Isha Upanishad - Super school - Auroville - Session 8: Brahman and Ishwara are One—Verse 8

(6 February 2003)

Realisation of the Self

You might say that the rest of the Upanishad is an answer to this very question. So maybe we shall continue because the answer is contained in the rest of the Upanishad. We had first of all a goal given in the beginning, the very first statement of the Ishopanishad. What is to be done and we are here in our life as it is, what are we to do? We are all struggling, endeavouring, making an effort but we are like the blind led by the blind. In all our efforts, we are all blind and even our leaders are blind. In Sanskrit it is said ‘andhena andha niyamanah’ we are all andha, means those who are all blind and we are all led by the blind. This is our condition in life and we all quarrel because we all have our hands groping here and there and we find one thing solid, another thing liquid, another is like air, another like ether and we say, Oh! Reality is solid, another says, no, no, it is liquid. Some say it is airy, it is ethereal, some say it is fiery. We see different things in the world that is why the very first sentence of the Upanishad says, ‘all this, whatever you may find is to be the habitation of the Lord only.’ Don't see at all beyond this; it is solid, liquid, ethery, fiery things. Then we don't see the Lord because we are all blind. Therefore the very first sentence says all this is for the habitation by the Lord whom you don't see. So, it calls upon you to make a big effort.

As long as you do not discover that there is a Lord and that this Lord is all that is there; there is nothing else. Whether there is fire, or ether, or water, whatever it is, it is nothing but the Lord Himself. This Lord is a very incomparable thing because there is nothing like it anywhere.

And there are further statements which are made, he moves and he moves not, he stands in the front and overtakes everyone who runs. And now we have this description of the state of realisation and then there is in the Upanishad, the way by which this Reality can be experienced and realised.

So, let us repeat again the state of self–realisation. It is like a mantra, when you repeat it, you become self–realised. This is the secret; if you want self–realisation repeat these mantras again and again. As I said that you should all learn Sanskrit and one of the reasons is this and since you do not know Sanskrit, you will not be able to repeat these beautiful sentences, It is said that these great sentences themselves have the power of giving you self–realisation. Anyway, I shall repeat in Sanskrit first once again and then in English because as I said Sri Aurobindo has brought all the force of Sanskrit into this English translation, so we have great help.

yas to sarvāni bhūtāny ātmany evānupaśyati
sarva–bhūtesu cātmānam tato na vijugupsate ||6||

“But he who sees everywhere the Self in all existences and all existences in the Self, shrinks not thereafter from aught.”

(Aught means from anything)

“He in whom it is the Self–Being that has become all existences that are Becomings, for he has the perfect knowledge, how shall he be deluded, whence shall he have grief who he sees everywhere oneness?”

Verse 8—Summation of Verses 1-7

There is one sentence in verse number eight, which reconciles all that has been said so far. As a summary of all the seven verses, which have gone before it. It describes the Lord, the Lord that is the self, the Lord that is the essence and the Lord that is the originator. It is He, who has become all things, this is not described. This is the third movement of the Ishopanishad. The first three verses are the first movement, the next verses from fourth to seventh is the second movement, now comes the third movement. It begins as it were with the conclusion that all that has been said so far, is stated in one verse. It is exactly like an orchestra, where you have many kinds of music. You first have a movement then the second movement and then you reach a culminating point and in all the movements so far are brought together in a huge sound as it were. This is that huge bugle heralding all that has to be done afterwards.

This is the eighth verse, it summarises all that has been said about the Supreme Lord. It is He that has gone abroad, it is He and it is it, both at the same time as the Lord, it is He, as the Self is He, it is both Lord and the self. It is the Lord, who has become all. So three words, He is the Lord, He is also the Self of all. So it is the Self, it is that Self which has become All. And this is brought out now. It is He that has gone abroad, He has as it were flown out, manifested, it is He who has gone abroad. And now this is the description of that Lord that which is bright, bodiless without scar of imperfection, without sinews, unpierced by evil. Every epithet, every adjective is so wonderful you should repeat again, so that you know exactly the perfection of that reality that which is bright, bodiless, without scar of imperfection without sinews, unpierced by evil.

“He is Seer, He is a thinker, the one who becomes everywhere, the self existent that has ordered objects perfectly according to their nature from years sempiternal.”

I should like to read again.

