AUM SHRI GANESHAYA NAMAH
The Svetasvatara Upanishad belongs to the Taittiriya School of the Krishna Yajur Veda. It derives its name from the sage who taught it. This Upanishad is regarded as one of the authoritative works which form the Vedanta philosophy. Its mantras are quoted profusely in all Vedantic treatises.
The peculiarity of this Upanishad is that it contains passages that can be interpreted to support dualism, qualified non-dualism, non-dualism and even other systems of thought. Certain verses can also be related to the Sankhya philosophy of Kapila. Hence there are acute differences of opinion among the protagonists of different schools of philosophy who quote from it to support their respective views.
However it is apparent that Svetasvatara Upanishad contains a strong theistic strain unlike other Upanishads. Names like Hara, Rudra, Bhagavan, Agni, Aditya, Vayu, Deva etc., which appear in the Svetasvatara Upanishad denote Personal God. It identifies the Supreme Brahman with Rudra who is conceived as the material and efficient cause of the world, not only as its author but also as its protector and guide.
The ingredients associated with theism like Personal God, devotion or bhakti towards Him, are prominent in this Upanishad. The emphasis is not on the Brahman, the Absolute whose complete perfection does not admit of any change or evolution but on the personal Isvara, omniscient and omnipotent who is the manifested Brahman.
Svetasvatara Upanishad also overcomes the dualism of Purusha and Prakriti of the Sankhya philosophy. It says that pradhana or nature is not an independent entity but belongs to the self of the divine, devatma-sakti. God is the mayin, the maker of the world, which is maya or made by Him.
These features of the Svetasvatara Upanishad make Ramanuja and other theistic Acharyas argue to establish the Personal God as the Ultimate Reality. But Sankaracharya gives the very same words a non-dualistic meaning and emphasizes that that the goal of this, like the other major Upanishads, is to prove the sole reality of the non-dual Brahman and the un-substantiality of the jiva and the phenomenal universe. Sankara’s introduction to this Upanishad is a grand illustration of his broad canvas of arguments quoting lavishly from the srutis, smritis, puranas and Bhagavad Gita to establish his point of view. But many scholars doubt whether Sankara had in fact written his commentary on this Upanishad.
Leaving these controversies to the scholars, we will study this Upanishad as a guide which uses a simple and lucid language that propounds inclusiveness and “teaches the unity of the souls and the world in the one Supreme Reality treating it as an attempt to reconcile the different philosophical and religious views which prevailed at the time of its composition”.-Dr.S.Radhakrishnan.
Om poornamadah poonamidam poornaat poornamudachyate
poornasya poornamaadaaya poornamevaa vasishyate
Om Shantih Shantih Shantih ||
AUM, That is full; this is full. This fullness has been projected from that fullness. When this fullness merges in that fullness, all that remains is fullness.
AUM, Peace! Peace! Peace!
Om saha navavatu; saha nau bhunaktu;
Saha veeryam karavavahai;
Tejasvi navadheetamastu, ma vidvishaavahai
Om Shantih Shantih Shantih ||
AUM, May Brahman protect us both? May Brahman bestow upon us both the fruit of knowledge? May we both obtain the energy to acquire knowledge? May what we both study reveal the Truth? May we cherish no ill-will toward each other?
Om. Peace! Peace! Peace!
Harih Oṃ brahmavādino vadanti
kiṃkāraṇaṃ brahma kutaḥ sma jātā jīvāmaḥ kena kva ca saṃpratiṣṭhāḥ /
adhiṣṭhitāḥ kena sukhetareṣu vartāmahe brahmavido vyavasthām //1.1//
By uttering Harih Om the Rishi remembers the Lord and commences the Uapanishad. A few Brahmavadis discuss among themselves on these lines: O Knowers of the Vedas, who is that Brahman - the root cause of this world. From what have we been born? Due to what do we live? In what are we abiding? Under whose orders are we passing through pain and pleasure? Under what set rules are we being governed?
A few sages in quest of Supreme Brahman were talking among themselves. Being well-versed in the Vedas, they were questioning among themselves the following concepts. What is that Brahman whom we learnt as the cause of the entire world? From whom have we been born? What is our origin? Under whose majesty are we living? Who is the support of our life? In whom are we situated? Where have been before we were born? Having taken the birth (in the past, present and future) in whom do we remain? Who is our ultimate refuge? Who is He who makes arrangements for us? Who is the in-charge of this establishment? Who is the master director of the entire world? Who runs it so efficiently? Under whose command are we experiencing pain and pleasure? Who is that Lord?
The issues raised in this Mantra relate to the creation, preservation and the ultimate dissolution of the Beings (jivas) and the universe.
VARIOUS ENTITIIES WERE PROPOSED AS THE CAUSE OF THE UNIVERSE BUT DISCARDED.
kālaḥ svabhāvo niyatir yadṛcchā bhūtāni yoniḥ puruṣeti cintyam /
saṃyoga eṣāṃ na tv ātmabhāvād ātmā hy anīśaḥ sukhaduḥkhahetoḥ // 1.2 //
Should time, or nature, or necessity, or chance, or the elements be regarded as the cause? Or he who is called the purusha, the living self? The cause cannot be the combination of these entities, since there is a living self, Atman, for whose sake the combination has been made. Yet, neither is the Atman the cause, for it in turn, is dependent upon good and evil.
Several answers were thought of to the above questions but they were all ruled out. The answers suggested were whether it could be
1. Time - because it causes change in all beings.
2. Nature - the intrinsic nature of each being such as the heat of the fire or the brightness of the sun etc.
3. Necessity or chance - The law of cause and effect which results in good or evil.
4. Elements - The five elements such as space, air, fire, water and earth.
5. The Purusha - The individual living self associated with body, senses, mind and ego.
The entities enumerated above cannot be independently the cause of the universe because the actual experience shows otherwise. Neither the combination of these factors could be the cause of the universe because it pre-supposes another entity which brings them together to serve its own purpose like a person constructing a house by bringing different materials together to serve his purpose of residing therein. In that case can it be the Atman or the living self or jiva, the indweller in the body who is the cause of the universe?
This last alternative also was ruled out because the living self or jiva is dependent, in its phenomenal state, upon the karma or action of previous births. Its happiness and suffering are determined by past good or evil deeds. Being itself dependent, the atman cannot be the independent cause of the universe.
It was not possible to arrive at a conclusion about the final cause of the universe by means of sense experience or logic. Therefore the Rishis took up the path of Yoga involving self-control and one-pointedness of the mind and found out that the Supreme Lord evolved the world with the help of His own maya which is discussed in the next mantra.