A commentary on Upanishads.
I read Rene Guenon’s article “The Vital Center Of The Human Being.
Rene Guenon has taken some famous quotes from various
Upanishads and tried to explain them according to
his understanding. I’ve studied some of these
Upanishads myself, and my teacher has unfolded,
and explained most of the verses which he is citing.
First of all, Guenon does start off with an error, which is
so common that it is not surprising to find it in his
writing. The error is the idea of ‘merging,’ that somehow
one has to merge in order to gain self-realization.
Who merges with what, I would like to know.
Self-knowledge isn’t ‘yoga,’ as in ‘union.’
It is actually vi-yoga, as in getting disconnected
What is that ‘something’ one becomes disconnected
from? The false identity, the false idea, of taking
the self to be one with, and a product of, the body/mind. Self-knowledge is the
loss, the vi-yoga, the undoing of self-ignorance.
Now, if one wants to get technical, one can examine
how this vi-yoga takes place. What exactly happens?
What happens is this. Self-knowledge takes place
in the mind, in the form of a ‘thought.’ This isn’t
a ‘thought’ like an idea, or a concept, or something
hypothetical. It’s a ‘thought’ in the form of a direct
And in explaining this, I can also bring in and
refer to some of the other things that Guenon has
referenced in his piece, which he hasn’t understood
or explained correctly.
Why is the self smaller than a seed, and larger
than all the worlds? Because the self is all pervasive,
like space (space, which I believe Guenon refers to
using the word ‘ether.’)
Everything comes from the self, is sustained by
the self, and resolves into the self. Everything
is in the final analysis the self.
Therefore the self is smaller than the smallest
and larger than the largest, because the self is
everything, and also that from which everything comes.
So, ‘smaller than the smallest and larger than
the largest’ is a poetic and nice way that the
Upanishads have of explaining that, but actually
the self transcends size.
Guenon refers to the ‘guha,’ the cave of the heart.
This term is also is something else which is very
often misunderstood, because the actual meaning of
‘guha’ (cave of the heart), unless explained, seems
very obscure if one tries to understand the words
The cave of the heart, the ‘guha,’ is also called the
‘buddhi.’ The buddhi is that part of the mind capable
of decisive thinking.
Thus, just prosaically, when I’m wondering,
‘Did I lock the door?” as I’m driving down the driveway,
and I go back and check, and see, ‘Yes, I did lock the door,’
that cognition takes place in the buddhi, in the form of a
decisive or definite thought. Yes, I definitely know I
locked the door.
So that type of thought can be described as knowing without
a shadow of a doubt
1. Okay, now we have something which is smaller than
the smallest and larger than the largest, (i.e. something
which is all-pervasive), and transcends size (i.e. time and space)
2. And then we have the ‘guha,’ the cave of the heart,
aka the ‘buddhi,’ that part of the mind which is capable of
having a type of thought which is decisive, a ‘thought’ which
brings knowledge that is firm and unshakable.
3. Then we have self-knowledge, which takes place in the mind
(in the ‘buddhi,’ in the ‘guha,’ in the cave of the heart)
in the form of a certain ‘type’ of thought.
How does these three ‘things’ fit together?
If the self is all pervasive, then it also pervades my
mind at all times and in all places. If self-knowledge
takes place in the mind in the form of a decisive ‘thought,’
then technically what is it that occurs when self-knowledge
What occurs is this. The mind, for an instant has no
content other than the self, which is always its constant content
anyway, but usually there are other cognitions mixed in as well,
cognitions which occur as a result of sense perception
of objects, or of varying mental states, such as fluctuating thoughts, moods and
When self-knowledge takes place, it takes place in instant,
when then mind has no other content other than the ever
present self. In that instant self-knowledge takes place
in the form of, what is called in Sanskrit,
the ‘akhanda akara vritti,’ which translates as the
‘thought form in the form of the formless.’
It is because the self is ever present to every
thought that this can occur. The self doesn’t
come from anywhere or go anywhere. It is just for
an instant ‘seen’ shining alone in its own glory.
And then ‘Aha’ one recognizes, “Oh that is me. That
is who I have always been.” This is the ‘bottom line’
This happens in less than a fraction of a second.
In a stroke, that vritti destroys self-ignorance,
leaving self-knowledge behind in its wake, and then
that vritti subsides.
Does this vritti need to be repeated? No.
Can this vritti be repeated? Yes.
Why does it not need to be repeated? Because
self-knowledge destroys self-ignorance forever.
So, this is pretty technical, but it is what does
Now, the mind knows without a shadow of a doubt
(having recognized it) that I am that self unchanging.
And once having recognized it, one always knows it.
So this isn’t really a ‘merging’ per se, but rather it is
that, in a mind devoid of all other content other than the
self, (which is ever present), the mind gains self-knowledge
and looses self-ignorance because of this vritti. And this
vritti does not need to be repeated, because once gone, self-ignorance is
From thereafter ‘I’ always ‘know’ who ‘I’ am.
Dennis Waite has a few places on his site that explain this.
If you do a pico search on his site for the words
akhaNDa akAra vRRitti
(using that spelling) you will find a lot of info
Here is a link to one conversation which Dennis and I had
on the subject before he knew how self-knowledge takes place.
At this point, Dennis being who Dennis is and having the mind
that he has, he can now probably explain it better than I can.
At the end of the piece are a few other paragraphs from
some other people which talk about the same thing.
And here is one more thing which I wrote out a while ago:
In March of 2008 I had the good fortune to attend some talks
which Swami Dayanandaji gave in Sydney Australia. One evening
some musicians, who are closely associated with Swamiji,
gave a small concert. They sang bhajans of Swamiji’s composition, including a
bhajan to mother Meenakshi.
Although I was not born a Hindu, nor do I know Sanskrit aside
from a few words, the beauty of the bhajan touched me deeply.
Some of us accompanied Swamiji to the airport in Sydney
prior to his return to India. We all sat together at a table
in an airport café drinking coffee. I remarked to Swamiji
how beautiful the Meenakshi bhajan was although I couldn’t
understand the words.
Sitting there Swamiji quietly began to hum. Then he began to
sing a few verses in Sanskrit. Then in English he translated,
“That very maya which brings forth this creation,
gives liberation in the form of a vrritti.
The akhanda akara vrritti”
To get back to Guenon’s article, he also talks about the
self lighting up all experience. He’s got this one pretty
correctly as far as I can see. He is quoting the Bhagavad Gita,
but actually the Bhagavad Gita, in several places, quotes
famous verses from various Upanishads, which are more ancient
texts that the Gita is.
This verse from Katha Upanishad is one of my favorites.
It is very often chanted during a puja when one is waving
the arti lamp (a small fire) in from of the deity.
“The sun does not shine there,
nor the moon or the stars,
nor does the lightening shine,
much less this fire.
Indeed That shines,
and everything shines after That.
By its light all this is lighted up.”
What does the above mean? The self lights up
(or shines in all experience). The self is
self-luminous. It is self-effulgent, swaprakasha.
It needs nothing else to ‘light it up.’
Because of the self, everything else is lighted up.
Even the luminaries themselves, the sun,
the moon, the stars, lightening, fire,
all these shine because the self, shining of
its own light, makes that possible.
Swami Dayananda has added that this verse
“May that light of the self light up my buddhi,
the cave of my heart, and enable me to know,
my very own self.”
From: Guru Ratings Forum