kaThopaniShad Series Part – 20
In the earlier mantra (1.3.8) the upaniShad had said that the aspirant-jIva who is endowed with an informed intellect will certainly attain the goal of liberation. This goal was stated to be the Supreme abode/state. In the sequel this state, the goal of all sAdhana, is specified:
विज्ञानसारथिर्यस्तु मनःप्रग्रहवान् नरः ।
सोऽध्वनः पारमाप्नोति तद्विष्णोः परमं पदम् ॥ ९ ॥
विज्ञानसारथिः यः तु he who has the intellect as his charioteer मनःप्रग्रहवान् नरः holding the reins of the mind firmly स he अध्वनः पारम् end of the road आप्नोति reaches तत् that is विष्णोः Vishnu’s परमं Supreme पदम् abode
A man who has discrimination for his charioteer and holds the reins of the mind firmly, reaches the end of the road; and that is the supreme state of Vishnu.
The kind of aspirant that is ideal for this spiritual journey has been pointed out in the earlier mantras. Here that is summarized:
-The aspirant endowed with an informed intellect that is capable of determining that which is to be sought after and that which is to be given up
-He who has control over his mind
-Quietened the mind
-And therefore pure
Such a one is sure to attain the Supreme Goal of liberation. This goal is characterized by the cessation of saMsAra, transmigratory existence. All bonds that hold one fast to the earthly life, clinging, etc. is ended once and for all. What then is this state, in positive terms? The mantra replies: this is the exalted state of Vishnu, the all-pervading Consciousness. This is known by the technical term ‘vAsudevaH’.
This Supreme, Absolute state is what is longed for by every being at all times but not being guided by the Scripture and the Acharya, not having the desire to know the proper means to tread the definite path of self-realization, one keeps moving in this loop of birth and death, attended by all kinds of miseries. It is knowledge of one’s own true self that brings one to the end of saMsAra and remain forever in the glory of the Self. Shankara explains the term ‘padam’ of the mantra as the state that is of Absolute Truth.
So, it is the Truth about one’s own Self that is realized. It could also be noticed from the mantra that the ‘sAdhana chatuShTaya’, the four-fold discipline consisting of viveka (discrimination), vairAgya (dispassion), shamAdi-ShaTka (six-fold disciplines) and mumukShutva (burning desire for liberation) required for pursuing the path of spiritual sAdhana is nicely contained in the words of the mantra.
Having said this, the upaniShad proceeds to specify the method of attaining the Supreme Self. What we experience, encounter, at the level of ignorance is the gross world, the senses, the mind, etc. The innermost Self that is to be realized is to be discerned by ‘overcoming’ all the ‘entities’ that envelop, as it were, the Self that is never the object but the very subject that we truly are.
इन्द्रियेभ्यः परा ह्यर्था अर्थेभ्यश्च परं मनः ।
मनसस्तु परा बुद्धिर्बोद्धेरामा महान्परः ॥ १० ॥
इन्द्रियेभ्यः पराः हि greater than the senses indeed अर्थाः are the objects अर्थेभ्यः च परं greater than the objects मनः is the mind. मनसः परा greater than the mind बुद्धिः is the intellect बुद्धेः greater than the intellect आत्मा महान् परः is the Great self .
Beyond the senses are the objects; beyond the objects is the mind; beyond the mind, the intellect; beyond the intellect, the Great Atman;
Here the upaniShad adopts a method that might appear somewhat incompatible with the normal understanding we have with things of the world. It says: the sense organs are gross when compared to the objects that they reveal. When do we realize that we have sense organs? It is when we perceive, that is know, the objects of the senses. These objects are of five fundamental groups: shabda (sound), sparsha (touch), rUpam (form/colour), rasa (taste) and gandha (smell). It is by contacting these, that is, by getting their awareness, that the presence of the sense organs is proved.
In other words, when one is unable to get the sense-inputs from the objects, it could be concluded that the sense organs concerned are not working. So thereby is established a kind of a hierarchy where the sense objects occupy a status that is higher than the sense organs that get validated by getting the knowledge of the specific sense-object. In this respect the upaniShad says that the objects are ‘beyond/above’ the sense organs. Not only that, the objects are subtle when compared to the sense organs in the sense that the ‘cause’ is subtler than the ‘effect’. In the manner of the upaniShadic teaching adopted here, the sense objects are therefore the self of the sense organs that grasp them. This is in the sense of the cause being the self of the effect.
Now, the mind is stated to be higher, subtler and the self of the objects. Here by the word ‘mind’ is indicated the subtle matter that is the fundamental cause of the mind. The subtle matter, the five tanmAtra-s, are the causes of the sankalpa (volition), vikalpa (conjecture), etc. Even greater, subtler and self of the manas (mind) is the buddhi, intellect. Here too, the word ‘buddhi’ indicates that subtle matter that has gone into producing the faculty of determining, etc. And greater than the buddhi is that Cosmic Intellect which underlies all the intellects of the entire range of creatures. This entity is regarded as the Greatest in/after creation, mahAn. In the process of creation, the first one to manifest from the avyakta (the unmanifest) is this HiraNyagarbha principle which is endowed with the central power of knowledge and activity. It is this entity that is said to be the one beyond the principle called ‘buddhi’ in the foregoing.
Now, the current mantra has spoken of the particular hierarchy that an aspirant has to really know, observe, experience and transcend. There is yet another step in this direction before the upaniShad takes us to the real Self, the innermost principle. And that is being stated in the next mantra.
महतः परमव्यक्तमव्यक्तात्पुरुषः परः ।
पुरुषान्न परं किञ्चित्सा काष्ठा सा परा गतिः ॥ ११ ॥
महतः परम् अव्यक्तम् beyond the Great is the unmanifest अव्यक्तात् पुरुषः परः beyond the unmanifest is the puruSha पुरुषात् न परं किञ्चित् there is nothing beyond/greater than the puruSha सा काष्ठा this is the ultimate सा परा गतिः this is the Supreme Goal.
Beyond the Great Atman, the Unmanifest; beyond the Unmanifest, the Purusha. Beyond the Purusha there is nothing: this is the end, the Supreme Goal.
Even greater, subtler than mahat is the principle called ‘avyakta’ (unmanifest) which is the greatest one being the cause of all creation. It is the ‘self’ of the mahat as well. As the seed of the entire creation it is the undifferentiated name-form source, is the collective state of all the power of cause and effect. All causes of their respective effects are deriving their power from this power specified by names such as avyakta, avyAkRta, AkAsha, etc. This power exists as woof and wharf in the Supreme brahman just as the power of a tree is contained in the potential form in a seed of the banyan tree.
The Supreme Atman, the puruSha, is even greater, subtler and the self of even this avyakta. That is the reason this principle gets the name etymologically ‘puruSha’, the one that fills everything. Since the two mantras being considered now have been specifying one or the other entity to be greater than some other entity, one would think that even this puruSha has something greater than Him. In order to ward off such a doubt the upaniShad says ‘there is none greater than the puruSha.’
Therefore there being none greater than the puruSha it is concluded that He indeed is the ultimate limit of all greatness, subtlety and self-hood. In other words, there is none greater, subtler and the innermost Self other than this puruSha, the Absolute Truth taught by the upaniShad. A realization of this Truth is what is required absolutely for MokSha, liberation, from saMsAra.
In this mantra we find the culmination of the levels in subtlety starting from the sense organs. And hence this is the ultimate goal reaching which the transmigrating jIva-s never return to saMsAra. It is to be carefully noted that ‘reaching’ in this context is not any physical attaining of a geographical location or another person. It is nothing but shedding the finitude that one has been holding due to ignorance. Self-realization is what is meant by ‘reaching’ the Self. The bhagavadgIta verses 8.21 and 15.6 teach this final attainment. Not returning to saMsAra is the mark of true liberation. All the upaniShad-s aim at teaching the means to this goal.