COMMENTARY ON MANDUKYA-UPANISHAD (BASED ON TALKS BY SRI ANIRVAN)
TRANSLATED BY SRI GAUTAM DHARMAPAL. COPYRIGHT.
The Mandukya –Upanishad belongs to the Atharvaveda. Though it is the shortest Upanishad- it consists of only twelve short passages- it encompasses the entire range of human consciousness. It describes beautifully all states of consciousness along with the discipline- Sadhana to raise our consciousness from the lowest to the highest, culminating in full attainment of the Self-Atman or Brahman.
The name of the Upanishad seems to have been derived from the Rishi named Manduka. There is a reference to Mandukayana or a seer of the Manduka gotra (clan) in Veda. There is one Manduka Sukta in RgVeda (Vol III/103). Parallel word for Manduka was Manduka from root Mand suffix Uka meaning to exhilarate, to enjoy. It was associated with the exhilaration, intoxication of the drink Soma. In Rg Veda Indra is called “Somapatama,” the best of the drinkers of Soma and therefore “Mandrajivha,” one whose tongue is always exhilaratingly licking Soma. A person who is always full of joy or one who has attained bliss-consciousness is a “Manduka.”
The word Manduka (meaning frog) is used as a symbol. During the rainy season we generally hear the chorus of frogs, joyous singing of frogs, at the falling of rain after the hot and dry summer. Rain is also used symbolically in the Veda. Indra destroys the Demon Vritra in the form of dark clouds and releases Parjanya (streams of rain), the Rain-God. Streams of Rain are equated with streams of joy. All the saesons ended or fulfilled in the rainy season. It can be said that this Upanishad proclaims the wisdom of the Rishi who has attained the highest State of Bliss, of Santam, Sivam, Adwaitam, the highest Peace, Good and Oneness, complete unity with the self (Atman) or Brahman.
Sri Gaudapada, the grand-guru of Sankararacharya, has written his famous Mandukya Karika (exposition of Mandukya Upanishad), which also forms the basis of Sankaracharya’s commentary.
The goal of this Upanishad is to attain the highest state of consciousness which is described here as “Prapancoposamam Santam Sivam Advaitam,” a state where all the worldly phenomena is quietened, and having established in that highest state to consciously and freely move about in all the other states of consciousness. Self-consciousness is divided into four states: Waking (jagrata) Dream (Swapna), Deep-Sleep (Susupti) and the fourth or Transcendent (Turiya). Generally it is understood that to attain the forth (Turiya) or Transcendent consciousness is the highest and final goal of human life and the aim of this Upanishad. But this is not wholly true. It is a narrow and onesided conclusion. The wisdom of the Upanishad is wide and all embracing.
At the very beginning the Upanishad declares, “All this is Brahman; this self is Brahman: this self is Brahman and this self is four-footed or four parted.” If that is so, how one can say that only the fourth foot or part is self or Brahman and that only the Turiya is real (satya) and the rest unreal (Mithya)? We have to understand that the Self is involved in all the four feet or parts that all the parts or states of consciousness are part and parcel of the Self and to realise and experience the Self or Brahman in all the states of our consciousness is the true aim of the Upanishad.
The Upanishad also divides the great word OM (Pranava), the Supreme Sacred sound in four Mantras, that is, measures or parts, and equates them with the four parts of self or four states of consciousness. The Upanishad states emphatically that by meditating on these four mantras of OM separately as well as together, we realise or experience the four-fold consciousness of our self. In this Upanishad we get such a wide and clear definition and exposition of the great Mantra OM or Pranava which is a synonym or an experience one-syllabled word for God or Brahman. In all the Mantras OM has a very special place and significance. It is the seed of all the Mantras. OM is called both Akshara Brahman, Immutable Brahman, as well as Sabda Brahman, Word Brahman. All the Upanishads highly extol OM. The Vedic Mantras are to be chanted beginning with OM. In Kathopanishad Yama says to Naciketa, “I tell you briefly of the goal which all Vedas with one voice propound, which all the austerities speak of and wishing for which people practice Brahmacarya (celibacy): it is this, that is OM (OM iti etat) Katha- Upanishad 1/2/15. In Prasnopanishad (5th question) it is said, “O, Satyakama, OM is verily both higher and lower Brahman.”Then the Upanishad goes on to describe the fruit of meditation on the three Matras of Om separately as well as together. In the Bhagawad-Gita also Sri Krishna says, “In all the Vedas, I am Pranava i.e. OM” (Gita VII/8).
Sri Ramakrishna used to say, “All the Vedas are condensed in the Gayatri Mantra. The Gayatri is condensed in the three Vyahritis (mystical utterances of the names of worlds), Bhuh (the earth), Bhuvah (the Midregion) and Swah (the heavens), and the three Vyahritis are condensed in OM. And even all Matras of OM are condensed in the melodious humming sound of the Ardha Matra which is called unpronounceable half-syllable which remains as an eternal sound.
