Advaita in the Vedas – Rig Veda 1.164.20

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In exploring Advaita, we may have heard of the metaphor of the two birds,

Two birds, inseparable friends, cling to the same tree. One of them eats the sweet fruit, the other looks on without eating. [1]

The two birds are the jiva (the one which eats) and paramatman (the one which looks on without eating). The jiva is bound, attached to karma and its fruits, whereas the paramatman is free from karma. Identified as the jiva, the ‘enjoyer’, we ‘taste’ the fruits of action (pleasure and pain). Identified with the paramatman, we do not experience the duality of pleasure and pain as there is no attachment to them.

The two birds highlight the contrasting ways of conducting action – with or without attachment. In the jiva, we act to attain certain fruits (desirable outcomes) of our actions. Whereas, in the paramatman, we act without any desire or discrimination between success and failure or pleasure and pain. The paramatman is the Advaitin witness, whilst the jiva is still caught up in the dualistic experience of self (subject) and ‘other’ (object).

What we may not know is that the ‘two birds’ metaphor originates from Rig Veda (1.164.20). Continue reading

mANDUkya upaniShad Part 13

*** Read Part 12 ***

Mantra 12

अमात्रश्चतुर्थोऽव्यवहार्यः प्रपञ्चोपशमः शिवोऽअद्वैत
एवमोङ्कार।
आत्मैव संविशत्यात्मनाऽऽअत्मनं य एवं वेद य एवं वेद ॥ १२॥

amAtrashchaturtho.avyavahAryaH prapa~nchopashamaH shivo.Advaita
evamo~NkAra .

Atmaiva saMvishatyAtmanA.a.AtmanaM ya evaM veda ya evaM veda || 12 ||

chaturtha – The fourth (aspect)
o~NkAra – of the syllable OM
amAtra – (has) no parts (i.e. is limitless);
avyavahArya – (is) transcendental (not at the level of empirical transactions),
prap~nchopashamam – has no phenomenal existence,
shivaH – is ‘all bliss’
Advaita – (and) non-dual.

Atma eva – (It is therefore) verily the Self.
ya evaM veda – Whosoever knows this
saMvishati atAnaM – merges his self
AtmanA – into the Self.

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mANDUkya upaniShad Part 12

*** Read Part 11 ***

Mantra 11 (and kArikA K1.21)

सुषुप्तस्थानः प्राज्ञो मकारस्तृतीया मात्र मितेरपीतेवर
मिनोति ह वा इदं सर्वमपीतिश्च भव्ति य एवं वेद॥ ११॥

suShuptasthAnaH prAj~no makArastRRitIyA mAtra miterapItervA
minoti ha vA idaM sarvamapItishcha bhavati ya evaM veda || 11 ||

tRRitIyA mAtra – The third mAtra (of OM)
makAra – the letter ‘m
prAj~na – (is) prAj~na
suShupta sthAnaH – the deep-sleep state
miteH – because (it is like) a ‘measure’
va – or
apIteH – on account of absorption.

ya evaM veda – Whosoever knows this
ha vai – verily
minoti sarvam – measures everything
cha bhavati – and becomes
apItiH – (one who) understands.

The letter m, the third mAtra of OM, is prAj~na, the deep-sleep state because both have the characteristic of a measure and are as though absorbed into the final part. Whoever knows this will be able to assimilate and comprehend everything.

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mANDUkya upaniShad Part 11

*** Read Part 10 ***

Mantra 10 (and kārikā K1.20)

स्वप्नस्थानस्तैजस उकारो द्वितीया मात्रोत्कर्षादुभयत्वाद्वोत्कर्षति ह वै ज्ञानसन्ततिं समानश्च भवति नास्याब्रह्मवित्कुले भवाति य एवं वेद ॥ १० ॥

svapnasthānastaijasa ukāro dvitīyā mātrotkarṣādubhayatvādvotkarṣati ha vai jñānasantatiṃ samānaśca bhavati nāsyābrahmavitkule bhavāti ya evaṃ veda || 10 ||

dvitIyā mātra – The second mātra (of OM)
ukāraḥ – the letter ‘u’
taijasa – is taijasa
svapna sthāna – the dream state
utkarṣāt – because it is superior
– or
ubhayatvāt – because it is in the middle.

ya evaṃ veda – Whosoever knows this
ha vai – verily
utkarṣāti – increases
jñāna saṃtati – the flow of knowledge
cha bhavati – and becomes
samānaḥ – the equal (of anyone).

abrahmavit – (A person who is) not a knower of brahman
na bhavāti – is not born
asya kule – in his family.

