Nachiketas - A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

A Synoptic Essay on Immortality

A Synoptic Essay on Immortality

There are many ways of answering the question, 'What hap-pens after death?'

One can speculate on the question by comparing various views on:

'What is life?'

'What is death?'

'From where has life emerged?'

'Can life die?'

'Who dies?'

'Does man die?'

'Does the body die?'

'If the body dies, what happens to man?'

'Is there rebirth of man?'

'What happens to man between death and rebirth?'

'Why should man die?'

'Why should man be born?'

'What is man?'

According to some, behind and above the Universe, behind and above man, there is a Supreme Reality.

What is the nature of that Reality?

Some people speak of God, some people call it as' Absolute', and some people call it 'That'. Some people deny the existence of God and yet they believe in the spiritual existence of the soul, while others deny the existence of God but speak of supra-physical experience and realization of an Ultimate Zero or Non-Being. All who believe in God agree that

A Synoptic Essay on Immortality

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

He is immortal. Most of them believe that both God and soul are immortal. There is also a view that what is called God and soul are in reality the indescribable 'That', which is imperishable, immortal and eternal.

If we are to deal with all these subjects, we shall need to refer to volumes and volumes that have been written on these subjects, but if we are like Nachiket as, we shall find the best teachers and ask them, not what they think but what they know of these subjects. In our search, we shall travel to the one who tells us that he has not only studied all the different views but has verified through experience the truth behind all these views and has arrived at integral knowledge. In our free enquiry, we shall explore that teacher's answers to the questions that led to immortality.

Shall we do that?

Nobody will deny that in our times, there has been a Teacher who along with another Teacher has explored all the paths of Knowledge which have been traversed in the past, and he has hewn a new path based upon his new discoveries; and he has arrived at integral knowledge. That teacher is Sri Aurobindo, and the one with whom he has traveled in this vast kingdom of knowledge has been known as the Mother. They have both written at length on the question of Immortality. Indeed, their writings are voluminous and very difficult. In due course of time, one can read all of them and arrive at one's own conclusions, both rationally and in actual experience. That will be, of course, a long journey, and we should invite ourselves to undertake that journey. But still, to start with, we may like to have brief answers that we can gain from them in terms of the conclusions that they have arrived at on the important questions of birth and death, of God and Soul, of God and Matter, of Man and the Universe, on why we are on the earth, why we are born, why we die, what happens to us after death, whether we can be reborn and why we should be reborn, what, in fact, is the meaning, if there is any meaning at all, of this wide Universe and creatures in the world and on the earth.

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

In other words, while Nachiketas asked the question about whether after death, 'man is' or 'man is not', we can expand the question and try to get an answer from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to what we may call 'The riddle of the Universe'.

The Katha Upanishad states that the doors of the body face outward; these doors are the doors of the senses, and it is true that all the senses are naturally sensitive to the impacts coming from outside. It is difficult for man to turn inward. That is the reason why the Katha Upanishad compares our senses with the horses or the steeds that are wild and in their natural condition uncontrolled and run about unless the mind is able to control them.

Katha Upanishad rightly compares the human body with a chariot and the senses as the horses, which are yoked to thechariot, and they compare the objects of the senses as the paths in which they move.

But the Katha Upanishad rightly speaks of the soul when it compares it with the master of the chariot. Between the soul and the chariot are the Reason and the Mind. The Reason is compared with the charioteer and the Mind is compared with the reins by which the senses i.e. the horses can be controlled. The Upanishad points out that the first thing that one needs to do is to have the knowledge by means of which the mind applies itself to control the senses. When the senses are controlled by the mind, these senses behave like noble horses that obey the driver.

But this is the first step, and if this first step is not taken, one remains unmindful and unclean, and one wanders helplessly in the cycle of phenomena. One does not know why there is this world, why the world is what it is and if the movement in the world has any goal. The next step is to discover the faculty of Reason and to train it.