In the post- Vedic period, the Sadhana of Sound (Nadanusandhan) took a place of great importance. It is said that the universe comes out of sound (Dhwani) in speech (Vak). The first vibration in the sky which later turns into sound is the foremost form of speech (Para Vak), and that is OM which creates the universe. Brahman creates the universe and OM is its first self-vibration (atmaspandana) or the speech form of Brahman. OM is therefore called “Brahmaghosha” the roaring or self-proclaiming sound of Brahman. It is the great assending sound, the eternal Yes! This is the WORD referred to in the beginning of the Bible. Brahman emits the universe uttering the three Vyahritis, Bhuh, Bhuvah and Svah (The Earth, the Midregions and the Heavens). Similarly OM has also three Matras (measures) A, U, M. (A+U in sandhi- euphonic combination becomes O). The fourth (Turiya) is the Amatra- formless or measureless word or Self or Brahman. This correlates with the four states of consciousness, the waking (Jagrata), the dream (Swapna), the Deep Sleep (Susupti) and the forth or the Transcendent (Turiya). In this way in this Upanishad OM, the Self and Brahman have been correlated and knotted together.
In the Tantrasastra Vak (the speech) too has been divided into four parts (1) Para (the transcendental), (2) Pasyanti (seeing or seen as light), (3) Madhyama (the middle one or mental thought form) and Vaikhari (the Vocal or Spoken Word)
We can now summarise the whole of the Mandukya Upanishad in a tabular form as under: -
States of consciousness Individual or microcosmic Universal or Macrocosmic
1. Waking (jagrata) Vaiswanara or Viswa Individual Virat cosmic physical
Physical Consciousness. Manifestation.
A of Om.
2. Dream (swapna) Taijas- Mental (subtle) Hiranyagarbha
U of Om. Universal Mind.
3. Deep Sleep (susupti) Prajna (Overmental) Iswara or the First
M of Om. Creative Principal.
4. The Fourth (Turiya) or The Fourth or the
Transcendent Transcendent state
Which is the basis
And which runs
Through all the other
Three states of
Om! Bhadram karnebhih srnuyama devah,
Bhadram pasyema aksabhir yajatrah,
Sthirair amgais tustuvamsas tanubhir,
Vyasema devahitam yadayuh
Om Santih! Om Santih! Om Santih!
Om! O Gods! May our ears hear (Brahman as) illuminating speech, may our eyes behold (Brahman as) the Good,O! Receivers of sacrifice! May our bodies, strong and steady, full of light, sing Thy praise, may we live the full span of life ordained by the Gods.
Om! May there be peace here, there, everywhere.
This is the common peace invocation of “Atharvaveda.” The prayer is addressed to all Gods. This is not polytheism. It is intended that we may see God everywhere, in everything. In the invocation itself there is an indication of Sadhana (spiritual practice). Sadhana is not to be done through the mind alone, but through all the limbs of the body, through all the senses. The whole body is to be transformed into a luminious Vina (a musical instrument) vibrating the sweet music in praise of the Lord. Speech (Vak), Eyes (Caksu), Ears (Srotra), Breath (Prana), Mind (Manas) and Heart (Hrdaya)- these apart from the whole body are considered of primary importance for the realisation and attainment of Brahman. These are called the gatekeepers (Dwarapalah) of Brahman. In this invocation the ears, the eyes and the body (Tanu) are mentioned as of great importance. We have to invoke the lord through our ears, eyes (all senses) and Body and in the process transform everything. Sacrifice and transformation proceed and increase simultaneously.
Great and effective Sadhanas have been developed by the rishis of India using all the senses. There is the Sadhana of light (Jyoti). All the forms submerge in the end in light. Meditation on this inner light helps greatly in self-realisation. Then there are the Sadhanas of speech and hearing (Vak and Sruti). The Sadhaka (Seeker and practitioner) first meditates with the help of Mantra as Japa. Then there is the illumination of Mantra in the inner mind. Then the Sadhaka sees Brahman (as Bhadram). The sound of the Mantra then echoes back as a rumbling sound from the sky. The Sadhaka then hears “sabda-Brahma” or Brahman as sound. That Sadhana is called “Nada-Anusandhana”. The sound of OM returns to the Sadhaka as Pranava.
“Bhadram:” Brahman is spoken of as “Bhadra.” Its ordinary meaning is the Auspicious. But the word has deeper meaning. It means both speech and illumination. Vangmaya evam Arcismaya, Jyotirmaya. Illumination of speech is “Bhadram”- auspicious. We see it as light and hear it as illuminating sound- the OM or “Pranava.” Thus it is a befitting symbol for Brahman.
