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Pujya Dr. K.C. Varadachari - Volume -3


The Vedas are acceptedly the most ancient scripture in the world. They have formed the basis of religion and philosophy and even today they are authoritative in those fields for Hinduism.

There is a view that Indian philosophy started with the Upanishads otherwise known as the Vedanta (end of the Veda or its concluding portion). This view owes its inspiration to the recent occidental scholars who have been convinced of the parallel with Greek philosophical beginnings which dismissed all mytho-theologico-anthropological explanations. Upanishads have not avowedly discarded either the earlier portions of the Veda or the gods praised therein. On the other hand, they have tended to make clear the implications of the Veda in such a way as to help understanding of the enquiring mind. In a profound sense we can perhaps make a distinction between the Mantra and Brahmana portions on the one hand and the Upanishads on the other, as referring to svartha – sabda and parartha – sabda, for the former is for inner intuition for oneself, for knowledge and works, and the latter is for instruction to the disciple. The Upanishads then are to be considered to be intellectualised or mediating presentations of the intuitive and revelatory truths of a Reality very much transcending the ordinary sensate level of understanding of man. In a profound sense it would be correct to go to the earlier portions of the Veda in order to understand fully the implications of the meaning of the Vidyas of the Upanishads, rather than attempt or try casuistical explanatiens of the same from parity with other portions of the Upanishads, which unfortunately has been the practice so far. Revelations help interpretation of intuitions and generalisation of intuitive truths and may illumine intellectuality, being of a higher order of Reality but not vice versa.

The Vedas were originally reckoned to be three, namely the Rig Veda, Yajur and Sama. These three were known as the trayi ; but a fourth Veda, Atharvana, containing many hymns not contained in the Rig came to be regarded as important, and well might it have been the source of the other revealed literature pertaining to the ayurveda, dhanurveda etc....

Later thinkers, including the author of the Bhagavad Gita, prescribed the Veda as dealing with the trigunas (sattva, rajas and tamas) : traigunya visayah Vedah, nistraigunya bhava Arjuna or the objects which have the three gunas as motives to attain, such as power, pleasure and heavenly residence arising from following the rules of sacrifice (dharma). Thus from early times it was regarded that the Vedas taught the attainment of the lower ends (purusarthas) which were known to be closely connected with the three gunas, rather than Moksa which it was the function of the Upanisads to teach. The Vedanta Sutras also have been interpreted accordingly by the Vedantic teachers as teaching Brahman, whereas the Mimamsa of Jaimini is said to teach Karma (Dharma) and that though they both form one single Sastra, yet the latter teach the transient good whereas the former teach the eternal Good. It is in this sense most probably that some serious scholars saw in the Upanishads the germs of the pessimistic view since they discard the pursuit of social efficiency and hedonistic goals for the attainment of the liberation from avidya (which comprises all technical knowledge and hedonistic pleasure-ends) and samsara for the sake of transcendent condition of immortality which can be won only by Vidya (real liberating knowledge).

The world of the Right Veda is surely not different from the world of the Upanishads since it is the world of men who are in direct contact with the supernal powers not merely primitive natural apotheosized by the primitive mind. Nor can it be said that the Vedic seers were pleasure – loving Soma – bibbers, though it almost appears that some eastern and western savants have convinced themselves about this by applying the naturalistic and anthropological and evolutionary interpretations so much the fashion of the nineteenth century. Western scholars like Max Muller, Whitney, Eggeling, Grassman, Griffith etc., claim to follow the great Vedicist Sayana, who explained the Vedas, mainly adhibhautically. The philosophic seers of the Upanishads always speak of the Vedic sages with profound reverence: iti susruma dhiranam yenasted vyacacaksire.

The development or evolution of Indian culture continued under different conditions and passed through periods of faith and devotion, works and ritual and agnostic speculation and philosophic idealism. Later thinkers reacted against certain attitudes of the Vedic integralism and produced philosophies (darsanas) which emphasized one or two aspects or attitudes of the same.

The Vedic seer was consciously aware of the integral unity of the whole reality. He realised that there are several planes of reality, the physical (with its terrestrial, atmospherical, celestial), the psychical and the supra or transcendental reality and he also realised that one must consciously integrate them in order to be able to attain the Good and the liberation and the happiness and truth. He assigned the several powers divine – belonging to the One Supreme Divine – such as Agni, Mitra, Surya, Indra, Maruts, Varuna, Matarisvan, Soma, Brhaspati, Rudra, Prajapathi and Visnu etc., to the several planes. Thus even in the Rig Veda, monotheism had been achieved whilst preserving the apparent polytheism of multiple powers by the classic text : ekam sat viprah bahudha vadanti : The Real is One though the sages speak about it variously owing to the planes in which the One is seen. Later thought would speak of it as One person who appears as four or many persons. The many personalities of the One Person (purusa) were at first considered to be each the whole or integral expression of the one and accordingly all exploits were referred to each though they really were performed by one of them alone. This led to the conception expressed rather naively by Prof. Max Muller as henotheism or what was dubbed cynically opportunistic monotheism – a philosophy of courtiers. This obviously is an unsound suggestion and needlessly humanistic. All the manifold personalities are in a sense subordinate to the One, and there is room for the later development of the evolution of the hierarchy of gods and goddesses who are not God or Brahman but His amsas, part or ray of Eternal Being. We cannot resist the Upanishadic explanation that all things and beings are God, because they form the body and function (or manifestation) of Brahman (sarvam khalvidam Brahma) who is the Self and support and truth of their very existence, in whom they live and move and have their being.

The Vedic Seers showed that common sense Polytheism inherent in hierarchy is not in every sense the contradictory of monotheism, and so also pluralism need not be contradictory of monism, when understood in an organic integral sense and meaning of the One Eternal Brahman as Integral Reality (Purna) and Person (Purusa). Since all gods, all powers of goddesses, are supported by the One Being in all, every prayer addressed to any one of them finally and even immediately directly refers to that One Being alone, even as Sri Krishna says in the Gita. Indeed all refer to Himself alone : Vedaih sarvaih Aham eva Vedyah, says He.

As for the philosophico-mystic exposition of the Organic Integral Spiritual Reality, the Vedas themselves express this in that grand and suberb Hymn known as the Hymn of the Supreme Person : Purusha Sukta, that occurs in all the Vedas, with slight variations of order of the mantras. There is hardly any doubt that this Hymn is the meeting – place and synthesis of several Fundamental Vedic concepts, even as the Isa. Up. is for Upanishadic thought.

It begins to speak of the thousand – headed, thousand – eyed, thousand – footed Person who has covered the entire Universe and is exceeding it. (Sahasra sirsa Purusah, Sahasraksa Sahasrapad, Sabhumim visvato vrttva atyatista dasangulam, purusa evedam sarvam). The One Supreme Reality and causal Being is immanent as Self (purusa) of all and yet exceeds all. Thus pantheism is set aside or rather transcended by the concept of exceeding. The original idea of the One has yielded place to the concept of Person, which is so to speak going to play an important part in the Gita as the Purusottama. The divine personalities merged in the One now appear so to speak as the Uttama (Supreme) purusa and monism of metaphysics finds its translation as the supreme Personality of God of religion. Here again we find that profound suggestion as to the nature of sacrifice or Yajna that played such a prominent part in the life of the sages of yore as is to be gleaned from the Brahmanas. Interpreted psychologically (adhyatmically), all divine works, either as rites of sacrifice, yaga or Yajna, are mystical attempts to attain the realisation of the worlds of Brahman, yoga. The Purusa – sukta however adds one more note of  tremendous value : it reveals that all true or real creation is possible only through yajna or sacrifice. Not that the Divine One is imperfect and having a goal, for even as Sri Krishna said, there is nothing that He need do, but that all Works must be done for the sake of the Divine. There is hardly any suggestion in this Hymn of any carnal motive (himsa): it is of the spirit of self-giving of the Divine for the Realisation of the Perfect Order (Rta), both in individual creation as well as social. The sacrificers selflessly do it accordingly to the ancient manner (dharma). The world of our temporal order comes into being from out of Him who is all, enveloping all, and as such the material and the efficient cause of the World, in significant sense of the organic unity. In this Hymn alone indeed is the reference made to the Divine manifestation of the social fourfold order from the body of the Supreme Being. Considered to be a metaphor, its meaning was made clear by Sri Krishna in terms of  functional position (gunakarma), the question of hereditariness being seen to be a social convention in the Vedic society as shown by Dr.V.M.Apte in his interesting study of the Rig. Vedic Hymns on this subject. The ancient practice of right social organisation was explained and given the sanction of the Vedic intuition, and prefigured as the Ideal of society. The fact that this conception is under eclipse owing to the egalitarian views at the present moment does not entail its uselessness.

The Rig Veda (along with the other Vedas) clearly presents a composite picture of the Universe as seen from an integral vision. To this Veda belongs the Aitereya Brahmana that contains the famous Sunassepa episode of purusa–medha, human sacrifice, which tries to give a psychological meaning and direction to the sacrifice, so as to make it free from the taint of himsa (injury). It is quite conceivable that owing to the loss of the psychological and spiritual tradition there came into being the practice of gross or literal sacrifices against which Buddha, Kapila, Krishna and Mahavira and a host of others protested, and which yet continued to sway some tantrika sects driven out by the purified Vedists.

We owe a lot to the great work of the Vedic savants, eastern and western, for the work in unravelling the mysteries of the Veda. Today we owe to Swami Dayanand and Sri Aurobindo the deep mystic interest in the Vedas.

The Vedas have had profound influence on the Southern Mystic schools. The Sri Vaishnava Mystic Seer [Alvar] claimed to tamilicize the Vedas, and claimed to give the import of the Rig Veda in his inimitable Tiruviruttam as the seeking of the Soul [deemed as female] of its beloved Godhead. Indeed the original of the concept of Soul’s femaleness [including that of the gods] is stated in the Rig V : [I. 164.16] and later carried on in the Vishnu Purana and Visistadvaita, and tantra. St. Tirumular of Saiva Siddhanta claimed to give the gist of the Vedic truths gleaned through the Saiva agamas in his Tirumantiram and not merely about the One Being of Love but also the Agni-karma.

The Vedas’ knowledge of the Eternal Being and Order [Rta] and prescribing means to the Realisation of both is unlike others which deal with the transitory goals and ends. In a sense, it also teaches how the transitory could be utilised to achieve the Eternal and the Immortal through surrender and dedication and sacrifice and selflessness. It is therefore what has been heard, uncreate, and which every one has to heed and hear for the attainment that passeth Understanding.

Om Santhi Santhi Santhi!


The supreme merit of the Upanishads lies not so much in its so called philosophical mind but in its inimitable methodology of approach to the fundamental truths sought to be expounded and attained. The speculative features, which alone attracted the intellectual doctors of philosophy, are indeed without any basic strength if they are not revealed to be supra intellectual or attained by practical verification. It is clear that this verification is not to be equated with the pragmatic criterion of success or consequences or even workability. A profound understanding of human psychology had revealed to the Upanishadic seers taken as a whole the necessity of discipline of the mind in all its levels of ananda, intellect and will so much so they subordinated the lower levels of approach or technique to the higher. This will be clear if instead of treating the vidyas of the Upanishads as statements of inference deductive or inductive or analogical, we try to see that they are training techniques for inner perception.

It is true that almost all collegiate training these days forgets this inner discipline of the mind and senses of the students and gets about going with cramming stuff of all kinds and all grades at the same time in the minds of the pliable mental make up. Unfortunately this stuffing – a veritable chau-chau as any study of the modern curricula will reveal – has left no elbowroom for training as such for discernment. To equip a man for all things is the ambition of a sarvatantra svatantra – an encyclopediest but it hardly works well with the normal man. The Upanishadic theory of education hardly contemplated this omnivorous bookworm or laboratory assistant – for – all – trades. On the other hand they took hold of values firmly and affirmed certain human aims in knowledge as in works which will promote a process of growth and development leading up to the highest possible welfare of all by firmly binding people to one another which seems to be the basic meaning of the word so often and so loosely used – loka-samgraha.

The Upanishadic upasana, which is equated with bhakti, is a form of meditating on the Highest Reality knowing whom one knows all and attains supreme facility.

The number of these Upasanas or meditations or approaches for attainment is about 32 according to the Visistadvaitins, 28 according to Swami Sivananda, but I believed they are considerably more in so far as several contemplations or meditations are of certain attributes of God or the Ultimate Brahman. It is clear that the list furnished by the Acharyas are taken from the Vedanta Sutras and should prove sufficient for the attainment of supreme liberation or God which will not lead a man again into this world of Samsara.

We are aware that the modern climate of thinking has veered steadily  towards a different goal namely the goal of being well here and we have steadily given our wishful meanings to the concept of Jivanmukti. This–worldness may be a great bar to higher levels of knowing and being and ultimately set up a peculiar attachment to the transitory. One of the profound dangers that arose from the development of the yoga–siddhis – and which has led to its being steadily put down by the great Vedantins, was this materialism that is more insiduous than the pure materialism of the Charvakas. This has been the grave of  yoga–siddhis.

The Upanishad Vidyas at no point encourage the siddhi–mongering and indeed have steadily avoided any mention of the lower ‘avidya’ so to speak. It does not at all mean that they were not aware of the possibilities open to man in his power–adventure, but it can lead to only one consummation and that is world–sankaram, confusion.

However it is true that the synthetic Upanishad Isavasyopanisad does mention the double practice of avidya and vidya (avidya being taken here in the sense of lower Vidya rather than Karma), as promoting a double attainment of conquest over death and attainment of the Immortal.

The aim of the Upanisad vidyas is the attainment of the Immortal Brahman by which one becomes immortal that is beyond the fear of death and birth cycle and misery and ignorance and all.

Swami Sivananda in his Essence of Vedanta has given his own synthesis of the several Upanishad upasanas and has named it SIVANANDA VIDYA. The same comprises X khandas and they are Nature of Brahman, Contradictions reconciled, vision of a Sage and the worldly man, Adhyasa, Happiness in Atma only, Brahman is the material and efficient cause, Brahman is unattached, Qualifications of an aspirant, Kaivalyam and the method of Meditation.

A commentary on the above ten khandas is also given to explain in detail, the several aspects of the Brahman Nature.

The vidya thus gives the minimum hypothesis about the nature of the Ultimate Reality from the particular standpoint of the sadhaka or mumuksu (seeker after liberation). The supreme qualification for Vedantic vidya is the desire, which is firm and steady for liberation from the worldly transient things and goods. For many today, wish to do sadhana not for liberation but for more bondage for wealth and power and health. Not the bubhuksu but the mumuksu is the adhikari for Vedanta or true philosophy. Today philosophy has fallen into strange techniques and aspirations for Reality is not its concern nor truth nor for the matter of that anything. Means have become ends and ends in themselves too. In such a tragic state of philosophical learning and teaching it is certainly refreshing to find Swami Sivananda gallantly speaking up for the Mumuksutva as the necessary first step.

Not in the world and not in any thing but in the Atman alone can their be happiness. And this is true because it is the illusion and delusive attractiveness of the world and the powers and pleasures of the world are derivative from the atman which they hide. The fact is there that one runs after these again and again, and return to them again and again, in ever so many subtle forms for even the great men get caught up in the net of the adhyasa. Seeking to save they also get caught in the net and know it rather too late.

The Nature of Brahman cannot be detailed by any neat logical processes and the efforts at samanvaya or reconciliation are not of the order of intellect with its dialectic intended for intellects. The true reconciliation is seen in intuition which is really an experiencing in living and knowing or living-knowing. It is usually forgotten that the logic of the Infinite can only be recognized in living-knowing rather than in any one of them apart from the other. The aparoksanubhuti is not a cognitive (jnana) process but a transcendental living-knowing. It is in this sense it is said to be bhakti-jnana-janya or Semusi in the language of Bhagavad Ramanuja.

The bliss of Realisation of the Supreme Atman with which one becomes one without separatability at any other time is a unique experience beyond the happiness and triumphs of it in the world. Indian thought (and I believe all truly spiritual thought) has realised that there is an unchanging state which is transcendental to any space-time-causation nexus. This means a state of Bliss in Brahman. That men may seek to hold on to both the pleasures of this world as well as of that world yonder is but natural, for men seek the best of both worlds. This is an unfortunate deduction from the modern notion of religion so generously pampered to by very knowing man. However, Swami Sivananda had no two minds in this matter. In his Vidya he has clearly announced that the Kaivalya is not of this double or dual nature. Man is a real member of the Divine permanent World call it Brahman or Paramapada or paramdhama or Narayana, or Vaikuntha or Kailas. And as such for him the return home is the natural thing to do. This is the constant remembrance or dhruvanusmrti that is necessary and the significant meaning of the great vakyas cannot be other than this. It is however necessary to remember that they are not mere words or sentences which have to be repeated parrot-like or to be grammatically analysed in the mind but to be fully invoked as prayer and devotion to the highest Brahman.

A synthesis of all vidyas is not possible except in terms of their content referring to the One Supreme Brahman. This one Brahman is the abode of infinite auspicious qualities, each of which attracts a sadhaka, and through that route he is led to the Highest One who is then realised as the One who has all these attributes. The intellectual dialectics that tries to divide substance and attribute and affirm the former at the expense of the latter is incapable of profound intuition. A vidya is a profound intuitive one, trans-philosophical or intellectual and must be approched and studied as such.

Swami Sivananda I am sure is doing a noble work in analysing and intuitively reconciling the several trends of upasanas.




The Upanisads are concerned with Ultimate Reality and they are held to be par excellence the Sabda or valid verbal testimony for knowing it (the Ultimate Reality). The study of verbal testimony comprises discussion about the nature, the means and the fruit of attaining Reality.

The Upanisads are mainly instructions given to the seeker after the Ultimate Reality, thought of as the source of all process, meaning and life. The instructions are given by the aptas or rsis who have attained, by the threefold processes of knowing, seeing and entering into that Reality, (even as the Lord of the Gita has stated modifying the Upanisadic statement of “jnatavyah, srotavyah, mantavyah and nididhyasitavyah. Thus the ultimate knowledge of Reality can only be truly attained by entering into that Reality. Indeed such is an apta, one who has attained, and such a one is the person who can speak about it with authority. Sri Sankara rightly held that this is aparoksa-anubhuti-transcendent experience of Reality. That it may entail other consequences such as loss of the triple distinction of known, knower and knowledge need not detain us at this stage. That there is hardly a choice for the human individual between the pratyaksa and aparoksa, between perceptive knowledge and transcendent revelatory knowledge is what should make us pause. Reason and sensation or perception are the two opposites of Western Philosophy, whereas in Indian Philosophy or Vedanta the opposites are perceptive knowledge and transcendental revelation. The contradiction between reason and revelation is of a different order even as the contradiction between perception and reason is. Reason has no independent status beyond systematising the knowledge it gets from sensations or from revelations. It has hardly an independent capacity to afford immediate reality or reality per se, or thing-in-itself.

The Upanisadic seers were of the same order as the Seers of the Mantras and indeed the Vedic literature has mentioned them as such. But as teachers of the knowledge of the Ultimate as Brahman or Self we have to conceive of them as communicating this knowledge. Is this communication effected by means of inference, or by means of analogy, or by both? The present writer believes that appropriate means for such a communication are inference and upamana, both together. I wish to suggest that (as in great transcendental matters) the inference does not work, even in the sense of Mimamsa rules of interpretation, and that in the Upanisads it is through the use of Upamana that the transcendental vision is being sought to be brought to the consciousness of the seeker.

Upamana in this sense is a separate means (pramana) rather than a sub-class under inference depending on invariable concomitance (vyapti and bhuyodarsana). The Naiyayika view of Upamana mentions that it consists in (i) a forester coming to us and telling us of (ii) an animal like our cow in the forest and (iii) that it is called gavaya. This is just information from a reliable forester. Being from a reliable individual the information has some authority but it is the actual seeing of the animal in the forest by me that makes me name it gayaya remembering the name given to it by the forester. So much so that some consider that naming is important because it is the name that really makes one know about a thing. This nominalist view however is dependent on the more important thing, viz. seeing the animal like a cow, which alone makes one name it. Neither of these functions will begin to operate unless a reliable forester comes and gives information about its existence.

Let us now look at the Upanisadic method of communication. It resembles exactly the method of Upamana. Here one asks about the ultimate reality, and the rsi (a forest-dweller–play on the word), a reliable one who has known the highest Reality and will not speak an untruth, speaks about the ultimate and says that it is Brahman, that it is Sarvatman, that it is Satyam, jnanam, Anantam and so on. All these are in a negative sense compared or contrasted with what we know, or even exalted and multiplied in excellence to what we know. But it remains just information and book-knowledge in a sense or heard-knowledge so to speak, till one actually “goes to the forest” and sees for oneself and applies the name Brahman to the inward and infinite Reality or the Sole Reality – Ekam sat, which is an intuition of the highest order. Therefore the three steps of Upamana as conceived by Naiyayikas seem to be available in this method of communication or teaching of the Upanisads.

Thus we find that when Naiyayikas formulated the testimony of Upamana as an independent pramana they were thinking of the methodology adopted by the Upanisadic seers. Comparisions from ordinary experience are for the sake of making communication intelligible by comparison, but the difference of the transcendental from the known was never left out ; and though the Brahman was compared with the Jiva or their indentity affirmed, it was not so very unconditional as it is sought to be made out. It is because this Upamana or “near-measure”1 has been used in the Pararthasruti that the whole literature of Upanisadic philosophy has been described as ‘Upa-nisad’. But it is unfortunate that some schools of Vedanta do not perceive that there is a unique method or pramana utilised by the Upanisads which is different from the usual upamana or (upama) in poetry and scientific treatises. The use of Upamana by the Vendantins themselves has not been consistent with the logical schools of either Mimamsa of Nyaya.

The fact is that a careful inspection of the methodology of the Upanisads reveals that the technique of communication of transcendental truths in the language of the ordinary man or phenomenal existence can only be through this “upamana” that combines the knowledge given by an authority, the experience of that object which has been spoken of, and lastly the verification that culminates in granting the new name to that transcendent reality – a recognition-remembrance – smrti so to speak – a word which has been significantly used by Sri Krsna of Veda Vyasa in the Gita (18).

This intimate connection of Upamana and Sabda (which later has to be made into anubhava or one’s own experience in a direct and non-sensory manner) has led to the non-discrimination between the two and to the neglect of the important discovery made by the ancient Naiyayikas of the Parartha-sabda technique. The Mimamsa technique of Upamana as stated by me in a paper several years ago, seeks to transcend the common method by comparing the unknown with the known (upameya). However this is a point that needs to be carefully studied in any logic of the Vedanta or the Upanisads. 

2.4 Isavasyopanisad – a Study according to Sri Vedanta Desika

In paying tribute to the genius of one who has by his stupendous labours done more than any other single thinker to the cause of Dharma-sastra study in India, I wish to present a few salient points in the Upanisadic thought as expounded by one of the finest flowers of Sri Vaisnava thought in India. I mean Sri Venkatanatha, otherwise popularly known as Sri Vedanta Desika. Sri Venkatanatha commented on only one Upanisad, the Isavasyopanisad. He considered that this Upanisad was sufficient for all purposes and difficulties on the path of Realization, which he considered is the proper dharma of every man. This Upanisad is the friend of the Universe, visvamitram. That this claim has stood the test of age, even as the Gita has, is proved by its enormous influence on the minds of men of all ages in India. The Indian Renaisance thinker has to study the implications of this profoundest of Upanisads. GANDHI,1 AUROBINDO and TAGORE, who in the words of Sir Sarvepalli RADHAKRISHNAN, show great “promises of a great Dawn,” owe their finest inspirations and syntheses to this Upanisad. Not that other Upanisads do not contain valuable instruction, but this Upanisad gathers within it syntheses of great worth and moment to Humanity.

The Isavasyopanisad shows a synthetic way of realization, of works, of unity, of synthetic conquest and triumph and synthetic Ananda. Later literature appears as it were to be comments on this wonderful Upanisad.

That some Mantras are taken from other Upanisads, especially Brhadaranyaka, and others, does not in the least affect the Integral nature of the syntheses presented in this piece.

The Analysis of the Upanisad shows that it tries at the very start to synthesise the knowledge of the Omnipervasive Divine Being with the doing of individual duties. The duties immediately take the form of self-lessness or fruit-renouncing nature. The Upanisad itself is the concluding portion of the Vajasaneyi Samhita, and that means that all works, sacrifices, nitya and naimittika, should be appropriated to the growth of knowledge of Brahman:

      Samhitodahrtam sarvam viniyogaprthaktvatah

      Vidyartham syad iti vyanktum nibandho ‘sya tadantah.

The unitary practice of knowledge of God and works devoted to the enlargement or increase of one’s consciousness culminates in the Vision of Unity which is the aim of all Upanisadic instruction.

The first three mantras form the preliminary instruction of the Guru to his disciple, and these form the introduction to the entire thought of the Upanisad. Whatsoever is changing and transient is pervaded by the Lord, knowing this one should, giving up all sense of possession and avarice, enjoy the world of His. Man should not surrender his works based on the knowledge of the all-pervasive Brahman, since such action does not cleave to man. Failure to know or do works with the sense of renounced-enjoyment makes one a self-killer, and the destiny of such a person after death is not the solar orb or supreme status but the unending gloom of interminable darkness.

The fourth mantra takes up the threads of the first half of the first mantra which intimates the indwelling all-prevading nature of God. In a few vigorous choice phrases His Omnipervasiveness and Omnipresence are described in apparently contradictory terms so as to indicate the wonderful luminous presence everywhere. The height of this wonder is reached when the Seer describes that ‘Air upbears the Waters’ “tasminnapo matarisva dadhati”. The next verse repeats the same idea in order to emphasize the excellent transcendent nature of Sarvesa.

The sixth mantra points out the fruits of the knowledge of Lord’s omnipervasion. One does not recoil from any thing. The seventh proceeds forward and points out that ‘He who perceives the Oneness of the Lord does not suffer from delusion or sorrow’.

The eighth mantra is all important. No commentator, ancient or modern, other than Sri Venkatanatha has explained it properly. Sri Venkatanatha displays loyalty to the grammatical construction of the mantra which contains two groups of words, one in the nominative case and the other in the accusative case. The two groups accordingly should refer to two different persons, God and the soul, the soul in this case being the mukta, freed soul, which has attained the highest state. This also shows that the two groups may interchangeably refer to God and the freed soul. This identity in quality it is that makes it possible for the individual to meditate and realize the Supreme as the Self–So’ham asmi (16th mantra) ‘He am I’.




He (the supreme Brahman) Omniscient, Intelligence, Lord, Independent, who from eternal years determines the real nature of all things, pervades the pure (self), without (karmic) body, scarless, sinewless, freed from evil (and good).

The above is the two-way translation according to Sri Venkatanatha. This interpretation does not militate against the doctrine of Unity. It shows that creation is not a fiction but a real creation. The individual soul achieves real height and peace and glory of equality in all aspects except the creation of the world (jagadvyaparavarjam).

Then come the two triads of the most intriguing verses, referring to the synthesis of Avidya and Vidya, and Asambhuti and Sambhuti.

There are several views and no one is agreed as to the exact meaning. One view holds that Avidya is ignorance, and this ignorance produces action. This action thus is Avidya. This action is further identified with vedic ritualistic performance, kamya-karma, which produces blindness. When practised along with Vidya it helps the surmounting of the death and attainment of Immortality.

Another interpretation makes ignorance the consciousness of many alone, whereas vidya or knowledge means consciousness of unity alone. The integral truth is the unity in multiplicity and multiplicity in unity.2

According to Sri Venkatanatha, avidya means vidyetara – other than vidya, that is that which is also next and nearest to it, and that is action, karma. This is the karma prescribed in the second verse; kurvanneveha karmani …. This is right action, consecrated action which does not touch man, action done in the consciousness of the omnipervasive Brahman, action suffused with renunciation of  fruits and self-possession. Such is avidya.

I shall not dilate on the controversies about these two terms as I shall be doing so elsewhere at length.3

The next group is equally interesting, and the interpretation of Sri Vedanta Desika is remarkable. Sri Sankara identifies these two terms with destruction and birth and pleads for their transcendence. The dialectical movement, it is assured, is overcome by the realization of the height. What is throughout forgotten in the analysis of both the groups is that the terms avidyaya mrtyum tirtva and vinasena mrtyum tirtva are not properly explained. How can ignorance lead to conquest over death? How can destruction lead to conquest over death? Certain further explanations are needed to make them acceptable. It is this that made Sri Venkatanatha undertake to explain these terms otherwise so as to be in tune with the integral meaning of the Upanisad.

Sri AUROBINDO, an integral thinker of great Vision, holds that the ideal of the Upanisad is “to embrace simultaneously vidya and avidya, the one and the many : to exist in the world but to change the terms of death into terms of immortality, to have freedom and peace of non-birth simultaneously with the activity of birth-Death is the constant denial by the All of the ego’s false self-limitation in the individual frame of mind, life and body.” Here the meaning of non-birth is birthlessness, and this is the counter-pole of birth. Birth is the quality of manyness, whereas non-birth is the quality of self-identical existence, and their conciliation is brought about through the pursuit of Divine Transcendence that does not follow exclusively either the birth-pursuit or the birth-lessness-pursuit.

These is another interpretation which is also interesting. It considers that asambhuti refers to the lord of destruction, Rudra-Siva and sambhuti to the Lord of Creation, Brahman ; worship of any one of the two gods exclusively leads to ignorance and darkness. Both the functions belong to the Supreme Lord who is spoken of as sarva-vyapin and is declared to be the Origin of all the three processes of creation, sustenance and destruction : janmadyasya yatah (I. i. 2. Vedanta Sutra). The one supreme Godhead should be worshipped as the Lord of both, and this will lead one to the two-fold realization.

Sri Venkatanatha interprets the two terms in a very luminous manner quite distinct indeed from the rest. Asambhuti means the destruction of all obstacles to sambhuti or divine birth or communion. Sambhuti is divine birth (jnana-sambhuti). It is the brahmic experience (Samadhi) that is to be sought after and the obstacles to it ought to be overcome. Hence destruction (vinasa) means the destruction of obstacles to realization, and therefore when this destruction happens there is also conquest or crossing over death. The two are limbs of the knowledge of the Omnipervading God. They sustain and energize the growth of His consciousness and make for the rending of the veil that covers the face of the self mentioned and prayed for in the following mantra :

            Hiranmayena patrena satyasyapihitam mukham

            Tat tvam pusann apavrnu satyadharmaya drstaye (15th Verse)

Thus according the Sri Venkatanatha, the first triad is not repeated by the second ; on the other hand, the second triad belongs to the realm of upasana, praxis, and the last group of mantras 15-18 are prayers to the Supreme of the form of Pusan the protector, the Sun, Prajapati, and Yama, to reveal the form effulgent and auspicious of the indwelling Lord in them and in Him, who is the same as his own self, so’ham asmi, He I am.

The description of the darkness into which men are said to enter through isolated or atomistic conduct (in verses 9, and 12) is similar to the description given earlier in the third mantra. The reality of the dark spheres or planes of consciousness of ignorance, the reality of sin, and the sin of non-performance of action and wrong performance of action, the sin of not fulfilling the dharma of the self, which is to perceive its Self as the Supreme Lord indwelling in all, are clearly enunciated. They result in the entrance into darkness. All these are activities comparable to or indeed are activities that lead to suicide of the self. To realize the diunity to knowledge and selfless consecrated action, the unity of religious consciousness of utter dependence on the Supreme and the mystic consciousness of over-coming all restraints and obstacles to that realization, is the real synthesis of the integral consciousness. Religion and Mysticism are clearly represented by the figures of sambhuti and asambhuti.4 Both lay claim to vision and knowledge, and yet one-sided or unilateral action precipitates them into darkness as much in the lower as in the higher states. The occult secret is their diunity of dynamism.

4.  Cf. My paper read at the 10th All India Oriental Conference, Tirupati, 1940, on “Relation between religious and mystical consciousness in the Isvasayopanisad-bhasya of Sri Vedanta Desika.”

The last four mantras are said to be prayers. The Lord is the protector, is the Kratu, who remembers the Satvic sacrifice performed by the individual as instructed in the first verse–tena tyaktena bhunjithah. The most glorious vision thus becomes man’s through the prasada of God and not otherwise. Surrender, prapatti, is thus intimated with the words, nama uktim vidhema, and it gets its complementary prasada, grace. This last is one of the most important features of the doctrine of Realization according to Sri Vaisnava philosophy.


(Translation of text)


I.          All this whatsoever is in the worlds changing is capable of being dwelt in by the Lord. With that (world) renounced enjoy. Covet not anyone’s wealth.

II.         Thus should one desire to live a hundred years performing works. Thus for thee it is not otherwise than this. Works do not touch (such) a man.

III.       Notoriously evil are those worlds of Asuras, enveloped by utter blinding darkness whitherto all slayers of their souls resort on departing from their bodies.

