The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
by Swami Krishnananda


Chapter IV

Third Brahmana: The Self in Dream and Deep Sleep

  1. tad yathāsminn ākāśe śyena vā suparṇo vā viparipatya śrāntaḥ  saṁhatya pakṣau saṁlayāyaiva dhriyate, evam evāyaṁ puruṣa etasmā antāya dhāvati yatra na kaṁ cana kāmaṁ kāmayate, na kaṁ cana svapnaṁ paśyati.
  2. tā vā asyaitā hitā nāma nāḍyaḥ, yathā keśaḥ sahasradhā bhinnaḥ, tāvatāṇimnā tiṣṭhanti, śuklasya, nīlasya, piṅgalasya, haritasya, lohitasya pūrṇāḥ; atha yatrainaṁ ghnatīva, jinantīva, hastīva vicchāyayati, gartam iva patati, yad eva jāgrad bhayaṁ paśyati, tad atrāvidyayā manyate, atha yatra deva iva rājeva; aham evedam, sarvo'smīti manyate; so'sya paramo lokaḥ.

Now, as was described earlier, there are various nerve currents within the subtle body and the physical body. These are called Hitā Nādis and they are very fine in structure, finer than even the thousandth part of a hair. Through these very fine, subtle nerve currents pass the serum of the essence of the human individual, which is of various colours. The Upaniṣhad says it can be of various hues like white, red, blue, yellow, brown, green, etc. according to the intensity of the humours of the body and the strength of the impulses of the mind. Due to their action or the effects of these serums that pass through the nerve currents and the connection of the mind with these serums, there are differences in dream experiences. Hence, one may be suddenly elated or suddenly depressed in dream.

Dreams are occasioned by many causes, by various types of impulses, which are the motive powers behind dream experience. It is not possible to trace back all dreams to a single type of cause. Though it is generally said that a memory of waking life is the cause for the experience in dream, it is only a general statement. It does not mean every kind of dream is caused by memories. Dreams are also caused by other reasons, other factors than what can be merely comprehended by the term 'previous experience'. Someone may be thinking of you very strongly in some distant place. You can have a vision of that person in dream. This is something very strange. If I very strongly think of you, for some reason or the other, you may experience it in your dream, and if the thoughts are intense enough, you may have the same thoughts that I have in my mind at that time. This is because of the intensity of the thought concerned. If the thought of the other person is extremely intense, you may feel that thought even in the waking state, not merely in dream. If the thoughts are powerful enough, even in your waking life you can feel the thoughts of somebody else. These thoughts are communicated to you because of the strength of the thoughts. Generally, such influences are felt more in dream than in waking, because in waking life we have an egoism which is active and which prevents the entry of other thoughts. Your personality is so strong in the waking state, your consciousness of your own self is so intense and your own thoughts influence you to such an extent, that others' thoughts cannot noticeably enter your mind in the waking life, usually. But their entry is easier in dream when the ego is not so active, and their effect is much more in sleep because of the complete withdrawal of the ego in the sleeping condition. Sometimes, other invisible forces may work in your dream if your thoughts during waking in relation to these forces were intense enough. A person who has done protracted Japa of a Mantra, for instance, has done deep meditation for days and days together, offered worship, prayers, etc., may dream of the deity who was worshipped, the deity who is representative of the Mantra. Even the Grace of God can be felt in dream through various visions, perceptions of deities, etc. So also the Guru's grace can work in dream, and it can become the cause of certain visions, instructions, etc. to the disciple. And it is said that one's strong Prārabdha Karmas which would cause great pain if worked out normally in waking life can be mellowed down and worked out in one's dream by the Grace of God and the blessings of the Guru, so that only minor suffering is caused. The suffering through which one may have to pass in waking due to one's Prarabdha may likely be experienced in a much milder form in the dream condition, and thus be wiped out because of the strength of our Sadhana, the blessings of the Guru, or the Grace of God. So, there can be various causes behind dreams. Whatever be the causes, the pattern of experience is the same in all dreams. They are brought about by a joint action of the nerve currents, or Nādis carrying Prāṇa, and the impulses of the mind which pass through them, on account of which there are pleasurable or painful experiences in dream, experiences of exaltation, joy and sometimes of depression, sorrow, pain, etc.

Yatrainaṁ ghnatīva, jinantīva, hastīva vicchāyayati, gartam iva patati, yad eva jāgrad bhayaṁ paśyati, tad atrāvidyayā manyate: There are dreams caused by wrong actions and dreams caused by righteous actions. Sorrowful experiences are supposed to be the results of erroneous actions performed in waking life, in this birth or previous births. Dreams of falling from a tree, being pursued by animals, falling into a pit, breaking one's leg, etc. are some examples of such dreams resulting from erroneous actions. Such experiences in dream are the process of exhaustion of Karma which is of an unfavourable nature. There can be other dreams where the causes may be of a diviner or a more purified character. One can feel oneself raised to paradise or the region of the celestials; one can have visions of gods in heaven or similar experiences of an exalting type. If a person is highly evolved in the spiritual field, he may even have the very same experience in dream which one has in the condition of meditation. What do you feel in meditation? Your identity with the Supreme Being. That is the essence of meditation. Your all-pervasive character and your attunement with the Absolute, this is what you affirm in your meditation. If the meditation is strong, the very same feeling of unity with the Absolute may be felt even in dream. You will feel that you are one with all things, that you are commensurate with every being, that everything is included in your own self, and you are in harmony with the whole of creation. Even in dream, such experiences can be had – atha yatra deva iva rājeva; aham evedam, sarvo'smīti manyate; so'sya paramo lokaḥ. So, when the waking mind becomes intensively charged with a thought, it carries with it the same impression in dream, and that impression can be of any type. It may be a spiritual one or an unspiritual one.

  1. tad vā asyaitad aticchando'pahatapāpmābhyaṁ rūpam. tad yathā priyayā striyā sampariṣvakto na bāhyaṁ kiṁ cana veda nāntaram, evam evāyam puruṣaḥ prājñenātmanā sampariṣvakto na bāhyaṁ kiṁ cana veda nāntaram. tad vā asyaitad āpta-kāmam, ātma-kāmam, a-kāmaṁ rūpaṁ śokāntaram.

