by Swami Krishnananda
We go now to the Second Chapter which begins with an instructive anecdote, and is incidentally a kind of teaching bordering on the distinction between qualified and unqualified Reality, the conditioned and unconditioned Brahman. What is conditioned Reality, and what is unconditioned Reality?
There was a learned man, called Bālāki. He wanted to parade his knowledge before an emperor called Ajātaśatru. Here was a learned man, proud of his learning, thinking himself wise, imagining that he knew Brahman, a person born in the family of the sage Gārgya, and he went to the court of king Ajātaśatru, and told the king: "I shall teach you Brahman." The king was highly pleased. "Well, I have a very good Master to teach me Brahman." Ajātaśatru was the king of Kāśi. Sa hovᾱca ajᾱtaśatruḥ, sahasram etasyᾱm vᾱci dadmaḥ: "You are so kind, indeed. Even for the very generous gesture of offering to teach me Brahman, I shall give you a thousand cows, like King Janaka." People always say, "Janaka, Janaka". "Very good, let me also have this humble privilege of imitating this great, charitable man, learning from you and offering you too a gift in the same manner. People always take the name of Janaka. His name is so renowned everywhere. We are so happy to be seated in that manner. People everywhere run about in search of learned ones, and here you come to me with such generosity of feeling to teach me Brahman. It's kind of you indeed!" Such was the happiness of the king.
What did the teacher tell? Bālāki, the learned man, spoke to the king by way of instructing him in the nature of Brahman. Sa hovᾱca gᾱrgyaḥ: Gārgya speaks. Ya evᾱsᾱv ᾱditye puruṣaḥ, etam evᾱhaṁ brahmopᾱsa iti: "Do you know how I meditate on Brahman?" asked the scion of the Gārgya. "I meditate upon the sun as Brahman. You also do that meditation." But the king retorted back; he did not accept this teaching. It so happened that the teacher went to the wrong disciple. The king, instead of saying, "I thank you, I shall meditate upon the sun as you instructed me," gave him back in his own coin. Mᾱ maitasmin saṁvadiṣṭhᾱḥ: "Do not speak to me like this. This is not the way I meditate." The king said so, because he seemed to know something more than the teacher himself. Atiṣṭhᾱḥ sarveṣᾱṁ bhῡtᾱnᾱṁ mῡrdhᾱ rᾱjeti vᾱ aham etam upᾱsa iti: "I also meditate upon the sun, but not as you tell. The reason is that the sun is only a conditioned form, and you are considering this conditioned form as the Absolute. This is not the way in which it should be contemplated. There is a reality behind the sun. I meditate upon that. There is a general reality behind the particular form, the sun. Why not meditate upon that instead of the particular form? It could have taken many forms other than the sun, and so if you resort yourself to that general being behind the form, naturally you would be in the realisation of every other form. You will have every form under your control. Now, how do I meditate on the transcendent support of everything? There is an energising vitality behind the sun. That is what I meditate upon, the King of all beings." Sūrya, or the sun, is held by the Veda as the eye of all creatures, the Ātman or the very Self of all beings. That means to say there is something in the sun which is not visible to the eye. Maybe that is the reason why the influence exerted by the sun upon us is ununderstandable, inscrutable indeed. Mῡrdhᾱ rᾱjᾱ: "The supreme head of all creatures and the basic reality behind all things is he – this is the way I meditate, and not on the form of the sun. Sa ya etam upᾱste, atiṣṭhᾱḥ sarveṣᾱm bhῡtᾱnᾱṁ mῡrdhᾱ rᾱjᾱ bhavati: One who contemplates thus, in this manner, the general transcendent reality behind the sun becomes supreme among all people. He becomes a king in the circle he moves, and this is the result of such meditation; otherwise you would be stuck to the single form only and the other forms will not pay any homage to you. If you want homage or tribute to be paid to you by every form, you should go to the general background behind all forms, and not cling only to one particular form." This is what the disciple told the so-called instructor.
