This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
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10.6. Human States and Conditions of Atma

Brahma is distinct from that which It pervades

We are about to discuss the ‘conditions’ of Atma in the human being, but some preliminary remarks are in order. It must be said that although Brahma is without duality, this does not imply pantheism. Brahma must always be considered as ‘distinct from that which It pervades.’[1] As it is said in the Bhagavad-Gita: ‘All beings are in Me and I am not Myself in them…My Being upholds beings and, without being Itself in them, it is through It that they exist.’[2] That is to say, it is only ‘in principle’ that all things are Brahma. To take a similar reference from Taoist:

‘Do not inquire whether the Principle is in this or in that; It is in all beings. That is why It is given the epithet of great, supreme, entire, universal, total…That which caused being to be beings is not Itself subject to the same laws as beings. That which caused all beings to be limited is Itself limitless, infinite…As for manifestation, the Principle produces the succession of its phases, but is not that succession. It is the author of causes and of effects, but is not the cases and effects, It is the author of condensations and dissipations [births and deaths, changes of state], but is not Itself condensation or dissipation. Everything proceeds from It and is modified by and under Its influence. It is in all beings, by the determining of a norm; but It is not identical with beings, being neither differentiated nor limited.’[3]

[1] Shankaracharya, Atma-Bodha.

[2] Bhagavad-Gita, IX.4 and 5.

[3] Chuang Tzu, ch. 22.

The Unity of the Self

Having set aside the error of pantheism, we can now safely quote Shankaracharya’s treatise on knowledge of the Self to understand the way in which the ‘identity’ of the Self in all states of the being is to be understood.

No distinction invalidates the essential unity and identity of Brahma as cause [karana, which is Brahma as nirguna] and effect [karya, which is Brahma as saguna]. The sea is the same as its waters, and does not differ (in nature) in any way from them, although the waves, the foam, the spray, the drops, and the other accidental modifications which these waters undergo exist apart or conjointly as different from one another. An effect is not other [in essence] that its cause [although the cause, on the contrary, is more than the effect]; Brahma is one [as Being] and without duality [as Supreme Principle]; Itself, It is not separated [by limitations] from Its modifications [formal or formless] It is Atma, and Atma is It. The same earth yields diamonds and other precious minerals, crystal rocks and common worthless stones; the same soil produces a diversity of plants offering the greatest variety of leaves, flowers, and fruits; the same nutriment is converted in the organism into blood, flesh, and various excrescences, such as hair and nails. As milk is spontaneously changed into curds and water into ice [all without these changes of state implying any change of nature], so Brahma modifies Itself in diverse ways, without the aid of instruments or external means of any kind whatever. Thus the spider spins its web out of its own substance, subtle beings take diverse forms, and the lotus grows from marsh to marsh without organs of locomotion. That Brahma is indivisible and without parts, is no objection; it is not Its totality which is modified in the appearances of the World, but it is Itself viewed under the special aspect of distinction or of differentiation, that is, as saguna or savishesha: and, if It can be viewed thus, that is because It comprises all possibilities within Itself, without their being in any sense parts of Itself.

Diverse changes are presented to the same soul while dreaming; diverse illusory forms are assumed by this same subtle being without in any respect altering its unity. Brahma is almighty [containing all things in principle], capable of every activity [although ‘actionless’], without organ or instrument of action of any sort; therefore no motive or special end [which only concerns the ‘individual act’] other than Its own will [indistinguishable from Its omnipotence, its Shakti] must be assigned to the determination of the Universe. No accidental differentiation must be imputed to It [as in the case of a particular cause], because each individual being is modified in conformity with its own nature [thus, maintaining conformity with Dharma]; thus the raincloud distributes rain with impartiality, and this same fertilizing rain causes different seeds to grow in various ways, producing a variety of plants according to their species.[1] Every attribute of a first cause is (in principle) in Brahma, which is nevertheless devoid of every [distinct] quality.’[2]

That which was, that which is and that which will be, truly all is Omkara [the Universe principially identified with Brahma, and, as such, symbolized by the sacred monosyllable Om]; and all else which is not subjected to threefold time [trikala, the temporal condition in the three modalities of past, present, and future] is also truly Omkara. Assuredly, this Atma is Brahma, and this Atma [relatively to the various states of the being] has four conditions [padas, a word which means literally ‘feet’]; in truth, all this [that is to say, not only the modalities of the individual being, but also the non-individual states of the total being] is Brahma.[3]

[1] ‘O Principle! Thou bestowest on all beings that which befits them, Thou hast never claimed to be called equitable. Thou whose benefits extend to all times, Thou hast never claimed to be called charitable. Thou who wast before the beginning, and who dost not claim to be called venerable; Thou who enfoldest and supportest the Universe, producing all its forms, without claiming to be called skillful; it is in Thee that I move…’ (Chuang Tzu, ch. 6.

[2] Brahma-Sutras, II.1.13-37. See also: Bhagavad-Gita, IX.4-8: ‘It is I, devoid of every sensible form, who have developed all this Universe…Immutable in my productive power [Shakti, who here is called Prakriti because it is considered in relation to manifestation], I produce and reproduce [throughout all the cycles] the multitude of beings, without a determinate aim, and by the sole virtue of that productive power.’

[3] Mandukya Upanishad, I.1-2.

Four states of the living being–four conditions of Atma

Atma, from the point of view of the human being, can be described in terms of four states, corresponding to the difference conditions of the being: first, the waking state, which corresponds to gross (corporeal) manifestation. Second, the dream state, corresponding to the subtle manifestation These two belong to the individual, whereas the third and fourth states are beyond that domain. The third we can call the ‘causal’ state, and is described as the state of ‘deep sleep.’ Fourth is the most universal of states, that of unconditioned Atma.

The third state, deep sleep, can be seen as a withdrawal of the individual being into the formless:

The living soul withdrawing into the bosom of the Universal Spirit [Atma] along the path which leads to the very center of the being, where is the seat of Brahma.[1]

[1] Brahma-Sutras III.2.7-8.

The sacred monosyllable

The Mandukya Upanishad begins with the phrase: ‘Om, this syllable is everything that is: its explanation follows.’ Here it is clear that Om, the sacred monosyllable said to express the essence of the Vedas, is used as a representation of these four states in their totality. This is explained as follows: the monosyllable is composed of three letters, a, u, and m–the first two contracted into o. Taken as a whole, it actually has a total of four elements, the fourth being the synthetic whole in its principial unity. Thus, in the same way, the first three states or conditions of Atma are ‘expressed’ while the fourth is Atma Itself.

The waking state or Vaishvanara

The first is called Vaishvanara, which means ‘that which is common to all men.’ It is described in the Mandukya Upanishad thusly:

The first conditions is Vaishvanara, the seat of which is in the waking state, which has knowledge of external [sensible] objects, and which has seven members and nineteen mouths and the world of gross manifestation for its province.[1]

Vaishvanara is also Universal Man, and although it includes various states of development, as used here the consideration is limited to one state only, that of gross manifestation, or the corporeal world. And since the corporeal world is the necessary point of departure for the human being, this state can be taken as a symbol of the whole of universal manifestation (understood inversely, as has already been mentioned). The whole of the corporeal world is therefore the body of the Universal Man, analogous to the body of the individual man, in the same way that in the West there is analogy between macrocosm and microcosm. Moreover, a secondary meaning for the the Vaishvanara is ‘that which is common to all men,’ and can be taken to refer to either the specific nature of the human being (the ‘human species’), or to the fact that all human beings, regardless of their potentialities and the degree to which they realize them, all participate in the corporeal state.

[1] Mandukya Upanishad 1.3.

