kaThopaniShad Series Part – 34
In the previous mantra (2.3.11) it was said that brahman/Self is to be realized by subduing the senses and concentrate on the Pure Consciousness that is bereft of any modification of the mind/intellect. A question would arise, then, that it would be possible to apprehend brahman if It were an object of the activity of the instruments such as the mind. Further, in the resolving of the mind-activity, there will be no apprehending of brahman and therefore one concludes that brahman is verily non-existent. For, in the world that which is available to the instruments (of knowledge, etc.) alone is admitted to be existent and the contrary is non-existent. Therefore, the method, yoga, prescribed to apprehend brahman is of no use. Also, since brahman is not available/apprehensible, It is to be known as non-existent. In the wake of such a contingency, the upaniShad clarifies:
नैव वाचा न मनसा प्राप्तुं शक्यो न चक्षुषा ।
अस्तीति ब्रुवतोऽन्यत्र कथं तदुपलभ्यते ॥ १२ ॥
न एव never वाचा by speech न मनसा nor by the mind प्राप्तुं शक्यः possible to attain/obtain न चक्षुषा not by eye (senses) अस्ति ‘It is’ इति thus ब्रुवतोऽन्यत्र other than who says कथं how तत् That उपलभ्यते is attained?
Atman cannot be attained by speech, by the mind, or by the eye. How can It be realised in any other way than by the affirmation of him who says: “He is”?
brahman is impossible to be attained/realized by the medium of speech, or the mind or by the eye. This only means that none of the instruments of knowledge or action can apprehend brahman. Yet despite brahman being devoid of any attributes, since It is admitted/ known to be the source of the creation, It indeed exists. For, whatever is the ground of resolution has to be an existent entity. That is, the created universe, upon dissolution, has to lapse into its cause and such an entity, brahman, has to be admitted to be an existent one. Thus, this effect that is the cosmos, which is understood by an ascending series of subtlety, is apprehended as ‘is’ / ‘existent’ invariably. Even when the intellect is being attenuated through the sublation of objects, the intellect dissolves only as inseparable from existence, sat. The intellect, indeed, is the proof for our determining the true nature of existence and non-existence.
The true nature of existence and non-existence is well brought out by the bhagavadgItA verse 2.16:
नासतो विद्यते भावो नाभावो विद्यते सतः ।
उभयोरपि दृष्टोऽन्तस्त्वनयोस्तत्त्वदर्शिभिः || 2.16 ||
Of the unreal there is no being; the real has no nonexistence. But the nature of both these, indeed, has been realized by the seers of Truth.
If there were not to be any source of the cosmos, one would apprehend the effect as endowed with non-existence alone. But such is not our experience. We experience the world as ‘it is’, ‘it is’, just as the effects of clay, etc. namely pot, etc. are experienced as endowed with clay, etc. Therefore one has to understand the source of the universe, the Self, as existent alone. Why? It is because, while the followers of the vedAnta who hold the Self to be existent, those others distinct from them, who do not accept the Self, but admit of non-existence, will never realize the Self, brahman, in Its true nature. It is only that aspirant who proceeds with the faith in the scriptural position of existence of the Self, finally gets to realize It as It is. Therefore one has to desist from adhering to the demoniacal position of denying existence to the Self:
अस्तीत्येवोपलब्धव्यस्तत्त्वभावेन चोभयोः ।
अस्तीत्येवोपलब्धस्य तत्त्वभावः प्रसीदति ॥ १३ ॥
अस्ति इति एव as existing alone उपलब्धव्यः It has to be known तत्त्वभावेन च in Its true nature too उभयोः of these two अस्ति इति एव as existence alone उपलब्धस्य for the one who realizes thus तत्त्वभावः the true nature प्रसीदति becomes directly known.
He is to be realised first as Existence limited by adjuncts, upAdhi-s, and then in His true transcendental nature. Of these two aspects, Atman realised as Existence leads the knower to the realisation of His true nature.
