Invoke the Gods to know thyself through meditation

The following is from Swami Nikhilanda’s translation of Shvetashvatara Upanishad. Part of the Krishna Yajurveda, this text of 113 verses in six chapters is mankind’s oldest exposition of yoga. The following verses are drawn from chapter 2 and have been lightly edited for clarity.

O senses, and O Deities who favor them! Through salutations I unite myself with the eternal Brahman, your source. Let this prayer sung by me, who follows the right path of the Sun, go forth in all directions. May the sons of the Immortal, who occupy celestial positions, hear it!

Where fire is kindled by rubbing, where the air is controlled, and where Soma is greatly revealed, there the perfect mind is produced. Serve the eternal Brahman with the blessings of the Sun, the cause of the universe. Be absorbed, through samadhi, in the eternal Brahman. Thus your work will not bind you.

The yogi of well-regulated endeavors should control the pranas; when they are quieted, he should breathe out through the nostrils. Then let him undistractedly restrain his mind, as a charioteer restrains his horses.

Let yoga be practiced within a cave protected from the high wind, or a place which is level, pure and free from pebbles, gravel and fire, undisturbed by the noise of water [public wells] or of market booths, and which is delightful to the mind and not offensive to the eye.

When yoga is practiced, the forms which appear first and which gradually manifest Brahman are those of snowflakes, smoke, sun, wind, fire, fireflies, lightning, crystal and the moon.

When earth, water, fire, air and akasha arise, that is to say, when the five attributes of the elements mentioned in the books on yoga become manifest, then the yogi’s body becomes purified by the fire of yoga and he is free from illness, old age and death.

The precursors of perfection in yoga, they say, are lightness and healthiness of the body, absence of desire, clear complexion, pleasantness of voice, sweet odor and slight excretions.

As gold covered by earth shines bright after it has been purified, so also the yogi, realizing the truth of Atman, becomes one with the nondual Atman, attains the goal and is free from grief.

And when the yogi beholds the real nature of Brahman, through the knowledge of the Self, radiant as a lamp, then, having known the unborn and immutable Lord, who is untouched by ignorance and its effects, he is freed from all fetters.

He indeed, the Lord, who pervades all regions, was the first to be born, and it is He who dwells in the womb [of the universe]. It is He, again, who is born [as a child], and He will be born in the future. He stands behind all persons, and His face is everywhere.

Swami Nikhilananda (1895-1973) was founder and spiritual leader of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York from 1933 to his Mahasamadhi in 1973. His four-volume Upanishad translation was completed in 1959.