Search This Blog

30 November, 2011

Gratitude... mother of virtues

       Gratitude and disturbance cannot coexist.  If you were ever disturbed, it only means, in those moments you were not grateful.  Like how light dispels darkness, gratitude dispels disturbance.  So, the way to eternal bliss is gratitude.

       All other attitudes find value only in the background of an attitude of gratitude.  The heart should always beat in gratitude.  The basic fabric of thought should be, 'Greateful for...'  For what you are grateful is immaterial.  Gratitude is everything, and everything comes in search of gratitude.

       Expressing gratitude for any situation causes a magnetic field that magnetises towards you more and more of what you are expressing gratitude for.  Gratitude creates the vibrations that ensures like begets like.  By bringing about this one shift into your life, that you stop asking, "Why me god?" for all your troubles and instead you start asking, "Why me god?" for all your blessings, you will change the very blueprint of your life, and hence will change the very flow of your life.

       Gratitude is the way to create abundance.  Our thoughts create our reality.  We get what we focus upon.  In any situation, we see what we expect to see.  So, focus on abundance.  Nothing will be ours unless we are convinced that it belongs to us.  We deserve abundance.  Because like begets like, it is necessary to be abundant-minded to draw abundance.  Scarcity-minded people are always aware of what they lack.  So they draw more scarcity into their life.  We can be abundant-minded by being grateful for what we have.  No matter how little we have we are rich if we are grateful.  No matter how much we have, we are poor if we are ungrateful.  A heart laden with gratitude need not go in search of abundance.  Instead, abundance will flow into our life.  To become rich, we need to feel rich.  And to feel rich, we need to be grateful for what we have already have.

       Aspire for the sneakers, but be grateful for the legs.  Aspire for the diamond ring, but be grateful for the fingers.  Aspire for the water bed, but be grateful for your sleep.  Aspire for the palatial bungalow, but be grateful to be part of a home that is not built by bricks, but by love.  Aspire for enlightenment, but be grateful that you are a seeker.

       One may ask, "How can I be grateful when so much in my life is going wrong?"  All the more you should be grateful, for it is only gratitude that's going to set your life right.  Be grateful for the difficult times, for they helped you to mature.  Be grateful for your limitations, for they helped you to develop.  Be grateful for the obstacles encountered, for they developed your character strength.  Be grateful for your mistakes, for they taught you lessons.  Be grateful to those who betrayed you, for they helped you to become independent.  It is not enough that you are grateful for all the good things in your life.  Be grateful even for the negative, for gratitude has the power to turn any negative into positive.  Find something you can be grateful for in any trouble, and you will find a concealed blessing in every trouble.  There is no attitude like gratitude.

          That's why Buddha said,
"Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful."

       Is a failure haunting you?  Start a thought pattern, "I am grateful to this failure of mind because..."  You will take a lesson out of it.  Is a relationship lost taunting you?  First of all remember, the purpose of some relationships is to come with you till the end.  However, some relationship come, they serve a purpose, and then leave.  Even with those lost relationships, start a thought pattern, "I am grateful to this person because..."  You will realise that the relationship did serve a purpose in your life.  No matter how bad or how good a situation may be, once it becomes your character to think like this, "I am grateful because..." you will salvage something positive out of all situations.  Gratitude is the way.

       A Master and a disciple were returning back to their village after six months of practicing penance in the forest.  As they were approaching their hut, the disciple was disturbed noticing that half the roof had been blown away in the winds.  He thought, "What is the use of doing all this penance?  There is no spiritual justice.  After six months we return to the village to take rest and here we find half the roof missing.  Now we don't even have proper shelter."  As he was going through his mental cribbing, he noticed his Master's response to the same situation was very different.  His Master went down on his knees, with hands raised in gratitude, and was praying aloud, "Lord, your ways are your ways, my lord!  After being in the midst of nature for six months we are returning.  You want our transition to be smooth.  So you have already opened half the roof for us.  Thank you so much.  Your ways are your ways, my Lord."  The disciple didn't know how to react to the Master's response.

