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Consciousness and the material || On Mundaka Upanishad (2021)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
14 min
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तस्माच्च देवा बहुधा संप्रसूताः साध्या मनुष्याः पशवो वयांसि । प्राणापानौ व्रीहियवौ तपश्च श्रद्ध सत्यं ब्रह्मचर्यं विधिश्च ॥

tasmācca devā bahudhā saṃprasūtāḥ sādhyā manuṣyāḥ paśavo vayāṃsi prāṇāpānau vrīhiyavau tapaśca śraddha satyaṃ brahmacaryaṃ vidhiśca

And from Him have issued many gods, and demigods and men and beasts and birds, the main breath and downward breath, and rice and barley, and askesis and faith and truth, and chastity and rule of right practice.

~ Verse 2.1.7

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Acharya Prashant (AP): “And from Him have issued many gods, and demigods and men and beasts and birds, the main breath and downward breath, and rice and barley, and askesis and faith and truth, and chastity and rule of right practice.”

Basically, you and your entire world have come from Him. From Him have proceeded all you know of, and all you know of are known to you. So, fundamentally what is being said is: you and your world, they all come from Him. Why is this being said? Let's understand.

We are two. Who are these two? Body and consciousness. And what do we identify with? The body, because that is a prakritik disposition, that is our default setting. When the child is born, it is born identified not to consciousness but to the body, at least relatively much more to the body and relatively far less to the consciousness.

So, our default mode is body-identification. When you are body-identified, where do you think you come from? You think you come from your parents. When you are a body, then you come from two other bodies. The Upanishads keep telling you that you come from Him. Indirectly, what they are telling you is that you are not the body but the consciousness. Had you been the body, you would have come from your parents. But it is only your body that has come from your parents; you have not really come from your parents.

That is the reason why the Rishis say that you and the sun and the moon and the gods and the demigods and everything in your universe is coming from Him. Otherwise, you could have said the tree is coming from the mother tree, the pot is coming from the potter, the table is coming from the carpenter, the sun and the moon are coming from the big bang. You could have said that, right? Saying any of that would simply mean saying you are the body.

Because your entire world is to you, so when you say that you have come from your parents, you are implying: “I am the body.” Equally, when you say that the pot has come from the potter, even then you are saying that you are the body. Now, this is a bit intriguing to understand. You will have to apply yourself.

Is this much clear? When you say you have come from your parents, what you mean is: “I am the body.” If I say, “I have come from my parents,” then I mean I am the body. Now, what I am asserting is: when you say the pot has come from the potter, even then what you mean is that you are the body. Do you get this?

The pot has not come from the potter, really. The pot and the potter both are there in your consciousness, but you are treating them as objective things. The pot has not come from the potter. The pot and the potter, where do they both exist? Here, here, here (pointing to the head) . But instead of crediting your consciousness with the pot and the potter, you are treating them as objective and independent entities. Not only are you taking them as independent entities, you are taking one of those entities as the progenitor of the other. You are saying the potter gives birth to the pot, whereas the fact is you are the place where they both take birth and where they both disappear.

So, the pot really does not come from the potter; the pot too comes from your consciousness. The moment you say the pot comes from the potter, you have discredited consciousness and hence have said, “I am the body.” Therefore, it does not suffice just to say that “I have come from Him”; you also have to say that the entire world has come from Him because this entire world is to you .

The world is not an independent objective entity. It is not ‘the’ world; it is your world.

If you will grant independence of sovereignty to the world, basically you have granted independence, sovereignty, and a fundamental stature to your own body, because everything in the world is just a body. If those bodies can be sovereign, even this body can be sovereign.

Therefore, you have not come from your parents and the pot has not come from the potter. The pot has come from the potter only to the extent you have come from your parents. Does that make it simpler? Alright, I will put it this way if it is making it simpler for you.

When you say, “A pot,” what do you mean? What is a pot? Is the pot the material or is the pot the idea of the pot materialized? The pot is the idea of the pot materialized. How is the potter able to make several pots of the same type? How are several pots of the same type made by the potter? Because what the potter has is an idea, and the idea exists in consciousness. So, what is the pot more of, the material or the idea? Come on. If the pot is devoid of the idea, how much will you pay for the pot? If the car is just steel, how much will you pay for it? What do you pay for, the steel or the idea? When you buy a car, do you pay for the steel, or do you pay for the idea? Ninety percent of your payment is towards the idea of the car. Without the idea the car is just steel, material.

So, when you say the pot comes from the potter, actually it is the idea you are talking of, and ideas do not come from the body; ideas come from consciousness. Therefore, the pot cannot be taken as something coming from the potter’s body. The pot is not something coming from the potter’s body; it is coming from the potter’s consciousness. Therefore, it is said that everything in the world comes from Him: because He is the highest point of consciousness. If the pot is coming from the potter’s consciousness, then he is the highest point in consciousness.

Now, why is it said that the sun and moon come from Him? Man, we understand, is produced by parents, pot is produced by potter, but the sun and moon, they were not particularly produced by somebody. Then why do we say that even the sun and moon come from Him? Why do we say that?

