Selections from the Upanishads

He knew that Brahman is bliss. For truly, beings here are born from bliss. When born, they live by bliss. And into bliss when departing, they enter.

-- Taittiriya Upanishad 3.6.1

The face of truth is covered with a golden disc. Unveil it, O Pushan, so that I, who love the truth, may see it.
O Pushan, the sole seer, O Controller, O Sun, off-spring of Prajapati, spread forth your rays & gather up your radiant light that I may behold you of loveliest form. Whosoever is that person (yonder) that also am I.

-- Isha Upanishad 15-16

I have overcome the whole world. I am brilliant like the Sun.
He who knows this, knows the secret wisdom.

-- Taittiriya Upanishad 3.10.5

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Working towards a comprehensive view of life

The purpose of human life is not, and cannot, be self-preservation.
That's a purpose proper for a plant or an animal, not Man.
However, this does not negate the crucial importance of self-preservation itself. For, man has to preserve his life if he must have a purpose to achieve.
The purpose of life - and hence, of philosophy & morality - has to be found in the essence of life itself.
But what is the essence of human life, and how do we find out?
This will involve finding answers to questions like:
Why do we seek to live? Why does life seek to live?
What is this wonderful mystery of the existence of life?
What is the law we observe in this development from mineral to microbe, from microbe to plant, from plant to animal & bird, and thence to Man?
The Universe is: but the very fact that it is not one infinite stretch of empty space reveals that the law of life finds its true meaning in the mystery of a movement from - where to where?
It is easily understood that a law - a process - is working itself through this whole growth from an undifferentiated unity, a One-Whole - fractured into infinite component parts - and then a mysterious, coherent re-organization of those component parts into composites which increasingly become conscious of the Whole.
Do we say that this law is one which seeks to establish both separation & unity, differentiation & integration, individuality & universality?
What we observe in the plot-structure in the grand saga of nature, is a progression from a unconscious, slumbering individuality, to an all-embracing, all-conscious individuality.
It is the not the fact of physical existence, but the relationship with the Universe, which strikes & awes us.
A pebble or a clod doesn't have a sense of "I", least of all a sense of "Us".
Neither does it have love, nor reason.
Love comes with life, with consciousness, with reason.
In Man's world, without love, wisdom is meaningless, and shall lead to destruction & sorrow.
Without wisdom, intellect is meaningless. Without intellect, reason is meaningless. Without reason, consciousness is meaningless (for a human being). Without consciousness, life is meaningless. Without life, the body is meaningless.
Hence, the joyous essence of Man's life is to be found in Love.
Reason is basically a problem-solving facility. It doesn't help in deciding what is our ultimate concern, but merely in identifying it conceptually - i.e. in a verbal formulation of what already is the ultimate concern, metaphysically intrinsic to the fact of human life itself.
Reason is not the aim, though it is a part of the aim.
Development & creative realization of all the powers of the mind & imagination are nothing but means to realize the DELIGHT OF EXISTENCE, in other words, LOVE FOR EXISTENCE.
Interestingly, in his introduction to the collection of essays "Creative Unity", Tagore translates the word "Ananda" (which actually means joy, or bliss), as Love.
This is perfectly correct, because Love is Joy, and Joy is Love.
"In love we find a joy which is ultimate because it is the ultimate truth. Therefore it is said in the Upanishads that the advaitam is anantam, - 'the One is Infinite'; that the advaitam is anandam, - 'the One is Love'." (Rabindranath Tagore)
And what is the essence of Love?
The essence of Love is to GIVE. Rather, in a Giving which IS a Taking.

A man's relationship with a commercial sex-worker is not one that of love, but of pure, animal sexual need: his concern is not to make the prostitute happy, but solely to satisfy his body's urge for pleasure. The essence is not in giving, but in taking. Men don't go to sex-workers because the sex-workers need sexual satisfaction - they go quite irrespective of the needs of the women in question.
But, in his relationship to his wife, or the woman he passionately loves, a (decent) man can't withstand the fact that he can't give her pleasure. His life shall become an unbearable torment if he's the only one who reaches climax, and his lover's body remains unsatisfied. Not so with a commerical sex-worker. Essentially, he won't give a damn to her experience.
And though Nature has designed the process of interaction & interdependence in such a way that giving sexual pleasure is beautifully integrated with recieving pleasure, the difference is clarified in the fact of nonchalance & interest in the OTHER person's pleasure, while one's own joy is maintained.
A husband indifferent to his wife's orgasm doesn't love her.
A woman indifferent to her husband's palate doesn't love him, if she enjoys her own cooked meal.
The more we move up above the pressing needs of the body, which sustain the very existence of our own emotional, psychological, even mental apparatus, the weaker the element of GIVING AND TAKING, the stronger the element of GIVING AS TAKING.
Here we move deeper into our identity as human beings, because it is in these realms that we are different from the rest of the plant & animal world, and disintinctly HUMAN.
This is why the greatest sages looked down upon the body: not because it is a heap of ordure, but because, though uniquely designed in order to reveal reason & love, it finds the justification for its structure in reason & love - i.e., in soul & spirit, which is unique only to man.
It is the cup which holds the wine: the point is not the cup, but the wine.
The wine is the aim, not the cup. There is no festival with just cups. The festival finds its ultimate purpose in the wine that is served in the cup.
In this sense, the cup has to be perfected: it should not dissolve into a puddle of clay or leak to let the wine out: in that sense, the body has to be kept healthy & strong. It is important.
But the body and its requirements are secondary, like the cup is.
INTEGRATED, but secondary.
After we quaff the wine, we discard the cup.
The cup comes into existence for the wine; the wine doesn't come into existence for the cup.
That's the relationship between Spirit & Body.

(To be continued...)

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