Chapter 2: Section 2
Āviḥ saṁnihitaṁ guhācaraṁ nāma mahat padam atraitat samarpitam, ejat praṇan nimiṣac ca yad eat jānatha sad asad vareṇyam param vijñānād yad variṣṭham prajānām (2.2.1). Manifest outside is this very thing that is the deepest source of our aspirations. Verily, in front of our eyes is manifest that very thing which is inconceivable otherwise. The deepest within is also there as the perceivable form before the senses. It is deepest in the heart, no doubt, but it is also capable of appearing before our very eyes as the thing that we see. This Brahman is the great manifested support of all beings. It is the cause of all our experiences. It is very close to us, nearer than our neck, yet inside in the cavity of the heart. Everything that breathes, everything that is alive, all beings whether moving or not moving, anything that winks, all these are rooted this one single being as spokes are fixed on the hub of a wheel. It is the cause of both the gross and the subtle. It is the most adorable of all beings.
Tadd ha tad-vanaṁ nāma, tad-vanam ity upāsitavyam (Kena 4.6) says the Kenopanishad. How do you adorn Brahman as the most lovable of all beings, the dearest of objects? Varenyam: Varenya is the adorable. It is adorable because it is great and grand, and adorable because it is lovable and dear. It has two aesthetic characteristics, sublimity and beauty, and both are to be seen in God—this the great Brahman tattva, the Atma tattva.
Might and attraction—both qualities are in God. Very few things combine these characteristics. There is great strength in a bulldozer, it can crush us if we go near it, but it has no beauty. It does not attract us, and we do not want to go on looking at it. It has a great force, a crushing force, great power, but no beauty. But certain beautiful things have no power, such as a flower in the garden. A rose, a jasmine, a lotus is very beautiful, but they are not strong and powerful like an elephant. God is power and beauty combined.
In the Kenopanishad, the student asked the Guru, “How do we adore Brahman?” We should adore Brahman as lovable. Actually, the mind will not concentrate on God unless He is beautiful, attractive and lovable. If He terrible and fearsome, the mind will not concentrate on Him. We cannot work by fear; we can work only by love. This applies not only to factories and offices, but also to the work called meditation in the spiritual field. God cannot threaten us so that we may worship Him. God can only attract us.
It is Aristotle who mentioned in his metaphysics that God pulls the world towards Himself as the beloved pulls the lover. These are examples and illustrations which defy logical considerations and mathematical calculations. Love is not logic and it is not mathematics, but it is something more than this. It is more precise than mathematics and more exact than any kind of calculation that we can think of, and greater than logic. Logic and mathematics are the greatest of sciences, so to say, but love is a greater science; and in the spiritual field especially, it is this that acts. The love of God, called mumukshutva, is the source of the success of the student of yoga in this field.
Yad arcimad yad aṇubhyo’ṇu ca, yasmin lokā nihitā lokinas ca, tad etad akṣaram brahma sa prāṇas tad u vāṇ manaḥ, tad etat satyam, tad amṛtam, tad veddhavyam, saumya, viddhi (2.2.2): That great Reality, which has been described in cosmological terms in the earlier mantras, is manifesting its radiance, its flames in the form of this creation. The world as an emanation from God is actually the rays of this Supreme Being manifesting themselves, as it were. It is the light of Brahman that is visible here as the world of perception, light getting condensed into solid matter but is nevertheless more subtle than even the subtlest atomic particles of life. It is arcimad and also anubhyo’nu, meaning radiance, and subtler than the subtle. It is subtle because of its not being an object of perception. All that can be conceived, thought of, spoken about or perceived are gross in their form. But this one, which is the knower and the seer of things, and cannot in any way be equated with objectivity of any kind, should naturally be very subtle. It cannot be known at all, inasmuch as it is the knower of things. Inasmuch as it is the knower of things, it cannot be known; therefore, it is anu, subtle.
Yasmin lokā nihitā lokinas ca: All this weighty mass of physical manifestation, this physical cosmos, as large as it is, together with all the inhabitants of this world, is rooted, fixed in this subtlest of realities. The subtler a thing is, the more powerful it is. A strong electric current, which is not a physical object like tangible bricks or stones, etc., may break a mountain and reduce it to powder if its voltage is sufficiently intense. Where is this subtlety, the invisibility of this energy called electric power? We cannot even see it with our eyes, but it can damage everything and dismantle huge structures. The subtlest of things is also the strongest of things and, therefore, the weighty mass of the physical manifestation of the world is nowhere in comparison with this subtlest invisible reality on which everything is fixed. Invisible things control visible objects. The visible world is not the real. The real is that which cannot be seen. The invisible is the real. The more invisible and subtle the thing becomes, the more real it also is.
