Commentary on the Katha Upanishad
by Swami Krishnananda


Section 2: The Stages of Self-Control

In this chapter, the Upanishad proceeds to explain the stages of self-control and the recognition of the Atman in one’s day-to-day life. The various sections deal with different aspects of the same question: self-discipline and meditation are described throughout. Here, the Upanishad commences with the analysis of a particular type, pertaining to the individual body. How are we to perform self-control, atmavinigraha? It is nothing but a remembrance of the various functions taking place in our body, instead of forgetting them on account of a tremendous attraction to objects outside. We seem to forget ourselves. We are wise about others, but not about ourselves. We have to be wise in regard to ourselves, instead of being wise about others.

The Individual Self

puram ekādāś-advāram ajasyāvakra-cetasaḥ,
anuṣṭhāya na śocati vimuktasca vimucyate: etad vai tat. (1)

“A city of eleven gates belongs to the uncrooked intelligence. By ruling it, one does not grieve.” This body has eleven gates. What are the eleven gates of this body-city? Some say the eleven orifices in the bodily system are the two eyes, two nostrils, two ears, mouth, the two of evacuation, navel and the crown of the head. But these are gates of only the gross body. There are also eleven gates in the subtle body, the eleven senses: five jnanendriyas, five karmendriyas, and the mind.

So this city of the human personality is endowed with eleven openings, and consciousness can rush out through any of these. It can rush forth if there is even one gate; what to say if there are eleven! It splits up and moves. But this light within is not elevenfold. It is single, and it is not channelised, just as the space in a vessel is not limited to its walls. If a violent wind blows, it is not blown out. His light is always straight, and it is never extinguished. Our body is perpetually illumined by this light within. It does not bend with the body or get destroyed when the latter disintegrates. It does not get affected with the affections of the body. Nothing on earth or in heaven can affect light. This light is avikara aja. One cannot restrict it as one can the things of the world. Though it illumines the eleven gates and also the things outside them, it is unaffected by what happens in the body and around it.

This bodily city is to be the object of one’s self-study. He who analyses the constitution of it will not grieve any more. The physical body is made of the five elements, the gross bhutas: earth, water, fire, air and ether. It is the combination and permutation of them. Its constitution is the same as that of the world: the body is inert as earth is. It is endowed with light, power and motion, activity and sensation, just as a material medium may be charged with electric force. The body becomes a live wire by life-force, and is called jiva. The five elements do not possess this energy which may be called life. Hence, the human body is more than these elements. The vitality in us is a special thing. Not only that, we have various sensations which other living beings do not have. We establish a traffic between ourselves and the world outside through these gates of the senses. Through them, we move out of the body and go to the world, receive commodities and bring them into it. The world enters into us and we rush out; a perpetual commerce takes place. If the gates were not there, there would be no commerce and no jiva. The jiva within lacks contents, and the world outside lacks vitality. They supply to each other what they need.

This mantra explains Kant’s philosophy. We carry on this traffic with the outer world: it supplies contents, and we supply forms. This fact of mutual existence was already described in the Upanishad. The jiva is unhappy because he seems to lack something which the world contains, some objects that he needs. But you want meaning to be attached to them which you have to supply. So your consciousness pervades the object so much that it is mistaken for the need—like the iron ball that is charged with heat seems to be fire itself—and thus the world and the inner consciousness form samsara. This is the essence of our world-experience. Let one meditate on this.

Do not be a slave of this traffic; to be a witness to it, performing anushthana in this very birth, consciousness should visualise itself as the supreme Lifegiver of all things, for without it, they would disintegrate. When it combines itself with the elements, it becomes a jiva, and when it separates itself from them, it becomes liberation: the freed ones get free. “This, verily, is That.”

haṁsaḥ śuciṣat, vasur antarikṣasat hotā vediṣat, atithir duroṇasat,
nṛṣat, varasat, ṛtasat, vyomasat, abjā, gojā, ṛtajā, adrijā, ṛtam bṛhat. (2)

