by Jayaram V
There is an interesting,
and rather cryptic verse in the second
chapter of the Kena Upanishad, which goes like this.
3. yasyamatam tasya matam matam yasya na veda sah;
avijnatam vijanatam vijnatam avijanatam.
It means: To whomsoever it is unknown, to him it is known. To
whomsoever it is known, he does not know. It is unknown to those
who know it and known to those who do not know.
What does this mean? How can you know something you
do not know and how can you do not know what you know? This is
the paradox of knowing the Self, not knowing the known and
knowing the unknown.
The reference here is to the Self (Atman) or the Supreme Self
(Brahman), which is perceptually and intellectually the
unknowable. The verse alludes to the difficulty in understanding
transcendental states of existence. The Self cannot be
experienced by the mind. Hence, mentally you cannot know or be
aware of the Self. Yet, you can experience the Self as Self and
become aware of it, by
being one with the Self, in a state of non-duality. However,
since you do not keep that state when you are awake, you will
never be aware of it in a wakeful state.
Let us take the analogy of an ant and a human being. For the
ant you do not exist, even though you exist. It is because the
ant cannot comprehend the immensity of you. Even if you stand
before it, it cannot fathom your existence entirely. It may have
a vague feeling of something big standing near by, but it does
not know you as other people know you. To know anything, you
need knowledge, matching intelligence and the ability to
comprehend and identify what has been perceived. With the Self,
none of these is possible mentally, the instrument upon which we
depend normally to experience things and make sense of them.
This verse presents that difficulty and the near
knowing something which you are not in your waking physical
state. We cannot say that we do no know our inner Selves at all.
Everyday, when we fall asleep and enter into a dreamless state,
we experience the Self. In that non-dual state we know the Self,
but when we wake up do not know or remember what happened in our deep sleep. Therefore, as this verse rightly
declares, although we think we do not know the Self, we know it
The Self is also experienced in a state of self-absorption, in
deeper states of samyama (an advanced state of concentrated
meditation), when there is no duality and distinction between
the knower and the known and when our minds and senses are fully
withdrawn. Thus, when, there is an awareness of the knower it is
unknown and when the knower is absent it is known. Hence, it is
unknown to those whose mind and senses are active and who
experience duality; but it is known to those whose mind and senses are
asleep and who enter into a state of unity without the
distinction between the knower and the known.
In short, we are speaking here about knowing the unknown or even
the unknowable. Since we oscillate between wakefulness and deep
sleep on a regular basis, in our wakeful state we are consciously unconscious
of the Self, but in deep sleep we are unconsciously conscious of it. Yet we are never
sure whether we know it at all, because our experience of the
transcendental Self is always indeterminate and beyond our minds
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