(Spoken on New Year's Eve 1994.)
All this world of living and non-living beings is pervaded by a principle of transcendence, says the Isavasya Upanishad: Īśāvāsyam idaṁ sarvam. There is a ‘more' to everything than what obtains at present. If something is obtained, there is a more to that which is obtained. If that which is more is also acquired, there is a more beyond that more also. There is no end for this series of mores. Endless is this concatenation of connections of more and more of everything. This element of endlessness in the vision and quest for things is what we call the principle of the transcendent Reality. It is transcendent because it is more than what is available here in our present state of existence. But there is a peculiarity in this particular concept of transcendence—namely, that it never ends. It is an unlimited power of transcending everything, transcending even the incomprehensible vastness of all creation.
This mysterious something which we call the element of transcendence keeps us ever restless. It beckons all things towards itself, summons the world in its direction, and points out from moment to moment that the multitude of finite existences can never reach beyond itself. No one can, while existing as a finite element, actually achieve this transcendence because when we appear to be achieving a state of affairs which is transcendent to the present state, there is a further possibility of an advanced form of transcendence. Therefore, what we are seeking is something incomprehensible to the seeking principle that we are, because our search is limited by finitude; therefore, it is unable to connect itself with what it is seeking—which, unfortunately, is receding endlessly more and more, like the horizon before us.
Īśāvāsyam idaṁ sarvam. A supreme ruling principle pervades all things. It pervades in the manner in which a transcendent element pervades what is available for immediate perception and experience. That endlessness which is before us, that limitless calling, illimitable summoning, is apparently the object of the quest of all creation. But creation, being what it is, cannot reach to the point of what is not created.
The Upanishad further tells us that the created cannot reach the uncreated. What is in time cannot reach what is not in time. Īśāvāsyam idaṁ sarvam yat kiṁ ca jagatyāṁ jagat: Whatever you can behold with your eyes, moving or non-moving, is potentially embosoming within itself this endless questioning attitude, without an answer coming forth in this world of temporality. Inasmuch as everything seems to be conditioned by an unconditioned being above all things conceivable, that inconceivable transcending principle should be regarded as the real proprietor of this universe. It is the owner of all things created. The Lord, who owns all things, exerts an influence of superiority over all things—everything, including all things that the limitless reach of the mind can conceive.
It has been mentioned that we are perpetually placed in an uncomfortable position of dissatisfaction due to not being able to plant within our own finite individuality that which is unlimitedly transcendent. This implies, by means of a careful observation, that the transcendent is also a non-finite principle. Every finite element in this world is conditioned by other finite things in the world. Therefore, no one can have ultimate freedom because the freedom, so-called, is limited by the presence of other persons who also are seeking similar freedom. We are given a sense of freedom to the extent it does not interfere with the equal freedom to be granted to other people. Hence, even what we call freedom and the capacity to choose for ourselves is limited. As long as another person exists, one cannot have complete freedom.
Hence, there is a limitedness in every form of life, and yet one can be happy in this world, says the second part of the first verse of the Isavasya Upanishad: tyaktena bhuñjithā. The Upanishad does not say that we must suffer, be degraded and live a life of sorrow because we are absolutely incapable of catching the transcendent infinite. As the transcendent is beyond the finite, so also is it hiddenly present within the finite, which is the dual characteristic of the element of transcendence. If the transcendent were really severed from things which it transcends, there would be no consciousness of there being a transcendent principle at all. How does a finite individual know that there is finitude, and that there is a necessity to overcome that finitude? The necessity is a characteristic of that which is more than the finite, which has to be present potentially in the finite living being itself, without which there would be no notion of self-transcendence. God above has also to be God within: tyaktena bhuñjithā.
