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India-Gods's Abode


Thou Art That

When Svetaketu was twelve years old, his father Uddalaka said to him, “Svetaketu, you must now go to school and study. None of our family, my child, is ignorant of Brahman.” Thereupon Svetaketu went to a teacher and studied for twelve years. After committing to memory all the Vedas, he returned home full of pride in his learning. His father, noticing the young man’s conceit, said to him: “Svetaketu, have you asked for that knowledge by which we hear the unbearable, by which we perceive the unperceivable, by which we know the unknowable?” “What is that knowledge, sir?” asked Svetaketu. “My child, as by knowing one lump of clay, all things made of clay are known, the difference being only in name and arising from speech, and the truth being that all are clay; as by knowing a nugget of gold, all things made of gold are known, the difference being only in name and arising from speech, and the truth being that all are gold - exactly so is that knowledge, knowing which we know all.” “But surely those venerable teachers of mine are ignorant of this knowledge; for if they had possessed it, they would have taught it to me. Do you therefore, sir, give me that knowledge.”

“Be it so,” said Uddalaka, and continued thus: “In the beginning there was Existence, One only, without a second. Some say that in the beginning there was non-existence only, and that out of that the universe was born. But how could such a thing be? How could existence be born of non-existence? No, my son, in the beginning there was Existence alone - One only, without a second.

A Story from the Upanishads :

He, the One thought to himself: Let me be many, let me grow forth. Thus out of himself he projected the universe; and having projected out of himself the universe, he entered into every being. All that is has its self in him alone. Of all things he is the subtle essence. He is the truth. He is the Self. And that, Svetaketu, THAT ART THOU.”

“Please, sir, tell me more about this Self.”

“Be it so, my child:

“As the bees make honey by gathering juices from many flowering plants and trees, and as these juices reduced to one honey do not know from what flowers they severally come, similarly, my son, all creatures, when they are merged in that one Existence, whether in dreamless sleep or in death, know nothing of their past or present state, because of the ignorance enveloping them - know not that they are merged in him and that from him they came. “Whatever these creatures are, whether a lion, or a tiger, or a boar, or a worm, or a gnat, or a mosquito, that they remain after they come back from dreamless sleep. “All these have their self in him alone. He is the truth.

He is the subtle essence of all. He is the Self. And that, Svetaketu, THAT ART THOU.” “Please, sir, tell me more about this Self.”

“Be it so, my son:

“The rivers in the east flow eastward, the rivers in the west flow westward, and all enter into the sea. From sea to sea they pass, the clouds lifting them to the sky as vapour and sending them down as rain. And as these rivers, when they are united with the sea, do not know whether they are this or that river, likewise all those creatures that I have named, when they come back from Brahman, know not whence they came.

“All those beings have their self in him alone. He is the truth. He is the subtle essence of all. He is the Self. And that, Svetaketu, THAT ART THOU.” “Please, sir, tell me more about this Self.”

“Be it so, my child:

“If someone were to strike once at the root of this large tree, it would bleed, but live. If he were to strike at its stem, it would bleed, but live. If he were to strike at the top, it would bleed, but live. Pervaded by the living Self, this tree stands firm, and takes its food; but if the Self were to depart from one of its branches, that branch would wither; if it were to depart from a second, that would wither; if it were to depart from a third, that would wither. If it were to depart from the whole tree, the whole tree would wither.

“Likewise, my son, know this: The body dies when the Self leaves it - but the Self dies not.

“All that is, has its self in him alone. He is the truth. He is the subtle essence of all. He is the Self. And that. Svetaketu, THAT ART THOU.”

“Please, sir, tell me more about this Self.” “Be it so. Bring a fruit of that Nyagrodha tree.”

“Here it is, sir.”

“Break it.”

“It is broken, sir.”

“What do you see?”

“Some seeds, extremely small, sir.”

“Break one of them.”

“It is broken, sir.”

“What do you see?”

“Nothing, sir.”

“The subtle essence you do not see, and in that is the whole of the Nyagrodha tree. Believe, my son, that that which is the subtle essence - in that have all things their existence. That is the truth. That is the Self. And that, Svetaketu, THAT ART THOU.”

“Please, sir, tell me more about this Self.”

“Be it so. Put this salt in water, and come to me tomorrow morning.” Svetaketu did as he was bidden. The next morning his father asked him to bring the salt which he had put in the water. But he could not, for it had dissolved. Then said Uddalaka:

“Sip the water, and tell me how it tastes.”

“It is salty, sir.”

“In the same way,” continued Uddalaka, “though you do not see Brahman in this body, he is indeed here. That which is the subtle essence - in that have all things their existence. That is the truth. That is the Self. And that, Svetaketu, THAT ART THOU.” “Please, sir, tell me more about this Self,” said the youth again.

“Be it so, my child:

“When a man is fatally ill, his relations gather round him and ask, ‘Do you know me? Do you know pie?’ Now until his speech is merged in his mind, his mind in his breath, his breath in his vital heat, his vital heat in the Supreme Being, he knov/s them. But when his speech is merged in his mind, his mind in his breath, his breath in his vital heat, his vital heat in the Supreme Being, then he does not know them. “That which is the subtle essence - in that have all beings their existence. That is the truth. That is the Self. And that, 0 Svetaketu, THAT ART THOU.”