The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter V

First Brahmana: Brahman the Inexhaustible

Now we come to the Fifth Chapter, which is replete with certain contemplations, Upāsanās, Vidyās, or meditations that will help us in conceiving Brahman for the purpose of higher practice. The Śānti-Mantra – Om purānaṁ adaḥ, etc. – is the initial invocation of this chapter.

  1. purāṇam adaḥ, pūrṇam idam, pūrṇāt pūrṇam udacyate
    pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya pūrṇam evāvaśiṣyate.
    aum kham brahma, kham pūrṇam, vāyuraṁ kham,
    iti ha smāha kauravyāyaṇī-putraḥ, vedo'yam brāhmaṇā viduḥ;
    vedainena yad veditavyam.

Om purāṇam adaḥ, pūrṇam idam, pūrṇāt pūrṇam udacyate pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya pūrṇam evāvaśiṣyate: 'The great fullness or plenum is Brahman' – the Absolute. From fullness, nothing that is not full can come. So, 'what comes from fullness is fullness only'. Now, this word fullness is used in different senses. How is it that what comes out of the fullness is also fullness? Because in the microcosm, the macrocosm is reflected. You can see in the pore of a single sand particle of the beach the whole cosmos vibrating if your eyes are penetrating enough. The entire universe is reflected in every particle of sand, every grain of matter and every atom of existence, even as in every cell of the body the whole personality can be seen. Physiologists and biologists will tell us that to understand a human being you have only to take one cell of the body and that will tell you what the person is biologically. Likewise, a little particle, our so-called finite existence, the effect that follows in the process of creation, is not really an effect in the form of a diminution of the glory of the cosmos, but the cosmos reflected wholly in it. The whole is present in the effect also in a mysterious manner which is inscrutable to the ordinary mind of the human being. You can study any individual and you would have studied the whole universe. Everything that can be seen in God can be seen in this world also. Whatever is in Vaikuntha or Kailaśa or Brahma-loka, can be seen inside this very lecture hall. But you can only see it with the proper apparatus, that is all. Whatever is anywhere, is everywhere, and whatever is everywhere, is anywhere.

Pūrṇam idam, pūrṇāt pūrṇam udacyate: 'That is full; this is full.' What was the cause? That is the full. And what is the effect? That is also the full. 'And from the full the full has come' – the full effect has come from the full cause. When something is taken from something else, generally there is a shortage on the part of that from which you have taken it. You know very well that if from ten quintals you take five quintals, only five quintals remain there. But it is not so here. When the universe has come out of the Absolute, there is no diminution in the content of the Absolute. This is a mysterious emanation indeed. Even when the rays of the sun emanate from the sun, there is combustion going on and a kind of diminution of the intensity of the heat of the sun, physically speaking. But in this case nothing changes and there is no diminution whatsoever. The content is as full as it was, as it is, as it will be. So, pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya: 'After having taken away, or after the coming out of the effect from the Supreme Cause, what remains is full only.' This is another way of symbolically telling you that nothing has happened; no creation has taken place, it only appears as if it has to the blinded eyes of ignorant individuals – pūrṇam ādāya pūrṇam evāvaśiṣyate.

Now, after having given this symbolic message of the fullness of Brahman and the way of contemplation, a further elucidation of the same subject is taken up for consideration. The first Mantra – aum pūrṇam ādāya – also is a passage intended for meditation. This is a Vidyā by itself. It is a method of Upāsanā. How is one to contemplate the Supreme Being as the completeness, the felicity, the plenum, the Bhūma, the Absolute, the Pūrṇa? The answer follows. When you contemplate Brahman, you cannot conceive of it as anything other than completeness. Pūrṇam brahma: Because it is full, it is called Brahman. Anything that is apparently outside it would be naturally included within it, because anything that has something outside it cannot be called full. So, when you designate the Supreme Being as full, naturally you have to include everything within it. In the earlier stages one would, of course, exclude oneself from that contemplation because one cannot imagine oneself as also included in it. One has to bring together everything in creation into a completeness or wholeness of concept in the meditation of the Absolute as all-in-all. That is the first stage of meditation on Brahman. Later on, one must also concede that when everybody has been included there, why not yourself also? How can you alone stand outside as a privileged individual? You also go into it. Then who contemplates Brahman? The answer must come from you only. This is the highest meditation which this Mantra – purāṇam adaḥ, pūrṇam idam – tells you.

Aum kham brahma: Another Upāsanā is given to you. You can meditate on Brahman in another way. If you cannot conceive this kind of all-pervasiveness and totality of existence at one stroke, with the power of your understanding, you have got space, the vast space to meditate on. Think of space – how vast it is, how big it is, where does it end and so on. You can close your eyes for a few minutes, or even open your eyes, and look at that vast expanse and see the glory of this unbounded something we call space. Where does it end? However far you may travel, you will not know where it ends. Everything is contained within it, but it is not contaminated by anything that it contains. Now to go further, one teacher tells us that the space referred to here is the Ether of consciousness. It is the Ancient One, Pūrṇam, not the ordinary one. Aum kham brahma, kham pūrṇam: 'The ether or the sky of consciousness it is that is referred to when we speak of space as Brahman'. Consciousness is like space because it is unlimited. It is lit up by the illumination that is within its own being. Can you conceive of consciousness as vast as space, like space everywhere, uniform, homogeneous, ubiquitous? Well, such is consciousness, such is my essential nature; that is the nature also of the Absolute. Can you conceive this ether of consciousness as present everywhere? The ether everywhere and the ether within an empty pot are one and the same. Likewise the ether of consciousness, which is the Absolute, is also the ether of conciousness within me, the so-called individual. Thus, contemplation on the ether of consciousness is veritably contemplation on the Supreme Being.

Another teacher says, why go so far? Even this ordinary space will do for you. Vāyuraṁ kham: This space which is filled with air, that also can suffice for the purpose of meditation. You need not stretch your imagination to the ether of consciousness which is rather difficult for you to imagine. Contemplate on this physical space. How far is it, how long, how wide, how deep and what does it contain, etc.? This space, you know, is the cause of all the elements. This earth can be dissolved in water, water can be dried up by fire, fire can be extinguished by air and air can be absorbed into space, so that the whole solidified earth and all this glory that you call this world will go into air and ether when involution takes place. Even modern scientific discoveries confirm this. It is only space and time that exists, not solid objects, they say. So space, even physically conceived, is a great thing. Why go as far as the ether of consciousness which is far superior? So, vāyuraṁ kham, this Kham, or ākāśa, or the space which is filled with air, the physical one, even that itself is enough for you as a symbol for meditation on the Supreme Being. Everything is space. Everything is space and time interconnected, with nothing outside whatsoever. So, because physical space is visible to us and it is easy for us to conceive it, one teacher, the son of Kauravyayani, tells us to take this as the symbol. Otherwise you may meditate on the ether of consciousness, or still better on Om purāṇam adaḥ, pūrṇam idam. Whatever is suitable to your present condition of mind, that you may take as the symbol, as the instrument for meditation.

Aum kham brahma, kham pūrṇam, vāyuraṁ kham, iti ha smāha kauravyāyaṇī-putraḥ: 'The son of Kauravyayani tells us that physical space can also be taken as a symbol.' Vedo'yam brāhmaṇā viduḥ: This is the highest Veda. What is Veda? It is knowledge supreme; and what knowledge can be superior to this knowledge! What knowledge can be higher than this great knowledge where you are told everything that has to be told? So, this little passage here is identified with Veda itself. Vedo'yam brahmana viduh: 'The great knowers have declared this itself as the Veda.' Om is the Veda. Eka eva purā vedah praṇava sarva-vangmāyah, says the Bhagavat Purāna. 'In the beginning there were no Vedas as such. Only Praṇava existed. Om or Praṇava was the Veda. Afterwards there was a split of the constituents of the Praṇava into syllables, then the Pādas of Gāyatrī, then the Puruṣha-Sūkta and finally the three Vedas, the huge tomes that you see today as the Ṛg Veda, Yajur Veda, and Sāma Veda. They are all contained like the branches of a huge tree inside this small seed which is Praṇava, or Om. So, Om is all,' says this passage of the Upaniṣhad. It is the Veda itself, and all the Vedas have come from this seed Om. Vedo'yam brāhmaṇa viduḥ: 'All the knowers have declared Om as the Veda itself.' Vedainena yad veditavyam: 'Whatever is to be known can be known through this.' If you have understood this, you will understand everything else, because when you have been given the theorem, the corollary necessarily follows.

