The following are two stories from the Chhandogya Upanishad.
Story – 1:
Prajapati (the Creator) had children called Devas and Asuras. For some reason they started fighting (as siblings do).
(The Sanskrit word “Deva” comes from the root “Div” meaning illumined or say divine. Asuras are usually referred to as Demons in English. But, if we keep the Sanskrit word Asura, then it means “not Deva.”
Devas can be understood as the force that leads us to our inner divine nature which brings knowledge, fearlessness, inner peace and bliss. On the other hand, Asuras can be understood as the force which leads us towards senses and sense-pleasures, which brings temporary happiness, but eventually brings suffering, ignorance, restlessness, and fear. These two forces constantly fight in us.)
Devas wanted to defeat Asuras. They thought to hold on to “Udgitha,” that which cannot be destroyed or damaged or polluted.
(“Udgitha” is Om which is the symbol of Brahman, the Ultimate Reality. It is referred to as Atman with respect to an individual.)
(But, where is Udgitha?). Devas first decided to meditate on Udgitha as the breath which we take through our nostrils. But, Asuras attacked the breathing with evil and the nostrils started breathing both good and bad smells. Devas gave up meditating on breathing.
Then, Devas meditated on Udgitha as speech. Asuras attacked speech with evil. The speech got polluted and the mouth started speaking both truth and untruth. Devas gave up meditating on speech.
Then, Devas meditated on Udgitha as eyes. Asuras attacked eyes with evil. The eyes got polluted and they started seeing both good and bad things. Devas gave up meditating on the eyes.
Then, Devas meditated on Udgitha as the ears. Asuras attacked ears with evil. The ears got polluted and the ears started listening to both useful and worthless things. Devas gave up meditating on the ears.
Then, Devas meditated on Udgitha as the mind. Asuras attacked the mind with evil. The mind got polluted and it started making both helpful and harmful resolves. Devas gave up meditating on the mind.
Then, Devas meditated on Udgitha as the Mukhya Prana (the fundamental life force). Asuras attacked Mukhya Prana. But, as a clay-ball breaks to several pieces when thrown to a solid unbreakable rock, Asuras were destroyed to pieces.
(Mukhya Prana is our true identity called Atman. Its nature is divine. Nothing can damage that divinity. When person realizes one’s divine nature, then one sees divinity in all. One realizes that each one is basically divine and the bad things are just outside covers. When these covers are gone, the inner divinity manifests through all.)
As a clay-ball shatters to several pieces when thrown to an unbreakable stone, similarly a person shatters to pieces who try to do harm to an individual who had realized the Udgitha as Atman, the support of our being. (Meaning, the realized one has become the immortal Atman.)
Story – 2
Once, the Devas were scared by death. They entered into three-fold knowledge (knowledge of three Vedas – Rig, Yajur, and Sama) and covered themselves with the hymns. That is why hymns are called ‘chhandas.’
(This means that the Devas thought to do ritualistic worships of performing yajnas reciting hymns to save themselves from death.)
As a fisherman finds fish in the water, death saw the Devas engaged in ritualistic worships described in the three Vedas Rig, Yajur, and Sama.
The Devas also found out that death had seen them. They then left the ritualistic worships of the Vedas and entered into Om. (Devas realized that ritualistic worships cannot make them free from the fear of death.)
When a person masters Rig Veda he loudly utters Om. He does same when he masters Sama Veda and Yajur Veda. Om is immortal and fearless. The Devas entering into Om became immortal and fearless.
One, who knows this, sings the glories of Om and enters into the immortal and fearless Om, becomes immortal and fearless as the Devas became immortal and fearless.
* * *
Notes: There are more than 108 Upanishads. Among them eleven Upanishads are considered major ones as Shri Shankaracharya had written commentaries on them.
These eleven Upanishads are Ishopanishad, Kathopanishad, Kenopanishad, Prashnopanishad, Mundakopanishad, Mandukya Upanishad, Aitareya Upanishad, Taittiriya Upanishad, Shvetashvatar Upanishad, Chhandogya Upanishad, and Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.
The teachings of Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras, and the Bhagavad Gita constitute Vedanta, the essence or the culmination of the teachings of the Vedas. Vedanta provides a complete guideline to any spiritual seeker or a seeker of the Ultimate Reality or Truth.
Fisherman’s Net: Sri Ramakrishna says that a fisherman throws the net in the water. Some fish are very smart that they remain much deeper and away from the shore. Fisherman cannot reach them. Couple of fish struggle to get out of the net and they succeed. Looking at them the fisherman says, ‘Ah! Those fish are gone.’ Few fish struggle to get out of the net, but they cannot succeed. While most of the fish take the net in the mouth, go deeper into the mud and think they are fine. But, the fish which were caught in the net, they panic when the fisherman start pulling the net. They cannot do anything at that time. The fisherman is death. Those fish who are free represent people who had conquered the fear of death by realizing their True Identity, their Divine Self or Atman. They had attained immortality in their Self and they enjoy the unlimited Bliss.
Freedom: Swami Vivekananda’s one of the messages was to be free from all bondages. He wants us all to be free from our weaknesses. He wanted us to be free from our slavery of senses, dependence on matter and people, fear, and finally ignorance. Realizing our true divine identity makes us free from all bondages.
Two ways: The fisherman’s net is also considered as the net of ignorance of Mahamaya. The great Bengali drama-writer Girish Chandra Ghosh has said that ‘Mahamaya cannot catch two people – Narendra (Swami Vivekananda) and Nag Mahashay. Each time Mahamaya threw net, Narendra became so huge that the net was always falls short. In the case of Nag Mahashay, each time Mahamaya threw net, he became so small that he could get out of the net. ‘ What he meant that not to get caught in the net of ignorance either one should make one’s ‘ego’ so huge by becoming one with the universe or one should become so small by becoming most humble person. Only a free person understands the joy of freedom.