The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter IV

Fourth Brahmana: The Soul of the Unrealised After Death (Continued)

  1. yadaitam anupaśyati ātmānaṁ devam añjasā, īśānaṁ bhūta-bhavyasya, na tato vijugupsate.

This great life that you are aspiring for is not far off. It is not in a distant space. It can be visualised within yourself. It is an immediate presence to you. It is not an object which can be contacted through the senses, or the mind, or the intellect. It is not visualised as you visualise objects of sense. Such words are inapplicable here. Language cannot express the truth of this situation. It is not a perception; it is not an inference; it is not a vision in the ordinary sense. It is an enlightenment from within in respect of what is within you, namely, what you yourself are. 'And the moment this awakening takes place, you begin to visualise that which was past and future at one stroke.' Just as a miraculous surprise is sprung upon you, as it were, when you wake up from a tedious dream, you will be sprung a surprise when you wake up from this dream of the world. Suppose you are absorbed in a very painful dream, and seem to be undergoing much hardship in this dream, and then you wake up into the consciousness of this world which is true for you, which is totally different from the world of suffering in which you were in dream; what would that wonderful feeling be like? You will feel a sense of tremendous freedom and say, 'Oh, the tedious suffering has gone.' Such would be the great wonderment of the realised soul when this mind, which is limited to the mere hair's breadth of the present, cut off from the past and the future, is suddenly awakened to a blend of consciousness which knows all the past and future at one stroke – īśānaṁ bhūta-bhavyasya. You become at once one with all things in a similar manner as when you have awakened to a reality quite different from the hazy notions that you have had in dream. Then what happens? Na tato vijugupsate: 'You have nothing to ask for; you have nothing to fear from. Neither do you turn away from anything, nor do you ask for anything.' Everything is all right. Everything looks all right because everything was all right and shall be all right. It did not look all right in the middle on account of the maladjustment of your mind with the arrangement of things in the world. Your mind was turned out of tune from the universal arrangement of creation, and so you saw chaos everywhere, confusion everywhere, ugliness everywhere, error everywhere, injustice everywhere, suffering everywhere, and experienced death and rebirth. All this is the experience of that mind which has become out of tune with Reality. It is not that the mind is going to bring about a transformation of the nature of things, but what happens is a proper attunement or a proper coming in harmony of the mind with the arrangement of things already there. When God created the world, He never made a mistake. It is not true that we are going to improve upon His creation. Well, no one will really say that he is wiser than God. But what happens is that you become awakened to the consciousness of the harmony that exists between your way of thinking and the Will of God. Now everything looks chaotic because of the isolation of your will from the Divine Will, but when there is harmony of your will with the Divine Will, perfection and illumination results. Then in that grand condition you ask for nothing and 'shrink from nothing' – na tato vijugupsate.

  1. yasmād arvāk saṁvatsaraḥ ahobhiḥ parivartate, tad devā jyotiṣāṁ jyotiḥ āyur hopāsate’mṛtam.

Time is transcended here. Symbolically, the verse says: 'It is above the whole process of duration called time.' What you call year with all its days and nights which is the symbol of transciency, which is the indication of what you call time, above that this stands, which means to say it is transcendent to time, it is durationless eternity. It is not a movement in time, it is not a going to some place at some time. It is not some place because it is spaceless. It is not some time because it is timeless. Whatever be the stretch of your imagination, you cannot know what spacelessness is. You cannot also know what timelessness is, and therefore you cannot know what objectlessness is. The freedom of the mind from thinking in terms of space, time and objects is real freedom. But now we are caught into a compulsion of thinking only in terms of space, time and object. Who can be he, the best genius, imagining anything that is not in space, not in time and not an object! But freedom is that which is freedom from these three meshes. These are the Granthis, as they call it. These constitute the real bondage. So, It, so to say, puts down the whole process of time. 'This Reality is transcendent or above time' – yasmad arvak samvatsarah ahobhih parivartate.

Tad devā jyotiṣāṁ jyotiḥ āyur hopāsate'mṛtam: 'It is the Light of all lights.' The senses are a kind of light. When there is no eyesight, we say that there is no light. When the senses do not function, it looks as if there is no light in the world. You cannot hear; you cannot see; you cannot touch; you cannot taste. Well, it is then all a world of darkness. So when the senses function, it appears that there is light. But that is the Light of this light. You are able to see because of a Light which is different from the light of the eye, also in respect of the other senses, even the mind and the intellect. The gods which the mythologists speak of are nothing but the senses, the mind and the intellect, and they are the light for us. They are the guideposts; they are the indicators; they are our teachers; they are our masters. We act according to their injunctions. But this Reality, this Truth is beyond time and space and, therefore, beyond the senses. So, it is the 'Light of lights' – jyotisam jyotih. It is contemplated in a kind of meditation as eternal longevity. There are various meditations prescribed in the Upaniṣhads. These meditations are called Vidyās. All types of Vidyās are described in the Upaniṣhads, in the Chhāndogya and the Bṛhadāraṇyaka particularly. Here is one Vidyā, one method of meditation – contemplation on durationlessness, contemplation on timelessness. How is it possible? If it is at all possible, it is one type of meditation. Reality is not a process of time because it is not in space. It is not an object of the senses. It is therefore eternal longevity. Ayur means eternity and 'longevity of an endless character'. This is one kind of Upāsanā prescribed as 'meditation on the immortal essence which is timeless, durationlessness Being'.

  1. yasmin pañca pañca-janāḥ ākāśaś ca pratiṣthitaḥ, tam eva manya ātmānam, vidvān brahmā'mṛto'mṛtam.

