Mahavakyas of the Upanishads (Part 1)

Course: Introduction to Hinduism

Lecture: Mahavakyas of the Upanishads (Part 1)


Now there's two more things that are going to help all the Upanishadic vision come into your understanding.  One is by looking at the Mahavakyas which we'll do this time and next time.  And the other is looking at the key metaphors.  I found that for my experience teaching this class is, that once we get to the metaphors, the students finally understand all these concepts the way the Indians do.  Because the Indians generally communicate these things through, not esoteric explanations, but through common metaphors and word pictures.  The word maha means great.
By the way, now you understand why they called Ghandi Mahatma.  Now you know • because ... Mahatma, of course, is not his personal name.  That was a title they gave him.  And the reason is because maha means great; atma, atman, soul • great soul.  So this maha is very important.  It comes into everything.  And so, in the same way: maha, great; vak is the word for speech • Mahavakyas means great utterances, great sayings, of the Upanishads.

Now this is not in the official list from any Hindu organisation or whatever.  This is just my assessment of what I believe are the top ten or so • thirteen • passages in the Upanishads that come up most frequently in the discussions.  And so I would say that it would really be difficult to discuss Hinduism without being aware of these Upanishads, these passages.

It's like someone saying: You know, OK, there's John 3:16.  There's a certain amount.  There's 1 Corinthians 13.  You know, there's 1 Corinthians 15.  They're like key ... Romans 8.  There are certain passages which we know are exceptionally important in Christian discourse.  People are always quoting John 3:16 • or whatever.  And so, if someone doesn't know a thing about the New Testament, you could at least show them • OK, you've got to at least know the Beatitudes or something.  Or, at least, Old Testament, the Ten Commandments.  The Ten Commandments would be a Mahavakyas of the OT.  These are the great utterances that kind of give definition to the text.  So that's kind of what this is from my point of view in the Upanishads • although you can be reading the whole thing.

So what we'll do is, I'm going to have someone read the Brihad-Aranyaka passage.  This is a little lengthy passage, but we have time to look at this one.  So, if someone would read that and then we'll make some comments about it.  And we'll just kind of go through these one by one.  I think it would be helpful to read these out loud in class.  So who will read the first Mahavakyas?  OK, great, thank you.

I assume this was a handout that was being read.  Thus, I also assume it's likely that you have access to an electronic version of it and so it doesn't need to be transcribed • it can just be copied and pasted.

OK.  That's from the Ramayana, the attachment to the Brihad-Aranyaka.  And it is obviously a very important passage because, once you get past the kind of incestuous theme of it on the surface, which, of course, is the shocking part of all of the Hindu literature • it can be very evil on a kind of that level.  But when you get down below it, this is the Hindu way of dealing with the problem of diversity.  That's what this whole thing is about • is struggling with what is the relationship of the many and the one.  How do you reconcile monism with multiplicity?  The Upanishadic text demonstrates that diversity can come from oneness and not be an other.

This is typical of a number of passages in the Upanishads which wrestle with this one and the many.  I have here • maybe I should give this out to you • I have a little handout for you, just to help you through these.  And what I've done is with each of these Upanishads passages we're looking through, I have kind of a very simple summary.  What is the key thought?  And what is the key theological development in the passage from a theological point of view for us as Christians?  And so I thought this might help you and you can add a lot more to it.  But this gives you, at least, some things to think about as you read these passages.

I realise when you read the passage you may • who was it that said to me the other day: You read one Upanishad you've read them all?  Roman, it was you.  That was it.  It was you. Well, that's so deeply disturbing.  I haven't gotten over that yet.  This material is very varied and rich.  And I know it's not like reading the book of John or something, you know.  I mean, some of this is really wild stuff.  But part of missionary work is getting inside the thought process of somebody else.  And so what happens is every culture has subtexts that govern the way he'll think and interpret material • like to new ideas.  And anthropology will call this the paradigms.  There's all kinds of paradigms already present when you walk into a room.  So, if you're not familiar with the kind of the cultural discourse, then it's very, very difficult to penetrate into someone's worldview.  And I argue in my other class, I don't think it's possible to actually address someone's worldview.  You can only address the paradigms that make up the worldview.  So you cannot talk in highfalutin language about the Christian worldview, the Hindu worldview, without realising it does in fact involve building blocks like this.

And you have to kind of penetrate down into that and, even though it's not easy, it's part of the sacrificial work that Christians must do because we haven't done a very good job communicating the gospel in India.  We've done a horrible job in fact.  And so here is India that's had the gospel a lot longer than has been in the Western world.  The gospel has been present in India since the first century.  And we've been so miserably failing at communicating the gospel there.  So, I think the reason is we have never • we've worked so hard on our own discourse, but we've not taken time to learn their discourse.  Once you learn their discourse, then you can begin to see how to better communicate.  So, we have to look into all this.

