Reflections on the 2nd Verse of the Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad

सर्वं ह्येतद्‌ ब्रह्म अयमात्मा ब्रह्म सोऽयमात्मा चतुष्पात्‌ ॥

God pervades everything and is everywhere. Even in Sheol, God is. There is no escaping one’s own Self which is Brahman. Brahman is who I am, Brahman is who you are. As the ‘great forest Upanishad’ says: it is for the sake of God within each of us that we love one another. For, as Jesus had pointed out later, the Kingdom of God is now, already present within us and all soteriologies are dependent on this recognition. This re-cognition that we are divine is what spirituality is all about. Spirituality is finding ourselves anew. The message of Hinduism has been echoed time and again: Martin Buber says:

                                Meeting with God does not come to man in order that he may concern himself with God, but in order that he may confirm that there is meaning in the world.  ( I and Thou, translated by Ronald Gregor Smith)

Meaning, that is, अर्थ, is the only antidote to the vacuum that we experience in our daily lives, which thinkers as diverse as Søren Kierkegaard and Julia Kristeva have mapped in their writings. Unless, as Paul Tillich says, ‘we have the courage to be’; unless we are willing to change our lives to encounter Brahman/God/the Omega Point, we will only find everything a horror, every place, a wasteland and the sirens will sing each to each but never for us. That is why W. B. Yeats was nagged by Plato’s ghost with “what then?”; is not everything useless, all only vanity of vanities? If the watchman does not keep watch, how does it avail us to sleep late and wake up early, and what if we are not in earnest in realising अयमात्मा ब्रह्म ? For, as the Lord says in His Song, by this Self is this Self raised or degraded.

                        The spiritual journey is one of interior movements; one of turning away from all that is external. But unlike all other journeys, this journey can only happen if the watchman, from no merit of our own, permits us the pilgrimage. Only then will we re-cognise ourselves and find the अन्तर्यामिन् , the absolute Other who desires to be one with all of us. For the अन्तर्यामिन् is weak, being essentially powerless through love for us as John Caputo writes in The Weakness of God: A Theology of the Event.  The Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad is a treatise in Advaita Vedanta but as the great Advaitins who have glossed it know: the experience of Brahman/Bliss cannot happen in the here and the now unless through a mimetic weakness of a God-intoxicated Master, one directly sees oneself as ब्रह्म.  This is why the Yoga Sūtras of Acharya Patañjali exhort Īśvarapraṇidhāna or, total surrender to God as one of the prerequisites of experiencing enstasy. We have not seen God, but see God in our spiritual mentors. Enstasy can only happen through empowerments received from an awakened Master.

The discerning reader is advised by this author to peruse the works of Swami Narasimhananda here and here.