The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
by Swami Krishnananda

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Chapter I (continued)

Fifth Brahmana (Continued): The Self Identified with the Sixteenfold Prajapati, the Time Spirit

  1. sa eṣa saṁvatsaraḥ prajāpatiḥ, ṣoḍaśa-kalaḥ; tasya rātraya eva pañcadaśa-kalāḥ, dhruvaivāsya ṣodaśi kalā. sa rātribhir evā ca pūryate, apa ca kṣīyate; so’māvāsyāṁ rātrim etayā ṣoḍasyā kalayā sarvam idaṁ prāṇabhṛd anupraviśya, tataḥ prātar jāyate. tasmād etaṁ rātrim prāṇa-bhṛtaḥ prāṇaṁ na vicchindyād api kṛkatā sasya, etasyā eva devatāyā apacityai.

The meditation is further extended in the following section. Sa eṣa saṁvatsaraḥ prajāpatiḥ, ṣoḍaśa-kalaḥ:  We can contemplate the creative principle in its relevance to the principle of time, or the passage of time. As we have observed earlier, the Upaniṣhad gives us various symbologies for contemplation. In fact, one can utilise any phenomenon for the purpose of meditation. Anything and everything in this world of space, time and objects can become an instrument or aid in meditation on the Absolute. You can meditate on space; you can meditate on time; you can meditate on any object. Any one of these can become a passage to the infinite. So, here the suggestion is that certain aspects of the manifestation of time can be regarded as instruments for the purpose of meditation. The creator is sixteenfold in power, as it were. Soḍaśa-kalaḥ prajāpatiḥ: Prajāpati is the Creator. He has sixteen forces, sixteen aspects of energy or sixteen digits of expression. Now, these sixteen digits are compared here, for the purpose of meditation, with the sixteen digits of the moon who is connected with sixteen processes by way of days and nights, which constitute a half of the lunar month. There are fifteen days in the bright half of the lunar month, as there are fifteen days in the dark half. One half of the lunar month is of the waxing moon; the other half is of the waning moon. Both are of fifteen days and fifteen nights in duration. Each particular day, including the night, is supposed to have connection with one digit of the moon, and each particular digit is connected with the mental functions in an individual. It is said that the moon is the presiding deity over the mind. The waxing and the waning of the moon has some connection with the mental horizon. People who are insane or not properly balanced in their mood are supposed to be affected by the movements of the moon. But the moon affects even normal persons, not merely abnormal ones. Only, the normal persons do not feel the effect so much as the others who have no control over their minds. Because of the intense force that we exert on our own minds by our egos, we are unable to feel the force of the moon on our minds, but if we are to relax the mind completely and not impress the ego upon the mind too much, then we may be able to discover the distinction we feel, one day after another, as the moon waxes or wanes. The traverses of the mind are sixteenfold. Full incarnations of God are sometimes regarded as endowed with sixteen powers – soḍasa-kalā-mūrti, as we call them. The sixteen Kalās, or digits, are the sixteen powers of the mind. The sixteen powers are always not manifest in every individual, so that no one is entirely in possession of one's own mind. We have control over certain aspects or features of the mind, but not over the entire mind. If we are identical in our soul with the whole of our mind, then we may lift the world by our hands. Such strength does not come to anyone because of a partial identification of consciousness with the mind, or the mental functions.

