One to many to One – 2/2

Part – 1

The Redemption:

Suggesting a way out of this quagmire of samsAra, Shankara observes:

तं पुनर्देहाभिमानादशरीरस्वरूपविज्ञानेन निवर्तिताविवेकज्ञानमशरीरं सन्तं प्रियाप्रिये स्पृशतः 

Meaning: The same Being, however, when, Its “ignorance in the shape of Its notion of the body being the Self” has been set aside by Its Knowledge of its real “unbodied” nature, then pleasure and pain do not touch It.

धर्माधर्मकार्ये हि ते ; अशरीरता तु स्वरूपमिति तत्र धर्माधर्मयोरसम्भवात् तत्कार्यभावो दूरत एवेत्यतो प्रियाप्रिये स्पृशतः

Meaning: The reason for this (i.e., the absence of pleasure and pain) lies in the fact that pleasure and pain are the effects of merit and demerit, while the real nature of the Self is being unbodied, so, that merit and demerit being impossible in the latter, the appearance of their effect is still further off. Hence, the pleasure and pain do not touch It.

It is important to understand here that unlike the bodily pleasure and pain, the Bliss of the Self is something inherent to It. That Bliss is not a transient feature like ‘touch’ which appears and disappears. We have support for this contention from other shruti mantras too. Shankara writes:

त्वग्नेरुष्णप्रकाशयोः स्वभावभूतयोरग्निना स्पर्श इति भवति ; तथा अग्नेः सवितुर्वा उष्णप्रकाशवत् स्वरूपभूतस्य आनन्दस्य प्रियस्यापि नेह प्रतिषेधः, ‘विज्ञानमानन्दं ब्रह्म’ (3.9.28, br.U) ‘आनन्दो ब्रह्म’ (3.6.1, taittirIya)  इत्यादिश्रुतिभ्यः 

This term ‘touch’ is not used in connection with what forms the very nature of things, in such as the heat and brightness of Fire, which form its very nature, which are not spoken of as ‘Touch of fire.’ Commonly like the Heat and Brightness of fire and the Sun, the ‘pleasure’ in the form of Bliss which forms the very nature of Being, is not denied here (by the denial of pleasure); because that Bliss is the very nature of the Self has been taught in many Vedic texts, such as: ‘brahman is Consciousness, Bliss’ (br.U., 3.9.28.); and ‘brahman is Bliss’ (taittirIya 3.6.1).

इहापि भूमैव सुखमित्युक्तत्वात् 

In fact, in this Upanishad also ‘It has been declared that ‘The Infinite Itself is Bliss’ (7.23.1, chAn.).

Instead of appreciating the above fact that his own (disembodied) Self is Itself “the Bliss,” Indra, like almost all of us, seeks to keep one foot (literally along with one’s body) entrenched firmly in the visible world and reach for guaranteed unending pleasure.

That simply will not work!

The Teacher Brahma felt that Indra did not know what is truly good for him. Indra needed to be educated first on that. It reminds us the mantra 1.2.2, kaTha, where the God of Death speaks about the Path of Welfare and the Path of pleasure. Shankara clarifies to us on the viewpoint of Brahma as follows:

व्योमवदशरीरात्मतया सर्वभूतलोककामात्मत्वोपगमेन या प्राप्तिः, तद्धितमिन्द्राय वक्तव्यमिति प्रजापतिना अभिप्रेतम्  तु राज्ञो राज्याप्तिवदन्यत्वेन 

Meaning: What Prajapati wishes to explain for the good of lndra is the idea that the Self is unbodied like the Akasha and when the text speaks of ‘The attainment of all regions and desires,’ what is meant is the realization of the Truth that all these are Self Itself and not that the attainment of something other than the Self, like the attainment of a ‘kingdom’ by a King.

तत्रैवं सति कं केन विजानीयादात्मैकत्वे इमानि भूतान्ययमहमस्मीति 

Meaning: This being so, and the Self being One, who will know and through what, that ‘I am this,’ and all these are creatures? – (Translation: Swami Gambhirananda).

Thus, the attainment of Self is NOT like acquiring of a new property or skill or asset or authority, but the “realization” that everything that IS is already the Self.  We can infer from this that the negation of the world as ‘mithya’ is a halfway mark. It has to be augmented through a further negation of the ‘thought’ that says “I am not All.” This will lead to the “understanding” that “I am the Self and everything is only “Me.” It is the full-fledged “Realization of the Self” in line with 2.2.12, muNDaka and 1.4.10, br.U.

