March (from The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad)
1. Human Life has to Adjust Itself
In all principles which guide human life, there are two aspects known as the exoteric and the esoteric. The formal routine of daily life is mostly guided by what we call the exoteric principles which have a working value and a validity within the realm of human action. In this sense, we may say that the values which are called exoteric are relative, inasmuch as every activity in human life is relative to circumstances. Hence, they do not have eternal value, and they will not be valid persistently under every condition in the vicissitudes of time. This principle which is exoteric, by which what we mean is the outward relative principle of life, becomes, tentatively, the guiding line of action, notwithstanding the fact that even this relative principle of exoteric life changes itself according to the subsidiary changes with which human life has to adjust itself.
2. Things Cannot be Possessed by Anyone
The arrangement of things is such, in the temporal realm, that things cannot be possessed by anyone. The idea of possession is a peculiar notion in the mind. You know very well how false the idea of possession is. You cannot possess anything except in thought. So, what we call ownership of property, is a condition of the mind. I can give you a very small gross example: There is a large expanse of land, a vast field which is agricultural in itself. Today you say, it is owned by ‘A’, and tomorrow it is owned by ‘B’, by transfer of property. Now, what do you mean by this transfer of property? It has never been transferred. It is there in its own place. It has been transferred in the ideas of people. The whole question of ownership, or psychologically put—like or dislike, is a condition of the mind which is an arrangement of psychological values, agreed upon by a group of people who have decided that this should be the state of affairs.
3. Atma-Vidya or Adhyatma-Vidya
The knowledge proclaimed in the Upanishad is a science which deals with the removal of sorrow. Thus, it is a knowledge which is different in kind from the learning that we usually acquire or the knowledge that we gain in respect of the things of the world. It is not a science in the ordinary sense of the term. While there are sciences and arts of various kinds, all of which are important enough, and wonderful in their own way, they cannot remove sorrow from the human heart, root and branch. They contribute to the satisfaction of a particular individual, placed in a particular constitution, in a particular type of incarnation, but they do not go to the soul of the person concerned. In the sense of the science of the soul, the Upanishad is also called Atma Vidya or Adhyatma Vidya. When the perceiver is known, everything connected with the perceiver also is known.
4. The Science of the Self
The grief of the mind, the sorrow of the individual is not brought about by outer circumstances. This is a very important lesson we learn from the Upanishad. We do not suffer by incidents that take place outside. We suffer on account of a maladjustment of our personality with the conditions of life, and the knowledge of this fact is supernatural and super-sensual. What has happened to us cannot be known by us, because it has happened to ‘us’ and not to somebody else. We cannot know what has happened to others because we cannot know what has happened to us, for who is to know our own selves? This is the crux of the whole matter, towards which the Upanishad is to take us. The Upanishad, to reiterate, is the science of the Self, studied not for the sake of a diversion of the intellect or a satisfaction of the understanding, but for freedom of the spirit and removal of sorrow, utterly.
5. The Sorrow has Not Come from Outside
The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, particularly, attempts to explain the various processes of bondage and liberation. It tells us how we are bound and how we are to get free; and it goes to the very cause ultimate of the bondage of the soul. Our bondage is not merely physical or social. It is a more deep-rooted condition which has been annoying us through centuries and through our repeated births and deaths. Anything that we do in the outer world does not seem to be an adequate remedy for this sorrow of ours, because the sorrow has not come from outside. We can have a bungalow to prevent us from suffering from rain and sun and wind; we can have daily food to eat; we can have very happy and friendly social relationships; but we can also die one day, even with all these facilities. Nobody can free us from this fear.
6. We Bring Sorrow with Us Even When our Birth Takes Place
The bondage of the self is intrinsically involved in the structure of the individual. We bring sorrow with us even when our birth takes place; and it is often said that we bring our death also together with our birth. The meaning is that all experiences—joys, sorrows, including our last moment of life—all these are a fructification of circumstances with which we are born from the mother’s womb. We are born under certain conditions, and they are the seeds of what will follow later, so that the entire life of ours may be said to be an unfolding of that which is present in a seed-form at the time of our birth. We do not pass through newer and newer experiences unexpectedly, as it were, but they are all expected things only. Every experience in life is expected, as a corollary is expected from a theorem in mathematics.
