by Swami Krishnananda
Janako ha vaidehaḥ kῡrcᾱd upᾱvasarpann uvᾱca: namas te'stu yᾱj˝avalkya: Now, another occasion is mentioned here when Janaka was seated on his gorgeous seat. Yāj˝avalkya comes, and the King gets up from his seat, offers his homage and requests the great Master to instruct him. The King seeks illumination. Namas te'stu yᾱj˝avalkya: á"Salutations to you, sage Yāj˝avalkya. Anu mᾱ śᾱdhīti: Please advise me, instruct me, teach me, give me lessons." Sa hovᾱca: yathᾱ vai, samrᾱt, mahᾱntam adhvᾱnam eṣyan rathaṁ vᾱ nᾱvaṁ vᾱ samᾱdadīta, evaṁ evaitᾱbhir upaniṣadbhiḥ samᾱhitᾱtmᾱsi, evam bṛndᾱraka ᾱḍhyaḥ sann adhīta-veda ukta-upaniṣatkaḥ ito vimucyamᾱnaḥ kva gamiṣyasīti: Yāj˝avalkya says: "Your Highness, you want me to give you instructions, to teach you, to provide you with lessons. You are indeed a great person. You are a king; you are an emperor. And just as a person who is to go on a pilgrimage, or a tour, prepares himself very well with all the equipment necessary, so that he may be safe in the journey; likewise Your Highness has equipped yourself with the knowledge of the Vedas and the wisdom of the Upaniṣhads. Having studied them all very well, you have become a very honoured person in this country. You are a very rich person; you are the richest person in the whole country because you are a king and you are respected as such. But I ask you one question. Being so honoured and respected in this whole land of yours, being so rich and well-placed in society, having learnt so much of the Vedas and the Upaniṣhads, do you know what will happen to you after you leave this body? Do you know where you will go?" This, Janaka did not know. "Where will I go after I leave this body?" "If you do not know this, what is the use of your wealth; what is the use of your learning; what is the use of your kingship; what is the benefit you gain with the honour that you have from society? People may respect you, honour you, keep you on a high pedestal, but if you die the next moment, what happens to you? You do not know this. What then is the good of all this knowledge?" Kva gamiṣyasīti. nᾱhaṁ tad, bhagavan, veda: "Master! I do not know; I cannot answer this question. You please tell me. This is a very serious matter indeed. What will happen to me after death? I do not know? Please tell me, give me this secret knowledge as to what happens to an individual when he casts off the body" – nᾱhaṁ tad, bhagavan, veda, yatra, gamiṣyᾱmīti; atha vai te'haṁ tad vakṣyᾱmi, yatra gamiṣyasīti, bravītu, bhagavᾱn, iti. Yāj˝avalkya says: "Well, I shall tell you." "Please tell me," requests Janaka.
Now starts a series of studies in this Upaniṣhad which is of great importance from the point of view of the analysis of the self. It has some connection with the theme of the Māndūkya Upaniṣhad, but it is dealt with in a different manner altogether, not in the way in which the Māndūkya Upaniṣhad treats the subject. We cannot understand what will happen to us in the future or after we die unless we know what we are at present, because our future is connected with our present, just as our present is connected with the past. What is the state in which we are in at this moment? What is our condition? If this is clear to us, it may also be possible to have an idea as to what will happen to us in the future. But we have, unfortunately, a very very wrong notion about ourselves, even in the present moment. It is obvious because of the fact that we consider that we are social entities, men and women, coming from various countries, living in various lands, nationals of various places, with physical needs, social requirements and desire for comforts, all based on an erroneous concept of what we are. If we live a socially acceptable well-placed life, that would be a worthwhile life indeed, we believe. Is this our definition of a good life? If so, it is a thorough misrepresentation of facts. The seeming fact that we are individuals is only a phenomenon. It cannot be regarded really as a fact. It is not a fact as such. Our individuality, our personality, our desires and our relationship with people and things – all these are certain conditions through which we are passing temporarily. They are only certain circumstances that have come upon us in the passage of time due to certain associations and various factors which lie mostly beyond the ken of our understanding. Even the existence of our personality, this body of ours, is something very inscrutable. It is positioned by the operation of various forces. To give you only a very gross example, without going deep into philosophical themes, you know very well how much we are influenced by the movement of the planets around the sun, a fact which is physically demonstrable, yet a fact which does not come before the vision of any individual. We do not how much we depend on the movement of the earth round the sun. Suppose the earth moves in the opposite direction from tomorrow, you can imagine what difference it will make to our life. The various other planets which move around the sun also have a tremendous influence upon us. Not merely astronomers of ancient times, but even modern scientists have come to the conclusion that even our physical personality, this bodily individuality can be regarded as nothing but a condensation of cosmic stuff which has been projected by the forces of Nature, and which emanated from the interstellar space, and that the body can be reduced to an ethereal substance so that it loses its substantiality and solidity, a concept to which we cling so much. This is a finding of modern physics, corroborating ancient astronomical discoveries, so that it is just stupidity on our part to imagine that even this physical body is independent and can stand on its own legs. It cannot. It has been controlled over the eons by the movement of planets, and not merely that, ultimately it is only constituted of a small amount of nebular energies that have combined in a particular shape, or form, for certain purposes under certain conditions. So our concept of ourselves, our concept of body and individuality and personality, our notion of society, our notion of the aim of life itself is topsy-turvy. Everything is upside down. Under these conditions of ignorance, how is it possible for any one of us to know what will happen to us after death? That was the condition of Janaka, and that is the state of the mind of most of us.