The Sadhana through the body is equally important. It is the Sadhana of Sarira Brahma- Anna-Brahma. So long as the divine transformation does not take place in the body, the Sadhana is not complete. The body-consciousness must be kept alive throughout. It is not a thing to be thrown away, but an instrument to be transformed into the power of the Divine. The creation of a Divine Body was one of the goals of the Sacrifice. “Brahmi iyam kriyate tanuh (Manu)- This body is to be transformed into “Brahman”.
There are other words, which also are of great significance. By the help of etymology (nirukti) we can enter into their hidden meaning and thereby enlarge our understanding.
Yajatrah : Yaj is the root from which we derive words like “yajna,” sacrifice, yuj> “yukta” (which means joined, united) etc. Yaj has a double meaning, giving and receiving. We sacrifice to God and in the process of sacrifice we transform ourselves. God in return bestows his powers upon us. By giving our everything to God, we become fit to receive God within us.
“Amga”: Amga comes from the root ag from which has come the word agni- fire. In the Rig Veda the word “amguli” (finger) is the symbol of flame of fire. “Yogagnimaym Sariram. This is the “Tapas”- the radiating power.
“Tanu: Tanu comes from the root “tan”. It has two meanings- Expansion- All pervasiveness- vyapti, and slimness “suksmatva”- from which we get “tanvi” or slim bodied.
We want such limbs in the body, which will shine like flames in all pervasive consciousness.
According to the yogis Amgani are not only the limbs of the gross body, but also the nervous current in the subtle body. When this flowing light is concentrated in the limbs, then the body becomes “steady”- “sthira-amga”.
“Tanu” and “Atma” are synonymous. In Vedic literature “tanu” is sometimes used in the sense of self-atma eg. “tasya esa atma vivrinute tanum-svam” (Katha-Upanishad 1/2/23). Here “tanu” is self. “Purusah madhye atmani tisthati (Katha Upanishad, II/1/12)- here “atma” is body.
When the body is transformed in this way, when it becomes a centre for all pervasive consciousness with shining flames as limbs, it becomes a fit instument “tanuvina” to sing for the Divine.
This worship has to go on throughout the full span of life- : “ayu”. The word is also significant. It comes from the root “i”- from which has come the word “preti” “pra+iti”- with the preposition pra- the forward movement. This .forward movement of life is symbolized by “ayu”. The human march towards heaven is “ayu”. This movement is limited by time. Thus the time of movement from one point- from birth to the other- death is called “ayu”. The life-span is “ayu”. This span of life is “deva-hitam”- ordained by God. We have to (vyashema-vishesha bhavena ashema) live this life, possessed by the Divine, for the Divine.
Such deep ideas are condensed in the Santi Mantra. The invocation becomes effective when we meditate on it and grow from within. Invoking the Divine, we become Divine.
Om iti etad aksaram idam sarvam, tasya
Upavyakhyanam, bhutam bhavad bhavisyad iti sarvam omkara eva.
Yat ca anyat trikala-atitam tad api omkara eva(1)
(1) All this (that exists) is the syllable OM. This is its exposition. The Past, the present and the Future, everything is OM. Whatever else that exists beyond these three divisions of time is also OM.’’
Sarvam hi etad Brahma, ayam atma brahma, sah ayam atma catuspat (2)
(1) All this is verily Brahman. This “Atman” (Self) is Brahman and this Atman has four quarters (parts or feet).
The Upanishad starts with the affirmation of three great truths, condensed in the form of Mahavakyas, Mantras for meditation.
(1) All this is OM. (idam sarvam om iti aksaram)
(2) All this is Brahman (sarvam etad Brahma)
(3) This Atma is Brahma (ayam atma Brahma)
The second is more popular in the form of another “Mahavakya” – “sarvam khalu idam Brahma.” There are three fundamental entities. The soul, the world and Brahman or God. The knowledge of the identity of these three is the supreme knowledge. While as particulars they look separate, in essence they are one. Knowledge consists in the realisation of this fundamental unity. The Vedic rishis have proclaimed these truths in form of equations and we find many examples throughout the Upanishads.
In the beginnings we find a polarity between Atman and this World- All This. When we try to understand everything in terms of consciousness, we feel Atman alone is real and all else unreal. We begin by differentiation and discrimination in the way of Sankhya- between Atma and Anatma. When this spirit deepens, finally we enter a state, where nothing exists. Everything melts into nothingness. “Prapanca upasamam. This is the Nirvana of Buddha, the “sunam” of Varuna from which the word “sunyam” has been derived. But if the Sadhaka does not stop or merge in that sunya, he finds the “Mitra”- consciousness as the counterpart of “Varuna” consciousness. Then he realises the truth, “Atman is Brahman” and “All this is Brahman”. He realises that Atman is in all creatures “sarva bhutesu ca – atmanam” (Isa- Upanishad) and that Atman has become all this. “Sarvani bhutani atma eva abhut (Isa- Upanishad 6.7). In terms of individual consciousness we call it Atman. When we refer to cosmic or supra- cosmic consciousness, the same is Brahman. Both are equivalent. “Ayam atma Brahma.” “Brahman” is the all-pervasive consciousness, the full complete whole. Brahman consciousness is the consciousness of totality. It contains all the souls and the world in its bosom. And OM is the representative word for all of these.
