Swamiji on Facebook Swamiji on Twitter Swamiji on Youtube

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

by

CHAPTER I

Fourth Brahmana: Creation from the Universal Self (Continued)

The four orders, or groups of individuals, have been constructed as necessary features of the creation by Īshvara. We have to connect the following passages with the earlier ones that have touched upon the more general aspects of creation from which the particular ones and more diversified ones gradually follow.

  1. sa naiva vyabhavat, sa viśam asṛjata, yāny etāni devajātāni gaṇaśa ākhyāyante, vasavo rudrā ādityā viśvedevā maruta iti.
  2. sa naiva vyabhavat, sa śaudraṁ varṇam asṛjata pῡṣaṇam, iyaṁ vai pῡṣā, iyaṁ hīdaṁ sarvaṁ puṣyati yad idaṁ kiṁ ca.

Creation is regarded as the working of an urge, which requires to be satisfied till its purpose is fulfilled. This purpose is the utmost diversity, and the greatest multiplicity and variety, up to which point the urge has to reach. It is a desire to play the extreme type of game which exhausts itself in the manifestation of its deepest potentialities. A desire cannot be fulfilled unless its root itself is satisfied. It is not enough if merely one of its aspects is fulfilled. It is the ultimate cause that requires to be satiated. The Upaniṣhad, in its great symbology of creation, makes out that the Cosmic Wish to create does not get satisfied merely with the intermediary stages of manifestation, just as a little satisfaction is not going to extinguish a deep-seated desire. It has to be fulfilled to the brim and to the overflowing limit, and then it exhausts itself and returns to its original condition. It is very interesting to note that every desire is constituted of two phases – the urge to exhaust itself until it is totally extinguished and becomes a void, and thereafter, the returning to the cause which originated the desire. The whole process of the fulfilment of a wish, or a desire, is like the movement of a wheel. It is a recurring cycle, and therefore its movements are unintelligible to the linear logic of the human mind. It is an extreme of action on the part of the Creative Will, leading up to the other extreme of reabsorption into its pristine condition.

So now, in this section of the Upaniṣhad, we are told that the Creative Will was not satisfied with the creation of the intellectual type only. The higher calibre of understanding is not all that the Creative Will requires. It has the need for other aspects of manifestation. When you ask for variety, you do not know what you are asking for, because variety is endless. So, it is an endless type of asking, until the asking gets tired of asking and it is satisfied therefore. So it seeks a many-sided satisfaction, until it comes to a conclusion that every aspect has been comprehended in the manifestation of the wish. It is a very vast and incomprehensible movement, like the many-sided rush of the waves in a turbulent ocean, and in this manner, as it were, the Universal Will rushed forth into the diversity of manifestation in the form of this creation. It wanted the capacity to understand; it wanted the power to exercise control over the items of creation. And, in the completeness of manifestation, as I have tried to point out earlier, various aspects come forth into high relief, of which four at least are predominant, namely, understanding, power, material stability and the urge to action. We are composed of four aspects where we require and ask for the maximum of knowledge, the maximum of power, the maximum of material comfort and the maximum capacity for action. These are the psychological sides of the desire to manifest in a form of variety. So, the Master Will of Īshvara seems to have manifested Itself in all these ways, and when all this creation was complete, the utmost limit of variety was reached, another necessity arose. It is not enough if you merely create a variety, because the variety will go wild and become a problem if it is not controlled by some principle which has the power to maintain order in the midst of this tremendous variety that has been created.

The creation of God is not like a mob, or a chaos. It is not a hotchpotch of multiplicity where anything is of any kind, at any time, in any manner whatsoever. But, that would be the outcome, and that would be the meaning of mere creation of unconnected variety, where every item of variety bears no relation to the others. You can imagine what that condition could be, where every isolated entity bears no connection with the next one. Each one is absolutely independent and has a status of its own. That sort of isolated individual freedom would be tantamount to chaos and a catastrophic situation will arise, and to prevent that confusion, creation had to include within its purview a Supreme Ordering Principle that has to be manifest. Without that, there would be no beauty of the drama. If each of the personnel in the dramatic performance were absolutely independent, and had no connection with the other individuals in the performance, there would be no drama. It would be something quite different altogether, as you know.