The Atman has to be understood to be verily existent since all its effects, the entire cosmos, starting from the adjunct that is the intellect, is realized by all to be ‘existent.’ In truth, the Atman is free of these limiting adjuncts and immutable. The effect does not exist as different from the cause as taught by the chhAndogya upaniShad 6.1.4 ‘वाचारंभणं विकारो नामधेयं मृत्तिकेत्येव सत्यम्’ [’All transformation has speech as its basis, and it is name only. Earth as such is the reality.’] The Self has to be understood in its two dimensions: 1. As endowed with the limiting adjuncts and 2. As free of all these adjuncts. The first understanding will be the foundation, the prerequisite, for the second realization. The second realization, the crucial one, is had based on the upaniShadic passages such as ‘neti, neti’ [‘not this, not this’] (Br.up. 2.3.6), and ‘asthUlam anaNu’ [‘not gross, not subtle’] (Br.up.3.8.8). He who has the first stated understanding of ‘the Atman exists’ will be rewarded with the second stated realization. The absence of the first understanding will not confer the second. That is the purport of this mantra.
When one gets the vision, the realization, of the absolute Reality, then there is nothing that separates one from that Truth.
यदा सर्वे प्रमुच्यन्ते कामा येऽस्य हृदि श्रिताः ।
अथ मर्त्योऽमृतो भवत्यत्र ब्रह्म समश्नुते ॥ १४ ॥
यदा when सर्वे all प्रमुच्यन्ते leave कामाः desires येऽस्य those in his हृदि heart श्रिताः resting अथ then मर्त्यः mortal अमृतः immortal भवति becomes अत्र here ब्रह्म brahman समश्नुते (he) attains.
When all the desires that dwell in the heart fall away, then the mortal becomes immortal and here attains brahman.
When all desires that existed in his intellect/mind are annihilated owing to the realization that there is nothing that remains/existing that is worthy of desiring, then the mortal one who assumed himself to be so before realization, now knows he is immortal. This is because the basic avidyA, ignorance, that, along with desire and action to fulfil the same, termed ‘death’, now becomes sublated. An important aspect to be noted is that this mantra specifies the buddhi, intellect, to be the abode of desires. That shows that the Self, Atman, is not the repository of desires. Thus, in the absence of anything that can lead to transmigration, and there being no possibility of departure, the ‘person’ attains brahman here itself, in this body itself. All bondage ceases, like the blowing out of a lamp. When, however, do the desires become extinct along with their root?
यदा सर्वे प्रभिद्यन्ते हृदयस्येह ग्रन्थयः ।
अथ मर्त्योऽमृतो भवत्येतावद्ध्यनुशासनम् ॥ १५ ॥
यदा सर्वे when all प्रभिद्यन्ते become severed हृदयस्य of the heart इह even while alive ग्रन्थयः the knots अथ thereupon मर्त्यः the mortal अमृतः immortal भवति becomes एतावत् this much alone हि indeed is अनुशासनम् the teaching
When all the ties of the heart are severed here in this body/life, then the mortal becomes immortal. This much alone is the teaching.
The ignorance-based ideas of the mind are what are termed ‘knots’ since they bind the person to the not-self. These take the forms such as ‘I am an embodied one, this wealth is mine, I am a happy one, a miserable one’. Owing to Self-realization of the form ‘I am brahman indeed, not the transmigrating one’, there occurs the continuous flow of brahman-specific mental modifications. These bring about the cessation of the ignorance-based ideas and their off-shoot that are the desires along with their root, verily ignorance, avidyA. When all desires of the mind thus become annihilated even while living, the mortal one becomes immortal. This much alone is the esoteric teaching of all the upaniShad-s, nothing more. It is esoteric because only very few people aspire to attain self-realization and put efforts in that direction.
By the realization of brahman that is free of all differences as none other than one’s self, all the avidyA-based knots are snapped. Thereupon the knower becomes brahman even while living in this very body. This is what is stated by the mantra ‘atra brahma samashnutE’ (ibid 2.3.14). The bRRhadAraNyaka upaniShad 4.4.6 too teaches in similar tone: ‘na tasya prANA utkrAmanti, brahmaiva san brahmApyeti’ [‘his subtle body does not depart from the gross body; being verily brahman he attains brahman.’]
Those who are not adepts in the path of attaining the above realization but are involved in the meditations of different deities and those who are not even of this calibre but deserve only saMsAra, the series of birth and death, alone transmigrate from the present body upon death. For such people the upaniShad specifies the path that they will take upon death.
It is to be noted that as long as the absolute Reality is not realized, there is no way one ceases to be a samsArin. In other words, if one has to be free from the transmigratory circle, realizing the Self alone is the way.