Yāj˝avalkya takes the mind of Janaka gradually, stage by stage, first by an analysis of the waking state, then going deeper into the implications of human experience.
Indho ha vai nᾱmaiṣa yo'yaṁ dakṣiṇe'kṣan puruṣaḥ: It is the belief of the ancient Masters that in the waking state our self is concentrated in the eye, maybe because of the reason that our mind predominantly acts through the eyes in this state. It is also opined by the Upaniṣhads that the right eye is predominantly active, something which has not been understood properly by people. The activity of the right eye is supposed to be a little more emphasised and a greater stress is laid upon the right eye than on the left one. The left one also will be mentioned subsequently, but presently for the purpose of explaining the collaborative action of the right eye and the left eye, the Upaniṣhads mention that the self is pointedly manifest in the right eye in the waking state, and we call him Indha. The Upaniṣhads call this Puruṣha, this self which is active in the right eye in the waking state, as Indha, meaning illumined or illuminating, or lustrous. Why is this self in the eye called Indha, or radiant, or lustrous? Firstly, the reason may be that the self does not directly operate through the eye. It operates through the mind only, and the mind acts through the senses in respect of objects outside. There is a series maintained, as it were, in the activity of the personality in connection with the objects outside. The deepest, innermost propelling energy is the Self, or the Ātman, of course. It gets entangled, connected with the personality, and then becomes the individual soul, Jīva. This Jīva-consciousness is the basis for the activity of the mind, and the mind, borrowing the consciousness of the Ātman through the manifested form of it as Jīva, acts through the sense-organs, particularly the eye in the waking state, because it is the eye that is mostly active in the waking condition, as we all very well know. It is very eager to contact objects, very enthusiastic always. It is very curious to see various things, to find out what are the objects which it can desire and obtain, and because of the enthusiasm that is charged through the eye, it is supposed to be illumined with the activity of desire. For that reason also, it can be called Indha. The other reason is that the presence of an object outside is necessary for the activity of the senses. If the objects do not exist, the senses cannot act. The light of the senses, particularly of the eye, depends upon the connection of the eye with the object, and so it is lustrous, or radiant on account of the presence of the object in front of it, the proximity of its corresponding object. So this Puruṣha in the right eye, the Self manifest in the right eye is called Indha, which means radiant.
Dakṣiṇe'kṣan puruṣaḥ: taṁ vᾱ etam indhaṁ santam indra ity ᾱcakṣate parokṣeṇaiva, parokṣa-priyᾱ iva hi devᾱḥ, pratyakṣa-dviṣaḥ: áThis Indha is called Indra by a change of accent. The Upaniṣhad says that gods do not like to be called directly by their names. No respectable person likes to be called by his or her own name. So it is said that the celestials do not like to be directly accosted by their own personal names. They dislike immediacy of approach. They always like indirect approach, maybe because of their impersonality. They do not like any personal approach directly. Therefore, Indha, who is radiant, is designated as Indra.
In the left eye also, the same activity is taking place. The right eye and the left eye join together, in a single activity of perception. And symbolically, the functions of the right eye and the left eye are regarded as something which can be compared with the joint activity in a family of husband and wife. They join together in a single focus of attention. Likewise, the principle in the right eye and the left eye join together in activity of perception, and the Upaniṣhad says that they are like symbols of Virāt and His Śakti. The Virāt and His Force are manifest in the right eye and the left eye, respectively. Athaitad vᾱme'kṣaṇi puruṣa-rῡpam, eṣᾱsya patnī virᾱṭ, tayor eṣa saṁstᾱvo ya eso'ntar-hṛdaya ᾱkᾱśaḥ: The propulsion for the activity of this twofold consciousness, Virāt and His Śakti, manifest through the right eye and the left eye, comes from the heart. It is the heart that is the root of this perception, and so, when the activity of perception is withdrawn, the mental sensation goes back to its abode, its own source. The mind returns to its source. The mind it is that is active through the right eye and the left eye in the waking state, and when that activity ceases for any reason whatsoever, the mind goes back to its source. So this joint activity of the right eye and the left eye gets absorbed into the heart, in the ether of the heart – hṛdaya ᾱkᾱśaḥ.