kaThopaniShad Series Part – 30
Continuing the teaching of the nature of brahman, the AchArya, Yama, says:
एको वशी सर्वभूतान्तरात्मा
एकं रूपं बहुधा यः करोति ।
तमात्मस्थं येऽनुपश्यन्ति धीरा-
स्तेषां सुखं शाश्वतं नेतरेषाम् ॥ १२ ॥
एकः One वशी Ruler सर्वभूतान्तरात्मा of the inmost Self of all beings एकं One रूपं form बहुधा manifold यः He करोति does तम् Him आत्मस्थं situated in the mind ये those अनुपश्यन्ति who perceive धीराः wise तेषां for them सुखं happiness शाश्वतं eternal न not इतरेषाम् for others.
There is one Supreme Ruler, the inmost Self of all beings, who makes His one form manifold. Eternal happiness belongs to the wise, who perceive Him within themselves—not to others.
The upaniShad repeatedly stresses the secondless nature of brahman. brahman, being One only, naturally is the all-pervading Lord, not in need of any other entity to either establish Its existence or to support its self-effulgent nature. There is none that equals brahman or surpasses It. If such an entity were there which either equals or surpasses brahman, it would be wrong to stress the one-only nature of brahman. Also, brahman is the controller of the entire created universe. There is nothing in creation that surpasses the Order that is in place due to brahman, in which the world functions. How would this be established? By knowing, from the upaniShad-s, that brahman is the inmost Self of every entity in creation, it becomes clear that there is nothing closest, intimate to oneself than one’s Self. This Self is being termed ‘brahman’ by the upaniShad. This One-only Self, though eternal and is pure consciousness, owing to the upAdhi-s (limiting adjuncts) created by names and forms, etc., appears as though many in number. The power that brings about this many-ness is none other than this Atman Itself in Its Pure Existence. In other words, the Pure Existence that is Atman alone is what appears as this created universe by Its unimaginable power. Where can one identify this Self in oneself? It is the duty of the aspirant to take up this question and ponder the shAstram and his own experience and ‘locate’ It in his own self, the mind-apparatus , where alone one can recognize the Self as the sentient being.
It should, however, be borne in mind that the body-mind apparatus is not the locus or support of the Self, for the Self is not a concrete object. It is of the nature of extreme subtlety, pervading the entire universe like space. Thus, being of not a formed nature, It cannot be supported by the body-mind. On the other hand, It is to be apprehended in oneself just as one would recognize one’s face in the mirror. Those who, controlling their mind and sense/motor organs get to know of the Self through the teaching of the AchArya and the scripture, succeed in getting the direct vision of the Atman. They alone, having identified themselves with brahmnan-Atman, verily the Supreme Lord, are assured of the highest and unending bliss. Not others will succeed in such realization since they are turned towards the external world and therefore devoid of discrimination. The loss for them arises due to the Self being covered even though It is their very inmost Self.
मेको बहूनां यो विदधाति कामान् ।
तमात्मस्थं येऽनुपश्यन्ति धीरा-
स्तेषां शान्तिः शाश्वती नेतरेषाम् ॥ १३ ॥
नित्यः Eternal अनित्यानां among non-eternal चेतनः conscious चेतनानाम् among conscious एकः One बहूनां many यः he who विदधाति fulfils कामान् desires तम् Him आत्मस्थं residing in one’s heart ये those अनुपश्यन्ति realize धीरा: wise तेषां for them शान्तिः peace शाश्वती eternal न not इतरेषाम् for others.
There is One who is the eternal Reality among non-eternal objects, the one truly conscious Entity among conscious objects and who, though non-dual, fulfils the desires of many. Eternal peace belongs to the wise, who perceive Him within themselves — not to others.
brahman/ Atman is the One Entity that is absolutely Eternal among all those who/which are only temporal. There are several entities in creation that are sentient, like brahmA. Just as water which is naturally cool becomes endowed with the attribute of heat only due to contact with fire, so too do all sentient beings in creation draw their sentiency from the absolutely sentient brahman/Atman. All sentient beings depend on brahman for their sentiency. While this is so, brahman, being naturally sentient, has no need to draw its sentience from anything else.
Apart from being the source of all sentiency in creation, brahman is also the source that grants the fruit of all actions to the doers of actions. Being One only, brahman manages this function of granting the fruit of actions to all the doers of action. Only those who realize the Atman/ brahman finally identify themselves with the infinite peace, which is verily their innate nature. Being one’s innate nature, there is no way one does not realize this infinite bliss. Those who do not realize brahman as their very Atman will not realize the infinite bliss. This is because, brahman is non-different from Atman, the very self of all. Since brahman is eternal, consciousness and bliss, the upaniShadic teaching of identity of the self with brahman automatically confers the innately blissful nature on the aspirant. The aspirant is none other than the eternal peace that is brahman. It is only because peace is one’s true nature that once realized to be that, one remains so forever.
A question is raised by the upaniShad itself regarding the nature of the Atman that is the topic of the current discussion:
तदेतदिति मन्यन्तेऽनिर्देश्यं परमं सुखम् ।
कथं नु तद्विजानीयां किमु भाति विभाति वा ॥ १४ ॥
तत् that एतत् is this इति thus मन्यन्ते realize अनिर्देश्यं indescribable परमं supreme सुखम् joy कथं how नु indeed तत् that विजानीयां shall I know किमु whether भाति it shines विभाति वा or brightly shines
The sages realise that indescribable Supreme Joy as “This is That.” How can I realise It? Is It self-luminous? Does It shine brightly, or not?
In the previous mantra the joy/bliss of the Self was shown to be something that is subjective; verily the subject and not an objective one. Now, the question arises as to how indeed this has to be understood. Here the mantra makes it clear that the bliss that is the very nature of the Self is not an objective one; that is, the true native joy of the Self is not to be equated with or had from objects. The word ‘anirdeshyam’ tells us that this Self which is joy itself, is not an object that can be pointed out as ‘this.’ That is because the joy referred to here happens to be the very self of the pointer who points to an outside object. The Self of oneself cannot be the object of oneself. This also shows that it cannot be comprehended by one who is not trained in the manner that is conducive to knowing the nature of the Self. Yet, it should not be concluded that one can never know/realize the Atman since it is a non-object, aviShaya. Those advanced spiritual aspirants who have transcended the realm of object-generated joy, by not craving them, come to realize the Supreme Joy that is not an object but verily the subject.
Then the question ‘how, in what manner, can I know that Truth?’ arises. The reply to this is: when one takes up the sAdhanA to realize that there is nothing outside oneself to be sought, then by forgoing those petty objects of pleasure one gets the ability to know the Atman which is joy Itself as ‘This is the greatest joy, verily myself. Does the Atman shine by itself, enabling every other cognition that arises as ‘I know this’ in the jIva as clearly knowable by ones’ intellect or, not?
Now the reply comes in the sequel.
न तत्र सूर्यो भाति न चन्द्रतारकं
नेमा विद्युतो भान्ति कुतोऽयमग्निः ।
तमेव भान्तमनुभाति सर्वं
तस्य भासा सर्वमिदं विभाति ॥ १५ ॥
न तत्र सूर्यः the sun does not भाति shine न nor चन्द्रतारकं moon and stars न इमा nor these विद्युतो lightnings भान्ति shine कुतः how indeed अयम् this अग्निः fire? तम् एव भान्तम् Its shine alone अनु भाति shine सर्वं all this तस्य भासा by Its shine सर्वम् all इदं this विभाति shines.
The sun does not shine there, nor the moon and the stars, nor these lightnings – not to speak of this fire. He shining, everything shines after Him. By His light all this is lighted.
Here the core characteristic of brahman is brought out. brahman is self-effulgent, self-luminous. It does not require illumination from any other source. On the other hand, It is the source by which everything else is illumined. So, the luminous bodies that are the sun, the moon, the stars, the fire and even the lightnings do not give any light to brahman. This is stated by the upaniShad because these bodies can and do light up things of the world. But brahman, being self-luminous, does not need the help of these for being luminous.
(to be continued…)