by Swami Krishnananda
Among the various methods of meditation, a popular one is what is known as the resolution of the effect into the cause. This is a very popular method prescribed in many other scriptures. It is easy to understand too and stands to reason. A suggestion that this method can be adopted in meditation is made in the following section. The method is a contemplation on the process of retracing the steps that are taken in the process of evolution. Evolution is how things come from causes and shape themselves into effects. We have to understand the theory of evolution, creation, manifestation and how the one becomes the many, gradually, by stages. The same stages have to be now contemplated backward. The grossest appearance of manifestation is this earth plane. We individuals inhabit this earth. We have all come from certain substances emanating from the earth. We can thus be resolved back into the earth. The body, for instance, which is constituted of the essence of food, is resolvable into the earth element because the substance of food is the substance of the earth. Thus, anything that is in the body, physically, is subject to return to its cause, namely, the earth, as actually happens when the body is cast off at the time of death. The physical constituents return to their original abode, which is the earth. The earth has come from water, water from fire, fire from air, and air from ether. And ether is itself an effect; it is not an ultimate cause. It is the first manifestation of Hiraṇyagarbha, Virāt and Īshvara. They are the causes of even this space. The gods, the fourteen worlds, the different levels of existence, all stages of being are manifested in the Virāt. And all this manifestation which is tripartite, Īshvara Hiraṇyagarbha, Virāt, is also in turn resolvable into the Supreme Brahman. That alone is. Hence, even these effects are nothing but the cause appearing in some form. The perception or the effect is not in any way a bar to the contemplation of its relation to the cause which is the true essence, or the contemplation of the existence of the cause in the effect. One of the methods of weaning the senses from the objects of perception is by resolving the very tendency of the senses to move towards objects. The objects are converted into the characteristics of their causes, and these causes are also the causes of the body, the individuality and the senses themselves. Whatever is the cause of our own personality is the cause of the world outside. When one thing is resolved into that cause, the other thing also goes. So, when we contemplate the resolution of the effect into that particular cause, the senses for the time being get cooled down, calmed down, and it becomes possible for the mind, then, to pay attention to the nature of that cause, alone, of which both the object outside and the subject inside are manifestations. Some such thing is stated in this section of the Upaniṣhad.
In the beginning, what was there? There was an undifferentiated, unmanifested, indistinguishable something. Āsīt idam tamo bhūtam aprajātam alakṣanam apradartyam avijyān prabhūtam sarvogata: It was as if there was a Cosmic sleep. It looked as if it was darkness. It was of the characteristic of darkness because there was no light of sense perception. There was no one to see anything. That which was to see and that which was to be seen, both were resolved into that which is now designated here as apparent darkness. How can you designate it except as absence of light, because we always define light as the instrument of perception and perception does not exist there. There were no objects because there was no world. There was not this manifestation. It was like a Cosmic ocean. It was like water spread out everywhere, not the waters that we drink, but a symbolic term applied to designate the undifferentiated condition of matter, the potential state of Being, Mula-Prakriti in its essentiality where the Trigunas-Satva, Tamas, Rajas – are in a harmonised state. There is Gunatamya Avastha; there is a harmonisation of the three Gunas, so that you do not know what is there. Everything is there and yet nothing appears to be there. Such a condition of homogeneity of potential being is usually called, in philosophical symbology, 'Cosmic Waters'. They are called Nāraḥ in Sanskrit, and one who is sporting cosmically in these Universal Waters is called Narayanaya. So Īshvara Himself is called Nārayanaya. Nārayanaya is that Being who sleeps, as it were, in the Cosmic Waters of the potentiality of being. Such was the state of affairs originally. Āpa evadaṁ agra ᾱsuḥ: So, in all these cosmic, cosmical and cosmogonical descriptions in the scriptures of different religions we are told that in the beginning there was a universal state of liquidity, as it were, a symbolic way of putting into language the condition of homogeneity of the Ultimate Cause of the universe.
