Easaavasyopnishad, The Loadstar of all Upanishads
(Compilation for a discourse by N.R. Srinivasan, Nashville TN, USA, June 2016)
Easavasyopanishad or Easopanishad leads the ten cardinal Upanishads on which Sankara and others have elaborately commented upon. They are also referred as Major Upanishads or Principal Upanishads. This Upanishad gets its name since it begins with the word Eesaavasyam in its first mantra. It appears in the Samhita portion of Sukla Yajurveda and is also called Vaajasaneyi Samhita. This contains 18 mantras. Though this is a very short Upanishad it expounds very effectively the nature of Brahman, the nature of the means to realization, and the nature of the supreme goal in life. This Upanishad can be broadly classified into four main groups: 1) Introduction to Atma Vidya [Mantras 1&2]; 2) The souls that are not enlightened souls are Spiritual Suicides [Mantra 3]; 3) Description of the Paramaatman and Mantras to goal reach the goal [4 to 8]; 4) The nature of Sadhana (spiritual exercise) to be undertaken by the Spiritual Seeker [Mantras 9-14]; and, 4) Prayers to be practiced by Spiritual Aspirant [Mantras 15-18].
This Upanishad has attracted the attention of many a scholars, resulting in the maximum number of Sanskrit commentaries on any single Upanishad. Sankara is the earliest and the first to comment upon it. This Upanishad has attracted the attention of many scholars like Brahmananda Sarasvati, Sankarananda, Uvateerya and Vedanta Desika who has not chosen to comment on the other Upanishads. In spite of the strenuous efforts of these great intellectual giants in Vedanta this Upanishad continues to baffle the reader even today! This Upanishad expounds all essentials of true Vedanta School of thought in a remarkably brief manner. Five mantras that form the essence of this Upanishad are found even in the Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad. In this Upanishad the nature of Supreme Reality, his glory and the meditation upon that Supreme are significantly expounded.
Om poornamadah poornamidam poornaat Poornamaduchyate |
Poornasya poornaamaadaaya poornmeva avasishyate ||
Om Saantih Saantih Saantih ||
That which lies beyond is Plenum, full and undiminished. That which appears as this here as the universal is also Plenum--equally full and undiminished. Out from Plenum, Plenum arises. Plenum having been taken away from Plenum, what remains is still the same undiminished Plenum.
That is whole (Invisible Brahman) and this (individual Self is whole). The Perfect has come out of the Perfect. Yet the Perfect remains, as before, Perfect.
This Santi Mantra tersely sets out the relationship of the individual soul to the Supreme Being. The Self within us is divine. The individual part that comes out of the Transcendental Brahman remains as a whole in spite of something being taken out of it.
It could also mean the relationship of Nirguna Brahman to Saguna Brahman. That Nirguna Brahman is full; This Saguna Brahman is also full. This full Saguna Brahaman proceeds from that full Nirguna Brahman. On realizing the true nature of this Saguna Brahaman there still remains that same Nirguna Brahman. [All our prayers are directed to Nirguna Brahman through Saguna Brahman in the personal deity form. Hence this mantra is chanted invariably in the daily worship of any deity. ]
MANTRA 1 AND 2—INTRODUCTION TO ATMA VIDYA
Ishaavaasyam idam sarvam yat kincha jagatyaam jagat
tena tyaktena bhunjeethaa maa gridhah kasya svid dhanam ||
tena tyaktena bhunjeethaa maa gridhah kasya svid dhanam ||
“Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.”
One of the definitions of God is that He is the origin of everything, the original cause of all causes. Everything animate (living) and inanimate (nonliving) comes from Him. All energies emanate from Him. In the Bhagavad-gita (7.4-5) the Supreme Lord states:
Bhumir-aapo anilo vaayuh kham mano buddhireva cha |
ahankaara iteeyam may bhinnaa prakritirishthathaa ||
apareyam-itistvanyaam prakritim viddhi may paraam |
jeevabhootaam mahaabaho yayedam dhaaryate jagat ||
“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence, and false ego -altogether these eight comprise my separated material energies. Besides this inferior nature, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is a superior energy of mine, which is all living entities who are struggling with material nature and are sustaining the universe.”
Even in English language the word God has no root. It is coined by the three alphabets G, O & D—G for Generation, O for Operation and D for dissolution --one who is responsible for Craeation (srishthi), Sustenance (sthiti) and Dissolution (laya).
Since all energies emanate from the Supreme Lord, everything -both living and nonliving is His. In this world, people are always fighting over property. They want to stake their claims of ownership on both the living and the nonliving. According to the Easopanishad, these people are like robbers fighting over stolen loot. If we look at the question from the relatively short-term view, we may find it hard to accept that no one is the owner of anything. But if we adopt the point of view of the Easopanishad – which sees the universe not in terms of decades, centuries, or even thousands of years, but in terms of many millions of years--then we can understand this point. For example, who owns the moon? Both the Americans and the Russians, for instance, have contemplated mining the moon in order to build artificial planets called space colonies. According to the Easopanishad it is God who owns outer space, the earth, and, all living beings. A piece of God’s property may be controlled to a limited extent by a temporarily powerful man or nation, but in due course-whether over hundreds of years or hundreds of thousands of years-such men die and such nations dissolve.
The fight over God’s property causes living beings great distress. If people could only recognize the truth of this first mantra that everything and everyone belongs to God (Easaanam sarva vidyaanaam Easvarah sarvabhootaanam- - The Lord of all branches of Knowledge and the Lord of all Beings--MNU) and, that as His children all living beings have a right to the necessities of their existence--then the world would be at peace. There is enough in the world to fulfill everyone’s needs, but not enough to fulfill everyone’s greed. In some parts of the world people are dying from severe undernourishment, while in other parts of the world people are dying from obesity. By nature’s arrangement, a person can eat only a certain amount; this amount depends upon the size of his stomach, his ability to digest the food, and so on. An elephant’s quota is fixed at a hundred pounds or so of hay a day; a bird’s quota is fixed at a few seeds, or a little bit of fruit. A human being’s quota also is fixed. A man’s stomach is limited in size; thus, how much he can digest is limited. To eat more than what can be digested
Some people in the West try to get around this natural limit by artificial means. Their desire for sense gratification is so great that it drives them to all kinds of crazy actions. In order to eat as much as they desire (rather than as much as they need), they have resorted to such things as shortening the length of their intestines so that fewer nutrients are absorbed from the food that they eat, and to taking pills that keep food from being digested. One of today’s more popular methods was quite popular in ancient Rome as well-vomiting. A person eats to his fullest, induces vomiting, and then fills his belly again. Some people spend all day like this, eating and vomiting. Another way in which people take more than their quota is by accumulating vast amounts of money and property--far more than anyone could possibly use in a single lifetime. Nelson Rockefeller, for instance, was so wealthy that he had dozens of huge houses, and in each of his houses he had huge golden beds. But he had only one body, and so he could sleep only in one bed at a time, under the roof of one house at a time. Greedy, wealthy people also have huge bank accounts that contain far more money than they could ever really need. This is another manifestation of greed. Such hoarding runs directly counter to the teachings of the Easopanishad. Why does a person claim ownership of a thing or of another person--To control it or them? And why does he want to control it? It is because he wants to be the enjoyer of it usually. For example, a child claims ownership of a piece of candy so he can control it. Why does he want to control it? So he can enjoy the taste of it. He can’t enjoy the taste unless he has control over it-unless he can pick it up and put it in his mouth. To “buy” a piece of candy from a store is to transfer the ownership from the store to the customer. After a customer has paid for the candy, he is given control over it. He isn’t allowed to control it until he owns it; only then can he do with it as he pleases. If you walked into a store and started eating food off the shelves without paying for it, you might be prosecuted. You would be told you couldn’t do what you wanted with the food until you became the owner of it. The owner of something is considered its rightful enjoyer.
Seen in this light, the first mantra’s declaration that the Supreme Lord is the ultimate owner and controller also declares Him to be the ultimate rightful enjoyer of everything and everyone. Everything that exists is meant to please Him. He is the center around which everything revolves.
Unfortunately, a person who is materialistic, greedy, and self-worshipping wants to take the place of God; he sees himself as the center of the universe. He sees everything and everyone-the world, people, his family, animals, plants, environment as revolving around him. He sees everything and everyone as meant for his enjoyment. The world is full of such exploitative people, and they cause so many problems. If a person sees himself as the Supreme Enjoyer, he will automatically live a life of exploitation. He will not respect others or the environment, nor will he care for the well-being of others. He will lead a hedonistic life of unrestricted sense enjoyment, lording over everything and everyone. Although human in form, he will be no more than an animal that lives by the philosophy, “might makes right.” However, serious students of the Easopanishad will know these truths:
1) I am spirit soul, not matter. I am a spark of God.
2) Although my essence is non-different from God’s (i.e., spirit), I am not the Supreme Spirit. I am the dominated part and parcel of God. I am not God.
3) As a dominated part and parcel of the Supreme Spirit, my natural function is to be engaged in loving service to Him. I cannot find complete happiness in material sense gratification because I am spirit, not matter. I need spiritual food--loving service to God. Since my position is dominated-I am not the supreme controller-my natural activity is to render loving service to the Supreme Lord. To try to be the lord and enjoyer is unnatural and leads only to frustration and misery.
On a practical level, if people lived by the first mantra of the Easopanishad, the effect would be great. These enlightened people would live as caretakers, not exploiters. Since they would see everyone as God’s children, they would see the inalienable right of all God’s children to partake in God’s bounties. God’s property is rightfully meant for the well-being and sustenance of all His children. Once individuals understand this, they will not see their private property-including their own bodies as really theirs. They will see themselves as caretakers, not owners, of God’s property. They will use what is in their possession in a manner that is consistent with the Absolute Truth of God’s ownership.
It is not that individual “ownership” of anything and everything must be, or even could be, banned. As children of God, each of us can possess His property and use it both for our own sustenance and for the welfare of our family, neighborhood, society, state, nation, and world. It is not that a theocracy of self-appointed “servants of God” should control all property. Indeed, nothing could be more dangerous and more against the meaning of the first mantra of the Easopanishad. So-called religious leaders who seek political power in order to control all properties and people deny the fact that all people are children of God, and that therefore all people have the right to possess and use His property for their sustenance and in His service. There is nothing more dangerous to real religion than fanatics who seek to lord over others by force in the name of God.
