A survey of other Upanishads Mandukya, Taittiriya, Chandogya, Brhadaranyaka, Aitareya, Svetasvatara and Maitri Upanishads Mandukya Upanishad The Upanishad is named after the sage Mandukya who taught about the four states of consciousness, namely, waking, dreaming, deep sleep and a fourth -, known as turiya. These states are explained through the syllable Om. The Upanishad is the shortest consisting of only 12 verses. It became famous because Gaudapada wrote a commentary on
it in the 6th century A.D. Gaudapada was the teacher of Govindapada who in turn taught the famous Shankaracharya, or Shankara. Shankara is associated with advaita, or the philosophy of nondualism, the dominant theme of the Upanishads. The opening verses Om. This syllable is all this. All that is past, present and future is also Om. And whatever is beyond this three-fold time, that too is Om. All this is verily Brahman. The Self within is Brahman. It has four states. The first is waking (jagrat), outwardly cognitive, having 7 limbs, 19 mouths, and experiencing the gross material objects. The 7 limbs do not pertain to the human body but to
the cosmic body vaisvanara. They are enumerated in the Chandogya which we will discuss later in this lecture. The verse from Chandogya The heavens are his head, the sun his eyes, the air his breath, the fire his heart, the water his stomach, the earth his feet and space his body. These are the seven limbs being referred to here. The 19 mouths are the five sense organs, the five organs of action (walking, talking, expelling, procreating and handling), the five pranas, the mind, the intellect, the ego sense and thought. The Upanishad continues
The second is the dream state (svapna), inwardly cognitive, also having 7 limbs and 19 mouths. In this state, one experiences the subtle impressions of the mind. The third state is deep sleep, or dreamless sleep (prajna). As the darkness of night covers the day and the visible world seems to disappear, so also in dreamless sleep, the veil of unconsciousness envelops the thought and knowledge and the subtle impressions of the mind apparently vanish. It is a mass of cognition, it is blissful, its face is thought. In this state, the person is said to be blissful since neither anxiety or strife are experienced. Prajna rules over all, knows all things, and is the inner controller. It is the origin and the goal of all. The fourth, turiya, is not inwardly cognitive, nor outwardly cognitive, not both-wise cognitive. It is not a cognition mass, not cognitive, not noncognitive, unseen, incapable of being spoken of, ungraspable, without any distinctive marks, unthinkable, unnamable, the essence of the knowledge of the one self, that into which the world is resolved, the peaceful, the benign, the non-dual. That is the atman. That is to be
realized. Three states and turiya Here we see a word to indicate a state beyond deep sleep. The stages of waking and dream are bound by cause and effect. Prajna or deep sleep is cause alone. Turiya is beyond cause and effect. Gaudapada writes, Prajna or the deep sleep state does not know itself; it does not know anything else either. It does not know the real or the unreal. It does not know anything. Turiya, the fourth, knows everything and knows it always. prajna and turiya
In the prajna state, we are totally unconscious. In the turiya, you are beyond consciousness and unconsciousness. You are superconscious. Prajna and turiya have one thing in common. Neither have perception of the phenomenal world. Prajna is asleep because it suffers from ignorance while turiya is free from ignorance. The meaning of Om After having defined these three states and turiya, the Upanishad continues.
