Upanishads-1: What is Brahman?
The Upanishads don’t try to teach you anything about Brahman (or the Ultimate Truth). You already have assumptions in your mind about: “Who is God or Brahman?” The Upanishads attempt to “disabuse” your mind of its assumptions and states “what it is not”.
Nobody can really describe Brahman. All the Upanishads end with the saying, if you want know what Brahman is, enjoy it, experience it. You will not even know what it is, because you will have no awareness when you are one with Brahman. If someone claims that he knows Brahman or, that he does not know it, he does not know a thing – when you become Brahman, you do not even know that you know - Brahman is beyond cognition, it can only be realized, experienced, it cannot be spoken about.
You can only experience it
Just like a mother’s love for a child or, a roller coaster ride – it cannot be described, quantified. There are many things that we experience in this world, but cannot explain in words. The Upanishads are not trying to explain what Brahman 'IS', they are content with explaining what it 'IS NOT'.
Ask yourself questions: Who am I? Am I the body, the mind or the intellect? Am I something else? What is purpose of my life in this world? Then step by step, you know that it (the Brahman) is not this. At some point, you exhaust all questioning.
There is a mirror in the bathroom – you cannot see much in the mirror when you have a shower. Or a person has a cataract in his eye – he cannot see things clearly. The doctor does not replace the eye, but only removes the layer covering the eye; the person’s ability to see is not impaired, it is only covered by a layer of tissue. When a mirror is unclean, it is not the mirror’s fault. A lot of dirt has accumulated over time. So, clean it and you can see clearly again. There is a lot of dirt and ignorance enveloping the mind and the intellect. The mind and intellect both assume that they can understand the Truth.
Source of all energy
Modern science tries to do this, Particle Science calls it the “God Particle”. Einstein said: “There is a God; given a long life, I will discover it.” Science is knocking on the doors of Vedanta. There is a nano particle not visible to the naked eye and travels at a fantastic speed, and releases energy. The entire world is filled with energy, gravity, electro-magnetism, etc. Brahman is the source of all such energy and sustains the entire cosmos.
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa talked about the salt doll that went to discover the ocean to measure it’s depth and jumped into the ocean. It did not come back. The salt doll does not know what it discovered. Once you are merged with Brahman, you do not come back to talk about it.
Put gold bangles (or other gold jewelry) in the crucible and heat them – they become gold. All energies everywhere have a source. And the source is Brahman. Brahman is indescribable. Think about electricity – it operates everything – the dishwasher, the A/C, the ceiling fan, the lights, the blender - Can any of these say that they are self-powered? Where is the energy coming from? All power comes from the power generation plants. So, will I get electrocuted from water? How can it be? How does the energy manifest itself from water? In fact scientists are talking about transmitting electricity without copper wires. The sun’s energy is able to produce electricity.
Nothing other than Brahman
Modern communications and the internet lets you speak and see another person through a hand-held satellite or, cellular phone on the other side of the world. They say that in the future, you may be able to communicate feel, taste and smell through hand-helds. How does this energy get directed into the hand-held? There is a connection to the farthest galaxies – millions of lights years away and filled with tiny particles of electricity.
So, nobody can say what Brahman is – if anyone explains Brahman to you, he does not know it. How small it is, how big is it? Smaller than the smallest – larger than the largest ("anoraneeyam-mahatomaheeyam").
There is nothing other than Brahman – If you talk of a second thing, you don’t know Brahman. If I talk, I don’t know Brahman. Shri Adi Shankaracharya says, the one who has realized Brahman is either like a child or like a mad person. The person’s mind and intellect is dissolved in Brahman, he only enjoys the bliss – “nandathi, nandathi, nandathyeva”.
The Upanishads do not give you positive knowledge – they tell you what it is not and encourage you to ask questions and to come to your own conclusions.
(To be continued)