That which we call as Prakriti , when you look at it—basically when you look at yourself. By saying that “I am looking at Prakriti * ” you are essentially looking at yourself because the entire body and the ego tendency at the center of it too is * Prakriti . When you look at the whole of it, this entire system definitely appears to be in search of something, as if there is a movement towards something. The river is flowing, the moon rises and inspires the poets, the sun nourishes all life, at least on this planet. So, favorable conditions for the existence of consciousness are being created by the material itself. Do you see this?

Okay, let me put it another way. I have an entire bag full of tricks!

Where did consciousness originate from? If you go to the scientists, if you ask them, “Where did consciousness come from?” they say it came from something which they call as the primordial juice or the primordial mix. So, there were just material things. Those material things in a small water body—not really in the ocean, in small water bodies—got together, stayed together for long times, reacted with each other as chemicals do, received a lot of sunlight, and from there came the first conscious cell. Now, this is very strange. This means that material itself gives rise to consciousness. Otherwise, how is it possible that on a barren planet a conscious cell was born? We are discounting the theory that God made consciousness; we are keeping God out of the picture. When it comes to the material, let's stress the scientists.

There is no life anywhere, there is just material, and then comes consciousness—obviously over a very, very extended period of time, it took millions and millions of years. But still, time, chemicals, sunlight, right kind of catalysts, right kind of nourishment, all of this gets together, and then what do you get? Consciousness. So, is material really exclusively differentiable from consciousness? So, then, can you call anything as unconscious? There can only be varying degrees of consciousness. Nothing has zero consciousness, because from the stone life was born, from stone and soil and water sprang life. If that be so, can you call the stone as fully unconscious?

And if the stone has consciousness, even if a minimal consciousness, then why should we look at the body of the stone? We know consciousness is more valuable. Only bodies come from bodies, and even the stone has some consciousness. So, the same principle that you applied to yourself applies to stone as well. You said, “I am the body and I have consciousness, but I know consciousness is more valuable, so I will not say I come from my parents.” Similarly, the stone has a stone body but it also has a minimal consciousness, and consciousness is more valuable. Therefore, we will not say that the stone came from lava; we will say the stone came from consciousness.

See, this is just one way of putting it. What I am saying is not the truth or something. I am just trying to elucidate what the Rishi is attempting to say in this verse. So, in this way, because everything is conscious, every single thing is conscious or every single thing is there to nourish consciousness, therefore let me say, “All of it comes from Him.”

Everything in Prakriti exists to nourish consciousness, as if Prakriti is the mother and consciousness is the baby. And the mother is so selfless in some sense, in one sense—or you could call her Maya , but for this thing let’s call her selfless—and the mother is so selfless that she is saying, “All of this that I have, my baby, is for your upliftment, provided you want to do that.” If the baby says, “No, I am not interested,” then the mother can’t do much.

All this expanse, this entire universe, is available to you for your upliftment, upliftment of consciousness. So, even the material exists for the sake of consciousness. How do you differentiate between the two? How do you differentiate? I take in water and it becomes my voice, and I tell you, without this water there will be no voice, and this voice is conscious. How do I call this water unconscious, then? Tell me. Just the degree varies. Do you see this?

Please, I am not talking about something mystical. Pardon me if I have inadvertently led you to that direction. No, I am not saying this has mystical properties or memory or some other nonsense. What I am saying is: all material in a way exists to nourish consciousness. And when I say all material, I mean water as well as potassium cyanide. So, they both nourish consciousness in their unique ways.

Everything is there to be used rightly. If you use it rightly, it will nourish your consciousness.

Questioner (Q): So, you are saying that the material is moving towards consciousness?

AP: Yes, as if the entire thing exists to enable consciousness to reach its fullest potential.

Q: It is the material itself that wants to reach the highest consciousness?

AP: It is a poetic way of saying that, yes. Sounds very tempting to think, no? As if the ceiling is conspiring to uplift our consciousness. No, it is not really conspiring in that sense; it has just presented itself to be used rightly. And when you have the right intentions, then everything material kind of opens itself up to be used rightly. Strange things start happening. I don’t want to lead you into superstition, please. When I say strange things start happening, I mean things of a higher order.

Q: I have read one of your books, Hai Rama , where Tulsi wants to submerge into Rama, wants to go into Rama. So, currently he is material, and he wants to become superconscious?

AP: No, not become; un -become. This is one thing that I keep stressing on and yet is so easily missed. Unbecome. Negate, negate.

Prakriti , you could call her a mother who wants the son to go out of the house and roam freely. So, what she is saying is, “Leave everything that I have given you. What I have given you is all within the four walls of the house. I gave birth to you, and I have given all the things that you needed for your nourishment, but now you are a mature adult. Go out.” What does this going out mean? Negation. “Leave these things. Don’t be identified with them. I gave you the body, but now you must go beyond the body.”

What does it mean to go beyond the body? It means your concerns, your cares, your thoughts must not revolve around your physical well-being. That is all that it means to go beyond the body. Going beyond the body does not mean that you will hop out of the body and go there and do some mischief, and then secretly return and smile; not that kind of juvenile thing.

Consciousness wants to be freed of everything that has given rise to it and surrounds it, confines it. All that consciousness can think of, can relate to, consciousness wants to just drop that, like you drop stuff in sleep.

Is there anybody here who suffers in sleep? I am talking of good deep sleep. Do you suffer in sleep? So, that is what consciousness wants: to drop all the nonsense that carries on in the daytime. Liberation is not the same as sleep. I am just giving an example.

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