The kenopaniShat – Part 2
The first mantra of this upaniShat is about that Power which is instrumental in enlivening, enabling the body-mind complex. Which is the Power by which impelled the mind functions? In other words, which is the entity that ‘sends on errand’ the mind to do its bidding? The wording of the mantra is such that it wards off the trivial aspect: the body-mind complex acts impelled by the person’s desire, words and actions. The aspirant here is the one who has risen above this mundane level where these three, desire, etc. are alone admitted/known to impel the body-mind complex. He is intent upon knowing that extraordinary entity that is not generally known to the worldly people who have no exposure to the vedAnta. Thus the mantra has the extra word ‘sent’ (preShitam) which has the sense of ‘very effectively impelled’.
Objection: It is well known that the mind which is independent functions in its field by itself, unimpelled by any extraneous factor. Hence, how does the question ‘Impelled by what does the mind function in its field?’ stand reason?
Reply: If the mind is independent in functioning in its field of operation, then everyone would desist from contemplating what is detrimental to oneself. With full knowledge one resolves to do that which is not good to him. Even when prevented (by others) from doing that which would result in extreme misery one does not pay heed to the advice and goes about doing that. Therefore it is quite reasonable to enquire as to that impelling entity behind the mind.
The mantra further enquires as to the entity that impels the life force which goes about its functions. The adjective ‘first’ (‘prathamaH’) in respect of the prANa is quite in order since it is in the presence of prANa do all other organs perform their allotted functions. Who indeed is the one that sets the organ of speech in motion, enabling people to engage in speech? So also which is the divine force behind the eye and the ear in seeing and hearing?
Considering the question to be of a high degree of maturity and therefore the one who has posed it too to be of that order, the Guru replies to the question on the impeller of the mind, etc. organs and the method of such impelling by that divine being:
श्रोत्रस्य श्रोत्रं मनसो मनो यद्वाचो ह वाचं स उ प्राणस्य प्राणश्चक्षुषश्चक्षुरतिमुच्य धीराः प्रेत्यास्माल्लोकादमृता भवन्ति ॥ २ ॥
श्रोत्रस्य श्रोत्रं Ear of the ear मनसः मनः Mind of the mind यत् वाचः वाचं that which is the speech of speech स उ प्राणस्य प्राणः He is the prANa of the prANa चक्षुषः चक्षुः the Eye of the eye अतिमुच्य having freed themselves धीराः the wise men प्रेत्य अस्मात् upon death from this लोकात् world अमृताः liberated/deathless भवन्ति they become.
The teacher replied: It is the Ear of the ear, the Mind of the mind, the Speech of speech, the Life of life and the Eye of the eye. Having detached the Self from the sense-organs and renounced the world, the Wise attain to Immortality.
The reply comes in the following form:
That entity that impels the ear, the organ of hearing, is the Ear of the ear. Objection: When the question has been of the form ‘Which is the one that impels the ear, etc.?’ it is incongruent for the reply to be in the above stated form ‘Ear of the ear’ instead of answering in positive terms: ‘This, so and so is that entity’.
Reply: This is no fault since it is not possible to specify that entity by any other means. If the director (impeller) of the ear, etc. were to be someone who has a distinct nature/characteristic of his own other than the directing of the ear, etc., like the wielder of the sickle (who is surely a person who has his distinct characteristic as a certain individual apart from the function of wielding the sickle) then it would be wrong to reply the way the Guru has done. The impeller is not someone who has its own characteristic action unlike the case of the one who uses a sickle/mower. By looking at the actions of the assemblage of organs such as the ear we understand the existence of a ‘person’ revealed by his faculties such as thinking, resolving, determining, etc. And such a ‘person’ is someone who is not himself an assemblage of the ear, etc. organs for whose sake alone this assemblage exists. For example, a house which is an assemblage of doors, windows, walls, pillars, etc. exists for the sake of the person who resides in the house, who himself is distinct from the house-assemblage. Since the assemblage of ears, etc. exists for someone other than the assemblage we conclude that the user of the assemblage is different and therefore the reply given by the Guru is quite in order: ‘the Ear of the ear, etc.’