Tad etad akṣaram brahma: This it is that they call the imperishable Brahman. Sa prāṇaḥ: That also is the vitality of the cosmos, as well as the individual. Tad u vāṇ: That also is the reason why we speak. The energy that is necessary for the modulation of the vocal cords in the articulation of sounds is itself manifested in one form. Tad u vāṇ manaḥ: That is the mind that thinks. Tad etat satyam: It is the law, it is the rule, it is the regulation, it is the system, it is the order that maintains this cosmos—satyam. Satyameva jayathe: This great order is the Truth of truths. It is the will of the Absolute. It reigns supreme, triumphs always, and anything other than that cannot triumph.
Tad amṛtam: It is immortal nectar, sweet as delicious honey. Immortal experience does not mean just existing for a long time, doing nothing. That is not immortality. It is a durationless experience where the concept of individual existence is completely abolished and transcended. For us who are living in a world of space and time, for us who are physical bodies, to be immortal would seem like living for a long time in some place, without dying. This is a crude, childish idea of deathlessness. That which is deathlessness is also not physical. That which is not physical is also not in space and time; therefore, it is not in some place that it may endure for a long time. The very idea or notion of immortality has to be re-evaluated.
Tad veddhavyam: This Great Being is our aim. We have to hit it as we hit an object with an arrow. O dear brother, disciple, friend, student, whoever you are, saumya. O blessed soul, seeker of Truth, listen to me. Hit this object by the power of concentration as an archer hits a target with an arrow that he discharges from a bent bow. In the third mantra, the practice of spirituality, or sadhana, is compared to an archer employing an arrow shot through a bow for the purpose of hitting a target. Now what is this arrow? What is this target? What is the bow in the case of this sadhana, the spiritual practice? Upanishad knowledge is the bow. With the help of the knowledge that you have gained by a study of the Upanishads, and by deep contemplation on the Upanishads, consider that as the great weapon. Upanishad is a great weapon.
Mahāstraṁ: It is the bow. Hold it in your hand and bend it, strike the string by the power of the concentration of your mind through analysis of the meaning of the teachings of the Upanishads, and delve into their true significance. With the power of intense devotion to it, bend the bow and pitch the arrow, which is the act of concentration. The mind is the arrow here, which is to be fixed on the bow of the knowledge of the Upanishad gained by deep thought and study. And the bow has to be bent by intense longing.
Tad-bhāvagatena cetasā lakṣyaṁ tad evākṣaraṁ, saumya viddhi: That imperishable being is the target which you have to hit with this arrow of your mind struck and discharged by the bow of Upanishadic knowledge, and bent with tremendous strength arisen from your longing for liberation.
This is the meaning of the third mantra: dhanur gṛhīvtā aupaniṣadam mahāstraṁ śaraṁ hy upāsā-niśitaṁ saṁdadhīta, āyamya tad-bhāvagatena cetasā lakṣyaṁ tad evākṣaraṁ, saumya viddhi (2.2.3). The Upanishad is the knowledge which gives you the strength to embark on this great adventure of spiritual experience. That knowledge of the Upanishad is compared here to a bow. Mind is the arrow, the longing for the liberation of the soul is the power with which you bend the bow and strike the string, and the target is the Imperishable Reality. Thus is the analogy of the bow and the arrow in the case of sadhana, or yoga practice. It is again briefly repeated in the next verse.
Praṇavo dhanuḥ, śaro hy ātmā, brahma tal lakṣyam ucyate, apramattena veddhavyam, śaravat tanmayo bhavet (2.2.4): Pranava, Omkara is the bow. It was said earlier that Upanishad knowledge is the bow. Now it is said that Pranava is the bow. The idea is that the Pranava, or Om, is the essence of Upanishadic knowledge. The Mandukya Upanishad is supposed to be the quintessence of all the Upanishads. Mandukyam ekam evalam mumukshunam vimuktaye (Muktika 1.27): For the sake of the liberation of the spirit, the Mandukya Upanishad alone is sufficient. This is a statement made in the Muktika Upanishad. Now, the Mandukya Upanishad is nothing but an exposition of Pranava. So in a sense it means the quintessence of Upanishadic teachings is Omkara, and so there is a pertinence here. It is appropriate that this verse says that Pranava, or Omkara, is the bow, equal to saying that Upanishadic knowledge is the bow.
