Third Brahmana: The Superiority of the Vital Force Among All Functions
After having gone through the whole process of creation and given some idea of what are the constituents of this creation; how things in creation are related to one another; in short, what is the internal connection between the world and the individuals in their relationship with the Creator; now, some important conclusion is drawn on the basis of this doctrine of the creation of the universe, namely, the way in which forces work in the world.
We have heard it said that there are divine forces and undivine forces, or, to put in a more intelligible phrase, the integrating forces and the disintegrating forces. The integrating powers are called the Devas, and the disintegrating ones are called the Asuras, the gods and the demons, which we hear of in the Epics and the Purāṇas and the mythological stories of religion. There is supposed to be a constant battle going on between the gods and the demons, the divine and the undivine forces, a subject that is dealt with also in the Sixteenth Chapter of the Bhagavadgītā, entitled 'Daivasura-Sampad-Vibhaga-Yoga', or the Yoga of the conflict between the divine and the undivine forces. We have heard these words repeated many times – the divine and the undivine. But, what do they actually mean? How do we know what is divine and what is undivine? What is the characteristic of a divine force and what is the nature of an undivine force? This is explained in the following section of the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣhad, by way of an allegorical anecdote, a story. There was a war going on between the children of Prajāpati, a conflict between the elders and the youngsters, one may say, the gods and the non-gods, the Devas and the Asuras.
- dvayā ha prājāpatyāḥ, devāś cāsurāś ca. tataḥ kānīyasā eva devāḥ, jyāyasā asurāḥ, ta eṣu lokeṣv aspardhanta, te ha devā ūcuḥ, hantāsurān yajña udgīthenātyayāmeti.
- te ha vācam ūcuḥ, tvaṁ na udgāya iti, tatheti: tebhyo vāg udagāyat. yo vāci bhogas taṁ devebhya āgāyat. yat kalyāṇaṁ vadati tad ātmane; te vidur, anena vai na udgātrātyeṣya ntīti tam abhidrutya pāpmanāvidhyan, sa yaḥ sa pāpmā yad evedam apratirūpaṁ vadati, sa eva sa pāpmā.
- atha ha prāṇam ūcuḥ, tvaṁ na udgāya iti, tatheti: tebhyaḥ prāṇa udagāyat. yaḥ prāṇe bhogas taṁ devebhya āgāyat, yat kalyāṇaṁ jighrati tad ātmane, te vidur anena vai naudgātr ātyeṣyantῑti. tam abhidrutya pāpmanāvidhyan, sa yaḥ sa pāpmā yad evedam apratirūpaṁ jighrati sa eva sa pāpmā.
- atha ha cakṣur ūcuḥ, tvaṁ na udgāya iti tatheti: tebhyaś cakṣur udagāyat. yaś cakṣuṣi bhogas taṁ devebhya āgāyat, yat kalyāṇaṁ paśyati tad ātmane; te vidur anena vai na udgātrātyeṣyantīti. tam abhidrutya pāpmanāvidhyan, sa yaḥ sa pāpmā yad evedam apratirūpam paśyati, sa eva sa pāpmā.
- atha ha śrotram ūcuḥ, tvaṁ na udgāya iti, tatheti: tebhyaḥ śrotram udagāyat. yah śrotre bhogas taṁ devebhya āgāyat, yat kalyāṇaṁ śṛṇoti tad ātmane; te vidur anena vai na udgātrātyeṣyantῑti. tam abhidrutya pāpmanāvidhyan; sa yaḥ sa pāpmā yad evedam apratirūpaṁ śṛṇoti, sa eva sa pāpmā.
- atha ha mana ūcuḥ, tvaṁ na udgāya iti, tatheti: tebhyo mana udagāyat. yo manasi bhogas taṁ devebhya āgāyat, yat kalyāṇaṁ saṁkalpayati tad ātmane; te vidur anena vai na udgātrātyeṣyantīti. tam abhidrutya pāpmanāvidhyan; sa yaḥ sa pāpmā yad evedam apratirūpaṁ saṁkalpayati, sa eva sa pāpmā; evam u khalv etā devatāḥ pāpmabhir upāsṛjan, evam enāḥ pāpmanāvidhyan.
- atha hemam āsanyam prāṇam ūcuḥ, tvaṁ na udgāya iti, tatheti: tebhya eṣa prāṇa udagāyat; te vidur anena vai na udgātrātyeṣyantīti. tam abhidrutya papmanāvidhyan; sa yathā aśmānam ṛtvā loṣṭo vidhvaṁseta, evaṁ haiva vidhvaṁsamānā viṣvañco vineśuḥ, tato devā abhavan, parāsurāḥ; bhavaty ātmanā parāsya dviṣan bhrātṛvyo bhavati ya evaṁ veda.
The gods wanted to overcome the demons. The great exponent Achārya Śankara tells us that the gods are always less in number, the demons are more in number, by which he means that people who follow their natural inclinations are more in number than those who are able to subdue the natural impulses. These urges of nature are designated as divine and undivine, from the way in which they work, and the purpose for which they work. And, the battle between the two forces was waged with the intention on either side for victory. The gods did not depend entirely on the strength of their arms, but wanted to take the help of a superior power, and that power is the power of a chant, a Mantra, or a vibration, a magical influence, we may say, a weapon which they wanted to employ against the Asuras. The Devas conferred among themselves, and concluded: "We shall employ a Mantra-Astra, a weapon which is driven, not by any material element, but by mere thought, viz., the Udgītha, the Divine Vital Power." We have heard of Astras, or divine weapons, such as Brahmāstra, Nārāyaṇāstra, Pāsupatāstra, etc. These are not physical weapons, but certain superphysical vibrations, like homeopathic potencies which cannot be seen with the eyes, but work vigorously. These weapons can be discharged even through a small, tiny material instrument. The weapon which is mystical, here contemplated to be employed by the Devas, was the Udgītha-Sāman, a Mantra of the Sāma-Veda which is called the Udgītha. "We chant, recite, and generate energy, so that we may overcome the Asuras, the demons."
Now, who will do the chant? The gods are the presiding deities over the senses, as far as the individuals are concerned. We have the gods in the cosmos, and gods in our own physical organism. The cosmical counterpart of the sensory powers in the individual are what are called the gods in the heavens. The macrocosmos and the microcosmos are correlated organically. The powers that are supermundane, which work as divinities in the heavens, as we hear of spoken in the scriptures, are the superintending principles over the sense-organs. The god of the eyes, for example, is the Sun, Surya. The Sun is the god of the eyes, and likewise we have gods or presiding principles, divinities, superior energies, presiding over every sense-organ and activity, including the psychological functions. The presiding deity of the eyes is Sūrya, of the nose are Aśvinī Kumaras, of the ears are the Dig-Devatas, of the taste principle is Varuṇa, of the touch principle is Vāyu, and there are Agnī, Indra, Viṣhnu, Prajāpati, Mṛityu, presiding over the organs of action, the Moon presiding over the mind, Brahma over the intellect, Rudra over the ego, and Viṣhnu over the subconscious and the subliminal psychological layers.
