Katha Upanishad is, in the words of Swami Vivekananda, 'One of the most poetical of the Upanishads', and it begins with the most
fundamental inquiry the human mind has: 'When a man dies, there is a dispute. One party declares that he has gone for ever, the other
insists that he is still living. Which is true?' Kathopanishad was Swami Vivekananda's favorite Upanishad and he used to quote it often.
"Arise! Awake! And stop not until the goal is reached!" was Swami Vivekananda's clarion call for all; this was his free translation of a
Kathopanishad verse [1.3.14]. This Upanishad, like Bhagawad Gita, can be termed as the 'practical guide to spirituality'. It belongs to
the Kath (कठ) branch of कृष्ण यजुर्वेद
We present here the notes derived from audio talks by Revered Ramananada Saraswati on Katha Upanishad. (The original text for
the Upanishad can be downloaded from sanskritdocuments.org)
* Section I: Chapter I
* Section I: Chapter II
* Section I: Chapter III
* Section II: Chapter I
* Section II: Chapter II
* Section II: Chapter III
In the introductory commentary for this Upanishad, Sri Shankaracharya explains the meaning of the word 'Upanishad': it is formed by
the root ‘Sad’ which has two prefixes, ‘Upa’ and ‘Ni. The root ‘Sad’ can be interpreted in following three ways:
Spiritual aspirants who wish to liberate themselves from the transmigration cycle and have purified their hearts through austerities
and meditation, receive following three boons from the Upanishad (or from study of Upanishad):
(1) their causal ignorance is destroyed by the knowledge of real Self
(2) they move towards the real Self and ultimately become one with It
(3) thus they are fully freed from the troublesome cycle of birth-death-rebirth
|Section I: Chapter I
The story of Kathopanishad is introduced in this chapter. Swami Vivekananda gave a lecture on this Upanishad in London on 29th October
1896. He narrated this introductory story as:'... the Katha Upanishad speaks in very figurative language. There was, in ancient times,
a very rich man, who made a certain sacrifice which required that he should give away everything that he had. Now, this man was not
sincere. He wanted to get the fame and glory of having made the sacrifice, but he was only giving things which were of no further use
to him -- old cows, barren, blind, and lame. He had a boy called Nachiketas. This boy saw that his father was not doing what was right,
that he was breaking his vow; but he did not know what to say to him. In India, father and mother are living gods to their children.
And so the boy approached the father with the greatest respect and humbly inquired of him, "Father, to whom are you going to give me?
For your sacrifice requires that everything shall be given away." The father was very much vexed at this question and replied, "What
do you mean, boy? A father giving away his own son?" The boy asked the question a second and a third time, and then the angry father
answered, "Thee I give unto Death (Yama)." And the story goes on to say that the boy went to Yama, the god of death. Yama was the
first man who died. He went to heaven and became the governor of all the Pitris; all the good people who die, go, and live with him
for a long time. He is very pure and holy person, chaste and good, as his name (Yama) implies.