This is the atman symbolized by Om, which has four parts. The akara, or the a sound of Om represents the waking state and is the root of the words apti meaning obtaining Whoever knows this obtains all desires and is the best of all. The ukara, or the u sound of Om represents the dream state and is the root of the word utkarsa meaning exaltation He who knows this excels in his power of understanding, in the continuity of knowledge and becomes equal to that understanding. No one in his lineage is born ignorant of Brahman. A detailed explanation
The waking state includes the manifested universe. If we understand the nature of this universe in its entirety, there is no desire we cannot fulfill. One who understands this universe totally becomes best of all. The second part is deeper. It involves the knowledge of the dream state. The realm of cause and effect is contained in the dream and waking states. Modern psychoanalysis is based on the premise that to understand human behavior in the waking state, one must understand the dream state, more precisely the dream symbols. Carl Gustav Jung points to the collective unconscious and the archetypal symbols that exert a powerful influence over an individual, whether we are aware of this or not. Thus, to understand the waking state, we must also understand the dream state and this is the meaning of continuity of knowledge. One who understands both, becomes equal to that understanding. The lineage referred to means the succession of students who learn from such an individual. This lineage is aware of a deeper dimension of reality, since neither of these two states can explain the phenomenon of life completely. Prajna and turiya again
Prajna is the state of deep sleep and is represented by the m sound of Om. It is derived from the root mi meaning to measure or merging. Whoever knows this measures all this and merges all this into oneself. The fourth, turiya, is represented by the silence after the Om, which has no elements, cannot be spoken of, into which the world is resolved, benign and nondual. Thus the syllable Om is the atman. Whoever knows this realizes Brahman. The snake and the rope Gaudapada says that just as we realize upon awaking that the dream images were simply our imagination, so we will realize that this world
was simply our mental projection when we awake to the awareness of Brahman. In a dark place, you see a rope, but you are not sure you are seeing a rope. You think you are seeing a snake, a jet of water or some such thing. All these are illusions. There is nothing but a rope and you have the illusion that the rope is a snake. Because of this illusion, fear comes and a host of other images. The snake has no existence independent of the rope. Similarly, this world has no existence independent of Brahman. The relationship between the world we see and Brahman is the same as the relationship between the snake and the rope. The Taittiriya Upanishad This is often called the convocation address, since it gives to departing students
a list of ethical principles to follow for life. It is also famous for its description of five layers, or koshas, of the human being. These are food, breath, mind, intellect and bliss. Layers of body, mind and higher mind The physical body with bone and muscular tissue is intertwined with the circulatory and nervous systems, the pranamaya kosha. The pranamaya kosha is again intertwined with the mind. This has been demonstrated by medical science especially in the context of psychosomatic diseases.
At the everyday level, we see that mental stress and anxiety affects the functioning of the nervous system, and in turn, the physical system. Ideas do affect our health. The five koshas The physical body (annamaya kosha), the electric body (pranamaya kosha), the mind (manomaya kosha), reason (vijnanamaya kosha) and bliss (anandamaya kosha). Living from the level of reason is living from the level of reflective consciousness. Most of us subordinate reason by the mind, especially with reference to our emotions. We rationalize our decisions made from an
emotional level. The science of speech We will expound pronunciation, letters or sounds, pitch, quantity, force or stress, articulation and combination. These are the principles of pronunciation. This world is one of combinations. Here are the great combinations. The earth is the prior form. The heaven is the latter form. The ether is their junction and the air is the connection. Speech is the means of communication between the teacher and the taught. Thus, the pronunciation, the intonation and emphasis of words, as well as their combinations are extremely important to convey an accurate meaning.
Language is the science of combination of words, which are in turn, combinations of sounds. Reflecting upon the miracle of language is a meditation on Brahman. The combinations of knowledge Now as to knowledge, the sage continues, the teacher is the prior form, the student is the latter form, knowledge is their junction and instruction is the connection. In this verse, the sage conveys the cosmic dimension of learning, with regard to instruction or teaching. It is not an isolated event but part of the cosmic process.
All knowledge builds on past knowledge. It is an infinite chain. We are all part of the knowledge chain. This will be later echoed by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras as the principle of Isvara. If I have been able to see this far, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants. (Isaac Newton) The convocation address The sage instructs, Practice virtue, do not refrain from study and teaching. Practice truth, do not refrain from study and teaching. Practice austerity (tapas), do not refrain from study and teaching. Practice self-control, do not refrain from study and teaching. Practice tranquility, do not refrain from study and teaching. The reverberating message in these verses is svadhyaya
pravacane ca and it means do not refrain from study and teaching. The word svadhyaya actually means self-study. A faint echo of this idea occurs later in the teachings of Socrates: an unexamined life is not worth living. The deepening of knowledge occurs when we can look at ourselves critically, when we can introspect and correct our own behavior. The parting message Matr devo bhava, pitr devo bhava, acarya devo bhava, atithi devo bhava. Let your mother be a god to you, let your father be
a god to you, let your teacher be a god to you, and let your guest be a god to you. This is an instruction about human relations, the essence being to treat people with respect. Later, we will see that this is the essential step in karma yoga, the yoga of work. We cannot let others disturb the peace of our mind and certain attitudes help in this regard. The Chandogya Upanishad The name of the Upanishad comes from chanda, which refers to
