The Upanishads & So. Virginia



--and INTO THE MOUNTAINS OF SOUTHERN VIRGINIA (see other pages linked below)


I feel like a school-boy being asked to write something about his vacation.

So, who asked me to do this?  Just me.

We visited with our daughter Rachel and granddaughter Aubree in southern Virginia the last week of April, 2014.  Audrey and I stayed at the house of Rachel’s boyfriend, Lee.  Lee is a true scholar and gentleman with a fantastic library in terms of psychology, religion, and history.

For the few days we were in his home I availed myself of several interesting books on Christian and, for a change, also Hindu mysticism.

We also, of course, took advantage of the nearby natural beauty of this locale, and there are some photo pages to document several physical forays into the beautiful physical reality forged from the union of Brahman and his consort Maya.  Links are given below.

“Union of whom and whom,” you may be asking if you are not familiar with either Brahman or Maya?  Let’s answer that question by excerpting two of the books about the Hindu religious/mystical tradition that I read, either in part or whole, while there. 

Don’t forget that what I cited from these books is what interested me.  Other aspects of these two books would no doubt be of interest, or maybe even of more interest, to you.  Hence the two citations below are given in enough detail that you can go to your local library, or new or used bookstore, and find these two books, or perhaps more recent equivalents.

The first book has one chapter that gives an introduction to the material I found interesting in the second book.  The first book gives a comprehensive overview of the Hindu religious/mystical traditions (plural, on purpose) in their historical and social contexts.  If offers way more information than I was looking for, but its introduction to The Upanishads was exactly what I was looking for.

The second book reviewed below is an English translation of the 12 principal Upanishads (other books I looked at, including the first book cited, say that there are 13 authentic Upanishads—meaning that they can be dated to the time of their first appearance.  Twelve is OK by me).

The Hindu Tradition,

Reading in Oriental Thought

Edited by Ainslee T. Embree

Vantage Books, 1972

[All text below is taken verbatim from the sources.  Where I interject someting, it is enclosed in brackets like this].

p. 48

The designation of the Upanishads as the “end of the Veda” (Vedänta) indicates both their place in the temporal sequence of the Vedic literature and their position within the canon of Hindu scripture as the summation of the truth contained in all the previous works.  Over a hundred works are given the name of “Upanishad” but only about thirteen of these can be dated with assurance as belonging to the Vedic Age.  They do not present any consistent religious or philosophical system, and even within a single work there may be contradictions; nor do they claim to present new truths.  . . .

p. 49

. . .

[Before the Upanishads there was a tendency to assign godhood to the observed phenomena of life and thus attempt to create a unifying vision of divinity underlying reality, but]:

. . .

In the Upanishads this unifying principle is seen to be not a deity or any physical property but brahman, that mysterious principle that even in earlier thought is regarded as forming the substratum of the universe.  At the same time, the basis of human selfhood was understood to be the ätman, the self or soul.  One conclusion that the sages of the Upanishads reached was that these two principles, brahman and ätman, were identical, and that the essence of being underlying both the self and the external was absolutely undifferentiated.  . . .

pp. 49-50

Although this assertion of the ultimate identity of brahman and ätman seems to be the dominating theme of the Upanishads, there are other interpretations of the nature of the relationship between the two principles.  One of the Upanishads, Svetasvatara, speaks of brahman as God, making a distinction between this and the external world.  In addition to this theistic interpretation, there is also a movement toward pantheism, a tendency to think of the natural universe and the individual soul as God.

These varying interpretations could exist side by side because the sages and teachers were not seeking to formulate a statement of belief but something entirely different, “a radical alteration in the mode of consciousness . . . with a view to gaining intuitive knowledge of reality.”  They defined this reality in terms of the brahman-ätman equation, but their quest can probably also be understood in western terminology as an attempt to experience a sense of the immortality of the soul, to find a self more permanent than the ego immediately known to consciousness.  At this level of the Indian tradition, therefore, the religious concern is not with a relationship between man and God, but with the realization of the nature of the self.  . . .

Underlying much of the speculation of the Upanishads are the two closely related concepts, karma and transmigration.  Karma, literally “action,” is the belief that every act produces an effect which inevitably finds fruition.  . . .

pp. 50-51

Indissolubly linked with the concept of karma is the other great characteristic feature of Indian thought, the belief in transmigration.  The idea that the human soul on death finds lodging in another body is widespread, but by being linked with the doctrine of karma it took on special significance.  Since every act carries with it an inevitable result, the span of one lifetime may not suffice as a field for the working out of all the implications of action.  Transmigration makes possible, therefore, a belief in the strict justice of the universe, with each action reaping its due reward of good or evil fruit.  Conversely, the two concepts can be used to explain the seeming injustices and inequities of the world.

