In The Taittiriya Upanishad
The Knowledge of Brahman
The knower of
Brahman reacheth that which is supreme.
This is that
verse which was spoken; “Truth, Knowledge, Infinity the Brahman,
He who knoweth
that hidden in the secrecy in the supreme ether,
desires along with the wise-thinking Brahman.”
This is the
burden of the opening sentences of the Taittiriya Upanishad's second section;
they begin its elucidation of the highest truth. Or in the Sanskrit,
— satyam jñānam anantam brahma —
nihitam guhāyām — parame vyoman —
sarvān kāmān — saha brahmaṇā vipaściteti.
But what is
reality is in existence, by which all the rest subsists, that is Brahman. An
Eternal behind all instabilities, a Truth of things which is implied, if it is
hidden in all appearances, a Constant which supports all mutations, but is not
increased, diminished, abrogated,—there is such an unknown X which makes
existence a problem, our own self a mystery, the universe a riddle. If we were
only what we seem to be to our normal self-awareness, there would be no mystery;
if the world were only what it can be made out to be by the perceptions of the
senses and their strict analysis in the reason, there would be no riddle; and if
to take our life as it is now and the world as it has so far developed to our
experience were the whole possibility of our knowing and
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doing, there would be no problem.
Or at best there would be but a shallow mystery, an easily solved riddle, the
problem only of a child's puzzle. But there is more, and that more is the hidden
head of the Infinite and the secret heart of the Eternal. It is the highest and
this highest is the all; there is none beyond and there is none other than it.
To know it is to know the highest and by knowing the highest to know all. For as
it is the beginning and source of all things, so everything else is its
consequence; as it is the support and constituent of all things, so the secret
of everything else is explained by its secret; as it is the sum and end of all
things, so everything else amounts to it and by throwing itself into it achieves
the sense of its own existence.
This is the
If this unknown
be solely an indecipherable, only indefinable X, always unknown and
unknowable, the hidden never revealed, the secret never opened to us, then our
mystery would for ever remain a mystery, our riddle insoluble, our problem
intangible. Its existence, even while it determines all we are, know and do,
could yet make no practical difference to us; for our relation to it would then
be a blind and helpless dependence, a relation binding us to ignorance and
maintainable only by that ignorance. Or again, if it be in some way knowable,
but the sole result of knowledge were an extinction or cessation of our being,
then within our being it could have no consequences; the very act and
fructuation of knowledge would bring the annihilation of all that we now are,
not its completion or fulfilment. The mystery, riddle, problem would not be so
much solved as abolished, for it would lose all its data. In effect we should
have to suppose that there is an eternal and irreconcilable opposition between
Brahman and what we now are, between the supreme cause and all its effects or
between the supreme source and all its derivations. And it would then seem that
all that the Eternal originates, all he supports, all he takes back to himself
is a denial or contradiction of his being which, though in itself a negative of
that which alone is, has yet in some way become a positive. The two could not
coexist in consciousness; if he allowed the world to know him, it would
disappear from being.
But the Eternal
is knowable, He defines himself so that we
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may seize him, and man can become,
even while he exists as man and in this world and in this body, a knower of the
of the Brahman is not a thing luminous but otiose, informing to the intellectual
view of things but without consequence to the soul of the individual or his
living; it is a knowledge that is a power and a divine compulsion to change; by
it his existence gains something that now he does not possess in consciousness.