So, the key thought is the continuity between Brahman and creation.  Obviously the Upanishads are very • very committed to monism as a rule.  So, because Vedanta means the end of the Vedas • right • the Upanishads is the last part of it • so the Vedanta is focused on the Upanishads.  So they're the ones that have exalted this particular sort of documents, the Upanishads, to the point of saying: This is the quintessential Hinduism.

So, it's not unusual to find the Upanishads wrestling with the tension of the one and the many.  How do you reconcile the fact that there's one essence, but yet there is all this diversity of experience.  From a cosmological point of view, creation point of view, there is the key theological development of what we ... later Aquinas would make the distinction between the efficient and the material cause.  It goes back to Aristotle • but it's something that's developed theologically especially in Thomism.  What does that mean?

What that means is, if we say God is the material cause of the universe, that means that you can have monism, because the universe is made out of the substance of God's essence and nature.  This is like a dismemberment theme, which essentially this is a form of that is a theme where, you know, parts of God become the universe.  That is, material cause of the universe.  That is not the Christian position.  The Christian position is that God is the efficient cause of the universe.

So, it's like saying that a carpenter builds a house.  A carpenter takes lumber and he builds a house.  The carpenter is the efficient cause of the house.  The carpenter is not the material cause of the house because the carpenter does not in any way • his essence is not in any way present in the house.  He's simply the efficient cause of it.

And so that's a huge theological distinction, because, in  Hinduism, whenever they say god is the creator of the universe, what we mean by that and what they mean by that are two different things.  Because whenever a Westerner hears an Indian say, as they will: God created the universe.  We assume that means that God • there's an efficient cause of it • that God is the first cause.  There's a personal Creator.  He created the universe other than Himself.  He spoke it into existence.  Whatever.  Wow, we didn't know Hinduism believed that.  But actually, what they mean by that is that the universe is the material result of god's dismemberment • which in itself is part of the saguna Brahman.  Therefore, someone could say they believed in creation, but still be monistic and still not believe in a personal Creator.  And so therefore it's • you've got to be very careful when you talk about the universe and the cosmology with Hindus because the definition of terms could be very, very different.  And I think the efficient/material distinction, which is not really debated hotly in India until 18th, 19th century, is nevertheless a very important one • because that really is what lies at the root of a lot of the problems in the discussion.  They want to embrace it as a material and not just efficient.

Let's continue our Mahavakyas of the Upanishads.  The second one is from the Taittiriya Upanishad and this is quoted so often in the subsequent writings of all the Hindu writers, especially the philosophers.  Perhaps someone could read this for us.

I assume this was a handout that was being read.  Thus, I also assume it's likely that you have access to an electronic version of it and so it doesn't need to be transcribed • it can just be copied and pasted.

What do you think?

Interjection: Well, that explains it.

O it's great.  This Upanishad, this little text, first of all does underscore a lot of the themes we've learned earlier about austerity and the creation of heat.  Remember I told you how, if you denied yourself and created austerity, that you could perform/create spiritual power.  So this person, this supreme soul • this is a Perusha figure • he performs austerity.  This is a form of saguna Brahman.  And that is the basis of creation.  So, once again, you understand creation through the austerity.

OK, once the creation is emerging, he enters into it.  OK, so this is the whole conception of the identification of Brahman with Atman.  You have put here, in phenomenological language that we can understand, a mystery that transcends it • cosmical homology •  that the essence of the universe is the same as the essence of all of the individual aspects of creation.  Having entered it, he became both the actual and the beyond.  The phrase, let me become many, is quoted just almost ad nauseum • I mean, it's just constantly being quoted • let me become many.  It calls to mind the entire Upanishads • or this text of the Upanishads.

And the idea is that, again, the relationship of the one to the many.  How can the world be so ... full of so much multiplicity and yet be rooted in the one reality?  Well, it's because the reality of god, the essence of god, has entered into the whole of creation and is found, you know, in every part • actual, beyond, undefined • it's just ways of pointing out that there is nothing that is not a manifestation of the one reality.  As the real • this should be like capital "r" Real, ultimately, but as saguna it's little "r" real • as the real he became whatever there is here.  That is what they call the real.  So again, the idea that everything that is is ultimately the reality • ultimate reality at its essence level because he's entered into it.