All these gods conferred together to work up an energy, or a force, to counteract the Asura energy. They wanted to chant the Mantra in order that the energy may be acquired. The chanting of the Mantra, here, does not merely mean a verbal recitation through the mouth, or a hearing of it through the ears, a fact which is made out by the story itself. What is actually meant by the chant of the Mantra is a setting in tune of oneself with the Powers that are invoked by the Mantra. If this attunement of the microcosmic with the macrocosmic is not affected, the Mantra does not work; it cannot produce effect. This is what actually happened when the chant of the Sāman was wrongly recited. The speech principle was asked to chant the Sāman, that is the Udgītha. The gods asked the speech: "You chant the Veda, the Sāman, the Udgītha," and the speech rose up into action and chanted the Sāman. The gods were very much pleased that the Sāman chanting was being recited by the speech, and that they were going to have more energy, and shall overcome the Asuras. But the Asuras came to know of this fact. The demons understood: "Oh, they are going to chant something, so that we may be overcome. We shall defeat their purpose." And what did the Asuras, the demons, do? They attacked the speech, afflicted the speech with evil, so that the Sāman may be spoilt. The evil with which the Asuras affected the speech is the wrong utterances which the speech expresses occasionally. We speak good things, and also not good things. That we are capable of speaking something not good and useful and beneficial shows that the Asuras also are working in us, not merely the gods. We can speak what is beneficial; we can also speak what is not beneficial. We are capable of doing both. We can do some good through the speech; we can do a great harm also through the speech. Why is the speech affected with this capacity to do harm? That is the result of the speech being attacked by the Asuras – the evil effect. The chant is defeated. The gods could not achieve their purpose.
The gods, then, thought and decided: "Somebody else has to chant; the speech is defeated; it is not chanting properly; it is uttering wrong things; it blabbers; it flounders." Then they asked the other organs to chant, one by one. The eye was asked to chant. The speech is not able to do what is required. So the eye, the principle of seeing, was requested by the gods: "You will chant the Sāman for us." The eye rose up into action and then started chanting. The Asuras understood this also. They attacked the eye with evil. So, we can see good things and also not good things with the eye. We can see the same object in two ways. We can visualise an object in two manners: in a manner that is conducive to proper judgment, and in a manner which is not proper judgment. The eye is capable of doing both, and that weakness of the eye to see wrong, evil, and misjudge things, is the result of the Asuras affecting it. Thus, the eye also could not do this work. Then, the gods told the ear: "Will you chant? The speech has found itself incapable, because the Asuras attacked it. Ear, can you chant?" The ear said: "Yes, I can." And it chanted. The Asuras understood that the ear is chanting. So, they attacked the ear with evil. Then what happened? The ear can hear both good and bad. We can receive good things and bad things through the ear. The ear is an open door; it is never closed. Anything can enter through it, and the capacity of the ear to receive what is not proper, what is not right, what is not good, is the result of the demons attacking it. Likewise, every organ was affected. We can taste good and bad; we can smell good and bad; we can hear good and bad; and touch good and bad. The gods requested the mind, and it, too, got affected with the habit of thinking what is improper. Then, what is the alternative? What is to be done now? The Devas had no way of escape. "Everywhere the Asuras are attacking us, from all sides. We cannot even chant the Mantra; they are spoiling everything."
Then they asked the internal unifying Prāṇa-Śakti, ultimately: "Can you chant the Sāman Mantra, Udgītha, for us? All the sense-organs have failed. Even the mind could not chant." When the mind was asked to chant, the Asuras attacked the mind. So they say, the mind can think right things and also wrong things. All thoughts are not really correct thoughts. So, everything went a fiasco; it was not successful. There was something which the gods could think of as the medium or the instrument for the chant of the Sāman, namely the Prāṇa. The Prāṇa does not belong to any sense-organ. It is a single force that works through the entire system, and without this element, principle, or vitality, which is the Prāṇa, no sense-organ can function – the eye cannot see, the ear cannot hear, etc. So, it is an impersonal unifying force. The total power of the organism, we may say – that is what is indicated by the word, Prāṇa here. And the Prāṇa was requested by the gods: "Will you chant the Sāman, Udgītha, for us?" "Yes." And the Vital Energy started chanting, and the Asuras wanted to attack it. "Oh, we see; this Vital Energy is chanting the Mantra; we shall attack." When the Asuras attacked the Prāṇa, what happened? They could not overcome the Prāṇa. They were thrown back and broken to pieces, and flung in all directions, as a clod of earth would be rendered to dust when it is struck against a rock, says the Upaniṣhad. A little ball of dry earth, if thrown against a hard rock, will break to pieces. The rock will not be affected; the ball will go to pieces. The Asuras went to pieces when they hit this inner Śakti the Power, the Prāṇa. Then, there was success for the gods, and the gods assumed their original positions which they had lost on account of their being subjected to the evil of the Asuras. The gods became what they were. One who knows thus becomes himself, and his enemies are crushed. This is a very interesting narrative. But, here is not merely a story; it is a cosmic phenomenon explained in an analogical language.
The Devas and the Asuras are two tendencies, and not substances. The tendency to unification is the divine principle, and the urge to diversification is the demoniacal principle. The sense-organs are incapable; they were defeated by the Asuras, which means to say, that the sense-organs cannot work up this unifying activity which is intended for regaining the original position of the deities of the senses. As mentioned earlier, the mistake that happened during the process of individual creation is a reversal of the subject and the object, placing them in wrong positions. In the Aitareya Upaniṣhad, we have a more clear exposition of this descending process. The Cosmic Being manifested Himself as all things, down to the five elements – earth, water, fire, air and ether – which we regard as objects of sense. The five elements are the objects of our senses, but they were the last evolutes in the process of Divine manifestation. They were, therefore, part of the Cosmic Being who was the Universal Subject; and whoever knows this, also remains the Universal Subject as inseparable from this All-Being, Vaiśvānara, or Virāt. The five elements stand in the position of the subject to the isolated individuals; and they are not their objects. The mouth of the Virāt is supposed to be the location of the Fire principle. For instance, Speech is the effect of the Fire principle. While in the cosmic realm, Fire is the effect of the Cosmic Principle, of Speech, identified with the Virāt Himself, the Fire principle becomes an object for individuals, so that human speech is controlled by the Fire principle, as it is not the case in Virāt where Speech is the controller of Fire. The Organs which are attributed to the Virāt are causes, rather than effects. And, in our case, they become effects, like reflections. The evil which we are speaking of here, the Asuras or the demons, are the tendencies to regard the Universal Subject as an object, and the desire of the individualised subject to run after the object for 'contact' with it. The gods have lost their position. They are no more angels in heaven. We hear in the Purāṇas, stories being told that the celestials were driven away from heaven by the demons and they lost their position; they ran away; they did not know where to stand, and rushed to God for help. When the forces of desire in terms of external objects begin to operate in an intense manner, the position of the Universal Subject gets converted into that of an object, and then the gods are driven from the heaven. When the Subject is driven from its location and transformed into an object, what is really happening is that the angels are driven from heaven and the Asura has taken that position. The demon is ruling the kingdom of paradise. The idea is this: the god who is the subjective angel has become a fallen egoistic subject, under the spell of evil influences. This travesty can be obviated only if the evil element in the senses is removed. The eye, the ear, the nose, speech, etc. can regain their original position, as they had in the being of the Virāt, if the tendencies to diversification and movement towards objects are obviated by the operation of the Prāṇa. It was the Prāṇa whom evil, the Asuras, could not attack. Everything could be affected. The eye and the ear and all the sense-organs were afflicted by the Asuras, i.e., every organ is a diversifying principle. It is not a unifying power. No sense-organ is characterised by unification or the power of meeting. Every sense has an urge to move in the direction of its own particular object. The ear has its own object, sound; the eye has the object, colour; the nose has the object, smell; the tongue has the object, taste; and the skin has its object, touch. They can never have a unifying capacity. But the Prāṇa is a unifying force. This Prāṇa, here, is represented by Hiraṇyagarbha in the cosmos. So, this section in the Upaniṣhad really deals with Prāṇa-Vidyā, or meditation on the Cosmic Prāṇa, Hiraṇyagarbha, for the purpose of which the senses have to be turned back to their own sources, and not allowed to move towards objects, which is the disease that they have contracted on account of their being afflicted by what is called the Asura.