So the boy went to Yama's world. But even gods are sometimes not at home, and three days this boy had to wait there. After the third
day Yama returned. "O learned one," said Yama, "you have been waiting here for three days without food, and you are a guest worthy of
respect. Salutation to thee, O Brahmin, and welfare to me! I am very sorry I was not at home. But for that I will make amends. Ask
three boons, one for each day." And the boy asked, "My first boon is that my father's anger against me may pass away; that he will be
kind to me and recognise me when you allow me to depart." Yama granted this fully. The next boon was that he wanted to know about a
certain sacrifice which took people to heaven. Now we have seen that the oldest idea which we got in the Samhita portion of the Vedas
was only about heaven where they had bright bodies and lived with the fathers. Living in heaven would not be very different from life
in this world. At best, it would only be a very healthy rich man's life, with plenty of sense-enjoyments and a sound body which knows
no disease. The heaven solution commits this mistake; it insists that the whole of phenomena is only in touch, taste, sight, etc. So
this idea of heaven did not give full satisfaction to all. Yet Nachiketas asks, as the second boon, about some sacrifice through which
people might attain to this heaven. There was an idea in the Vedas that these sacrifices pleased the gods and took human beings to
So Nachiketas asks by what form of sacrifice a man can go to heaven. The second boon was also readily granted by Yama who promised
that this sacrifice should henceforth be named after Nachiketas.' (Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda)
@ By asking the second boon, Nachiketas had actually fulfilled the dreams of many souls who are not yet satisfied with the sense
world and like to go to heaven for a prolonged and finer sense life. Yama also expounds here the technique of the sacrifice and
qualification required for a person to perform it. त्रिभि: सन्धि:
tribhih sandhih - one who has been instructed by mother, father, and teacher OR one who has conducted himself by the dictates
of Veda, Smriti, and Shishta Purusha (noble men) OR one who has made his life a model based on direct perception, inference,
and scriptural injunctions AND त्रिकर्मकृत् trikarmakrit
- one who has followed the three important functions of sacrifice, study, and charity. Such a person is प्रामाणिक
pramanik (worthy) according to the Vedic tradition and is qualified to perform Nachiketas sacrifice. One who is such a
qualified and does the Nachiketas sacrifice for three times is called त्रिणाचिकेत:
trinachiketah; as a result of the sacrifice he/she is freed from the birth-death cycle on this earth and achieves cosmic dimensions.
However, Nachiketas was of mature and sharper mind and hence he rightly saw through the transitory, evanescent nature of all phenomenas
whether in this world or any other. He realized that considering these transitory phenomenal worlds as real, causes the desires to multiply
and the cycle of transmigration never stops; so he proceeded to ask the ultimate question. Swami Vivekananda continues, '... then the third
boon comes, and with that the Upanishad proper begins. The boy said, "There is this difficulty: when a man dies some say he is, others
that he is not. Instructed by you I desire to understand this." But Yama was frightened. He had been very glad to grant the other two
boons. Now he said, "The gods in ancient times were puzzled on this point. This subtle law is not easy to understand. Choose some other
boon, O Nachiketas, do not press me on this point, release me."
The boy was determined, and said, "What you have said is true, O Death, that even the gods had doubts on this point, and it is no easy
matter to understand. But I cannot obtain another exponent like you and there is no other boon equal to this."
Death said, "Ask for sons and grandsons who will live one hundred years, many cattle, elephants, gold, and horses. Ask for empire on
this earth and live as many years as you like. Or choose any other boon which you think equal to these -- wealth and long life. Or be
thou a king, O Nachiketas, on the wide earth. I will make thee the enjoyer of all desires. Ask for all those desires which are difficult
to obtain in the world. These heavenly maidens with chariots and music, which are not to be obtained by man, are yours. Let them serve
you, O Nachiketas, but do not question me as to what comes after death."
Nachiketas said, "These are merely things of a day, O Death, they wear away the energy of all the sense-organs. Even the longest life
is very short. These horses and chariots, dances and songs, may remain with Thee. Man cannot be satisfied by wealth. Can we retain
wealth when we behold Thee? We shall live only so long as Thou desirest. Only the boon which I have asked is chosen by me."'
|Section I: Chapter II
'Yama was pleased with this answer and said, "Perfection is one thing and enjoyment another; these two having different ends, engage
men differently. He who chooses perfection becomes pure. He who chooses enjoyment misses his true end. Both perfection and enjoyment
present themselves to man; the wise man having examined both distinguishes one from the other. He chooses perfection as being superior
to enjoyment, but the foolish man chooses enjoyment for the pleasure of his body. O Nachiketas, having thought upon the things which
are only apparently desirable, thou hast wisely abandoned them." Death then proceeded to teach Nachiketas.
