The Upanishads — the beauty and duty of India's soul

This beauty is not tempting.
This beauty is illumining.
This duty is not self-imposed.
This duty is God-ordained.


The Upanishads offer us self-knowledge, world-knowledge, God-knowledge. Self-knowledge is self-discovery. After self-discovery we have to feel that the world-knowledge is within us and we have to grow into the world-knowledge. Then comes a time when we know the possessor of world-knowledge and then we have God-Knowledge. We have to enter into God-Knowledge which is the possessor of the universe.


Neti, neti — not this, not this, or not this, not that. All of us here are seekers — seekers of the infinite Truth. A real seeker is not and cannot be satisfied with his individual life, individual achievements, world possessions. No. He can be satisfied only when he has achieved the Absolute. Now what is the Absolute? Brahman is the Absolute. The Seers of the hoary past offered this sublime knowledge: Brahman cannot be limited by anything, Brahman cannot be housed by anything, Brahman cannot be defined by anything. This was their positive assertion. But we feel that this is the negative way of seeing Brahman. Brahman is beyond and beyond. But there is a positive way and this positive way is this: Brahman is Eternal, Brahman is Infinite, Brahman is Immortal. This is the positive way. We, the seekers of the infinite Truth, will follow the positive way. If we follow the positive way in our life of aspiration, we can run the fastest and reach the ultimate Goal.

We have to see Brahman in the finite, as we wish to see Brahman in the Infinite. But during our meditation, if we can have the vision of Brahman as the Infinite Self, then it becomes easier for us to enter into the world of relativity where we see everything as finite. We see the world within us, we see the world without us. In the world within there is a being and in the world without there is also a being. These two beings are called non-being and being. From the non-being the being came into existence. This very idea baffles our minds. How can non-being create being? Non-being is supposed to be nothing. From nothing how can something come into existence? But you have to know that it is the mind which tells us that from non-being being cannot come into existence. We have to know that this “nothing” is something beyond the conception of the mind. “Nothing” is the life of the everlasting Beyond. Nothing is something that always remains beyond our mental conception. It exceeds, it transcends our limited consciousness. So when we think of the world or of being coming out of non-being, we have to feel that this Truth can be known and realised only on the strength of our inner aspiration, where the mind does not operate at all. It is intuition which grants us this boon of knowing that “Nothing” is the Song of the ever-transcending Beyond. Again, “Nothing” is the experience of the ever-fulfilling, ever-transcending and ever-manifesting existence.


The Upanishads and the essence of Prana are inseparable. Prana is a Sanskrit word. It can be translated into English in various ways. You can say “breath” or "energy”, or you can go to the extreme of saying “ether”. But Prana is life-energy. This life-energy is not material, it is not physical; it is something that maintains and sustains the physical body. The Source of this Prana is the Supreme. In the field of manifestation Prana is indispensable. Prana is the soul of the universe. In India the term Prana has a special significance of its own. Prana is not just breath. Daily we breathe in and out thousands of times and we do not pay any attention to it. But when we use the term Prana we think of the life-energy that is flowing from within, without.

Prana is divided into five parts: Prana, Apana, Samana, Vyana and Udana. The life-energy, life-force that is inside the physical eyes, nose and ears, we call Prana. When we see the life-energy in our organs of excretion and generation it is Apana. Samana is the Prana that governs our digestion and assimilation. In the lotus of the heart where the Self is located, where we see one hundred and one subtle spiritual nerves and in each nerve one hundred nerve branches and from each nerve branch seventy- two thousand nerve branches, there the Prana that moves is called Vyana. Through the centre of the spine, life-energy flows. When it goes upward it reaches the highest and when it goes downward it reaches the lowest. When a seeker of the infinite Truth leaves the body, his Prana rises towards the highest and when a sinful person leaves the body, his Prana goes downward. This Prana which flows through the centre of the spine is called Udana.

When we are in a position to enter the Cosmos with the help of our life-force, we feel that Beyond is not in our imagination, it is not a chimerous mist, it is a reality that is growing within us and for us. God was one. He wanted to be many. Why? He felt the necessity of enjoying Himself, divinely and supremely in infinite forms. Ekam Bahusyam — One desiring to be many. When the Supreme projected Himself, projected His Life-Force, He saw two creatures immediately. One was male, the other female. Prana, the life-force, is the male and the female is Rayi. Prana is the Sun. Rayi is the Moon. From Prana and Rayi we all came into existence. Again, Prana is the Spirit and Rayi is Matter. Spirit and Matter must go together. Spirit needs Matter for its self-manifestation and Matter needs Spirit for its self-realisation.

Very often the Vedic Seers, Upanishadic Seers, used two words: Nama, Rupa. Nama is the name; Rupa is the form. In our outer world we deal with name and form. In the inner world we deal with the nameless and the formless. The name and the nameless are not rivals. The form and the formless are not rivals. The name embodies the capacity of the outer body. The nameless reveals the immortality of the soul. In the form the cosmic Consciousness manifests itself by circumscribing itself. In the formless the cosmic Consciousness transcends itself by expanding and enlarging itself.