The centrifugal tendency is the Asura; the centripetal one is the divine aspiration. The disintegrating impulse, i.e., the movement towards further and further grosser form of objectivity, is the devilish element in the senses, and the divine element is that by which they can turn back upon their own source and contemplate their inner connectedness with the other divinities. The Prāṇa mentioned here is not merely the breathing principle or the breath, so-called. Some people translate Prāṇa as breath; but it is not just that. It is the energy, a subtle force, a vitality, that which keeps the whole body in unison. If we can feel a sensation of unity in the whole body, it is because of the harmonious movement of the Prāṇa in the whole system. Really, the body is not one whole, it is made up of parts; every cell is different from every other cell, every limb is different from every other limb. But, in spite of this diversification we are a whole. We have the heart; we have the lungs; we have the spleen; we have the liver and intestines; the hands and the feet; and the limbs and the organs, one different from the other, constituted of minute organisms called cells. But, how is it that, with all this diversity, we are able to feel a singleness of unity in ourselves? We are a whole, an indivisible completeness. This is due to the Prāṇa which is the immediate manifestation of the ātmā-Śakti within us. Ultimately, it is the ātman which is responsible for the sense of unity within us. It is indivisible, and everything which reflects this indivisibility in some percentage may be regarded as a manifestation of the ātman. The Prāṇa-Śakti is regarded as an immediate expression of ātmā-Śakti within us, and correspondingly in the cosmos, we may say, Hiraṇyagarbha is the reflection of the Absolute Brahman.
Such a meditation is to be practiced if the senses are to be controlled, and if the divinities are to regain their positions, i.e., if we are not to stand in the need of moving towards objects of sense for our satisfaction, and the objects have to come to us of their own accord. When this is achieved, things will not be objects. They will stand in the position of our own kith and kin. They become part of our larger dimension, which they really are, but which consciousness we have forsaken on account of the subjection of the senses to the Asura principle, the urge for diversification.
Thus, this section of the Upaniṣhad is a continuation of the history of creation which was narrated to us in the earlier section. The Prāṇa is the only unifying principle within us, not the sense-organs. The contemplator on the Prāṇa becomes indomitable at once. This is one of the things that the Upaniṣhad tells us. We achieve and get endowed with a power which cannot be confronted by anybody. A contemplator on the Hiraṇyagarbha Prāṇa is a powerful being. Nobody can stand before that person.
In the Chhāndogya Upaniṣhad also, we have a very interesting anecdote, concerning the force that is generated around a person who devotes himself to meditation on the Hiraṇyagarbha Prāṇa. There was a simple person who was very poor, but a meditator on the Cosmic Prāṇa, Hiraṇyagarbha, and he was begging for food, asking for alms, moving from place to place. One day, he went to a Yajñaśāla, a sacrificial ground, where Brāhmāṇas were performing rituals of various kinds. This gentleman thought that he will get some charity in that sacrificial ground. So, he went there, and found those people busy performing the rites. They were offering sacred ghee to the consecrated fire. And he said, "I am hungry; give me some food." No one paid any attention. They did not even look at him. They were busy performing the sacrifice. He asked a second time, and third time, "Give me food; I am hungry." And nobody cared; they did not talk. Then he uttered thus: "Do you know whom you are refusing food; you are refusing food to the Cosmic Prāṇa." The very word was sufficient to shake their whole person. They rose up, "Come; come, please sit, take food," said they all in great fear.
The vibration of the meditator of the Cosmic Prāṇa is a power which can influence anything and everything. The incapacity of the individual, the powerlessness, the impotency that we feel, is due to the isolation of our individual Prāṇa from the Cosmic Prāṇa. The Cosmic Prāṇa moves into us, it is within us, like the all-pervading space which is inside everything. The all-pervading space which is illimitable is inside this hall. The little space inside this hall is the same as the space that is outside and everywhere. In the same manner, the Prāṇa that is within us is the same as the Cosmic Prāṇa called the Sūtra-ātman, or Hiraṇyagarbha. But, due to arrogance, egoism, self-assertion, we began to appropriate for own selves whatever is within our body as our own. We begin to say, "my mind, my Prāṇa, my limbs, my organs, my senses" etc. This 'mineness' in respect of properties and acquisitions, born out of the 'I'ness of self-affirmation, is the cause of cutting oneself away from the inflow of the energy that is everywhere. And, therefore, we feel weak vitally and psychologically. The moment this bund is broken, the wall that separates us from the Cosmic Prāṇa is lifted by a contemplation which is called the Udgītha-Vidyā, meditation on the Sūtra-ātman. As long as this art of meditation on the Sūtra-ātman is not learnt, we feel impotent in every respect. The contemplator on the Sūtra-ātman is an all-powerful being.
The story is not merely a description of the powers of the Prāṇa. It is a statement on the powers of everything that is within us. The Prāṇa is the most forceful principle in the subtle body within us, but there are other principles, the sense-organs, for the eye, the ear, etc. They are also powerful if they are properly located. Any person can assume strength when placed in a proper position. But, if we put a person in the wrong place, even the powerful one becomes weak. So, the senses, like the Prāṇa, should be placed in their proper positions. The mind also has to be placed in its proper context. When the mind becomes powerful, the senses also become powerful. One can convert things and bring about transformation by the operation of the mind and the senses, properly attuned to their sources. The whole meditation described here, in this context of Prāṇa-Vidyā, is the placing of the mind, the Prāṇa and the senses in their proper places. What is the proper place? The eye must go back to the Sun. That is its proper place. It should not regard itself as isolated from its deity. Just as the soul cannot be separated from the body, the deity of an organ cannot be separated from the organ. The senses should not regard themselves as independent individuals working for their own purpose. They are only outer instruments of action for the divinities that are within. So, the contemplation of the divinity, Devatā-Dhyāna, is the attunement of the sense-powers with the divinity that is superintending over them. The divinity, again, has to be placed in its proper place. What is it? It is the limb of the Virāt. Every god is a limb of the Cosmic Virāt, and so, when the senses are placed in their identity with their divinity, and likewise, the divinity is placed in its proper place, in its identity with the Virāt, the Virāt begins to work in us at once. It is like putting on a switch, connecting our little light bulb with the power house, though far away from us. This is the art of meditation. The object which is usually regarded as external to the senses should not be regarded as such, because it is not really an object. From the point of view of its own location, it may be a subject. We know this very well. You are an object for me, because I see you, but you are a subject to your own self, and I may be an object for you. So, if I am a subject for myself, and you are a subject for yourself, and if everyone and everything is a subject from his own or her own or its own point of view, where is the object? The object does not exist. It is only an hallucination. There is only One Subject. Everywhere, there is subjectivity. Even in the minutest atom and electron, there is a subjectivity. A principle of the affirmation of self is present in every little nook and corner of the universe. So, the affirmation of the subjectivity of things in their proper places, i.e., to regard all beings as limbs of the Virāt, to regard everyone as a self, rather than an object, would be the highest meditation conceivable.
This is the greatest meditation that can be taught to anyone. It is great because it reaches the pinnacle of Reality. When we respect a person, that person begins to help us. If we disregard the person, no help can come from that person. To regard a person as an object is to insult that person, because that person is not an object. From that person's point of view, that person is a subject, with self-regard, self-esteem and value, and so is the case with everyone and everything. We shall be in a position to regard everyone and everything from the point of view of the location of his own or its own being, as we locate our own being. The Selfhood of all things is the ultimate meditation. This state cannot be achieved easily. It is a hard and arduous technique, and for this purpose we are asked to go slowly, from the lower rungs to the higher ones in the order of creation. This is the principle laid out in a beautiful injunction in the Katha Upaniṣhad, also.
Yacched vāṅ manasī prājñas tad yacchej jñāna-ātmani jñānam ātmani mahati niyacchet, tad yacchec chānta-ātmani.
The senses have to be centred in the mind; the mind has to be centred in the intellect; the intellect has to be centred in the Cosmic Intellect; the Cosmic Intellect has to be centred in the Absolute. This is how we have to proceed, gradually.