The letter u, the second mātra of OM, is taijasa, the dream state, because both are regarded as superior and also are in the middle of their respective series. Whoever knows this will become superior in knowledge and accepted by all. All members of his family will be jñānī-s.

The letter u is regarded as superior to a because it comes later in the alphabet and, in the sounding of o, the a ‘resolves’ into u. Whereas a was the basic, unadorned sound made by merely opening the mouth, u is a more subtle sound requiring that we modify the lips significantly.

The subtle taijasa is regarded as superior to vishva because subtle is superior to gross. Also, gross can be considered as the ‘effect’ of the subtle ’cause’. Gross equates to matter, subtle to energy. Mental is superior to physical; it is the quality of our mind that raises us above animals. The gross body returns to earth on death, whereas the subtle and causal bodies continue to rebirth (for the ajñānī). At the macrocosmic (samaṣṭi) level, at the end of the universe (pralaya), the entire gross creation (virāṭ) is subsumed into hiraṇyagarbha.

Each is the middle of its respective series: u comes between a and m; taijasa comes between vishva and prājña.

By meditating on OM, giving attention particularly to the letter u and being aware of these associations, the following benefits will accrue to the seeker who is still primarily interested in material benefits:  their mental power and corresponding knowledge will increase; they will be treated equally by everyone, yet envied by no one.

*** Read Part 12 ***

mANDUkya upaniShad Part 10

*** Read Part 9 ***

Mantra 9 (and kArikA K1.19)

जागरितस्थानो वैश्वानरोऽकारः प्रथमा मात्रऽऽप्तेरादिमत्त्वाद्वाऽऽप्नोति ह वै सर्वान् कामानादिश्च भवति य एवं वेद ॥ ९ ।

jAgaritasthAno vaishvAnaro.akAraH prathamA mAtra.a.apteraadimattvaadvA.a.apnoti ha vai sarvAn kAmAnAdishcha bhavati ya evaM veda || 9 ||

prathamA mAtra – The first mAtra (of OM)
akAraH – the letter ‘a’
vaishvAnara – is vaishvAnara
jAgarita sthAno – the waking state
ApteH – (because of both having the characteristics of) being all-pervasive
va – or
AdimatvatvAt – being the first.

ya evam veda – Whoever knows this
ha vai Apnoti –  certainly obtains
sarvan kAmAn – all desirable objects
cha – and
AdiH bhavati – becomes the first.

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mANDUkya upaniShad Part 8

*** Read Part 7 ***

Mantra 7

नान्तःप्रज्ञं न बहिष्प्रज्ञं नोभयतःप्रज्ञं न प्रज्ञानघनं न प्रज्ञं नाप्रज्ञम् ।अदृष्टमव्यवहार्यमग्राह्यमलक्षणमचिन्त्यमव्यपदेश्यमेकात्मप्रत्ययसारं प्रपञ्चोपशमं शान्तं शिवमाद्वैतं चतुर्थं मन्यन्ते स आत्मा स विज्ञेयः  ॥ ७ ॥

nAntaHpraj~naM na bahiShpraj~naM nobhayataHpraj~naM na praj~nAnaghanaM na praj~naM nApraj~nam |adRRiShTamavyavahAryamagrAhyamalakShaNamachintyamavyapadeshyamekAtmapratyayasAraM prapa~nchopashamaM shAntaM shivamAdvaitaM chaturthaM manyante sa AtmA sa vij~neyaH  || 7 ||

This (consciousness) is known as the ‘fourth’. (It is) neither (the knower of) the internal (world), nor the external. Neither (is it the knower of) both. (And it is) not (just) a ‘mass’ of consciousness. (It is) not consciousness (in the empirical sense of conscious ‘of’) nor (is it) unconsciousness. (It is) imperceptible, transaction-less, not ‘graspable’, un-inferable, unthinkable, and indescribable. (It is) the essential ‘I’-experience. (It is) the negation of the experience of all plurality of the universe. (It is) pure, tranquility, and non-dual. This is the Self. This is to be understood.

This 7th mantra is possibly the single most important mantra in the whole of the Vedic scriptures; it attempts to ‘describe’ the nature of absolute reality, knowing that such description is intrinsically impossible.