You have understood that the man who lives in ignorance and enjoys, is not different from the brute beast. Yet there are many who,
though steeped in ignorance, in the pride of their hearts, think that they are great sages and go round and round in many crooked
ways, like the blind led by the blind. This truth, Nachiketas, never shines in the heart of those who are like ignorant children,
deluded by a few lumps of earth. They do not understand this world, nor the other world. They deny this and the other one, and thus
again and again come under my control. Many have not even the opportunity to hear about it; and many, though hearing, cannot know it,
because the teacher must be wonderful; so must he be wonderful too unto whom the knowledge is carried. If the speaker is a man who is
not highly advanced, then even a hundred times heard, and a hundred times taught, the truth never illumines the soul. Do not disturb
your mind by vain arguments, Nachiketas; this truth only becomes effulgent in the heart which has been made pure. He who cannot be
seen without the greatest difficulty, He who is hidden, He who has entered the cave of the heart of hearts -- the Ancient One --
cannot be seen with the external eyes; seeing Him with the eyes of the soul, one gives up both pleasure and pain. He who knows this
secret gives up all his vain desires, and attains this superfine perception, and thus becomes ever blessed. Nachiketas, that is the
way to blessedness. He is beyond all virtue, beyond all vice, beyond all duties, beyond all non-duties, beyond all existence, beyond
all that is to be; he who know this, alone knows. He whom all the Vedas seek, to see whom men undergo all sorts of asceticism, I will
tell you His name: It is Om. This eternal Om is the Brahman, this is the immortal One; he who knows the secret of this -- whatever he
desires is his. This Self of man, Nachiketas, about which you seek to know, is never born, and never dies. Without beginning, ever
existing, this ancient One is not destroyed, when the body is destroyed. If the slayer thinks that he can slay, and if the slain man
thinks he is slain, both are mistaken, for neither can the Self kill, nor can It be killed. Infinitely smaller than the smallest
particle, infinitely greater than the greatest existence, the Lord of all lives in the cave of the heart of very being. He who has
become sinless sees Him in all His glory, through the mercy of the same Lord. (We find that the mercy of God is one of the causes of
God-realisation.) Sitting He goes far, lying He goes everywhere; who else but men of purified and subtle understanding are qualified
to know the God in whom all conflicting attributes meet? Without body, yet living in the body, untouched, yet seemingly in contact,
omnipresent -- knowing the Atman to be such, the sage gives up all misery. This Atman is not be attained by the study of the Vedas,
nor by the highest intellect, nor by much learning. Whom the Atman seeks, he gets the Atman; unto him He discloses His glory. He who
is continuously doing evil deeds, he whose mind is not calm, he who cannot meditate, he who is always disturbed and fickle -- he
cannot understand and realise this Atman who has entered the cave of the heart.' (Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda)
* The Self explained by Yama is the infinite Pure-Consciousness-Bliss Reality, the real nature of every being; It being beyond speech and
mind is difficult to describe in words and difficult to comprehend by mind. Sometimes its nature is described in contradictory language
like आसीनो दूरं व्रजति aasino duram vrajati
(stationary yet moving). The pictures on a movie screen are all in motion but the screen remains stationary and unaffected; also the
movie is impossible without screen. Mirror shows all reflections but no reflections sticks to mirror or affects it. Similarly the Self
remains unaffected by the phenomenon.
* The division of sentient and insentient is like the sun-light reflected by a mirror and general sun-light. The bright reflection is
due to the mirror while at other places, due to lack of reflector, normal light is seen. Similarly Pure Consciousness when reflected
by अन्त:करण antahakaran (psyche) is called sentient while the lack of reflector is
termed as insentient, but both are same Pure Consciousness, the difference is only of manifestation. Swami Vivekananda says, 'From
the lowest worm that crawls under our feet to the noblest and greatest saints, all have this infinite power, infinite purity, and
infinite everything. Only the difference is in the degree of manifestation. The worm is only manifesting just a little bit of that
energy, you have manifested more, another god-man has manifested still more: that is all the difference. But that infinite power is
there all the same.' Similarly Swami Yatishwarananda says, 'In dead matter God is, as it were, unconscious, A little more conscious
in plants, still more conscious in animals, still more conscious in human beings, but most conscious in Great Incarnations and saints.'
