āpyāyantu mamāṅgāni vāk prānaś cakṣuḥ śrotram atho balam indriyāṇi ca sarvāṇi. sarvam brahmopaniṣadam mā'ham brahma nirākuryām mā mā brahma nirākarot anirākaraṇam astu anirākaraṇam me'stu. tad ātmani nirate ya upaniṣatsu dharmās te mayi santu; aum śantiḥ, śantiḥ, śantiḥ.
keneṣitam patati preṣitam manaḥ kena prāṇaḥ prathamaḥ praiti yuktaḥ,
keneṣitaṁ vācam imāṁ vadanti cakṣuh śrotraṁ ka u devo yunakti.
Thus begins the Kena Upanishad with a question: Who is the impeller and propeller of the mind, who is it that incites life into activity, propelled by whom does speech function properly, and who is the Divinity that harnesses the senses, such as the eyes and the ears?
The question implies that there is a directing principle behind the visible operation of the senses and the various faculties in the individual. Generally, such a question does not arise in ordinary life. We never put a question to our own self, ‘Who is it that makes me work?' etc., because it is taken for granted that we have the capacity of agency in action. Never does a person question himself, ‘Who is it that thinks through me,' and so on, because the accepted feeling is that each one thinks for himself or herself: ‘I think, and there is no need for somebody else to make me think, and the like. There is no necessity for any direction from anyone for me to speak, to act, or to breathe.' But the Upanishad starts at the very outset with a query which impliedly means that the functions are different from that which causes the functions to be there at all. Some truth seems to be assumed here, and that is why the question arises suddenly. What is taken for granted is that the actions of the sense organs as well as of the mind, intellect, etc., are an expression or a manifestation of the powers of something, which is transcendent to these operations.
The Upanishad does not go into the detail of the meaning that is hidden behind this question. In the very first two mantras the whole of its significance is summed up, wherein it states that there is positively some superior principle surpassing the operations of the sense organs, mind, intellect, and the like. While the Upanishad is a revelation and can proclaim this certainty with confidence—the truth of there being a transcending principle superior to the operational activities of the senses and the mind—the sadhaka, the student of the Upanishad, is taken slowly by a teaching that takes the mind from the visible to the gradually realised invisible.
All that is said to be of the nature of a directive principle within is invisible. We never see any directing agent inside us, and if there had been any such directing agent inside us, of which we could be easily conscious, then there would be a dual consciousness in us: partially a consciousness being of the real agent inside and partially the consciousness being of what we think we are at the present moment. Now, such a double personality does not usually arise. We have a single consciousness, and we never seem to be maintaining a double consciousness of a bodily personality and the consciousness of the agent inside. This, perhaps, is exactly our folly. It is the purpose of this Upanishad to make a clear-cut distinction between the true agent of action and the apparent agent. If we had been conscious of this duality, if we were to be aware that the real agent in ourselves is something different from what we think we are, then we would not be living the life that we are living now, because it goes quite contrary to our natural inborn feeling that we are bodies and are agents in terms of the body. Naturally, and generally speaking, when we make statements as, ‘I do', ‘I think', ‘I feel', etc., we attribute agency to our own bodily personality. This goes without saying, and it is simple to understand. ‘I see', ‘I hear', ‘I think', ‘I feel', and such statements of this nature are directly the outcome of a confidence that we are the body; otherwise, there would be no such thing as seeing through the eyes and affirming as ‘I see'. The agent identifies himself with the organs of knowledge, the energies that operate in the body, and then there is a conglomerate experience of one's being this total complex called the body.
It is strange, no doubt, that the ‘complex' should be regarded as one's self, because the self cannot be regarded as a complex bundle. We never, at any time, feel that we are made up of small bits. Never would even a fool feel that he is made up of parts. The affirmation of whatever be the characteristic of that is a single undivided wholeness of feeling. If we were to be suspicious of our being made up of parts, then we would be dubbed crazy. There would then be no confidence of any kind. We have an intuitive feeling of our being an undivided something, but we know very well that the body is not undivided. It has parts which can be divided spatially in terms of magnitude, and the body is subject to the laws of physics, chemistry, and so on. We never, for a moment, see through the body in a sense of completeness. It is always a bringing together of various conscious parts into a single judgment which makes us mistake the real agent for the body, and vice versa.
To cite instances, we are, bodily speaking, made up of parts. The eyes, the ears, etc., whose activities we are identifying with our real being, are isolated from one another. The eyes see and the ears hear. The eye may see when the ear may not be hearing. There may be a temporal gap between the functions of the eye and of the ear. Yet, this gap is bridged by a consciousness which affirms that one and the same element, one and the same being, one and the same self, has seen, or heard, and so on with the other principles which go by the name of the senses. The parts are thus brought together into a whole. We know very well that parts can never become a whole. They always remain parts. Whatever be the juxtaposition of the parts, they remain a mechanically connected linkage, and it is only for practical convenience that we regard an assemblage of parts as a whole. They never really become one. Two things broken up entirely cannot become one. They always remain two, whatever be the consolidating action of the parts. Though uniformity of the parts is likely to be mistaken for singularity of purpose and action, they are never truly single. Yet, our consciousness takes all these to be one unity.
The mental function that is the judging principle within us so mixes up sensory operations into an apparently single completeness that it never for a moment stops to think that the eyes and the ears and the other organs have not performed their functions at one and the same time. They are like many servants performing the injunctions of a single master. It is true that the servants are obedient to the master or are in harmony with the thought and feeling of the master; yet the servants cannot become the master. Not only that; all the servants need not work at the same time; they may be performing their duties at different times, in various manners. Yet the master integrates all these functions of the servants into his own will and he is likely to get the credit of his having done everything, as, for example, when we say that an army marches into a field and the soldiers have won the battle, the credit goes to the general: ‘The general has won victory.' So is the case with this unifying principle of consciousness within us which, by an act of error in its judgment, mixes up parts into a conscious whole, and then there is what is called the jiva-consciousness in us, which is nothing but consciousness embedded in the body.
Our feelings, thoughts and emotions connected with the body go by the name of jiva's functions. We become so engrossed in the activities of the body that the one is not differentiated from the other. The Upanishad questions: Is there really something which is distinct from these parts called the senses and their operations or can we say that the senses themselves are the Self? Can we regard the eye as the Self, the ear as the Self, the speech as the Self? Not possible, is the answer, because their functions are heterogeneous. There is no harmony among their activities. One sense may perform one function, the other another, quite distinct in time from the operation of the former, and if there is no unifying agent inside, there would always be a heterogeneity of sensory functions. The eye would be seeing something, the ear would be hearing another thing at a different time, and there would be no union of purpose and significance among the sensory operations. They would be like scattered parts with no purpose behind them. There would be no ‘I'-ness at all. It would only be parts thrown hither and thither. There would be none to affirm a singleness of consciousness and experience.
Now, who is this singleness which seems to be there in spite of the partiteness of the sensory and bodily functions? The Upanishad is full of hidden significance when it poses this question. Who is this directive principle behind the operational activities of the senses, the mind and the intellect? We have generally no time to think along these lines because we always think in terms of the body and senses. The thinking of the human being is always a bodily thinking, a sensory thinking. The Upanishad is a little higher level of thinking, where a question is raised whether this is permissible, justifiable, valid, and has a meaning at all. This question has arisen on account of a suspicion that perhaps we are not right in assuming agency in our actions. The whole of the philosophy of the Kena Upanishad is a disillusionment of our consciousness as to our agency in any kind of action, whatsoever, in this world. Not all the gods can be said to be agents in any action. This the Upanishad is going to tell us. Thus, the pose that is before us at the commencement of the Upanishad is in the form of the possibility of there being a unifying reality independent of and transcending the sensory segregatedness of activity. Who is it that propels your mind, who sees through your eyes and who hears through your ears, who breathes through your breath, is the question of the first mantra.