Without sinews, it has no nerves, it is bodiless, it has no tissues of the body, there are no complications, no complexities, it's pure. Every word is a description, even He also describes that Reality, bright, bodiless, without scar of imperfection, without sinews, pure, unpierced by evil, then He is a Seer. There is a meaning of the word seer which we shall come to. He's a Thinker that is also a special meaning, which also it shall come to. He is a Seer, is a Thinker, He is the one who becomes everywhere, the Self Existent. It is not caused by anything, He exists by Himself, Self–Existent, He has ordered objects perfectly.

If you look from the top from where He is, you will see that He Himself is everywhere and all the objects at any given moment are absolutely right there, exactly where they ought to be at that moment. Since every time it is changing, He knows exactly where to put everybody in his right place at every moment provided they do not think that this is the final place for us wherever we are. Many are now perfect and where we shall be the next moment is also perfect. This is perfect, that is perfect. So, we should not be bound by the present moment, we should start by saying where I am that is perfect now. It doesn't mean that this is my final place, let me be put by the Lord the next moment where he wants to put me, and it'll be absolutely the right place. He always orders things in a perfect order from years sempiternal. We shall come to this very important word, from years sempiternal.

Now let us try to understand this sentence because I said the summary of all that has been said about the Lord. It is He that has gone abroad, what is the meaning of this word. If there is only one reality, it is He, where will He go, if He is the only Reality. Where will He go outside Himself that is not possible there is nothing outside it. He is the only Reality. There is a possibility in him to objectivise Himself, not outside Himself because there's nothing outside. The word abroad is a word which means it's the process of objectivisation. This is a special capacity, special quality of the Lord remaining within Himself, within oneself it still becomes other than yourself, you objectivise yourself. You view yourself, within yourself. The whole creation is nothing but a process of objectivisation by the Lord Himself, he sees Himself. This seeing oneself is called the seer, he is the seer. There is one who sees himself is the first word that is given, he is the seer.

He has gone abroad, one who has objectivised himself, he sees himself. It is like an artist, artist when he or she draws, is an artist trying to understand himself or herself. All process of art is the process of objectivising of the artist himself, the artist understands himself, a musician understands himself, architect understands himself. The greater your vision, if you are simply one with the Lord, all your artistic creations shall be Lord’s own images. This possibility of making an image is a special character of the Lord. There is, you might say, himself and his image is not only himself, he's such a reality that he also is capable of making his own image that is the meaning of a seer. The seer is one who sees himself in images.

The highest image is what is called the Idea, there are many kinds of images but the highest image is the Idea. If Reality is Satchitananda, He is Existent, and Consciousness and Bliss then the image of Satchitananda, is the idea of Satchitananda. That is why if you contemplate on the idea of Satchitananda, you can be taken to the reality of Satchitananda. This is the secret of the process, how do we realise ourselves? If you contemplate on the idea of Satchitananda, contemplate again and again. Then you become the seer, when you possess the idea, it'll be a reflection of the Supreme and then that reflection will throw you back into the Reality. The idea is not a fiction, the idea itself is a form, an image,—the subtlest image is the idea. The artist who paints, the musician who plays the tunes of the sounds, are all artists. The highest artist is a seer, he has the idea, Supreme idea, the comprehensive idea.

In the language of the Upanishad he is in the possession of vijnana. The idea of the Supreme, the Lord himself, has the idea of Himself and that is vijnana that is the meaning of the Seer. He's a Seer, we become seers as it were by concession but He is the real seer in his own right. When we lift ourselves to his condition then we also participate in that seership. All who are real seers, in fact all artists are like God because they all know the secret of making forms. When you can play a good musical piece, every musical piece is a form and that form vibrates with an idea and that idea vibrates with the Reality and that is the real activity of the Lord. The Lord sees himself in an idea that condition is what is called Supermind both in the Upanishads and in Sri Aurobindo. The Supermind is the self–knowledge of the Lord himself, the Lord knowing himself, the Lord making his own image, the Lord which is objectivising himself. If I want to see myself in a mirror, I objectivise myself in the mirror. I see myself as if I am opposed by myself but then you require the material, a mirror in which I can be reflected. In the case of the Lord the mirror is also Himself, he himself is the seer, the mirror is also himself and the reflection that is seen in the mirror is also himself. So, He is capable of making himself a mirror, reflecting material, a mirror in which He can be reflected, that is the meaning of the seer. He goes abroad within himself because he can't go out of himself. So he goes within himself but he goes within himself in this condition in which he objectivises himself and sees himself, he's the seer.

