“Having known the Self, the sages are filled with joy. Blessed are they, tranquil of mind, free from passion. Realizing everywhere the all-pervading Brahman, deeply absorbed in contemplation of his being, they enter into him, the Self of all.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:2:5) What an inspiring description. These are the things that should motivate us, not such cheap things as promises of heaven and threats of hell, or bribes of “good things” and “power.” To at last be ourselves as we really are, to end all struggle with unreality and ignorance–this is the worthy aim. The only worthy prayer is that of Jesus: “O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” (John 17:5)
How to become a sage
How do the sages get that way? “Having fully ascertained and realized the truth of Vedanta, having established themselves in purity of conduct by following the yoga of renunciation, these great ones attain to immortality in this very life; and when their bodies fall away from them at death, they attain to liberation.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:2:6)
Having fully ascertained and realized the truth of Vedanta. First the Vedantic truths–the teachings found in the upanishads–are carefully read and pondered. But this is not enough–in fact it is worthless unless they go on to realize those truths through meditation, for it is this realization which is of supreme value, and the wise diligently seek it.
Having established themselves in purity of conduct. Not wanting empty theory, the wise understand that their lives must be disciplined for the purification of their outer actions and inner consciousness. Moreover, they ground themselves immovably in that purity.
Following the yoga of renunciation. Since neither Angiras or his students were monks, it is mistaken to interpret sannyasa yoga as monastic life. Rather, it is the inner discipline of detachment from all externals (sannyasa) while fixing the mind on the Eternal (yoga).
Immortality in this very life. Those who follow this path of the sages will realize their nature as immortality itself. They will not attain it, they will recover and manifest it. Nor will this happen in some vague heavenly realm, but right here and now.
At death, they attain to liberation. For them there is no longer any need for future birth in the material plane. As the Buddhist texts say: “Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.” But they are not just liberated from the earth, they are liberated from all “worlds” and enter The Real as their eternal abode.
The liberation process
“When death overtakes the body, the vital energy enters the cosmic source, the senses dissolve in their cause, and karmas and the individual soul are lost in Brahman, the pure, the changeless. As rivers flow into the sea and in so doing lose name and form, even so the wise man, freed from name and form, attains the Supreme Being, the Self-Luminous, the Infinite.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:2:7, 8 ) There are two aspects to these verses: what is shed by the sage and What he merges with in liberation.
At the time of death, the various bodies no longer retain their configuration. Since they are no longer needed for future incarnations, they resolve back into the elements from which they came. Even the karmic forces, now unnecessary, melt away into basic energy along with the subtle bodies that created and embodied them. What remains? Brahman and their atman-self. Since these are really the source of all the foregoing, in reality nothing whatever is lost–only the conditioning dreams that held them in false bondage for so long. Finitude is traded for infinity–blessed bargain!
“He who knows Brahman becomes Brahman. No one ignorant of Brahman is ever born in his family. He passes beyond all sorrow. He overcomes evil. Freed from the fetters of ignorance he becomes immortal.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:2:9)
Who should learn this?
“Let the truth of Brahman be taught only to those who obey his law, who are devoted to him, and who are pure in heart. To the impure let it never be taught.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:2:10)
In India everyone knows the basic principles of Brahmavidya. The sage is not recommending secrecy, but warning us away from wasting our time with people who are wilfully disqualifying themselves for spiritual life. So who are qualified (adhikari) to receive detailed instruction in the eternal truths?
Read more of How to Become a Sage.