externality of experience


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The Essence of the Aitareya and Taittiriya Upanishads

Chapter 5: Ananda Mimamsa

Swami Krishnananda

We will continue the subject of the Taittiriya Upanishad. We observed that our individuality is constituted of different layers, and these layers are called koshas in Sanskrit. There are primarily five such koshas, or sheaths, in which our consciousness is enveloped. These sheaths are nothing but the forces of objectivity that pull the consciousness outwardly in terms of space and time. Thus it becomes clear that these sheaths are not substances or material objects like five walls that may be built round a person sitting inside a room. They are mere urges of consciousness to move outward in greater and greater density, and with more and more of impetuosity towards externality of experience.

Our unhappiness consists only in this much—that in order to come in contact with anything outside, we have first of all to forget ourselves. The more we cling to the objects of sense outside, the more is the forgetfulness of our own consciousness. There is atma-nasha, or destruction of selfhood, as it were, in a very significant manner so that, in every clinging to an object, there is a transference of ourselves to the particular object in which we are interested, or towards which our consciousness is moving.

Every kind of love, every type of attachment is a transference of oneself to another. If a mother loves the child, the mother has gone; only the child is there. The consciousness of the mother has identified itself with the child’s body in such an intense manner that she does not exist any more. The child alone exists for her, and anything that happens to the child appears to happen to the mother. If the child is happy, the mother is happy; otherwise, the mother is not. If the child goes away from this world, it looks as if the mother herself is dead. This is the case with every kind of transference of consciousness to objects. Every attachment, positive or negative in the form of love or hatred, has this characteristic in it. So all our sorrows in life can be attributed to this peculiar trait in our consciousness to go outwardly—either positively as love, or negatively as hatred—in respect of certain things.

All this activity is undertaken through these peculiar apertures of personality called the sheaths, by means of which the consciousness limits itself by a kind of focusing its attention upon limited groups of objects of sense. This is what is called samsara in Sanskrit, which means earthly existence, or the life of bondage. It is bondage because the consciousness clings to what is not really there. It is moving towards a phantom under the impression that the Self is there. One of the characteristics of selfhood is non-externality. You can never become another; and by ‘you’ what is intended or meant is the deepest consciousness or intelligence in you.

The body or the sheaths are not us. When we isolate the experiences of the sheaths, for instance as in deep sleep, we will find that we can exist independent of the function of the sheaths. And how did we exist in sleep? As a pure centre of awareness. There was no externality or corporeality. This consciousness which we really are is the selfhood of ours. To repeat, by selfhood what we mean is, we have some status in us which cannot be externalised or transferred to something else. Now the transference which takes place between the Self which we are and the object outside is a false one. All loves, therefore, are false. There is no such thing as true love in the world. It is false because the Self artificially transfers itself to something, while such a transference is not permissible under the very characteristic of the Self. Hence, every person who loves a thing shall also reap sorrow afterwards. No one can be happy eternally with external loves of any kind.

Now comes the question of love and happiness. How are we happy? And how is it that when there is love for a particular object, happiness seems to manifest itself from within? This is a very interesting philosophical as well as psychological feature in us. This is mentioned in a few words (perhaps only three or four words) towards the end of the Taittiriya Upanishad when it discusses the nature of the innermost sheath in us, called the anandamaya kosha. The causal sheath, the most subtle and pervasive and the innermost of sheaths in us, in our personality, is called the anandamaya kosha. It is called anandamaya because it is characterised by blissfulness or happiness. Anandameans happiness; maya means ‘filled with’. It is filled with and constituted of happiness only, warp and woof.

How we become happy is a subject of psychological analysis. What makes us happy? When we come to the proximity of a loved object, we seem to be happy in our mind: “The object that I love is near me.” The nearer we come to it, the greater is the happiness we feel inside. The happiness that one feels at the proximity of the loved object is called the priya. It is not the apex of happiness, because we have not possessed the object. As yet, we have only seen it; we are near it and it is near us. But happiness increases when it is under our possession. Merely seeing it from a distance is not of sufficient satisfaction to us, though that also brings satisfaction. Whatever is to our liking, we wish to see it with our eyes directly, for as long as possible or perpetually.