Those who have been students of the Mandukya Upanishad and the Bhagavadgita would have had enough occasion to learn that on a careful analysis of human experience it becomes quite clear that we are really something different from what we outwardly think we are. The three states of experience, viz. waking, dream and sleep, are daily demonstrations of the fact that we are not what we usually think ourselves to be. The eyes, the ears etc., which seem to be our agents in procuring knowledge of the world, are almost dead in the state of sleep. They can give us no knowledge when we are fast asleep. The needs that we feel in the waking life are no more felt when we are asleep. Even hunger and thirst are not felt there. We do not know whether we are unhappy or happy. All agonies of life are abolished when we are in sleep. That which we regard as ours does not anymore exist when we are asleep. That which we regard as indispensable in our life also does not exist in sleep. Look! Even that which is regarded as indispensable, without which we cannot live, even such things do not exist when we are asleep. Yet, we seem to be there, somehow, hanging on, living . How we live there, how we exist, it is difficult to explain. It shows, at least, that the state of sleep proves that we can exist in spite of there being not even the indispensables. There is no one to protect us, no government, no policeman. Nobody can help us because there is nobody there. We are alone and there is nothing which we can enjoy. There is nothing about which we can complain. There is nothing on which we can make any remark. There is nothing that we can say. And, what are we there? We are ‘somehow', ‘something' there, and though such a state in which we seem to be is indescribable, we know very well that it is something worthwhile. No person with sense would say that what he was in the state of sleep was not worthwhile. So important it is that it seems to be giving us a greater joy than all the joys of the world put together. These are facts which do not need any external proof. We seem to be privately something when we are asleep. We seem to be in such a deep privacy in our own Self, inaccessible to the things of the world, so single, so independent, so blissful, that all the world's possessions do not look valuable there. An analysis of sleep alone will do to make obvious the truth of what we essentially are and also the truth of what we ultimately seek.
The state of sleep is an answer to two questions: what we are and what we want. We know what we are in the state of sleep. We are there neither men nor women. We are neither rich nor poor, and we have nothing, really speaking, to call our own. This is what we really are. This is one answer to the question of what our essential nature is. The other thing is that what we actually seek we find in sleep alone and not anywhere else. What do we seek in life? That we find in sleep; not in the waking life. We are unnecessarily racking our brains in search of pleasure in the waking life, but we do not find it there. This is why we get tired and go to sleep. We are fed up with all the search of the waking experience. The senses get worn out, almost, and we are no more in a position to continue this search in the waking life. We then go back to our home. When we are tired of all the warfare of the world we enter our home, and there we find a peace that we never saw in the battlefield of life. It was that which we saw there. But, unfortunately we missed the point. We sought a peace which we could get only in sleep, not in the waking life, obtained it, but got blindfolded when we reached this realm. And, we seek aloneness. That also we find in sleep. So, our real nature is discovered in sleep, and our real quest is also fulfilled in sleep—pure being, aloneness.
There is, however, a snag in going to sleep, on account of which we come out from it no better than what we were earlier. This is a different question, quite apart, but as I mentioned, the sleep condition gives us a hint as to what we are and what we are in need of. Though it is not an actual realisation, it is an indication, a demonstration of what our essential nature is and what the essential nature of what we want also is. What is that, is the question of the Kena Upanishad, with which it begins its enquiry. What is it that is inside, and we seem to be really? Is there anything like that? Who it is that really wishes, and whose wish it is that is carried out through the mind and the senses in the form of cognitional and perceptional activity? This is the first mantra, a question, merely. The answer to this question is given in the second mantra.
śrotrasya śrotram manaso mano yad vāco ha vācaṁ sa u prāṇasya prāṇah,
cakṣuṣaś cakṣur atimukya dhīraḥ, pretty āsmāl lokāt amṛta bhavanti.
Simple is the answer of the Upanishad, as simple was its question. What is that, was the question. The answer is: It is the ear of the ear, the mind of the mind, the speech of the speech, the breath of the breath, the eye of the eye. Knowing this, heroes, having departed hence, relinquish what is mortal and become immortal. This is the second mantra in the form of an answer to the question of the first mantra.
When the Upanishad says that the real is the eye of the eye, etc., it means that there is something which sees through the eye. Now, for example, we put on glasses and we see through the glasses, but we never say that the glasses see. Who is the seer? The seer is the eye. The glasses are only the medium. The spectacles do not see; the eyes see through the spectacles. But, suppose we mix up the spectacles with our own bodily consciousness and regard the spectacles as a part of our own body, well, we may say the spectacles see, the glasses are seeing. Some such mistake we are committing daily when we say that the eyes are seeing. The eyes see in the same way as the spectacles see. That is all. In one sense, it is true the spectacles see, but we know in what sense it is so. That the glasses are not the real seer becomes clear when we distinguish between the glasses and the eyes. If we mix up the glasses with the eyes, then we can mistake one for the other. There are what are called contact lenses. They are so adjacent and near to the eyes that we cannot even see them, and for all practical purposes, they are the eyes. Yet, they are not. They are foreign matter thrust into the eyes for a certain purpose. Likewise, the retina of the eyes, which seems to be a part of our life, part of what we really are, are only lenses placed for the purpose of visual experience. So is the ear drum, the tactile sense, etc. placed for the purpose of auditory experience, apprehensibility, and so on.
How do we know this? As long as we are in a state of conscious identification with the retina of the eyes, they will look like the self. They do not look like what we are but stand outside us only when we are in a position to distinguish between the internal directive principle and the constitution of the eye itself. The eye is made up of physical substance. We know it very well. The whole body is nothing but flesh, bone, muscle, marrow, tendon, etc. Now, we regard this as our self. The mass of matter which is the body, which is subject to the laws of physics and chemistry, which has spatial dimensions and which is subject to temporal succession, which is changeable every moment, which never remains in one condition for two successive moments, such self-transforming complex of the body we regard as our own self. As I mentioned at the outset, that which is constantly changing cannot be regarded as the self because the Self is an experience of non-changeability. Though we have been growing from childhood to adult age and from adult age to old age, we have grown some feet higher than what we were when a baby, and many other changes have taken place, yet, we have never missed the identity of our personality. The ‘I' persists in spite of the changes that the bodily parts were subjected to throughout the advancing of age. How are we to answer this question: How can we account for this phenomenon?
There is so much of change and transformation, the biologists tell us that every seven years the cells of the body are completely changed, there is a new birth altogether after every seven years. We become a new person; yet, the continuity of ‘I'-ness is there. It never ceases. We never say there was somebody when we were a child, someone else when we were an adult, someone else now when we are old. No such thing is felt. The feeling is: ‘I am existing. Whatever I was, whatever I shall be, I am, indivisibly, continuously and invariably.' What is this phenomenon due to? How do we account for this if it were not for an invariable conscious element inside us? It looks that we ourselves are something very mysterious, which has been mixed up with what we are not, by a process known in philosophical parlance as superimposition or adhyasa, by which the character of one thing is transferred to another thing.
