All Love Flows to the Self: Eternal Stories from the Upanishads
By Kumuda Reddy, Thomas Egenes, and Linda Egenes
Publisher: Samhita Productions: Schenectady, NY, 1999.
All Love Flows to the Self presents twelve stories from the Upanishads, retold in simple, modern language. Each story ends with a quote from the Upanishads related to the theme of the story, shown in the original script, in transliterated script, and in English. This attractive book offers a particularly accessible introduction to some of the profound wisdom in these revered ancient texts.
Many of the stories show a seeker after truth receiving guidance from a wise teacher. In some stories it is a young boy who goes to study with a guru at his forest retreat; in others it is a deity learning from another deity; in many of the stories it is a son learning from his father.
Interestingly, while most father-son stories depict a wise father and a respectful son, the story of Nachiketa from the Katha Upanishad is quite the opposite. Although Nachiketa was only a young boy, when he saw his father selecting his weakest and sickliest cows as a gift for some holy men, he understood that his father had acted ungenerously. He asked, “To whom will you give me?” Enraged at being criticized, his father burst out, “Unto Yama [the Lord of Death] I give you!” Though the father tried to take back his curse, the words could not be unsaid, and Nachiketa travelled south to the land of Yama to honour his father’s words.
When Nachiketa reached the doorstep of Yama, the dread Lord of Death was away, and the boy waited for three days. Finally Yama arrived riding a water buffalo and looking very fierce. But when he realized the boy had been sitting on his doorstep for three days with no food or drink, he remembered the saying “Honour the guest as God.” Chagrined, he told the boy he was free to leave the land of death unharmed and even offered him three boons. The first boon Nachiketa requested was that his father’s anger be appeased. For his second boon he asked the way to reach heaven, and for his third, to understand the nature of immortality. He inquires, “If I gain immortality, will I still be me after I die?” Yama explained that the body is like a chariot, with the senses as horses, the intellect as the charioteer, and the Self as the one who rides in the back. In this book Atma is translated as the Self, and is understood not only as the individual consciousness but also as the universal Being towards which all love flows. Yama explained:
If a person does not know the Self, then his mind is restless, like uncontrolled reins. The horses dash this way and that, dragging the whole chariot in every direction. Such a person never reaches the goal of life. But those who know the Self have even minds. They reach their home.
He further explained:
When you seek life eternal, you must turn your attention inward. There you will find the Self. The innermost Self resides in the center of the heart like a flame without smoke. It is the same today and will be the same tomorrow. It grants all desires. The Self is Brahman. It is the immortal. You will know the Self when your senses are still, your mind is at peace, and your heart is pure.
The need to know the Self is a recurring theme throughout these stories. From the Chhandogya Upanishad, for example, there is the story of Satyakama who wanted to become a knower of Brahman. He went to a guru who told him that the first step was to know his Self. The guru then surprised his student by sending him off to a distant pasture to care for a herd of weak and sickly cows. Over a period of years, Satyakama dutifully cared for the cows. He also meditated, and his mind became quiet “like a vast ocean of silence.” The cows gradually became healthy and multiplied under his tender care, and when their number reached a thousand, a ‘wise bull’ – the head of the herd – spoke to Satyakama about the nature of Brahman. The bull then sent him to learn from a swan, a bird, and the spirit of fire. Each of them revealed in one way or another the secret that Brahman is intimately present everywhere and in all things. It is only after all of these encounters with nature that Satyakama’s guru explained: “Brahman is realized by knowing the Self, your true nature. Then you realize that you are everywhere – you are endless. And you are radiant. This is the supreme knowledge, Brahma Vidya.”
Of all the human virtues lauded in these stories, perhaps humility and respect for all creatures are most important. In one story, Janashruti, a great king who was famous for his unbounded generosity and kindness toward all his subjects, had to learn the lesson of humility. The king’s only fault was that he prided himself on these very virtues. Everywhere he looked he saw the results of his generosity in the happy and prosperous state of his grateful subjects. He was quite sure he must be the wisest king ever. The beginning of transformative wisdom for the king came when he overheard two geese telling each other that he was a fool compared with Raikva, a poor cart driver. The king sent ministers to search for this unknown Raikva. They finally found him sitting under his bullock cart amidst the noise and bustle of a busy marketplace in ragged, dusty clothes.
Even though he looked like a poor man, his large serene eyes and peaceful face created a feeling of silence amidst the clatter of the market. A radiant light shone all around him. He seemed to be floating in sweet, simple happiness.
The king went to the marketplace in a palanquin followed by a parade of elephants, and grandly presented a gift of 600 cows, a gold necklace, and a chariot to the poor cart driver. “But Raikva did not even look at them. He looked straight at the proud king. ‘I don’t want your gifts,’ he said gently. ‘Please take them and leave.’”
One story seems to reflect the dual nature of human consciousness, in which one aspect is satisfied by and engrossed in material existence, while another aspect longs and searches for a higher truth. It begins: “High in the starry heavens Prajapati, the protector of life, was teaching about the nature of Atma, the Self…. Prajapati’s words were overheard by both the shining devas (the positive powers of nature) and the Asuras (the negative powers).” The devas and asuras both wished to know more about the nature of Atma, so the devas sent the god Indra to study with Prajapati, and the asuras sent Virochana. Prajapati’s initial teaching to Indra and Virochana implied that Atma is the body. Virochana went back to the asuras and told them, “The body is Atma. If the body is satisfied, then we will obtain all our desires.” The asuras were pleased with this teaching. Indra, on the other hand, was dissatisfied and kept pressing Prajapati for ever deeper truth about Atma. Ultimately he learned that: “When the Self knows its own nature, it shines within itself. This is the highest light. This is Atma. When the Self knows its own nature, it laughs and plays and rejoices. The Self is pure happiness. The Self is immortal.”
Kumuda Reddy and Thomas and Linda Egenes, who collaborated on selecting and composing these stories, are all disciples of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and practitioners of Transcendental Meditation. In their understanding, Vedic literature expresses “the fundamental structures of Natural Law at the basis of the universe…. The Upanishads especially focus on the ultimate reality of life.” They claim that a clear connection exists between the ‘fundamental structures of Natural Law’ expressed in Vedic literature and human consciousness and physiology.
With this understanding, we appreciate that the full meaning of the Upanishads is not found in books. Rather, the Upanishads are structures of our own intelligence, our own consciousness, our own Self – Atma – and can be directly experienced in the simplest state of our own awareness, pure consciousness…. This discovery shows that every one of us is Veda; everyone has the total intelligence of Natural Law and its infinite organizing power within their own mind and body.
The authors stress, however, the importance of meditation practice to experience the “beautiful, evolutionary qualities of consciousness expressed by the Upanishads.” From “the highest level of human experience” towards which the Upanishads point, “one flows in universal love, nourishing everyone and everything.” In that state “everyone and everything is as near and dear to us as our own Self.”
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