IV.       Unmoving, the One Existence, speedier than the mind, that which has at the very beginning attained all the gods have not yet attained ; standing, which overtakes that run, by it air upbears the waters.

V.        That which runs (and yet) that does not move,

That which is afar and that is also near,

That dwells within all this and outside all this.

VI.       He who sees in the self all creatures and all creatures in the self alone,  does not recoil from anything.

VII.      When he who knows the Self only as that which has become all things, for him who has seen Oneness, where is there delusion or sorrow?

VIII.     He attains the Radiant, Bodiless, Scarless, Sinewless, pure Being, without sin : (he) Seer, Self-controlled, Conqueror, Independent, bears the real nature of things for innumerable years.


He (the Supreme Brahman) Omniscient, Intelligence, Lord, Independent, who from eternal years determines the real nature of all things, pervades the pure (self), without (a karmic) body, scarless, sinewless and free from evil (or good).

IX.       Into deep darkness enter those who are devoted to works. Into still deeper darkness verily those who are devoted to knowledge.

X.         Different verily from the knowledge it has been said,

Different verily from works it has been said.

This is the instruction we have received from those wise men who instructed that very clearly to us.

XI.       He who knows that the knowledge and the works as together,

By the works crosses over death, and by the knowledge attains the Immortal.

XII.      Into deep darkness enter those who follow asambhuti (exclusively) ; they into still deeper darkness who are devoted to sambhuti alone.

XIII.     Different verily from sambhuti it is said :

Different verily from asambhuti.

This is the instruction we have received from those wise men who instructed that (means) very clearly to us.

XIV.     He who knows sambhuti and asambhuti together

By vinasa crosses over dealth, and by the sambhuti attains the Immortal

XV.      The face of truth is covered with a brilliant golden lid. Do thou remove that, O Nourisher! for the sake of perceiving the true nature.


XVI.     O Nourisher ! O sole Seer ! O inner Ruler ! O Prompter ! Lord of all creatures !

Abolish thy burning rays, gather up thy rays of light, so that

I (may) see thy most auspicious form. Who this MAN this He am I.

XVII.   Moving about, abodeless, immortal, after giving up this body which goes to ashes, OM. (O Lord of)

Sacrifice ! Remember that which was done. (O Lord)

Sacrifice ! Remember that which was done.

XVIII.  O Agni. Lead us by the auspicious path to (spiritual) wealth. Thou God who art knower of all knowledge, remove the  crooked sin from us. To thee we sincerely (and repeatedly) utter the word ‘Namah’.



The question addressed to the Seer of the Kenopanisad at the beginning is :

Kenesitam patati presitam manah
Kena pranah prathamah praiti yuktah!

Kenesitam vacam imam vadanti
Caksuh srotram ka u devo yunakti!!

‘Who is that Godhead by whom desired the mind moves towards its object, at whose bidding the breath first preceeds to perform its functions, by whom wished do men utter speech, by whom are the eye and ear directed?’ the answer to this fundamental question was that Person is the eye of the eye, ear of the ear, mind of the mind, breath of the breath, speech of the speech, who is beyond their reach and cannot be known by them fully. Further it was stated that one should know that Person as He who grants then their virya or energy of being. Neither Agni, nor Vayu nor Indra knows who that effulgent One is till instructed. He is indeed the power that got them the Victory over the asuras or powers of darkness, which they did not know and for teaching which He appeared to them.

We can esoterically consider in the story narrated in the third and fourth sections of the Upanisad that Agni, Vayu and Indra are the adhidevatas or presiding deities of the elements or of the senses viz. eye, breath and mind respectively which refer to the three planes of physical, vital and mental or jnanendriyas, karmendriyas and mind. The story concludes with the instruction in the fourth section thus:

Tasyaisa adesah: Yad etad vidyuto vyadyutada

Itin nyamimisada ityadhidaivatam?

“This is the instruction regarding It. ‘Just as the lightning flashes forth and disappears’. Here ends the instruction having reference to elements (adhidaivatam)”1 .

The above is the translation made according to the Commentary of Sri Rangaramanuja. Others translate ‘nyamimisada’ as ‘it vanishes as the eye winketh’ or ‘it is like the twinkling of the eye’. Further it is stated that this analogy of Brahman with lightning and its disappearance is well known.

I wish to point out in this note that the usual rendering of the adesa of the Seer is not adequate. Not that it does no convey some meaning. My contention is that it can convey much more than what meets the eye. The story gives the most important clues. The idea that the experience of Brahman at first occurs out of His grace, out of His wish to let known that He indeed is the being behind all activities, that HE is the self. This experience at the beginning is like a flashing-light (vidyurlekhaiva bhasvata) or even like the Yaksa, wonderful Being who disappeared or vanished the moment Indra approached It, and revealed there another form (bahu sobhamanam Uma Haimavatim). It may be a momentary experience whose speed is like that of lightning itself, but it is something that binds the eye. The eye is made to close down – nyamimisada.

And all other sensory organs too ‘close down’. No longer does the individual perceive or is conscious of any thing of the outer world. The word nyamimisada reveals this complete inversion of the senses. The senses are enraptured utterly. A very arresting name of the Divine is stated to be ‘Hrisikesa’ which means the “enrapturer of the senses,” for by His very appearance they cease to be attracted by the objects and get blind to them. This experience of the Divine as the supernal falsh of lightning occurs out of His grace and cannot be had by means of austerity or mere learning or any other. As the Kathopanisad points out He who has been chosen by the Divine, by him is He perceived: yam esa vrnute tena labhyah. Thus adhidaivatam2  means really that which occurs by the Will of the Divine or Brahman who wishes the individual or the senses to win a victory over the lower vital forces, the asuras. The adhidaiva occurance of the occurance of the Grace is intimated and this sets up processes within the individual, which is intimated by the next passage. A radical experience, which cannot occur through the will of the individual or his effort is what we refer to the Divine or Grace. Once this radical experience within occurs, and the senses close down or become inwardly absorbed or are sent to sleep, then there is the preliminary peace or quiet, the prasada. This is what happens.

Athadhyatmam yad etad gacchativa manah and na caitad upasmaraty abhiksnam sankalpah: Then the mind goes after It as it were. And by that it constantly follows it desiring It (alone).”

Sri Rangaramanuja reads that the desire is not capable of following it as it is such a momentary experience. Man’s contemplation on It is incapable of being continuous and uninterrupted due to the extreme transcendence of the Supreme. But it is claimed by all sadhana that not until one’s consciousness flows like tailadhara, uninterrupted continuity, can there be real establishment in the Divine. Bhakti means this uninterrupted meditational continuity.

Thus the reading anena caitad upasmarati seems to be proper, at least as cogent as the other given by him nacaitad upasmarati. The eyes that have beheld the Lord, even for a second, can have no place for anything else. The mind’s eye, the divine eye divya caksus, opens up and it begins to move towards the Divine who thereafter is the one object of desire and volition. The Divine alone is enjoyed. The individual is rapt in love of that object adorable, effulgent, the source of all power and the Self, whose first contact was like that of a lightning that dispels the darkness and ignorance which the senses follow. Through God’s Grace, as Uma Haimavati intimates in the upanisad, the victory over the objects of senses happens by the very perception of the Divine; it all happens in a split-second. The individual’s mind is lost to the Divine, it discovers its source and being in the Divine; one-pointed it enters into the Divine contemplation instead of driving the senses outward for the fields of enjoyment. All desire follows it inward to the Divine.

The Divine is next revealed as the Tad Vanam, the garden of  Bliss, the garden of spiritual honey.

Taddha Tadvanam nama Tadvanam ityupasitavyam: That is called Tadvanam. It is to be meditated upon as Tadvanam.

Thus the individual to whom through Grace, that which is due to the Godhead’s Grace (adhidaivatam), He appears as Jyothis, as effulgent light of the lightning, becomes one whose senses are inturned, and whose mind becomes concentrated on God, and whose desire follows the Divine Goal, with the Divine as Goal, with an extinguishment of all other desires. This is what occurs within the individual (adhyatman) or within his body (if we yet play with the view that the body is the soul), or since the manas is not of the soul nor the senses for the matter of that except of the sarira or body, Rangaramanuja may be considered to be right when he explains adhyatmam as ‘with regard to the body’. But it must be pointed out that this is what the individual finds happening to him who is the embodied-seeker of the Supreme Divine.

Almost all the great mystics have borne testimony to this process of the Divine Revelational action, a descent of Godhead towards man; and the ascent of man towards Godhead is described by the adhyatma.

In this connection I am delighted to present the close correspondence between the Kenopanisad’s instruction and the experiences of the Alvars, especially of Tirumangai. I have already expounded the philosophy of religion of Sri Tirmangai taking into consideration the two Madals under the caption ‘Eros’ in the Journal of the Sri Venkatesvara Institute (Vol. IV. Pp. 21). I shall here point out the close similarity expressed in the language of the beloved who on beholding the beloved Form of Sri Krsna lost herself entirely. She did not go out to see Him, but some others called her out to behold the dance of the Lord.

Vara yo venrarkkuccenren envalvinai yai

karar mani niramum kaivalaiyum kanen nan

aranum sollirrum kollen                              (Siriya madal 14)

I went to them who called me out to see the Lord, owing to my great sin, (for) there I became as one who saw not the black attractive form (of krsual), and as one who lost her bangles: I accepted not the words (of consolation or assurance) from others.


      Karar tirumeni kandatuve karanama


      Varay madanenje vandu manivannan

      Sirar tiruttuzhay malai namakkaruli

      Taran tarumenrirandattil onratanai

      Aranum onratar kelame connakkal

      Arayumelum panikettatan renilum

      Poratozhiyate pondidunirenrerku

      Kara kadal vannam pinbona nenjamum

      Varate yennai marandutu tan…                                        (ibid. 54-55, 57-60)

On merely seeing His blue form, losing control, shivering I am wandering. Further the cool breeze breaking through my frame entering into me is causing in me passion. I am unable to know in what manner.

To me who sent my mind after the blue-ocean-hued form (as messenger) with the words “O sluggish mind, get up. If you but  go and ask such that none of my enemies hear ‘Will Thou of blue-stone-hue out the Grace give us the beautiful tulasi garland or wilt thou not?’ and hearing His reply come back to me. Even if He do something that ought not be done, do not stay back there, but come and tell me.” The mind did not return to me. It forgot me…

Thus the mind was lost, having gone after the Blue-Form, the form that emerges as lightning out of the rain-cloud-sky of Grace, that appeared for a moment and disappeared before a full vision could be got. Yet such is its the enchantment and capturing force that it made one liberated from the bangles of sensory attraction, from the world and from the body-sense. Most commentators have indeed missed the significance of the falling off the bangles. The mystics usually clothe their deepest insights in such language.Thus the Vision of the Lord, the passing of the mind, the blindness to all else except the Divine, the Desire following the following the Form of the Divine, all these are strictly accordingly to the Adesa of the Kenopanisad Seer. Tirumangai further adds: My soul is melting like wax on the fire – the divine passion.In the Tiruviruttam also the great Sathakopa expresses these experiences of the Divine in the triple movement: firstly the Divine coming, a momentary glimpse of God, a flashing out of the blue sky: and then the mind chasing it to grasp it and to bring bring it back, and its failure; and the consequent utter concentration of the entire being as an offering to the Divine for being consumed by Him. One is eaten up by the Divine. The contemplation of the self, now bereft of the senses, bereft of the mind and desire also for every thing else but the Divine, is set on the One Adorable Being- Tad Vanam. The alvars here give a most excellent clue: the Divine is the garden beautiful, Tirumal irum solai, garden-girt by honeyladen flowers and trees, a mountain-garden of exquisite natural beauty and transcendental illumination, the Place of God, or God Himself is where honey-bees are humming, where peacocks are dancing, where rain clouds are gathered and where Indian Kokils are making call to one another in Joy; it is the Celestial Heaven of Bliss, where there is the supreme experience of Self. The ancient Seers always found the Peace in the God-Garden; they found that the natural beauty is infinitely surpassed by the God-beauty, much more rich, peaceful, soul-filing; and above all it is the transcendental Reality and universal love, suprasensual reality and consciousness omniscient and beneficent. That is the Vana, vananiya or varaniya, desirable and preferable to any that the senses know or feel or enjoy. It is at once the height of peace and the depth of Delight. So much so it is said that when Madhura kavi (the enjoyer and singer of the Madhu honey of Truth-Vana) asked Sathakopa ‘Settatin vayirrile siriyadu pirandal ettaitin renge kidakkum – when the soul (the little one) is born of the worm of the Inconscient what enjoying where does it lie?” Sathakopa replied “Attaittin range kidakkum: Eating That, it remains there”. The soul of the knower enjoys the Divine, having realised that the Inconscient is nothing at all, though residing there. The body-Consciousness is lost utterly. And by this answer Madhurakavi knew Sathakopa as a Realised Person.Thus we find that a close similarity exists in the statements of the Upanisadic seers and the alvars or mystics, the adorers of the Tirumal-irumsolai, which is variously described as Vengadam, garden-girt cities and temples of God. The Tadvana concept is most profoundly the concept of the Alvars.Thus to conclude, I have pointed out that the word adhidaivatam refers to the Divine Grace-action, not dependent on the individual will or effort. That it may have reference to the senses to the senses or the gods which are not capable of being under the control of the individuals, being instruments of that maya of His which is difficult to cross over is also capable of being accepted only in a secondary sense.The adhidaiva-action precedes the individual activity or the transformation of individual mind. The mind is either drawn into the inner Self or extinguished when the Vision happens out of His Grace. The individual’s desire becomes one-pointed or centred in the Supreme Object revealed by the Vision, which is the fulfiller of the Desire, the Tadvanam. Thus man attains the Supreme End or purusartha and lives in it and becomes adored and sought for by all sa ya etad evam vedabhi hainam sarvani bhutani samvancchanti. All beings love him who knows It thus (as Tadvanam).


Every meditation is a practice of union with the Divine, a yoga. The last four verses of the Isavasyopanisad counselled for the purpose of meditation by Sri Venkatanatha reveal certain wonderful correspondences between the Vedic, Upanishadic and pauranic strata of consciousness. The Mantra or the revealed literature is rendered into assimilable intellectual terms in the Upanishads and elucidated in the History which the Pauranik literature is. But the three are (I should have added the Brahmanic or sacrificial mysticism also) one integral presentation. If we would understand the inner meaning of any one of these, we should go to the other two, and this indeed is the intention of certain classes of ancient scholars who insisted upon a correct and complete understanding of the three literatures mentioned.

The Isavasyopainsad teaches in the first fourteen verses the nature of God, the nature and duty of man and the means towards freedom and perfection and the results of the violation of the nature and the violation of the means. The realization of perfect being or at-one-ness with the Divine is intimated most luminously in the 8th verse. I have dealt with these aspects in another work and therefore do not propose to deal with them here. But my practice of meditation for the last four verses beginning with “Hiranmayena patrena satyasyapihitam mukham Tattvam pusan apavrnu satyadharmaya drsthaye” (15) had led me to feel that here we have a clear and profound mantra of liberation that is integral and combines the knowledge with works, and this prayer is the expression of the devotion impregnated with the knowledge of the Divine Nature and Grace, and the knowledge of the true relation that subsists between the individual and the Nature which includes his body.

The first verse (Isa. 15) clearly reveals that the individual soul is covered over with a passion-coloured lid and this is of the form of ignorance, since this prevents the soul from seeking the Divine as the indweller in all things moving and unmoving (Isa I). The goal is the realisation of the One supreme Being as indwelling in all and the perception of the entire realm of creatures and things in that One Being and not only that one should see also the Divine as that who has become all these things (Isa 6 and 7), in orther words, as creator and cause. This realisation is incapable of being attained through the help of the senses, as the Kenopanisad has stated. For the Self is that which causes these senses to see and hear, and breath  and taste and smell and touch; thus the real subject of all experiences and the agent of all action is the Self; and this is the Satya, the Truth. Thus every other function of the self is incapable of seeing or knowing or even adequately informing the self to us. By the self alone can the self be seen and known and heard, and as the Kenopanisad says Atmana vindate viryam vidyaya vindate amrtam – we must gather our strength and truth from the Atman, the self that is the source of all seeing and the power behind all seeing. Thus it is that this Being unseeable of the senses, is incapable of being known except when the passion-clouds, are dispersed, the passion-lid removed and a strong peace or silence or calm pervades the being. More fully must it be comprehended that this attainment of peace or sthita-prajna-consciousness or calm silent fullness is impossible to attain by means of man’s volition or will or ignorance as such; but by a real and inward aspiration this might be possible. That is the reason for the prayer and the aspiration upwards calling to the Nourisher, Pusan, the Divine of the beneficent movement. The santa-state is a gift of the Divine, this is the satya-dharma state, a preliminary peace-state but nonetheless foundational and fundamental to all ascent. It is because it is a gift and Grace of God and the intimation of His presence, it is capable of being permanent and ever-revelatory of higher and higher levels of being and immortality. Any peace that comes as a result of one’s own effort is not only incapable of being permanent, but it indeed achieves a false-peace, a repressed state infected with a deeper conflict or else it is a precarious egoity that is the contradiction of the realisation of the One self in all beings.

The pauranic analogue suggested by the phrases of this verse of Isa Up. is the story Hiranyakasipu—the gold-vestured or gold-coated egoistic Asura, who searched as no man or God ever did for the omnipervasive Being—the Vishnu, the enemy of the egoistic soul Hiranyaaksa, greedy eyed – a stealer of the Things that are of the Divine, the coveter of the Goods that belong in verity to the Divine(Isa 1), the usurper, albeit ignorant of the fact that the things do belong to the Divine alone. But the point is not that alone, the soul that is thus greedy eyed or passion-eyed and passion-covered, being ignorant of its true nature and considering itself to be the sole Master of reality, of all that is permanent and temporary, essays to challenge the very existence and possibility of the existence of the Divine, Iswara.. The Puranas as well as the Veda describe the existence of other Asuras such as Vrtra, Vala, Naraka, Taraka.. But the illustration of the truth is most aptly and adequately represented by the unique figures of Hiranyaaksa and Hiranyakasipu. The nature of the asura is to make it impossible for the truth to emerge, to possess it exclusively for themselves, by confining it to their own cave by closing the gates of the cave against any outlet or inlet. This lid was what was prayed for  to be removed by the Divine Almighty. It is in this sense that we have to accept the story of Hiranyakasipu who through his austerities won the coveted boon of unslayability by any mortal being or God or animal or plant or any created being. His own son pointed out the actual existence of the supreme Omnipervader. Searching for this Being, the Asura returned baffled, unable to reach it. “The ego was a helper” in acquiring the boon by tapasya and yoga, but it had become a bar to attainment of the knowledge of the Omnipervader. It had indeed itself fixed the lid more firmly on itself than helped to remove the lid. This indeed is the mystery of the ego. “He who would save his soul must lose it.” The ego is something that is an entity fundamental and real; because it is indeed such it is the most persistent fact in experience. It is eternal. But this is quite different from the fact of ignorance that erects this ego as the possessor of all reality or experience, as the ruler and sustainer of reality. It is immitigably private that it can never play that role of Isvara though it is through the soul the Divine acts or manifests or enjoys the soul as well as the Universe of Nature. The infinite diversity of Nature equally is reality that is sustained by the Divine One so true is the numerical manyness in respect of individual souls and the Nature (prakrti), this manyness is a reality, a secret truth of the Divine Nature. The Divine, as Sri Aurobindo affirmed, is the One in His eternal Manyness.

Further the truth becomes clear that the lid of ignorance cannot be removed by the powers and passions or exertions of the individual ego. Only by the Divine alone could the imprisoned soul get released; only by the Divine Power and Love or Grace could the lid of ignorance and passion be removed. No doubt as a result of intense prayer and pleading and aspiration the soul imprisoned within its own construction of desire, passion, greed and covetousness could be released. The souls are of three grades: divine, human and titan. The first is a class by itself, luminous in being, uncovered by any lid of passion, full-blown instruments of the Divinity within them, devoted servants and warriors of light. They never suffer from this opaqueness of being that is a result of convetousness and separation from the Divine, the Satya, the centre of being, a seperation  that results from the covering of the lid by the ignorance of the One Truth that all verily belong to the Divine alone.

The second-class, namely the human (mental) and the third-class namely the Asure (vital), beings are those who are in need of this removal of the lid of separation and passion, the lid of division, the lid that makes it impossible for the soul ever to enter into itself in order to arrive at the truth or knowledge of its real function and nature. The word in the Upanisad ‘dharma’ significantly points out that the soul has to seek to know its real function in respect of the Divine, for, knowing this the soul becomes something protected and nourished by the truth rather than tormented by the untruth of independence and egoism which it could not but consider in its own limited consciousness as the core of its reality. Confronted with the mystic truth that Prahlada, the awakened Intuition, had brought, the Vital Asura, indeed the father because of being the prior or earlier manifestation in evolution, engages upon a severe test of the nature of the soul, Atman, Prahlada himself being but the embodient of the nature of Atman. The Atman which has attained the Supreme Being, the Isa, is described in the Isavasyopanisad verse 8, as Suddham, Suklam, asnavirum, akayam, avranam, or Kavi, manishi, paribhu, svayambhu – all these attributes reveal the soul to be other than the body, the physical body, which the individual has been seeing and considering it to be. The vital soul (titanic and powerful), the Asura, found that the son, the enlightened buddhi, Prahlada, was not touched by the rigourous tests and threats of the vital being. He was different, and he said that there was another, the Vishnu, the omni-pervader, who was guarding him (paryagat; attained him as the Isa Up. ‘8 put it). The vital soul wanted a demonstration for his own complete benefit of existence of the omnipervading being, and would not accept the conclusive evidence of the mysterious persistence of the soul apart from and despite the body. Thus challenged the soul of Buddhi, Prahlada, prays (or is it the self of Hiranyakasipu baffled by the energy and ability of the soul that lives by the Self and by Knowledge had attained immortality: atmana vindate viryam vidyaya bindate amrtam – vinasena mrtyum tirtva sambhutya-amrtam asnute-prati-bodhaviditam matam amrtatvamhi vindate-?) to the Supreme Vishnu to remove the lid that covers the ego, even if it be by force, as indeed it has to be done, for it is the Rudragranthi, the knot of final death or ignorance, dissolution of egoism, and convetousness and possession; it is then that the individual soul ceases to feel the need for the continuance of itself as a separate being. It is then that the Lord in the form of Narsimha3 (indeed a play on the word Purushottama in one sense, and in another sense the representation of the infinite marvel of the Divine Being transcendent to all creation, all possibilities of created being, and yet master of all these forms and yet master of all these forms and names and capable of incarnating in each and everyone of them without undergoing any sort of dimunition of energy light, knowledge, infinity and power, benevolence and majesty), emerged, as the Purana says with mystic Sound, Om.

The Omkar is the Aksara, the One Imperishable supreme Sound that is the Brahman. The Isa uses this Mystic Sound (pranava) in the 17th verse as meaning the Sacrifice of Will-superconscient, the Doer. The Narasimha emerges form the Pillar (sthanu) within and destroys the hrdayagranthi the root-knot of bondage, that is, the possessive-knot that separates and disintegrates the unity that is the abiding nature of the soul with the Divine. The bowels and entrails of the soul are removed once for all, for it is for these or for the protection and sustention of these (self-preservation and self-perpetuation which are the twists in real seeking of immortality, the perversions of the fundamental truth of immortal existence in divine nature and function) that the habits of sequestering or coveting or theiving were cultivated. Thus the grand effulgence of the Divine who emerged with the glorious sound creative and destructive of all the worlds, manifested the ever present beneficence of the Vishnu. The prayer of the soul was indeed answered and the asuric knot was cut, the lid was torn open, (apavrnu-remove or uncover almost suggest the tearing open, cut open) and the great father of Prahlada was liberated. Thus may the father, or Prahlada on behalf of his father, pray “Pusannekarse Yama Surya Prajapatya Vyuha rasmin samuha tejah! Yat te rupam kalyaanatamam tat te pasyami Yo’ savasau purusah so’ham asmi!! O Nourisher! O sole Seer! O death! O Surya! Prajapathi! Withdraw thy Hot rays, gather up thy beneficent rays so that I see thy most auspicious Form. Who this man He this am I.” And thus know that the angushta-matra, thumb sized being in-dwelling in me is identical with the Self in the Sun. This is the Aditya-hrdaya—the secret of oneness in multiplicity resolved by, in and through the experience of the Prahladic Buddhi the Joyful Wisdom, the Sreyas, the eternal oneness in eternal Manyness of the Antaryamin, Vishnu, the Omnipervading Iswara, Narayana of the Pancaratra4, and the Prasnopanishad.

It can well be seen if any one reads the Bhagavata VII, how Prahlada prays to Laksmi-Narasimha who though He revealed His fierce form to illustrious and blazing might to the Vital Asura, revealed his most beneficent form to Prahlada with the ever-inseparable Laksmi Sri, for the eternal good of his father Hiranyakasipu, (how remarkably this recalls the choice of the first boon by Nachiketas in the Kathopanisad?) In reply to this the Divine Narasimha says that that was indeed already granted by the very touch of His and by His very combative embrace. The soul was indeed restored to its purity by the clasp of the Divine and by the knowledge of the oneness of the Self in all existences (Isa 6 and 7). The true Self Aham so to speak is the Divine Alone.We can then proceed to see in the next two mantras the same Joyful Wisdom, Prahladic consciousness, that has beheld the One supreme integral unity of the godheads and its own Self now resolves to offer up itself in utter consecration for the fulfillment of the Divine Lila. The soul is immortal and it has no one above and its bodies are not fixed or permanent. The dehatma-bhrama has been rooted out utterly. The truth has been known that whatever is possessed by the soul even in trust must be offered up completely to the Divine. Tyaktena Bhunjitha of the first verse of the Isa  Up. already intimates the consequence of the acceptance of the Divine as all-pervading and all-residing. Sacrifice (kratu) is the height of the truth. Thus it is that man or the awakened soul, pure and rescued from the false identification with the body, resolves upon the great act of conquest of Visva or the waking consciousness (jagrat) with the help of sacrifice. It is in the waking consciousness that the consciousness of difference is most acutely present, and it is this that has to be overcome by sacrificing, by giving up all possession, by co-operative action, by love and feeling of brotherhood and self-renunciation. This is also the Asva-medha. In other words, the sacrifice is called Visvajit, and it is a sacrifice that entails the surrender of all possessions as daksina; to whosoever seeks anything that thing must be given. The visvajit sacrifice of Mahabali is a great sacrifice, in this sense that it has a great mystic meaning. (So too is the inner meaning of the sacrifice of the father of Nachiketas – Gautama Aruneya)5. He who would possess all must give freely all that one has. This was the pratijna and it is clear that this sacrifice would not have been competed but for the coming of the Vamana (the name is significant as it is used for the Divine in the Kathopanisad), the dwarf-Vaisvanara-Brahman, who asked just three feet of ground. The Mahabali offered him the three feet despite remonstrances from his Guru. The Lord with one foot measured the entire earth (prthivi) and with the other foot measured the entire heavens reaching beyond the sun and the moon and the great seat of Brahma, and asked  of Mahabali for the third feet of ground. The great king then offered his own head. Thus the physical and the spiritual parts of the King were returned to the Divine. An integral offering took place, and the result was the attainment of the supreme bliss of Brahman, the rasatala, the seas of Ananda. Thus come the wonderful words of the verse 17 of the Isa pregnant with the consciousness of the true Lord of Sacrifice, Kratu: Om Krato smara, Krtagam smara. Aum sacrifice Remember what was done6. As Venkatanatha interprets this verse it means “Please fulfil the sacrifice by thine supreme presence and acceptance of my surrender, for thou art the Lord of sacrifice.” The satvika tyaga is also exhibited, for the individual soul is a mode, prakara, sesha, dasa of God alone.

The last verse is a further fulfillment of the previous verse, and is not as some scholars might consider, a general prayer found in the three Vedas and the Brahmanas. For, its integral place by reason of the continuity of thought is ascertainable form the fact that surrender of the form of sacrifice of the Mahabali, the energetic elevated soul,conscious of the nature of the Dwarf, Brahman, who came a-begging for just the three mystical feet, as the Vishnu; who was anxious to complete the great sacrifice undertaken by him entailed the leading of Bali to the highest places of plenitude out of the Grace, promised to the progeny of Prahlada. (The Matsya Paurana and Harivamsa accounts of the entire episode are most enlightening accounts). Once the Divine has appeared as the self of itself as its truth and being, the peace is assured, conflicts are avoided, by the Grace of the Divine who of his own accord came, as the great Tiruppanalvar said, to take the soul to the supreme abode of Rasa, rasatala, for the great Mahabali was consigned to the Rasatala, there to be eternally watched by the Divine solely and to be enjoyed by Him alone and naively or is it purposely it is stated, Mahabali was fully satisfied. Was there a more lovable punishment ever given to one who dared to offer himself up to God despite the entreaties of his own Guru who asked him to hold on to what he had and warned him the deceit of the Divine! Did not the Gopies seek such a punishment? Have not the Alvars sought this punishment? Have not Gods awaited this punishment? To be with God morning, noon and night and for ever and alone. To have God is breath, sight, taste, smell, and the sweetest Sabda of the Flute: to share in the experience of knowledge of God’s direct sovereign rulership, intimate indwellingness, transcendent supremacy, wonderful power of creation, sustention and destruction all revealing the supreme sovereign Daya, and more than all descents into all forms, in His Fullest puissance and plenitude, resplendence and power!! The Divine though omni-pervading or capable of omnipervading (vasyam literally means this latter), out of his Grace and in response to the search and prayer and aspiration, descends to meet the soul and leads him to the higher reaches. If this task could have been done in respect of the recalcitrant dividing asura, vital being, and difficult to modify except through force or violence, how much more easily and more finely could not the Divine do the same for the more evolved mental soul? Thus the last verse:

Agne naya supatha raye asman visvani deva vayunani vidvan!

Yuyodhyasmajjuhuranameno bhuyistham te nama uktim vidhema!!


The Divine who is the Nourisher and Ruler, Seer, Death and In-dwelling self, and our father and Supreme Light is the Foremost Fire or Will within us. He is undiminished in every one of his descents and is ever full:


Purnamadah purnamidam purnatpurnamudacyate!

Purnasya purnahtadaya purnam eva avasisyate !!

 2.7  P R A N A Y A M A

The Yoga of Patanjali is distinguished from the practices of the Sri Vaishnava thinkers. There are certain differnces mentioned by the Sri Vaishnavites whose authorities are the Agama of Vaikhanasa and Pancaratra and tradition or Sampradaya. I shall here sketch briefly the relevant portions taken by the Sri Vaishnava thinkers in order to be in tune with the main tenets of their Philosophy of Organic Unity and prapatti and bhakti which are held to be the final culmination of all knowledge and action, jnana and karma.

The eight angas of Yoga are accepted and they are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.

Yama, niyama, asana, pranayama are all of the satvic order and are intended for the  sake of  ‘yoking the senses’ that are outwardly turned to make them inwardly turned, or at least quiet, so as to permit direct reception by the mind itself. It is in a quiet mind that the intimations of higher consciousness are sown.

Yama and niyama accepted by the Sri Vaishnava is what is described in the Vishnu Purana  VI.7: Celibacy, harmlessness, truthfulness, non-covetuousness, non-acceptance of gifts, scripture reading, purity, outer and inner, contentment, austerity, and inclining the mind to God. This list is not quite different from the Patanjali’s Yoga.

The Asana that is counselled as par excellance is padmasana – lotus-pose. The Patanjali’s Yoga holds that  asana  is best which is steady and performed with ease, sthira-sukha-asanam.

The Pranayama deals with the vital breath. Three stages are mentioned the recaka, kumbhaka and puraka. This view is accepted by all. The special method, however, followed by this school is different from the Patanjali sustras. The inhalation and exhalation are of half the duration of the kumbhaka or restraint. The inhalation follows the exhalation. The usual procedure adopted by the Yogis is that the right nostril first is used to exhale the air, and then closing it with the fingers the indrawing of breath is done with the left nostril. After retention for the specified period, the exhalation is performed with the right nostril. Then with the right nostril the breath is inhaled and exhaled with the left nostril. This establishes according to these thinkers and practicers the balance of the breath and establishes equipoise of mind and breath. On the other hand, the doctrine of Sri Vaishnava thinkers is that in no case should there be inhalation with the right nostril and exhalation with the left nostril. Therefore the fundamental difference.

The psycho-physical basis of this argument is as follows:

The left nostril is supplied with Amrta-nadi and the right with death or surya-nadi. The one is Agni, and the other is cooling like the Moon. The seeker after the vira-path seeks the divine realization through the path of Agni, and does not seek to establish the fullness of the living presence the immortal,here and now. Thus there is death seeking in that path. The good that accrues from the practice of left-nostril breathing is annuled by the right-nostril breathing.

It has been amply demonstrated by a yogin who counselled that in all cases when persons are suffering from fevers due to heat and other disorders, and even those who wish to sleep by day-time, not to sleep with their left side to the ground or to breathe with the right nostril. Pranayama with the left nostril-inhalation leads to cure, whereas right nostril-inhalation leads to aggravation of the malady.

Pratyahara (Reversion of will) accepted by the Sri Vaisnava is that according to the Vishnu Purana  VI.7, and dharana and dhyana are said to be of five kinds according to the Vishnu Purana VI. 7-91-ff.

Samadhi is the culmination of dhyana; it is of the nature of saksatkara, of the self. Beyond that is the supreme Brahma-saksatkara. Samadhi itself is an intimate coitional-consciousness of bhakti and overwhelming knowledge-devotion. The quality of power that it gets is due to the intensity of the equational consciousness leading to divine integration. More and more the individual becomes conscious of the presence of the Lord within, and the Mother, and those two rescue the individual from being merely an interiorised being. The veils of the soul are reft  as under and the individual stands in the presence of a transformed universe of Delight that was misery. All he perceives as the Vasudeva and is lost in the contemplation and ecstacy of the supreme.         




Ancient Indian culture accepted four legitimate motives of human being – man’s vital interests and needs, his desires, his ethical and religious aspirations, and his ultimate spiritual aim and destiny. These fourfold motives answer to his fourfold nature as a physico-biological (or embodied) being, as an emotional being seeking happiness and enjoyment, on the one hand, and on the other, as an ethical and spiritual self. On the proper satisfaction of these four aims consists perfection and happiness.

Almost all men normally devote the major part of their energy to the finding of means to satisfy their terrestrial needs. It is legitimate to strive for the bodily welfare of oneself, not merely seek its mere survival. Those things which help this preservation of the body and its continued efficiency and enjoyment are called the good things of life or simply goods. Everything is measured by its utility for the preservation of the body.

It is clearly recognized that the world in which we live though bounteous in its gifts and prolific in its produce of the essential and elementary demands of the body, sometimes offers great threats which challenge the life and existence of the individuals. These challenges of the environment are the ones which dictate the responses of the individual not merely in a purely stimulus-response (or situation response manner) but also with foresight. And foresight is power. It is precisely this foresight which again impels the individual to secure and hoard and preserve the things that are needed, and protect them from being taken away from him by other individuals or creatures. This necessity to protect and preserve the acquired things demands power, ability and might. The individual who has greater foresight, cleverness and ability as well as might wins in the race of life. He survives not merely as an individual against the environment but also against other individuals who seek to snatch or rob what he has. This latter condition may not usually arise in a well knit family or group where co-operation rather than rivalry predominates. But it is nontheless true that the break up of the family or the tribe is caused by the competitive rivalry between its members owing to manifold psychological reasons. Such break-ups undoubtedly reveal the individual to be a disintegrating force, an ego at cross-purposes with society, which appears to be a better unity or unit than the individual himself. Out of this fact one thing can be assumed for certain, that the individual seeks his self-expression, his freedom to be in a certain way. He seeks his growth and development in the world and in society if possible, out of it, if necessary. The emergence of the individual person then is the primary fact of the struggle for survival. (As conceived by Locke,) it is not enough to get the right to live and protect oneself but to have property which is the means to live, which is the fundamental necessity and right.

Property (artha) becomes a means for self expression, development and freedom. Property implies the exclusive use, enjoyment and control of those things which are of value in so far as they satisfy the fundamental needs of the organism. Thus property or rather private property is an essential condition of economic freedom. A life without property is impoverished for there is no wherewithal to live.

The right of every individual is to secure the primary needs of food, clothing and shelter without interference and without abridgment. But in a world wherein there is so much of competition among individuals for the necessities of the body, even to the minimum, and wherein these are not keeping pace with the growth of population, the problem of getting these has become very acute and a solution to it is not easily to be had. Thus a limit has to be placed on the quantum of property or wealth, understood in this limited sense that any individual can possess. Socialising the means or the equal distribution of all land and produce by the State will not mean anything but the best means of providing each individual with the barest necessities of life. This may imply that the individual may be obliged to work co-operatively, so to speak, with the rest of the individuals to get the bare minimum of his requirements. In whatever manner we go about it, the principal basis of life of man is material and economic. The higher aspects have to be erected on this. Any view of our human “existence” which neglects or unduly belittles or intolerantly condemns this basis is therefore by that very fact, whatever its truth or merit or utility, or whatever its suitability to individuals of a certain temperament or in a certain stage of spiritual evolution “unfit to be the general and complete rule of human being” says Sri Aurobindo.

Therefore it is seen that the modern world insists on this necessary material basis of life. It must be first well established before one engages on the spiritual adventure. The spiritual man who emphasizes the spiritual nature at the expense of the material basis of personality perhaps speaks for the higher values of life which are beyond the apprehension and ability of the normal man. He divides the world of experience into two schemes – one is the biological and hedonistic, and the second is the ethical and the spiritual. And similarly he divides man into two parts, the material (prakriy) and the spiritual-psychic (purushaic). He emphasizes the utter contradictory nature of these two which are somehow in an unholy wedlock. Thus the real nature of man is the spiritual, which is eternal and immortal. The body binds for it is ignorance. There is really no necessity or obligation to serve the needs of the body at all, except in so far as it is necessary to keep it going till one knows oneself as one truly is or knows it to be all illusory. Further since greed grows on what it gets, the pursuit of wealth leads to accumulation of more and more wealth. But it is not an unmixed good. It ceases to be a protection and tends to become more and more a threat. The sense of security passes when possession of wealth or goods passes beyond particular limit. This is one danger. It invites the powerful man to rob it away. The search for power is incidental to the search for wealth. Wealth is power, and it is thought that more and more wealth means more security and also more and more power. It is the ready means to survive. But this is not true. The results are paradoxical.

Men from early times have sought to grow rich and opulent without realising the trasitoriness of wealth. However, the methods adopted to gain wealth have been many. Wealth is a product of labour. It is cumulative labour. When power controls labour it controls wealth. Thus wealth and power are closely linked up and cannot be separated, (even as Kautilya has pointed out). Economic and political power go hand in hand and they cannot normally be abused and should not be. But it is not the same thing as saying that they will not be.

Artha, according to the spiritual renouncer or sannyasin, is a grave danger to spiritual freedom, unless seriously limited to barest necessities. But mankind in general has not been able to accept this recipe of asceticism and negation of life. That is the reason why the Indian social order provided the doctrine of the ‘asramas’ and emphasized the “grhastha” householder as the most important for the ordinary man. Whilst it granted that the grhastha must pursue artha or wealth and power so as to be the best citizen of the society, it also instilled in him the need for restraint and dharma in conduct. Grhastha dharma provides for the full development of personality and perfection, for it proves that artha and kama are not incompatible with the high pursuit of ethical and spiritual perfection, provided they are followed according to well-established dharma. A perfect self-expression of the Spirit is the object of terrestrial existence, and the artha-purushartha is included in this perfection of the individual personality. The world is God’s and is pervaded by God inside and outside. The wonderful Upanishad-Isa proclaims that knowing the world of both living and nonliving or the moving and the unmoving to be pervaded by God, one should seek to enjoy whatever is granted to him. It also counsels that one should not seize or covet other’s wealth. Artha by all means must be enjoyed and acquired but as belonging to God and received as a gift of God. Even so all activities have to be done as dedicated to God so that no sin can accrue or the dread of such. (na karma lipyate nare). By so acquiring and enjoying and acting, men can attain freedom from fear and death and attain the Immortal. If one on the other hand, becomes either wealth-mad or power-mad, then destruction is sure for him.

Modern theories seek to remove the concept of private property from the field of human thinking. They seek to substitute the society in the place of the individual as the possessor of property. But the truth is that neither capitalism nor socialism can solve the problem of the individual development of personality based on freedom. But this can be best achieved in a true democratic society, wherein the individual is treated as end in himself and counts as such and not merely as a means to some other unity or unit like the community or the State. Freedom from dependence on others for the wants and needs of life is sought to be guaranteed by wealth. This is always necessary in the interests of freedom. Considered in this manner wealth is a means to an end, even as power is a means to wealth. The Vedic Rishis seek wealth (rayi) but they had always had the integral concept that real wealth is the wealth of spirituality, which confers all other lesser wealths. God is the real undeteriorating wealth of all individuals, for He grants a fourfold sense of free existence. The truth about wealth then is that it is only a means to a more fundamental end of freedom. That is the reason why ordinary economic wealth which is dependent upon so many transient and temporary factors, which are brilliantly analysed by modern economists, is to be tested by its capacity and ability to subserve the higher values which the individual experiences and seeks even at the cost of renunciation of all these goods. The sublimated use to which goods are put will always justify the pursuit of wealth and power.

The Vedic prayer to Agni has this purport :

“ O Agni! Lead us by the auspicious path to Wealth ”

(Agne Naya supatha raye !)


Not money alone rules the world. Pleasure is a more powerful force than property. Property becomes a means to the end of pleasure. Sri Ramakrishna following the great tradition of India, stated that Kamini and Kanchana are the two most powerful forces of ignorance.

Men indeed love pleasure; seek pleasure both immediate and distant. They endeavour all their lives to attain pleasure at least at the end of the day, at the eve of their retirement, and beyond the world of living here in the world yonder. Men run from one object to another; satiated by one object they race towards other similar objects for new pleasure. When natural pleasures do not satisfy or are exhausted in their ability to grant pleasure, they device subtle inventions and apparatuses to provoke and prolong and enhance pleasures. Substitution of abnormal or subnormal pleasures has had a long, very long, history. The most abnormal ways of men in respect of smells and tastes, colours and forms, decorations and designs have played a very great role in the history of civilization. The grand feasts of senses, which excite, enthrall and hold captive men and women alike, are all born of the desire for gratification of the senses. They refuse to be put aside, and they enter by the most devious and unconscious ways into the halls of the cultured and civilized mankind. The desires of men derive strength through exercise and drive men to seek pleasure in manifold mysterious ways. Truth in pleasure is stranger than fiction.

The ancients called the world the abode of pleasure (bhogayatana). Nature is known as the enjoyable (bhogyam). The soul is called the enjoyer (bhokta). Nature exists to be enjoyed, and her capacity to entertain seems to be infinite (bhuma), hence is She known as bhumi. Men seek pleasure even like the animals (monkeys of the Ramayana) which are kamabhuks. The materialist philosophers (lokayatikas, world-minded ones) despite their philosophy of matter were essentially hedonists, pleasure-seekers. “Love and drink” for tomorrow you may die.” “Be merry”. The enjoyment of objects of sense (sex) as many as possible is heaven”. The test of reality is not truth but pleasure. Unreal things grant more pleasure than real things. Therefore what we seek is pleasure not the reality or the unreality. Thus fictions and imaginations are the sphere of art; and they have an autonomy all their own. They should be judged by standards of pleasure or delight-granting capacity rather than, by their approximations to truth. Illusions are things we thrive in. Suggestions of pleasure are indeed the test of living, existence. Indeed the usefulness of a thing does not consist as it did in the search for wealth (arthapurushartha) in its usefulness to survival in the world by the getting of goods such as food, shelter, and property but in its capacity to ‘entertain’, enhance and increase pleasure.

Pleasure is power. It is the greatest incentive to modern activities. The magnae in this direction is not the industrialist of food production, the pandit of  swift communication of the goods necessary to life, but the man who makes life meaningful and worthwhile, by granting it the greatest amount of pleasure. He is the luxury goods manufacturer, the entertainer, the cinema star. Pleasure has a dependability in its nature, which even the call to life does not have. The world would forsake all essential needs for a single ecstatic moment of pleasure. We can call it by whatever name-for the sake of a woman men have sacrificed everything, honour and all. It is true that sometimes pleasure love is an escapist phenomenon but all the same it can occur also otherwise than as an escape from other pains.

Moralists may criticise the pleasure-seeking drive as self defeating and as irrational. Do we not know that pleasure sensations are followed by pain? Do we also not know that intensification of pleasure leads to pain? When we eat more and more number of dishes of delicious sweets and fruits, beyond the limit not only do they become painful but cause diseases which are the consequences of excess. The physiological limit for pleasure is fixed for each organism. There is no means of denying pleasure as an incentive, however much it may be criticised. Excess turns health into disease. Pleasure becomes a mirage : transitoriness of pleasure provokes every effort to continue it and anxiety becomes a consequence of such effortfulness. Anxiety is the antithesis of pleasure of satisfaction.

A reaction to this pleasure-principle gave rise to world-negation theories. Pleasures of the body are to be avoided. Asceticism, brahmacharya or absolute divorce from the life of sense is the only rational course open. Real pleasure, permanent pleasure is not to be sought in the body but in the soul. Pain may very well be the food of the soul for it is the sensation of avoidance of bodily pleasures. ‘Pleasure for a beautiful body, pain for a beautiful soul’ are the food on which they thrive : so wrote Oscar Wilde in his De Profoundis. Spiritual pleasure or bliss is the opposite of physical pleasure. But the denial of pleasure as an end in itself to the spiritual life of man has been a counsel of perfection. It is a neat contradictoriness. All actions are performed with an eye to success in their objectives, though scripture may say that one should perform all action without any attachment to the fruits there of, nishkama karma. A deeper and distant goal of union with the divine purpose and will is the end result sought by doing actions selflessly without an eye to fruits. A different view was put forward that the bodily pleasures were delusions (vivarta) of the true bliss which one seeks with the soul. We are searching for a pleasure that is non-existent outside ourselves. As against these theories of philosophers, the great Greek hedonist humanist, Epicurus, drew a remarkable line which no hedonist could over’ step. It can be described as practical hedonism. He counselled the enjoyment of ‘natural-pleasure in such wise as not to produce reactive pains which usually accompany excessive indulgence. Aristotle also advised the ‘golden mean’ in all things. They recognized the principle of “self-defeatingness of Excess”. Therefore wisdom in practical life lies in the pursuit of all things in moderation (samabhava). The teacher of the Gita indeed teaches this moderation-principle in all possessions and enjoyments.

But men indeed are also regardful of the life after death. The sacrifices to Gods and other powers are said to grant results beyond the grave. Heavenly (or other-worldly) pleasures accrue. But they are not permanent and inward pleasures, they depend on the satisfaction of our senses even as the pleasures got from the earth-objects. Scriptures themselves know this limitation and made allowances to the individuals’ appetites. But all this is not to say that they ought not to be done. It is perhaps necessary to do all these kamya-karmas (desire-ridden actions) if not for the sake of oneself but for the sake of progeny, national welfare and humanity as a whole. The pleasures then entail lot of pain and effort but they are considered to be good. Socialising of pleasure or comfort and entertainment so that it is not selfish, is said to grant freedom from personal pain. But surely this is not clearly true. Pleasure-calculus, as the Utilitarians improvised it, is a rough measure which is neither exact nor feasible. All the same almost mankind believes in this fiction of universal welfare or pleasure. A further modification of the pleasure-principle is the search for peace-principle. Peace is certainly a second degree pleasure for it is absence of conflict and pain. This however will break up if there is an incidence of a more ruthless demand on the part of individuals for an end greater than pleasure or property, individual or social, namely freedom of law (dharma).

Through several lives at last as the Lord of the Gita says one arrives at the truth that one ought to seek the everlasting, undeteriorating, undiminishing and non-disintegrating and non-reactive pleasure of self-knowledge or God knowledge. Union with the divine is that which grants both peace and pleasure or Ananda. Through this union everything becomes attractive and inexhaustible ecstacy of delight, within and without. He is the ‘prerita’, the impellor within, the kama, the desire secret in everything and person, driving each soul to search for Himself. He is the ‘Rasa’ the essence in all things, of all tastes, colours and forms, smells, and all pleasures. He is the beauty in all things which attracts other things. Kama-purushartha answers to the search for beauty in all things which fulfils the values of utmost importance to man. The great Veda says desire is in the beginning which is the primal seed and germ of spirit. Desire (kama) ungoverned by limits, like power and wealth is a dangerously corruptive thing. Sublimated by the process of reason which discerns the fundamental essence of a permanent pleasure, desire in man passes through all the love for wealth, woman, drink, and forms and power, dropping them as essentially worthless in granting an unmixed pleasure, pleasure untied with reactive pain, arrives at the great truth of pleasure as Ananda of the subjective and the Self. The supreme reality becomes the object of desire or rather the Desire which desires itself in knowledge. Such desire not yoked to the satisfaction of the senses but to the supreme Self within, does not cause ignorance, contraction, darkness, selfdestruction and pain but leads to the experience of the bliss that passed understanding.

As the Chandogya Upanished says “He alone who sees thus, meditates thus, who knows thus, he verily is drawn to the Self (Atma), has love-play with Atma, and is united with the Atma, which is bliss itself Atmarair atmakrida a mamithuna atmanandah sa eva bhavati.”

God-love is the perfect pleasure or bliss, which transcends the dualities of the opposites of pleasure-pain, hot-cold, honour-shame, for one attains Him in whom everything is fulfilled; He is satya-kama, the desirer of the Real. The love of God thus becomes the gift of the beloved, and faith, the scion of Kama, as the rishis stated, becomes the cheer in the path of the world. The love of the Divine is what all saints have sought. Kama is not to be extinguished for its real core is love of the infinite, which we seek in everything because He is all, in all, as their self, impellor and truth. Such a seeing and desiring of the Supreme Beautiful Person, Krishna, does not but enhance the love of the Divine by turning the inward eye of true vision and love on the worldly objects. The secret process is to substitute the outward sense-seeing by the inward love-seeing. Used in the ordinary manner through the outward-sense-seeing love turns into lust and greed and struggled for pleasure, but restored to the inwards seeing of love, the transformation of the Nature into the body of God as Anandamaya and as Sundara-tejo-moya happens.

Ordinarily this process of turning the lust into inward love of all things can be done only by regulating activity according to limits of righteous life, of dharma. The Science of Kama (Kamasastra) has this purpose of showing how best normal life could be utilised for the pursuit of pleasure. The Ashrama again which provides for the right-love is the grhastha (householder), who is expected to effect this slow-process of transmutation of lust into love-through the realisation of the Godlove which makes home-love blissful.

All other types of desire are ‘adulterous’, because not governed by the love of freedom in love, a freedom which brings no reaction of bondage and a love which does not bring the reaction of ignorance and delusion. Thus kama purushartha has in it the essence of a powerful drive towards the discovery of the permanent satisfying principle in reality, and never be smothered for that which cannot satisfy the inmost nature of the self can never be wholly true. In loneliness there can be no peace; in the enjoyment of the eternal and the immortal bliss alone can there be the fullness of satisfaction which nothing can deny. That is why the supreme Abode is called the Paramam padam – the Bliss-abode – Ananda Nilayam – Sac-cid anandam.



There has never been a civilization that has not enthroned the law. Human conduct is differentiated from that of the animal by this awareness of the law, the distinction between right and wrong, which it lays down.

We are in the world of human society, with all its institutions which have come into being as a result of the social and economic needs. The growth of these institutions is surely due to the cooperative instincts and still more the cooperative reason which orders and regulates the business of cooperative enterprise. Thus social reason has been at work. This social reason is the bearer also of social values and traditions and customs being in continuous activity.  It becomes indeed the social conscience which becomes not merely an outer regulating reason but in internal conscience of each individual, the inner judge and guide of most men.

The growth of the individual from the animal to the rational social being has provided the powerful social conscience to each. It is the voice of the folk expressing itself in each. The right is what is good for the whole folk, and the wrong is that which is not good or injurious to the interests of the entire folk or its unity or order or tradition.

At the beginning the right was yoked to the economic or social welfare or enjoyment of the social and was relative to it. The orders of the society through the leader or king or chieftain was the representative of the right. Dharma sastras or codes were formulated  and transmitted as the right in respect of social and individual conduct. They claimed the status of the eternal tradition. But from the study of history we know that seers of the later age had to modify or amplify or curtail many provisions of conduct. The dharma sastras not only provided imperatives and prohibitions but also provided punishments for violations or sanctions of a moral and physical nature.

The process of the change of the dharmas from age to age, environment to environment is inevitable and has been recognized as such even in the ancient conception of the dharmas of the four ages as being different. Even so is the case with the individual’s ages or ashramas. The dharmas of each have been formulated and when one changes over to another ashrama one’s dharmas pari passu change. But social welfare has not been the only criterion nor individual artha and kama ends, though obviously each one of them was taken into consideration of the formulation of the dharma of each ashrama. And another factor also loomed large, the factor of functional or vocational or occupational nature. Each varna (occupational group) had to fulfil certain duties and the preparation and education in that line or the ashramas in that line have their own duties or dharma. These complexities along with the duties to the State as a whole are baffling enough. Added to these is the emergence of the moral individual. And the real individual who seeks freedom and the religious individual who seeks God, are also further high lights of the problem of dharma.

Each individual must first know how to obey the law – dharma the social, individual and spiritual, law which is the good for all. Thus Sri Ramachandra taught that all goods and enjoyments accrue here and hereafter only through the strict obedience or conformity to law : Dharmad arthah prabhavati ; dharmat prabhavate sukham / Dharmena labhate Sarvam ; dharmasaram idam jagat. (Ar.9) “From Dharma arises (righteous, wealth) from dharma arises (right) pleasure, by dharma is everything (good) obtained. This world is the essence of dharma”. It is supported by dharma or law.

The world is a vast unity of law, physical, vital, mental, spiritual and so on. The knower knows the law and acts so that no pernicious effects or restricting limitations and bondages accrue. But the ignorant knowing not the law practices adharma (non-law). Sciences teach the law of nature. Morals and psychology teach the law of the individual in relation to other individuals and in the fields of economical and hedonistic enterprises. Religion teaches the law in respect of the relationship of the individual to God and His super-terrestrial hierarchy and all. Unlike western moralists and political theorists, Eastern seers had counselled that each individual must recognize the divine unity of all creation and the interdependence of interests between the several orders of creation. Thus man has his duty to Natural elements, bhutas, to creatures lower down in creation, sub-mental, to men and to over-mental angels and gods. All these duties follow from the awareness of interdependence of all in God. Thus we are asked to perform yajnas or sacrifices or offerings to all the five classes of entities : bhuta-yajna, athithi-yajna, pitr-pajna, devayajna Dana is of the same order of free and loving offering.

Dharma is a concept of interdependence and is correlational in so far as it is a reciprocal interdependence. If this reciprocity is not strictly available then there is the arising of adharma. Thus every school of thought in India had developed the idea of dharma in each field : Vaiseshika Nyaya in the field of physical, Purvamimamsa in the field of supernatural causation, where dharma means the correct performance of rituals and rites – yagas and yajnas – for attaining individual and social welfare and happiness -. Buddha taught Dharma is the means to moksa or Nirvana or ultimate freedom from all process, social and individual and cosmic.

Visishtadvaita almost emphatically urges that the individual is in the relationship of dharma to God Himself. My relationship to God is a dharma, and the exercise of my relationship is dharma. Even as my relationship to my father and mother is a dharma whose exercise in life is my dharma. Thus not merely the relationship but the exercise of that relationship which is a dynamic concept is dharma (duty). In one sense they are my dharmas, flowing out of my nature as a related being to others, God, parents, society, creatures, Nature and so on. Dharma comprises the sum total of my relationship to All, taken distributively, and to God. It is something which I recognize as issuing out of my place and station and nature and as such as svadharma. The performance of  the svadharma after having discerned it clearly is karma-yoga, liberating dharma. The performance of dharma, svadharma, accordingly is not fraught with danger, whereas the attempt to perform other than it is capable of landing one in danger and confusion.

Even the so called higher dharma (para-dharma) belonging to a higher status of life is undesirable. It was precisely this counsel that Lord Sri Krishna gave to Arjuna.

Binding is the nature of karma which arises from ignorance of the svadharma. It is self-seeking and mainly identifiable with kama or desire for fruits. Phalapeksa is its radical defect. For every thing a man wants to know the phala or the fruit or end-result and judges its value accordingly. The real actor or karma-yogi is one who refuses to judge his daily, occasional or special duties in this manner. He does his duties without an eye to fruit but to efficiency in respect of his mental vital and physical performance. A man who does his work with an eye to fruit more often than not does it inefficiently. Selfless work is always skillful work. Phala-tyaga or renunciation of fruit thus is true efficient condition of efficiency. Thus duty for duty’s sake done is liberating and efficient. Man must therefore perform his duties to God, Men and Nature and all with this conception of the nature of svadharma and all dharma. It would more exhibit the real nature of the individual as a spiritual being freed from the bondage to the demands of the flesh and matter, property and prosperity and pleasure.

This end of duty for duty’s sake is sought to be achieved by social men by means of insisting on the standard of social value. But such social value is nothing other than the fulfilment of property-pleasure demands of men-in-society or the ‘masses’ instead of the ‘classes’. Socialised end-result or phala is said to be dharma, whereas individual gain in action is adharma. In this sense even the seeking of individual freedom is said to be a kind of adharma, something not at all worthy of man. Meliorative action, lokasamgraha is but part of the dharma as its real nature is to exhibit the universal nature and imperative of the individual in relation to the Supreme All, the totality which comprises all individuals, whether they are class-conscious or mass-conscious or individuality-conscious.

Thus it is that the great Buddha Gautama, taught that the individual should seek no other refuge than the Supreme Atma. “Live as they who have the self (atma) as lamp as refuge and none other. Live as they who have dharma as lamp as refuge”. The society of individuals who live in this awareness forms the indissoluble samgha and its practices of work acara which becomes the code of conduct, the dharma of the individuals. The teacher of such a traditionally tested code is the Acharya-sad-acharya or the ‘Desika’.

Ultimately it is aim of all devoted practice of dharma to gain the audition of the inner voice, the voice of the inner ruler Immortal, the antaryami seated in all hearts and oneself. Previously the voice of the superman, the King, or the great Manu was the voice of God. Then when due to various reasons the voices of the King were adjudged to have quite different origins the voice of the people was accepted as the Voice of God. But the vicissitudes of the voice of God have surely taught that it is only in the voice of the wise that it can find expression, and fulfilment ; and to become humbly wise in the ways of duty according to one’s station and place in the whole is the only means by which the unity of the inner voice and the voice of God can take place. Such a voice neither bends nor fawns before mortal men or the mass, for it holds the scales even : its direction is the way of fulfilment (nisreyas) not preyas (wealth and progeny) : it reveals a greater love of the nature of man as freedom than as creature of wants and demands.

Dharma is entwined with satya or truth, the ultimate as well as the immediate, the Supreme Self (Atma) that is omnipervasive. Moral existence is the manifestation of the spiritual existence and depends on it : the questions of beyond good and evil seem to have no place in this conception of the spiritual morality of dharma. Thus teach the great mantras : satyan nasti paro dharmah (There is no greater dharma than truth) and the other ‘Ritam pibantau sukitasya loke guham pravistau parame parardhye’. (Kath Up. iii.1) [There are two (Shade and Sunshine) that drink deep of the truth of works well done in this world : they are lodged in the heart of the creature and in the highest half of the most high is their dwelling”.


The search for liberation has been one of the most profound urges in man (indeed of all life) much more valuable and dependable than even sex and food or power. But its presence and activity are discernible only subtly. Its first portent is the seeking for movement and growth and enlargement of the field of operation. Scientists may refer this to the seeking for survival and adaptation to the environment. But that is the physical expression or immediate motive of the urge to freedom ; and expansion is the necessary ingredient in all freedom.

Man’s expansion (pravrtti) moves by degrees to possession of property, and then to power and social activity, and to progeny and possession of the instruments of progeny which give him freedom of love of things of Nature and life. His acute senses and reason help him to discover the laws of life and nature and conduct which determine his further successes in the fields of freedom. Laws discovered become instruments for freedom or helpful to the extension of the levels of activity. Nature and life yield to the knowledge of their laws. Freedom of course means here the applied use of the laws to situations which grant mastery over these phenomena. So far the knowledge of the laws of nature and life has helped the conquest of nature and life. All the human or man-made laws are also capable of each type of existence. Thus the discovery of laws of nature helps the formulations of laws which are prohibitions and imperatives of command to help living according to nature laws. Laws of social organization are indeed results of discovery of the laws of society. Laws of the State in respect of health, food, distribution, cultivation and of religious communities too, are results of the knowledge of the laws of nature, with this difference that the laws of man and the State are based on foresight and experience and have as their aim security from fear of wrong adaptations. That is the reason why the moral laws are obligations as well, necessary for the preservation of life and liberty and love. The more truly the laws of man and State help the cause of fearless living and growth of liberty in conformity with Nature (taken in its widest sense including human nature), the more are they freely and willingly obeyed.

Thus the progress of man has been for the recovery of full freedom. But it has expressed itself as the sense of expansion in and through nature, the physical, the vital and the mental being more and more efficient than the previous ones. Indeed the prior ones have at once revealed themselves as the hindrances to the later ones, the physical being an obstruction to the vital, the vital similarly to the mental ; and today we witness the mental being obstructive to the higher functions of mind and spirit. Thus the problem of the modern man is the freedom from the physical, vital and mental natures which obstruct the fullest realisation of freedom of spirit. Man has been gradually becoming aware (in evolution) of his several kosas (sheaths) so to speak. Of the real nature of himself as spirit (atman) he has only rarely become aware. The ancient rishis in their advanced evolution had seen these formulations of Nature and passing beyond them arrived at the notion of their nature as Spirit (atman). The realisation of the Spirit as the essence of oneself is freedom from the lower formulations of nature, such as physical (annam), vital (pranam), mental (manas), intellect (buddhi). Each movement upward to a deeper and extensive layer of being is a movement towards freedom or release (moksa). But the ultimate and final or Absolute freedom, that is from which there is no further urge to freedom, is Brahman, Spirit Vast and Complete (purnam).

Indeed this Absolute Freedom (Brahman) is the source of all law (Rtam). It is Satyasya Satyam, Rtasya Rtam. Freedom is the condition of law. Law is the expression of one’s nature, and in this case the nature of Brahman is Freedom, real unconditioned Freedom of Spirit.

Man is caught up in misery, for it is the consciousness of being limited by circumstances and restricted by environments and thwarted by fate and chance, unpredictable factors of the Vast Nature. In this samsara of unpredictability, men strive after shadows deeming them to be real ; in other words, there is a constant tendency to revert to lower and earlier ways of response, suited admirably to lower orders of creation but fearful and soul destroying at the higher levels. Regressions actual, or virtual, take place, which cause profound disorders. Baulked by these restrictions and tortured by the awareness of inability and incapable of reconciling himself to the conditions of life, man has sought escape from Nature and society and its manifold relationships. Sometimes a return to Nature appeared to favour a more peaceful life, if not afford a quiet retreat from the vital and mental perplexities of society. Such a retreat from life was a sense of freedom secured for the larger and profounder contemplation of freedom which would be ultimate. Thus moksa found its first urge in man in the form of retreat to forest retreats, Ashramas, free from the struggle for wealth and desires of the senses, and social relationships natural to city and town dwellers. Seekers of the way out of samsara haunted these ashramas to find peace away from the world. By itself it looks like freedom, vairagya being the first step to moksa. Nivrtti, turning back on Nature to Spiritual nature, comes only to those who have suffered the agonies of life in the triple fields of artha, kama and dharma. Transitoriness of wealth and power, unfaithfulness of partners, and confusion about dharma, are sufficient to make man turn towards the discovery of that immanent law or being which shall make one free from the mortal peril of phenomenal existence and experience.

Thus have great seers and saints turned their back on life for the contemplative life far from the madding crowd. Renunciation of life, the trivarga, the three purusharthas of the ordinary man, was itself freedom. But physical, social, vital and mental freedoms are not quite sufficient if there is no search for the positive content of freedom. Freedom from is moksa (mukti) release. What is gained by sannyasa is the freedom from the obligations of the triple purusharthas of artha, kama and dharma. It is undoubtedly complete renunciation or giving up of these aims. It is not a freedom yet of the Absolute.

Thus sannyasa assisted by vairagya is the deliberate act of nivrtti from the lower formations of life, their aims and ends which have been discovered to be not the essence of oneself but opposed to it.

Nirvana is the passing to the stage of utter changelessness, beyond the cycle of samsara. It is the stage of beatitude, egoless and mindless, strifeless. It is got at by right thought, right meditation ; those which help the passage to the state of nirvana are those which are right such are ahimsa, kindliness, purity, renunciation of the ways of the world. Such is the way-farer or welfare ; (tatha-gatha). The negatively described state of nirvana roots out all contemplation or imagination of the state of the soul or individual ego which is phenomenally considered to be but a bundle of habits and tendencies of the mind (skandas).

Brahmanirvana is the Vedantic version of this transcendent state. Here the individual soul losing all the mental formations and egoistic configurations and patterns of action (karma) merges itself in Brahman the supreme Absolute Spirit. The separative existence and experience of the individual ego is completely lost by it. No longer is it in the thraldom of the flesh and mind and egoism but experiences oneness with the Source and the Universal beyond all forms and names. Brahmanubhava passes beyond the stage of a subject enjoying an object and arrives at the self-contemplation of the Subject of Itself in all. There is perfect identity (aikya) and equality (samanatva) in all experiences, because of the perfect  identification  of the individual with the Supreme Spirit in all levels of consciousness and being. This is said to be the experience of Advaita, a state compared to the mergence of the waters of the rivers in the Ocean, the plunge of the moths into the fire, the complete cessation of personal existence. This is the brahmabhuta experience within and without.

One experiences not only that one does not exist apart from or as separate but even feels the Absolute as the one being, alone, and complete, not only as the indwelling seer and all within but the Universal Single Saccidananda. This experience transcends all discriptions and characterisations and is Freedom (Kaivalya) from all limitations. Gloriously have the seers described this state of Brahmanubhava. Truly it is the highest state of experience available to a soul for verily there is perfection and peace from which is no return to separative contemplation or meditation or experiencing.

The transcendence is complete. Whether we conceive of this state as a state of identity, absolute and indivisible, with the Brahman in a formless, stateless, or a state of utter inseparability with the no less absolute Personal Brahman with whom the real relationship of oneness is experienced or a third double poise of identity with the Transcendent an inseparable relationship with the Transcendent as Person, it is an experience of unabridged freedom. Immortal divine life is his thereafter and there is nothing that he has to do. Third experience of fulfillment and transcendence of all action and activity is the state of Peace of the self.

The path to this realisation  may follow either the sheer unceasing search for the ‘I’ (Self) its nature and formations and progress from its finite presence to its infinite actuality or may begin the doing of works selflessly for the Divine. It may also progress through a sheer dedication and worship and love of the Divine in all His forms and formlessness. Whether it is jnana or karma or bhakti yoga, what is requisite is the quiet surrender to the Supreme Spirit recognized and acknowledged as such (Saranagati) that makes the Moksa not the result of an individual effort (ego) but the gift of the All-Self or Brahman. For verily does the Upanishad say : “Yam esa vrnute tena labhyah” and Surrender is the perfect means (egoless desireless means) to the Choice by the Divine (varana).

Moksa in a more comprehensive sense means not only freedom from the shackles of karma and bondage to the cycle of samsara and ignorance but also the ‘living and moving in the Divine’. It is the freedom of free creative activity (lila) of Brahman, beyond the Maya. This too the Vedanta declares in luminous terms- the freed soul or realised soul moves everywhere – sarvagata, kamacarah- enjoying everything. The soul’s yearning for the service of the Divine is sometimes said to have a fruition not according to deserts of karma which have been altogether extinguished or shaken off but according to the Will of the Divine Infinite. Great messiahs and prophets and teachers enter into the scheme of creation as amsas of the Divine freely and without the sense of bondage.

This too is the final purushartha possible to the liberated One (mukta). But this is not an involvement in process, for it is a knowledge-descent not an ignorance-descent. The former is distinguished by its transcendent purpose consciously, fearlessly uniquely pursued in a supramanic manner, it is an avatarana. But the latter is the involvement in rebirths, a gradual evolution and, ascent by trial and error, attended by faith and failure, gloom and grace.

The soul achieves in this itself the freedom-awareness in the Divine though limited by the conditions of the terrestrial life. But even here the siddhapurusha uses the material and the vital parts of his own being at their very best sublimated reality. Even the mental becomes an instrument of the mystic realisation of oneness with the infinite, no longer an obstruction to the higher manifestations but an aid if possible. This is the experience of the Divine in all levels, open to the human embodied consciousness or spirit. This is the jivanmukti-freedom even in the bodily life. Beyond this bodily life of the spirit, after the body has fallen away in the natural way or after exhausting the physical powers and forces remnant in one’s life, one achieves the final union or identity. To some thinkers ultimate and the real moksa is obtained only after the physical body drops off, and the soul passes upward to the celestial abode of Vaikuntha and beyond into the essence of the Divine, with which it is eternally one, identical.

There has been another view which presents Jivanmukta as the person who lives and moves and has his being in essence and existence in the Divine, both in the temporal terrestrial (ksara) and the Transcendental (Aksard or nitya) Eternal manifestations, with full freedom of awareness, power, delight and effortlessness. The sense of freedom gets a concrete expression and fullness of meaning, as it is at once a freedom from all obstructions, ignorance, conditions of time, space and matter, and freedom in and through and for the Divine All-Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.

This is the complete passage to Freedom, from which there is no return. The eternal light (jyoti) pervades inside and out. There is no longer any inner and outer, for the same light illumes all without distinction and difference.



The problem of freedom has been a very ancient one. Ultimately whatever men may say and seek, they crave freedom alone. Whether it is the freedom that is sought through the means of artha or kama or dharma or that is sought after having renounced these three Purusharthas as unsatisfactory-since they do not lead to the ultimate self-satisfaction or self-fulfilment, it is freedom that we seek. There are three senses in which men may be said to seek freedom : (i) freedom from all limitations and reactions and the cycle and chain of births and deaths, defeats and successes, or in one word Dvandvas; (ii)  freedom in all the works of life, so as to possess skill, mastery, facility, and energy that triumph over all impediments in the course of the performance of any act; and (iii) freedom to all the planes of existence which would not fetter or bind us at any point and to any extent. These three freedoms are mutually complementary. But they necessitate three kinds of knowledge. The first requires of man a transcendence over the Dvandvas (dvandvatitatva) and when it includes transcendence over the cycle of birth and death and rebirth it means a complete attainment. Brahmajnas alone, who have attained Brahman, do not return to birth or rebirth, says one Upanishad. The knower of Brahman becomes Brahman, says another Upanishad. This is moksa, the caturtha-purusartha, the highest that the Vedanta has proclaimed.

Once attaining this supreme status there is no longer any return to birth, or should we say to all birth as such, or should we also hold that non-return includes the abolition of the world of dual experience or the world process itself, or that one is indeed so thoroughly merged in or identified with Brahman that there is a virtual nirvana.  All these views have been propounded. Even though one attains the state of Brahman, one continues to remain in the terrestrial world till such time as the past Karma has to be worked out or works itself out like a fire which gets extinguished when no new faggots or fuel are added. Jivanmukti is a case of waiting for the end, for the body to fall. Maya passes and there is nothing remaining but the Brahman. This freedom from Maya, from the world process, and from this miserable round of births and deaths is a transcending process meaningful only in the limited sense that it exists for the simple process by itself, though called lila, means nothing at all and leaves the divine will in creation unintelligible.

Thus we have to inspect whether freedom gets a meaning with the world and if so in what sense, even if it be a restricted sense. This is given by a consideration of what we mean when we say ‘I am free to do this’, ‘I can do this and I need not do that’, ‘I can pick and choose what I like’. Every individual human being has this awareness of being able to choose, to do a thing or not to do a thing, to seek to do something and refrain from doing it or enjoying it or feeling it or even willing it. Thus, freedom from choice or of choice is available to one normally. And this is what one claims to be born to, as in the great statement of Rousseau : ‘All men are born free’. A critic may well point out that this freedom at birth is indeed itself not a consulted affair, few indeed are born who have been consulted in their coming to birth and thus at the very start this claim seems to be false. We are certainly not consulted and in that sense we are not free. And indeed it turns out that all that men finally seek is to get out of this miserable world of conflicts and precariousnesses in respect of loves and possessions and even the pursuit of righteousness which only makes life a prolific field of evil rather than good. And thus embitterment eats into the soul of the seeker. Well may Vyasa exclaim that no one hearkens to the advice of sages, who, with uplifted hands, warn man against the choosing of what is evil and pernicious! But evil itself is said to be the result of freedom in choosing the lower ends of life, the things that increase not the understanding of Nature or man but only blind men more and more to the truths of being and their own self. The right to err is said to be a most precious right. But then this error is error not because it is intrinsically capable of being determined by inspection, but only when it turns out to produce a defeat of what it seeks to affirm. Evil is freedom, not only because other individuals cannot suffer this action of any individual but also because it tends to reduce the sphere of apprehension of what is free; the field of choice unusually becomes narrower and narrower. The Kantian argument that lie cannot be made universal may be analogically adduced here also with a difference that it is not necessary that other individuals also acting likewise would make evil not worth-while practising.

In the first meaning of the term ‘freedom’ we find it leads to the negation of the will itself, for freedom has reference more to action than to mere thought: though, to be sure, we use the phrase ‘freedom of thought’ to signify that we have a right to express our thoughts, thoughts which have consequences on the activities of ourselves as well as all those who have access to them. Freedom thus has to be closely associated with action. Karma is the general term that signifies the action that anyone does. But by usage we have associated so many more meanings to it which extend the meaning to so many other ingredients of an action. Thus, we can refer the term ‘Karma’ to action, the consequences of the action, or the conserving elements of such action. That these are even considered to be not limited to one action but to a chain of actions, not of course or perhaps not mainly of the nature of chain-reflexes of psychology. They even assert that the explanation of the present life is itself to be sought in a chain of causes from past lives, - not perhaps the very penultimate one, which has no beginning. All these are mostly due to the inability to refer any consequence or unforeseen occurrence in this life to anything that one knows here in this present life. But though this is incapable of being proved and thus we may assert that freedom is the essence of this unpredictability of the causes of consequences, yet all this seems to demand so much of our credulity.

Let us start with the present problem, then, of our freedom in action. We have four points to take note of: Are we free when we decide to choose one among the alternatives present before us or are we not free? (It would be maintained that if we knew all the alternatives well and our knowledge were perfect we would be obliged to choose the one that our highest nature or universe of desire or reason or spirituality would dictate. In that case we would not literally be free, though it may be an euphemism. As the Russian theologian asserted, to hold that the rational is the real or the right limits the freedom to rationality and this is not real freedom. Freedom is a category of supra-rationality, not of rationality. Just as it is not right to say with the hedonist that freedom lies in enjoyment or exuberance of sense, so also freedom, when it is limited to rationality, is not correct). Thus freedom, when it is taken to be a supra-rational category, refers not to the individual in his private choice but in his choice of that which is relevant to his spiritual or cosmic divine status or in relation to the Divine Reality. The choice or the motive which determines the choice would no longer be a private choice and in that sense the alternatives rarely have the capacity to become disjunctive except in respect of the fundamental dichotomy of the private and the universal. Thus the choice would yet be made in action with an integral knowledge of the divine nature and will which would enhance and further the divine expression and realization in activity. Our great seers have seen in this divine ethic of motive and choice a clear indication of the integral activity of the Divine achieved in niskama-karma: the choice is dictated by the inner light which increases the light and the joy and goes on expanding them within the Karta. The highest motive is the motive of service of the Divine, carrying out the divine will and without hesitation to act, if need be, against all forces that appear contradictory.

The action then must have a motive and the motive force is the divine voice and choice. The means then come in for the Karma. Are these means suitable to the realization of the end? We have had long and learned dissertations on this subject. The fact remains that unless the means help the realization of the goal, or are adequate to realize the same in as inexpensive a manner as possible in respect of time and energy and accuracy and without raising difficulties or resistances, they cannot be said to be the means. But a divine action does not bifurcate the motive and the means and the end. It is only the mental mind that does this and that labours with alternatives all along the line of action. The psychologists mention about the manner anyone learns and give at least three hypotheses: trial and error being the general characteristic, these are-whole path learning, place learning, and chain-reflex learning. We shall only observe that all these reveal the fragmental approach to the problem of action. Just as in cognition all knowledge is received in bits and somehow synthesized or analysed and synthesized by the categories, and we never arrive at truth as it is in itself or the thing as it is in itself (ding an sich), so also in ethics of the mental mind it is a thorough fragmentalization of motives and means and the process of trial and error only leads to the application of traditional ways of action or habitual modes of choice which conditions the freedom of the individual considerably. The only freedom for the human individual is the choice of trial and error, thanks to the environmental limitations and lack of knowledge of them. But suppose one finds the laws of matter and motion and has knowledge of the totality (geography of things so to speak), then his actions proceed skillfully. Thus Yoga is described as the skill in action (yogah karmasu kausalam). Another point of great consequence to the ethics of perfection would be that whatever one does really should not provoke conflict in the atmosphere of things, but seek to resolve the conflicts and bring about harmony. There are recognized two ways by which harmony can be realized: (i)  the method of liquidation of opposition has been the earliest in the field or what one calls the peace of the grave; and (ii)  the method of integration and adjustment, deftly so to speak, as to convert the so-called real opposition into apparent opposition by making them co-operate in the common endeavour of a divine means. We can see that this requires an integral means of showing that the criss-cross of events and movements are capable of being fitted into a pattern not by their own mutual impingement or rationalized compromises (as sometimes practised in the well-known and notorious religious compromises), but through the divine pattern of incidence which transforms both of them to yield a divine pattern. The seer, Messiah, Avatara, or Rishi acts in this integral form, not merely having his eyes glued to the immediate, but seeing in the immediate the perfect occasion for the incidence of the divine light and signature (vibhuti). Thus efficiency of means comes from a complete dedication of all to the Divine and the integral force (cit-sakti) to act in and through all and oneself for the realization at each stage of the goal or end in perfect awareness of the same, unfettered by any impediment either from the circumstances or environment or from other individuals equally acting but from the human level of fragmentary actions. Means cannot be divorced from ends and ends would and could be of the same order as means or vice versa only when there is the unique integral perception of the oneness of the means and ends and motives. There is the fine realization of the human ethic in Gandhiji’s conception of the need for the quality of spirituality in means directed towards spiritual ends. Nonviolence alone can beget non-violence. Spirituality or integral activity alone can beget spiritual freedom or integral existence. Material means can do nothing here. But then, to the integral person matter itself is capable of being – because it is – spiritual when integrally used or approached.

So far, then, as to the means (karana)-instrumental or material. The other two causes,-the formal and final being, completely absorbed in the motive, and the purposive direction of the integral being which exceeds the private and the interested in the particular.

The consideration of the third aspect of Karma as the result or effect (karya) of the action motivated and executed leads us to the most impressive part of the Karma problem, that part which alone seems to be most important to those who are afraid of Karma or action. The results of action lead to bondage. Men are creatures of their actions, not only when they become habitual actions, but also the consequences of these actions lead to certain other factors which more thoroughly than ever before bind the individual. Thus victories in action turn out to be Pyrrhic victories alone. The consequences turn out to be other than what one expected them to be. Human actions motivated by private interest and acted upon in isolation from the totality lead to repentance and distress. We all know that though a seeker after the goods of the world (artha) gains them, he finds that they are not the real instruments of happiness. Thus, ends taken up by men, such as artha and kama and even dharma , turn out to be but means, and even then not perfect means either for the realization of perfection or freedom. Freedom is the essential goal, but even this in turn should exist not as a result that comes out of the operations of other causes but operative form the very beginning. We are free or else we can neither strive for anything nor choose any means. Thus the end is not freedom but what freedom achieves as the culmination of its fullness. Complete freedom is the realization of freedom-instinct. All others remind us that freedom has not been got; rather, they point out that in achieving them one gets bondage alone. Thus it is that some thinkers thought that not only Kanchana and Kamini are the dangers or bondages but also even dharma (niyatam karma): ‘Andham-tamah pravisanti ye avidyam-upasate, tato bhuya iva te tamo ya u vidyayam ratah’. (Isa Upanisad, 9). Karma that is completely consecrated to itself and the goal fixed for it in action leads to bondage; though performed with freedom it leads to bondage-greater bondage as it were. The choice of a goal thus should be clearly neither personal nor private, to satisfy a fragmentary enjoyment or even knowledge or law. Thus the mystics have known that the choice of the eternal is the fundamental, for it liberates even as it achieves the goal determined. The goal-binding process, which is indeed a limitation in respect of other lesser ends, no longer operates when the eternal and the unconditioned is chosen as the goal. This they call goptrtva-varanam. There then exists no interruption of the process of liberation or freedom through Karma that has exceeded the limitations of its objects. The ekantin is a seeker after the eternal and the immortal in motive, in means, and in end, urged by the eternal; acting in and by the eternal as the means (upaya), one attains the eternal which is freedom. ‘Na karma lipyate nare’, says the Isa Upanisad. Such action as is dedicated to the Divine, with the knowledge that all is of the Divine and in the Divine, liberates and action itself undergoes a transformation which exceeds even the connotation given to it as dharma (right action).

This integration of the motive, means, and end is the first condition of Karma that would be useful in achieving, maintaining, and sustaining freedom from the motive and means and ends that bind in ordinary action. Thus Sri Krishna counsels the ‘surrender of all Dharmas to Him’ so that at no point does the individual who has thus surrendered get the feel of bondage. This is liberating Karma, for it is divine action (divyam karma). The integrative action is surely of the Divine Lord or Brahman, for it proceeds from the very nature of freedom, delight, and unity.

Thus the end of action, if it is Brahman, liberates rather than binds, and indeed such a choice of the eternal dissipates every fragmentary and partial movement of the consciousness that binds, restricts, and causes illusion and Ahamkara. The greatest difficulty lies in overcoming the illusion that action should be private and personal and can only be that. This is due to the structure of the mind that perceives in segments and fragments and tries to synthesize the broken up. It is perhaps very relevant to remember Zeno’s arguments about the illusion of motion and Bergson’s refutation of the same as it is a difference between two types of mind, the mathematical and the intuitive. Even so Karma should not be broken up into fragments of activities of this individual and that and into parts as having four phases of – motive, means, end and results that determine the next chain of activities or other chains of other’s activities. The human mind has to be seen as limited to the ego or personal consciousness which is again tied up to particular ends of the physical, vital, and mental. Indeed that is the characteristic of the human mind; at its least it is just sensorium, and at its best it is the fragmenting instrument of the self behind which analyses and laboriously reconstructs the whole, leaving out what is indeed the very kernel of the Reality.

But still a fundamental consideration remains and has been the most clamouring for solution. The goal is not so much the binder but what it leaves behind as further consequences or traces of its effectuation, like the ever enlarging ripples in the water into which a stone has been thrown. These results are described as the sancita and the prarabhda Karmas, resultants of previous activities in prior lives which determine our present career and suffering. The liberated soul is said to discard both papa and punya of his life and of course by a moral distribution of deserts the good of the individual goes to the good ones of the world whereas the evil of the individual goes to the evil ones. Be it as this may, we can see that the human individual gathers round him these effects which seem to continue to envelop and determine the individual and we ought also to anticipate that this is not purely an individual envelope comparable to the suksma sarira or linga sarira alone but also to the social which brings about events in relation to the individual, causing him to curse his fate or praise it, i.e. in one word, knows them to be adrsta, kala, or niyati. This close interconnection between the destiny of an individual and that of others is much the root-cause of present misery. A knowledge of previous lives is unfortunately incapable of being had by ordinary human individuals, though perhaps it ought to be available to the seers who have transcended the limits of this incarnational  present. We know that Sri Ramakrishna used to speak of the past of his disciples and this is certainly not new as some such references to previous lives of Acharyas are not wanting. This transcendence of the knowledge of one life, like the transcendence of the knowledge of a single sensum makes for freedom and reveals that a large freedom had been indeed supporting and moving the Karma of the present. The determination of the present Karma is seen to be an activity of the inalienable freedom of the spirit behind, self-regulating itself in its expression.

Thus a liberated person alone can have knowledge of the freedom of the Karma that one performs and ‘ought to perform’ as a revelation and expression of one’s true nature. An integral understanding alone can sustain an integral action, in which the motive, the means, the goal, and the fulfillment of the continuity of one’s eternal being inhere.

Here are briefly analysed the phases of Karma and the implication of freedom at every point, an implication perceived and overcome by an integral consciousness or mind (Sri Aurobindo calls this the Supermind). This may go a long way in clearing certain conceptions about the relationship between Karma and Freedom.



Satya and Rta are the two most fundamental concepts in Vedic Philosophy. Satya is Reality and Rta is the law of truth, the dynamic manifestation of all that is true. It does not mean that satya is static nor that rta is impermanent. We distinguish these two as Being and the laws of Being, and Being includes therefore Becoming. No religion or metaphysical thinking can forget the fundamental nature of truth and law. Truth is not formless and our knowledge of reality will be poorer if we only consider one aspect of reality, that aspect which is at first look much more fixed than the other.

That is why the ancient seers have asked man to speak  the truth and to follow the Law (dharma) of Truth. Satyam vada, dharmam cara. It is the same fact that is enunciated by Buddha, “Seek refuge in Dharma;” the truth, whatever it is, will take care of itself. Those who are incapable of following the law or Rta or Dharma will not be able to preserve or protect truth, nor can those who say that they observe the law really follow it unless they speak the truth without fear or favour and without any illwill to anybody. Truth preserves dharma and dharma preserves truth and they form an organic unity. The ancient mantra (spoken in another context) satyam tva rtena parisincami–by Rta I circumambulate (sprinkle, maintain, preserve, protect) satya or Reality, really reveals the fact that not by any other means can satya be protected or preserved: our food, our life, and breath, mind and self cannot be protected except by abiding by the laws that pertain to each plane and purpose. Purification of our being is available only by means of dharma. So also preservation from the hands of passion, asuric forces of darkness are all rendered possible only by means of dharma: cosmic, terrestrial, individual, adhidaiva, adhibhuta, and adhyatma. Our business is to do the right deed, speak the right word, and by this we preserve and make growth and improvement of satya possible in us. We must become satyakamas. There is the other part of our life, when we are not conscious of our existence, except perhaps in the intermittent dream-consciousness, when we cannot even know the law and therefore cannot preserve the satya. We are wrapped in ignorance or sleep. The individual follower of dharma, who is indeed called a dharma, a function of the Divine, an amsa of satya itself, or the body of satya or Isvara, cannot protect himself in sleep, or in pralaya, or in darkness. When indecision, helplessness, possesses the soul, all the dharmas that he had been following to preserve and protect the self, are of no avail. Dharma seems to be threatened, and confusion, dharmasankara, seems to be imminent. It is then that we need the other mantra that can save us from destruction. For that purpose the ancient Risi gave another mantra, again used in a similar context-Rtam tva satyena parisincami-I circumambulate (sprinkle, preserve, protext, in all ways) rtam by satya. The satya is self, Godhead , who is awake when everything else is asleep. For it is satya that is the reality or Being which is the source of all dharma. The individual soul is to live by satya and for satya, and dharma is the activity of living for satya and is in turn protected and preserved and increased and liberated by satya alone. There is therefore the famous prayer of the Seer “Uncover Thou O Pusan, the golden lid that hides the Truth, so that I may perceive satya-dharma”. It is by the Rta that we cross over death and by the former satya, we are enabled to enjoy the Immortal.

The two dharma and satya are indeed inseparable. To separate them is to lose both this world and hereafter, the higher and the lower, God as well as wealth. It is the business of the soul to offer itself to the Divine for protection and emancipation, and it is the business of the individual soul to follow the path dictated by the Law, the soul-law revealing itself within the individual, or the words of the Veda or the teaching of the masters on the path and the law givers, who are aptas or knowers and givers of the spiritual truth-and not mere political and social law-givers who see so much less and with so much more confusion.

In Perennial Philosophy the conception of Unity or oneness is dominant. Reality or satya is one. But its oneness is not a static oneness but a oneness that is manifested in all its diversity or multiplicity. Oneness is thus the form under which the unity of the many is revealed or apprehended. Each one of the many is indeed a part, integral and expressive of the oneness of the many. So much so, the oneness which is expressed in our harmonious life, in our thoughts and in our ways and modes of living, in the world of physical phenomena, under the concept of all embracing law or rta in one world, or one universe. All cognitions are but various ways of perceiving the oneness of the Reality. But this oneness is not apparent to the eye or sense-experience, or to the egoistic seeking impulses or vitalities, or to the embodied creature which struggles to maintain and continue itself and perpetuate itself in the world of other creatures and elements. It is not even apparent to the eye of reason, which emphasises the distinctions and differences and analyses the ‘presented world’. The inner core of individuality is not private, though finites, being but a universal reality, and expressing the universal eternal, immortal in the mortal and changing. The individual is the microcosm of the universe, continuous with the universe and Reality, and expressing the universal character of the Reality. Therefore is the famous utterance of the Upanisad “Tat tvam asi”-(Thou art That O Svetaketu) a fundamental formula of realisation, whose correlative statement is “So’ham asmi – He am I”, the individual is the eternal function of the Universal, and is of identical nature as the Divine Reality, or Person, and to manifest Him, to act in unison and as law and instrument of the Reality or Person is realisation. The individual is the eternal multiplicity in the Reality whereas the Reality is the eternal oneness of the multiplicity. The only difference between the individual and the Universal or Real Divine lies in the fact that the Universal is all individuals and More or Transcendent and is not limited to any one individual whatsoever. The liberation and the freedom and perfection and knowledge of the individual consists only in the fact that it moves or ascends in the universal world of Divine Truth unhindered by ignorance of law or being, and having an inner knowledge of the unity of the diverse. It was Liebniz who maintained that the individual monad is capable of perfection, or fullest knowledge or distinct perceptions all the monads and their changes within oneself, and the cognizance of the law (Rta) of pre-established harmony, or the ways of Grace or Divine Will. Jnatrtva samya is what one can have. Such a knowledge comes out of adhyatma-yoga, inner yoga of the Self, the Brahman. It that could come about only when one has given up the pursuit of discovering outer conformity and seeks the inner law of Self-being, as individual part of the universal Divine, as dharma of the Satya. It is then that one recollects the past, knows the present and is aware of the future and does not recoil from the other souls but loves with a love that is born of the law of inner harmony and sympathy with the struggle and the attainment of more and more light and free movement in a world that restricts, constrains and compels. Freedom lies in the service of the Divine, in surrendering the particularity and privacy of being that are due to egoistic assertions and impulses and darknesses of possessive living.

An appreciation of the inner life of oneself and that of others will reveal that nothing occurs without a cause or sufficient reason. The differences between several planes of being, like the material, biological-vital, mental, and other social-mental, levels really reveal that each plane or sub-plane of being is governed by definite laws fully valid within and for the limits of those plane. Skill consists in knowing and applying those laws for the efficient prosecution of our divine effort. Our freedom in a plane is possible only because we know the laws governing that plane. If we are physical scientists, our mastery of physical Nature is commensurate with our ability to apply the laws of Nature for conquest over it. We knew the laws of gases, and steam engine was the result; we knew the laws of magnetism and electricity and we were able to apply the knowledge to the making of bulbs and dynamos, radios and all the other modern appurtenances of civilization.

So also when we knew the laws governing animal life and the ways of animals and plants, we began to practise the arts of agriculture and breeding and taming of animals or domesticating them. Since we are not yet masters of the knowledge about animal life there are many domesticable animals not yet domesticated. Hindu puranas reveal that some of the wild animals are vahanas of certain gods or seers. The obvious meaning or suggestion seems to be that they are the powers or intelligences which have understood or known the laws of those animals. Control and use happen only by means of the discovery of the law and the knowledge of the relevant order or dharma of each.

Equally logically it follows that our ability to control ourselves and guide ourselves and other men or humanity lies only in the direction of our ability and power to know ourselves-psychological knowledge of man of himself and of his community would be necessary. Human ills may be cured only by means of knowledge of the laws that guide human conduct, social and otherwise, normal as well as pathogical or abnormal. But man is a plane of being which not only can know itself but can know those below it, namely, the animal and the mineral, and material and plant, and in him, therefore, through his passage through those phases of being called evolution, there have grown predispositions to the old laws or laws of lower being and it is difficult for him to extricate himself from the laws of those lower orders of reality. Nor is it necessary. Even as a man cannot understand a thing unless presented to him in perception or by representation, in imagery and by experimentation or execution, so also he is unable to think and know and act from the point of himself as mind, as rational, nor does he consistently follow the application of the principles of reason to the vast knowledge of the lower planes of life. Thus in him is revealed a contradiction. He has to leap away from his past complexes, prejudices, sentiments and what not. This is possible however only when he knows himself as having a mind and not merely a mind brought into being for the purpose of utilizing more effectively the lower planes of being, for the sake of his own biological needs of satisfaction. But that is not all. It is the beginning of a new action; a new potentiality of  mind is made active; a new mind comes into being. Thereafter alone does man comprehend the unity of Matter and its conservation within limits; thereafter alone does man comprehend the unity of energy and its conservation within limits;  thereafter alone does he perceive the unity of all life, and its conservation within limits; thereafter alone does he find that there is a unity of mind and its conservation within limits; and, thereafter alone he begins to know that the law of conservation of each is only a limited law, and that there is another fact of convertibility or reversibility or processes, that out of mind, by degradation, life had come into being, that mind protects the life becoming ‘veiled in it’; that energy is a degradation of life, that life and mind protect it, becoming ‘veiled in it’, that matter and mineral are degradations of energy, that mind, life and energy protect it, becoming ‘veiled in it’. Therefore does Sri Aurobindo, following the ancient seers, hold that matter, life, mind are but involved and concealed consciousnesses in different degrees. The ancients called this the parinama of consciousness or of the avyakta or Mula-karana, or Prakriti. The terms used in the Aiteraya Upanisad for the several activities of consciousness are: samjnanam ajnanam prajnanam, medha, drstih, matih manisa, jutih, smrtih, sankalpah, kratu, asuh, kama, vasa; (III.2): The higher the reaches of the consciousness the more pure and integral it is and universalized, the more completely does it apprehend and comprehend the truths and laws and rtas (dharmas) and satya of things, creatures, minds and individuals. All is then perceived as suffused through and through with the Truth, the Self, the Divine, and working by His Law, transcendental will, freed from all ignorance and darkness.

The act of being consumed, eaten, suffused through and through, by the higher, of the lower planes is called the Yajna, sacrifice, and the Yajamana, sacrificer is the conscious agent who brings about this consummation, suffusion, elevation and transformation. It is of the nature of offering, surrender, on the part of the lower; it is a free offer to be killed or cooked and made whole by the higher, which accepts this offer, this sacrifice, this food. The esoteric meaning of sacrifice thus goes far beyond the external form and initiates a new direction in consciousness, through its organization by  the higher. No one perishes by his surrendering or offering of oneself but that there happens a new freedom from which there is no return to bondage; a new passion and purpose is unfolded before him; a new world is created for him, if not merely opened out to him wherein he could live and move and have his being. That this doctrine could be misinterpreted and mere murder of animal life, or plant life or mineral life may take place for the purposes of selfish instincts of exploitation by man is true, very true. But real sacrifice is made not for the sake of one’s own uses and very purposes but for the Divine. It is some times claimed that all things and creatures exist for man’s benefit and God had ordained this. But it is legitimate to argue that they belong primarily to the Divine and that this must be recognized, as it is indeed recognized in the Lord’s Prayer, that all must be received from the Divine, as given by the Divine, and only the minimum of subsistence must be taken without greed but with gratitude.

That this sacrifice or the process of transmutation, the alchemy of evolution and salvation, might differ from plane, to plane from mineral to plant, plant and animal, animal and man must also be granted. Lacking self-consciousness and even consciousness, they are used by man as his instruments and things of offering to the Divine and get the benefit of such offering to the Divine.

Self-consciousness is poured into them or rather they are exalted from their being and status, and get purified, in  one word. And in the case of man, being endowed with the consciousness and will and self-consciousness, he becomes the agent, the outer agent who offering everything that is his to the Divine, cows and cattle, wealth of all kinds, becomes a free being, whose consciousness goes beyond the transitory earthy pleasure and comforts. He becomes immortal-minded and immortal. The process of sacrifice is signified by Fire, the inner Divine will, and the individual is offered into the triple fires, physical, vital and mental fires or soul-fire, as the plane suggests, so that he may be transformed or transmuted into a higher nature. Some are transitory changes and the individuals fall back into the lower, but having tasted the freedom of the higher, they seek it with more constant will by themselves. And there are some other sacrifices which seek more distant and deeper realisations, more fundamental changes of being, involving several leaps and steps to be covered. From such attainment there is no return to the lower. The condition of the former is desire, the condition for the latter is non-desire for anything except the very Highest status of divine living, of living and moving in the Divine such as sayujya, sarupya, samipya and salokya, or even aikyanubhava, or brahmasampatti. One primary fact that the Hindu sages revealed was that man has a double duty, a duty that he owes to the future and to the lower, and a duty which he owes to the past and the higher called fathers, pitrs. He must sacrifice the lower, help them through sacrificing them for the sake of their own evolution; the unconscious and inconscient must be raised from their torpor and stupor; it may be symbolic only when we cannot really do it, but it would be real and helpful to the lower when its laws are overcome by the higher law. Sacrifice in the sense of injury to animals is possible only when a superior consciousness is not available in the sacrificer, in one in whom the divine consciousness has not taken abode. And it may well be that really divine consciousness need not have to kill the animal but could yet bless it with inner freedom. But Hinduism is also conscious of the law of continuity and gradualness, and knows that though leaps may be made, the knowledge of each plane must be learnt, lived and experienced, its laws understood and also know how the lower laws are surpassed and subsumed under higher laws and truths of Being. Omniscience is the goal; clarity in every plane and the totality of comprehension is the aim, That is the inner causality, the meaning of change and progress.



The soul of religion and the body of religion is dharma. We can in the above words describe the organic relation between the religious ideals and dharma. Dharma is the essential reality about the Good life. We know that India has always been described by the ancients as the field or state of dharma–dharma-kshetra. And the concept of dharma has been most efficiently pushed to the forefront by that most exquisite religious product of the Indian genius-Buddhism of the Buddha. If Hinduism or Vedism has placed God or God’s organic unity in the forefront, Buddhism placed the Order, the dharma, as its ensign and carried the message of the Good life to the world. It is not necessary for my purpose to canvass the vicissitudes through which a religion based on the divorce between the reality of selfness of God and His Order or dharma had to pass, and pass it did, till finally it was absorbed into its parent-fold in some measure, overpowered though it was in some alienating features that it developed in its extremistic swing.

We have a conception of Religion as a sufficiently helpful attitude towards the understanding of the metaphysical status of the individual in so far as he is related to the total entirety, called God, or Absolute Reality or Sachidananda, or Good. Dharma is the description of this Form of the Reality as a dynamic construction; that is to say dharma is the right attitude that the individual has to take in respect of the total all and in respect of his participation in it. Dharma is a description therefore, not only of the Order but also of the laws pertaining to and governing every thing that is capable of keeping the order in dynamic equilibrium. Dynamic equilibrium means in one sense a state of agitation and restoration and adjustment and evolution, or to use the expressive description—in some ways the only description that we could give: thesis, antithesis and synthesis. The ancient Samkhyans had conceived of this dynamic equilibrium in a different way as the conflict between the three gunas – the sattva, rajas and tamas. Making a slight variation we could say that the tamas and rajas are the two moments of the dialectic known as thesis and antithesis, and sattva is the harmoniser, the synthesis. This is a fair enough description of the process of the ascent into divine life, as it is the pattern of the reality construed as a dynamic Unity or Whole. It is possible, of course, to challenge the above view and state that Reality is a static pattern, since it is a superterrestrial pattern or Existence, to which alone we have to address ourselves. That proposition will not entail non-consideration of the actuality of the struggle which reveals either an upward movement towards dharma – consciousness of that reality, however that might be apprehended either as a Godhead or a Person of Impersonal Consciousness, or else a downward movement towards a receding and frustrating diversity of egoistic and unconscious movements. This descent entails a different form of the dialectic between the gunas –– sattva and rajas being the two movements of the thesis-antithesis whilst tamas will form the synthesis—or should we say the counter-synthesis?

Dharma is thus a fact of law, a principle of operation that is not merely of the elements, of movements and actions in general as natural features or events as the Naiyayika-Vaiseshika schools uphold, nor is it merely the right performance of rites as in the Mimamsa or its causal efficacy or even the benefits accruing from sacrifices, capable of granting fruits mechanically and unfailingly. It is all these and something more. The question involved is one of rectitude, and the proper dialectical activity alone can resolve the conflict engendered in our activities. Dharma as a mechanical law is a usage that we might not at present study, for Nature considered as something unconscious or tamas is the one term against which we are placed in our ascent towards the sat or reality, the sattva, saman, Godhead, Nirvana or Peace or Harmony or ananda which shall be the synthesis if we could place ourselves in antithesis to unconscious matter, mechanical conduct, unintelligent acceptance. On the other hand if we place ourselves in antithesis to the Divine, the sattva, then the synthesis is tamas, matter, degeneracy, peace of death and a temporary suspension of action, since it is not in the nature of matter or unconsciousness to stay so for ever for it is instinct with disruption of itself. This disruption of matter and mechanical movements is itself the primary cause of our samsara or constant upheavals and round of existence. Whereas the sattva of the Divine nature is eternal and incapable of disruption if once it is attained. Thus we find in ancient scriptures and sutras we are asked to abandon or to renounce matter, egoism and other products and wealths and riches of matter, if we would seek and attain the real and the permanent reality of our existence. It is true that the principle of rajas or action is the ambivalent entity that could be used in either direction. Religion lays great store on this fact of withdrawal from the material fact of tamas, its ignorance and activities, which are capable of permeating even the most subtle of our dharmic activities as Samkhya has clearly shewn. The activities of the individual have to get tuned up to the Highest nature of Reality which is the harmony that is ultimate and not dialectically temporarily achieved however much these small syntheses are requisite in the path of ascent. But it is practice that makes this constant choice of the harmony the highest possible and makes the rajas or activity within us lose that downward pull that is its earliest preoccupation due to its terrestrial preoccupation with self-perpetuation and self-preservation. Dharma is thus an ought and not an is so far as the human individual goes, though its own significant stamp and nature considered from the stand-point of Religion is one of eternally significant typal or structural unity, always present and realized.

We have to note, as would have been seen in the above analysis, that action typified by rajas is karma that is restrictive if it is directed towards the self-preservation and self-perpetuative instincts of the lower forms and matter whereas it can become expansive and evolutionary if directed towards the realization of the Supreme Reality and Ultimate harmony. Action involves intelligence however below the normal consciousness. Any action that becomes repetitive on any plane or planes becomes automatic and requires less and less of attention and consciousness and therefore becomes habit or instinct. It may be efficient but it becomes impossible to change or alter these habits once established without a lot of trouble and struggle. It is this last capacity of inability to change that is the chief bane of material existence. It is precisely this that is not the fact about Sattvaguna and consummate intelligence which always acts from the point of view of cosmic and supracosmic consciousness. Sattvaguna is in matter and it is  this fact that is the intelligent adaptiveness to novel situations inherent even in the lowest manifestation of life. The Samkhyan analysis in one sense grants the inherent possibility of spiritual contact because of this possibility, though the Vedantin will and does find quite a different method of explaining this fact. The point to notice is that karma that is recessive or, to put it in other words, selfish (that is self-preservative and self-perpetuative and capitalistic) mechanizes; whereas dharma liberates; karma binds, dharma unbinds, karma restricts, dharma releases; karma  is the principle of conservation, constriction, crystallization, dharma is the principle of evolution, creation, vigilant and awake towards the highest purposes of the spiritual life of liberation. It is true also that Vedic karma when done selflessly makes for this liberation-consciousness that is of ever widening receptivity to cosmic existence which is Divine, but the same when done selfishly for personal joy and delight will restrict and lead to the deterioration of dharmic consciousness. We can also see that even though men may arrive at some place or plane of consciousness out of selfless activity the moment such a person takes up the enjoyment or dwelling in that consciousness alone seeking to enjoy it fully, the dharma- consciousness gives place to repetitive routine of actions that led up to that state, but are unable to sustain the tempo of the consciousness of ascent. It is this that makes even the highest and largest codes of morals and ethics mechanical instructions or mechanical routine that make them despised after attainment to the state. They contain not that force that makes for ascent and point out to no direction. But even this criticism would not be forthcoming if only men did exercise their consciousness in the direction of true selflessness, for then there would be a clear way of evolution in the Divine nature. Further karma is uniplanal adjustment, that is to say, its direction is mechanical or material adjustment or even personal adjustment to the outer universe or personal adjustment to the object of its attainment at any one time. Not so dharma. Dharma being essentially a self-denying and Spirit-affirming activity hitched to the supreme goal of liberation and final attainment involves several planal adjustments to the Divine, Cosmos, and material worlds also which are included in the description of the Total Reality. Since however every dharma may become through degeneration a karma, this danger has to be avoided finally and can be avoided completely only through the realization that the self or the individual who is the carrier of rajas and action through his egoity, is either not an independent entity or else a nullity or an illusion. This is the metaphysical truth that has to be known; man is a creature, a dependent being on God,a body of God, whose existence is irrevocably linked up with God and that man shall not seek anything for himself but for the God who is his ruler, indweller, and svami; man is a skandha, a congeries of desires or cravings and not a self at all; the truth is that there is no such thing as individual soul which has to become selfish or self-perpetuative; what exists is other than all this which is anatman or anatta; the ego of man is an illusory entity; due to avidya or ignorance, his cosmic or supreme self is not this but the One Spirit or Brahman; all seekings and thirsts and  cravings are false and illusory activities. In all the above cases or ways we find what is aimed at is the liberation of man from his insular and isolated pursuits towards self-preservation and self-perpetuation, which the modern man knows are not so simply represented in his life as in the case of animals but on a wider and vaster scale and subtler and perverse forms.

Karma Yoga can only mean therefore the linking up of action to the Divine Life or Life of Spirit by which actions become consecrated to highest spiritual life. The fullest meaning of the term Yoga thus becomes clearly manifest. Actions then do not restrict but liberate one from death even as the Isavasyopanishad-Seer has stated: na karma lipyate nare3; vinasena mrityum tirtva4—Mechanical actions turn out in the long run to be the grave of intelligence; it is against that the fight has to be waged. Therein lies the counsel that Jnana must permeate action: action and knowledge must reinforce one another; together they must subserve the Highest Purpose of God-experience, Nishprapanca-experience, Nirvana; thus indeed do they bring about the divine birth, that birth from which there can be no fall. But nothing vital and ultimate can come about through man’s efforts alone. There is in each man the mystical instinct which must become mature and when it becomes operative then it leads the man to the Divine; for that is the response to the Divine call. Truly indeed does the Kathopanishad say

Na samparayah pratibhati balam pramadyantam vittamohena mudha5 (l. ii. 6 ab) and Yam evaisha vrnute tena labhyah6.

Dharma is thus the path of supreme awareness, wherein every karma is transformed into a kainkarya or service or obedience to the Divine. Religion and dharma are in one sense integrally one.

3 Work does not taint him.

4 Having conquered death by the worship of Hiranyagarbha.

5 To the careless and childish man befooled by the delusion of wealth the Divine Path never appears.

6 By him is It (the Divine) obtained who by himself chooses It.


The Srutis and the Smrtis have been the true sources of the spiritual and ethical life in India. The Srutis or the Vedas are divinely inspired experiences, heard and felt and seen and entered into by sages. They are contained in the Mantras. Brahmanas, the Aranyaka and Upanishads. They have a self-certifying authenticity and as such they are the authority (pramana) for every other type of knowledge generally and in the field of spirituality they are the criteria, so to speak, by which others are to be judged. They do not depend on any other source of knowledge or experience for their veridicality. The Srutis have been transmitted both in form and content through ages from teacher to disciple in an unbroken continuity. It is one of the greatest miracles of transmission in the world. The Srutis form our spiritual, traditional heritage. The Vedic hymns are lauds about God’s infinite personalities and their lila which are His felicitative beneficent activities. These lauds reveal some of the sublimest and deepest features of the Spirit Immortal. The Brahmana literature deals with the revealed processes of sacrificial rites, for example the construction of the Naciketa Fire altar taught by the God of Death, Yama, Himself, as a means to the attainment of the worlds of the Gods and ends which they grant for felicitous living in the worlds here and hereafter. Capable of being interpreted in at least a three-fold manner, corresponding to the demands of Man’s three-fold status, known as adhidaivika, adhibhautika and adhyatmika, an entire science of Interpretation or Mimamsa came into being to settle and fix the proper and correct performances as between the different branches (sakhas) in the Vedic literature of rites. There grew up also differentiations and enlargements and modifications in the size and scope of the Vedic rites, for example, the grhya rites (household rites) were extended suitable to embrace communal and statal ends intended for the general good.

*  From  SWATANTRA   July 2, 1955.

Another differentiation, much earlier than the former, also prevailed. Some rites were intended to be performed daily, such as the worship and prayers too be offered to the deities, forbears, guests, nature and all living creatures; and some others were intended for special occasions such as arise in the life of every individual from his birth to his death, namely, pumsavana, upanayana, etc., and the several vratas which are inculcated for the purpose of acquiring merit or washing away demerit. That these several rites have been sometimes utilised for getting individual merit and glory for oneself selfishly, does not at all militate against their being the mean to the acquirement of benefit for all. All Vedic sacrifices and performances have one avowed aim, namely, universal welfare (lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu) and not the advancement of any one community alone. The Brahmanas became the source of all performances of duties (karmas) (kalpa and grhya included). The Yajna, Yaga and Yoga are the three aspects of this integral brahmana conception. The performance of these dharmas indeed is the only way by which not only individual life but also communal life could be supported. The Yoga aspect was further developed by the Upanishads, which form the final or concluding portion of the Vedic Sruti literature. They are the culmination of sacred knowledge, which is the absolute truth, and are instructional in form. They teach the supreme Brahman as the Reality to be attained and united with and merged in. Here also alternative and diverse interpretations have held sway from the earliest periods thanks to the variety of vidyas taught. A mimamsa literature also grew up in the field known as Uttaramimamsa.

The Sruti alone, however, is not what men have received from their forbears. A distinct literature known as Agama of various kinds also held this distinction. We find it among the avedic Jaina and Buddhist schools as well as among provedic, the Vaishnava, Saiva and Sakta tantra schools. But in all these cases the Sruti is less important than the teachings received from their own Gurus, Buddhas, Tirthankaras and so on. They do not claim to have been seen or heard and they are critical of the teachings of the Veda and are certainly opposed to the Brahmanas both in respect of the grhya and kalpa, yaga and yajna. But they claim to have a spiritual view of reality though they have been more humanistic in their outlook, even when their goal was cosmic, that is, utter and complete liberation from the world.

Smrti is the other kind of tradition, which has prevailed in an unbroken stream. The distinction between this and the former lies in the fact that this is the ‘memory’ of the habits, customs and stories and history, including even the philosophy or philosophies that prevailed. It contains the spiritual as well as the secular tradition of laws and precedents in different periods of the racial history. In any society men have both the spiritual and the secular traditions, the former representing the eternal and the unchangeable truths of inner and higher and diviner life and the later standing for the constant adjustment to the world of changes and challenges. There is a constant interaction between the secular and the spiritual both in their individual and social forms. The Sruti and Smrti are inseparable and organic in a world, which is seen to be a sacramental dynamic unity as in Hinduism. Though there have been some who claimed to follow the sacred Sruti alone and others the Smrtis alone yet the two have mingled so completely during the centuries that no one who is a srauti can be other than a smarta also and vice versa. The Smrtis have one aim and that is to make the changing demand of social life accord more and more to the spirit of the Srutis. The great literature of the nibandhakaras and commentators of the different schools of smartas and srautas shows on the one hand this indisputable phenomenon of realistic change in the codes to suit the ‘historical necessities’ (which have always derived an ironic pleasure from seeing permanent and settled and even apotheosized codes change and break and bow down before the inevitable temporal process) and, on the other hand, they have also revealed a grand development of casuistical literature which seeks to foster the sense of continuity, however shadowy, thanks to the legal luminaries in society. No wonder a large number of men consider that there is a sanatana tradition, unchanging and unchanged, though this is obviously not an historically correct view.

Thus the Smrtis form a body or historical tradition of immense worth for the proper study of the ethos of our country. They along with the Itihasas (Mahabharata and Ramayana) and the Puranas have contributed the real pattern of Indian culture. It is indeed through them that the Srutis had sought to realise themselves. The Smrtis embrace more of ordinary life than the Srutis, but it has been the aim of the Smrtis to lead man more and more to the proper experience of the Sruti itself. A happy blending of tradition of customs and usages and revelation was what was the characteristic pattern achieved by the Smritis. In other words the Smritis achieved the yoking of secular tradition with revelation through a rich dynamic synthesis (samanvaya) of religious practices (samayacara) and righteous conduct (sadacara) as illustrated in the lives of the purest and finest of men. The number of Smrtis is said to be forty-seven but only twenty are extant. The most important of the dharma-sastras are Manu, Yajnavalkya, Atri, Vishnu, Harita, Usanas, Angirasa, Yama, Apastamba, Samvarta, Katyayana, Brahaspati, Parasara, Vyasa, Sankha, Likhita, Daksa, Gautama, Vasishta, and Satatapa. The most well-known are Manu, Parasara, Yajnavalkya and Apastamba; these treatises are in metrical Sanskrit. The Smrtis deal with dharma; they indeed form the source of Law (dharma-mulam); Smrti, Sila and Acara are the three important topics dealt with. These are further expanded into the exposition of (1) Veda and Vedanta, (2) Acara and Vyavahara, and (3) Prayascitta and Karmphala. The most important indeed is the second, which deals with individual duties of each station and position (Varna dharma and Ashrama dharma) according to usage of great and holy men and with the social codes of political government and administration and public welfare and commerce and the theory of punishment. The last group deals with the sacramental way of expiation for wrong doing, wilfully or otherwise, which is indeed the result of activities done by an individual or officer of the State.

The Smritis do indeed vary in their instruction from one another. These have been studied by an illustrious line of commentators so as to evolve a unified code. Such a modern study is that by Dr. P. V. Kane and others.

The different codes, however, refuse to be disposed of on grounds of relativity of authoritativeness. Growing diversities in the fields of economics and political set-ups and religions due to changes of climates of understanding have not permitted any one Smrti to have continuous predominance over the others. To most modern thinkers the importance of these different dharma-sastras lies in the picture that they present and the light that they throw on the periods in which they have been considered to be authoritative. Being practically pauruseya or manmade (unlike the Sruata group of sastras which are deemed to be apauruseya, not man-made) it was well recognized that the dharma-sastras ought to be classified according to the age in which they held the field of authority, and all the attempts at compromises and options and adjustments in ethical conduct and political and social activities are held to have come in only to make the transitions from one ethic to another easy and evolutionary rather than revolutionary. It is precisely because of this immanent and inevitable necessity that changes had to be introduced, cautiously no doubt, in the structure of the moral and spiritual codes. It is a fact that institutions devised at one stage of a nation’s life for the conditions prevailing and operative at that period, hardly help if not positively hinder or impede the conditions which arise at a later period. Nor should we forget that people as a rule except under exceptional circumstances demand that all change must conform to the past, or in other words they resist change and seek to rationalise change as merely a kind of continuity or eternal recurrence. This is true even in respect of grhya sacraments of marriage and others. Caste and state (varna and ashrama) that prevailed (never ideally perhaps) brought in its train several imperatives for its preservation or purity and growth which are held to be not needed or, outmoded, by some atleast at the present time. So also the concept of rights has itself changed, the sacramental rights have been made to yield to the secular concept, even as the individualistic attitude to rights has clearly been substituted by the socialistic concept of rights. Indeed we find that the very institutions, which were originally instruments of equality of opportunity, are condemned as instruments and engines of inequality. The notion of a sacramental Universe, which undoubtedly was that of the ancient Smartas, has passed into a kind of superstition, the only notion that we have of the society today being frankly materialistic.

The dharma-sastras take serious notice of adhikari-bheda (fitness-differentia) which has been the target of criticism from the abstract spirituality of the mystics on the one side and on the other from abstract materialism which is equally unrealistic. The Smrtis do not certainly belong to the level of unreflective morality: rather they are the most awakened realistic social morality, which conduces to the growth of the moral conscience and the social cohesiveness which ultimately leads to the transcendent sense of reality. The individual is a ‘pilgrim to eternity’ in the context of the spiritual society.

THERE is undoubtedly an important incentive that may yet develop in the readers of the Smrti literature; there is so much in them, which strikes one as authentic and indubitable and tremendously realistic that men would like to recover the ancient condition. There is no doubt that it is by dharma that all life lives and grows and expands and liberates itself. The Srutis and the Smrtis are in fact the two pillars of ancient wisdom. Whether or no our modern pragmatic makers of the code have this synthetic genius of the ancient seers, a fair consideration of their eternal standpoint and the means by which they sought the impregnation and transformation of the secular world, would always be genuinely valuable. We have yet to understand the hierarchy of values and abilities, of social stations and places and functions, which is perhaps a truth that impetuous reformers and iconoclastic revolutionaries and utopians are unwilling to see. This is a message, which the Smrtikaras have been at pains to deliver. – Courtesy AIR.


The earliest ideas regarding the structure of the human body are to be found in the Rg Veda itself related to the general theory of evolution. The psychological insight of these thinkers far exceed anything that they have given us regarding the physiology of the human body. It has been claimed by certain writers that the development of the sacrificial rituals facilitated the understanding of the physiological aspects of the organisms, and this is lent colour to by the descriptions of the fire altars and their constructions given in Satapatha Brahmana.1 The mention of the distinct portions of the body indeed is already available in Rg V. X, 163 and AV. II. 33 and X, 2. Prof. A, F. R. Hoernle was the first to investigate into the Vedic cestelogy,2 and he has shewn that the physiological ideas of the ancient found expression in their rituals. What apparently struck him as odd was that the ancient rsis were mystically-minded. That is to say that they felt that there was the correspondence between number of bones in the human body and the days of the year, that is, 360. This fact of adhyatmic, adhibhautic and adhidaaivic3 correspondence indeed plays a large part in the psycho-physiological mysticism of the Ancients. This is a deep and fundamental instinct that colours the entire range of the vedic literature.4

The evolution of the physico-psychic body has been a most remarkable thing and the ancient thinkers conceived this in a way that makes the physical just a descent of the spiritual lthrough the psychic gradually formulating the planes in a succession of increasing grossness oro materiality. This is the metaphysical view of the Upanisads. The divine Spirit is stated to be the source the entire range of elements, powers, forces, planes, gods and other creatures. In one sense therefore the entire reality is spiritual, and the manifestations of matter, life, mind, overmind and other planes about which so much has been stated in the Upanisads are too be conceived as degradations of that Supreme Spirit out of His own self-Will, for the purposes of a creative activity which is the ascent of evolution, which means the ascent of the souls through the integrative organization of the several planes in their own individualities or as the many. Whatever may be the metaphysical view that might be adopted to explain the manifold nature of reality as revealing matter, souls and their Lord, Brahman, the capital fact about the evolution of oindividual life and mind consists in the actual perception of the integral unity of matter and Mind in the organism. The psychical controls, and is conditioned by, the physical; and the interaction between the psychical and the physical is not only constant but also inevitable. The possibility of spiritual evolution, or rather evolution of the spiritual life is due, to the fact that we could evolve because we intrinsically are spiritual, and the physical is but the instrument of the psychical spiritual.

Cosmic creation is what is usually stated in all the Creation Hymns of the Veda, and the Upanisads echo them when they state that Brahman is the material and instrumental, and one should add, the teleological cause of the creation. This creation is described as two-fold: the first is the creation of or manifestation of all the categories known as spiritual entities or gods or powers, and elements such as mahat, manas, subtle elements and subtle sensory and motor organs, and the gross elements. As in the macrocosm, so in the microcosm, there have happened the gradual formations of the subtle body and then the gross body.5

The physical aspect of the human body is such that it reveals the five elements through the possession of the qualities in the several parts or organs of the body. The Garbha Up. says “the earth is said to be hard, apas or water is fluidic, fire is that which is hot, air is that which moves, akasa is that which is full of interspace: Yad Khathinam sa prthivi yad dravyam tadapah, yadusnam tattejo, yassamcarati sa vayu, yat susiram tad akasam ityucyate, tatra prthivi dharane, apah pindikarane, tejorupadarsane, akasam avakasam. These elements conceived to exist in these five forms of ether, air, fire, liquid, and solid, are necessary even for the formation of senseorgans, and motor organs, though indeed they serve the higher categories of mind, intellect, and personality. “The ear exists in sound, the skin in touch, the eye in forms, the tongue in taste, and nose in odour.” “The mouth exists in speech, the hands in lifting, the feet in walking, the anus in excreting, the genitals in enjoying.” In this manner the functions of the motor organs or organs of action is described by the same upanisad. The Sariraka Up. supports these descriptions of the Garbha Up. The elements of the outer universe or rather those elements, which go to form the objects to be perceived by the embodied soul, are indeed the very things, which these sense organs pertain to, or which are formed by the five elements.6

The evolution of the human body is described by the Garbha, and we find that the Ayurvedic writers like Caraka and Susruta agree with the description detailed therein. The human embryo is “semi fluid in the first night; in seven nights it is like a bubble; at the end of a month it is hardened; in two months the head is formed; in three months the region about the feet; and in the forth month the region about the stomach and loins and also ankle is formed; in the fifth month the back (or spinal) bone; in the sixth the face, nose eyes and ears; in the seventh it become united with the soul; in the eight month it becomes full (of all organs); in the ninth month it becomes fatty.”7 There is an earlier but less complete version in the Pancagni Vidya (Ch. Up. VI, 2) of the development the fetus.

The integration of the several levels of sensation and action, if we can speak of levels in describing the differences between the sensations of sound, touch, form, taste and smell, is possible only on the basis of unification of these by a principle that is the common source of all these elements. This principle is variously known as the buddhi or manas. The latter term is usually reckoned as a sixth sense. The unification is also made possible on the basis of an inherent vital impulse or life, which is that which is connoted by the term prana or breath, which is different from the air. A third type of unification is also called for by the facts belonging to experience, namely, that organs which usually have functions in respect of certain elements or stimuli do officiate under certain circumstances for other organs; thus we hear with our eye-centre when the auditional centre is impaired. Or when we observe that the lower centres that function for smell also respond to stimuli of the taste, form, touch and sound. The Upanisads have a theory of quintuplication that is the intermixture of the five pure elements in the formation of all organic bodies or life. These several hypotheses explain the possibilities of the cognitive, conative, and affective experiences of the individual embodied being, and not only that, they make it possible for the Minor Upanisads to postulate parallel developments of the bone, gland, nerve, hitas or suksma-nadi or etheric systems which form such a large part in the practices of achievement of siddhi in yogic literature.

The five principal elements are directly related to the five principal sensations. The atoms of these five elements form the sense organs in conjunction with the mind (manas) which the principal sensorium as also the principle of desire. Further these earth, water and fire elements form the annamayakosa the material body. There is another sheath or kosa pranamayakosa, formed by the principal breaths, formed by the Vayu and akasa elements, (Subala. Up. VII) which though physical and tenuous are invisible, and cannot be measured. But these do not form the psychic body.

The psychic sheaths are according to some upanisads the manomaya, vijnanamaya, anandamayakosas. The manomaya is the psychical organ that directs and controls memory even as it helps in integrating spontaneously the present experience with the past experiences. But its main principle is vital or desire. Desire it is that motivates its action of memory or conservation or integrating action. The vijnanamaya is animated and sustained by the higher soul-consciousness or intuition. It is just possible that this vijnanamaya is itself of three levels of prajnana, samjnana and vijnana the level of intuition or over-mind, supermind, Gnostic mind as stated by the Aitareya Upanisad. The Anandamaya is the highest which is enclosing the Truth, the Sat-cit-ananda Self.8 Excluding the annamaya on the one side and the anandamaya-kosa at the other end, which is called the karana-sarira (causal body) by the Paingala Upanisad, the other sheaths are known as the linga-sarira. The Sarvasara Upanisad describes the sheaths in the following manner: “The annamaya sheath is the aggregate of the materials formed by food. When the ten vayus (breaths), pranas and others flow through the annamaya sheath then it is called the pranamaya-kosa. When Atma connected with the two sheaths performs the functions of hearing etc., through the fourteen organs of manas and others, then it is called manomayakosa. When in the antahkarana connected with the above three sheaths there arises the modification etc., about the peculiarities of the sheaths, then it is called the vijnanamaya sheath. When the self-cause-jnana, is in its self-bliss like the banyan tree in its seed though associated with these four sheaths caused by ajnana, then it is called Anandamaya.” It will clearly be seen that there is no box-theory here, but a functional theory of inter penetrative activities of the several higher psychical functions in the several sheaths in unity with the rest.

The Saptannabrahmana (Br. Up.I iv) clearly states that the annamaya sarira includes in a sense all that exists of the seven planes, or foods, each fulfilling the needs of such creatures of the planes. It is stated there in conformity with the Veda that these were produced by austerity (tapas) and intellect. The self-nature or ‘the three made for himself’ are stated to be mind, speech and breath. And mind is defined as “desire, imagination, doubt, faith, lack of faith, steadfastness, lack of steadfastness, shame, meditation, fear.”9 The Taittiriya Up. II, 3 clearly sketches the sheaths of annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya, vijnanamaya and anandamaya. It is also shews the inter-boxing of the sheaths, that is to say, the lower sheath covers the higher sheaths; the central core is the self. The Mundaka II reveals the fact that the several planes of existence or sheaths are in an integral sense possessing the features of the other planes also, in this confirming the Saptannabrahmana (Brh. Up. I. iv). “From Him come forth the seven life-breaths (prana). The seven flames, their fuel, the seven oblations, these seven worlds, wherein do move the life-breaths that dwell in the secret place (of the heart) place seven and seven” (II I, 8).

The co-ordination of all these seven breaths, seven flames mentioned also at Prasna III. 5, and Mund I. 2. 4. is something achieved through the activity of the mind located at the heart. Further this correlation between the fires and breath is worked out in the Prasna IV. 3. Apana is garhapatya fire, vyana is anvaharyapacana (southern sacrificial) fire, prana is the Ahavaniya (Oblation) fire; the samana equalizes the two oblations, the inbreathing and the outbreathing.10 The mind verily is the sacrificer. The fruit of the sacrifice is Udana upward breath or movement to Brahman day by day.

Whilst the physical body through its nerves, sensory and sympathetic, transmits all the extrovert or peripheral stimuli and the reactions to the psychic organs which are behind all perceptive cognitive, activity, and also guides the desires and volitions which arise out of perceptive activity, it also determines them. The psychical factors in turn form such psychograms or ideas or habits or tendencies so as to influence memory and behaviour and such other equipment which help response on future occasions. The psychic factors form indeed the very stem of future action.11 Action is the thing in all existence, and skilful action is Yoga karmasu kausalam as the Gita has stated. The mental forms or psychograms are more influential in prospective action even then the neuronic structures or arcs which determine all types of responses. They however do not sublate the neuronic but only subordinate it to their own vision or cognitive-control.

In the formation of intelligent association tracks or arcs of behaviour, consciousness is fully utilized.12 Some writers hold that consciousness is itself a product of interruption of activity as a consequence of frustration of action. 13 While this genesis of consciousness in animals and habitual actions is quite true, it is not true to say therefore consciousness is just this and that it is an epiphenomenona useless for action. On the contrary according to the Upanisads, Consciousness enters into the picture because of its need to meet the occasion with its light and fore-vision and plan. It alone can plan the future to meet the novel situation for which its previous psychic or material provisions in the form of neuronic arcs or conditioned reflexes or psychic autograms which functioned with subliminal consciousness were inadequate. The dynamic nature of Upanisadic psychology lends no room for the mechanical theory of genesis of consciousness.

The Mandukya Up. implicitly refers to the nineteen ingredients of the functions of the antahkarana when it refers to the nineteen mouths which refer to the five organs of sense, five organs of action, five vital breaths, the sensorium (manas), buddhi, ahamkara and Citta, according to Sankara (3) and (4). The Maitri Up. however limits the intellect-form to buddhi, manas and ahamkara.(5).

We can see clearly that Citta is that which is a principle of thinking (cintana) and characterised by cit (intelligence) though extroverted in the direction of objects; equally manas is derived from the root man ‘to think’. That is why all the different operations of mind are referred either to citta or manas. Buddhi, even as intellection or abstract ideational thinking, is discovered to be the real link between the introvert psychical self-knowing and citta (manas14). We can patently see that the Vedantic metaphysics and original samkhyan metaphysics have moulded and shaped the understanding of the psychic apparatus15.

14 Kausitaki Up. 1. mentions the dynamic nature of the functions such as manas, as those that are the messengers of the Divine Brahman conceived as breath, the supreme prana. “Of this same breathing spirit as Brahma vrily indeed the mind (manas) is the messenger; the eye the watchman, the ear the announcer; speech the handmaid.” The divinity named Mind is a procurer.”(3)

15 Prof. Hume in his introduction to his translation of the Thirteen principal Upanisads points out that the original words were manas and citta which denoted all mental activities, and that buddhi is a samkhyan word. He instances the Svetasvatara’s two enumerations of the categories (1.4-5) and (4-10) as belonging to non-Vedantic and samkhyan classifications. The post-principal Upanisads are, it can be seen, equally not clear about the different functions of the fourfold antahkarana.

      cf. The Sri Bhasya in dealing with the question of number of organs makes comment on the nature of the buddhi, ahamkara and citta, which are all to be considered to be “mere designations of the manas, according as the latter is engaged in the functions of deciding (adhyavasaya) , or misconception (abhimaana) or thinking (cinta)” Manas is known as atma, the eleventh (Brh. Up. II. iv, 11) and as the eleventh it has been mentioned in the Bh…… XIII. 5. Sri Bhasya: II. iv.5)                                                                     contd....

