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by A.K. Aruna
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Thereafter (living a life that has led to and prepared the mind for this teaching), Aśvalāyana dutifully approached (upasametya) the Lord (Bhagavat) who is the ultimate creator and the ultimate sought (parameṣṭhi), and requested: “Please teach me, O Lord, the brahma-vidyā (knowledge of ultimate reality) which is the most sought (variṣṭhā), which is kept protected (nigūḍhā, in their heart) yet ever worshiped by those committed to truth (the sadbhiḥ) (through their passing on this teaching of reality as presented in the Upaniṣads), by which, after not too long, the learned completely give up (vy-apohya) all karma demerit and attain the puruṣa (the one who fills all this universe) and who is the ultimate to the highest (in this universe).
That Grandfather (pitā-maha, the Lord, BhG.9.17) replied to him: By the means (yoga) of śraddhā (trust in the teaching), bhakti (placing one’s full mind under the teaching’s direction, in full participation, bhajana), and dhyāna (ever keeping one’s mind on this teaching, living one’s life through the lens of this knowledge being taught) may one come to know (the teaching).
Not by action, progeny, or wealth, but by renunciation (tyāga, IsU.1, the renunciation of one’s identity with the confusions of ignorance) they (eke) have attained immortality (a-mṛtatvam, the nature of ātman) which is beyond heaven (pareṇa na-a-kam, no absence of pleasure, a lack of displeasure) and which is hidden in the cave (of the heart, the intellect as “I”). Into this (space, brahma-ātman, KathU.1.3.1, TaitU.1.6.1 & 2.1.1, SvetU.4.8) which shines there enter those who apply (appropriate) effort (yatis).
Having clearly ascertained the meaning of the science (vijñāna, the reality science) of Vedānta and who have clarity of mind (śuddha-sattva) through the yoga (discipline) of renunciation (sannyāsa), at the time of death they all are free and beyond the mortality found in the worlds of brahman (brahma-lokas, the heavens and earths manifest from brahman).
(The style of the following mantras consists of run-on a sentence that spans multiple lines, which makes the numbering and grouping of the lines into separate mantras not definitive and hence varies per the textual editors. Here, ellipses (…) are used to show the flow of linked mantras. If the style is on purpose, then it would be to mimic the continuous, unbroken flow of thought during meditation.) In a clean, secluded space, seated comfortably (sukha-āsana-stha), with neck, head and trunk in line (BhG.6.13), who (at least during this time) are not identified with their social roles (antya-āśrama-stha), restraining all of their senses (from wandering undisciplined out into the world), with dedication (bhaktyā) and serving (praṇamya) one’s teacher (guru)…
…Contemplating (vicintya) (until) the lotus like heart (hṛd-puṇḍarīka, i.e., the open, mature mind arisen from the mundane mire) is free of agitation and pure, (then) madhye (within that) upon the (Lord) bright one (vi-śada), free of sorrow (vi-śoka) (i.e., the Lord there in the heart), who cannot be an object of thinking (a-cintya, since it is the consciousness that reveals all thoughts), who cannot be an object of the senses (a-vyakta, unmanifest), whose nature is limitless (an-anta-rūpa), is auspicious (śiva), peaceful (praśānta), immortal (a-mṛta), the source (yoni, the material cause) of even Lord Brahmā (the creator of this current universe, Hiraṇya-garbha, the Cosmic Mind that thinks all this into physical existence)…
…That one who has no beginning, middle or end, who is one only (eka, without a second, which is all of existence itself), exists everywhere (vibhu), who is consciousness (cit) and fullness (ānanda), has no form (a-rūpa), unprecedented (adbhuta = ati-bhuta), and who is the spouse of Goddess Umā (KenU.3.12 & 4.1), who is the ultimate Lord (Parameśvara), the Master (prabhu), the three-eyed (tri-locana), the blue-throated (nīla-kaṇṭha), and clarity itself (praśānta) – contemplating (on each of these preceding expressions as contemplation mantras in the form, “The teaching is that this Lord within is the bright one, the vi-śada; I am in fact this bright one,” etcetera), such a contemplative one (muni) attains (in assimilated knowledge, “I am…”) the source of being (bhūta-yoni, the sat, satya, existence itself), the witness of all (samasta-sākṣi = -sākṣin), beyond the darkness (tamasaḥ parastātSvetU.3.8, beyond ignorance, as knowledge, jñāna, itself; one also in the process reduces the tamas guṇa in the mind that hinders clarity).
That one is Lord Brahmā. That one is Lord Śiva (perhaps the earliest usage of Śiva as a title for the Lord in the Upaniṣads, along with the less definitive usage in Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad, ‘Śiva’ being more frequented in the Purāṇas). That one is with the title Lord Indra (KenU.3.11, the typical Veda Samhita title of the Lord of heaven, the Lord of lords, Lord of and as all). That one is the imperishable (a-kṣara, MunU.2.1.1), the ultimate (parama, most para), and is its own master (sva-rāj). That indeed is Viṣṇu (RigV.154.1–6). That one is Prāṇa (PrasU.2.7, ChanU.1.11.5, BrhU.4.4.18, BrS.1.1.23). That one is time (kāla) itself. That one is the deity Agni (Fire) and Candramā (Moon).
That one is everything (sarva), whatever was (a-bhūta), is or will be (bhavya), and what always exists (sanā-tana, existing from old). Knowing that, one goes beyond death. There is no other means (na antyaḥ panthā, SvetU.3.8) to freedom.
