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Essays on the Upanishads

by

KENOPANISHAD

Introductory

Karma and upasana act as steps leading to jnana. The immediate reality experienced by the human being is the physical body connected with the physical world. The function of the body is to act objectively in relation to external existence. It is never possible to keep one’s individuality inactive, because activity is a necessity that urges the individuality to transcend itself in some other state that is superior to the preceding one. Action can be destroyed through action alone, even as iron is cut by iron. Individuality can be transcended through individuality.

Upasana is a mental act, while karma may also be a physical act. Mind also is a constituent of individuality. The mind can be transcended through mind itself. The laws of the body and the mind are overcome through karma and upasana. Karma should be done as a necessity of individual life and not as a process of self-satisfaction. This is the distinction between selflessness and selfishness. Upasana is the method of subduing the distractive character of the mind through concentration on the one objective reality, viz., God. God is the unified wholeness of objectivity, though in upasana it is not possible to consider God as the secondless Absolute. The body becomes steady and calm; the mind becomes unshaken and the aspirant becomes fit for the higher state of Self-knowledge by purification attained thus through karma and upasana.

All actions done for the sake of the satisfaction of oneself become mothers of rebirth, because every desire has to be fulfilled today or tomorrow. The vastness of desires makes it impossible for the individual to fulfil all of them in this life itself. The nature of the future birth is determined by the desires that are left unfulfilled in this birth. Pleasures and pains experienced in this life are the results of the positive and the negative reactions of desires and actions. Knowledge is possible, therefore, only for one who ceases from desiring objects, whether physical or psychological, real or ideal.

Even the memory of desires and experiences has to be erased out. Nothing that is objective can be perpetual, because something becomes an object only when it has a relationship with a subject. All relationships constitute bondage. The mere fact that objects exist in the world does not constitute bondage. It is the relationship that is developed between one object and another that constitutes bondage. Desire for the knowledge of Brahman is not a desire, because such a desire is like the movement of a straw towards fire. Desire shall be burnt by the knowledge of Brahman. Movement towards the Self within is not the development of a desire, but the process of the cessation of desire. The senses and the mind get withdrawn and dissolved in the unity of the Self. Immortality is the condition of the experience of the Self as free from the connections that it appears to have with the not-Self.

The Mundaka Upanishad has said that the seeker after knowledge should first investigate the worthlessness of regions which are the effect of actions performed in this world. He should get disgusted with the world through understanding and not merely through tradition. Reason should strengthen faith, logic should supplement intuition. This shall bring about perfect vairagya born of viveka. Vairagya is not possible without a previous conviction, and conviction is not possible without analytical knowledge. This power of analysis comes to a person, first through past meritorious deeds, next through Satsanga, and later through svadhyaya and vichara.

Karma and jnana - karma is a modification of the present state into another state, directed by a necessity. Every action is based on a voluntary or involuntary desire, expressed or potential. One does not move without a purpose, and every purpose is a limitation, which shows that the actor is not complete in himself. But knowledge is not an action. Knowledge is being. If knowledge is an action it should be a means to some other end, but we do not find any end to be reached beyond knowledge. Knowledge is something like attaining to oneself, which, if it is called a process, would contradict experience. One cannot reach oneself or attain oneself or move towards oneself except by knowing oneself. A person who is asleep or dreaming may be said to be away from himself, but if he wishes to attain himself or go to himself in that imagined state of aberration, he can do it only by waking up from that dream or sleep and not by walking or moving. His body may be carried from place to place, but he will not attain to himself except by waking. Similar is the case with brahma-jnana. One cannot reach Brahman through an act, because all acts are a proceeding away from the Self. Knowledge is subsisting and not proceeding. Knowledge is not a means to an end, but the end itself. After knowing we have to do nothing, but after doing we have to know something. This is the difference between action and knowledge. Knowledge is, therefore, possible only after the dissolution of all actions, through hearing, reflection and meditation preceded by discriminative dispassion. This is the reason why the Upanishad has declared that the Self neither decreases nor increases through action, because action is a motion, and the Self is motionless.

Even if there is no intimate relationship between Self-knowledge and action, it is possible for the active individual to transcend his active individuality because of the fact that the Self pervades the individual as his very existence. The relationship between the individual and the Supreme is one of identity and not separation, but the imagined separation allows the possibility of sadhana towards perfection. Though sadhana is an action in the realm of adhyasa (superimposition), it is possible to get rid of individual consciousness through sadhana, because the process of attainment also is connected with the adhyasa. The conclusion is, therefore, that the attempt for Self-knowledge should be preceded by the longing for the same as the result of renunciation given rise to discrimination. The Self is of the nature of Attainment. Therefore, it cannot be attained through any amount of external exertion or striving, and no striving is there without an objective motive. The Self is attained through putting an end to all motives and necessities governing the laws of the phenomenal universe. That which is one’s own Nature cannot be dealt with in any way. It cannot be purified, obtained, changed or defined. The Self is objectless, immaterial, formless and immutable. All our deeds bear fruits in a world of space and time. That which is not done (uncreated) cannot be attained through what is done (created). Anything that is obtained through perishable instruments is itself perishable. Everything of the world is perishable, and, therefore, nothing of this world can be an instrument in the attainment of the Self. Objective actions give rise to objective fruits. Mental actions give rise to mental results. The effect is of the same nature as the cause. The Self is neither a cause nor an effect. Therefore, all relationships and processes pertaining to causes and effects are external to the nature of the Self. The means adopted should befit the nature of the end. The end is immortality and the means to it, therefore, cannot be a mortal one. Knowledge is attained by the Self, not by doing something, but by not doing anything. This comes to cessation of all desires, whether subjective or objective, manifested or unmanifested. Knowledge is the same as existence or being, while thoughts and actions are becomings or changes.