Seven members and nineteen mouths

Keeping in mind the twofold significance of Vaishvanara, as both individual man and Universal Man, we can say that the seven members are, first and foremost, the seven parts of the ‘macrocosmic body,’ and that this body is composed of all of the corresponding parts of individual beings, which go to make up its constituent parts. To enumerate the seven members: 1) the higher luminous spheres, or higher states of being, and which correspond to the ‘brain’ of the symbolic body due to their mental function. 2) the two principles manifested in the material world by the sun and the moon, and which are, in the universal body, the two eyes. 3) the mouth, which is the igneous principle. 4) the ears, which represent the directions of space. 5) the lungs, which represent prana, the ‘vital breath’, proceeding from the cosmic environment. 6) the stomach, representing the intermediate region between Earth and the heavens (luminous spheres), where forms are elaborated. 7) the feet, actuators of the body, represented by earth. Again, it is important to understand that the parts of the individual correspond, at their own level, to those of the Universal Man. It is the same with the ‘nineteen mouths’, or ‘organs’, which have already been described in previous sections as the five organs of sensation, the five organs of action, the five vital breaths (vayus), the inward sense (manas), the intellect (Buddhi), thought (chitta), and individual consciousness (ahankara).

Inverse analogy

We remind the reader again, only because it is so easily forgotten, that although the waking state is mentioned as the first condition of Atma, it is clear that it is located at the lowest or ‘last’ degree of development when viewed from the point of view of manifestation or Atma. This apparent contradiction is resolved when we remind ourselves that the corporeal is the basis for the realization of the human being, which must begin the individual and work upwards, taking possession, one by one, of higher states, proceeding from the manifested to the unmanifested, even though this order is the opposite of that proper to the development of manifestation itself. It is in this sense only that the waking state ‘precedes’ the states that follow.

Dream state or Taijasa

The second condition is Taijasa [‘Luminous’, deriving from Tejas, the igneous element], whose seat is in the dream state, which has knowledge of inward objects, which has seven members and nineteen mouths and whose domain is the world of subtle manifestation.[1]

In the sleep state the outward faculties, without ceasing to exist, are reabsorbed into the inward sense (manas), which was always their source and support. That is to say, they return in a way to a potential state, residing during that time in the nadis or ‘luminous arteries’, where manas is distributed after the fashion of a diffused heat (the igneous elements is at the same time light and heat). Indeed, there is an intimate connection between heat and life itself, since the two are in a way inseparable. Here we find a perfect correspondence between Aristotle and the Hindu doctrines, since he says in De Anima: “All food must be capable of being digested, and that whose activity causes digestion is heat. For this reason, every animate thing has heat.”[2]

[1] Mandukya Upanishad, 1.4.

[2] De Anima II.4.416b28-29

The fiery vehicle

We are dealing with the subtle order, and the subtle form in which Taijasa dwells is called a ‘fiery vehicle’, which sheds some light on Old Testament passages such as Elijah’s ascent into heaven on a ‘fiery chariot’ (2 Kings 2:2) and the ‘burning bush’ encountered by Moses on Mount Sinai. These are more than just symbolic representations, if we understand contact with immateriality to include a ‘perception’ of the subtle and it’s ‘fiery vehicle’, which in sensible terms could only translate into such imagery. However, we are clearly not dealing with sensible fire (the bhutas or elements of the corporeal order) in these instances, but with an apprehension in some manner of the tanmatras (determining principles of the corporeal elements) themselves.

The soul as light unto itself

All who dream know how, within the subtle state, the soul (jivatma) produces its own sights and sounds, projecting a world which issues entirely from itself, or more properly speaking from its own desire (kama). The objects produced are all mental conceptions–ideas clothed in subtle forms–and all of them depend for their existence on the subtle form of the dreamer. These can be described as ‘secondary’ or ‘accidental’ modifications of the dreamer himself.

Due to the chaotic and unstable nature of this production, it is called illusory (mayamaya), and is granted only an apparent existence. Although action in the waking state is still relative and therefore ‘illusory’ in its way, it’s stability, which allows waking action to be put to ‘practical’ or ‘profane’ use in that domain, means that it has a greater degree of ‘reality.’ We must keep in mind, of course, that this is only a point of view, and from another point of view the dream state, because its possibilities are more extensive, reaching beyond the corporeal into the subtle, could also be considered ‘superior’. All that is to say that the only absolutely real is the Self, or Atma.

