The Upanishads — The revelation of India's Light

Each Upanishad is the unfoldment of the Supreme Knowledge which, once spiritually attained, is never lost. The entire universe of action, according to the Upanishads, with its ephemeral means and ends, lives in the meshes of ignorance. It is the knowledge of the supreme Self that can destroy the human ignorance of millennia and inundate the earth consciousness with the light and delight of the ever-transcending and ever-manifesting Beyond.

As we have the heart, the mind, the vital, the body and the soul, so also the Upanishads have a heart, a mind, a vital, a body and a soul. The heart of the Upanishads is self-realisation, the mind of the Upanishads is self-revelation, the vital of the Upanishads is self-manifestation, the body of the Upanishads is self-transformation and the soul of the Upanishads is self-perfection.

What is of paramount importance right now is self-realisation. For self-realisation we need only four things. First we need the scriptures, then a spiritual guide, the yogic disciplines and finally, the Grace of God. The scriptures tell the seeker, “Awake, arise, it is high time for you to get up. Sleep no more.” The spiritual Master tells the seeker, “My child, run! run the fastest. I am inspiring you. I have already kindled the flame of aspiration within you. Now you can run the fastest.” Yogic disciplines tell the seeker, “Look, I have already made the road clear for you. You are practising spiritual life and I am giving you the results of your practices. The road is clear. Now you can come out of ignorance-sleep and run the fastest on a road that is empty of danger.” Then something more is required and that is God’s Grace. One may run the fastest, but one may not reach the Goal even if there is no obstacle on the way, because human beings very often get tired. Before they reach the Goal they feel that they are totally exhausted. At that time what is required is God’s Grace. Without God’s Grace one cannot complete the journey. God’s Grace tells the seeker, “Lo, the Goal is won.” But to be sure, God’s Grace starts right from the beginning. When we study the scriptures, God’s Grace has already dawned on us. Had there been no Grace from God, we could have not launched into the spiritual path in the first place. And had there been no Grace from God, we could not have found our spiritual Master. It is out of His infinite Bounty that God brings a seeker to the Master. Then the seeker and the Master must play their respective roles. The Master will bring down God’s Compassion, but the seeker has to practise spiritual disciplines. His task is to aspire and the Master’s task is to bring down Compassion.

In the inner world, one thing that everybody must have is aspiration. Here on earth, the tree offers us an example of this aspiration. It remains on earth, but its aim is to reach the Highest. We are afraid of staying on earth. We feel that if we stay on earth we cannot reach the Highest, we cannot look upward, our aim cannot be the Highest. But the tree shows us how absurd this is. Its root is under the ground, but its topmost branch is aspiring towards the Highest. In the Upanishads we come across a tree called the Ashwathva tree. Unlike earthly trees, this tree has the roots above and the branches below. It has two types of branches. One type enters into the meshes of ignorance and then starts struggling, fighting and trying to come out again into the effulgence of light. The other type of branch always tries to remain in the light. Its movement is upward; its aspiration is upward.

Here on earth each human being has the same capacity. A human being sees ignorance within and without, but he has the capacity to remain beyond the boundaries of ignorance. How? Through aspiration. Why? Because he needs constant satisfaction and it is aspiration alone that can give us this constant satisfaction. Why do we aspire? We aspire for delight, Ananda. Delight is self-creation and self-experience. Delight in the Highest, absolute Highest, is known as Ananda Purusha. There the Delight is Infinity, Eternity and Immortality. There is another type of Delight which is called Ananda Atma, when from infinite Delight, Delight takes shape and form. In the earth-bound consciousness, Delight is called Ananda Atma.

When Delight gradually descends into the obscure, impure, unlit, imperfect nature of man to transform human nature, it finds constant resistance. Then we see that Delight loses its power because of teeming ignorance, and pleasure, short-lived pleasure, looms large. In the highest, in the triple consciousness — Satchidananda — Existence, Consciousness and Delight go together. But when they want to manifest themselves, they have to do it only through Delight. When Delight descends, the first rung that it steps on is called Supermind. This Supermind is not something a little superior to the mind. No. It is infinitely higher than the mind. It is not “mind” at all, although the word mind is used. It is the Consciousness that has already transcended the limitations of the finite. There creation starts. But form begins one rung below. This rung is called the Overmind. Here form starts, multiplicity starts in an individual form. The next rung is the intuitive mind. With the intuitive mind we see multiplicity in a creative form. With intuition we see all at a glance. We can see many things at a time; we see collective form. From the intuitive mind, Delight enters into the mind proper. This mind sees each object separately. But although it sees everything separately, it does not try to doubt the existence of each object. Next, Delight enters into the physical mind — that is, the mind that is governed by the physical. This mind sees each object separately plus it doubts the existence of each object. Real doubt starts here in the physical mind. Below the physical mind is the vital. In the vital we see the dynamic force or the aggressive force. The force that we see in the inner, or subtle, vital is the dynamic and the force that we see in the outer vital is the aggressive. From the vital, delight enters into the physical. There are two types of physical: the physical proper and the subtle physical. In the subtle physical, Delight is still descending and we may still be conscious of it. But in the subtle physical we cannot possess or utilise the truth; we can only see it, like a beggar looking at a multimillionaire. Finally, when we come to the gross physical there is no Delight at all. Delight descends, but we do not see even an iota of it in the gross physical. What can we do then? We can enter into the soul on the strength of our aspiration and the soul will consciously take us to the highest plane, to Satchidananda — Existence, Consciousness and Bliss plane. At that time, our journey can become conscious. We have entered into the triple consciousness and we can begin descending consciously into the Supermind, the Overmind, the intuitive mind, the mind proper, the physical mind, the vital and the physical. When we are successful in the physical, that is to say, when we can bring down Delight from the highest plane and the physical can absorb and utilise this Delight, the life of pleasure ends. At that time we come to realise the difference between the life of pleasure and the life of Delight. The life of pleasure is followed by frustration and destruction. The life of Delight is a continuous growth, continuous fulfilment, continuous achievement and continuous God-Manifestation in God’s own way.