The principle of the Prāṇa was considered by the powers of the different senses, as the one that is capable of overcoming Mṛityu, death, evil. This is the moral that we have been given out of this story which arose from the context of a conflict that seems to have arisen between the gods and their opponents.
- te hocuḥ, kva nu so׳bhūd yo na ittham asakteti, ayam āsye׳ntar iti, so׳yāsya āṅgirasaḥ, aṅgānāṁ hi rasaḥ.
The senses began to wonder, "What is this, who is this that has been able to enable us in overcoming the demons? Where is this power, what is this principle," was their question. The one that enabled the senses to overcome the principle of death was within themselves. The help did not come from outside. It was from within, and that principle, the Prāṇatva, is designated Ayāsya āṅgirasa. The word āṅgirasa is explained here. Aṅgānām hi rasaḥ: The essence of all the senses, the vital force – that is the principle which could not be overcome by death, because it was not specially affiliated to any particular limb of the body, and it was not connected particularly with any sense-organ. It was a uniform principle, impersonally operating throughout the system of the body, present in its manifested form as Prāṇa, by the power of which one is able to speak. It is operating in the mouth of a person – āsye'ntar iti. And that functions through the act of speech. The vocal organ is only one of its functions, and it does not represent the whole of the Prāṇa; it has many other aspects. But the most ostensible manifestation of it is what we call Prāṇa, in ordinary language. But it is only a symbol of a larger reservoir of Prāṇa-Śakti, which is the Cosmic Sūtra-ātman, or Hiraṇyagarbha, the connection with whom at once frees one from the fear of death. It is that from which death runs away in fear.
- sā vā eṣā devatā dūr nāma, dūraṁ hy asyā mṛtyuḥ, dūraṁ ha vā asmān mṛtyur bhavati ya evaṁ veda.
This great principle is Maha-Prāṇa, the Great Power, which is mystically designated in the Upaniṣhad as Dūr, a peculiar nickname given to it. What is the meaning of Dūr? Dūraṁ ha vā asmān mṛtyur bhavati: Mṛtyu is Dūra, or 'far from this'. Therefore, it is called Dūr – destruction is removed from it. Death, evil, suffering, sorrow is far away from it. Therefore, it is called Dūr, mystically, symbolically, as a special designation of it.
Dūraṁ ha vā asmān mṛtyur bhavati ya evaṁ veda: One who has realisation of this fact will also be free from the fear of death. It is not merely a story which gives us a description of an event that took place some time ago, historically. There is a philosophical truth that is declared, an eternal fact, which applies to each and every person, everyone, at any time, under any condition. Whoever comprehends the essential nature of this Prāṇa will be free from fear. And, as it has been described earlier, death is either an outcome of an element present in the external structure of the senses and the mind, or it is equivalent to a peculiar thing which we cannot understand easily, and this peculiarity can be called transformation, or the urge within an individual to go out of itself into that which is not itself. This is desire. So, in one way, we may say that desire is death; and wherever there is death, there is desire; and wherever there is desire, there is death; and one dies only because of desire. Desire cannot be in the case of the one who has been endowed with this knowledge and experience, because the senses are freed from the evil of desire when they are affiliated to the Maha-Prāṇa, Sūtra-ātman, for the principle of desire in the senses arises on account of their dissociation from the presiding deities, the gods as we call them, in their activity towards objects outside.
The senses move towards objects, forgetting that they are superintended by higher deities, who are, in turn, controlled by the Supreme Virāt, or Hiraṇyagarbha. The energy of the senses gets depleted in respect of objects of desire, due to a confusion in their structural pattern, a peculiar urge that arises in the senses on account of their pursuing reality only in the objects and not in that which is prior to them, namely, the superior divine principle. The element, the principle, the reality that is behind the senses is incapable of being observed by the senses. We see only what is outside, and not what is inside.
The contemplation on Hiraṇyagarbha, which is the subject of this discourse in the Upaniṣhad here, is the art of transmuting, completely, the energy of the senses into cosmic principles, whereby every sense operates, or is made to operate, in terms of its context in the Cosmic Form, where death cannot enter; and therefore it is said that one who has this realisation, one who has this understanding, one who has this knowledge, will be free from death. He will not have the sufferings, consequent upon desire for objects.
- sā vā eṣā devataitāsāṁ devatānām pāpmānam mṛtyum apahatya, yatrāsāṁ diśām antaḥ, tad gamayāṁcakāra, tad āsāṁ pāmano vinyadadhāt, tasmān na janam iyāt, nāntam iyāt, net pāpmānam mṛtyum anvavāyānῑti.
This, again, is a passage very symbolic. Its literal meaning is that this Prāṇa, the moment it took up the charge of the senses, the moment the senses surrendered themselves to this Prāṇa, the evil of the senses was driven out of the kingdom of reality. Evil was exterminated; it was asked to quit the kingdom of truth, and it was driven to the farthest corner of a distance. And, the Upaniṣhad tells us not to go to that place where the evil has been driven. That is outside the realm of reality, do not move, because within the realm of reality desire cannot function, evil cannot be, death cannot operate. And, inasmuch as evil has been driven out of the kingdom of reality, do not desire to go out of this kingdom into that corner of the realm where the evil has been dispersed or thrown off, which means that the senses should not perform the forbidden act of supererogating to themselves the function which does not really belong to them, but which really belongs to a higher reality, due to whose presence alone are they able to function at all. The mistake committed by every individual is the forgetfulness of the role that is played by forces which are transcendent, and that is the reason why there is the element of egoism predominating in the individual. It is like one taking hold of the property of another and driving the owner out by saying, 'I am the owner'. The tenants are the senses; the owner is the deity of each sense. But the tenants have taken hold of the entire organisation and administration of the realm which really belongs to the deities.
The deities, again, are subtle individuals, and they, too, have to function in the context of another superior existence. In the Kena Upaniṣhad we are told that even the gods can go wrong, as human beings can. And, in the story that is given in the Kena Upaniṣhad, we are instructed that even the gods had the pride of having won victory over the demons, not knowing that they were helped by another power of which they had no knowledge, of which they had no vision at all.
So, the Mantra here cited tells us that evil is there where reality is not, and where reality is, evil cannot be. So the clinging of the senses to unreal phantoms is the cause of the evil operating through them, and thus desire is nothing but desire for the unreal. It cannot be a desire for the real. If it is a desire for the real, it cannot bind. So, go not to that realm where the unreal rules in suzertainty but be within the realm of reality; which means to say that outside reality, nothing can be. And so, all desire is a phantasmagoria that arises in the mind for things which do not exist.
- sā vā eṣā devataitāsāṁ devatānām pāpmānam mṛtyum apahatya athainā mṛtyum atyavahat.
Gone above the fear of death are the senses when they took refuge in the Maha-Prāṇa. The Hiraṇyabargha-Prāṇa is the overcoming principle of death, where death is consumed. 'Mṛityu', or death, is like a condiment to this great All-consumer, says the Kaṭha Upaniṣhad. Death consumes all, but this Being consumes death itself. That enabled the senses to overcome death, that is, to free themselves from desire for things. What happened to them when they were free from desire? What was the condition of the senses and the deities thereof when they were freed from the principle of death? One by one, each sense-organ is described in the following Mantras.
- sa vai vācam eva prathamām atyavahat, sā yadā mṛtyum atyamucyata, so׳gnir abhavat, so׳yam agniḥ pareṇa mṛtyum atikrānto dīpyate.
- atha prāṇam atyavahat, sa yadā mṛtyum atyamucyata, sa vāyur abhavat. so'yaṁ vāyuḥ pareṇa mṛtyum atikrāntaḥ pavate.
- atha cakṣur atyavahat, tad yadā mṛtyum atyamucyata, saādityo'bhavat, so'sāv ādityaḥ pareṇa mṛtyum atikrāntas tapati.
