External knowledge gives only a partial glimpse, but
intuitive knowledge is self-evident and complete. It is the
highest of all knowledge. Such knowledge derived from the
center of consciousness through intuition is called Sruti.
Sruti means that which is heard by the innermost ear of the
Sages and seers when in the deepest state of contemplation.
It is used to refer to the verses of the Vedas and the
There are two channels of knowledge: Direct and Indirect.
Direct Knowledge :
Direct knowledge is transcendent (para). It is self-evident and experienced from the ultimate source.
It is not perceived through the senses and mind because it is the vision revealed in the deepest state of realization of Absolute Reality, Turiya. It is neither object nor subject but is the pure experience of the Self by the self.
The only way to attain direct knowledge is through meditation and contemplation, which lead one to the infinite library of eternal wisdom.
Indirect knowledge is sensory or mental (apara): it is knowledge from the external world, or the knowledge gained through waking, dreaming, and deep sleep.
It is perceived by the intellect through the senses and mind and thus is conditioned by time, space, and causation.
The mind of modern man has been trained to look, verify, and judge in the external world, but it has not been trained to look within, find within, and be aware of the inner dimensions of life.
Philosophy in the West consists of Speculation that uses logic, but Vedanta philosophy is more experiential than speculative, and it is far more advanced than western scientific, psychological, and philosophical thought.
The Upanishads provide methods and means for going to that source. The goal of the Upanishads is to lead the aspirant to the realization of comprehensive knowledge of waking, dreaming, and sleeping and finally to establish him in the 4th state, Turiya.
BEAUTIFUL FACTS ABOUT UPANISHADS :
⦁ The finest section of the Vedas is comprised of the
Upanishadic literature, which is generally known as
⦁ The word Upanishad literally means to sit and listen to the preceptor who has attained Brahman-conscious-ness and who is fully enlightened.
⦁ The Upanishads are written in Sanskrit language, but knowledge of the language alone is not sufficient for comprehending the knowledge of the Upanishads. The word Vedanta literally means the very end or culmination of Vedic knowledge.
⦁ The Upanishads are said to be the epitome of Vedic
knowledge and the treasure of the innermost experiences
derived by the Vedic sages.
⦁ There are more than 200 Upanishads, and, of them,108 are available to the common reader.
⦁ The literature unveils all the mysteries of life and logically answers the prime questions that other books leave unanswered. These questions include :
Who am I ?
From where have I come?
Why have I come?
Where will I go?
⦁ The Upanishads also explain the relationship of the individual to other individuals and creatures of the world, and they finally lead one to understand the status of the individual in the universe.
⦁ The Upanishads help the human mind to realize the actual unity of consciousness dwelling within the apparent diversity of nature, and they declare that there is only one principle, the Absolute Truth, which is self-existent and not subject to change, death, or decay.
⦁ In order to comprehend the meaning of the Upanishads, one must especially train the mind and its modifications, because only a purified mind is able to comprehend the profound subtle meaning of these scriptures. The meaning of the mantras of the Upanishads lies hidden within the varied frequencies of the vibrations of the most subtle sounds that can be experienced at the deepest levels of consciousness.
⦁ The grammar used to convey the meanings of these sounds is called Niruktam, that which explains the origin of sounds and their vibrations.
SECRET KNOWLEDGE BEHIND AUM, SOURCE OF ALL SOUNDS:
⦁ A is the waking state,
⦁ U is the dreaming state
⦁ M is the sleeping state.
⦁ The 4th is the silence following the
Contrary to the dictum of modern linguistics which states that the word is not the thing, the philosophy of sound explained in this Upanishad goes deeper to a more subtle level in which the sound is similar to the object.
Stages of human growth, consciousness, and the eternal sound Om :
The stages of human growth, consciousness, and the eternal sound Om can be clarified by an analogy, explained below :
The view one can see from the ground floor of a mansion is likened to the experience of the waking state, A.
The broader perspective of the second storey is likened to the experience of the dreaming state, U.
The more complete vista seen from the third storey is likened to the experience of the sleeping state, M.
But the entire panorama beheld from the roof is like the experience of the 4th state of silence, Turiya.
From this point of view, one realizes that AUM is the entire mansion, whereas the letters A, U, and M are only the individual storeys.
DIFFERENT LEVELS OF BODY CONSCIOUSNESS :
The layers, or degrees of reality, that constitute the universe are also to be found in the human individual in the form of the koshas, or the sheaths, as they are called, the physical, vital, mental, intellectual, and the causal.
These are known in the Sanskrit language as :
- Annamaya kosha~(Food Body)
- Pranamaya kosha~(Vital Body)
- Manomaya kosha~( Body of Memories)
- Vijnanamaya kosha~(Body of Knowledge)
- Anandamaya kosha~(Bliss Body)
These are the 5 layers of objectivity which, in a gradational form, externalize consciousness.