Nor is false renunciation desirable. You may say, “God owns everything, therefore I am going to give up ownership of my watch. I’ll throw it away.” But how can you give up what is not yours in the first place? It’s not possible. To say “I’m going to give away my watch” shows that you think you own the watch. Obviously you couldn’t give away the watch if it wasn’t yours. For example, if the watch belonged to your father, who merely lent it to you for a short while, you would not say, “I’m going to give up my watch.” To give up what is in one’s possession, to think “I’m going to give up all my things,” is based on the illusion of ownership. Real renunciation is different. Real renunciation means to understand that everything in your possession isn’t really yours-it is God’s. The practical application of this understanding is the change in use of one’s things. Instead of using possessions for your sense enjoyment only, if you are enlightened, you will use them for the glorification of God and the welfare of the people, who are all God’s children. An individual, a family, or a government that understands the first mantra of the Isopanishad sees itself in the role of caretaker, not owner or exploiter.
Kurvann eveha karmaani jijeevishet satam samaah
evam tvayi naanyatheto asti na karma lipyate nare ||
evam tvayi naanyatheto asti na karma lipyate nare ||
“A person may desire to live for hundreds of years if he works according to this truth [of the first mantra], because that sort of work will not bind him to the law of karma. And there is no alternative to this way for man.”
The second mantra of the Easopanishad refers to karma-yoga, or devotional service. If a person understands the first mantra of the Easopanishad – that everything belongs to God, including one’s body, possessions, and very self-and lives according to this truth by dovetailing his life in the loving service of God, then he is engaged in what is called karma-yoga. “Karma” means “action,” and “yoga” means “united with God” or “united with the Absolute Truth.”
Everyone is engaged in action. The law of karma means that there are reactions to every action and that a person must endure the reactions to his actions. As Jesus Christ taught, “As you sow, so shall you reap.”
A person (spirit) is not the body; he is eternal spirit soul, residing only temporarily in the body. The particular body a person has is due to his past activities, his past life. No one chooses where they will be born, or even in what species of life they will be born. Some living entities are in dog and cat bodies, others are in bird bodies, and so on. So many different types of bodies are provided by material nature, and the particular type of body given to the spirit soul depends on his past karma and his desires at the time of death. The eternal spirit soul is bound up on an endless wheel of repeated birth and death caused by reaping the fruit of the seeds he has sown by his actions. Everyone is struggling for a long life, not caring that this will simply cause accumulation of karma and thus rebirths.
Every action, good or bad, produces some karmic reaction. Actions that are “bad” create bad karmic reactions. A person who engages in heinous criminal actions or who lives simply like an animal, exploiting others, will have to eat the bitter fruit of such actions in the future.
Actions that are described in scripture as “good” or “pious” create good karma. A person that wishes after the death of his body to enjoy a more pleasurable material life in some heavenly planet or on earth is often very careful to engage in pious actions. His aim is increased sensual pleasure, both now and in the future. Thus, both “bad” and “good” karma create karmic reaction, which forces a person to take on another material body-even if it is in the heavenly material planets. And wherever there is matter, there is birth and death. As the Lord states in the jewel of the Vedas, the Bhagavad-Gita:
“For One who is born, death is certain; and for one who dies, birth is certain.”–Bhagavad-gita 2:27 (jaatasya hi dhruvo mrityuh dhruvam janma mritasya cha)
The yogi or transcendentalist does not want to be born again in the material world. He wants to transcend the wheel of birth and death, which is full of suffering. Thus he does not want to create either bad or good karmic reaction. Must he then simply sit down and meditate silently until his body dies? Will any action create karmic reaction? Does he have to stop all actions, and if so, is this even possible?
The second mantra is intended for serious yogis and transcendentalists. It says that if a person’s life, his work-that is, his actions-are based on the understanding that God is the owner, controller, and enjoyer, then such actions will create neither bad nor good karmic reaction. Actions engaged in for the pleasure of God cause no karmic reaction. So one who dovetails his life in the loving service of God and who works in the Lord’s service creates no new karmic reaction. Such activity in devotional service is called akarma, or nishkarma. Because a person engaged in devotional service produces no karmic reaction from his activities, he does not need to take on any more material bodies. At the death of his body he returns to the spiritual world, and engages there in further loving service to the Supreme Lord.
Mantra Two makes it clear that one who lives for the Lord’s pleasure, who makes God the center of his life’s work, can aspire to live for a long time in this world without any negative consequences (jeevanmuktas or Nityasuris ike Ramanuja who lived long). A long life will not bind him to the wheel of karmic reaction. He will not incur any karmic reaction no matter how long he remains here. Although appearing to live in the world of matter, the transcendentalist engaged in the loving service of the Lord, is not really in the material world; he is in the spiritual world. There is a primary difference between the material world and the spiritual dimension. In the spiritual world God is the central enjoying agent and the living beings are enjoying serving Him; whereas in the material world the living entities reject God’s Lordship and struggle to be the enjoyers and the lords.
A pure loving servant of God-one who is conscious of the spiritual realm, yet who appears before those of us in the material world- is an ambassador or representative of the spiritual world. In other words, the Supreme Lord and His pure devotees can appear to exist in this material world without really being in it. To be in the material world means to be dominated by the illusory energy, Maya. It means being under the laws of material nature- specifically the laws of karma. This mantra makes it absolutely clear that you can live in this world and not be under the laws of karma. By surrendering to the Supreme Lord, by serving Him out of love, you can be freed from the bondage of the illusory energy. Here I am reminded of Goldsmith’s description of an ideal village preacher in his Deserted Village:
As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form
Swells from the vale and midway leaves the storm
Though round its breast rolling clouds are spread
Eternal sunshine settles on its head
Indeed, you, the Jeeva, the individual soul, have been placed under Maayaa and the laws of material nature specifically because of your enviousness of the Lord. As soon as you give up such envy and want to be engaged in the Lord’s loving service there is no need to be under Maayaa’s domination. So you are released. Remember, Maayaa is the illusory energy of God. It is God’s energy and is controlled by Him. Ultimately everyone is controlled by God and surrenders to God directly or indirectly. If a person wants to be the loving servant of the Supreme Lord, then he gets that. But if a person wants to be the Supreme Lord-master and enjoyer-then he is placed under the control of God’s illusory energy. In this condition he is in the illusion of lordship but is in fact under the strict laws of material nature. The choice nis left to the individual
By following this mantra a person changes his service-instead of serving Maayaa he serves the Lord. A bona fide spiritual master, a fully realized soul, is not someone who has become master or Lord. A spiritual master is not someone who has defeated the power of Mayaa. A spiritual master serves God instead of Maayaa-but he is still serving. Everyone is dominated. Everyone serves. Our only choice is: do we serve God or Maayaa? Do we surrender to and be dominated by God or by Maayaa?--Choosing to serve God, results in life, happiness and freedom. Choosing to serve Maayaa, results in death, misery and slavery. Please find below further thoughts from Swami Chidananda:
RIGHT ACTION IS THE ANSWER
“Give your life of action,” is the widespread notion about spirituality, “and withdraw into a life of meditation or singing bhajans!”
“Remaining engaged in action, you must desire to spend the hundred years of your life,” is the advice of Ishāvāsya Upanishad1 – in contrast to the belief that you come across everywhere.
It is generally a wrong question when we ask, “Should I act or withdraw?” The right question is, “What is the right action here?”
Implied in the emphasis in the Upanishad mantra on living our whole life in the field of action is the nature of the action that we choose to perform. It has to be ‘duty rather than pleasure,’ and ‘service above the self’.
Geeta, which is pretty much a restatement of Upanishadic wisdom, introduces the concept of SVADHARMA in this context only. Except for a miniscule part of humanity, who have perhaps brought forth from their previous lives a huge amount of non-attachment and ability to contemplate on higher truths, humanity has to be active. “Act rightly or perish,” can be the slogan for the overwhelming majority of us.
Therefore neither (the usual) selfish action nor (the misconceived spirituality in the form of) inaction is the answer to our dilemmas. The third option – selfless action – can take us to heights of inner growth.
Ask these questions before choosing to act:
Do I feel I belong to this field of action?
Do I experience happiness when my work makes others happy?
Do I have adequate skills in this field?
Does my conscience approve my being active here?
Does ‘less reward’ not pinch me much when it comes to this line (or field) of action?
If the answer is YES to the above five questions, you have identified your SVADHARMA rightly.
Otherwise do some soul search; you will definitely discover, without much delay, where you belong. Finding thus ‘right action’ takes you out of the otherwise endless conflict of “Should I or should I not?”.
MANTRAS 3 --THE UNLIGHTENED SOULS OR SPIRITUL SUICIDE
Everything that is subject to change in this Universe is permeated by the Supreme Being. Renouncing the changing world one should enjoy it with a sense of detachment. Do not aspire for other’s wealth. Everyone can hope to live a hundred years by working with detached outlook in life. For such an aspirant like you there is no other alternative. No ill effects of Karma will attach to such a person who spends his life on Nishkaama (no self-desire) Karma of doing work with detached spirit and dedication to God.
These two mantras lay emphasis on the doctrine of Karmayoga developed in all its aspects in Bhagavad Gita. Going through the activities in daily life in a spirit of detachment is pre-requisite for obtaining the higher knowledge called Vidya in Vedanta that is the Knowledge of Brahman necessary for our liberation. The mind should be divested of all attachment (Raaga) and hatred (dvesha). With such a pure mind one should perform his duties with the right perspective and with dedication to God. Vedanta Desika says Karmayoga calls for triple renunciation—doer-ship, relationship and enjoyer-ship. Lone period of activities undertaken in a spirit of detachment to a large extent cleanses the mind of its impurities like desires, attachments, hatred, selfishness, jealousy, greed etc. Such a purified mind is a pre-requisite to have an unwavering mind of intellectual temper and spiritual stability to follow the path of righteousness through intense and high meditation. Though Jnaanayoga and Bhaktiyoga are held high by us they become possible only through Karmayoga.
