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Brahman, Creation, and Us

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Section 66 of the Upanishads for Awakening

Brahman and creation

Now we are ready for the subject of the creation and its implications for both God and human beings.

“Desiring that he should become many, that he should make of himself many forms, Brahman meditated. Meditating, he created all things. Creating all things, he entered into everything. Entering into all things, he became that which has shape and that which is shapeless; he became that which can be defined and that which cannot be defined; he became that which has support and that which has not support; he became that which is conscious and that which is not conscious; he became that which is gross and that which is subtle. He became all things whatsoever: therefore the wise call him the Real” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:6:1c).

Desiring that he should become many, that he should make of himself many forms, Brahman meditated. Meditating, he created all things. Certainly the One cannot become two, much less many. But he can experience multiplicity through his omniscience. So he willed, and all things came into being through his innate omnipotence. But it was totally an ideational process. The Cosmic Dreamer projected the cosmic dream. Then:

Creating all things, he entered into everything. Entering into all things, he became…all things whatsoever: therefore the wise call him the Real. Pervading all things through his omnipresence he became aware of them and experienced being them just as in dream we take on many identities and forms that constantly change until we awaken. Brahman, in contrast, is always awake and knows what is and what is not. There is nothing that Brahman has not become, described and indescribable, sentient and insentient. Brahman is all things.

Swami Gambhirananda’s more literal translation brings about a point to be noted. “He wished, ‘Let me be many, let me be born.’” The Birthless actually undergoes birth. And the same is true of us. We have neither birth nor death. Experience is not reality–this we must learn.

“Concerning which truth it is written: Before creation came into existence, Brahman existed as the Unmanifest. From the Unmanifest he created the manifest. From himself he brought forth himself. Hence he is known as the Self-Existent” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:7:1a). Gambhirananda’s more literal translation gives us a better idea: “In the beginning all this was but the unmanifested [Brahman]. From that emerged the manifested. That Brahman created Itself by Itself. Therefore It is called the self-creator” There is really no need for comment.

And us

“The Self-Existent is the essence of all felicity. Who could live, who could breathe, if that blissful Self dwelt not within the lotus of the heart? He it is that gives joy” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:7:1b). Gambhirananda: “That which is known as the self-creator is verily the source of joy; for one becomes happy by coming in contact with that source of joy. Who, indeed, will inhale, and who will exhale, if this Bliss be not there in the supreme space [within the heart]. This one, indeed enlivens.”

One becomes happy by coming in contact with that source of joy. Brahman is of the nature of bliss itself, the source of joy to all beings. It is clear and simple: by coming in contact with that source of joy we will be joyful. A lot of people are hyper and hysterical, and some are so heedless and unaware that they are happy like village idiots. But only those who consciously contact Brahman through meditation are truly happy and have inner joy–the only kind that is real and lasting. Seeking happiness in anything but God can only lead to unhappiness. How many “deliriously happy” people have we seen ending up in what John Bunyan calls “The Slough of Despond” in Pilgrim’s Progress? Their false joy evaporates so very quickly. Then they go running after another mirage. And another. And another.

Who, indeed, will inhale, and who will exhale, if this Bliss be not there in the supreme space [within the heart]. This part is of utmost importance to yogis, for it indicates that the breath arises from the Chidakasha, the principle (tattwa) of Conscious Ether, the abode of the Self. This is why all liberating yoga involves breath. For if breath arises from the Source, it will take us to that Supreme Bliss if we understand how to work with it. (See The Breath of Life).

Knowing Brahman

This one, indeed enlivens. This is why just a few verses back the upanishad says: “Vain and useless becomes his life who thinks of Brahman as nonexistent. He alone who knows Brahman as existent truly lives.” This is bedrock truth. That is why yoga is the Path to Life. The persevering yogi experiences ever-increasing life on all levels of his being. “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18).

“When a man finds his existence and unity in the Self–who is the basis of life, who is beyond the senses, who is formless, inexpressible, beyond all predicates–then alone does he transcend fear. So long as there is the least idea of separation from him, there is fear. To the man who thinks himself learned, yet knows not himself as Brahman, Brahman, who drives away all fear, appears as fear itself” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:7:1c).

We reach fearlessness when we know our unity with the Self and Brahman. To attain this fearlessness our consciousness must become more and more centered in That which is “formless, inexpressible, beyond all predicates.” While living in this world we must inwardly dwell in the Transcendent Reality that is Brahman, that is our Self. For “so long as there is the least idea of separation from him, there is fear”–and with good cause. The life separated from God is no life at all, but a mirage of suffering, change, decay, and death.

