The muNDakopaniShat – Part 10
How is one to really ‘contact’ Brahman? The method is being delineated here:
धनुर्गृहीत्वौपनिषदं महास्त्रं शरं ह्युपासानिशितं संदधीत ।
आयम्य तद्भावगतेन चेतसा लक्ष्यं तदेवाक्षरं सोम्य विद्धि ॥ ३ ॥
धनुः bow गृहीत्वा having taken औपनिषदं of the upaniṣad महास्त्रं the great weapon शरं the arrow हि indeed उपासानिशितं sharpened by meditation संदधीत place upon (the bow) आयम्य drawing back तद्भावगतेन with charged चेतसा mind लक्ष्यं goal तत् that एव alone अक्षरं Imperishable सोम्य dear one विद्धि strike
Take the Upanishad as the bow, the great weapon and place upon it the arrow sharpened by meditation. Then, having drawn it back with a mind directed to the thought of Brahman, strike that mark, O my dear, that which is the Imperishable.
An imagery is adopted by the Upaniṣad to help one understand and implement the method of realizing the Atman. Aiming at a target and shooting it with an arrow is the imagery. The bow here is the knowledge derived from the study of the Upaniṣad as to the nature of the Atman, the means to be practiced to become eligible to put in efforts to realize the Atman, etc. and the method of gaining the direct realization thereof. The upaniṣadic bow is the Great Weapon which is to be employed in this endeavor. Upon the bow has to be mounted the arrow that is sharpened by constant meditation. The focusing that results from such an exercise is essential for this endeavor. Having mounted the arrow one has to get ready to shoot it. This is the drawing the bow-string towards oneself. It is the withdrawing / restraining the sense organs along with the mind from the objects of the senses and the mind. Such a mind has to be concentrated on the Self, Brahman, which is the target just as one would aim at the target before shooting the arrow. The withdrawing of the senses and the mind is not possible by using the hand just as one would draw the bow string. The mind has to be pre-occupied with Brahman, the Imperishable, verily the Self of the aspirant.
Now, a further description of the bow-analogy is given.
प्रणवो धनुः शरो ह्यात्मा ब्रह्म तल्लक्ष्यमुच्यते ।
अप्रमत्तेन वेद्धव्यं शरवत्तन्मयो भवेत् ॥ ४ ॥
प्रणवः Om is the धनुः bow शरः the arrow हि indeed आत्मा is the Ātman ब्रह्म Brahman तल्लक्ष्यम् its target उच्यते is stated अप्रमत्तेन with undistracted mind वेद्धव्यं to be struck शरवत् like arrow तन्मयः one with it भवेत् has to become
‘Om’ is the bow, the Ātman is the arrow, Brahman is said to be the mark. It is to be struck by an undistracted mind. Then the Ātman becomes one with Brahman, as the arrow with the target.
The praṇava, ‘Om’, is the bow. Just as the bow is the launching pad for the arrow, the praṇava is the platform from which the Ātman has to be directed to Brahman the target. When one refines the mind by the committed practice of meditation on the praṇava, with its support there arises the propensity to remain fixated in Brahman without hindrance. This is likened to the arrow, released from the bow, hitting the target and remaining fixed there. The arrow is the Self that is conditioned by the reflection in the mind. This ‘conditioned’ Self is no other than Brahman that has entered the mind, as it were, as the witness of all the modes of the intellect. This is just as the reflected sun seen in water being no different from the original sun, etc. This conditioned Self is made to consciously fixate itself only on the Brahman-consciousness just as the arrow gets fixed on the target upon hitting it. Therefore is Brahman said to be the goal, target, of the Self-arrow. This is what those who are intent on concentrating the mind by self-absorption on the chosen goal/object do.
This being so, one has to be ever vigilant in not being swayed by the desire to engage/indulge in external, sense, objects. This entails freedom from desire for the objects of the senses basically. This is accomplished by the mastery over one’s senses. Concentration on the goal is a natural result of such an all-round restraint. The targeting of Brahman demands such a preparation on the part of the aspirant. Upon striking, contacting, Brahman, one has to remain fixated in It. It is not sufficient if a sporadic contact of Brahman consciousness is had. Just as the arrow becomes one with the struck object, in the sense of its remaining stuck there, the self, the one conditioned by the mind adjunct, has to become one with Brahman, being non-different from It. This translates to not entertaining identification with the body-mind complex and its related thoughts but experiencing the unbroken flow of the Brahman-current.