[The editor goes on to explain that karma and transmigration are accepted in Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, even though the latter two religions “rejected the Vedic scriptures.”]

[So as you read my selections from 12 of the Upanishads below, remember that self=ätman and Self=ÄtmanBrahman, the translator did not use the word Ätman or ätman, choosing instead to use the translated words Self and self.  Note how brahman and ätman as used here are used identically in Hermann Hesse's Siddharta, which treats the same themes that interested me in the Upanishads in a different, fictional setting wherein, interestingly, a perceived conflict between the Buddha's teaching and Hindu belief is reconciled for one person, Siddharta, who argues with the Buddha.  Then he comes to see that it is an illusion to think of words in the spiritual realm as having concrete meanings. They are mere pointers to unknowable, ineffable potential realities. Siddharta reconciles his internal conflict between his intellect and his intuition through internalizing this realization.  I seem to have the same problem, hence my interest in that story and in what follows below.]

The Upanishads, Breath of the Eternal.

The Wisdom of the Hindu Mystics

Swami Prabhavananda and Frederick Manchester (selectors and translators)

1957. Mentor Book/New American Library

I               KATHA

[Interview between Nachikita and the King of Death in which Nachikita turns down an offer of luxury and power to not ask this question: “When a man dies, there is this doubt: Some say he is; others say, he is not.  Taught by thee, I would know the truth.”

The answer is long, and contains this]:

p. 18

It is---OM.

                This syllable is Brahman.  This syllable is indeed supreme.  He who knows it obtains his desire.

. . .

                The Self, whose symbol is OM, is the omniscient Lord.  He is not born. He does not die.  He is neither cause nor effect.  This Ancient One is unborn, imperishable, eternal: though the body be destroyed, he is not killed.

. . .

                Smaller than the smallest, greater than the greatest, this Self forever dwells within the hearts of all.  When a man is free from desire, his mind and senses purified, he beholds the glory of the Self and is without sorrow.

. . .

p. 19

                The Self is not known through the study of scriptures, nor through subtlety of the intellect, nor through much learning; but by him who longs for him is he known.  Verily unto him does the Self reveal his true being.

. . .

                Both the individual self and the Universal Self have entered the cave of the heart, the abode of the Most High, but the knowers of Brahman . . . see a difference between them as between sunshine and shadow.

. . .

Know that the Self is the rider, and the body the chariot; that the intellect is the charioteer, and the mind the reins.  [the mind is the organ of perception—says a footnote]

. . .

p. 20

                This Brahman, this Self, deep-hidden in all beings, is not revealed to all; but to the seers, pure in heart, concentrated in mind—to them is he revealed.

                The senses of the wise man obey his mind, his mind obeys his intellect, his intellect obeys his ego, and his ego obeys the Self.

. . .

                The Self-Existent made the senses turn outward.  Accordingly, man looks toward what is without, and sees not what is within.  Rare is he who, longing for immortality, shuts his eyes to what is without and beholds the Self.

. . .

                He through whom man sees, tastes, smells, hears, feels, and enjoys, is the omniscient Lord.

He verily, is the immortal Self.  Knowing him, one knows all things.

He through whom man experiences the sleeping or waking states is the all-pervading Self.  Knowing him, one grieves no more.

p. 21

                He who knows that the individual soul, enjoyer of the fruits of action, is the Self—ever present within, lord of time, past and future—casts out all fear.  For this Self is the immortal Self.

. . .

                What is within us is also without.  What is without is also within.  He who sees difference between what is within and what is without goes evermore from death to death.

                By the purified mind alone is the indivisible Brahman to be obtained.  Brahman alone is—nothing else is.  He who sees the manifold universe, and not the one reality, goes evermore from death to death.

. . .

p. 22

                What can remain when the dweller in this body leaves the outgrown shell, since he is, verily, the immortal Self?

                Man does not live by breath alone, but by him in whom is the power of breath.

. . .

                Of those ignorant of the Self, some enter into beings possessed of wombs, others enter into plants—according to their deeds and the growth of their intelligence.

. . .

p. 24

                The senses have separate origin in their separate objects. . . . He who knows them to be distinct from the changeless Self grieves no more.

                Above the senses is the mind.  Above the mind is the intellect.  Above the intellect is the ego.  Above the ego is the unmanifested seed, the Primal Cause.

                And verily beyond the unmanifested seed is Brahman, the all-pervading spirit, the unconditioned, knowing whom one attains to freedom and achieves immortality.

. . .

                When all senses are stilled, when the mind is at rest, when the intellect wavers not—then, say the wise, is reached the highest state.

