S N Sastri, Tuesday, February 15, 2011 4:36 am

hastAmalakIyaM (3 of 3)

Part 3 –

Now the question arises: if the Self cannot be known by the mind and the senses, how can it be realized at all? The answer is given in verse 6.

ya eko vibhAti svataH shuddhacetAH

prakAshasvarUpo’pi nAneva dhIShu |

sharAvodakastho yathA bhAnurekaH

sa nityopalabdhisvarUpo’ham AtmA ||6

yaH– That which, svataH– by itself, shuddhacetAH– to those of pure minds, vibhAti– shines, prakAshasvarUpaH– being self-luminous, ekaH api– though one only, dhIShu– in intellects (minds), nAnA iva– as if many, yathA– just as, ekaH bhAnuH– the one sun, sharAvodakasthaH– (reflected) in various pots of water, sa nityopalabdhisvarUpo’ham AtmA– as before.

6. The Self, being self-luminous, shines by itself to those whose minds have become absolutely pure. Though only one, the Self appears as many and different in different intellects, in the same way as the sun, though only one, appears as many when reflected in different pots of water. I am that Self which is of the nature of eternal consciousness.

The Self is ever the subject and cannot therefore become an object to be experienced by the sense organs. When the senses are completely withdrawn from external objects and the mind is concentrated on the Self, the Self is realized. The kaThopaniShad says (II.i.1) :– The Lord made the senses outgoing. Therefore they can know only external objects and not the inner Self. A rare discriminating individual, desiring immortality, turns his eyes (i.e. all the sense organs) away from external objects and sees the indwelling Self.

When the mind becomes pure, that is to say, totally free from attachment and aversion, the Self shines by itself. shrI shaMkara says in his commentary on the bRRihadAraNyaka upaniShad, (4.4.20) that ‘attainment of knowledge of brahman‘ (or the Self) means only the cessation of identification with external things (such as the body, mind, possessions, relatives and so on). Identity with brahman is not some thing that requires to be newly established, because it is always there. Everyone is in reality always identical with brahman, but wrongly considers himself to be different because of beginningless avidyA or ignorance of one’s real nature. Therefore the scriptures do not enjoin that identity with brahman should be established, but only that the false identification with things other than brahman should be given up. When the identification with other things ceases, the identity with one’s own Self, which is natural, automatically prevails. This is what is meant by the statement in the present verse that the Self shines by itself to those whose mind has become pure.

The Self (also spoken of as AtmA or brahman) is only one, but it appears as many because of the limiting adjunct (upAdhi) in the form of the body and mind. The Self reflected in the mind is the jIva or individual soul and, since the minds are different and many, the jIvas also appear to be many and different from one another. This is comparable to the many reflections of the one sun in the water in different containers.

How does the one Self illumine all intellects simultaneously? This doubt is answered in verse 7.  

yathAnekacakShuHprakAsho ravirna

krameNa prakAshIkaroti prakAshyaM |

anekA dhiyo yastathaikaprabodhaH

sa nityopalabdhisvarUpo’ham AtmA ||7

yathA– Just as, anekacakShuHprakAshaH– who illumines many eyes, raviH– the sun, prakAshyaM– the illumined object, na krameNa– not one after another, prakAshIkaroti– illumines, tathA– in the same way, yaH ekaprabodhaH– the one consciousness, anekAH– many, dhiyaH– intellects, sa nityopalabdhisvarUpo’ham AtmA– as before.

7. Just as the sun who gives light to all eyes does not reveal the illumined objects by turns to one person after another (but all eyes are able to see at the same time), so also the Self which is only one gives consciousness to all intellects simultaneously. 

The doubt raised was how, if there is only one Self (AtmA), it can illumine all intellects at the same time. This doubt has already been answered by the analogy of the same sun appearing in different vessels of water as so many reflections. The present verse gives another example.

vivasvatprabhAtaM yathArUpamakShaM

pragRRihNAti nAbhAtamevaM vivasvAn |

yadAbhAta AbhAsayatyakShamekaH

sa nityopalabdhisvarUpo’ham AtmA ||8

yathA– Just as, vivasvatprabhAtaM– illumined by the sun, rUpaM– a form (or colour), akShaM– the eye, pragRRihNAti– receives (sees) clearly, na abhAtaM– (but) not what is not illumined, yadAbhAtaH– illumined by whom, ekaH– the one (sun), akShaM– the eye, AbhAsayati– makes capable of revealing, sa nityopalabdhisvarUpo’ham AtmA– as before.

8. Just as the eye sees clearly only objects that are illumined by the sun, but not what is not so illumined, the sun itself is able to make the eye capable of seeing objects only because it is itself illumined by the Self.

The sun illumines all objects and makes them visible to us. But the sun itself derives its power to illumine objects only from brahman. The bRRihadaranyaka upaniShad says (3.7.9):– He who dwells in the sun, and is within it, whom the sun does not know, whose body is the sun and who controls the sun from within, is the Internal Ruler (antaryaAmI), your own (the questioner’s own) immortal self. There are similar statements in this section of this Upanishad about the earth, water, fire, sky, air, heaven, etc. The purport of these statements is that everything in this universe is pervaded and controlled by brahman as the inner Ruler. The sun, earth, water, etc., are what they are only because of brahman, the substratum of all.

shrI shaMkara says in his commentary on this section of this upaniShad:–The body and organs of the presiding deity of the earth are regularly made to function or refrain from functioning by the mere presence of the Lord (Ishvara or antaryAmI, Inner Controller) as witness. Such an Ishvara, called nArAyaNa, who controls the deity of the earth, directs her from within, is the Internal Controller, who is the self of all. The same remarks apply to water, fire, sun, etc. By the word ‘sun’ what is meant here is not the mere ball of fire which is visible to us, but its presiding deity. The inner self of the deity of the sun is the same as the inner self of all beings, namely, brahman, as the following statement in the taittirIya upaniShad (II.8.14) shows:– This one who is in man and that one who is in the sun, He is one (brahman). The taittirIya upaniShad describes how everything in the universe is controlled by brahman as the Inner Controller (II.8.1):– From fear of Him the wind blows, from fear of Him the sun rises, from fear of Him agni and indra (perform their functions) and the god of Death runs (doing his duty).

yathA sUrya eko’psvanekashcalAsu

sthirAsvapyananvagvibhAvyasvarUpaH |

calAsu prabhinnAsu dhIShvevamekaH

sa nityopalabdhisvarUpo’ham AtmA ||9

yathA– Just as, ekaH– the one, sUryaH– sun, calAsu– in moving, sthirAsu– (or) still, apsu- water, anekaH api– though many (as reflections), ananvagvibhAvyasvarUpaH– does not take on the characteristics of the water (the reflecting medium), evaM– similarly, ekaH– the one (Self), prabhinnAsu– in different, calAsu– ever-changing, dhIShu– intellects, sa nityopalabdhisvarUpo’ham AtmA– as before.

9. The one sun appears as many reflections in different containers of water, moving or still, but the sun remains unaffected by the nature of the water in which it is reflected. Similarly, the one Self, though reflected in different intellects that are ever-changing, remains changeless and untainted by the character of the intellects.  

The Self (or brahman) reflected in the intellect is the jIva, or individual soul. The intellects vary in nature, but brahman is ever the same and is not in the least affected by the characteristics of the intellects. The jIva, through ignorance, identifies himself with the body-mind complex and attributes to himself the joys and sorrows of the body-mind complex. When the jIva gives up his identification with the body-mind complex he realizes that he is brahman.


yathA niShprabhaM manyate cAtimUDhaH |

tathA baddhavadbhAti yo mUDhadRRiShTeH

sa nityopalabdhisvarUpo’ham AtmA ||10

yathA– Just as, ghanacChannadRRiShTiH– whose vision is obstructed by a cloud, atimUDhaH– a very ignorant person, ghanacChannamarkaM– the sun covered by a cloud, niShprabhaM- as devoid of brilliance, manyate– would think of, tathA- in the same way, yaH– that which, mUDhadRRiShTeH– to the deluded person, baddhavat– as if bound, bhAti– appears, sa nityopalabdhisvarUpo’ham AtmA– as before.

