The Katha Upanishad is now going to elaborate on the path so we can better understand how to journey upon it.
“The Self-Existent made the senses turn outward. Accordingly, man looks toward what is without, and sees not what is within. Rare is he who, longing for immortality, shuts his eyes to what is without and beholds the Self” (Katha Upanishad 2:1:1)
The first thing this verse teaches us is that the Divine Itself has caused our consciousness to turn outward. This is not the result of any negative force or fall on our part–the fall took place as a wrong response to the outward turn. What was the purpose of our turning outward? Evolution. We had to enter into relative existence and run the maze of ever-ascending evolution in order to satisfy our innate urge for infinity. (For more on this, see Robe of Light.) Consequently, there is nothing wrong with the senses turning outward; the problem is when the senses become locked in externalization. The purpose of our entering the field of evolutionary life was for us to experience the many shades of evolving consciousness while never losing awareness of our true nature or identifying with the costumes we constantly donned and put off as the ages progressed. However it may have been intended, the situation has horribly changed, making us blind to inner realities.
Sunk in awareness of seeming mortality, human beings either seek to distract themselves from the terror and pain which arises from their delusion, or they seek some way to attain immortality. Both searches are based on delusion, so they can only fail. We need not become immortal, but realize our present, eternal immortality. Those who shut the eyes of their consciousness to the false appearances of external existence and turn within discover the truth of their immortality. No longer do they think that the solution is to be found in some external factor, but clearly see that their own Self is the wondrous answer.
The foolish and the wise
“Fools follow the desires of the flesh and fall into the snare of all-encompassing death; but the wise, knowing the Self as eternal, seek not the things that pass away” (Katha Upanishad 2:1:2)
In its true state, relative existence is a vast field of life, but when it is overlain with the veneer of our inner delusions, it becomes death to us. That which is meant to expand our consciousness and free us into infinity becomes a prison, a killer of our soul–and this is all our doing. The world remains what it ever was, but we have lost sight of its nature just as we have become blind to our own Self.
The urge to expansion of consciousness through upward-moving evolution becomes distorted into a myriad desires arising from our false identity with the body and its illusory mortality. “Seize the moment!” is our despairing cry. Seeking to live, we plunge ourselves “into the snare of all-encompassing death.”
The wise, who have come to know their immortality through the direct experience produced by meditation, turn from the snare and seek only that which cannot pass away because it has never come into being at some point in time, but is immortal–like us. In other words, we seek the kingdom of God that is nothing less than God–and our own Self.
There is a seeking that is necessary, but a seeking for deepening our consciousness rather than for something that is not already ours. We must not fall into the facile illusion that we have nothing to do or attain. Certainly there is nothing objective to be done or attained, but in the subjective realm of Consciousness there is literally Everything to be sought and attained. “Strive without ceasing to know the Atman, seek this knowledge and comprehend clearly why you should seek it: such, it is said, are the roots of true wisdom” (Bhagavad Gita 13:11).
Read the next article in the Upanishads for Awakening: To Know The Self