There were five wise people learned in sacred lore, performers of sacrifices, but who could not come to a conclusion in regard to the final destination of their meditations. These great men were Prachinasala, Satyayajna, Indradyumna, Jana, Budila. They were all well versed in meditation according to their own techniques, but they had doubts in their minds, because in the course of their meditations, in spite of the fact that they discovered good results, there was something lurking in their minds, pointing to a defect in their meditations.
They were unable to understand the defect was. So, they conferred among themselves: “What is Atman? What is Brahman? What is the difficulty with us? Can any one enlighten me? Why is it that there is no agreement among us?” Each one was questioning the others. There must be some point which we are missing. Then they thought, “Well, in our locality is another great man. Why do we not go to him? Perhaps he knows this secret of the Vaishvanara-Atman. He is Aruni, the great sage who lives nearby. Let us go to him.
Everyone agreed and they decided to approach Aruni, with their problem. Aruni was surprised when he saw five great persons approaching his cottage. Aruni guessed that these great sages are coming to him obviously with some very difficult question regarding the Highest Reality. Aruni was not sure whether he will be able to answer these great sages satisfactorily.
Aruni was not ready to take this risk, so he decided that he will direct these persons to some other person who is more knowledgeable than him. When the five sages approached Aruni, and placed their problem before him, he said “O great men! I know why you have come. I am also in the same boat as you are. I have also doubts of my own. I do also meditate as you are all doing, and I have also some difficulties in spite of the fact I have been meditating for years together.
Why not we all go together to the great emperor Ashvapati who is a master at meditation and is highly proficient in the supreme technique of meditation called Vaishvanara-Vidya [Vaishva = Universe / Nara = Man / Vidya = Knowledge / Knowledge of Universal Being]. Hence, they all including Aruni went to the king’s palace and presented themselves before him. When Brahmanas go to a king, naturally they go for some Bhiksha.
That is the usual tradition. The king thought that these people had come expecting some gift or money. He received them with great respect and honour, offered them seat. He received each person separately with due honour. He garlanded them, gave them water to drink and enquired how they were and said “I welcome you O Brahmanas! I am ready to offer you anything that you need by way of gift, if you have come for that”. These great men said: “O king! You are so kind, but there is a different purpose with which we have come to you.
We have not come for money; we have not come for wealth. The Brahmins said “We have heard O Great King! You are in possession of a great knowledge, the knowledge of the Supreme Being, about which we have great doubts and concerning which we have not come to any conclusion among ourselves. We have come as students begging for this knowledge that you possess; the wisdom of meditation upon the Vaishvanara-Atman, which we do not know.
This is the purpose for which we have come,—not for wealth, not for money, nor for gifts.” The seekers were very great people, perhaps elder in age to the king himself, not ordinary persons, but they humbled themselves before this mighty knowledge which the king possessed; and approached the king with offerings of samit (sacred firewood) according to ancient tradition, the offering with which students used to approach the Master.
They did not regard themselves as Brahmanas or punditas superior to the Kshatriyas. They went as students of higher knowledge to the great master that the king was. The King saw that these Brahmins were well-prepared already; they were Brahmanas, highly experiences in art of meditation, religious people, and entirely devoted to spiritual life. They were not ordinary, raw brahmacharins approaching a Guru for knowledge.
He accepted them as students at once, merely on their declaring themselves as students: “We have come as students.” “Well, I accept you as students.” The king questioned them one by one, “What is it that you are meditating upon already? Why is it that you are in difficulty?” Now, each one was asked this question. The first one was Prachinasala. Prachinasala said “I meditate on Heaven (Aakash) as the Supreme Being, Your Highness. That is the symbol I take for fixing my attention of consciousness. I consider the highest region of Heaven as the final symbol for my meditation.
I regard it as the Absolute. Therefore, I consider it as the Atman. So, this is how I meditate. But I have no peace of mind. There is something wrong with this technique, and for that purpose I have come to you.” The king replied: “You are a very honest student of meditation. Heaven is, of course, a part of the great Vaishvanara, the Universal Being, which you are meditating upon. You have abundance of wealth in your house. You perform large sacrifices without end, and you have no difficulty in receiving guests and feeding them.
