by Swami Krishnananda
We have been going through various important themes of the teachings of the Upanishads, and many subjects have been covered.
There was a great sage called Yajnavalkya. His name occurs in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. He was a master of spiritual wisdom. One day, when he had become aged, he told his wife Maitreyi, and another wife known as Katyayani, that he was retiring; and he said: "Whatever property I have, I shall divide between both of you. I shall take to sannyasa and go for meditation, and you take my property."
The younger wife, Katyayani, was very happy. "Good riddance! Now the old man goes," she perhaps thought. But the other wife, Maitreyi, was very mature.
Maitreyi said, "Sire, you want to offer me all your wealth. May I ask you one question: Can I become immortal through wealth? With all the treasures that you are now prepared to offer to me, can I become immortal?"
Yajnavalkya replied, "Far from it. You will be a well-to-do person like any other in the world, but there is no hope of immortality through wealth."
To that, Maitreyi said, "Then what for is this wealth that you are offering me? What shall I do with it, if through that I shall not become immortal?"
There is a very important psychological truth hidden in this query of Maitreyi, the consort of Yajnavalkya. Immortality is timeless existence. It can also mean, for our own practical purposes, a very long life that is not going to end easily; and if immortality cannot be gained through wealth, perhaps long life also cannot be assured through wealth; and this would mean that our life can end at any time, even with all the wealth that we may be having. If tomorrow is the last day in this world for a person possessing large treasures, what good is that treasure? If the owner or the possessor of the wealth is not to exist at all, what can wealth do? What is its utility? Do we love wealth, and what is this love of wealth for?
"Your question is a very important one," said Yajnavalkya. "You are very wise in raising this point. You are very dear to me. Come on; I shall teach you something. Sit down, and I shall speak to you."
Na va are patyuh kamaya patih priyo bhavati, atmanas tu kamaya patih priyo bhavati; na va are jayayai kamaya jaya priya bhavati; atmanas tu kamaya jaya priya bhavati;... na va are sarvasya kamaya sarvam priyam bhavati, atmanas tu kamaya sarvam priyam bhavati (Brihad. 2.4.5): "Nobody loves anything for its own sake." Here is a masterstroke of genius from Yajnavalkya, the great sage: Nobody loves anything for its own sake. We are accustomed to this slogan 'love', and we consider that as something very pre-eminent in our daily life. We love people, we love wealth, we love land, we love property. There is such a thing called love in this world, but who does love want, and what is the purpose of this love?
Psychologically, as well as metaphysically and philosophically, there seems to be an error in our notion that anything can be loved at all. The word 'love' becomes a misnomer when we investigate into its essence. If by love we mean affectionately clinging to something that is other than our own self, then love does not exist in this world. If love means asking for something other than one's own self, clinging to something other than one's self, feeling happy with that which is not one's self – if that is the definition of love, then love is hypocrisy; it does not exist. But if we say that love does not always mean love for something other than one's own self – that it should be love for one's own self – who will love one's own self? That is, again, a psychological problem. Neither does love for another seem to be justifiable, nor does love for one's own self seem to be meaningful.
"For the sake of the Self, everything is dear" – is a very precise statement of Sage Yajnavalkya. This statement is so precise, so concentrated, that its meaning is not obviously clear on its surface because it does not appear that people love themselves, and it is difficult to make sense of this statement if you just say you love property because you are loving your Self. Nobody will understand what exactly this statement means. Am I loving myself when I love property? It does not look like that. I cling to something that I regard as my belonging. It does not mean that I am clinging to my own body when I am clinging to something which is my belonging – property, wealth, treasure, relation. Yajnavalkya says: "You do not understand things properly. That is why the meaning is not clear to you."
We have, in our earlier discussions, concluded that everything in the world has a pure subjectivity in itself. It is not true that things are objects of perception. They are also subjects, from their own point of view. If you, as a perceiver or a cogniser of a thing which you consider as an object, remain as a subject for that particular thing which you regard as an object, that other thing may consider you as an object from its own point of view when it beholds you as something outside itself. When I see you, I am a subject perceiving you as an object of my perception. So, you are an object and I am a subject. But when you perceive me, you are a subject and I am an object. Now tell me: Who is the subject and who is the object? Is there anything that we can permanently call an object?