Students of philosophy will know what adhyasa means. A transference of properties is generally called adhyasa. The properties belonging to one are transferred to someone or something else. On account of this transference of psychological qualities, we entertain love and hatred. Characteristics which are desirable, personally speaking, are transferred to certain objects. The desirable characteristics of our psychological constitution, when they are transferred to any particular object, look attractive, and the object becomes lovable, dear and affectionate. Any psychological complex in us which we regard as undesirable, when it is transferred to any particular object is disliked, and that becomes an object of hatred. This is a kind of external adhyasa, spatial adhyasa or superimposition. The mother's love for a child, one's hatred for another—all these are explicable in terms of a psychological superimposition, and this superimposition takes place in a dexterous manner, of which we remain entirely unconscious. We cannot know what is happening. If we know it, then, we will not be slaves of these passions. We go with these movements of the psychological function. It is very strange that when these complexes are transferred to objects our whole being seems to be transferred together with them and then we are ‘in' the child which is ours, the object we love, and we get correspondingly related to objects positively or negatively in accordance with the way in which our psychological functions are transferred positively or negatively. The whole being of us moves with the movement of consciousness. Our Self itself is shaken, as it were, when the mind moves towards objects either positively or negatively—positively as love, negatively as hatred. So it is that we cannot brook either too much of love, or too much of hatred. We are disturbed when there is too much of love, disturbed also when there is too much of hatred, because our whole being is ‘out there'. We have no private personality of our own at that time. We have become ‘something else', temporarily, for the time being. We are possessed by a power which is not ours. Now, this situation is called adhyasa.
Up to this time I have explained only external adhyasa, the superimposition in which we usually involve ourselves in the perception of objects desirable or undesirable; but inwardly there has taken place, already, another kind of superimposition. There is a transference inwardly, which has already worked itself out, on account of which we feel we are bodies, which is called anyonya-adhyasa or mutual superimposition of attributes between consciousness and the matter constituting the body. Now, there is a very interesting mutual transference of properties taking place between our consciousness and the body that we think we are. The body has certain characteristics. The consciousness has certain other characteristics. And what are the characteristics of consciousness? Consciousness does not change. It can never become an object, and it cannot be ‘related' to anything. Consciousness never becomes external. It is not in space and time. It is indivisible. It is Self-sufficient, Self-luminous, Self-complete. And what are the characteristics of the body? It is made up of parts, as against consciousness which is indivisible. The body is external, as against the consciousness which is pure subject. The body is subject to transformation, as against consciousness which is unchangeable. The body is always in space and time, as against consciousness which is never in space and time. Look at the contrary characteristics of the body in comparison with consciousness! There is a mutual transference of properties taking place here. That particular borderline where this mysterious transference of properties takes place is called the jiva, or the individual. You do not know what this jiva is. It is a very interesting thing and you cannot define it. It is a peculiar indescribable point of experience where this adhyasa takes place. The body and the consciousness meet together, shake hands with each other, transfer each other's properties and the one becomes the other, as it were, matter saying ‘I am consciousness', consciousness saying ‘I am matter'! If consciousness begins to feel ‘I am matter', what will happen? It would shake as matter shakes. It would feel that it is undergoing transformation as matter really does. All the vicissitudes which are attributable only to changeable complexes of matter get attributed to consciousness. Then it is that we say, ‘I am unhappy', ‘I am hungry', ‘I am thirsty', ‘I am dying', ‘I am old' and this and that, the properties of matter getting attributed to consciousness. On the other hand, contrary-wise, when the properties of consciousness are transferred to matter, what happens? The body begins to feel, ‘I exist', ‘I am intelligent', ‘I am happy', ‘I am powerful', ‘I can do this', ‘I have this', ‘I have that', and so on. So, this is what matter borrows from consciousness, while consciousness has in turn taken loan of the changeable attributes of matter, and we have a peculiar admixture of confusion which is called the jiva's experience.
We do not know where the jiva exists, really speaking, between consciousness and matter, between purusha and prakriti. It is a myth, finally, if we go on analysing it properly. It does not exist. It is like the old story: A gentleman entered the house of a person where a marriage was taking place and he wanted to take advantage of the situation. He started enjoying the comforts of a guest; all the good things about. The marriage ceremony was taking place and the bridegroom's party thought he is perhaps from the bride's party, and the bride's party thought he is from the bridegroom's party. So, no one enquired about him. After the marriage was over, this gentleman would not go out from the father-in-law's house. He went on demanding this, that, three-times-coffee, four-times-food, but the people did not say anything, for he might be from the son-in-law's side! The matter came to a point where he became intolerable. He went on giving a lot of trouble. However, nobody would stop him or refuse anything to him, because the father-in-law thought that he was the son-in-law's guest and the son-in-law thought that he was the father-in-law's guest. And the man went on tormenting everyone daily. One day the father-in-law called out and asked: Who is this gentleman? When that gentleman came to know that a conversation was about to take place between the two parties, and he might be detected, he ran away from there. So is the jiva trying to take advantage of the situation of this admixture of properties between purusha and prakriti, and if purusha and prakriti, like the father-in-law and the son-in-law, were to see each other properly and enquire into each other's relations, and thrash out this question, then there is no jiva. It would take to its heels, immediately. But they have no time to talk; they always remain engrossed, like the father-in-law and the son-in-law, in the business and noise of the marriage. There is then, this mysterious devil or ghost, which is called the jiva, cropping up in a very unintelligible manner, and causing all this tremendous havoc that is called samsara. Can this be thrashed out, is the query of the Upanishad, and this question is taken up in a very beautiful manner.
There is something strange in us, and it is different from that which we mistake ourselves to be. It is not the ear, it is not the eyes. We should not mistake the eyes for the Self, etc. There is something inside the eye. Have an analysis made of your own personal daily experience. There are people who open their eyes and go to sleep. There are people who sleep with their mouth open, and if we put a particle of sugar on their tongue they would not taste anything. There are people who go into such deep sleep that they would not hear even a gunshot nearby. The ears are open. The eyes are open. The tongue is there. But all these have no sensation at all. Sometimes we touch them even, they would not know anything. What has happened to them? What has happened to the so-called person who once thought he was the eye, ear, etc.? He has withdrawn himself from what he thought he was. The true gentleman has gone inside, and it was only in a confused state of mind that he thought he was something else. This is adhyasa internally taking place.
