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The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

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CHAPTER IV

Second Brahmana: Concerning the Soul (Continued)

Athainayor etad annam: When the mind withdraws itself into the heart, it does not require any other external food to maintain itself. That means to say, it does not stand in need of objects of sense. In the waking state it needs objects outside and it cannot exist without them. But in the internal state where it gets withdrawn, after the waking condition is over, it does not stand in need of any external food. When you are dreaming or you are asleep, you do not require the support of anything outside. You can stand by your own self, internally, by some energy that is in your self.

Ya eṣo'ntar-hṛdaye lohita-piṇḍaḥ, athainayor etat prāvaraṇam yad etad antar-hṛdaye jālakam iva; athainayor eṣā sṛtiḥ saṁcaraṇī yaiṣā hṛdayād ῡrdhvā nāḍy uccarati: The Upaniṣhad here tells us some intricate physiology or anatomy of the heart. In the heart there is a space, as it were, which we call the ether of the heart, into which the mind withdraws itself when it is fatigued of external activity of the waking condition. This fleshy substance that we call the heart is constituted of various parts. It has a parietal, and that parietal of the heart may be regarded as the enclosure, the abode for theá mind to lie down in peace and restfulness. And inside this heart there is a network of nerves, or nerve currents. This network is the passage for the movement of the mind inside the heart for the fulfillment of its own wishes during the dream state through dream images, wishes which it could not fulfil in the waking state for certain reasons. In this passage the nature of a nerve current is described in the following manner. Yathā keśaḥ sahasradhā bhinnaḥ evam asyaitā hitā nāma nādyo'ntar-hṛdaye pratiṣṭhitā: Suppose there is a hair of the head, a very thin hair, and suppose you divide this hair into a thousand parts lengthwise. What would be the thinness of that fraction of the hair? The hair itself is so thin; you can hardly see it. One-thousandth part of that hair is, perhaps, the comparative thickness of this nerve which is in the heart, through which the mind is moving. So subtle is that nerve. And these nerves in the heart, through which the mind moves in dream, are called Hitās – hitā nāma nādy. They are very conducive to the mind. So they are called Hitās. Nādyo'ntar-hṛdaye pratiṣṭhitā bhavanti; etābhir vā etad āsravad āsravati; tasmād eṣā praviviktāhāratara ivaiva bhavaty asmāc cārīrād ātmanaḥ. In this condition of the location of the mind in the nerves of the Hitās inside the heart in the dreaming state, there is no need for any physical food. You enjoy ethereal food in the state of dream, and you are as happy in dream as you are in waking, though you have nothing physical to contact.

Now, when the self enters its deepest abode, passing beyond the states of waking and dream, it gets connected with all its natural associates from whom it was disconnected due to its special attachment to the body and its waking individuality. In the waking state we are practically dissociated from all the friends of the universe. We stand alone, unbefriended, due to our intense egoism which identifies itself with the body and assumes a false importance with the erroneous notion that it does not stand in need of anybody's help. This is the principle of egoism, the essence of personality. The universe is a friend, and it is constituted of innumerable types of forces, all of which are our benefactors. But the ego does not want this benefit. It is not intending to take help from anyone outside itself. Nothing can be so unreasonable as this ego. It has no logic except its own, and suffering is the consequence of this sort of dissociation, which is patently seen in waking life. In all the efforts that we make for the purpose of achieving desired ends in life, there is only sweating, toiling and anxiety and a feeling of frustration in the end. It is rarely that people go to bed with a feeling that something worthwhile has been done. The reason is, the tying up of our efforts to the ego which is the ruling principle of the body. The ego cannot succeed, though it does think that it can succeed. This ego is boiled down to an ethereal permeating substance; very, very fine and tenuous in the state of dream and even more so in the state of sleep. What happens in this condition of getting down into one's depths, away from the affirmations of the ego and the vehemences of the body, is that the universal Prāṇic energies, forces of Nature themselves, become the limbs of one's cosmic body.