There is a notion in the minds of people that happiness arises on account of the contact of the mind with desirable objects. That this is not true, is a great point that is made out here. Happiness does not merely arise on account of the contact of the mind with an object which is desirable. The desirability of the object is, again, a condition of the mind. It is a perception of the mind in the contour of the object, of certain characters which are necessitated by the mind. The mind is a pattern of consciousness. You may call it a focused form of consciousness, a shape taken by consciousness, something like the shape the waters of the ocean may take in the surge of the waves. A particular arrangement of consciousness in space and time may be said to be a mind, whether it is a human mind or otherwise.
8. Every Activity is a Psychological Function
The Cosmic Sacrifice of the Purusha Sukta is an indication to us of the way in which a ritual can become a spiritual meditation, or a spiritual meditation itself can be interpreted as a magnificent ritual. The Brahmanas of the Veda, ritual-ridden as they have been, are brought to a point of contemplative apotheosis in the Aranyakas and the Upanishads, and here it is that every kind of action is identified with a form of sacrifice and action made a part of inward contemplation, so that action becomes a process of thought, rather than a movement of the limbs of the body. Every activity is a psychological function; it is not just a physical process. This is what we have to understand when we convert action into a contemplation. The originally Existent Being thought an Idea, a Being inseparable from Consciousness. The Purusha Sukta tells us that God became all the Cosmos—purusha evedam sarvam, and the created beings contemplated God as the Original Sacrifice.
9. The Truth of All Truths
The Upanishad takes us from ritualistic concepts to religious adorations, and then to spiritual visualisations. There is, again, a gradual ascent of thought, from the outward to the inward, and from the inward to the Universal. We withdraw from the outward mode of behaviour to the inward psychological factors which determine these external modes of behaviour, and then we contemplate the Being that is precedent even to psychological behaviour. What we do outside is determined by what we think in our minds, and what we think in our minds is conditioned by what we are in our true selves. So, there is a process of the rise of contemplative action from the outer realm of name, form and action to the inward thought-processes of the individual, and to thought process in general, leading to ‘being’, not merely to the individual’s apparent being, but to the Being of all beings, which the Upanishad would describe as satyasya satyam, or the Truth of all truths.
10. Truth Alone Succeeds
The Upanishads do not regard anything as absolutely untrue. Everything is true, but relatively so. There is a passage from the lower truth to the higher truth. The Upanishads do not regard anything as absolutely untrue. Everything is true, but relatively so. There is a passage from the lower truth to the higher truth. The Upanishads have a strange way of envisaging things. The True alone prevails everywhere. Truth alone succeeds—satyameva jayate—not untruth, because untruth is not. Therefore, the rise is from a lesser wholeness of truth to the larger wholeness which is above it. Actually, we reach, in the end, the Ultimate Wholeness which is Brahman, the Absolute. And also, simultaneously, it is an ascent of the soul from one condition of joy to another condition of joy. We do not rise from sorrow to joy, because sorrow is a misconceived tendency to happiness. It is a misplaced form of being which comes to us as a grief or agony. Just as untruth is not, sorrow also is not, because they are misplaced values, and when they are placed in their proper contexts, they look beautiful.
11. Physical Division Does Not Exist
I shall give you a small example of how physical division does not exist. It is only imaginary. The bodies of people are constituted of the five elements—earth, water, fire, air and ether. Your body, my body and everybody’s body are constituted of only these things, nothing else—earth, water, fire, air, ether. If the body of one individual, ‘A’, is substantially the same as the body of another individual, ‘B’, because of its being formed of the same five elements, what is the reason for the distinction or the difference that we make between one body and another body? It is that which exists between the two bodies. The space is the cause. But space is a part of the very constitution of the body itself. So, how does this become an element of distinction? That which we regard as spatial, and, perhaps, the only reason for the distinction that we usually make between one body and another, is an element essentially present in the constitution of the body itself.
