Section 3: The Universal Vaisvanara, The Mandukya Upanishad by Swami Krishnananda

This Atman, which is Brahman, is fourfold, and can be approached and attained by a fourfold process of self-transcendence. We now propose to take up these stages, one by one, by way of analysis and synthesis. The first stage of approach, naturally, is that which pertains to the degree of reality presented before our senses. All successful effort commences with immediate reality. We, generally, say, 'you must be realistic in your life and not too much idealistic', which means that our life should correspond to facts, as they are, and we should not merely idealise or live in a world of dream. The mind will not accept what it does not see or understand; and no teaching, whatever be the subject of the teaching, can be undertaken without reference to facts, facts which are a reality to the senses, because, today, at the present moment, we live in a world of the senses. We cannot reject what is real to the senses, as long as we are confined to their operation. The Mandukya Upanishad, therefore, takes this aspect into consideration and commences the work of analysis of the self from the foundation of sense-perception and mental cognition based on this perception. What do we see? This is the first question, and what we see is immediately the subject of investigation. Scientists are engaged in what they see and their enquiries and experiments are restricted to what is seen with the eyes. Science does not concern itself with the invisible, because the invisible cannot be observed and, therefore, cannot also be an object of experiment and investigation. What do we see? We see the world. We see the body. We do not see God, or Isvara, or Brahman. We do not see Omkara, Pranava, the Creator, Preserver, Destroyer. All the things which we hear are not seen by us, and we cannot accept sermons based on invisibles unless a satisfactory explanation is offered first in regard to the visible. 'Can you tell me what this is before me? Then I can accept what you say in regard to that which is above me.' This immediacy of consciousness, this sensory fact which is presented to us in our day-to-day experience is comprehended within what may be called the waking life or Jagrat-avastha. All our life is confined to the waking experience, and we are not concerned so much with our experiences in dream and sleep as with those in the waking state. To us Jivas, mortals, individuals, humans, whatever is presented in the waking state is real, and to us life means just waking life. Our business is with facts presented in the waking consciousness. So we shall begin, first of all, with an understanding of the way in which we begin to know the world as it appears to us in the waking life.

The waking consciousness is the first foot of the Atman, as it were, the first aspect or phase of experience that we are studying and investigating. The waking consciousness is Jagaritasthanah, that consciousness which has its abode in the wakeful condition of the individual. And what is its special feature? Bahihprajnah: It is conscious only of what is outside, not conscious of what is inside. We cannot even see what is in our own stomachs. How can we see what is in our minds? We are extroverts, aware of only what is external to our bodies, concerned with things which are external to the bodies, and busy with those objects which are other than our own bodies. We deal with things, but all these dealings are with 'other' things, not with ourselves. This, is the peculiar structure of the waking consciousness which is engaged in action, and is busy with other things, but not with itself. We are worried over others, not ourselves. We are engaged in the study, observation, experimentation and dealing of other objects and persons; not ourselves. This is the peculiarity of the waking consciousness, conscious only of what is external. Saptanga ekonavimsatimukhah: Seven-limbed and nineteen-mouthed is this consciousness. It looks as if it is a Ravana multiplied, with so many heads, as it were. Seven limbs this consciousness has, and nineteen mouths it has, and it eats the gross - Sthulabhug. It swallows, consumes what is gross. And what is its name? Vaisvanara is its name. This is the first foot of the Atman. This is the outermost appearance of the Atman.