       They settled in the hut and by the end of the day they spread their mat to sleep.  Like it happens to any complaining mind the disciple was feeling too restless.  He kept twisting and turning.  Like it happens to any grateful mind the Maser effortlessly slipped into sleep.  His face blossomed with peace even in sleep.  The winds had built clouds and the clouds had turned into a downpour.  Completely drenched, the furious disciple stormed out of the hut screaming, "Inside or outside, how does it make a difference?"  Wet, cold and shivering, the disciple observed the Master was also coming out of the hut.  The Master raised his hands above his shoulders gesturing gratitude, and started dancing in the rains.  He prayed aloud again, "Lord, your ways are your ways, my lord!  For six months during our penance we haven't taken bath.  And here you are, cleansing us with your divine showers.  Thank you so much.  Your ways are your ways, my Lord."  The disciple now knew how to react to the Master's response.

       The disciple approached the Master and said, "There is a limit to everything and this is the limit.  You are going on thanking god for everything that's going wrong, as if it were the right thing to happen.  Why are you doing this?"

       The Master paused his dance and told the disciple, "Do you know something?  I don't even know if god exists!  I don't even know to whom I am praying!  All I know is:  My approach is keeping me happy and hence it is the right approach.  Your approach is making you miserable and hence it is the wrong approach.  The proof of right approach is in the happiness it delivers.  Gratitude, for the known and the unknown factors of life, sustains happiness.  Complaining, to someone or in your own thoughts, create misery."

       The Master resumed dancing.  The disciple, having understood 'Gratitude is the way to bliss', joined the Master in his dance.  Now, the disciple prayed aloud, "Lord your ways are your ways, my lord.  It is by giving me such a Master you help me to understand life better.  Thank you so much.  Your ways are your ways, my Lord."

       Etch into your DNA, "The proof of right approach is in the happiness it delivers.  And it is gratitude, for the known and the unknown factors of life, that sustains happiness."

       Even from a spiritual perspective, it is from the womb of gratitude, love is born.  Love grows into devotion.  Devotion enables surrenders to happen.  And in surrender, faith unfolds.  In faith, you dissolve into him and evolve out of him.  Gratitude is the master key to your spiritual evolution.

       Leave alone what you will get because of gratitude.  For what you have already got, you need to be grateful in every breath of your life for the rest of your life.  It seems, when the shopkeeper asked a small boy to take as much chocolates as he wants with both his hands, the boy refused saying, "Uncle, if I take with my own hands, only a little will come.  You give with your own hands and I will have much more the way."  If we honestly look into our lives, the best of everything that we have has been given to us even without us having to ask for it.  This very life, as a human being, is a blessed bestowed upon us, without us asking for it.  It seems there is a force that understands what is good for us, much more than we understand it ourselves.  And it is through gratitude that you evoke that force to work for you and with you.

Source: Excerpts from the magazine FT.

24 November, 2011

Does God exist?

       Every religious person, especially a Hindu, is supposed to do worship God every day.  On special occasion such as festivals, religious people worship God more elaborately.  Thus, the worship of God is very, very natural to a devotee.

       When we worship God regularly, we may get a doubt.  This doubt may just pop up in our mind without rhyme or reason or may occur when we are going through difficult times.  Any thinking intellect will get this doubt one time or the other - 'I am religiously and devotedly worshipping God but it there really a God existing somewhere?  This is a fundamental doubt - Does God really exist?

       The moment we get this doubt, we feel very bad because we are supposed to have implicit faith in the existence of God.  Despite deep faith, this doubt is bound to arise in a thinking intellect.  And even if we do not get this doubt, there are others - atheists, agnostics, irreligious people-who may raise a question or two - Does God exist?  Can you prove the existence of God?

       How are we going to answer this question?  Are we supposed to blindly, unquestioningly accept the existence of God or is there any proof  for the existence of God, a proof that is scientific, logical and religious.

       The issue does not belong to our religion alone.  Every religion has to face this question because all religions accept a God, be it Islam, Christianity or Hinduism.  Many people belonging to many religions have dealt with this issue in many ways but unfortunately the issue is getting more complex and complicated.

       How does the Vedic tradition approach this issue?  Let us suppose a spiritual aspirant asks a traditional teacher [one who has received spiritual knowledge through the guru (teacher) - sisya (disciple) - parampara (tradition)] - Does God exist?  A traditional teacher will not answer.  Instead he will put a counter-question to the aspirant - What do you mean by the word "God"?