Knowing (sampaśyan, as clear as seeing) the ultimate brahman (reality) as the ātman (self) residing in all beings (sarva-bhūta-stha), and all beings in oneself ātman, one attains (that brahman). There is no other means (na anyena hetunā, i.e., any other helpful means, such as karma, śraddhā, bhakti or dhyāna, without this knowledge, will not accomplish this highest goal)! (Repetition of an idea or expression is the method for highlighting a most important part of the teaching.)
Making one’s mind (ātman) the (lower) fire-making block of wood (araṇi, adharāraṇi) and praṇava (Om) the upper churning stick, by the repetition (abhyāsa) of churning which is knowledge (jñāna, i.e., the contemplation here is not slowing or stopping the mind, or fixing it on some mental object, but rather the repetition of the teaching, the knowledge here summarized in the form of Om), the wise burn their karma demerit (or the noose, pāśa, of death).
That one alone is the (individual) one whose mind (ātman) is completely confused (parimohita) by Māyā (contradicting appearances in the world, such as, “I appear to be the subject, but I also appear to be this object, as this body and mind,” a misapprehension of reality) and acts completely for continuance of (āsthāya) this body (as oneself). That one alone goes after satisfaction in the waking world (jāgrat) through various experiences of the opposite sex (strī), feast (anna), drink, etcetera (pāna-ādi, i.e., to eat, drink, and be merry).
That same is the individual (the jīva) in dream as the experiencer of joys and sorrows by its own māyā (contradicting appearances) within an imagined universe of the individual’s making. And at the time of deep sleep (suṣupti), when everything (the dream world) is resolved (from manifest to potential), one is overpowered by tamas (PrasU.4.6) and becomes that blissful ignorance therein (sukha-rūpa). And the very same individual, by means of the karma from previous births (to continue the fructifying karma in this lifetime, i.e., with the ignorance intact), awakens (from the potential state, from blissful ignorance) and dreams again (or, the very same individual dreams again or wakes up).
That is the individual (jīva) who sports about in the three realms (puri-traya, the physical only when awake, the only mental when dreaming, and the only causal when in unmanifest potential of deep sleep). Whereas, (that individual is in fact the Lord) from which all varieties have sprung, who remains as the basis (ādhāra, of everything) and is the satisfaction (ānanda, in which all take rest), who is the a-khaṇḍa-bodha (the indivisible truth, wherein this knowledge resides, YS.3.35 a-khaṇḍa-ākāra-vṛtti), and in which the three realms resolve (layaṃ yāti).
From this (Lord) is (materially) born (manifests) prāṇa (life energy), mind and all the organs of sensing and acting, as well as (the elements) space (dimension), wind (movement), heat (and light), water (fluidity), and as earth (solidity, also may be considered gravity or mass) which supports all.
That which is the ultimate reality (brahman) and the self of all, which is the vast abode of the universe, more subtle than the subtle – that is you, you are that (tat tvam eva tvam eva tat, clearly, that brahman = you, a full a-dvaita, not a part of the whole, in anticipation of certain confused Vedāntins, philosophers KaivU.1.12, and most of the modern academicians).
The one who lights up this expanse consisting of the waking, dream, and deep sleep, etc. (the heavens, etc.) – that brahman (reality) am I. Knowing this, one is free from all binds.
Different (vilakṣaṇa) from whatever is the experienced, the experiencer, and the experience, I am the witness (sākṣin), pure awareness (cinmātra), ever calm (sadā-śiva).
In me alone everything is born, in me everything is sustained, and in me everything is resolved. I am that brahman, without a second.
(Since I am unlimited in everyway) I am indeed subtler than the subtle, and in that same way I am the vast, diverse universe. I am the puruṣa that is always there (purā-tana). I am the Lord who shines (hiraṇmaya, as everything). I am ever calm.
Even without hands or feet I am incomprehensible power (a-cintya-śakti). (Being knowledge itself) Without sight I see, and without hearing I hear. (As the Lord and as ātman) I know everything in detail (hence, the satisfaction in knowing my knowledge lacks nothing), (yet) there is no knower of me (i.e., I am not a limited object of another knower), (since) I am always the (one and only) consciousness (cit, alone).
I am the one to be known through the (knowledge authority of) Vedas. I am the author of the Vedānta (the Upaniṣads), and I alone am the knower of the Vedas. I have no karma merit or demerit, no destruction or birth, (since) I have no body, senses, or mind (that are susceptible to these).
For me, there is no (element) earth, water, fire, wind, or space.
By knowing in this way (as oneself) the nature of the ultimate ātman, residing in the cave (guhā, of the intellect), partless and without a second (a-dvitīya), as the witness of all, apart from being and nonbeing (sad-asad, the pairs of opposites, SvetU.4.18) – one attains that pure nature of the ultimate ātman (i.e., knowing alone, one reaches the ultimate, KaivU.1.10).
The one who studies the Śata-rudriya (mantras revealing one-hundred forms of Rudra, as part of the Taittirīya Saṃhita of the Yajur-veda, connected with this Upaniṣad) gets purified by the fire (the agni-hotra ritual, presented therein), and purified of (any present or past life karma demerit) from drinking distilled spirits or stealing gold to the killing of a Brahmāṇa (a scriptural scholar), whether directly or indirectly (kṛtya-a-kṛtya, or, by commission or omission) – by that (preparation and from knowing this Upaniṣad teaching) one attains that which can never be given up (a-vimukta, i.e., one’s nature, ātman). One who would always repeat (japet, during contemplation), or (even) once (a first-time exposure to this teaching), rises above the social roles (ati-āśramin, KaivU.1.5).
By this (Kaivalya Upaniṣad teaching regarding brahman) is attained a knowledge that dispels the ocean of saṃsāra (the life of continual unbecoming becoming). Therefore, knowing in this way, one attains the goal (pada) (called) completeness (kaivalya, mokṣa, freedom).