Ideal and real

Just to head off any confusion, if we choose to refer to the dream state as an ‘ideal’ world, this should not be confused with Plato’s ‘Ideas.’ The Platonic idea is a possibility in the principial state, unmanifested and unclothed with form. In the dream state, on the other hand, we are dealing with production of individual consciousness and therefore our ideas here are clothed with forms. Lastly, if we admit that this is an ‘ideal world’ it is not because it can be placed in opposition to the ‘real world.’ Productions of the dream state have their own reality, just as everything else that is, is real in its own mode, as is appropriate to its nature. If it is of the nature of a thing to be an idea, then its reality is not negated simply by being an idea and nothing more. It fits into the hierarchy of being as it must. In the Hindu doctrine, the terminology for these two worlds are Viraj (the sensible world in its entirety) and Hiranyagarbha (literally, the ‘Golden Embryo,’ or the ideal world in its entirety). Thus, Brahmā (Brahma determined, as effect, and part of the Trimurti), envelopes Himself (since here we can begin to speak of ‘personality’ in some manner) in the ‘World Egg,’ out of which develops the whole of formal manifestation.

Faculties of the dream state

The members and mouths, which correspond to faculties, should be considered as parts of the three ‘envelopes’ that compose the subtle form: vijnanamaya-kosha, manomaya-kosha and pranamaya-kosha.

Deep sleep or Prajna

We now enter the causal state (karana-sharira) which corresponds to the fourth envelope (anandamaya-kosha).

When the being who is asleep experiences no desire and is not the subject of any dream, his state is that of deep sleep: he [Atma itself in this condition] who in this state has become one, who has identified himself with a synthetic whole of integral Knowledge, who is filled with Beatitude, actually enjoying that Beatitude and whose mouth [the instrument of knowledge] is [exclusively] total Consciousness itself, that one is called Prajna (He who knows above and beyond any special condition): this is the third condition.[1]

The oneness of the being in the causal state of deep sleep is affirmed also in Taoism, which says: “All is one; during sleep the undistracted soul is absorbed into this unity; in the waking state, being distracted, it distinguishes diverse beings.”[2]

Remember that the term for this envelope means Beatitude, and Beatitude is formed of all the possibilities of Atma, which is to say the sum of the possibilities of the being in question. This is the realm of Prajna–being in its own plenitude.

This state must not be confused with anything of the psychic or psychological orders, which pertain to the subtle state, since Prajna belongs to the formless and has thereby transcended the individual. In this state Atma is beyond even the distinction of Purusha and Prakriti, and is thus identified with Mula-Prakriti or ‘Primordial Nature.’ Here the being has withdrawn from conditioned existence altogether to the level of pure Being.

Nonetheless, the objects of manifestation are not destroyed, but come to subsist in principial mode, in the ‘eternal present.’ Here we find the metaphysical meaning behind the theological doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, which is to say, we see here a picture of what is meant by ‘the glorious body,’ which is the body ‘transfigured’ and seen in its immutable state which was always transient during its conditioned existence.

It is this subsistence (without destruction) of the manifest during deep sleep that allows for return from this state.

To further understand this state, we can refer to the ternary group: Sat, Chit, Ananda. In Arabic we find a similar group: Al-Aqlu (Intelligence), Al Aqil (the Intelligent), and Al-Maqul (the Intelligable). Returning to the Hindu tradition, of these the first is Chit, or universal Consciousness; the second is Sat, its subject; and the third is Ananda, or its object. These three come together in the state of Prajna under the aspect of Being ‘which knows Itself by Itself,’ or Sachchidananda. This state is also called ‘serenity’ or samprasada, and knowledge there is by direct intellectual intuition without necessity of reflection through manas as happens in the individual states. And although this form of apprehension has been above referred to Buddhi, we note that then we were referring to the Higher Intellect as manifest, but here we are in the principial state, and so we do not refer this to Buddhi, but Buddhi is contained in Prajna as well, much like the poles of Purusha and Prakriti. If we placed these three in relation to each other, as a second ternary group, we could say that Purusha is the subjective pole of manifestation, Prakriti the objective, and Buddhi, which is Knowledge, is their result or ‘common act.’

