The Ultimate Alchemy, Vol 1

Talks on the Atma Pooja Upanishad

Talks given from 15/02/72 pm to 06/06/72 pm

English Discourse series

18 Chapters

Year published:

Original title was simply "Atma Pooja Upanishad"

The Ultimate Alchemy, Vol 1

Chapter #1

Chapter title: The Tradition of the Upanishads and the Secrets of Meditation

15 February 1972 pm in Bombay, India

Archive code: 7202155

ShortTitle: ULTAL101

Audio: Yes

Video: No

Length: 111 mins



THERE are some points to ponder over before we step into the unknown. The unknown is the message of the Upanishads. The basic, the most foundational, always remains unknown; that which we know is always superficial. So some points must be understood before we can go deep into the realm of the unknown. These three words -- the known, the unknown, and the unknowable -- must be understood first, because the Upanishads are concerned with the unknown only as a beginning. They end into the unknowable. The known realm becomes science, the unknown is philosophy and the unknowable belongs to religion.

Philosophy is the link between the known and the unknown, between science and religion. Philosophy is totally concerned with the unknown. The moment something becomes known, it becomes part of science; it remains no more a part of philosophy. So the more science grows, the more philosophy is pushed ahead. The field that becomes known becomes science, and philosophy is the link between science and religion. So as science progresses philosophy has to be pushed ahead, because it can only be concerned with the unknown. But the more philosophy proceeds ahead, the more religion is pushed ahead, because religion is basically concerned with the unknowable.

The Upanishads begin with the unknown; they end with the unknowable. That's how misunderstanding arises. Professor Ranade has written a very deep book on the philosophy of the Upanishads, but it remains only a beginning. It cannot penetrate the deeper valleys of the Upanishadic mystery because it remains philosophical. The Upanishads begin with philosophy, but that is only a beginning. They end in religion, in the unknowable. And when I say "unknowable", I mean that which cannot be known.

Whatsoever the effort may be, howsoever we may try, the moment we know something it becomes part of science; the moment we feel something as unknown it is part of philosophy -- the moment we encounter the unknowable, only then is it religion. When I say the unknowable, I mean that which cannot be known but which can be encountered; it can be felt, it can even be lived. You can be face to face with it. It can be encountered, but still it remains unknowable. Only this much is felt -- that now we are deep in a mystery which cannot be solved. So before we enter this mystery, some points have to be understood; otherwise there will be no entrance.

One is: how to listen, because there are different dimensions of listening. You can listen with your intellect, with your reason. Mm? -- that is one way of listening to a thing: the most common, the most ordinary and the most shallow -- because with reason you are always either in defense or in attack. With reason you are always fighting, so whenever someone tries to understand something through reason he is fighting with the thing. At the most, a very rudimentary understanding is possible, just an acquaintance is possible. The deeper meaning is bound to be missed because the deeper meaning requires a very sympathetic listening.

Reason can never listen with sympathy. It listens with a very argumentative background. It can never listen with love; that is impossible. So listening with reason is good if you are trying to understand mathematics, if you are trying to understand logic, if you are trying to understand any system which is totally rational.

If you listen to poetry with reason, then you will be blind. It is as if one is trying to see with one's ears or hear with one's eyes. You cannot understand poetry through reason. So there is a deeper understanding, the second type of understanding, which is not through reason but through love, through feeling, through emotion, through heart.

Reason is always in conflict; reason will not allow anything to pass in easily. Reason must be defeated; only then can something penetrate. It is an armour around the mind; it is a defense method, a defense measure. It is alert every moment that nothing should pass without it being aware, and that nothing should be allowed -- unless reason is defeated. And even when reason is defeated the thing is not going to your heart, because in defeat you cannot feel sympathetic.

The second dimension of listening is through heart, through feeling. Someone is listening to music; then no analysis is needed. Of course, if you are a critic, then you will not be able to understand music. You may be able to understand the mathematics, the meter, the language, everything about music -- but never music itself; because music cannot be analyzed. It is a whole. It is a totality. If you wait for a single second to analyze it, you have missed much. It is a flowing totality. Of course, paper music can be analyzed, but never real music when it is there, playing. So you cannot stand aloof, you cannot be an observer. You have to be a participant. If you participate, only then do you understand.

So with feeling, the way of understanding is through participation. You cannot be an observer, you cannot stand outside. You cannot make music an object. You have to flow with it, you have to be deeply in love with it. There will be moments when you will not be and only music will be there. Those will be the peaks; those moments will be the moments of music. Then something penetrates to your deeper being. This is a deeper way of listening, but it is still not the deepest.

The first way is through reason -- rational; the second is through feeling -- emotional; and the third is through being -- existential. When you listen through your reason, you are listening through one part of your being. Again, when you listen through your feeling, you are listening through one part of your being. The third, the deepest, the most authentic dimension of listening, is through your totality -- body, mind, spirit -- as a whole, as a oneness. If you understand this third way of listening, only then will you be able to penetrate the mystery of the Upanishad.

The traditional term for this third listening is "faith". So we can divide: through reason the method is doubt; through feeling the method is love, sympathy; through being the method is faith, trust -- because if we are going into the unknown, how can you doubt? You can doubt the known, but that which is not known at all -- how can you doubt it?