Brahman is vastu-tantra (dependent on the object of knowledge). The knowledge of Brahman is not dependent on the mind of man. One cannot conceive of Brahman as one likes. It is minds that differ and not the Self. Conceptions and experiences belong to the mind. The Self is the general ground of all beings, and its knowledge therefore is the same to all. Different people cannot have different kinds of the knowledge of Brahman. The knowledge of Brahman is dependent on Itself. But thoughts and actions are dependent on the individual. One can change one’s thoughts and actions as one likes - they are purusha-tantra (dependent on the individual subject). This is the reason why conceptions and actions which are the characteristics of the mind and the senses have no access to the knowledge of Brahman. Brahma-jnana is possible after effacing oneself, after becoming non-existent, from the worldly point of view. It is the union of subject and object that is meant by Self-experience. The Self is dependent on its own greatness. Its glory is unsullied by external changes. Moksha is eternity. Eternity is perpetual changelessness. The Kena Upanishad establishes the truth of the unchanging, witnessing character of the Self. 

SECTION 1

Mantra 1

The Self is the controller and the director of the mind, prana and senses. It acts without a body and without a mind. Its action is not a movement, but the law of existence. Its very existence actuates the phenomena of the five external sheaths. These sheaths have borrowed existence and borrowed consciousness. Whatever appears to be good in them belongs to the Self, and whatever imperfection there is, that belongs to the five sheaths. The Self is the cause of external activity even as the sun or the lamp is the cause of worldly work. It is unaffected by actions. It does not do anything, but everything is done because of it.

All actions are controlled by the law of Absoluteness. This accounts for the systematic working of Nature. Existence is an equilibrium, a balance of forces, a dynamic statis. The life of man is, therefore, regulated by the law of unity. All movements are towards the Self, all thoughts are directed towards the Self, all desires are the desire for the Self, all happiness is the reflection of Self-Bliss. All beings crave for unity. There is no happiness in individuality. But this love for unity is many times distorted in the form of love for the unification of physical objects. This is the cause of metempsychosis. The evil of this world is the effect of the desire for the unity of physical objects, which is an impossibility. The Spirit is unity and not the objects. Knowingly the mind indulges in evil, because it is unaware of anything beyond the causes of evil. Goodness and truth are metapsychical. Therefore, the mind cannot know real truth and goodness. True goodness dawns when the mind dies. The Self reveals itself when the individual ceases to exist. 

Mantra 2

The Self is the hearing consciousness of the ear, and similarly, the consciousness of the other different sense-functions. The organs of hearing, seeing, etc. are not capable of functioning without Self awareness. The nature of the Self can be defined by what it is not and not by what it is. The Self, as it is in itself, is indefinable, because it is devoid of the characteristics that a definition requires. It is not a substance with attributes, nor is it an individual directing the senses, etc. It is nothing to the senses and the mind, though it is everything to itself. Through the acts of deliberation, volition and determination, it is possible for us to infer the nature of the Self. The born, the originated and the compounded substances cannot be explained and accounted for except on the basis of an unborn, an unoriginated and an uncompounded being. The world of experience is the indicator of the existence of an eternal being. The acceptance of our finitude posits the existence of the Infinite. That we are imperfect means that there is a perfect being. But it is not possible for us to presume that we are perfect now itself, because our experience revolts against that conclusion. When the absence of anything brings about troubles and calamities, the value of its existence is realised. When, without something, nothing can be explained, we have to admit the reality of that something. No experience is explicable except on the substratum of a permanent Self. The feeling of “I” within us refuses to be rejected and asserts itself even before we begin to think. Consciousness is presupposed by thinking. Anything that is a composite of parts must be dependent on a non-composite wholeness of being. Differences can be explained only by non-difference. Corporeality has got a value only on the hypothesis of an incorporeal being. We give value to our bodily existence because we confound the indivisible Self with the divisible body. The senses disagree among one another, but this disagreement is reconciled and set into harmony by the unifying Self within.

In the state of waking, consciousness pervades the body, even as fire makes an iron ball red hot, when it is heated. It becomes difficult to distinguish between the fire and iron in that condition. Similarly the body appears to be the Self because of this pervasion of consciousness over the senses and the body. But consciousness is different from the senses and the body, even as fire is different from the iron ball. Self-revelation is the nature of the Self. Because of it the senses reveal to us objects. They die without it. As the sun illumines the world, the Self illumines the mind and the body. Thus it is proved that the body is not the Self and that the mind also is not the Self.

Similarly, the prana is not the Self. The prana is the expression of the mind. It is the connecting link between the mind and the body. The flow of prana is regulated by the function of the mind, and the body in turn is controlled by the movements of the prana. The condition of the body depends upon how the prana works, and the condition of the prana depends upon how the mind works, and what desires it has.

There is life in prana because of the life of the Self. The prana has no life (consciousness) in the deep sleep state when it is disconnected from the Self. There is loss of consciousness of breathing and the other functions of the prana. In conclusion, therefore, it is to be known that nothing of the five external sheaths has anything of reality.

Immortality is attained through the knowledge of the fact that the Self is the independent existence. Death is negated because of the absence of desires. Death is the process of the reshuffling of oneself from one condition to another condition. This process is the effect of unfulfilled desires. Nothing is lost when this body is lost, because death is the casting off of what is not needed and the way of entering into what is needed.