This one [Prajna] is the Lord [Ishvara] of all [sarva, a term which here implies, in its universal extension, the aggregate of the ‘three worlds,’ that is to say of all the states of manifestation comprised synthetically in their principle]; He is omnipresent [since all is present to Him in integral knowledge and he knows directly all effects in the principial total cause, which is in no way distinct from Him]; He is the inward governor [antaryami who, residing at the very center of the being, regulates and controls all the faculties corresponding to the being’s various states, while Himself remaining ‘actionless’ in the fullness of His principial activity]; He is the source [yoni, matrix or primordial root, at the same time as principle or first cause] of all; He is the origin and the end of the universality of beings [being Himself Universal Being].[3]

Whenever we deal with knowledge in Prajna, we depart from knowledge as considered in the previous two states. This difference or opposition between the two kinds of knowledge is described as Prajnana or integral Knowledge and vijnana or distinctive knowledge. The latter applies to the formal (individual) realm. Likewise vijnanamaya-kosha is the term for the first envelope of the Self or Atma as it enters the world of forms as jivatma.

[1] Mandukya Upanishad, 1.5.

[2] Chuang Tzu, chap. 11.

[3] Mandukya Upanishad, 1.6.

The unconditioned state

Finally we reach Atma unconditioned:

Waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and that which is beyond, such are the four states of Atma: the greatest [mahattara] is the Fourth [Turiya]. In the first three Brahma dwells with one of Its feet; It has three feet in the last.[1]

The symbolism here is interesting because it is the reverse of what we might expect. We are dealing with the fourth of four states of Atma, and so we might expect each to be represented by one foot. Yet we find that all previous states are reduced to one leg, and three to the Unconditioned State. This is profound, and is meant to convey the incommensurability between the absolute and the relative, that which is conditioned–in whatever way–from that which is not. The proportions, then, are not meant to establish an exact ratio of properties or content, but to express the fact that no comparison can be made between the first three states and the fourth, which exceeds them all entirely. We are speaking here from the metaphysical point of view, and not from the point of view of Being.

In other words, only one quarter of Brahma is in Being, since pada, which means foot, can also mean quarter, and the remaining three quarters are outside of Being. What are the divisions of the three quarters of ‘non-Being’? First, the totality of possibilities of manifestation insofar as they are not manifested (insofar as they are manifested they belong to the previous states). Second, the possibilities of non-manifestation (although here, beyond multiplicity, it is not strictly accurate to speak of these as plural or singular). Third, the Supreme Principle, Universal Possibility, which is total and infinite.

To reiterate, the first three states–waking, dreaming, and deep sleep–constitute the realm of Being. As for the first two–waking and dreaming–we might say they make up only one third of Being, since they contain formal manifestation only. Deep sleep, escaping the limits of form, contains both formless manifestation and unmanifested Being. And so again we see an inverse proportionality which suggests that as we ascend to higher states we approach infinity.

To expand, now, on the unconditioned state:

The Sages think that the ‘Fourth’ [Chaturtha], which knows neither internal nor external objects [in a distinctive or analytical sense], nor the former and the latter taken together [regarded synthetically and in principle] and which is not [even] a synthetic whole of integral knowledge, being neither knowing nor not knowing, is invisible [adrishta, and indeed non-perceptible by any faculty at all], actionless [avyavaharya, in Its changeless identity], incomprehensible [agrahya, since, It comprehends all], indefinable [alakshana, since It is without any limit], indescribable [avyapadeshya, since It cannot be qualified by any particular attribute or determination[, the unique, fundamental essence [pratyaya-sara] of the Self [Atma present in all the states], without any trace of the development of manifestation [prapancha-upashama, and consequently absolutely and totally free from the special conditions of any mode of existence whatsoever], fullness of Peace and Beatitude, without duality: It is Atma [Itself, outside of and independently of any condition], [thus] It must be known.[2]

