Swamiji on Facebook Swamiji on Twitter Swamiji on Youtube

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

by

CHAPTER I

Fourth Brahmana: Creation from the Universal Self (Continued)

It has been mentioned already, and it shall be again mentioned, that the truthfulness of creation lies in the immanence of the Creator in every part of creation. If this point is missed, the world shall remain as a foe, as it were, rather than a friend. Yad iha vā apy anevaṁvid mahat-puṇyaṁ karma karoti, taddhāsyāntataḥ ksīyata eva: Without the knowledge of this eternal principle operating in this world, you may be a very charitable person, but this charity is not going to help you. You may be a very great philanthropist; it is not going to be of much benefit to you. Whatever good actions that you have done in this world in the eyes of people cannot be regarded as good, really, if they have been performed without the knowledge of this Truth. If you do not know the 'why' and 'wherefore' of things – the Ultimate Law that is the cause behind every name and form and action; if you are an ignorant person performing ignorant actions for purposes not known to you yourself, then the fruit that accrues out of these actions will be perishable. It shall not bring you eternal satisfaction. Whatever be the great virtuous actions that you do in this world, they will be like burnt ashes without any essence in them – mahat-puṇyaṁ karma karoti, taddhāsyāntataḥ kṣīyata eva.

Ātmānam eva lokam upāsīta: Now comes the positive affection, after having given you the fearful side of it, that if you do not know it, you would be punished by the law thereof. What is that you are supposed to know? Ātmānam eva lokam upāsīta: The world that you behold with your eyes is the Self of all beings. This is the knowledge that the Upaniṣhad tries to inculcate and propound. The world that you see before you with your eyes is not the world as you think it to be. It is the Ātman manifest. It is the Supreme Being scintillating before you in all Its glory. It is the Master Plan of Īshvara that is before you in the form of this variety. It is the finger of God that is working through the minutest actions of creation. If this point is not remembered, the Selfhood of the world will also be missed, because Īshvara, the Supreme Being, is the Self of all beings. So to recognise God in things is to recognise the Self in things, which is identical. And so, when you behold the world in front of you, you are supposed to behold it as the Creator Himself would behold it. So, the ultimate wisdom of man would be the capacity to think as God Himself thinks. If that could be possible, the miracle takes place – Ātmānam eva lokam upāsīta:

Na hāsya karma kṣīyate: Then, a miracle will follow from every little action that you perform. Everything that you say, everything that you do, will be a wonder by itself; and that wonder would be worked instantaneously, merely because of the presence of this knowledge in you. And what is this knowledge? It is, as I mentioned in the light of the Upaniāad, the ability to participate in the Will of God, to be harmonious with the thought of God; in short, to think like God. That is the supreme wisdom which one has to acquire by gradual training of thought in its various manoeuvres of activity in this life. And if that wisdom which is to be acquired, comes, every action becomes a fulfilment. It cannot produce a retribution; it cannot produce a bondage, it cannot bind you to rebirth, because no such action can produce a reaction.

Asmādd hy eva ātmano yad yat kāmayate tat tat sṛjate: "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." It is an equal, as it were, of this passage that is mentioned here. Whatever you wish will instantaneously manifest itself, provided this knowledge is already there. Asmādd hy eva ātmano yad yat kāmayate tat tat sṛjate: You need not beg from people, 'give me this'. Everything shall be given spontaneously, provided you are centred in this knowledge. Just as God need not beg anything from anyone, one who has the possession of this knowledge of God need not also beg, because knowledge is power. They are identical. Supreme Knowledge is Supreme Power. One who is endowed with this ultimate knowledge has ultimate power also, and so whatever such a one wishes materialises itself instantaneously, merely because of the capacity of this knowledge. But if this knowledge is absent, one becomes poverty-stricken, and this poverty cannot be made good by any amount of accumulation of physical particulars.