This very short section consisting of only one invocatory Mantra and one instructive passage completes the first Brāhmaṇa of the Fifth Chapter. Then follow very short sections which, however, are full of deep meaning.

The Upaniṣhad now goes into a little more detail, bearing in view that these above meditations are very difficult and that they are not meant for everyone. Intellectually, one can grasp their significance, but the heart will not accept it easily. The feelings are repelled by the very thought of this Totality, Completeness, Being, etc., because the senses are very violent. They are not going to leave you so easily. Whatever be your understanding capacity, the senses also have some capacity, and they try their might to the last. Even at the hour of doom they will not leave you. The Upaniṣhad knows this. The teachers of the Upaniṣhad are compassionate and they tell us that there are some ways of subduing these opposing forces which prevent us from understanding the Truth and contemplating on it.

There are three great evils, if at all you can call them evils, that are the oppositions to contemplation. They prevent you from conceiving Totality and insist on particularity. When these forces begin to work, a complete thought of anything cannot arise. You will only see partial appearances. Even if you look at a thing, you will not see the whole of that thing. You will see only some aspect of that thing. When a gold necklace is seen, for example, it will be seen by various individuals differently. For a person who wants jewels, it is an ornament. There is only beauty and jewellery there for him or her. For a goldsmith, it is only the weight of gold that is the value. For an animal, say a monkey, it has no meaning because he does not know it's worth. So, from one's own point of view, things can be looked at differently. It can be mine, then it is very dear, beautiful, very necessary. If it is not mine, it is wretched, useless, 'let it go', you say. Let it go anywhere, nobody cares. So, if it is mine, it is very nice; if it is not mine, it is not nice. How can one thing be both? When it is mine, then it is not yours. For you it is not good, but for me it is good. So, various troubles arise in our minds when we look at things as particulars, as individuals isolated from the whole. These are called Kāma, Krodha, Lobha-desire, anger and greed. They will not allow us to think of totals. They only want particulars, because when completeness is there, they cannot work. They 'walk out' of Parliament! They cannot stand there. So, they insist that particularity be there; that finitude is there; that individuality is the only reality. If such a vehement assertion is made by these forces within us, how can the poor understanding, the reason or intellect function at all? So, the Upaniṣhad says that it is better to pay the devil its due at the start, before ascending to higher pedestals. If you are completely under the subjection of these lower forces, it is not possible to suddenly rise to the level of meditation on Brahman. In the beginning you must find out as to what extent you are under the thumb of these forces. If they are only lightly interfering with your practice, you can intelligently tackle them by a judicious manner, by rationality, philosophical investigation, etc. But if they are very violent, then you have to employ various suitable ways. In connection with this, there is a short anecdote, which we will consider in the Second Brāhmaṇa of this chapter and which will give us an idea as to how to subjugate these big three!

Second Brahmana: The Three Principal Virtues

  1. trayāḥ  prājāpatyāḥ prājapatau pitari brahma-caryam ūṣuḥ, devā manuṣyā asurāḥ, uṣitvā brahmacaryaṁ devā ūcuh; bravītu no bhavān iti; tebhyo haitad akṣaram uvāca; da iti, vyajñāsiṣṭā iti; vyajñāsiṣma iti hocuḥ, dāmyata, iti na āttheti, aum iti hovāca, vyajñāsiṣṭeti.

Trayāḥ  prājāpatyāḥ prājapatau pitari brahma-caryam ūṣuḥ, devā manuṣyā asurāḥ, uṣitvā brahmacaryaṁ devā ūcuh; bravītu no bhavān iti: On one occasion the gods, the human beings and the demons all observed self-restraint, Brahmacharya, Tapasya and austerity for the sake of gaining knowledge from the Creator. Having observed great austerity they went to Brahma, the Creator Himself, and said, "Give us instruction." Who went? Three groups. One group of the celestials, the gods, denizens of Indra-loka, paradise, who enjoy all sorts of pleasures, second the men of this earth plane, and third the demons, extremely cruel in their nature. To the gods he said, "I give you instruction. Listen! Da." He said but one word, "Da". "Do you understand what I say?" "Yes, we understand." "Very good! So, follow this instruction." Then he looked to the human beings, "Do you want instruction from me?" "Yes!" "Da," he said again. "Do you follow what I say?" "Yes, we understand." "Very good! Now go and follow this instruction." Then the demons were called and he said "Da" to the demons also, and the demons, like the others said, "Yes, we have understood what it is." "Go and follow this instruction." To all the three he told the same thing, but the meaning was taken differently by the different groups. "Da, Da, Da," he said. That is all he spoke.

The celestials, the people in paradise, are supposed to be revelling in pleasures of sense. They are fond of enjoyment. There is no old age there. There is no sweating, no toiling, no hunger, no thirst, no drowsiness and nothing untoward as in this world. It is all pleasure and pleasure, honey flowing everywhere in paradise. They are addicted to too much enjoyment. So the instruction to those people was Da-'Dāmyata'. In Sanskrit Dāmyata means, restrain yourself. Dāmyata comes from the word Dam, to restrain. Subdue your senses. Do not go too much in the direction of the enjoyment of the senses. That was 'Da' to the celestials. Kama is to be controlled by self-restraint.

Human beings are greedy. They want to grab everything. Hoarding is their basic nature. "I want a lot of money"; "I have got a lot of land and property"; "I want to keep it with myself"; "I do not want to give anything to anybody". This is how they think. So, to them 'Da' meant Datta – 'give in charity'. Do not keep with you more than what you need. Do not take what you have not given. Do not appropriate what does not belong to you. All these are implied in the statement – be charitable. Charitable not only in material giving but also in disposition, in feeling, in understanding and in feeling the feelings of others. So, to the human beings this was the instruction – Datta, give, because they are not prepared to give. They always want to keep. Greed is to be controlled by charity.

And to the demons, who are very cruel, who always insult, injure and harm other people 'Da' meant Dayadhvam – be merciful to others. The third 'Da' means Dayadhvam – be merciful. Do not be cruel and hard-hearted. Demons are hard-hearted people. They eat, swallow, destroy and demolish everything. Anger is to be controlled by mercy.

So, these three letters Da, Da, Da instructed three types of individuals in three different ways. All instructions were conveyed by a single word only; a single letter, but the meaning was conveyed properly to the individual groups concerned. Wear the cap that fits – tebhyo haitad akṣaram uvāca; da iti, vyajñāsiṣṭā iti; vyajñāsiṣma iti hocuḥ, dāmyata, iti na āttheti, aum iti hovāca, vyajñāsiṣṭeti.

  1. atha hainam manuṣyā ūcuh: bravītu no bhavān iti; tebhyo haitad evākṣaram uvāca; da iti; vyajñāsiṣṭā iti, vyajñāsiṣma iti hocuḥ, datta iti na āttheti; aum iti hovāca vyajñāsiṣṭeti.
  2. atha hainam asurā ūcuḥ, bravītu no bhavān iti; tebhyo haitad evākṣaram uvāca; da iti, vyajñāsiṣṭā iti, vyajñāsiṣma iti hocuḥ, dayadhvam iti na āttheti, aum iti hovāca vyajñāsiṣṭeti. tad etad evaiṣā daivī vāg anuvadati stanayitnuḥda-da, da, iti,  damyata, datta, dayadhvam iti. tad etat trayaṁ śikṣet, damam, dānam, dayām iti.

