The Chhandogya Upanishad
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 4: An Analysis of the Nature of the Self

Section 2: Different Higher Worlds

  1. Sa yadi pitr-loka-kamo bhavati, samkalpad-evasya pitarah samuttisthanti, tena pitr-lokena sampanno mahiyate.

If he wants to see someone, say a forefather in the other world, he can see him at once. There is no such thing as 'other world' for that person who has realised the Atman. Just as this world is not, the other world also is not. There is only one thing, which is commensurate with his own Being. We can see our own fingers even though they are a little distant from our eyes, say two feet away. This distance does not prevent us from seeing them. Distance is ruled out here on account of the identity of the object with our own Self. The forefathers in the other heavens also can be seen at once the moment his will projects itself in that fashion.

  1. Atha yadi matr-loka-kamo bhavati, samkalpad-evasya matarah samuttisthanti, tena matr-lokena sampanno mahiyate.

  2. Atha yadi bhratr-loka-kamo bhavati, samkalpad-evasya bhratarah samuttisthanti, tena bhratr-lokena sampanno mahiyate.

  3. Atha yadi svsr-loka-kamo bhavati, samkalpad-evasya svasarah samuttisthanti, tena svasr-lokena sampanno mahiyate.

  4. Atha yadi sakhi-loka-kamo bhavati, samkalpad-evasya sakhayah samuttisthanti, tena sakhi-lokena sampanno mahiyate.

  5. Atha yadi gandha-malya-loka-kamo bhavati samkalpad-evasya gandhamalye samuttisthatah, tena gandhamalya-lokena sampanno mahiyate.

  6. Atha yadi anna-pana-loka-kamo bhavati, samkalpad-evasyanna-pane samuttisthatah, tena anna-papa-lokena sampanno mahiyate.

  7. Atha yadi gita-vadita-loka-kamo bhavati, samkalpad-evasya gita vadite samuttisthatah, tena gita-vadita-lokena sampanno mahiyate.

  8. Atha yadi stri-loka-kamo bhavati, samkalpad-evasya striyah samuttisthanti, tena stri-lokena sampanno mahiyate.

  9. Yam yam antam abhikamo bhavati, yam kamam kama-yate, so'sya samkalpad-eva samuttishati, tena sampanno mahiyate.

It is a long list which I need not translate. It means to say that everything that we can think of—relatives, friends, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, good things, great things, pleasant things, objects of desire present in this world or in the other world-whatever they be, they do not take time to manifest themselves if the will is exercised in the proper manner. What is the proper manner? The will has to be in tune with the law of the Atman. This is the only condition. It must be a universal wish coming from every corner of the world enfolding within itself every object. Then there will be an instantaneous manifestation of all things to the satisfaction of the universal will of this Self-realised sage. Whatever be his wish, that shall take place, but his wish will not contradict universality, because the wish itself is universal.

All these desires in our hearts are really distorted forms of the manifestation of consciousness in some way or the other. It is the great universal Being seeking expression in various types of experiences in this world. All thoughts, all desires, all aspirations, whatever be the functions of the psyche, are movements of consciousness towards Self-realisation. It is the search of the Self for the Self in the world outside. But there is some defect in the movement of consciousness when it gets lodged in the body of an individual and imagines that it is somehow or other limited to the extent of that body alone. This feeling, falsely introduced somehow or other in respect of the association of consciousness with the body, is called anrita, falsehood. When falsehood gets mixed up with truth, which means to say, the body idea and the externality idea get mixed up with the true Consciousness that we are, then it becomes difficult for us to achieve anything in this world. The more we free ourselves from the notion of the consciousness getting identified with the body and externality, the more is our capacity to exert our will in the proper way and fulfil our desires.

Section 3: The Space Within the Heart

The capacity to fulfil a desire is actually the power of the vision to find out where the object of desire is and what connection the object has with one's own self. The lack of this vision in respect of the object of desire is the impediment which acts as an obstacle to the fulfilment of the desire. Desires are really the visions of consciousness which act in different ways, in different levels of experience. When, due to the locking up of consciousness in a particular level of experience, it cannot visualise what is outside it or beyond it, then it becomes difficult for it to come in contact with the objects of its desires.

  1. Ta ime satyah kamah anrtapidhanah, tesam satyanam satam anrtam apidhanam, yo yo hy-asyetah praiti, na tam iha darsanaya labhate.

The words satya and anrita literally mean truth and untruth. Truth is the capacity to visualise things as they are in themselves, and untruth is that which obstructs this vision. Things as they are in themselves are not vitally disconnected from one another. There is really no distance between one object and another object. If distance does not exist, the difficulty in contacting objects should not arise. But the distance does exist for a particular type of consciousness which has limited itself and which therefore thinks that it is different from that which the whole universe is capable of in its completeness. This is the reason why those who are not in this physical world cannot be seen by people living in this physical world, and why the former cannot be contacted by the latter. There is no communicating medium between this world of experience and the other world of experience. There is, really speaking, no such thing as this world and the other world. There are not many worlds, there is only one vast continuum of experience. The distinction of this world from the next world and many other worlds arises on account of the varying densities of consciousness which appear to cause different levels of experience.

