THE DIVINE QUALITIES OF AKSHARBRAHMAN
‘अपहतपाप्मा विजरो विमृत्युíवशो• विजिघत्सोऽपिपासः सत्यकामः सत्यसङ्कल्प – ‘Apahatapãpmã vijaro vimrutyurvishoko vijighatso’pipãsaha satyakãmaha satyasankalpaha’ (Chãndogya Upanishad: 8/1/5). The form of that Brahman is sinless, free of mãyã, without old age and untouched by death, i.e., it is eternal. It has no regrets or misery. It has no distractions like hunger or thirst. Its desires are always fulfilled. Its resolves never fail. These are all Aksharbrahman’s eternal qualities. Mãyã can never obstruct it. That is why it says, ‘सत्यान् कामान्’ – ‘Satyãn kãmãn’ (Chhãndogya Upanishad: 8/1/6). That is, these qualities of Aksharbrahman are satya, i.e., remain the same forever.
Saying this, it then tells us the most beneficial uniqueness of Aksharbrahman, ‘स सेतु íवघृतिरेषां लोकानामस भेदाय’ – ‘Sa seturvidhrutireshãm lokãnãmasambhedãya’ – ‘That Aksharbrahman is the bridge to attain Paramãtmã and ultimate liberation, and it is the support of all’ (Chãndogya Upanishad: 8/4/1).
Thus, these precepts on Aksharbrahman have been given in various ways. The main purpose is that we become acquainted with that Akshar and that we firmly associate with it. Also, we should know the form of our own ãtmã, imbibe the qualities of Brahman within it and thus becoming brahmarup attain Parabrahman.
THE STORY OF INDRA AND VIROCHAN – ÃTMAVIDYÃ
Learning that Prajãpati gives clear and fitting precepts on the form of ãtmã, both the devas and the asuras desired to hear those precepts. Of them, ‘इन्द्रो हैव देवानामभिप्रवव्राज विरोचनोऽसुराणाम्’ – ‘Indro haiva devãnãmabhipravavrãja virochano’surãnãm’ – ‘Indra presented himself in front of Prajãpati as a representative of the devas, and Virochan as a representative of the asuras’ (Chãndogya Upanishad: 8/7/2). They obeyed celibacy for thirty-two years in order to obtain the knowledge of the ãtmã. Then Prajapãti asked, “What have you come for?” They both requested him to give them knowledge of the ãtmã. Prajãpati then said, ‘य एषोऽक्षिणि पुरुषो दृश्यते एष आत्मेति’ – ‘Ya esho’kshini purusho drushyate esha ãtmeti’ – ‘The person that can be seen in the eye is the ãtmã.’ Hearing this, Indra and Virochan said, “O Lord, this can be seen in water or in a mirror. Which ãtmã are you talking about?” Prajãpati then took them both to a vessel filled with water and said, “Look in here. What do you see?”
“We see ourselves from head to foot,” they said.
Prajãpati then said, ‘साध्वलंकृत्तौ सुवसनौ परिष्कृतौ भूत्वोदशरावेऽवेक्षेथामिति’ – ‘Sãdhvalankruttau suvasanau parishkrutau bhootvodasharãve’vekshethãmiti’ – ‘Both of you wear the best clothes and jewellery and then look into the vessel of water’ (Chhãndogya Upanishad: 8/8/2). They both did accordingly.
“What do you see?” Prajãpati asked.
“We see ourselves dressed up in good clothes,” They both replied.
Prajãpati then replied, ‘एष आत्मेति’ – ‘Esha ãtmã’ – ‘That’s the ãtmã’ (Chãndogya Upanishad: 8/8/3). Hearing this they both became silent and prepared to leave. Seeing this, Prajãpati began to worry, “I haven’t yet given them a true and complete understanding of the ãtmã. I have only just started. They are leaving, being satisfied with just this much! This will result in ‘ते पराभविष्यन्ति’ – ‘Te parãbhavishyanti’ – ‘them being defeated’” (Chhãndogya Upanishad: 8/8/4). Indeed, so it happened, of the two, Virochan believed that the reflection that can be seen – the body – is itself the ãtmã. Therefore, to look after the body, worship it, and pamper it is itself knowledge of the ãtmã. Thinking this, ‘विरोचनोऽसुरान् जगाम’ – ‘Virochano’surãn jagãma’ (Chãndogya Upanishad: 8/8/4). Virochan reached the assembly of the asuras and announced that the body is itself the ãtmã and it should be pampered. The asuras immediately accepted this. This very belief resulted in indulgence. This means that indulgence, which has resulted from believing the body and the ãtmã to be one, is demonic.