This OM is the aksara, that which does not move, which is never destroyed. It is the stable, ever-existing word, the first sound. It is the santam sivam advaitam, the peace, the bliss and the one without duality. From OM comes out all these letters (ksaras). Ksara is the parinam, formation of aksara. It is the movement. This movement is measured in terms of time. That which was the beginning, the past is bhuta. That which is now, which is in the process of becoming is bhavat and that which is yet to come is bhavisyat. Our experience is the process of these three movements. That which is beyond these three, from which all these three comeforth and into which all these three merge is the “aksara”- the transcendent, beyond time, the timeless. Therefore all that exists in the Past, Present and Future exists also in that “aksara” which is “OM”.
Now, this Atman, which is also Brahman has four quarters. After establishing the fundamental unity and oneness of Atman, the world, Brahman and the word “OM”, the Upanishad proceeds to our relative life. It divides our consciousness, Atman, as well as the word “OM” in four parts. Now these four parts do not stand exclusive of one another. Rather, they are inter-connected. One contains explicitly or implicitly all the other three.
Sadhana begins with the ascent. In the process we discard the lower plains and give more importance to Turiya, the fourth state. But the Sadhana is complete only when we bring down this highest state and transform the lowest into the highest. Then we have the total experience of Catuspat Atman.
But the tendency of our mental thinking being exclusive, we immediately assume that one negates the other three. We also believe that there is a progressive negation or gradation in the four divisions and come to the conclusion that the fourth, the “Turiya,” is the negation of the three other experiences and therefore the highest state. But all exclusive understanding is contrary to the spirit of Upanishads and also of true knowledge. We have to understand and realise that Atma is equally existent in all the four states. And wherever it is, it exists fully and completely. It exists as fully in the first state as in the forth state. The one state contains within itself all the three states. It is only a matter of our realisation. The realisation is complete when we see one in all and all in one. The difference is only in the relative manifestation. The true knowledge is to realise that the one, complete whole is not only in the fourth state “Turiya” alone, but also in all the four states. If we keep this view clear in our minds, we will not narrowly understand the grand truths of the Upanishad, but will gain immensely and our Sadhana and realisations will be richer and all comprehensive like the Rishis who proclaimed these truths.
These four quarters of Atman have been divided into four states of consciousness; the waking state, the dream state and the deep sleep state are equated to the first three states. Though they have certain similarities to the actual waking, dream and deep sleep states of our daily life, we should not confuse the one with the other. It will be better, if we take them as pure states of consciousness.
The waking, dream and deep sleep states can be classified as “pravrtti” (extrovert nature) and “nivrtti” (introvert nature), dream and deep sleep constitute the introvert. In both the states, we go within. We have the consciousness of dream state. The mind is still functioning. But we are not conscious of the deep sleep state; mind does not function there. We are conscious of deep sleep, only when we come out of it. But still something is awake then. It is the “prana” (Prasna Up). The consciousness in the deep sleep is the “Elan Vital”- consciousness of this first “prana” (life force). If we can behold this consciousness within, we can be awake even in deep sleep; we can be the witness to this deep sleep state. This witness-consciousness is the fourth state, “Turiya avastha.”
The “Turiya avastha” upholds all the other states. We can reach to this condition when there is no more waking, dream and deep sleep states, only the fourth state advaitam, the experience of Non-Duality. But we can also arrive at the position where all the four states are experienced together. We can have “Samadhi” even in the waking consciousness- jagrata Samadhi. We can experience “pravrtti” in “nivrtti” and “nivrtti in “pravrtti,” action in inaction and inaction in action. Leaving the experience of “Brahma satyam, jagat mithya” (Brahman is true, the world is false) we arrive at the realisation of “sarvam khalu idam Brahma,” All this is Brahman.
We can also continue this Sadhana during our daily sleep. Generally we consider the time spent in sleep as waste. But by gradually becoming conscious of our sleep, we can transform our ordinary sleep into yogic sleep, yoganidra. Then we can experience the truth behind the great phrase “Nidra samadhisthitih,” i.e. Sleep is the state of Samadhi.
The word “Om” is also similarly divided in four parts, the three letters (matras)- “A”, “U”, “M” and the fourth is “amatra” (the anuranan, lingering sound of M)- the aksara. And each is compared respectively with the waking, the dream, the deep sleep and the Turiya states of consciousness.
The fourth state, i.e. the Turiya, should be poured like uninterrupted flow of oil in the three states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep.
Mandukya- Upanishad. Part II.