So the key thought, once again, the relationship between the one and the many.  And the key theological development is there is one reality and yet the obvious multiplicity of the universe.  So, as you might imagine in the Hindu philosophy there's been a lot of discussion about how you reconcile the multiplicity of the world and the variegated realties of the world of our experience and the idea that all of this is ultimately one.  How ... the tat twam asi whole conception is essentially reflected in this as well.

Got some comments about this?  Is it now like clear?

Interjection: Clear as mud.

Clear as mud.  Yes.

Question: So, timeline-wise, he created everything and he stepped into what he created?

He created it, but it's like the Ezekiel image: you know, a lifeless mass has no animation to it.  And so the supreme self enters into and animates everything that is.  So it's as if you have, like, Ezekiel's bones.  They're all put together, but there's no life in them.  And then he breathes • he calls forth the Spirit, it enters the life of the being.  So in the same way they're saying that there is a creation which essentially • when they say creation, please remember this is not ex nihilo; this is the rearrangement of existing matter • so essentially this Perusha figure rearranges existing matter into the current status, what we call the world.  It's been re-eminated out as matter.  Then once it's fashioned and formed, then he enters into it.  Not 100% • that's true.  But his life enters into it and animates it all.  Once it's animated, then everything that exists now has this Atman which animates what we are.  And that Atman is Brahman • by virtue of cosmical homology.

I'm sorry, go ahead, finish

Question: ... portion of it then is animated?

During this Yuga it does, but ultimately through moksa and through the dissolution of the whole Puranic kind of conception of the universe, it will all eventually come back.  One of the phrases you find repeatedly is, you know, is that everything's eventually going to come back, come back, come back.  So, this is temporary temporal kind of description.

Question: ??? then god ...  as he manifested himself through avatars ??? comes to fight against him.  How is that reconciled?

You're holding your head like you're in serious pain.  OK.  Roman.  You are a Western man.  All right?  You think as a Westerner.  You're very logical.  All right.  You're assuming a dichotomy between good and evil.  So, you ??? in your mind that there's this tension and contradiction between good and evil.  OK.  ??? take the etch it sketch.  Shake it.  All right.  All right.  We're going to start drawing new lines.  OK.  The new line is that ultimately good and evil are transcended.  So evil, I mean, ultimately this becomes the Buddhist big debate with the whole Hindus • which we'll look at when I get back from India.  The idea that there is a fundamental reality of evil that opposes God's reality is rejected.  Therefore, the Atman animates everything.  And the Atman is untouched by evil.  The Atman is untouched by evil • even though it is encrusted with degradation of karma which does produce all kinds of evil.  But in their mentality, existence is a form of evil • not just Hitler, but Mother Theresa.  It's all an ultimate expression of a manifestation of karma that ultimately should be done away with.  It's all negative.

Question: If there is no dichotamistic thinking then in Hinduism, why the distinction?

Because those distinctions exist at the level of Satchitananda.  They don't exist at the level of Patisbasika.  So, at the highest level • I'm talking about the highest level • those distinctions don't exist.  At the practical level, all these things exist.  So, they would say to you: Go higher, Roman, go higher.  Keep going up the ladder a little higher, and eventually you'll get above the clouds and ...

Interjection: tat twam asi.

Tat twam asi.  This is the Upanishads.  This is pretty heavy stuff.  I mean, this is serious reflection by Hindu people on the banks of the Ganges River.  And they're watching the river flow by and they're thinking about the river and the way things flow • things, you know, are always different.  You know, you don't put your foot in the same river twice and yet it's always the same.  You know, they're living in the cycles of the monsoons.  And everything seems to come back every year • it goes through the same cycle again.  They're saying: OK, if you have monsoon rains, they come every year, they flood, and you have the dry season.  OK, everything seems to be cyclical.  Could this be a cosmical homology?  Could this be a picture of the whole universe?  They're always trying to extrapolate into something that goes beyond • explains the big picture.

So, we tend, Americans, Westerners thinkers, especially Roman, like to analyse things.  And the Western thinking says • as you analyse things and get into this detailed analysis.  Then, you know, we put these in categories to explain things.  They're trying to find a way to transcend those categories.  That's essentially ... and it is ... it's very difficult.  I agree.  Because ultimately we do believe a fundamental difference between good and evil.  But to Hindus, they're not accepting our presuppositions.

Question: So is this where some of the idea that panentheism is rooted?

Uh-hum.

Question: And then since he's
He enters into

Question: 100 ... not 100%?  So he's entered into it, but not 100%.

