"A Discussion between Father and Son"-3




“So is the case with certain other things. You take a nugget of gold, and
you know a nugget of gold can be cast into various shapes of ornaments. It can
be a necklace; it can be a ring; it can be anything. Now, if you know what gold
is really, what gold is made of essentially, you will also know what a gold
necklace is made of, what a gold ring is made of, etc., because the gold ring,
gold necklace and the like are gold only in their essence. These are only shapes,
forms taken by the essence which is the substance, gold.


“If you take a pair of scissors, for instance, made of iron, you know what it
is made of. It is made of iron. Then you would also know what anything else
made of iron is. It may be a hammer; it may be a nail; it may be an axe; it does
not matter what it is, all these things are the shapes taken by the same iron
which is in the pair of scissors.


“Now, this earthen pot is a very strange thing, altogether. The earthen pot
is a name that you have given to a shape taken by the earth. There is no such
thing as a pot, really speaking. You touch a pot and tell me whether you are
touching a pot or are touching clay. What are you touching? You cannot say
what you are touching. You will say, 'Well; it is difficult for me to say if I am
touching the pot or have touched the clay.' You are touching the clay and you
say you are touching the pot. The pot is in your head; it is not outside. What is
there is really the clay. Your conception, your thought is that the substance is
clay only. The interference of space and time in the substance called earth is
responsible for this peculiar shape that it has taken. So, the pot made of earth is
only a name, a sound merely. You are only uttering some words indicating a
shape taken by the earth which is its substance.



So, what do you mean by the shape taken by the earth? What is shape? You cannot understand what shape also is. The shape also is earth itself. You are interfering with the substance called the earth by your notional interpretation of its connection with space and time. So, the earthen pot is nothing but a conceptual interpretation that you are introducing into the substance that is called clay. There is no such thing as pot; it does not exist. Yet, you have coined two words. On one side there is the word called clay, on the other side there is the word called pot. Now, you have got two names indicating one and the same thing. Now, why should you have two names if the substance is only one? Yatha, saumya, ekena mrt-pindena sarvam mrnmayam vijnatam syat vacarambhanam vikaro namadheyam, mrttikety eva satyam: You are under an illusion of perception. You are confounded in your notion of the substance. There is a mistake that you commit in your interpretation of reality when you say, 'There is a pot.' The pot does not exist; what exists there is only the clay. And what you call the pot is only a concept in your mind. So is the case with everything else in this world,” says Uddalaka Aruneya to his son Svetaketu. The illustrations provided by the sage Uddalaka make out that object forms are inseparable from concepts in the mind. If they had not been organically involved in the mind of the perceiver, they would be objectively existent and could be physically sensed by the organs of perception. Now, in this analogy of the pot, an effect of a substance, namely, clay—the pot—when properly analysed is known to contain no element apart from the clay in spite of the fact that people go around saying that there is a pot. It is very strange indeed that there is no pot there and yet we say that there is a pot. Are we under an illusion? Is it true that every human being is equally misconceived in the perception of things? Or do we give names to things for the sake of convenience in social life? Now, mere practical utilitarian convenience cannot be regarded as an objective reality. If we give names to things only to distinguish their form, one from the other, for the purpose of practical life in the world, that would not sanction a philosophical or even a scientific existence to the counterparts of these names. We must accept that we are only giving names for the purpose of our notional convenience in work-a-day life, and that there are no corresponding objects. If this is a fact, diversities cease to be at one stroke. It will imply that all the varieties that you see in this world are mere nomenclature. They are a jumble of ideas expressed in language, the ideas having got concretised into apparent realities, as if they are really there and are trying to pounce upon us like hobgoblins. The variety of things, the diversity of objects and the multitudinousness that this world is apparently, is not really there.




If it is true that a substance, when converted into a shape or a form called the effect, does not introduce in to the effect anything new other than what was contained in itself alone; if clay is there in the pot and nothing else is there in the pot, it would be pointless to call that shape as a pot. We have unnecessarily created trouble by calling a particular form of clay by another name. We can call the same mass of clay by a third or a fourth name like tumbler, plate and so on. So we have created a
variety in our minds while variety is not really there.


This is the philosophical conclusion that automatically follows on a careful
investigation into the nature of the creation of variety in respect of the effects
that are manufactured out of causes while the causes are uniform in their
nature, ultimately. This is the outcome of the analysis of what Uddalaka
mentioned in very plain, simple language to the boy Svetaketu.


As is the case with clay in its relation to the effects produced out of it, so is
the case with everything else in this world out of which effects are produced,
whatever the causes may be,—iron, gold, wood or anything for the matter of
that. The boy could not understand the significance of this teaching. Well, it is
very clear. We do understand what they say, but it is terrifying. It seems to
shake the very foundation of our belief in the world, and it appears that we
cannot exist at all, if this is the truth. “My Gurus did not appear to have
understood all these things. They never taught me these things,” says the boy to
the father.



Chandogya Upanishad: Chapter-2, Section-1, Mantram-5 and 6.

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