The Upaniṣhad takes us now to the state of sleep. What happens there? In the Upaniṣhads, there is often a description of sleep, comparable with the state of liberation, or Mokṣha. Especially here, the sections that we are now going to study in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣhad contain descriptions that are applicable to both the state of sleep and to the state of liberation. There is some similarity between the state of ultimate freedom, or Moksha, and the state of sleep, though obviously there is a lot of difference between the two. The similarity is that all impulse for objectivity is obliterated completely in both conditions. There is a withdrawal of the mind and consciousness into their source, so that there is a feeling of homogeneity in one's experience. The heterogeneity that one feels in waking life is wiped out due to the uniformity of feeling and experience in sleep. One does not know what one is in sleep. It is something very peculiar, incomparable indeed. It is an experience which is totally impersonal. It is impersonal in the sense that you do not know that you are a person. Your experience is independent of your personality. It is no doubt an 'experience', because you pass through it. Afterwards you have a memory of it. You experience a great joy there. It is your experience; yet, not yours in the sense of a person, because in the state of sleep you are not a person, not even a human individual. It is doubtful if the sleep of a human being is different in quality from the sleep of an animal or an ant. It is said that the sleep condition is uniform in all created beings. Everyone has the same experience. One does not know whether one is a man or a woman, tall or short, black or white, learned or otherwise during sleep. Even pains are forgotten. Even the worst of sorrows become absent in sleep, and even the greatest of joys are forgotten, and there is only a uniform state of unconscious bliss. Whether you are highly placed or lowly placed, it becomes immaterial in sleep. There is a levelling of all personality into a single homogeneity of character. In this sense the sleep state is similar to the state of absolute liberation. There too, something like this happens. The personality is withdrawn and merges in the Absolute, as rivers go into the ocean, where their personality gets merged into the oceanic expanse. The individualities of the rivers cease due to their getting absorbed into the bosom of the ocean. So do personalities become one due to the homogeneity into which they enter in the Absolute, and all desires cease on account of an utter fulfilment thereof.

But, there is a significant difference between what happens in the Absolute to the state of desires, and what happens to them in sleep. Notwithstanding the fact that desires are absent in sleep as well as in the Absolute, they are absent in two different senses. The unconsciousness of the presence of desires is the condition of sleep. The consciousness of the absence of desires is the condition of the Absolute. This is the great difference. The presence of a thing is not known, and therefore you are not feeling the pain of its adverse juxtaposition with you. That is one thing, but if it is not there at all on account of something that has happened, that is a different matter altogether. However, there is freedom from desires for the time being, says the Upaniṣhad. Aticchanda is the state of freedom from all desires, and there is no consciousness of virtue or sin. It is a destruction of all these characters. Apahatapāpmābhayaṁ rūpam: Even the worst of fears are withdrawn there, and one knows not what is inside, what is outside, due to the immensity of pleasure.

What the Upaniṣhad tries to make out is that we are really in contact with the Absolute in sleep, but that contact is something like the contact of a blindfolded person with a rich treasure of a high position in society. He cannot understand what has happened to him, but he is in contact with it. If you are blindfolded and placed on the throne of an emperor, you will not be aware as to what has happened to you, because you have not been allowed to perceive what has happened. Likewise is this placement of the individual in the Absolute in sleep where the occurrence does not materially affect the condition of the Jīva, or the individual, due to the absence of consciousness. The being has not merged in Absolute Consciousness. They have been kept separate on account of the presence of a thick veil of ignorance which is the form taken by the unfulfilled impulses, desires, etc. It is true, as the Upaniṣhad will point out, that sleep is identical with the freedom of liberation but for presence of desires lying latent in sleep. Like the uniform covering of the sky by clouds which spread themselves in a thick layer preventing the light of the sun from penetrating through them, even so, desires become a homogeneous stuff, as it were, in sleep and cover the entire firmament of consciousness, so that the blaze of the sun of consciousness is not allowed to penetrate this thick layer in the form of the homogeneity of desires still present. In short, unfulfilled desires are the cause of our not knowing what is happening to us in sleep, even as they are the cause for our waking up after sleep.

If you can be conscious in the state of sleep, that would be liberation from bondage. But that consciousness is not possible because of the presence of certain impulses for satisfaction, desires as you call them, which spread themselves as a thick layer separating the Jīva from consciousness. And so, though you are virtually on the borderland of eternity and have temporarily transcended empirical experience in sleep, you are not conscious of it. So you come back merely with the impact of that contact, that impact being felt in the form of an intense satisfaction of delight, a happiness, a revival of spirit, a resurgence of energy and a feeling of fulfilment. The satisfaction, the joy, the fulfilment, the revived spirit that we feel after sleep is due to the contact with the Supreme Being there in sleep. But when you wake up, you are again the same individual as before, with all your desires, because you were not actually aware of the event that took place in sleep, irrespective of the pleasure, irrespective of the strength and energy that you gained.

But liberation is different. In this condition there is a fulfilment of all desires and a full awareness. There is a shift of emphasis here in the Upaniṣhad, from sleep to the state of ultimate liberation. The Upaniṣhad wants also to tell us what happens in the state of liberation, together with its explanation of the state of deep sleep, so that we are given two informations at the same time. In the state of liberation, all desires are fulfilled. You have no desires left afterwards because of the fact that there is only one desire there – the desire for the Self. It is actually not desire for the Self even, because there is no such thing as 'for' or 'of' there in the state of liberation, due to the universality of that experience. It is A-kāmaṁ. It is not merely ātmā-kāmaṁ, but actually A-kāmaṁ. The desire for the Self is identical with absence of all desires. That Self which we are speaking of in the state of liberation is not an individual self, and so the desire we speak of is not desire of an individual self, but desire of the Universal Self. 'Desire' of the Universal Self is a self-contradictory term. It cannot be there; therefore it is A-kāmaṁ. It is freedom from all desires, and Śokāntaram – freedom from all sorrow.

  1. atra pitā'pitā bhavati, mātā'mātā, lokāḥ alokāḥ, devā adevāḥ, vedā avedāḥ; atra steno'steno bhavati bhrūṇahābhrūṇahā, cāṇḍālo'cāṇḍālaḥ paulkaso' paulkasaḥ, śramaṇo'śramaṇaḥ, tāpaso'tāpasāḥ, ananvāgataṁ puṇyena, ananvāgatataṁ ananvāgataṁ pāpena, tīrṇo hi tadā sarvān śokān hṛdayasya bhavati.

In this state, all social relationships also get engulfed. All feelings which are associated with the human personality are transcended once and for all. All the values that you regard as worthwhile in life are superseded at one stroke. You have feelings for father, mother, brother, sister, high, low, etc. in waking life in this individual state, but when you reach the Absolute you have no such relationships. All relationships are completely overcome in the unity of that Being. There is neither father nor mother. Atra pitā'pitā bhavati, mātā'mātā, lokāḥ alokāḥ: The father becomes no father; the mother becomes no mother; and the worlds cease to be worlds. Though these worlds, these universes are present there, no doubt, they are no more called worlds; they become the very substance of that experience of liberation. Lokāḥ alokāḥ, devā adevāḥ, vedā avedāḥ; atra steno'steno bhavati bhrūṇahābhrūṇahā, cāṇḍālo'cāṇḍālaḥ paulkaso' paulkasaḥ, śramaṇo'śramaṇaḥ: All these are terms representing different strata of beings, all of whom shed their differences in the state of liberation. Neither do you have the awareness of differences outside you in that condition, nor is there a difference of an internal nature. It is free from internal differences and outward distinctions. It is absolutely non-attached to any principle of externality such as space, time, etc. The knots of the heart are liberated here only, and the knots of the heart are nothing but the knots of desire. They are called the Granthis-Brahma-Granthi, Vishnu-Granthi, Rudra-Granthi, etc. These are the knots of desire-Avidyā, Kāma, Karma-desire propelled by ignorance and moving in the direction of action. Avidyā, Kāma, Karma is a complex which is called the Hṛdaye-Granthi, or the knots of the heart, which are broken open at once by the realisation of the Self.