- atha śrotram atyavahat, tad yadā mṛtyum atyamucyata, tā diśo'bhavan, tā imā diśaḥ pareṇa mṛtyum atikrāntāḥ.
Speech was freed from the evil of death, first of all. Then, what happened to speech? It ceased to be a mere instrument as speech. The principle of speech is not merely an organ to express words in language, as it is ordinarily in human beings. It assumed its original form. Fire is the deity of the organ of speech, and Fire is the causative principle of speech, and speech is the effect of the principle of Fire in individuals. Speech is subject to the principle of Fire, as an effect of the function of Fire. But the original condition of speech is something quite different. What we call speech, or the principle of speech, is something like a reflection of the true form of speech. We observed how an object can appear topsy-turvy when it is reflected, as when we stand on the bank of a river and look at our body. The top looks as the bottom; the head is lowermost in the reflection. The highest principle has become the lowest principle in the individual. Speech, in the Virāt, is the highest principle, superior to the principle of Fire, whereas in the individual it is an effect. It is far below the principle of Fire, here. Fire (Agnī) is the Devatā, the deity, the presiding principle over the sense of speech in the individual, so that Fire stands above the senses as a cause. But in the Virāt, it is an effect of the principle of speech. From the mouth of the Virāt, Fire came, says the Aitareya Upaniṣhad, and certain other passages in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣhad.
When we contemplate the Universal Subjectivity of things, the sense-organs become causes rather than effects, not as they are now in our individual cases. What this contemplation means, is a hard thing to grasp. But, once it is grasped, all fear vanishes in a moment, because fear is due to dependence on things, and independence is assumed the moment this art of transmuting individual consciousness to the Universal Reality is gained. That is real meditation, in the light of the Upaniṣhad. And this contemplation, this meditation on Hiraṇyagarbha, which is actually the subject of this chapter, and which is the reason behind the purification of the senses and their overcoming death, completely converts the effect into the cause, so that speech becomes Fire, the effect becomes the cause, and Fire finds its proper place in the Being of Reality. It does not move about like a servant wanted by nobody, but it becomes an organic part, or limb, of the Universal Being, who is the Virāt, just as the mouth or the principle of speech in the individual is an organic part of the individual body. The Cosmic Body becomes the abode of the cosmic principle of speech which is prior to the operation of creation, during which process the Fire principle is supposed to have emanated from the mouth of the Virāt. Thus, what happened when the principle of speech was freed from the principle of death? The moment speech was freed from the evil of death, it became the Fire principle, not the fire that is used in the kitchen for cooking the food, but the original, subtle Satya, or reality behind fire, the deity of fire, Agnī-Devata, who is the mouth of the Virāt, as stated in the scripture. This fire shines in the realm of reality in its own pristine glory. And if we read the Purāṇas and Epics, we shall find that whenever the Virāt-Puruṣha is described, Fire is mentioned there as coming out of His mouth. When Sri Krishna opened up His Cosmic Form in the court of the Kauravas, it is said that the mouth opened, and Fire came out from His mouth. And, in the Upaniṣhad also, we find references to this fact.
This sort of freedom from death was achieved by every sense, and they all became the deity, rather than the effect. The eye became sun, and the sun assumed his location in the Virāt, and so on every sense-organ is thus described as having regained its original status. They got over their limitations. They were reinstated in their original forms – smell, taste, hearing and touch became their own deities. The object does not any more control the activity and the existence of the individual subject, as it is the case ordinarily. Individuals, we people, are all dependent on the objects of sense. We are helplessly driven to objects on account of the fact that we live in a world of diversity, multiplicity and the separation of one thing from another thing. That element of separation has been completely mastered here in this deep technique of meditation, and all the senses, including the mind, became integrated in the body of the Virāt, while they were all scattered in different directions, disintegrated in the organism of the individual. When the mind, in our case, moves towards objects outside, thus depleting its energy, disintegrating itself, gets integrated in the Virāt and moves back to its source, it becomes one with the great source of energy.
- atha mano׳tyavahat, tad yadā mṛtyum atyamucyata, sa candramā abhavat, so'sau candraḥ pareṇa mṛtyum atikrānto bhāti, evaṁ ha vā enam eṣā devatā mṛtyum ativahati, ya evaṁ veda.
The Divine Prāṇa carried the mind, too, beyond death, and then the mind became the moon, and the moon got fixed in the mind of the Virāt. Even as the mind and the senses are freed from the evil of death, you and I and everyone also can be freed from the evil of death, says the Upaniṣhad. It is a moral applicable to all, provided we follow the course followed by the senses. What did they do? They surrendered themselves to the Cosmic, and the element of Cosmic Reality took hold of them by the hand and governed them through and through, and there was no fear. If anyone knows this art, follows this technique, and lives a life in consonance with this principle, that individual also will cease to be an individual caught in the meshes of death, and shall become a principle of reality, identical with that which truly is, and not moving as a transitory link in the process of becoming in this world of death.
- athātmane׳nnādyam āgāyat, yadd hi kiṁ cānnam adyate, anenaiva tad adyate, iha pratitiṣṭhati.
Whatever is done in this body is done by the Prāṇa. For instance, the absorption of the food that is drawn in by the sense-organs into the organism is done by the Prāṇa. It is by the Prāṇa that the senses draw food into the system, and it is the Prāṇa that digests the food, absorbs it into the organism. If the eyes see anything, it is the Prāṇa that sees. If the nose smells, it is the Prāṇa that smells. If the ears hear, it is the Prāṇa that hears. If anything happens, it is done by the Prāṇa. It is the support of the senses and their activities, and it is supported by these activities and principles. There is a mutual dependence of the senses and the Prāṇa. The Prāṇa-Śakti within and the activities without are interconnected, that is, the subjective force which we call vitality and the objective element that we call the food outside – these two are interconnected in the Body of the Virāt. One is dependent on the other. Therefore, we cannot say which is what in this interconnected realm of Universality.
Now, the anecdote continues. The senses feel highly exhilarated with the victory that they have won over the demoniacal elements. Then they tell the Prāṇa, "Wonderful is the victory that we have gained on account of you. Great is your achievement, indeed."
- te devā abruvan, etāvad vā idaṁ sarvaṁ yad annam, tad ātmana āgāsīḥ, anu no׳sminn anna ābhajasveti, te vai mā׳bhisaṁviśateti; tatheti: taṁ samantam pariṇyaviśanta, tasmād yad ananenānnam atti, tenaitās tṛpyanti; evaṁ ha vā enaṁ svā abhisaṁviśanti, bhartā svānāṁ śreṣṭhaḥ, pura etā bhavaty annādo׳dhipatiḥ, ya evaṁ veda; ya u haivaṁvidaṁ sveṣu pratipratir bubhūṣati, na haivālaṁ bhāryebhyo bhavati; atha ya evaitam anubhavati, yo vaitam anu bhāryān bubhūrṣati, sa haivālaṁ bhāryebhyo bhavati.
The Devas, the gods who have been freed from death, proclaim to the Prāṇa. What did they say? "All this food is yours. Whatever is within us is your presence, and whatever is of any meaning in us, is the meaning that is yours. May we also be able to partake of your food and your glory. Share with us the food that you consume. Let us also take food with you. Let us sit beside you, and partake of your energy, become connected with you as friends, not as isolated individuals as we have been upto this time." The Prāṇa said, "Sit beside me," that is, be in consonance with me. "Then I shall feed you." If the senses are in consonance with the Prāṇa, the Prāṇa will feed the senses, but if they are dissonant, naturally the energy will not flow to the senses. This fact decided, they became one with it in organic connection. If the Prāṇa is satisfied, every sense is satisfied. If the vital force inside is happy, every part of the body is happy. The mind also is happy, the intellect is happy. The whole being is happy.