These are the three great injunctions given by Prajāpati, the Creator, to three types of people. If this instruction can be followed in its spirit, then the desire, greed and anger of the personality can be sublimated by self-restraint, charity and mercy respectively.

This instruction, which was communicated to the Devas, Manushyās and Asuras – gods, men and demons – by the single letter Da repeated three times, meaning Dāmyata, Datta, Dayadhvam – be self-controlled, be charitable and be compassionate, is applicable to all mankind. This is like a thunder of teaching. Stanayitnuḥ: A 'roaring sound'. This message of Prajāpati is not merely an ancient one; it is an eternal one. This is what the Upaniṣhad tries to make out because it was not intended for only a particular time in creation, but is a teaching for everyone. Evaiṣā daivī vāg anuvadati stanayitnuḥda – da, da, iti, damyata, datta, dayadhvam iti. tad etat trayaṁ śikṣet, damam, dānam, dayām iti: 'This is a Divine teaching, a supernatural message.' Daivi vag anuvadati: 'Like a thunder coming from the clouds in the sky.' Like the thunderclap you hear during the monsoon, this thunderclap of message comes from God Himself, as it were, in the form of a mere sound 'Da' repeated several times. In fact, all instruction is comprehended in this teaching. That is why so much importance has been given to it in the Upaniṣhad.

Let us study further the three difficulties mentioned earlier, which have to be overcome before one realises the aim of one's perfection. The difficulties are the limitations of one's own personality. There are a variety of limitations and many permutations and combinations of these. But they all fall broadly into three major groups. The urge of the mind to go towards objects – this is one difficulty. The mind is always so engrossed in things that it cannot find time to think of itself. The mind has no time to think of itself. All its time is taken away by objects. This is a great problem before us. There is not one who can escape this difficulty. We always think of something or the other, but never our own thought. Thought is always directed towards something else. This urge of the mind towards an object outside is prevented from working havoc by the practice of self-retraint. Self-restraint is nothing but the withdrawal of the mind from its impetuous movement towards objects outside. The mind runs towards external things for reasons multifarious. It is not for a single reason that the mind goes towards objects. It has different reasons at different times, and different objects call for its attention under different circumstances. So the urge of the mind, the impulse of the mind, the force of the mind towards external objects, the inclination of the individual towards anything that is outside, like the inclination of the river towards the ocean, is a problem and that too a very serious one. Because of this externalising impulse of the mind, the attempt at universalisation miserably fails. When there is an urge for externalisation, how can there be universalisation! The universal impulse is the outcome of a sublimation of the other impulses, whether they be outgoing or ingoing. So the outgoing impulse of the mind, which is called desire in ordinary language, is a psychological urge felt from within for external things. It need not necessarily be an unholy desire; it can also be a so-called holy desire; it can be anything for the matter of that; it can be very pious in its intention, very religious in its motive, but it is all the same an externalised urge and it can be a counterblast to your aspiration for the universal. As unholy things bind, so holy things can also bind if they are not in consonance with the ultimate aspiration for Universal Being. This powerful expression of finitude of our nature known as desire can be held in check by self-restraint, as indicated by the teaching Dama implied in the first 'Da'.

The second difficulty with us is the desire to appropriate things. Greed is ingrained in everyone's mind. It is not merely the trader, the miser, or the shopkeeper who is greedy. Greed can take a very subtle form. A desire to keep everything is a form of greed. "It is a very beautiful thing made in Bavaria; I would like to have it." Why do you like it? Well, it is a tendency. Anything you see anywhere, you want to appropriate and keep; not that they are necessary. So greed is a kind of urge of the mind towards appropriation of things which are not really necessary for the maintenance of one's life. If they are absolutely essential for the maintenance of your psychophysical existence, they are permissible as necessary evils at least. But if they are not necessary for your existence and you can exist even without them and comfortably too from the point of your ultimate aim of life, then of course it would not be at all permissible to keep them. So greed is another expression of our finitude. This we have seen is to be kept in check by practice of charity.

Then we have a very peculiar trait in us of finding pleasure in the sorrow of others. It looks strange. How can one find pleasure in the grief of another? But this trait is present in every person. This is the cruel element in us, the demon working within us. The Asura is right here within us, not only in the nether regions. He is not in the army of Ravana or Hiraṇyakashipu merely. Any tendency in us to see others punished, put behind bars, hung up with chains or sent to the gaol; any tendency in us to see the subdual of others, our vindictive attitude, the attitude of reaping vengeance – whatever be the reason behind it, whatever be the justification behind it, is the Asura element within us. If you can be happy when others are made unhappy, you are a demon. You are not even a human being. This feeling has to be checked by practice of mercy. These are the three terrible traits within us – the general impetuous urge of the mind to go to any external object especially when it is an object of what you call enjoyment or pleasure, the tendency of the mind to appropriate things more and more, and the tendency of the mind to see the grief of another, sadistic instinct is the word that is used in psychoanalysis, which is the Asura instinct. How can you have an aspiration for the Universal when there is the presence of even one of these? All of them are never absent at any time! Sometimes one is predominantly present, sometimes two, sometimes all the three, but never are all of them absent! Impossible! So comes the importance of this great teaching – Dama, Dāna and Daya for the subdual of the urges of personality, for the purpose of the fructification of the aspiration for the Supreme Universal. Damyata, datta, dayadhvam iti, tad etat trayam śikset: These are the three types of advice that we have to imbibe, take in and learn from elders. These three instructions, self-restraint, charity and mercy are the three great virtues everyone has to acquire!

Now, as we have observed earlier, the Fifth Chapter of the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣhad abounds in certain meditations, not the type of meditations which we have already studied in the First, Second, Third and Fourth Chapters, but another type altogether which we may call symbolic meditations. You can take a particular object, external or internal, or a particular concept or idea as representing the great object of your spiritual aspiration. That can be considered as a fit instrument for your meditation. How can you meditate on Brahman? You have not seen Brahman; therefore you cannot think of Brahman, and therefore you cannot meditate on Brahman. Hence, the scriptures, especially the Upaniṣhads, give us certain hints as to how we can raise the status of our thoughts from the lower to the higher, gradually by Upāsanā and symbolic meditation. The secret of meditation is one-pointedness. This is an essential feature that we have to remember. Ultimately and finally it matters little as to what is the object upon which we are meditating. What is important is how we are meditating, what is our attitude towards the object of meditation and what are the thoughts that come to the mind during the time of meditation. What you are concentrating upon is secondary, ultimately, because everything and anything in this world can become a symbol for meditation. Just as by touching any branch of a tree, you can go to the trunk of the tree; just as by rowing along any river in the world, you can reach the ocean; just as any road can take you finally to Delhi because they are all interconnected, likewise any object can take you to the Absolute, because any object in the world is but a part of the cosmic body. If you touch one finger of the body you have touched the body, as a matter of fact, and you can reach up to any other part of the body and even the whole body by merely grasping this little part. So the purpose is to hold on to the concept of the whole of which the symbol forms a part. Your intention is not to cling merely to the part or to the symbol. Just as when you take a boat in the Ganga and your intention is to reach Ganga Sagar in the Bay of Bengal and then from the Bay of Bengal to go to the Indian Ocean and the Pacific; you do not want to merely rest here in this very area, so you go further and further, rowing down and ultimately reach the Ocean, even so when you contemplate an object of meditation, the purpose is not to cling to the finitude or the shape of that object, but to convert it into a symbol or a pathway leading to that whole of which it is an integral part and to which it points, of which it is a symbol. From this point of view, anything that is dear to you as a philosophical concept or a religious ideal can be taken as an object of meditation. This is called the Ishta in ordinary parlance. The Ishta is that which is dear to your heart, not in a sensuous sense but in a religious and spiritual sense. It is that which you regard as fit enough to attract your attention entirely for the purpose of spiritual illumination and experience.