Here, the meditation process mentioned suggests that the digits, or the powers which are symbolically connected with the fifteen days and nights of the lunar half month, are veritably forces of the Creator Himself. Ṣoḍaśa-kalaḥ; tasya rātraya eva pañcadaśa-kalāḥ, dhruvaivāsya ṣodaśi kalā: The moon has, and the mind also has, one transcendent element in it which is called the sixteenth Kalā or the sixteenth digit. The fifteen are temporal; the one is transcendent. The fifteen days and nights represent the temporal aspect of the digits; the sixteenth one is not included in the fifteen days and nights. It is supposed to be invisible, and existing at a particular juncture between the new moon and the next day after the new moon, as well as between the full moon and the next day after the full moon. The sixteenth digit is supposed to operate in the moon and the minds of people, also. That is why Pūrnimā and Amāvasyā are regarded as holy days. The full moon and new moon are considered as of special importance in religious parlance. Special worships, etc. are conducted on full moon and new moon days because the mind assumes a role which it cannot on other days. It becomes complete in itself. It is completely absorbed or completely expressed; not partially absorbed or partially expressed as on other days. So, the fifteen days and nights represent the fifteen Kalās, or digits, and the one that is invisible, midway between the full moon or the new moon and the other day is the sixteenth one, the element of transcendence. This is the permanent digit-dhruvaivāsya ṣodaśi kalā.

Sa rātribhir evā ca pūryate, apa ca kṣīyate; so'māvāsyāṁ rātrim etayā ṣoḍasyā kalayā sarvam idaṁ prāṇabhṛd anupraviśya, tataḥ prātar jāyate: It is the belief among people versed in the science of occultism and higher psychology that the moon enters every part of the world by its sixteenth digit on Amāvāsyā, or the new moon day. Physicians, especially those who are learned in the āyurveda, are particular in extracting the juices of certain herbs on the Amāvāsyā day, and give it to patients, because that is supposed to be highly medical in its value. Plants are supposed to be tremendously influenced by the moon on Amāvāsyā day. Religiously minded people do not pluck leaves on Amāvāsyā day; they do not touch trees and plants lest they be hurt on Amāvāsyā. The reason is that the sixteenth digit of divinity is supposed to be present in all the forms of creation, and on that day special religious festivals are held, worships are conducted on account of the connection this particular digit has with the mind as well as with the moon, whose waxing and waning are the causes of the fifteen and the sixteen digits being manifest. Tasmād etaṁ rātrim prāṇa-bhṛtaḥ prāṇaṁ na vicchindyād: On the Amāvāsyā day they do not hurt anyone, says the Upaniṣhad. Not anyone, even plants, not even the least of animals like a lizard, api kṛkatā sasya, etasyā eva devatāyā apacityai, even such insignificant things like flies and mosquitoes are not to be injured on that day. Divinity manifests itself uniformly in a pronounced way on the new moon day. The great Divinity is to be adored in all creation, particularly on that day on account of its special manifestation. This is an occult secret this Upaniṣhad mentions in this passage for the purpose of meditation on the digits of the moon in their connection with the mind, when the time process is taken as the target of meditation.

  1. yo vai sa samvatsaraḥ prajāpatiḥ ṣoḍaśa-kalaḥ, ayam eva sa yo'yam evaṁ-vit puruṣaḥ tasya, vittam eva pañcadaśa-kalāḥ, ātmaivāsya ṣoḍaśi kalā, sa vittenaivā ca pūrayte apa cakṣīyate. tad etan nadhyam yad ayam ātmā, pradhir vittam. tasmād yady api sarvajyāniṁ, jīyate, ātmanā cei jīvati, pradhināgād ity evāhuḥ.