As I mentioned, external adhyasa is in the form of love and hatred towards things, and the internal adhyasa is mutually between consciousness and the body. In sleep, our true personality is withdrawn, so it is that we cannot see, cannot hear, etc., with these outer organs. They are of no use, then. There is an intervening stage called dream where we mentally project the senses of knowledge and action, and begin to have similar experiences as in the waking state. In the state of dream there are no real outer sense organs like the physical limbs, and yet we know, in the state of dream, we can hear, see, taste, etc. What is this thing that we call ‘seeing' in the state of dream? Have we eyes? We seem to be having eyes there, but really we do not have any eyes. The real eyes are open or are closed, as the case may be, and yet they are not functioning. What we call the organs of perception in the waking condition are lifeless when we are in dream or sleep. They are not at all worth the while, then. Yet, there is a kind of eye which sees through dream. We can see the dream world through the dream eye. We can taste a dream lunch through the dream tongue and mouth. We can hear dream music through the dream ear, and so on. How does this happen? The mind has put on the shape of the sense organs in dream. It acts the part of many things at one and the same time. The mind becomes the seer, hearer, thinker, experiencer, enjoyer, and even the very objects of experience. All these things the mind becomes at once. It has withdrawn itself from the bodily organs which it thought it was, and now it is ruling over a new kingdom altogether which it has manufactured out of its own feelings and thoughts. The mind, then, goes to sleep. Even the mind is not there. We exist in the state of sleep in a condition in which we cannot attribute to ourselves anything that belongs either to the waking state or the dreaming state. We remain as unique beings in sleep, absolutely featureless, uncommon, incomparable and totally independent. Such is our nature in sleep. We know how happy we feel when we go to sleep, and that happiness has come to us merely because we are absolutely independent, unrelated and free in ourselves. Merely because we are absolutely free we have had such a delightful experience, and because we are wedded to what we are not in the waking and dreaming conditions, because we falsely imagine ourselves to be something different from what we are, in these states there is there restlessness of mind. Only in sleep there is delight. And the Upanishad takes us to this fact of experience. There is something inside: inside the ear, inside the eye, inside the sense organs, inside even the mind. The mind also does not operate in the state of sleep. The intellect does not work. Who exists then? We are likely to mistake our thought for ourselves. We cannot regard our Self as distinguishable from our thought when we feel ‘I exist'. Mostly when we define ourselves as an existent being we regard ourselves as a thinking being, but in sleep we do not feel anything at all. Then, what do we feel we are, in the state of sleep? We can then exist even without thinking. This is what we realise in the state of sleep. We can exist without seeing. We can exist without hearing. We can exist without thinking. What is that state in which we exist without even thinking? Ordinarily, such a state is unimaginable, because one can never be without thinking. Whatever be our conception of ourselves in the waking state, it is in terms of a thought. We think that we ‘are something'. That is our apparent being, but that is not our being in sleep. We do not think in sleep that we are something or anything. What is that which exists in sleep? To that the Upanishad takes us gradually by an analysis of sensory experience.
Śrotrasya śrotram: The Ear of the ear is that Consciousness, bereft of which the ears will not hear. Manaso mano: It is the Mind of the mind, the life principle behind the thinking faculty, without which the mind will not operate. Yad vāco ha vācaṁ: It is the Speaking force behind the organ of speech, without which the tongue will not work. Sa u prāṇasya prāṇah: It is the Breath behind the breath, Life behind life. It is the Eye behind the eye—cakṣuṣaś cakṣur atimukya dhīraḥ, pretty āsmāl lokāt amṛta bhavanti. What should we do then? We must gradually isolate external factors from what we really are. This is what the Upanishad teaches us in this mantra, the process of self-analysis for the sake of the transcendent Self-experience.
This self-analysis has to be done gradually, from outward disentanglement towards inward realisation. We are involved externally first, and then we realise that we are involved personally, and then, later, it is that we try to go deeper. Our personality is entwined in many things of the world. It is difficult to conduct self-analysis because, usually, our personality is a social one. It is not the pure personality that we are thinking of daily. We are, rather, always conscious of a social personality of ours. This is a further externalised extension of what we really are. When we say that we are such and such, this and that, in terms of social status, we have carried ourselves too far, beyond reality. In an act of self-analysis this externalised superimposition or adhyasa has to be eliminated. We must first of all know that we are independent personalities at least, let alone something that is deeper still. Most people cannot even know that they are independent persons. They are always sons of somebody, daughters of somebody, subordinates or bosses related to somebody else. What they are independently, they cannot think. There is no time to think all that. Look at this, even ordinarily speaking, we cannot think independently about ourselves. ‘I hail from such and such a place, and so on, is the way we begin to describe ourselves. We never have any thought of our independent personality as we were when we were born into this world. We are really nothing of the sort we are describing ourselves to be at present. We were one thing when we were born, and afterwards so many accretions grew upon us. Psychological relationships were established which grew into a thick cloud, as it were, and our true personality got obscured.
Self-analysis should, first of all, begin with an elimination of these outward accretions that we have unnecessarily created over our own self, over our own real personality; and after the realisation that we are something independently apart from what others think we are, then it is that real self-analysis can begin. So there is a twofold performance that we are called upon to do in self-analysis, the external withdrawal and then the internal withdrawal. The external withdrawal is to forget that one is an administrator, an officer, a boss, a son, a father, a this, a that, and so on. This is the first withdrawal that we have to practise, and it should be easy to do. We are not bosses. We are not administrators. We are not officials. We are not sons. We are not daughters. We ‘are' something by ourselves. We have a status of our own. This fact we realise first. What is a person when he has no children? We do not call him a father. Unrelated persons have to be defined in their individual capacity. If we are to be absolutely left alone in the world, imagine our position. What would we be in the world as absolutely alone, unwanted? What do we call ourselves at that time? We would not say to whom we were born. It might be we had a father and mother, but we do not care about this aspect because we are absolutely alone now. Never would we think that we are boss, never that we are a subordinate, etc., since we stand single. The world does not want us. We are in a wilderness. We are thrown to the winds. We do not know what our own condition then is. In such aloneness, when we experience it, we come to a consciousness of our true personality. That would be the first achievement in self-analysis; but much more is to be realised, and there is a lot to do still further.
It is not enough if we overcome the feeling that we have social relationships. We must also get over the idea that we have bodily relationships. That would be a further advance made in the act of self-analysis. This is really the practice of yoga. While social disentanglement may be called vairagya, in a lower sense, internal disentanglement is yoga. So there is a distinction between vairagya and actual practice of yoga. Vairagya is only a preparation. It is the giving up of all illusions of life. We realise that, really, we have none in this world to call our own. We are alone. This is the truth. When we know this, we really practise vairagya, but yoga is still higher. That is a self-transcendence from bodily awareness where we gradually rise into a universality of being. The Upanishad here is not so much concerned with the vairagya aspect of self-analysis, because it is taken for granted. The Upanishad is always meant for advanced students. It is not for beginners. It is understood that there is an element of vairagya in a large proportion in all students of the Upanishad. Raw minds are not to study it. The Upanishad never discusses these preliminaries of practice such as the lower vairagya, etc., but concerns itself mainly with the internal detachment and the inward process of self-analysis, the going deeper into one's personality, to realise what one, really, Is.
Here, in the second mantra, the Upanishad says that we realise, by such act of self-analysis, that we are a consciousness that hears, a consciousness that sees, a consciousness that touches a consciousness that tastes, and a consciousness that smells, and all is consciousness-experience. Like the light of a candle placed inside a vessel with five holes, jetting itself forth through the five avenues, consciousness seems to be manifesting itself in the form of sensory perception through the five holes we call the senses. Our consciousness is something like light and we may compare this body to a vessel, a pot with five holes, and placed in darkness. The light is shining inside and beaming out through the five holes, and it appears as if there are five rays of light, while really it is one light that is shining in a fivefold manner. Likewise, the Atman within us operates consciously through the five senses, and it appears that we act in a fivefold manner—seeing, hearing, etc. To make the example more clear, we can imagine one of the holes in the pot being equipped with a concave lens, another hole equipped with convex lens, a third with a coloured lens, a fourth with a broken lens, and so on. If the lenses are of a different structure, fitted to the five holes of the pot, and if the light, the very same light, passes through these five holes, we know it will project itself in five different ways. So is the Atman-consciousness manifesting itself through the different sense organs. When it jets forth through the eye it appears to be one thing, through the ear it looks another thing. It appears to be different in five manners on account of difference in the structure of the sense organs, as I mentioned in the example, but the light is the same. When we dissociate the structural difference of the sense organs from the light, and realise the light within, as it is, then we become what we really are, a hint of which is received by us, daily, when we go to sleep. That is the Atman, realising which one becomes immortal.
