only need to see into them to find the True. That is why in Buddhism we find the word Penetration so frequently used. We must See Deeply. That is, we need not turn away or withdraw from outer phenomena, but rather develop the capacity to see into them to their ultimate Depth. To do this we do enter inside through meditation, but since there really is neither Inside nor Outside in the truest sense, in time–through the practice of meditation–we come to see all there is to see: The One.

Hard to know

We have all experienced getting a mistaken idea or impression stuck in our head that we could not get rid of even when we knew better. The same is true of habit patterns. Living in conditioned existence we ourselves have become conditioned–or at least we identify with the conditionings of the ever-shifting mind. This is the only reason that the Self is hard to know. It has nothing to do with the nature of the Self, but with the conditioning of the mind–conditioning resulting from billions and billions of lifetimes as everything from an atom of hydrogen onward to where we are now. It is not easy to undo in a few years what we have taken thousands of creation cycles to build up! Yet it can be done and will be done in time. We just have to understand the way things work and that it will take time. Nevertheless, the words “hard to know” assure us that the Self can be known.

The way and its effects

“But the wise man, following the path of meditation, knows him, and is freed alike from pleasure and from pain.” It is the path of meditation that leads to Self-knowledge, none other.

The uncontrolled mind

Does not guess that the Atman is present:

How can it meditate?

Without meditation, where is peace?

Without peace, where is happiness?

It is not that Self-knowledge renders us incapable of experiencing pleasure or pain, but of being in bondage to them–that is, being subject to reaction to pleasure and pain.

The bonds of his flesh are broken.

He is lucky, and does not rejoice:

He is unlucky, and does not weep.

I call him illumined.

To obey the Atman

Is his peaceful joy;

Sorrow melts

Into that clear peace:

His quiet mind

Is soon established in peace.

Finding the Treasure

All the world seeks happiness. Our American Declaration of Independence says that the pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right for every human being. But see how miserable people really are beneath the frantic veneer of the pursuit of happiness in an ever-changing and pain-producing world. The problem? We are looking in the wrong direction. We are seeking outward when we should be seeking inward. We are seeking the non-self instead of the Self. From the Katha Upanishad we learn the right line of action.

“The man who has learned that the Self is separate from the body, the senses, and the mind, and has fully known him, the soul of truth, the subtle principle–such a man verily attains to him, and is exceeding glad, because he has found the source and dwelling place of all felicity. Truly do I believe, O Nachiketa, that for thee the gates of joy stand open.”

Separate

“The Self is separate from the body, the senses, and the mind.” Therefore the body, senses, and mind cannot even “see” the Self as an object, and certainly cannot possibly experience the Self to any degree. The happiness experienced by body, senses, and mind is not true happiness at all, but an approximation, a sham that distracts us from the real thing, inevitably leading us to frustration and all-around misery. This must be learned. Then the Self itself must be known.

Soul of truth, subtle principle

The Self is the very soul of Truth, of Reality. It is not just the basis of reality, it IS reality. Apart from it there simply is nothing. It is subtle beyond all conception–but not beyond all experience. It is when we enter fully into the Being that is the Self, that we “attain to him,” that boundless happiness shall be ours. For the Boundless itself shall be ours.

Source and dwelling

Yama then tells us an important fact: the Self is the source of all and the dwelling place of all felicity. Now this is most intriguing. We are saying that the Self is all there really is, and then we hear that it is the source of “all.” This is the key to true non-dual comprehension. Sri Ramakrishna explained that at first we follow the path of negation saying “Not this, not that,” the idea being that everything we can see or think of is not the Real. But when we come to the real end of that approach–which is not just intellection or mind-gaming, but the inner path of meditation–and turn back we will say “ALL this!” That is, we will see that everything is the Real, that the unreal was only our way of seeing and (mis)understanding it. The whole world, said Sri Ramakrishna, will then be seen as “a mart of joy.” Unless this is understood at the beginning we will end up being just another dyspeptic world-and-lifedenying grouch, claiming that our dryness and grimness is jnana (wisdom). “There is a state beyond bliss, you know,” grated one of them to a friend of mine who dared to find joy in the Self. India abounds with these anatmic misfits and we have plenty of them in the West, too. (One is too many.)

All that is dwells in–is rooted in–the Self and is therefore an expression of divine Ananda. What a wonderful world-view: one that sees not “the world” but Spirit. We do not go from one point to another to pass from the unreal to the Real, from darkness to the Light, from death to Immortality. It is only a matter of changing our base of perception. This is the real alchemy, changing the lead of mundane experience to the gold of supernal joy.

The conclusion

No one is excluded from this glorious truth, it extends to all and is vital to all in an equal degree. No one is nearer or farer from the Self–it embraces all. This is the real Gospel–the Evangelion, the Good News humanity needs so desperately: “Truly, for thee the gates of joy stand open.”

Let us pass through them!

The Transcendent Reality of the Self

Previously Yama has spoken to Nachiketa of the manner to experience the Self that is immanent in all that “is.” Now he completes the picture by an exposition of the Transcendent and the means to realize It. He does this in response to Nachiketa’s question: “Teach me, O King, I beseech thee, whatsoever thou knowest to be beyond right and wrong, beyond cause and effect, beyond past, present, and future.” He desires to know about the Transcendental Reality that is beyond all qualities or designations. As the Immanent Being, That has infinite names, forms, conditions, and qualities, but beyond that is something much greater: the Transcendent. That can neither be said to exist or not to exist, to be with form or without form, with qualities or without qualities, for all these propositions are dualities, one presupposing the other. Where there is one there is its opposite–duality is an absolute in the realm of the Immanent Reality. Nachiketa is certainly pleased with the truth that all can be seen as the Divine Unity, but he wishes to complete his knowledge by learning about what lies beyond even that. Sri Ma Anandamayi, when discussing these things, always insisted on the point that there is a state in which even the question of duality/unity, form/formless, and such like cannot even arise. That is the state Nachiketa aspires to comprehend and experience.

The answer is in the question

Everything in manifestation is dual. This is the truth for every aspect of life. There is an interesting divinatory process known as The Alphabet of the Magi. To “work” it a question is formulated and then written on cards–one letter per card. These cards are then shuffled and dealt out in a special way (unknown to me) to form the words that are the answer to the question! It was The Alphabet of the Magi, worked by a Benedictine monk who practiced divination and astrology in Paris after his monastery had been closed by the anti-religious government, that inspired Charlotte Corday to assassinate Marat and inspired Napoleon, then a mere corporal, to aspire to the rulership of France. So it works.

The idea that the answer is inherent in the question is very important, for it means that the questioner already knows the answer on the subconscious (or superconscious) level, that the question cannot arise until the answer is subliminally known. The purpose of questioning, then, is to bring out on the conscious level what is known unconsciously. When we seemingly ask another to teach us we are really seeking to stimulate and bring forth our own knowledge. That is why the wise have assured their students that in time they would be able to find the answers within themselves–it is only a matter of developing intuition through clarifying the mind.

It is very common to hear someone demand: “Why did you ask me if you are not going to accept what I tell you?” The reply should be: “So I can figure the answer out for myself.” The very fact that we reject a given answer indicates that we think we do know what is the truth about the matter. Otherwise we would mindlessly accept what we are told. (Many do, alas.) It is all inside us. Questioning reveals the ripening of our innate knowledge. Knowing this, Jesus said: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” He is not urging us to seek outside ourselves, but to seek within.

Nachiketa seems to be asking Yama about the Transcendent, but his question reveals how much he already knows.

Beyond right and wrong

The moment we enter duality–relative existence–we become subject to the situation that some thoughts, words, and acts will impel us onward to higher consciousness and others will impel us to lower consciousness. No matter where we may “be” at the moment, it cannot be permanent. By the nature of things we will keep moving up and down, back and forth. Whenever we think we have attained some stability it is only a matter of the movement being so slow it is imperceptible to us. We are always in danger of incurring suffering because of this. In truth, suffering is inevitable, for even rising requires effort and unsureness or doubt as to the success of our endeavor. As Krishna says of us: “Anxiety binds them with a hundred chains.” We suffer anxiety as to what is the right or wrong and anxiety as to whether we can avoid the wrong and manage to think and do the right. Even more, we are busy getting and losing, anxious to get the good and rid ourselves of the wrong. And of course we are mostly deluded as to what is really right and wrong, usually thinking that the pleasurable is right and the painful is wrong. That is why Krishna told Arjuna: “Both the good and the pleasant present themselves to men. The wise, having examined both, distinguish the one from the other. The wise prefer the good to the pleasant; the foolish, driven by fleshly desires, prefer the pleasant to the good.” The danger is obvious.

Nachiketa intuits that this terrible dragging back and forth, this dilemma inherent in “existence,” can come to an end–not in the realm of relative existence, but in its transcendence. Realizing the truth that trying to “rise above” any of the dualities is as foolish as trying to make dry water or cold fire, is a tremendous breakthrough for the developing consciousness and indicates that the end of the search is near. Some of our monks visited a great saint in the Himalayan foothills and spoke with him about spiritual life. He told them: “Your questions show that you are not far from the Goal.”

Beyond cause and effect

In ignorant religion “sin” and “righteousness” occupy a great deal of attention, not necessarily because of a sincere desire to be virtuous, but because of their effects. Desire and fear motivate the religionist– at least mentally and emotionally–for sin gets punished and righteousness gets rewarded. Punishment hurts and reward feels good. Punishment takes away and reward supplies. The dispenser of reward and punishment is some kind (or many kinds) of deity who, being an extension of the ignorant egos of the adherents of the religion, judges good and bad on the basis of “I like” and “I don’t like,” “I want” and “I don’t want.” Good sense and practicality have nothing to do with it. The deity is either pleased or displeased and acts accordingly. To complicate matters, the deity can be placated if “sinned against” and, being mollified by groveling and penitence, will reward the sinner as much as if he had been virtuous–maybe even more, so the deity’s “love” and “mercy” can be revealed. We see this behavior in human beings all the time: tears, apology and self-castigation not only stop the anger or displeasure, they evoke a tenderness and openness that should sensibly only be evoked by right conduct. So in evil religion (for ignorance is evil), despite the assurance that virtue is rewarded, we see that sin and repentance are rewarded and the sinner assured of salvation. Such a religion becomes a living hell populated and promoted by living demons.

I expect that just about everyone reading these words are congratulating themselves on having gotten out of or avoided such religion. Ah, the sane wisdom of the East. Really? Do we not see that “good karma” and “bad karma” are bugaboos just as much desired and feared as any heaven or hell proffered by Western religion? I knew a man that had a metaphysical bookstore. Shoplifting was a real problem. Now, if he had put a sign on the door so the departing malefactors would have read something like: “Thou shalt not steal,” or “The soul that sinneth it shall die,” or ““Know thou that God will bring thee into judgment,” it would have had no result–perhaps even the opposite. For after all, were not his customers “beyond all that” Judeo-Christian negativity? Indeed they were! So he did this. He put a sign on the door for all to see as they departed saying: “Shoplifting is Bad Karma.” Nearly every day that sign stopped at least one person. Most sheepishly shuffled back to the shelf and sneaked the book back. Some actually came to the owner and gave him the book along with an apology. Why? Had he evoked their higher moral sensibilities? Not a bit. They had traded fear of sin and hell for fear of bad karma and retribution–maybe even a bad rebirth. The ego was still in the driver’s seat, and quite liable to stay there for a long time. Karma may be more “scientific” a concept than sin, punishment, and hell, but the fear engendered is just as egoic, and therefore just as negative and ultimately ignorant.

Nachiketa had a clear vision of things. The problem was not tears or smiles, but the LAW of cause and effect, the truth that for every action there is an equal responsive reaction. Reactivity, inner and outer, is also inherent in relative–dual–consciousness. But Nachiketa did not just want to get away from the noise and damp of the ocean of samsara, he wanted to get away from the ocean itself. A jail cell may be miserable or luxurious, but it is still a prison. Nachiketa aspired to freedom. He wished to attain that which was beyond cause and effect, not just a means of avoiding them. This is one of the reasons why religion is usually so pointless: it attempts to make the fire stop burning rather than showing the way out of the conflagration. It seeks to make bondage palatable, pleasing to both the egocentric deity and the egocentric devotee. A confederacy of dunces, indeed.

Beyond past, present, and future

My first reading of the Bhagavad Gita revealed to me something I had intuited all my life: the fundamental truth that space and time are utter illusions, basic delusions of human consciousness. What a relief! So when in three or four days I heard one of the most intelligent of my university professors remark that time and space were the two fundamental realities, you can imagine how much I appreciated the Gita for clearing that nonsense up for me. (I appreciated myself, too, for being so clever as to understand it.)

The time-space continuum is a torment to the awakened consciousness, for it is the basis for the existence of cause and effect and therefore of right and wrong. It is impermanence itself, the root cause of all suffering, fear, anxiety, and instability. Since we have been immersed in relativity for creation cycles beyond number, we find ourselves in a present whose vast roots are thoroughly unknown, and whose effects will create an unknown future that will be a fusion of the past and the “present present.” Uncertainty and confusion are the results of even a small attempt to make sense of the whole thing. And the idea of controlling any aspect is simply beyond our imagination. We are drowning in a shoreless ocean. But we do not just drown once and have it over with. We drown daily–every moment, actually. Only the stupid or the willfully ignorant do not see this. How can we blame those who take refuge in illusion, whatever the form? They do not need an analysis or judgment of their predicament; they need a way out. Nachiketa is asking for that, not for more philosophy or exposition of the problem.

Transcendent being

There is not a “place” beyond right and wrong, beyond cause and effect, beyond past, present, and future, but a state of being that transcends them. Nachiketa sought to become an altogether different order of being, to enter into the state of Brahman Itself. Knowing this to be so, Yama does not hesitate, but literally spells it out. He begins:

“Of that goal which all the Vedas declare, which is implicit in all penances, and in pursuit of which men lead lives of continence and service, of that will I briefly speak.”

Goal

That which Nachiketa seeks is not an abstraction but a positive reality known to Yama. Perhaps the most heartening thing that can be said about That Which Is is the fact that it is The Goal. Its attainment is not only possible, it is inevitable. The entire field of relative existence, however much we have damaged or corrupted it, and it in turn has damaged or corrupted us, has a single purpose: the attainment of Brahman and the consequent liberation of the questing spirit (atman). This is what everything is all about. So no wonder we have made such a mess of things–literally. Not knowing either their or our purpose, what else could be the result? We are like the character in the Woody Allen movie that tried to play the cello by blowing through the holes. Ignorance is the root of all the trouble.

“Shake off this fever of ignorance. Stop hoping for worldly rewards. Fix your mind on the Atman. Be free from the sense of ego,” counsels Krishna. “You dream you are the doer, you dream that action is done, you dream that action bears fruit. It is your ignorance, it is the world’s delusion that gives you these dreams.” “Seek this knowledge and comprehend clearly why you should seek it: such, it is said, are the roots of true wisdom: ignorance, merely, is all that denies them.” “When men have thrown off their ignorance, they are free from pride and delusion. They have conquered the evil of worldly attachment. They live in constant union with the Atman. All craving has left them. They are no longer at the mercy of opposing sense-reactions. Thus they reach that state which is beyond all change.”

Vedas

By “vedas” Yama means the teachings of illumined sages regarding the nature of Brahman and the way to conscious union with Brahman. For “veda” means knowledge or wisdom. Although that word has come to be used only in the sense of the ancient Sanskrit hymns found in the Rig, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva Vedas, they are not meant here. At the time of Nachiketa the vedas were the orally transmitted wisdom of the Vedic Rishis that only later were written down as the upanishads. In a broader sense, the vedas are the words of any enlightened person about the nature of God and the realization of God. Books of speculative philosophy mean nothing to our search for Divine Consciousness. Only the teachings of those who have themselves reached the Goal are relevant and worthy of our attention.

Implicit in all penances

The word rather poorly translated here as “penances” is tapasya. Literally it means the generation of heat or energy, but is always used in a symbolic manner, referring to spiritual practice and its effect, especially the roasting of karmic seeds, the burning up of karma. Tapasya means a practical–i.e., result-producing–spiritual discipline which culminates in spiritual evolution and enlightenment.

The important idea in Yama’s words are that our spiritual practice must be congruent with the nature of God. Though tapasya implies a discipline, it cannot just be some type of militaristic coercion or “mortification” of the body and mind that are often nothing more than an expression of self-loathing. The religions of the world abound in admiration for those who torture the body and mind, attaining abnormal psychic states foolishly mistaken for spiritual attainment. But according to Yama, the Goal must be implicit in all disciplines. That is, the disciplines themselves must embody the nature of God– and our own selves, as well. A person unfamiliar with spiritual truth should be able through analysis of authentic practice to actually come to understand the truth regarding the nature of both the seeker and the Goal. If a spiritual practice cannot impart this knowledge by its very mechanics, then it is invalid and cannot possibly lead to the Goal. For this is a very valuable fact: only that practice which from the very first moment puts us in touch with God and begins to reveal our true nature is genuine yoga. All else is illusion. That is why Krishna says: “What is man’s will and how shall he use it? Let him put forth its power to uncover the Atman, not hide the Atman: man’s will is the only friend of the Atman: his will is also the Atman’s enemy.” The plain truth is that putting the force of the will into erroneous practices will hide the Truth from us even more, whereas applying the will in correct practice will reveal Divinity to us. For Divinity is inherent in true yoga.

In pursuit of which…

The upanishads teach us the truth of the unity of the atman and Brahman. Therefore that truth is known as advaita, “not two,” meaning that there is no separation of the atman and Brahman at any time. Simplistic thinkers, especially in the West, immediately begin to decry the idea of tapasya, yoga, or any other discipline, insisting very shrilly that there is no need for such, that to engage in spiritual practice is to affirm a delusion of separation between us and God. They usually end up denying that either we or God even exist, advocating a kind of petulant, bullying nihilism, reminding any sensible person of Krishna’s indictment: “These malignant creatures are full of egoism, vanity, lust, wrath, and consciousness of power. They loathe me, and deny my presence both in themselves and in others. They are enemies of all men and of myself.” Drastic words, these, but they address a drastic mental and spiritual aberration. Read the entire sixteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita for a full outline of such kinds of people. This is but one of the reasons why a continual study of the Gita is necessary for those who do not wish to go (or be led) astray in their spiritual pursuit. No student of the Gita could ever fall into such absurd pitfalls as these “advaitans” whose only unity is their absorption in the illusion of the ego.

The truth is that the realization of God not only can but must be pursued. We do not pursue God, understand, for God is everywhere and always one with us. Rather, we pursue the revelation of that eternal oneness and its manifestation on all levels of our present existence. Regarding this, a yogi-adept of the twentieth century, Dr. I. K. Taimni, remarked in his book The Science of Yoga: “According to the yogic philosophy it is possible to rise completely above the illusions and miseries of life and to gain infinite knowledge, bliss, and power through enlightenment here and now while we are still living in the physical body. And if we do not attain this enlightenment while we are still alive we will have to come back again and again into this world until we have accomplished this appointed task. So it is not a question of choosing the path of yoga or rejecting it. It is a question of choosing it now or in some future life. It is a question of gaining enlightenment as soon as possible and avoiding the suffering in the future or postponing the effort and going through further suffering which is unnecessary and avoidable. This is the meaning of Yoga Sutra 2:16: ‘The misery which is not yet come can and is to be avoided.’ No vague promise of an uncertain postmortem happiness this, but a definite scientific assertion of a fact verified by the experience of innumerable yogis, saints, and sages who have trodden the path of yoga throughout the ages.”

It is absolutely sure: “Seek, and ye shall find.”

Brahmacharya

Brahmacharyam is the word Swami Prabhavananda translates as “lives of continence and service.” Radhakrishnan renders it “the life of a religious student,” and Swami Sivananda: “life of a brahmacharin.” In India the first stage of life is that of a student, a brahmachari. The brahmacharistudent leads a life of discipline, the core of which is sexual continence–a concept utterly lacking in other cultures as their present disintegration reveals. He also serves his teacher in a practical way, for the ideal environment of the brahmacharya ashram is rural, a forest setting being the ideal. At the time the upanishads were first spoken, all Aryas lived in the forests, living an agrarian life of the utmost simplicity. The students of a teacher helped out in the day-to-day routine required by such a lifestyle.

But Yama is not confining brahmacharya to the student’s stage of life, and in “modern times,” whatever the age or outer circumstances of the seeker, it would consist of both self control (abstinence) and practical positive action, including selfless service.

I once saw a cartoon in which a drunk was lying in a gutter and asking a Salvation Army woman: “Can you save me here, or do I have to go somewhere?” Obviously, being “saved” did not interest him very much. But those who are truly interested say with the Prodigal Son: “I will arise and go.” And they do. Living a life of purity and discipline is the way they rise and go.

Briefly speak.

It is most significant that Yama says he will briefly speak of the Goal. Why is this? Because the Goal is Brahman, and Brahman can only be spoken of very briefly. This is because Brahman is exceedingly simple, in fact the only really simple (incomplex) “thing” there is. Also, the intellect can only grasp the tiniest bit of the truth about Brahman, so not only can little be said, little can be understood. In a way this makes it very easy for us. Here is how the Gita teaches us about Brahman:

“Now I shall describe That which has to be known, in order that its knower may gain immortality. That Brahman is beginningless, transcendent, eternal. He is said to be equally beyond what is, and what is not.” “Light of all lights, He abides beyond our ignorant darkness; Knowledge, the one thing real we may study or know, the heart’s dweller.”

But Nachiketa does not want to know about Brahman, he wants to know Brahman. With this in mind, Yama reveals both Brahman and the way to Brahman–for they are the same–by saying:

“It is–OM.”

You cannot be briefer than that. Nor do you need to be. Yama has said it all, for Om is the embodiment of The All.

He has, as I say, said it all, but Yama continues with a brief exposition of the nature of Om.

Om is Supreme Brahman

“This syllable is Brahman. This syllable is indeed supreme. He who knows it obtains his desire.”

Om is Brahman. It is not a symbol of Brahman, It IS Brahman. Om is not even a word–It is the very presence of Brahman. “Om is not counted among words,” said Sri Ramakrishna. “It is not a word, it is God Himself,” said Swami Vivekananda. This assertion is borne out by the fact that in Sanskrit Om is not treated as a word–that is, It does not go through any changes in form according to its grammatical position or status. It has no plural, possessive, subjective, objective, or adjectival forms. It is always just “Om” and nothing else.

, which contains under many headings the scriptural statements on Om.

Obviously Om is supreme, being Itself the Supreme. But Yama has made this seemingly obvious comment to convey the fact that Om is the supreme means to the realization of the Supreme. There is nothing higher than Om, nor is there any means of spiritual cultivation higher than Om. That is why Patanjali simply said: “Its repetition and meditation is the way.”

Yama then tells Nachiketa that he who knows Om obtains whatever he desires. Many upanishads state that Om encompasses all existence and therefore literally is all things, that all things are formed of Om just as all clay pots are made of the single substance, clay. Since all things are contained in Om, it can only follow that he who truly knows Om by uniting his consciousness with It through Its japa and meditation shall attain all that he desires as a matter of course. Such a wise one, will of course desire only That which fulfills all desire: Brahman. Commenting on this very verse, Swami Vivekananda said: “Ay, therefore first know the secret of this Om, that you are the Om….” Om is the ending of all desire by being the fulfillment of all desire.

The strongest and the highest

“It is the strongest support. It is the highest symbol. He who knows it is reverenced as a knower of Brahman.” The need for security is fundamental to human existence. This is especially true in relation to spiritual life. Even a little observation reveals how incredibly fragile spiritual consciousness and spiritual activity is in human life, for everything militates against it and overwhelms it. Observing this, Jesus’ disciples asked him: “Lord, are there few that be saved?” And he assured them that indeed few manage to be saved. The New Testament Greek word translated “saved” is sodzo, which means to be safe in the sense of delivered from danger or harm. It also means to be healed and become whole. Salvation in the view of Jesus and his disciples was not having sins forgiven and allowed into heaven, but was the same as the upanishadic sages: Liberation (Moksha). All shall eventually attain liberation, but only a few at a time do so. Not because it is so difficult, but that so few even conceive of it, and even fewer persevere in the pursuit of it. Jesus quoted the Gita in his discourses and was certainly familiar with Krishna’s words to Arjuna: “Who cares to seek for that perfect freedom? One man, perhaps, in many thousands. Then tell me how many of those who seek freedom shall know the total truth of my being? Perhaps one only.”

With this perspective, Yama tells Nachiketa that Om is the strongest and highest support. Swami Pabhavananda translated alambana the second time as “symbol” no doubt thinking of Om as an object of meditation. Although its supporting power is most important in relation to spiritual life and practice, Yama makes no such explicit qualification, so we can be sure that Om is the empowerment and support of everything positive in our life. This, too, is asserted many times in the upanishads.

Knower of Om–knower of Brahman.

“He who knows It is reverenced as a knower of Brahman.” Some translators render this: “He who knows It is revered in the world of Brahman.” For a knower of Om is translated into that world, having been transmuted into Brahman through Om. It is no wonder, then, that the Mundaka Upanishad says about Om: “Dismiss other utterances. This is the bridge to immortality.”

Om is our self (atman)

How can Om have such an incredible effect upon us? Because we are Om. It is our own self (atman).

“The Self, whose symbol is OM, is the omniscient Lord. He is not born. He does not die. He is neither cause nor effect. This Ancient One is unborn, imperishable, eternal: though the body be destroyed, he is not killed.”

If Brahman was not at the core of our being, as the core of our being, we could not possibly become one with Brahman. All talk of “becoming” is of course not really accurate if we think of it as becoming something we are not. Rather, it is the becoming aware of, becoming established in, our eternal unity with Brahman. Some years ago, workers in a Burmese temple were moving a huge plaster image of Buddha with heavy equipment. Something went wrong and the image was dropped. To their astonishment the plaster, which was only a layer a few inches thick, broke and fell off, revealing that the image was solid gold! Centuries before it had been covered with plaster to protect it from thieves. Today it is considered the single most valuable image of Buddha in the world. We are like that. A layer of relative existence has been plastered onto our consciousness for so long that we think we are the plaster. When the plaster was broken the image was revealed to be gold, and when our “plaster” is broken we shall be revealed as parts of Brahman, waves of the One Ocean of Being.

We shall then know that we are not born, we do not die, we are neither cause nor effect; we are unborn, imperishable, eternal, unaffected by any conditions of the body whatsoever. For as Shankara sang:

I am not the mind, intellect, thought, or ego; Not hearing, not tasting, not smelling, not seeing; I am not the elements–ether, earth, fire, air: I am the form of Conscious Bliss: I am Spirit!

I am neither Prana, nor the five vital airs; Nor the seven components of the gross body; Nor the subtle bodies; nor organs of action: I am the form of Conscious Bliss: I am Spirit!

I have no aversion, clinging, greed, delusion; No envy or pride, and no duty or purpose; I have no desire, and I have no freedom: I am the form of Conscious Bliss: I am Spirit!

I have no merit or sin, nor pleasure or pain; No mantra, pilgrimage, Veda or sacrifice; Not enjoying, enjoyable, or enjoyer: I am the form of Conscious Bliss: I am Spirit!

I have no death or fear, no distinction of caste; Neither father, nor mother, nor do I have birth; No friend or relation, guru or disciple: I am the form of Conscious Bliss: I am Spirit!

I am without attributes; I am without form; I am all-pervading, I am omnipresent; By senses untouched, neither free, nor knowable: I am the form of Conscious Bliss: I am Spirit!

We do not really need to become immortal and eternal, for we are that already. Instead we need to get beyond the illusory consciousness of birth and death, cause and effect, and the entire range of relative existence. The japa and meditation of Om is the Way.

The Immortal Self

Yama has just told Nachiketa that “though the body be destroyed, he [the Self] is not killed.” Then he continues: “If the slayer think that he slays, if the slain think that he is slain, neither of them knows the truth. The Self slays not, nor is he slain.” Before considering this upanishadic passage, here is what the Bhagavad Gita, the great digest of the upanishads, has to say about this:

“Bodies are said to die, but That which possesses the body is eternal. It cannot be limited, or destroyed. …Some say this Atman is slain, and others call It the slayer: they know nothing. How can It slay or who shall slay It? Know this Atman unborn, undying, never ceasing, never beginning, deathless, birthless, unchanging for ever. How can It die the death of the body? Knowing It birthless, knowing It deathless, knowing It endless, for ever unchanging, dream not you do the deed of the killer….”

Dreaming–that is the key. God is dreaming the entire drama of the cosmos, but he knows it and controls the dream. We, too, are dreaming the drama of our life, so Krishna tells us: “You dream you are the doer, you dream that action is done, you dream that action bears fruit. It is your ignorance, it is the world’s delusion that gives you these dreams.” The richest people in the world, if they dream they are penniless, suffer the frustration and fear of poverty just as keenly as do those who really are paupers. When they awake, the mental pain disperses, but it was no less real.

This is something we often miss when we subscribe to the theory of Maya. The experiences, such as birth, death, and disease, may be illusion, but the suffering they produce is not. It is real. The grief we feel at the death of a loved one is real, even if the death is not. That is why the Sankhya Karika, the basic text of the Sankhya philosophy upon which the Yoga philosophy is based, opens with a discussion of suffering as our problem. Certainly, illusion should be dispelled, but that will not take care of the deeper problem: our capacity for suffering. It is foolish and callous to bully those who suffer by expounding on the unreality of that to which they are reacting. For there is no thing or situation which can make us suffer. Suffering is our reaction to those things. When we reach the state where we no longer react–for pleasure is as destructive as pain–then we will be free.

Patanjali’s dictum that yoga is the cessation of modifications of the chitta does not refer at all to restless thoughts in the superficial mind. He is speaking of the capacity for any kind of reactivity to outer stimuli. It is when we are unreacting and resting in our true self that we are in the state of Yoga. To merely fiddle around with the shallow thinking mind, believing that calming it makes us yogis, is deluding ourselves. Our problem is far, far greater and deeper than jittery thoughts. It is the capacity for suffering and for being deluded. To be awake in the fullest sense is to be incapable of sleep and dream. (I am speaking metaphysically.) All the philosophy and analysis in the world will not help us. We need to awaken forever. That is what real yoga is all about.

Slayer and slain are roles in the dream-drama of the evolving consciousness. If we know–not just suppose or believe–this, then nothing can move us from the state of peace that is a quality of our true self. Fortunately for us all, the cliche about “There is naught but thinking makes it so,” is bunkum, another Western “truth” that mercifully is false.

The body can be slain and can be a slayer. Being part of the dream, it really acts and is acted upon in the dream context. The dreamer, however is not part of the dream, even when it projects an image of itself into the dream and slays or is slain. Nothing external can affect or change the internal reality. Again, awakening is the only solution, and we should accept nothing less. Any view other than this which Yama presents to Nachiketa is but the blind leading the blind.

A great flaw in the thinking of most of us is only accepting half of this great truth. We easily affirm our immortality, saying: “I can never die,” and thus reject the idea that we can be slain. Yet we accept the concept that we can be slayers, and make a great to-do about “sin” and “karma.” Is not that so? Because we want to control the behavior of others by promising rewards and threatening punishments, we have literally bought into this delusion and traded on it for life after life, fooling even ourselves. Though we find the truth in the upanishads or the Gita, we still keep on worrying about purifying ourselves and clearing out our karma. Half-deluded, we stumble on, distracting ourselves from the real goal, sinking deeper into the morass. Consider the lives of saints. So many of them have been great sinners, even murderers, or incredibly ignorant, and yet we see them either instantly entering into the state of holiness or rocketing to it in a short time. The reason is simple: they had never committed a sin in their eternal lives. Like David, they awoke and found themselves with God.

The Indwelling Self

“Smaller than the smallest, greater than the greatest, this Self forever dwells within the hearts of all. When a man is free from desire, his mind and senses purified, he beholds the glory of the Self and is without sorrow.” So Yama now tells Nachiketa.

Smaller than the smallest, greater than the greatest

We tend to think of infinity as boundlessly large, when in actuality that which is infinite transcends space and can therefore not be measured in any manner. It cannot be small or large. Which is why there is no thing too small or to great for God to be involved with. The Self, being a part of God, is likewise beyond measurement. It is neither small nor large, gross nor subtle. In fact, the Self is simply beyond description. We can only talk around it, not really express its mystery.

This Self forever dwells within the hearts of all

However, there are some things that can be said about the presence of the Self, therefore Yama does tell Nachiketa that “this Self forever dwells within the hearts of all.”

The Self is eternal. It has no beginning and it can never have an end. Whatever it is, it has been forever. What it is not, it shall never be. We say this glibly, but usually do not believe, and rarely manifest it. Nevertheless, it is bedrock truth.

The Self, being beyond time and space, cannot possibly be anywhere. Yet we readily say that it is within. This is as close to the truth about the Self as we can get. At the core of all things, having itself neither periphery or core, is the unchanging Self. It “dwells” in the sense that it abides, yet the Self does not at all “exist” in the way we understand existence, which is completely relative. The Self is absolute, and relativity can never affect or touch it.

The Self abides in the hearts of all. But what is the “heart”? Guha means both cave and heart, but it also means to be “in a secret place.” Within the inmost heart of all things is that which transcends even “inmost.” That is the Self. And there is no thing whatsoever that does not have the Self as its eternal, unchanging indweller. The Self can be within all as their essential being only if the Self is all. This is the Great Revelation. All that we see around us is resting upon the Self as the substratum. All that we “see” objectively is Maya, illusion. That which we cannot see, but which we can “be” is the Self, the all-pervading subject.

This all sounds wonderful, but what possible meaning can it have if we do not experience this glorious truth for ourselves? Nothing, obviously. So Yama proceeds to tell Nachiketa how the Self can be realized.

When a man is free from desire

To be truly free from desire is to be incapable of desire. To not be desiring anything at the moment is not what is spoken of here. We mistakenly think that if we can become indifferent to all things and want nothing we will be free from desire. But we will still be in the condition where desire is possible– even if it be in the future–or even a future life.

To desire something we have to feel inadequate, but even more fundamentally, we have to have objective consciousness and a belief in the reality of the objects perceived, and a belief that in some way we can enter into relation with those objects, that we can affect them and they can affect us. What a heap of delusions! Desire is only a symptom of profound ignorance and delusion. In itself it is no more the problem than red blotches on the skin are the disease we call measles. (See? We even name a disease as the symptoms.) However, true desirelessness–and that is what Yama is speaking about–is the state of the liberated, those who know the Self.

His mind and senses purified

A few years ago a valuable book was published by the Sri Ramakrishna Math in Madras: a translation of the Sankhya Karika by Swami Virupakshananda. In the Publisher’s Note we find this: “Vedanta takes off to ethereal heights only from the granite platform provided by Sankhya.…Not only Vedanta, but also modern science, cannot be understood in all their nuances without a firm grasp of the Sankhyan tenets.” And the translator writes: “Of all the philosophical systems, the Sankhya philosophy is considered to be the most ancient school of thought. Sankhya philosophy maintains a prominent place in all the shastras…. In the Mahabharata it is said that there is no knowledge such as Sankhya and no power like that of Yoga. [On which Sankhya is based.] We should have no doubt as to Sankhya being the highest knowledge. (Shantiparva 316-2).” Later he outlines how the Sankhya philosophy is presented in the Chandogya, Katha, and Svetasvatara upanishads particularly. And: “In the Mahabharata and Puranas we find the Sankhya Philosophy fully explained.” The second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita (part of the Mahabharata) is entitled Sankhya Yoga, and Krishna mentions Sankhya by name as the truth he is expounding.

I mention this because it is so common for students to approach the upanishads as exponents of the simplistic monism that is erroneously thought to be Advaita. With this distorted frame of reference the upanishadic teachings that are very obviously opposed to their opinion are ignored. But we cannot afford the luxury of wilful ignorance. Simply babbling that “It is all one” and “We are already there” accomplishes absolutely nothing. And besides, it is not true–in the simplistic sense they mean.

God, the Primal Purusha, is eternally associated with Prakriti (Pradhana) on the macrocosmic level, and continually projects and withdraws it as the ever-evolving creation. In the same way each individual purusha is eternally associated with prakriti on the microcosmic level and engages in a series of incarnations, evolving the personal prakriti to the point where it becomes a perfect mirror of the individual purusha and there is a practical separation between the two, just as on the cosmic level. Let us not forget: Patanjali defines yoga (liberation) as a condition of the chitta–of our personal prakriti–not a simple intellectual insight or “realization.”

The essence is this: Each one of us is evolving our own prakriti, just as God is evolving the universe. The difference is that God is not caught in the drama, and we are. Sankhya states that we must learn to separate our consciousness from its enmeshment in prakriti, but that is only the preparation. Then we must engage in the process of bringing our prakriti to a state of perfection in which it no longer produces waves, but becomes a permanently quiescent reflection of purusha–of our true Self, which Buddhism calls our Original Face.

That process is Yoga, and Yama has this in mind when he speaks of the seeker having “his mind and senses purified.” Merely reading a few books and hearing a few lectures on the nature of the Self will not do it. We must focus our attention on/in the energy fields we call “mind” and “senses” and completely repolarize and reconstruct them. “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,” wrote Saint Paul. Patanjali speaks of the process of kriya yoga, the yoga of purification, consisting of austerity (tapasya), self-study, and devoting the life to God. Yama, Saint Paul, Patanjali, and Krishna all tell us the same thing: “Become a yogi.”

He beholds the glory of the Self

The Self cannot be intellectually conceived or spoken about, but it can be seen–and thereby fully known–by the purified consciousness. And it is seen within the core of our being, within the cave of the heart. Caves are important symbols. Though they are to be found everywhere, we naturally think of yogis as dwelling in caves. Which they do, metaphorically. In the Gospels we see that Christ (Consciousness) is born in a cave and resurrects in a cave. It all takes place in the heart. Wherefore the wise Solomon said: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” The practice of yoga (mediation) is the keeping of the heart which transforms the yogi’s life.

It is said that Shiva sits immersed in samadhi, but occasionally awakens, arises, and dances in ecstasy, exclaiming over and over: “O! Who I am! Who I am!” The same wonder at the glory of the Self will be experienced by the persevering yogi.

And is without sorrow

How could there be sorrow or any slightest form of suffering or discontent for those who behold that glory and realize that they are themselves that glory? It can be said of such a one, as Arjuna said of Krishna: “You know yourself through yourself alone.” And as Krishna said of the perfected yogi: “To obey the Atman is his peaceful joy; sorrow melts into that clear peace: his quiet mind is soon established in peace.…Now that he holds it [the knowledge of the Self], he knows this treasure above all others: faith so certain shall never be shaken by heaviest sorrow.…Who knows the Atman knows that happiness born of pure knowledge: the joy of sattwa. Deep his delight after strict self-schooling: sour toil at first but at last what sweetness, the end of sorrow.”

The Omnipresent Self

“Though seated, he travels far; though at rest, he moves all things. Who but the purest of the pure can realize this Effulgent Being, who is joy and who is beyond joy.”

Yama continues instructing Nachiketa on the nature of the Self. Being a highly developed being, Nachiketa had doubtless intuited most of this already, but for us who were raised in the dry gulch of the West and its “religions” his words are profoundly stirring–astounding, actually. Who could believe that in this chaotic world there were ever–and still are–sages who by direct experience have seen and spoken these truths? We should analyze them carefully, not for mere philosophical exactitude, but for a good, joyful revel in knowing the facts at last.

Unmoving, he moves

Being rooted in Infinity and thereby beyond space, the Self can never “go” anywhere. When we speak of the atma descending into relative existence or coming into matter, we are only describing the mayic experience that is itself nothing more than a training movie. If we see a motion picture about Europe, we do not think we have actually been there–yet, we did see Europe. In the same way, under the spell of Maya we have all kinds of experiences, yet they are mere appearance only. “Appearance,” however is real, even if insubstantial. So we both are and are not here. I experience writing this, and you experience reading it. That is real. But the environment in which we live, including our bodies, is but the picture projected onto the formless screen of consciousness that is our Self.

So, going nowhere, the Self “goes” everywhere. Being no thing, the Self “becomes” all things. Doing nothing, the Self “does” everything. This is the way of it.

Unmoved, he is the mover

Nothing affects the Self, but the Self affects all situations and things. Sankhya philosophy postulates that although Prakriti never touches the Purusha, it is the proximity of the Purusha that causes Prakriti to move and manifest in manifold ways. In the West we find the expressions “uncaused Cause” and “unmoved Mover.” These apply to the individual Self as much as to God.

There is a very practical application of this fact. Being under the spell of Maya we think: “All this is happening to me. All this is being done to me.” But that is erroneous. We are making it all happen, we are “doing” it to ourselves. There are no victims. Everything proceeds from us. Consequently we can study our lives and determine what is going on in our inner mind (which is not the Self, either). Our lives and environment are mirror images, revealing our states of mind. Our life is an exercise in consciousness. There are computer games in which the images on the screen are actually manipulated by the player’s mind and will. That is but a feeble glimpse of the truth about our entire chain of births and deaths. That is also what karma is. “You dream you are the doer, you dream that action is done, you dream that action bears fruit. It is your ignorance, it is the world’s delusion that gives you these dreams.”

Who can know him?

We have a terrible conditioning. We believe that all knowledge must come from outside ourselves, that we are blanks that need to be written on. In contemporary America this is very marked. Everybody thinks they need to have classes or lessons on everything. Some years back a friend of our ashram pointed this out about horse-riding. She commented that everyone she knew took horse-riding lessons, in contrast to her children who just got up on a horse and rode. The she commented: “Everyone thinks they have to be taught to do anything, rather than learning on their own by experience.”

This spills over into our philosophical life, too. We think we are dummies that have to have every nuance, every subtle point, taught to us–and even worse, that they all have to be embodied in technical terms. It is only sensible to inquire about these things from those with more experience and knowledge than ourselves, but childish dependence is no wisdom at all. Dr. Spock began one of his books my telling new mothers that they knew much more about caring for babies than they thought they did, and to trust their inner feelings on the matter. This caused quite a stir. I was only a child at the time, and yet the ripples of consternation even reached me through a magazine review of his “revolutionary” book. We have no confidence, and spiritual laziness often compounds the problem.

For some reason Swami Prabhavanandaji gives us this translation: “Who but the purest of the pure can realize this Effulgent Being.” That is so lofty, so noble, that frankly it paralyzes our aspiration completely. “I am not ‘the purest of the pure,’ so how can I know the Self? I will have to ask others to give me hints about it.” But that is very mistaken. The actual upanishadic question is: “Who else but myself can know that radiant one [devam],” the Self? This is not just an inspiring thought, it is perfect good sense. Being the Self, who else but I can know my Self? Others may see the divine in me, but I alone can know the divine in me.

In the Chandogya Upanishad we have the thrilling story of Uddalaka instructing Svetaketu on the nature of the Self, saying to him over and over: “Thou art That.” But however stirring that account may be, Uddalaka is only telling him about the Self. It is up to Svetaketu to know the Self. Someone can bring us strawberries, show them to us, and even put them in our mouths, but we alone can know their taste–no one can taste them for us. In the same way, millions may tell us about our Self, but we alone can really know It. It begins and ends with us. Self-knowledge is the most natural thing for us all. We are working very hard to produce and maintain the unnatural state of not knowing the Self. Once we get sensible and literally “wise up” things will change.

Joy and beyond

The self is “this Effulgent Being, who is joy and who is beyond joy.” We are ourselves devas–gods. There is no happiness or joy anywhere but in ourselves, for we are not happy or joyful by nature, we ARE happiness and joy. The idea is that joy is the permanent, eternal, condition of our true Self. The word translated “joy” in this verse is mada, which means delight, intoxication, and exhilaration. To delight in our Self is the ultimate enjoyment. In the last essay I mentioned that it is said that Shiva sits immersed in samadhi, but occasionally awakens, arises, and dances in ecstasy, exclaiming over and over: “O! Who I am! Who I am!” This is delight in the self.

Yet, Yama says that the Self “rejoices and rejoices not.” He is trying to convey that the delight in the Self is not delight in an object, but is totally subjective and inward-turned. This is very important, for as the yogi develops through his sadhana, his prakriti-nature begins to reflect his inner joy more and more, and he can start delighting in the delight-reflection rather than in the real thing, and come to the conclusion that he has already attained the state Yama is speaking about. This is the state of shuddhasattwa, of extreme purity of the chitta, the mind-substance of the yogi. If he is not careful, he will mistake the mirror image for his true “face” and believe he has attained what still lies before him. Innumerable are the yogis who have been deluded in this way and become trapped in the subtlest reaches of Maya. That is why Lord Krishna said: “How hard to break through is this, my Maya, made of the gunas!” For to delight in the mere picture of the joy that is the Self is to still be trapped in objective, outward-turned consciousness. As Krishna further tells us: “Only that yogi whose joy is inward, inward his peace, and his vision inward shall come to Brahman and know nirvana.

How do we avoid mistaking the image for the reality? By continuing to practice meditation and other spiritual disciplines until the moment the body drops off! A sure sign of a deluded individual is the belief that he has gone beyond the need for meditation and other spiritual practices. “Baba no longer needs to meditate.” “Baba has transcended these things long ago.” “Baba is always in That, so such things are unnecessary for him.” (You can put “Ma” in place of “Baba” if need be.) But what about Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi? Yes. What about it?

A very famous Indian guru of the twentieth century believed that he had attained sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi, so he announced that he no longer needed to meditate, since there was nothing more it could do for him. While his disciples meditated, he stayed in his room and fiddled around with this and that. After some years he was visited by two Americans who thought of themselves as big guns on the American spiritual scene. Not wanting to scandalize them by messing about while everyone else in the ashram meditated, Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi Baba started attending the meditation sessions and meditating also. After a few days he remarked in wonder to a group of disciples that he could perceive a very marked improvement in his mind and consciousness since starting to meditate daily, and expressed wonder and puzzlement over how that could be. Unfortunately, no one had either the good sense or the courage to tell him, so when the American biggies left, SNSB went back to fooling around in his room during the meditation periods.

Consider the perfect life of Gautama Buddha. To the last moment of his life he lived like a normal monk. He was eighty years of age, yet he went forth and begged for his food every day–no one brought specially-prepared goodies for him. He lived outdoors, under a tree, not in a special “retreat” designed by a renowned architect-disciple. He dressed in the simple, minimal clothing of a monk, not in some expensive rigs donated by disciples to express their “devotion.” He walked everywhere he went. He did not ride in some cart or chariot provided by a rich patron out of consideration for his age. And here is the most important point of all: He meditated for hours a day, even withdrawing for weeks and months at a time to engage in even more intense meditation. He never relaxed his disciplines for an hour, much less a day. In this way he showed us how to not fall into delusion: keep on till the end, until the Self is truly known. And then keep on until death says: The End.

The Sorrowless Self

“Formless is he, though inhabiting form. In the midst of the fleeting he abides forever. All-pervading and supreme is the Self. The wise man, knowing him in his true nature, transcends all grief.

Yama continues to instruct us regarding the nature of the Self, using the most simple words yet with the most profound meanings.

Formless is he, though inhabiting form

Ashariram sharireshu–the bodiless within bodies–such is the Self. Though ever without a “body” or adjunct in any form (as far as its true nature is concerned), yet all bodies are inhabited by the Self. There is no form in which the Self, the Formless, does not dwell. Who can number the forms in which we have manifested from the beginning of our evolutionary peregrinations in relativity, yet we have slipped away from each embodiment as bodiless as we were from the first. Being one with Brahman, it can be said of the Self as well as of Brahman:

Everywhere are His hands, eyes, feet; His heads and His faces:

This whole world is His ear; He exists, encompassing all things;

Doing the tasks of each sense, yet Himself devoid of the senses:

Standing apart, He sustains: He is free from the gunas but feels them.

He is within and without: He lives in the live and the lifeless:

Subtle beyond mind’s grasp; so near us, so utterly distant:

Undivided, He seems to divide into objects and creatures;

Sending creation forth from Himself, He upholds and withdraws it;

Light of all lights, He abides beyond our ignorant darkness;

>Knowledge, the one thing real we may study or know, the heart’s dweller.

In the midst of the fleeting he abides forever

Anavastheshv’ avasthitam–the stable among the unstable, the unchanging among the ever-changing–so is the Self. For aeons we are entertained with the ever-shifting kaleidoscope of Maya’s web. Finally we are no longer entertained by it, but wearied. Yet we find ourselves addicted to it. Only in the beginning do addicts love their addiction. In time they come to loathe it, yet refuse to even hear of ridding themselves of it. And then at last they see themselves as slaves, hating their bondage but incapable of shedding it. Yet we are ever free.

People bound by various addictions, including alcohol and drugs, would come to Sri Ramakrishna and plead for help. Often he would just touch them, and their enslavement would be gone forever. Learning of this, we naturally glorify Sri Ramakrishna for his power of merciful deliverance, but we must not overlook the great truth it demonstrates: It was the nature of those people to be free. Otherwise he could not have freed them.

If we would seek freedom, then, we must seek it only in the Self. And the Self being within, we must seek within. For “Without meditation, where is peace? Without peace, where is happiness?”

All-pervading

Time and space being mirages, the Self is everywhere. Infinity is not “bigness” so big it cannot be calculated, it is beyond measuring because it transcends the modes of measurable being. It is simply another mode of existence altogether. The truth is, the atman, like the Paramatman is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. (This latter is easy, since the Self never “does” anything.) So there is no place where the Self is not present. It goes everywhere without moving.

Supreme

The Self is supreme, but not in the sense of earthly entities. It is all-embracing. Not only is there nothing above it, there is nothing beneath it, for such states are not native–and therefore impossible–to it. But Maya is doing a superb job at convincing us otherwise and fooling us into thinking that the purpose of both material life and sadhana is to expand in the illusory realms of conditioned existence, to become large or small, to enter in or depart–none of which are even possible for the Self.

Simply hearing about the Self can make us more ignorant than we were before if we interpret the Self in terms of samsaric delusion.

The wise

The wise are those who know the Self as it is. And that they have accomplished by shedding their association with the unreal and turning back to their own reality.

Transcend all grief

They transcend all grief by removing their center of awareness from the realm in which suffering is possible. Suffering being an illusion, they need only awaken from the dream and abide in the Real. This is not a negative state, for it is not just a removal of sorrow, but the entering into the bliss that is the nature of the Self.

Who Can Know the Self?

The sense of nonsense

I once read a long and rather tedious essay on Shakespeare’s policy of putting discomfiting truths into the mouths of fools so people could scorn them and not get upset with him for unmasking their folly. It often happens that what people hope is “just fun” or “nonsense” is really insightful commentary on their foibles. The happens very often in poetry, for everybody knows we need not take poetry seriously.

Edward Lear, who protected himself by first claiming that he wrote “nonsense verse,” made some profound observations on life. Some of his limericks have a lot to say about how life should be lived. One of his wisest works was a poem entitled “The Jumblies,” in which he tells us at the end of every verse:

Far and few, far and few, Are the lands where the Jumblies live;

Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,

And they went to sea in a Sieve.

These exotic people, went to sea in a sieve. Everyone else said they would drown, considering that a sieve is more holes than anything else. Some even told them that though they might manage, it would be a wrong thing to do. But they did it anyway–excellently and to great profit. Upon their return, all the nay-sayers announced that they, too would go to sea in a sieve. But Lear assures us still that “Far and few, far and few, are the lands where the Jumblies live.” No; everyone will not be going to sea in a sieve. Just the far and few Jumblies.

The requirements

Perhaps Lear, as he wrote the poem, thought of the following from the Gospel of Saint Luke: “Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” This is not a statement of pessimism, but of simple fact. All manage in time, but in dribbles.

Yama has been very encouraging in his exposition of the Self, but now having told of its wonder he enters upon the subject of what is required to know the Self. Actually, the “price” he presents to us is quite simple and direct. If we are interested, then the price is substantial but not impossible. If we are only window-shoppers, then the price seems unreasonable and beyond payment. Here it is in two verses:

“The Self is not known through study of the scriptures, nor through subtlety of the intellect, nor through much learning; but by him who longs for him is he known.’ Verily unto him does the Self reveal his true being.”

“By learning, a man cannot know him, if he desist not from evil, if he control not his senses, if he quiet not his mind, and practice not meditation.”

Not through study of the scriptures

I was fortunate some years back to live near an ideal Brahmin scholar, a professor of mathematics at a university. Together we formed a Hindu Parishad to help Indian residents stay focused on Sanatana Dharma while living in the West. At our first meeting several of us spoke. In his discourse, Sri Dwivedi spoke of the nature of true dharma as a way of life and not a system of abstract concepts. In contrast, the other religions of the world are all “people of The Book.” Their entire identity is taken up with following a Book and professing its teachings. As a consequence, he pointed out, they can all “dialogue” with even the Marxists, for they, too, are people of a Book. But what can they say to real dharma, which cannot be gotten out of a book? See how vast are the sacred writings of Sanatana Dharma, yet we know that they are of limited value once true wisdom is gained.

Reading the Bhagavad Gita opened to me a world I had never thought could exist. How many wonderful things I found therein! Many were amazing, not the least being the statement: “When the whole country is flooded, the reservoir becomes superfluous. So, to the illumined seer, the Vedas are all superfluous.” Here was a scripture that told me I should go beyond it and know for myself–and showed me the way to do that! Sri Ramakrishna often used the simile of a letter. Once you read it and know what it says, what more need do you have for it?

The self cannot be known through scriptural study, for Krishna tells us that “he who even wishes to know of yoga transcends the Vedic rites.” Books are nothing more than paper and ink. Obsession with them is detrimental, proving the truth of the statement that: “the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” We must get behind the words of even illumined masters and tap the Source of those words.

Sri Ramakrishna frequently pointed out that almanacs predict rainfall, but you cannot get a drop by squeezing them, however hard. In the same way, intense study of scriptures cannot give a drop of spiritual life, for no book can reveal That which lies beyond all we think or know.

Not through subtlety of the intellect

We cannot possibly figure out the nature of anything, much less the Self, by mere intellection. This is not the fault of the mind, any more than it is the fault of a blender that you cannot get television programs through it. There is absolutely no faculty which can perceive or reveal the Self. The Self alone knows Itself. As long as we attempt to perceive the Self through any intermediary, just so long shall we be frustrated–or worse, deluded. There is no instrument, however subtle, no capacity of the mind, however refined, that can reveal the Self. Yet, the purified intellect (buddhi) can intuit the presence of the Self and even some of its traits, and this is good, but this is not Self-knowledge. Many intelligent people with highly developed intellects mistake this intuition for direct experience and knowledge. This is a subtle trap we must avoid diligently. How could we know if we have fallen into the trap rather than risen into the Light? That, actually is easy to determine. If we can talk about what we perceive, and define it, then it is not the Self, but only our approximation. That which lies within the range of speech lies outside the Self. No matter how near we can come to the Self, it is not the same as knowing the Self. For when the Self is revealed, all “knowing” not only ceases, it becomes impossible.

Intelligence should not be confused with intellectuality. Intelligence is a help to the revelation of the Self, but intellectuality is an insurmountable hindrance. That is why Jesus said to God: “Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” To demonstrate this vividly, “Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Think how direct and uncomplicated a child’s mind usually is. Also, they are capable of intensely magical/mystical thought. How unquestioning they accept the idea of the miraculous, including the power of the individual–including themselves–to work marvels. How sad that they ever come to “know better” in a wrong way. A friend of mine was watching a television program in which a pianist seemed to be floating in the air and even turning over and over. “How do you suppose they do that?” she mused to herself aloud. Instantly her five-year-old said: “Easy! There’s a magician hidden in the piano.” And that is so true: there is a magical being hidden in each one of us known as the Self which can do–and does–all things.

Not through much learning

Vyasa was the greatest sage of post-Vedic India, codifier of the Vedas, commentator on the Yoga Sutras, author of the Mahabharata (which includes the Bhagavad Gita), and the Brahma Sutras (Vedanta Sutras). Vast as his writings were, hummed up everything that was taught by these holy books, saying:

I shall tell you in half a verse (sloka) what has been written in tens of millions of books:

Brahman is real. The world is unreal. The jiva [individual spirit] is none other than Brahman.

That is it. So when the future Swami Turiyananda told Sri Ramakrishna that he studied Vedanta for several hours a day, the great Master was astonished. Quoting the words of Vyasa, he asked: “How can you spend hours studying something so simple? What more is there to say?” Turiyananda got the idea behind the idea and himself became a knower of the Self.

All the learning in the world is futile in relation to the Self and Brahman, for they lie outside the scope of the intellect. The ear cannot hear color, the eye cannot smell fragrance. No thing can know the Self but the Self.

It can be done

Yama’s words of seeming negation are really quite positive, for he then tells Nachiketa: “But by him who longs for him is he known. Verily unto him does the Self reveal his true being.”

This is a remarkable statement. There are no tools or gimmicks that can mechanically lead us to the vision of the Self. Certainly there are methods that aid in our search–that is what yoga is all about. But it is a mistake to think that a technique can be applied like a crowbar to break open the inner treasury and loot the vault. (And this is the attitude of most “seekers.”) Methods, such as yoga (meditation), worship, and good deeds are necessary to successfully prosecute our quest for God. Their function is twofold: they prepare us–make us capable–for the attainment of self-knowledge, and they are manifestations–evidence, actually–of the genuineness of our aspiration. By engaging in them we live out our intention.

Ma Anandamayi continually assured people that the desire for the God was the way to God–everything else were aids or expressions, but it is our own divine self-will that accomplishes our liberation. This is very important to understand.

It is commonly said that all religions are valid, that they all led to the same goal. That is true to some degree, but it leaves out the real fact: it is the seeking that brings about the finding. Frankly, it is the seekers who validate the religions, not the other way around. People finding God in all religions is not a statement about the worth of those religions, but a statement about the worth of those people. Sri Ramakrishna attained God-vision through the various religions he practiced and thereby demonstrated their viability as spiritual paths. But he also revealed that it is the nature of the individual to attain that vision whatever the path that is followed. For without that innate capacity what value would the religions have? The jivatman by its nature can know the Paramatman. As the Psalmist said: “Deep calleth unto deep.” Like attracts like; it really does take one to know one.

Swami Prabhavananda notes that an alternate translation can be: “Whom the Self chooses, by him is he attained.” In India they have the saying: “He who chooses God has first been chosen by Him.” Jesus told his disciples: “ Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” The very fact that we are seeking God is guarantee of our finding, for it is an indication that He has called us. And He does not call in vain. Nor do we seek in vain. “Verily unto him does the Self reveal his true being.”

Yet there are obstacles to knowing the Self: “By learning, a man cannot know him, if he desist not from evil, if he control not his senses, if he quiet not his mind, and practice not meditation.”

Learning

Yama lists mere intellectual study, the heaping up of extraneous “knowledge” which by its character is external and superficial as an obstacle–not so much in itself, but by the illusion of knowledge that arises in the self-satisfied mind of the “knower.” Yama’s assertion shows how mistaken it is to translate swadhyaya (self-study) as “study of scriptures” when we encounter it in the Yoga Sutras.

The Kena Upanishad examines this matter, saying: “He by whom Brahman is not known, knows It; he by whom It is known, knows It not. It is not known by those who know It; It is known by those who do not know It.” Obviously the word “know” has two meanings here. One is the mere intellection about Brahman, the other is knowledge derived from the direct experience of Brahman, from conscious union with Brahman. There is a knowing that is unknowing and an unknowing that is knowing. That is why Swami Prabhavananda renders the Kena verse: “He truly knows Brahman who knows him as beyond knowledge; he who thinks that he knows, knows not. The ignorant think that Brahman is known, but the wise know him to be beyond knowledge.”

Persisting in evil

Evil in all forms must be abandoned if the Self, which is all good, is to be known. This should not be hard to understand, but many deny it anyway, or try to skirt around it. Of them Jesus said: “They have their reward”–a false security that is really “the sleep of death.” But for us who wish to live it is important to determine what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong.

Sanatana Dharma has a concept of right and wrong unique among the world religions. The others teach that something is right or wrong because their God or Prophet has said so in their infallible scriptures. “It is in the Bible,” “It is in the ZendAvesta,” “It is in the Koran,” etc. Although the scriptures of Hindu Dharma do mention things as being good or evil, the basis for the statements are utterly different from that of other religions.

Sanatana Dharma does not look upon a thing as wrong because God or gods have declared it wrong or some lawgiver has prohibited it. And the same in relation to the things that are right. Rather, a thing is good or evil according to its innate character. Many times people tried to get Mata Anandamayi to approve or disapprove of something. But she would simply say: “If it takes you toward the Goal it is good. If it takes you away from the Goal it is evil.” That which darkens, obscures, or limits our consciousness is bad. That which lights, clears, and expands our consciousness is good. That which helps in the search for God is good; that which hinders or delays it is not.

We all know people who declare that their addictions and illusions either do not hurt them or even are good for them. Very well; they have their reward. But the intelligent do not engage in such childish rationalization. They impartially examine and conclude accordingly. It is all a matter of the individual’s interest and honesty. In other words, it is all in our hands–as are all the aspects of our life if we face up to it. Sanatana Dharma does not list “bads” and “goods” because it assumes that those who wish to pursue dharma can judge for themselves. Though we can certainly determine whether the Vedic scriptures consider something harmful or helpful, we should look upon the list as neither exhaustive or even binding. Sanatana Dharma is Manava Dharma–human dharma. And human beings use their intelligent reason. Sanatana Dharma also leaves every one free to be wise or foolish. Dharma never condemns or praises. It just waits to be fulfilled.

Lack of sense control

The senses must be controlled, but we usually mistake the way to do so. The upanishads use the simile of horses pulling a chariot, and we mistake that, too, thinking it a symbol of incredible forces to be overcome. But we need not think of it so drastically. Before you control a horse, you tame it. So before we control the senses we “tame” them through purification. Sadhana is the only way. Meditation alone purifies in a lasting manner. At the same time we purify the senses by directing them Godward. We make the eyes look at sacred symbols or depictions, the ears to hear the words of sacred texts and sacred music, the nose to smell the offered incense, the tongue to taste the offered sweets or food, and the inner sense of touch to feel the exalted atmosphere created by worship and contact with the holy. Pilgrimage is valuable because it is a “total sense” experience of holiness. The good news is that we need not struggle with the senses, but turn them in spiritual directions.

Restlessness of mind

Restlessness of mind is itself great suffering. Yama says that a quiet mind is indispensable to self-knowledge. Here is what Krishna has to say about it:

“If a yogi has perfect control over his mind, and struggles continually in this way to unite himself with Brahman, he will come at last to the crowning peace of Nirvana, the peace that is in me.”

“When can a man be said to have achieved union with Brahman? When his mind is under perfect control and freed from all desires, so that he becomes absorbed in the Atman, and nothing else. “The light of a lamp does not flicker in a windless place”: that is the simile which describes a yogi of one-pointed mind, who meditates upon the Atman. When, through the practice of yoga, the mind ceases its restless movements, and becomes still, he realizes the Atman. It satisfies him entirely. Then he knows that infinite happiness which can be realized by the purified heart but is beyond the grasp of the senses. He stands firm in this realization. Because of it, he can never again wander from the inmost truth of his being.”

Can I say more than that?

Without meditation

“Without meditation, where is peace? Without peace, where is happiness?”

The sine qua non of self-knowledge is meditation. The Self is ever-present but we do not perceive it because our vision is obscured by the illusion known as Maya. After describing the method of meditation, Krishna says: “If he practices meditation in this manner, his heart will become pure” and the Self will become literally self-evident. In conclusion he remarks: “Make a habit of practicing meditation, and do not let your mind be distracted. In this way you will come finally to the Lord, who is the light-giver, the highest of the high.”

The formula

The Self can be known by those who truly desire to know. And that true desire manifests through desisting from evil, controlling of the senses, quieting (restraining) the mind, and practicing meditation. This is the real Formula For Success.

The All-Consuming Self

Somewhere along the line–perhaps when they stopped killing their own people for sacrificial victims and committing genocide for the glory of their gods–the religion of Westerners lost its vigor. “Spiritual” came to be equated with the insubstantial and ethereal, degenerating in time into an airy and vaporous sentimentalism of the sickliest character. Languishing in love for God became an ideal along with nobly bearing the terrible burdens God threw onto a groaning and groveling humanity. The keynote of all this was passivity, and not a passivity born of true courage or nobility, but from a crushing sense of impotence and hopelessness. Hell became exalted to heaven, and the contempt of a capricious and tyrannical God became Divine Love, a love that demanded placation and acceptance-obedience. This God of love hated a lot more things than he liked and basically tolerated nothing. His religion in time became just like him, and so did many of his devotees–in attitude and deed. Since he was the ideal Father, they began treating their children just as he did his. Contemporary Western society is the result. Even the rebellion against this madness is as hateful, ignorant, and repressive as that which is being supposedly rejected. Only the pious cover is discarded; the evil core flourishes. The utter insubstantiality of the “spirituel” has become a logical doorway to denial of any spiritual reality.

In the East (India) things are fundamentally different, even if some of the sillier ways of Western religion are also to be found there, particularly in the “bhakti movement.” The concept of the Self as identified with the Supreme Self rather than a creation whose tenuous existence is continually threatened by the possibility of divine wrath, has produced a psychology and a society the reverse of that found in the West. The Self is as eternal and immovable as God–because it is one with God. Always.

In the nineteenth century the remarkable poet, author, and mystic Emily Bronte became exposed to the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita while studying in Belgium. She had long before instinctually rejected the ignorant religion of her childhood, but now she had an intelligent basis for her rejection. Fortunately it took the form of affirmation rather than negation. She had seen clearly when nine or so that she and all her sisters (and brother) would die young of the same disease (tuberculosis), and had written a poem about it. When death was only a matter of weeks away, she wrote this final poem:

No coward soul is mine,

No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere:

I see Heaven’s glories shine,

And Faith shines equal, arming me from Fear.

O God within my breast,

Almighty, ever-present Deity!

Life, that in me has rest,

As I, undying Life, have power in Thee!

Vain are the thousand creeds

That move men’s hearts: unutterably vain;

Worthless as withered weeds,

Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,

To waken doubt in one

Holding so fast by Thy infinity,

So surely anchored on

The steadfast rock of Immortality.

With wide-embracing love

Thy Spirit animates eternal years,

Pervades and broods above,

Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.

Though earth and moon were gone,

And suns and universes ceased to be,

And Thou wert left alone,

Every existence would exist in Thee.

There is not room for Death,

Nor atom that his might could render void:

Thou–thou art Being and Breath,

And what thou art may never be destroyed.

Yama’s analysis of the Self has had a very logical progression. Then he tosses out to Nachiketa a single incredible sentence: “To him Brahmins and Kshatriyas are but food, and death itself a condiment.”

All that we consider worthy of respect, either venerable (brahmin) or powerful (kshatriya), is but a snack to the everlasting Self. Even death, which is ever with us and seemingly rules our destiny, is but a flavoring for the Self at its feast of life, adding spice.

Yama’s words are reminiscent of Arjuna’s vision of the Universal Self in the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. Since the individual atman and the Paramatman are one they have the same qualities. Just as Arjuna saw that all things emanate from the Supreme and are reabsorbed in the Supreme–are “eaten” by It, so it is with the Self. All that is “us” has come from the Self and shall return to the Self. The Self is the eternal immortal source of that which we think is temporal and perishable. But only the forms are such. Their essence is the Self.

Unborn, the Self moves through many births. Formless, the Self inhabits many forms. Untouched, the Self encounters a myriad objects. Unconditioned, the Self manifests countless qualities. Remaining what it is, the Self appears to be all that it is not. All that it encounters is but its repast, and its births and deaths merely a sauce.

“Licking with your burning tongues, devouring all the worlds, you probe the heights of heaven!”

The Divine Indwellers

“Both the individual self and the Universal Self have entered the cave of the heart, the abode of the Most High, but the knowers of Brahman and the householders who perform the fire sacrifices see a difference between them as between sunshine and shadow.”

The two selves

There are two selves–the many individual selves and the one Universal Self. The Mundaka Upanishad likens them to two birds of the same appearance who sit in the same tree. First we come to know the individual self, and that enables us to attain the knowledge of the All-inclusive Self. How the two exist as one yet two is incomprehensible to the intellect but is readily experienced by the inmost consciousness of the persevering yogi. Yet intellectually we need to have some grasp of the unity/duality, otherwise we can have no correct perspective on anything, inner or outer. Extreme dualism is an error, and “monism” of any kind is even worse in its “simplisticism.” For this reason the enlightened use the expression Non-Dual (advaita) as the nearest we can come to conveying the truth of our existence. The verse beginning Purnamadah purnamidam is usually interpreted as a statement that the Relative has come from the Transcendent while retaining essential unity with the Transcendent. But it can also be understood as referring to the individual Self that exists rooted in the Universal Self. It, the atman, originates in the Supreme Self, the Paramatman, and is never separate from that Self. If examined, the two will be seen to be one. How is it possible? The One alone knows–and those who have united their consciousness with the One through yoga.

The cave of the heart

It is easy to see that the individual Self abides in–and as–the heart (hridaya), but when we look at the vast manifestation of Cosmic Life we call “creation” it is natural for our awareness to be drawn outward and thereby forget that the Supreme Self is right there inside in the same space (akasha). The Paramatman is not in the cave of our heart only incidentally, since It is everywhere, but that is Its abode, its “native place,” Its center. Its manifestation can be found everywhere, but It can be found

only in the cave of the heart.

Only that yogi Whose joy is inward, Inward his peace, And his vision inward Shall come to Brahman And know Nirvana.

Great is that yogi who seeks to be with Brahman, Greater than those who mortify the body, Greater than the learned, Greater than the doers of good works: Therefore, Arjuna, become a yogi.

How foolish to climb mountains, delve into the earth, wander across the plains, or cross the seas, thinking to find the Abode of God–which is the heart alone.

The two knowers

There are those who know Brahman directly and those who possess a secondary knowledge based on intuition resulting from their seeking of Brahman. Though only the first really know Brahman, yet the others’ “knowing about” Brahman is of such a character that it can lead them on to the direct knowledge of the illumined. Both of these have the same understanding without contradiction. Therefore the Finders never disdain the Seekers.

The difference

What do the Finders and Seekers know? That the atman and the Paramatman, though one, are as different as sunshine and shadow. But not in the sense of being opposite or antithetical to one another. Rather, it means that the individual Self exists only because the Supreme Self exists, just as a shadow can only exist because of the light. As the Rig Veda says of the Supreme Self: “His shadow is immortality.” Also, the idea is that the individual self (jivatman) is a reflection of the Supreme Self (Paramatman). Later, Yama will say: “He shining, everything shines.”

The aspiration

Since the foregoing is true, the next verse of the upanishad says: “May we perform the Nachiketa Sacrifice, which bridges the world of suffering. May we know the imperishable Brahman, who is fearless, and who is the end and refuge of those who seek liberation.”

What is the Nachiketa Sacrifice? It is not a secret fire ritual that produces a magical enlightenment. The Nachiketa Sacrifice is the determined search for knowledge (jnana) which stops not until the Goal is reached. That is this the correct understanding is demonstrated by the results desired by the sacrificer: the knowledge of Brahman.

The search for union with God is the bridge which we cross to be free from this world of suffering. Seeking God is itself the guarantee that we shall find Him. Many who lack confidence worry as to whether they can succeed in spiritual life, if they are “ready,” and so forth. But the very fact that they wish to find God means that they have already travelled far along the path in previous lives. Otherwise they would sleep along with most of the world. “For the man who has once asked the way to Brahman goes further than any mere fulfiller of the Vedic rituals.” “The scriptures declare that merit can be acquired by studying the Vedas, performing ritualistic sacrifices, practising austerities and giving alms. But the yogi who has understood this teaching of mine will gain more than any who do these things. He will reach that universal source, which is the uttermost abode of God.”

Truly, “May we know the imperishable Brahman, who is fearless, and who is the end and refuge of those who seek liberation.”

The Chariot

Perhaps the most perfect simile of our condition as human beings as we meander through the labyrinth of continual birth and death is that given in the Katha Upanishad, and it is worthy of careful analysis.

“Know that the Self is the rider, and the body the chariot; that the intellect is the charioteer, and the mind the reins.” The first idea set forth in this verse is the completely inactive role of the individual Self (atman). The other “ingredients” in the list are actively involved in “living” but the atman is absolutely beyond any activity, and is merely the observer. This is because its nature is pure consciousness–and nothing else.

Body-chariot

The body is the chariot, a conglomerate of parts without any consciousness or will of its own. (Did anyone else “out there” grow up hearing certain fundamentalists say: “I don’t sin but my body sins”?) Yet, being pervaded by the intellect (buddhi) it does seem to have “a mind of its own.” It does not, but it is an extension-expression of the mind and as such has great relevance to the spiritual aspirant. Sri Ramakrishna used to study the physical configuration of newcomers and thereby determine their spiritual qualifications. So we must think of the body as an inert thing. It is alive, but alive through the indwelling spirit. We may not be the body, but the body is certainly an expression of ourself. The body is not only the vehicle of our accumulated karmas it is the embodiment of them. Our karmas are incarnated in the body much more than is the Self.

Intellect-charioteer

“The intellect is the charioteer.” Our movement through “life” is solely through the agency of the intellect, the buddhi. This is why Krishna speaks of Buddhi Yoga as the process of liberation. Yoga is solely under the supervision of the buddhi. Yoga takes place both through the buddhi and within the buddhi. This gives us a tremendous insight into the nature of liberation: it is totally a matter of intellect, of reconstruction of awareness. The wise certainly undertake many external, even physical, disciplines to assist in their practice of yoga, but all of these are intended to affect the buddhi in its striving towards enlightenment. Since the buddhi is the charioteer, its quality determines everything in life. The cultivation of our buddhi, then, must be the focus of our sadhana. Any humanimal can be taught asanas and pranayama, but only the developed human can engage in real yoga. If you think this previous statement is extreme let me tell you something I learned early on in my “yoga life.”