Tᾱ ᾱpaḥ satyam aṣrjanta, satyam brahma, brahma prajᾱpatim: That condition becomes the precedent to the manifestation of something which we call the Creator of the universe. The Creator of the universe, or the Divine Will which projects this whole universe, is a blend of this universal potentiality and the great Absolute. That particular state where the Absolute appears as a Will to create or manifest is, for all practical purposes, the original creative condition. That is called Satyam because there the true state of affairs can be seen. The original condition of all those things that are to be manifested are to be found there in their originality, in their archetypal being. It is something like the ideas present in the mind of a painter. The baby has not been projected yet on the canvas, but what will appear on the canvas or a cloth outside is already present in his mind. That ideation which is to project itself externally in the shape of visible objects – that is Īshvara; that is truth for all practical purposes; that is Brahman itself. It is called Saguna Brahman, or Kārya Brahman. It is the manifested form of Brahman – satyam brahma. That creates Prajāpati, Hiraṇyagarbha, the subtle form of things which as an outline of the future universe to be manifested is visible. In the beginning it is only in a form of thought; only an idea in the Cosmic Mind. Now it is appearing outside as a bare outline, like the drawing with a pencil which the painter sketches on the canvas before the actual painting is started. The idea of the painter is visible now in the form of outlines in pencil. They have been projected into a grosser form, yet they have not taken a complete form. That Hiraṇyagarbha becomes Virāt, the projected universe. The whole painted picture of the universe in its completed form is what is called Virāt.
From that Being, all the gods come – devᾱḥ satyam evopᾱsate. What are these gods doing? They are contemplating their own origin. The first manifestation in individual form are the celestials. The celestials are supposed to contemplate a Universal Sacrifice. This Universal Sacrifice contemplated in the minds of the gods is the subject of the Puruṣha – Sūkta of the Veda. It is a Universal Sacrifice, a sacrifice performed without any kind of external materials. All the materials necessary for the sacrifice were present in the minds of the gods, says the Sūkta. The gods performed the sacrifice through the materials culled from the body of the Puruṣha Himself, who is the Supreme Sacrifice. 'So the Devas performed this Upāsana in the form of meditation on their own cause, the Virāt, by attuning themselves to its Being. They contemplate the Satya, or the truth which has manifested itself as Īshvara Hiraṇyagarbha, and Virāt' – devᾱḥ satyam evopᾱsate.
Truth is an object of meditation. Here in this Upaniṣhad we have got a very strange suggestion given for contemplation on truth. Just as we were asked to meditate on the literal connotation of the letters of the word Hridaya, or heart, apart from the meditation on the essence of the heart which is a higher form of meditation, here we are asked to meditate on the letters of the word Satya, or truth, not the meaning, not the implication of the word Satya which is a different subject altogether, but on the grammatical implication of the letters of the word itself.
Satya is a word in Sanskrit which means truth. How is this word formed? The Upaniṣhad has its own etymological description of this word. Tad etat try-akṣaram: 'This word Satya is constituted of three letters, of three syllables into which it can be resolved. Sa ity ekam akṣaram: The first letter is Sa. The second letter is Ti – ti ity ekam aksaram. The third letter is Ya – yam iti ekam akṣaram. Sa, ti, ya – these are the three letters which form the word Satya.' Now, symbolic is the interpretation of the meaning of these three syllables. The Upaniṣhad tells us that truth envelopes everything and there is that particular character about truth which is encompassing everything. It is present everywhere, in every part of this world, and what you call untruth is a meagre frail existence in the middle of this all-consuming, all-enveloping Being which is truth. Or to put it in more plain language, the phenomenon that we call this creation, which is sometimes called the unreal or the relative, is enveloped by the real or the neomenon. The neomenon is real; the phenomenon is the unreal. But the phenomenon is enveloped by the neomenon. Reality encompasses the whole of existence. It is present everywhere, it covers untruth from all sides as if to swallow it and to give it only the character of an appearance. Even what you call appearance or phenomenon has an element of reality in it. So the Upaniṣhad says that truth is present even in untruth. The Absolute is present even in the relative; the neomenon is present even in the phenomenon; reality is in the appearance also. If reality were not to be in the appearance, there cannot be any appearance at all because appearance must also appear. If the reality element were not to be present in appearance, appearance will not appear even. Then there would be no such thing as appearance. The relative reality that we attribute or conceive to what we call appearance is due to the presence of a degree of reality in it. So, reality is present everywhere. It covers unreality from both sides, from every side. Likewise, is the import of the syllables of this word Satya. Sa is reality; Ya is reality; the middle one, Ti, is unreality. It is a purely etymological derivation and so we must be able to enter into the mind of the teacher of this Upaniṣhad to understand why he conceives the meaning of the word Satya in this manner.