Mantra 3 and 4
na tatra cakṣur gacchati na vāg gacchati no manaḥ,
na vidmo na vijānīimo yathaitad anuśisyāt.
anyad eva tad viditād atho aviditād adhi,
iti suśruma pūrveṣām ye nas tad vyācacakṣire.
There, in the Atman, which has been described in the earlier mantra, nothing can reside, and that Atman nothing can reach. This is the purport of the third mantra. The eyes cannot see the Atman. The speech cannot describe the Atman. The mind cannot think the Atman. We do not know how to speak about it, think it, understand it or instruct about it. Thus it is that we have heard about it from those who have realised it.
We have had enough of indication in the second mantra as to the inaccessibility of the Atman. Why is it inaccessible, and how is it that it remains ever the transcendent in respect of all the faculties of the human being, is clear from the very description that was given earlier. It so happens that our mind is constructed together with the senses in such a way that they can never, with all the best of their ability, turn back upon themselves, or cognise that which is behind their own existence. The mind always remains a cognising faculty. The senses ever find themselves busy in the perception and sensation of things. But due to the very constitution and the nature of the mind and the senses—the very make up of these—it is impossible for them to know the background of their own being. Why does not the eye go there or the ear go there? The reason is that the senses are the refracting medium whose rays always project themselves outwardly rather than inwardly. It is as if, from a source of resplendent light, rays emanate with a tremendous force in the direction of not the light itself but of other things which the light illumines. The resplendence of the Atman projects itself in the form of sensory rays, and vehemently moves externally in space and time in respect of objects. The force of the rays is such that it is capable not only of dragging through the avenues of the senses all the energy that is located in the bodily organism, but, something more mysterious than this, even confounding the very light of the Atman as a cognising and perceiving operation, so that in the mental cognitions and sensory perceptions there is an indescribable transference of attributes, the subject becoming tinged with the character of the object.
The light of the Atman transfers itself to the objects in such a way that the Atman may be, temporarily at least, said to recognise itself in the objects rather than realise its own Self-identity. There is no Self-consciousness, there is only object-consciousness in all forms of perception. When we are conscious of objects we are never conscious of the Self. Even in this empirical world of bodily existences, in our usual sensations, perceptions and cognitions we find that when we are aware of an object we are not simultaneously aware of our own selves. We cannot be doubly conscious at one and the same time. There may be a quick succession of alternate perceptions of ourselves and the objects, but never can there be a parallel or simultaneous perception of one's own self and the objects outside. We may stretch our imagination and try to be conscious of both ourselves and the object at a given moment of time; even then, even during that flash of a short period of the so-called double consciousness that we try to maintain, it is only a quick succession of alternate perceptions and never a simultaneous perception.
The fact is that self-consciousness and object-consciousness cannot go together. Now, the Atman is pure Self-consciousness. When I say ‘pure', it means unadulterated, unrelated to any form of objectivity. There is no sensory operation there, and it is absolutely unnecessary there, but when any kind of sensation takes place in terms of objects, the consciousness which is the Atman gets transferred through the avenues of the senses in respect of objects and there is object-consciousness.
In the material world, we are so deeply objectively conscious that oftentimes we regard the objects as more important that our own self. This is called samsara, in ordinary language. People say they are involved in samsara, which means to say that they are immersed in object-consciousness, regarding the objects as more valuable than themselves. The things connected with me are more meaningful to me than my own self. This is the simple statement about the whole matter. This is why people die for things other than their own self. The entire life of a person is spent in adjusting himself with objects, so that he may be in tune with objects rather than the objects be in tune with his self. We flow with the current of the movement of objects. In this hectic activity of the senses the self-consciousness also gets involved, and as the objects never remain in a single condition, they always transform themselves, there is evolution, it looks as if consciousness also evolves.
There is evolution every moment of time. There is not a single atom of the world which remains constant for all times. There is a rapid movement of every constituent of every object, and when a group of forces that constitute an object-form corresponds, for the time being, to the constitution of the senses of a perceiver, there is a corresponding perception. What we call object-perception is nothing but the correspondence of the constitution of the senses with the temporary constitution of a given object. If there is no such parallel coordination between the subject and the object, if there is increase or decrease in the frequency of the forces constituting either the subject or the object, there would be no perception of any such thing as the world. This is why we cannot see higher worlds or lower worlds than our own. We can see only this particular world, the earthly plane, the physical realm, on account of the frequency of the vibrations of physical objects corresponding to the frequency of the vibrations of the forces that constitute our senses. This is how the objects become the contents of our sensory consciousness. Not allowing that it is only a temporary situation that is presented before us, forgetting the fact that the world is much vaster and deeper than what the senses perceive, there is confusion created before the mind, and then the whole personality of the human being gets involved in the setup of objects tentatively given for the time being.
This is what is called the immersion of self in samsara, earthly existence, and this happens in the case of every person, as it cannot but happen for the reasons mentioned. On account of this situation that has been created, in which the self-consciousness gets lost in object-consciousness, there is such a removal of one's self, farther from one's centre, to a distant imagined centre called object, that we are supposed to be in the lowest of created worlds, the earth plane. It is the lowest because it is the most removed from the spiritual centre of the Self. You must have read in philosophical textbooks that there are what are called the sheaths or the koshas of the Self. These koshas are nothing but representations or symbols of the intensity of the removal of Self-consciousness from itself. The innermost layer of the Self is called anandamaya kosha, or the causal sheath, where the Self tends to objectify itself. There is a tendency of Self-consciousness to externalise itself here. This tendency is called the causal sheath. The sheath is not made up of any material substance. It is nothing but consciousness entwining itself in what it has made of its own self, like a silkworm creating threads out of its own material and winding them round its own self as its own bondage. The sheaths are not made up of any exterior substance. It is only consciousness winding itself in a mysterious manner, and it looks darkened, externalised and material, as we say, on account of its concentration upon this mysterious phenomenon as an object. When there is a greater and more intensified objectification, there is a subtle perception of diversity of objects. To know how this happens we can only imagine how we enter into the state of dream. When we go to sleep, there is only a tendency to dream. We do not dream immediately. The tendency of the mind to objectify itself into forms of dream perception may be compared to this creational activity of consciousness which is called anandamaya kosha, but when there is an actual diversification, a real objectification, a complete self-alienation into a multiplicity of forms, there is a subtle recognition of the world outside. This is the astral or the subtle body working. But there is a further removal of the Self from itself when there is concrete, visible, physical perception of objects, the condition in which we are now. This is the physical world. It is in one sense the lowest of worlds, the farthest from the true nature of the Self. The forces of consciousness tend themselves to objects in such velocity that there is no possibility of their easily turning back upon the Self.
What the Upanishad here calls eyes, ears, speech, mind, intellect, etc. are rays of Self-consciousness projecting themselves externally towards objects. The rays are projected externally! That is the truth of the whole matter; and as they are always tending towards objects outside, they cannot cognise their background. The Self, then, is not conscious of itself. There is only object-consciousness. This object-consciousness is double, or twofold in function. First, it is an alienation of Self into body-consciousness and, second, it is a further alienation of body-consciousness into society-consciousness, where there is a greater entanglement in the multiplicity of values that are psychologically created for the purpose of convenience. The method of self-analysis was explained as a gradual self-withdrawal, a withdrawal of consciousness from the psychological entanglement created later on in terms of social relationships into personal consciousness, which, again, is an entanglement in physical existence, from which, again, there should be a gradual transcendent withdrawal.