This is a quotation from the Rig Veda and from the Yajur Veda, a description of the Atman, to be reached by anushthana. Inwardly He is the Self, and outwardly, He is ishvara. The purport of it is that the Atman is all-pervading, omnipresent. This is suddha satta, the Abode of Pure Being. “He moves as air in the sky; He is the pervader of space, the priest and the guest that you see daily; He is what you call man, He is what you call woman; He is what you call law in this world; He is all-pervading ether; He is what you call water, what you call earth; He is what you call mountain. He is what you call truth par excellence. He is what is called the Great Reality; He is what you call Atman. All things, right from heaven to earth, are vitalised and pervaded by the Atman.” First, we have the word ‘shuchishat’, etc. He is in heaven, in earth, in air, in fire, in ether and in all the contents of the world, not only in the physical ones, but also in all the laws that operate in all qualities and relations, in everything that has significance. He is not only in the external and internal, but also in the relation that obtains between them; not only in the relation, but the as relation itself. He is the perceiver, the perceived and the process of perception, and at the same time transcends this threefold process.

In the second mantra, the Atman is described as not only the pervasive principle in all creation, but also the contents which He pervades. This will suffice to remove many misconceptions in regard to Him. That which is the Self of all beings is regarded by people as limited. They imagine the Atman to be inside the body. It is wrong to so think, because He is that which is Universal and Absolute. The ideas of inside and outside are created by the process of psychological and intellectual thinking. Hence, it would be like putting the cart before the horse if we think that the Atman is located inside the body. He is neither inside nor outside. He is the pervasive Principle and the Substance through which He circulates. He does not pervade the universe like water pervading a cloth; He is not one thing entering another. This omnipresence of sarvatrata of the Atman described as pervading all things is for the purpose of explanation, inasmuch as it cannot be described in any other manner. The Atman is the Self. The Supreme Being is called the Atman because It cannot be visualised by the senses and It is prior to all concepts. Inasmuch as It is prior to everything, presupposing all activities of cognition and perception, all our faculties being external forms of It, such being Its marvellous pervasive character, it was best to call It the Atman of all things.

Again and again, the perverse mind wants the same thing it wanted before. It clings to the ideas of internal and external, and these ideas do not leave us. People look within the body or physical frame to see the Atman. He is within in a different sense altogether. Lord Jesus said: “The Kingdom of Heaven is within.” How can a kingdom be within? It sounds absurd. But it is a spiritually conceived ‘within’ rather than the physical walled within.

It is the habit of the eyes to look within in a physical sense, and they want to see the Atman in this way alone. He is internal not only to the eyes, but also to the mind. Hence, even a psychological introversion is not enough, because the mind also introverts in space. Just as the eyes can see objects only in space and time, so is the case with the mind, too. The supreme Spirit is subtler than even the mind in the sense that He does not think as the mind thinks. To think is to separate the objects from Him.

He is within in a universal sense. If you could conceive of the universal within, that would be the Atman. He is not internal in a spatial sense, and not external in the sense of time. He is not endless expanse in space, or passage of time endlessly projected forward. The mind is habituated to think in terms of space, time and causality, and thus we try to do the same thing with the Atman.

Even the topmost heavens are pervaded by Him, so you must bar the idea that He is within the body. He is purest uncontaminated Being, untouched by the dust of earth and heaven. He enlightens the highest heights. And downward from them is the ethereal region, also pervaded by Him. He is the cosmic principle, besides being the life-principle. He is in the five elements. He is also vitality, and all things that move on earth. He is not merely the Pervader, but also the Material of which the universe is made, as well as its material Cause. He is its regulating laws: the physical ones, the biological ones and all the others as well, called rita and satya. The latter is law existing as the atman, the former is the law manifested in this universe. All our laws must be in conformity with rita, and are meant to regulate the movement of people and bring about a balance of forces as manifestations of the supreme Harmoniser. This Atman is the largest of all Beings, and also the smallest one, pervading, as the Substance, all alike.

