Yājñavalkya’s Discourse on Love (III)
A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 20th May 1973
Why is it so difficult for us human beings to live by love, love in its true sense? Why must there be so much violence, so much hurt and sorrow in the world? It is not just a modern phenomenon, it is as old as time, where the history of man is concerned. We accept the idea of love, the teaching of love, we believe we know what we mean by love, and perhaps there lies the flaw. We believe something which is not true.
Why cannot we live in harmony? What is the origin of love? What are those fundamental transcendent energies which, in their interplay transcendentally, when finally manifest in physical life, manifested that which human beings have sensed at least and experienced in some cases as love? What is this origin, where does it come from? Poets have sung wonderfully about love, the mystics, the great devotees, have extolled it as the supreme value in human life. Great teachers like the Buddha and Jesus and those like them taught love and exemplified it in their own lives. But we human beings curiously have utterly failed them. We have desecrated that which we would like to be the supreme thing in our lives, associated with, the very root of, our true fulfilment and fruition as human beings. You are aware of the Buddha’s teaching as presented in his terms, loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity, perfect poise, that transcendent inner peace and balance without which it is impossible to express love in its entirety, without let or hindrance, in the right way every time, according to the person, the situation. And the great teachers have taught love in very simple terms using the language which was prevalent in their times. All the great religions have presented the teaching of love in some form or other, not one has omitted love as a transcendent value.
But there are only a few instances where the origins of love have been symbolically indicated. The Upaniṣads are one example, and the statement, the verbal formulation made in the Upaniṣads sounds almost trivial. It certainly escapes one’s notice that here is something of supreme profundity. I am referring to that remarkable discourse in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad by Yājñavalkya, who was known as the Prince of Yogis, when he speaks to his wife. He had two wives, he speaks to both of them, but the discourse is formulated as if he were speaking to one wife. It is interesting to note the occasion when this discourse was given. Yājñavalkya had come to the decision to retire even from his forest hermitage and become a completely homeless wanderer, teaching and blessing his whole environment with his presence and his teaching wheresoever he went. He was one of the greatest of the Holy Ones. Before leaving his little forest hut, naturally he had to make a settlement of his goods and chattels, probably a couple of pots and pans, the hut and some other articles maybe, between his two wives Maitreyī and Katyayani. This is how the discourse begins:
Now, Yājñavalkya had two wives, Maitreyī and Kātyāyanī. Of these two, Maitreyī was a discourser on Brahma-knowledge, while Kātyāyanī possessed only such knowledge as women ordinarily have. Now when Yājñavalkya wished to get ready for another mode of life he spoke as follows: “Maitreyī, verily I am going away from this state into the forest. Let me make a settlement for you and for Kātyāyanī.” Then said Maitreyī: “My Lord, if indeed this whole earth filled with wealth were mine, do I become immortal by it or not?” “No,” said Yājñavalkya. “As the life of people who have plenty of things will your life be, but there is no hope of immortality through wealth.” Then Maitreyī said: “What shall I do with that by which I do not become immortal? What you know of the way to immortality, Venerable Sir, that indeed explain to me.”
Now note Maitreyī’s request: “What you know of the way to immortality, teach that to me.” This is what Yājñavalkya answers:
“You have been truly dear to me, now you have increased your dearness. Therefore, if you wish, my dear, I will explain it to you. As I am expounding, meditate on it.”
Now this is very interesting. ”As I am expounding, meditate simultaneously on it. Be completely in communion with that which I am transmitting to you.”
Then Yājñavalkya said: “Verily, not for the sake of the husband is the husband dear but for the sake of the Ātma is the husband dear. Not for the sake of the wife is the wife dear but for the sake of the Ātma is the wife dear.”
Radhakrishnan translates it by saying “for the sake of”. The Sanskrit text gives kāma, which can be quite strictly translated as desire or love, so that you can say: “Not for the love of the husband is the husband dear, but for the love of the Ātma is the husband dear”, and so on. And he repeats the same formula, going on to sons, cattle, wealth, to Brahmanhood, to Kṣhatrahood, to the worlds and everything that there is.
He even includes the Gods and the Vedas.
“Verily the Ātma, O Maitreyī, is to be seen, to be heard, to be reflected on, to be meditated upon; when verily the Ātma is seen, heard, reflected on and known, then all this is known.”