The inevitable question that arises in our minds then is that if ‘All that IS is already the Self, ‘pain’ will exist eternally because pain will also be the Self.’ If that were to be true, it would make a mockery of the process of Self-inquiry searching for a way for redemption from the samsAra. Shankara answers the question as follows:

आत्मन्यविद्याकल्पनानिमित्तानि दुःखानिरज्ज्वामिव सर्पादिकल्पनानिमित्तानि 

Meaning: As a matter of fact, all pains are the effects of “imagination” (kalpanAni) due to ignorance imposed on the Self. Just as the idea of a serpent is imposed upon the rope.

 सा अविद्या अशरीरात्मैकत्वस्वरूपदर्शनेन दुःखनिमित्ता उच्छिन्नेति दुःखसम्बन्धाशङ्का सम्भवति 

Meaning: This ignorance, (as the cause of pain), having been destroyed by the perception of real nature of the unity of the body and all things in the Self, there can be no apprehension at all of the connection with pain.

The thrust of Shankara’s explanation can be expressed in the following two sentences of his:

आत्मनः संसारित्वम् , अविद्याध्यस्तत्वादात्मनि संसारस्य  हि रज्जुशुक्तिकागगनादिषु सर्परजतमलादीनि मिथ्याज्ञानाध्यस्तानि तेषां भवन्तीति 

Meaning:  The Self Itself is not subject to the cycle of birth and rebirth (transmigration). Because, as a matter of fact, the birth and rebirth cycle is superimposed upon the Self by nescience (ignorance). For instance, the serpent, the silver and the darkness, imposed (respectively) upon the rope, the shell and the AkAsha, by wrong cognition, do not come to belong to these latter.

एतेन सशरीरस्य प्रियाप्रिययोरपहतिर्नास्तीति व्याख्यातम् 

Meaning: This explains the statement ‘for the embodied Self, there is no freedom from pleasure and pain.’

The implication is that the whole enchilada beginning with samsAritva, world, body, intellect, mind etc. are all mere “imagination”; none of them exist unless viewed from their viewpoint. Abidance as “Me” (AtmA) dissolves all appearances into “Me” like illumination from a lamp dissolves all darkness  into itself.

Towards the end of his commentary on 8.12.1, chAndogya, Shankara does admit that grasping of the Non-dual Knowledge is not easy. He writes: 

तस्मादिदं त्यक्तसर्वबाह्यैषणैः अनन्यशरणैः परमहंसपरिव्राजकैः अत्याश्रमिभिर्वेदान्तविज्ञानपरैरेव वेदनीयं पूज्यतमैः प्राजापत्यं इमं सम्प्रदायमनुसरद्भिः उपनिबद्धं प्रकरणचतुष्टयेन  — Shankara at 8.12.1, chAndogya.

Meaning: Therefore, this Knowledge, which can be realized only by those:

  • who have nothing else to resort to,
  • who belong to the class of mendicants called Paramahamsa-s,
  • who have transcended the four stages of life,
  • who are devoted to the realization (of the Self) arising from the Upanishads,
  • who are the most adorable, and
  • who are the followers of the tradition established by Prajapati,

has been presented by the Upanishad in four sections. (Translation: Swami Gambhirananda).]

Shankara concludes with the unforgettable words:

तथा अनुशासति अद्यापि एव नान्येइति

Meaning: Therefore, even today, it is they who teach this and not others.


Some helpful comments about a jIvanmukta (One who is ‘liberated’ in this life itself):

Commenting on 8.12.3, chAndogya, Swami Krishnanda says: “That which is located in space and time is physical. This is the very meaning of physicality. There is no such thing as nonphysical thinking and, therefore, the Atman cannot be thought of by the mind. That is the reason also why we cannot imagine what this bodiless existence means.

