The Chhandogya Upanishad
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter Three: Sanatkumara's Instructions on Bhuma-Vidya

Section 2: Speech

  1. Vag-vava namno bhuyasi, vag-va rg-vedam vijnapayati, yajurvedam, sama-vedam, atharvanam caturtham, itihasa-puranam pancamam, vedanam vedam, pitryam, rasim, daivam nidhim, vakovakyam, ekayanam, deva-vidyam, brahma-vidyam, bhuta-vidyam, ksatra-vidyam, naksatra-vidyam, sarpa-devajana-vidyam, divam ca prthivim ca vayum cakasam capas-ca tejas-ca devamsca manusyams-ca pasums-ca vayamsi ca trna vanaspatin-svapadani akita-patanga-pipilakam dharmam cadharmam ca satyam canrtam ca sadhu casadhu ca hrdayajnam cahrdayajnam ca; yad-vai van nabhavisyat na dharmo nadharmo vyajnapayisyat, na satyam nanrtam na sadhu na'sadhu na hrdayajno na'hrdayajna vag-evaitat sarvam vijnapayati, vacam upassveti.

That which causes the expression of the name is greater than the name. Linguistic designation or definition in respect of an object has at its background the science of speech. This is what they call the science of linguistics. The general nomenclature or the groups of names in respect of objects are all particularised, applied forms of an inner science which is linguistics, which is the principle of speech itself. Speech is a verbal expression of force that is generated in one's own self. In occult circles, we are told that behind the verbal expression or the utterance of speech, there are subtler operations taking place inside the body and these stages of inner working are called in the language of those occult sciences, para, pasyanti, madhyama and vaikhari. Vaikhari is the outer-most expression. The audible expression of speech is called vaikhari. This is what we call name, when it is identified with particular objects. But the inner aspect of it is the principle of speech, para-vak. So, the very scientific principle that is behind the utterance of names, speech, as it is by itself, is higher than name. So Narada is told that speech is higher than 'name'. All that one learns, all the Vedas and all these sciences, everything has speech as its background. Because of the principle of speech that is there at the back of the expressions of this theoretical learning, this learning has become possible. Thus, speech may be said to be the cause for name. The cause is superior to the effect. Everything conceivable is ultimately included in the expression of language. Not only these sciences and arts, but also all the elements, the earth and heavens, all these are also known only by name, and therefore, by speech.

Sanatkumara has given a list of every conceivable thing in this world—all the objects of sense, the five elements, all the living beings in every kind of species, everything that you can conceptually know, pleasure and pain, knowable and unknowable, righteousness and unrighteousness, virtue and vice, good and bad, this, that and what not, every blessed thing in this world. All these are objects of knowledge, about which Narada has plenty of information and whose names he is acquainted with. Speech is superior to all this because it is the causative factor behind the names of these objects. So, if one has a complete knowledge of the principle of speech, the science of speech itself, then one will know about all languages, and therefore, of every science that is expressed in language. Whoever meditates on speech as the absolute gains everything that is possible within the limits of speech.

  1. Sa yo vacam brahmeti upaste, yavad-vaco gatam tatrasya yatha kamacaro bhavati, yo vacam brahmety-upaste; asti, bhagavah, vaco bhuya iti, vaco vava bhuyo'stiti, tan-me, bhagavan, bravitviti.

One is free to the extent of one's knowledge. So, knowledge is power. This is a great conclusion that we can draw from these descriptions of the nature of knowledge. Wherever there is real knowledge, there is also power to the extent of the operation of that knowledge. And knowledge becomes power only to the extent of the applicability of that knowledge in respect of the object to which it pertains. If a particular knowledge is not applicable, it is not power. It will be only theoretical learning. So Narada is told, "To the extent of the operation of the principle of speech, you are free; meditate upon speech as the Absolute, because beyond that your mind cannot go."

"But is there anything beyond speech?" asks Narada. "Yes, there is something beyond that," replies Sanatkumara. "If it is so, please instruct me on it," is the next prayer of Narada.

The principle of speech, or whatever blessed thing there can be as the precedent of the expression of language-all that is controlled by the mind. Without the functioning of the mind, there would neither be expression of speech, nor any language, nor definition, nor learning. So naturally, mind is superior to speech, and speech is superior to name. The mind is the cause of all these expressions.