If the differentiations between the several functions of the antahkarana were largely due to the samkhyan influence, that is to say, the discriminative school amongst the thinkers on the psychology of the self, witness the earliest discrimination made between the several functions of the mind or inner psyche through which the self works and knows. “Whereby one sees or whereby one hears, or whereby one smells odours, or whereby one articulates speech or whereby one discriminates the sweet and the unsweet; that which is heart (hrdaya) and mind (manas)—that is consciousness (samjnana), perception (ajnana), discrimination (vijnana), intelligence (prajnana), wisdom (medhas), insight (drsti), steadfastness (dhrti), thought (mati), thoughtfulness (manias), impulse (juti), memory (smrti), conception (samkalpa), purpose (kratu), life (asu), desire (kama), will (vasa)” (Ait. Upa.III.5.) All these are appellations of intelligence (Prajnana). It is clear from the above tht it will be futile to argue that the earlier writers were not aware of the entire range of functions that the self as a conscious existence engages in. The later development or the development due to further discriminative activity on the part of the scholastic samkhyans has been to reduce these to a general plan of gradation of higher and lower so as to derive the lower from the higher.16 In this function of grading according to higher and lower levels of conscious activity they have placed the Buddhi as equivalent to vijnana at the top, and the will, steadfastness, at the level of the ahamkara, for these are the chief characteristics of egoity, and the rest are distributed to manas (or citta in Yoga). The location of the central self at the heart (hrdaya) is unique to mystico-religious consciousness.

The localisation of functions of the several planes or levels of consciousness will be seen to have not developed very much in the minor Upanisads except in Sariraka Up. That is a development that has happened in tantra.

The psychic apparatus (or origin) which is to be considered to be distinct from the self consists of four phases. The antahkarana corresponds with the physical brain and other spinal centres. Manas, buddhi, ahamkara and citta are stated to be the four phases.17 Their functions are certainty, certitude, egoism and flitting thought. The Paingala Upanisad says “Out of the collective three parts of sattva, He created the antahkarana. Antahkarana, manas, buddhi, citta, ahamkara are the modifications. Sankalpa, niscaya, smarana, abhimana, anusandhana are their functions.” In the above description antahkarana is given a general characteristic of volition or creative volition which reveals that the rest are but subordinate to this purpose. All certainty, memory, egoism and enquiry refer to and answer to the purpose of will. In other words, the psychic organism from the very first is directed outwards, even as the sensory and motor organs are extraverted. The Sarvasara Upanisad, on the other hand, mentions four only excluding the antahkarana. The Trisikha Up. follows the Sarvasara Up. The Antahkarana consists not merely of the above four but also the suksma jnanendriyas (subtle sense-organs). Those are all of atomic size. The lingasarira is antahkarana with all its composites.

Manas is the specialising and sensory co-ordinating organ, and is the ideational centre, next only to buddhi, Gnostic mind, as it partakes of less sattva than that, but all the same it is more closely linked up with sattva activity or cognitive or cit-activity than the sense-organs. Paingala Up. says that buddhi is higher intelligence and has the function of memory (smarana). Manas acts as an extravert associative memory rather than as introvert memory of the buddhi. Some writers have stated that ‘Manas is that which determines, mistakes, doubts and defines.’

In this case it stands for the entire antahkarana. Some writers denote by manas, the sensorium, while citta is of mental modification, citta-vrtti, which includes all vasanas, emotions, desires, and subjective features. It is in this sense Patanjali uses the word citta in the second sutra of his Darsana. The control of subjective factors it is that leads to the apprehension of the true nature of objects out side as also within, for it must be borne in mind that Patanjali was a realist who treated all experiences and objects to be real and not unreal as the idealists hold.

Amrtabindu Up. speaking about manas describes the variations in the following manner, and its description reveals that it did not make any distinction between manas and citta.Manas is said to be of two kinds, the pure and the impure. That which is without desire is the pure, and that which is desireful is the impure.”17 Manas is the cause of both bondage and freedom, if it is impure it leads to bondage and annihilation.18 Manas is the cause of samsara when it becomes corrupted by desire. Maitrayani Up. describes manas in the same manner as above.19 It is of two kinds, it says, the pure and the impure. The impure is that which is full of desire for enjoyment (kamasankalpam). Desire is the root, and sankalpa is in most cases traceable to desire, though it is indeed not capable of being applied to the desire for emancipation from samsara. Tejobindu Upa. describes that manas is the cause of three pains, the passions, anger, bondage and all the miseries, faults and even various forms of time, and that this is known as sankalpa.20 The Mukti Upa. says that manas is sankalpa.21

Maitreya Up. says that “Citta alone is samsara. It should be cleaned with effort. Whatever his citta (thinks) of that nature he becomes. This is a supreme mystery. With the purification of citta one makes both good and bad actions perish.”22 The Annapurna Up. expresses this more tersely “Attachment of citta towards objects leads to sorrow, and when it renounces them it leads to joy.”23 Maitreya Up. puts this point very clearly almost recalling the samkhyan view that disunion from prakrti leads to liberation. “Just as citta becomes united with objects it comes across, why should not one be released from bondage when one is united with Brahman”,24 thus focussing the main issue of Vedantic thought as not so much on the disengagement from matter or outer objects, (under which category even desires and volitions are included in a sense) as the union with the Supreme Brahman. It is this latter which is more important and the instruction to restrain the mental modifications, described as citta-vrtti is a necessary preliminary subordinate to the Brahma-prapti. On this point, the Isavasyopanisad (12-14) describing the need for asambhuti and sambhuti upasanas, shows the need to get rid of all obstacles to Brahma-prapti as subordinate to the Brahma-prapti-upasana.25

We have shown that no clear distinction is available in the minor Upanisads between the two terms manas and citta and that they are used almost interchangeably. But it can be stated that manas is the sensorial counterpart of the citta, the volitional aspect, of the antahkarana both of which are objectively turned, that is to say, hankering after objects of the outer world.26

The Sariraka Upanisad however localises the several parts of the antahkarana. “The seat of the manas is the end of the throat, that of buddhi the face, that of ahamkara is the heart and that of the citta is the navel.”27 It can clearly be seen that manas being localised at the throat signifies that manas is the organ related to speech, the link between ideation and action. The buddhi placed in the face or more properly at the ajna cakra28 signifies the thought-level, whereas the ahamkara to be possessive-sense or the sense of possessing, whilst citta placed at the navel or the adrenalin-gland reveals the emotive character of this function of mind. Altogether the localisation of these four aspects of antahkarana reveals that the Minor Upanisads were aware of the levels of thinking which descends from the pure ideational level of intuition or vijnana down to the sensorial and emotive levels which are placed in the trunk, or what modern physiologists will say, the spinal level.

The psychological understanding of Yoga methodology has to take into consideration both the physiological-material and the psychic apparatus consisting of manas, buddhi and sat-cit-ananda. It is clear from the writings of ancient thinkers that they were aware of the need for localising functions of mind and sensory action as also of the several mental processes and over-mental and supramental processes. That they placed these in the head (or brain) whilst they also saw that the vital functions were in the abdominal region is also a great fact. The Paingala 29 Upanisadic description of the linga-sarira localises the functions. The functional description of these sheaths by the Paingala and Sarvasara and others reveals one other significant fact, namely, that these several sheaths are available in the bodies of living creatures and not of the dead, for these are said to go away with the soul with the exception of the annamaya sarira.

Expressing the functional unity of the sheaths we can say that when the self functions on the physical or gross level it evolves the atomic or electronic system of being. When it seeks to move or grow or expand beyond its own relative ambit of material existence, it assumes sensory life, it becomes capable of response to outer environment in two ways that is of perception and action. The development of the intellectual perception is due to the soul acting more efficiently in a larger ambit or seeking to do so. All these several levels of conduct are sustained by its own self-energy known as the primeval desire or karma. When the soul is able to control and sustain and lead or evolve these sheaths towards integration through subordination of the lower sheaths to the higher sheaths till it manifests its own overt control or conscious or supraconscious control over these from out of its own self-nature as saccidananda, it is said to have attained yoga-siddhi or liberation or jivanmukti.

The importance of the linga-sarira thus consists in its being closely associated with the soul. Indeed it determines the nature of the sensory and motor organs of the individual, suitable to its karma. The prana is the connecting link between the mental and the material impulses or vital impulses or mind-energy. In one sense we may go further and affirm that it is that which links up the five sheaths, but then its highest form will be known as the Samana30 the “equalizing breath” one of the five pranas. Pranas as such exhibit no such selfish propensities and all their functions are directed towards the maintenance of the bodily system only. Buddhi stands as a conscious principle of life and prana as the non-conscious (active) power sustaining the body.”31 We have to understand the five-fold nature of this prana which functions in the body in five-fold ways according to the order of existence or the sheath relevant to each of these.

The Upanisads hold that Vayu and Akasa (air and ether) act primarily between the psychical manas, and buddhi; some interpose between these two ahamkara or egoity, while some others place it earlier than buddhi, and the purely gross organs formed out of heat, water and earthy elements. Vayu has a throbbing movement, and its movement (spandana) helps to carry the impulses either way from or to the sense organs and psychic organism antahkarana. In either case, it is clearly known that its function is of electro magnetic type and its penetrative movement is such that it makes way for itself, or interspace is created by itself. This interspace is something ever available in all elements or organs that we have because of the pancikarana (quintuplication) assumed by the Upanisads. Thus not merely vital energy but vital energy conjoined with the etheric electro-magnetic energy is at the back of all organic processes more or less as the case may be.

Having thus described the functional activities of the psychic organism, which are all suksma or rather placed in the suksmadeha, we shall sketch the nature of the suksma-sarira itself. As already stated the suksma-sarira  is upheld by the akasa and prana. The thought, sense, emotion are three levels of the jnana, but they are incapable of directly operating except through akasa (ether of sound, of so-called electrical energy) and prana (breath of touch) which integrates the several functions of the jnana. The connecting links between the Vijnana, Manas, and citta are those fashioned by etheric and pranaic activity in nadis or psychonic paths, which are the correlates of the neuronic paths. The psychonic system is similar too the neuronic system. The nadis are evolved by the activities of the akasa and prana-movements.32 The growth of the psychic structure is thus essential by on a par with the growth of the evolution of the highly integrated nervous system, as also the circulatory system of the material level. The endocrine system helps the several systems of matter, water (blood), (fire nervous), air (breath) and thus is rightly called the harmonic system. But the vital activity of prana is more that of the respiratory system, since all the activities of the prana refer to the movements of prana which as samana integrates the several systems and organizes the psychonic and neuronic pathways.

Prana it is that organizes all and relates the separate organs.33 Prana is the connecting link, and it is itself a form of akasa (sound-movement or nadaja). It is subtle and pervades the entire psychophysical organism. It is governed by the will or the mind.34 Prana is life. Breath is just a function of prana on the physical plane, and control of breath it is that leads to enhanced vitality. “Prana is called Vayu because of the aerial operation to modification of the internal instruments arises from their being susceptible of a sort of motion similar to that of air, and from their being governed by the same deity.35

Because of its linking up all the planes and systems physical and psychical it is called the sutratma.36 “Through it one inspires (in-breaths) and out-breaths and moves. Without it no organ will work. Through air the current cf blood is driven into the nadis from the plexus of the heart.”37 Chandogya Up. has given us an earlier version of this all-pervasive or all-linking movement of prana. “As spokes are fastened in the hub, so on this vital breath everything is fashioned. Life (Prana) goes on with prana. Prana gives (life) to a living creature (prana)” (VII, 15, 1). The greatness of prana is intimated, by the Brahadaranyaka Up. also. (IV 1.5.; VI 1. 1. 7-14) Prana vayu is stated to be ten kinds according to the seats or portions of the body it occupies.38 Prana is stated to be created out of the rajas-essence of the five-fold elements.39 Pranas typify activity and as such are said to belong to the rajas-essence, even as the mind is stated to be sattva. The Sandilya Up. refers to the location of the five principal and five subordinate vayus. “Prana, Apana, Samana, Udana, Vyana, naga, kurma, krkata, devadatta and dhananjaya, these ten vayus move in all nadis. Prana moves in the nostrils, throat, navel and the great toes and the lower and upper parts of the Kundalini. Vyana moves in the ear, eyes, the loins, ankles, the nose, throat and the buttocks. Apana moves in the anus, genitals, thighs, knews, stomach, seeds, loins, calves, navel and the seat of fire (Manipuraka). Udana lives in all the joints and also in the hands and legs. Samana permeates all parts of the body.” 40

But there are slight variations of the above descriptions in the Amrtanada and the Maitri panisads:  the former states that it is Vyana (not samana) that flows through out the body (vyanah sarva-sarira-gah) and speaks of samana as established in the navel (nabhisamsthitah). For a similar view the Yoga-Cudamani Up. can be seen. The latter Upanisad says “Prana …. includes inhalation and exhalation, while apana refers to tht movement of breath which takes place in the excrement and urine and semen, Udana as described seems to refer to eructation. Samana is the breath which carries on the process of digestion. Vyana is that breath which is always present even when there is no breathing activity upward or downward,41 and therefore both prana and apana may be stated to be dependent upon it. The sense in which samana is a higher form of vyana is confessedly obscure, but may be suggested tentatively that while the latter represents the breath ever-present in the body merely as a support of prana and apana, the former is the same breath considered as active in digestive process. The sense in which udana is looked upon as between vyana and samana is also quite uncertain. As samana is vyana engaged in digestion and as vyana is of course (cf. definition) present before and while food is being taken, therefore it is not impossible to conceive that it is in this sense that udana is between vyana and samana.”42 Prof. Ewing continues to describe the breaths further thus: “Prana ascends upwards Apana moves downwards. Vyana is that by which these (prana and apana) are supported (anugrihita). Samana is that which conducts into apana the grossest element of food and distributes—samanayati—the subtle (elements of food) into the various portions of the body ange ange. “It (samana) is a higher form of vyanauttaram vyanasya rupam—and between them is the production (or rise) of udana.”43

These then the five forms of the principal breath, prana or life and in it its self-nature sinks into the heart where it resides. Says the Garbha Up.: “Prana descends lower and lower as the time of breath approaches and finally settles in the heart when the child is born.”

The subordinate airs (vayus) have the following functions: naga functions in vomiting and other expectorative activities, kurma for movements of eye-lids; krkara causes hunger etc., devadatta for movements of idleness etc., (or quietude) and dhananjaya for expectoration of Phlegm.”44 These secondary or subordinate airs are as may be seen not so clearly seen to have anything other than localised feelings of movement that are involuntary.

Thus it can be seen that prana is not air but the principle of movement, not atmospheric air nor a material effect such as gas generated during the process of digestion. Susruta, the most important doctor of Ayurveda in ancient times, defines it as a force which sets the whole organism in motion. “It is the principal factor which determines genesis, continuance and disintegration of the living body. Its vibration takes a course as the controller of the correlative functions of the system.”45 Thus it is essentially the activity of the samana, the harmoniser, or, the vyana that is the all-enveloping motion element. As I have said already if we conceive this breath or prana as having the quality of touch as the Upanisads have affirmed, it gets the further ability which mere nada (sound) does not possess to link up or form the psychic synapses which are such important elements in the integrative activities of the autonomous order.

The Upanisads also describe these pranas to have certain colours. Amrtanada Up. speaks of prana as having the hue of coral (blood-red-gem), apana as having the colour of indragopa (an insect of red or white hue); Udana as pale white (apandara), and vyana as the ray of light (arcis). The samana is of pure milk and crystal hue. Ya is the bija of prana and vayu; Ra is the bija of apana and Agni; La of vyana and Prthivi; Va of udana and jiva; Ha of Samana and the Supreme Brahman: that is the reason why the term Prana is used to denote all types of breaths as it has the bija of vayu itself.

Thus Prana is the most important vehicle of the self in this control, sustenance, and upholding of the activities of the body. It links the suksma and the sthula sariras. It is also stated that the prana extends about twelve digits above the body.46 In conjunction with nadis on the one hand which are the akasaic paths and the nerves which are the subtle nerve-paths (of fire) spread all over the body, it organizes the entire system on dynamic lines. It works in conjunction with fire and other elements in one body.

In the nervous system of the individual, the subtle nerves are the pathways organized in a network, like a telephone exchange, with several centres or plexuses. The physical body it has been stated as composed of the agni, water and earth elements, that is to say of heat, fluids and material portions. There are stated to be three types or forms of agni47 In the heart of persons there is an internal agni Vaisvanara, which is of three forms, Jnanagni, that pertains to the mind, darsanagniI that pertains to the senses and Kosatagni that pertains to dahara and digestive organs. It may be stated in this context that agni considered as the element of heat in the body is but the prana vayu which has evolved these agnis. Further we have another interesting fact to bear in mind. The Upanisads describe five levels of akasa, namely akasa, parakasa, mahakasa, suryakasa and paramakasa. “That which is of the nature of darkness both in and out is akasa. That which is of the nature of darkness both in and out is akasa. That which has the fire of deluge both in and out is mahakasa. That which has the brightness of the Sun both in and out is Suryakasa, and the brightness which is indescribable, all pervading and of the nature of unrivalled bliss is paramakasa.”48 We have already referred to the threefold Vaissvanara Agni, the statement of the four different levels of its operation such as the thought, sensation, and digestion and emotion (dahara). The cakras are indeed the sixfold centres of the subtle body of ether, air and Agni.49 We have also the five fluids typified by the glands; and the vata, pittha and kapha theory of the Ayurveda in one sense links up the three elements of water, fire and vayu in its diagnosis of the health and harmony of the body.50

47 cg. Garbha Up.

48 Mandalabrahmana Up.iv

49 cf. My article JSVOI.I Where this subject was fully discussed.

50 cf. Mh. B. Santi. Ch.74.


Levels of Consciousnesstc "Levels of Consciousness"

CONSCIOUSNESS is the most important item in psychology, whether it is considered as a function of a spirit, or the soul, or as spirit (psyche) itself. Consciousness is stated to be of many kinds, though to say so may appear to be not altogether warranted. This division into kinds depends upon the kinds of objects and creatures wherein it is seen to appear or manifest. Thus we can speak of metal-consciousness, plant-consciousness, animal-consciousness, human-consciousness, daiva-consciousness and Absolute-consciousness. This fact is already apprehended by the Aitareya and Taittiriya Upanisads.2 There are other divisions also according to the number of sensory organs manifested in any creature. Thus we have to concede the fact that consciousness is involved in the several stages of life or manifestation. There are degrees of its involution in matter, plant, animal, human and these stages may well be recognized as the annamaya, pranamaya and manomaya stages or levels of consciousness. If we agree to view the whole creative process as the manifestation of the latent power of self-involution of consciousness in its own activity, then it becomes also clear that matter itself is not merely a product of consciousness, but also a closed enveloper of it for some secret occult purpose which could only be drawn out by the higher consciousness acting on it.

Several theories have arisen on this account. Some keep the Consciousness (the Absolute Consciousness) in its native purity and explain the whole process as a veil of Maya (delusion) without affecting the nature of that consciousness in any manner but all the same revealing that consciousness as differentiated to the differentiateds.

Some others hold that the whole process of manifestation is an action by that consciousness itself which is eternally embodied in matter and souls, to whom these are of the nature of eternal modes or bodies. These modes are subtle in the causal stage of the Absolute and these become gross in the effect state of the self-same Absolute. The Absolute is a Will and a Personality of extreme Infiniteness and Fullness and Auspiciousness.

There is a third view which holds that the Absolute though a consciousness is a unity in multiplicity and all the planes of life and matter and mind are but self-positings of its descent which it thereafter links up in its own primal consciousness in and through an ascent of itself through these self-positeds.

This view reveals the reality of all states even like the second view already stated and visualises the organic ascension of all stages and states of consciousness ultimately in the Absolute Consciousness. No doubt some persons will hold that consciousness being an activity should not be made into a substance that can be a unity in multiplicity, much less an eternal unity in an eternal multiplicity; and secondly to hold that consciousness can become degraded into matter or inconscience is also to hold that the Absolute can never remain pure, for we cannot by any means determine how any portion of the eternal unity or its multiplicity can ever become utterly ‘de-consciousised’ except by an arbitrariness posited in the very nature of the Divine Consciousness. But this need not be a grave objection if we can hold that the Divine Consciousness is divine even in and through the various formations of itself as matter and mind and breath and other activities in their several configurations or constellations, and yet we may grant to each of these a limited independence or differentium in respect of activities engendered by the status of their stages as matter, breath, or mind. Thus we will find that each of these stages has an autonomy engendered by earlier actions (and nothing exists which has not some sort of action, repetitive or creative or initiative or reactive).

It is the integration of these three or five or seven levels of consciousness that is aimed at in Yoga, which is an effort to arrive at the liberation of consciousness or rather the energy of consciousness from the lower levels since every level is aware of that which is higher but is unable to realise it due to its primitive habit or organization. This release of consciousness from the lower form can happen in only one manner. That is possible only when the lower form sees the pressure of the higher level on itself and is unable to stand the strain of such a higher level or secondly, when the lower level or its manner has become impossible due to changing conditions that demand newer patterns of behaviour. Yoga is the need to liberate oneself from a lower level by recourse to a higher level of consciousness. That this Yoga may be framed up in such wise as to be limited to particular occasions has also been shewn by the Gita when the Lord has stressed on the fact that there are four kinds of seekers; the arta, jijnasu, artharthi and Jnani (VII.16). The integral seeker is the last mentioned knower, who integrates or seeks to integrate the entire cosmic consciousness within himself and in all his parts, so as to appear to have almost lost every kind of difference or counter position in being as in action, and whose oneness with Isvara is complete in all planes and powers and manifestations. Thus ancient Indian psychology was fully aware of the several levels of consciousness3 which according to them were first stated to be three, then five and then seven. The highest or the Absolute Consciousness that was absolutely freed from the bondage to the relative consciousnesses of the lower levels was, undoubtedly, the aim of almost all the mystics of the Minor Upanishads; and this accentuation of the importance of the higher or Absolute Consciousness to spiritual or real existence led properly to the abnegation of the life of the spiritual beings in and through the lower formations of spirit itself. It is this self-same distrust of material existence or vital or mental existence that led also the postulates of Maya and Pudgala and Samsara with their unending repetitive movements in birth and rebirth and bondage to bondage.

3. I have elsewhere pointed out that the three levels jagrat, svapna and susupti are comparable to levels of consciousness.

The truth of existence is its truth in consciousness, and for consciousness. The reality with which we are confronted is a more or less organic structure, whereas the ‘we’ who confront such a reality are indeed organic creatures (mind-bodies) if not soul-bodies. But the truth that will be realized as ultimate will always be only in respect of the Absolute Consciousness. The only question that will arise is: can such a consciousness be possible to us who are finite and are yet dwelling in bodies which limit simply because they are yet unable to devise or have not devised ways of responding to such a consciousness, or more properly since such a consciousness has not yet devised its own instruments for its own imperial action or integral being even in terms of this present organism? This question again has been answered in two ways: the first consists in denying ultimate reality to the physical structure and our own finiteness incident upon this conditioning in such psycho-physical structures, a denial which will land us straight into the Absolute Consciousness consequent on the sublation of the present consciousness which is more neatly an inconscience and ignorance rar these nadis are found to proceed from and return to certain definite number of nerve-centres called plexuses and cakras, (lit. wheels). The Upanisads liken these to the spokes of a wheel. The integration of the nervous-paths resembles clothmesh to some others—patavat samsthitam.

A complete description of these radiating neural paths and the cakras is given by the Sandilya Upanisad.

“The body of every sentient being is ninety-six digits long. Prana extends twelve digits beyond the body. He who through the practice of Yoga reduces this Prana within his body so as to make it equal to or not less than the fire in it becomes the greatest of Yogins … 5. Two digits above the anus and two digits below the sexual organ is the centre of the body and four digits in length and breadth is situated an oval form. In its midst is the navel … Lying in the middle of the navel and above it is the seat of the Kundalini … Depending upon the Kundalini which is situate in the centre where are fourteen principle nadis. Susumna is said to be sustainer of the Universe and the path of salvation.6 Situated at the back of the anus, it is attached to the spinal column and subtle and is vaisnavi. On the left of the six Susumna is situated Ida and on the right is Pingala.

The moon is of the nature of tamas and the sun of rajas. The poison-share is of the Sun and nector of the moon. They both direct time, and Susumna is the enjoyer of time. To the back and side of Susumna are situate Sarasvati and Kuhuh respectively. Between Yasasvini and Kuhuh stands Varuni. Between Pusa and Sarasvati lies Payasvini.7 Between Gandhari and Sarasvati is situated Yasasvini.8 In the centre of the navel is Alambusa. In front of Susumna there is Kuhuh which proceeds as far as the genital organs. Above and below Kundalini is situated Varuni which proceeds everywhere. Yasasvini which is beautiful proceeds to the great toe. Pingala goes upward to the right nostril. Payasvini goes to the right ear. Gandhari goes from the back of Ida to the left eye. Alumbusa goes upwards and downwards from the root of the anus. From these fourteen nadis spring others …”

Almost an identical description is given of the cross-section of the nadi system at the Kanda or nabhi cakra by the Varaha Upanisad. It affords a corrective to the Sandilya description. It will be noted however that in the Sandilya description Hastijihva and Visvodhari are not located. The Varaha gives this description.

“Nine digits above the genitals, there is a kanda (plexus) of Nadis which revolves oval-shaped, four digits high and four digits broad. It is surrounded by fat, flesh bone and blood. In it is situate a nadi-cakra having twelve spokes. Kundalini by which this body is supported is there. It is covering by its face the Brahmarandhra of Susumna. By the side of the Susumna dwell the nadis Alambusa and Kuhuh. In the next two spokes are Varuni and Yasasvini … On the spoke south of Susumna is in regular course, Pingala. On the next two spokes are Pusa and Payasvini. On the spoke of Susumna is the nadi called Sarasvati. On the next two spokes are Sankhini and Gandahri. To the north of Susumna dwells Ida; in the next is Hatijihva, and next to it is Visvodhara.”

There is possible a misunderstanding here regarding the exact location of the Kundalini. The same Upanisad however dispels it thus: “In the centre of the anus and the genitals, there is a triangular Muladhara. It illumines the seat of Siva on the form of bindu (point). There is located the Parasakti named Kundalini.” This passage clearly states that the place of Kundalini is not the solar plexus (nabhi cakra or kanda) but the centre lower down namely the Muladhara. All this physiological speculation reveals a body of belief that there were other channels of transmission of activity than the merely physical motions or even the mental currents. The fact of correspondence is fully recognized, and the parallelism that haunted the theorists of matter and mind finds a counterblast in this psychonic interpretation of the relationship that subsists in the human organism. The spirit manifests itself as matter whilst retaining its power and control over it.

Susumna: The Prana which has brought it into being continues to sustain it. Prana moves here upwards as udana as9 a spider flies to and fro within a web of fine threads. Tamtu panjara madhyastha lutika yatha bramati tathasou tatra pranascasati,dehosmin Jivah pranarudho bhavet. The Susumna alone is situated within the spinal cord and vertebral column. (vina-danda). It alone passes through all the ganglia of the spinal cord. There are six such ganglionic structures.10 It passes through all of them like the shining thread of lotus, or rather like the lotus-stalk.11

“The Susumna which runs from the Muladhara to the Brahmarandhra has the radiance of the Sun. In the centre of it is Kundalini shining like crores of lightning and subtler than the lotus stalk.”12

All the plexuses are turned downwards. This downward bent of the Cakras is said to explain that evolution that has happened has been downwards from the highest spiritual height of the Sahasrara to the lowest material muladhara. The fulfilment of the Pravrtti so to speak of evolution, lies in the upward movement of the Kundalini through the aforesaid cakras which now have to be inverted or made to have their face upwards, urdhva-mukha, This reversal of the faces of the lotuses called cakras, is achieved by the special methods of awakening the Kundalini in the Susumna.

Each of these nadis is said to have a presiding deity. We have already mentioned that Moon is the deity of Ida and Sun of Pingala. Siva is said to be the Devata of Susumna. But Agni is mentioned as the deity by other Upanisads. Hari for Ida and Brahma for Pingala,13 are claimed to be the deities of the nadis by the Darsana Upanisad which reveals its aim to synthesize the three gods. This is the adhi-daiva aspect of the nervous organization.Cakras: So much has been written on these plexuses that it appears really necessary to ask the question: what do these plexuses mean? But the meaning of the question appears not to need any explanation when we consider that most Yogic schools accept these centres of psychic force as typifying the contact-point with the physical and neural and other functions. The Cakras or wheels or lotuses are six. The seventh is the thousand-spoked Sahasrara, in the Brain. The Nrsimhapurvatapaniya Upanisad mentioned14 that all the cakras have evolved from the Sudarsana (the Muladhara) which changes or undergoes transformations into six, eight, twelve, sixteen and thirty two spokes or petals respectively.“In the six-petalled lotus the six lettered mantra of Narayana, and the twelve-petalled lotus had the twelve-lettered mantra of Vasudeva. And in this case ordinarily in the sixteen petalled lotus are the sixteen kalas (vowels) sounded with bindu or anuswara. The thirty-two petalled lotus is really twe-petalled because there are two mantras here each of sixteen letters of Nrsimha and his Sakti.”15

The evolution of all the cakras are also said to be due to the evolution of the Sri Cakra which is described by the Tripura-tapaniya Upanisad. The Sri Cakra which is horizental at first, evolves vertically and realizes planes of consciousness and manifestations. The human organism is the result signifying this microcosmic development of the Sri Cakra. The whole description is so very mystical that it is impossible to unravel the mystery of this description.

The first cakra is the Muladhara, situated between the anus and the genitals. The second is the Svadhisthana, the third is the Manipuraka, the fourth is the Anahata, the fifth is the Visuddha, the sixth is the Ajna. The place of the Kanda is the navel, and is also identified with the Manipuraka or Nabhicakra.16 There are many more centres mentioned such as nine by the Soubhagyalaksmi and the Mandala Brahmana Upanisads including the Sahasrara. The Soubhagyalaksmi mentions Adhara, Sudarsana, (2) Svadhisthana, (3) Manipuraka, (4) Hridaya, (5) Kanta, (6) Talu (a cakra at the end of the Uvula),17 (7) Bhrucakra (tadeva kapala kandam vaksiddhi bhavati). (8) Ajna, (9) Akasacakram navamam.

In the above list we find that an unusual distinction has been made between the Bhru cakra and the Ajna cakra, and an additional cakra at the Uvula is mentioned. The Yogaraja Upanisad calls the eighth cakra Brahmarandhra, which intimates the Nirvana state: Brahmarandhram syat param nirvana sucakam. The same Upanisad calls the seventh cakra Bhru cakra, and does not mention the name Ajna. The two cakras Bhru and Talu are placed below the Ajna by the Soubhagyalaksmi Upanisad. Proceeding further into the analysis of the descriptions of the cakras, we find that the Soubhagyalaksmi Upanisad calls the final cakra not Sahasrara descriptively, but as Akasa-cakra, Etheric centre, thus giving support to the Mandala Brahmana Upanisad description of the Highest Consciousness as Akasa or Paramakasa-consciousness. It also mentions this cakra to consist of sixty-petals, which are upturned and possessing urdhva-sakti, upward moving power.18 The Varaha Upanisad mentions a dvadasanta. This dvadasanta or twelfth centre is usually identified with the Sahasrara or Parama-akasa.

It is, however, very difficult to state exactly this differences between the bhru and the Ajna cakra. From the Yogaraja Upanisad we find that even the names of Brahmarandhra and Nirvana-cakra are applied to the sixth centre, the Ajna and not to the Sahasrara, which is said to be legitimately that.The Yoga cudamani mentions the number of petals of the several cakras. The petals might be treated to be spokes also or nerve radiations. The Adhara has four petals, the svadhisthana has six petals, the Manipuraka has ten, the Anahata has twelve, the Visuddha has sixteen and the Ajna has two Petals. The Sahasrara has a thousand petals.19It would be of great interest to find out the actual relation between these cakras and the centres in neurology. An attempt was made by Dr. Vasant Rele in his Mysterious Kundalini. The notion of centres involves the diversification of functions and elements within the body, into different types of energy in the organism. The doctrine of Cakras could be compared favourably with the functions of the endocrine system. But it must remain a speculation as to how the upanisadic writers were able to identify the functions of the body and develop a doctrine of integration within the body.

Muladhara:— This is the first cakra. It is called the Mahacakra (sudarsana).20 In the Adhara of the anus, there is a lotus of four petals (caturdalam). In its midst is said to be the Yoni, the womb, called Kama.21 It is worshipped by the siddhas or those who have attained the highest conquest of life. The muladhara is in the anus.22 “In men two digits above the anus and two digits below the sexual organ in the centre of the body.” Here is a region of fire which is triangular in form and brilliant as molten gold. In the centre of the anus and the genitals, there is a triangular Muladhara. It illumines the seat of Siva of the form of bindu. There is located the supreme Sakti named Kundalini. From that seat arises Vayu (wind) From that seat fire increases. Hamsa is born from that place. From that seat Manas originates. Kundalini assumes the eight forms of Prakrti namely Mulaprakrti, Ahamkara, Manas, and the five elements23 and attains Siva by encircling and dissolving itself in Siva24. This Kundalini sleeps there like a serpent and is luminous by its own light … Full of energy and like burning gold know this Kundalini to be the power of Visnu.25 It is the mother of the three qualities. It embraces all the nadis and it closes by its head the opening of Brahma-randhra of the Susumna.26   This Muladhara in men is triangular in form and is brilliant as the molten gold is situated in the middle of the body.27 This centre is usually said to be the seat of earth-element, but interpreted by the symbol of the triangle, it is the seat of Fire.28


20. Dhyanabindu Upanisad: Yoga Kundalini II: Hamsa, Bhavana, Yogacudamani, Yoga Sikha Upanisads.

21. Dhyanabindu 44, 45: Yoga Cudamani Upanisad.

22. Varaha Upanisad.

23. Yogakundalini Upanisad I. Sandilya I.

24. Yogacudamani Upanisad Astadakundalakrtih. cf. Bh. Gita which mentions that the lower nature becomes eight-fold. VII. 4.