On the other hand, Indra felt differently. Contemplating on Prajãpati’s statement, he doubted it. He felt that it is but common for one who is adorned with good clothes and jewellery to see that in the reflection in a water-vessel. But if the body was blind, dumb or disabled then it would also appear as such. Does that mean that the ãtmã is subject to such changes? ‘नाहमत्र भाग्यं पश्यामि’ – ‘I don’t think this is right’ (Chãndogya Upanishad: 8/9/1). Let me go and clarify the matter by asking. Indra thus returned to Prajãpati and expressed his doubts. Prajãpati said, “I will surely give you the answer to this, but for that you will have to observe celibacy for thirty-two years.” Since Indra had a true hunger for the truth, he did so. Thereafter, pleased, Prajãpati said, ‘य एष स्वप्ने महीयानश्वरत्येष आत्मेति’ – ‘Ya esha svapne maheeyãnashvaratyesha ãtmeti’ – ‘That which enjoys various objects in a dream is the ãtmã’ (Chãndogya Upanishad: 8/10/1). Indra heard this, but he doubted again. He thought that someone who is blind may not be so in a dream; he might be able to see. Also, if the body is injured, it might not be injured in a dream. What am I to understand from this? This is not comprehensible. He presented this doubt to Prajãpati. Prajãpati said, “Observe celibacy for another thirty-two years.” Indra did so. He then came to Prajãpati again. Pleased, Prajãpati said, ‘यत्रैतत् सुषुप्तः समस्तः स प्रसन्नः स्वप्नं न विजानात्येष आत्मेति’ – ‘Yatraitat sushuptaha samastaha samprasannaha svapnam na vijãnãtyesha ãtmeti’ – ‘The state in which even dreams are not seen is called the state of deep sleep. A person in deep sleep is the ãtmã’ (Chãndogya Upanishad: 8/11/1). Indra heard this, thought about it, and once again had a doubt that one is not conscious in deep sleep. In this state, a person is immersed in ignorance. How can such a person in deep sleep be believed to be the ãtmã? He presented his doubt to Prajãpati. Prajãpati said, “Now observe celibacy for another five years.” Indra did so. Pleased with Indra’s determined desire to know, Prajãpati revealed to him the true understanding of the ãtmã, ‘मघवन्मर्त्यं वा इदš शरीरमात्तं मृत्युना तदस्यामृतस्याशरीरस्यात्मनोऽघिष्ठानमात्तो वै सशरीरः प्रियाप्रियाभ्यां न वै सशरीरस्य सतः प्रियाप्रिययोरपहतिरस्त्यशरीरं वाव सन्तं न प्रियाप्रिये स्पृशतः’ – ‘Maghavanmartyam vã idam shareeramãttam mrutyunã tadasyãmrutasyãsharãrasyãtmanããdhi-shthãnamãtto vai sasharãraha priyãpriyãbhyãm na vai sasharãrasya sataha priyãpriyayãrapahatirastyasharãram vãva santam na priyãpriye sprushataha’ – ‘O Indra, this body is perishable. Its death is inevitable. It is just a temporary place of residence for the ãtmã. The ãtmã is eternal despite the fact that it resides in the body. It is indestructible. Therefore, O Indra, as long as you believe yourself to be the body you will have feelings of mundane misery and happiness. Once the belief that you are the body subsides and you truly realize the ãtmã, then mundane misery and happiness no longer affect one’ (Chãndogya Upanishad: 8/12/1). So what is the form of the ãtmã which has attained liberation? The answer, ‘य आत्माऽपहतपाप्मा विजरो विमृत्युर्विशोकोविजिघत्सोऽपिपासः सत्यकामः सत्यसङ्कल्पः’ – ‘Ya ãtmã’pahatapãpmã vijaro vimrutyurvishokovijighatso’pipãsaha satyakãmaha satyasankalpaha’ – ‘It becomes free of sins, free of conditions like old age, free of death, free of grief, above hunger and thirst; its desires are fulfilled and its resolves succeed’ (Chhãndogya Upanishad: 8/7/1).
Then, Prajãpati said something special, ‘एष संप्रसादोऽस्मात्व्छरीरात् समुत्थाय परं ज्योतिरुपसम्पद्य स्वेन रूपेणाभिनिष्पद्यते’ – ‘Esha samprasãdo’smãchchhareerãt samutthãya param jyotirupasampadya svena roopenãbhinishpadyate’ – ‘O Indra, when the ãtmã attains liberation, i.e., becomes liberated, it attains a form like Brahman and attains the supreme lustrous Paramãtmã’ (Chãndogya Upanishad: 8/12/1).
Here, the words ‘svena roopena’ should be noted. Previously in daharvidyã the qualities of Aksharbrahman were shown with the words ‘Ya ãtmã’pahatapãpmã vijaro vimrutyrvishokovijighatso’pipãsaha satyakãmaha satyasankalpaha’ (Chhãndogya Upanishad: 8/7/1). Here, Prajãpati says that the qualities of the ãtmã are the same. This means that we should first understand Aksharbrahman as possessing these qualities and then develop the awareness of one’s own ãtmã as with these qualities of that Brahman. By doing this the qualities of that Brahman are imbibed in the ãtmã, i.e., the ãtmã becomes brahmarup; and when the body dies, the ãtmã goes to Akshardhãm and attains a form like Aksharbrahman, i.e., attains a divine body. This form like that of Brahman has been mentioned here with the words ‘svena roopena’.
Indra was satisfied on hearing these precepts from Prajãpati.
Thus, the story of Prajãpati, Indra and Virochan guides us to the true knowledge of the ãtmã.
In this way, various aspects of the knowledge of the ãtmã have been given here through different stories.
Now let us see, through a story that gives an important message, how the endeavours to attain spiritual knowledge, that seem so difficult, are made simple and easy.
Translated by: Sadhu Paramvivekdas