Then the instructor spoke something else. "If that is the case, then I have got something more to tell you. Ya evᾱsau candre puruṣaḥ, etam evᾱham brahmopᾱsa iti: I meditate on the moon as a symbol of Brahman." "Do not speak to me like this," says Ajātaśatru, here again. "I am not meditating like this." Mᾱ maitasmin saṁvadiṣṭhᾱḥ. bṛhan pᾱṇḍara-vᾱsᾱḥ somo rᾱjeti vᾱ aham etam upᾱsa iti: "There is something in the moon which attracts us. Why not meditate upon that? What is the value of the moon, after all? You are thinking of the moon as a form, but I am thinking of something in the moon that makes it enviable to people, and attractive and valuable. I meditate upon the moon, of course, but not as you say. I consider it an embodiment of the cosmic vitality which beams forth through the form, as if it is dressed in white. The rays of the moon may be compared to a white robe. But they are not real robes, though they look like them. But what are these white robes? They are nothing but the Prāṇic energy that is emanating from the moon. That is greater, more important than the form of the moon." Bṛhan pᾱṇḍara-vᾱsᾱḥ somo rᾱjeti: "The lord of all such manifestation is called Rājā, and the moon is called Soma, Chandra, these being the names of the moon. How do I meditate upon Soma as the King of all such producers of balming or cooling rays? I meditate upon that which is responsible for what value you behold in the moon. The coolness of the moon, its watery aspect and the rays of the moon, its light or luminosity are nothing but the expression of Prāṇa. That is what I meditate upon. If one meditates like this, what happens?" Sa ya etam evam upᾱste, ahar ahar ha sutaḥ prasuto bhavati, nᾱsyᾱnnaṁ kṣīyate: "One becomes endowed with everything that one needs. The food that is required does not get diminished. Anything that you need may be considered as your food. You will have abundance of everything, and your lineage will continue unbroken. People in your family, in your line of succession, will continue to be like you because of the force that you exert upon the people that follow you in your family and lineage."
Then the instructor Gargya said: "If that is what you say, I have another method of meditation. Why not follow that? You know that there is lightning. I meditate upon the lightning as Brahman because it flashes forth, indicating as if the spiritual light itself is flashing. I contemplate Reality, the Puruṣha, in the form of the flash of lightning because of the similarity between the lightning flash and the flash of Brahman-Consciousness." "Do not speak to me like this," said Ajātaśatru. "I do not meditate upon lightning in this manner. How do I meditate then? I merely meditate on luminosity. Lightning is one of the forms of potential luminosity. There can be various other forms of lustre, and I contemplate on lustre itself. It can be the lustre of lightning; it may be that of the sun; it may be of the moon; it may be of fire; it may be of one's own understanding. What does it matter? I meditate on the general background of all luminosity. That, of course, includes lightning. I do not meditate on Brahman in lightning, as you say. My method is quite different. I contemplate on the generality behind these particulars. One who meditates in this manner – what happens to him? Sa ya etam evam upᾱste, tejasvī ha bhavati, tejasvinī hᾱsya prajᾱ bhavati: One becomes lustrous in contemplating like this. There is a kind of energy generated by that person. He becomes a magnetic force. Power emanates from him, wherever he is, and he becomes brilliant not only in his deeds, but also in his thoughts, in his understanding. His entire personality changes. So does his progeny, his family, everything that comes after him, because of the force exerted by him."
So, Gārgya had failed, but he said: "Well, then I have something else to tell you. I meditate on space itself as Brahman. You follow this instruction. Space is all-pervading; Brahman is all-pervading. So space can be regarded as a symbol of Brahman, which is omnipresent." "Do not speak to me like this." This is what Ajātaśatru, the king, said. "I contemplate space in a different manner, not the way you say. How do I meditate? Pῡrṇam apravartīti: I contemplate on plenitude and immobility. That is the priority in the character of space itself. What is space? It is a completeness of perception, and it is an immobility. Everything moves, but space does not move. It is fullness. If you contemplate fullness or infinitude, space is included in it. So, why go for the manifested form of space? I contemplate on that which is prior to the manifestation of space, the Supreme Bhūma, the fullness of Being, the immobile Reality."
Sa ya etam evam upᾱste, pῡryate prajayᾱ paśubhiḥ nᾱsyᾱsmᾱl lokᾱt prajodvartate: "One who contemplates Brahman as the infinite, inclusive of every kind of fullness conceivable, space included, becomes full in every respect. There would be nothing lacking in this person because of the contemplation of plenitude. His family and all that is associated with him becomes full on account of the force of such meditation. He is filled with abundance of every kind. He prospers materially, socially, intellectually and spiritually. And his lineage is never broken; it continues to glory in this world. Such is the great effect produced by this meditation on fullness, or plenitude, or completeness, which is the abstract priority behind the particular manifestation called space."
Gārgya does not keep quiet. He says again: "I have something to tell you. I meditate on fire as Brahman. You know the power of fire. It can burn anything. It has tremendous energy in it. I take it as a symbol of Brahman and meditate. So, you also meditate like this." Ajātaśatru retorted: "Do not speak to me like this. My meditation on fire is something else. It is of a different nature altogether. How? Viṣᾱsahir iti vᾱ aham etam upᾱsa iti: I contemplate fire as supreme tolerance. Nobody can tolerate things as fire does. It accepts whatever is thrown into it. It does not say, "I do not want, I do not agree with it'. Fire is a consumer, acceptor and absorber of anything and everything. Fire is tolerance incarnate. So, I meditate on fire as universal tolerance, a capacity to absorb anything into oneself. I do not meditate on fire as luminosity, as you may be thinking of. The supreme capacity to absorb everything into oneself – that is how I contemplate on fire. That is a greater concept, a more generalised form of it than the particular one which is the fire you think of. If one meditates like this, what happens to him? Sa ya etam evam upᾱste viṣᾱsahir ha bhavati: One becomes very tolerant. The person will never resent. He will not speak against, or criticise; he will not find fault with anything. Everything will look beautiful to him, because he is a supreme absorber of everything. He becomes a general force which can take into its bosom every particular form – whether it is intellectual, social, individual or spiritual. Viṣᾱsahir hᾱsya prajᾱ bhavati: His progeny also becomes an embodiment of tolerance, goodness and generosity of expression in every manner, if this meditation is practised."
