mANDUkya upaniShad Part 3

Mantra 2

*** Read Part 2 ***

सर्वं ह्येतद् ब्रह्मायमात्मा ब्रह्म सोऽयमात्मा चतुष्पात् || 2 ||

sarvaM hyetad brahmAyamAtmA brahma so.ayamAtmA chatuShpAt

sarvaM etad – Everything here
hi – (is)certainly
brahma – brahman.
ayam AtmA – This Atman
brahma – (is) brahman.
saH ayam AtmA – This very Atman
chatuShpad (= chatur + pAda) – (has) four aspects.

Absolutely everything is brahman. This Atman is brahman and has four aspects.

In the first mantra, OM was said to be everything. (How this is so will be analyzed in mantras 8 – 12.) The Upanishad now asks what is the nature of this Self, Atman; mantras 2 – 7 make this enquiry.

In this second mantra, it is being said that this ‘everything’ is brahman. brahman is Existence – hence the ‘sat’ in sat-chit-Ananda. OM was the ‘name’ given to ‘everything’. Both OM and ‘everything’ are only name and form of the real ‘substrate’, which is brahman. The world is mithyA, brahman is satyam. Only after this has been realized, can brahman be (as it were) ‘known’, since brahman is the reality upon which all of this appearance takes place. We can therefore find out the truth about everything either by investigating into the nature of OM or by investigating into Atmanbrahman. Both investigations will lead us to the same understanding, but the direct investigation into our own nature is the ‘fast track’ whereas the analysis of, and meditation on, OM is for those of weaker intellect.

Shankara’s commentary begins by stating that the name and the thing named are one – name and the object named are not separable. I.e. OM is everything. 

If this were not said, the circumstance that knowledge of a thing is dependent upon the name of the thing would appear to suggest that the oneness of names and objects is only metaphorical. The object of establishing the unity of things and names is none other than the possibility of doing away with both of them, by a single effort, thus simultaneously realizing brahman as distinct from both. (Ref. 2)

This statement can be understood by reference to the vAchArambhaNa sutras of the Chandogya Upanishad, discussed above. 

The emphasis on ‘this, here’ (hi etad – hi means ‘indeed’ or ‘certainly’) is made in order to differentiate ‘this’, which is closest to me, from ‘that’ which is further away. Swami Chinmayananda points out (Ref. 3) that ‘this Atman’ can never be referred to as ‘that’ because it is our very Self and can never be away from us. So that reality which is my Self is ‘responsible’ for both the feeling of ‘I’ in this body-mind as well as for the universe which it seemingly experiences. Both are manifestations of brahman.

ayamAtmA brahma is, of course, one of the four most famous statements (mahAvAkya-s) from the Upanishads. It signifies the realization that who-I-really-am is that same brahman that has previously been stated as being everything. Shankara suggests that the speaker will put his hand on his heart as these words are spoken, referring to the Self ‘within’. (Naturally, we should acknowledge that the Self is everywhere and does not literally reside in the ‘cave within the heart’.) Having said that everything ‘out there’ is OM and brahman, it is now being said that this Atman here, i.e. I myself, is also brahman. This Self-realization is directly intuited (aparokSha) rather than being indirectly inferred or deduced (parokSha). It is known as a fact; there is no need for reasoning. Indeed, it is always available for direct knowledge; it is just that we usually need a guru to point out the obvious, which has become obscured by lots of misleading notions!

So, since brahman is everything, and I am brahman, it follows that ‘I am everything’. By carrying out an investigation into my Self, I can come to know everything – the nature of reality itself. This follows because everything and the knower of everything are dependent upon Consciousness itself and I am That. Both knower and known are mithyA. Only ‘I’, Consciousness itself, am satyam.

The word chatuShpad refers to the four aspects of this Consciousness, i.e. the three ‘states’ of Consciousness – waking, dreaming and deep sleep – and that reality which is the ‘background’ to all states. [As an aside, it can be noted that Advaita pedantically recognizes 5 states of consciousness: waking, dreaming, deep sleep, unconsciousness and death. In unconsciousness, the person cannot easily be awoken by the usual means; in death he cannot be awoken at all! So these two ‘extra’ states have to be different from the usual three. Shankara discusses unconsciousness, the ‘swoon’ state, in BSB III.2.10. See Appendix 2 for further explanation.]

The word mithyA means dependent reality, consisting only of name and form. The waking state, jAgrat, consists of gross name and form (sthUla nAma-rUpa) – the appearance of this material universe. This can be thought of as the gross knower-known (this knower is called vishva) dependent upon me, the sthUla Atma. The dream state, svapna, consists of the subtle name and form of the dreams projected by my mind (sUkShma nAma-rUpa). This is the subtle knower-known (this knower is called taijasa), dependent upon me, the sUkShma Atma. And the deep-sleep state, suShupti, consists of the causal or unmanifest name and form. Because they are unmanifest, there is no knower-known distinction but these are similarly dependent upon me, the kAraNa Atma. (The causal, undifferentiated consciousness is called prAj~na.)

I am, as it were, acting as sthUla Atma in the waking state, sUkShma Atma in the dream state and kAraNa Atma in the deep-sleep state. When I am not acting any part, I am simply myself. This non-acting condition is called turIya and, though referred to here as one of the four parts, is not in fact a part or a state at all – it is the reality, in which I can be called turIya Atma. In turIya, there is no knower-known differentiation or distinction of any kind. turIya is the satyam, reality; the other three pAda-s are mithyA. Shankara says that the Sanskrit word pAda, when used to refer to the three states, is in the instrumental case of the noun, i.e. it carries the sense of ‘that by which something is attained’, sAdhana. When used to refer to turIya, however, it is in the objective case, carrying the meaning of ‘that which is achieved’ – sAdhya. It is clearly not incidental that the word sAdhana also refers to the spiritual disciplines we need to follow in order to attain Self-realization. [The word pAda also means ‘foot’ and chatuShpad means a ‘quadruped’. Shankara is careful to point out that, here, this meaning should not be used – the Atman does not have four legs or feet, like a cow!]

*** To be continued ***