       Each person has his or her own concept of God.  The word 'God' is used by several people in several ways.  The spiritual aspirant uses the word 'God' with a particular meaning while the traditional teacher's definition of God may be different.  Hence, before answering the question, a traditional teacher wants to ascertain whether the aspirant has the same concept of God as himself.  If not, there will be a communication gap leading to misunderstanding.  Thus before giving a proof for God, a traditional teacher tells the spiritual aspirant - 'First let us know the definition of God.  Then, when we both use the word 'God', we are both referring to the same concept.  When the communication gap (that can arise due to differing perception) is bridged, we can then ask for proof about the existence of God.'

Definition of God: 

       What is the definition of God?  The Vedas or scriptures say God is Caitanyam.  In English, Caitanyam can be translated by the word 'Consciousness'.  So according to our scriptures, God means the Consciousness principle.

       What exactly is meant by the word 'Consciousness'?  Again the Vedas provide the answer.  Katha Upanishad says - 'It is by this Self (Consciousness) that a person knows form, taste, smell, sound, touch'. (2.1.3).  Consciousness is that principle by which we are aware of, or conscious of everything around us.

Proof for God:

       Once the definition of God is made clear, we can ask the next question - Does the defined God exist or not?  Since God is defined as Consciousness, we can instead ask the question - Does Consciousness exist or not?  To answer this question, let us ask the question - Are we conscious of our surroundings or not?  What will we have to say?  The very question is possible only because we are conscious beings.  It is ridiculous question because it is only because we have a tongue that we are able to ask the question.  Similarly, it is ridiculous to ask for the proof of Consciousness or GodPancadasi says - 'As it is shameful for a man to express doubt if he has a tongue or not, so also it is shameful to say 'I do not know what Consciousness is'. (3.20).

       Every activity or experience of life is possible because we are endowed with Consciousness.  Thus every experience of ours is a proof of Consciousness and therefore a proof of GodBhgavad-gita says - 'the deluded do not see him who departs, stays and enjoys, who is conjoined with the guns, they see, what possess the eye of wisdom'. (15.10).

       A doubting Thomas may still persist with the question - Does God exist?  He has only to study the scriptures systematically and understand the definition of God.  Atheists, agnostics and some scientists doubt the existence of God because they have not been told the definition of god.

Nature of God:

       What is the nature of Caitanyam or Consciousness?  Science is not able to provide a clear answer.  Even through a lot of research has been done in different areas, science has not understood the phenomenon of Consciousness due to which the body is alive and sentient.  Is Consciousness an electrical phenomenon?  A neurological phenomenon?  Or a cellular phenomenon?  Varieties of theories are emerging and scientists are not able to resolve the issue.

       However, our scriptures do talk about the nature of Consciousness.  According to our scriptures, Caitanyam or consciousness is totally a non-material entity.  It does not come under matter principle or energy principle.  Bhgavad-gita says - 'As I (Consciousness) transcend the perishable and am even above the imperishable, I am known in the world and in the Veda as 'Purushothama' the highest purusa'. (15,18).

       That spiritual principle that is present in everybody is beyond the laws that govern matter or the material universe - physical, chemical or biological.  Scriptures refer to this property of Consciousness as 'Asanga' meaning not attached, not hindered.

       Every material object is conditioned by time and space which is an integral nature of matter.  Caitanyam is not governed eve by time or space.  Hence, scriptures use the expression 'ananta' meaning endless, infinite, boundlessBhgavad-gita says - 'The dwells in the hearts of all beings, O Arjuna, and by His maya causes all beings to resolve as though mounted on a machine'.  (18.61).  Just as a visible form is activated by independent, non material Consciousness.  In every movement we experience the Consciousness principle.  This asanga, ananda Caitanyam is Purusothamma or God whose existence no one can doubt.  The scriptures say understanding this asanga (non attached), ananta (infinite) caitanya Isvara alone is the aim of every human being which scriptures calls 'Isvaradarsanam or Isvaraprapti.

