Chapter 17: Such Is This Mystery
I am this brahman known by all vedanta,
the state beyond knowledge.
I am not perceptible even as sky and air, etcetera,
I am neither form nor name nor action.
I am this brahman, the ultimate reality:
the abode of sat, chit, anand - truth, consciousness, bliss.
I am not the body -
how can there be birth and death for me?
I am not the vital breath -
how can there be hunger or thirst for me?
I am not the mind -
how can there be sorrow or pleasure for me?
I am not a doer -
how can there be bondage or liberation for me?
Such is this mystery..
Here ends the Upanishad.
As far as the expansion of knowledge may reach, it will be called veda. “Veda” means the act of knowing, to know. Veda and vidvan - scholar - come from the same root. Veda means knowledge.
But there is also a dimension of life, a hidden state of existence where even knowledge cannot throw any light, where knowledge has no access, where access is possible only if knowledge is left outside. Hence India has coined a unique word - you must have often heard it but perhaps without understanding it: the word is vedanta.
Vedanta means that state where even veda, knowledge, comes to an end, where even knowledge cannot approach, where you have to go even beyond knowledge, where knowledge becomes meaningless, where knowledge has no access. Veda means all knowledge, as far as it can go. But even that does not help. All that has been known does not help; all that has been experienced, all the treasures of knowledge are of no help. This is the point from where vedanta begins. Where veda comes to an anta, an end, there vedanta, the state which is beyond knowledge begins. At the dead end of veda is the beginning of vedanta. If we translate the word vedanta into English, the exact meaning will be “no knowledge.”
Let us understand these three steps. One is agyan, ignorance, the next step is called gyan, knowledge, and above it is a step called gyanatit, beyond knowledge. Ignorance is when we do not know, knowledge is when we know; in other words, when we have gone beyond ignorance. Gyanatit means that we have gone even beyond knowledge.
Not only does ignorance create bondage, knowledge also binds you. Liberation is the state when knowledge has also been abandoned. Ignorance has to be dispelled, but that is not enough. Many methods to destroy ignorance have been created on earth, and many schools of thought have come into existence throughout the world which have tried to dispel ignorance. But probably it is only the wise men of the East who created a school of thought which said that a state comes when even knowledge has to be dropped, where even knowledge becomes a bondage. Not only is ignorance a bondage, knowledge too can become a bondage because knowledge is finite. Howsoever much one may know, knowledge cannot be infinite. If you want to know the infinite you will have to drop all knowledge.
That is why, in a deeper sense, the man of ultimate wisdom appears as an ignorant man. In a way he becomes an ignorant man because he too is without knowledge. But in another sense he is quite the opposite from an ignorant man; the ignorant man is that way because he has no knowledge, and the man of ultimate wisdom is ignorant because he has let go of this knowledge too.