The muNDakopaniShat – Part 13
The first mantra in the third section of the first chapter of this Upaniṣat is about the ‘two birds’ that are perched on the ‘tree.’ This imagery conveys the idea that the jīvātmā and the Paramātmā (the two birds), have the body apparatus as the tree where they reside. The body is the abode, locus, where the two, jīva and Īśwara, are manifest. They can be known, realized, too, in the body. The body is called a ‘tree’ since just as a tree, the body too, gets destroyed. The two entities are clinging together the same tree. This tree has its root in the ‘high’ and the shoots in the ‘low’. Its origin, source, is the ‘avyakta’, unmanifest, which is the ‘high’. It, the body, is called ‘kṣetra’, the field, for it is the platform where the experiences of joy and sorrow, as a result of one’s actions, are had by the jīva (ref. Bhagavad gītā 13.1), which, put together is the ‘low’. The jīva resides in the body that is the abode for the subtle body, sūkṣma śarīra, which also has the basic avidyā (causal body, kāraṇa śarīra), the desires, actions and the nascent tendencies that are produced constantly owing to engaging in actions.
Of course, Īśwara has no such adjuncts, upādhi, like the jīva has. Of the two that are in embrace, one, the jīva, kṣetrajña, (knower of the ‘field’ that is the body) perched on the subtle-body tree, constantly tastes the fruit of the tree, that is the fruit of its actions, in the form of joy and sorrow. What is the taste of this fruit? It constitutes the manifold variety of experiences one gets in life. The experiencing of the fruit of action happens due to absence of discrimination. What is the right discrimination that is implied here? It is the knowledge that the self, Ātman, is a non-doer and non-experiencer, akartā, abhoktā. Such being the case, there is no question of any experiencing happening for the Ātman. All experiencing is at the level of the body-mind-instruments-complex , the anātmā, not-self. Devoid of the knowledge pertaining to discriminate the Atman from the anātman, one thinks all the experiences are for him, by him alone.
The jīva’s counterpart, Īśwara, however, does not taste anything. For, His nature is ‘nitya-śuddha-buddha-mukta’, eternal, pure, consciousness and ever-liberated. He is omniscient and has for his adjunct, upādhi, the total sattva, purity. He is the impeller, prerayitā, of both the bhojya, the experienced objects, and the bhokṭā, the experiencer-consciousness. The impelling on the part of Īśvara, Brahman, does not involve any action/transformation on the part of Brahman but happens by Its mere presence. He remains as a mere witness of the jīva’s actions and experiences. Like a king, by mere presence, gets all the work done by his servants.
समाने वृक्षे पुरुषो निमग्नोऽनीशया शोचति मुह्यमानः ।
जुष्टं यदा पश्यत्यन्यमीशमस्य महिमानमिति वीतशोकः ॥ २ ॥
समाने वृक्षे seated on the same tree पुरुषः jīva निमग्नः immersed अनीशया helpless शोचति bemoans मुह्यमानः deluded जुष्टं worshiped यदा when पश्यति beholds अन्यम् the other ईशम् Īśwara अस्य His महिमानम् glory इति thus वीतशोकः freed from misery.
Seated on the same tree, the jīva moans, bewildered by his impotence. But when he beholds the other, the Lord worshipped by all and His glory, he then becomes free from grief.
In the same body-tree the jīva, the experiencer, bhoktā, heavy with the weight of ignorance, desires, actions, the fruit of actions, attachment, etc. is immersed in the ocean of samsāra just as a bottle-gourd. The jīva’s identification with the body is very explicit in the manner of thoughts and expressions such as ‘I am this, so and so, individual, the son of such and such a person, the grandson of that individual, lean, stout, endowed with good qualities, not so endowed, happy, miserable’. There is nothing apart from this personality. So thinking, the jīva takes birth, dies, and in the meantime unites and separates from relatives and friends.
Therefore, being wretched, he thinks, ‘I am good for nothing, my son is lost, my wife is dead, fie upon my life’. Such a despondent feeling is what makes one wretched. Thereby he grieves, deluded in multiple ways and is immersed in worry.