Right.  I'm going to go back to the Rig-Vedic idea that he's not 100% into it.  But, you know, one of the interesting things is to ask: Is God in creation or is creation in God?  And that becomes a debate among the philosophers because Sankara says: Essentially god is in everything.  Ramanuja says: Everything is in god.  And that becomes a dispute, but we'll look at that later.  We're not quite ready for that yet • that discussion.

Question: Take me back to the first day of class and tell us again how to turn that Western side off.  I keep kind of swimming ..

Well, what I did say • I don't know that I addressed that, but I would say, I did say • there was no kind of like slow ramp, you know, that leads into this pool.  There's just a kind of a steep cliff.  You've got to just jump in.  So, when you first jump in, like when you jump into massively cold water, there's that initial disequilibrium, you know, and panic even.  And you have to just stay there a while and then you'll begin to acclimate.  Once you acclimate and once you get the full structure of it ...  Sankara's not some stupid fool.  OK, these guys are brilliant thinkers.  All right.  So they eventually connect the dots at a certain level.  I mean, even CS Lewis said: If I weren't a Christian, I'd be a Hindu.  You know, he was saying that, as worldviews go, the worldview makes sense at a certain level • once you accept their presuppositions.

Now part of it could be my own poor job in explaining it.  I think part of it, I'm sure, is that.  But part of it is also that we're still looking at a building half-built.  So, once we begin to get all this filled out • especially as we look at the different analogies • I think it'll make more sense.  And we can connect together and the water will start feeling normal again.

OK.  Let's go onto the third.  I'm going to have Roman read this one.  Because I just know • this one, you're going to love it.  From the Brihad-Aranyaka about how many gods there are.

Interjection: ... passage about all the kings and ...

And when you get to Vishnavulka you can just say Vaj if you want, OK?

I assume this was a handout that was being read.  Thus, I also assume it's likely that you have access to an electronic version of it and so it doesn't need to be transcribed • it can just be copied and pasted.

OK.  Here we are at what must appear to be a remarkable thing.  But this is classic moment in Upanishads.  If you understand this Upanishad, a lot of things will begin to fall into place • because there's two things that are happening here simultaneously and both are very important for the Upanishads.

On one hand, the basic point is that the multiplicity of gods is a manifestation of one • well, let's just for now say • one god.  We'll discuss how there's three and this 33 thing comes into it • but essentially that one god can manifest in a multiplicity of other deities.  So, essentially, all these devas, all these gods, are lower levels of expression of something that is ultimately above it all.

There's a very famous story in Hinduism about a man.  I think I mentioned this in the book • where there's a man who goes around and counts all the gods.  Did I mention that in the book?  OK, so he goes round and he spends his whole life counting the gods.  He goes to every village.  He asks: What gods to you worship here?  In India typically you have certain national gods that are worshipped everywhere.  You have certain gods that are very important in different regions of India.  And then you have occupational gods that are over every conceivable occupation as a god.  So, if, you know, you're a street-sweeper, if you're a leather-worker, if you are a, you know, a ruler or a king • it doesn't matter: there's gods that preside over any occupation that you do.  Well that ratchets up to millions right there.  And then you have family deities that are over your particular family or clan.  So you have clan deities.  You have occupational deities.  Regional deities.  National deities.  And then you have all the Vedic deities and all the rest.  So, when you put all this together, it comes out to ... there's various estimations, but one of the most historic figures is 330 million gods.  OK, so, this guy comes up with this number that there are 330 million gods worshipped in India.  And he has these huge books that list all these names out.

So, it is ... finally he's at his death bed and they come to him and they say to him • they say: Tell us, teacher, you spent you whole life going over to all the villages in India, how many gods are worshipped in India?  And he says: One.  And he has a book of 330 million different gods, but he says: One.  This is the Indian version of henotheism • that there are many multiplicity of manifestations, but they ultimately reflect back to the one.

So, that is part of the theology of this, where he's trying to break into the idea that there is one god that has many manifestations.  Then finally he comes out to that, you know, if you go down to the first main paragraph, and it's so great the way he toys with you.  He gets down, you know, six, three, two, and then, rather than one which you expect, one and a half, OK.  The guy's really toying with you here, OK.  He's so slow about coming to this final statement, OK.  There's one.  OK.  So, if you'd stop there, in many ways, it'd make it a lot simpler, right • because you say: OK, he's basically saying that there is one god that is manifested in multiplicity of manifestations into ultimately millions.

But he goes on • and ends up with this thing about the 33 gods and these 3 different pantheons of the Vedic gods.  Now, what is so important about that is that this shows the very powerful tension the Upanishads are in because on one hand the Upanishads are powerfully wanting to introduce new theology essentially, new, a new conception.  These guys are trying to find a way to unite India into something that's coherent • because it is contradictory.  And you do have all these contradictory belief systems.  So, they're trying to find a way to say: OK, can we trump all of these divisions into something that is coherent and reified essentially into a religion.  And that • at least the Upanishadic vision, at least.

