by Swami Krishnananda
Now, it is said that this great God who is the Self of all beings is the dearest object of all beings. We all love Him the most, and we love nobody else.
This Self, about whom we have been speaking just now, this Self is dearer than children whom people hug so affectionately. This Self is dearer than all the wealth that one can possess anywhere. Why? Because it is nearer to one than anything else. Children are not so near as this Self; wealth is not so near as this Self. It is not possible that children and wealth can be so dear as this Self. When we love children, wealth, etc., we are reflecting the character of our Selfhood on these objects which are instrumental in the invocation of the love of the Self, which is Supreme, and yet not known. It always escapes our notice. In every form of affection, the Self is involved, but is not recognised. It is the nearest and the dearest, and it is the innermost principle. It is inner to the body, inner to the Prāṇa, inner to the senses and the mind, inner to the intellect, inner to the highest causative principle within us. It is the deepest Being, the deepest Essence, the profoundest Reality, and thus it is the Ultimate Subjectivity in us.
If anyone clings to something which is not the Self, as an object of endearment, and if someone says that this object shall be lost one day, it shall be so. Any object to which one clings, other than the Self, shall be the object of sorrow, one day or the other. That which is not the Self is also that which can be lost, and, therefore, to pin one's faith in things which are not the Self is to court sorrow in this world. No one can be free from sorrow as long as affections are pinned on things that are transient and perishable. Anything that is outside the Self is an object that can be lost. There is only one thing that we cannot lose, and that is the Self; and, so, there is only one thing which cannot cause sorrow – that is the Self. There is only one thing that we can really love, and is our dear friend – that is the Self; no one else. Nothing else is dependable or reliable in this world. If anyone foolishly, wrongly, unknowingly, indiscreetly clings to things which are externalised in space and time, as objects of the senses, not knowing the Selfhood of beings, verily, those objects shall be lost; there will be bereavement. And, on account of clinging to forms, rebirth can take place, because rebirth is the effect of the desire to cling to forms, and the inability to possess the forms in spite of the desire for them. Hence, the Upaniṣhad again hammers the same idea on our minds – ātmanam eva priyam upasīta: adore the Self alone as dear. Do not regard anything else as dear. No one can save you except the Self. No one can protect you except the Self, and no one is your friend except the Self. And this Self is, again to mention, not yourself, or myself, this particular self, or that particular self, because it has already been said that all these so-called individualities are inadequate to the purpose. That alone is the Self we are speaking of, which is equally present in all, inconceivable to mortal minds.
The object of possession will never be lost, and we shall not be bereft of it, and we shall not be in sorrow, we shall not lose the object of our desire, if that object of desire is this Self. But, if the object of desire is the non-Self, we would lose that object. If we are to be eternally possessed of the object of our desire, may that object be the same as our Self. "May you love the Universal Being; love not anything else, because all these objects of affection are included in the Universal Self."
It is said that people who acquired Brahma-Vidyā as their endowment, who were well-versed in the knowledge of Brahman, the science of the Self, possessed everything. We have been told that the knowledge of the Absolute is, veritably, possession of the Absolute. It is said that people in ancient times had this knowledge, and through this knowledge they became the All, possessed the All, and were immensely happy. And, they possessed everything as the Supreme Being Himself possessed all things. But what was that knowledge with which they were endowed? What was that endowment which enabled them to know the All, become the All, be the All? What is the superiority of this knowledge? What do we mean by Brahma-Vidyā? What is the science of the Self, or Ātma-Vidyā? The Upaniṣhad again iterates the same truth in another way for the purpose of recapitulation.
Brahman, the Absolute, alone was; nothing else was, there was no object. And, It knew Itself alone. That knowledge of the Absolute, when It alone was, is the object of Brahma-Vidyā. God knowing Himself is the final aim Brahma-Vidyā. in one sense. When God knows Himself, what does He know? That is the Goal of Ātma-Vidyā. What God knows would be the knowledge which can save all, and enable one to become powerful like God. What was it that God knew? We know many things. We are efficient in the various branches of learning. We are experts in the sciences and the arts of the world. We have much knowledge, as we say. What was the knowledge which God had? What was the science which He knew, and what was the branch of learning in which He was specialised, or proficient in? What did God know? Can you tell us? To this question, which the Upaniṣhad raises, it itself gives the answer.