Bhagavad Gita says in 2-47 “let not the fruit of action be your motive, nor your attachment be to inaction, your right is to perform your work only and not to its fruit”. It also says in 4-15 to act like ancients in performing duties with no sense of attachment or reward. Good Lord knows how to reward such a person.
Karmanyeva adhikaaraste maa phaleshu kadaachana |
Maa karmaphala-heturbhooh maa te sango astu va karmani || 2-47 ||
Kuru karmaiva tasmaat tvam poorvaih poorvataram kritam || 4-15 ||
One should perform Karmas that are in accordance with his competence. One should never abandon Karma that is accessory to Vidya.
Asurya naama te loke andhena tamasaavritaah |
taamste pretyaabhi gachchanti ye ke cha atma-hano janaah || 3 ||
There are worlds known as Asurya which are steeped in the darkness of ignorance. Those people who despise the soul (soul-slayers) go to those worlds after death.
[Strangely enough, though Svarga and Chandraloka are mentioned in the Upanishads often, its opposite Naraka (hell) has not been described except in one minor Upanishad. A hell of type mentioned in Puranas seems to be unknown to the Upanishads. Therefore Asurya means those who live in their own crime world and buy their own spiritual suicide with no desire for any salvation, a state near to non-existence on account of not gaining the knowledge of Brahman]
We find people who solely hang on to body-mind vehicles with no focus on divine center. Such people mentioned as “Janaah” a kind human-animals take up forms and come to be born again and again in different environments where they seek satisfaction through sense gratification, happiness through desire fulfillment, security through wealth, and glory through popularity. Suffering failures, sorrows, dejection and despairs, such kind of men again die to be reborn again in other environments with the required vehicle to fulfill their lives and its inner urges. Such people are caught in the wheel of life-death-life again with uncertainty of a life to lead here or elsewhere.
MANTRAS 4 TO 8—DESCRIPTION OF PARAMAATMAN AND THE GOAL TO REACH
Mantras 4 and 5 describe the nature of Aatman (Self) in an enigmatic language, the inner-controller and true Self of all beings.
Anejadekam manasoe javeeyoe nainad devaa aapnuvan poorvamarshat |
Taddhaavatoe anyaanatyeti tishthat tasminnapoe maatarisvaa dadhaati || 4 ||
That Parmaatman (Supreme Self) is unmoving; the one who has no equal being much swifter than mind which is thought to be fastest. It is not accessible even to Gods. It is always ahead of those that run. Though it is itself immovable, its speed transcends that of other senses, which move fast. As long as the Self desires to stay in the body, it distributes and allocates the various functions to the various organs of the body by its Maatarisva (the element of Air).
Vedas say, Ekam, The Most Supreme supports the heaven, Aakaasa, the moon, the sun, the stars, the directions, the earth and the great oceans. Residing as the inner-self of all in everything it over-takes all the running things and others.
Tadejati tannaijati taddoore tadvantike |
Tadantasya sarvasya tadu sarvasyaasya baahyatah || 5 ||
That Self moves and does not move. Though far off yet it is near. It is to be found embedded in creation and it is also found outside it seeking new bodies.
Vishnudharma (99-14) Purana expands the above thoughts: “To those who are averse to Govinda and whose minds are attached to the object of the senses, to them, that supreme Brahman is farther than far. To those people whose minds are placed in Govinda with absorption, and who have renounced all the objects of the senses, it must be known that He is near”
Yastu sarvaani bhootaani aatmanyeva-anupasyati |
Sarvabhooteshu cha-atmaanam tatoe na vijugupsate || 6 ||
Those who see all creatures in themselves and find themselves in all creatures (aatmavat sarvabhooteshu) identify themselves with the entire creation. Then there is no room left for any hatred.
Bhagava Gita has elaborated on this Mantra further:
Sarvabhootastam-aatmaanam sarvabhootaani chaatmani |
Eekshate yogayuktaatmaa sarvatra samadarsanah ||
Yo maam pasyati sarvatra sarvam cha mayi pasyati |
tasyaaham na pranasyaami sa cha me na pranasyati ||
He who has subjected himself to the yogic discipline, seeing all things and everywhere with perfect equanimity and sameness, will perceive the Self, supreme spirit abiding in the soul as dwelling in all beings, and also all the beings as dwelling in the Self.
Vedas ordain: “Aaatmavat sarvabhooteshu”—look upon all beings as your own Self. When this is established it is a natural outcome to follow the other dictum: “Krinvanto viswamaaryam”—let us ennoble the whole world.
This insistence of the Upanishad and Vedas is for the realization of the all-inclusive Oneness of the Aaatman, the Universe. The Spirit in the Sun is the same as the one in every one of us. This truth is brought forth daily in our Sandhyavandana mantras (daily prayers) by repetition and contemplation as an aid in life to detachment, elevation of Spirit and Self-realization. Properly understood and performed Sandhyavandana may be called Daily Tapas or austerity The essential parts of Sandhyavandana are purification, prayer and meditation on the Supreme in the Solar Orb.
Supreme Being is the inmost self of all. One should vividly and continuously meditate upon him. All entities that are supported by earth are verily residing in Paramaatman alone. With such a thought a person will not abuse anyone or anything (abuse of natural resources). One will not recoil from anyone when he realizes that all things are having Paramaatman as their Self--(mamaivamso jeevabhootah)
Yasmin sarvaani bhootaani aatmaivaa-bhood-dvijaanatah |
tatra ko mohah kah sokah ekatvam anupasyatah || 7 ||
When a person learns that all beings are indeed have the same all-pervading Spirit as their inner controller then he realizes the Oneness of all things. Then there is no chance for any illusion or grief. There is no attachment or detachment for such a person. Multiplicity of life does not delude such a person seeing its unity.
This mantra expounds the unifying force of Oneness and brings our thoughts again to the opening words “Eesaavaasyam idam sarvam” that everything belongs to Brahman and is pervaded by Brahman. Realizing that everything belongs to the Supreme Being, one will not have any attachment to himself and therefore he will not grieve even at the loss of his kith and kin or any personal loss of wealth. Where there is no delusion there is no grief.
Realizing that everything belongs to Parmaatman one will have no attachment (mamatva) in anything and so there will be no grief even when a son or daughter dies or a kingdom is lost.
Sa paryagaat sukram akaayam avranam asnaavira(ga)m suddham apaapa viddham kavirmaneeshee paribhooh svayam-bhuh yaathaa tathyatah arthaan vyadadhaat saasvateebhyah samaabhyah || 8 ||
He, the Aatman, is all pervading, bright, bodiless, scathe-less, without muscles, pure, un-penetrable by evils, wise, omniscient, transcendent and self-existing. He alone allotted their respective duties (functions) to the various Creators (eternal years).
This Mantra gives an elaborate description of Aatman described in ever Upanishad and Gita. The Self or Aatman is all pervading it is pure. It is resplendent (bright). It has neither body as no sin is attached to it, nor muscles and nerves. It is all discerning. It is the overlord of the mind. It is infinitely superior to all things and self-endowing it with life and permanence created. It is capable of entering into every material body and endowing it with life and permanence for countless years. It is omniscient, transcendent and self-existing.
Mantras 6 and 7 describe the state attained by a person who has realized this Aatman. Since he perceives the Supreme Being in all, he loves all, thus transcending hatred, delusion and sorrow which are always caused by the seeing of duality.
Sah here may mean sah brahmadarsee, the seeker who is the knower of Brahman. All words in nominative case then refer to seeker and all in accusative refer to Brahman. “Sah paramaaatmaa paryagat” means that all pervading Brahman. So the words in nominative case refer to Parmaatman and those in accusative to Jeevaatman. Then with reference to the seeker it means that kind of a seeker who has conquered his mind through practice of yoga or saadahana (practice). Yoga makes one to hold in his mind all things such as the supreme object of life, the means of attaining it and the obstacles to that attainment etc., as they are with perfect discrimination. This then means that the Lord has created all these things for countless years.
Bhagavad Gita dwells on the description of Self as follows drawing its support from this and other Upanishads:
Nityah sarvagatah sthanurachchaloyam sanaatanah |
Avyakto ayam achintyo ayam vikaaryo ayamuchyate |
The Self is eternal, all pervading, unchanging, immovable and primordial. This soul is said to be un-manifest, unthinkable and unchanging.
MANTRAS 9 TO 14—NATURE OF SADHANA (spiritual practice) TO BE UNDERTAKEN BY A SPIRITUAL SEEKER
Andham tamah pravisanti ye avidyaam upaasate |
Tatoe bhooya iva te tamoe ya vu vidyaayaa(ga)m rataah || 9 ||
Whosoever follows the path of Avidya (performing Vedic rituals and sacrifices and devoted to Karma alone) he is sure to be engulfed in the midst of darkness of ignorance. Whosoever follows the path of Vidya (Meditation and devoted to knowledge) alone will be worse off entering into greater darkness than the former.
Avidya has been described as sticking to routine Vedic rituals as mere Karma. Vidya has been interpreted as the Upaasana or meditations on the Vedic deities equipped with Jnaana (knowledge) about them. Those who are devoted to mere Karma or mere Knowledge, they both are condemned here. Mere knowledge without Karma is worse than Karma without Knowledge. Puranas have later described as Naraka or hell, the darkness that is described here. Naraka described in Puranas is not known to Upanishads.
This mantra censures both that resorts to mere Karma (religious follower) or Upaasana (spiritual seeker). Only through knowledge of the form of meditation supported by performance of Varnaasrma dharma one gains liberation. Bhagavad Gita often stresses on one’s following his own dharma.
Anya-devaahur-vidyayaa anyadaahur-avidyaaya |
Iti susruma dheeraanaam ye nastad vichachakshire || 10 ||
The wise have said that the fruits obtained by following the paths of Vidya and Avidya, are different. This has been taught to us by those great and gifted who enlightened us with that knowledge. The means attainment of Liberation is different from mere Knowledge or mere Karma.
