Svetasvatara Upanishad - Chap 1Speculation about the First Cause


Mantra 10
ṣaraṃ pradhānam amṛtākṣaraṃ haraḥ kṣarātmānāv īśate deva ekaḥ /
  tasyābhidhyānād  yojanāt tattvabhāvād bhūyaś cānte viśvamāyānivṛttiḥ  // 1.10 // 

Prakriti is  perishable. Hara, the Lord, is immortal and imperishable. The non-dual Supreme  Self rules both prakriti and the individual soul. Through constant meditation  on Him, by union with Him, by the knowledge of identity with Him, one attains,  in the end, cessation of the illusion of phenomena. 

Prakriti (maya)  is perishable and of changing nature. Its enjoyer, the jivatma, is imperishable  and indestructible. It is one Brahman, which is called here as Hara, who rules  over the perishable and imperishable both. Hara means the destroyer of  ignorance. The word also signifies Siva or Rudra, one of the divine  manifestations of Brahman in the phenomenal world.  He is alone worth knowing and must be  realized essentially. Pursuing this path, if somebody constantly meditates on  Him, keeping himself always united with Him and realizing his identity with  Him, eventually, he attains Him having known the unity between the individual  self and the Supreme Self. Then he transcends the Maya; his relation with this  illusory world is cut off permanently. This identity is called in the  scriptures as “I am Brahman” (ayam atma brahma, aham brhmaismi and other such mahavakyas).


Mantra 11

jñātvā devaṃ sarvapāśāpahāniḥ kṣīnaiḥ kleśair janmamṛtyuprahāṇiḥ /
    tasyābhidhyānāt  tṛtīyaṃ dehabhede viśvaiśvaryaṃ kevala āptakāmaḥ // 1.11 //

When the Lord  is known all fetters fall off; with the cessation of miseries, birth and death  come to an end. From meditation on Him there arises, after the dissolution of  the body, the third state, that of universal lordship. And lastly, the aspirant,  transcending that state also, abides in the complete Bliss of Brahman.

By constant  meditation when the aspirant comes to know the Supreme Person, then all his  bondages are destroyed forever because when the five afflictions viz.,  ignorance, ego, attraction, aversion and fear from death, are destroyed, then  there remains no birth and death for him. He is never subjected to any bondage.  He regards even the Brahmaloka (called here as Third World) as insignificant,  abandons all heavenly luxuries and attains the absolutely pure Kaivalya and remains satisfied with Brahman alone. He overcomes all desires which are  the results of maya.

Different sides  and stages of liberation are postulated here. Negatively, it is freedom from  birth and death. Positively, it is oneness with Isvara so long as there is the  manifested world and oneness with Brahman when the manifested world ceases to  exist. Again a distinction is made here between dhyana or meditation  which leads to Lordship in Brhamloka and jnana or wisdom which leads to  Liberation.

Mantra 12
      etaj jñeya
nityam evātmasastha nāta para veditavya hi kicit /
  bhoktā bhogya preritāra ca matvā sarva prokta trividha brahmam etat //1.12 //

The enjoyer  (jiva), the objects of enjoyment and the Ruler (Isvara)-the triad described by  the knowers of Brahman-all this is nothing but Brahman. This Brahman alone,  which abides eternally within the self, should be known. Beyond It, truly,  there is nothing else to be known. 

The Supreme  Person, Brahman, is seated in one’s own heart as the indweller. There is no need  to go anywhere else to locate him. One should always make effort to know him as  there is no entity greater than this to be known. By knowing him alone  everything else is known. He is the primal cause and the base for all. When the  man knows that in reality, the jivatma, the sense objects and the God who is  the inspirer of both are one, he knows everything. There remains nothing to be  known. It is Brahman who is described as Prakriti, the Atman and the  Paramatman, the substratum, all the three being only the different aspects of  Brahman.


Mantra 13
    vahner yathā yonigatasya mūrtir na dśyate naiva ca liganāśa
    sa bhūya evendhanayonighyas  tadvobhaya vai praavena dehe // 1.13 //

The visible  form of fire, while it lies latent in its source, the fire-wood, is not  perceived; yet there is no destruction of its subtle form. That very fire can  be brought out again by means of persistent rubbing of the wood, its source. In  like manner, Atman, which exists in two states, like fire, can be grasped in  this very body by means of Om. 