Ātmā: The individual soul which seeks liberation is the arrow. Brahman is the target. With great concentration, with unwavering attention, you must aim this arrow on that object. As the arrow merges in the object by striking it directly, the Atman, this individual, this mind, has to get dissolved in that object. The concentration of the archer in respect of a target is well known. He does not know what is happening to him on either side. His ability to concentrate on one point is such that he will not see anything other than the object.
There is an illustration in the Mahabharata. During the tournament in which Drona tested the archery of the Pandavas and the Kauravas, he hung a little wooden bird on the branch of a tree. The image had all the features of a bird, such as eyes, beak, etc. The idea was that the archer should hit only the eye, not any other part of the bird, and he should see only that. The eye of the archer should concentrate itself on only the bird’s eye, and he should not go on thinking varieties of things.
Drona called Yudhishthira. “Come on. What do you see there?”
“I see a bird on the tree,” replied Yudhisththira.
“No. You are no good. Go to that side,” Drona replied.
Then he called Bhima. “What do you see?”
“I see a bird tied to a branch of a tree.”
“No good. Go that side.”
Then he tested two other brothers, and they also failed.
Then Arjuna was called and asked, “What do you see?”
“I see a black spot, and I see nothing else,” he replied.
That is the concentration that is expected in meditation on Brahman. It has already been mentioned that it is very subtle. How could the gross mind, which is accustomed to thinking of objects, succeed in thinking of subtle things? Brahman is subtle because of its universality on one hand and its inwardness on the other hand. The combination of these two aspects is very difficult to consider in the mind. Either we think of an expanse or we think something inside us. It is not merely an expanse outside, and it is also not something sitting inside us. It is a blend of the inwardness of subjectivity together with the expanse of objectivity, the infinity. As these two thoughts cannot combine easily, it is hard for the mind to concentrate on Brahman. It can concentrate on a form—on idols, on concepts, on an image that it places before itself—because it is outside. But Brahman is not outside. How will you concentrate on it? So, apramattena veddhavyam: Very cautious you have to be, very careful. Do not be in a hurry. Then your mind will unite itself with the object of your meditation as the arrow merges into the object.
Yasmin dyauḥ pṛthivī cāntrikṣam otam manaḥ saha prāṇaiś ca sarvaiḥ, tam evaikaṁ jānatha ātmānam, anya vāco vimuñcatha, amṛtasyaiṣa setuḥ (2.2.5): It is that on which space itself is fixed, which is the foundation of the whole Earth. The entire space is an object in front of that subtler, larger than space Reality. And all things, including the mind and the pranas, are fixed on that Reality. That alone should be the goal of your life. Tam evaikaṁ jānatha ātmānam: Know it as the deepest reality of your own heart, the Atman.
Do not speak too much. Anya vāco vimuñcatha: When you speak, speak only about the Atman. Do not speak about anything else. All other words are weariness of speech. Therefore, concentrate yourself on this great ideal of your life, and mind your business, as they say. Anya vāco vimuñcatha: Do not engage yourself in other kinds of business in this world. This should be your only business, your only aim, and nothing else should attract your attention. Amṛtasyaiṣa setuḥ: This sadhana, this practice, if it could be carried on successfully, will be the bridge to Immortality.
Arā iva ratha-nābhau saṁhatā yatra nāḍyaḥ sa eṣo’ntaś carate bahudhā jāyamānaḥ, aum iti eveṁ dhyāyathātmānam, svasti vaḥ pārāya tamasaḥ parastāt (2.2.6): All the nerve currents of the body and the divinities of the cosmos are fixed in this universal consciousness, Brahman, as spokes in a wheel are fixed in the hub of the wheel. This one, on which everything is fixed, is moving inside the heart, and it manifests itself in various forms as visualisations by the mind of a variety of conceptualisations of objects—antaś carate bahudhā jāyamānaḥ.