But Reason is only the charioteer; for Reason can, by the power of Ideas, map out the roads and the interconnections ofroads, and can, therefore, drive the chariot in different directions in an orderly fashion. But behind the Reason, there is

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

seated the Soul. The knowledge of the soul, what it is, what it can do and how it can be fulfilled, this knowledge is the most precious knowledge. This is difficult to attain, and the Katha Upanishad aims at raising questions about the soul. When Nachiket as asks a question as to whether 'man is' or' man is not' after death, the answer lies in the fact that the soul which is the master of the chariot remains, even when the body or the chariot is dissolved. In other words, Nachiket as is ultimately told by Yama that what remains after the man is dead is his soul, because the soul is immortal.

But what is the nature of the soul? What is its location? How does it function? Why is it located in the chariot as it smaster?

These questions are answered briefly. First of all, it is said that the soul is no larger than the thumb of a man and that itis seated in the midst of the Self. That soul is the knower of his past and his future. That soul is today and that soul shall be tomorrow. It is that soul, which is the Dwarf that sits in the centre. When the body is dissolved then it is that which remains. Man lives by breath, but even when the breath ceases, the soul lives and does not need to breathe for its being, sinceit is imperishable.

After death, the soul undertakes a journey; according to the actions that were performed during its sojourn in the body, the soul enters a womb for a new embodiment and is thusre born in a new body. But if, during the sojourn in the body, there has been a pursuit of the Reality that is immovable, and which is the highest imperishable and immortal Reality, then the soul after death of the body follows after the Immovable.

The Immovable is the immortal source of the soul. And the soul cannot be known if the Immovable is not known. That Immovable is described by the Katha Upanishad as the Unmanifest; but that is an incomplete statement. The Upanishad adds that higher than the Unmanifest is the Purusha, the Being, who although Immovable, is the originator of the world and also the indweller of the world. (The word Purusha

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

consists of two original words, pur and vas; pur means the dwelling; the world which is originated is conceived as the dwelling place; vas means to dwell. Therefore, Purusha means one who originates the dwelling in the form of the world and dwells in it.)

The Katha Upanishad, does not limit itself to saying that only the soul is immortal and that the source of the soul is immortal. It goes farther and enumerates all that is immortal. It states that the great Lord, the Purusha, who is the omnipresent self, is also immortal. The Jiva that is described as the 'Eater of Sweetness' (Madhvadah}, is also immortal. The nit adds, 'This is Aditi, the mother of the gods', who is also immortal. It states further that He, the Lord is the one in whom all the gods are established. Hence, gods too are immortal. The Upanishad speaks not only of the Lord and of the Purusha but also of the Brahman that is immortal. It adds that the Purusha is called Brahman, and is also Immortality. (2.2.8).It further says that it is in Him that all the worlds are established. Thus we have a full description of; the Reality and it is said, 'None goes beyond Him'.

The Reality is described in the Upanishad as the Purusha, as the Brahman, as the great lord, and that ultimate Reality is immortal. That ultimate Reality in whom all the worlds and all the gods are established is also Aditi, who is described as them other of the gods. That Reality is also the Jiva, and it is that Jiva who is called the Dwarf who is seated in the midst of our being and is no larger than the thumb of a man and who knows the past and also the future.

Yama expounds in this Upanishad the totality and integrality of the ultimate Reality. This ultimate Reality in' all it saspects, as the Purusha, as the Brahman, as the Lord, as Aditi and as Aditi of whom all the gods are children, and the Jiva who is seated in man in the midst of his being as the Dwarf, the one who is no larger than the thumb of a man all this is immortal.

The question of Nachiketas was: this debate over the man

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

who has passed and some say, 'This he is not' and some say 'he is'; 'what is the correct answer?'

Yama's answer is: 'When man passes away, what always remains immortal is the imperishable Reality, who is Purusha, Brahman, Ishwara (the Lord) and who is himself the Aditi, the mother of the gods, and is also the Jiva who in man is theDwarf, all this is imperishable and always remains.'

Indeed, there are many questions that Nachiketas has no tasked and therefore we do not find them answered. But some questions do arise. Some other Upanishads answer some of those questions and the remaining questions are answered by implication or through hints. If there are still further questions, Upanishads counsel that one should find the best teachers and seek the answers:

उत्तिष्ठत जाग्रत प्राप्य वरान्निबोधत । 1.3.14

'Arise, awake, find out the great ones and learn of them.'

