Truth, Light, Bliss
Be the truth, light and bliss you seek. A meditation practice based on extracts from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. By Paul Whelan
asato maa sadgamaya
tamaso maa jyotirgamaya
mrityor maa amritamgamaya
om shanti shanti shanti
Simple words. Simple sentences. Simple structure. Three lines of Sanskrit, which form one of India's most famous aphorisms, is deemed to be a Mahavakya (महावाक्य) or Great Pronouncement.
In these three terse lines, a world of wisdom awaits. They are, at once, scientific and philosophical in purport. So, from cosmologists to seekers, all can contemplate the meaning and gain knowledge from this text. Contained within the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, which is a large collection of teachings; the words are to be chanted in the Vedic method, using the correct notes (svara-s) and pronunciation. Each part is considered to be a Mantra, therefore, repeating the lines in the mind (Japa) and having cognisance of their meaning, is a beneficial meditation practice.
In Swami Krishnananda's commentary on this Upanishad he writes about this section (1:3:28): "Now, a very important chant…..the Pavamana Abhyaroha…all-purifying… 'elevated holy chant' ".
~ asato maa sadgamaya
The meaning of Sat (सत्) is Truth and Asat is Not Truth. Many will have come across this word in the term Satsang, where people (Sanga) gather to explore and experience Truth (Sat). Sanga is a gathering of beings, seen and unseen, who come together to explore and experience the reality of true being. In this small essay and with your presence we are, in some simple way, gathering to consider Sat.
When we say 'Lead me', it indicates that we are moving in the direction of Truth in our lives. Becoming more positive in our actions, words, and thoughts. In yogic and Buddhist terms, we create positive karma through our body, speech, and mind.
~ tamaso maa jyotirgamaya
Jyotis (ज्योतिस्) is Light and Tamas (तमस्) is Darkness. Jyotisa (ज्योतिष) is the science of Vedic Astrology. In the Vedic view, the sun of our solar system is looked upon as a visible representation of the Eternal Light and that this is also within us at the heart centre. Atma (आत्मा) connected to the Paramatma (परमात्मा).
So, with this second line we continue our momentum, bringing us closer to the highest ideals and goals of the yogic path (Sadhana) i.e. Samadhi.
~ mrityor maa amritamgamaya
Amrita (अमृत) is the nectar of immortality, the elixir. At an everyday level, for us, it could be seen as the wish for a healthy mind and body leading to longevity. Mrtyu (मृत्यु) is death, decay. Therefore, Amrita is No Death.
Of course we know that the human form will end but at the spiritual level this line asserts again, the link to the Paramatma.
Lead Me from the Untruth to the Truth
Lead Me from Darkness to Light
Lead Me from Death to Immortality
OM Let There Be Peace Peace Peace
– Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.3.28
The Creator/Creation Herself. What decays, what actually dies? The material elements change and dissipate but the atman continues.
Each line in the translation begins with 'Lead me' (gamaya). Who is asking and of whom? I am asking. I am outlining a particular desire. Of whom? The Creator/Creation? Am I not That also? Therefore, I am asking, requesting of myself to make the efforts required to move along this path.
In essence the entire section can be reduced to these three words: Truth, Light and Bliss.
Benefits of practicing the mantra and contemplating the meaning
Leading us from lower states to higher states. In the words of Sri BNS Iyengar of Mysore, today's most senior and experienced teacher of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, we progress from "Soul to Super Soul, we become God".
Lead us from…
Tamasic to sattvic state
Inertia to vitality of body and mind
Negative to positive outlook
Ignorance to wisdom views
Illness to health supreme
Antagonism to love of all
Fear to fearlessness
Meanness to generosity
Disinterest to full engagement with life
- Listen and learn the chant here: www.absoluteyoga.com/chant/sadgamaya
- Listen and learn the Om Shanti chant here: www.absoluteyoga.com/chant/shanti
- Read the text slowly a few times in Sanskrit and then once in translation.
- Chant the mantras softly until they can me memorised.
- Mentally chant the mantras.
- After some time allow the mantras to reverberate within the mind like a distant echo (stage of ajapa japa).
- Sit in silence for some length of time, such as 10 minutes or more.
- To close the meditation:
Allow the words Truth, Light, Bliss to come into the mind and then, begin to open the eyes.
Place hands in a gesture of prayer at the heart centre and chant
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
Asatoma Sadgamaya – In Devanagari:
असतो मा सद्गमय
तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय
मृत्योर् मा अमृतं गमय
ॐ शांति शांति शांति
– बृहदारण्यक उपनिषद् 1.3.28