The Mandukya Upanishad envisages the Atman in this waking life, not merely from the point of view of the microcosm, but also from the standpoint of the macrocosm. Therefore, it is not merely an analysis of the self; it is also a synthesis of the subjective and the objective. From the point of view of the Upanishad, at least, there is no unbridgeable gulf between the individual and the cosmic, Jiva and Isvara, the microcosmic and the macrocosmic, Pindanda and Brahmanda. So, in the study of the waking life, the Mandukya Upanishad brings about a harmony between ourselves and the world, Jiva and Isvara, Atman and Brahman, and this fact becomes known from the very definition of the first phase of the Atman given in this Mantra. The seven limbs of the first phase of the Atman refer to a definition of the Cosmic Self given in one Upanishad, and the nineteen mouths refer to the functions of the self in its capacity as an individual, isolated from the cosmos. That the waking consciousness is aware only of the external is one aspect of the matter, and this aspect or this phase of the function of consciousness in the waking life applies equally to the individual and the cosmic, and it is a common definition both of Jiva and Isvara, with a subtle distinction, of course, which we have to observe between the two. The Jiva is conscious of the external, and Isvara, also, is conscious of the external, but in two different ways. Both are Bahihprajna, outwardly conscious, but with a subtle difference, in their function. We shall come to this point shortly.

The Mundaka Upanishad has a beautiful Mantra to which reference is made by the word, 'Saptanga' (seven-limbed):

Agnir murdha, cakshushi candra-suryau, disah srotre, vak vivritasca vedah; vayuh pranah, hridayam visvamasya, padbhyam prithivi; Esha sarva-bhutantaratma.

This is the all-pervading - Paramatman, residing in all beings, Esha sarva-bhutantaratma. Who is this Being? Agnir murdha: The shining regions of the heaven may be regarded as His head. The topmost region of creation is His crown. Cakshushi candra-suryau: His eyes are the sun and the moon. Disah srotre: The quarters of the heavens are His cars, through which He hears. Vak vivritasca vedah: The Vedas are His speech. Vayuh pranah: His breath is all this air of the cosmos: Hridayam visvamasya: The whole universe is His heart.Padbhyam prithivi: The earthly region may be regarded as His feet. This is the Universal Atman, from the point of view of the waking consciousness. This is the Virat, or the Universal Person, who is sung in the Purusha-sukta of the Veda. This is the Virat whom Arjuna saw, as described in the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita. This is the Virat who was exhibited in the Kaurava court, by Sri Krishna, when He went for peace-making. This is the Virat which Yasoda saw in the mouth of the baby Krishna. This is the Cosmic Man, Mahapurusha, Purushottama, Virat-Purusha. He is also called Vaisvanara, from the term visva-nara. Visva is the cosmos; nara is man. He is called Vaisvanara, because He is the Cosmic Man, the only Man in the whole cosmos. There is only one Man, and He is this. We are reminded here of the opinion of saint Mira who is reported to have said that there is only one Purusha: There are not many men in this world. There is only one Man, and this is the Man: He is Vaisvanara.

This is the cosmic description of the Virat-Purusha, and the Virat is a name that we give to Consciousness as animating the physical universe. Just as we have consciousness animating our physical body, there is a Consciousness animating the physical universe. This vast cosmos; with all its stellar and planetary systems, with all its milky ways, with all its space-time and causal laws, is the physical cosmos, and this is animated by a Consciousness, just as our bodies are animated. This animating Consciousness is the Antaryamin, so called because of His being immanent in all things, hidden behind all things, secretly present in everything, whether conscious or unconscious. For this Virat-Purusha, there is no difference between living being and dead matter. There is no such thing as inorganic substance and biological stuff, the distinctions that scientists do make, because inanimate matter, the vegetable kingdom, the animal world and the human species are distinctions made on account of the observation of degrees in the manifestation of Reality, by us, as human beings. No such distinction obtains to the Virat Himself. He is present in the inanimate as well as in the animate by means of what arc called the Gunas of Prakriti - Sattva, Rajas and Tamas - composure, activity and inertia - properties of matter. When He manifests Himself through Tamas alone, we call it inanimate existence. Such objects as stone, rock, which, from our point of view, do not seem to have any consciousness animating them, are revelations of the Virat-Purusha through Tamoguna Prakriti, a quality of Prakriti in which Rajas and Sattva are hidden, Tamas predominating over Rajas and Sattva. When Rajas and Sattva slowly reveal themselves more and more in larger quantity and extent, there is animation, life creeps into existence, and from the inanimate we come to the animate. The first manifestation of life is through what we call Prana - the vital sustaining power in all living beings. While Prana does not operate in inanimate objects like stone, there is Prana functioning in the world of plants, vegetables, etc. Plants breathe; they do not merely exist like rock. But plants do not think as animals do. The function of thinking belongs to a higher order of Reality we call the animal world, with all its instincts and sensations. Here we have a still greater degree of the manifestation of Reality. There is an approximation to Sattva in the human level, where we have not only functions of breathing and thinking, but also of understanding, ratiocination and logical discrimination. This is the condition of Vijnana as distinguished from Manas, to which alone the animal world is confined, and from Prana, to which alone the vegetable kingdom is constrained, and from Anna, to which alone the inanimate world is restricted. But the Vijnana to which we have reached at the human level, the fourth degree, we may say, of the revelation of Reality, is not all. There is a higher step that we have to take above the human, beyond the Vijnana. That step which is above Vijnana or the human level is the realm of Ananda or divine delight. So, from Anna we come to Prana, from Prana to Manas, from Manas to Vijnana, from Vijnana to Ananda.