Knowledge is disintegration of personality and integration of being. Embodiment is the centralisation of energy by desires attended by consciousness. Generality is particularised by desires. Everyone wants something and not everything. This separation or partition created by the desires limits the desirer to the form of the object of his desire. This results in the experience of death and birth by the desirer, because he has to maintain the reality of the form of the object of his desire. Knowledge, therefore, consists in the cancelling of the truth of all forms of desires and removing the partition that is created.

The Selfhood attributed to the senses, etc. has to be transcended through the negation of their realities. This requires extraordinary courage or dhairya, because it is hard to negate what is experienced as a reality. To realise that the changing of bodies is for one’s good, to know that getting rid of individuality is beneficial, to come to the conclusion that impersonality is the real state of being, to detach oneself from one’s pet forms of experience, is not easy. Faith in Truth means disbelief in phantoms. Immortality and mortality are utter contradictions. We cannot live in God and at the same time live in the world. The world is a nihil in the glory of the Selfhood of Divinity.

Transcending this world does not mean casting this world away and going to another superior world. The world is a condition of experience, a mode through which we view reality, a form which we have selected out of the immense Ground of forms. As long as we are satisfied with some condition of existence and do not want its other conditions, we are said to live in a perishable world, because no condition is complete. All modes are, after all, distorted aspects and do not reveal to us the fullness of perfection. Renunciation of this world, therefore, means dissatisfaction with everything that we experience at any time, at any place and under any circumstance. Nothing of this universe should please us, lest we should be pleased with apparitions or thought constructions or dream-objects. Deathlessness is the result of desirelessness, of resting in the condition of wanting nothing at all, nothing of this world, nothing of the other world, nothing of this body, nothing of the mind, nothing of externals or internals. Negation of death means transcendental independence or kaivalya. It is to be connected with nothing, to rest in Supreme Subjectness.

The world is the colour that we paint over Truth. This colour is the one in which we appear, and it is variegated. The colours change as we change ourselves. What we are, that the world is. The objects are influenced by the characters of the subjects. The form of what we perceive is dependent on the instruments through which we perceive. The collective mind of all of us gives form and value to what it experiences, and this it does on the basis of the constitution of itself. Whatever be the value or greatness of anything of the world, it is determined by the necessity of the experiencers to experience that value or greatness. The good and the evil of this world are the reactions produced by the wants of individuals, and as such good and evil are not absolute values. The form of the world of objective value ceases to exist the moment the potentialities of wants in the individuals are annihilated, i. e., when the necessity for any form of experience in the cosmos is put an end to. Freedom from desires is something like existing as a granite-mountain that knows no change even when storms blow over it. It is to exist in the highest sense of absolute non-duality. This is immortality. Though the experience of the Immortal need not necessarily mean the destruction of the body, the body will be incapable of maintaining itself for long, for want of egoistic desires. Therefore, moksha in the real sense means existing in the condition of the Truth of bodilessness. The highest jivanmukti is immediately followed by videhamukti. Brahman is experienced here and now. 

Mantra 3

Neither the eye nor the speech nor the mind can reach Reality. These instruments of knowledge reveal objects, not the subject. The subject is the source from which these instruments proceed like rays. The rays are projected outwards, not inwards. Even as fire cannot burn itself, the Self cannot know itself through these instruments. The mind wills and determines with respect to what is within the province of its knowledge. But it cannot will and determine with respect to the Self, because the Self is not a substance which can have relations with anything. It is neither the known nor the unknown. It is not the known because there is no means of knowing it. All our means are phenomenal. What is perishable cannot reach the Imperishable. The means of the knowledge of the Self is itself. The Self is the object of its own knowledge. The knower cannot know the knower through any possible means. Omnipresence negates all relationships and every kind of knowledge is the relationship between the knower and the known. Everything that is known or manifested is tainted by its distinctness and, therefore, is subject to modification and death. The object of knowledge is set in opposition to the subject, and this opposition prevents the fullness of knowledge on the part of the knower, the knower can never have complete knowledge if the object of knowledge controls him. The possibility of complete knowledge shows that the object of knowledge is controlled by the knower. He can know it in any way he likes, but capricious knowledge is not real knowledge. Real knowledge is ever the same. This is possible when the knower renounces his caprice, i.e., when he does not know the object of knowledge as something separated, in other words, when he knows himself alone. Whatever is known is petty and perishable. It is the cause of pain and misery. It is to be rejected. All contacts are mines of sorrow, the reason for which is that in all processes of knowledge the knower tries to run away from the Truth of himself. Knowledge is the condition of non-opposition and non-contradiction.

An object can be defined or perceived through its class, quality and action. But the Atman does not belong to any class, and it is devoid of quality and action. Perception and inference fail in their attempt to know the Atman. Perception is private knowledge, valid only to the perceivers and therefore not trustworthy. Inference is the result of perception and so it, also, is untrustworthy.

Agama or intuition is the only source of valid knowledge. Perception and inference differ in their characteristics in accordance with different places, times, persons, objects and conditions. Intuitive knowledge is not in need of cognitive instruments or any external source of knowledge. The knowledge of everything that is known is the result of the interaction of the natures of the subject and the object. But true knowledge is not the result of any interaction. True knowledge is self-luminous. Hence the Atman is not the unknown also.

The Atman is assumed as a postulate in all processes of knowledge. No knowledge is possible without such an assumption of the indubitability of the existence of the Self. One’s own Nature cannot be perceived, for want of means. Self existence is free from all doubts and is an established fact. The Self is, therefore, neither to be rejected nor to be grasped or obtained, because of its not being either the known or the unknown. If it is the unknown it becomes an object to be known, i.e., the cause of knowledge. One seeks for a cause because one wants to produce an effect. All effects are perishable, and it is not possible to produce any effect through perfect knowledge. Knowledge does not produce anything. No power is manifested in the state of perfect knowledge. All powers of effects are phantoms. Self-existence never becomes another.