                This calm of the senses and the mind has been defined as yoga.  He who attains it is freed from delusion.

                In one not freed from delusion this calm is uncertain, unreal: it comes and goes.  Brahman words cannot reveal, mind cannot reach, eyes cannot see.  How then, save through those who know him, can he be known?

. . .

                The mortal in whose heart desire is dead becomes immortal.  The mortal in whose heart the knots of ignorance are untied becomes immortal.  These are the highest truths taught in the scriptures.

Radiating from the lotus of the heart there are a hundred and one nerves.  One of those ascends toward the thousand-petaled lotus in the brain.  If, when a man comes to die, his vital force passes upward and out through this nerve, he attains immortality; but if his vital force passes out through another nerve, he goes to one or another plane of mortal existence and remains subject to birth and death. . . .

II             ISHA

. . .

p. 27

. . .

                He who sees all beings in the Self, and the Self in all beings, hates none.

. . .

p. 28

. . .

                Life in the world alone leads to one result, meditation alone leads to another.  So we have heard from the wise.

. . .

                They who devote themselves both to life in the world and to meditation, by life in the world overcome death, and by meditation achieve immortality.

. . .

III            KENA


[This Upanishad has a story about some gods celebrating their victory over demons, and bragging about their exploits]:

Brahman saw their vanity and appeared before them.  But they did not recognize him.

[The gods take turns approaching Brahman, and bragging to him about their great and powerful deeds being known far and wide.   Brahman asks them who they are and tests them, and they fail the tests.  The god of fire cannot burn a straw Brahman holds out to him, and the god of wind can’t move the same straw.  They both ask Indra, the greatest among them, to go find out who this spirit is.  When Indra approaches the spirit it turns and disappears and in his place Indra finds God the Mother]:


. . . the spirit vanished and in his place stood Uma, God the Mother, well adorned and of exceeding beauty.  Beholding her, Indra asked:

                “Who was the spirit that appeared to us?”

                “That,” answered Uma, “was Brahman.  Through him it was, not of yourselves, that you attained your victory and your glory.”

. . .

p. 32-33

                This is the truth of Brahman in relation to man: in the motions of the mind, the power that is shown is the power of Brahman.  For this reason should a man meditate upon Brahman by day and by night.

                Brahman is the adorable being in all beings.  Meditate upon him as such.  He who meditates upon him as such is honored by all other beings.

. . .

                He who attains to knowledge of Brahman, being freed from all evil, finds the Eternal, the Supreme.

IV            PRASNA

[A question and answer between a pupil and a teacher]:

p. 35

                “Sir, how did the creatures come into being?”

                “The Lord of beings,” replied the sage, “meditated and produced Prana, the primal energy, and Rayi, the giver of form, desiring that they, male and female, should in manifold ways produce creatures for him.

                “Prana, the primal energy, is the sun; and Rayi, the form-giving substance, is the moon. . . .

                “Prana is the soul of the universe, assuming all forms: he is the light that animates and illumines all: . . .

p. 36

                “Those who desire offspring and are devoted to almsgiving and rituals, considering these the highest accomplishment, attain the world of the moon and are born again on earth.  They travel by the southern path, which is the path of the fathers, and is indeed Rayi, the maker of forms.

                “But those who are devoted to the worship of the Self, by means of austerity, continence, faith and knowledge, go by the northern path and attain the world of the sun.  The sun, the light, is indeed the source of all energy.  It is immortal, beyond fear; it is the supreme goal.  For him who goes to the sun there is no more birth nor death.  The sun ends birth and death.

“Prana and Rayi, uniting, form the month.  Its dark fortnight is Rayi, and its bright fortnight is Prana.  Sages perform their devotional rites in the light, with knowledge; fools in the dark, with ignorance.

. . .

p. 38

                “Prana is born of the Self.  Like a man and his shadow, the Self and Prana are inseparable.  Prana enters the body at birth, that the desires of the mind, continuing from past lives, may be fulfilled.

“As a king employs officials to rule over different portions of his kingdom, so the Prana associates with himself four other Pranas, each a portion of himself and each a separate function.

. . .

“. . . at the moment of death, through the nerve in the center of the spine, the Udana, which is the fifth Prana, leads the virtuous man upward to higher birth, the sinful man downward to lower birth, and the man who is both virtuous and sinful to rebirth in the world of men.

. . .

“Whatever is thought at the moment of death, this it is that unites a man with Prana, who in turn uniting himself with Udana and with the Self, leads the man to be reborn in the world he merits. . . .

[On pages 40-41, this Upanishad ends a discussion of the Self in humans with this instruction from a sage to a disciple]:

                “My child, within this body dwells the Self, from whom sprang the sixteen parts of the universe; and in this manner they came into being:

. . .

