Sunday, November 1, 2009

The tale of Svetaketu in the Chandogya Upanishad

Well I think someone wants me to update the blog. That is nice; it shows that there are people out there who want to preserve this effort, whether playfully or otherwise. I will take even the playful efforts if it furthers the cause of knowledge and keep it alive in some form in some one’s mind. Let all beings be illumined.

I am even willing to believe in the theory of the sudden evolution of the human race in the year 2012( not the dooms day theory, I can assure you that would not happen), to a higher spiritual enlightenment. The poor state of affairs in the world makes me wish for it earnestly. Can the few words that I write in a blog with very few followers be the harbinger of that enlightenment? It is amusing to think so, well you know, much stranger things have happened in the world haven’t they?

Well, may be those who plays with this condensed essence of human knowledge might be ushering in that mighty change in our world who knows. I have very little personal interest in it, other than preserving the little body of knowledge for posterity. Let that change happen without any harm to anyone or anybody in the universe.

Anyway, let us do some browsing in the Upanishads and try to find something useful for understanding the world.

Let it be again understood that I have no particular preference in philosophical systems and that I think the whole body of human knowledge is one in essence. It is the heritage of the entire humanity. The only thing which prompts me to use the Upanishads is my familiarity with them.

We will talk about the tale of Svetaketu in the Chandogya Upanishad now. The old masters have subtly hinted at the whole process of evolution in the tale in their inimitable style. It is a beautiful tale and one we can carry in our minds once we have understood the essentials. Now to the tale:

Svetaketu proudly returned home after studying for twelve long years.

Seeing his pride the father asked him:

Did your teachers tell you about that country where the unheard is heard and the unthinked is thought of?

Wondering Svetaketu asked:

Where is that place, my teachers did not teach me that!
His father instructed him:

Once we know what clay is we know about all things made of clay, once we know what gold is we know all things made of gold, once we know what iron is we know what a nail cutter is.

“Ekam-evaa-adwityam” there is only one not many.

It is ‘asat ‘ or non-existent. But then what is the logic behind one nonexistent thing becoming everything else that you see around?

( well you know, this problem is difficult to digest even for the highly intelligent. That was why Sankaracharya introduced the theory of Maya, this world in delusional and not real. The modern science is slowly coming to grips with this fact after the advent of the quantum mechanics)

The one essence imagined “ I shall become many” It produced ‘Thejas’ or primal energy, you can take it as the field which came into being after the big bang. The thejas then thought “I too shall become many” it produced ‘apa’ ( water literally, but let us take it as plasma for the sake of convenience). The apa also thought “I shall be many” and invented ‘anna’ ( literally food, but it is solid matter in essence.) They also thought of becoming many by entering into everything and creating names and forms.

It then decided to make all these a trine (of three parts) to enter into them. Then the Upanishad subtly hints at the way the world is made with the example of fire. It says:

The red part you seen in a flame is the Thejas (energy), the white part is the ‘apa’ (plasma or light), and the black part is ‘anna’ ( food or mass).

Only these three (light, energy and mass) are real. Everything else is linguistically derived forms and names.

The Upanishad then sites the examples of the Sun, the Moon and the Lightening and says that we can see these three in them.

It then come down to the world of individual beings and states how to derive the subtle from what we see and experience on the outside. We might think that those old teachers taught without citing reliable experiments. Just follow this discourse to its end if you can find the text of the Upanishad (the whole of the sixth and seventh chapters). You will become a new person afterwards. It is too long a tale to site in full here. I might do it if someone wants me to do it and I have the time and desire to do it.


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