The production of an effect or the manifestation of a power shows that the cause or such a production or manifestation is not perfect in itself. There is nothing worth attaining or manifesting except one’s own Self. Nothing other than the Self, the knower, can bring lasting benefit. The Self is not produced, but known. Knowledge, therefore, is not in relation with anything. The desire for anything external to the Self shall meet with a miserable fate. The statement that the Self is other than the known and the unknown figuratively indicates that the Self is non-relational, unconditioned, infinite.

The inner Self of all, the brilliant light of consciousness, otherwise known as Brahman, does not become an object of itself, because it exists everywhere. Infinity is one and therefore cannot have an object. It knows itself and not another.

This knowledge is revealed to us not through any of our functions but through the gradual cessation of our functions, which is the result of advancement in evolution, deepened experience, contact with the wise and disillusionment of oneself through silent introspection. Knowledge does not come by leaps and bounds. It follows a systematic process of unveiling the fact of existence. It is not possible to climb over the higher without stepping over the lower. The grosser manifestations have to be paid their dues, have to be pacified, not repressed, before our transcending them. No brute force, no dogmatic tradition, no pet belief can be a help in the attainment of knowledge. Clear understanding, free from all passions and preconceived notions, alone acts as a torch illuminating the path to perfection.

Mantras 4 to 8

Brahman should be known to be other than what can be expressed by speech, thought of by the mind, seen by the eyes, heard by the ears, or revealed by life’s functions. The nature of Truth can be known through denials alone. We cannot call Brahman sat, because it is the opposite of asat. It cannot be called asat, because it is the opposite of sat. It cannot be called sadasat, i.e., a combination of sat and asat, because this becomes self-contradictory. It cannot be said to be beyond sat and asat, because this is unintelligible. Thus we are cornered in every way, and all definitions of Brahman become impossible. The only way of ascertaining it is, therefore, to deny everything that we know through the senses or through the mind. Brahman is sometimes called in the Upanishads asat or non-existence, because the seers of the Upanishads wanted to make it clear that Brahman is nothing that exists according to our conceptions of existence. Brahman is also called many times asamprajnata or the unconscious or the unknown, because it is nothing that is known to us, and it is not knowledge as we understand knowledge to be. It is therefore called super-being or transcendental being, super-consciousness or transcendental consciousness. It is called sat or Being because the world is asat or non-being or perishable. It is called chit or consciousness because the world is achit, jada or unconsciousness. It is called ananda because the world is Duhkha or sorrow. It is called great because everything else is small. Thus, every characteristic which we attribute to the Divine Being is the opposite of what we experience here. But we cannot know exactly what the Divine Being is as it is in itself. Our knowledge of the perfected condition is the result of a logical deduction from our imperfect experiences. Its experience is admitted because nothing can be accounted for without such an admission. It is the one factor that gives meaning to life and explains our thoughts and behaviours, speeches and actions. Brahman, therefore, should not be mistaken to be anything that is experienced by any individual in any of its conditions. The experience of Brahman means the destruction of individuality. The expressions of individuality are always partitioned into the knower and the known. The upasana (devoted worship) of a personal Divinity, no doubt, integrates the mental consciousness, collects its rays, makes it one whole being, raises the individual above the pains of the world. But it is not the same as brahma-sakshatkara (realisation of Brahman), because, in upasana, duality is not destroyed. Every object of upasana is based on purusha-tantra; the nature of the object of upasana depends upon the desire of the upasaka. The objects of upasana, therefore, differ from one person to another; but Brahman cannot differ like that. Brahman is vastu-tantra. Its knowledge is unshaken and dependent on nothing. It is the grand, immobile Self-existence. Upasanas are, therefore, helps, means, to the knowledge of Brahman. But the object of upasana is not Brahman.

The nature of the object of upasana is not characterised by pure consciousness, but it is defined by the devout thought of the upasaka. Truth, as it is in itself, is, chinmatra-svarupa (of the nature of pure consciousness alone), not defined by thought. The word Brahman is derived from the root brimh, which means to swell, to grow great, to pervade all space, to be complete and perfect. All qualities that we attribute to Brahman are the effects of our devotion. Even the best qualities super-imposed on Brahman are what we consider as the best. The realisation of the Absolute means the renunciation of all our ideas, good or bad, great or low. It is to rest simple and silent, calm and undisturbed, in the state of wanting nothing. It is to be nothing at all, in the strictest sense. Supreme attainment is the result of supreme renunciation. When we, as persons, become non-existent, we are said to exist as Supreme Existence.

Conceptions, perceptions and forms of experience given rise to by personal interests cannot have ultimate value. Perfect and disinterested existence means the renunciation of all particularised forms of experience. It is not possible to bring down the Self to the level of what it is not and what is less than it. Knowledge, desire and action connected with the human being are guided by the Self and therefore they cannot guide the Self; they are dependent. Whatever is expressed is mortal, and whatever is not the Self is expressed.

SECTION TWO

Mantras 1 to 3

The realisation of Brahman does not take the form of personal experience. One cannot say or tell that one has known one’s Self well, because everything that is known becomes an object. The Self is the knower of all, and is not known by anything. To say that one has known it is to limit it, and to say that one has not known it is, again, to limit it. The knower does not know anything other than the knower, which cannot be called the knowledge of the knower. Knowledge works on a dualistic basis. But the Self is non-dual. There is no knower other than the Self. It alone appears as the one and the many, as the experiencer, and also the experienced. The question of the knower, the knowledge and the known does not arise regarding the pure Self. In all processes of knowledge neither the subject is well known nor the object. Human knowledge is partial knowledge. Every experience of the human being is limited. The glory and the greatness of the world of experience is a distorted shadow of the Supreme Being. No manifested knowledge can be complete, because every knowledge is either of the subject or of the object, and neither the subject nor the object is really known through any form of knowledge, because the knowledge of the object is the expression of a subjective imperfection, and the knowledge of the subject, also, is thereby concealed, for objective consciousness prevents subjective awareness. Individual knowledge always hangs midway between the knower and the known, and it is capable of knowing neither, in truth. Therefore, knowledge of Brahman cannot be expressed.