* अज्ञात ज्ञापकं शास्त्र
ajnaat jnaapakam shaastrah - Scriptures explain the entity ungraspable by sense perceptions and mental knowledge, i.e. real Self
of a being. Scriptures being the utterances of realised souls, are unselfish in their motives.
* When spiritual aspirant chooses the Atman as the only objective of his/her life, the Atman reveals Itself to the aspirant.
* ज्ञानेन्द्रिय jnanendriya (senses of perception)
are related to mind i.e ज्ञानशक्ति jnanashakti (power of knowledge)
while कर्मेन्द्रिय karmendriya (senses of action) are
related to vital force (प्राण prana) i.e क्रियाशक्ति
kriyashakti (power of action). In सुषुप्ति sushupti (deep-sleep), mind
and senses of perception are not working but the vital force keep the essential functions of body like blood-flow, air-flow in lungs
* The real 'I' is कुटस्थ चैतन्य kutastha chaitanya
(unaltered Consciousness); It is unattached witness, hence It can not be the doer of actions. The senses and body are inert, hence
they can't be the doer either; who is the doer of actions then? The false association of inert body and witness consciousness gives
rise to the जीव jeeva (transmigrating soul) which assumes itself as the doer of actions and enjoyer of
results of action. If 'I' have the consciousness that 'I am body' then 'I' become the doer and enjoyer; if 'I' don't have the
consciousness that 'I am body' then 'I' remain unattached. This is the solution of a ज्ञानी jnaani
(philosopher) while the भक्त bhakta (devotee) solves this by saying that body belongs to God and the
doer & enjoyer associated with the body i.e. 'I' also belongs to God!
* In the path of knowledge the clever tactics of mind to avoid responsibility of actions does not work; as long as body-consciousness remains,
responsibility of actions is unavoidable.
* अक्रतु: akratuh - अकाम akaam - दृष्टादृष्ट बाह्यविषयोपरत बुद्धि:
drushtaadrushta-bahyavishayoparata-buddhih - one who has renounced all the desires related to this and heavenly worlds. The three
main desires to be renounced in this world are related to पुत्र putra (son, wife, family), वित्त
vitta (money, possessions, security), and लोक loka (name and fame).
* धातुप्रसादात् dhaatuprasaadaata - mind,
intellect, and senses are the causes for 'birth of body' hence they are called धातु dhaatu. When they
are merged in their cause i.e. the Atman (Self) then man/woman realizes his/her true nature and becomes वीतशोक:
veetashokah (free from all sorrows).
* दुश्चरितान् dushcharitaan - Ten sins are mentioned : three
committed by mind (greed, wishing ill of others, considering body as 'I'), three committed by body (debauchery, stealing, violence), and
four committed by speech (to tell lies, use pungent words, criticize others, to interrupt a conversation). One who has not conquered
these ten sins is yet unfit for Truth. Similarly one who is अशान्त: ashantah (attached to
senses and hence restless), असमाहित: asamaahitah (devoid of mind-control i.e. lack of
concentration), and अशान्तमानस: ashaantamaanasah (mind is concentrated but
is seeking super-natural powers) is unfit for Truth.
* There are two main obstacles to Self-realization: considering the body as 'I' (अहंता ahamtaa)
and all that is associated with the body as 'mine' (ममता mamataa). Under the tremendous influence of
these two, human being is unable to realize his/her true nature.
|Section I: Chapter III
This section is started in order to determine the goal for कर्मी karmi (soul seeking higher levels
of existence) and मुमुक्षु mumukshu (soul seeking Liberation). The karmi
wants to ascend to higher spheres of existence reaching up to the highest, ब्रह्मलोक
brahmaloka while mumukshu wishes to get out of the cycle of transmigration and become free. Both these types are in जीवभाव
jeevabhava (transmigrating soul state) i.e. they are the 'reflection' of Self in 'waters of mind, intellect'; and this reflection
is in turn attached to the 'pot of sense, body'. The Self or God is everywhere but due to the differentiation of limiting adjuncts like
mind, intellect, and body It is reflected in various ways as specific consciousness.
