by Swami Krishnananda
Until now, we have been passing through the foundational doctrine of the Upanishads – namely, the nature of the Ultimate Reality. What is there, finally? In several ways we have been told that whatever is there, finally, can be only a single Reality and it cannot be more than one. This concept was corroborated by a famous mantra that I quoted from the Rig Veda Samhita – ekam sat: "Existence is one only." The Ultimate Being is Existence. Being and Existence mean the same thing. That which exists cannot be more than one.
Everything has to exist, in some form or the other. Trees exist, stones exist, you exist, I exist, mountains exist, stars exist – all things exist. Existence is a common factor underlying every modification thereof as name and form. Whatever be the variety that is perceivable, all this variety is, at its root, an existence of something. Something has to exist, whatever that something be. The Real cannot be non-existent, because even the concept of non-existence would be impossible unless it is related to the existence of the concept itself. So the Upanishads say: "This Existence is supreme, complete, universal, all-pervading, the only Being." Because It is all-pervading and filling all space, very large in its extent, it is called Brahman. That which fills, That which swells, That which expands, That which is everywhere and is all things – That is the plenum, the completeness, the fullness of Reality; and That is called Brahman in the Sanskrit language. Brahma-vid apnoti param (Tait. 2.1.1), says the Taittiriya Upanishad: "Whoever realises this Brahman attains to the Supreme Felicity." It is so because of the fact that when anyone contacts Pure Existence, that contact is equal to the contact of all things. It is like touching the very bottom of the sea of Reality. Hence, Brahman is All-Existence. The knowing of it is of paramount importance.
The Upanishads highlight various ways and means of attaining this Supreme Brahman. The principal method prescribed is direct inward communion with that Reality. Direct inward communion is called meditation. Deep thought, profound thinking and a fundamental, basic feeling for it – longing for it, and getting oneself convinced about one's non-difference from it because of its being All-Existence – is the great meditational technique of the Upanishads. Inasmuch as this meditation is nothing but the affirmation of the knowledge of the universal existence of Brahman, it is also called jnana, the path of wisdom. The meditation of the Upanishads is the affirmation of the wisdom of the nature of Brahman. Whoever knows this Brahman attains the Supreme Being. Brahma-vid apnoti param, tad eshabhyukta, satyam jnanam anantam brahma (Tait. 2.1.1). How do we define this Brahman? Satyam jnanam anantam: This is the name of the Supreme Being. It is Pure Existence, satyam, Ultimate Truth. It is Omniscience, All-Knowledge, so it is called jnanam. It is everywhere, infinite; therefore, it is called anantam. What is Brahman? Satyam jnanam anantam brahma.
Yo veda nihitam guhayam parame vyoman so'snute sarvan kaman saha brahmana vipascita (Tait. 2.1.1). This is an oracle in the second section of the Taittiriya Upanishad which gives us the secret of the final attainment of bliss and freedom. This satyam jnanam anantam brahma, this Supreme Truth-Knowledge-Bliss-Infinity is, of course, as has been mentioned before, everywhere. It is also hidden deeply in the cave of your own heart – nihitam guhayam. Guha is the cave, the deepest recess of your own being. That is verily this Ultimate Being. You have to be very cautious in not allowing this thought to slip out at any time – namely, your deepest recess of existence cannot be outside the deepest recess of the cosmos. The all-encompassing nature of Brahman also envelops your basic being.
When this universal Brahman is conceived as the deepest reality of an individual, it is called the Atman – the essential Self of anything. It is the essential Self and not the physical, not the mental, not even the causal sheath of your personality; all of these, as you know very well, get negated in another condition of your being – namely, deep sleep. The analysis of deep sleep is a master key to open the gates of the secret of your own existence. Neither the body, nor the mind, nor this so-called ignorant sheath can be considered as your own reality. Blissful sleep cannot be a condition of ignorance, because the experience of bliss has to go together with a kind of consciousness of that experience. This essential Being of yours indicates the character of the Universal Reality also. It is a sense of freedom and bliss that you enjoy when you come in contact with It. Do you not feel free and happy when you go into a state of deep sleep? Can the freedom and the happiness of sleep be compared with any other pleasure of this world? Even a king who cannot sleep for days together would ask for the boon of being able to sleep for some days, rather than having a vast, material kingdom. To go into your own Self is the best achievement, the highest attainment, whereas to go outside yourself, however far beyond you may go, is that much the worse for you. Knowledge of the Self is knowledge of the Absolute. Atma-jnana is also Brahma-jnana. The knowledge of the deepest in you is also the knowledge of the essential secret of the universe. So, whoever knows that supreme satyam jnanam anantam, Truth-Knowledge-Infinity, as hidden in the cave of one's own heart, directly comes in contact with that satyam jnanam anantam brahma. Simultaneously, you begin to feel a bliss of contact with all things. Saha brahmana vipascita so'nute sarvan kaman: "All desires get fulfilled there in an instant."
In this world, to fulfil different desires, you have to employ different means. There, a single means is enough to give you the happiness of everything – not one thing after the other, successively, but simultaneously, instantaneously. In your current state, if you have one pleasure, you cannot have another pleasure at the same time, and if you want to have a third kind of pleasure, the first two must go. Thus, you cannot have varieties of pleasure at the same time because of the conditioning factor introduced by the sense organs in such experience. Your senses do not give you simultaneous knowledge of anything. When one thing is happening, another thing is forgotten. But in the contact of Brahman, there is simultaneous knowledge of all things. At one stroke everything is known, and everything is enjoyed also. It is impossible for us mortals, thinking through the sense organs and through this body, to imagine what it could be to enjoy all things at the same time.
