By Swami Harshananda
Contents of Brahmavidyā Upaniṣad
This is one of the minor Upaniṣads belonging to the Kṛṣna Yajurveda. It is a fairly large work of 110 ślokas or verses in the anuṣṭubh meter. The topics dealt with in this Upaniṣad are:
- The Praṇava or Oṅkāra
- The Haiṅsamantra (so’ham hamsah)
- Various aspects of meditation on these two mantras
Technique of Observing Praṇava
The Upaniṣad starts with an exposition of Praṇava, its four parts and contemplations connected with them. Just as the sound of a gong or a bell (made of bell metal) gradually gets attenuated finally merging into the infinite sound or infinite silence, the mind of a yogi who utters the Praṇava (Orh), lengthening it over sixteen mātrās or instants of time, simultaneously concentrating his mind on that sound, also gets dissolved in Brahman. Brahman is the final goal of praṇava-japa.
Technique of Hamsavidyā
Hamsavidyā is the next topic to be discussed. The words ‘harī’ and ‘sah’ represent the jīvātman (the individual self) and Parmātman or Brahman (the Supreme Self) respectively. The natural breathing process of inhalation and exhalation should be mentally connected with the two words ‘ham’ and ‘sah’. Then the process of breathing itself gets converted into japa (repetition of divine name) ultimately resulting in the experience of the unity of the two. This is Hamsavidyā.
Techniques for Absorbing the Upaniṣad
This Upaniṣad stresses that the ātman can be known only through the śruti (the scripture or the Vedas) and the ācārya (spiritual preceptor). It further describes three types of ācāryas
- The Codaka - It is actually the Vedas which impel a person to take to the spiritual path.
- The Bodhaka - It is the teacher who teaches the disciple, ‘Thou art That.’
- The Mokṣada - It is the Lord himself, since it is only he that can give mokṣa or liberation.
Here, the Upaniṣad declares that it is in the heart alone that one realizes this ‘Hamsa’ or the Lord who is the indwelling spirit. The work concludes with a long, highly poetical, soliloquy by the knower of the Self, the gist of which is that he exists in all and he himself is everything.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore