18.8 A SUPPLEMENT ON SAMBHUTI AND ASAMBHUTI
Verses 12, 13 and 14.
Immediately after these three verses the Upanishad goes on to give another unit of three verses which also generate the same type of variation in its interpretations. Verses 12, 13 and 14 say exactly similar things about two other concepts, the words that are used, being sambhUti and asambhUti. Variously these may mean, respectively, Birth and non-birth; Becoming and non-becoming; The Relative and the Absolute; The Body and the Spirit, the Manifest and the Unmanifest, KArya-brahman and KAraNa-brahman; the Phenomenal World and the undifferentiated PrakRRiti. The three verses are almost verbatim the same as Nos.9, 10 and 11 except for the replacement of the words ‘avidya’ by ‘sambhUti’ and and ‘vidyA’ by ‘asambhUti’. While the previous three verses talk about the upAsanA (worship), these three verses 12, 13 and 14 talk about the upAsya (the worshipped) in the same profound but cryptic manner. The details would take us into technicalities and so while we attempt a summary below we also refer the interested reader to the original bhAshyas of the Acaryas, commentaries by Sri Aurobindo and other seers and experts of the 20th century.
SambhUti and asambhUti
andham tamaH pravishanti ye asambhUtim-upAsate /
tato bhUya iva te tamo ya u sambhUtyAM ratAH // 12 //
anyad-evAhus-sambhavAt anyadAhur-asambhavAt /
iti shushruma dhIrANAm ye nas-tad vicacaxire // 13 //
sambhUtim-ca vinAsham-ca yastad-vedobhayam saha /
vinAshena mRRityum tIrtvA sambhUtyA-mRtam-ashnute // 14 //
Into blinding darkness enter those who worship the undifferentiated PrakRRiti (asambhUti); they who worship the Phenomenal world (sambhUti) go into an even greater darkness. There are other things which have been said for the Phenomenal World. Others say something else about the Unmanifest. This is how we have heard from great people (dhIras) who have talked about these things after good counsel and enquiry. He who knows (veda) both the Manifest and the Unmanifest together, transcends death by Unmanifest and through the Manifest gains Immortality.
In the three previous mantras (9, 10 and 11) the vidyA-avidyA complex of processes was mentioned. In the present three mantras, the identity of their subject-matter is being mentioned. Whatever has birth and life is called KArya-brahman. This is sambhUti. Whatever is never born is asambhUti, the KAraNa-brahman. The KArya state dissolves into this. Though the same person uses the sense organs of cognition as well as the sense organs of action, the one who uses only the former reaches the darkness of inertness, whereas more suffering is there for the one who acts through only the karmendriyas and thus propitiates only the KArya-brahman (sambhUti). The word ‘ratAH’ in the text indicates that the worship here is not knowing but doing. The KArya-brahman is the manifest universe. It is the body. So worship of KArya-brahman means taking care of the body, involvement in sensual enjoyment. There is a selfish purpose here. This selfish streak brings one down the spiritual ladder.
The one who discards the nurturing of the body and works for the good of others without selfishness is the worshipper of the kAraNa-brahman. This is called asambhUti. It is the expansion (asambhUti) of the intellect as against its contraction into narrowness, which stands for sambhUti. But the Real Ultimate is beyond both the manifest formful universe and the unmanifest formless mAyA. The worshipping of either should be just a means to transcend both.
The result of the exclusive upAsanA of the kArya-brahman is a worldly gain through extra-natural powers though simultaneously ignorance, delusion, absence of discretion, and suffering have also been indicated here. On the other hand the result of the exclusive upAsanA of the kAraNa-brahman is a mental exploration into all outreaches of logic. Useless thoughts keep overflowing. One gets absorbed in the PrakRRiti. The ideal way is therefore to be in the manifested world bodily but with a mind centred in the unmanifest Absolute, without any attachment to anything that is non-Self.
The fourteenth verse which makes this ideal recommendation uses the word ‘vinAsha’ for which the literal meaning is ‘destruction’ or ‘dissolution’. This stands for kAraNa-brahman because it contains the dissolved state of the manifest universe. One who worships the kAraNa-brahman reduces his attachment to the body and lives as per mantra 1 & 2 of this Upanishad. Such a person uses his discretion to inquire about the distinction between Self and non-Self, purifies his intellect and realises his Self through jnAna.
The above interpretation of ‘vinAsha’ as ‘asambhUti’ differs from Shankara’s unique interpretation of ‘vinAsha’ as ‘sambhUti’, because ‘vinAsha’, he says, is an ‘effect’ and therefore it should stand for ‘sambhUti’. And to complement this, he reads the second half of the verse as ‘vinAshena mRRityuM tIrtvA asambhUtyA amRRitam-ashnute’. But the Ramanuja school differs from this. For details of these differences in interpretation one may have to refer to the original commentaries.