Gems From 1.4.7, BUB

“He who meditates upon each of the totality of aspects of the Self does not know. The Self alone is to be meditated upon, for all these are unified in It. Of all these, this Self alone should be realized “– 1.4.7, BU

Shankara has written one of his longest of commentaries on the mantra at 1.4.7, brihadAraNyaka Upanishad. He presents therein a very lucid, comprehensive and highly instructive account of the entire spectrum of Advaita teaching — right from the origination of the manifest manifold to its sublation and attainment of liberation. I feel that it is a “must-study” for all earnest seekers. I recapitulate below a few of the Gems that I could glean from his bhAshya.

1.  All Vedic means consist of meditation and rites are co-extensive with this manifested, relative universe. They depend on several factors such as the agent. They culminate in identity with Hiranyagarbha. It’s a result achieved through effort.

2.  shruti wishes to indicate the causal state of this manifested universe, i.e., the state which existed before its manifestation.

3.  The tree of relative existence has one’s actions as its seed and ignorance as the field where it grows. In the uprooting of this tree lies the perfection of human achievement (also see: 6.1, kaTha; 15.1, BG).

4.  It is the aim of all scriptures to teach about the Self. The differences of agent, action and result have been “superimposed” on the Self due to ignorance. (i.e. ignorance about the True nature of the Self).

5.  Name and form are an impurity, like foam appearing from limpid water. Like the pure water, the Self is distinct from that name and form, and is intrinsically eternal, pure, enlightened and free by nature.

6.  The undifferentiated ‘One’ Self manifests as the differentiated ‘many’ with name and form which are the support of the results of people’s actions, and are characterized by hunger etc. [It looks as though] the Self has entered into all the bodies (forms).

7.  The manifested universe is always completely pervaded by the Supreme Self, its manifestor. So how is It conceived of as entering into it?

Shankara explains what “entry” connotes: “Like the reflection of the sun etc. in water, the entrance of the Self means only Its being perceived like a reflection in the differentiated universe. Before the manifestation of the latter the Self is not perceived, but after it is manifested, the Self is perceived within the intellect, like the reflection of the sun etc. in water.”

Therefore, the entrance of the Self into the universe is but a metaphorical way of stating that It is perceived in the midst of the latter.

8.  shruti says, “The Self is not affected by human misery, being beyond it’ (5.2, kaThaU.).” In other words, misery, being an object of perception, cannot affect the Self, which is not an object of perception.

9.  Perception and the like have for their object only the particular form (the apparent self) that It takes owing to Its being the support of Its limiting adjunct (mind). Such shruti texts as, ‘One cannot see the seer of sight’ (3.4.2, BU), ‘Through what, O’ Maitreyi, should one know the knower?’ (2.4.14; 4.5.15, BU), ‘It is never known, but is the Knower’ (3.8.2, BU), show that the consciousness in question is not of the Self, but that such perceptions as that one is happy or miserable, concern only the reflection of the Self

10.  The consciousness that perceives happiness and deals with objects of perception cannot certainly be supposed to cognize the Self, which is ever to be inferred.

11.  The Supreme Self has no misery, and there is no other entity to be miserable.

The shruti, however, removes the false notion of misery superimposed by ignorance. And the Self being admitted to imagine Itself as miserable, the scriptures help to remove that error, as in the case of the failure to count the tenth man, although he was there.

12.  Projection of the world: The passages delineating the projection of the universe and the entrance of the Self into it as well as its continuance and dissolution, serve only as aids to the realization of the Self, for this is described in the shruti-s as the highest end of man.

13.  shruti says, ‘He transformed Himself in accordance with each form; that form of His was for the sake of making Him known’ (2.5.19, BU).

14.  When the Self does the function of living, It is called the “vital force.” Because of doing only this function, and none other, the Self is called the “vital force,” from the derivative meaning of the term, as for example, one is called a cutter or a cook because of the work s/he does. People are unable to comprehend the Self in the world in its Entirety and It is seen only incompletely because they are unable to combine all of Its aspects and functions holistically.

15.  Action has name and form as its auxiliaries and inheres in the vital force; the organ of speech is the instrument to manifest this action inherent in the vital force. Likewise, the Self is called the hand, the foot and the organs of excretion and generation, which are all suggested by the organ of speech. The whole differentiated universe is this much.

The shruti herself says later on, ‘This (universe) indeed consists of three things : name, form and action’ (1.6.1, BU).  

16.  The word ‘mind’ means the common instrument of the different manifestations of the power of knowledge and also the agent who thinks.

17.  As long as the man knows the Self as such, as possessed of the natural functions, and thinks that It sees, hears or touches, he does not really know the whole Self.

18.  The very Knowledge of the nature of the Self removes the ignorance about It, consisting in identification with the non-Self, and the superimposing of action, its factors, principal and subsidiary, and its results (on the Self).

[The Knowledge of the Self has been imparted by such shruti passages dealing with the subject as, ‘brahman that is immediate and direct’ (3.4.1-2; 3.5.1, BU); Self is this (infinite entity) that is identified with the intellect,’ etc. (4.3.7, BU).]

19.  Sentences such as, ‘You are That,’ which only delineate the nature of the Self, immediately lead to Its realization. There is no further action to be done with regard to the injunction about that realization.

Except the Knowledge that arises from the dictum setting forth the nature of the Self and refuting the non-Self, there is nothing to be done, either mentally or outwardly.