12. The Entire Psychology of Meditation
The entire psychology of meditation is nothing but a setting right of errors in thought; and the details of these methods we shall be considering as we proceed further. So, to come to the point, this distinction between the individual unit and the Universal Substance is to be abolished for the purpose of the removal of the sorrow of the individual. Meditation is the technique of the removal of sorrow in the sense that sorrow is caused by the segregation of the individual from the world outside. For this purpose, one enters into the technique of meditation. Now, here, the context being sacrifice, we are given a method which is ritualistic in its nature, and thus the ritualistic horse of the Asvamedha Sacrifice becomes an object of contemplation, literally, liturgically as an animal in the sacrifice, but psychologically and spiritually as an element like any other element in creation as a whole.
13. The Desire to Possess Objects
The desire of the mind for a particular desirable object is a desire to get united with that object in its being. So, the idea of possession is something very strong, indeed. It is actually a desire to get united with the object, so that you become physically, psychologically whole in being, and not merely in an external relation. This condition is however not possible, as you cannot enter into the being of any object. Therefore, there is not such satisfaction even after the fulfilment of a desire. No desire can be fulfilled eternally, whatever be the effort that you put forth, because it is not possible for you to enter into the being of that object.
14. Nothing Can Come from Nothing
In creation, a new thing is not created, because nothing can come from nothing. If a new thing is to be created, it must have been produced out of nothing. How can ‘nothing’ produce ‘something’? This is illogical. The effect must have existed in some causal state. This causal state is the substance of the universe. Now, what is actually the distinctive mark of the universe that is created, as different from the original causal condition? In what way does the effect get differentiated from the cause? If everything that is in the effect is in the cause, what is the distinctive feature, what is the distinguishing mark, which separates the effect from the cause? If the effect is entirely different from the cause, we cannot posit a cause at all, because the cause is non-existent. If the cause is non-existent, the effect also would be non-existent. So, the cause must have contained the effect in a primordial state; and, therefore, nothing can be visualised in the effect which could not have been in the cause.
15. The Absolute is Transcendent Being
The mind of the cosmos, which is called the Cosmic Mind in usual parlance, is regarded here as an evolute, and not the original Being. The Absolute is Transcendent Being, and not a mind thinking. It is not even a causal state. Even the causal state is supposed to be posterior to the Absolute. We never associate the Absolute with the world. The Brahman of the Upanishad, or the Absolute of philosophy, is the assertion of Being which is unrelated to creation. And, when we have to associate God with creation, we have a new word altogether for it. Ishvara is the word we use in the language of the Vedanta. Such words do not occur in the Upanishads. They are all to be found in the later Vedanta, but they are assumed here. In the Samkhya and the Vedanta cosmological descriptions, we have certain grades mentioned of the coming out of the effect from the cause. Everything was hidden, though not expressed. Everything was in a universal causal state. That is called Prakriti in the Samkhya language.
16. The Absolute is Neither a Quantity nor a Quality
The consciousness of the existence of the universe is different from the consciousness of the Absolute. That the two are not identical is a point that is made out here. Once the existence of the universe is accepted in consciousness, everything else that follows from it can also be accepted. If two and two make four, four and four make eight, and so on, arithmetically, we can draw conclusions. But two and two must, first of all, make four. We must accept that. If that is not true, then any multiplication therefrom also is not true. There is a distinction between Absolute-Consciousness and universe-consciousness. That distinction is the cause behind this line drawn here between Pure Being that is the Absolute, and the condition precedent to creation. It is difficult for the human mind to understand what the Absolute is. Whatever be our stretch of imagination, we cannot conceive it, because every conception is quantitative and qualitative. The Absolute is neither a quantity nor a quality, and therefore no thought of it is possible.
