by Swami Sivananda
Commentary by Swami Krishnananda
1, 2. The Guru said: Salutation to Sat-Chit-Ananda Para-Brahman, that glorious first Preceptor, who is self-luminous, eternal indivisible, pure, spotless, desireless, attributeless, timeless, spaceless, changeless, beginningless and endless.
The greatest and the First Preceptor is the Ocean of Satchidananda. It is the Inner Reality or the central Being of all. The promptings of the innermost Light of the Self alone are responsible for the spiritual progress of the individual. Even seeking a Preceptor will be impossible if the Permanent Self within does not throw the discriminative Consciousness upon the individual or the Jiva. The proper grasping of the truths of Vedanta and the rapt contemplation on the Reality are the effects of the spiritual consciousness already existing in the aspirant in a potential condition. If not, none could communicate knowledge to another individual. The transmission of knowledge from one person to another presupposes the background of a universal consciousness that keeps beings in unison. This permanent verity is Satchidananda or Existence-Knowledge-Bliss which is therefore the Guru of all gurus, the Source of Light, Wisdom, Power and Bliss.
Satchidananda is self-luminous, for it is the very existence of eternal Consciousness. It is undivided, Akhanda-Ekarasa, for it is homogeneous and is without internal or external differentiation. There is no Swagata, Swajatiya or Vijatiya Bheda in Brahman or Satchidananda. It is One Mass of Brilliance and unblemished Grandeur of Divine Existence. It is pure because it is untainted by thought or objectification. It is untouched by the diversifying Prakriti and is desireless, for it is the Height of all Perfection. It is Bhuma or the Fullness of Life. It is attributeless for the positive and the negative natures react one another and get fused in it. It is spaceless and timeless, for space is a special mode of particularisation in Being and time is closely connected with space and Brahman or Satchidananda is without any particularisation whatsoever. Space and Time are individualised objectifications which are born of the self-limitation of a centre of consciousness. Hence the changeless Reality which is ever Self-satisfied is beginningless and endless, for Impartite Existence in the Wholeness of its character cannot have motion in Itself and is, therefore, an inexplicable Being which is hard even to imagine. That is the Truth of all truths, "Satyasya Satyam" or the Supreme Brahman of the Upanishads. That is the Goal of all quests. That is the object of Meditation. That is the Ideal to be attained by one and all. That is the Essence of Existence.
3, 4. That Ultimate Reality, which is the support for this world, body, Prana, mind and senses, which is the womb for the Vedas, which is all-pervading and all-permeating, which is colourless, odourless, tasteless, nameless and formless, that something shines eternally.
The Ultimate Reality is the support for the world even as the Sun is the support for the mirage. The world is the dazzling of Eternal Consciousness. The nihilists are wrong in saying that nothing exists at all. The world-phenomenon cannot be based on Nothing-less or Emptiness. An appearance demands a Reality as its corollary. The world is an expression of Brahman through Maya even as the body is an expression of Atman through mind. The Prana, the mind and the senses are the operative organs of the active self which is agitated by the Vikshepa-Shakti or the distracting power of Maya. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says that the one Brahman alone puts on all names, forms and does all actions in its own Being. Thus the whole universe is to be understood as a sport of the one Absolute which seems to play in Itself by revealing Itself in multifarious forms.
It is the womb of the Vedas and the Source of the Shabda-Brahman, the eternal "Omkara." The principle of sound is the first evolute from the original Absoluteness. The Vedas are the intuitional revelations breathed out by the Highest Manifestation of the Infinite Essence. They are the words which express the glory of Brahman which pervades the entirety of manifestation, and which is imperceptible to the senses. The senses cannot reach It because they are objective forces which try to run away from the Centre of Existence. The more they begin to function in their realm, the farther they find themselves from the Reality. Hence the Reality is considered colourless, odourless etc, as these sensual characteristics are not of the essential nature of the Fullness of Brahman.
