by Swami Krishnananda
Now we go to Section 1 of Chapter 3. The same verse that occurred earlier illustrating two birds perching on a single tree is before us.
Dvā suparṇā sayujā sakhāyā samānaṁ vṛkṣam pariṣasvajāte, tayor anyaḥ pippalaṁ svādv atty anaśnann anyo’bhicakaśīti (3.1.1): There are two birds in this tree of life. This tree of life may be either this body of the individual, or it may be the entire creation itself. Ishvara and Jiva are present in the world of creation as well as in the human body. They are friends. God and the Individual are like Nara and Narayana of ancient mythology. They are inseparable brothers, one connected with the other perpetually. These are compared to birds living on a single tree which is this vast creation. And they enjoy their existence on the tree. The only difference is, one of these birds is busy enjoying the delicious fruit that is of the tree and the other bird is not interested in eating anything. It is merely looking on, unconcerned and unattached.
This unattached bird is God, Ishvara, seated in your own heart and everywhere in this world. The bird that is eating the sweet fruit of this tree is the individual soul, the mind-body complex. So there are two phases of experience going on in one’s own body: a consciousness that is totally detached, and a consciousness that is very much involved. The detached consciousness in us is called Kutastha-chaitanya. It stands uncontaminated even in the state of deep sleep, and enables us to regain our consciousness of identity of personality when we awake the next morning and feel that we are there.
This consciousness of our being the same person that we were yesterday is not the action of the mind, not of the sense organs, not the body. The body cannot know anything; it is unconscious, and the mind and the senses were not functioning in sleep. So who told us that we existed yesterday? There is some minimal awareness, consciousness qua being, as it is called, which is our essence that existed in deep sleep, and that is responsible for our memory of the fact of our having existed yesterday also. That is the uncontaminated detached consciousness in us. It is not connected with body, mind and sense organs. That is the Ishvara-tattva that is in us. The jiva-tattva is our own selves. The very consciousness that is contaminated by the body, mind and sense organs becomes jiva. Consciousness connected with the sense organs, mind and body is the jiva, the individual, so-called. The detached consciousness, unconnected with these, is Ishvara himself because the general consciousness we experience in the state of deep sleep unconnected with the senses, body and mind is Universal in its nature. Because consciousness cannot be located only in one place, cannot be divided into parts, cannot have fractions, it is therefore Universal.
Hence, the Universal being is inside us. In the deep sleep state we land ourselves on it, as it were, and feel the bliss of it so intensely that we do not like to wake up in the morning. So intense is the joy of sleep that we want to go to sleep again and again. But when we wake up, we are once again the jiva, the fruit-eating bird in this world tree of samsara, and not even conscious that there is another bird sitting there, always uncontaminated.
Are we aware that we have a universal background in us? No, never. We always think we are Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so – this body, that body, this individual, that individual, performing this work and that work. Has anyone time to believe that there is a universal ocean at the back of our consciousness? We are floating on the sea of Absolute Being. Do we know that? Has anybody had time to think like this? No. Because we are eating the sweet fruit of life, we are very busy indeed. Let the Universal be there; what does it matter to us? So this bird that is eating the sweet fruit does not even know that another bird is sitting here, as it is so much engrossed in the indulgence of the bliss, joy, pleasure of eating the sweet fruit. These are the two birds – dvā suparṇā.
Samāne vṛkṣe puruṣo nimagno’nīśayā śocati muhyamānaḥ, juṣṭam yadā paśyaty anyam īśam asya mahimānam iti, vīta-śokah (3.1.2): Helplessly sunk in the apparent joy of the sweetness of the fruit, one of these birds also is sunk in sorrow at the same time because we do not merely suck the fruit, the fruit also sucks us. We do not merely get stuck in the object, the objects sticks to us. The more we try to grab objects, the more will objects try to grab us, like crocodiles. If we try to grab a crocodile with our hands, it will grab us with greater force.
In the Upanishads the sense organs are called graha because they grasp, and the objects are called atigraha, the greater grabbers. Our condition may be really pitiable if we give a long rope to these sense organs and allow them to go on grabbing objects, because the result would be that the objects will grab us with a greater force. The result would be utter helplessness, and one will be reduced to slavery to such an extent that it will be difficult to distinguish between oneself and the object outside. The slave is like an object; he has no subjectivity. He does not think in terms of himself; he always thinks in terms of his master. So we are like slaves thinking in terms of our master which is this world of objects, and we have no independence ourselves. We are caught and bound in the chain of this helplessness caused by our indulgence in the objects which appear to be our masters.