[Speaking of the Self]:

. . .”he made Prana; and from Prana he made desire; and from desire he made ether, air, fire, water, earth, the senses, the mind, and food; and from food he made vigor, penance, the Vedas, the sacrificial rites, and all the worlds.  Thereafter, in the worlds he created names.  And the number of the elements he thus created was sixteen.

                “As the flowing rivers, whose destination is the sea, having reached it disappear into it, losing their names and forms, and men speak only of the sea; so these sixteen parts created from out of his own being by the Self, the Eternal Seer, having returned to him from whom they came, disappear in him, their destination, losing their names and forms, and people speak only of the Self.  Then for man the sixteen parts are no more, and he attains to immortality.”

. . .

V             MUNDAKA

p. 43

                Out of the infinite ocean of existence arose Brahma, first-born and foremost among the gods.  From him sprang the universe, and he became its protector.  The knowledge of Brahman, the foundation of all knowledge, he revealed to his first-born son, Atharva.

[A short genealogy of gods is given, the last one named, Angiras, says this to an enquirer asking]:

                “Holy sir, what is that by which all else is known?”

                “Those who know Brahman,” replied Angiras, “say that there are two kinds of knowledge, the higher and the lower.

                “The lower is knowledge of the Vedas . . ., and also of phonetics, ceremonials, grammar, etymology, metre, and astronomy.

                “The higher is knowledge of that by which one knows the changeless reality.  By this is fully revealed to the wise that which transcends the senses, which is uncaused, which is undefinable, which has neither eyes nor ears, neither hands nor feet, which is all-pervading, subtler than the sublest—the everlasting source of all.

                “As the web comes out of the spider and is withdrawn, and as plants grow from the soil and hair from the body of man, so springs the universe from the eternal Brahman.

pp. 43-44

                “Brahman willed that it should be so, and brought forth out of himself the material cause of the universe; this came from the primal energy, and from the primal energy mind, from mind the subtle elements, from the subtle elements the many worlds, and from the acts performed by beings in the many worlds the chain of cause and effect—the reward and punishment of works.

                “Brahman sees all, knows all; he is knowledge itself.  Of him are born cosmic intelligence, name and form, and the material cause of all created beings and things.”

. . .

p. 44

                Considering religion to be the observance of rituals and performance of acts of charity, the deluded remain ignorant of the highest good.  Having enjoyed in heaven the reward of their good works, they enter again into the world of mortals.

                But wise, self-controlled, and tranquil souls, who are contented in spirit, and who practice austerity and meditation in solitude and silence, are freed from all impurity, and attain by the path of liberation to the immortal, the truly existing, the changeless self.

. . .

p. 46

[Returning to the Self as manifestation of Brahman]:

                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.

                . . .

                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.

                . . .

                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 knowers of the Self attain.

. . . verily all is Brahman, and Brahman is supreme.

. . .

p. 47

                This Effulgent Self is to be realized within the lotus of the heart by continence, by steadfastness in truth, by meditation, and by superconscious vision.  Their impurities washed away, the seers realize him.

                . . .

                Brahman is supreme: he is self-luminous, he is beyond all thought.  Subtler than the sublest is he, farther than the farthest, nearer than the nearest.  He resides in the lotus of the heart of every being.

The eyes do not see him, speech cannot utter him, the senses cannot reach him.  He is to be attained neither by austerity nor by sacrificial rites.  When through discrimination the heart has become pure, then, in meditation, the Impersonal Self is revealed.

The subtle Self within the living and breathing body is attained in that pure consciousness wherein there is no duality—that consciousness by which the heart beats and the senses perform their office.

. . .

p. 48

                He who brooding upon sense objects, comes to yearn for them, is born here and there, again and again, driven by his desire.  But he who has realized the Self, and thus satisfied all hunger, attains to liberation even in this life.

                . . .

[Speaking of those who have become sages and attained immortality in this life]:

                . . . when their bodies fall away from them at death, they attain to liberation.

                When death overtakes the body, the vital energy enters the cosmic source, the senses dissolve in their cause, and karmas and the individual soul are lost in Brahman, the pure, the changeless.

                As rivers flow into the sea and in so doing lose name and form, even so the wise man, freed from name and form, attains the Supreme Being, the Self-Luminous, the Infinite.

                He who knows Brahman becomes Brahman. . . .

                . . .

VI            MANDUKYA

p. 50

. . .

All this that we see without is Brahman.  This Self that is within is Brahman.

This Self, which is one with OM, has three aspects, and beyond these three, different from them and undefinable—The Fourth.

The first aspect of the Self in the universal person, the collective symbol of all created beings, in his physical nature—Vaiswarana.  Vaiswarana is awake, and is conscious only of external objects.