The question in our mind therefore remains as to what is the means of Liberation? People for whom the world without is alone live in the darkness of night. Also people to whom the world is within alone live in that darkness. What then leads us out of this darkness if mere Karma or Jnaana alone is not good enough?
Bhagvad Gita says “tasmaat sastram pramaanam te” go by the Sastras or scriptures for they have been promulgated by sages after successful practice. The idea is that this meaning has come down to us from an ancient proven tradition.
Vidyaam cha avidyaamcha yastadvedobhayam saha |
Avidyayaa mrityum teertvaa vidyayaa amritamasnute || 11 ||
Whosoever understands the full import of Vidyaa and Avidyaa he will be freed from the clutches of death caused by Avidyaa and attains immortality with the help of his Vidyaa. Whosoever knows meditation based on knowledge and Karma together crosses over death through Karma.
This Mantra ascertains the relationship of Janaa and Karma. Karma coordinated with Jnaana will lead to salvation. This Mantra teaches Parmaatman is attained through meditation. Karma is an accessory to Upaasana. Crossing over completely past Karma which is of the form of contraction of knowledge is necessary, which is the cause for death. Once this process is completed then Knowledge will lead us to the vivid vision of Paramaatman. We must cross the sea of death through action and then enter into the sea of immortality through meditation.
Andham tamah pravisanti ye asambhootim upaasate |
Tatoe bhooya iva te tamoe ya vu sambhootyaam rataah || 12 ||
Whoever meditates upon the nameless and formless transcendent Supreme Being, he is enveloped with the darkness of ignorance. Whosoever meditates upon the immanent Supreme Being with a form and a name, he is sure to enter into greater darkness.
Reference is made here as to the controversy of worshiping Personal and Impersonal Gods. During the early Vedic period personal Gods like Vaayu, Agni, Indra, Varuna were worshipped like what we do today worshiping Puranic deities. Today controversy remains among people as to follow Jnaanamarga, path of Knowledge or Bhakti Marga, path of devotion. Just as Vidya and Avidya complement each other Jnana and Bhakti are complimentary to each other.
[Sambhuti is the form of attaining Brahman. The term asmbhuti declares the termination of obstacles to it as this is proximate to it]
The mantra stresses on elimination of undesirable mental modifications and the fostering of desirable attainment of the goal for liberation.
Anya devaahuh sambhavaat anyadaahur asmbhavaat |
Iti susruma dheeraanaam ye nastadvicha-chakshire || 13 ||
Wise people say that immanent Saguna Brahman with a name and form grants certain kind of blessings while transcendent Nirguna Brahman without any name or form grants different kinds of blessings. Thus we have learnt this from the wise men who taught this truth to us very clearly.
For those to whom the lord is Transcendent, they live in dark night; For whom the Lord is immanent only they live darker still. Neither of these approaches leads us to Brahman though one seems to be better than the other as to the degree of darkness or ignorance.
Sambhootim cha vinaasam cha yastadvedobhayam saha |
Vinaasena mrityum teertvaa sambhootyaa amritam asnute || 14 ||
He who can comprehend the full significance of Saguna Brahman and Nirguna Brahman crosses over death from Saguna Brahman and receives immortality from Nirguna Brahman.
Sri Ramakrishna’s might and glory was his experience with the Self, but his life’s poise and equanimity were the unique blessings of the beloved Mother Kaali. This mantra clearly states that there should be no controversy between Bhakti (devotion) and Jnaana (Intelligence) which should complement each other by understanding which one crosses over death and attains immortality or oneness with Brahman. For to those whom Brahman is Transcendent and Immanent at the same time, such persons cross the ocean of death with the help of Immanent and attain immortality with the help of Transcendent. Our focus in worship should be both on Saguna Brahman and Nirguna Brahman.
Sins that are opposed to Samadhi are to be got rid of through the observance of Asambhuti (conditioned Reality)and through Sambhuti (primordial matter which we call as Prakriti or nature) attain Brahman.
Uvataacharya of 11th century gives an interesting and convincing explanation to this mantra. He means by asambhooti the body and sambhuti absolute Brahman. In spiritual effort we subject the body to continuous hunger and thirst which are invaluable means that are to be transcended by suitable secular activities. Then through contemplation on Brahman one can attain immortality. That is why a balanced approach by combination of both is needed.
Mystic Vedic usage of the words Vidya and Avidya as well as Sambhooti and a Asambhooti has given rise to several interpretations at the dexterous hands of Vedic scholars which has resulted in several interesting interpretations of the mantras of this Upanishad which process has not ended even to this day. All agree that the uncoordinated Jnaana or Bhakti leads to disastrous ends. Sankara Himself has demonstrated it by bringing forth Bhaja Govindam after vehemently supporting his Advaita Philosophy towards salvation in which he concludes Jnana should mature in Bhakti.
MANTRAS 15 TO 18—PRAYERS TO BE PRACTICED BY SPIRITUAL ASPIRANT
Hiranmayena paatrena satyasyaapihitam mukham |
Tat tvam pooshannapaavrinu satyadharmaaya drishtaye | | 15 ||
The real face of Truth (Jeevaatman) is covered and kept hidden by the gold vessel. O Sun (Pushaan), the sustainer and protector of all life, please oblige to remove this deceitful gloss of covering (clouding of the mind) for my sake, as I am wedded to Truth, as my whole outlook is based on Truth (realizing Self) and is governed by Truth alone.
Here Soorya refers to that universal effulgence Brahman alone. Perceiving Brahman is a function of Dharma and hence the usage of the term satyadharmaaya. In this verse a request is made to God to remove all the obstacles to one’s vision, the objection being the golden pitcher, the attraction of this material world which has contributed to hiding of the God’s glorious face. Sankara says it is the last prayer of a dying individual but the individual meant here is the ego-center. It is the last prayer of the active spiritual seeker in his meditation seat, then after, his thoughts are diverted to Supreme Being.
Pooshannekarshe yama soorya praajaapatya vyooha rasmeen samooha tejah \
yat te roopam kalyaanatamam tat te pasyaami yoe asaavasau purushah so ahamasmi
Oh Sustainer of Life, Pusan! You are the controller; prompter; and the indwelling ruler of all creatures born of Prajaapati. Withdraw thy rays. Spread your light and subdue your dazzling splendor. I will then be able to behold you and contemplate upon your auspicious form. Who am I? Verily I am the person that exists in Thee!
[This reminds us of the prayer of Moses when he visualized the blazing fire in the wilderness that he could not behold but could conceive the Supreme Spirit from whom he received the Ten Commandments]
This and the following Mantras are Mantras to be meditated upon by one who is steadfast (Stithaprajnya) in Brahman. Please refer to my discourse on the subject based on Gita]
The same prayer as in 15 is continued here with glorification of the Purusha and hint at the desire of being in oneness with him. Purusha is the Supreme self who has qualities of fullness, primeval existence, not grasped by any sense organs, subtle, un-manifest etc. He has the auspicious form of the manifold luster of Sun. Aham here refers to Paramaatman who is the Antaryamin of the Jiva. In Aham asmi, A is the first vowel of Sanskrit representing Purusha and ha the last consonant of 48th alphabet of Sanskrit representing his power Sakti where the Bindu or period is transcendental half-moon dot. Yama is the inner controller of all. Soorya is the prompter of intellect of his devotees. Praajaapatya is the ruler of all people that are born. These forms are worshiped as Puraanic or vedic deities in our daily worship. It is worth recalling here in our mid-day prayers we look at Soorya with an aperture created by special Yama Mudra. Sun is viewed with the mental composure as stated in this mantra.
Vaayur-anilam-amritam athedam bhasmaantam sareeram |
Om kratoe smara kritam smara kratoe smara kritam smara || 17 ||
Let the vital forces in my body which are about to leave go back and merge themselves in the all-pervading air about me! Let this body be reduced to ashes! O Jeevaatma, the very form of all life and the embodiment of all will and volition! Just remember what thou hast done (remember your past Karmas). O Jeevaatman! Remember once all that has been done by thee. Remember all the past deeds.
The state of Aatman after passing out of the body is described here. The physical body after passing out of the body-mind complex reduces to ashes by cremation or gradually if buried. This is suggestive of all ways of disposal of the dead body (Antyeshti). The mantra also describes the true nature of Self after leaving the body. It will be moving here and there according to its knowledge of Karma without any resting place. It does no remain permanently in any material body. At the same time it is immortal though many bodies in which it rested are destroyed. Kratau refers to Paramaatman who is the object of meditation. Kritam smara may mean remember me for whatever little good I have done or You alone complete the task left behind after considering whatever good done by me, pleading to Paramaatman.
Agne naya supathaa raaye asmaan visvaani deva vayunaani vidwaan |
Yuyoddhyas-majjuhu-raana-menoe bhooyishthaam te nama uktim vidhema || 18 ||
Oh Agni! Take me along the auspicious path to enjoy fruits of my action! O Yajnapurusha! Thou hast a record of what was done by me. Cleanse me from all the sins committed! I will address unto you my sincerest words of obeisance!
Here Supreme Being is addressed as Agni (Jaataveda). We are chained to our sins. The grossness of our sins is unthinkable. Therefore one surrenders to the Supreme by repeating the word namah—nama vukti. In fact the prayer is offered to the Lord to make one habituated to repeat namah even when liberated. The good Lord knows all our deeds; we cannot hide anything from him. Therefore we appeal to him to deliver us from all evils and pay our obeisance again and again.
“Oh Sun! I am the same person as He that is in you” says this Upanishad. The insistence is on the realization of the all-inclusive Oneness of the Soul, the Universe. The Spirit in the Sun is the same as I! A daily repetition and contemplation of this truth is prescribed in the Sandhayavandana, daily ritual as an aid in life to detachment, elevation of Spirit and Self –realization. So perform your daily rituals with this understanding and not as an act of blind submission to Scriptures.
The mantras in this group “Hiranmayena paatrena…… namauktim Vidhema” are also found in 5-15-1 of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. These mantras are prayer to God Aaditya who is one of the Ativaahikas in the Archiradri path leading to Brahman. The whole prayer here sums up like this:
O Sun! The passage to Brahman in the path of Archiradi leading to Satya or the Supreme Brahman is covered by your resplendent orb. O Pusaan! Please uncover that opening for me so that I, who have that Brahman as my support, may have a vision of him.