Brahman is formless for form belongs to a being which is defined by space. Absoluteness cannot have a form. Form always implies the existence of its possessor in a space time universe having something somewhere outside itself. This characteristic does not form the quality of the Eternal Being for individuality and eternity are contradictions. Hence, Brahman which is Infinite is formless, and It shines eternally.
5. Some indescribable supreme principle which is imperishable, unborn, undecaying, fearless, motionless, one without a second, ancient and infinite, that thing alone exists.
The Supreme Brahman is indescribable because description always catches parts and can never include the whole in its judgments. When Brahman is said to be like "this", there is an automatic exclusion of the "not-this" aspect or the "that" aspect of Brahman. Words are too limited and the mind is too incapable to adequately picture the eternal nature of Brahman. Even "Sat-Chid-Ananda" is only a provisional description and is only an intellectual prop. The exact nature of the Reality can only be experienced as such and can never be given expression to.
The State of Infinity is imperishable, for change or death is possible only where heterogeneity or difference of nature prevails. The Mass of Being in itself cannot change for there is nothing which Being is not. Hence change is impossible in Eternity and therefore death is negated in such a state of homogeneity. Birth and decay are again the natures of spatial beings who find things and principles which are cut off from themselves. The infinite Brahman is inclusive of even space within Itself and hence we cannot attribute to it spatiality and consequently, birth and decay are denied in Brahman.
It is fearless and motionless, for fear exists only where there is dual existence, and motion is possible where space lies beyond the changing subject. One cannot be afraid of himself. Fear comes only from a second entity and Brahman is secondless and so fearless. It is an eternal Statis, for motion and activity are not intelligible in the Infinite Being.
It is one without a second, for a second entity limits absoluteness and moreover a second existence is the effect of the interference of space. When space is denied, duality also is denied. That Ancient One, the infinite, alone exists. Nothing else is. It is older than the oldest for "Being" never is not. It is infinite, because finitude is non-eternal. It alone exists, for Being presupposes all other existences.
6. What is neither short nor long, neither that much nor this much, neither black nor white, neither stout nor thin, neither good nor bad, that should be understood as Brahman.
Shortness and length, quality and colour, quantity and size are not attributable to Brahman which is Indivisible and Absolute. Such attributes are the conceptual limitations superimposed on the Reality by the imaginative individual consciousness. The conception of any sort of quality is possible when there is a cogniser and the cognised. Being itself cannot cognise qualities and relations, for such relations are connected with individualised centres which exist as independent entities. The Immortal Being which is relationless and is inclusive of the fullness of existence is itself the bosom of all possibilities and so cannot itself be involved in such self-limiting adjuncts.
It is neither good nor bad for Brahman is mere Experience which is perpetual. An experience is good or bad in relation to the condition of the mental being of the individual and it is therefore possible that the same thing may be both good and bad to different individuals, at different times and places and in different psychic conditions. The nature of the objectifying desire determines the quality of an object and hence Brahman which is Absolute Experience and which is untouched by individual likes and dislikes cannot be classed as either good or bad. Existence is qualityless and Brahman is Existence itself. It is the super-mental transcendental Living in the height of Freedom, where relative qualities are mere phantoms unworthy of notice. Brahman is Akhanda, Paripoorna, Adwitiya, Nitya, Achala and Amrita. Nothing can be compared to it. It is matchless, One without a second.
7. That which is neither subtle nor dense, which has neither caste nor name, which is immutable, immortal and bodiless, which is beyond the reach of mind and speech, that should be understood as Brahman.
Brahman is neither subtle nor dense, for subtlety and density are qualities in relation to something else and not parts of Eternal Nature. That which alone exists cannot be said to have any distinguishable quality for quality is the object of the mental functions. Caste and name are employed to distinguish personalities by their characters and actions, but where one alone is such distinctions lose their validity.
