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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Inspiration from Brhadaranyaka Upanishad

Dear Asha, Ajay, Ravi and Ariana,

Last week,I woke up one morning to witness a glorious sunrise. As many times as all of us have seen a rising sun and the arrival of a newborn, they are both awe-inspiring. They are full of spiritual meaning for me.

During morning meditation following that sunrise, I was thinking of Chapter 2, Section 4 of Brhadaranyaka Upanishad. I went back and re-read it. It is one of the most important and thought-provoking sections of the Upanishads, in my view. This is a dialogue between Yagnavalkya and his wife Maitreyi. Yagnavalkya has decided to go on Vanaprastha (leaving everything and retreating to the forest for meditation) and informs her of this decision. The conversation goes somewhat like this.

Maitreyi (M) says: “ what use is this wealth, once you are gone? Will wealth make me immortal?” Yagnavalkya (Y) answers: “ No, your life will be exactly like it is for people with all the wealth. There is no prospect for immortality in wealth (Amrthathvasya thu na aasha asthi vitthena)”.

M says that Y should teach her That by which she can attain immortality and do not bother with other things (such as wealth). Y is pleased and says: “sit down and I will explain” (aassva, vyakkhyaasyami) . Then he says: “The husband is dear to the wife not for the sake of the husband, but it is for her own sake that he is dear. Verily, the wife is dear to the husband not for the sake of the wife, but it is for his own sake that she is dear”. Then he goes on to explain that it is the same way with the son for the father, wealth for the owner etc! How much more psychology can one teach in one sentence?

Several passages later, Y says: “ Just as one is not able to grasp by themselves the particular notes of a drum that is being beaten, but it is only by grasping the basic and general note of the drum, or the general effects of particular strokes that these notes or grasped; ….. and Just as one is not able to grasp by themselves the particular notes of a lute (veena) that is being played , but it is only by grasping the basic and general note of the lute, or the general effects of particular playing on it that these notes or grasped….” ,even so the particular knowledge of the existing universe in the waking state has no validity of its own apart from the Supreme principle which pervades it"!

Here come two thoughts. This idea of relationship between the particular and the general are discussed by Greek philosophers also starting with Socrates, especially Aristotle. And, when Ramana Maharishi and Nisargadatta Maharaj ask you to go deeper and deeper asking yourself “who am I” and talk about the “Transient I” and Pure Awareness, this is what they are pointing to.

This passage was what inspired me to write my thoughts, as they appeared in my mind. Here they are without any editing:

I am the Basic Note
Of the flute
It needs a puff of air
The Breath of Life
The Puff from Whom?
and the Note from Where?

In the same chapter of the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, there is another remarkable question by Y in response to a remark by M that she is confused! (In Sanskrit the passage reads: Bhagavan maa amoomuha, meaning Your Reverence has confused me). Y says: “What is there for confusion? You are intelligent enough to know. Through what should one know That because of which all of this is known? Through what, my dear, should one know the Knower?”

I hope you will reflect on that question as much as possible. It will be a remarkable journey, I can assure you.