the poetic meter in which it is written. Poetically expressed, the message of this Upanishad is the importance of speech and song in life. Speech yields milk, it teaches, and so it does since it determines the course of our life and is the basis of our nourishment. There is an internal song in our breathing and we must be aware of this. Otherwise, it says humorously, our head will fall off, if we do things heedlessly. The internal chant is Om. Tagore explains Does one write poetry to explain something? It is a feeling within the heart that tries to find outside shape in a poem. That words have meaning is just the difficulty. That is why poets have to turn and twist them in meter and
rhyme, so that meaning may be held somewhat in check and feeling allowed to express itself. Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) Tagore continues The main object of teaching is not to give explanations but to knock at the doors of the mind. I can recollect many things which I did not understand, but which stirred me deeply. I was pacing the terrace of our house late in the afternoon. I could see at once that the evening had entered me; its shades had obliterated my self. Now that the self was in the background, I could
see the world in its true aspect full of beauty and joy. Examples and stories A young boy desiring knowledge went to a sage to be taught. The sage gives him 400 lean cows to be taken to the forest and instructs him to bring them back when they are a thousand. After several years, one of the cows speaks to him. We are a thousand now so take us back to your teacher. I will now teach you about Brahman. The boy
was startled and said, Yes, please teach me. The east is Brahman, and so is the west. The north is Brahman and so is the south. Fire will now continue the teaching. Fire said, the earth is Brahman, so are the sky and ocean. Now the birds will teach you. The birds then spoke, the sun and moon are part of Brahman, as well as lightning. The life force in all living things is Brahman, so are hearing, sight and mind. When the boy returned to the sage with the 1000 cows, the sage said, Your face shines like a knower of Brahman. Who has taught you? Beings other than men, but I wish that you now teach me, said the boy. Then the sage taught him, and nothing was left out. Yes, nothing was left out. Vivekananda explains The great idea of which we here see the germ is that all these voices are inside ourselves. As we understand these truths better, we find the voice is in our own heart. The second idea we get is that of making the knowledge of Brahman practical.
The truth was shown through everything with which the students were familiar. The earth became transformed, life became transformed, the sun, moon, stars, etc became deified. The principle underlying these stories is that invented symbolism may be good and helpful, but already better symbols exist. This world spoke to the early thinkers. Birds spoke to them, animals spoke to them, the sun and the moon spoke to them and little by little, they realized things, and got into the heart of nature. Not by cogitation nor by the force of logic, not by picking the brains of others and making a big book,
not even as I do, by taking up their writings and making a long lecture, but by patient investigation and discovery, they found out the truth. Its essential method was practice and so it must be always It is practice first and knowledge afterwards. The essence of knowledge What is that by knowing which everything else becomes known? The sage replies, Just as by knowing a clod of clay, all the clay
in the universe becomes known, so is this teaching. Of this mighty tree, if someone should strike at the root, it would bleed, but still live. If someone were to strike it in the middle, it would bleed, but still live. Being pervaded by the atman, it stands firm, drinking in its moisture and rejoicing. Bring to me the fruit of of the nyagrodha tree. The student brings it. Break it open says the sage. It is broken sir. What do you see? Extremely fine seeds, sir. Break open one of those seeds. What do you see? Nothing sir. My dear, says the sage, out of this nothing has come this great nyagrodha tree. Fractals What you ask is the beginning of it all And it is this Existence multiplied itself for the sheer delight of being and
plunged into trillions of forms so that it might find itself innumerably. -Sri Aurobindo The story of Narada Narada says to the sage Sanatkumara, I have studied all branches of learning, art, science, music, philosophy, as well as the sacred scriptures. But I have gained no peace. I have heard from great teachers that only he who knows his Self finds peace. The sage replies, What you have studied is name only. Meditate on name as Brahman. Observe that the sage does not say what he has studied is useless. He transforms it, deifies it by
asking him to meditate on that. The higher levels Is there anything higher than name? Speech is higher than name. Is there anything higher than speech? Mind is higher than speech. Is there anything higher than mind? Prana is all this. Brhadaranyaka Upanishad
This is the longest of the Upanishads and the name literally means vast forest teaching. It is famous for a long discourse between the sage Yajnavalkya and his wife Maitreyi. Some traces of social customs can be discerned from the Upanishad. For instance, female students were allowed to study along with male students. The central message is again about the underlying reality of Brahman and the neti, neti approach to indicate this. The opening verses
The world existed first as seed, which as it grew and developed took on names and forms. As fire is hidden in wood, the Self dwells in all forms and beings, even to the tips of the fingers. Yet, the ignorant do not know That, for behind the names and forms, the Self is hidden. When one breathes, one knows him as breath. When one speaks, one knows him as speech. When one sees, one knows him as the eye. When one hears, one knows him as the ear. When one thinks, one knows him as the mind. All these are but names related to the acts of the Self. And he who worships the Self as one or another of them does not know the Self, for of them, It is neither one or another. The Self is the goal of all beings. For by knowing the Self, one knows all. This Self, which is nearer to us than anything else, is indeed dearer than a son or a daughter, dearer than wealth, dearer than all besides.