. . .

The second aspect of the Self is the universal person in his mental nature—Taijasa.  Taijasa  . . . is dreaming . . . conscious only of his dreams.  In this state he is the enjoyer of the subtle impressions in his mind and the deeds he has done in the past.

The third aspect of the Self is the universal person in dreamless sleep—Prajna.  Prajna dreams not . . . is without desire . . . experiences neither strife nor anxiety . . . blissful, and the experiencer of bliss.

                Prajna is the lord of all.  He knows all things.  He is the dweller in the hearts of all.  He is the origin of all.  He is the end of all.

. . .

Beyond the senses, beyond the understanding, beyond all expression is The Fourth.  It is pure unitary consciousness, wherein awareness of the world and of multiplicity is completely obliterated.  It is ineffable peace.  It is the supreme good.  It is One without a second.  It is the Self.  Know it alone!

                This Self, beyond all words, is the syllable OM.  This syllable, though indivisible, consists of three letters—A-U-M.

                Vaiswarana, the Self as the universal person in his physical being, corresponds to the first letter—A.  Whoever knows Vaiswarana obtains what he desires, and becomes the first among men.

                Taijasa, the Self as the universal person in his mental being, corresponds to the second letter—U.  Taijasa and the letter U both stand in dream, between waking and sleeping.  Whoever knows Taijasa grows in wisdom and is highly honored.

                Prajna, the Self as the universal person in dreamless sleep, corresponds to the third letter—M.  He is the origin and the end of all.  Whosoever knows Prajna knows all things.

                The Fourth, the Self, is OM, the indivisible syllable.  This syllable is unutterable, and beyond mind.  In it the manifold universe disappears.  It is the supreme good—One without a second.  Whosoever knows OM, the Self, becomes the Self.


p. 53

                Thou art indeed the manifested Brahman. . . .

[This Upanishad is a lesson in attaining awareness of Brahman through transcending the world and the body.]


p. 61

                Before creation, all that existed was the Self, the Self alone.  Nothing else was.  Then the Self thought: “Let me send forth worlds.”

[The four worlds sent forth are the heavens, the sky, the surface of the earth and what is underneath the world.]

                He thought:  “Behold the worlds.  Let me now send forth their guardians.”  Then he sent forth their guardians.

                He thought:  “Behold these worlds and the guardians of these worlds.  Let me send forth food for the guardians.”  Then he sent forth food for them.

                He thought: “How shall there be guardians and I have no part in them?”

                “If, without me, speech is uttered, breath is drawn, eye sees, ear hears, skin feels, mind thinks, sex organs procreate, then what am I?”

pp. 61-62

                He thought: “Let me enter the guardians.”  Whereupon, opening the center of their skulls, he entered.  The door by which he entered is called the door of bliss.

p. 62

                The Self being unknown, all three states of the soul are but dreaming—waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep.  In each of these dwells the Self: the eye is his dwelling place while we wake, the mind is his dwelling place while we dream, the lotus of the heart is his dwelling place while we sleep the dreamless sleep.

                Having entered into the guardians, he identified himself with them.  He became many individual beings.  Now, therefore, if an individual awake from his threefold dream of waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep, he sees no other than the Self.  He sees the Self dwelling in the lotus of his heart as Brahman, omnipresent, and he declares: “I know Brahman!”

. . .

 . . . this Self, who is pure consciousness, is Brahman.  He is God, all gods; the five elements-- . . . ; all beings, great or small, born of egg, born from the womb, born from heat, born from soil; horses, cows, men, elephants, birds; everything that breathes, the beings that walk and the beings that walk not.  The reality behind all these is Brahman, who is pure consciousness.

                All these, while they live, and after they have ceased to live, exist in him.

                The sage Varnadeva, having realized Brahman as pure consciousness, departed his life, ascended into heaven, obtained all his desires, and achieved immortality.

IX            CHANDOGYA

[This Upanishad is a lesson.  It ends with this declaration of “the highest truth of the Self” taught by Prajapati to Indra in a humorous but not very nice dialogue lasting many decades in which Prajapati passes out useless statements about the Self and Brahman that Indra first accepts and then, on giving it deeper thought, rejects, returning each time to demand the full truth and finally receiving that truth, in this final statement]:

p. 78

                “This body is mortal, always gripped by death, but within it dwells the immortal Self.  This Self, when associated in our consciousness with the body, is subject to pleasure and pain; and so long as this association continues, freedom from pleasure and pain can no man find.  But as this association ceases, there cease also the pleasure and the pain.

                “Rising above physical consciousness, knowing the Self to be distinct from the senses and the mind—knowing it in its true light—one rejoices and is free.”