“You see a world and the jIvanmukta also sees it, but he sees it differently from what you see it because of the difference of the instrument of perception. For him an instrument does not exist. He himself is the instrument and he himself is the object seen. He has become that which he is seeing and so it cannot be called seeing, but it is rather ‘being’. Seeing, he does not see. It appears that he does not see, because there is nothing outside him, and yet, he sees everything because he is himself that. He cannot be conscious of the body. He is not in one body only. He is in every body. Whatever you think is his thought and whatever anybody thinks also is his thought only. So, you cannot say whether he thinks, or I think, or you think. The consciousness of a particular body or object does not arise because all the bodies or objects are his, nay he himself. So, the Upanishad says that he has no awareness of a particular encasement in some individual body. Just as bulls may be yoked to drag a cart, this Supreme Self manifests itself as the prANa and is yoked to this cart of the body, as it were. “Whatever the eyes see when they are cast into space is something different in the case of this liberated soul from what our eyes see. From the point of view of the liberated soul, when the eyes perceive something outside, it is not the eyes that are seeing the object, but it is ‘something else’ that sees.”

17 thoughts on “One to many to One – 2/2

  1. Dear Ramesam,

    Thanks for taking on this complex verse.

    There is a rather difficult passage in 8.12.1 that talks about the difference between the Supreme person who goes about “laughing, sporting and enjoying with women” and the tranquil one – and concluding that they are the same.

    But this, and subsequently 8.12.3, both seem to imply that the pleasurable can continue for the liberated one. This would seem to go against the grain of desirelessness and of Paramahamsas being fit for knowledge.

    Further, in 8.12.5, Sankara goes on to say:
    “He who becomes free from body, organs and mind created by ignorance and attains the Self, enjoys these desires through this mind”

    How can the liberated one be free from fear, and yet still enjoy desires . . . with a mind that is a creation of ignorance?

    Best wishes,

  2. Dear Venkat,

    Thank you for your very valuable observations.
    Yes, what you say is absolutely true – the mantra at 8.12.1, chAn and Shankara bhAShya on it are pretty complex. One has to tease out the correct meaning digging through several layers of coverings.
    1. As mentioned in Part – 1, the Upanishad itself assumes the existence of a world and a Godhead who created it, contrary to the actual teaching of Advaita doctrine.
    2. The hero in the 8th chapter is Indra (who represents almost all of us) who is drawn to BrahmA’s teaching because of the ‘promise’ announced by BrahmA that “Whoever investigates into this Atman and knows the nature of this Atman attains all the worlds and fulfils all desires.” (In Section 7).
    3. BrahmA uses very few and that too cryptic words in his teaching.
    4. Indra not only fails to grasp BrahmA’s teaching as intended by the teacher, but also misinterprets it to suit to his own ideas (like many of us).
    5. Shankara also adopts mostly a negative way of wording his explanation instead of using affirmative sentences.
    6. To further add to the confusion, Shankara’s opponent tries to argue with Shankara either in support of Indra or to give another wrong meaning to BrahmA’s words.

    We have to dig through all that overlaying heavy burden to capture the Advaitic gems that Shankara sorts out of the muck and presents to us!

    Thanks also for making a very subtle and important point through your question. That part quoted by you (about the “pleasurable”) from 8.12.1 comes from the Opponent (to siddhAntin).


    (To Continue …. in a separate post below)

  3. Dear Venkat,

    I shall try to share here my understanding re: the Question of the “Pleasurable” raised by you.

    Let us first keep in mind that chAndogya is entirely based on “saguNa brahma upAsana.” The seeker does NOT get liberated right here fully. S/He still retains a much attenuated subtle body (which includes the mind, intellect, prANa etc.) + the causal body. After the death of the gross body s/he travels either in that body or another provided by Ishwara to brahmaloka (the abode of his favorite deity). (See 8.15.1, chAn – referred to in Part – 1).’brahmaloka’ does not mean the loka of BrahmA. BrahmA’s abode is Satyaloka.

    It is unlike the case of a jnAni who is a nirguNa brahma follower. On the death of the gross body, his/her subtle and casual bodies merge in steps right here on earth itself on the death of the gross body.

    So I assume that there is scope for some vestigial ‘desires’ to persist in the case of saguNa brahma follower. After reaching brahmaloka, s/he gets further instruction or gets liberated along with the Lord of that loka.

    In the specific quote of 8.12.1 you talk of, the Opponent says that (as per the understanding of Indra), BrahmA taught in steps that the Supreme Self or Purushottama is only in the turIya after talking about the ‘Seer’ in the wakeful, dream, and deep sleep states. Remember, the motivation for Indra to get the Non-dual teaching is to be able enjoy in all worlds and to get all desires fulfilled. So, he likes to retain his status, lordship, etc. and still get all his desires fulfilled (like most of us!) by being as ‘Purushottama.’

