CHHANDOGYOPANISHAD

 

THE sixth chapter of the Chhandogya Upanishad begins with the old, old riddle: Was there a first cause? Shall we, seeing that the search for causes leads us backward along an interminable chain, give up the theory of causation and say that the world came out of nothing? This cannot be, says the Rishi. Out of nothing, nothing could come.

Non-Being cannot produce Being. Much less could the phenomenon of consciousness come out of no thing. We must hold that there was a first Cause: Sat: i.e., Being with consciousness.  Sat willed that it may expand and multiply. So it produced light, Tejas. The Spirit in Tejas willed to multiply and produced water. The Spirit in Water willed to become manifold, and it produced all the living things of the world.

2.

Lest the reader imagine that the march of modem science has made this explanation out of date, it may be recalled that neither Chemistry nor Biology nor any other physical science explains anything. Plato depicted mankind as chained in a cave in such a way that they can look only on the wall which forms the back of the cave; they cannot see the busy life outside but only the shadows which objects moving in the sun shine cast on the walls of the cave.

For the captives in the cave, the shadows constitute the whole phenomenal world, the world of reality remaining forever beyond their ken. Sir James Jeans, the great physicist, says that modem science has come to the same conclusion. The reality behind the phenomenal world is unreachable.

3.

Chemical and other "laws" are only classifications and simplifications of observed phenomena, and nothing more. Neither familiarity nor classification can itself be explanation. The unexplained factor outside the cave that permanently circumscribes our knowledge is the Sat of the Chhandogya.

"How can this vast universe with its multitudinous variety be produced in this simple way?" asked Svetaketu, whom his father, Uddalaka, was instructing as to how the entire world has been evolved out of the Sat.

"Fetch a fruit of the big fig tree," said Uddalaka

"Here is one, Sir," said Svetaketu.

"Break it, what do you see there?"

4.

"These little seeds."

"Crush one of the little seeds."

"Yes, Sir, I have done it."

"What do you see inside?"

"Nothing," said the son.

"Yet in the subtle substance inside that little seed, which your eye does not even perceive, existed all this big branching nyagrodha tree. Do you wonder at it? Likewise all that exists, this universe, was in that Sat which thou too art. Believe it, dear child, thou art that."

5.

The folds of cloth over his eyes being removed by a friend, he recovers the use of his eyes and slowly finds his way home, step by step, encoring at each stage. So also, the good teacher instructs the seeker of Truth and helps him to unloose his bonds of desire, and saves him from the robbers.

The robbers are his past deeds that brought him to this condition. Recovering his sight as soon as the desires and attachments that blind his vision are removed, he finds his way to the Sat. Thereafter, it is only a matter of waiting for natural death.

6.

The folds of cloth over his eyes being removed by a friend, he recovers the use of his eyes and slowly finds his way home, step by step, encoring at each stage. So also, the good teacher instructs the seeker of Truth and helps him to unloose his bonds of desire, and saves him from the robbers.

The robbers are his past deeds that brought him to this condition. Recovering his sight as soon as the desires and attachments that blind his vision are removed, he finds his way to the Sat. Thereafter, it is only a matter of waiting for natural death.