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From Svetasvatara Upanishad
Translations by Swami Prabhavananda
Sri Ramakrishna Math

The Rishis (seers of truth) inquire within themselves:

What is the cause of this universe? Is it Brahman (the Supreme Reality)? Whence do we come? Why do we live? Where shall we at last find rest? Under whose command are we bound by the law of happiness and its opposite?

Time, space, law, chance, matter, primal energy, intelligence- none of these, nor a combination of these, can be the final cause of the universe, for they are effects, and exist to serve the soul. Nor can the individual soul be the cause, for being subject to the law of happiness and misery, it is not free.

The Rishis (seers of truth), absorbed in meditation, saw within themselves the ultimate Reality, the self-luminous Being, the one God, who dwells as the self-conscious power in all creatures. He is one without a second. Deep within all beings He dwells, hidden from sight by the coverings of the gunas – sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas. He presides over time, space, and all apparent causes.

Like oil in sesame seeds, butter in cream, water in the river-bed, fire in the tinder, the Self dwells within the soul. Realise Him through truthfulness and meditation.

Like butter in cream is the Self in everything. Knowledge of the Self is gained through meditation. The Self is Brahman (Supreme Reality). By Brahman is all ignorance destroyed.

Fire, though present in the firestick, is not perceived until one stick is rubbed against another. The Self is like that fire; it is realised in the body by meditation on the sacred syllable OM (AUM).

Let your body be the stick that is rubbed, the sacred syllable OM the stick that is rubbed against it. Thus shall you realise God, who is hidden within the body as fire is hidden within the wood.

He who is realised by transcending the world of cause and effect, in deep contemplation, is expressly declared by the scriptures to be the Supreme Brahman. He is the substance, all else the shadow. He is the imperishable.

The knowers of Brahman know Him as the one reality behind all that seems. For this reason they are devoted to Him. Absorbed in Him, they attain freedom from the wheel of birth, death and rebirth.

Matter is perishable. The Lord, the destroyer of ignorance, is imperishable, immortal. He is the one God, the Lord of the perishable and of all souls. By meditating in Him, by uniting oneself with Him, one ceases to be ignorant.

Know God, and all fetters will be loosed. Ignorance will vanish. Birth, death and rebirth will be no more. Meditate upon Him and transcend physical consciousness. Thus will you reach union with the Lord of the universe. But you must know this. Nothing further is there to know. Meditate, and you will realise that mind, matter, and Maya (the power that unites mind and matter) are but three aspects of Brahman, the one Reality.

To realise God ...

To realise God, first control the outgoing senses and harness the mind. Then meditate upon the light in the heart of the fire - meditate, that is, upon Pure Consciousness as distinct from the ordinary consciousness of the intellect. Thus the Self, the Inner Reality, may be seen behind physical appearance.

Control your mind so that the Ultimate reality, the self-luminous Lord, may be revealed. Strive earnestly for eternal bliss.

With the help of the mind and the intellect, keep the senses from attaching themselves to objects of pleasure. They will then  be purified by the light of the Inner reality, and that light will be revealed.

The wise control their minds, and unite their hearts with the infinite, the omniscient, the all-pervading Lord. Only discriminating souls practice spiritual disciplines. Great is the glory of the self-luminous Being, the inner Reality.

Hear, all ye children of immortal bliss, also ye gods who dwell in the high heavens: Follow only in the footsteps of the illumined ones, and by continuous meditation merge both mind and intellect in the eternal Brahman. The glorious Lord will be revealed to you.

Control the vital force. Set fire to the Self within by the practice of meditation. Be drunk with the wine of divine love. Thus shall you reach perfection.

Be devoted to the eternal Brahman. Unite the light within you with the light of Brahman. Thus will the source of ignorance be destroyed, and you will rise above karma.

Sit upright, holding the chest, throat and head erect. Turn the senses and the mind inward to the lotus of the heart. Meditate on Brahman with the help of the syllable OM. Cross the fearful currents of the ocean of worldliness by means of the raft of Brahman – the sacred syllable OM.

With earnest effort hold the senses in check. Controlling the breath, regulate the vital activities. As a charioteer holds back his restive horses, so does a persevering aspirant hold back his mind.

Retire to a solitary place, such as a mountain cave or a sacred spot. The place must be protected from the wind and rain, and it must have a smooth, clean floor, free from pebbles and dust. It must not be damp, and it must be free from disturbing noises. It must be pleasing to the eye and quieting to the mind. Seated there, practice meditation and other spiritual exercises. As you practice meditation, you may see in vision forms resembling snow, crystals, smoke, fire, lightning, fireflies, the sun, the moon. These are signs that you are on your way to the revelation of Brahman.

As you become absorbed in meditation, you will realise that the Self is separate from the body and for this reason will not be affected by disease, old age or death.

The first signs of progress on the path of Yoga are health, a sense of physical lightness, clearness of complexion, a beautiful voice, an agreeable odour of the person, and freedom from craving.