  1. atho ayaṁ vā ātmā sarveṣām bhῡtānāṁ lokaḥ. sa yaj juhoti yad yajate, tena devānāṁ lokaḥ. atha yad anubrῡte, tena rṣiṇāṁ; atha yat pitṛbhyo nipṛṇāti yat prajām icchate, tena pitṛṇām; atha yan manuṣyān vāsayate, yad ebhyo'śanaṁ dadāti, tena manuṣyāṇām; atha yat paśubhyasá tṛṇodakaṁ vindati, tena paśῡnām; yad asya gṛheṣu śvāpadā vayāṁsy āpipīlikābhya upajīvanti, tena teṣāṁ lokaḥ; yathā ha vai svāya lokāyāriṣṭim icchet, evaṁ haivaṁ vide (sarvadā) sarvāṇi bhῡtāny ariṣṭim icchanti. tad vā etad viditam mīmāṁsitam.

Atho ayaṁ vā ātmā sarveṣām bhῡtānāṁ lokaḥ: This Self is the world of all beings. As a matter of fact, there is no world at all except this One Supreme Being. This is the final Magna Carta, you may call it, of the great Upaniṣhad which is the Bṛhadāraṇyaka. This Ātman is all the world, and whatever you expect from this world is an expression of the Ātman. He shall provide you with anything and everything, as a mother would provide you with your needs. Much dearer to you is the Ātman than your own mother, and more capable is the Ātman than your mother is. More resourceful is the Ātman than anyone else that you can regard as dear and near. It is all the world; all that you can conceive; all that you need; everything that you are and wish to be is the Ātman, and nothing is outside It. Ayaṁ vā ātmā sarveṣām bhūtānāṁ lokaḥ: It is the world of not merely human beings, but of every being. It is the reservoir of supply for everything, whether of this world or of the other worlds, of all these, of the celestial, or the physical, or the nether world; and it is the treasure house of supply which is provided at once, instantaneously, without the succession of the passage of time. What sort of world is this which the Ātman embodies? In what way are we to recognise the presence of this Ātman in all the worlds? What is the method that we have to adopt in our practical lives in order to be commensurate with the law of the Ātman? That is answered in the following passages.

It is not humanly possible to think the Ātman as It is, in Itself, and therefore it is equally difficult to work up this miracle as the Upaniṣhad mentions, of knowing the Self as all this world. It is a great possibility but not an immediate practicability, for reasons known to everyone, because the identification of one's consciousness with the Selfhood of things is the greatest difficulty conceivable to the mind. It is an inveterate habit of the mind to externalise and objectivate things; and it is precisely this habit of the mind that is an obstacle to the identification of the consciousness with the Ātman. So, the Upaniṣhad tells you that you cannot jump off to the skies like that at once, though that is your ideal. You have to move towards this supreme ideal of identification of your consciousness with the Selfhood of things, stage by stage, and some of the stages are mentioned. These are called, in ordinary religious parlance, the Pancha-Maha-Yaj˝a, or the five great sacrifices which a householder, especially in India, has to perform. The five great sacrifices, called the Pancha-Maha-Yaj˝a, mean the way in which one recognises one's own self in the variety of creation that he sees before him, by means of sympathy, consideration and feeling for others. That is the first step that you have to take before you take up the more difficult task of complete identification with the Being of all things.

The sympathy that you psychologically exercise in respect of others is the first step. The identity with others is the next step; that is a more difficult thing. To feel for others is easier than to become others, though that is the ideal. So, the Upaniṣhad tells us, you try to feel for others first and manifest this feeling in your actions before you totally become, or aspire to become one with them.

Sa yaj juhoti yad yajate, tena devānāṁ lokaḥ: You become one with the gods, the celestials. How is this possible? You adore them, worship them, participate in their nature, by prayer and recitation of holy hymns which produce in the mind vibrations sympathetic with the nature of the gods that you worship. So, all worship, all religious ceremony that is generally performed in holy shrines, etc., all prayer, all study of scripture, is an attempt on the part of the human nature to become harmonious with the divine nature; harmonious with the deity that you adore; and so, before the attempt is made to become one with the deity, a feeling sympathetic with the nature of the deity is cultivated within by worship, by sacrifice, by offering in the holy fire, etc. This is called Deva-Yaj˝a.