(based on talks by Anirvan)
Jagaritasthanah bahih- prajnah sapta-amgah
Eka- unavimsatimukhah sthulabhug- vaisvanarah prathamah padah (3)
(3) The first quarter of the self is the waking state, which is outward conscious (knower of the outer world) and which has seven limbs and nineteen months. It is the “Vaisvanarah”- consumer or the enjoyer of gross objects.
“Vaisvanarah”: it is the great universal Fire. Agni or Fire is the symbol of “tapas” as well as the self – consciousness of the individual. When it is Universal, it is “Vaisvanarah”. That which is awake in the individual is also awake in the universe as “Vaisvanarah”. The states of Macrocosm and Microcosm are identical.
In the Vedic knowledge they are also correlated. That which is there, is here also. That is the principle. The “Vaisvanarah”- that is in the macrocosm is also in the microcosm, in every individual. “Vaisvanarah” is also one through whom the Visvanarah- the “virat purusa”- the “cosmic being” has entered into the individual being.
Seven limbs (Sapta-amga): In the Chandogym Upanishad, there is mention of “Vaisvanara” knowledge. The “Cosmic Being”- “Virat Purusa” has seven limbs. The sky is His head, the earth is His feet, the Sun and the Moon are His eyes, air is His breath, water is His abdomen. The conception of the “Thousand-Eyed-Being” (Sahasra-ksha Purusa) in Rig Veda is similar to “Vaisvanara”.
Nineteen mouth’s (Ekonavimsati-mukhah): Mouth is the organ that enjoys food. So this “Vaisvanara” in man enjoys the Universe through nineteen (ekona vimsatimukhah – one less than twenty) mouths. These are five sensory organs (panca-jnnendriya), five motor organs (panca-karmendriya), five Pranas (prana- apanavyana-samana-udana)- vital energies of five kinds and four faculties of Mind (mana-buddhi-ahamkara-citta) i.e. “antah karana”.
The enjoyer of gross (sthulabhuk) : When the enjoyer and the objects enjoyed are separate, the objects are protected outside as gross objects. The self then enjoys or suffers from these objects.
Svapna-sthanah antah-prajnah sapta-amgah eka-unavimsatimukhah praviviktabhuk taijasah dvitiyah padah. (4)
(1) The second quarter of the self is the dream state, which is inward conscious (knower of the inner self), with seven limbs and nineteen mouths. It is the “Taijas”, the enjoyer of the abstractions (subtle objects), the light-formed objects.
When the consciousness goes inward the outer gross objects take subtle forms of feelings, emotions- bhava. The dream state is the creator of desires. What we experience is first created as desire in the inner consciousness. The gross world is the projection of the inner world. Our ordinary dreams are of two types. Mostly we see dreams of the objects already seen or enjoyed, sometimes in an orderly way, but mostly in a disorderly way. But there are other types of dreams where we dream of objects unseen and unheard and unexperienced in the waking state. The self is the creator there. It is the dream of the “Vijnana state” – over mental state – “Daiva-svapna”. The enjoyer creates the objects of enjoyment out of itself. The seperation between the enjoyer and the things enjoyed diminishes progressively, though a very subtle separation still remains in the dream state. The objects are nonmaterial- (“atindriyah”) – beyond senses, yet cognizable by mind. This state of self is “pra- vivikta- bhuk”. There is yet the discrimination of the enjoyer and the things enjoyed. The material objects are transformed into their abstract forms. Then we know, from within, “antahprajnah”.
The waking consciousness is the consciousness of matter, life and mind (anna, prana, mana). This dream consciousness is the consciousness of the “overmind” (vijnana). We become conscious of the Universal and the Cosmic.
Its essential quality is consolidation. There is concentration of light. Therefore it is called “taijas”. When the rays are concentrated at one place it is called “tejah”.
Yatra suptah na kam-cana kamam kamayate, na kam-cana svapnam pasyati, tat susuptam. Susupta-sthana ekibhutah prajnanaghana eva anandamayah hi ananda-bhuk cetas-mukhah prajnah trtiyah padah. (5)
(1) That is deep sleep, when, sleeping one feels no desire and sees no dreams. The third quarter of the self is this deep-sleep state. It is unified consolidation of consciousness. Blissful, it is the enjoyer of bliss. It is “Prajna” the Knower, the one which has consciousness as its mouth.
Beginning with the description of the ordinary deep sleep, we are taken immediately in the innermost level of consciousness. The state described is the total consolidation of self-consciousness. If the dream state is the statue of “samprajnata Samadhi”, where there is cognition, this deep sleep state is the state of “asamprajnata-samadhi-samadhi, where there is no cognition whatsoever.
“Ekibhutah”: The self is then in Union with itself. The enjoyer and the objects of enjoyment become one. There is total identification of the self with the world of objects. The world dissolves into self.
“Prajnana-ghanah”: Then only, there is the real knowledge. Knowledge by identification is the only true knowledge of things. We know in a totally consolidated and undifferentiated form and this knowledge alone is the source of real bliss. We enjoy bliss in deep sleep because there is this total unification of consciousness.
“Ananda-bhuk”: Then the self is the enjoyer of this bliss. The self enjoys the self. “Atmarama”- He is Prajna – the knower of everything and He enjoys all objects through this consciousness. There is no more mind- “citta”, but the consciousness is there to enjoy. The self enjoys the self by the self. He sees all things in his own self and his self in all things. “Yas-tu sarvani bhutani atmani eva-anupasyati-sarva-bhutesu ca atmanam (Isa-Upanisad). Such self has no delusion, no sorrow. It is ever blissful- “anandamaya”.
Esah sarva-isvarah, esah sarvajnah, esah antaryami, esah yoni sarvasya, prabhava-apyayau hi bhutanam. (6)
(2) This deep-sleep state is the Lord of all, Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent. This is the womb of all, verily the source of creation (manifestation) and dissolution.
This state of deep sleep- Asamprajnata Samadhi Avastha- is identified with god, the creator, the upholder and the destroyer of universes. It can be compared with Saguna-Brahman-Brahman with attributes.
In the waking state, we see gross objects. In the dream state, in overmental state (vijnana-bhumi) we see objects as ideas, as abstractions of objects, as symbols. When we go still deeper, we see the force behind these ideas and objects, the force that creates, upholds and destroys everything. This is the “Parama Prakrti” – the Mother – “Ananda Brahmayoni”. She is the source of all creation. She is the upholder and the ruler. And everything again dissolves in Her.
The Fourth Quarter or Turiya
This is the state in which “Isvara” and “Maya”, “Purusa” and “Prakrti”, “Siva and Sakti” or God, the Father and Creative Energy- the Mother are in complete union, like two parts of a gram encased in one skin, and yet there is a difference; but a difference which is not cognizable to human mind. The Relative and the Absolute stand side by side. In the dream state they are like one over the other. In the waking state, the separation is complete. Absolute and Relative seem to be quite separate, though not separate in Reality. We see only the Relative and not the Absolute, whereas, in the fourth, the Turiya state, the Relative and the Absolute merge completely. The feeling of separation between the Relative and the Absolute is totally destroyed.
This attainment of the “Turiya” state is experienced either as Total Darkness where nothing exists or as All Light, as “Nirvana” of Buddhists or as “Sad Brahman” of the Vedantins. The experience is actually is the same; the expression in words differs because of the approach and the attitude of the “Sadhaka/Siddha”.
Of course, in the first three states, there are modifications- “parinama”. But it is the modification of “Sakti”, not of “Caitanya or Siva”. When we reach the fourth state, we see that all the three states are the modifications of the fourth state. Looking from that state, we find that Brahman has become all these “vivarta”.
Now, there is a general belief among many, that this fourth state alone is “Atman”; because at the end of the description of the fourth state it is stated, “sa atma, sa vijneya” – that is “Atman”, that is to be Realized. But it will be a mistake if we take the one-sided
interpretation. We must read the statement in its full context. It has been clearly stated in the beginning “sah ayam Atma catuspat” – this Atman is four quartered.
Taking this into consideration we have to understand that the Atman is equally pervasive in all four quateres and that there is only the difference of manifestation. The four quarters are the four modes of Atman’s manifestation. We can say, the first three quarters are its manifestation in creation – “sambhuti” – and the fourth – the Beyond is its manifestation in non-creation – “asambhuti.” The Atman is neither “sambhuti” alone nor “asambhute alone. It is both “sambhuti” and “asambhuti” and even beyond if there is any beyond. Then only in the words of “Isopanisada” – “Vinasena (asambhutya) mrtyum tirtva sambhutya amrutam asnute” – conquering death through non becoming – total self annihilation,i.e. Nirvikalpa Samadhi”, (one) enjoys, attains immortality through Becoming, through Self manifestation.
Keeping the above in mind let us proceed to the next verse.
Na antahprajnam na bahihprajnam, na ubhayatah-prajnam, na prajnana-ghanam, na aprajnam. Adrstam avyavaharyam, agrahyam, alaksanam, acintyam avyapadesyam, ekatmapratyayasaram, prapanca-upasamam santam sivam advaitam caturtham manyante sa atma sa vijneyah. (7).
(7) The fourth state is believed to be that, when one is neither inward conscious nor outward conscious, nor conscious bothwise, nor consolidation of knowledge. There one neither knows nor knows not. It is unseen, unusual (unrelated), inconceivable, without any attributes, unthinkable, indescribable, where self-alone is cognized (self alone remain in essence), where all phenomena (projections) cease. The Peaceful, the Blissful, one with no duality (nondual). This is Atman (the self). It is to be known. (7)
The fourth state is beyond description. Yet the Rishi has tried to describe it as nearly as possible by human mind. Both negative and positive attributes are used. Only some brilliant paradoxes can give us a very vague idea of the state. Mind cannot reach there, nor the speech. “Yatovaco nivartante aprapya manasa saha.”