O Pusan! The one seer, the ruler, O Soorya, the son of the Prajaapati, take away the rays, gather your brightness. I wish to behold that most beautiful and auspicious form of yours. That Purusha in you of whatever form or quality he is, he I am.
The vital air of mine will become one with wind. That is Amritam (Immortal). This body of mine when dead has its end in ashes. O Krato the Sun, revealed by the Pranava OM, Remember the meditation I have done. Remember the rites I have performed as accessories to meditation. Remember my meditation and rites I have done O God Fire, lead me by the auspicious path of Archiadri for attainment of liberation, the supreme wealth. O resplendent God, you are fully conversant with all knowledge. Fight and remove from us the pain-giving evils. We repeat before you the all- powerful word of obeisance as namah. I have the knowledge that the Aatman is different and distinct from the body and I am rooted in the meditation upon Brahman which has ordained Karma as its accessories and you are aware of that.
The insistence here is on the realization of the all-inclusive Oneness of the Soul, the Universe. The spirit in the sun is the same as myself! A daily chanting and contemplation of this truth is prescribed as an aid in life to detachment, elevation of Spirit and Self-realization.
Eknath Easwaran has beautifully translated these prayer hymns in English language as follows in his book of The Upanishads:
“The face of truth is hidden by your orb
Of gold, O Sun, May you remove your orb
So that I, who adore the true, may see
The glory of truth O nourishing Sun,
Solitary traveler, controller,
Source of life for all creatures, spread your light
And subdue your dazzling splendor
So that I may see your blessed Self
Even that very Self am I!
May my life merge in the Immortal!
When my body is reduced to ashes!
O Mind, meditate on the Eternal Brahman.
Remember the deeds of the past.
Remember, O Mind, Remember
Oh God of Fire, lead us by the good path
To eternal joy. You know all our deeds.
Deliver us from Evil, we who bow
And pray again and again
Om Saantih saantih saantih!
Concluding Peace Mantra:
Om poornamadah poornamidam poornaat Poornamaduchyate |
Poornasya poornaamaadaaya poornmeva avasishyate ||
Om Saantih Saantih Saantih ||
That (Invisible Brahman) is full; This (the Visible Brahman) is also full; This full (Visible Brahman) proceeds from that full (Invisible Brahman), on perceiving the true nature of this full (Visible Brahman) there still remains that same full (Invisible Brahman).
It is no wonder Mahatma Gandhi said: “if all the Upanishads and scriptures were burnt to ashes and if only the first worse of Easavasyopanishad were left in the memories of the Hindus Hinduism will survive”. The last mantra of this Upanishad signifies that the Supreme Being is both the “Upaaya” and “Upeya” meaning the means and the goal. It tells that whoever gets knowledge of Brahman finds everything identical with Brahman.
There are hidden insights into Value Based Management (Tattvabodha) in each of the First Eight Mantras” says Swami Chidananda”. While Mantras 1-8 of This Upanishad leads one to “Insights into Value-based Management” mantras 9 through 18 throw light on a manager’s journey from “being smart” to “being wise”. Swami Chidananda elaborated in his later part of the lecture on “Balancing action and thought (mantras 9 – 11), doing justice to both the part and the whole (mantras 12 – 14), safeguarding against ‘derailers’ (mantras 15 - 16) and the sense of tremendous responsibility on one hand and of utter surrender on the other (mantras 17 – 18). Focusing on Mantra 14 he says: “One who recognizes the whole and the part, crosses big hurdles and attains satisfaction”. As a follower of Vishishatadvaita Philosophy which is a later thinking coming from Ramanuja who initially mastered Advaita also, I feel this means one should focus on Aatman as well as on Paramaatman, the Self and the Supreme. Please watch for my detailed discourse on Aatman (part) and Paramaatman (whole).
“We should carry on the activities of life. But, we should do so remembering that all that we do belongs to the Supreme Being. Work done in this spirit and philosophy will not cling (as karmas) to us in rebirth. This teaching that is expanded in the Bhagavadgeetaa is found tersely enunciated in the first two verses” says Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, the wise Statesman of India. The last mantra of this Upanishad signifies that the Supreme Being is both the “Upaaya” and “Upeya” meaning the means and the goal. It tells that whoever gets knowledge of Brahman finds everything identical with Brahman. This Upanishad contains only 18 mantras expounding all the essentials of Vedanta school of thought such as the doctrine of Reality (Tattva), the doctrine of Goal (Purushaartha) and the Doctrine of the means of spiritual Realization (Hita). Thus it is Atmabodha as well as Tattvabhoda on which Sankaracharya wrote. The central theme of this Upanishad is “Easah sarva vidyaanaam and Easvarah sarvabhootanaam“ —All things-whatsoever is changeable in this world--is pervaded by Brahman The Lord of all Knowledge, expounded in Mahanarayana Upanishad.
1) N. S. Ananta Rangacharya. Principal Upanishads, Vol. 1, Bengaluru, India
2) Krisha Moorty P., Upanishad Vallari, Tirumal Tirupat Devasthanam, Tirupati, A.P., India.
3) Rajagopalachari C., Upanishads, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, India.
4) Swami Chinmayananda, Isavasya Upanishad, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Mumbai, India.
5) Eknath Easwaran, The Upanishads, Nilgiri Press, www.easwaran.org
6) Ramachandra Rao, S.K., Gita Kosha, Kalpataru Research Academy , Bengaluru, India.
7) Swami Harshananda, The Ten Cardinal Upanishads, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.
Spiritual Aspiration and Practice
Spiritual Aspiration and Practice
(By Swami Krishnananda)
The Six Treasures
Forces of the world are going to be friendly with us. God is waiting for our arrival there. But we also have to bestow some thought on another important aspect of this matter. How are we to make ourselves fitting instruments and a proper conducting medium for the influx of universal forces into ourselves? The medium of contact is as important as that which will flow through that medium into the expected location. This is the very, very specific practical side of something that we are expected to do about our own selves. An unfit instrument cannot be a good conductor of powerful forces.
These ways and means of making ourselves fit for the reception of divine grace and for the entry of universal forces into our own selves are traditionally known as sadhana chatushtaya, a fourfold discipline of one’s own self. Discipline implies a restraint of the usual impulses of the psychophysical personality. The usual impulses are well known to us because we have been hearing of them for some days, the impulses being those which go in terms of the conditioning factors imposed upon us by space, time and externality.
To withdraw ourselves from excessive involvement in this conditioning factor which is externalizing us and making us sensory, physically, socially, externally motivated – withdrawing ourselves from these usual well-known normal impulses which actually are not normal – this whole process is called discipline, a bringing about of a total integration of our own self. We have to be ourselves before God becomes what He is to us.
Sadhana chatushtaya is the fourfold way of self-control, cleansing oneself, purifying oneself, making oneself fit for the entry of that which is supremely divine. These four ways or methods of practice are known as viveka, vairagya, shat sampat and mumukshutva. When you are after something, you must know what it is that you are after. This clarity by which you know what it is that you want, as distinguished from that which is different from what you want – a discrimination that you exercise in knowing what it is that you are after, what it is that you are expecting other than what is secondary and redundant – this faculty of inner discrimination is called viveka, correct understanding.
What is correct understanding? It is the ability to distinguish between truth and falsehood. What is the truth here, and what is the falsehood? The falsehood is the appearance before us in terms of the variety of objects of sense, this vast creation of space and time which acts as a screen before us, preventing us from visualizing what is behind the screen; and what is behind the screen is the truth. The distinction between these two aspects of experience has to be drawn.
To some extent, emotionally we are conscious of what it is that we are expecting in our aspirations. Young children, boys and girls brought up in a religious atmosphere, are after a religious life. “I chant the name of God. I pray to God. I live a life of religion.” These ideas are not uncommon among children, perhaps known to them through their parents, but they may not be clear in their minds as to what actually they are meaning when they say like that.
When I want to become religious, what do I really mean? The meaning is, I have immediately differentiated between the kind of life that I wish to live, and the kind of life that I have been accustomed to. All that is necessary to enable us to perceive Truth behind the curtain is the discipline spoken of, as anything that will give us a temporary satisfaction through the sense organs and the body is that which has to be abandoned for the time being. When you are after something, you have to pursue it. When you are an investigating scientist in a laboratory and you are pursuing a course of tremendously important investigation into the structural pattern of certain subtle things, you will not remember whether it is lunchtime or breakfast time, or whether it is daytime or night time, or whether anybody is there around you at all. An automatic discrimination takes place in the laboratory because of the concentration of the mind on what is there before one’s aim, and all other things become redundant.
Now, this capacity in us to distinguish between what is redundant in this world and that which is essential for making ourselves fit to tread the path of Truth is a discrimination called viveka. When you know what is necessary and what is unnecessary, what is proper and what is improper through this exercise of viveka, you also know what is to be rejected and what is to be caught hold of. That which you reject as unnecessary, redundant, meaningless, an interference – that process of rejection is called vairagya. The meaninglessness of certain things in the pursuit which we are after is that which will enable us to abandon it from our considerations in daily life.
There is a sutra in Sankhya which says, “Thinking always of something which is not connected with your spiritual progress becomes your bondage,” as it was in the case of Jada Bharata whose story you must have heard in the Srimad Bhagavata Katha, because whatever your heart is contemplating, that alone you will get. Your heart cannot contemplate a thing in the world and then have the aspiration be directed towards something which is beyond the world. A careful distinction between the necessary and the unnecessary, the meaningful and the meaningless, the beneficial and the harmful, is the principle of renunciation. It is not that you are abandoning a part of the world for the sake of catching some other part of the world, not even that you are thinking of another world and totally rejecting its connection with the present world. That also is not so. You are thinking of the present relevance of certain factors in the context of your existing condition of spiritual endeavor.
It is not that everything is irrelevant at all times; it is also not true that all things are useful always. Here is the difficulty in understanding how to conduct ourselves in the spirit of renunciation. What are we to abandon? At every stage we have to understand what it is that we have to take hold of, and what it is that we have to abandon.
As you advance further and further in the path, as light dawns more and more clearly before you, the idea of what is essential and not essential will also vary according to the context and the position in which you are placed at that time. So there is nothing which you can totally avoid always, but there is also nothing which you can cling to always. All things are what they are. Permanently you cannot love a thing; permanently you cannot hate a thing. It is not that always you want the same thing, and also it is not true that you never want it. The world is relative. It is an internal adjustment of parts into the pattern of the whole which also changes its characteristics as the wholeness goes on advancing from the lower to the higher condition of itself.
Here I would like to mention to you what this wholeness is. A little baby just out of the womb is a whole individual. When it grows, it is again a whole individual. When it has grown further into an adolescent, it is a whole individual. It is an adult, a youth, a grown-up person; it is a whole individual. An old man is also a whole individual. Even a little miniscule invisible existence of the child in the womb is also a whole conspectus which will develop into larger and larger wholes. The world is not working on the principle of fractions connected with fractions. It is always a movement from whole to whole. This is what they sometimes call holistic evolution in modern philosophical language.
Yet, there is a difference between these whole things. One paise is whole money by itself; it is complete in itself. A rupee is complete money by itself. A penny is whole money, a pound is a whole money. They are not to be considered as fractions. By themselves they are complete. So, even in the lowest categories of our existence, even an insect is a whole by itself. It is not a part or fraction of existence. An ant is a complete individual, as complete as an elephant. The hunger and the appetite and the likes and dislikes of an ant are similar to those of an elephant. The pinch of hunger which an ant feels is as intense as that which an elephant feels. The size of the body is not of any significance here. It is wholeness that characterizes the whole situation.
Our mental structure is also a whole. We do not think in parts or bits. There is a psychology these days which is called Gestalt psychology. It is a German word. Gestalt means whole. The mind operates as a whole and never as a bit or a part. Though you are apparently thinking of some particular thing only, that thought which is apparently particular at a given moment of time is inwardly connected to other parts which are not consciously connected with this particular occupied part, but subconsciously influence it.
There are strata of mind. Many categories are there, of which three are important: the conscious, the subconscious and the unconscious. We are now on a conscious level, but we have an unconscious existence also which is deeply hidden in ourselves and covered over by the impress exerted upon it by the conscious mind in the waking state. It is not true that you are thinking the whole day that very thing that you are thinking just now. This is a force exerted upon you to think in only one way because of this audience of a particular nature. When you get up from this place and go to the kitchen, your mind will think in a different manner; and in days to come when you advance in age, the hidden store of your subconscious will manifest itself little by little in the conscious. What is inside you will condition and determine what you think outwardly in your waking experience. And there are greater secrets in yourself – the vast soul of the unconscious, which is nothing but a cloud of unknowing, as they call it, a large mass of dark layers piled up one over the other of forces of thoughts, feelings and actions accumulated during all the lives through which you have passed, right from creation. They are your creditors. They are waiting to see when they can contact you. They contact you only during the waking state, and at other times you are not conscious of your existence. You are not always conscious of everything. So a little of something from inside comes up at a given moment of time, as people come out of ambush only when it is time for them to come. Now they are all lying in ambush inside, and we think everything is heaven; it is nothing of the kind. All the world of every kind of intricacy is hidden in our own selves.
Due to this fact of a tremendous involving nature of our own stratified individuality, understanding of what is to be abandoned and renounced is a graduated process of further advancement of our own consciousness and experience; every minute, every moment, you will have to change your idea of what is to be renounced and what is to be grasped. Here again is the necessity for a guide. It is like walking on a rope in a circus or rowing a boat on a flooded river. This is viveka and vairagya.
Dṛṣṭa ānuśravika viṣaya vitṛṣṇasya (Y.S. 1.15): To one who is totally free from the desire to contact that which is seen as well as heard, true vairagya dawns. There are things which you see and some things which you hear. That which you see is, of course, very clear to you. “I would like to have these things which I see.” Certain glories are heard only. Glorious things are there in another country. Why not make a trip to that place? Glorious things are in the heaven. The heavens are described in the scriptures in very attractive terms. Why not go there and have a little experience of it? Those people who do not entertain a desire for anything that is seen with the eyes, or even heard –vaśīkārasaṁjñā vairāgyam (Y.S. 1.15): To such persons comes a kind of renunciation spirit which is called vashikara, a power of control exercised, or capable of being exercised, on anything.
Only he who has renounced a thing can control a thing. A master of things is a person who wants nothing from anything. He who wants a thing has no control over it, and cannot get it. You cannot get that which you want; only that which you do not want will come to you, because in your want you commit a mistake of keeping that object outside you by thinking, “You are there.” And it will reply, “If I am there, why should I come to you?” No desire can be completely fulfilled because of this basic psychological error even in exercising the desire. You are wanting and not wanting a thing at the same time by saying that you are wanting it. You may be glibly saying that you want a thing, but in that wanting process you have kept the object outside you, without which you cannot want it. If it is not outside you, there is no wanting. So what are you wanting finally? You can imagine the illusion and the delusion behind wanting itself. Can you understand this difficulty before you? Every desire is a self-contradiction because to desire a thing, it should be other than you, and if it is other than you, you cannot get it. Then what is the purpose of desiring anything? It is a fool’s paradise. Thus, inwardly exercise this spirit of control over your own self, by which you will have a control of everything. So much about viveka and vairagya, discrimination and the spirit of renunciation.
There is a third thing which is very important, which is connected with our feelings and our emotions. Viveka and vairagya are more of an intellectual and rationalistic nature, where you have to exercise your understanding and logical thinking much more than anything else. But there is something else, which is called your feeling. “Whatever be the thing you say, I want this.” This is what the heart of hearts will tell. This heart has also to be disciplined in the same way as the intellect has to be disciplined throughviveka and vairagya. Your heart is yourself. Your brain and intellect are not so connected with your existence as your feelings and heart. “My heart is what I am.” Now this third requisite is called shat sampat, an acquisition of six virtues. They are called sampat because they are treasures actually, very valuable things: sama, dama, uparati, titiksha, sraddha and samadhana.
Sama is a determination on your part to be always calm and quiet under any kind of condition, even aggressive conditions. It is very important. Hate does not cease by hate. Hate ceases by love. Reaction is not the way in which you have to conduct yourself towards an action. As one hand does not make a sound, one person cannot create a problem. Two persons are necessary to quarrel, and you need not be a party to that. Restrain your mind with the help of the understanding that you have already exercised through viveka and vairagya.
Dama is the restraint of the sense organs. Sama is the restraint of the internal organ which is the mind. Dama is the discipline of the organs outside. There is a distinction between the internal organ and the external organ. The internal is called the antakarana chatustaya, the internal organ or the psyche proper. Mano buddhi ahankara chitta: mind that thinks, buddhi or intellect that decides and determines,ahankara that identifies everything with itself, and chitta or memory that remembers past things. These are, broadly speaking, the functional aspects of our psyche. Because they are four, we call them chatustaya; and because it is an internal faculty, we call it antahkarna, not external, bahir-karana. The mind is used for all these four aspects. Sometimes they divide the mind into understanding, feeling and willing. This is the confinement of psychology in Western thought. But there is much more about the mind than only this threefold classification. So much about the internal organ, about which we said sama is to be exercised.
Dama is the restraint of the five organs – eyes, ears and the sensations of every kind. There are five senses of knowledge and five organs of action. The eyes have a passion to see certain things, and there is a passion for every sense organ. Passion is an uncontrollable desire; a desire that has overcome you and flooded you is called passion. Desire is the beginning stage of an overwhelming, consuming longing. They insinuate themselves into yourself gradually like diseases that crop up inside without your knowing that they are there and manifest themselves only afterwards through the body.
The assistance that you can have in the practice of this kind of control over the sense organs is to live in a place where you do not have so much of attraction. It does not mean that merely the absence of the physical existence of attraction will make you free from the attractions. Even then, it is one method – The quarantine method, as it is called.
You should not sever connection of the senses completely from their objects. Then they will revolt. You must give them up little by little, like people who want to give up cigarette smoking. If someone smokes fifty times today and you tell him to give it up tomorrow, that is not a very intelligent advice. If today it is fifty, tomorrow it is forty-nine. He will not feel the pinch of it so badly because only one has been reduced. Like that it becomes forty-eight, forty-seven, etc.; gradually, the number diminishes as he becomes accustomed to less smoking. Simultaneously with the reduction in number, there is also a suggestion to divert the mind into a better positive occupation. Instead of smoking, have a cup of tea, because you want some kind of titillation. Tea is not as harmful as a cigarette, so have something like that, some occupation so that there is the reduction of the quantum of longing on the one hand and an alternative substitute for this desire on the other hand.
Homeopathic doctors give a medicine called tobaccum to those people who are addicted to tobacco. It has the effect of producing the sensation of actual tobacco, but homeopathic methods do not work like allopathic drugs; their working methods are different. They appear to make a sensation of the same thing that you want to avoid but they actually work differently, contrarily and reduce that longing. This is how you can handle your mind and sense organs. I am not going to tell you much about all the sense organs; you can use your own discrimination to know what the sense organs are. Even when you handle a rogue or a thief you must use your discretion. You must be cautious, and not go headlong. Be very careful, very careful.
I usually relate an old Chinese anecdote in connection with self-control. The mind is like a wild bull. You cannot go near it. From a distance the bull will hiss, snort, and try to gore you. Your intention is to sit on it and ride it, but at present you cannot go near it. From one furlong it will look at you with ferocity. What is the method? The first step is to put a fence round the place where the bull is. It may be one furlong. Now you know that the bull cannot come out of that barrier. One step forward you have gone in the art of controlling this wild bull. Though not much has been achieved, something has been achieved; you are free now, and need not be afraid that it will come and jump on you. It cannot come because you have put a fence around it. This is the first step.
Then what is the next step? Bring green grass and throw it inside the fence. It will come near. It is not fond of you. It will gaze at you with ferocity even now, but it will come and try to eat the grass. It will go on looking at you, gazing into you, and then eat the grass. Every day you do this practice. Throw green grass, a delicious diet, some food that it will like. Every day it sees you and it gets accustomed to your presence there. It sees you, and you see it. Then what to do?
