by Swami Krishnananda
This is Section 2 of Chapter 2.
Āviḥ saṁnihitaṁ guhācaraṁ nāma mahat padam atraitat samarpitam, ejat praṇan nimiṣac ca yad eat jānatha sad asad vareṇyam param vijñānād yad variṣṭham prajānām (2.2.1). Manifest outside is this very thing that is the deepest source of our aspirations. Verily in front of our eyes is manifest that very thing which is inconceivable otherwise. The deepest within is also there as the perceivable form before the senses. It is deepest in the heart, no doubt, but it is also capable of appearing before our very eyes as the thing that we see. This Brahman is the great manifested support of all beings. It is the cause of all our experiences. It is very close to us, nearer than our neck, yet inside in the cavity of the heart. Everything that breathes, everything that is alive, all beings whether moving or not moving, anything that winks, all these are rooted this one single being as spokes are fixed on the hub of a wheel. It is the cause of both the gross and the subtle. It is the most adorable of all beings.
Tadd ha tad-vanaṁ nāma, tad-vanam ity upāsitavyam (Kena Up. 4.6). How do you adorn Brahman as the most lovable of all beings, the dearest of objects? Varenyam: Varenya is the adorable. It is adorable because it is great and grand, and adorable because it is lovable and dear. It has two aesthetic characteristics, sublimity and beauty, and both are to be seen in God – this great Brahman Tattva, the Atma Tattva.
Might and attraction – both qualities are in Godhead. Very few things combine these characteristics. There is great strength in a bulldozer; it can crush us if we go near it, but it has no beauty. It does not attract us, and we do not want to go on looking at it. It has a great force, a crushing force, great power, but no beauty. But certain beautiful things have no power, such as a flower in the garden. A rose, a jasmine, a lotus is very beautiful, but is not strong and powerful like an elephant. God is power and beauty combined.
“How do we adore Brahman?” the Kenopanishad student asked the Guru. We should adore Brahman as lovable. Actually, the mind will not concentrate on God unless He is beautiful, attractive and lovable. If He terrible and fearsome, the mind will not concentrate on Him. We cannot work by fear; we can work only by love. This applies not only to factories and offices, but also in the spiritual field to the work called meditation. God cannot threaten us so that we may worship Him. God can only attract us.
It is Aristotle who mentioned in his metaphysics that God pulls the world towards Himself as the beloved pulls the lover. These are examples and illustrations which defy logical considerations and mathematical calculations. Love is not logic and it is not mathematics, but it is something more than this. It is more precise than mathematics and more exact than any kind of calculation that we can think of, and greater than logic. Logic and mathematics are the greatest of sciences, so to say, but love is a greater science; and in the spiritual field especially, it is this that acts. The love of God, called mumukshutva, is the source of the student’s success in the field of yoga.
Yad arcimad yad aṇubhyo’ṇu ca, yasmin lokā nihitā lokinas ca, tad etad akṣaram brahma sa prāṇas tad u vāṇ manaḥ, tad etat satyam, tad amṛtam, tad veddhavyam, saumya, viddhi (2.2.2): That great Reality, which has been described in cosmological terms in the earlier mantras, is manifesting its radiance in the form of this creation. The world as an emanation from God is actually the rays of this Supreme Being manifesting themselves, as it were. It is the light of Brahman that is visible here as the world of perception, light that is condensed into solid matter but is nevertheless more subtle than even the subtlest atomic particles of life. It is arcimad and also anubhyo’nu, meaning radiance and subtler than the subtlest. It is subtle because of its not being an object of perception. All that can be conceived, thought of, spoken about or perceived are gross in their form. But this one, which is the knower and the seer of things and cannot in any way be equated anywhere near objectivity of any kind, should naturally be very subtle. It cannot be known at all, inasmuch as it is the knower of things. Inasmuch as it is the knower of things, it cannot be known; therefore, it is anu, subtle.