Here we have entered the apophatic, at which point we can only express things in the negative. This is the case because positive affirmations is a limitation. Now we can understand why this state is simply called ‘the Fourth’ and not given a descriptive name, like the previous states. Thus, the only affirmation we can give is that it is ‘without duality,’ which is, as has been said before, the negation of negation, an absolute affirmation. We must always remember that Atma is not to be imagined as either manifested or unmanifested: it is the principle of both.

It [the Supreme Brahma, with which unconditioned Atma is identical], the eye does not attain to,[3] nor speech, nor the mind [through discursive thought, the individual faculty, or represented through mental images]: we do not recognize It [as comprehensible by aught other than Itself] and it is for this reason that we do not know how to expound Its nature [by means of any sort of description]. It is superior to what is known [distinctively, or superior to the manifested Universe] and It is even beyond what is not known [distinctively, or beyond the unmanifested Universe, one with pure Being]; such is the teaching that we have received from the wise men of former times. It should be realized that That which is not manifested by speech [nor anything else], but by which speech is manifested [as well as everything else], is Brahma [in Its Infinity], and not what is looked upon [as an object of meditation] as ‘this’ [an individual being or a manifested world, according as the point of view is macrocosmic or microcosmic] or ‘that’ [Ishvara or Universal Being itself, outside of all individualization and all manifestation].[4]

We end by quoting the important commentary of Shankaracharya on this passage:

A disciple who has attentively followed the exposition of the nature of Brahma must be led to suppose that he knows Brahma perfectly; but, in spite of his apparent justification for thinking so, this is nevertheless an erroneous opinion. In actual fact the well-established meaning of every text concerning the Vedanta is that the Self of every being who possesses Knowledge is identical with Brahma. Now a distinct and definite knowledge is possible in respect of everthing capable of becoming an object of knowledge: but it is not possible in the case of That which cannot become such an object. That is Brahma, for It is the Knower, and the Knower can know other things, but cannot make Itself the object of Its own knowledge, in the same way that fire can burn other things but cannot burn itself.[5] Neither can it be said that Brahma is able to become an object of knowledge for anything other than Itself, since outside Itself there is nothing which can possess knowledge [all knowledge being but a participation in Its knowledge].

If you think that you know [Brahma] well, what you know of Its nature is in reality but little; for this reason Brahma should be still more attentively considered by you. [The reply]: I do not think that I know It; by that I mean to say that I do not know It well [distinctively, as I should know an object capable of being described or defined]; nevertheless, I know It [according to the instruction I have received concerning Its nature]. Whoever among us understands the following words: ‘I do not know It, and yet I know It,’ verily that Man knows It. He who thinks that Brahma is not comprehended [by any faculty], by him Brahma is comprehended [for by Knowledge of Brahma he has become effectively identical with Brahma Itself]; but he who thinks that Brahma is comprehended [by sensible or mental faculty] knows It not. Brahma is unknown to those who know It and It is known to those who do not know It at all [as ‘this’ or ‘that’].[6]

We also offer this Taoist text as a correspondence and affirmation:

The Infinite said: I do not know the Principle; this answer is profound. Inaction said: I know the Principle; this answer is superficial. The Infinite was right in saying that It knew nothing about the essence of the Principle. Inaction was able to say that it knew It as regards Its external manifestations…Not to know It is to know It [in Its essence]; to know It [in Its manifestations] is not to know It [as It really is]. But how is one to understand this, that it is by not knowing It that It is known? This is the way, says the Primordial State. The Principle cannot be heard; that which is heard is not It. The Principle cannot be seen; that which is seen is not It. The Principle cannot be uttered; that which is uttered is not It…The principle, not being imaginable, cannot be described either. Whoever asks questions about the Principle and answers them, both show that they do not know what the Principle is. Concerning the Principle, one can neither ask nor make answer what It is.[7]

[1] Maitri Upanishad, VII.2.

