The muNDakopaniShat – Part 6
What is the nature of this created world, otherwise known as ‘samsāra’, the analysis of which leads to deep dispassion? To answer this Sri Shankaracharya gives a lengthy description thereof.
The subtlest form of the world is the ‘avyakta’ which is the unmanifest, the seed form of the manifest world. And the grossest form is the unmoving objects in creation, in the manifest world. This has the name-form dual as its unmanifest and manifest form. Just as the seed-sprout pair, the manifest and the unmanifest are related to each other as the causal factor. The manifest world, through the action, karma, of the human inhabitants, will decide the nature of the unmanifest world which is the seed for the next creation. Also, the residual karma of the beings in general too adds to this input. The world is full of infinite situations leading to immense miseries. These are devoid of any essence just like the pith of a banana shoot. The world experience is akin to an illusion, mirage water, phantom city, a dream, bubbles and surf, meeting destruction every moment. A discriminating one sets this world aside realizing that all actions are only founded on the defects that are ignorance and desire that are fuelled by dharma and adharma. The mantra says ‘a brāhmaṇa renounces’. This is because, it is only a brāhmaṇa that is most suited to renounce all actions and engage in the pursuit of Self-knowledge full time. What does such an aspirant do after examining the world and arriving at the conclusion that anything in the world is a product of action? He gains deep dispassion. The form of such a dispassion is being stated:
‘In this world there is nothing that is not a product of action. Everything is therefore evanescent; nothing is permanent. All action, therefore, is only a means for evanescence. These are the four effects of action:
3. purification and
Apart from these, there is no other category that is a product of action. I am desirous of that which is eternal, beyond death and fear, is unchanging, unmoving and firm and not something other than /opposite to this. Therefore what indeed is attained by action that is attended with tiresome effort that is only a means to misery?’ In this manner such a rare aspirant develops dispassion and sets his eye on that which is fearless, auspicious, blissful and eternal. With a view to realize that Supreme Truth, he necessarily approaches an Ācārya, Teacher, who is endowed with the six-fold disciplinary personality. The Veda emphasizing ‘gurum eva’, that one should mandatorily approach a Teacher, is to caution that even if one is proficient in all disciplines one ought not to engage in Self-enquiry, all by oneself without the most valuable aid of the Teacher.
There is a formal manner in which the aspirant approaches the Ācārya. He carries a bundle of sacrificial faggots. What is the kind of Ācārya that he approaches? He has to be well learned in the scripture and also be established in the direct knowledge/realization of Brahman, to the exclusion of all other works. The word ‘niṣṭhā’ conveys the meaning that he is preoccupied with being immersed in Brahman, just as a man who predominantly practices japa is called a ‘japaniṣṭha’ or someone given to strict austerities is alled ‘taponiṣṭha.’ The specification is because those engaged, engrossed, in action, cannot give themselves to uninterrupted establishment in Brahman experience. The aspirant has to approach such a Guru and pose questions about the Ātman.
तस्मै स विद्वानुपसन्नाय सम्य-
क्प्रशान्तचित्ताय शमान्विताय ।
येनाक्षरं पुरुषं वेद सत्यं
प्रोवाच तां तत्त्वतो ब्रह्मविद्याम् ॥ १३ ॥
तस्मै to him स विद्वान् that Teacher उपसन्नाय सम्यक् well approached प्रशान्तचित्ताय serene शमान्विताय self-controlled येन by which अक्षरं the Imperishable पुरुषं puruṣa वेद knows सत्यं Truth प्रोवाच teach तां that तत्त्वतो as It is ब्रह्मविद्याम् Brahman-knowledge
To that pupil who has duly approached him, whose mind is completely serene and whose senses are controlled, the wise teacher should indeed rightly impart the Knowledge of Brahman, through which one knows the immutable and the true Puruṣa.
