Continuing with Part 13 of commentary :

The upaniShad is delving on the edification of dispassion though its glorification. Yama, the Teacher, is pouring words of praise on Nachiketa’s tall stature as a pre-eminently qualified aspirant for the teaching of brahmavidyA, the means for liberation.

Mantra 11

कामस्य आप्तिं जगतः प्रतिष्ठां
क्रतोः आनन्त्यम् अभयस्य पारम् ।
स्तोममहत् उरुगायं प्रतिष्ठां दृष्ट्वा
धृत्या धीरः नचिकेतः अत्यस्राक्षीः ॥ ११ ॥

कामस्य आप्तिं the limit/reach of desire जगतः प्रतिष्ठां the support of the universe क्रतोः आनन्त्यम् the infinite results of action/meditation अभयस्य पारम् the yonder shore of fearlessness स्तोममहत् the praiseworthy उरुगायं course of hiraNyagarbha प्रतिष्ठां your own bearings दृष्ट्वा having examined धृत्या with patience धीरः enlightened/intelligent नचिकेतः O Nachiketa अत्यस्राक्षीः you have rejected.

The fulfillment of desires, the foundation of the universe, the rewards of sacrifices, the shore where there is no fear, that which adorable and great, the wide abode and the goal—all this you have seen; and being wise, you have with firm resolve discarded everything.

It is not easy to turn away from the great attainments that the world offers for one who has the capacity to put in the necessary effort. For someone whose goals are set at relatively higher levels, the lower ones drop away with no regrets and effort. The gradations in attainments are graphically portrayed in the taittirIya upaniShad (2.8. 1-4). This section is known as ‘Ananda mImAmsA’, a calculus of bliss. The comparison of the bliss that a human could possibly obtain with the bliss of the manes and gods and up to brahmA gives one the range of effort-born attainments that is possible. The upaniShad there does make a very significant observation: All the measures of bliss experienceable by the various candidates with effort become possible for the person of learning, shrotrIya, and dispassion, akAmahataH, without effort. Now, we find nachiketa having risen to this pinnacle of attainment without really putting in the respective effort but by sheer discriminative insight and a phenomenal dispassion. This extremely rare combination is undoubtedly worthy of recognition and that is what the Teacher yama is doing.

The reference here is to the highest state of worldly attainment, that of hiraNyagarbha. Yama says, ‘O nachiketa, you have made a thorough analysis of the pros and cons of this state wherein all desires find their fulfillment. This is the abode, the support, of the entire universe, being that of the creator. The universe is characterized by everything that is personal, AdhyAtmika, elemental, Adhibhautika, and heavenly, Adhidaivika. This state of hiraNyagarbha is attainable only through very special meditations/ scripturally enjoined sacrifices. And it is to be noted that even this state is not absolutely eternal; it ceases to be when the universe undergoes dissolution as an inevitable part of the creation cycle. This state is one where the fear of the passing away is not present in the way it is there in all the other lower worlds. Undoubtedly this state is praiseworthy in the sense that it has several facilities like divine faculties/powers of becoming subtle, etc. Thereby the state of hiraNyagarbha is extensive time-wise and space-wise.

Nachiketa, the most informed aspirant, has made a fine comparative assessment of this state of the hiraNyagarbha and his own self-realized state that is infinitely beyond comparison with any state whatsoever of the created world. In other words, the Self is outside the realm of creation. And the state of hiraNyagarbha is within the realm of creation. Having made this comparison nachiketa, endowed with supreme discrimination, viveka, and dispassion, vairAgyam, has turned away even from the highest in the realm of creation. And this is something that is extraordinary and worthy of praise.

Now the glory of the Knower of the Self is articulated:

Mantra 12

तं दुर्दर्शं गूढम् अनुप्रविष्टं
गुहाहितं गह्वरेष्ठं पुराणम् ।
अध्यात्मयोगाधिगमेन देवं
मत्वा धीरो हर्षशोकौ जहाति ॥ १२ ॥

तं That दुर्दर्शं inscrutable गूढम् lodged inaccessibly अनुप्रविष्टं having entered गुहाहितं and located in the intellect गह्वरेष्ठं and seated in the midst of misery पुराणम् ancient One अध्यात्मयोगाधिगमेन by resorting to the spiritual disciple देवं मत्वा knowing this Deity, the Conscious One धीरो the intelligent man हर्षशोकौ जहाति gives up happiness and sorrow.