Here is a long passage which means that this fruit, this result, accrues to anyone who connects oneself with this Prāṇa in the manner in which the senses connected themselves with the Prāṇa. He becomes the lord of all; he becomes a master; he becomes the source of dependence for others; he becomes the best; he becomes the foremost among people; he is never in want of anything. Everything shall come to him, as everything automatically comes to the Prāṇa, unasked. One who is in union with this Prāṇa is the lord of all in the sense that everything belongs to him, and his wish shall instantaneously be fulfilled. No one can contend with this person who has this knowledge. The person who vies with a person with this knowledge will not succeed. This is what the Upaniṣhad means. If you try to compete, in any manner, with one who has this knowledge, you will not succeed. But, you will succeed if you follow his precepts and live in consonance with his methods of living and his way of understanding; that is, no one can stand against his wisdom, and no one can even stand in the presence of this individual, who is endowed with this wisdom. But one who follows him becomes victorious, as he who is endowed with this knowledge is himself victorious.
- so׳yāsya āṅgirasaḥ, aṅgānāṁ hi rasaḥ, prāṇo vā aṅgānāṁ rasaḥ, prāṇo hi vā aṅgānāṁ rasaḥ, tasmād yasmāt kasmāc cāṅgāt prāṇa utkrāmati, tad eva tat śuṣyati; eṣa hi vā aṅgānāṁ rasaḥ.
This great master principle in us, which is Prāṇa, is the essence of all the limbs of the body, and therefore he is called āṅgirasaḥ. Prāṇa is the essence of the limbs of the body, of all the senses, and so he is called āṅgirasaḥ. If Prāṇa departs from any part of the body, that part dries up immediately. There is no vitality in that part of the body from which Prāṇa is withdrawn. So, life is Prāṇa; Prāṇa is life.
- eṣa u eva bṛhaspatiḥ, vāg vai bṛhatī tasyā eṣa patiḥ, tasmād u bṛhaspatiḥ.
This Prāṇa which is āṅgirasaḥ, is also Bṛihaspati. Why? Speech is Bṛihati, and the lord of Bṛihati, or the Pati of Bṛihati, is Bṛihaspati. Therefore, Prāṇa is Bṛihaspati, as it is the lord of speech. Here, speech means the entire sacred lore, including the Vedic wisdom, symbolised here by what is known as the Bṛihati, or metre of the sacred Mantra. The Bṛihati is the longest Mantra in the Veda, and therefore Bṛihati is regarded as symbolising the principle of speech itself, not merely one word that we utter or a language that we speak, but the entire operation of the vocal organ in any manner whatsoever, and that is possible only because of the function of the Prāṇa, was the lord thereof. Prāṇa is, thus, regarded as Bṛihaspati.
- eṣa u eva brahmaṇas-patiḥ, vāg vai brahma, tasyā eṣa patiḥ, tasmād u brahmaṇas-patiḥ.
Prāṇa is also Brahmaṇas-pati. Why? The Vedas are the ultimate reach of the principle of speech which is known as Brahma. The lord of it is Prāṇa Therefore it is called Brāhmaṇas-pati.
A Eulogy of the Chant on Breath
- eṣa u eva sāma, vāg vai sāma, eṣa sā cāmaśceti, tat sāmnaḥ sāmatvam; yad veva samaḥ pluṣiṇā, samo maśakena, samo nāgena, sama ebhis tribhir lokaiḥ, samo׳nena sarveṇa, tasmād veva sāma, aśnute sāmnaḥ sāyujyaṁ salokatām, ya evam etat sāma veda.
Bṛihati stands for the Ṛg Veda, and Brahma stands for the Yajur-Veda, and the third one is Sāma mentioned here. The speech and the Prāṇa are regarded here as Sā and Ma. The union of them is Sāma, the harmony of the system. This equalising Prāṇa, which is the harmonising principle between the speech and the whole body inside, is subtly present equally in all beings. This Prāṇa is not only in human beings. It is everywhere. This is what the Mantra says here. It is in a very minute creature like the white ant or the honeybee. It is in a mosquito. It is in an elephant. It is in all the three worlds, and the whole cosmos. It is equally present in the smaller and the larger, and it is an impersonal, invisible something.
It is not the breath that we speak of as the Prāṇa here. It is invisible to even the subtlest operation of the senses. It cannot be conceived of even by the mind. It is the principle behind personalities, individuals and social bodies. We know what a principle is. A principle can never be seen with the eyes. It is manifest sometimes as a concept. The concept of universality, for instance, is supposed to be the highest of principles. But, we cannot see universality anywhere. Nobody can open the eyes and look at it, but it is there. Everyone knows that it exists, but no one can see where it is. We know that universality must exist. It is the general principle operating behind individuals. But the general principle can be conceived as manifest, tentatively, in a particular form, through the mind of an individual, or a group of individuals, but cannot be identified with any object of sense. Inasmuch as it is a principle, it is present everywhere, in every form. For example, the principle of money is present in a dollar; it is in a pound; it is in a rupee; and so on. But, rupee is different from pound; pound is different from dollar. Yet, the money principle is universally present in all these formations. It is the value that is called the universal principle, and the form that it takes is immaterial. The essence of it is the same. The principle of administration, for instance, cannot be seen with the eyes; the principle of organisation cannot be seen with the eyes; the principle of government cannot be seen with the eyes; the principle of beauty cannot be seen with the eyes. Every principle is invisible, but these are the ruling, guiding principles in life. These so-called invisibles are the realities, and the visibles are not the realities. Again, for example, the currency note is not the reality; the value behind it is the reality. And similarly, the beauty of an object is invisible. It is not the shape of the object that is beautiful. It is something else that is vital and internally connected, in the shape of it, with the mind within that is called beauty. And so are all things.
So, the point is that the principle of universality is what is called here, Prāṇa, that is, Hiraṇyagarbha, or Virāt, that is God, ultimately; and He cannot be seen with the eyes, as one cannot see a principle, as one cannot see universality. Forms do not exist, shapes do not exist, individuals do not exist, in the end. They are only vehicles to tentatively convey the meaning or value which is universal, which is the principle, and which is equally present in all, irrespective of the passage of time – past, present and future – and spatial distinction. It is everywhere, in all the three worlds it is, right from an ant up to the Cosmic Being.
In all the Upaniṣhads, we will find a passage ending with 'ya evaṁ veda' – one who knows this. Knowledge is regarded as the highest possession. One who knows this, gets everything. It is strange that knowledge should be 'being', but this is the truth made out in all the Upaniṣhads. In the branches of learning we find that learning is not 'being'. We may learn many things, but we will not be possessors of the things connected with that learning. An engineer who knows how to build a house may not own a house. He may have no house at all, but he has the knowledge of building a house. In such instances, knowledge is different from the 'being' of the object connected with knowledge. But, this knowledge is not like that. The knowledge that is propounded in the Upaniṣhad is identical with the 'being' of the object that is connected with that knowledge, and therefore the Upaniṣhad says that one who knows this, becomes that, obtains that, is that – ya evaṁ veda.
- eṣa u vā udgīthaḥ; prāṇo vā ut, prāṇena hīdaṁ sarvam uttabdham, vāg eva gīthā, uc ca gīthā ceti, sa udgῑthaḥ.
This Prāṇa is the propeller (Ut) of speech (Gīthā). Hence, Prāṇa is the Udgitha Chant, together with the speech. The two form one whole.
- taddhāpi brahmadattaś caikitāneyo rājānaṁ bhakṣayann uvāca, ayaṁ tyasya rājā mūrdhānaṁ vipātayatāt, yad ito׳yāsya āṅgiraso׳nyenodagāyad iti, vācā ca hy eva sa prāṇena codagāyad iti.