Since it is extremely difficult to keep Brahman as one’s unbroken target, the Upaniṣad makes repeated attempts to render it easy to accomplish:
यस्मिन्द्यौः पृथिवी चान्तरिक्षमोतं मनः सह प्राणैश्च सर्वैः ।
तमेवैकं जानथ आत्मानमन्या वाचो विमुञ्चथामृतस्यैष सेतुः ॥ ५ ॥
यस्मिन् In whom द्यौः heaven पृथिवी earth च and अन्तरिक्षम् space ओतं woven मनः mind सह along with प्राणैः च the organs too सर्वैः all तम् that एव alone एकं one जानथ know आत्मानम् Ātman अन्याः other वाचः speech विमुञ्चथ give up अमृतस्य for immortality एष this is सेतुः the bridge
In Him are woven heaven, earth and the space between and the mind with all the sense-organs. Know that non-dual Atman alone and give up all other talk. He is the bridge to Immortality.
The Teacher addresses all his disciples: Know that alone to be the Ātman in whom the entire creation consisting of the heaven, earth, space, the mind and the sense organs are located. The Ātman is the support of all creation, both cosmic and individual. This Ātman is one only without a second. By saying that, the Upaniṣad implies that the created world is only a superimposition on that Ātman. Certainly the superimposed snake cannot be counted as a second to the substratum rope. By asking one to give up all other talk the Teacher is only emphasizing that the creation is not worth contemplating upon, being a non-entity. Since the experienced world has no existence apart from the sentient Ātman, the way to realize It is to give up the idea of reality one assigns to the world erroneously. The central teaching of all the Upaniṣads is this alone: the effect has no existence apart from that of the cause.
Having realized the Cause, as the innermost essence, Self, of oneself and all others, giving up all talk of the not-self which is verily the lower, aparā vidyā, along with all means to attain the ephemeral fruits of thereof is what the Teacher advices. Since it is this realization that constitutes the immediate means to Immortality, it is spoken of as a bridge that takes one from one end to the other of this ocean of samsāra. Thus does the Śvetāśvataropaniṣad 3.8 says:
तमेव विदित्वा अतिमृत्युमेति नान्यः पन्था विद्यतेऽयनाय
[‘Knowing Him alone one goes beyond death; there is no other path than this to proceed by.’]
अरा इव रथनाभौ संहता यत्र नाड्यः स एषोऽन्तश्चरते बहुधा जायमानः ।
ओमित्येवं ध्यायथ आत्मानं स्वस्ति वः पाराय तमसः परस्तात् ॥ ६ ॥
अराः इव like spokes रथनाभौ in the navel of the chariot wheel संहताः fastened यत्र where नाड्यः arteries सः He एषः this one अन्तः inside चरते moves about बहुधा manifold जायमानः being born ओम् इति एवं as Om ध्यायथ meditate आत्मानं Ātman स्वस्ति Hail वः to you पाराय cross over तमसः darkness परस्तात् beyond
He, the Ātman, moves about, becoming manifold, within the heart, where the arteries meet, like the spokes fastened in the nave of a chariot wheel. Meditate on Atman as Om. Hail to you! May you cross beyond the sea of darkness!
Just as spokes converge on the navel of the wheel of a chariot, so too are the innumerable arteries, nāḍi-s, that are spread all over the body, are converged on the heart of the individual. In this heart resides the Self that is the witness of all the transformations of the mind/intellect. It is this sentient being that appears as though traversing the middle of the body, giving expressions to and experiencing the variety of transformations such as seeing, hearing, thinking, knowing, and manifold emotions such as anger and joy. Since the Self, though by nature unattached, unattachable, to anything whatsoever, yet by the erroneous association with the mind/intellect apparatus, appears to undergo these transformations all by itself. So do the people say ‘he has become angry, joyous’ and so on. This Self, free of these transformations, though, has to be meditated upon with the support of the praṇava Om.
The above method of identifying the Self, as the one who appears to bear all these transformations, thoughts and emotions, is the Upaniṣadic one to aid the aspirant to engage in the sādhana. For, while the entire body-mind complex is matter, being a product of the inert elements, the distinguishing of the sentient Self is the first step in sādhana to realize the Ātman.