It is not merely possessing a kingdom; that also may look like a happiness which is sudden and simultaneous. A king who is the ruler of this whole world may imagine that he has simultaneous happiness of the entire kingdom of the earth. "The entire earth is mine," the king may feel. But the entire earth stands outside the king. The experiencing consciousness of the king does not hold under his grip or possession this vast earth that he considers as the means of his satisfaction. So the king's happiness is a futile, imaginary pleasure; really, he does not possess the world. The world stands outside. If the object of experience stands outside the experience, the experience cannot be regarded as complete. Unless the object of experience enters into you and becomes part and parcel of your own existence, you will not be able to enjoy that object. All objects cause anxiety in the mind because they stand outside the experiencing consciousness. Even if you have a heap of gold in the grip of your palm, it cannot cause you happiness. It will only cause anxieties of different types – such as how to keep it, how to use it, how to protect it, how not to lose it, and how to see that it is not leading you to bereavement. The possessor of gold and silver is filled with anxieties, and that person cannot sleep well. Even a king cannot sleep well because of the fear of attack from sources that are external to him. To be secure under conditions which are totally external to yourself is hard, indeed, to imagine.
Brahman experience is not an object of contact; it is an identity. The object is the experiencing consciousness itself. The content of awareness becomes the awareness; existence and consciousness merge into each other. Sat becomes chit, chit becomes sat. It is not actually one thing becoming another thing; the one thing is the other thing. Existence is nothing but the consciousness of existence. When you say that you exist, you are at the same time affirming that you are conscious that you exist. You are not merely existing, minus the consciousness of existence. It is not an appendage that is added on to existence in the form of consciousness. Consciousness is not a quality or an attribute of existence, like the greenness of a leaf or the redness of a flower – nothing of the kind. You cannot consider consciousness to be connected to existence; it is existence. Actually, existence-consciousness means consciousness which is – or existence which is aware of its existence. In that state, which is called Brahman-knowledge or Brahman-experience, there is simultaneous experience of all things. There is all-existence, a simultaneous knowledge of all things – omniscience, a simultaneous taneous enjoyment of all things, and perfect freedom. It is perfect freedom because there is nothing to obstruct your freedom in that state. Here, in this world, whatever freedom you may have is limited by the existence of other things in this world. Your freedom is limited by the freedom of another person and, therefore, your freedom is limited to that extent. You cannot have unlimited freedom in this world. But That (Brahman) is unlimited freedom. It is unlimited because anantam brahma: "Infinite is Brahman."
Now you have, as students of this great doctrine of the Upanishads, questions of various types: "What is this world? We understand what you are saying. Now, what is this world that we are seeing in front of us? How are we to reconcile this perceived world with that Great Thing that you are speaking of?" The cosmological scheme that follows in the very same Upanishad after this statement about the absoluteness of Brahman gives us a brief idea as to how we have to set in harmony the nature of this perceived world with the eternal existence of Brahman.
Tasmat va etasmat atmana akasas sambhutah (Tait. 2.1.1): "From this Universal Atman, space emanated" – as it were. This is something hard for us to conceive at the present moment. Space is actually the negation of the infinity of Brahman. Infinity does not mean extension or dimension – but space is extension, dimension, distance. So, immediately a contradiction is introduced at the very beginning of the concept of creation. God is negated, as it were, for various reasons, the moment creation is conceived, one reason being that the creation appears as an external manifestation, whereas God – Brahman – is the Universal Existence. We know the difference between universality and externality. The moment there is the concept of space, there is also automatically introduced into it the concept of time. We cannot separate space and time. Duration and extension go together. Actually, according to modern findings at least, space and time are not dead appearances, lifeless presentations before us. For us, to our common perception, spatial extension may look like a lifeless dimension which does not speak, which does not think, which has nothing to say. Time also seems to be some kind of movement which has no brain to think; it is like a machine moving like a bulldozer in some direction. This is what we may think with our paltry, inadequate knowledge of what space and time are. Space and time are not dead things; they are basic vibrations of the cosmos. Motion goes together with space-time. Not only according to modern scientific terminology, but also in the ancient thought of the Agama and Tantra, one may say that the concept of space-time goes together with motion, force.
A tremendous vibration, an uncanny force is generated the moment there is the beginning of what we call creation. It is a central point that begins to vibrate – bindu, as it is called in the Agama Shastra. Bindu is a point. It is not a point which is geometrical, which has a nucleus; it is a cosmic point, a centre which is everywhere with a circumference nowhere, as people generally say. It is a point that is everywhere, which is inconceivable to ordinary thought. It is a tremendous vibratory centre. Modern astronomy also seems to be hinging on this point when it concludes there was a 'big bang' when creation took place – a splitting of the cosmic atom. The atom should not be considered as a little particle; it is a cosmic centre. The entire space-time arrangement is one point, like an egg – brahmanda, as it is called. A globular structure is easy to conceive, and so we call it an 'anda', a kind of egg – a cosmic egg. Tadandam abhavat haimam sahasramsh samaprabham (Manu 1.9) says the Manusmriti: "Even millions of suns cannot be equal in brilliance to that cosmic spot." Therefore, it is not a point as we can geometrically imagine. It is an inconceivable point.