Then he becomes the thinker, there's a difference between seeing and thinking. As a thinker, it is a stage of consciousness, where the idea becomes modified. The idea that is the seer is called Real–idea. There are two words to remember: Real-Idea. Seer is the Real-Idea that is to say the idea is not a fiction, is not a fantasy, it's a real idea it is the exact image of the Lord himself. Now this Real–idea becomes modified as this image attains some kind of further movement. If you're very close to the mirror, your figure is very sharp but as you put yourself farther and farther than the image becomes fainter and fainter. So a faint image of the real–idea is called thought. In thinking you catch the Reality but faintly, in the Real–idea you catch the reality fully, concretely, without diminishing. At the level of thought you can catch the reality but that the image will be flickering, it’s not exact.

But the Lord is himself the thinker; he also plays with his images. The supreme image of himself and then there are many fainter images. This whole world, this is the description of how the whole world has come into existence. He goes abroad within himself, He objectivises himself, he sees himself concretely and fully and then he sees himself in many other levels fainter and fainter, this is the whole description of the creation of the world, the world is nothing but this. We are also fainter image of that law and we can also realise that concrete image, provided we come closer and closer, and reach the Real–idea. He is the seer, he is the thinker, the one who becomes everywhere. So wherever you are, whatever is there in the world, the farthest distance or the nearest distance,—it is He. He is the self–existent.

This concept of self–existent has been described by philosophers in many ways. Sui genres is the Latin word. Sui genres, one who is generated by himself Sui means oneself, genres means power of generating, one who is generated by himself. All things in the world are generated by something else but He is the one who is generated by himself, he does not need somebody else to create him. He is the self– existent, cause of himself, one who is caused by himself. He is the self–existent and he has ordered objects, all the objects in nothing but faint ideas, faint images, fainter and fainter till you come to a point where it is so faint that you can't even recognise Him at all that is called the level of inconscient. At the level of thought you can still have a faint idea, as you go still down and down, until you come to be inconscient. There is no image at all in the inconscient, even that is his image actually. It's not nothing, it's still an image and it is that image, if you polish it further, go on polishing more and more you come back again to the Real–idea, this is the process of self realisation.

If there is only one reality and if that reality by nature is full of consciousness then there cannot be ignorance anywhere at all. Let us put down this argument, if there is only one Reality and it is that reality's character is consciousness, full consciousness. Then there cannot exist anywhere what we call ignorance, and yet we do find ignorance exists in the world. We are all ignoring, the whole world is ignorant. There is a very big question, that this ignorance must be a result only of self–limitation of consciousness. It is only if the consciousness has limited itself deliberately, restrained its consciousness to spread everywhere then only this preposition will be tenable. There's only one Reality, whose nature is consciousness, if there is ignorance, it is not the absence of consciousness, it can be only if there is a power of consciousness, to restrain itself. So that an island of ignorance is created in the consciousness, it has a capacity of moulding itself in many ways. The consciousness is multilayered, capable of multi–layers. Then it can modulate, as I said, you're cooking the food when a child comes suddenly, even then you're able to have another dimension of consciousness immediately. This is the power of consciousness. So in our hypothesis the basic point is that there is basically a Reality which is conscious, but the nature of consciousness is that it is capable of various kinds of modulations. It can modulate, it’s just like our voice and singing. There is sound in us, sound has a capacity of modulations, it can be loud, it can be shrill, it can be soft, it can be sweet, it can be harsh, all kinds of different modulations of the same sound. Similarly, consciousness also has this capacity of modulation, integral concentration in which all knowledge is immediately present, like Indra having thousand eyes, even with your thousand eyes, you still are able to concentrate only on one perception, keeping at the back all the 999 perceptions, and concentrate only on one perception that is also possible. If you're a good dancer, you will see how a dancer forgets everything else and is concentrated only on a little gesture of a finger, as if dead there is nothing else, only that gesture. All else's presence is not abolished, its present but concentration is only upon that and that is emphasised.

Question: It's saying that we are ignorant but we don't actually know how to use ignorance?