The wise man who, by means of concentration on the Self, realises that ancient, effulgent One, who is hard to be seen, unmanifest, hidden and who dwells in the buddhi and rests in the body—he, indeed, leaves joy and sorrow far behind.

In this mantra we get the proof of the fact that the most sought after is actually already available as the most closely situated one. In fact it would not be very correct to even say that the Self is the closest as this expression implies a distance between oneself and his self howsoever small that distance might be. The upaniShad wants to say that the Self is within, quite mingled as it were, with the very life of the individual. The all-pervading Self, brahman, is necessarily within everyone, everything, too. It is the wise advice of the scripture to turn within to identify, recognize and realize the Self rather than keep looking for It in the outside. The reason is, our engagement with the outside is fraught with the dangers of distraction, attachment, entanglement, infatuation and so on. With these dangers our quest for the One Thing goes awry.

It is also necessary to know that even the so-called inside is not free of the above dangers. If one were to turn to the world inside from the world outside, one will still be exposed to these perils. So, the wise man knows how to go beyond even this inside which is only the mental world. That is why the upaniShad uses the term ‘adhyAtma yoga’, the discipline that is concerned with the realization of the Self. The mind, the intellect and the ego which all form the ‘inside’ have to be transcended too to get the ‘sight’, the ‘taste’, the feel, of the Self. It is also to be noted carefully that it is not that the Self is literally seated inside the intellect. We have to understand it thus: The outside world is available for the senses. But the inside world of thoughts is available for the consciousness that shines it. One has to separate oneself from this identification with the world of thoughts and know oneself as the witness of these happenings in the mind/intellect. It is this capability of dissociating from the mind/intellect ego and realizing oneself and remaining as the witness consciousness that constitutes self-realization.

Since this is a stupendous task the upaniShad places great importance on this yoga. It is a total discipline by itself demanding one’s quality time and total dedication. That is why the term ‘dhIraH’ is used, which signifies that such an aspirant is intelligent and at the same time daring. The capacity to sift the right from the wrong, called viveka, the strength to pull oneself away from that which has been determined, discriminated, to be the avoidable and gearing oneself towards the most desirable, the Self, which is called vairAgyam, marks a dhIraH from the rest. The sustaining of this viveka and vairAgyam is dependent on the six-fold disciplines called shama, dama, etc. And all these are in turn nurtured by the burning desire to get liberated, mumukShA. It is only he who rises to this demand of the upaniShad that gets the epithet ‘dhIraH’.

Yet another noteworthy feature of this mantra is that it specifies the Self as available for realization, as located in the cave of the intellect. This is reminiscent of the taittirIya upaniShad expression ‘yo veda nihitam guhAyAm parame vyoman’ [He who realizes that which is encased in the ‘guhA’, the cave of the intellect where / which is the most subtle space] (2.1.1). This is an important feature because this whole exercise of self-realization is one that happens in the intellect. That is where the knowledge is generated. And what is proximate to oneself is his collection of experiences. The world outside causes these experiences that take a variety of forms of happiness, misery, envy, aspirations, fear, hope and so on. This collection is what is commonly known as ‘saMsAra’, embodied life.

This mantra is the proof for the vedAntic idea that ‘it is brahman that appears as the jIva in saMsAra.’ For, to portray brahman as being ‘amidst the vagaries of saMsAra’ by the upaniShad is the teaching that the one who now thinks that he is a saMsArI, one in bondage, has to, by resorting to the ‘adhyAtma yoga’, realize, reclaim, his true nature of brahmanhood that never was, is and will be a saMsArI. Logically too this is the way it is. For, there cannot be two consciousnesses in one body – one a jIva-consciousness and the other the brahman/Ishwara consciousness. What appears as the jIva-consciousness is only the Consciousness reflected in the mind, chidAbhAsaH. The chit, Consciousness proper, however, is the one described in the mantra as ‘the one encased in the cave of the intellect’. So no amount of argument can make out a case for two absolute entities: a jIva and an Iswara/brahman in one locus, the body. The mantra is the scriptural expression of the statement of the advaita AchArya-s:

ब्रह्मैव स्वाविद्यया बध्यत इव, स्वविद्यया मुच्यत इव ।
[brahman alone, owing to ignorance of Its own real nature, is as though bound. And owing to the right understanding of Its own nature, is as though liberated.]

Thus there is neither bondage nor liberation in the true sense to Atman/brahman.

To be continued ….
Pranaam from Kamal Kothari