In 1962 I was privileged to meet and listen to the venerable A. B. Purani, the administrator of the renowned Aurobindo Ashram. Sri Purani had been a fellow revolutionary with the (future) great Master Sri Aurobindo Ghosh (who, incidentally, was a high school teacher and inspirer of Paramhansa Yogananda). Later he became his disciple and lived in the ashram for many years before the master’s passing.

During one of his brilliant discourses at the East-West Cultural Center in Hollywood, Sri Purani told of an experience he had while travelling to the United States. He had stopped over in Japan where he was invited to speak to a yoga group in Tokyo. This group taught and practiced only Hatha Yoga (asanas and pranayama). At the conclusion of his talk, Sri Purani asked them: “Would you agree that the greatest yogis of recent times were Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Aurobindo, and Sri Ramana Maharshi?” They expressed unanimous assent to this statement. “Yet,” he pointed out, “not one of them practiced Hatha Yoga. So why do you consider yourselves yogis when you only practice that which they never bothered with?”

No matter how many external assists we may use, yoga is essentially of the buddhi alone.

Mind-reins

“And the mind the reins.” By mind (manah) is meant the sensory mind, the intermediary between the intellect and the body–and the entire world, as well. Through the mind the intellect sees whether the body should act or be still. For example, the mind conveys the sensation of a hand burning to the intellect, which then directs the body–again, through the mind–to pull the hand away from the fire and plunge it in cold water or some such remedy.

The next element in the matter are the senses, without which the mind would have nothing to show the intellect. Therefore:

Sense-horses

“The senses, say the wise, are the horses; the roads they travel are the mazes of desire.”

It is the senses that drag the chariot of the body along according to their impulses. If the buddhi is weak or underdeveloped, the mind which is driven by pain-pleasure motivation alone takes complete charge in giving “full rein” to the senses. Having no intelligence they plunge onward, ever seeking fulfillment and, not finding it, hurtling even further on the paths of unreason and folly. For “the roads they travel are the mazes of desire” rather than intelligence. As a consequence the individual becomes hopelessly lost and mired in the morass of external sensation. Enslavement to body and senses is the only possible consequence–death in life and ultimately death in “actuality”–of the body and senses.

Self-definition

“Who am I?” is the gate to real understanding, for it sets us seeking true knowledge. And the upanishadic verse continues: “The wise call the Self the enjoyer when he is united with the body, the senses, and the mind.” We certainly do not enjoy a great deal of our experiences in/through the body, so perhaps a better translation of bhokta is “experiencer” rather than enjoyer.

The major idea in this verse is that the Self is the actionless consciousness that experiences the intellect, mind, senses, and body. As a consequence we can understand that the Self is never “the doer” at any time. The Gita illumines this for us, saying: “Every action is really performed by the gunas [sensory energies]. Man, deluded by his egoism, thinks: ‘I am the doer.’ But he who has the true insight into the operations of the gunas and their various functions, knows that when senses attach themselves to objects, gunas are merely attaching themselves to gunas. Knowing this, he does not become attached to his actions.” “You dream you are the doer.” “Let the wise man know these gunas alone as the doers of every action; let him learn to know That Which is beyond them, also.”

There is more material like this, but the sum is: “The truly admirable man controls his senses by the power of his will.” This is because: “The senses are said to be higher than the sense-objects. The mind is higher than the senses. The intelligent will is higher than the mind. What is higher than the intelligent will? The Atman Itself.”

The practical application

“When a man lacks discrimination and his mind is uncontrolled, his senses are unmanageable, like the restive horses of a charioteer. But when a man has discrimination and his mind is controlled, his senses, like the well-broken horses of a charioteer, lightly obey the rein.”

And more:

“He who lacks discrimination, whose mind is unsteady and whose heart is impure, never reaches the goal, but is born again and again. But he who has discrimination, whose mind is steady and whose heart is pure, reaches the goal, and having reached it is born no more. The man who has a sound understanding for charioteer, a controlled mind for reins–he it is that reaches the end of the journey, the supreme abode of Vishnu, the all pervading.”

The Chariot’s Journey

The upanishadic seers have just told us that the Self in the body is like a driver in a chariot. Now they set the intended journey before us.

“The senses derive from physical objects, physical objects from mind, mind from intellect, intellect from ego, ego from the unmanifested seed, and the unmanifested seed from Brahman–the Uncaused Cause. Brahman is the end of the journey. Brahman is the supreme goal.”

It is the genealogy of perception that is being outlined here, for if we reverse the order of perception we will come to perceive the Source, the Eternal Witness Itself. This verse, then, is a exposition of the chain, or progression of consciousness. According to it, the hierarchy of perception is:

Brahman (Purusha)

Unmanifested seed (Avyaktam)

Ego (Atma Mahan–the Great Self or Mahat Tattwa)

Intellect (Buddhi)

Mind (Manas)

Senses (Indriyas)

Physical objects (Arthas)

The Bhagavad Gita gives a similar but simpler list relating exclusively to the individual (microcosm) rather than the Universal (Macrocosm), but we can translate the foregoing list to relate to us as individual beings (jivas). In that case we get:

The Self

The unmanifested yet out-turned will-energy

The sense of “I am”

The intellect

The mind

The senses

The sense organs.

My list is more literal than that of Swami Prabhavananda. It is not more meritorious when considering the Cosmos, but it is better when looking at the situation of the individual being.

Having descended the ladder, how do we get back up–especially sense we have no memory of how we managed the descent? Luckily for us the yogis of India figured that out for us untold eons ago, and it works as well today as it did then. Meditation is the way of ascent back to awareness of the Self. It is possible to work our way back up the ladder, for the “rungs” are not disparate elements but evolutes or emanations of those above them. If all the rungs, including the senses themselves, were not extensions of the Self, we could not reach back to the Self. This is as true on the microcosmic level as it is on the macrocosmic. Fortunately Brahman has not “fallen” and forgotten Itself, but It, too, withdraws and projects himself as creation–as we do ourselves by coming into manifestation and eventually into physical birth. “As above, so below” has many ramifications.

The destination and how to get there

“Brahman is the end of the journey. Brahman is the supreme goal.” But the simple saying counts for little. So the upanishad continues: “This Brahman, this Self, deep-hidden in all beings, is not revealed to all; but to the seers, pure in heart, concentrated in mind–to them is he revealed.” Who sees Brahman? The sukshma-darshibhih–those who can see the subtle, the inmost Reality.

How, then, can we become seers of the Subtle? By continually developing our capacity for inner perception and simultaneously refining our inner faculties. To do that we must “go inside” in meditation and work with our inner mechanism called the antahkarana by the yogis. As the Taittiriya Upanishad says: “Seek to know Brahman by meditation.” And: “Om is Brahman. Om is all. He who meditates on Om attains to Brahman.”

“Within the lotus of the heart he dwells, where, like the spokes of a wheel in its hub, the nerves meet. Meditate on him as OM. Easily mayest thou cross the sea of darkness.”

“The mind may be compared to a firestick, the syllable OM to another. Rub the two sticks together by repeating the sacred syllable and meditating on Brahman, and the flame of knowledge will be kindled in your heart and all impurities will be burnt away.” “Let your body be the stick that is rubbed, the sacred syllable OM the stick that is rubbed against it. Thus shall you realize God, who is hidden within the body as fire is hidden within the wood.”

Turning back

“The senses of the wise man obey his mind, his mind obeys his intellect, his intellect obeys his ego, and his ego obeys the Self.” This, too, is the product/effect of meditation! Meditation is the establishing of order within and without.

Marching orders!

“Arise! Awake! Approach the feet of the master and know THAT.”

In point of fact, the text does not say “approach the feet of the master,” but prapya varan, which means “having attained boons.” The idea is to seek and attain kripa–grace. Actually, the scriptures speak of three kinds of kripa: 1) sadhana kripa, the grace of self-effort; ) guru kripa, the grace of a teacher, and 3) divya kripa, divine grace. This wise will gain all three. But there is no denying that kripa is a requisite for those who, having arisen and awakened, seek Brahman.

The path

The verse continues: “Like the sharp edge of a razor, the sages say, is the path. Narrow it is, and difficult to tread!” Immediately we think of Jesus words: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

Because popular religion, despite its attempt to entice followers, continually implies or outright states that spiritual life is hard (I grew up with this in fundamentalist Protestantism and found it outrageous), we tend to look at the principles of Sanatana Dharma with a tainted perspective. The upanishad is not telling us in the manner of Western religion how hard it will be to follow the way of life.

The clue to difficulty in spiritual is found in the description of the path as “like the sharp edge of a razor.” The idea is that the path is extremely subtle–not arduous. But that makes it all the more difficult, even impossible, for those of coarse minds. This, and this alone, is what makes the path hard to tread.

No spiritual discipline comes near to being as hard as the things human beings commonly do every day to get the things they want. And “want” is the operative word. If we do not want a thing, then any action needed to obtain it will be tedious and “too hard.” But if we want it intensely, then no effort is too much or too hard. That is why the thirty-fourth Ode of Solomon says: “There is no hard way where there is a simple heart, nor any barrier where the thoughts are upright. Nor is there any whirlwind in the depth of the illuminated thought. Where one is surrounded on every side by pleasing country, there is nothing divided in him.” So the problem is in us, not in the path.

Here, as in the last essay, we see that the solution is to refine our consciousness through meditation. We must also refine our physical and mental bodes through purity of thought and deed and especially purity of diet. The ingesting of animal flesh, alcohol, nicotine and mind-affecting drugs is a frontal attack on spiritual life. It is completely insane for a seeker to engage in such destructive habits (and they are addictions).

The subtle Goal

The absolute necessity for refinement of perception through refinement of all the levels of our being is revealed by the nature of the path’s goal: “Soundless, formless, intangible, undying, tasteless, odorless, without beginning, without end, eternal, immutable, beyond nature, is the Self. Knowing him as such, one is freed from death.”

We must become able to hear Silence, see the Formless, touch the Untouchable, live to the Immortal, taste the Tasteless, perceive the fragrance of the Odorless, and transcend all relative measure, and even relativity itself. Such a state is verily inconceivable to us at the present. But it can be achieved through yoga.

Let us arise, awake, pass from death unto life, and lay hold of Immortality.

The Glorious Way

The Katha Upanishad is now going to elaborate on the path so we can better understand how to journey upon it.

“The Self-Existent made the senses turn outward. Accordingly, man looks toward what is without, and sees not what is within. Rare is he who, longing for immortality, shuts his eyes to what is without and beholds the Self.”

Why?

The first thing this verse teaches us is that the Divine Itself has caused our consciousness to turn outward. This is not the result of any negative force or “fall” on our part. (The fall took place as a wrong response to the outward turn.) What was the purpose of our turning outward? Evolution. We had to enter into relative existence and run the maze of ever-ascending evolution in order to satisfy our innate urge for infinity. (For more on this, see .) Consequently, there is nothing wrong with the senses turning outward; the problem is when the sense become locked in externalizing. The purpose of our entering the field of evolutionary life was for us to experience the many shades of evolving consciousness while never losing awareness of our true nature or identifying with the costumes we constantly donned and put off as the ages progressed. However it may have been intended, the situation has horribly changed, making us blind to inner realities.

Sunk in awareness of seeming mortality, human beings either seek to distract themselves from the terror and pain which arises from their delusion, or they seek some way to attain immortality. Both searches are based on delusion, so they can only fail. We need not become immortal, but must realize our present, eternal immortal nature. Those who shut their eyes–their consciousness–to the false appearances of external existence and turn within discover the truth of their immortality. No longer do they think that the solution is to be found in some external factor, but clearly see that their own Self is the wondrous answer.

The foolish and the wise

“Fools follow the desires of the flesh and fall into the snare of all-encompassing death; but the wise, knowing the Self as eternal, seek not the things that pass away.”

In its true state, relative existence is a vast field of life, but when it is overlain with the veneer of our inner delusions, it becomes death to us. That which is meant to expand our consciousness and free us into Infinity becomes a prison, a killer of our soul–and this is all our doing. The world remains what it ever was, but we have lost sight of its nature just as we have become blind to our own Self.

The urge to expansion of consciousness through upward-moving evolution becomes distorted into a myriad desires arising from our false identity with the body and its illusory mortality. “Seize the moment!” is our despairing cry. Seeking to live, we plunge ourselves “into the snare of all-encompassing death.”

The wise, who have come to know their immortality through the direct experience produced (only) by meditation, turn from the snare and seek only that which cannot pass away because it has never come into being at some point in time, but is immortal–like us. In other words, we seek the kingdom of God that is nothing less than God–and our own Self.

There is a seeking that is necessary, but a seeking for deepening consciousness rather than for something that is not already ours. We must not fall into the facile illusion that we have nothing to do or attain. Certainly there is nothing objective to be done or attained, but in the subjective realm of Consciousness there is literally Everything to be sought and attained. “Strive without ceasing to know the Atman, seek this knowledge and comprehend clearly why you should seek it: such, it is said, are the roots of true wisdom.”

To Know The Self

Defining the Self

Recently I read of a yogi who was asked, “What is the Self?” The yogi answered: “The one who knows the mind.” How simple! And the answer to the query, “Who/What is God?” is equally simple: The one who enables the Self to know the mind and Who knows the Self as its Self.

“He through whom man sees, tastes, smells, hears, feels, and enjoys, is the omniscient Lord.” All the doors of perception function through the Divine Presence, not just the Divine Power. Our consciousness is the Consciousness of God, the finite drawn from the Infinite, as the wave draws its existence from the ocean. It is a grave error to decry the experience of our senses as either illusory or somehow degrading. It is our response to sensory experience that is often illusory or degrading. But we are at every moment living in and by God.

But God is not just the Power by which “we live, and move, and have our being.” “He, verily, is the immortal Self. Knowing him, one knows all things.” He is the all-embracing Consciousness within our consciousness and within all things. If we come to know–enter into the being of–that Infinite One we shall know with His knowing, and therefore know all things. As Saint Paul said: “Now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” This is the inmost meaning of Saint John’s statement: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”

“He through whom man experiences the sleeping or waking states is the all-pervading Self. Knowing him, one grieves no more.” All states of consciousness are directly rooted in the Self, individual and universal. When through yoga this is truly known, all grief ceases, for the yogi identifies with his all-perceiving Self.

He transcends fear as well, for “He who knows that the individual soul, enjoyer of the fruits of action, is the Self–ever present within, lord of time, past and future–casts out all fear. For this Self is the immortal Self.” What an incredible statement! We are thinking that we are poor, mortal beings swept along by forces alien to us and totally beyond our control, when all the time we are the masters of past and future. All our fear comes from our unawareness of this glorious fact. By turning inward and discovering the truth of ourself we will pass beyond fear. The message of the upanishads is inseparably bound up with the necessity for sadhana if it is not to be no more than dead words on a dead page.

Seeing truly

“He who sees the First-Born—born of the mind of Brahma, born before the creation of waters–and sees him inhabiting the lotus of the heart, living among physical elements, sees Brahman indeed. For this First-Born is the immortal Self.” The only way to “see true” is to see The True.

When we turn within, to the core of our being, there we will not only find the individual self, the jiva or atman, but we will find its origin, the Supreme Self, the Paramatman, the eternal Brahman. This is the true vision of God–that in which the two are seen to be One, although their distinction is eternal. The word “born” is misleading, for the Self is never born. There does come a time when it becomes manifest in relative creation, but it existed before that “birth.” It is not even right to say that God is our “origin,” for the Self is co-eternal with God. As Krishna told Arjuna: “There was never a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor any of these kings. Nor is there any future in which we shall cease to be.”

The all-embracing Self

It is no news to us that God not only is within all things but in an ineffable way IS all things. But there is a further fact: We, too, embrace all the levels of being on the finite level, just as does God on the infinite level. So the upanishads further says: “That being who is the power of all powers, and is born as such, who embodies himself in the elements and in them exists, and who has entered the lotus of the heart, is the immortal Self.” Again, this refers to both the finite and the Infinite spirits.

Therefore we see that in the vision of the upanishadic sages we are not abstract spirits with no connection whatever with the energies of prakriti. Rather, as with God, those energies are our own expanded and “frozen” energies that in time are to be revealed as consciousness and assimilated into our Self–from which they have never really been separate. Everything is consciousness. In the final sense there is no matter or energy at all. Yet, at the moment we find ourselves in the seemingly manifold condition that is necessary for our evolution and ultimate freedom.

We not only mistake our own nature, we mistake the nature of God as well. We are ourselves “the power of all powers,” having willingly embodied ourselves in subtle and gross matter while still living essentially in “the lotus of the heart.” How then can we consider ourselves the servants or slaves of any being–including God? There is no “work of God” in this world for us to do–only our work, the ascension to perfect freedom. There is a theism that is bondage and a theism that is freedom. We must discriminate between the two.

The source

Because it fits better with the foregoing, let us skip a verse and read: “That in which the sun rises and in which it sets, that which is the source of all the powers of nature and of the senses, that which nothing can transcend–that is the immortal Self.”

The Self and the Supreme Self are both the Chidakasha, the Sky or Ether of Consciousness in which the sun of manifested life rises and sets. The waking, dreaming, and deep sleep states take place within the consciousness that is the Self. The experience of birth and death likewise take place within the Self.

The Self is, like the Supreme Self, the source of the energies that manifest as the various levels of the subtle and gross bodies which we are presently evolving until they manifest as the spirit-self. Nothing is ever destroyed, but is resolved back into its origin, the spirit. This is the great and awesome assertion of the upanishads.

Nothing is beyond or higher than the Self–not even God, for God and the Self are essentially one, as are the ocean and the waves. As long as we dream of separation, so long will we continue to come and go, suffering the pain and fear of continual change. But when we awaken into Unity, all sorrow and fear cease forever.

The Power of Enlightenment

“Agni, the all-seeing, who lies hidden in fire sticks, like a child well guarded in the womb, who is worshiped day by day by awakened souls, and by those who offer oblations in sacrificial fire–he is the immortal Self.”

According to the researches of Sri Aurobindo, Agni, the supposed “god of fire,” is really the will power of the individual which manifests specifically in the practice of yoga. This is not the whimsical will power of egoic goals, but the will to liberate our consciousness from all bonds. This manifests exclusively in spiritual practice, not in philosophizing or in feeling “spiritual.” This is the highest form of action possible to any being in relativity, and merits our careful analysis.

Hidden in fire sticks

The fire for the Vedic sacrifice is kindled by the friction of two sticks. The upanishad uses this as a simile, saying that the yogic fire “lies hidden in fire sticks.” Both the Kaivalya and the Swetashwatara Upanishads explain this as follows.

“The mind may be compared to a firestick, the syllable OM to another. Rub the two sticks together by repeating the sacred syllable and meditating on Brahman, and the flame of knowledge will be kindled in your heart and all impurities will be burnt away.” “Fire, though present in the firesticks, is not perceived until one stick is rubbed against another. The Self is like that fire: it is realized in the body by meditation on the sacred syllable OM.” Not only is the will to practice meditation produced by meditation on Om, so is the goal–enlightenment.

“Like a child well guarded in the womb”

The propensity toward the Divine is rare, and it is also fragile because the downward pull accumulated in thousands of previous lives threaten its very existence. Consequently, the wise sadhaka guards it well once it arises, ensuring that it can grow unhindered and in time come forth as the liberating force we need to be successful yogis. The observance of Yama and Niyama are absolutely essential in this, as is the need to reorder one’s life so as not to put this developing power in danger of harm or destruction.

“Worshiped day by day by awakened souls”

The idea of the previous section is being continued. The awakened (though no yet enlightened) soul cherishes the yogic will, and realizes that it is a worshipful thing–the Godward-tending divine power of the divine Self that moves within him like an embryo within the womb. Day by day he worships it by using it to meditate.

“Those who offer oblations in sacrificial fire”

Those who are consciously engaging in Ishwarapranidhana, the offering of the life to God, extend the power of their spiritual will beyond the practice of meditation into every moment of their life and activity, using it to accomplish a spiritualized mode of life. Here, too, the necessity for reordering the life of the sadhaka is evident.

May that divine Agni be enkindled and maintained within us.

The Infinite Self

“What is within us is also without. What is without is also within. He who sees difference between what is within and what is without goes evermore from death to death.” These words have various levels of meaning, and we should consider them all.

Microcosms

Many years ago, Dr. Judith Tyberg, a disciple of Sri Aurobindo and director of the East-West Cultural Center in Los Angeles, told me that she had attended a lecture at Benares Hindu University in which a map of the universe and charts from Gray’s Anatomy were compared and seen to be strikingly alike. Our bodies are little models of the universe.

Some months before she told this to me I had experienced this for myself. While meditating one day all ordinary physical sensation vanished. Spatial relation ceased to exist and I found myself keenly aware of being beyond dimension, neither large nor small, but infinite (for infinity is beyond size). Although the terminology is inappropriate to such a state, to make it somewhat understandable I have to say that I perceived an infinity of worlds “within” me. Suns–some solo and others surrounded by planets– glimmered inside my spaceless space. Not that I saw the light, but I felt or intuited it. Actually, I did not “see” anything–and yet I did. It is not expressible in terms of ordinary sense experience, yet I must use those terms. I experienced myself as everything that existed within the relative material universe. Or so it seemed, for the human body is a miniature universe, a microcosmic model of the macrocosm. The physical human body is a reflection of the universal womb that conceived it. I had experienced the subtle level of the physical body that is its ideational (i.e., causal) blueprint. On that level it can be experienced as a map of the material creation.

In this matter, it was crucial that I not mistake the copy for the Original and think I was an infinite being or had attained Cosmic Consciousness. It was Macrocosmic Consciousness–not an insignificant experience, but certainly not the final step in evolution.

“As above, so below”

In the Hermetic Philosophy of the ancient Mediterranean world there was a principle: “As above, so below.” That is, this material plane of existence is a mirroring of higher levels of being all the way up to the Absolute. Therefore, by studying earthly phenomena we can gain some idea of heavenly things. Also, that material conditions are reflections of psychic forces. Astrology is an example of this. The physical planets, through universal gravitation, certainly have some influence on our physical being, but their movements are indications of the arising and subsiding of inner, subtle energies that greatly affect us, both psychologically and externally.

We need to realize that the inner is always more real than the outer. The thirty-fourth Ode of Solomon, one of the earliest Christian hymns, says: “The likeness of that which is below is that which is above. For everything is above, and below there is nothing, but it is believed to be by those in whom there is no knowledge.”

This is also true in yoga. Everything real happens in the head–the Sahasrara, the Thousand-petalled Lotus, the astral/causal brain. This is why Paramhansa Nityananda told his students: “Awareness [buddhi] should be concentrated in the head. Your attention should always be above the neck; never below the neck.” Yogis should never look to or trust phenomena that take place in the body below the Sahasrara.

Outer/inner

The outer is the inner; the inner is the outer. We have touched on this slightly. It is of inestimable importance to realize that our outer life is but a mirror image of our inner life, that whatever is taking place in our external body and environment is happening in the depths of our mind. So by studying and analyzing our outer life we come to gauge the true character of our inner life. This is not palatable to the ego, for it means that our misfortunes are our own doing and reveal our inner negativity. As the Chinese maxim has it: When mean-spirited people live behind the door, mean-spirited people come in front of the door. So let us be careful before we indulge in a litany of all the wrongs we have suffered and all the bad people that have done those wrongs to us. We will only be confessing our own sins. It is not sympathy we need, but self-correction. As a very wise book, The Astral City, says: “Self-pity is a symptom of mental illness.”

Consistency

It is also necessary that our inner and outer lives be identical. We are all aware that very corrupt people can act and speak in a seemingly virtuous way. Also, many soft-hearted people pretend to be callous or even prickly. But neither is admirable. “What you see is what you get” should be our rule of life. Our outer life must be an exact imaging of our inner life. In the Gospel of Thomas, section 22, Jesus tells his disciples that they will enter the kingdom of God: “When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below.”

The inner and outer Reality

God is the inner, and God is the outer. “He who sees difference between what is within and what is without goes evermore from death to death.” We are bound to the cycle of perpetual births and deaths until we see God, both within and without–until we know that God is the sole reality of both “the world” and ourselves. In that vision we become immortal. The great Swami Sivananda wrote the following expressing this truth:

When I surveyed from Ananda Kutir, Rishikesh,

By the side of the Tehri Hills, only God I saw.

In the Ganges and the Kailas peak,

In the famous Chakra Tirtha of Naimisar also, only God I saw.

In tribulation and in grief, in joy and in glee,

In sickness and in sorrow, only God I saw.

In birds and dogs, in stones and trees,

In flowers and fruits, in the sun, moon and stars, only God I saw.

In the rosy cheeks of Kashmiri ladies,

In the black faces of African negroes, only God I saw.

In filth and scents, in poison and dainties,

In the market and in society, only God I saw.

In Brahmakara Vritti and Vedantic Nididhyasana,

In Atmic Vichara and Atmic Chintana, only God I saw.

In Kirtan and Nama Smaran, in Sravana and Vandana,

In Archana and Padasevana, in Dasya and Atmanivedana, only God I saw.

Like camphor I was melting in His fire of knowledge,

Amidst the flames outflashing, only God I saw.

My Prana entered the Brahmarandhra at the Moordha,

Then I looked with God’s eyes, only God I saw.

I passed away into nothingness, I vanished,

And lo, I was the all-living, only God I saw.

I enjoyed the Divine Aisvarya, all God’s Vibhutis,

I had Visvaroopa Darshan, the Cosmic Consciousness, only God I saw.

Glory, glory unto the Lord, hail! hail! hail! O sweet Ram.

Let me sing once more Thy Name—Ram Ram Ram, Om, Om, Om, only God I saw.

The seeing mind

Jesus, who said: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God,” had learned this well in India. For the next verse of the Katha Upanishad tells us: “By the purified mind alone is the indivisible Brahman to be attained. Brahman alone is–nothing else is. He who sees the manifold universe, and not the one reality, goes evermore from death to death.”

The necessary purification is profound, for Saint John tells us: “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he [God] is pure.” Those whose minds have been made pure in the contemplation of God automatically see Him. As Patanjali explains: “God is a Spirit….…His designator is Om. Its constant repetition and meditation is the way. From it result the disappearance of obstacles and the turning inward of consciousness.” And, more importantly, they attain God, as the upanishad says. They come to know themselves as gods within God.

The universe and ourselves are in an ineffable way part of the indivisible Brahman. That is why Jesus said: “This is life eternal: that they might know thee the only true God.” And why the upanishad tell us that “He who sees the manifold universe, and not the one reality, goes evermore from death to death.”

The upanishad calls us to see God and enter into Life Eternal.

The Dweller in the Heart

For numberless ages, in the rest of the world people were intent on the awesome greatness of God–and nothing more. Whereas in India the sages were intent on the awesome greatness of both the individual and the Universal Selves. Perceiving their unity, they understood that whatever can be said about one can be said about the other. Thus their teachings are a unique revelation of the true nature of us all. Without this self-understanding, our life is nothing but confusion with a few random stumblings into insight. It is an absolute necessity that we comprehend the upanishadic teachings and strive to gain the upanishadic vision.

In the lotus of the heart

“That being, of the size of a thumb, dwells deep within the heart. He is the lord of time, past and future. Having attained him, one fears no more. He, verily, is the immortal Self.” This verse tells us several things about our true Self.

That being, of the size of a thumb, dwells deep within the heart. Since the Self transcends space, how can it have a measurable size? It cannot. Shankara explains in his commentary that “the lotus of the heart is of the size of a thumb. Existing in the space within the lotus of the heart, [the Self] has the size of a thumb, just like space existing in a section of a bamboo that is of the size of a thumb.” Just as water filling a vessel sunk in the ocean has volume and shape, in the same way the Self seems to have a shape and a measure. But once the vessel is broken, the shape and volume of the water cease to be, and so it is with the Self. Incarnate in a body, the Self pervades it and reflects it, but upon the dissolution of the body those seeming conditions cease instantly, for they have no objective reality. So it is not the Self that is really of the size of a thumb, but rather the lotus of the heart within which it momentarily dwells.

We should not mistake the lotus of the heart for the organ that pumps blood through the body. The real lotus of the heart is the core of the Thousand-Petalled Lotus, the Sahasrara located in the head. This thumb-shaped nucleus is also referred to in yogic teachings as “the Linga in the head.”

“Deep within the heart” indicates that the Self is the inmost level of our being, our absolute essence beyond which we simply do not exist. It also indicates that to know ourself we must meditate and penetrate deep into our consciousness. There is no other way.

He is the lord of time, past and future. It is a grave error to think that we are helpless flotsam and jetsam on the bosom of the ocean of Relativity, being moved about by forces such as karma, our thoughts, and even God. It is our own Self that determines whatever happens to us and is the sole controller of our past, present, and future. Look at the chaotic lives of those who “trust in God” and “surrender to the Divine Will.” They rationalize their disordered state by saying they have peace of mind through their attitude, but that is a poor substitute for the truth. Look at how many people die peacefully. Peace counts for little when it is nothing more than an opiate. We must stop living a lie. It is not our karma, our thinking, or even God that ordains our life. It is our Self. And until we unite our awareness with the Self we shall know nothing but uncertainty and confusion. But when we do, “sorrow melts into that clear peace” which is ours forever.

Having attained him, one fears no more. For what can produce fear in the knower of the Self? As Emily Bronte wrote:

O God within my breast, Almighty, ever-present Deity! Life, that in me has rest, As I, undying Life, have power in Thee!

Vain are the thousand creeds That move men’s hearts: unutterably vain; Worthless as withered weeds, Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,

To waken doubt in one Holding so fast by Thy infinity, So surely anchored on The steadfast rock of Immortality.

The smokeless flame

“That being, of the size of a thumb, is like a flame without smoke. He is the lord of time, past and future, the same today and tomorrow. He, verily, is the immortal Self.” Now we learn some more essential facts about our Self.

Like a flame without smoke. The Self is pure light without covering or admixture. In our present state of delusion we think that the Self can be inhibited and even corrupted, but that is not so. The various energy levels within which the Self is dwelling certainly can be inhibited, corrupted, and even destroyed. If we identify with those levels we will live in fear and uncertainty, relieved only occasionally by utterly false hopes. “It is your ignorance, it is the world’s delusion that gives you these dreams” of both hope and fear. But once our consciousness is posited in the Self, all that is past, dispelled by the eternal Light of the Self.

The same today and tomorrow. The changeless nature of the Self puts us beyond all fear, concern, and anxiety, “knowing It birthless, knowing It deathless, knowing It endless, for ever unchanging.” The Self really has no past, present or future. It is, itself, the Eternal Now.

Liberating unity

“As rain, fallen on a hill, streams down its side, so runs he after many births who sees manifoldness in the Self.” The “gravity” of delusion pulls inexorably downward those who think that the many layers of their incarnate existence are the Self. Yet, they do not think they are enslaved by the consequences of their ignorance, but think they have free will as they “run” into the valleys of darkness and pain. “It’s my life, and I will do what I want to,” they shout as they roll downward into the jaws of sorrow and death. Only when the unity of our Self is known–both in the fact of its unitary state of being and its eternal oneness with Brahman–will the earthward pull disappear along with the compulsion to continual rebirth. “If a man sees Brahman in every action, He will find Brahman.” It is as simple as that.

Ever the same

“As pure water poured into pure water remains pure, so does the Self remain pure, O Nachiketa, uniting with Brahman.”

We and Brahman are one Substance. There is no difference. We are not “creations,” we are beginningless and endless, co-eternal with God. Knowing this makes all the difference–the only difference we need. Brahman is Pure Being and we are Pure Being. Uniting with Brahman we remain what we always have been, but no longer subject to ignorance and delusion. As Jesus said: “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out.” The Self does not change, but becomes irrevocably established in the consciousness of its changelessness.

The Birthless Self

The subject of the Self is virtually inexhaustible. It is the sole object of the upanishads. So Yamaraj continues to expound the Self to Nachiketa.

“To the Birthless, the light of whose consciousness forever shines, belongs the city of eleven gates. He who meditates on the ruler of that city knows no more sorrow. He attains liberation, and for him there can no longer be birth or death. For the ruler of that city is the immortal Self.”

This verse tells us many aspects of the Self, each of which should be scrutinized in turn.

Birthless

A cornerstone of Eastern wisdom is the understanding that verbal formulas can never encompass the truth, but can only be hints, albeit excellent hints–that truth is always beyond books, concepts, and words; that in time the aspirant must pass beyond them into the level of spiritual intuition in which direct knowledge is possible. Yet it is understood that the aspirant will not be able to fully translate such direct knowledge into words. As the adage says: “He who knows tells it not; he who tells knows it not.” Not from an attitude of arcane secrecy (always a symptom of spiritual pathology), but from the fact that knowing transcends speech and (discursive) thought.

Nevertheless, “According to your faith be it unto you.” And faith is conceptual, even if not fully verbal. Consequently, our ideas about ourselves, our nature, and our life have a profound influence on our life and its unfoldment. If we think we are sinful mortals, we shall live like sinful mortals, incapable of reaching God. If we think we are evolving consciousness, moving onward to spiritual heights, we shall evolve beyond human limitations. But if we think we are eternal beings, part of God’s infinite Being, we shall rise to the state of Divine Unity and manifest the declaration: “Ye are gods.”

It is necessary, then, for us to firmly set in mind that we are birthless beings, that we have never “come into being” or been “created.” Rather, we are co-eternal with God, the Essence of our existence. We never came into being, nor shall we ever cease to be. When we understand that our consciousness is somehow a wave of the Infinite Consciousness that is God, that we are irrevocably a part of God’s infinite Light and Life, it will have a transforming effect on us.

Sri Ramakrishna was fond of the simile of a washerman’s donkey. Each night the washerman passes a rope around the legs of the donkey and then removes it. The donkey believes it has been tied, so it never tries to move away from that spot. Its bondage is imaginary, yet because of its belief it is as bound as though it were tied. It is the same with us. If we believe we are bound, we shall be bound. But if we believe we are free we can manifest that freedom. This is what yoga–and yoga alone–is all about.

The light of consciousness

God cannot be defined, but it can be said that God is Light–even more, that God is the Light that is Life. In other words, God is Conscious Light. And so are we. If this is realized, then we will not identify with the change and dissolution that is inherent in relative existence. The hymn says: “Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou Who changest not, abide with me.” The mistake is in thinking that what is needed is God as a separate being, when what is really needed is the abiding awareness of our own Self, of which God is the Essence. As the Psalmist sang: “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.…When I awake, I am still with thee.”

Forever shines

Our divine nature may be obscured to our earthly eyes in the way that clouds can hide the sun and even make the earth dark. But the sun ever shines. Night occurs because of the turning of the earth, and spiritual ignorance and darkness arise because our awareness is turned wrong. Yet, as Buddha said: “Turn around and lo! The Other Shore.” And Jesus said over and over: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand”–right here where it has always been. It is only a matter of attunement of consciousness. Again, that is where yoga comes in.

The Self is what It is forever, nothing can alter that. So what we need is a recovering of Consciousness. It need not be produced or even gained–only recognized. This is difficult for us to grasp since we have become habituated to the ways of relativity in which everything is a “process” moving along in stages. Yoga reveals the Truth of our Selves, and since the clouds of illusion have to be moved aside to reveal the ever-shining Self, yoga appears to be a process, too, but essentially it is not. Yoga is simply Seeing True.

The city of eleven gates

The human body is usually called “the city of nine gates” for the nine apertures of the body, but here it has the number eleven. Shankara says this is because the navel and the Brahmarandhra, the “soft spot” at the crown of the head are also being counted as gates. This is appropriate, as before birth we are nourished through the navel, and at death we often depart through the Brahmarandhra.

The important point that is being made here is in contradistinction to religions other than Hinduism, and even to the attitudes found today in contemporary Indian philosophy. For it is commonly thought very “spiritual” to disregard the body, push it aside in our consciousness, and despise it as a liability and even a prison. But the upanishad tells us that the body is not alien to the Self (atman), but rather belongs to the Self, just as the cosmos belongs to God–and is in a sense the “body” of God. (It is important to continually keep in mind that whatever can be said of God can usually be said about the individual being, as well.) The body is ours, and is fundamentally a mirroring of our personal consciousness, which is why we can legitimately speak of “the body-mind connection.”

The body is the vehicle through which the individual evolves during the span of life on earth, and must be taken into serious account by the yogi who will discover that the body can exert a necessary effect on the mind. For example, the yogi meditates and discovers that the process of yoga takes place in the thousand-petalled lotus of the brain. For, as Paramhansa Nityananda said: “All takes place to a raja yogi in the brain center.…What is called Raja Yoga is above the neck.” Furthermore, the yogi joins the japa (repetition) of Om to the breath–a physical process known as pranayama.

The yogi who observes will discover that the diet of the physical body is also the diet of the mind, that whatever is eaten physically will have an effect mentally. One who does not know this is no yogi at all.

No more sorrow

“He who meditates on the ruler of that city knows no more sorrow.” When we meditate on our Self, our atman, we will end all sorrow. The Gita says of the yogi who meditates on the Self: “To obey the Atman is his peaceful joy; sorrow melts into that clear peace: his quiet mind is soon established in peace.” “When, through the practice of yoga, the mind ceases its restless movements, and becomes still, he realizes the Atman. It satisfies him entirely. Then he knows that infinite happiness which can be realized by the purified heart but is beyond the grasp of the senses. He stands firm in this realization. Because of it, he can never again wander from the inmost truth of his being. Now that he holds it he knows this treasure above all others: faith so certain shall never be shaken by heaviest sorrow. To achieve this certainty is to know the real meaning of the word yoga. It is the breaking of contact with pain. You must practice this yoga resolutely, without losing heart.”

We must meditate on the Self–not on external deities or symbolic forms of psychic states. As Sri Ma Sarada Devi said: “After attaining wisdom one sees that gods and deities are all maya.” The upanishads, Gita, and Yoga Sutras know nothing of meditating on “ishta devatas”–only on Om, for Om is our Self. Here are a few upanishadic statements on the subject:

“The Self is of the nature of the Syllable Om.”

“Directly realize the self by meditating on Om.”

“The Self is of the nature of the Syllable Om. Thus the Syllable Om is the very Self.”

“Meditate on Om as the Self.”

“Om is the atman himself.”

“Om is a single syllable that is of the nature of the Self.…Om is the true form of the Self.”

Liberation–no longer birth or death

“He attains liberation, and for him there can no longer be birth or death.”

There is no need for commentary, but here is some corroboration:

“Know this Atman unborn, undying, never ceasing, never beginning, deathless, birthless, how

can It die the death of the body?”

“The seers…reach enlightenment. Then they are free from the bondage of rebirth, and pass to

that state which is beyond all evil.”

“Knowing the Atman, man finds Nirvana that is in Brahman, here and hereafter.”

Immortal

“For the ruler of that city is the immortal Self.”

The Gita encapsulates it perfectly:

“This true wisdom I have taught will lead you to immortality. The faithful practice it with devotion, taking me for their highest aim. To me they surrender heart and mind. They are exceedingly dear to me.”

“For I am Brahman within this body, life immortal that shall not perish: I am the Truth and the Joy for ever.”

The Shining Self

“The immortal Self is the sun shining in the sky, he is the breeze blowing in space, he is the fire burning on the altar, he is the guest dwelling in the house; he is in all men, he is in the gods, he is in the ether, he is wherever there is truth; he is the fish that is born in water, he is the plant that grows in the soil, he is the river that gushes from the mountain–he, the changeless reality, the illimitable!”

Where in all the scriptures of the world can we find such a thrilling statement–thrilling and glorious because it is TRUE?

The two that are One

To fully comprehend the teachings of the upanishadic sages we must keep in mind that whatever can be said of the Paramatman on the cosmic, universal level can usually also be said of the jivatman on the level of our individual life within the cosmos. So the upanishads are describing not only God, the Supreme Spirit, but the nature of our own individual spirit.

What is needed

There is another, essential, side to this upanishadic statement–and indeed to all scriptural teachings–that must be kept in mind at all times in our study: We must experience and know the realities spoken of by the sages. They did not write down their perceptions for us to merely accept them and be intellectually convinced of their veracity. Rather, they wrote them down as signposts so we could check our own perceptions against them. Never did they mean for their writings to become dogmas and doctrines. They assume that their readers will be yogis like themselves, sadhaka-pilgrims pressing on toward the ultimate frontiers of consciousness.

This is the absolutely unique character of the basic texts of Sanatana Dharma. All other scriptures, including those of later authorship in India as well as those of other religions, are statements of “truths” we are supposed to accept “on faith” without question. This is why intelligent investigation and analysis are so little valued by the expounders of those scriptures, why nearly all religions warn their adherents away from reading the books of “heretics” and demand that they shun their company. Intellectual fearlessness terrifies “the chosen faithful” and sets their teeth on edge.

But no religious system that employs a single bond can lead us to freedom. For example, in Yoga, yama and niyama are not “commandments” but helpful information. Just as we learn what food is harmful to the body, so from Patanjali we learn what conduct limits and clouds the consciousness of the aspiring yogi. If we wish to ignore his counsel, that is our own concern. No one will call us to account for our heedlessness except our own Self. Those who are fit to be yogis joyfully learn what to cultivate and what to avoid, and live accordingly. Those who drag their feet, sigh, and sullenly demand mitigations, are simply not fit for yoga and should occupy themselves in other areas. This is why Jesus asked: “Which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.”

Every yogi must be adhikarin–qualified and worthy, fit for yoga and capable of its total practice. Jesus said: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” It is interesting that he likens spiritual life to the cumbersome wooden yoke of oxen or bullocks, assuring us that it will be restful and easy and light to bear. How is this? To a strong ox or bullock the heaviest of yokes will be of no consequence. So if we are the kind of people for whom yoga is intended, its requirements and disciplines will be light and easeful. But if, instead of being oxen or bullocks we are dogs and swine–symbols used by Jesus for the unworthy–the “light and easy” yoke will break our backs! This is why some people should take up bowling or surfing and forget religion altogether, what to say of yoga.

For the serious seekers, though, the ancient rishis hold back nothing, but give the full picture of the Self.

“The immortal Self”

The self can appear (please note I say “appear”) to enter into numberless conditions and interior states. It even experiences millions of births and deaths, yet It never really dies, for immortality is a fundamental trait of Its nature. It is not easy, but the yogi must cultivate a continual awareness that he is Immortal Being–never anything less, and never anything more–and order his life accordingly. I do not mean by this that he denies his present (seeming) condition, but that, as Yogananda continually advised, he is always aware that he is only sitting in the motion picture theatre of the cosmos watching a movie that, cosmic as its scope may be, can be wiped away in a moment, that only he and the other viewers are real, that all must eventually leave the theater and go home to Infinity. How splendid are the truths of the Vedanta!

“The sun”

The Self is the source of all light–the Inner Light of Consciousness that illumines all things. For outside the Self there is no perception of even the brightest of material suns. It is the presence of the Self that produces awareness of all phenomena. Outside the Self nothing at all exists. Within the Self is everything.

“Shining in the sky”

The Self shines in the “sky” of the Chidakasha, the subtle Ether (Akasha). The Chidakasha is the infinite, all-pervading expanse of Consciousness from which all “things” proceed; the true “heart” of all things. The “shining” of the Self in the Chidakasha is the emanation of Om. In the individual, the Chidakasha is the subtle space of Consciousness located in the Sahasrara, the Thousand-petalled Lotus that is the astral/causal brain. From that point Om, the Word of Life (Pranava) enlivens and illumines all things; which is why we meditate upon Om in the head.

“The breeze blowing in space”

The Self is also that power which moves within the Chidakasha as the wind moves within earthly space. As the wind causes movement in the trees and on the surfaces of earth and water, in the same way it is the Self that produces all movement in the cosmos, in all the worlds gross and subtle.

“The fire burning on the altar”

The Self is the transmuting force of Cosmic Fire on the altar of the universe. In India of the upanishadic rishis there were no temples, nor were there any external religious rites other than the sandhya (morning and evening salutations of the sun) and the havan, the fire ritual in which by the agency of consecrated fire the offerings were transformed into subtle energy forms and transferred into higher worlds. The Self, then is the ultimate transmuting power which evolves both the cosmos and the personal energies of the individual spirits within it. The entire universe is an altar in which, through the power of the Self, all things are offerings unto–and into–Infinite Being.

“The guest dwelling in the house”

All things, even the least atom, are “houses” for the all-pervading Self. All things that exist have the Self as their inmost dweller. Where there is any objecting “thing,” there is the Self. Yet, since no things are permanent, the Self is only a momentary Guest–but none the less real for that.

“In all men”

What is meaningful to us is the truth that the Self is the dweller in all consciousness beings. And since they are not “things,” the Self is not a guest but the permanent Indweller as the Self of the Self. The consciousness of each one of is the only temple is which Spirit ever dwells in Its essential being. Although it can be said that in a sense our bodies are temples of God, that is not really true in the purest sense. Only in our consciousness is Spirit to be found. This is why the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita insist that we must identify with the Self alone, seeing all else as mirages destined to dissolve away and cease to exist. Their message has been summed up by Shankara in these words: “Brahman is real. The world is illusory. The jiva is nothing but Brahman.”

“In the gods”

In the upanishads, “gods” mean not only highly evolved beings that can control the forces of nature, etc., “gods” are also our higher faculties of perception which illumine our awareness of both the inner and outer worlds. Here the idea is that the Self is the enlivening power by which our higher faculties function.

“In the ether”

The Ether, the Chidakasha, is the natural home of the Self. Only in this inmost level of being can the Self be always perceived. In the lesser levels we usually “lose” the Self by losing perception of It. How can we establish ourselves in “etheric awareness”? Through the unique property of akasha: sound– specifically, through the japa and meditation of Om, as Patanjali has stated in the Yoga Sutras. In the Vedanta Sutras of the sage Vyasa (also called the Brahma Sutras) he tells us: “Anavrittih shabdai–By sound vibration one becomes liberated.”

“Wherever there is truth”

Wherever there is true knowing, there the Self is operative as the Sun of Consciousness, revealing both relative and absolute truth. For Truth is Its nature. A popular Sanskrit adage is: “Truth alone conquers,” meaning that victory over ignorance and bondage is found only in the Self, the ultimate Truth.

“The fish that is born in water”

Egotism is a prime train of human beings–usually in the form of outright arrogance. In religion this manifests in the insistence that human beings are superior to all other beings. Even in India we have the idea that “even the gods pray for human birth” because supposedly only human beings can be enlightened. In Christianity there is an insistence that human beings are higher than angels because they alone can be “saved” through Christ. In the most ignorant of religions there is the insistence that only human beings are immortal and that animals are some kind of animated machines, that human beings alone are “in the image of God” and suchlike.

Therefore the upanishad tells us the truth: that even in the dullest of animals–the fish–the Self is present, that the fish is the Self in manifestation, as are we.

“The plant that grows in the soil”

Lest we confine the Self to animal life, the upanishad further tells us that plants are dwellingplaces of the Self, too.

“The river that gushes from the mountain”

And lest we think that the Self in only in “living” things, the seers assure us that in inanimate things the Self is living and moving. Everything is alive in Spirit. What a sublime world-view!

“The changeless reality”

All the things listed as abodes of the Self are ever-changing, and their forms are evanescent, soon seen to be without permanent reality. Since we identify with what we see around us, we continually fall into the snare of thinking that we, too, change and have no ultimate reality. Even if we think otherwise intellectually, we keep acting in a delusive manner. Hence we must keep reminding ourselves that we are changeless and absolutely real.

“The illimitable”

Equally wonderful is the truth that we are beyond limitation, that infinite are our possibilities–for we are the Infinite Self.

The call

Those who embodied their realizations in the upanishads did not do so to furnish us with a bundle of beliefs to “take on faith” and wrangle over. Their intention was to spur us onward to attain the same vision as they possessed, to be sages equal with them, no longer “servants” but “friends.” Their call to us is the same as that of Swami Vivekananda, who continually exhorted his hearers: “Awake! Arise!”

The Life-Giving Self

Just as children babble on aimlessly about things they do not understand, so we do the same, though in a more sophisticated way, especially in religion and philosophy. So the three verses relating to the Self and life are very much needed by us. First the upanishad tells us:

“He, the adorable one, seated in the heart, is the power that gives breath. Unto him all the senses do homage.”

Adorable

The word Prabhavananda translates “adorable” is vamanam, which means adorable, dear, and pleasing. These epithets are traditionally used in relation to Shiva, the symbol of the atman and atmic consciousness. This is important, for the Self is not just Truth or Reality–a mere abstraction–but when experienced as either the individual Self or the Supreme Self produces in us a personal response, literally the response of bhakti (devotion) and even prema (love).

In contemporary India there is the idea that bhakti and prema can only be experienced toward a being that possesses form (rupa) or qualities (guna)–that it is impossible to have these responses to Brahman the transcendent Being. But in the upanishads and the Gita we are constantly exhorted to love Brahman–not just some “forms” of Brahman–and the atman. This also indicates that the ancient upanishadic sages did not believe that the Absolute or the Self was without attributes of any kind.

Rather, they considered that, although anything said would be only approximations of divine realities, still human beings could conceive of God in at least a dim way. And they absolutely could experience God, and have reactions and definitions arising from their experience. In Chapter Twelve Krishna speaks of this in more detail, and we will consider it there.

To the yogi, then, the Self and Brahman are equally adorable.

Seated in the heart

God and the Self are seated in the heart, as the upanishads and the Gita continually emphasize. There they abide permanently–it is not a matter of occasional visitations. Knowing this, Jesus said: “Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” This, too, is a matter of direct experience. Saint Luke used the word idou–in other words, “See for yourself that the kingdom of God is within you.” This is not something Jesus wants us to believe and act on blindly–he wants us to experience this truth, for only experience produces lasting effects.

The heart is the throne of God and the throne of the divine Self. When Jesus says: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne,” he is speaking of our heart–not his. Our heart and the heart of God are not the same, but they are ONE.

Power that gives breath

The upanishads literally say that it is the Self which produces our inhalations and exhalations. “Who could live, who could breathe, if that blissful self dwelt not within the lotus of the heart?” “The Self is the breath of the breath.” “The breaths are the Real, and their Reality is the Self.” “He who breathes in with your breathing in is your Self. He who breathes out with your breathing out is your Self.” “From him is born the breath.” “The shining, immortal person who is breath is the Self, is Brahman.” “Which is the one God? The breath. He is Brahman.”

In the spiritual texts of India the word hridaya–heart–means not just the heart, or core, but also is said to indicate the space (akasha) where the inbreath and outbreath merge–the ultimate heart. This is why yoga must involve working with the inhaling and exhalation breaths in the form of subtle pranayama. “The breath is the Supreme Brahman. The breath never deserts him who, knowing thus, meditates upon it. Having become a god, he goes to the gods.” “They who know the breath of the breath…have realized the ancient, primordial Brahman.”

The senses do homage

In the primal texts of Sanatana Dharma we find references to “gods” (devas). In modern Hinduism we find a panorama of all kinds of gods, demigods, and suchlike, so it is supposed that the ancient tests refer to them when speaking of “devas.” But a simple perusal of the context of those references reveal that the upanishadic sages meant the senses (jnanendriyas), not some kind of external deific intelligences.

The senses “do homage” in the sense that in the evolved individual they draw near to (upasate) and become merged in the Self, which is their source. Now this tells us two interesting and usually unsuspected things. First, that it is natural for the Self to control the senses, not to be their slave. Second, it is completely natural for the senses to move inward toward the Self and experience the Self by uniting with It. Neither of these is our present experience. Rather, we consider it normal for the Self to be bound by the senses, and for it to require great struggle to turn them inward and bring them to experience of the Self. Evidently we have lived in a subnormal condition so long that we have come to think subnormality is normal. We are like the drunk man who was walking along with one foot on the sidewalk and the other down in the street. When someone stopped him and asked why he was walking that way, he burst into tears and answered: “Thank God! I thought I was a cripple.”

Basically, the Self is the goal of all.

The essence

The upanishad then asks: “What can remain when the dweller in this body leaves the outgrown shell, since he is, verily, the immortal Self?” The answer is quite simple: nothing but the body remains, for the Self is as different from the body as the pearl is from the oyster and its shell. The departure of the Self produces death and decay, for it is the Self alone that gives–and is–life, the sustenance of the body.

Jesus, Himself a yogi having lived over half of his life in India, said: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” That is, we live not on matter, but on the very Life of God–because matter is only a modification of that Life Energy. The upanishad– which Jesus would have known–expresses the same idea by saying: “Man does not live by breath alone, but by him in whom is the power of breath.”

It is not breath that makes us live–though breath is the basis of our body’s metabolism. This is why yogis can live without the physical act of breathing. What we cannot do without, and by which we do live is Him who is the source of breath, especially in His primeval form: Om, the Pranava, the Life-Giver, the Word of Life. Through the repetition and meditation of Om as recommended by Patanjali we enter into communication with the Lord, Ishwara, and then into unity with Him.

“For in him we live, and move, and have our being.”

The Eternal Brahman–The Eternal Self

Brahman and the Self

“And now, O Nachiketa, will I tell thee of the unseen, the eternal Brahman, and of what befalls the Self after death.”

This is an interesting juxtaposition: Brahman and the Self after death (of the body). The upanishad puts these together because Brahman and the Self are one, and after death the spirit recovers the memory of its immortality–its eternity. One with Brahman, the Self yet experiences many changes. Those changes may only be appearances, but they are nonetheless real, and profoundly affect the Self in its evolutionary journey. So they need to be set forth.

The ignorant

“Of those ignorant of the Self, some enter into beings possessed of wombs, others enter into plants– according to their deeds and the growth of their intelligence.”

Here again we have a most interesting thing. Instead of discussing the worlds entered by the spirit after bodily death, and their nature as reflections of the spirit’s karma, physical rebirth is immediately being spoken of. This is because it takes a goodly degree of evolution for the subtle worlds to have meaning for the developing spirit. The undeveloped learn neither from earthly or astral experiences. Further, many of them simply go to sleep at the moment of death and awaken only at the moment of birth. The period of time in between does not exist for them in any meaningful sense.

In his commentary on this verse Shankara cites another upanishadic statement: “Creatures are born in accordance with their knowledge.” For evolution is a matter of knowing (jnana). The spirits that are unaware of their true nature come back into two general categories: into living organisms that gestate them in some form or other, and plant life. Obviously, very little goes on in the life of the plant as far as consciousness is concerned. Only those who are “born” and live a life with some degree of control over a body vehicle can develop their consciousness to any significant extent.

Implicit in this verse is the principle of the transmigration of the atman from lower to higher forms of life. We start out as atoms of hydrogen, move into mineral forms, then plant forms, then “living” organisms, and then into the human body from which we shall eventually evolve into forms in higher worlds. For most of the time evolution is automatic and incredibly slow. But at some point we become capable of directing and enhancing our evolutionary movement. At first this is only through thinking and acting, but eventually we become capable of yoga, of fully taking charge of our growth in consciousness. Until this point is reached, little of any importance occurs to us. So the upanishad is starting at a basic rung of the ladder of evolution. But since, as I have said, nothing of much value take place on that level, the upanishad moves ahead quite a bit to the level when we are capable of dreaming–to at least the intelligent animal level.

Dream creation

“That which is awake in us even while we sleep, shaping in dream the objects of our desire–that indeed is pure, that is Brahman, and that verily is called the Immortal. All the worlds have their being in that, and no one can transcend it. That is the Self.”

It is a fundamental assertion of India’s primal wisdom that there are four states of consciousness: jagrat (waking), swapna (dreaming), sushupti (dreamless sleep), and turiya, the pure consciousness that witnesses the first three. Turiya is the state proper to the Self–actually is the Self–which is why this verse speaks of It as “that which is awake in us even while we sleep.”

“Shaping in dream the objects of our desire.” But there is more to this Self than consciousness. It is also creative power. Although as yogis we use the terminology of Sankhya and speak of Purusha and Prakriti as two entities, we are only speaking of two aspects or views of the One Existence. They are absolutely One. The upanishad reveals this by telling us that the Self is not only Witness, It is also the Witnessed.

The Self is desireless, yet it shows us in dreams the things we desire. Why? Because the Self is more than Witness, It is Guide and Guru. In every way it is attempting to show us our present spiritual status. Dreams are one of the avenues for its teaching. It is true that dreams arise from the subconscious, but they do so at the impulse of the Self. Unfortunately our subconscious is distorted, like a badly ground lens, so the original imaging of the Self comes through to us distorted or partial, and the message is flawed. However, the more we clarify our minds through meditation, the more faithful our dreams will be to the original impulses from the Self. In time our dreams can become authentic spiritual visions, at least on occasion.

Although showing us our desires, the Self remains pure–the actual word being “white” to signify that the Self has no inherent “colors” (qualities or traits), for it is Brahman by nature. Thus it is also immortal, no matter how many “deaths” we may experience, both through the death of the body and the “little death” we experience each time we sleep–dreams being a kind of “after death” astral experience.

All “worlds,” all levels of experience, arise from the Self in Union with Brahman. Nothing exists apart from the Self. The Self is also the ultimate Being. There is no “going beyond” it. Because it is one with Brahman, even conscious union with Brahman does not cancel out our awareness of the individual Atman. This is a most important principle, for many are led into the delusion that they have transcended the Self and “entered the Not-Self,” when they have merely sunk into the morass of tamasic ignorance. They are suffering from the subtlest form of mental illness which in time will manifest as recognizable psychosis and lead to great mental and moral disintegration–in many instances to attempted or successful suicide.

The indwelling Self

“As fire, though one, takes the shape of every object which it consumes, so the Self, though one, takes the shape of every object in which it dwells. As air, though one, takes the shape of every object which it enters, so the Self, though one, takes the shape of every object in which it dwells.”

Each individual Self inhabits a vast number of body-vehicles as it moves up the ladder of evolution to the Highest. (For a detailed study of this, see .) And in each one it appears to actually become that vehicle. Yet the Self remains only Itself, one and unique. In this way the Self gathers experiences of every form of life that exists. This is necessary for It if It is to approximate the status of Brahman, for Brahman, existing in all forms, has the experience of “being” all those forms. Hence the microcosmic Self mirrors the Macrocosmic Self.

The untouched Self

“As the sun, revealer of all objects to the seer, is not harmed by the sinful eye, nor by the impurities of the objects it gazes on, so the one Self, dwelling in all, is not touched by the evils of the world. For he transcends all.”

Having spoken to us of the fact that the Self somehow takes on the form of its many incarnational forms, the upanishad reminds us that the Self is nonetheless absolutely unmarked by that “formation” and undergoes no alteration or conditioning whatsoever. Even while immanent in relative existence, the Self remains essentially transcendent, in the same relation to its incarnate form as is Brahman to the universe. The divine eye of the Self illumines all things yet is affected by none.

Bliss and peace

“He is one, the lord and innermost Self of all; of one form, he makes of himself many forms. To him who sees the Self revealed in his own heart belongs eternal bliss–to none else, to none else!”

The Self is ever the Master, however much the forms inhabited by the Self may be bound. The Self is the essential principle of the existence of all those forms, always remaining one and unchanged. He alone who beholds the Self in/as the core of his being possesses eternal bliss.

“Intelligence of the intelligent, eternal among the transient, he, though one, makes possible the desires of many. To him who sees the Self revealed in his own heart belongs eternal peace–to none else, to none else!”

Consciousness of the conscious, the eternal link between all the temporal bodies Its inhabits, the Self it is that which “makes possible the desires of many” through countless incarnations. He alone who beholds the Self in/as the core of his being possesses eternal peace.

The Radiant Self

Yamaraj has presented his student with a great deal of philosophical knowledge regarding the Self. This is all valuable, but Nachiketa feels impelled to ask a question, without the answer to which all the teaching on the Self means nothing. He asks: “How O King, shall I find that blissful Self, supreme, ineffable, who is attained by the wise? Does he shine by himself, or does he reflect another’s light?” It is pointless to hear about the Self if we do not know how to find the Self. It is true that in metaphysical realms the majority of people are enamored of theory and discussion without practical application, but the wise see things differently. Nachiketa has already grasped the fundamental nature of the Self.

Blissful

Analysis shows that the basic motivation of all beings is bliss (ananda) or happiness (sukham), that all the things we strive for are only prized because their acquisition will give rise to joy. In this perspective we see that all beings are in search of the Self, for It alone is of the nature of joy. Once a person grasps this fact–really grasps it–he can only seek for the Self, all else being seen as insignificant.

In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad we find the following relevant exposition:

”It is not for the sake of the husband, my beloved, that the husband is dear, but for the sake of the Self. ”It is not for the sake of the wife, my beloved, that the wife is dear, but for the sake of the Self. ”It is not for the sake of the children, my beloved, that the children are dear, but for the sake of the Self. ”It is not for the sake of wealth, my beloved, that wealth is dear, but for the sake of the Self. ”It is not for the sake of the Brahmins, my beloved, that the Brahmins are held in reverence, but for the sake of the Self. ”It is not for the sake of the Kshatriyas, my beloved, that the Kshatriyas are held in honor, but for the sake of the Self. ”It is not for the sake of the higher worlds, my beloved, that the higher worlds are desired, but for the sake of the Self. ”It is not for the sake of the gods, my beloved, that the gods are worshiped, but for the sake of the Self. ”It is not for the sake of the creatures, my beloved, that the creatures are prized, but for the sake of the Self. ”It is not for the sake of itself, my beloved, that anything whatever is esteemed, but for the sake of the Self. ”The Self, Maitreyi, is to be known. Hear about it, reflect upon it, meditate upon it. By knowing the Self, my beloved, through hearing, reflection, and meditation, one comes to know all things.”

Supreme

The Self is supreme–there is nothing that is higher or more desirable than the Self; there is nothing that exists beyond the Self. It is supreme because It is Existence Itself. There is no reality other than the Self. We must seek the Self because only the Self can be attained–everything else is a mirage.

Ineffable

The Self cannot be defined or evaluated in the terms of relative existence or relative objects–none of which exist outside the Self. Consequently the Self cannot be intellectually understood or even defined. Nevertheless, the Self can be known in a manner beyond any ordinary knowing, for It can be experienced as both object and subject–a quality unique to Itself.

Attained by the wise

The Self is attainable. Those who at present are ignorant of the Self can become knowers of the Self. Although only the knowers of the Self are fully worthy of being called wise, we can certainly call those who are seeking the Self also wise. All of us can be the potentially wise if we follow the path to Self-knowledge as outlined in the upanishads, the Gita, and the Yoga Darshan of Patanjali.

A necessary question

Nachiketa has declared the Self to be Supreme, yet he prudently follows that statement with a question to dispel any possibility that he may be misunderstanding Yama’s teaching: Does the Self shine by Itself, is Light Its essential nature, or does It reflect another’s light? This is a most crucial inquiry. Is the Self Light, or is Its light drawn from a source other than the Self. This is a question that penetrates to the foundations of the cosmos, demanding a clear insight.

The sublime answer

“Him the sun does not illumine, nor the moon, nor the stars, nor the lightning–nor, verily, fires kindled upon the earth. He is the one light that gives light to all. He shining, everything shines.” So Yama answers his worthy pupil’s worthy question.

Nothing of heaven or earth illumines the Self or causes It to be radiant. Rather, It is swayamprakash– self-luminous. Furthermore, it is the Self that illumines all beings. “He is the one light that gives light to all.” The Self is the essential nature of all sentient beings that “shine” with consciousness. “He shining, everything shines.”

All glory to the blissful, supreme, and ineffable Self! All glory to the wise who strive to attain that Self as well as the supremely wise who have attained It!

The Universal Tree

“This universe is a tree eternally existing, its root aloft its branches spread below. The pure root of the tree is Brahman, the immortal, in whom the three worlds have their being, whom none can transcend, who is verily the Self.”

Little needs to be said about this verse, its meaning is quite obvious. We can, however, infer a significant principle: all things are rooted above in the Supreme Consciousness, in Brahman. Everything has Brahman for its essential Being. From this we get the Hermetic principle: As Above, So Below. Applying this principle to our own experience we can come to understand a great deal about the higher–and truer–nature of what is arising and subsiding in our life. Original Christianity, being rooted in the upanishadic teachings of Jesus (Isha Nath), taught the same, and that is why in the oldest text of Christian hymns, , we find this: “The likeness of that which is below is that which is above. For everything is above, and below there is nothing, but it is believed to be by those in whom there is no knowledge.” That is, the ignorant believe that “things” have an independent existence–an existence that can cease–rather than the truth that they are not only rooted in Brahman, they are an imperishable extension of Brahman. “For in him we live, and move, and have our being…for we are also his offspring” as Saint Paul pointed out. “And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” David simply sang: “For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.” Brahman is the ultimate state and stage of being. There is no transcending Brahman, for Brahman is truly the Self of all.

From this we see the principle only (comparatively) recently discovered by science: that in essence all things are immortal, that there is not a single atomic particle in creation that can go out of existence, that the changes we think are death and birth are only rearrangements of the living energies of which all consist.

A yogic aspect

Though yoga is not the subject of this verse, we can extract some important yogic information from it.

Since we are miniature cosmoses, little universes, our origin is also “above” in the root ball of the brain, the Thousand-petalled Lotus, the Sahasrara. Therefore, to experience that Source, in meditation we orient our attention toward the head, and we invoke the “pure root” of our being in the form of Om, which is the same as Brahman.

The fearless Source

“The whole universe came forth from Brahman and moves in Brahman. Mighty and awful is he, like to a thunderbolt crashing loud through the heavens. For those who attain him death has no terror.”

“Awful” is outdated English. “Awesome” is much more correct. (In older forms of English, “awful,” “horrible,” and “terrible” all meant awesome, and were positive, but at this point in time they have reversed polarity and become negative descriptions.)

Brahman is Inexorable Power as well as Infinite Consciousness. His presence is like the thunderbolt whose light blinds us to all lesser lights, whose Creative Sound is Om expanding through the Chidakasha, the Ether of Consciousness, in which all things exist–and of which they consist. Those who unite with this Brahman experience their eternal immortality and become fearless, especially in the face of the mirage called death.

The Divine Will

In fear of him fire burns, the sun shines, the rains fall, the winds blow, and death kills. (Katha Upanishad 2:3:3)

Here, too, a state of ecstatic awe and wonder is meant. In older English, which Prabhavananda is using, “fear” meant to be filled with awe and respect–not to be afraid. So when we read in the older Bible translations that we should fear God we are actually being told to reverence God.

In awesome reverence of Brahman the creation responds to the Supreme Will–for it is itself an extension of Brahman, as already said. All that occurs is the movement of Divine Consciousness, is response to Divine Will. Brahman moves Brahman, and creation manifests and moves onward. Brahman ceases to move Brahman, and creation resolves into its potential, causal form and seems to cease. At all times it is Brahman reacting upon–and to–Brahman. Even death is only a change of Life.

The root of rebirth

“If a man fail to attain Brahman before he casts off his body, he must again put on a body in the world of created things.”

Perfect knowledge of Brahman resulting from total union of our consciousness with Brahman’s Consciousness is the only passport beyond this world–or any worlds of relative existence. Knowledge is the root determinant of our rebirth or our freedom from rebirth. This is why most religion is so useless–it deals with “good” and “bad,” with “truth” and “error,” on the tiny level of individual human mentalities. The infinite scope of Brahmic Consciousness simply does not come into its purview. Human beings waste lifetimes with such mundane religions that only program them for more and more births upon this earth. Even their ideas of the afterlife and “heaven” only condition them for more birth and bondage. Degenerate Christianity, especially, with its doctrine of physical resurrection and immortality instills material consciousness in its adherents, condemning them to the wheel of perpetual birth and death. Thinking they are “creatures,” they sink into the quagmire of “creation.” Actually, they impel themselves into the morass, calling it the will of God. As Jesus said: “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” If our “truth” be actually untruth, its blinding–and binding–power is nigh well inescapable.

The realm of realization

“In one’s own soul Brahman is realized clearly, as if seen in a mirror. In the heaven of Brahma also is Brahman realized clearly, as one distinguishes light from darkness. In the world of the fathers he is beheld as in a dream. In the world of angels he appears as if reflected in water.”

First, this verse should put the lie to the absurd claim in contemporary Hinduism that enlightenment is impossible unless the individual is born on earth in a human body. What is the truth is the fact that the highest realm of relativity, the heaven of Brahma (Brahmaloka) is the only one in which the capacity for realizing Brahman is inherent in the form proper to that world. In all other worlds the incarnational form is the bar to such realization, for in the minds of the inhabitants of those worlds Brahman appears only as a dream or a reflection in water.

The most important fact, though, is the statement that Brahman can be “seen” and experienced in the Self of each one of us–no matter what world we may or may not inhabit. We need not aspire to ascend to any other world, thinking that incarnation there is necessary for our spiritual liberation. Not at all. Whatever world we may be in, whatever form we may find ourselves incarnate in, we can realize Brahman perfectly. Why? Because our Self is one with Brahman. This is why we sometimes read in the lore of India about animals that at their death attained moksha (liberation). It is all in the knowing, the jnana.

Hierarchy of Consciousness

The senses

“The senses have separate origin in their several objects. They may be active, as in the waking state, or they may be inactive, as in sleep. He who knows them to be distinct from the changeless Self grieves no more.”

If a lost person could somehow be lifted up high and see his surroundings from that perspective, he could easily see his way out of his confusion. In the same way, those who are lost in the jungle of the senses can find their way by heeding the wisdom of the upanishads.

Sense experience is just that–the experiences of the senses themselves. The Self witnesses these experiences and thinks that it is really undergoing them and being affected by them. This produces great fear and suffering, what to say of the mountain-high heaps of illusions and delusions those experiences produce–not in the Self, but in the mind. The Self, however, attributes these things to itself and fears and suffers even more. Whether the senses are active or inactive, the potential suffering is ever there. If, however, we can realize that such perceptions are utterly separate from us, from our Self, all fear and sorrow cease forever. But we must realize that truth, not just accept it or act as though it is so. In other words, we must become yogis, for only yogis realize the truth of the Self and the error of the Not-Self.

The hierarchy

“Above the senses is the mind. Above the mind is the intellect. Above the intellect is the ego. Above the ego is the unmanifested seed, the Primal Cause. And verily beyond the unmanifested seed is Brahman, the all-pervading spirit, the unconditioned, knowing whom one attains to freedom and achieves immortality.”

It will be good to do some vocabulary building at this point.

By “senses” is meant the five organs of perception: ear, skin, eye, tongue, and nose. Often the word “senses” really refers to the five sense perceptions.

By “mind” is meant the sensory mind; the perceiving faculty that receives the messages of the senses.

“Intellect” is the faculty of understanding, of reason–the thinking mind.

The “ego” is the false “I”–egoism or self-conceit. It is also the self-arrogating principle “I” that is projected by the mind rather than the real Self. “Ego” is in manifestation whenever “I” is said or claimed by anything other than the spirit-self.

“The unmanifested seed, the Primal Cause” is Prabhavananda’s translation of two terms: Mahat (Tattwa) and Avyakta. The Mahat Tattwa, or “Great Principle” is the first evolute from Prakriti. It is the principle of Cosmic Intelligence (Buddhi). The Avyakta is the Unmanifest, the primal Prakriti, from which all things evolve.

It is necessary for us to be aware of this hierarchy, for the lesser levels can be controlled from the higher levels, thus saving a great deal of time and frustration.

The Supreme, the Source

Beyond all these various levels that are the machinery of the individual and the cosmos is That which is the Supreme, the Source of all. Regarding That, the upanishad continues: “And verily beyond the unmanifested seed is Brahman, the all-pervading spirit, the unconditioned, knowing whom one attains to freedom and achieves immortality.”

The Self and Brahman being one, it is the knowledge of our Self that bestows upon us freedom and immortality.

To know the Self

But how do we know this Self–not merely hear about It or believe in It, but truly know it by direct experience?

“None beholds him with the eyes, for he is without visible form. Yet in the heart is he revealed, through self-control and meditation. Those who know him become immortal.”

What could be simpler? We enter into the heart, into the Chidakasha (not the physical organ called “the heart”) that is at the core of our being. There the Self is revealed to the disciplined meditator. Immortality is the result of such knowing. The upanishad continues with a description of the process that leads to Self-knowledge.

“When all the senses are stilled, when the mind is at rest, when the intellect wavers not–then, say the wise, is reached the highest state.”

This is extremely, extremely important. Because of the razzamatazz of the Yoga Carnival that has been rioting on from the last century, nearly everyone thinks that the highest state involves chills and thrills in the form of inner sensory experiences of cataclysmic proportion, including “opening of chakras” and “rising of kundalini.” Notice that the upanishad says nothing like that–nor does the Gita or the Yoga Sutras. What it does tell us is that the pure consciousness that is Reality is experienced “when all the senses are stilled, when the mind is at rest, when the intellect wavers not.” That, and that alone, is the highest state which in time becomes permanent and is itself liberation.

Yoga

Obviously much that is called yoga is not yoga at all. This is brought out by the next verse: “This calm of the senses and the mind has been defined as yoga. He who attains it is freed from delusion. In one not freed from delusion this calm is uncertain, unreal: it comes and goes.”

The state of calm, or steadiness (sthiram) in awareness of awareness itself, is yoga. This frees us from delusion because it makes us aware of our true nature as the Self. In those who have not attained perfection this state comes and goes. The upanishad tells us this so we will not be foolish enough to think that experiencing it once or even a few times is enough and wrongly think we are enlightened. (People claim enlightenment on the basis of much less.) We must practice diligently to become permanently established in it.

Although I have told about Lahiri Mahashaya’s teaching on the subject of this state–which he called sthirattwa–in the Gita commentary, I would like to repeat it here.

Yogiraj Shyama Charan Lahiri Mahasaya continually expounded the idea that the goal of yoga is to be established in sthirattwa, in perfect tranquility.

