Kena Upanishad Part II
Kena Upanishad Verse 1
The rishi says:
If you consider that you know the real
You are mistaken.
You have only touched the surface.
Yadi manyase suvedeti suvedetidabhram evapi numnam tvam
vettha brahmano rupam.
Yadasya tvam yadasya devesvatha nu
Mimamsyameva te, manye viditam.
Commentary by Vimala Thakar
The rishis says, “After all that you have heard from me, after all that has been communicated by me to you, if you consider that you now have fully experienced and know what Brahman is because I have been talking about it, then my son, understand that you have only understood or experienced the surface of it.”
However ecstatic that moment of realization might be, the rishi wants to point out that it can only be a limited recognition or revelation. He says that factually and realistically you may have felt the touch or the presence of that aspect of Brahman which is contained in your being. However the real or the Brahman being infinite, it is not something finite of which you can have a complete experience. It is infinite. So even if you have now realized and you have felt the presence of the Brahman in the silence or the stillness, in the abeyance of all movement, don’t think that you have experienced the whole of it. That is not the totality of it.
So if you feel that now you have understood, please at least understand that it is a limited event that has taken place in your limited and conditioned instrument, this electro-magnetic apparatus which is called the body. It is not the wholeness or entirety of the Brahman. It is not the total potential of Brahman.
Well, you may say, it is not only in my body that I have felt the presence, I have felt the presence outside of me in the cosmos. We have measured the skies and measured the oceans, we have measured the speed of light and sound. We are able to do genetic engineering not only with the biological plant world but even in the human species and so on. We have escaped the earth’s orbit and landed on the Moon and travelled to Mars. So, we have now found out what is matter, we have found out the secret.
So the rishi says beware, neither you nor me can say that we have seen the whole of Brahman, that we have felt the presence of the infinity of the Brahman. Infinity cannot be experienced. Eternity cannot be experienced. So don’t you forget, otherwise you will feel the presence, get intoxicated by it and say aham Brahmasmi, “I know”.
Unless one is acquainted with Indian philosophy, with the basics of Sankhya, Yoga, Vedanta etc., it really becomes very difficult to grasp what the Kena Upanishad is trying to communicate. The ancient Indian approach to life was holistic. You cannot separate the metaphysics from physics or spirituality from philosophy. You cannot separate psychology from ethics and so on. It is an intertwined complexity, something beautifully interwoven into the wholeness of life with the intention that our act of living should reflect the multi-dimensionality of the wholeness.
The Upanishads proclaim that the essence of life is harmony. The Brahman is condensed harmony and balance. Harmony requires the complexity of multi-dimensional inter-relationship. It is a complexity in which everything has mutuality or reciprocity. It requires a oneness, which manifests itself as multiplicity. That multiplicity is meant to manifest and reflect the music of mutuality and reciprocity which is called harmony. There is the perfect harmony present in the five principles of life: earth – prithvi, water- jala, fire – agni, air – vayu and emptiness – akasha. The harmony is expressed through the interweaving and intertwining of these five elements. There is not a single expression of life, in which these five basic principles are not incorporated. Every blade of grass and every drop of water etc. are composed of them. It is important to appreciate this perspective before we continue.
Yadi manyase suvediti, the rishi now is speaking to the student, “If you consider that now you have known what is Brahman, very well that is alright. But you must understand that you have known only a part or an aspect of the wholeness of Brahman.”
He goes on, yadi manyase suvedeti suvedeti nunam tvam vettha daharam mevapi: “Which is that part that you feel that you have known?” Brahma dorupaam yasya tvam: “It is only that part of Brahman which is contained in your body.” Yadasya tvam devesu: “It is only that part or aspect of Brahman which is contained in the energies permeating in the universe outside of you as well as within you.”