The Prāṇas are not only inside our bodies. They are powers which operate throughout the universe. And so, the vital Prāṇa that is sustaining the whole world, all creation, becomes part and parcel of one's being, and sustenance comes from all sides when the ego subsides temporarily. This is what happens when we enter into sleep. It is because of the fact that we dissolve our personality, practically, in sleep and stand open to the reception of energies and powers from outside, that we get up refreshed from sleep, even without dinner, without lunch, without breakfast. Without any kind of nourishing element in sleep, we get up as if we have eaten well. Tired people wake up with a freshness of personality. From where has this freshness come? You have not taken any tonic, any medicine or any foodstuff during sleep. You have only closed your eyes and forgotten yourself. The mere fact of the forgetfulness of yourself has become the source of sustenance and energy to your being. The energy has come not because you had something with you in sleep. You had nothing. The energy has come merely due to the fact that you had forgotten yourself. The forgetfulness of personality is the secret of success. Conversely, the more you affirm your personality, the farther you are from the possibility of success in life. So, the Prāṇas become the wings of the bird of consciousness in the state of sleep, and they become the directive principles.

  1. tasya prācī dik prā˝caḥ prāṇāḥ, daksiṇā dig dakṣiṇe prāṇāḥ, pratīcī dik pratya˝caḥ prāṇāḥ, udīcī dig uda˝caḥ prāṇāḥ, ῡrdhvā dig ῡrdhvāḥ prāṇāḥ, avācī dig avā˝caḥ prāṇāḥ: sarvā diśaḥ, sarve prāṇāḥ, sa eṣa neti nety ātmā agṛhyaḥ na hi gṛhyate; aśīryah, na hi śīryate; asaṅgaḥ na hi sajyate; asito na vyathate; na riṣyati abhayaṁ vai, janaka, prāpto'si, iti hovāca yāj˝avalkyaḥ. sa hovāca janako vaidehaḥ, abhayaṁ tvā gacchatāt, yāj˝avalkya, yo naḥ, bhagavan, abhayaṁ vedayase; namas te'stu; ime videhāḥ ayam aham asmīti.

Tasya prācī dik prā˝caḥ prāṇāḥ, daksiṇā dig dakṣiṇe prāṇāḥ, pratīcī dik pratya˝caḥ prāṇāḥ, udīcī dig uda˝caḥ prāṇāḥ, ῡrdhvā dig ῡrdhvāḥ prāṇāḥ, avācī dig avā˝caḥ prāṇāḥ: sarvā diśaḥ, sarve prāṇāḥ: Every direction becomes a vital force for you. Whatever you touch, becomes your friend. And any air that blows from any direction becomes the force that sustains you. The eastern direction becomes the energy that flows to you from the east. It is not merely a direction of space. Empty space does not exist. So, what we regard as empty space or merely a direction in the horizon is not merely that. It is an emptiness only to our incapacitated vision. It is a fullness by itself and aplenty with energy, Prāṇa-Śakti. All space is filled with Prāṇa. It is not a void or an annihilate. And so, energy begins to flow from the eastern direction; energy begins to flow from the western direction; energy flows from the southern direction; energy comes from the north; from the top and from the bottom. From ten directions, energy enters you the moment you become open to its inflow into your being, because of the subsidence of your ego. There is no effort needed on our part to get anything in this world, ultimately. Or, the effort that is necessary is simple, that is, to become open to the inflow of things that are already there, that inundate everything, that flood all corners and are ready to serve us wherever we are. The universe is never poor. It is always rich. It is never bereft of resources. On the contrary, we seem to be poor, poverty-stricken, emaciated and forsaken for faults which are obvious in us, namely, the fault of the ego which affirms its own importance while its value is really zero. Its existence is a strain and great distortion, on account of which it suffers. The ego suffers right from birth to death. It is always in a state of anxiety. But when this ego dissolves in the deeper abode which it reaches in sleep, leaving the waking condition, the directions themselves become the nourishing and energising forces. Very strange indeed! You do not require persons; you do not require celestials to come and help you. Even the quarters, even the directions, even space itself will sustain you with the energy which is embosomed in itself. Sarvā diśaḥ, sarve prāṇāḥ: Every corner of the world is full of energy, and it is energy that you breathe into your nostrils and withdraw into your own being. Strength incarnate do you become on account of your openness to the inflow of forces outside, once the ego steps aside.

