Introduction to the Upanishad:
Swamiji said, having completed Taittiriya Upanishad now we are entering Mandukya Upanishad. It is a different Upanishad from Mundako Upanishad. Today, I will give you a general introduction to this Upanishad. In the introduction I will consolidate the introductions of previous Upanishads. Thus our original scriptures are called Vedas or Shruti, a means or source of knowledge. They are a body of literature through which we come to know about the means and ends of human life. It is also called Shruti, as Rishi’s heard it, as revealed to them by the Lord. So, Vedas are considered a revealed literature, one not born out of human intellect as such also called Aupurushyam. They have been propagated as karna parampara as well. These Vedas are four in number and are: Rg, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana.
This vast Vedic literature is classified as follows:
- Veda Purva.
- Veda Anta.
This Veda-purva section talks about varieties of karma. Karmas are rites to be done. Therefore, it is called karma section (action-section). Veda-anta section does not focus on action but on knowledge. Veda-purva section gives benefit by doing. Veda-anta section gives benefit by knowing. Therefore, Veda-anta section is called Gyana section (knowledge-section). In all the four Vedas, karma section and Gyana section are found. Veda expects every follower of Veda to start with the karma section, the religious way of life. Gyana section deals with the spiritual life. One should start with religious life and graduate into spiritual life. Without religious life, spirituality will not work. Without spirituality, religious life is incomplete. Therefore, the follower of the Veda should follow a religious life and go to spirituality.
Veda Purva: First part or beginning part of the Vedas includes: a) Sadhya Trayam, b) Sadhana Trayam and c) Dosha Trayam.
Sadhya Trayam: are three types of human goals. The human goals are:
- Self Improvement
- Improvement of possessions. This can include one’s house, material possessions, one’s family etc.
- Improvement of set up. This includes the environment in which you live or environmental improvement.
Human being desires security and happiness and they are dependent on these three goals. If anyone of these goals is missing, happiness and security are difficult to reach. So, these are the goals for a human being in Veda Purva.
To accomplish the human goals three disciplines known as Sadhana Trayam are prescribed. They are:
- Physical disciplines for the body that include rituals. These disciplines are also called Kayika Sadhanani.
- Verbal disciplines in the form of Japa and Parayanam. They are also known as Vachika Karmani.
- Mental disciplines also known as Manasa Karmani often in the form of meditation.
Dosha Trayam: Are the three forms of defects. All human goals have certain intrinsic defects or Doshas. These defects are considered natural to the human goals. The defects are:
- Dukha mishritatvam: These are goals that are mixed with pain. The goals give joy but are mixed with pain of acquisition, preservation and the pain of loss.
- Atriptikaram: They never give total satisfaction resulting in perpetual struggle. It is like a gambler, even when he wins, he wants to play more and more.
- Bandhatvam: They are all dependency causing goals. They lead to enslavement. They weaken an individual.
Generally majority of people are satisfied with the Sadhya, Sadhana and even with the Doshas. Majority of people who are mediocre are satisfied with these three. Some rare people having experienced doshas look for goals that are defect free. Very few seek Dosha Rahita sadhyam, defect free goals.
To these advanced people, adventurous people, Vedanta addresses them; it tells them that it has Nirdosha Sadhyam; for them Vedanta is relevant. And, what does Vedanta say to those mature people? It says this dosha rahita sadhyam is Brahman. Gita in chapter five also defines Brahman as Nirdoshaha. Now, the Seeker wants to reach this Brahman. Vedanta, however, tells him, kindly don’t seek Brahman. You will never find Brahman, as You are that Brahman. Tat Tvam Asi. This is the revealing and shocking statement of Vedanta. Listening to this from Vedanta the seeker finds a problem. Until Vedanta statement he, the seeker, looked at himself, as one saturated with Doshas. He sees defects in each one his five koshas as well. His life is riddled with defects, is his conclusion. Even a rare, good opinion about myself, will be shattered by family and society. So, what is my vision of myself? It is that I am Sa-Dosha while Vedanta says you are Nirdosha Brahman.
So, what am I, is the big question? Am I the pure Brahman or am I the defect-full human? I can’t dismiss the Vedas, as they are divine in origin. Veda is called Adrishta Pramanam, so I can’t set it aside.
Even though Vedanta declares that, we will not easily accept it, because we already have a conclusion about ourselves. Our conclusion is that we are miserable jivas but Vedanta says that we are, the wonderful, Brahman. Our conclusion has been arrived at due to our experiences over so many years. Samsara is helplessness, anger, frustration, and depression. Life has become a meaningless, burdensome, boring struggle. ‘We are miserable jivas’ is a conclusion that we have arrived at but Vedanta says otherwise. Which one is correct? We have to enquire. Thus begins self-enquiry as to whether we are miserable jivas or wonderful Brahman. Vedanta, being a means of knowledge, helps us perform that enquiry.