ῡrdhvam prāṇam unnayaty apānam pratyag asyati,
madhye vāmanam āsīnaṁ viśve devā upāsate. (3)

He is not merely the cosmic principle and the regulator of cosmic activity. All activities, even in the human system, are regulated by the Atman; even our breath, He being the integrating principle in us. “He moves the prana up and casts out the apana, the ramifications of the vital force in us, He, the dwarf seated in the middle, adored by the gods.” We know from our day-to-day life how this energy pervades the whole body. Every part of it is filled with light. We are aware of every part of our system, and in order to make this body active, to give it the energy of locomotion, to make the legs move, the eyes see and the other senses do their respective work, the pranas fill it with rajas, the force of activity. The prana is pushed out, and the apana is drawn in. Thus you cannot help breathing in and out, every moment, and you have no control over your internal system which is directed by someone different altogether. We should not be under the impression that the pranas give us life. They are sent in different directions by the silent Being inside who is Himself not visible, like an absolute ruler who may send out his army or emissary. It is He who gets forth the prana on account of which all action is done: vamana, the silent Atman—most delightful and resplendent.

When He acts through the representatives which are the senses, desires are manifest. When He takes possession of us through any one of them exclusively, we are captured by a rapture. It may be caused by a sensory or mental activity, as in music, beautiful scenery, a masterpiece of literature. And then, you feel an elation wherein all five senses are hushed. Beauty can manifest in art or sense-enjoyment which is binding; but the highest rapture comes when in spiritual ecstasy the beauty of the Atman manifests internally; pure, non-sensory, independent of contact with mind and senses. Neither they nor the prana or apana are working then, but only that which brings illumination of the whole being.

While the senses and prana are activated by this silent Witness within, it is not to be forgotten that everything is subservient to Him. All gods, meaning all the senses, worship Him outwardly. He is silent. He does not act in a way we can understand. His existence is charged with a power that is enough to energise the whole universe.

So the true worship of God would be to adore Him in all things, as all gods: vishva deva—not this or that god. He is the prana within and without; being inside as the senses and outside, cosmically, as the sutratman.

asya visraṁsamānasya śarīrasthasya dehinaḥ,
dehād vimucyamānasya kim atra pariśiṣyate: etad vai tat. (4)

“When this Being separates Himself from the body and is released, what happens to the body, and what remains in the end?” The body’s beauty is that of the Atman, and when He is withdrawn, there is no beauty left. All the bodily parts are integrated by Him, and when He leaves, there is decay and decomposition, and they go back to their sources, the elements. Yama gives here a twofold answer. When the two exist together, there is what is called a personality, jivatva, and they seem integrated. When the two get separated, the body goes to its physical sources, and in His ultimate separation, the Atman goes to the Atman. Birth is nothing but the animation of the mind and senses by the light of the Atman, and death is separation. When it takes place, there is on one side physical death, and on the other, spiritual segregation of the connection between mind and Atman.

The mind acts as a twofold link: to the body and to Him. It can peep within as well as without. When it looks outward through the physical senses, it becomes impure, the lower mind or asuddha-manas. When it looks within, independent of them, it becomes the higher mind, suddha-manas. That is why, though it is the cause of our bondage, it can also be the cause of our liberation.

In empirical death, the subtle body gets isolated from the physical one. Here, the contact of the Atman with the mind, does not end; only the physical body is cast off. The subtle and causal bodies remain, and they are the cause of samsara. The causal body is the anandamaya kosha into which we enter in deep sleep. As long as those two persist, transmigration for the sake of enjoying karmas cannot cease.

While empirical death is the separation from the physical sheath by the mind and the Atman, spiritual death is the separation of the Atman from the mind. When this isolation takes place ultimately, in the atyantika pralaya, the final death of individuality, which is moksha, what remains? When all that is external is left behind, what remains? All apparent restrictions of consciousness cease, and the Atman recognises His pristine, original Universality.

na prāṇena nāpānena martyo jīvati kaś cana,
itareṇa tu jīvanti, yasminn etāv upāśritau. (5)

“We do not live by prana or apana, but by something else, on which the prana and apana live.” If we live on prana and apana; on what do they live? That even the gods live on the Supreme Being is illustrated in the Kenopanishad; we do not live merely by sense-activity, by mental functions, by our intellect: all these fail us one day or the other; all these live on something else. This is to be contemplated upon.


hanta ta idaṁ pravakṣyāmi guhyam brahma sanātanam:
yathā ca maraṇam prāpya ātmā bhavati gautama. (6)

Nachiketas, I shall describe to you the mystery of the Atman, and where the soul goes after death.” What happens to a person after death—this answer is attempted to be given in the following mantras. What happens will be determined by the condition of the present and past. It is said that a straight answer cannot be given, because what was in store even before the birth of this body must be taken into consideration.

