Based on the bhAshya of SrI Sankara bhagavatpAda
Realization of identity with brahman, which is the goal of the spiritual aspirant, is explained in chapters 3 and 4.
sanatsujAta yadimAm parArthAm
brAhmIm vAcam vadasi hi viSvarUpAm
parAm hi kAryeshu sudurlabhAm kathAm
prabrUhi me vAkyamevam kumara 1
1.O sanatsujAta, you have been telling me about the various means of attaining brahman, which is the highest goal of human life, in words which are very lofty and convey many meanings. It is very difficult even to get an opportunity to hear these in this world of objects. Please tell me now about brahman itself.
naitad brahma tvaramANena labhyam
yanmAm pRcchasyabhishangeNa rAjan
buddhau praline manasi pracintyA
vidyA hi sA brahmacaryeNa labhyA 2
2. O king, this brahman about which you are asking me with such eagerness cannot be attained by a person who is in a hurry. This knowledge is to be meditated upon by the intellect in which the mind has merged, i.e., when the cogitating mind has been withdrawn from all external objects and has become fixed on the Self. This knowledge which is to be meditated upon can be attained only by the practice of "brahmacarya" .
AdyAm vidyAm vadasi hi satyarUpAm
yA prApyate brahmacaryeNa sadbhih
yAm prApyainam martyabhAvam tyajanti
yA vai vidyAguruvRdheshu nityA 3
3. You are asking about the knowledge of that uncaused Truth which is beyond this unreal universe. It can be attained only by the wise who practise brahmacarya. On attaining that one sheds the notion of being a mere mortal. This knowledge reposes in one to whom it has been imparted by his guru.
On hearing this dhRtarAshtra said:
brahmacaryeNa yA vidyA SakyA veditum anjasA
tat katham brahmacaryam syAd etad vidvan bravIhi me 4
4. O wise one, please tell me about that brahmacarya by means of which this knowledge can be attained.
AcAryayonimiha ye praviSya
bhUtvA garbham brahmacaryam vadanti
ihaiva te SAstrakArA bhavanti
vihAya deham paramam yAnti satyam 5
5. Those who enter the womb of a guru, i.e., approach a guru in the prescribed manner, become his disciples and serve him, become learned in the scriptures in this world itself. Then, by the practice of reflection and contemplation they attain the supreme Being who is of the nature of Truth when they cast off their bodies on the exhaustion of their prArabdha karma.
asmin loke vijayantIha kAmAn
brAhmIm sthitim anutitikshamANAh
ta AtmAnam nirharantIha dehAn
munjAdishIkAmiva dhIrabhAvAt 6
6. They conquer all desires in this world itself. Constantly practising the state of identity with brahman with determination they separate the Self from the body, just as one would separate the stalk from the munja grass
Note. The KaThopanishad, 2.3.17, says: The indwelling Self of the size of one's thumb ever resides in the heart of living beings. That should be separated with determination from one's body in the same way as one separates the stalk from the munja grass. Know that Self to be pure and immortal.
SarIrametau kurutah pita mAtA ca bhArata
AcAryatastu yajjanma tat satyam vai tathAmRtam 7
7. O bharata, the father and mother give you this body which is not real (but only mithyA). The birth from the guru as brahman which is existence-consciousness-bliss is real and it is immortal.
Note. The praSnopanishad says: You (guru) are our father who has taken us beyond ignorance.
Apastamba says: The AcArya creates the disciple out of knowledge. That is the highest birth. The parents create only the body.
sa AvRNotyamRtam samprayaccham-
stasmai na druhyet kRtamasya jAnan
gurum Sishyo nityamabhivAdayati
svAdhyAyamicchecca sadApramattah 8
8. He (AcArya) leads the disciple to the attainment of brahman which is immortal. The disciple should never do any harm to his AcArya, knowing what very great good he has done. The disciple should pay his respectful obeisance to the AcArya every day. He should always be vigilant and eager to learn from the AcArya.
Note. The SvetAsvatara upanishad says: Only that noble soul who has supreme devotion to God and equal devotion to his guru will be able to understand the real purport of these teachings.
Apastamba says: The disciple should never do any harm to his guru who perfects his disciple by imparting knowledge.
Now brahmacarya is described:
SishyavRttikrameNaiva vidyAmApnoti yah Sucih
brahmacaryavratasyAsya prathamah pAda ucyate 9
9. The disciple who is pure in mind receives knowledge by resorting to a guru in the prescribed manner. This is the first step of the vow of brahmacarya.
yathA nityam gurau vRttirgurupatnyAm tathAcaret
tatputre ca tathA kurvan dvitIyah pAda ucyate 10
10. The disciple should show the same respect towards the wife and son of the guru as to the guru himself. This is called the second step of brahmacarya.
jnAtvA cArtham bhAvito'smItyanena
yanmanyate tam prati hRshTabuddhih
sa vai tRtIyo brahmacaryasya pAdah 11
11.Realizing the great benefit conferred by the AcArya on him, and understanding the ultimate purport of the vedas, considering himself as having attained his natural state of being the non-dual brahman which is existence-consciousness-bliss, he becomes happy and grateful to the AcArya. This is the third step of brahmacarya.
