Since there are three short parts remaining to be considered, I am putting them in this one closing essay.
The Great Unborn
“‘Verily is Brahman the great unborn that dwells within the lotus of the heart, surrounded by the senses. He is the intellect of the intellect, protector of all, king of all, lord of all. Good works do not make him more, nor do evil works make him less. Lord, king, protector of all, he transcends the three worlds.
“‘Devotees seek to know him by study, by sacrifice, by continence, by austerity, by detachment. To know him is to become a seer. Desiring to know him, and him alone, monks renounce the world. Realizing the glory of the Self, the sages of old craved not sons nor daughters. “What have we to do with sons and daughters,” they asked, “we who have known the Self, we who have achieved the supreme goal of existence?” No longer desiring progeny, nor wealth, nor life in other worlds, they entered upon the path of complete renunciation.
“‘Craving for progeny leads to craving for wealth, and craving for wealth leads to craving for life in other worlds. Two cravings there are: the craving for a life of pleasure in this world, and the craving for a life of greater pleasure in other worlds.
“‘The Self is to be described as Not This, Not That. It is incomprehensible, for it cannot be comprehended; undecaying, for it never decays; unattached, for it never attaches itself; unfettered, for it is never bound. He who knows the Self is unaffected, whether by good or by evil. Never do such thoughts come to him as “I have done an evil thing” or “I have done a good thing.” Both good and evil he has transcended, and he is therefore troubled no more by what he may or may not have done.’” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4:4:22).
Verily is Brahman the great unborn that dwells within the lotus of the heart, surrounded by the senses. The ultimate Self of all is Brahman that dwells in each sentient being. It can be said of each of them what Saint Paul said about Jesus: “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). The difference between Jesus (and any master) and other sentient beings is that he knew the Indweller and they do not. The Self is surrounded by the senses like someone in a theater that has a 360-degree screen, or like someone seated surrounded by video monitors. All of us really are “in the picture,” and that is most of our problem.
He is the intellect of the intellect. Every faculty, every quality we possess, is derived from the Self and has its primal archetype in Brahman. This is because everything exists within Brahman as an eternal potential.
Protector of all, king of all, lord of all. This extremely important. The upanishads continually remind us that Brahman is transcendent and beyond all qualities or conception. Yet here we see that Brahman has an intimate relation with all creation, is in contact with all things, and controls all things. Brahman is also Ishwara, the Lord. So it is an error to try to push Brahman completely out of the picture and exile It to a void that is antithetical to all we presently know or are. Brahman is indeed both This and That. In a short while we will be examining a verse that sums this up quite well.
Good works do not make him more, nor do evil works make him less. Brahman never acts, as both the upanishads and the Gita insist. So what does this mean? It means that the actions of sentient beings in no way change the Self, nor do they increase or decrease the presence of the Self. However, good actions do help us to perceive the Self as present, and evil actions dim our mental vision and cause us to lose awareness of the Self. Because of that we may think that the Self is affected and drawn closer or pushed away, but we will be wrong. Reality is untouched and unaffected by our delusions and illusions.
The rest of the verse is quite clear, only needing a careful and reflective reading.
“‘The eternal glory of the knower of Brahman, beginningless and endless, revealed by divine knowledge, is neither increased nor decreased by deeds. Let a man therefore seek to obtain it, since having obtained it he can never be touched by evil. Self-controlled is he who knows the Self, tranquil, poised, free from desire. Absorbed in meditating upon it, he sees it within his own soul, and he sees all beings in it. Evil touches him not, troubles him not, for in the fire of his divine knowledge all evil is burnt away. Freed from evil, freed from desire, freed from doubt, he becomes a knower of Brahman. This, O King, is the truth of Brahman. Do thou attain to it!’
“Janaka said: ‘Most revered sir, I offer you the empire of Videha–and myself with it–to be your servant.’” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4:4:23).
Our gratitude for this wisdom should be as boundless and all-encompassing as was Janaka’s. Who can calculate the lives we have passed, struggling to comprehend the truth of things, before at last these great truths have come into the sphere of our life and become known to us? May we now hasten to the realization of Yajnavalkya’s final summation:
“Yajnavalkya said: ‘The Self, the great unborn, the undecaying, the undying, the immortal, the fearless, is, in very truth, Brahman. He who knows Brahman is without fear. He who knows Brahman becomes Brahman!’” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4:4:25).
That and This
The simultaneous immanent and transcendent nature of Brahman (and the Self) is not easy to grasp. But the first half of the following verse is very helpful.
“That is the Full, this is the Full. The Full has come out of the Full. If we take the Full from the Full Only the Full remains.
“Om is the ether-Brahman–the eternal ether. It is the Veda known by the knowers of Brahman. For through it one knows what is to be known” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 5:1:1).
The word translated “full” is purna, which means both full and complete. In this verse it means the totality of being: Brahman. So it tells us that the Transcendent (Nirguna Brahman) is the total Reality; but so is the Immanent (Saguna Brahman). The Unmanifest is all that is–and so is the Manifest. The Immanent is a emanation from the Transcendent. If we confine our awareness to the Immanent we will find it to be the Totality of Being. If we turn to the Transcendent and intellectually negate the Immanent, we will perceive that the Transcendent is All. How is this? Because they are one and the same. Further, Brahman cannot be labeled or described, so even the words immanent and transcendent cannot be applied to It.
The second verse is extremely significant, telling us that Om is Brahman vibrating eternally in the Ether. That for those who know Brahman, Om is the real Veda, for it reveals all that is to be known: Brahman Itself.
Da! Da! Da!
“Gods, men, and asuras–all three descendants of Prajapati–lived with him for a time as students.
“Then the gods said: ‘Teach us, sir!’ In reply Prajapati uttered one syllable: ‘Da.’ Then he said: ‘Have you understood?’ They answered, ‘Yes, we have understood. You said to us, ‘“Damayata–Be self-controlled.”’ ‘Yes,’ agreed Prajapati, ‘you have understood.’
“Then the men said: ‘Teach us, sir.’ Prajapati uttered the same syllable: ‘Da.’ Then he said: ‘Have you understood?’ They answered, ‘Yes, we have understood. You said to us, ‘“Datta–Be charitable.’” ‘Yes,’ agreed Prajapati, ‘you have understood.’
“Then the asuras said: ‘Teach us, sir.’ Prajapati uttered the same syllable: ‘Da.’ Then he said: ‘Have you understood?’ They said, ‘Yes, we have understood. You told us ‘“Dayadhwam–Be compassionate.”’ ‘Yes,’ agreed Prajapati, ‘you have understood.’
“The storm cloud thunders: ‘Da! Da! Da!–‘Be self-controlled! Be charitable! Be compassionate!’” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 5:2:1-3).
Gods, men, and asuras make up our present human nature. The gods are the parts of us that are superior to the normal human condition. They have arisen as we have begun to evolve to the point where we can take the next step up on the evolutionary ladder. Men are our human traits, and the asuras are their negative distortions as well as the animal traits that we have brought along with us in our evolutionary journey. Consequently the advice to be self-controlled, charitable, and compassionate applies to us. And its following will ensure our continued evolution.
Read the next article in the Upanishads for Awakening: The Universe and Its Mystery