The philosopher-king So far, the previous verses were an echo of the earlier Upanishads. But now, the Upanishad introduces the ideal of the philosopher-king. The boastful sage Gargya meets King Ajatasatru and says to him that he will teach about Brahman. The king humbly submits to be his student. Gargya begins: He who is the being in the sun and at the same time the being in the eye, Him I meditate upon as Brahman. He who is in the moon and at the same time in the mind, Him I meditate upon as Brahman. He who is in the lightning, and at the same time in the heart, Him I meditate upon as Brahman. The King replies, Please do not speak thus of Brahman. That Being, I worship as the transcendental, luminous, supreme, infinite, power. Gargya continues: He who is the being in the sky and at the same time in the heart, Him I
meditate upon as Brahman. He who is in the wind and at the same time in the breath, Him I meditate upon as Brahman. He who is in the fire, and at the same time in the heart, Him I meditate upon as Brahman. The King replies: Please do not speak thus of Brahman. That Being, I worship as allpervading, changeless, effulgent, invincible, forgiveness, harmony, life force, and supreme will. The significance of the dialogue In this dialogue, we see the contrast between concrete symbols and abstract concepts that have no physical symbols. The King, by his reverential attitude to higher knowledge has gone beyond the preliminary stage of meditation on Brahman through symbols around him. He has entered the realm of the abstract, whereas the sage was trapped in the realm of symbols.
The sage realizes that his student has gone deeper and so he asks the king, Sir, please accept me as a disciple and teach me Brahman. Then the king took the sage by the hand and the two walked side by side until they came upon a sleeping man. The sleep state The king tried to wake the sleeping man but the man did not stir. Then he rubbed the hands of the sleeping man, and slowly the man awoke. The king asked Gargya, This man, who is a conscious, intelligent being, where was he when he was thus asleep and how did he thus wake up? Gargya was silent. The King continued: When this man, who is a conscious, intelligent being, is thus in deep sleep, he enters into the Self, within the lotus of heart, having withdrawn into himself both his senses and his mind. When the person withdraws his senses, he is said to be asleep. When the breath is restrained, speech is restrained, eye restrained, ear and mind are restrained, he enters the dream state. Just as the king moves about his own country as he
pleases, so also in the dream state one moves about ones own body as one pleases. Beyond the dream state is the state of deep sleep. In this state, he knows nothing. He enters into the 72,000 nerves which go from the lotus of the heart. As the spider moves along its web, as small sparks come forth from the fire, even so the Self moves forth through prana, through all worlds, through all beings. This is the essence of the Upanishad. Prana is the truth, and the Self is the truth of that. That is the truth of the truth, satyasya satyam. The neurological factor In many of the Upanishads, the sun and the heart are similar. Just as the many rays of light radiate from the sun and energize the world, so also many rays of arteries, veins and nerves radiate from the heart and energize the parts of the body. The network of nerves is compared to the spiders web. The spiders can only travel along the threads of the web. Similarly, the Self moves along the nerves as prana. Prana, and more generally, its manifestation, this world, is true the verse says.