So the Upanishads are trying to trump out all of these gods.  But the Upanishads cannot overtly contradict the Vedas, the Rig-Veda • because if they do, then it'll show discontinuity.  So, you have an appendix.  The Upanishads, of course, are appendices to the Vedas.  So, you can't have the appendices eventually just blatantly contradict the Vedas.  So, he essentially, on one hand, introduces the new theology.  And it is frankly new • the fact that one god is a manifestation of the many.  The only thing you get in the Vedas is maybe the rta idea.

But then, he will not stop there, so he goes back and says: They were the manifestations of them, but there are only 33 gods.  That is orthodox Vedic theology.  I think we mentioned that, didn't we, in the Vedic discussion • there are 33 gods.  That's important to know.  We discussed that in that handout earlier • but, if you forgot that, remember that.

And then he actually articulates the 3 pantheons of the Vedic system, as well as Indra and Prajapati.  So the result is you have new theology and an affirmation of Vedic continuity that's affirmed.  And that's a very important kind of thing to be aware of that happens throughout the Upanishads.  OK.  Yes.

Question: So, do you get any schools that are like purists and that reject the Upanishads?  You get the LBS church and the Reformed LBS church and something like that ...

You definitely do.  There's a very famous movement called in India • they're called the Arya Samaj • the Society of the Aryans.  And it was founded by this guy named Dayananda.  And he advocated that all the truth of the universe is present in the Vedas • even technical, scientific knowledge • is all latent in the Vedas.  Everything that can be known in the world is found in the Vedas.  And the Upanishads should be rejected as a later, lower emendation to the Vedas.  So they're like a Back to the Vedas thing.  And it has strong following and there's a number of philosophies and groups in India that do believe that the Vedas is the source of all true knowledge.

Question: ??? getting on a popular ??? popular culture?

The Arya Samaj is, belonged to, I mean, it has chapters all over India.  People, Indians, belong to it.  This is not just some school that's taught in universities.  This is a movement.  The fact is, I was down in Saharanpur, which is just below Dehradun.  It's right here • Saharanpur, OK.  We have some work down there in Saharanpur.  So this in fact where that people movement is happening • these people that pick up dead bodies, these scavengers.  Twelve villages have responded to the gospel.  So I was down there preaching a year or so ago. 

And I was, when I was on Sabbatical, which is now a couple of years ago, I was having supper one night with the mission professor retired from Princeton, I mean, Yale University.  And so we're talking and he said • he mentioned • I knew he'd worked in India.  I didn't know where.  So I said: Where did you work in India?  He said: Saharanpur.  I said: Saharanpur.  And he says: No, no, no. no, it's not what you think.  He thought I was saying Serampore.  He thought that I had heard Serampore, because everybody in India knows Serampore.  I said: No, no, no, no.  I know Serampore, but I know Saharanpur.  He said: You do?  Because no one's ever heard of Saharanpur.  It's just a small place.  I said: Yeah, I'm there all the time.  He said: Well, I worked at this seminary there and I've never been back for like 40 years.  And he said: I'd love to know what's happened.  So I said: Well, I'll be there in just a few months and I'll go and take pictures of the place where you taught.  He's like about 85 years old, this man.  So I went back, went to Saharanpur, and I told one of our colleagues, named Daniel Masi.  I said: Take me out to the old seminary where this guy taught ??? work out here.  O yeah, I know where it is, he said, but he won't be happy.  It's been taken over by the Arya Samaj.  So I went out there and what was once a Christian seminary, Presbyterian Seminary, has now gone into disrepute and has fallen into the hands of the Arya Samaj..

They're training these people that are, you know, Back to the Vedas.  And they go all over India, promoting this Back to the Vedas idea.  And it's actually very popular thing.  So, this is not just esoteric.  It's happening right south of where we are in Dehradun is where they train a lot of these people in this thinking.  Yeah.

Question: Is that to say that these 33 are manifestations of this one?

Yes.  The 33 as well as the others as well as the millions • ultimately, all of the Vedic gods are now viewed as manifestations of the one ultimately.  That's true.  That point is not explicitly made here, but it's theologically what is drawn from this.  But they're ...  Because they're wanting to ...  They don't want to deny that the Vedas had 33 gods.  You do that, you're a heretic.  And yet, they want to get beyond that.  And this is how they get beyond it, right here.