In one place it was said, in the context of the conversation between Yājñavalkya and Maitreyī, that when there is a transcendence of personality there is no 'consciousness' whatsoever. This confounded the mind of Maitreyī and she immediately queried as to how it was possible for consciousness to be absent in the state of liberation. Not so, it is not that there is no consciousness. Consciousness is there, but it is not a consciousness of anything particular; it is a general consciousness. Here you have a very beautiful passage, very poetic also in its nature, which tells us that while apparently it is a non-knowing of all particulars, it is a knowing of all things.

  1. yad vai tan na paśyati, paśyan vai tan na paśyati; na hi draṣṭur dṛṣṭer viparilopo vidyate, avināśitvāt; na tu tad dvitīyam asti, tato’nyad vibhaktam yat paśyet.
  2. yad vai tan na jighrati, jighran vai tan na jighrati: na hi ghrātur ghrāter viparilopo vidyate, avināśitvāt; na tu tad dvitīyam asti, tato’nyad vibhaktam yaj jighret.
  3. yad vai tan na rasayati, rasayan vai tan na rasayati na hi rasayitū rasayater viparilopo vidyate, avināśitvāt; na tu tad dvitīyam asti, tato’nyad vibhaktam yad rasayet.
  4. yad vai tan na vadati, vadan vai tan na vadati, na hi vaktur vakter viparilopo vidyate, avināśitvāt; na tu tad dvitīyam asti, tato’nyad vibhaktam yad vadet.
  5. yad vai tan na śṛṇoti, śṛṇvan vai tan na śṛṇoti; na hi śrotuḥ śruter viparilopo vidyate, avināśitvāt; na tu tad dvitīyam asti, tato’nyad vibhaktam yat śṛṇuyāt.
  6. yad vai tan na manute, manvāno vai tan na manute, na hi mantur mater viparilopo vidyate, avināśitvāt; na tu tad dvitīyam asti, tato'nyad vibhaktam yan manvīta.
  7. yad vai tan na spṛśati, spṛśan vai tan na spṛśati, na hi spraṣṭuḥ spṛṣṭer viparilopo vidyate, avināśitvāt, na tu tad dvitīyam asti, tato’nyad vibhaktam yat spṛśet.
  8. yad vai tan na vijānāti, vijānan vai tan na vijānāti, na hi vijñātur vijñāter viparilopo vidyate, avināśitvāt; na tu tad dvitīyam asti, tato’nyad vibhaktam yad vijānīyāt.

These passages are very beautiful. Yājñavalkya says: "While one does not see anything there, one sees everything there" – yad vai tan na paśyati, paśyan vai tan na paśyati. Seeing, one sees not. It is enigmatic no doubt, very difficult to understand how it is that seeing, one sees not. One sees all and yet sees not anything as a particularised entity. It is a single comprehension and not a perception in succession. It is not looking at things, seeing objects one after another in a linear series. It is a total, instantaneous awareness of all things. You cannot say that anything is being seen there, because anything that is to be seen has become a part of the Seer himself. Inasmuch as the Seer has absorbed into his being all that is to be seen, you may say that one sees nothing except one's own Self. Because there is no such thing as 'seeing' one's own Self, you may say that there is no seeing at all. Yet, one sees all because the Self cannot be oblivious of its own existence. It is non-seeing of anything because of the fact that everything is one with the Self that sees. It is non-seeing because there is no such thing as the Self seeing Self, because the Self is not an object of Itself. Yet it is not non-seeing because the Self is conscious of Itself, Its very nature being Consciousness. So it is a highly transcendent exposition of a supernormal experience which is eternity and infinity come together in a fraternal embrace of timelessness and spacelessness.

Na hi draṣṭur dṛṣṭer viparilopo vidyate: How can you have any desire to perceive anything there, inasmuch as what you want to perceive has become you? How can there be a necessity for the mind to move towards an object, inasmuch as it, the object, has already moved towards the very source of the mind? The mountain has come to Mohammad, as they say; Mohammad did not have to go to the mountain. The object has come to the Self. Why should the Self go to the object? And, inasmuch as there has never been any real difference between the Self and its object, the two have come together as two lost brothers uniting themselves, as it were, in an intense feeling of joy. Much more than that, indeed, is the union of being. In that condition there is an eternal awareness of unity, and so there is no question of a transitory movement of the mind from the individual self's location to the location of an object outside for the purpose of a sensory contact. Such a thing does not exist there, and so there is no sensory perception. It is Universal Awareness.

The perceptional process through the senses is not permanent because it is a transition and a movement, something like a chain made up of different links, a momentary activity of the mind with discrete jumps like the movement of a reel of film in a cinema, one picture being different from the other, looking like a series, yet one different from the other. So there is a temporary appearance of a continuity of perception of our awareness of objects outside, yet it is not a continuity, really. It is made up of little bits of movements of the mind, looking like a continuity on account of the animation of consciousness from inside. The continuity of the picture in a cinema is due to the presence of a screen behind it. If the screen were not to be there, you would not be able to see the picture. The screen behind, here, in this perceptional activity, is the consciousness which is universal. But if that consciousness is withdrawn, there would be a sudden dropping down of all these transitory processes of mental activity. Avināśitvāt: Here there is eternal knowledge and not merely a temporary activity of the mind in the form of perception of objects.

Na tu tad dvitīyam asti, tato'nyad vibhaktam yat paśyet: Why should there be a movement of the mind towards an object? Where is the need for it when the object has entered the heart of the seer and become the being of the seer? The being of the object has become the being of the Self which sees and which has to see. Inasmuch as there is a total transcendence of duality, a complete abolition of the distinction between one and the other, the desire to perceive ceases. And so, there is a 'non-seeing' of anything, and yet a seeing eternally of everything.

So is the case with every other sensation, a description of which is given in the succeeding passages of the Upaniṣhad, viz., smelling, tasting, speaking, hearing, touching, thinking, understanding. Inasmuch as there is such an eternity of experience coming to consciousness in the state of freedom, there is no perception of 'outside' objects. Likewise, there is no smelling, there is no tasting, no speaking, no hearing, no thinking, no touching and no understanding of anything outside, because the content of understanding has become one with the process of understanding, and the process of understanding has become one with the source of understanding. There is a reversal, Pratipathva, of the whole activity of knowledge. Instead of the self projecting itself through a moving process towards an object of knowledge, the object traces back its steps to the Self itself, so that the object has become the Self, in which condition you do not know whether it is the object that knows or the subject that knows. Such is the glory of ultimate freedom, the supreme liberation of the spirit.

  1. yatra vānyad iva syāt, tatrānyo’nyat paśyet, anyo’nyaj jighret, anyo’nyad rasayet, anyo’nyad vadet, anyo’nyat śṛṇuyāt, anyo’nyan manvīta, anyo’nyat spṛśet, anyo’nyad vijānīyāt.

Yājñavalkya speaks to King Janaka: "My dear friend; if there is something outside you, you can see that; if there is something outside you, you can taste that; if there is something outside you, you can hear, that; if there is something outside you, you can speak to that."