Some such symbols for meditation are mentioned in the following sections. The symbols mentioned here are not usual ones. They are very uncommon. They are not things which you have heard of in any book; neither are they easy of concentration, because they are the ideas of ancient Masters who lived thousands of years ago and whose vision of things was a little different from the vision of things we have in the twentieth century. So, while it may be a little difficult for us to sum up all the ideas that they have expressed through these passages due to our modernised way of thinking, yet if we deeply ponder over the significance and the important spirit behind the teaching, we will find that any of these can be a fit symbol or aid for meditation to any one of us.

Third Brahmana: Brahman as the Heart

  1. eṣa prajāpatir yad hṛdayam, etad brahma, etad sarvam. tad etat try-akṣaram; hṛ-da-yam iti. hṛ ity ekam akṣaram; abhiharanty asmai svāś cānye ca, ya evaṁ veda; da ity ekam akṣaram, dadatyasmai svāś cānye ca ya evaṁ veda; yam, ity ekam akṣaram; eti svargaṁ lokam ya evaṁ veda.

'This heart within us is God Himself', thus begins this passage. Eṣa prajāpatir yad hṛdayam. Of all things inside us, the most inscrutable is the heart. It cannot be understood easily. The word used here in Sanskrit is Hṛdaya, a word with three letters, Hri, Da and Ya representing together the word heart. The heart is one thing for the physician, the doctor, the biologist or the biochemist. For him, the heart is that particular organic part of the body which pumps blood and supplies energy to the lungs and to the different parts of the body. This is what is called the heart in ordinary language, but it is another thing when used in a symbolic sense, e.g. 'I cannot understand your heart', 'yes, I understand your heart'. When we use such expressions as these, we do not mean the physicist's or the biochemist's or the physician's heart. We mean the feelings within, the deepest motives within, the intentions inside and the spirit of the person. So, the Upaniṣhad especially takes the spirit into consideration when it defines Hṛdaya or heart as the essence of a person.

The heart is an object for meditation. By understanding the heart you can understand everything because it is in the heart you are located, you are seated, you are rooted. Your heart is you. What your heart is, that is your being. Even in ordinary life we seem to appreciate this point of view. Your heart is superior to every other faculty of yours. Even the ratiocinating faculty can be subordinated to the feelings of the heart. The heart has its reasons, as they say, which reason cannot tell. It can overwhelm even a rational conclusion. You cannot accept rational conclusions which are opposed to the feelings of the heart, to the conscience. The conscience is the heart which is the touchstone of Reality and which is the Union Jack or national flag of the government of God. Here you have the symbolic representation of the Absolute, embedded in your own being, it being situated in your own heart. Our heart speaks the language of God, and so, what the heart speaks can be regarded as an indication from the above. Here in this verse the literal meaning of the very word Hṛdaya is taken as a symbol for meditation. Hṛ-da-yam iti, hṛ ity ekam akṣaram: The first letter of the word Hṛdaya is Hṛ, a Sanskrit letter. Now the teacher of the Upaniṣhad tells us that you can meditate on the import of this single letter Hṛ. Do not go to the entire meaning of the word Hṛdaya, or heart; here Hṛ, the first letter, is itself sufficient. What does it mean? How do you contemplate on the import of the first letter Hṛ? Hṛ ity ekam akṣaram: 'Hṛ is one letter.' Abhiharanty asmai svāś cānye ca, ya evaṁ veda: Hṛ means draw. That is the grammatical root meaning of the word Hṛ. Drawing, to attract, to pull towards oneself, to compel everything to gravitate towards oneself, to bring everything under one's control, to subjugate everything, to superintend over all things and to be overlord of everything – all these meanings are comprehended in the root meaning of the letter Hṛ. When you contemplate the heart, bring to your mind the meaning of the very first letter of the word Hṛdaya, that which draws everything towards itself. And, what is the conclusion? What is the result that follows by this protracted meditation? Abhiharanty asmai: 'Everyone gravitates towards that person.' Like the gravitational pull of the sun exerted upon all the planets that move in their own orbit and revolve round the sun, so all creatures will rotate, revolve and gravitate around you if you contemplate; the capacity that one has to draw everything towards oneself, as the Supreme subject. Abhiharanty asmai svāś cānye ca: 'Everything comes to you' means – whatever belongs to you and whatever does not belong to you also comes to you. People pay tribute to you, not merely people who love you. 'Even those who are not your friends', even those with whom you are not personality related, even they shall pay homage to you. They shall also pay tribute to you. They shall accept the supremacy of your being. Svāś cānye ca abhiharanty asmai: This is the grand result that is proclaimed by mere meditation on the implication of the root meaning of the letter Hṛ, 'to draw'. Think! I shall also pull the cosmos towards myself, as the Supreme Consciousness, which is the Subject of all objects.

The other letter is Da. In the word Hṛ-da-ya, 'Da is the second letter'. Dadatyasmai svāś cānye ca ya evaṁ veda: 'Everyone shall give to you' rather than take anything from you, which means to say, everything shall become obedient to you, everything shall become subservient to you. Da connotes the meaning, 'to give' in Sanskrit. So the meaning of this root syllable here, the etymological significance of the letter becomes the object of meditation, and when you contemplate thus as the centre of a force that receives everything towards itself as an ocean that receives all rivers into itself – 'such contemplation brings the result of complete acquisition. Everything shall come to you'.

Yam, ity ekam akṣaram; iti svargaṁ lokam ya evaṁ veda: The third letter is Ya of Hri-da-ya. In Sanskrit, Ya means 'to go'. You go to the highest heaven by contemplation on the meaning of the letter Ya of the word Hṛdaya. So contemplate not merely the light in the heart, or the consciousness in the heart, or the ether in the heart, but the linguistic significance of the very word Hṛdaya also. Even this can be a symbol. If you cannot go deep into philosophical and mystical techniques of contemplation on the heart, can you not at least understand this much, a mere linguistic meaning, a grammatical connotation, a literal significance of the word Hṛdaya? This, too, can take you to a great glorious achievement.

Fourth Brahmana: Brahman as the True or the Real

  1. tad vai tat, etad tad āsa, satyam eva. sa yo haiṭan mahad yakṣam prathamajaṁ veda; satyam brahmeti, jayatīmāṁl lokān. jita in nv asāv asat, ya evam etan mahad yakṣam prathamajaṁ veda; satyam brahmeti. satyaṁ hy eva brahma.

This is another symbol for meditation. Meditate on that Being as truth 'the true'. That alone can be true and nothing else can be true. Regard the Ultimate Being, or Reality, as true, for That alone was. Tad vai tat, etad tad āsa: The word Tat is repeated three times here. 'That, That alone that existed, and what existed was true.' 'This is the most adorable of all beings' – mahad yakṣam. Yaksam means adorable, worthy of worship and veneration. Great venerable Being is Mahad Yakṣam. It is the first of all existences, 'the primeval Reality' – prathamajaṁ. Nothing existed prior to it. A thing that can be absorbed into its cause cannot be called ultimately true because it is an effect of some other cause. The true is that which can maintain its status for all times. There is nothing in this world that can maintain such a status. Everything changes. Everything transforms itself into something else because everything is an effect of some other cause. There comes a time when the effect will go back in to the cause. Inasmuch as everything in the world seems to modify itself into something else, it is apparent that the whole world is an effect and not a cause by itself. Therefore the world cannot be regarded as true. The evolutionary process will reveal that nothing anywhere in the process of evolution can be regarded as true, because when A is absorbed by B, B can be absorbed by C, C can be absorbed by D, and so on and so forth. There is a chain action of one thing absorbing another. There must be an end for this somewhere. A small stream goes to a rivulet and the rivulet enters the river and the river goes to the ocean, but the ocean does not go anywhere. It is self-contained, self-sufficient, self-complete. So, likewise, everything goes to something else. Everything hangs on something else, everything tends to something else in the evolutionary process, but there is a stage where everything stops. The end of evolution is reached. That cannot be called an effect of anything, because it is not modified into something else. It exists in its own status. It is precise Existence, and therefore That is what is true.

