A teaching of self associated with three dimensions of mind is. given in the little Mandukya Upanishad` which is dated about A.D. 200 and is the last of the eleven classical Upanishads , commented on by Shankara. The three dimensions of mind are typified in Waking` Dream and’ Dreamless Sleep, experienced by three corresponding aspects of self. This Upanishad distinguishes clearly a fourth state of self` its true nature` which is dimensionless, transcendent` and without any “field of experience” specially attributed to it.
The Mandukya takes another very ancient Upanishadic doctrine` OM meditation` and correlates it with the realization process. The Upanishad` though so short, is noteworthy for its logical and systematic presentation of teaching and practice. There are some verses (karikas) on the Upanishad by Gaudapada, teacher of the teacher of Shankara, which were always of immense authority and later came to be taken as part of the Upanishad itself.
The Mandukya gives a detailed analysis of the well-known states of waking, dreaming and sleep. This is one of the cases where familiar information is given` together with other information not easily discoverable by ordinary means` though some of it can be confirmed by the combination of intuition` experiment and inference called science. The scholar Radhakrishnan has opined that the Upanishads are useless for discovering truth about the world` but Nobel Prize winner Jagadish Bose stated that it was his early study of them which gave him the hint to investigate the possibility of a nervous system in plants. Dr. Shastri often quoted with approval this statement by Bose, whom he knew.
The Upanishad defines the “waking state” as the one where self is conscious of sense-objects. This definition is frequently cited by Shankara; it would exclude intense abstraction such as that of Socrates or Newton` when they were unconscious of their surroundings. The.”seer” of waking is called Vaishvanara, the name of the God who is the whole universe; in man, the “seer” is found to be restricted to the human self when extraverted.
In the “dream state” the individual self is introverted; he is conscious of memory traces appearing as “forms of light”. In a subtle analysis` Gaudapada points out that in waking` outer objects are experienced as relatively, permanent` taken as ‘existing even when we are not noticing them` whereas “internal objects” like imaginations are hazy` lasting only as long as the thought lasts. He shows that in a dream the same distinction holds: there are objects experienced as external` vivid and fixed` and also a stream of inner imaginings; reactions and memories.
In the; “deep sleep” state there is no desire or dream` says the Upanishad` and everything becomes one; it is a mass of consciousness and bliss` the doorway to experience in the waking and. dream states. The phrase “mass of consciousness” is a surprising one for sleep` which is generally regarded as unconsciousness. But there is more to come: “This one is the Lord of all; this one is omniscient; this one is the inner controller of all; this one is the source of all; this one is verily the place of origin and dissolution of all beings.”
Analysis of deep sleep is a crucial point in, Vedanta. In a short article it is best to take up one point which seems the least acceptable-omniscience. How can there be -omniscience in deep sleep?
This or any other truth of Revelation is finally confirmed only by experience, but Vedantins point to cases where` on coming out of deep sleep` there is instant inspiration in some field-art, science, or conduct. For instance` Newton fell asleep over a mathematical problem which baffled him; when he awoke` the answer presented itself at once. The song composer Hugo Wolf had this experience habitually.
There is a tacit understanding among materialists to ignore such facts` or else hand-waving analogies are offered-“the seed is planted” or “the data ferment”. But these analogies are irrelevant. A seed simply reproduces the order already in it` and we can predict what will happen. The “seed” analogy would need to cover a case where seeds of red` white and blue flowers are shaken up in a bag and sown at random, yet the flowers come up as a Union Jack. And “fermenting” does not produce more order-it increases disorder.
The yogic explanation is that prolonged concentration on a problem` in an unselfish search for truth` makes the mind thin and transparent in that area` so that it is able to receive` and then to express, the omniscience of the causal state experienced in deep sleep. Dr. Shastri told his pupils` “Each and every one of you has the capacity to produce edifices not inferior to those of Plato and Shakespeare.”
To open the mind to inspiration is not easy. Concentration and non-egoism must reach a peak which can welcome it. It is noticed that even creative scientists often make just one. discovery early on; they spend the rest of life exploiting it. A physicist has remarked` “Once one has some reputation` it is difficult to accept a new idea which may go against everything one has been saying. And the new idea` once it is pointed out` seems so obvious that the discoverer looks a fool for not having thought of it before!”