Samāne vṛkṣe puruṣo nimagno’nīśayā śocati muhyamānaḥ: Deluded is this bird that is indulging itself like this. Juṣṭam yadā paśyaty anyam īśam: When by chance this indulgent bird has time to look around and see another bird there seated, the most adorable being, the moment we behold it, our bondage is snapped. The vision of God is also the end of all sorrow. The consciousness of Universality is the cessation of attachment to particularity. But we are not able to maintain an awareness of this Universal in us. We cannot see that there is a bird called the Universal in us. We see only the other one, the object in front of us. The moment we become aware of the Universal bird, the consciousness of its existence will redeem us at once.
Juṣṭam yadā paśyaty anyam īśam asya mahimānam iti, vīta-śokah: When the glory of that Universal bird is seen, all the sorrow of indulgence and involvement in things in the world ceases at once, as night departs when the sun rises. They are simultaneous, and do not come one after the other.
Yadā paśyaḥ paśyate rukma-varṇaṁ kartāram īśam puruṣam brahma-yonim, tadā vidvān puṇya-pāpe vidhūya nirañjanaḥ paramaṁ sāmyam upaiti (3.1.3): When this seer, the individual soul, beholds this glorious, luminous, radiant, Universal bird nearby – which is really the ruler, the originator, the controller of all things, which is the seat of Brahman itself, the supreme Purusha, Mahapurusha, Purushottama – then the knower of this Universal bird sheds all the effects of punya and papa, merits and demerits. Freed from contact with the effects of good and bad deeds, one attains equality with the Universal. The moment we are conscious of the Universal, we have become one with the Universal. Here in this case, knowledge is the same as being. In ordinary life, knowledge is not being. If we know there is lot of money in the bank, it does not follow that we possess that money. In ordinary life knowledge is not power, and it is also not being. But here knowledge is, at the same time, power and being. The being of the object is at once the being of the knowledge of that object. The Knower of Brahman becomes Brahman. Universal equality is attained by the consciousness of there being such a thing called Universality. Therefore, we have to awaken ourselves to the consciousness of our true nature, which is Universal existence and not this body-mind complex.
Prāṇo hy eṣa yaḥ sarva-bhūtair vibhāti vijānan vidvān bhavate nātivādī, ātma-krīḍa ātma-ratiḥ kriyāvān eṣa brahma-vidāṁ viriṣṭhah (3.1.4): This great Hiranyagarbha Prana, the Universal life principle, is visible in the form of the life of every little creature in this world. Having known this, our mouth is shut and we will not speak afterwards, like a drowning person whose mouth is filled with water. Eternity will fill us to such an extent that we will have no occasion to open our mouth, and we will not speak. Silence is golden. Not merely is it a policy, but it is a result that follows from the highest vision. The more we know, the less we speak. As it is said, it is only half-filled pots that make lots of noise.
One who is filled with this knowledge of the Universal Prana operating through all life in this world is the true knower, and he does not speak afterwards. What does he do then? Ātma-krīḍa ātma-ratiḥ kriyāvān eṣa brahma-vidāṁ viriṣṭhah: He is the Knower supreme. He is the best of the knowers of Brahman. He rejoices not with things outside; he rejoices with himself – ātma-krīḍa. He plays with himself, he rejoices with himself, he works through himself, not with instruments outside. God does not have instruments like a pickaxe, a fountain pen, etc. By His very existence, He works. So is this knower of Brahman capable of working miracles in this world by his very existence. The word used here is brahma-vidāṁ viriṣṭhah, which means the best of the knowers of Brahman.
There are four stages of Brahman knowledge described in the Yoga Vasishtha, and these stages are called Brahma-vid, Brahma-vid-vara, Brahma-vid-variya and Brahma-vid-varishta. There are seven stages of knowledge in the ascent of the spirit to God – subecha, vicharana, tanumanasi, sattvapatti, asamsakti, padartha-bhavana and turiya. The fourth stage is called sattvapatti, where light flashes from Brahman, and that condition of awareness of the flash of light from Brahman is called the state of Brahma-vid. Then the next stage comes. When we are totally detached from everything on account of perception of this light everywhere, that is Brahma-vid-vara. When we see consciousness illuminating through every brick, every stone and every atom, that stage is Brahma-vid-variya. Then we feel that the light is scintillating within us also and we become indistinguishable from this mass of light everywhere; that is turiya. Such a stage is called Brahma-vidvarishta. He plays with himself, rejoices with himself, is satisfied with himself, and he works through the soul and not by any kind of external instruments. Such a great soul, a true knower of Brahman supreme, is called Brahma-vid-varishta – eṣa brahma-vidāṁ viriṣṭhah.