Yasmin lokā nihitā lokinas ca: All this weighty mass of physical manifestation, this physical cosmos, as large as it is, together with all the inhabitants of this world, is rooted, fixed in this subtlest of realities. The subtler a thing is, the more powerful it is. A strong electric current, which is not a physical object like tangible bricks or stones, etc., may break a mountain and reduce it to powder if its voltage is sufficiently intense. Where is this subtlety, the invisibility of this energy called electric power? We cannot even see it with our eyes, but it can damage everything and dismantle huge structures. The subtlest of things is also the strongest of things and, therefore, the weighty mass of the physical manifestation of the world is nowhere in comparison with this subtlest invisible reality on which everything is fixed. Invisible things control visible objects. The visible world is not the real. The real is that which cannot be seen. The invisible is the real. The more invisible and subtle the thing becomes, the more real also it is.
Tad etad akṣaram brahma: This it is that they call the imperishable Brahman. Sa prāṇaḥ: That also is the vitality of the Cosmos, as well as the individual. Tad u vāṇ: That also is the reason why we speak. The energy that is necessary for the modulation of the vocal cords in the articulation of sounds is itself manifested in one form. Tad u vāṇ manaḥ: That is the mind that thinks. Tad etat satyam: It is the law, it is the rule, it is the regulation, it is the system, it is the order that maintains this Cosmos – satyam. Satyameva jayathe: This great order is the Truth of truths. It is the will of the Absolute; it reigns supreme, triumphs always, and anything other than that cannot triumph.
Tad amṛtam: It is immortal nectar. See it as delicious honey. Immortal experience does not mean just existing for a long time, doing nothing. That is not immortality. It is a durationless experience where the concept of individual existence is completely abolished and transcended. For us who are living in a world of space and time, for us who are physical bodies, to be immortal would seem like living for a long time in some place, without dying. This is a crude, childish idea of deathlessness. That which is deathlessness is also not physical. That which is not physical is also not in space and time; therefore, it is not in some place that it may endure for a long time. The very idea or notion of immortality has to be reevaluated. Tad veddhavyam: This great being is our aim.
You have to hit it as you hit an object with an arrow. Oh dear brother, disciple, friend, student, whoever you are, saumya. Oh blessed soul, seeker of Truth, listen to me. Hit this object by the power of concentration as an archer hits a target with an arrow that he discharges from a bent bow. In the third mantra, the practice of spirituality, or sadhana, is compared to an archer employing an arrow shot through a bow for the purpose of hitting a target. Now what is this arrow? What is this target? What is the bow in the case of this sadhana, the spiritual practice? Upanishad knowledge is the bow. With the help of the knowledge that you have gained by a study of the Upanishads, and by deep contemplation on the Upanishads, consider that as the great weapon. Upanishad is a great weapon.
Mahāstraṁ: It is the bow. Hold it in your hand and bend it, strike the string by the power of the concentration of your mind through analysis of the meaning of the teachings of the Upanishads, and dwell into their true significance. With the power of intense devotion to it, bend the bow and pitch the arrow, which is the act of concentration. The mind is the arrow here, which is to be fixed on the bow of the knowledge of the Upanishad gained by deep thought and study. And the bow has to be bent by intense longing.
Tad-bhāvagatena cetasā lakṣyaṁ tad evākṣaraṁ, saumya viddhi (2.2.3): That imperishable being is the target which you have to hit with this arrow of your mind struck and discharged by the bow of Upanishadic knowledge, and bent with tremendous strength arisen from your longing for liberation. This is the meaning of the third mantra: dhanur gṛhīvtā aupaniṣadam mahāstraṁ śaraṁ hy upāsā-niśitaṁ saṁdadhīta, āyamya tad-bhāvagatena cetasā lakṣyaṁ tad evākṣaraṁ, saumya viddhi (2.2.3). Upanishad is the knowledge which gives you the strength to embark on this great adventure of spiritual experience. That knowledge of the Upanishad is compared here to a bow. Mind is the arrow, the longing for the liberation of the soul is the power with which you bend the bow and strike the string, and the target is the Imperishable Reality. Thus is the analogy of the bow and the arrow in the case of sadhana, or yoga practice. It is again briefly repeated in the next verse.
Praṇavo dhanuḥ, śaro hy ātmā, brahma tal lakṣyam ucyate, apramattena veddhavyam, śaravat tanmayo bhavet (2.2.4): Pranava, Omkara is the bow. It was said earlier that Upanishad knowledge is the bow. Now it is said that Pranava is the bow. The idea is that the Pranava, or Om, is the essence of Upanishadic knowledge, and the Mandukya Upanishad is supposed to be the quintessence of all the Upanishads.