The analysis of consciousness, into which we entered some time back, has shown us that the nature of the subjectivity of anything is essentially consciousness. You have to bring back to your memory this analytical study that we conducted in the course of our going through the Mandukya Upanishad, etc. Consciousness is the essence of the subjectivity of anything. There cannot be a perceiving of anything unless there is a consciousness of perceiving. This consciousness, as we noticed by an analysis of its nature, is incapable of being limited to a finitude of existence. Consciousness cannot be finite. That is to say, it cannot be located in any particular place. It cannot even be said to be inside somebody, because consciousness is the knower of the fact of its being inside someone. If someone says "consciousness is inside", it is consciousness itself making this statement possible. The so-called consciousness, which appears to be inside, seems to be asserting that it is inside. Minus consciousness, no assertion is possible. Therefore, it is consciousness that is apparently holding the opinion that it is inside; that is to say, it is not outside.
I am just repeating briefly, in outline, the processes of analysis that we conducted earlier on this issue. Consciousness is inside and, therefore, it is not outside. How does consciousness know that it is not outside? The process of perception is the commingling of consciousness with that which it considers as its object. Consciousness has to contact the object in order that it may become aware that the object is existing at all. The contacting of consciousness in this manner, in respect of the object, would preclude the old opinion that it is only inside. If it is locked up within the personality of an individual, no one can know that there is anything outside one's own skin. You will not know that there is a tree standing in front of you. Consciousness has to be capable of outstripping the limitations that it appears to be imagining around itself. All perception is an obvious demonstration of the non-finite character of consciousness. It is not merely inside, it is also outside; that is to say, it is everywhere. It is infinite; this is the point.
Yajnavalkya tells us that when we love somebody, some thing, some object, whatever it be, that which pulls us in the direction of the so-called object is not the object by itself, because this object is a subject in its own status. Its essence is not objectivity; its essence is as much a centre of consciousness as our own subjectivity is a centre of consciousness. In all love, in all affections, in all attractions, the Self pulls the Self. It is as if one part of consciousness collides with another part of consciousness in perception. The Universal that is hidden in the so-called object outside pulls the Universal that is present in the subject, as it were, in its own direction, and towards whichever side action is taking place. I hope you understand the point.
As the Bhagavadgita tell us, Sri Krishna, in another context, says that all perception which is sensory is actually the gunas of prakriti coming in contact with the gunas of prakriti. Gunaha guneshu vartante (Gita 3.28): The gunas of prakriti – sattva, rajas and tamas – which are the constituents of the sense organs, come in contact with the very same properties of prakriti which also constitute the object of sense. So the object and the subject come in contact with each other because of the fact that both are constituted of the same substance, prakriti – sattva, rajas, tamas. On a deeper level, we may say that consciousness is the subject and it is also the object.
In technical language, the subject consciousness is called vishayi chaitanya. Vishayi is a Sanskrit word which means something or someone which is conscious of a vishaya, or an object. Vishaya means object, and the object consciousness is called vishaya chaitanya. The process of perception of the object by the subject is called pramana chaitanya, or perceptive consciousness, or we may say perceptional consciousness; and the coming to be aware of the existence of an object – our being aware of the existence of an object – is called prameya chaitanya. The decision that we arrive at that we know the object – the conclusion that the object has been known – is also a consciousness; and that conclusion consciousness in respect of an object being known is called prameya chaitanya. The subject consciousness, which is vishayi, is also called pramatr chaitanya; the object, which is also essentially consciousness, is called vishaya chaitanya; and the process is called pramana chaitanya. You can forget all these words. I am just casually mentioning this technology of perceptional psychology.
The idea is that in all attractions, in all processes of contact of the subject with the object, it may be true that the gunas of prakriti collide with the gunas of prakriti; but, more profoundly, we may say that consciousness collides with consciousness. The sea of consciousness is everywhere in the universe. One eddy or wave of this consciousness is touching another.