                The gods, the luminous ones, meditate on the Self, and by so doing obtain all the worlds and all desires.  In like manner, whosoever among mortals knows the Self, meditates upon it, and realizes it—he too obtains all the worlds and all desires.


p. 80

The world existed first as seed, which as it grew and developed took on names and forms.  As a razor in its case or as fire in wood, so dwells the Self, the Lord of the universe, in all forms, even to the tips of the fingers.  . . .  The perfection which is the Self is the goal of all beings. . . .

. . .

pp. 80-81

                This universe, before it was created, existed as Brahman, “I am Brahman”: thus did Brahman know himself.  Knowing himself, he became the Self of all beings.  Among the gods, he who awakened to the knowledge of the Self became Brahman; and the same was true among the seers.

. . .

                Now if a man worship Brahman, thinking Brahman is one and he another, he has not the true knowledge.

                This universe, before it was created, existed as Brahman.  Brahman created out of himself priests, warriors, tradesmen, and servants, among both gods and men.

                Then he created the most excellent Law.  There is nothing higher than the Law.  The Law is the truth. . . .

[What follows in this lengthy Upanishad is a series of lessons, some starting out humorous by showing up human foibles and weaknesses but all serious in the end.  Three of the more interesting observations {to me} from the sage that is teaching kings and other pupils of means are]:

p. 105

                There are two states for man—the state in this world, and the state in the next; there is also a third state, the state intermediate between these two, which can be likened to a dream.  While in the intermediate state, a man experiences both the other states, that in this world and that in the next; and the manner thereof is as follows: When he dies, he lives only in the subtle body, on which are left the impressions of his past deeds, and of these impressions he is aware, illumined as they are by the pure light of the Self.  Thus it is that in the intermediate state he experiences the first state, or that of life in the world.  Again while in the intermediate state, he foresees both the evils and the blessings that will yet come to him, as these are determined by his conduct, good and bad, upon the earth, and by the character in which this conduct has resulted.  Thus it is that in the intermediate state he experiences the second state, or that of life in the world to come.

                In the intermediate state, there are no real chariots, nor horses, nor roads; but by the light of the Self he creates chariots and horses and roads.  There are no real blessings, nor joys, nor pleasures; but he creates blessings and joys and pleasures.  There are no real ponds. Nor lakes, nor rivers; but he creates ponds and lakes and rivers.  He is the creator of all these out of the impressions left by his past deeds.

. . .

p. 107

. . . the Self, in his true nature, is free from craving, free from evil, free from fear.  As a man in the embrace of his loving wife knows nothing that is without, nothing that is within, for in that state all desires are satisfied.  The Self is his only desire; he is free from craving, he goes beyond sorrow.

                Then father is no father, mother is no mother; worlds disappear, gods disappear, scriptures disappear; the thief is no more, the murderer is no more, castes are no more; no more is there monk or hermit.  The Self is then untouched either by good or by evil, and the sorrows of the heart are turned into joy.  . . .  Eternal is the light of consciousness; immortal is the Self.

. . .

p. 109

                As a man acts, so does he become.  A man of good deeds becomes good, a man of evil deeds becomes evil.  A man becomes pure through pure deeds, impure through impure deeds,

                As a man’s desire is, so is his destiny.  For as his desire is, so is his will; as his will is, so is his deed; and as his deed is, so is his reward, whether good or bad.

                A man acts according to the desires to which he clings.  After death he goes to the next world bearing in his mind the subtle impressions of his deeds, he returns again to this world of action.  Thus he who has desires continues subject to birth.

                But he in whom desire is stifled suffers no rebirth.  After death, having attained to the highest, desiring only the Self, he goes to no other world.  Realizing Brahman, he becomes Brahman. . . attaining to Brahman, he becomes immortal. . . one with the immortal spirit, Brahman, the Light Eternal.

. . .

[The whole Upanishad boils down to this prescription for living worthily]:

p. 112

. . . “Be self-controlled!  Be charitable!  Be compassionate!”

. . . 

XI            KAIVALYA

[This is a disciple and teacher conversation]:

pp. 114-115

                Seek to know Brahman by acquiring faith in the word of the scriptures and in your Guru.

. . . enter the lotus of the heart and there meditate on the presence of Brahman—the pure, the blissful.

                Unmanifest to the senses, beyond all thought, infinite in form, is God. . . .  He is Brahma, he is Shiva, he is Indra, he is the supreme, the changeless Reality.  He is Vishnu, he is the primal energy, he is eternity.  He is all.  He is what has been and what shall be.  He who knows him conquers death.  There is no other way to liberation.

