by Swami Krishnananda
Yasmin-yasminn-asti loke bodhas-tat-tad-upekṣaṇe, yad-bodha-mātraṁ tad-brahmeti-evaṁ dhīr-brahma-niścayaḥ (21). Whatever be the object of consciousness in the process of perception, it should be incumbent upon the seeker of Truth to eliminate the consciousness aspect in perception from involvement in the object aspect of perception. There is an element which is the seen aspect; and there is another which is the seer aspect. Since the seen cannot become the seer, and the seer cannot become the seen, the conjunction of the two in the act of perception should naturally be considered as a sort of confusion taking place between the characteristics of the seeing consciousness and the seen object. The element of externality should be dissociated from consciousness, and the element of consciousness should be dissociated from the object. This is a difficult technique, but it is a very useful method: the dissociation of consciousness from objects.
Pañca-kośa parityāge sākṣi-bodhā-vaśeṣataḥ, sva-svarūpaṁ sa eva syāt-śhūnyatvaṁ tasya durghaṭam (22). The dissociation of the five sheaths – the physical, vital, mental, intellectual and causal – from one’s own conscious experience will land one in a state of pure featureless transparency of consciousness. And it should not be imagined that if the sheaths are eliminated from perception or experience, there would be nothing left, because the consciousness of nothing is an impossibility. Consciousness must exist nevertheless.
Asti tāvat-svayaṁ nāma vivādā-viṣaya-tvataḥ, svasminn-api vivādas-cet prativādy-atra ko bhavet (23). There is such a thing called self. Every thing, every person, every living being in the world asserts its selfhood. There is a self-identity upheld by everyone. Nothing would like to become another thing. Even vegetation like a plant or a tree would not like to be interfered with in its desire to maintain itself as that particular thing, whatever it is. The crawling insect would like to be a crawling insect only. If we tell it, “I will convert you into an elephant,” it will not want it; an insect is an insect. The self-identity that a little creature, even a crawling ant, maintains is as vehement and as important to it as a mountainous mammoth would affirm in regard to its own self.
Nobody would like to become another person. What I am, I am; and what you are, you are. Neither can I be you, nor can you be me. One element cannot be another element. Every atom distinguishes itself from every other atom. This is the character of self-identity, or what we call selfhood. The self never wishes to become a not-self. This is the whole thing. A is A; A cannot be B. Such a thing called the self must exist, and it does exist.
Asti tāvat-svayaṁ nāma vivādā-viṣaya-tvataḥ: There cannot be any argument in regard to that, because any argument for or against will be an affirmation of the self once again – because whoever argues will be the self. And there is nothing beyond that. Svasminn-api vivādas-cet prativādy-atra ko bhavet: Who can doubt one’s own self? The doubter must exist, and that existence is the self.
Svāsattvaṁ tu na kasmai-cid-rocate vibhramaṁ vinā, ata eva śrutir-bādhaṁ brūte cā-sattva-vādinaḥ (24). Except in a state of delusion and complete chaos of thought, nobody would like to annihilate oneself. One cannot even imagine the non-existence of one’s own self. The possibility of self-annihilation is the worst of things that one can imagine because it is contrary to the deepest root of our being. Neither would one wish self-annihilation, nor one would be able to imagine such a possibility. Ata eva śrutir-bādhaṁ brūte cā-sattva-vādinaḥ. The sruti of the Upanishad, therefore, contradicts any such possibility of the assertion of a non-entity, or vacuum, as the Ultimate Reality.
The Upanishad quoted here is the Taittiriya Upanishad, which says asaḍ-brahmeti ced-veda svayam-eva bhaved-asat, ato’sya mā bhūḍ-vedyatvaṁ sva-sattvaṁ tvabhyu peyatām (25). Whoever affirms the non-existence of Brahman would himself become non-existent, because that is the affirmation of the non-existence of one’s own self. So we cannot deny God and then exist safely here. When God goes, we also go together with it. The denier of God will also go with the object that is denied.
The character of ‘being known’ cannot be found in the Self. It is never the known thing. It is a pure Knower. Let all things be known; but that which is the Knower of all things cannot itself be known. What kind of thing is the Self then? Neither is it of this kind, nor is it of that kind. What sort of definition can apply to the Pure Self?
Kīdṛk-tarhīti-cet-pṛccheḍ-īdṛktā nāsti tatra hi, yad-anī-dṛg-atādṛk-ca tat-svarūpaṁ viniś-cinu (26). The Self is neither this nor that, because any kind of characterisation as ‘this’ or ‘that’ would be to attribute some quality to the Self which does not belong to it. Any definition of a thing is in terms of qualities that actually do not belong to that thing. The distinction of one thing from another thing in a definition is carried on by the association of certain qualities with that object – qualities which do not inhere in it, that belong to something else.
