An Analysis of the Brahma Sutra
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 7: Specimens of Vedantic Meditations

The third chapter of the Brahma Sutra is concerned with meditations. These meditations are different entirely from the usually well-known types of meditation in Bhakti Yoga Marga. What is the difference?

You can consider Lord Krishna as standing in front of you, Rama as pervading around or Krishna as in Brindavan, Rama in Ayodhya, Devi in Manidvipa, Narayana in Vaikuntha. All these ideas are accepted in Bhakti Yoga meditations.

But here is a uniqueness. Brahman is the central point. It is the God of meditation. It is not in Kailasa or Vaikuntha. It is not anywhere. That the object of meditation is not somewhere but is everywhere distinguishes Vedantic meditations from other well-known meditations.

So, according to the technique advocated in the third chapter of the Brahma Sutra, which are all fairly hard to conceive and are based entirely on the Upanishads, the first thing that a person should do is to expand the mind to a universal, comprehensive Inclusiveness. Then you bring any point to it; it will work.

Taddha tadvanam nama tadvanam iti upasitavyam
(Kena Upanishad)

"That is Adorable; one should meditate on It as 'Adorable'." This is one Upanishadic meditation, in the Kena Upanishad. Brahman is the most adorable and we should conceive Brahman as the most adorable and you will become the most adorable in the world. Can we imagine such a thing? There is nothing which Brahman cannot do. It does not take time also to do a thing. All gods may take time to act – they have to come from Vaikuntha, Kailasa, Brahma-Loka and all that, but Brahman does not take time to act. It is instantaneous action. When you meditate on Brahman as the most adorable, you must remember you should not think Brahman as being somewhere, far away. This is the difference between Vedantic meditation and other types of meditation. The All-pervadingness, Inclusiveness, Omnipresence is the central fact that has to be borne in mind when meditating on Brahman. Meditate on It as the most adorable.

'Most Adorable Being! I am contemplating on you.' Now who is contemplating? Rather, It is Itself contemplating on It. In a Vedantic meditation, somebody does not meditate on something else, because an omnipresent thing cannot be meditated upon by anybody else. When the consciousness inside is tuned up to the Universal Omnipresence as the most adorable, that meditator becomes the most adorable in the world. Namyante asmai kamah – the world will prostrate itself before you. If you want that the world should bow itself before you, do this meditation. The world will fall at your feet. But, beware, you are not the meditator; the Universal is meditating on Itself!

There is another illustration in the Kena Upanishad, which is also a meditation. Gods and the demons engaged themselves in a war and the gods won victory. They celebrated their victory with great eclat. The Great Brahman realised, 'these fellows are thinking that they have won victory; let me teach them a lesson.' It appeared in a gruesome form and sat on a tree. It made a sound and all the gods were frightened. They ran to Indra; 'Oh! Something is sitting on the tree and is frightening'; 'Go and find out, Agni. Go, find out who he is', said Indra.

Agni looked up. That yaksha asked: 'Who are you?'; 'I am Agni'; 'I see, Agni! What can you do?'; 'I can burn the whole earth'; 'Hm!' It placed a blade of grass – 'Burn it'. It was humiliating to Agni; 'I can burn the whole earth and you are telling me to burn a blade of grass!'; 'Do it then'; Agni ran and tried to reduce it to ashes, but it wouldn't even shake. Three times did Agni try, but to no effect. Humiliated, Agni ran back, and told Indra, 'I don't know anything. You send another person.'

Indra sent Vayu, the Wind-god. It asked, 'Who are you?'; 'I am Vayu'; 'What can you do?'; 'I can blow the whole earth'; 'Blow this grass'; 'Eh! You are asking me to blow a little blade of grass; I will blow the whole earth!', he said; ''Do it!' When he went, that grass would not move! Humiliated he went back. This allegory is to show that any experience is Brahman's experience. If you have won success, Brahman has won success.

Brahma ha devebhyo vijigye, says the Kenopanishad. For the sake of the gods, Brahman won victory. For the sake of the Pandavas, Sri Krishna won victory. Arjuna was a very dexterous man and nobody could stand before him; Pandavas won victory – even now we are saying Pandavas won victory! Nobody won victory; – Sri Krishna won victory.

Unless the Universal Being works through your stomach, you cannot even digest your food. Don't say 'I have a stomach; I will eat well'. You cannot even see, you cannot hear, you cannot do anything without It – That Being. Every function, apparently individual, is Its function. If that is the case, human egoism will vanish in a second.

The Kathopanishad has also a meditation:

Ye ye kama durlabha martyaloke
Sarvan kaman chhandatah prarthayasva

Lord Yama speaks to Nachiketas: "All that you want, you can ask; whatever you want! Any desire, any longing that a human being can conceive in the mind – ask! It will be granted just now!" Great temptation before Nachiketas.

Just as the gods felt that they won victory while somebody else had done the work, here a duping situation has arisen: 'All the glory of the whole world is here before you; Take it but don't ask me any unnecessary question!' Nachiketas asked a question to which Lord Yama does not want to give the answer. We may say, "What is there? We will reject all these offerings". Even the beauties and the glories of the world, nobody has seen. Has anyone seen the entire glory of creation?

The Taittiriya Upanishad gives the gradations of the joys in the universe. Consider a human being who is the king of the whole earth, very healthy, never falls sick, most learned, has every knowledge under his master, most beautiful, handsome youth, has control over the whole earth, is emperor of the whole world – what would be the joy of that king? This is one unit of joy we can conceive. There is no such king in the world – even conceiving such a thing is impossible. One hundred times the happiness of such a conceived emperor of the world is the happiness of the pitris (forefathers in the astral realm). One hundred times this happiness is the happiness of gandharvas, the musicians in heaven. One hundred times the happiness of gandharvas is the happiness of the gods in heaven. One hundred times the happiness of the gods is the happiness of Indra, the ruler of the gods. One hundred times the happiness of Indra is the happiness of Brhaspati, the Guru of the gods. One hundred times the happiness of Brhaspati is the happiness of Prajapati, the Creator of the Universe. Endless, endless is the Bliss of Brahman, not multiplied in this manner. It is not a mathematical total of the joys of the world that is Brahman's Bliss. It is super-computative, impossible to think.

'Do you want the happiness of the whole world? Of all the gods?' That you cannot reject. Nobody can say, 'I do not want these joys'. The joys of the world are so attractive that the thought of them, very sight of them will melt the heart of a person. Such glories and beauties and majesties are available in this world itself. Why talk of Gandharvas and all that? If you are offered the kingship of the whole earth – what will you feel at that time? Anyone of you – a chance comes for you to be the ruler of the earth, not of one country or two countries. The whole world is your property. You cannot exist at that time; you will melt away in the joy. Such a thing is rejected by Nachiketas, the seeker.

How much effort is necessary to conceive the universality of Brahman? 'As long as the universe lasts, so long you can live' – do you want this blessing? Nachiketas said "All right, I may live for as long a time, as long as the universe lasts, but when the universe ends, I will also end. What is the good of your blessing?" "You have given me all the joys of heaven and earth. But they wear away the sense organs. The enjoyments, whether of earth or heaven, are possible only if the sense organs are active. If they are worn and are drooping down, what then? A corpse cannot experience the joys of the earth and heaven." This is one meditation available from the Kathopanishad.

Tad brahmanah parimara iti upasita
Paryenam mriyante dvishantah sapatnah

(Taittiriya Upanishad)

What does this prescription mean? If you tune yourself to the Universal and through the Universal if you think that somebody should die, immediately that person will die; – enemies will perish. It is not however meant that you should try this practice. I am just mentioning that there are techniques like these, to achieve anything.

The varieties of meditations mentioned are almost similar to Patanjali's description of the various samadhis: savitarka, nirvitarka, savichara, nirvichara, sananda, sasmita, sabija, nirbija. Practically, all the scriptures say the same thing with variations of emphasis and style.

The Kathopanishad says:

Mahadbhayam vajram udyatam
Ye etatdviduh amritah te bhavanti

What kind of Brahman is this? Is it a sweet, soft, butter-like thing? No, It is a thunderbolt! Mahad bhayam – It is the fear of everyone. One cannot even think It without shuddering within. You know thunder? Have you heard thunder in the skies? What sound will it make? Such, as if the earth would break. Your heart also will miss a beat at that time. The fear that is instilled into the hearts of people by Brahman is of another kind. It is the thunder coming from all sides. You have to love It, it is already mentioned, you have also to dread It. You have to fear It because you are opposite to Its nature.

Bhyayat agnih tapati – Fire burns due to the fear of Brahman. Bhayat tapati suryah – because of the fear of Brahman, Sun shines. Bhayat indrascha vayuscha – Indra and Vayu perform their functions due to the fear of That. Mrtyurdhavati panchamah – even Death performs its duty due to the fear of Brahman.

The Kathopanishad has some meditations like this. "The sense-objects are above the senses; above the objects is the mind which determines them; beyond the mind is the intellect; beyond the intellect is the Cosmic Intellect; beyond still is the Causal Source of the Universe; beyond all these is the Supreme Being – Purusha. The Prashna Upanishad has also meditations. When you are in deep sleep what happens? The Tanmatras – potential forces of earth, of water, of fire, of air and space – enter into the deepest recesses of your being at that time. They stand balanced, as it were, without any disbalance among themselves. This is unconscious activity taking place in sleep. What happens unconsciously in sleep happens consciously in meditation. This is the difference. Sleep is also analogous to meditation in a negative sense. There is no externalised consciousness in sleep and there is no externalised consciousness in meditation. In that sense, they look, alike strangely.