25. Yogakundalini Upanisad I.

26. Dhyanabindu Upanisad.

27. Yogakundalini Upanisad I.

28. Yogatattva Upanisad.

It would appear from the foregoing that Kundalini is the power of Visnu that seeks union with Siva, illumining as it does the  seat of Siva who is of the form of point-focus.

It is also clear from the above description that Kundalini is so to speak the mother or parent of all evolution of the body. This initial nucleus of life whilst evolving the several planes, yet contains within it all the potencies of unity. This Kundalini is not only the parasakti, it is also the prakrti.

Thus the theory of the Minor Yoga Upanisads reveals the stress laid on the form by which the individual organism begins to grow into the human body, or for that matter, any material body. The germinal nature of the Muladhara is as clearly pointed out just as the power of manifestation into the varied physical elements as much as Fire and Air, and Earth as well as the psychic centres called cakras or kandas are formed by it. The importance of this centre lies in its being the centre of physical manifestation, itself a combination of Earth and Fire forces. The individual body is thus developed from this seat. Alice. E. Bailey in her book The Soul and its mechanism holds that Muladhara corresponds to the Adrenal gland. But neither from the stand-point of function nor from the point of view of location is it correct.All these it may be readily admitted are speculative and fanciful. But we have later Yogins also holding the view that behind all those fanciful structures there lies an element of truth. This element of truth, they hold, could only be discovered by introspection and in Yogic trance. That the whole attitude is far removed from objective observation and experimentation seems immensely clear. That however need not invalidate the psychological truth behind this scheme or description. Despite the claim made for chemistry and physics, we find that the modes of perception are not more than the five enumerated by Indian Psychology. We also find that the plexuses and glands (endocrine) are placed in close juxta-position in the body and mutually re-enforce the activities of one another. Prof. Sajous29 has clearly pointed out the integration of the endocrine systems with the neural. He has demonstrated the importance of the harmony between the two. The movements in the neural systems are suggested to be of the chemico-electrical kind. The endocrine system operates on the lines of fluidic injection, whereas we can assume fairly rightly that the operation in the cakra-system is by means of vital-psychic force of concentration, which includes within it control of the activities of all the sense-organs, the heating of the body through Prana, and damming of all energies and forcing them to move in the spinal cord and through it urge it to move upward to the crown of the head or brain so as to re-enforce consciousness.

2. Svadhisthana: The plexus at the genitals is spoken of as the Svadhisthana because prana is here with its own sound. – sva sabdena prana svadhisthana tadasrayam. It is said to be the genital organ itself. The cakra is in the sphere of the basic plexus and it has a figure of molten gold and shining like streaks of lightning. It is the seat of the water element. This cakra has six petals (sad-dalam)30

3. Manipuraka : This important cakra is usually identified with the solar plexus even as the previous one is identified with the genitals. The name Manipuraka is given to it for the reason that the ‘body at this point is pierced through by vayu (prana) like gems by a string (the Susumna). “Like a gem pierced through by a thread the Kanda is pierced by the Susumna. This cakra in the region of the navel is called manipuraka,” says the Yoga Cudamani Upanisad. “The soul is urged to actions by its own karma, virtuous and sinful, it whirls about in this great cakra of twelve spokes, so long as it does not grasp the truth,” says the Dhyanabindu Upanisad.31 This centre is the centre of fire, Agni—pavakassaktim adhyetu nabhicakra vyavasthitah, as the Brahmopanisad says.

The Varaha Upanisad places the Kundalini at this centre, and remarks that Jvalanti, Nadarupini, Pararandhra and Susumna are the basic supports of Nada (Kundalini). These four are said to be of ruby colour. Though Kundalini is at the Muladhara, it is also at every other centre including the Manipuraka, being supported by the Susumna, which extends the whole length of the vertebral column (vinadanda). The meaning is that Kundalini in its present pravrtti aspect stands coiled up at the three lower centres, the Muladhara, Svadhisthana and Manipuraka, and has control over the physical, vital and neural centres of the body.

On this point Arthur Avalon writes that the two descriptions are not conflicting. “The Merudanda is the vertebral column which is the axis of the body is supposed to bear the same relation to it as does the Mount Meru to the Earth. It extends from the Mula or Muladhara to the neck. Susumna is undoubtedly a nadi within the vertebral column and as such is well described by the books as the principal of all nadis runs along the length of the Merudanda as does the spinal cord of western Physiology if we include the filum terminale. If we include the filum and take the Kanda to be between the anus and the penis, it starts from practically the same (sacrococcygeal) region, the Muladhara, and is spoken of as extending to the region of the Brahmarandhra or to a point below the twelve-petalled lotus, that is, at the spot below but close to the Sahasrara or cerebellum where the nerve Citrini ends”32. Thus it is explained that the coiling serpent is stretching from the Muladhara to the Manipuraka.

Anahata Cakra: From this cakra begins the subtle or psychic regions of evolution. More correctly, we may regard this as the cakra of mind, citta. This cakra has not been adequately described by many writers. The older Upanisads speak about a heart centre, but that does not easily tally with this. The Minor Yoga Upanisads do not describe the Upanisadic centre of the heart. The Author of the Serpent Power has given a full description of the centre in both the aspects, and it is extracted here for the sake of clarification.

“The heart lotus is of the colour of banduka flower (red) and on its twelve petals are the letters Ka to Tha with the bindu over them, of the vermillion colour. In its pericarp is the hexagonal vayumandala of a smoky colour and above it surya-mandala with the trikona lustrous as ten million flames of lightning within it. Above it the vayu with the bija of a smoky hue is seated on a black antelope fourarmed and carrying a goad (angkusha). In his (vayubijas) lap is three-eyed Isa, like Hamsa (hangsabha) his two arms are extended, in the pericarp of this lotus seated on a red lotus, is the Sakti Kakini. She is four-armed, and carries the noose (pasha) the skull (kapala) and makes the boon (vayu) and fear-dispelling signs (abhaya). She is of golden hue, is dressed in yellow rainent, and wears every variety of jewel and a garland of bones. Her heart is softened by nector. In the middle of the trikona is Siva in the form of Vanalinga with the crescent moon and bindu on his head. He is of golden colour. He looks joyous with the rush of desire. Below him is Jivatma-like Hamsa. It is like the steady tapering of a lamp. Below the pericarp of this lotus (anahata) is the red lotus of eight petals with its head upturned. It is in this red tree that there are Kalpa trees, the jewelled altar surmounted by an awing and decorated by flags and the like, which is the place of mental worship”.33

This long description reveals that there are two cakras really, one major and the other minor, the first the centre of the Susumna, the second the place of mental worship, upasana cakra or sthana. A doctrine of this kind of two centres is substantiated by the Dhyanabindu Upanisad.

33. Serpent Power: A. Avalon. p. 150 Ganesh & Co. Madras.

“In the seat of the heart is a lotus of eight petals.34 In its centre is the Jivatma of the form of jyotis and atomic in size, moving in a circular line. In it is located everything. It knows everything. It does everything. It does all these actions attributing everything to its own power (thinking) I do, I enjoy, I am happy, I am miserable, etc.”

This same Upanisad also mentions that the lotus has eight petals and thirty-two filaments, confirming the tantric description of the lower cakra. This lower cakra according to the description of the Dhyana-bindu, Naradaparivrajaka and the Hamsa seems to be the seat of Citta or cintana and of emotive ahamkara,35  which is declared to be below the heart. This lower cakra is certainly below the position ascribed to the Anahata. In a psychological consideration we find that this cakra is an Upasana cakra. Thus the Dhyanabindu Upanisad writes:

“When it (the Jiva) rests on the eastern petal which is cf white (sveta) colour, then it has a mind to bhakti and dharma. When it rests on the south-eastern petal which is of blood colour than it is inclined to sleep and laziness. When it rests on the southern petal which is of black colour then it is inclined to hate and anger.36 When it rests on the south-western petals which is of blue (nila) colour, then it gets desire for sinful and harmful actions. When it rests on the western petal which is of crystal colour then it is inclined to flirt and amuse.”

The Narada-parivrajaka Upanisad in its sixth Upadesa describes this lotus, and takes it to possess eight-fold vrttis or changes of temperament which the Jiva undergoes as it restlessly flies, in addition to the Dhyana-bindu statement. “Staying at the middle it gets, vairagya, renunciation, it knows everything, sings, dances, speaks and is blissful.” It is likely that the Hamsa Upanisad mention centre when it describes the threefold changes of states of consciousness. “In the filament (of this lotus) there arises the svapna (dream-state): in the Bija (seed of the pericarp) arises susupti (dreamless sleep-state): when leaving the lotus there arises the turya (fourth state).”

All these descriptions most likely applies to the dahara lotus in whose centre is the Isa or Pundarika or Visnu or Antaryamin as the Upasana Avatar. The Dahara Lotus be the place of mental worship. The Subala37 Upanisad says “In the middle of the heart is a red fleshy mass in which is the Dahara Lotus. Like the lotus, it opens into many (petals).  There are ten openings in the heart. The pranas are located there …” “Now the Dahara lotus has many petals like a lily … The Divine Atma sleeps in the Akasa of the heart, in the supreme kosa.” In conformity with this the Chandogya passage runs thus.38  “There is in this city of Brahman the small lotus house and in it that small ether, that should be sought for,” The Ksurika Upanisad describes the Dahara lotus in the passage:

“Tato raktotpala bhasam brdayayatanam mahat, pundarikam tad vedantesu nigadyate.” 39

The Dhyanabindu also mentions that the lotus it has described is the seat of Visnu. “One should contemplate upon the Omkara as Isvara resembling on unshaken light, as of a size of thumb and as motionless in the middle of the pericarp of the lotus of the heart.”40 This same is described as the seat of the Jivatma also, as evidenced by the following statement;

“Hrdi sthane astama dala padmam vartate, tanmadhye rekhavalayam Krtva jivatmarupam jyotirupam anumatram vartate.”41

The Soubhagyalaksmi Upanisad mentions that the Hrdi cakra has got eight petals.

“Hrdaya cakram astamadalam adhomukham.

Tan madhye jyotirmaya lingakaram dhyayet.”

The Yoga Cudamani and the Yoga sikha alone describe the Anahata cakra, and assign to it twelve petals,42  in consonance with the view expressed by the tantras and the Gheranda and Siva Samhitas.

Thus there is disparity as between the Upanisads themselves. The Upanisads which speak of the Hrdaya padma as the dahara Lotus, as the seat of Pundari daharam pundarikam vesma,43 intend to speak about the seat of meditation, and not about the psycho-physiological cakra, the Anahata.

Some of the Upanisads which mention the names of the cakras do not describe all of them; they describe the lower centres only. To this class belong the Varaha, Sandilya Upanisads. The Yogaraja Upanisad which does not belong to the orthodox 108 Upanisads, of which there is a copy in the Adyar Library, mentions this centre apparently,44 and calls this the seat of the Jiva, thus making it identical with the Dahara lotus. The Yoga Kundalini merely mentions45 the number of cakras without describing them. The Hamsa46 mentions the path of ascent through the centres from the Muladhara to the Sahasrara, but it does not describe the centres. The Yoga tattva Upanisad speaks of this cakra as established in the heart and that it is inverted—hrdi sthane sthitam padmam tasya vatkram adhoumukham.47 The Physiological Upanisad, Sariraka, does not mention the centres at all, and the Garbha Upanisad mentions them without describing them.

All this shows that tantric influences might have been at work in regard to the Yoga Kundalini, Yoga Cudamani and Yoga sikha Upanisads, whereas the Upanisads which declare only the Dahara lotus might conceivable be nearer to the older Upanisads.

The twelve petals of the Anahata are assigned to the twelve letters. The attribution of eight petals to the Dahara lotus represents the eight-fold vrttis of mind. In either case the attributions of petals or rather spokes (afferent or efferent nerves) to them is significant.

Dahara Lotus: The Paingala Up.48 declares it to be the place of the Antaryamin Visnu. “It is the actual Narayana alone that is established in the heart.” Says the Subala49 “Within the body is the one eternal unborn located in the cave of the heart. The earth is his body …”. The Nrsimha Upanisad50 says that the objective forces of nature are symbolically referred to in relation to the human form as being seated in the navel, the will to be live in the heart, and subjective states of mind between the eye-brows.” The importance of this centre in meditations is greater than that of the Ajna cakra (the centre between the eye-brows or on the forehead) for important reasons.

It is the residence of the Antaryamin (and the Jiva) from which He pervades the entire body. The Jiva is moving round and round the petals of the lotus whereas the Supreme Divine is in the centre established as its lord.

It is the source of prana, vayu and by the union of prana and apana, samadhi results. And it is from this centre the Jiva (hamsa) moves up and down. But one has to make it not merely to move upward alone but also be able to lose oneself in the central Sun of its life.

This is also, the centre of Citta, which has eightfold vrttis or changes. To control the citta is the function of Yoga according to Patanjali—Yogas cittavrtti nirodhah.

Visuddha Cakra: This cakra is not described as fully as others. This is said to have sixteen spokes or petals and situated at the throat (Kantakupa). It is said to be the seat of vowel sounds. This is the sentre of Akasa, (Kha) important for khecari-vidya. It is here that Nada (sound) for the first time becomes manifest, individuated, vaikhari.

The Yoga tattva Upanisad mentions that the eye-brow centre is the centre of Akasa.

The Talu cakra is situated very near the Visuddha, Referred to only in a few Upanisads, it is not an important centre at all. Perhaps from a physiological consideration it might stand for the parathyroid gland.

Ajna cakra: The two petalled lotus which is between the eye-brows, bhru-madhya is also described as possessing thirty two petals by the Nrsimha-purvatapaniya Upanisad. The reason assigned for this discrepancy is that the two petals possess two mantras of sixteen letters each. It is the meeting place of the two important nadis, Ida and Pingala, and since the Susumna passes through this as it does through others, it can be considered to have the two spokes or petals of Ida and Pingala.

The Sandilya Upanisad refers to this conjunction of the Ida Pingala and Susumna which parted at the Muladhara (or Manipuraka). “The Moon moves in Ida and the Sun in the Pingala. As these circle round the Ajna Cakra the Ajna is legitimately called the Mahakala,” (Breath being the measurer of time). The Jabala Upanisad confirms the Siva Samhita view of the Ajna Cakra as Varanasi. “The Lotus which is situated in the Muladhara has four petals in the space between them dwells the Sun. From that sphere of the Sun poison exudes continuously. That excessively heating venom flows through the Pingala. The venom (the fluid of mortality) which flows here continuously in a stream goes to the right nostril as the moon-fluid of immortality goes to the left.”51

The movement of the Ida and Pingala around the Susumna is almost like the Cadaceus of Mercury.52 “Pingala is the Asi and Ida the Varana.” One should know that the middle of the eye-brows in the forehead which is also the root of the nose is the seat of nector. That is the great place of Brahman.” says the Dhyanabindu Upanisad. All sins are annihilated here – servendriya papan nasayati tena nasi bhavati.

This Bhru Madhya is the place one is asked to fix one’s attention on in meditation, if it is impossible to fix it on the heart lotus. This is, physiologically speaking, the centre for the optic nerves, and is invariably focussed upon in all cases of voluntary and involuntary attention. It is declared to be the centre of thought, manas, sensorium as distinguished from emotional citta. It is here that the knot of mortality is placed. This is place of Ether—akasa—according to the according to the Yogasikha Upanisad Akasa mandalam vrittam devatasya sadasivah, nadarupam bhruvormadhye manaso mandalam vidin.53

The Tantric literature suggests other centres namely Lalana, Manas, Soma and others.54 These centres are not mentioned by the Upanisads, but the Varaha and the Sandilya Upanisads do mention a twelfth centre which means that they are aware of other centres also. This twelfth centre is Sahasrara,55 therefore there should be five centres between the Ajna and the Sahasrara.

A description of the stages of Omkara in the Nadabindu and Naradaparivrajaka Upanisads reveals the names of Nada, Nadanta, Unmani and Manonmani. Now Unmani is considered to be a centre equal to the Sahasrara, and to reach that stage of Yoga means Amanaska Yoga.

From all these it is clear that the centres of consciousness of the high level as in the case of the lower have been speculatively localized and identified with certain plexuses.

Sahasrara:- This is the highest centre capable of being identified with the entire brain. Rich with petals and nerves it is here that the greatest activity of the psychic is available. This is the centre of integration of personality not only with itself and its body but the Divine itself plays the chief role. It is here that Sakti and Siva are in constant union. It is here the Hamsa (jiva which discriminates) remains in mystic union with its Isvara. It thus becomes the Parama-hamsa. This is the highest fruit of Samadhi, of Turiya consciousness. Such then is the importance of this centre from the psychological as well as neural levels of consciousness that it is not surprising that it is considered to be the pathway to the Supreme—the Brahma-randhra. This is the centre of Ananda—bliss of the Divine. Thus we find that all siddhis come about to him who has by dint of his ascesis been able to unite himself with his inner seer and Lord at the heart. For it is only in the company of that Lone One that one reaches the highest centre—not by oneself, however wide awake and full and persevering. It is the important point about this centre that it means all or none. No partial attainment is possible, that is, the centres presumed to exist in its wide bosom are of the transcendental integrating variety. They form a unity in multiplicity.

The study of the Cakras inevitably leads one to the study of the socalled knots of existence. The knots are of three kinds, the knot of creation, the knot of sustenance, (permanence) and the knot of destruction, Brahma, Visnu and Rudra. The Brahma Granthi is placed rightly at the centre of procreation the Svadhisthana, the Visnu granthi appropriately at the heart, and the Rudra granthi at the Ajna Cakra of tapas of askesis that burns up all ignorance. Brahmagranthi rakaro ca visnugranthirhrdasamsthitam Rudragranthirbhruvormadhye…56 These are three inverted triangles in the primary cakras, Muladhara, Anahata and Ajna. Belonging to the three planes physical-vital and mental-vital and supramental-mental.

The Brahmagranthi is placed just about the space between the Muladhara and the Svadhisthana.57

“Really speaking these (six) (cakras) signify the roots or origins (of the Universe) as said in the fourth chapter of the Dattatreya Samhita. The Muladhara and the other five cakras are together called Kula: there are three knots among them. These three are called Devi cakras. The earth and water cakras58 are indicated by the Brahmagranthi. The next two powerful and shining cakras are fire and sun, these two are indicated by Visnu-granthi, this shining one confers all the siddhis. The next two cakras in the form of air and ether are indicated by the Rudragranthi, the seat of mighty benefits.”59

All the cakras (lotuses) are inverted with their faces turned downwards. As Kundalini passes through them with terrific velocity she upturns them and in this correct position or Urdhva-mukha they are very beneficial and powerful. The Varaha Up. mentions this process. “At first in this brahmagranthi there is produced a passage. Then having pierced the Brahmagranthi, he pierces the Visnugranthi and then he pierces Rudragranthi.” The Yoga Kundalini Up. says “Kundalini being heated by heated by Agni and stirred by Vayu, extends her body in the mouth of the Susumna and pierces Brahmagranthi formed of Rajas and flashes at once like lightning at the mouth of Susumna. Then it goes it goes up through Rudragranthi.60 and above it to the middle of the eye-brows having pierced this place61, it goes up to the Mandala (sphere of the Sahasrara).” The same Upanisad gives an identical description at another place. The knots are knots of maya-sakti movements towards externalising and objective attraction, attachment and egoism. The knots are the ‘points of convergence of the three groups of our life-activities’ and are “points at which converge of each of the three groups” taken two by two.

The sketch we have given of the nature and location of the Cakras and the granthis is what we find to be at once speculative and mystical. But there is here to those who see beyond the efforts to localize functions and spheres, an amount of truth. The whole group of cakras are the subtle counterpart of the physical sheaths (levels) and reveal an activity of integration of the functions belonging to the several sheaths (levels). The knowledge of one sheath is impossible without a corresponding and increasing knowledge of the others. The higher the development, the greater the recognition of the partialitas-nature of knowledge that one has. The spheres called granthis really are crucial points. Note has to be taken of the fact that they are called Devi-cakras, though named masculinely as the knots of Brahma, Visnu and Rudra.

The aim of a realized consciousness is to organise integrally all the planes of human beings.This aim is said to be mainy of the Hatha-Yogi .This shows that the Hatha-yogi felt the need for a more fine understanding of the psych-physical relation than the other Yogins who grasping the truth of the higher condemned all these types of Yoga to the illuding category.The integral Yogi on the other hand does not sacrifice the body or the mind but tries to make them the temple of the indwelling spirit. This is the integral possibility. It is not purification that is sought after by the Yogi, but transformation of the human nature itself so that on all planes and at once the highest Consciousness, might act even like the devas, or rather more correctly, like the eternals who are greater than the gods.

The physiological descriptions are psychonic descriptions and tally well with the physiological theories of the plexuses and the glandular organization as demonstrated by professor Sajous and Prof. Dakin.62 It should not be forgotten that the descriptions are not of the physiological material order but of the vital and subtle order. Having opened the heart you cannot ask for the anahata cakra; it is in situ that you must find it, and the in situ in this case means the living being. It is difficult enough in psychology to find adequate explanations for mental processes, it is still more difficult when one is asked the correlate the psychic behaviour with the psycho-physical apparatus of the subtle order of electric movements and etheric impacts with a lot of sectarian and mythological figures thrown in.


62 Modern Biological Problems: Dakin p.27.


The cakras are accepted by the systems of Vaikhanasas and their accounts agree with the account given in the Minor Upanisads.

Sri Bhagavadarcaprakaranam (Vaikhanasa Granthamala ed.p.60 ff). The order of arrangement in mentioning them is not clear. The adhi-devatas of the centres (cakras) however are different according to the theory of Arca followed by the Vaikhanasa school. Narayana is situate at sahasrara. Adimurti at the Ajna, Aniruddha at Visudda, Acyuta at the Anahata (Hrdi cakrs), Sudarsana at the Manipurakka, purusa at the Svadhisthana and Visnu at the Gudasthana.

Marici Samhita (another Vaikhanasa text) give the description of the body  describing the several centres: P.  500ff.

Gudasthana vahni-mandalam, hemabham trikona vahni mandalam Purusa Kandasthanam Dvadasarayutam cakram, tatra cakre Punyapapa pracoditas tantu Panjara Madhyasthe lutika iva pranarudhah pravartate (Bhramati) Jivah. Nabhaur Urdhve  kundalini Saktih.

Hrdayas arkabimbam tasmin sakarabijanvitam sahasra jvalayutam jyotirjvalati. Tanmadhye mandala puruse visnumurtih. (Surya mandalam).

Nasaagre suddhasphatikasamkasam candrabimbam … Tanmadhye mandala puruse Narayanamurtih.

Marici Samhita describes the yogi siddhis that accrue from the meditations on the several centres: p, 502 ff.

The Jayakhya Samhita (Baroda ed.) (an important Pancarastra work) does not mention the names of the Cakras. It gives a detailed account of the Bhuta-suddhi and Deha-suddhi and also the formation of the subtle mantric body which is of great importance in worship. It mentions the six steps of the Atman: satpadi hyatmatattva. (X. verse 64 pp.  90)

It mentions only one cakra mainly the prabha cakra which is situated at the Nabhi (verses 25 and 68). Prabhacakre, whose sakti is the Vaisnavi-prabhacakram-nabhisthitam). There is mention of the Susumna and its upward path.

Ahirbudhanya Samhita: A very important Pancaratha work, (Vol.II, 31st Chapter, Adyar Edition). There are 72,000 nadis established in the human body. The Muladhara is called the Vahini-mandalam or the region of fire. The Nabhi cakra of twelve spokes is declared to be the place where the Kundalini resides. It is there that one should meditate on the Sudarsana, the power of Isvara.

sikha sthane nabhi cakre hrdayamburuhe tatah,

Kantakupe bhruvormadhye jihvamule tathaiva ca,

manoh sadaksaranyesu kramenaiva vicintyayet.

                                                       (xxxii chap.50 verse)

Cakras are dealt with generally in extenso in the tantrik works, Pratyabhjnadarsana, Soundaryalahiri, Mahanirvana-tantra. Kundalini is the most important principle of power of creation and realization. Cf. Kasmirian Saivism: J. K. Chatterjee.

The System of cakras according to Gorakhnath: Gopinath Kaviraj: P. W. S. B. Studies Vol.II, p.85.

Siva Samhita, Gherenda Samhita and Suta Samhitas make mention of the Hatha Yoga or Kundalini Yoga.

Sangita Darpana of Damodara mentions the cakras (13ff-24 verse) thus:

Gudalingantara cakram adharakhyam caturdalam …

It thus includes Lalana a cakra of 12 petals at the Uvula, and also states that the Ajna has three petals instead of two ascribed to it by all other writers. Further it states that there are higher centres like Soma and Manas. We find also that in the states of consciousness, there are stages corresponding to these like Unmani, Manomani, Amanaska etc. The aim has been localization of states of consciousness in the material subtle or gross or mantric (etheric) body.




Ancient Vedic Thought is a mine of information for all seekers after knowledge. The Gita is said to be the essence of the Vedic Thought. The general tendency therefore has been to study the Gita and claim that all is known when it is known. A correct appraisal however seems to demand that after reading and understanding the Gita if one goes to the source, the Veda, one would find great treasures. The Gita was wonderfully expounded to Arjuna by Sri Krishna for the sake of granting the final word, the word that would save humanity really. The Gita has many passages which are common to the Upanishads. In this short paper it is shown how the passages in the Kathopanishad and the Gita are addressed to different adhikarins. It is well-known that what is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander. Different psychological conditions and abilities have to be dealt with differently. This principle  the ancients knew is sound. It prevents waste of energy and on the whole secures maximum social and spiritual benefit.

The problem of the Kathopanishad is the problem of attainment of the immortal status through Yajna or works. That Yojna secures the immortal abode, from which there is no return to the mortal existence. The second problem is the problem of knowledge as to what happens to a soul on liberation? These two problems were presented to Yama by Naciketas in the form of two boons, the second and the third. Yama grants the two boons : but he considered the third boon more important than the second. Even though the first knowledge, namely the knowledge of the construction of the Naciketa fire-altar leads to the supreme peace, the knowledge of the state of the soul after liberation is said to lead to a higher status of being – the Paramam Padam from which there is no return. There is conquest over death and birth from the first knowledge itself. This cannot be mere preyas and the Taittiriya Brahmana and the Mahabharata versions do not think so. The Upanisad however almost seems to suggest that the goal arrived at by the Naciketa fire alter is lesser because Yama makes a great point about the imparting of the great secret whilest he made no protest of any sort for imparting the knowledge of the Trinaciketa-fire-altar. Are we entitled to draw the conclusion that preyas was taught in the second boon and the sreyas in the third boon? And does it suggest itself to us that these two boons indeed refer to the Isavasyopanisad passage: “avidyaya mrtyum tirtva vidyaya amrtam asnute”? Or shall we be correct in interpreting this to mean that the benefits that accrue to the follower of Sankhya (jnana-marga) are identical with the results that accrue from the path of karma as Sri Krishna has stated in the Gita:

Samkhyayogau prthag balah pravadanti na panditah!

Ekamapyasthitas samyag ubhayor vindate phalam ! V.4.

This is an important point to remember because some great commentators like Sri Sankaracarya do consider that the second boon is of the order of preyas whereas the third boon is of the sreyas. The internal mental condition of the asker of the boons seems to be absolutely against any desire for preyas. He was unseduceable. Nor was he afraid of death.

In the Gita the first problem is that of life and death. The great slaughter of kinsmen had to be done for the establishment of righteousness and of rights understood in a social sense. Arjuna did not like to kill those whom he revered and he was upset by his own imagination of the consequences that might result from the war. Sympathy, awe, terror at the prospect of social collapse of values made him shrink from the carnage. Weak-mindedness, sense of guilt and sin seem to have characterised the great warrior. In contrast to this attitude we find Naciketas who has been gifted away to Death, Mrtyu or Yama, saying:

“bahunam emi prathamo bahunam emi madhyamah!

kim svid yamasya kartavyam yan mayadya karisyati!!

anupasya yatha purve pratipasya tathapare!

sasyam iva martyah pacyate sasyam iva jayate punah!!”  I.5-6.

This was the psychological development of the soul of Naciketas which had already contemplated on the process of birth and death and its rebirth in the world even like corn. There is no trace of fear in the words of Naciketas, no anxiety or sorrow to embitter his passage to death. Even the very words are almost repeated by Sri Krishna when he tells Arjuna:

bahuni me vyatitani janmani tava carjuna !

tanyaham veda sarvani na tvamvettha parantapa!!”   

Naciketas, though not like the Avatar, knew the process and even the other instruction that later on in the Upanisad comes from Yama, that neither is one a killer nor the other the killed, for the first boon of Naciketas was to request Yama to make his father kindly to himself. To seek the welfare of one who was unkind to oneself is the expression of the inward understanding of the truth that neither the killer nor the killed are really responsible. Naciketas arrives at a point when the question of fear of death seems to torment or terrify him no longer. He is a jnani, who had arrived at the point when he seeks the highest truth alone, whom the Gita had described – “bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate!” Rightly then Naciketas was a sreyas-seeker, a brahmana fitted for the Brahman-knowledge, Brahma Jnana. The Gita is addressed to an enlightened warrior, an artharthi rather than a jnanarthi, and an arta (a distressed person) despite the use of the word “sreyas” in “yacchreyah syan niscitam bruhi tan me sisyas teham sadhi mam tvam prapannam”. (II.7). Sri Krishna no where advises Arjuna to take up the dharma of the higher but exhorts him to do the duty of his station and birth, though for the understanding of these it was obviously necessary to traverse the whole field of knowledge (tattva), means (hita), and ends (purusartha). The word ‘sreyas’ in this context is a limited one; it means what is good or best under the circumstances for Arjuna, which would make him sinless (apapa). The problem of the conflict of Arjuna was in a sense much more difficult than what we find in the Kathopanisad.

Despite the identity of the passages in the Katha and the Gita the climate of the one is different from that of the other. The higher consciousness of the Upanisad has to be taken into consideration in interpreting the passages there, whereas in the Gita, the Lord has descended to teach a dharma which is needed for the worldly and the laymen which will lead them to the higher dharma.


The Kathopanisad analogy of the chariot and the Charioteer (I.iii.3) is also meant in the Gita. But the Lord almost shows the importance of the self in the government of the entire body. The charioteer atma is to be known only through effort by the Yogins- “yatanto yoginascainam pasyantyatmanyavasthitam” XV. The Katha seems to suggest that the self is the category that controls the senses that run after the objects of sense and yoked to the manas it should control them thoroughly and always. And it is in the context of self-government or government by the self, Sri Krishna intimates it is government by the Supreme Self in all beings that leads to right government. The government may be by Kama when it would be mightily used for the destruction of all, for Kama is mightier than indriyas, manas, buddhi and is itself dominant over all. This is said to be the meaning of the great verse III. 42 Gita :

            Indriyani paranyahur indriyebhyah param manah!

            Manasastu para buddhih yo buddheh paratastu sah!!

by Sri Ramanuja.

The following are Kathopanisad verses (III. 10-11).

Indriyebhya para hyartha arthebhyas ca param manah!

Manastu para buddhir buddher atma mahan parah!!

Mahatah param avyaktam avyaktat purusah parah!

Purusan na param kincit sa kastha sa para gatih!!

Here it is the distinctions between the categories of being showing how the subordination of all the prior categories had to be done to the higher ones in a deliberate manner. Thus one reaches the Higher who controls all the other categories, through discrimination. There are two masters clamouring for charioteership, Kama and Atma. Both are superior to the vikritis, buddhi downward and Atma is superior to Kama which is but the form of Prakrti.

Whether it is Karmayoga or Jnana Yoga it seems to be necessary to make the self the master of works as of knowledge. The Gita goes in this sense in advance of the Katha when it instructs the path of Surrender to the Lord and the doing of all duties, works and thoughts as offering to the Lord alone. By this devotion to the Lord increases and man begins to enjoy not merely that which is good (sreyas) but also that which passes for ‘preyas’. Such wealth that one gets as an instrument of service to the Divine and not as an end sought after.

Therefore I have put down my reflections on the two works in the hope that scholars would consider the Upanishads to be in general addressed to the jnanarthins rather than mere moksarthins and dharmarthins. Hinduism has works suited to all but it should be noted that proper understanding of them can only be had if we take their context and climate.