17. The Cosmic “I-am”
The Cosmic Mind, Hiranyagarbha, as we call it in the Vedanta, is the Cosmic “I-Am”. It is Self-Consciousness, Pure Universality. And, here is the seed of all diversity. In a sense, we may say that we are parts of this Cosmic Mind, but not, indeed, correctly. As I pointed out, we cannot regard ourselves as parts of the Absolute. Nothing that we see with our eyes can be regarded as a real representation of the Absolute. Thus, we have to understand that we are not parts, even of the Hiranyagarbha. We are much less than that. We are far down below the condition of Hiranyagarbha and Virat, for reasons we shall see shortly. For the time being, it is enough if we understand the actual meaning of this passage. There was a destruction, a Mrityu, a complete abolition of Reality, which is what the Samkhya calls Prakriti, and the Vedantins call Maya, Mula-Prakriti, etc., the Potential Being, the Matrix of the universe. That becomes the seed for the manifestation of the Cosmic Mind, known as Mahat and Cosmic Ahamkara. The Vedanta calls them Hiranyagarbha and Virat.
18. The Love that You Feel is for Completeness
The love that you feel in respect of an object is in fact the love that you feel towards that which is called perfection and completeness. It is not really a love for the object. You have thoroughly misunderstood the whole point, even when you are clinging to a particular object as if it is the source of satisfaction. The mind does not want an object; it wants completeness of being. That is what it is searching for. Thus, when there is a promise of the fulfilment that it seeks, through the perception of an object that appears to be its counterpart, there is a sudden feeling that fullness is going to come, and there is a satisfaction even on the perception of that object; and there is an apparent satisfaction, just by the imagined possession of it together with the yearning for actual possession.
19. What is Dear is the Condition of Completeness
What you love is a completeness of being which is reflected in the condition felt to exist between yourself and the object concerned. You must mark this point. What you love is only the condition that you imagine to be present in the state of the possession of the object. But that state can never be reached, for the reason already mentioned. So, nothing is dear in this world. What is dear is the condition which you intend to create, or project in your own being by an imagined contact with the object. So, not one person is dear in this world, but what is dear is that condition which is imagined to be present after the possession of that object or that relationship.
20. Shariri-Sharira Bhava
The object, in an ordinary perception, is segregated from the subject by the differentiating medium of space and of time, so that there is no vital connection between the object that is perceived and the subject that perceives. But there is a living connectedness between the Cosmic Object and the Cosmic Subject. This connection is sometimes described as one of body and soul. We know that there is a connection between the soul and the body. This relation between the soul and the body is different from the relation between an individual subject encountering an outside object. The soul and the body cannot be separated from each other. They are organically one. This relation is called shariri-sharira-bhava, the relation between consciousness and its embodiment. Thus, we can say that the Cosmic Awareness of the universe, in the case of God-Consciousness, is one of inseparable relation, like the relation of the soul and the body. When we are aware of our bodies, we are not only becoming aware of an object situated in space and time. We can say that this body is an object because it can be sensed, it can be seen, and it has all the characters of any object in the world; but, at the same time, it is an object which clings to us vitally and organically.
21. Though it is the 'Other', it is Also the Self
It willed, or He willed: “May I have a second Self.” This is the origin of creation. The world, this creation, this universe is the second Self, as it were, of the Supreme Being. This ‘other’ Self, which is this vast creation, is animated by the Supreme Being Himself. It is ‘other’ in the sense that it had not all the characteristics of the Absolute. Yet, it is the Self. Though it is the ‘other’, it is also the Self. It is called the ‘Other Self’, inasmuch as the Selfhood of the Absolute is transparently present in this creation. The Universal Atman is immanent in the whole universe, in all aspects of creation; and yet the universe is an ‘otherness’, as it were, of God, an object of God. It is as if the Universal ‘I’ is envisaging a universal object, including all that is visible or sensible—space, time and causal relation. A single Subject encountering a single Object is the state which is described in this passage, a Cosmic Consciousness becoming aware of a Cosmic Object in a peculiar manner, not in the way in which the ordinary individual is aware of an object outside. The way in which God is conscious of the universe, is different from the way in which an ordinary jiva, or individual, is conscious of an object.
