The Prayer of Liberation
This upanishad has a unique feature: it concludes with an ecstatic prayer-invocation addressed to Brahman. It will not need much comment, as you will see.
Thoughts of Thee
“O Brahman Supreme! Formless art thou, and yet (though the reason none knows) Thou bringest forth many forms; Thou bringest them forth, and then withdrawest them to thyself. Fill us with thoughts of thee!” (Shvetashvatara Upanishad 4:1). This final petition is the crux of the whole matter: our consciousness must be filled with the remembrance-awareness of Brahman.
Thou art all
“Thou art the fire, Thou art the sun, Thou art the air, Thou art the moon, Thou art the starry firmament, Thou art Brahman Supreme: Thou art the waters–thou, the creator of all.
“Thou art woman, thou art man, Thou art the youth, thou art the maiden, Thou art the old man tottering with his staff; Thou facest everywhere.
“Thou art the dark butterfly, Thou art the green parrot with red eyes, Thou art the thunder cloud, the seasons, the seas. Without beginning art thou, beyond time, beyond space. Thou art he from whom sprang the three worlds” (Shvetashvatara Upanishad 4:2-4).
Maya, the Mother
“Maya is thy divine consort–wedded to thee. Thou art her master, her ruler. Red, white, and black is she, each color a guna. Many are her children the rivers, the mountains, flower, stone, and tree, beast, bird, and man–in every way like herself. Thou, spirit in flesh, forgetting what thou art, unitest with Maya–but only for a season. Parting from her at last, Thou regainest thyself” (Shvetashvatara Upanishad 4:5).
Maya, Mahashakti, Mulaprakriti, is the Divine Mother wedded to the Divine Father. Formed of the three gunas, all are her children. This latter sentence is a very unsatisfactory rendering of an very obscure passage whose meaning relates to the individual Self, not Brahman the Absolute Self. The meaning is that when we unite until with Maya, unlike Brahman we forget ourselves. Yet that forgetfulness is only temporary, and when at last we evolve to the necessary level, we part from Maya and are released back into Infinite Spirit.
The two “birds”
“Thou, Brahman Immortal, and thou, woven of clay (two beings, yet one)–like two beautiful birds, golden of plumage, companions inseparable, perched high up on the branches of the selfsame tree–as man thou tastest the sweet fruits of the tree, the sweet and bitter fruits; but as Brahman, master of Maya, Thou remainest unseen, immobile, calmly observing.
“Forgetting his oneness with thee, bewildered by his weakness, full of sorrow is man; but let him look close on thee, know thee as himself, O Lord, most worshipful, and behold thy glory–lo, all his heavy sorrow is turned to joy” (Shvetashvatara Upanishad 4:6,7). This is another, more expository version of Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.1, 2.
“Changeless thou art, supreme, pure! In thee dwell the gods. The source of all scriptures thou art; yet what shall scriptures avail if they be smooth on the lip but absent from the heart? To him who knows thee comes fullness–to him alone!” (Shvetashvatara Upanishad 4:8).
Scriptures and philosophical words that are glibly reeled off by the shallow and the hypocrites mean absolutely nothing. Rather, the divine teachings of the the liberated sages must be written in our hearts by our own experience through yoga. Those who know about God are certainly fortunate, but only those who know God directly are fulfilled and freed.
The glories of Brahman
“Thou art lord and master of Maya, man is her slave. With Maya uniting, thou hast brought forth the universe. The source of all scriptures thou art, and the source of all creeds. The universe is thy Maya; and thou, great God, her lord, wherever the eye falls, there, within every form, thou dwellest.
“One thou art, one only. Born from many wombs, thou hast become many: unto thee all return. Thou, Lord God, bestowest all blessings, thou the Light, thou the Adorable One. Whoever finds thee finds infinite peace.
