In the silent recesses of the Upanishadic heart we see and feel a splendid combination of the soul’s spirituality and life’s practicality. In the world of imagination, in the world of aspiration, in the world of realisation, in the world of revelation, and in the world of manifestation, the soul of the Upanishads has the divine effrontery to assume the sovereign leadership, because that is its natural role. Its understanding embraces all the foibles of weak humanity. Its universal love is the song of self-offering.
The Upanishads are at once the heart’s aspiration-cry and the soul’s experience-smile. They have the vision of Unity in multiplicity. They are the manifestation of multiplicity in Unity.
The message of the Upanishads is the life divine, the life of transformed humanity, and the life of an illumined earth-consciousness. The Upanishads tell us that the renunciation of desire-life is the fulfilling enjoyment of world-existence. This renunciation is neither self-denial nor self-rejection. This renunciation demands the transcendence of ego to breathe in freely the life-energy of the soul and yet to live a dynamic and active life in the world where one can achieve Infinity’s Height, Eternity’s Delight, and Immortality’s Light.
Each major Upanishad is a pathfinder in the forest of experience that comprises human life. Each major Upanishad offers us the intuitive knowledge and the inner courage to find our way through the labyrinth of curves and dead ends, doubts and subterfuges. We come to realise that life is a glorious adventure of the aspiring heart, searching mind, struggling vital, and unsleeping body. We explore the hidden places of illumining individuality and fulfilling personality. Gone is our mind’s obscurity. Gone is our heart’s poverty. Gone is our vital’s impurity. Gone is our body’s insincerity. The train of Light has arrived. The plane of Delight is come.
The Upanishads teach the seeker that Delight is the manifestation of divine Love, Consciousness is the manifestation of the soul-force, and Existence is the manifestation of Being. In Delight Brahman is Reality. In Love Brahman is Divinity. In Consciousness Brahman contemplates on the Vision of perfect Perfection. In the soul-force Brahman becomes the achievement of perfect Perfection. In Existence Brahman is the Eternal Lover. In Being Brahman is the Eternal Beloved.
For God-realisation we need a Guru. The Katha Upanishad says, “A seeker cannot find his way to God unless he is told of God by another.” The Mundaka Upanishad says, “A seeker must approach a Self-knower for his inner Illumination.” The Prasna Upanishad says, “O Father, you have carried us over to the Golden Shores.” The Katha Upanishad says, “Arise, awake! Listen to and follow the great ones.” The Mundaka Upanishad says, “A guru is he whose outer knowledge is the Veda and whose inner knowledge is the contemplation of Brahman.”
A seeker who studies the Upanishads and leads a life of self-enquiry and self-discipline is not and cannot be a mere player on the stage of life, but is rather a spiritual art director and a real divine producer. Further, he has two broad shoulders and does not mind the burdens of the world. He feels that it is his obligation to assuage the bleeding heart of humanity. His life is the independence of thought and spirit. His heart’s dedicated service receives rich rewards from above. He has mastered his own philosophy of life, which is to please Divinity in humanity.
Tach chaks ur debahitam...
May we, for a hundred autumns, see that lustrous Eye, God-ordained, arise before us ...
To live a hundred years is not just to drag out our existence here on earth. One has to fight against ignorance. Desultory efforts cannot carry us to God. It takes time to realise God. It takes more time to reveal God. It takes even more time to manifest God. That is why the Seers of the Vedas prayed for sound health, long life, a life beyond a hundred autumns. They also warned us that anything that is deleterious to our health has to be avoided.
Uru nastanve tan Uru ksayaya naskrdhi Uru no yandhi jivase
Give freedom for our bodies.
Give freedom for our dwelling.
Give freedom for our life.
Vivekananda, the great Vedantin of indomitable courage, voiced forth, “Freedom — physical freedom, mental freedom, and spiritual freedom — is the watchword of the Upanishads.”
In order to achieve freedom, we need energy, power, and spirit. And for that, here is the mightiest prayer:
Tejo joh si tejo mayi dhehi...
Thy fiery spirit I invoke. Thy manly vigour I invoke. Thy power and energy I invoke. Thy battle fury I invoke. Thy conquering mind I invoke.
The Upanishads always hold the intrepid view of life. Progress, constant progress, is the characteristic of the Vedic and Upanishadic age.
Prehi, abhihi, dhrishnuhi.
Go forward, fear not, fight.
Fight against what? Bondage, ignorance, and death. Life is ours. Victory must needs be ours too. Anything that stands in the seeker’s way has to be thrown aside without hesitation. His is the life that knows no compromise.
The main longing of the Upanishads is for the Ultimate Truth. This Truth can be achieved by a genuine seeker who has many divine qualities, and whose love of God preponderates over every other love. The seeker needs three things: vrate, self-dedication; kripa, grace; and sraddha, faith. These three qualities embodied, satya, truth, is unmistakably attained.
Who wants to remain alone? No one, not even the highest, the first-born, Viraj. There came a time when He felt the need of projecting the cosmic Gods. He projected the Fire God, Agni, the only brahmin God, from His mouth. Indra, Varuna, Yama, Ishana and others were projected from His arms. These are the kshatriya Gods. Then He projected the Vasus, the Rudras, the Maruts. and others from His thighs. These are the vaishya Gods. He projected Pushan from His feet. Pushan is the sudra God.
A brahmin embodies knowledge. A kshatriya embodies strength. A vaishya embodies prosperity. A sudra embodies the secret of self-dedication. These four brothers are the limbs of the cosmic Being. Although they are outwardly distinguishable by their quality and capacity, in spirit they are inseparably one.
Brahman, or the Supreme Self, is the greatest discovery of the Upanishads. No human soul knows or will ever know when ignorance entered into us, for earth-bound time itself is the creation of ignorance. Still, a man swimming in the sea of ignorance need not drown. The Seers of the hoary past, the knowers of the Brahman, in unmistakable terms tell us that all human beings can and must come out of the shackles of ignorance. The knowers of the Transcendental Truth also tell us that the individual soul is in reality identical with the Supreme Self. The only problem is that the individual does not remember its true Transcendental Nature. Finally they tell us that “to know the Self is to become the Self.” On the strength of his direct realisation, a knower of the Brahman declares, “ aham brahmasmi,” “I am Brahman.”
In concluding this talk on the Upanishads, “The Crown of India’s Soul,” my realisation declares that the mind-power, the heart-power, and the soul-power of the Upanishadic consciousness are boundless. In the realm of philosophy, Shankara embodies the mind-power; in the realm of dynamic spirituality, Maharshi Ramana, the great sage of Arunachala, embodies the mind-power. The Christ, the Buddha, and Sri Chaitanya of Nadia, Bengal, embody the heart-power. Sri Krishna and Sri Ramakrishna embody the soul-power. In Sri Aurobindo the vision of the mind-power reached its zenith, and the realisation of the soul-power found its fulfilling manifestation on earth. These spiritual giants and others are steering the life-boat of humanity towards the Transcendental Abode of the Supreme.
UPA 5. Harvard University, Boston, MA, 3 December 1971↩