The Chidakasha within
“Within the city of Brahman, which is the body, there is the heart, and within the heart there is a little house. This house has the shape of a lotus, and within it dwells that which is to be sought after, inquired about, and realized. What then is that which, dwelling within this little house, this lotus of the heart, is to be sought after, inquired about, and realized?” (Chandogya Upanishad 8:1:1, 2).
The body is the abode of Brahman and the Self. The core-center of each relative, sentient being is its heart. And within the heart is a dahara, a dwelling; and within that dwelling is pure akasha, ether or space. But it is not the akasha that is one of the five primal elements (panchabhuta), but rather the Chidakasha: the space of Consciousness. In other words, the inmost dweller of the heart is Brahman Itself. Such is the import of these verses according to Shankara. So it is Brahman “which is to be sought after, inquired about, and realized.”
The inner cosmos
“As large as the universe outside, even so large is the universe within the lotus of the heart. Within it are heaven and earth, the sun, the moon, the lightning, and all the stars. What is in the macrocosm is in this microcosm” (Chandogya Upanishad 8:1:3).
How is this possible? Because space, like time, is only a idea, only an experience, not a reality. Infinity is within each one of us. I have had various experiences of this fact, as I wrote about before. I experienced the mirror-image of the cosmos that exists within the Chidakasha in the heart. No one had ever told me about this, so at first I was at a loss to figure it out. But then in a moment the truth flashed into my mind. When much later I read these words of the Chandogya Upanishad I realized how amazing and invaluable is yoga. The yogi can realize for himself the things written in the wisdom texts of India. He can both experience and understand the meaning of the experience–and all from within.
“All things that exist, all beings and all desires, are in the city of Brahman; what then becomes of them when old age approaches and the body dissolves in death? Though old age comes to the body, the lotus of the heart does not grow old. At death of the body, it does not die. The lotus of the heart, where Brahman exists in all his glory–that, and not the body, is the true city of Brahman. Brahman, dwelling therein, is untouched by any deed, ageless, deathless, free from grief, free from hunger and from thirst. His desires are right desires, and his desires are fulfilled” (Chandogya Upanishad 8:1:4, 5).
The mystic Angelus Silesius wrote that if he could die, then God would die; that if he could cease to exist, God would cease to exist. Such was his perfect understanding of the identity of the Self and God. Since this is so, the upanishad tells us that the Immortal is within us, whatever the condition of the body. Moreover, the desires of that Self are satyakama, true desires, and Its will is satyasankalpa, true will. So if we will center our consciousness in the Self, we will not have worry about desire or will–they will be Sat: revealers of the Real.
True desire and will
Having spoken of true desire and true will as properties of the Self, the upanishad now outlines the practical aspect of such.
“As here on earth all the wealth that one earns is but transitory, so likewise transitory are the heavenly enjoyments acquired by the performance of sacrifices. Therefore those who die without having realized the Self and its right desires find no permanent happiness in any world to which they go; while those who have realized the Self and its right desires find permanent happiness everywhere” (Chandogya Upanishad 8:1:6). The desires and intentions of those who have not realized the Self, even if seemingly fulfilled, eventually evaporate and come to nothing. But it is vastly different for those who know the Self and act and will accordingly.
“If the sage desires to see his fathers of the spirit-world, lo, his fathers come to meet him. In their company he is happy.
“And if he desires to see his mothers of the spirit-world, lo, his mothers come to meet him. In their company he is happy.
“And if he desires to see his brothers of the spirit-world, lo, his brothers come to meet him. In their company he is happy.
“And if he desires to see his sisters of the spirit-world, lo, his sisters come to meet him. In their company he is happy.
“And if he desires to see his friends of the spirit-world, lo, his friends come to meet him. In their company he is happy.
“And if he desires heavenly perfumes and garlands, lo, heavenly perfumes and garlands come to him. In their possession he is happy.
“And if he desires heavenly food and drink, lo, heavenly food and drink come to him. In their possession he is happy.
“And if he desires heavenly song and music, lo, heavenly song and music come to him. In their possession he is happy.
“Indeed, whatsoever such a knower of Brahman may desire, straightway it is his; and having obtained it, he is exalted of men” (Chandogya Upanishad 8:2:1-10).
This is lengthy and perhaps not too obvious of meaning. The idea is that the realized person has access to and embodies all that is positive from his past lives, both persons and karmic conditions. This being so, he can obtain anything he desires and wills in the present and the future. Yet “he is exalted of men” in a different manner than the dead and departed “greats” of human history. He is exalted in the Self, in Brahman, in Absolute Being.
The obstacle and its removal
The hallmark of upanishadic teaching is its thorough practicality, its good sense, and its demonstrable truth. So the upanishad next says:
“The fulfillment of right desires is within reach of everyone, but a veil of illusion obstructs the ignorant. That is why, though they desire to see their dead, their beloved, they cannot see them.
“Do we wish for our beloved, among the living or among the dead, or is there aught else for which we long, yet, for all our longing, do not obtain? lo, all shall be ours if we but dive deep within, even to the lotus of the heart, where dwells the Lord. Yea, the object of every right desire is within our reach, though unseen, concealed by a veil of illusion.
“As one not knowing that a golden treasure lies buried beneath his feet, may walk over it again and again, yet never find it, so all beings live every moment in the city of Brahman, yet never find him, because of the veil of illusion by which he is concealed” (Chandogya Upanishad 8:3:1,2).
Meditation is the key to the treasure house. So the upanishad next says:
“The Self resides within the lotus of the heart. Knowing this, devoted to the Self, the sage enters daily that holy sanctuary.
“Absorbed in the Self, the sage is freed from identity with the body and lives in blissful consciousness. The Self is the immortal, the fearless; the Self is Brahman. This Brahman is eternal Truth” (Chandogya Upanishad 8:3:3,4).
Read the next article in the Upanishads for Awakening: Crossing the Boundary