Realizing Atma – Part 1 – Br Up 4.4.22

Background

Asrama is a dharma, the law of the Universe. Whether one wishes or not they get subjected to this dharma. To be happy, it is better we understand this dharma and align our living to this dharma.

There are four Asramas. Brahmacarya, gRhasta, vanaprastha and saMnyAsa. These are natural development stages in our life.

We grow from being born into adults. This is brahmacarya. In this stage one should maximize learning, because our brains are suited to learn the maximum during this stage.

Then as we grow into adulthood, we enjoy the dharma of the householder. Biologically, urges in us, make us to go for our mate, produce/protect kids, grow them up etc. This is gRhasta. Our body, brain and mind are best suited to do these functions in this stage.

Then we retire from active personal life but will be able to contribute to the best of abilities. This is vanaprastha. Here our body cannot hold the pressures of gRhasta, but to the best of the abilities we can contribute. Our brain can do a lot of unlearning and re-learning in this stage. Our wisdom is more useful than our body in this stage of life. We stay put in a place and contribute.

Finally even our brain faculties start giving up. We enter into saMnyAsa. saMnyAsa means giving up or stage of abandoning. Whether we want or not, our body and mind will abandon. We grow more detached from individuals.  Unlike in vanaprastha there is no specific contribution from us to society. But yet different people can learn from our experiences. The best in this stage is to keep physically moving around to keep us physically healthy and totally detached from the world to keep us mentally healthy.

These stages are how our lives evolve. If we align our mind and expectations to these stages of life, we live happily.

There is this question on entering saMnyAsa directly from brahmacarya. Theology is divided on it. But to my reading or scriptures,  violating Asrama dharma is not mentioned in the scriptures. But different sages and seers have interpreted the slokas to mean that violation is allowed.

Here is a translation of Brhadharanyaka Upanishad Sloka 4.4.22 and 4.4.23. Here Yajnavalkya is saying all these to Janaka.

Brhadharanyaka Upanishad – Sloka 4.4.22

Sloka 4.4.22.1

sa vā eṣa mahānaja ātmā yo’yaṃ vijñānamayaḥ prāṇeṣu ya eṣo’ntarhṛdaya ākāśastasmiñchete, sarvasya vaśī sarvasyeśānaḥ sarvasyādhipatiḥ; 

Translation

With this great birthless Atma (mahAn aja Atma), which is in the logically analysing (vijnAnamaya) living (breathing/biological) beings (prAnesu), which is in (tasmin chete) the inner heart of the (antar hrdaya) empty space/vacuum (AkAZas), the one that resides in everything (sarvasya vasi), the one that rules everything (sarvasya iSAna), the lord of everything (sarvasya adipatih).

Meaning

The great birthless Atma is in the logically analysing, breathing/biological beings as well in the inner heart of the empty space/vacuum and thus is the one that resides in everything, rules everything, lord of everything.

Sloka 4.4.22.2

sa na sādhunā karmaṇā bhūyān, no evāsādhunā kanīyān; eṣa sarveśvaraḥ; eṣa bhūtādhipatiḥ, eṣa bhūtapālaḥ, eṣa seturvidharaṇa eṣāṃ lokānāmasaṃbhedāya;

Translation

Not with (sa na) sAdhu (pious)like (sadhuna) actions (karmana) it grows (bhUyAn), not with (na eva) impure deeds (asAdhuna) it reduces (kaniyan). This (esa) ruler of all (sarva iswarah), this lord of all matter and beings (esa bhuta adipatih), this protector (esa bhuta pAla), this bank-bearer of the different worlds.

Meaning

This Atma is not affected by pious activities, Not affected by what we consider as impure activities. This Atma is the ruler, protector, lord of all matter and beings. Like a bank that holds the river, it holds the different worlds in this Universe.

Sloka 4.4.22.3

tam etaṃ veda anuvacanena brāhmaṇā vividiṣanti yajñena dānena tapasā’nāśakena; etameva viditvā munirbhavati | 

Translation

Unto that Atma (tam) these (etam) by the knowledge of the verses (veda anu vacanena), the brAhmans desire to learn (brAhmana vividisanti), by yajna (yajnena), by dAna (dAnena), by destructive tapas (tapasA nAsakena), those understanding become the muni (etam eva viditva munir bhavati).

Meaning

Brahmans desire to learn that Atma by knowledge of the verses, by Yajna, by dAna, by destructive tapas etc. Those who understand that Atma are called the ‘Muni’.

Sloka 4.4.22.4

etam eva pravrājino lokam icchantaḥ pravrajanti | etaddha sma vai tat pūrve vidvāṃsaḥ prajāṃ na kāmayante, kiṃ prajayā kariṣyāmo yeṣāṃ no’yamātmāyaṃ loka iti; te ha sma putraiṣaṇāyāśca vittaiṣaṇāyāśca lokaiṣaṇāyāśca vyutthāyātha bhikśācaryaṃ caranti; yā hyeva putraiṣaṇā sā vittaiṣaṇā, yā vittaiṣaṇā sā lokaiṣaṇā, ubhe hyete eṣaṇe eva bhavataḥ |

