The Chhandogya Upanishad
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter Two: Uddalaka's Teaching Concerning the Oneness of the Self

Section 9: The Indwelling Spirit

  1. Yatha, saumya, madhu madhukrto nistishthanti, nanatyayanam vrkshanam rasan samavaharam katam rasam gamaynti.
  2. Te yatha tatra na vivekam labhante, amushyaham vrkshasya raso'smi, amushyaham vrkshasya rasosmiti, evam eva khalu, saumya, imah sarvah prajah sati sampadya na viduh, sati sampadyamaha iti.

What happens to all individuals when they reach Being? The explanation is given through an analogy. "You see," says the father to the son, "honeybees go to different flowers, collect the essence of the flowers and convert it into a jelly by certain chemical processes that take place within their own bodies. Thus is formed what is called honey. Now this thing called honey includes the essences of various flowers, hundreds and hundreds of them from where they have been collected. The honey is an amalgam of all these essences, but in this body of the honey one cannot distinguish the essence of one flower from that of another flower. No particular essence can be cognised in its own individuality in this mass called honey. Everything has become indistinguishable. It is something like what happens to the various essences of the flowers when they become honey. They have become one and they are present in honey, no doubt, but that distinguishability of character is absent. No particular flower can be distinguished there in the body of the honey, and no particular essence will be conscious of its presence there as an individual isolated from others. There would be a total consciousness of the honey, but not the individual consciousness of the particular essence of the flowers of which the honey has been formed. This is the work that the bees have done. They have abolished the distinction of all these flowers and merged them into a single essence. That is called honey. This is what happens to all people when they go to pure Being. They are drawn back to pure Being just as the essences of flowers are drawn into the body of the honey. And when they go there they no more exist—not that they do not exist. The essences of the flowers do exist in the honey. The only difference is that they will not be aware of such thoughts as, "I am this flower", "I am that flower" and so on. Similarly when all reach the Being, though they do not cease to exist, they do not have such thoughts such as "I am Mr. So-and-so", "I am Mrs. So-and-so", "I am a man", "I am a woman", "I am a human being", "I am this", "I am that", etc. All distinction vanishes. They will be there as the constitutive essence of the pure substance that Being is, even as honey is, so that there would be no self-consciousness of a particularised nature. This will happen to us when we reach pure Reality, the Absolute Being.

In the case of the entry of the individual into the state of pure Being, there is an important point to note. There can be two types of entries, an unconscious entry and a conscious entry. In deep sleep one does contact the nature of this pure Being. One just stumbles upon it, as it were. One is unconscious of it and does not really get absorbed into it. But one does contact it in some mysterious manner. One's individuality-consciousness is abolished no doubt, but it does not become veritable universal consciousness. It becomes as though unconsciousness. There is something that is common between unconsciousness and absolute Consciousness. The common principle is that in both of these states there is no particularised consciousness. But there is a tremendous difference. A philosopher once humorously remarked that the difference between universal consciousness and deep sleep and similarity between them are like those that exist between God and dog. There is similarity no doubt, and yet all know the difference. Because of the inability to absorb oneself into that Being, one comes back from that state. Even at death one does not get conscious entry into the Being. One is not able to continue in either condition of deep sleep or death for long, on account of the existence of the potentiality in the form of subtle impressions of unfulfilled desires to rise up into waking consciousness, in this body when one wakes up, or into another body when one is reborn. When one gets up from sleep one is the same person that went into sleep. A wakes up as A, B as B, C as C when they return from deep sleep. A does not become B or C.

  1. Ta iha vyaghro va simho ra vrko va varaho va kito va patango va damso va masako va yad-yad-bhavanti, tadabhavanti.

If a tiger sleeps, when it gets up it is the same tiger only, not even another tiger in the same species. If a mosquito sleeps, when it gets up it is the same mosquito only. They do not become something else even though in sleep they have no particular consciousness, having merged in the pure Being. Whatever one's nature is, one reverts to that particular form of individuality in spite of the fact that there has been a tentative contact in an unconscious manner with the undistinguished Reality which is pure Being.