Atha yad anubrῡte, tena rṣiṇāṁ: You become harmonious with the thought of the great teachers or Masters of yore, by communicating their knowledge, by participating in what they call these days J˝ana-Yaj˝a, or the imparting of the wisdom of the ancient Rishis which they saw as a revelation in their own meditation. The Masters themselves participated in this Yaj˝a by imparting this knowledge to their disciples. So, you get in communion with the intentions of these great Masters, by continuing this tradition of imparting the great knowledge to disciples and fit recipients. That is called Rishi-Yaj˝a, the second Yaj˝a.

Atha yat pitṛbhyo nipṛṇāti yat prajām icchate, tena pitṛṇām: You have to become, in the same manner, a participant in the will of the forefathers, the Pitṛs, as they are called, the ancestors who have gone before us, by a charity that you have to perform in your own interest. This charitable act takes various shapes. One of them is what they call Shrāddha, or the holy libations that people offer, annually or sometimes monthly; and giving in gift those things which were the objects of satisfaction to those ancestors, that which they liked, that which was their need, that which was to their satisfaction. You know very well that you will be pleased with me if I do what is pleasant to you. That is very clear. I must do exactly what is pleasant to you; then you are pleased with me. So, naturally the ancestors are pleased if you do that which was pleasant to them, and shall be pleasant to them. That would be called Pitṛ-Yaj˝a.

Atha yam manuṣyān vāsayate yad ebhyo'śanaṁ dadāti, tena manuṣyāṇām: You have to participate in the welfare of human beings before you try to become one with them, by giving them their needs. That is called Manuṣya-Yaj˝a. For instance, some examples are given; you give accommodation to people who have no accommodation; you give food to people who have no food to eat, and so on and so forth. You provide the needs of people when they are actually in need of them. That would be an act or a gesture on your part, exhibiting sympathy with their nature, precedent to your identification with their Being. This is called Manuṣya-Yaj˝a.

Atha yat paśubhyas tṛṇodakaṁ vindati, tena paśῡnām: You have also another duty, the sympathy that you have to feel towards subhuman beings – animals, etc., because they are also a part of creation. So, before you try to become one with them, you have to feel a considerate, sympathetic attitude towards them, by giving them their needs, such as grass to the cow, water to the thirsty animals, and so on. These acts of sympathy constitute Bhuta-Yaj˝a. You must have seen some people giving food to animals, birds, etc., which is indicative of this gesture of considerate feeling towards subhuman beings, because the intention is to become one with them, also, ultimately.

Yad asya gṛheṣu śvāpadā vayāṁsy āpipīlikābhya upajīvanti, tena teṣāṁ lokaḥ: The Upaniṣhad goes further then. You have a duty even towards the ants crawling in the house. Even the worthless animals, as you call them, the insignificant ones, the cats and the dogs, and the crawling insects that are in your house or about the house, the gnats and what not, which have no significance at all in life, as far as you are concerned – you allow them to live. Live and let live, is a great law that has to operate. Just as you want to live, others also have to live. You cannot extirpate the lives of others for your living, nor can you interfere with the lives of others because you want to be comfortable. So, non-interference with the lives of others, including ants and such other insignificant creatures which generally escape your notice, āpipīlikābhya – even down to the white ants and black ants, whatever they are, even to their extent you have to go, and not interfere with them, because they have their own world. And you become a participant in their world.

If you participate in the worlds of these beings – celestial, ancestor, rishi, animal, man, and what not – what happens? You become a very hospitable guest in these worlds when you depart from this world. You are received with honour wherever you go. That means you may go to any world. Who knows, you may go to the ant world; they will turn you out if you have insulted them in this world. They will say, "You are the fellow who crushed us, and now we will see to it."

