Svetasvatara Upanishad - Chap 5 The One Immanent God


Mantra 7

guānvayo ya phalakarmakartā ktasya tasyaiva sa copabhoktā /
sa viśvarūpas triguas trivartmā prāādhipa sacarati svakarmabhi // 5.7 //

Endowed with gunas, the jiva performs action, seeking its fruit; and again, it reaps the fruit of what it has done. Assuming all forms and led by the three gunas, the jiva, ruler of the pranas, roams about following the three paths, according to its deeds. 

Now the discussion is about the Jivatma, the individual soul, which acts bound by its gunas. The Jivatma, innately bound by three gunas, sattva, rajas and tamas, performs actions in this world and reaps the consequences of such actions. In order to experience the fruit of the actions, the jivatama appears as different forms in different species and wherever it goes the three gunas are always associated with it.

After death he moves along the three paths viz., Devayana, Pitruyana, and the cycle of birth and death according to the merits of his actions during his life time. This jivatma is the Lord of vital forces in the body and until it is emancipated, goes on moving around the wheel of the world, manifesting in different species in different walks of life, goaded     by his past actions.

Mantra 8

aguṣṭhamātro ravitulyarūpa sakalpāhakārasamanvito ya /
buddher guenātmaguena caiva ārāgramātro hy avaro 'pi dṛṣṭa // 5.8 //

Of the size of a thumb, but brilliant, like the sun, the jiva possesses both volition and egoism. It is endowed with the qualities of both buddhi and Atman. Therefore it is seen as another entity (as different from Brahman) and as small as the point of a needle. 

The jiva is in reality none other than the non-dual Lord, Its various phenomenal characteristics, such as desire, volition (will of its own) and egoism, are illusory superimpositions due to avidya.

This Mantra describes the jiva as :
Angushtamatrah - as small as a thumb; Ravitulya rupah - as bright as the sun; Sankalpa-ahankara_samanvitah - distinguished by a will of its own (volition) and a sense of ego; Buddheh gunena atmagunena cha - also by an intellect and a sense of having a body; Aragramatrah - as fine as a point of a needle; Aparah - as separate from the Cosmic Self, Paramatman, Brahman.

Knowers of jivatman have seen jivatma in this way. The idea is that jivatma is the subtlest. The size of jiva described here is just for explanation. Bhagvad Gita says (15.10)

utkraamantam sthitam vaapi bhunjaanam vaa gunaanvitam
vimoodhaa naanupashyanti pashyanti jnaanachakshushah  //
The deluded do not see Him who departs, stays and enjoys, united with the Gunas; but they who possess the eye of knowledge behold Him.

The Self is visible to the eye of knowledge only. Though the Self is the nearest and comes most easily within the range of their consciousness in a variety of functions, still the ignorant and deluded do not see Him because of their complete subservience to the sense-objects. But those who are with intuitive vision could see the Self. Those with the inner eye of knowledge behold the Self as entirely distinct from the body.

Mantra 9

vālāgraśatabhāgasya śatadhā kalpitasya ca /
bhāgo jīva sa vijñeya sa cānantyāya kalpate // 5.9 //

Know the embodied soul to be a part of the hundredth part of the point of a hair divided a hundred times; and yet it is infinite. 

The subtlety of jivatma is again elaborated here.  It is described as smaller than the billionth part of the end of hair. This is just a simile and not to be taken literally. Inspite of being so subtle, jivatma is pervasive in any gross object. In a nutshell, the implication is that although Paramatman (Cosmic Self) is permeating the entire universe, when it is associated with the physical bodies, it gets individualized and feels itself separate from the Cosmic Self.

Mantra 10

naiva strī na pumān ea na caivāya napusaka /
yad yac charīram ādatte tena tena sa yujyate // 5.10 //

It is not female, it is not male, nor is it neuter. whatever body it takes, with that it becomes united. 

Jivatma in reality is neither male nor female nor neuter. Whatever body jivatma adopts, the gender of that body becomes its gender. Jivatma is undifferentiated and devoid of all attributes.

Mantra 11

sakalpanasparśanadṛṣṭimohair grāsāmbuvṛṣṭyā cātmavivddhijanma /
karmānugāny anukramena dehī sthāneu rūpāy abhisaprapadyate // 5.11 //

By means of desires, contact, attachment and delusion, the embodied soul assumes, successively, diverse forms in various places, according to its deeds, just as the body grows when food and drink are poured into it. 

First there arises a desire for an object and then the sense organs come in contact with it, next the jiva grows attached to the objects and lastly it falls a victim to the delusion created by attachment. Thus it performs various deeds, righteous and unrighteous, and as a result assumes different kinds of bodies, one after the other.

Mantra 12

sthūlāni sūki bahūni caiva rūpāi dehī svaguair vṛṇoti /
kriyāguair ātmaguaiś ca teā sayogahetur aparo 'pi dṛṣṭa // 5.12 //

The embodied soul, by means of good and evil deeds committed by itself, assumes many forms, coarse and fine. By virtue of its actions and also of such characteristics of the mind as knowledge and desire, it assumes another body for the enjoyment of suitable objects. 

The individual self assumes various gross and subtle forms, from those of insects to gods, according to its past work and mental qualities (gunas). The subtle tendencies created by the individual soul’s actions in its previous life are the cause of its union with its present body.


Mantra 13

anādyananta kalilasya madhye viśvasya sraṣṭāram anekarūpa /
viśvasyaika pariveṣṭitāra jñātvā deva mucyate sarvapāśai // 5.13 //

He who knows the Lord, who is without beginning or end, who stands in the midst of the chaos of the world, who is the Creator of all things and is endowed with many forms-he who knows the radiant Deity, the sole Pervader of the universe, is released from all his fetters.

Sankara comments as under:
“The jiva under the weight of avidya, desire, action, and its result, is drowned in the ocean of the world, identifying itself with the body and becomes individualized, and in the course of its wandering assumes many births - human, sub-human and super-human. At a certain stage, by chance it performs righteous actions and feels inclined towards the spiritual life. Then gradually it becomes free of attachment, passions and other vices and realizes the transitory nature of the world. Consequently it cultivates dispassion for all enjoyments, here or hereafter and practices the moral and spiritual disciplines prescribed by the Vedantic teachers. And in the end it attains Self-Knowledge and become liberated from the bondage of the world”.

Mantra 14

bhāvagrāhyam anīākhya bhāvābhāvakara śiva /
kalāsargakara deva ye vidus te jahus tanum // 5.14 //

Those who know Him who can be realized by the pure heart, who is called incorporeal, who is the cause of creation and destruction, who is all good and the creator of the sixteen parts - those who know the luminous Lord are freed from embodiment. 

This Mantra concludes the chapter by recapitulating how to attain Moksha. The Supreme Lord, Himself without a support, is the cause of creation, preservation and dissolution. He can be known by the pure in heart. Through knowledge of Him one attains Liberation. Creator of sixteen parts means the creator of embodied beings (Ref. Prasna Upanishad 6.4). Thus the knower of the Self is not born again in the world of ignorance.

Iti Svetasvataropanishadi panchamo’dhyayah ||

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