“Thou art Lord God of all gods, all the worlds rest in thee; thou art ruler of the beasts, two-footed, four-footed: our heart’s worship be thine! Thou art the blissful Lord, subtler than the subtlest. In thee alone is there peace.
“Thou, sole guardian of the universe, thou, lord of all, in the hearts of thy creatures thou hidest thyself. Gods and seers become one with thee. Those who know thee die not.
“Of all religions thou art the source. The light of thy knowledge shining, there is nor day nor night, nor being nor non-being–thou alone art.
“Thou alone art–thou the Light imperishable, adorable; great Glory is thy name. No one is there beside thee, no one equal to thee. Invisible is thy form, invisible to mortal eyes; the seers alone, in their purified hearts–they alone see thee. They alone are immortal.
“Neither male nor female art thou, nor neuter; whatsoever form thou assumest, that thou art.
“Thou dost pervade the universe, thou art consciousness itself, thou art creator of time. All-knowing art thou” (Shvetashvatara Upanishad 4:9-18; 5:4-6, 10; 6:2).
Reaching the Goal
“At thy bidding Maya, thy power divine, projects this visible universe, projects name and form. Thou art the Primal Being. Thou appearest as this universe of illusion and dream. Thou art beyond time. Indivisible, infinite, the Adorable One–let a man meditate on thee within his heart, let him consecrate himself to thee, and thou, infinite Lord, wilt make thyself known to him” (Shvetashvatara Upanishad 6:3-5).
Meditation and dedication: when these are brought to perfection in the yogi and are an unbroken state, then Brahman reveals Itself.
“Thou, womb and tomb of the universe, and its abode; thou, source of all virtue, destroyer of all sins–thou art seated in the heart. When thou art seen, time and form disappear. Let a man feel thy presence, let him behold thee within, and to him shall come peace, eternal peace–to none else, to none else!
“Thou art the eternal among non-eternals, the consciousness of the conscious; though one, thou fulfillest the desires of many.
“Let a man devote himself to knowledge of thee, let him follow thy path, and he shall know thee: all his fetters shall be loosed.
“Can a man roll up the sky like a piece of skin? Can he end his misery and know not thee?
“If the truths of these scriptures are meditated upon by a man in the highest degree devoted to God, and to his teacher, they will shine forth. They will shine forth indeed!” (Shvetashvatara Upanishad 6:6,13,18,19,23).
As you see from the references, a great deal has been skipped by Prabhavananda. That is because all the subjects of the omitted verses have already been covered in the preceding upanishads.
However, we have now come to the end of the major upanishads, whose glory cannot be exaggerated. If anywhere in the world there are “words of life” they are found here in the upanishads. To study and realize them is the supreme life endeavor.
Aom. Tat. Sat.
Sections in the Upanishads for Awakening:
- The Isha Upanishad
- The Kena Upanishad
- The Katha Upanishad
- The Past is the Future
- Seeing Death, Seeing Life
- The Good and the Pleasant
- The Way of Ignorance
- The Mystery of the Self
- How to Either Know or Not Know the Self
- From the Unreal to the Real
- Finding the Treasure
- The Transcendent Reality of the Self
- The Immortal Self
- The Indwelling Self
- The Omnipresent Self
- The Sorrowless Self
- Who Can Know the Self?
- The All-Consuming Self
- The Divine Indwellers
- The Chariot
- The Chariot’s Journey
- The Glorious Way
- To Know The Self
- The Power of Enlightenment
- The Infinite Self
- The Dweller in the Heart
- The Birthless Self
- The Shining Self
- The Life-Giving Self
- The Eternal Brahman–The Eternal Self
- The Radiant Self
- The Universal Tree
- Hierarchy of Consciousness
- From Mortality to Immortality
- The Prashna Upanishad
- The Mundaka Upanishad
- The Mandukya Upanishad
- The Taittiriya Upanishad
- The Aitareya Upanishad
- The Chandogya Upanishad
- The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
- The Shvetashvatara Upanishad
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