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Is anything, anybody so important? || Acharya Prashant,on Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (2017)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
12 min
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“स यथा सैन्धवघनोऽनन्तरोऽबाह्यः कृत्स्नो रसघन एव, एवं वा अरेऽयमात्मानन्तरोऽबाह्यः कृत्स्नः प्रज्ञानघन एव; एतेभ्यो भूतेभ्यः समुत्थाय तान्येवानुविनयष्यतिति,

न प्रेत्य संज्ञास्तीत्यरे ब्रवीमीति होवाच याज्ञवल्क्यः ॥ 4.5.13 ॥

sa yathā saindhavaghano'nantaro'bāhyaḥ kṛtsno rasaghana eva, evaṃ vā are'yamātmānantaro'bāhyaḥ kṛtsnaḥ prajñānaghana eva; etebhyo bhūtebhyaḥ samutthāya tānyevānuvinayaṣyatiti,

na pretya saṃjñāstītyare bravīmīti hovāca yājñavalkyaḥ || 4.5.13 ||

“As a lump of salt has neither inside nor outside

And is altogether a homogeneous mass of taste

even so this Self my dear has neither inside nor outside

And is altogether homogeneous mass of intelligence.

This Self comes out as a separate entity from the elements

And with their destruction this separate existence is also destroyed

After attaining this Oneness, it has no more Consciousness

This is what I say, my dear, So, said Yajnavalkya”

~ Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Verse 4.5.13

Acharya Prashant (AP):

The Self is neither inside nor outside, it is free of all distinctions.

Inside and outside appear only when there is duality, only when there is you who is perceiving, and something that is being perceived.

You take this skin bag as real, and then you say that which lies to this side of this skin bag is inside and that we slice to this side of this skin is outside, external; and that is duality. You see how flimsy and how skin-deep is our definition of the ‘I’? Do you see how superficial the ego is? You say, "That which is contained within this skin is me and all that which is outside this skin is the universe, the world."

"As long as you live in this dualistic consciousness," Yajnavalkya is saying, "for you there is no Brahm."

You have to see that there is no nose without the air that is outside; you have to see that you have risen from the soil itself; you have to see that you and the universe are one integrated whole. * Only consciousness gives you the illusion of separate existence; otherwise just as there is air, so are you. Except in your thoughts, you do not exist as an isolated entity. I repeat, except in your thoughts, you do not exist as an isolated entity. *

Remove the universe and show me where are you. Change anything in the universe and you change. Change any parameter of the universe and see whether you remain as you are. At the same time, change a little bit of yourself and see whether the universe remains as it is. You and the universe are one integrated whole. There is no inside and no outside really, but this inside and outside is the business in which man spends his entire life.

You know what this one on the inside is always trying to do? Negotiate this expanse that is on the outside. What else are you always trying to do? We are trying to deal with the world. This sense of dealing, this sense of having the obligation to make one's way through the world is our curse. How does one live then? Let not the world be too important. Do not think of things as if they really matter. If that really matters, then do you know who really matters? You really matter.

All of these are subtle ways of the ego. By making anything in the universe important for yourself, you have just made yourself very important. And in making the universe important and in making yourself important, do you know what you have made important? You have made the distinction between yourself and the universe very important, you have made your skin very important, and that is why a man lives all his life just saving his skin—both literally and figuratively.

Why is man born? To save his skin. That is the way of duality: save your skin! If the skin is not there, then duality perishes.

You require division; skin means division, boundary. And that is why man loves conflict, because conflict is division. That is why man must fight, because the skin is boundary, division. And that is why you must always have things that are limited by boundaries because wherever there are limits, there you get a chance to prosper. The ego flourishes there. We all want the skin. We all want boundaries.

That is why we must have walls. What is the house without walls? In the name of houses, what do we have? Walls. Of course, no architect creates space. Space is any way there. What do you create in the name of a house? You raise walls. We need that. That is why we need skins upon skins; that is why we need faces upon faces; that is why we need multiple layers of clothing, of armours.

