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IBSA (ISKCON Bhaktivedanta Sadhana Asrama), Govardhana, India
8 January 2004

What the Upanisads Teach
Part Ten

The Relation between Jivatma and Brahman

The Vedas, like the Mundaka Upanisad, as well as the Svetasvatara Upanisad, compare the soul and the Supersoul to two friendly birds sitting on the same tree. One of the birds (the individual atomic soul) is eating the fruit of the tree, and the other bird (Krsna) is simply watching His friend. Of these two birds--although they are the same in quality--one is captivated by the fruits of the material tree, while the other is simply witnessing the activities of His friend. Krsna is the witnessing bird, and Arjuna is the eating bird. Although they are friends, one is still the master and the other is the servant. Forgetfulness of this relationship by the atomic soul is the cause of one's changing his position from one tree to another, or from one body to another. The jiva soul is struggling very hard on the tree of the material body, but as soon as he agrees to accept the other bird as the supreme spiritual master--as Arjuna agreed to do by voluntary surrender unto Krsna for instruction--the subordinate bird immediately becomes free from all lamentations. Both the Mundaka Upanisad (3. 1. 2) and Svetasvatara Upanisad (4. 7) confirm this:

samane vrkse puruso nimagno
'nisaya socati muhyamanah
justam yada pasyaty anyam isam
asya mahimanam iti vita-sokah

"Although the two birds are in the same tree, the eating bird is fully engrossed with anxiety and moroseness as the enjoyer of the fruits of the tree. But if in some way or other he turns his face to his friend who is the Lord and knows His glories--at once the suffering bird becomes free from all anxieties. " (Bhagavad-gita As it Is, 2. 22p)

Svetasvatara Upanisad I. 9 states:

jnajnau dvau ajau isanisau aja hy eka bhoktr-bhogyartha yukta
anantascatma visvarupo hy akarta trayam yada vindate brahman etat

There are two unborn ones, one who is omniscient, the other who is ignorant. One is all-powerful, the other powerless. There is yet another (maya), also unborn, which is involved with the enjoyer-soul and his sense objects. The infinite Paramatma who is the Self of the universe is the nondoer. When one realizes correctly the distinctions between these three, he is liberated.

Similarly, in Mundakopanisad III. 1. 1-2 we find:

dva suparna sayuja sakhaya samanam vrksam parisasvajate
tayor anyah pippalam svadvatti anasnan anyo abhicakasiti

samane vrkse puruso nimagno anisaya socati muhyamanah
justam yada pasyati anyam isam asya mahimanam iti vita sokah

Two birds who are always united cling to the same tree. Of these one eats the sweet fruit and the other looks on without eating. On the same tree [of the body], a person is immersed in the sorrows of the world [only because of associating with that body]. When that jiva sees the other there with him, the worshipable Lord and His glory, he is freed from his sorrow.

From Bhagavad-gita As it Is 2. 12p:

In the Vedas, in the Katha Upanisad as well as in the Svetasvatara Upanisad, it is said that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the maintainer of innumerable living entities, in terms of their different situations according to individual work and reaction of work. That Supreme Personality of Godhead is also, by His plenary portions, alive in the heart of every living entity. Only saintly persons who can see, within and without, the same Supreme Lord can actually attain to perfect and eternal peace.

nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam
eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman
tam atma-stham ye 'nupasyanti dhiras
tesam santih sasvati netaresam

(Katha Upanisad 2. 2. 13)

The verse from Svetasvarata Upanisad that Srila Prabhupada refers to above is as follows:

nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman
tat karanam samkhya yogadhigamyam jnatva devam mucyate sarva papaih

The one eternal Sentient Being [as Srila Ramanujacarya points Him out, eko nityo cetanah] grants the desires of many eternal sentient beings. When, through analytical knowledge, one comes to know Him as God, the cause, he is freed from all sin.

Katha Upanisad further distinguishes between jivatma and Paramatma thus:

They call these two shadow (chaya) and light (atapa), these two who have entered--the one in the cave of the heart, the other into the highest region beyond. . . (Ka. U. 1. 3. 1)

Similarly, Aitareya Upanisad III. 1. 3 asks koyam atmeti vayam upasmahe? katarah sa atma?, "Who is He whom we worship as the Paramatma? Which one is that Paramatma?" The question presupposes more than one atma; if the Mayavadi theory that there is only one soul (Brahman), not many souls (jivatmas) under the control of one Paramatma, was correct, then why would this question be asked?

