Cultivating Oneness With God & Manifesting His Will
The Upanishads are the heart of Hinduism. I was introduced to them by chance nearly forty years ago, and ever since my interest in them only grew. It was out of my interest I translated several Upanishads twice in the past. The first attempt was several years ago, and it was meant mainly for the Internet. In my recent attempt, which took me over a year, I translated 16 major Upanishads covering over 1700 slokas. For me the exercise was more like an active meditation with an opportunity to communicate with the best of the ancient minds and making sense of their universal vision of God and existence. In this section I want to share with you the wisdom of the Upanishads, whenever I am inspired to do so. I hope to present at least a few every month until my thoughts are exhausted or my interest has waned. I hope you will find them useful. Jayaram V
During the puja ceremony (domestic worship), devotees invite the deities to enter the images so that they can worship them as their living embodiments. Life is an opportunity to worship God. In that worship, you have to surrender your ego and invite God to enter your physical body, the living image, and make it an instrument of God’s eternal Dharma. Jayaram V
The Upanishads contain declarations such as “Aham Brahmasmi” or “Tatvamasi?” Aham Brahmasmi means “I am Brahman, the Supreme Self.” Tatvamasi means you are That, which is a reference to Brahman only. Both suggest that you are Brahman only. There are many other verses in them which convey the same message. The Katha Upanishad contains the specific expression, "etad vaitat," in many verses. It means this (the Self) is verily That (Brahman). The following verse is one such example, “He who created prana, who is the soul of Aditi and gods, who having entered the cave (of the heart) is seated in all living beings, this verily is that.”
God and Being
Advaita philosophy does not perceive any distinction between you and Brahman. You are the individual being (jiva), a temporary appearance, and Brahman the Supreme Self, the permanent reality. It embodies the vision of non-duality, according to which everything that you perceive is Brahman and so are you. Brahman is the only reality. All else, including your individuality, identity or the notion of “You” is an illusion. It is an illusion because it is a projection, like the film which appears on a movie screen. Other schools perceive the two as two alternate, eternal realities, with a real or notional distinction between them. However, they too acknowledge that in the ultimate essence the Self is an aspect of Brahman only.
Why is it that in Hinduism, the individual Self or the embodied Self is not considered separate from God, but God himself? In some faiths, it is a sacrilege to say that you are God himself, but not so in Hinduism. Instead, we consider the opposite sinful and egoism. To believe in your individuality, as distinct from God, and to abide in it with selfish intent, claiming ownership of the things which you own, these are a few attitudes which lead to sinful karma and bondage. You are vulnerable when you assume your own identity but safe when you take refuge in God and assume his identity, without any selfish intent. The last qualifying statement is important. You cannot be selfish and be like God at the same time. You have to choose between the two. One leads to bondage and the other to liberation.
Our scriptures offer justification for merging your identity and individuality in God. Brahman is the all-pervading reality. Hence, one can revere all or any of his aspects, names and forms according to one’s faith and inclination. Some people worship trees and plants while some contemplate upon the highest, formless, supreme Lord, Isvara. This is one of the unique features of Hinduism. You can choose your object of worship as well as methods of worship. Your purpose here is to transcend Nature and find the divinity in you or become the divinity itself. You will experience that oneness and unity in the highest state of Samadhi when all barriers and objects are dissolved and the subject (you) alone remains.
God and Dharma
The idea that you are God is not merely a declaration of a seer in a secret teaching. It pervades the beliefs and teachings of Hinduism. The Hindu way of life rests upon it. The principles of Hindu Dharma are borne from it. Since Hinduism considers that you are God, it expects that you live like God upon earth and uphold his Dharma as a sacrifice and an offering, cultivating purity, virtue and detachment. For that you have to sacrifice your identity and individuality, as an offering to God and merge them into his. It is why in the Bhagavadgita you find a clear reference to the divine qualities or the qualities of Brahman and the need to cultivate Sattva, which is also the essential nature of Isvara or Manifested Brahman.
Dharma is the functional aspect of Brahman. It is inherent to all existence. It is what makes things possible, predictable and abide by the known laws of the universe. In Hinduism, we revere Dharma as a divinity (dharma devata). You can learn about Dharma by studying the scriptures, observing Nature or by paying attention to the actions, which God performs in creation, or the role which he plays in it to ensure its continuation and orderliness. The first approach gives you a theoretical knowledge of it, and the second and third, practical knowledge. By knowing Dharma and its functioning principles, you can put them to effective use in your life and clear your karmic debt.
