by Swami Krishnananda
Passing on to the Fourth Brᾱhmaṇa, we actually go to a different subject altogether. As a matter of fact, this Fourth Section is the most important portion in the First Chapter. It is a grand description of the story of creation, right from the beginning down to the lowest level. And, incidentally, a mention is made of the strata of Reality through which the descent takes place and also the degrees of Reality through which the ascent has to take place, reversely. So, in this sense, the Fourth Section, which is called the Puruṣhavidha-Brᾱhmaṇa, is a quintessential teaching, of which everything else can be said to be a commentary, following it subsequently. The whole saga of creation is a grand dramatic event. This is described in this section. While it is a description of creation, it is a description of everybody – 'you', 'I' and all creatures – because we are all included in creation. It, incidentally, also points out the relationship that obtains among things, the duties which one has to perform in respect of another, and in regard to the Ultimate Truth, and so on – all that is concomitant in the nature of the subject.
In the beginning, what was? This is the point from which the section begins. When creation was not there, what existed then? There was no world, there were no individuals, no persons, no activities, but something was. What was there?
The Supreme Self alone was. Nothing else existed. The Ātman alone was, because the Ātman was inclusive of all beings. It was the Self, as it is the Self, and it shall be the Self, of everyone, and of everything. It is the Being of all beings, Satyasya Satyam, as the Upaniṣhad will tell us. That alone was, and one cannot conceive of anything else.
Now, Pure Being is inconceivable. When we try to conceive Pure Being, it looks like nothing, and hence we have to adopt a particular mode of thinking in respect of the Being that is supposed to be responsible for creation, because creation implies the manifestation of a cause, and that is the production of an effect. The effect must have a cause. The cause must be related to the effect. The effect must be conversely related to the cause. So, the conception of a cause being inevitable when we assume that there is an effect, the whole story of creation seems to arise on account of our perception of the world.
When we perceive an effect, we have to infer a cause, and the question does not arise as to whether the world is there or not, because our senses tell us that the world is there. We do not ask a question to our own selves, 'Is the world there; does the world exist?' We do not put such a question, because it is taken for granted that the world is, merely on the stand that it is perceived. Inasmuch as we are wholly dependent upon sense-perception, and we regard the conclusion of sense-perception as entirely reliable and real, we are involved in it vitally, organically, completely, and we cannot be convinced of any other truth than our own conviction that the world is; and, so, by the inductive process of reasoning, we may say we are taken to the essence of a cause of the effect that we perceive in the form of this world of manifestation; and the cause should have certain characters which are present in the effect, and the effect has nothing in it which is not in the cause.
Now, causation is a movement in space. It is a condition of creation. Space and time are essential for creation. So, we have to assume, together with the assumption of a cause, the principle of spatiality, temporality and causality. The ultimate cause must have had, potentially present in it, the principles of spatiality, temporality and causality. Space, time, causes – these elements are absolutely necessary for anything to be manifest. And, therefore, that which was prior to the process of creation, prior to the beginning of things, must have had these conditions of space, time and cause in itself.
Inasmuch as the Ātman is the Absolute, and we cannot conceive of a relation of the Ātman to space, time and cause, the Upaniṣhad uses the word, Puruṣhavidha, i.e., we have to regard this condition of ultimate causality, the ultimate cause as something equivalent to a Person. We regard God as the Supreme Person, because there is no alternative for us. The reason why we regard God as the Supreme Person is that we cannot conceive of a category of life which is superior to humanity. There are stages and degrees of life beyond the human level, of course, but they are only possibilities for us, and not actualities. The conception of a cause should have some connection with the actuality that is in our minds. An infinite expanse of the highest conceivable to the human mind is assumed as the cause of the manifestation of the world, the Supreme Person, Puruṣhavidha.
