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

Monday, September 1, 2008


I have read only a small fragment of the enormous corpus of Sri Aurobindo. It may not be more than 2-3% of the total output of this mind-bogglingly prolific genius & intellectual polymath, and yet, I've been overwhelmed by this towering personality. I can't say whether I agree with him on every point or not. Indeed, I cannot say this of ANYBODY. Strictly speaking, I represent MYSELF ONLY; neither any other individual, nor any other group. But I've been deeply influenced, and I adore, great men - heroes - like Aurobindo Ghosh, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Victor Hugo, Mahatma Gandhi, Madam Blavatsky, Rabindranath Tagore, & S. Radhakrishnan.

The greatest achievement of Aurobindo, or perhaps the most unique one, is the boundless GRANDEUR with which he invested ancient Hindu philosophy. The modern interpretations of Vedic-Vedantic wisdom tend to be somewhat apologetic, keeping in view the Titanic advances of western science & technology; and the focus on life's suffering, and the projection of Indian philosophy almost as a sort of ESCAPISM, is not uncommon. Many people still think that one should adopt the path of an Indian Rishi only when one is fed-up with life, or when one has piled up immense suffering through IRRATIONAL behavior (such as unbridled hedonism, or being whimsical & "non-objective" in one's decisions). The truth is this: Hindu philosophy focuses on Man's quest for GREATNESS, for PERFECT BLISS, Supreme Bliss: Ananda. Sri Aurobindo recognized THIS, and built his personal perspective on perennial wisdom not as a form of escapism, not as a route to avoid suffering, not even as the only way out from the (social, political etc.) problems afflicting the life of the individual or any larger group, -- but as a quest for the ultimate truth -- as a search for IMMEASURABLE grandeur -- as a search for SPIRITUAL GREATNESS. Not a negative, but an emphatically positive quest. Herein lies the fascination & power to draw, in everything written by him. There is no sense of self-defense, or apology, in his magnificent glorification of a magnificent philosophy. There's no meekness, or sense of one's insignificance or smallness or corruption. I've already noted that SELF-EXPANSION is at the root of mystical philosophy. Man constantly seeks to grow bigger than what he already is; he ceaselessly seeks to outgrow himself. ALL OF LIFE IS A MOVEMENT TOWARDS A WIDER, LARGER, DEEPER IDENTITY - A GREATER CONCEPTION OF SELF - and establishment of a broader & profounder relationship with existence. Religion in its truest sense, goes to the very Source, Root, and Finality of this quest. It takes man to the LARGEST identity possible to man: and, unlike non-mystical philosophies, affirms a certain, final, an ultimate achievement which encompasses, transcends, & surpasses ALL possible, concievable achievements, & conceptions of Self. Joy is in Self-enlargement. Man has found himself more true & has felt a deeper reflection of his own identity in the grandeur of the Konark Temple, or of Notre Dame de Rheims, rather than in a hut or hovel: because the temple soaring to the skies possesses a vibrant, radiant sense of immortality & imperishability, of ascent to greater heights, endurance in the face of vagaries & attacks of time & hence, of immutability, of grandeur - than a hovel or shack. Vedantic philosophy takes us to the very essence & pinnacle of THIS restless quest for immortality, infinity, immutability - which underlies all our aspirations & ambitions - for self-expansion - for IMMENSITY - through a radical transformation of consciousness. When can Man have greater love for the Universe, than when he grasps the TRUTH, that HE IS the Universe? Can man go further than grasping with his whole being: "I am the one Being's sole immobile bliss / No one am I, I am all that is"? And yet, this is the gift of Sri Aurobindo to mankind, that one wonderful statement which reveals the glory & ecstasy of Union with God. The recognition, elucidation, & glorification of mysticism focusing on THIS aspect of spirituality, is Aurobindo's unique achievement.

