The Three Fundamentals and the Upanishads

Their Practical Application

Familiarity with the Three Fundamental Propositions of Theosophy is essential for understanding the Perennial Philosophy. Hence, H.P.B. says, "no apology is required for asking the reader to make himself familiar with them."

The entire philosophy of Theosophy is based on the solid foundation of the Three Fundamentals. They have to be viewed as three in one, one in three, and not as separate from one another—God, Law and Being; Spirit, Matter and Mind, Mind linking Spirit and Matter. They can be looked upon as abstract Spirit—the One Reality; differentiated Spirit—its immanent aspect in the manifested universe; and embodied Spirit—Kshetrajna in every being undergoing evolution. In other words, they are the one Eternal Reality and its manifesting aspect, i.e., Life, Law and Evolution, as the universe exists for the evolution and emancipation of the Soul. The Three Fundamentals underlie the entire system of thought we know as Theosophy, and should be considered as three facets of one unity. Many students of Theosophy look upon the Fundamentals as difficult to understand; this is because of our tendency to view them separately.

The late Dr. S. Radhakrishnan has stated:

The consubstantiality of the spirit in man and God is the conviction fundamental to all spiritual wisdom. It is not a matter of inference only. In the spiritual experience itself, the barriers between the self and the ultimate reality drop away....We belong to the real and the real is mirrored in us. The great text of the Upanishad affirms it—Tat tvam asi(That art thou). It is a simple statement of an experienced fact...."I and my Father are one." "All that the Father hath are mine," is the way in which Jesus expressed the same profound truth.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the teachings of the Upanishads on the nature of man and his ultimate goal culminate in such startling Maha Vakyas—Great Utterances—four in number:

Ayam Atma Brahma—This Atma (Self) is Brahman.
Prajnanam Brahma—Brahman is pure Consciousness.
Tat tvam asi—That thou art.
Aham Brahmasmi—I am Brahman.

These Great Affirmations clearly mean that the Self of man, when the limitations of his personality, i.e., lower perishable self, are removed, is the same as the Universal Self. They teach that there is one Ultimate Reality called Brahman, which is none other than Atman in man.

H.P.B. is at pains to explain this: There is only one ever-living Reality which the Hindus call Parabrahman or Paramatman. This eternal and living Reality is the Root Essence of all. Although It is not perceptible to our physical senses, It is manifest and perceptible to our spiritual nature. Once imbued with this idea, and if we posit that It is omnipresent, then it is easy to understand that we must be in It, from It, and must go back to It some day.

As per Kena Upanishad, "It cannot be seen, or touched, or heard—sense of sight, sense of touch, sense of hearing, represented by Vayu, Agni and Indra—Vedic deities standing for the powers of speech, mind and individual soul, even beyond the mind. Our understanding of the First Fundamental is at best at the intellectual level, which we do not apply and see in everything in life.

There is a story in Chandogya Upanishad in which Narada approaches Sanatkumara and says that he knows all the scriptures and all the sciences, but has no knowledge of the Self: Mantravideva asmi na atmavit—I know only the mantras, but not the Self. It is not the knowledge of scriptures or of the First Fundamental, but the realization of the One Self that can liberate the spirit of man. This idea is echoed in the Seventh Chapter of the Gita where Krishna speaks of knowledge coupled with its realization. The difficulty arises because we function on the plane of duality of mine and thine. Only when we start functioning from the plane of unity of Reality and enter into It without any intermediate condition (Chapter XVIII) that we can say, as Arjuna did, "My delusion is destroyed."

It is difficult for some people to appreciate the Third Fundamental, for it deals a deathblow to the idea that man is born in sin. It points out that our evolution is in our hands, implying that perfectibility is inherent in us, as we are emanations from divinity and are going back to the same source through a series of metempsychoses and reincarnations. Perfectibility can be acquired by each one by his self-effort and by his own ways and means, checked by his Karma; and thus one can reach the state of the highest Dhyani Buddha. The Third Fundamental is absolutely logical; it tells us about the non-separateness of all beings, and also that once we attain self-consciousness, the power of choice, we evolve by our self-effort.

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad has eloquent passages on the Absolute. Yajnavalkya says:

For when there is duality, then one smells another, one sees another, one thinks of another, one understands another. But when everything has become the Self, then by what and whom should one smell, by what and whom should one see, hear, speak, think, understand? By what should one know that by which all this is known? By what, my dear, should one know the knower?

He is the unseen seer, the unheard hearer, the unthought thinker, the unknown knower. There is no other seer but he, no other hearer but he, no other thinker but he, no other knower but he. He is your Self, the inner controller, the immortal, the imperishable. Everything else is evil.