It is not possible to have a little knowledge of Brahman, as Brahman cannot be divided. Either there is full knowledge of it or no knowledge of it. Limited experiences are not in any way even a little of brahma-chaitanya. Different kinds of experience, lower and higher in degree, are the results of the degrees in the manifestation of the mind. All our experiences are mental. We cannot pierce through the mind as long as we exist. Man is the same as mind, and mind is the same as desires. Even as cloth is nothing but threads knit together, man is nothing but a bundle of desires. Differences in experience are because of the differences in desires. The lesser the desires, the better and more lasting is the experience. The state of the least desires means the experience of the greatest reflection of Truth. Higher experiences are nearer to Brahman, because a greater and truer reflection of Brahman is experienced in those states, as higher experiences are the conditions of thinner needs of the mind. But, anyhow, even the highest objective experience is mental, though very near to Truth, and is not the same as Brahman-realisation. Even the nearest is not the same as that to which it is nearest. Hence, there is no such thing as a little realisation of Brahman. As long as there is even a tinge of a single desire, Brahman is not known in truth. A finger can obstruct the vision of a huge sun. A single desire can bar us from the experience of Brahman. When it is said that everything is Brahman, it is not meant that any form of our experiences is in any way Brahman. It only means that forms have no value except on the basis of Brahman. Whatever is truth in forms is a limited and reflected aspect of Brahman. But none can expect to taste even a drop of the ocean of the absolute as long as he wishes to exist, i. e., wishes to think. Every thought is a denial of Brahman, and, therefore, thought and realisation cannot exist together. Where the one is, the other is not. Experience of Brahman has no concessions to thinking. Self-realisation, therefore, is existence as the Impersonal Absolute.

The definition of Brahman as consciousness should not be mistaken to be an attempt to bring down the nature of Brahman to the level of our understanding. We say Brahman is consciousness because nothing of this world is conscious. It is just to differentiate reality from appearance that we term Brahman consciousness. It is to exalt it and not lower it. Even when we accept that Brahman is sat or chit we do not confuse it with anything that we know. It is beyond the sat and the chit which we know of. We reject everything which we know and refuse to be satisfied with anything that comes to us as an experience. We may have the highest possession of experience, but we have to abandon it. Whatever experience one may have, grand and glorious, one should not be under the impression that one’s achievement is over. It is an infinite rejection of things and states that we have to practice. There is no end for our denials. One cannot suspect whether one is in the state of Brahman or in a state of Brahman or in a state to be denied. It will be clear when one experiences it. Dissatisfaction and the awareness of ‘I’-ness will be the indicators of the imperfection of a particular state of experience. Brahman is doubtless existence and we can experience Brahman only after self-effacement. It is not easy to know it.

Mantra 4

Consciousness should be realised as the fundamental basis of all mental experiences. It should be realised in every state of our life in waking, dreaming and deep sleep. All thoughts are heterogeneous in their nature. They are not connected with one another. But they are experienced as belonging to one person because of the unity of the Self within. Our body, senses and mind are all made up of scattered parts that appear to be a unified whole because of the underlying indivisible essence. If only the Self were not there, our personality would be thrown away into the condition of atoms, disconnected and varied. There is no difference at all between the building bricks of one body and of another body. All are made up of the same earth, water, fire, air and space. But bodies appear to be different, they act in different ways, because the actor is not the body. Differences are in the desires within. This shows that man is not the body. When we speak to a person we do not speak to the body at all; we speak to the character hidden within. Even the ultimate constituents of this inner character do not differ from person to person. The same force acts as the substantial essence of all minds. But this substance of minds whirls in different directions at different centres of existence, thus creating differences. This whirling is called the mind, and this way of whirling is called a desire. Therefore, desires differ from person to person, and consequently bodies also appear to be different, as the body is controlled by the mind. With all these distracting characteristics which a person is made up of, he appears to be a whole being, without differences at all. The external ugliness is hidden by the reflection of the inner beauty of the Self. This synthesising nature belongs to consciousness and not to thought. The states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep differ from one another, and yet, a person feels that he alone exists during these three states, without difference. He identifies himself as a single unity in all changes that take place, whether in mind or in body. Waking, dreaming and deep sleep are mental conditions, manifested, slightly manifested and unmanifested. But the Self is neither the manifest nor the unmanifest. It is immutable. It is the General Ground underlying all particulars. Particulars are deviations from the natural Truth. All particularities are self imposed, i.e., created by the individuals. But the generality of the essence is common to all. Even the particulars have no life and value without this general being, even as a pot has no value without clay.

Samyagdarshana is correct perception of things as they really are. It is a spiritual condition and not an act. It has no concern with the changes that take place in the body and even in the surface-consciousness of the mind. It is, in other words, simple knowing. All objective knowledge breeds birth and death, because knowledge of objects means an underlying desire for objects. We cannot think of anything without having a love for it, positive or negative, and every love is a deviation from the law of Self-Existence. When we love an object, we deny ourselves, or rather, we deceive ourselves, because we, thereby, sell ourselves to that object. Because the object changes itself, and because our love for that object also hunts, after it, and because our love is inseparable from ourselves, we appear to die when the object vanishes, and take rebirth in order to find that object of love. Perception of diversity means moving from death to death, because we are courting thereby self-transformation, due to our desire for identifying ourselves with the diverse forms of objects.

