by Swami Krishnananda
That is full; this is full. From the full the full proceeds. Taking the full from the full, the full alone remains. That Absolute is full. This created being is also full. Brahman is infinitude and is therefore full. That which proceeds from the full or the infinite must be either real or unreal. If it is real, it must also be full, because a part cannot be ever-enduring, and that which is not always enduring is not real. If it is unreal, nothing proceeds at all. This means to say that either infinity is the product of infinity or nothing proceeds from infinity. Infinity cannot proceed from infinity, because, thereby, there would be two infinities. Hence, the proceeding of infinity from infinity does not change infinity, because infinity alone remains even after that. The drift of the statement is that infinity is unchanging and this mantra is a figurative way of saying that nothing proceeds from infinity. Even the idea of something proceeding from infinity is based on its essential character of infinity. That which is produced, namely, Hiranyagarbha, or the universe, must be infinite. Otherwise there should be something outside Hiranyagarbha, or the universe. The universe includes space, also, and beyond space there is nothing. Therefore, the universe is infinite. Even the individual that is created is essentially infinite. Taking infinity from infinity is only an idea and not a possibility. Therefore, the infinite alone exists without change in past, present and future. Om Santih, Santih, Santih - May the three tapas (afflictions) cease, and may there be peace.
The three tapas are: Subjective trouble, objective trouble and heavenly trouble.
Subjective trouble: Hunger, thirst, grief, delusion, ignorance, disease and death.
Objective trouble: Ferocious animals, poisonous creatures and wicked human beings.
Heavenly trouble: Thunderbolt, storms, floods, heat, cold, earthquake, etc.
The nature of the Self is not in any way connected with the processes or the results of action that takes the Self to be limited, impure and diverse. Knowledge pertains to the essential nature of the Self. Knowledge neither creates nor modifies nor obtains nor purifies the Self, because the relationship between knowledge and the Self is not one of doer and doing. All the Upanishads exhaust themselves in ascertaining the fundamental characteristics of the Self. The mantras of the Isavasyopanishad negate the conception which the Mimamsakas have of the Self, and assert that the true Self is secondless, non-doer, non-enjoyer, pure and ever untainted by sin.
All this is pervaded by the Lord, whatever is moving (and not moving) in this world. By such renunciation enjoy (or protect). Do not covet the wealth of anyone. Vasyam or avasyam means fit to be dwelt by or clothed by or covered over by. The universe is to be covered over by the consciousness of God. It means that God indwells every being of the universe. But this indwelling does not in any way create a distinction between the indweller and the indwelled. The Lord exists as the innermost Self of all. The Self, however, cannot pervade itself. Pervasion, here, means existence. The universe in essence is the truth of God Himself. It does not exist as an object to be covered over by God, like cloth, etc. There is nothing in this universe which can have any value or being without the existence of God. This is to say that God is the sole existence.
It also means that one has to fill the whole universe with the consciousness of Divinity. Divinity should be felt as the pratyagatman or the Inner Self of oneself. This is a clue to meditation on Brahman, also. One should assert that the whole existence is, in its objective form, unreal and that oneself in fact is the essential Atman existing as the basis and the truth of everything. This is to assert that one’s Self is the Supreme Lord, not merely pervading everything, but existing as the only reality.