This upanisad is very clear about the answer to that question:

sa jato bhutany abhivyaikhyat kim ihanyam vivadisad iti
sa etameva purusam brahma tatmam apasyat imad adarsam iti

Having entered into the body as jiva, he [the individual self] comprehended the material elements. He came to perceive that very Purusa as the all-pervading Brahman. The jiva said: "I have seen this. " (Ait. U I. 3. 13)

Earlier in this series a declaration of Chandogya Upanisad was noted that Brahman enters the material nature along with the jiva: anena jivenatmana anupravisya. A similar statement is found in Taittirya Upanisad (tat srstva tadeva anupravisyat). Let us look at this statement in its context.

The Brahmavalli of Taittirya Upanisad opens with an explanation of Brahman in five features. These are annamaya (food as self), pranamaya (breath--i. e. bodily movement--as self), manomaya (thought as self), vijnanamaya (discrimination between matter and spirit as self) and anandamaya (bliss as self). About the last two, the upanisad states:

tasyaisa eva sarira atma yah purvasya tasmad
va etasmat vijnanamayat anyontara atma anandamayah

He who is the self of the preceding one (vijnanamaya) is verily the self constituted of bliss (anandamaya).

In a long passage beginning with the words sa akamayata bahu syam prajayeyeti, the upanisad states that He, the anandamaya Brahman, desired to become many. Thus He created all this, whatever is that is. Having created it, He entered into it (tat srstva tadeva anupravisyat). That which He entered is comprised of the conscious and the unconscious, the defined and the undefined, the founded and the unfounded, the non-inert and the inert, the true and the untrue.

From Ramanujacarya's commentary on Vedanta-sutra (anandamaya-abhyasat) we learn that the jivatma is the sarira (body) of Paramatma. The vijanamaya self is the jiva, and the self of that self--the anandamaya self--is Paramatma.

There are passages in the Upanisads that assert nondifference between jivatma and Paramatma. Chandogya VI. 8. 7 expresses a statement that Sankaracarya has taken to be the maha-vakya (which means maha-mantra; see Cc Adi 7. 130) of all Vedanta literature: tat tvam asi svetaketo--"Svetaketu, you are that [Brahman]. " From Brhadaranyaka Upanisad comes another statement oft-quoted by Mayavadis: aham brahmasmi (I am Brahman). The same upanisad declares idam sarvam yad ayam atma, "All this is atma. " Mandukya Upanisad asserts sarvam hy etad brahma ayam atma brahma: "All this is verily Brahman; this atma is Brahman. " Chandogya equates the universe, and all the jivas in it, with Brahman: sarvam khalv idam brahma. Brahmaivedam visvam, says Mundakopanisad: "Brahman is verily the universe. " "The Purusa is everything," states Svetasvatara Upanisad (purusa eva idam sarvam).

In his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 4. 28. 63, Srila Prabhupada nicely sums up the Vaisnava understanding of these "nondifference" statements of the Vedic literature.

Vaisnava philosophers conclude that the living entity is simply a small sample of the original Supreme Personality of Godhead. Qualitatively, God and the living entities are one, but quantitatively the living entities are small fragments of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Supreme Lord is full, powerful and opulent. In the previous verse, the Lord says, "My dear friend, you and I are not different. " This nondifference refers to qualitative oneness, for it was not necessary for the Paramatma, the Supreme personality, to remind the conditioned soul that he is not one in quantity. The self-realized soul never thinks that he and the Supreme Personality of Godhead are one in every respect. Although he and the Supreme Personality of Godhead are one in quality, the living entity is prone to forget his spiritual identity, whereas the Supreme Personality never forgets. This is the difference between lipta and alipta. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is eternally alipta, uncontaminated by the external energy. The conditioned soul, however, being in contact with material nature, forgets his real identity; therefore when he sees himself in the conditioned state, he identifies himself with the body.

It its fullest understanding, the nondifference between atma and Paramatma is of the nature of intimate, inseparable personal relationship, not of impersonal monism. As has been noted in this series several times, Mayavadis suppose Brhadaranyaka Upanisad to represent the purest account of impersonal monism to be found in any of the Upanisads. Yet in III. 7. 32 of that upanisad we find:

ya atmani tisthan atmanah antarah
yam atma na veda yasya atma sariram
yo atmanam antaro yamayati sa ta
tava atma antaryami amrtah

He who dwells in the atman [the individual self], yet is within [inside and still distinct from] that self, whom that self does not know, whose body is that self, who controls that self from within, he is your Self [the Self of your self], the Inner Controller, the Immortal.

To be continued, starting with the Different States of the Jivatma

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