This third mantra points out that the eyes and the other instruments, such as the senses of speech, etc. cannot cognise the Atman by any amount of effort because all their effort is misdirected and misconstrued. This is, indeed, for their own ruin, this their wonted activity. There was a rat. Rats never keep quiet. They always go on running about, munching something. The rat happened to find a basket containing a cobra; it happened to be a snake charmer's house. The rat thought there was some fruit or eatable inside, and it took the whole night to make a hole. It worked throughout the night, and the moment it entered the basket, you know what it got. It found its own death. Likewise, all this effort of the senses is for their sorrow in the end. They think they are wise, but they work for their destruction on account of tending away from Truth. Farther and farther do they go into spatial and temporal arenas, into what they regard as the world which they value much more than the Self itself. As it is also clear to us these days, where we imagine we are highly educated and cultured, it is merely in a misconstrued and erroneous manner, because there is a tendency to run away from the centre rather than move towards the centre. This one cannot call culture or education, and this is the reason why there is restlessness throughout the world, and we cannot set it right even in millions of years unless the crucial point is touched and tackled—the fundamental error in human thinking. The thought process of the human being is wrongly directed. Hence it is that no effort of the sense organs, or even of the mind, can create a peaceful world for mankind. This is what the mantra would tell us in its essential purport. There, in the Atman, the senses do not move. The Atman is such a transcendent Being, the presupposition of all cognitions and perceptions, the very being of all activity, psychological or physical, that it has never been seen by any person or persons—no manaḥna vidmo na vijānīimo yathaitad anuśisyāt.
The reason for the transcendence of the Atman is that it is anyad eva tad viditād atho aviditād adhi. It is different from what is known and it is different also from what is not known. So we know where we stand. Hence, it is incapable of knowledge of any kind. There is always, usually, either the known or the unknown. There cannot be a third thing. But this Atman is something different from both. It is not the known, because all known things are objects of sense. All that we regard as the known is outside the Self. The known is what is located in space and time. The known is the un-Atman, the not-Self. Thus it is that the Atman is other than the known. But it is also not the unknown, because it is the very Self of that which tries to know anything. How can we say that we do not know our own Self? The knower cannot be oblivious of his own Self. The abolition of Self-consciousness would abolish also object-consciousness. That there is cognition proves that there is a cogniser. The objects are known because of the subject being there. The very possibility of any knowledge of things, or objects, is enough demonstration of there being such a thing as a knower or a subject behind them. So we cannot say that it is unknown. Nor is it the known, because the known is what is known to the senses, empirically. So, how are we to speak? How are we to instruct about it? Yathaitad anuśiṣyāt na vidmah, says the Upanishad teacher. How is this to be taught about? We cannot understand. This is what we have heard about it from ancient seers. Iti śuśruma pūrveṣām ye nas tad vyācacakṣire.
An enigma is placed here by the Upanishad, a question without an answer, a pose that can be solved by the Self by itself and by no other means. Is it possible by effort to recognise the Atman, may be the simple question of any student of the Upanishad. Is there any kind of effort on our part by which we can realise the Atman? It appears on the surface, at least, from this mantra, that it cannot be known by any means or effort—because what effort can we do in respect of that which is not an object of the senses? All effort is mental, intellectual, psychological, and the Upanishad confirms that these instruments are unfit for recognising the Atman, because their objects are outside the Atman. The intellect ratiocinates, the mind cognises, etc., externally. There is no such thing as ratiocinating the Atman, thinking the Atman or sensing the Atman. Such a thing cannot be, and, inasmuch as we are not endowed with any other faculty than these, what would be our effort as to the realisation of the Atman? How can we speak about it? How can we instruct another about it? How can we understand it? How can we realise it? Is it possible at all? On account of this enigmatic difficulty it is that in the Upanishad, as well as in the Bhagavadgita, the Atman is spoken of as a wonder, ascharya. It is a marvel! When we say it is a marvel, we cannot say anything more about it. It simply means we cannot understand it. That is what is meant by a marvel.
The Atman is a marvel, a mystery beyond all conception. Accepting this marvel as the only possible knowledge accessible to us, do we go nearer the Atman? These days, scepticism is said to be the beginning of philosophy. In ancient times, the recognition of wonder was regarded as its starting point. The ancient Greeks and even the ancient seers of India marvelled at creation. All the hymns of the Vedas are expressions of this vision of the marvel. The rise of the sun, the pouring of the rain and the burning heat of the sun were all wonders for the ancient seers, and philosophy grew out from this acceptance of the wonder of creation. How does the sun rise? I asked a small boy: ‘Where does the sun go in the night, and how does he suddenly come back to the same place from where he rose today in the morning?' The boy said: ‘When we are asleep, he must be jumping back suddenly.' I told him: ‘One night you please do not sleep, and see how he jumps.' He goes slowly to the West and, at night, suddenly jumps back and starts once again the same passage! That was what the boy told me. Well! That is the simplicity with which even the Vedas began, only without the ignorance that is behind the boy's notion. We may laugh at this answer of the boy, but our answers are not much better; we have only become more sophisticated, that is all. It does not mean that we have solved the problem. The problem remains a problem even today. Why do not the stars fall on our heads? And even educated people wonder why the earth does not sink down by weight—it has no support. It may fall down somewhere and break itself; but where will it fall? Why does it not drop down; and this is not a joke, because scientists tell us that it is actually dropping down. The heavenly bodies rush in such speed, say our scientists—the Solar System and perhaps even the Milky Way rush in such velocity, unremittingly, that we cannot be conscious of this speed because we are sitting in a moving train. The whole Solar System is rushing. Where does it rush to, why does it move, we do not know. Why should there be this motion? Why do they not keep quiet? This is a wonder, and what is our answer to it? No answer! The Vedic seers were seers of the wonders of God's beauty and God's perfection. Why creation looks to us a wonder is because it is perfection. All perfection is a marvel. It is only defective objects that look intelligible. All perfected things are unintelligible. The whole universe is a tremendous completeness, and the intellect which is not trained to see anything that is complete wonders at completeness. Why the stars do not fall on our heads can be known only if we know how the world is a complete whole, a structural magnificence, and how things are interrelated in a manner which the intellect cannot comprehend.
Wonder, when it deepens itself, becomes philosophical reflection, and may even become meditation on God. This is what happened in ancient Greece and ancient India, but today philosophy is defined in another manner altogether. Philosophy does not begin with wonder. It begins with doubt. Why? Everything has a ‘why' attached to it. Now, this ‘why' cannot be answered. This is what this mantra of the Upanishad tells us. We may go on asking questions in regard to the Atman, putting any ‘whys' in regard to it; we will receive no answer. We will be repelled. As mentioned in the Upanishad, all the Devas who tried to see the Yaksha were repelled. The Devas, the gods, including Indra, could not recognise the Mighty Being that posed itself before them as a Marvel. This Marvel is further described in the next mantra.
yad vācā nabhyuditam yena vāg abhyudyate,
tad eva brahma tvam viddhi nedam yad idam upāsate.