God knew only Himself; nothing else. Not anything other than He was there, and, therefore, no chance of knowing anything other than He could be there. Brahma-Vidyā. is the knowledge of God, the science of Brahman, the Absolute. But it is not knowledge of something. The word 'of' is to be eliminated in this sentence. Our language is inadequate to the purpose. We cannot express this knowledge in language, because our sentences are split into the subject and the predicate. There is a subject connected by the verb to its predicate. There is no such possibility here of describing this knowledge by the subject-object connection through a verb. There is no verb in the sentence if we are to use a sentence for describing what God knew. When we say, God knew Himself, it is not that God as the subject knew Himself as the object; hence a sentence is not apt for the purpose of describing what the state of affairs was then. It was not someone knowing something, or something knowing something else. It was not the state where one can use a sentence with a transitive verb. There was no object for the verb in the sentence, 'It knew Itself'. It was a union of the knower and the known. It was Awareness of Being. It was Being which became aware that It was. The Being that was, became aware that it was. It was Being-Consciousness, or the Awareness of Being Itself may be said to be God-Consciousness. That is Absolute-Consciousness; and this is the meaning of 'God knew Himself', 'It knew Itself', 'tad ātmānam evāvet'. It knew Itself only, and if we, too, can know only the Self in the way It knew Itself, that would be the greatest knowledge that we can have. But, we must know ourselves in the same way as 'It knew Itself', not as we think that we are, in the present state of individuality, because that is a knowledge of the Subject of knowledge, which included within Its Existence every object that It has to know, so that the usual process of knowledge does not exist in this act of knowing the object. There is no process of knowing between the Pramātā (knower) and the Prameya (known). As they say, there is no Pramāṇā (knowing) linking the two together. It is at once, a simultaneous Being-Consciousness. This is what the Vedānta terminology often designates as Satchidānanda, i.e., Pure Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.
He knew, 'I Am the All, the Absolute'; and whoever knows thus, becomes the All. This is the essence of Brahma-Vidyā, the highest wisdom of life.
Here is the intention of the Upaniṣhad in making a distinction between Divine Knowledge and ordinary knowledge. It is Divine Knowledge that liberates, while the knowledge of objects is binding. What is the characteristic of Divine Knowledge as distinguished from ordinary knowledge? This was the point of discussion in our earlier study, and the whole section deals with this subject.
The knowledge of God does not mean someone's knowledge of the existence or character of God. It means, rather, the knowledge that God possesses, not the knowledge which someone else possesses regarding God. It is the knowledge which is the endowment of God Himself. That is Divine Knowledge, and it is this knowledge that is liberating, as nothing else can liberate the soul. We have been told that Ādhyātma-Vidyā, or Brahma-Vidyā is the science of liberation. It liberates by the very fact of its presence, and not by any other process that takes place in the rise of that knowledge than just its existence. It is something like the luminosity of the sun. The mere presence of the sun is every kind of activity of the sun. Likewise is this knowledge which is Divine Knowledge. Inasmuch as we are not accustomed to this type of thinking which is called for in the assessment of the real meaning of Divine Knowledge, we are likely to commit the mistake of introducing human logic into the structure of Divine Realisation.
It has to be pointed out that Divine Knowledge is not logical acumen. It is not a conclusion drawn by means of induction or deduction. It is not a product of argument, or any kind of rational process. It is also not dependent upon an object outside it, which is a very important factor that distinguishes Divine Knowledge from ordinary learning. While the knowledge that we have can have no significance if there is no object or content outside it, Divine Knowledge does not require any other content. It is itself its content. The object of knowledge is not necessarily an external factor that determines the value or the depth of that Knowledge, but the very nature of that Knowledge is such that it does not stand in need of an object outside it. This is a peculiarity in it with which the human mind is not accustomed, and therefore, the methodology of human psychology cannot be applied here, and even the farthest stretch of our imagination cannot comprehend the nature of Divine Knowledge. All the philosophers, whether of the East or of the West, have been racking their brains in trying to understand the nature of Knowledge, the nature of Truth. The character of Truth is an important subject in any philosophical enquiry, and we can, to a large extent, assess the value of a philosophical system from the definition of Truth that it furnishes. Each school of philosophy has its own definition of Truth, and from that definition we often gather the extent of the depth of that philosophy. We give logical definitions, and we have no other way of defining things. We give a characteristic of knowledge which is acceptable to the logical idiosyncrasies of the human mind, which need not be true, ultimately. This is so, because it is subject to sublation. Human understanding is a process of knowing which will change its nature in accordance with the nature of its object. It is not eternal knowledge. We may call it secular or temporal knowledge. Not all this knowledge of ours is going to free us from bondage.
What is bondage? It is dependence of some kind, a hanging on of the subject on some kind of object, whether physical or conceptual. It may be an imaginary object, or it may be a really existent material object; yet it is some object on which the knowledge hangs, and without which it seems to have no worth. This dependence of knowledge on a particular object outside becomes a binding factor. So, our minds are bound by objects of sense. The objects outside us, the contents of our individualistic knowledge become the sources of our bondage and sorrow. They do not illuminate us. We are under a misapprehension when we think that the content of our knowledge is an illuminating factor. We are very learned when we have a lot of content in our acumen. Not so is the truth. It is going to be a bondage, because it is a content which has not got absorbed into the structure of knowledge. The 'being' of knowledge, the essence of knowledge is outside the 'being' of the object, and, therefore, knowledge hangs on the object as if it is a leaning staff. Thus, it has no worth of its own; it has no intrinsic value. All the knowledge that human beings may be said to possess is bereft of a final intrinsic worth. It has an extrinsic value in the sense that it is related to objects, and so it is relative knowledge, not Absolute Being.
