The first stage, to which contentment and bliss
impart sweetness, springs from the innermost recesses of the seeker’s heart, as if nectar has issued forth from the heart of the earth.
At the inception of this stage the innermost recess
becomes a field for the coming of the other stages.
Afterwards the seeker attains the second and third stages.
Of the three, the third is the highest, because on its attainment all
the modifications of will come to an end.
One who practices the three stages finds his ignorance dead,
and on entering the fourth stage
he sees everything, everywhere, equally.
At that moment he is so strongly embedded in the experience of
nonduality – advaita – that the experience itself disappears.
Thus, on attaining the fourth stage
the seeker finds the world as illusory as a dream.
So while the first three stages are called waking ones,
the fourth is dreaming.
The fourth stage. The first is that of the oceanic feeling that Brahman exists everywhere – oneness. The one alone exists, the many are just its forms. They are not really divided, they only appear divided; deep down they are one.
The second stage is that of vichar – thought, contemplation and meditation – where mind has to be disciplined to become one-pointed, because it can disappear only when it has become one-pointed, when the flux has stopped; that is, when you can remain with one thought as long as you wish. You have become the master then, and unless you are the master of the mind, the mind cannot disappear, it cannot cease to be; you cannot order it out of existence.
If you cannot order thoughts to stop, how can you order the whole mind to go out of existence? So in the second stage one has to drop thoughts by and by, and retain only one thought. When you have become capable of dropping thoughts, one day you can drop the mind itself, the whole thought process. When the thought process is dropped you cannot exist as an ego. You exist as consciousness but not as mind; you are there but not as an I. We say “I am.” When mind drops, the I drops; you remain a pure amness. Existence is there, rather, more abundant, more rich, more beautiful, but without the ego. There is no one who can say I, only amness exists.
In the third stage, vairagya, nonattachment, you have to become alert – first of the objects of desire, the body, the world – and continuously practice and discipline yourself to become a witness. You are not the doer. Your karmas may be the doers, God may be the doer, fate, or anything, but you are not the doer. You have to remain a witness, just a seer, an onlooker. And then this has also to be dropped. The idea that “I am the witness” is also a sort of doing. Then non-attachment becomes complete, perfect. The third stage, this Upanishad says, is the highest of the three. Now we will discuss the fourth.
The fourth is the state of advaita, nonduality. This word advaita has to be understood before we enter the sutra. This word is very meaningful. Advaita means literally nonduality, not two. They could have said one, but the Upanishads never use the word one; they say nonduality, not two. And this is very significant, because if you say one the two is implied, it becomes a positive statement. If you say there is only one you are asserting something positive.