This pure Being is the Self of all. One may be conscious or not. That is a different matter. But that is the Being behind all your activities, behind your sleep, behind your birth and death, behind the whole process of universal evolution. It is the Self that is caught into this activity in the form of birth, death, incarnations, etc. This will not cease until everything is ultimately resolved through enquiry and meditation into that Supreme Being, which is called salvation. This is conscious entry into the Being, as against the unconscious entry in deep sleep and death.

  1. Sa ya esho 'nima aitadatmyam idam sarvam, tat satyam, sa atma, tat-tvam-asi, svetaketo, iti; bhuya eva ma bhagavan, vijnapayatv-iti; tatha saumya, iti hovacha.

"O Svetaketu, you are That," instructs the father, Uddalaka. "Please explain further," says the boy. He is not satisfied. "I shall explain to you further," replies the father.

Section 10: The Indwelling Spirit (Continued)—Illustration of Rivers and the Ocean

  1. Imah, saumya, nadyah purastat pracyah syandante, pascat praticyah tah samudrat samudram evapiyanti, sa samudra eva bhavati, ta yatha yatra na viduh, iyam aham asmi, iyam aham asmiti.

There are the rivers Ganga, Yamuna, Sarasvati, Krishna, Cauvery, etc. They all go to the same ocean and fall into the same body of water. When they enter the ocean they become a mass of water and you no longer can make out which is Ganga, which is Yamuna, or any other. If you take a tumbler of water from the ocean you do not know which river-water you are taking. Why? Because the distinguishability of character in the river has been abolished in the body of the waters of the ocean. No river thinks "I am Ganga", "I am Yamuna", etc., after it has entered the ocean. The bodily distinction of the river is completely transcended, overcome, abolished from the roots. All is now the ocean. This is an analogy to describe what pure Being is, in respect of the various individuals here. These created individuals in bodies are, like rivers, tending towards the ocean of the Absolute. Their reaching the pure Being, which is the Absolute, is just like the rivers entering the ocean. The rivers become the ocean and they do not know where they are, yet they are there. We cannot say that the rivers are absent in the ocean. They are there. So, it is not a negation of individuality, but a transcendence of individuality. It is not that the rivers are destroyed there, but they are absorbed into a larger Being, into a greater reality of themselves, which is their Self. We may say in a sense, the ocean is the Self of the rivers towards which they go and get absorbed, which they become in the end. So is the case with all of us, all individuals. All beings in creation tend towards the ocean of the ultimate Being. When they go there, they cannot distinguish themselves, for they become one with the Being.

  1. Evam eva khalu, saumya, imah sarvah prajah sata agamya na viduh, sata agacchamaha iti, ta iha vyaghro va simho va, vrko va, varaho va, kito va, patango va, damso va, masako va, yad-yad-bhavanti tad-abhavanti.
  2. Sa ya esho'anima etad-atmyam-idam sarvam tat satyam sa atma tat-tvam-asi, svetaketo-iti, bhuya eva me bhagavan vijnapayatviti tatha somya iti hovacha.

When they have gone there and come back, they do not know that they have gone there and have come back from there. They have touched, entered, practically become one with the Being in deep sleep, but they do not know that. Their eyes have been blindfolded, as it were. When they come back, each one says, "I am so-and-so". That is all. They have no other consciousness-Sata agamya na viduh sata agacchamaha iti. Whatever they were, animals or human beings, that they become again. The particular species and the particular body with which they entered into sleep or die, they wake up or are reborn into that very species and body, because of the presence of the subtle body which has not been destroyed through Perfect Knowledge. Therefore, after waking up from deep sleep or after being reborn in another body they are not conscious of having come from the Being.

"Now this is the Reality, this is the Being of all things, and you too are that-Tat-tvam-asi, Svetaketu." "Bhuya eva ma bhagavan vijnapayatviti-explain further," says the boy. "It does not appear that you have concluded the instructions. There is something more. This is the life of all Beings. That you call the Existence or the Being of things is also the Vitality in all. It is what is called life. We say, there is life in this and there is no life in that. A tree has life, but a stone has no life. What is meant by Life? Is it that Being has not manifested Itself adequately in one thing, and It has manifested Itself in a greater proportion in something else? It seems that there is a greater manifestation of Reality in plants and the vegetable kingdom than in stones and the mineral kingdom, for instance. Kindly explain this so that my doubts may be cleared."