Mandukyam ekam evalam mumukshunam vimuktaye (Muktika 1.27): For the sake of the liberation of the spirit, the Mandukya Upanishad alone is sufficient. This is a statement made by the Muktika Upanishad. Now, the Mandukya Upanishad is nothing but an exposition of Pranava. So in a sense it means the quintessence of Upanishadic teachings is Omkara, and so there is a pertinence here. It is appropriate that this verse says that Pranava or Omkara is the bow, equal to saying that Upanishadic knowledge is the bow.
Ātmā: The individual soul which seeks liberation is the arrow. Brahman is the target. With great concentration, with unwavering attention, you must aim this arrow on that object. As the arrow merges in the object by striking it directly, the Atman, this individual, this mind, has to get dissolved in that object. The concentration of the archer in respect of a target is well known. He does not know what is happening to him on either side. His ability to concentrate on one point is such that he will not see anything other than the object.
There is an illustration in the Mahabharata. During the tournament in which Drona tested the archery of the Pandavas and the Kauravas, he hung a little wooden bird on the branch of a tree. The image had all the features of a bird, such as eyes, beak, etc. The idea was that the archer should hit only the eye, not any other part of the bird, and he should see only that. The eye of the archer should concentrate itself on only the bird’s eye, and he should not go on thinking varieties of things. Drona called Yudhishthira. “Come on. What do you see there?” “I see a bird on the tree,” replied Yudhisththira. “No. You are no good. Go to that side,” Drona said. Then he called Bhima. “What do you see?” “I see a bird tied to a branch of a tree.” “No good. Go that side.” Then he tested two other brothers, and they also failed. Then Arjuna was called and asked, “What do you see?” “I see a black spot, and I see nothing else,” he replied.
That is the concentration that is expected in meditation on Brahman. It has already been mentioned that it is very subtle. How could the gross mind, accustomed to thinking of objects, succeed in thinking of subtle things? Brahman is subtle because of its universality on one hand and its inwardness on the other hand. The combination of these two aspects is very difficult to consider in the mind. Either we think of an expanse or we think something inside us. It is not merely an expanse outside, and it is also not something sitting inside us. It is the blend of the inwardness of subjectivity together with the expanse of objectivity, the infinity. As these two thoughts cannot combine easily, it is hard for the mind to concentrate on Brahman. It can concentrate on a form – on idols, on concepts, on an image that it places before itself – because it is outside. But Brahman is not outside. How will we concentrate on it? So, apramattena veddhavyam: Very cautious you have to be, very careful. Do not be in a hurry. Then your mind will unite itself with the object of your meditation as the arrow merges into the object.
Yasmin dyauḥ pṛthivī cāntrikṣam otam manaḥ saha prāṇaiś ca sarvaiḥ, tam evaikaṁ jānatha ātmānam, anya vāco vimuñcatha, amṛtasyaiṣa setuḥ (2.2.5): It is that on which space itself is fixed, which is the foundation of the whole Earth. The entire space is an object in front of that. It is subtler, larger than space. And all things, including the mind and pranas, are fixed on that Reality. That alone should be the goal of your life.
Tam evaikaṁ jānatha ātmānam: Know it as the deepest reality of your own heart, Atman. Do not speak too much. Anya vāco vimuñcatha: When you speak, speak only about the Atman. Do not speak about anything else. All other words are weariness of speech. Therefore, concentrate yourself on this great ideal of your life, and mind your business, as they say. Anya vāco vimuñcatha: Do not engage yourself in other kinds of business in this world. This should be your only business, your only aim of work, and nothing else should attract your attention. Amṛtasyaiṣa setuḥ: This sadhana, this practice, if it could be carried on successfully, will be the bridge to Immortality.
Arā iva ratha-nābhau saṁhatā yatra nāḍyaḥ sa eṣo’ntaś carate bahudhā jāyamānaḥ, aum iti eveṁ dhyāyathātmānam, svasti vaḥ pārāya tamasaḥ parastāt (2.2.6): All the nerve currents of the body and the divinities of the cosmos are fixed in this Universal consciousness Brahman, as spokes in a wheel are fixed in the hub of the wheel. This one on which everything is fixed is moving inside the heart and manifests itself in various forms, as the mind conceptualises a variety of objects – antaś carate bahudhā jāyamānaḥ.