This is the second time the word deva has arisen. Unfortunately in all the English translations that one has come across, the word deva has been translated as God. That translation is absolutely incorrect and does a great injustice to the original text. The word deva originates from the root diva which means to be self-illumined and capable of illuminating others. The Upanishads have a poetic format so they use figurative language. You need to understand this in order to comprehend them. So wherever one has seen it in the study of the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, and the Atharva Veda this word deva refers to the self-illuminated and illuminating energies contained in the cosmos and contained in the condensed cosmos that is the human body. For example let’s consider the principle of earth, prithvi. In the English language you would say that prithvi is called by the Indians a goddess or devata. Originally the word implies devata as a centre or an effulgent being. It is self-generated and the energy contained in it is its nature. So prithvi is a deva, it is a type of energy. It is a self-illumined centre and it illuminates others. Now you will say how can prithvi illuminate? What is this illumination? The sun can illuminate, but how can prithvi illuminate?
Let us take a step further, wherever there is the light of creative energy, creativity can be called the light of life. So illumination indicates the existence, the presence of creativity. Prithvi as the earth has its own creativity and that creativity is called the goddess, that creativity is called the illumination because it gives you food, it gives you the rivers and the water that nourishes you.
Let’s consider agni which is the fire principle. It is again called deva, illuminating and self-illumined. If there were no fire principle in the body, there would be no heat in the body. The eyes will not be able to see unless the fire principle in the body works properly. There would be no appetite, there would be no digestion of whatever you take in and sight would not function. So agni as the fire principle is called deva.
The same applies to sound which enables you to speak. So sound is the deva of speech. Fire is the deva behind the sight. Space or akasha is the deva behind your hearing or audition and so on. So what we are talking about in the Upanishads are principles or types of creative energy.
So the rishi says, “my son, now you have known or you feel that you have known that aspect of Brahman which is contained in you and that which is manifested in the energies and the energy centres around you in the cosmos.” Yasya tvam yasya devesu, “The ground of existence remains undivided and unmanifest yet permeates these energy centres just as you have energy centres in your body and also nadis or meridians in the body. In the same way in the greater cosmos there are energy centres. The sun is an energy centre. The moon is an energy centre. The oceans are energy centres.”
Yasya tvam yadasya tvam yat devesu. The rishi says, “The manifestation of the Brahman which is contained in you and which is manifested outside of you. You seem to have known only that.” Atha nu mimansyameva te, “So my son, further deliberation, further exploration is necessary. You have known only the conditioned form. You have known only the manifest form of the Brahman. So if you feel that you have now understood what the Brahman is, you have understood only the manifest, the conditioned part, that which is full of movement.”
The rishi continues, atha nunam tvam mimansyameva, “So please don’t feel contented that you have grasped what is Brahman in its totality. You have still more to analyse and consider. You have still to go deeper.”
Kena Upanishad Verse 2
The Student says:
I have understood that
One who says I know, does not know.
And the one who says I do not know, knows.
Manye suvediti. Yah tad veda na veda iti
Yastad veda na veda – na veda iti veda ca.
Commentary by Vimala Thakar
The student of such a rishi, must have been very robust and smart. The teacher is trying to shake him up, find out if he has really understood. So when the teacher says, you have still to go further, the student stops the teacher and says, manye suvediti, “I have understood.”
Yah tad veda na veda iti, “I have understood that one who says I know, does not know.” This is the reply the student gives to the rishi. Yastad veda na veda na veda iti veda ca, “And one who says, I do not know it, knows it.”
So what is implied by this? It is implied that a person who says I know is ignorant because
he is looking upon the Brahman, the ultimate reality as an object of knowledge, as an object to be known with the help of words. He is still looking upon the Brahman, the real as an object of perception, as an object of audition or as an object of thinking.
Knowing requires the division of subject and object. Knowing requires the help of the words which are known, interpreted by the past and conditioned by the past. So whatever knowledge results with the help of words is bound to be limited and also indirect.