  1. salila eko draṣṭādvaito bhavati, eṣa brahma-lokaḥ, samrāḍ iti. hainam anuśaśāsa yājñavalkyaḥ; eṣāsya paramā gatiḥ, eṣāsya paramā sampat, eṣo'sya paramo lokaḥ, eṣo'sya parama ānandaḥ; estasyaivānandasyānyāni bhūtāni mātrām upajīvanti.

But where there is only an ocean of experience in which all the bubbles of objects have immersed themselves in their unity with the body of the ocean – salila eko draṣṭā, where it is like a vast expanse of consciousness merely, single in its nature, Seer alone without a duality, where only the Experiencer exists without an object that is experienced, there what would one speak about and to what one would speak and what is there to be seen, what is there to be touched, what is there to be sensed? Yājñavalkya thus teaches King Janaka: "Please listen to me. You have reached the state of the Absolute." If your mind can be fixed in this Awareness, you are liberated today at this very moment. If you can station your consciousness in this feeling of unity with things, if you can fix yourself in this identity and free yourself from the trammels of desire for external objects, you are in Brahma-loka just now. Brahma-loka is not the distant world of Brahma. It is the world which itself is Brahman, the Absolute – eṣa brahma-lokaḥ. The two, the world and Brahman, become one. The universe itself is the Absolute, and vice versa. Salila eko draṣṭādvaito bhavati, eṣa brahma – lokaḥ, samrāḍ iti. hainam anuśaśāsa yājñavalkyaḥ: "Your Highness, this is the ultimate teaching for you. What else do you want to learn? Eṣāsya paramā gatiḥ: This is the goal of everyone. Eṣāsya paramā sampat: This is the highest blessing to everyone. Eṣo'sya paramo lokaḥ: This is the highest abode which anyone would like to reach. Eṣo'sya parama ānandaḥ: This is the highest bliss that you can expect anywhere. Estasyaivānandasyānyāni bhūtāni mātrām upajīvanti: All the joys of the entire cosmos put together would be only a small drop of the bliss of this Supreme Being." Whatever little satisfaction we have, whatever pleasures we have, whatever joys we are experiencing, whatever be the happiness of life – all this is but a little reflection, a fractional, distorted form, a drop, as it were, from this ocean of the Absolute.

The Supreme Being is the pinnacle of happiness. The Absolute is the climax of all joys. Nothing can be compared to that state of perfection. The glories of the world pale before Its presence. The powers that we can conceive of in our minds, even the highest forms of strength and authority, they all fall short of this ideal of the perfection of the Absolute. The various inadequate forms of perceptions, the forms of completeness and perfection that we aspire for in this world are minute reflections, fractions as it were, of the great perfection of the Absolute. Whatever happiness can be there in this world, even the highest conceivable happiness, is said to be only a jot of this ocean of bliss which is Brahman, the Absolute. This is the greatest glory, the greatest magnificence. This is the highest abode that we are aspiring for in our lives. This is the greatest achievement we can ever imagine in our minds. This is the perfection of all the worlds. This is the supreme, foremost bliss. All the happiness of the world is a reflection of it, a fraction of it, a tiny part of it, a jot of it, a distorted shape which it has taken by reflection through the medium of individual minds and bodies.

The extent of the joy that we can experience in this world depends upon the instrument through which the Supreme Bliss is manifest, like the electric current which manifests itself weakly or strongly, depending on the conductivity of the medium. The brilliance of the electric bulb depends upon the extent of the wattage rating, as they call it – a hundred watts or five hundred watts or one thousand watts, whatever it is. The wattage of the bulb construction will tell you the extent of the brilliance it will give by the absorption of the current which passes through it. Likewise, we may say, in some sort of a comparison, the bliss of the Absolute cannot fully be experienced in this life because of inadequate, imperfect and transient instruments which we are utilising for manifesting it or expressing it. The bodies in which we are encaged, the minds through which we are experiencing happiness in life, are all limited in their structure. How can an infinite content pass through a limited vehicle? You cannot carry the whole ocean in a tumbler or a glass or a katorie (bowl). The little tumbler can carry only a little water. Though the ocean is so big, if you dip this bucket or tumbler in the vast ocean of the Pacific or the Atlantic itself, you cannot lift much water. What is the capacity of the tumbler? The capacity is so little. What is the use of dipping it in the ocean? It is of no purpose. Likewise, how can the mind which is finite, which is located within the body, which can think only in terms of specific objects, and whose structure therefore is restricted to the operations of its own aspiration, desires, etc. in terms of the body and its relationships – how can such a finite mind aspire to hold within it the infinite content of Absolute Bliss? It is impossible for us to imagine what Absolute Bliss is. We are asking for better and better things and larger and larger things and more and more of things, not knowing what this more means. We can never reach the end of it because the end is infinitude. It is only a word for us which carries no sense because the infinite cannot be imagined by the mind. The mind which is finite can think of only that which can be contained within it, and so even its imagination stretched beyond conceivable limits, cannot conceive the extent of the Absolute and the intensity of its bliss and power.

But the Upaniṣhad, for the purpose of giving us an idea of the magnitude of the Bliss, gives a staggering description of what this Absolute is, what that happiness is, what that perfection is, what the depth of that bliss is in comparison with the greatest perfection we can think of in this world. To give us a faint idea, as it were, of the perfection of the Absolute, it goes on explaining, in a beautiful way, the gradations of bliss. There are degrees and degrees of happiness. Are you not more happy than an ant? Perhaps you are in a position to imagine that your capacity of comprehension is greater, your capacity to appreciate is deeper, and your understanding is more intense than those of the lower species of animals. A cow, a bull, a horse – they are also happy. But an intelligent human being is supposed to be capable of enjoying better the things of the world compared to the animals, beasts, the flies, and the mosquitoes, because of a comprehensiveness of understanding, a better capacity to grasp, etc. Perfection is equivalent to consciousness itself. The deeper and more expansive is the consciousness, the greater is the perfection. It is not a question of physical possession or the magnitude of the physical body. It does not mean that an elephant is happier than a human being because its body is larger and it is physically stronger. Its happiness cannot be equal to that which is experienced by an intelligent human being who has the capacity to grasp the mysteries of things and the intricacies of human experience.

The degrees of happiness, therefore, depend upon the degrees of the subtlety of the manifestation of being. The subtler you are in your capacity of comprehension, the more expansive is your being, the greater is your capacity to include within your being the beings of others. Happiness also increases correspondingly. Happiness is identical with Being, ultimately. It is a form of existence itself. So, the measure of the expanse of your being will determine the measure of the happiness that you experience. Your being is now limited to the body. You cannot include within your physical being the beings of other people, other existences. Hence, you exclude from your experience the experiences of others. To that extent, your experience is limited, and to the same extent, your happiness also is limited. But if your being expands, comprehends within itself other beings and becomes subtler in its capacity, it becomes more powerful, greater in knowledge and intenser in the experience of happiness. Gradations of happiness are explained in this passage here in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣhad. (A similar description also occurs in the Taittirīya Upaniṣhad, with a slight modification.)