This Supreme Being, whom we regard as the God of the creation of the world, became conscious of Himself. And what was He conscious of? Of Himself only, as 'I-Am-That-I-Am', as the Great 'I'. Since nothing was outside Him, there could not have been a consciousness of anything else besides Himself. The Supreme Universal Self-Consciousness, which is identified with the concept of the Supreme Person, was conscious of Himself, or Itself, we may say, because it was neither male nor female, and knew nothing outside it, was not aware of anything external to it, because there was nothing outside it. It was Pure, Universal Self-Awareness – Ātman.
'I-Am'. This was the Consciousness. He felt, as it were, 'I-Am', not also as 'you are', 'it is', etc. There was no 'you', 'he', 'she', or 'it' there. It was the Primordial 'I', not the ego-ridden bodily individual 'I', but pure, unadulterated Universal 'I'. And this Eternal 'I' is reflected in other empirical 'I's. The Supreme principle, therefore, is the principle of Self, which is designated here as the 'I', so that when reality is reflected in anything, it reflects as the 'I' principle there. The self-appropriating and self-arrogating attitude of the individual is the outcome of this element of 'I' asserting itself in all things, as coming through the grades of manifestation downwards from the eternal 'I', which is all-comprehensive. So, the eternal 'I' is felt even in an atom to assert itself as the 'I', as anyone of us also is capable of asserting himself as the 'I'. Nothing can be more valuable than the 'I' in a person. Nothing can be more dear than that, and nothing is worth the while conceiving except the principle of the 'I'. When the 'I' goes, everything else also goes. So, all the associations which we regard as meaningful in life are auxiliaries to the safety of this 'I'. We guard this 'I' with meticulous care. We love it immensely, and everything is loved because of this 'I'. We love the 'I' so much that everything is reflected there, in fullness. So, the Supreme 'I' asserted itself? – 'I-Am', and nothing else was.
Because it asserted itself as the 'Aham', we call it 'I-AM'. It has no other name. That was the name of God, and that is the name of God. There is no other name, because God is Pure Self-Consciousness. This is the reason why, says the Upaniṣhad, that even today people refer to themselves as 'I'. Who are you? It is 'I'. This is the answer one gives. If you knock at the door of someone's house and call out, "Who is there?" the answer comes, "I". Afterwards one may say, "My name is such-and-such", but in the beginning, "It is me". What is this 'me'? Nobody knows what it is, but that is the 'you', and so you assert yourself as the 'me' or the 'I'. This feature of assertion as the 'I' or the 'me' in all individuals is due to the original assertion of the Absolute as the 'I'. That is felt in every one of us.
This Supreme Person is called the Puruṣha. Why is He called the Puruṣha? What is the meaning of the word? Puruṣha, here, says the Upaniṣhad, means someone who has burnt up the evil of external contact. That Consciousness burnt up all evil, and we are told here that the evil referred to is the evil of externality. There was no externality then, and there is no evil except externality. Everything is a part of that; everything is a manifestation of that. Whatever we call evil and undesirable in this world is the child of externality. When externality is not there, evil also cannot be there. And there was no externality in the One Puruṣha. The evil of contact with externality does not arise when everything was the Self alone. Inasmuch as it burnt up the externality and was conscious of Itself alone, to the exclusion of everything else, therefore it is called the Puruṣha. And so is the case with anyone who knows this – ya evaṁ veda. Anyone can become like that, says the Upaniṣhad, assuring us that we can also be like this Puruṣha, and destroy all evil. The evil of contact can cease when the desire for contact ceases. Desire for contact arises on account of belief in the reality of externals, and so it is an injunction to meditation on the Supreme Puruṣha, simultaneously.
Nobody can stand before that person who has this knowledge. As it was mentioned earlier, in another context, no one can compete with this person who has this knowledge of non-external Being. One who is established in this non-external Universality cannot be faced by any other person in the world. He becomes an indomitable power; He becomes a Supreme Master; he becomes an authority; and he becomes a source of fear to others. He becomes energy incarnate. And this is purely because of the fact that this energy is not depleted through external contact. So, he is all-powerful. And no one can stand before him; no one can compete with him; no one can vie with him in any way. Such a person is fit for the ascent to the state of the Puruṣha whose manifestations, whose glories, whose effects are described in the subsequent narrations.