In this section, above point is illustrated with the famous analogy of chariot; Swami Vivekananda explains this analogy as: 'This body,
O Nachiketas, is the chariot, the organs of the senses are the horses, the mind is the reins, the intellect is the charioteer, and the
soul is the rider in the chariot. When the soul joins himself with the charioteer, Buddhi or intellect, and then through it with the
mind, the reins, and through it again with the organs, the horses, he is said to be the enjoyer; he perceives, he works, he acts. He
whose mind is not under control, and who has no discrimination, his senses are not controllable like vicious horses in the hands of a
driver. But he who has discrimination, whose mind is controlled, his organs are always controllable like good horses in the hands of
a driver. He who has discrimination, whose mind is always in the way to understand truth, who is always pure -- he receives that truth,
attaining which there is no rebirth. This, O Nachiketas, is very difficult, the way is long, and it is hard to attain. It is only those
who have attained the finest perception that can see it, that can understand it. Yet do not be frightened. Awake, be up and doing. Do
not stop till you have reached the goal. For the sages say that the task is very difficult, like walking on the edge of a razor. He
who is beyond the senses, beyond all touch, beyond all form, beyond all taste, the Unchangeable, the Infinite, beyond even intelligence,
the Indestructible -- knowing Him alone, we are safe from the jaws of death.' (Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda)
* To run the chariot of body, we need the power of both: sense of perception (ज्ञानशक्ति
jnanashakti) and sense of action (क्रियाशक्ति kriyashakti).
But these two have their origin in heart. Heart is the place for soul and God.
* परमे परार्धे parame paraardhe - the space of heart is superior
to the space outside and is the dwelling place of transmigrating soul and Supreme Soul.
* ऋतं rutam (decidedly) - as long as we have the feeling that we are body-mind complex, we would have the
notion of 'doer' and hence definitely we have to reap the fruits of our actions. The cycle of कर्म-कर्मफल
karma-karmaphala (actions and its result) is broken when the false association with the body-mind complex is broken.
* Our senses get rest when they are inward focussed and are exhausted when outward focussed. We can't keep the eyes open continuously
for a prolonged time but we can keep them continuously closed for a prolonged time. This is true also for mind and intellect. Due to
the effect of desires, mind and senses are outward focussed and they are as if used to this perversion without realizing the pain of it!
* पर: parah (superior) connotes subtleness, vastness, and inwardness. The सूक्ष्म तन्मात्रा
sukshma tanmatraa (subtle elements) which produce the gross senses and gross sense objects are parah than senses; mind
is parah than senses; बुध्दि buddhi (intellect or the deterministic faculty of mind) is
parah than mind; महत् mahat (cosmic intelligence) is parah than buddhi; अव्यक्त
avyakta (causal or potential Being) is parah than mahat; पुरुष purusha (Pure
Consciousness) is parah than avyakta . There is nothing parah or subtle, vast than Pure Consciousness which is
infinite Bliss and absolute Existence.
* गुढोत्मा न प्रकाशते gudhotmaa na prakaashate
- the essential nature of all beings is not revealed to all; it is 'as if' hidden. Why?
asamskrutabuddhe avijneyatvaat - those who have not exercised their discriminative powers, are not able to perceive the subtle
things and hence fail to grasp Pure Consciousness. But सूक्ष्मदर्शिभि:
sookshmadarshibhih (subtle seers) have practiced discrimination and detachment and thus have made their buddhi subtle & penetrating;
they are able to perceive the Truth.
* We would never get peace and happiness from the body, senses, or world; they are in fact source of trouble and unhappiness; when we
have such a conviction in our buddhi we would develop perfect detachment.
|Section II: Chapter I
In section I, nature of Self-realization was explained with the analogy of chariot and it was mentioned that the Self being subtlest
of all, is not easily comprehensible. Those who have not made their intellects one-pointed and subtle can't reach It. What are the
obstacles to the intellect that makes it gross and scattered? Unless we investigate these obstacles we can't remove them and hence
for this purpose this first chapter of section II is started.
