Written by Sri Swami Chandrashekarendra
What is the essence of the Upanisadic teaching? How do we realise the
ideal state mentioned in the Upanisads [the oneing of the individual
and the Overself]?
The phenomenal universe, in the view of modern science, is embraced by
the concepts of time and space [It exists in the time-space frame]. The
Upanisads declare that only by being freed from time and space factors
can we grasp the ultimate truth that is at the source of the cosmos. I
you about the horizon - where we are right there the horizon is.
Recognition of this truth takes us beyond space. In this way we must
try to transcend time.
Is it possible?
To give us the confidence that it is, an example could be cited from
everyday life. To spend the time we lap up newspaper reports of the
going on in a distant country like, say, the Congo [now called Zaire].
dispute or trouble erupts nearer home, in a country like Pakistan (or at
home in Kasmir), we forget the Congo and turn to Pakistan or Kasmir. The
newspapers themselves push reports of the Congo trouble to some
corner and highlight developments in Pakistan or Kasmir. But when a
quarrel breaks out even nearer, say, a quarrel over Tiruttani between
Tamils and the Telugus, Pakistan and Kasmir are forgotten and the
boundary quarrel claims all our interest, Now, when we come to know of
a street brawl in our neighbourhood, we throw aside the newspaper to
go out and see for ourselves what the trouble is all about. Again, when
we are watching the street fight, a friend or relative comes and tells
that a war is going on in our own home between the wife and the
mother. What do we do then? We forget the street brawl and rush home
On an international level the Congo dispute is perhaps of great
importance. But we pass from that to quarrels of decreasing importance.
Our interest in each, however is in inverse proportion to its real
importance. Why? The Congo is far away in space. We are more
concerned about what happens nearer us than about distant occurences.
It is all like coming to the horizon, the spot where we are.
Now let us turn our gaze inward. If we become aware of the battle going
on within us, the battle fought by the senses, all other quarrels will
become distant affairs like the Congo dispute. Let us try to resolve
inner conflict and try to remain tranquil. In this tranquility all will
banished including place, space, and so on. When we are asleep we are
not aware of either knowledge or space, but the jnana (in the state of
enlightenment of the inner truth) we will experience knowledge without
any consciousness of space.
The time factor is similar. How inconsolably we wept when our father
died ten years ago. How is it that we do not feel the same intensity of
grief when we think of his death today? On the day a dear one passes we
weep so much, but not so much on the following day. Why is it so? Last
year we earned a promotion, or won a prize in a lottery. We jumped for
joy then, did'nt we? Why is it that we don't feel the same thrill of joy
when we think about it today?
Just as nearness in space is a factor in determining how we are affected
by an event, so too is nearness in time. Evev when we are turned outward
and remain conscious of time and space, they lose their impact without
any special effort on our part. So the confidence arises that we can be
totally freed from these two factors of time and space if we turn
When we are asleep we are oblivious of time and space without any
effort on our part. But we do not then have the awareness of being free
from them. We must go to the state spoken of by Tayumanavar, the state
in which we sleep without sleeping and are full of jnana and are
immersed in the bliss of freedom from time and space. Then nothing will
affect us, not even a quarrel right in our prescence, in our home. Even
when we recieve a stab wound we will not be affected by it - it would be
like a happening in a remote land like Congo. When someone very dear to
us dies in our prescence - husband, wife or child - it would be an
occurence remote in time, like our father's passing ten years ago.
Let us, for the time-being, forget arguments about non-dualism and
dualism. Let us think about our real need. What is it?
We are affected by good and bad things alike. We cry, we laugh. Both
sorrow and joy have their impact on us. Even excessive laughter causes
pain in the stomach, enervates us. When we are tickled we react angrily.
"Stop it!" we cry. Even when we dance for joy we are fatigued. We like
remain calm without being affected by anything, without giving way to
any type of emotion. Such is our need. Not dualism or non-dualism.
Let us consider what we must do for this goal. One point will become
clear if we think about how the impact produced by a happening or an
emotion is wiped away. "When news about the Congo war broke how we
became engrossed in newspaper reports of the dispute. How did we lose
interest in it later? Why does it not have any impact on us now? " If we
think on these lines we will realise that the impact of any event - or
whatever - is progressively reduced as it is pushed further in space. If
also consider why we are not as much affected now by our father's death
as we were ten years ago when he died, we will realise that with
time we are less and less affected by past events. So if we are to
detached we must learn to think that what happens close by is happening
in a remote place like the Congo.
Similarly, we must also learn to think that all the happy and unhappy
incidents of the moment occured ten years ago. We must assiduously
train ourselves to take such an attitude. No joy or sorrow is
They are all relative [that is they do not have their own integral or
independent force but rely on other factors]. So without being part of
anything or else dependent on anything, we must remain in the absolute
state of being ourselves. Then alone will be free from all influences
experience eternal peace. This is how Einstein's Theory of Relativity is
applied to the science of the Self (Atmavidya).
The essence of Upanisadic message is the burning desire to be from time
and space. It would be in proportion to the extent to which we burn
within in our endeavour to be free from the spatio-temporal factor that
we will be rewarded with the grace of Isvara and be led towards the
fulfilment of the great ideal.
There is no need to go to the mountains or to the forest for
Space and time teach us how to remain unaffected by events. All that we
need to do is to pray to the Lord and make an effort to develop the will
and capacity to put happenings of the moment back in time and distant in
The first of the ten [major] Upanisads. Isavasya, says:"It is in motion
yet it is still. It is afar and yet near. It is indeed within. . . . .
statement refers to space and time and creates the urge in us to be
from both. The next mantra asks us to see time and space and all
creatures in our Self itself. Then there will be no cause for hatred,
delusion or sorow, that is nothing will affect us. Another mantra of the
same Upanisad declares that the Self is all - pervading, going beyond
space, and distributing things through the endless years according to
On the whole, the Upanisads speak of the same basic truth of space and
time that modern science teaches. But there is this difference. For
this truth is a mere postulate. For the Upanisads it is a truth to be
within as an experience.
This is a conclusion of the Upanisads which themselves are the
part of the Vedas.