But beyond that, the truth of truth or the meaning of the meaning is Brahman. The significance of the passage The subtle teaching comes from the lips of a king, indicating that the kings were deeply interested in philosophy. Their interest was not academic, but rather, practical. How to make the abstract philosophy practical and lay the foundation for civilization becomes the dominant theme in the Bhagavadgita, when the Krishna appears as the ideal philosopher-king. The phrase satyasya satyam indicates that there is a deeper dimension to the world that we see. These deeper layers are first physical, then
neurological, and then philosophical. The senses are withdrawn from the outer world and awareness seems to reside in the pranamaya kosha, the nervous network of the human being. If we think of the mind as the cognizer, a part of its activity is to give cohesion to all our sensory impressions and interpret it so that we may understand. The verses of this Upanishad suggest that a similar process is taking place with respect to our neural impressions that are interpreted in the form of a dream. Yajnavalkya A good portion of the Upanishad is dominated by the personality of Yajnavalkya. He tells his wife that he will leave her all his wealth to renounce the world and begin a life of exclusive
meditation. This is seen as a natural event that comes from maturity and after one has gone through various phases of life and its teachings. The Upanishadic age refrained from making compartmental divisions either to society or to life. Maitreyi Yajnavalkyas wife, Maitreyi, replies, What will I do with wealth. Teach me that which will enable me to transcend death. Yajnavalkya was delighted for he has now found a fit pupil. Verily, it is not for the sake of the husband that the husband is dear to the wife, but for the sake of the atman that she loves him. It is not for the sake of the wife that the husband loves the wife but for the sake of the atman that she loves her. No one loves a thing for that things sake. It is only for the sake of the atman. This teaching must first be heard, then reflected upon and then meditated upon. When the atman is seen, then all becomes
known. A detailed explanation Why do we love anything? It is because the light of the atman animates it. The beauty that shines through the eyes is the beauty of the atman. Thus the beauty that we enjoy is the bliss of Brahman, even though we are not aware of it. Our difficulty arises when we try to narrow the experience through only one person or one thing. Vivekananda explains As soon as you are attached to anything in
the universe, detaching it from the universe as a whole, from the Atman, there comes a reaction. With everything we love outside the Self, grief and misery will be the result. If we enjoy everything in the Self, and as the Self, no misery or reaction will come. This is perfect bliss. How to gain a cosmic perspective? Yajnavalkya teaches, As when a drum is beaten, one is not able to grasp the external sounds, but by grasping the drum or the beater of the drum, the sound is grasped, similarly when one grasps the Pure Self, all things and beings become known. They have no existence apart from the Self. All knowledge is breath of the eternal. As a lump of salt thrown into the water becomes dissolved in the water and one
cannot separate it, so also the infinite is mingled with all that you see. Everything is permeated with intelligence. The universe arises out of That and goes back to That. Maitreyis question Maitreyi asks, What will become of individuality? It looks like it will disappear. Will there be then no one to love, no one to recognize? Yajnavalkya answers, As long as there is duality, one sees the other, one hears the other, and so forth. But where everything has become the Self, who is seen by whom, who is heard by whom? The Pure Awareness that reveals all, by what shall It be revealed. This is the superconscious state. It reveals consciousness. Individuality is subordinate to that.
The myth of individuality What exactly do we mean by individuality? Upon closer examination, we find it is a myth. The body is constantly changing. The mind is constantly changing. Medical science informs us that the body is composed of about 1012 cells and these cells have different life spans. Blood cells are changing every few seconds. The surface of the cells lining the stomach change every few minutes. These cells are completely transformed every few hours. Stomach lining cells live only about two days. A skin cell lives about two weeks; a red blood cell lives about 2 months; liver cells live about 2 years, whereas the heart, brain and nerve cells last a lifetime.