* धीर: dhirah - discriminating intellect (discrimination between real and unreal)
आवृत्तचक्षु: aavruttachakshuh - withdrawal of all
senses within oneself
अमृतत्वमिच्छन् amrutatvamichchan -
A spiritual aspirant who has above three qualifications reaches Self-realization.
* Self or God has 'become' all phenomenal beings and universe, hence It is called अभिन्न-निमित्त-उपादान-कारण
abhinna-nimitta-upaadaan-kaaran (non-separate efficient & material cause). While making pots the potter uses mud hence mud is
material cause and potter is the efficient cause for the pots. But Self being the only real entity in existence It does not require
anything apart from Itself to make the universe and its beings. The whole universe with its beings is God's image.
* When we identify with the body-mind-complex, we feel helpless; if we can remain firm in our Pure-Consciousness-Bliss nature we won't
feel helpless and limited. अदिती Aditi - चितिशक्ति
chitishakti is the power (energy) of Pure Consciousness which manifests as the vital forces in the body and cognitive faculty
of mind. This Aditi also helps us get rid of the helplessness by making us one with our real nature.
* The body-mind complex does not give rise to consciousness but rather Pure Consciousness gives rise to multiple body-mind-complexes;
it is worth noting here a quotation from Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj: 'You are so accustomed to think of yourselves as bodies having
consciousness that you can not imagine consciousness as having bodies. Once you realize that bodily existence is but a state of mind,
a movement in consciousness, that the ocean of consciousness is infinite and eternal, and that, when in touch with consciousness, you
are the witness only, you will be able to withdraw beyond consciousness altogether.'
* Whatever material is poured into sacrificial fire is turned into fire, similarly when an aspirant realizes himself/herself as infinite
Pure Consciousness, all the universe with its beings 'turn' into Pure Consciousness.
* Just as a pregnant woman protects her foetus diligently until the child is born, similarly an aspirant must, by continuous remembrance,
protect the mantra received from Guru in his/her heart until Self-knowledge is dawned.
* The human body has a 'hole' of the size of human thumb in the middle of heart; that is the centre for the manifestation of बुध्दि
buddhi (intelligence) and प्राण prana (vital force). Within this 'hole' resides God,
controller of past, present and future. That is Pure Consciousness.
* The tree of phenomenal existence has the water of desires in it and hence it is like wet fire-wood. Though there is fire of knowledge
present in it, owing to the wetness, it is covered with smoke! The fire of Pure Knowledge is smoke-less and is separate from 'body-mind-world'.
This pure fire is present in the heart of all beings.
* Due to ignorance of our true nature we are aware of only the subtle body (mind) and gross body which are like 'equipment' and
'house' respectively for the Self. We mistakenly identify with them and consider the world as real in itself. When we would know our
true nature i.e. infinite Pure-Consciousness-Bliss, then these two bodies and the waking, dream and deep-sleep states would disappear.
When we stress the reality of Self and remove the reality of world, we are no longer in need of these two bodies and that is Liberation.
|Section II: Chapter II
* The one and only Pure-Consciousness-Bliss Reality gives apparent continuity to our past, present, and future; to our dream and waking
life; to our ignorance in deep-sleep; to our memory and perceptions; to our loss of memory and lack of perception! That Pure-Consciousness-Bliss
Reality is our true nature and of the universe too.
* The central point to understand in Vedanta is: 'Infinite Pure-Consciousness-Bliss' is the only Reality that exists. The limiting
adjuncts of जीव Jiva (soul) and ईश्वर Ishwara (God) give rise to अल्पज्ञ
alpajna (nescient) Jiva and सर्वज्ञ sarvajna (omniscient) Ishwara.
Jiva's उपाधि upaadhi (limiting adjunct) is निकृष्ट
nikrushta (inferior) while that of Ishwara is उत्कृष्ट
utrushta (superior), but both the limiting adjuncts are illusory superimpositions on one and same Reality.