Note that he is not answering Maitreyī’s request about immortality, he is talking about love. Then he goes on to say:
“Brahmanhood deserts him who knows Brahmanhood in anything else than the Ātma. Kṣatrahood deserts him who knows Kshatrahood in anything else than the Ātma.”
Kṣatrahood means the dignity or the office which one has by virtue of belonging to the Kṣhatriya, that is the ruling class. It is usually translated as the warrior class, but not only were the warriors regarded as Kṣatras, but also all who were engaged in the administration of the affairs of the country, in other words all who wielded power, authority in some form or other. The town clerk, the judge, these were Kṣatras. The teachers and the Brahmans, the priests and so on, belonged to the Brahman class.
And Yājñavalkya goes on in the same strain, saying that the worlds, the Gods, all beings, everything deserts him who knows all this in anything other than the Ātma. If you know it for itself, it departs from you, you are left impoverished, deprived. It is a very significant teaching. If you do not relate every single particular in your manifested life, in your external life, to the Ultimate Real in every instance, it deserts you. There is a decay, there is death, there is suffering and so forth.
Now obviously he has not answered Maitrey&299;, he has talked about love, and he has talked about it in this curious strain. How are we to understand this? It sounds almost trivial, and in any case what need had Yājñavalkya to say these things to Maitrey&299;, who already knew all about them as formulated here, and who was his devoted wife and he her devoted husband for so many years? Yājñavalkya may have been somewhere near sixty years of age when he came to this decision to go into complete homelessness. You became an anchorite, a forest hermit to start with at about the age of forty eight, that was usually the custom. Up to twenty four you were a disciple of a Brahman teacher. Between twenty four and forty eight you married, brought up your family, whoever you were, Holy One or not, and then at the age of forty eight, if you still felt that that was your real calling, you retired into the forest, into a hermitage. Before you retired you asked your wife whether she wished to accompany you or not. If she did not wish to accompany you, she stayed in the village. If she wished to accompany you, she did so. But their life after having brought up the family was a celibate life, a platonic love only. And then came the final stage when a man could go completely away. Then he was alone. A woman also could do that. This is something not sufficiently well known.
The Vedas certainly in those days were not just written scriptures, they were orally transmitted esoteric wisdom. What is the real significance and meaning, or shall I say the deep significance and meaning of the words husband and wife in this context? And why is Yājñavalkya talking of love instead of answering the question, or rather the request, to instruct Maitreyi how to be immortal? In order to penetrate into this, let us look at an earlier chapter of this same Upaniṣad. This is chapter 1, the 4th section.
In the beginning all this was Ātma alone in the form of a person.
Do not immediately picture a head, shoulders, a body and so on. What the word person implies in this context is explained in the next two or three sentences.
Looking around he saw nothing else than himself. He first said, “I Am.”
Obviously this is symbolic because the statement is meaningless if you are the one and only thing in the whole universe. The term “looking around” has no meaning, the term “seeing nothing else than himself” has no meaning because you do not know at all what elseness or otherness means. You cannot then say, as it is stated here, he said first “I Am”, because you can state “I Am” only if there is a “You Are.”
Thence arose the name I. Therefore even today when one is addressed he says first “It is I”, and then speaks whatever name he has. Since before all this world (pūrva), he burned up all evils, therefore he is a person (puruṣa). He who knows this verily burns up him who desires to be ahead of him.
This is a peculiar statement. Take that first verse again carefully. The teaching of the Holy Ones is given fundamentally at the transcendent level, not at the verbal, intellectual, psychological level. The psychological, intellectual expressions of the teachings of scripture, of the teachings of the Holy Ones, are derived from the transcendent level undergoing a loss of dimensions of awareness.
Divine ideation, if I may so put it, is the complete, absolute, perfect Truth. Coming down from that state of divine ideation, various dimensions of consciousness are lost as multiplicity is gained, and so we come through to the intellectual, psychological, verbal expressions. This is a very important point. If we really understand this, then the reading of scripture can be fruitful. If we do not understand this, we can read for one hundred years and get very little more forward, if at all. So the teaching of the Holy Ones is given at the transcendent level. The language they can use is only the dictionary language, prevalent in their times. This is the difficult, almost unfortunate, part of it.