This is the message for the New Year for all people: Renounce all things, and then enjoy all things. That you can enjoy this world by renouncing it is a self-contradictory proposition, as it were, to the thinking mind because when you renounce a thing, you feel that you have lost something, and there cannot be any kind of joy or satisfaction in losing what one would like to possess. But the instruction, the injunction of the Upanishad, is that things have to be abandoned in order that you may really possess them and enjoy them to your satisfaction. Abandoning a thing in order that it may be enjoyed is a principle of satisfaction.
Ordinarily, human minds cannot understand what all this means because the normal mind does not think in this manner. No one would like to renounce what one possesses. No one would believe that abandoning what one possesses is a source of satisfaction. People cry, “I have lost what I had.” They do not say, “I am happy because I have lost what I had.” No one says that. Then why does the Upanishad say that it is by the renunciation of things that you can enjoy them?
Enjoyment, the principle of satisfaction, is located in a mysterious point of creation which has to be discovered, first of all. Where is joy located? Where does it reside? Briefly, we may say that joy is in what I claim to be my property, my belongings. The more I acquire material objects and increase my material wealth, the more should be my satisfaction and joy. But the peculiar trick that the objects so capable of being possessed play is that they are also capable of being lost and causing bereavement. Whatever you possess, you can lose. Inasmuch as the possibility of losing what you have is also there, it is not reasonable to conclude that possession is a solution for all the ills of life. The anxiety due to the possible loss of things will hover around the head of everyone, and the eagerness to keep possessions intact and avoid loss of any kind vitiates the temporal joy that appears to have crept into the mind of the possessor. The vitals of even one who is rich with material possessions are eaten by the gnawing anxiety of the possibility of losing what he has possessed. Throughout one's life there is this anxiety. There is loss of freedom when such an anxiety is prevalent while, on the other hand, there was a feeling that there is full freedom enjoyed when things of the world are possessed.
The point which misses the attention of even intelligent persons is that no thing can be possessed. Nobody is a property of another person. People have a futile notion that somebody can belong to them as relatives or something can belong to them as wealth or property. How can one thing become another thing, which is essential in order that one thing may belong to another person? If some object is to be mine entirely, it has to remain inseparable from me. In other words, it has to become me. But the object never becomes me. It stands independent of me, and sets up a knot before the eagerness of the person to make it one's own by identifying it with one's own self.
You must be careful to note that the satisfaction that you long for is not actually in the imaginary proximity of oneself to the object of requirement; rather, it leads to a subtle longing to absorb the object into one's own self in an act of self-identity. What one seeks is a larger dimension of one's own self, which is expected to supervene when something other than one's own self enters oneself and thereby increases one's width and dimension. By the association of an object with yourself you become larger than you were, and the concept of largeness brings you joy. But you never become large by something being near you, whether it is material wealth or some person whom you call your relative, and so on, because nobody can enter into you, and not a farthing can become part of your own existence. Hence, the joy imagined in the possession of objects or in relations with people is an exercise in futility. Thus, no one in the world can be happy. But the Upanishad says that you can be happy. Bhuñjithā: Be happy. It does not say to suffer. But what is the condition? Tena tyaktena: By the abandoning of the object, you can enjoy the object.
First of all, you have to understand what is meant by the word ‘object' in order that it can be abandoned and possessed at the same time. There is a feature in an object which has to be abandoned, and there is another feature in the object which has to be possessed. That feature which is possessed will give you joy, but that feature which cannot be possessed will bring you sorrow. The finitude, the name and form, as it is called, the location of the object in space and time, defies any kind of identity in itself with the person who expects to possess it, because one finite object cannot enter into another finite object. They stand independent of each other, limiting each other, defying each other, and contending with each other, causing anxiety to each other.
The abandonment of an object is actually the abandonment of the character of its location in space and time as an external something. That aspect must be removed by immense concentration on the essentiality of that object, which is its quintessence. Asti bhāti priyam rūpam nāma chetyamśapañchakam, ādyatrayam brahmarūpam jagadrūpam tato dvayam is an old saying. All things have five qualities: existence, awareness of existence, freedom born of the awareness of existence, plus name and form. Ādyatrayam brahmarūpam: The first three are the existence of a thing. The freedom of being what it is, that it exercises in its own consciousness, is the characteristic of the Ultimate Reality. But the particular form that it has assumed in the process of the evolution of things is a tentative shape which segregates it from other forms. That is not its real nature.