This section of the Upaniṣhad deals with the story of creation, and touches almost every point in the spiritual evolution of the individual. There are several stages of thought described, commencing from the highest Reality which is Brahman, Puruṣha, the Absolute 'I'. The first concept that is presented is that there was One alone without a second, and this One became the Universal Cause of everything that is the effect in the form of this creation. This single, unitary, undivided 'I', split itself into two and became the cause of further divisions, down to the lowest level of descent, even to the minimum level of inanimate matter. One finds this impulse for division and unification everywhere, as commanded or initiated by the Primary Will, or Urge of the Supreme Being. Then follows the proclamation that, in spite of all this multiplicity and duality and split, down to the lowest level of matter, there is an organic unity among things, which has not been lost, notwithstanding this duality. It does not mean that the creation of multiplicity is the loss of the fundamental unity of things. It is a multiplicity without losing the unity that is present. This is a miraculous type of creation where the cause does not destroy itself in order to become the effect. It remains as it was, in spite of the fact that it has become, apparently, what is 'other' than itself. Then we are told that the two which are the aspects of the One, may be conceived as a threefold reality, to which reference has been made earlier also in our studies, that there is the aspect of the objective, the subjective and the transcendental types which are usually known as the Adhibhautika, the Adhyātmika and the Adhidaivika features, mentioned before.
Every aspect of this Cosmic Being is a deity, a god by himself, or itself. But no god is complete; every deity is incomplete. No single aspect of the Puruṣha can be regarded as complete, inasmuch as every deity thus conceived is a limb of the Cosmic Being. All that is manifest objectively, also, is really another form of the Supreme Being. It does not mean that creation is something different from the cause thereof, either in quality or internal structure. The concept of the Supreme Unity cannot be arrived at by the analysis of any part. Every part is only an indication of there being something above it, or transcending it. The parts are finite forms, even as deities; they can only be pointers to higher forms, but in themselves not complete forms. So, there is a difference between the satisfaction that comes by contemplation on the Universal Reality and that derived from any type of finite contemplation.
It is not possible to 'possess' anything in this world. This is another great advice that is given to us, further on, in the course of the description. It is not possible to possess anything, because everything that is possessed is 'outside'. And the philosophy is that nothing that is outside oneself can be possessed, and therefore bereavement, loss or separation is unavoidable in the world. What cannot be lost is the Self alone, and everything else is subject to destruction. If anyone clings to things which are other than the Self, those things shall depart from that person, one day or other. And, so, it is wisdom on the part of people to adore the Selfhood of things rather than the forms of things. In this manner, the Universal Completeness should be conceived in meditation.
Then the Upaniṣhad, in this section, goes on to describe the classification of the groups of individuals, both in the superior realm of the gods in heaven and the lesser realm of human beings, the classification being of what we usually call the social groups, namely, the spiritual, the political, the economic and the working forces. They are sometimes wrongly translated as castes. But the origin of these arrangements is described in the Upaniṣhad as a device towards the unification of diverse individualities for a purpose which is beyond themselves. The blend of these diversities is possible only by a principle which is harmony and unification itself in its character and make. No diversified principle can be a unifying principle. No individual can be a unifying power in this world, because every individual is different from every other individual. So, any kind of unity, whether it is social, personal or otherwise, can be achieved only if there is a transcendent force which brings these diversities together. That force is called Dharma, which is the way in which the Absolute is manifest in the world of diversity, and a concept of it is brought forward in this section of the Upaniṣhad.
It is further pointed out that every action is finally useless and futile, if it is bereft of the consciousness of the Ātman. All achievements in this world are going to be dust and ashes. They will bring no result. Every effort will end in failure if it is not connected with the awareness of the Universal Principle, the Ātman. Where such knowledge is absent, all effort will end in failure. This is another point that is driven into our minds in the course of the study.