His emphasis is the achievement of spiritual power - the attainment of the largest & widest & deepest - and a dismissal of any lesser goal, or imperfect bliss, - which satisfies almost all of common humanity. The vicious attacks on Hindu philosophy, made by many modern so-called rationalists, that Hinduism (& Oriential mysticism in general) is based on abject fear & bewilderment, vanish when one confronts the enormous power of Aurobindo's vision. Is there fear, underconfidence, & shamefulness in a man who proudly sings: "I am a cup of His felicities / A thunderblast of His golden ecstasy's height / I am His rapture's wonderful abyss" or, "The spirit's infinite breath I feel in me / My life is a throb of Thy eternity"? Where is there fear in the soul which challenged the great inexorable sea: "Yes, thou great sea / I am more mighty & outbillow thee. / On thy tops I rise; / 'Tis an excuse to dally with the skies"? This is the voice that thunders out to people: Wake up! What are you doing, meddling with petty, silly pleasures - and half-baked, miserable little child's games? Look! Eternity waits for union with you, and Immortality seeks your recognition! You think you shall pass away, you live in constant fear of defeat & decay & death, you think you are that which is subject to ruthless time & natural law, but I say to you: Tat Tvam Asi - YOU ARE THAT - the Immortal, the One, the Infinite - the God whom you worship, and tremble before, and seek to placate in your ignorance, and cow & grovel before - SEE who He really is - and realize that YOU ARE HE!

Aurobindo's philosophy is not one of the futility of existence - of fatigue of the non-mystical life - but a confident, truthful seeing of life on this earth as the most wonderful gift to realize the Divine; that it is the mind which takes us beyond the Mind; it is recognition of that supreme truth which all the rationalists hide from men: through the exercise of the conceptual faculty, & reason, men CANNOT grasp the TOTALITY OF THE TOTAL - the TOTAL in & as ONE - BUT, IT CAN BE DONE. The immortality & the infinity which are incomprehensible abstractions for the rationalist, CAN DEFINITELY BE ATTAINED BY MAN. There is no "ultimate" for the rationalist - he cannot concieve it because he is trapped in a realm of fragments & parts and can't concieve of the WHOLE - he asks, bewildered: What do you mean by "Knowing the All?" - and he passes off his own incapability to form an idea of it, to simple people who can't envision it for themselves. On reading Aurobindo, one feels something akin to pity for the men who deride & reject Brahman; one feels: how small these men are! No, I do not recommend such an emotion, nor is it true to the spirit of God-realization; but I speak from THEIR point of view, the ones who live their life in contempt & judgmentality.

Aurobindo is a hero, and is a hero-worshipper. His whole thrust was the HEROISM & SPLENDOR IN MAN'S QUEST FOR GOD. The greatness & significance of his poetry lies in the SPIRIT of supreme confidence & solemn joyousness they exude - in the sheer psychological power in which they have their source - and the great promise they hold out to man: you are not a passing, ephemeral phenomenon, a mere speck in the measurelessness of time & space: but you can transcend change & decay - time & space itself. The promise of psychological fearlessness & expansiveness. Their significance as works of art lies in their power to evoke the primal desire in Man to seek the Ultimate - in projecting the psychological & emotional experience of God-realization as something we all seek & yearn for - in a forceful revealing that Brahmic-consciousness is something of unsurpassable value, as a culimination of all our efforts to seek joy, as something worthy to be fought for & striven for with all the strength of our being. I have neither read all his books, nor am I associated with his admirers - but I deeply adore his projection of Hindu philosophy as something totally devoid of guilt or self-hatred - as a pursuit of positives: of greater & larger truths & joys, by taking man to the logical conclusion of ALL of Man's goals & joys - & a living, possible ideal of incomparable strength & grandeur. And, from all that I've read, I shall conclude this post with these lines from this Master, which firmly & finally establish what I want to convey: the great vigorous spirit of the seeker of God:

My soul unhorizoned widens to measureless sight,

My body is God's happy living tool,

My spirit a vast sun of deathless light.

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