The Brahman Can Be Known

The ultimate question we must ask ourselves is what is the significance of our lives.  We become self-aware and world-aware, but we have no reference point to determine why this may be.  For most people, it is simply a matter of accepting the conditions of life and striving to survive and thrive in whatever situation we may find ourselves.  For some, this is insufficient, and they seek to determine some purpose, and during that seeking, they try to understand how it is we came to be alive, to be conscious, and why and how we are born, survive and then eventually die.  Life for us is a puzzle and a mystery.

Some conclude that in order to know the truth behind our existence, we must abandon active participation in the world within which we exist.  Sri Aurobindo notes:  “In effect we should have to suppose that there is an eternal and irreconcilable opposition between Brahman and what we now are, between the supreme cause and all its effects or between the supreme source and all its derivations.  And it would then seem that all that the Eternal originates, all he supports, all he takes back to himself is a denial or contradiction of his being which, though in itself a negative of that which alone is, has yet in some way become a positive.  The two could not coexist in consciousness; if he allowed the world to know him, it would disappear from being.”

“But the Eternal is knowable.  He defines himself so that we may seize him, and man can become, even while he exists as man and in this world and in this body, a knower of the Brahman.”

The knower of Brahman does not, thereby, lose his footing in this world.  This knowledge “… is a knowledge that is a power and a divine compulsion to change; by it his existence gains something that now he does not possess in consciousness.  What is this gain?  It is this that he is conscious now in a lower state only of his being, but by knowledge gains his highest being.”

“The highest state of our being is not a denial, contradiction and annihilation of all that we now are; it is a supreme accomplishment of all things that our present existence means and aims at, but in their highest sense and in the eternal values.”

To know Brahman, then, is to affirm not only the negative aspects of “not this, not that” which reminds us that we cannot circumscribe the reality of existence within our logical mental forms and formulas, but also the positive aspects that “He is”.  All that we see and experience, and all that goes beyond our experience is also the Brahman.  This knowledge liberates us from the bondage of renunciation just as it liberates us from the bondage of attachment.

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Readings in the Taittiriya Upanishad, pp. 245-250, M. P. Pandit, Upanishads: Gateways of Knowledge, pp. 109-182