kaThopaniShad Series Part – 29
The Guru, Yama, is delineating the topic of ‘brahman’ that he has commenced already a few mantra-s before.
य एष सुप्तेषु जागर्ति कामं कामं पुरुषो निर्मिमाणः तदेव शुक्रं तद्ब्रह्म तदेवामृतमुच्यते ।
तस्मिल्लोकाः श्रिताः सर्वे तदु नात्येति कश्चन । एतद्वै तत् ॥ ८ ॥
य he एष who सुप्तेषु while asleep जागर्ति keeps awake कामं कामं desirable objects पुरुषः the sentient being निर्मिमाणः producing तत् that एव alone शुक्रं Pure तत् that is ब्रह्म brahman तत् that एव alone is अमृतम् immortal उच्यते said to be.
तस्मिन् In It लोकाः the worlds श्रिताः contained सर्वे all तदु that न do not अत्येति pass beyond कश्चन none एतत् that वै indeed is तत् That.
He, the puruSha, who remains awake while the sense-organs are asleep, shaping one lovely form after another, that indeed is the Pure, that is brahman and that alone is called the Immortal. All worlds are contained in Him and none can pass beyond. This, verily, is That.
When the individual sleeps, is it that there is nothing in that state? There is one entity that keeps awake. Doing what? It keeps producing and supplying all that the individual desires as objects of enjoyment. Such an entity has to be a sentient one which is not part of the inert group consisting of the mind-body. The mantra is referring to the state of dream when the sense organs are at rest but only the mind is functioning. Still, for the mind to be functional, there is the need for the sentient Atman to be in the background. And it is this Atman that is spoken of as the Pure and nothing else that is beyond comprehension. All the upaniShad-s have for their ultimate purport this eternal, indestructible Self.
Further, all the different worlds including this world of ours, are contained in It which is the ultimate Cause. Just like all the clay-products can be understood to exist in clay. This is one way of the upaniShad to teach the ‘existence’ of brahman. Since the effect cannot exist in any other entity than its material cause, so too there has to be a cause in which all this manifest world exists. That cause is brahman, the sat. This word ‘sat’ verily means ‘Existence’. It is not merely the existence of something that comes into being and exists, like a pot, but the Pure Eternal Existence that exists irrespective of the existence of the effects. Everything else derives its existence from this. It is the knowledge of this sat that constitutes the liberating knowledge.
The veda makes an incessant and sincere effort to bring this knowledge within the grasp of seekers. Mere ratiocinating will not help. Nor will be of help those who have a crooked mental outlook. It is a sincere and committed application of one’s mental and intellectual resources to the serious study and understanding of the Atman through the upaniShad-s with the help of competent masters that can bring this knowledge within one’s ken. With this central message in the background the veda makes untiring efforts to present the Atman in a number of ways with the wish, hope, that the seeker succeeds in getting the knowledge through some or the other method:
अग्निर्यथैको भुवनं प्रविष्टो
रूपं रूपं प्रतिरूपो बभूव ।
रूपं रूपं प्रतिरूपो बहिश्च ॥ ९ ॥
अग्नि: यथा just as fire एकः being one भुवनं प्रविष्टः has entered the world रूपं रूपं taking every form प्रतिरूपः reflection बभूव attained एकः तथा similarly being one सर्वभूतान्तरात्मा the Self-of-all रूपं रूपं takes every form प्रतिरूपः reflection बहिः च and is outside them.
As the same non-dual fire, after it has entered the world, becomes different according to whatever it burns, so also the same non-dual Atman, dwelling in all beings, becomes different according to whatever It enters. And It exists also without.
The upaniShad is embarking on giving certain analogies in order to make our understanding of the nature of the Self easier. First the fire-analogy is presented here. Fire, as an entity, is one. It is present in a latent manner in everything that is combustible. The mantra puts it in a poetic way: the non-dual fire has entered, as it were, every combustible material and has taken up that form, as it were. The idea is: even though the combustible materials are myriad, fire that is said to be inherent in them, however, is one. Thus it is as if the non-dual fire has become manifold, in so many forms.