Mutation marks out the transient nature of a thing and the Supreme Brahman must therefore be Immutable. Mutability is the tendency or effort to become something else in order to obtain an unattained state or object to fill the gap of imperfection in any relative individual. But Brahman wants nothing at all and is perfect in itself necessitating no addition or subtraction. It is immortal, for mortality again is the sign of relativity which limits the Self-existent nature of the Self. Birthless and deathless, changeless and fearless is Brahman, for It is the Eternal Home of all that changes and perishes. Everything comes from it, lives in it and re-enters into it like rivers into the Ocean. Therefore, the everlasting Being, the Reality that endures without altering itself at any time, is of the same essence throughout.
It is bodiless, because body belongs to individual entities and not to the Absolute. Anything that possesses a body must one day perish, but the Absolute is imperishable and so must be bodiless. Mind and speech are forces that run externally and the Absolute therefore cannot be reached by them. All externalising tendencies try to turn their backs to Truth and so they are lost in darkness. Speech is only mind expressed and so is less powerful than mind and mind again is an objectifying force and therefore cannot comprehend Absoluteness.
8. Brahman is distinct from the gross, subtle and causal bodies. He is the soul of all. He is the Inner Ruler of all. He is eternally free. He is without action, and without motion.
The three bodies are the layers of unconsciousness that envelop the Light of the glorious Self. The causal body is the immediate and the subtlest and hence the most powerful of the layers of ignorance. It is the state of forgetfulness of the Self, where there is darkness and blindness of the soul, and the soul is left there in a state of unconsciousness of the absolute nature of itself. The second sheath is the intensified form of the first, the subtle body, where there is distraction in addition to the ignorance of the causal sheath, a presentation of untruth over and above the forgetfulness of the Reality. The third is the grossest materialisation of the imaginative consciousness where it is thickened to flesh and bone and is completely cut off from the rest of existence. The individual hypnotises itself through intense imagination into the belief that this distinguished body is its essential nature and suffers the acute pangs of separation from Truth. Life on earth is only this drama of the misery of the individual egos.
But Brahman is untouched by imaginative separateness. It is the Substratum of all phenomenal play and the world-orbs roll in it like bubbles in the vast ocean. It is the Inner Controller of all changing individuals and rests in its eternal repose indifferent to the shadowy appearance of universes and individuals. It is eternally free and can be bound by none, not even by motion and action, for motion and action are directed towards an unattained goal, but Brahman has no goal to attain and so no purpose to move and act. It is the majesty of Self-sufficiency, Perfection and utter Truth, beyond which there is nothing. It is the Be-all and End-all of everything. When that is attained, everything is attained.
9, 10. Brahman cannot be defined. To define Brahman is to deny Brahman. The only adequate description of Brahman is a series of negatives. That is the reason why the Upanishads declare "Neti-Neti" "not this, not this."
To define Brahman is to deny the essentiality of its all-inclusiveness. For, definition cannot but be partial. When it is said that Brahman is "something," it is simultaneously asserted thereby that something is "not" Brahman. But such a method of defining Brahman is incorrect, for there is not anything which is not Brahman. Brahman is everything that the mind can think of and which is even unthinkable. If Brahman is consciousness, the unconscious objects are excluded from it. If Brahman is Bliss, the individuals filled with grief are excluded from it. If Brahman is Being, it cannot be said what non-being is, though non-being is not. Hence all definitions centre themselves in aspects which are accepted as pleasant to the individuals and all unpleasant experiences are cast off as not belonging to Brahman. Such a narrow conception of Truth may be valid with respect to individual happiness but not to Truth as it is. Truth or Brahman excludes none, none is dear to it, none is its enemy. There is nothing pleasant to it, nothing is unpleasant, nothing good to it, nothing bad. Such an inscrutable Being is Brahman. It cannot be defined by any positive characteristics. It can only be said what it is "not," but we cannot say that Brahman is "like this."
Hence, the only adequate description of the nature of Brahman that we have to resort to is a series of negatives, "not this, not this." After denying everything that is relational, what remains is Brahman. This is one of the methods of Vedantic Meditation, the negative method which arrives at Truth by denying the appearance of untruth. The positive method of Meditation conceives of Brahman as Satchidananda and asserts its absoluteness and tries to dissolve plurality, duality and individuality in that Glory of Eternity.