So, be cautious to recognise the fact that nothing is insignificant in this world. Nobody is so poor as not to be able to wreak vengeance upon you. Nobody is so weak as not to be able to do some harm to you, one day or the other, if the necessity arises. And, therefore, no one should have the heart even to imagine that the world is segregated completely, and one can go scot-free. No one can go scot-free. There is an interconnecting Law which recognises even the worst of things and the lowest of animals and other subhuman creatures; and the fulfilment of that Law is the fulfilment of God.

The worlds of different beings are different forms of a single manifestation which is the form of Īshvara, and therefore the ultimate aim, which is the union of consciousness with that Supreme Being, naturally implies a gradual establishment of harmony between oneself and these different levels of manifestation, called the worlds of beings. Previously, we noted the necessity of five types of adjustment that one has to make – with the celestials, the ancestors, the human beings, the sages of yore and with the subhuman creatures – all which is a preparation for the higher adjustment that is required of us, namely, approximation of our being with the Supreme.

The extent to which we are successful in this harmonious adjustment of ourselves with the world outside will determine the extent of our success in life. The Upaniṣhad would tell us that most of our troubles in life are due to maladjustment with the worlds that do not belong to us. We have a very constricted vision of value. For instance, we cannot think of any value that is other than human. Neither do we know what is above the human, nor do we know what is below the human. But the comprehensiveness of God's manifestation is such that it is not partially favourable merely to humans. Thus it is that the Upaniṣhad makes out the need for our adjustment with everything that is real, and not merely favourable to human sentiment. If the adjustment is effective and properly done in all its various degrees of density, protection comes from every level of being. We are protected by human beings, no doubt, if we are friendly with humans. But what about the non-human principles in life with which we are not friendly? They can create difficulties which cannot be met by human forces.

Our problems are not human problems merely. They are very deep, and connected to various factors not visible to the human eye. Hence, it is futile on the part of a human being to imagine that concern merely with the human level is enough to avoid all problems of life. Life is not merely human. It is something different and something more, and this aspect is not visible to us, inasmuch as we are tied down to the human way of thinking. We cannot think as a snake thinks, or a monkey thinks; feel as a tree would feel, or react as a celestial being would react. All these are impossible for us, generally. But merely because it seems to be impossible does not mean that it does not exist. Even an atom can react, not merely a human being. So, it is necessary to make an all-round adjustment of personality; then only there is protection coming to us from every side. The Upaniṣhad tells us that we shall be taken care of even by the smallest of creatures, as they take care of themselves. As one loves one's own self more than anything else, so would the affection be extended to you by that with which you are friendly, in a manner which is acceptable to the Selfhood of Reality.

Yathā ha vai svāya lokāyāriṣṭim icchet, evaṁ haivaṁ vide (sarvadā) sarvāṇi bhῡtāny ariṣṭim icchanti: Every creature will bless you and wish you goodwill, prosperity and protection. Vibrations of protection, security and fulfilment proceed from every quarter in the direction of that person who extends a similar attitude towards the atmosphere that is around him, and this atmosphere is what we call the world of beings. The world of beings, it has to be mentioned again, is every level of being, right from the material, what we call the inanimate, up to the topmost immaculate Consciousness. No level can be regarded as bereft of the Reality of God. Therefore, it is incumbent on the part of anyone who wishes for true success in life, to be in harmony with everything and all things, without projecting forth the excessive egoism that human beings alone are the total reality. Even those who are not human will extend to you a helping hand and provide you with all security and protection, and love you and behave with you with that very same affection that is generally extended to the Self of a person, if you are in harmony with them. Even an ant loves its own self immensely. What love you have towards yourself, even the smallest of creatures has towards itself. That feeling which it has towards itself will be communicated to you, so that you become a friend of all beings – sarvabhūta-hite-rataḥ. Then it is that security comes from all sides, otherwise, whatever be the security human beings can provide, Nature can be in a state of wrath and human beings can do nothing before it. Tad vā etad viditam mīmāṁsitam: Hereto we have described what should be done by a person who is after his own welfare in the true sense of the term.