What does it mean? We find that a human being is born, grows, develops, gathers a good deal of experience, develops different kinds of personalities and capacities and one fine day he simply stops developing and there is death. We then begin to wonder if this is the end of the whole thing then all this seems to be in vain, some people might even derive a conclusion out of it that the best thing in the world is to commit suicide because the world is so troublesome, so painful.
But if you really understand the meaning of avidya, the purpose of desire, incapacity and death, you will find that the process of death is a very conscious process, even though it might seem as though death occurs by chance just as we say that birth also happens by chance. But when we begin to understand the deeper layers of life; when we begin to enlarge the field of ignorance from exclusive concentration of consciousness to develop multiple concentration of consciousness, then we begin to see the world as a design and see that the growth and development of man occurs by design. You can design your growth; you can change your personality, you can grow out of incapacity towards capacity, you can even will your death at a particular moment and utilise death as an instrument of further expansion. This is the meaning of what is called mrityum tritvā. Every human being at a certain point of development reaches a kind of climax of development in the field in which he is located. He still wants to move forward but the circumstances are so circumscribed that he can move forward only by two methods. If somehow the circumstances are greatly changed, a further development is possible or else death occurs as a result of which you are lifted out of the limitations of the circumstances in which you are placed and then you are reborn in another place where there are other circumstances where further development can take place.
This understanding comes about by understanding the movement of avidya. You understand the meaning of death as the process by which circumstances in which you are circumscribed today are enlarged by a radical operation and you are lifted out into another circumstance in which further development can take place. But mere enlargement of circumstances is not enough. You can go on developing your personality to a great extent but a point is reached when you discover that there is an inexhaustible source of development. There is somewhere a source where your development can be indefinite. The present method of struggle of development can be replaced by a smooth transition of development in which one stage is followed by another and another till you reach that source.
That source consists of two elements − it is immobile and mobile in character at once. That is why the Upanishad had at the very beginning told us tad ejati tan naijati (verse 5) – It moves and It moves not. If you develop this method then you arrive at a source which is immobile and mobile. If you follow vidya and avidya together then you arrive at this double realisation. When you arrive at that realisation, it is what the Upanishad regards as the condition of immortality. To arrive at a condition not only of immobility but immobility from where constant dynamism becomes possible, so that even in life movement you remain immobile, then you enjoy immortality. Therefore, the word used is amritam aśnute (verse 11). aśnute means enjoyment. You enjoy immortality.
The goal that is put forward in the Upanishad is the enjoyment of immortality. If you simply enter immobility, you are liberated from ego and desire, but you do not enjoy this immortality when the life movement is constantly moving out.
The goal is that every individual is ultimately destined to reach an integral realisation, integral concentration of consciousness in which immobility and mobility are realised together and the secret of constant development is realised. There is a law imposed in this world that until you reach this integral realisation, you are obliged to be born and obliged to die. This is the law of birth and death which no human being can escape. Before creation started, the Divine had consulted each one of us – this is the game I want to play in this world, and we all had agreed that we are prepared to enter into this game. We will not get out of it until we reach this realisation again. This is the ultimate goal that we have to reach and this is prescribed by the Upanishad. There is always a possibility of being misled where we can be told that there is a shortcut – that you just withdraw from this movement and you can enter into immobility. This is what has happened in India. This message of shortcut has appealed very much. The human mind which is troubled in this net wants to come out of it as soon as possible. But the Upanishad gives a warning against it. Although it is possible for you to come out of the net, enter into immobility and be liberated, that is not the goal for which you had consented to come into this world. You had come into this world with a specific purpose and if you really want to fulfil it then this is the path avidyā mrtyum tīrtvā − you pursue avidya, enlarge your field of consciousness, develop your body, life and mind, discover the source in which there is inexhaustible possibility of development, realise the real meaning of death, realise that death is not a negation of life but a process of life. With that wisdom you arrive at the integrality of perfection. It is then that this world will find its meaning. Otherwise it will seem to be meaningless, a mechanical process, a kind of a monstrous machine in which you have been thrown pell–mell. This will be the consequences if this integrality of vision is not seen. In the next three verses, the Upanishad speaks of birth and non–birth. Verses 12, 13 and 14 say: