Seeing Beyond the Sun by Swami Nirmalananda Giri (part 1)

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This commentary on the Isha Upanishad by Swami Nirmalananda Giri discusses the significant of the sun in spiritual practice. The outer material aspects of the sun and the inner metaphysical aspects of the sun are discussed in detail. Part 1 discusses the six characteristics of the “golden orb” of the sun: physcial sunlight and it’s affects on the human body and pineal gland; sunlight prana; consciousness; mind; and atman or spiritual Self; and the evolutionary urge.

Commentary on the Isha Upanishad

by Swami Nirmalananda Giri

Seeing Beyond the Sun
Commentary on the Isha Upanishad
Upanishadic tradition


The final four verses of the Isha Upanishad are recited at the cremation of bodies in India, and are a prayer for ascension to the higher realms that are beyond the compulsion of rebirth in this world. These deal mainly with the sun. Throughout history and throughout the world the sun has been worshipped or considered a symbol of divinity. The full comprehension of the spiritual nature of the sun was discovered in India untold ages ago and embodied in the upanishads.


Light beyond the light

“The face of truth is hidden by thy golden orb, O Sun. That do thou remove, in order that I who am devoted to truth may behold its glory.” The sun illumines us and shows us what we assume to be reality. But actually that “seeing” veils the Truth (Reality) behind that veil. Therefore we seek to pierce beyond it. However, the sun actually is that Reality, and we must approach it and petition for the removal of its outer light in order that we may behold its inner Light. (More on this later.)


The golden orb

The “golden orb” has more than one meaning, all of which are significant.

1) The most obvious meaning of the golden orb is the sun itself. All plant, animal, and human life on this planet depend upon the sun. It is the subtle powers of sunlight which stimulate growth and evolution. Sunlight particularly stimulates the activity of the higher centers in the brain, especially that of the pineal gland. Even in the depths of the earth a sensitive man can tell when the sun rises and sets above him. The sun appears to illuminate us, but it is a light that covers the Light in order to lead us to the Light. We must use it to go beyond it.

2) All things have an inner and outer life, and that includes the sun. We may say that there is the outer sun of the material universe, and there is also the metaphysical sun of the psychic universe. They operate simultaneously, being the same thing. The sun truly awakens us in the deepest sense. As the germinating seed struggles upward toward the sun and out into its life-giving rays, so all higher forms of life reach out for the sun, which acts as a metaphysical magnet, drawing them upward and outward toward ever-expanding consciousness. The Chandogya Upanishad discusses it in this way: “Even as a great extending highway runs between two villages, this one and that yonder, even so the rays of the sun go to both these worlds, this one and that yonder. They start from the yonder sun and enter into the nadis. They start from the nadis and enter into the yonder sun.…When a man departs from this body, then he goes upwards by these very rays or he goes up with the thought of Om. As his mind is failing, he goes to the sun. That, verily, is the gateway of the world, an entering in for the knowers, a shutting out for the non-knowers.”

The solar rays do not just flow into this world, they also draw upward through the sun and beyond. In the human body the process of exhalation and inhalation is related to solar energy, and much of the solar power on which we subsist is drawn into the body through our breathing. The solar rays do not just strike the surface of our body, but actually penetrate into the physical nerves (nadis). The nadis are also the channels in the astral body that correspond to the physical nerves. Just as the electrical impulses flow through the physical nerves, the subtle life force, or prana, flows through the subtle nadis and keeps us alive and functioning. The prana, then, is a vehicle for the solar energies that produce evolution.

When the individual comes into manifestation on this earth he passes from the astral world into the material plane by means of the sun, which is a mass of exploding astral energies, not mere flaming gases. And when the individual has completed his course of evolution within this plane, upon the death of his body he rises upward in his subtle body and passes through the sun into the higher worlds, there to evolve even higher or to pass directly into the depths of the transcendent Brahman.

3) The golden orb is also the entire creation, the means by which through experience the individual spirits can evolve to perfect conscious union with God. Without it we would be unable to attain that union. Yet, just as we use a ladder or stair to ascend and then step beyond it, in the same way the creation is meant to be eventually transcended. We must therefore keep both these aspects in mind while living in this world.

4) The golden orb is also our own mind–that which perceives the world around us and the intelligence which comprehends what is going on and directs our lives accordingly. Potential is not enough; there must be actualization. It is our mind alone that can lead us beyond the mind, our intelligence alone that can lead us onward to intuition. At all stages the mind and intelligence are “golden,” but if we allow ourselves to become stagnated at any point they rapidly “tarnish” and turn from beneficial to harmful. Immersed in this creation, we are like the fish that must keep perpetually moving for they will die of suffocation if they come to a standstill. If we do not move forward we shall move backward–and often mistake it for progress. We must Get On and Get Beyond.

5) Our own self (atman) is also the golden orb. We must come to know our self–our true self–and delight in the self and wonder at its nature. But that is not enough. We must then pass onward to experience the Self of our self, the Paramatman. In a sense we transcend the self–but of course we do not, since the Supreme Self and our individual self are one. This transcendence must ever be kept in mind, for out of ignorance and even laziness a lot of people like the idea that we need only enter into the experience of our self and that is the end. The same wrong-headed view abrogates the need for our evolution and assumes that if we must smash the machine we will get the picture–or even worse, that there is no picture to see or even a seer to see it. However cleverly this view may be worded or how sophisticated it appears, it is nihilism of the deadliest sort, a ruinous pitfall.

6) The golden orb is also the evolutionary impulse within all things which, though life itself to the evolving spirit, yet urges us to continual transcendence of its various stages until we transcend it as well. It is a golden stair that urges us onward to the heights where it cannot come.




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This entry was posted on Monday, May 20th, 2024 at 5:14 pm and is filed under Books.

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