Vivekananda elaborates: The body and the mind are continually changing, and are, in fact, only names of series of changeful phenomena, like rivers whose waters are in a constant state of flux, yet presenting the appearance of unbroken streams. Every particle of the body is continually changing; no one has the same body for many minutes together, and yet we think of it as the same body. So with the mind; one moment it is happy, another moment unhappy; one moment strong, another weak; an ever-changing whirlpool. That cannot be the Spirit which is infinite. Change can only be in the limited. These are old delusions however comfortable as they are, to think that we are limited beings, constantly changing. Janaka and Yajnavalkya
King Janaka held a royal court and invited learned scholars for a philosophical debate. He offered a 1000 cows as the prize for the winner of the debate. Yajnavalkya enters the court and sits next to the other sages and the debate begins. A sage stands up and asks, What is the means of overcoming death. Yajnavalkya replies saying, By fire, by speech, we overcome death. Speech is symbolic of the word or the miracle of language. Language is the means for gaining higher knowledge. Fire is symbolic of the will. Thus, by combining learning and the will to learn, one overcomes death. The debate continues
In the course of the debate, Yajnavalkya is asked a series of questions and he emerges victorious in the discussion. The assembly seems to consist of both male and female sages. At some parts, the dialogue is reminiscent of the Kena Upanishad. He who dwells in speech, yet is within speech, whom speech does not know, whose body is speech, who controls speech from within, that is the atman. He who dwells in the eye, yet is within the eye, whom the eye does not know, whose body is the eye, who controls the eye from within, that is the atman. It is unseen, but It is the seer. It is unthought, but It is the thinker. It is unknown, but It is the knower. King Janaka is pleased with the debate and comes to reward Yajnavalkya. Janaka asks, Did you come here for cattle or for philosophy? The sage replies, For both. But before I accept your award, I would like to hear what your teachers have taught you. The teaching of Yajnavalkya
Janaka says, I was taught that word is Brahman. The sage expands, It is true that word is Brahman since the legacy of learning, first from the mother, then the father, and then the sages, is through the power of the word, the power of sound, the sabda Brahman. The organ of speech is its abode and space its support. Meditate on sound as pulsating with knowledge. Then ensues a long discourse between Yajnavalkya and Janaka which is a series of meditations. When the sun has set, the moon has set, the stars have set, the fire is out, what illumines the world? Speech (sound) illumines the world and when that is not there, what illumines the world? It is the light of Brahman that illumines the world. Consciousness is the ultimate source of light. Even when all sensory inputs are diminished, consciousness persists. Awareness persists. Helen Keller (1880-1968)
In her autobiography, The World I Live In, Helen Keller brings this message to us with impressive force in the chapter titled The Seeing Hand. She writes, My hand is to me what your hearing and sight are to you the hand is my feeler with which I reach through isolation and darkness and seize every pleasure, every activity that my fingers encounter In all my experiences and thoughts, I am conscious of a hand. Whatever moves me, whatever thrills me, is as a hand that touches me in the dark, and that touch is my reality The delicate tremble of a butterflys wings in my hand, the soft petals of violets My world is built of touch sensations devoid of physical color and sound; it breathes and throbs with life Remember that you, dependent on your sight, do not realize how many things are tangible A tangible object passes complete into my brain with the warmth of life upon it and occupies the same place that it does in space, for, without egotism, the mind is as large as the universe
The silent worker is imagination which decrees reality out of chaos. Seeing hands Apart from its literary beauty, this passage is important for us, as students of philosophy. It shows that in our waking state, with sensory impressions coming from many directions, the impressions are received pell-mell by our brain. The imaginative faculty gives order to these diverse impressions and fashions some view of the world. Most of this is happening too fast for us to listen to the inner symphony being played. Following the Upanishadic instruction, if we withdraw the mind from the outer world and observe within, we find a subtler layer of experience. In the case of Helen Keller, the energy expended through the faculties of sight, speech and
sound have been eliminated and she finds a still richer world revealed through the sense of touch. Equally amazing is that the mind can still fashion through imagination an idea of the world outside that gives her meaning. Yajnavalkya continues his discourse Beyond the waking, dream and deep sleep states is Brahman, one without a second, beyond duality. When one is healthy, wealthy, and has lavish enjoyments, that is said to be the highest bliss of human beings. But the bliss of the knower of Brahman is the greatest. According as one acts, according as one behaves, so does he become. As is his desire, so is his will. As is his will, so is the deed. Whatever deed he does, that he attains. When all the desires of the heart are cast away, then he attains Brahman. They who know the life of life, the mind of the mind realize Brahman. Through the mind, it is perceived. In it, there is no diversity. Let the seeker of Brahman practice the means to wisdom. Let him not reflect on too many words, for
that only gives rise to weariness of speech. The spiral staircase of meditations Whatever you enjoy and find dear in this world, is through the bliss of Brahman. Meditate on physical symbols as Brahman. Higher than this is the formless. Meditate on that as Brahman. Mental abstractions such as forgiveness, joy, harmony, humanity, social justice, power, truth, meaning, are all without form.