Since many karmas are being performed—as is usually done by everyone—and since they are done under different impulses: intense, middling and mild, the intense ones create deep-seated impressions in the subconscious mind, but a mild thought produces a mild impression. Every thought is recorded; none gets lost. These impressions are determining factors of the soul’s reincarnation. Strong ones may seek expression earlier than others. It is not that present ones will be taken first, necessarily; it depends on the intensity. For karmas there is no past and present. When they produce an effect called apurva, subtle potency, they get buried in the unconscious and subconscious levels and we do not know what is in store; very powerful ones can express themselves even in this birth, rising to the conscious level.

It is difficult to escape the nemesis of our thoughts, acts and feelings; we are answerable to them. Like our children, they will claim their due share. These karmas are obstinate, powerful and violent if they are given long ropes, and they will hurl us into samsara as they have done now. We cannot say what our next birth will be like because it cannot be said now what karmas will be allotted to us. Jadabharata became a deer, Ahalya a stone and Yamalarjuna the trees. This means that human consciousness can sink to the animal, vegetable and inanimate levels under certain given conditions, but they will revert to the human one again.

When the body dies, all these collected impressions awake and rise to the conscious level, demanding their share; and this is prarabdha-karma meaning new birth. Because we do fresh karmas then, too—as we do not remain a witness to the events—we keep adding new ones. So karmas are fresh actions done with the sense of doer and enjoyership, and mantras six and seven are some sort of reflection on this subject.

The urge for reincarnation testifies to the immortality of the soul. It never ceases its effort toward its liberation, and this effort takes the form of a series of births and deaths, outwardly manifesting the internal nature of its constitution. The soul never gets the supreme satisfaction it hopes for in this endless process of achievements. All its efforts are unfortunately directed by error, and so instead of immortality, there are only endless reincarnations. Things are connected by a perpetual bond of affinity, and emotional affections are propelled by the existence of internal unity. This internal union of things and persons manifests as loves outside. While this spiritual internal unity is the reality, it takes the form of an external attraction and pull when it manifests in the world. The ocean at the bottom is one, but if its waters are being let out through different channels, it can be split.

Human beings, all beings in the phenomenal world, are incapable of diving into this unity at the bottom. They are floating on the surface because their senses are being directed outward right from the time of creation, as mentioned in an earlier mantra; and only a few turn inward. Birth and death are correlative, and when one is there, so is the other. If you are born, you have to die; and if you die, you have to be born. So long as there is recognition of value in the things of the world, there will be love and hatred for them. And so long as there is love and hatred, desire cannot cease—it being an internal urge, and affection for things being an external movement towards the desired object. But nowhere does the spirit find satisfaction because love for objects does not in any way touch the bottom of unity. And thus, love and hatred are far removed from reality. So births and deaths do not cease, and souls enter different bodies in order to experience a set of karmas.

The time of death is the condition of the whole personality when there is a cessation of willpower and freedom of thought on the conscious level. You cannot think as you think now, just as what may happen in deep dream does not occur in our waking state. In the latter, by the power of will, we deliberately suppress certain thoughts and feelings, but in dream there is no such taboo or restriction, and we are free to think as we like in accordance with our deepest feelings. Thus, the last thought comes from the whole of our being. Our deeper layers of personality come to outer manifestation at the time of death. Thought is deliberate thinking, while feelings constitute the real personality of the individual.