10. Just as a very ignorant person whose vision is obstructed by a cloud thinks that the sun, covered by a cloud, is devoid of brilliance, so also, to a person who is deluded by avidyA the AtmA appears as bound. That AtmA which is of the nature of eternal consciousness I am.

Due to avidyA, ignorance of one’s real nature, a person identifies himself with the body-mind complex and looks upon himself as a limited being, in bondage. Even when a person thinks of himself as bound and suffering, he is really the ever-blissful brahman. It is not as if he is initially in bondage and becomes liberated when he realizes that he is in fact brahman itself. It is only the ignorance of one’s real nature that has to be removed. When what appears to be a snake is realized to be only a rope, it is not as if the snake has gone away and a rope has come in its place. It was only the rope that was always there, but was wrongly seen as a snake. So also, it is not as if there was really bondage earlier, and liberation was attained on the dawn of Self-knowledge.

samasteShu- vastuShvanusyUtamekaM

samastAni vastUni yaM na spRRishanti |

viyadvatsadA shuddhamacChasvarUpaH 

sa nityopalabdhisvarUpo’ham AtmA ||11

samasteShu– In all, vastuShu– beings and objects, anusyUtaM- pervading, ekaM– the one (Self), yaM– whom, samastAni– all, vastUni- beings and objects, na spRRishanti– do not taint, sadA– always, viyadvat– like space, shuddhaM– pure (free from attachment and aversion), acChasvarUpaH– of immortal nature, sa nityopalabdhisvarUpo’ham AtmA– as before.

11. The one Self which pervades everything in this universe, but which nothing can taint, which is always pure like space, which is free from the impurity in the form of attachment and aversion, which is immortal, that Self of the nature of eternal consciousness, I am.

Space pervades all objects, but is never tainted by the impurities in those objects. So also the Self is never tainted by the defects such as attachment, aversion, anger, greed, etc., in the minds of living beings which the Self pervades. It is always absolutely pure, changeless and immortal.  

upAdhau yathA bhedatA sanmaNInAM

tathA bhedatA buddhibhedeShu te’pi |

yathA candrikANAM jale ca~ncalatvaM

tathA ca~ncalatvam tavApIha viShNo ||12

yathA– Just as, sanmaNInAM– of crystals, upAdhau– due to the limiting adjunct, bhedatA– difference, tathA– so also, te api– for you also, buddhibhedeShu– because of the different intellects, bhedatA– difference, yathA– just as, candrikANAM– of the moons, jale– in water, ca~ncalatvaM– movement, tathA– similarly, te api– for you also, iha- here (in different intellects), ca~ncalatvaM– changeful appearance, viShNo- O  All-pervading Lord!

12. O All-pervading Lord! Just as a crystal looks different due to different limiting adjuncts, you also appear to be different because of being reflected in different intellects. Just as the reflections of the moon in different vessels of water also move in accordance with the movement of the water, you also appear to undergo change because of association with different intellects.

A crystal appears red when it is in the proximity of a red piece of cloth, green when in contact with a green piece of cloth and so on. By itself it is colourless, but takes on the colour of the substance with which it is in contact. A substance which imparts its quality to another thing in contact with it is called an ‘upAdhi’.  

This upAdhi is what is known as the limiting adjunct. The crystal which is colourless takes on different colours according to the limiting adjunct. Similarly, brahman or the Self which is changeless, appears to take on the attributes of the intellect (or mind) in which it is reflected. The reflection of brahman in the intellect is the jIva or individual soul. The jIvas, as such, appear to be different from one another, but this difference is due only to the intellect which is the upAdhi or limiting adjunct. In essence, every jIva is brahman who is changeless.  

Part 1, Part 2

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