22. The Whole of the Veda is Inside “Om”
You have heard this great passage of the Bible: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Something like this is what the Upanishad tells us here. The Eternal Wisdom was manifest, with the eternal Word, and with this Word the whole cosmos was created. The Word which is with God, and which is God, is not merely a letter, or a sound that we make through our lips. It is an energy; it is a force; it is a vibration which materialises itself, concretises itself into object-forms. The Word is the Veda, or Eternal Wisdom which is with God, and it is inseparable from God, and so, it is God Himself. The Cosmic Mind projected itself in the form of this Eternal Word, and manifested this universe. In the Manusmriti, and such other ancient texts, we are also told in a symbolic manner that Prajapati, the Creator, conceived the whole cosmos in the pattern of ‘Om’, or the Pranava. The Pranava, or Omkara, is supposed to be the seed of the whole universe. That is the essence of the Word that is Divine. It is also the Veda contained in a seed form. The whole of the Veda is inside ‘Om’.
23. All Knowledge is from the Absolute
Without the knowledge of the Absolute, not even the smallest of things can be understood. All knowledge is a partial aspect of the Supreme Absolute, which is Knowledge Itself. It is not knowledge in the sense of an information about things, but the very existence of all things which is inseparable from the knowledge of things. And so, any knowledge or wisdom that is worth mentioning is a fraction, a spark, a ray, of the Supreme Absolute. Even the highest geniuses of the world cannot be compared with a ray of that eternal profundity of knowledge. Everything comes from that.
24. The Desire of Every Individual
The desire of every individual is to become the Virat. This is the meaning of any desire. Even if we take a cup of tea, our desire is only that; we want to become one with everything. It is a stimulation of the inner psyche towards the unification of oneself with all things. One who knows this mystery can become everything, says the Upanishad, which is a great consolation and a comfort for created beings. If we can understand what all this drama means, how this creation has taken place, how Consciousness has become all things, what desire means actually in its intention, if this is comprehended properly by us, we can become That, which has been the cause of this manifestation. One who knows it, becomes ‘That’. So is this concluding, solacing message of the Upanishad to everyone: Knowing is Being. If we can know this secret, we can go deep into the secret of self-mastery, so that desire ceases. The assumption by Consciousness that the object is spatially and temporarily cut off from itself is the cause of desire.
25. The Cosmic Consciousness Contemplated
It is, as it were, the Cosmic Mind contemplated its own Self in the object which is created, namely, the universe. So, the universe assumed a life. There is activity, energy, force and vitality in everything in the universe. That is because of the projection of the Cosmic Mind into this matter, which is the externalised form in space and in time. This happens in every form of perception involving emotion. An emotion is a form of concentration of consciousness on a particular object, and when that concentration is affected, the self moves to the object and enlivens the object in a particular manner. Then, because of the enlivenment, it becomes a part of itself; the secondary self does it become. As the individual object becomes a secondary self of an individual subject by way of emotional movement of self towards the object, so did it happen originally, also. The Cosmic Consciousness contemplated on the cosmic externality, which we call Prakriti, and thus the universe assumed life, as if it is consciousness itself, just as the body assumes a form of consciousness.
26. The Knower Alone Is
Everything is known by the knower, but who is to know the knower? If the knower is to be known, there must be a second knower to that knower, and the second knower can be known by a third knower, the third by a fourth, the fourth by a fifth, and so on. You go on scratching your head, you cannot know the knower. How can the knower be known? We have already designated the knower as the ‘Knower’ and you cannot now call it the ‘known’. Therefore there is no such thing as knowing of Knowing, or knowing of Knower. Knowing of objects only is there before liberation. With liberation, that object has become part of knowing itself; It has become one with the Knower. The Knower alone is; there is no such thing then as ‘knowing’.