The five koshas have been classified into 3 groups:
- The physical
- The subtle, &
- The causal
The grosser the sheath, the greater is the force of externality, so that when consciousness enters the physical body, we are totally material in our outlook, physical in our understanding and assessment of values, intensely body-conscious, and know nothing of ourselves except this body.
It is only when we go inward that we have access to the subtler layers of our personality, not otherwise.
In the waking state in which we are now, for instance, the physical body is intensely operative and we always think in terms of the physical body, physical objects, and physical sensations.
This physical sensation is absent in the state of dream, but 3 of the koshas operate in a dream. All the 5 koshas are operative in the waking condition, concentrating their action mostly on the physical body.
The physical body is not operative in the dream state, but the vital, the mental, and the intellectual sheaths are active. The prana is there, the mind is there, and the intellect is there, in a diminished intensity. We breathe, we think and we understand in the state of dream. That means the prana, manas, and buddhi are all active in the state of dream excluding the physical element – namely, the body consciousness.
In the state of deep sleep, none of these are active. Neither the body is operative there, nor the mind, nor the intellect, nor is there any consciousness that we are even breathing. The consciousness is withdrawn entirely from all the sheaths – physical, vital, mental, and intellectual. There is only 1 sheath operating in the state of sleep. That is the causal sheath – the anandamaya kosha, as it is called in Sanskrit.
STATES OF AWAKENING :
1. VAISHWANAR (Waking State)
In the waking state, in which we are now, for example, the physical body is intensely operative and we always think in terms of the physical body, physical objects, and physical sensations.
2. TAIJASA ~ The Dream State
The second plane of experience is “Swapna” — the Dream-state into which we slip when we go to sleep. In this state, all our sensory apparatus are ‘turned inward’. They continue performing their respective functions of apperception but do so in an exclusively “introverted mode” i.e. none else other than the dreamer himself can experience his dream. No two
persons can dream alike since the respective experience of it is uniquely his own.
Furthermore, in the ‘Swapna‘ state, it is not the gross objects of the Waking world that are experienced but their subtle impressions or images as imprinted upon our subconscious.
We do not carry with us into the dream-state all of the objects of our desire and hope, passion, or fear as they exist in “jAgruti“. Only a residual few — the strongest and most intense of desires — follow us into the “Swapna” state and they manifest there either as :
- Subtle, and often very strange image or ,
- As an oracular, sometimes even clairvoyant message. The anger of one’s waking moments, for example, might manifest itself as a hideous viper in the dream-state.
Similarly, repressed lust in the ‘jAgruti‘ state might unexpectedly surface as carnal dream images. And sometimes our dreams foretell or in some vague way anticipate events yet to happen in the Waking World.
The experiences of both “jAgruti” and “Swapna“, although very different in character, substance, and duration, have one thing in common — Desire (“kAmA“).
Our desires in the Waking-state are multitudinous and multifarious indeed.
However, when we cross over in sleep from the Waking into the Dream state, we do not carry with us all of such longings and latent yearning. On the journey from “jAgruti” into “taijasa” we take with us as subliminal baggage only the most deeply rooted elements of our “kAma” and with which we have identified ourselves so inseparably that it continues to cling to us like a shadow. We cannot, or rather we do not want to shake it off.
3. PRAJNAYA (Deep Sleep State)
The 3rd plane of human experience is what the Mandukya calls “truteeyah: pAdah: “
(The word “truteeya” in Sanskrit means “Third” and “pAda” means, “part”).
In the celebrated 5th and 6th stanzas, the Upanishad gives us great insight into the real and mystical nature of Sleep-experience which it calls “prajnya“.
“yatra sUptO na kamchana kAmum kAmayatE~Mandukya Upanishad
na kamchana svapnam pashyati tat sUshUptam I
“sUshUpta-sthAna Eki-bhUthah: praj~nAnaGhana EvA-nandamayO
hyAnanda-bhUkchEthO-mukha: prAj~nyas~truteeyah: pAdah:” II
The experience of “praj~nya” is not the same as ordinary “nidra” that we experience fitfully during daily sleep — i.e. it is not our nocturnal shuttling, in and out, between “jAgruti” and “Swapna”.
The Upanishad says “praj~nya” is the experience of sheer unending ‘Aatmik’(Soul) bliss readily available at a certain exclusive “spot” or “station” en route the journey of sleep. The “spot” is called “sUshUpta-sthAna” — a virtual locus of mystical delight to be found beyond
the first and second states of Waking and Dreaming.
In “praj~nya”, unlike “taijasa” or “vaishvAnara”, there is no trace of “kAma”. The residual but deep-seated desires of our Dream-state do not and cannot infiltrate into this blessed region.