“A group of spiritual leaders from Calcutta once conspired against Lahiri Mahasay. They invited him to join in an evening discussion on spiritual matters. Lahiri Mahasay accepted the invitation and accordingly attended the meeting.

“The conspirators had well prepared themselves to trap Lahiri Mahasay. For example, if Lahiri Mahasay were to express his preference for a particular deity, or Istadev, ‘desired Lord,’ then a particular leader would find exception to that choice.

“In fact, each member of the group selected a particular Devata, ‘deity’ such as Lord Vishnu, Lord Krishna, Lord Siva, the Goddess Kali (the Divine Mother) and prepared to debate and challenge Lahiri Mahasay’s choice.

“As soon as Lahiri Mahasay arrived, he was received in the traditional manner and shown proper courtesy. After a while one of the members of the group asked Lahiri Mahasay, ‘Upon which deity do you meditate?’

“Lahiri Mahasay looked at him but did not reply. Then another gentleman asked him, ‘Who is your Istadev, “desired deity?”’ Lahiri Mahasay turned his head towards him and looked at him in the same way, while keeping his peace.

“Finally, a third gentleman asked him, ‘Can you tell us upon which deity usually you meditate?’

“Lahiri Mahasay faced him and said very gently, ‘I meditate on Sthirattva (Tranquility).’

“The gentleman replied that he did not understand what was meant by this. Lahiri Mahasay continued to observe silence. After some time, another gentleman asked him, ‘Could you please explain this? I do not understand exactly what you are saying.’

“Lahiri Mahasay, as before, continued to maintain silence. Another gentleman asked, ‘Can you enlighten me as to what you mean by that? I do not understand at all!’ Lahiri Baba told him, ‘You will not be able to understand, and also I will not be able to make you understand (realize) through words.’

“The group was at a loss. All of their preparation and conniving had come to naught. Only silence prevailed. All kept silent.

“After a long time Lahiri Mahasay got up and silently prepared to leave the meeting. All showed him the traditional courtesy as he left.”

As Paramhansa Yogananda, who made Lahiri Mahashaya known in the West, often said: “He who knows, knows–none else knows.”

How can Brahman be known?

“Brahman words cannot reveal, mind cannot reach, eyes cannot see. How then, save through those who know him, can he be known?”

Brahman can only be truly known by direct experience in meditation. This verse is not speaking of that ultimate knowing, but of the “knowing about” Brahman so we can be stimulated to seek Brahman. Empty words and intellectual ponderings cannot bring about this knowing, nor can our mind and senses. But those who know of Brahman–even imperfectly–possess a spiritual power in their presence and in their words which convey an intuitive glimmer of the reality of Brahman. That glimmer, entering into our hearts through contact with them, causes our inmost awareness to awaken, arise, and respond, and seek the full realization of Brahman for ourselves. This is why the company of sadhakas is essential for the questing soul. It is like one candle lighting another.

The two selves

“There are two selves, the apparent self and the real Self. Of these it is the real Self, and he alone, who must be felt as truly existing. To the man who has felt him as truly existing he reveals his innermost nature.”

It is common in Western metaphysical thought to speak of the “lower self” that is not truly the Self, but the lesser aspects of human existence, and the “higher self” that is the real Self. We must distinguish between the two, and this impossible without enough inner development making possible the intuition of the Self, even if It is not directly known. One who has this intuition, if intelligent, will then begin to seek to know the Self, to become a yogi in some manner. To such a one who perseveres, the Self will be revealed in Its fulness. As Swami Gambhirananda renders the first part of this verse: “The Self is to be realized as existing, and then as It really is.” This realization is what is meant by distinguishing between the unreal and the Real.

From Mortality to Immortality

“Lead me from death to immortality” is part of a prayer at the beginning of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. In this final part of the Katha Upanishad we are given practical understanding of the way in which immortality is gained.

“The mortal in whose heart desire is dead becomes immortal. The mortal in whose heart the knots of ignorance are untied becomes immortal. These are the highest truths taught in the scriptures.”

When desire dies, when ignorance drops away, immortality is revealed. Practically speaking, we “become” immortal, but in reality we have always been immortal. Yet, like a millionaire who thinks he is a pauper, our immortality is of little meaning to us until we come to realize and experience it.

Furthermore, the upanishad tells us that in essence this truth is the only spiritual teaching there is–not just “the highest truths” as Prabhavananda renders it.. Shankara says that this is the only teaching in all the upanishads, however varying the approaches may be. The aspirant must not lose himself in philosophical byways, including those set forth in mountains of books on Yoga and Vedanta. He must keep his vision clear and focused by understanding that liberation is the only “point” the upanishads ever make.

Attaining immortality

It is easy to tell ourselves to rid ourselves of desire and ignorance, but how is that to be done, especially since we have been in the grip of these two ogres for creation cycles? The upanishad gives us the yogic key to rising above desire and ignorance into immortality:

“Radiating from the lotus of the heart there are a hundred and one nerves. One of these ascends toward the thousand-petaled lotus in the brain. If, when a man comes to die, his vital force passes upward and out through this nerve, he attains immortality; but if his vital force passes out through another nerve, he goes to one or another plane of mortal existence and remains subject to birth and death.”

It is noteworthy that this comes at the very end of the upanishad. Yogananda used to say: “Yoga is the beginning of the end.” So it is appropriate that after all the philosophical exposition the yoga teaching should be given.

By “heart” is meant the hub–located in the midst of the upper trunk of the body–of subtle passages known as nadis (here translated “nerves”) through which the life force (prana) circulates throughout the gross and subtle bodies, just as the blood circulates from the heart through the veins of the physical body. One hundred of these nadis direct the life force to the life processes of the bodies and are the forces of embodiment. One, unique, nadi, however, rises directly upward from the heart-hub into the head. (This nadi rises from the heart directly into the head–it is not the passage in the midst of the spine.) If at the time of death the departing spirit leaves through that channel, he gains immortality. But if his consciousness attaches itself to any of the hundred other nadis he will be impelled into the subtle worlds that lead inexorably back to incarnation in relativity.

In every meditation, by intoning Om in time with the breath we activate this channel, causing the life force to spontaneously and effortlessly, flow upward into the thousand-petalled lotus in the head toward the divine radiance that shines above and upon the upper levels of the brain-lotus. That Divine Light is the essence of Om, the Life-Giving Word, the Pranava. Then at the end of life, having prepared himself by this practice, sitting in meditation the yogi ascends upward from the body into the realm of immortality.

The Supreme Person

Who is liberated in this manner? In conclusion to his teaching, Yama tells Nachiketa:

“The Supreme Person, of the size of a thumb, the innermost Self, dwells forever in the heart of all beings. As one draws the pith from a reed, so must the aspirant after truth, with great perseverance, separate the Self from the body. Know the Self to be pure and immortal–yea, pure and immortal!”

If the Self is seen, immaterial as it is, it will appear as an oval light, in the shape of a human thumb. (The shape is also that of a Shiva Linga, which is a symbol of the Self.) Those who have seen this are unanimous in describing it in the manner of the upanishad. In my early teens I met a Christian minister who described the death of his twin brother. He said that at the moment of death his brother’s mouth opened, and as he exhaled for the final time, a white light shaped like a thumb emerged from his mouth and passed from the room.

It is through meditation, as I have described it, that we daily work on the separation of the Self from the body which will finally occur at the time of death. Not that we leave our body in meditation, but we begin conditioning all our bodies so they will not hold on to us at the final moments. As the fully ripened kernel of a nut pulls away from the shell so that when it is cracked the kernel comes out in full separation, so will it be with our Self in relation to the body. Sri Ramakrishna described it as being like the release of a fish back into the river.

May these final words of Yama echo within us: “Know the Self to be pure and immortal–yea, pure and immortal!”

Nachiketa–and us

Now the upanishadic sage gives us a final assurance:

“Nachiketa, having learned from the god this knowledge and the whole process of yoga, was freed from impurities and from death, and was united with Brahman. Thus will it be with another also if he know the innermost Self.”

End of Katha Commentary:

Prasna Upanishad

Translated by Swami Gambhirananda Published by Advaita Ashram, Kolkatta

Om ! O gods, may we hear auspicious words with the ears; While engaged in sacrifices, May we see auspicious things with the eyes; While praising the gods with steady limbs, May we enjoy a life that is beneficial to the gods. May Indra of ancient fame be auspicious to us; May the supremely rich (or all-knowing) Pusa (god of the earth) Be propitious to us; May Garuda, the destroyer of evil, Be well disposed towards us; May Brihaspati ensure our welfare. Om ! Peace ! Peace ! Peace !

I-1: Sukesa, son of Bharadvaja; Satyakama, so of Sibi; the grandson of Surya, born of the family of Garga; Kausalya, so of Asvala; a scion of the line of Bhrigu, born in Vidarbha; and Kabandhi, descendant of Katya – all these, who were devoted to (the inferior) Brahman, engaged in realising (the inferior) Brahman, and intent on a search of the supreme Brahman, approached with faggots in hand, the venerable Pippalada with the belief, “This one will certainly tell us all about It.” I-2: To them the seer said, “Live (here) again for a year in a fitting manner, with control over the senses and with brahmacharya and faith. Then put questions as you please. If we know, we shall explain all your questions.” I-3: After that Kabandhi, descendant of Katya, having approached (him) asked, “Venerable sir, from what indeed are all these beings born ?” I-4: To him he said: The Lord of all creatures became desirous of progeny. He deliberated on (past Vedic) knowledge. Having brooded on that knowledge, He created a couple – food and Prana – under the idea, “These two will produce creatures for me in multifarious ways.” I-5: The sun is verily Prana; and food is verily the moon. Whatever is gross or subtle is but food. The

gross, as distinguished from that (subtle), is certainly food (of the subtle). I-6: Now then, the fact that the sun, while rising, enters into the eastern direction, thereby it absorbs into its rays all the creatures in the east. That it enters into the south, that it enters into the west, that it enters into the north, that it reaches the nadir and the zenith, that it enters the intermediate points of the zodiac, that it illumines all, thereby it absorbs all living things into its rays. I-7: That very one rises up who is Prana and fire, who is identified with all creatures, and who is possessed of all forms. This very one, that has been referred to, is spoken of by the mantra: I-8: (The realisers of Brahman) knew the one that is possessed of all forms, full of rays, endowed with illumination, the resort of all, the single light (of all), and the radiator of heat. It is the sun that rises – the sun that possesses a thousand rays, exists in a hundred forms and is the life of all creatures. I-9: The year is verily the Lord of creatures. Of Him there are two Courses, the Southern and the Northern. As to that, those, who follow, in that way, the sacrifices and public good etc., that are products of action, conquer the very world of the moon. It is they who come back. (Since this is so), hence these seers of heaven, who are desirous of progeny, attain the Southern Course. That which is the Course of the Manes is verily food. I-10: Again, by searching for the Self through the control of the senses, brahmacharya, faith and meditation, they conquer the sun (by proceeding) along the Northern Course. This is the resort of all that lives; this is indestructible; this is fearless; this is the highest goal, for from this they do not come back. This is unrealisable (to the ignorant). Pertaining to this here is a verse: I-11: Some talk of (this sun) as possessed of five feet, as the father, as constituted by twelve limbs, and as full of water in the high place above the sky. But there are these others who call him the omniscient and say that on him, as possessed of seven wheels and six spokes, is fixed (the whole universe). I-12: The month verily is the Lord of all creatures. The dark fortnight is His food, and the bright His Prana. Therefore these seers perform the sacrifices in the bright fortnight. The others perform it in the other. I-13: Day and night are verily the Lord of all creatures. Day is surely His Prana and night is certainly the food. Those who indulge in passion in the day, waste away Prana. That they give play to passion at night is as good as celibacy. I-14: Food is nothing but the Lord of all creatures. From that indeed issues that human seed. From that are born all these beings. I-15: This being so, those who undertake the well-known vow of the Lord of all creatures, beget both sons and daughters. For them alone is this world of the moon in whom there are the vows and continence, and in whom is found for ever avoidance of falsehood. I-16: For them is that taintless world of Brahman, in whom there is no crookedness no falsehood, and no dissimulation.

II-1: Next a scion of the line of Bhrigu, born in Vidarbha, asked him, “Sir, how many in fact are the deities that sustain a creature ? Which among them exhibit this glory ? Which again is the chief among them ?” II-2: To him he said: Space in fact is this deity, as also are air, fire, water, earth, the organ of speech, mind, eye and ear. Exhibiting their glory they say, “Unquestionably it is we who hold together this body by not allowing it to disintegrate.” II-3: To them the chief Prana said, “Do not be deluded. It is I who do not allow it to disintegrate by sustaining it by dividing myself fivefold.” They remained incredulous. II-4: He appeared to be rising up (from the body) out of indignation. As He ascended, all the others, too, ascended immediately; and when He remained quite, all others, too, remained in position. Just as in the world, all the bee take to flight in accordance as the king of the bees takes to his wings, and they settle down as he does so, similarly, did speech, mind, eye, ear, etc., behave. Becoming delighted, they (began to) praise Prana.

II-5: This one (i.e. Prana) burns as fire, this one is the sun, this one is cloud, this one is Indra and air, this one is the earth and food. This god is the gross and the subtle, as well as that which is nectar. II-6: Like spokes on the hub of a chariot wheel, are fixed on Prana all things – riks, yajus, samas, sacrifice, Kshatriya and Brahmana. II-7: It is you who move about in the womb as the Lord of creation, and it is you who take birth after the image of the parents. O Prana, it is for you, who reside with the organs, that all these creatures carry presents. II-8: You are the best transmitter (of libation) to the celestials. You are the food-offering to the Manes that precedes other offerings. You are the right conduct of the organs that constitute the essence of the body and are known as the Atharvas. II-9: O Prana, you are Indra. Through your valour you are Rudra; and you are the preserver on all sides. You move in the sky – you are the sun, the Lord of all luminaries. II-10: O Prana, when you pour down (as rain), then these creatures of yours continue to be in a happy mood under the belief, “Food will be produced to our hearts’ content.” II-11: O Prana, you are unpurified, you are the fire Ekarsi, (you are) the eater, and you are the lord of all that exists. We are the givers of (your) food. O Matarisva, you are our father. II-12: Make calm that aspect of yours that is lodged in speech, that which is in the ear, that which is in the eye, and that which permeates the mind. Do not rise up. II-13: All this (in this world), as also all that is in heaven is under the control of Prana. Protect us just as a mother does her sons, and ordain for us splendour and intelligence.

III-1: Then Kausalya, son of Asvala, asked him, “O venerable sir, from where is this Prana born ? How does He come into this body ? How again does He dwell by dividing Himself ? How does he depart ? How does He support the external things and how the physical ?” III-2: To him he said: You are putting super-normal questions, since you are pre-eminently a knower of Brahman. Hence I speak to you. III-3: From the Self is born this Prana. Just as there can be shadow when a man is there, so this Prana is fixed on the self. He comes to this body owing to the actions of the mind. III-4: As it is the king alone who employs the officers saying, “Rule over these villages, and those ones”, just so Prana engages the other organs separately. III-5: He places Apana in the two lower apertures. Prana Himself, issuing out of the mouth and nostrils, resides in the eyes and ears. In the middle, however, is Samana, for this one distributes equally all this food that is eaten. From that issue out these seven flames. III-6: This self (i.e. the subtle body) is surely in the heart. There are a hundred and one of the (chief) nerves. Each of them has a hundred (division). Each branch is divided into seventy-two thousand subbranches. Among them moves Vyana. III-7: Now then Udana, when it is in its upward trend, leads to a virtuous world as a result of virtue, to a sinful world as a result of sin and to the human world as a result of both. III-8: The sun is indeed the external Prana. It rises up favouring this Prana in the eye. That deity, that is in the earth, favours by attracting Apana in a human being. The space (i.e. air), that is within, is Samana. The (common) air is Vyana. III-9: That which if well known as luminosity, is Udana. Therefore, one who gets his light extinguished, attains rebirth together with the organs that enter into (his) mind. III-10: Together with whatever thought he had (at the time of death), he enters into Prana. Prana, in combination with Udana and in association with the soul, leads him to the world desired by him. III-11: The line of progeny of any man of knowledge who knows Prana thus sustains no break. He becomes immortal. Pertaining to this there occurs this mantra. III-12: Having known the origin, coming, lodgement and fivefold overlordship and the physical existence of Prana, one achieves immortality. Having known, one achieves immortality.

IV-1: Then the grandson of Surya, born of the family of Garga, asked him, “O adorable sir, which are the organs that go to sleep in this person ? Which keep awake in him ? Which is the deity who experiences dream ? To whom occurs this happiness ? In whom do all get merged? IV-2: To him he said, O Gargya, just as all the rays of the setting sun become unified in this orb of light, and they disperse from the sun as it rises up again, similarly all that becomes unified in the high deity, the mind. Hence this person does not then hear, does not see, does not smell, does not taste, does not touch, does not speak, does not grasp, does not enjoy, does not eject, does not move. People say, “He is sleeping.” IV-3: It is the fires (i.e. the functions resembling fire) of Prana that really keep awake in this city of the body. That which is this Apana really resembles the Garhapatya fire, Vyana resembles the fire, Anvaharyapacana. Since the Ahavaniya fire is obtained from Garhapatya, which is the former’s source of extraction, therefore Prana conforms to Ahavaniya (because of its issuing out of Apana). IV-4: Samana is the priest called Hota, because it strikes a balance between exhalation and inhalation which are but (comparable to) two oblations. The mind is verily the sacrificer. The desired fruit Udana, which leads this sacrificer every day to Brahman. IV-5: In this dream state this deity (i.e. the mind) experiences greatness. Whatever was seen, it sees again; whatever was heard, it hears again; whatever was perceived in the different places and directions, it experiences again and again; it perceives all by becoming all that was seen or not seen, heard or not heard, perceived or not perceived, and whatever is real or unreal. IV-6: When that deity, (the mind), becomes overwhelmed by (solar) rays (called bile), then in this state the deity does not see dreams. Then, all that time, there occurs this kind of happiness in this body. IV-7: To illustrate the point: As the birds, O good looking one, proceed towards the tree that provides lodging, just so all these proceed to the supreme Self. IV-8: Earth and the rudiment of earth, water and the rudiment of water, fire and the rudiment of fire, space and the rudiment of space, the organ and object of vision, the organ and object of hearing, the organ and object of smell, the organ and object of taste, the organ and object of touch, the organ and content of speech, the hands and the object grasped, sex and enjoyment, the organ of excretion and the excreta, the feet and the space trodden, the mind and the content of thought, understanding and the content of understanding, egoism and the content of egoism, awareness and the content of awareness, the shining skin and the object revealed by that, Prana and all that has to be held by Prana. IV-9: And this one is the seer, feeler, hearer, smeller, taster, thinker, ascertainer, doer – the Purusha (pervading the body and senses), that is a knower by nature. This becomes wholly established in the supreme, immutable Self. IV-10: He who realises that shadowless, bodiless, colourless, pure, Immutable attains the supreme Immutable Itself. O amiable one, he, again, who realises, becomes omniscient and all. Illustrative of this there occurs this verse: IV-11: O amiable one, he becomes all-knowing and enters into all, who knows that Immutable wherein merges the cognising Self – (the Purusha who is naturally a knower) – as also do the organs and the elements together with all the deities.

V-1: Next, Satyakama, son of Sibi, asked him, “O venerable sir, which world does he really win thereby, who among men, intently meditates on Om in that wonderful way till death ?” To him he said: V-2: O Satyakama, this very Brahman, that is (known as) the inferior and superior, is but this Om. Therefore the illumined soul attains either of the two through this one means alone. V-3: Should he meditate on Om as consisting of one letter he becomes enlightened even by that and attains a human birth on the earth. The Rik mantras lead him to the human birth. Being endued there with self-control, continence, and faith he experiences greatness. V-4: Now gain, if he meditates on Om with the help of the second letter, he becomes identified with the

mind. By the Yajur mantras he is lifted to the intermediate space, the world of the Moon. Having experienced greatness in the lunar world, he turns round again. V-5: Again, any one who meditates on the supreme Purusha with the help of this very syllable Om, as possessed of three letters, becomes unified in the Sun, consisting of light. As a snake becomes freed from its Slough, exactly in a similar way, he becomes freed from sin, and he is lifted up to the world of Brahma (Hiranyagarbha) by the Sama mantras. From this total mass of creatures (that Hiranyagarbha is) he sees the supreme Purusha that penetrates every being and is higher than the higher One (viz. Hiranyagarbha). Bearing on this, there occur two verses: V-6: The three letters (by themselves) are within the range of death. But if they are closely joined, one to another, are not divergently applied to different objects, and are applied to the three courses of action

– external, internal and intermediate – that are properly resorted to, then the man of enlightenment does not shake (i.e. remains undisturbed). V-7: The intelligent know this world that is attainable by the Rik mantras, the intermediate space achievable by the Yajur mantras, and that which is reached by the Sama mantras. The enlightened man attains that (threefold) world through Om alone; and through Om as an aid, he reaches that also which is the supreme Reality that is quiet and beyond old age, death and fear.

VI-1: Then Sukesa, son of Bharadvaja, asked him, “Venerable sir, Hiranyanabha, a prince of Kosala, approached me and put this question, ‘Bharadvaja, do you know the Purusha possessed of sixteen limbs ?’ To that prince I said, ‘I do not know him. Had I known him why should I not have told you ? Anyone who utters a falsehood dries up root and all. Therefore I cannot afford to utter a falsehood. Silently he went away riding on the chariot. Of that Purusha I ask you, ‘Where does He exist ?’” VI-2: To him he (Pippalada) said: O amiable one, here itself inside the body is that Purusha in whom originate these sixteen digits (or limbs). VI-3: He deliberated: “As a result of whose departure shall I rise up ? And as a result of whose continuance shall I remain established ?” VI-4: He created Prana; from Prana (He created) faith, space, air, fire, water, earth, organs, mind, food; from food (He created) vigour, self-control, mantras, rites, worlds and name in the worlds. VI-5: The illustration is this: Just as these flowing rivers that have the sea as their goal, get absorbed after reaching the sea, and their names and forms are destroyed, and they are called merely the sea, so also these sixteen parts (i.e. constituents) of the all-seeing Purusha, that have Purusha as their goal, disappear on reaching Purusha, when their names and forms are destroyed and they are simply called Purusha. Such a man of realisation becomes free from the parts and is immortal. On this point there occurs this verse: VI-6: You should know that Purusha who is worthy to be known and in whom are transfixed the parts like spokes in the nave of a chariot wheel, so that death may not afflict you anywhere. VI-7: To them he said, “I know this supreme Brahman thus far only. Beyond this there is nothing.” VI-8: While worshipping him they said, “You indeed are our father who have ferried us across nescience to the other shore. Salutation to the great seers. Salutation to the great seers.”

Om ! O gods, may we hear auspicious words with the ears; While engaged in sacrifices, May we see auspicious things with the eyes; While praising the gods with steady limbs, May we enjoy a life that is beneficial to the gods. May Indra of ancient fame be auspicious to us; May the supremely rich (or all-knowing) Pusa (god of the earth) Be propitious to us; May Garuda, the destroyer of evil,

Be well disposed towards us; May Brihaspati ensure our welfare. Om ! Peace ! Peace ! Peace !

Here ends the Prasnopanishad, included in the Atharva-Veda.

Prashna Upanishad Commentary

Commentary on the Prashna Upanishad–by Swami Nirmalananda Giri

The Right Beginning

This upanishad, the Prashna Upanishad, is called The Question (Prashna) Upanishad because of its format of question and answer throughout. But the first two verses set the stage for the reader, and also indicate what is needed for a successful quest after the knowledge of Brahman–at least that which can be taught and comprehended intellectually.

The seekers

“Sukesha, Satyakama, Gargya, Kousalya, Bhargava, and Kabandhi, devotees and seekers after the truth of the supreme Brahman, with faith and humility approached the sage Pippalada.”

Because it would have no meaning for Western readers, Swami Prabhavananda has omitted the parentage and family ties of these six seekers. Nevertheless, their listing is significant, for a yogi must have psychological “ancestors” in the form of inner spiritual qualities that will help him to persevere in yoga practice. Besides a good inner background, the upanishad cites four good traits needed by every aspirant to higher evolution: devotion in the sense of dedication, desire to know God, faith, and humility.

Dedication is needful, for it keeps us steady when we encounter snags and obstacles in our path, and it keeps us plodding along in times of dryness and uncertainty. It ensures that we will persevere in our efforts to attain spiritual heights.

It is easy to forget why we originally took up spiritual life and wander into byways of lesser endeavor. This is why many become tangled up in externalities of religion, wrangling over philosophical concepts, and even becoming enamored of control over others under the pretence of religious discipline. As Jesus told Martha: “Thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful”. Because of this the upanishad tells us that these wise seekers were intent on a single thing: the truth of the Supreme Brahman. We should aspire to–and settle for–nothing less.

Faith in the form of conviction of the reality of spiritual matters is also a necessity, for who can persevere in search of something about which they have no inner assurance? We need the conviction-faith that God is real and can be known. Saint Paul encapsulated the whole matter when he wrote: “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” An interior knowing that God is real and can be experienced will give us the strength we need to keep on to the Goal.

Humility in the sense of a willingness to listen and learn, aware of all we do not know, is essential. Respect is also implied here. In the East they overdo it to the point of groveling and mindless acceptance, while in the West the casual, one-on-one attitude is exaggerated into overfamiliarity and virtual disrespect. It is amazing how very wise Western ignoramuses consider themselves. As someone once wrote: “The trouble with ignorance is that it gains confidence as it goes along.”

The seeker must be keenly aware that he lacks something–a great deal, in fact–with emphasis on need. He must not forget that seeking implies needing and asking. Those who strut up to a teacher as though they are visiting the zoo will–and should–receive nothing. On the other hand, the seeker should not grovel or be unthinkingly accepting. The student should carefully examine the prospective teacher to see if he is qualified and worth listening to. The worthy teacher will equally carefully examine the prospective student to see if he has the right attitude and is capable of learning and applying what is learned. A dud on either end ruins the equation.

The requisites

“Said the sage: ‘Practice austerity, continence, faith for a year; then ask what questions you wish. If I can, I will answer.’” Now this is the way of a real teacher of Brahmajnana. He tells what they must do and what he will then do.

There is a story told in India of a young man who came to a guru and asked to learn from him. The guru told him what he would have to do to qualify himself. Not very happy with the list, he asked what the guru would do in all that time. When told that the guru would teach him occasionally, as he would deem appropriate, the would-be disciple remarked: “Why don’t you make me a guru, instead; that sounds a lot easier.” Yes, indeed.

Many approach a teacher while living in a fantasy world projected by their over-confident ego. If the teacher is as false as they and conforms to the fantasy, they are happy. But if the teacher is real, and dares to speak to them realistically about the means and the goal, they are most displeased. We are not of this type, hopefully, so let us look at the requirements Pippalada sets forth.

1) Spiritual discipline (tapasya), most particularly the practice of meditation. 2) Control of the senses (brahmacharya), especially continence. 3) Faith in the teaching of the upanishadic sages regarding the Supreme Goal, the possibility of attaining It, and their assertions as to the means of attainment.

These are absolute necessities–and they must be unwaveringly practiced and held to for a significant length of time before the seeker can possibly be mentally and spiritually capable of comprehending the wisdom of the sages. First the students must be qualified, otherwise a qualified teacher will be of no use to them at all.

The teacher

“Then ask what questions you wish. If I can, I will answer.” This promise contains two major qualities of an authentic spiritual teacher.

First, the teacher will accept and consider whatever the student asks. He will not shrug off even the silliest inquiry, nor will he reject the student’s questioning of the veracity or value of what he believes or teaches. This is one of the most glorious characteristics of Sanatana Dharma–it has no fear of honest inquiry and honest doubt. Not being insecure, the teacher of Dharma is not disturbed by questioning or statements of disbelief.

A friend of mine told me that she quit being a Christian when, as a teenager, she dared to express doubts to her parish priest. He raved at her and threatened hell, saying that to even ask for explanation of “the mysteries” was a sin and an insult to God. So she walked away and never went back. Over sixty years (!) later she came into the orbit of Sanatana Dharma, asked all her questions, and received answers that restored her faith in Jesus–but not in Churchianity. In true Dharma we find the key to understanding the teachings of all the Masters of all the ages. I have found throughout nearly fifty years that Sanatana Dharma illumines their words to a degree that their professed followers and “isms” cannot even dream of.

Those who would follow Jesus and Buddha, need to seek out the same source from which they drew their teachings: Sanatana Dharma. Then, like them, they can become Sanatana Dharmis and thereby become their true disciples. Sanatana Dharma expands their horizons to embrace all truth wherever it may be found. It is true that of late there have arisen bigots in India who speak as hatefully and ignorantly about other religions as those religions speak of others. But they are not Sanatana Dharmis, for the Dharma has no place for hate, ignorance, and sectarianism. As Jesus said, the truth sets you free.

Second, a worthy teacher will acknowledge that he cannot answer some questions. This is because some things are simply beyond verbal expression. Further, no true teacher is egotistical, therefore he will readily admit it if he feels it is beyond his capacity to explain something–just as we find that sometimes we cannot find a word to express what we know well inwardly. And most of all, a good teacher is willing to admit when he just does not know the answer to something. Only a fool thinks he is omniscient, and only a fake wants others to think he is.

In my encounters with teachers, the person nearest to being all-knowing was Swami Sivananda, and he was known to reply: “I really don’t know” to certain questions. But he certainly knew the way to God, as the lives of his disciples attest. (Sometimes a Master does not know the answer to a question because it is trivial and foolish, and his mind is free from triviality and foolishness.)

So we have seen the two elements needed for a meaningful exchange of questions and answers: worthy questioners and worthy answerers.

The Father and Mother of All

by Swami Nirmalananda Giri

“After a year Kabandhi approached the teacher and asked: ‘Sir, how did the creatures come into being?’” This is the question of any reflective person. There are many answers to it, but this upanishad goes to the root of relative existence as Pippalada replies:

“‘The Lord of beings,’ replied the sage, ‘meditated and produced Prana, the primal energy, and Rayi, the giver of form, desiring that they, male and female, should in manifold ways produce creatures for him.’”

Prajapati–Brahma “The Lord of Creation”–did not create the world in the manner understood in the West, rather, he manifested it from the primal energy known as Prakriti by the power of his meditation. This was no new occurrence, for the projection and withdrawal of the cosmos in precise cycles has been going on from eternity. Just as wind moving over water causes it to take on a multitude of waveforms, so does the creative thought of Brahma. In Genesis we are told: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And…darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” The Breath (Ruach) of God, the creative thought of God, moved on the causal “waters” and the cosmos began to manifest.

Creation begins and moves on in an exact order, so the first thing that occurred was the manifestation of Prana and Rayi–internal Life and the outer Energy that manifests as form. There are many levels of manifestation, and Pippalada is only speaking of the lower worlds which are manifested by Brahma. The lower worlds mirror the higher ones, and in Christian terminology this coming forth of Prana and Rayi are equivalent to the coming forth of the Son and the Holy Spirit from the Transcendent Absolute– the Father–at the very highest level of manifestation.

Prana and Rayi are the two poles of manifesting energy–positive and negative, male and female. This duality is at the heart of all that presently exists, and without it everything dissolves. Prana and Rayi are the “parents” of all things. Creation is their perpetual interaction. As Yogananda wrote in one of his chants: “Spirit and Nature dancing together!” All “creatures”–all that exist in relativity–have sprung from Prana and Rayi. This is why all religions have intuited the existence of a primeval Father and Mother of All.

Sun and Moon

Even more, nearly all religions have had some idea about the original Father and Mother being the sun and moon respectively.

“Prana, the primal energy, is the sun; and Rayi, the form-giving substance, is the moon. Be it known that all this universe, that which is gross and that which is subtle, is one with Rayi. Therefore is Rayi omnipresent. In like manner is the universe one with Prana.” Nothing can exist without duality–Prana and Rayi–at the root of their manifestation, and they are still being maintained by them.

In India they knew from the beginning that the sun and moon were essential even for plant life. In the West, also, people have known for hundreds, if not thousands, of years that although the light and heat of the sun causes the germination of seeds, it is the moon that guides their growth, and wise gardeners plant according to the lunar cycles. We even have the term “planting moon.” Even more, all “things” are the embodiment of Prana and Rayi. The universe is Prana and Rayi. Spirit–Paramatman and Atman–alone is independent of these two, and untouched by them.

“The rising sun pervades the east, and fills with energy all beings that there inhabit; and likewise when his rays fall on the south, the west, the north, the zenith, the nadir, and the intermediate regions, to all beings that there inhabit he gives life.” Just as the one sun can be reflected in numberless ways, so Prana enlivens all things and moves within them. The life in even an atom is Cosmic Life.

“Prana is the soul of the universe, assuming all forms; he is the light that animates and illumines all: even as it is written: ‘The wise know him who assumes all forms, who is radiant, who is all-knowing, who is the one light that gives light to all. He rises as the sun of a thousand rays, and abides in infinite places.’” Prana is Parabrahman Itself! Not only is Brahman/Prana “the soul of the universe,” Brahman is also the forms assumed, “He shining, everything shines.” Every single sentient being is a ray of that divine Sun who abides in all their inmost essence.

The two paths

“Prana and Rayi, uniting, divide the year. Two are the paths of the sun–two are the paths that men travel after death. These are the southern and the northern. Those who desire offspring and are devoted to almsgiving and rituals, considering these the highest accomplishment, attain the world of the moon and are born again on earth. They travel by the southern path, which is the path of the fathers, and is indeed Rayi, the maker of forms.”

There are two paths that can be taken after death: the path that leads to expanding life in higher realms of existence and the path that leads back to the world of material embodiment–the paths of Prana and Rayi.

The “year” spoken here is not the earthly measure of time based on the movement of the earth around the sun, although it is believed to be so in the degeneracy of contemporary Hinduism. Rather, it is the cyclic manifestation of prana within the subtle, mental bodies of each one of us. The “southern” path is the part of the cycle in which the prana becomes more embedded or “grounded” in the consciousness of form–the body. On the other hand, the “northern” path is the part of the cycle in which the prana becomes increasingly active in the spiritual levels of our being, causing the consciousness to rise to higher degrees. The supposed south and north movement of the sun has nothing whatsoever to do with this, even though it is commonly thought so at this time.

The “moon” is a symbol of the material creation which is but a reflection of higher regions of consciousness, just as the moon has no light of its own, but only reflects the light of the sun.

The path of rebirth

“Those who desire offspring and are devoted to almsgiving and rituals, considering these the highest accomplishment, attain the world of the moon and are born again on earth. They travel by the southern path, which is the path of the fathers, and is indeed Rayi, the maker of forms.”

This is quite clear: those who are addicted to family life and external religion are impelled by their own earthly desires to be reborn on earth. For such desires are rooted in earthly experience and perpetuate it.

The path of liberation

“But those who are devoted to the worship of the Self, by means of austerity, continence, faith, and knowledge, go by the northern path and attain the world of the sun. The sun, the light, is indeed the source of all energy. It is immortal, beyond fear; it is the supreme goal. For him who goes to the sun there is no more birth nor death. The sun ends birth and death.”

Later in the fifth section of this upanishad it will be explained that by meditation on Om a yogi will be united with the solar light and ascend to the realization of Brahman. But right now the necessary adjuncts to such a meditation are enumerated: austerity [tapasya], continence [brahmacharya], faith [shraddha], and knowledge [vidya]. Those who prepare themselves by these practices–in conjunction with meditation on Om–will ascend to the solar world and, freed from the compulsion to rebirth, will pass onward to the transcendental realm of Brahman.

In the mechanism of the universe there are many wheels within wheels as in clockwork. So the upanishad then speaks of the month as reflection of Prana and Rayi just like the year: “Prana and Rayi, uniting, form the month. Its dark fortnight is Rayi, and its bright fortnight is Prana. Sages perform their devotional rites in the light, with knowledge; fools, in the dark, with ignorance.”

Here, too, the material lunar phases are not being spoken of, but rather the inner cycles of spiritual awareness and spiritual ignorance. The wise do not act blindly, even in spiritual practice, but with understanding of how and why they should engage in meditation and worship. Because they lack the requisite insight, the ignorant engage in superstition, even if externally they seem to be doing the same as the wise. Without inner awakening all is hopeless, and awakening is a matter of evolution. It cannot come from an external source. This is why ordinary propagandizing religion plunges people deeper into ignorance and folly.

Until the inner consciousness begins to manifest only error can be the fruition of any religion. This is why Sanatana Dharma never engages in any form of missionary persuasion or coercion. Adherents of the Eternal Religion know that until a person ripens spiritually even Sanatana Dharma is meaningless and pointless–inevitably confusing and potentially harmful. That this is true is being proven every moment in the West by those who are deforming Dharma into an ego-driven diversion and often a tool for the same negative domination and opportunism that has made Western religion and philosophy into the absurd and destructive force it has been for centuries. And the “advaitins” are the worst.

Food

Now a very interesting symbol is introduced: “Food is Prana and Rayi. From food is produced seed, and from seed, in turn, are born all creatures.” Nikhilananda translates this verse: “Food, verily, is Prajapati [the Creator]. From that comes semen [retas]; from semen are all these creatures born.”

The idea here is that Prana and Form, the two aspects of Prajapati, are manifesting as food–not just food that is eaten and digested, but rather all things that “enter” the sentient being’s life and mind and shape him. The body is formed of nothing but food, and the same is true of the four subtler bodies as well. The mind and the senses “eat” also. So we can realize that God is not only the source of all, but the manifester, sustainer, and evolver of all. There is nothing around us that is not divine manifestation. This is the vision the yogi strives for. “At the end of his many births the wise man takes refuge in Me. He knows: ‘All is Vasudeva.‘ How very rare is that great soul!”

Sri Ramakrishna once said: “The Divine Mother showed me that there are not two, but one existence only. It is Satchidananda alone that has taken many forms. It is He alone who has become the living beings, the universe and everything. It is He who has become food.” What the rishis perceived so many thousands of years ago can be known even today by the fervent yogi.

Home truths

Now it is time to get down to the solid facts, to the only sensible conclusions that can be drawn if we accept all the upanishad has been saying to us: “Those who worship the world of creation produce children; but those alone attain the world of Brahman who are steadfast in continence, meditation, and truthfulness.”

Guilty, insecure people are always demanding assurance and approval from others. They usually get it from those equally guilty (or equally foolish), and evade facing the truth about themselves. In the long run such avoidance does absolutely no good, but being people who live in the moment they are satisfied with the deception. This especially manifests in “those who worship the world of creation” and materiality by their insisting on being assured that ascetic life is not necessary or superior to their maya-mired mode of existence. They bullyingly demand this assurance from supposed spiritual teachers (and especially monastics) employing a variety of ways to get what they want. But the upanishadic sages are long departed from this world, and their words have been preserved for thousands of years. What they say can be ignored, but it cannot be denied.

World worshippers become gears in “society” and immerse themselves in material involvement with “the world’s goods,” living as they please in egocentric, self-pleasing modes of life. They may not engender actual children now they have learned to frustrate the natural consequences of sex, but the resulting consciousness will be the same. Living as they “please” they are bound by the hopes and “joys” of earthly life, creating for themselves a guaranteed return to the realm of death that is this world. Sri Ramakrishna used to say: “There is no substance at all in worldly life.” And there is no substance in those that expend themselves in and on the world.

The rare few who have seen through the sham of the world and understood the reality of the Self, live in a very different manner. If their karma is very good, they take up the ascetic life early on, otherwise they wake up somewhere along their path in life, turn from the common folly, and become disciplined and purified in their mode of life. Whichever it may be, the life of all the wise is centered in “continence, meditation, and truthfulness.” There is no need for a comment on that, or on the final statement:

“The pure world of Brahman is attainable by those only who are neither deceitful, nor wicked, nor false.”

The Powers That Make Us “Be”

Each of us is both Who and What. The Who is simple to define: Individualized Consciousness or jivatman–Individualized Self. The What, on the other hands is quite complex, which is why we have gotten lost in it and confused for lifetimes beyond number. The first step in learning how to undo this dilemma is learning what is keeping it going. For that reason:

“Then Bhargava approached the teacher and asked: ‘Holy sir, how many several powers hold together this body? Which of them are most manifest in it? And which is the greatest?’” (Prashna Upanishad 2:1) We need to know who our jailers are and especially who the governor of the jail may be. So:

Our makeup

“‘The powers,’ replied the sage, ‘are ether, air, fire, water, earth–these being the five elements which compose the body; and, besides these, speech, mind, eye, ear, and the rest of the sense organs. Once these powers made the boastful assertion: “We hold the body together and support it”’” (Prashna Upanishad 2:2)

The five elements (panchabhuta) are forms of cosmic energy which make up the various bodies of the human being, including the five senses. They are not passive, but are living and moving powers. However, Bhargava has asked which powers hold together the body, which itself is formed of the elemental forces. Only one of them is the cohesive force which keeps the others in its magnetic field and enables them to assume form and function within that form. To illustrate this, Pippalada gave him a parable, saying that once all the elements claimed to be the dominant force in the body.

Prana

“Whereupon Prana, the primal energy, supreme over them all, said to them: ‘Do not deceive yourselves. It is I alone, dividing myself fivefold, who hold together this body and support it.’ But they would not believe him.” (Prashna Upanishad 2:3)

Even the smallest particle of the cosmos is the Universal Life in manifestation.

We see from this that the five elements are modifications of the cosmic life, the Prana (Vishwaprana), that although the body seems to be formed only of the five elements, the Prana itself is the underlying substratum as the ocean is to the waves. The body, then, is really nothing but Prana, as is anything else in the realm of relative existence. Even the smallest particle of the cosmos is the Universal Life in manifestation.

Another point is the supposed conversation between the elements. This is not just a device in a fable, but is an indication that since all things are manifestations of Cosmic Life they can take on a seemingly independent life (and even consciousness) of their own. This is a fundamental trait of Maya, the Cosmic Illusion, one which lies at the root of most confusion and ignorance.

The proof

“Prana, to justify himself, made as if he intended to leave the body. But as he rose and appeared to be going, all the rest realized that if he went they also would have to depart with him; and as Prana again seated himself, the rest found their respective places. As bees go out when their queen goes out, and return when she returns, so was it with speech, mind, vision, hearing, and the rest. Convinced of their error, the powers now praised Prana, saying:” (Prashna Upanishad 2:4)

All the elements of the cosmos are rooted in Prana. It is the same with the elements and the senses in the individual’s body complex (for the human being has five bodies corresponding to the five elements). Just as the waves are in total dependence upon the ocean for their very being, so everything cosmic and microcosmic depend upon Prana. This is why Om is called the Pranava: It is the sound-form of Prana, the mantric syllable by which the Prana is contacted and controlled. Furthermore, the breath (also called prana) is the outermost, physical manifestation of prana. Because of this the yogi joins his inner intonations of Om to his breath in the highest form of pranayama.

Pranayama is accomplished by effortlessly breathing and joining to it the repetition of the sacred Om.

“That which causes all the pranas to prostrate themselves before and get merged in the Paramatman [the Supreme Soul: God], so as to attain identity with Him, is for that reason known as the Pranava.” (Atharvashikha Upanishad 1:10) “With Om alone he should breathe.” (Amritabindu Upanishad 20) “Pranayama is accomplished through concentrating the mind on Om.” (Saubhagyalakshmi Upanishad) “The Pranava alone becomes the pranayama.” (Shandilya Upanishad 6:2 ) “Pranayama is composed of the Pranava, Om. [Therefore] he should repeat the Pranava mentally. This only will be pranayama.” (Darshan Upanishad 6:2,5,6) “Pranayama is accomplished by effortlessly breathing and joining to it the repetition of the sacred Om.” (Yoga Vashishtha 5:78)

The powers of Prana

He who controls Prana controls all since Prana is all. Therefore the elements praised Prana, saying:

“ ‘As fire, Prana bums; as the sun, he shines; as cloud, he rains; as Indra, he rules the gods; as

wind, he blows; as the moon, he nourishes all. He is that which is visible and also that which is

invisible. He is immortal life.

“ ‘As spokes in the hub of a wheel, so is everything made fast in Prana–the Rik, the Yajur, the

Sama, all sacrifices, the Kshatriyas, and the Brahmins.

“ ‘O Prana, lord of creation, thou movest in the womb, and art born again. To thee who, as

breath, dwellest in the body, all creatures bring offerings.

“ ‘Thou, as fire, dost carry oblations to the gods; and through thee the fathers receive their

offerings. To every organ of sense thou givest its function.

“ ‘Prana, thou art the creator; thou art the destroyer by thy prowess; and thou art the protector.

Thou movest in the sky as the sun, and lord of lights art thou.

“ ‘Prana, when thou showerest down rain, thy creatures rejoice, hoping that they will find food,

as much as they desire.

“ ‘Thou art purity itself, thou art the master of all that exists, thou art fire, the eater of offerings.

We, the organs of sense, offer to thee thy food–to thee, the father of all.

“ ‘That power of thine which dwells in speech, in the ear, and in the eye, and which pervades

the heart–make that propitious, and forsake us not.

“ ‘Whatsoever exists in the universe is dependent on thee, O Prana. Protect us as a mother

protects her children. Grant us prosperity and grant us wisdom.’” (Prashna Upanishad 2:5-13)

Obviously, then, the yogi cannot neglect the cultivation of Prana and Pranava together.

Prana: Its History and Nature

Sanatana Dharma is not a “shut up and believe and obey” religion. Those who follow the Eternal Dharma must gain the fullest knowledge of how things work, for without that knowledge mastery will be impossible. And mastery is the result of evolution. Prana, the universal life force, must be known about and mastered. So:

Conscious being

“When it was the turn of Kousalya, he put this question: “Master, of what is Prana born; how does he enter the body; how does he live there after dividing himself; how does he go out; how does he experience what is outside; and how does he hold together the body, the senses, and the mind?” (Prashna Upanishad 3:1)

All these questions are going to be answered subsequently, so the only important point is the referring to prana as a conscious being–which it is because it is the life of Brahman and therefore is Brahman. The fact that everything is conscious is unique to the teachings of Sanatana Dharma. Science considers itself extremely bold in cautiously approaching this concept and tentatively postulating it. Those in the West who bravely make the statement as evident fact are those whose thinking has–at least in its ancestry–been derived from the wisdom of India.

The worthy questioner

“To which the sage replied: Kousalya, you ask very difficult questions; but since you are a sincere seeker after the truth of Brahman, I must answer.” (Prashna Upanishad 3:2) This I have seen for myself in India. The great saints just will not bother with the idly curious and the hopelessly shallow. But they will gladly speak with those who are seeking the knowledge of Reality.

Once I made the mistake of taking a Western spiritual wanderer to meet Maitri Devi, a beloved saint in New Delhi. When he told her he wanted to ask a question she replied in Hindi: “I do not speak English.” When he asked if someone could translate his questions she again responded: “I do not speak English.” So I said to him quietly: “Tell me your question and I will ask it.” For quite some time he would softly tell me his questions and I would ask them–in English!–and she would readily answer through a translator. I appreciated her kindness to me, but I also decided to never again bother her with roamabouts. Other saints I met would do the same–some more diplomatically, others not so tactful.

We should learn from this and question ourselves as to why we “seek” and even why we study: To eventually reach the knowledge of God, or just to cram more ideas in our head to show how “wise” we are? Yogananda often spoke of those who had “spiritual indigestion” from cramming useless philosophy into their minds.

But Kousalya is a worthy questioner, so the sage replies:

Prana in us

“Prana is born of the Self. Like a man and his shadow, the Self and Prana are inseparable. Prana enters the body at birth, that the desires of the mind, continuing from past lives, may be fulfilled.” (Prashna Upanishad 3:3)

Just as the cosmos is an extension of the Consciousness that is Brahman, in the same way our individual prana is an extension of our Self (atman). It is inseparable from the Self because it is the Self. This is the authentic non-duality (advaita) of the upanishads, not a negation or denial of either Prakriti or prana. Seeing them as separate from Spirit, and therefore dual, is the error–not acknowledging their intimate reality.

Prana provides the continuity between our present and past lives–both minds and bodies. It is also the force that enables the continuation of our evolution from past lives, carries us through this present life and through future ones as well. Prana truly is Life itself.

This verse also tells us that karma is a matter of the mind, and not some external force. Change the mind and you change the karma–or even dissolve it. It need never extend into our external existence. “Working out karma” is not a compelling necessity. We are never slaves to karma. We are its creators and its masters, at least potentially. But we have forgotten that fact and lost control of our karma. It must be regained if we would be free.

Its “associates”

“As a king employs officials to rule over different portions of his kingdom, so Prana associates with himself four other Pranas, each a portion of himself and each assigned a separate function.” (Prashna Upanishad 3:4) We usually speak of “five pranas,” but there is really only pure Prana and its four modalities.

Prana: Vital energy; life-breath; life-force. In the human body the prana is divided into five forms: 1) Prana: the prana that moves upward; 2) Apana: The prana that moves downward, producing the excretory functions in general. 3) Vyana: The prana that holds prana and apana together and produces circulation in the body. 4) Samana: The prana the carries the grosser material of food to the apana and brings the subtler material to each limb; the general force of digestion. 4) Udana: The prana which brings up or carries down what has been drunk or eaten; the general force of assimilation.

If this is kept in mind the following will be more comprehensible and meaningful.

“The Prana himself dwells in eye, ear, mouth, and nose; the Apana, which is the second Prana, rules the organs of excretion and generation; the Samana, which is the third Prana, inhabits the navel and governs digestion and assimilation.

“The Self dwells in the lotus of the heart, whence radiate a hundred and one nerves [nadis]. From each of these proceed one hundred others, which are smaller, and from each of these, again, seventy-two thousand others, which are smaller still. In all these moves the Vyana, which is the fourth Prana.

“And then at the moment of death, through the nerve in the center of the spine, the Udana, which is the fifth Prana, leads the virtuous man upward to higher birth, the sinful man downward to lower birth, and the man who is both virtuous and sinful to rebirth in the world of men.” (Prashna Upanishad 3:5-7)

This final verse is an interpretive translation saying more than is really there. Swami Nikhilananda translates it literally: “And then udana, ascending upward through one of them, conducts the departing soul to the virtuous world, for its virtuous deeds; to the sinful world, for its sinful deeds; and to the world of men, for both.” As you see, there is no mention of a “nerve in the center of the spine,” the sushumna. The nadi of ascending consciousness is spoken of at the end of the Katha Upanishad thusly: “Radiating from the lotus of the heart there are a hundred and one nerves. One of these ascends toward the thousand-petaled lotus in the brain. If, when a man comes to die, his vital force passes upward and out through this nerve, he attains immortality; but if his vital force passes out through another nerve, he goes to one or another plane of mortal existence and remains subject to birth and death.” (Katha Upanishad 2:3:16) Here is what I wrote in comment on this verse:

“By ‘heart’ is meant the hub–located in the midst of the upper trunk of the body–of subtle passages known as nadis (here translated ‘nerves’) through which the life force (prana) circulates throughout the gross and subtle bodies, just as the blood circulates from the heart through the veins of the physical body. One hundred of these nadis direct the life force to the life processes of the bodies and are the forces of embodiment. One, unique, nadi, however, rises directly upward from the heart-hub into the head. (This nadi rises from the heart directly into the head–it is not the passage in the midst of the spine.) If at the time of death the departing spirit leaves through that channel, he gains immortality. But if his consciousness attaches itself to any of the hundred other nadis he will be impelled into the subtle worlds that lead inexorably back to incarnation in relativity.

“In every meditation, by intoning Om in time with the breath we activate this channel, causing the life force to spontaneously and effortlessly, flow upward into the thousand-petalled lotus in the head toward the divine radiance that shines above and upon the upper levels of the brain-lotus. That Divine Light is the essence of Om, the Life-Giving Word, the Pranava. Then at the end of life, having prepared himself by this practice, sitting in meditation the yogi ascends upward from the body into the realm of immortality.”

Cosmic prana

Since each of us is a reflection of the universe, there is a cosmic pranic arrangement also, so the sage continues:

“The sun is the Prana of the universe. It rises to help the Prana in the eye of man to see. The power of earth maintains the Apana in man. The ether between the sun and the earth is the Samana, and the all-pervading air is the Vyana.

“The Udana is fire, and therefore he whose bodily heat has gone out dies, after which his senses are absorbed in the mind, and he is born again. Whatever his thought at the moment of death, this it is that unites a man with Prana, who in turn, uniting himself with Udana and with the Self, leads the man to be reborn in the world he merits.” (Prashna Upanishad 3:8-10)

This final principle is the most important. It is expanded in the Gita in this way: “At the hour of death, when a man leaves his body, he must depart with his consciousness absorbed in me. Then he will be united with me. Be certain of that. Whatever a man remembers at the last, when he is leaving the body, will be realized by him in the hereafter; because that will be what his mind has most constantly dwelt on, during this life. Therefore you must remember me at all times, and do your duty. If your mind and heart are set upon me constantly, you will come to me. Never doubt this. Make a habit of practicing meditation, and do not let your mind be distracted. In this way you will come finally to the Lord, who is the light-giver, the highest of the high.” (Prashna Upanishad 3:5-8)

This is why the japa and meditation of Om is “The Way,” as Patanjali states in the Yoga Sutras (1:28)

The knowing of Prana: immortality

The importance of knowing the functions of Prana by direct experience–through yoga practice–is summed up by the sage, saying:

“The progeny of him who knows Prana as I have revealed him to you is never cut off; and he himself becomes immortal.

“It was said of old: One who knows the Prana–whence he has his source, how he enters the body, how he lives there after dividing himself five-fold, what are his inner workings—such an one attains to immortality, yea, even to immortality.” (Prashna Upanishad 3:11, 12)

For, as the other upanishads declare: Prana is Brahman.

The Witnessing Self

The one in the three

“Gargya then asked: ‘Master, when a man’s body sleeps, who is it within that sleeps, and who is awake, and who is dreaming? Who then experiences happiness, and with whom are all the sense organs united?’”(Prashna Upanishad 4:1)

Anyone who ponders the nature of consciousness comes to realize that there are three modes of experience: waking, dream, and dreamless sleep. All three of these states are experienced by a single witness who says: “I slept without dream,” “I slept and dreamed,” and “I am now awake.” Who is that witness? This is Gargya’s inquiry. Who is the unchanging witness of change? Who is the unseen seer? For no intelligent person of unclouded intellect can doubt the existence of such a one.

Sleep

“‘As the rays of the sun, O Gargya, when he sets,’ replied the sage, ‘gather themselves up in his disk of light, to come out again when he rises, so the senses gather themselves up in the mind, the highest of them all. Therefore when a man does not hear, see, smell, taste, touch, speak, grasp, enjoy, we say that he sleeps. Only the Pranas are then awake in the body, and the mind is led nearer to the Self.’” (Prashna Upanishad 4:2-4)

Prana is the primal life-force or vital energy. The prana that manifests in the evolving universe also manifests in the evolving body of each human being. In the body there are five basic forms of prana: 1) Prana, the prana that moves upward; 2) Apana: The prana that moves downward, producing the excretory functions in general. 3) Vyana: The prana that holds prana and apana together and produces circulation in the body. 4) Samana: The prana that carries the grosser material of food to the apana and brings the subtler material to each limb; the general force of digestion. 5) Udana: The prana which brings up or carries down what has been drunk or eaten; the general force of assimilation.

The pranas also correspond to the five elements: earth (prithvi), water (apa), fire (tejas), air (vayu), and ether (akasha). One of these five elements is the foundation for one of the five senses: earth=smell, water=taste, fire=sight, air=touch, and ether=hearing/speech.

In the waking state all the pranas are quite active and fundamentally outflowing, even those that maintain the internal functions of the body being externalized through being expended in the fulfillment of their tasks. But in sleep they withdraw into the inner reservoirs of the body and the state of sleep occurs. On the subtlest energy level they withdraw into the manas, the energy field we call the mind. For the mind is the highest “sense,” being the sum and goal of them all. It is not amiss to say that the senses serve the mind–at least when the right order prevails. Otherwise they drag the mind helplessly along addicting and enslaving it. Breaking the web of this addiction-slavery is then impossible without the practice of pranayama–control and refinement of the pranas. For this reason all viable spiritual traditions have methods that involve breath–the most objective manifestation of prana– to some degree.

When the pranas withdraw into the mind, their distracting activities lessen–unless they occupy and overwhelm the mind with constant and vivid dreaming. When/If the mind is thus granted a reprieve from their clamor, it begins to sense what is behind it, just as it is behind the senses. The mind is the witness of the senses, but it is also witnessed. That ultimate witness is the Self. Therefore the upanishad says that in sleep “the mind is led nearer to the Self.”

Dreams and dreamlessness

Where do dreams come from? Gargya has not asked, but Pippalada tells him: “While in dream, the mind revives its past impressions. Whatever it has seen, it sees again; whatever it has heard, it hears again; whatever it has enjoyed in various countries and in various quarters of the earth, it enjoys again. What has been seen and not seen, heard and not heard, enjoyed and not enjoyed, both the real and the unreal, it sees; yea, it sees all.” (Prashna Upanishad 4:5) Everyone is creative in the dream state, though some are definitely better writer/directors of their inner movies than others. He continues: “When the mind is overpowered by deep slumber, it dreams no more. It rests happily in the body.” (Prashna Upanishad 4:6)

From the very first yogis have spoken of the importance of the dreamless, deep sleep state they call sushupti. This is because in dreamless sleep we are aware of awareness itself with no interference from the senses. We are aware deep within ourselves, aware of our nature as simple, pure consciousness. Dreamless sleep is also proof that the Self exists. For although no objects are presented to the mind, there is a witness of that non-experiencing. Otherwise we would not awaken and say: “I slept but had no dreams at all.” Instead we would not know any time had passed, would not know that we had been asleep. That witness which cognizes the waking, dream, and dreamless states is the Atman itself.

There is a higher form “when sushupti [the dreamless sleep state] is rightly cognized [experienced] while conscious,” says the Shandilya Upanishad. In that state we are “asleep while awake” and are fully conscious of the fact. This is very near the actual experience of the Self and partakes of that experience to some degree, the happiness and ease we feel being a touch of the joy (ananda) that is the nature of the Self. It is extremely valuable because it shows us that when all sensory experience is gone beyond there yet remains the truth of ourselves in the form of pure, unconditioned consciousness that is the Self.

In deep meditation we enter this state intentionally and begin working our inner transformation from this center by the subtle intonations of Om.

To the Self

“As birds, my friend, fly to a tree for rest, even so do all these things fly to the Self: Earth and its peculiar essence, water and its peculiar essence, fire and its peculiar essence, air and its peculiar essence, ether and its peculiar essence, the eye and what it sees, the ear and what it hears, the nose and what it smells, the tongue and what it tastes, the skin and what it touches, the voice and what it speaks, the hands and what they grasp, the feet and what they walk on, the mind and what it perceives, the intellect and what it understands, the ego and what it appropriates, the heart and what it loves, light and what it illumines, energy and what it binds together.” (Prashna Upanishad 4:7, 8)

They “fly to the Self” because the Self is their origin. They are returning to their source after ages upon ages of separation in relative existence/experience.

“For verily it is the Self that sees, hears, smells, tastes, thinks, knows, acts. He is Brahman, whose essence is knowledge. He is the immutable Self, the Supreme.” (Prashna Upanishad 4:9) The Self is the Experiencer in all beings, the knower of all things, and the doer of all acts. This points out the fact that Maya–illusion–is the misperception of things, not perception itself. Also, sense experience, thought, and actions are NOT illusions. It is our misunderstanding of them that is illusion. The Self is real and its experiences are real. It is true that they are purely mental in nature, but is the mind not real? Again, it is a matter how we perceive.

The Self is a wave of the ocean of Brahman, the Absolute, whose nature is Consciousness. The Self is immutable, and beyond it there is nothing else, for in essence it is one with Brahman, the ultimate Being. Yet, the Self needs to attain itself, needs to attain the consciousness of its Being which is Brahman. Therefore the sage says further:

The end result

“He who knows the immutable, the pure, the shadowless, the bodiless, the colorless, attains to Brahman, O my friend. Such an one becomes all-knowing, and he dwells in all beings. Of him it is written: ‘He who knows that immutable Self, wherein live the mind, the senses, the pranas, the elements–verily such an one knows all things, and realizes the Self in all.’” (Prashna Upanishad 4:10, 11)

This is most important, for it indicates that first we know the Self–the individual Self, the jivatman–and then we are enabled to know the Supreme Self, the Paramatman: Brahman. And the Self we will know is itself:

Immutable. Eternally changeless, incapable of being either diminished or increased, for it is one with the Infinite.

Pure. Ever only itself, never really being influenced or changed by any thing whatsoever. Untainted by any contact, for it is untouchable.

Shadowless. The Self is Pure Light within which there is no shadow of darkness or differentiation. It is always exactly what it is

Bodiless. It is perfectly non-dual. It is neither inside or outside of any thing. It cannot be contained. It is absolutely one, having nothing appended to it or necessary to it.

Colorless. It has no “qualities” or “characteristics” but is always I AM. The three gunas are not present in it, nor are any gradations of any kind. It is indescribable. All we can really say about it is what it is not.

All of these terms indicate that the Self is the same as Brahman. And the Self that knows its Self– Brahman, “wherein live the mind, the senses, the pranas, the elements”–does in truth come to know all things and the Self in all things.

Omniscience and omnipresence are experienced by that liberated spirit who knows its oneness with The All.

Meditation on Om

So far the questions put to Pippalada have been about the components of the human organism which both empower and limit it. In the last section the subject of the Self was considered–specifically the nature of the Self and the results of knowing the Self. Now we approach the subject of the way in which the Self is known. Without knowing this, all the foregoing teaching is pointless.

Life and death

“Whereupon Satyakama, coming near to the master, said: Venerable sir, if a man meditate upon the syllable OM all his life, what shall be his reward after death?” (Prashna Upanishad 5:1)

Satyakama understood that what really mattered was not short-term gain in this life, but the state of consciousness that would determine where the individual would go after death when stripped of body, possessions, relationships, and all that is “of the earth, earthly”–when he has nothing but his degree of evolution to determine his future.

So he wants to know what will be the result of meditating on Om throughout one’s life. Literally, the Sanskrit texts asks what will be the result of intense meditation (abhidhyana) on Om, and what world (loka) will be won (jayati) by means of that meditation. For the world in which we find ourselves after death reveals our fundamental state of consciousness.

The supreme attainment

“And the master answered him thus: Satyakama, OM is Brahman–both the conditioned and the unconditioned, the personal and the impersonal. By meditating upon it the wise man may attain either the one or the other.” (Prashna Upanishad 5:2)

Brahman is absolutely one, but from our present perspective seems to be of a dual character. In this verse the expression “higher” (para) and “lower” (apara) are used, though Prabhavananda has used the explanatory translations “conditioned and the unconditioned” and “the personal and the impersonal.” It is more usual to use the terms nirguna (without attributes or qualities–guna) and saguna (with attributes or qualities) in relation to Brahman. In A Brief Sanskrit Glossary Nirguna Brahman is defined as: “The impersonal, attributeless Absolute beyond all description or designation.” Saguna Brahman is defined as: “The supreme Absolute conceived of as endowed with qualities like mercy, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipotence, etc., as distinguished from the undifferentiated Absolute–Nirguna Brahman.” Nirguna Brahman is the “higher” Brahman and Saguna Brahman is the “lower” or lesser. Again, this distinction is just a means of expression adopted for the limitations of our human intellects.

Presently it is commonly assumed–erroneously–that there is one way to meditate on Nirguna Brahman and another way to meditate on Saguna Brahman. But this was not so in the upanishadic era, as can be seen from the texts cited in both Om Yoga and The Word That Is God. It was understood that Om is all- inclusive, since It is Brahman Itself. Consequently, meditation on Om is meditation on both Nirguna and Saguna Brahman. Our perceptions will be according to whichever aspect we wish to contact.

According to our knowing

It also depends on our experience-knowlege of Om, not mere intellectual ideas. For Pippalada then says: “If he meditate upon OM with but little knowledge of its meaning, but nevertheless is enlightened thereby, upon his death he will be immediately born again on this earth, and during his new life he will be devoted to austerity, continence, and faith, and will attain to spiritual greatness.” (Prashna Upanishad 5:3) That is, if for whatever reasons the yogi gains but little experience-knowledge of Om, still he will be enlightened by it to some degree. This being so, he will not spend a long period in the astral world, but will quickly be reborn so he can take up yoga again and make better progress than he did before. To ensure this, in his new life “he will be devoted to austerity, continence, and faith, and will attain to spiritual greatness.”

“If, again, he meditate upon OM with a greater knowledge of its meaning, upon his death he will ascend to the lunar heaven, and after he has partaken of its pleasures will return again to earth.” (Prashna Upanishad 5:4) “The lunar heaven” is the astral world in which the yogi experiences great happiness and even power according to the immense strength of positive karma which is engendered by the practice of yoga. Yet he will in time take birth again on the earth.

“But if he meditate upon OM in the full consciousness that it is one with God, upon his death he will be united with the light that is in the sun, he will be freed from evil, even as a snake is freed from its slough, and he will ascend to God’s dwelling place. There he will realize Brahman, who evermore abides in the heart of all beings–Brahman Supreme!” (Prashna Upanishad 5:5) Those who experience in meditation that Om truly is Divinity Itself–is their own Divine Self–will be freed from the compulsion to earthly rebirth as well as all that has bound them to lower things and, united with the Light of Spirit that invisibly shines upon us through the intermediary of the sun, will ascend to the heights of existence and beyond into the transcendent Being of Nirguna Brahman.

Then Pippalada cites two verses even older than the upanishads that encapsulate all this:

“Concerning the sacred syllable OM it is written: “The syllable OM, when it is not fully understood, does not lead beyond mortality. When it is fully understood, and meditation is therefore rightly directed, a man is freed from fear, whether he be awake, dreaming, or sleeping the dreamless sleep, and attains to Brahman.

“By virtue of a little understanding of OM a man returns to earth after death. By virtue of a greater understanding he attains to the celestial sphere. By virtue of a complete understanding he learns what is known only to the seers. The sage, with the help of OM, reaches Brahman, the fearless, the undecaying, the immortal!” (Prashna Upanishad 5:6, 7)

As Sri Ramana Maharshi said: Om ever shines within us as the Self. May we all realize this.

Where is the Self?

“Lastly, Sukesa approached the sage and said: ‘Holy sir, Hiranyanabha, prince of Kosala, once asked me this question: ““Sukesa, do you know the Self and his sixteen parts?”” I replied, ““I do not. Surely, if I had known them, I should have taught them to you. I will not lie, for he who lies perishes, root and all.”” The prince silently mounted his chariot and went away. So now I ask of thee, Where is the Self?’” (Prashna Upanishad 6:1)

This is an introduction to the actual teachings of this section, but it contains a couple of interesting points.

Sixteen parts

The Self is said in this verse to have sixteen “parts.” Yet the Self is one, so how can this be? The upanishad is referring to the “extensions” or instruments of the Self by means of which it manifests within relative existence. They will be enumerated shortly.

Spiritual honesty

It is impressive when a spiritual teacher honestly admits to not knowing something. In a filmed interview, Carl Jung was asked what he thought some dream symbol meant. He laughed and said: “I haven’t the faintest idea!” End of question!

Here we see the integrity of Sukesha who readily admitted not knowing the answer to a question. And his reason he gives, saying: “I will not lie, for he who lies perishes, root and all.” Satya–truthfulness–is one of the essential observances of Yoga according to Patanjali, and here we see why. This should be taken to heart by us throughout our life. Sri Ramakrishna said that a person can realize God by scrupulously adhering to truth.

Abode of the Self

Where is the Self? “The sage replied: “My child, within this body dwells the Self, from whom sprang the sixteen parts of the universe; and in this manner they came into being.” (Prashna Upanishad 6:2)

How precious, then, is the human body! And how foolish it is to think that spiritual experience will involve “escaping” from the body and flying off to some “spiritual world” to hobnob with angels and masters!

Now he will describe the sequence of cosmic manifestation.

Stabilizing Itself within creation

“If, creating, I enter my creation, the Self reflected, what is there to bind me to it; what is there to go out from it when I go out, to stay within it when I stay?” (Prashna Upanishad 6:3) This is a problem for both the infinite and the finite Selves.

“Pondering thus, and in answer to his thought, he made Prana; and from Prana he made desire; and from desire he made ether, air, fire, water, earth, the senses, the mind, and food; and from food he made vigor, penance, the Vedas, the sacrificial rites, and all the worlds. Thereafter, in the worlds, he created names. And the number of the elements he thus created was sixteen.” (Prashna Upanishad 6:4) We need to take this part by part.

Pondering thus, and in answer to his thought, he made…. The world was made by the mere thought of God. As said before, this is the “dream” of God; it is all creative thought. Merely thinking of something gets us human beings nowhere–we have to bring it into manifestation by action and materials. This is not the case with God. He thought–and so it was. Consequently, in the following list of cosmic ingredients, we must not think of them as “stuff” but as cosmic thoughts.

Prana. First the Universal Life Force (vishwaprana) was manifested. This was the formless, basic “substance” of relative existence.

Desire. Next came the power of intention or aspiration. For unless we are motivated with the idea that something can be attained, we will not act. So the power to desire or will–and thereby to shape and work with the cosmic prana–is absolutely necessary for anything to “happen.” “Desire” is the explanatory translation of Prabhavananda, and I think it is the best one. But the actual word in the Sanskrit is shraddha–faith. This was used, Shankara says, to mean a stimulus to the individual spirits (jivas). That is, subliminally all of us know that we have come from God and are intended to return to God. With this aspiration as the deepest impulse of our being, we are moving up the evolutionary path, ever onward, however many delays our ignorance and laziness may bring about.

Ether, air, fire, water, earth–the great primal elements and all their variations down to their material manifestations.

The senses. Actually, the word is indriyam, which means “organs” and often does mean only the five organs of perception (jnanendriyas): ear, skin, eye, tongue, and nose, but Shankara feels (and so do I) that it no doubt includes the five organs of action (karmendriyas): voice, hand, foot, organ of excretion, and the organ of generation. The indriyas are here being thought of as “wrappings” of the individual consciousness as well as being instruments of bodily function.

Mind. The indriyas are unconscious. That which activates them is the mind which both perceives and acts through them.

Food. By this term is meant all that goes to affect the evolving consciousness, from physical food to psychological and intellectual impressions that shape and move our development either forward or backward, according to their character. That this is so is demonstrated by those things that are said to be “made” from food:

Vigor. Virya is the strength and energy than manifests in body, mind, and intellect–especially as will power in the yogi.

Penance. Tapasya is practical spiritual disciplines, such as moral observances, self-purification, and the practice of meditation.

Vedas. The word is not Veda, but mantra–words of power which produce changes spiritually, mentally and physically by their repetition. From vigor comes the capacity for spiritual discipline, which is manifested in the form of the repetition (japa) and meditation (dhyana) centered on mantras, especially the Supreme Mantra: Om.

Sacrificial rites. This is not only an interpretive translation, it is a very narrowing one. The actual word is karma–a very wide and far-reaching matter, indeed. Here it means the law of action/reaction which fuels the very existence of the world and our bodies within it. Karma causes the manifestation of the cosmos and impels all sentient beings to take incarnation within it in forms appropriate to their level of consciousness and the nature of their past deeds, both physical and mental. Certainly merit-producing actions are part of karma, but karma is much more.

All the worlds. The many worlds (lokas) are produced in response to the varying degrees of evolution and past karma of the sentient beings within them.

Names. The prime factor in relative existence is nama: name. This seems very peculiar to those whose philosophy does not postulate that everything is ideation–thought. But the primeval sages of India perceived through their meditation that the thoughtform, the idea that is the matrix around which the body-vehicle of any manifested entity forms itself is that entity’s “name.” In the depths of their meditation the sages perceived the primal thought of each “thing.” Since everything is formed of vibration, they translated that into spoken forms. In all other languages a word is just an agreed-upon symbol of an object, but in Sanskrit each word is a sound-form of the basic energy pattern of the designated object. Sanskrit is a kind of sonic physics–creative speech. For that reason Sanskrit script is call Devanagari–The City of the Gods–meaning that the divine powers manifesting as all objects “dwell” in the Sanskrit words. In the subtle levels of being the Sanskrit word IS the thing designated by the word. That is why it is stated that the Name of God IS God! Om is Divinity Itself. (See the section entitled The Glories and Powers of Om in Om Yoga and The Word That Is God.)

These are the sixteen parts of the cosmic and the individual Selves.

The Great Return

“As the flowing rivers, whose destination is the sea, having reached it disappear in it, losing their names and forms, and men speak only of the sea; so these sixteen parts created from out his own being by the Self, the Eternal Seer, having returned to him from whom they came, disappear in him, their destination, losing their names and forms, and people speak only of the Self. Then for man the sixteen parts are no more, and he attains to immortality. Thus was it said of old: ‘The sixteen parts are spokes projecting from the Self, who is the hub of the wheel. The Self is the goal of knowledge. Know him and go beyond death.’” (Prashna Upanishad 6:5, 6)

There is an important principle here: All that exists has emanated from the Cosmic Self and is withdrawn into It–and the same is true of our many levels: they have come from the true “us” and will remerge in us. The idea that “the world” is to be discarded–escaped from–so we can be free is as illusory as the world from which we wish to rid ourselves. It is ignorance alone that we need to banish. We need to refine all our bodies through the practice of tapasya so they will be seen as nothing more than the projections of our mind–projections that can be reabsorbed in the state of perfect knowing. The macrocosm and the microcosm are both “proper” to Spirit and spirit. They are not impositions or prisons (though we make them so), but rays of the Self. They exist because we exist.

The only path to the Self is that of knowledge. Once that arises within us, death dissolves and immortality alone remains.