                By seeing the Self in all beings, and all beings in the Self, one goes to Brahman.  That is the only way. . . .

. . .


p. 118

Disciples inquire within themselves:

                What is the cause of this universe?—is it Brahman?  Whence do we come?  Why do we live?  Where shall we at last find rest?  Under whose command are we bound by the law of law of happiness and its opposite?

                Time, space, law, chance, matter, primal energy, intelligence—none of these, nor a combination of these, can be the final cause of the universe, for they are effects, and exist to serve the soul.  Nor can the individual self be the cause, for, being subject to the law of happiness and misery, it is not free.

                The seers, absorbed in contemplation, saw within themselves the ultimate reality, the self-luminous being, the one God, who dwells as the self-conscious power in all creatures.  He is One without a second.  Deep within all beings he dwells, hidden from sight. . . .  he presides over time, space, and all apparent causes.

                The vast universe is a wheel.  Upon it are all creatures subject to birth, death, and rebirth.  Round and round it turns and never stops.  It is the wheel of Brahman.  As long as the individual self thinks it is separate from Brahman, it revolves upon the wheel in bondage to the laws of birth, death, and rebirth.  But when through the grace of Brahman it realizes its identity with him, it revolves upon the wheel no longer.  It achieves immortality.

. . .

p. 119

                Know God, and all fetters will be loosed.  Ignorance will vanish.  Birth, death, and rebirth will be no more.  Meditate upon him and transcend physical consciousness.  Thus will you reach union with the lord of the universe.  Thus will you become identified with him who is One without a second.  In him all your desires will be fulfilled.

                The truth is that you are always united with the Lord.  But you must know this.  Nothing further is there to know.  Meditate, and you will realize that mind, matter, and Maya (the power which unites mind and matter) are but three aspects of Brahman, the one reality.

. . .

[In this Upanishad meditation-instructions are interspersed with additional statements about the nature of the one reality]:

p. 121

                The one absolute, impersonal existence, together with his inscrutable Maya, appears as the divine Lord, the personal God, endowed with manifold glories.  By his divine power he holds dominion over all the worlds.  At the periods of creation and dissolution of the universe, he alone exists.  Those who realize him become immortal.

                The Lord is One without a second.  Within man he dwells, and with all other beings.  He projects the universe, maintains it, and withdraws it into himself.

[An interesting feature of this Upanishad is a long poem of praise, out of which I will only copy extracts]:

p. 123

                O Brahman Supreme!

                Formless art thou, and yet

                (Though the reason no one knows)

                Thou bringest forth many forms;

                Thou bringest them forth, and then

                Withdrawest them to thyself.

                Fill us with thoughts of thee!

pp. 124-125

. . .

                Maya is they divine consort—

                Wedded to thee.

                Thou art her master, her ruler,

                Red, white, and black is she,

                . . .

                Many are her children—

                The rivers, the mountains,

                Flower, stone, and tree,

                Beast, bird and man—

                In every way like herself.

                Thou, spirit in flesh,

                Forgetting what thou art,

                Unitest with Maya—

                But only for a season.

                Parting from her at last,

                Thou regainest thyself.

                . . .

                Thou art lord and master of Maya,

                Man is her slave.

                With Maya uniting, thou hast brought forth the universe.

                The source of all scriptures thou art,

                And the source of all creeds.

                The universe is thy Maya;

                And thou, great God, her lord,

                Wherever the eye falls,

                There, within every form,

                Thou dwellest.

                . . .

pp. 126-127

                . . .

                Thou dost pervade the universe,

                Thou art consciousness itself,

                Thou art creator of time,

                All-knowing art thou.


                At thy bidding Maya,

                Thy power divine,

                Projects this visible universe,

                Projects name and form.

                . . .

                Thou, womb and tomb of the universe,

                And its abode;

                Thou, source of all virtue,

                Destroyer of all sins—

                Thou art seated in the heart,

                When thou art seen,

                Time and form disappear.

                Let a man feel thy presence,

                Let him behold thee within,

                And to him shall come peace,

                Eternal peace—

                To none else, to none else!

                . . .

[These are the final words of this book with twelve of the Upanishads]:

p. 128

                If the truths of these scriptures are meditated upon by a man in the highest degree devoted to God, and to his Guru as to his God, they will shine forth.  They will shine forth indeed!

                OM . . . Peace—peace—peace.

At the start I mentioned several readings that reminded me of the content of The Upanishads.  I provided a link above to the closely related story of Siddharta, by Hermann Hesse.

I also mentioned Christian and Sufi/Muslim mystical sayings that I found giving similar insights.  Here are just three of them, hopefully you willl recall the words from The Upanishads that they seem to closely relate to.