God with form:

       If God asanga, ananta Caitanyam, how are we to understand Brahma, Visnu, Siva and all other Gods and Goddesses described in the scripturesBrahma has four heads and lives in Brahmaloka and Sarasvati grace His tongue.  Vishnu lives in Vaikuntham and Mahalakshmi adorns His chest.  Siva resides in Kailas with Parvati occupying half His body.  Do such Gods and Goddesses exist or not?

       When scriptures use the word 'god', we must understand that the primary meaning of God is asanga, anata caitanyam.  All the finite, personified Gods that are identified with locations and elaborately described in the Puranas are only temporary presentation of God and are called 'gauna' meaning secondary Isvara.  This Gauna Isvara is a compromised version because God is given a form,  a location, a date of birth (in the case of incarnations), etc.

       The question arises - Why must we have Gauna (secondary) Isvara (God) at all?  Why must we settle for a compromised version?  It is for the sake of sadhana meaning religious and spiritual practice, that sastra or scriptures presents Gauna IsvaraIt is for the sake of refining our mind.  A refined mind is necessary to know mukha Isvara or primary God (asanga, ananta caitanyam).

       Our traditions, customs and practices are based on Gauna (secondary) Isvara.  Doing puja and rituals requires a shrine or altar.  Can we offer flowers or do abhisekam to a formless entity?  Karma (action), Upasana (puja and rituals) and Dhyanam (meditation) all require Gauna Isvara.  Since the tastes of people vary, we have several versions of Gauna (secondary) Isvara (God) which are very useful both at the individual and collective level.  The Puranas contain numerous stories that reveal God with many names and forms.  These stories are replete with elaborate details and descriptions that are very useful for our sadhana.

       India enjoys a very rich religious culture only because Gauna Isvara (secondary God).  Every festival centres around a Gauna Isvara and a Puranic story.  Every temple has a sthalapuranam (Puranic story) associated with it.  Music, dance, painting, sculpture, cinema are all possible because of Gauna Isvara.  The compositions of the great composers are inspired by their ista devatas or personal Gods (Gauna Isvara).  The length and breadth of our country is associated with one form of God or the other providing a religious atmosphere that enables the religious attitude to be maintained all the time.

       We need not probe into or ask for the proof of Gauna Isvara (secondary God).   Does Brahma really have four heads?  If so, how is He able to sleep?  Gauna Isvara is a temporary version purely for the sake of our sadhana or spiritual practice.  We enjoy the Puranic stories; we enjoy Gauna Isvara.  We use this personified God for puja, karma (action), upasana (rituals) and dhyanam (meditation).  We refine the mind, understand mukhya Isvara (primary God) and become free.  That is the Vedic approach to Isvara - Isvara jananam and Isvara prapti.

Source: From the Talk delivered by Swami Paramarthananda on Sivaratri, February 18, 2004. 

12 November, 2011

Past is past

       Think of a notebook with several pages.  Each page in itself is just an open page.  It is up to us to either scribble on it or write poetry on it.  Irrespective of whether we scribble on it or pen poetry on it, we can still turn to the next page and again have the choice of either scribbling on it or writing poetry on it.  Till the notebook ends, the freedom of choice to use or abuse the pages of the notebook purely rests with us.  More importantly, even if we have wasted the first half of the notebook with just scribbling, we can still write enough poetries in the second half of the notebook and make it worth preserving.  Metaphorically, the notebook can be compared to our life and each open page in it to a day in our life.  The dawn of every day offers us the choice of using or abusing the day.  Till we embrace death, the freedom of choice to use or abuse the today's of our life purely rests with us.  Whatever be our age, as a worst case scenario, even if we have wasted the entire past of our life, we can still make a beginning, starting today.  We can make the most of every day of our life from now on and create a life that will be cherished.

       So, focus your energy in building your future than in processing the bygone past.  The rear-view mirror of an automobile can aid in driving, but you have to look ahead through the windshield, for that's the only way to reach your destination.  Your past only serve as a rear-view, mirror, reflecting your accomplishments and your failures.  It teaches you the lessons on what to do and what not to do.  You must mature out of your past and take the future awaiting you, head on.  With derived maturity from your past, you must and you can do much more with your future.