Even so, the non-dual Self, brahman, has entered this world of innumerable names and forms and exists in all of them. It is as though the non-dual Self has become so many. And how has this to be understood? It is the Self which forms the core of everything that we encounter as separate from one another. By saying ‘core’ what is meant is that ‘the Self is the essential reality in each object, while the name and form of the object is unreal, insubstantial. When we take people, the Self is the innermost essence, the Atman, in each of us, while the body, mind, etc. are the insubstantial elements in us. But then, does the One Atman really become many and therefore get divided? No. It is ever One only even though it appears that it is existing as many in each object. The Self is indivisible. It is present in each object not in any corner but pervades the entire objective world, in and through. There is no object or place, even in between objects, that is not pervaded by Atman. Just for the sake of convenience of expression and comprehension the mantra says that the Self gets variedly reflected.
Another analogy is given here:
वायुर्यथैको भुवनं प्रविष्टो
रूपं रूपं प्रतिरूपो बभूव ।
रूपं रूपं प्रतिरूपो बहिश्च ॥ १० ॥
वायुः यथा just as air एकः is one भुवनं the world प्रविष्टः has entered रूपं रूपं every form प्रतिरूपः reflection बभूव attained एकः तथा similarly being one सर्वभूतान्तरात्मा the self-of-all रूपं रूपं every form प्रतिरूपः reflection बहिः च and outside them.
As the same non-dual air, after it has entered the world, becomes different according to whatever it enters, so also the same non-dual Atman, dwelling in all beings, becomes different according to whatever It enters. And It exists also without.
Air has entered every living being as the prANa, the life force. In this way air, though one, has attained several forms, as it were, and is available in many loci. By this much it cannot be said that air is multiple. It remains one only. In the same way the Atman though one only is reflected in the various bodies. The reflections are many owing to the manifoldness of the reflecting media.
Yet another example is given with a more profound message:
सूर्यो यथा सर्वलोकस्य चक्षु –
र्न लिप्यते चाक्षुषैर्बाह्यदोषैः ।
न लिप्यते लोकदुःखेन बाह्यः ॥ ११ ॥
सूर्यः यथा just as the sun सर्वलोकस्य चक्षुः being the eye of the entire world न लिप्यते is untouched by चाक्षुषैः बाह्यदोषैः by the seen outside defects एकः तथा similarly being one सर्वभूतान्तरात्मा the self-of-all न लिप्यते is untouched लोकदुःखेन by the misery of the world बाह्यः being outside the world.
As the sun, which helps all eyes to see, is not affected by the blemishes of the eyes or of the external things revealed by it, so also the one Atman, dwelling in all beings, is never contaminated by the misery of the world, being outside it.
This analogy comes very close to the topic on hand: the Atman. The sun is considered the illumining power that enables every sentient being in creation to perceive objects. The vedic system holds the sun-god, Aditya, to be the presiding deity in the organ eye of beings, blessing the organ with the power of perception of colours and forms. The perceived objects are of a varied nature, some holy and others unclean, unholy, like urine and excreta. In the orthodox practice, the sight of these unholy objects is said to cause impurity to the person who beholds them. On the other hand, the sight of holy things, like a learned brAhmaNa, a cow, a married woman loyal to her husband, are said to bring merit to the beholder. Keeping this practice in mind the mantra says that the sun, even though the illuminer of all objects, holy and otherwise, is not touched by the merit or demerit arising out of the beholder seeing them. The demerit, for instance, can be admitted to accrue only to the person who beholds them and not to the illumining power, the sun. Similarly the Atman, though the power lending the sentiency to all beings is never touched by the sins, etc. of the beings. The Self transcends all objectivity and therefore is never touched by the characteristics of the objective world.
Sentient beings, owing to the fundamental ignorance of their true Atman-nature, superimpose the mind-body complex on the Self and identify with the merits, etc. that really are only properties of the not-self, the mind. Surely these do not inhere in the Atman. The impurity pertaining to the superimposed snake, silver and water does not inhere in their substratum the rope, the shell and the desert land. These impurities have arisen owing to erroneously perceiving the rope, etc. as snake, etc. Surely the rope, etc. are outside the purview of the error and the error-born defects.
In the same way people ignorant of the true nature of the Self superimpose on the Self the false notions of actions, agent and fruit (akin to the superimposing the snake, etc. on the rope, etc.) and experience misery born of birth, disease, death, etc. Surely, the Atman, being totally outside these wrong identifications and their effects, is never tainted by these. This is the central message of the upaniShad. He who grasps it correctly is instantly released from the error and the error-born effects called saMsAra.