Section 3: Mind

  1. Mono vava vaco bhuyah, yatha vai dve vamalake dve va kole dvau vaksau mistir-anubhavati, evam vacam ca nama ca mano'nu-bhavati, sa yada manasa manasyati, mantran-adhiyiyeti, athadhite, karmani kurviyeti, atha kurute, putrams-ca pasumsceccheyeti, athecchate, imam ca lokam amum ceccheyeti, athecchate, mano-hy-atma, mano-hi loko mano hi brahma, mano upassveti.
  2. Sa yo mano brahmetyupste yavan-manaso gatam tatrasya yatha kamacaro bhavati yo mano brahmetyupaste 'sti bhagavo manaso bhuya iti manaso vava bhuyo'stiti tanme bhagavan bravatviti.

Beyond speech, and superior to speech, is the mind. Here is glorification of the functions of the mind, the capacity of the mind. Mind is superior, naturally, because unless the mind functions well, there would be no speech, no nomenclature and no learning. "Just as," says Sanatkumara, "two small fruits like mulberry or berry can be held together in the fist of the hand, just as the palm of one's hand folded contains within its fold two small fruits or objects, so does the mind contain within itself both speech and name." Speech and name are contained within the mind. This is the power of the mind. Whatever we do, we do only through the mind. We know it very well. We think first before we express ourselves in speech or utter a name. We think, "Let me do work," and then we start working. We think, "Let me have this, and let me have that," and then we put forth effort in that direction. We begin to perform various types of actions in this world, after thinking first. So, thinking is prior to every other deed or effort.

Mind is supreme in life. It is well known to every one of us. The mind is practically our own self. When we refer to ourselves usually, in practical life, we are referring to the mind only. "It is me," we say. What do we mean by "me"? We are referring to the mind, nothing more than that. And mind has assumed the selfhood, by superimposition of characters. Selfhood really does not belong to the mind. As the mirror shines in sunlight, so does the mind assume selfhood by the transference of the character of the Self into itself. So, for all practical purposes in life, mind is the self and it is the individuality within us. The mind is responsible for anything that we achieve in this world or in the other world, because what we call world is nothing but the field of experience. The range of our experience is the world in which we are living. And all the experiences of our life are nothing but the expression of the actions that we perform, behind which there is the mind that thinks. So, our world of experience is actually controlled and directed by the mind. Therefore we may say that, in a sense, mind is the world. "As the mind is yourself in this empirical realm, O Narada, meditate on mind as Brahman, the Absolute," says Sanatkumara.

Whatever the mind can think, that should be brought within the purview of the object of meditation. This is perhaps the last stage which ordinary people can reach in meditation. What can they do beyond the level of the thoughts of their mind? So, we should try to find out what are the possibilities of the mind, and bring all of them together into a stage of harmony, in an artistic manner. The pattern of thought should be beautiful. It should be complete. This is the meaning of the term 'absolute' here. We have to remember this again. The absolute is the completeness of any particular concept, whatever the concept be. So here, we have to reach the ultimate point possible by the mind. The arrangement of the conceptual objects should be such that nothing should be left out of purview. The reason for the movement of the mind away from the object chosen for meditation is the presence of a subtle feeling within, that there is something outside the object-beyond it, above it, higher than it. The mind should include every blessed thing, so that there is no chance of the mind going away from the object. The mental object here is not any particular symbol of a physical object, but includes everything that the mind can think. This is the object of meditation instructed in this section.

"So, O Narada, here you are in the mental realm of meditation. Consider mind as all, and master it in such a way that it becomes one with your Being, and does not remain merely an external function of your outward living over which you have no control. It is yours. You are a master of your mind; it has become you," says Sanatkumara.

This generally does not happen in practical life. Though we say that the mind is "me", we are not masters of the mind. There are many occasions when it is revealed to us, to our surprise and sorrow, that the mind is not our self, though wrongly we do say, "my mind is me". If mind is "me", well, I should be a complete master of it. But it is not the case. As the wind blows, the mind goes in various directions, and we are drifted in the direction of the wind of the mind. So the mind acts as a master. It does not act as our own Self. So it is not true that the mind is the true Self. But it has to be absorbed into the Self in meditation in order that it gets controlled. Complete control of a particular thing is exercised only to the extent of the absorption of that particular thing into one's own Self. Anything that is one with us is controlled by us, and of that we are masters. We are not masters of anything that is outside us. So, in the realm of the mind, we should be masters. We should control the mind completely and rule over it, by identification of our true Being with everything that the mind can think. This is one stage in the process of meditation.