       Two monks were walking when they spotted a teenage girl standing near the stream they were about to cross.  The young girl had fear written all over her face.  It was already dusk and daylight was fading.  In response to the question one of the monks had asked, the girl replied, "I am afraid of crossing the stream."  The monk volunteered and carried the girl on his shoulders and dropped her at the other bank.  The two monks continued to walk.  After they had walked for about 30 minutes, noting a sense of unease in the other monk, the monk who had helped the young girl asked him if something was bothering him.  The other monk retorted, "Don't you know what monks aren't supposed to touch the opposite sex?  When then did you carry the girl on your shoulder?  That's why I am upset."  Centred and still smiling, the monk who had helped the girl replied,"Oh, the girl you are talking about... I dropped her long time back.  Why are you still carrying her in your head?"

       Your past has left you a long time back; so, what is the point in you continuing to carry it in your head.  You can help a person caught in the jaws of a crocodile.  But how do you help a person who thinks he is caught in the jaws of a crocodile, while all he has is just the picture of crocodile under his feet?  Your past has no other reality except in your memory.  Nothing is a greater retardant to growth than the burden of the emotions of the past.  The trouble with the emotions of the past is that it leaves you with scratched spectacles.  Through your scratched spectacles, everything you see appears to be scratched.  You become incapable of seeing life as it is; you only see it through the experiences of your past.  Someone misbehaved with you in the past and because of those scratched spectacles every new acquaintance too appears to be a rogue.  An employee of yours learnt everything from you and then became your competitor.  Now, every new employee is viewed with suspicion.  You tend to burden your present with your past.

       You need new spectacles to view your today and build your tomorrow.  Treat your past not as a source of hurt and agony, but as an experience that you needed to gain this maturity.  You needed those experiences  to become the person you are.  But for that yesterday, you won't be what you are today. 

       The process of chiselling may not have been pleasant, but without it you won't be the sculpture you are today.  Use your today to construct your future, and not to dissect your past.  At the point of maturity, it is crucial where you are looking.  If you focus on your past, you will only feel negative and low.  If you can focus on your future, you will feel positive and charged up.  Bitter yesterdays have the potential to create better tomorrows.  When bad things happen to good people, they become better people.  This is the blueprint on which life is built.

       Yesterday was over yesterday.  Draw a line to your past and move on.  Today is a new day.  Today is a new beginning.  Don't make your future an imposition of your past.  Your past is just a picture of a doesn't really exist.  Wake up from the psychological slumber of your past.  Don't waste another drop of tears on your past.  The beginning is from where you begin.  Begin today.  Begin now.  The person you will become in life is waiting for you in the future.  You must go and meet him.  So, focus your energies in being an architect of your future.

       The past of an exquisite sculpture was a stone, which took numerous blows from the chisel of a sculptor.  The past of a flute in the hands of maestro was a bamboo that was seasoned in fire and with holes drilled into it with hot iron rods.  A glittering diamond was once an unnoticed piece of carbon.  You can go through anything in life, if you can become what you can become in life.  There is nothing in a caterpillar that suggests that it can be a butterfly; yet, it becomes a butterfly.  Your past is not equivalent to your future.  What you have been, and what you are, are inconsequential to what you can be.  Crucify your past and resurrect into a new future.

Follow the following:

1.     Liberate yourself from the baggage of hurt from the past by embracing forgiveness.  Between the hated and the hater, it is always the hater who suffers more.  So, one of the most sensible things you can do is to forgive the other and thus liberate yourself from the clutches of hatred.  Unless you Forgive, you cannot Forget.  Give pardon and get peace.  A little pain in one part of the body should not stop the functioning of the entire body.  Something that had gone wrong during a certain phase of your life shouldn't halt the progress of your life.  Imagine yourself holding a chair in the air.  In spite of the fact that the weight of the chair remains the same, the longer you lift the chair, the heavier the chair will become.  Carrying is an effort.  Dropping is a decision.  You have been labouring with your past.  Make a decision and drop it.

2.     You can either stand on 'Reality' and blissfully progress towards your 'Desires' or you can imagine your 'Desires' and look at your 'Reality' and thus feel miserable and stagnant.  I can accept my present reality that "My English isn't good" and keep progressing by taking the steps needed towards my desire of wanting to be good in English, or I can keep regretting, "I want my English to be good but the disturbing fact is, my English is very bad."  I can accept my present reality that "My marriage isn't in great shape" and keep progressing by taking the steps needed towards my desire of wanting to enjoy a great marriage, or I can remain miserable and stagnant by regretting, "I wanted to have a great marriage but it is in pathetic shape."  The by-product of a progress is bliss and the by-product of stagnation is misery.  So, stand on your today and blissfully progress towards your tomorrow, than to stand on your today and regret your yesterdays.