  1. sa yo manuṣyāṇāṁ rāddhah samṛddho bhavati, anyeṣām adhipatiḥ, sarvair mānuṣyakair bhogaiḥ sampannatamaḥ, sa manuṣyāṇāṁ parama ānandaḥ; atha ye śatam manuṣyāṇām ānandāḥ, sa ekaḥ pitṛṇāṁ jitalokānām ānandaḥ; atha ye śataṁ pitṛṇāṁ jita-lokānām ānandāḥ; sa eko gandharva-loka ānandaḥ; atha ye śataṁ gandharva-loka ānandāḥ, sa eka karma-devānām ānandaḥ, ye karmaṇā devatvam abhisampadyante; atha ye śataṁ karma-devānām ānandaḥ, sa eka ājāna-devānām ānandaḥ, yaś ca strotriyo’vṛjino’kāma-hataḥ; atha ye śatam ājāna-devānām ānandaḥ, sa ekaḥ prajāpati-loka ānandaḥ, yaś ca śrotriyo’vṛjino’kāma-hataḥ; atha ye śataṁ prajāpati-loka ānandaḥ, sa eko brahma-loka ānandaḥ, yaś ca śrotriyo’vṛjino’kāma-hataḥ; athaiṣa eva parama ānandaḥ, yaś ca strotriyo’vṛjino’kāma-hataḥ; athaisa eva parama ānandaḥ, eṣa brahma-lokaḥ samrāḍ, iti hovāca yājñavalkyaḥ. so’ham  bhagavate sahasraṁ dadāmi; ata ūrdhvaṁ vimokṣāyaiva brūhīti. atra ha yājñavalkyo bibhayāṁ cakāra; medhāvī rājā, sarvebhyo māntebhya udarautsīd iti.

What is happiness? We can imagine it to some extent, with our yardstick of measuring, different grades of happiness. If we possess all the valuables in this world we are likely to be happier than when we do not have these valuables. One can close one's eyes for a few seconds and imagine how immensely happy one would be if one owned all the valuables of the world. Generally, the ordinary man's concept of happiness is possession. He wants to possess things as much as possible. So, taking that to be the standard of judgment of the ordinary human mind, the Upaniṣhad says: let us imagine for a while that there is such a person. He is youthful and strong; he is the ruler of the whole world. We have never seen a ruler of the whole world at any time, but we can imagine it for the time being just for the purpose of explaining the maximum possibility of available happiness in this world. Take for granted that there is a very strong, youthful and learned person, learned in all the scriptures, acquainted with every branch of learning, highly educated, highly cultured, very youthful, never falling sick, very strong, king of the whole world. Such a person naturally must be a standard of happiness. He has nothing to grieve for and nothing is there that he lacks. He is the Emperor of the whole world. He has no enemies to fear, nothing that he lacks because everything has become his. He has no fear either from outside or from inside. He is physically well-placed, intellectually highly illumined, externally no fear exists for him and he possesses everything. Such a person's happiness can be regarded as 'one unit' of happiness. It is only a theoretical conception, because such a person does not exist in this world. But we can imagine that such a person exists, and even if such a person were to exist, his would be the smallest conceivable unit of happiness in our yardstick, according to the Upaniṣhad. It is the initial, kindergarten stage of the conception of happiness, one might say. This is the maximum our imagination ordinarily can comprehend, but it is only the minutest degree of happiness, according to the scale mentioned in the Upaniṣhad.

Sa yo manuṣyāṇāṁ rāddhah samṛddho bhavati, anyeṣām adhipatiḥ, sarvair mānuṣyakair bhogaiḥ sampannatamaḥ, sa manuṣyāṇāṁ parama ānandaḥ: So, this is what can be regarded as the greatest happiness of a human being. But this is not the entire happiness, says the Upaniṣhad. There are entities far greater in happiness than this person. This imagined person, this so-called king of the world who has been described in such glorious terms, who will attract our attention, naturally, and be an enviable being to all persons – such a man's happiness is not the total happiness, it is only the lowest unit of happiness. There are people greater than this person. They are not in this world. They are in subtle realms of being. The universe is manifest in various degrees of intensity, and every degree is one world, each one being a separate plane of consciousness. Each plane is called a Loka, or a world. You do not know how many planes are there. There are infinite planes of being, and just as you have got frequencies of manifestation of electromagnetic energy, likewise there are infinite frequencies or levels of manifestation of the contents of the universe. The lowest is the grossest, which is the physical world. We are in the lowest form of existence, the grossest and the most material that can be conceived, and here it is we are imagining this kind of happiness. Higher than this is, according to this Upaniṣhad, the happiness of beings, subtler than this happiest human being that we have thought of in our minds. They live in a more transparent world. That is described here as Pitṛ-Loka. The scriptures refer to a realm of being where departed souls, highly virtuous in nature, reside. Pitṛ means ancestor, forefather, one who has departed from this world but has done greatest virtuous deeds and now lives in a highly comfortable realm which is superior to this physical world in every respect. The happiness of people in that realm is supposed to be one hundred times more than the happiness of this great man who is supposed to be the king of the whole world. Hundred times happier these people are because of the subtlety of their existence. Atha ye śataṁ pitṛṇāṁ jita-lokānām ānandāḥ; sa eko gandharva-loka ānandaḥ: Those who have performed highly virtuous acts and departed from this world and gone to this world of the forefathers enjoy happiness which is one hundred times greater than the happiness of the most happy person in this human world. But they too are not fully happy. There are people greater than these, subtler, more powerful, more happy. Who are they?

Atha ye śatam manuṣyāṇām ānandāḥ, sa ekaḥ pitṛṇāṁ jitalokānām ānandaḥ: They are the celestial minstrels, the Gandharvas, who are supposed to be celestial musicians, who create, not the music that we think of in this world, but something much more superb. You will be transported by hearing such music. You cannot hear such music with these physical ears. They are supposed to be living in the borderland of the celestial world. They are called Gandharvas. They are the minstrels of the gods and they are subtler than these Pitṛs, or the forefathers. That realm is more comprehensive and internal. And so the Upaniṣhad says: The happiness of the Gandharvas is one hundred times more than the happiness of the inhabitants of the forefathers' world, whose happiness is one hundred times more than the happiness of the happiest of human beings. But these Gandharvas are not the highest. There are people greater than the Gandharvas. Who are these?

Atha ye śataṁ pitṛṇāṁ jita-lokānām ānandāḥ; sa eko gandharva-loka ānandaḥ: There are people who have done more intense virtuous deeds like the Aśvamedha, Rājāsuya, etc. and gone to the celestial realm. Those who have, by the effect of their intense merits in this world, gone to the celestial realm or paradise are called Karma-Devas. Devas who have reached that realm of paradise by virtue of Karma, or the good actions that they have performed in their previous life. Their happiness is still more, one hundred times the happiness of the Gandharvas. But greater than these, there are others too.

Ye karmaṇā devatvam abhisampadyante; atha ye śataṁ karma-devānām ānandaḥ: There are celestials who have been in that condition ever since creation. They were born as gods. They did not attain that state by actions in this world. The happiness of such people who are born celestials in paradise, the ājānadevas, is one hundred times more than the happiness of those other celestials, the Karmadevas who have risen from this world by performing good actions.

