The Svetasvatara Upanishad Chapter 5

Shiva, the Supreme Self

Text and translation by Jayaram V

Synopsis: knowledge and ignorance, the one who witnessed the birth of Hiranyagarbha, qualities of nature, actions that cause bondage, description of the soul, reasons for bondage and reincarnation of the soul, divine who is to be grasped by feelings.

1. Hidden in the Supreme Brahman lie two secret entities, knowledge and ignorance. Ignorance is perishable while knowledge is ever lasting. And yet there is another who controls both knowledge and ignorance.

Knowledge is the awareness through the experience of none but one, of unity in diversity, while ignorance is the awareness of separation and diversity because of illusion. The controller of both these types of awareness is Iswara, the dispeller of ignorance and bestower of knowledge.

2. The one, the lord of all creation, rules over all forms and all sources. The red seer (Hiranyagarbha), when born in the beginning, saw none but Him and held only Him in his thoughts.

3. He casts His net in various ways and draws it together again in each field. Creating the lords and the great self (Hiranyagarbha), He wields His lordship over all.

4. Just as the sun spreads his brilliance above, below and across, so does that one God, glorious, adorable, rules over all creatures that arise from the wombs.

5. The creator of all, who develops His own nature and brings to fruition all that can be ripened, who distributes all the qualities rules over this whole universe.

6. That which is hidden in the Vedas and the Upanishads, Brahma knows that as the origin of the Vedas. In the past the devas and the seers who knew It attained Its nature and became immortal.

That the Vedas of which the Upanishads are the end part are the direct revelations of God is the traditionally accepted Hindu belief, which is repeated here again.

7. But he who has qualities and performs actions that bear fruit is surely the enjoyer of the result of the actions He performs. Assuming numerous forms, possessing the three qualities, treading the three paths, He the ruler of the breaths, wanders about according to his deeds.

8. Of the size of the thumb, in appearance equal to the sun, endowed with thought and ego-sense, but with the qualities of intelligence and the self, he appears as if of the size of the point of a goad.

9. It is equal to the one hundredth part of the one hundredth part of the point of a hair. Yet it is capable of infinity.

10. It is neither male nor female, nor of neuter gender. What ever body it assumes, in that form it appears.

11. Because of thoughts, touch, sight and passions, and because of the availability of food and drink there are birth and growth for the individual self. The embodied soul assumes various forms in various places according to the nature of his deeds.

12. According to his qualities, the embodied soul assumes many subtle and gross forms. Having become united with them through the qualities of his actions and the qualities of his body, he gives the impression that he some one else.

13. Without a beginning and without an end, in the middle of turbulence, creator of all, with innumerable forms, who envelops the whole universe, he who knows the Divine thus is freed from all fetters.

14. The Divine who is to be grasped by the feelings, who is incorporeal, who makes both existence and non-existence possible, the auspicious, the author of human knowledge and sciences- who knows Him thus leaves the body behind.

True awareness of God, a correct understanding of Him, by knowing whom one can finally arrive at the correct understanding of oneself is the final stage in the spiritual evolution of man. The last two verses of this chapter emphasize this point.

End of Chapter 5


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