Then it is pointed out that the desires, which are the ruling forces in the individual natures, are really the urges of the Cosmic which try to plant themselves in some form or other in the individuals and summon them back to their Origin, so that no desire can be regarded as wholly bad or wholly good. Desire is bad in the sense that it becomes a binding element if it is disconnected from its intent, motive or purpose. But it is good in the sense that it is an indication of the limitations of individuality which, again, are indications of the presence of the Infinite, towards which every individual is moving. So, the section concludes with a gospel that we should live a complete life, and any kind of incompleteness is going to be a source of sorrow. This is the outline of the whole section, of which the commencement was made with the declaration that, originally, the Ātman alone was, and outside it, nothing was. And inasmuch as nothing else was outside it, there was no externality or the principle of contact with objects there; and since as it is the principle of the destruction of the evil of the urge for contact, it is called Puruṣha, or Puruṣhottama sometimes.
That Being, the Original Universal Aloneness, began to contemplate Itself in a peculiar manner. This Self-contemplation of the Universal Oneness is the beginning of the Will to create. It felt that It was alone, and willed to be other than Itself. It was dissatisfied with Its aloneness, as it were. This inscrutable dissatisfaction, which we have to read in the Supreme Aloneness of Īshvara, is the cause of the dissatisfaction felt by individuals when they are alone. People, when they are left to themselves, feel dissatisfied. They want somebody else outside them. This is a reflection of the dissatisfaction of the Aloneness of the Universal in the Origin of things. All this is highly symbolic and we cannot understand what actually is the true nature of this dissatisfaction. It is only a point that the Upaniṣhad urges forward to bring to light the cause of creation. We cannot actually understand what it finally means, because, as the Ṛg-Veda puts it, nobody was there sitting to see what was happening. We never saw what He was thinking; what He was feeling; what actually was the condition which became the precedent for the creation of things. Even the gods came afterwards. Who can know what happened, says the Veda. So, we have to reverentially accept and feel, in a super-physical manner, the meaning behind this declaration of the Upaniṣhad, that the Universal Aloneness became a sort of source for a Universal Dissatisfaction which is the cause for the creation of the universe. It is as if the child wanted to play. Why is the child dissatisfied when it does not play? The child alone knows. There is a dissatisfaction when the child is alone, and, perhaps, on the analogy of the play of the child, scriptures like the Brahma-Sūtra tell us that if at all we have to give a reason for the creation of the world, we have to say that it is a play of God, not that there is a desire in God. Play is not a desire; it is something more spontaneous.
The All-Being was dissatisfied, as it were, and yet, immediately, there was a counteracting consciousness which removed that dissatisfaction. "How can I be dissatisfied when I am the All," was the counterforce that arose in His own Consciousness. "Why should I be afraid of anything, and why should I be dissatisfied? The question of fear or sorrow does not arise when nothing external to Me is." Therefore, He was supremely happy. Here we have a double statement of the Upaniṣhad in a single passage, where it is said that it was Universal Oneness, and an Aloneness which felt dissatisfied on account of Its being alone without an 'other', and yet It became supremely satisfied on account of the counteracting consciousness which arose in Itself simultaneously that It was the All, and, therefore, there cannot be dissatisfaction. Why is there dissatisfaction? Because there is an 'other'. That is all.
"Where there is duality, there is fear." We have fear when there is another next to us. If there is no 'anotherness', there is no fear. We are always afraid of someone in front of us, behind us, etc. If there is no one, and we are alone, why should we be afraid of anything? Fear comes from someone other than us. How can we be afraid of our own selves? So, if someone other than us does not exist, how can there be fear? There is fear only where there is duality. Where duality was not, there was no dissatisfaction or fear. Therefore, it was Supreme Satisfaction. That was the Universal 'I'.