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Attainment of Truth is not the purpose of Upanishads
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
14 min
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Acharya Prashant: The purpose of the Upanishads has to be remembered. It is commonly said that the purpose of the Upanishads is ‘attainment of the Truth’ but it is not really so. If you say that the purpose of the Upanishads is the attainment of Truth then you are actually going against the Upanishads.

Only something with attributes can be attained. Otherwise, how will you know that you have attained it? Have you ever attained anything that is attributeless? Can you even conceptualize attaining something sans attributes?

Attainment necessitates attributes and all attributes are limitations. The Truth, therefore, is not at all the direct objective of the Upanishads. The direct objective is the cessation of the mind and cessation of the mind implies cessation of falseness. And the Upanishads fall silent at this point. They work really hard to bring falseness to its end and thereafter they don’t say much. For practical reasons if they still have to say something they just excuse themselves by offering very subtle indicators.

Very profusely the Upanishads will weigh on ‘what one is not’. Verse after verse, page after page, the Upanishads will pour over this matter ‘this you are not; that you are not’. And when it will come to declaring what you really are, the Upanishads will just gently say, ‘*tatvmasi*’- That thou art.

They will not explain or elucidate much because if they do then they will be going against their own core. So, it has to be understood that the mind is being addressed. The mind is being addressed about itself. That’s the objective.

If you tell the mind too much about Truth then the Truth too becomes just another mind object and the mind will be only too happy swallowing the Truth as well as just another object with attributes. The Upanishads were obviously not composed to please the mind.

Now let’s go into this verse:

अनेजदेकं मनसो जवीयो नैनद्देवा आप्नुवन् पूर्वमर्षत्‌ । तद्धावतोऽन्यानत्येति तिष्ठत् तस्मिन्नपो मातरिश्वा दधाति ॥

anejadekaṁ manaso javīyo nainaddevā āpnuvan pūrvamarṣat | taddhāvato'nyānatyeti tiṣṭhat tasminnapo mātariśvā dadhāti ||

“One unmoving, swifter than mind. The Gods cannot catch it. As it goes before, standing still, it outruns others that are running. Matrishva sets the work on it.” -Ishavasya Upanishad (Verse 4)

So, you see who is being addressed here? One! When there is nothing called Oneness in the realm or experience of the mind.

‘Swifter than the mind.’ Swifter than the mind but the mind has the faculty of imagination so the mind can reach anywhere instantaneously. Is it possible for something to be swifter than the mind? The mind is being told its place. The mind is being taught a lesson in humility. The mind is being pinched where it will hurt it the most. The mind is so proud of its speed. Is it not?

Tell me, where you want to reach? Saturn? Some galaxy? Some star, millions of light-years away? Where do you want to go? The mind just reaches there in no time. So, if there is one thing that the mind is especially proud of, it is its speed. And pride keeps the mind going. This self-belief upholds the mind. The mind says, “I am somebody; see what all I can do. I can imagine, I can travel, I can conceptualize. This entire world exists in me.” That’s quite a tall claim.

But the Rishi simply punctures the balloon. Rishi says, “In your entire world, is there anything called Oneness?” The world exists precisely because it is divided and fragmented. The world exists only on the foundation of duality. So, you may have lots but you don’t have ‘One’. That hurts, does it not? You have so much but you do not have ‘One’. You have two, three, four right till infinity but you don’t have ‘One’. What’s the point in just climbing the numerical ladder when that ladder has no base on the ground? The base is ‘One’.

Did you see what’s happening? It’s a method here. It’s a careful experiment being done. They are not merely words. You could call it a technique. That is the reason why verses, mantras have been held to be so sacred. They are as sacred for the mind as are medicines for the body. You keep taking them in regularly and they heal. Are you getting it?

‘The Gods cannot catch it. As it goes before, standing still, it outruns others that are running.’

It’s an expansion of the same theme:

‘Swifter than mind. The Gods cannot catch it', as it goes before. 'Standing still, it outruns others that are running.’

Mind is being dealt blow after blow and at the same place. You are not speedy enough; you are not fast enough; you are not swift enough; lazy fellow. "Not swift enough? What about imagination, imagination? What about desires? What about thought? Isn’t thought great? Using thoughts don’t I dream of unseen worlds? Isn’t every achievement, first of all, a subtle thought in the mind?"

The mind is screaming, Rishi is smiling. Rishi is saying, “Listen, dear, why do you run so much? You run so much because you have a burning need to reach somewhere. You might be lightning quick but still, you will take the smallest fraction of a second, right? Because you live in time. You might minimize time but still time you will take. It’s a race, you have to reach a place that’s why you keep running. Running is a standard mode of operation."

But how about the one who is already there where you are about to reach? Who won the race? How about the one who is the one you want to reach? Who won the race? You want to be there where He is. Now, who reached there first? You want to be there where He is. After all, you are desiring something, right? And all desire actually is for the Ultimate. Is it not so?

Do small desires satiate you? In the world, whatever you desire can be quantified. Is there any particular quantity beyond which desires cease? Desires continue till infinity. So, it is infinity that you want to reach. How about the one who is already infinite? Has he not already won the race?

You may have great desires but you have great desires so that your desires may ultimately vanish. Right? You don’t want to keep desiring because desiring is not really a joyful state of mind. Or is it? When you are desirous do you want to stay desirous? Or do you want to obtain the object of a desire?

So, desiring is an unstable state of mind. You don’t want to stay desirous. That state cannot continue forever; the state of desire. You will do something about it. And you want to do something about it so that that state of desire is no more.

So, ultimately you desire to be desireless. Don’t you? You desire to be desireless.