* The Reality is present everywhere and at all times but it is manifested through various limiting adjuncts like 'human','beast','angel' etc.
Just as fire present in different shaped metal-objects appear to be of different shapes but is actually without any shape, the Self in
various forms appear to be of different forms but is actually without any form.
Just as the same air filled in different shaped objects appear to be of different shapes but is actually without shape, the Self
in various forms appear to be of different forms but is actually without any form.
Above two examples of fire and air are stated, in the Upanishad, in order to illustrate the point: though manifestation of Reality
through senses of perception (ज्ञानशक्ति) and action (क्रियाशक्ति)
is different, the Self as a substratum is same. We all are able to perceive and act because one and same God is the substratum for
all beings. The 'ignorance' about the Self as well as subsequent 'appearance' of 'I', 'others' & 'world' are based on the Reality;
and the 'knowledge' of Reality is also based on the same Reality!
* Being ignorant of the Truth, the soul experiences itself in various ways as different bodies and the world. Thus the soul ignorantly
takes its experiences and world as real; this gives rise to desires; desires propel action; depending on the force of desires, actions
are constructive or destructive; these actions in turn gives rise to the experience of its results/fruits. In this way the soul is
trapped in the cycle of transmigration. Only the knowledge of Truth i.e. real nature of the soul can break this dream of transmigration
and liberate the soul. Swami Vivekananda has beautifully expressed this ideas as:
... And tell the world --
Awake, arise, and dream no more!
This is the land of dreams, where Karma
Weaves unthreaded garlands with our thoughts
Of flowers sweet or noxious, and none
Has root or stem, being born in naught, which
The softest breath of Truth drives back to
Primal nothingness. Be bold, and face
The Truth! Be one with it! Let visions cease,
Or, if you cannot, dream but truer dreams,
Which are Eternal Love and Service Free.
* षोडषकला पुरुष shodashakala purursh (Self in Its fully
manifested sixteen degrees) - soul tries to manifest the Self through various degrees; though the all-pervasive Self is not percieved by
senses, the observable degrees of Its manifestation are:
Degree of Manifestation
उद्भिज udbhija (coming out of land) e.g. trees
स्वेदज svedaja (born of sweat) e.g. lice, bedbugs
अण्डज andaja (born from egg) e.g. birds
जारज jaaraja (born from womb) e.g. human, animals
Human beings following the path of righteousness
Human beings reaching various stages of meditation up-to complete absorption
8th to 12th
Incarnations and special manifestations of divinity
13th to 16th
Incarnations of highest order
* For the transactions of the world, light from sun, moon, lightening, fire, external lamp as well as the 'light' of speech (senses),
mind etc. are helpful but all these sources of 'light' are incapable of revealing the Self. In fact Self Itself is the source for all
the sources of 'light' in the world! (As an analogy, Sun is representative of the Self, Moon of mind, and fire of speech/senses)
|Section II: Chapter III
On seeing fruit, which is the effect, we can infer about the cause i.e. tree; similarly world that is experienced is effect, and in
order to search its cause this chapter III, of 2nd section of this Upanishad, is started.
* संसारवृक्ष samsaaravruksha (tree of phenomenal existence) is
compared with अश्वत्थ ashwattha (peepul) tree, for the peepul tree leaves are always
shaking just like the world which is ever-changing. Also, just as in the world, good and bad both exists, the peepul tree is
worshipped (in India) as holy well as it is associated with ghosts! Adi Shankaracharya's commentary on the first verse of this chapter
is beautifully poetic; it describs this 'tree of existence' as:
- As a tree is eventually felled, the world also vanishes on dawn of knowledge
- The world consists of many evils such as birth, old age, death, sorrow etc.