Let us look at this again. ”In the beginning” — always a wrong translation, it is a translation which implies time. The Holy One is talking of the timeless, unitary whole state, absolute, the One Total Reality state, the state of communion in which Transcendence functions freely through the one in communion, in samādhi, in meditation. This you can picture easily enough. There he is, he is in the ultimate samādhi, what the Buddha called the cessation, what the Hindu called asaṁprajñāta samāadhi, what in Christian and Sufi mysticism is called the union with God. In that state there is only unitary awareness of the One Total Reality, there is no otherness in that consciousness. The Upanishads through and through speak of the Atma or Brahman — and the words Atma and Brahman represent that state fundamentally — as being secondless, differenceless, the All-full, pure consciousness. So you see this is the state of being of the Yogi. Coming on the return journey to ordinary everyday consciousness, proliferation begins to take place. At the first and second and third steps in that proliferation, what happens? The awareness of the functioning of transcendent mental energies, mind energies, which are formless and dimensionless, begin to rise up. The Yogi becomes aware of them. How is he to express them to his disciples? He has to find terms for them. We will see in a few moments what the terms are. Here, as it is in that ultimate state where he looks around and sees no one else, he says, “I Am.” Therefore we get the name “I”. This indicates what Self in the ultimate sense means, this “I” which is formless, dimensionless, which transcends existence or non-existence, as you and I know of it, here in our everyday life. It is a transcendent state. You can get the feel of it if you can enter into the quiet, the real quiet, within yourself, and are not trying to seek for it or grab it; it will suddenly be there. And you will realise that that is the meaning of the word “I”. That is why through the years, time and time again, I have said that there is only one meaning of the word “I”, namely the One Total Reality. The Totality is the only thing which can rightly be called “I” and the “I Am”, and that is the “I Am” which is the everlasting Eternal Real. There is no other “I Am.” That is the Infinite, the Unconditioned, the not mortal, the not measurable, therefore the not sorrowing, the not confused, the not ignorant. You see, these are realities. When you see it this way, they are your living experience.
That is the starting point, but in order to arrive there there is this phrase, “Since before all this world …” When he uses the term “this world”, it does not mean the earth or a mental world or anything that we talk of as a world, the term refers to the transcendent state. It would have been less misleading if he had said “this state of consciousness” outright. ”Before this state of consciousness, he burnt up all evils” — but who is the he? The Holy One is talking of himself, he himself went through that discipline of complete and total purification of the mind and the heart. All evil was burnt up. The word “formerly” is purva in Sanskrit and the root of the verb “to burn up” is –ush. The Teacher joins the two, pur– of the purva, –ush of “burnt up”, and he says that he who has burnt up all evil mindedness is to be called the person, purusha. Don’t tell this to a scholar because he will quite legitimately say that you are talking nonsense philologically! But the Upanishads have their peculiar funny little ways in which to impart wisdom to the serious minded religieux, for him who cares for reality and not for the niceties of intellectual discourse.
So this is the meaning of the word “person”. Now you see how sacred the idea of person is. Personality, as we understand it in our own day and which the bulk of the world is so mad on cultivating and presenting as an image before the public, is the usurper of person. The person, the pure one, in whom all evil mindedness is burnt out — there is no image presented there, there is no presentation made to the public there — is just naturally there, like the stars in the heaven are just naturally there. This is the difference between person and personality.
He was afraid. Therefore one who is alone is afraid.
Actually he was not afraid, this is just put in order to emphasize a particular point. He starts off by looking around and seeing no other than himself. He is alone. Of course that statement “he was afraid” may indicate that he becomes aware in the separative sense for the first time, the first proliferation of consciousness is taking place. The self and the not-self is beginning to come into being in consciousness. And this is all on the return journey to ordinary sense-mind consciousness from that state of samadhi, of communion.
Therefore one who is alone is afraid. This one then thought to himself, “Since there is nothing else than myself, of what am I afraid?” Thereupon verily his fear departed, for of what should he have been afraid? Assuredly it is from a second that fear arises.