That Being is true. Contemplate thus. Prathamajaṁ – 'the original Being'. Satyam brahma – 'Truth is Brahman.' If this can be conceived, it will be an adequate symbol for meditation. Satyam brahmeti jayatīmāṁl lokān: 'Just as truth succeeds everywhere, he succeeds everywhere who meditates thus.' Everywhere, wherever you touch, you will have success. There can be no suffering, no defeat, no withdrawal, no setback. Everywhere you shall win victory provided you are able to contemplate the Supreme Brahman as truth, because truth triumphs and you shall also triumph wherever you go, wherever you are, whatever you do. Jayatīmāṁl lokān: 'The whole world you conquer,' says the Upaniṣhad, because of this contemplation on truth as the Absolute. Jita in nv asāv asat: 'You cannot have any opponent afterwards. Nobody can oppose you. Nobody can oppose truth.' If you contemplate truth as Brahman, you become an embodiment of truth. None can then oppose you, for no one can oppose truth. You will have no enemies afterwards. There can be no adversary. The adversary becomes a non-existent something. Asat he becomes, because you contemplate Sat. No Asat can stand before Sat. So, inasmuch as you contemplate Sat as Brahman, Asat cannot be before you. So everyone who is an object, who is in the position of an external, ceases to be before you. You conquer everything. There cannot be any adversary or enemy or opponent before you, afterwards. Jita in nv asāv asat, ya evam etan mahad yakṣam prathamajaṁ veda: 'Who conquers all things?' 'He who contemplates truth as Brahman as the most adorable all-Being, most venerable, most desirable, the origin of all things, the cause of all causes into which everything returns in the end. One who knows this truth as Brahman becomes truth veritably' – Brahmeti. Prathamajaṁ veda; satyam brahmeti. satyam hy eva brahma: 'What else can be Brahman but true? How can you define it in any other way except that it is true? The highest characterisation of Brahman would be that it is true, and truth is God. While someone may deny that God exists, none can deny that truth exists. And when you say that truth is God, no one has anything to say to it. Such a contemplation would lead to the success of all enterprises in life because success is the prerogative of truthfulness, and when you are in consonance with the highest Reality which is truth, you shall meet success wherever you are and whatever you do. Thus is the symbolic meditation on truth as Brahman. Just as you had a symbolic meditation on Hṛdaya, the heart, as Brahman in its linguist connotation, here you have another meditation on truth as Brahman.

As we noted, contemplations of this kind are not easy. You have understood the meaning of these instructions, but you cannot easily set your mind to the task of contemplation in this manner, because no one can whole-heartedly get oneself absorbed in a particular thought unless one is convinced that thought is the whole thought and not a partial thought. All failure in meditation is due to the incompetency of oneself in convincing one's own self that the thought of meditation is a complete one. You have always a subconscious doubt that it is only one of the thoughts among many other possible thoughts that you are entertaining in meditation. You may not logically argue out this kind of conclusion, but the subconscious mind pinches from inside. The unconscious revolts. It says, this is only one of the thoughts that is possible, why not have some other thoughts instead of this? So the meditation fails. If some other thoughts also are possible in addition to the thought that you are trying to entertain in meditation, and if any other thought can be equally good, as good as the one that you are thinking of, entertaining in meditation, why not go to the other thought? If that shop is as good as this, I can as well make purchases from the other shop. But if you know that this is the only shop where you can have everything and this is the shop where everything is available, then you need not go to the other shop. It is so hard to reconcile oneself to the feeling that the thought entertained in meditation is the whole thought.

We are psychologically poor and philosophically bankrupt; therefore meditation is hard. Hard task is meditation of course, because who can convince oneself that the thought in meditation is a comprehensive thought? Even if it is a thought of God, you will have a subconscious possibility, an alternative provided, to think of what is other than God. You cannot, at that time, argue that there is nothing other than God. The mind falls from its original conviction and philosophical conclusion that God is All. Though the conclusion, the idea with which you started to contemplate was that God is All and outside it nothing can be, something begins to crop up outside God when you start meditation. Then you think of the tree, you think of the dog, you think of the mountain, you think of the shop, you think of anything. Now, the idea that it is possible to have something other than or external to the Being of God is a frailty of meditative consciousness. It is a weakness in our thought. You are not up to the mark to meditate. It only means that. How did you convince yourself that God is All and now begin to say that there is something other than God, and let the mind go out? How can it go out when you have already satisfied yourself that it is the All on which you are contemplating? How can there be something more than the All, external to the All, other than the All? So, psychological weaknesses persist even in advanced types of meditations. What I point out is that meditations are not easy. Though the understanding of these techniques may appear to be intelligible to you, the heart will revolt because of the old habit of thinking in terms of particulars, and the habit of mind to imagine, to entertain the notion that whatever be the characterisation of the All in your meditation, there is something outside the All. However illogical that concept is, it does persistently present itself in meditation and brings you down to the level of the so-called other, which is a travesty in meditation and from which one has to guard oneself.

Philosophically, you have to be unshakable. No one should be able to shake your thoughts and conviction by any amount of logic. Your logic should be superior to every other logic in the world. Only then you can start meditating. If somebody tells you something else, your mind wonders, 'Oh, perhaps he is right!' That means you have never understood anything. Why do you meditate? So, first of all, be sure that your logic is unshakable, that no other logic can shake your logic; you have understood all the aspects of logical thinking, and that you have come to a final unshakable conclusion. No question of the mind thinking something else as an alternative or a different possibility should then arise. With such conviction, meditation should commence and it shall surely reach the required result.

Fifth Brahmana: The Real Explained

Among the various methods of meditation, a popular one is what is known as the resolution of the effect into the cause. This is a very popular method prescribed in many other scriptures. It is easy to understand too and stands to reason. A suggestion that this method can be adopted in meditation is made in the following section. The method is a contemplation on the process of retracing the steps that are taken in the process of evolution. Evolution is how things come from causes and shape themselves into effects. We have to understand the theory of evolution, creation, manifestation and how the one becomes the many, gradually, by stages. The same stages have to be now contemplated backward. The grossest appearance of manifestation is this earth plane. We individuals inhabit this earth. We have all come from certain substances emanating from the earth. We can thus be resolved back into the earth. The body, for instance, which is constituted of the essence of food, is resolvable into the earth element because the substance of food is the substance of the earth. Thus, anything that is in the body, physically, is subject to return to its cause, namely, the earth, as actually happens when the body is cast off at the time of death. The physical constituents return to their original abode, which is the earth. The earth has come from water, water from fire, fire from air, and air from ether. And ether is itself an effect; it is not an ultimate cause. It is the first manifestation of Hiraṇyagarbha, Virāt and Īshvara. They are the causes of even this space. The gods, the fourteen worlds, the different levels of existence, all stages of being are manifested in the Virāt. And all this manifestation which is tripartite, Īshvara Hiraṇyagarbha, Virāt, is also in turn resolvable into the Supreme Brahman. That alone is. Hence, even these effects are nothing but the cause appearing in some form. The perception or the effect is not in any way a bar to the contemplation of its relation to the cause which is the true essence, or the contemplation of the existence of the cause in the effect. One of the methods of weaning the senses from the objects of perception is by resolving the very tendency of the senses to move towards objects. The objects are converted into the characteristics of their causes, and these causes are also the causes of the body, the individuality and the senses themselves. Whatever is the cause of our own personality is the cause of the world outside. When one thing is resolved into that cause, the other thing also goes. So, when we contemplate the resolution of the effect into that particular cause, the senses for the time being get cooled down, calmed down, and it becomes possible for the mind, then, to pay attention to the nature of that cause, alone, of which both the object outside and the subject inside are manifestations. Some such thing is stated in this section of the Upaniṣhad.