This is a peculiar way of the Upaniṣhad that, whenever it explains a profound, a mystical or secret doctrine through an analogy or an image, it expounds it by other comparatives. Here is one instance of the glorification of the Prāṇa. There was a great man called Brahmadatta, the great grandson of Cikitana, who drank the Soma juice in the Soma sacrifice, and declared in this manner: "This Maha-Prāṇa, the Supreme Prāṇa, is the one that chanted the Udgītha; it is the one that freed all the senses from death; if anyone else be declared as the cause of freedom from death, and if āyasya āngirasa chanted the Udgītha through any other means, may such a proclaimer's head fall." This is a kind of vow that he takes, an imprecation that he casts by saying in a confident manner that nothing can free one from the fear of death, nothing can free one from the fear of sorrow, except this universal principle that has been sung throughout in these passages of the Upaniṣhad.
- tasya haitasya sāmno yah svaṁ veda, bhavati hāsya svam; tasya vai svara eva svam; tasmād ārtvijyam kariṣyan vāci svaram iccheta; tayā vācā svara-sampannayārtvijyaṁ kuryāt; tasmād yajñe svaravantaṁ didṛkṣanta eva; atho yasya svaṁ bhavati; bhavati hāsya svam, ya evam etat sāmnaḥ, svaṁ veda.
The Sāma Mantra is told here again in the context of the glorification of the Udgītha. One who chants Sāma in the manner it was chanted by the Prāṇa for the freedom of the senses from death, becomes self-possessed, becomes master of oneself and, here, in the Sāma, the technique of becoming adept in the chanting of the Udgītha, or the Svaram of the Sāma, i.e., the intonation of the Mantra, is stated. Emphasis is laid on the method of chanting the Sāma, or rather, any Mantra of the Veda. The Veda is distinct from the other scriptures in the sense that intonation is very important in its recitation, and the power of the Sāma depends upon the way in which it is chanted. It is not merely the word that is important, but also the modulation of the voice. The intonation, or the rich voice in the recitation of the chant, is itself the glory of the Sāma. What is the glory of Sāman? Svara, the intonation, is the glory, and therefore whoever is well-equipped with this art of properly chanting the Sāman is desired in all Sāma-Yajñas, which are called Soma-Yāgas. And the performers of the Sāma-Yajñas always look for one who has a clear capacity to intonate the Mantras of the Sāma, so that he can unify himself with the spirit, with the forces which are the deities of Sāma-Mantras, and all glory comes to him also, who knows this art.
So, the glory of the Veda, the glory of the Omkāra, Praṇava which is the Udgītha, the glory of the Prāṇa, and the glory that is attended here with the Veda chant – all these are described in concise in this passage of this Brāhmaṇa.
- tasya haitasya sāmno yaḥ suvarṇam veda, bhavati hāsya suvarṇam, tasya vai svara eva suvarṇam, bhavati hāsya suvarṇam, ya evam etat sāmnaḥ suvarṇaṁ veda.
- tasya haitasya sāmno yaḥ pratiṣṭhāṁ veda, prati ha tiṣṭhati, tasya vai vāg eva pratiṣṭhā, vāci hi khalv eṣa etat prāṇaḥ pratiṣṭhito gīyate. anna ity u haika āhuḥ.
In connection with the meditation on the Sāma, and the harmony between the Prāṇa and speech, it was said that the intonation in the chant of the Veda, which is Sāma, is very important, because the way in which it is chanted or sung has direct connection with the meaning that is conveyed or the objective that is intended by means of the recitation. It is said further, in the following passages, that the correct pronunciation also is important, in addition to the intonation. The letters, the words, the phrases, have to be pronounced in a proper manner, with the correct accent at the proper places, in addition to, or together with the method of chant. This is the resting place, or establishment, of the Prāṇa. By this, one gets established in the power that is Sāma, which is, again, the unity between the Prāṇa and the power of speech, or to carry the meaning further to its broader or more general sense, the harmony between the Prāṇa and all the senses, so that one gets totally integrated in personality by the meditation on the Sāma. One who knows this, obtains a resting place.
Now, a very important chant is explained, which is called the Pavamānā Abhyāroha. The Abhyāroha, here, means the 'elevated holy chant'. It is all-purifying, and that is why it is called Pavamānā.
- athātaḥ pavamānānām evābhyārohaḥ, sa vai khalu prastotā sāma prastauti, sa yatra prastuyāt, tad etāni japet: 'asato mā sad gamaya, tamaso mā jyotir gamaya, mṛtyor māmṛtaṁ gamaya' iti, sa yad āha, asato mā sad gamaya iti, mṛtyur vā asat, sad amṛtam, mṛtyor māmṛtaṁ gamaya, amṛtam mā kurv ity evaitad āha; tamaso mā jyotir gamaya iti, mṛtyur vai tamaḥ, jyotir amṛtam, mṛtyor mā amṛtaṁ gamaya, amṛtaṁ kurv ity evaitad āha; mṛtyor māmṛtaṁ gamaya iti, nātra tirohitam ivāsti. atha yānītarāṇi stotrāṇi, teṣv ātmane'nnādyam āgāyet; tasmād u teṣu varaṁ vṛṇīta, yaṁ kāmaṁ, kāmayeta, tam, sa eṣa evaṁ-vid udgātātmane vā yajamānāya vā yaṁ kāmaṁ kāmayate taṁ āgāyati; taddhaital loka-jid eva, na haivā lokyatāyā āśāsti, ya evam etat sāma veda.
The Udgātṛ, known as the presiding intelligence over the chant of the Sāma, sings the Abhyāroha, the holy and edifying recitations of the Sāma, and recites the Mantra repeatedly in order to produce the required effect. Asato mā sad gamaya, tamaso mā jyotir gamaya, mṛtyor māmṛtaṁ gamaya. These are the three Pavamānā-Mantras, the purifying chants, and their recitation is given in the concluding portion of this Brāhmaṇa. These three recitations are supposed to be equivalent to meditation, and they bring about the intended result, namely, the rise of the mortal to the immortal, and everything that is connected with this process. We are familiar with this chant, but the Upaniṣhad takes up its discussion in the context of the Sāma and the Prāṇa Vidyā of this Brāhmaṇa, and tells us that these are highly purifying recitations. They are Pavamānā-Abhyāroha.
What is the meaning of this chant which is recited in this manner? It is a prayer, a Japa, as well as an invocation. Asato mā sad gamaya: From the non-existent, from the unreal, from the apparent, lead me to the other side of it, the Existent, the Real, the Noumenon. Here, the Upaniṣhad tells, also, what the meaning is. What we call death is itself the unreal; and what is other than death, the immortal, is the Real. So, to be led from the unreal to the Real is the same as to move from death to immortality. These words have special meanings with highly philosophical connotations. The world in which we are living is the world of death. It is called Mṛityuloka, the realm of dying, and therefore it is equated with the world of unreality. It is a world of appearances, and the prayer is: "May we be led from this phenomenal world of appearances to the realm of Reality." That which appears to be real, and yet, is not real – that is the Asat.
Asat does not mean non-existence, like the horns of a human being. Here, the unreal is not of that category, because if a thing is totally non-existent, it will not be seen, and the question of rising from it does not arise. The rise of the consciousness from one state to another becomes necessitated on account of there being an element of the real reflected in the apparent. The world of unreality is capable of being taken for reality, and therefore one gets involved in it. Certain characters of reality are visible in the world of unreality, and so there is a mix-up of two attributes. The appearance, as we call it, is not a total non-existence. It is a confusion, a kind of muddled thinking. That is the appearance. The muddle arises on account of mixing up, or juxtaposing, or superimposing, attributes belonging to different categories, or realms, by way of mutual association, i.e., the attribution of the character of one to the other. The famous analogy given to us in the Vedānta scriptures is that there is what is known as Adhyāsa, or the reading of the meaning of reality in that which is transient, and conversely, the transposing of characters of transiency and becoming to the being which is real. This happens every day in our practical life. We live as persons who are standing examples of this mix-up of attributes. Our individualities, our bodily personalities are immediately available examples of this confusion of thought, where the real and the unreal are mixed up, and we drift from one condition to another on account of not being able to judge what is what in our own cases. We have feelings which are combinations of two aspects – the real and the unreal, the Sat and the Asat. We have a confidence that we are existing. We never feel that we are non-existent, not also that we are a moving flow, or we are apparent, or we are in a condition of process. We are told that this world is in a state of perpetual motion, but we never have any such feelings in our lives. We live in a world of motion and transition from one condition to another, but, in our own lives, we feel that we are perpetual. There is a strong feeling in regard to ourselves that we are steady beings and that there is a continuity of consciousness of our being, right from birth to death.
