The Chhandogya Upanishad
by Swami Krishnananda


Chapter Three: Sanatkumara's Instructions on Bhuma-Vidya

Section 21: Activity

  1. Yada vai karotyatha nististhati, nakrtva nikstisthati krtvaiva nististhati, krtis-tveva vijijnasitavyeti, krtim bhagavo vijijnasa iti.

All this is the effect of another important factor, kriti, self-control, that has either been exercised by the aspirant or arisen in him automatically, whatever be the reason behind it. In other words, it is a withdrawal of consciousness from every kind of external perception. This is a superior activity that he is performing. His attunement with the nature of Reality in contemplation is due to the self-control that he has exercised in his being, which means to say that his senses have weaned themselves from their contacts with things outside, and he no longer regards the objects of sense as being outside the knowledge that he is aspiring for. So, self-control does not mean a pressure exerted upon the senses by force of will, but a spontaneous withdrawal of consciousness from its desire to externalise itself in respect of outward things on account of the superior faith, on account of this aspiration, on account of this knowledge. The individuality in us, the jivatva in us, the personality in us, the subjectness that has been responsible for our perception of the objects of sense, has become null and void automatically on account of consciousness ceasing to work in terms of objects of sense. When the outside objects of sense cease to be, the subject also ceases to be. When one thing goes, its counterpart also goes. So when the world has gone, the 'you' or the 'I' also is gone. There is nothing on either side, neither on the object side nor on the subject side. This great achievement is prior to everything, transcendent to everything.

"What is this great achievement of the human personality in respect of the ultimate Absolute? Can I be enlightened a little further about this supreme achievement? How can I achieve this at all? What is this action of self-control that you are enjoining upon me as preceding to every other activity conceivable?" asks Narada.

Section 22: Happiness

  1. Yada vai sukham labhate'tha karoti, nasukham labdhva karoli, sukham eva labdhva karoti, sukham tveva vijijnasitavyam, iti, sukham, bhagavah, vijijnasa iti.

"Well, O Narada, I tell you, nothing can be done unless it is propelled by happiness. Everywhere you will find happiness is the object of every kind of aspiration, activity, desire or enterprise. You will find, prior to everything conceivable, there is the presence of happiness. Everyone, irrespective of the character of one's individuality, tries to be, to act and to conduct oneself in different ways, because of this happiness. You must know what happiness is. It is this that is the propelling force behind everything in creation," says Sanatkumara.

The whole process of creation, manifestation and dissolution, evolution and involution, the entire activity of the cosmos is an urge of happiness. It is happiness that is trying to recover its own consciousness and establish itself in its own pristine all-comprehensiveness. It is this that is called activity. It is this that is called enterprise and aspiration. It is this that is also called cosmic evolution. Happiness is at the back of everything. Happiness alone is.

Here, we have been taken gradually up to that point where it has been concluded that every effort is motivated by happiness. This is not merely a practical fact, but also a psychological truth. But the mere recognition of the presupposition of happiness behind every kind of activity does not solve the problem of happiness, its location, its whereabouts and the means of its acquisition. Normally in our workaday world, we are accustomed to think that happiness is an achievement, by means of an effort, in the direction of an object which is regarded as the location of happiness. It is strange, no doubt, that different subjects endeavouring in the direction of happiness have different objects wherein happiness is supposed to be lodged. It does not mean that one and the same object or every perceiving subject is the house or abode of the happiness of everyone. This is the irony of the whole affair. It seems to be present in every object, inasmuch as every object is the target of the approach of some subject or the other in this world, though it is true that no particular object can attract the recognition of all subjects at the same time. This is the reason behind a doubt that can arise in the mind as to where happiness lies.

Is it in me or is it in somebody or something else? If it is in the mind of the subject merely, as it is sometimes, no doubt, opined by psychologists, then there will be no point in the mind moving towards an object of sense for the acquisition of pleasure. The very fact that the mind is not satisfied with its own self and feels an obligation to move towards something outside should be indication enough that something is lacking in the mind itself. This lacuna in the mind is the cause for the movement of the mind towards something outside, searching for that which it is not able of discovering in its own self. So, there seems to be a flaw in the doctrine that the mind alone is the source of all happiness, because this doctrine is refuted by the very activity of the mind every day, which moves towards things other than its own self, viz., the objects in the world around us.