The states of consciousness are a form of Brahman. Withdrawing the mind from the outer world, and focus on the inner to realize Brahman. Meditate on the heart radiating its network of veins and arteries like the sun radiating light and heat. As a spider is limited in its movements to the threads of the web it has spun, so also the individual experiences the world only through the network of nerves. By withdrawing the senses, one enlarges ones experience. A brief look at some other Upanishads
In the Aitareya Upanishad, we find: prajnanam brahma which translates as intelligence is Brahman. The world is guided by intelligence; Brahman is intelligence. Aurobindo translates prajna as wisdom; others translate it as pure consciousness or intellect. Aurobindo writes, We see universal intelligence, conscious in things unconscious, active in things inert. The tree does not and cannot shape itself, the stress of hidden intelligence shapes it. Intelligence is that which forms cosmos out of chaos and gives cohesion to the world. Medical science has now proved how all-pervasive this principle of intelligence is. Even the minutest cells in our body know what to do and how to function. They even have some form of cellular telepathy and can communicate with faraway cells of the body. Our body is not just a bunch of cells and chemicals put together. There is a principle of intelligence that pervades it and this is the message of this Upanishad. The Svetasvatara Upanishad
This Upanishad lays down the principles of raja yoga, a system of philosophy that is later expounded by Patanjali. Here is a free translation of the text. Matter, mind and maya is the triad. It is the object of enjoyment, the enjoyer and that which connects the two. But beyond them is the infinite Self. When all three are known as one with Brahman, the Self is realized. The truth is that we are always united with the Self. But we must know this. The way to do this is by meditation on the Self as symbolized by Om. As fire is hidden in sticks and it comes out when they are rubbed together, so also is the Self hidden in all beings. It is realized through the heat (tapas) of meditation on Om. Holding the body steady, with the chest, neck, and head erect, the sense organs and the mental activities must be silenced. Let the yogi practice meditation in a solitary place free from all distractions. By regulating the breathing and neural currents, let the yogi meditate
on Om. The mind is thus trained in inwardness. As you go deeper, you will realize the infinite dimension of the eternal Self. At this point, the sage goes into a paean of song. Srnvantu visve amrtasya putraaye dhamani divyani tashtuh vedaham etam purusam mahantam aditya varnam tamasah parastat tam eva viditvaati mrtyum eti nanyah panthah vidyate ayanaya. (2.5 and 3.8) Hear ye, children of immortal bliss, even those that reside in the starry heavens. I have found the Supreme Self, luminous, and beyond all darkness. Only by knowing the Supreme Self is the way out of the cycle of life and death. There seems to be no other way. The sage continues That Being is everywhere. It resides in the heart of all beings. Truly, It is what has been, what is, and whatever will be. Its hands and feet are everywhere. Everywhere, Its eyes, ears, heads and faces on all sides. It envelops the whole cosmos. It is smaller than the smallest, larger than the largest. It is not female, it is not male, it is not neuter either.
That is hidden in all beings and in all things, whatever there is. The wise perceive That as their own Self. Then only one may have ever-lasting contentment. May all sincere seekers benefit from the teaching of the highest mystery. The Maitri Upanishad Here the Upanishad focuses on the meaning of Om. By austerity and self-discipline, one achieves goodness. Through goodness, you can take hold of the mind. Through the mind, one can realize the Self. As fire, when its fuel is spent, comes to rest in its source, even so the mind, when the thoughts are silenced, the mind returns to
its own source. The mind is the key. Here is the eternal mystery. What you think, that you become. yac cittas tan-mayo bhavati guhyam etat sanatanam. The idea here is an amplification of the principle of the human mind. Whatever thought we hold, the mind tries to take the shape of that thought, or become that thought, as it were. Through this process, we gain understanding. This is a deep psychological law that is being enunciated here. A summary of Upanishadic thought The essential message of the Upanishads is that there is changeless reality behind the changing. The substratum is Brahman. Though it is
beyond mind and speech, though it has no form or shape, though it is beyond any form of mental conceptualization, the Upanishads tells us with conviction that It can be realized and experienced. Using familiar symbols, they suggest meditation on symbols around us. The sun becomes a symbol of Brahman. The sky becomes a symbol of Brahman. The earth we walk upon is a symbol of Brahman. More importantly, we become aware of awareness, peering through every eye of every living thing. The value of this study is that it changes the way we look at the world around us, the way we look at others, and more importantly, the way we look at ourselves. It widens our narrow limited view of the world. It changes our thought and energizes the mind. And as the Maitri Upanishad states with conviction, what we think, that we become, it advises us to contemplate the Infinite so that we become the Infinite.