Meditation on the Inner Controller

When Gargi got down and occupied her seat and did not put any further questions, another sage,

Uddalka, Aruna's son(Aruni), got up from his seat and picked up the discussion with Yajnavalkya.

This Brahmana deals with the great subject 'Antaryamin', or the Supreme Immanent Principle. In this section, Yajnavalkya declares that Brahman is the cosmic string, sutra, which holds the world together. Brahman is also the Inner Ruler, antaryami, dwelling in any thing one can think of. Yajnavalkya gives twenty one examples relating to the cosmos and man to show how Brahman is in all of them and how He holds each of them together.

“Here is a description of the world spirit – brahma lokanam antaratamam sutram. It is that which binds together all beings from the highest to the lowest. All things are strung like a garland with a thread which refers to the sutratman. Man is a bead strung on the thread of the Conscious Self and just as wooden puppets are worked by strings, so the world is operated by the sutratman, the thread spirit”. – Dr.s.Radhakrishnan.

These ideas are found in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 7 as under.

Bhagavan Sri Krishna says:

mattah parataram naanyat kinchidasti dhananjaya

mayi sarvamidam protam sootre maniganaa iva // 7.7 //


There exists no other cause of the universe except the Lord. To show that the Self is one and the same in all created beings on the earth it is stated here that The Lord is the supporter of the Universe just as the string is to the gems in a garland. Without the string the gems will be scattered. The substance with which gems and thread are made is different. Similarly the world is constituted of infinite variety of names and forms which are held together by the Spiritual Truth into a complete whole.  Even in an individual, the body, mind and intellect are different from one another but they work in harmony and in unity because of the same spiritual Truth, the principle of consciousness. Hence Sri Krishna says that there is no other cause of the Universe but Him; He alone is the cause of the Universe. Without the string the gems will lay spread out, without the Lord, the planets, the stars and all else will be dispersed. The Lord, manifesting Himself through the physical and moral laws, sustains the relative world. He is also the Unity that underlies the diversity of names and forms.

Yajnavalkya concludes his replies with the statement that “Brahman is the seer who cannot be seen, hearer who cannot be heard, the knower who cannot be known. He is your Self, the Inner Controller, the Immortal; everything else is perishable” This last Mantra of this section is very famous which reads as follows.

adrsto drasta, asrutah srota, amato manta, avijnato vijnata. nanyti'to'sti drsta. nanyo'to'sti srota nanyo'to'sti manta, nanyo'to'sti vijnata: esa ta atmantaryamy amrtah: ato'nyad artam. tato hoddalaka arunir upararama.


Then Uddalaka, the son of Aruna, questioned him. He said "Yajnavalkya, he who knows that Sutra and that Inner Controller indeed knows Brahman; he knows the worlds, he knows the gods, he knows the Vedas, he knows the beings, he knows the Self, he knows everything. If you, Yajnavalkya, do not know that Sutra and that Inner Controller and still take away the cows that belong only to the knowers of Brahman, your head will fall off."

"I know, O Gautama (referring to Uddalaka), that Sutra and that Inner Controller." said Yajnavalkya.

"Anyone might say: 'I know, I know.' Tell us what you know."

Yajnavalkya said: "Vayu, O Gautama, is that Sutra. By Vayu, as by a thread, O Gautama, are this world, the other world and all beings held together. Therefore, O Gautama, they say of a person who dies that his limbs have been loosened; for they are held together by Vayu as by a thread."

"Quite so, Yajnavalkya. Now describe the Inner Controller."

Yajnavalkya said: "He who inhabits the earth, yet is within the earth, whom the earth does not know, whose body the earth is and who controls the earth from within—He is your Self, the Inner Controller, the Immortal.

Yajnavalkya's reply to this question is the famous Antaryamin Brahmana.