Question: So, would it be safe then to say that the Hindu view of god is that he is so big that you can't wrap your mind around him if he's only manifested in one, two, three, four ???

You're right.  See.  It's getting better.  Danielle.

Question: Is there really that level of understanding that ??? devotion to ??? supposedly as a personality that certain things ??? transaction ???

Right.  It's a difficult question because, on one hand, we haven't discussed the devotional development yet.  That's later on in the course.  But, there is no doubt that many Hindus will worship a particular god without asking the question: How does this fit into this philosophical framework.  Of course.  But, if you were take 10,000 Hindus at random in India, I would say the vast, vast majority of them • thousands of them • would very quickly affirm that the true god transcends our names or our descriptions about that god.  That there are many, many gods and, though you may choose to worship one • be devoted to one • does not affect that there are others and that these somehow are manifestations of some ultimate reality that transcends all of this activity.  I mean, I would say that's very widely believed in India.

So, even though they may not understand this passage, what's going on here theologically, I think the basic bottom line of it is very well known and believed.  It's kind of in the worldview of Indians that this kind of pluralistic absorption of many in the one is just part of the Indian worldview.  So I don't think it's necessarily as • you know, one of the things we're having to deal with here is the fact that we're trying to explain some of the conceptual frameworks which I know it's hard for us to get our head around.  You say: Well how can a guy in the average village get his head around it.  But these truths are taught through stories, through the Puranas, through the Mahabharata, through the Ramayana, through some of the metaphors that we'll look at later on in this course.  Today • maybe when I come back.  So, it's actually very well seated in the Hindu mind as a general principle.

Question: So then would that be rta that they're ???

Rta would be maybe the theological tie in.  That's why I mentioned it earlier in the course • that rta probably develops ultimately into the concept of Brahman.  That's a possibility.  We don't know that, but it's certainly • rta is there and it does leave open at least a little space for the development of this.  We don't know whether that happened or not.

Well, let's go to number 4.  Danielle, do you have this?  Would you read number 4 for us?

I assume this was a handout that was being read.  Thus, I also assume it's likely that you have access to an electronic version of it and so it doesn't need to be transcribed • it can just be copied and pasted.

All right.  This is found in Maitri, chapter 5, verse 1.  Well, that basically underscores what we've been saying all along.  You know, how many gods are there?  They're all identified one with another.  Everything in the universe is a reflection of the one reality • be it the gods, the sun, the moon, the earth, the heavens, everything is ultimately a manifestation of the one.  One god known by many names.  Multiplicity of human beings, yet ultimately all one in Atman.  Atman is Brahman.  This is kind of standard Upanishadic praise that you find • trying to reconcile the one and the many.

That's very, very important and they do this ultimately through cosmical homologies.  If you understand the essence of the moon, the essence of food • the essence of food is the essence of the universe.  There's no distinction there as in a Western cosmology • or a Christian cosmology.

OK.  Number 5.  This is the well-known one I mentioned earlier to you.  It starts out with the OM that we talked about so much already.  Verse 1 • see there • I tried to cut out the Sanskrit but that verse is there • but you can see in the transliteration there OM there was ????  His father said to him: Live the life of religious student, Ver my dear.  There is no one in our family who is unlearned in the Vedas, who is a Brahmana only by birth.

That's a big thing in the Upanishads • a big debate about whether you are a Brahman because of your birth (which is the whole thing is hereditary) or whether you are a true Brahman if you are a student of the Vedas.  And so they're trying to distinguish themselves by saying: If you study the Vedas, you are a true Brahman.

I think the Upanishads even presses the envelope a bit further at certain points by raising the question of whether or not a Kshatriya could be effectively a Brahman through study and learning.  Now, I think this is because the • as you know the Kshatriyas were the warriors.  They were on top of the whole system and they eventually get put in number 2 spot • and the priests get on top.  So apparently there's some struggling going on between the Kshatriya and the Brahmans that occasionally kind of mirrors through this.  But that's another point.

He then, having become a pupil at the age of 12, returned when he is 24 years of age, having studied all the Vedas.  Greatly conceited, thinking himself well-read and arrogant, his ???  Since you are now so greatly conceited, think yourself well-read, and arrogant, do you ask for that instruction by which the unhearable becomes heard, the unperceivable becomes perceived, the unknowable becomes known.  How venerable sir, can there be such teaching?  Just as my dear, by one clod of clay all that is made of clay becomes known; the modification being only a name arising from speech while the truth is it is just clay.  Just as, my dear, my one nugget of gold, all that is made of gold becomes known; the modification being only in name arising from speech while the truth is it is just gold.  Just as, my dear, by one pair of nail scissors, all that is made of iron becomes known; the modification being only a name arising from speech while the truth is that it is just iron.  Thus, my dear, is that teaching.  Verily, those venerable men do not know this.  For if they had known it, why would they not have told it to me?  Venerable sir, please tell me that.  So be it, my dear, said he.

