MANTRA 9, 10

The previous mantra told us that the one thing to be known is the atman and that one should meditate upon atman as one’s own Self. What is meant by knowing Brahman? It is not like knowing a chair or a table. Brahman is not an object to be known by senses. Brahman is anubhavasvarupa, of the nature of experience just as experiencing beauty, truth etc. When we know a physical object we don’t become that object while if we know Brahman we become Brahman just as darkness becomes brightness when light is brought in. Hence the Mundaka Upanishad (3.2.9) says brahmavit brahmaiva bhavati, the knower of Brahman becomes Brahman. In order to state the necessity of this knowledge the present two mantras are introduced. These mantras depict the picture of such a person who knows Brahman and asserts that a knower of Brahman becomes Brahman.

Mantra 9 raises an interesting question. We have seen that everything has come out of Brahman. So, if we know Brahman we know all or in other words the knowledge of Brahman means the knowledge of everything. That is the logic. If that is so, what did Brahman itself know by which It became all? What would have been the knowledge of that Primordial Stuff before differentiation or due to which It became all, especially when It was stated to have been alone?

Mantra 10 provides the answer as under.

This universe was Brahman in the beginning, before diversification. There was nothing else but Brahman. Then what else could Brahman know? It could know only Itself as ‘I am Brahman”Aham Brahma Asmi. This is the maha vakya of this Upanishad.  When there was nothing else except infinite Brahman, It knew Itself as I am. From that “I” came this entire universe. In Vedanta, the primordial entity is pure consciousness; Brahman is consciousness and since consciousness is all-pervading everybody can have this kind of understanding as ‘I am Brahman’. Sankara says ‘Even before the realization of Brahman, everybody, being Brahman is really always identical with all. We think ourselves to be separate from each other only because of ignorance”.

The mantra says that whoever realizes this truth of Brahman knows himself as ‘I am Brahman’. Thus to realize Brahman is to become Brahman. It gives the examples of the sages, gods and human beings who had such experience of the Truth. Sankara emphasizes that everybody is having the capacity to realize that truth which is not confined to the sages or other gifted few alone. The mantra goes to the extent of telling us that even gods or anybody else cannot prevail against anyone from knowing the truth despite their attempts to prevent such enlightenment. Such is the power of this knowledge of Brahman.

This mantra concludes by telling us how the gods , who are very powerful, try to keep the human beings as their slaves by putting obstacles on their way to the knowledge of Brahman for they knew that once this knowledge is known to men they would keep them (gods) in a subordinate position and give up making them offerings. This can be interpreted as the power of the senses to prevent human beings from knowing Brahman. Hence we find the general ignorance of Brahma Vidya in the society.


After the creation of society, the issue relating to its organization for its smooth functioning was taken up by the Creator, Brahman. The following mantras deal with this matter.

In the beginning there were no groupings in the society. All the society was one only which was called brahmana. In the puranas this condition was described as satya-yuga when there was no necessity for any control and regulation by anybody since dharma was the spontaneous nature of everybody. Due to externalization of consciousness the knowledge of the brahmana was not able to meet the requirements of the times. Hence the principle of kshatram (concept of power or dominion) came into existence. The kshatriya (ruler) was seated on the throne during ceremonial occasions and the brahmana sat below. There was mutual interdependence. In the absence of knowledge, power and law would work blindly. Knowledge is the source of power and both worked hand in hand. Therefore even though the king is exalted in the sacrifices, at the end of it he considered brahminhood as his source. He who slights a brahmana is deemed to strike at his own source. He becomes more evil, as one who slights his superior.


The Brahmana represents knowledge, the Kashatriya temporal power. They are not enough. A class or group is required for increasing production and acquiring wealth so that the society can flourish. He (Viraj) therefore projected the Vaisya group - those classes of gods who are designated in groups: the Vasus, Rudras, Adityas, Visve-devas and Maruts.


Still He did not flourish. He projected the Sudra order as Pushan. This earth is verily Pushan (the nourisher) for it nourishes all that exists. Pushan is he who nourishes the others through work.

“To have a well developed culture, society requires wisdom, power, wealth and service. Wisdom conceives the order and lays its foundation, power is its protector, wealth provides the means for carrying out the order and its dissemination and service keeps the whole social order going. These are the different functions essential for a normal well-ordered society. These distinctions are found among both gods and men”. – Dr.S.Radhakrishnan.

This is the basis of classification of people in the society into various groups in ancient India which later degenerated into classification based on birth and came to be called caste. Birth in a particular family was never the basis of grouping people in the society in the Vedic times as these mantras clearly show. The four groups like the head, arms, thighs and feet of a man, are inter-dependent. The welfare of one means the welfare of all. There was no question of any sort of exploiting of one by another in the original scheme of things.

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