Immortality of the Self
In the Brihadaranayaka Upanishad of the Yajur Veda we read that there lived in ancient India a great sage, Yajnyavalkya by name. He was a seer of Truth and lived a pure, virtuous, and righteous life. He had a devoted wife, whose name was Maitreyi; he performed all the duties of the householder as also of ii good citizen, and lived in peace, doing good to others.
As the result of all these good and unselfish works his heart was purified and his eyes were open to spiritual Truth. He understood the transitoriness and impermanent nature of the phenomenal world, and realizing that the life of a householder was only a grade in the process of evolution, he desired to enter into a higher state and make further progress.
He had discovered realizing foolishness of people who lead a worldly life and constantly try to fulfill their earthly desires; therefore, he made up his mind to live a life of seclusion, and devote the rest of his days to the pursuit of eternal Truth. He wished to take refuge in the absolute Reality of the universe by retiring into the forest where he would not be disturbed by the world. Constant meditation upon the true Self had become the aim of this great seer.
One day he came to his wife and said: “Beloved Maitreyi, verily I wish to retire into the forest, leaving with thee my wealth, property and whatever belongs to me. Enjoy these and grant me thy permission.” On hearing this, Maitreyi felt extremely unhappy, but being spiritually-minded, she asked this question: “Bhagavan, please tell me, if I possess the whole earth with all the wealth it contains shall I gain immortality by it?”
She was not like the wives of to-day, who are greedy for wealth and possessions and who are delighted to acquire a little inheritance; she was not ambitious for material property like a woman of the world, but she understood that immortality was the highest of all treasures.
Being guided by this ideal, she questioned: “Shall I be immortal by possessing all the riches and property which thou art going to give me?” “No,” replied the sage, “if thou possesses the property and wealth of the world thou wilt live like the rich who enjoy, in whatever manner they desire, the luxuries, comforts and pleasures of earthly existence.
There is no hope of gaining immortality by wealth. None can ever become immortal by means of riches or material possessions.” Then the wife said: “What shall I do with that thing which cannot bring me immortality? If thou hast anything by which I shall become immortal please give me that. I .do not care for thy wealth.” Her husband, the great sage, replied, “Thou art truly my beloved; thou hast spoken well, it is worthy of thee. If thou desirest, I will tell thee of that by which one can attain immortality. Come and listen attentively to what I will say.”
lie first explained the true nature of the object of love. People love their parents, children, husbands, wives, property, wealth, and all other things that they possess, but they do not know what they love in reality. The real object of love is not a material thing, but that which lies behind the material form. O beloved, verily I say unto thee:
“A wife loves her husband not for the husband’s sake, but it is for the sake of the Atman, the Self, who is within, that the husband is loved.”
The wife does not love the dead particles of matter which make up the body of her husband, but she loves the soul, the Atman, which lies behind his form. “The husband loves his wife not for the wife’s sake, but it is for the sake of the Atman, the Self, who is within, that the wife is loved.” The physical body of the wife is not dear to her husband, but her soul, the Atman, is dear to him. The husband will not touch the
dead body of his wife, he will not love it when her soul has departed from it. People love their children, not for the children’s sake, not for the material form of their children, but it is for the sake of the Atman, the Self, that the children are loved.” When a mother loves her child, do you think that she loves the matter that makes up the face or the body of the child? No, it is the Self that, dwelling behind the material particles, gives the child its form and attracts the soul of the mother. Love cannot exist on the material plane; it is the attraction between two souls on the spiritual plane of the Self. When people love their friends and relatives, that attraction of the souls lies at the bottom of the expression of their true love.
“Verily wealth is not dear, O beloved, that thou mayst love wealth, but that thou mayst love Atman, the Self, therefore wealth is dear,” The center of love is the Atman or Self. When we love wealth or property, our attraction is toward the omnipresent Self, whether
we are conscious of it or not love animals, like dogs, horses, birds, not because of their material forms, but for the Atman,the Self, which resides within them. In this manner Yajnyavalkya showed that wherever there is true love there is the expression of the real Self or Atman.
“None, O beloved, loves an animal for the animal’s sake, but for the sake of the soul of the animal.” The dead material body of an animal cannot inspire love in our souls. “People love the priests (Brahmins), the warriors (Kshatriyas),the celestial worlds (Lokas), the bright spirits (Devas), the Scriptures (Vedas), and all other animate and inanimate objects, not or the sake of those objects, but it is for the sake of the Self (Atman) that each of these is loved.”
When a person loves another for the sake of his own lower self or ego, it is an extremely selfish love; but when that love is directed toward the Self or Atman which dwells in another person it is no longer selfish; it gradually leads to Divine Love. In everything abides the one Self or unchangeable spirit which attracts our souls.
We do not know the nature of that Self or Atman toward which all love, whether selfish or unselfish, is directed, and from which all love proceeds, whether for wealth, property, or material objects. A miser loves riches, but he knows perfectly well that riches mean nothing but a medium of exchange, that they only bring certain pleasures and comforts of the body. He is attached to his lower self, and for that reason he loves wealth which enriches his ego.
The lower self of such a man is the center of attraction, and everything that brings happiness to it is very dear to him. “Therefore, O Maitreyi, the Self (Atman) is to be realized, to be heard, to be thought of, to be meditated upon. O beloved! When the Self has been heard, thought of, meditated upon and realized, then all is known.” Thou shouldst know the true nature of that Self, which is the center of all
Self Knowledge by Swami Abhendanada published 1905