by Swami Krishnananda
Vedāntā-vijñāna-suniścitārthāḥ saṁnyāsa-yogād yatayaḥ śuddhasttvāḥ, te brahma-lokeṣu parāntakāle parāṁṛtāḥ parimucyanti sarve (3.2.6): Those seekers, knowers, whose internal nature has been purified by a life of intense quest and renunciation, and those who are well established in the Atman and who have been illumined by the knowledge of the Vedanta Shastra, whose minds have been fixed forever in one given direction, who have attained a conviction which is forever certainty and no shaking of that conviction is ever possible, such great souls reach Brahmaloka.
There are two kinds of mukti mentioned here. The earlier verse which we read just now describes sadyomukti. What we are reading now will describe kramamukti. Sadhyomukti is immediate liberation just here. Wherever we depart, whichever be the place where we die or cast off the body, at that very spot we merge into Brahman. If a drop in the ocean is to unite itself with the ocean, it need not have to travel some hundreds of kilometres to reach the ocean; it is just there. It dives into the very bosom of its own source the ocean. In a similar manner, the soul need not have to travel in some direction – go to the Sun, Moon, stars, etc. It dissolves here itself because that which it has to reach is at the very spot where it is. That is called sadyomukti, immediate liberation, which is very rarely obtained. It is attained with great difficulty by those most blessed ones who have no desires at all of any kind.
Otherwise, the lesser ones reach Brahmaloka gradually through the Devayana Marga, through the rays of the Sun, through the Sun, and then through lightning, and through a Mahapurusha who comes and takes the soul by the hand to Brahmaloka. It is said that this soul will remain in Brahmaloka for as long as this universe lasts, which means to say for such length of time as Brahma himself rules this cosmos. At the end of the universe – the pralaya or the ultimate dissolution of the cosmos – the universe is dissolved, and together with it Brahma also is dissolved. And when Brahma and the universe are dissolved in ultimate pralaya, the souls abiding there will also dissolve, and will attain absolute Brahman. Until that time they will be in the region of the Creator for as long as the Universe lasts. This is called kramamukti, the graduated system of attainment of liberation in the case of those who have sattvic desires, who have done great sattvic upasanas and worshipped God with devotion but sattvic karma is still persisting and therefore they will not immediately merge with Brahman. They will reach up through the graduated scale prepared by prakriti through the sattva guna, and having reached Brahamaloka at the end of time, they merge with Brahman. Either way it is good; there is no harm. Let us go through Brahamaloka if we cannot have immediate liberation – te brahma-lokeṣu parāntakāle parāṁṛtāḥ parimucyanti sarve.
Gatāḥ kalāḥ pañcadaśa pratiṣṭhā devāś ca sarve prati-devatāsu, karmāñi vijñānamayaś ca ātmā pare’vyaye sarve ekī-bhavanti (3.2.7): All the faculties get dissolved. There are various faculties in us. There are five senses of knowledge, five senses of action, five pranas, and there is manas, buddhi, ahankara, chitta. These are the kalas, or the faculties. They suddenly melt like snow before the heating Sun.
Gatāḥ kalāḥ pañcadaśa pratiṣṭhā: Here fifteen faculties are mentioned, which are actually the five pranas, the five senses of knowledge, and the five senses of action. With the mind included, it becomes sixteen. But here fifteen are mentioned, and these fifteen or we may say sixteen kalas – all the perceptive and cognitive faculties – dissolve. Together with that dissolution, individuality itself dissolves.
Devāś ca sarve prati-devatāsu: All the divinities superintending over the sense organs also withdraw themselves. They also get dissolved because the locations of these gods are dissolved. When one’s seat is gone, one has to quit that place. So the gods who were controlling our sense organs, our faculties – Brahma was ruling the intellect, Moon was ruling the mind, Rudra was ruling the ego, Vishnu was ruling the chitta, the Sun was ruling the eye, and so on – these gods will no longer have a function to perform; they return to their original sources, and the faculties merge.
Gatāḥ kalāḥ pañcadaśa pratiṣṭhā devāś ca sarve prati-devatāsu karmāñi vijñānamayaś ca ātmā pare’vyaye sarve ekī-bhavanti: Even our karmas are dissolved. We need not to pay penalties for what we have done because the fire of knowledge has burnt all actions to ashes. The fire of knowledge can reduce to ashes even a mountain of sins. And the intellect, which is the seat of the ego, also goes with it. What happens? This individual soul, with all these appurtenances mentioned, with all its properties and belongings, psychically in their nature, go and settle themselves in that Imperishable Being and get united with it. This is the state of moksha – pare’vyaye sarve ekī-bhavanti.
Yathā nadyas syandamānās samudre astam gacchanti nāma-rūpe vihāya, tathā vidvān nāma-rūpād vimuktaḥ parāt-param puruṣam upaiti divyam (3.2.8): We attain to that Supreme Eternal Purusha and merge into that Purusha, uniting ourselves with that Supreme Being. As rivers flowing in different directions commingle with the ocean and we cannot know where what river is, all the jivas who have been liberated will melt into this great Atman, the Universal Being, as rivers melt in the ocean. As nama and rupa, names and forms, are dissolved in the ocean – Ganga is no more Ganga, Yamuna is no more Yamuna, and no river is there by its name and form because it is one mass of equality and merger – so this person, that person, this thing and that thing, whatever we see in this world, casts aside name and form. It is lifted above the encasement of names and forms in that big sea, and made to identify itself only with the vast ocean of Imperishable Being. Tathā vidvān nāma-rūpād vimuktaḥ: The knower of Brahman, having cast aside all names and forms, attains to that Supreme Being above all conceivable divinities in the cosmos. That supreme Purusha becomes our whole – parāt-param puruṣam upaiti divyam.