The third stage is to hold the grass in your hand and thrust it inside, through the wire fencing, but don’t throw it down. It will come near you and eat that grass with a lesser ferocity in its mind. Three steps you have taken: first it is very far, then nearby, and now almost touching. You can even pat it on its head. It will do nothing because it has been accustomed to your presence there with green grass. Then go on patting its head every day until it ceases from making a frightening sound before you. Hold its horn, but stand outside the fence. It will do nothing to you; it will be gazing, trying even to lick your hand. Then slowly open a little passage in the fence and touch it without being outside the fence. The fear has gone. It does not fear you and you do not fear it any more. Touch it, touch it, touch it, pat it on the back. Then you can hug it. It will become your friend. You can sit on it and ride on it. You have mastered it.
The mind is like this wild animal. In the beginning, it is atrocious and impossible to handle. It will not yield even one inch to your requirement. In this way, with the help of your Guru, try to find out how you can apply the logic of this anecdote in your daily practice. Do not hate what you like to avoid. Understand how to handle that which you would like to avoid. Even if the person is there who is something like an enemy, you do not say, “Hey, you are my enemy.” This is not the way of handling it. No public relations officer will speak like that in an atmosphere of coordination, which is necessary.
The art of handling things is actually the art of life, and these things include your own self. This art of handling things, including yourself, is the art of harmoniously, cooperatively, organically, holistically associating yourself with whatever it is. Sama and dama, therefore, mean internal control of the mind, and external restraint of the sense organs.
Uparti is cessation of all worldly longings. “I have eaten well for sixty years. What is the use of asking for further eating?” The same thing you are eating every day, but the desire is not leaving. You have put on nice clothing, have you not? Why do you go on wanting more and more nice dhotis, saris, and good diet? You have lived in a good house. Okay. How many times you will go on asking for a new house? You have land. You have enjoyed the harvest. Why do you go on repeating it again and again? You have had enough of it. The desire is like a gulf which will swallow any amount of water, and however much you may try to feed it, it will not be satisfied. Desire cannot be quenched by the fulfilment of desire. Desire increases by the fulfilment, as clarified butter when it is poured over fire increases the ferocity of the flame; it does not make it cease. No desire can be fulfilled by its fulfilment. Knowing this, the Yoga Vasishtha says all the wheat and the rice and the delicacies and the wealth of the whole Earth cannot satisfy even one person completely. Such is the vastness of human desire. Knowing this, be calm. This is uparati.
Titiksha means a kind of endurance and toleration that you have to exercise. You cannot expect everything to take place as you want. Things are not always at your beck and call. Where it is possible to change a thing, you can change it. Where you cannot change a thing, you have to bear it. There is an old saying, “Give me the power to change what I can, the will to bear what I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference.” The difficulty is, you cannot know the difference between what you can and what you cannot change. This mixture of two aspects causes tension in the mind. So bear what you cannot change, and change it if you can. If you can change the world, change it, sir. Who is objecting? But if you cannot change it, tolerate it; otherwise, you will be in an emotional tension. Be not in that condition. Uparati is cessation of desire; titiksha is tolerance in regard to conditions prevailing outside, natural as well as social.
Sraddha is faith in that which you are asking for. You should not go to God with a doubt whether He is, or He is not. “O God, if you are there, please come.” He is certainly there. “God is certainly there. It is certain that I am going to attain it. It is certain that the method I am adopting is correct. It is certain that I am progressing every day. I have symptoms and experiences which tell me that I am progressing every day.” Have faith in yourself, faith in the art of the progressive practice of sadhana, faith in God Himself, faith in the scripture which are your guides, and faith in the Guru also. Sraddha is faith in your own self first, faith in the method of practice which you are adopting, faith in your Guru who has initiated you, and faith in the existence of God.
Samadhana is concentration of mind. Be attentive always on that which you are seeking. Your eye is always on that like the consciousness of a target of a bowman who strikes it with an arrow. Concentration is the consciousness inside, fixing itself with its attention on that which it wants. When you want a thing, why should you not be concentrating on it? People say, “I want a thing, but my mind cannot go there.” The reason is that you are not really wanting it. You have got a divided psyche, and so half of the mind goes somewhere else, and another fraction of it goes to what you are thinking you want. If you really want the thing, the mind must go there; and when the mind is not going there, you are not really wanting it. Thus knowing, concentrate your mind.
Sama, dama, uparati, titiksha, sraddha, samadhana are the six virtues, six treasures inwardly, psychologically, emotionally, feelingfully you have to entertain in yourself. You will be happy inside. Through viveka and vairagya you become clarified in your understanding; through the sixfold virtues you become calm in hour heart and mind.
Then comes the last stroke, last but not the least: mumukshutva, that intense longing for it. Actually, people say there is no qualification necessary on your part except wanting it. If you want it, it has to come by Anything. Even a mountain should move if you want it. “O ye of little faith, if you have a modicum of faith as the size of a mustard seed, tell the mountain to move and it shall move.” This is a passage from the New Testament. But a mustard seed of faith is not there, so why will it move? Because you already know it cannot move, what is the use of saying, “Move”? Mumukshutva is the wanting it. You have to remember this in your mind. If you want a thing from the bottom of your heart, it shall be given to you. It may be given to you today itself. It depends upon the intensity of your longing. Very intense longing means today it shall come. With mild longing, it may come after some days; very, very lukewarm wanting means that thing will be provided to you in the next birth, or after ten births. But what you want must be given. Now you must know what it is that you want. Don’t want the wrong things.
By the clarified understanding through viveka and vairagya and by the discipline of the shat sampat method, know what it is that you are longing for, and ask from the bottom of your heart; it shall be poured upon you. Like the cloud of virtues pouring rain of nectar through a Samadhi called dharma megha, to put it in the language of Patanjali Maharshi, God’s grace will be showered upon you as a monsoon flood rising from all sides and making you feel a thrill of completion which passes understanding. These are the sadhana chatushtaya – viveka, vairagya, shat sampat, mumukshutva. These are the ways by which you can make yourself a suitable conducting medium for the ingress of forces which are universal in their nature, natural as well as divine.
The Science of Ishavasya Upanishad
Īśāvāsya (ईशावास्य) is the only one among the Principal Upaniṣads which is part of a Samhita. It is the end part of Śukḻa Yajurveda (Kāṇva recension), consisting of 18 verses in poetry. Being part of a Samhita is a testimony for the authenticity and ancientness of the Upaniṣad. While taking up the study of this very small Upaniṣad, we confine our analytical endeavor to the limits that we have already set, in the case of our previous studies.
This Upaniṣad derives its name from the opening word of its first verse. Īśāvāsya means abode of the Ruler; Īśa is Ruler and āvāsya is abode. The Upaniṣad describes who this Ruler is and how man should yearn to attain to the ultimate principle of this Ruler.
Let us now look at the first verse. It reads thus:
ईशावास्यमिदं सर्वं यत् किंच जगत्यां जगत्
तेन त्यक्तेन भुञ्जीथा मा गृधः कस्यस्विद् धनम् || 1 ||
तेन त्यक्तेन भुञ्जीथा मा गृधः कस्यस्विद् धनम् || 1 ||
īśāvāsyamidaṃ sarvaṃ yat kiṃca jagatyāṃ jagat
tena tyaktena bhuñjīthā mā gṛdhaḥ kasyasvid dhanam (1)
tena tyaktena bhuñjīthā mā gṛdhaḥ kasyasvid dhanam (1)
Meaning: ‘All that is here in this ever-changing world constitutes the abode of the Ruler (He is the in-dweller in everything); therefore, when you take anything here to utilize for your benefit, do it with a sense of renunciation (rather than arrogation); you should not covet others’ means of living (dhana is prey, the thing on which one feeds on)’.
In other words, the world is subject to continuous change; it has a Ruler. The whole world is his abode; that is, He occupies everything here. Nobody has, therefore, any possession right over anything here, but only enjoyment right. So, don’t attempt to arrogate anything to yourself. Further, when you take something for your enjoyment, renunciation must be the guiding principle.
How should we understand these instructions? First of all, please take notice of the mention about ever-changing nature of the world. The westerners believe that it was the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who said for the first time about the world’s ever changing nature. 5th century BC was his life-time. But the declaration in this Upaniṣad must be about 1000 years prior to that, since this is part of Yajur Veda Samhita which belongs to that age.
Then, who is the Ruler mentioned here? The verse itself says that this Ruler is the in-dweller of everything. That is, everything is pervaded by him. We have already understood from our previous studies that the entity pervading everything is nothing but Ātmā which is the ultimate principle ‘SAT-CHIT-ĀNANDA’. It is declared in section 3.7 of Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad that Ātmā is the inner controller of all beings. Being the sole controller, he is called here as the Ruler; he is one without a second. Since he pervades and controls everything, the entire universe is said to be his body (vide 3.7.1 to 3.7.23 of Bṛhadāraṇyaka). With him remains vested all rights over his body, proprietary as well as possessionary. The physical bodies of all beings are only constituents of this universal body; as the Ruler of the whole, he is to see that all these constituents remain in their appropriate places and that they maintain an inter-connection promoting the sustenance of the whole. It is also essential that each constituent should have access to such of other constituents as are necessary for its survival. Therefore, if any particular constituent acquires everything that fancies him and keep the same under his possession and disposal, over and above its actual sustenance needs, it would spell break-down of the system, as some other constituents will be deprived of the essential resources for its survival. That is why this caution of renunciation: ‘enjoy, but don’t take away anything to own exclusive possession’ (tena tyaktena bhuñjīthā, mā gṛdhaḥ kasyasvid dhanam). It is worthwhile to state here that no socialist or other ethical ideas on welfare of the mankind can ever match this declaration in profundity of wisdom and logic.
All that we have seen advocates a reduced inclination to the pursuit of physical pleasures. It is only when we are increasingly prone to physical pleasures that we start to disregard the needs of others and get entangled in all corrupt and wicked practices which spell ruin for the whole system as well as for ourselves.