The right ending

“The sage concluded, saying: What I have told you is all that can be said about the Self, the Supreme Brahman. Beyond this there is naught.” (Prashna Upanishad 6:7) So anything more we may say, that has not already been said in the upanishads (and the Gita), will really be nothing–worthless and pointless, if not outright self-deception. This merits being taken to heart. We should toss away our books of idle philosophy and speculation and become genuine yogis. Then we will truly know That Which Is To Be Known.

So: “The disciples worshiped the sage, and said: You are indeed our father. You have led us beyond the sea of ignorance. We bow down to all the great seers! Obeisance to the great seers!”

Those who teach us the truth of the Self–and more: the way to realize the Self–they are our true fathers, begetting us in Knowledge. They are worthy of worship (archanam) and all honor. They are the gods that lead us to God. Namah Paramarishibhyah–Salutations to the Great Rishis!

End of Prashna Commentary:

Mundaka Upanishad

Translated by Swami Gambhirananda Published by Advaita Ashram, Kolkatta

Om ! O gods, may we hear auspicious words with the ears; While engaged in sacrifices, May we see auspicious things with the eyes; While praising the gods with steady limbs, May we enjoy a life that is beneficial to the gods. May Indra of ancient fame be auspicious to us; May the supremely rich (or all-knowing) Pusa (god of the earth) Be propitious to us; May Garuda, the destroyer of evil, Be well disposed towards us; May Brihaspati ensure our welfare. Om ! Peace ! Peace ! Peace !

I-i-1: Om ! Brahma, the creator of the Universe and the protector of the world, was the first among the gods to manifest Himself. To His eldest son Atharva He imparted that knowledge of Brahman that is the basis of all knowledge. I-i-2: The Knowledge of Brahman that Brahma imparted to Atharva, Atharva transmitted to Angir in days of yore. He (Angir) passed it on to Satyavaha of the line of Bharadvaja. He of the line of Bharadvaja handed down to Angiras this knowledge that had been received in succession from the higher by the lower ones. I-i-3: Saunaka, well known as a great householder, having approached Angiras duly, asked, ‘O adorable sir, (which is that thing) which having been known, all this becomes known ?’ I-i-4: To him he said, ‘"There are two kinds of knowledge to be acquired – the higher and the lower"; this is what, as tradition runs, the knowers of the import of the Vedas say.’ I-i-5: Of these, the lower comprises the Rig-Veda, Yajur-Veda, Sama-Veda, Atharva-Veda, the science of pronunciation etc., the code of rituals, grammar, etymology, metre and astrology. Then there is the higher (knowledge) by which is attained that Imperishable.

I-i-6: (By the higher knowledge) the wise realize everywhere that which cannot be perceived and grasped, which is without source, features, eyes, and ears, which has neither hands nor feet, which is eternal, multiformed, all-pervasive, extremely subtle, and undiminishing and which is the source of all. I-i-7: As a spider spreads out and withdraws (its thread), as on the earth grow the herbs (and trees), and as from a living man issues out hair (on the head and body), so out of the Imperishable does the Universe emerge here (in this phenomenal creation). I-i-8: Through knowledge Brahman increases in size. From that is born food (the Unmanifested). From food evolves Prana (Hiranyagarbha); (thence the cosmic) mind; (thence) the five elements; (thence) the worlds; (thence) the immortality that is in karmas. I-i-9: From Him, who is omniscient in general and all-knowing in detail and whose austerity is constituted by knowledge, evolve this (derivative) Brahman, name, colour and food.

I-ii-1:That thing that is such, is true. The karmas that the wise discovered in the mantras are accomplished variously (in the context of the sacrifice) where the three Vedic duties get united. You perform them for ever with desire for the true results. This is your path leading to the fruits of karma acquired by yourselves. I-ii-2: When, the fire being set ablaze, the flame shoots up, one should offer the oblations into that part that is in between the right and the left. I-ii-3: It (i.e. the Agnihotra) destroys the seven worlds of that man whose Agnihotra (sacrifice) is without Darsa and Paurnamasa (rites), devoid of Chaturmasya, bereft of Agrayana, unblest with guests, goes unperformed, is unaccompanied by Vaisvadeva (rite) and is performed perfunctorily. I-ii-4: Kali, Karali, Manojava and Sulohita and that which is Sudhumravarna, as also Sphulingini, and the shining Visvaruchi – these are the seven flaming tongues. I-ii-5: These oblations turn into the rays of the sun and taking him up they lead him, who performs the rites in these shining flames at the proper time, to where the single lord of the gods presides over all. I-ii-6: Saying, ‘Come, come’, uttering pleasing words such as, ‘This is your well-earned, virtuous path which leads to heaven’, and offering him adoration, the scintillating oblations carry the sacrificer along the rays of the sun. I-ii-7: Since these eighteen constituents of a sacrifice, on whom the inferior karma has been said to rest, are perishable because of their fragility, therefore those ignorant people who get elated with the idea ‘This is (the cause of) bliss’, undergo old age and death over again. I-ii-8: Remaining within the fold of ignorance and thinking, ‘We are ourselves wise and learned’, the fools, while being buffeted very much, ramble about like the blind led by the blind alone. I-ii-9: Continuing diversely in the midst of ignorance, the unenlightened take airs by thinking, ‘We have attained the goal.’ Since the men, engaged in karma, do not understand (the truth) under the influence of attachment, thereby they become afflicted with sorrow and are deprived of heaven on the exhaustion of the results of karma. I-ii-10: The deluded fools, believing the rites inculcated by the Vedas and the Smritis to be the highest, do not understand the other thing (that leads to) liberation. They, having enjoyed (the fruits of actions) in the abode of pleasure on the heights of heaven, enter this world or an inferior one. I-ii-11: Those who live in the forest, while begging for alms – viz. those (forest-dwellers and hermits) who resort to the duties of their respective stages of life as well as to meditation – and the learned (householders) who have their senses under control – (they) after becoming freed from dirt, go by the path of the sun to where lives that Purusha, immortal and undecaying by nature. I-ii-12: A Brahmana should resort to renunciation after examining the worlds acquired through karma, with the help of this maxim: ‘There is nothing (here) that is not the result of karma; so what is the need of (performing) karma ?’ For knowing that Reality he should go, with sacrificial faggots in hand, only to a teacher versed in the Vedas and absorbed in Brahman. I-ii-13: To him who has approached duly, whose heart is calm and whose outer organs are under

control, that man of enlightenment should adequately impart that knowledge of Brahman by which one realizes the true and imperishable Purusha.

II-i-1: That thing that is such, is true. As from a fire fully ablaze, fly off sparks in their thousands that are akin to the fire, similarly O good- looking one, from the Imperishable originate different kinds of creatures and into It again they merge. II-i-2: The Purusha is transcendental, since He is formless. And since He is coextensive with all that is external and internal and since He is birthless, therefore He is without vital force and without mind; He is pure and superior to the (other) superior imperishable (Maya). II-i-3: From Him originates the vital force as well as the mind, all the senses, space, air, fire, water, and earth that supports everything. II-i-4: The indwelling Self of all is surely He of whom the heaven is the head, the moon and sun are the two eyes, the directions are the two ears, the revealed Vedas are the speech, air is the vital force, the whole Universe is the heart, and (It is He) from whose two feet emerged the earth. II-i-5: From Him emerges the fire (i.e. heaven) of which the fuel is the sun. From the moon emerges cloud, and (from cloud) the herbs and corns on the earth. A man sheds the semen into a woman. From the Purusha have originated many creatures. II-i-6: From Him (emerge) the Rik, Sama and Yajur mantras, initiation, all the sacrifices – whether with or without the sacrificial stake – offerings to Brahmanas, the year, the sacrificer, and the worlds where the moon sacrifices (all) and where the sun (shines). II-i-7: And from Him duly emerged the gods in various groups, the Sadhyas, human beings, beasts, birds, life, rice and barley, as well as austerity, faith, truth, continence and dutifulness. II-i-8: From Him emerge the seven sense-organs, the seven flames, the seven kinds of fuel, the seven oblations, and these seven seats where move the sense-organs that sleep in the cavity, (and) have been deposited (by God) in groups of seven. II-i-9: From Him emerge all the oceans and all the mountains. From Him flow out the rivers of various forms. And from Him issue all the corns as well as the juice, by virtue of which the internal self verily exists in the midst of the elements. II-i-10: The Purusha alone is all this – (comprising) karma and knowledge. He who knows this supreme, immortal Brahman, existing in the heart, destroys here the knot of ignorance, O good-looking one !

II-ii-1: (It is) effulgent, near at hand, and well known as moving in the heart, and (It is) the great goal. On It are fixed all these that move, breathe, and wink or do not wink. Know this One which comprises the gross and the subtle, which is beyond the ordinary knowledge of creatures, and which is the most desirable and the highest of all. II-ii-2: That which is bright and is subtler than the subtle, and that on which are fixed all the worlds as well as the dwellers of the worlds, is this immutable Brahman; It is this vital force; It, again, is speech and mind. This Entity, that is such, is true. It is immortal. It is to be penetrated, O good-looking one, shoot (at It). II-ii-3: Taking hold of the bow, the great weapon familiar in the Upanishads, one should fix on it an arrow sharpened with meditation. Drawing the string, O good-looking one, hit that very target that is the Imperishable, with the mind absorbed in Its thought. II-ii-4: Om is the bow; the soul is the arrow; and Brahman is called its target. It is to be hit by an unerring man. One should become one with It just like an arrow. II-ii-5: Know that Self alone that is one without a second, on which are strung heaven, the earth and the inter-space, the mind and the vital forces together with all the other organs; and give up all other talks. This is the bridge leading to immortality. II-ii-6: Within that (heart) in which are fixed the nerves like the spokes on the hub of a chariot wheel,

moves this aforesaid Self by becoming multiformed. Meditate on the Self thus with the help of Om. May you be free from hindrances in going to the other shore beyond darkness. II-ii-7: That Self which is omniscient in general and all-knowing in detail and which has such glory in this world – that Self, which is of this kind – is seated in the space within the luminous city of Brahman. It is conditioned by the mind, It is the carrier of the vital forces and the body, It is seated in food by placing the intellect (in the cavity of the heart). Through their knowledge, the discriminating people realize that Self as existing in Its fullness everywhere – the Self that shines surpassingly as blissfulness and immortality. II-ii-8: When that Self, which is both the high and the low, is realized, the knot of the heart gets united, all doubts become solved, and all one’s actions become dissipated. II-ii-9: In the supreme, bright sheath is Brahman, free from taints and without parts. It is pure, and is the Light of lights. It is that which the knowers of the Self realize. II-ii-10: There the sun does not shine, nor the moon or the stars; nor do these flashes of lightning shine there. How can this fire do so ? Everything shines according as He does so; by His light all this shines diversely. II-ii-11: All this that is in front is but Brahman, the immortal. Brahman is at the back, as also on the right and the left. It is extended above and below, too. This world is nothing but Brahman, the highest.

III-i-1: Two birds that are ever associated and have similar names, cling to the same tree. Of these, one eats the fruit of divergent tastes, and the other looks on without eating. III-i-2: On the same tree, the individual soul remains drowned (i.e. stuck), as it were; and so it moans, being worried by its impotence. When it sees thus the other, the adored Lord, and His glory, then it becomes liberated from sorrow. III-i-3: When the seer sees the Purusha – the golden-hued, creator, lord, and the source of the inferior Brahman – then the illumined one completely shakes off both merit and demerit, becomes taintless, and attains absolute equality. III-i-4: This one is verily the Vital Force which shines divergently through all beings. Knowing this, the illumined man has no (further) occasion to go beyond anything in his talk. He disports in the Self, delights in the Self, and is engrossed in (spiritual) effort. This one is the chief among the knowers of Brahman. III-i-5: The bright and pure Self within the body, that the monks with (habitual effort and) attenuated blemishes see, is attainable verily through truth, concentration, complete knowledge, and continence, practised constantly. III-i-6: Truth alone wins, and not untruth. By truth is laid the path called Devayana, by which the desireless seers ascend to where exists the supreme treasure attainable through truth. III-i-7: It is great and self-effulgent; and Its form is unthinkable. It is subtler than the subtle. It shines diversely. It is farther away than the far-off, and It is near at hand in this body. Among sentient beings It is (perceived as) seated in this very body, in the cavity of the heart. III-i-8: It is not comprehended through the eye, nor through speech, nor through the other senses; nor is It attained through austerity or karma. Since one becomes purified in mind through the favourableness of the intellect, therefore can one see that indivisible Self through meditation. III-i-9: Within (the heart in) the body, where the vital force has entered in five forms, is this subtle Self to be realized through that intelligence by which is pervaded the entire mind as well as the motor and sensory organs of all creatures. And It is to be known in the mind, which having become purified, this Self reveals Itself distinctly. III-i-10: The man of pure mind wins those worlds which he mentally wishes for and those enjoyable things which he covets. Therefore one, desirous of prosperity, should adore the knower of the Self.

III-ii-1: He knows this supreme abode, this Brahman, in which is placed the Universe and which shines holy. Those wise ones indeed, who having become desireless, worship this (enlightened) person, transcend this human seed. III-ii-2: He who covets the desirable things, while brooding (on the virtues), is born amidst those very surroundings along with the desires. But for one who has got his wishes fulfilled and who is Self- poised, all the longings vanish even here. III-ii-3: This Self is not attained through study, nor through the intellect, nor through much hearing. The very Self which this one (i.e. the aspirant) seeks is attainable through that fact of seeking; this Self of his reveals Its own nature. III-ii-4: This Self is not attained by one devoid of strength, nor through delusion, nor through knowledge unassociated with monasticism. But the Self of that knower, who strives through these means, enters into the abode that is Brahman. III-ii-5: Having attained this, the seers become contented with their knowledge, established in the Self, freed from attachment, and composed. Having realized the all-pervasive One everywhere, these discriminating people, ever merged in contemplation, enter into the All. III-ii-6: Those to whom the entity presented by the Vedantic knowledge has become fully ascertained, who are assiduous and have become pure in mind through the Yoga of monasticism – all of them, at the supreme moment of final departure, become identified with the supreme Immortality in the worlds that are Brahman, and they become freed on every side. III-ii-7: To their sources repair the fifteen constituents (of the body) and to their respective gods go all the gods (of the senses). The karmas and the soul appearing like the intellect, all become unified with the supreme Undecaying. III-ii-8: As rivers, flowing down, become indistinguishable on reaching the sea by giving up their names and forms, so also the illumined soul, having become freed from name and form, reaches the self-effulgent Purusha that is higher than the higher (Maya). III-ii-9: Anyone who knows that supreme Brahman becomes Brahman indeed. In his line is not born anyone who does not know Brahman. He overcomes grief, and rises above aberrations; and becoming freed from the knots of the heart, he attains immortality. III-ii-10: This (rule) has been revealed by the mantra (which runs thus): ‘To them alone should one expound this knowledge of b who are engaged in the practice of disciplines, versed in the Vedas, and indeed devoted to Brahman, who personally sacrifice to the fire called Ekarsi with faith, and by whom has been duly accomplished the vow of holding fire on the head.’ III-ii-11: The seer Angiras spoke of this Truth in the days of yore. One that has not fulfilled the vow does not read this. Salutation to the great seers. Salutation to the great seers.

Om ! O gods, may we hear auspicious words with the ears; While engaged in sacrifices, May we see auspicious things with the eyes; While praising the gods with steady limbs, May we enjoy a life that is beneficial to the gods. May Indra of ancient fame be auspicious to us; May the supremely rich (or all-knowing) Pusa (god of the earth) Be propitious to us; May Garuda, the destroyer of evil, Be well disposed towards us; May Brihaspati ensure our welfare. Om ! Peace ! Peace ! Peace !

Here ends the Mundakopanishad, included in the Atharva-Veda.

Mundaka Upanishad Commentary

Commentary on the Mundaka Upanishad–by Swami Nirmalananda Giri

Knowing the ALL

It is an interesting trait of the Western mind that it wants encapsulations of things, lists of “essentials,” advice on “shortcuts,” and “what is the one thing?…” in every department of life and thought. Whether this is a desire for efficiency or a form of intellectual minimalism or outright laziness is hard to say– chances are it varies from person to person. Nevertheless, “getting to the heart of the matter” is something dear to the heart of Americans, especially. They are not alone in this attitude. The upanishads reflect the same mentality. Perhaps that is why Vivekananda considered the West, and America particularly, as being more suited to the teachings of Vedanta–the upanishads–than the contemporary East.

In the first section of the Mundaka Upanishad we find the highest expression of this attitude:

“Out of the infinite ocean of existence arose Brahma, first-born and foremost among the gods. From him sprang the universe, and he became its protector. The knowledge of Brahman, the foundation of all knowledge, he revealed to his first-born son, Atharva.” (Mundaka Upanishad 1:1:1)

A pre-creation story

According to Indian texts, at the beginning of the present creation cycle Brahma, that person who was destined to be the creator/projector of the three worlds, awoke to find himself in infinite, empty space. At first he felt fear, but then he laughed at his foolishness, for there was no one there but him. Who would he fear? Then he pondered his situation, attempting to comprehend it. At one point a great voice resounded all around him, saying a single word: “Tapa”–meaning “do tapasya.” This awakened Brahma’s memory of yoga meditation, so he began to mediate. After some time he attained full memory of his past as well as the knowledge of how to create the worlds–which he did. He also became established in direct perception of Brahman.

Among his “children” brought forth through his meditation, was Atharva, to whom he taught the way to realize Brahman. “In turn Atharva taught this same knowledge of Brahman to Angi. Angi, again, taught it to Satyabaha, who revealed it to Angiras.” (Mundaka Upanishad 1:1:2)

The essence of knowledge

To Angiras came upon a time Sounaka, the famous householder, and asked respectfully: “Holy sir, what is that by which all else is known?” (Mundaka Upanishad 1:1:3)

We have already been told that the knowledge of Brahman, Brahmavidya, is the foundation of all knowledge. But Sounaka has a very salutary impatience and ambition. He wants to know what is the one thing which, being known, causes all to be known. This is both a wise quest and a wise attitude. Little Red Riding Hood ended up in the wolf’s stomach because she dawdled on the way instead of going straight to her destination. If we look at the history of religions we will find that the countries which produce the most enlightened persons are those countries which have produced empires. For when such people turn to spiritual life they go after the loftiest spiritual attainments–they become imperialists of the spirit! They seek out the most direct way…and go there. Sounaka is one of them– and hopefully so are we. Knowledge is the subject of the question, so Angiras lays a foundation for his answer.

“Those who know Brahman,” replied Angiras, “say that there are two kinds of knowledge, the higher and the lower.

“The lower is knowledge of the Vedas (the Rik, the Sama, the Yajur, and the Atharva), and also of phonetics, ceremonials, grammar, etymology, metre, and astronomy. The higher is knowledge of that by which one knows the changeless reality.” (Mundaka Upanishad 1:1:4-5)

Analysis of knowledge

Now we should look at this very carefully. First of all, who do we believe? When I first emerged from the deadly cocoon of fundamentalist Protestantism my intellectual world was quite simple–simplistic, actually. Fortunately I first read the Bhagavad Gita and then Autobiography of a Yogi. The next step was to get out of my deadly environment, so within a few months I was on the plane to California and wider horizons.

But I discovered in a short time that wider horizons can have a drawback. I began encountering just about every shade of philosophical and religious thought and attitude, most of them incompatible with each other. Almost daily I was told conflicting things, and always with the utmost confidence. As someone once said: “The problem with ignorance is that it picks up confidence as it goes along.” I loved being in the wide-open mental spaces of California (and I still do), but which way should I go? Who could–or should–I trust? Since I had been shaken out of my spiritual entombment by learning of the yoga tradition I wisely followed the principle that only those who know God really know anything. So I sought out the teachings of illumined yogis of past and present, discarding those inauspicious Indian teachers who claimed to have a new revelation for a new age, and only paying attention to those who were right in the center of the Eternal Dharma. (Once somebody asked me what a great yogi’s “distinctive teachings” were. “None!” I replied with satisfaction. “If he taught anything ‘new” I would have nothing to do with him. Truth is eternal.”) I appreciated it if the English was good (and equally if the book was free from typos), and expressed in a way that someone in the twentieth century like myself could comprehend, but I wanted to know what all the great yogis throughout history knew: the tried and proven way to God.

My great blessing was being able to trek many times to the Vedanta Bookshop in Hollywood. There I found an abundance of eternal wisdom, the same wisdom that had been flowing in a life-giving stream for countless ages–like the holy Ganga. The Ganga that emerges at Gangotri high in the Himalayas is the same Ganga that flows into the ocean at Gangasagar. In the same way I found on the shelves of that little shop the same Sanatana Dharma spoken by the primeval sages of India. A little further east in Hollywood at the Self-Realization Fellowship I listened every Sunday to an ideal presentation of both the philosophy and spiritual practice of Eternal India. All this prepared me for India where, as a friend of ours once said about the same pilgrimage, “I got the idea.” And have treasured it ever since.

So those who know Brahman “say that there are two kinds of knowledge, the higher and the lower.”

The lower, they say, is the knowledge of scriptures, ritual, philosophic, expression and suchlike– including, by the way, astrology. Please note that they do not denounce these things as useless or as ignorance. They are definitely said to be knowledge, and a sensible person appreciates and learns them to a reasonable and practical degree. But it must be understood that the essential, “the higher is knowledge of that by which one knows the changeless reality”–Brahman. The knowledge which enables us to Know is to be sought for and prized above all else. While writing this previous sentence I could clearly hear in memory the recorded voice of Yogananda saying: “I walked my feet off from Cape Cormorin to the Himalayas” in search of the knowledge that would reveal God to him.

The lesser knowledge tells us only of that which changes, including our own short physical life. But the higher knowledge brings us to the Changeless Reality. “By this is fully revealed to the wise that which transcends the senses, which is uncaused, which is indefinable, which has neither eyes nor ears, neither hands nor feet, which is all-pervading, subtler than the subtlest–the everlasting, the source of all.” (Mundaka Upanishad 1:1:6) The Absolute Consciousness, the Totality of Being, is shown to the wise– to the yogis–by this knowledge.

And the world?

What about this world in which we find ourselves? Is it to be despised as worthless and antithetical to Brahman, our Goal? Lest we think such a foolish thing Angiras further says: “As the web comes out of the spider and is withdrawn, as plants grow from the soil and hair from the body of man, so springs the universe from the eternal Brahman.” (Mundaka Upanishad 1:1:7)

The world, then, is an extension or emanation of Brahman. In other words, the world IS Brahman. We are living and moving in divinity manifesting as the world. Why, then, do we say that the world is illusory? It is the world in our mind–our perception, our interpretation, of the world–that is an illusion, not the world itself. In Indian texts we continually find the simile of the snake in a rope or a man in tree. That is, in darkness we see a rope lying on the ground and immediately “see” a snake lying there– we see the glitter of its eyes and may even hear it hiss! Yet, when light is brought we see only a rope. The rope was always real, was always there. The snake was an illusion that existed only in our mind. In the same way, walking in the darkness we may see a dead tree and mistake it for a human being, taking its branches for arms. We may even see the “arms” move and think we see a face looking at us. But when we come closer we see it is only a tree–and a dead one, at that. The tree was real, but the man was not. Illusion is always a mental phenomenon, never a real or objective thing. So it is illusion and ignorance we must decry, but never find fault with the world; for the world is Brahman.

In both instances, rope and tree, we may experience great fear. But the moment we see them for what they really are, our fear evaporates and we are at peace. This is how it is with us and this world. Our illusions fill us with terrible fears and anxieties, all of which will be dispelled when we see its actual nature as Brahman. No wonder, then, that Krishna told Arjuna: “Even a little of this dharma delivers you from great fear.” (Bhagavad Gita 2:40)

The chain of causation

The sage now gives us an outline of the process of the emanation of the world from Brahman.

“Brahman willed that it should be so, and brought forth out of himself the material cause of the universe; from this came the primal energy, and from the primal energy mind, from mind the subtle elements, from the subtle elements the many worlds, and from the acts performed by beings in the many worlds the chain of cause and effect–the reward and punishment of works.” (Mundaka Upanishad 1:1:8) Creation is also spoken of as expansions from Brahman, and that is the mode here. Brahman first expands as primordial matter, than as primordial energy. From this comes the intelligence inherent in creation, then the elements, and the various worlds in which they predominate. The final ingredient, though, comes from the sentient beings within the universe: karma. God supplies the stage and we supply the actions and reactions which unfold upon the stage.

“Brahman sees all, knows all; he is knowledge itself. Of him are born cosmic intelligence, name, form, and the material cause of all created beings and things.” (Mundaka Upanishad 1:1:9) No wonder, then, that in the Gita, that great digest of the upanishads, we find the words: “Brahman is the ritual, Brahman is the offering, Brahman is he who offers to the fire that is Brahman. If a man sees Brahman in every action, He will find Brahman.” (Bhagavad Gita 4:24)

Seeing is freeing.

Delusion and Ignorance

We usually think of delusion and ignorance in terms of “ordinary” life and its situations. Those who are more occupied with “spiritual” matters assume that they are beyond such, but Angiras thinks differently, and so should we.

“Finite and transient are the fruits of sacrificial rites. The deluded, who regard them as the highest good, remain subject to birth and death.” (Mundaka Upanishad 1:2:7. Swami Prabhavananda has omitted verses 1 to 6 of this section as they enumerate various technical aspects of Vedic sacrifices. Verse seven begins the philosophical exposition of the external rites.) Swami Nikhilananda translates a bit more literally: “Frail indeed are those rafts of sacrifices, therefore they are destructible. Fools who rejoice in them as the Highest Good fall victims again and again to old age and death.” “Back they must turn to the mortal pathway, subject still to birth and to dying,” (Bhagavad Gita 9:3) says the Gita on the same subject.

Karma and religion

I think just about everybody puts karma into two lumps: Good Karma and Bad Karma. But that is not very satisfactory. Karma, like all of life, has many nuances and can vary greatly. Some karma, for example, creates more karma, and some actually dissolves karma. For example, Sri Ramakrishna said that all spiritual practices are part of Karma Yoga, but they deliver us from karma. There are material, mental, and spiritual karmas. The material and mental karmas impel us to more of the same, whether good or bad. But spiritual karma enables us to rise above the material and mental planes and free ourselves from karmic bondage.

Angiras wants us to understand that religious karma is not always spiritual. This should not surprise us when we can readily see that most religion is based on material goals. “Stuff” and “happiness” just about sums up the motives of all the religions of the world, including that of modern India. As a result, most religious acts culminate in more mental and psychological involvement, not freedom. In the verses omitted by Swami Prabhavananda it is pointed out that most religion creates karma that takes us to heaven–and then dumps us back on earth when our “merit” is used up. So we end back where we started. What a gyp.

Just because a religious act is either directed toward God or offered to God does not mean it will ultimately lead to God. Usually it leads us away from God into the labyrinth of relative existence in some form or other. Since most people have been cultivating a taste for earthly things through life after life, this suits them. But it should gall us, and we should refuse the pursuit and get off the merry-goround.

Great suffering

So there are aspects of religion we should avoid adamantly. Otherwise: “Living in the abyss of ignorance, yet wise in their own conceit, the deluded go round and round, like the blind led by the blind.” (Mundaka Upanishad 1:2:8) “They be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch,” (Matthew 15:14) said Jesus, surely having this verse in mind.

Swami Gambhirananda’s translation points out a sad aspect of all this: “Remaining within the fold of ignorance, and thinking, ‘We are ourselves wise and learned,’ the fools, while being buffeted very much, ramble about like the blind led by the blind alone.” Buffeted very much. (“Being afflicted by many ills” is the translation of Swami Nikhilananda.) How true. Promising others the cessation of all troubles and sorrows, these religious mountebanks are more afflicted than ordinary people. Whether this is from the negative karma accruing from their dishonesty or a manifestation of their own inner diseases, the result is the same. “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption,” (II Peter 2:19) as Saint Peter put it.

You have better ways to spend your time, so I will not recount to you the observations of over sixty years in which I have seen such hucksters and their dupes literally undergoing “the sufferings of the damned.” And all the while they denounce those taking another path as “deluded” and “of the devil.” Well, as Jesus said: “They have their reward.” (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16) And they must like it, for they certainly cling to it.

Such is the grave danger of externalized religion.

Great delusion

As I say, they love and cling to their miserable condition. As the upanishad continues: “Living in the abyss of ignorance, the deluded think themselves blest. Attached to works, they know not God. Works lead them only to heaven, whence, to their sorrow, their rewards quickly exhausted, they are flung back to earth.” (Mundaka Upanishad 1:2:9)

Then the heart of the matter is revealed in the next verse: “Considering religion to be observance of rituals and performance of acts of charity, the deluded remain ignorant of the highest good. Having enjoyed in heaven the reward of their good works, they enter again into the world of mortals.” (Mundaka Upanishad 1:2:10)

Rituals of worship and good deeds certainly produce good karma, but that is not the force that lifts us above samsara, the ever-turning wheel of birth and death. If our religion consists only of outer observances it will condition our consciousness even more to identify with the material level of existence. And that identification will be a round-trip ticket for our return to another birth after another death!

Even helping others is spiritually valueless if it is not done with a wider, spiritual perspective. One of the hallmarks of today’s ineffectual religion is its obsessive involvement in social action and reform. When we look at the lives of saints we see they were the most generous of people, even sacrificing themselves for others. But they did these things not as their religion, but as an expression of their love for God and His children–which is the true religion.

We must not “remain ignorant of the highest good,” but must seek that Highest Good within through meditation and the cultivation of spiritual consciousness even outside meditation. Unless we do this we will find ourselves shuttled right back to earth on completion of our good “heaven karma.”

Wisdom and Truth

The wise

No one likes to be thought stupid, and all like to be thought intelligent. Even better is it to be thought wise. Of course, in all ages there have been the fools that preferred to be “cool” or “sharp” or “neat” or such idiotic expressions. The sad thing is that the vast majority want to be thought of as smart or wise, but only a small percentage care whether they really are smart or wise. The upanishad is meant for these latter people, so the sage continues: “But wise, self-controlled, and tranquil souls, who are contented in spirit, and who practice austerity and meditation in solitude and silence, are freed from all impurity, and attain by the path of liberation to the immortal, the truly existing, the changeless Self.” (Mundaka Upanishad 1:2:11)

Let us look at the traits of the wise. They are disciplined, and so are self-controlled. As a result of their discipline they have become peaceful. Intent on spiritual development, giving priority to the spirit, they have become contented–for outside the spirit there is no peace or tranquility. This means that they are harmonious and balanced, as well. They continually engage in those disciplines which purify them, and by being so purified they are capable of becoming adept in meditation. As a result of these qualities they are firmly on the path to liberation, and shall without doubt attain to the Self which is the only truly existing thing, changeless and sure from eternity.

Some adjectives

Now a look at some Sanskrit terms will be helpful to us.

The wise are said to be aranye–living in the forest. At the time of the Gita, many serious sadhakas lived on the outskirts of towns, preferring to live in the wooded areas where neighbors would not be visible, even if somewhat near. This ideal is found twice in the Gita: “Turn all your thought toward solitude, spurning the noise of the crowd, its fruitless commotion.” (Bhagavad Gita 13:10) And: “When a man seeks solitude,…ever engaged in his meditation on Brahman,…that man is ready for oneness with Brahman.” (Bhagavad Gita 18:52, 53) It is not a matter of surrounding vegetation, but the inward withdrawal from outer association that is being praised here. Even in a crowded city we can live in “the forest” of inner solitude. In the thirteenth chapter of Autobiography of a Yogi, the master yogi, Ram Gopal Muzumdar, asked Yogananda: “Are you able to have a little room where you can close the door and be alone?” When he said that he did have such a room, the saint told him: “That is your cave. That is your sacred mountain. That is where you will find the kingdom of God.” Though that is so, still the aspiring yogi should be extremely sparing of social contacts, and then only with those who benefit him spiritually.

The first words of this verse in Sanskrit describe the wise as tapahshraddhe–an interesting fusion of tapasya and shraddha–ascetic discipline and faith–shraddha in this instance meaning aspiration more than faith. Many people engage in spiritual practice for the wrong reasons, but the right one is a confidence in one’s ability to attain self-realization. Tapah literally means to generate heat, so tapahshraddha can also mean heat-generating faith or aspiration, that which heats us up, builds the proverbial fire under us, gets us moving and keeps us moving. Tapasya is the energy generator of the wise directed by their assurance that the Goal exists and is within grasp. Tapahshraddha is the radiance (tejas) that fills the proficient yogi. In the Chandogya Upanishad, when a young man returns from a long period of tapasya, his teacher said to him: ““My son, your face shines like one who knows Brahman.” (Chandogya Upanishad4:14:2) This is the effect of tapahshraddha.

The wise are vidvamsah–learned. They not only practice, they study and learn and assimilate what they have learned. There is no place in spiritual life for pious ignorance. Sentimental dummies are not “devotees,” they are fools. And fools do not find God. It is very true that many people get what Yogananda called “intellectual indigestion” from reading loads of theories and trivia. But the wise carefully choose books of spiritual wisdom such as scriptures, lives of holy people, and the writings/teachings of those who possess genuine inner illumination. Such books can never do anything but good. It is especially necessary to read the teachings of realized yogis. (I am not talking about super-gurus, glitter-gurus, and empire-building gurus, but real Masters of the spiritual life.) Naturally, they will have to use their own good sense as to whose words are worthwhile and whose are worthless or even poisonous. They will not have a library of thousands of books, I assure you. But they will have a goodly number of spiritual gems which they will perpetually read and ponder daily. Certainly they will not spend hours a day on reading, but they will allot an appropriate amount of time for it. Fake teachers and cults hate what I have just written, insisting that “loyal” and “in tune” cultists will read nothing but what the cult authorizes, so the dupes will not “get confused.” This only reveals their predatory cruelty. Their “protection” of their “sheep” is nothing less than the “protective custody” of the Nazi death camps. They fear that if their followers become informed as to the real nature of traditional philosophy and yoga they will realize they are being lied to, and will sensibly go elsewhere and find real truth. And that is bad for business.

Now comes an interesting adjective: virajah–beyond (free from) rajas. This may seem odd, but those of you who have been yogis for some years will remember how at the beginning of your “yoga days” you were very rajasic in your approach. First of all, you wanted to tell everyone about it, and you went around accumulating “spiritual stuff” of all kinds. You really began to star in your own spiritual movie, and you made quite an epic. Your motives were perfectly all right, even laudable, but they were rajasic, filled with activity and “passion” for getting on to the Goal. Again, the intentions were good, but the feverishness and externalization was not. For a lot of people, when the rajas fizzles out so does their impetus toward God. Most abandon any form of spiritual life, while others settle down to a comfortable and ineffectual life in some yoga cult that makes them feel secure and one of the “chosen.” But what is needed is for the rajasic heat to mutate into the steady warmth and radiance of sattwa. Then the aspiration and involvement actually increases, but in a fully effectual way, an increasingly interior way. Spiritual life changes over from a compulsion to an intelligent choice. Spiritual restlessness becomes steadiness in spiritual practice and development. God is no longer the brass ring to strain at but an ever-present Reality whose perception keeps on increasing in a naturally supernatural way.

And the result of all this? The upanishad says: “prayanti suryadvarena,” which Shankara says means: “they move superbly [skillfully] along the path of the sun.” That is, they ascend steadily and skillfully to the solar world, the realm of the Self-existent Light that is Brahman.

Getting in Perspective

Many things are needed in life, but none more important than an overview, a perspective on the values of life. This is true for everyone, so the sage now speaks of it in a spiritual context.

“Let a man devoted to spiritual life examine carefully the ephemeral nature of such enjoyment, whether here or hereafter, as may be won by good works, and so realize that it is not by works that one gains the Eternal. Let him give no thought to transient things, but, absorbed in meditation, let him renounce the world. If he would know the Eternal, let him humbly approach a Guru devoted to Brahman and well-versed in the scriptures.” (Mundaka Upanishad 1:2:12)

This needs to be looked at bit by bit.

Let a man devoted to spiritual life examine carefully the ephemeral nature of such enjoyment, whether here or hereafter, as may be won by good works, and so realize that it is not by works that one gains the Eternal. Back in high school I came across an eighteenth-century collection of humor and satire. I have forgotten most of it, but there was one story about a man who fell in love with a woman he often saw at the theater. That was when all lighting came from candles, and in that light she looked stunningly beautiful. He got the courage to ask her if he could visit her at home in the daytime. She agreed, and in the daylight he saw that she was horrible-looking, incredibly old, wore a wig and loads of make-up. He fell out of love instantly! It is the same with this and all other worlds and the enjoyments they offer in return for good karma. It is all deathly illusion. What we need is the light of spiritual day.

Seeing the world clearly is the only lasting antidote for the poison of worldliness. First we approach the matter intellectually. Just the fact of inevitable death should begin to turn us from attachment, and the fact that nothing lasts should seal our disillusionment. Yet, old habits do indeed die hard, and there is no habit as strongly entrenched as attraction to the world and its promises. So discipline is needed.

Let him give no thought to transient things. The wise aspirant must exert his will and refuse to even give a thought to the “good things” offered by the world, “good things” that will melt away in time, and that often prove to be anything but good. Look at those that have worldly success. Misery and confusion is their daily bread, but those who envy them are convinced that they alone have found the way to happiness. We must in contrast refuse to even look at the mirages held out to us by the world and our own habit-deluded mind. How will we cure the mind of its awful addictions? By being…

Absorbed in meditation. For meditation cures the fevers of the mind and heart and dispels the hallucinations produced by illusions and desires. The only way to be absorbed in meditation is to be constantly cultivating interior consciousness even outside of meditation. Our whole life must become a meditation process.

Let him renounce the world. The Sanskrit word nirvedam does not really mean renunciation, though many translators use that term. Actually, nirvedam means being indifferent, not being influenced or moved by something–in this case the world and its ways. It is an inner state, a condition of the mind very akin to the non-arising (nirodha) of mental reactions (vrittih) spoken about in the Yoga Sutras as being the state of yoga. “When your intellect has cleared itself of its delusions, you will become indifferent to the results of all action, present or future.” (Bhagavad Gita 2:52) And consequently you will be indifferent to the actions that produce those results as well as the world-stage on which their dramas are enacted. None of this occurs just for the asking or wishing, so Angiras give us practical advice:

If he would know the Eternal, let him humbly approach a Guru devoted to Brahman and well-versed in the scriptures. The ideal of the upanishads often differs from that of later Indian thought which is not based on wisdom but on whimsy–and often on theatrical effect. Today there is a lot of talk about how valueless a teacher is who only knows the scriptures but has no inner realization, and how wonderful is the illiterate–or one who is ignorant of the scriptures–but who has spiritual knowledge. This is silly. First of all, a scholar can tell you what the great masters of the spiritual life taught in the scriptures, and you can learn from them just as you would if they were still on earth. You cannot get spirituality from books, it is true, but you can get spiritual instruction that will lead to the acquisition of spirituality. On the other hand, what kind of a person, supposedly intent on gaining spiritual knowledge, will choose to remain ignorant? Consider Sri Ramana Maharshi. He had no interest in academic matters, but after going to Arunachala and attaining realization he became a living library of countless spiritual texts, having read widely in several languages. So the sage tells us that a worthy teacher has a thorough knowledge of the holy writings and is also Brahmanishtham–established in the experiential knowledge of Brahman.

Such a teacher is rare, but we should accept no lesser teacher. If we find such a one we must learn all we can and then apply it. If we cannot find one, then we should diligently study the words of realized masters and follow them. The Mahayana Buddhists say a very wonderful thing: Whenever someone resolves to seek enlightenment a host of buddhas and bodhisattwas immediately become aware of it and begin blessing and guiding him. Real masters never die, so we can become their disciples no matter how long ago they lived in a physical body. This is especially true of three great Masters who both teach and save even now: Krishna, Buddha, and Jesus. One who sincerely, with right intention, takes refuge in them and prays for guidance will find they respond. Such a one will need to act on what he already knows if he hopes to gain further understanding. And if he is wise he will assiduously avoid all those who claim to be their representatives or intermediaries.

“To a disciple who approaches reverently, who is tranquil and self-controlled, the wise teacher gives that knowledge, faithfully and without stint, by which is known the truly existing, the changeless Self.” (Mundaka Upanishad 1:2:13) By these words we know the qualified student and the qualified teacher. When the two come together the result is Perfect Knowing.

Origin and Return

“The Imperishable is the Real. As sparks innumerable fly upward from a blazing fire, so from the depths of the Imperishable arise all things. To the depths of the Imperishable they in turn descend.” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:1:1) This is a spectacular simile–mostly because it happens to be the absolute truth. But a more literal translation brings out some important points Prabhavananda decided to pass over. Here is Swami Nikhilananda’s rendering: “As from a blazing fire, sparks essentially akin to it fly forth by the thousand, so also, my good friend, do various beings come forth from the imperishable Brahman and unto Him again return.” Swami Gambhirananda, the saintly President of Ramakrishna Mission, translated it this way: “As from a fire, fully ablaze, fly off sparks, in their thousands, that are akin to the fire, similarly from the Immutable originate different kinds of creatures and into It again they merge.”

Three prime truths

There are three points being made here that are the bedrock of upanishadic philosophy. First, all beings that exist–past, present, future–are of the same nature, even the same substance, as Brahman. Second, all forms (modes of existence), though ever-changing, proceed from the Unchanging, Unchangeable. This seeming contradiction is made possible by the illusory power of Maya. That is, the changing forms are illusory while the essential being, the Self/Atman is unchanging. Third, having come from Brahman they shall all, without exception return to Brahman. When life is viewed this way we can understand its nature and purpose, and live accordingly. For the upanishads are not interested in giving us empty theory without a practical application.

Some traits of the Source

“Self-luminous is that Being, and formless. He dwells within all and without all. He is unborn, pure, greater than the greatest, without breath, without mind.” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:1:2) Pervading all, both Brahman and the Atman are yet untouched by any forms in which they dwell, knowing themselves through themselves–self-luminous. Both the internal and the external are permeated with the presence of Conscious Spirit. Although the forms floating on the surface of the Ocean of Being are born, conditioned, endowed with mind and senses, and compelled to “live” as a consequence of the sowing and reaping of karma in previous lives, in reality none of this takes place in an absolute, objective sense. Rather, it is the power of Maya that produces these appearances. As the Gita says: “Helpless all, for Maya is their master….” (Bhagavad Gita 9:8) Yet, the sage is telling us in this upanishad that, almighty as Maya seems to be, Spirit is “greater than the greatest.” When we are sunk in delusion, then Maya seems the most powerful, but when we transfer our conscious into spirit, then we find that the Self is always the master of Maya, on the universal and the individual levels.

Again, Brahman is the Source: “From him are born breath, mind, the organs of sense, ether, air, fire, water, and the earth, and he binds all these together.” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:1:3) God’s “creation” is never separated from Him for an instant. By His indwelling presence He maintains and unifies them. All that exists is held in the Mind of God, for they are His thoughts made visible or tangible.

“Heaven is his head, the sun and moon his eyes, the four quarters his ears, the revealed scriptures his voice, the air his breath, the universe his heart. From his feet came the earth. He is the innermost Self of all.” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:1:4) The universe is not really God’s creation, it is His manifestation–His “incarnation.” And he remains its Inner Controller (Antaryamin).

“From him arises the sun-illumined sky, from the sky the rain, from the rain food, and from food the seed in man which he gives to woman. Thus do all creatures descend from him.” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:1:5) Though this differs from her style of expression, it reminds me of great wisdom spoken by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science. She said that in reality we all come from God, but we ignore the fact. We say: “Everybody in my family gets…” and then name some disease or negative condition. We think it is “genetics” that must manifest. But our real genes are Divine Qualities. Why do we not believe they will manifest in us? Our father and mother were adult human beings, and we became the same. The ultimate Father/Mother is God, so why do we neglect the development of Divine Consciousness? Divinity is our only true nature.

“From him are born hymns, devotional chants, scriptures, rites, sacrifices, oblations, divisions of time, the doer and the deed, and all the worlds lighted by the sun and purified by the moon.” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:1:6) You cannot get more complete than that!

“From him are born gods of diverse descent. From him are born angels, men, beasts, birds; from him vitality, and food to sustain it; from him austerity and meditation, faith, truth, continence, and law.” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:1:7) It is this last part that is of special meaning for us. We are told that austerity (tapasya), meditation, faith, truth, continence, and law arise from God. They are the presence of God manifesting in our life and through us to the world. Who, then, can be more beneficial to the world than a yogi? The word vidhi, translated “law,” means both instruction and method. There is an innate order in the universe which each of us should embody. It is not learned intellectually but is intuited by the yogi. The yogi will then order his life accordingly–methodically. Of course the supreme method is the method of meditation itself.

“From him spring the organs, of sense, their activities, and their objects, together with their awareness of these objects. All these things, parts of man’s nature, spring from him.” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:1:8) This explains how human beings are “made in the image of God.”

“In him the seas and the mountains have their source; from him spring the rivers, and from him the herbs and other life-sustaining elements, by the aid of which the subtle body of man subsists in the physical body.

“Thus Brahman is all in all. He is action, knowledge, goodness supreme. To know him, hidden in the lotus of the heart, is to untie the knot of ignorance.” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:1:9, 10)

Knowing God

About God

Further description of Brahman is now to be given along with instructions on how to know Brahman. The upanishad is so clear, and the concepts have been referred to before, so some verses hardly need more than a sentence of comment.

“Self-luminous is Brahman, ever present in the hearts of all. He is the refuge of all, he is the supreme goal. In him exists all that moves and breathes. In him exists all that is. He is both that which is gross and that which is subtle. Adorable is he. Beyond the ken of the senses is he. Supreme is he. Attain thou him!” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:2:1) The last part is the most important. What value is it to know about God if we do not go to God? Saint Silouan of Athos used to say that theology is the false mysticism of the ego, for people become satisfied, or even fascinated, with philosophical concepts that are nothing but bare words. Rare are those who want to experience the things they believe. In many instances it may be that people intuit the untruth of their religious beliefs and subconsciously know that they cannot be experienced. But it is sad to see those that have come to understand the concepts of karma, reincarnation, and evolution of consciousness still dawdling along with the theorists instead of getting on to the Goal.

“He, the self-luminous, subtler than the subtlest, in whom exist all the worlds and all those that live therein–he is the imperishable Brahman. He is the principle of life. He is speech, and he is mind. He is real. He is immortal. Attain him, O my friend, the one goal to be attained!” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:2:2) Not only must we attain God, we must understand while striving that He is the only goal to be attained– for everything else is antithetical to our eternal nature.

The means to reach God

Having hopefully convinced us of the value of seeking God (!) the sage is going to tell us how to find God by telling us the actual means: “Affix to the Upanishad, the bow incomparable, the sharp arrow of devotional worship; then, with mind absorbed and heart melted in love, draw the arrow and hit the mark–the imperishable Brahman. OM is the bow, the arrow is the individual being, and Brahman is the target. With a tranquil heart, take aim. Lose thyself in him, even as the arrow is lost in the target.” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:2:3, 4)

Here is Swami Gambhirananda’s more literal version: “Taking hold of the bow, that is the Great Weapon familiar in the Upanishads, one should fix on it an arrow, sharpened with meditation. Drawing the string with a mind absorbed in Its thought, hit that very target that is the Immutable. Om is the bow; the soul [atma] is the arrow; and Brahman is called its target. It is to be hit by an unerring man. One should become one with It just like an arrow.” This is really a description of meditation, so each point is significant.

Taking hold of the bow (Om is the bow). Right away we are being given a most valuable instruction in meditation. We “take hold” of Om by intoning It within. Our practice must not be passive, but calmly active–we are always to be in charge by taking hold of Om and applying it in meditation through the generation of subtle sound. (See Om Yoga, Its Theory and Practice.) The active character of Om is indicated by Its being called a bow, for a bow impels the arrow to its target. It is a matter of strength, of power. In the Rig Veda we find the Gayatri Mantra, a great prayer for enlightenment: “We meditate on the Spiritual Effulgence of that Supreme Divine Reality. May That impel us toward It.” Om is the force that impels us toward Divinity.

That is the Great Weapon familiar in the Upanishads. Om is not just a weapon among many, It is the Great Weapon for conquering ignorance that is referred to throughout the Upanishads. This is not a matter of opinion or discussion. In the eleven basic upanishads, the Gita, and the Yoga Sutras the only mantra recommended is Om, and the only meditation set forth is the meditation on Om. An honest perusal of these texts will reveal that this is neither an exaggeration nor a wishful interpretation. Although the wisdom of these sacred texts has been almost totally ignored for past centuries, their truth is not to be denied by any who ascribe to Sanatana Dharma. It is departing from the upanishadic philosophy that has resulted in the confused mess of contemporary Hinduism, the worst of it aspects being the treacherous and destructive idolatry of Gurudom. Because of this aberration people have accepted a myriad substitutes for the upanishadic truth on the basis of “guru bhakti” and “faith in the guru.” The resulting confusion is obvious to those not drowning in it themselves.

One should fix on it an arrow, sharpened with meditation (the Self is the arrow). Our very Self, our very consciousness, is to be united with Om in calm and whole-hearted attention. This can only be done by being “purified by constant meditation” according to Shankara’s commentary. So meditation is itself the way to become proficient in meditation. The simple fact that we are meditating is assurance that we shall become more and more proficient in it. When that proficiency is gained, then we will easily unite our consciousness with Om.

Drawing the string with a mind absorbed in Its thought. Through constant meditation we develop the ability to fill our awareness with the inner intonations of Om which act like the string of a bow to the mind that is fixed on It.

Hit that very target that is the Immutable (Brahman). We do not start out small and work up to bigger things. From the first we aim at Brahman. By means of this determination Brahman alone will be realized by us without wandering into the psychic byways that can confuse and delude the wandering meditator who does not know the method of the upanishads.

It is to be hit by an unerring man. The idea here is that the one who can successfully “hit” the target of Brahman is one who has no distractions or waverings, whose mind remains firmly established in the japa and meditation of Om. There is a kind of parable about this in the Mahabharata. In Yoga As A Universal Science, Swami Krishnananda tells it this way:

“Those who are familiar with the Mahabharata know the story of the tournament arranged by Acharya Drona for the Pandavas and the Kauravas. The test of concentration which Dronacharya arranged for those boys was like this. There was a tree with many branches. In one fine twig, he hung a wooden bird. The eye of the bird was looking like a black spot, and that eye was to be shot by the arrow. So he asked the boys: ‘Concentrate yourself on the eye of that bird and hit it. Look! What do you see?’ ‘Well,’ one said, ‘well, I see a bird sitting on the tree.’ Dronacharya said, ‘You are unfit. You are not able to concentrate.’ Then he asked another, ‘What do you see?’ ‘I see the bird sitting on the branch.’ ‘No, you are not able to concentrate.’ Then he asked Yudhishthira, ‘What do you see?’ ‘I see only the eye.’ ‘No. No good,’ he said. He asked Arjuna. Arjuna said, ‘I see only the black spot. I see nothing else.’ ‘Yes, you are the man’ said Dronacharya, ‘Hit it!’Arjuna’s concentration was so intense that he could see only the black spot. He could not see even the eye of the bird there, let alone the bird and the tree and the people around. That was Arjuna.” And that must be us. It may take time, but it nonetheless must come about.

One should become one with It just like an arrow. The arrow embeds itself in the target and becomes one with it. This is not an occasional ascent to higher awareness, but a permanent establishment in the Being of Brahman. It is meditation on Om that can accomplish this.

What we will perceive in that union

As a result of our meditation we shall directly perceive: “In him are woven heaven, earth, and sky, together with the mind and all the senses. Know him, the Self alone. Give up vain talk. He is the bridge of immortality.” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:2:5) This verse actually refers to Om, and literally says: “On that [Om] are strung heaven, earth, space, the mind and all the senses. It alone is the sole support of all. Having known the Self [through Om] discard other speech [or mantras] and their results. For this [Om] is the bridge to immortality.” That is a bit different! Om is the all-encompassing Reality from which all things have come. It alone leads us back to Immortality. Om should be our continual–and in meditation our only–thought insofar as it is possible and practical.

Where we find God

“Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!” (Job 23:3 ) lamented the Biblical Job. If he had access to the upanishads as we do, he would have found the answer in the next verse:

“Within the lotus of the heart he dwells, where, like the spokes of a wheel in its hub, the nerves meet. Meditate on him as OM. Easily mayest thou cross the sea of darkness.” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:2:6) Gambhirananda: “With that [hub] in which are fixed the nerves [nadis] like the spokes on the hub of a chariot wheel, moves this aforesaid Self by becoming multiformed. Meditate on the Self thus with the help of Om. My you be free from hindrances in going to the other shore beyond darkness.”

At the core of all our manifest existence there moves the immortal Spirit-self which has assumed all the forms and aspects we call “us.” Although these numberless veils hide the Self from our present vision, we can meditate on it by the means of Om. This will remove all obstacles and carry us safely over the heaving waves of samsara into the harbor of Spirit. As Patanjali says regarding Om: “Its constant repetition and meditation is the way. From it result the disappearance of obstacles and the turning inward of consciousness.” The same thing is said in the Varaha and Yoga Tattwa (B) Upanishads.

More about the heart

When the upanishads speak of the “heart” they do not mean the physical organ that pumps blood, but the center of our being where the Self ever dwells. The sage now speaks more about this spiritual heart.

“This Self, who understands all, who knows all, and whose glory is manifest in the universe, lives within the lotus of the heart, the bright throne of Brahman. By the pure in heart is he known. The Self exists in man, within the lotus of the heart, and is the master of his life and of his body. With mind illumined by the power of meditation, the wise know him, the blissful, the immortal.” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:2:7) There is a great deal to learn from this verse.

Since the Self understands and knows all, to be truly knowledgous and wise all we need do is shift our awareness into our own Self.

Although the Self should not be identified with external things such as our body or the world, nevertheless, the glory of our Self–including the Supreme Self–is manifested in our own private universe and the greater universe as well. We can come to perceive spiritual realities hidden within the material illusions.

The Self abides in the core of our being–not in the physical heart. According to the great yogis, we can speak of the thousand-petalled lotus of the brain as our spiritual “heart,” especially the very core of the brain, the cave-like area within which the pineal gland is located. This is sometimes called the Chidakasha, the Space of Consciousness. Both God and the individual Self dwell there. In the Sanskrit text there is the expression Brahmapuri–the City of God–used for this spiritual heart. It further says that God and the Self are known by centering our awareness in this heart.

It is meditation which illumines the mind and enables us to see and know this blissful, immortal Self all around us, in everything. This is living!

“The knot of the heart, which is ignorance, is loosed, all doubts are dissolved, all evil effects of deeds are destroyed, when he who is both personal and impersonal is realized.” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:2:8) When we enter into the consciousness of our individual spirit and the Infinite Spirit, the blinding veil of ignorance will dissolve away along with all the bonds of karma.

“In the effulgent lotus of the heart dwells Brahman, who is passionless and indivisible. He is pure, he is the light of lights. Him the knowers of the Self attain.” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:2:9) What greater goal can we have than this?

The Light of lights

In summation of this section, the sage says:

“Him the sun does not illumine, nor the moon, nor the stars, nor the lightning–nor, verily, fires kindled upon the earth. He is the one light that gives light to all. He shining, everything shines.

“This immortal Brahman is before, this immortal Brahman is behind, this immortal Brahman extends to the right and to the left, above and below. Verily, all is Brahman, and Brahman is supreme.” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:2:10, 11)

These thrilling words need no comment–only response.

The Two Selves

Cross-eyed people see a single object as two. In the same way the ignorant see the One as many. Yet, there is a perverse spiritual cross-eyedness which works just the opposite, making its victims see two as one. This is the disease of half-baked Vedanta that is merely conceptual and not based on the experience that only yoga imparts. There is no such thing as a genuine Vedantist who is not first and foremost a Yogi. Anyway, the upanishad is now going to give us the right understanding of the Paramatman and the jivatman–the Supreme Self and the individual Self–their unity and their distinction, and their relationship with each other. Here, too, only the yogi will really understand what is being said.

“Like two birds of golden plumage, inseparable companions, the individual self and the immortal Self are perched on the branches of the selfsame tree. The former tastes of the sweet and bitter fruits of the tree; the latter, tasting of neither, calmly observes.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:1:1) This is a case where the Sanskrit original gives very precise information which is necessary for us to carefully peruse. Otherwise we will miss some remarkable truths.

Three qualities

This verse gives us three words in relation to the two “birds”–the two Selves: suparna, sayuja, and sakhaya. Suparna means intimately related, the idea being that the individual Self and the Cosmic Self exist in an eternal relation. Sayuja means being in a state of union–perpetual union, as Shankara points out in his commentary. A secondary meaning of sayuja is being in the same place–that the two Selves are inseparable, are ever present to one another. According to Shankara, the third expression, sakhaya, means that the two Selves have the identical name or designation, and exists in an identical manner. The upanishads say that Om is the name or designator of them both and that they possess the same qualities–one in an absolute degree and the other in a limited degree. Sakhaya also means companionship and friendship, indicating the deep personal relation between the jivatman and Paramatman.

The “selfsame tree” is the body–and by extension, the cosmos. The form of every sentient being has two indwellers–the two Selves. However, they do not have the same experience of the tree. The individual, the jiva, “tastes” the fruit of the tree in the form of the inner and outer senses, and according to the quality of that experience is made happy, unhappy, contented, discontented–and so forth. The individual “undergoes” experience. The Supreme Self, on the other hand, “tasting of neither [sweet or bitter experiences], calmly observes.” God experiences being in all forms and is aware of all that the individual spirit experiences, yet, as a more literal translation says, He “looks on without eating”– without being affected or conditioned by it. But he does know exactly the effect and conditioning that accrues to the individual Self. He is experiencing right along with us, but unlike us is not pulled into a mistaken identity with the body-mind and its experiences.

The problem and the solution

On the other hand: “The individual self, deluded by forgetfulness of his identity with the divine Self, bewildered by his ego, grieves and is sad. But when he recognizes the worshipful Lord as his own true Self, and beholds his glory, he grieves no more.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:1:2) This is quite interpretive, though correctly so. The literal translation of Swami Gambhirananda is: “On the same tree, the individual soul remains drowned, as it were; and so it moans, being worried by its impotence. When it sees thus the other, the adored Lord, and His glory, then it becomes liberated from sorrow.” We are drowned, submerged, in the deadly ocean of samsara, of continual birth, death, unsurety, pain, and confusion. Shankara points out that the individual is overwhelmed with confusion because it cannot understand what is really happening to it, and why. Just like a piece of driftwood on the heaving sea, it is lifted up and down, thrown onto the shore and then pulled out to sea again. So it grieves at its helplessness and hopelessness.

All is changed, though, when the individual sees, right in the core of its being, the very God it has been hitherto worshipping as separate from itself. Experiencing within its own being the presence and the glory of God–and thereby realizing that glory as his own–the individual becomes liberated from sorrow.

The sage elaborates on this, continuing: “When the seer beholds the Effulgent One, the Lord, the Supreme Being, then, transcending both good and evil, and freed from impurities, he unites himself with him.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:1:3) More literally: “When the seer sees the Purusha–self-effulgent, creator, lord, and source of all [relative existence]–then the illumined one completely shakes off both virtue and vice, becomes taintless, and attains absolute equality [non-duality]. That is, the jiva recognizes that Shiva–the Absolute–is its true nature. Then, no longer bound by “do” and “don’t,” it is able to act according to its essential being. Not that morality will be abandoned, but that there will be no more need to think it “should” or “should” not do something. Rather, it will do the right and the perfect spontaneously, naturally, as a consequence of its rediscovered divinity. For it will be free from all bonds or compulsions whatever. This is because in the divine vision it has become free from all defects or blemish.

But most important is the trait that is listed last: paramam samyam, supreme sameness, literally, but the meaning is absolute unity–and therefore absolute identify–with the Absolute Itself.

Since the two are really one, the upanishad continues describing both the individual and the infinite Selves, as they partake of one another’s traits. “The Lord is the one life shining forth from every creature. Seeing him present in all, the wise man is humble, puts not himself forward. His delight is in the Self, his joy is in the Self, he serves the Lord in all. Such as he, indeed, are the true knowers of Brahman.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:1:4)

How to do it

Anyone who ponders these astounding words with intelligence will be eager to attain Brahman, so the sage tells how that is done.

“This Effulgent Self is to be realized within the lotus of the heart by continence, by steadfastness in truth, by meditation, and by superconscious vision. Their impurities washed away, the seers realize him.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:1:5) This is quite clear, but some precise terms should be considered to put a fine point on the message of this verse. Swami Gambhirananda renders it: “The bright and pure Self within the body, that the monks with attenuated blemishes see, is attainable through truth, concentration, complete knowledge, and continence, practiced constantly.”

The Self within the body. The Self is within the body, therefore it is absurd to disdain the body, and even more absurd to engage in a meditation practice that ignores the body and the necessity for its purification and spiritual empowerment. Just forgetting about the material side of things and flying off into pure spirit is an appealing idea–the problem is, it is mistaken and can never work. However long or short a journey, it always begins right from the point where we are. And at this point we are not only in the body, we are tied into it by a multitude of bonds, bonds that must be dissolved. Our yoga practice must cover this situation.

The prime implication, though, is that since the Self is right here in the body It is not far away. We need not even seek It–just see It.

The monks. The word rather poorly translated as “monk” is yati, which actually means a wanderer. This is because in the ancient times in India the wandering ascetics who moved about teaching dharma were given this title. They were not monks or sannyasis in the later sense. Obviously they were not married, as their mode of life prevented that, and their life was dedicated to spiritual discipline and teaching. Nevertheless, they were not considered outside society as the sadhu is today in India. They were simply those who sacrificed personal life to serve others. It was a noble way of life, but not a separation. The original Christian ascetics were just the same. They wore ordinary clothes and were considered Christian laity. The only distinctive thing about them was their way of life. The men usually lived on the edge of towns, usually as hermits. The women lived together in houses within the town for mutual protection. In the eyes of everyone they were pious bachelors and spinsters, not at all distinct from other Christians in an official sense.

All right, that is the historical background, but what is the meaning for us today? No matter where we might live, or how, we must all be “wanderers” in the spirit, aware with both Saint Paul and Saint Peter that we are “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13; I Peter 2:11.) Jesus told someone: “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20) This is actually the truth about every single sentient being on the earth: there is no place where we can come to rest and be at home, for our nature is Spirit and our home is Infinity.

So the yatis spoken of here are those who have become rootless in relation to this world. Or more to the point, those who have recognized that they have no roots in the world, only in God. (“The world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Galatians 6:14) And so in their hearts they are always on pilgrimage back to the Source, aware that wherever they may be it is only a temporary accommodation on the long journey home–to Brahman.

Attenuated blemishes. The upanishad has a very informative expression: kshinadoshah–those whose mental defects such as anger, etc., have become significantly lessened. Eventually they will be totally eliminated, but even now such persons are capable of the beginning stages of knowing the Self. This is important, because we tend to think that until we are absolutely perfect we cannot know either God or our Self. This is not so. Just as the sky becomes lightened even before the sun appears above the horizon, so it is with those yogis who earnestly strive for realization. The elementary stages of enlightenment dawn for them.

Complete knowledge. Samyag-jnanena, complete insight into the nature of the Self both intellectually and intuitively, also enables us to begin experiencing the realities of the Self. Of course this cannot occur outside of yoga practice that is disciplined and steady.

Practiced constantly. Some translators think this word nityam–perpetual–refers to continence (brahmacharya), but others think it refers to constant and uninterrupted observance of all the virtues and practices listed in this verse. That is logical, because a break in any of these will set back the sadhaka to a significant degree, and in some cases can destroy the possibility of his continuance in sadhana by turning his mind away from the Real to the unreal. This is, however, particularly true about brahmacharya as is seen over and over. In Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda relates this sad but telling incident:

“A year later [after entering the ashram], Kumar set out for a visit to his childhood home. He ignored the quiet disapproval of Sri Yukteswar, who never authoritatively controlled his disciples’ movements. On the boy’s return to Serampore in a few months, a change was unpleasantly apparent. Gone was the stately Kumar with serenely glowing face. Only an undistinguished peasant stood before us, one who had lately acquired a number of evil habits.

“Master summoned me and brokenheartedly discussed the fact that the boy was now unsuited to the monastic hermitage life.

“‘Mukunda, I will leave it to you to instruct Kumar to leave the ashram tomorrow; I can’t do it!’ Tears stood in Sri Yukteswar’s eyes, but he controlled himself quickly. ‘The boy would never have fallen to these depths had he listened to me and not gone away to mix with undesirable companions. He has rejected my protection; the callous world must be his guru still.’” This narrative is particularly ironic, since “Kumar” means a young male virgin.

Now all this is extremely to the point, with no fudging under the guise of diplomacy or moderation. Perhaps that is why the sage then says to us: “Truth alone succeeds, not untruth. By truthfulness the path of felicity is opened up, the path which is taken by the sages, freed from cravings, and which leads them to truth’s eternal abode.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:1:6) Once again Swami Gambhirananda helps us understand: “Truth alone wins, and not untruth. By truth is maintained for ever the path called Devayana, by which the desireless seers ascend to where exists the supreme treasure attainable through truth.”

Sri Ramakrishna often said that “God is realized if one holds fast to truth. If there is no strictness in observing truth everything is gradually lost.” As this upanishad says: Satyam eva jayate–truth alone triumphs, both in material and in spiritual life. The path to liberation, Devayana, “the Path of the Shining Ones,” is opened through truth.

Truth in this context has a much higher and wider meaning than mere accuracy or honesty in speech. It means to be a living embodiment of the truth of our Self-nature, and eventually to be a virtual incarnation of the realized Truth: God, “the supreme treasure attainable through truth.”

The God Within, The Sage Without

God

“Brahman is supreme; he is self-luminous, he is beyond all thought. Subtler than the subtlest is he, farther than the farthest, nearer than the nearest. He resides in the lotus of the heart of every being.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:1:7) This is the great mystery of the Divine. It is subtle beyond subtlety, yet exists equally in the most tangible. God is utterly beyond us, and yet nearer to us than can be expressed. This latter fact is a foundation-stone of spiritual life. The more we can turn inward, the deeper we can penetrate into our own essential being, the closer we will come to God. Yoga is an absolute necessity. Though Prabhavananda uses the expression “lotus of the heart,” the Sanskrit text has guhayam–“in the cave,” referring to the absolute core of our being.

“The eyes do not see him, speech cannot utter him, the senses cannot reach him. He is to be attained neither by austerity nor by sacrificial rites. When through discrimination the heart has become pure, then, in meditation, the Impersonal Self is revealed.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:1:8) No action or feeling or ideas can reveal God to us. But when the heart has become purified by the spiritual insight that only meditation can produce, then in meditation itself God is revealed. For: “The subtle Self within the living and breathing body is realized in that pure consciousness wherein is no duality–that consciousness by which the heart beats and the senses perform their office.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:1:9) Meditation is the beginning, middle, and end of spiritual life. There is a remarkable statement made here–that the same consciousness which even now causes the body, senses, and mind to function is the same consciousness in which the Divine Vision takes place. So we need not try to turn ourselves into something other than what we are. We need only use it to free ourselves into Spirit. For that which binds also frees. This is the unique understanding of the ancient sages in India, an understanding needed by the whole world.

The sage

The West may have no history of such great wisdom, but we have a little platitude that can say much: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” As yogis we should keep this principle ever in mind. The results of our yoga practice reveal its character, relevance, and value. The yogi should be thoroughly pragmatic. “What is this doing for me?” should be the constant inquiry regarding his sadhana. That this is not inappropriate is shown by the last verse in this section: “Whether of heaven, or of heavenly enjoyments, whether of desires, or of objects of desire, whatever thought arises in the heart of the sage is fulfilled. Therefore let him who seeks his own good revere and worship the sage.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:1:10)

This tells us two things. First, whatever the liberated sage thinks of, wills, or desires, that comes about. Examples of this are given in Autobiography of a Yogi, and manifested all through Yogananda’s life, especially toward its end, as seen in The life of Sri Ramakrishna also demonstrates this. Second, those that seek their highest good–self-realization–should reverence and honor the atmajnam, the one who knows the Self. This is very important. The upanishad is not counseling us to make a god of a master or to substitute a Brahmajnani for God. When we want to learn something we go to an expert. In the same way, those seeking the knowledge of God should seek out the teachings of great masters of past and present. If very fortunate, the seeker will meet such a person in the flesh and have personal interchange with him. The mere presence of such a great soul can transform our thinking and awaken our consciousness.

If we follow the instructions of an enlightened person regarding our inner development we will come to the exact same state of consciousness revealed in him. Remember, true masters never die. They can bless and guide those who approach them in their hearts. Often this is sufficient for the seeker, and can be much safer than following a physically embodied teacher, for often sentimentality and emotional projection completely blind the seeker to the reality/unreality of the teacher. I personally knew gurus whose presence was stunning, even supernatural, but after their physical death they vanished from the earth plane, leaving their followers empty. But I also knew teachers who became more intimately present to seekers after their physical form had departed, proving themselves to truly be one with the Immortal and Omnipresent. Those who meditate can attune themselves to such masters and benefit from their very real presence.

How can we tell a true master? A true master keeps pointing their students away from themselves to God, the only Goal. And a true disciple is one who goes to God instead of making an idol or fetish of the guru. Anyone silly enough can be a brainwashed groupie, but the wise heed the teacher’s message and go on to God. As Buddha said, a worthy teacher or teaching is like a finger pointing at the moon. The idea is to see the moon–not the finger. Nevertheless, the sage can be a very meaningful factor in our spiritual life, so the upanishad continues with more information for us.

“The sage knows Brahman, the support of all, the pure effulgent being in whom is contained the universe. They who worship the sage, and do so without thought of self, cross the boundary of birth and death.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:2:1) Here are two more principles: A sage is one who knows Brahman in the absolute sense, and those who honor them without any personal desire for benefit or gain from them will break the ties of earthly rebirth.

This second part gives us a picture of real disciples or students who will attain spiritual benefit from a teacher: they have no egocentric or personal desire coloring the way they relate to the teacher. Their only interest is in the Self. They are not looking for a teacher to give them “power” or a reputation for having the best guru–glory through association is of no interest to them. Nor are they wanting the guru to become a substitute for an unsatisfactory parent, friend, spouse, or lover. They do not want a “personal” relationship with the guru–to either possess the guru or be possessed by the guru. They are not looking for some kind of fulfillment in a “relationship” with the teacher, but only fulfillment in the Self. Swami Bimalananda, a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, once told us in a conversation that those who lived in the ashram-headquarters of Self-Realization Fellowship just for the personality of Yogananda eventually left the spiritual life as well as the ashram, but those who came for God remained steadfast in both. I think we can conclude that real disciples are as rare as real gurus! The upanishad is not talking to spiritual fool-arounds, but to the worthy, those who wish, in the actual words of the upanishad, to “transcend the seed of human birth”–the ego.

Two kinds of seekers

Since the sage Angiras has put so much emphasis on the value of approaching and reverencing a master-teacher, he now digresses a bit to point out what makes the student succeed or fail in spiritual life.

“He who, brooding upon sense objects, comes to yearn for them, is born here and there, again and again, driven by his desire. But he who has realized the Self, and thus satisfied all hunger, attains to liberation even in this life.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:2:2) The Sanskrit implies that those in the grip of desire are born where the objects of desire are to be found, and bring the desire for them along. It does not say that the objects are obtained, however, and we see that this is a continual torment for human beings–wanting something but not able to get it. To be in such a situation will only condition the mind more and more toward grasping at the things desired. After who knows how long, the object is then gotten and either lost, or in danger of loss, or proves to be disappointing or misery-producing. Such is the dilemma of those who desire.

There is no use asking silly questions like: “How do I kill desire?” or: “How do I get rid of the ego?” You do not kill desire or discard the ego, for that is a negative approach that by its nature will not work. Rather you take the positive approach: “I SHALL realize the Self.” For realization of the Self alone can quench all desire and dissolve the ego. Until then we ignore the clamor of desires, disregard the demands of the ego, and single-mindedly go after the Self. Along the way the desires will begin dropping away of themselves, and the ego, starved of attention, will become less and less until desires and ego are simply gone forever. It may not be easy, but it is marvelously simple.

“The Self is not to be known through study of the scriptures, nor through subtlety of the intellect, nor through much learning. But by him who longs for him is he known. Verily unto him does the Self reveal his true being.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:2:3)

Anyone who has travelled this far through the upanishads is very well acquainted with the fact that the Self is not to be known through the usual avenues of human knowledge. What is striking is the literal meaning of the next phrase: “By the very fact that he [the aspirant] seeks for It, does It become attainable.” Elsewhere I have mentioned that Sri Ma Anandamayi often said: “The desire for God is the way to God,” meaning that the desire would prompt us to action, not just mere wishing. No one seeks for God who is not already able to find God, for it is the very nearness of God that prompts his seeking. Seeking God is a guarantee, a symptom, of sure attainment. It is also the thing which enables the Self to reveal Itself to him.

“The Self is not to be known by the weak, nor by the thoughtless, nor by those who do not rightly meditate. But by the rightly meditative, the thoughtful, and the strong, he is fully known.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:2:4) Too many meanings are being missed by this translation. Here it is literally: “This Self is not attained by one devoid of strength, nor through delusion produced by false experience, nor through tapasya devoid of corresponding externals. But the Self of the man of knowledge who strives with diligence through these means [strength, clarity of sight and mind, and a life ordered in conformity to tapasya] enters the abode of Brahman.” There is a lot to think over here.