Hushed thoughts, suppressed feelings are dangerous and one has to be careful because it is these that we carry with us at the time of death, not our relatives and wealth. The soul repents at the time of death. The Manu Smriti says: “When you depart, your parents, wife etc., will not help you. You carry with you none, nothing, except the good and bad that you have done. In the same way as you wept when you came, you will weep when you go.” Thus, in an unbefriended condition the soul carries its impressions, casting off this physical body here and seeking an atmosphere where it is possible to pay for the samskaras and vasanas it carries with it. Violent samskaras seek expression in the nether regions. Lower and higher realms are not in space and time. The space and time necessary are created by consciousness, just as when you enter into dream, you enter a new space and time. The most enchanting story of Lila and Padma, in the Yoga Vasistha, shows how illusory space and time are, and how different space-time relations can exist simultaneously. Though it looks as if you move in them, you do not actually move. The soul’s movement is relative even in this world, and so it is after death, too. Birth, death and transmigration are conditions of consciousness through which the soul passes.

yonim anye prapadyante śarīratvāya dehinaḥ,
sthāṇum anye’nusamyanti, yathā karma, yathā śrutam. (7)

“Souls which have not been liberated, enter into wombs of different species for the sake of embodiment. According to their deeds and thoughts, others enter stationary objects.” We cannot say how many species there are, but the scriptures say that the soul passes through eighty-four lakhs of them until it becomes a human being. The soul may enter into any species: a human body, or that of an animal or anything else, as we observed. According to the karmas it has performed and the remnant of force, it enters into lower or higher wombs. It may seek a body in the physical realm, or in some higher, subtler one. It may reach the realm of svarga or that of hell. It may follow the northern course of the sun and go to brahma-loka. It may follow the southern course of the sun and reach pitri-loka. It may attain jivanmukti or sadyo-mukti. Any of these possibilities exists. As the last thought determines the nature of the next birth, we can imagine what type of life one has to lead if a particular thought is to be engendered at the time of death. The last thought, determined by the earlier ones, may be regarded as the fruit of the tree of life.

Thus, the soul can travel through various courses, enter different wombs and species and revert again to the original status when all karmas are exhausted. All this happens under one condition: when our deeds are coupled with our feelings. If we think we have done something, we will have to reap the fruits thereof. This is why Karma Yoga is prescribed. Our actions should not bring about a reaction which will cause rebirth.

ya eṣa supteṣu jāgarti kāmam kāmam puruṣo nirmimāṇaḥ
tad eva śukraṁ tadbrahma tad evāmṛtam ucyate,
tasmin lokāḥ śritāḥ sarve, tad u nātyeti kaś cana: etad vai tat. (8)

Here, the Upanishad shifts the emphasis to another aspect: while the soul is reincarnated in different bodies, it can also liberate itself, if it is honest. For this purpose, it has to investigate itself deeply. Just as there is sensation behind the awareness of objects, thinking behind ordinary sensation, there is consciousness behind thoughts. This consciousness is not the same as mentation; one is not the other. Sensation is to be separated from the awareness of objects, thought from sensation, and consciousness from the thought.

Consciousness is not mind, mind is not sensation, sensation is not object. Yet due to a mix-up of character, one gets superimposed on the other. This mutual superimposition is ananya-adhyasa, and when we investigate it, the independence of consciousness will be realised. This is easily done by analysing the three states of waking, dream and deep sleep. In this mantra, a hint at it is given: even when you are fast asleep, you may glide into the world of dream. The various experiences you have there are similar to the waking condition. As far as their structure is concerned, these two states are the same.

Just as the consciousness that animates mentation, etc., is different from it, consciousness is different from sensation and objects both in waking and dream. And as we know, it exists even in deep sleep, because of which we remember the experiences of the previous day. This shows that consciousness stands as a witness of all states. “That which stands ultimately separated from all phenomena—physical, mental, emotional—is Brahman. That consciousness is the witness of the desire-filled activities in all the states. All worlds hang on this pure Atman in His universal nature. No one can go beyond this. Transmigration ends here. This verily is That!” says Yama to Nachiketas.