In the spiritual life the term sacrifice is often used. The Vedic Seers spoke elaborately on sacrifice. According to them, the horse sacrifice, Ashwamedha sacrifice was most important. The Brihadaranyaka starts with the sacrificial horse. Usha va Ashwasya Medhyasya shirah…

“Om. The head of the sacrificial horse is verily the dawn, the eye of the sacrificial horse is the sun, the vital force is the air, the open mouth the fire Vaisvanara, the trunk the year, the back is heaven, the belly the sky, the hoof the earth, the flanks the four directions, the ribs the intermediate directions, the limbs the seasons, the joints the months and fortnights, the feet the days and nights, the bones the stars, the flesh the clouds, the half-digested food (in the stomach) is the sands, the arteries and the veins the rivers, the liver and spleen the mountains, the hairs the herbs and trees, the forepart the rising sun, the hind part the setting sun. Its yawn is lightning, its shaking body is thunder, its making water is rain, its neighing is indeed speech.”

Why do the Upanishadic Seers, the Vedic Seers, speak of the horse as the symbol of sacrifice and not any other animal? They realised the speed of the horse, the dynamism of the horse, the faithfulness and devoted qualities of the horse. Speed is necessary, dynamism is necessary, faithfulness and devotedness are necessary to realise and reveal the Absolute. That is why they chose the horse for the religious rites and for their inner awakening. Now by just sacrificing a horse we cannot gain any divine merit. Far from it. We must meditate on the horse, on the qualities of the horse and invoke these divine qualities to enter into us from above. The Vedic and Upanishadic Seers did this. They succeeded in getting the divine qualities of the horse and the result was that they entered into Brahmaloka, the highest heaven. But even in the highest heaven, the delight we get is not everlasting Delight; we have to enter into Brahman on the strength of our inner cry. When we have the inner cry we can eventually enter into the Brahman and there get everlasting Delight. To come back to the horse, one has not to make a horse sacrifice in this age. But one has to see the qualities of the horse and inwardly meditate on the divinely fulfilling qualities of the horse. It is from one’s own concentration and meditation that one will get the qualities which the horse offers or represents. Very often people misunderstand, especially Westerners. They think that if they just kill a horse they can gain divine merit and they decide to kill as many as they can. But sacrifice is not merely killing a horse. Sacrifice is in becoming one with the consciousness of the horse and only then can we get the divine wealth from above.

To be sure, there can be no sacrifice without aspiration. At every moment aspiration is necessary. But this aspiration has to be genuine and has to come from the very depth of the heart. It cannot give us realisation if it is not genuine. Aspiration does not know how to pull or push. Restlessness and aspiration can never go together. Very often beginners think that if they aspire they have to be very dynamic. This is true. But we do not see dynamism in their aspiration. What we see is restlessness. They want to realise God overnight. If we take this restlessness as determination or dynamism, then we are totally mistaken.

May I report an oft-quoted story? A seeker went to a spiritual Master. He was properly initiated and in a few days time this seeker, the disciple, said to the Master: “Master, now that you have initiated me, please give me God-realisation.” The Master said. “You have to practice meditation for a long time.” After a few days the disciple again said, “Master, Master, give me realisation.” He bothered the Master for a long time. One day the Master asked him to follow him. The Master went to the Ganges for a dip and invited the disciple also to enter into the water. When the disciple was neck-deep in water, the Master pushed the disciple’s head under water and held it there. After some time the Master let him come up, then the Master asked him, “How did you feel when you were underwater?” The disciple replied, “O Master, I felt that I would die if I did not get a breath of air,” The Master said, “You will realise God on the day that you feel you are dying and He alone can give you new life. If you can die for God, if you can cry for Him in that way, then you are bound to realise Him.”

The Master offered this message — the truth. Unfortunately we very often see that when a Master offers the truth, the disciples misunderstand. They understand it according to their limited light, or they feel that the message the Master has given is totally wrong. Now if the truth that is offered by the Master is not properly understood and used, then in the field of manifestation the disciple, the seeker, will never be fulfilled. The highest Truth will always remain a far cry for him.

In the Upanishads, Indra and Virochana came to Prajapati for the highest Knowledge. Indra represented the Gods and Virochana represented the demons. When Prajapati offered them the Knowledge of the Brahman, Indra again and again came back to verify the knowledge and he finally did realise the highest Knowledge. But Virochana understood the truth in his own way and he did not feel the necessity to come back again and again to realise the highest Truth.

There are quite a few spiritual Masters on earth who are offering their light to the seekers, but the seekers unfortunately do not understand the message of truth which they offer. Now how can they understand the message, the meaning, the significance of the truth which the Master offers? They can do it only on the strength of their devotion — devotion to the cause and devotion to the Master. If they have devoted feeling towards their Master and the cause, then the Truth can be realised in the way the Truth has to be realised and the message that the Master offers to chase away ignorance not only can be properly understood, but also can be established in the earth atmosphere. When Truth is permanently established here on earth, man shall receive the garland of eternal Victory.