The fire present  in the fire wood is not visible in its gross form to the naked eye. But this  does not mean that there is no fire in its latent or subtle form in the fire  wood. This hidden fire comes out or gets manifested when the two pieces of the  fire wood are rubbed against each other. Similarly the Atman which exists in  two states that is as the Jivatma and as the Paramatma (manifest and  unmanifest) is hidden in the heart. This Atman can be seen in its manifested  form in this body itself by practicing Pranava Upasana or meditation on the  sacred symbol AUM. The Upanishad says that nobody need have any doubt about  this. Atman remains unperceived during the state of ignorance but becomes  apparent through the repetition of AUM.

The fire  produced by rubbing of the wood is compared to Atman, which though invisible  during the state of ignorance, exists all the time and is revealed when the  body is rubbed as it were by AUM. The words persistent rubbing in the mantra  mean meditation on AUM. Through constant meditation the body becomes subdued,  the mind stilled and the vision of Atman is revealed.


Mantra 14

svadeham arai ktvā praava cottarārai
    dhyānanirmathanābhyāsād deva paśyen nigūhavat // 1.14 //

By making the  body the lower piece of wood and Om the upper piece and through the practice of  the friction of meditation, one perceives the luminous Self, hidden like the  fire in the wood. 

The idea explained in the previous mantra is repeated here.  The practice of meditation is compared to the churning of fire wood. Patanjali  defines the term ‘practice’ as the continuous struggle to keep the mind in a  state of complete restraint. The practice becomes firmly grounded by long and  constant efforts coupled with great love for the end to be obtained. It should  be accompanied by vairagya or the giving up of attachment for objects  either heard of or seen.

Mantra 15-16

tileu taila dadhanīva sarpir āpa srotasv araīu cāgni
    evam ātmā ātmani ghyate  'sau satyenaina tapasā yo 'nupaśyati // 1.15 //
    sarvavyāpinam ātmāna kīre sarpir ivārpitam / 
    ātmavidyātapomūlaṃ tad brahmopaniṣatparaṃ tad brahmopaniṣatparam // 1.16 //

As oil exists in sesame seeds,  butter in milk, water in river-beds and fire in wood, so the Self is realized  as existing within the self, when a man looks for It by means of truthfulness  and austerity - when he looks for the Self, which pervades all things as butter  pervades milk and whose roots are Self-Knowledge and austerity. That is the  Brahman taught by the Upanishad; yea, that is the Brahman taught by the  Upanishads.

Just as there is  oil in the oil seeds, ghee in the curd, underground water in the river-bed and  fire in the fire wood, Paramatman is hidden in the hearts of all. The hidden  substances come out of their respective storehouses by following the prescribed  practices. Similarly, those aspirants who are detached from worldly  attachments, who follow the norms of good conduct, practice meditation coupled  with restraint can attain the Supreme Lord who is pervading everything as ghee  in the milk.  That Supreme Lord is  Brahman as enunciated in the Upanishad. Prasna Upanishad (1.16) says ‘that  stainless world of Brahman belongs to them in whom there is no crookedness, no  falsehood, and no deception’.

“The divine in  us becomes manifest only when we subject ourselves to certain disciplines. The  divine operates in us but it requires effort to make it shine forth. Another  Upanishad says that the divine dwells in us as ghee in milk but even as ghee is  obtained after the process of churning, the churning of the mind is necessary  to reveal the inner splendor.  Like  butter hidden in milk, the eternal wisdom dwells in each and every object; let  there be constant churning by the churning stick of the mind. Bhagavatam  (III.9.32) says ‘When men realize me as present in all beings, as latent fire  is in wood, from that moment they discard confusion’. As fragrance is in the  flower, as butter in milk, as oil in sesame seeds, as gold in the reef of gold,  so God dwells in all objects.-Dhyana Bindu Upanishad.5.” - Dr. S.Radhakrishnan.

Iti  Svetasvataropanishadi prathamo’dhyaayah ||



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