AcAryAya priyam kuryAt prANairapi dhanairapi
karmaNA manasA vAcA caturthah pAda ucyate 12
12. He should do whatever is good for the AcArya with his life and wealth, and by deed, thought and word. This is the fourth step.
kAlena pAdam labhate tathAyam
tathaiva pAdam guruyogataSca
utsAhayogena ca pAdamRcchet
SAstreNa pAdam ca tato"bhiyAti 13
13. The disciple learns one-fourth from the guru, one-fourth by his own effort, one-fourth by discussion with his co-disciples, and one-fourth by the efflux of time. (The expression "through the Sastra" in the last line means "by discussion with other disciples" according to Sri Sankara.)
jnAnAdayo dvAdaSa yasya rUpam
anyAni cAngAni tathA balam ca
AcAryayoge phalatIti cAhu-
rbrahmArthayogena ca brahmacaryam 14
14. The twelve great vows beginning with knowledge of the Reality (mentioned in Sloka 19 of chapter2) which form his essence, the six kinds of sacrifice (mentioned in Slokas 25, 26 and 27 of chapter 2), the capacity to practise them-all these become fruitful only with the support of the AcArya, it is said. The practice of brahmacarya culminates in the realization of identity with brahman only by the service of the AcArya.
etena brahmacaryeNa devA devatvam Apnuvan
RshayaSca mahAbhAgA brahmacaryeNa cAbhavan 15
etenaiva sagandharvA rUpam apsaraso"jayan
etena brahmacaryeNa sUrya ahnAya jAyate 16
15 & 16. It is by this brahmacarya that the gods got their godhood, the sages attained greatness, the gandharvas and divine damsels got their beautiful form, and the sun was born to illumine the world.
How can brahmacarya produce so many different results? This is being answered:
AkAngkshArthasya samyogAd rasabhedArthinAm iva
evam hyetat samAjnAya tAdRgbhAvam gatA ime 17
17. Just as people desiring different objects are brought into contact with those objects (by wish-fulfilling gems like chintAmaNi), so also the devas and others, knowing that brahmacarya could fulfill their desires, observed brahmacarya and attained the desired results.
So the spiritual aspirant should observe brahmacarya, living with the AcArya, for attaining the highest goal, liberation.
Is jnAna alone the cause of the supreme goal or is it karma?
antavantah kshatriya te jayanti
lokAn janAh karmaNA nirmitena
jnAnena vidvAmsteja abhyeti nityam
na vidyate hyanyathA tasya panthAH 18
18. O kshatriya, by means of karma people attain only the impermanent worlds such as those of the gods and the manes. By knowledge the enlightened person attains that eternal effulgence which is the supreme Self. There is no other path to it.
AbhAti Suklamiva lohitamivAtho
kRshNamathArjunam kAdravam vA
yad brAhmaNah paSyati yatra vidvAn
katham rUpam tad amRtamaksharam param 19
19. Is that immortal, imperishable, supreme Being whom the enlightened person realizes white, red, black, bright, or smoky in colour? What is his form? Where is he realized?
nAbhAti Suklamiva lohitamivAtho
kRshNam athArjunam vA kAdravam vA
na pRthivyAm nAntarikshe
naitat samudre salilam bibharti 20
20. It does not appear as white, or red, or black, or bright, or smoky, because it has no colour. It is neither on the earth nor in the sky. Nor does it reside in the ocean with a body made up of the five elements.
Note. SrI Sankara says that the word "salilam" in the last line which means "water" stands for all the five elements. Brahman has no form. It is not confined to any place because it is infinite. It does not have a body made up of the five elements.
naivarkshu tanna yajuHshu nApyatharvasu
na dRSyate vai vimaleshu sAmasu
rathantare bArhate vApi rAjan
mahAvratasyAtmani dRSyate tat 21
21. It is not seen in the Rgveda or the yajurveda or the atharva veda or in the pure sAma veda, nor in the sections of sAmaveda known as rathantara or bRhatsAma. It is seen in the self of the person who practises the great vows described earlier.
avAraNIyam tamasaH parastAt
aNIyarUpam ca tathApyaNIyasAm
mahatsvarUpam tvapi parvatebhyaH 22
22. It can never be negated. It is beyond ignorance. At the time of pralaya the universe merges into it. It is subtler than the subtlest and bigger than the mountain.
tadetadahnA samsthitam bhAti sarvam
tadAtmavit paSyati jnAnayogAt
tasmin jagat sarvamidam pratishThitam
ya etadviduramRtAste bhavanti 23
23. This entire universe shines (appears) only because of the light of this brahman. The knower of the Self sees it through the yoga of jnAna. All this universe is established in it. Those who know it become immortal.
End of Chapter-3