The plain truths

Those devoid of the strength imparted by the strict observance of yama and niyama cannot possibly know the Self. Both yama and niyama should be listed here for our most serious consideration. Yama (Restraint) consists of ahimsa (non-violence, non-injury, harmlessness), satya (truthfulness, honesty– i.e., non-lying), asteya (non-stealing, honesty, non-misappropriativeness), brahmacharya (sexual continence and control of all the senses), and aparigraha (non-possessiveness, non-greed, non-selfishness, non-acquisitiveness). Niyama (Observance) consists of shaucha (purity, cleanliness), santosha (contentment, peacefulness), tapas (austerity, practical–i.e., result-producing–spiritual discipline), swadhyaya (self-study, spiritual study), and Ishwarapranidhana (offering of one’s life to God).

A great deal of people, including yogis, are simply deluded, mostly because they follow false teachings and teachers whose errors actively harm them or cause them to stagnate spiritually. No matter how dedicated they may be, or even how disciplined, they cannot know the Self because their intellects are confused and distorted–especially by their aberrant meditation practices. Lucky are those “yoga duds” who merely vegetate. But neither reach the Goal.

It is utterly useless to engage in meditation without making the life correspond to the sole purpose of meditation: liberation of the spirit. Yoga has been propagated here in the West for a little over a hundred years, and see how little good and how much devastation and delusion has resulted. The reason is supremely simple: yama and niyama are not followed, and in many instances the fake gurus actually tell their dupes that yama and niyama are unnecessary. I cannot calculate how many tangled-minded “yogis” have boasted to me that they do not need to be vegetarians. If a survey is taken of almost any yoga group, over half will be living together “in a relationship” without being married, and those who are married have no idea of the need for brahmacharya in marriage except for the conception of children–and even then, not unrestrained. Sri Ramakrishna said that after the birth of two children the parents should live in chastity. In my commentary on the Gita I wrote the following that is most relevant here:

“The Dharma Shastras which describe the correct life of non-monastics are quite explicit about the need for husband and wife to lead lives of continence. See how the yogi parents of Paramhansa Yogananda lived it as presented in Autobiography of a Yogi. In the very first chapter we find: ‘Mother made a remarkable admission to my eldest sister Roma: “Your father and myself live together as man and wife only once a year, for the purpose of having children.”’ The fact that Yogananda, a devoted son and a pure-hearted yogi, would reveal this to the world in the pages of a book show how necessary he felt it was for both Eastern and Western readers to be shown the standard of chastity that yogis should observe in their life, not using their non-monastic status as excuse for lesser behavior. He underlined this later in the forty-fourth chapter, giving these words written to Mahatma Gandhi by his wife Kasturbai: ‘I thank you for the most perfect marriage in the world, based on brahmacharya and not on sex.’ Please note that these are examples of married yogis, not monks imposing their ideas on others. Also remember that the guru of Yogananda’s parents was himself a married yogi, so there is no monastic influence in their case.”

I really have no hope that the foregoing will provoke anything but anger and resentment, but it still has to be said in case some do want to reach the Goal whatever the price. The other aspects of yama and niyama are also important, but these two shoals have wrecked many a yogi of East and West.

“But the Self of the man of knowledge who strives with diligence through these means”–strength, clarity of sight and mind, and a life ordered in conformity to tapasya–“enters the abode of Brahman.”

Hail To the Sages!

“Having known the Self, the sages are filled with joy. Blessed are they, tranquil of mind, free from passion. Realizing everywhere the all-pervading Brahman, deeply absorbed in contemplation of his being, they enter into him, the Self of all.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:2:5) What an inspiring description. These are the things that should motivate us, not such cheap things as promises of heaven and threats of hell, or bribes of “good things” and “power.” To at last be ourselves as we really are, to end all struggle with unreality and ignorance–this is the worthy aim. The only worthy prayer is that of Jesus: “O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” (John 17:5)

How to become a sage

How do the sages get that way? “Having fully ascertained and realized the truth of Vedanta, having established themselves in purity of conduct by following the yoga of renunciation, these great ones attain to immortality in this very life; and when their bodies fall away from them at death, they attain to liberation.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:2:6)

Having fully ascertained and realized the truth of Vedanta. First the Vedantic truths–the teachings found in the upanishads–are carefully read and pondered. But this is not enough–in fact it is worthless unless they go on to realize those truths through meditation, for it is this realization which is of supreme value, and the wise diligently seek it.

Having established themselves in purity of conduct. Not wanting empty theory, the wise understand that their lives must be disciplined for the purification of their outer actions and inner consciousness. Moreover, they ground themselves immovably in that purity.

Following the yoga of renunciation. Since neither Angiras or his students were monks, it is mistaken to interpret sannyasa yoga as monastic life. Rather, it is the inner discipline of detachment from all externals (sannyasa) while fixing the mind on the Eternal (yoga).

Immortality in this very life. Those who follow this path of the sages will realize their nature as immortality itself. They will not attain it, they will recover and manifest it. Nor will this happen in some vague heavenly realm, but right here and now.

At death, they attain to liberation. For them there is no longer any need for future birth in the material plane. As the Buddhist texts say: “Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.” But they are not just liberated from the earth, they are liberated from all “worlds” and enter The Real as their eternal abode.

The liberation process

“When death overtakes the body, the vital energy enters the cosmic source, the senses dissolve in their cause, and karmas and the individual soul are lost in Brahman, the pure, the changeless. As rivers flow into the sea and in so doing lose name and form, even so the wise man, freed from name and form, attains the Supreme Being, the Self-Luminous, the Infinite.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:2:7, 8) There are two aspects to these verses: what is shed by the sage and What he merges with in liberation.

At the time of death, the various bodies no longer retain their configuration. Since they are no longer needed for future incarnations, they resolve back into the elements from which they came. Even the karmic forces, now unnecessary, melt away into basic energy along with the subtle bodies that created and embodied them. What remains? Brahman and their atman-self. Since these are really the source of all the foregoing, in reality nothing whatever is lost–only the conditioning dreams that held them in false bondage for so long. Finitude is traded for infinity–blessed bargain!

“He who knows Brahman becomes Brahman. No one ignorant of Brahman is ever born in his family. He passes beyond all sorrow. He overcomes evil. Freed from the fetters of ignorance he becomes immortal.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:2:9)

Who should learn this?

“Let the truth of Brahman be taught only to those who obey his law, who are devoted to him, and who are pure in heart. To the impure let it never be taught.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:2:10)

In India everyone knows the basic principles of Brahmavidya. The sage is not recommending secrecy, but warning us away from wasting our time with people who are wilfully disqualifying themselves for spiritual life. So who are qualified (adhikari) to receive detailed instruction in the eternal truths? Here is a much more literal and complete translation of the verse with some very interesting symbols: “To them alone should one expound this knowledge of Brahman who are engaged in the practice of purificatory disciplines, versed in the Vedas, and devoted to Brahman, who personally sacrifice to the fire called Ekarshi with faith, and by whom has been duly accomplished the vow of holding fire on the head.”

Engaged in the practice of purificatory disciplines. The word translated by this phrase is kriyavantah, which means those who are engaged in the practice of kriyas. In the broad sense a kriya is any practice that entails doing something, because the root of kriya is kri, which means “I do.” Any practice, exercise, rite, or even movement can be called a kriya. Usually, though, kriya means a yogic practice or method which purifies the body and nervous system, as well as the subtle bodies, to enable the yogi to reach and hold on to higher levels of consciousness and being. Only those who are perpetually engaged in such practices need even hear about those states and their meaning. For to anyone else it is mere theory which can easily be misunderstood by those who have no practical yogic experience.

Versed in the scriptures. The word shrotriyah means one who both knows the scriptures and the disciplines and practices they enjoin. Although mere scriptural knowledge is of little value, it is necessary to know the teachings of the upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita in order to retain a right perspective in spiritual life. Buddha said that a seeker for enlightenment must be sure to follow the teachings of the liberated ones that have gone before. A great deal of problems in spiritual life will be avoided if the upanishads and Gita are studied daily and applied in their entirety.

Devoted to Brahman. Shankara says that the Brahmanishthah are those devoted to Brahman as manifested in the cosmos, yet who are actively seeking to know the transcendent Brahman beyond the cosmos. In other words, the prevailing idea that one is either intent on Saguna or Nirguna Brahman– only one aspect to the exclusion of the other–is mistaken. That the worthy seeker starts from where he finds himself–in the realm of Ishwara, the creation–but strives to know That which lies beyond, as well. This is the real “yoga of synthesis.”

Who personally sacrifice to the fire called Ekarshi with faith. In the Atharva Veda there is a form of sacred fire called “ekarshi,” but in this verse the reference is to “the sole fire”–the “fire” that is Brahman. For ekarshi can be a contraction of “eka-rishi,” the sole Seer. As the Gita says: “Brahman is the ritual, Brahman is the offering, Brahman is he who offers to the fire that is Brahman. If a man sees Brahman in every action, He will find Brahman.” (Bhagavad Gita 4:24) The ultimate “offering” into Brahman is our own Self.

By whom has been duly accomplished the vow of holding fire on the head. Continuing this idea, the rishi speaks of those who have accomplished in due order the shirovratam–a vow of holding or carrying the holy fire in the head. That is, one who has established the Divine Fire of Brahman-realization within himself, who ever carries Brahman in his “head”–his consciousness.

There will not be a great number of students if these criteria are followed, but we must make sure that we are among them.

The sum and substance

In conclusion the upanishad exclaims: “Hail to the sages! Hail to the illumined souls! This truth of Brahman was taught in ancient times to Shounaka by Angira. Hail to the sages! Hail to the illumined souls!” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:2:11)

End of Mundaka Commentary:

Mandukya Upanishad

Translated by Vidyavachaspati V. Panoli

Om ! O gods, may we hear with our ears what is auspicious; May we see with our eyes what is auspicious; May we, while offering our praise to gods With our bodies strong of limbs, Enjoy the life which the gods are pleased to grant us. May Indra of great fame be well disposed to us; May the all-knowing (or immensely wealthy) Pusha be propitious to us; May Garuda, the vanquisher of miseries, be well pleased with us; May Brihaspati grant us all prosperity. Om ! Peace ! Peace ! Peace !

  1. All this is the letter Om. A vivid explanation of this (is begun). All that is past, present, and future is but Om. Whatever transcends the three periods of time, too, is Om.

  2. All this is certainly Brahman. This Self is Brahman. This Self, as such, is possessed of four quarters.

  3. (The Self) seated in the waking state and called Vaisvanara who, possessed of the consciousness of the exterior, and seven limbs and nineteen mouths, enjoys the gross objects, is the first quarter.

  4. (The Self) seated in the state of dream and called Taijasa who, possessed of the consciousness of the interior, and seven limbs and nineteen mouths, enjoys the subtle objects, is the second quarter.

  5. Where the sleeper desires not a thing of enjoyment and sees not any dream, that state is deep sleep. (The Self) seated in the state of deep sleep and called Prajna, in whom everything is unified, who is dense with consciousness, who is full of bliss, who is certainly the enjoyer of bliss, and who is the door to the knowledge (of the preceding two states), is the third quarter.

  6. This is the Lord of all; this is omniscient; this is the in-dwelling controller (of all); this is the source and indeed the origin and dissolution of all beings.

    1. The Fourth is thought of as that which is not conscious of the internal world, nor conscious of the external world, nor conscious of both the worlds, nor dense with consciousness, nor simple consciousness, nor unconsciousness, which is unseen, actionless, incomprehensible, uninferable, unthinkable, indescribable, whose proof consists in the identity of the Self (in all states), in which all phenomena come to a cessation, and which is unchanging, auspicious, and non-dual. That is the Self;

    2. that is to be known.
  7. That same Self, from the point of view of the syllable, is Om, and viewed from the stand point of the letters, the quarters are the letters, and the letters are the quarters. The letters are a, u and m.

  8. Vaisvanara seated in the waking state is the first letter a, owing to its all-pervasiveness or being the first. He who knows thus verily accomplishes all longings and becomes the first.

  9. Taijasa seated in the dream is u, the second letter (of Om), owing to the similarity of excellence or intermediate position. He who knows thus verily advances the bounds of his knowledge and becomes equal (to all) and none who is not a knower of Brahman is born in his family.

  10. Prajna seated in the state of deep sleep is m, the third letter (of Om), because of his being the measure or the entity wherein all become absorbed. He who knows thus measures all this and absorbs all.

  11. That which is without letters (parts) is the Fourth, beyond apprehension through ordinary means, the cessation of the phenomenal world, the auspicious and the non-dual. Thus Om is certainly the Self. He who knows thus enters the Self by the Self.

Om ! O gods, may we hear with our ears what is auspicious; May we see with our eyes what is auspicious; May we, while offering our praise to gods With our bodies strong of limbs, Enjoy the life which the gods are pleased to grant us. May Indra of great fame be well disposed to us; May the all-knowing (or immensely wealthy) Pusha be propitious to us; May Garuda, the vanquisher of miseries, be well pleased with us; May Brihaspati grant us all prosperity. Om ! Peace ! Peace ! Peace !

Here ends the Mandukyopanishad, as contained in the Atharva-Veda.

MANDUKYA KARIKA OF GAUDAPADA

I. AGAMA PRAKARANA Invocation

  1. I bow to that Brahman who pervades the entire world by a diffusion of the rays of knowledge that pervade all things that are moving and unmoving, who after having enjoyed (in the waking state) all objects of enjoyment that are gross, and who again, after having drunk (in the state of dream) all objects born of desire and illumined by the intellect, reposes while experiencing bliss Himself and making us all enjoy by (His own) Maya, and who, through an attribution of Maya, is the fourth in number, and is supreme, immortal and unborn.

  2. May he, the Self of the universe, dwelling in the fourth state, protect us, who, after having enjoyed (in the waking state) the gross enjoyments resulting from virtue and vice, enjoys again (in the dream state) the other subtle objects which are created by His own intelligence and illumined by His own light, and who, after having absorbed all of them gradually into Himself and having abandoned all distinctions, becomes devoid of attributes.

I-1. Visva having exterior consciousness is all-pervading, whereas Taijasa has interior consciousness, and Prajna, similarly is dense with consciousness. Thus the One alone is regarded in there ways. I-2. Visva is seen in the right eye which is its seat of experience, whereas Taijasa is inside the mind and Prajna is in the space inside the heart. In these three ways he dwells in the body. I-3. Visva is ever the enjoyer of the gross, taijasa of the subtle, and, similarly, Prajna of bliss. Know (therefore) the enjoyment in three ways.

I-4.The grass satisfies Visva, the subtle satisfies Taijasa and, similarly, gladness satisfies Prajna. Know (therefore) the satisfaction in three ways. I-5. He who knows these two, viz that which is shown to be the thing to be enjoyed and that which is (shown) to be the enjoyer, in the three states, does not become affected, even though enjoying. I-6. It is a settled fact that coming into being can be said only of positive entities that exist. Prana creates all; and Purusha creates the conscious beings separately. I-7. Those who think of creation hold it as the manifestation of God's power; while others regard creation as same as dream and illusion. I-8. Creation is the mere will of the Lord, say those who thought out well the (process of) creation, but those who rely upon time hold that the birth of beings is from time. I-9. Some others hold that creation is for the enjoyment (of God), yet others say that it is for His sport. But it is the very nature of the resplendent Being, (for) what desire can he have whose desire is all fulfilled? I-10. Turiya, the Lord powerful to bring about the cessation of all sorrows, is imperishable, is regarded as the non-dual Lord of all entities, and is all-pervading. I-11. Visva and Taijasa are regarded as conditioned by cause and effect. Prajna is conditioned by cause. But these two (viz cause and effect) do not exist in Turiya. I-12. Prajna knows neither himself nor others, neither truth nor untruth. But that Turiya is ever the all seer. I-13. The non-cognition of duality is common to both Prajna and Turiya. Prajna is possessed of sleep of the nature of cause, whereas that sleep does not exist in Turiya. I-14. The first two (viz Visva and taijasa) are associated with dream and sleep, but Prajna (is associated) with sleep devoid of dream. The knowers of Brahman do not see either sleep or dream in Turiya. I-15. Dream belongs to him who perceives wrongly and sleep to him who knows not Reality. When the false notion of these two comes to an end, the state of Turiya is attained. I-16. When the individual Self, sleeping under the influence of Maya that is beginningless, is awakened, then he realises (Turiya that is) unborn, sleepless, dreamless and non-dual. I-17. If a phenomenal world were to exist, it should, no doubt, cease to be. This duality is but an illusion; in reality it is non-dual. I-18. The notion (such as the teacher, the taught and the scripture) will disappear, if anyone had imagined it. This notion (of the teacher etc.,) is for the purpose of instruction. When (the Truth is) realised, duality does not exist. I-19. When the identity of Visva with the letter a is meant, ie., when the identity of Visva with the letter a is admitted, the common feature of being the first is seen to be obvious, as also the common feature of all-pervasiveness. I-20. In the event of Taijasa being apprehended as identical with u, ie, when the identity of taijasa with the letter u is admitted, the common feature of superiority is seen clearly and so, too, is the intermediate position. I-21. In the even of Prajna being apprehended as identical with m, ie, when the identity of Prajna with the letter m is admitted, the common feature of being the measure is seen to be obvious and so too is the common feature of absorption. I-22. He who knows conclusively the common similarities in the three states, becomes worthy of worship and adoration by all beings, and is also a great sage. I-23. The letter a leads to Visva and the letter u to Taijasa. Again, the letter m (leads) to Prajna. For the one who is free from letters, there is no attainment. I-24. Om should be known, quarter by quarter. It is beyond doubt that the quarters (of the self) are the letters (of Om). Having known Om, quarter by quarter, one should not think of anything else. I-25. Let the mind be fixed on Om, for Om is Brahman, the fearless. For him who us ever fixed on Om,

there is no fear anywhere. I-26. Om is indeed the lower Brahman; Om is (also) regarded as the higher (Brahman). Om is without a cause, without interior and exterior, without effect, and is undecaying. I-27. Om is indeed the beginning, middle and end of everything. Having known Om thus, one attains immediately the identity with the self. I-28. One should know Om to be the Lord dwelling in the hearts of all. having known the all-pervasive Om, the intelligent one does not grieve. I-29. He by whom is known Om which is without measure and possessed of infinite magnitude and which is auspicious, since all duality ceases in it, is a sage and none else.

II. VAITATHYA PRAKARANA II-1. The wise declare the unreality of all objects in a dream because they are located within (the body) and (also) because they are confined within a limited space. II-2. Since the period is short, one does not go to the place and see. Also, every dreamer, when awakened, does not exist in that place (of dream). II-3. The non-existence of the chariot etc., (seen in dream) is heard of (in the sruti) from the point of view of reasoning. The knowers of Brahman say that the unreality thus arrived at (through reasoning) is revealed (by the sruti) in the context of dream. II-4. There is the unreality of the objects even in the waking state. Just as they are unreal in dream, so also are they unreal in the waking state. the objects (in dream) differ owing to the location within the body owing to the spatial limitation. II-5. The wise say that the states of waking and dream are same, in view of the similarity of the objects (seen in both the states) and in view of the well-known ground of inference. II-6. That which is non-existent in the beginning and at the end is definitely so in the present (ie., in the middle). The objects, though they bear the mark of the unreal, appear as though real. II-7. Their utility is opposed in dream. therefore, on the ground of having a beginning and an end, they are regarded as definitely unreal. II-8. (To see) unusual things (in dream) is indeed an attribute of the dreamer just as it is in the case of those who dwell in heaven. These he perceives by going there, even as one, well instructed, does in this world. II-9. Even in dream what is imagined by the mind (chitta) within is unreal, while what is grasped outside by the mind is real. But both these are seen to be unreal. II-10. Even in the waking state what is imagined by the mind within is unreal, while what is grasped by the mind outside is real. It is reasonable to hold both these to be unreal. II-11. If the objects of both the states be unreal, who comprehends all these and who again imagines them? II-12. The self-luminous Self, by Its own Maya imagines Itself by Itself and It alone cognises all objects. This is a settled fact of the Vedanta-texts. II-13. The Lord imagined in diverse forms the worldly objects existing in the mind. With the mind turned outward, He imagines diversely permanent objects (as also impermanent things). Thus the Lord imagines. II-14. Things that exist within as long as the thought lasts and things that are external and conform to two points of time, are all imaginations alone. The distinction (between them) is caused by nothing else. II-15. The objects that seem to be unmanifested within the mind, and those that seem to be manifested without, are all mere imaginations, their distinction being the difference in the sense-organs. II-16. First of all, He imagines the Jiva (individual soul) and then (He imagines) various objects, external and internal. As is (a man’s) knowledge, so is (his) memory of it. II-17. Just as a rope, the nature of which is not known in the dark, is imagined to be things such as a snake, a water-line, etc., so too is the Self imagined (as various things). II-18. As when the (real nature of the) rope is known, the illusion ceases and the rope alone remains in its non-dual nature, so too is the ascertainment of the Self. II-19. (The Self) is imagined as infinite objects like prana etc. This is the Maya of the luminous One by which It itself is deluded, (as it where). II-20. The knowers of Prana hold Prana (to be the cause of the world), which the knowers of the elements regard the elements (to be the cause). Qualities (are the cause), say the knowers of quality, whereas the knowers of category consider categories (to be so). II-21. The knowers of the quarters (such as Visva) hold the quarters (to be the cause), while the knowers of sensory objects regard sensory objects (to be the cause). the worlds (are real), say the knowers of the worlds, and the knowers of the gods consider the gods (to be so). II-22. Those well-versed in the Vedic lore hold the Vedas (to be real), while the sacrificers subscribe it to the sacrifices. Those who know the enjoyer hold the enjoyer (to be real), whereas those familiar with the enjoyable things think of them (to be real). II-23. Subtlety (is real), say those who know the subtlety, while those familiar with the gross regard it to be so. (Reality is) possessed of a form, say the worshippers of God with form, while the worshippers of the formless (hold the reality) to be formless. II-24. The astrologers hold time (to be real), while the knowers of directions consider directions (to be so). Those stiff in debate affirm that disputations (lead to the reality), whereas those who aspire after the worlds consider them (to be real). II-25. The knowers of the mind hold it (to be the Self), while the knowers of the intellect regard it (to be so). The knowers of the heart ascribe (reality to it), whereas it is attributed to virtue and vice by those who know them. II-26. Some say that twenty-five categories (constitute the reality), whereas others speak of twenty-six. Again, some say that thirty-one categories (constitute it), yet some others hold that they are infinite. II-27. Those who know the people (and their pleasures) find reality in pleasures. Those who are familiar with the stages of life regard them (as real). The grammarians (ascribe reality) to the words in the masculine, feminine and neuter genders, whereas others (know reality) to be the higher and lower (brahman). II-28. Those who know all about creation (say that reality consists in) creation. (Reality lies) in dissolution, say those who know it, while those who know about subsistence (hold it to be the reality). All these ideas are always imagined on the Self. II-29. He to whom (a teacher) might show an object sees that alone (as the reality). That object, too, becoming one with him, protects him. That state of being engrossed culminates in his self-identity with the object shown. II-30. By these things that are non-separate (from the Self), this Self is manifested as though separate. He who knows this truly comprehends (the meaning of the Vedas) without entertaining any doubt. II-31. Just as dream and magic, as well as a city in the sky, are seen (to be unreal), so too, is this universe seen (to be unreal) from the Vedanta-texts by the wise. II-32. There is no dissolution, no origination, none in bondage, none possessed of the means of liberation, none desirous of liberation, and none liberated. This is the ultimate truth. II-33. This (Self) is imagined to be unreal objects and also to be non-dual. The objects are also imagined on the non-dual (Self). therefore non-duality is auspicious. II-34. This (world) viewed on the basis of the Self, is not different. Neither does it ever exist independent by itself nor is anything different or non-different (from the Self). Thus know the knowers of Truth. II-35. By the sages who are free from attachment, fear and anger and well-versed in the Vedas is realised this Self which is beyond all imaginations, in which the phenomenal world ceases to exist and which is non-dual.

II-36. Therefore, having known it thus, one should fix one’s memory on non-duality (ie., should give undivided attention). Having attained the non-dual, one should conduct oneself as though one were a dullard. II-37. The ascetic should be free from praise and salutation and also from rituals. The body and the Self should be his support and he should depend upon what chance brings. II-38. Having perceived Truth internally and having perceived it externally, one should become identified with Truth, should derive delight from Truth, and should never deviate from Truth.

III. ADVAITA PRAKARANA III-1. The aspirant, resorting himself to devotion, remains in the conditioned Brahman. Prior to creation all this was of the nature of the birthless Brahman. Hence the man (with such a view) is considered to be of narrow outlook. III-2. Therefore, I shall describe that (Brahman) which is free from limitation, is unborn and is ever the same. Listen how nothing whatsoever is born, though it appears to be born in all respects. III-3. The self is said to be existing in the form of Jivas (individual souls), just as (the infinite) ether exists in the form of ether confined within jars. Similarly, It is said to be existing as the aggregate of bodies, even as ether exists like jars etc. This is the illustration with regard to birth. III-4. Just as when the jars etc., cease to exist, the ether etc., confined within them become merged in the infinite ether, so also the individual souls become merged in the Self here. III-5. Just as when the ether confined within a particular jar contains dust and smoke, that is not the case with all jars, in the same way, all the individual souls are not associated with happiness etc. III-6. Though forms, functions and names differ here and there (in respect of the ether contained by jars etc.,), yet this causes no differences in the ether. Similar is the conclusion with regard to individual souls. III-7. As the ether within a jar is not a modification nor a part of the (infinite) ether, so an individual soul is never a modification nor a part of the (supreme) Self. III-8. Just as to the children the sky becomes soiled by dirt, so too, to the unwise the Self becomes tainted by impurities. III-9. The Self, in regard to Its death and birth, going and coming, and Its existence in all the bodies, is not dissimilar to ether. III-10. All aggregates (such as body) are created like dream by the Maya of the Self. Whether they be superior (to another) or equal, there is no ground to prove their reality. III-11. The individual Self of the sheaths beginning with that made of food, which have been described in the Taittiriya Upanishad, is (the same as) the supreme Self, as explained (by us already) on the analogy of ether. III-12. Just as it is taught that ether in the earth and the belly is verily the same, so also the supreme Brahman is declared to be the same with reference to every two (viz., the corporeal and superphysical), in the Madhu-Brahmana (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad). III-13. Since the non-difference of Jiva (individual soul) and the supreme Self is extolled on the basis of their identity, and since diversity is censured, therefore, that (non-duality) alone is reasonable. III-14. The separateness of the individual soul and the supreme Self which has been declared (in the sruti) prior to the discussion of creation (in the Upanishads), is in a secondary sense in view of the result of the future, for it (separateness) is not in fitness if held in its primary sense. III-15. The creation which is differently set forth by means of (the illustrations of) earth, gold, sparks etc., is (just) a means to reveal the idea (of identity). But multiplicity does not exist in any manner. III-16. There are three stages of life – low, medium, and high. This meditation is enjoined for their sake out of compassion. III-17. The dualists, firmly settled in their own doctrine which is arrived at by their own conclusions, contradict one another. But this (view of the non-dualist) is in no conflict with them.

III-18. Non-duality is indeed the supreme Reality, inasmuch as duality is said to be its product. For them duality constitutes both (the Real and the unreal). Hence this (our view) is not opposed (to theirs). III-19. This unborn (Self) undergoes modification through Maya and not in any other way. For, if the modifications are to be a reality, the immortal would tend to be mortal. III-20. The disputants think of the very unborn Self on terms of birth. How can the Self that is unborn and immortal tend towards mortality? III-21. The immortal can never become mortal. So, too mortal can never become immortal. For a change in one’s nature cannot ever take place in any manner. III-22. How can the entity that is immortal remain unchanged according to one to whom a thing that is immortal by nature can be born, since it is a product (in his view) ? III-23. The sruti favours equally the creation in reality and through Maya. That which is settled by the sruti and supported by reasoning is true, and not anything else. III-24. Since the sruti says, "There is no multiplicity here", "the Lord, owing to Maya, (is seen diversely)", and "The Self, though unborn, (appears to be born in many ways)", it becomes obvious that He is born through Maya. III-25. By the censure of (the worship of) Hiranyagarbha is negated creation. By the statement, "Who will cause it to be born?", is denied causality. III-26. On the ground of non-apprehension (of Brahman), all the preceding instruction (for Its comprehension) is negated by the sruti, "This Self is that which has been declared as ‘Not this, not this’". Hence the unborn Self becomes revealed by Itself. III-27. Birth of that which exists occurs only through Maya and not in reality. He who thinks that something is born in reality, (should know) that that which is already born is (re)born. III-28. The birth of that which is non-existent cannot occur either through Maya or in reality, for a son of a barren woman cannot be born either through Maya or in reality. III-29. As in dream the mind vibrates through Maya, as though with dual roles, so in the waking state the mind vibrates through Maya, as though with dual roles. III-30. There can be no doubt that the non-dual mind alone appears in dream in dual roles. Similarly, in the waking state too, the non-dual mind appears to possess dual roles. III-31. Whatever there is, moving and unmoving, which constitutes this duality, is perceived by the mind, for when mind does not exist as mind, duality is never perceived. III-32. When the mind ceases to imagine consequent on the realisation of the Truth which is the Self, then it attains the state of not being the mind and becomes a non-perceiver, owing to the absence of objects to be perceived. III-33. (The knowers of Brahman) say that the knowledge which is free from imagination, and unborn is not distinct from the knowable. The knowledge of which Brahman is the sole object is unborn and everlasting. The unborn (Self) is known by the (knowledge that is) unborn. III-34. The behaviour of the mind (thus) restrained, which is free from all imagination and which is endowed with discrimination, should be noticed. The mind in deep sleep is of a different character and is not like that (when it is under restraint). III-35. The mind becomes dissolved in deep sleep, but when under restraint, it doesn’t become dissolved. That (mind) alone becomes Brahman, the fearless, endowed with the light that is Consciousness on all sides. III-36. (Brahman is) birthless, sleepless, dreamless, nameless, formless, ever-resplendent and omniscient. (As regards That) there can be no routine practice of any kind. III-37. The Self is devoid of all (external) organs, and is above all internal organs. It is exquisitely serene, eternally resplendent, divinely absorbed, unchanging and fearless. III-38. Where there is no thought whatever, there is no acceptance or rejection. Then knowledge, rooted in the Self, attains the state of birthlessness and sameness. III-39. This Yoga that is said to be not in touch with anything is hard to be perceived by anyone of the

Yogis, for the Yogis who behold fear in what is fearless, are afraid of it. III-40. For all the Yogis, fearlessness, cessation of misery, awareness and everlasting peace, depend upon the control of their mind. III-41. By a tireless effort such as that by which the emptying of an ocean, drop by drop, is aimed at with the help of the edge of a Kusa grass, the conquest of the mind will become possible through absence of dejection. III-42. With the (proper) means one should bring under restraint the mind that is torn amid desire and enjoyment. Even when the mind is well settled down in sleep, it should be brought under restraint, for sleep is as harmful as desire. III-43. Remembering that everything is productive of grief, one should withdraw (one’s mind) from the enjoyment of the objects of desire. (Similarly), remembering that everything is the unborn Brahman, one does not certainly see the born (ie., duality). III-44. The mind that is in deep sleep should be awakened and the mind that is distracted should be brought back to tranquillity again. One should know the mind as passion-tinged, and should not disturb it when it has attained the state of equillibrium. III-45. In that state one should not enjoy the happiness, but should, by means of discrimination, become unattached. When the mind that has become still tends towards wandering, it should be unified (with the self) with efforts. III-46. When the mind does not become merged nor distracted again, when it becomes motionless and does not make appearances (as objects), then it verily becomes Brahman. III-47. That highest Bliss exists in one’s own Self. It is calm, identical with liberation, indescribable, and unborn. Since It is one with the unborn knowable (Brahman), the knowers of Brahman speak of It as the Omniscient (Brahman). III-48. No Jiva (individual soul), whichsoever, is born. It has no cause (of birth). (Such being the case), this is the highest Truth where nothing is born whatsoever.

IV. ALATASANTI PRAKARANA (On extinguishing the fire brand) IV-1. I bow down to him who is the best among men and who has realised the individual souls that are like ether, through his knowledge which again resembles ether and is not different from the object of knowledge. IV-2. I bow down to that Yoga which is devoid of touch with anything (that implies relationship), which conduces to the happiness of all beings and is beneficial, and which is free from dispute and contradiction and is taught by the scriptures. IV-3. Certain disputants postulate the birth of an entity already existing, while some others, proud of their intelligence, and opposing among themselves, postulate the birth of what is not existing already. IV-4. That which already exists cannot be born and that which does not exist also cannot be born. Those who argue thus are none but non-dualists and proclaim only the birthlessness. IV-5. We approve the birthlessness revealed by them. We do not quarrel with them. Now, learn this which is free from all disputes. IV-6. The disputants think of the self on terms of birth. How can the Self that is unborn and immortal tend towards mortality. IV-7. The immortal can never become mortal. So, too the mortal can never become immortal. For a change in one’s nature cannot ever take place in any manner. IV-8. How can the entity that is immortal remain unchanged according to one in whose view a thing that is immortal by nature can be born, since it is an effect (in his view) ? IV-9. By the term nature is to be known that which comes into being through right attainments, which is intrinsic, inborn, and non-produced, and which does not give up its character. IV-10. All the souls are free from decay and death by nature. But by thinking of decay and death, and

becoming absorbed in that thought, they deviate (from that nature). IV-11. According to him who holds that the cause itself is the effect, the cause must be born. How can that which is born be unborn? How can that which is subject to modification be eternal ? IV-12. If (in your view) the effect is non-different from the cause and if, for that reason, the effect also is unborn, how can the cause be eternal, since it is non-different from the effect that undergoes birth ? IV-13. He who holds the view that the effect is born from an unborn cause, has no example (to be cited). If the born effect is viewed as born from another born thing, it leads to ad infinitum. IV-14. How can they, who hold that the effect is the source of the cause and the cause is the source of the effect, assert beginninglessness for cause and effect ? IV-15. According to the disputants who hold that the effect is the origin of the cause and the cause is the origin of the effect, birth may be possible, just as a father might be born of a son. IV-16. If cause and effect be possible, the order (in which they originate) has to be found out by you, for if they originate simultaneously, there is no relationship between the two, as is the case with the horns of a cow. IV-17. Your cause that is produced from an effect cannot be established. How will a cause, that is itself not established, produce an effect ? IV-18. If the cause emerges from the effect and if the effect emerges from the cause, which of the two has arisen first on which depends the emergence of the other ? IV-19. Your inability (to reply) tantamounts to ignorance, or there will be a difference in the order of succession (postulated by you). Thus indeed is the absence of birth revealed by the wise in all manner. IV-20. What is called the illustration of a seed and a sprout is always equal to the major term (yet to be proved). The middle term (viz., the illustration) that is equal to the unproved major term, cannot be applied for establishing a proposition yet to be proved. IV-21. The ignorance regarding antecedence and succession reveals birthlessness. From a thing that is born, why is it that its antecedent cause is not comprehended ? IV-22. Nothing whatsoever is born either of itself or of something else. Similarly, nothing whatsoever is born whether it be existent or non-existent or both existent and non-existent. IV-23. A cause is not born of an effect that is beginningless, nor does an effect take birth naturally (from a cause that is beginningless). For that which has no cause has no birth also. IV-24. Knowledge has its object, since otherwise it brings about the destruction of duality. Besides, from the experience of pain, the existence of external objects, as upheld by the system of thought of the opponents, is admitted. IV-25. In accordance with the perception of the cause of knowledge, the latter is deemed to be based on external objects. But from the point of view of reality, the (external) cause is regarded as no cause. IV-26. Consciousness is not in contact with objects nor is it in contact with the appearances of objects. For the object is certainly non-existent and (the ideas constituting) the appearances of object are not separate from consciousness. IV-27. Consciousness does not ever come in contact with objects in the three periods of time. Without a cause (ie., external object) how can there be its false apprehension ? IV-28. Therefore consciousness is not born, nor are things perceived by it born. Those who perceive it as having birth, may as well see footprints in the sky. IV-29. Since it is the birthless that is born (in the view of the disputants), birthlessness is its nature. Hence deviation from this nature can happen in no way whatsoever. IV-30. If transmigratory existence be beginningless, its termination will not be reached. And liberation will not be eternal, if it has a beginning. IV-31. That which is non-existent in the beginning and the end is definitely so in the present. The objects, although similar to the unreal, look as though real. IV-32. Their utility is opposed in dream. Therefore, for the reasons of their having a beginning and an end, they are definitely remembered to be unreal.

IV-33.All objects are unreal in dream, inasmuch as they are seen within the body. In this narrow space, how is the vision of creatures possible ? IV-34. It is not reasonable to say that objects in dream are seen by (actually) going to them, since it runs counter to the regulation of time that is needed for the journey. Further, none, when awake, remains in the place of dream. IV-35. (In dream) what has been discussed with friends and others (and settled) is not resorted to when awake. Whatsoever is acquired (in dream0, too, is not seen when awake. IV-36. And in dream the body becomes unreal, since another body is seen (in the bed). As is the body, so is everything cognised by the consciousness – all unreal. IV-37. Since the experience (of objects) in dream is just like that in the waking state, the former is thought of as being caused by the latter. Such being the case, the waking state is considered to be real for that dreamer alone. IV-38. Such birth is not established, everything is said to be unborn. Besides, it is not possible for the unreal to be born from the real, in any way whatsoever. IV-39. Having seen unreal things in the waking state, one, deeply impressed, sees those very things in dream. Likewise, having seen unreal objects in dream, one does not see them when awake. IV-40. There is no non-existent that serves as the cause of the non-existent, in the same way as the existent does not serve as the cause of the non-existent. There is no real entity that serves as the cause of another real entity. How can the unreal be the product of the real ? IV-41. Just as one, for want of discrimination, takes unthinkable objects in the waking state as real, so too, in dream, one sees things in that state alone, for want of discrimination. IV-42. For those who, from their own experience and right conduct, believe in the existence of substantiality, and who are ever afraid of the birthless, instruction regarding birth has been imparted by the wise. IV-43. For those who, for fear of the Unborn, and also owing to their perception (of duality), deviate from the right path, the evil springing up from acceptance of birth (creation), does not accrue. The evil effect, if there be any, will be but little. IV-44. Just as an elephant magically conjured up is called an elephant by relying on perception and right conduct, similarly, for reasons of perception and right conduct a thing is said to be existing. IV-45. That which bears semblance of birth, appears as though moving, and, similarly seems to be a thing (of attributes), is Consciousness that is birthless, unmoving and non-material, serene and non- dual. IV-46. Thus Consciousness is unborn; thus the souls are regarded to be unborn. Those who realise thus certainly do not fall into misfortune. IV-47. Just as the fire-brand set in motion appears as straight, crooked etc., similarly, the vibration of Consciousness appears as the perceiver and the perceived. IV-48. Just as the fire-brand devoid of motion is without appearances and birth, so also Consciousness devoid of vibration is without appearances and birth. IV-49. When the fire-brand is in motion, the appearances do not come from elsewhere. Neither do they, when the fire-brand is free from motion, go elsewhere, nor do they enter into it. IV-50. They did not go out of the fire-brand owing to their not being of the nature of substance. In the case of Consciousness, too, the appearances must be the same, for as appearance there can be no distinction. IV-51. When Consciousness is in motion, the appearances do not come from elsewhere. Neither do they, when the Consciousness is free from motion, go elsewhere, nor do they enter again into It. IV-52. They did not go out of Consciousness owing to their not being of the nature of substance, for they ever remain incomprehensible on account of the absence of relation of effect and cause. IV-53. A substance could be the cause of a substance and another could be the cause of any other thing. But the souls cannot be regarded either as substances or as some other thing different from all else.

IV-54. Thus external objects are not born of Consciousness; nor is Consciousness born of external objects. Thus have the wise settled the birthlessness of cause and effect. IV-55. As long as there is fascination for cause and effect, so long do cause and effect come into existence. When the fascination for cause and effect ceases, there is no further springing up of cause and effect. IV-56. As long as one is completely absorbed in cause and effect, so long does transmigration continue. When the absorption in cause and effect ceases, one does not undergo transmigration. IV-57. From the relative plane (of thinking) everything seems to be born and is not, therefore, eternal. From the absolute plane (of perception) everything is the unborn (Self) and there is, therefore, nothing like destruction. IV-58. The souls that are thus born are not born in reality. Their birth is like that of an object through Maya. And that Maya again is non-existent. IV-59. Just as from a magical seed comes out a sprout of that very nature which is neither permanent nor destructible, so too, is the reasoning applicable in respect of objects. IV-60. In the case of all birthless entities the terms permanent and non-permanent can have no application. Where words fail to describe, no entity can be spoken of in a discriminative manner. IV-61. As in dream Consciousness vibrates through illusion, as though dual by nature, so in the waking state Consciousness vibrates through illusion as though possessed of dual appearances. IV-62. There can be no doubt that the non-dual Consciousness alone appears in dream as though dual. Similarly, in waking state, too, the non-dual Consciousness appears as though dual, undoubtedly. IV-63. The dreamer, as he wanders in the dream-land always sees the creatures born from eggs or from moisture as existing in all the ten directions. IV-64. These (creatures), perceptible to the consciousness of the dreamer, have no existence apart from his consciousness. So also this consciousness of the dreamer is admitted to be the object of perception to that dreamer alone. IV-65. The man in the waking state, as he wanders in the places of the waking state, always sees the creatures born from eggs or from moisture as existing in all the ten directions. IV-66. These (creatures), perceptible to the consciousness of the man in the waking state, have no existence apart from his consciousness. So also, this consciousness of the man in the waking state is admitted to be the object of perception to that man of the waking state alone. IV-67. Both these are perceptible to each other. "Does it exist?" (To such a question) "No" is said (by way of answer). Both these are devoid of valid proof, and each can be perceived only through the idea of the other. IV-68. Just as a creature seen in dream takes birth and dies, so also do all these creatures come into being and disappear. IV-69. Just as a creature conjured up by magic takes birth and dies, so also do all these creatures come into being and disappear. IV-70. Just as an artificial creature (brought into being by incantation and medicine), takes birth and dies, so also do all these creatures come into being and disappear. IV-71. No creature whichsoever is born, nor is there any source for it. This is that supreme truth where nothing is born whatsoever. IV-72. This duality consisting in the subject-object relationship is nothing but the vibration of Consciousness. Again, Consciousness is without object and is, therefore, declared to be ever unattached. IV-73. That which exists by virtue of being an imagined empirical view, does not exist in reality. Again, that which exists on the basis of the empirical view brought about by other schools of thought, does not really exist. IV-74. Inasmuch as the soul, according to the conclusions arrived at by other schools of thought, takes birth from a fancied empirical view point, it is said in consistence with that empirical point of view that

the soul is unborn; but from the point of view of supreme Reality, it is not even unborn. IV-75. There is a mere fascination for unreal things, though there exists no duality. Having realised the absence of duality, one is not born again for want of a cause. IV-76. When there are no causes – superior, inferior or medium – then Consciousness does not take birth. How can there be any result when the cause is absent. IV-77. The birthlessness of Consciousness which is free from causes is constant and absolute, for all this (ie., duality and birth) was an object of perception to It which had been unborn (even before). IV-78. Having realised the Truth that is uncaused and having abstained from obtaining any further cause, one attains the state of fearlessness that is devoid of grief and delusion (kama). IV-79. Owing to fascination for unreal objects, Consciousness engages Itself in things that are equally unreal. On realisation of the non-existence of objects, Consciousness, becoming free from attachment, abstains (from them). IV-80. Then, there follows a state of stillness, when the Consciousness has become free from attachment and does not engage Itself (in unreal things). That is the object of vision to the wise. That is the (supreme) state on non-distinction, and that is birthless and non-dual. IV-81. This is birthless, sleepless, dreamless, and self-luminous. For this Entity (the Self) is ever luminous by Its very nature. IV-82. Owing to the Lord’s fondness for any object whatsoever, he becomes ever veiled effortlessly, and is unveiled every time with strenuous effort. IV-83. A man of puerile imagination definitely covers the Self by affirming that It "exists", exists not", "Exists and exists not", or again, "exists not", "exists not", and by possessing such views as (that It is) changing and unchanging, both changing and unchanging and non-existent. IV-84. These are the four alternative views, owing to a fascination for which the Lord becomes ever hidden. He is the all-seer by whom is the Lord perceived as untouched by these. IV-85. Having attained omniscience in its entirety, as well as the non-dual state of Brahmanhood that is devoid of beginning, middle, and end, does anyone wish anything thereafter ? IV-86. This is the humility of the Brahmanas; this is said to be their natural control. Since, by nature, they have conquered the senses, this is their restraint. Having known thus, the enlightened one becomes rooted in tranquillity. IV-87. The duality that is co-existent with both object and (its) perception is said to be the ordinary (waking) state. That state where there is only perception without (the actual presence of an) object is said to be the ordinary (dream) state. IV-88. The state devoid of object and devoid of perception is regarded as extraordinary. Thus have the wise for ever declared knowledge, object, and the knowable. IV-89. On acquiring knowledge (of the threefold objects) and on knowing the objects in succession, there follows consequently, for the man of great intellect here, the state of omniscience for ever. IV-90. Those which are to be abandoned, realised, adopted, and made ineffective should be known first. Of these, the three, excepting the thing to be realised, are regarded as mere imaginations born of ignorance. IV-91. It should be known that all souls are, by nature, similar to ether, and eternal. There is no diversity anywhere among them, even an iota of it. IV-92. All souls are, by nature, illumined from the very beginning, and their characteristics are well ascertained. He, for whom there is thus the freedom from want of further acquisition of knowledge, is considered to be fit for immortality. IV-93. All souls are, from the very beginning, tranquil, unborn and, by nature, entirely detached, equal, and non-different, and inasmuch as Reality is thus unborn, unique, and pure, (therefore there is no need of tranquillity to be brought into the Self). IV-94. There cannot ever be any purification for those who always tread the path of duality. They follow the path of difference, and speak of diversity and are, therefore, considered to be mean.

IV-95. They who have well-settled convictions regarding that which is unborn and ever the same,indeed are possessed of great knowledge in this world. But the common man cannot comprehend it. IV-96. The knowledge existing in the birthless souls is regarded unborn and unrelated. Inasmuch as the knowledge has no relation with other objects, it is declared to be unattached. IV-97. If there be birth for a thing, however insignificant it may be, non-attachment shall never be possible for the ignorant man. What to speak (then) of the destruction of covering for him ? IV-98. All souls are devoid of any covering and are by nature pure. They are illumined as well as free from the beginning. Thus they are said to be masters since they are capable of knowing. IV-99. The knowledge of the one who is enlightened and all-pervasive, does not enter into objects. And so the souls also do not enter into objects. This fact was not mentioned by the Buddha. IV-100. Having realised the non-dual state that is hard to perceive, deep, unborn, uniform and serene,we offer our salutations to It, as best as we can. Om ! O gods, may we hear with our ears what is auspicious; May we see with our eyes what is auspicious; May we, while offering our praise to gods With our bodies strong of limbs, Enjoy the life which the gods are pleased to grant us. May Indra of great fame be well disposed to us; May the all-knowing (or immensely wealthy) Pusha be propitious to us; May Garuda, the vanquisher of miseries, be well pleased with us; May Brihaspati grant us all prosperity. Om ! Peace ! Peace ! Peace !

Here ends the Mandukyopanishad, included in the Atharva-Veda.

Mandukya Upanishad Commentary

Commentary on the Mandukya Upanishad–by Swami Nirmalananda Giri

The Shabda Brahman: Om

Om is a principal subject in the eleven major upanishads, but the entire Mandukya Upanishad is dedicated to an explanation of Its meaning for the sadhaka. It wastes no time, but starts right at the pinnacle, saying: “The syllable OM, which is the imperishable Brahman, is the universe. Whatsoever has existed, whatsoever exists, whatsoever shall exist hereafter, is OM. And whatsoever transcends past, present, and future, that also is OM.” (Mandukya Upanishad 1)

This is so vast, and yet at the same time so simple, that it renders comment impossible and unnecessary. The essential point is the infinity of Om, because It is the infinite Brahman.

The four aspects of the Self

“All this that we see without is Brahman. This Self that is within is Brahman. This Self, which is one with OM, has three aspects, and beyond these three, different from them and indefinable–The Fourth.” (Mandukya Upanishad 2) The three aspects of those within relativity are waking, dreaming sleep, and dreamless sleep. Beyond these three is the pure consciousness itself known as turiya. This fourth state is the sole state of the liberated consciousness. Even if a liberated being reenters into relative existence for the upliftment of those still caught in that net, he remains consciously centered in turiya and experiences the three lower states only peripherally. When the turiya level overwhelms such a one we say he has “gone into samadhi,” but in actuality he has simply become absorbed in his continual state, having momentarily dropped the flimsy dreams of relative existence which we think are so real and binding. I have heard more than one disciple tell of their having to hold Yogananda up and help him walk when toward the end of his earthly time he was continually flying upward into his true state. Often he would see his body moving along far below, as though he were soaring high in the sky.

“As above, so below” is a fundamental truth of the cosmos. What can be said of the macrocosm can also be said of the microcosm. And since the Infinite and the finite are essentially one, the upanishad now begins analyzing the three levels of the Cosmic Man.

Vaiswanara

“The first aspect of the Self is the universal person, the collective symbol of created beings, in his physical nature—Vaiswanara. Vaiswanara is awake, and is conscious only of external objects. He has seven members. The heavens are his head, the sun his eyes, air his breath, fire his heart, water his belly, earth his feet, and space his body. He has nineteen instruments of knowledge: five organs of sense, five organs of action, five functions of the breath, together with mind, intellect, heart, and ego. He is the enjoyer of the pleasures of sense.” (Mandukya Upanishad 3) This is an extremely explanatory translation, but all correct. The last statement: “He is the enjoyer of the pleasures of sense” should really be: “He is the experiencer of material things.” Other than that, all is well, the idea being that God encompasses all perceptible being.

Taijasa

“The second aspect of the Self is the universal person in his mental nature–Taijasa. Taijasa has seven members and nineteen instruments of knowledge. He is dreaming, and is conscious only of his dreams. In this state he is the enjoyer of the subtle impressions in his mind of the deeds he has done in the past.” (Mandukya Upanishad 4) Subconsciousness is the springboard from which all present action stems. We speak of karma and samskara, the deeds of past lives and their effects, as producing all that we now experience. Actually the field of the subconscious is sown with the seeds of the past that are destined to germinate and manifest on the Vaiswanara level. So to separate Taijasa and Vaiswanara is impossible. They are really only two aspects of a single thing. Further, there is a third aspect through which the unity of consciousness manifests itself: Prajna.

Prajna

“The third aspect of the Self is the universal person in dreamless sleep–Prajna. Prajna dreams not. He is without desire. As the darkness of night covers the day, and the visible world seems to disappear, so in dreamless sleep the veil of unconsciousness envelops his thought and knowledge, and the subtle impressions of his mind apparently vanish. Since he experiences neither strife nor anxiety, he is said to be blissful, and the experiencer of bliss.” (Mandukya Upanishad 5) Gambhirananda’s translation brings out some more aspects of this: “That state is deep sleep where the sleeper does not desire any enjoyable thing and does not see any dream. The third quarter is Prajna who has deep sleep as his sphere, in whom everything becomes undifferentiated, who is a mass of mere consciousness, who abounds in bliss, who is surely an enjoyer of bliss, and who is the doorway to the experience [of the dream and waking states].”

What we have here is a picture of the third layer of experience that underlies the conscious and subconscious levels of the mind. Not only is this layer undifferentiated because it is the raw material out of which the other two emerge, it is also the level of assimilation in which the changes of the two resolve back into their basic constituents. Therefore: “Prajna is the lord of all. He knows all things. He is the dweller in the hearts of all. He is the origin of all. He is the end of all.” (Mandukya Upanishad 6) This is all true, and is a very exact description of our own personal level of prajna as well as the universal Prajna. This verse really sounds like a eulogistic definition of God in ordinary theistic religion. But Sanatana Dharma is not ordinary religion, so it goes much further, far beyond the vistas of “the world’s religions”–a kind of Freudian slip in its way, indicating that they spring from the world, from world-based consciousness. Rather the upanishad tells us of a fourth level of Being.

Turiya: The Self

“The Fourth, say the wise, is not subjective experience, nor objective experience, nor experience intermediate between these two, nor is it a negative condition which is neither consciousness nor unconsciousness. It is not the knowledge of the senses, nor is it relative knowledge, nor yet inferential knowledge. Beyond the senses, beyond the understanding, beyond all expression, is The Fourth. It is pure unitary consciousness, wherein awareness of the world and of multiplicity is completely obliterated. It is ineffable peace. It is the supreme good. It is One without a second. It is the Self. Know it alone!” (Mandukya Upanishad 7) This is rather a huge lump for the intelligence to chew, swallow, and assimilate, because it mostly consists of what the mysterious Fourth–the Turiya–is not.

Proof

There is one point that for some reason is omitted (ignored) by Prabhavananda and other translators. In this verse the Self is said to be eka atma pratyaya saram. Some translators have rendered it to mean that the Turiya is the essence, the sole factor, of the Self. And of course this is the truth. But Shankara says something quite interesting. He says this phrase means that the proof or evidence of this Fourth is the very belief in its existence! What he means is that when the deep conviction arises from within the consciousness that the Turiya exists it is not a matter of reason–for reason stops at the stage of verse six. Rather, it is a manifestation of the Self as well as the dawning in the individual’s awareness of the Turiya’s reality. It is a kind of primary or preliminary vision of the Self, and not at all a matter of the intellect (buddhi). Obviously, then, the truth about Turiya cannot really be taught to anyone–it has to arise own its own as a result of the individual drawing near to the Self. It is a matter of spiritual evolution alone.

And here is the essence of the essence of subject: “It is the Self. Know it alone!”

Om

The upanishad is not dispensing mere theory to us, but knowledge meant to be put into practice and proven by that practice. So it continues: “This Self, beyond all words, is the syllable OM. This syllable, though indivisible, consists of three letters—A-U-M.” (Mandukya Upanishad 8)

The Self, the Atman, is Om! If we knew only this fact and none other, we would possess the key to liberation. All the philosophy in the world, however profound or true, means absolutely nothing unless we can experience the truth and be freed from the effects of ignorance: karma and rebirth. Om is the means of experience and freedom.

Om is also considered to be formed of the three letters a, u, and m, which represent the three states of waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep respectively, as well as the physical, astral, and causal levels of existence. In Sanskrit, when a and u are combined they produce the sound of o. However, this only applies to verbal speech. In mental “speaking” we make the pure sound of o, not a and u together. So inwardly Om is only two letters, not three. Nevertheless, the upanishad is considering the three-letter form because Om contains within Itself the three states of conscious that have been discussed, and Om is the way to access and unify the three.

“Vaiswanara, the Self as the universal person in his physical being, corresponds to the first letter–A. Whosoever knows Vaiswanara obtains what he desires, and becomes the first among men.” (Mandukya Upanishad 9) He who masters the waking state through the japa and meditation of Om also masters the material world and becomes himself a master among men–not of men, but among men, for sages have no wish to control others though they gladly tell us how to control ourselves. The desires of such masters are fulfilled because they are intimately connected with the very essence of creation and whatever they think can be realized. This is how they work miracles, even creating things if needed.

“Taijasa, the Self as the universal person in his mental being, corresponds to the second letter—U. Taijasa and the letter U both stand in dream, between waking and sleeping. Whosoever knows Taijasa grows in wisdom, and is highly honored.” (Mandukya Upanishad 10) Sanskrit is capable of more than one interpretation, and this verse can also say two very interesting things: 1) Such a master increases the knowledge of humanity and even gives inner momentum to assist questing souls to access knowledge, and 2) he becomes one with all human beings in the sense that when they meet him they feel that his is one with them–one of them–and they are so attuned and comfortable with him that they feel he is virtually their own self. This is seen in the great saints. Whether a beggar or a king approaches them, they feel that they are their dear and their own. I saw and experienced this for myself with Swami Sivananda. His greatness was cosmic; he was a virtual god upon the earth; and yet, I felt so at ease with him–even though I was always in awe of him. How many times I have sat looking at his radiant countenance and thought: “If there is anyone in this world who loves me, it is this man.” Of course he was “man” only in form. Within he was the divine Self. Yet he was so accessible and so easy to communicate with. He was as close to me as my Self–for he was one with That Which is my Self.

It is important for us in the West to understand this aspect of holy people because we are so brainwashed with the idea of power and control and much more impressed with the power to curse than the power to bless. Rebuke, curse, deprecate, punish, torment, and destroy–these are the “ways” of the Western “God” who fortunately is a blasphemy and not a reality. No wonder Jesus said: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22, 23)

Om is the key to the subconscious, just as it is to the conscious, so through Om the master yogi knows all about himself and has no illusions about himself. He also knows all about others and understands them. No one can fool him. I saw this in Sivananda, as well. He was always so kind, and often humorous, but he went right to the truth of things in relation to people’s foibles.

“Prajna, the Self as the universal person in dreamless sleep, corresponds to the third letter—M. He is the origin and the end of all. Whosoever knows Prajna knows all things.” (Mandukya Upanishad 11) Being one with the source and the ultimate goal of all, a self-realized being is omniscient because he ever dwells at the core of all–past, present, and future.

In conclusion

Having said all these amazing things, the upanishad brings us back to the heart of it all: Om.

“The Fourth, the Self, is OM, the indivisible syllable. This syllable is unutterable, and beyond

mind. In it the manifold universe disappears. It is the supreme good–One without a second.

Whosoever knows OM, the Self, becomes the Self.” (Mandukya Upanishad 12)

Gambhirananda: “The partless Om is Turiya–beyond all conventional dealings, the limit of the

negation of the phenomenal world, the auspicious, and the non-dual. Om is thus the Self to be

sure. He who knows thus enters the Self through his Self.”

The partless Om. In its attempt to convey to our human intellects a bit of the glory of Om, the upanishad has considered It as having four aspects or “parts,” but in reality It is without parts, being absolutely unitary in Its nature. So the upanishad reminds us of this lest we mistake its intent and meaning. Just as we sometimes have to speak inaccurately to children to get our ideas across, so has the upanishad done with us. But now it corrects any wrong impression we may have gotten.

Beyond all conventional dealings. Swami Nikhilananda renders this: “without relationship,” meaning that we cannot “deal” with God as we do with a material object or another human being. Nor can it be spoken about as It really is, for It lies beyond phenomena–although It is the source of phenomena. We cannot “relate” to God, but we can know our oneness with God when we ourselves pass beyond all dual relationships.

The limit of the negation of the phenomenal world. We must realize that the Self is absolutely like nothing we know in relative existence, and therefore It is beyond the reach of any words. That is the intellectual side of the situation. On the metaphysical side we have to negate all “things” from our consciousness that we find in the phenomenal world.

The auspicious. Lest we think this is a losing or a giving up of something worthwhile, the upanishad tells us that the Self is the truly auspicious, the truly fortunate, and producing good fortune. We really only give up and negate a mirage in exchange for The Real.

The non-dual. The Real being non-dual, we discover that It is us! So we not only gain everything, we experience it as being us. We recognize ourselves as truly being “the kingdom, the power, and the glory.”

Om is thus the Self to be sure. Om reveals the truth of what the upanishad is telling us. Om is not a symbol or designator of the Self, It IS the Self. This can be known.

He who knows thus enters the Self through his Self. We enter into our true Being through the japa and meditation of Om–which is our eternal Self. There is no greater or higher knowledge than the knowledge of Om. And now the upanishad has given us that knowledge.

End of Mandukya Commentary:

Taittiriya Upanishad

Translated by Swami Gambhirananda Published by Advaita Ashram, Kolkatta

Om ! May He protect us both together; may He nourish us both together; May we work conjointly with great energy, May our study be vigorous and effective; May we not mutually dispute (or may we not hate any). Om ! Let there be Peace in me ! Let there be Peace in my environment ! Let there be Peace in the forces that act on me !

Siksha Valli I-i-1: May Mitra be blissful to us. May Varuna be blissful to us. May Aryaman be blissful to us. May Indra and Brihaspati be blissful to us. May Vishnu, of long strides, be blissful to us. Salutation to Brahman. Salutation to you, O Vayu. You, indeed, are the immediate Brahman. You alone I shall call the direct Brahman. I shall call you righteousness. I shall call you truth. May He protect me. May He protect the teacher. May He protect me. May He protect the teacher. Om, peace, peace, peace !

I-ii-1: We shall speak of the science of pronunciation. (The things to be learnt are) the alphabet, accent, measure, emphasis, uniformity, juxtaposition. Thus has been spoken the chapter on pronunciation.

I-iii-1: May we both attain fame together. May spiritual pre-eminence be vouchsafed to both of us together. Now therefore, we shall state the meditation on juxtaposition through five categories – relating to the worlds, to the shining things, to knowledge, to progeny, and to the body. These, they call the great juxtapositions. Now then, as regards the meditation on the worlds. The earth is the first letter. Heaven is the last letter. The sky is the meeting-place. I-iii-2-4: Vayu is the link. This is the meditation with regard to the worlds. Then follows the meditation with regard to the shining things. Fire is the first letter. The sun is the last letter. Water is the rallying point. Lightning is the link. This is the meditation with regard to the shining things. Then follows the meditation with regard to knowledge. The teacher is the first letter. The student is the last letter.

Knowledge is the meeting-place. Instruction is the link. This is the meditation with regard to knowledge. Then follows the meditation with regard to progeny. The mother is the first letter. The father is the last letter. The progeny is the focal point. Generation is the link. This is the meditation with regard to progeny. Then follows the meditation with regard to the (individual) body. The lower jaw is the first letter. The upper jaw is the last letter. Speech is the meeting-place. The tongue is the link. This is the meditation with regard to the (individual) body. These are the great juxtapositions. Anyone who meditates on these great juxtapositions, as they are explained, becomes conjoined with progeny, animals, the splendour of holiness, edible food, and the heavenly world.

I-iv-1-2: The Om that is the most exalted in the Vedas, that pervades all worlds, and that emerged from the immortal Vedas as their quintessence, may he (Om that is Indra), the supreme Lord, gratify me with intelligence. O Lord, may I be the receptacle of immortality. May my body be fit; may my tongue be surpassingly sweet; may I hear much through the ears. You are the sheath of Brahman: you are covered by (worldly) wisdom. Protect what I have heard. Then vouchsafe to me who am her (i.e. Prosperity’s) own, that Prosperity which brings, increases, and accomplishes quickly for me clothes, cattle, food, and drink for ever, and which is associated with furry and other animals. Svaha. May the Brahmacharins

(i.e. students) come to me from all sides. Svaha. May the Brahmacharins come to me in various ways. Svaha. May the Brahmacharins come to me in the proper way. Svaha. May the Brahmacharins have physical self-control. Svaha. May the Brahmacharins have mental self-control. Svaha.

I-iv-3: May I become famous among people. Svaha. May I become praiseworthy among the wealthy. Svaha. O adorable One, may I enter into you, such as you are. Svaha. O venerable One, you, such as you are, enter into me. Svaha. O adorable One, who are greatly diversified, may I purify my sins in you. Svaha. As water flows down a slope, as months roll into a year, similarly O Lord, may the students come to me from all quarters. Svaha. You are like a resting house, so you become revealed to me, you reach me through and through.

I-v-1-2: Bhuh, Bhuvah, Suvah – these three, indeed, are the Vyahritis. Of them Mahacamasya knew a fourth one – Maha by name. It is Brahman; it is the Self. The other gods are the limbs. Bhuh, indeed, is this world. Bhuvah is the intermediate space. Suvah is the other world. Maha is the sun; through the sun, indeed, do all the worlds flourish. Bhuh, indeed is the fire. Bhuvah is the air. Suvah is the sun. Maha is the moon; through the moon, indeed, all the luminaries flourish. Bhuh, indeed, is the Rig-Veda. Bhuvah is the Sama-Veda. Suvah is the Yajur-Veda.

I-v-3: Maha is Brahman (i.e. Om), for by Brahman (Om), indeed, are all the Vedas nourished. Bhuh, indeed, is Prana; Bhuvah is Apana; Suvah is Vyana; Maha is food; for by food, indeed, are all the vital forces nourished. These, then, that are four, are (each) fourfold. The Vyahritis are divided into four groups of four (each). He who knows these knows Brahman. All the gods carry presents to him.

I-vi-1-2: In the space that there is in the heart, is this Person who is realisable through knowledge, and who is immortal and effulgent. This thing that hangs down between the palates like a teat, through it runs the path of Brahman; and reaching where the hairs part, it passes out by separating the skulls. (Passing out through that path, a man) becomes established in Fire as the Vyahriti Bhuh; he becomes established in Air as the Vyahriti Bhuvah; in the sun as the Vyahriti Suvah; in Brahman as the Vyahriti Mahah. He himself gets independent sovereignty; he attains the lord of the mind; he becomes the ruler of speech, the ruler of eyes, the ruler of ears, the ruler of knowledge. Over and above all these he becomes Brahman which is embodied in Akasa, which is identified with the gross and the subtle and has truth as Its real nature, which reveals in life, under whose possession the mind is a source of bliss, which is enriched with peace and is immortal. Thus, O Pracinayogya, you worship.

I-vii-1: The earth, sky, heaven, the primary quarters, and the intermediate quarters; fire, air, the sun, the moon, and the stars; water, herbs, trees, sky, and Virat – these relate to natural factors. Then follow the individual ones: Prana, Vyana, Apana, Udana and Samana; the eye, the ear, the mind, speech and sense of touch; skin, flesh, muscles, bones and marrow. Having imagined these thus, the seer said, “All this is constituted by five factors; one fills up the (outer) fivefold ones by the (individual) fivefold ones.

I-viii-1: Om is Brahman. Om is all this. Om is well known as a word of imitation (i.e. concurrence). Moreover, they make them recite (to the gods) with the words, “Om, recite (to the gods)”. They commence singing Samas with Om. Uttering the words “Om som” they recite the Shastras. The (priest) Brahma approves with the word Om. One permits the performance of the Agnihotra sacrifice with the word Om. A Brahmana, when about to recite the Vedas utters Om under the idea, I shall attain Brahman”. He does verily attain Brahman.

I-ix-1: Righteousness and learning and teaching (are to be practised). Truth and learning and teaching (are to be practised). Austerity and learning and teaching (are to be resorted to). Control of the outer senses and learning and teaching (are to be practised). Control of the inner organs and learning and teaching (are to be resorted to). The fires (are to be lighted up), and learning and teaching (are to be followed). The Agnihotra (is to be performed), and learning and teaching (are to be carried on). Guests (are to be entertained), and learning and teaching (are to be practised). Social good conduct (is to be adhered to), and learning and teaching (are to be practised). Children (are to be begotten), and learning and teaching (are to carried on). Procreation and learning and teaching (are to carried on). A grandson (is to be raised), and learning and teaching (are to be practised). Truth (is the thing) – this is what Satyavacha, of the line of Rathitara, thinks. Austerity (is the thing) – this is what Taponitya, son of Purusisti, thinks. Learning and teaching alone (are the things) – this is what Naka, son of Mudgala, thinks. For that indeed is the austerity; for that indeed is the austerity.

I-x-I: I am the invigorator of the tree (of the world). My fame is high like the ridge of a mountain. My source is the pure (Brahman). I am like that pure reality (of the Self) that is in the sun. I am the effulgent wealth. I am possessed of a fine intellect, and am immortal and undecaying. Thus was the statement of Trisanku after the attainment of realisation.

I-xi-1: Having taught the Vedas, the preceptor imparts this post-instruction to the students: “Speak the truth. Practise righteousness. Make no mistake about study. Having offered the desirable wealth to the teacher, do not cut off the line of progeny. There should be no inadvertence about truth. There should be no deviation from righteous activity. There should be no error about protection of yourself. Do not neglect propitious activities. Do not be careless about learning and teaching. I-xi-2-4: There should be no error in the duties towards the gods and manes. Let your mother be a goddess unto you. Let your father be a god unto you. Let your teacher be a god unto you. Let your guest be a god unto you. The works that are not blameworthy are to be resorted to, but not the others. These actions of ours that are commendable are to be followed by you, but not the others. You should, by offering seats, remove the fatigue of those Brahmanas who are more praiseworthy among us. The offering should be with honour; the offering should not be with dishonour. The offering should be in plenty. The offering should be with modesty. The offering should be with awe. The offering should be with sympathy. Then, should you have any doubt with regard to duties or customs, you should behave in those matters just as Brahmanas do, who may happen to be there and who are able deliberators, who are adepts in those duties and customs, who are not directed by others, who are not cruel, and who are desirous of merit. Then, as for the accused people, you should behave with regard to them just as the Brahmanas do, who may happen to be there and who are able deliberators, who are adepts in those duties and customs, who are not directed by others, who are not cruel, who are desirous of merit. This is the injunction. This is the instruction. This is the secret of the Vedas. This is divine behest. This is how the meditation is to be done. This is how this must be meditated on.

I-xii-1: May Mitra be blissful to us. May Varuna be blissful to us. May Aryaman be blissful to us. May Indra and Brihaspati be blissful to us. May Vishnu, of long strides, be blissful to us. Salutation to Brahman. Salutation to you, O Vayu. You, indeed, are the immediate Brahman. You alone I shall call the direct Brahman. I shall call you righteousness. I shall call you truth. May He protect me. May He protect the teacher. May He protect me. May He protect the teacher. Om, peace, peace, peace !

Brahmananda Valli II-i: May He protect us both together. May He nourish us both together. May we both acquire strength together. Let our study be brilliant. May we not cavil at each other. Om! Peace ! Peace ! Peace ! II-i-1: The knower of Brahman attains the highest. Here is a verse uttering that very fact: “Brahman is truth, knowledge, and infinite. He who knows that Brahman as existing in the intellect, lodged in the supreme space in the heart, enjoys, as identified with the all - knowing Brahman, all desirable things simultaneously. From that Brahman, which is the Self, was produced space. From space emerged air. From air was born fire. From fire was created water. From water sprang up earth. From earth were born the herbs. From the herbs was produced food. From food was born man. That man, such as he is, is a product of the essence of food. Of him this indeed, is the head, this is the southern side; this is the northern side; this is the Self; this is the stabilising tail. Here is a verse pertaining to that very fact:

II-ii-1: All beings that rest on the earth are born verily from food. Besides, they live on food, and at the end, they get merged in food. Food was verily born before all creatures; therefore it is called the medicine for all, those who worship food as Brahman acquire all the food. Food was verily born before all creatures; therefore it is called the medicine for all. Creatures are born of food; being born, they grow by food. Since it is eaten and it eats the creatures, it is called food. As compared with this self made of the essence of food, as said before, there is another inner self which is made of air. By that is this one filled. This Self is also of the human form. Its human form takes after the human form of that (earlier one). Of this, Prana is the head, Vyana is the southern side, Apana is the northern side, space is the self, the earth is the tail that stabilises. Pertaining to that is this (following) verse:

II-iii-1: The senses act by following the vital force in the mouth; all human beings and animals that are there act similarly; since on the vital force depends the life of all creatures, therefore it is called the life of all; those who worship the vital force as Brahman, attain the full span of life; since on the vital force depends the life of all, it is called the life of all. Of the preceding (physical) one, this one, indeed, is the embodied self. As compared with this vital body, there is another internal self constituted by mind. By that one is this one filled up. That self constituted by mind is also of a human shape. The human shape of the mental body takes after the human shape of the vital body. Of the mental body, the Yajur-mantras are the head. The Rig-mantras are the right side, the Sama-mantras are the left side, the Brahmana portion is the self (trunk), the mantras seen by Atharvangiras are the stabilising tail. Pertaining to this there is a verse: II-iv-1: One is not subjected to fear at any time if one knows the Bliss that is Brahman failing to reach which (Brahman, as conditioned by the mind), words, along with the mind, turn back. Of that preceding (vital) one, this (mental one is verily the embodied self. As compared with this mental body, there is another internal self constituted by valid knowledge. By that one is this one filled up. This one as aforesaid, has verily a human shape. It is humanly shaped in accordance with the human shape of the earlier one. Of him faith is verily the head; righteousness is the right side; truth is the left side; concentration is the self (trunk); (the principle, called) Mahat, is the stabilising tail. Pertaining to this, here is a verse:

II-v-1: Knowledge actualises a sacrifice, and it executes the duties as well. All the gods meditate on the first-born Brahman, conditioned by knowledge. If one knows the knowledge-Brahman, and if one does not err about it, one abandons all sins in the body and fully enjoys all enjoyable things. Of that preceding (mental) one this (cognitive one) is verily the embodied self. As compared with this cognitive body, there is another internal self constituted by bliss. By that one is this one filled up. This one, as aforesaid, has verily a human shape. It is humanly shaped in accordance with the human shape of the earlier one. Of him joy is verily the head, enjoyment is the right side, hilarity is the left side; bliss is the self (trunk). Brahman is the tail that stabilises. Apropos of this here is a verse:

II-vi-1: If anyone knows Brahman as non-existing, he himself becomes non-existent. If anyone knows that Brahman does exist, then they consider him as existing by virtue of that (knowledge). Of that preceding (blissful) one, this one is the embodied self. Hence hereafter follow these questions: After departing (from here) does any ignorant man go to the other world (or does he not) ? Alternatively, does any man of knowledge, after departing (from here) reach the other world (or does he not) ? He (the Self) wished, “Let me be many, let me be born. He undertook a deliberation. Having deliberated, he created all this that exists. That (Brahman), having created (that), entered into that very thing. And having entered there, It became the formed and the formless, the defined and the undefined, the sustaining and the non-sustaining, the sentient and the insentient, the true and the untrue. Truth became all this that there is. They call that Brahman Truth. Pertaining to this, there occurs this verse:

II-vii-1: In the beginning all this was but the Unmanifested (Brahman). From that emerged the manifested. That Brahman created Itself by Itself. Therefore It is called the self-creator. That which is known as the self-creator is verily the source of joy; for one becomes happy by coming in contact with that source of joy. Who, indeed, will inhale, and who will exhale, if this Bliss be not there in the supreme space (within the heart). This one, indeed, enlivens (people). For whenever an aspirant gets fearlessly established in this un-perceivable, bodiless, inexpressible, and un-supporting Brahman, he reaches the state of fearlessness. For, whenever the aspirant creates the slightest difference in It, he is smitten with fear. Nevertheless, that very Brahman is a terror to the (so-called) learned man who lacks the unitive outlook. Illustrative of this is this verse here:

II-viii-1-4: Out of His fear the Wind blows. Out of fear the Sun rises. Out of His fear runs Fire, as also Indra, and Death, the fifth. This, then, is an evaluation of that Bliss: Suppose there is a young man – in the prime of life, good, learned, most expeditious, most strongly built, and most energetic. Suppose there lies this earth for him filled with wealth. This will be one unit of human joy. If this human joy be multiplied a hundred times, it is one joy of the man-Gandharvas, and so also of a follower of the Vedas unaffected by desires. If this joy of the man-Gandharvas be multiplied a hundred times, it is one joy of the divine-Gandharvas, and so also of a follower of the Vedas unaffected by desires. If the joy of the divine-Gandharvas be increased a hundredfold, it is one joy of the manes whose world is everlasting, and so also of a follower of the Vedas unaffected by desires. If the joy of the manes that dwell in the everlasting world be increased a hundredfold, it is one joy of those that are born as gods in heaven, and so also of a follower of the Vedas untouched by desires. If the joy of those that are born as gods in heaven be multiplied a hundredfold, it is one joy of the gods called the Karma-Devas, who reach the gods through Vedic rites, and so also of a follower of the Vedas unaffected by desires. If the joy of the gods, called the Karma-Devas, be multiplied a hundredfold, it is one joy of the gods, and so also of a follower of the Vedas untarnished by desires. If the joy of the gods be increased a hundred times, it is one joy of Indra, and so also of a follower of the Vedas unaffected by desires. If the joy of Indra be multiplied a hundredfold, it is one joy of Brihaspati and so also of a follower of the Vedas unaffected by desires. If the joy of Brihaspati be increased a hundred times, it is one joy of Virat, and so also of a follower of the Vedas untarnished by desires. If the joy of Virat be multiplied a hundred times, it is one joy of Hiranyagarbha, and so also of a follower of the Vedas unsullied by desires. II-viii-5: He that is here in the human person, and He that is there in the sun, are one. He who knows thus attains, after desisting from this world, this self made of food, attains this self made of vital force, attains this self made of mind, attains this self made of intelligence, attains this self made of bliss. Expressive of this there occurs this verse:

II-ix-1: The enlightened man is not afraid of anything after realising that Bliss of Brahman, failing to reach which, words turn back along with the mind. Him, indeed, this remorse does not afflict: “Why did I not perform good deeds, and why did I perform bad deeds ? He who is thus enlightened strengthens the Self with which these two are identical; for it is he, indeed, who knows thus, that can strengthen the Self which these two really are. This is the secret teaching.

