The kenopaniShat – Part 6
The student, returning from a session of deep enquiry in a secluded place, reported to the Ācārya that he has known Brahman. He continues:
नाहं मन्ये सुवेदेति नो न वेदेति वेद च ।
यो नस्तद्वेद तद्वेद नो न वेदेति वेद च ॥ २ ॥
न अहं मन्ये I do not think सुवेद इति I know It well नो न वेद इति वेद च nor do I think I have not known यः whoever नः among us तत् वेद तत् वेद नो न वेद इति knows It and yet does not know It वेद च he knows.
The disciple said: I do not think I know It well, nor do I think I do not know It. He among us who knows the meaning of “Neither do I not know, nor do I know”—knows Brahman.
‘I do not think that I know Brahman well.’ When asked by the Ācārya ‘But it is certain that Brahman is not known by you.’ the student replies: ‘Not that I do not know, but neither is it that I have known.’
Is it not a contradiction that I do not think I know It well and that I have not known and know It? If you do not think you know It well, how can you think that you know well? If you consider that you have certainly known It, why do you not consider that you know it well? The same object, barring doubt and misconception, cannot be both known and at the same time not well known by a person.
Even after being ‘shaken’ by the Ācārya, the disciple remained firm in his conviction. In the vedic tradition of the teaching in the manner ‘The Truth is different from the known and higher than the unknown’ as taught by the Ācārya, supplemented by logical reasoning and direct experience, the student roared his unshakable conviction of the knowledge of Brahman. How did he say so? ‘Whoever among us, the disciples, understood clearly what I said does really know It. ’What is that I said?’ It is ‘Not that I have not known and I know and do not know as well’. He has expressed his conviction born of reasoning and experience based on the authoritative teaching of the Truth through this pithy sentence. He did this with a view to secure the concurrence of the Ācārya (about his experience) and also to counteract the comprehension of those of mediocre intellect.
Stepping aside from the dialogue between the Ācārya and the disciple, the Upaniṣad goes on to present the essence of the dialogue.
यस्यामतं तस्य मतं मतं यस्य न वेद सः ।
अविज्ञातं विजानतां विज्ञातमविजानताम् ॥ ३ ॥
यस्य अमतं for the one It is not known तस्य मतं form him It is known मतं यस्य for the one It is known न वेद सः he know not अविज्ञातं It is not known विजानतां for those who know It विज्ञातम् It is known अविजानताम् for those who do not know It
He by whom Brahman is not known, knows It; he by whom It is known, knows It not. It is not known by those who know It; It is known by those who do not know It.
For that knower of Brahman if the understanding is ‘Brahman is not known’ then he has known Brahman well. On the other hand for whom the firm understanding is’Brahman is known by me’, he has not known Brahman at all.
The two cases, of the knower and the not-knower, is being emphatically stated: For the true knower, Brahman is not known. For the one who does not really know Brahman, It is known. These people are the ones who think the senses, mind, intellect alone as the very Self. Their view is clouded. But for those who are not of unprepared intellect the understanding is not of the nature ‘I have understood Brahman’.
However, for those who identify their selves with the limiting adjuncts that are the senses, the mind and the intellect, the clear distinction between Brahman and these adjuncts is not possible/had and since these adjuncts have been known, they entertain the erroneous idea ‘Brahman is known’. This wrong view is being presented by the upaniṣad as the prima facie view as ‘for those who do not know Brahman, It is known /knowable.’ Or the latter half of the mantra (‘avijñātam vijānatām’ ‘It is not known to those who know It’) as the reason for the first half of the mantra: ‘he who considers that It is not known, has known and he who thinks he knows has not known It’. We can gain some insight into this idea from an explanation of the gloss of Ānandagiri: Just as in the common experience it is well known that to the people, aware of the nature of the mother of pearl, the silver superimposed on it remains unknown (on that mother of pearl), but to the ignorant alone, the superimposed silver is known (as silver), similarly, knowableness being a thing superimposed on Brahman, the men of realization do not consider Brahman as known.
It has been decidedly stated that ‘for those who hold It is known, It is really unknown’. If Brahman is absolutely unknown, there will be no difference between the ignorant ones and the knowers of Brahman. Since it is contradictory to say ‘It is unknown to those who know It.’ If this is so, then, how indeed does Brahman become correctly apprehended? This is answered in the sequel.
प्रतिबोधविदितं मतममृतत्वं हि विन्दते ।
आत्मना विन्दते वीर्यं विद्यया विन्दतेऽमृतम् ॥ ४ ॥
प्रतिबोधविदितं in every perception मतम् It is known अमृतत्वं immortality हि indeed विन्दते attains आत्मना through ātman विन्दते one attains वीर्यं strength विद्यया by knowledge विन्दते attains अमृतम् immortality
Brahman is known when It is realised in every state of mind; for by such Knowledge one attains Immortality. By Atman one obtains strength; by Knowledge, Immortality.
In every perception what we gain is knowledge about the object of that perception. Every perception is an object for the Ātman and hence through each perception it is the Ātman that is known. This witness of all perceptions/knowledge the ātman of the nature of just Pure Consciousness alone is available in each perception as the essence thereof. This Consciousness-ātman is the common factor in every perception that is itself varied due to its content. There is no other way to discern the ātman than through the analysis of our perception.
Therefore when Brahman is realized as the innermost essence of every perception, then such an understanding qualifies to be called the right one, i.e, the liberating one. If ātman is admitted to be the witness of every perception, then we arrive at the greatest, the loftiest, goal: that of realizing that every sentient being is in truth –
- the witness that does not undergo birth and death (beginning and end)
- pure innermost self
- being the self of everything
- One alone without any kind of second.
It is such a realization that constitutes the true knowledge that results in liberation. The nature of being attributeless shows that even though the perceptions themselves have an object-content, like a jar-perception, a cloth perception, a tree-perception, etc. the very essence of these perceptions, severally, is the Pure Consciousness. For, it is Pure Consciousness that is seen/experienced as endowed with this or that adjunct, like the pot, cloth and tree. So, it is the Pure Innermost essence, the illumining Consciousness that is meant by the verse as the realization of which results in liberation.
All the above mentioned essential attributes can be found in sentient beings, in their true nature. Just as space is devoid of differences despite being present in a cave, a jar, etc. What was taught in the beginning of the upaniṣad that Brahman is ‘different from the known and greater than the unknown’ as the vedic teaching is thus concluded through the present teaching in its pristine form: Brahman is known through every perception. The Bṛhadāraṇyaka upaniṣad (3.4.2) passage ‘The Witness of the vision, the Hearer of hearing, the Thinker of thought, the Knower of knowledge’ also has this as its purport.
How does one attain immortality through this method of realizing the Self? By Ātman which is one’s true nature he attains the strength, the ability. The strength attained through the means of wealth, incantations, herbs, austerities, etc. is incapable of warding off death since these are all by themselves evanescent. On the other hand, the strength attained through the ātman knowledge is attained by the ātman itself and not through any other. Therefore not being the result of anything else other than the Ātman, this Atman-knowledge-effected strength alone is capable of putting an end to the phenomenon of death. Since thus this strength is attained through the Ātman alone, therefore it is declared that through knowledge, the knowledge of the Ātman, one attains immortality. The Muṇḍakopaniṣad 3.2.4 says: ‘This Ātman is not attained by the one devoid of strength.’ Therefore it is quite in order that the mantra reasons: ‘One indeed attains immortality’ (through the strength of the Ātman-knowledge).