How about the one who is already desireless? Who has won the race? You will do a lot to reach the desirelessness. How about the one who is so complete that desire is too small to touch him. Who has won the race?

Reminds me of a video title some 6 or 7 years back maybe. Those days I used to title my videos with a lot of impractical passion. So, the title was “The race was won by the one who did not run", standing still, it outruns others that are still running.

This is how you run because you want to reach somewhere. “I am already there why do I need to run?” Are you getting it?

You run because you are not happy being what you are. “I have dropped everything that keeps me unhappy. Why should I run?”

You run because you are running carrying everything that keeps you happy/unhappy. That’s the standard mode. Is it not? While we run towards happiness, we run carrying the load of all our unhappinesses fastened to our back. And with all the unhappiness fastened to our backs, how can we be happy? In fact, would you require to be happy had you not been carrying these unhappinesses on your back?

What is really then needed? Running or unfastening?

“I don’t need to run because I have nothing fastened to myself. I am the one who is attributeless. Anything that is added to me, anything that is affixed to me is just a cause of misery. I am the one to whom nothing can be added or fastened.” Are you getting it?

Nevertheless, the objective of the verse is not to prompt you to start imagining about that which has nothing fastened to itself. The objective is to rather make you turn towards yourself so that you can look at all that you are unnecessarily carrying. You don’t need to imagine how it would be to live without the load of miseries. Because even that imagination would be happening along with the load of miseries.

The fellow is carrying all that nonsensical load on his back, on his head, and carrying that load he is imagining how it would be to be without that load. The problem here is that imagination is a function of your current state and if your current state is one loaded with misery then your imagination would be carrying the imprints of misery.

So, no point imagining freedom when you are in a state of bondage. It looks counter-intuitive. We say, “If you are in a state of bondage then you should visualize how it would be to be free.” Wrong! Totally wrong!

The imagination of a person in bondage would be imagination in bondage. If that person imagines freedom it would be very very bonded freedom. Now, what is this freedom? Freedom in bondage? Are you getting it? Your imagination is a function of your current state and if your current state is one of bondage then your imagination, can it ever be free?

But we talk about things like free thought, free imagination. Don’t we? “He is a free thinker.” His entire life is in bondage how can his thought be free? But that’s the illusion that we nurture. We say, “No, no, his life might be in bondage but his thought is free.” Impossible!

The imagination of an enslaved person would be an enslaved imagination. So, no point trying to imagine what freedom would be like. Far better is to look at your bondages and address them. Are you getting it?

So, the mind is being told, "You are not fast enough." Why not fast enough? Because there is something that you are carrying on your back. Drop it! Drop it! The 'drop it' is subtle, unwritten. You have to read it in the Rishi’s silence. It’s almost like poking fun at the mind. When he stops then you have to listen to the greatest words he is not uttering. Are you getting it?

‘One unmoving, swifter than mind.’

Unmoving yet swifter. What have you been doing all your life? Moving, moving, moving and I beat you without moving an inch. Go, die! That’s the message- 'go, die’.

What did you do your entire life? You kept doing, doing, doing. I did nothing and I won. Go, die! Brutal compassion. Go, die! That’s in your best interest.

'The Gods cannot catch it.' You and your Gods, both lousy fears. Gods cannot catch it. Your Gods are all your own imagination and creation. You Gods are part of the baggage on your back. You Gods have no feet of their own. Your gods go only as far as you carry them. How can your Gods be able to catch the Truth? You have caught your Gods. You are swifter than your Gods. Your Gods cannot catch even you, how will your Gods catch the Truth?

Which Gods are being talked of? The Gods that the mind fondly worships. Some God representing ‘wealth’; some God ‘knowledge’; some God representing ‘power’; some God representing ‘victory, fame, fertility’. These are the Gods that we commonly worship. Don’t we?

And the Rishi says, “The gods cannot catch it.” Your Gods are no good. You think your Gods are better than you? Fine! Then the best way to show your Gods down is to bring your Gods down. The fact is your Gods are no better than you because they are your own creation.

You will not reach there with the aid of these Gods. You will not reach there with any positive or constructive process. The only way to reach there is the way of self demolition. You cannot remain yourself and yet be That. It has to be a ruthless process of self-annihilation. That’s the only way! Getting it?

Your gods are there to answer your desires. Truth is to demolish your desires. That’s the difference between Gods and Truth. Devatas and Brahm.

Gods exist to fulfill your desires and Truth is there to demolish your desires.

That’s why there is no temple dedicated to Brahm. Because Brahm has no care for your desires. Brahm doesn’t listen; Brahm doesn’t talk. Truth is just as indifferent as it is all-encompassing. The mind will not be able to make sense of it. That’s the intention exactly. If the mind makes sense of something then the mind chews it, tears it apart and digests it, and fattens upon it. Are you getting it?

‘Standing still, it outruns others that are running.’

Isn’t it so absurd you are running to stop running? You are running to stop running. And if you are running to stop running then surely you are running on something that is not running. That which serves as the foundation of all your running is exactly the one you are running to reach. Are you getting it?

If you are running to attain something would you run on a treadmill? Running is running only if you are running over something or against something that is perfectly still and stillness is what you want to reach. Is that not your highest desire to ultimately reach stillness? You want to reach stillness. Don’t you see that you are running all over stillness in order to reach stillness?

Stillness is the foundation, the base on which you are running in order to be still. Had you not had a still foundation you could have never been able to run for stillness. But you are so busy running that you have no space, no time to really see that stillness is not attainable through movement.

If there is one movement that you need and there is only movement that you really need, it is ‘against your movement’. That is the method of Upanishads ‘neti neti’- movement against your movement so that all movement comes to a standstill. Are you getting it?

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