Note carefully that the teachings of scripture essentially refer to consciousness, what happens to your consciousness, the manner in which you are aware of existence from moment to moment. If we are aware in terms of otherness, an other or others which are not in complete relationship with us in our own awareness, we become afraid. This is the root of it all, the very root of fear. ”I don’t know what that is, I am not in complete relationship with it.” But if I give my total attention to that other thing, I am in complete relationship and then there is no fear. Whether it be a hungry tiger standing in front of you or your sweetheart approaching, if you feel the complete communion, the relationship, there is no fear present. It is absolutely absent. The Upaniṣads give extraordinary teachings in these ways, that’s why people miss them! It is from a second, from the sense of otherness where the other is not fully related to you in your own consciousness. It does not matter what the other feels about it, whether he feels related to you or not. You are not afraid if you give your total attention.
Verily he had no delight. Therefore one alone has no delight. He desired a second.
Note “he desired”, kĀma comes into play, which is the Indian correspondent of the Greek eros. These are the exact correspondences.
He was indeed as large as a woman and a man closely embraced.
Note very carefully he is still talking, not of anything physical, but of that deep mental state, mental condition.
He caused that self to fall into two pieces. Therefrom arose a husband, pati, and a wife, patnī. Therefore this is true, oneself is like a half fragment, as Yājñavalkya used to say.
(The root of the word to fall apart is pat–).
Remember that the Teacher is talking of the variations in awareness, in consciousness. What does this imply? The unitary state is the state of the non-duality, of the male-female, positive-negative, transcendent energies, not merely of our world (we know positive and negative, electricity and magnetic charges and all the rest of it). But this is at the transcendent level. You will also find in the Qabalah for instance that Yahweh, the transcendent deity, has his Shekhinah. He is presented as the King, Macroprosopos, and the Shekhinah is Matrona, the Queen. I mention this because orthodox Judaism says flatly that Yahweh is an absolutely male deity, there is nothing feminine about him, which is slightly mistaken! At the transcendent level these cosmic energies, which function when you are in that state of samādhi, are a non-duality of positive and negative energies. If that were not the case, there never could be the interplay of these two aspects, the positive and negative, to give rise to a becoming process, there would be no proliferation of consciousness, no separation out into this, that and the other. This is extremely interesting.
So this is the meaning of the falling apart of the person who was a man and a woman combined. You will find similar teachings in the other religious systems of the world also, if you go deeply enough into them. The Jewish religion presents the two as side by side, the Upaniṣads present the two as in embrace. This is just talking analogically from what happens at our physical level in our human life. It does not matter if you talk of them side by side or whether they are in close embrace. Therefore he goes on to say:
This void is filled by a wife.
(Of course when he was talking to his disciples he probably made a gesture, “This void.”)
This husband is the primary male, this wife is the primary female, the heavenly female. It is important to bear this in mind, because in our own being, not only in our psycho-physical being but in that transcendent aspect of us of which most of us remain unaware throughout our lives, there is that transcendent male and transcendent female, and it is the female who holds the secret of creative power in her. It is the transcendent male who specifically is concerned with consciousness, with awareness, an energy which by mere presence stirs up the transcendent female to create. There is the realm of pure creation, the creation which has no consequence, no retributive consequence to it. This transcendent female is the heavenly female who really wakes us up here as psycho-physical existents to awareness of that transcendent energy at work. That transcendent energy at work is perpetually creative, it is ceaselessly creative between the male and the female aspects of us. Here on earth we are procreative, we misuse the word creation when we say that the artist created his picture or his symphony or his statue, or when the scientist or mathematician or philosopher created this, that or the other. This is a mistaken use of the word creation. All this deals with procreation. Creation is perpetual, unceasing, constant, procreation is a particularised process. Creation belongs to the infinite, the immortal, procreation belongs to the finite. Hence that which we procreate is a finite thing. A person, a symphony, a poem, a building, a meal, a new fashion, this is all procreation, and it belongs to the realm of the finite, the perishable, the mortal. Understand this and you will get a glimmer of what the Buddha meant when he said, “All this is anattā.”