    Shankara says, bluntly, “तदप्यसत् ।” (Totally WRONG).
    He adds that if such were to be the teaching of BrahmA, it will tantamount to BrahmA lying.

    What Shankara’s intention in saying so is that the teaching by BrahmA is that the “Seer” at all four places – awake, dream and deep sleep – is the one and the same ‘Seer’ and it is not that the Purushottama is in turIya only. At this point, BrahmA is still sailing along with the concept that all desires get fulfilled for Purushottama – which is also true in a way, except for the fact that no desire arises in him!


  4. Thanks Ramesam for taking the time to respond to this.

    I agree with you that taking 8.12.1 on its own, one can read my query to pertain to the objector, and Sankara does appear to dismiss it. But then in 8.12.3 and 5, it is Sankara speaking, albeit perhaps about saguna brahma follower.

    Overall, TBH, I do find Sankara’s commentary on this important part of the Chand Up lacking – sorry to say! Perhaps that is just my deficiency.

    All best,

  5. Dear Venkat,

    (Continued from above post of mine – sorry did not say that my post continues)

    Sorry for the length of my reply.
    You and Dennis have the ability to express concisely in a few sentences all the intricacies, but I lack that ability. Hope I have your indulgence.

    Now coming to the references you make wrt 8.12.3 and 8.12.5:

    First of all, we should not forget that the Advaita position is NOT that a variety of AtmA-s exist, though for our convenience, we talk of a jIvAtmA, pratygAtmA, paramAtmA etc. All these AtmA-s inside and outside are ONE only. But a jiVatmA “apparently” seems to suffer because of mere “imagination” (like shivers on seeing a snake in place of rope) due to ‘ignorance.’ Please see what Shankara says:

    न च आत्मनः संसारित्वम् , अविद्याध्यस्तत्वादात्मनि संसारस्य । न हि रज्जुशुक्तिकागगनादिषु सर्परजतमलादीनि मिथ्याज्ञानाध्यस्तानि तेषां भवन्तीति ।

    IOW, all the variously named AtmA-s never have any संसारित्वम् or the miserable samsAra and the birth-death cycles, but for the ‘imagination.’ That is to say that AtmA is ever bodiless (= formless), even when (thought of) being inside a body (body being unreal imagination). Therefore, as long as the unreal ‘imagination’ of having a body persists, it is inevitable that its consequence, viz. pleasure and pain, will last.

    Shankara laments that Indra could not grok the essence of the Non-dual message even after repeated teaching using devices like reflection of Sun in a pail of water etc. (देवराजोऽप्युदशरावादिदर्शिताविनाशयुक्तिरपि). Even learned Pundits like Kanada, Buddha, logicians, &c &c could not! He asks in exasperation, “What to talk of other ignorant people?”

    The next part of my post needs very careful understanding.
    So, I am breaking again here to continue next re: 8.12.3, chAn.


    (To Continue ….)

  6. Dear Venkat,

    The Upanishad switches to what happens in the brahmaloka.
    Within that loka, the One Uttama Purusha moves around eating whatever he likes to or in the company of whomsoever he wishes to be with. All this happens right where he is, all of it being his mentation only. Being his thought only, what is mentally created is not apart from himself. All of it is his mind. (Shankara also clarifies that it is NOT like the sexual relationship between a male and female known to us).

    In the case of us, the ignorant, we separate ourselves as the seers and actors from what is seen or the actions that happen. We stand apart. But in the case of the Uttama Purusha in brahmaloka, ignorance has gone; hence, he will not have any sense of separation from the seen. Like a magician watching his own magic show not being affected by it, Uttama Purusha too experiences his instantaneous creation.

    Please note what Shankara writes in his commentary at this mantra 8.12.3:

    “[T]hese experiences owe their manifestation to True Knowledge, and hence these are pointed out in eulogizing the Knowledge of Self ; it is for this reason that the specification that ‘ these are experienced in the Brahmic Region ‘ is quite reasonable ; because whereby they occur, they are said to occur in the ‘Region of Brahman ‘, as Brahman is the All-Self.” (Translation: Dr. G.N. Jha).