3.     Even in the case of those who have had a glorious past, you still have the responsibility to build a glorious future.  Yesterday's success does bit deserve today's applause.  That you were the champion last year doesn't give you an inch of an advantage this year.  Neither the starting line is pushed nor the finishing line is altered.  To win again, you have to begin again.  In this race, this performance alone counts.  There is no 'Carry forward' in the race of life.  Satisfaction is the enemy of performance.  Don't let your good yesterdays to impede the possibilities of a better tomorrow.  So, after every significant success, reset your axis, make it a starting point again, and go for it another time.  It is not about 'From where to where?'  It is about 'From here, where?'

       The caterpillar was gone.  The butterfly emerged.  The seed was gone.  The sapling emerged.  The stone was gone.  The sculpture emerged.  Mohandas Gandhi was gone.  Mahatma Gandhi emerged.  Siddhartha was gone.  Buddha emerged.  Let go of your past, and discover a new you within you in the future.

Source: Excerpt from the magazine "FT"

10 November, 2011

Keno Upanishad


Keno Upanishad is a small Upanishad belonging to the Sama Veda. It contains four chapters each known as Kanda or Adhyaya, with a total of 35 verses (mantras). Though small, this Upanisahad contains a highly potent teaching. The Upanishad gets the name Keno Upanishad as the first word begins with Kena.

Like all other Upanishads, this also begins with a Shanthi Pata through which the student is seeking four boons from the Lord: (1) Let the physical and subtle bodies (mind and intellect) be fit for spiritual pursuit. (2) Lord’s grace. (3) Self effort, commitment and a sense of priority. (4) Qualifications for eligibility for scriptural enquiry. The shanthi Patha concludes with a prayer for removal of the three types of obstacles – (1) the cosmic - Adi Daivikam (2) external - Adi Boutikam and (3) internal - Adyatmika.

Guru’s Blessings

The first chapter contains nine verses. In the first part, which is introductory, the student approaches the Guru and asks for the teaching. This highlights the need for a guru and the student has to be humble enough to approach him and seek the teaching with faith and sincerity.

In tradition, teaching was given only to the interested seeker who approached the guru. Such a quest for the teaching is known as pariprasana. Though the Upanishad does not give the names of the guru and the student, we should note that the teaching is in the form of a dialogue between the student and the teacher.

In the second part, nature of Self is revealed. The student’s question itself is based on considerable maturity on the part of the student. He is aware that the body is a bundle of chemicals and as such is made up of matter which is inert.

How Is Body Alive?

The student, therefore, wants to know how the inert body is sentient and alive, evidenced by his own experience. He, therefore, asks the teacher by which invisible organs are alive and functioning. This lender of consciousness and life is indicated by the student as Deva. Who is the Deva, who lends life to the body?

The teacher points out that this Deva is none other than consciousness. The teacher also conveys that consciousness is an independent principle totally different from the body. However, it is intensely associated with, and activates, the body. It is not visible either. How does one know it is there? The normally inert body is active and we, therefore, infer that the consciousness must be there.

The teacher conveys the idea in a peculiar fashion. Every organ owes its status to consciousness as it cannot perform its function without the consciousness. The teacher thus says that the consciousness it the ear of the ear, eye of the eye, speech of the speech, mind of the mind, etc., It pervades the organ, is independent of the organ, and makes the organ function.

The consciousness is, thus, not an adjective but the very noun.

The second definition clarifying the first one is then given by the teacher. Our normal tendency will be to try to find out consciousness and look for it as any other object. This is impossible as consciousness is not an object to be looked for. Therefore, the teacher says that you can never ‘know’ consciousness as an object.