There is, as we have indicated above, the best teacher, Sri Aurobindo, who has explained the great teachings of the Vedaand the Upanishads in his voluminous .writings, and he has opened a new chapter of spiritual victory over Matter in terms of Supramental Manifestation on the earth. We shall, therefore, refer to his writings for illuming ourselves in regard to the question as to what is the real reality of the human being, and whether after the death of the human being anything remains alive, and if so, what happens to that which remains alive.

What Sri Aurobindo has written confirms what is written inthe Katha Upanishad, but he has also explained all that indetail and, on account of his laborious research, the question of the human soul and its immortality have been expounded and answered in completeness, in the light of new knowledge.

According to Sri Aurobindo, there is in the human being a psychic entity or the divine individual soul. This soul puts forward a formation, which evolves gradually in the human complex of the body, life and mind. It is that formation which

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

is called the psychic being. This psychic being is constantly at work in order to awaken the body, life and mind, so that by that awakening, these instruments (body, life and mind) turn to the higher realities and the Supreme Divine, who is the ultimate origin of all that is in the universe. The psychic being also acts as a guide and a teacher of these instruments, but like all good teachers, it does not impose itself on these instruments. It acts more through influence, suggestions and counsels, which are heard as it were in the deeper recesses of the heart. The psychic being inspires body, life and mind to give their consent for their awakening and their turning to the divine consciousness. This consent, when obtained, is a necessary condition for a rapid growth of these instruments. The more decisive is the consent, the greater is the efficacy of the psychic being. As a result, the psychic being becomes more and more powerful, and ultimately it floods its light on the instruments and makes these instruments more and more trained, more and more perfect and suffused with the psychic light.

This process is, in the beginning quite slow, and therefore, the psychic being, lives in the body, life and mind as some-thing not quite fully grown up. That is why the psychic being can be described as a Dwarf or as one that is no bigger than the thumb of a man.

Human life is a process by which, through varieties of experiences, it teaches us that we need to awaken to the presence of the psychic being, who is secretly sitting in the deep cave of the heart. That is why, the great teachers of mankind have counseled us to, look deeper and deeper in the heart and enter into a long tunnel at the end of which one can discover that deepest psychic being. Once we can reach that psychic being, we can get true guidance more and more readily, and we can walk on the path of life as on a sunlit path.

As the process of the discovery of the psychic being is long, this process cannot be completed within a short span of one life or even several lives, although once the psychic being

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

is discovered, the full manifestation of the psychic being does not take long.

In any case, this process is long; the psychic being has to carry on its journey through a number of successive bodies. Hence, when the given human body dies, this psychic being withdraws from the body and travels through various stages. This is because the death of the body does not mean that everything of the human being that was acting and living in the body comes to an end. The psychic being is immortal and it continues to live, though no more in the body which is now dead; it has its own inherent life and is able to conduct a journey. When the psychic being leaves the body on the death of the body, it carries three elements with it, namely, the mental being, the vital being and the subtle physical being which were developed in the body during its life. The departing soul at the time of death chooses what it will work out in the next birth and determines the character and condition of the new personality. That is why it is said that the psychic being has the knowledge of its past births, present birth, and it also knows what has to happen to it in the future. The following statement of Sri Aurobindo gives a brief outline of what happens after the death of the body:

'It is true that the departing being in the vital body lingers for sometime near the body or the scene of life very often for as many as eight days.... Even after these verance from the body a very earth-bound nature or one full of strong physical desires may linger long in the earth-atmosphere up to a maximum period extended to three years. Afterwards, it passes to the vital worlds, proceeding on its journey...'

Volume 22, Letters on Yoga I, pp. 436-37

We may also study the following statement of Sri Aurobindo:

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

'When the body is dissolved, the vital goes into the vital plane and remains there for a time, but after a time the vital sheath disappears. The last to dissolve is the mental sheath. Finally the soul or psychic being retires into the psychic world to rest there till a new birth is close.'