27. Madhu Vidya
The Earth is the honey of all, and everyone is the honey of the Earth. The Earth is absorbed into the ‘being’ of everything, and everything is absorbed into the ‘being’ of the Earth. Apart from the Earth and the beings who are correlated in this manner, there is another superior principle present in the Earth and in all beings. That superior principle is the luminous consciousness. There is an animating being behind this physical entity that you call the Earth, and an animating principle behind what you call all the beings, creatures, individuals, in the world. That which is cosmically animating all creation and that which is individually animating every little creature, that also has to be taken into consideration in the correlationship of the objective and the subjective aspect of creation.
28. The Cosmic Being Manifested Himself as All Things
The Devas and the Asuras are two tendencies, and not substances. The tendency to unification is the divine principle, and the urge to diversification is the demoniacal principle. The sense organs are incapable; they were defeated by the Asuras, which means to say, that the sense organs cannot work up this unifying activity which is intended for regaining the original position of the deities of the senses. As mentioned earlier, the mistake that happened during the process of individual creation is a reversal of the subject and the object, placing them in wrong positions. In the Aitareya Upanishad, we have a more clear exposition of this descending process. The Cosmic Being manifested Himself as all things, down to the five elements—earth, water, fire, air and ether—which we regard as objects of sense. The five elements are the objects of our senses, but they were the last evolutes in the process of Divine manifestation.
29. The Law of Dharma
There are no two laws—God’s law and man’s law; universal law and individual law. No such thing is there. Such thing as ‘my law’ or ‘your law’ does not exist. There is only one law operating everywhere, in all creation, visible or invisible, in all realms of being. The same law is there for the celestials, the humans and the subhuman creatures. Everyone is controlled by a single principle of ordinance. That is called dharma. It operates as gravitation in the physical level; it operates as love in the psychological level; it operates as chemicals in the chemical level and it operates as integration of thought in our mental level, the level of cognition and thinking. It ultimately operates as the connecting link between the subject and the object, on account of which there is knowledge of anything at all.
30. Sri Krishna Opened His Mouth, and Fire Came Out of It
When we contemplate the Universal Subjectivity of things, the sense organs become causes rather than effects, not as they are now in our individual cases. What this contemplation means is a hard thing to grasp. But, once it is grasped, all fear vanishes in a moment, because fear is due to dependence on things, and independence is assumed the moment this art of transmuting individual consciousness to the Universal Reality is gained. That is real meditation, in the light of the Upanishad. And this contemplation, this meditation on Hiranyagarbha, which is actually the subject of this chapter and which is the reason behind the purification of the senses and their overcoming death, completely converts the effect into the cause, so that speech becomes Fire, the effect becomes the cause, and Fire finds its proper place in the Being of Reality. When Sri Krishna opened up His Cosmic Form in the court of the Kauravas, it is said that the mouth opened, and Fire came out of His mouth. And, in the Upanishad also, we find references to this fact.
31. Objects are Inert, and it is the Subject that is Consciousness
Being and consciousness go together; they cannot be separated. Our consciousness is tied to our body, so that whatever we know is limited to this little body. We cannot go beyond. The consciousness of our ‘being’ is the same as consciousness of our body. There is nothing else in us. And the body is so limited, as we know very well. Hence, the expansion of ‘being’, or the dimension of our ‘being’, includes simultaneously consciousness, because ‘being’ and consciousness are one. This is indicated by the other prayer: Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya: Lead me from darkness to light. This world is a world of darkness. It is not a world of light. The light that we see in this world is really a form of darkness, as we studied in an earlier portion of this Upanishad that all forms of life are forms of death only. They are not realities. The sunlight is not real light, because it is not intelligent. It is another intelligence that is responsible for apprehending the value of even sunlight. Mere sunlight cannot understand, because it is an object outside. Objects are inert, and it is the subject that is consciousness. Any object that is bereft of a relationship with the subject is equivalent to darkness. It is lifeless.