Credit: speakingtree.in

Credit: speakingtree.in

At the dawn of history, Indian sages sought to explain their profound esoteric insights not through academic discourses but through parables and simple analogies, succeeding splendidly thereby in imparting knowledge of their insights more convincingly than would have been the case with the pedantic verbiage of philosophical concepts. Svetaketu was thus instructed by his father Uddalika in the knowledge of the Self or Soul in the Chandogya Upanishad, making him understand a central truth through the aphorism ”That thou art” – Tat Tvam Asi, which appearing in this parable became famous: ( excerpts )

THE    EDUCATION    OF    SVETAKETU

There lived once Svetaketu Aruneya…to him his father Uddalika said: ” Svetaketu go to school; for there is none belonging to our race, darling, who not being studied in the Veda (knowledge of the scriptures), is, as it were, a Brahmin ( learned priestly class) by birth only.”

Having begun his apprenticeship with a teacher when he was twelve years of age, Svetaketu returned to his father when he was twenty-four, having then studied all the Vedas- conceited, considering himself well read and stern.

His father said to him: ” Svetaketu, as you are so conceited, considering yourself so well read, and so stern, my dear, have you ever asked for that instruction by which we hear what cannot be heard, by which we perceive what cannot be perceived, by which we know what cannot be known?”

” What is that instruction, Sir?” he asked.

…. ” If someone were to strike at the root of this large tree here, it would bleed, but live. If he were to strike at its stem, it would bleed, but live. If he were to strike at its top, it would bleed, but live. Pervaded by the living self the tree stands firm, drinking in the nourishment and rejoicing; but if the life (the living Self) leaves one of its branches, that branch withers; if it leaves a second, that branch withers;…if it leaves the whole tree, the whole tree withers. In exactly the same manner, my son, know this. The body, indeed withers and dies when the living Self has left it, the living Self dies not. That which is the subtle essence, in it all that exists has its self. It is the True. It is the Self, and thou, O Svetaketu, art it.

“Please , sir inform me more” said the son.” ” Be it so, my child,”  the father replied.

” Fetch me thence a fruit of (yonder) tree.” ” Here is one, Sir.” ” Break it.” ” It is broken, sir.” ” what do you see there?” ” these seeds, almost infinitesimal.”              ” Break one of them.” ” It is broken, sir.’ what do you see there?’ ” not anything, Sir.” The father said: ” My son, that subtle essence which you do not perceive there, of that very essence this great tree exists. Believe it, my son. That which is the subtle essence, in it all that exists has its self. It is the True. It is the Self, and thou, O Svetaketu, art it.’

“Please , Sir, inform me still more,” said the son. ” Be it so, my child,” the father replied.

” Place this salt in water and then wait on me in the morning.”

The son did as he was commanded.

The father said to him:” Bring me the salt which you placed in the water last night.” 

The son having looked for it, found it not, for, of course, it was melted.

The father said: ” Taste it from the surface of the water. How is it?” the son replied: ” It is salt.” ” taste it from the middle. how is it?” the son replied: ” It is salt.” “Taste it from the bottom. how is it?’ The son replied: ” It is salt.” the father said; ” Throw it away and then wait on me.” He did so; but salt exists for ever. Then the father said: ” Here also, in this body, forsooth, you do not perceive the True, my son, but there indeed it is. That which is the subtle essence, in it all that exists has its self. It is the True. It is the Self, and thou, O Svetaketu, art it.”……..ENDS  – ( after many more analogies Svetaketu’s education regarding the nature of the soul was completed).

Thus through a parable and analogy was the learned yet ignorant  Svetaketu imparted the knowledge of the Soul. The Upanishads throughout employ such dialogues to convey their message.

Advertisements