The Best Upanishads Quotes

Liberation (Moksha)

The forgetfulness of one's true Self
is the greatest suffering for a man.
Everything that is not Atman is trivial (alpam).
There is no real happiness in the trivial;
the only happiness is in the Infinite (Bhuma).

The nature of Brahman, or Atman, is Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute. It dwells in every heart. On account of maya a man is not conscious of his true Self. So the only way to Liberation is that of the Knowledge of the Self. Ethical laws, sacrificial ceremonies, philanthropic works, austerities, study of scripture, worship, and other similar spiritual disciplines only serve to remove the impurities of the mind, which hinder the manifestation of Atman. Atman is to be known now and here, and not elsewhere after death. "If a man knows Atman here, he then attains the true goal of life. If he does not know It here, a great destruction awaits him." The Upanishads most important message:

Self-Knowledge
as the condition for
Self-realization.

Moksha, or Liberation, is not the result of Knowledge. It is not a new acquisition. Causation applies to the realm of becoming and not to Brahman, which is Pure Being and beyond all categories. Causation rules the finite world of the manifold. It is inconceivable in Atman, which is one and without a second. If Moksha were the result of Knowledge and were therefore endowed with a beginning, it would then come to an end. It would not be eternal. Arising from non-existence, it would again dissolve into nothingness.

"Moksha (Liberation) cannot have a beginning and be eternal." Liberation is therefore not something which is created, but is the realization of That which has existed from eternity but has hitherto been concealed from us. "All jivas are ever free from bondage and pure by nature. They are ever illumined and liberated from the very beginning." As people who do not know the location of hidden gold fail to find it though walking over it again and again, so likewise, "all these creatures, day after day, go into the world of Brahman, being merged in Brahman while asleep, and yet do not discover It because they are carried away by untruth."

He who knows the Self is liberated; even the gods cannot prevent his being so, because he has realized himself to be the very Soul (Atman) of the gods. "He who knows the Supreme Brahman verily becomes Brahman." He has attained the true Immortality, that is to say, indestructibility without a continued existence, and not the state of non-dying-ness in heaven. Thus, according to the Upanishads, Liberation is not the result of the Knowledge of Atman; it is that Knowledge. It is not affected by the Knowledge of Atman; but this Knowledge is itself Liberation in its fullness. Desire is death; desirelessness is Liberation. He who has realized himself as Brahman, infinite and all-pervading, he who sees the whole universe in himself and himself in the universe, cannot desire anything. "What can he crave who has attained all desires?"

A jivanmukta (liberated while living in a human body) is no longer concerned about bondage or Liberation; for these really do not belong to Atman, the Self ever free. Bondage and Liberation are characteristics of the mind. On account of maya an ignorant person thinks of himself as bound and then strives for Liberation; but Atman is always free. In the inspiring words of Gaudapada: "There is neither death nor birth, neither a struggling nor a bound soul, neither a seeker after Liberation nor a liberated one—this, indeed, is the ultimate truth."

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The Self is the Witness

Since Brahman, as the "Knower of knowing," can never become an object for us, It is called unknowable. "You cannot see That which is the Witness of vision; you cannot hear That which is the Hearer of hearing; you cannot think of That which is the Thinker of thought; you cannot know That which is the Knower of knowledge." "He is never seen, but is the Witness; He is never heard, but is the Hearer; He is never thought of, but is the Thinker; He is never known, but is the Knower. There is no other witness but Him, no other hearer but Him, no other thinker but Him, no other knower but Him." "That which cannot be expressed by speech, but by which speech is expressed —That alone know as Brahman, and not that which people here worship. That which cannot be apprehended by the mind, but by which, they say, the mind is apprehended—That alone know as Brahman, and not that which people here worship."

Brahman is unknowable for still another reason: It is bhuma, infinite. "The Infinite (bhuma) is bliss; there is no bliss in anything finite. Infinity alone is bliss. This Infinity, however, we must desire to understand."

What is the Infinite? This is how It is described in the Upanishads: "Where one sees nothing else, hears nothing else, understands nothing else—that is the Infinite. Where one sees something else, hears something else, understands something else—that is the finite. The Infinite is immortal; the finite, mortal. Sir, in what does the Infinite rest? In Its own greatness—no, not even in greatness."

Brahman is "one and without a second"—ekamevadvitiyam. The second part of this phrase ("and without a second"), qualifying the first ("one"), is important; for what it means is that Brahman is not one in the sense that the sun or the moon is one, or in the sense that the God of the monotheist is one. In such a case there is a perceiver of the oneness—which implies duality. When the non-duality of Brahman is completely realized, there is absolutely no consciousness of subject and object; the distinction between perceiver and perceived is annihilated and they become one.

Tell me precisely the Brahman that is immediate and direct
—the self that is within all."...
"You cannot see the seer of seeing;
you cannot hear the hearer of hearing;
you cannot think of the thinker of thinking;
you cannot know the knower of knowing.
This is your self that is within all;
everything else but this is perishable."
(Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 3.4.2)

Commentary by Shankara:

The self is the witness of vision etc. Vision is of two kinds: ordinary and real. Ordinary vision is a function of the mind when it is connected with the eye. It is an act and as such it is subject to change. But the vision that belongs to the self is like the heat and light of fire. Being the very essence of the seer, it is unchanging. Because real vision appears to be associated with ordinary vision, which is subject to change, it is spoken of as the witness of objects. Ordinary vision is coloured by the objects seen by the eye. It appears to be connected with the real vision of the self, though in reality it is but its reflection. Ordinary vision, moreover, has a beginning and an end, and is pervaded by real vision. Thus the real vision of the self is metaphorically spoken of as the witness, and, although eternally seeing, is described as sometimes seeing and sometimes not seeing. But, as a matter of fact, the vision of the seer never changes.

SRF AUM

Para Brahman is timeless, spaceless, causeless, immeasurable, indivisible, incorporeal and partless. Brahman is without form, sound, touch, smell and taste so Brahman cannot be perceived and known by material and limited senses. And the mind, that is considered sometimes as the sixth organ of perception, cannot grasp Brahman either.

The famous saying "Neti, neti" — 'Not this, not that' is considered the best description of Brahman.

Brahman cannot be known because most of all Brahman is the essence of the eye (' Eye of the eye'), the ear, the mind etc. And an eye cannot see itself (the reflection of an eye is not real eye but only 'a mirror' image of it). The flame that burns and illuminates everything around cannot illuminate or burn itself.

Brahman does not exist as an empirical object — like Earth or a tree — but is the Ultimate Reality.

The universe cannot exist without Brahman the same way as a mirage cannot be seen without the desert. Though you cannot really know Brahman 'Sat-Chit-Ananda' concept is Its best description.

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* Excerpts translated by Swami Nikhilananda