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The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad



Ninth Brahmana: The Universal Fire

  1. ayam agnir vaiśvānaro yo’yam antaḥ puruṣe, yenedam annam pacyate yad idam adyate; tasyaiṣa ghoṣo bhavati yam etat kaṛnāv apidhāya śṛṇoti, sa yadotkramiṣyan bhavati, nainaṁ ghoṣaṁ śṛṇoti.

Now, the Upaniṣhad tells us that we can also contemplate on the great Vaisvanara present in our own selves. The great Vaisvanara, the Supreme Being, performs a unique function in our own bodies as the fire that digests food. The gastric fire is God Himself working. It is a mysterious force within us. It is connected with a particular Prāṇa within us called Samāna. It is centred round the navel in the stomach. What that heat is, we cannot understand. From where does this heat come? It generates great energy in us and digests any kind of food that we take. You know very well that a corpse cannot digest food. The corpse also has a stomach, it has a mouth, it has a tongue, it has teeth, it has an alimentary canal, it has intestines; it has everything. But the corpse cannot digest food. What is lacking in the corpse? Some peculiar thing is lacking in it. That thing is what we call life. You may say it is Prāṇa. It is Prāṇa, no doubt, but what is Prāṇa? It is the Universal Divine Energy that works in an individual.

This Vaiśvānara, this Agnī, this Fire in the stomach produces a peculiar sound. A rumbling sound is produced in the stomach. It is not the sound that is produced when you have any trouble in the stomach, but it is a psychic sound which can be heard only when you close both the ears and the nostrils, through the performance of a Mudra called Shambavi Mudra. It is practiced as an exclusive method of meditation by certain seekers. Close the eyes, close the two nostrils, close the two ears also, and then observe very carefully what is taking place inside your body. You should not hear any sound from outside, because your hearing of the sound from outside will disturb your attention on what is happening inside; nor should you see anything with the eyes outside, because the eyes will distract you by drawing your attention to other objects; nor should you have the distraction of breathing. Every distraction is stopped at the time of this meditation. Close the nostrils, close the eyes, close the ears and then you will hear the sound. A very beautiful, mellow, rumbling sound like that of an ocean wave is heard inside us.

Ayam agnir vaiśvānaro yo'yam antaḥ puruṣe, yenedam annam pacyate: 'The fire inside the stomach is the Supreme Vaiśvānara Himself. He is the Puruṣha within. By Him the food that is taken is digested' – tasyaiṣa ghoṣo bhavati. 'The sound that is made by the fire inside is heard when – yam etat kaṛinav apidhāya śṛṇoti – you close your ears and hear it properly.' Closing the ears one can hear this sound, not by opening the ears. Sa yadotkramiṣyan bhavati, nainaṁ ghoṣaṁ śṛṇoti: 'When you are about to die, this sound will not be heard.' So, they say that one can apprehend the time of one's own death by observing the presence or absence of this sound. If you are about to pass away from this world, this sound will stop. The Vaiśvānara will withdraw Himself. Just as when war takes place, ambassadors are withdrawn by governments, so when some catastrophic thing is to take place, Vaiśvānara withdraws its force. So close the ears and see if you hear any sound, then you can find out how long you are going to live. If no sound is heard, be prepared to quit. This is what the Upaniṣhad tells us. But, if the sound is heard in a very sonorous way, very melodious manner, it means that your health is all right.

You know very well how doctors find out the condition of health of a person by hearing the sounds of the heart. Everyone has some sound in the heart, but various types of sound are produced by the heart under different circumstances of health. By the very sound the doctor can find out what is wrong. Likewise is the sound here inside, produced by the great Divine Being in us. Now, contemplate in this manner. This is one of the Upāsanās. Close the eyes, nostrils and the ears and hear the sound inside. Gradually the mind will get absorbed in this Anāhata. It is a sound that is not produced by the contact of two things, like the stick and the drum, for instance. The sound that is produced by the contact of stick and drum is Āhata. Ahata means produced by contact, but this is Anahata because it is not produced by contact of one thing with another. It is an automatic sound. So, this Anāhata Muni, or the spiritual sonorous sound or vibration within, can be heard and converted into an object of meditation. This is Anāhata Upāsanā, one of the important meditations.