A Vedic reflection on That which is in and through all existence
The following is a translation of the Svetasvatara Upanishad’s chapter four, from The Principal Upanishads by S. Radhakrishnan. This Upanishad belongs to the Shukla Yajurveda. The following verses have been edited for clarity.
1. May we be endowed with clear understanding by That which is one, without any colors; from He who, by the manifold exercise of His power, distributes many colors in His hidden purpose; That in whom the potential Universe resides at the beginning and end of existence.
2. That indeed is fire, that is the sun, that is the wind and that is the moon. That, indeed, is the pure. That is Brahma. That is the waters. That is the Lord of Creation.
3. You are the woman. You are the man. You are the youth and the maiden too. You, as an old man, totter along with a staff. Being born in all, You face every direction.
4. You are the dark blue bird, You are the green parrot with red eyes. You are the cloud with the lightning in its womb. You are the seasons and the seas. Having no beginning, You abide through omnipresence. From You, all worlds are born.
5. The One is unborn, red, white and black. You produce manifold individual souls similar in form to You. The One that is unborn remains in delight. The individual soul may too remain in delight, having been caught in activity and then given it up, having had their enjoyment.
6. Two birds, companions who are always united, cling to the self-same tree. Of these two, one eats the sweet fruit and the other observes without eating.
7. On the same tree, a person immersed in the sorrows of the world is deluded and grieves on account of his helplessness. When he sees the Other, who does not consume the fruit of worldly activity—the Lord who is worshiped and His greatness—he becomes freed from sorrow.
8. For him who does not know that indestructible Being of the Rig Veda, whereon in the highest heaven all the Gods reside, of what avail is the Rig Veda to him? They, indeed, who know That, rest fulfilled.
9. The Vedas, the sacrifices, the rituals, the observances, the past, the future and what the Vedas declare, all this the Maker sends forth out of this; in this the other is confined by maya.
10. Know then that matter is maya and the wielder of maya is the Great Lord. This whole world is pervaded by beings that are parts of Him.
11. The One, who rules every single source, in whom all this dissolves at the end and comes together at the beginning of creation, who is the Lord, the bestower of blessing, the adorable God—by discerning Him one goes forever in peace.
12. He who is the source and origin of the Gods, the ruler of all, Rudra, the great seer, who, when He was born, beheld the source, the golden, cosmic egg, may He endow us with clear understanding.
13. He who is the Overlord of the Gods, in whom the worlds rest, He who is the Lord of two-footed and four-footed beings, to what God shall we offer our oblations?
14. More minute than the minute, in the midst of confusion, the creator of all, of manifold forms, the one embracer of everything, by knowing Him as the auspicious, one attains peace forever.
15. He indeed is the protector of the world in time, the Lord of all, hidden in all things, in whom the seers of Brahman and the Deities are united. By knowing Him thus, one cuts the cords of death.
16. By knowing Him, the auspicious, hidden in all beings like the film exceedingly fine that rises out of clarified butter, the one embracer of the universe, by knowing God one is released from all fetters.
17. That God, the maker of all things, the great Self, ever seated in the heart of creatures, He is framed by thought, by the heart, by the mind. They who know That become immortal.
18. When there is no darkness, then there is neither day nor night, neither being nor non-being, only the auspicious One alone. That is the imperishable, the adorable light of Savitri that the ancient wisdom was born from.
19. Not above, not across, not in the middle, can He be seen, nor can anyone grasp Him. There is no true likeness of Him, whose name is Great Glory.
20. His form is not to be seen; no one sees Him with the eye. Those who through heart and mind know Him as abiding in the heart become immortal.
21. “You are unborn”—with this thought someone in fear approaches you. O Rudra, may Your face which is gracious protect me for ever.
22. Rudra, bring no harm to child or grandchild, to life, to cattle or horses. Slay not our heroes, for we call on you always with oblations.
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888-1975) was an Indian philosopher and statesman, India’s first vice president (1952–1962) and second president (1962–1967)