We cannot actually establish a conscious communication between dream and waking, for instance, notwithstanding the fact that there is no real gulf physically speaking between waking and dream experiences. There is absolutely no distinction, if you seriously investigate into the structure of dream as well as of waking. Yet they appear to be so different that one who is awake cannot have entry into the dream world, nor can one who is dreaming have entry into the waking world. It is the distinction of the capacities of certain levels of consciousness which is the reason behind the distinctions made between the two different worlds, viz., the dream and the waking worlds. Worlds are fields of experiences and experiences vary in their intensities corresponding to the particular level in which one finds oneself at any time. Corresponding to the correlative objective world in which one finds oneself, there is the possibility or impossibility of knowing what is beyond the ken of the physical senses. People who are dead are not really dead. They are in some other level of experience. They are in a different realm, in a different density of consciousness. Those in that particular density cannot contact those in another density.

Now, another startling remark is made here by the Upanishad when it says that all these people who have passed on from this world, those who are born and those who are not yet born, those who have come and those who have gone to other worlds are in our own hearts. They are not outside somewhere. We carry them in our own hearts, in the ether of our consciousness. It has been said earlier that whatever is outside is also inside. So whatever is in the various levels, in the various lokas or realms of being, in the so-called external universe, is present in our own hearts. They can be invoked from within our own selves by the strength of the mind. This cannot be done ordinarily on account of the untruth of bodily attachment and externality-consciousness interfering with the truth of the universality of experience. The great obstacle to the perception of the things that are there in the whole universe is the locking up of consciousness in a particular body. It is imprisoned in a particular individuality, jivatva, and it cannot think more than what is finite and limited. This is the untruth referred to here. It is something that is not really there, but which one experiences by habit and by repeated application of oneself to that type of experience which falsely goes by the name of reality to the exclusion of every other possibility of experience. Thus, those people who have passed away cannot be seen, and those who are not born also cannot be seen. But those who are not born also still exist somewhere in the world. We say this with reference to a distance that appears to exist between ourselves and those unborn ones, as if they are outside us. The question of outsideness just does not arise in a world of a continuum of consciousness. But still it appears to interfere with our experience on account of body consciousness, individuality and egoism.

  1. Atha ye casyeha jiva ye ca preta yac-canyad-icchan na labhate, sarvam tad atra gatva vindate, atra hi asyaite satyah kamah anrtapidhanah, tad-yathapi hiranya-nidhim nihitam aksetrajna uparyupari sancaranto na vindeyuh, evam evemah sarvah praja ahar ahar gacchantya etam brahmalokam na vivdanti, anrtena hi pratyudhah.

If only one were to dive into the ocean of one's own heart, one would see there everything that one cannot even dream of in one's mind. All those who have died since ages, millions and millions of years ago, and all those who have not yet come into being at all but are to manifest themselves now or in the ages to come—all these forms are capable of being perceived in one's own heart. But in this world this is not experienced, because this is a world of physicality and intense bodily awareness. On account of this, everything seems to be scattered hither and thither, as if one thing has no connection with the other thing, while really in the heart of all things can be discovered the treasure of the whole universe wherein you find the entire population of the cosmos right from the time of creation till the time of dissolution.

An example is given here to illustrate this. It is something like people walking over a treasure and not knowing that there is a treasure underground, says the Upanishad. Someone might have buried some treasure-trove under the earth and many people may be walking over it without knowing that a big treasure is underneath. Similar is the case with us who carry treasures in our own hearts. In our own selves, all these are contained. But we cannot have entry into them on account of the absence of the awareness of the fact that they are there. The consciousness of this fact is repelled by the very existence of interest in something else. We stumble upon the treasure every day. We fall upon Truth and contact everything, everywhere, in all our experiences—past, present and future-throughout the various incarnations we take, but we cannot know that we are coming in contact with it, just as subtle, etheric waves and light waves may be passing through this very hall in which we are seated but we cannot know that they are passing. These waves are of high frequency. Neither that which is too low in frequency nor that which is very high can be comprehended by us who can experience only a particular range of frequency. Thus it is that we ourselves do not know what we contain in ourselves.

It is impossible to know this great treasure by a projection of the mind outwardly, because it is seated within the heart of things. It is not external. As a matter of fact, it is the search we make externally that is the obstacle in knowing that which is within one's own self. Things do not exist as externals. They are not exclusive. In fact, everything is inclusive. The knowledge of this internal connection is denied by the very desire to see things externally. Thus we see that the contradiction that arises on account of the desire which projects itself through the senses in respect of externality of things prevents the knowledge of things as they really are.