It was said you must meditate on Brahman. How do you meditate on Brahman? The prescription is given here. Aum iti eveṁ dhyāya: Meditate on Brahman as Om, by recitation of Om. Deeply chant Om like a vibration rising from the naval to the heart, as it were, and moving upwards through the heart and the throat until it becomes an articulated sound through the vocal organs. Inversely, when the sound formation of Om is recited through the vocal organs, it becomes subtler and subtler as the chanting becomes calmer and calmer, more and more inward, and becomes inverted into its original source until it reaches its vibratory condition where sound is absent. This ultimate vibration, which is the final shape of Om, is identical with cosmic power, the very will of God. Therefore, meditate on Brahman as Om. Om is the name of Brahman.
Tasya vācakaḥ praṇavaḥ (Y.S. 1.27), says Patanjali. We want to call God by some name, and we cannot call Him by any other name except Om. This is because all other names—such as Rama, Krishna, Govinda, tree, stone, water, mountain—are words that we use to name particular objects. Every word in language has a particular object in front of it, located in some place, whereas Brahman is not an object located in some place. Hence, any word that can connote only a located object will not suffice in defining Brahman, which is everywhere. You require a universal name to denote universal Being. The universal name is Om, according to universal vibrations. Therefore, through Om meditate on Brahman. Aum iti eveṁ dhyāyathātmānam: Thus, contemplate the Atman through Om.
Svasti vaḥ pārāya tamasaḥ parastāt: The Guru is blessing the disciples. “May good betide you. May God speak to you for crossing beyond this ocean of samsara, beyond this darkness of ignorance.” Tamasaḥ parastāt: May you be blessed. Here is a blessing from the Guru, as the teacher of this Upanishad. Svasti vaḥ pārāya tamasaḥ parastāt: May you succeed. Bon voyage!
Yah sarvajñaḥ sarva-vid yasyaiṣa mahimā bhuvi divye brahma-pure hy eṣa vyomny ātmā pratiṣṭhitaḥ (2.2.7): All knowing, and aware of all things in detail. These words occurred earlier also. Sarvajñaḥ has been interpreted as the knower of everything in generality; sarva-vid is one who knows everything in detail. So this Supreme Being, which is cosmically aware of everything in general as well as in detail, has its glory sung in this world in the form of this creation. Yasyaiṣa mahimā bhuvi: This Earth, this glory that you see in this world, this very universe is the encomium, the praise of God. The whole universe is praising God in all its forms, in all its shapes, through all its historical processes and every shape that it takes through evolution. The world as a whole is a total prayer that is offered to God by His own creation. Sometimes it is said that God created the world so that the world may pray to Him—yasyaiṣa mahimā bhuvi.
Divye brahma-pure hy eṣa vyomny ātmā pratiṣṭhitaḥ: In the highest heaven, whose representation is within our own heart as the subtle spiritual lotus, the city of Brahman, as it is called, in this firmament of the spirit, in the lotus of the heart, the highest reality is planted. The forms of the mind, the prana, and the physical body, all forms are its manifestations.
Mano-mayaḥ prāṇa-śarīra-netā pratiṣṭhito’nne hṛdayaṁ sannidhāya (2.2.8): In anna, which is the physical body, in prana, which is the subtle vibration inside, and in manas, which is the mind, it is fixed and it is operating. Tad vijñānena paripaśyanti dhīrāḥ ānanda-rūpam amṛtaṁ yad vibhāti: When this glory is beheld within oneself, it manifests itself as bliss. What kind of experience do we have when we contact God? Bliss is the experience. Ananda is the joy that accrues by contact with the Supreme Being. This ananda is not like the ordinary sense pleasures with which we are accustomed here. Sense pleasure is not a real joy. Even mental contemplation of aesthetic objects cannot be regarded as the highest joy. This world cannot give us the highest joy, because our joys of the world are entangled in the heavy material of objectivity. Thus, Brahman bliss is quite different and inconceivable, and its subtlety and magnitude have been illustrated in that calculus of bliss we have in the Taittiriya Upanishad, where it says that all the kinds of bliss that we can imagine in our mind are lower, and it is all multiplied by hundreds and hundreds in ascending series until we reach an octillion multiplied states, as it were, where we reach Brahman’s quality.