'The five senses together with their objects are all located in this Reality.' They are not outside It, and It is not outside them. The Real that we are speaking of and are aspiring for is not only a transcendent presence. It is not even an immanent being. It is that which includes the external as well as the internal. 'The five senses which are our light, as well as their corresponding objects; earth, water, fire, air, ether, and everything that is constituted of these five elements; all these objects externally, and the senses which cognise or perceive the objects; the whole creation, as it were, is contained in an atom, you may say, in this vast expanse of Reality. This is the Self' – tam eva manya atmanam. So, the Self is not a little lamp that is shining in your own little physical heart. It is a universal conflagration and radiance which is not physical. This ātman that the Upaniṣhad speaks of is not your ātman, yourself or myself. It is not a grammatical self, as when we say, 'I, myself, have done it', or 'you, yourself, are responsible'. Such words of self are used in ordinary language. This is a very meagre apology for the real Self. The real Self is a container of even the vast creation. It is not merely an indicator as a light within the physical body of an individual. It is not a little candle flame shining in the darkness of your heart. It is universal resplendence, not merely light which illumines some other object like sunlight falling upon something else. It is not merely an ethereal light or a transparency. It is not merely an illumination which helps you to know something outside you. It is itself the light and the object, also. That is the Self. 'One who knows this becomes immortal.' He becomes Brahman, the Absolute – tam eva manya ātmānam, vidvān brahmā'mṛto'mṛtam.

  1. prāṇasya prāṇam uta cakṣuṣaś uta śrotrasya śrotram, manaso ye mano viduḥ, te nicikyur brahma purāṇam agryam.

It is the substance out of which everything that we are made of is made. It is the original of which we are duplicates, as it were. It is the archetype and we are merely the external symbols of it. Whatever we have within us – the Prāṇas, the senses, the mind, the intellect – are only feeble expressions of that Total Being which is the original, of which we are meagre parts. Sometimes it looks as if we are parts; sometimes it looks as it we are reflections. Either way, That is far superior. And, as a whole is not complete without a part, the part also cannot be peaceful without its relevance to the whole. So is this situation. Without us it is incomplete, and without it, we are incomplete. It is this Totality that we have to conceive in meditation as pranasya pranam. 'It is the Life of life, the Supreme Sense above all the senses, the Eye of the eyes, Light behind all the possible visions we can have through our eyes. It is the Ear of the ear (śrotrasya śrotram), and the Mind of the mind because it is the Cosmic Mind.' It is the Cosmic ocean of thought, of which we are like small drops. Our little thoughts, our little cognitions, our cogitations, our understandings and rationality are insignificant little invisible bubbles in the ocean of the radiance of Cosmic Being that is Cosmic Mind.

Manaso ye mano viduḥ, te nicikyur brahma purāṇam agryam: It is those who can comprehend this Truth in this capacity that can bring to light in their daily activity the vision of the Eternal, and live in this world as if they are living in the Eternal Itself. This very world, this world of Samsāra, becomes a radiance the moment you wake up from dream. When you wake from dream, you are not going to some other world. You are in the same spot, in the same place, and are the same person. Nothing has happened to you, but a sudden transfiguration has taken place in the way of thinking. That is awakening from dream. Likewise, in this very life, in this very existence, in this very world, at this very spot where you are sitting, this radiance of Eternity can be unravelled, provided the mind is transfigured by deep meditations as are prescribed in the Upaniṣhads.

It is explained now in more detail how the functions of the senses are inadequate for the purpose of the perception of Reality. The reason is that there is a compulsive activity on the part of the senses in the direction of diversity. A single mass of light is refracted and diversified when it is projected through a prism, but this diversity is mingled and comprehended together in the single mass of light. Originally, likewise, the single Reality is projected in a diversified manner when it is visualised through the senses. What the senses do is not to split Reality into pieces; they are not actually creating the diversity, but making it impossible for the mind to observe the Totality by abstraction of certain aspects of it from certain other aspects of it. Let us take the example of colours. There is no such thing as colour; it does not exist. What colour actually means is a particular abstraction of a character from the total capacity of sunlight to the exclusion of the other characters. When we perceive a green object, for instance, that particular object which appears to be green projects only that aspect of sunlight which we call green and excludes every other aspect. It cannot absorb into its body the whole capacity or force of sunlight. So it is with a particular sense-organ: the eye sees colours, but cannot hear sounds; the ears can hear sounds, but cannot see colours, and so on. The various senses perform independently, isolating characters, which are incapable of identification with their own functional capacities and making it appear as if their function is the only reality – e.g., a colourless world is incapable of perception. Thus, the total mass of Reality cannot really be apprehended at one stroke through the senses. Neither the eye can see, nor the ear can hear, nor the tactile sense can touch It. So, the Upaniṣhad says:

  1. manasaivānudraṣṭavyam, naiha nānāsti kiṁ cana: mṛtyoḥ sa mṛtyum āpnoti ya iha nāneva paśyati.

Manasaivānudraṣṭavyam: 'It is only through the purified mind that It can be comprehended' – not through the senses. Here, the word 'mind' has to be understood in its proper connotation. It is not the lower mind or the psychological function which acts in total dependence upon the senses that is indicated here. There is a particular aspect of our mind which functions only in relation to senses. There is nothing that we can think which we have not seen or heard or sensed in some other manner. Even if we stretch our imaginations to the farthest extent, we will see that the mind can conceive only in terms of colours, sounds, solidity, three-dimensions, etc. So, this is the lower mind which is merely the functionary in terms of a synthesising activity of the various reports received through the senses. The diversity of sense-perception is put together in a blend in the mind, and then the mind is able to feel the harmony or unity among the various sensations. So there is perceptive synthesis in the mind. The mind does not give us any new qualitative knowledge. This part of the mind does not give, in spite of its synthesis, a knowledge which is qualitatively superior to the sensory knowledge. It synthesises, no doubt; it brings together in harmony all the diversities of sense function, no doubt; in that sense it appears to be a higher agent, but it is only a quantitative superiority that it exercises over the senses, not a qualitative superiority. Qualitatively, it is the same. There is however one aspect of our mind which is called the higher mind. It is rather difficult to distinguish it from the lower one. Sometimes we call it pure or higher reason, Para Vidyā, as the Bhagavadgītā also puts it. With this pure reason – Manasa – we may grasp It. It can be grasped only through the intellect, not that intellect which is dependent upon the senses, but the pure intellect which can ratiocinate on the basis of the unity of things rather than the diversity of things, knowing that this diversity does not exist at all – naiha nānāsti kiṁ cana.