Ibid., p. 433

Let us also study another statement of Sri Aurobindo:

After leaving the body, the soul, after certain experiences in other worlds, throws off its mental and vital personalities and goes into rest to assimilate the essence of its past and prepare for a new life. It is this preparation that determines the circumstances of the new birth and guides it in its reconstitution of a new personality and the choice of its materials.

The departed soul retains the memory of its fast experiences only in their essence, not in their form of detail. It is only if the soul brings back some past personality or personalities as part of its present manifestation that it is likely to remember the details of the past life. Otherwise, it is only by Yoga drishti that the memory comes.'

Ibid., p. 434

We may also refer to some more statements from Sri Aurobindo:

At the time of death the being goes out of the body through the head; it goes out in the subtle 'body and goes to different planes of existence for a short time until it has gone through certain experiences which are the result of its earthly existence. Afterwards it reaches the psychic world where it rests in a kind of sleep, until it is time for it to start a new life on earth.

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

That is what happens usually but there are some beings who are more developed and do not follow this course.'Ibid., p. 435

'The movement of the psychic being dropping the outer sheaths on its way to the psychic plane is the normal movement. But there can be any number of variations; one can return from the vital plane and there are many cases of an almost immediate birth,some times even attended with a complete memory of the events of the past life.

There is no rule of complete forgetfulness in there turn of the soul to rebirth. There are, especially in child hood, many impressions of the past life which can be strong and vivid enough, but the materializing education and influence of the environments prevent their true nature from being recognized. There are even a great number of people who have definite recollections of a past life. But these things are discouraged by education and the atmosphere and cannot remain or develop; in most cases they are stifled out of existence. At the same time it must be noted that what the psychic being carries away with it and brings back is ordinarily the essence of the experience sit had in former lives, and not the details so that you cannot expect the same memory as one has of the present existence.

A soul can go straight to the psychic world but it depends on the state of consciousness at the time of departure. If the psychic is in front at the time, the immediate transition is quite possible... On the whole, it may be said that there is no one rigid rule for these things, manifold variations are possible depending upon the consciousness, its energies, tendencies and formations, although there is a general framework and design into which all fit and take their place.'

Ibid., pp. 437-38

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

It is important to note that when our knowledge expands, we come to know that the material world that we normally see and experience is not the only world in the universe. The universe has many planes of existence, and it has many worlds init; the material universe is only the lowest plane in the total scheme of the universe. According to the knowledge that was developed in the Vedas and the Upanishads, and which has been confirmed from age to age, and which Sri Aurobmdo also confirms is that above the physical world, there is a Vital world, above that is a world of the Mind, and then there are several planes between the Mind world and the world of the Super-mind; these are worlds of Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, Intuitive Mind and Over-mind. On the top level, there are worlds of the Super-mind, of Bliss, of Consciousness and of Existence. In the various descriptions of the universe, there are slight variations, but on the whole the most prominent description of the universe is that it is seven-fold. The Veda, therefore, speaks of Bhur (Earth plane), Bhuvar (world' of Life), Swar(world of Illumined Mind), Mahas (world of Supermind), Janah (world of Delight), Tapas (world of Consciousness-Force) and Satyam (world of Pure Existence).

These worlds are connected among themselves, each one having its own influence and pressure. A special feature of' the earth plane is that it is evolutionary in character, while other worlds are typal and non-evolutionary. It is on the earth that we find the evolution of Life in Matter, of Mind in Life and we see in our present earth-situation that Mind is also evolving. In the process of evolution, we find certain laws. According to one theory of evolution, which was developed by Darwin, the Law of evolution consists of struggle for existence and survival of the fittest. There are, indeed, debates on this theory. But there is also a spiritual theory of evolution that we find in the writings of Sri Aurobindo. He agrees with the scientific theory