  1. Sa va esa atma hrdi, tasyaitad-eva niruktam hrdy-ayam iti, tasmad-hrdayam, ahar ahar va evam-vit svargam lokam eti.

There is a peculiar etymological derivation of the meaning of the word hridaya, which usually means heart. The Upanishads are very fond of these kinds of etymological extractions of meanings for certain words giving the significance of the words. As I said, hridaya means heart. It is a Sanskrit word and the Upanishad now explains why the heart is called hridaya. "Here inside is He." This means to say, Truth is inside you; it is the abode of that which is, and therefore, it is called hridaya. One who knows that one's heart is the abode of Truth attains to the highest heavens in experience. Our day-to-day experiences are not merely empirical or secular, as we normally dub them. There are no secular experiences or worldly experiences or physical experiences. They are only names that we give to the one experience of Truth. And these names are given only for the purpose of convenience in language to distinguish one type from another in our empirical dealings. In fact they are all one mass of experience, like a single body of an ocean of waters with different sizes and forms of waves. In every experience we can plumb into the depths of Truth, even as in every wave we can have water. With every perception we perceive That only. In every kind of cognition there is a cognition of Reality. But unfortunately we mistake the Being for objects on account of the habit of the mind to define things in different ways.

  1. Atha ya esa samprasado'smac-charirat samutthaya param jyotir-upasampadya svena rupenabhinispadyate, esa atmeti hovaca, etadamrtam abhayam, etad-brahmeti, tasya ha va etasya brahmano nama satyam iti.

When a person rises above body consciousness, there is a serenity of experience. It is as if he is free from a drug effect into which he has entered and to which he has been subjected for long. Consciousness gets muddled on account of the influence of an external toxic matter due to which there is no proper thinking and understanding. As this toxic effect subsides, there arises serenity, tranquility and composure of experience. He feels as if something new has come into his life. He wakes up as if there is a new daylight before him. This is samprasada, the composure of consciousness which arises on account of the freedom of consciousness from bodily shackles. The moment this consciousness is freed from bodily attachment it rises upwards, as it were, like a flame of brilliance. It is the supreme luminosity. It is light by its own right, a light that does not require another light to illumine itself, paramjyoti. When one attains to this supreme luminosity which is one's own real nature, one is established in one's self. Then one is in one's true form. As we wake up from dream and recognise our true nature as being different from what we felt ourselves to be in dream, so does one recover one's real nature and shake off the old notions of connections with bodies, one differing from the other. One state of consciousness imagines that it is an animal, another state of consciousness imagines that it is a human being, and so on and so forth. Various states identify themselves with various forms of experience which are called the bodies. They may be animals or human beings or celestials. Whatever they are, those forms are cast off on account of Consciousness extracting itself from those shackles and it stands by itself as a liberated being. This is the Atman. The real Atman is that which is free from entanglement in any kind of form. This is the Immortal. It is the disidentification with the body that is the cause of immortality. This is what we call Brahman, the Absolute, ultimately the universal nature of this Atman. What we call Truth, about which we have been speaking up to this time, is Brahman Itself. We may call It the Atman or Brahman. It makes no difference. This is the Truth, because That alone is, That which is in all the three periods of time. That knows no distinction of the passage of time. That is perpetually what It is without distinction either in space or in time. That is the Atman, and that is what we call Brahman.

  1. Tani ha va etani triny-akasarani satiyam iti, tad-yat sattad-amrtam, atha yat-ti tan-martyam, atha yad-yam tenobhe yacchati yad-anenobhe yacchati tasmad-yam, ahar-ahar-va evam vit svargam lokam eti.

Again here we have the usual symbolic meaning of the word satyam, etymologically derived. What is satyam? Satyam is, says the Upanishad, a word which can be dissected into three syllables-sa, ti, and yam -and from the point of view of this interpretation of the Upanishad, sa, the first letter, stands for what is immortal; the second one ti stands for what is mortal, and yam, the third one, is that which holds the two together. The mortal and the immortal are both comprehended in something which is different from the mortal and the immortal, which means to say that as the antaryamin, or the indwelling principle, this Supreme Reality, holds together in itself both the subject and the object, consciousness and matter. What we call immortal is consciousness and what we call mortal is matter. Both these are held together in this Universal Being. It is something transcendent to our concepts of mortality and immortality. Even the word 'immortal' is relative in its significance, because to say that something is immortal or deathless would be to relate it to a phenomenon called mortal or death. When death is not there, deathlessness also is not there. Hence, these two concepts are connected with the two aspects of experience, the subjective side known as consciousness and the objective side known as matter. The whole world of experience constituted of these two aspects, subjective and objective, are brought together into a single comprehension in the supremacy of the Absolute. This is the significance of the word satyam, says the Upanishad. One who knows this secret reaches the highest heavens of experience even in the little daily perceptions which one passes through or undergoes. In all our daily experiences, we have the experience of this satyam, Truth only, in various forms, various ways and various circumstances.