By experience, by becoming that alone, we can realize the truth behind this state. So though we negate everything in description, the experience of the state is positive.
When the “Sadhaka/Siddha” reaches this state, the Ascent is complete. But is the “sadhana” complete? It depends upon the attitude, which the “sadhaka” takes at the beginning. if the integral transformation is the aim of the Sadhaka, the “Sadhana” still continues. It is the “sadhana” of Descent, of bringing down the realization into all the parts. But in the final analysis, perhaps, it is the Divine Will that decides the future course of the sadhaka’s life. It is the Divine who decides the nature of the play (Lila). The “Sadhaka” can only rise unto Him and surrender himself completely in His hands.
The Vedic Vision and the Triple Transformation
From the beginning of time man was involved in the studies of himself and his relation with the world. Veda is one of the oldest accounts of such studies. Its Vision is grand and unifying. Its psychological insight is profound; its language is sheer poetry of the highest kind ever composed by man. It is in the Vedas that Sri Aurobindo found language suitable for the description of his own spiritual experiences.
“Veda is the earliest gospel we have of man’s immortality…”- says Sri Aurobindo.
“ The central conception of the Veda is the conquest of the darkness of ignorance and by the conquest of the truth the conquest also of Immortality.”
“The Veda is perfect and beautiful in its coherence and its unity.”
There are many myths in the Veda which describe the Beginning of Creation from different angles or stages. Some of them start with the description of the supreme person, Atman, Self, others – of the Impersonal Spirit, Brahman, some start from Nothingness or Darkness, which they call “night”, ratri-, or apas, apraketam salilam, “dark waters”, or sometimes as mrityu, “death”, etc., etc. theyall refer to different stages of Creation, where Darkness or Nothingness was depicted as our beginning, but not as our Origin. We can easily reconcile these myths, knowing that Darkness was the result of the Fall of the Supreme Light, (Involution).
The cause of creation. THE BEGINNING.
Let us take a brief look into Vedic Cosmogony. Shatapatha Brahmana depicts the Myth of Creation in this way:
Sah ayam atma adhyaksaram omkarah adhimatram
Pada matra matrah ca pada akarah ukarah ukarah makarah iti. (8)
(8) This self, when considered as the word is “Om”. “Om” is considered as composed of mantras (its constituent letters or parts), mantras are quarters and quarters are mantras. Now these are A, U and M.
In the Upanishads truth is viewed from different perspectives. There is the cosmic “adhidaivata” way of looking at things- the macrocosmic and microcosmic conception- “Brahmanda- pinda”. It is always found what is in Macrocosm is also in microcosm.
Brahman, when seen in the macrocosm has also four quarters. They are “Brahma” (Brahman), “Isvara” (God), “Hiranyagarbha” (the potential Universe) and “Virat” (the Universe). As states of consciousness of Self (Atma) described in this Upanishad, they can be respectively placed as the “Turiya” (the fourth), the “Susupti” (the deep sleep state), the “Svapna” (the dream state) and the “Jagrata” (the waking state). These are also equated to “Mahakarana”, “Karana”, “Suksma” and “Sthula”, The First Cause, the Casual, The Subtle and The Gross.
Now, we started in this Upanishad with the assertion that all this is “Brahman”. This “Atman” is Brahman and all this is “Om”.
So just as this “Atman” has four quarters or four states of consciousness, this word “Om” has also four quarters or four states. This “Om” is the “aksara” and the states are its “mantras”. By meditating on different “mantras” with that spirit, we can realize the truth behind that state. “Om” is “Sabda-Brahma”- the word signifying “Brahman”. When we practice the “Japa” – repetition of this word we may meditate in parts, as well as in whole, according to the state of “Sadhana”. These descriptions of “mantras” are aids to “Sadhana”.
The three matras- A, U, M are compared respectively with the waking, the dream and the deep sleep states of consciousness.
Jagaritasthanah vaisvanarah akarah prathama
Matra, apteh adimatvad va, apnoti ha vai sarvan
Kaman-adih ca bhavati yah evam Veda. (9)
(9) The first letter “A” is “Vaisvanarah” in the waking state, because of its all pervasiveness and because it is in the beginning (the first of all letters). One, who knows this, obtains all desires and becomes the first.
“Utkarsa”: The attraction upward. In sadhana, we have to climb one level after the other – “sanuh sanuh”. The attraction of the spirit is always towards the head. The letter “U” implies this ascension.
“Ubhayatva”: Because it is the state between the waking and the deep sleep state, so either while ascending or descending, the consciousness has to pass through this middle stage. it is the state which connects the cause and the manifestation. So in this state we can enjoy both the Lord and the universe. It is the poets’ world- “bhava-jagat”.