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

that the evolutionary history of the earth has witnessed the evolution of Life in Matter, Mind in Life, but the mechanism of the evolution is, according to Sri Aurobindo, not identical with what the Darwinian theory wants us to believe. According to him, the Law of evolution has three processes. There is, first, the multiplication of forms of Matter; when these forms become numerous and complex, the evolutionary force working in Matter, brings out Life from the depths of Matter, in which it is already latent. This process of Ascent from Matter to Life is aided by the forces, which come down from the world of Life. In other words, it is by the junction of Life struggling to burst out of Matter and the forces of Life coming down from the typal world of Life that eventually Life could be established in Matter. But after Life is established in the form of minute organisms, it turns its gaze downwards towards Matter and produces and assumes more complex material forms. A few of these assimilated in the Law of Life and gradually the material bodies in which Life functions tend to grow more and more responsive to the forces of Life. This process is called the process of integration. When this process of integration develops further, there is once again multiplication of forms of organisms; these forms become more and more complex. This complexity is aided constantly by the forces descending from the world of Life and there is a gradual development of new organs, new structures and new" modes of functioning. This isthe reason why there are countless species and countless forms of bodies in which Life has been struggling to establish itself securely in Matter. There is, in fact, a great struggle between Life and Matter, and although Life has emerged and Life has developed many forms, we see that no organism has yet been able to secure itself or establish itself so fully in Matter that it can continue to live in Matter without end. There is, thus, the Law of Death; and this Death operates because in the struggle between Life and Matter, Matter continues to impose itself and Matter becomes victorious over Life. This victory of Matter over Life is victory of the Law of Death.

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

Next, Mind evolves in Life, it is because of the pressure of the Mind, which was already involved in Life, and it was aided by the pressure of the Mind acting from the typal world of Mind [The worlds of Life, of Mind and other worlds which are above our earthly plane are, as stated earlier, called typal because each of these worlds is non-evolutionary. Only our earth plane is evolutionary;]. When the Mind evolves, a new power begins to act, because Mind has the capacity to plan and design; it can foresee the results with some kind of probability; it can therefore change the plan to bring about better probable consequences. This capacity is of tremendous significance. When the human mind develops, it can develop sciences and technologies. Mind can see the outer world, it can also see the inner world; it can come to know by special methods other worlds and can even design and plan how the powers of other worlds can be known and even brought down on the earth.

In India as elsewhere, many advanced minds have tried to develop not only the sciences of the outer world but also the sciences of the inner world; they also developed the science of living and technology of living. The technology of the highest, truest and noblest living came to be called in India, Yoga.'

Fortunately, the records of the knowledge of the science and technology of Yogic living have been kept intact and a live. The most precious records are those of the Vedas and the Upanishads. When we read these records, we find stories such as those of Nachiket as, where there are debates and exchanges in regard to the development of the knowledge of what is life, what is death, why are there processes of birth and death and why a human being is obliged to be born as a baby and grow up and achieve many victories and yet, why he is obliged to die. This was the central question that Nachiketas had asked,' What is death, what happens after death, and is there any Reality which is immortal?''..

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

Having given this background, we can see the importance of the question that we have been discussing here. We have seen that according to the knowledge that is available in Yoga, there is in man a psychic entity or the soul, which is immortal and remains alive even after the death of the body. We have seen that when the soul leaves on the death of the body, it travels to the world of Life and then travels to the world of Mind. Thereafter it travels to the world of Souls, the psychic worlds. According to Sri Aurobindo, the soul rests in the psychic world and during this period of rest it assimilates the experiences that it has gained while it was in its previous body. The mission of the soul is to gradually influence more and more powerfully the powers of the mind, life and body and to turn them to receive the higher and highest light from above and transform them so that they may act in the physical world with the light and power of the highest consciousness. We have seen that this is a very long work, and the mission of that work cannot be fulfilled within a short span of one life. It is for this reason that there is in the world the machinery of rebirth. Rebirth becomes inevitable because the soul's work continues to become more and more victorious in its mission, and in every new body, the soul attempts to create a more and more powerful nucleus of its light from where its rays of light can spread over the mind, life and body. That nucleus of light is called the psychic being. The psychic being is the growing nucleus created by the psychic entity out of its own light and power so that through the instrumentality of the psychic being the mind, life and body can become more and more transformed.