Yo vai sa samvatsaraḥ prajāpatiḥ ṣoḍaśa-kalaḥ, ayam eva sa yo'yam evaṁ-vit puruṣaḥ tasya, vittam eva pañcadaśa-kalāḥ, ātmaivāsya ṣoḍaśi kalā: Now, another symbology is presented for purpose of meditation. Sixteen are supposed to be the digits of power in a human being. Fifteen are temporal; one is transcendent. One aspect of this meditation has already been explained. The other is stated now. Whatever you have, and whatever you are – these two aspects are the objects of meditation here. You know the distinction between these two – whatever you have, and whatever you are. Whatever you have, is called wealth, and whatever you are, is called the soul. Whatever you have, is temporal; whatever you are, is eternal. People generally lay too much emphasis on what they have, rather than on what they are. There is a tendency in people to accumulate more and more of wealth and extend the domain of their possessions. They wish to have the largest infinitude of having, rather than being. It is naturally expected of people to enhance their being to infinitude, but instead of that, they try to enhance their having to endlessness. There is a greed to possess more and more of things. Even if the whole earth were to be possessed, you will not be satisfied. If the earth and the heavens are to become your possessions, you are not going to be happy, because satisfaction does not come from temporal relationship. Satisfaction is a character of eternity manifest, and if our relationship is only with the temporal, that which we really are will always remain grief-stricken and neglected completely. We ignore our being in our interest in what we want to have in this world. This is not to be. A coordination has to be established between what we have and what we are, or what we would like to have and what we ought to be. Vitta is the word used in this passage for anything that can be called wealth in general. Any property, anything that you expect to possess, anything that is worthwhile as a value in this world, an appurtenance of your life is Vitta, or the wealth of yours. The whole wealth of the world which people would like to collect and have is the fifteen-aspected digit. It is large indeed, but it is temporal. The world is apparently larger than you – apparently only, not really. It looks as if we are insignificant, little individuals crawling like insects on the surface of the earth, while the earth, the world around us is so big, so terrifying as to engulf us. Thus, in a way, the fifteen numbers seem to be bigger than the single number, one. One is smaller than fifteen, but this one is bigger than the fifteen, really, even as the soul is superior to the whole world.

Vittam eva pañcadaśa-kalāḥ, ātmaivāsya ṣoḍaśi kalā, sa vittenaivā ca pūrayte apa cakṣīyate: A person appears to wax and wane according to the extent of the wealth that one has. The richer you are in your possessions, the larger you consider yourself to be in the estimation of yourself and of others. The lesser is your wealth and riches, the poorer you consider yourself to be. So, there is a waxing and waning of the individual also, as is there waxing and the waning of the moon outside. But the waxing and the waning of the individual in respect of wealth outside is not to be stressed too much, because even if all the wealth is lost, there is something remaining in you which is more valuable than everything that you might have lost.

Sa vittenaivā ca pūrayte apa cakṣīyate. tad etan nadhyam yad ayam ātmā: The self that you are is like the axle of a wheel, which is the cause of the movement of the wheel, notwithstanding the fact that the spokes also are necessary. While the spokes move up and down, the axle does not move. It is the permanent element which is fixed in the movement of the wheel. So is the entire world of possessions and wealth, riches which rotate and revolve round the axle of the self, without which there would be no motion and progress at all, just as without the axle there cannot be a movement of the wheel. Tad etan nadhyam yad ayam ātmā, pradhir vittam: The soul is the centre; the wealth that we have is only a periphery, a circumference, moving and passing.

Tasmād yady api sarvajyāniṁ, jīyate, ātmanā cei jīvati, pradhināgād ity evāhuḥ: People generally are in a position to console themselves and reveal their composure even after losing everything they possess, provided that their soul-power is intact. People do not grieve so much for the loss of wealth as for the loss of themselves. You know very well that you are more valuable than your wealth. You have a greater love for your own self, ultimately, than for anything that you possess. So, if everything that you have is lost completely, and you alone are left finally, single, unbefriended, unconnected with others, yet you have a satisfaction of your own – after all, I am. If you also are not to be, that would be much worse than to lose everything that you have or might have had.

So, the contemplation is that the ātman is superior to everything that is external and possessional. And, as is the connection between the circumference and the centre of the wheel, or the spokes of the wheel with the axle, so is the connection between the entire world of possession outside and the self within. They have to be coordinated in a proportionate and harmonious manner for the purpose of establishing union between the external and the internal, finally laying the proper emphasis on the Universal Internal, which is the ātman, which, when realised, puts an end to all greed for wealth, and then even a need for possession becomes absent because of the fact that the ātman is all the wealth of the world. The ātman is not merely the centre in you, but the centre which is everywhere.