"Well that is all right," Gārgya speaks again. "I have some other method of meditation. You take this. I meditate on the water principle as Brahman because it is liquid and it is formless. It is characterised by some aspect of reality which is the uniformity that I see in water." "Do not speak to me like this about water. I also meditate upon it, but in some other way that is different from what you are speaking of," said Ajātaśatru. "I meditate upon water as that which is agreeable, and it is so because I find in water the character of agreeability. Everyone is fond of water. Water is agreeable to everyone, human, subhuman or superhuman. If one meditates like this, one becomes agreeable to everyone. He will not be shied away from by people. Just as water is liked by everyone, the same will happen to the meditator. In some way or the other, they will find some worth in him. Pratirῡpa iti vᾱ aham etam upᾱsa iti, sa ya etam evam upᾱste, pratirῡpaṁ haivainam upagacchati: All agreeable things will come to you. Everything blessed will come to you of its own accord – uncalled for, unexpected. Everything good in this world will be yours. If you become agreeable to everyone, everything shall become agreeable to you. And I contemplate on the general character of goodness and amiability and agreeability which I find reflected in the principle of water. If one meditates like this, you know the result, of course. Etam evam upᾱste, pratirῡpaṁ haivainam upagacchati, nᾱpratirῡpam, atho pratirῡpo'smaj jᾱyate: Nothing disagreeable will come to you. You will find all things are pleasant and beautiful, and whatever emanates from you will be agreeable and pleasant. You will receive only pleasant things and agreeable things; and whatever proceeds from you, whatever you give and whatever emanates from you will also be of a similar nature. This is how I meditate."
Gārgya says: "I have another method. I meditate upon that which is seen in the mirror." "No," he said. "This is not how I meditate. I do not meditate upon what I see in the mirror." There is a kind of meditation called Darpana-Yoga, even now practiced by some people. This is a humorous thing to hear, but it has a point about it. It is said that nothing is more attractive than one's own face. It is liked by people more than anything else. If you look at your face in the mirror, you would not like to withdraw your attention from it. You would go on looking, because you are somehow the most beautiful person in the world. Others are secondary. No one can be as beautiful as 'I'. Everyone thinks like this. The mind is drawn to the face in the mirror. If you wish to concentrate upon an object, concentrate on your own face first. Then the mind will not wander away. Your difficulty of the drifting mind will not be there afterwards. What was in the mind of Gārgya, we do not clearly know. He said, "I meditate upon that which is reflected in a mirror." "No; that is not the way. I also meditate on this form, but not as you say. I do not contemplate on the form, or the shape that is reflected in the mirror, but the capacity of reflection itself. That is what I regard as superior to what is reflected. How is reflection possible at all? That is more important than what is reflected. I meditate on the reflecting capacity in the mirror, which is something different from the form of the mirror or even the shape of the reflected form. Not the face only, but the light, the luminosity or the reflection aspect is what I contemplate upon – not the reflected object. The capacity to reflect is prior to the object that is reflected. My method of meditation is simple. Always go to the prior, the antecedent, rather than the subsequent or the posterior; because the posterior is the effect. Why not go to the cause? How could you see an effect in the mirror if the mirror were not to reflect? But, how could it reflect? There is something in the mirror which enables it to reflect the object in itself. That something is superior, I regard, to the object that is reflected. Rociṣṇur iti vᾱ aham etam upᾱsa iti: I contemplate Brahman as luminosity, the capacity to reflect. The possibility of reflecting is the object of my meditation. Sa ya etam evam upᾱste rociṣṇur ha bhavati: You can reflect everything in yourself afterwards. You become a mirror by yourself. Everything will see itself in you. Every person will see himself or herself in you. You will be the beloved of all people. You will be loved by everyone the way one loves one's own self. Rociṣṇur hᾱsya prajᾱ bhavati: So also does become your family, your lineage. Atho yaiḥ saṁnigacchati, sarvᾱṁs tᾱn atirocate: You become more lustrous and luminous than others. You become supreme in the capacity to reflect, in the capacity or the ability to shine in the midst of all others, everywhere."