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                                18.3. ISHOPANISHAT P.3

Concordance with Self is Dharma


The other two kinds of doers are known as rAjasa-kartA and tAmasa-kartA. These are classified as murderers of the Soul in the next verse.


asuryA nAma te lokA andhena tamasA vRRitAH /

tAmste pretyAbhigacchanti ye ke cAtmahano janAH // 3 //


Undivine are those worlds enveloped in blinding darkness. Those people who are slayers of the Self go to them after death.


This is because they have not understood the real nature of the Atman. Each object in the world, inert, animal, or human, or the Atman itself, has a nature of its own. This is known as svabhAva – own becoming. Our use of it has to be concordant with it. Otherwise we may be supposed to have killed it. Having an attachment to the things external to the Atman, like the mind, body, senses and sense-objects, is equivalent to the killing of the Atman. Such killers of the Atman are asuras – usually translated as ‘demons’ in English. The correct meaning of the word ‘asura’ is one who revels or takes pleasure in the vital forces and the senses; asushhu ye ramante iti asurAh. ‘asu’ means the vital force or the sense-organ. On the other hand the word ‘sura’ – usually translated as divine being – means one who revels in the Real nature of one’s own Self.  svasvarUpe ramante iti surAh. So the killers of the Self, namely the two kinds of doers mentioned above, go to worlds of blind obscurity since they come in the way of the right manifestation of the One in the Many, and are enveloped in total darkness. Thus the two classes of people, suras and asuras, are not mythological inhabitants of another world – maybe they are – but they are right here among us. The former ones help in the evolution to a higher status of life. The others are discordant with the svadharma of the Self and so they only involute, after death, to dark, blind worlds, having lived their life in spiritual darkness and blindness, totally unillumined.


Eloquence of the Upanishat


The next five verses, Nos. 4 to 8, are one of the most beautiful in the entire Upanishadic literature in the description of the Ultimate. First we take  Nos.4 and 5:


Anejad ekam manaso javIyo nainad devA Apnuvan pUrvamarshhat /

tad dhAvato’nyAn-atyeti tishhTat tasminnapo mAtarishvA dadhAti //4//

tad ejati tan naijati tad dure tadvad antike /

tad antarasya sarvasya tad u sarvasyAsya bAhyataH // 5 //


It never moves, yet it is too swift for the mind. The senses cannot reach it; it is ever beyond their grasp. Remaining still, it outstrips all activity.  Yet in it rests the breath of all that moves. It moves, it moves not. It is far, yet it is near. It is within all this; and yet without all this.



Not moving, but faster than mind – this is one of the paradoxical ways in which the Upanishats describe Brahman, from any description of which words are said to recoil, according to Taittiriyopanishat. Svetasvataropanishat has this to say: Without feet, it runs; without eyes, it sees; without ears, it hears; he knows everything that has to be known; but there is no one who knows him; that One is called the Great Purushha. Unless the mind coordinates with the eyes, the eyes cannot see. Similarly unless the Atman supports it, the mind cannot function. That is why even though the mind is faster than anything, before the mind reaches another place, the Atman which is already there (and everywhere) may be taken to have reached the place earlier.  Thus even though the Atman never moves (because it is beyond time and space) it is too swift for the mind. Remaining still, it beats the senses. The senses themselves cannot reach it, because it is not material. The senses have been programmed  (by the Creator) to go outside, their natural function is to be extrovert. They cannot introvert. So they never perceive the inner Self. Even the mind cannot reach it, because it is not an object of contemplation. Any object thought of by the mind cannot be the subject which makes the mind think. ‘How does the knower know himself’? is a familiar refrain in the Upanishats. The perception of Brahman in the many – as Ishopanishat would want us to practise – has to be practised in the light of the contrast between the stable and the moving, the eternal and the changing, the immutable and the relative, the far and the near.


Seven Cosmic Principles a la Aurobindo


A very technical word is being used here in this Brahman. ‘MatarishvA’ – translated by us ‘the breath of all that moves’.  The literal meaning would be ‘He who extends himself in the Mother or the Source’.  It is the divine principle of life-energy. The Vedas sometimes use it instead of the familiar ‘prANa’. ‘The waters rest in the mAtarishvA’ or ‘In MAtarishvA He bears and sustains all the waters’ is the text. The ‘waters’ here represent according to Sri Aurobindo, the movements of all beings. Aurobindo refers to seven Cosmic Principles in this Movement. Of these, the physical, vital and mental states of Consciousness are the three inferior principles. The remaining four are classified as Superior. They are: Divine Truth (vijnAna), Divine Bliss (Ananda), Divine Will of Consciousness (caitanya) and Divine Being (Para Brahman). The first five states are described in the Taittiriya Upanishad. This is the evolution of Purushha in PrakRRiti – namely from the paraBrahman downwards to the physical state of awareness. And when it comes to involution at the time of Dissolution, it is the same in the reverse order. The ‘MAtarishvA’ does this evolution and involution because of Him, the Transcendental Supreme.

                                                           GO TO P.4

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