“Kaivalyopanishad is a rare piece of jewellery in the vaults of the Hindu Culture. Some stanzas are the precious pendants of beauty that enrich this piece of jewellery”.
- Swami Chinmayananda
Kaivalyopanishad, though not coming under the category of ‘Big Ten’ (Major Upanishads), is very popular because of its poetic language, logical development of ideas and analytical delineation of sublime philosophy. Its style is lucid, projection clear and the contents rich. All of these makes this Upanishad command the rapt attention of the seekers. This Upanishad is from the Atharva Veda.
Kaivalya means Absolute Oneness, The State of Being Full, The Whole, the means to achieve which is the subject matter of this Upanishad. Thus Kaivalya is simply another name for Liberation, The ultimate goal of human existence, namely, gaining Self Realization, Self-Recognition as Brahman, as Paramatma in one’s own oneself. There are twenty six mantras in this Upanishad.
The Upanishad opens with a Peace Invocation, as follows:
Aum! O Gods, with our ears may we hear that which is auspicious; Adorable Ones, with our eyes may we see that which is auspicious; while praising the gods with steady limbs, may we enjoy the life that is allotted by the gods. May Indra of ancient fame be auspicious to us; may Pusan and Visva-Devas be propitious to us; may Tarksya, of unhampered movement, be well disposed towards us; may Brihaspati ensure our welfare. Aum! Peace! Peace! Peace!
Like every other Upanishad, here also a teacher and a student are involved. The student seeks knowledge and the teacher responds. The student’s request and the teacher’s response together constitute the Upanishad. It may be noted that the student here is not of the average type nor the teacher is any one other than the very Creator, Brahma ji.
“Then Asvalayana, the student, seeking knowledge, approaching respectfully and reverentially his Great Teacher, Brahma, The Creator, said as follows:”
The word ‘Then’ is a very significant word. It means, through proper preparation, when one has become ready to absorb the knowledge that one is seeking. This readiness on the part of a student is dependent on his success in his sadhana chatushtaya.
In the Vedantic literature, Asvalayana is well-known as a great teacher of Rig Veda. Even today, many who belong to the tradition of Rig Veda follow the Vedic rituals formulated by Rishi Asvalayana. Before he became a great teacher, Asvalayana is said to have received his education in Brahma Vidya from Lord Brahma, The Creator, who is referred to as Lord Parameshti., The Great Teacher.
For our purpose, Asvalayana could be any well-qualified student, seeking knowledge from any distinguished teacher who can always be referred to as Parama Guru as a mark of respect. Thus a well-qualified student, Asvalayana, approached a distinguished teacher, and said as follows:
1. Addressing the teacher as Bhagavan, O! Lord. O! Respected Teacher, please teach me Brahma Vidya which is the most exalted among all forms of knowledge, since it is about the highest purpose of human existence, and it is about The Absolute Reality behind all forms and names of transient reality.
What exactly he wants to know about Brahma Vidya?
He wants to know that knowledge which is constantly being sought by all people who are blessed with the predominance of Sattva Guna - all the highest among devotees of Parameswara. The only thing such people constantly seek is Total Union with Parameswara and nothing less. That destination they seek appears deeply hidden somewhere beyond the reach of one’s sense organs. Therefore, the student seeks the help of the teacher to give him that knowledge by which a wise man can quickly, naturally and spontaneously reach the highest Purusha totally eliminating, all vasanas or sins of the past obstructing the realization of That Knowledge
There are two words here, namely, quickly and highest Purusha which we must understand clearly. It always takes time and effort to create the conditions necessary for gaining any knowledge. But when the conditions are proper, the knowledge itself takes place naturally and spontaneously, because knowledge is object-centered. When The object of knowledge, and the means of gaining that knowledge are properly aligned, knowledge always takes place spontaneously, independent of one’s will.
For example, if an object is in front of my eyes, and if my mind and eyes are properly aligned towards that object, I see the object as it is, naturally and spontaneously, without any special effort.
The situation is different with respect to any action, because action is centered on the will of the person. One may will to do the action or not to do the act or do it in a different way. In each case, the result is bound to be different.
Who is Paratpara Purusha? Para is Unmanifest, and Apara is manifest. For example, a huge tree can come from a tiny seed, but one cannot see the tree in the seed. Therefore, with respect to the tree, which is Apara- manifest, the seed is Para - unmanifest.
But each seed is unmanifest only with respect to a particular tree. There are countless trees and hence countless seeds, which means, there are countless unmanifest and manifest beings. If there is ONE unmanifest being which includes all the manifest beings, that all-inclusive ONE is Paratpara Purusha. That Paratpara Purusha is Purushottama according to The Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 15) which includes both Kshara and Akshara and at the same time transcends both. That Purushottama is Brahman, The Absolute, and The Reality of all that exist.
Asvalayana is asking his teacher to teach him how to reach naturally and spontaneously That Unmanifest, All-inclusive Absolute Reality, which expresses itself as a universe of multiple forms and names.