In Katha Upanishad we have the story of Nachiketas (which means not perceived—mysticism). He spends three days without food at the house of Yama—i.e., he enters into the third spiritual plane, a plane where the light of Spirit shines with unfading glory, to meet Yama, who offers him three boons.

As to the third boon, Nachiketas asks Yama: What exists after death, what is death and immortality? Yama tries to evade him and tells him that he would make him the Lord of the world, he could have all his desires fulfilled, enjoy all the pleasures of the world, etc. But Nachiketas replies: "Transient are all these, O Yama, and they wear out the vigour of all the senses. Keep all these with you." He did not want anything except to know "what there is in the great hereafter." That phrase, "they wear out the vigour of all the senses," refers to the three e's i.e., entertainment, excitement and exhaustion. When we make our minds a playground of our senses, we seek entertainment which leads to excitement; then our vital powers are completely drained and we feel totally exhausted.

Then Yama tells him about the one universal, imperishable, changeless Self. He says: "That which is without sound, without touch, without form, without decay, and likewise without taste, without change, without smell, without beginning, without end, beyond the great and ever-abiding—by realizing it one is freed from the jaws of death."

In this verse we have the secret of death communicated by Atman. The secret of death held by mind relates only to "after-death states," not its meaning of discontinuity, not in continuity of Time, i.e., not the clumsy words we use for Time—past, present, future, as the Mahatma says—but the Eternal Present. This means that when we are acting on the plane of duality we will be devoured by the illusion of Time. Only when we start functioning from the plane of unity we can reach beyond Time, i.e., the plane of "SAT," Beness—Duration, as H.P.B. says: the "great beyond" of the Upanishads.

"I am Time matured, come hither for the destruction of these creatures," says Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita (XI, 32). "Time was not, for it lay asleep in the infinite bosom of Duration," says the Stanza of Dzyan. Time, continuity, are limitations. Hence we have the statement: "Parabrahm (the One Reality, the Absolute) is the field of Absolute Consciousness, i.e., that Essence which is out of all relation to conditioned existence" (S.D., I, 15). Relationships relate only to the plane of duality, where we use words such as karma, reincarnation, principles, higher, lower, etc; whereas on the plane of unity these disappear. There is only one divine principle. In fact, H.P.B. states that there is only one Principle—LIFE. All other principles are modifications of this One Principle. "In occultism every qualificative change in the state of our consciousness gives to man a new aspect, and if it prevails and becomes part of the living and acting Ego, it must be (and is) given a special name" (The Key to Theosophy, Indian ed., p. 116). In fact, we are seven in One.

As we function on this plane of duality, how do we get to the plane of unity? As man is indissolubly linked to the Whole and as he is a direct ray of the Absolute, this union is possible for him by cultivating unselfishness and universal love for all that lives and breathes. When his consciousness is turned inwards, there is a conjunction between Manas and Buddhi. In a spiritually regenerated man this conjunction is permanent and Manas clings to Buddhi beyond the threshold of Devachan, when it is said that his third eye is active.

As the Bhagavad-Gita points out (XVIII, 4): "Deeds of sacrifice, of mortification, and of charity should not be forsaken." They purify our mind, although they do not make us spiritual. Once the mind becomes pure, it becomes like an alabaster vase, reflecting the radiance of Atma-Buddhi.

This "Mind" is manas, or rather its lower reflection, which whenever it disconnects itself, for the time being, with kama, becomes the guide of the highest mental faculties, and is the organ of free will in physical man. (H.P.B. in "Psychic and Noetic Action")

When Manas is freed from lower Kama, the pavamana fire (fire by friction) is activated and Buddhi is cemented with Manas. Then man is in a high spiritual state and able to sense the Reality. This is what is meant by saying that his third eye is active.

In order to live in Spirit while in a body, a clean life, a pure heart and an eager intellect, coupled with a life of high morality and purity of soul, is a must. Then it is possible to attain to a state where one can have, as described by Iamblichus: (1) ecstasy or illumination, when one is able to use his spiritual vision and see the truth, (2) prophetic visions, (3) action of Spirit through Will, and (4) control over lower elementals. This is Divine Theurgy and it has to be preceded not only by the training of one's inner senses but also by a knowledge of the personal self and its relationship with the Divine Self. Then one becomes like Prospero, the magician "Man-spirit proves God-spirit."

H.P.B. states: "With each morning's awakening try to live through the day in harmony with the Higher Self" (She Being Dead Yet Speaketh, p. 12). In this statement we have a hint as to how we can apply the Fundamentals in every aspect of our daily life.

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