Mundaka Upanishad

6. Doctrine of Brahman and Atman
Continuing the discussion about the Higher Knowledge, the teacher takes up the doctrine of Brahman – Atman.  A vivid description of the cosmology is given–how the Jiva, the Prana, the mind, all the organs, the five cosmic five elements, all religious rites, the oceans, the mountains, the rivers, the herbs are born. A sketch of the knowledge of Brahman, The One Absolute with many relative manifestations, is drawn.  Brahaman in His own nature and in His relation to the world is explained.

Thereafter, the means of knowing or realizing Brahman are taken up. Brahman is the target to be penetrated by meditation on ‘OM’. To render meditation easy, the Supreme Self is described as the Immortal Soul, the self-luminous light of the world, full of bliss, who is omnipresent and who shines with all splendor in the heart of man.

The sage says ‘as from a blazing fire, sparks essentially akin to it fly forth by the thousand, so also, my good friend, do diverse beings come forth from the imperishable Brahman and unto Him again return’. [M.U. 2:1:1]

The three fundamental points of Upanishadic philosophy have been laid down here.
• All beings that exist–past, present, future–are of the same nature, even the same substance, as Brahman.
• All forms [modes of existence], though ever-changing, proceed from the Unchanging, Unchangeable. This seeming
  contradiction is made possible by the illusory power of Maya. That is, the changing forms are illusory while the
  essential being, the Self/Atman is unchanging.
• Having emanated from Brahman they shall all, without exception return to Brahman.

a) Some Traits Of The Source, The Brahman
Self-luminous is that Being, and formless. He dwells within all and without all. He is unborn, pure, greater than the greatest, without breath, without mind. [M.U. 2:1:2]

Brahman is the Source: From him are born breath, mind, the organs of sense, ether, air, fire, water, and the earth, and he binds all these together. [M.U. 2:1:3] God’s creation is never separated from Him even for an instant. By His indwelling presence He maintains and unifies them. All that exists is held in the Mind of God, for they are His thoughts made visible or tangible.

Heaven is his head, the sun and moon his eyes, the four quarters his ears, the revealed scriptures his voice, the air his breath, the universe his heart. From his feet came the earth. He is the innermost Self of all. [M.U. 2:1:4] The universe is not God’s creation, but it is His manifestation–His incarnation. And he remains its Inner Controller [Antaryamin].

From him arises the sun-illumined sky, from the sky the rain, from the rain food, and from food the seed in man which he gives to woman. Thus do all creatures descend from him. [M.U. 2:1:5]

From him are born hymns, devotional chants, scriptures, rites, sacrifices, oblations, divisions of time, the doer and the deed, and all the worlds lighted by the sun and purified by the moon. [M.U. 2:1:6]

From him are born gods of diverse descent. From him are born angels, men, beasts, birds; from him vitality, and food to sustain it; from him austerity and meditation, faith, truth, continence, and law. [M.U. 2:1:7]

From him spring the organs of sense, their activities, and their objects, together with their awareness of these objects. All these things, parts of man’s nature, spring from him. [M.U. 2:1:8] This explains how human beings are made in the image of God.

In him the seas and the mountains have their source; from him spring the rivers, and from him the herbs and other life-sustaining elements, by the aid of which the subtle body of man subsists in the physical body.

Thus Brahman is all in all. He is action, knowledge, goodness supreme. To know him, hidden in the lotus of the heart, is to untie the knot of ignorance even during this life on earth. [M.U. 2:1:9, 10]

Further description of Brahman is now given along with instructions on how to know Brahman. The Upanishad is so clear that some verses hardly need much explanation.

Self-luminous is Brahman, ever present in the hearts of all. He is the refuge of all, he is the supreme goal. In him exists all that moves and breathes. In him exists all that is. He is both that which is gross and that which is subtle. Adorable is he. Beyond the ken of the senses is he. Supreme is he. You attain him! [M.U. 2:2:1]

He, the self-luminous, subtler than the subtlest, in whom exist all the worlds and all those that live therein–he is the imperishable Brahman. He is the principle of life. He is speech, and he is mind. He is real. He is immortal. Attain him, O my friend, the one goal to be attained! [M.U. 2:2:2]

Not only must we attain God, but we must also understand that He is the only goal to be attained–for everything else is antithetical to our eternal nature.

b) The Means To Reach God
Having convinced us of the value and need to seek God the sage will now advise us how to find God by telling us the actual means for the purpose:

The knowledge contained in the Upanishads is like a bow, the great weapon. One should place in it the arrow sharpened by meditation. Drawing it with a mind fixed on That [Brahman] hit the target -  that is the Immortal Brahman. OM is the bow, the arrow is the individual being, and Brahman is the target. With a tranquil heart, take aim and hit that mark and like the arrow becoming one with the target your Self should become one with Brahman. [M.U. 2:2:3, 4]

Our very Self, our very consciousness, is to be united with Om in calm and whole-hearted attention. This can only be done by being purified by constant meditation according to Shankara’s commentary. So meditation is itself the way to become proficient in meditation. The simple fact that we are meditating is assurance that we shall become more and more proficient in it. When that proficiency is gained, then we will easily unite our consciousness with Om, the symbol of Brahman. The arrow embeds itself in the target and becomes one with it. This is not an occasional ascent to higher awareness, but a permanent establishment in the Being of Brahman. It is meditation on Om that can accomplish this.

c) What We Will Perceive In That Union?
As a result of our meditation we shall directly perceive: in him are woven heaven, earth, and sky, together with the mind and all the senses. Know him, the Self alone. Give up vain talk. He is the bridge of immortality. [M.U. 2:2:5]

d) Where Do We Find God?
Within the lotus of the heart he dwells, where, like the spokes of a wheel in its hub, the nerves meet. Meditate on him as OM. Easily you may cross the sea of darkness. [M.U. 2:2:6]

e) More About The Heart
When the Upanishads speak of the heart they do not mean the physical organ that pumps blood, but the center of our being where the Self ever dwells. The sage now speaks more about this spiritual heart.

This Self, who understands all, who knows all, and whose glory is manifest in the universe, lives within the lotus of the heart, the bright throne of Brahman. By the pure in heart is he known. The Self exists in man, within the lotus of the heart, and is the master of his life and of his body. With mind illumined by the power of meditation, the wise know him, the blissful, the immortal. [M.U. 2:2:7] Since the Self understands and knows all, to be truly knowledgeable and wise all we need to do is shift our awareness into our own Self.

The knot of the heart, which is ignorance, is loosened, all doubts are dissolved, all evil effects of deeds are destroyed, when he who is both personal and impersonal is realized. [M.U. 2:2:8] When we enter into the consciousness of our individual spirit and the Infinite Spirit, the blinding veil of ignorance will dissolve away along with all the bonds of karma. In the effulgent lotus of the heart dwells Brahman, who is passionless and indivisible. He is pure; he is the light of lights. Him the knower’s of the Self attain. [M.U. 2:2:9] What greater goal can there be than this?

Summing up, the sage says: Him the sun does not illumine, nor the moon, nor the stars, nor the lightning–nor, verily, fires kindled upon the earth. He is the one light that gives light to all. He shining, everything shines. (This Mantra is recited while performing Arti in our daily pujas).

This immortal Brahman is before, this immortal Brahman is behind, this immortal Brahman extends to the right and to the left, above and below. Verily, all this elegant universe is Brahman, and Brahman is supreme. [M.U. 2:2:10, 11]

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