Answer: Good, you're right. You know, I feel very happy with these questions because these are very fundamental questions. What is knowledge, what is ignorance, why ignorance and how ignorance arises. You might not know but there are many philosophers, who have declared that ignorance cannot be explained. As in philosophy, which says ignorance cannot be explained, there is a word in Sanskrit, which is called, anirvachaniya, which means inexplicable. vachaniya is which can be expressed, which can be explained but anirvachaniya which cannot be explained. There is a big philosophy in India, which says ignorance cannot be explained. It is even said, it is a supra–rational mystery, it is a mystery which our mind can never diagnose, can never find out. There is ignorance, how it has come about. If reality is all luminous, how can there be any ignorance at all? These questions are very formidable questions, very important questions and that is why all of us must study this problem, very seriously.

Question: But in philosophy, we also tried to explain.

Answer: Yes and that is why it is said that with the mind it is not explicable. Philosophers have admitted, many philosophers like Shankaracharya one of the greatest philosophers of the world and his philosophy says that ignorance cannot be explained. As a part of his philosophy ignorance cannot be explained, it is anirvachaniya, it is there.

Question: Is something that you said earlier, about that you know and you restrain what you know and therefore ignorance is not inherent. It is something else.

Answer: Let me see and explain to you. I turn to the example of acting; you take the role of Shakuntala in a drama. Do you know the story of Shakuntala? You know the story of Desdemona and Othello, no, all right. You are playing the role of Desdemona. Othello comes and asks you the question: ‘Where is the handkerchief’? You have to act properly, that is to say, she knows that the handkerchief is there. As an actor, you know that the handkerchief will not be found ultimately. Here you have to at the time express the sentiment, yes, it is here. As a human being you know that the handkerchief is not there because Desdemona really believes that the handkerchief is there. You know the whole story, as an actress, you know that that handkerchief will not be found there. How will you, with what effectivity will you hide your knowledge that that handkerchief is not there. You identify yourself so much with the role that you're playing so that you spontaneously say, ‘yes, it is there’. Surely, as if with your true consciousness as Desdemona, not as an actress, as Desdemona, ‘yes, it is here’, it'll be natural only if you completely forget what you are. At that moment you're completely ignorant that the handkerchief is not there, then your acting is perfect. You have really forgotten all that you know as an actress. In fact, in all acting this is a super moment, when you know the whole real story.

The state in which a part is understood and a part is ignored is a state of ignorance the image that is given in the Veda for ignorance is night normally we think that night is complete darkness it is not true there are stars in the night there are some kind of lights all over such is a condition of a normal consciousness. Human consciousness is called ignorant consciousness of consciousness is not inconscient covers is ignorant consciousness is like the night in which there is lot of darkness but some light flickers here and there as a result we are not able to see things totally fully we tend to ignore most of what is around and grasp a little of what is around us. Now how has this ignorance about? We have seen in all the previous statements of the Upanishads that he is all, including grief of which he spoke yesterday he is all before he's ignorance also sure he's ignorance also. Therefore this ignorance cannot be completely opposed to knowledge. If it is incomplete even in conscience is not completely opposed to knowledge even the inconscient as Sri Aurobindo says even in the inconscient there is a blind sure sight this is the description Sri Aurobindo has given even in the in conscience there is a blind sure sight because ultimately it is the sight of the Lord himself even in conscience is the sight of the Lord but it is totally blind but this site is sure. You know there are people who walk in sleep, on, it’s a fact they get up and go to the stove, put the water and boil, they put milk, sugar, and take tea and go back to sleep, and next morning if you ask them, they don't remember anything. But the hand has gone straight to the vessel blind sure to see exactly the right object it has picked up, it's called a somnambulist. A Somnambulist is one who sleeps but walks about. Now inconscience is like that not exactly but like that because if you shake him he awakes. But this inconscient even if you shake it does everything sure, sight sure but never wakes. Therefore in conscience is a mode of knowledge. This is the most important point that you have to make, even inconscience is a mode of knowledge, so ignorance too is a mode of knowledge. So if you follow knowledge alone then you do not understand what is that mode of knowledge in which you ignore that knowledge you don't get you simply remain in light but you do not get that kind of experience which you need to get, if you need to get total understanding, total knowledge how things look when you look ignorantly, right. So if you follow knowledge alone you lose something which is not right which is not complete and if you follow knowledge alone you will never come to know what is ignorance and what are the consequences of ignorance you'll never come to know. If you're only ignorant you know that there is something to gain used to get more and more knowledge so you don't enter into greater darkness because there is a hope that you will enter into knowledge someday but if you follow only knowledge and yet they remain there only remain fixed therefore there is no possibility for you to know the ignorance and its consequences. So the Upanishad says when you follow ignorance alone you certainly enter into darkness there is no doubt about it but if you follow knowledge alone then there is no possibility for you to discover the meaning of ignorance why it is there what are the consequences of it. The time is up now but this is a point in which we need to have some time. If you don't mind and are not tired, then I can introduce another concept.