Section 11: The Indwelling Spirit (Continued)—Illustration of a Tree

  1. Asya, saumya mahato vrkshasya yo mule'bhyahanyat, jivan sravet; yo madhye'bhyahanyat, jivan sravet yo'gre 'bhyahanyat, jivan sravet, sa esha jivenatmana'nuprabhutah pepiyamano modamana-stishthati.

There must have been a huge tree in front of the kutir of Uddalaka. So he says, "Look at this big tree in front of our kutir." Suppose some one lays an axe on one of its branches, it will immediately demonstrate that it has got life. Juice will flow from that cut part-jivan sravet. Because there is life, it will exude the essence from its body. This will happen if it is cut in any other part of its body also. Madhye'bhyahanyat jivan sravet-suppose one cuts the trunk, then also we will see the juice coming out. Agre abhyahanyat jivan sravet-you may cut a little branch on the top. Then also you will see that there is life in it, as juice will exude from that particular part. Sa esha jivenatmana'nuprabhutah pepiyamano modamanaas-tishthati. The exuberant growth of the tree is due to the life that is in the tree. You will find much foliage of trees in certain seasons of the year when the whole vegetable kingdom is highly delighted. What is this delight? What is this happiness that we experience in the blooming of a beautiful tree. It is the manifestation of the life principle in it. It is the working of jiva, that essence which you call life. It cannot be explained in any other way. No one can say what this life is. You can simply say there is life, that is all. But what do you mean by life? Life is life. It cannot be explained by any other word. It has no definition, it has no comparison. Life cannot be compared to anything else, for there is nothing like it. It is unique in its nature. It stands by itself absolutely. We simply say life, as if everything is clear. There is life and we lead a life. But what is life? Nobody knows. Nobody cares to do anything about it, because it is the ultimate Being. It cannot be explained by any other higher reference. So, the existence of the tree, the working of the tree, the living of the tree is due to this vitality which is referable back to pure Being, the Sat. This is present not only in the tree but in everything else. If life departs from the tree, the tree dries up. When you say a particular branch of the tree is dry, what you mean is, that life has departed from that particular part.

  1. Asya yad-ekam sakham jivo jahati, atha sa sushyati, dvitiyam jahati, atha sa sushyati, trtiyam jahati, atha sa sushyati, sarvam jahati sarvah sushyati, evam eva khalu saumya, viddhi iti hovacha.

That particular branch which is divested or deprived of the life principle becomes dry. It is lifeless. Another branch dries up, a third branch dries up, finally the trunk dries up; the whole tree can dry up. If the life principle in the tree leaves the body of the tree, the whole tree dries up. So what is it that is in the tree which you call life? That is the Essence.

  1. Jivapetam vava kiledam mriyate, na jivo mriyata iti, sa ya esho'nima etad-atmyam idam sarvam, tat satyam, sa atma, tat-tvam-asi, svetaketo, iti; bhuya eva ma, bhagavan, vijnapayatviti; tatha, saumya, iti hovacha.

What we call death is the departing of life from a particular body. So death is not the death of the life principle itself. Na jivo mriyata-life itself does not die. The vitality is transferred from one location to another. It is withdrawn from a particular formation. That is all. Life which is the manifestation of the general principle, the pure Being, the Reality, is withdrawn from that particular manifestation called the body. Then that particular form is said to die. It is deprived of the essence, the life-force. So is the case with everything including us. Know this. Evam eva khalu saumya viddhi.

This is only an example that I have given to you, my dear boy. From this example, this analogy, you must understand everything that follows as an implication. We are all like trees, human bodies endowed with the living principle, and we shall die only when the life principle in us in withdrawn. This Essence that is the Being is the Atman of all things. And everything in this world, everything in this creation has this as the Self. There are not many Selves. Though the bodies are many, forms are many, individuals are many, the Self is only one. So, everything reverts into this Supreme Self from where it has come and towards which it tends some way or other. "That you are, Svetaketu-Tattvam-asi, Svetaketu," says the teacher. "Please explain further-Bhuya eva ma bhagavan vijnapayatv-iti," asks the disciple. "Tatha saumya itihovacha-well, I shall explain to you further," replies the teacher. He tells something very interesting about this unmanifested Being from which manifested forms arise.