The beauty of the drama, or the enactment, lies in the harmony of concept that is behind the enactment, which is in the mind of the Director. If the directive intelligence is not there behind the variety of dramatic personnel, there would be no enjoyment of the drama because there would be no 'embodiment' of the drama. It would be a discrete chaos and warfare of a freedom that has gone mad. To prevent that, there is a need for a directive intelligence, which is at once a force which can exercise itself with the intelligence with which it is identical. That force which is at once understanding par excellence, and which regulates, is called Dharma, a term which defies easy definition, but which has a profound significance. After the variety became manifest, Dharma was manifest. Law was created. A principle was laid down for the purpose of maintaining order amidst this variety that otherwise looks like a wild growth of weeds in a jungle, bereft of the order and law that is supposed to be immanent therein.

Sa naiva vyabhavat: So, the Creative Will was not satisfied even with this utmost manifestation of variety. If you have everything that can be counted as valuable, you cannot be satisfied even thereby, because satisfaction is not merely in the counting of a multitude of variety which is material, visible, physical. Satisfaction is a condition of consciousness, a state of mind. It is not located in an object, and so, this condition which is requisite for the manifestation of a satisfaction is essential, in spite of the variety that may be there. You may have all the money that you could wish for, all the wealth of the world, and you may have every kind of association conceivable, worthwhile in this life; but if there is no harmonising principle in the midst of this variety of possession, there would be no satisfaction arriving from this possession. A person who possesses an immense variety of things should have also the capacity to bring order among them, otherwise there would be no purpose or satisfaction in the possession of those things. It is not merely a heaping up of particulars that would be the cause of satisfaction of a person, but something else which is invisible to the eyes, and which itself cannot be regarded as a material possession. What brings satisfaction is not anything that is material. It is a very important thing to remember, though it may appear to the untutored mind that material objects bring satisfaction. Satisfaction, to repeat once again, is a condition of the mind. It is a state of consciousness which rises within, under certain conditions. And the objects outside which are supposed to bring satisfaction are only instruments in rousing this condition in consciousness, so that it is consciousness that is ultimately responsible for the satisfaction which we feel inside. Even the minutest type of satisfaction, even the silliest type of happiness, is a condition of the mind only. It is consciousness. But, the other things that are apparently the causes of the happiness that we enjoy in life, are extraneous instruments which create circumstances for the consciousness to reveal its necessary condition, which experience is called happiness.

Such a thing is what we call principle, apart from personality. It is not personality that causes value, or brings about needs in life. There is a principle behind every personality that is invisible to the eyes, that cannot be seen with the eyes, that cannot be thought by the mind, ordinarily. But that is the reality of things. The invisible principle is the controlling force behind things and persons. That was needed for the fulfilment of the creation of variety, without which there would be no fulfilment. Suppose the Creator, while creating a human being, as we are told in certain scriptures for instance, created only different parts. Suppose He created one finger, a thumb, a nose, an eye, a skull, etc. and the various parts were heaped together – it does not become a human being. Various parts of a machine, lumped together in a basket, do not make a machine. They have only become a weight; that is all. And yet, these parts constitute the machine. But they do not constitute a machine merely because they are heaped together in a basket, or a trunk. So, the heaping up of the parts, which is the variety of the creation, is not the completion of creation; it is not the perfection of creation; it is not the beauty of creation; it is not the grandeur of creation. It becomes grand, beautiful, perfect and attractive when it is harmoniously adjusted. The parts are related to one another by the machine, by fitting them in the required manner, which then become a machine, as you call it, something which is an instrument for the output of tremendous value. That something was required in creation. Then creation could become a fulfilment. For that purpose, a principle was made manifest, a universal principle. That is what they call eternal Dharma.

  1. sa naiva vyabhavat. tat chreyo-rῡpam atyasṛjata dharmam; tad etat kṣatrasya kṣatraṁ yad dharmaḥ, tasmād dharmād paraṁ nāsti: atho abalīyān balīyāṁsam āśaṁsate dharmeṇa, yathā rājā evam. yo vai sa dharmaḥ satyaṁ vai tat; tasmāt satyaṁ vadantam āhuḥ, dharmaṁ vadatīti, dharmaṁ vā vadantam, satyaṁ vadatīti, etad hy evaitad ubhayaṁ bhavati.