Now, this shows a lot of tension going on between the Vedic knowledge and the Upanishadic vision.  These guys are pushing the envelope.  They're trying to introduce new thought into the veins of Indians and they're trying to find a way to get beyond the Vedic teaching without alt... • you know, without flat-out contradicting it.  Because the Vedic teaching you have personal gods and it's very much like you find in tribal religion all over the world.  So, he begins to talk about looking beyond the manifestation.

So he ... they love this imagery of the clay.  You have a lump of clay.  You make it into a pot.  You make it into a cup.  You make it more clay into a plate.  And we call it plate, cup, pot • but actually it's not cup, plate, pot.  It's all just clay.  Get beyond the manifestation.  Look at the essence.  It's just clay.  Clay is what produces pots and all the things that we use clay for.  The same with gold.  We look at this and we say: This is a ring because we say ... that's what we call this • a ring or a necklace or whatever else may be of gold in this room.  But he's saying: Look beyond the way it's been shaped and formed and look at what lies behind it.

So, in the same way, he's saying the universe can be apprehended best if you look beyond the manifestations and look what is the essence behind it.  This ultimately is true for the Vedic gods.  You can worship with 33 gods, the Vedic pantheons, but beyond it there is the one.  There is Brahman.  Ultimately, nirguna Brahman.  If you look beyond everything in life • multiplicity, we've already saw this • the one, the many • he's pressing this by showing that everything is just modifications of some other essence.

So, by cosmical homology, if a clay pot, a clay bowl, a clay cup is modification only and the essence is clay, then why wouldn't that be true for the whole universe?  Why wouldn't the sun and the moon be merely modifications that we observe but behind the sun, behind the moon, there is this essence?  This is the basic point Udaka's teaching concerning the oneness of the self.  There is one self that's behind everything.

How was that?  Are we making progress?

Question: I just think that there's a lot of emphasis on, you know, the cosmical homology as interpreted through the senses.  You know, you look at this, and so you see the universe, but there's no weight in the senses at all, this kind of distinction, in my mind, at least

Well, ultimately your senses are a part of this illusion.  All right.

Question: But they're looking at the illusion in order to gain insight into the entire universe.

Uh-hum.  As long as you are using illusion there as being simply less than ultimately real and not illusion meaning a delusion, then you're accurate.  But they're not prepared to say that what you're experiencing is not real.  They believe in the senses.  They believe that your senses actually do see things and they can take in information.  They just don't believe ...  They believe that by looking at a clay pot you could actually be fooled by your senses if you think it's a clay pot, and you don't realise that ultimately that clay pot is only real at a certain level • that behind the clay pot, there's clay-ness.  And until you see the clay-ness, you can never appreciate ... really know the clay pot.  That's really the point they're making, more than the reliability of the senses.  Yes.

Question: Did we talk about the Upanishads as far as origin like ???

Yes.  If you go back to the original handout • number 1 • you can see that I have dated the Upanishads as between 600 and 300BC.  There are some varying dates • 100 years either direction • but essentially that's the time-frame we're talking about: 300 years before Christ.
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Question: as the authorship been mystified?  Or is it like pinpointed to a certain gurus or

No because this is Sruti.  You remember that they believe that this is simply what a guru heard that was eternally resonating in the universe.  So they don't place emphasis on authorship because that means origin in time.  So, with the Sruti material, they really downplay which guru it was, because this was actually passed down through a community of Brahmans and through oral tradition and then eventually written down.  This kind of 300 is just when they were composed orally.  It is never written down in this time period.  So, there's no text that's written down • even in 300BC.  It isn't until long after Christ that you begin to find this material begins to be written down.  So it's 300 years yet before we get to any text and even much longer after that before it really gets written down in the form that we have now.

Question: The Vedas, did they start appearing in written form about the same time or the ...

I'm not sure.  It's a good question.  I don't know exactly when the Vedas ...  The Vedas by the time of Christ is written down to • but whether there was a tradition because they go back to 600BC.  You're referring to the Samhitas, right?  Rig, Sama, that group.  Probably, I don't know absolutely for sure, but my guess would be they would have all appeared about the same time with the Upanishads in terms of actually the written version of it.  I'm not absolutely positive about that.

Question: Things become more clear • that's why I'm asking backwards questions.  That archaeology that was going on with the Aryans, were any of the like script that was being found ??? it did have like Vedic traditions in it or something ???