When we say some object is blue, the knowledge that something is blue can arise only when there are objects in the world which are not blue. If the whole universe is blue, there will be no perception of blueness. Therefore, the definition of an object in terms of quality has relevance by excluding characteristics which do not belong to itself – neither this, nor that. No such definition is possible in the case of the Atman.
Yad-anī-dṛg-atādṛk-ca tat-svarūpaṁ viniś-cinu: Know that which is neither of this character nor that character. How would we know that? The methods will be described in the forthcoming chapters.
Akṣāṇāṁ viṣaya-stvī-dṛk-parokṣas-tādṛg-ucyate, viṣayi nākṣaviṣayaḥ svatvān-nāsya parokṣatā (27). When we say, “This is something,” we are referring to something which is visible to the eyes. When we say, “That is something,” we are referring to something which is not visible to the eyes. Nearness and remoteness of objects are indicated by the demonstrative pronouns ‘this’ and ‘that.’ But the Self cannot be regarded either as something remote or as something near. It is not remote because it is very near. But because of its universality, it looks like something remote.
Viṣayi nākṣaviṣayaḥ: That which is the seer of things cannot become the object of perception. Svatvān-nāsya parokṣatā: As it is the Self, it cannot be a remote object; and inasmuch as it is the Self, for the very same reason, it also cannot be an object of sensory perception. Neither is it a far-off thing, because of it being the soul of all beings, nor is it the perceptible object, because it is the perceiver itself. This is an intriguing character of the pure Selfhood.
Avedyo’pya-parokṣo’taḥ sva-prakāśo bhava-tyayam, satyaṁ jñānam-anantaṁ ceta-astīha brahmā-lakṣaṇam (28). Even if the Self is unknowable for reasons mentioned, it is capable of direct experience. Mediately, it cannot be known; immediately, it can be known. Mediate knowledge is that knowledge we acquire through the instrumentality of the sense organs. Immediate knowledge is that which we acquire independent of the operation of the sense organs. That is called insight. ‘Intuition’, ‘anubhava’ are the terms used for this kind of non-mediate direct apprehension.
Avedyo’pya-parokṣo’taḥ sva-prakāśo bhava-tyayam. Though unknowable for the sense organs, the Self is knowable for other reasons because it is self-luminous. It does not require illumination from any other proof of knowledge. The Self, which is light in its essential nature, sheds its radiance to the sense organs; and with that borrowed light, the senses become conscious of that which is outside – the world, the objects, etc. But the Self is light itself. It does not require the assistance of any other instrument to know itself. Self-knowledge is knowledge of the Self, by the Self. It needs no other assistance.
Satyaṁ jñānam-anantaṁ ceta-astīha brahmā-lakṣaṇam: The Taittiriya Upanishad has defined Brahman, the Absolute, as satyam jnanam anantam. Truth, knowledge, infinity is Brahman. Ultimate Truth is Brahman because it is unchangeable. Perishability is the character of untruth. Relativity is the character of untruth. Externality and objectivity is the character of untruth. Truth is all-pervading, self-luminous, non-relative, absolute. And because of its being the Universal Reality, it is also conscious. And because it is conscious of the universality of its being, it is also freedom.
Because of the freedom that is the nature of the true Self, which is all-pervading, it is bliss, ananda. Only when we are free will we be happy. And the greater is the freedom, the greater also is the joy that we will feel. The ultimate freedom is only in the experience of direct, Universal Selfhood. It is in that state that we have the immensity of the experience of eternal bliss. This is the characteristic of Brahman: astīha brahmā-lakṣaṇam.
Satyatvaṁ bādha-rāhityaṁ jagad-bādhaika-sākṣiṇaḥ, bādhaḥ kiṁ-sākṣiko brūhi na tva-sākṣika iṣyate (29). That which cannot be contradicted in the three periods of time can be regarded as Truth. Anything that passes away sometimes cannot be regarded as Truth. Today something is; tomorrow it is not there. That cannot be called Reality at all. In that sense, we will not find anything that is true in this world. Even the world has a beginning, and one day it will pass. Therefore, nothing in this world can be regarded as finally true. It has a past, it has a future, and it has only a temporary present. The whole creation is of this nature. It is not the Ultimate Being. What is Ultimate Being? That which is uncontradicted in the three periods of time – past, present and future – that is satya, Truth. Satyatvaṁ bādha-rāhityaṁ: Non-contradiction is the test of Truth, according to logic.
Jagad-bādhaika-sākṣiṇaḥ, bādhaḥ kiṁ-sākṣika: that which reigns supreme as the witness of all the changes taking place in the cosmos. Who can be a witness of that greatness? This eternity reigned supreme even before the origin of time. Even before creation, God did exist. And who can define that Being, since all definition is in terms of things seen by us – things in this world?