Even as a scented stick begins to give out its fragrance when the external fungus growing over it is rubbed out, the light of the Self reveals itself when the external crust of the sense of doership and enjoyership which is falsely imagined is completely erased out. The multiplicity and the duality of the universe should be denied in the light of the fact that the Lord, the one Self, alone exists. This omnipresent Self cannot be associated with individual functions, like doership and enjoyership. Name, form and action which characterise the world cannot be the natures of God, because these are objective perceptions and not eternal values. The universe, thus, gets renounced, because God is the only Truth. Tena tyaktena means “by such renunciation” consequent upon the knowledge of the only existence which is God. Renunciation is the result of the knowledge of Truth. Anything that is abandoned as unconnected with the Self does not become useful to the Self in any way. Everyone in the world is dependent on the not-Self. But when the not-Self is denied one cannot be dependent on it. The denial of the not-Self or the renunciation of the universe means that the Self is not helped by any external agency and it has to save itself through itself. It also means that previous to knowledge, i.e., when the Self appeared to be entangled in the not-self, it was in bondage, as it were, but now because of disentanglement it saves itself and protects itself and is dependent on itself. Because the Self is permanent its independence also is permanent. Bhunjeetbhah may also mean “enjoy”, in which case the sense would be that through the renunciation of the not-Self there accrues to the Self the highest enjoyment, everything becomes its, and it experiences the Bliss of Liberation. It is a law that the greater the renunciation, the greater is the joy experienced because of the absence of desires. “Do not covet the wealth of anyone” means that, because God is the only reality, there is nothing worth coveting in this world. Because, “whose is wealth”? The wealth does not belong to anyone. All possessions are perishable. Therefore, there is no need of coveting anything. Only the knowledge that the Self is all, the Lord of all, should be acquired and everything else should be renounced. Everything is the Atman and, hence, there is no value in desiring anything. As other than the Atman nothing is, nothing can be desired or loved. Dhanam may also mean the dearest possession, which is one’s own body. In this case the meaning would be: Do not covet any kind of body, not even a celestial body or even the body of the creator himself. Do not wish to be reborn in any kind of body, and aspire for liberation alone.
The first mantra refers to jnana-nishtha, and is meant for those who have the ability to abandon all desires and establish themselves in knowledge alone. But on others who are not yet ready for such a state the performance of action in conformity with the natural inclination of the individual is enjoined: “By doing action alone here one should wish to live a hundred years. Thus it is in your case; there is no other way than this. Action dose not cling to man.” One can wish to live as an individual only by performing actions. As long as there is the strong feeling that on is a human being alone, the laws pertaining to the human being have to be observed. One cannot live in one plane and observe the rules of another plane. The notion of one’s being an individual is inseparably connected with the ideas of and the necessity for desire and action. The very fact of individuality denotes that individuality is not complete and one can never rest with peace in an incomplete condition. There is an involuntary urge from within to strive to become perfect. The individual, however, thinks that perfection consists in the acquisition of what is not already possessed. Moreover, the feeling of the need for certain external acquisitions is based on a special want felt within, though this want may change its nature from time to time. Every want manifests itself as an action and goads the body to move towards what is wanted. Even breathing and thinking are the implications of the necessity to exist as an individual ever striving in nature. There seems to be no other way of living as an individual than by the performance of action. If one refuses to perform action one shall be forced to perform action by the law of individual life. Instead of yielding to involuntary urges for action it is advisable to perform action consciously with good determinations, without a desire for selfish enjoyments, and with a knowledge of the law of action and reaction.
Shankara discusses the nature of action and knowledge and their relation between one another. Knowledge as Shankara understands it is not the knowledge that the human being is familiar with. The knowledge of the human being is knowledge of something other than the knower. It is always knowledge of some object or objects. It is divided knowledge that separates the object from the subject. It is incomplete knowledge, for, by it, it is not possible to know the subject and the object at one and the same time. When the one is known, the other is discarded and forgotten. It is not possible to have whole knowledge through a process, and perception or human knowledge is evidently a process. Process means change, and change is movement towards some thing or some state which marks the process as distinct from perfection. Hence, human knowledge is a perishable process of an ever non-enduring struggle for perfection. A struggle is not the same as an achievement, and truly speaking, human knowledge never achieves anything, substantially. The knowing faculty knows an object only as it wants to know it and as it is capable of knowing it, and not as the object is really in itself. The form and the nature of objects are determined by the form and the nature of the conceptual modifications of the faculty of knowing. Thus human knowledge is simply coating an existing object the true nature of which is never known. The knowledge of an individual is simply artificial. This is not the knowledge that Shankara is speaking of when he distinguishes it from action. Human knowledge is an action alone, because it is produced by the motion of the mind and the senses. The knowledge propounded in the Advaita Vedanta is objectless knowledge, and it is never produced but realised. It is not the knowledge of something but the knowledge of the knower himself. It is atma-sakshatkara that Shankara means by knowledge when he says that action is the antithesis of knowledge.