When we speak of renunciation, a question would naturally arise, “What should we renounce?” We should have something of our own to renounce; but, as clarified above, we have no true ownership or possession right on anything in this world. This dilemma is solved by the next verse which provides the precise answer; Karma (deed or action) is the answer. Our Karma is our own prerogative (karmaṇi eva adhikāraḥ te – कर्मणि एव अधिकारः ते – Gīta 2.47); it is our existential essentiality (Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad 1.1.8). Verse 2 insists that one should live by doing Karma; renouncing Karma is not by refraining from doing it, but by submitting the results thereof to the service of the whole. Such performance of Karma does not cause any bondage to the performer (न कर्म लिप्यते नरे – na karma lipyate nare). The verse points out that those who lived a full life in the past did so by doing Karma in this manner. Therefore, the instruction is to follow the same path. The most important thing to be taken in from this verse is that it asserts the compulsory performance of Karma; withdrawal from performing the Karma is not considered a virtue that would absolve us of bondage. What wards off bondage is the renunciation of the results of Karma; so one is not justified in giving up performance of Karma for the sake of detachment (mā saṅgaḥ astu akarmaṇi – मा सङ्गः अस्तु अकर्मणि – Gīta 2.47; see also Gīta 3.4, 3.9, etc). It was this idea, cumulatively occurring in verses 1 & 2, which the communists later re-discovered, after about 3000 years, in their declaration, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”.
Having thus laid down necessary instructions for proper living, in conformity with the ultimate principle of Ātmā, the Upaniṣad warns against negation of that principle, in verse 3. Those who defy Ātmā and pursue the ways of selfishness are cast into the worlds of utter darkness wherein the sun of enlightenment never rises; he gets more and more entangled in the whirlpools of worldly life and thus becomes ruined (Wisdom will never dawn on those who are carried away by indulgence in sensual pleasures and affluence – Gīta 2.44).
In continuation of this warning against disregard of the principle of Ātmā, the Upaniṣad presents a description about the nature of Ātmā in verses 4 to 8. Verse 4 says that Ātmā is unmoving and the only one entity; it is faster than the mind and ungraspable by the senses; unmoving, it transcends all that is moving and it is only upon Ātmā that Prāṇa projects all actions (of living beings). Ātmā is unmoving because it pervades everywhere and therefore no space to move into. It is only one, since everything is its manifestation and is pervaded by itself. Being not physical, it is not grasped by the senses and being the energy (consciousness) motivating the mind, it must be faster than the mind. Since every moving object is involved in Ātmā, it is said to transcend all; all actions occur as effects of consciousness part of Ātmā, aided by Prāṇa and therefore it is said that all actions are projected by Prāṇa upon it.
It is further explained in verse 5 that Ātmā pervades all. Verses 6 and 7 speak about how the world is viewed by a person, who sees unity in all beings such that all beings are perceived in himself and also himself in all beings; he cannot hate or reject any being and he cannot have either passion or grief.
Now, we come to the most important verse of Īśāvāsya, the verse 8, which describes the features of Ātmā thus:
स पर्यगात् शुक्रं अकायं अव्रणं अस्नाविरं शुद्धं अपापविद्धम्
कविः मनीषी परिभूः स्वयम्भूः याथातथ्यतोर्थान् व्यदथात् शाश्वतीभ्यः समाभ्यः || 8 ||
कविः मनीषी परिभूः स्वयम्भूः याथातथ्यतोर्थान् व्यदथात् शाश्वतीभ्यः समाभ्यः || 8 ||
sa paryagāt śukraṃ akāyaṃ avraṇaṃ asnāviraṃ śuddhaṃ apāpaviddham
kaviḥ manīṣī paribhūḥ svayambhūḥ yāthātathyatorthān vyadathāt śāśvatībhyaḥ samābhyaḥ (8)
kaviḥ manīṣī paribhūḥ svayambhūḥ yāthātathyatorthān vyadathāt śāśvatībhyaḥ samābhyaḥ (8)
Meaning: ‘He pervades all; he is resplendent, bodiless, uninterrupted, without sinews, pure and devoid of evil; he is far-sighted, omniscient, transcendent and self-existing; it is he who ever sustains all realistic objects’.
This is self-explanatory.
In the next six verses, it is asserted that, together with pursuit of knowledge, Karma also is important in attaining immortality. We cannot choose anyone between these two, for the purpose. Those who exclusively pursue any one of these two will only fall into utter darkness. Through the practice of performing Karma, one should overcome Mṛtyu (Death) (mṛtyu is simply the surrender to temptations of Kāma) and through acquiring knowledge aspire to attain immortality (verses 9 to 14). These two, namely, performing Karma and acquiring knowledge go together, not one after another. Mechanical performance of Karma will not yield the required result; in order to draw lessons from experience, we should have sufficient knowledge also. The importance of performance of Karma lies in its serving as a practical exercise for establishing in the mind what is learnt in theory.
Further, immortality is verily the freedom from being felled by Kāma while Death is the state of being felled by Kāma. Gīta describes in 2.62 and 2.63 how a person faces death by submitting himself to Kāma; Bṛhadāraṇyaka says in 1.2.1 that hunger is death; hunger is the urge for devouring the desired things, which is Kāma only. The ignorant and the weak easily fall prey to the prowling Kāma, continuously. Sage Patañjali says in Yogasūtra 1.4 that we are what our state of mind disposes (वृत्तिसारूप्य – vṛttisārūpya). So, when Kāma overtakes us, we lose our true identity, and meet with death; such deaths occur frequently, many times even in a single day, for an unstable mind. After one death, there is a rebirth into an unenlightened form which again faces death and this chain of deaths continues for ever until we get enlightenment and become relieved of further death; this relief from death is called immortality. The deaths and rebirths evidently occur to the same physical person, not to different bodies; this is because when the body is lost, personal identity is lost for ever as we have already seen in Chāndogya (6.9.1 etc) and Bṛhadāraṇyaka (2.4.12, etc.).
The last four verses (15 to 18) of the Upaniṣad present an instance of an aspirant seeking to know and attain to the eternal truth. In verse 15, the seeker finds that the eternal truth is veiled by a golden plate and therefore, as an aspirant for enlightenment he seeks its removal, for which he makes an appeal to Pūṣan, who is responsible for its deployment. See the verse below:
हिरण्मयेन पात्रेण सत्यस्यापिहितं मुखम्
तत्त्वं पूषन् अपावृणु सत्यधर्माय दृष्टये || 15 ||
तत्त्वं पूषन् अपावृणु सत्यधर्माय दृष्टये || 15 ||
hiraṇmayena pātreṇa satyasyāpihitaṃ mukham
tattvaṃ pūṣan apāvṛṇu satyadharmāya dṛṣṭaye (15)
tattvaṃ pūṣan apāvṛṇu satyadharmāya dṛṣṭaye (15)
Satyadharma mentioned here means ‘eternal truth’. What is this golden plate and why is it an obstruction to knowing the eternal truth? The golden vessel is the ever-enticing sensual pleasures provided by physical entities. Gold symbolises that enticement. If we are carried away by this enticement, we would never be able to pursue the path of liberation. Pūṣan is the nourisher, the nourisher of physical endowments; obviously, he is responsible for the deployment of physical features that cause the said enticement. That is why the prayer for removal of enticement is directed to him; the prayer is to the effect that Pūṣan may make the endowments less attractive. This is just like removing the pricked thorn by another thorn.
The appeal in verse 15 is followed up in verse 16. The Pūṣan is entreated to employ the whole range of his reins (व्यूह रश्मिन् समूह – vyūha raśmin samūha) to contain the enticing features of this physical world supported by him, so that the aspirant may sight the real glorious Puruṣa within, who is nothing other than what he (the aspirant) really is. The implication is that the same principle (Puruṣa) pervades in all and he is attained on getting detached from the worldly entanglements of pleasure-pain and such other dual experiences.
Further, it is stated in verse 17 that the body will finally turn to ashes, while Prāṇa, which sustains life, is eternal (as it represents the ultimate principle of existence). Therefore, it is prayed that the thoughts about desires be extinguished.
(क्रतो स्मर कृतम् स्मर – krato smara kṛtam smara
kratu – desire; smara – memory, thought; kṛtam- done, extinguished).
Having thus laid down two paths (one of sensual pleasures and the other of enlightenment) to choose between, the Upaniṣad concludes the instructions with a prayer in verse 18 for being led in the right path. The prayer is directed to Agni, the omniscient Lord of all, for destruction of all deceiving evils. Agni is the symbol of knowledge and, therefore, the prayer directed to him implies seeking of enlightenment for distinguishing what is wrong and what is right. Please see the verse below:
अग्ने नय सुपथा राये अस्मान् विश्वानि देव वयुनानि विद्वान्
युयोध्यस्मज्जुहुराणमेनो भूयिष्ठां ते नम उक्तिम् विधेम || 18 ||
युयोध्यस्मज्जुहुराणमेनो भूयिष्ठां ते नम उक्तिम् विधेम || 18 ||
agne naya supathā rāye asmān viśvāni deva vayunāni vidvān
yuyodhyasmajjuhurāṇameno bhūyiṣṭhāṃ te nama uktim vidhema (18)
yuyodhyasmajjuhurāṇameno bhūyiṣṭhāṃ te nama uktim vidhema (18)
supathā rāye – supremely virtuous course; supatha – virtuous course, rāya – king, prince; vayunāni vidvān – having all knowledge.
Let us also pray for being led in the right path leading to enlightenment.
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[This discourse material is a compilation from the reference above as well as other sources for a prepared lecture for delivering at Vedanta Class of Sri Ganesha Temple which is gratefully acknowledged. I do not claim anything as original though I have included my explanations and comments elaborately suitably editing. Anybody is free to download partly or fully this discourse, modify and redistribute this as well as other discourses from the blog Hindu Reflections <nrsrini.blogspot.com> for spreading the wisdom of Vedas and scriptures further with customary acknowledgement. These lectures are posted on the blog for the benefit of those who are not able to attend my lectures personally due to personal reasons or due to not living in Nashville or able to go through the various sources as I have done. ]