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The Infinite Self

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Section 36 of the Upanishads for Awakening

“What is within us is also without. What is without is also within. He who sees difference between what is within and what is without goes evermore from death to death” (Katha Upanishad 2:1:10). These words have various levels of meaning, and we should consider them all.


Many years ago, Dr. Judith Tyberg, a disciple of Sri Aurobindo and director of the East-West Cultural Center in Los Angeles, told me that she had attended a lecture at Benares Hindu University in which a map of the universe and charts from Gray’s Anatomy were compared and seen to be strikingly alike. Our bodies are little models of the universe.

Some months before she told this to me I had experienced this for myself. While meditating one day all ordinary physical sensation vanished. Spatial relation ceased to exist and I found myself keenly aware of being beyond dimension, neither large nor small, but infinite (for infinity is beyond size). Although the terminology is inappropriate to such a state, to make it somewhat understandable I have to say that I perceived an infinity of worlds within me. Suns–some solo and others surrounded by planets–glimmered inside my spaceless space. Not that I saw the light, but I felt or intuited it in what Saint Teresa of Avila called “intellectual vision.” I did not see anything–and yet I did. It is not expressible in terms of ordinary sense experience, yet I have no other terms. I experienced myself as everything that existed within the relative material universe. Or so it seemed, for the human body is a miniature universe, a microcosmic model of the macrocosm. The physical human body is a reflection of the universal womb that conceived it. I had experienced the subtle level of the physical body that is its ideational (i.e., causal) blueprint. On that level it can be experienced as a map of the material creation.

In this matter, it was crucial that I not mistake the copy for the Original and think I was an infinite being or had attained Cosmic Consciousness–Macrocosmic Consciousness. It was microcosmic consciousness–not an insignificant experience, but certainly not the final step in evolution.

“As above, so below”

In the Hermetic Philosophy of the ancient Mediterranean world there was a principle: “As above, so below.” That is, this material plane of existence is a mirroring of higher levels of being all the way up to the Absolute. Therefore, by studying earthly phenomena we can gain some idea of heavenly things. Also, that material conditions are reflections of psychic forces. Astrology is an example of this. The physical planets, through universal gravitation, certainly have some influence on our physical being, but their movements are indications of the arising and subsiding of inner, subtle energies that greatly affect us, both psychologically and externally.

We need to realize that the inner is always more real than the outer. The thirty-fourth Ode of Solomon, one of the earliest Christian hymns, says: “The likeness of that which is below is that which is above. For everything is above, and below there is nothing, but it is believed to be by those in whom there is no knowledge” (Odes of Solomon 34:4, 5).


The outer is the inner; the inner is the outer. We have touched on this slightly. It is of inestimable importance to realize that our outer life is but a mirror image of our inner life, that whatever is taking place in our external body and environment is happening in the depths of our mind. So by studying and analyzing our outer life we come to gauge the true character of our inner life. This is not palatable to the ego, for it means that our misfortunes are our own doing and reveal our inner negativity. As the Chinese maxim has it: When mean-spirited people live behind the door, mean-spirited people come in front of the door. So let us be careful before we indulge in a litany of all the wrongs we have suffered and all the bad people that have done those wrongs to us. We will only be confessing our own sins. It is not sympathy we need, but self-correction. As a very wise book, The Astral City, says: “Self-pity is a symptom of mental illness.”


It is also necessary that our inner and outer lives be identical. We are all aware that very corrupt people can act and speak in a seemingly virtuous way. Also, many soft-hearted people pretend to be callous or even prickly. But neither is admirable. “What you see is what you get” should be our rule of life. Our outer life must be an exact imaging of our inner life. In the Gospel of Thomas, section 22, Jesus tells his disciples that they will enter the kingdom of God: “When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below.”

The inner and outer Reality

God is the inner, and God is the outer. “He who sees difference between what is within and what is without goes evermore from death to death.” We are bound to the cycle of perpetual births and deaths until we see God, both within and without–until we know that God is the sole reality of both the world and ourselves. In that vision we become immortal. The great Swami Sivananda wrote the following expressing this truth:

When I surveyed from Ananda Kutir, Rishikesh,
By the side of the Tehri Hills, only God I saw.
In the Ganges and the Kailas peak,
In the famous Chakra Tirtha of Naimisar also, only God I saw.

In tribulation and in grief, in joy and in glee,
In sickness and in sorrow, only God I saw.
In birds and dogs, in stones and trees,
In flowers and fruits, in the sun, moon and stars, only God I


In the rosy cheeks of Kashmiri ladies,
In the black faces of African negroes, only God I saw.
In filth and scents, in poison and dainties,
In the market and in society, only God I saw.

In Brahmakara Vritti and Vedantic Nididhyasana,
In Atmic Vichara and Atmic Chintana, only God I saw.
In Kirtan and Nama Smaran, in Sravana and Vandana,
In Archana and Padasevana, in Dasya and Atmanivedana, only

God I saw.

Like camphor I was melting in His fire of knowledge,
Amidst the flames outflashing, only God I saw.
My Prana entered the Brahmarandhra at the Moordha,
Then I looked with God’s eyes, only God I saw.

I passed away into nothingness, I vanished,
And lo, I was the all-living, only God I saw.
I enjoyed the Divine Aisvarya, all God’s Vibhutis,
I had Visvaroopa Darshan, the Cosmic Consciousness, only

God I saw.

Glory, glory unto the Lord, hail! hail! hail! O sweet Ram.
Let me sing once more Thy Name–Ram Ram Ram, Om, Om, Om, only God I saw.

The seeing mind

Jesus, who said: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8), had learned this in India. For the next verse of the Katha Upanishad tells us: “By the purified mind alone is the indivisible Brahman to be attained. Brahman alone is–nothing else is. He who sees the manifold universe, and not the one reality, goes evermore from death to death” (Katha Upanishad 2:1:11)

The necessary purification is profound, for Saint John tells us: “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he [God] is pure” (I John 3:3). Those whose minds have been made pure in the contemplation of God automatically see Him. And, more importantly, they attain God, as the upanishad says. They come to know themselves as gods within God.

The universe and ourselves are in an ineffable way part of the indivisible Brahman. That is why Jesus said: “This is life eternal: that they might know thee the only true God” (John 17:3), and why the upanishad tell us that “He who sees the manifold universe, and not the one reality, goes evermore from death to death.”

The upanishad calls us to see God and enter into Life Eternal.

Read the next article in the Upanishads for Awakening: The Dweller in the Heart

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Introduction to The Upanishads for Awakening

Sections in the Upanishads for Awakening:

The Story of the Upanishads

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