The reality is one, when you see one is everywhere you are truly luminous but this is the reality who has become all the creatures. So this reality has a magic remaining one it becomes many such is the nature of reality you put one seed of a plant and the plant growers and the magic is that that one seed gives rise to many seeds such is the magic of the nature of reality. What he called one and many and as you know both one and many both you don't know you are partial knowledge only you are ignorant if you know only one and not many and if you know many and not the one you're knowledge is incomplete now it is said that the object of knowledge is oneness.

And the object of ignorance is many ness, what is many? What is the nature of many? The answer is there can be no many, if there is no one. All manyness is impossible if not basically there is one. There is a word in English which is called pluralism. Many are called plural and pluralism means that there are many realities, originally each one of them is self existent, is called pluralistic philosophy. So those who believe that each one of the many a self–existent is called a pluralist philosopher, one who believes that there is only one reality is called monist, there are who believe that one can never become many, one always remains one can never become many, they are called pure monist. But Upanishad is neither a pluralist nor a pure monist because it says very clearly one goes abroad it is he who has gone abroad. One who has become all therefore Upanishad is not a pure monist; it's a monist who maintains that one can become many without losing oneness. So there is a long discussion in the world on these three concepts,—one, many and the relationship between one and many and the discussions on this subject are so intricate and so misleading and yet so attractive that people remain confined only to the discussion. This is the vice of metaphysical thinking you go on because it's a real mystery, how does one seed become many seeds? The simplest way of knowing is, such is the nature of reality, it's a wonder but it is so, reality is such an argument and the simple argument is, is one a numerical one everyone is a numerical one then surely it can't be many but according to the Upanishad the one is not numeric in character, one basically is what maybe called identical. There's a difference between one that is numerical one and one that is identical.

What is identical? I gave yesterday the example of the essence of rose, the essence in Rosewater remains what it is he does not cease to be rose essence it manifests itself in water is in oceans of water is and yet that essence remains identical so this is the philosophy of this Upanishad it does not say that one always remains the same in the sense that one is capable of becoming many if you say that one cannot become many this means that one is incapable there is incapacity in it but the meaning of essence is always force if you analyse the idea of essence you find that essence by its very nature is forceful. All essence gives you the concept of root. And root is that it is capable of growth, the very nature of root is that it is capable of growth, the capacity is very much involved in the very idea of the root, essences the root. The word itself which is used so often is actually essence. Self is the essence; it is the same Self which has become all.

Now the idea of ignorance is normally tied with the idea of many and the idea of knowledge is tied with the idea of one. So if it is said only with the knowledge of many, you will not come to know the one therefore, you will remain in darkness. But if you come to know to pursue only the one, you will never know the secret of the wonder of how the one becomes many. You are in ignorance and you're entangled in the many. You will always find some kind of suffering if you pursue only the many. It is such a world that you will always be having shokha, mohah. You will always have delusions and some kind of suffering. Therefore, whenever there is suffering there is awakening. So, you will not enter into greater darkness. It will be darkness but at a point there is a remedy for it, you will come to awake yourself but if you follow only the one, there's no misery. So, you'll never be awakened and therefore you will never know the secret of many. Therefore, it's a greater darkness. If you follow the many, if you follow ignorance, you will never come to know one but there is a possibility of coming to know one because in many there is the root of misery and then you will experience misery. Misery will awaken you and you will see that something has to be sought–after and you'll try to seek the one. But if you seek only the one, in the oneness there is no misery and therefore if you attach yourself to the one, you remain there only. And you'll never know and that is a greater darkness. I'll stop here today. Next time we'll see what is the many, what is the one, what is the relationship and therefore, the relationship between knowledge and ignorance. These three verses are supposed to be the most difficult in the literature of the Upanishads and therefore we must take some time to understand the complexity of these three verses.