Manasaivānudraṣṭavyam, naiha nānāsti kiṁ cana: 'Inasmuch as the diversity is not there, really' – the senses are not the instruments, not the proper ones for the perception of Reality, as they always distort the vision. The idea of diversity is the cause of attachment to things. So you can now find out why we cling to things. It is because of our dependence upon the senses. Attraction and repulsion are both caused by dependence on sensory activity. Diversity is taken for the ultimate truth. The being that is projected through the senses as a target thereof, an object as we call it, is regarded as the sole reality as far as the senses are concerned, so that the particular sense which is after a particular object regards it as the sole reality. But it is not the sole reality, because it is vitally connected with other objects. The connection of one object with another is invisible to the eyes. It cannot be seen. There is a connection, for instance, between the various frequencies of radio waves; otherwise, they cannot travel through ether. Yet, they are different. They do not clash with one another. That they do not clash among one another means that there is a unity behind them. There is a basic uniformity of substratum upon which they travel which you call the ether. Likewise, there is a basic substratum underlying the diversity projected through the senses, but it is not seen. And because it is not seen, it is not believed, also. For the senses, the philosophy is 'seeing is believing'. When you cannot see a thing, it cannot be believed, it cannot be trusted. So, they follow this peculiar doctrine of believing only that which is seen or sensed, in some way or the other. Now, this is a very dangerous philosophy, inasmuch as it does not purport to present what is really there. The truth is that diversity is a false abstraction by the senses of certain characters of Reality to the exclusion of others. The Total Reality cannot be seen by the senses. That can be done only by a higher mind which can infer the existence of unity through diversity. How does the higher mind know that there is unity? Even the higher mind cannot actually cognise the presence of Reality, but it can infer its existence through a kind of logical induction and deduction. That is what we call philosophy. The entire system of metaphysics is a process of induction and deduction. You argue by certain premises that are given and you infer the existence of certain things, though they are not perceptible actually, physically, solidly. This is a very shrewd and tactful activity of the higher mind by which it concludes the existence of certain things which are ordinarily not capable of perception.

So, it is not possible to perceive Reality; it can only be inferred. And the inference can be so convincing, so firm in its being established as a final solution to the problem of diversity, that the mind can contemplate upon it. The philosophical inference is not a real perception. It is an activity of the mind alone. No doubt it is an activity of the higher mind, but it is not a realisation; it is not an experience. However it can be so mathematically precise, so scientifically perfect, that it can drive conviction into the mind, and where conviction is complete, the mind can go nowhere else. It can go to that alone. It is lack of conviction that makes us drift from one thing to another. But when the conviction is complete and it is founded well in one's own heart, in one's own feelings, then meditation follows automatically. 'If this cannot be achieved, one clings only to diversity; the achieved state is then of birth and death.' Mṛtyoḥ sa mṛtyum āpnoti ya iha nāneva paśyati: No one can escape birth and death; no one can be free from transmigratory metempsychosis as long as there is belief in the diversity of objects, because the conviction and the belief that there are really multitudinous objects in the world compels one to run after them. It is impossible for one to be free from one's longing for things which are seen with the eyes as real, because they are believed to be such on account of the incapacity of the lower mind to infer the existence of something which is underlying them. The conviction that diversity is true, ultimately, compels the mind to long for finitude. One takes finite objects as targets of experience and satisfaction. Finite things cannot satisfy the mind, because a finite object is hanging for its existence on certain other finite objects. There is an interconnectedness of things, but this is imperceptible to the senses. Relying on the truth of sensory perception, there is no satisfaction; the body is shed in a condition of mental dissatisfaction, and this unsatisfied condition of the mind during which the body is shed becomes the cause of rebirth for the satisfaction of unfulfilled desires. So it is the perception of diversity that leads to rebirth. The senses, therefore, are not the real guides of an individual in the comprehension of Reality. It is the higher mind, the higher reason alone, that should be taken here as our mentor.

  1. ekadhaivānudraṣtavyam etad aprameyaṁ dhruvam, virajaḥ para ākāśād aja ātmā mahān dhruvaḥ.

Ekadhaivānudraṣtavyam: The perception of Reality should be practised in our daily activity. It is not easy to do it because the senses are our friends, and not so the higher mind. Unfortunately, we never take the higher mind to be our friend in our daily activities. It rarely functions. Even if it tries to peep through, the activities of the senses overwhelm it. Like a mighty wave that dashes down all things that come before it, the sense activity puts down or stifles the activity of the higher mind, on account of the vehemence of attachment to things. But 'practice makes perfect'; so the adage goes. A daily attempt has to be put forth by everyone to see that the senses do not gain an upper hand, and that you do not trust the report of the senses too much because, as we have seen, they are bad friends. They are going to bind us one day or the other and throw us to hell. The higher mind has to be taken as our real guide and philosopher. The oneness of being is, therefore, to be practised as a regular routine in spite of the overwhelming vehemence of sense activity. It is like taking a bath in the tumultuous ocean, which is not particularly easy due to the waves that are constantly trying to press you into the bosom of the ocean. Likewise, the senses will not allow you to contemplate unity. Who can see unity? You open the eyes and see many things, many objects. The eyes are not the guides; the ears are not the guides; no particular sense-organ can be regarded as an instructor to us in the perception of Truth. In spite of the multitudinousness of variety that the senses present before us, a very piercing intelligence has to work behind them and 'the practice of the perception of the unity inferred in the background of this sensory diversity should be made a regular programme of daily life' – ekadhaivānudraṣtavyam.

Etad aprameyaṁ dhruvam, virajaḥ: It is eternal Reality, no doubt, but it is 'immeasurable' to the senses. However much you may strain your eyes, you cannot see it. Whatever be the instrument of observation that you use, it cannot be observed, because the subtlety of physical instruments is nowhere comparable to the subtlety of this Supreme object of quest of this goal of one's life. There is no instrument conceivable other than the mind. It is our superior mind only that is going to help us in convincing us of the nature of Truth. Any kind of activity, speaking or hearing, seeing or touching, tasting or smelling, whatever it be, is not the correct philosophical instructor for a seeker of Truth. The real instructor is the higher philosophical and logical reason which alone can tell us that there is an apprehension of a Being which is more profound than the finite objects which are presented by the senses. Though immeasurable to the senses, it is measurable by the higher intellect. 'It is free from the Rajas, or the character of distraction, which preponderates in the senses' – virajaḥ.

Para ākāśād aja ātmā: 'It is superior even to the extensiveness of space', and therefore we find it difficult to conceive even with the mind. The infinitude of the Supreme Being is inconceivable because it is far more infinite than even the conceptual infinite of spatiality that we think of in our minds. It is more difficult to conceive this unity for another reason also. It is the Self of all beings – ātman as well. First of all, the difficulty is due to the incapacity of the senses to apprehend its being. It cannot be seen. However much you may scratch your head, it is not there. By chance, if you do stumble upon it through the work of pure inductive reason, it is still difficult to make it a part of the daily meditation, because is not merely an infinitude of objectivity, but is the Self, also. It is hard for one to combine these two aspects; it is almost like a circus feat, a kind of acrobatics that you have to perform through the high reason. How is it possible to conceive, first of all, an endlessness of existence? And if it is practicable at all, it becomes even more difficult when it is identified with the Selfhood of beings. An endlessness of Being identified with the Selfhood of beings is hard to conceive. But that is the key to true meditation. 'This is the great Being, the eternal' – para ākāśād aja ātmā mahān dhruvaḥ.

  1. tam eva dhīro vijñāya prajñāṁ kurvīta brāmaṇaḥ nānudhyāyād bahūn śabdān, vāco viglāpanaṁ hi tat iti.

Here, like a mother, the scripture gives a piece of good advice. 'One should not read too much or speak too much. It is a waste of energy.' Though a little of study and education is necessary in the earlier stages, too much of bookishness is not going to help in the end, and not too much speech, also. One has to restrain the tongue, because through it energy is spent too much. Speaking too much, reading too much are not advantageous in the higher stages of spiritual practice. 'A heroic seeker, a bold aspirant, should take this alone as the goal of life, and should not divert his attention to objects which are finite in their nature.' Having understood the character of this Reality through the analytical reason, one should try to fix one's mind in this understanding. Practice should follow correct understanding. One should not be too eager to practice without proper understanding, because when understanding is incomplete, whatever be the practice, it will not be able to bring the required result. There is no use merely complaining, 'I have practiced and practiced and meditated and meditated for years and years, but nothing comes.' May be it is so, but it cannot yield the desired result because it is based on incorrect understanding of the nature of the object. There is a fundamental error on the part of the mind itself, which has not conceived of Reality properly. You are not able to absorb into your feeling the character of Reality in its completeness. And much time may have to be spent even in understanding what It is. Perhaps, the major part of one's life goes only in study and understanding the character of that which we are aiming at. Practice is not the difficulty; the difficulty is understanding. And so, the Upaniṣhad says: 'Having understood, you must strive for realisation.' Such is the nature of what the ancients call a Brāhmaṇa. Nānudhyāyād bahūn śabdān: 'Too much reading is not necessary.' Vāco viglāpanaṁ hi tat iti: 'It is a mere weariness of speech.'

   So, this is a practical advice, a serious admonition which the Fourth Chapter of the Upaniṣhad gives us as a kind of sequel to its main gospel. Now, we are coming to the close of this chapter, which winds up its teaching by pronouncing its great message. According to the renowned commentator Achārya Śankara, these little passages that follow are the essence of the whole Upaniṣhad. It is a pronouncement of a final judgment, as it were, which the Upaniṣhad gives as a quintessence of its teaching, the message of the whole of the Upaniṣhad. It is short, but very profound.

  1. sa vā eṣa mahān aja ātmā yo'yaṁ vijñānamayaḥ prāṇeṣu; ya eso'ntar-hṛdaya ākāśaḥ tasmin śete, sarvasya vaśī, sarvasyeśānaḥ, sarvasyādhipatiḥ; sa na sādhunā karmaṇā bhūyān no evāsādhunā kanīyān. eṣa sarveśvaraḥ, eṣa bhūtādhipatiḥ, eṣa bhūtapālaḥ. eṣa setur vidharaṇa eṣāṁ lokānām asambhedāya. tam etaṁ vedānuvacanena brāhmaṇā vividiṣanti,  yajñena, dānena, tapasānāśakena; etam eva viditvā munir bhavati, etam eva pravrājino lokam icchantaḥ pravrajanti. etadd ha sma vai tat pūrve vidvāṁsaḥ prajāṁ na kāmayante: kiṁ prajayā kariṣyāmaḥ; yeṣāṁ no'yam ātmāyaṁ loka iti. te ha sma putraiṣaṇāyāś ca vittaiśaṇāyāś ca lokaiṣaṇāyaś ca vyutthāya, atha bhikṣā-caryaṁ caranti; yā hy eva putraiṣaṇā sā vittaiṣaṇā, yā vittaiṣaṇā sā lokaiṣaṇā; ubhe hy ete eṣaṇe eva bhavataḥ sa eṣa neti nety ātmā; agṛhyaḥ, na hi gṛhyate; aśīryah, na hi śīryate; asaṅgaḥ, na hi sajyate; asito na vyathate, na riṣyati; etam u haivaite na tarata iti, ataḥ pāpam akaravam iti, ataḥ kalyāṇam akaravam iti; ubhe u haivaiṣa ete tarati, nainaṁ kṛtākṛte tapataḥ.

This is a longish passage, a single sentence, as it were, which tells us that the practice of spirituality is a double endeavour on the part of the individual to grasp something and renounce something at the same time. It is the renunciation of all finite attachments and a grasping of the nature of the unity of things, a blend of Vairāgya and ābhyāsa, renunciation and practice.

'This great Being, Mahan Aja, is the ātman, or the Self of beings.' Sa vā eṣa mahān aja ātmā: 'This immortal great Reality is the Self of all beings', a very interesting sentence. It is the great Reality; It is also the inner Self of all beings. You should not forget this aspect. It is not an extra-cosmic creator of the universe; it is not a transcendent God who is above our heads. It is at once the ātman, our very Being, our very Self, and the very Existence of all things. It is the immortal Being which is also the Self of things. Yo'yaṁ vijñānamayaḥ prāṇeṣu: 'It is manifested as the light in one's own intellect, in one's own reason, in one's own understanding. The little light that peeps through our intellect is this great Light of Being.' It is luminous in one's own heart as the deepest conscience. The heart that you speak of generally, the feeling that you speak of, the conscience that you speak of, is the Hṛdaya of the Upaniṣhad. It is cosmic in its nature. The little heart of yours which appears to be encased in the body is really cosmic in its nature. It is all-pervading. The little ether in the body is very much like the cosmic ether. The little space inside a small vessel is not distinguishable from the vast ether outside, as we all very well know. Likewise is this little peeping, twinkling consciousness – ether in our own hearts, indistinguishable from the consciousness ether of the Absolute outside. The comparison is very interesting and very apt, of course. The space within a little tumbler is indistinguishable from, not different from, the vast space outside. The distinction between the two is only apparent; it is not real. It is only the walls of the vessel that make us feel that there is a distinction between the space within and the space without. There is no such thing as space within and space without. It is an impartite all-comprehensive expanse. So is the consciousness which is the ether of our hearts. So, this ether of the heart within us, the little space within, which is twinkling with the light of intelligence in our own selves, is identical with the Universal Light.