The secret of this is the Ātman within, ultimately. Why is it that space should protect you; that Prāṇa should flow into you, merely because you descend into the subliminal levels of your own being? The reason is that at the bottom there is the Ātman which is the all. It is not the Prāṇa, as an independent activity, that works. What you call the Prāṇa, the energy, the Śakti, is nothing but the Ātman that works. All energy is Ātmā-Śakti, ultimately, and so it is your proximity to the Ātman that gives you the refreshing feeling in sleep. The energy that you seem to imbibe or acquire in sleep, the joy that you feel there, the reluctance to wake up from sleep because of the fullness that you experience there, the feeling of completeness and the feeling of being embraced, as it were, by all the friendly forces of Nature, are all due to your proximity to the Ātman in deep sleep. That innermost level, you are about to contact in the state of sleep. Why 'about to contact'? You have already contacted it. You have touched it, and it has given you a pleasant shock. That shock is the bliss that you experience in sleep. And what is that principle called the Ātman which you are touching in the state of deep sleep, going down below the waking condition of your personality? That, the Upaniṣhad says – sa eṣa neti nety ātmā agṛhyaḥ – nobody can say what it is. No one knows where you have gone in sleep. And it is impossible to say as to how it is that you gain so much joy and strength from that source. It cannot be described. It can be described only by a negative definition 'it is not this', 'it is not this'. It is not the body; it is not any friend of the world; it is not an object of sense; it is not the Prāṇas as you think of as moving in the physical body; it is not even the senses; not the mind, not the intellect. It is nothing that you can think of. It is something transcendent. That something is therefore other than what you see with your eyes, think with your mind, understand with your intellect; other than anything you regard as existing in this world. It is transcendent Being. So, it can be defined only as 'what it is not', and not as 'what it is'. No one knows what it is. We can say, 'it is not this', but we cannot say 'it is this' – neti nety ātmā. Agṛhyaḥ na hi gṛhyate: Who can grasp it? No sense can grasp it; no mind can grasp it; no understanding or intellect can grasp it. It is ungraspable; that is the Ātman. Aśīryah, na hi śīryate; asaṅgaḥ na hi sajyate; asito na vyathate; na riṣyati: It is a repetition of what has already been mentioned earlier. It is ungraspable, unattached to things and impossible to contact in any manner in the ordinary sense. It does not come into contact with any thing. It has no dual outside itself. It has no sorrow. It never knows what sorrow is.

"Janaka! You have attained to this fearless state," says Yāj˝avalkya. Abhayam vai, janaka, prapto'si: "Fearlessness is Brahman, and you have reached that fearless abode of Brahman. By your enquiries, by your studies, by your contemplations, by your searches, by your absorptions and meditations, you have reached that supremely fearless abode of Brahman, O King," says Yāj˝avalkya. Sa hovāca janako vaidehaḥ, abhayaṁ tvā gacchatāt, yāj˝avalkya: "Great Master! May this fearless abode also be a blessing to you." Janaka is immensely pleased. So he reciprocates the grace that has been bestowed upon him by the sage by saying: "May that fearlessness be yours too. May that Divine Absolute bless us both. Yo naḥ, bhagavan, abhayaṁ vedayase; namas te'stu: Prostrations to you. I am deeply blessed to hear all this from you. Ime videhāḥ ayam aham asmīti: Here is the kingdom of Videha at your disposal, and I am here as your servant." Everything has been surrendered by the disciple to the Guru. "The kingdom is here; you take it, and you take me also as your slave. This knowledge that you have given to me is more than all this wealth that I have in the form of this empire and my own personal self."