So all conditioned knowledge, all the movement of conditioned consciousness is a kind of ignorance. That is what the Upanishad tells us. We may not like this because we live by knowledge, we live by the sensation that I have acquired knowledge. We think it is ‘my’ knowledge and we are proud of it. I have acquired experience, sensual, extra sensory, transcendental or whatever. I have self-realization, I am emancipated. For us everything is an object to be acquired or to be obtained. So the division persists. As long as the division persists in the name of knowledge or experience, it is still ignorance.
One who says I do not know at least knows this much. At least he knows this much that it cannot be known, it cannot be experienced. That itself is a big event in life. So one who says I do not know seems to be aware that it is not knowable. One who says I have known looks upon it as knowable. But the one who says, I don’t know, knows that it is not knowable. It is beyond the known. It is beyond the unknown also. It is just not knowable, it is not nameable and it is not measurable. It is indescribable.
For knowing you have to measure. So Brahman is neither the knowable nor the unknown because what you call that which is unknown may have the potential to be known in some near future or distant future. But one who has realized that it is beyond the unknown that means it can never be known with the help of the mind or brain which uses words, symbols and measures.
The rishi is leading the student to realize that all the activities and movements of the inner senses and external sense organs need to go into abeyance. Let those movements discontinue themselves, so that, that which is beyond their reach can reveal itself in the emptiness of deep relaxation.
The people of the modern age suffer from intellectual arrogance. We think there is nothing beyond intellect, that there is nothing that the brain or mind cannot capture or know. That is why most of the university educated Indians get tired of studying the Upanishads because they feel it an insult to their intellect when the Upanishad says it is not knowable. So they say why should we study, why should we continue further, and they stop. It is a reaction of the ego. In truth it is very difficult to remain a student and to retain the enquiry and openness till the last breath. That is why I said the second chapter is an ascent. It is a steep vertical ascent.
Kena Upanishad Verse 3
He who thinks he knows
Has not understood.
He who says that he does not
Remains open to the real.
Yasyamatam tasya matam matam yasya na veda sah
Avi jnatam vijanatam vijnatamavijanatam
Commentary by Vimala Thakar
Yasya matam, one who feels convinced that he knows, tasya matam, he has not understood anything. Yasya matam tasya matam yasya veda na veda sah, one who says one has understood does not understand. One who says I do not know anything about the Brahman retains an openness to it. There is the possibility of his communion with the Brahman.
The rishi is asking if you are you aware of the unknowable in every moment. Are you aware through every layer of your being in every moment?
The rishi is pointing out that if you feel you know or you have known then that remains only a cerebral idea. If it remains only a cerebral grasp of an idea or a theory, you have not understood anything. You may well quote verses from the scripture, chant mantras or say, “I am the Brahman” but it is not a living reality. It is merely the expression of thought as a cerebral movement. It is just an opinion. It is not experienced through each layer of the being.
The rishi says that the awareness as the communion with existence has to be at every layer of your being and in every aspect or movement whether it be the breathing, the hearing, the seeing, the thinking, the sexual interaction and the ecstasy that one has there. Does every movement make you aware of the source of that movement or do you merely get lost in the cerebral movement of your thoughts? If you get lost, then saying that I know it remains only the empty shell of words.
For example, when your ears hear music, do you get lost in or carried away by the feelings and recollections that the music evokes in you or are you aware of the texture of the sound of the music and the play with the silence between the notes of music? Are you aware that the instrumentation and the vocal sounds are the manifestation of the sound energy which is the movement of the matrix of existence? If you are aware of that, then listening to music will give you the communion not with the notes of music or the beating of time but with the sound principle.
If you do not get lost in the imagination of thought, then the action of listening will become a direct communion with silence which is the source of sound. The rishi says, pratibodha viditam amurtama, the nectar of life, the source of life, the eternity, the immortality of life can be communed with. You can be in communion with that at every layer of being and in every moment.
But if the movements of the sense organs, the movement of consciousness or the movement of prana sever or uproot you from your connection to this deep awareness or sense of existence, then you are in the darkness of ignorance. The rishi is pointing out that it is our destiny to live in the conditioned world and it is our destiny to live through our senses. It is natural. There is nothing wrong in it. The senses, the sense organs, their energies, their contact and the pleasure that you get is completely natural. But you are uprooted if the experiences and the sensations are translated into cerebral activity which causes you to fall away from the awareness of the source.