Ya eso'ntar-hṛdaya ākāśaḥ: Here, in this little ether of ours is the Ruler of all, the great Master of beings, the great Creator, Preserver, Destroyer. The God of the universe is seated in the little heart of the human being also. Tasmin śete, sarvasya vaśī: 'The great Controller, who keeps everything under subjection and to whom everyone is obedient, including the sun, moon, stars and all creation; sarvasyeśānaḥ – the Master and the Ruler of all; sarvasyādhipatiḥ – the Overlord of all beings is within each one's heart.' You carry this great treasure within yourself and yet walk like a fool, like a beggar on the earth. This is a great message of the Upaniṣhad, very useful for deep meditation.

Sa na sādhunā karmaṇā bhūyān: 'This great Being within you is not going to be affected either by your good deeds or by your bad deeds.' It is unconcerned with what you do or what you think, just as the activities in this world are not going to affect the space, or the ether outside. Neither the fragrance of a scented stick nor the sharp edge of a knife are going to affect space. It is unconcerned with what is happening within it. Likewise, what you call virtue is not going to affect this great Being within. What you call evil, too, is not going to affect it, because 'it is uncontaminated Existence' – sa na sādhunā karmaṇā bhūyān no evāsādhunā kanīyān. Eṣa sarveśvaraḥ: 'This is the Overlord of all.' Esa bhutadhipatih: 'This is the king of all.' Eṣa bhūtapālaḥ: 'This is the Protector of all.'

Eṣa setur vidharaṇa eṣāṁ lokānām asambhedāya: 'This is like a bank or a bridge, as it were, to connect every apparent diversity in this creation.' The so-called diversity of things would have caused them to be scattered like particles of sand, hither and thither, without any interconnectedness among themselves but for the fact of the existence of this connecting link. How is it that you know that there is diversity? How can I be aware that many people are sitting in front of me if my consciousness is segregated? It is not segregated. It is indivisible. If I am also one of you, if my consciousness is just one particle, one individuality, I would not be able to even apprehend the existence of diversity. The consciousness of intelligence that apprehends a multitude or a variety is transcendent to this multitude. It is more comprehensive than the variety that is presented before it as objects. My consciousness should be as vast as this hall, otherwise I cannot know that the hall exists. My consciousness should be as vast as this entire space, otherwise I cannot know that space exists. My consciousness should be at least as extensive and expansive and comprehensive as the object that I apprehend with my mind. Otherwise, how is it possible for the mind to apprehend it? So, by inference in this manner, you can know your own greatness. You are not a little, tiny, insignificant person. You are a great being with tremendous capacity, and a huge maxim of force is hidden there in the hearts of you all. This Being is the connecting link behind all apparent diversity. The sun, the moon and the stars, and the variety of objects that are visible in this world, are all apprehended by this single Being. The system, the symmetry of action, the justice of creation, the methodology of action and the precision with which everything works in this world, is due to the fact of this Total Being bringing all of them together under its compass – Eṣa setur vidharaṇa eṣāṁ lokānām asambhedāya. If it were not to be there, the world would collapse in one second, just as when the government is not there, people fight among themselves. There would be chaos in one day. There would be a chaotic universe and it will not anymore be fit to be called a universe. It will be only a confusion, a mass, a medley of unknowable diversities. This does not happen on account of the existence of this Being who is indivisible. The indivisibility of the existence of this Being is the cause of the symmetrical existence and the precise activity of the diversity that is visible outside.

Tam etaṁ vedānuvacanena brāhmaṇā vividiṣanti: tam etaṁ vedānuvacanena brāhmaṇā vividiṣanti,: You cannot know this by mere reasoning also. There are many people who can argue, but they cannot understand, because the argument also has to be based on right premises. It should not be based on false premises. Logic is good if it is based on a proper foundation; otherwise, it becomes a dangerous weapon. You can establish anything through logic. You can prove and disprove, either way. It becomes a help only when it is based on right apprehension of premises that are acceptable. Now, this is a difficult task for the senses because they do not know what is proper, and they cannot have even the least idea of the right foundation or the right premise for the purpose of argument in the line of the assessment of the nature of Reality. Vedas are the true guide. They include the Upaniṣhads, also. They are supposed to be revelations of Masters who had direct experience of Reality. Tam etaṁ vedānuvacanena brāhmaṇā vividiṣanti: 'All seekers have tried to apprehend this Reality through the word of the Veda.' The Divine Word is the gospel to be followed, because it comprehends and describes such Truths as cannot be grasped through the senses or gross mind. The practice for the realisation of this Being is put in three small terms – yajñena, dānena, tapasānāśkena.

Yajña, Dana, Tapas – these three are the terms used in the Upaniṣhad. They also occur in the Bhagavadgītā. 'Yajño dānam tapas cai va pāvanāni maniṣinām', says Bhagavan Sri Kriṣhna in the Eighteenth Chapter of the Bhagavadgītā. 'You can renounce any other action, but you cannot renounce these three actions – Yajña, Dāna and Tapas.' Here the Upaniṣhad also says: 'By Yajña, Dāna and Tapas It has to be known.' Yajña is, in some way we may say, the duty that we have towards God. Dāna is the duty that we have towards the world and Tapas is the duty that we have towards our own selves. Yajña is the sacrifice of the self for the purpose of the realisation of the Absolute. Dāna is the charitable feeling that we have towards the people outside in the world, and Tapas is the austerity of the senses which has to be performed for our own selves in order to subjugate the passions which urge us to move towards the objects of sense. So service of God, world and soul are all three comprehended here in one gamut of expression by the terms Yajña, Dāna and Tapas. ānāśkena: A peculiarly difficult word is used here, ānāśaka, which perhaps indicates that the 'practice should be moderate and should not go to extremes of starvation and death'. You may at times practise such austerities that you may even kill yourself. Of what use is that? That is not the intention of the scripture; that is not the intention of the teacher. There should be a moderate approach to Reality, and the practice should be a golden means, not an extreme of any kind. 'There should be moderate activity, moderate enjoyment and moderate subjugation of the senses, ultimately ending in complete mastery' – yajñena, dānena, tapasānāśkena.