When Yama explains to Nachiket as that there is a beingin us, which is seated in the center of one's self arid which is no bigger than the thumb, he refers to the psychic being. Hence, the first important thing for the individual to do is to get in touch with the psychic being. But this cannot be done if one remains turned outwards. That is why Yama points out that one should turn inward. It is by turning inward more and

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

more that one can discover the psychic being. Yama further points out that this turning inward would not be easy, if one does not distinguish between what is pleasant and what is good. Yama also adds that if one seeks pleasure, one will remain constantly in the world of blindness. It is by choosing the good that one becomes able to walk on the path of the discovery of the psychic being.

It is often asked as to why seeking of pleasure leads one to the world of blindness. The answer is that pleasures keep one fixed on the outer senses, and one remains more and more outward, whereas the guiding light of the psychic being is available only when one turns inward. But the question is -how does one know what is good? One simple answer is that any action or any thought which makes one serious and sincere and leads one to think deeply by going inward, and any action or thought which makes one serious and sincere to live more and more within one's self and to control the outer actions and thoughts, is a good action and a good thought. But this is a simple answer. At a deeper level, the good is found to be an expression of states of consciousness, which are very wide, very quiet, very stable and very compassionate. These states of consciousness are conducive to the contact with the psychic being. Hence, the more one controls one's desires for pleasures, the wider becomes his consciousness and the nearer he reaches the psychic being.

Yama also explains that apart from the psychic -being, there is a greater Reality of which the psychic being is a dele-gate. That greater Reality needs to be known, since the knowledge of that Reality is a terminal point of the work of the psy-chic being on the earth, although even after knowing that Reality, a very different task still remains to be done. That task is to create conditions in the Mind, Life and Body by means of which that Reality can manifest fully on this earth. If, there-fore, it is asked as to why we are here on the earth^we shall see that it is, firstly, to discover and realize that greater Reality, which is called in the Upanishad, the Brahman, and secondly,

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

to manifest that Reality in physical life in fullness. Since this task is a long one, we require to be ready for a long journey and work out patiently these two tasks as quickly as possible and also as perfectly as possible.

The Katha Upanishad, like all the other Upanishads, is centred on Brahma-Vidya, the knowledge of Brahman. The great-ness of the Upanishads lies in the fact that they give us a full description of the essence and nature of Brahman. That knowledge remains perennial, since the essence and nature of Brahman is immortal and does not change. That is why the knowledge given in the Upanishads, although it is very ancient, has remained true, and even now it is true. The truth of that knowledge can be verified by following the methods that the Upanishads have given. That is why the Upanishads are not dogmatic. What the Upanishads had realized about the nature of Brahman has been verified again and again, and Sri Aurobindo in his writings has confirmed, that in his own experiences he has discovered the essence and nature of the Brahman, as described in the Upanishads. In fact, the knowledge of the Upanishads is itself a verification and restatement of the knowledge of the Brahman that we find in the Vedas. Hence, the knowledge of the Brahman given in the Upanishads is also called Vedic Knowledge. According to that knowledge, Brahman is immortal; therefore, when Nachiket as questions as to what remains after the death of a man, Yama replies that not only the soul is immortal but that the soul it self is imperishably connected with the Brahman, who is the source of immortality. Hence, the knowledge of Brahman is indispensable. Not only that but the knowledge of the Brahman brings about an identity with the Brahman, and therefore, one attains to the immortality of the Brahman.

Let us, therefore, read once again what Yama says about the Brahman. First of all, the Brahman is described as At manor the Self, since the Self is the essence, which is imperishable. Yama says to Nachiketas that the Self is not to be won by eloquent teaching, or by brainpower, or by much learning. None

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

who has not ceased from doing evil, or whose mind has not been tranquillized can attain to Him or to that Self. Moreover, one needs to develop wisdom to attain to Him. One who pursues knowledge and one who becomes constantly mindful and keeps himself pure always, reaches the goal of the knowledge of the Brahman.

The Brahman is the highest. The Katha Upanishad describes that highest as follows:

'The objects of sense are higher than the senses; the Mind is higher than the object of sense; the Super-mind is higher than the Mind; the Great Self is higher than the Super-mind; the Unmanifest is greater than the Great Self; the Purusha is greater than theUnmanifest. None is higher than the Purusha. He isthe culmination. He is the highest goal of the journey.'(See verses 10 & 11, Chapter III, 1st Cycle, Katha Upanishad.)