The Mundakopanishad has offered us something most significant. There are two birds. One bird is seated on the top of the tree, the other on a branch below. The bird seated on the branch eats both sweet and bitter fruit. Sweet fruit give the bird the feeling that life is pleasure, bitter fruits give the bird the feeling that life is misery. The other bird seated on the top of the tree eats neither the sweet fruit nor the bitter fruit. It just sits calm and serene. Its life is flooded with peace, light and delight. The bird that eats the sweet fruit and the bitter fruit on the tree of life is disappointed and disgusted: disappointment because pleasure is impermanent, ephemeral and fleeting; disgusted because frustration ends in destruction. Unmistakably disappointed and utterly disgusted, this bird flies up and loses itself in the freedom-light and perfection-delight of the bird on the top of the life-tree. The bird on the top of the tree is the Cosmic and Transcendental Self and the bird below is the individual self. These two beautiful birds are known as Suparna.

In some of the Upanishads we see a continuous rivalry between the Gods and the demons. The self-resplendent ones are the Gods, the self-indulgent ones are the demons. The Gods and the demons are descendants of Prajapati, the Creator. When the Gods win the victory, the light of the soul reigns supreme. When the demons win the victory, the night of the body reigns supreme. Originally the Gods and the demons were the organs of Prajapati. The organs that were energised by the divine Will, illumined by the divine Light and inspired by the divine Action became Gods. The organs that were instigated by the lower thoughts and were eager to live in the sense-world and enjoy pleasure-life and were aiming at lesser and destructive goals, became demons. Needless to say, it is infinitely easier to reach lesser goals than it is to reach the Goal Supreme. This is precisely why the demons greatly outnumbered the Gods. But we, the seekers of the infinite Light and Truth, need the quality of the Gods and not the quantity of the demons.

Once, the Gods made a fervent request to the organ of speech, the nose, the eyes, the ears, the mind and the vital force to chant hymns for them. Each sang successively. The demons immediately realised that the Gods would, without fail, gain supremacy over them through these chanters, so they secretly and successfully contaminated them with the blatant evil of strong attachment to sense objects and the life of pleasure. They immediately succeeded with the organ of speech, the nose, the eyes, the ears and the mind. But to the vital force they lost badly. The vital force broke them into pieces and threw them in all directions. The vital force won the victory for the Gods. Their existence was inundated with divinity’s eternal Light. They became their true selves. The chicanery of the jealous demons was exposed and their pride was smashed.

This vital force is called Ayasya angirasa. It means the essence of the limbs. The vital force was victorious. It was also kind, sympathetic and generous. It carried the organ of speech beyond the domain of death. Having transcended the region of death, the organ of speech has become fire and this fire shines far beyond death.

The vital force carried the nose beyond death. The nose became the air. Having transcended the boundaries of death, the air blows beyond death.

The vital force carried the eyes beyond death. The eyes then became the sun. Having transcended the region of death, the sun perpetually shines.

The vital force carried the ears beyond death. They then became the directions. These directions, having transcended death, remained far beyond its domain.

The vital force carried the mind beyond death. The mind then became the moon. The moon, having transcended death, shines beyond its domain.

Asatoma sad gamaya,
Tamaso ma jyotirgamaya
Mrityor ma amritam gamaya.

“Lead me from the unreal to the Real.
Lead me from darkness unto Light.
Lead me from death to Immortality.”

The Brihadaranyaka — great forest — offers to humanity an unparalleled prayer. The unreal is the frown of death, the Real is the song of Immortality. Darkness is the colossal pride of death, Light is the life of illumining and perfecting power of Immortality. Death is the message of nothingness. Immortality is the message of humanity’s liberated oneness with divinity’s Transcendental Height.