So please be aware of this in the movement of all the layers of your being. Then in every movement of the conditioned energies expressed through the prana, the consciousness, the hearing, the smelling, the seeing and the speaking, you will be in harmony with the non-individuated wholeness of life. The point is to remain undivided while you go through the various activities of life and remain non-fragmented while you function on so many different fronts of life. If that undivided unity and harmony in the various activities is retained, then, the rishi says, now your words are not an empty shell, there is the authenticity of life behind them.
Kena Upanishad Verse 4
It is only through understanding
That immortality is attained.
There is communion with the real
And so vitality blossoms.
Pratibodha viditam matam amrtatvam hi vindate
atmana vindate viryam vidyaya vindate amrtam.
Commentary by Vimala Thakar
This passage is one of the most crucial parts of the Kena Upanishad and one of the most sublime passages in all the Upanishads. First let’s examine the literal meaning of the words and then we shall turn to the significance or the implications of the verse.
Pratibodha viditam means in every state of consciousness or through every state of consciousness. It refers to that which is known and understood in waking consciousness. That which is known and understood at the sensual level when you are in touch with reality through the sense organs. That which is known and understood when you are living at the psychological or mental level and living through the movement of thought. That which is known and understood when you are living at the emotional level and in the emotional dimension. That which is understood at the level of cognition or the intellectual dimension. It also refers to that which is understood when you are alone and not moving in any direction. When there is no effort directed towards knowing, experiencing or doing anything when you stay put at the source of your being in silence. It refers to that which is understood, when you are in the midst of the movement of relationship passing through the movements of action and reaction, action or response. This is what the phrase pratibodha viditam implies.
Amrutatvam means immortality. So pratibodha viditam hi matam amrutatvam vindate means that it is only through that understanding that immortality is attained. It is only through that which is vibrating in every state of consciousness that the attainment of immortality results. Generally the word immortality has been understood in relation to either the body or to the ego as the conditioned self-centre.
The physical body is mortal. There have been scientists of life who have tried to discover the alchemy by which the duration of biological survival can be prolonged or extended with the hope that perhaps the body can become immortal. There were such alchemists in the Middle East, India and China. They tried their hand at this and we have proofs in India that it has been possible to extend the life of the body through Hatha Yoga or Tantra Yoga for up to eight hundred years. Personally I have met a yogi who was two hundred and fifty years old when I met him. I have not come across a longer lifespan than that. But I have read about it in China, Tibet and also in India. So that is one meaning of mortality and immortality which relates to the survival of the physical organism.
The other meaning of immortality relates to the continuity of the conditioned consciousness or the psychological movement which you call the ego as the centre of the personality. The content of the ego is thought in the form of knowledge or thought in the form of conditioning. Thought having vibrational existence does not die.
However this is not what the rishi is referring to in this verse. The rishi is pointing to the possibility of becoming aware that though knowing takes place in the neurological system through the cerebral movement, the conditioned consciousness as the “I” centre is not the true knower. The primal source of knowing, doing and experiencing is the Brahman as the real. So when at psychological level you go through the activity of experiencing and knowing without creating a knower at the level of the conditioned mind then you go through the events and experiences without imagining, creating or building up an experiencer. Then there is that flame of awareness as intelligence behind the psychological movement. That is the Brahman as the real. It is the source of inexhaustible, infinite and eternal energy which is unchangeable and immutable.
Then you live through the senses, enjoy the interaction between the senses and the world, you enjoy all of the play of life and yet you are aware that this is a movement that is all going on and yet there is no knower, doer, or experiencer. So without becoming the knower, the experiencer and the doer you remain in communion with the source of awareness as the essence. That state of communion has the perfume of immortality because that state of communion and awareness sets you free from all psychological misery. You go through the drama of life and all the pain and the pleasure yet you do not get victimized by it. So immortality as eternity is a state where there is no misery. Please do not attach the word immortality to something which happens after death. Though the body is born and the body is to drop off some day in what you call death, life knows no death. Life knows no dying. It is an eternal dance of infinite, innumerable energies.
