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The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

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CHAPTER V

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.