The script has been very inconclusive actually, but we found some archaeological evidence of like gods • not stories • but gods like statues of gods, idols.  And then they had these symbols like the swastika, I mentioned that.  The actual text has been ... in terms of creating any kind of story line, has not been there.  They haven't found anything.  So there's nothing written that would be helpful.  The language would have been very difficult to crack.

Question: Why the amendments to the Vedas then?  If the Vedas are the Vedas ...  Why the amendment?  Why the Upanishads?

Because they believe ... these gurus believe that they are expounding on the truth of the Vedas.  They believe this is all exposition.  I mean, the Brahmanas are clearly in that commentary category.  Though what ??? when they put the Brahmanas, they're so esoteric, that only if you study with a teacher could you understand it.  So the Upanishads are the first time that you're going to have what they think are actually • explicit teaching of the essence of the Vedas.

Question: What were you saying to Indri about the whole illusion stuff?  So is Samsara this cycle of illusion and of suffering, you know, of our lives, that's not delusions.  It's not saying that our sensory experiences are unreal.  It's saying that it's just a shadow of the reality of the true essence.

Right.  You're in the big leagues.  You just hit a home run, Rachel.  In fact, here's a due place to come to this lecture.  Now, that's great.  That's exactly it.  Now, we're making progress here.  Joy.

Question: If the Upanishads are Sruti, how come the Arya Samaj wants to do away with it?

It's not that they want to do away with it.  They don't believe that it's the clearest exposition of this reality.  They don't really deny the Upanishads actually.  They're denying the teachers of the Upanishads.

So, what's happened is, the teachers, the great philosophers of India, are expounding on the Upanishads, particularly the Brahma Sutras  That's a text that expounds on the Upanishads.  So they think that's basically led us down the path.  So, what I'm doing, I'm giving this exposition.  We're looking at the Upanishads.  I'm giving you a kind of exposition of it, based on traditional Hindu teaching.  They're denying that exposition.  So, they're not so much denying this text as they are my exposition of it.

So, they're trying to say: Go back to the Vedas and they say the Vedas are monotheistic.  They argue that, for example.  Like, hello?  How's that possible without the Upanishadic explanation of it?  They • no, no, no. no. no.  They believe it's a personal god and all this.  So they have their own kind of bizarre at times teaching of the Rig-Vedas or the Vedic Samhita material.  But they're not actually denying the Upanishads per se.  They just don't focus on it.

Question: In popular culture you often hear about someone getting like bad karma or good karma or whatever it is ... so ... but the way you seem to describe it, there would ... it seems that there is no such thing as like good karma.  You want to get rid of your old bad karma is like the department of redundancy department.

That is a common Western thing • good karma, bad karma • is not actually accurate.  You do have that in Jainism.  And so it's come through that, but you don't have it in Hinduism.

Question: You just ??? karma

Yeah, karma is bad.  Bad.

Question: Is Buddhism the same?

Buddhism is the same with some qualifications.

OK.  The next one is pretty much the same thing.  ???  If you look down at the ... that third paragraph ... or let's go the beginning.  In the beginning, my dear, this was being alone one without a second.  ??? will say: in the beginning this was being alone • one only, without a second.  From that non-being, being was produced.  OK.  We'll come back to this, but essentially this is raising the question of what is the origin of being.  And if you argue this as being/non-being, then the Buddhists have a big coup here, because they believe that at the ultimate point there's non-being.  What this is probably talking about is manifestation/non-manifestation.  We've tended to read back into it Western categories.  So, this is largely, in Hindu circles anyway, discussed as the manifestation of the nirguna Brahman into the multiplicity • the whole thing we discussed already before on several occasions.

May I be many.  May I grow forth and send forth fire, that fire thought.  May I be many.  May I go forth and send forth water.  Therefore, whenever a person grieves or perspires, water is produced from the fire, from the heat.

Again, isn't that amazing?  Even the sweating of a body, or you get hot and yet you produce water.  They say: Even that's cosmical homology.  That must be some way of unlocking the key to the whole universe.  So, and this must be the whole of the emanation of all of the water.  All of the fire must come from a single source, as it does from your body.  Your body produces heat and water on and on and on.  So this kind of thing is brought together a lot.

We'll have to come back to the being or non-being another time.  I was hoping to get through all these today, but it didn't happen.  Please meditate upon them.  Read all your Upanishads.  You have two weeks to get all caught up on your reading and I have other reading established.  Please dedicate time to this class while I'm gone.  And during the week I will be thinking about you, praying for you.  Please pray for me and we'll see you in a few weeks.