This is what will happen to any person who meditates like this, as you are doing, on the Vaishvanara-Atman. And this is your case also. But, there is a great mistake in your meditation. Heaven is only a part of the whole Reality. This is the head of Reality, the topmost region of the Vaishvanara, the crown, the head of the Universal Being. Thus,you have mistaken a part for the whole, you have considered the head for the whole body, because you have made this mistake in your meditation, your head would have fallen, one day or the other; some great calamity would have befallen you if you had not come to me now, at the proper time, for rectification.”
In the same way the king puts the same questions to rest of the Brahmins. Each Brahmin relied in his own way. Satyayajna said “O King I meditate upon Sun (Surya) as symbol of the Absolute. The King said “But the mistake that you are making in your meditation is that the Sun is the eye, as it were, of the cosmic body of Vaishvanara. It is not the whole of Reality. Indradyumna said “I meditate upon the Cosmic Air (Vayu) that blows, as the all-pervading Reality, Your Highness.” The King replied “This is a wonderful meditation, but there is a defect in this meditation.
Air is only the vital breath, as it were, of the Vaishvanara-Atman. You have mistaken it for the whole” Jana said “I meditate on the all-pervading Space, Your Highness.” The king said “But, this is not the correct meditation; there is an error in this meditation also, because the Space that you are thinking of as the Cosmic Reality, is really the body, as it were, and not the whole, of Vaishvanara”. Budila said “I meditate on Water (Jal), Your Highness. I contemplate Water (the ocean) as symbolic of Reality, as an endless expanse.
This is my Atman.”. The King said “But, this is also a defective form of meditation because it is the lower belly, as it were, of the cosmic Vaishvanara. It is just the watery element of the whole cosmic embodiment”. Aruni said “I meditate upon the Earth (Prithvi) in its comprehensiveness as Reality, Your Highness.”. The king said “But, the Earth is only the footstool of the Vaishvanara-Atman, as it were.
It is the feet of the Vaishvanara-Atman because it is the lowest degree among the manifestations of Reality” Having asked all the Brahmins about their method of meditation, the king started telling them the real method of meditation. The king said “All of you are very sincere in your meditations, and honest, indeed. Because of your honesty and sincerity and firmness in meditation, you enjoy plenty of everything in your houses and in your families and within yourselves. But you do not know that you have committed errors in your meditations.
In the beginning, everything looks all right even in an erroneous meditation, but afterwards some difficulty arises which cannot be rectified even by the best of methods. Well, you have all made two mistakes, to put the whole thing precisely. You have considered some parts of the whole as the whole. You have mistaken the finite for the Infinite. Nothing that you are thinking in your minds can be the hole, because the mind is accustomed to think only finite objects.
Whatever be our concept of expanse in regard to the particular object on which you are meditating, it is still finite. This is one error”. The king proceeded to tell them the second error. “The second mistake that you are making is that you think of the Atman as an object, as if it is outside. You say, it is Space, it is Water, it is the Sun, it is the Earth, and so on. Well, it is all very beautiful.
But, it is ‘outside you’! How can non-Atman be the Atman? “And what do you mean by the Atman? How can the Atman be outside you? Your own Self is external to you? What a concept! You have really committed a blunder in conceiving your own Self as a non-Self. The first point, then, is that a finite thing cannot be regarded as the Infinite. The other thing is that an external thing cannot be regarded as the Self. You have committed both these mistakes. You are having the knowledge of this Great Being, little by little, part by part, as in the story of the blind men and the elephant.
Each blind man was touching a part of the elephant’s body and regarding it as something specific”. “There is no need to pour water and put manure on every leaf of the tree if you want to tend a tree. You have to water the root; that is sufficient. You concern yourself with the root of the tree, and then you see there is an efflorescence of every part of the tree, automatically. The root of the Reality is missed by your consciousness.
Whoever can conceive in his mind the true Vaishvanara as that which extends from the earth to the heavens, from the heavens to the earth, from the topmost level of manifestation down to the lowest level, missing no link whatsoever, visualises the Whole. This is the Vaishvanara-Atman, the All-Self. Whoever can meditate in this manner becomes the Self of every being all at once. One becomes the Self of all the worlds; he becomes the Self of anything that can be anywhere. All these parts which you have mentioned are various limbs of the Cosmic Body.
You have to bring them together and conceive the Whole, at once, in your consciousness. Do not say, ‘This is the sun, this is space, this is water,’ and all that. Do not think like this. Let all these be thought together, immediately, in their comprehensiveness, without missing any one whatsoever, by feeling oneness with Earth, Water, Sun, Air, Space, Heaven, and everything.”