Etam eva viditvā munir bhavati: 'Having known this Supreme Being in this manner, by such practice meticulously conducted every day in one's own life, one becomes a sage, or a Master. You become a Yogin.' You become a great sage. A Muni is a sage. Etam eva pravrājino lokam icchantaḥ pravrajanti: 'Renunciates set aside all their attachments because of their aspiration for this great Being.' You must have heard of various types of monks and various orders of hermits in this world. Hermits exist in every religion. The order of hermits is indicative of a higher aspiration that is present in people. Why do they set aside their attachments? Why do they renounce things? Why do people become monks and nuns? Why do they go to monasteries? What is the reason behind all this? The reason is simple. The reason is an aspiration within to catch the Highest, and to achieve a freedom far above the clamour of attractions and repulsions of this world. For the purpose of the realisation of this great goal of life, people renounce things belonging to this world – etam eva pravrājino lokam icchantaḥ pravrajanti.

Etadd ha sma vai tat pūrve vidvāṁsaḥ prajāṁ na kāmayante: 'Because of this great aspiration within, ancient seekers renounced their attachments to the temporal values of this life.' There are many interesting things in this world, many things that attract us, many things that we regard as worthwhile. Great things do exist in this world also, but they are not great in comparison with this great Being. So, desire for even the highest values in this world are set aside, are renounced, are relinquished for the purpose of a greater achievement which is the realisation of Brahman, the Absolute. They had neither desire for children nor desire for wealth nor desire for fame. These are the three great desires of man. They renounced all these three for the sake of the achievement of a higher purpose – vidvāṁsaḥ prajāṁ na kāmayante.

Kiṁ prajayā kariṣyāmaḥ: 'What is the use of these acquirements which you call wealth and progeny, name and fame?' That which we can attain through these instruments of satisfaction, we can attain also through that which we ourselves are. We do not anymore require external instruments for our satisfaction. We ourselves are the instruments. We require external aids or tools for satisfaction as long as we act as agents or remain as independent individual subjects separated from the objects that we are asking for or looking for in this world. But, when we have become something which is superior to this dualistic existence of subject-object relationship in this world; when we have become the comprehensive ātman itself; when the object of aspiration has become part and parcel of our own daily life, why should we struggle hard to acquire these objects of sense? The senses ask for objects because they are outside the senses. They are unreachable by ordinary grasp, but if by an indescribable and an extraordinary type of practice one has succeeded in assimilating the existence of the object into one's own being, where comes the desire of the senses to grab them? Knowing this they renounced all longing for these temporal motives in life, keeping alive their desire for the realisation of the Self – kiṁ prajayā kariṣyāmaḥ.

Yeṣāṁ no'yam ātmāyaṁ loka iti: 'This world is a part and parcel of our life.' We do not live in the world anymore; we have become the world itself. It becomes a great satisfaction for one to know that the world has become an inseparable appendage of one's own existence. When we think, we think through the world; when we act, we act through the world; when we breathe, we breathe through the world. And so, the world that we are seeking through the activities of the senses has become inseparable from our existence, because the world has become the Self. Up to this time the self was only an individual subject that was running after the objects of the world. But now what has happened? The cart has turned upside down. The tables have turned. The object is not anymore a mere content in the world that is external to the individual subject. It is not a target of the senses anymore. That which was looked upon as a source of satisfaction to the senses has now become his very own, inseparable from his very existence. When such a realisation has come, where comes the occasion for ordinary desires?

  1. tad eṣa ṛcābhyuktam:
    eṣa nityo mahimā brāhmaṇasya na vardhate karmaṇā no kanīyān
    tasyaiva syāt pada-vit, taṁ viditvā na lipyate karmaṇā pāpakena,
    iti tasmād evaṁ-vit, śānto dānta uparatas titikṣuḥ samāhito bhūtvā,
    atmany evātmānam paśyati, sarvam ātmānam paśyati;
    nainam pāpmā tarati, sarvam pāpmānaṁ tarati;
    nainam pāpmā tapati, sarvam pāpmānaṁ tapati;
    vipāpo virajo’vicikitso brāhmaṇo bhavati; eṣa brahma-lokaḥ, samrāt;
    enam prāpitō’si iti hovāca yajñavalkyaḥ;
    so’ham bhagavate videhān  dadāmi, māṁ cāpi saha dāsyāyeti.

Tad eṣa ṛcābhyuktam: eṣa nityo mahimā brāhmaṇasya na vardhate karmaṇā no kanīyān: 'The greatness of the knower of Brahman does not increase or decrease by action done or action not done.' The question of good action or bad action does not arise in his case, just as there is no such thing as good and bad in nature as such. To the universe, there is neither good nor bad. And also to God, there is neither good nor bad. Anything that is directly or indirectly connected with the Supreme Being we think is good, and anything that falls short of this ideal we regard as erroneous. Now, the question of goodness and badness arises on account of the extent of self-affirmation involved in one's personal life. The greater the self-affirmation and body-consciousness, the greater the assertion of individuality; the greater the appropriation of meaning to oneself exclusive of the existence of other people, the greater the selfishness of existence characterised by what is called bad. And anything else which is morally bad, ethically bad, socially bad, communally bad, or politically bad follows automatically as a corollary from this central evil which is self-affirmation. All other evils are offspring of this self-assertion, meaning the affirmation of the ego as an exclusive principle, independent of connection with other individuals. Now, this sort of affirmation is abolished when knowledge of the Absolute dawns. There is affirmation, no doubt, but a universal affirmation. If you call it the ego, it is universal ego. There is a humorous anecdote in this connection. It appears, one of the disciples of Achārya Śankara came after bathing, but Śankara was inside the room and the door was bolted. The disciple knocked at the door, whereon Śankara asked from inside, "Who is there?" "I" was the answer. "Oh, either expand it to infinity or reduce it to zero," was the retort of Śankara from inside. This 'I', either expanded to infinity or reduced to zero, is good. But it should not be left midway. The essential trouble with all human beings, the trouble with every created being, is this mid-positioning of the ego.