- It changes itself every moment
- Like a magic or 'water in a mirage' or 'city in the sky', it appears and vanishes
- It ceases to exist ultimately
- Like the stem of a plantain tree, it is devoid of any real substance
- It is subject to hundreds of doubts in the minds of sceptics
- It is understood in its real nature as Pure Consciousness only by Self-realized people
- It comes out from the seed of ignorance, desires, actions, and 'Universal Unmanifested'
- It has as its sprout the हिरण्यगर्भ hiranyagarbha (golden womb)
which is the source of powers of knowledge and action
- It has its trunk made up of the subtle bodies of all beings
- Its growth is due to the sprinkling of water of desires
- Its tender sprouts are बुध्दि buddhi(intelligence), senses, and sense objects
- Its leaves are of Veda, Smriti, Logic, and other books of learning
- Its lovely flowers are the many deeds as sacrifice, charity, austerity etc.
- Its various tastes are the experiences of happiness and sorrow
- Its infinite fruits are the means of subsistence of beings
- It has its secondary roots well developed, entwined, and firmly fixed through the sprinkling of the water of desire (for the fruits)
- It has for its nests, the seven worlds beginning from the one called Satya, built by the birds which are the living beings from
- It has its uproar, rendered tumultuous through the various sounds arising from dancing, singing, instrumental music, disport
(play, jest etc.), clapping on the arms, laughing, pulling, crying, exclaiming 'Alas! Alas! Leave me, leave me!...' induced
by mirth and grief arising from the enjoyment and pain of living beings
- It is felled by the weapons of detachment consisting of realization of identity of Brahman and the Self as inculcated by Vedanta
- It is ever unsteady and shaken by the winds of desires and deeds
- It has its branches downwards, consisting of heaven, hell, and states of beasts and ghosts
- It has no beginning and is existing from time immemorial
- The root of this tree is white, pure, resplendent Pure Consciousness which is infinite and indestructible
( -- Translation with the help of 'Eight Upanishads - Volume I' by Swami Gambhirananda, Advaita Ashrama, 1957)
* The inner Self is without any identification and It is not graspable by the senses, then how can It be realized?
By the ह्रदयस्थिता बुध्दि
hrudayasthita buddhi (purified mind concentrated in heart); बुध्दि buddhi is the
purified mind which controls the oscillations of ordinary mind. The ordinary mind is converted into pure mind by continuous remembrance
of God/Self. When all the senses are withdrawn from their respective objects and the purified mind is established in the Self residing
in heart then it is the final state of Yoga. Thus, the Self is 'achievable' only with the help of concentrated and purified mind which
has firm faith in the existence of the Self (सद्बुध्दि sadbuddhi). Those
aspirants who have the consciousness that the Reality 'IS' or 'SELF EXISTS' (आस्तिक्यबुध्दि aastikyabuddhi),
reach the subtlest truth of Self; those who deny any substratum to the 'world' and 'self' are deluded in the cycle of transmigration
again and again.
* When all the desires, having their roots in the buddhi, are destroyed, the soul attains to infinite Pure Consciousness in
this very body; i.e. devoid of any desire to go to heaven or any other world, the soul merges in Reality; it 'becomes' Brahman.
The concepts arising from ignorance are such as: 'I am this body', 'This wealth is mine', 'I am happy and unhappy' etc. When the
bonds of ignorance are destroyed by the dawn of opposite knowledge of the identity of the Self and Brahman, such as 'I am infinite
Pure Consciousness and not transmigrating soul', then the desires with their roots in heart are destroyed.
* Nachiketa achieved liberation by earnestly listening to the Truth from Yama; similarly any aspirant sincerely and earnestly seeking
Truth will achieve It.
सह नाववतु | सह नौ भुनक्तु |
सह वीर्यं करवावहै |
मा विद्विषावहै ||
May He (God/Self) protect us both (teacher and disciple; by revealing the Truth). May He nourish us both (by the fruit of knowledge).
May we attain vigour together. Let what we study be invigorating. May we not cavil at each other.
| ॐ शान्ति: | ॐ शान्ति: | ॐ शान्ति: |
| Om Peace | Om Peace | Om Peace |