For instance, you have a form, and also a name, but you forget that you have taken many births, and perhaps many of you will take further births also. So this name and form—this Mr. So-and-so, this Mrs. So-and-so, this boy, this girl, and so on—is not going to be continuously present. Hence, your desire to possess a particular person or a particular thing is defeated by the inner propulsion of that object, which belonged to another category of existence in its previous life, to be in another, further state of existence in a future life. Its name and form in its present state of existence is a bubble that will burst when the process of evolution calls for that change. Therefore, do not be attached to the formation of any particular thing, any individual whatsoever, or cling to its existence.
Inasmuch as there are said to be five characteristics of all objects, one should not forget that one's own self is also an object with these five characteristics. I am as much an object to you as you are an object to me. There are five characteristics in us: existence, the consciousness of existing, freedom arising out of this consciousness of existing, and also a name and form temporarily arisen by accident of birth into a particular circumstance caused by the past actions and the forces generated by those past actions.
We belong to an endless series of the evolutionary process. We do not really exist; we always flow. Here we are reminded of Buddha's statement that everything is a flowing stream. We are actually perpetually moving, in every manner, from eternity to eternity. From a past conglomeration of forms and shapes, we have entered into a new formation of certain shapes, to be shed when their potentiality is exhausted and their purpose is fulfilled, to enter into a new series of forms which we call rebirth. What will you cling to in this world, then? You are creating phantoms in your attempt to club yourself with things that are not really existing but are only floating foam on the surface of the ebbing sea, the tidal sea of what is called the process of evolution.
Coming to the point regarding the source of satisfaction, the location of where happiness lies, we have now decided that what you are asking for is not actually an object, but the desire to expand your being, your selfhood, which you are unintelligently trying to do by the accumulation of things which are outside, not knowing that anything that is outside cannot belong to you.
The intention, therefore, is a very boorish longing to make one's own that which cannot become one's own; yet, the deeper significance of this longing is that happiness can be there only when the dimension of the self expands. You have to become a larger being—bigger, bigger, bigger, bigger.
A king is happy because he imagines the whole kingdom is part of his body, though it is not really. He is as mortal a person as anybody else is, but psychologically he thinks he is as big as the whole kingdom. An official thinks that he is as big as the entire jurisdiction over which he has superintendence. The bigness, the authority, the power, the joy thereof is imaginary, futile, because these people who imagine this do not actually expand their dimension. They are puny little individuals as they were, which will be seen when the kingdom is lost or the official retires. He will find he is nobody afterwards. How has he suddenly become big when he was invested with a kingdom or with the power and authority of an office? It was the ideology that was there in the mind which was protecting him and keeping him in a fool's paradise of thinking that he has a larger dimension of selfhood, but a self cannot expand in space by any amount of bringing objects together to itself. A non-spatial expansion of the self is necessary in order that you may be really happy.
The non-spatial expansion consists in the entry of the self of a person into the self of another person, and not into the body or the form or the shape of the person. This is a subtle thing that you have to keep in mind. Your self has to become my self, and then perhaps your self is larger. Then you become a veritable expanded Self where the expansion has not taken place merely in an outer space and time process, but it is a real Selfhood that has expanded, a tendency of the Atman located in the body to find itself in other beings also. When it starts beholding all beings as its own self, it will not see anybody afterwards. It will see only itself in all. Yo māṁ paśyati sarvatra sarvaṁ ca mayi paśyati. These are some of the words from the Bhagavadgita: One who sees one thing in all things, and all things in one thing, is the finder of the Self.