Doubt becomes valid if it is concerned with the known. With the unknown, doubt is just impossible. How can you love the unknown? You can love the known. You cannot love the unknown; you cannot create a relationship with the unknown. Relationship is impossible. You cannot relate with it. You can dissolve into it -- that is another thing -- but you cannot relate with it. You can surrender to the unknown, but you cannot relate to it. And surrender is not a relationship. It is not a relationship at all! It is just dissolving the duality.

So with reason the duality remains: you are in conflict with the other. With love the duality remains: you are in sympathy with the other. But with being the duality dissolves: you are neither in conflict nor in love; you are not related at all. This third is known traditionally as faith, trust -- shraddha. As far as the unknown is concerned, faith is the key.

If someone says, "How can I believe" then he misunderstands, then he misses the very point. Faith is not belief. Belief is, again, a rational thing. You can believe; you can disbelieve. You can believe because you have arguments for believing; you can disbelieve because you have arguments for disbelieving. Belief is never deeper than reason. So theists, atheists, believers, nonbelievers, they all belong to the most shallow realm. Faith is not belief, because for the unknown there is no reason for or against. You can neither believe nor disbelieve.

So what remains to be done? You can either be open to it or you can be closed to it. It is not a question of believing or not believing. It is a question of being open or being closed to it. If you trust, then you open. If you distrust, then you remain closed. This is just a key. If you want to open to the unknown, then you will have to be in trust, in faith. If you do not want to be open to it, you can remain closed -- but no one is missing except you; no one is at a loss except you. You will remain closed like a seed. When I say it I mean it.

A seed has to break, has to die; only then is the tree born. But the seed has never known the tree. The dying of the seed can happen only in faith. The tree is unknown, and the seed will never meet the tree. The seed can remain closed in fear -- in fear of death. Then the seed will remain a seed and will die ultimately, without being reborn. But if the seed can die in faith that the unknown may be born out of its death. only then does it open. In a way it dies, in a way it is reborn -- reborn into greater mysteries, reborn into a richer life. The same is the phenomenon with faith. So it is not belief: never misunderstand it as belief. It is not feeling. It is deeper than both: it is your totality.

So how to listen with one's totality? With neither reason functioning in antagonism nor feeling functioning in sympathy, but with the totality of one's being. How can the totality function? Because we know only functions of the parts, we do not know how the totality functions. We know only parts -- this part functioning, that part functioning, intellect working, the heart functioning, the legs moving, the eyes seeing. We know only parts functioning. How does the totality function? The totality functions only in a deep passivity. Nothing is active; everything is silent. You are not doing anything. You are just here -- just presence -- and the doors open. Only then will you be able to understand what the Upanishad's message is. So your simple presence is needed -- no doing on your part, no functioning. That is what is meant by total functioning -- just your presence.

I must make it more clear, what I mean by "just presence". If you are in love with someone, then there are moments when you are not doing anything. You are just present by your lover's or beloved's side: just present, totally silent; you are not even loving each other -- just present. A very strange phenomenon happens. Ordinarily, our existence is linear. We exist in a line, in a sequence -- "my past, my present, my future": this is a line. I move on my track, you move on your track. We have our tracks, linear tracks, I moving on mine, you moving on yours. Really, we never meet. We are parallel lines -- no meeting. Even if we are crowded there is no meeting, because you are on your track and I am on my track; you belong to your past, I belong to my past; my present is born out of my past, your present is born out of your past. Your future will be a causal sequence of your past and present, and mine will be of mine.

So we move on tracks -- linear tracks, one-line tracks., There is no meeting. Only lovers meet because, suddenly, when you are just present with someone, a different time comes into existence. You both meet in a single moment, and this moment neither belongs to you nor to your lover. This is something new. This is neither out of your past nor out of your lover's past. Time moves in a different dimension -- not linear, not from the past to the future, but one present with another present. And there is a meeting between two present moments -- a different dimension. This dimension is known as the dimension of eternity, so lovers have said that one moment of love is eternity unto itself. It never ends. It has no future, it has no past. It is just present here and now.

This is what I mean when I say that if you can listen not with your past, not with your future, but with such a totality that in the present moment only your presence remains; if you can listen silently, passively; if you can just be present here and now; if this very moment is enough -- then a different dimension will open. And the Upanishadic message can penetrate only in that dimension.

That is what is meant when it is said that the essence of the Upanishads is eternal. It does not mean permanent. It only means a different dimension of time in which there is no future and no past. So you will have to move in a different way -- in your inner time. And with that inner change, words begin to take a different shape and a different significance is born out of them.

We use similar words. Everyone uses the same words, but with a different mind the words have a different meaning. For example, a doctor asks a patient, "How are you?" and at a casual meeting on the street, you ask someone, "How are you?" and a lover asks a beloved, "How are you?" -- the words are the same, but is the meaning the same? When a doctor asks a patient, "How are you?" does it mean the same as when a lover asks a beloved, "How are you?" A different significance comes into being.

The Upanishads cannot be understood in an ordinary way. That is how scholars miss the whole point, linguists miss the whole point, pundits miss the whole point. They work with language. with grammar, with everything that is pertinent, but still they miss. Why do they miss? The missing happens because their inner time is linear. They are working with their intellect. not with their being. Really, they are working on the Upanishad: they are not allowing the Upanishad to work upon them. That is what I mean when I say to just be present: then the Upanishad can work upon you -- and that can be a transformation. That can transport you to different planes of existence.