The Svetasvatara Upanishad Chapter 6

Shiva, the Supreme Self

Text and translation by Jayaram V

Synopsis: wheel of creation, Purusha, Prakriti, origin of individual beings, glory of Brahman, Brahman is like a spider, achieving salvation without knowing Brahman is not possible, reference to sage Svetasvatara and his declaration,

1. The wise men speak of the inherent nature, others who are deluded in their minds attribute it to time. But it is because of the divine miracle that the wheel of creation (Brahma wheel) is made to rotate.

The Upanishadic seers always referred to creation as cyclical both in structure and in process. The very existence of creation, manifested through the creative act of God, is symbolized as a wheel, the hub as well as the circumference standing for the unity and the upholding aspect of God, while the spokes represent the multiplicity or the diversity as well as the illusory nature of creation. Many are perhaps not aware that the Brahma Wheel (Brahma Chakra) described in the Upanishads is a precursor to the Dharma Wheel (Dharma Chakra) of the Buddhists.

2. He by whom this whole world remains enveloped, the knower, the creator of time, the possessor of qualities and all knowledge, in his control this work of creation becomes manifested as earth, water, fire, air and ether.

3. Having done His work, and rested again, He became united with the essence of self, by one, two, three or eight, or by time also, and the subtle qualities of the self.

The one is Purusha, the two are both Purusha and Prakriti, the three are the sattva, rajas and tamas, the eight are the five great elements, (earth, water, fire, air and ether), the mind, buddhi or intelligence and the ego-sense. The subtle qualities of the self are the subtle parts of the living-self, the jiva.

4. Initiating work that are fused with the three qualities, He brings out all states of existences. When the whole creation comes to an end, His work also comes to an end. But He continues in Truth even after all His work has perished.

5. He is the beginning, the one who joins or unites (the cause of all unions), beyond the three forms of time (the past, the present and the future), perceived as without parts, who has many forms, who is the cause of all existence. He should be worshipped first in ones own thoughts.

6. He is higher and other than the various forms of the world tree (the tree of life), and time. From Him revolves the world and it is He who establishes righteousness and removes evil. The Lord of creation, by knowing Him as ones own self, the immortal and the upholder of all, one attains Brahman.

7. He who has contained in Himself the highest divinity, the great Lord, the highest God among the gods, the supreme master of masters, let us know that God as the most adorable Lord of the world.

8. Neither His actions nor His organs of action are visible. There is nothing that can be seen which is better than or equal to him. His supreme powers are heard to be numerous. By their own inherent nature, His knowledge and energy work.

9. He has no master in this world, no ruler, nor is there any symbol for Him. He is the cause, the cause of all the causes. He has no father or controller above Him.

10. The one God who, propelled by His own nature, spreads around Himself, like a spider, the manifestations of the primordial matter. May He grant us entrance into the world of Brahman.

The sensory reality like the virtual reality of the internet is also a giant web, created by God using the primordial matter (mula prakriti) as His resource. Every thing else is caught in this gigantic net, but He moves freely in it, like a giant spider without getting caught in its own net.

11. One God is hidden in all beings. He is all pervading, the inner self of all, who presides over all actions, dwells in all beings, the witness, the only one, without any qualities.

12. The one who is alone, inactive, makes one seed into many. Those who perceive Him as situated in the self, attains happiness, not others.

13. Eternal among the eternals, intelligent among the intelligences, one in many, the fulfiller of desires, the cause that can be known only through Samkhya (knowledge) and yoga (union). By knowing Him one is freed from all bonds.

14. There shines neither the sun nor the moon, nor the stars, nor the lightning, what to speak of fire ! Only after He shines, all else shines. All this is illuminated by His radiance.

15. The one bird in the midst of the world. That indeed is the fire that has entered into the ocean. By knowing Him alone one can overcome death. There is no other way to achieve it.

16. He is the creator of all, knower of all, self-existing, the knower, the author of time, possessor of qualities, knower of all knowledge, ruler of the nature and indwelling spirit, Lord of qualities, the cause of worldly existence, liberation, stability and bondage.

17. Having become, that immortal, acting as the Lord, the knower, the pervader of all, the keeper of the universe, alone, is the eternal ruler of this world.

18. To Him who in the past created Brahma, and who verily imparts to Him the knowledge of the Vedas, to that God who illuminates Himself by His own intelligence, I look for refuge, eager to achieve liberation.

19. Without parts, without activity, peaceful, without sound, without impurities, the supreme bridge to immortality, like a fire that burns without fuel, is He.

20. When man rolls up space as if it were a piece of leather, only then perhaps he can put an end to his sorrows, other than by not knowing Brahman.

The only way to end sorrow is to realize God. This is the best and the easiest way to achieve sorrow less state. Any other way is as impossible and absurd as the rolling of heavens, as if it were a piece of leather.

21. By the power of austerity, and the grace of God, the wise Svetasvatara has spoken appropriately about Brahman to the ascetics of the highest order, that which is transcendental, pure and pleasing to the company of seers.

22. The Vedanta which has been declared in the past as the most hidden (esoteric), should not be declared to those who do not have control of their passions, nor again to one who is not a son or a pupil.

In the ancient gurukula system of education, the students who were admitted into the studentship were entitled to receive the secret knowledge of Brahman. The admission was not easy as it involved a series of tests by the master .

The student had to do a number of menial jobs in the ashram, some times for years, during which period his master would observe him carefully and would admit him into the secrets of Brahman only if he was found qualified. The master's son had a definite advantage, because it was the general belief that a person would take birth in the family of seers only after he gains immense merit through his good deeds in the previous births.

However even the sons were not freely admitted, unless they qualified themselves for the austere life. Many Upanishadic seers like Satyakama Jabala came from families without any background. But they were freely admitted into the gurukulas and were imparted the secret knowledge because they were found to be highly qualified. unfortunately the system degenerated into rigid caste rules in the post Rigvedic period leading to a number of unhappy consequences in Hindu society.

23. These subject, which have been declared so far illuminate the great souls, who have the highest devotion to God as well as to the teacher who is as God is. Yes they illuminate the great souls, yes they illuminate the great souls.

End of Chapter 6


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