The aspirant’s qualities/qualifications are specified so as to show that the Highest Teaching can/should be imparted only to the right candidate who has approached the Teacher in the prescribed manner. He has to be of a serene and composed mind, free of arrogance and the like. Keeping under check the sense organs and mind too is an indispensable trait in an aspirant of Vedānta. Dispassion with regard to everything in the world is to be present in him. To such an aspirant, the Teacher who is a knower of Brahman, has to impart that supreme vidyā which will reveal the Upaniṣadic Puruṣa, Brahman, as It is. Why is a special vidyā required for this? It is because this Puruṣa is not known through any other means of knowledge. It is devoid of form, etc. and hence not an object of perception. It is all-pervading, infinite and available as resting in the individual soul. It is the immutable Self, imperishable. By saying so the Upaniṣad is placing a lofty duty on the Self-realized Master that he has to rescue the right aspirant from the trammels of samsāra, the ocean of ignorance.
Now starts the first section of the second chapter of the Muṇḍakopaniṣat.
The effect of the aparavidyā, lower knowledge, has been stated so far in its entirety. And that is called ‘samsāra’ which originates from the Imperishable, akṣara, Brahman, and resolves into It. As it was stated in the very beginning, the knowledge of that when had results in the attainment of knowledge of everything, which is Brahman, has to be stated and with this as the subject matter commences the following part.
तदेतत्सत्यं यथा सुदीप्तात्पावकाद्विस्फुलिङ्गाः
सहस्रशः प्रभवन्ते सरूपाः ।
तथाक्षराद्विविधाः सोम्य भावाः
प्रजायन्ते तत्र चैवापियन्ति ॥ १ ॥
तत् एतत् this is the सत्यं truth यथा just as सुदीप्तात् from blazing पावकात् fire विस्फुलिङ्गाः sparks सहस्रशः in thousands प्रभवन्ते issue forth सरूपाः of the nature of fire तथा so too अक्षरात् from the Imperishable विविधाः various सोम्य O, good looking one, भावाः beings प्रजायन्ते are born तत्र च and there एव alone अपियन्ति they return to
This is the Truth: As from a blazing fire, sparks essentially akin to it fly forth by the thousand, so also, my good friend, do various beings come forth from the imperishable Brahman and unto Him again return.
That which is the subject matter of the lower vidyā, characterized by the effect of action, is real, relatively. This, Brahman, however, the subject matter of the higher vidyā, is the absolutely real. This is the Real, that which exists as It is, the object of knowledge, and the other is the subject matter of ignorance, avidyā, and therefore, unreal. So, here we have two categories: That which is characterized by avidyā, and is unreal, or relatively real. And that which is really real, verily the matter of vidyā. We can say that these two are a-brahman and Brahman. Since Brahman is extremely beyond the ken of the senses, with a view to help us get an understanding thereof the Upaniṣad offers an analogy.
Just as from a blazing fire innumerable sparks that are no different from the fire scatter forth in different directions, so too from the Imperishable, Akṣara, Brahman, different types of beings, jīva-s, owing to identification with different types of body-mind complexes, issue forth. Are the jīva-s really different from each other? No. Just as from one impartite space different adjuncts like pot-spaces, attain different identities like pot, etc. so too owing to identification with differently named body-mind complexes, the sentient beings appear to be different from each other. Just as space is the common factor in all the pot-spaced adjuncts, so too the Pure Consciousness, the Imperishable Akṣaram, is the underlying truth of the various beings. Just as the various space-adjuncts dissolve into one infinite space upon the destruction of the adjuncts, so too, upon the destruction of the body-mind complexes what remains will be one Pure Consciousness without no trace of the different jīva-s. Thus we arrive at the conclusion that just as the origination and dissolution of the different space-bodies is caused by the different adjuncts, so too the origination and destruction of the jīva-s is due to the different adjuncts that are the body-mind complexes.
The Upaniṣad goes on to present the Imperishable, Akṣaram, as the One that is greater/higher than the unmanifest, avyākṛta, which is itself great/high compared t o the manifest effects for which it (the unmanifest) is the seed. Brahman, free of all such adjuncts, is presented by the Upaniṣad for the purpose of getting the correct understanding thereof leading to liberating knowledge. This is just as the infinite space can be conceived of by negating the entirety of forms that the space is admitted to be accommodating. This process of negating is taught by the Veda as ‘neti neti’ etc.