The composer Berlioz recorded that one morning on awakening` he found a new symphony going on in his head, glorious with melody and in full orchestral colour. It was a wonderful experience, but suddenly he thought of the terrible labour of trying to re-capture it and get it down as a score. He pulled the blankets over his head and went back to sleep. It came once more some weeks later` and again he rejected it. After that it never came again. Inspiration is not necessarily a comfortable thing.
The Mandukya hints, and the Karikas state explicitly` that the states can exist together. Gaudapada says that the waking state has dream and dreamless sleep in it` and Shankara describes how they can be consciously and voluntarily experienced while in the waking state. The yogi looks at an object carefully-a traditional one is the flame of a candle. He observes the inner blue area` the surrounding bright yellow` and then the outer part associated with smoke. That is the waking state.
Then he shuts his eyes and visualizes the flame in his mind. At first the image is hazy and unstable` but after practice he can see it existing “vividly” like an object seen in a dream. This is the dream state in the waking-it is not a mere dream because the object is chosen voluntarily. The image has nothing to do with physical eyes-it is seen with the mind alone as an internal luminous form.
From this waking dream` the yogi can enter waking sleep. As the meditation is pursued` memory begins to dissolve. There is a forgetting of the body` of time and space, of the individual name and all individual superimpositions, finally of the flame as an object. Thought ceases and the yogi is consciousness alone` light alone. In some of his letters to Humboldt, Goethe speaks of consciously entering a state of sleep as a secret of inspiration.
Having identified the states` and the experiencer of each state` in himself, the yogi practises universality. The Mandukya joins this practice with OM. OM consists in Sanskrit of three letters A` U and M. In pronunciation` the first two join together to make the sound O (as they do in French` in au revoir for example). The M is a long nazalization, where the lips are not parted till the sound has ceased.
OM repeated` and meditated upon` as extraverted experience is said to be repetition with the “A”; and such a man is borne` says Gaudapada, to Vaishvanara (the aspect of God which is this physical universe). An account of such an experience is given in the Eleventh Chapter of the Gita-it was overwhelming. Arjuna felt his separate existence threatened` and he asked for the experience to end. He saw the universal` but did not become it, even temporarily. The Mandukya says that such a man will, however, attain his desires and become great in this world. But if he is one who longs for liberation, he will become the universal. It is not a poetic metaphor, nor is it` as Mephistopheles says sarcastically in Goethe’s Faust` trying somehow to stuff the omnipotence of the six days of Creation into a tiny human frame. Swami Rama Tirtha describes it as a literal fact: “When I give up this dream body, this feeling of duality` and open my spiritual eye, then the elements of the world become like my limbs` the movements of nature become like the opening or shutting of my eyes.”
Gaudapada says that the OM must be meditated upon letter by letter` and from the A the yogi passes to the U dimension` that of universal light as mental experience. “I am the heart of Christ, the brain of Shakespeare` the mind of Plato-all feed upon my glory` all drink of my sunshine.”
The last letter M refers to a dimension beyond thought, but from which thought derives all its inspiration and experience. It is hinted at by Swami Rama in riddles like the riddles of Zen -“the soundless sound` the flameless light, the mindless thought` the eyeless sight` Am I, am I` am I”
Is there anything beyond even this? The Karikas say that the one who has realized the universal in the three dimensions` by means of OM of three letters` is honoured and worshipped by all beings` is a great sage` a Maha-muni. Yet` the Upanishad in its last verse says: “OM without letters is the Fourth-beyond the world` auspicious and non-dual. OM is thus the Self assuredly. He who knows thus` enters the Self through his Self.” Earlier the Fourth has been described in negative terms reminiscent of Madhyamika Buddhism: not conscious of the external, not conscious of the internal` nor conscious of both` nor a mass of consciousness. But it is “auspicious”, and it is not a void, for it is the Self. The Upanishad says` “The proof of it is one-pointedness on the Self” which Shankara explains by one of his favourite texts` “The Self alone is to be meditated upon.”
It is not unapproachable. It is more than approachable, for it is the Self. It has no dimensions` yet it has infinite dimensions. These are paradoxes` but they are not meant to be put aside as meaningless. “Think and think and think” says a teacher, “and then feel and feel and feel. Then one day you will jump.”