The Inner Self is Both Immanent and Transcendent

agnir yathaiko bhuvanam praviṣṭo rῡpaṁ rῡpam prati-rῡpo babhῡva,
ekas tathā sarva-bhῡtāntar-ātmā rῡpaṁ rῡpam prati-rῡpo bahiś ca. (9)

This Atman is uniformly present; He is not different in different persons and things. It is not that He is big in an elephant, and in an ant, small. We are given three examples here: the wind, the sun and fire. Fire burns equally, without any partiality. It does things to all alike. It enters various objects and burns in various hues, putting on various contours, not on account of the difference in itself, but because of the medium through which it passes. “As fire is one in its original state, but when it enters the world puts on various forms, likewise the one Atman that is uniformly present in all bodies appears to be varied because of the differences of bodies and intellects; and at the same time, He exists outside.” These things named ‘men’, ‘animal’, ‘tree’ are due to the Atman’s intensity of manifestation. When sattva predominates, we call it a genius, because in sattva His presence is most unveiled. In the animal and vegetable kingdoms, He is revealed in a lesser degree. And when there is no manifestation of the Atman, it is tamas, and so we call it a stone.

All these are His embodiments. He is uniform, One and Absolute, even as fire is. Internally and externally He is the same.

vāyur yathaiko bhuvanam praviṣṭo rῡpaṁ rῡpam prati-rῡpo babhῡva,
ekas tathā sarva-bhῡtāntar-ātmā rῡpaṁ rῡpam prati-rῡpo bahiś ca. (10)

He is like the air: its odour is not really its property. We have scent at one place and smell at some other. “Just as the quality of the air does not limit it, the quality being due to the limitations of bodies such as room, vessel and so on; just as the odour that we attribute to the air does not really belong to it, so is the Atman free from any container. He is not large or small, and also exists outside.” The properties of the world do not belong to the Atman. He is Existence of all beings, and being itself is His Being.”

sῡryo yathā sarva-lokasya cakṣur na lipyate cakṣuṣair bāhya-doṣaih,
ekas tathā sarva-bhῡtāntar-ātmā na lipyate loka-duḥkena bāhyaḥ. (11)

How is the Atman unaffected? Like the sun is He unaffected. If you spit at the sun, or praise her or abuse her, it does not affect her. If there is jaundice in your eyes, it does not affect her. “Just as the sun, the eye of all the world, is not affected by external faults seen by the eyes of all people, likewise is the Atman transcendent to the world and is unaffected by it.” Change, increase, decrease, decay and death are the characteristics of the world. They do not touch the Atman. Physical and ethical characteristics, characteristics of the senses and mind do not reach the Atman, because He is far, far removed from the operation of the jiva’s samsara. Without the sun we cannot live, and yet nothing that happens to us bothers her. Even so, the Lord does not take either of our good or bad. Though He is immanent, He stands transcending. Far is He, internally and externally.

Happiness and Peace

eko vaśī sarva-bhῡtāntar-ātmā ekam bījam bahudhā yaḥ karoti,
tam ātmastham ye’nupaśyanti dhīrās teṣaṁ sukhaṁ śasvataṁ netareṣaṁ. (12)

“The One, Controller, the inner Self of all things, single, undivided, indivisible, appears as this manifold universe, as you may appear manifold in dream. To the wise, beholding Him abiding in the soul, to them belongs real happiness, and not to anyone else.” Permanent happiness belongs only to those who have realised Him in their own being, and not to those who run after objects.

Happiness and peace are the subjects of mantras twelve and thirteen. To whom does happiness belong? And who is it that can have real peace? Happiness and peace belong to those, says the Upanishad, who are able to recognise the Atman in His purity as the single Source of the multitudinous variety, as the Substance of all the forms that fill the universe. Yama is describing the unfolding of the world with its evolutionary and involutionary activities and its universal Centre which ramifies into the nama-rupa prapancha, the name-and-form world. Happiness is not for those who pursue this. All pleasures are created or brought about by the union of senses with objects.

