Another Name of Akshar: ‘Brahman’
First Angirã Rishi used the word ‘Akshar’ for the divine entity which is the cause of the whole world. Then to make it known that this entity called Akshar is also known as ‘Brahman’, Angirã uses the word ‘Brahman’ instead of Akshar when he explains how Akshar causes creation. For example, ‘तपसा चीयते ‘ब्रह्म’ ’ – ‘Tapasã cheeyate ‘Brahma’ ’ (Mundaka Upanishad: 1/1/8), ‘तस्मादेतद् ‘ब्रह्म’ नाम रूपमन्नं च जायते’ – ‘Tasmãdetad ‘Brahma’ nãma roopamannam cha jãyate’ (Mundaka Upanishad: 1/1/9).
The Bhagavad Gitã also reinforces this fact. In the first shloka of the eighth adhyãy (chapter), Arjuna enquires about the Brahman entity, ‘किं तद् ब्रह्म’– ‘Kim tad Brahma’ – ‘What is that Brahman?’ (Gitã: 8/1). Krishna Bhagwan answers using the word Akshar for Brahman अक्षरं ब्रह्म परमम्’– ‘Aksharam Brahma Paramam’ – Akshar, which is above jivas, ishwars, mãyã and muktas, is Brahman(Gitã: 8/3). The only difference is that in the Mundaka Upanishad Brahman has been used in the place of Akshar, and in the Bhagavad Gitã, Akshar in the place of Brahman. Hence, Akshar and Brahman are two synonyms of the same entity. This is the very reason the eighth chapter of the Gitã is called the ‘Aksharbrahman Yoga’ – putting both words together. That is why in the Swaminarayan Sampradaya as well, the joint name ‘Aksharbrahman’ is used for this divine entity.
In addition to being the cause of creation, Aksharbrahman is also shown as pervading all creation.
Wherever there is an effect, there is a cause. By Paramãtmã’s wish, Aksharbrahman is the cause of all. The whole of creation is its work. Therefore, wherever the world is, its cause, Aksharbrahman, is there as well. This is the all-pervasiveness of Aksharbrahman. Maharshi Angirã says that this Aksharbrahman is त्व्सर्वगतम्’– ‘Sarvagatam’ – ‘all-pervasive’ (Mundaka Upanishad: 1/1/6) by its omniscience. Moreover, O Shaunak! There are many other traits that come with being all-pervasive. These are also present in Aksharbrahman, तद् दिव्यमचिन्त्यरूपं सूक्ष्माच्च तत् सूक्ष्मतरं विभाति। दूरात् सुदूरे तदिहान्तिके च पश्यत्स्विहैव निहितं गुहायाम्॥’ – ‘Bruhachcha tad divyamchintyaroopam sookshmãchcha tat sookshmataram vibhãti, doorãt sudoore tadihãntike cha pashyatsvihaiva nihitam guhãyãm’ (Mundaka Upanishad: 3/1/7). Meaning, the divine and unimaginable Aksharbrahman is extremely large and bigger than everything. (That is why it is called ‘Brahman’.) It is subtler than the subtle. It is farther than the farthest and yet near (because it is everywhere). And whosoever realizes it, experiences it residing within their hearts.
Therefore, O Somya! For the pervasiveness of Aksharbrahman, I clearly say, त्व्ब्रह्मैवेदममृतं पुरस्ताद् ब्रह्म पश्र्चाद् ब्रह्म दक्षिणतश्र्चोत्तरेण। अघश्र्चोर्ध्वं च प्रसृतं ब्रह्मैवेदं विश्वमिदं वरिष्ठम्॥’– ‘Brahmaivedamamrutam purastãd Brahma pashchãd Brahma dakshinatashchottarena, adhashchordhvam cha prasrutam brahmaivedam vishvamidam varishtham’ (Mundaka Upanishad: 2/2/11). This nectar-filled indestructible Aksharbrahman is in front of everything and it is behind everything. It is to the south of everything and to the north. Above and below, Aksharbrahman pervades (prasrutam) everything in this world. Therefore it is varishtham, i.e. the best, and worthy of prayer.
After stating the pervasiveness of Aksharbrahman, another divine attribute is mentioned.
Support of the World
This Aksharbrahman is also the support of all. Angirã Muni says, ‘यस्मिंल्लोका निहिता लोकिनश्र्च तदेतदक्षरं ब्रह्म’ – ‘Yasminllokã nihitã lokinashcha tadetadaksharam Brahma’ (Mundaka Upanishad: 2/2/2). Aksharbrahman is that by whose support the infinite worlds of countless universes, and the residers and governors of those worlds abide. In the Kathopanishad, Yamarãjã explained the same thing to young Nachiketa, ‘तदेव शुक्रं तद् ब्रह्म तदेवामृतमुत्व्यते। तस्मिंल्लोकाः श्रिताः सर्वे तदु नात्येति कश्र्चन’ – ‘Tadeva shukram tad Brahma tadevãmrutamuchyate, tasminllokãhã shritãhã sarve tadu nãtyeti kashchana’ (Kathopanishad: 5/8, 6/1). For Aksharbrahman the Bhagavad Gitã has also stated, ‘सर्वभृच्चैव’ – ‘Sarvabhruchchaiva’ (Gitã – 13/14), ‘भूतभतृ च’ ‘Bhootabhatru cha’ (Gita – 13/16), i.e. that Aksharbrahman is the supporter and nourisher of all beings.
Thus Aksharbrahman has been described as the cause of creation, as pervading creation and as the supporter of creation. Now another form of Aksharbrahman is explained.
Abode of Parabrahman
O Shaunak! This very Aksharbrahman is, in another form, the divine abode of Paramãtmã and infinite brahmarup muktas. एष वः पुण्यः सुकृतो ब्रह्मलोकः’– ‘Esha vaha punyaha sukruto Brahmalokaha’ (Mundaka Upanishad: 1/2/6). This Brahmaloka, i.e. Akshardham, is extremely divine, it is extremely pure. It can be attained by performing good deeds full of bhakti. Moreover, त्व्तपःश्रद्धे ये ह्युपवसन्त्यरण्ये शान्ता विद्वांसो भैक्षचर्यां चरन्तः। सूर्यद्वारेण ते विरजाः प्रयान्ति यत्राऽमृतः स पुरुषो ह्यव्ययात्मा’ – ‘Tapaha shraddhe ye hyupavasantyaranye shãntã vidvãnso bhaikshacharyãm charantaha, sooryadvãrena te virajãhã prayãnti yatrã’mrutaha sa purusho hyavyayãtmã’ (Mundaka Upanishad: 1/2/11). Those devotees that go to reside in the forest and, attaining brahmavidyã with faith and a calm mind, perform the upãsanã of Paramãtmã. On death they go, via the archi-path, to Akshardhãm, where the immortal and imperishable Paramãtmã resides.
Furthermore, त्व्परमं ब्रह्मघाम यत्र विश्वं निहितं भाति शुभ्रम्’ – ‘Paramam Brahmadhãma yatra vishvam nihitam bhãti shubhram’ (Mundaka Upanishad: 3/2/1). Brahmadhãm is paramam, i.e. above all other abodes. This is because it is the abode of Paramãtmã himself, and there is not even the slightest contact with mãyã. There, everything is divine. Shaunak! What can be said about that Akshardhãm! त्व्न तत्र सूर्यो भाति न चन्द्रतारकं नेमा विद्यतो भान्ति कुतोऽयमग्निः। तमेव भान्तमनुभान्ति सर्वं तस्य भासा सर्वमिदं विभाति॥’– ‘Na tatra sooryo bhãti na chandratãrakam nemã vidyato bhãnti kuto’yamagrihi, tameva bhãntamanubhãnti sarvam tasya bhãsã sarvamidam’ (Mundaka Upanishad: 2/2/10). Compared to the divine light of Akshardhãm, the light of the sun, moon, stars and lightning is insignificant and of the mundane realm. Moreover, the reality is that it is by the divine powerful light of Akshardhãm that the sun, moon and others have light.
