Hari Om! Namaste!!
It is a very interesting question, is it not? This is the exact question that is asked and answered in detail in Kena Upanishat. This Upanishat explains by whom everything works. In Sanskrit, Kena means ‘by whom’. Fine. Can we go to the questions, now?
Kenoshitam patati preshitam manah? Kena pranah prathamah praiti yuktah? |
Kenoshitam vachamimam vadanti? chakshuh shrotram ka u Devo yunakti? || – Kena Upanishat, Mantra 1.1
Meaning: By whose will and direction mind lights on its objects? By whom urged the first breath goes forth? By whom urged people speak the words? Who directs the eye and the ear?
Human mind and body system is an amazing machine. It works so smoothly by careful balancing act. Many organs like heart, brain, stomach, etc. apparently work involuntarily. Is that really so? Does some other force help them to function? These fundamental questions are being asked here by the disciple. Further, here are the questions in the above Upanishat mantra:
- It seems like, our mind, pretty much independently desires to think and direct itself to give us thoughts. But, it is not so. Then the question is: Who desires and directs our mind to work?
- We are all alive because of breathing. Right? When was the last time we focused our attention to breathing? When climbing a staircase? :) Jokes apart, we actually take our breathing granted when we are living! It looks like breathing happens without anybody’s assistance. But, it is really not so. Just think for a moment: Who really starts our first breath to make us alive ? Who sustains it so that we can breathe continuously without any effort?
- We talk almost spontaneously and effortlessly. Apparently, we believe that speech is generated automatically. Actually, it is not so. Then, by whose command words come out? or Who generates words and controls our speech?
- We see with our eyes and hear using our ears. Who directs the function of these organs so that they do their respective jobs?
In summary, who is the real director of our body and mind machinery? Who starts, sustains and stops the function of organs such as mind, speech, eye and ear? Who puts everything into their respective functions?
Very important and great questions indeed! Entire Kena Upanishat is devoted to answer these. The devoted disciple(Shishya) asks these very fundamental questions to a Great Sage(Maharishi). The Master bestows the authoritative answer.
Asking the right questions is the most important first step in knowing anything. This why the disciple must be qualified enough to ask relevant questions to understand the answers clearly.
Are you eager to know the answer? OK. We will try to give an excerpt for you. Be attentive! Our Great Master replies in the next mantra.
Shrotrasya shrotam manaso mano yat vacho ha vachagm sa u pranasya pranah |
Chakshushasya chakshuratimuchya dheerah pretyasmallokadamritaa bhavanti || – Kena Upanishat, Mantra 1.2
Meaning: It is that which is ear of the ear, mind of the mind, speech of the speech, life breath of the life breath, eye of the eye . By abandoning(the sense of ‘I’ in these) and departing from this world, the wise become immortal.
Insights: What a beautiful statement by our Maharishi! That Brahman (also known as Universal Self, God, Paramatma etc.) gives the capability for the ear to listen. That force which is in everything, beyond everything and controls everything is called the Brahman by our Great Masters in Upanishads.
He is the ear of the ear. Otherwise, ear cannot listen and it becomes deaf! Similarly, eye of the eye: eye cannot see without That Brahman. In other words, the Brahman makes the eye function. Otherwise, eye becomes blind! Moreover, mind cannot think without the assistance of Brahman. Very interesting!
Similarly, other components of our mind and body system like life breath and speech do not function without the help and command of That Force called Brahman. It is That Force of Brahman that makes everything work including so called involuntary systems like mind.
To summarize, apparently we control(at least, we think so!) many organs of our body like hands, legs etc. But, what about involuntary organs like mind? Who makes every organ work? The answer is: It is That Force of Brahman which makes every organ work. Thus, the Brahman directs and controls everything.
Knowing this Truth, we should not attach ourselves with our body and organs. Because, our real us in us is not the body or some organ. We need to know that eternal Brahman beyond our body and mind, who commands and controls everything. We can only know it clearly by our own experience by merging with it. Thus, we can become immortal.
I am curious! How can we experience Brahman?
Tadvijnaartham sa Gurumevabhigacchet samitpanih Shrotriyam Brahmanishtam | – Mundaka Upanishat, Mantra 1.2.12
Meaning: To know that Truth(Brahman) he approaches a Guru(Master), who is well-versed in the Vedas and realized the Brahman, holding holy firewood in his hand. It commands that one has to approach a Realized Master with reverence to know that Brahman. Got it?
What a great revelation of the eternal Turths in Upanishads from our Great Masters! Our respectful salutations to them for their Highest Knowledge.
Note: As you can see, it is very challenging or almost impossible to understand Upanishads directly without referring to any commentary. So, while interpreting mantras in Upanishads, we followed the traditional commentary, Shankara Bhashya of our Great Master Shri Shankara Bhagavatpadah.
Om Namah Shivaya ||