Yaś ca śtrotriyo'vṛjino'kāma-hataḥ: Now the Upaniṣhad adds some adjectives. This is the happiness of a person in this world also, provided he is free from any kind of specific attachment, provided he is not clinging to anything in particular, and his mind is generally pervasive throughout the whole universe, provided he is not connected to anything in a personal way, has no desires for objects and whose understanding is superb, and further provided he is highly learned in the scriptures, free from afflictions of every kind, and free from all kinds of limiting desires. Such a person's happiness also is equal to those of the born celestials. You can have that degree of happiness even in this world itself. It is not like the happiness of a king. The king's happiness is a false happiness, because it is imagined in his mind only. It does not exist, really. It can be washed off in a second, if circumstances change. And you know very well how it can happen. So, that happiness of the emperor of the world is a stupid form of happiness. It is not a real happiness. But this happiness which is independent of any external aids such as are necessary for a king, for instance – such independent happiness is real happiness. That can be had in this world also by someone conforming to the description given.

Atha ye śataṁ ājāna-devānām ānandaḥ: In the Taittirīya Upaniṣhad there is a little change in the description of this portion. It does not suddenly jump to Prajāpati. It says: Indra's happiness is greater by one hundred times the happiness of the celestials. And the happiness of Brihaspati who is the Guru of the gods is still greater by a hundred times than the happiness of Indra. Greater than the happiness of Brihaspati is that of Prajāpati. Prajāpati is Hiraṇyagarbha Himself. His happiness is still more, a hundred times more.

Yaś ca śrotriyo'vṛjino'kāma-hataḥ; atha ye śataṁ prajāpati-loka ānandāḥ, sa eko brahma-loka ānandaḥ: Virāt, Hiraṇyagarbha and Īshvara – their happinesses are incomparable. Really speaking, we cannot multiply, mathematically or arithmetically, any amount of finite happinesses and equate them with the infinite happiness of Virāt, Hiraṇyagarbha, Īshvara. It is only a way of speaking. It is not merely an arithmetical total, but is qualitatively more intense. And in what way it is more intense qualitatively, we can imagine to some extent if we know what Virāt is, what Hiraṇyagarbha is, or what Īshvara is. Higher than all finite forms of happiness, whatever be that form of finitude, even the finitude of celestials, of the people in paradise, of Indra or Brihaspati, higher than all these forms of happiness is the happiness of this Cosmic Being whom we call Virāt, Hiraṇyagarbha, or Īshvara, designated here in the Upaniṣhad as 'Brahma-loka'.

Yaś ca śrotriyo'vṛjino'kāma-hataḥ: The Upaniṣhad says: You can have even that Hiraṇyagarbha's happiness here itself. You need not cry and wait. It can be had just now provided you can think as Hiraṇyagarbha thinks. Do you know how He thinks? It is impossible to imagine how He thinks, but we can at least try to stretch our thought and conceive a condition where such a thing would be possible. A total inclusion of particulars within one's own being and an exclusion of all externality from one's consciousness is perhaps an approximate definition of what Hiraṇyagarbha, or Virāt could be. If such a thought could be entertained by any person, that person can be as happy as Virāt Himself, or Hiraṇyagarbha Himself.

Athaiṣa eva parama ānandaḥ, eṣa brahma-lokaḥ samrāḍ, iti hovāca yājñavalkyaḥ: "O, Emperor Janaka," says Yājñavalkya, "this is the highest abode. I have described to you all that is necessary." "Master! I am immensely happy." This is what King Janaka says. "Great Sire! I give you one thousand cows." He has nothing else to give except cows again and again. This is very interesting. This is the life of our ancient people. Whatever be the teaching, he offers one thousand cows as Guru Dakshina again and again – so'ham bhagavate sahasraṁ dadāmi; ata ūrdhvaṁ vimokṣāyaiva brūhīti: "Tell me more." He is not satisfied. "Speak to me more about this path to liberation. I am awe-struck at the analysis of happiness which has been shown to me by your teaching. Speak to me more about this glory and the way to freedom, ultimate salvation. I want to hear more and more of this." Yājñavalkya says to himself: "This king is a very shrewd man. He is not going to leave me. However much I tell him he asks for more. He wants to extract everything that I have got in one day itself by putting so many questions." So Yājñavalkya felt a little intrigued. Atra ha yājñavalkyo bibhayāṁ cakāra; medhāvī rājā: "This is a very shrewd man, this king. He is not leaving me easily. Medhāvī rājā, sarvebhyo māntebhya udarautsīd iti: He wants to extract every bit of my knowledge through his questions. He does not want to leave anything unsaid. Very good!"

Now, so much about the nature of the highest Perfection. So far, so good. But it is not so easy to reach. It is not possible to aspire for such a grand goal unless one becomes fit for that state of experience. The majority of people in the world are not fit for such experience, because the mind is not merely a monkey, it is something worse than that. It will never allow you to think in this way at any time. When you get out of the lecture hall, you are a different person in one second. You will not be thinking of these things then. It is quite natural. But it is a sad fact that a person cannot be continuously thinking one thought, even for a few seconds, on account of various types of harassments to which the mind gets subjected, partly due to its past Karmas and partly due to various other reasons. Whatever be the reasons, the consequence is the same, that it is not possible to entertain these kinds of thoughts for a protracted period. And so, injunctions have been given again and again that one who is whole-heartedly aspiring for such a grand goal, as the goal of life is, should be very meticulous and extremely cautious in seeing that the mind does not move out of the track; that it does not go out of range, as they say, and that it moves in the given specific direction in spite of its having to engage itself in the manifold things of the world. It is a hard job. Everyone knows how hard it is, but there is no other alternative. You cannot, as they say in an adage, take a bath in the ocean after the waves subside. The waves will never subside, so you will never take a bath if you wait. If you wait for the world to become better and then practise Sādhana, you will never do it because the world is never going to be better. The only alternative is to make the best of the present circumstances. So, Yājñavalkya's teaching concludes by saying that this is the highest teaching that he has given and that this teaching includes not only the description of the nature of the highest experience, but also a means of approaching it. You have to gradually rise from level to level by the expansion of consciousness, stage by stage as has been mentioned in the earlier sections of the Upaniṣhad. Whatever we have studied, right from the beginning of this Upaniṣhad, is nothing but the various stages of approach to this supreme goal whose climax, as it were, is mentioned here in this section, and there is practically nothing more to say about it.

If we are not able to entertain such a deep thought, if it is not possible for us to meditate like this, if it is hard for us to practise this kind of Sādhana for liberation and we cannot attain liberation in this birth, what will happen to us? That is what is now described. If you are not going to attain this realisation, if you cannot attain this experience, if you are not going to reach God, not going to attain the Absolute, what is going to be your fate? Now Yājñavalkya says:

  1. sa vā eṣa, etasmin svapnānte ratvā caritvā dṛṣtvaiva puṇyaṁ ca pāpaṁ ca, punaḥ pratinyāyam pratiyony ādravati buddhāntāyaiva.