"O' Gautama (Aruni, Uddalaka), said Yajnavalkya, the Supreme Vital Force of the cosmos,Vayu, can be regarded as the thread on which everything is strung, because all bodies, whatever be their structure, are formed in the mould of this Vital Energy. It is this Vital Force of the cosmos that has taken the shape of all these forms, whether they are the forms of the world or are the forms of individual beings. Outside, the very same Energy looks like the world, and inside, as content thereof, it looks like individuals. It is the subtle constitutive Essence of the whole universe. It cannot be designated by any other name than an ethereal Being, like 'Vayu', wind, air." It is something like electricity, something subtler than that, Prana, the Vital Energy.

That universal Vital Force is the thread. It is a thread in the sense that it is the power which holds all bodies in proper positions. And every body, individual or otherwise, is strung on this thread in the sense that everything is a form taken by it, and therefore, controlled by it. So, you will not find a place where this is not, and you will not find anything operating unless it Wills. It is His Will and His Action that appears outside as the action of people.

When a person is alive, why does that person look whole and complete and integrated? And why is it that when something happens at the time we call death, there is dismemberment of the body and parts of the body get dislocated and hang loosely without being held firmly? What is the cause? The cause is that "this Vital Force was holding the limbs of the body in unison and harmony when the body was alive." What we call life is nothing but the operation of this universal Energy through a particular body.

When the particular function through this individual body does not take place, the Energy withdraws itself. There is then no sustaining power left in the building-blocks of the body. So the blocks collapse. There is, therefore, the return of the constituents of the physical body to their sources. They cannot be held in the form which they assumed when the body was alive. So the body of an individual is nothing but a form assumed, or taken by certain elements. And it begins to function by the action of this Vital Energy. When this action of the Vital Energy is withdrawn, it is called death, or demise of the individual. So, we say that the parts of the body of a dead person get loosened and they are not able to perform the functions that they were doing earlier, merely because this principle is absent. That is the thread which controls everything, individual or cosmic”.

"Well," Uddalaka says, "Yes! I have to admit that it is very right. This is the thread in which the worlds and the individuals are strung together. This answer is very correct. I appreciate your reply to my query, but now, what about the Immanent Principle? What is that Immanent Principle? Answer that. Let me hear from you, what it is."

The Immanent Principle is the Antaryamin, the one that controls everything from within. It is a very peculiar something, whose existence cannot be known for reasons which will be obvious, as we go further. Yet, nothing can be more powerful than that. That which is most powerful and capable of controlling everything is that which cannot be observed by anything, or seen or known. What is that? That is what we call the internal Reality of the Cosmos. That we call the Antaryamin, the Immanent Reality.

Yajnavalkya said, “That principle is inside this very earth, internal to the earth. Outside is the body of the earth, but inside is this principle which holds the earth in unison as a compact completeness. But the earth does not know its existence. The earth and anyone on it cannot know that such a principle exists even though it is the cause of the very existence of the earth.

The whole earth is the body of this principle, as it were. The principle is embodied in the form of this earth. Internally seated in the very heart of the earth is this principle working. This is your own Self. It is the immortal Being. This Atman which is your own Atman, which is your own Self is the internal Ruler, the principle that controls all things. And it is the only thing that can be called immortal. Everything else is mortal. Everything moves around it, as a wheel moves round the hub. The hub does not revolve with the wheel. Even so, everything revolves around that which does not revolve. When everything is active, this is not active. Where everything is restless, this is full of rest. When everything is visible as an object, this is not seen by anybody. When everything is transient, this is permanent. While everything has a goal to reach, this itself is the goal of everyone. Such is the Immanent Being. This is the Antaryamin, or the internal ruler of everyone”.

Yajnavalkya then gives eleven more examples relating to the Cosmos, the transcendent (that is relating to adhidaivatam) viz., 1.water 2. fire 4. air 5. heaven 6. sun 7. quarters of space 8. moon and stars 9. aksasa or space 10. darkness and 11. light.

He then gives one instance relating to all physical beings, the objective (adhibhutam) and eight relating to the individual body, the internal or the subjective ( adhyatmika) viz. 1. nose 2. organ of speech 3. eye 4. ear 5. mind 6. skin 7. intellect and 8. organ of generation to show how Brahman is in all of them and how He holds each of them together.

