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15 February, 2015

Description of Brahman in Mundakopanisad


That which is imperceptible, ungraspable, unlineal, without caste, without eye-ear, without hand-foot, eternal, of manifold expression, all -pervading, extremely subtle, imperishable -- That the wise perceive everywhere as the source of all creation.

[Mantra 1.1.6 in English]

yattadadresyam agrahyam agotram avarnamacaksuh-srotram tadpanipadamnityam vibhum sarvagatam susuksmamtadavyavam yadbhutayonim paripasyanti dhirah. 

The mantra [First Chapter First Section - Mantra 6] in Mundakopanisad provides an eloquent definition of Brahman, the supreme Reality.  The wise perceive Reality everywhere as the substratum of the world.  The deluded have lost sight of the Reality.  And are enmeshed in the affairs of the world.

Brahman described as set out below:

01.  adresyam - अद्रेश्यम् - Imperceptible

       The sense organs perceive their respective sense-objects. The eye see colour and form. The ears hear sound.  Nose smells odour.  Tongue tastes. Skin touches.  The sense organs are enlivened by Brahman, Atman, the Self within.  The Self enables the senses to perceive the various objects.  It is the Subject in the senses perceiving. Being so, the Self cannot be an object of perception.  Hence, the Self is said to be imperceptible.

       It is not an object of senses.  Brahman, that is the subject matter of para vidya, is not an object of perception.  Adresyam is that which not an object of sensory perception. In Kathopanisad, the same thing is said, "It is not sound, it is not touch, it is not form.." It is not an object of the sense organs because it is the subject.  Here, we are negating the whole world as non-brahman.  But the world entirely depends upon the existence of Brahman, like the pot that is dependent on clay.  Brahman is not dependent upon anything, but everything depends upon Brahman. 

02.  agrahyam अग्राहाम् - Ungraspable:  

       The Self is described above as the Subject perceiving sense-objects, not an object of perception.  Similarly, It is the Subject in the mind feeling emotions, not an emotion. The Subject in the intellect conceiving thoughts, not a thought.  The Self transcends object, feeling and thought.  Hence, ungraspable.

       It is not an object of organs of action like hands and legs.  Feet cannot reach it, that is, it is not located in a place.  It is not available for hands to grasp, that is, it is not an object.  It is not a place or an object that you can handle.  You cannot shake hands with Bahman.  You cannot pick up Brahman by the Karmendriyas, organs of action. Brahman is not this world.  So, the word agrahyam is just an expression to negate the entire world.

03.  agotram - अगोत्रम् -Unlineal: 

       Gotra means the family origin, root.  Agotram means without root.  Atman, the supreme Self that you really are, is without root.  Without progenitor. Unoriginated.

       It does not have a gotra, lineage.  Brahman is neither a gotra nor has a gotra. So, one should not search for the gotra of Brahman.  Brahman is not born, so it has no gotra.  Therefore, it is agotra, unborn.  

       The Eternal or the Immortal is that which has no end; and if there should be no end, it should have no beginning also.  

04.avaranam - अवर्णम् - Without caste: 

       Means without property, quality.  There are four castes viz., Brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra.  The distinction is based on their mental and intellectual texture.  The Self, however, is beyond mind and intellect.  Beyond caste.

       It is free from varna.  Varna is that by which objects are described.  That is why a colour is called varna in Sanskrit.  Varna distinguishes one object from another object, like a blue flower from a red flower and so on.  Brahman has no colour.  It is not red, black, green or blue.  It is colourless.  In other words, it is not an object, a substantive enjoying a colour.  Avarna can also be taken to mean it has no size.  The colour stands for size also.  Therefore, neither it is small, nor it is big.  So, it has no particular form.  That which does not have the attributes of substantive is avarna.  If Brahman has attributes of its own, then it will become one more object in the world.  Because it has no attributes, Brahman is not an object born in the world.  It is not a sense object, nor it is an object of the organs of action.

       Varna also can be taken as a group like brahmana, a brahmin or ksatriya, a warrior.  Brahmaji is considered as an exalted brahmana, but not Brahman.  Brahman is not a brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya or sudra.  Brahman  is  not a member of any of these groups.

       If Brahman is not the object of senses and object of organs of action, then perhaps Brahman is a sense organ or organ of action.  The teacher negates that now, by saying, acaksuhsrotram, not eyes or ears.  These are the organs of perception.  Brahman is not a means of knowing.  It is not an object of senses nor is it sense organs that objectify the objects.

05.  acaksussrotram - अचक्षुः – श्रोत्रम् - Without eye-ear:   

       Brahman enlivens the organs of perception to perceive and the organs of action to act. But Itself neither perceives nor acts.  Like electricity produces heat in a heater, cold in a cooler but has little to do with heat or cold.

06.  apanipadam - अपाणि -  पादम् - Without hand-foot: 

       Further, it is apani-padam, that which has no hands and legs or that which is neither hand nor leg.

       The negation is thorough here.  It is not a sense object, nor is it a sense organ.  Neither is it a means of knowing nor means of doing.  The organs represent the entire suksma-sarira, subtle body.  Therefore, Brahman is not prana, apana, vyana, udana and samana, which are also the constituents of the suksmasarira.  It is not the mind or the intellect or both.  So, it is not the attributes of your antah-karana, mind.  These few simple words in the mantra negate everything as not Brahman.  Even the knower and the doer are gone, knowing and doing is gone, the whole jagat - universe is gone.