No Need for Proof

Objective experimentation is impossible in respect of consciousness. If it is not an object how do you prove its existence? The answer is that it does not require a proof, as it is the only thing which is evident without having to be proved. It happens to be the very subject ‘I’ who am aware of all the objects (knower/experience). Subject is never available for objectification. Every knowledge or perception is proof for consciousness, the subject (verse 4). As it is never a knowable object, it does not come under: (i) Known object or (ii) an unknown object. The Upanisahad, therefore, suggests that we drop all attempts to “know” Atma.

When I say, “I am the Atma, the consciousness”, I must be careful to eschew every object including my own body-mind complex. The problem is that the instrument is an object intimately associated with the subject and thus it is often mistaken as an integral part of the subject, like the spectacles, we wear.

I am thus the consciousness other than the body, mind, sense organs, etc., and I am behind all this and experiencing the entire world. I am never available to be known by any organ as I am behind each one of them.

Nature of Self-knowledge

This chapter contains five verses which beautifully present the nature of Self-knowledge (Atma). Since the Atma is never an object of knowledge, no wise person can say he “knows” Atma or he “does not know” Atma, as both these statements imply that the Atma is an object of knowledge or experience. We can only say “I am Atma.” One who says he knows Atma does not really know. Thus, Self-knowledge is n the form of “I am Atma.”

Atma the Witness

Self- knowledge can never take place in the form of particular experience. Atma is the consciousness because of which everything is known or experienced. Thus, it is in the presence of consciousness that all the experiences are taking place. Every experience, therefore, pre-supposes the presence of consciousness, which is the medium in which all experiences take place.

Consciousness must, therefore, be available in and through all experiences. We, therefore, do not need a particular experience to recognize Atma or consciousness. However, a Self-knowledge is only turning your attention to or focusing the ever available consciousness (cognition that consciousness is always experienced).

Nature of Consciousness

The third chapter contains 12 verses containing a story symbolically presenting the nature of consciousness.

Moral of Yaksha Story

The narrative speaks of a battle between the gods and demons. The gods were losing the battle. So they sought the help of the supreme God, Brahman. Though Brahman’s help they emerged victorious. But they were vainful of their glory. They celebrated the victory as their own. Amidst their jubilance they ignored the vital part played by Brahman. Brahman noticed their vanity, ingratitude. And wanted to expose their frailty.

Thus Brahman appeared in the sky as a Yaksha, apparition, spirit. The gods saw the form of the Spirit. They were baffled. Did not know what the Yaksha was. And were terrified at the thought of the enemy still lurking. So they approached Agni, Fire-god and Vayu (wind-god) and requested them to find out what that Yaksha was. They agreed to do so. The Fire-God and Wind-God came one after another and faced the Yaksha and failed in the test given by Yaksha, who asked them to move a small blade of grass. Not only do they fail in their mission, but they also discover that are powerless in front of Yaksha. Later Indira fails event to get a contact with the Yaksha. Finally, Indra came and in all humility offered a prayer to the Lord, when Goddess Parvati appeared and explained that the Yaksha was none other than Atma which blesses all the success of the devas.

The following, are the lessons which flow from the above story:

1) We should be humble and not claim and glory to ourselves. It is meaningless to be arrogant over one’s power.

2) Brahman is existent.

3) Brahman or Consciousness cannot be known by the senses (gods) and the mind (Indra).

4) The yaksha could not be known by the devas and had to be known only through Parvati Devi. Similarly, Atma (consciousness) can be known only through a guru.

5) Knowledge of Brahman is the noblest of all.

The fourth chapter has nine mantras and contains some sadhanas (spiritual practices). Indra gains the knowledge from Goddess Parvti Devi. Later, Agni, and Vayu gain the knowledge. They are glorified for this. Then the Upanisahd gives four upasanas as sadhanas. Since Brahman appeared as Yaksha and vanished before long, Brahman is meditated upon as the lightning or the wink of the eyes. Brahman is meditated upon the mind. (Thoughts in the mind also flash and shine like the Yaksha). The next is meditation on Brahman as the adorable Atma of all (i.e., the heat in the fire, the power in the wind, etc.,).

Besides the upanasanas, the Upanisahad recommends karma-yoga and values. Austerity, restraint and truthfulness are highlighted along with karma (action). One who follows this and ultimately recognizes the Atma attains the highest, limitless Brahman.

Source: Excerpts from the Book on The Upanishad by Swamy Paramarthananda.