Svetasvatara Upanishad - Chap 1Speculation about the First Cause


Mantra 6

sarvājīve  sarvasaṃsthe bṛhante tasmin haṃso bhrāmyate brahmacakre /
    pṛthag ātmānaṃ preritāraṃ ca matvā juṣṭas tatas tenāmṛtatvam eti // 1.6 //
In this great Brahma-Wheel, in which all things abide and finally rest,  the swan wanders about so long as it thinks the self is different from the  Controller. When blessed by Him the self attains Immortality.

The individual  self is compared to a swan in this mantra.   It says that all beings evolve from the Wheel of Brahma i.e., evolve  from Brahman with attributes (with its creative power maya). The  individual self, the jiva, roams about in the phenomenal world, assuming  different bodies - human, subhuman, and superhuman. The cause of the java’s  wandering in the samsara is due to the mistaken notion that the individual  self is different from the Supreme Self that is to say the Supreme Lord, the  Controller of the Universe.

When blessed by  Him i.e., when the knowledge that the individual self is non-different from the  Supreme Self dawns, it gets absorbed in the Brahman, the essence of Bliss and  Consciousness, the immortality or Liberation.

He who knows  himself to be Brahman or the Ultimate Reality is liberated and he who knows  himself to be other than Brahman remains bound.


Mantra 7

udgītam etat  paramaṃ tu brahma  tasmiṃs trayaṃ svapratiṣṭhākṣaraṃ ca /
    atrāntaraṃ brahmavido viditvā līnā  brahmaṇi tatparā  yonimuktāḥ // 1.7  //

It is the  Supreme Brahman alone untouched by phenomena that is proclaimed in the  Upanishads. In It is established the triad of the enjoyer, the object and the  Lord who is the Controller. This Brahman is the immutable foundation; It is  imperishable. The sages, having realized Brahman to be the essence of  phenomena, become devoted to Him. Completely merged in Brahman, they attain  freedom from rebirth. 

This mantra  clarifies that the realization of Brahman referred to in the previous mantra  relates to the Brahman without any attributes in whom the Contemplator, the  object of Contemplation and the act of contemplation or the individual soul,  the world, and the Cosmic Lord (bhokta, bhogyam, preritaram) merge into  one. This supreme Self is the substratum, the imperishable, on which phenomenal  universe rests. Brahman is the indwelling Spirit, antaram. He is within  all of us. When we know this, when we see the universe is just an appearance,  when we understand the Reality behind the appearance, we merge in Brahman, brahmani  linah.  “Brahma veda brahmaiva  bhavati” - he who knows Brahman becomes one with Brahman. (Mundaka Up. III.ii.9).

Mantra 8
ṃyuktam etat kṣaram akṣaraṃ ca vyaktāvyaktaṃ bharate viśvam īśaḥ /
  anīśaś cātmā  badhyate bhoktṛbhāvāj  jñātvā devaṃ  mucyate sarvapāśaiḥ  // 1.8 // 

The Lord,  Isa, supports all this which is a combination of the perishable and the imperishable,  the manifest, the effect and the unmanifest, the cause. The same Lord, the  Supreme Self, devoid of Lordship, becomes bound because of assuming the  attitude of the enjoyer. The jiva by realizing the Supreme Self is freed from  all fetters. 

Brahman, the  Lord or Pure Consciousness, is the support of phenomena as the rope is the  support of the illusory snake or the desert is of the mirage. When we think of  Brahman as the cause of manifestation, it is called Isvara. Brahman is the  support of all relative phenomena which include both the tangible effects and  the intangible cause or Isvara.

“The perishable  comprises of all creatures and the imperishable is said to be the unchanging.  But there is another Being, the Highest, called the Supreme Being, Purushottama,  who as the Immutable, pervades and sustains the three worlds”. (Bhgavad Gita  15.16-17).

Under the spell  of ignorance, the Supreme Self appears as the jiva or a phenomenal being, who  in association with body, senses, mind and intellect becomes individualized.  This jiva is the doer of the action and the enjoyer of the results. Once the  ignorance is destroyed, the jiva is freed from the fetters and becomes the  Supreme Self. The concepts of bondage and liberation, pleasure and pain, do not  affect Brahman. They are created by maya and apply to phenomena and therefore  they are ultimately unreal.


Mantra 9

jñājñau dvāv  ajāv īśanīśāv ajā hy ekā bhoktṛbhogārthayuktā  / 
    anantaś cātmā  viśvarūpo hy akartā trayaṃ  yadā vindate brahmam etat // 1.9 //   

The Supreme  Lord appears as Isvara, omniscient and omnipotent and as the jiva, of limited  knowledge and power, both unborn. But this does not deny the phenomenal  universe; for there exists further the unborn prakriti, which creates the ideas  of the enjoyer, enjoyment and the object. Atman is infinite and all-pervading  and therefore devoid of agency. When the seeker knows all these three to be  Brahman, he is freed from his fetters. 

Both Isvara and  the jiva are in fact Brahman which is the substratum and hence they are called  unborn. Maya is the material cause of the universe. Being itself inert, maya  cannot function without the power of the Lord, Isvara, who uses it as an  instrument for creation, preservation and dissolution. On account of this  association with maya, Isvara himself appears to be like a phenomenal entity,  having as it were a body and material substance. Thus the Lord, though  non-different from Brahman, the Supreme Lord, on account of his association  with maya he appears as a phenomenal being. Since maya is ultimately unreal,  the ideas of the enjoyer, enjoyment and the object of enjoyment are also unreal.  For this reason, non-dual Brahman alone exists without any ideas of agency,  action etc., which belong to the phenomenal world alone.

To the illumined  person, the substratum is non-different from what is super-imposed; for him the  illusory snake is nothing but the real rope. Thus he who knows Brahman alone as  Reality is free from all false conceptions and sees Brahman everywhere and in  everything. He rids himself of the false notions of doership and being free  from grief, he attains Supreme Bliss.

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