The Light of the Self
“The light that shines above the heavens and above this world, the light that shines in the highest world, beyond which there are no others–that is the light that shines in the hearts of men” (Chandogya Upanishad 3:13:7). Gambhirananda: “Now, that Light which shines beyond this heaven, beyond the whole creation, beyond everything, in the highest worlds which are unsurpassingly good, it is certainly this which is the light within a person.”
It is the Atma Jyoti, the Light of the Self, which is also Divinity Itself. As a student of the upanishadic wisdom through his master, Jesus, Saint John wrote: “This then is the message which we have heard of him [Jesus], and declare unto you, that God is light” (I John 1:5). That Light is purely spiritual (Spirit, actually) beyond the light we see in this world, but which nevertheless is also a manifestation or extension of that Light, as is the entire creation. In all the worlds–and beyond all the worlds–it is the One Light that shines in, and as, all. What a glorious truth, as profound as it is simple. “The Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory” (Isaiah 60:19). This was the Essene teaching which Jesus received even in infancy.
Original Christianity–which was rooted in the upanishads–taught that the Divine Light “was the light of men.…the true Light, which lighteth every man” (John 1:4, 9) without exception. That Light cannot be alienated from us, but is ever the essence of our existence, making us “the children of light” (John 12:36). This is the real Gospel, the Good News, of real religion.
The Light that IS Brahman
This Light is transcendent because God is transcendent–and so are we! Because: “Truly has this universe come forth from Brahman. In Brahman it lives and has its being. Assuredly, all is Brahman. Let a man, freed from the taint of passion, worship Brahman alone” (Chandogya Upanishad 3:14:1a). Again Gambhirananda: “All this is Brahman. This is born from, dissolves in, and exists in That. Therefore, one should meditate by becoming calm.” Really, what can–or need be–said about this incredible assertion: ALL is Brahman?
What we can consider is the final part, the practical advice, which in the Sanskrit text is only two words: shanta upasita. Literally, they mean: “Draw near peacefully” or: “Go near peacefully.” Upasana means to sit or draw near, and is usually understood to mean either worship or meditation. In the Greek original of the New Testament the word translated “prayer” is prosevki, which also means to draw near. The Greek word translated “worship” is proskuneo, which has the same meaning.
The important thing to realize is that true worship and meditation are both an inner process, for God is the light that shines within each one of us, as the first verse quoted points out. So to draw near to that light we must turn within. As Jesus said: “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21).
The inner search must be done shanta–peacefully. This is a major key in yoga. All meditation must be done calmly and carefully, otherwise it will be impossible to perceive and assimilate the subtle states of awareness which meditation should produce. The mind must be as still as a mirror to really meditate, and meditation alone produces that stillness. Meditation is being described by Saint Paul when he says: “We all, with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory” (II Corinthians 3:18). That is why in the book of Revelation, which Paramhansa Yogananda said is a book about yoga, it says that a “sea of glass” like a great mirror is before the throne of God, and that the saints “stand” upon it. This symbolizes the perfectly still mind of the yogi by which he experiences higher realities. (Revelation 4:6, 15:2).
The yogi’s will
Now the second half of the verse we just examined: “A man is, above all, his will. As is his will in this life, so does he become when he departs from it. Therefore should his will be fixed on attaining Brahman” (Chandogya Upanishad 3:14:1b).
This is surely one of the most important statements in the upanishads. The will is the highest faculty we possess. It is higher even than the intellect, for we often say: “I won’t think about that right now…” and we do not, because the will controls it. The only thing higher than the will is the Self. The will approaches closer to the Self than any other aspect of our being. This is so important, because the quality of our religion and our yoga is determined by which aspect is the basis of our belief and practice.
We have five levels or “bodies.” They are: 1) the physical, material body (annamaya kosha), 2) the magnetic or bio-energetic body (pranamaya kosha), 3) the sensory mind (manomaya kosha), 4) the intelligent mind, the intellect (jnanamaya kosha), and 5) the will (anandamaya kosha). These also correspond to the five elements: earth (prithvi), water (apa), fire (agni), air (vayu), and ether (akasha) which are also the seats of the five senses–smell, taste, sight, touch, and hearing.
The will is the anandamaya kosha, which corresponds to the element of ether, whose special faculty is sound (shabda), both the passive faculty of hearing and the active faculty of speech. Which is why yoga also works with sound. Yoga is the way to correct and develop the will. Since we are our will according to the upanishad, it must be made alive through meditation. Only through yoga can we gain mastery of the will, and thereby of ourselves.
If in this life we become united to Brahman, when we leave this world we will go to Brahman. “Then Satyakama, son of Shibi, asked him [the Rishi Pippalada]: ‘Venerable Sir, what world does he who meditates on Om until the end of his life, win by That?’ To him, he said: ‘That which is the sound Om, O Satyakama, is verily the higher and the lower Brahman. Therefore, with this support alone does the wise man reach the one or the other.’…If he meditates on the Supreme Being [Parampurusha] with the Syllable Om, he becomes one with the Light, the Sun. He is led to the world of Brahman. He sees the Person that dwells in the body, Who is higher than the highest life. …That the wise one attains, even by the mere sound Om as support, That Which is tranquil, unaging, immortal, fearless, and supreme” (Prashna Upanishad 5:1,2,5,7). You can’t get more detailed–or more authoritative–than that.
“Therefore should his will be fixed on attaining Brahman,” concludes this verse. For as Krishna said: “When a yogi has meditated upon me unceasingly for many years, with an undistracted mind, I am easy of access to him, because he is always absorbed in me” (Bhagavad Gita 8:14).
This is the way.
Read the next article in the Upanishads for Awakening: The Self Within