When these armours are gone, when these distinctions are gone, when this dualistic consciousness is gone, when the world is no more so much material, when you can be a little light, a little free, a little silent, when you are home, then you don't just walk under the influence of gravity, you kind of fly—lightly. Your feet are bound to the Earth, you are not.

And then Maitreyi gives a parting gift, she says:

सा होवाच मैत्रेयी, अत्रैव मा भगवान्मोहान्तमापीपिपन्, न वा अहमिमं विजानामीति ॥ १४ ॥

sā hovāca maitreyī, atraiva mā bhagavānmohāntamāpīpipan, na vā ahamimaṃ vijānāmīti

Maitreyī said, "Just here you have led me into the midst of confusion, sir, I do not at all comprehend this."

~ Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Verse 4.5.14

It's beautiful! “I do not at all understand this.” Obviously, as long as there is ‘I’, there is no understanding. Look at the little game of love; the wife is playing with the husband. Just as you are playing a game by walking away, I too know how to play games for now. The chapter is including and we both are one. If we both are one, we both know how to play games.

“Oh, dear husband, you have foxed me. So smart are you obviously; I do not know any of what you're telling me, obviously, I do not know. I just don't understand what you're saying.” That must be the attitude of the spiritual mind: both humble and playful; humble enough to say, “I do not know”, and playful enough to say, “I do not know,” even when it does know.

The devotee has God in his Heart and still is always crying, “When will you come to me?”—as if he does not already have Him. Look at Meera always singing for Krishna, as if she's not already Krishna; both devotion and playfulness going together. Because otherwise, devotion becomes a little boring.

How long and how many times can you just keep saying, “I am That, I am That”? Obviously, you are That, now say something else. So you say, “Oh, I am probably not That, when will I get That?”

“My dear husband, I do not understand what you're saying!”

And Yajnavalkya too must play his part, so what does he say? “Am I saying anything that is bewildering my dear? Obviously, the Self is immutable and indestructible, obviously, verily.” He does not want to spoil the fun, he does not say, “Dumb woman, do you really not get what I'm saying? Or are you just playing games?” He participates in the game.

That is the greatest respect you can offer to your loved one: when he plays a game with you, participate. Don't run away.

The unintelligent ‘I’ will think that Yajnavalkya is walking away. The ‘I’ that really sees will see that Yajnavalkya is involved at this moment in the most intimate of embraces with his wife. When only bodies meet, then nothing has met anything. Here it is a union of another kind, in another dimension.

यत्र हि द्वैतमिव भवति तदितर इतरं पश्यति, तदितर इतरंजिघ्रति, तदितर इतरं रसयते, तदितर इतरमभिवदति, तदितर इतरं शृणोति, तदितर इतरं मनुते, तदितर इतरं स्पृशति, तदितर इतरं विजानाति; यत्र त्वस्य सर्वमात्मैवाभूत्, तत्केन कं पश्येत्, तत्केन कं जिघ्रेत्, तत्केन कं रसयेत्, तत्केन कमभिवदेत्, तत्केन कं शृणुयात्, तत्केन कं मन्वीत तत्केन कं स्पृशेत्, तत्केन कं विजानीयात्? येनेदं सर्वं विजानाति तं केन विजानीयात्? स एष नेति नेत्यात्मा, अगृह्यो न हि गृह्यते, अशीर्यो न हि शीर्यते, असङ्गो न हि सज्यते, असितो न व्यथते, न रिष्यति; विज्ञातारमरे केन विजानीयात्, इत्युक्तानुशासनासि मैत्रेयि, एतावदरे खल्वमृतत्वमिति होक्त्वा याज्ञवल्क्यो विजहार ॥ १५ ॥