Question: What indeed is the meaning of the expression ‘Ear of the ear, etc.’? Surely the ear has no use to gain from another ear, just as light has nothing to gain from light.
Reply: This is the meaning of the words ‘Ear of the ear’: It is well known that the ear is capable of revealing its object, sound. That capability of the ear is present when the sentient Atman-light which is eternal, non-assemblage, the innermost self is present and not otherwise. Therefore the words ‘Ear of the ear, etc.’ are quite in order. Thus, the ‘Ear’ referred to here is the Atman. And the ‘ear’ (in lower case) is the organ ear. The upaniShadic passages ‘आत्मनैवायं ज्योतिषास्ते’ ‘this person sits by/because of the light that is the Self’ [Br.up.4.3.6], ‘तस्य भासा सर्वमिदं विभाति’ ‘by Its shine everything else shines’ [kaThopaniShad 2.2.15], etc. In the bhagavadgitA too we have ‘यदादित्यगतं तेजो जगद्भासयतेऽखिलम्…’ ‘that light of the Sun which illumines the entire world…know that to be My Light’ [BG 15.12] and ‘क्षेत्रं क्षेत्री तथा कृत्स्नं प्रकाशयति भारत’ ‘the Knower-of-the-field illumines the entire field, O bhArata’ [BG 13.33]. In the kaThopaniShad (2.2.13) too we have this pithy verse ‘नित्योऽनित्यानां चेतनश्चेतनानाम्’ ‘He is the Eternal among non-eternals; He is the Sentient among the sentients…’ It is popularly believed that the ears, etc. assemblage of organs alone constitute the innate sentience of everyone. This is dispelled by the above teaching. Therefore, there does exist a Power cognizable only by the informed ones which is innermost, immutable, beyond birth, old age, death and fear, which is the Ear, etc. of even the ear, etc. which is the source of the capacity of the ear, etc. Thus understood, the reply given by the Guru ‘Ear of the ear, etc.’ is free of any defect.
Continuing in the same vein, the reply goes on to say: ‘the Mind of the mind’. The mind is the inner organ. Indeed the mind, without enlivened by the light of the sentient Atman, is incapable of performing its functions of resolving, determining, etc. Therefore it is said ‘Mind of the mind’. Here too, as in the case of the ear, the Mind is the sentient Atman and the ‘mind’ (in the lower case) is the inner organ. It is to be noted that the word ‘mind’ is used to include the mind as well as the intellect, for the function of the mind is resolving and that of the intellect is determining.
It is the ‘Speech of the speech’. Because It is the Ear of the ear, Mind of the mind, Speech of the speech…therefore those who realize It become freed of saMsAra. In other words, the Supreme Sentient Power that is behind all activities of the universe is the Only Reality, the knowledge of which liberates a person. Why do we call this ‘liberating’ knowledge? It is because of ignorance pertaining to this knowledge alone one wrongly thinks he, endowed with the ear, etc. himself is the supreme sentient being and with this liberating knowledge, erroneous knowledge dies. This, taking the insentient to be sentient is the cause of saMsAra and the remedy lies in correctly knowing the Power behind the capability of the ear, etc.
It is the ‘prANa of prANa’ because the capacity of prANa to do its functions (breathing, etc.) is due to that Sentiency that is the Atman. Without the presiding Atman the prANa is incapable of its function. The taittirIya upaniShad says ‘को ह्येवान्यात्कः प्राण्यात् यदेष आकाश आनन्दो न स्यात्’ ‘who indeed will inhale and who will exhale, if this brahman be not there….’ [2.7.1]. The kaThopaniShat (2.2.3) too says ‘ऊर्ध्वं प्राणमुन्नयत्यपानं प्रत्यगस्यति’ ’Who pushes the prANa upward and impels the apAna inward’ . In this kenopaniShat (1.9) too it will be said in the sequel ‘येन प्राणः प्रणीयते तदेव ब्रह्म त्वं विद्धि …’ ‘…that which man does not smell with prANa (the organ of smell), but that by which prANa is impelled, know that to be brahman.’