Back of the Book
Desire is the root of all knowledge, action and thinking. We believe that success is to achieve all we desire. Yet most of us do not succeed in fulfilling most of our desire, despite sincere efforts.
The eighth chapter of the Chandogya Upanishad drives home the fact that a state of total fulfillment of desires (satya kama) is attained through Brahma Vidya - the knowledge of Truth that results in Self-realization whereby one remains untouched by any situation in life.
Indra, the king of heaven lived for 101 years in the hermitage of Prajapati, the Creator, in order to gain it. A life of Self-control and meditation on the heart-space was the means taught, and total freedom and fulfillment, the goal achieved.
Swamini Vimalananda's appropriate notes will surely add a new dimension to our understanding to this text.
Desire is the root of all knowledge, action and thinking. It is the cause of our entire samsara with all its grief, stress and strain. Yet all of us seek only to fulfill our desires. We believe that freedom is to be able to do what we want, i.e. fulfill all our desires. Success is to achieve all we desire and happiness is to enjoy all we desired. Rather than seeking a state of desirelessness, we wish to attain a state wherein we can fulfill all that we desire. And therefore, are we not envious of people who have everything they desire? Do we not feel attracted to and worship those who can produce and attain anything by mere will or wish? Do we not daydream of indulging and gorging on all we desire? Would it not be wonderful if all we wanted came to us without us having to lift our little finger?
Such a state of fulfillment of desires (satya kaama, satya samkalpa) is promised to us by the Scriptures and the wise through Self-realization. The Self is infinite and infinity alone is Bliss (bhumaiva sukham). All objects and pleasures are included in the infinite Self and therefore Self-realization 1S a state of fulfillment of all desires.
However, mere intellectual knowing does not result in Self-realization. Being already one with us, Self-realization is not possible through any or many worldly actions or spiritual practices. Then how do we attain it?
One has to meditate on it to realize it. Is meditation difficult? Can one meditate without a religious background? Is there any universal symbol of the Self/Truth that all can identify with? How long does it take? Is the practice interesting or tedious?
'I' am the centre of my life and of supreme interest to myself. Others may be indifferent to me, but my entire world revolves around me and 'I' alone am the focus of all my thoughts and efforts. Hence, meditation on the Self would seem quite natural and effortless. But that is not so. The pure Self, nameless and formless, is extremely subtle and therefore a symbol or support is required to help our extroverted mind to refocus. The heart-space within, which is always available as 'here and now', is a universal symbol of the Self. Anyone irrespective of their religion, nationality, caste, creed or cline can meditate on it. Such meditation leads to Self- realization and a state of fulfillment of all desires.
However, such meditation is possible only for one who is self controlled, is capable of managing one's mind and senses, and is able to sublimate one's vasanas-impressions of pleasure and pain practiced and etched in our psyche over lifetimes. Control over even the most basic instincts like sex and other such compulsive and instinctive impressions render the mind subtle, pure and focused, so that one can meditate on the Self. Strange, but true indeed, that the control of desires is the means recommended to ultimately attain a state of total fulfillment of desires! This is the very theme of the eighth chapter of the Chandogya Upanishad.
The Chandogya Upanisad forms part of the Brahmana-s of the Talavakara section of the Sama Veda. In size, it ranks second among the ten major Upanisads. It has eight chapters. Like all Upanisad-s, its main topic is the Knowledge of the Truth (Brahma Vidya). However, the first five chapters mainly describe a variety of rituals (karma-s) and methods of worship and meditation (upasana) catering to different types of people. The last three chapters predominantly propound Self-knowledge.
This Upanisad introduces us to endearing and earnest seekers of Truth like Narada, Satyakama and Svetaketu and compassionate teachers like Aruni, Sanatkumara and Prajapati. The stories and dialogues between different Guru-s and disciples teach us many important lessons of life. From the story of Ibhya in chapter I, one learns how to be steadfast yet not rigid or stubborn in following one's vows. In chapter VIII, one learns from Indra, sincerity and the patience required to gain great goals.
In the sixth chapter, through the story of Sage Uddalaka and his disciple-son, Shvetaketu, it was shown that the Truth alone really exists. Existence alone is the Truth and that Existence alone is my True Nature. All the names and forms experienced are only modifications superimposed on the Truth. The Truth is subtle and difficult to comprehend.
The seventh chapter of the Cbandogya Upanisad is in the form of a beautiful dialogue between Sage Sanatkumara and his brother-turned-disciple Narada. In the seventh chapter the Truth is indicated through the various superimposed modifications progressing gradually from the gross to the subtle. Finally one realizes the Truth, which is beyond the gross and the subtle and designated here as bhuman-the Infinite. This chapter also takes us through a range of meditations from the gross to the subtle thereby making us fit for meditation on the highest Truth.
In the eighth and the final chapter of the Chandogya Upanishad, Prajapati, the Creator, promises agelessness, fearlessness, immortality, total freedom and fulfillment of all desires through Self-realization. The Self is available 'here and now' to one and all and it is to be meditated upon in the 'heart-space' within.
We find herein the story of Indra, the king of heaven attaining realization after living for 101 long years, a life of self control spent in study, reflection and meditation; and Virochana, the king of demons, living for 32 years, misunderstanding the Knowledge and spreading a materialistic and selfish doctrine. This clearly shows the importance of a pure and subtle mind and the means to achieve it for Self-realization.