Self-knowledge, therefore, consists in self-identical, immediate, non-relational knowledge. Knowledge, however, cannot be an attribute of the Self. If so, what is the nature of the Self? We cannot say that the Self is other than consciousness, holding that consciousness is its attribute. Else, the Self would be unconsciousness, which, however, is not our experience. The Self is not a substance having attributes. If consciousness is an attribute of the Self, there would be rise and fall of the knowledge of the Self. It is not possible for us to say what would be the nature of the Self in essence, if it is not consciousness. Without consciousness, it would become a dull substance, ever changing, partitioned, impermanent and impure, which conclusion is, however, illogical.

The theory that the knowledge of the Self is the result of the contact of the Self with the mind is incorrect. This theory reduces the Self to unconsciousness. Several of the declarations of the srutis (Upanishads) would be contradicted by this theory. Because the Self is all-pervading, there would be an eternal contact of the Self with the mind, as wherever the mind is, the Self also is. What, then, is the meaning of remembrance and forgetfulness? There would be no forgetfulness at all because of the perpetual contact of the Self with the mind. Moreover, it is wrong to hold that the Self can be in contact with anything, because the Upanishads deny such a possibility. Only a substance with attributes can be in contact with another substance with attributes. The mind has attributes, but the Self has none. Infinity cannot be in contact with perishability. The knowledge of the Self is not the effect of its contact with the mind, as the acceptance of this theory would be to accept that consciousness itself is transient. The Self is eternal knowledge in its very essence. It does not require any contact therefor.

There is another theory which holds that the Self knows itself by itself, by becoming the subject as well as the object. This theory makes the Self perishable, because it divides the Self into two parts. The Self can never became an object of itself. If it does, it has to die. One thing cannot become another thing unless it dies to that one thing. The Self does not require another consciousness to know itself. Therefore it cannot be said that the Self becomes an object to know itself.

The theory of the Buddhists that the Self is perishable is wrong. According to the Buddhists, the Self is a constantly changing process, and not an existent being. A process is never what it is for more than a moment, and hence every process is transitory. According to this theory the whole existence is a moving shadow, a passing phenomenon without any substance in it. The absurdity of this theory is clear from the fact that no process is possible without an underlying connecting being. There is no flying without an object that is flying. There cannot be mere flying alone. And, also, something flies means something does not fly, viz., the ultimate space. Change implies changelessness. There is becoming means there is being. If the Self is perishable, there must be some imperishable being other than the Self. It is not possible to conceive of perishability except on the basis of imperishability. There must be an eternal, ever-enduring being, so that change or modification may be possible. Therefore, the theory of momentariness of existence propounded by the Buddhists is rejected.

Immortality is the experience of the central existence of the Self. This is possible only after the realisation that the Self is the sole imperishable being. Knowledge is the same as immortality. Liberation from mortal experience does not mean becoming something other than what we are at present. We can never become what we are not essentially. We have no right to demand what we do not really deserve. We cannot possess what is not ours, and what is ours we can never lose. If we are not immortal now essentially, we can never become that at any time in future, because immortality cannot be created or produced. Anything that is produced is perishable. Eternity cannot be eternity only for some time. There is no such thing as eternity now and eternity afterwards. It is the same in past, present and future. We cannot, therefore, become eternity; we have to realise eternity. We need not strive to possess anything here, because we cannot possess anything perpetually. Anything that is possessed by us shall depart from us sometime or the other. Union is always followed by separation. Nothing of this world is for us a help in our attainment of immortality. The effect of all that is done, created, produced, acted or striven for is perishable. What is imperishable cannot be had through what is perishable. If we get anything, we shall lose it. If we love anything, we shall mourn for it. If we have faith in any object, we shall be deceived by it. If we enjoy anything, we shall suffer for it later on. If we are dependent on anything, we shall have to die for its sake. If we wish to live, we shall have to die, also. This is the law of this world of change. We cannot hope to be happy by being in contact with things. All that we have shall be taken away from us. Smiles of merriment shall result in tears of grief. The earth and the heaven shall collapse. The solar system shall be smashed. Our beloved bodies and our objects shall treacherously desert us, and we shall be helped by none. Immortality we can attain, therefore, by destroying the sense of possessions, by ceasing from willing, by disconnecting ourselves from external phenomena. Immortality is attained by the Self through itself. What we want, we already have, and what we do not have, we can never get. All struggle for acquisitions shall be frustrated and shall result in the continuous stream of the painful experiences of incessant births and deaths in the rotation of samsara. Atma-tripti, satisfaction in one’s own Self, is the way to Immortality.

Self-realisation is synonymous with the attainment of unlimited spiritual strength. It is the strength born of independence, freedom in the highest sense. Power that is a result of the idea of possession is imaginary. No individual can have real power because of its separation from external objects. Worldly power is only an idea and not a reality. The power vanishes when one is robbed of the possessions. Therefore, there is no permanent power in this world. Even temporarily one’s powers in this world are only imaginary, because they depend on the trust which others have in oneself. Phenomenal power cannot overcome death, because even all the phenomena have to die. Death presides over everything that is created. Therefore, death can be overcome only by an uncreated being. This power of deathlessness is ever existent, and no other power is equal to it. This spiritual power cannot be attained through any other means than the Self, which has to be approached through cessation of all functions and not by any amount of striving. Only an eternal being can overcome the process of change and destruction. Therefore, it is said that the Self cannot be attained by one devoid of strength. It requires the greatest heroism.