Bhrigu Valli III-i-1: Bhrigu, the well-known son of Varuna, approached his father Varuna with the (formal) request, “O, revered sir, teach me Brahman”. To him he (Varuna) said this: “Food, vital force, eye, ear, mind, speech – (these are the aids to knowledge of Brahman)”. To him he (Varuna) said: “Crave to know that from which all these beings take birth, that by which they live after being born, that towards which they move and into which they merge. That is Brahman”. He practised concentration. He, having practised concentration,

III-ii-1: He realised food (i.e. Virat, the gross Cosmic person) as Brahman. For it is verily from food that all these beings take birth, on food they subsist after being born and they move towards and merge into food. Having realised that, he again approached his father Varuna with the (formal) request. “O, revered sir, teach me Brahman”. To him he (Varuna) said: “Crave to know Brahman through concentration; concentration is Brahman”. He practised concentration. He, having practised concentration,

III-iii-1: He knew the vital force as Brahman; for from the vital force, indeed, spring all these beings; having come into being, they live through the vital force; they move towards and enter into the vital force, Having known thus, he again approached his father Varuna with the (formal) request. “O, revered sir, teach me Brahman”. To him he (Varuna) said: “Crave to know Brahman through concentration; concentration is Brahman”. He practised concentration. Having practised concentration,

III-iv-1: He knew mind as Brahman; for from mind, indeed, spring all these beings; having been born, they are sustained by mind; and they move towards and merge into mind. Having known that, he again approached his father Varuna with the (formal) request. “O, revered sir, teach me Brahman”. To him he (Varuna) said: “Crave to know Brahman through concentration; concentration is Brahman”. He practised concentration. Having practised concentration, III-v-1: He knew knowledge as Brahman; for from knowledge, indeed, spring all these beings; having been born, they are sustained by knowledge; they move towards and merge in knowledge. Having known that, he again approached his father Varuna with the (formal) request. “O, revered sir, teach me Brahman”. To him he (Varuna) said: “Crave to know Brahman through concentration; concentration is Brahman”. He practised concentration. Having practised concentration,

III-vi-1: He knew Bliss as Brahman; for from Bliss, indeed, all these beings originate; Having been born, they are sustained by Bliss; they move towards and merge in Bliss. This knowledge realised by Bhrigu and imparted by Varuna (starts from the food-self and) terminates in the supreme (Bliss), established in the cavity of the heart. He who knows thus becomes firmly established; he becomes the possessor of food and the eater of food; and he becomes great in progeny, cattle and the lustre of holiness, and great in glory.

III-vii-1: His vow is that, he should not deprecate food. The vital force is verily the food, and the body is the eater; for the vital force is lodged in the body. (Again, the body is the food and the vital force is the eater, for) the body is fixed on the vital force. Thus (the body and vital force are both foods; and) one food is lodged in another. He who knows thus that one food is lodged in another, gets firmly established. He becomes a possessor and an eater of food. He becomes great in progeny, cattle, and the lustre of holiness and great in glory.

III-viii-1: His vow is that he should not discard food. Water, indeed, is food; fire is the eater; for water is established on fire. (Fire is food and water is the eater, for) fire resides in water. Thus one food is lodged in another food. He who knows thus that one food is lodged in another, gets firmly established. He becomes a possessor and an eater of food. He becomes great in progeny, cattle, and the lustre of holiness and great in glory.

III-ix-1: His vow is that he should make food plentiful. Earth is food; space is eater; for earth is placed in space. (Space is food; and earth is eater, for) space is placed on earth. Thus one food is lodged in another food. He who knows thus that one food is lodged in another, gets firmly established. He becomes a possessor and an eater of food. He becomes great in progeny, cattle, and the lustre of holiness and great in glory.

III-x-1-2: His vow is that he should not refuse anyone come for shelter. Therefore one should collect plenty of food by whatsoever means he may. (And one should collect food for the further reason that) they say, “Food is ready for him”. Because he offers cooked food in his early age with honour, food falls to his share in the early age with honour. Because he offers food in his middle age with medium courtesy, food falls to his share in his middle age with medium honour. Because he offers food in his old age with scant esteem, food falls to his share in old age with scant consideration. To him who knows thus (comes the result as described). (Brahman is to be meditated on) as preservation in speech; as acquisition and preservation in exhaling and inhaling; as action in the hands; as movement in the feet; discharge in the anus. There are meditations on the human plane. Then follow the divine ones. (Brahman is to be meditated on) as contentment in rain; as energy in lightning. III-x-3-4: Brahman is to be worshipped as fame in beasts; as light in the stars; as procreation, immortality, and joy in the generative organ; as everything in space. One should meditate on that Brahman as the support; thereby one becomes supported. One should meditate on that Brahman as great; thereby one becomes great. One should meditate on It as thinking; thereby one becomes able to

think. One should meditate on It as bowing down; thereby the enjoyable things bow down to one. One should meditate on It as the most exalted; Thereby one becomes exalted. One should meditate on It as Brahman’s medium of destruction; thereby the adversaries that envy such a one die, and so do the enemies whom this one dislikes. This being that is in the human personality, and the being that is there in the sun are one. III-x-5-6: He who knows thus, attains, after desisting from this world, this self made of food. After attaining this self made of food then, attaining this self made of vital force, then attaining this self made of mind, then attaining this self made of intelligence, then attaining this self made of bliss, and roaming over these worlds with command over food at will and command over all forms at will, he continues singing this Sama song: “Halloo ! Halloo ! Halloo ! I am the food, I am the food, I am the food; I am the eater, I am the eater, I am the eater; I am the unifier, I am the unifier, I am the unifier; I am (Hiranyagarbha) the first born of this world consisting of the formed and the formless, I (as Virat) am earlier than the gods. I am the navel of immortality. He who offers me thus (as food), protect me just as I am. I, food as I am, eat him up who eats food without offering. I defeat (i.e. engulf) the entire universe. Our effulgence is like that of the sun. This is the Upanishad.

Om ! May He protect us both together; may He nourish us both together; May we work conjointly with great energy, May our study be vigorous and effective; May we not mutually dispute (or may we not hate any). Om ! Let there be Peace in me ! Let there be Peace in my environment ! Let there be Peace in the forces that act on me !

Here ends the Taittiriyopanishad, included in the Krishna-Yajur-Veda.

Taittiriya Upanishad Commentary

Commentary on the Taittiriya Upanishad–by Swami Nirmalananda Giri

Reflections On Brahman

In his translations of some upanishads Swami Prabhavananda omitted parts that were in such obscure language that any attempt at translation would really only be speculation. He also omitted very repetitious passages and those that dwelt with matters irrelevant to the knowledge of Brahman and the Self. I think that if you get complete translations of those you will see he was quite justified in this. Anyhow, I am writing this to explain why in the references to the verses of this upanishad there will be some jumping around.

Thou art indeed

“Thou art indeed the manifested Brahman. Of thee will I speak. Thee will I proclaim in my

thoughts as true. Thee will I proclaim on my lips as true.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 1:1:1)

This fervent profession of faith and fidelity seems quite simple, but when we consider what it entails, it is a high aspiration indeed. It is also strikingly in contrast to most of the upanishads, which continually insist on the transcendence of Brahman and the impossibility of comprehending or speaking of It.

While typing in the forgoing sentence my memory reached back to a time of blessed tranquility in the sacred city of Sukhtal in north India. Tradition says that the supreme Master Sukhadeva, the illumined son of Vyasa, came to Sukhtal and taught the dying King Parikshit the principles of Self-knowledge and liberation. Many centuries later I was in Sukhtal at a spiritual gathering (Samyan Saptah) under the aegis of Sri Ma Anandamayi. One of the great souls (mahatmas) also gathered there was Sri Yogeshwar Brahmachari, a venerable saint of Bengal whom I had met and visited with before. Every day he would be seated on the platform near Ma, sitting in profound meditation, not moving for hours or even seeming to breathe. The exception would be when he would give a daily talk on spiritual life. In the evening there would be a question-and-answer session with people putting questions to the various renowned spiritual leaders on the platform. One evening, right after a famous Vedantin had given a rather lengthy answer to a question, Yogeshwar Brahmachari began to speak forcefully. In a matter of moments the tranquil atmosphere was replaced by one of anger and suppressed violence–toward him. It really felt like they were about to physically attack and maul him, the only restraint being the presence of Ma Anandamayi.

Naturally, the next morning found me seeking out Yogeshwar Brahmachari to find what had taken place, since everything had been said in Hindi. I found him happily ensconced in a cowshed (!) where he was sleeping on some straw placed on a stone ledge. I was very aware that not one of the other savants sitting on the platform day after day would have tolerated such humble and primitive surroundings. But Brahmachariji was very happy, as he could cuddle and talk to the little calf that was tethered nearby.

After some time of giving our latest news to each other, I questioned him about the previous nights’ volcanic near-explosion. He laughed merrily and told me that he had challenged and rebuked all the “big Advaitins (Non-dualists)” sitting there, demanding to know why they harped all the time on the transcendence of God and ignored the divine immanence. “Why do you keep telling these people who have so many worldly involvements and problems that the world is unreal, that they should care nothing about it, and that to do otherwise is ignorance? In all these days I have not heard even one of you say just one piece of practical advice that would help them live their lives and remember God. They have come here at great inconvenience and expense, leaving their homes and work behind, seeking ways to keep from drowning in the world. And you just tell them the world is no more than a dream and to forget it! How could they forget it? How many children must they have to care for and how many debts and obligations? What is wrong with you? Why can’t you tell them how to better their lives and rise above their worries and fears? You expect them to honor and support you, but what use are you to anybody? You should be ashamed!” He laughed and concluded: “So their Non-dual ‘realization’ and philosophy went out the window and they got very interested in a dualistic battle with me. If it had not been for Mataji being there I would have gotten some blows!” The thought of the frail saint being assailed by the “big Babas” who were as robust as their tempers, was not a happy one. But my dear friend was quite content with the situation, being firmly committed to the good sense embodied in this opening verse of the upanishad. What the Taittiriya Upanishad now will do is balance out the very true, though one-sided, teachings of some of the other upanishads regarding the nature of

Brahman and the world.

Thou art indeed the manifested Brahman. First we must understand that the cosmos is NOT Maya. Maya is the illusion in our mind as to the nature of the cosmos and our relation to it. Maya is a product of our ignorance, it is our wrong seeing and acting. The world “out there” is not Maya. Maya is the world “in here”–in our mind. Maya is the product of ego. Once this inner veil has been destroyed, then we see the world as God in manifestation. In reaction we then exult with the upanishadic sage, also saying: “Thou art indeed the manifested Brahman!”

Of thee will I speak. This will consist of two ways of speaking: denying what the world is not and affirming what the world is. We will speak of the reality of the world as Brahman. We will also speak of the unreality in the minds of ignorant human beings and explain its nature as delusion. Further, we will speak of the nature of the world as an evolutionary ladder, and explain how it is used by the yogi as the means of freedom and ascent.

Thee will I proclaim in my thoughts as true. We will see and know in our minds that which is real in the world, always aware that it is not “the world” at all, but Divinity Itself. This is a matter of knowing, not mere speaking or speculating.

Thee will I proclaim on my lips as true. And this truth will we both live and speak to others. The important point here is that we must know before we speak. Otherwise our words are just empty noise.

The true Knower revels in the affirmation expressed in this first verse.

Necessary Lessons

Protection

All sentient beings–not just humans–seek for security, for safety. “Shelter” means a lot more than a place out of the rain. It is commonly said that there is safety in numbers, but that it not true. There is only one assurance of safety, and the next verse expresses it rightly:

“May truth protect me, may it protect my teacher, may it protect us both. May glory come to us

both. May the light of Brahman shine in us both.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 1:1:1, 1:3:1)

Satyam means truth, both relative and absolute, truthfulness, and Brahman Who is The Truth. Obviously, this verse is referring mostly to Brahman, but simple truth in the sense of accuracy and honesty is also implied. If Truth is possessed by both student and teaching, then it only follows that renown (yashah) and the splendor of Brahman (Brahma-varchasam) will accrue to them as well.

A lesson on Om

“Thou art Brahman, one with the syllable OM, which is in all scriptures–the supreme syllable,

the mother of all sound. Do thou strengthen me with true wisdom. May I, O Lord, realize the

Immortal. May my body be strong and whole; may my tongue be sweet; may my ears hear only

praise of thee. The syllable OM is verily thine image. Through this syllable thou mayest be

attained. Thou art beyond the grasp of the intellect. Vouchsafe that I forget not what I have

learned in the scriptures.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 1:4:1)

This verse and those following are addressed to the Infinite, to Brahman, but there is a purpose for opening with a declaration that Brahman and Om are the same: what is going to be petitioned for can be attained through the japa and meditation of Om. We should look at these verses in that context.

Thou art Brahman, one with the syllable OM, which is in all scriptures–the supreme syllable, the mother of all sound. The more literal description is: “The Om that is the most exalted in the Vedas, that pervades all words, and that emerged from the immortal Vedas as their quintessence.” Om is the crown jewel of the Vedas–which includes the upanishads. All sound, including humans speech, is contained in Om–is actually a variation of the root-sound (mula shabda) that is Om. All words, then, are permutations of Om. This indicates that the faculty of speech is the supreme faculty in human beings, the one that most directly links them to their Divine Source–that actually Om IS their Source. The quintessence of the Vedas is the Divine Vision which is their very basis. And Om is identical to that Illumination. No wonder, then, that Patanjali tells us that the japa and meditation of Om is the way to the highest realization. (Yoga Sutras 1:28) Or that the Mundaka Upanishad urges us to “dismiss other utterances.” (Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.5) We should let go of the chitter-chatter of the mind and its irrelevant thoughts and constantly repeat Om. For the Mundaka Upanishad says in the next part of the verse: “This [Om] is the bridge to immortality.”

Do thou strengthen me with true wisdom. True wisdom is knowledge of the True (Sat), the knowledge of God. Nothing can impart such knowledge but God–and Om is God. So It is the only way to that knowledge. Om is that “one thing which, when known…all is known.”

May I, O Lord, realize the Immortal. Here, too, Om is the means. Swami Gambhirananda renders this phrase: “May I be the receptacle of immortality.” If we continually fill our consciousness with the invocation of Om we shall be vessels of immortality, of Brahman.

May my body be strong and whole; may my tongue be sweet; may my ears hear only praise of thee.

Through Om even our external, material life becomes spiritually glorified.

The syllable OM is verily thine image. Through this syllable thou mayest be attained. There is no need for comment on this–what we need is experience of its truth through our own spiritual practice.

Thou art beyond the grasp of the intellect. Vouchsafe that I forget not what I have learned in the scriptures. Since the nature of Brahman–and therefore of Om, as well–is beyond conception and words, it is only natural that we keep forgetting the Truth of them both, just as Arjuna kept forgetting the true nature of Krishna. Since right now we are not consciously established in the Being of Brahman/Om, the fact keeps slipping away from us. For that reason we need to set the scriptural statements regarding Om most firmly in our minds. For the moment, at least, we need to let the sacred texts “remember” for us.

“Thou art the source of all happiness and of all prosperity. Do thou come to me as the goddess

of prosperity and shower thy blessings upon me. May the seekers after truth gather round me,

may they come from everywhere, that I may teach them thy word.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 1:4:2)

Om is the Manifester of all, so It is the source of all abundance, spiritual and material. Lakshmi, the Goddess of Prosperity, is, like all the other “gods,” a symbol of Om. As we see here, there is no fault in the yogi aspiring to material fulfillment so he can have his mind free to be fixed on the awareness of God.

It is noteworthy that it is not only lawful to desire material welfare, we should also desire to impart to worthy souls around us the truth of “Thy Word”–Om. We should all to some extent be yogacharyas– teachers of yoga. We must share our spiritual wealth with others. “Freely ye have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)

“May I be a glory among men. May I be richer than the richest. May I enter into thee, O Lord;

and mayest thou reveal thyself unto me. Purified am I by thy touch, O Lord of manifold forms.

Thou art the refuge of those who surrender themselves to thee. Reveal thyself to me. Make me

thine own. I take my refuge in thee.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 1:4:3) This says a lot:

May I be a glory among men. This is not a bid for fame as some translators think. As Swami Prabhavananda understands, our desire must be to manifest glorious humanity on our way to divinity. Even if no one knows we exist, we can still through our sadhana be “a glory among men.” That is a worthy ambition, realized through Om.

May I be richer than the richest. This is done by possessing everything in Infinite Consciousness. What is mere money–or even a mere universe–in comparison to that? Om is Infinite Consciousness.

May I enter into thee, O Lord; and mayest thou reveal thyself unto me. “O Adorable One, may I enter into Thee. O Venerable One, enter into me.” This is Gambhirananda’s rendering. This is the great “Meeting of the Twain.” We unite with Om and Om unites with us.

Purified am I by thy touch, O Lord of manifold forms.

“Om! This Syllable is Brahman. …With frequent application of this divine sound he washes away the stains of the soul.” (Amritabindu Upanishad 20)

“The meditation on Om should not be discontinued. With this divine mantra one should meditate many times for ridding himself of his own impurities.” (Amritanada Upanishad 20)

“The Taraka-Nama [Om], annihilates all sins. The Supreme Brahman shines in him who takes to this Taraka-Nama.” (Sannyasa Upanishad)

“The Pranava [Om] burns away sins;…Hence the Pranava removes all obstacles and destroys all defects.” (Varaha Upanishad 5:68,71)

“The Pranava shall be recited and repeated by those who desire all their sins annihilated.” (Shiva Purana, Vidyeshwarasamhita 17:15)

“Japa of Om purifies the mind.” (Shiva Purana)

“If the devotee repeats the Pranava he becomes pure.” (Shiva Purana, Vidyeshwarasamhita 17:18)

“Just as the bow is the cause of the arrow’s hitting the target, so Om is the bow that brings about the soul’s entry into the Immutable. For the soul when purified by the repetition of Om gets fixed in Brahman with the help of Om without any hindrance, just as an arrow shot from a bow gets transfixed in the target.” (Shankara, Commentary on the Mundaka Upanishad)

Thou art the refuge of those who surrender themselves to thee. Om is the safe haven of the sadhaka.

Reveal thyself to me. It is by the experiencing of Om in its higher and higher (subtler and subtler) forms that It is fully revealed and united with in meditation.

Make me thine own. By ending all separation from Thee. Though we ask the divine blessing for this, it is our effort that enables the Pranava to truly be The Word of Life for us.

I take my refuge in thee. As they often say in India: Japa-Tapa; japa-tapa; japa-tapa. By holding on to Om as “dear life” we enter into Life Itself.

A lesson on Brahman

Now Brahman is addressed in words of those that have crossed the sea of samsara and entered the harbor of the Supreme Self. Rather than obscure them with comments, I will give them just as they are for your inspiration.

“Thou art the Lord, immortal, self-luminous, and of golden effulgence, within the lotus of every heart. Within the heart art thou revealed to those that seek thee.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 1:6:1)

“He who dwells in thee becomes king over himself. He controls his wandering thoughts. He becomes master of his speech and of all his organs of sense. He becomes master of his intellect. Thou art Brahman, whose form is invisible, like ether; whose Self is truth. Thou art perfect peace and immortality, the solace of life, the delight of the mind. May I worship thee!” (Taittiriya Upanishad 1:6:2)

“Om is Brahman. OM is all. He who meditates on OM attains to Brahman.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 1.8.1)

“Having attained to Brahman, a sage declared: “I am life. My glory is like the mountain peak. I am established in the purity of Brahman. I have attained the freedom of the Self. I am Brahman, self-luminous, the brightest treasure. I am endowed with wisdom. I am immortal, imperishable.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 1.10.1)

A lesson on learning

To conclude the first part (adhyaya) of the upanishad, we are given a four-verse exhortation to a student who is departing from the teacher’s house after the completion of his study. It is fitting for all who are involved in “the world” or society to any degree to take these words to heart. For without them we will lose our way, however much we may have read and learned.

“Let your conduct be marked by right action, including study and teaching of the scriptures; by truthfulness in word, deed, and thought; by self-denial and the practice of austerity; by poise and self-control; by performance of the everyday duties of life with a cheerful heart and an unattached mind.

“Speak the truth. Do your duty. Do not neglect the study of the scriptures. Do not cut the thread of progeny. Swerve not from truth. Deviate not from the path of good. Revere greatness.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 1:11:1)

If we seriously intend to get anywhere in spiritual life, these principles will guarantee our success–as surely as their neglect or omission will guarantee our failure. Spiritual life is not a lark or a bit of spice to add to life. And absolutely it is not some emollient to make a negative and foolish life somehow tolerable. Many years ago at the beginning of the yoga boom sparked off by the Beatles I began outlining a book to be called Is Yoga For You? My intention was to warn people away from wasting their time with yoga if they intended to live a life incompatible with yoga’s fundamental character. But I soon realized that it would be a waste of time to write a book for spiritual idlers and dabblers who really would not care whether they succeeded or failed–they just wanted a diversion and something to impress others with, a topic for conversation. But now is the time for the facts to be set forth. I hope the authority of the upanishads will carry sufficient weight.

Let your conduct be marked by right action. There could be many lists of what constitutes right action, but the best is that of Patanjali the master yogi:

  1. Ahimsa: non-violence, non-injury, harmlessness.

  2. Satya: truthfulness, honesty.

  3. Asteya: non-stealing, honesty, non-misappropriativeness.

  4. Brahmacharya: sexual continence in thought, word and deed as well as control of all the senses.

  5. Aparigraha: non-possessiveness, non-greed, non-selfishness, non-acquisitiveness.

  6. Shaucha: purity, cleanliness.

  7. Santosha: contentment, peacefulness.

  8. Tapas: austerity, practical (i.e., result-producing) spiritual discipline.

  9. Swadhyaya: introspective self-study, spiritual study.

  10. Ishwarapranidhana: offering of one’s life to God.

Ahimsa involves gentleness, kindness, mercy, and abstinence from taking life–a matter that necessitates a vegetarian diet. Ishwarapranidhana is not just some noble or sentimental vowing of our life to God, but a very real and practical manner of ordering our life so that every moment brings us closer to God-realization, to union with God.

Including study and teaching of the scriptures. Being justly weary of being beaten over the head by “The Word of God,” both Westerners and Middle-Easterners naturally shy away from the idea of scriptural authority, whether the Torah, the Bible, or the Koran. But they misunderstand the very motivation behind reverence for scriptures in the East. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism do not respect their spiritual texts because of who has spoken them or written them down. Rather, the value of the scriptures rest solely upon their practical value–nothing else. For them, a principle is not true just because it is written in a holy book, rather it was written in the holy book because it was the truth–a truth an can be put to the test and demonstrated to be true. For example, water is not hydrogen and oxygen because a science book says so; the book says so because it is true. The only reason we who follow Eastern religions quote scriptures is because they say it so well–often much clearer than we could on our own. The upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita are masterpieces of concise expression. Worlds of meaning often lie within a single phrase, even a single word. The bottom line is this: the Eastern scriptures WORK. For thousands of years multitudes have proven in their own life that Patanjali’s list has practical value. And so can we. It is also our duty to teach what we know to others who are sincere and qualified. Whether by informal conversation, giving of books to read, or formal instruction, we must help others as we have been helped.

By truthfulness in word, deed, and thought. It is so important to realize that truth is not a verbal formula, but a way of life, a state of mind. We must live truthfully. Since God is the ultimate truth, we must live “godly.”

By self-denial. Here, too, the East means something totally different from the negative “mortification” of Western religion that is nothing more than an expression of self-loathing, a declaration of human “vileness” rather than the divine nature we “Orientals” know to be the truth of ourselves. In the East, “self-denial” means discipline and control of the egoic impulses to indulgence and laziness. It means not slipping into the morass of sensuality and selfishness. Basically it is ignoring the false ego to foster the true Self, the Spirit.

And the practice of austerity. This is not “mortification” or “penance” either. Tapasya is any practice which rouses up and expresses our inner virtue, which clears the way for the revelation of our divine nature. It is not “self-denial” in the Western sense, it is Self-affirmation through spiritual practices that produce results in freeing us from ignorance and limitation.

By poise and self-control. I cannot recall ever hearing anyone exhort someone to cultivate dignity, we are so obsessed with the “plain folks” syndrome that we equate with democracy. How it can be considered a compliment to refer to someone as being “comfortable as an old shoe” is quite beyond me–perhaps an indication of my Eastern samskaras. The sadhaka should have dignity and even an intelligent reserve in dealing with others. This should arise from respect, both for himself and for others. We need not be artificial and put on airs, acting like “Lady Bottomley’s plush horse” (a favorite expression of my father), but we should act with self-respect and awareness. (It was called “circumspection” in a more sensible era.) Anyway, you get the idea.

By performance of the everyday duties of life with a cheerful heart and an unattached mind. This is possible only for a yogi. Cheerfulness is a natural side-effect of valid yoga practice. When you see a “yogi” that is not happy and optimistic, then either the yoga is no good or it is not being practiced. I am not speaking of the manic behavior of some “yogis” that were either cracked before they started yoga or the yoga cracked them. (I am referring to those that laugh raucously at the slightest expression of humor, or grin/smile all the time no matter what. These are the “yoga clowns” whose motto seems to be “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy.” I heard of a man who once remarked to some of these yoga-hebephrenics: “You know, the way you all smile all the time is spooky.” When they responded by grinning all the more he insisted: “No, I mean it–IT IS REALLY SPOOKY!”) As they say: spot the looney.

Yoga promotes cheerfulness, but so does “an unattached mind”–it may be the major factor. As the Gita says: “He puts aside desire, offering the act to Brahman. The lotus leaf rests unwetted on water: he rests on action, untouched by action.” (Bhagavad Gita 5:10)

Speak the truth. This is not easy, especially since you have to first know the truth. Patanjali claims that a person who speaks absolute truth at absolutely all times will find that whatever he says will come to be.

“Another early recollection is outstanding; and literally so, for I bear the scar to this day. My

elder sister Uma and I were seated in the early morning under a neem tree in our Gorakhpur

compound. She was helping me with a Bengali primer, what time I could spare my gaze from

the near-by parrots eating ripe margosa fruit. Uma complained of a boil on her leg, and fetched

a jar of ointment. I smeared a bit of the salve on my forearm.

“‘Why do you use medicine on a healthy arm?’

“‘Well, Sis, I feel I am going to have a boil tomorrow. I am testing your ointment on the spot

where the boil will appear.’

“‘You little liar!’

“‘Sis, don’t call me a liar until you see what happens in the morning.’ Indignation filled me.

“Uma was unimpressed, and thrice repeated her taunt. An adamant resolution sounded in my

voice as I made slow reply.

“‘By the power of will in me, I say that tomorrow I shall have a fairly large boil in this exact

place on my arm; and your boil shall swell to twice its present size!’

“Morning found me with a stalwart boil on the indicated spot; the dimensions of Uma’s boil had

doubled. With a shriek, my sister rushed to Mother. ‘Mukunda has become a necromancer!’

Gravely, Mother instructed me never to use the power of words for doing harm. I have always

remembered her counsel, and followed it.

“My boil was surgically treated. A noticeable scar, left by the doctor’s incision, is present today.

On my right forearm is a constant reminder of the power in man’s sheer word.

“Those simple and apparently harmless phrases to Uma, spoken with deep concentration, had

possessed sufficient hidden force to explode like bombs and produce definite, though injurious,

effects. I understood, later, that the explosive vibratory power in speech could be wisely

directed to free one’s life from difficulties, and thus operate without scar or rebuke.”

Do your duty. Dharma–here translated “duty”–is the way of life in accordance with the deep wellsprings of our personality–karma and samskaras. These comprise our fundamental nature, our prakriti. Through our personal dharma, our swadharma, we most quickly unfold our inner potential and stimulate our spiritual consciousness. It is so much more than a mere observance of “right and wrong,” “do and don’t.” So important is dharma, that the Gita tells us: “It is better to do your own duty, however imperfectly, than to assume the duties of another person, however successfully. Prefer to die doing your own duty: the duty of another will bring you into great spiritual danger.” (Bhagavad Gita 3:35) This is obviously a very serious matter

Do not neglect the study of the scriptures. This is not just a helpful hint, it is a major spiritual principle. True dharma is a lifelong study, and dharma is perfectly expressed in the eleven major upanishads (the Isha, Kena, Katha, Prashna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittiriya, Aitareya, Chandogya, Brihadaranyaka, and Svetashvatara Upanishads), the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Sutras (Yoga Darshana), the Brahma Sutras, and the commentaries on them by Shankara. The Gita should be a daily study of the sadhaka as it contains the essence of all the others in a most practical and easily understood manner. For centuries many spiritual teachers in India have required their students to study the Gita daily. Much of the gross misunderstanding of Hinduism, and Advaita in particular, would be eliminated if the Gita were carefully studied and applied throughout the aspirant’s life.

Do not cut the thread of progeny. Now this is very, very meaningful. For centuries there has been the misperception that the teachings of the upanishads are somehow the property of monastics–that monastics are at the top of the spiritual hierarchy in Indian spiritual tradition. NOT SO. Not one sage mentioned in the upanishads was monastic, nor was a single author of the scriptures listed in the foregoing paragraph a monastic. Sanatana Dharma is founded upon the vision of the rishis–none of whom were monastics. Sanatana Dharma propounds four ways of life that are fitting for seekers after liberation. Only one is that of the totally committed monastic. It is certainly true that through the centuries monastics have been a major factor in the propagation of dharma, that the three schools of Vedanta were formulated definitively by monastics. Shankara, whose commentaries are mentioned also in the foregoing list of philosophical works, was a monk of monks.

Nevertheless, the life of the rishis, who were married and “in the world,” is the norm of Sanatana Dharma. Any philosophy incompatible with that is not dharma. At the same time, this also means that there is no room for spiritually lazy (and cowardly) people who try to shirk or shrug off their spiritual obligations by saying: “that is for you monks.” They do not want to be thought second-class citizens, but they want to live in a second-class manner and leave the complete fulfilling of dharma to the monks. Shame! There is only one spiritual life: the Yoga Life. Whatever the conditions or circumstances, all are obliged to be yogis. Otherwise their dharma is a sham, whether monastic or nonmonastic.

What does “the thread of progeny” have to do with this? The clear implication is that a Sanatana Dharmi (one who follows Sanatana Dharma) is duty-bound to marry, have children, and raise those children to also follow dharma–and yoga. The exceptions are those that become monastics from their youth or who have some impediment to leading a normal married life. “Footloose and fancy free” is not the way of the rishis. There you will see that Sanatana Dharmis are directed to have children, along with instructions on how to preserve brahmacharya in marriage (!). These are not the rules for monks, nor were they written by monks, as is clear. Behold for yourself how high the ideal is for ALL Sanatana Dharmis, whatever their stage of life (ashrama). Those who do not want to bother should leave dharma alone and join some cheap religion that lets them do as they please. There is a lot of it about.

Swerve not from truth. Patanjali says that the need for absolute truthfulness is “not conditioned by class, place, time or occasion, and extending to all stages.” One sign of a sociopath is the belief that he is not bound by the rules but is a law unto himself. There are a lot of spiritual sociopaths, but we cannot be one and survive spiritually. That is why the next counsel is:

Deviate not from the path of good. “The good” is learned by studying the scriptures and associating with the good–the godly. As Davey Crockett said: “Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.”

Revere greatness. Only those who can give respect–even reverence–are worthy of respect; only those who bow can rise. Those who cannot see greatness in others have no greatness in themselves. As the saying goes: “Mediocrity recognizes nothing above itself.” The capacity to perceive, value, and honor virtue, wisdom and holiness in another person is an essential ingredient in spiritual life. This is why those religions that open the way to liberation have great veneration for saint and Masters, in contrast to the “bow down and worship me” religions that can only guarantee earthly rebirth whatever their claims and promises may be. (The more they boast, the less they have.) The lives, teachings, and images of holy beings should fill our homes, keeping us aware that the ideals of spiritual life are attainable for us, too.

A lesson on respect

“Let your mother be a god to you; let your father be a god to you; let your teacher be a god to you; let your guest also be a god to you. Do only such actions as are blameless. Always show reverence to the great.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 1:11:2) The last two sentences have really been just covered, so we will look at the earlier ones.

First, the word translated “god” is deva. HereDeva: ‘A shining one,’ a god–greater or lesser in the evolutionary hierarchy; a semi-divine or celestial being with great powers, and therefore a ‘god.’ Sometimes called a demi-god. Devas are the demigods presiding over various powers of material and psychic nature.” As you see, deva in no ways means God–Ishwara, Bhagavan, or Brahman. It is indefensible to cite this verse in an attempt to coerce innocent people into worshipping some guru as God.

The meaning is as clear as it is simple. We should revere our mother, father, teacher (acharya), and even our guests as citizens of higher worlds. We need not be blind to their defects, for the gods have defects, also–otherwise they would be free souls and not gods at all. We should do our best to accommodate these earthly gods and to care for them with all love and solicitude. Here, too, exaggeration is not intended. If our parents tell us to commit wrong or damage or neglect our spiritual life we should ignore it, but as much as is sensible we should defer to them in a reasonable manner. This is dharma.

There are many who “do good” grudgingly as though taking bitter medicine, or with a kind of weary “after all it’s my duty” attitude. Many treat the objects of their “care” or charity in a rude and contemptuous manner or adopt the attitude of an exasperated adult toward a worrisome or recalcitrant child. This is not dharma. So the upanishad continues: “Whatever you give to others, give with love and respect. Gifts must be given in abundance, with joy, humility, and compassion.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 1:11:3) This is a high ideal, but I have seen it done in both America and India by Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus. All it requires is a pure heart free from ego and selfishness. One time In Varanasi I saw two people feeding hundreds of poor people. At the end of the meal, each person was given money and clothing. As they left, they walked by the benefactors who saluted each one with folded hands, saying “Thank you” to each of them. They understood: by letting them give in charity, those poor people were enabling them to create good karma for the future.

A lesson on right conduct

Anyone who has a developed conscience is concerned about accurately determining what right conduct really is. So the upanishad tells us: “If at any time there is any doubt with regard to right conduct, follow the practice of great souls, who are guileless, of good judgment, and devoted to truth. Thus conduct yourself always. This is the injunction, this is the teaching, and this is the command of the scriptures.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 1:11:4) Scriptures are important, but they are sometimes abstract, whereas the lives of saints show us exactly how things should be done. If we can have access to a living saint who will advise us, then we are most fortunate. But if not, we should seek out and read the lives of saints of all traditions and learn how to live. Often we may not at all care for the formal theology of a particular saint’s religious tradition, but his life transcends such things and shows how to live in a divine manner. (Do not forget: many saints have been persecuted by their own religion–even martyred. So we need not accept the religion when we honor the saint.) “Guileless, of good judgment, and devoted to truth”–such are the saints. And so should we be.

Those who learn and follow these lessons given us in the upanishad shall be wise indeed.

The Source and the Goal

Brahman

“He who knows Brahman attains the supreme goal. Brahman is the abiding reality, he is pure

knowledge, and he is infinity. He who knows that Brahman dwells within the lotus of the heart

becomes one with him and enjoys all blessings.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:1:1a)

This verse contains the famous formula: Satyam, jnanam, anantam Brahman–“Brahman is Reality, Knowledge, and Infinity.” The rest of the verse is self-explanatory, except the Sanskrit says that the liberated one knows “Brahman as existing in the intellect [buddhi] in the supreme space in the heart.” This is the seat of Om.

Food

“Out of Brahman, who is the Self, came ether; out of ether, air; out of air, fire; out of fire, water;

out of water, earth; out of earth, vegetation; out of vegetation, food; out of food, the body of

man. The body of man, composed of the essence of food, is the physical sheath of the Self.”

(Taittiriya Upanishad 2:1:1b)

There are a few listings in the upanishads of the emanation-stages of creation, for it is essential to realize that everything has come from Brahman and shall return to Brahman. Naturally they are broad– very broad–outlines, for the manifestation of relativity has countless subtle stages. First there comes the great elements, forerunners of the elements here on the physical level. When the physical planets are fully formed, then vegetation appears, and then human beings as abodes of the Self. Implied here is the principle that vegetables are the natural and intended food of human beings–certainly of those who intend to manifest the Self. The Gita and upanishads say a great deal about food because the mind is formed of the subtle essence of food. Vegetarian diet is a cornerstone of humanity, and a necessary factor in the aspiration to divinity. No serious aspirant can afford to ignore this or attempt to. So the upanishad continues:

“From food are born all creatures, which live upon food and after death return to food. Food is the chief of all things. It is therefore said to be medicine for all diseases of the body. Those who worship food as Brahman gain all material objects. From food are born all beings which, being born, grow by food. All beings feed upon food, and, when they die, food feeds upon them.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:2:1)

This is a great deal of mental food to digest, but is well worth the effort. Food (annam) is not just something material that an organism subsists on, but includes everything that goes to affect any sentient being. Thoughts and feelings are food, and all life-experiences are food. Intuitions are food. Of course some are positive and some are negative, but they all go to “feed” the evolving consciousness. But frankly if we don’t start with the regulation of physical food we need not bother with the metaphysical food.

Food, physical and subtle, is the medicine for all ills. This the Indian sages knew long before nutritionists or naturopaths existed. I was fortunate to know a truly great man, Dr. Josef Lenninger, who could cure any disease with diet alone. He was never wrong and he never failed to cure anyone who followed his instructions. He even saved people’s lives–people that I knew. Diet is everything–this I learned from him much better than from any yogi.

When we realize that Brahman is the ultimate “food” then our spiritual health is assured. When we live in harmony with Brahman, all good comes to us on all levels of our existence. Just as bodies are absorbed in the earth from which they and their food came, so finally we are absorbed into our original Source to “life forever” in the greatest sense.

The Bodies of the Bodiless

“Different from the physical sheath is the vital sheath. This is encased in the physical sheath and has the same form. Through this the senses perform their office. From this men and beasts derive their life. This determines the length of life of all creatures. He who worships the vital sheath as Brahman lives to complete his span of life. This sheath is the living self of the physical sheath.

“Different from the vital sheath is the mental sheath. This is encased in the vital sheath and has the same form.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:3:1)

Just as God has encased himself in various layers of manifestation, so has the Self. So knowledge of these sheaths (koshas) is worthwhile.

The pranic and mental (manasic) bodies

Inside the physical body is the pranic body, the body of life-force. Without the pranic body the physical body cannot live. The pranic body is also the most objective astral body, and when seen looks just like the physical body. At death, the grossest part of the pranic body remains, which is why the hair and fingernails grow for a while after death. When it separates from the physical body at death, the pranic body takes on the appearance it had when strongest–usually as the person looked in early middle-age. When projected from the physical while the person still lives in embodiment, however, it looks just like the physical body at that time.

Within the pranic body the currents of life-force move in subtle channels that correspond to the physical nerves. In Sanskrit both the physical and pranic “nerves” are called nadis.

The pranic body draws its substance from food, sunlight, and air. This latter is one of the reasons yogis pay attention to both diet and breathing. Health of the pranic body can produce health of the material body. The pranic body does indeed determine both the health and the length of life of the physical body. Prana is the very Life of God in manifestation, so we live in and by the Divine Life.

In a sense, the pranic body is the “self” of the physical. It is the link between the physical sense organs and the sensory mind, or manas, which is the mental sheath spoken of next. This body also has the form of the embodied person, but is more radiant than the pranic sheath. It, too, is astral, and draws a great deal of its vitality from the pranic body.

Their limitation

These three bodies are mostly integrated with earthly experience–that is their purpose. For this reason they perceive only the slightest hints of spiritual being–of Spirit Itself. Therefore the upanishad interposes this statement:

“Words cannot express the bliss of Brahman, mind cannot reach it. The sage, who knows it, is

freed from fear.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:4:1)

This is tremendous information for the yogi. First, it tells him that any words about Brahman and Brahman-experience are worthless, even deceptive, since It cannot be spoken about, nor can the sensory mind perceive Brahman in Its pure Being. Next it tells him that those who know this truth will be freed from great fear and doubts. This is because ignorant people continually mistake physical, pranic, and mental phenomena for spiritual phenomena, Then, when the flaws–and sometimes outright false character–of those phenomena are discovered, the sincere seeker is thrown into doubt, fear, and confusion. Disillusionment with these things sometimes cause the person to forsake spiritual life altogether. Of course, spiritual life is impossible on those levels, so they never really had one–but they aspired to do so. We are being warned by the upanishad to not make similar mistakes. The yogi must continually live higher than these three levels. He must realize that they are delusive to a high degree. Nevertheless they are vehicles of the divine Self and must be cared for.

“The mental sheath is the living self of the vital sheath.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:4:2)

The mental sheath draws much of its power from the pranic sheath, as I said, but it greatly controls the pranic sheath and empowers it by directing it. For example, when the sensory mind sees attractive food, it stimulates the pranic sheath to begin the process of physical digestion. When it perceives something pleasant the two other bodies are likewise affected, and when it perceives something fearful or life-threatening its effects are sometimes cataclysmic.

The intellectual body

“Different from the mental sheath is the intellectual sheath. This is encased in the mental sheath

and has the same form. All actions, sacrificial or otherwise, are performed through the intellect.

All the senses pay homage to the intellectual sheath. He who worships intellect as Brahman

does not err; he does not identify himself with the other sheaths, and does not yield to the

passions of the body.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:5:1)

Now the upanishad speaks of the jnanamaya kosha, the intellectual sheath, that is also called the buddhi, the intellect. This controls the three lower sheaths through intelligent understanding. Light strikes the eye and imprints an image of a tree on the retina, the nerves, physical and pranic, convey impulses to the physical and astral brains, the intellect perceives it and says: “That is a tree–a maple tree.” Without this function of the buddhi, we would not be human beings at all.

The intellectual sheath is not astral but causal. If we saw it, we would see light–usually formless, but on the lesser levels it could have the general outline of the human body. The senses are messengers to the intellect, its servants, actually. The wise yogi “does not identify himself with the other sheaths,” but centers his awareness in and directs his life mostly from the buddhi. As a result he “does not yield to the passions of the body.” Surely the buddhi is worthy of reverence.

The will body

“Different from the intellectual sheath is the sheath of the ego. This sheath is encased in the

intellectual sheath and has the same form.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:5:2a)

The completion of the body complex is the highest body, the anandamaya kosha which is the seat of will and the sense of asmita–“I exist.” The intellect may know it is seeing a tree, but the will decides whether or not to keep looking at it. In this way it fully controls the lesser levels. It both brings them into function and stops their actions. Just as the buddhi makes us intelligent human beings, the will-body makes us effective human beings.

The anandamaya kosha is the subtlest causal level, so subtle that it “touches” and partakes of the nature of the spirit-self. Functionally speaking, it is a mixture of subtle energy and pure consciousness–though it is not really, since “beyond all sheaths is the Self.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:5:2b) Sometimes we have to speak inaccurately to get across at least a shadow of higher realities.

Karma

All intelligent thought and action are possible because of the buddhi and the will. So they are really the seat of karma. That is why Buddha taught that intention determined the nature of karma more than the act, that a person who accidentally brought about the death of another would not be a murderer. Someone who gives poison to an ill person, fully believing that it is medicine, is not guilty of taking life. Ultimately karma is a matter of the will, for it is the basis of action.

All together

These five bodies correspond to the five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. They also correspond to five levels of existence: bhuh, bhuvah, swah, maha, and jana lokas. According to which body we mostly “live” in determines what world (loka) we will incarnate in after this life. Fortunately for the yogi, he steps beyond these five bodies and cultivates awareness of the Self. So at death the skilled yogi goes to tapa loka, the world of those who are consciously evolving themselves. Hopefully he will not return to earthly birth, but will continue on from there to the highest world, satya loka, the realm of the liberated ones who know Brahman.

Brahman and belief

Beyond the sheaths is the Self, and beyond the Self as Its inmost being is Brahman. Brahman is the basis of all and IS all, as the upanishad will soon discuss. This being so: “Vain and useless becomes his life who thinks of Brahman as nonexistent. He alone who knows Brahman as existent truly lives.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:6:1a) Interestingly, the upanishad literally says: “If anyone knows Brahman as non-existent, he himself becomes non-existent.” How many times do people “know” something that is completely wrong. Our belief in God must not be based on our ignorant mind like the unbelief of the atheist. I have known of people who became atheists when tragedy entered their lives, and I have known people who became believers when tragedy came into their lives. Neither their unbelief nor their belief really amounted to anything. People who come to believe in God as a kind of last resort are like conquered enemies, not free and loyal citizens of the kingdom of God.

We should not believe in God, we should know that God exists. There is a deep intuition of the existence of God in each one of us that comes from our spirit-self. But because of the mental debris we have accumulated in this and prior lives it has become greatly attenuated, distorted, or even obliterated. An external factor can sometimes shift the debris pile to let some light through, but how long will it be before other things shift it back? The only really safe and sure way is to practice meditation and burn up the things that are obscuring our intuition of spirit. Then we will be knowers of the existence of Brahman and well on the way to becoming knowers of Brahman.

Our minds possess the same creative power as the Divine Mind, though to a finite degree. Nonetheless, our mind determines our entire life–the whole course of our evolution in this and all higher worlds. It does rest squarely on us. Remember what Sri Ramakrishna said: The mind is everything. God has created the playing field and supplied all the equipment for the game. But how we play is up to us– none else. If we do not know either the goal of the game or the way it is played, it is hopeless. As the upanishad says, the life of one who does not believe in God is vain and useless. But if we know the goal, the rules, and the way to play, then we will play well–truly live, as the upanishad says.

The only reason for the universe is the attainment of Brahmajnana. So the upanishad finally says:

“Surely at death a foolish man does not attain Brahman, but only a wise man.” (Taittiriya

Upanishad 2:6:1b)

Brahman, Creation, and Us

Brahman and creation

Now we are ready for the subject of the creation and its implications for both God and human beings.

“Desiring that he should become many, that he should make of himself many forms, Brahman

meditated. Meditating, he created all things. Creating all things, he entered into everything.

Entering into all things, he became that which has shape and that which is shapeless; he became

that which can be defined and that which cannot be defined; he became that which has support

and that which has not support; he became that which is conscious and that which is not

conscious; he became that which is gross and that which is subtle. He became all things

whatsoever: therefore the wise call him the Real.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:6:1c)

Desiring that he should become many, that he should make of himself many forms, Brahman meditated. Meditating, he created all things. Certainly the One cannot become two, much less many. But he can experience multiplicity through his omniscience. So he willed, and all things came into being through his innate omnipotence. But it was totally an ideational process. The Cosmic Dreamer projected the cosmic dream. Then:

Creating all things, he entered into everything. Entering into all things, he became…all things whatsoever: therefore the wise call him the Real. Pervading all things through his omnipresence he became aware of them and experienced “being” them just as in dream we take on many identities and forms that constantly change until we awaken. Brahman, in contrast, is always awake and knows what “is” and “is not.” There is nothing that Brahman has not become, described and indescribable, sentient and insentient. Brahman “is” all things.

Swami Gambhirananda’s more literal translation brings about a point to be noted. “He wished, ‘Let me be many, let me be born.’” The Birthless actually undergoes birth. And the same is true of us. We have neither birth nor death. Experience is not reality–this we must learn.

“Concerning which truth it is written: Before creation came into existence, Brahman existed as

the Unmanifest. From the Unmanifest he created the manifest. From himself he brought forth

himself. Hence he is known as the Self-Existent.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:7:1a)

Gambhirananda’s more literal translation gives us a better idea: “In the beginning all this was but the unmanifested [Brahman]. From that emerged the manifested. That Brahman created Itself by Itself. Therefore It is called the self-creator” There is really no need for comment.

And us

“The Self-Existent is the essence of all felicity. Who could live, who could breathe, if that

blissful Self dwelt not within the lotus of the heart? He it is that gives joy.” (Taittiriya

Upanishad 2:7:1b)

Gambhirananda: “That which is known as the self-creator is verily the source of joy; for one becomes happy by coming in contact with that source of joy. Who, indeed, will inhale, and who will exhale, if this Bliss be not there in the supreme space [within the heart]. This one, indeed enlivens.”

One becomes happy by coming in contact with that source of joy. Brahman is of the nature of bliss itself, the source of joy to all beings. It is clear and simple: by coming in contact with that source of joy we will be joyful. A lot of people are hyper and hysterical, and some are so heedless and unaware that they are “happy” like village idiots. But only those who consciously contact Brahman through meditation are truly happy and have inner joy–the only kind that is real and lasting. Seeking happiness in anything but God can only lead to unhappiness. How many “deliriously happy” people have we seen ending up in what John Bunyan calls The Slough of Despond in Pilgrim’s Progress? Their false joy evaporates so very quickly. Then they go running after another mirage. And another. And another.

Who, indeed, will inhale, and who will exhale, if this Bliss be not there in the supreme space [within the heart]. This part is of utmost importance to yogis, for it indicates that the breath arises from the Chidakasha, the principle (tattwa) of Conscious Ether, the abode of the Self. This is why all liberating yoga involves breath. For if breath arises from the Source, it will take us to that Supreme Bliss if we understand how to work with it. (See the chapter Breath and Sound in Meditation in Om Yoga.)

Knowing Brahman

This one, indeed enlivens. This is why just a few verses back the upanishad says: “Vain and useless becomes his life who thinks of Brahman as nonexistent. He alone who knows Brahman as existent truly lives.” This is bedrock truth. That is why yoga is the Path to Life. The persevering yogi experiences ever-increasing life on all levels of his being. “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” (Proverbs 4:18)

“When a man finds his existence and unity in the Self–who is the basis of life, who is beyond the senses, who is formless, inexpressible, beyond all predicates–then alone does he transcend fear. So long as there is the least idea of separation from him, there is fear. To the man who thinks himself learned, yet knows not himself as Brahman, Brahman, who drives away all fear, appears as fear itself.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:7:1c)

We reach fearlessness when we know our unity with the Self and Brahman. To attain this fearlessness our consciousness must become more and more centered in That which is “formless, inexpressible, beyond all predicates.” While living in this world we must inwardly dwell in the Transcendent Reality that is Brahman, that is our Self. For “so long as there is the least idea of separation from him, there is fear”–and with good cause. The life separated from God is no life at all, but a mirage of suffering, change, decay, and death.

Perhaps one of the saddest truths in any of the upanishads is this: “To the man who thinks himself learned, yet knows not himself as Brahman, Brahman, who drives away all fear, appears as fear itself.” We see this all the time. Intelligent people fear the idea of living in the state of unity with God lest they lose their “individuality.” They cling to death and call it life while avoiding life as though it were death. How will they get out of that state? Only by a lot of buffeting by what they call life. It is not God who punishes and forsakes us because of this wrong choice–it is the false world that does so from life to life. Yet we grasp in desperation for more of its fake appearances and run from our only Life. In my early teens I spoke with a friend about how wonderful it was to free oneself of “the good things of life” and turn to the Only Life. “Oh!” he exclaimed, “if I lived like that I would feel like I was in prison!” So he chose what the world told him was “real living,” and now he is a broken, miserable old man with nothing but alcoholism and sexual deviance as his companions. He chose imprisonment, and will no doubt do so in future lives, for enslavement becomes a habit hard to break.

“Concerning which truth it is written: Through fear of Brahman the wind blows and the sun shines; through fear of him Indra, the god of rain, Agni, the god of fire, and Yama, the god of death, perform their tasks.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:8:1) The entire cosmos and all the processes of personal life take place through cognition of God and his purpose. The “fear” spoken of here is awe which cancels out any possibility of defiance or disobedience. In the human being there should be a clear understanding that since God is All, life should be lived accordingly. Along with that should be the realization that God is our Self, that we are “obeying” our own nature in which is all joy, but outside of which there can be nothing but fear.

Measuring the joy

In the seventh verse this question was set forth: “Who could live, who could breathe, if that blissful Self dwelt not within the lotus of the heart? He it is that gives joy. Now the upanishad takes up that subject of the joy of the Self.

“Of what nature is this joy?

“Consider the lot of a young man, noble, well-read, intelligent, strong, healthy, with all the

wealth of the world at his command. Assume that he is happy, and measure his joy as one unit.

“One hundred times that joy is one unit of the joy of Gandharvas: but no less joy than

Gandharvas has the seer to whom the Self has been revealed, and who is without craving.

“One hundred times the joy of Gandharvas is one unit of the joy of celestial Gandharvas: but no less joy than celestial Gandharvas has the sage to whom the Self has been revealed, and who is without craving.

“One hundred times the joy of celestial Gandharvas is one unit of the joy of the Pitris in their paradise: but no less joy than the Pitris in their paradise has the sage to whom the Self has been revealed, and who is without craving.

“One hundred times the joy of the Pitris in their paradise is one unit of the joy of the Devas: but no less joy than the Devas has the sage to whom the Self has been revealed, and who is without craving.

“One hundred times the joy of the Devas is one unit of the joy of the karma Devas: but no less joy than the karma Devas has the sage to whom the Self has been revealed, and who is without craving.

“One hundred times the joy of the karma Devas is one unit of the joy of the ruling Devas: but no less joy than the ruling Devas has the sage to whom the Self has been revealed, and who is without craving.

“One hundred times the joy of the ruling Devas is one unit of the joy of Indra: but no less joy

than Indra has the sage to whom the Self has been revealed, and who is without craving.

“One hundred times the joy of Indra is one unit of the joy of Brihaspati: but no less joy than

Brihaspati has the sage to whom the Self has been revealed, and who is without craving.

“One hundred times the joy of Brihaspati is one unit of the joy of Prajapati: but no less joy than

Prajapati has the sage to whom the Self has been revealed, and who is without craving.

“One hundred times the joy of Prajapati is one unit of the joy of Brahma: but no less joy than Brahma has the seer to whom the Self has been revealed, and who is without craving.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:8:2-4)

Joy comes from knowing the Self and becoming free of all desire through the fulfillment that comes from union with Brahman.

Rising into joy

“He who is the Self in man, and he who is the Self in the sun, are one. Verily, he who knows this truth overcomes the world; he transcends the physical sheath, he transcends the vital sheath, he transcends the mental sheath, he transcends the intellectual sheath, he transcends the sheath of the ego.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:8:5)

This is the real Ascension, and only those who have done so are Ascended Masters. Just as God is untouched by all the worlds that have proceeded from him, in the same way the liberated yogi cannot be affected by his various sheaths (koshas), his own private “worlds.”

It is written: He who knows the joy of Brahman, which words cannot express and the mind cannot reach, is free from fear. He is not distressed by the thought, “Why did I not do what is right? Why did I do what is wrong?” He who knows the joy of Brahman, knowing both good and evil, transcends both. (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:9:1)

He who knows Brahman is freed from all karmic bonds and knows that what he did and did not do will no longer affect him either in the present or the future. Having transcended both good and bad karma, he is free. Sri Ramakrishna described such a person as being like a fish that had been caught in the net but has jumped out into freedom and swims joyfully away.

The Ladder of Understanding

Life is change; nothing ever stands still. When you do find something that is without any kind of change, then that thing is dead–including a lot of religion. A worthy spiritual aspirant is steady and unwavering in his aspiration and his endeavor, but he is always changing, for he is ever learning. He continually sees things either differently or better than before. To show us this, the upanishad is giving the account of Bhrigu’s search for knowledge of Brahman. In the Gita (10:25) Krishna says: “Among the great sages I am Bhrigu,” so this is a very important teaching that is being given us.

Know Brahman…

“Bhrigu, respectfully approaching his father Varuna, said: ‘Sir, teach me Brahman.’ Varuna

explained to him the physical sheath and the vital sheath and the functions of the senses, and

added: ‘He from whom all beings are born, in whom they live, being born, and to whom at

death they return—seek to know him. He is Brahman.’” (Taittiriya 3.1.1)

It is absolutely necessary to “know the territory” in any endeavor, whatever its kind. If equipment is involved, we must know and understand it thoroughly. This is why Oriental religions are so intent on the makeup of the human being. First we have to be a conscious human before we can move on to the next level of evolution. Therefore Varuna taught Bhrigu about the gross and subtle bodies, pointing out to him that all these have proceeded from Brahman–are reflections of Brahman–and that dealing with them is dealing with Brahman in manifestation. Brahman is the totality of all being.

Gambhirananda gives a better version of the latter part of this verse: “Crave to know that from which all these beings take birth, that by which the live after being born, that towards which they move and into which they merge. That is Brahman.” The first point is that we should not just seek to know Brahman, we must crave to know It–there must be an intense hunger, a sense of absolute necessity, a life-and-death attitude behind us. For that is the fuel that propels us onward to realization. At the same time, we are not going against the current, but cooperating with the Eternal Flow, for all beings move toward Brahman through the many stages of evolution, and eventually merge into Brahman. This is the only natural mode of life, the only way of life which puts an end to all suffering and brings supreme fulfillment.

Tapasya

“Bhrigu practiced austerity and meditation. Then it seemed to him that food was Brahman. For

of food all beings are born, by food they are sustained, being born, and into food they enter after

death. This knowledge, however, did not satisfy him. He again approached his father Varuna

and said: “Sir, teach me Brahman.” Varuna replied: ‘Seek to know Brahman by meditation.

Meditation is Brahman.’” (Taittiriya 3.2.1)

Bhrigu was highly intelligent, so his concept of “food” was not just what humans eat to stay alive. Rather, as in the teachings of the Prashna Upanishad, “food” is emblematic of anything that sustains or is assimilated to the evolving organism and the inner consciousness. But even that did not satisfy him, for it was too “here and now” while Reality is mostly transcendent. Varuna opened new vistas for him by saying that Tapasya is Brahman. In A Brief Sanskrit Glossary we find this definition: “ Tapasya: Austerity, practical (i.e., result-producing) spiritual discipline; spiritual force. Literally it means the generation of heat or energy, but is always used in a symbolic manner, referring to spiritual practice and its effect, especially the roasting of karmic seeds, the burning up of karma.” Who else but Brahman can incinerate the seeds of karma? Although tapasya includes specific methods of spiritual practice, ultimately it is the power of release, of transmutation into Perfect Being. So tapasya in the highest sense is the active power of Brahman that IS Brahman bringing about liberation (moksha). Tapasya is Brahman within us. This should be the yogi’s constant perspective. But tapasya is the means, not the end, so the search continues. It is necessary to realize this, for some people meditate a bit, get a little experience, and think they are enlightened and know the mysteries of the universe. But, like Bhrigu, we must never be satisfied. Sri Ramakrishna told the following parable:

“Once upon a time a wood-cutter went into a forest to cut wood. Suddenly he came upon a Brahmachari [a monk]. The Brahmachari told him, ‘My good man, go forward.’ The woodcutter upon returning home began to think, ‘Why did the Brahmachari tell me to go forward?’

“A few days passed. One day as he was sitting idly the words of the Brahmachari came to mind. Then he said to himself, ‘Today I will go further forward.’ Going into the forest and moving deeper he discovered innumerable sandalwood trees. He felt happy and brought back cartloads of sandalwood. And selling them in the market he became a rich man.

“A few days passed and he remembered again that the Brahmachari had said, ‘Go forward.’ He returned to the forest and advancing deeper discovered a silver mine near a river. He had not even dreamt of it. Then he only mined silver and selling it made heaps of money.

“A few more days passed. And one day he thought, ‘The Brahmachari did not tell me to go up to the silver mine alone. He told me to go forward.’ This time going across the river he discovered a gold mine. Then he thought, ‘Ah! That’s why the Brahmachari asked me to go forward.’

“Again a few days afterwards, he advanced further and saw heaps of diamonds and other gems. Then he became prosperous like the god of wealth himself.

“Therefore I say whatever you may do you will find better things if you go forward. Do not think that you have achieved all that is there because you felt a little inspired. If you go still further you will find God.”

Primal Energy–Prana

“Bhrigu practiced meditation and learned that primal energy is Brahman. For from primal energy all beings are born, by primal energy they are sustained, being born, and into primal energy they enter after death. But Bhrigu was still doubtful about his knowledge. So he approached his father again and said: ‘Sir, teach me Brahman.’ Varuna replied: ‘Seek to know Brahman by meditation. Meditation is Brahman.’” (Taittiriya 3.3.1)

The word here translated “primal energy” is really Prana. Prana as used in this verse means the Vishwaprana, the universal life force that makes all things live. It is energy, but that particular energy that manifests as living things as well as the power of life itself.

Mind

“Bhrigu practiced meditation and learned that mind is Brahman. For from mind all beings are born, by mind they are sustained, being born, and into mind they enter after death. Still doubtful, he approached his father and said: ‘Sir, teach me Brahman.’ His father replied: ‘Seek to know Brahman by meditation. Meditation is Brahman.’” (Taittiriya 3.4.1)

The word translated “mind” is manas(a), which means the mind of the senses, that which perceives the message of the senses. It is like the screen on which images are projected. For this reason it is very easy to confuse the mind with consciousness–indeed with the Self. But that is not so.

Intellect

“Bhrigu practiced meditation and learned that intellect is Brahman. For from intellect all beings

are born, by intellect they are sustained, being born, and into intellect they enter after death. Not

yet satisfied, doubting his understanding, Bhrigu approached his father and said: ‘Sir, teach me

Brahman.’ Varuna replied: ‘Seek to know Brahman by meditation. Meditation is Brahman.’”

(Taittiriya 3.5.1)

The word translated “intellect” is vijnana. This is one of those instances in which the Sanskrit has more than one meaning, and they are all intended. First, vijnana means the buddhi, the intellect, which is superior to the manas, the merely sensory mind. The buddhi is the intelligent, thinking mind, the faculty that hopefully marks humans out from lesser evolved life-forms. Since the cosmos is Intelligence, it is easy to equate the buddhi with that; but it is not so. The other meaning of vijnana is supreme knowledge, supreme wisdom, and supreme realization: the knowing that transcends mere intellectual knowing. It is the direct intuitive knowing of the spirit. This is so exalted that no one can be faulted for assuming it is the highest. But it is not, so:

Joy

“Bhrigu practiced meditation and learned that joy is Brahman. For from joy all beings are born,

by joy they are sustained, being born, and into joy they enter after death. This is the wisdom

which Bhrigu, taught by Varuna, attained within his heart. He who attains this wisdom wins

glory, grows rich, enjoys health and fame.” (Taittiriya 3.6.1)

Ananda is the word translated here as “joy.” Ananda means bliss, supreme happiness, joy, and delight. It is a very dynamic experience, for Brahman is defined as bliss (ananda). So to experience this supreme bliss (Paramananda) is to be united with Brahman, for Brahman is that bliss.

Some reflections

This account of Bhrigu’s ascent to Brahman-knowledge has some very instructive points. First, no one needed to tell Bhrigu that he had not really found Brahman–his meditation-produced intuition told him that. So he was not deluded by any experience he had; rather, the experience led him onward of itself. Of course, all along he was intuiting Brahman, but only partially, and he knew that. And he knew when he finally had attained to complete realization, Purnananda, the Perfect (Total) Bliss. Equally important is the fact that Varuna never comments on Bhrigu’s experience or conclusions, but just keeps telling him to engage in tapasya. This is the way of the true Masters. They do not waste the aspirants’ time with hours and hours of theoretical philosophy, but urge them to find out the truth for themselves through the practice of yoga. This is the glory of yoga: it will reveal everything in time. It must also not be overlooked that perfection in yoga brings about abundance in this world as well. Many are the yogis who live simply and frugally, but that is their choice–the treasurehouse of the world is open to them.

Final teachings

Swami Prabhavananda skips some verses that are little more than a tedious recap of the “food” part that has gone before and comes directly to the meaningful verses at the very end: “Brahman is to be meditated upon as the source of all thought and life and action.” (Taittiriya

3.10.2)

We must know that Brahman is ALL. “He is the splendor in wealth, he is the light in the stars. He is all things.

“Let a man meditate upon Brahman as support, and he will be supported. Let him meditate upon Brahman as greatness, and he will be great. Let him meditate upon Brahman as mind, and he will be endowed with intellectual power. Let him meditate upon Brahman as adoration, and he will be adored. Let him worship Brahman as Brahman, and he will become Brahman. He who is the Self in man, and he who is the Self in the sun, are one.” (Taittiriya 3.10.3. 4)

To know Brahman is to know our Self as well, enabling us to exclaim:

“I am that Self! I am life immortal! I overcome the world—I who am endowed with golden

effulgence! Those who know me achieve Reality.” (Taittiriya 3.10.6)

Anyone who knows who a realized person is knows himself also. This is the true value of meeting those who are liberated–it furthers our own liberation.

End of Taittiriya Commentary:

Aitareya Upanishad

Translated by Swami Gambhirananda Published by Advaita Ashram, Kolkatta

Om ! May my speech be based on (i.e. accord with) the mind; May my mind be based on speech. O Self-effulgent One, reveal Thyself to me. May you both (speech and mind) be the carriers of the Veda to me. May not all that I have heard depart from me. I shall join together (i.e. obliterate the difference of) day And night through this study. I shall utter what is verbally true; I shall utter what is mentally true. May that (Brahman) protect me; May That protect the speaker (i.e. the teacher), may That protect me; May that protect the speaker – may That protect the speaker. Om ! Peace ! Peace ! Peace !

I-i-1: In the beginning this was but the absolute Self alone. There was nothing else whatsoever that winked. He thought, “Let Me create the worlds.” I-i-2: He created these world, viz. ambhas, marici, mara, apah. That which is beyond heaven is ambhas. Heaven is its support. The sky is marici. The earth is mara. The worlds that are below are the apah. I-i-3: He thought, “These then are the worlds. Let Me create the protectors of the worlds.” Having gathered up a (lump of the) human form from the water itself, He gave shape to it. I-i-4: He deliberated with regard to Him (i.e. Virat of the human form). As He (i.e. Virat) was being deliberated on, His (i.e. Virat'’) mouth parted, just as an egg does. From the mouth emerged speech; from speech came Fire. The nostrils parted; from the nostrils came out the sense of smell; from the sense of smell came Vayu (Air). The two eyes parted; from the eyes emerged the sense of sight; from the sense of sight came the Sun. The two ears parted; from the ears came the sense of hearing; from the sense of hearing came the Directions. The skin emerged; from the skin came out hair (i.e. the sense of touch associated with hair); from the sense of touch came the Herbs and Trees. The heart took shape;

from the heart issued the internal organ (mind); from the internal organ came the Moon. The navel parted; from the navel came out the organ of ejection; from the organ of ejection issued Death. The seat of the procreative organ parted; from that came the procreative organ; from the procreative organ came out Water.

I-ii-1: These deities, that had been created, fell into this vast ocean. He subjected Him (i.e. Virat) to hunger and thirst. They said to Him (i.e. to the Creator), “Provide an abode for us, staying where we can eat food.” I-ii-2: For them He (i.e. God) brought a cow. They said, “This one is not certainly adequate for us.” For them He brought a horse. They said, “This one is not certainly adequate for us.” I-ii-3: For them He brought a man. They said “This one is well formed; man indeed is a creation of God Himself”. To them He said, “Enter into your respective abodes”. I-ii-4: Fire entered into the mouth taking the form of the organ of speech; Air entered into the nostrils assuming the form of the sense of smell; the Sun entered into the eyes as the sense of sight; the Directions entered into the ears by becoming the sense of hearing; the Herbs and Trees entered into the skin in the form of hair (i.e. the sense of touch); the Moon entered into the heart in the shape of the mind; Death entered into the navel in the form of Apana (i.e. the vital energy that presses down); Water entered into the limb of generation in the form of semen (i.e. the organ of procreation). I-ii-5: To Him Hunger and Thirst said, “Provide for us (some abode).” To them He said, “I provide your livelihood among these very gods; I make you share in their portions.” Therefore when oblation is taken up for any deity whichsoever, Hunger and Thirst become verily sharers with that deity.

I-iii-1: He thought, “This, then, are the senses and the deities of the senses. Let Me create food for them. I-iii-2: He deliberated with regard to the water. From the water, thus brooded over, evolved a form. The form that emerged was verily food. I-iii-3: This food, that was created, turned back and attempted to run away. He tried to take it up with speech. He did not succeed in taking it up through speech. If He had succeeded in taking it up with the speech, then one would have become contented merely by talking of food. I-iii-4: He tied to grasp that food with the sense of smell. He did not succeed in grasping it by smelling. If He had succeeded in grasping it by smelling, then everyone should have become contented merely by smelling food. I-iii-5: He wanted to take up the food with the eye. He did not succeed in taking it up with the eye. If He had taken it up with the eye, then one would have become satisfied by merely seeing food. I-iii-6: He wanted to take up the food with the ear. He did not succeed in taking it up with the ear. If He had taken it up with the ear, then one would have become satisfied by merely by hearing of food. I-iii-7: He wanted to take it up with the sense of touch. He did not succeed in taking it up with the sense of touch. If He had taken it up with touch, then one would have become been satisfied merely by touching food. I-iii-8: He wanted to take it up with the mind. He did not succeed in taking it up with the mind. If He had taken it up with the mind, then one would have become satisfied by merely thinking of food. I-iii-9: He wanted to take it up with the procreative organ. He did not succeed in taking it up with the procreative organ. If He had taken it up with the procreative organ, then one would have become satisfied by merely ejecting food. I-iii-10: He wanted to take it up with Apana. He caught it. This is the devourer of food. That vital energy which is well known as dependent of food for its subsistence is this vital energy (called Apana). I-iii-11: He thought, “How indeed can it be there without Me ?” He thought, “Through which of the two ways should I enter ?” He thought, “If utterance is done by the organ of speech, smelling by the sense of smell, seeing by the eye, hearing by the ear, feeling by the sense of touch, thinking by the mind, the act of drawing in (or pressing down) by Apana, ejecting by the procreative organ, then who (or what) am I ?” I-iii-12: Having split up this very end, He entered through this door. This entrance is known as vidriti (the chief entrance). Hence it is delightful. Of Him there are three abodes – three (states of) dream. This one is an abode, this one is an abode. This one is an abode. I-iii-13: Being born, He manifested all the beings; for did He speak of (or know) anything else ? He realised this very Purusha as Brahman, the most pervasive, thus: “I have realised this”. I-iii-14: Therefore His name is Idandra. He is verily known as Idandra. Although He is Idandra, they call Him indirectly Indra; for the gods are verily fond of indirect names, the gods are verily fond of indirect names.

II-i-1: In man indeed is the soul first conceived. That which is the semen is extracted from all the limbs as their vigour. He holds that self of his in his own self. When he sheds it into his wife, then he procreates it. That is its first birth. II-i-2: That becomes non-different from the wife, just as much as her own limb is. Therefore (the foetus) does not hurt her. She nourishes this self of his that has entered here (in her womb). II-i-3: She, the nourisher, becomes fit to be nourished. The wife bears that embryo (before the birth). He (the father) protects the son at the very start, soon after his birth. That he protects the son at the very beginning, just after birth, thereby he protects his own self for the sake of the continuance of these worlds. For thus is the continuance of these worlds ensured. That is his second birth. II-i-4: This self of his (viz. the son) is substituted (by the father) for the performance of virtuous deeds. Then this other self of his (that is the father of the son), having got his duties ended and having advanced in age, departs. As soon as he departs, he takes birth again. That is his (i.e. the son’s) third birth. II-i-5: This fact was stated by the seer (i.e. mantra): “Even while lying in the womb, I came to know of the birth of all the gods. A hundred iron citadels held me down. Then, like a hawk, I forced my way through by dint of knowledge of the Self”. Vamadeva said this while still lying in the mother’s womb. II-i-6: He who had known thus (had) become identified with the Supreme, and attained all desirable things (even here); and having (then) ascended higher up after the destruction of the body, he became immortal, in the world of the Self. He became immortal.