Actually, an octillion is not the end of this calculus. There is no end to it. It is infinity, but because we have to calculate and end somewhere, we end it with some particular statement; but actually, any amount of multiplication of sensory pleasure cannot give us Brahman bliss. Many untruths do not make one truth. Even if we multiply untruth by millions, does it become one truth? Likewise, this untruth of the pleasures of sense that we have in this world will not give us Brahman bliss by any amount of calculus or multiplication. It is ananda, pure and simple, Sat-Chit-Ananda combined, pure universal Existence, inseparable Consciousness and undiluted Bliss. All the knots of the heart are broken at one stroke when this experience supervenes.
Bhidyate hṛdaya-granthiś chidyante sarva-saṁśayāḥ, kṣīyante cāsya karmāṇi tasmin dṛṣṭe parāvare (2.2.9): The knots of the heart have already been explained—Brahma-granti, Rudra-granti and Vishnu-granti. They are actually avidya, kama and karma: ignorance, desire and action. These knots are broken at once by the rise of the knowledge of Brahman. Chidyante sarva-saṁśayāḥ: All doubts are dispelled in one second. You will have no doubt in your mind; everything is so clear as if in a midday sun. Kṣīyantecāsya karmāṇi: All the karmas will be destroyed. All the effects of karma that cause rebirth will be burnt into ashes. Tasmin dṛṣṭe parāvare: When does this happen? This happens only when you behold the great Being which is high and low combined.
Here the word ‘karma’ is used in the plural. A controversy has arisen by commentators interpreting the word ‘karmāṇi’ as plural. How many karmas are there? Plural implies more than two. In Sanskrit grammar, plural is not dual, it is more than dual. In the English language, more than one is plural. But in Sanskrit, more than one is dual, and more than dual is plural. Here karmāṇi is plural, which means more than two. Does it mean that more than two karmas are destroyed, or are only two karmas destroyed? There are three kinds of karma—sanchita, agami and prarabdha. Usually it is said that prarabdha cannot be destroyed, and only sanchita and agami are destroyed, which are the storehouse of karma and also the effects of karma that are performed in the present birth. They are destroyed, but the karma that has given birth to this body cannot be destroyed as long as the body lasts. This is the usual view of philosophers.
Then why is the word ‘karma’ used in the plural? Some commentators say that prarabdha is also destroyed. By saying that, they imply that though the jivanmukta purusha actually appears to be living in a body, moving about, speaking, eating, and doing things like anybody else, he is above this body. To others, the body may look like a moving vehicle; but for his own self, his consciousness has spread throughout all bodies. The jivanmukta does not see himself in one body only. The consciousness of “I am going”, etc., has been transcended by him. The jivanmukta purusha’s consciousness is in everybody’s body, and therefore whether or not the prarabdha karma is working is immaterial for him because it is virtually destroyed. So, all the three are destroyed. This is another meaning that is given to this plural word karmāṇi. However, it matters little for us because we have all the three karmas with us. Tasmin dṛṣṭe parāvare: Having reached that Supreme Being, your karmas are destroyed.
Hiraṇmaye pare kośe virajaṁ brahma niṣkaram, tac chubhraṁ jyotiṣāṁ jyotiḥ tad yad ātma-vido viduḥ (2.2.10): Light of lights is this Brahman. The Sun and Moon do not shine then. Within the golden sheath of the intellect of the human being, this Pure Consciousness scintillates like a spark which is without smoke and without any kind of limitation or location, the purest of purities, the light of lights. That is beheld by those people who have known the Atman as identical with the light that they behold in other bodies also. The whole world will look like a mass of radiance to the jivanmukta purusha. Just as if we gaze at the Sun for some time we will see dark spots as if the Sun is everywhere because of the effect produced by the force of its light on the eye, likewise is the jivanmukta purusha’s perception of the Atman. It does not mean that he sees the Atman only within himself and he sees people moving about outside. It is not like that. He sees himself present and moving in all bodies. It is a cosmic experience incapable of articulation in ordinary words of language, and the less said about it the better.