    A similar explanation is given by Shankara wrt the desires arising to the Purusha in brahmaloka in his commentary at 8.12.5 also. At the end, Shankara says:

    “The Self, thus who has become liberated, reverted to
    his own form, is entirely disassociated from all products
    of nescience, such as the Body, the sense-organs and the
    Mind, has resumed the position of All-Self; being so, he
    is pure like Akasha, the Lord of all, with the Mind as his
    conditioning adjunct; and it is by means of His Divine Mind
    that He sees these desires, through a vision that is very
    operative, like the light of the Sun; and rejoices. The text
    defines the Desires as those in the Brahman-Region, i.e.,
    hidden, like buried gold, by the ‘Untrue’, and available by
    mere willing.” (Translation: Dr. G.N. Jha).
    (Please note that the mind referred to in 8.12.5 is NOT the individual (vyaShTi) mind. It is the Cosmic Mind which serves the Creator Lord).

  7. Dear Ramesam,

    In a similar vein to your last quote, Sankara writes in 8.12.3:
    “But those true mental desires covered by falsehood, which are perceived by those whose faults have been removed, become united with one who had become identified with all.”

    So what are the ’true mental desires’ of the cosmic mind – and what does it have to desire given identification with all?

    Is this just a case of Sankara having to explain the Upanishad at its level, even though it does not make sense at the ajata vada level?

    Best wishes,

  8. Dear Venkat,

    Thanks for your deeply thoughtful post above and the questions raised.

    As we had already repeatedly noted, chAndogya is out and out based on the “model” of the “existence of a world and a Lord (Ishwara) who created the world” following the “Doctrine of sRiShTi-dRiShTi.” Therefore, it is difficult for one to expect a definitive and clearcut statement from chAndogya “to make sense at the ajata vada level.”

    You can also appreciate this fact from the way the chAndogya is structured. The first five of the eight chapters (63%) is on “upAsana” to a favorite God/Goddess and not any great Non-dual doctrinaire philosophy. The philosohy comes only in the last 3 chapters.

    Secondly, I wish to bring to your kind attention the fact that the word “mind” occurring in the two quotes from 8.12.3 and 8.12.5 do not refer to the same entity. The word ‘mind’ at 8.12.5 connotes the “Cosmic, collective mind of the Hiranyagarbha or the Creator.” The ‘mind’ at 8.12.3 is about the ‘buddhi’ of the individual ‘after’ realization that all is Self.

    Your poser, “So what are the ’true mental desires’ of the cosmic mind – and what does it have to desire given identification with all?” brillianlty connects back to the discussions at “What Happens After Self-realization? – 3/3”

    In fact, that very question of yours is the subject matter of the Part – 3 of the referred article. Even the ancient Sages give different answers. It may not be a bad idea to suggest that all the five blog Posts (3 of ‘What happens after Self Realization’ and the 2 of ‘One to many to One,’) together constitute a single article.

    Or have I missed totally the point you are making?


  9. Hi Ramesam

    Sorry to be pedantic, but I’d say the mind is the same in both 8.12.3 and 8.12.5

    In the former, ‘true mental desires’ are perceived by one who has become identified with all – as you correctly say the buddhi of the individual after self- realisation.

    The latter though also begins with the one “who becomes free from body, organs and mind created by ignorance, and attains the state of being the Self of all . . . such a one, having the mind as the limiting adjunct, enjoys these desires”

    Surely we are talking about the same mind? BTW I am using Gambhirananda’s translation, and so I fully recognise that your knowledge of Sanskrit may make this clearer. Hence my question.


  10. Dear Venkat,

    First thank you for sharing Sw-G’s translation as a pdf.
    I read Sw-G’s translation. He too brings up the difference between the two mantras – 8.12.3 and 8.12.5.