  1. āpa evadaṁ agra āsuḥ, tā āpaḥ satyam aṣrjanta, satyam brahma, brahma prajāpatim, prajāpatir devān. te devāḥ satyam evopāsate, tad etat try-akṣaram: sa ity ekam akṣaram; ti ity ekam akṣaram, yam it ekam akṣaram: prathama uttame akṣare satyam, madhyato’nṛtam; tad etad anṛtam ubhayataḥ satyena parigṛhītaṁ satyabhūyam eva bhavati. naivaṁ vidvāṁsam amṛtaṁ hinasti.

In the beginning, what was there? There was an undifferentiated, unmanifested, indistinguishable something. āsīt idam tamo bhūtam aprajātam alakṣanam apradartyam avijyān prabhūtam sarvogata: It was as if there was a Cosmic sleep. It looked as if it was darkness. It was of the characteristic of darkness because there was no light of sense perception. There was no one to see anything. That which was to see and that which was to be seen, both were resolved into that which is now designated here as apparent darkness. How can you designate it except as absence of light, because we always define light as the instrument of perception and perception does not exist there. There were no objects because there was no world. There was not this manifestation. It was like a Cosmic ocean. It was like water spread out everywhere, not the waters that we drink, but a symbolic term applied to designate the undifferentiated condition of matter, the potential state of Being, Mula-Prakriti in its essentiality where the Trigunas-Satva, Tamas, Rajas – are in a harmonised state. There is Gunatamya Avastha; there is a harmonisation of the three Gunas, so that you do not know what is there. Everything is there and yet nothing appears to be there. Such a condition of homogeneity of potential being is usually called, in philosophical symbology, 'Cosmic Waters'. They are called Nāraḥ in Sanskrit, and one who is sporting cosmically in these Universal Waters is called Narayanaya. So Īshvara Himself is called Nārayanaya. Nārayanaya is that Being who sleeps, as it were, in the Cosmic Waters of the potentiality of being. Such was the state of affairs originally. āpa evadaṁ agra āsuḥ: So, in all these cosmic, cosmical and cosmogonical descriptions in the scriptures of different religions we are told that in the beginning there was a universal state of liquidity, as it were, a symbolic way of putting into language the condition of homogeneity of the Ultimate Cause of the universe.

Tā āpaḥ satyam aṣrjanta, satyam brahma, brahma prajāpatim: That condition becomes the precedent to the manifestation of something which we call the Creator of the universe. The Creator of the universe, or the Divine Will which projects this whole universe, is a blend of this universal potentiality and the great Absolute. That particular state where the Absolute appears as a Will to create or manifest is, for all practical purposes, the original creative condition. That is called Satyam because there the true state of affairs can be seen. The original condition of all those things that are to be manifested are to be found there in their originality, in their archetypal being. It is something like the ideas present in the mind of a painter. The baby has not been projected yet on the canvas, but what will appear on the canvas or a cloth outside is already present in his mind. That ideation which is to project itself externally in the shape of visible objects – that is Īshvara; that is truth for all practical purposes; that is Brahman itself. It is called Saguna Brahman, or Kārya Brahman. It is the manifested form of Brahman – satyam brahma. That creates Prajāpati, Hiraṇyagarbha, the subtle form of things which as an outline of the future universe to be manifested is visible. In the beginning it is only in a form of thought; only an idea in the Cosmic Mind. Now it is appearing outside as a bare outline, like the drawing with a pencil which the painter sketches on the canvas before the actual painting is started. The idea of the painter is visible now in the form of outlines in pencil. They have been projected into a grosser form, yet they have not taken a complete form. That Hiraṇyagarbha becomes Virāt, the projected universe. The whole painted picture of the universe in its completed form is what is called Virāt.

From that Being, all the gods come – devāḥ satyam evopāsate. What are these gods doing? They are contemplating their own origin. The first manifestation in individual form are the celestials. The celestials are supposed to contemplate a Universal Sacrifice. This Universal Sacrifice contemplated in the minds of the gods is the subject of the Puruṣha – Sūkta of the Veda. It is a Universal Sacrifice, a sacrifice performed without any kind of external materials. All the materials necessary for the sacrifice were present in the minds of the gods, says the Sūkta. The gods performed the sacrifice through the materials culled from the body of the Puruṣha Himself, who is the Supreme Sacrifice. 'So the Devas performed this Upāsana in the form of meditation on their own cause, the Virāt, by attuning themselves to its Being. They contemplate the Satya, or the truth which has manifested itself as Īshvara Hiraṇyagarbha, and Virāt' – devāḥ satyam evopāsate.

Truth is an object of meditation. Here in this Upaniṣhad we have got a very strange suggestion given for contemplation on truth. Just as we were asked to meditate on the literal connotation of the letters of the word Hridaya, or heart, apart from the meditation on the essence of the heart which is a higher form of meditation, here we are asked to meditate on the letters of the word Satya, or truth, not the meaning, not the implication of the word Satya which is a different subject altogether, but on the grammatical implication of the letters of the word itself.

Satya is a word in Sanskrit which means truth. How is this word formed? The Upaniṣhad has its own etymological description of this word. Tad etat try-akṣaram: 'This word Satya is constituted of three letters, of three syllables into which it can be resolved. Sa ity ekam akṣaram: The first letter is Sa. The second letter is Ti – ti ity ekam aksaram. The third letter is Ya – yam iti ekam akṣaram. Sa, ti, ya – these are the three letters which form the word Satya.' Now, symbolic is the interpretation of the meaning of these three syllables. The Upaniṣhad tells us that truth envelopes everything and there is that particular character about truth which is encompassing everything. It is present everywhere, in every part of this world, and what you call untruth is a meagre frail existence in the middle of this all-consuming, all-enveloping Being which is truth. Or to put it in more plain language, the phenomenon that we call this creation, which is sometimes called the unreal or the relative, is enveloped by the real or the neomenon. The neomenon is real; the phenomenon is the unreal. But the phenomenon is enveloped by the neomenon. Reality encompasses the whole of existence. It is present everywhere, it covers untruth from all sides as if to swallow it and to give it only the character of an appearance. Even what you call appearance or phenomenon has an element of reality in it. So the Upaniṣhad says that truth is present even in untruth. The Absolute is present even in the relative; the neomenon is present even in the phenomenon; reality is in the appearance also. If reality were not to be in the appearance, there cannot be any appearance at all because appearance must also appear. If the reality element were not to be present in appearance, appearance will not appear even. Then there would be no such thing as appearance. The relative reality that we attribute or conceive to what we call appearance is due to the presence of a degree of reality in it. So, reality is present everywhere. It covers unreality from both sides, from every side. Likewise, is the import of the syllables of this word Satya. Sa is reality; Ya is reality; the middle one, Ti, is unreality. It is a purely etymological derivation and so we must be able to enter into the mind of the teacher of this Upaniṣhad to understand why he conceives the meaning of the word Satya in this manner.

The commentators tell us that the middle syllable, Ti, is called phenomenal, a form of death or unreality, because this letter Ti occurs in such words as Mṛtyu, Anitya and such other words which denote unreality or phenomenality. So the Upaniṣhad apparently suggests that those who cannot conceive the magnificence of truth, as it is in itself, may do well to contemplate at least the etymological significance of the word, just as those who do not understand what the heart is and cannot meditate on the essence or the meaning of the heart may at least do well to contemplate the etymological meaning of the word Hṛdya, as was suggested earlier.