III-i-1: What is It that we worship as this Self ? Which of the two is the Self ? Is It that by which one sees, or that by which one hears, or that by which one smells odour, or that by which one utters speech, or that by which one tastes the sweet or the sour ? III-i-2: It is this heart (intellect) and this mind that were stated earlier. It is sentience, rulership, secular knowledge, presence of mind, retentiveness, sense-perception, fortitude, thinking, genius, mental suffering, memory, ascertainment resolution, life-activities, hankering, passion and such others. All these verily are the names of Consciousness. III-i-3: This One is (the inferior) Brahman; this is Indra, this is Prajapati; this is all these gods; and this is these five elements, viz. earth, air, space, water, fire; and this is all these (big creatures), together with the small ones, that are the procreators of others and referable in pairs – to wit, those that are born of eggs, of wombs, of moisture of the earth, viz. horses, cattle, men, elephants, and all the creatures that there are which move or fly and those which do not move. All these have Consciousness as the giver of their reality; all these are impelled by Consciousness; the universe has Consciousness as its eye and Consciousness is its end. Consciousness is Brahman. III-i-4: Through this Self that is Consciousness, he ascended higher up from this world, and getting all desires fulfilled in that heavenly world, he became immortal, he became immortal.

Om ! May my speech be based on (i.e. accord with) the mind;

May my mind be based on speech. O Self-effulgent One, reveal Thyself to me. May you both (speech and mind) be the carriers of the Veda to me. May not all that I have heard depart from me. I shall join together (i.e. obliterate the difference of) day And night through this study. I shall utter what is verbally true; I shall utter what is mentally true. May that (Brahman) protect me; May That protect the speaker (i.e. the teacher), may That protect me; May that protect the speaker – may That protect the speaker. Om ! Peace ! Peace ! Peace !

Here ends the Aitareyopanishad, as contained in the Rig-Veda.

Aitereya Upanishad Commentary

Commentary on the Aitereya Upanishad–by Swami Nirmalananda Giri

The Worlds and the Self

In his translations of some upanishads Swami Prabhavananda omitted parts that were in such obscure language that any attempt at translation would really only be speculation. He also omitted very repetitious passages and those that dwelt with matters irrelevant to the knowledge of Brahman and the Self. I think that if you get complete translations of those you will see he was quite justified in this. Anyhow, I am writing this to explain why in the references to the verses of this upanishad there will be some jumping around.

The worlds

Before creation, all that existed was the Self, the Self alone. Nothing else was. Then the Self thought. “Let me send forth the worlds.” He sent forth these worlds: Ambhas, the highest world, above the sky and upheld by it; Marichi, the sky; Mara, the mortal world, the earth; and Apa, the world beneath the earth. (Aitareya Upanishad 1:1:1, 2)

Several times in the upanishads we are told that when nothing else existed, Brahman “was;” and from Brahman proceeded all the worlds. But in these opening verses of the Aitareya Upanishad the word Atman–Self–is used instead of Brahman. This is fitting for two reasons: First, because Brahman is the ultimate Self of all. Second, because what occurred on the cosmic level in relation to Brahman has occurred on the microcosmic level with each one of us, with each individual Self that has entered into the field of relative existence. Just as the various worlds or lokas have emanated from Brahman so the several bodies or koshas have emanated from the individual Self.

The upanishad lists four worlds that are also levels of existence. Ambhas is the highest world. It lies beyond the material realm. Marichi is space itself in which many suns and planets are to be found. For this reason, the upanishad uses the plural term Marichis, but it is correct to use the singular word since it means the entire cosmos. Mara is not just planet earth, but any planet on which sentient beings live. Mara means death, and it is applied to the planets because all beings that live there are mortal. Apa is the name of the submaterial regions from which atomic matter rises.

These worlds have a more metaphysical meaning as well. Ambhas is the causal world, Marichi is the astral world, Mara is the physical world, and Apa is the region where those of low evolution go for a time after death–usually in a kind of sleep. In later Indian cosmology the non-material worlds are divided into those that are beneath the earth plane and those that are above the earth plane. The realms beneath are the regions where animals and low-evolved humans go between incarnations. These worlds include the negative regions we call “hells.” Apa embraces all these. The realms above are where normal human beings go between lives, and include the world humans graduate into when they no longer need evolution on the material place. These are the astral and causal worlds, Marichi and Ambhas.

The worlds have a psychological meaning, as well. Ambhas is the superconscious mind, Marichi is the higher intelligence, or buddhi, Mara is the sensory, earth-centered mind or consciousness, and Apa is the subconscious mind. These classifications particularly apply to the individual Self of each one of us.

Their guardians

“He thought: ‘Behold the worlds. Let me now send forth their guardians.’ Then he sent forth their guardians.…He thought: ‘Behold these worlds and the guardians of these worlds. Let me send forth food for the guardians.’ Then he sent forth food for them.” (Aitareya Upanishad 1:1:3, 1:3:1)

The word used here for guardians is lokapala. A lokapala is the ruler or custodian of a world (loka). At the beginning of creation, each world was assigned an overseer or guardian. These are beings who have evolved to the status of “gods” and sometimes are mistaken for the Absolute by those within those worlds whose understanding is imperfect. Nevertheless, to approach them is beneficial, for they will themselves reveal their limited nature and point questing souls to Brahman the Infinite. The lokapalas are like gardeners, for they work with living things and their development as well as their safety. Actually, the picture of Adam in the Bible is very similar–he was to supervise and foster all forms of life, plant and animal. (Many ancient scriptures contain partial or garbled accounts that were once expositions of wisdom. But the centuries have altered and even eroded them.)

The upanishad is speaking of the beginning of things. So immediately after the manifestation of the worlds, the lokapalas were awakened and made aware of their assignments; for their work is part of their personal evolutionary process. It is this work and the “furnishings” of the worlds that are their “food.”

Now the same thing happens with us. We are the custodians of our private worlds or bodies. And our experiences through those bodies and the development we gain are our food–just as it is for the lokapalas.

Entering the worlds

“He thought: ‘How shall there be guardians and I have no part in them? If, without me, speech is uttered, breath is drawn, eye sees, ear hears, skin feels, mind thinks, sex organs procreate, then what am I?’ He thought: ‘Let me enter the guardians.’ Whereupon, opening the center of their skulls, he entered. The door by which he entered is called the door of bliss.” (Aitareya Upanishad 1:3:11, 12)

This narrative is more instructive than literally accurate. First of all, there is nothing that is not a manifestation of Brahman. It is not possible for Brahman to enter into anything, for It is always everywhere. But the upanishad is teaching us as we teach children–piecemeal and partially. The idea here is that Brahman is enlivening and enabling all beings, from the lokapalas down to the least evolved of sentient beings.

These two verses are more individual than cosmic, however, and refer to us mostly. Our lokapalas are the various faculties of the mind that administer the different levels of our being as humans. Brahman is, as I said, always present, but this verse speaks of the entry of the individual consciousness into the human complex when it incarnates as a human being. The Self enters through the psychic center or energy whorl called the Brahmarandhra–the aperture of Brahman–and from there administers its private cosmos, a god within its finite universe.

According to yogis, when we leave our body we go out through the gate (chakra) that corresponds to our dominant state of consciousness. Those who are depart through the Brahmarandhra. Others leave through the lower centers.

Within the three states of consciousness

“The Self being unknown, all three states of the soul are but dreaming–waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep. In each of these dwells the Self: the eye is his dwelling place while we wake, the mind is his dwelling place while we dream, the lotus of the heart is his dwelling place while we sleep the dreamless sleep.” (Aitareya Upanishad 1:3:12)

This is quite simple: If the Self is not known, then even our waking is only a sleeping and dreaming. There is a lot of going around and around about the question of the reality of the world. But the upanishad gives us a quite simple answer: To those that sleep, not knowing the Self, the world is unreal; to those that are awake in the knowledge of the Self, the world is real–for the world is the Self. This is the frame of reference Buddha had when, meeting a Brahmin after his liberation, when the Brahman asked: “Who are you?” he replied: “I am awake.”

Therefore: “Having entered into the guardians, he identified himself with them. He became many individual beings. Now, therefore, if an individual awake from his threefold dream of waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep, he sees no other than the Self. He sees the Self dwelling in the lotus of his heart as Brahman, omnipresent, and he declares: ‘I know Brahman!’” (Aitareya Upanishad 1:3:13)

This is both the beginning and the end.

More on the Self

The four closing verses of the upanishad need little comment. They begin:

“Who is this Self whom we desire to worship? Of what nature is this Self? Is he the self by which we see form, hear sound, smell odor, speak words, and taste the sweet or the bitter? Is he the heart and the mind by which we perceive, command, discriminate, know, think, remember, will, feel, desire, breathe, love, and perform other like acts? Nay, these are but adjuncts of the Self, who is pure consciousness.” (Aitareya Upanishad 3:1:1, 2) This is extremely important for us, since it is only natural that we would mistake these various faculties for the Self, for they are functions of consciousness, though not Consciousness itself.

“And this Self, who is pure consciousness, is Brahman. He is God, all gods; the five elements—earth, air, fire, water, ether; all beings, great or small, born of eggs, born from the womb, born from heat, born from soil; horses, cows, men, elephants, birds; everything that breathes, the beings that walk and the beings that walk not. The reality behind all these is Brahman, who is pure consciousness.” (Aitareya Upanishad 3:1:3)

This takes us a very necessary step further: Even those things that are not Brahman Itself in the purest sense, in another sense are Brahman and to be regarded as such. This is a bit like telling us to go two ways at the same time, something impossible for the ordinary mind, but quite easy–and natural–for the yogi’s mind.

Swami Gambhirananda’s rendering of the last part of this verse is very revealing: “All these have Consciousness as the giver of their reality; all these are impelled by Consciousness [Prajna]; the universe has Consciousness as its eye, and Consciousness is its end. Consciousness is Brahman.” What sublime statements. Surely the upanishads are unparalleled in their beauty and profound teaching.

“All these, while they live, and after they have ceased to live, exist in him. The sage Vamadeva, having realized Brahman as pure consciousness, departed this life, ascended into heaven, obtained all his desires, and achieved immortality.” (Aitareya Upanishad 3:1:4) And so shall we.

End of Aitareya Commentary:

Chandogya Upanishad

Translated by Swami Swahananda Published by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai

Om ! Let my limbs and speech, Prana, eyes, ears, vitality And all the senses grow in strength. All existence is the Brahman of the Upanishads. May I never deny Brahman, nor Brahman deny me. Let there be no denial at all: Let there be no denial at least from me. May the virtues that are proclaimed in the Upanishads be in me, Who am devoted to the Atman; may they reside in me. Om ! Peace ! Peace ! Peace !

I-i-1: One should meditate on the syllable Om; the Udgitha, for one sings the Udgitha, beginning with Om. Of this, the explanation follows. I-i-2: The essence of all these beings is the earth. The essence of the earth is water. The essence of water is vegetation. The essence of vegetation is man. The essence of man is speech. The essence of speech is Rik. The essence of Rik is Saman. The essence of Saman is Udgitha. I-i-3: The syllable Om which is called Udgitha, is the quintessence of the essences, the supreme, deserving of the highest place and the eighth. I-i-4: Which one is Rik ? Which one is Saman ? Which one is Udgitha ? This is being considered now. I-i-5: Speech alone is Rik. Prana is Saman. The syllable Om is Udgitha. Speech and Prana, (the sources of) Rik and Saman, taken together form a couple. I-i-6: This couple is joined together in the syllable Om. Whenever a couple come together, they, indeed, fulfil each other’s desire. I-i-7: He who meditates upon this syllable as Udgitha knowing it thus (as the fulfiller), verily becomes a fulfiller of all the desirable ends. I-i-8: That verily is the syllable of assent, for whenever one assents to a thing, one says only ‘Om’. Assent alone is prosperity. He who meditates upon this syllable as Udgitha, knowing it thus (as endowed with the quality of prosperity), verily becomes one who increases all the desirable ends. I-i-9: With this does the threefold knowledge proceed; (because) with Om does one cause to listen; with

Om does one recite; with Om does one sing aloud. For the worship of this syllable, with its own greatness and essence (the Vedic rites are performed). I-i-10: He who knows it thus and he who does not know – both perform actions with it. For knowledge and ignorance are different (in their results). Whatever is performed with knowledge, faith and meditation becomes more effective. Up to this truly is the explanation of (the greatness of) this syllable Om.

I-ii-1: Once upon a time the gods and the demons, both descendants of Prajapati, were engaged in a fight. In that fight, the gods performed the rites of the Udgatir priests resolving, ‘With this we shall defeat them’. I-ii-2: Then they meditated on (the deity of) Prana connected with the nose, as Udgitha; the demons pierced it with evil. Therefore with it, the nose, one smells both the fragrant and the foul, for it has been pierced with evil. I-ii-3: Then they meditated on (the deity of) speech as Udgitha; the demons pierced it with evil. Therefore with it one speaks both truth and untruth, for it has been pierced with evil. I-ii-4: Then they meditated on (the deity of) eye as Udgitha; the demons pierced it with evil. Therefore with the eye one sees both the sightly and the unsightly, for it has been pierced with evil. I-ii-5: Then they meditated on (the deity of) ear as Udgitha; the demons pierced it with evil. Therefore with the ear one hears both the pleasant and the unpleasant, for it has been pierced with evil. I-ii-6: Then they meditated on (the deity of) mind as Udgitha; the demons pierced it with evil. Therefore with the mind one thinks both good and evil thoughts, for it has been pierced with evil. I-ii-7: Then they meditated on the Prana in the mouth as Udgitha. The demons came in clash with it and were destroyed, just as a lump of clay is destroyed, striking against a hard rock. I-ii-8: Thus it is that the Prana in the mouth has not been destroyed and is pure. Even as a lump of clay striking against a hard rock is destroyed, so will he be destroyed who wishes to do evil to one who knows this (the purity of Prana) or who (actually) injures that knower, for he is like a hard rock. I-ii-9: With this Prana in the mouth one discerns neither sweet smell nor foul, for it is free from sin. What one eats or drinks through this, even with that he maintains the other Pranas. And not finding this at the time of death, the Prana in the mouth and its dependants depart; and thus indeed one opens the mouth at the time of death. I-ii-10: Angiras meditated on that Prana as Udgitha. The sages consider this alone as Angirasa which is the essence of the limbs. I-ii-11: So Brihaspati meditated on Prana as Udgitha. The sages consider this alone as Brihaspati, for speech is great and this Prana is its lord. I-ii-12: So Ayasya meditated on Prana as Udgitha (identifying it with himself). The sages consider this alone as Ayasya for it goes out of the mouth. I-ii-13: Baka, the son of Dalbha, knew it thus. So he became the Udgatir-singer of the sacrificers dwelling in Naimisa. For their sake he sang to fulfil their desires. I-ii-14: He who knows it thus and meditates on the Udgitha as the syllable Om, looking upon it as Prana, certainly becomes the singer (and procurer) of the desired objects. This is the meditation with reference to the body.

I-iii-1: Now the meditation (on the Udgitha) with reference to the gods is described. One should meditate on him who gives heat (i.e. the sun) as Udgitha. Verily, when he rises, he sings aloud for the sake of all creatures. When he rises, he dispels darkness and fear. Verily, he who knows the sun as being endowed with these qualities, becomes the dispeller of darkness and (the consequent) fear. I-iii-2: This Prana in the mouth and that sun are the same. This is warm and that is warm. People call this as Svara (that is going) and that as Svara and Pratyasvara (that is going and coming). Therefore one should meditate on this Prana and that sun as Udgitha.

I-iii-3: Now, verily one should meditate on Vyana as Udgitha. That which one breathes out is Prana and that which one breathes in is Apana. The junction of Prana and Apana is Vyana. That which is Vyana, even that is speech. Therefore, one utters speech while one neither breathes out nor breathes in. I-iii-4: That which is speech, even that is Rik. Therefore while one neither breathes out nor breathes in, one pronounces the Rik. That which is Rik, even that is Saman. Therefore, while one neither breathes out nor breathes in, one sings the Saman. That which is Saman, even that is Udgitha. Therefore, while one neither breathes out nor breathes in, one sings the Udgitha. I-iii-5: Therefore whatever other actions require strength, such as the kindling of fire by friction, running a race towards a goal, the bending of a strong bow, are all performed, while one neither breathes out nor breathes in. For this reason one should meditate on Vyana as Udgitha. I-iii-6: Now, one should meditate on the syllables of ‘Udgitha’ – namely, the syllables ‘ut’, ‘gi’ and ‘tha’. Prana is ‘ut’, because through Prana one arises (ut-tisthati). Speech is ‘gi’, because speech is called word (girah). Food is ‘tha’, because upon food all this is established (sthitam). I-iii-7: Heaven is ut, the sky is gi, the earth is tha. The sun is ut, the air gi, the fire, tha. The Sama-Veda is ut, the Yajur-Veda gi, the Rig-Veda tha. For him, speech yields the milk which is the benefit of speech. And he becomes rich in food; and an eater of food, who knows thus and meditates on the syllables of ‘Udgitha’, namely, ut, gi and tha. I-iii-8: Now follows the fulfilment of wishes: One should meditate on the objects contemplated. One should reflect upon Saman by means of which one proceeds to sing the Stotra. I-iii-9: One should reflect upon the Rik in which that Saman occurs, upon the sage by whom it is intuited and upon the deity to whom he proceeds to pray. I-iii-10: One should reflect upon the metre in which he proceeds to sing a Stotra; and he should reflect upon the hymn with which he proceeds to sing it. I-iii-11: He should reflect upon the quarter (of heaven) towards which he proceeds to sing a Stotra. I-iii-12: Lastly, having thought about himself, he should sing a Stotra reflecting upon his desired object avoiding all faults. Very quickly will be fulfilled for him the desire, desiring which he may sing the Stotra yea, desiring which he may sing the Stotra.

I-iv-1: One should meditate on the syllable Om, the Udgitha, for one sings the Udgitha beginning with Om. Of this the explanation follows. I-iv-2: Verily, the gods, being afraid of death, took refuge in the three Vedas. They covered themselves with the metrical hymns. Because they covered themselves with these, the metrical hymns are called Chandas. I-iv-3: Just as a fisherman would see a fish in water, so did Death observe the gods in the (rites connected with) Rik, Saman and Yajus. They, too, knowing this, arose from the Rik, Saman and Yajus, and entered the Svara (the syllable Om). I-iv-4: Verily, when one learns the Rik, he loudly pronounces ‘Om’. It is the same with Saman and with Yajus. This syllable Om is indeed Svara; it again is immortality and fearlessness. Having entered into Svara (i.e. having meditated) the gods became immortal and fearless. I-iv-5: He who worships this syllable knowing it thus, enters this syllable, the Svara, which is immortality and fearlessness. And having entered it, he becomes immortal by that nectar, by which the gods became immortal.

I-v-1: Now, that which is Udgitha is verily Pranava and that which is Pranava is Udgitha. The yonder sun is Udgitha and also Pranava, for he moves along pronouncing ‘Om’. I-v-2: ‘To him (the sun itself) I sung; therefore you are my only son’ thus said Kausitaki to his son. ‘Reflect upon the Udgitha as the rays of the sun, then surely, you will have many sons. This is the meditation with reference to the gods. I-v-3: Now (is the meditation) with reference to the body: One should meditate on him who is this

Prana in the mouth, as Udgitha, for he moves along pronouncing ‘Om’. I-v-4: ‘To him (the Prana itself) did I sing; therefore you are my only son’, thus said Kausitaki to his son. "I shall get many sons", thinking thus, sing praise to the Udgitha as the manifold Pranas.’ I-v-5: ‘Now, that which is Udgitha, is verily Pranava; and that which is Pranava, is Udgitha’, so one should think. As a result of it, even if he chants wrongly, he rectifies it by the act done from the seat of the Hotr priest.

I-vi-1: The earth is Rik, the fire is Saman. This Saman rests upon that Rik. Therefore the Saman is sung as resting upon the Rik. The earth is ‘sa’, the fire is ‘ama’, and that makes ‘Sama’. I-vi-2: The sky is Rik, the air is Sama. This Saman rests upon that Rik. Therefore the Saman is sung as resting upon the Rik. The sky is ‘sa’, the air is ‘ama’, and that makes ‘Sama’. I-vi-3: Heaven is Rik, the sun is Saman. This Saman rests upon that Rik. Therefore the Saman is sung as resting upon the Rik. Heaven is ‘sa’, the sun is ‘ama’, and that makes ‘Sama’. I-vi-4: The stars are Rik, the moon is Saman. This Saman rests upon that Rik. Therefore the Saman is sung as resting upon the Rik. The stars are ‘sa’, the moon is ‘ama’, and that makes ‘Sama’. I-vi-5: Now, the while light of the sun is Rik, the blue (light) that is extremely dark is Saman. This Saman rests upon that Rik. Therefore the Saman is sung as resting upon the Rik. I-vi-6: Again, the white light of the sun is ‘sa’, the blue (light) that is extremely dark is ‘ama’, and that makes ‘Sama’. Now, that Person, effulgent as gold, who is seen within the sun, who is with golden beard and golden hair, is exceedingly effulgent even to the very tips of his nails. I-vi-7: His eyes are bright like a red lotus. His name is ‘ut’. He has risen above all evils. Verily, he who knows thus rises above all evils. I-vi-8: Rik and Saman are his two joints. Therefore he is Udgitha. Because the priest is the singer of this ‘ut’, he is the Udgitha. Moreover, he (this Person called ‘ut’) controls the worlds which are above that sun, as also the desires of the gods. This is with reference to the gods.

I-vii-1: Now (is the meditation) with reference to the body: Speech is Rik, Prana is Sama. This Saman rests upon that Rik. Therefore the Saman is sung as resting upon the Rik. Speech is ‘sa’, Prana is ‘ama’ and that makes ‘Sama’. I-vii-2: The eye is Rik, the self (reflected in the eye) is Saman. This Saman rests upon that Rik. Therefore the Saman is sung as resting upon the Rik. The eye is ‘sa’, the self is ‘ama’, and that makes ‘Sama’. I-vii-3: The ear is Rik, the mind is Saman. This Saman rests upon that Rik. Therefore the Saman is sung as resting upon the Rik. The ear is ‘sa’, the mind is ‘ama’, and that makes "Sama’. I-vii-4: Now, the white light of the eye is Rik, the blue (light) that is extremely dark is Saman. This Saman rests upon that Rik. Therefore the Saman is sung as resting upon the Rik. The white light of the eye is ‘sa’, the blue (light) that is extremely dark is ‘ama’ and that makes ‘Sama’. I-vii-5: Now, this person who is seen within the eye – he indeed is Rik, he is Saman, he is Uktha, he is Yajus, he is the Vedas. The form of this (person seen in the eye) is the same as the form of that (person seen in the sun). His joints are the same as those of the other; his name is the same as that of the other. I-vii-6: That (person in the eye) is the lord of all the worlds that are extended below, as also of the desired objects of men. So those who sing on the lute, sing of him alone and thereby become endowed with wealth. I-vii-7: Now he who sings the Saman after knowing the deity Udgitha thus, sings to both. Through that (person in the sun), he (that singer) gets the worlds beyond that sun and also the desired objects of gods. I-vii-8-9: Similarly, through this person in the eye, one gets the worlds that are extended below this person, and also the desired objects of men. For this reason, the Udgatir priest who knows thus should ask (the sacrificer): ‘What desire shall I obtain for you by singing the Saman ?’ For he alone becomes

capable of obtaining desires by singing , who knowing thus sings the Saman – yea, sings the Saman.

I-viii-1: In ancient times there were three proficient in Udgitha: Silaka the son of Salavat, Caikitayana of the Dalbhya family and Pravahana the son of Jivala. They said, ‘We are proficient in Udgitha. If you agree, let us enter on a discussion of Udgitha’. I-viii-2: ‘Let it be so’, saying this they sat down. Then Pravahana Jaivali said, ‘You two, revered sirs, speak first; and I shall listen to the words of two Brahmanas conversing’. I-viii-3: Then Silaka Salavatya said to Caikitayana Dalbhya, ‘If you permit, I shall question you’. ‘Question’, said he. I-viii-4: (Silaka asked), ‘What is the essence of Saman ?’ ‘The tune’, said (Dalbhya). ‘What is the essence of the tune ?’ ‘Prana’, said (Dalbhya). ‘What is the essence of Prana ?’ ‘Food’, said (Dalbhya). ‘What is the essence of food ?’ ‘Water’, said (Dalbhya). I-viii-5: ‘What is the essence of water ?’ ‘That (heavenly world)’, said (Dalbhya). ‘What is the essence of the world ?’ ‘One cannot carry (the Saman) beyond the heavenly world’, said Dalbhya; ‘we locate the Saman in the world of heaven, for Saman is praised as heaven’. I-viii-6: Then Silaka Salavatya said to Caikitayana Dalbhya: ‘O Dalbhya, your Saman is not indeed established. If someone one were to say, "Your head shall fall down", surely your head would fall down’. I-viii-7: (Dalbhya) ‘Will you permit me, sir, to learn this of you ?’ ‘Learn’, said (Silaka). ‘What is the essence of that (heavenly) world ?’ ‘This earth’, said (Silaka), ‘What is the essence of this earth ?’ ‘One cannot carry the Saman beyond this world as its support’, said Silaka; ‘we locate the Saman in this world as its support, for Saman is extolled as the earth’. I-viii-8: Pravahana Jaivali said to him, ‘O Salavatya, your Sama, really, has a further end. If someone now were to say, "Your head shall fall down", surely your head would fall down. (Salavatya) ‘Will you permit me, sir, to learn (this of you ?) ‘Learn’, said (Jaivali).

I-ix-1: (Salavatya) ‘What is the essence of this world ?’ ‘Akasa’ said (Pravahana); ‘All these beings arise from Akasa alone and are finally dissolved into Akasa; because Akasa alone is greater than all these and Akasa is the support at all times.’ I-ix-2: It is this Udgitha which is progressively higher and better. This again is endless. He who, knowing thus, meditates upon the progressively higher and better Udgitha, obtains progressively higher and better lives and wins progressively higher and better worlds. I-ix-3: Atidhanvan, the son of Sunaka, having taught this to Udarasandilya, said, ‘As long as among your descendants, this knowledge of the Udgitha continues, so long their life in this world will be progressively higher and better than ordinary lives.’ I-ix-4: ‘And in that other world also their state will be similar’. He who knows and meditates thus – his life in this world surely becomes progressively higher and better, and so also his state in that other world – yea, in that other world.

I-x-1: When the crops in the Kuru country had been destroyed by hailstorms, there lived Usasti, the son of Cakra with his young wife in a deplorable condition in the village of elephant-drivers. I-x-2: He begged food of an elephant-driver, while he was eating beans of an inferior quality. The driver said to him, ‘There is no other food than what is set before me’. I-x-3: ‘Give me some of them’, said Usasti. The driver gave them to him and said, ‘Here is drink at hand, if you please 1’ ‘Then I shall be drinking what is defiled’, said Usasti. I-x-4: ‘Are not these beans also defiled ?’ ‘Unless I ate them, I would surely not have survived’, said Usasti, ‘but drinking is at my option’. I-x-5: Usasti, after he had eaten, brought the remainder to his wife. She had already obtained her food by alms; so after receiving it she kept it by. I-x-6: Next morning while leaving the bed he said, ‘Alas, if I could get a little of food, I could earn a

little wealth. There a king is going to institute a sacrifice; he would appoint me to all the priestly offices’. I-x-7: His wife said to him, ‘Well, lord, here are the beans (given by you).’ Having eaten them he went off to that sacrifice which was being performed. I-x-8: Seeing the singing priests seated there, he sat down near the singers in the place for singing the Stotras. And then he addressed the Prastotir priest. I-x-9: ‘O Prastotir, if you sing the Prastava without knowing the deity that belongs to the Prastava, your head will fall down’. I-x-10: In the same manner he addressed the Udgatir priest, O Udgatir, if you sing the Udgitha without knowing the deity that belongs to the Udgitha, your head will fall down’. I-x-11: In the same manner he addressed the Pratihartir priest, ‘O Pratihartir, if you sing the Pratihara without knowing the deity that belongs to the Pratihara, your head will fall down’. Then they all sat down silently suspending their duties.

I-xi-1: Then the principal of the sacrifice said to him, I should like to know you, revered sir, ‘I am Chakrayana Usasti’, said he. I-xi-2: He said, ‘I searched for you, revered sir, for all these priestly offices, but not finding you, sir, I have chosen others.’ I-xi-3: ‘Revered sir, you yourself take up all the priestly offices for me’. ‘Be it so; then, let these same priests sing the hymns, being permitted by me. But you should give me as much wealth as you give them.’ ‘Very well’, said the sacrificer. I-xi-4: Then the Prastotir priest approached him and said, ‘Revered sir, you said to me: ‘O Prastotir, if you sing the Prastava without knowing the deity that belongs to the Prastava, your head will fall down". Which is that deity ?’ I-xi-5: ‘Prana’, said Usasti, ‘all these movable and immovable beings merge in Prana (during dissolution) and rise out of Prana (during creation). This is the deity that belongs to the Prastava. If you sang the Prastava without knowing him, after your having been warned thus by me, your head would have fallen down.’ I-xi-6: Then the Udgatir priest approached him and said, ‘Revered sir, you said to me: ‘O Udgatir, if you sing the Udgitha without knowing the deity that belongs to the Udgitha, your head will fall down". Which is that deity ?’ I-xi-7: ‘The sun’, said Usasti, ‘all these movable and immovable sing the praise of the sun when he has come up. This is the deity that belongs to the Udgitha. If you sang the Udgitha without knowing him, after your having been warned thus by me, your head would have fallen down.’ I-xi-8: Then the Pratihartir priest approached him and said, ‘Revered sir, you said to me: ‘O Pratihartir, if you sing the Pratihara without knowing the deity that belongs to the Pratihara, your head will fall down". Which is that deity ?’ I-xi-9: ‘Food’, said Usasti, ‘all these movable and immovable beings live by partaking of food only. This is the deity that belongs to the Pratihara. If you sang the Pratihara without knowing him, after your having been warned thus by me, your head would have fallen down.’

I-xii-1: Therefore next begins the Udgitha seen by the dogs. Once Dalbhya Baka, called also Maitreya Glava, went out (of the village) for the study of the Vedas. I-xii-2: Before him a white dog appeared and other dogs gathered around it and said, ‘Revered sir, please obtain food for us by singing; we are hungry.’ I-xii-3: The white dog said to them, ‘Come to me over here tomorrow morning.’ (The sage named) Dalbhya Baka and Maitreya Glava kept watch there for them. I-xii-4: Just as those who recite the Stotras singing the Bahispavamana hymn move along clasping one another’s hand, even so did the dogs move along. Then they sat down and began to pronounce ‘him’.

I-xii-5: ‘Om, let us eat ! Om, let us drink ! Om, may the (sun who is) god, Varuna, Prajapati and Savitir bring us food here. O Lord of food, bring food here, yea bring it, Om !’

I-xiii-1: Verily, this world is the syllable ‘hau’ (which is a Stobha), the air is the syllable ‘hai’, the moon is the syllable ‘atha’, the self is the syllable ‘iha’ and the fire is the syllable ‘I’. I-xiii-2: The sun is the syllable ‘u’ (which is a Stobha), invocation is the syllable ‘e’ the Visvadevas are the syllable ‘auhoyi’, Prajapati is the syllable ‘him’, Prana is the Stobha ‘svara’, food is the Stobha ‘ya’ and Virat is the Stobha ‘vak’. I-xiii-3: The undefinable and variable thirteenth Stobha is the syllable ‘hum’. I-xiii-4: For him, speech yields the milk, which is the benefit of speech; and he becomes richin food and an eater of food, who thus knows this sacred doctrine of the Samans – yea, knows the sacred doctrine of the Samans.

II-i-1: Om. Surely, the meditation on the whole Saman is good. Anything that is good, people call as Saman, anything that is not good, as Asaman. II-i-2: Thus, when people say, ‘He approached him with Saman’, then they say only this: ‘He approached him with a good motive’. And when they say, ‘He approached him with Asaman’, then they say only this" ‘He approached him with an evil motive.’ II-i-3: Again, people say: ‘Oh, this is Saman for us’, when it is something good; then they say only this: ‘Oh, this is good for us’. Again, they say, ‘Oh, this is Asaman for us’, when it is not good; then they say only this: ‘Oh, this is evil.’ II-i-4: When one who knows it thus meditates on the Saman as good, all good qualities hasten towards him and serve him.

II-ii-1: Among the worlds one should meditate upon the Saman as fivefold. The earth is the syllable him, the fire is Prasrava, the sky is Udgitha, the sun is Pratihara, and heaven is Nidhana. Thus this meditation pertains to the higher worlds. II-ii-2: Now, among the lower worlds. Heaven is the syllable him, the sun is Prastava, the sky is Udgitha the fire is Pratihara, and the earth is Nidhana. II-ii-3: The worlds in the ascending and descending lines belong to him. Who, knowing it thus (endowed with the quality of ‘good’) meditates on the fivefold Saman in the worlds.

II-iii-1-2: One should meditate on the fivefold Saman as rain. The wind that precedes is the syllable him, the cloud that is formed is Prastava, the shower is Udgitha, lightning and thunder are Pratihara, and the ceasing is Nidhana. It rains for him – indeed, he causes rain – who, knowing it thus, meditates on the fivefold Saman as rain.

II-iv-1: One should meditate on the fivefold Saman in all the waters. When a cloud gathers, it is the syllable him. When it rains, it is Prastava. Those (waters) that flow to the east, are Udgitha. Those that flow to the west are Pratihara. The ocean is Nidhana. II-iv-2: He who, knowing it thus, meditates on the fivefold Saman in all the waters, does not drown in water and he becomes rich in water.

II-v-1: One should meditate on the fivefold Saman as the seasons: The spring is the syllable him, the summer is Prastava, the rainy season is Udgitha, the autumn is Pratihara, and the winter is Nidhana. II-v-2: He, who knowing it thus, meditates on the fivefold Saman in the seasons, him the seasons serve and he becomes rich in seasons.

II-vi-1: One should meditate on the fivefold Saman as the animals. The goats are the syllable him, the sheep are Prastava, the cows are Udgitha, the horses are Pratihara, and man is Nidhana. II-vi-2: He, who knowing it this, meditates on the fivefold Saman in animals, to him animals belong

and he becomes rich in animals.

II-vii-1: One should meditate on the progressively higher and better fivefold Saman as the senses; The organ of smell is the syllable him, the organ of speech is Prastava, the eye is Udgitha, the ear is Pratihara, and the mind is Nidhana. Verily, these are progressively higher and better. II-vii-2: He who knowing it thus, meditates on the fivefold Saman, progressively higher and better, in the senses, to him belong progressively higher and better lives and he wins ever higher and better worlds. So much for (the meditation on) the fivefold Saman.

II-viii-1-2: Next is the meditation on the sevenfold Saman. One should meditate on the sevenfold Saman as speech. Whatsoever in speech is ‘hum’, that is the syllable him; whatever is ‘pra’, that is Prastava; whatever is ‘a’, that is Adi (the first); whatever is ‘ut’, that is Udgitha; whatever is ‘prati’, that is Pratihara; whetever is ‘upa’, that is Upadrava; and whatever is ‘ni’, that is Nidhana. II-viii-3: He who knowing it thus, meditates on the sevenfold (whole) Saman as speech, for him speech yields milk i.e. its appropriate benefit, and he becomes rich in food and an eater of food.

II-ix-1: Next, one should meditate upon the sevenfold Saman as the yonder sun. He is the Saman because he is always the same. He is the Saman because he is the same to all, for each one thinks, ‘He faces me, he faces me.’ II-ix-2: One should know that all these beings are dependent on him. What he is before rising, that is Himkara. On this, the animals are dependent. As they participate in the Himkara part of this Saman, do they utter him (before sunrise). II-ix-3: Then, the form of the sun when it has just risen, that is Prastava. On this, men are dependent. As they participate in the Prastava part of this Saman, so are they desirous of praise, direct and indirect. II-ix-4: And the form of the sun as it appears at the time of the assembling of its rays, that is Adi. On this, the birds are dependent. As they participate in the Adi part of this Saman, so do they hold themselves unsupported in the sky and fly about. II-ix-5: Next, the form of the sun that appears just at midday, that is Udgitha. On this, the gods are dependent. As they participate in the Udgitha part of this Saman, so are they the best among the offsprings of Prajapati. II-ix-6: Next, the form of the sun that appears just after midday and before (the latter part of) afternoon, that is Pratihara. On this, the foetuses are dependent. As they participate in the Pratihara part of this Saman, (so are they held up in the womb) and they do not fall down. II-ix-7: Next, the form of the sun that appears when it is past afternoon and before sunset, that is Upadrava. On this, the wild animals are dependent. As they participate in the Upadrava part of this Saman, so do they, when they see a man, run away to the forest, as to a place of safety. II-ix-8: Now, the form of the sun that appears just after sunset, that is Nidhana. On this, the fathers are dependent. As they participate in the Nidhana part of this Saman, so do people lay them aside.

II-x-1: Now, verily, one should meditate on the sevenfold Saman, which has all its parts similar, and which leads beyond death. ‘Himkara, has three syllables; ‘Prastava’ has three syllables. So they are equal to each other. II-x-2: ‘Adi’ has two syllables; ‘Pratihara’ has four syllables. We take one syllable from Pratihara to Adi. So they are equal to each other. II-x-3: ‘Udgitha’ has three syllables; ‘Upadrava’ has four syllables. Three and three become equal. One syllable is left over; that really is tri-syllabic; so it also becomes equal. II-x-4: ‘Nidhana’ has three syllables, and this to is equal (to the others). These, indeed, are the twenty two syllables (of the sevenfold Saman). II-x-5-6: He who, knowing this Saman thus (as good), meditates on the sevenfold Saman, which has all its parts similar and which leads beyond death, reaches the sun (Death) by the number twenty-one; for,

counting from this world the yonder sun is verily the twenty-first. With the remaining twenty-second syllable he conquers the world beyond the sun. That world is of the nature of bliss, and is free from misery. (That is), he obtains victory over the sun, and then a victory still higher becomes his, who meditates on the sevenfold Saman.

II-xi-1: The mind is Himkara, speech is Prastava, the eye is Udgitha, the ear is Pratihara, and the Prana is Nidhana. This is the Gayatra Saman woven in (the Prana and) the senses. II-xi-2: He who thus knows this Gayatra Saman as woven in (the Prana and) the senses, becomes the possessor of perfect senses, reaches the full length of life, lives gloriously, becomes great with offspring and cattle, and great also with fame. His holy vow is that he should be high-minded.

II-xii-1: One rubs, that is Himkara. The smoke is produced, that is Prastava. It blazes, that is Udgitha. The embers are formed, that is Pratihara. It goes down, that is Nidhana. It is completely extinguished, that is Nidhana. This is the Rathantara Saman woven in fire. II-xii-2: He who thus knows this Rathantara Saman as woven in fire becomes radiant with the holy effulgence born of sacred wisdom, is endowed with good appetite and reaches the full length of life, lives gloriously, becomes great with offspring and cattle, and great also with fame. His holy vow is that he should neither sip nor spit facing the fire.

II-xiii-1-2: The Vamadevya Saman is woven in a couple. He who thus knows this Vamadevya Saman as woven in a couple becomes one of the couple and procreates. He reaches the full length of life, lives gloriously, becomes great with offspring and cattle, and great also with fame. His holy vow is that he should not despise any woman.

II-xiv-1: The rising sun is Himkara; the risen sun is Prastava; the midday sun is Udgitha; the sun in the afternoon is Pratihara, and the setting sun is Nidhana. This is the Brihat Saman woven in the sun. II-xiv-2: He who thus knows this Brihat Saman as woven in the sun becomes refulgent and endowed with good appetite, reaches the full length of life, lives gloriously, becomes great with offspring and cattle, and great also with fame. His holy vow is that he should not find fault with the burning sun.

II-xv-1: The white clouds gather, that is Himkara. The (rain-bearing) cloud is formed, that is Prastava. It rains, that is Udgitha. It flashes and thunders, that is Pratihara. It ceases, that is Nidhana. This is the Vairupa Saman woven in the rain-cloud. II-xv-2: He who thus knows this Virupa Saman as woven in the rain-cloud acquires cattle of handsome and manifold forms, reaches the full length of life, lives gloriously, becomes great with offspring and cattle, and great also with fame. His holy vow is that he should not find fault with the rain-cloud when it rains.

II-xvi-1: The spring is Himkara, the summer is Prastava, the rainy season is Udgitha, the autumn is Pratihara, and the winter is Nidhana. This is the Vairaja Saman woven in the seasons. II-xvi-2: He who thus knows this Vairaja Saman as woven in the seasons shines with offspring, cattle and the holy effulgence born of sacred wisdom, reaches the full length of life, lives gloriously, becomes great with offspring and cattle and great also with fame. His holy vow is that he should not find fault with the seasons.

II-xvii-1: The earth is Himkara, the sky is Prastava, heaven is Udgitha, the quarters are Pratihara, and the ocean is Nidhana. This is the Sakvari Saman woven in the worlds. II-xvii-2: He who thus knows this Sakvari Saman woven in the worlds, becomes the possessor of the worlds, reaches the full length of life, lives gloriously, becomes great with offspring and cattle and great also with fame. His holy vow is that he should not find fault with the worlds.

II-xviii-1: The goats are Himkara, the sheep are Prastava, the cows are Udgitha, the horses are Pratihara, and man is Nidhana. This is the Revati Saman woven in the animals. II-xviii-2: He who thus knows this Revati Saman woven in the animals, becomes the possessor of animals, reaches the full length of life, lives gloriously, becomes great with offspring and cattle, great also with fame. His holy vow is that he should not find fault with animals.

II-xix-1: The hair is Himkara, the skin is Prastava, the flesh is Udgitha, the bone is Pratihara, and the marrow is Nidhana. This is the Yajnayajniya Saman woven in the limbs of the body. II-xix-2: He who thus knows this Yajnayajniya Saman, woven in the limbs of the body, is endowed with all the limbs, and is not crippled in any limb; he reaches the full length of life, lives gloriously, becomes great with offspring and cattle and great also with fame. His holy vow is that he should not eat fish and meat for a year, or rather, he should not eat fish and meat at all.

II-xx-1: Fire is Himkara, Air is Prastava, the Sun is Udgitha, the Stars are Pratihara, and the Moon is Nidhana. This is the Rajana Saman woven in the deities. II-xx-2: He who knows thus knows this Rajana Saman woven in the deities, abides in the same world or gets the same prosperity as these very deities or attains union with them; he reaches the full length of life, lives gloriously, becomes great with offspring and cattle and great also with fame. His holy vow is that he should not find fault with the Brahmanas.

II-xxi-1: The three Vedas are Himkara; the three worlds are Prastava; Fire, Air and the Sun are Udgitha; the Stars, the birds and the rays are Pratihara; the serpents, the celestial singers and the fathers are Nidhana. This is the collection of Samans woven in all things. II-xxi-2: Verily, he who thus knows this collection of Samans as woven in all things becomes the lord of all things. II-xxi-3: There is this verse about it: That which is fivefold in groups of three – there is nothing else greater or other than these (fifteen). II-xxi-4: He who knows that knows all. All the quarters bring offerings to him. His holy vow is that he should meditate ‘I am all’ – yea, that is his vow.

II-xxii-1: ‘Of the Samans, I choose the one that bellows, as it were, and is good for cattle,’ thus (some think). This is the loud singing sacred to Agni, the undefined one to Prajapati, the defined one to Soma, the soft and smooth to Vayu, the smooth and strong to Indra, the heron-like to Brihaspati, and the ill- sounding to Varuna. Verily, one may practise all these, but should avoid the one sacred to Varuna. II-xxii-2: ‘May I obtain immortality for the gods by singing’, (thinking) thus one should sing. ‘May I obtain my singing, oblation for the fathers, hope for men, grass and water for animals, the heavenly world for the sacrificer, and food for myself’, -- thus reflecting in his mind on all these, he should sing the Stotra attentively. II-xxii-3: All vowels are the embodiments of Indra; all sibilants are the embodiments of Prajapati; all Sparsa consonants are the embodiments of Death. If anyone should reprove him for the pronunciation of his vowels, he should tell him, ‘I have taken my refuge in Indra; he will answer you.’ II-xxii-4: And if some one should reprove him for sibilants he should tell him, ‘I have taken my refuge in Prajapati; he will crush you’. And if some one should reprove him for his Sparsa consonants, he should tell him, ‘I have taken my refuge in Death; he will burn you up.’ II-xxii-5: All vowels should be pronounced sonant and strong, (with the thought), ‘May I impart strength to Indra (Prana)’. All sibilants should be pronounced, neither inarticulately, nor leaving out the elements of sound, but distinctly (with the thought), ‘May I give myself to Prajapati (Virat).’ All Sparsa consonants should be pronounced slowly, without mixing them with any other letter, (with the thought), ‘May I withdraw myself from Death.’

II-xxiii-1: Three are the branches of religious duty. Sacrifice, study and gifts – these are the first. Austerity alone is the second, and the celibate student of sacred knowledge, who lives in the house of the teacher throughout his life mortifying his body in the teacher’s house, is the third. All these become possessors of meritorious worlds; but he who is established firmly in Brahman, attains immortality. II-xxiii-2: Prajapati brooded on the worlds. From them, thus brooded upon, issued forth the threefold Veda (as their essence). He brooded on this. From this, thus brooded upon, issued forth the syllables Bhuh, Bhuvah and Svah. II-xxiii-3: He brooded on them. From them, thus brooded upon, issued forth (as their essence) the syllable Om (Brahman). Just as all the parts of the leaf, are permeated by the ribs of the leaf, so are all the words permeated by the syllable Om. Verily, the syllable Om is all this – yea, the syllable Om is verily all this.

II-xxiv-1-2: The expounders of Brahman say, ‘The morning libation is of the Vasus, the midday libation is of the Rudras and the third libation is of the Adityas and of the Visvadevas. Where, the, is the world of the sacrificer ?’ How can he who does not know this, perform (sacrifices) ? It is only after knowing this that he should perform (sacrifices). II-xxiv-3-4: Before the commencement of the morning chant, the sacrificer sits down behind the Garhapatya fire, facing the north and sings the Saman sacred to the Vasus: ‘(O Fire), open the door of this world that we may see you for obtaining the kingdom.’ II-xxiv-5-6: Then he offers the oblation (with the Mantra) – ‘Salutation to Fire, who dwells in the region of the earth. Obtain the region, for me the sacrificer. This region, indeed, is to be obtained by the sacrificer. At the end of the duration of this life, I, the sacrificer, am willing to come here – Svaha.’ ‘Unbar the door of the region’, saying this he gets up. (As a result) the Vasus grant him (the region connected with) the morning libation. II-xxiv-7-8: Before the starting of the midday libation, the sacrificer sits down behind the Agnidhriya fire, facing the north, and sings the Saman sacred to the Rudras: ‘(O Fire), open the door of the region of the sky that we may see you for obtaining the sovereignty of the sky.’ II-xxiv-9-10: Then he offers the oblation (with the Mantra): ‘Salutation to Vayu, who dwells in the region of the sky. Obtain this region for me, the sacrificer. This region, indeed, is to be obtained by the sacrificer. At the end of the duration of this life, I, the sacrificer, am willing to go there – Svaha’. ‘Unbar the door of the region’, saying this he gets up. (As a result) the Rudras grant him (the region of the sky connected with) the midday libation. II-xxiv-11-13: Before beginning the third libation, the sacrificer sits down behind the Ahavaniya fire, facing the north, and sings the Saman sacred to the Adityas and the one sacred to the Visvadevas: ‘(O Fire), open the door of the region of heaven that we may see you for obtaining the sovereignty of heaven’. This is the Saman sacred to the Adityas. Next is the one sacred to the Visvadevas; ‘(O Fire), open the door of the region of heaven that we may see you for obtaining the supreme sovereignty.’ II-xxiv-14-15: Then the sacrificer offers the oblation (with the Mantra): ‘Salutation to the Adityas and to the Visvadevas, the inhabitants of the region of heaven. Obtain the region of heaven for me, the sacrificer. This region, indeed, is to be obtained by the sacrificer. At the end of the duration of this life, I, the sacrificer, am willing to go there – Svaha’. ‘Unbar the door of the region’, saying this, he gets up. II-xxiv-16: The Adityas and the Visvadevas grant him (the region appropriate to) the third libation. He alone knows the real character of the sacrifice, who knows thus.

III-i-1: Om. The yonder sun indeed is the honey of the gods. Of this honey, heaven is the cross-beam, the sky is the honey comb, and (the water particles in) the rays are the eggs. III-i-2-3: The eastern rays of that sun are its eastern honey-cells; the Riks are the bees, (the ritual of) the Rig-Veda is the flower and those waters are the nectar. Those very Riks (the bees) pressed this Rig- Veda. From it, thus pressed, issued forth as juice, fame, splendour (of limbs), (alertness of) the senses,

virility, and food for eating. III-i-4: That juice flowed forth; it settled by the side of the sun. Verily, this it is that appears as the red hue of the sun.

III-ii-1: And its southern rays are its southern honey cells. The Yajus verses are the bees. The Yajur- Veda is the flower; and those waters are the nectar. III-ii-2: Those very Yajus verses pressed this Yajur-Veda. And from it, thus pressed, issued forth as juice, fame, splendour of limbs, alertness of the senses, virility, and food for eating. III-ii-3: It, flowed forth; it settled by the side of the sun. Verily, this it is that appears as the white hue of the sun.

III-iii-1: And its western rays are its western honey cells. The Samans are the bees. The Sama-Veda is the flower; and those waters are the nectar. III-iii-2: Those very Samans pressed this Sama-Veda. From it, thus pressed, issued forth as juice, fame, splendour of limbs, alertness of the senses, virility, and food for eating. III-iii-3: It flowed forth; it settled by the side of the sun. Verily, this it is that appears as the black hue of the sun.

III-iv-1: And its northern rays are its northern honey cells. The Mantras of the Atharva-Veda are the bees. The Itihasa and the Purana are the flower; and those waters are the nectar. III-iv-2: Those Mantras of the Atharva-Veda pressed this Itihasa-Purana. From it, thus pressed, issued forth as juice, fame, splendour of limbs, alertness of the senses, virility, and food for eating. III-iv-3: It flowed forth; it settled by the side of the sun. Verily, this it is that appears as the deep black hue of the sun.

III-v-1: And its upper rays are its upper honey cells. The secret teachings are the bees. Brahman (Pranava) is the flower. Those waters (the results of the meditations on the Pranava) are the nectar. III-v-2: Those secret teachings pressed this Pranava. From it, thus pressed, issued forth as juice, fame, splendour of limbs, alertness of the senses, virility, and food for eating. III-v-3: It flowed forth; it settled by the side of the sun. Verily, this it is that appears as the quivering in the middle of the sun. III-v-4: Verily, these hues are the juice of the juices, for the Vedas are the essences and these are their essence. These hues indeed are the nectar of the nectars, for the Vedas are the nectar and these are their nectar.

III-vi-1: That which is the first nectar (i.e. the red form), that verily Vasus enjoy with Agni as their leader. The gods, indeed, neither eat nor drink, only with seeing this nectar are they satisfied. III-vi-2: They enter into this very form (colour) and out of this form they emerge. III-vi-3: He who knows thus this nectar becomes one of the Vasus, and with Agni as the leader, is satisfied only with seeing this nectar. He enters into this very form and out of this form he emerges. III-vi-4: As long as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, so long does he retain the sovereignty and the heavenly kingdom of (or similar to that of) the Vasus.

III-vii-1: And that which is the second nectar (i.e. the white form), that verily the Rudras enjoy with Indra as their leader. The gods, indeed, neither eat nor drink; only with seeing this nectar are they satisfied. III-vii-2: They enter into this very form and out of this form they emerge. III-vii-3: He who knows thus this nectar becomes one of the Rudras, and with Indra as the leader, is satisfied only with seeing this nectar. He enters into this very form and out of this form he emerges. III-vii-4: As long as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, even twice so long does he (the Sun)

rise in the south and set in the north and even so long does he retain the sovereignty and the heavenly kingdom of the Rudras.

III-viii-1: And that which is the third nectar (i.e. the black form), that verily the Adityas enjoy with Varuna as their leader. The gods, indeed, neither eat nor drink; only with seeing this nectar are they satisfied. III-viii-2: They enter into this very form and out of this form they emerge. III-viii-3: He who knows thus this nectar becomes one of the Adityas, and with Varuna as the leader, is satisfied only with seeing this nectar. He enters into this very form and out of this form he emerges. III-viii-4: As long as the sun rises in the south and sets in the north, even twice so long does he (the Sun) rise in the west and set in the east and even so long does he retain the sovereignty and the heavenly kingdom of the Adityas.

III-ix-1: And that which is the fourth nectar (i.e. the deep black colour), that verily the Maruts enjoy with Soma as their leader. The gods, indeed, neither eat nor drink; only with seeing this nectar are they satisfied. III-ix-2: They enter into this very form and out of this form they emerge. III-ix-3: He who knows thus this nectar becomes one of the Maruts, and with Soma as the leader is satisfied only with seeing this nectar. III-ix-4: As long as the sun rises in the west and sets in the east, even twice so long does he (the Sun) rise in the north and set in the south and even so long does he retain the sovereignty and the heavenly kingdom of the Maruts.

III-x-1: And that which is the fifth nectar (i.e. the quivering form within the sun), that verily the Sadhyas enjoy with Pranava as their leader. The gods, indeed, neither eat nor drink; only with seeing this nectar are they satisfied. III-x-2: They enter into this very form and out of this form they emerge. III-x-3: He who knows thus this nectar becomes one of the Sadhyas, and with Pranava as the leader is satisfied only with seeing this nectar. III-x-4: As long as the sun rises in the north and sets in the south, even twice so long does he (the Sun) rise in overhead and set below and even so long does he retain the sovereignty and the heavenly kingdom of the Sadhyas.

III-xi-1: Then, rising from there upward, he will neither rise nor set. He will remain alone in the middle. There is this verse about it: III-xi-2: ‘Never does this happen there. Never did the sun set there nor did it rise. O gods, by this, my assertion of the truth, may I not fall from Brahman’. III-xi-3: Verily, for him the sun neither rises nor sets. He who thus knows this secret of the Vedas, for him, there is perpetual day. III-xi-4: Hiranyagarbha imparted this Doctrine of Honey to Prajapati, Prajapati to Manu, and Manu to his progeny. And the father told his eldest son Uddalaka Aruni this very knowledge of Brahman. III-xi-5: A father may declare to his eldest son or to any other worthy disciple this very knowledge of Honey. III-xi-6: And not to any one else, even if one should offer him this sea-girt earth filled with wealth. This (doctrine) is certainly greater than that. This certainly is greater than that.

III-xii-1: Gayatri indeed is all this, whatever being exists. Speech indeed is Gayatri; for speech indeed sings and removes fear of all this that exists. III-xii-2: That which is this Gayatri, even that is this earth; for on this earth are all the beings established and they do not transcend it.

III-xii-3: That which is this earth (as Gayatri), even that is this, i.e. this body in respect of this person; for these senses are indeed established in this body and they do not transcend it. III-xii-4: That which is the body in respect of a person, even that is identical with) the heart within this body; for these senses are indeed established in it and they do not transcend it. III-xii-5: This well-known Gayatri is four footed and sixfold. The Gayatri Brahman is thus expressed in the following Rik: III-xii-6: Such is the greatness of this (Brahman called Gayatri). The Person is even greater than this. All this world is a quarter of Him, the other three quarters of His constitute immortality in heaven. III-xii-7-9: That which is (designated as) Brahman, even that is this Akasa outside the body. That which is the Akasa outside the body, even that is the Akasa inside the body. That which is the Akasa inside the body, even that is this Akasa within the (lotus of the) heart. This Brahman is all-filling and unchanging. He who knows (Brahman) thus, gets all-filling and unchanging prosperity.

III-xiii-1: Of the said heart, there are, indeed, five doors guarded by the gods. (He who is in) that which is the eastern door of this, is Prana. He is the eye, he is the sun. This (Brahman called Prana) should be meditated upon as brightness and as the source of food. He who meditates thus, becomes resplendent and an eater of food. III-xiii-2: And (he who is in) that which is the southern door of this (heart), is Vyana. He is the ear, he is the moon. This (Brahman called Vyana) should be meditated upon as prosperity and fame. He who meditates thus becomes prosperous and famous. III-xiii-3: And (he who is in) that which is the western door of this (heart), is Apana. He is speech, he is fire. This (Brahman called Apana) should be meditated upon as the holy effulgence born of sacred wisdom and as the source of food. He who meditates thus becomes radiant with the holy effulgence born of sacred wisdom and also an eater of food. III-xiii-4: And (he who is in) that which is the northern door of this (heart), is Samana. He is the mind, he is Parjanya (the rain-god). This (Brahman called Samana) should be meditated upon as fame and grace. He who meditates thus becomes famous and graceful. III-xiii-5: And (he who is in) that which is the upper door of this (heart), is Udana. He is the air, he is the Akasa. This (Brahman called Udana) should be meditated upon as strength and nobility. He who meditates thus becomes strong and noble. III-xiii-6: These, verily, are the five persons under Brahman, the sentinels of the heavenly world. He who adores thus these five persons under Brahman, the sentinels of the heavenly world, in his family is a hero born. He who adores thus these five persons under Brahman, the sentinels of the heavenly world, reaches the heavenly world. III-xiii-7: Again, the light of Brahman that shines above this heaven, above everything, above all, in the incomparably good and the highest worlds, even this is the light within the body of man. This light can be seen inasmuch as one has a perception of warmth when one touches the body. It can be heard inasmuch as, on closing the ears, one hears something like the sound of a chariot or the bellowing of a bull, or the sound of a blazing fire. One should meditate on the light as seen and heard. One who meditates on this thus, becomes beautiful and illustrious – yea, one who meditates thus.

III-xiv-1: Verily, all this universe is Brahman. From Him do all things originate, into Him do they dissolve and by Him are they sustained. On Him should one meditate in tranquillity. For as is one’s faith, such indeed one is; and as is one’s faith in this world, such one becomes on departing hence. Let one, therefore, cultivate faith. III-xiv-2-3: He, who is permeating the mind, who has Prana for his body, whose nature is consciousness, whose resolve is infallible, whose own form is like Akasa, whose creation is all that exists, whose are all the pure desires, who possesses all the agreeable odours and all the pleasant tastes, who exists pervading all this, who is without speech (and other senses), who is free from agitation and

eagerness – this my Atman, residing in (the lotus of) the heart – is smaller than a grain of paddy, than a barley corn, than a mustard seed, than a grain of millet or than the kernel of a grain of millet. This my Atman residing in (the lotus of) the heart is greater than the earth, greater than the sky, greater than heaven, greater than all these worlds. III-xiv-4: He, whose creation is all that exists, whose are all the pure desires, who possesses all the agreeable odours and all the pleasant tastes, who exists pervading all this, who is without speech (and other senses), who is free from agitation and eagerness, He is my Atman residing in (the lotus of) the heart; He is Brahman. On departing hence I shall attain to His being. He alone who possesses this faith and has no doubt about it (will obtain the result). Thus declared Sandilya – yea, Sandilya.

III-xv-1: The chest (i.e. the universe), having the sky as its hollow and the earth for its (curved) bottom, does not decay. The quarters are indeed its corners and heaven its upper lid. This well-known chest is the container of wealth. All things rest in it. III-xv-2: Of that chest, the eastern quarter is named Juhu, the southern is named Sahamana, the western is named Rajni and the northern is named Subhuta. The air is their calf. He who knows this air, the calf of the quarters, thus (as immortal), never weeps in mourning for his son. I, wishing my son’s, longevity, worship thus this air, the calf of the quarters. May I never weep to mourn my son. III-xv-3: I take refuge in the imperishable chest for such and such and such. I take refuge in Prana for such and such and such. I take refuge in Bhuh for such and such and such. I take refuge in Bhuvah for such and such and such. I take refuge in Svah for such and such and such. III-xv-4: When I said, ‘I take refuge in Prana’, (it was because) all these beings, whatsoever exist, are indeed Prana. So it was in this alone that I took refuge. III-xv-5: Then when I said, ‘I take refuge in Bhuh’, I said only this: ‘I take refuge in the earth, I take refuge in the sky, I take refuge in heaven’. III-xv-6: Then when I said, ‘I take refuge in Bhuvah’, I said only this: ‘I take refuge in Fire, I take refuge in Air, I take refuge in the Sun.’ III-xv-7: Then, when I said, ‘I take refuge in Svah’, I said only this: ‘I take refuge in the Rig-Veda, I take refuge in the Yajur-Veda, I take refuge in the Sama-Veda’ – yea, that was what I said.

III-xvi-1: Man, truly, is the sacrifice. His (first) twenty-four years are the morning libation, for the metre Gayatri is made up of twenty-four syllables, and the morning libation is related to the Gayatri metre. With this the Vasus are connected. The Pranas indeed are the Vasus, for they make all this stable. III-xvi-2: During this period of life if anything (e.g. illness) causes him pain, he should repeat: ‘O Pranas, Vasus, unite this morning libation of mind with the midday libation. May I who am a sacrifice not be lost in the midst of the Vasus who are the Pranas’. He surely recovers from that and becomes healthy. III-xvi-3: Now, (his next) forty-four years are the mid-day libation, (for) the metre Tristubh is made up of forty-four syllables, and the mid-day libation is related to the Tristubh metre. With this, the Rudras are connected. The Pranas indeed are the Rudras, for they cause all this (universe) to weep. III-xvi-4: During this period of life if anything (e.g. illness) causes him pain, he should repeat: ‘O Pranas, Rudras, unite this mid-day libation of mine with the third libation. May I, who am a sacrifice, not be lost in the midst of the Rudras who are the Pranas’. He surely recovers from that and becomes healthy. III-xvi-5: Then (his next) forty-eight years are the third libation. The metre Jagati is made up of forty- eight syllables and the third libation is related to the Jagati metre. With this, the Adityas are connected. The Pranas indeed are the Adityas, for they accept all this. III-xvi-6: During this period of life if anything (e.g. illness) causes him pain, he should repeat: ‘O Pranas, Adityas, extend this third libation of mine to a full length of life. May I, who am a sacrifice, not be lost in the midst of the Adityas who are the Pranas.’ He surely recovers from that and becomes

healthy. III-xvi-7: Knowing this well-known (doctrine of sacrifice) Aitareya Mahidasa said, ‘Why do you afflict me thus, me who cannot be so killed.’ He lived for one hundred and sixteen years. He, too, who knows thus, lives in vigour for one hundred and sixteen years.

III-xvii-1: That he (who performs the Purusha sacrifice) feels hunger, that he feels thirst, that he does not rejoice –all these are the initiatory rites of this sacrifice. III-xvii-2: And, that he eats that he drinks, that he rejoices – all these approach Upasadas. III-xvii-3: And, that he laughs, that he eats, that he behaves as one of a couple – all these approach Stotra and Sastra. III-xvii-4: And his austerity, gifts, uprightness, non-violence, and truthfulness – all these are the largesses of this sacrifice. III-xvii-5: Therefore people say ‘sosyati’ (will procreate), and ‘asosta’ (has procreated). Again, that is the procreation of this, and death is the Avabhrita bath. III-xvii-6: Ghora Angirasa expounded this well-known doctrine to Devaki’s son Krishna and said, ‘Such a knower should, at the time of death, repeat this triad – "Thou art the imperishable, Thou art unchangeable, Thou art the subtle essence of Prana". (On hearing the above) he became thirstless. There are these two Rik stanzas in regard to this. III-xvii-7: (Those knowers of Brahman who have purified their mind through the withdrawal of the senses and other means like Brahmacharya) see everywhere (the day – like the supreme light) of the ancient One who is the seed of the universe, (the light that shines in the Effulgent Brahman). May we, too having perceived the highest light which dispels darkness, reach it. Having perceived the highest light in our own heart we have reached that highest light, which is the dispeller (of water, rays of light and the Pranas), shining in all gods – yea, we have reached that highest light.

III-xviii-1: The mind is Brahman, thus one should meditate – this is (the meditation) with regard to the body (including the mind). Next, the meditation with regard to the gods – the Akasa is Brahman, thus (one should meditate). Both the meditations, with regard to the body and with regard to the gods are being enjoined. III-xviii-2: This same Brahman has four feet. The organ of speech is one foot. Prana (the organ of smell) is one foot, the eye is one foot and the ear is one foot. This is with reference to the body. Next, with reference to the gods. Agni is one foot, Vayu is one foot, Aditya is one foot and the quarters are one foot. Thus both the meditations, with reference to the body and with reference to the gods, are enjoined. III-xviii-3: The organ of speech is one of the four feet of Brahman (called Mind). With the light of fire it shines and warms. He who knows thus, shines and warms with fame and celebrity and with the holy effulgence born of sacred wisdom. III-xviii-4: The organ of smell is one of the four feet of Brahman. With the light of air it shines and warms. He who knows thus, shines and warms with fame and celebrity and with the holy effulgence born of sacred wisdom. III-xviii-5: The eye is one of the four feet of Brahman. With the light of the sun it shines and warms. He who knows thus, shines and warms with fame and celebrity and with the holy effulgence born of sacred wisdom. III-xviii-6: The ear is one of the four feet of Brahman. With the light of the quarters it shines and warms. He who knows thus, shines and warms with fame and celebrity and with the holy effulgence born of sacred wisdom – yea, he who knows thus.

III-xix-1: The Sun is Brahman – this is the teaching. The further explanation of this (is here given). Before creation, this universe was non-existent. Then it became existent. It grew; it turned into an egg; it lay for a period of one year; (and then) it burst open. Of the two halves of that egg-shell, one was of

silver and the other of gold. III-xix-2: Of these, that which was of silver is this earth. That which was of gold is heaven. That which was the outer membrane is the mountains. That which was the inner membrane is the mist together with the clouds. Those which were the veins are the rivers. That which was the water in the lower belly is the ocean. III-xix-3: And that which was born is the yonder sun. After he was born, sounds of the form of loud shouts arose, as also all beings and all desired objects. Therefore at his rise and his every return (or his setting), sounds of the form of loud shouts arise, as also all beings and all desired objects. III-xix-4: He who knows the Sun thus and meditates on it as Brahman, auspicious sounds will hasten to him and continue to delight him – yea, will continue to delight.

IV-i-1: Om. There lived Janasruti Pautrayana who made gifts with respect, who gave liberally, and who had much food cooked (for others). He built rest-houses all round, thinking, ‘Everywhere people will eat of my food’. IV-i-2: Once at night, the swans flew along. Then one swan addressed another swan thus, ‘Ho, Ho, O Bhallaksa, Bhallaksa, the effulgence of Janasruti Pautrayana has spread like the heaven. Do not come in touch with it, lest it should scorch you.’ IV-i-3: Bhallaksa replied to him, ‘lo, how could you so describe him as if he were Raikva with the cart ?’ ‘Of what sort is this Raikva with the cart ?’ IV-i-4: ‘Just as all the lower casts of the dice go over to one who has won the Krita-cast, so does go over to Raikva whatsoever good the creatures do; so also to him who knows what Raikva knows. Such is he who has thus been spoken of by me.’ IV-i-5-6: Janasruti Pautrayana overheard those words. As soon as he arose, he said to the attendant, ‘Lo, did you praise me like Raikva with the cart ?’ ‘What sort of man is this Raikva with the cart ?’ (Janasruti repeated the words of the swan): ‘Just as all the lower casts of the dice go over to one who has won the Krita-cast, so does go over to Raikva whatsoever good the creatures do; and so also to him who knows what Raikva knows. Such is he who has thus been spoken of by me’. IV-i-7: The attendant, having searched for him, came back thinking, ‘I could not find him’. Janasruti said to him, ‘Well, where the knower of Brahman should be searched for there search for him’. IV-i-8: (After searching) he came to a man sitting under a cart and scratching eruptions on his skin and, sitting near him, asked him, ‘Revered sir, are you Raikva with the cart ?’ ‘Well fellow, yes, I am’, he admitted. Thinking ‘I have found him’, the attendant returned.

IV-ii-1-2: On hearing this, Janasruti Pautrayana took with him six hundred cows, a gold necklace, and a chariot drawn by mules and went to Raikva and addressed him thus: ‘O Raikva, (here are for you) these six hundred cows, this gold necklace, and this chariot drawn by mules. Now, revered sir, instruct me about the deity whom you worship.’ IV-ii-3: The other man answered him thus: ‘Ah, O Sudra, let this gold necklace together with the chariot and the cows remain with you.’ Thereupon Janasruti Pautrayana again took with him one thousand cows, a gold necklace, a chariot drawn by mules and his daughter and went over to Raikva. IV-ii-4: Janasruti said to him: ‘O Raikva, (here are for you) these one thousand cows, this gold necklace, this chariot drawn by mules, this wife, and this village in which you reside. Now, revered sir, please instruct me’. IV-ii-5: Taking that princess to be the portal for the conveying of knowledge, Raikva said, ‘O Sudra, you have brought all these ! Even by this means (i.e. the princess) you will make me talk.’ The king gave away to him all those villages in the Mahavrisa country known as Raikvaparna where Raikva lived. Raikva said to him:

IV-iii-1: Air indeed is the absorber. For when a fire goes out, it is in air that it merges; when the sun sets, it is in air that it merges; when the moon sets, it is in air that it merges.

IV-iii-2: When water dries up, it is in air that it merges; for air absorbs all these. This is (the doctrine of Samvarga) with reference to the gods. IV-iii-3: Next is (the doctrine of Samvarga) with reference to the body: Prana indeed is the absorber. When one sleeps, speech merges in Prana, the eye merges in Prana, the ear merges in Prana, the mind merges in Prana: for Prana, indeed, absorbs all these. IV-iii-4: These, indeed, are the two absorbers: Air among the gods and Prana among the sense-organs. IV-iii-5: Once upon a time, while Kapeya Saunaka and Kaksaseni Abhipratarin were being served with food, a celibate student of sacred knowledge begged of them. They did not give him anything. IV-iii-6: The Brahmacharin said, ‘Prajapati, the one god swallowed up the four great ones; he is the protector of the worlds. O Kapeya, O Abhipratarin, mortals do not see him who dwells variously. Even from him, for whom all this food is meant, you have withheld it.’ IV-iii-7: Kapeya Saunaka, reflecting on those words, approached him (and said): ‘He who is the self of all gods and the creator of all beings, who has undecaying teeth, who is the devourer, who is the wise one, who is himself never eaten (but) who devours even those who are not food; and hence (the knowers) describe his magnificence as immeasurable – such, indeed, is the Brahman, O Brahmacharin, whom we worship’. (Then he told the servants): ‘Give him food’. IV-iii-8: They gave him food. Now, these five and the other five, together becoming ten, constitute the Krita (dice-cast). Therefore (i.e. because the number ten applies to both), these ten are the food or Virat dwelling in all the ten quarters, and these are (the enjoyer) Krita. This Virat, of the form of ten deities, again, is the eater of food (as Krita); by him all this is perceived. He who sees thus, by him also all this is perceived, and he becomes as eater of food.

IV-iv-1: Once upon a time Satyakama Jabala addressed his mother Jabala, ‘Mother, I desire to live the life of a celibate student of sacred knowledge in the teacher’s house. Of what lineage am I ?’ IV-iv-2: She said to him, ‘My child, I do not know of what lineage you are. I, who was engaged in many works and in attending on others, got you in my youth. Having been such I could not know of what lineage you are. However, I am Jabala by name and you are named Satyakama. So you speak of yourself only as Satyakama Jabala.’ IV-iv-3: He went to Haridrumata Gautama and said, ‘I desire to live under you, revered sir, as a Brahmacharin; may I approach your venerable self (for the same) ?’ IV-iv-4: Gautama asked him, ‘Dear boy, of what lineage are you ?’ He replied, ‘Sir, I do not know of what lineage I am. I asked my mother; she replied, "I, who was engaged in many works and in attending on others, got you in my youth. Having been such, I could not know of what lineage you are. However, I am Jabala by name and you are named Satyakama". So, sir, I am Satyakama Jabala.’ IV-iv-5: The teacher said to him, ‘No one who is not a Brahmana can speak thus. Dear boy, bring the sacrificial fuel, I shall initiate you as a Brahmacharin, for you have not deviated from truth’. Having initiated him, he sorted out four hundred lean and weak cows and said, ‘Dear boy, follow them.’ While he was driving them towards the forest Satyakama said, ‘I shall not return till it is one thousand.’ He lived away for a long time, till they had increased to one thousand.

IV-v-1: Then the bull addressed him thus, ‘Satyakama !’ ‘Yes, revered sir’, thus he responded, ‘Dear boy, we have reached a thousand, take us to the house of the teacher.’ IV-v-2: ‘Let me instruct you about one foot of Brahman also’. ‘Please instruct me, revered sir.’ (The bull) said to him, ‘The eastern quarter is one part, the western quarter is one part, the southern quarter is one part, the northern quarter is one part. This indeed, dear boy, is one foot of Brahman, consisting of four, named the Radiant. IV-v-3: ‘He who knows this one foot of Brahman consisting of four parts thus, and meditates on it as the Radiant, becomes radiant in this world. He who knows this one foot of Brahman consisting of four parts thus, and meditates on it as the Radiant, wins the radiant regions (in the next world).’