But there is a difference. A poor person who has lost everything does not want anything; he is so sunk in sorrow. A king who has everything does not want anything. These are two different kinds of 'not-wanting'. One is not wanting due to the depth of sorrow, the other is not wanting due to the height of joy. So is the difference between sleep and meditation. The Prashna Upanishad says, prithvi, earth, and the tanmatra of earth; water and the tanmatra of water and similarly in the case of other elements with their tanmatras – enter into the state of deep sleep, so that you do not know that they are existing at all. Thus do consciously meditate now. Withdraw the earth into yourself, the water-principle, the fire-principle, the air-principle, the entire space itself into yourself.

Whenever you want a thing, ask for everything. Why are you asking for little, little things? We should never ask for 'one, two, three, four, five.' – then nothing will come. You are converting the Great Glory into fragments. If someone says 'I am going to give you everything', you say 'No, no, I don't want everything'! There is poverty even in the desire to fulfil desires. What kind of mind is this? The Taittiriya Upanishad and Mundaka Upanishad both say it is Brahman which is Truth, Knowledge, Infinity, that is hidden in the deepest recesses of the heart and in the highest Heavens; whoever knows this enjoys the world at one stroke. How much time does it take? Saha brahmana vipaschita – As Brahman has no time process, it does not take time for one to enjoy the Bliss of oneness with Brahman. A bursting of the joy of the entire cosmos takes place and is simultaneously experienced without temporal succession.

If you cannot conceive this grandeur and it is all too difficult, imagine that from this Great Source arose Space; from space came Vayu, from Vayu came Agni; from Agni came Apas, and then below is the earth. From earth arise plants, trees etc., vegetables, and foodstuff that we eat. The food that we eat becomes the body that we have. Individuality arises out of the action of superior forces, which are causative in their nature – all emanating from Brahman Itself. Meditate like this. It is a potent prescription of the Taittiriya Upanishad and the Mundaka Upanishad.

Yatha nadyah syandamanah samudre
Astam gacchanti namarupe vihaya;
Tatha vidvan namarupad vimuktah
Paratparam purusham upaiti divyam

(Mundaka Upanishad)

When you enter the Supreme Being, what happens? As all rivers of the world enter the Ocean, and stand united with the Ocean – there is no Ganga, Yamuna, Sarasvati – nothing of the kind is there in the Ocean; in a similar manner, the individual loses itself in the Ocean of All-Being, Brahman.

At the time of departure, the Pranas depart – is what we are hearing generally. But Sage Yajnavalkya tells us, in his instruction to King Janaka:

Yo'kamo nishkamah aptakamah atmakamah
no tasya prana utkramanti;
Brahmaiva san brahmapyeti

That person who is akamah, who desires nothing because he has all things within himself; nishkamah, not having any further desire; aptakamah, who has fulfilled all the desires; atmakamah, who desires only the Universal Self. For such a person, the pranas do not depart; they dissolve then and there, as a bubble dissolves in the Ocean. This is called sadyo mukti, Immediate Salvation.

There is another way of mukti called krama mukti or gradual salvation; you go step by step, from stage to stage until you reach Brahma-Loka. That is the result of Saguna Brahma Upasana. Saguna Brahma Upasana is the way of contemplation on the Supreme Being as an object outside, as it were. Even God Himself you may feel as something outside you. You cannot suddenly think that He is pervading and is everywhere. The 'outsideness' conceived in the mind prevents you from entering It directly. This is the fruit of Saguna Upasana, but it will take you much time to attain That State, through stages innumerable, all which are detailed picturesquely in the Upanishads.

If that which you are trying to attain has become identical with you, and It Itself is meditating, then sadyo mukti takes place – Immediate Salvation. Whether it is daytime or night time when you die, whether you die in a temple or in a pariah's house, it makes no difference. This is what Swami Vidyaranya teaches in his Panchadasi. Some people say that if you die during the 'Northern Path' of the Sun, you will attain moksha; but if it is the Southern Path, you will come back. The Brahma Sutra, however, says; 'No such rule applies to a jnani', because the solar effect is felt by the earth even in the night time. The sun is shining on the earth during night also. The Sun's rays flood the earth perpetually. For a jnani who is one with Brahman, the Northern and Southern movements of the Sun are no more a concern.

To a person who is entirely dedicated to the cause of the Ultimate Reality, Brahman, uttarayana (North) and dakshinayana (South) do not apply. But it applies to those who are mediocre types of sakhakas. And where should you die? People generally say, 'Die on Ganga bank, holy place, Prayaga, Kashi'. This rule also does not apply. He may die anywhere. That Great Being will come and take care.