Since there is no “kAma” here, there is no work left, and hence no use for, our sense organs which therefore withdraw and retract into the mind. The mind itself then lies absolutely still. The resultant state of experience is “Praj~nya”, says the Upanishad.
It is a subtle mass of pure consciousness unconditioned by the senses. It is quite unlike any sensory experience and hence cannot be described in words. It is composed wholly of ‘Aatmik’ bliss…
“The third state is called Praj~nya, of deep sleep
In which one neither dreams nor desires.
There is no mind in Praj~nya, there is no
Separateness; but the sleeper is not
Conscious of this. Let him become conscious
In Praj~nya and it will open the door
To the state of abiding joy.”
“Esha sarvEshwara Esha sarvagnya EshO’antaryAm-yEshu yOnih:
sarvasya prabhAvApyayow hi bhUtAnAm II
“This one (i.e. the “sUshUpta-sthAna“) is the Lord of All. This is omniscient, this is the inner
controller of all; this is the cause of every other thing; this is the place of origin and the end of
4.TURIYA (the silence state Param-Shanti after AUM) :
The 4th state, Turiya Atma, one which is beyond the empirical transaction, all names and nameable are being resolved. In which, the cessation of all manifestations in the terms of cause and effect do exist.
It is Advaita, being the source of all imaginations. The person who knows in this manner, that the three matras of Omkar are indeed three-quarters of Atma, one who knows this real nature of Atma, that knower of Brahman, having burnt the seed of ignorance knows Atma through ones own self. Being Brahman, he/she is not born again, because of the nature of Turiya is, not having any seed.
The Journey of “sUshupti”
When we go to sleep daily each night, little do we realize that we also embark upon an the extraordinary journey that takes us away from the diverse world of “vaishvAnara” far across to the frontiers of our consciousness in “taijasa” and “praj~nya”.
Yet, ironically, what the Mandukya reveals to us is that the joy or vitality in a “good night’s sleep” is but a mere infinitesimal fraction of the full-blown experience of “Anandamaya” found in the inner-city of “praj~nya” where “sarvEshwara”, the Almighty Himself, is said to reside
Just at the moment when sleep is about to take us beyond the dream-state of “taijasa” and to the very doorsteps of blissful “prajnya”, we are suddenly turned back. We do a U-turn and head right back again into the uneasy and motley world of “Swapna“. And there we remain
wandering and maundering for a few more hours until the morning…
When we finally wake up to return to the harsh glare of common, sensory reality: what we may call the “jAgrutic” pell-mell of “vaishvAnara”…
Night after night, all through our lives, without yet being truly aware we are repeating and retracing the same steps of this Upanishadic shuttle-journey of “sUshUpti”, we depart from the external world of “vaishvAnara”, travel across the dreamland of “swapna” and approach
the very doorsteps of the ultimate source (“yOnih”) of Joy and Energy, “praj~nya”. Alas, at the very last moment, we are turned back. We never really get to gain entry into that great city of “sUshUpta-sthAna“.
All that we manage to bring back with us every morning, as journey’s
poor reward for the effort, is only so much of a whiff of divine “Ananda” as will last us or linger with us, for a day or two at best… no more!
Man’s inability to fully seize and realize the opportunity of “sUshUpti” is captured brilliantly in a single line (8-3-2):
“Like strangers in an unfamiliar country
Walking over a hidden treasure day by day,
We enter the world of Brahman while in deep Sleep
But never find it, carried away by what is false.”
The Mandukya’s extraordinary account of “sUshUpti” provides us with this very valuable insight too:
Instead of stating that Sleep is a deeply mystical experience, it would be more accurate to say, rather, that every night of sleep in the life of Man is a night of missed opportunity for mystical fulfillment — it lies virtually round the corner… and is yet so elusive…
The Weight of “kAma”
The line of study of the Mandukya we have followed so far will not fail to raise some more questions in our mind:
⦁ What is the reason for the opportunity of blessed “sUshUpti” being missed again and again in the daily journey of sleep? Even after going almost the full distance, why do we repeatedly fall short of our mark, the great “praj~nya”?
⦁ Why are we ordinary souls unable to penetrate that third plane of human experiencing the Upanishad calls “trutheeya-pAda”? Why are we unable to commune with that state of “abiding joy” known to the Upanishad as “praj~nyanaGhana’nandA”? Why must we remain content with mere crumbs of “Ananda” in sleep when there is a veritable ocean of bliss just beyond it?
- Why can’t we too enjoy, in the manner of the yogis and ‘muni-s’, that deep and serene state of “sUshUpti” otherwise known as “yOga-nidra”?
The answer according to the Upanishad is simple:
If we grasp the reason why our passage from the Waking-state to the Dream-state is easy, it will help us see why exiting the Dream-state and penetrating into the borders of “sUshupti” is so very difficult.
- When we lie down to sleep at night, we must ask ourselves, what happens to us?