In this way, Aksharbrahman, in the form of Akshardhãm, is also a divine place. Now yet another function of Aksharbrahman is explained.
As a Sevak in Akshardhãm
Maharshi Angirã explains the different functions of Aksharbrahman very clearly.
As an abode Aksharbrahman upholds Paramãtmã and the muktas. Aksharbrahman also resides with a form within that very abode. Explaining this, Angirã says, त्व्दिव्ये ब्रह्मपुरे ह्येष व्योम्न्यात्मा प्रतिष्ठितः’ – ‘Divye Brahmapure hyesha vyomnyãtmã pratishthitaha’ (Mundaka Upanishad: 2/2/7). Aksharbrahman, the ãtmã of all, resides in divine Brahmapur, i.e. Akshardhãm. That too, with a form with divine hands, feet, etc. त्व्मनोमयः प्राणशरीरनेता’– ‘Manomayaha prãnashareeranetã’ (Mundaka Upanishad: 2/2/7). He is complete with a divine mind, vital breath and body. The figure of his body is also beautiful. त्व्हिरण्मये परे कोशे विरजं ब्रह्म निष्कलम्। तत्व्छुभ्रं ज्योतिषां ज्योतिस्तदात्मविदो विदुः॥’ – ‘Hiranmaye pare koshe virajam brahma nishkalam, tacchubhram jyotishãm jyotistadãtmavido viduhu’ (2/2/9). That very Aksharbrahman is in the form of a servant of Paramãtmã in that extremely illuminous and supreme Akshardhãm. It is always free of the three gunas – rajoguna, tamoguna and sattvaguna – unchangeable, and shubhram – beautiful in every way, extremely pure and the lustre of even the luminous. It is known as such by the wise. Therefore we should know it too.
Thus, Angirã Muni has disclosed a unique form of Aksharbrahman. Then Angirã explains yet another important function of Aksharbrahman.
Aksharbrahman: as a Bridge
Shaunak! All the functions of Aksharbrahman that we have seen so far are divine. Nevertheless, what I am about to say is something of great benefit to spiritual aspirants like us. It is extremely useful and therefore must be known. It is not easy to see, know or experience Aksharbrahman as the all-pervasive, all-supporting cause of all. Nor will we be able to see, know or experience Aksharbrahman as Akshardhãm or as the servant of Paramãtmã in that Akshardhãm until we become brahmarup. The only way we can see, know and experience all of this is if Aksharbrahman himself, out of compassion, comes in human form before our very eyes and becomes like us and stays with us. Therefore, I will now explain the form of Aksharbrahman which is easily available to all. With these sentiments, Angirã says, त्व्अमृतस्यैष सेतुः’ – ‘Amrutasyaisha Setuhu’ (Mundaka Upanishad 2/2/5). It is this very Aksharbrahman that is the bridge to immortality, i.e. moksha (liberation), and the attainment of Paramãtmã. Just as people cross large raging rivers easily by taking the refuge of a bridge, similarly by taking the refuge of Aksharbrahman spiritual aspirants cross the ocean of this life. This form of Aksharbrahman is known as the ‘guru’. That is why when it was time to describe the characteristics of the guru, Angirã clearly said that the guru should be त्व्श्रोत्रियम्’– ‘Shrotriyam’, i.e. he should be realized in the essence of all the shastras, he should be 'ब्रह्म' – ‘Brahma’, i.e. Aksharbrahman himself, and he should be त्व्निष्ठम्’– ‘nishtham’, i.e. he should have conviction in Paramãtmã. (Mundaka Upanishad: 1/2/12)
Translated by: Sadhu Paramvivekdas