    If one reads Shankara’s commentary at all the mantras from 8.12.1 to 8.12.5, without leaving the 2nd and 4th, things may become clearer. I am spelling out below my understanding:

    1. All the discussion on the Four-faced BrahmA’s teaching to Indra is over at 8.12.1 itself.
    2. Next at 8.12.2, the “result” of the correct understanding, assuming that one successfully understood BrahmA’s teaching, is being presented. A metaphor of air, cloud, lightning and thunder which are all formless is used for this explanation. All the four lie dormant within space. When they come out of space, after realizing their true nature, they shine in their natural state. Likewise, the individual jIva also shines in its natural state, once it comes out of the body. Until then, the jIva stays within ignorance deeply identified with the body.
    3. Please remember the vAsanAkShaya has not fully happened in the case of an upAsaka of saguNa brahman. He has to receive further instruction in brahmaloka to lose the effects of vAsanA-s.
    4. Consequently, he still carries a subtle body; therefore, he is still connected with some desires which have not yet been totally eradicated.
    5. On reaching brahmaloka, he experiences those desires in his mind only – without remembering the gross body from which he is now disconnected. The disconnection with the body happens because there is no more of that ‘ignorance’ which is causal to the presence of the body, organs etc. (IOW, only dehAtma buddhi is gone).
    6. The 8.12.3 talks about receiving Knowledge from a benevolent Guru, like Indra had received from BrahmA. Until then, being in ignorance, attachment to and identity with the body etc. will be inevitable. In course of time, (krameNa), the seeker, ingesting the teaching, would come out of the ignorance just like the air, cloud, thunder, lightning come out of space in rainy season.
    7. 8.12.3 essentially recapitulates the entire teaching.
    8. 8.12.4 explains in detail the four steps in the teaching of BrahmA.
    9. 8.12.5 describes about Self which has now begun to identify Itself with all – but still continues to have the mind as the upAdhi. That is to say, the realized Self is not nirguNa brahman but Ishwara. Ishwara’s ‘mind’ (upAdhi) is the Cosmic mind – not individual mind.


  11. Dear Ramesam

    Thank you for taking the effort to help me on this.

    I am probably a bit slow, but I don’t understand how you differentiate between the buddhi of the enlightened person in 8.12.3 and the enlightened mind that has become the Iswara / cosmic mind in 8.12.5? Is there a mooted to be a process by which one becomes the other?


  12. Dear Venkat,

    I fully agree with you.
    I cannot find a direct statement to establish the difference. I do not know how a traditional Pundit would explain.

    However, as you may also have seen, Sw-G also uses the words like “individual conscious soul”; “individual soul” etc. at 8.12.3. Shankara says that like the hidden treasures buried under a load of muck, this (hidden) ability to be able to enjoy all desires is covered by the imaginary world during the 3 prior stages. But it flowers in the 4th stage i.e. the Uttama Purusha. He adds, “… pointed out for the eulogy of the Knowledge of the Self.”

    Please consider the sequence of teaching by BrahmA once again. First the awake stage, then the dream stage followed by deep sleep were introduced and the ‘seer’ in those 3 stages is said to be the same Uttama Purusha as in the 4th or turIya. The individual who experiences these 4 states, is still yoked to the body (as the mantra says at 8.12.3), but he does not ‘feel’ that connection with the body when enjoying in the 4th stage (Does it not imply that his gross body is still alive?).

    At the mantra 8.12.5, the wording used is different. Please see the last para of Shankara’s commentary on this mantra at p: 664 (pdf p: 700/726) in Sw-G’s translation. The description here is after the disconnection with the gross body and the seeker attains the Knowledge of the Self. But he still has the “divine” mind as a “limiting adjunct” with no linkage to any other organs (i.e. the state of saguNa brahman). So it is not individual mind any more.

    I do not know if the above is convincing enough. I shall check with more knowledgeable Pundits and see what they say.


  13. Dear Ramesam,

    Re-reading 8.12.3 and 5, I think that they are both referring to the same liberated mind enjoying desires, because in both they are referred to by Sankara as ‘desirable things in the world of Brahman’. In 3, he also states that ‘they are pointed out for the eulogy of the knowledge of the Self’. This is supported in 5, where he says the desirable things in the world of Brahman are covered by falsehood in the form of attachment to outer things, like a gold mine.

    So the desires that are said to be enjoyed by the liberated mind, are spoken of as a eulogy, and do not relate to the inherent desireless of the disembodied soul. This is the ultimate goal of life – not worldly desires but the infinitude of ananda that springs from increasing desirelessness that Brhad speaks of.