But the other doctrine that the world is the source of happiness also seems to be refuted by a deeper analysis that no object seems to be capable of attracting the attention of everyone at the same time, nor even one and the same subject at all times. So, there seems to be some mystery behind even the assumption of the presence of happiness in the objects outside. But it must be somewhere. It cannot be neither here nor there, because the whole world of perceptional activity is a collaboration of the subject and object. And therefore, it has to be either this way or that way. By mere empirical analysis it is difficult to find out where happiness lies, because a mathematical or arithmetical analysis of the situation will lead us merely to the analysis of the mind inside and the objects outside. There is nothing else for us to discover in this world. But, we find that we cannot discover the happiness in the mind, nor can we discover it in the object of sense.

So, the question is, where is happiness? A very stimulating answer comes to this question from the great master Sanatkumara. It is not in the mind, nor is it in the object, taken independently by themselves. Happiness cannot be bifurcated as a property of some particular finite thing in creation. If it is regarded as a property of the mind, it becomes a finite content. If it is regarded as a property of an object of sense, again it is finite in its nature. If you regard the abode of happiness as a blend of the object and the subject in a finite manner, even then the joint action of two finites cannot amount to more than the finite. Two finites coming together cannot create anything more than a finite. A little larger magnitude, physically or spatially, may be added to the joint activity of a subject and the object, but the finitude in the product of these two does not cease. Happiness cannot be regarded as finite, ultimately, because we are not satisfied with finite pleasure in this world. No one asks for limited happiness, though logically it cannot be defined as to how it can be infinite. The impulse from within which seeks for happiness is an answer to this question. It answers its own question by saying that no one is satisfied with any amount of happiness which is bounded by finitude of any kind. So it is neither in the finite object, nor in the finite subject, merely because of the fact that the finite container cannot afford to lodge within itself that which exceeds the limit of finitude.

So Sanatkumara says, "My dear Narada, happiness is not anywhere and yet it is everywhere; it is in a completeness of Being that you can find happiness." It is not in any kind of accumulation of particulars that happiness can be found. It is not in any aggregate of finitudes that happiness can be discovered. The finitude of a particular situation does not get obviated merely because of the aggregate of finitudes. Even millions and millions of finite objects put together do not cease to be finite in the end. The finitude which is the character of things persists even in an aggregate of finitudes. Even the whole world put together is finite. It cannot be regarded as infinite, because it is limited by space, limited by time, and limited by the very presence of inner discrepancy within its own self. So, what is there which is not finite in this world? Nothing. Then where is happiness? Not in anything that can be conceived by the mind or perceived by the senses. Happiness cannot be in anything in this world, because everything in this world is finite. Its definition, of course, defies ordinary mental cognition. It is the 'spiritual fullness' which philosophers call the Absolute, which the followers of religion call God, and which psychologists call the supreme Spirit. The infinite Reality that is behind all finitudes, that alone can be regarded as complete by itself, because That alone is independent of any kind of contact with the finitudes. That infinitude is the source of happiness whose reflection in some manner or other in the finite objects of sense becomes responsible for our belief that happiness is in the objects outside.

Section 23: The Infinite

  1. Yo vai bhuma tat sukham, nalpe sukham asti, bhumaiva sukham, bhuma tveva vijijnasitavya iti, bhumanam, bagavah, vijijnasa iti.

"Happiness is plenum, happiness is completeness, happiness is the totality, happiness is in the Absolute," declares the great master Sanatkumara. The term 'Bhuma' used in this Upanishad is a novel word of its own kind which cannot be easily translated. It has a pregnant significance within itself which implies absoluteness in quantity as well as in quality, an uncontaminated character, permanency of every type, immortality, infinity and eternity. All these ideas are embedded in the very concept of what the Upanishad calls 'Bhuma'. Well, we can translate it in no other way than to call it the Absolute Being. The Brahman of all the Upanishads is the same as the Bhuma mentioned here in this Chhandogya Upanishad. That alone is happiness.