Prathama uttame akṣare satyam: The first and the last letters of the word Satya may be contemplated as the periphery of this universal manifestation of truth; the circumference as it were; the aspect of reality which covers unreality from both sides, within as well as without. Satya, or truth, is inside as well as outside. It is only in the middle that it does not appear to be. But even this appearance is made possible only on account of the preponderance of an element of Satya in it, says the Upaniṣhad. Prathama uttame akṣare satyam. Madhyato'nṛtam: 'Only in the middle there is an apparent unreality.' Tad etad anṛtam ubhayataḥ satyena parigṛhītaṁ: 'From both sides untruth is covered by truth' as it were, overwhelmed by truth and flooded by truth. So even where you see impermanence, there is permanence hiddenly present. Even where you see transciency, there is eternity manifested. Even in temporality, there is the presence of Absolute Being because even the conception, the sensation, the perception, etc. of what is not real is made possible only because of the presence of the real. So, on either side there is truth and in the middle only there is a phenomenal experience which is regarded by us as untruth.

Satyabhūyam eva bhavati: After all, truth is supreme. The whole of creation is inundated with truth. So, in the worst of things and in the least of things; even in the lowest category of existence which we dub as untruth wholly, truth is present. And the Upaniṣhad tells us in conclusion that 'it is abounding in truth'. You cannot have a spot in space or a nook or a corner in creation or even an atomic element in creation where this truth is not present.

Naivaṁ vidvāṁsam amṛṭaṁ hinasti: If you can know this fact that truth is supreme and that the ultimate cause is present even in the least of its effects; that the Supreme Absolute is present entirely even in the lowest degree of its manifestation, even in the grossest of its forms and in the most external self of objects; if you can be in a position to contemplate the presence of truth in this manner, untruth cannot harass you. There cannot be trouble to that person from untruth, which means to say that 'the world cannot cause any pain to that person, any sorrow to that person, any kind of grief to that person who is able to feel or visualise the presence of truth in those things which otherwise are usually called untruth or unreality'.

This is a meditation on the abundance of truth in all creation, the presence of God in all things, the "practice of the presence of God", in the words of Brother Lawrence. This is one of the symbols, one of the methods prescribed for meditation. Very abstract it is to conceive. We require to stretch our imagination to be able to conceive the presence of reality even in the appearances which are philosophically called unreal. Thus you may meditate, and you will find that by deep contemplation and meditation in this manner, you will be able to visualise the presence of God in creation, of truth in objects and of the principle of Mokṣha or liberation, even in this world of Samsāra or bondage.

  1. tad yat tat satyam asau sa ādityaḥ. ya eṣa etasmin maṇdale puruṣo yaś cāyaṁ dakṣiṇe’kṣan puruṣaḥ. tāv etāv anyo’nyasmin pratiṣṭhitau; raśmibhir eṣo’smin pratiṣṭhitaḥ prāṇair ayam amuṣmin, sa yadotkramiṣyan bhavati. śuddham evaitan maṇḍalam paśyati. nainam ete raśmayaḥ pratyāyanti.

So, we have completed the description of one type of meditation. Now we are told of another kind. How do you see an object? With the help of sunlight. There is thus a connection between the sun and the eye. The light outside and the eye within are connected in a mutually correlative manner. That truth which is in the sun is present also as truth in the eye that perceives. There is a coordinating element between the sun and the eye. The deity of the eye which is the sun, presiding over the eye, has an internal as well as an external connection with the eye. 'The Puruṣha in the sun is also the Puruṣha in the eye. The truth in the sun is also the truth in the eye.' Sa ādityaḥ. ya eṣa etasmin maṇdale puruṣo yaś cāyaṁ dakṣiṇe'kṣan puruṣaḥ. tāv etāv anyo'nyasmin pratiṣṭhitau: The sun connects itself with the eye by the rays that he projects. The rays emanate from the sun and impinge on the retina of the eye. Then the eyes begin to see the brilliance of the light of the sun, and the same light when it falls on an object of sense becomes responsible for the perception of that object through the eye. But, it is not merely the light of the sun that is responsible for this perception of the object outside. There is something inside us without which perception would be impossible. The conscious element within us that peeps through the eyes and receives the impressions of light emanating from outside brings about connection with the form of light outside. It may appear for all precise purposes that light is inert and unconscious and that we are conscious; that the perceiving individual is conscious and that the light that is responsible for the perception of an object is inert, physical. The Upaniṣhad, at least, does not believe in an ultimate physicality of things. Even the so-called physical objects are ultimately spiritual in their nature, because logic and ratiocination compel us to accept that dissimilars cannot come together and coincide. Consciousness cannot come in contact with that which is dissimilar in its character. Light and consciousness cannot come in contact with each other if consciousness were something different in nature from the light through which perception is made possible. If light is wholly material, unspiritual, or non-spiritual, bereft of the element of consciousness, consciousness cannot come in contact with it. Then there would be no such thing as the perception of an object. So the Upaniṣhad says that the idea that light outside is physical, and not endowed with consciousness, is erroneous. There is a Puruṣha in the sun as well as in the eye. The consciousness that is responsible for the action of the eye in the perception of an object, the consciousness which actually becomes aware of the presence of an object, is connected with the Puruṣha, or the consciousness in that which emanates the light, or projects the light. 'The Puruṣha in the sun is the Puruṣha within you.' Dakṣiṇe'kṣan puruṣaḥ tāv etāv: That which is within him, that which is within me, that which is within you and that which is within the sun – they are one. If the two are not one, there would be no connection between light and eye. The connection between the light and the eye and the correlativity of the action of light and the action of the eye implies that there is a similarity of structure, similarity of being, similarity of essence and reality between the sun and the eye. 'So the sun influences the eye through his rays, and the individual that perceives objects connects himself or herself with the sun through the sense-organs, particularly the eye.'

Raśmibhir eṣo'smin pratiṣṭhitaḥ prāṇair ayam amuṣmin: The connection between the sun and the eye is explained, and this connection is supposed to be through the rays of the sun. Here in this context, the Upaniṣhad makes a remark. When one is about to die he will not be able to see the sun. The rays will not impinge upon the eye and the eye will not receive the light of the sun. Yadotkramiṣyan bhavati. śuddham evaitan maṇḍalam paśyati: 'The orb of the sun will appear not to emanate any ray at all at the time of the departure of the soul from this body.' That is the absence of perception. One will not be able to see things when the light rays do not fall on the retina of the eye. What actually happens is something like a mystery. The sun is continuing to emanate the rays even at the time of the death of a person. He does not withdraw his rays, but the eyes cannot receive these rays. The eyes will not be able to contact the rays of the sun and there would be no such correlative activity between the Puruṣha within and the Puruṣha without. When a person is unable to see the rays of the sun, then they say he is about to die. It is an indication of impending death. 'I cannot see' – that means death is coming.

Now, certain interpretators of this passage say that this is a description of ordinary death where anyone will be in this condition, whatever be the spiritual state of that person at the time of death. But others are of the opinion that this is a description of those people who are to pass through the passage of the sun in the process of gradual liberation, or Krama-Mukti, when the sun is to embrace you, when sun is to give you passage. This interpretation seems to be the correct one as it is corroborated and substantiated by certain passages that follow. The sun will give you passage. There are about fourteen stages mentioned in the Upaniṣhad along which the soul has to pass. One of these stages is the sun, and the sun is therefore regarded as a very important halting place of the journeying soul on the path to liberation by Krama-Mukti. So, at the time of the departure of the soul of that person who has already been meditating in this manner, meditating on the identity of the Puruṣha in the sun with the Puruṣha within; who has been performing Surya-Upāsanā in a spiritual sense, looking on the sun as the gateway to Moksha, he will be given an indication of the time of the departure from the body by the sun himself, who will be luminously present before the mind's eye, but his rays will be withdrawn. You have a similar passage in the Īshvara Upaniṣhad, towards its end, where it is expressed in the form of a prayer offered by the dying soul to the Supreme Puruṣha in the sun. "Withdraw thy rays. Let me see thy true being, O Supreme Puruṣha in the sun," says the dying man in this prayer of the Īshvara Upaniṣhad. So, here again we are given to understand some such situation taking place at the time of the departure of the soul when it is to be liberated and not reborn. What happens at that time? The orb of the sun is seen to glow without any kind of emanation, which is supposed to be a hint from the sun that he is ready to receive you – 'Yes, you can come.' Śuddham evaitan maṇḍalam paśyati. nainam ete raśmayaḥ pratyāyanti: 'There will be only a luminosity without any kind of projection of rays' to that person who is to depart and achieve liberation.