    Sw Nikhilananda in his commentary has an interesting twist:
    “If this [being the Self of all beings] is the nature of the Self, why then is the knower of the Self said to enjoy all desires and all objects? In answer it may be said that the enjoyment of desires, etc which no doubt applies to the knower of Saguna Brahman, is mentioned as a eulogy of the Knowledge of the attributeless Self. Furthermore the attributeless Self is the self of the knower of Saguna Brahman too. Therefore what is enjoyed by the latter is also enjoyed by the liberated soul too. Further this statement may be used in an indirect sense. The Supreme Self experiences desires through the instrumentality of all livings beings. From the standpoint of Ultimate Reality, there is no enjoyer apart from the Self.”

    • PS – I think I have written more or less what you have written, but the process of working / writing it out myself was helpful! Apologies for being slow.

  14. Dear Venkat,

    With your typical sharpness of mind, you summarized the entire teaching very well, unlike the clumsy way I could.

    I will like to mention, however, a couple of points (which, of course, I did make in my previou posts) and see if your thinking gels with them.

    The promise of chAndogya is not full-fledged liberation but to take the seeker up to the abode of the Creator God (brahmaloka) only. The devotionally oriented seeker identifies himself there with the saguNa brahman.

    By definition, the saguNa brahman is not Pure Consciousness and has some limiting adjunct. The commonly used “name” for that limiting adjunct is ‘mAyA’ in the case of Ishwara. The same is called at 8.12.5 as the Cosmic Mind.

    The mantra at 8.12.3, refers to Uttama Purusha, the Lord of turIya, who is said to be the same Purusha as the Knower/Seer within the awake state, dream world and deep sleep condition. Because of his assumed identity with the delimiting body + organs in the awake etc. 3 stages, his ability to ‘enjoy’ gets compromised. That “ability” is right there in those 3 stages also. But, like an ancestral hidden treasure lying below one’s bed room covered by soil and remains inaccessible for him, the ‘ability’ to enjoy just by ‘thinking’ about a desire is not available during the awake etc. stages. The ‘ability,’ potentially present, lays hidden because of the ignorance prevailing in those states. As Uttama Purusha, he gets access to it in the turIya state.

    We cannot expect chAndogya to deliver the same level of Pure and Pristine level of Non-dual message like brihat, because that is NOT its promise or aim.

    If you ask me, we have to take the statement of Sw-N with a large fistful of salt when he says, “The Supreme Self experiences desires through the instrumentality of all livings beings.”

    As “AjAti vAda” would say, at no point there has been any creation nor any desire for the Supreme brahman who transcends all such petty wishes. So, such statements as that of Sw-N are also mere fiction to weave a story of creation.


  15. Dear Ramesam,

    I would slightly disagree with you, in that I would hope that Chandogya and Sankara’s bhasya spoke in terms of creation and Saguna Brahman, IN ORDER TO bring seekers to the truth, which is expressed here as utter detachment from the body – but with the enticement that more than worldly treasures are available at the other side.

    I’m not sure if I buy the actuality of the idea of a Saguna Brahman level, which is achieved through disidentification with the body and identification with all, and then a further level of Nirguna Brahman? So what more would be required beyond this utter detachment?

    To be fair to Sw Nikhilananda, his commentary is also addressed at the level of Chandogya. I didn’t take issue with “The Supreme Self experiences desires through the instrumentality of all livings beings” – if you remember that the Self is the light in which the dream of living beings and their desires is playing.

    Does that make sense?

  16. Dear Venkat,

    I agree with what you say.
    kena, kaTha, muNDaka, aitareya, brihadAraNyaka as well as Shankara bhaShya at specific mantras in those Upanishads as well as at BG, encourage a seeker to follow the “formless” niguNa brahman for mukti right in this life right here.

    But, unfortunately, a majority of the people find it easy to worship a God with “form” (preferably, in the likeness of a human being). It’s also true, as BG itself says, worshiping gods with a form yield beneficial results for human beings to make their lives and living in this world easier and more comfortable. As a result, they like to defer their activities and decisions to a superior godhead. By surrendering to that mightier godhead with a ‘form,’ they hope, somehow, that gets transformed to surrender to ‘formless brahman.’

    It is not merely detachment with the body that is required to achieve identity with attributeless brahman, but also no attachment to any ‘form’ of a superior godhead. ‘brihadAraNyaka’ (1.4.10) is so direct and severe in in its chastisement of an approach of worshiping a god that it calls it being cattle-like! Of course, people with a devotional vein will like to burn me on stake for saying so.


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