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Q.529 Comments on mithyā

Q: Do the Upaniṣads talk about or mention mithyā? If not, why not, when Advaita seems to speak so much about it?

A: The absolute ‘bottom line’ of Advaita is as expressed by Māṇḍūkya Up. and Gauḍapāda’s kārikā-s, namely that there is no creation, no one has ever been born etc. Māṇḍūkya 7 is the final word on the matter:

“This (consciousness) is known as the ‘fourth’. (It is) neither (the knower of) the internal (world), nor the external. Neither (is it the knower of) both. (And it is) not (just) a ‘mass’ of consciousness. (It is) not consciousness (in the empirical sense of conscious ‘of’) nor (is it) unconsciousness. (It is) imperceptible, transaction-less, not ‘graspable’, un-inferable, unthinkable, and indescribable. (It is) the essential ‘I’-experience. (It is) the negation of the experience of all plurality of the universe. (It is) pure, tranquility, and non-dual. This is the Self. This is to be understood.”

Consequently, anything in experience (i.e. dualistic) cannot be real. Yet we DO experience the world. Therefore, it has to be mithyā. No need to specifically talk about it. Gaudapada does, in fact, in Chapter 2, which is called ‘Vaitathya Prakaraṇa’. Vaitathya is essentially a synonym for mithyā. (My book ‘A-U-M’ is all about this – https://www.advaita.org.uk/extracts/a_u_m_unreal.html).

Ṥaṅkara also talks about it in BSB 1.4.19; 2.1.14; bhāṣya on Mand. Up. 7; Gaud.  kārikā 4.9 and Vivekacūḍāmaṇi 194 -5 (ish).

The distinction between paramārtha and vyavahāra is also effectively another way of talking about mithyā. Vyavahāra is ‘appearance’, whose substantive reality is actually Brahman. Every discussion about ‘name and form’ as opposed to reality is about mithyā, whether or not the word is used.

mANDUkya upaniShad Part 5

Mantra 4

*** Read Part 4 ***

स्वप्नस्थानोऽन्तःप्रज्ञः सप्ताङ्ग एकोन्विंश्तिमुखः प्र्विविक्तभुक् तैजसो द्वितीयः पादः॥ ४॥

svapnasthAno.antaHpraj~naH saptA~Nga ekonaviMshatimukhaH praviviktabhuk taijaso dvitIyaH pAdaH || 4 ||

dvitIyaH pAdaH – The second aspect (of the Self)
taijasa – is called taijasa.
svapna sthAna – (Its field of action is) the dream state.
antaHpraj~naH – (Consciousness is) turned inwards (as opposed to the waking state in the previous mantra, where it was turned outwards).
sapta a~Nga – (As with the waking state) (it has) seven divisions.
viMshati mukhaH – (and) nineteen interfaces.
praviviktabhuk taijasotaijasa is the enjoyer (bhug = bhuk = bhoktA; experiencer, enjoyer) of the private, internal world (pravivikta).

The second aspect of the Self is taijasa. This is the dream state in which one’s awareness is turned inwards. taijasa has seven parts and experiences the dream world via 19 interfaces.

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mANDUkya upaniShad Part 4

Mantra 3

*** Read Part 3 ***

जाग्रितस्थानो भिष्प्रज्ञः सप्ताङ्ग एकोन्विंश्तिमुखः स्थूलभुग्वैश्वानरः प्रथमः पादः॥ ३॥

jAgaritasthAno bahiShpraj~naH saptA~Nga ekonaviMshatimukhaH sthUlabhugvaishvAnaraH prathamaH pAdaH || 3 ||

prathamaH pAdaH – The first aspect (of the Self)
vaishvAnara – is vaishvAnara (or vishva)
jAgaritasthAna – (This is) the waking state
praj~na – (and it is one in which one’s) knowing awareness
bahis – (is) turned outwards
sapta a~Nga (a~Nga literally means ‘limb’) – (This aspect has) seven divisions  ekonaviMshatimukhaH – and nineteen interfaces (with the outside world) (viMshati is ‘twenty’ and ekona is ‘one less than’; mukha literally means ‘mouth’ or ‘opening’)
sthUlabhugvaishvAnaraH  – vaishvAnara (is) the enjoyer (bhug = bhuj = bhoktA; experiencer, enjoyer) of the gross world.

The first aspect of the Self is vaishvAnara. This is the waking state in which one’s awareness is turned outwards to the external world. vaishvAnara has seven parts and experiences the universe via 19 interfaces.

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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.

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