This mantra, and a few that follow, have been the subject of great controversy among various schools of thinking, as to its real import or meaning. What does this mantra really mean? It literally means this: ‘That which cannot be expressed by speech, but which expresses speech, that is the Brahman, not that which people worship here.' This is the literal meaning of the mantra. But what does this really mean and how does it illumine us? Speech, which is here indicative of all the sense organs, is regarded as incapable of expressing the Atman for reasons explained earlier, the other reason being that the senses are themselves expressed by the Atman. The senses are not, therefore, supposed to express the Atman. The energies necessary for the senses to operate come from the Atman. The existence of the Atman is the activity of all the senses. The Atman is like a supreme master who does not himself physically act but only directs and makes all the subordinates run. The whole universe becomes restless merely because of the existence of the Atman. In the Katha Upanishad we study that there is a systematic and ordained performance of duties by the god—the sunshine, the rainfall, etc. The sunrise and the several different functions performed in nature are on account of the dread of this Atman. It is like a great fear, an uplifted thunderbolt to everyone. Mahad bhayaṁ vajram udyatam (Katha 2.3.2), says the Upanishad. It is on account of dread of its very Presence that the whole world moves symmetrically and systematically. The Atman speaks not and does not do anything, but its very existence is more than all expression of speech and doing of action. It is a tremendous influence that is exerted on everything that is created. It is difficult to explain what an influence is. Influence is influence! It cannot be described in words. It is not speech. It is not words uttered. It is not any action that is performed. It is only an energy that is conveyed, a vibration spread around, if we would like to call it so, which is transmitted to everything in creation, so that on account of the symmetrical existence of the Atman there is a symmetrical motion of all things in the world. Because of the Atman being the supremely perfect existence, the universe is perfectly working. Hence it is that the senses cannot be expected to know it, it being the impeller of all the senses. That is the Brahman, the Atman, tad eva brahma tvam viddhi.
It is called Brahman because it is infinite and omnipresent. The word ‘Brahman' comes from the Sanskrit root ‘brihm', which means ‘to fill all space', ‘to be complete in itself', ‘to exclude nothing from itself', ‘to be a plenum internally and externally'. Brahman is Fullness inwardly as well as externally. That is the Atman at the same time. It is Brahman because it is the universal completeness. It is the Atman because it is the presupposition of even the thinking of the mind and the workings of the senses. It is the ‘Selfhood' of all things. It is difficult to explain, again, what the Selfhood of all objects could be. No one can explain what the Self of an object is; it can only be felt. We cannot express adequately through language what we mean by our own Self, but we know what it is. How endearing it is, and how lovingly we hug it and regard it as more advantageous to us than anything else. So it is Brahman and the Atman at the same time. We can imagine how mysterious, how necessary, how dear can that be which is perfection on one side as Brahman and our own Self on the other side as the Atman. It catches us from both sides. On the one side it is the cosmic miracle of beauty and perfection which no one can gainsay, and on the other side it is our Self. How can we avoid it? The cosmic mystery, the universal enrapturing beauty of the perfection of the Absolute is identified with us, what we are ‘really' in our own Self. If the whole universal perfection is to be centred in what we are, what would we feel at that time? That is the Atman, not that which we worship here through the sense organs, for that is not Brahman—nedam yad idam upāsate.
What is it that the Upanishad is trying to repudiate here when it says that it is not what people worship here? We worship objects of sense. We regard objects as part of our own being. We love objects. And we love objects sometimes more than we love our own selves. This is how we make fools of ourselves by imagining that the Atman is centred in something else. We know where the Atman is present, for, wherever our love is fixed, there the Atman is centred. We find ourselves in all those things which we love. The force of love is only an indication of where we are located or placed in the world. Do you want to know where you are? You can find it out by recognising what you love. Shall I tell you another humorous story? There were two mountain climbers, it appears, who, while on a mountaineering expedition lost themselves in the Alps. They did not know where they were in the widespread mountains of the Alps. They had a map in their hands. One of them stretched out the map, ‘Oh, let me see. Let us find out where we are now, on which peak we are standing.' He opened the map and went on looking at it for a few minutes. ‘Oh, now I know where we are standing. Look, look!' He pointed to a distant peak. ‘See that mountain there. We are there!' This is interesting joke! He points to a mountain afar and says that is where they were. Well! We are also standing like that in some distant object. As you found this anecdote a very humorous one, you would also realise this condition in which we are in the world due to this foolish transference of the Self to objects outside. We are not in our own Self. We are not standing on the mountain on which we think we are. We are on another mountain, out there! Look at this miracle. We are in something else! We have already gone to some other object. This is called love or affection, and the extent of affection that we cherish for the things of the world will also point the extent to which we have transferred ourselves to objects. That would also be an indication of the extent of our ignorance.
This is the worship that we are performing in the world. And what is worship? The worship is of objects which we adore as our own Self. This is not your real Self, says the Upanishad—nedam yad idam upāsate. Do not mistake an object for your Self. Whatever be the spatial expansion of this object, however vast it be, it is not your Self. Now, there are gradations of this peculiar something called the object. From the minutest, tiniest and most isolated inorganic material unit to which we can transfer the Self, the object can extend to the whole universe itself. There are people who love even a walking stick; that is a kind of transference of Self, indeed, and it is the smallest conception of it, to give an example. If we take away the walking stick, the man gets annoyed and angry, because his Self is there. So, from this sort of the smallest, crudest conception of the object related to the Self we can expand this conception to higher and larger levels even up to the conception of God Himself, which is also a big object before us as long as God remains a content of conception only, and the Upanishad downright puts down all these sensory valuations of reality and says ‘this is not the Self'.
The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad has a series of negations known as neti neti, ‘not this, not this' or, rather, ‘not thus, not thus', which means to say that Truth is not this which we are seeing or conceiving through the senses and the mind. How are we to negate the not-Truth from the Truth, or the not-Self from the Self? By setting aside those things, those forms, those conceptions which are external to the knowing consciousness. The objects, in the beginning, appear multitudinous, and we choose a few objects for the concentration of our minds. Later on we entangle ourselves in more and more of larger numbers of things, and then, at a very advanced stage, with a philosophically construed mind, try to take the universe as a whole in mental grasp and concentrate the mind on that. Nevertheless it is an object, vastest in extent though it be. From the varieties of isolated objects, objectivity boils itself down to a single object of the whole universe philosophically conceived, which, in the Samkhya, is called prakriti, the biggest object ever conceivable, as opposed to the purusha or Pure Self-consciousness. There the Samkhya ended. A huge object was presented before us, the universal object, the prakriti, and there the matter was closed with a gulf between the Self and its content. Now we do not know what to do with this prakriti. Even that cannot be the Self, says the Upanishad—nedam yad idam upāsate—for Consciousness cannot be one with an isolated content.
Upasana does not necessarily mean religious worship. It is any kind of concentration of mind, any judgment or evaluation, any sensation, perception or thought, when it is charged with a feeling, ardour or love, upasana, from the point of view of this Upanishad: nedam yad idam upāsate. If we want to recognise this pure Self in us, we have to isolate all sorts of objectivity, not the objects necessarily. There is a difference between isolation of ‘objects' and isolation of ‘objectivity'. This is a subtle distinction which many people cannot easily note. We generally reject objects while what we are called upon to do is to eliminate objectivity, and the inability to make this distinction oftentimes is tantamount to a failure in the vairagya, or the spirit of renunciation, in any seeker. People have a wrong notion of things and then they think they are in a state of vairagya. The wrong notion is the need felt for a rejection of objects rather than the objectivity in objects. What is wrong with us is not the thought of an object so much as the thought of the objectivity of the object, the externality of a thing, the outsidedness of value. This is the mistake that we are committing, and it is this that the Upanishad, in the present context, regards as derogatory to true spirituality.