The mind wakes up again into world-consciousness after going through the dream experiences. This waking up into world-consciousness is of two kinds. One is the experience we have when we rise up from dream and sleep, as mentioned. Every day we have this waking up into the world of objects. We go to sleep every day, we dream and go into deep sleep and we get up. The other kind of waking is rebirth. The condition through which one passes at the time of death is supposed to be something like the dream state. When a person is about to pass away from this world, his waking consciousness in the sense of his awareness of the sense-world, the consciousness of people outside and the feeling of the presence of things around, etc. etc. diminishes in intensity, gradually. He cannot think as other people think. Then he will be in a state of dream, as it were. Though it is of a different kind, yet it is supposed to be something like dream. It is not exactly similar to our normal dreams of daily life in every respect, in every minute detail, but it cannot be compared to any other state. It is a dream-like experience because it is not intense like waking perceptions of the world, nor is it a complete obliteration of consciousness like in sleep. It is not abolition of all feeling. There is some sensation. And they say, when you are about to pass away from this world, you have some perceptions of the other world also. You will begin to see certain things. The feelings will indicate where you are going. The other world will begin to reveal itself in some modicum. Just as when you cross the boundary of one country and enter into another country, you will see the police of this country as well as that country. This police will see what you are taking out of this country, and the other police will check up what you are bringing. Both will be seen. You have to be checked up by two kinds of police when you are crossing from one country to another country. Likewise, at the time of passing, the conditions of life in this world will be pulling you in the outward direction towards objects of this world, due to the attachments you had earlier. The love of body, the love of relatives, the love of wealth, the love of position, various types of loves – they pull the mind back to this earth, and so you feel a sort of unhappiness as you know these have to be left behind. Then there is the pull from above, which tells you, as it were, 'here your stay is finished, now you must come away'. That intermediate state through which one passes is said to be a kind of preparation for waking into another world altogether, which you call, ordinarily, rebirth. Rebirth does not necessarily mean coming back to this world. It is an awakening in any realm whatsoever, according to the nature of your desires, the actions that you performed in this world, etc.

The Self at Death

  1. tad yathā ’naḥ su-samāhitam utsarjad yāyāt, evam evāyaṁ śarīra ātmā prājñenātmanānvārūḍha utsarjam yāti, yatraitad ūrdhva ucchvāsī bhavati.

Sometimes it can happen that one has to pass through this condition for days together. It is not that everyone passes through the same condition. Every person's manner of death is different from that of others. But here the Upaniṣhad gives an idea of the normal way in which people pass away from this world. Rarely do people like to leave their body. It is very dear to them. If someone were to say you have to die just now, one would not be easily prepared for it. Whatever be one's experience that is going to be in the future, even if it is to be better, one cannot imagine it. There is a natural clinging to the body and a feeling for this present life, due to which there is a reluctance to depart from this body. But, because of the pull from the other world, there is a tension one feels at that time. You do not want to go, but you are forced to go, and naturally you can imagine what you would feel at that time.

The Upaniṣhad gives a comparison. Just as a bullock cart which is heavily loaded with material, almost beyond its capacity, dragged by two powerful bulls, creaks and groans because it is heavily loaded and moves slowly and reluctantly because of the weight, somewhat in a similar manner this individual about to expire moves out of the body reluctantly like a heavily ladened cart, pulled by forces which belong to the other world, with creaks and groans caused by the weight of attachment that he still has to this world. That weight does not allow him to go freely. So he makes a kind of 'creaking' sound, as it were. There is difficulty in breathing, or hard breathing. The Prāṇas depart; they are about to leave the body. In sleep, the Prāṇas do not leave the body. Though the mind is withdrawn from the body, the Prāṇas are not withdrawn. So there is no death in sleep. Life is still present, though the mind is absent. But in the death condition, Prāṇas also are withdrawn. So, there is no connection between the subtle body and the physical body at the time of death. In sleep the connection is maintained, and so you return to waking life once again through this body only. But when the Prāṇas are withdrawn, the last connection that obtains between the subtle body and the physical body is snapped, and the two are separated. At that time of the separation of the Prāṇas from the physical body there is inordinate breathing. What kind of breathing it is will differ from person to person. When a person is about to depart, indications will be seen in the physical body as well as in the mind. The person becomes emaciated and weakened in every respect. When the soul, with the subtle body, is about to leave the physical body, several phenomena take place. The physical body shows a tendency to disintegrate, and the mind shows a reluctance to the maintenance of it. The senses become feeble and they refuse to energise the body, as they had been doing before. Simultaneously, another activity goes on in another atmosphere, in a very subtle and unconscious manner. There is a desire in the soul that departs, to materialise itself in another form. The subtle body accordingly, even before leaving the present body fully, begins to draw to itself the necessary material forces available to it at that particular spot or atmosphere where it can continue its activities and fulfil its desires which are yet unfulfilled.

  1. sa yatrāyam aṇimānaṁ nyeti, jarayā vopatapatā vāṇimānam nigacchati, tad yathāmraṁ vā udumbaraṁ vā pippalaṁ vā bandhanāt pramucyate, evam evāyam puruṣa ebhyo'ṅgebhyaḥ sampramucya punaḥ pratinyāyam pratiyony ādravati prāṇāyaiva.

The subtle body will be wrenched from every limb of the physical body. At present the subtle body has become one with the physical body, like fire getting one with a hot iron ball. If you throw an iron ball into the fire and make it red-hot, the two become one. You cannot know which is fire and which is iron. Likewise, the subtle body permeates the physical body and has got identified with the physical body. That is why we have sensation. If you touch a finger, you can feel the sensation; there is the feeling of touching. The feeling is not of the physical body; it is of the subtle body only, just as when you touch an iron ball which is hot, what burns you is not the iron ball but the fire. You can say that the iron ball has burnt my finger. But an iron ball does not burn. It is the fire that has become one with the ball that burns your finger. Likewise, the sensation that you feel in the body is not the sensation felt by the physical body. It is the sensation conveyed through the instrumentality of the physical body to the subtle body. So the feeler, the experiencer is the subtle body whose presiding deity is the mind. But, at the time of death, the subtle body is withdrawn. During life, it has become one with the physical body in every detail; it has become one with every cell of the body. It has become identified with every limb of the body – with the eyes, with the ears, with every sense-organ. When, at death, it is withdrawn from the physical body, it becomes a kind of painful experience, because it is not a natural separation. It is a separation caused on account of unfulfilled desires which the present physical body cannot fulfil. It is not a separation caused by exhaustion of desires. There is a difference between a dry leaf falling from a tree and a green leaf being plucked. The physical body is dropped, not because the desires have all been fulfilled, and there is no further need for a body, but because this body is unsuitable for the fulfilment of the remaining desires. And so, there is a handing over charge by one officer, as it were, to another one. The function is not finished, only the personality changes. After death also, there is a continuity of the same activity of the mind, but there is a little awkward feeling in the middle, when the physical body is dropped.

'The body becomes thin.' There is an experience of various ups and downs in the physical body at the time of death. As a fruit may be plucked from a tree, the subtle body is wrenched out of the physical body from every limb, from every cell, every sense, every organ, and it departs. It, the subtle body, then gravitates automatically by the law of the universe, to the spot where it can find its new habitation. The elements which are the building bricks of the new body, the future body, get collected by the force of the pull of this magnet, which is the subtle body. The subtle body is like a magnet which pulls the iron filings which are around. The iron filings are the elements – earth, water, fire, air, ether. The necessary part or aspect of the elements is pulled, dragged, withdrawn from Nature's storehouse and absorbed into its being by the subtle body. It does not absorb everything and anything, only that which is necessary. Individuals vary in their physical form and shape, etc. because their subtle bodies differ in their nature. According to the need felt, the quantity of material that is drawn varies in shape and proportion. So individuals differ, one from the other.

