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The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

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CHAPTER V

Sixth Brahmana: The Divine Person

  1. manomayo’yam puruṣaḥ, bhāḥ satyaḥ tasminn antar-hṛdaye yathā vrīhir vā yāvo vā. sa eṣa sarvasyeśānaḥ, sarvasyādhipatiḥ, sarvam idaṁ praśāsti yad idāṁ kiṁ ca.

'This Supreme Puruṣha who is conceived by the mind, meditated upon by the mind and embodied as the Universal Mind on one side and the individual mind on the other side, is radiance is essence.' Bhāḥ means lustre, light, luminosity, and the characteristic of this Puruṣha, or Satya, or truth. Reality is the nature of this Puruṣha, which means to say that what you call the Puruṣha, within or without, is indestructible. That which is subject to transformation or destruction is not called Reality. So, when it is called Satya, or real, it is understood that it is free from the trammels of change of any kind. Now, this Puruṣha is 'the smallest of the small and the biggest of the big, the greatest of the great' – ano'raniān mahato mahiān. Nothing can be smaller than that, and nothing can be larger than that. Nothing is nearer than that, and nothing is more distant than that. If you are trying to locate it somewhere outside, you are not going to catch it however much you may pursue it, even as you cannot succeed in grasping the horizon. It is apparently in front of us, but is not capable of being grasped. It recedes as we proceed onward in its direction. It is inward; it is also outward. Tad antarasya sarvasya: 'It is inside everything' and yet it is outside everything. It is inside everything because of the fact that it is the Self of all beings; it is outside everything because it is beyond the limitations of the body-individuality. It is that which envelops the whole universe, and because of this universality of character it is very distant to you. Who can know the boundaries of the cosmos. It is very far, and yet very near. Because of the expanse which it is, because of the largeness of its comprehension, because of its infinitude, because of its omnipresence, it is very distant. But, because it is inseparable from what we ourselves are, it is the nearest. 'It is smaller than a grain of rice; it is smaller than a grain of barley – so small!' It is smaller even than these illustrated examples, 'but it is the Lord of the whole universe – sarvasyeśānaḥ, sarvasyādhipatiḥ. It is the controller of all things, and it rules everything' – sarvam idaṁ praśāsti. One who knows this truth also shall become like this – yad idāṁ kiṁ ca.

It is not possible to rule, or to become the lord of anything, or to become the controller of all things, unless one becomes tuned up to the reality of all things. The great point that is driven home to our minds in the Upaniṣhads, especially, is that power is not that which we exercise externally. It is an influence that we exert internally that is called power. An external coordination and organisation may look like a power, but it is capable of disintegration. Anything that is of a complex nature can decompose itself into its components. Everything is complex in its nature, including the constitution of the body. This body is complex; it is made up of different ingredients. So is every type of organisation, whether it be social or cosmic. Everything shall come to an end. It is not possible for one thing to control another, on account of the absence of coordination between them. It is impossible to exert any kind of influence on a totally external being, because externality is the character of a total isolatedness of existence. If an external being is to be the subject of another who rules it, that power which is exerted on the subject will not last long, because the self which exerts the power on the external is different in character from the thing upon which this power is exerted. That which is the Self, and that which is recognised as the Self in all, alone can be the source of power. So power is not a force that emanates from one being to another – it is the recognition of one's own being in another. So, ultimately, no real power is conceivable or practicable unless the Selfhood which is recognised in one's own self is felt and realised in the object also. That which is the smallest is supposed to be Self, this is called the Ātman. And that which is the biggest is Brahman. These are the two great terms in the Upaniṣhads. The two are identified. The extreme of the cosmic is identified with the extreme of the microcosmic. It is the subtlest and the smallest because it is the deepest in us. It is the principle that precedes even the function of the understanding in us. Even the intellect is external to it, though for all practical purposes we may think that the intellect is the internal faculty with which we think and understand. We have a being within which faintly manifests itself in deep sleep when our presence is felt, yet the intellect does not function. The endowments of the psychic being, intellect, feeling, will, etc. are all absent in deep sleep, and yet we do exist. So, we can exist independent of psychological functions. Hence, even the subtlest of rationality in us is external to the deepest in us, which is the Ātman. Because of the depth and profundity of its reality, it is called subtler than the subtle, deeper than the deep, smaller than the small. It is not small in a mathematical or an arithmetical sense. The smallness that is attributed to it is on account of its subtlety. And the largeness that is attributed to Brahman outside is due to its infinitude.

So, that which is deepest in us, the subtlest Ātman or Self in us is the same as the Cosmic Ruler, Īshvara, or Brahman. Thus can meditation be practised. Consciousness which is designated as the Ātman, the subtlest and the smallest, is indivisible. It cannot be partitioned; it cannot be conceived as having parts within itself; it has not any internal distinctions. This is an essential characteristic of consciousness which is the Ātman. Whatever be our conception of the magnitude of this consciousness in it, it has to be accepted that it is incapable of partition or division. The consciousness that there is something outside oneself would not be possible if our consciousness were limited to our own body. How could we be conscious of the limitation of anything or the boundary set to anything unless consciousness exceeds the limit of that boundary. We cannot know that something is finite unless we know that something is infinite, because the very awareness of finitude is an implication that we are subconsciously aware of the being that is infinite. Thus we can contemplate the Ātman which apparently is located in our own bodies as if it is finite, but is infinitude; is consciousness; is Chaitanya. Consciousness cannot be finite because the very consciousness of finitude is an acceptance of the fact that it is infinite. Hence, consciousness must be infinite, and this infinitude of consciousness is called Brahman, the Absolute. Hence the Ātman is Brahman. In this manner one can meditate.