Mantra 5

This Self is to be known in this very life. If it is known here, there is meaning for this life. If one does not know it here, great is the loss to such a one. It is possible to realise the Self in this very life itself. It is not necessary to take several future births for this purpose, if only one is able to make the best use of one’s life. It is not the length of time for which sadhana is practised, but the nature of the intensity with which sadhana is practised, that is to be taken into account. It is not the quantity but the quality of sadhana that matters. A spark of fire can burn even a mountain of straw. The assiduity with which sadhana is carried on is the sole factor that determines the value of that sadhana. But the preparation necessary for the actual ultimate process is very great, and it takes practically all the time. It is possible to put an end to the process of the expression of the results of the desires by negating their values and by directing that consequential energy to concentration of consciousness. The failure to practise this kind of energetic endeavour leaves the present and the past actions free to manifest their fruits and thus continue the process of transmigration.

The spiritual hero distinguishes between the truth of the spirit and the untruth of the forms of experience in which it appears to be involved. The lack of interest shown in the forms of thought necessitates the dropping of such forms from one’s experience. This independent experience is called immortality. It is the process of Brahmabhyasa or the practice of the affirmation of the one Reality in every form of experience that can liberate the individual from its individualistic experiences. In other words, it is to feel oneself as the All, to feel that All is centred in one’s Self, that is called brahmabhavana. This results in the disentanglement of the Self from the notions of ‘I-ness’ and ‘mine-ness’, from the relationships and attitudes that bind the individual with its experiences and lock it up in the prison of its notions. There is no hope of the attainment of the highest Divinity as long as one wishes to be this or that, to have this or that experience, to care for some experience or the other. It is a total absorption of oneself, a practical death, as it were, to all the experiences of the earth and the heaven, a ceasing from living, a wanting nothing, an absolute denial of anything, that is presented as an experience internally or externally, that is required of the persevering aspirant after liberation. Knowing and being the Absolute mean the same thing. It is not possible to know it without being it. To live in the universe of experience is to desert the immortal, and to live as the immortal is to abandon the phenomenal experiences. The ardour with which the process has to be undergone is unimaginable. The greater it is, the lesser it should be considered to be. The greater the wisdom, the greater should be the inspiration for deepening that wisdom. The higher one proceeds, the still higher one has to aspire to climb, until there is the uncontradicted experience of Absolute Being. All this is possible through an intense acuteness of the means of approach and an admirable endeavour that shall break the personality to pieces. It is the Supreme Fulfilment attained though Supreme Negation. It is the burning up of love for the sake of living in the centre of the Absolute, in which love melts into experience. Desires and loves move, they proceed, and do not rest in them selves. But experience is motionless and rests in itself forever. It is the Supreme Death of all, for the sake of Supreme Living.

THE PHILOSOPHY OF YAKSHOPAKHYANA

Virtue and vice act as opponents both in the individual body and in the objective universe. The battle between these two is a continuous struggle for the sake of victory of truth over untruth. Virtue is the movement of the ego towards Truth, whether it is through thought, speech or action. Vice, on the other hand, is the process of the affirmation of the ego through self preservation and through self-proclamation. The nearer the ego is to Truth, the greater is the light received by it from Truth. Virtue, therefore, is guided by Divinity. The power of virtue is in fact the power of the Atman within. The power, the greatness and the glory of an individual do not belong to the individual at all. They are borrowed from the Self, and because of this, the individual passes for a great being, though in fact, it is not great. It is pride and conceit that make an individual feel that it is possessed of greatness, knowledge and power. This self assertion has to be dispelled totally before the Divinity can be realised. The story of the Yaksha’s appearance is to illustrate the quelling of pride. The quelling of pride is necessary before the realisation of Divinity. The total cessation of individuality through a dissolution of the ego in knowledge is required before the achievement of Self realisation. Without this, one does not become fit for the glorious experience. In this story, the Yaksha stands for the Supreme Brahman. Agni stands for speech. Vayu stands for prana or mind. Indra stands for the ego or the jiva. Uma stands for knowledge. But for the sanction of the Great, Divinity Speech and prana can do nothing. The mind cannot think; the glorious gods cannot shake a straw. Speech and prana are said to have approached the Yaksha or Brahman, but they could not understand that Being. Speech can express, the prana can demonstrate, and the mind can think a form or aspect of Truth, an aspect of its manifestation, viz,, the formed being, Yaksha. But the speech, the prana and the mind cannot know this Truth. They may show their vanity in trying to comprehend the Truth, but they will miserably fail in their attempt to deal with even the minutest aspect, even a straw, set before them by it. This means to say that even a drop of intuitive knowledge is not given to speech, prana or mind. They return baffled by this wonderful Being.

But when Indra, the ego, approaches the Divine Being, it vanishes, i.e., it withdraws the form of its manifestation. It is not possible for the ego to come face to face with the form of the Absolute. It would be like a salt doll entering the ocean. It would not be able to behold any form. Form shall vanish from its sight. Moreover, because the ego is the centre of vanity and pride, the Divinity shall not manifest itself before it. On the other hand, when the ego persists in its attempt to know this Truth, and does not get baffled, and is very persevering, knowledge shall dawn before it. Knowledge is represented as Uma, because it is the power of the Divine that appears first, and not the Divinity itself. The first experience is not of Divinity but of sattva-Guna,

A Guna is a mode of prakriti, and, therefore, it is represented as a female, a Sakti, or an expression of the Divine. It is Uma that instructs Indra about the Yaksha in the state of sattva, the ego is cleansed of all pride and it comes to know of the nature of the Divine. It is one step below the Divine Experience. When Uma, too, vanishes, i. e., when sattva-Guna also is transcended, the real nature of the Yaksha is revealed. There is the realisation of Brahman when all the modes of tamas, rajas and sattva are got rid of, in order. In the state of Self-experience the ego is dissolved.