The immortality is attained, is arrived at, is felt, is realized, when there is pratibodha viditam. It is when you have this understanding in every state of consciousness. When there is this spontaneous, effortless, communion with the source of your own being then there is this immortality. The drama of life as the play of becoming does not deprive you of remaining at the source of your being. The beingness does not get affected by any state of consciousness or by any kind of activity. That is called immortality.
And how does that happen? This is explained in the second part of the verse: atmana vindate viryam vidyaya vindate.
Atmana means through beingness. It refers to your beingness as the substance or essence of your life which is the Brahman or the supreme energy of intelligence which is your nature. Intelligence is the nature of life. Eternity, divinity, infinity, immeasurableness and unquantifiability are the characteristics of life. So atmana means through the substance or beingness of life. It means when there is awareness of this substance, when there is communion with this substance.
The next phrase is: vindate veeryam. The word veeryam is very significant. Most of the translators and commentators have translated it by the word strength. But that is not correct. The word veeryam means vitality. There can be physical strength, there can be strength of conviction, there can be strength and there can be devotion which is exclusive attachment to some object. The rishi is not referring to that kind of strength which is produced by any effort of the brain. Intellectual conviction is born of a cerebral effort. Devotion or exclusive attachment to an object, to an individual, to a way or thinking or to a belief or to a code of conduct, to a code of values etc. – that is the result of an emotional movement and mental effort.
Veeryam or the vitality that the rishi is talking about is not produced through or by any psycho-physical effort. He is referring to the vitality that emerges naturally out of awareness. Please do see this. Vitality as energy is the perfume. You know, when a bud blossoms it becomes a flower and there is the fragrance of the flower. You do not sprinkle some scent on it. It is the act of blossoming which causes the emergence of the scent contained in those petals of the flower. In the same way when the awareness blossoms and flowers through every sensual and psychological movement in your life, the awareness blossoms and the vitality emerges out of that flower. It has nothing to do with human thought or effort.
When you mix colours you are causing interaction between the colours and a new colour is generated. You do not create the new colour but you have caused the interaction of say red and yellow and the result is a third colour which is orange. In the same way there is an interaction of your conditioned limited being with other conditioned expressions of life and the interaction of those energies generates awareness and that awareness has vitality.
Knowledge has no vitality. Knowledge is static. Knowledge has no dynamism but awareness has its own dynamism and therefore the word veeryam is used. In this context we have to understand the word veeryam is not referring to the strength or power that is the generated through human efforts.
The communion through awareness with the beingness of your life generates a vitality. It cannot be affected by anything in the world. No pleasure, no pain, no agony, no honour, no humiliation can increase or decrease it. It doesn’t become brighter or dimmer.
Let’s now consider the phrase: viryam vidyaya vindate. The awareness which causes the communion and generates the vitality, how does that awareness come about? The rishi is opening this up layer by layer. He has used the word vidyaya. Vidya means knowledge. Knowledge as in verbalized knowledge. Now, you cannot escape the necessity or the inevitability of acquiring knowledge once you are born in a human body. Exercising the brain is an inevitability as is exercising the senses. Now, with the help of words you derive knowledge through books and verbal communications. So that’s how we begin. Not all are not born with that unique quality of inborn awareness. Some may be. It does happen that in some human beings there is the excellence or the brilliance of inborn awareness. This is not the time and the place to go into the rationale of such human beings and how and why they are born with that, but there are reasons for it.