- We abandon and leave behind all frivolous desires and fears, all trifling thoughts and feelings of our Waking world, isn’t it?
- What is this act of “abandoning”?
It is really nothing but the shedding of “vaishvAnaric” weight and excess baggage. We “give up”, “renounce”, “sacrifice”, “surrender” or “let slip” as much of “kAma” as is necessary to wrench us out of the clutches of the Waking World. The voluntary “load-shedding” (“nyAsa”, it is called in the parlance of VisishtAdvaita Vedanta) is what enables the stilling of the senses and enables our ascent to the second plane of “taijasa“, the greater experience of subtle worlds.
In the state of “taijasa” however, we are unable to repeat the success of the first one. The clinging dead-weight of our deeper “kAma” is not so easily jettisoned (“… na kamchana kAmum kAmayatE..”, are the words the Upanishad uses here suggestively).
It is the inability to “abandon”, to leave behind his deepest Desire that firmly blocks Man’s advance into “sUshUpti”, turns him away from its doorsteps, and seals him off from the bliss of pure “Ananda“.
This is the reason why in that long journey of sleep into the night, the city of “praj~nya” appears to Man to be so near and yet so far…
The Mandukya’s vivid portrayal of all this is a passage (stanza 5) that is truly immortal:
“The third state is called Praj~nya, of deep sleep
In which one neither dreams nor desires.
…….but the sleeper is not
Conscious of this.
Let him become conscious
In Praj~nya and it will open the door
To the state of abiding joy.”
The Leap of the Frog
The word “mandUka” is Sanskrit for ‘frog’. So ‘Mandukya Upanishad’ is “Frog Upanishad”.
The frog is a creature that is known for its prowess of leaping.
Some sub-specie of the frog family is known to cover up to 10-12 feet in a single leap and that is perhaps the inspiration behind the English coining the phrase “to leap-frog”, meaning ‘to vault over” or “bound over”.
This Upanishad describes how yogis and ‘muni-s’ similarly leapfrog like “mandUka-s” and vault themselves from the Waking and Dream states straight
into the consciousness of the third state of blissful “sUshUpti”.
(The Upanishad text, in fact, says they catapult themselves into the fourth plane of “tUriya” — the state even the Upanishad is unable to describe adequately: the absolute experience of Brahman in the transcendent
abode (“parama-pada”) of the Almighty. For the limited purpose of our study we stay with
the third state of “sUshUpti” and proceed no further.)
Unlike ordinary mortals who have no choice but to plod along the long path from Waking to the Dream-state, and then trudge again from Dream-state to the state of “sUshUpti” without ever completing the journey, yogis and ‘muni-s’ are able to go straight from “jAgruti” to “sUshUpti” with minimal effort.
By dint of spiritual prowess, gained partly by effort and partly by the grace of God, yogis manage to pare down the multitude and complex of “kAma” in
their lives to a single simple one: attain Godhead. Freed of desire, fear and selfishness, there is nothing to hold the yogi back in either “vaishvnara” or “taijasa”.
As if possessed of a magic switch, he turns on and shuts off his sense-apparatus at will.
When turned off, he soars into the pure consciousness of “praj~nya”. There is no better affirmation of this ‘Mandukyian’
experience than the evidence available in the lives of such yogis. Their example is clear proof that the Mandukya is indeed a document of mystical verity, not fancy.
The Sleep of the Awakened
We go to sleep each night not only to rest our tired limbs and jaded mind. A study of the
Mandukya — and deep reflection upon its theme as exemplified by the lives of yogis — enables us to understand that Sleep is not only a bodily need but a spiritual function too.
“sUshUpti” is God’s way of extending a standing invitation to us to drop in on Him, take a little tour of His realms and find out for ourselves about the “abiding bliss” the Upanishad declares prevails there.
If Man chooses not to take up God on His invitation, it could only be
due to sloth and ignorance —
“nidrAlasya pramAdOttham tat-tAmasam-udhAhritam”
To recall the words of the Bhagavath-Gita above. It is only sloth or ignorance, or both, that can keep our spirit from advancing upon Heaven’s gateways situated in the inner world of our consciousness — the world which our Waking-state, preoccupied as it is forever with what is
mundane and desire-ridden conspires to keep shut always.
Sleep is certainly not, on account of all this, the equivalent of God-experience; but it is perhaps the nearest approximation of it known to Man. It is within easy grasp, too, of one and all.
The secret of “sUshUpti” lies in being able to ‘awaken in sleep’ and look through the eyes of the Mandukya at what lies beyond. Sleep will then no longer seem slothful activity (“tAmasa-nidra”).
Instead, every night we go to bed it will seem to us as if we are preparing
to go into “yOga-nidra” and we might seize the sacred opportunity for true meditative joy and lasting mystical fulfillment.