Chreyo-rῡpam atyasṛjata: He created thereafter a glorious something, in the form of a power or a principle, resplendent in its nature, because it is the ruling power, standing above even the so-called rulers of the world. Even a king cannot rule unless there is a ruling principle. The power of a king is an invisible something. It is not visible to the eye. We see a monarch, an emperor, or a supreme head of administration, as a power. Where is that power? You cannot see it anywhere. It is not in a box, tied up somewhere. You try to locate the existence of this power of a supreme master of administration, a monarch, or whatever he is – you cannot see it anywhere. Even the wielder of the power cannot see where it is. It is not there to be seen. But it is, existent and operating, and it is feared by everyone. Why is this fear when it is not even visible to the eye? What is this that you call law? What you call law, whether it is a family law, communal law, social law, political law, whatever law it is, it is something which you cannot see with your eyes. But yet it is tremendously operating, and nothing can be more effective in its action than law. What a miracle! A thing that cannot be seen at all anywhere, which apparently does not exist for tangible purposes, is the supreme guiding principle of which everyone is a limb, as it were, and to go against which, everyone is afraid. How can a visible person, solid in his substantial body, fear something which is ethereal, inconceivable, almost non-existent for all practical purposes? This is an indication, as it were, that reality is always invisible. It is not necessarily physical. Even the physical, weighty object can be controlled by the operation of an invisible law. Such a law was made manifest – chreyo-rῡpam atyasṛjata dharmam.

Tad etat kṣatrasya kṣatraṁ: This is the Kṣhatra of the Kṣhatra; this is the Ruler of the rulers. That is called Dharma – yad dharmaḥ. Here, a monarch is afraid of the law. It is not a great wonder. Even the maker of law is afraid of the law that is made, because he is involved in that law. So, there is something transcendent, above the manifestation of law. It is not an occasion for us to discuss what law is, and how it is manifest. We are only concerned with the topic that we touched upon, here in this section, that Divine Order manifested itself as a ruling power in the world of this variety. And, some light is thrown upon what Dharma is – tad etat kṣatrasya kṣatraṁ yad dharmaḥ.

Tasmād dharmād paraṁ nāsti: atho abalīyān balīyāṁsam āśaṁsate: Even a weak person can overwhelm a strong person by resorting to law, because strength and weakness depend upon the proportion or extent to which one is in harmony with the law. If you are disharmonious with the law, you are a weak person. If you are in harmony with the law, you are a strong person. So, your strength does not depend upon anything other than your participation in the working of the law. So law is the strength, not any other visible article of physical possession, as people wrongly imagine. When you participate in the law, whatever that law be, you become positive, healthy and endowed with strength. It can be the law of health; it can be the law of society; it can be the law of the universe; it can be the law of the Absolute. Whatever that law be, you have to participate in it by attuning yourself to it, and that law then becomes your friend. And when law becomes your friend, nobody can shake a hair of your body, because law is the supreme ruler. It is God operating in some form. So, the weakness of a person goes when he becomes attuned to the law, or Dharma – atho abalīyān balīyāṁsam āśaṁsate dharmeṇa.

Yathā rājā evam. yo vai sa dharmaḥ satyaṁ vai tat: Truth and Dharma the are same, says this passage of the Upaniṣhad. So, Dharma may be said to be the form of Truth. So to be in harmony with the law is another way of being in harmony with the Truth. Satyānnāsti paro dharmaḥ: There is no Dharma above Truth. But you must know what Truth is, in order to know what Dharma is, and it is not an easy thing to know it. That which is ultimately true and is in consonance with the nature of things is the repository of law, and so, law and Truth are identical – yo vai sa dharmaḥ satyaṁ vai tat.

Tasmāt satyaṁ vadantam āhuḥ, dharmaṁ vadatīti: what is it that is usually referred to when a person is said to speak the truth? Well, he is speaking Dharma: he is righteous; that is what people say. So, truthfulness and righteousness are identified with each other. Dharmam vā vadantam, satyaṁ vadatīti: So, when someone is righteous, we also say, he is a truthful person. So truthfulness and righteousness are identical in their nature. Etad hy evaitad ubhayaṁ bhavati: It is difficult to distinguish between truth and righteousness because they appear to be the obverse and the reverse sides of the same coin.

