by Swami Krishnananda
The Mandukya Upanishad is a study of these states. It is said that if we understand the Mandukya Upanishad and its implications properly, we need not read any other Upanishad. Mandukyam ekam evalam mumukshunam vimuktaye (Muktika 1.27): "For the sake of the liberation of the Soul, one Upanishad is sufficient – the Mandukya Upanishad" provided it is understood properly in its deep connotations. You should not just read it only by way of understanding the word meaning of it. The suggestion given by the Mandukya Upanishad is to take your consciousness deeper and deeper into the very root of your personality – from external sensations, from body, etc., to what you really are in your deepest essence.
There is a third state called sleep, where not only are you not aware of the body, but even the psychological functions are not there. The mind does not think, the intellect does not decide and you do not know that you even exist there. Your existence itself is abolished, as it were. It is a state of nothingness, but you are not even aware that it is nothing. To be aware that it is a nothing would be something, but you are not even aware that it is nothing. It is pure, unadulterated nothing. But, what is happening there? Are you dead? No, you are very much alive. Who told you that you were alive in sleep, when it was a nothing and your awareness was totally obliterated by something? You are totally oblivious of all things happening there. When you did not even know that you were existing, how did you come to the conclusion that you were alive at that time? Nobody told you. You yourself conclude, "I am the same person now that I was before I slept yesterday. I am not another person. Therefore, I must have been existing during sleep." But how do you know that you are the same person? You may be another person. Every day you could change and become somebody else, but this does not happen.
A continuity of consciousness is maintained between yesterday's experience and today's experience. Is this not interesting and surprising? You are very certain that today you are the same person that you were yesterday and your consciousness continues through even the sleep condition, making you feel that you exist today in the same way as you existed yesterday. That is to say, you did exist in the state of deep sleep. The proof of it is only your conviction that you are the same person today as you were yesterday. You have a memory of having slept. Now, if consciousness must have existed in the state of deep sleep, you must have existed as consciousness only. You did not exist as a body, mind, intellect or anything else. You were not even aware of the act of breathing at that time. You existed as consciousness only.
So, do you believe that your essential nature is consciousness? Even minus all these appurtenances of body, mind, intellect, if you can exist nevertheless, why should you imagine that you are the body, mind, intellect, etc.? If I can exist minus something, that thing from which I am withdrawn is not me, really speaking. If I can be safe without something, that something is redundant. Therefore, the body is a redundant thing, and the mind and intellect are also not us. You are pure shuddha chaitanya, as it is called – Pure Consciousness. In that state you existed. There is no other thing that can be regarded as an attribute of your being in that condition. Consciousness was your essential nature.
What were you conscious of? You were conscious of nothing; it was conscious of consciousness only. It was a consciousness of existence, about which we discussed earlier. It was not a consciousness of something; it was a consciousness of consciousness existing. You were aware that you were aware, that is all – nothing more, nothing less. It was Being-Consciousness, and you were very happy, so it was Bliss also. You know how happy you are after having gone into a good sleep. You rub your eyes and you would like to continue to sleep a little more. You were so free in sleep that you would like to go to sleep again. All the botheration, the turmoil of this world is no longer there. Sometimes you feel: "Let me go to bed and forget the devil of this world." Thus, in the state of deep sleep you existed as Pure Consciousness. Sat-chit-ananda was your real nature in the state of deep sleep.
This Consciousness, which is sat-chit-ananda, was not merely inside the body, as you may wrongly imagine once again, even after having deduced this wonderful conclusion that you were Pure Consciousness. It is a wonderful conclusion, indeed, that you are essentially Pure Consciousness, but again you may commit the mistake of thinking that it is inside the body. Pure Consciousness is not inside anything; it is all things. We have already concluded in earlier sessions that consciousness is all-pervading; it cannot be confined to one individuality only. To be conscious that it is only in one place and not in another place is to virtually accept that consciousness is in another place also. Otherwise, how would consciousness know that it is not in some other place unless it has already been there? Hence, the negation of consciousness in some other place is actually an affirmation of it in that place. Negation is determination.
Therefore, the second conclusion that we draw by this analysis is that in the state of deep sleep we existed as Pure Consciousness – not a little consciousness inside the body, but a pervading consciousness which is everywhere. Cosmic-consciousness was there; Universal-consciousness was our essential nature in deep sleep. But why is it that we are not aware of such a condition? We wake up as the same fools that we were before we entered the state of deep sleep. We do not wake up as wise persons. The same idiot goes and the same idiot comes back. Why is this, in spite of this wondrous conclusion? A peculiar operation is catching hold of us. The impression and the impact caused by this operation is the reason why we come up as the old fools, though it appears that we were not really fools during deep sleep.
We have passed through various lives; we have taken many births. This life is one link in the long chain of the births that we have undergone, maybe thousands in number. In every birth we think something, feel something, do something; and every thought, every feeling, every action creates an impression in the psyche. The psyche is nothing but the individualised centre of consciousness. This impression is nothing but a remnant of a desire remaining after a particular experience. If we see something, we would like to see it again. If we like something, we want to continue with that liking again, as much as possible. The like and the dislike, so-called, which is a basic operation of the mind of an individual, create an impression in the mind – a groove, as it were – and create a propulsion in the psyche to repeat the experience again. This goes on day after day, every day, and we pile up impressions, one over the other, so that these heaped-up impressions become something like a thick cloud covering our consciousness.