These passages go on to repeat that the Principle which governs the Earth, governs all the other elements also in the same manner as explained above in the case of the Earth as their Inner Ruler.

This description of the Antaryamin, or the internal Ruler, is given from three stand-points - the transcendent, or the Adhidaivika description, the physical, or the objective, known as the Adhibhautika, and the internal or the subjective, known as the Adhyatmika. All the gods, all the celestials are controlled by this principle. All the elements are controlled by this principle. And every individual being also is controlled by this principle.

In all beings, this is seated. Sarvebhyo bhutebhyo'antarah: He is internal to all beings. He is internal to you; internal to me. Though one individual is outside the other, one is exclusive of the other; this principle is interior to all. Each individual may be regarded as an object to the other but this persists in existing as the internal Reality of every individual. While it is internal to me, it is internal to you also, despite the fact that you are external to me and I am external to you. So the externality of ourselves as personalities, or individuals, does not, in any way, affect the internality of this Reality. So all the external manifestations, not withstanding, this, remains as a Supreme internality. Every being. is controlled by it. Yam sarvani bhutani na viduh: Yet no one can know it.

Now, internal organs are described. The Prana that we breathe, the breath within, is also the function of this Reality within. The Prana, the speech (Vak), the eyes (Caksu), the ears (Srotre), the mind (Manas), the intellect (Vijnana) and all the things you call as your own, in this individual body - all these are but formations of this one Being. It appears as the celestials when you visualize it from the transcendental level; it appears as the universe outside when you visualize it from the external point of view, and it appears as the individuals when you conceive it as the visible bodies of Jivas. There is no separate group of gods, or celestials, other than this. There is no world or universe outside this. And there are no individuals, external to it. No gods, no world, no individuals! All these three sets of apparent reality are only the manifestations or rather appearances of this one Supreme Being.

The term internal has a very special sense in this context because it is not spatial insideness. It is a spiritual existence, a condition of consciousness which is called "internal" because it cannot be regarded as an object of observation. You cannot observe consciousness; you cannot observe your own self; you cannot observe your own understanding or your awareness. You cannot even think of it, because even thinking is a spatial activity of the mind. So, in that sense it is internal. It is the Reality. It cannot be seen because it is necessary, for the act of seeing. Without its operation, without its Being, without its existence, nothing can be seen. You cannot think; you cannot hear; you cannot understand, unless That is there. So, how can you apply this yardstick or measuring rod of perception to that Reality which is the Cause of even your perception, hearing, understanding etc.?

In short, this is the Atman. What we call the Antaryamin, or the Immanent Reality, is the Atman, the Self. When we say it is the Self, we mean it is Consciousness. We mean both things in the same sense. It is an awareness which cannot be the object of awareness. Therefore, it is not capable of being seen. Adrsto drasta: This Reality is the unseen Seer of all beings. You cannot see it, but it sees you. It sees everyone, but no one can see it. Asrutah srota: It can hear everything, but no one can hear it. Amato manta: You cannot think of it, but it can think you. Avijnato vijnata: You cannot understand it, but it can understand you. Nanyo'to'sti drasta: There is no other Seer but that. Nanyo'to'sti srota: There is no hearer other than that. Nanyo'to'sti manta. There is no thinker but that. Nanyo'to'sti vijnata: There is no understander but that. So, if anyone thinks, it is that which thinks; if anyone hears, it is that which hears; if anyone sees, it is that which sees, if anyone understands anything, it is not you or I that understand, it is that which understands. If anyone does anything, it is that which does.

Esa ta atmantaryamy amrtah: "This is the Self; this is the Internal Ruler; this is the Reality. This is immortal, O' Uddalaka. Everything else is useless. Other than this, nothing has any sense or meaning, - ato nyad artam. This is the only Being that is worthwhile considering and approaching and realizing” concludes Yajnavalkya.

Tato hoddalaka arunir upararama: The questions about sutra and antaryamin were answered so lyrically, effectively and successfully that Uddalaka had to keep quiet and occupy his seat. He had nothing further to say.