Indra speaks of the knowledge of Brahman to Agni and Vayu. It is experience within through knowledge that transmits itself to speech, mind, etc. The external functions are possible because of inner experience Agni, Vayu and Indra are considered to be the greatest of the gods, because it is not possible for any other of our functions to express the Divine Being even a little; only the speech, the prana and the mind or the ego have some relations with the Divine, though these, too, cannot express it completely.

Another instruction that this story gives us is that Brahman does exist. If it does not exist, then, something else must exist. What is that something else? It may be held that the universe or the world exists. Because the universe is a collection of individuals, it means that the individual is real. But this individual is a stress of the ego. If the ego is real, it must succeed in all its attempts. The very fact that it attempts at something constantly, shows that it is not real. Moreover, the ego is subdued every moment either through external or internal agencies. One day or the other, all the egos shall be smashed. The grief of this world is the experience of the process of the subdual of the ego. It is not necessary that the Divine Being should manifest itself in some huge tremendous form to subdue the ego of a person. It shall manifest itself then and there, without fail, in such a form as is required by a particular kind of egoism. Higher egos require higher powers and lower ones lower powers for the sake of their subjugation. The Divine Being appears to take a form, not because it has a desire to take a form, but because that form of the Divine Being is the one called upon for manifestation by the necessities of the desires which manifest such a form as the counterpart of their egos in order to integrate themselves by getting negated through the agency of that form of manifestation. In other words, every form of experience is the expression of a need felt within.

The failure of the ego to assert its independence indicates that Truth must be a non-ego. Non-ego means infinitude, which posits the existence of the Supreme Brahman. Brahman appears to be comprehended in the realm of speech, thought and action. There is the feeling of knowledge of reality as long as these functions of the individual are carried on happily. This is the meaning of the vision of the Yaksha by Agni and Vayu. But the comprehension of Brahman through these individual functions is only superficial, even as Agni and Vayu can behold the Yaksha but cannot understand it. When these individual functions are defeated and when they return ashamed, accepting their defeat, i.e., when they do not feel that they are great, and, therefore, cease from further functioning, Indra or the ego starts the investigation of Brahman. But the ego cannot have such superficial knowledge of Brahman, as the other external functions had. When the ego approaches Brahman, there appears to be a loss of all knowledge, the Yaksha disappears from sight. Indra should thoroughly humiliate himself, the ego should perish, if the true nature of the Yaksha is to be revealed. The ego, therefore, merely appears to be less than the other functions. It appears to be not even as fortunate as the other functions who at least had the vision of the Yaksha. But in fact this vanishing of objective knowledge is a precursor to Absolute Knowledge. The process of the dissolution of personality appears like the death of all awareness, though it is the gateway to eternal awareness. The greatest bliss is preceded by the greatest pain. Absolute Unity always follows the destruction of multiplicity and duality. The object of perception should melt away, the Yaksha should vanish, if Brahman is to be realised. The appearance of omniscience is a state midway between individual experience and Absolute Experience, which middle state is represented by the appearance of Uma. It is also to be noted that the Yaksha appears only after that victory of the gods over the Asuras, which means that knowledge is possible only after the victory of virtue over vice, i.e., when the animal propensities are completely subjugated.

The story teaches us that everything is despicable except the knowledge of Brahman. The glory of this world is less than a straw. The greatest of the gods are nothing before the Brahman. Even the king of the gods is nothing before it. The story also shows that it is very difficult to realise Brahman, as even the best of the gods failed in their attempts to comprehend it. It further shows that Agni, Vayu and Indra became great through the knowledge of Brahman alone. Brahmajnana is supreme greatness and glory. It is vain to think that any individual has the power to act or to enjoy. It is Brahman that is, and nothing else. 

MEDITATION ON BRAHMAN

Brahman is the embodiment of all qualities, powers and existence. It is possible for anyone to obtain anything in any form at any time and at any place, because the substance of everything is everywhere and in every form. With whatever conception of Brahman one may meditate on it, one experiences the form of that conception alone, to the exclusion of everything else. If one meditates on it as Supreme Love, the centre of attraction, adoration and worship, identifying oneself with Brahman, one becomes the object of everybody’s love, of all adoration and worship. One who loves Brahman shall be loved by every being of the universe. One who worships it shall be worshipped by all. If one meditates on Brahman as supreme greatness and glory, one shall become supreme and glorious. Whatever attitude we develop towards Brahman, that is repaid to us in manifold forms. The fact is that it is not possible to meditate on Brahman except by identifying oneself with it. Hence when attitudes are developed towards Brahman in the process of meditation, they are, in fact, developed towards oneself. This is why the meditator experiences whatever he superimposes upon Brahman. The best kind of meditation, however, is not to conceive of Brahman as having any quality at all, i.e., to negate all qualities that the mind thinks of. Qualities limit Brahman, and we get only what we think. The negation of qualities, however, discloses Truth as it is in itself, and the meditator becomes Brahman itself.

Meditation on Brahman is an attempt to become the Self of all beings. This is the reason why a lover of and a meditator on Brahman becomes the centre of adoration and worship. Every being loves itself the most and adores and worships itself as the best and the dearest. And since this dearest Self is reflected through a lover of Brahman, he becomes the dearest and the most adorable of all. One can relate oneself to anything and can know anything in the best possible way only when one becomes that thing. Therefore, meditation on Brahman is the effort towards obtaining and becoming everything, i. e., achieving the highest perfection in the Supreme Absolute.