As a soiled piece of metal, when it has been cleaned, shines brightly, so the dweller in the body, when he has realised the truth of the Self, loses his sorrow and becomes radiant with bliss.The yogi experiences directly the truth of Brahman by realising the light of the Self within. He is freed from all impurities – He is pure, the birthless, the bright.

He is the one God, present on the north, the east, the south and the west. He is the creator. He enters into all wombs. He alone is now born as all beings, and He alone is to be born as all beings in the future. He is within all persons as the inner Self, facing in all directions.

Let us adore the Lord, the luminous one, who is in fire, who is in water, who is in plants and trees, who pervades the whole universe. At the periods of creation and dissolution of the universe, He alone exists. Those who realise Him become immortal.

The Lord is one without a second. Within man, and within all other beings, He projects the universe, maintains it, and
withdraws it into Himself.

His eyes are everywhere; His face, His arms, His feet are in every place. Out of Himself He has produced the heavens and the earth, and with His arms and His wings He holds them together.

He is the origin and support of the gods. He is the Lord of all. He confers bliss and wisdom upon those who are devoted to Him. He destroys their sins and their sorrows.

He punishes those who break His laws. He sees all and knows all. May He endow us with good thoughts!

This vast universe is a wheel. Upon it are all creatures that are subject to birth and death and rebirth. Round and round it turns, and never stops. It is the wheel of Brahman. As long as the individual self thinks it is separate from Brahman, it revolves upon the wheel in bondage to the laws of birth, death and rebirth. But when through the grace of Brahman it realises its identity with Him, it revolves upon the wheel no longer. It achieves immortality.

The Lord supports this universe, which is made up of the perishable and the imperishable, the manifest and the unmanifest. The individual soul, forgetful of the Lord, attaches itself to pleasure and thus is bound. When it comes to the Lord, it is freed from all its fetters.

Mind and matter, master and servant- both have existed from beginnigless time. The Maya that unites them has also existed from beginningless time. When all three- mind, matter, and Maya- are known as one with Brahman, then is it realised that the Self is infinite and has no part in action. Then it is revealed that the Self is all.

O Lord, Thou hast revealed Thy sacred syllable OM, which is
one with Thee. In Thy hands it is a weapon with which to destroy ignorance. O protector of Thy devotees, do not conceal Thy benign person.

Thou art  the Supreme Brahman. Thou art infinite. Thou hast assumed the forms of all creatures, remaining hidden in them. Thou prevadest all things. Thou art the one God of the universe. Those who realise Thee become immortal.

Said the great seer Svetasvatara:

I have known beyond all darkness, that great Person of golden effulgence. Only by knowing Him does one conquer death. There is no other way of escaping the wheel of birth, death and rebirth.There is nothing superior to Him, nothing different from Him, nothing subtler or greater than He. Alone He stands, changeless, self-luminous; He, the great one, fills this universe.

Though He fills this universe, He transcends it. He is untouched by its sorrows. He has no form. Those who know Him become immortal. Others remain in the depths of misery.

The Lord God, all-pervading and omnipresent, dwells in the
heart of all beings. Full of grace, He ultimately gives liberation to all creatures by turning their faces forward Himself.He is the innermost Self. He is the great Lord. He it is that reveals the purity within the heart by means of which He, who is pure Being, may be reached. He is the ruler. He is the great light, shining forever.

This great Being, assuming the form of the size of a thumb,
forever dwells in the heart of all creatures as their innermost Self. He can be known directly by the purified mind through spiritual discrimination. Knowing Him, men become immortal.

This great Being has a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, and a thousand feet. He envelopes the universe. Though transcendent, He is to be meditated upon as residing in the lotus of the heart, at the centre of the body, ten fingers above the navel.

He alone is all this- what has been and what shall be. He has become the universe, yet He remains forever changeless, and is the Lord of immortality.

Without organs of sense, yet reflecting the activities of the senses, He is the Lord and ruler of all.He is the friend and refuge of all. He resides in the body, the city of nine gates. He sports in the world and without in innumerable forms. He is the Master, the ruler of the whole world, animate and inanimate.

He moves fast, though without feet. He grasps everything, though without hands. He sees everything , though without eyes. He hears everything, though without ears. He knows all that is, but no one knows Him. He is called the Supreme, the Great One.

Subtler than the subtlest, greater than the greatest, the Self is hidden in the heart of all creatures. Through His grace a man loses his cravings, transcends grief, and realises Him as Brahman Supreme.

If the truth of these scriptures are meditated upon by a man in the highest degree devoted to God, and (devoted) to his guru (spiritual teacher) as to his God, they will shine forth. They will shine forth indeed!

Om… peace – peace –peace.



Published with the kind permission of www.hinduism.co.za.


Their ‘Understanding Hinduism’ website is an award winning site featuring a whole host of various articles promoting Hinduism. It truly is a wonderful, thoughtful and thought provoking work and a true beacon for the promotion of Hinduism and Vedic culture in the world today.


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This article was published on Wednesday 27 May, 2009.
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