The knower of Brahman is consciousness as such. It is difficult to define what we mean by a knowledge of Brahman. In common parlance we identify a knower of Brahman with a human being who has knowledge like a professor. A physics or chemistry professor is a human being who has a great learning in that subject. He is a learned man, yet he is still a human being. Likewise, we are likely to connect the appendage of knowledge as an accessory to the personality of the individual whom you call the knower of Brahman. The Upaniṣhads do not connote the meaning of the knower of Brahman in this sense. He is not a knower 'of' Brahman. Language does not permit us to put this truth in any other better manner but the fact is, it is not 'of' something. 'Brahma-vid brahma eva bhavati', is what another Upaniṣhad tells us. The knower of Brahman does not know Brahman as I know you or you know me, or X knows Y, etc. It is not an 'of' of something. The 'of' is a redundant particle that appears in the sentence. It is a consciousness that becomes suddenly aware of its own being; that is all. This is called knowledge of Brahman. So a Brāhmaṇa is a person, if you want to call him a person, becoming conscious of himself as a universal existence. Such a being who is not a human being, not even a person, is the supreme apex of impersonality, is the knower of Brahman. It is Brahman alone that knows Brahman. It is not I or you that know Brahman. It is God that knows God, not anyone else. So, in that case, of course, the question of Karma does not arise, much less the question of evil, good, bad, etc. So, the knower of Brahman, who has identified himself with the Cosmic Essence, who is called a Brāhmaṇa in the language of the Upaniṣhad, neither increases by good actions nor decreases by bad actions. If a beautiful fragrant breeze blows on your nose, the wind is not going to be credited for that. If a stink comes from the air, the latter is not going to be discredited for that, because it is not connected with any personal motive and it is not a person at all.

The relativity of things comes into relief when we consider the interconnectedness of all things, so that the placement of a particular value in its own context is what will enable us to know the truth of that particular thing. We always misjudge things on account of placing a thing in the wrong place. Where the nut is to be, there the nut has to be; it cannot be in the dining room. Where the belt is, there the belt has to be. You cannot hang it somewhere else, on your neck for example. It is hard for the individual knower to place things in their proper context because of this evil self-assertion. There is always a preconceived notion that 'I know everything' and everything should pass through the rut and the crucible of 'my' understanding. If this egoism vanishes and if we are good enough to accede and concede as much value to others as we are attributing to our own selves, considering others also equally subjects of knowledge as we ourselves are, then we would be giving due respect to people. The highest respect that you can pay to a person is to regard him as a subject and not an object of understanding and judgment. You are nobody to judge anybody, because you immediately convert a person into an object the moment you judge. It is a very ridiculous attitude that you adopt in respect of other people, because the reverse can take place and you may be judged in the same way as an object. When you consider everyone as an object, you are in Samsāra. That is called bondage. Everyone is an object. I am an object for you and you are an object for me. So, everyone is an object only. The whole world is filled with objects. The consideration of the whole world as a conglomeration of objects merely, and nothing more than objects, is called Samsāra, or bondage. But you can shift your emphasis to the subjectness of beings. Why should I regard myself as an object of you? Am I not a subject by myself, so also you? So, if everyone is a subject, there is only subjectivity everywhere. Look at the wonder. The moment you shift your emphasis of consideration, the very world of objects has become a world of subjects. That is called Mokṣha. So, in one and the same place there is bondage and liberation at one stroke, and in the same person you can see both object and subject, both friend and foe. Viewed as an object he is an enemy, and viewed as a subject he is a friend. This is the great point of view taken by the knower of Brahman. In his case no Karma arises, either good or bad, because these appellations are inappropriate in that supreme condition of a person – eṣa nityo mahimā brāhmaṇasya na vardhate karmaṇā no kanīyān – as he only sees subjects and no objects.

Tasyaiva syāt pada-vit, taṁ viditvā na lipyate karmaṇā pāpakena: 'Evil is unknown to him.' Just as there is no shadow in the sun, there cannot be sin or evil in God, and also in anyone who is God-conscious. One who has simply awakened himself to this knowledge becomes the being of knowledge itself. Hence, the question of Karma, evil, etc., does not arise there.

Iti tasmād evaṁ-vit, śānto dānta uparatas titikṣuḥ samāhito bhūtvā, atmany evātmānam paśyati: 'Such a person automatically becomes self-restrained.' We ordinary ones have to struggle hard to be virtuous, and have to put forth great effort to see that we are not committing any error. Virtue becomes a Sādhana or a means of purification for us. But in the case of a knower it becomes an effulgence emanating from his body. You cannot say that the light of the sun is an effort put forth by the sun. It is a spontaneous emanation. So, what is an effort, an enforced practice of virtue on the part of an initiate or a beginner, is the spontaneous nature of the knower of the Absolute. 'Such a person is tranquil' at all times because of the unruffled condition of consciousness being free from Rajas and Tamas-Shānta. 'Automatically the senses converge into the mind and the intellect' and the Supreme Mahat, a Dānta. Uparata – is 'free from all distractive activity which is directed usually for ulterior motive'. Titikṣuh – is 'able to bear anything' because he has no good or bad, right or wrong. Everything becomes correlated to each other, and therefore, he has nothing to say, either positively or negatively, in respect of anything. He neither says, 'Yes! He is good', nor does he say, 'No! He is bad'. Neither of these statements will come from his mouth because he is Sāmahita – 'He is one-pointed, concentrated in the essence of Being.' And, what does he visualise? 'He sees himself in himself', nothing else. He does not see people; he does not see the world; he sees himself in himself. Now, does it mean that he sees only the personal self? This misconception may arise in the mind of an untutored student of the Upaniṣhad. Atmany evātmānam paśyati: Does it mean that he is an introvert in the psychoanalytical sense, closing his eyes and looking upon himself and enjoying his own personality, engrossed in his physical body? Is this the meaning of knowing oneself and beholding one's own self in one's own self? No! It is corrected by the subsequent statement – sarvam ātmānam paśyati. 'He sees the Self in everything', not looking at himself only as the Self but looking at everything as the Self. This is what I mentioned already as the subjectivity of the universe being revealed to the consciousness of the person who has known Brahman – sarvam ātmānam paśyati.

