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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Major Upanishads - 2

2. Kena Upanishad ((Talavakra Sama Veda) This Upanishad points out the paradoxical nature of Brahman, the absolute. Brahman is a single unitary Reality of both the Universe (as Brahman) and of the individual (as Atman).  This Upanishad has one of the famous passages in which the devas (deities, gods) are rejoicing about their victory, not realizing that their strength is derived from Brahman. When Brahman appears, the devas are puzzled and send out agni (fire) to find out who that brilliant person is. When agni arrives, Brahman asks “who are you?” Agni answers arrogantly that he can burn anything. Brahman places a piece of dry grass and asks Agni to burn. Agni cannot, even with all his powers. He returns back meekly and tells the other gods what happened. Vayu (air) goes to greet Brahman. Brahman asks “Who are you?” Vayu is arrogant and says he can blow away anything with his might. Brahman places a piece of dry grass and asks Vayu to blow it away. Of course, he cannot and returns back meekly. Then Indra (the chief deity) comes to meet Brahman (Indra is the king of the devas in mythology. In metaphysics, he is the mind that controls the sense organs). Indra recognizes at one that it is Brahman who is the source of energy of all gods. It is interesting that Brahman disappears as soon as Indra arrives; instead, Mother Goddess appears and tells Indra who that brilliant Brahman is.      

The set of slokas (stanza) starting with “yah manasaa na manutey” point out that all our organs and our mind function illumined by something other than themselves and also serve that master. That something or someone, that master is Brahman. Just as there is a master of the house, there is a master of this body. Our mind functions driven by some other force, against the background of which we realize our mind.  

This last concept will have to change with the recent research on Consciousness. That something behind the individual “I” is now called the core consciousness, mediated by the brain-stem nuclei and neural networks. Just as several units of the same machinery perform several functions towards a single product, several units of the brain stem structure and the brain perform the same function of the mind namely awareness of the mind. (Awareness of the mind, the subject of the mind is akin to the “transient I” Ramana refers to). The structures of the brain and the networks are the anatomical and functional sources of our awareness and of the perception of diversity, of the “many”. The mind with its component functions such as perception, memory, recall and synthesis is the  unifying factor, the I . However, the basic function of the core consciousness itself is a mystery. In other words, what is the basis of that individual, that small "i"? In the words of Brahadaaranyaka Upanishad, what is the basic note of the flute from which this series of individual notes emanate? Is that what we should consider as Brahman?  

In my personal view, it is alright to reflect on these questions and disagree with the masters of the past. Mystery will be still there. The questions will be there. If we can experience the One in the many as pointed out in Isa Upanishad and recognize the subject in all of our thinking and merge with that subject, is that not meditation? What happens then? Each one of us will have to try and find out.