Perhaps one of the saddest truths in any of the upanishads is this: “To the man who thinks himself learned, yet knows not himself as Brahman, Brahman, who drives away all fear, appears as fear itself.” We see this all the time. Intelligent people fear the idea of living in the state of unity with God lest they lose their individuality. They cling to death and call it life while avoiding life as though it were death. How will they get out of that state? Only by a lot of buffeting by what they call life. It is not God who punishes and forsakes us because of this wrong choice–it is the false world that does so from life to life. Yet we grasp in desperation for more of its fake appearances and run from our only Life. In my early teens I spoke with a friend about how wonderful it was to free oneself of “the good things of life” and turn to the Only Life. “Oh!” he exclaimed, “if I lived like that I would feel like I was in prison!” So he chose what the world told him was “real living,” and now he is a broken, miserable old man with nothing but alcoholism and sexual deviance as his companions. He chose imprisonment, and will no doubt do so in future lives, for enslavement becomes a habit hard to break.

“Concerning which truth it is written: Through fear of Brahman the wind blows and the sun shines; through fear of him Indra, the god of rain, Agni, the god of fire, and Yama, the god of death, perform their tasks.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:8:1). The entire cosmos and all the processes of personal life take place through cognition of God and his purpose. The “fear” spoken of here is awe which cancels out any possibility of defiance or disobedience. In the human being there should be a clear understanding that since God is All, life should be lived accordingly. Along with that should be the realization that God is our Self, that we are obeying our own nature in which is all joy, but outside of which there can be nothing but fear.

Measuring the joy

In the seventh verse this question was set forth: “Who could live, who could breathe, if that blissful Self dwelt not within the lotus of the heart? He it is that gives joy. Now the upanishad takes up that subject of the joy of the Self.

“Of what nature is this joy?

“Consider the lot of a young man, noble, well-read, intelligent, strong, healthy, with all the wealth of the world at his command. Assume that he is happy, and measure his joy as one unit.

“One hundred times that joy is one unit of the joy of Gandharvas: but no less joy than Gandharvas has the seer to whom the Self has been revealed, and who is without craving.

“One hundred times the joy of Gandharvas is one unit of the joy of celestial Gandharvas: but no less joy than celestial Gandharvas has the sage to whom the Self has been revealed, and who is without craving.

“One hundred times the joy of celestial Gandharvas is one unit of the joy of the Pitris in their paradise: but no less joy than the Pitris in their paradise has the sage to whom the Self has been revealed, and who is without craving.

“One hundred times the joy of the Pitris in their paradise is one unit of the joy of the Devas: but no less joy than the Devas has the sage to whom the Self has been revealed, and who is without craving.

“One hundred times the joy of the Devas is one unit of the joy of the karma Devas: but no less joy than the karma Devas has the sage to whom the Self has been revealed, and who is without craving.

“One hundred times the joy of the karma Devas is one unit of the joy of the ruling Devas: but no less joy than the ruling Devas has the sage to whom the Self has been revealed, and who is without craving.

“One hundred times the joy of the ruling Devas is one unit of the joy of Indra: but no less joy than Indra has the sage to whom the Self has been revealed, and who is without craving.

“One hundred times the joy of Indra is one unit of the joy of Brihaspati: but no less joy than Brihaspati has the sage to whom the Self has been revealed, and who is without craving.

“One hundred times the joy of Brihaspati is one unit of the joy of Prajapati: but no less joy than Prajapati has the sage to whom the Self has been revealed, and who is without craving.

“One hundred times the joy of Prajapati is one unit of the joy of Brahma: but no less joy than Brahma has the seer to whom the Self has been revealed, and who is without craving” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:8:2-4).

Joy comes from knowing the Self and becoming free of all desire through the fulfillment that comes from union with Brahman.

Rising into joy

“He who is the Self in man, and he who is the Self in the sun, are one. Verily, he who knows this truth overcomes the world; he transcends the physical sheath, he transcends the vital sheath, he transcends the mental sheath, he transcends the intellectual sheath, he transcends the sheath of the ego” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:8:5). This is the real Ascension, and only those who have done so are Ascended Masters. Just as God is untouched by all the worlds that have proceeded from him, in the same way the liberated yogi cannot be affected by his various sheaths (koshas), his own private worlds.

“It is written: He who knows the joy of Brahman, which words cannot express and the mind cannot reach, is free from fear. He is not distressed by the thought, ‘Why did I not do what is right? Why did I do what is wrong?’ He who knows the joy of Brahman, knowing both good and evil, transcends both.” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:9:1).

He who knows Brahman is freed from all karmic bonds and knows that what he did and did not do will no longer affect him either in the present or the future. Having transcended both good and bad karma, he is free. Sri Ramakrishna described such a person as being like a fish that had been caught in the net but has jumped out into freedom and swims joyfully away.

Read the next article in the Upanishads for Awakening: The Ladder of Understanding

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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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