Thus being born constantly in the womb of ghosts, beasts, humans, etc. becomes lowly, perchance in some birth, owing to practice of virtue in several past lives, comes under the benign guidance of a compassionate teacher. He engages in ahimsā (non-injury), satyam (adherence to truth), brahmacharyā (continence), sarvatyāga (total renunciation), endowed with śama (control of mind), dama (restrain of senses), etc. With a completely subdued self, evolved with numerous spiritual practices and pious actions, he directly realizes during deep meditation/contemplation, that Supreme Self which is distinct from the bound and finite one of the body-adjunct, the Lord, Iśwara, of the entire creation, free of samsāra (bondage), transcends the defects of hunger, thirst, misery, delusion, old age and death. ‘I am this Supreme Self of all, equal everywhere, established in all beings, and not the other who is limited by the adjuncts created by avidyā, the pseudo self’ – thus realizing his native grandeur that expresses itself as the entire creation, vibhūti, of oneself the Supreme Brahman, he is freed of the ocean of misery. He attains the supreme state of Reality, no more in need of engaging in any action. This state is called the ‘naiṣkarmya siddhi’. The Ātman is free of all action since it has no mind, no instruments, no body, no desires, etc.
The above idea is stated by the next mantra in greater detail.
यदा पश्यः पश्यते रुक्मवर्णं कर्तारमीशं पुरुषं ब्रह्मयोनिम् ।
तदा विद्वान्पुण्यपापे विधूय निरञ्जनः परमं साम्यमुपैति ॥ ३ ॥
यदा when पश्यः the seer पश्यते beholds रुक्मवर्णं luminous कर्तारम् creator ईशं Lord पुरुषं the Puruṣa ब्रह्मयोनिम् the progenitor of Brahmā तदा then विद्वान् the knower पुण्यपापे good and evil विधूय shaken off निरञ्जनः stainless परमं supreme साम्यम् identity उपैति attains
When the seer beholds the self-luminous Creator, the Lord, the Puruṣa, the progenitor of Brahmā, then he, the wise seer, shakes off good and evil, becomes stainless and reaches the supreme unity.
When the aspirant’s effort in attaining the vision of the Supreme culminates in the direct realization thereof, the self-luminous universal Self, Brahman, the author of creation, the Lord, the infinite Puruṣa, the source of even Brahmā, is directly realized as none other than the innermost self. The immediate fruit of such a realization is the complete freedom from all actions, good and evil, of all the lives of the past. It is the stock of karma, actions, that remains forever, always aggregating and offering occasion for the perpetuating of the transmigratory life. He becomes totally pure with no residual liabilities clinging to his being. It is the powerful karma that binds a person to samsāra. The logical result of realization of oneself as Brahman that is free of all body-mind appendages, is that one is verily the aśarīrī, bereft of the limitations of the body-mind complex. He is untouched by anything, either good or evil. No longer tormented by the pangs of samsāra he attains the supreme identity with Brahman characterized by the non-dual state. All other identity in the created realm is inferior to this Supreme Advaitic Identity. We have identical twins, identity in positions, status, etc. Such are all cases of only temporary similarity with one or more parameters. The shifting of parameters will surely cause the imbalance in all such identities. The Supreme Advaitic Identity alone ensures absolute identity where there are no two at all.
प्राणो ह्येष यः सर्वभूतैर्विभाति विजानन्विद्वान्भवते नातिवादी ।
आत्मक्रीड आत्मरतिः क्रियावानेष ब्रह्मविदां वरिष्ठः ॥ ४ ॥
प्राणःPrāṇa हि indeed एष he यः who सर्वभूतैः as all beings विभाति shines विजानन् knowing विद्वान् the seer भवते न does not अतिवादी babble आत्मक्रीडःreveler in the Self आत्मरतिः delighting in the Self क्रियावान् engaging in actions एष he is ब्रह्मविदां among the knowers of Brahman वरिष्ठः foremost.
He indeed is Prāṇa; He shines forth variously in all beings. The wise man who knows Him does not babble. Reveling in the Self, delighting in the Self, performing actions, he is the foremost among the knowers of Brahman.
Brahman is the Prāṇa of prāṇas. It is the Lord, Supreme Consciousness, that lends the power even to prāṇa, shines forth verily as all beings in creation. Being the self of all, it is the one that resides in all. All the universe has only inequality in all fields. However, it is Brahman that is the one that inheres in and out of everything. He who directly realizes Brahman as ‘I am none other than this Brahman’ by virtue of comprehending and cogitating for long the meaning of the mahāvākyas, the pithy sentences of the Veda, never engages in worthless talk. He who remains in ignorance, considering the multiplicity in the creation as real, can never be free of idle and useless talk of the world. In other words, all parlance of speech is possible only where there is perception of duality and its apprehension as real.