The name-links given below will take you to pages that have a lot more than just the citations given below:

A Christian mystic's insight into the unity of all that is [Mechtild of Magdeburg]

Source: Sue Woodruff, "Meditations with Mechtild of Magdeburg,"(Santa Fe, New Mexico, Bear & Company, Inc., l982):

The day of my spiritual awakening
was the day I saw
and knew I saw
all things in God
and God
in all things. (22)

What is the human soul?
The soul is a god with God.
This is why God says to the soul:
I am the God of all gods
But you are the goddess of all creatures.
Stand in fatherly fashion
by all people who bear my likeness.
For I am
your soul. (23)

[Mechtild pulls her powerful insights immediately into life's arena: God is your soul, hence, love your fellow beings--for they are all tabernacles of God.]

In heaven, our origin
before each soul and body
therein gleamed the reflection of the Holy

From the mirror
there shone the sublime reflection of each person
in the high majesty from which it had flowed

Each of us is a mirror
of eternal contemplation, with a
reflection that must surely be that
of the living Son of God
with all his works.(24)

[Mechtild is given new insights into earth-life by her experience of the Divine. Her poem on the soul in the body, as conveyed by Woodruff, shows no hatred of the body]--

Do not disdain your body.
For the soul
is just as safe in its body
as in the Kingdom of Heaven -
though not so certain.

It is just as daring -
but not so strong,
just as powerful -
but not so constant,
just as loving -
but not so joyful,
just as gentle -
but not so rich,
just as holy -
but not yet so sinless,
just as content -
but not so complete. (25)

A (heretical?) Christian mystic's insight into the inability of words to describe the ultimate reality [Sister Katrei]:

[Excerpts from Martin Buber, "Ecstatic Confessions," (San Francisco, Harper and Row Publishers, l985) Edited by Paul Mendes-Flohr, Translated by Esther Cameron.  Sister Katrei attempts to convey her mystical revelatory experience to her confessor, and parts of her account are (Buber's page 12):]

She said: "I had concentrated all the faculties of my soul. When I looked into myself, I saw God in myself and everything God ever created in heaven and on earth . . . .

I have nothing to do with angels or saints or anything that was ever created. More: I have nothing to do with anything that has ever become word . . . . I am confirmed in naked divinity, in which never image nor form existed . . . . I am where I was before I was created where there is only bare God in God. In that place there are no angels or saints or choirs or heaven. Many people tell of eight heavens and nine choirs where I am that is not. You should know that all that is put into words and presented to people with images is nothing but a stimulus to God. Know that in God there is nothing but God. Know that no soul can enter into God unless it first becomes God just as it was before it was created.

"You should know, that whoever contents himself with what can be put into words--God is a word, the kingdom of heaven is also a word--whoever does not want to go further with the  faculties of the soul, with knowledge and love, than ever became word, ought rightfully to be called an unbeliever.  What can be put into words is grasped with the lower senses  or faculties of the soul, but the higher faculties of the  soul are not content with this they press on, further and  further, until they come before the source from which the  soul flowed....

"You must understand this thus: The soul is naked and bare of all things that bear names. So it stands, as one, in the One, so that it has a progression in naked divinity.... So  you should know that as long as the good person lives in  time, his soul has a constant progression in eternity. That  is why good people cherish life. (12)

A Sufi mystic's insight into the origin and destiny and interrelatedness of all life [Rumi]:

Source: Star and Shiva, A Garden Beyond Paradise, The Mystical Poetry of Rumi" (Bantam Books, New York, 1992) pp. 148-149, titled: A Garden Beyond Paradise:

Everything you see has its roots in the Unseen world.
The forms may change,
yet the essence remains the same.

Every wondrous sight will vanish,
Every sweet word will fade.
But do not be disheartened,

The Source they come from is eternal -
Growing, branching out, giving new life and new joy.
Why do you weep? -

That Source is within you,
And this whole world
is springing up from it.
The Source is full,
Its waters are ever-flowing;

Do not grieve, drink your fill!
Don't think it will ever run dry -
This is the endless Ocean!

From the moment you came into this world
A ladder was placed in front of you that you might escape.

From earth you became plant,
From plant you became animal.

Afterwards you became a human being,
Endowed with knowledge, intellect, and faith.

Behold the body, born of dust - how perfect it has become!

Why should you fear its end?
When were you ever made less by dying?

When you pass beyond this human form,
No doubt you will become an angel
And soar through the heavens!

But don't stop there.
Even heavenly bodies grow old.
Pass again from the heavenly realm
and plunge into the vast ocean of Consciousness.

Let the drop of water that is in you become a hundred mighty seas.
But do not think that the drop alone
Becomes the Ocean -
the Ocean, too, becomes the drop!

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