[2] Mandukya Upanishad, I.7.

[3] Likewise in the Koran: ‘The eye cannot reach Him.’ Or in Taoism: ‘The Principle is reached neither by sight nor by hearing.’ (Chuang Tzu, chap. 22).

[4] Kena Upanishad, I.3-5.

[5] Cf. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, IV.5.14: ‘How could the [absolute] Knower be known?’

[6] Kena Upanishad, II.1-3.

[7] Chuang Tzu, chap. 22.

Additional remarks on the sacred monosyllable

In the remainder of the Mandukya Upanishad, the correspondence between the conditions of Atma and the elements of the sacred monosyllable Om is described in detail.

This Atma is represented by the syllable Om, which is represented in its turn by letters [matras], the conditions [of Atma] are the matras, and (conversely) the matras are the conditions: these are A, U, and M.

Vaishvanara, whose seat is in the waking state, is A, the first matra, because it is the connection, and also because it is the beginning.

‘A’ is the normal sound of the speech organs in their relaxed position, and so is the ‘connection’ between silence and speech, and is present in all its modifications; likewise Vaishvanara is in all sensible things and brings them to unity. ‘And also because it is the beginning’: A is the beginning of the alphabet, while Vaishvanara is the starting point for the human being on the path to realization.

He who knows this verily obtains all his desires, and he becomes the first [in the realm of Vaishvanara or of Viraj, of which he makes himself the center by virtue of that very knowledge and by the identification it implies when once it is fully effective].

Taijasa, the seat of which is in the dream state, is U, the second matra, because it is the elevation [utkarsha, of sound from its first modality, just as the subtle state is, in formal manifestation, of a more exalted order than the gross state[ and also because it participates in both [ubhaya, that is to say, alike by its nature and by its position, it is intermediate between the two extreme elements of the monosyllable Om, just as the dream state is intermediate, sandhya, between waking and deep sleep]. He who knows this in truth advances along the path of Knowledge [by his identification with Hiranyagarbha], and [being thus illumined] he is in harmony [samana, with all things, for he beholds the manifested Universe as the product of his own knowledge, which cannot be separated from him[, and none of his descendants [in the sense of spiritual posterity] will be ignorant of Brahma.

Prajna, the seat of which is in the state of deep sleep, is M, the third matra, because it is the measure [miti, of the other two], as well as because it is the end [of the sacred monosyllable Om]. He who knows this is in truth the measure of this whole [the aggregate of the ‘three worlds’ or different degrees of universal Existence, of which pure Being is the ‘determinant’], and he becomes the final term [of all things, by concentration in his own ‘Self’ or personality, where all the states of manifestation of his being are rediscovered, ‘transformed’ into permanent possibilities].

We can note in passing that only in this quite universal (and unintended) sense can the saying ‘man is the measure of all things’ be said to convey any truth.

The Fourth is ‘non-characterized’ [amatra, unconditioned]: it is actionless, without any trace of the development of manifestation, abounding in Bliss and without duality [Shiva Advaita]: that is Omkara [the sacred monosyllable considered independently of its matras], that assuredly is Atma [in Itself, outside of and independtly of any condition or determination whatever, even of the principial determination which is Being itself]. He who knows this enters verily into his own ‘Self’ by means of that same ‘Self’ [without the intermediary of knowing, which can attain to a state of the ‘Self’ but not to Paramatma, the supreme ‘Self’].[1]

Thus, it should be clear why meditation on the sacred monosyllable is valuable, since through its repetition one travels the path of realization: first through the corporeal modality, then through its extension into the subtle, and finally into the supra-individual, which is to say formless. The three parts having been contemplated in succession, they are then comprehended as a unity, which is the realization of the Supreme Identity.

[1] Mandukya Upanishad, I.8-12.