We have heard of the term ‘sensation’, but people rarely understand what it means. Unfortunately for us, it is a stimulus evoked by the repulsion taking place when senses come into contact with objects. These experiences, falsely taken for union, can even be brought about by the mind contacting objects directly, without the help of the senses. The eyes get stirred into activity in perception, and so is the case with the other senses. This excitation is like the morbid irritation which the body experiences during illness. But when you get used to a particular sensation it becomes normal to you, like getting accustomed to alcoholic drinks. A person used to alcohol will not feel anything if he takes a small quantity; this is the effect of habit. Habits become values, significances and realities, so much so that we become subjected to them. Instead of our controlling them, they begin to control us.

These habits and experiences, to which we are accustomed, constitute the world of forms which are regarded as realities and appear as concrete objects, like the thoughts of dream seem solid. Desires, feelings etc., concretise themselves into solidity, and we get real experiences from non-existing objects. So to have a real experience, objects are not necessary.

On the other hand, we may not experience objects, as in sleep, and death. What is necessary is sensation, impacts on our nerves—and not objects—though they may act as agents. But if we can create those sensations by an inner technique, we can have the experience also without them.

This may be seen by an example. When a mother whose son lives abroad receives news that he is dead, she will get a shock, though he may be alive. In this way, false messages may depress us, or elevate us; and at the same time, real news may not cause a sensation when they are not known. For instance, if the boy is really dead but the mother does not come to know it, she will be well. So whether or not there is a corresponding fact, sensations can create experiences.

When we touch a live wire, it repels us. We get an electric shock. This happens because we came into contact with a force having a different voltage. Likewise, our body will burn when it touches fire, because it cannot rotate with the fire’s force. If it could, it would not burn.

We have living magnetism in us, and when two forces of different intensity or vibration come into contact with each other, there is repulsion, and we call it a sensation. Because we have five senses, the same object can create a fivefold sensation, and from this point of view we are in a world of things. The one form of Reality appears to be manifold.

What we want is an experience, whether or not objects exist, and the absence of it is the cause of our unhappiness. But until you become the object, or the object becomes you, there will be no oneness. One thing cannot become another thing; otherwise, there would be only one thing. So possession or enjoyment is an imagination; not a reality. The whole world is drowned in sensory happiness, but because of the fundamental defect—the impossibility of one possessing or enjoying the other—happiness does not belong to the objects, nor to the senses which are only means of conveyance of stimuli. Happiness belongs to that one Thing. Until It becomes a content of one’s experience, there cannot be real joy. All sense-pleasures are sustained only by the joy emanating from that one Thing. So the senses must withdraw from all contact.

The Gita says: ye hi samsparsaja bhoga duhkhayonaya eva te—all pleasures that are contact-born are sources of pain. As it is false, the world will leave us one day, and so only to whatever degree that diversity gives place to Unity, there will be true happiness.

nityo’nityānāṁ cetanaś cetanānām eko bahῡnām yo vidadhāti kāmān,
tam ātmastham yenupaśyanti dhīrāḥ; teṣāṁ śāntiḥ śasvatī, netareṣāṁ. (13)

“The One eternal among the transient, the Conscious amid the conscious, the One amid many, who grants their desires; to them who perceive Him in the soul, is eternal peace.” Peace cannot be had as long as you do not know the way. Silence or peace is not absence of outward noise or tumult; even if all people keep silent, there cannot be real peace, for there will be a burning within. Peace is another name for happiness. It is not a dead substance; it is vitality. It is not sleep. It is attended by consciousness; then only has it meaning. If you are a wealthy man but not aware of it, the fact has no meaning for you. It is awareness that gives meaning to life. Maya is nothing but the net spread out by the senses who deceive us. Under such circumstances, there cannot be peace.

Peace is the nature of the Atman, as bliss is. The more you manifest Him in your life, the more you become blissful, powerful: your face glows with radiance. Not only have you peace within, but you can also radiate it outward, like the sun. “The One eternal among the transient, the Conscious amid the conscious, the One amid many, who grants their desires; to them who perceive Him in the soul, is eternal peace.” He is eternal among the so-called permanent things of the world, which are the temporarily permanent; not the eternally permanent. A building is permanent, but not eternal. While the objects of the world can be called permanent, they are not eternal; but within them is a permanent substance, the Atman.

