Svetasvatara Upanishad - Chap 3 The Highest Reality


Mantra 7

tata para brahma para bhanta yathānikāya sarvabhūteu gūha
viśvasyaika pariveṣṭitāram īśa ta jñātvāmtā bhavanti // 3.7 //

The Supreme Lord is higher than Virat, beyond Hiranyagarbha. He is vast and is hidden in the bodies of all living beings. By knowing Him, who alone pervades the universe, men become immortal.

The Supeme Being is everywhere, pervading the entire world and existing in all beings. But He is also beyond the phenomenal world. Virat is the totality of physical bodies in the universe. Brahman through his Maya identifies himself with Virat. Hiranyagarbha is the cosmic seed at the beginning of creation which is also called the totality of the mind of the universe and Brahman is identified as beyond this. 

Brahman, the Pure Consciousness, is stated to be hiding behind the physical bodies of living beings just as oil is hidden in the oil seeds and fire in the fire-wood. Through self-control, discrimination and meditation one realizes Brahman as one’s own inner Self and attains Liberation. He who knows Brahman becomes Brahman, the Immortal - barhma veda brhamaiva bhavati.

The next Mantra says that a seeker, by realizing his identity with the non-dual Brahman attains the Highest Good.

Mantra 8

vedāham eta purua mahāntam ādityavara tamasa parastāt / 
tam eva viditvāti mtyum eti nānya panthā vidyate 'yanāya // 3.8 //

I know the great Purusha, who is luminous, like the sun and beyond darkness. Only by knowing Him does one pass over death; there is no other way to the Supreme Goal. 

This Mantra is very popular in the daily Vedic chanting of Purusha Suktam. It occurs in many scriptures. The Purusha Suktam is an important part of the Rig-veda ( It also appears in the Taittiriya Aranyaka (3.12,13), the Vajasaneyi Samhita (31.1-6), the Sama-veda Samhita (6.4), and the Atharva-veda Samhita (19.6).

An explanation of parts of it can be found in the Shatapatha Brahmana, the Taittiriya Brahmana, besides the Shvetashvatara Upanishad. The contents of the Suktam have also been reflected and elaborated in the Bhagavata Purana (2.5.35 to 2.6.1-29) and in the Mahabharata (Mokshadharma Parva 351 and 352).

The Upanishadic Mantra under our study occurs in the Purusha Suktam twice with slight modifications from each other. One of it reads as under:

vedahametam purusham mahantam  adityavarnam tamasah parastat 
tamevam vidvan amrita iha bhavati  nanyah pantha vidyate'yanaya (20)
"I have known that great Purusha (Supreme Being) who is brilliant like the sun and who is beyond all darkness. One who knows Him thus becomes immortal (even) here. There is no other path for liberation than this"

Brahman is referred to here as Purusha because He dwells in the body (pura) or because He fills the universe (purnam). The sage of the Svetasvatara Upanishad says with all emphasis at his command, that knowledge of Brahman, the Absolute, who is described as adityavarnam - bright, effulgent, shining like the sun, alone can destroy the darkness of ignorance (tamasah parastat) and free men from the round of births and deaths (tameva viditva’timrtyumeti). There is no other way of escape (nānyah  panthā vidyate 'yanāya) i.e., no attainment in the phenomenal world can be eternal. There is no other path to liberation than the realization that one’s inmost Self is the birthless and deathless Brahman which constitutes immortality.

Mantra 9

yasmāt para nāparam asti kicid yasmān nāīyo na jyāyo 'sti kicit / 
vka iva stabdho divi tiṣṭhaty ekas teneda pūra puruea sarvam // 3.9 //

The whole universe is filled by the Purusha, to whom there is nothing superior, from whom there is nothing different, than whom there is nothing either smaller or greater; who stands alone, motionless as a tree, established in His own glory. 

The whole world is filled with Purusha (Brahman). Hence there cannot be any question of somebody being superior or inferior to Purusha or something being different from Purusha or something being bigger or smaller than Purusha. Thus Brahman stands alone by Himself as a tree, established in His own glory.

Brahman pervades the universe as gold pervades an ornament. He is the only substance in the universe while the names and forms are all created by Maya. Maya creates the ideas of superiority, inferiority, difference etc., which belong to the realm of phenomenal world.

Mantra 10

tato yad uttaratara tadarūpam anāMayam / 
ya etad vidur amtās te bhavanti athetare dukham evāpiyanti // 3.10 //

That which is farthest from this world is without form and without affliction They who know It become immortal; but others, indeed, suffer pain. 

The knowledge that Brahman alone, through Maya, appears as both the Creator and the  world, bestows immortality upon the seeker.  Again, knowledge by itself is not of much value unless it is followed by personal experience of that truth. We must experience that we are one with Brahman. The whole focus is on this realization. One experiences sorrow in the phenomenal world without such knowledge and realization.

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