On Mundaka Upanishad: That which the self-knowers know
The following excerpt is from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.
हिरण्मये परे कोशे विरजं ब्रह्म निष्कलम् ।
तच्छुभ्रं ज्योतिषं ज्योतिस्तद्यदात्मविदो विदुः ॥
hiraṇmaye pare kośe virajaṃ brahma niṣkalam
tacchubhraṃ jyotiṣaṃ jyotistadyadātmavido viduḥ
In a supreme golden sheath, the Brahman lies, stainless, without parts. A Splendor is That, It is the Light of Lights, It is That which the self-knowers know.
~ Verse 2.2.10
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Acharya Prashant (AP): A very rich verse, consisting of several parts, each complete in itself. We shall look at them one by one.
“In a supreme golden sheath the Brahman lies” — and the Upanishads refer to the Truth repeatedly this way. Elsewhere also say the scriptures, that the face of Truth is covered with gold. And here again, we see: “In a supreme golden sheath the Brahman lies.” What is it that the sage is trying to say?
Before one comes to the Truth, what one encounters, and therefore what one has to overcome, is a great force of desire that asks you to stop. What is gold? Gold is that which you strongly desire; that is the definition of gold here. The face of Truth is covered with gold. Truth implies the dissolution of your individuality: you become one with the Immeasurable, but you lose the little thing that you call your individual self.
Therefore, what is it that prevents you from coming to the Truth? Now it is obvious: the desire not to lose yourself. Gold is that desire. Else, the Truth is extremely near, the Truth is pre-attained; you do not even need to strive for it. But between you and the Truth stands your desire to maintain your existence which is your individual, personal self. And that is what is being referred to here as the golden sheet that covers Brahman.
Isn’t it quite interesting? If Brahman is infinite, how can Brahman be contained in anything, or how can the face of Brahman be obfuscated by anything? But…