The commentators tell us that the middle syllable, Ti, is called phenomenal, a form of death or unreality, because this letter Ti occurs in such words as Mṛtyu, Anitya and such other words which denote unreality or phenomenality. So the Upaniṣhad apparently suggests that those who cannot conceive the magnificence of truth, as it is in itself, may do well to contemplate at least the etymological significance of the word, just as those who do not understand what the heart is and cannot meditate on the essence or the meaning of the heart may at least do well to contemplate the etymological meaning of the word Hṛdya, as was suggested earlier.
Prathama uttame akṣare satyam: The first and the last letters of the word Satya may be contemplated as the periphery of this universal manifestation of truth; the circumference as it were; the aspect of reality which covers unreality from both sides, within as well as without. Satya, or truth, is inside as well as outside. It is only in the middle that it does not appear to be. But even this appearance is made possible only on account of the preponderance of an element of Satya in it, says the Upaniṣhad. Prathama uttame akṣare satyam. Madhyato'nṛtam: 'Only in the middle there is an apparent unreality.' Tad etad anṛtam ubhayataḥ satyena parigṛhītaṁ: 'From both sides untruth is covered by truth' as it were, overwhelmed by truth and flooded by truth. So even where you see impermanence, there is permanence hiddenly present. Even where you see transciency, there is eternity manifested. Even in temporality, there is the presence of Absolute Being because even the conception, the sensation, the perception, etc. of what is not real is made possible only because of the presence of the real. So, on either side there is truth and in the middle only there is a phenomenal experience which is regarded by us as untruth.
Satyabhūyam eva bhavati: After all, truth is supreme. The whole of creation is inundated with truth. So, in the worst of things and in the least of things; even in the lowest category of existence which we dub as untruth wholly, truth is present. And the Upaniṣhad tells us in conclusion that 'it is abounding in truth'. You cannot have a spot in space or a nook or a corner in creation or even an atomic element in creation where this truth is not present.
Naivaṁ vidvāṁsam amṛṭaṁ hinasti: If you can know this fact that truth is supreme and that the ultimate cause is present even in the least of its effects; that the Supreme Absolute is present entirely even in the lowest degree of its manifestation, even in the grossest of its forms and in the most external self of objects; if you can be in a position to contemplate the presence of truth in this manner, untruth cannot harass you. There cannot be trouble to that person from untruth, which means to say that 'the world cannot cause any pain to that person, any sorrow to that person, any kind of grief to that person who is able to feel or visualise the presence of truth in those things which otherwise are usually called untruth or unreality'.
This is a meditation on the abundance of truth in all creation, the presence of God in all things, the "practice of the presence of God", in the words of Brother Lawrence. This is one of the symbols, one of the methods prescribed for meditation. Very abstract it is to conceive. We require to stretch our imagination to be able to conceive the presence of reality even in the appearances which are philosophically called unreal. Thus you may meditate, and you will find that by deep contemplation and meditation in this manner, you will be able to visualise the presence of God in creation, of truth in objects and of the principle of Mokṣha or liberation, even in this world of Samsāra or bondage.