तस्माद्वा एतं सेतुं तीर्त्वान्धः सन्ननन्धो भवति विद्धः सन्नविद्धो भवत्युपतापी सन्ननुपतापी भवति तस्माद्वा एतं सेतुं तीर्त्वापि नक्तमहरेवाभिनिष्पद्यते सकृद्विभातो ह्येवैष ब्रह्मलोकः ॥ ८.४.२ ॥
tasmādvā etaṃ setuṃ tīrtvāndhaḥ sannanandho bhavati viddhaḥ sannaviddho bhavatyupatāpī sannanupatāpī bhavati tasmādvā etaṃ setuṃ tīrtvāpi naktamaharevābhiniṣpadyate sakṛdvibhāto hyevaiṣa brahmalokaḥ || 8.4.2 ||
2. Therefore, by crossing this dam, if you are blind you do not feel you are blind. Similarly, if you are hurt, you do not feel you are hurt, and if you are mentally upset, you no longer feel the sorrow. This is why if you cross this dam, even night will be like day, for this world of Brahman is always full of light.
Tasmāt, this is why; vai etam setum tīrtvā, when crossing this dam; andhaḥ san, if a person is blind; anandhaḥ bhavati, he behaves as if he is not blind; viddhaḥ san, if a person is hurt; aviddhaḥ bhavati, he behaves as if he is not hurt; upatāpī san, if a person is mentally upset; anupatāpī bhavati, he behaves as if he is not mentally upset; tasmāt, this is why; vai etam setum tīrtvā, when crossing this dam; api naktam, even night; ahaḥ eva abhiniṣpadyate, looks like day; hi eva eṣaḥ brahmalokaḥ, for this Brahmaloka; sakṛt vibhātaḥ, is always manifest.
Again and again the Upaniṣad stresses knowledge of the Self. Why? This knowledge is necessary for us to live in this world; otherwise we are not safe. We are vulnerable to all the forces of this phenomenal world. These forces may sweep us off our feet. Sri Ramakrishna used to say, ‘Tie the knowledge of Advaita in the corner of your cloth and then go wherever you like.’ That is, once we know we are the Self, nothing can affect us. We are like that dam, without any change. A person may be a householder or a monk—it doesn’t matter. He is safe.
Here, the Upaniṣad says, you may be blind, but you do not feel you are blind. The blindness does not affect you. It affects the body, but you know you are not the body. Similarly, you may have some disease or illness in the body, but you do not feel you are ill. If you are conscious of the body then you will also be conscious of its limitations. Blindness is a limitation, so you will be conscious that you are blind. But the pure Self is not conditioned by anything. If you feel you are the Self you are not subject to the limitations of the body. This applies to the mind also.
Swami Turiyananda would now and then get carbuncles that would have to be removed by surgery. He would not let the doctor give him any anaesthetic, however. He would ask the doctor to give him a few minutes’ warning, and he would meditate for a while. Then he would tell the doctor he was ready. The carbuncle might be large and require a long time for the surgery, but Swami Turiyananda would not show any sign
When Swami Shivananda was old he suffered from asthma. Sometimes he had no sleep at all during the night, but in the morning people would come and find him very cheerful. They would ask him, ‘Sir, how are you?’ and he would smile and say, ‘I am fine.’ Then he would say: ‘Look, if you are asking about the body, then I will say this body is old and diseased. But by the grace of my Master, I know I am not this body, so I am not affected by it.’
Suppose there is something wrong with the shirt you are wearing. You would not think there is something wrong with you. You know you are independent of the shirt. Similarly, your body is just a covering, as it were. You are independent of your body.
The example the Upaniṣad gives of the dam is very apt. A dam stands supreme. Nothing can affect it. Similarly, if you know your true nature, you will stand firm like a rock even when waves of sorrow come and try to overwhelm you. Disease, poverty, humiliation—all kinds of misfortunes may come, but they will all be forced back without making any impression on you, as if there is a dam that stands between the world and your Self.
The scriptures are constantly reminding us that this is what we are missing. Why else should we care for Self-knowledge? All this is just to encourage us and to invite us to taste the bliss of Self-knowledge.
Lots of people say: ‘What do you mean by Self-knowledge? I know who I am. What else should I know?’ But do they know they are not the body? Do they know they cannot be affected by old age, disease, or death, or by poverty or misfortune? Most people are slaves of their circumstances. Only one who knows his real Self is free.
Most of our external conditions cannot be changed. They are not under our control. If it is summer it will be hot. Can you change it? No, but you can change yourself. Similarly, with other circumstances in our lives. Our attitude should be: ‘Well, I don’t care. I will face this problem. It can never affect my real Self.’ When you have this attitude, you know you will not be cowed by adversities and external circumstances. This is the message of the Upaniṣads and also of the Gītā. In the Gītā Kṛṣṇa again and again talks about the sthitā-prajña, the person of steady wisdom, who is firmly rooted in Self-knowledge, and whom nothing can sway.
When Alexander the Great came to India, he met a yogī and was so impressed with him that he wanted to bring him to Greece. Alexander tried in many ways to tempt the yogī to go to Greece, but nothing worked. Then Alexander threatened to kill him. The yogī just laughed and said: ‘You have never told such a lie. You cannot kill me. You may kill the body, but I am not the body. I am the Self.’
The Upaniṣad says that when you know the Self, night and day are the same to you. It may appear to be night to others, but for you there is always light. You always have inner light. You always see yourself as Brahman. Śaṅkara says that the word Brahmaloka here means the state of Brahman. Whether you are blind or not, whether you are healthy or not, you are always conscious that you are Brahman. Not for a moment do you forget it.