This feeling of continuity of existence in our own selves is due to our attributing the character of reality to ourselves, because that which is, the Pure Being, is somehow made to get reflected in our own conditioned personalities. The sense of 'I', the feeling of 'being' and the certitude that we have in respect of our existence is due to the reality that is present in us. But, there is something more in us, apart from this feeling of mere 'being'. We do not merely feel that we exist. We always feel that we are limited; we are inadequate; we are poverty-stricken; we are impotent; we are grief-ridden, and we have anxieties and insecurities of every type conceivable. This peculiar other side of the feeling that is associated, side by side, with the feeling of certainty, existence, being etc., is the quality of appearance.
The conditioned form which is embodiment, the body, has one character; and the unconditioned reality has another one altogether. We bring the two together and create a personality, so that there is what is called a transient personality which 'appears' to be. The being of the personality is the reflection of reality in the personality, whereas the transiency is its real nature. We are conscious of a current, as it were, which flows, which never is steady, but the consciousness of continuity, even in the transitory process of the current of a river, is due to the consciousness being different from the process. We have two elements in us – sometimes, theologically, we say, the god and the demon principle – the Deva and the Asura. We have both elements in us, the higher and the lower, the eternal and the temporal. The eternal speaks and infuses meaning into the values of life, to which we cling so ardently, and creates in our life a hope for the future, of a better condition. We always expect something better. We never imagine that the world will be worse. It will be better than today, we think. This positivity present in our life, and the confidence we have that we shall live tomorrow, though there is no certainty about it, is the reflection of reality in us. Who tells you that you will live tomorrow? But you have a confidence that you will be alive. This is due to the presence of an eternity masquerading in our own personalities, invisible, and yet present. But yet, there is insecurity. We have a suspicion that our apprehensions may not be true, and so we sleep restlessly and unhappily. We have in us happiness and unhappiness mixed up. That is due to the Sat and Asat elements combined in us, appearance and reality, both working together, side by side, swinging us on either side, in different forms, and under different occasions.
So, the prayer here is, 'Let us rise above this turmoil of transiency of life, and move to the real which is indicated faintly in our own personal lives and in the manifestations that are in front of us.' The rise is the process of the ascent of the soul to the Absolute. Thus, the prayer is: – Asato mā sad gamaya: 'Lead me from the unreal to the real, from the apparent to the Absolute, so that we shall be steadfast in that which is free from entanglement in appearances – space, time, and causal relations.' And this is at once a prayer for further light in the process of this ascent. When we rise from the unreal to the real, we also become enlightened, much more than we are today. It is not merely 'being' that is transmuted, but also 'consciousness', side by side. The rise from inadequate 'being' to adequate 'Being', from the lower type of 'being' to the higher type of 'Being', is at the same time, simultaneously, a rise from lower understanding to higher understanding, where consciousness expands as 'being' expands.
Being and consciousness go together; they cannot be separated. Our consciousness is tied to our body, so that whatever we know is limited to this little body. We cannot go beyond. The consciousness of our 'being' is the same as consciousness of our body. There is nothing else in us. And the body is so limited, as we know very well. Hence, the expansion of 'being', or the dimension of our 'being', includes simultaneously consciousness, because 'being' and consciousness are one. This is indicated by the other prayer: – Tamaso mā jyotir gamaya: 'Lead me from darkness to light.' This world is a world of darkness. It is not a world of light. The light that we see in this world is really a form of darkness, as we studied in an earlier portion of this Upaniṣhad, that all forms of life are forms of death only. They are not realities. The sunlight is not real light, because it is not intelligent. It is another intelligence that is responsible for apprehending the value of even sunlight. Mere sunlight cannot understand, because it is an object outside. Objects are inert, and it is the subject that is consciousness. Any object that is bereft of a relationship with the subject is equivalent to darkness. It is lifeless. And so, the world of objects may be said to be a world of darkness, as it is the world of unreality. But, we have to rise to the realm of Light, the Light which stands by itself and shines as the infinite, the permanent, whether or not there are objects to shine upon.
Our understanding, today, is conditioned by the presence of objects. When objects are totally absent, we do not know what we will be aware of. Can we imagine a condition where there is nothing outside us to look at, to hear, to come in contact with? What would be our mind, what would be the state of our understanding, at that time? We will be muddled completely. A person who is incapable of perceiving anything external cannot be regarded as sane. There will be a complete reversal of the function of consciousness at that time, because the individual mind, which is the individual consciousness, is accustomed to being healthy and alive only in connection with its objects. We are happy only in the midst of things, persons, objects – not independently. It is impossible to live absolutely independently, because the mind is not accustomed to such a life. We like society because our life is tethered up to relationship outside, and from this we can draw the conclusion that our life is secondary; it is not primary. We are not living an independent life, not the original life; we are not true Existence. We are leaning upon a stalk which is outside us, and therefore unreliable. The objects of sense cannot be trusted completely. They pass like wind; they come and go; and, therefore, if our life is dependent on them, we go with them. That is why there is death for the individual who hangs upon the object which is subject to death. Hence, the world of so-called understanding, enlightenment, intelligence, is really a world of darkness, because it is not the self-sufficient, self-existent consciousness that is working, but a dependent form of mentation. So, the prayer is: 'Let us be led above the related type of understanding to the unrelated Absolute Understanding, Absolute Intelligence,' that is, Tamaso mā jyotir gamaya. This is, at once, freedom from death, and attainment of immortality.
Mṛtyor māmṛtaṁ gamaya: 'Lead me from death to that which is immortal.' The world is of mortality, and the prayer is to take us to the world of the Immortal. The world is mortal because everything is dying here; everything is perishable. It is seen now, and tomorrow it is not; like a bubble does it burst. We do not know what is now and what is the next moment. Such is the condition of things here. And how can we say that anything is real? Can anything be regarded as permanent? And that which is not permanent cannot be called real. So, there is nothing real in this world, and inasmuch as the unreals are the supports of our understanding, our understanding also is not real. Nothing is real in us; everything is a phantom. So, the prayer is for a total rise from this involved, insufficient, conditioned 'being' to the absolutely independent, unconditioned 'Being' which is simultaneously Sat, Jyotir and Amṛitam-Existence, Light, Enlightenment, Consciousness, Omniscience and Immortality. No rebirth is possible there.
When the chant is taken up in the Yajña, by the Sāma Veda Udgātṛ, he assumes a power and a capacity to bestow boons upon others. So, the section in this context tells us that when the Udgātṛ, in the Soma Yāga, chants these Mantras, the Yajamāna, or the one who is responsible for the performance of the sacrifice may ask for boons, and they shall be granted. All that is required, the means and the end and the destination – all will come together at the same time. He becomes a Master of the worlds. He attains all that is meaningful and valuable in all the three worlds. There is no fear that he may lose anything. Once he gains a thing, it shall be permanently with him, not like the things that one gains here, which can be lost tomorrow. Once he gains, it is a permanent gain, because it is the gain of the real, and not of an unreal something. With this we conclude the important section of the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣhad, which is concerned with the Prāṇa-Vidyā, the methodology of contemplation on the Universal Prāṇa through the individual Prāṇa and the function of the senses, leading up to the chant mentioned just now-the Pavamānā Abhyāroha.