If that alone is happiness, why is it that we feel happiness in objects of sense? There must be some mystery behind the search for happiness in the objects of the world, if it is true that they themselves do not contain happiness. "Nalpe sukham asti—the finite things do not contain happiness," says Sanatkumara, the master. If finite objects do not contain happiness and it is only in the Infinite, then how do you explain the discovery of this happiness in the objects of sense? If it is absolutely impossible to discover it in objects, no person will go towards any object of sense. The reason is that the presence of this Bhuma is felt in every object, in some mysterious manner. Existence as such of the object, as they say, is the reason behind the discovery of happiness in the objects which are nothing but names and forms ultimately. There is something in the objects which is capable of indicating that behind them is this reservoir of happiness. The indication is due to their creating a situation of apparent completeness when they come in contact with the mind of the subject. Wherever there is a sensation of completeness, there is happiness. This completeness may be artificially brought about. And then, there may be an apparently conceived totality, not a real one, or there may be a true one. Whatever it be, even a mere semblance of the experience of this completeness becomes the source of the experience of happiness. The union, in whatever manner that be, between the seeking subject and object sought creates in the mind that is perceiving, cognising, and searching, a sensation of having achieved its purpose. And this sensation, attended with a thought of consciousness of having achieved one's purpose, brings about a stimulation within, which is characterised by a feeling of completeness. A sensation of completeness, a feeling that something asked for has been obtained, is introduced into the mind. This feeling is capable of lasting only for a fraction of a moment, because the mind cannot be satisfied with the idea that its purpose has been fulfilled, merely because of contact with the object. It is induced into a false state of feeling, that the purpose has been served. And this state is momentary. The mind realises that a mistake has been committed unconsciously, and it withdraws itself from this contact, hibernates itself into its own cocoon, searches for another source of happiness, and finds itself in a state of misery all in one moment. So every experience of happiness in this world is passing, fleeting, transient and momentary, of the character of a moment. It cannot last for five minutes. No one has experienced happiness for five minutes continuously because of the fact that there is an anxiety within and these anxieties are brought about by certain suspicions arising in the mind, together with the experience of this contact of itself with the object. The suspicions are brought about by the recognition that the contact is not actual union, because real union of the subject with the object is different from mere contact, be it physical or even psychological. There is a flaw in every type of union. Every coming together ends in a separation, whatever that be, either in this world or in the other world. This is the reason why there is only an apparent happiness in this world, in our coming in contact with things of the world. Even this apparent, momentary happiness is due to an awareness of the presence of this Bhuma in a flash of a moment of experience.

It is completeness of being that is the source of happiness. But where is this completeness of Being? It is not in the objects of sense, not in the union of one and two, or in the union of many. Social union is no union at all. They are coming together in a physical, psychological or social sense, no doubt, but they are not real union. Union is a real blend into a single Being. Whatever be the attempt of subjects in their coming in contact with objects, they never become one Being. We have never seen two persons becoming one, or two things becoming one, or a society of people merging into a single personality. Such a thing has never been heard of, nor is it practicable. Until that is practicable, happiness also is not practicable.

The search for happiness in this world is a search for the will-o'-the-wisp. It is the search for phantasmagoria of the concoction of one's own mind. Not in the finite is happiness to be found-valpe ukham asti. The Absolute, Fullness alone is Bliss—bhumaiva sukham. "So I reiterate, O Narada, this is the truth. The total union of Being as such which I regard as Bhuma, that is the real Bliss. So I say once again that Bhuma, the Fullness, is Bliss. How can you enter into this Bhuma unless you know what Bhuma is? You must, therefore, know what Fullness is," says Sanatkumara.

"O great Master, please tell me what this Bhuma is. Please introduce me to this great mystery of Being that you call Bhuma. What is Bhuma? What is this Fullness? What is this completeness? If it is not to be found in the union of things in this world, where else can I find it?" asks Narada.

Continued