The entry into a new body is also a great mystery. It is a gradual condensation of material forces into solidified matter in the way in which it is necessary for the fulfilment of the desires present in the subtle body. And at that time, the Prāṇas that were withdrawn from the previous body are once again released into action. As in an airplane, when it takes off, the wheels are pulled up, and when it lands, the wheels are thrust back once again so that it may land on the ground, likewise the Prāṇas are withdrawn when there is a take-off from the physical body by the subtle body which runs like a plane to the new habitation which it has to go and occupy, and when it comes to the spot it projects the Prāṇas once again, and catching hold of the elements makes them its own in the form of a new physical body. These elements become the new body. That is called rebirth. The manifestation of a new physical form by the gravitational force of the subtle body, which is determined by the intensity of unfulfilled desires, is the process of rebirth.

The Upaniṣhad says, just as when a king leaves his palace and goes out on a journey, the news about his departure is conveyed to various parts of the country and the officials everywhere get ready to receive him with all the necessities such as boarding, lodging, security and various other needs of the king in that particular place towards which he is moving, likewise, the particular realm of beings, the particular atmosphere towards which the soul is gravitating, gets stirred up into activity because of its impending departure from here. "The king is coming. We have to make ready several amenities for his stay, etc." The officials confer among themselves and prepare the things that are required for his reception. Likewise, the forces of Nature begin to act in respect of this soul, which has to materialise itself in a new form, in the particular realm where it is going to take birth.

  1. tad yathā rājānam āyāntam ugrāḥ, pratyenasaḥ, sūtagrāmanyo’nnaiḥ pānair āvasathaiḥ pratikalpante: ayam āyāti, ayam āgacchatīti, evaṁ haivaṁ-vidaṁ sarvāṇi bhūtāni pratikalpante, idam brahmāyāti, idam āgacchatīti.

Now, the word used here is Bhūtāni, which has a double meaning. It can mean beings, or it can mean the elements. All beings get ready, as it were, to provide to this particular being that which is its requital, or the due that has to come to it from various quarters of creation. It is not merely a particular locality that becomes active. It is said that everything becomes active. Even the smallest event that takes place in the world cannot be said to be out of the vision of the world as a whole, because everything is subtly connected with purposes, intentions, etc. in respect of every other thing also. A philosopher has put it in his own way: "At the birth of every event the whole universe is in travail undergoing the birth pang." The whole universe begins to feel that some event is taking place, and so the necessary contributions are made from every quarter of the universe. Whatever attitude we developed in respect of things, that is paid back to us. That is the requital that is given to us.

The forces that work for the purpose of the materialisation of a new body for the individual that departs from the present body are stimulated by cosmic purposes. It is the whole universe that acts. You know very well, even if a thorn pricks the sole of the foot, it is not merely the foot or the particular locality of the body that becomes active for the purpose of removing that foreign matter from the body; the entire organism becomes active, even to remove one little thorn that has pricked the foot. It is something incredible, but the entire physiological system gets stirred up into activity for the purpose of expelling that foreigner which has entered into the foot. This sort of activity takes place for good or for bad, for positive or negative purposes, to receive something or to expel something. Whatever be the purpose or the nature of the work that is to be taken on hand, it is the entire organism that acts. So the Upaniṣhad states that there is a universal collaboration of forces which work in unison for the purpose of preparing the necessary atmosphere for this particular dying individual, which receives what it deserves.

What is it that happens after the new body is taken? What sort of body is acquired? What is the kind of experience through which one passes? All these, though they are difficult to understand, can be guessed, to some extent, from the nature of the life that we live in the present world. It is not a totally new atmosphere into which we are taken. It is merely a continuation of the present potentiality. If you know what the nature of the seed is, you can know what the nature of the tree will be that is to sprout from that particular seed. You cannot expect a mango tree to sprout up from a seed of thistles. Any person with a little common sense can understand the cumulative effect that is produced by one's total attitude to life throughout the period he spends in this world. If you exercise a little bit of intelligence, you can have an idea as to what sort of life you are leading. But the life that we are leading is not merely the activities in which we are engaging ourselves. It is also the general perspective of life which we are entertaining in our minds. This is what is going to affect us in the future birth. What you speak with your words and what you do with your hands, that is perhaps not so important. What is important is the general attitude towards things, the basic outlook which you entertain throughout your life. We have some opinion about things, about ourselves, about the world, about many other things. The natural deep-seated instincts and opinions that we have in our own selves, which propel our various types of demeanour and attitude in respect of things, materialise themselves into a form. This is the body that we take, so that we may say that the bodies into which we will be reborn are nothing but our own thoughts which concretise themselves into particular shapes. They are not bodies manufactured by somebody else. It is our own needs, our own feelings, our own desires which are deep-seated, that go to form the new body.

Even as the officials receive the king when he comes, they also gather around him when he departs. "Tomorrow the king is leaving." On hearing this, people get up early in the morning and are ready to give him a send-off, a farewell. Likewise, when the soul is about to depart from the body, all the energies in the system get gathered up. The distractions of the senses and the Prāṇas cease, and there is a sort of centralisation of all energy. The faculties of the ears, the nose and the various other senses together with the Prāṇas, centre themselves in a particular place. As people gather themselves in a hall, as it were, to give a send-off to a departing personage, as people from all places come together at one spot to give a send-off to a dignitary, likewise, there is a send-off, as it were, given to the departing soul. The Prāṇas do not work in the usual manner. They withdraw themselves from the limbs of the body, and the senses also withdraw themselves from the various organic parts. There is thus a centralisation of activity, and everything comes together like birds gathering in the evening for the purpose of resting in their own nests.

  1. tad yathā rājānam prayiyāsantam, ugrāḥ pratyenasaḥ, sūta-grāmanyo'bhisamāyanti, evam evaimam ātmānam, antakāle sarve prāṇa prāṇā abhisamāyanti, yatraitad ūrdhvocchvāsī bhavati.

There is then an urge to get expelled from this body. The subtle body wishes to get out of the physical body. That aperture through which it is to go out, gets opened up by the force it exerts, and the way in which the subtle body seeks exit from the physical body varies. They call this exit the departure of the Prāṇa, for the Prāṇa is the vehicle of the subtle body. The Prāṇa leaves the physical body. Through any one of the various orifices of the body, it may find its exit according to the nature of the destination that it has to reach. The energy of the eyes, etc. gets withdrawn, so that one cannot see properly at that time, one cannot hear properly, one cannot smell, one cannot taste, one cannot speak, one cannot think, one cannot understand, because these senses which were placed in various locations of the body for the purpose of discharging certain duties through the organs, have fulfilled their duties. The officials are withdrawn to the centre, as it were, because their work in the outlying areas is finished. This is what happens at the time when the soul departs from the body.