Translation

Those in (etam eva) the world (lokam) of pravrAjina (wanderers), desiring it (icchantah), they wander (pravrajanti). This it is said (etadd ha sma), that purva vidvamsah, did not desire children (prajAm na kAmayante), what children will do (kim prajAya karisyama) to us here (nah ayam), in the world (loka) of this Atma (Atma ayam). Saying this (te ha sma), the desire for putra (pura isanaya), desire for wealth (vitta isanaya) and the desire for the world (loka isanaya ca) abandon (vyutthAya), then (atha), get into (caranti) bhiksacaryam. Which indeed (yA hy eva) the desire for children (putraisana) , that/she (sA) is desire for wealth (vittaisana), which indeed (yA hy eva) the desire for wealth (vittasaina) that/she (sA) is desire for the worlds (lokaisana). Both of these (ubhe hy ete) ardent desires (esane) are your desires (eva bhavatah)

Meaning

Those in the world of pravrAjina (wanderers), desiring that Atma, they wander/search. It is said that the pUrva vidvamsa, did not desire children. What will children do to us here in the world of this Atma..? Saying this they abandoned the desire for children, wealth and the worlds and got into bhiksacarya. What indeed is the desire for children is the desire for wealth. What indeed is desire for wealth is the desire for the worlds. It means the desire for children, wealth and worlds are all same. Both of these, the desire for Atma and other desires, are all your desires.

pUrva means earlier or opposite. vidvamsah are knowledgeable/learned people. The pUrva vidvamsah could mean the earlier knowledgeable people or opposite of knowledgeable people (not really learned people).

Such people (earlier or opposite of learned) did not desire children. What is to be done by children to us here in this world of Atma..? Saying this they abandoned the desires for putra, wealth and world, got into bhiksacarya.

But the desire for children, wealth and the worlds are one the same. Both the desire for Atma and our other desires are all just your desires.

Sloka 4.4.22.5

sa eṣa neti netyātmā, agṛhyo nahi gṛhyate, aśīryo nahi śīryate, asaṅgo nahi sajyate, asito na vyathate, na riṣyati; etam u ha evaite (eva etat) na tarata iti—ataḥ pāpamakaravamiti, ataḥ kalyāṇamakaravamiti; ubhe u haivaiṣa (ha eva esa) ete tarati, nainaṃ (na enAm) kṛtākṛte tapataḥ

Translation

This with “not this not this Atma” (sa esa na iti na it Atma), Non-capturable/seizable (agrhya), never captured/seized (nahi grhyate), imperceptible/without head (azirya) , never perceived (nahi ziryate), un-attached (asangha), never attachable (nahi sajyate), dark/unbound (asIta) never agitated/perturbed/afflicted/pained/distressed (na vyathate), never crossed (na tarati), not burnt by actions or inactions (na enAm krta akrta tapatah).

Meaning

Atma is ‘not this, not this’, not capturable, never captured, imperceptible, never perceived, unattached, never attachable, non-interactive (hence dark or unbound) and never interacted with anything, never crossed by anyone, not burnt by our actions or inactions.

The Atma that the pravrAjina desire to realize, for which they wander, is not capturable, not perceivable, not attachable, not interactive, not affected by our actions or inactions.

So actions in this Universe that we perform to realize that Atman, like bhikSa-carya are only our desire and no more than that, for Atma is beyond all of us.

Summary of Sloka 4.4.22

The great birthless Atma is in the logically analysing, breathing/biological beings as well in the inner heart of the empty space/vacuum and thus is the one that resides in everything, rules everything, lord of everything.

This Atma is not affected by pious activities, Not affected by what we consider as impure activities. This Atma is the ruler, protector, lord of all matter and beings. Like a bank that holds the river, it holds the different worlds in this Universe.

Brahmans desire to learn that Atma by knowledge of the verses, by Yajna, by dAna, by destructive tapas etc. Those who understand that Atma are called the ‘Muni’.

Those in the world of pravrAjina (wanderers), desiring that Atma, they wander/search. It is said that the pUrva vidvamsa, did not desire children. What will children do to us here in the world of this Atma..? Saying this they abandoned the desire for children, wealth and the worlds and got into bhiksacarya. What indeed is the desire for children is the desire for wealth. What indeed is desire for wealth is the desire for the worlds. It means the desire for children, wealth and worlds are all same.

Both of these, the desire for Atma and other desires, are all your desires, says Yajnavalkya to Janaka.

pUrva means earlier or opposite. vidvamsah are knowledgeable/learned people. The pUrva vidvamsah could mean the earlier knowledgeable people or opposite of knowledgeable people (not fully learned people).

Such people (earlier or opposite of learned) did not desire children. What is to be done by children to us here in this world of Atma..? Saying this they abandoned the desires for putra, wealth and world, got into bhiksacarya.

But the desire for children, wealth and the worlds are one the same. Both the desire for Atma and our other desires are all just your desires (says Yajnavalkya to Janaka).

Atma is ‘not this, not this’, not capturable, never captured, imperceptible, never perceived, unattached, never attachable, non-interactive (hence dark or unbound) and never interacted with anything, never crossed by anyone, not burnt by our actions or inactions.

The Atma that the pravrAjina/brAhmana desire to realize, for which they wander/perform Yajna/dAna/destructive tapas or learn verses, is not capturable, not perceivable, not attachable, not interactive, not affected by our actions or inactions.

So actions in this Universe that we perform to realize that Atman, like bhikSa-carya/yajna/dAna/destructive tapas/learn verses are only our desires and no more than that, for Atma is beyond all of these

Then how do we realize that Atman..?

-Continued to Sloka 4.4.23

-TBT

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