Why are we so much attracted towards things? When we are pulled in the direction of something lovable or dear, we seem to lose our senses. We become crazy. Why does it happen? It is because the whole universe is at the back of even this little drop of consciousness which appears as the object. A little wave that is rising up on the surface of the ocean has the entire sea at the back of it, which wells up as this eddy or the wave. The power of the entire sea is behind the wave. We are incapable of resisting the infinite, because nobody can resist an attraction. This is because attractions, which are also loves, arise on account of a psychological impasse created unconsciously by the involvement of consciousness in the sense organs and through the sense organs coming in contact with the object, not knowing the fact that the sense organs themselves are propelled by an inward consciousness of the subject and that there is also something in the object which is basically consciousness.
There is another psychological factor in the process of attraction. We do not get attracted to everything so easily. For instance, a rock on the bank of the river may not attract us so powerfully as the rose flower that is blossoming in the garden, and so on. There are varieties of circumstances which differentiate one kind of perception from another kind of perception. Attractions are the outcome of a sympathy that is established between the subjective consciousness and the contour that is presented by the object outside, notwithstanding the fact that there is consciousness. Now I am touching upon another aspect of the matter altogether, not the metaphysical one.
There are three aspects of this issue. Why is it that we are pulled towards something? One aspect is what has been already told in the Bhagavadgita – gunas propel themselves toward gunas. Prakriti, as the subject, working through the sense organs, is pulled towards itself, as it were, outside, in the form of an object, which also is constituted of the very same prakriti. That is one answer to the question of why one feels pulled or drawn towards another object. The other aspect that I mentioned is that the consciousness that is infinite in nature is 'infinitudinously' – to take one's understanding beyond 'multitudinously' – pulling the subject consciousness, and there is a vice-versa action; subject and object pull each other. The third aspect is that the attractions are conditioned by certain features of the object. The Atman, the Soul, the Self, the consciousness in us is a perfect symmetry in perfection. It is the most beautiful of things. The Soul is the most beautiful thing. Nothing can be beautiful like the Soul. Nobody has seen the Soul, but if you can imagine what beauty is, if you have seen any surpassingly beautiful thing in the world – not a little beautiful thing, but enchanting, absorbing, enrapturing beauty – if you have seen that anywhere, you may say the Soul is something like that. Now, the Soul cannot be attracted to anything unless it sees some sympathy – that is to say, unless some quality of it is also present in that object to which it is attracted. Symmetry is one of these qualities. Any kind of hotchpotch arrangement cannot attract us. We are attracted to methodological arrangement, symmetry, proportion and meaningfulness. A meaningless object cannot attract us as much as a meaningful object.
You may ask me what 'meaningful' is. Meaning is that character in the object by which we can consider that object to be of some utility to us. If it is totally non-utilitarian, if it is a meaningless hotchpotch, then our mind cannot be attracted. Thus, symmetry of contour, perfection of presentation, precision and orderliness, together with the meaning that we see in it, pulls the subject towards the object. However, considering any aspect of the matter, it does not mean that we love the object for its own sake. There is some subjectivity involved in it. Unless a meaning is seen in the object, we will not be pulled towards that object. We want to put that object to some utility. If there is no meaning at all, no attraction takes place. So, na va are sarvasya kamaya sarvam priyam bhavati, atmanas tu kamaya sarvam priyam bhavati (Brihad. 2.4.5): "Nothing is dear for its own sake; for the sake of the Atman, everything is dear." When we love a thing, we are loving our Atman. Now, you may again make the mistake of thinking, "My Atman is inside. How is it that I am loving something outside?" Do not make that mistake. Again and again the same idea will come to the mind: "How can I say that I am loving my own Atman when I am loving something outside?" This Atman is not only inside you. Here is the point that you should always remember. The Atman is somehow or other masquerading in the form of all things outside. The Atman is Infinite Existence. The Infinite pulls the Infinite. The Supreme Self it is that pulls the Supreme Self.