At the same time I experience my own doshas everyday. I can’t set them aside as well. Anubhava Pramanam says I am Sadushta while Veda says I am Adushta. Therefore, I have to enquire into self-enquiry, acquire self Knowledge and this will then remove my self-misconception.
Once I am a seeker of knowledge, I must seek an appropriate instrument of knowledge as well. For color knowledge I require eyes. For knowledge of sound I require ears. So, we need Pramanam. There are six pramanams or instruments. They are:
- a) pratyaksha: perception,
- b) Anumana: inference, comparison and analogy
- c) Upamana: postulation, derivation from circumstances
- d) Arthapatti: non-perception,
- e) Anupalabdhi: meaning negative or cognitive proof,
- f) Shabda: word, testimony of past or present reliable experts.
Of these six instruments five are outward facing, objective proof of the external world. None of them, however, observe my self. They will not help with self- knowledge. Eyes can’t see my own face. It is an intrinsic limitation. Then, there is only one pramanam and that is Vedanta Pramanam that can reveal my own nature. Without mirror I can’t see my face. So, I have to use Vedanta Darpana. To use mirror I need eyes as well. It is like I need a microscope to look at the very small microbes and I need a telescope to see far away objects. To attain Brahman I have to employ Vedanta Pramanam. Now, how do you use Vedanta Pramanam? First of all never use it all by yourself. Learn how to use it. Operating it involves the following steps:
The more you look into the mirror, you see yourself with greater clarity. Similarly, Shastric study is to turn you towards your self.
Shravanam: It is a systematic analysis of Vedanta teaching and extracting the central teaching. For this analysis six factors have to be considered. They are:
- Upakrama-Upasamhara: commencement and Conclusion,
- Abhyasa : practice or reiteration,
- Apurvata: unprecedentedness,
- Phala: fruit,
- Arthavada: glorifying passage or explanatory statement and\
- Upapatti: illustration.
In simple English, Shravanam is a systematic and consistent study of Vedantic literature for a length of time under a competent teacher.
Who is a competent teacher? One who was a competent disciple is now a competent teacher. This will give me self-knowledge that I am Nirdosha Brahman.
This process will remove all doubts about the teaching. I find it difficult to believe that I am defect free. Mananam should clear all such doubts. It will free knowledge from all forms of doubts.
Nidhidhyasanam: It is Vedantic meditation. It is internalizing the teaching by dwelling on the doubt free knowledge in any form such as reading, writing, repeated listening, discussion, teaching and meditation. Meditation is not insisted upon as the only method. This internalizing is the de-conditioning process. There are many forms of Self-Conditioning. We never question our conditioning. Here we want to eliminate all our conditioning. Once I discover this fact, all three Sadhyams, their arrival and departure, will not make any serious difference in me.
When things and people are around me, I feel it is a burden; but without them, I also feel emptiness. Moksha means both, burden and emptiness, do not affect me anymore.
All this we learnt as an introduction from previous five Upanishads. A few more points need to be noted. One doubt that can come up is that scriptures say, Brahman can’t be revealed by words. Reasoning alone can prove it.
Now, words can reveal an object only if the object fulfills certain conditions. They are called Shabda Pravrithi Nimithani. Here Shabda means words; Pravrithi means function; Nimthani means condition.
There are five conditions for words to reveal any knowledge. Brahman, however, does not fulfill any of them. How can Brahman be revealed by studying scriptures or words or via shabda Pramanam?
The five conditions for words are:
- Rudhihi or Pratyaksha Vishayatvam: means it is available for direct perception. You can see an object. Then we can name the object. Let us call the object a “Clip”. In future the word Clip reveals the object in mind.
- Jathihi: Means species. Consider a tree outside that you have not experienced. You have experienced some other tree(s). You understand tree without experiencing the tree outside. You are able to do so because this tree also belonged to the same class of tree. You, thus, understand the meaning of the word “tree” as object falling under a species.
- Guna: Properties of the object also help identify it.
- Karma: When someone says, call the driver; the word driver reveals him through his function.
- Sambandha: Relationship is another way of revealing. Thus father, brother, sister etc., reveal relationships.
Brahman, however, does not have any of the five above. If so, how will Upanishad teach Brahman?
- Without religious life, spirituality will not work. Without spirituality, religious life is incomplete.
- Shravanam is a systematic and consistent study of Vedantic literature for a length of time under a competent teacher.
- When things and people are around me, I feel it is a burden; but without them, I also feel emptiness. Moksha means both, burden and emptiness, do not affect me anymore.
- Shravanam: It is a systematic analysis of Vedanta teaching and extracting the central teaching.
- Mananam: This process will remove all doubts about the teaching.
- Nidhidhyasanam: It is internalizing the teaching by dwelling on the doubt free knowledge in any form such as reading, writing, repeated listening, discussion, teaching and meditation.
With Best Wishes,