This is an explanation by the way. The point made out in this section is that to meditate on the sun is not gazing at the sun physically, but a contemplation on the spiritual essence of the sun as the glorious energiser, sustainer and the producer of all living creatures on earth, an emblem of God Himself. Sūrya prakaksh devata: Sūrya, or the sun, is regarded as the emblem of God in this world, because none can be so glorious as he, none so indispensable as he, so resplendent as he, and so complete in every respect as he. This is spiritual Sūrya-Upāsana.

  1. ya eṣa etasmin maṇḍale puruṣaḥ, tasya bhūr iti śiraḥ; ekaṁ śiraḥ, ekam etad akṣaram; bhuva iti bāhū; dvau ete akṣare; svar iti pratiṣṭhā; dve pratiṣṭhe dve ete akṣare. tasyopaniṣad ahar iti; hanti pāpmānaṁ jahāti ca, ya evaṁ veda.

Ya eṣa etasmin maṇḍale puruṣaḥ, tasya bhūr iti śiraḥ: You can expand this meditation on the sun by certain further elucidations thereof. This verse that follows gives some more details of the same meditation. The sun is supposed to be the deity of the Gāyatrī, Mantra, which is the principal Mantra of the Vedas. And the essence of the Gāyatrī, is what is known as the Vyahriti. Bhūr, Bhuvah Svah – these three symbols, letters or words are regarded as the quintessence of the Gāyatrī, Mantra. Now, one can contemplate on the literal meaning of these Vyahritis, not necessarily their philosophical or spiritual meaning. The literal meaning of the Vyāhṛtis, Bhūr, Bhuva, Svah, the essence of the Gāyatrī Mantra, is also indicative of a meditation on the Puruṣha in the sun. What sort of Puruṣha is this in the sun? You can imagine the Puruṣha in the sun in this manner through the Vyāhṛtis. Puruṣaḥ, tasya bhūr iti śiraḥ; ekaṁ śiraḥ: The word Bhūr is representative of all physical creation. You can imagine that the whole of physical creation is comprehended in the symbol Bhūr. 'This is the head of the Puruṣha or the being in the sun.' You can contemplate in this manner. Bhur is one letter, and head also is single – ekam sirah. Ekam etad akṣaram: 'The letter is one and the head also is one.' That is the similarity between the two. Bhuva iti bāhū: Bhuva is the astral or the atmospheric region which is above the earth. This word Bhuva consists of two letters, Bhu and Va. They can be identified with the two arms of this Puruṣha. 'The arms are two and the letters of the word Bhuva are also two.' That is the similarity between the two, the Puruṣha and the letters of the word – bhuva iti bāhū; dvau ete akṣare. Now, you have the third word of the Gāyatrī, Svah. Svar iti pratistha; dve pratisthe: You can imagine Svah as the legs of the Puruṣha on which his whole body is supported. 'Two are the legs; two are the letters of the word, Svah – sv, ah.' That is the similarity between the letters of the word and the legs of the Puruṣha. So, the head, the hands and the feet may be imagined in meditation as representing or as represented by the meaning of the three words in the Vyahritis of the Gāyatrī Mantra, Bhūr, Bhuva and Svah – dve pratisthe dve ete aksare.

Tasyopaniṣad ahar iti: Upaniṣhad means the 'secret meaning'. What is the secret meaning of this Mantra – Vyāhṛti. Its secret is also the secret of the Gāyatrī Mantra. There is one word in the Gāyatrī Mantra which is supposed to be indicative of the destruction of all things. Bharga is the word. There is a word called Bharga in the Gāyatrī which means the destroyer of all things; and the character, the capacity, the function of the sun is to destroy all things. Day that is the effect of the rise of the sun is also indicated by a word which is suggestive of destruction of sins – Ahar. In Sanskrit, Ahar means daylight, and daylight emanates from the sun himself. Now 'Ahar is a word that is derived from the root, Hri which suggests the destruction, of sins.' So the sun is the destroyer of sins, even as the Vyāhṛtis, which are the essence of the Gāyatrī Mantra, are capable of the same effect. So, how do you contemplate the sun? As a Supreme Puruṣha, or a divine being, who is the deity of the Mantra of the Veda of the Gāyatrī, of the three Vyāhṛtis and as the supreme destroyer of sins. He who contemplates on the Puruṣha in the sun as the destroyer of sins, destroys all sins. No sin can touch him. Hanti pāpmānaṁ jahāti ca, ya evaṁ veda: 'One who knows this becomes pure like the sun and free from sins in every respect.'

Passage four is identical with three, except for the word 'Aham', which replaces the word 'Ahar'.

The present theme is an attempt on the part of the meditator to unify the objective side with the subjective side. A symbol that is used in this way of meditation is the correspondence or the coordination between the sun and the eye; between the Puruṣha in the sun and the Puruṣha within; between the God above and the soul inside. These two are en rapport; they are coordinated and they represent the universal or the cosmic side and the individual side respectively. One of the points specially mentioned in this particular method of meditation is that while the sense of selfhood or 'I'ness is the main characteristic of the conscious subject, that characteristic is absent in the object. We cannot feel a sense of selfhood in the sun, or for the matter of that, in anything outside us. The sense of 'I' is identified only with the conscious subject, the AHAM or what is regarded as the perceiving individual. It does not occur to any individual at any time that this sense of 'I'ness or the sense of selfhood can be present in others also. Though it may be accepted as a logical conclusion and a tenable position in philosophy, it is not directly cognised in daily activity. The selfhood in others is never recognised. It is not recognised even in God Himself. He is held as an object of contemplation, a kind of form cosmically conceived, fit to be meditated upon by a conscious subject. The 'I', or the self, refuses to be externalised. And so, taking this stand, the Upaniṣhad tells us that the conscious subject, or the Puruṣha within, is characterised by the feeling of 'Aham' or 'I', whereas the attributes which are superimposed on the sun are anything and everything except the sense of selfhood. So, the term used here is tasyopanisad ahar iti. The secret name that we give to the Puruṣha in the sun is Ahar, the destroyer of sins, the magnificent Puruṣha, the radiant being and so on and so forth, but never do we say that it is the self, because the self can only be one. You cannot have two selves. The difficulty of recognising the selfhood in others is that we cannot accept the presence of two selves. It is repugnant to the sense of 'I' that there be another 'I'. So, instinctively we refuse to recognise the presence of 'I', or self, in other people and other things, notwithstanding the fact that we can philosophically accept that there is intelligence in others, that there is selfhood in others and that there is a status each one maintains for one's own self, not in any way inferior to the one that is attributed to one's own self. This is a philosophical, rational conclusion, but instinct speaks a different language. The instinct says that the 'I' is the conscious being, that which perceives, that which understands. But that which is understood, that which is thought of, that which is cognised or perceived, that which is ahead of me, in front of me as an object, it has a different name altogether. That which I see with my eyes is not a subject – it is an object; how can I attribute the term 'I' to it? This meditation tries to overcome this difficulty by establishing an inward coordination between the external Puruṣha – the Puruṣha in the sun, and the Puruṣha within, which means to say that the universality of the Puruṣha in the sun should be capable of being identified with the selfhood of the Puruṣha within. This is the secret of this meditation – anam iti tasyopaniṣhad. The selfhood that we attribute to our own self should be identified with all the realities that we see in external things. Now, this point is elucidated further on in a very important meditation that is hinted at in the following Mantra.