Thus, God is the revealer of Dharma, the divine knowledge that leads to the transformation of beings and liberation. Through his actions and qualities, he reveals the true nature and function of Dharma, so that he can be a role model to others, who can learn from him. In practising Dharma, God is our best role model. He may be invisible and unknown, but through the scriptures and the teachings of enlightened masters he reveals the importance of Dharma (duty) and the safest way to engage in it.
The purpose of human life
It is your Dharma (obligatory duty) to personify him and exemplify his divine qualities in your life. Dharma is meant to bring out the best in you and elevate you from a physical being with a mind and body to a divine person (Purusha) with supreme intelligence (prajna). Through self-effort and closeness to God and by cultivating devotion and surrender, it is possible for humans to progress from ignorance and delusion to knowledge and intelligent discernment and complete, inner transformation.
We learn the same in various sectarian traditions of Hinduism also. For example, Shaivism teaches that you are Shiva, the living God. In Vaishnavism, you learn that you are Vishnu, the preserver and in transcendental states you share the same consciousness of Vishnu. In Tantra, you realize that your soul represents Brahman and your body, Nature or Prakriti. The Vedas declare that you are a replica of Purusha, the Cosmic Being. All the divinities rest in you as part of your beingness and help you in the sacrifice of life, just as they serve Brahman in the external world.
The Upanishads declare that your body is like a temple or a divine city. When you are in it, it is Shiva, auspicious and pure, but when you depart from it, it becomes Shava, lifeless and impure. Life in the universe, or existence itself, is made possible by of Brahman. In the body, it happens because of your presence only. In the body, you are responsible for the movement of the senses, the flow of prana, the digestion of food and the functioning of the organs. Because of you, they are able to perform their duties and uphold their Dharma. They all participate in the internal sacrifice, in which you are the host, the offering and the recipient of the offering, just as Brahman in the external world.
Duty and sacrifice
Thus, the idea that you are a divine person is well reflected in every aspect of Hinduism. You may worship God with duality, but it is because of your ignorance, not because it is the right way. Whether you are aware of this divine teaching or not, in your own individual ways you play the role of God in the mortal word and move forward the wheels of creation. By performing your obligatory duties as a human being, you serve God and ensure the order and regularity of the world and its continuation. When you ignore those duties, you leave a void and break the chain of progression, whereby you suffer from the consequences and delay your liberation. This is the essence of Hinduism.
It is why we call Hinduism as the religion of Eternal Duties (Sanatana Dharma). It is eternal because it is rooted in the eternal duties of God, which we are expected to perform upon earth. As long as you perform them with detachment and without expectations, you remain a true follower of the Dharma and qualify for the love of God. When you breach them or ignore them, you fall down and prolong your bondage to the cycle of births and deaths.
Thus, God’s Dharma, which is eternal and indestructible enjoins that one has to live here as if God might have lived upon earth and perform all actions as if he is performing them. This is the main teaching, around which the philosophy of the Bhagavadgita and several Upanishads is built. It is also why in Hindu tradition parents are encouraged to give the names of gods and goddesses to their children so that they may reflect their divine qualities, light and wisdom.
The message is simple. Remove the barriers that stand between you and God and manifest the divinity in you. Surrender to the idea and let it become a reality. As an individual, you are an illusion, but as an aspect of God or Brahman, you are an eternal reality. It is not that your beingness is an illusion. The illusion is the notion that Brahman and the world are separate from you, or you have an existence of your own, in which God plays no role. It is the failure to see the whole existence as Brahman, or the ignorance of seeing it as a separate entity. The notion of separation keeps you isolated from God’s eternal Dharma. Until your remove it and become an upholder of it, you do not qualify for liberation.
Suggestions for Further Reading
- What are The Upanishads?
- How old are the Upanishads?
- Exploring the universe the Upanishadic Way
- Which Upanishads One Should Read?
- Who Composed The Upanishads?
- Women in the Upanishads
- Mahavakyas in Your Daily Life
- Sexual Morality in the Upanishads
- Krishna in the Upanishads
- Follow Angirasa as Your Guru as Krishna Did
- How Many Times Do You Reincarnate?
- Are The Upanishads Better Than Modern Psychology?
- Popular Misconceptions About The Upanishads
- Popular Themes of the Upanishads
- The Difference Between Devas And Asuras, Or Between Gods And Demons
- What Brings You Prosperity And Fame?
- Birth and Conception in Hinduism
- The Wisdom of the Upanishads, Main Page
- Essays on The Upanishads
- Upanishads Home Page from Hinduwebsite.com
- Links To Translations of the Upanishads
- List of 108 Upanishads According To The Muktikopanishad
- Introduction to the Upanishads of Hinduism
- A Brief Introduction to the Upanishads
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