The Beauty and Duty of India’s Soul
This beauty is not tempting.
This beauty is illumining.
This duty is not self-imposed.
This duty is God-ordained.
The Upanishads offer us self-knowledge, world-knowledge, God-Knowledge. Self-knowledge is self-discovery. After self-discovery we have to feel that world-knowledge is within us, and we have to grow into world-knowledge. Then comes a time when we know the Possessor of world-knowledge, and then we have God-Knowledge. We have to enter into God-Knowledge, which is the possessor of the universe.
“Neti, neti…Not this, not this,” or “Not this, not that” – is the message of the Upanishads. All of us here are seekers of the infinite Truth. A real seeker is not and cannot be satisfied with his individual life, individual achievements, worldly possessions. No. He can be satisfied only when he has achieved the Absolute. Now what is the Absolute? Brahman is the Absolute.
The Seers of the hoary past offered this sublime knowledge:?Brahman cannot be limited by anything, Brahman cannot be housed by anything, Brahman cannot be defined by anything. This was their assertion. But we feel that this is the negative way of seeing Brahman. There is a positive way, and this positive way is this: “Brahman is Eternal, Brahman is Infinite, Brahman is Immortal. Brahman is beyond and beyond.” This is the positive way. We, the seekers of the infinite Truth, will follow the positive way. If we follow the positive way in our life of aspiration, we can run the fastest and reach the ultimate Goal sooner.
We have to see Brahman in the finite as we wish to see Brahman in the Infinite. But during our meditation, if we can have the vision of Brahman as the Infinite Self, then it becomes easier for us to enter into the world of relativity where we see everything as finite.
We see the world within us; we see the world without us. In the world within there is a being, and in the world without there is also a being. These two beings are called ?non-being? and “being.” From non-being, being came into existence. This very idea baffles our minds. How can non-being create being? Non-being is nothing. From nothing, how can something come into existence? But we have to know that it us the mind which tells us that from non-being being can not come into existence. We have to know that this “nothing” is actually something beyond the conception of the mind. Nothing is the life of the everlasting Beyond. Nothing is something that always remains beyond our mental conception. It transcends our limited consciousness. So when we think of the world or of being coming out of non-being, we have to feel that this Truth can be known and realised only on the strength of our inner aspiration, where the mind does not operate at all. It is intuition which grants us this boon of knowing that ?nothing? is the Song of the ever-transcending Beyond, and ?nothing? is the experience of the ever-fulfilling, ever-transcending, and ever-manifesting existence.
The Upanishads and the essence of prana are inseparable. Prana is a Sanskrit word. It can be translated into English in various ways. It may be called breath or energy, or even ether. But prana is life-energy. This life-energy is not material, it is not physical, but it is something that maintains and sustains the physical body. The Source of prana is the Supreme. In the field of manifestation prana is indispensable. Prana is the soul of the universe.
In India the term prana has a special significance of its own. Prana is not just breath. Daily we breathe in and out thousands of times without paying any attention. But when we use the term prana, we think of the life-energy that is flowing within and without in our breath.
Prana is divided into five parts: prana, apana, samana, vyana, and udana. The life-energy, life-force that is inside the physical eyes, nose, and ears, we call prana. When we see the life-energy in our organs of excretion and generation, it is apana. Samana is the life-energy that governs our digestion and assimilation. In the lotus of the heart, where the Self is located, where we see one hundred and one subtle spiritual nerves, and in each nerve one hundred nerve branches, and from each nerve branch seventy-two thousand nerve branches, there the prana that moves is called vyana. Through the centre of the spine, life-energy flows. When it goes upward it reaches the highest, and when it goes downward it reaches the lowest. When a seeker of the infinite Truth leaves the body, his prana rises towards the Highest, and when a sinful person leaves the body, his prana goes downward. This prana which flows through the centre of the spine is called udana.
When we are in a position to enter into the Cosmos with the help of our life-force, we feel that the Beyond is not in our imagination. It is not a chimerous mist; it is a reality that is growing within us and for us. God was One. He wanted to be Many. Why? He felt the necessity of enjoying Himself divinely and supremely in infinite forms. ?Ekam bahusam???one desiring to be many,? was His inner feeling. When the Supreme projected His Life-Energy, He saw two creatures immediately. One was male, the other female. Prana, the life-force, is the male, and the female is rayi. Prana is the sun. Rayi is the moon. From prana and rayi we all came into existence. Again, prana is spirit and rayi is matter. Spirit and matter must go together. Spirit needs matter for its self-manifestation, and matter needs spirit for its self-realisation.
Very often the Vedic and Upanishadic Seers used two words: nama and rupa. Nama is name; rupa is form. In our outer world we deal with name and form. In the inner world we deal with the nameless and the formless. The name and the nameless are not rivals. The form and the formless are not rivals. The name embodies the capacity of the outer body. The nameless reveals the Immortality of the soul. In form the cosmic Consciousness manifests itself by circumscribing itself. In the formless the cosmic Consciousness transcends itself by expanding and enlarging itself.
