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Knowing God

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Section 58 of the Upanishads for Awakening

About God

Further description of Brahman is now to be given along with instructions on how to know Brahman. The upanishad is so clear, and the concepts have been referred to before, so some verses hardly need more than a sentence of comment.

“Self-luminous is Brahman, ever present in the hearts of all. He is the refuge of all, he is the supreme goal. In him exists all that moves and breathes. In him exists all that is. He is both that which is gross and that which is subtle. Adorable is he. Beyond the ken of the senses is he. Supreme is he. Attain thou him!” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:2:1). The last part is the most important. What value is it to know about God if we do not go to God? Saint Silouan of Athos used to say that theology is the false mysticism of the ego, for people become satisfied, or even fascinated, with philosophical concepts that are nothing but bare words. Rare are those who want to experience the things they believe. In many instances it may be that people intuit the untruth of their religious beliefs and subconsciously know that they cannot be experienced. But it is sad to see those that have come to understand the concepts of karma, reincarnation, and evolution of consciousness still dawdling along with the theorists instead of getting on to the Goal.

“He, the self-luminous, subtler than the subtlest, in whom exist all the worlds and all those that live therein–he is the imperishable Brahman. He is the principle of life. He is speech, and he is mind. He is real. He is immortal. Attain him, O my friend, the one goal to be attained!” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:2:2). Not only must we attain God, we must understand while striving that He is the only goal to be attained–for everything else is antithetical to our eternal nature.

The means to reach God

Having hopefully convinced us of the value of seeking God, the sage is going to tell us how to find God by telling us the actual means: “Affix to the Upanishad, the bow incomparable, the sharp arrow of devotional worship; then, with mind absorbed and heart melted in love, draw the arrow and hit the mark–the imperishable Brahman. Om is the bow, the arrow is the individual being, and Brahman is the target. With a tranquil heart, take aim. Lose thyself in him, even as the arrow is lost in the target” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:2:3, 4).

Here is Swami Gambhirananda’s more literal version: “Taking hold of the bow, that is the Great Weapon familiar in the Upanishads, one should fix on it an arrow, sharpened with meditation. Drawing the string with a mind absorbed in Its thought, hit that very target that is the Immutable. Om is the bow; the soul [atma] is the arrow; and Brahman is called its target. It is to be hit by an unerring man. One should become one with It just like an arrow.” This is a description of meditation, so each point is significant.

The “arrow sharpened with meditation” is our mind that has become refined and focused on spiritual realities through much meditation. When we become concentrated in mind through meditation, then we can direct and impel the arrow-mind toward the target that is nothing less than Brahman Itself. In this way the mind will become one with Brahman along with all the rest of our being that now seems separate from It.

What we will perceive in that union

As a result of our meditation we shall directly perceive: “In him are woven heaven, earth, and sky, together with the mind and all the senses. Know him, the Self alone. Give up vain talk. He is the bridge of immortality” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:2:5). Brahman is the all-encompassing Reality from which all things have come, and Brahman alone leads us back to Immortality.

Where we find God

“Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!” (Job 23:3 ) lamented the Biblical Job. If he had access to the upanishads as we do, he would have found the answer in the next verse:

“Within the lotus of the heart he dwells, where, like the spokes of a wheel in its hub, the nerves meet. Meditate on him as Om. Easily mayest thou cross the sea of darkness” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:2:6). Gambhirananda: “With that [hub] in which are fixed the nerves [nadis] like the spokes on the hub of a chariot wheel, moves this aforesaid Self by becoming multiformed. Meditate on the Self thus with the help of Om. May you be free from hindrances in going to the other shore beyond darkness.”

At the core of all our manifest existence there moves the immortal Spirit-Self which has assumed all the forms and aspects we call “us.” Although these numberless veils hide the Self from our present vision, we can meditate on It. Such meditation will remove all obstacles and carry us safely over the heaving waves of samsara into the harbor of Spirit.

More about the heart

When the upanishads speak of the “heart” they do not mean the physical organ that pumps blood, but the center of our being where the Self ever dwells. The sage now speaks more about this spiritual heart.

“This Self, who understands all, who knows all, and whose glory is manifest in the universe, lives within the lotus of the heart, the bright throne of Brahman. By the pure in heart is he known. The Self exists in man, within the lotus of the heart, and is the master of his life and of his body. With mind illumined by the power of meditation, the wise know him, the blissful, the immortal” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:2:7). There is a great deal to learn from this verse.

Since the Self understands and knows all, to be truly knowledgous and wise all we need do is shift our awareness into our own Self.

Although the Self should not be identified with external things such as our body or the world, nevertheless, the glory of our Self–including the Supreme Self–is manifested in our own private universe and the greater universe as well. We can come to perceive spiritual realities hidden within the material illusions.

The Self abides in the core of our being. This is sometimes called the Chidakasha, the Space of Consciousness. Both God and the individual Self dwell there. In the Sanskrit text there is the expression Brahmapuri–the City of God–used for this spiritual heart. It further says that God and the Self are known by centering our awareness in this heart.

It is meditation which illumines the mind and enables us to see and know this blissful, immortal Self all around us, in everything. “The knot of the heart, which is ignorance, is loosed, all doubts are dissolved, all evil effects of deeds are destroyed, when He who is both personal and impersonal is realized” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:2:8). When we enter into the consciousness of our individual spirit and the Infinite Spirit, the blinding veil of ignorance will dissolve away along with all the bonds of karma.

“In the effulgent lotus of the heart dwells Brahman, who is passionless and indivisible. He is pure, he is the light of lights. Him the knowers of the Self attain” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:2:9). What greater goal can we have than this?

The Light of lights

In summation of this section, the sage says:

“Him the sun does not illumine, nor the moon, nor the stars, nor the lightning–nor, verily, fires kindled upon the earth. He is the one light that gives light to all. He shining, everything shines.

“This immortal Brahman is before, this immortal Brahman is behind, this immortal Brahman extends to the right and to the left, above and below. Verily, all is Brahman, and Brahman is supreme” (Mundaka Upanishad 2:2:10, 11).

These thrilling words need no comment–only response.

Read the next article in the Upanishads for Awakening: The Two Selves

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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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Read about the meanings of unfamiliar terms in A Brief Sanskrit Glossary

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