Action is generally an effort towards the achievement of an end. Man does not simply exist. He ever tries to become something else. He is never satisfied with simply existing. He wishes to change, to become. The impulse for action is ingrained in the very constitution of the individual. Action has become an indispensable part of the individual self. Action cannot be cast off, because it is not separate from the form of the make-up of the individual. The whole life of man is action. It is the nature of his action that determines the nature of his life. Action is the expression of the will to live through an instrument of action, namely, the mind and the body. Jijivisha or wish to live has as its effects the desire to possess and develop relations with external phenomena, which are created by the same desire in the fashion of its own constitution so that it may find what it wishes to find. That undesirable objects and conditions also are found in the world is due to a confusion in the desirer of what he actually wishes to have. The desiring subject is not clear about its own wants. This confusion ends in the commission of several unwise deeds which are due to lack of insight involved in the taking of the desired course of action. This confusion happens because all actions are, generally, one-sided in their motive. Generally an action is done only with the constricted vision which alone is allowed by that particular course of action without the correct knowledge of all its consequences. When a physician prescribes a medicine for the cure of a disease it is not enough if he just knows that a particular medicine has got the capacity to counteract that disease. He should also know what reactions the drug may bring about in the patient in spite of its allaying that one disease. The individual, when it wants to fulfil a desire, simply knows what action is able to fulfil that desire, without knowing that that same action may disturb several other aspects of life and bring to him as a reaction great grief later on, though it may temporarily enchant the desirer to believe that the desire is fulfilled. This is why the world is both pleasurable and miserable; it is the effect of desires as well as their unforeseen consequences. An individual is born in a particular condition or environment because the individual either wished to live in such a condition or it is the consequence or reaction of certain actions which it performed either voluntarily or being compelled by the impressions of previous actions. The miseries of the world are the forms of the reactions of foolish and deluded actions performed previously by the inhabitants thereof. The world is the name given to the manner in which the individuals experience in their own selves the reactions of their own desires and actions. The universe is the shadow cast by the desires of the individuals, and it is what the desires are and what the desires sweep away from pure existence as they move towards fulfilment.
Action, ordinarily, therefore, is a movement of the self towards the not-self and extra-ordinarily a movement of the not-self towards the Self. But generally the latter process is not included in the category of what we understand by action. The latter is the natural absorption of the Spirit into itself, a genuine unfoldment, or rather the pristine illumination of itself to itself. It is therefore the process of the cessation of action, though all processes are actions in the strict sense. By action we mean the expression of a desire, and movement towards Truth is not the effect of a desire, because it is a desire to destroy desire, an effort to stop effort. Such a desire is not a desire, and such an action is not an action. It is the flaming march of the soul towards its extension into infinity. When Shankara contends that action and knowledge are like darkness and light respectively, he refers to the action of the ego directed to the acquisition of objects and states circumscribed by space, time and causation. Such an action is evidently alien to the characteristics of the knowledge of Truth.
The human being is included in the outward Nature and therefore he has to obey the law of Nature. viz., action or change for the better. By human being we mean an outer crust of conscious life, the changing superficial vestment of true being. Hence, the human being is the form of a transient cloak put on and animated by the eternal Self. The more the love for a thing, the more one becomes the slave of that thing. Man is a slave of the body because he loves it and because of this love he has to act. Therefore, the wise aspirant should perform action knowing that it is not possible to cease from action as long as he is bound by human consciousness. But this should be done with the knowledge of the limitations of action, with the knowledge that action not properly guided by right discrimination may lead to self- imprisonment and sorrow.
This mantra of the Upanishad lays down the law of action, that one should wish to live by performing action, because wishing to live and ceasing from action do not go hand in hand. If man wishes to live, he has to act. If he does not act, he cannot live. Freedom from action does not simply mean freedom from bodily movement, but freedom from objective thinking, feeling and willing. The second mantra refers to life in the mind and the body, while the first to life in the Spirit.