Absolute Knowledge is that which can stand on its own, and it does not need any other support from outside. That knowledge is God-Knowledge. This is what is known as Divine Knowledge. And the Upaniṣhad tells us that such was the knowledge with which God was endowed, and is always endowed, and may be supposed to have been the essence of God's Being prior to the manifestation of the universe. When the universe was not there before it was created, there were no space, time and objects. God was, and He knew something even when the universe was not there. What was it that He knew when the objects of the universe did not exist? He knew only Himself. The Absolute knew Itself alone. This is the answer of the Upaniṣhad – tad ātmānam evāvet. And what sort of knowledge was it, that knowledge of the Self? 'I am the All': – This Selfhood of God, which was the content of His knowledge, was an Allness of Being; it was comprehensive reality, so that it did not exclude anything. Here is the standing difference between individual knowledge and Absolute Knowledge. The knowledge which the individual has in respect of himself, as 'I am', is a knowledge which one may have of himself, but that stands opposed to an object that is outside. Here is a knowledge of the Universal 'I am', which does not stand opposed to an object, but gets absorbed into the object, and here the object is united with the Supreme Subject.
Because of the knowledge of God being equivalent to the 'Being' of all things, God's Being was the 'Being' of all things. He was All, because His knowledge was All. His omniscience was also omnipresence. The presence of God is itself the knowledge of God, and the knowledge of God is the presence of God. They are not two different things. Existence and Consciousness are identical in the case of God. Sat and Chit are identical in the Absolute. The Being and the Awareness of Being are the same, and such was the Knowledge that God had, and therefore, He became everything. He was all things.
Whoever was the individual, celestial or otherwise, who related himself to this Knowledge, he became the All. It is not that God has the prerogative of this Knowledge, and no one else can have it. For this 'anyone else' cannot be outside God's Being. Everyone can have this knowledge which God had, and God has, provided one gets attuned to the Being of God. Because, outside God there can be no 'another'. The attunement of our 'being' with God's Being is the criterion of our God-knowledge, and when we stand outside God, naturally we become puppets in the hands of fate and nature, and then we are bound by these strings that control our activities, thoughts, feelings, etc. All the gods who rose up to this level of awakening had the same experience as God had. So is the case with even human beings, not merely celestials. The Upaniṣhad says: be not afraid that only gods are fit to have this knowledge. Even you can attain to this knowledge. Sa eva tad abhavat, tathā ṛṣīṇām, tatha manuṣyāṇam: Not only gods, celestials, but sages and perfected beings and also ordinary human beings are fit for that knowledge when they are so raised and united. No one is debarred from having this entry into the Absolute. There is, however, a qualification which has to be acquired before this entry into the domain of Divine Existence. That qualification is simple and not complicated, and it is that you have to be in tune with the Being of God. There should not be any gulf or gap between your 'being' and God-Being.
If that could be fulfilled, you may be anyone, anything, existing at any place, under any condition. And then, at once, you get flooded with the Being of God. This happened to a great master of ancient times, called Vamadeva, to which reference is made in the Ṛg Veda, Aham manur abhavaṁ sūryas ca, is a Mantra, the beginning of a Sūkta, a hymn in the Ṛg Veda, and the Upaniṣhad points to that Mantra of the Veda, and says: Rishi Vāmadeva had this knowledge, and having this knowledge, having awakened himself to this Divine Status, Vāmadeva began to proclaim his experience even in the womb of his mother. He had not even come out of the womb of the mother. He was inside the womb only, when suddenly there was a flash inside the womb, and he began to realise his Cosmic Existence. That is, his Prārabdha was exhausted the moment he entered the womb. He had only that much of Karma as to compel him to take birth in the womb. The moment he entered, the force thereof got exhausted, and he had the Consciousness of Universal Existence. So, at once, he began to explain, or rather exclaim the feelings of his, as mentioned in the Ṛg Veda Mantra, which is reiterated here, "I was once the sun, shining in the sky," felt Vāmadeva within the womb. "I am not a small baby inside. I was the shining sun; I was the Manu, the progenitor of this world. I was the sage Kakshīvān. I was many things. Through all these species and forms of existence I have passed to come to this experience." There was the bursting of the bubble, and his individuality broke to pieces. His consciousness entered the Being of the Universal, and then he ejaculated in this manner, "I am the All." This is the experience recorded in the Upaniṣhad, with reference to Vāmadeva, the great Master.