This is what we are really seeking when we want happiness, but we are searching for it in a wrong manner which will defeat us in the end. So, tena tyaktena bhuñjithā: Abandon the finitude, the space-time complex, the involvement with an object, its form, its shape, its temporary bubbleness in the process of the evolution of the universe, but love it, want it, have it as you would like to have your own self. This is a subtle distinction between loving the Self of a thing and loving the objectness of a thing. Now, tyaktena bhuñjithā: You enjoy all things by renouncing the forms of things, by entering into them. Actually, you can enjoy a thing only when you become that thing. Ordinarily, nobody can become another thing. A cannot be B. A is A only, and B is B. Nobody can possess this world. Everybody dies having known nothing, having seen nothing, having enjoyed nothing. Pitiable was the way in which one was born, and pitiable is the way in which one will leave this world. This should not happen, says the Upanishad.
Tena tyaktena bhuñjithā. Or, devotees may interpret this line in a different way. Tena means ‘by the Almighty Himself'. Whatever is bestowed upon you by the grace of God, be satisfied with that. We humbly respect the prasada that is offered after worship in a temple, and so on, because it is what is given by the Almighty. It is the grace of God. The security that we have, the satisfaction that we seem to be enjoying in this world, and all that seems to be good with us is actually the grace of God. Human effort, though it is apparently there, is also a benediction that has come from the Almighty God Himself. Be satisfied with whatever God has given to you, and do not crave for anything else. Do not be greedy. Do not covet the wealth of somebody else. This line has two meanings: ‘Do not cast an eye on anybody's wealth'; or it may mean ‘Do not be greedy'. Whose is the property? One thing does not belong to another thing, but all things belong to the One Being. The limbs of our body operate independently. The hands do not belong to the legs, the legs do not belong to the stomach, one limb does not belong to another limb, but all the limbs belong to the whole organism, which is the body. Neither do you belong to me, nor do I belong to you. Nothing can belong to anybody or anything. The sense of belonging, or the proprietorship of property, is actually a misnomer in this world of the creation of God because all things belong to that One Being.
Therefore, we are not to possess things, but to participate in the process of things. The limbs of the body participate in the welfare of the whole organism of the anatomical system. Similarly, the Bhagavadgita says, “Participate in the law of the cosmos, but do not say you are doing something.” No limb of the body, really speaking, does any action by itself or for itself. It is conditioned by the requirement of the whole organism, for its benefit. In a similar manner, our actions are not our actions, and are not for our benefit, but are for the satisfaction of the purpose that is there as the unitary existence of God's creation. You may call it creation, or God Himself.
Thus, be happy this coming New Year, says God Almighty Himself. And you know the way you can be happy. Never be greedy, never misunderstand, and do not possess some parts of the world as if they belong to you, as it were. All the world belongs to He who created the world. Therefore, all be happy. Everyone be free from agony. If the whole body is healthy, every limb of the body is healthy. If God is satisfied, everything in the world, in the whole creation, will be satisfied. The little leaf that Sri Krishna put into his mouth satisfied millions of stomachs. The manure that you pour at the root of a large banyan tree satisfies all the leaves of the tree. The root of the universe is Mahavishnu, says the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana, and all dharma is rooted there. Worship the great Mahavishnu, Narayana, the Supreme Transcendence which is calling you, beckoning you with more and more of everything. Let Ishvara protect you, and be blessed under the umbrella of that sovereignty of this great Lord of the cosmos.
This one little verse of the Isavasya Upanishad is sufficient for you: Īśāvāsyam idaṁ sarvam yat kiṁ ca jagatyāṁ jagat, tena tyaktena bhuñjithā, mā gṛdhaḥ kasyasvid dhanam. I sometimes feel the whole Bhagavadgita gospel is hidden in this one verse. The philosophical, the mystical, the theological, the ethical, the active—everything is combined in these few words of this wondrous beginning of the Isavasya Upanishad. This is my humble message to you all at the commencement of the New Year. May there be a bright, happy New Year for everyone. God bless you.