Meditation on the Conditioned Brahman

Then Gargi, the daughter of Vachaknu, a leading lady philosopher started questioning Yajnavalkya. She starts on the presumption that every effect is pervaded by its cause like threads woven in a cloth lengthwise (warp) and breadthwise (woof), the limited by the unlimited and the gross by the subtle.

A pot (effect) is pervaded by clay (its cause), the earth ((gross) is pervaded by water (subtle) and the world (limited) by sky (unlimited). Thus earth, which, being the effect is gross and limited, is pervaded by water, which, being the cause is subtle and unlimited.

To make these terms more clear, another example is the ice. The ice is the effect, the gross and limited. Its cause is water, subtle and unlimited. If we understand water as effect, the gross and limited, its cause is vapor, subtler than water and more unlimited than water.

Thus the implication is that the cause, the subtle, and the unlimited is woven like warp and woof of a cloth, in the effect, the gross and the limited and that cause always pervades the effect.  But this logic cannot be extended ad infinitum because a stage will be reached where there will only be the final cause and no cause for that cause. This entity is the first cause or the causeless cause or the cause of the entire universe or Brahman, the source of all, the Universal Ground. We cannot go beyond this stage as Mundaka Upanishad puts it “There, the sun shines not; there, nor the moon and the stars; nor do these flashes of lightning shine there. How can this fire do so? Everything shines only according to that shining light. His shining light illumines this entire world diversely”. (II-ii-10)

The questions raised by Gargi and the replies of Yajnavalkya are tabulated below for convenience. It will be observed that each preceding element in the questions asked by Gargi is pervaded by the succeeding one, till we come to the Self, which is within all. All the objects below the Self consist of the five elements. The Self is the Truth of truth as we have seen earlier. The truth is the five elements and the Truth of truth is the Supreme Self.





If all this is pervaded by water, by what, water is pervaded? (pervaded by water because otherwise earth would be scattered like a handful of fried grains - Sankara).

By air (since water too being an effect, is gross and limited, it must be pervaded by something else and that is air).


By what is air pervaded?

By the sky,


By what is sky pervaded?

By the world of the gandharvas


By what is the world of gandharvas pervaded?

By the world of the sun


By what is the world of the sun pervaded?

By the world of the moon







By what is the world of the moon pervaded?

By the world of the stars


By what is the world of the stars pervaded?

By the world of the gods


By what is the world of the gods pervaded?

By the world of  Indra


By what is the world of Indra pervaded?

By the world of  Prajapati


By what is the world of Prajapati pervaded?

By the world of Hiranyagarbha


By what is the world of Hiranyagarbha pervaded?

(The Supreme Hiranyagarbha is the source and the cause of everything, you say. Who is the cause of this?)

“Do not, O Gargi," said he, "question too much, lest your head should fall off. You are questioning too much about the Divine about whom we should not ask too much. Do not ask too much, O Gargi."

The cause of Hiranyagarbha or the sutra cannot be ascertained by inference or logic. This cause is Brahman which is known only through the evidence of scriptures. Brahman is beyond reasoning and sense-data. It is beyond the mind; do not go beyond permissible limits of logical argument, because it is inadmissible to ask the cause of the Cause of everything. “You are asking for the cause of the Supreme Cause. Such a question is meaningless; therefore Yajnavalkya warns Gargi against pushing her enquiry too far.

Thereupon Gargi, the daughter of Vachaknu, held her peace and kept quiet. She did not speak further. This section and the following two sections aim at describing the nature of that which is considered as Brahman or the Self which is within us all. The idea is that an aspirant can take up in the above mentioned order each element external to him and negate it to realize Brahman which is within him.


“When we come to the stage of Hiranyagarbha, we reach the bounds of this relative universe. If we can conceive of a piece of matter to which the whole universe is condensed, it will be Hiranyagarbha of the modern cosmological language. According to the Upanishads, Hiranyagarbha is full of pure consciousness while for the moderner it is just a dull matter where there is no concept of consciousness. That is the difference between the two. Vedanta says hiranyagarbhah samavartatagre (Rig Veda 10.8.121) – in the beginning Hiranyagarbha appeared and out of that the diversity has come. At the Hiranyagarbha level, it is all one.

These ideas are reflected in modern astronomy. According to it the different forces working in nature like gravitation, strong and weak forces etc have become separate in the course of evolution. But in the earliest phase of this universe at the beginning of evolution, they were all one. That state is called Singularity”. – Swami Ranganathananda

“The Supreme Self lays hidden deep within every object. It is impossible for crude organs to see or understand this deeply covered Entity. Take ether (Space) for instance. Akashatattva or ether lies hidden in the molecules and atoms of every object. Do you see it with your crude eyes or can you feel its existence through any of your organs? Now an ignorant person may ask a scientist, “You say there is ether; then show me.’’ He needs to be guided and directed to the appropriate state of understanding its existence. Only then will he accept the existence of ether. 

Brahmatattva or the spiritual principle is an extremely subtle principle. So to understand or know Him certainly calls for a very subtle, sagacious and sharp intellect. Scriptures call it agryabuddhi or pointed intellect. Yama, the mythological God of Death, philosophically, the Controller, has said that this truth can only be experienced through pointed intellect. No other bearing can comprehend it. That is why the deeply covered Supreme Being is not equally reflected on all minds, despite the fact that He is present in all entities and is indeed the essence of every entity.  It is only when the mental mirror becomes pure with the help of agryabuddhi that the Supreme Entity is properly revealed. This spiritual principle is beyond the comprehension of the crude organs like the eyes. The power of the optic nerves or of any organ to apprehend tanmatras or inferences is very limited. 

Take for instance a molecule or atom of the physical world, which people can easily comprehend with a little mental effort, but which their eyes are unable to see through the media of form. In order to see or feel them they will have to take the help of a special kind of instrument, and to learn how to use it they will require laboratory training.

In order to realise the all-encompassing subtle principle of Brahmn also, you will have to focus your mind introspectively in accordance with a special method by doing regular experiments yourself. One cannot attain Brahmn through arguments and reasoning, based on opinions of different authors, or by opening study circles, or through speeches and lectures. For this you will have to develop your agryabuddhi with complete devotion and zeal. Then only you will realize Him with your entire being. 

Crude intellect is sufficient for comprehension of crude objects, but not to enter the domain of subtlety; for that it has to be refined into a subtler one. To understand the subtlest Entity it (the intellect) has to be made extremely subtle and sharp like the point of a needle; all desires and propensities have to be centralized on a point – this is what is known as the agryabuddhi. The entity that then remains as the witness of that state of mental suspension, the Atman, is the characteristic Self of the unit. The Witnessing Force behind the state of mental suspension is the Atman”. - Shri Shri Anandamurti, The Seaking Tree: Times of India dt. 22/09/2012


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