What is this gain? it is this that he is conscious now of a lower state only of
his being, but by knowledge he gains his highest being.
state of our being is not a denial, contradiction and annihilation of all that
we now are; it is a supreme accomplishment of all things that our present
existence means and aims at, but in their highest sense and in the eternal
To live in our
present state of self-consciousness is to live and to act in ignorance. We are
ignorant of ourselves, because we know as yet only that in us which changes
always, from moment to moment, from hour to hour, from period to period, from
life to life, and not that in us which is eternal. We are ignorant of the world
because we do not know God; we are aware of the law of appearances, but not of
the law and truth of being.
wisdom, our minutest most accurate science, our most effective application of
knowledge can be at most a thinning of the veil of ignorance, but not a going
beyond it, so long as we do not get at the fundamental knowledge and the
consciousness to which that is native. The rest are effective for their own
temporal purposes, but prove ineffective in the end, because they do not bring
to the highest good; they lead to no permanent solution of the problem of
in which we live is not a baseless and wholesale falsehood, but at its lowest
the misrepresentation of a Truth, at its highest an imperfect representation and
translation into inferior and to that extent misleading values. It is a
knowledge of the superficial only and therefore a missing of the secret
essential which is the key to all that the superficial is striving for; a
knowledge of the finite and apparent, but a missing of all that the apparent
symbolises and the finite suggests; a knowledge
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of inferior forms,
but a missing of all that our inferior life and being has above it and to which
it must aspire if it is to fulfil its greatest possibilities. The true knowledge
is that of the highest, the inmost, the infinite. The knower of the Brahman sees
all these lower things in the light of the Highest, the external and superficial
as a translation of the internal and essential, the finite from the view of the
Infinite. He begins to see and know existence no longer as the thinking animal,
but as the Eternal sees and knows it. Therefore he is glad and rich in being,
luminous in joy, satisfied of existence.
not end with knowing, nor is it pursued and found for the sake of knowing alone.
It has its full value only when it leads to some greater gain than itself, some
gain of being. Simply to know the eternal and to remain in the pain, struggle
and inferiority of our present way of being, would be a poor and lame advantage.
knowledge opens the possibility and, if really possessed, brings the actuality
of a greater being. To be is the first verb which contains all the others;
knowledge, action, creation, enjoyment are only a fulfilment of being. Since we
are incomplete in being, to grow is our aim, and that knowledge, action,
creation, enjoyment are the best which most help us to expand, grow, feel our
is not fullness of being. Being knows itself as power, consciousness, delight; a
greater being means a greater power, consciousness and delight.
If by greater
being we incurred only a greater pain and suffering, this good would not be
worth having. Those who say that it is, mean simply that we get by it a greater
sense of fulfilment which brings of itself a greater joy of the power of
existence, and an extension of suffering or a loss of other enjoyment is worth
having as a price for this greater sense of wideness, height and power. But this
could not be the perfection of being or the highest height of its fulfilment;
suffering is the seal of a lower status. The highest consciousness is integrally
fulfilled in wideness and power of its existence, but also it is integrally
fulfilled in delight.
The knower of
Brahman has not only the joy of light, but
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gains something immense as the
result of his knowledge, brahmavid apnoti.
What he gains
is that highest, that which is supreme; he gains the highest being, the highest
consciousness, the highest wideness and power of being, the highest delight;
brahmavid āpnoti param.
The Supreme is
not something aloof and shut up in itself. It is not a mere indefinable,
prisoner of its own featureless absoluteness, impotent to define, create, know
itself variously, eternally buried in a sleep or a swoon of self-absorption. The
Highest is the Infinite and the Infinite contains the All. Whoever attains the
highest consciousness, becomes infinite in being and embraces the All.
To make this
clear the Upanishad has defined the Brahman as the Truth, Knowledge, Infinity
and has defined the result of the knowledge of Him in the secrecy, in the cave
of being, in the supreme ether as the enjoyment of all its desires by the soul
of the individual in the attainment of its highest self-existence.
state of being is indeed a becoming one with Brahman in his eternity and
infinity, but it is also an association with him in delight of self-fulfilment,
aśnute saha brahmaṇā. And that principle of the
Eternal by which this association is possible, is the principle of his
knowledge, his self-discernment and all-discernment, the wisdom by which he
knows himself perfectly in all the world and all beings, brahmaṇā vipaścitā.
being is the continent of all the fulfilled values of existence which we now
seek after in the forms of desire. To know its conditions and possess it purely
and perfectly is the infinite privilege of the eternal Wisdom.
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