This happens in one life; but if many lives are taken in this manner, what would happen? There would be complete darkness – like an eclipse of the sun or the experience of utter midnight during the monsoon season – even in the waking condition, even in the daytime. This cloud weighs so heavily upon us that it does not permit us to know that we were aware in the state of deep sleep. Thus the transcendental being that we really are in the state of deep sleep is almost a negation of our existence because of the heavy weight that is sitting upon us.
Suppose you are given a very good lunch, very tasty, and at the same time five quintals of heavy weight are placed on your head. Will you enjoy the food? Unless that weight is removed, this eating has no meaning. So this experience of a transcendental awareness of your true nature in the state of deep sleep does not have any significance for you on account of the heavy weight of karma potentials which compel you to think only in one way, in a stereotyped fashion like with blinkers, as it were. And you cannot think in any other way. You may take any number of lives, pass through birth after birth, but you are the same person. You do not become different, because you are whipped by the desires which have produced those impressions earlier. As a horse being whipped by a rider is compelled to move in one direction only, you are forced to think only in one way: this space, this time, this causation, this object, this person, this me, this somebody else.
The Mandukya Upanishad gives this analysis of our basic nature, but it is said that we will attain moksha by gaining this knowledge: Mandukyam ekam evalam mumukshunam vimuktaye. How will we get moksha by knowing this? It is also added that we are the same foolish person; we have never become different. This foolishness of ours can be removed by the gradual practice of yoga. The suggestion of a particular kind of yoga that is made by the Mandukya Upanishad is the recitation of pranava, or omkara. It has a simple way, a very easy means of meditation to tell us. It is no complicated thing – just recitation of pranava. OM is the pranava, or the omkara, which is a blend of three syllables or letters: A, U, M. A-U-M becomes OM.
When you chant OM, when you articulate your vocal organ in the recitation of OM, all parts of the vocal organ act simultaneously in such a way that they are supposed to be uttering every letter at that time. This is why all languages are supposed to be included in OM. All the articulatory process takes place in the recitation of OM, if you can properly observe it.
The visva, as I mentioned, is the name given to the waking consciousness; the dreaming consciousness is called taijasa; the sleeping consciousness is called prajna and the transcendental consciousness is the Atman. So, visva, taijasa, prajna and Atman are the designations of the very same consciousness involved in the physical body and the physical sensations involved in dream perception, involved in sleep, and not involved in anything – existing as transcendent. In a way, the letters of the mantra OM – A, U, M – are identified by the Mandukya Upanishad, with these three states. 'A' is waking, 'U' is dreaming, 'M' is sleeping and AUM, or OM, is the Atman. Tasya vacakah pranavah (Y.S. 1.27), says Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras: "OM is the name of the Ultimate Reality." The Name of God is OM; He has no other name. As God is all-pervading, His name also should be all-inclusive. We do not call Him 'ka', 'kha', 'ga', 'gha' or 'A', 'B', 'C', 'D'.
This AUM is an inarticulate universalised vibration. It is not actually a letter or a word, but a vibration. OM is to be chanted for the sake of the removal of the dross accumulated in your psyche, in the form of impressions of past karmas. Merge waking in dream, merge dreaming in sleep and merge sleep in the Atman. Draw the consciousness gradually from waking to dream; that is to say, draw it from the waking body consciousness to the psychological consciousness, from that to the sleep consciousness. How do you do this? In the beginning, you have to be seated in a suitable posture and slowly articulate this beautiful name of God, which is OM or pranava.
The scripture says that in the beginning, the Vedas did not exist. Eka eva pura vedah pranavah sarva vanmayah (Bhagavata 9.48), says the Srimad Bhagavata Maha Purana. In the Krita Yuga, the Golden Age as we call it, the Vedas did not exist; only pranava existed. Also, that religion was not Hinduism, Christianity, etc. Hamsa is the name of the religion of the Krita Yuga. Hamsa means just love of God. It is not love through some 'ism' – this community, that community. No communities existed in the Krita Yuga; it was total man loving total God, and OM was considered as inclusive of all the three Vedas. From Akara, Ukara, Makara, Prajapati is supposed to have extracted the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda; and the three Padas of the Gayatri Mantra are supposed to be extractions of the three Vedas and are also supposed to be embedded in AUM, so that all the Veda is inside OM – all the three Vedas.
To practise this meditation according to the Mandukya Upanishad, be seated properly, without distractions, and chant Aaaauuuummmmm. Take a deep breath and then chant Aaaauuuuummmmmmm, Aaaauuuuummmmmmm, Aaaauuuuummmmmmm, Aaaauuuuummmmmmm, Aaaauuuuummmmmmm. When you recite OM like this, don't you feel a sense of satisfaction inside? In a few seconds you feel the difference; you feel as if you are a different person altogether. You are not the same body; for a few seconds you are not even aware of the body. It was melting, as it were; it has actually melted. Every day practise this chant for fifteen minutes, in the morning and in the evening. You will feel as if the body is melting. Actually, physically it may not melt; the sensation of melting will arise on account of the withdrawal of the consciousness from the body. It will withdraw itself from even the mind and it will withdraw itself even from your personality consciousness.
Only by the chanting of OM can one enter into the Bliss of the Atman, is the teaching of the Mandukya Upanishad. All yogas are combined in this. So, do this practice yourself. When you are alone somewhere – under a tree, near the Ganga, in the temple, in your room, wherever you are – sit for a few minutes and chant in the same way as I told you, with a sonorous sound, beautifully, calmly, creating an equilibrated vibration in your personality. You will forget all your worries; you will feel happy inside; you will feel a tingling sensation in the body as if the consciousness were slowly getting withdrawn from the body. This is the practice of the yoga of the Mandukya Upanishad.