According to “Tantra” just as “A” is “anuttara-ananda” – is “unmesa” and “urmi”. Unmesa is the first waking, the conceiving of the world; the dream of creation rises and when it moves forward like ripples, it is called “urmi”. “Bhava” – the ideal formulation – but still in the abstract (suksma) form.
“Jnanasantati”: Progeny of knowledge. The etymological meaning of the word “santati” is continuity. We seek continuity in everything. The father seeks his continuity through the son. Similarly the knowers of “Brahman”, the spiritual aspirants, the teachers also desire continuity. When the ascent is complete, the truth realized, then a desire rises in the “Siddha” to seek appropriate vehicle, who will carry the light forward. And the son- the disciple- the spiritual son of the teacher- is expected to take further the cause, to increase the wealth, to grow in manifestation.
This was called “sampradana” – the inheritance passed from the father to the son or from the teacher to the disciple. This was the real motive behind the word “sampradaya”. It does not mean a sect but the process by which the knowledge was preserved and passed on from teacher to disciple, so that it does not get lost.
It was this desire for “santani”- continuity that drove Buddha to preach his “Dharma” after “Nirvana”. It was this very desire for santati, driven by which Ramakrishna wept and prayed the Mother to send him the pure souls, who will receive the message. It is this very desire, which prompts men to hanker for offspring’s.
Here also the second part of the verse is the “phalasruti”- the merits that may be obtained by meditation on this letter.
Susuptasthanah prajnah makarah trtiya matra, miteh apiteh va
Minoti ha va, idam sarvam apitih ca bhavati ya evam Veda. (11)
(11) The third letter “M” is the prajna of the state of deep sleep. Because it is all-inclusive and also because (everything) merges in it. One, who knows this, embraces (includes) all this (within his fold) and also becomes all comprehending (or everything merges in him).
The state is the deep sleep, the state of “Samadhi”- the causal state. The words “miti” and “apiti” are used both as alliteration and also with a particular significance.
“Miti”: it measures everything. The “sarvesvara” – “sarvayonih”- the womb of everything, in which everything lies dormant. This all-pervasiveness is the beginning as well as in the end. The pervasive consciousness is found- in every state of consciousness. Only the degrees of depth, the intensity differs.
“Apiti”: from root “api”- to enter or to dissolve cf. Rv.I.121.10. It is where everything ends, in which everything merges. There is no outward manifestation whatsoever, though the possibility of manifestation is there potentially. This is the casual state – God consciousness – “Isvara-caitanya”.
In Sanskrit alphabet “M” is placed at the end of (stop) mute consonants. “A” is the beginning and “M” is the end. M is pronounced when the lips are closed. The whole process of speaking is covered by these three letters – “A”, “U” and “M”. And so all letters are supposed to have come out of this one word “Om”, which is called the “aksara” – the “Sabda-Brahma”.
There is a special method of pronouncing this “Om”. “A” is to be pronounced as “hrasva”; short- with one matra, “U” as “dirgha” – long with two matras and “M” as “pluta” (longer) with three matras and then all these are to be condensed in the last resounding of “anusvara”. The matras are to be shortened gradually to 1/128 part of a matra.
When the sound is so condensed, there remains only a vibration – that is called the “amatra” – the fourth without any matra. This is compared with the fourth – “Turiya” state of the self.
Amatrah caturthah avyavaharyah prapamca – upasamah sivah advaitah, evam omkara atma – eva, samvisati – atmana – atmanam yah evam Veda yah evam Veda. (12)
(12) The fourth, without any matra, is the Siva - the “Advaita” (Nondual) state, the unrelated where all phenomena cease.
Thus the Omkara (the word Om) is verily the self. One who knows thus verily knows the self, merges the self in the self. (12)
Thus the four states of self are equated with the four quarters of the word “Om”. Along with the understanding about the Self is given a great spiritual discipline for attaining these states of Self, of realizing the Self and therefore the “Brahman”, both the truths of microcosm and macrocosm.
The spiritual discipline with the great word “Om” is found in many places of Upanishads – and in the later ages the Tantra has especially developed the discipline which was called – “nada-anusandhana”- to unite with the eternal sound which was equal to “sakti – sadhana”.
In Gita Sri Krishna speaks of taking the name of the word “Om” at the time of death. The three places – abodes of consciousness are especially mentioned in Gita as well as in the Upanishads. In the Aitareya Upanishad the word “ayam avasatha” (this abode) is used thrice though Tantra speaks of six (rather seven) such centres. According to Gita they are the heart centre. (hrdi), the centre above the head (murdhani). The meditation according to “matras” of “Om” will be then as under. The first meditation with “matras” “A” is predominant in the heart centre. The second with “matra” “U” is in the centre between the eyebrows and the third with “matra” “M” is in the centre above in the head and then in the end merging the sound and its mediatation in the “akas” – in the all-pervasive sky.
Thus ends the Upanishad.
Om! Santih! Santih! Santih!