Words of wisdom

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is one among the ten principal Upanishads, which teaches about the unseen power that controls this universe, the ‘Self’ that enlivens all sentient beings, from which all beings originate and finally merge into.

 This transcendental truth is portrayed beautifully through many stories in a most evocative manner. The Upanishad commences with the famous prayer for being led from the unreal to the real, from darkness to light and from death to immortality, conveying the message that the Supreme power (Brahman) is all pervasive and the knowledge of this reality alone is the real knowledge that can lift man from ignorance to awareness.

 Reinforcing this concept is the other equally famous prayer for peace which says that this power is omnipresent and eternal and which transcends space and time. 

The first story is about a conversation between a king called Ajatasatru and a learned man called Gargya. Ajatasatru tells Gargya that it is the living force that enlivens the senses of a man and this living consciousness lies within the heart, the ‘Self’ of man. Just as a spider produces the web threads from it belly, just as sparks issue forth in all directions from a fire, it is from this ‘Self’ that all beings, all worlds, all senses, all Gods emanate.

 This ‘Self’ is the highest, the ‘Real of the Real’.  The second story revolves around a discussion between Sage Yagnavalkya and his wife Maitreyi. Appearing highly philosophical at the first reading, it yields many valuable insights into the nature of human conduct and the means to lead a life of virtue and righteousness.

 The point to be  noted here is that the wise words of the sage, in order to be applied in mundane life do not presuppose a life of renunciation and neglect of social and familial responsibilities.  

  Maitreyi asks her husband whether all the wealth in the world would confer immortality, to which Yagnavalkya replies that it is not so. Maitreyi then asks what is the use of such wealth which does not guarantee immortality, to which Yagnavalkya , using examples like wife, husband, son etc shows how everything is a  manifestation of the ‘Self’ and when we profess our attachment to them, it is really attachment to the ‘Self’.

 In other words, everything has a value not for itself, but only in so far as it is a manifestation of the ‘Self’.  This ‘Self’, the supreme Brahman is what is to be seen, heard, thought about and meditated upon, by knowing which, everything else that is to be known becomes known. To him, who has understood this truth, there is no duality of the knower and the known, the seer and the seen. Man’s pursuit of happiness and peace lies in this path, the path of prosperity.

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