  1. tad etad brahma kṣatraṁ viṭ śῡdraḥ. tad agninaiva deveṣu brahmābhavat, brāhmaṇo manuṣyeṣu, kṣatriyeṇa kṣatriyaḥ, vaiśyena vaiśyah, sῡdreṇa śῡdraḥ; tasmād agnāv eva deveṣu lokam icchante, brāhmaṇe manuṣyeṣu, etābhyāṁ hi rῡpābhyāṁ brahmābhavat. atha yo ha vā asmāl lokāt svaṁ lokam adṛṣtvā praiti, sa enam avidito na bhunakti, yathā vedo vānanῡktaḥ anyad vā karmākṛtam. yad iha vā apy anevaṁvid mahat-puṇyaṁ karma karoti, taddhāsyāntataḥ kṣīyata evaātmānam eva lokam upāsīta; sa ya ātmānam eva lokam upāste, na hasya karma kṣīyate, asmādd hy eva ātmano yad yat kāmayate tat tat sṛjate.

Tad etad brahma kṣatraṁ viṭ śῡdraḥ. tad agninaiva deveṣu brahmābhavat, brāhmaṇo manuṣyeṣu, kṣatriyeṇa kṣatriyaḥ, vaiśyena vaiśyaḥ, sῡdreṇa śῡdraḥ; tasmād agnāv eva deveṣu lokam icchante, brāhmaṇe manuṣyeṣu, etābhyāṁ hi rῡpābhyāṁ brahmābhavat: All this variety, the fourfold classification of individuals mentioned in the earlier sections, is a particular form of Divine Law working. And it is said here that this law is working not merely in this physical realm of human beings, but in all the realms of creation. Creation is not merely physical; it is not only earthly; it is not only the visible cosmos that we call creation. There are levels and degrees and realms of existence, planes of beings, one above the other, one interpenetrating the other, subtler than the other – all these are controlled by the same law. This variety is present in every realm of being, and that controlling Dharma also is operating in every realm of being. All this is the glory of the Absolute – brahmābhavat.

Atha yo ha vā asmāl lokāt svaṁ lokam adṛṣtvā praiti, sa enam avidito na bhunakti: Now comes a masterly proclamation of the Upaniṣhad, after having said all this. It is very beautiful, indeed, to appreciate this magnificence of the creation of God. But unless it becomes a part of your practical living, it is not going to benefit you. This is a very strange and important statement of this Upaniṣhad, that anything that has not become a part of your being is as good as non-existent for you. Its existence has no meaning for you. If a person leaves this world, at the time of death, without knowing the true nature of the world in which he finds himself, then this world is not going to help that person. You are not going to receive any support from the world which you have not understood, which has not become a part of your life, which you have always tried to keep away from yourself as if it is an outside object. As for instance, the Vedas which have not been studied are not going to help you. Yathā vedo vānanῡktaḥ anyad vā karmākṛtam: An action that you have not performed is not going to yield fruit in your case, because you have not done that action. An action that is not performed by you will not yield fruit for you; and knowledge that you have not acquired is not going to help you. Likewise, the world which has not become part of you is not going to be of any advantage to you. Therefore, the world is going to take steps to see that you understand it; and the punishing rod of Dharma will be lifted for the purpose of compelling you to understand your relation to this creation. As you are a part of this creation, it is your duty to know your relation to this creation, just as it is the duty of every citizen to know the law of his land. If ignorance of law is no excuse in the human realm, it is equally so in the Divine realm. If you do not know the Divine Law, the Divine Law will come upon you like a nemesis, with retribution, as human law also will act upon you even if you do not know its existence and operation.

So, the world that has been neglected by ignorance on the part of the individual, who is a part of the world, will cause him to reap the recompense in a manner which will require repeated participation by continued births and deaths. So, reincarnation, or births and deaths, and repeated suffering in various shapes of metempsychosis, cannot be escaped if we remain ignorant of the Law that has been mentioned here. After all this variety had been created, Dharma was created, which is regarded as identical with truthfulness supreme. So, if this Dharma is not understood, if this truth has not been recognised in one's life; if only the variety of creation has been seen physically, as a cat would see, or a mouse would see, or as an ass would see, for example, without any understanding of the meaning of this variety, then there would be no benefit accruing from this world. And, therefore, the world which has not become friendly with the individual shall become the source of trouble for the individual. Anything that is not understood is a source of problems and it is a trouble. Therefore be cautious, says the Upaniṣhad. It is no use merely being born into this world and not understanding it, just as it is no use living in a country without knowing its laws. You will be in great sorrow one day or the other, if that is the case. So, it is no use living in a world without knowing the law that operates in that world, and here the law does not mean a man-made law, but an eternal law which is identical with Truth-God Himself. What is that Truth?