by Swami Krishnananda
Now Kahola Kauṣītakeya puts a question. Another person gets up from the assembly. They allow no peace to Yāj˝avalkya even now.
Atha hainam kaholaḥ kauṣītakeyaḥ papraccha: yᾱj˝avalkya, iti hovᾱca, yad eva sᾱkṣᾱd aparokṣᾱd brahma, ya ᾱtmᾱ sarvᾱntaraḥ, taṁ tam me vyᾱcakṣva iti: He puts the same question as the previous one, in a different way. "That Ātman which is directly perceived, that which is immediately experienced, that which is internal to all, can you tell me of it?"
Now it may appear that he is repeating the same question once again, but the answer given shows that the import of the question is a little different and not merely a literal repetition. The answer is a little different and not exactly what was told earlier.
Eṣa ta ᾱtmᾱ sarvᾱntaraḥ-katamaḥ, yᾱj˝avalkya, sarvᾱntaraḥ. yo'śanᾱyᾱ-pipᾱse śokam mohaṁ jarᾱm mṛtyum atyeti. etaṁ vai tam ᾱtmᾱnaṁ viditvᾱ, brᾱhmaṇᾱḥ putraiṣaṇᾱyᾱś ca vittaiṣaṇᾱyᾱś ca lokaiṣaṇᾱyᾱś ca vyutthᾱya, atha bhikṣᾱcaryaṁ caranti: "This Ātman is a tremendous Reality." It is not an ordinary thing. What sort of tremendousness is there in the Ātman? Once it is known, you will ask for nothing else. Once nectar is drunk, nobody would ask for any other drink. "It is that which frees you from the tortures of hunger, thirst, sorrow, confusion, old age and death. It is the absence of the realisation of this Ātman that makes us grief-stricken in many ways." You are pulled every day by the forces of nature and the weaknesses of the body by such urges and impulses as hunger, thirst, grief, etc. That Self is transcendent to all these experiences. It does not come within these bodily experiences of ours. There is no up and down of experience; there is no exhilaration, no grief, no emotional reaction of any kind, because the mind itself does not function there. All these things that we call experience here in empirical life are psychological, biological, psychophysical, social, etc. but the Ātman is transcendent to all these. It is not biological; it is not physical; it is not social; it is not personal; it is not individual; and so, nothing that pertains to all these aberrations can appertain to the Ātman. That Ātman is a tremendous Reality. Having known it, people renounce everything. They do not want to speak also, afterwards. "Great knowers, known as Brāhmaṇas, having known this Ātman, transcend the desires which are the usual ailment of people in the world. Building a family with children, accumulation of wealth and working for renown, name, fame, power, etc. – these three desires are called the Aiṣaṇas-putraiṣaṇā, vittaiṣaṇā, lokaiṣaṇā. They (the Brahmans) transcend three main desires and no longer want them. They ask for none of these three. Atha bhikṣᾱcaryaṁ caranti: They live the life of mendicants."
Yᾱ hy eva putraiṣaṇᾱ sᾱ vittaiṣaṇᾱ yᾱ vittaiṣaṇᾱ sᾱ lokaiṣaṇᾱ: These desires mentioned are interdependent. When one is there, the other also is there. That which is desire for renown, that which is desire for wealth, that which is desire for children – all these are interdependent desires. Ubhe hy ete eṣaṇe eva bhavataḥ; tasmᾱd brᾱhmaṇaḥ, pᾱṇḍityaṁ nirvidya bᾱlyena tiṣṭhᾱset; bᾱlyaṁ ca pᾱṇḍityaṁ ca nirvidya, atha muniḥ; amaunaṁ ca maunaṁ ca nirvidya, atha brᾱhmaṇaḥ. "Therefore, knowing this magnificence of the Ātman; having realised which, people give up all longing for the world; having known that Reality which is the Ātman of all, one becomes what is designated by the term Brāhmana. And that Brāhmana, the knower of the Ātman, renounces all ordinary learning. Having renounced learning of every kind, he becomes like a child. When the pride of learning goes, he becomes like a child, and then he renounces even the state of childhood." This is the consequence of immense knowledge. Bᾱlyena tiṣṭhᾱset; bᾱlyaṁ ca pᾱṇḍityaṁ ca nirvidya, atha muniḥ: á"He becomes a real sage." When you transcend learning and transcend even the humility of a child, the innocence of a child, the simplicity of a child; when both these are transcended, you become a Muni, or a real knower, observing true silence inside. That is the state of a sage.
Here, the commentator Achārya Śankara also gives an alternative meaning to the word Bālya which may mean the state of a child, simplicity, goodness, innocence and freedom from sophistication of every kind. The word Bālya also means strength. If it is derived from Bālya – of the child, then Bālyam means childhood; if it is derived from Bāla – strength, then Bālyam means strengthhood. The strength born of the knowledge of the Ātman is that on which you should ultimately depend, and not on any other strength of this world. That strength comes to one automatically from the Ātman as the Kena Upaniṣhad states – Ātmana vīndyate vīryam. One becomes energetic and powerful by contact with the Ātman. Sa brᾱhmaṇaḥ: "Such a person becomes a Brāhmaṇa, a rare specimen in this world." Atha brᾱhmaṇaḥ. sa brᾱhmaṇaḥ kena syᾱt. yena syᾱt tena idṛśa: "What is the characteristic of this Brāhmaṇa, the knower of the Ātman, the Muni, or the sage? How does he live in this world? How does he behave? How does he conduct himself? Is there any standard for his way of living?" "Whatever way he lives, that is the way he lives." That is what the Upaniṣad says. Any way he lives is all right for him. You cannot set a standard for him saying that he should speak like this, he should behave like that, he should sit here, he should stand there, he should, he should not, etc. Nothing of the kind can apply to him. Kena syᾱt. yena syᾱt tena idṛśa eva ato'nyad ᾱrtam: "There is no set limit of conduct for this great person. Whatever conduct he sets forth, that can be the standard for others, but others cannot set a standard for him. You may imitate him, but he is not expected to imitate others." Eva ato'nyad ᾱrtam: "Everything else is useless talk. This itself is sufficient for you."
Tato ha kaholaḥ kauṣītakeya upararᾱma: Then Kahola Kauṣītakeya, who put this question, kept quiet.
Now, the Upaniṣhad takes us gradually, stage by stage, to higher and higher subjects. This section of the Bṛhādaraṇyaka Upaniṣhad, the Third and the Fourth Chapters particularly, are very interesting and may be regarded as a veritable text for the study of Brahma-Vidyā. We started with the lowest subject concerning sacrifice and rose up to the question of the control of the senses and their objects – Grahas, Atigrahas, etc. Then we were brought to the subject of the internal psychological Being whose Reality is the Ātman. We were then gradually taken from the microcosmic reality to the Macrocosmic, the individual giving way to the Supreme. The questions, therefore, are arranged, systematically, in a graduated manner. One cannot say whether the people put the questions in this order or whether the Upaniṣhad arranged the questions in this order. Whatever it be, as things appear in the Upaniṣhad, they are systematically arranged, stage by stage, querying first from the lower level, reaching up to the higher, until the Absolute is touched.