Katha Upanishad VI, 8-115 min read

  1. Purusha, who is all-pervasive and is indicated by no special mark, is beyond avyakta (that is, prakriti), of which the akasha and the other elements are modifications. The seemingly mortal man, on knowing this, achieves perfect freedom and immortality.

Every man is afraid of personal death and wants to shake off all the limitations under which he may find himself. Vedanta is based on this universal assumption. Is there a way to this great achievement? Is it possible to acquire conscious immortality and freedom from all limitations? Yes, there is. How? By a direct intuitional perception of Purusha or Spirit, which is all-pervasive and which is beyond matter in its primordial form called avyakta.

What is the definition of Purusha? By what signs is it indicated? The answer is, by none. Then how are we to know that it exists? He is self-luminous and needs no proof to reveal Him. Who does not know that he exists ? Who doubts that he is the knower of the body and the witness of the mental functions ? Qualities and characteristics belong to the realm of avidya (matter). The Purusha is the one on which our notion of “I” depends.

Why is He said to be beyond prakriti? Because He is the cause of such subtle elements as ether. Does immortality mean that man with his personality of body and mind will continue until the end of time and even beyond it? No. That which is made cannot be immortal. That which has a beginning must also have an end. How can body and mind, which were both created, ever be immortal? Immortality belongs to the Purusha or the Spirit within man. Purusha is always immortal but, by some undefined error, it identifies itself with the mortal mind and the mortal body. When spiritual illumination removes this error, the indwelling Spirit knows itself to be all-pervasive and immortal.

  1. Its (the Purusha’s) nature is not within the range of man’s vision. None sees it with his eyes. When the intellect (buddhi) controls the functions of the mind and meditates on it, the Purusha is revealed, and whoso knows this Purusha becomes immortal.

The finite eye cannot see the infinite Spirit. Let alone Purusha, the eye cannot see many things. It cannot see the things nearest to it; a speck of dust in the eye is not seen by the eye. It is clear, then, that the innermost spiritual essence, Atman, cannot be seen by the eye. The word ‘eye’ in this verse stands for all the senses.

Then how is this Purusha perceived? By the subtle and purified intellect (buddhi). It, being the controller of the mind and free from all modifications, is realised in the state of meditation.

By the process of meditation the mind becomes concentrated and one-pointed. It loses its restlessness and stands fixed, concentrated on the concept of Atman, like the flame of a candle in a windless room. Then the Atman is revealed in itself. The erroneous limited conception of the Self (Purusha) gives place to the intuitive vision of the supreme consciousness. This is the highest state of consciousness. This is truth. A realisation of this state is the purpose of human existence. The object of creating a fire in a kitchen and of collecting utensils is to cook a meal. So the object of our life, our thought, our education, our love-making and so forth is the achievement of this highest state of consciousness.

  1. When the five senses are at rest, when the mind is without any activity, when the intellect (buddhi), freed from all earthly desires and ambition, is tranquil, this state is the highest state.

Mind has two functions: (1) introvertive/extrovertive, (2) restfulness produced by the volitional efforts of the soul through meditating on the Self. Shri Shankara illustrates the process thus. Sit in meditation. Withdraw the senses from the external objects, and make the mind quiet by casting out all thought and desire by saying to them: “You are unreal; you are not Self. I want Atman (Self).” Then a state of serenity will follow in which all volition is absent. A long and continued practice of this meditation will reveal the Self, the self-contained, self-luminous, all-pervasive entity.

The discipline of the mind differs according to the situation one may be in in life. For instance, while playing a game of football, a man must be constantly active; but the same man, looking at a distant star through a telescope, has to be quiet and peaceful. The highest state of consciousness is not realised by activity or rituals or by philanthropic restlessness. It is in the state of mental serenity produced by meditation that the state of knowledge is realised.

  1. Yoga is a firm and voluntary control of the senses. Here vigilance is to be exercised, because, before the ultimate realisation, Yoga is acquired, and it is also lost.

The state of mind called Yoga is the firm and voluntary control of the senses and the withdrawal of the mind into its cause, the subtle buddhi. Negligence, dullness and association with the unenlightened creates a breach of vigilance and, when vigilance is relaxed, a relapse into the state of worldly pleasures and love of power follows. The intensity of meditation is easily lost when we allow the mind to become restless or to take pleasure in external objects. A relapse is possible even at an advanced stage of Yoga. Therefore the wise do meditation, devotion, and study with perfect concentration. The proximity of the Sangha (spiritual community) and the Teacher proves a help. Till the final triumph of the hero, as indicated by Mahamuni Mangalnathji, relapses are possible. Repentance is not of much avail. A firmer determination to lead the Yogic life, and occasional retirement into solitude is necessary. Giving charity in the prescribed way also helps.