The Supreme Reality is defined here as Purusha; it will be seen that the word Brahman is not used in the above verse. This is because the word Brahman and the word Purusha are often used interchangeably and they are also used with specific con-notations. If we want to understand the specific connotation of the words Brahman and Purusha, it can be said that Brahman stands for the essence; it also stands for the essence that expands and is, therefore, present everywhere; it also stands forwhat is understood to be the meaning of Self, because Self means that which is most essential. For that reason, the word Brahman (essence that expands) is also equated with Atman (Self). Purusha, on the other hand, stands for Being. There is a distinction between essence and being. Essence is that which is what remains whether it manifests or does not manifest. It is true that what manifests can be none other than the essence, and what is spread in the manifestation is also essence. But the concept of Purusha brings in a more complex idea Being is one,

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

who is essence but who also determines whether to remain unmanifest or manifest. Hence, the word Purusha means the being who determines or who originates the manifestation. The word Purusha has also a further connotation; he is not only the being who determines whether to manifest or not to manifest, not only the originator of manifestation but who also relates himself with what is manifested and dwells in manifestation. (As explained earlier, the word Purusha consists of two words-pur and vas, -pur stands for the field or the town or the body or the universe, which is manifested, and vas stands ford welling, to dwell, to live.)

We may also add that the Supreme Reality is often described as Ishwara. Again, the words Brahman, Purusha and Ishwara can be used interchangeably, but the specific meaning of Ishwara is one who is the Lord of all that is manifested. Asthe Lord, the relationship with the manifestation is not the same as the Purusha has with the manifestation. The relation-ship between Purusha and the power of manifestation (Prakriti) is that of eternal companionship, such that Purusha consents to Prakriti and Prakriti consents to Purusha, depending upon the nature of the play that they .want to play with each other. The relationship between Ishwara and manifestation is not that of companionship, but that of a relationship in which Ishwara always acts as the Lord of the manifestation, who controls manifestation, who commands manifestation and overrides with his Will so that that Will prevails.

These three words describe the Supreme Reality in its totality in which these three aspects are three poises, and there is still a higher poise, which is attained when all the three poises are transcended. That transcendental is, in a sense, indescribable, but if it is to be described, it is described as a Parabrah-man or Purushottama or Parameshwara.

According to the Katha Upanishad,' when the word Purusha is used as the one who is highest, it should be under-stood that the Purusha that is the highest is the Purushottama. It is the knowledge of the highest Purushottama that one

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

should aim at. It is that Purusha, in its highest poise that is the real immortal one, and it is because that Purushottama has all the three poises of Brahman, Ishwara and Purusha, the realization of the Brahman or Ishwara or Purusha is also the realization of immortality. But apart from the highest Purushottama, and his three poises, there is also the power of Purushottama, which is the power of manifestation. That power of manifestation is known in the Vedas as Aditi and Katha Upanishad also uses the same name and points out that that Aditi is also immortal. Further, the Katha Upanishad also points out that there is Jiva, who is the eater of sweetness, and that Jiva is manifested in the Aditi, who is herself the ocean of sweetness. That is' why Jiva is described as the eater of sweetness. That Jiva also is immortal. The Katha Upanishad also speaks of a being who is no bigger than the thumb (soul or psychic being) and as Sri Aurobindo points out, that being (that is no bigger than the thumb) is a delegate of the Jiva or of the Individual Self. According to the Katha Upanishad, that, who is no bigger than the thumb, is also immortal, and it is the one who travels as an individual traveler, who enters into the human body at birth and departs from the body on death. According to Sri Aurobindo, the individual soul, after the death of the body, travels along with its subtle physical, vital and mental sheaths into different worlds which are other than the world of physical existence; after this intermediary travel, having shed the subtle physical sheath in the subtle physical world, vital sheath in the vital world, and mental sheath in the mental world and rest in its own world, which Sri Aurobindo calls the Psychic world, it gets reborn into a new physical body, normally after about three years sojourn in the Psychic world. This traveler is immortal, and it is this traveler who is obliged to come back again and again into the human body. As Sri Aurobindo points out, it is so because it has an intention, the fulfillment of which can take a very long time, and therefore, until that intention is fulfilled, it comes again and again into the human body, and during each birth, it works out a part of

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

the work which is to be fulfilled over repeated rebirths.