In the same way as there is the atma-chaitanya within us, there is vishaya-chaitanya (object-consciousness) in the object. To give an illustration: Water is under the waves of the ocean. Whatever be the distance of two waves between themselves, there is water beneath both the waves. Likewise is consciousness predominantly present both in the subject and the object. Subjectively it is called the atma-chaitanya and objectively it is vishaya-chaitanya. In the perception of an object, naturally, there is a kind of coordination established between the subject-consciousness and the object-consciousness. On other occasions I have tried to explain how this perception takes place at all. The presence of consciousness hiddenly manifest in objects becomes responsible for our consciousness of objects; otherwise, even the objects could not be known. In the perception of an object there is reality perceived because there is the very same consciousness in the object also as it is in the subject, but what is wrong here is that it is recognised as an external something. The water of one wave is the water of another wave, also. They are not two different substances, but in sensory perception the mistake is committed in isolating the form from the content or the essence.
The form of the object is known as nama-rupa, the name-form complex. The content is the essence out of which it is formed. The pure Being in the object and the subject is universally the same, but the forms which are in space and in time have been so isolated from one another in sensory perception that the essence is externalised. The externalisation of the essence is the form or the object. As a matter of fact, what is called a sensory object is nothing but a spatial configuration of the very same consciousness that is in the cognising Atman. What plays havoc is space-time. If space and time were not to be there, there would not be perception of multiplicity or variety in the world. The differentiating medium is space and time in one mode. The universal Subjectness has been divided into the apparent subjectivity and objectivity on account of the operation of space and time. So as long as consciousness works through space and time, the perception of an external world cannot be avoided. It is seen by the senses, but that is not the Atman.
The objects are not the Atman in the sense that they are ‘seen' ‘outside', but they are the Atman as they really are, in themselves. That they are outside the Atman is a myth, though the senses would demonstrate that they are always outside. It is on account of the recourse of the senses to projectedness externally that the objects appear as outside the Atman, that we run after the objects. We love and hate objects on account of wrongly imagining that the essences are outside us. So as long as we regard the universal essence of the Atman as the variety of objects situated outside in space and time, we are under a misapprehension, and if we transfer our values, transfer ourselves as the Atman to them and love them or hate them, then we are committing a blunder—nedam yad idam upāsate. The Atman is not anything that we see, anything that we love or hate, anything that we can think of or understand, because it is the background of all these psychological activities, the being behind all functions.
Mantras 6, 7, 8 and 9
yan manasā na manute yenāhur mano matam,
tad eva brahma tvaṁ viddhi nedam yad idam upāsate.
yac cakṣuṣā na paśyati yena cakṣūṁṣi paśyati,
tad eva brahma tvaṁ viddhi nedam yad idam upāsate.
yac cchrotreṇa na śruṇoti yena śrotram idaṁ śrutam,
tad eva brahma tvaṁ viddhi nedam yad idam upāsate.
yat prāṇena na prāṇiti yena prāṇaḥ praṇīyate,
tad eva brahma tvaṁ viddhi nedam yad idam upāsate.
These four verses present a description of the same idea with reference to the different senses and the prana, the purport of which is that the Atman is incapable of cognition by any means whatsoever. By taking instances, independently and individually, of the various faculties, it is observed that none of these faculties is capable of cognition of the Atman. Nobody else can see the Atman. This is the peculiarity of what is considered as the Atman of all things. Nothing other than the Atman can know the Atman, and so it goes without saying that even the highest of faculties is inadequate, incapable and imperfect in comparison with the Atman, which is the all. It is not thought by the mind, but the capacity of the mind to think is derived from it. It is not seen by the eyes, but it sees through the eyes. The ears cannot hear it, but it is behind the hearing of the ears. The pranas do not enliven it, but it enlivens even the pranas. This is the Brahman, this is the Atman—not that other thing which people regard as their fulfilment due to the movement of their affections to things.
In the Katha Upanishad also we learn a similar thesis, where it is said that it is not because of the prana and the apana that we are alive, but because of something else, upon which even the prana and the apana depend. We live by something else, a third element upon which are dependent even the prana and the apana, and all their subsidiaries. What are these forces on which we seem to be depending for our existence? Seeing, hearing, breathing, digesting and so on—what are these functions? Does life as pure existence depend on these operations? Naturally, existence cannot depend upon any kind of operation, function or activity, because activity of any type proceeds from an impulse which is to be explained first before we speak of functions or activities. All function is of something, and therefore there is no point in emphasising too much the function itself without first knowing this ‘something'. The functions of seeing, hearing, and the like, are an expression of something else. This something is the explanation of these functions. The functions themselves cannot explain that something which is precedent to them. Hence the Upanishad in this section concludes by saying that what the senses regard as their support is really not their support. They are mistaken in their opinion that what is seen, heard or sensed otherwise is in any manner a support for their existence.
It is because of this erroneous notion that the senses go towards the objects. The eyes feel that they are dependent on colours and visual perception. The ears and the other organs of sense also are under a similar misapprehension of value. All activity is an expression of one's inadequacy. Every effort is a manifestation of a shortcoming in ourselves, and it is to make good this shortcoming that we exert ourselves in various directions. The senses are the means of activity for the purpose of effecting a riddance of the defects we perceive in our own selves. Everything that is located in space and time, everything that is individual is dissatisfied with its own nature because of a cognition of what is outside it and a feeling that an absorption of values or characteristics from outside into itself would be a completion of its being. The reason why the senses are so active is that they feel a constraint for absorption of values from outside into their own constitution and that this achievement would be an explanation of their satisfaction. What we lack and what we need is to be supplied. If this is done, we are perfect persons. This is the logic of the senses, but it is defective logic, because the need of the senses cannot be supplied by anything that is outside. The senses are under a wrong notion in holding that their needs are limited. Hence they imagine that limited objects can be sources of their satisfaction, but the needs of the senses are really unlimited. They are under a wrong apprehension that they are limited because they forget that they are conduit pipes connected to the illimitable ocean of all existence. ‘We have a few things that we need' is all that they say, but it is not true that their needs are only a few things. The few things are only a beginning of the asking for more and more of things endlessly. There can never be an end for this asking, and the more is the asking granted, the further is the asking, because the asking is not done by the senses. There is the ocean behind them! This is the mystery behind our unsatisfied desires.
Which is the principle that is asking for? It is not any limited sense that asks for the satisfaction. If the source of this asking had been a limited principle, limited objects would have been perhaps an answer to the question. But, unfortunately, the asker is an infinite background. It is the ocean that asks for a quenching of its thirst, and no river in the world can satisfy the thirst of the ocean. Such is the background inside us which keeps on desiring. Though we look little, puny, small, limited in body and restricted to the operations of the sense organs only, from outside, for all practical purposes, really at the background we are deep and infinite. We are like the tunnel connected to the Pacific Ocean. The tunnel may be very small in width, but that it is connected to the ocean is what is not to be forgotten. Thus are our psychological askings, our urges of various types, and our seekings through the senses. What we seek through the senses is not the objects. What we really seek is a satisfaction which should be an answer to all the limitations that we feel within us. We do not know what our limitations are, for they are infinite. That is all we can say about them. Infinite are our limitations, and these infinite limitations cannot be set right or given a proper answer or satiated by any limited object. We see through the senses and then imagine that our needs are limited, but the limited desires which look temporarily restricted to certain objects are really an outpouring of an inward urge which knows no end. It is not the senses that ask. It is the Universal self within us that does the asking. And who can satisfy it? We have in ourselves an essential Being with which we identify our dearest and nearest of possessions, and this innermost principle in us gets forgotten in the knowledge of the senses and the busy life that we lead in our work-a-day world. The senses keep us active throughout the day until we get fatigued in the night, and it is on account of this immense activity of the senses that the real purport of the asking behind is forgotten and misinterpreted.