(Introduction: This story taken from Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, Part – III, Chapter VI. It is a dialogue between Gargi and Sage Yajnavalkya.
This story is rewritten by me from the yogic viewpoint; unveiling the inner meaning of the dialogues.)
In very ancient times, when it was the childhood of mankind, the Upanishads were being written. During those days there lived in India two beautiful people. One was the enlightened Sage Yajnavalkya and the other, a woman named Gargi, the daughter of Sage Vachaknu.
At that time, Emperor Janaka ruled over the kingdom of Videh. He was philosophically-minded. One day he called Vedic scholars from Kuru and Panchala for a contest to decide who was the wisest of all. He declared, “I will give one thousand cows with their horns covered with pure gold and studded with diamonds to the person who is the wisest of all.”
Yajnavalkya, the most famous, learned and enlightened person of those days was present in the assembly where the debate was being held. He was so confident of his victory that he said to his disciples, “You take these cows to our ashram.
His disciples replied, “How can we? First you have to win the contest.
Yajnavalkya replied, “That I will take care of.”
One by one, scholars debated with Yajnavalkya but could not defeat him and it was almost the moment he was going to be declared the winner then Gargi intervened.
She asked him, “We observe that the earth is pervaded by water, by what is water pervaded?”
“Gargi, it is pervaded by air.
“By what is air pervaded?
“By the world of Gandharvas, that is, the powers of the vital force, O Gargi.”
“By what is the world of the powers of vital force pervaded?
“By the sun, O Gargi.”
“By what is the sun pervaded?
“By the moon.”
“By what is the moon pervaded?”
“Gargi, it is pervaded by the stars.”
“By what are the stars pervaded?
“Gargi, they are pervaded by the world of Devas, — the cosmic powers at the level of mind and overmind.”
“By what is the world of Devas pervaded?”
“By the world of Indra — the illumined intelligence, which is symbolically described as the intelligence that can perceive through thousand eyes.”
“By what is the world of Indra pervaded?”
“By the world of Viraj – the space-time consciousness.“
“By what is the world of Viraj pervaded?”
“By the world of Hiranyagarbha – the origin point of space and time, O Gargi.
“By what is the world of Hiranyagarbha pervaded?
Yajnavalkya replied, “Gargi, you are too much ruled by intellection. Do not try to know through inferences what the Hiranyagarbha is pervaded by as it is beyond logic and inference. In order to know it, you have to transcend logic and inference.”
Gargi was taken aback and could not reply for a moment. After some time, however, she asked Yajnavalkya again, “I agree with you, but could you please tell me what the universe is pervaded by regarding which the ancients say it was in the past, is in the present and will continue to remain in the future. I want to know about this thread which binds the universe. Please quench my thirst for knowledge in this respect.
Yajnavalkya said, “Gargi, I understand your curiosity to know what pervades the universe. The Universal Consciousness pervades this universe. It is infinite, immeasurable; it exceeds all our powers, and is beyond logical scrutiny. It is not made of anything; it is clear, vacuous, without duality, timeless, not realisable as a separate thing but as the unity of all things, yet it is not composed of any elements but rather transcends all differentiations.
“This universe appears manifold because of the differentiation of experients and the objects of experience. This happens because the Universal Consciousness itself becomes individual consciousness by limitation in all living and non-living beings. Individuals are only parts of the Universal consciousness in contracted forms.
“Due to the limitation of the contracted consciousness, the omnipotence becomes the limited agency while the omniscience a limited knowledge; his absolute fulfilment assumes the form of desire, eternity the form of limitation of time, omnipresence the form of space and causality. Individual consciousness is nothing but consciousness contracted. When this consciousness is unfolded, it becomes Universal Consciousness.
“There is no point in performing sacrifices, rituals or any oblations to the fire as they all are perishable. Performers of sacrifices live in ignorance and are caught in the web of birth and rebirth. To know this Consciousness, one has to develop his or her contracted consciousness, so that it blossoms into Universal Consciousness. Once you know it, you become immortal.
“Just as a variety of objects appear in a mirror, even so the entire universe is reflected in this Universal Consciousness, but due to its power of Self-consciousness it knows only the world.
“Gargi, remember, this Universal Consciousness is the witness and the witnessed both, the knower as well as the known. There is no Knower other than this. It is the essence of all the sayings of the ancient seers and will remain so eternally.”
Gargi asked, “But what is the way to achieve this; O sage Yajnavalkya. Please tell me.
Yajnavalkya replied, “You are the watcher. Just remain watching. First step in awareness is to be very watchful of your body. Whether you are eating, drinking, chewing, reposing, bathing, be a watcher of all the acts of your body. Slowly and slowly, by and by, you will become aware of each gesture of your body. As you become aware, you will know that your senses are only the powers of that Universal Consciousness. You will become relaxed.
“Then start becoming aware of your thoughts. Observe each thought construct; do not suppress them. Be just an observer. Whatever thought may occur, just be an observer of it. The moment you watch your thoughts, you will be surprised to find that your mind is like a madhouse. The very act of watching it, however, will change it.
“The third is the subtlest layer and the most difficult layer. It concerns awareness of your feelings, emotions and moods. Suddenly if an impulse of anger or any other type of impulse occurs in you, just watch it. Intense awareness is needed for this, but once you are aware of all these three, the fourth will happen.
“The fourth is the ultimate awareness that makes one aware of one’s awareness.
Hearing this, Gargi bowed to Yajnavalkya in veneration and declared to the assembly of scholars, “We all should consider ourselves fortunate to have the enlightened Yajnavalkya with us. No one can defeat him in the knowledge of the Universal Consciousness.”