This happiness deepens when the object concerned comes under our possession and we have a feeling that it is ours. We are not merely seeing it, but it is ours; it is not somebody else’s. Take, for example, money. We can see a lot of money that does not belong to us. Well, even if we see money that does not belong to us, we will have a sort of happiness. That happiness is a peculiar connection that the mind has with the value called money. It may not be ours, but we feel a sense of agitation if we see millions of rupees in front of us. But if it is ours, we can imagine how happy we will be. The happiness becomes most intense when we enjoy the object, and not merely possess it. These three states or conditions or degrees of happiness of perception, possession and enjoyment are called priya, moda and pramoda. This is to give an external analysis of the nature of happiness born of love for things outside.

But now comes the psychological feature. How is it that happiness arises at all? What do we mean by happiness? Can we define it? Is it a substance? Is it a thing? Is it an object? Is it material or non-material? Is it outside us or inside us? Or, is it midway between the two? Where is it situated? It is not very easy to answer these questions because we are so much concerned with the object, and so much overwhelmed by a contact with the object, that there is no time for us, nor even interest in us, to analyse the structure of the experience of happiness. But ignorance is bliss, as they usually say. We know nothing of the nature of this happiness and, therefore, we are blissful, in an utter ignorance of the character of the process that is taking place in the experience of this happiness.

An analysis would make it clear that happiness is not in the object. If a particular object which attracts our attention is the source of happiness, then happiness should be really inside it, as a part of its nature. Then, as the sun is shining for all equally and not merely for one person, the object concerned also should be a source of happiness to everyone in the world, if happiness is the real character of that object. But we will see on observation that this is not true. The object of our love may not also be the object of other people’s love. On the other hand, that object may evoke hatred, the contrary emotion, in certain other persons for different reasons altogether. So, it is not true that the object is the source of happiness. The happiness has not come from the object, and whoever imagines that it is located in the object is an ignoramus of the first water.

But how then happiness comes, is a question. If it is not in the object, it should be somewhere! From where does the happiness come? Now we have to remember the observations we made earlier about the nature of Reality or Perfection. In our study of the Aitareya Upanishad, we noted that the Atman alone was; nothing else existed in the beginning. “Atma va idam agre asit; na anyat kinchana mishat.” It was Perfection Complete. It was omnipresence; nothing else existed. There is the selfhood in us, which is another name for the deepest non-externalisable consciousness. That alone existed, says the Aitareya Upanishad. What existed then? The Self alone existed; and what is the Self? Anything that cannot be externalised is the Self.

Then, what is the meaning of that non-externalisable Reality, if the universe is an external something? Well, we know very well the universe is an external object. But the Upanishad says that only the non-external was there. It means to say, somehow or other the universe was experienced in that state in a non-externalised fashion. The universe was the Self, which means to say that there was a Universal Self, and not the particular self of mine or yours, which conditions itself into a bodily embodiment and then regards the world or universe as something outside. So, what is Reality, the Ultimate Truth? The non-externalised Atman is the Reality, by which what is meant is that the Universal Selfhood alone was there; nothing else was.

What we call Truth or Reality is non-externalisable consciousness, which is the Atman. It is the Atman; it is the Self. It is non-externalisable and, therefore, it is universal. Because it is universal, it should be present everywhere. That is the very meaning of universality. Therefore, it is in you, it is in me, and it is in everyone. How does it exist in you, in me and in others? In the nature of a Self. You must rack your brain a little bit to understand what this implication means. The Universal is not the vast spread-out physical object we call nature in the form of sky, air, trees, mountains, etc., because that is externalised. The Self is a non-externalised something, and it is also consciousness; and that was there. That existed, and nothing else existed.

If that was the reality, nothing else can be the reality today. That which is real is real in the past, in the present and in the future. So even today, that law persists. When we say that the Atman alone existed, it does not mean that it existed only many years back and that today it does not exist. It is only a way of explaining things to temporal minds which cannot understand, except in a chronological or historical fashion, any narrative that is given. So, even today it is of the same nature. Thus, the Atman in us, the Self in us, even today is non-externalisable.

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