This Ananda is equivalent to Chit and Sat - Consciousness and Being. All that was in the lower levels gets absorbed into this Ananda. Whatever meaning we saw in the inanimate level, in the levels of the plants, animals and humans, all this meaning is found in the level of Reality as Ananda; and here, existence, consciousness and bliss become one, while in the lower levels they get separated. There is only existence or 'Sat' in rocks, no Chit and Ananda. Rocks exist, but they do not think; they do not feel; they do not understand; and do not experience joy. But a slow process of the revelation of thought-functioning takes place in the higher levels, until it reaches a kind of perfection in the human consciousness. Here we have Sattva mixed up with Rajas and Tamas, on account of which we are very active; sometimes lethargic, and due to the element of Sattva manifest as a fraction, we feel happy at times, though not always. But happiness at times is of no use, being undependable.

All our efforts in life are towards the attainment of a permanent happiness, which is the attainment of Ananda. For this we have to reach pure Sattva, unfettered by the chains of Rajas and Tamas. These distinctions obtain in the realm of the Jivas. We see these distinctions; but the Virat does not have these distinctions. To the Virat, it is all 'I', without a 'he', 'she', or 'it'. "Aham asmi", 'I-AM" - is the awareness of the Virat, while our awareness is "I am, and you also are, in addition to me". "I am, and the world is also there outside me". But, to the Virat, the Consciousness is, "I am; there is no world outside Me". The whole world is 'I'; therefore He is called Vaisvanara, the Cosmic Being, the Person who feels, and has the Consciousness that He is all-this-cosmos. According to the Upanishad, the description is as if He has seven limbs. He has, indeed, infinite limbs. Thousands of arms has He. He is Visvammti, omnifaced is this Lord of the cosmos; and when we say He has seven limbs, we only give a broad outline of His Cosmic Personality, just as we can describe a human being as one with seven limbs - head, heart, arms, nose, eyes, ears, feet, etc. But if we give a more detailed description, we may go into the minutiae of the personality.