In the spiritual life the term sacrifice is often used. The Vedic Seers spoke elaborately on sacrifice. According to them, the horse sacrifice, asvamedha sacrifice, was most important. The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad starts with the sacrificial horse:
Usa va asvasya medhyasya sirah . .
AUM. The head of the sacrificial horse is verily the dawn, the eye of the sacrificial horse is the sun, the vital force the air, the open mouth the fire named Vaisvanara, the trunk the year, the back heaven, the belly the sky, the hoof the earth, the flanks the four directions, the ribs the intermediate directions, the limbs the seasons, the joints the months and fortnights, the feet the days and nights, the bones the stars, the flesh the clouds, the half-digested food (in the stomach) the sands, the arteries and veins the rivers, the liver and spleen the mountains, the hairs the herbs and trees, the forepart the rising sun, the hind part the setting sun. its yawn is lightning, its shaking body is thunder, its making water is rain, its neighing is indeed speech.
Why did the Upanishadic Seers, the Vedic Seers, speak of the horse and not any other animal as the symbol of sacrifice? They realised the speed of the horse, the dynamism of the horse, the faithful and devoted qualities of the horse. Speed is necessary, dynamism is necessary, faithfulness and devotedness are necessary to realise and reveal the Absolute. That is why they chose the horse for the religious rites and for help in their inner awakening.
Just by sacrificing a horse we cannot gain any divine merit. Far from it. We must meditate on the horse, on the qualities of the horse, and invoke these divine qualities to enter into us from above. The Vedic and Upanishadic Seers did this. They succeeded in getting the divine qualities from the horse, and the result was that they entered Brahmaloka, the highest heaven.
But even in the highest heaven, the Delight we get is not everlasting. For everlasting Delight we have to enter into the Brahman on the strength of our inner cry. When we have the inner cry we can eventually enter into the Brahman and there get everlasting Delight.
To come back to the horse, one has not to make a horse sacrifice in this age. But one has to see the qualities of the horse and inwardly meditate on the divinely fulfilling qualities of the horse. It is from one?s own concentration and meditation that one will get the qualities which the horse offers or represents. Very often people misunderstand the idea of sacrifice, especially Westerners. They cannot understand how they can gain any divine merit just by killing a horse. They think it is absurd. But sacrifice is not merely killing. Sacrifice is in becoming one with the consciousness of the horse. When we do this, only then can we get the divine wealth from above. We need not, we must not kill the horse at all.
To be sure, there can be no sacrifice without aspiration. At every moment aspiration is necessary. But this aspiration has to be genuine and has to come from the very depth of the heart. It cannot give us realisation if it is not genuine. Aspiration does not know how to pull or push. Restlessness and aspiration can never go together. Very often beginners think that if they aspire they have to be very dynamic. This is true. But we do not see dynamism in their aspiration. What we see is restlessness. They want to realise God overnight. If we take this restlessness as determination or dynamism, then we are totally mistaken.
May I repeat an oft-quoted story? A seeker went to a spiritual Master. He was properly initiated, and in a few days? time this seeker said to the Master, ?Master, now that you have initiated me, please give me God-realisation.? The Master said, ?You have to practise meditation for a long time.? After a few days the disciple again said, ?Master, Master, give me realisation, please give me realisation.? He bothered the Master for a long time. One day the Master asked him to follow him. The Master went to the Ganges for a dip and invited the disciple also to enter the water. When the disciple was neck-deep in water, the Master pushed his head underwater and held it there. When the Master finally let the struggling disciple come up, he asked him, ?What did you feel while you were underwater?? The disciple replied, ?O Master, I felt that I would die if I did not get a breath of air.? The Master said, ?You will realise God on the day you feel that you will die if He does not come and give you life.. If you sincerely feel that you will die without God, if you can cry for Him in that way, then you are bound to realise Him.?
The Master offered this truth to the disciple. Unfortunately we very often see that when a Master offers the truth, the disciples misunderstand. They understand it according to their limited light, or they feel that the message the Master has given is totally wrong. Now if the truth that is offered by the Master is not properly understood and used, then in the field of manifestation the disciple, the seeker, will never be fulfilled. The highest Truth will always remain a far cry for him.
In the Upanishads, Indra and Virochana went to Prajapati for the highest Knowledge. Indra represented the gods, and Virochana represented the demons. When Prajapati offered them the knowledge of Brahman, Indra went back again and again to verify the knowledge he had received, and he finally did realise the highest Knowledge. But Virochana understood the truth in his own way and did not feel the necessity of going back again and again to realise the highest Truth.
New York University
New York, New York
November 17, 1971