20.  Passages such as, ‘You are That,’ ‘Not thus, not thus,’ ‘All this is but the Self’ (7.25.2, chAnU), ‘One only without a second,’ ‘This universe is but brahman and immortal’ (2.2.9, muN), ‘There is no other witness but This’ (3.8.2, BU), and ‘Know that alone to be brahman’ (1,5-9, kena), describe the Reality alone.

21.  When ignorance is removed, evils such as desire cannot exist, and consequently thinking of the non-Self is also gone. Hence on the principle of the residuum thinking of the Self follows as a matter of course. Therefore, meditation on It, from this point of view, has not to be enjoined, for it is already known.

22.  Self-knowledge puts a stop to all activity. For a neutral Knowledge cannot initiate any activity, since such passages as, ‘One only without a second,’ and ‘You are That’ (4.8.7, chAnU.), merely remove the consciousness of any other entity but the Self or brahman.

23.  When this false notion about the Self is gone. memories due to that, which are natural to man and concern the multitude of things other than the Self, cannot last.

Moreover, everything else is then known to be an evil. In other words, when the Self is known, things other than It are realized as evils, being full of defects such as transistoriness, painfulness and impurity, while the Self is contrary to them. Therefore, the memories of notions about the non-Self die out when the Self is known.

24.  The memory of the Self removes the painful defects such as grief, delusion, fear and effort which spring from the opposite kind of knowledge.

[shruti says, ‘Then what delusion can there be?’ (7, Isha.), ‘Knowing (the bliss of brahman), he is not afraid of anything’ (2.9, tai), ‘You have attained That which is free from fear, O’ Janaka’ (4.2.4, BU), ‘The knot of the heart is broken’ (2.2.9, muN), and so on.]

25.  ‘The control of the mind’ is not known as a means of liberation. In the Upanishads, nothing is spoken of as a means to the attainment of the highest end of man except the Knowledge of the identity of the self and brahman. Besides there is no other means for the control of mental states except the Knowledge of the Self and the train of remembrance about it.

26.  The test of the authority or otherwise of a shruti passage is not whether it states a fact or an action, but its capacity to generate certain and fruitful Knowledge. A passage that has this is authoritative. One that lacks it, is not.

27.  The resultant of past actions that led to the formation of the present body must produce definite results. Therefore, speech, mind and the body are bound to work even after the highest realization, for actions that have begun to bear fruit are stronger than Knowledge. The operation of Knowledge, being weaker than they, (is liable to be interrupted by them and) becomes only a possible alternative. Therefore, there is need to regulate the train· of remembrance of the knowledge of the Self by having recourse to means such as renunciation and dispassion.
[Perhaps (?), this is the real purpose and meaning of “nididhyAsana.“]

28.  When the Self is attained, everything is automatically attained.

29.  The Shruti uses the words ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Attainment’ as synonymous. The non-attainment of the Self is but the ignorance of It. Hence the knowledge of the Self is Its attainment.

[the root ‘vid’ also means ‘to get.’]

30.  The attainment of the Self is simply the removal of the obstruction that veils the Self-knowledge.

[It’s not that one has to ‘get’ Self-knowledge and replace the ignorance, as some people think.]

5 thoughts on “Gems From 1.4.7, BUB

  1. Ramesam

    Real gems to be preserved and looked at over and over again. It covers all points I often ponder.

    1 Meditation and upasana will lead to hiranygarbha

    3 (Vasana that generates) action is the seed of relative world. 

    4 Difference between the true Self and  pramata/karta/bhokta I (knower, doer, enjoyer- sufferer)

    6,7 True meaning or explanation of Self enters human bodies.

    9, 10 Conceptions of happiness, sorrow etc concern “reflection of Self” and not real Self.

    11 Self has no misery ( a note on true intent of tenth man story will be helpful)

    12 Projection, continuation and dissolution of the universe – only aids to true realization.

    14 *Needs more clarity – my guess is that the intent is to show Brahman cannot be looked at in parts?

    15 Universe consists of names, forms, actions.


    18 The very knowledge of Self removes ignorance – like light removing darkness, (but not like mahavakya knowledge thru shravan- manana-nidhidhyadan scrubbing off mula avidya  a positive entity??)

    19 20 Mahavakya immediately leads to realization, NO ACTION OF ANY SORT IS REQUIRED

    21 22 23 24 Upon removal of ignorance, evil cannot exist, ALL ACTIONS COME TO AN END, memories are gone. Grief, delusion, fear are all gone!

    27* Role of renunciation and dispassion to remember train of remembrance of knowledge of Self (not quite clear?).
    A softer position compared to US 18.222 – “renunciation of all actions in order to discriminate the implied meaning of You becomes the means to Self Knowledge.”

    28 29 30 When Self is attained everything is attained, knowledge of Self is attainment.


  2. Thanks Ramesam for this post.

    A question and an observation:

    1) On ’25 – control of mind’ – how do you reconcile this with MK 3.34 – 3.35, or 3.40-3.45?

    2) On point 27, I think this is very much consistent with the closing paras of BUB 3.5.1. It is also consistent with BGB that talks of jnana nishtha + reununciation.


  3. Ramesam Venkat
    #25 Control of mind
    As Venkat pointed out ” how do you reconcile GK 3.34, 35….
    I think, GK 47 SB last paragraph makes it clear
    ” all such ideas as control of mind and so on….have been spoken of as means of realization of Supreme Reality, but not been spoken of as supremely true in themselves.

  4. Hi Vijay

    Thanks for that reference, though my Gambhirananda translation reads that control of mind is the means leading to realisation rather than the highest truth of Ajata vada.

    Whereas point (25) above reads ‘The control of the mind’ is not known as a means of liberation.


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