A Verse from a Lost Upanishad
The Apastamba is one of the oldest of the law-books of ancient India; it is thought to date from about 300 B.C. In the part of it which deals with expiation of sins, there is a short section on realization of the true Self of man by means of Yoga. It contains some verses about the Self which come from Upanishads which have now been lost. Shankara wrote a commentary on this section on Self-realization; he remarks that it is included in the law-book because practising Yogas of Self-realization is the best way to reform one’s character. Here is one of the verses, with Shankara’s commentary:
EACH AND EVERY LIVING BEING IS A CITY BELONGING TO THE ONE LYING AT REST IN THE CAVE,
INDESTRUCTIBLE, TAINTLESS, THE UNMOVING ABIDING IN THE MOVING.
THOSE WHO PRACTISE REALIZATION OF IT,
THEY ARE IMMORTALS.
A CITY-the city of the body. LIVING BEING-one that has life. EACH AND EVERY living being, from Brahma the Creator-God down to a tuft of grass, is a city. A city is, as it were, the place in which to find a king.
To whom does the city belong? To the Self, at rest in the cave. Just as the king is to be seen in his city, surrounded by ministers and others, so in the bodies is the Self found, associated with buddhi (higher reason) and other faculties. And he sees experiences presented to him by those faculties, buddhi and the rest.
He is said to be AT REST IN THE CAVE because he lies in the cave of buddhi, which is a veil of ignorance over the Self. His is the city. In that buddhi, when the impurity and defect of ignorance is removed, he is seen by the knowers who have given up feverish desires.
There is a further indication of the one lying in the cave: INDESTRUCTIBLE. In the body struck down by a cut or thrust, by age or disease, he is not struck down. In the Chandogya Upanishad it is said,
“By the killing of this, he is not killed.” Then he is said to be TAINTLESS. There is no stain, no sin, in him. All action which is accompanied by ignorance, whether called righteous or unrighteous, becomes a taint, and it is denied of him by the word “taintless”. And effects of action, in the form of the pains of age, illness and so on, have been denied by the word “indestructible”.
Thus every living being is a city, a place where is found one who is free from the bonds of cause and effect, who is not a sansarin (a being of these worlds of ignorance).
Nor is there any other sansarin.
“One God hidden in all beings” (Shvetashvatara Upanishad);
“This Self hidden in all the beings does not shine forth” (Katha Upanishad) ;
“There is no other seer but He” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad);
“That is the Self, That thou art” (Chandogya Upanishad).
In the first half of the verse, Brahman has been spoken of as It really is; in the latter half, he now speaks of the result of realization for the one who realises It.
That indestructible and taintless One, of whom each and every living being is a city, must evidently be all pervading like space, in as much as every being is associated with Him.
And scripture says: “Eternal and all-pervading like space.”
Again it is evident that something all-pervading would be UNMOVING. That UNMOVING ABIDING IN THE MOVING itself is lying within the moving buddhi of the living being, and thus is the unmoving abiding in the moving.
THOSE WHO PRACTISE REALIZATION OF IT-who attain It directly as “my own Self”;
THEY ARE IMMORTALS – they become of immortal nature.
Translated by T.P.L.