इति पञ्चमं ब्राह्मणम् ॥

yatra hi dvaitamiva bhavati taditara itaraṃ paśyati, taditara itaraṃjighrati, taditara itaraṃ rasayate, taditara itaramabhivadati, taditara itaraṃ śṛṇoti, taditara itaraṃ manute, taditara itaraṃ spṛśati, taditara itaraṃ vijānāti; yatra tvasya sarvamātmaivābhūt, tatkena kaṃ paśyet, tatkena kaṃ jighret, tatkena kaṃ rasayet, tatkena kamabhivadet, tatkena kaṃ śṛṇuyāt, tatkena kaṃ manvīta tatkena kaṃ spṛśet, tatkena kaṃ vijānīyāt? yenedaṃ sarvaṃ vijānāti taṃ kena vijānīyāt? sa eṣa neti netyātmā, agṛhyo na hi gṛhyate, aśīryo na hi śīryate, asaṅgo na hi sajyate, asito na vyathate, na riṣyati; vijñātāramare kena vijānīyāt, ityuktānuśāsanāsi maitreyi, etāvadare khalvamṛtatvamiti hoktvā yājñavalkyo vijahāra || 15 ||

iti pañcamaṃ brāhmaṇam ||

For when there is duality, as it were, then one sees another, one smells another,

one tastes another, one speaks to another, one here's another, one thinks of another, one touches another, one knows another,

But when to the knower of Brahm everything has become the Self,

Then what should he see and through what, what should he smell and through what,

What should he taste and through what, what should he speak and through what,

What should he here and through what, what should he think and through what,

What should he touch and through what, what should he know and through what,

Through what should one know? That Owing to which all this is known?

This Self is That which has been described as ‘Not this, Not this’

It is imperceptible, for It is never perceived,

Undecaying, for It never decays; unattached, for It never attached Itself,

Unfettered, for It never feels pain and never suffers injury.

Through what, O Maitreyi, should one know the knower?

Thus, you have the instruction given to you.

This much, indeed, is the means to immortality.

~ Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Verse 4.5.15

The old man is tired, nothing else. And he is fed up of playing the game. The wife has probably just dropped a subtle hint, “Come on, it appears that you are thinking that I really do not know. Such a long monologue! Are you talking to yourself? I know for the Brahm, there is no second, no other, but that does not mean that you will just soliloquize.”

Having said this, Yajnavalkya renounced home. That's a joke. Yajnavalkyas never renounce anything; Yajnavalkyas are always home.

Do you still see a man and woman? If you are a man, you will see a man and a woman.

The Upanishad starts with talking of men and women, because the readers are men and women. When the Upanishad concludes, you must see neither men nor women—because you must remain neither men nor women.

Yajnavalkya has ended by talking about the falseness of otherness. “Where is the other one? If there is no other one, who has been talking to whom? If there is no other place, where am I going, O Maitreyi? If there is no other one, whom am I quitting, O Maitreyi?“

An occasion that could have been an occasion of misery—tears, disappointment, frustration—is now an occasion of the greatest celebration, a celebration that reverberates through the ages. Yajnavalkya and Maitreyi are here, and see that there is no mention of Katyayini; she has faded into the background. Who wants to talk of her? She is no more. And they are here, they will remain here. Who says that Yajnavalkya has walked away? Yajnavalkyas never walk away into the sunset, they are the Sun itself. And Yajnavalkya and Maitreyi are never separated because they are one, indivisible.

The word Love does not appear even once in this discourse. Now you know that you don’t have to have a word for Love. The elaborate chapter, the entire discussion is a profound ‘I Love you’ from both sides, yet the word 'Love' never appears.

For the word 'Love' to appear, there must be ‘I’ on one side of it and ‘You’ on another side of it. When ‘I’ and ‘You’ come too close together, then even Love does not find any space. Love is a kind of separation. That is why the Upanishads do not talk too much of Love. Where there is absolute unity, who wants to talk of Love? And that absolute unity is itself ultimate Love.

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