So it is our destiny as human beings to acquire knowledge with the help of words. Now that knowledge or understanding will become vidya. That knowledge can be the source of understanding at least at the cerebral or intellectual level. If you do not cling to the words while you are acquiring knowledge you can penetrate the words and feel the meaning. Vidya is the meaning felt by you. Let me call it intellectual understanding. That vidya, that knowledge can tell you what is finite and what is infinite. It can introduce you to the phenomenon of the constant change that is taking place around you and within you. It can point out what is transitory and what is non-transitory. So the verbal knowledge in Sanskrit is called shabda Brahma which is the aspect of divinity expressed in words.
So if you understand the meaning and do not cling to the words then that knowledge can bring about the arising of awareness. And in turn this awareness brings about communion and from communion arises immortality.
Kena Upanishad Verse 5
If in this human form
You recognize the divinity in life,
Then you will be in communion with the real –
But if you don’t you will live in darkness.
Those who are patient
Recognize the divinity in life
And so they transcend death.
lha cedavedidatha satyamasti
na cedihavedinmahati vinastih
Bhutesu bhutesu vicitya dhirah
Commentary by Vimala Thakar
In the Bruhadaranyaka Upanishad there is a verse that says: Brahmavid Brahmaiva bhavati. The meaning of this is: “One who understands Brahman becomes the Brahman”. Now this verse is saying the same thing but in a magnificent way. It is a beautiful verse.
So let’s look at the first line: lha cedavedid atha satyamasti. Iha means in this world, in the human body with the human consciousness. Cedavedid means if you understand the truth of life. Satyamasti means there is truth in life. There is that eternal infinite divinity of life. When the rishi says satyamasti he is referring to the divinity as the truth of life. The ultimate nature of reality is divinity.
What is divinity? It is that which is. That which is self-existent. That which is not the product of human thought. Life is not conceived by man. Man is born into life, which is self-generated, self-perpetuating and self-regulated. What does satyam mean? It means that which is indestructible, that which knows no death. What is satyam? It is that which is self-aware in relation to which there is no need to acquire knowledge with the help of the sense or the thought structure since knowing is already a characteristic of its existence.
Water has the characteristic of flowing. You do not cause a river to flow. You do not cause the cloud to burst into rain. You do not cause the sun to shine. It is their characteristic. The characteristic of the thing is something which is inseparable from the existence of that thing. Attributes are different from characteristics. For example the coldness of water is an attribute of water. A characteristic is a quality that is inseparable from the thing. The water that has the attribute of coldness can be heated then heat becomes the attribute of the water. The characteristic of water is flowing. In the same way the earth is steady. So steadiness is the characteristic of earth. Likewise the wind blows. That is the characteristic of wind.
So here in this verse, the rishi is asking us to recognize here in our human form that the essence of life is indestructible, immeasurable divinity which has the characteristic of knowing as awareness. It is immutable self-awareness. This rishi is urging us to understand this truth while living in this body. The expression iha ced is a very powerful one. He is saying while you are living in the body on this planet, surrounded by so many limitations and conditionings through which you have to function, if living and moving in this body you can understand and be aware of the divinity of life amruta bhavanti, then you have already become immortal because you are in communion with the Brahman.
You become what you are aware of. For example if you are thinking all the time of food, the consciousness gets polluted or weighed down by the grossness of your thinking. Whatever are the objects of your constant thinking, your whole physical structure is going to reflect that. Your words, your speech and your actions are going to reflect that. We become exactly what we are aware of.
So the phrase iha cedavedid atha satyam asti means there is truth in life. Life is not only constant change. Life is not only birth and death. Life is not just the multiplicity but life is also the oneness as the unity. It is the communion with the real that produces the immortality. The state of communion confers upon you the grace of that immortality. You are no more identified with the limited or mortal aspect of your being, though you live with the body. You are in communion with the immortal aspect of your being and therefore you have that perfume of freedom.
Now the next line of the verse says: lha na ced avedi mahati vinasti, if living in the human body on this planet, you do not understand the truth of your life then the loss will be yours. If you do not avail yourself of the opportunity conferred upon you by cosmic life that you have a human form and you have a self-aware consciousness then you will be in darkness.