Nainam pāpmā tapati: 'No evil can cross over him' because it does not really exist. How can it then touch him? How can the shadow touch the sun who is so bright and hot? Sarvam papmanam tarati: 'He crosses over all that you call evil and untrue in the world.' Nainam pāpmā tapati: 'No evil can burn him.' Sarvam pāpmānaṁ tapati: 'He burns all sins.' Vipāpo – 'Free from evil of every consideration.' Virajo – 'Free from distraction of every kind.' Vicikitso – 'Free from doubt of every kind.' Brāhmaṇo bhavati – 'He becomes the knower of the Absolute, the Supreme Knower of Brahman.'

Eṣa brahma-lokaḥ, samrāt: "Janaka! This is the goal that you have to reach," says Sage Yājñavalkya. This is Brahma-loka, the world of Brahma. It does not mean some distant world of Brahma; it means the world itself is Brahma. The universal itself is the Absolute. "This realisation is the goal of your life, O Emperor Janaka. This is the final message for you," instructs Sage Yājñavalkya. You can imagine the joy of the disciple, the glorious student. He was just overwhelmed at having received this knowledge of the consummation of being. Samrāt enam prāpitō'si: "I have taken you to this goal and I have done my duty," says the Guru to the disciple – Iti hovāca yajñavalkyaḥ. So'ham bhagavate videhān  dadāmi: Previously he (Janaka) used to say, "I give you a thousand cows." Now he says, "I give you the whole kingdom and I am here as your servant. Use me as you like." Videhān dadāmi, māṁ cāpi saha dāsyāyeti: What else can he offer? "The whole kingdom is at your feet, Master, and I am at your service as your servant. Now nothing else can be offered to you in return for this great wisdom that you have imparted to me."

  1. sa vā eṣa mahān aja ātmā, annādo vasu-dānaḥ; vindate vasu ya evaṁ veda.

'This great ātman is immortal.' 'This ātman' refers to the great ātman, not your individual localised bodily ātman. We are not referring to the Jīvātman. It is not the you or the I that we are speaking of. It is the Selfhood of the entire creation we talk of. That great Being, Mahatatva, the Supreme Being, Cosmic Intelligence – that is the real ātman that we are speaking of. 'It is the eater of everything' – annādah. 'It is the consumer of all objects.' Every object is connected with it as inseparable from its own Being. It is not like a son connected with a father, or a subordinate connected with a boss, or a servant connected with a master. It is not such a loose connection of object with subject. It is an inseparable organic oneness of 'Being as such'. Such is the unity of subject and object in that great ātman. As the objects are inseparably involved in the Being of the Subject, it is supposed to be the great consumer of all things. Vasu-dānaḥ: 'It is the Being which dispenses the highest justice and commands the due reward of actions to follow in accordance with their own intensity and direction.'

'Whoever knows this Truth also becomes like that.' Vindate vasu ya evam veda: You will also be a Master of this kind; you will be as great as this Mahat ātman; you will be an enjoyer of all things; you will not be a poverty-stricken beggar or a hermit wandering from place to place in search of God, once you know this. You have already found Him. Why do you wander like a hermit anymore? You are as great as He and your glory is as great as His glory. Vasu ya evaṁ veda: 'One who knows' knows in the real sense of the term. Here in the Upaniṣhad, knowledge is being. You must never forget this truth. Knowledge does not mean knowledge of something. It is knowledge itself which is the being of everything.

  1. sa vā eṣa mahān aja ajātmā, ajaro amaro'mṛto'bhayo brahma; abhayaṁ vai brahma, abhayaṁ hi vai brahma bhavati ya evaṁ veda.

'This great Being, this great ātman is unborn. It is not caused by anything, and therefore it cannot be destroyed.' It has no birth and, therefore, it has no death. 'It is immortal. Fearlessness is Brahman' because there is no second to it. Where there is another external to you, there is fear from that being. Fearlessness is the state of the Absolute because next to it nothing is, second to it nothing exists – abhayaṁ vai brahma, abhayaṁ hi vai brahma: What is Brahman? 'Fearlessness is Brahman' because it is Oneness and, therefore, it is fearlessness. Abhayaṁ hi vai brahma bhavati ya evaṁ veda.: 'You become that fearless existence the moment you know That to be identical with your own existence.'

Fifth Brahmana: The Supreme Self and the Supreme Love

This, the last verse of the preceding Brāhmaṇa, is the message of the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣhad finally, but the Fourth Chapter does not end with this recitation. It goes on further, repeating once again the great conversation that took place between sage Yājñavalkya and his consort, Maitreyī. We have already covered that section, which is only repeated here again. Achārya Śankara, the commentator, gives the reason as to why it is repeated literally, word for word. He says that this is the system of logical induction. There is a proposition; there is an argument and there is a conclusion. The proposition was the great teaching of Yājñavalkya to Maitreyī, and it was substantiated by arguments of various kinds. The arguments were studied in the form of conversations in the preceding sections. Now we are coming to the conclusion that the proposition is correct. So once again the author is repeating the same thing, to bring to mind the original proposition, the teaching of Yājñavalkya to Maitreyī, where he explained that all love was love of God. All love is love of Self; all love is love of the Absolute, and there is no love other than that. Even the affection that you have for a cat or a dog is nothing but the Supreme Being calling you, summoning you in some fraction, in some manner. So, all love is divine. There is no such thing as undivine love if you properly understand from where it comes, why it is directed and what it is that summons. Finally, Yājñavalkya sums up his teaching to Maitreyī, saying that in the state of liberation there is no externality consciousness; there is no objectivity of any kind; there is nothing to be seen or sensed or understood or thought, because of the fact that all beings are consumed in its own Existence. Having given this final teaching, Yājñavalkya leaves home and goes for higher meditations.

We do not propose to expatiate on this subject because we have already covered it earlier. The Sixth Section merely names the successive sages who taught this scripture. So, here we conclude the Fourth Chapter of the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣhad. The philosophical, the mystical and the metaphysical sections are over.