Now, while this Cosmic Person, the Virat, may be regarded as the Consciousness of Universal Waking; we are also, in our work of analysis of consciousness in its first phase, concerned with the microcosmic aspect, the state of Jivatva - individuality. It is here that it is supposed to have nineteen mouths. Its mouth is the organ by which we consume things, take in objects, appropriate material by assimilation into our bodies, digest them into ourselves, as it were. This is the function of the mouth. The medium of the reception of objects into our own self is the mouth. In one sense, the eyes also are the mouth, the ears, are the mouth, because they receive and absorb certain vibrations through different functions. Vibrations impinge on our personality through the avenues called the senses, viz., eyes, ears, etc., and all these may be regarded as mouths; in this sense, everything that is cognised by the senses is ahara or food for this personality. Anything that we consume with our senses is ahara. Ahara-suddhau sattva-suddhih: When there is purity of food, there is illumination by means of Sattva from within, says the Chhandogya Upanishad. It does not mean that we should take only milk and fruits every day, which we usually regard as Sattvika diet, while we may think evil thoughts, see ugly sights, hear bad news, and so on. Sattvika ahara is the purified vibration which the senses receive and communicate to the personality through all their functions, at all times. So, the senses are the mouths, and every kind of sense may be regarded as a mouth. There are nineteen functional apparatuses of this wakeful consciousness through which it receives vibrations from and establishes a contact with the outer world. What are the nineteen mouths? We have the five senses of knowledge, or Jnanendriyas, as we call them: Srotra (ears), Tvak (skin), Chakshus (eyes), Jihva (tongue) and Ghrana (nose), These are the five senses of knowledge. And we have the five organs of action: Vak (speech), Pani (hands), Pada {feet); Upastha (genitals) and Payu (anus). Then, we have the five operational activities through the subtle body as well as the physical body, which are called the Pranas: Prana, Apana, Vyana, Udana and Samana. The five senses of knowledge, the five organs of action and the five Pranas make the number fifteen. These fifteen functional aspects may be regarded as the outer core of individual activity. But there is also an inner core of our functions, which is constituted of the fourfold psychological organ, the Antahkarana-catushtaya; - Manas, Buddhi, Ahamkara and Citta - Manas, or the mind, which thinks and deliberates; Buddhi, or the intellect, which ratiocinates, understands and decides; Ahamkara, or the ego, which arrogates and appropriates things to itself; and the Citta which is capable of performing many functions, the main feature of it being memory, recollection, retention of past impressions, and this is what is generally known as the sub-conscious level of the psyche. This is the fourfold Antahkarana-catushtaya, as it is called, and with these four, coupled with the five Jnanendriyas, five Karmendriyas and five Pranas, we have the nineteen mouths of the Jiva, the individual. It is with these nineteen mouths that we come in contact with the world outside, and it is with the help of these that we absorb the world into ourselves. We communicate our personality to the world through these instruments, and we absorb qualities and characters of the world into ourselves through these instruments, again. These nineteen mouths, therefore, are the media or link between the individual and the Universe. How do we know that there is a world outside? Through these nineteen mouths do we apprehend all that is external. And it is not that we are merely aware of the existence of the world; we arc also affected by the world; and Samsara is this process of getting affected by the world's existence, not merely a perception of the world. Thcy say, even Maha-Purushas; Jivanmuktas perceive the world, but they are not Samsarins, because while they perceive the world, they arc not affected by it. These Maha-Purushas are in Isvara-srishti and not in Jiva-Srishti. They do not create or manufacture a world of their own. They are satisfied with the world that is already created by Isvara, or the Virat, Vaisvanara. This is the nature of the waking consciousness, both in its individual and cosmic aspects, as Jiva and Isvara. In its capacity as Virat, it is Saptanga; and as the Jiva, it isEkonavimsadmukha, animating respectively the physical universe and the physical body.

What do the nineteen mouths of the Jiva consume? Physical objects. What do we see? Physical objects. What do we hear? Physical things. What do we taste? Physical objects. And what do we grasp with our hands? Physical objects. Where do we walk with our feet? On the physical earth. What do we think in our minds? Physical objects. All the functions of ours through these nineteen mouths are connected with the physical world. Even the ideas that we may entertain in our minds are connected with physical objects. We cannot think only subtle things, because even the subtle things that we may try to think are only impressions of the perception of physical objects. We cannot think anything super-physical. We are therefore on earth, in a physical world, in a physical universe. Our consciousness is tethered to the physical body, and the counterpart, cosmically, of this physical consciousness, is Vaisvanara. This is Jagaritasthana, the waking abode of consciousness, waking in the sense that it is wakeful to the physical world, it is aware of the physical world, and it knows nothing other than the physical world.