IV-vi-1: ‘Fire will tell you of one foot of Brahman’. At dawn of the next day he drove the cows towards the teacher’s house. Towards evening, at the place where those cows came together, he kindled the fire there, penned the cows, laid on fuel and sat down near them behind the fire, facing the east. IV-vi-2: The fire addressed him, ‘Satyakama !’ ‘Yes, revered sir’, he responded. IV-vi-3: ‘Dear boy, let me instruct you about one foot of Brahman’. ‘Please instruct me, revered sir.’ (The fire) said to him, ‘The earth is one part, the sky is one part, heaven is one part, and the ocean is one part. This indeed, dear boy, is one foot of Brahman, consisting of four parts, named the Endless. IV-vi-4: ‘He who knows this one foot of Brahman consisting of four parts thus, and meditates on it as the Endless, becomes endless in this world. He who knows this one foot of Brahman consisting of four parts thus, and meditates on it as the Endless, wins the endless (undecaying) regions.’

IV-vii-1: ‘The swan will tell you of one foot of Brahman’. At dawn of the next day, he drove the cows towards the teacher’s house. Towards evening, at the place where the cows came together, he kindled the fire there, penned the cows, laid on fuel and sat down near them behind the fire facing the east. IV-vii-2: The swan flew to him and addressed him, ‘Satyakama !’ ‘Yes, revered sir’, he responded. IV-vii-3: ‘Dear boy, let me instruct you about one foot of Brahman’. ‘Please instruct me revered sir.’ (The swan) said to him, ‘Fire is one part, the sun is one part, the moon is one part, and lightning is one part. This indeed, dear boy, is one foot of Brahman, consisting of four parts, named the Effulgent. IV-vii-4: ‘He who knows this one foot of Brahman consisting of four parts thus, and meditates on it as the Effulgent, becomes effulgent in this world. He who knows this one foot of Brahman consisting of four parts thus, and meditates on it as the Effulgent, wins the effulgent regions (of the sun, the moon, etc., in the next world).’

IV-viii-1: ‘Madgu will tell you of one foot of Brahman’. At dawn of the next day, he drove the cows towards the teacher’s house. Towards evening at the place where the cows came together, he kindled the fire there, penned the cows, laid on fuel and sat down near them behind the fire facing the east. IV-viii-2: The Madgu bird flew to him and addressed him, ‘Satyakama !’ ‘Yes, revered sir’, he responded. IV-viii-3: ‘Dear boy, let me instruct you about one foot of Brahman’. ‘Please instruct me, revered sir’. (The Madgu bird) said to him, ‘Prana is one part, the eye is one part, the ear is one part, and the mind is one part. This indeed, dear boy, is one foot of Brahman, consisting of four parts, named the Repository. IV-viii-4: ‘He who knows this one foot of Brahman consisting of four parts thus, and meditates on it as the Repository, becomes repository (i.e. with proper abode) in this world. He who knows this one foot of Brahman consisting of four parts thus, and meditates on it as the Repository, wins the repository (i.e. extensive) regions (in the next world).’

IV-ix-1: Satyakama reached the house of the teacher. The teacher addressed him, ‘Satyakama !’ ‘Yes, revered sir’, he responded. IV-ix-2: ‘Dear boy, you shine like a knower of Brahman; who is it that has instructed you ?’ Satyakama assured him, ‘People other than men. But I wish, revered sir, that you would expound it to me. IV-ix-3: ‘I have definitely heard from persons like your venerable self that the knowledge directly learnt from one’s own teacher becomes most beneficial’. The teacher taught him the same thing, and nothing was omitted from this – yea, nothing was omitted.

IV-x-1: Once upon a time Upakosala Kamalayana lived with Satyakama Jabala the life of a Brahmacharin. He tended his fires for twelve years. Satyakama performed for other disciples the ceremony of completing studies and returning home, but did not perform the ceremony for Upakosala. IV-x-2: The wife of the teacher said to him, ‘This Brahmacharin has undergone severe austerities and has tended the fires properly; you should teach him so that the fires may not blame you.’ But the teacher went away on a journey without instructing him.

IV-x-3: Through mental sufferings Upakosala began to fast. The wife of the teacher said to him, ‘O Brahmacharin, do eat; why are you not eating ?’ He replied, ‘In this (very ordinary and disappointed) man (i.e. myself) there are many desires running in various directions; I am full of mental sufferings; so I shall not eat.’ IV-x-4: Thereupon the fires said among themselves, ‘This Brahmacharin has undergone severe austerities and has tended us properly; come let us instruct him’. They then said to him, ‘Prana (life) is Brahman, Ka (joy) is Brahman, Kha (ether) is Brahman’. IV-x-5: He said, ‘I understand that Prana is Brahman; but I do not understand Ka and Kha.’ They said, ‘What is Ka, even that is Kha; and what is Kha, even that is Ka’. Then the fires instructed him about Prana (Brahman) and the Akasa within the heart related to it.

IV-xi-1: Then the Garhapatya fire instructed him: ‘Earth, fire, food and the sun (are my forms). The person who is seen in the sun, I am he, I am he, indeed.’ IV-xi-2: ‘He who knows it thus and meditates on it, destroys sinful acts, wins the region (of fire), reaches the full length of life, lives gloriously, and his descendants never perish. We protect him in this world and in the next, who knows it thus and meditates on it.’

IV-xii-1: Then the Anvaharyapacana fire instructed him: ‘Water, the quarters, the stars and the moon (are my forms). The person who is seen in the moon, I am he, I am he indeed. IV-xii-2: ‘He who knows it thus and meditates on it, destroys sinful acts, wins the region (of fire), reaches the full length of life, lives gloriously, and his descendants never perish. We protect him in this world and in the next, who knows it thus and meditates on it.’

IV-xiii-1: Then the Ahavaniya fire instructed him, ‘Prana, Akasa, heaven and lightning (are my forms). The person who is seen in the lightning, I am he; I am he, indeed. IV-xiii-2: ‘He who knows it thus and meditates on it, destroys sinful acts, wins the region (of fire), reaches the full length of life, lives gloriously, and his descendants never perish. We protect him in this world and in the next, who knows it thus and meditates on it.’

IV-xiv-1: The fires said, ‘O Upakosala, dear boy, to you (are revealed) this knowledge of the fires and the knowledge of the Atman; but the teacher will tell you the way.’ His teacher came back. The teacher addressed him ‘Upakosala !’ IV-xiv-2: ‘Yes, revered sir’, he responded. ‘Dear boy, your face shines like that of a knower of Brahman ! who is it that has instructed you ?’ ‘Who should instruct me sir ?’, said he. Here he concealed the truth, as it were. ‘For this reason it is that though they were (formerly) otherwise they are now this wise’. So saying, he hinted at the (part played by the) fires in this matter. ‘What did they tell you, dear boy ?’ IV-xiv-3: ‘This’, thus he acknowledged. ‘Dear boy, they have told you about the regions only; but I shall tell you the object of your desire (i.e. Brahman). Just as water does not cling to the lotus-leaf, so also sin does not cling to him who knows Brahman thus’. ‘Revered sir, please instruct me further’. (The teacher) said to him:

IV-xv-1: ‘This person who is seen in the eye, he is the Atman’, said the teacher; ‘this is the immortal, the fearless. This is Brahman. Hence, even if one sprinkles clarified butter or water into the eye, it goes away to the edges.’ IV-xv-2: ‘The knowers of Brahman call him as the centre of blessings; for all blessings come together in him. All blessings come together in him who knows thus.’ IV-xv-3: ‘He, again, is the vehicle of blessings; for he carries all blessings. He who knows it thus carries all blessings. He who knows it thus carries all blessings.’ IV-xv-4: ‘He again, is the vehicle of light; for he shines in all the regions. He who knows it thus shines

in all the regions.’ IV-xv-5: ‘Now, as for such persons, whether the cremation rites are performed or not, they go to light; from light to the day; from the day to the bright fortnight; from the bright fortnight to those six months during which (the sun) rises towards the north; from the months to the year; from the year to the sun; from the sun to the moon; from the moon to the lightning. (From the region of Brahman) a person, who is other than human, (comes and) causes them existing there, to realize Brahman. This is the path of the gods and the path to Brahman. Those who go by this path do not return to this human whirlpool – yes, they do not return.’

IV-xvi-1: He who blows (i.e. air) is indeed the sacrifice, he, moving along, purifies all this. And because moving along he purifies all this, he is the sacrifice. Mind and speech are the two paths of this sacrifice. IV-xvi-2-3: One of these two paths, the Brahman priest embellishes with the mind. The Hotir, Adhvaryu and Udgatir priests embellish the other with speech. After the Prataranuvaka (the morning recitation) is commenced, and before the Paridhaniya Rik is begun, if the Brahman priest speaks out (breaking silence), then he embellishes only one path (viz. Speech) and the other is injured. Just as a man walking with one leg, or a chariot moving with one wheel suffers injury, so also that sacrifice of this one suffers injury, and when the sacrifice suffers injury, the sacrificer also suffers injury. For having completed the (defective) sacrifice, he becomes a worse sinner. IV-xvi-4: But, after the Prataranuvaka is commenced and before the Paridhaniya Rik is begun, if the Brahman priest does not break his silence then both the paths are embellished; and neither one is injured. IV-xvi-5: And just as a man walking with both the legs, or a chariot moving with both the wheels, remains intact, so also the sacrifice of this one remains intact. If the sacrifice remains intact, the sacrificer also remains intact. He becomes great by performing the sacrifice.

IV-xvii-1: Prajapati brooded on the worlds. From them thus brooded upon, he extracted their essences; fire from the earth, air from the sky and the sun from heaven. IV-xvii-2: He brooded on these three deities. From them thus brooded upon, he extracted their essences: the Riks from fire, the Yajus-mantras from air, and the Saman from the sun. IV-xvii-3: He brooded on the three Vedas. From them thus brooded upon, he extracted their existences; Bhuh from the Riks, Bhuvah from the Yajus-mantras and Svah from the Samans. IV-xvii-4: Therefore if the sacrifice is rendered defective on account of the Riks, then with the Mantra ‘Bhuh Svaha’, (the Brahman priest) should offer an oblation in the Garhapatya fire. Thus verily, through the essence of the Riks, through the virility of the Riks, he makes good the injury of the sacrifice in respect of the Riks. IV-xvii-5: And if the sacrifice is rendered defective on account of the Yajus, then with the Mantra ‘Bhuvah Svaha’, (the Brahman priest) should offer an oblation in the Daksinagni. Thus verily, through the essence of the Yajus-mantras, through the virility of the Yajus-mantras, he makes good the injury of the sacrifice in respect of the Yajus-mantras. IV-xvii-6: And if the sacrifice is rendered defective on account of the Samans, then with the Mantra ‘Svah Svaha’ (the Brahman priest) should offer an oblation to the Ahavaniya fire. Thus verily, through the essence of the Samans, through the virility of the Saman, he makes good the injury of the sacrifice in respect of the Samans. IV-xvii-7-8: Just as one would join gold with salt, silver with gold, tin with silver, lead with tin, iron with lead, wood with iron, and wood with leather, even so does (the Brahman priest) make good the injury of the sacrifice through the virility of these regions, of these deities, and of the three Vedas. That sacrifice indeed is healed where there is a Brahman priest knowing thus. IV-xvii-9: That sacrifice indeed becomes inclined to the north, where there is a Brahman priest

knowing thus. It is in reference to the Brahman priest knowing thus that there is this song: ‘Whence-soever the sacrifice comes back, thither verily does the Brahman priest go (to remedy)’. IV-xvii-10: Just as the mare protects (the soldier), even so the silent Brahman priest is the only priest who protects the people engaged in rituals. The Brahman priest who knows thus verily protects the sacrifice, the sacrificer, and all the priests. Hence one should appoint as a Brahman priest only him who knows thus, not one who does not know thus – yea, not one who does not know thus.

V-i-1: Om, Verily, he who knows the eldest and the best, surely becomes the eldest and the best. Prana is indeed the eldest and the best (of the organs). V-i-2: Verily, he who knows the richest, becomes the richest among his own people. Speech is indeed the richest. V-i-3: Verily, he who knows the stable basis, becomes stabilized in this world and in the next. The eye is indeed the stable basis. V-i-4: Verily, he who knows prosperity, attains all desires, both divine and human. The ear is indeed prosperity. V-i-5: Verily, he who knows the abode, becomes the abode of his people. The mind is indeed the abode. V-i-6: Now, once the five senses disputed among themselves about their personal superiority, saying ‘I am superior’. V-i-7: Those senses approached the father Prajapati and said to him, ‘Revered sir, who is the best amongst us ?’ He replied, ‘He amongst you is the best on whose departure the body would appear its worst, as it were.’ V-i-8: Speech departed. Staying a year out, it came back and asked, ‘How have you been able to live without me ?’ (The others replied,) ‘Just like the dumb, though not speaking, yet living with the breath, seeing with the eyes, hearing with the ear and thinking with the mind.’ (At this) speech entered (the body). V-i-9: The eye departed. Staying a year out, it came back and asked, ‘How have you been able to live without me ?’ (The others replied,) ‘Just like the blind, though not seeing, yet living with the breath, speaking with the organ of speech, hearing with the ear and thinking with the mind.’ (At this) the eye entered (the body). V-i-10: The ear departed. Staying a year out, it came back and asked, ‘How have you been able to live without me ?’ (The others replied,) ‘Just like the deaf, though not hearing, yet living with the breath, speaking with the organ of speech, seeing with the eye and thinking with the mind.’ (At this) the ear entered (the body). V-i-11: The mind departed. Staying a year out, it came back and asked, ‘How have you been able to live without me ?’ (The others replied,) ‘Just like infants without developed minds, yet living with the breath, speaking with the organ of speech, seeing with the eye and hearing with the ear.’ (At this) the mind entered (the body). V-i-12: Then, as the Prana was about to depart, it uprooted the other senses just as a horse of mettle would uproot the pegs to which it is tethered. They all then came to it and said, ‘O revered sir, be our lord, you are the best amongst us; do not depart from the body.’ V-i-13: Then speech said to that one, ‘Just as I am the richest, in the same manner are you also the richest’. Then the eye said to that one, ‘Just as I am the stable basis, in the same manner are you also the stable basis’. V-i-14: Then the ear said to that one, ‘Just as I am prosperity, in the same manner are you also prosperity.’ Then the mind said to that one, ‘Just as I am the abode, in the same manner are you also the abode.’ V-i-15: Verily, people do not call them as organs of speech, nor as eyes, nor as ears, nor as minds. But they call them only as Pranas; for the Prana indeed is all these.

V-ii-1: He (the Prana) asked, ‘What will be my food?’ ‘Whatever there is here, even (the food) of dogs and birds’, replied the senses. Whatever is eaten, all that is the food of Ana. The name "Ana’ indeed is self-evident. For him who knows thus there is nothing that is not food. V-ii-2: He asked, ‘What will be my garments ?’ ‘Water’, replied the senses. Therefore, indeed, those who are about to eat, cover it, both before and after, with water. (He who knows thus) becomes the obtainer of clothes and of upper garments. V-ii-3: Satyakama Jabala imparted this (doctrine of Prana) to Gosruti, the son of Vyaghrapada, and said, ‘If anyone should impart this even to a dry stump, then branches would certainly shoot and leaves would sprout from it’. V-ii-4: Next, if that knower of Prana desires to attain greatness, then having consecrated himself on the new moon day, he should, on the full moon night, stir up in a vessel of curd and honey the mash of all herbs and then offer an oblation into the fire on the spot prescribed for offerings, with the Mantra, ‘Svaha to the eldest and the best’, and throw what remains attached to the ladle into the mash-pot. V-ii-5: With the Mantra "Svaha to the richest’, he should offer an oblation into the fire on the spot prescribed for offerings, and throw what remains attached to the ladle into the mash-pot. With the Mantra ‘Svaha to what is stable’, he should offer an oblation into the fire on the spot prescribed for offerings, and throw what remains attached to the ladle into the mash-pot. With Mantra ‘Svaha to prosperity’, he should offer an oblation into the fire on the spot prescribed for offerings, and throw what remains attached to the ladle into the mash-pot. With the Mantra ‘Svaha to the abode’, he should offer an oblation into the fire on the spot prescribed for offerings, and throw what remains attached to the ladle into the mash-pot. V-ii-6: Then, moving a little away and taking the mash-pot in his hands, he should recite (the Mantra): ‘You are Ama by name, for all this (universe) rests with you. He (i.e. you as Prana) is the eldest, the best, the effulgent, and sovereign. May he (i.e. you as Prana) lead me to the eldest age, to the best position, to effulgence, and to sovereignty. Verily I wish to become all this.’ V-ii-7: Then, reciting this Rik-mantra, foot by foot, he should sip. ‘We pray for that food pertaining to the Progenitor’, saying this (line) he should sip. ‘We pray for the food of the effulgent one’, saying this he should sip. ‘(Which is) the best and all-sustaining’, saying this he should sip. We readily meditate upon (the form of the deity) Bhaga’, saying this and washing the pot shaped like a Kamsa (goblet) or a Camasa (cup), he should drink all. Then he should lie down behind the fire on a skin or on the ground, controlling speech and mind. If he should see a woman (in a dream), he should know that his rite has succeeded. V-ii-8: There is this verse about it: During the performance of the rites for desired results if the performer sees a woman in a dream, then he should recognize fulfilment in this vision in a dream – yea, in this vision in a dream.

V-iii-1: Once Svetaketu, the grandson of Aruna, came to the assembly of the Panchalas. Pravahana, the son of Jivala, enquired of him, ‘My boy, has your father instructed you ?’ ‘He has indeed, revered sir’. V-iii-2: ‘Do you know where created beings go above from here ?’ No, revered sir’. ‘Do you know the place of parting of the two paths – the path of the gods and the path of the fathers ?’ ‘No, revered sir’. V-iii-3: ‘Do you know why the other world is not filled up ?’ ‘No, revered sir’. ‘Do you know how, at the fifth oblation, the liquid oblations (or unseen results of action) come to be designated as man ?’ ‘No, indeed, revered sir’. V-iii-4: ’Then why did you say, "I have been instructed" ? Foz, how can he who does not know these things say, "I have been instructed" ?’ He was distressed and came to his father’s place and said to him, ‘Revered Sir, wiuhout having instructed me properly you said, "I have instructed you".’ V-iii-5: ‘That nominal Kshatriya asked me five questions, and I was not able to answer even one of them’. The father said, ‘Even as you have spoken to me about them, so do I not know even one of them. If I had known them, why should I not have toll you ?’

V-iii-6: Then Gautama went to the king’s place. When he arrived, the king made reverential offerings to him. In the morning he presented himself to the king when he was in the assembly. The king said to him, ‘O revered Gautama, please ask for a boon of human wealth’. He replied, ‘O king, let the human wealth remain with you, tell me those words which you spoke to my boy’. The king was perturbed. V-iii-7: The king commanded him, ‘Stay here for a long time.’ At the end of the period he said to him, ‘Even as you told me, O Gautama, prior to you, this knowledge never went to the Brahmanas. This is why the expounding of this knowledge belonged to the Kshatriyas in earlier times in all the worlds’. Then he instructed him.

V-iv-1: The world yonder is indeed the fire, O Gautama. Of that, the sun is the fuel, the rays are the smoke, the day is the flame, the moon is the embers, and the stars are the sparks. V-iv-2: Into this fire the deities offer the oblation of faith. Out of that oblation King Soma arises.

V-v-1: Parjanya is indeed the fire, O Gautama. Of that, the air is the fuel, the cloud is the smoke, the lightning is the flame, the thunderbolt is the embers, and the rumblings of thunder are the sparks. V-v-2: Into this fire the deities offer the oblation of King Soma. Out of that oblation rain arises.

V-vi-1: The earth indeed is the fire, O Gautama. Of that, the year, is the fuel, Akasa is the smgke, night is the flame, the directions are the embers, and the intermediate directions are the sparks. V-vi-2: Into this fire the deities offer the oblation of rain. Out of that oblation food (in the shape of corn) arises.

V-vii-1: Man indeed is the fire, O Gautama. Of that, speech is the fuel, Prana is the smoke, the tongue is the flame, the eye is the embers, and the ear is the sparks. V-vii-2: Into this fire the deities offer the oblation of food. Out of that oblation the seed arises.

V-viii-1-2: Woman indeed is the fire, O Gautama. Into this fire the deities offer the oblation of the seed. Out of that oblation the foetus arises.

V-ix-1: Thus at the fifth oblation, (the oblation called) water comes to be designated as man. That foetus, covered with membrane, lies for nine or ten months, and is then born. V-ix-2: Being born, he lives whatever the length of his life may be. When he is dead (to attain the world) as ordained, they carry him from here (for cremation) to fire itself from which alone he came and from which he arose.

V-x-1-2: Among them, those who know thus (this knowledge of the five fires) and those who are devoted to faith and austerity in the forest – they go to light; from light to the day, from the day to the bright fortnight, from the bright fortnight to those six months during which the sun travels northward; from the months to the year, from the year to the sun, from the sun to the moon and from the moon to the lightning. (From the region of Brahman) a person, who is other than human, (comes and) causes them, existing there, to attain Brahman. This is the path of the gods. V-x-3: But those who living in villages (as householders) practise sacrifices and works of public utility and gift, go to smoke, from smoke to night, from night to the dark fortnight, from the dark fortnight to those months during which the sun travels southward. From there they do not reach the year (like those going the path of the gods). V-x-4: From the months, (they go) to the region of the fathers, from the region of the fathers to Akasa, from Akasa to the moon. This (i.e. this moon) is King Soma (the king of the Brahmanas). This is the food of the deities. This the deities eat. V-x-5: Residing in that (region of the moon) till they have exhausted (the results of action) they then return again the same way as they came (by the path that is being mentioned). They come to Akasa, and from Akasa to air. Having become air, they become smoke. Having become smoke they become the

white cloud. V-x-6: Having become the white cloud, they become the (rain-bearing) cloud. Having become the cloud they fall as rain. Then they are born in this world as rice and barley, herbs and trees, sesamum plants and beans. But the release from these is more difficult, for whoever eats the food and sows the seed, they become like him only. V-x-7: Among them, those who have good residual results of action here (earned in this world and left as residue after the enjoyment in the region of the moon), quickly reach a good womb, the womb of a Brahmana, or of a Kshatriya or of a Vaisya. But those who have bad residual results of action quickly reach an evil womb, the womb of a dog or of a hog or of a Chandala. V-x-8: Then, by neither of these two paths, do they go. They, as small creatures, keep repeatedly revolving, subject to the saying ‘Be born and die’. This is the third state. Therefore that region (of the moon) is never filled up. Hence one should be disgusted (with this state). There is this verse about it. V-x-9: One who steals gold, one who drinks wine, one who dishonours the teacher’s bed, and one who injures a Brahmana – all these four fall, as also the fifth one who associates with them. V-x-10: Moreover, he who knows (worships) these five fires thus, even though he associates with those sinners, is not tainted by sin. He who knows these thus becomes cleansed and pure and obtains the meritorious world – yea, he who knows thus.

V-xi-1: Pracinasala the son of Upamanyu, Satyayajna the son of Pulusa, Indradyumna the son of Bhallavi, Jana the son of Sarkaraksa, and Budila the son of Asvatarasva – these five great householders and great Vedic scholars, having come together, held a discussion on ‘What is our Atman ? What is Brahman ?’ V-xi-2: They reflected among themselves, ‘Revered sirs, Uddalaka, the son of Aruna, knows well this Vaisvanara Atman. Well, let us go to him’. And they went to him. V-xi-3: Uddalaka reflected, ‘These great householders and great Vedic scholars are going to uestion me; but possibly I shall not be able to tell them everything. However, I shall direct them to another teacher’. V-xi-4: Uddalaka said to the, ‘Revered sirs, at present, Asvapati, the son of Kekaya, is studying this Vaisvanara Atman. Well, let us go to him’. Then they went to him. V-xi-5: When they arrived, the king arranged for each of them separately a welcome with suitable rites. Next morning, on rising, he said to them, ‘In my kingdom there is no thief, no miser, no drunkard, no man who has not installed the fire, no ignorant person, no adulterer, so how can there be any adulteress ? Revered sirs, I am going to perform a sacrifice. In that as much wealth, sirs, as I give to each single priest, shall I give to you also. Revered sirs, please remain’. V-xi-6: They said, ‘The purpose for which a man goes (to another), on that alone he should speak to him. You are, at present, studying the Vaisvanara Atman, please tell us of that. V-xi-7: The king said to them, ‘I shall answer you in the morning’. In the morning, they approached him with sacrificial fuel in their hands. The king, without receiving them as initiated pupils, spoke thus:

V-xii-1: ‘O Aupamanyava, what is the Atman on which you meditate ?’ He replied, ‘Heaven only, O venerable king’. The king said, ‘This that you meditate upon as Atman is the Vaisvanara Atman known as "the highly luminous". Therefore in your family are seen the Suta, Prasuta and Asuta libations of Soma-juice.’ V-xii-2: ‘So you eat food and see what is dear. One who meditates on this Vaisvanara Atman thus, eats food and sees what is dear, and there is in his family the holy effulgence born of sacred wisdom. But this is only the head of the Atman. If you had not come to me your head (a portion) would have fallen down.’

V-xiii-1: Then the king said to Satyayajna Paulusi, ‘O Pracinayogya, what is that Atman on which you meditate ?’ He replied, ‘The sun only, O venerable king’. The king said, ‘This that you meditate upon

as Atman is the Vaisvanara Atman known as "the multiform". Therefore in your family are seen all kinds of enjoyable things. V-xiii-2: ‘So, for you are provided a chariot drawn by mules, maid-servants and a gold necklace; so you eat food and see what is dear. One who thus meditates upon this Vaisvanara Atman, eats food and sees what is dear, and there is in his family the holy effulgence born of sacred wisdom. But this is only the eye of the Atman. If you had not come to me you would have become blind.’

V-xiv-1: Then the king said to Indradyumna Bhallaveya, ‘O descendant of Vyaghrapada, what is that Atman on which you meditate ?’ He replied, ‘Air only, O venerable king.’ The king said, ‘This that you meditate upon as Atman is the Vaisvanara Atman known as "the diversely coursed". Therefore from diverse directions offerings come to you, and various rows of chariots follow you. V-xiv-2: ‘So you eat food and see what is dear. One who thus meditates upon this Vaisvanara Atman eats food and sees what is dear, and there is in his family the holy effulgence born of sacred wisdom. But this is only the Prana of the Atman. If you had not come to me your Prana would have departed’.

V-xv-1: Then the king said to Jana, ‘O Sarkaraksya, what is that Atman on which you meditate ?’ He replied, ‘Akasa only, O venerable king’. The king said, ‘This that you meditate upon as Atman is the Vaisvanara Atman known as "the manifold". Therefore are your offspring and wealth manifold. V-xv-2: ‘So you eat food and see what is dear. One who thus meditates upon this Vaisvanara Atman, eats food and sees what is dear, and there is in his family the holy effulgence born of sacred wisdom. But this is only the trunk of the Atman. If you had not come to me your trunk would have been shattered’.

V-xvi-1: Then the king said to Budila Asvatarasvi, ‘O Vaiyaghrapadya, what is that Atman on which you meditate ?’ He replied, ‘Water only, O venerable king’. The king said, ‘This that you meditate upon as Atman is the Vaisvanara Atman known as "the wealth". Therefore are you endowed with wealth and bodily strength. V-xvi-2: ‘So you eat food and see what is dear. One who thus meditates upon this Vaisvanara Atman, eats food and sees what is dear, and there is in his family the holy effulgence born of sacred wisdom. But this is only the lower belly of the Atman. If you had not come to me your lower belly would have burst’.

V-xvii-1: Then the king said to Uddalaka Aruni, ‘O Gautama, what is that Atman on which you meditate ?’ He replied, ‘The earth only, O venerable king’. The king said, ‘This that you meditate upon as Atman is the Vaisvanara Atman known as "the foundation". Therefore are you well-founded in offspring and cattle’. V-xvii-2: ‘So you eat food and see what is dear. One who thus meditates upon this Vaisvanara Atman, eats food and sees what is dear, and there is in his family the holy effulgence born of sacred wisdom. But this is only the feet of the Atman. If you had not come to me your feet would have withered away’.

V-xviii-1: The king said to them, ‘All of you (with partial knowledge) eat food knowing the Vaisvanara Atman differently, as it were. But one who thus meditates upon this Vaisvanara Atman as a whole, consisting of parts and self-conscious, eats food in all the worlds, in all the beings, and in all the selves. V-xviii-2: Of the aforesaid Vaisvanara Atman, the head is ‘the highly luminous’, the eye is ‘the multiform’, the breath is ‘the diversely coursed’, the trunk is ‘the vast’, the lower belly is the ‘wealth’, the feet are the earth (‘the foundation’). (Of the enjoyer as Vaisvanara) the chest is the altar, the hairs on the chest are the Kusa grass, the heart is the Garhapatya fire, the mind is the Anvaharyapacana fire, and the mouth is the Ahavaniya fire.

V-xix-1: Therefore, the food that comes first should be an object of oblation. That eater, when he offers

the first oblation, should offer it with the Mantra ‘Svaha to Prana’; thereby Prana is satisfied. V-xix-2: Prana being satisfied, the eye is satisfied; the eye being satisfied, the sun is satisfied; the sun being satisfied, heaven is satisfied; heaven being satisfied, whatever is under heaven and the sun is satisfied. Through its satisfaction the eater himself is satisfied. (He is satisfied) also with offspring, cattle, food, lustre and the holy effulgence born of sacred wisdom.

V-xx-1: Then, when he offers the second oblation, he should offer it with the Mantra ‘Svaha to Vyana’; thereby Vyana is satisfied. V-xx-2: Vyana being satisfied, the ear is satisfied; the ear being satisfied, the moon is satisfied; the moon being satisfied, the quarters are satisfied; the quarters being satisfied, whatever is under the moon and the quarters is satisfied. Through its satisfaction the eater himself is satisfied. (He is satisfied) also with offspring, cattle, food, lustre and the holy effulgence born of sacred wisdom.

V-xxi-1: Then, when he offers the third oblation, he should offer it with the Mantra ‘Svaha to Apana’; thereby Apana is satisfied. V-xxi-2: Apana being satisfied, speech is satisfied; speech being satisfied, fire is satisfied; fire being satisfied, the earth is satisfied; the earth being satisfied, whatever is under the earth and fire is satisfied. Through its satisfaction the eater himself is satisfied. (He is satisfied) also with offspring, cattle, food, lustre and the holy effulgence born of sacred wisdom.

V-xxii-1: Then, when he offers the fourth oblation, he should offer it with the Mantra ‘Svaha to Samana’; thereby Samana is satisfied. V-xxii-2: Samana being satisfied, the mind is satisfied; the mind being satisfied, Parjanya (rain god) is satisfied; Parjanya being satisfied, lightning is satisfied; lightning being satisfied, whatever is under lightning and Parjanya is satisfied. Through its satisfaction the eater himself is satisfied. (He is satisfied) also with offspring, cattle, food, lustre and the holy effulgence born of sacred wisdom.

V-xxiii-1: Then, when he offers the fifth oblation, he should offer it with the Mantra ‘Svaha to Udana’; thereby Udana is satisfied. V-xxiii-2: Udana being satisfied, the skin is satisfied; the skin being satisfied, the air is satisfied; the air being satisfied, Akasa is satisfied; Akasa being satisfied, whatever is under the air and Akasa is satisfied. Through its satisfaction the eater himself is satisfied. (He is satisfied) also with offspring, cattle, food, lustre and the holy effulgence born of sacred wisdom.

V-xxiv-1: If anyone, without knowing this, offers the Agnihotra, it would be just a man removing the live embers and pouring the oblation on the ashes. V-xxiv-2: But if one, knowing it thus, offers the Agnihotra to Prana his oblation is poured into all the worlds, all the beings, and all the selves. V-xxiv-3: So, even as reed-cotton when laid on the fire is burnt up, so are burnt up all the sins of this one who knowing it thus offers the Agnihotra. V-xxiv-4: Therefore, even if one, who knows thus, offers the remnant of his food to a Chandala, then also that food becomes his offering to the Vaisvanara Atman only. There is this verse about it. V-xxiv-5: As, in this world, hungry boys gather round their mother, even so all the creatures wait upon the Agnihotra.

VI-i-1: Om. Once upon a time there was one Svetaketu, the grandson of Aruna. His father said to him, ‘O Svetaketu, live the life of a Brahmacharin. Dear boy, there never is anyone in our family who does not study and is only nominally a Brahmana.’ VI-i-2-3: Having gone (to the teacher’s house) when twelve years old, he came back when he was twenty-four old, having studied all the Vedas, conceited, arrogant and regarding himself as very

learned. His father said to him, ‘Svetaketu, dear boy, you, I see, are conceited, arrogant, regarding yourself as very learned; did you ask for that teaching (about the Supreme Brahman) through which what is unheard becomes heard, what is unthought becomes thought of, what is unknown becomes known ?’ ‘Of what nature, revered sir, is that teaching ?’ VI-i-4: ‘Dear boy, just as through a single clod of clay all that is made of clay would become known, for all modifications is but name based upon words and the clay alone is real; VI-i-5: Dear boy, just as through a single ingot of gold, all that is made of gold would become known, for all modification is but name based upon words and the gold alone is real; VI-i-6: Dear boy, just as through a single nail-parer all that is made of iron would become known, for all modification is but name based upon words and the iron alone is real – such, dear boy, is that teaching.’ VI-i-7: ‘Surely, my revered teachers did not know it, for if they had known, why should they not have told it to me ? However, revered father, teach it to me’. ‘Be it so, dear boy’, said (the father).

VI-ii-1: ‘In the beginning, dear boy, this was Being alone, one only, without a second. Some say that, in the beginning, this was Non-being alone, one only, without a second. From that Non-being arose Being.’ VI-ii-2: Aruni said, ‘But now, indeed, dear boy, could it be so ? How could Being arise from Non-being ? In truth, dear boy, in the beginning (before creation), there was Being alone, one only, without a second. VI-ii-3: ‘That Being willed, "May I become many, may I grow forth." It created fire. That fire willed, "May I become many, may I grow forth". It created water. Therefore whenever a man grieves or perspires, then it is from fire that water issues. VI-ii-4: ‘That water willed, "May I become many, may I grow forth." It created food. Therefore wherever it rains, abundant food grows there; it is from water that food for eating is produced.

VI-iii-1: ‘Of the aforesaid beings there are only three origins: those born from eggs, born from living beings, and born from sprouts. VI-iii-2: ‘That deity willed, ‘Well, let me, entering into these three deities through this living self (Jivatman), differentiate name and form. VI-iii-3: "Of these, let me make each one triplicated", willing thus, this deity entered into these three deities through this living self and differentiated names and forms. VI-iii-4: ‘It made each one of them threefold. But, dear boy, how each of these three deities becomes threefold (outside the body), know that from me.

VI-iv-1: ‘In fire, the red colour is the colour of fire; that which is white belongs to water and that which is black belongs to food (earth). Thus vanishes (the idea of) the quality of fire from fire; for all modification is but name based upon words, only the three forms are real. VI-iv-2: ‘In the sun, the red colour is the colour of fire, that which is white belongs to water and that which is black belongs to earth. Thus vanishes (the idea of) the quality of the sun from the sun; for all modification is but name based upon words, only the three forms are real. VI-iv-3: ‘In the moon, the red colour is the colour of fire, that which is white belongs to water and that which is black belongs to earth. Thus vanishes (the idea of) the quality of the moon from the moon; for all modification is but name based upon words, only the three forms are real. VI-iv-4: ‘In lightning, the red colour is the colour of fire, that which is white belongs to water and that which is black belongs to earth. Thus vanishes (the idea of) the quality of lightning from lightning; for all modification is but name based upon words, only the three forms are real. VI-iv-5: ‘It was indeed on knowing this (triplication) that the ancient great householders and great Vedic scholars said, ‘There is, at present, nothing that anyone would point out to us as unheard, unthought or unknown"; for from these they understood everything.

VI-iv-6: ‘Whatever else appeared red, that also they knew to be the colour of (untriplicated) fire; whatever appeared white, that also they knew to be the colour of water; whatever appeared black, that also they knew to be the colour of earth. VI-iv-7: ‘Whatever appeared to be unknown, that also they knew to be a combination of these very deities. But, dear boy, know from me how, on reaching man, each of these three deities becomes threefold.

VI-v-1: ‘Food, when eaten, becomes divided into three parts. What is its grossest ingredient, that becomes faeces; what is the middling ingredient, that becomes flesh; and what is the subtlest ingredient, that becomes mind. VI-v-2: ‘Water, when drunk, becomes divided into three parts. What is its grossest ingredient, that becomes urine; what is the middling ingredient, that becomes blood; and what is the subtlest ingredient, that becomes Prana. VI-v-3: ‘Fire, when eaten, becomes divided into three parts. What is its grossest ingredient, that becomes bone; what is the middling ingredient, that becomes marrow; and what is the subtlest ingredient, hat becomes speech. VI-v-4: ‘Hence, dear boy, mind is made up of food, Prana is made up of water, and speech is made of fire. ‘Explain it further to me, revered sir’. ‘Be it so, dear boy’, said the father.

VI-vi-1: ‘Dear boy, of the curd that is being churned that which is the subtlest part rises upwards and that becomes butter. VI-vi-2: ‘So also, dear boy, of the food that is eaten that which is the subtlest part rises upwards and that becomes the mind. VI-vi-3: ‘Dear boy, of the water that is drunk that which is the subtlest part rises upwards and that becomes Prana. VI-vi-4: ‘Dear boy, of the fire that is eaten that which is the subtlest part rises upwards and that becomes speech. VI-vi-5: ‘Hence, dear boy, mind is made up of food, Prana is made up of water, and speech is made up of fire’. ‘Explain it further to me, revered sir’. ‘Be it so, dear boy’, said the father.

VI-vii-1: ‘Dear boy, man consists of sixteen parts. Do not eat for fifteen days; drink as much water as you like. Prana is made up of water, and the Prana of one who drinks water is not cut off. VI-vii-2: Svetaketu did not eat for fifteen days. Then he approached him saying, ‘What shall I say ?’ The father said, ‘The Riks, the Yajus, and the Samans, dear boy.’ ‘They do not at all arise in me, sir’. VI-vii-3: The father said to him, ‘Dear boy, just as a single ember of the size of a firefly, left over from a large burning fire, cannot burn any more than that, even so, dear boy, of your sixteen parts only one part is left over, now by means of that you cannot perceive the Vedas. Eat, then you will understand me’. VI-vii-4: He ate and then approached his father. Whatever he asked him, he answered them all. VI-vii-5-6: The father said to him, ‘Dear boy, just as when a single ember of the size of a firefly left over from a large burning fire, is made to blaze up by adding straw and it burns much more than before, even so, dear boy, of your sixteen parts, only one part remained, and that being nourished by food, has been made to blaze up; and by that you perceive the Vedas now. Hence, dear boy, the mind is made up of food, the Prana is made up of water, and speech is made up of fire. From his words, (Svetaketu) understood it – yea, he understood it.

VI-viii-1: Once Uddalaka Aruni said to his son Svetaketu, ‘Dear boy, know from me the true nature of sleep. When a man is said to be sleeping, then, dear boy, he has become united with Being and has attained his own nature. Hence people speak of him as sleeping, for them he has attained his own nature.

VI-viii-2: ‘Just as a bird tied to a string, after flying in various directions and finding no resting place elsewhere, takes refuge at the very place where to it is tied, even so, dear boy, that mind, after flying in various directions and finding no resting place elsewhere, takes refuge in Prana alone; for the mind, dear boy, is tied to Prana. VI-viii-3: ‘Dear boy, know from me (the true nature of) hunger and thirst. When a man is said to be hungry, then (it is to be understood that), water is leading away what has been eaten; (therefore water may be designated as hunger). Just as people speak of the leader of cows, the leader of horses, and the leader of men, even so they speak of water as the leader of food. Hence, dear boy, know this shoot (the body) to be put forth (by a root), for it cannot be without a root. VI-viii-4: ‘Where could its root be apart from food ? Even so, dear boy, with food as the shoot, look for water as the root; with water as the shoot, dear boy, look for fire as the root; with fire as the shoot, dear boy, look for Being as the root. All these creatures, dear boy, have Being as their root, have Being as their abode, and have Being as their support. VI-viii-5: ‘Again, when a man is said to be thirsty, then (it is to be understood that), fire is leading away what has been drunk: (therefore fire may be designated as thirst). Just as people speak of the leader of cows, the leader of horses, and the leader of men, even so they speak of that fire as the leader of water. Hence, dear boy, know this shoot (water) to be put forth (by a root), for it cannot be without a root. VI-viii-6: ‘Where could its root be apart from water ? Dear boy, with water as the shoot, look for fire as the root; with fire as the shoot, look for Being as the root. All these creatures, dear boy, have Being as their root, have Being as their abode, and have Being as their support. How dear boy, each of these three deities, on reaching man, becomes threefold has been explained to you earlier. When this man is about to depart, dear boy, his speech merges in the mind, mind in Prana, Prana in fire and fire in the supreme deity. VI-viii-7: ‘That Being which is this subtle essence (cause), even That all this world has for its self. That is the true. That is the Atman. That thou art, O Svetaketu.’ ‘Revered sir, please explain it further to me’. ‘So be it, dear boy’, said (the father).

VI-ix-1-2: ‘As, dear boy, the bees make honey by collecting juices from different trees and reduce them into one essence, and there, as these juices have no such discrimination as "I am the juice of this tree, I am the juice of that tree"; even so, dear boy, all these creatures having merged into Being, do not know, "We have merged into Being." VI-ix-3: ‘Whatever these creatures are here, tiger or lion or wolf or boar or worm or flying insect or gad-fly or mosquito, that they become again. VI-ix-4: ‘That Being which is this subtle essence (cause), even That all this world has for its self. That is the true. That is the Atman. That thou art, O Svetaketu.’ ‘Revered sir, please explain it further to me’. ‘So be it, dear boy’, said (the father).

VI-x-1-2: ‘These eastern rivers, dear boy, flow along to the east and the western ones to the west. They rise from the ocean and merge in the ocean, and become that ocean itself. And there as these rivers do not know themselves as "I am this river, I am that river", even so, dear boy, all these creatures, having come from Being, do not know, "We have come from Being". And whatever these creatures were here, tiger or lion or wolf or boar or worm or flying insect or gad-fly or mosquito, that they become again. VI-x-3: ‘That Being which is this subtle essence (cause), even That all this world has for its self. That is the true. That is the Atman. That thou art, O Svetaketu.’ ‘Revered sir, please explain it further to me’. ‘So be it, dear boy’, said (the father).

VI-xi-1: ‘Of this large tree, dear boy, if anyone were to strike at the root, it would exude sap, though still living; if anyone were to strike in the middle, it would exude sap, though still living; if anyone were to strike at the top, it would exude sap, though still living. As that tree is pervaded by the living

self, it stands firm, drinking constantly and rejoicing. VI-xi-2: ‘If the life leaves one branch of this tree, then that branch dries up; if it leaves the second one, then that dries up; it leaves the whole tree, the whole tree dries up.’ VI-xi-3: The father said, ‘Dear boy, know that even so, being left by the living self this body surely dies, but the living self does not die. That Being which is this subtle essence (cause), even That all this world has for its self. That is the true. That is the Atman. That thou art, O Svetaketu.’ ‘Revered sir, please explain it further to me’. ‘So be it, dear boy’, said (the father).

VI-xii-1: ‘Bring a fruit from this Banyan tree’. ‘Here it is, revered sir’. ‘Break it.’ ‘It is broken, revered sir’. ‘What do you see in this ?’ ‘These seeds, small like particles, revered sir’. ‘Break one of these, my child’. ‘It is broken, revered sir’. ‘What do you see in it ?’ ‘Nothing, revered sir’. VI-xii-2: The father said to him, ‘Dear boy, this subtle essence which you do not perceive, growing from this subtle essence the large Banyan tree thus stands. Have faith, dear boy.’ VI-xii-3: ‘That Being which is this subtle essence (cause), even That all this world has for its self. That is the true. That is the Atman. That thou art, O Svetaketu.’ ‘Revered sir, please explain it further to me’. ‘So be it, dear boy’, said (the father).

VI-xiii-1-2: ‘Put this salt into water and then come to me in the morning’. He did so. The father said to him, ‘Bring the salt, my child, which you put into water at night’. Having searched for it, he did not find it, as it has completely dissolved. ‘My child, take a sip from the top of this water. How is it?’ ‘It is salt’. ‘Take a sip from the middle. How is it ?’ ‘It is salt’. ‘Take a sip from the bottom. How is it ?’ ‘It is salt’. ‘Throw this water away and then come to me’. He did so (and returned saying), ‘It is there always’. The father said to him, ‘Dear boy, as you do not see what is present in this water though indeed it exists in it, similarly, (Being exists) indeed in this body. VI-xiii-3: ‘That Being which is this subtle essence (cause), even That all this world has for its self. That is the true. That is the Atman. That thou art, O Svetaketu.’ ‘Revered sir, please explain it further to me’. ‘So be it, dear boy’, said (the father).

VI-xiv-1: ‘Just as, dear boy, (some robber) having brought a man from the Gandhara region with his eyes bound up, might leave him in a very desolate place, and just as that man would shout towards the east, or towards the north, or towards the south, or towards the west, (saying) "I have been brought here with my eyes bound up, I have been left here with my eyes bound up."’ VI-xiv-2: ‘And as some one might remove his bandage and tell him, "The Gandhara region is in this direction, proceed in this direction" and as he, enquiring his way from village, to village and being instructed and capable of judging by himself would reach the Gandhara region itself, even so, in this world that person knows who has a preceptor. And for him, only so long is the delay as he is not liberated (from the body) and then immediately he is merged in Being. VI-xiv-3: ‘That Being which is this subtle essence (cause), even That all this world has for its self. That is the true. That is the Atman. That thou art, O Svetaketu.’ ‘Revered sir, please explain it further to me’. ‘So be it, dear boy’, said (the father).

VI-xv-1: ‘Dear boy, the relatives of a man who is ill assemble round him and ask, "Do you recognise me ? Do you recognise me ?" As long as his speech is not merged in the mind, the mind in Prana, Prana in fire, and fire in the supreme deity, so long does he know them. VI-xv-2: ‘Then when his speech is merged in the mind, the mind in Prana, Prana in fire, and fire in the supreme deity, then he does not know them. VI-xv-3: ‘That Being which is this subtle essence (cause), even That all this world has for its self. That is the true. That is the Atman. That thou art, O Svetaketu.’ ‘Revered sir, please explain it further to me’. ‘So be it, dear boy’, said (the father).

VI-xvi-1: ‘Dear boy, (The officers of the king) bring a man, holding him by the hand (while saying) "He has taken something, he has committed a theft, heat the axe for him". If he is doer of that, then he makes himself false. And being addicted to falsehood, he covers himself with falsehood and grasps the heated axe; he is burnt, and then he is punished. VI-xvi-2: ‘If, however, he is not the doer of that, then he makes himself true. And being attached to truth, he covers himself with truth and grasps the heated axe; he is not burnt and then he is released. VI-xvi-3: ‘And as in this case he (the man attached to truth) is not burnt, (similarly a man of knowledge is not born again). Thus has all this world That for its self. That is the true. That is the Atman. That thou art, O Svetaketu.’ From his words Svetaketu understood That – yea, he understood.

VII-i-1: Om. ‘Revered sir, teach me,’ thus saying Narada approached Sanatkumara. Sanatkumara said to him, ‘What you already know, declaring that to me, be my disciple. What is beyond that I shall tell you.’ Narada said: VII-i-2: ‘Revered sir, I know the Rig-Veda, the Yajur-Veda, the Sama-Veda and the Atharvanas the fourth, the Itihasa-Purana as the fifth, grammar, the rules for the worship of the ancestors, mathematics, the science of portents, the science of treasures, logic, the science of ethics, etymology, the ancillary knowledge of the Vedas, the physical sciences, the science of war, the science of the stars, the science related to serpents, and the fine arts – all this I know, revered sir.’ VII-i-3: ‘Revered sir, however, I am only a knower of verbal texts, not a knower of Atman. Indeed I have heard from persons like your revered self that a knower of Atman goes beyond grief. I am in such a state of grief. May your revered self take me across it.’ Sanatkumara replied to him,’ Whatsoever you have studied here, really it is only a name.’ VII-i-4: ‘Name indeed is Rig-Veda, (so also) Yajur-Veda, Sama-Veda and the Atharvana as the fourth, the Itihasa-Purana as the fifth, grammar, the rules of the worship of the ancestors, mathematics, the science of portents, the science of treasures, logic, the science of ethics, etymology, the ancillary knowledge of the Vedas, the physical science, the science of war, the science of the stars, the science related to serpents, and the fine arts – name alone is all this. Worship the name. VII-i-5: ‘He who worships name as Brahman becomes free to act as he wishes in the sphere within the reach of name, he who worships name as Brahman’. (Narada) ‘Revered sir, is there anything greater than name ?’ (Sanatkumara) ‘Surely, there is something greater than name’. (Narada) ‘Revered sir, communicate it to me.’

VII-ii-1: ‘Speech surely is greater than name. Speech indeed makes us understand the Rig-Veda, Yajur-Veda, Sama-Veda, Atharvana as the fourth, Itihasa-Purana as the fifth, grammar, the rules of the worship of the ancestors, mathematics, the science of portents, the science of treasures, logic, the science of ethics, etymology, the ancillary knowledge of the Vedas, the physical science, the science of war, the science of the stars, the science related to serpents, and the fine arts – also heaven and earth, air and Akasa, water and fire, gods and men, cattle and birds, grasses and trees, beasts down to worms, flying insects and ants, merit and demerit, true and false, good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant. Verily, if speech did not exist, neither merit nor demerit would be understood, neither true nor false, neither good nor bad, neither pleasant nor unpleasant. Speech alone makes us understand all this. (Hence) worship speech. VII-ii-2: ‘He who worships speech as Brahman becomes free to act as he wishes in the sphere within the reach of speech, he who worships speech as Brahman’. ‘Revered sir, is there anything greater than speech ?’ ‘Surely, there is something greater than speech’. ‘Revered sir, communicate it to me’.

VII-iii-1: ‘Mind surely is greater than speech. Just as the closed hand encompasses two Amalaka, or two Kola, or two Aksa fruits, so does the mind encompasses speech and name. When by mind one intends "Let me learn the Mantras", then he learns; Let me do sacrificial acts", then he does; "Let me desire offspring and cattle", then he desires; "Let me desire this world and the next", then he desires.

Mind indeed is Atman. Mind indeed is the world. Mind indeed is Brahman. Worship the mind. VII-iii-2: ‘He who worships the mind as Brahman becomes free to act as he wishes in the sphere within the reach of mind, he who worships the mind as Brahman’. ‘Revered sir, is there anything greater than mind?’ ‘Surely, there is something greater than mind’. ‘Revered sir, communicate it to me’.

VII-iv-1: ‘Will surely is greater than mind. Verily, when one wills, then he intends in his mind, then he sends forth speech, and he sends it forth in a name. In the name sacred formulas and in sacred formulas the sacrifices become one.’ VII-iv-2: ‘All these, indeed, merge in the will, are made up of the will, and abide in the will. Heaven and earth willed, air and Akasa willed, water and fire willed. Through the willing of these, rain wills. Through the willing of rain, food wills. Through the willing of food, Pranas will. Through the willing of Pranas, sacred formulas will. Through the willing of sacred formulas (sacrificial) acts will. Through the willing of (sacrificial) acts, the world wills. Through the willing of the world, all things will. This is will. Worship will. VII-iv-3: ‘He who worships will as Brahman, he indeed, attains the worlds willed by him – himself being permanent, the permanent worlds; himself being well-founded, the well-founded worlds; himself being undistressed, the undistressed world. He becomes free to act as he wishes in the sphere within the reach of will, he who worships will as Brahman’. ‘Revered sir, is there anything greater than will ?’ ‘Surely, there is something greater than will’. ‘Revered sir, communicate it to me’.

VII-v-1: ‘Intelligence surely is greater than will. Verily, when one understands, then he wills, then he intends in mind, then he sends forth speech, and he sends it forth in a name. In the name sacred formulas and in sacred formulas the sacrificed become one. VII-v-2: ‘All these, indeed, merge in intelligence, are made up of intelligence and abide in intelligence. Therefore, even if a man who knows much is without intelligence, people speak of him thus, ‘He does not exist, nor what he has known; if he were really learned, he would not thus be without intelligence". On the other hand, if a man knowing little is endowed with intelligence, people desire to listen to him also. Intelligence, indeed, is the one centre of mergence of all these, intelligence is their soul, and intelligence is their support. Worship intelligence. VII-v-3: ‘He who worships intelligence as Brahman, he indeed, attains the worlds of intelligence – himself being permanent, the permanent worlds; himself being well-established, the well-established worlds; and himself being undistressed, the undistressed world. He becomes free to act as he wishes in the sphere within the reach of intelligence, he who worships intelligence as Brahman’. ‘Revered sir, is there anything greater than intelligence ?’ ‘Surely, there is something greater than intelligence’. ‘Revered sir, communicate it to me’.

VII-vi-1: ‘Contemplation surely is greater than intelligence. The earth contemplates as it were. The sky contemplates as it were. Heaven contemplates as it were. Water contemplates as it were. The mountains contemplate as it were. Gods and men contemplate as it were. Therefore, verily, those who attain greatness among men here, they seem to have obtained a share of the result of contemplation. And those who are small people, they are quarrelsome, abusive and slanderous; but those who are great men, they appear to have obtained a share of the result of contemplation. Worship contemplation. VII-vi-2: ‘He who worships contemplation as Brahman becomes free to act as he wishes in the sphere within the reach of contemplation, he who worships contemplation as Brahman’. ‘Revered sir, is there anything greater than contemplation ?’ ‘Surely, there is something greater than contemplation’. ‘Revered sir, communicate it to me’.

VII-vii-1: ‘Understanding surely is greater than contemplation. By understanding alone one understands the Rig-Veda, Yajur-Veda, Sama-Veda, Atharvana as the fourth, Itihasa-Purana as the fifth, grammar, the rules for the worship of the ancestors; mathematics, the science of portents, the science of treasures, logic, the Vedas, the physical science, the science of war, the science of the stars, the science related to serpents, and the fine arts – also heaven and earth, air and Akasa, water and fire, gods and men, cattle and birds, grasses and trees, beasts down to worms, flying insects and ants, merit and demerit, true and false, good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant, food and drink, this world and the next

– (all this) one understands by understanding alone. Worship understanding. VII-vii-2: ‘He who worships understanding as Brahman, attains the worlds containing the knowledge of the Scriptures and other subjects. He becomes free to act as he wishes in the sphere within the reach of understanding, he who worships understanding as Brahman’. ‘Revered sir, is there anything greater than understanding ?’ ‘Surely, there is something greater than understanding’. ‘Revered sir, communicate it to me’.

VII-viii-1: ‘Strength surely is greater than understanding. A single man with strength causes even a hundred men with understanding to tremble. When a man becomes strong, then he rises; rising, he serves; serving, he approaches nearer; approaching nearer, he sees, hears, reflects, understands, acts and realizes. By strength, indeed, the earth stands; by strength, the sky; by strength, heaven; by strength, the mountains; by strength, gods and men; by strength, cattle and birds, grasses and trees, beasts down to worms, flying insects and ants; by strength the world stands. Worship strength. VII-viii-2: ‘He who worships strength as Brahman becomes free to act as he wishes in the sphere within the reach of strength, he who worships strength as Brahman’. ‘Revered sir, is there anything greater than strength ?’ ‘Surely, there is something greater than strength’. ‘Revered sir, ommunicate it to me’.

VII-ix-1: ‘Food surely is greater than strength. Therefore, if one does not eat for ten days, even though he might live, yet, verily, he does not see, does not hear, does not reflect, does not act, and does not realize. But with the coming of food, he sees, hears, reflects, understands, acts and realizes. Worship food. VII-ix-2: ‘He who worships food as Brahman, he verily attains the worlds supplied with food and drink. He is free to act as he wishes in the sphere within the reach of food, he who worships food as Brahman’. ‘Revered sir, is there anything greater than food ?’ ‘Surely, there is something greater than food’. ‘Revered sir, communicate it to me’.

VII-x-1: ‘Water surely is greater than food. Therefore, when there is not good rain, living creatures are in agony (thinking), "Food will be scarce". But when there is good rain, living creatures become joyous (thinking), "Food will abound". Water, indeed, has assumed all these forms – this earth, this sky, this heaven, these mountains, these gods and men, these cattle and birds, grasses and trees, beasts down to worms, flying insects and ants. Water, indeed, has assumed all these forms. Worship water. VII-x-2: ‘He who worships water as Brahman obtains all desires and becomes satisfied. He becomes free to act as he wishes in the sphere within the reach of water, he who worships water as Brahman’. ‘Revered sir, is there anything greater than water ?’ ‘Surely, there is something greater than water’. ‘Revered sir, communicate it to me’.

VII-xi-1: ‘Fire surely is greater than water. It is this fire that having seized the air warms up the Akasa. Then people say, "It is hot, it is burning hot, it will surely rain". There, it is fire that shows itself first, and then creates water. It is (because of) this fire that thunders roll, along with lightnings flashing upwards and across; and so people say, "Lightning is flashing, it is thundering, it will surely rain". There, it is fire that shows itself first and then creates water. Worship fire. VII-xi-2: ‘He who worships fire as Brahman, he, being resplendent himself, attains resplendent worlds, full of light and free from darkness. He becomes free to act as he wishes in the sphere within the reach of fire, he who worships fire as Brahman’. ‘Revered sir, is there anything greater than fire ?’ ‘Surely, there is something greater than fire’. ‘Revered sir, communicate it to me’.

VII-xii-1: Akasa surely is greater than fire. In Akasa, indeed, exist both the sun and the moon, lightning, stars and fire. Through Akasa one calls, through Akasa one hears, through Akasa one hears the response. In Akasa one rejoices, in Akasa one does not rejoice. In Akasa a thing is born, and towards Akasa it grows. Worship Akasa. VII-xii-2: ‘He who worships Akasa as Brahman, he indeed, attains vast worlds full of light, unconfined and spacious. He is free to act as he wishes in the sphere within the reach of Akasa, he who worships Akasa as Brahman’. ‘Revered sir, is there anything greater than Akasa ?’ ‘Surely, there is something greater than Akasa’. ‘Revered sir, communicate it to me’.

VII-xiii-1: ‘Memory surely is greater than Akasa. Therefore, even if many persons should assemble and if they should have no memory, they surely would not hear any sound, they would not think, they would not know. But surely, should they have memory, then they would hear, then they would think, then they would know. Through memory, indeed, one discerns one’s sons, through memory one’s cattle. Worship memory. VII-xiii-2: ‘He who worships memory as Brahman becomes free to act as he wishes in the sphere within the reach of memory, he who worships memory as Brahman’. ‘Revered sir, is there anything greater than memory ?’ ‘Surely, there is something greater than memory’. ‘Revered sir, communicate it to me’.

VII-xiv-1: ‘Aspiration surely is greater than memory. Kindled by aspiration, (one’s) memory recites the hymns, performs rites, desires sons and cattle, desires this world and the next. Worship aspiration. VII-xiv-2: ‘He who worships aspiration as Brahman, by aspiration all his wishes prosper, his prayers become infallible. He is free to act as he wishes in the sphere within the reach of aspiration, he who worships aspiration as Brahman’. ‘Revered sir, is there anything greater than aspiration ?’ ‘Surely, there is something greater than aspiration’. ‘Revered sir, communicate it to me’.

VII-xv-1: ‘Prana surely is greater than aspiration. Just as the spokes of the wheel are fastened to the nave, so is all this fastened to this Prana. Prana moves by Prana, Prana gives Prana and it gives Prana. Prana is the father, Prana is the mother, Prana is the brother, Prana is the sister, Prana is the preceptor, Prana is the Brahmana. VII-xv-2: ‘If one answers something harsh to his father, mother, brother, sister, preceptor or a Brahmana, people say this to him, "Fie on you ! You are indeed a slayer of your father, you are indeed a slayer of your mother, you are indeed a slayer of your brother, you are indeed a slayer of your sister, you are indeed a slayer of your preceptor, you are indeed a slayer of a Brahmana." VII-xv-3: ‘On the other hand, when the Prana has departed from them, even if one piles them together, dismembers them with a fork and burns them up, surely people would not say to him, "You are a slayer of your father", nor "you are a slayer of your mother", nor "You are a slayer of your brother", nor "You are a slayer of your sister", nor "you are a slayer of your preceptor", nor "You are a slayer of a Brahmana". VII-xv-4: ‘Prana indeed becomes all these. He, indeed, who sees thus, thinks thus and knows thus becomes a surpassing speaker. If someone were to say to him, "You are a surpassing speaker", he should say, "Yes, I am a surpassing speaker", he should not deny it.

VII-xvi-1: ‘But he really speaks surpassingly who speaks surpassingly with truth’. ‘Revered sir, being such, I would speak surpassingly with truth’. ‘But one must desire to understand the truth’. ‘Revered sir, I desire to understand the truth’.

VII-xvii-1: ‘When one understands, then alone does one declare the truth. Without understanding, one does not declare the truth. Only he who understands declares the truth. But one must desire to understand understanding.’ ‘Revered sir, I desire to understand understanding’.

VII-xviii-1: ‘When one reflects, then alone does one understand. Without reflecting one does not understand. Only he who reflects understands. But one must desire to understand reflection.’ ‘Revered sir, I desire to understand reflection’.

VII-xix-1: ‘When one has faith, then alone does one reflect. Without faith, one does not reflect. Only he who has faith reflects. But one must desire to understand faith’. ‘Revered sir, I desire to understand faith’.

VII-xx-1: ‘When one has steadfastness, then alone does one have faith. Without steadfastness, one does not have faith. Only he who has steadfastness has faith. But one must desire to understand steadfastness.’ ‘Revered sir, I desire to understand steadfastness.’

VII-xxi-1: ‘When one acts, then alone does one become steadfast. Without acting, one does not become steadfast. Only on acting does one become steadfast. But one must desire to understand activity’. ‘Revered sir, I desire to understand activity’.

VII-xxii-1: ‘When one obtains happiness’, then alone does one act. Without obtaining happiness one does not act. Only on obtaining happiness does one act. But one must desire to understand happiness’. ‘Revered sir, I desire to understand happiness’.

VII-xxiii-1: That which is infinite, is alone happiness. There is no happiness in anything finite. The infinite alone is happiness. But one must desire to understand the infinite’. ‘Revered sir, I desire to understand the infinite’.

VII-xxiv-1: ‘In which one sees nothing else, hears nothing else, understands nothing else, that is infinite. But that in which one sees something else, hears something else, understands something else, is the finite. That which is infinite, is alone immortal, and that which is finite, is mortal’. ‘Revered sir, in what is that infinite established ?’ ‘On its own greatness or not even on its own greatness’. VII-xxiv-2: ‘Here in this world people call cows and horses, elephants and gold, servants and wives, fields and houses, "greatness". I do not speak thus (of greatness), for in that case one thing would be established in another. What I do say is thus:

VII-xxv-1: ‘That infinite alone is below. That is above. That is behind. That is in front. That is to the south. That is to the north. That alone is all this. So next is the teaching in regard to the self-sense. I alone am below. I am above. I am behind. I am in front. I am to the south. I am to the north. I alone am all this. VII-xxv-2: ‘So now is the teaching through Atman. Atman alone is below. Atman is above. Atman is behind. Atman is in front. Atman is to the south. Atman is to the north. Atman alone is all this. Verily, he it is who sees thus, and understands thus, has pleasure in Atman, delight in Atman, union in Atman, joy in Atman. He becomes Self-sovereign; he becomes free to act as he wishes in all the worlds. But those who know otherwise than this are ruled by others and live in perishable worlds; they are not free to act as they wish in all the worlds.

VII-xxvi-1: Verily, for him alone, who sees thus, reflects thus and understands thus, Prana springs from Atman, aspiration from Atman, memory from Atman, Akasa from Atman, fire from Atman, water from Atman, appearance and disappearances from Atman, food from Atman, strength from Atman, understanding from Atman, contemplation from Atman, intelligence from Atman, will from Atman, mind from Atman, speech from Atman, name from Atman, hymns from Atman, rites from Atman, all this (springs) from Atman alone. VII-xxvi-2: ‘There is this verse about it: "He who sees this does not see death nor illness nor any sorrow. He who sees this sees all things and obtains all things in all ways." ‘He is one, becomes

threefold, fivefold, sevenfold and also ninefold. Then again he is called the elevenfold, also a hundred- and-ten-fold and also a thousand-and twenty-fold. ‘’When nourishment is pure, reflection and higher understanding become pure. When reflection and higher understanding are pure, memory becomes strong. When memory becomes strong, there is release from all the knots of the heart. The revered Sanatkumara showed to Narada, after his impurities had been washed off, the further shore of darkness. People call Sanatkumara as Skanda – yea, they call him Skanda.

VIII-i-1: Om. Now, in this city of Brahman, there is a mansion in the shape of a small lotus; in it is a small inner Akasa. What is within that, that should be sought; that indeed, one should desire to understand. VIII-i-2-3: If the disciples should say to him, ‘In this city of Brahman in which is a small mansion in the shape of a lotus and in the small inner Akasa within – what is it that lies there which should be sought, which one should desire to understand ?’ – he should say in reply, ‘As large indeed as is this Akasa, so large is that Akasa in the heart. Within it, indeed, are contained both heaven and earth, both fire and air, both the sun and the moon, lightning and the stars. Whatever there is of him in this world and whatever is not, all that is contained within it.’ VIII-i-4: If they should say to him, ‘If in this city of Brahman is contained all this, all beings and all desires, then what is left of it when old age overtakes it or when it perishes ?’ VIII-i-5: He should say, ‘It (the Brahman called inner Akasa) does not age with the ageing of the body, it is not killed by the killing of this. This (Akasa) is the real city of Brahman, in it are contained the desires. This is the Atman, free from evil, free from old age, free from death, free from sorrow, free from hunger, free from thirst, whose desire is of the truth, whose resolve is of the truth. Just as in this world, the subjects follow as they are commanded and whatever province they desire, be it a country or a part of the field, on that they live. (So the ignorant depend upon others for enjoying the fruits of their Karma). VIII-i-6: ‘Just as here on earth the world which is earned by work perishes, even so there in the other world, the world which is earned by righteous deeds perishes. So those who depart from here without having understood the Atman and these true desires, for them there is no freedom to act as they wish in all the worlds. But those who depart from here, having understood the Atman and these true desires, for them there is freedom to act as they wish in all the worlds.’

VIII-ii-1: If he becomes desirous of the world of fathers, by his mere will, fathers arise. Possessed of that world of fathers he feels happy and exalted. VIII-ii-2: And if he becomes desirous of the world of mothers, by his mere will, mothers arise. Possessed of that world of mothers he feels happy and exalted. VIII-ii-3: And if he becomes desirous of the world of brothers, by his mere will, brothers arise. Possessed of that world of brothers he feels happy and exalted. VIII-ii-4: And if he becomes desirous of the world of sisters, by his mere will, sisters arise. Possessed of that world of sisters he feels happy and exalted. VIII-ii-5: And if he becomes desirous of the world of friends, by his mere will, friends arise. Possessed of that world of friends he feels happy and exalted. VIII-ii-6: And if he becomes desirous of the world of perfumes and garlands, by his mere will, of perfumes and garlands arise. Possessed of that world of perfumes and garlands he feels happy and exalted. VIII-ii-7: And if he becomes desirous of the world of food and drink, by his mere will, food and drink arise. Possessed of that world of food and drink he feels happy and exalted. VIII-ii-8: And if he becomes desirous of the world of song and music, by his mere will, song and music arise. Possessed of that world of song and music he feels happy and exalted. VIII-ii-9: And if he becomes desirous of the world of women, by his mere will, women arise. Possessed

of that world of women he feels happy and exalted. VIII-ii-10: Whatever provinces he is attached to and whatever desirable objects he desires by his mere will, they(arise. Possessed of that he feels happy and exalted.

VIII-iii-1: These same are the true desires covdred by the untrue. Although the desires are true, they are covered by the untrue. For whosoever of one’s people departs from here in this world one does not get him back to see. VIII-iii-2: But those of his people, whether they are alive or dead and whatever else one desires but does not get, all that one finds by going there (into the Atman, the Akasa in the heart); for here, indeed, are those true desires of his covered by the untrue. Just as, though people who do not know the field walk again and again over the treasure of gold hidden underground but do not find it, even so all these creatures here, though they go daily into the Brahman-world, yet do not find it, for they are carried away by the untrue. VIII-iii-3: This Atean verily is in the heart. Its etymological explanation is this. This (Atman) is in the heart, hence it is the heart. He who knows thus(indeed goes daily into the heavenly world. VIII-iii-4: Now that serene and happy being, rising out of this body and reaching the highest light, appears in his own true form. This is the Atman, said the teacher. This is the immortal, the fearless. This is Brahman. Verily, the name of this Brahman is the True. VIII-iii-5: These are indeed the three syllables, ‘sa’, ‘ti’, ‘yam’. What is ‘sa’, that is the immortal, and what is ‘ti’, that is the mortal, and what is ‘yam’, with it one holds the two together. Because with it one holds the two together, therefore it is ‘yam’. Verily, he who knows thus goes to the heavenly world.’

VIII-iv-1: Now, this Atman is the dyke, the embankment for the safety of these worlds. This dyke, neither the day nor the night crosses, nor old age nor death nor sorrow, nor merit nor demerit. All evils turn back from it, for this Brahman-world is free from evil. VIII-iv-2: Therefore, verily, on reaching this dyke, if one was blind he ceases to be blind; if wounded, he ceases to be wounded, if afflicted- he ceases to be afflicted. Therefore, verily, on reaching this dyke, even night becomes day, for this Brahman-world is ever illumined. VIII-iv-3: But only those who attain according to the iostruction this Brahman-world through Brahmacharya, to them belongs this Brahman-world. For them there is freedom to act as they wish in all the worlds.

VIII-v-1: Now, what people call sacrifice is really Brahmacharya, for only by means of Brahmacharya does the knower attain that world. And what people call worship (Ista) is really Brahmacharya, for only by worshipping with Brahmacharya does one attain the Atman. VIII-v-2: Now, what people call the sacrificial session is really Brahmacharya, for only by means of Brahmacharya does one obuain one’s salvation from Being. And what people call the vow of silence is really Brahmacharya for only through Brahmacharya does one understand the Atman and then meditate. VIII-v-3: Now, what people call a course of fasting is really Brahmacharya, for this Atman never perishes which one attains by means of Brahmacharya. And what people call the life of a hermit is really Brahmacharya, for verily Ara and Nya are the two oceans in the Brahman-world in the third heaven from here and therein is the lake Airammadiya, and there is the Aparajita (unconquered) city of Brahma, and there is the gold hall specially built by the Lord. VIII-v-4: Therefore only those who attain the two oceans, Ara and Nya, in the Brahman-world by means of Brahmacharya, only to them belongs this Brahman-world and for them there is freedom to act as they wish in all the worlds.

VIII-vi-1: Now, these arteries which belong to the heart exist filled with the juice of a fine substance which is reddish-brown, white, blue, yellow and red. The yonder sun indeed is reddish-brown, he is

white, he is blue, he is yellow, he is red. VIII-vi-2: Just as an extending highway runs between two villages, this as well as that, even so the rays of the sun go to both these worlds, this as well as that. They spread out of the yonder sun and enter into these arteries. Out of these arteries they spread and enter into the yonder sun. VIII-vi-3: Therefore when one is thus sound sleep, composed, serene so that he knows no dreams, then he enters into (the Akasa of the heart through) these arteries. Then no evil touches him for then he is filled with the light of the sun. VIII-vi-4: Now, when one is thus reduced to a weakened condition, those who sit around him say, ‘Do you know me ? Do you know me ?’As long as he has not departed from this body, so long he knows them. VIII-vi-5: But when he thus departs from this body, then he proceeds upwards through those very rays, (if a knower) he surely goes up meditating on Om or (does not got up if he is not a knower). As long as it takes for the mind to travel, in that (short) time, he goes to the sun. That indeed is the door to the world (of Brahman), an entrance for the knowers and a shutting out for the ignorant. VIII-vi-6: There is this verse about it: A hundred and one are the arteries of the heart; one of them leads up to the crown of the head. Passing upwards through that, one attains immortality, while the other arteries serve for departing in various other directions – yea, serve for departing.

VIII-vii-1: The Atman which is free from evil, free from old age, free from death, free from sorrow, free from hunger and thirst, whose desire is of the truth, whose resolve is of the truth, he should be sought, him one should desire to understand. He who has found out and who understands that Atman attains all the worlds and all the desires. Thus spoke Prajapati. VIII-vii-2: Both the gods and the demons heard this and said, ‘Well, let us seek that Atman by seeking which one attains all the worlds and all the desires.’ Then Indra alone from among the gods went out and so did Virochana from among the demons. Then without communicating with each other, they both came into the presence of Prajapati, fuel in hand. VIII-vii-3: For thirty-two years they lived there the disciplined life of a celibate student of sacred knowledge. Then Prajapati asked them, ‘Desiring what have you been living ?’ They replied, ‘The Atman which is free from evil, free from old age, free from death, free from sorrow, free from hunger and thirst, whose desire is of the truth, whose resolve is of the truth, he should be sought, him one should desire to understand. He who has found out and who understands that Atman attain all the worlds a