The question is, What is the intention of the soul on thee arth, which it intends to fulfill?

This question is extremely difficult to answer. A part of the answer is that the soul that enters into the human body has to be awakened to the reality of the Purushottama. Hence, the soul constantly works on the consciousness of the body, life and mind to make this consciousness more and more aware of the Purushottama. When that awareness is attained in the body, life and mind, the soul is said to have attained the state of immortality. Indeed, this is a very difficult task, and one mark of that realization of immortality is that one becomes superior to the body, life and mind permanently, and the soul is no more obliged to become bound to the body, life and mind. Hence, that state is also called the state of liberation or Moksha.

Sri Aurobindo goes further and points out that attainment of liberation is only the first step of the fulfillment of the pur-pose for which the soul comes down into the body, life and mind. Hence, a further task remains still to be accomplished. A part of this task is to develop body, life and mind to such a point of perfection that they too become divinised, and one could describe the divinised body, life and mind as the divine temple, that lives physically on the earth and manifests fully the divine consciousness in each and every movement of body, life and mind. This aspect of the work of the soul is not described in the Katha Upanishad. But what is left unsaid in the Upanishad remains to be accomplished and it is here that anew knowledge and a new method of application of that knowledge had to be discovered.

Sri Aurobindo made a fresh effort of yogic research and found out that in order to fulfill the soul's task on earth, it is not enough to secure the realization of the immortality of the soul and of the Jiva, but also to realize the immortality and power of manifestation of Aditi (which Sri Aurobindo also calls Super-mind), which also has to be known in fullness. Sri

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

Aurobindo goes even further, and points out that the power of Aditi or Super-mind has to be brought down by its descent, so that the Supramemal power can inundate the mind, life and body. It is only when the Supermind has fully inundated that the divine temple can be built on the earth. When that state is achieved, not only the mind and life but even the body is fully supramemalised, and the body can also develop a new structure that can manifest Supermind fully. In that state, the mind becomes immortal, life becomes immortal and even the body becomes immortal. This triple immortality of the mind, life and body is the sign that the Purushottama and Aditi have become fully manifest on the earth. Indeed, humanity has not yet reached that point, where this ideal can be said to have been accomplished. In the meantime, most of us have still to attain to the first half of the work, which is described in the Katha Upanishad, namely, the task of the realization of the immortality of the Purushottama and of Aditi. Some, who are very advanced, can move forward towards the remaining half of the work; only a few have the capacity of working towards the completion of the task. According to Sri Aurobindo, it may take a few centuries before one can attain to the triple immortality of the mind, life and body. The body's immortality will be the last achievement, and it is towards that achievement that we have to prepare ourselves increasingly and, with the constant help of Aditi, work out the attainment of full supra-mental manifestation on the earth. (See Appendices I, II and III.)

It may be added that immortality of the body when it is achieved, will not mean the obligation or the necessity of the soul to remain in the same body, but it will be free from the necessity or obligation to enter the state of death. The supra-mental being will have the freedom to choose to leave the body whenever it so wills. That capacity to leave the body at will is, truly speaking, what can be called icchamrityu. It means that death is not a necessity; at present death has not been conquered by humanity, even though there have been instances when some advanced yogis have been able to post-

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

pone the moment of death; but the body itself has not yet achieved that level of conquest where it can be said that the law of death itself has been eliminated from our present state of physical existence.

We have thus covered, not only the teaching of Katha Upanishad, but in the light of Sri Aurobindo, also brought out what can be called the complete knowledge, not only of immortality of the Supreme Reality but also the immortality of the instruments of the Spirit on the earth. It is true that one has to make a very large study of the methods by which the conquest of death in the human body can be realised. But for that, the minimum that we can recommend is to study Sri Aurobindo's book: Snpramental Manifestation Upon Earth.

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A Synoptic Essay On Immortality

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