It is at this transcendent level that we look for the origins of love, this transcendent positive energy, this transcendent negative energy, the divine male, the divine female, in timeless conjugation. It is that which spells creation, it is that which spreads into space and time the mystery, the marvel, the wonder of the whole becoming process. In that timeless conjugation there is no sorrow, there is no stain, there is no concupiscence. Here on earth the earthly male and the earthly female are desire-driven. That heavenly female, which is also in us, is the source of energy which so stimulates us that vision opens out. When you get that vision, that understanding which is completely beyond thought and word and imagination, then the psycho-physical being starts up, and the necessity for complete purification becomes clear as daylight to you. In fact, you just become purified with the intensity of that transcendent vision.
Remember that all these things have their solution, their fulfilment, their perfection only at the transcendent level. No sorrow, no difficulty, no confusion, no pain can be solved as its own earthly level. It is from a transcendent source that everything comes, the answer, the perfecting, the purifying, the realising, everything comes from there. Here is the origin of love, this transcendent male and female within ourselves.
We are in fact what I call a double-duality, that is the transcendent male-female dual in us which is always in the state of non-duality in this timeless conjugation, this perpetual creative action. And there is the earthly male-female in each of us, which is confined to the finite, to that which is born, grows, decays, dies, which knows pain, sorrow, turmoil and all the rest of it. And it is here that trouble comes. Now this creative aspect is the most powerful, the most important aspect of existence that the human mind can possibly grasp. At the earthly level therefore the phallus becomes the instrument, the tool of creative action. This is the serpent. The serpent has many symbols, one of the obvious ones of course is the phallus. The phallus is the tool of procreation, but the word phallus must not be restricted merely to the actual biological meaning of the word. When one develops culturally, intellectually, aesthetically, especially if one is born with genius, the brain acts as a phallus, it procreates — the great music, all the beautiful things of the world, — it procreates out of the brain. A person who takes a pen and writes, the painter who takes a brush and paints, that pen, that brush is the phallus, the tool of procreation.
Now we have forgotten all this, and therefore we have become the slaves of the phallus, whatever its shape and form may be, and particularly of course the biological, simply because that is common and natural to all mankind from the beginning of man’s existence. But when one begins to see this origin of this conjugation and the meaning of the conjugative activity and process, pure creation, then the hold which the earthly finite expressions have upon us, desire impelled, disappears.
When you really see, have really understood, that is the end of all that people the world over quite rightly call sex problems. There are no sex problems then. The electro-chemical process, the sexual energy as such will not misapply itself. You look at the animal world, all happens in season, in rhythm with the universal process. There are exceptions in the animal world too, but they are extremely rare, whereas it is so common with mankind all the world over. There is no such thing as rape in the animal world.
It is we who have got muddled up, this is one of the meanings of the Fall of Man.
Here lie the origins of love, but in this state of timeless conjugation, what is the nature of that state? Take the earthly conjugation, it is finite, it comes to an end, it is mortal. But that timeless conjugation of the divine male and the divine female in us never began, never ends, it is everlastingly there, creative activity, Im-mortal. Here is the answer to Maitreyī, and this is the husband and this is the wife that Yājñavalkya is talking about. Notice when he says — and it applies to every one of us whether male or female in body — “Therefore this void”, that the word used is akaṣa, which here of course all scholars translate as space. They should use the word akaṣa itself. ”This void is filled by the feminine.” If you consider this matter very carefully, you will see the significance. The void, akasha, is mind-space, it is not space in our physical sense of the term. What we call space, because of the activity of our bodily senses, the brain and the discursive mind, is merely the distance between solid objects. The distance between two objects, or more than two objects, is what we mean by the word space. Space as space we do not really grasp even in the physical sense. We do not know it, we cannot experience space in its own spatiality. We know that here is one wall, there is the other wall, there is the ceiling, here is the floor, this is the length of the room this is the width, that is the height. Therefore we multiply these distances amongst themselves and we get the volume of space. But we do not know space. We have gone by a circuitous route in order to arrive at the statement that the amount of space in this room is x cubic feet. This akaṣa is mind-space and it is filled by the feminine.
This transcendent female is the one that holds the secret of creative power, so you see this secret of creative power is a very deep thing in your own psyche. If and when, through purification, through using your power of attention, being totally attentive, you let this energy come through right into the physical level, then that creative action which is perpetual, which is everlastingly blissful, which is im-mortal will bring forth the response in your earthly life in terms of a fully human life. And that is as far as we, as living psycho-physical existent beings, can know, experience and realize, make real, of Immortality.