You have at your disposal all the energies of the earth, the fire, the water, the space, and the sound. All those energies are within your body. So after having at your disposal all the energies inside you and around you and despite having the self-aware consciousness, if you do not understand the existential essence of life, then you will have thrown away the opportunity that was given to you.
Human beings have the responsibility to manifest the divinity contained in them and through their relationships to make the planet fragrant with the divinity contained in our being. But we have made an absolute hell out of it, unfortunately not knowing how to live. Mahati vinastihi means to suffer a great loss. So the rishi is saying that you will be causing destruction to your own self and to others who are around you if you don’t understand. So your relationships then will be full off destructive activities if you do not understand the truth. You will cause suffering to yourself and destruction to others on the planet, the non-human species and the human fellow- beings.
The next phrase is: bhutesu bhutesu vicitya dhirah. It means those who are patient, recognize the divinity in life. Bhuta means that which has a form, that which is perceptible. That which is tangible and which you can interact with. Bhuta is used to signify the mountains. The root of the word is bhu which means that which has occurred or that which has taken a form. So the mountains are bhutas, the rivers are the bhutas, the birds, the trees, the animals and the human beings are all bhutesu bhutesu as the expression of life.
Occidental literature and thought generally divides life into animate and inanimate. In the Upanishads the word inanimate does not occur. Everything is animate because everything has that energy of intelligence contained in it. Now quantum physics has demonstrated that the quantum of energy contained in an electron or proton does not depend upon the mass of that container. We cannot logically explain the ratio of the quantum of energy to the atom.
Dhirah means the one who is patient. Why does the rishi refer to them as patient? What is meant is the one who does not get perturbed or disturbed easily. Something happens and we get disturbed. The chemical balance of the body is disturbed so quickly in life. One word by someone, one gesture by another, a glance by someone else and disturbance is caused. Our balance is so fragile on the physical and the psychological level and that imbalance gets reflected in our looks, in our words and in our relationships. This is how destruction and damage is caused.
The dhira is one who does not get disturbed. There is mental and physical equipoise. When all the five layers of the being remain unperturbed and undisturbed the balance is retained effortlessly. This is because they recognize the life principle in their body and they recognize it in all things around them. They recognize the existence of divinity in all living things. They recognize the inner essence of life.
Let’s now consider the last line: pretyasmallokad amruta bhavanti. Pretya has been translated by all commentators including Shankara as referring to the dying of the body and the immortality that is to be attained after that. But that is not how I read it. The root of the word pra-itya means to go. It is indicative of motion.
Pretyasmallokad means to go or depart from these lokas. The word loka means world. The commentators and the translators have translated the word literally as this world or this planet. So they take the meaning to be either when one departs from this planet or when they die to this world, then they become immortal. But I don’t think that either of these interpretations is what the rishi intended at all.
The word loka also has the meaning of dimension. So figuratively I feel that the rishi is referring to the different dimensions or worlds of experience ie. the sensual, the verbal, the mental, the psychological, the intellectual etc. Now because the word pretya is indicative of motion, the dhirah or the patient ones have turned away.
What does this turning away consist of? The rishi does not explain it specifically but he is referring to non-identification with the self-centre. He is talking about transcendence while you are still in the body. Psychologically and intellectually they have turned away from obsession with the happenings and the petty self-preoccupations that occupy the mind. So in this sense they have turned away. There is a beautiful word expressed in Buddhist literature which is upeksha. Upeksha expresses the idea that you see and yet there is no you that sees. That you are present and yet you are not identified with that which is occurring. So the patient ones are not driven by like or dislike, pain or pleasure. They do not attach any importance to it. So they have turned away. Significance in life is found elsewhere. It is found in the sense of appreciation of being alive itself. And so there is this sense of wonder and appreciation for the benediction of being alive and the interaction with cosmos that flows from it. So the patient ones while living in this body turn away from the trivial and small-minded self-preoccupations that devalue the intrinsic worth of life. And so they are in communion with the cosmos. Rooted in the timeless present of beingness, they become immortal while living in the body.