Intelligence is immanent in the human beings, in animals, in the vegetable kingdom. In the subtler realms, like svarga etc., we are in a spiritual world, not in an intellectual one, like ours. We are closer to reality there, and the senses become more and more ethereal and less and less useful, so that when we reach the highest, brahma-loka, we do not need the senses at all, and one mixes with the other, one mirrors the other, and so the world of senses is transcended by purified intelligence.

Even heavenly satisfactions of the world are only forms of that one supreme Satisfaction. The ocean can be diverted through various channels, and it can run through them with greater or lesser intensity, but the content of water is the same, irrespective of its force in the various outlets. So is the Atman in the same intensity in all beings. If a mirror is clean, it will reflect well. If it is painted with tar or any other colour, it will reflect accordingly. Higher forms of life reveal greater and greater manifestations of the Atman, until we come to the human level and even higher ones. When the creeper moves towards the light of the sun, it is seeking the Atman in its own blind manner. When the trees strike their roots deep inside the earth, it is for His sake. When birds fly hither and thither in search of food, when animals graze in the field, they are seeking the Atman. When we, human beings, work hard, it is not for any other reason but for that Atman which we have not yet found. We have been creeping like plants, grazing like animals; and we have not found Him—by these means He is not to be found. These variegated forms are His great drama; but we are involved in it, and so we don’t enjoy it. Enjoyment is for the spectator, not for the dramatis personae. Such is the degeneration into which consciousness has distended.

The one Experience of the Atman appears to have taken the manifold forms of this world. Suppose our different limbs became self-conscious, what would our condition be? They would fight among themselves. War taking place in one’s own body is insanity. The wars in the world are only a kind of insanity, a tension between forms which are of a single Being.

‘My dear ones, children of immortality, never can you find peace in this world which is torn asunder’, says Yama. ‘Peace is to those who recognise the one Atman as present in their own self, as the supreme Enjoyer, and not as the object of enjoyment.’ ‘Know the Knower, see the Seer, understand the Understander’, say the Upanishads. Who is to understand the Understander? There is a strange way of knowing the Knower.

It is called atmasakshatkara or Self-realisation. To them who have attained belongs real peace.

tad etad iti manyante’ nirdeśyam paramaṁ sukham,
kathaṁ nu tad vijānīyām kimu bhāti vibhāti vā. (14)

How are we to designate the Atman as this or that when He is in all things? Mystics have called Him ‘That which Is’. “This is that; indescribable supreme Bliss is that Supreme Being.” It cannot be indicated by any symbol. It is anirdeshya. Nachiketas wants to know: katham nu tad vijaniyam...”Does He shine from within or from without? Is He within or without, this wonderful Atman? Does He shine by Himself, or does He shine in reflection?” And Yama answers:

na tatra sῡryo bhāti na candra-tārakam, nemā vidyuto bhānti, kuto’yam agniḥ;
tameva bhāntam anubhāti sarvaṁ tasya bhāsā sarvam idaṁ vibhāti. (15)

“The sun shines not there, not the moon and the stars: if millions of suns were to shine they would not be equal to That whose shining illumines every light.” Which light can illumine It? We breathe because of the breath of That Breathless Being. We exist because of That Supreme Existence; all things depend on That—how could they derive vitality from anything else! In that supreme Life, this so-called sun of empirical life, this moon or mind, this fire of human desire, do not shine; all these are mockeries before the Atman. Our intellect, even that of a genius, all that we regard as the highest in us, are matchless before Him. All values are borrowed from That Supreme Value, and there remains nothing, when they are returned to It. The empirical values and realities of the world are reflections of the paramarthika-satta, or Eternal Reality.

These three, pratibhasika, vyavaharika and paramarthika, are but three expressions of the One. Just as light can pass through a clear, coloured or broken glass and get reflected accordingly, the one Reality can reveal Itself in different ways. All these manifestations: matter, body, mind; earth, water, fire, air, ether etc., are rays, varying in intensity, of the same Light from which all lights come. This is the joy which sustains us. That is the ocean of ambrosia which is not lifeless nectar of the celestials, but a conscious one. This mantra is a description of the satchidananda atman.