THE mystical consciousness is different from the religious. Mystical Consciousness or Cosmic Consciousness is characteristically typified by the pioneers, liberators and idealists, who envisage a state of existence that is planetary or extra-worldly. The mystics are, because of this consciousness, iconoclasts governing their lives from some supreme principle or vision or sense of responsibility to higher forces immanent and transcendent within them. They have a sense of values and the ordinary world is worthless in their eyes. Sacrifice and struggle is their vocation. They may be born amidst traditions, and they may even embrace them, but they are never their slaves and followers. They adapt them to changing conditions with an eye to the Goal of mankind. A far-off look, a wide-awake intelligence and a stubborn resistance to all that lead to bondage of the human spirit are signs of the genuine mystic. They are mumuksus, seekers after liberation, which is to them the Reality of being. They are negators of negation, annihilators of limitation; they are not of the earth, conventional, abiding and obedient.

As the Mystical Consciousness can only occur in advanced and mature minds, though mere traces of it can be found in the primitive vital surgings of the individual who struggles and survives against an environment that seeks to devour him, it has been acclaimed as the only truth of being, the highest Consciousness of which we are aware, the Mystical Consciousness in so far as it is a force of great vitality and importance to progress and self-realization, is indispensable to life itself. Aspiration is everything. And aspiration for svarajya is most valuable. Mystic Consciousness is aware of value as ideal, which must be realized. It is the Promethean force and Dionysic in its frenzy which brooks no barrier, however highplaced. Mystic Consciousness is the bearer of value, the highest and the greatest of which the human consciousness is aware. But this should not blind us to the existence of another attitude that claims an equal importance in human life.

The religious attitude is apparently a more peaceful one, realistic and possessed of the Consciousness of dependence on some higher principle of Being. Supreme Faith in its rationality and justice and dependence utter and entire on it and reverence and wonder at the ways of the Providence and Deity are characteristics of the religious attitude. Loyalty or faith is absolute. The sense of the comforting nature of the Belief in the Divine is present. Love for the creation as the solution of man’s misery is not a prominently present as the love for the Creator. The primitive human being or men of low mental calibre cannot appreciate the majesty of the cosmic phenomena, much less can they appreciate the inroads on nature that the human being has made in the transformation of the natural surroundings. Progress has been registered, but to the religious man, all these are achieved, and more are achievable, only through the Will of God. God is all in the view of the individual religious man. The summum bonum of life is realization of God rather than self-realization. But the religious attitude has another characteristic too which is that it leads to the birth into Divine Consciousness and enjoyment of the Divine. Sambhuti or birth into Divine Consciousness is the aim and effort of all religious people. To enjoy the Divine Lord through surrender to his will is one of the most significant features of the religious consciousness, more significant than the other features of following rituals and observing other practices. This is what the Commentator of the Isa Upanisad makes out of the significant and pregnant phrase Sambhuti-birth. The use in the context of two words, Asambhuti and Sambhuti is dynamic, and informs the praxes that have to be undertaken by the seeker. The practice of the destruction and the practice of birth are two stages of a single phenomenon, but they are both needed. The results that occur from them are individual results, resulting in the knowledge of the Divine which alone confers the boon of Amrtanubhava immortality-experience. The sense of creatureliness,  dependence, recognition of the Highest Being as in all things and beings, as controlling, ordering and destining all creatures, as the supporter, creator as well as destroyer, are indeed included in the definition of the Divine Lord. The darkness of the night, and the deepening frightfulness of the forests, the high protrusions and huge sizes of the rocks and boulders, wide expanses of water and deep gorges and ravines are phenomena that strike terror in human hearts, and display the greatness of the Creator who far surpasses any calculation of strength by us. The glory of the stars and regularity in the periods of the day and night, and all eclipses reveal that the ruler is governing the world according to Order, Rta. Even Kant and Goethe succumbed to the religious attitude because of the Supernatural nature of the Divine Order. They could unsettle Nature, make it phenomenal, but God they never could dislodge. The Ontological argument of Anselm could never be divorced from the Cosmological. Des Cartes built up his entire doubting system on the basis of this axiom of Inner Ruler, Deamon who must exist to delude at least but who would never condescend to delude him.

The religious consciousness then is existent; it is law-abiding rational, and never sensational. It is aware of the greatness and grandness of Creation, and aware also that the human individual can never be its creator. It seeks to know, to understand, to solve the mystery, the most central, of man’s dependence and existence in the total order of things. To experience it is the one and only aspiration. The main features of such a consciousness so far as the west is concerned is found in the lives of Spinoza and Leibniz who were pluralists and conscious of their dependence on the Divine. The Bhakti cult rests profoundly on the feeling of dependence and a seeking after the fullest exemplification of that dependent relation. Those schools are fundamentally religious systems, which teach the practice of dependence on the One supreme Lord. Theism or the acceptance of God is the acceptance of the dependence of man and all creatures on Him, in whom they live and move and have their being. That the bhakti might be explosive and emotional or rational and resigned does not in the least take away from it the quality of utter dependence on God.

Man is met in the life of the bhakta as part of God, and only through God are others realized as brothers and participators in God’s Lila.

In mysticism then, life is an adventure, a progress made by the individual, a purusakara towards the ideal of utter self-realization not different at earlier stages from the seeking of independence. This struggle for independence is quite different from the struggle for dependence. But on a profounder consideration, just like the doctrine of negation where all negation is determination, so also all struggle after independence (negation) is indeed the struggle after dependence (affirmation) on God. It is this significant fact that is evident from the Upanisadic teaching.

The history of the growth of Indian thought might well be said to illustrate the two tendencies. It is undoubted that the Idea of God is the first and foremost feature. In fact, the Rg Veda is said to represent the evolution of God through the gods who belong to several planes and represent the incarnation of the forces of various malefic and benefic kinds. The recognition of the two-fold nature of the forces itself is sufficient warrant for the impending struggle, religious as well as ethical. Gods of light and life are invoked against the forces of darkness and death. But it is clear that the hope and trust in the Divine alone can make life triumph. God must become the master of Maya and indeed utilize it for manifesting his greatness. The dialectic works thus towards the distinct superiority and lordship of the Divine Lord. Knowledge of the Divine leads to transcendence and conquest over death and disintegration, defeat and disaster. Action that men do must be action that is sanctified by knowledge. Ignorant action it is that leads to death, whereas action that is governed by knowledge is what leads to liberation and true creation. The seer who sees far beyond the present, whose vision transcends the limits of ordinary perception, one who is kranta-darsi, executes his action from the transcendental standpoint, sub specie eterni it may be, for that is the meaning of the kranta-darsi; a free man thus is one who in almost every respect resembles his God.

The mystical consciousness also has this danger of being diverted to mere struggle after abstract freedom, kevalatva. The Samkhyan Purusa is the standing witness of mere freedom. Such a being who stands alone in his isolation is little comfort. Nor is the Buddhistic Buddha who has attained Nirvana very different from such a lonely figure. It is impossible for such lonely creatures to survive their loneliness. It is with characteristic brilliance that the Vedic passage intimates that God even feeling lonely sought out His Creation. Even the transcendent requires the phenomenal, the Divine the human. No wonder the fall (or at least the so-called fall) from the supreme Isolationism of Samkhya and Buddhism to the latter stages of the same doctrines is significant of the truth. Just as the intellectualized fictions of ritualism or representative symbolism cannot long sustain an atmosphere of non-empiricism or pseudo-empiricism and has to come to terms with Yathartha-jnana, real knowlege of the concrete human situation and knowledge and growth and struggle (as Platonism also fully was made to feel), so also mere struggle after liberty from all limitations and impediments has to come to terms with the realization of the Supreme on whom all are dependent, and indeed has to join its forces with such an effort.

Such then is the general thesis of the paper. The fact about our spiritual life consists in a four-fold activity. First and foremost the realization and deepening consciousness of the living presence which can be said to be synthetic knowledge. Such a knowledge far from being mere intellectualization of life is a dynamic source of all action. Knowledge becomes the bed-rock of synthetic action. Such action and such knowledge intermingle so fully that in the words of Bergson, knowledge and action (ubhayor saha) are indistinguishable.

To know is to be. Equally to know is to practise the destruction of barriers to understanding and progress of spiritual life. And to make all efforts are rebirth or birth into the Spiritual Illumination. It is this fourfold intermingling that constitutes an integral yoga. Body and mind and Spirit and Realization all participate in the Yoga.

The psychology of the Saint shows not merely the dynamic introvert struggle of the Mystic but also the extrovert adoration of the Deity whom he apprehends. The problem of relationship between religious and mystical consciousnesses is not to be studied either in isolation or in their initial expressions. The maturity of these ought to be considered. The saint is neither a demented idealist, a self-hallucinating individual nor an insane dictator struggling to be All and Everything in himself. The Saint is a mature being and in a sense a realized soul, a mahatma, an integral Self. This being the case we cannot entertain the views of Santayana or Leonard Woolfe or of those psychologists of Religion who consider religious (mystical) experiences to be regressions of personality into the primitive, or invasions of the primitive libido of the normal. The mystical consciousness, if it be studied in its normal evolution, gradually sheds away the barriers to fullest experience and realizes its place in the Ultimate scheme of things. The religious Consciousness when it is traced from its origins also reveals the final end to be the realization of the freedom from all barriers except the one and fundamental and inalienable realization of the Unity of the Individual in the All, an aprthaksiddha-sambandha of the finite with the infinite including, however, in every other respect equality.

Thus the realization of the Unity is foundational in the mystic as well as the Religious effort. This realization is of the form of Vision and Experience rolled into one, and means the liberation from death as well as enjoyment of Immortality or bliss (amrtatva). Intuition is the result of both ; but this intuition is at once Atmanubhava as well as Brahmanubhava in its final fullness. The mystic, if he merely pursues the path of destruction of barriers without the initial knowledge of the Omnipervasiveness of the All in All, will end in darkness and ignorance. Religious Consciousness, if it excludes the realization of the freedom from barriers and concentrates on the Brahmanubhava alone, will, it is affirmed, lead to greater darkness or rather ignorance. The point made out is that such crises might occur or rather have occurred. We can trace the danger of the former, but it appears at first sight difficult to affirm the latter. All the same, it is a fact that the two must go together, the freedom from barriers to true realization is part and parcel of the effort to realize Brahman-Experience.

Sri Vedanta Desika points out that these two are essentially the Unity regarding the Experience of Brahman, and both must be practised together. Here he speaks as a Yogin, and not as a mere interpreter. He starts his commentary that the first and fundamental illusion of man is regarding his own freedom, but that does not permit the individual to surrender his activities which shall further or advance his realization of the Brahman. Actions, obligatory actions as prescribed by the sastras, have to be performed, and proscribed actions must be given up.  To perform actions that tend to realize mere darkness of the soul, ignorance, is to nullify oneself. It is prescribed action that has to be done, and all prescribed actions have as their test the Omnipervasiveness and Control of the Deity mentioned in the opening mantra of the Isavasyopanisad. The descriptions of the Deity that follow are all intended to guide the action of man from the altitude of dharma, the real dharma of the individual being dependence on the supreme Lord. The divine sustains the actions of all individuals but it is the individual who has to do the actions in accordance with his own inner svadharma, which is the dependence on the Lord, (paradhinatva). By such a supreme paradhinatva, the individual realizes a state of being non-different from the Lord Himself as shown exquisitely by the first and second case-endings of the Mantra XI which could be interchanged without losing the meaning and import of the mantra. Then comes the instruction of unitary practice of Action and Knowledge intimated in the first and second verses as well as the unitary practice of Asambhuti and Sambhuti, destruction of barriers to Brahmanubhava and the effort to realize Brahmanubhava. That Brahmanubhava is called also Birth, sambhuti, is a well-established fact. That in the Upanisads also such a usuage is available is proved by the quotations from the chandogya Upanisad.

Sarvakarma sarvakamassarvagandhassarvarasas sarvamidam abhyatto ‘vakyanadara esama atma’ntahrdaya e t a d b r a h m a i t a mitah pretyabhisambhavatasmi.


Syamacchabalam prapadye sabalacch yamam prapadye’ sva iva romani vidhuya papam candra iva rahormukhat pramucya dhutva sariram akrtam krtatma brahmalokam abhisambhavamityabhisambhavami (Chand. Up. VIII. Xiii.1.)

In both these places the ordinary translation is that of attaining the Brahmaloka. That is indeed the birth into reality which is everything. Therefore the Isavasyopanisad usage of sambhuti has its connection and integration with the Chandogya passage and has to be interpreted in the same manner.

The merit of this usage is clear when it is discovered from the context that the teaching here is regarding the practice of Brahmanubhava and nothing less. Once the meaning of Sambhuti is fixed, then, the meaning of its negative Asambhuti is easily discovered. The asambhuti means the destruction of birth. But can we ever practise anything that is positively destruction pure and simple and can asambhuti or destruction mean destruction alone? Destruction is here defined as that destruction which leads to conquest over destruction or death. Thus the asambhuti here intimated is the destruction of death, and death means the surrender to forces that lead to ignorance. Asambhuti thus involves double negation, negation of negation. This construction is peculiar and yet this is valid because of the context wherein it is used. The phrase does not occur anywhere else in the Upanisads, and therein lies the uniqueness of this meaning. This is therefore another crucial passage in the explanation and interpretation of the Upanisadic philosophy.

The mystical consciousness being the dynamic “other” (itara) of the religious, and the destroyer of the barriers to birth or knowledge of the Divine, a negator or negation, is what is identified here as Asambhuti. Sri Sankara’s view that Asambhuti must be taken to be pralaya, is undoubtedly worthy of consideration taken independently out of the context, but is ruled out in this context. Nor could birth and death be practised together by any individual. One cannot practise either destruction or creation on a universal scale. The meaning that birth itself promotes dissolution* is undoubtedly a better rendering than that of Sankara, but then these are two processes or turn-efforts aimed at realizing ends which are different. The use of the word asambhuti is not significant, so significant as to yield the meaning of the word in the earlier passage as that which leads to the darkness of ignorance (v. 12). Nor is Sri Madhvacarya’s rendering of the two words asambhuti as destroyer and sambhuti as creator acceptable though from a theist’s standpoint it is by far the most acceptable. God has to be meditated upon not only as creator but also destroyer or rather as both. (cf. Vedanta Sutras which speak of Brahman as creator, destroyer etc. Janmadyasya yatah I. i.2). Sri Vedanta Desika finds that the whole Upanisad is based on the foundation of an instruction of the Guru to his pupil, and the second half of the Upanisad is devoted to the instruction of practice.

Moksa and Ananda are the two fruits of all practice, freedom from limitations as well as enjoyment of the Brahman are two results that Mysticism in conjunction with Religious consciousness achieves. Radical mysticism which is indistinguishable from emotional outburts which produces more heat than light, tends to realize the hallucinatory freedom. Radical fundamentalism erroneously called religious consciousness leads one to the contracted and perverted emotionalism of the opposite kind. To escape from both, without abandoning the crucial essence of these two thirsts or instincts is the method of synthesis. The synthesis must be organic and not merely a patched-up compromise. Emotion is the one thing that has to be canalized and made to perform the liberating-task as well as realizing-task of Man. Else Split-personalities will result. The corrective to the mystical consciousness is the intelligent understanding of the Universal Being taught in the opening mantra. The corrective to the religious is the acceptance of the mystical goal the realization on the plane of life the fullness of existence characteristic of the Divine. Life to be significant must embrace the richness, and the fullness of the Divine life here, and on this plane of human thought too.

The organic fusion of the mystical and the religious under the aegis of the all-saving knowledge of the Omnipervasive Divine Lord, leads to the profound sense of the Organic which is the truth of existence; the unitas multiplex of all existence is thus realized in a wonderful manner, intimated by the most luminous statement of Unity expressed by the phrase So’ham asmi.

A close study of the commentary of Sri Vedanta Desika will throw significant light on the Upanisadic philosophy. The approach towards the understanding of the basic concept of Unity in terms of the Organic Theism of Ramanuja and Sri Vaisnavism is found to yield better results than any other approach, now that Absolutisms and Realisms, Personalisms and Holisms have been found to present unsynthetic studies of great problems.



The Bhagavad Gita was dear to Gandhiji. It was for him like a Mother – a refuge which a child gets-in times of distress. It was a comforting experience to turn to the Gita for him to solve all problems, and his problems were varied – individual, familial, social, and political, and above all human. To every problem he got an answer or atleast a counsel to wait, to watch, pray and listen, so that the still inner voice could be heard.

The Mahatma found in the Gita the philosophy perennis. It was a dynamic practical spiritual guide and no metaphysically subtle work, and no psychological and theological thesis. It did not so much prescribe a solution as inspired one. Thus it is not as a rigid code of conduct but as a discoverer or illuminer of one’s path that it became the companion of the Mahatma.

Whilst the Gita comprises several methods such as Karmayoga, Jnanayoga and Bhaktiyoga, basic to all these means and modes, according to Gandhiji is the one factor, anasakti-desirelessness, detachment, dissociation from selfishness. As between the two modern interpreters of the Gita’s Yoga, Tilak and Sri Aurobindo, Gandhiji strikes a middle path. Selfless action there is and a divinised self-offering of action also there is in the Gita, but the Gita hews the path of discernment and selection of that duty when conflict emerges in the sphere of duties themselves. It is not necessary to hold that Sri Krishna admonished Arjuna about mistaking the right duty as the wrong one or vice versa, but that conflicts between ethical and political duty have to be resolved by an appeal to the Divine Truth. Worship and devotion to Truth are the primary conditions – ayatanam – of all yoga. Satyannasti paro dharmah. The Gita is basically a work of supreme ethico-political importance as contrasted with the earlier views of the Acharyas that it is a work of Moksa. Understood in a political sense, moksa became equivalent to liberation from foreign domination – para dharma – and this twist to the original meaning had remarkable results – it worked a revolution in the modes of thought in India.

Greatest of all the most intriguing points to a student of Gandhian thought is the reconciliation that Gandhiji inwardly effected between the Gita as a counsel for War and his own supreme discovery of Non-violent Resistance or Satyagraha. Paradoxical, even as Stanley Jones said, where the contradictories held themselves in tension, so too this invincible spirit of resistance of Evil and the equally firm adherence to Ahimsa and Satya, revealed a supreme tension which emotionally moved millions to self-sacrifice and unyielding courage in the face of brute force. The war was turned inward against all those forces which stimulated in others fierce strife and hatred, and the result was the inward reign of love and knowledge and self-power. The use of this inward soul-force in one’s dealings, even with misguided enemies or foes stimulated in them responses of compassion and love. Thus it is by evoking human love in the breasts of all men, and love for truth and goodness in one’s foes by one’s own scrupulous observance that one conquers the evil. The evil in the evil doer is thus expunged and the wicked man turns into a human being. Satyagraha thus is indeed a paradoxical combination of force and truth by love. The Gita in its final phases shows that faith in God’s omnipresence and the pursuit of one’s true duty will lead to a life without fear of sin. Gita however is that which breathes the love of God as the mighty solvent of all human distresses. In his own life, Gandhiji showed the strictest obedience to the divine will and cheerfully underwent all hardships as the gift of God. The Gita taught him a life of godliness in God for God. Though he loved India yet God was his supreme concern. Satyagraha renders violent ways of resolving conflicts otiose and childish and impossible.

A daily recitation of the reading of the Bhagavad Gita is not a ritual but a regenerative work when it is done with the spirit of love of God, and inward surrender and service of all. Gandhiji made the Gita not merely popular but a precious contribution to the people of all strata of Indian social life.

The message of the Gita’s ‘wisdom through love and action”, and in his life he strove strenuously to live upto it, and in death he revealed the great truth more vividly than ever. As Vincent Shean remarked “The Gandhi-Gita triumphs over the unanimous dissent of the scholars by the dramatic perfection of the life given to it”.



Nicolas Berdyeav, the noted Russian theologian and mystic in his various works has propounded the need for a critique of revelation.

“A critique of revelation presupposes reason clarified inwardly by the truth of revelation ..... critique of revelation presupposes too that God is not higher than Truth and is not subordinate to Truth. He is existent Truth, God is mystery, but he is also Truth, spirit, freedom, love conscience. God is the overcoming for my sake of the pain of alienation, he is for me the attainment of joy”.

And speaking on the criterion of Truth he writes:

“The criterion of Truth is in the subject not in the object, in freedom not in authority, the importance of which is merely sociological. The criterion of truth is not in the world and not in society but in spirit, and there is no criterion of spirit outside spirit itself.*

“The critique of revelation of which I am thinking has to take line which is the direct opposite of that in which it has moved from the beginning of modern times, in natural religion and deism, in rationalism of all shades in rationalistic and moralistic interpretations of Christianity. In opposition to all this it must move in the direction of mystery and mysticism and towards the over-coming of theological rationalism. It is not critique by the reason of the centres of enlightenment but a critique by the Spirit ... The move..... is towards primary spiritual experience towards the existential subject not towards the ‘natural’ but towards the reverse of the objectified nature, towards spirituality”.*

A recovery of the Spirit’s experience or experience by the Spirit of the Spirit alone can be the critique of revelation. A critique of revelation is a desideratum and was found to be necessary in India very early. In fact the whole literature of the Upanisads can be said to be a critique of revelation. Mimamsa was the original word used for this purpose. The kena up. mentions that  it is possible to understand the Ultimate Reality or its truth only by means of Mimamsa (Yadi manyase suvedeti dabhram evapi nunam tvam vettha brahman rupam, yadasya tvam yadasya ca deveswatha humimamsyam eva te manye viditam. II.i.). Mimamsa  in a sense is a logic of the Revelation as applied to this kind of literature. We can see that the teachers of seers of the Spirit did not bring in logical arguments and objective data. On the contrary they have clearly explained and instructed the realisation of the spirit knowing which one knows all in their truth. Since such knowledge is no objective knowledge, no utilitarian tests or pragmatic tests were applied to. It is in their inner spiritual conformity rather than any extraneous authority especially of some lower and dubitable knowledge that they can sustain themselves as truth, in fact it is an extraordinary falling back on the common man’s sense-knowledge and inferential apparatus to make spirit rational or amenable to man’s sensate objectified mind as happens when the criteria of workability and inferability are applied to this field of this knowledge (Vada or Vedanta). The intrinsic truthness of the Veda is something that cannot be sacrificed at the altar of lower level experiences.

The method of interpretation of the Veda then would necessitate a faithful spiritual awakening in oneself to see the whole as the spirit would see it. This may be considered impossible to the ordinary man-but then, is there a right for any ordinary man to insist upon the moon coming to him or seeking to catch the image in the mirror, or cry out against those who declare that not until one can resist the temptation to accept the so called intelligible as such because seen or reasoned, is one fit to have the necessary condition to be aware of the higher worlds?

The Criterion for the real truth is not therefore outside itself but it is to be perhaps accepted as a matter of faith at the beginning. Faith (sraddha) is necessary not as an ultimate but as token of the willingness to experiment with real subjectivity and transcendence of the lower levels that tend towards objectification, materiality, sense mystifi-cation, and all those arts and crafts that mind has been habituated to in its long journey of materialistic objectification for existing in the phenomenal world.

Some of the basic mistakes made even by theologians in respect of Mimamsa are (i) to think that reason is the only instrument of truth or verification of even higher knowledge a reason that is tied down to the sensory, (ii)  that the universals of religious experience are of the same order of generality as rational generalization, (iii) that one has wither to be dogmatically asserting the objectivity of the Vedic knowledge whether it stands to ordinary reason or otherwise, but nevertheless refuse for them another method of cognitivity or knowing which will grant a restoration of meaning rendered meaningless by ordinary experience and interpretation.

It is these points that have often led to conflicts in the Mimamsa.

That reason is not qualified in this area of experience would be granted by all those who would find that justification of transcendental truths impossible. Thus revelation would be considered to be irrational, not in the derogatory sense but in the sense in which the impotency of reason is accepted. This would appear to be a great disaster. But as in science when the Euclidean conception of Space was asked to be dropped and the Einsteinian conception was substituted, worlds did not fall, but greater progress was rendered possible. But when we seek to get beyond the twin coordinates of life and speak about timelessness, undoubtedly there is said to be irrationality and meaninglessness. One may well ask to whom? Certainly to the finite mind or the mind habituated to the coordinate system accepted conventionality by ordinary men.

Similarly many of the Philosophical problems posed before the transcendentalist could be shown to be what they are to those who have tried to abolish all these meaningful categories such as causality and so on. Indeed the Upanisads do speak of those who have attained the Ultimate as getting beyond all these limitations* (Isa: 8 : Sa paryagat akayam avranam asnaviram, Suddham etc., and as one who had begun to see all things in their eternal nature – yatha tathyato arthan vyadadhat sasvatibhyah samabhyah).

Thus it is not enough to listen to the Veda: they require orientation of the mind and the senses, the buddhi and the entire structures we have built up. Thus the outward-turned sense organs and the outward moving motor-organs have to get in-turned and one should loosen one’s hold on the objects so that one could get an internal knowledge of them through spirit rather than sense. ** The mind too has to be turned inward so that it can become dispassionate and see from the standpoint of its own truth – the Spirit that moves it, Logics of the objective or materialistic mind depending upon what is called the known inferring the unknown are bound to hinder the experience of the Spirit.

Religious methods also try to proceed in some cases to adopt the familiar means to attain the ultimate ends. These methods have proved rather useless in bringing about true spiritual experiences. Induction of so-called religious and spiritual states by means of material aids, asanas, breath-control etc or even by concentration on significant symbolic objects and idols have surely helped the experience of these psychic states of exaltation or even trance but they have been shown to be not truly spiritual states that grant sense of Existential Spirit or Truth.

Thus religion is the last resort has to abandon its popularising role. In fact religion as a materialisation of the Spirit has done more harm to the individual than good. Religion supported by revelation has to turn to revelation that includes the practice of spiritual freedom rather than merely chant it or create conditions merely for preserving the revelation in letter.

Revelation is not merely vision; it is a direction of the Spirit. It is this spiritual obligation directed by the authentic Voice of the Infinite, heard in the hearts of the seeker of the Spirit that is reproduced in the creative Act of the universe. Indeed it is this Creative direction that liberates as it unifies or unifies as it liberates the mind and the heart and the other powers and faculties of the soul, that is of dynamic importance. Religion is no escape from reality or an illusion of the psyche or a dope for the life of the seeker, though it may be all these to the materialist albeit religious in the commonsense sense of that word. It is in the spiritual activity, flaming towards freedom and ecstacy of creative unfoldment of the eternal in the mortal and the world, that spirits regain religion to itself and liberate it from the shackles put upon it by well meaning theologians and priests.

Revelation demands the activity of spiritual life. It is clearer that in doing thus it creates for itself a nucleus of spiritual souls who form themselves as a sangha. – society or community of the existence of God and this is no body of society or cooperatives or humans as such. It is the body of the Divine Spirit - not a collective unity or collective. In each and every one, the Spirit wholly being present is present in all as well wholly. This is the mystery the Upanisad says, which is beyond all description and communication. It is the supreme Experience which alone can dispel the tragic pessimism of the philosophers and logicians of despair.

Religion requires Carya-called later Brahama-carya the life lived in the spirit of the Ultimate Brahman. Though Brahman is the origin of all matter and life and mind and all the manynesses in each aspect of these created worlds, the activity, imperative of conduct, of spirit leads to it alone and should lead to it alone.

That these have been thoroughly forgotten or restricted shows that there has happened a gulf or separation between revelation which has been said to be a body of truths of the transcendental order and the Brahmanubhava or spirit. Revelation was not made an instrument or means towards the realization of interior attainment of the spirit: it was assumed as Pramana but not as Upaya as truth as it means. These two are inseparable in Spirit. The Divine described as satya or sat and cit and Ananda does not separate the attainment from truth. Existential truth or reality is superior to mere truth that does not separate the attainment from truth. Existential truth or reality is superior to mere truth that does not pass on to the level of existence. It may remain ideal in the sense of the term used by logic of the understanding which separates being from truth and finally declines to judge truth by being or doing. Ofcourse all this is at the level not of the utilitarian sensate men but at the height of interior yearning for Reality and freedom that is beyond the terrestrial and the material – the regions of the opaque and the divided.

That revelation insists on this obligation of attainment is a fact that is forgotten or bypassed by mimamsists both of the over-intellectual type and the over-devotional type. But it is nonetheless brought home to them that the dynamics of spirit entails this integral pursuit of the Divine in Peace as in Action, in Creation as well as Destruction and in Being. But it is the higher law of freedom that operates not the law of restriction and bondage that is true of all created planes of being – or lower worlds so to speak.

Revelation is not a mere passive recipience of the vision however sub specie eternitatis – even as Spinoza’s entailing prayer and so on as in the Hymus of the Saints, but something that claims a Service through love, a service in God-comradeship of which the Veda speaks gloriously – dva suparno sayuja sakhaya.... two birds, (Spirits free in their wings and strong linked together in union and comrades -) thus they soar and live the life of freedom unabridged whether eating or fasting, in the eternal. God stoops to the soul more than Himself for in that lies His supreme spirituality in eternal dynamism.

Revelation is truth and existence and also joy. This is why it has been called sat cit and ananda in the Veda. Not only the content delivered by the Veda is Brahman, it is also called the Brahman – the Sabda Brahman. In this sense its supreme quality is liberating rather than restricting.

The praise offered to the Veda is immense because it does all the functions of the real parent or God himself in so far as it takes one to yonder shore of being and is infallible.

The Risis or Seers of the Veda form a holy Group – or spiritual community. The Vedic authority is firstly in itself as the authentic voice of the Ultimate Reality spoken to these dedicated channels or souls and secondly in the Risis themselves too who are the inward spiritual community. For them in the language of Nicolas Berdyeav the criterion of truth is “found in the Spirit, it is the one and only guide”. .... Those who live in the spirits and by it wholly have no external test. Their knowledge has a self-certifying nature. The Sat Sangh or spiritual community or Veda Parisad is its own authority. Berdyeav remarks, “It is remarkable that all the religious philosophies of India is founded upon the inward authority of ancient sacred books and is an exposition of the Vedanta”. (P.60.T&R.).

The Vedic authority (parisad) had become the archetype of later Buddhist canons. The Buddhist from the very beginning insisted upon the importance of the Sangha or community as the authority in spiritual matters – an authority that was unquestionable because based on the highest spiritual realisation. In this it merely followed the strict so called attitude of the Vedic group. In fact their very oath or prayer contains the seeking or refuge in the Sangha along with Dharma and the Buddha. Even so has it been in the Jaina and other schismatic religions. But the ultimate authority of the Veda or Revelation was not given up except in the case of the materialist who took refuge only in his sense knowledge and inferential knowledge and hedonistic human pleasures and so on.

Revelational truth is of the truly evolutionary nature. It does not state truths about things as they are or about truths as they are discovered by the extension of knowledge through generalisations. It may attempt to communicate the authentic truth by means of analogies drawn from experience of the limited only in so far as they reflect the transcendent. In itself it is of the eternal to which all individuals move or compelled to move as if by an eternal attraction.

There have been some religious seers who have found that the revelation is a matter for book or grantha or Bible or Koran or the Tripitataks and so on following on the footsteps of the Veda so to speak, consciously or unconsciously. The tendency to make one book of great spiritual merit the authority is so constantly seen that one could well ask what book is your authority. A written word is as sacrosanct as, if not more than, the spoken word.

The Veda peculiarly is called not the written word or the spoken word but the heard word. The meaning of this is that it has been heard in the heart by the seer or who has seen and heard simultaneously. The Seer is called mantra-drata (from which comes the word darsana for a philosophy understood as a way to truth rather than a way of thinking or rationalising the seen and the heard which is what it has become now). All present day philosophy is natural philosophy-the sensate knowledge being the basis for philosophising about the nature of reality as a whole. The unity of the spiritual vision and audition and perhaps one should add the repetition of the heard word (vak) is the most important part of this is spiritual transmission of truth – experience-bliss.

The Veda has to be considered to be truth even when it contradicts the cherished ideas of all ordinary people. But its falsity if it could be declared at all cannot be affirmed so long as we do not actually attain that spiritual state in which it claims it’s authenticity. Faith is the only guide in this matter and faith presupposes as Berdyeav says “cognition by spirit as a whole”. Since revelational truth demands this faith and integral dedication to follow it in the face of all sensory and rational factors to the contrary (not necessarily) it is something rejected by the materialistic mind or the more easy-going mind. In fact the ordinary man has been bred up with the knowledge (?) that there can be no certainty at all in any thing; that relativity is the only possible guide (?) that one need not be surprised if the most absurd things turn out; and contradictions are produced naturally dialectically that evil will produce the good and the good will produce the evil and so on. Revelational fitness is a great thing and that test for fitness for revelation is firstly some thing no one knows how to administer and secondly something no one wants to be administered and found wanting. Thus we find that experience called spiritual experience which alone can justify or verify the Veda (or for the matter of that any true spiritual work) is neither sought after nor granted. But when sought and gained it is the most valuable attainment, siddhi or prapti ever granted to man by God: for he gains of the freedom of the body of God-bliss, immortality, and eternity, existential truth infinity.