The Upanishad is over. You have attained the Supreme Brahman. What else do you want to hear now?
Sa yo ha vai tat paramam brahma veda brahmaiva bhavati, nāsyābrahma-vit kule bhavati, tarati śokaṁ tarati pāpmānaṁ guhā-granthibhyo vimukto’mṛto bhavati (3.2.9): If you know this Brahman, you shall become Brahman. Whatever you think you are, that you really are. If you know that your existence is inseparable from that Universal Brahman, you shall become That. Whoever knows Brahman becomes Brahman.
Nāsyābrahma-vit kule bhavati: In case the knower of Brahman is a householder, no non-knower will be born in his family for seven generations because of the power of the realisation of this person. It is said that if one person in a family attains God, seven generations behind and seven generation ahead also will attain liberation by the power of this one person attaining Brahman. So parents should not cry if one son attains God. Tarati śokaṁ tarati pāpmānaṁ: You cross over sorrow, cross over all sins, and break all the knots of the heart. Guhā-granthibhyo vimukto’mṛto bhavati: Immortal nectar do you become.
Tad etat ṛcābhyuktam: kriyāvantas śrotriyā brahmaniṣṭhās svayaṁ juhvata ekaṛṣim śraddhayantaḥ, teṣam evaitām brahma-vidyāṁ vadeta śirovrataṁ vidhivad yais tu cīrṇam (3.2.10): This Upanishad is not to be taught to everybody. This is what this mantra says. We should not go on blabbering it in public, unless they are sufficiently purified in their minds to receive its import and meaning. Kriyāvantaḥ: Only those people who have performed their duties well in this life should listen to it. Otherwise, they will have a wrong notion of there being no duty in this world and will be like a half-baked pot or a raw vegetable, which is of no utility. They will be neither here nor there. Attainment of God does not mean violating duties and rules that bind us to the conditions in which we are.
The duties that we are expected to discharge in this world are the automatic consequence of the location of our personality in society. We must find out where we are actually seated. Our physical body, our mind and our very existence is conditioned by certain external atmospheres. We know very well what the requirements of our existence in the world are, and the sources which fulfil the requirements are those to which we owe some obligation. Somebody serves us, somebody protects us, somebody is taking care of us, somebody sees that we are secure. We know very well how our life in this world is made possible by the operation of various social and natural factors. To those things, we owe an obligation.
Therefore, kriyāvantaḥ: those who have fulfilled their duties and discharged their obligations; śrotriyāḥ: who know very well the import of the scriptures and do not have any kind of misunderstanding about them; brahmaniṣṭhāḥ: whose mind is fixed in Brahman and who have no desire at all apart from that; svayaṁ juhvata ekaṛṣim śraddhayantaḥ: who have performed those sacrifices that are expected to be performed through the stages of life that they have passed – Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha, Sannyasa, etc. Teṣam evaitām brahma-vidyāṁ vadeta: You shall speak this Brahma-vidhya, knowledge of this Upanishad, only to these people, and do not speak it to other people. Śirovrataṁ vidhivad yais tu cīrṇam: You should speak this Upanishad only to those who have performed shirovrata. The word ‘shirovrata’ has been explained in various ways. It is said to mean the vow of the head. Some commentators say it is Sannyasa, as shaving the head or carrying fire on the head is also one form of sacrifice that is performed before one enters into the Sannyasa order. It is also called Mundaka Upanishad. Mundaka means shaving, mund, and so the word ‘mundaka’ as well as the word ‘shirovrata’ seem to imply that this Upanishad is intended only for Sannyasis, and those who have not discharged their duties as householders, Brahmacharis or whatever they are in the world under the conditions they are placed in life cannot become Sannyasis, and those who have desires in their mind also cannot become Sannyasis. But those who have fulfilled this condition, to them this Upanishad be taught, and only then this instruction will become properly fructified.
Tad etat satyam ṛṣir aṅgirāḥ purovāca, naitad a-cīrṇa-vrato’dhīte, namaḥ parama-ṛṣibhyo namaḥ parma-rṣibhyaḥ (3.2.11). At the very beginning of this Upanishad, Saunaka put a question to Angiras: What is that by knowing which everything can be known? And the whole Upanishad is an answer to that question, what is that by which we can know all things. Thus is the answer which Angiras gave to Saunaka and all the Rishis who were there in the audience. And this was told in early days. Naitad a-cīrṇa-vrato’dhīte: One who has not fulfilled his duties, one who has not undergone the necessary discipline for this purpose, will not read this Upanishad. Namaḥ parama-ṛṣibhyo namaḥ parma-rṣibhyaḥ: Prostrations be to the great sages, prostrations be to the great sages who have given us this great knowledge of the Upanishad.