Na tatra sūryo bhāti, na candra-tārakam, nemā vidyuto bhānti, kuto’yam agniḥ, tam eva bhāntam anubhāti sarvam, tasya bhāsā sarvam, idaṁ vibhāti (2.2.11): In that realm of eternal light there is no radiance of the Sun. This brilliance of the Sun which is so intolerable to our eyes is like a shadow cast by that eternal light. Just as candle flames do not shine before the light of the Sun, the Moon, the stars, fire, and all the luminaries of the world do not shed their light in that eternal radiance. There is no Sun or Moon, no stars, no lightning, no fire or any kind of illumination that we can think of. All these illuminations are external, but this great eternal light is internal, and that is the difference. The internal light is brighter than the external light. Actually, the light of the Sun and the light of anything that illumines objects in this world is a frequency of radiation, and they look like a light that illumines objects only when the frequency of the emanation from the object that sheds light is equivalent in ratio to the frequency of the structure of our perceptive organs. There are higher frequencies and lower frequencies of radiation, and we do not see them. More intense forms of light cannot be seen with the eyes, and very low frequencies also cannot be seen. We cannot see heaven because it is in a higher frequency, and we cannot see hell because it is in a lower frequency. We are in the middle. Anyway, the objective lights of the Sun, Moon, and so on, do not play any role in that realm of eternal daylight.
Na tatra sūryo bhāti, na candra-tārakam, nemā vidyuto bhānti, kuto’yam agniḥ: All the luminaries borrow light from that Eternity, as it were. A fraction of the intense incalculable frequency of the eternal radiance is responsible for the lights that are considered as great lights in this world.
Jyotiṣām jyotih: That is the light of all lights. There are lights in the world, no doubt, but that is the light of even these lights. Due to the light of that Eternal Being, everything shines. We are able to cognise the presence of things on account of the radiance that emanates from within us. We do not know things in the world because of sunlight. Sunlight cannot create knowledge, because it is inert in its nature. The awareness that there is an object, this world, cannot arise merely by shedding a ray of sunlight on it. Who is responsible for the knowledge, which is the light shed on the objects? It is our Self consciousness. Self consciousness is the greatest light, and it does not require an external light for it to perform its functions. All this world is illuminated, illumined by this great internal light which is universal light: tasya bhāsā sarvam, idaṁ vibhāti.
Brahmaivedam amṛtam purastād brahma, paścad brahma, dakṣinataś cottareṇa, adhaścordhvaṁ ca prasṛtam brahmaivedaṁ viśvam idaṁ variṣṭham (2.2.12): Where is this eternal Brahman? How far it is from us? It is this eternal, immortal Brahman that is shining in front of us. It is this eternal Brahman that is at the back of us. It is this eternal Brahman that is to our right side. It is this eternal Brahman that is to our left side. It is this very Brahman that is above. It is that very Brahman that is below. Everywhere it is spreading itself out, and the whole universe is its radiance.
Brahmaivedaṁ viśvam idaṁ variṣṭham: The plenum of felicity, which is Bhuma, the Absolute, manifests itself as this plenum of this world. All the light and all the joy and all the perfection that we apparently see in things in this world are little titbits.
Mātrām upajīvanti (B.U. 4.3.32), says the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. We can imagine how many joys there are in this world. We can count them all. We can enumerate all the millions and millions of avenues of joy that can be experienced in this world, and we can enumerate the most intense form of joy that we can experience in this world, but all this put together is only a jot, a spoonful, as it were, of the Brahman bliss. Matra—it is less than a spoonful, and the whole universe of joy is sustained by that little drop of Brahman Bliss. It is that bliss that is sustaining us. If joy were not to be in this world, who would be able to live in this world even for few minutes? If joy were not to be there in breathing, who would breathe? If joy were not to be there in mere existence, who would like to exist? There is joy in this very space itself; otherwise, we will not feel happy by finding accommodation in space.
We will find this Brahman manifest from all directions in various shapes and forms causing us, bringing about before us, sources of joy. There is nothing in this world which cannot give us happiness some time or the other. There are things in this world which are objects of our neglect. We do not consider their existence at all. There are so many trees in the forest. What does it matter to us? Let them be there. And so much water is flowing in the Ganga, but it does not matter to us. There are so many hills; what does it matter? They do matter. A time will come, a condition will arise in which we will find that even a straw will give us support when we are drowning in the flood of this world. A mouse saved a lion, and a straw can protect us. There is nothing that cannot attract us, cannot sustain us, cannot give us joy and support some time or the other, in one condition or the other, because of the fact that Brahman is spread out in all things.