Seeing Beyond the Sun by Swami Nirmalananda Giri (part 2)

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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 2 discusses the methods by which a person can use the sun’s energy for physical health and spiritual enlightenment.  Meditation, pranayama, and the OM mantra techniques are taught.

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.


The Supreme Sun

The ultimate Golden Orb is the Supreme Self. That is what we are striving toward by the five means just cited. Being transcendent, how shall we reach it? By means of Its immanence within the world in the form of the sacred syllable Om, the Pranava, the Life-giver. “That which glows [i.e., the sun] is Om,” says the ancient Aitareya-Brahmana. The life-producing energies of the sun are the energies of Om. Om is the sun of body, mind, and spirit, the Life-Giver of all. All plant, animal, and human life on this planet depends upon the sun. It is the subtle powers of sunlight which stimulate growth and evolution, awakening us in the deepest sense. Sunlight is the radiant form of Om. The sun initiates the entire solar system into Om. Human beings are solar creatures, therefore to intone Om is the most natural thing they can do.

“Now, verily, what is the udgitha is the Om. What is Om is the udgitha. And so verily, the udgitha is the yonder sun and the Om, for the sun is continually sounding ‘Om.’”58 The most significant part of this verse is the statement that “the sun is continually sounding ‘Om,’” indicating that the evolutionary energy of the sun is a manifestation of Om. Our life depends on the light of the sun, thus our life is also a manifestation of the power of Om. The japa and meditation of Om aligns us with the solar powers that are Om and thereby greatly increase our life force and the evolution of all the levels of our being.

“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 [astral “nerves”]. 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.” We have already cited this, but there are more meanings for us to explore. The prana, the breath, is a vehicle for the solar energies that produce evolution, and so we join Om to our breathing and merge it into the pranic flow. This practice conditions our subtle levels so that at the time of death we will be oriented toward the solar powers and can ascend upon them–especially if we continue our intonations of Om even after the body has been dropped. Those intonations will guarantee our ascent into the solar world. Those who have imbued themselves with the Pranavic vibrations will enter through the solar gate, whereas those who have not done so will be shut out by it and compelled to return to earthly rebirth. “

By means of Om he [the meditating yogi] sees the way, the way along which his prana goes; therefore one should always repeat It so that he goes along the right way: through the heart-gate, the air-gate, the gate which leads upward, and the opening of the gate of liberation which is known as the open orb [the sun.]” Those who continually invoke and meditate upon Om during their lifetime will remember Om at the time of death, and by means of Om will ascend to the sun and beyond into the real Beyond.

“‘It is said: ‘Indeed the sun is this Om;’ therefore one should meditate and make himself ready to unite himself with it.” Sunlight is the radiant form of Om. The sun initiates the entire solar system into Om. Human beings are solar creatures, therefore to intone Om is the most natural things they can do.

“At the time of departure from this world, remember Om, the Lord, the Protector” says the Yajur Veda. Krishna states in the Bhagavad Gita: “At the hour of death, when a man leaves his body, he must depart with his consciousness absorbed in Me. Then he will be united with Me. Be certain of that. Whatever a man remembers at the last, when he is leaving the body, will be realized by him in the hereafter; because that will be what his mind has most constantly dwelt on, during this life. Therefore you must remember Me at all times, and do your duty. If your mind and heart are set upon Me constantly, you will come to Me. Never doubt this. Make a habit of practicing meditation, and do not let your mind be distracted. In this way you will come finally to the Lord, Who is the light-giver, the highest of the high.” Whatever we think of most during life we will think of at the time of our death, and that will determine our subsequent state. Those who continually invoke and meditate upon Om during their lifetime will remember Om at the time of death, and by means of Om will ascend to the sun and beyond into the real Beyond.


Qualified seers

Simply wanting a thing does not make it happen or come to us. In the same way, spiritual daydreaming is fruitless. Therefore, he who petitions for the removal of the golden orb describes himself as “I who am devoted to truth.” He is one who wishes to pass from the unreal to the Real, to no longer live in the magic of Maya, but to move onward to the Reality behind all appearance. And he does not just seek truth or think about it–he is devoted to truth. Only those “may behold its glory.”


Stop! so I may Go

“O nourisher, only seer, controller of all—O illumining Sun, fountain of life for all creatures–withhold thy light, gather together thy rays. May I behold through thy grace thy most blessed form. The Being that dwells therein even that Being am I.” In Indian philosophy God is often thought of as Mother. This verse bears that out, speaking of the divine as the Nourisher of all beings, the Fountain of Life. God the Mother is frequently addressed in Sanskrit hymns as Jagata Janani, Jagata Palani–the Birthgiver and Nourisher of the world (jagat). In Eastern Christianity, one title given to the Virgin Mother Mary is “Life-giving Spring.” God is also the Seer of All, the Ruler of All, as this verse indicates.

The petitioner then makes an interesting request: “Withhold thy light, gather together thy rays.” How is this? Why does he not ask that the light should flood down upon him? Because the “light” he is speaking of is not the Absolute Light, but the light of relative existence which by its nature veils that Ultimate Light. He asks, then, that God withdraw the light of temporality in order that he might behold and enter into the Light of Eternity.

This has a yogic aspect, as well. We must withdraw all the scattered “rays” of our energies and awareness and unite them to our inmost consciousness. We must gather up that which is dispersed and fragmented and restore our original state of unity. Meditation is the only way this can be accomplished.


The vision

May I behold through thy grace thy most blessed form.” Two questions arise (or should arise) at these words. What is the grace of God? What is the form of God?

The grace of God is not some kind of favor or “goodie” dropped into our lap by God. Nor is grace something occasionally dispensed by God as a special token to the chosen. All that exists–either relatively or absolutely–is the grace of God. There is nothing that is not the grace of God. If we like, we may say that the grace of God is the Divine Plan for our liberation. And the creation, gross and subtle, is the means for the realization of that Plan, and is itself Grace Divine. So to petition God for grace is as silly as fish in the ocean praying for water. It is inseparable from us! The grace through which we behold God is the great onward movement initiated by God at the inception of the cosmos.

The Form of God is not a form such as that experienced in relative existence, but is the Substance, the Light, from which all forms arise. It can be said to be formless, and yet all forms exist within it eternally. As Sri Ma Anandamayi frequently said: “Nothing is lost There.” The Form “of” God IS God.

When we see God we also see ourselves in God and can then declare: “The Being that dwells therein even that Being am I.”

“Then Satyakama, son of Shibi, asked him [the Rishi Pippalada]: ‘Venerable Sir, what world does he who meditates on Om until the end of his life, win by That?’ To him, he said: ‘That which is the sound Om, O Satyakama, is verily the higher and the lower Brahman. Therefore, with this support alone does the wise man reach the one or the other.’…If he meditates on the Supreme Being [Parampurusha] with the Syllable Om, he becomes one with the Light, the Sun. He is led to the world of Brahman. He sees the Person that dwells in the body, Who is higher than the highest life.…That the wise one attains, even by the mere sound Om as support, That Which is tranquil, unaging, immortal, fearless, and supreme.”




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This entry was posted on Saturday, May 25th, 2024 at 2:24 pm and is filed under Books.

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