"Revered Sir, is there anything greater than mind?" asks Narada, and Sanatkumara replies, "Yes, surely there is will, sankalpa, which is greater than mind."

Section 4: Will

In the gradation of meditation, we have seen that the mind is superior to the function of speech, of which all the names are manifestations, because from the mind proceed all psychological activities and everything that is expressed through speech. But, behind the mind also, there are forces which are more concentrated in their nature, and by an analysis of the activities of the mind, we will realise that this is the activity of specified thought. There is a creative will operating as the directive intelligence. This 'will' is termed sankalpa in Sanskrit. A determination or will in the mind precedes action. So, 'will' is prior to the general thinking faculty of the mind.

  1. Samkalpo vava manaso bhuyan-yada vai samkalpayate' atha manasyati, atha vacam-irayati tam u namnirayati, namni mantra ekam bhavanti, mantresu karmani.

Will, which is creative in its character, is superior to ordinary thought. When there is a will or a determined activity of the psychological organ, there arises the general thinking of the mind. Then follows the expression thereof by means of speech. Everything that we utter or recite or chant is a form of speech. And the quintessence of speech in its most sacred form is the body of mantras in the Vedas. The mantras contained in the texts called Brahmanas in the Vedas direct men to specified actions by means of injunctions. The mantras are like fire, great forces of directive intelligence. The mantras imply within themselves indications as to how they are to be utilised in a particular performance. So, actions which lead to specific results and the consequent experiences in life are all rooted in the hints given in the mantras themselves, which are specified modes of the expression of speech, which again is rooted in the mind, which in its turn is directed by the will, the creative intelligence.

So, this is the gradation given so far. Everything is rooted in the will, ultimately. Will is a general term which comprehends within itself any kind of specified intention, whether it works internally in the individual's personality or externally in nature. Here, the Upanishad tells us that everything has a specific intention behind its very existence itself. Even the five elements—space, air, fire, water and earth—are but specified forms of an ultimate creative will. Their manifestations in different intensities and the differences in the intensities of their manifestations are due to the differentiating character which is inherent in each of these elements. That differentiating character is the will hidden behind them. The will to be, the will to live, the will to exist, the will to maintain individuality is the power which distinguishes one element from the other. Otherwise, there would be a merger of the elements and one element would not be different from the other.

  1. Tani ha va etani samkalpaikayanani samkalpatmakani samkalpe pratisthitani, samaklpatam dyava-prthivi, samakalpetam vayu-scakasam ca, samkalpantapas-ca tejas-ca, tesam samklptyai varsam samkalpate, varsasya samklptya annam samkalpate annasya samklptyai pranah samkalpante sprananam samklptyai mantrah samkalpante, mantramam samklptyai karmani samkalpante, karmanam samklptyai lokah samkalpate, lokasya samklptyai sarvam samkcalpate, sa esa samkalpah samkalpam upassveti.

There is nothing in this world, in all creation, which is free from a self-assertive will, a self-determining power. So, 'will' is a universal power. Anything that asserts itself in a particular manner is called 'will'. This self-assertive nature is found in every atom of creation, in the heaven and the earth, in the wind and the space, in fire and water and in their further modifications, in our own bodies such as the working of the pranas and their further motivations like the recitation of mantras which, as has been pointed out already, become responsible for the actions that we do and the results that follow therefrom. The whole world, therefore, is rooted in will. The world is will in generality as well as in particularity. In certain forms of generality, the will becomes a content of our awareness. When it becomes too general, as in the will of God, for instance, it is not the content of our mind. However, the will is behind everything. This is the point that is driven home here. Therefore, Narada is instructed that higher than the mind, there is the will, and that he should direct his meditation or contemplation to the extent to which his will can reach.

  1. Sa yah samkalpam brahmety-upaste klptan-vai sa lokandhruvan dhruvah pratisthitan pratiisthito'vyathamanan-avyathamano abhisidhyati, yavat-samkalpasya gatam tatrasya yatha kamacaro bhavati, yah samkalpam brahmety-upaste, asti, bhagavah, samkalpad-bhuya iti, samkalpad-vava bhuyo'stiti, tanme, bhagavan, bravitviti.

Will, therefore, has to be contemplated upon as absolute in its operation. One who contemplates in this manner or practises meditation in this way attains to regions which are capable of access by the extent of the will applied in these forms of meditation. One becomes fixed or rooted in one's own will and that which one reaches or experiences by means of this meditation also becomes equally firm or firmly fixed. These experiences will no more be transient, as the other things of the world are. The person who is rooted in such a will is not distressed in any manner whatsoever. The regions that he reaches also are free from any kind of distress. To the extent of the reach of his will, he shall achieve success in this world, and his success, therefore, depends upon the intensity of his will, the comprehensiveness of his will, and the clarity of his will. To that extent he will be free, he will be successful, and he will enjoy life-yatha kamacaro bhavati. This is the result that follows from meditation on the content of will, to the extent it can reach.

Narada queries, "Is this all, or is there something more than will?" "Yes, surely there is something more than will," says Sanatkumara. "But what is that? May I listen to it, great master? Please instruct me further, beyond will," requests Narada.

Section 5: Memory

  1. Cittam vava samkalpad-bhuyah, yada vai cetayate'tha samkalpayate, atha manasyati, atha vacam irayati, tam u namnirayati, namni mantra ekam bhavanti, mantresu karmani.

The will, no doubt, is a determining psychological function. But the will cannot operate unless there is a cohesive force behind the functions of thought. Will is nothing but a collected focussing of the content of the mind. When the mind is directed and focussed in a particular manner, in a specified way, in a particular direction, we call it will. But this function of the mind which we call will would not be possible unless there is another capacity which we call memory. A person who is bereft of memory, and cannot even remember what took place one second before, cannot divert the will in any particular manner. Because the capacity of remembrance or retention of experiences, and the ability to maintain in one's own mind an awareness of the target towards which the will is going to be directed, are both necessary before the will rises up in the mind. This function which is precedent to the rise of the will is called chitta. It is the mind-stuff, as we may call it, which is the very basic root of all psychological functions. Will is a specific manifestation. There is a generality behind it and that is chitta. Beyond the will is chitta, the power of memory and retention. Only when one has presence of mind, one can direct one's will. Then only one can think, then only one can speak, then only name, a specific modification of speech, is manifested. In the name, mantras, sacred formulae, sacrifices and other actions become one. And from actions proceed their results, all in a continuous chain.

  1. Tani ha va etani cittaikayanani cittatmani citte pratisthitani tasmad-yady-api bahu-vid-acitto bhavati, nayam astityevainam ahuh yad-ayam veda, yad-va ayam vidvannettam acittah syad-iti, atha yady-alpa-vicchittavan bhavati, tasma evota susrusante, cittam hy-evaisam ekayanam, cittam atma, cittam pratistha cittam upassveti.

Everything is rooted in memory. All learning is ultimately memory, because it is the retention in the mind of whatever we have seen or heard or thought. Whatever be our learning, if our memory has failed, people say, "This person is nothing." Whatever be our education or acquisition of knowledge in its extensiveness, if we have lost all memory power, it is as good as nothing. All knowledge will practically vanish from us. So memory is very important. "If he was really learned, why does he not remember anything?"-people pose this question. They say, "He poses himself as very learned, but he cannot say anything; now, what sort of learning is this?" So, they repudiate the very learning of a person merely because of the absence of memory in that person. If we have strong memory power, whatever we speak will carry conviction. People listen to such a person, not to the other one who calls himself learned but cannot remember anything. So the personality is ultimately rooted in chitta, the capacity of remembering, which retains in itself all that is valuable in the form of one's learning or in the form of any type of experience in life. "Therefore, O Narada, you have to hold that chitta, memory, is superior to will. So contemplate the content of the chitta which is superior to will. Let this be the object of your meditation."

  1. Sa yas-cittam brahmety-upaste, cittan vai sa lokan dhruvan dhruvah pratisthitan pratisthito'vyathamanan avyathamano'bhisidhyati, yavat cittasya gatam, tatrasya yatha kamacaro bhavati, yas-cittam brahety-upaste, asti, bhagavah, cittadbhuya iti, citted vava bhuyo'stiti, tan-me, bhagavan, bravitviti.

The expansiveness of memory is larger than the content of will. Therefore, one who meditates on the content of memory attains all those realms which are capable of being reached by the operation of memory, and then enjoys identity of oneself with those realms. One becomes free and successful to the extent of the operation of one's memory. "Therefore let that be your meditation; this is the stage to which you have reached now by way of analysis and practice," says Sanatkumara. Narada is highly satisfied, but puts a question again, "Is there anything beyond chitta?" Sanatkumara answers, "There is something beyond that also." Though chitta is superior to the other functions, viz., name, speech, mind and will, already mentioned, it is inferior to something beyond that. Narada now wants to know what that is.