       Why does the sastra - scripture describe Brahman through negation?  This is because the sense organs and their attributes are taken to be the self.  The self happens to be Brahman.  Hence, the sastra negates everything that one takes oneself to be.

07.  nityam - नित्यम् - Eternal: 

       Time is measured as the interval between two experiences. Hence, time is created at the second experience.  But Brahman existed at the very first experience.  Before time was born.  That proves Brahman is beyond time.  Eternal.   

       That which is unoriginated must be Eternal; that which is Eternal must be All-pervading, and if it is All pervading, then the entire world of matter must be in a sense nothing but its own manifestation; and all pervasiveness indicates a state of the highest subtlety and such a stuff should necessarily be imperishable.

       It is eternal.  It is not bound by time.  The word 'agotram' negates a beginning for Brahman.  Here the word 'nityam' negates the end.  Brahman is free from beginning and end.

08. vibhum - विभुम् - Of manifold expression: 

       Brahman remains the same in and through Its manifold forms of expression.  Just as gold remains the same in all gold ornaments.

       It becomes many.  All these descriptions given so far may give rise to a doubt that Brahman may be sunya, non-existence.  Sunya is also nitya.  The non-existence of a vandhyaputra [son of a mother who has never given birth to a child] is nitya.  He was absent before, he is absent now and will ever be absent.  Brahman is not sunya because the surti says it is vibhu, that which becomes many.  Sunya will not become many.  This Brahman is many.  It becomes 'as though' many, because it is in the form of the entire cosmos without undergoing any change.  Later the teacher will explain why Brahman is vibhu.  Being bhutta-yoni, the cause of everything, it is vibhu.  Because, it has become many without undergoing any change, it is nitya and at the same time vibhu.

09.  sarvagatam - सर्वगदम् - All-pervading: 

       Brahman remains the substratum of the universe. As the waker's mind remains the substratum of the dream.  The waker's mind supports all perception, emotion and thought in the dream.  The mind pervades all objects and beings in the dream. Likewise, Brahman pervades the entire universe.  It is all-pervading.

       It is all-pervasive.  It has no location, like space.  Space has no location; the very concept of location comes along with space itself.  Everything is located in space.  Space is 'located', that is, it exists, only in awareness, but awareness is not located in space. This is the all-pervasive nature of Brahman.  This all-pervasiveness is something different from the all-pervasiveness of the space that pervades everything.  In our understanding of space as all-pervasive, there are different things, and all of them are pervaded by space. That is how we understand all-pervasiveness.  Here, it is the all-pervasiveness of the cause of everything, Brahman pervades everything, and therefore it is sarva-gatam.  The word 'vibhum'  will cover that idea.  Here, being all, it is all-pervasive.  Vibhutva is the cause for all-pervasiveness.

10.  susuksmam सुसूक्षमम् - Extremely subtle: 

       Subtlety is measured by more pervasiveness and control over the gross.  The gross body, as the name suggests, is gross.  Subtler than the gross body is the subtle body, constituted of mind and intellect. Subtler than the subtle body is the causal body comprising vasanas, unmanifest desires. And subtler than the causal body is the Self, Atman, Brahman - the subtlest of all.

       It is the most subtle.  If Brahman is all-pervasive, why I do not see it?  When we say Brahman is all-pervasive, the seer is also pervaded by it.  If it excludes the seer, then you can see the all-pervasive, but it includes the seer, the knower, too.  How, then, are you going to look at all pervasiveness?  The only way to understand the all-pervasive nature of Brahman is to recognise it as the invariable in the knower, known and knowledge.  All pervasiveness is not available for any other form of understanding. Everything, has to be understood as it is, in the way that is appropriate for what it is.  If we try to see all-pervasive Brahman, it shows the inappropriateness of our search.  The on-looker, the one who is looking for Brahman is Brahman and Brahman pervades him. The all-pervasive Brahman minus me is not all-pervasive at all.  Through Brahman is all-pervasive, it is susuksma, the most subtle, in the sense that it is not available for objectification.

11. avyayam - अव्ययम्  - Imperishable: 

       The physical body perishes at the time of death. The mind-intellect perishes at the moment of Self-realisation.  But the Self remains ever the same.  It is immutable, imperishable.  

       It is free from decline and disappearance.  Brahman neither exhausts itself and disappears, nor declines and disappears.  It remains the same.  Only then can we understand Brahman as it is.  It is not that once upon a time there was Brahman, and then it became the world.  Some people say that an amsa, one part of Brahman is the world and three fourth is elsewhere.  That is not true.  Brahman is avyaya, not subject to any decline.  Being avyaya it has no avyaya, parts / limbs.  It was already said that Brahman has no limbs or parts.  If it is eyes and ears, then being sense organs, Brahman will be subject to vyaya, decline.  Brahman has neither parts, nor has any part of it undergone any change to become the world.  The sruti says: without being born it is born in different ways.

Source: Excerpts from the commentaries on "Mundakopanisad"  by Swamy Chinmayananda, Swamy A. Parthasarathy & Swamy Dayananda Saraswati