This from the Encyclopedia Britannica (on-line)

The Upanishads

With the last component of the Vedas, the philosophically oriented and esoteric texts known as the Upanishads (traditionally “sitting near a teacher” but originally understood as “connection” or “equivalence”), Vedic ritualism and the doctrine of the interconnectedness of separate phenomena were superseded by a new emphasis on knowledge alone—primarily knowledge of the ultimate identity of all phenomena, which merely appeared to be separate. The beginnings of philosophy and mysticism in Indian religious history occurred during the period of the compilation of the Upanishads, roughly between 700 and 500 bce. Historically, the most important of the Upanishads are the two oldest, the Brihadaranyaka (“Great Forest Text”; c. 10th–5th century bce) and the Chandogya (pertaining to the Chandogas, priests who intone hymns at sacrifices), both of which are compilations that record the traditions of sages (rishis) of the period—notably Yajnavalkya, who was a pioneer of new religious ideas.

The Upanishads reveal the desire to obtain the mystical knowledge that ensures freedom from “re-death” (punarmrityu), or birth and death in a new existence. Throughout the later Vedic period, the idea that the world of heaven is not the end of existence—and that even in heaven death is inevitable—became increasingly common. Vedic thinkers became concerned about the impermanence of religious merit and its loss in the hereafter, as well as about the transience of any form of existence after death—an existence that would culminate in re-death. The means of escaping and conquering death devised in the Brahmanas were of a ritual nature, but one of the oldest Upanishads, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, emphasizes the knowledge of the cosmic connection underlying ritual. When the doctrine of the identity of atman (the self) and brahman (the Absolute) was established in the Upanishads, those sages who were inclined to meditative thought substituted the true knowledge of the self and the realization of this identity for the ritual method.

This theme of the quest for a supreme unifying truth, for the reality underlying existence, is exemplified in the question posed by the seeker in the Mundaka Upanishad: “What is it that, by being known, all else becomes known?” What is sought is an experiential knowledge that is different from the “lower” knowledge that can be conceptualized and articulated by human beings. Thus, the supreme truth is understood as ineffable. The Taittiriya Upanishad says that brahman is this ineffable truth; brahman is also truth (satya), knowledge (jnana), infinity (ananta), consciousness (chit), and bliss (ananda). Other Upanishads describe brahman as the hidden, inner controller of the human soul. The experiential knowledge of the relationship between the human soul (atman) and the supreme being (brahman) is said to bring an end to the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. To know brahman is to know all; in knowing brahman, one achieves a transcendental consciousness that comprehends, in some measure, the unity of the universe and the deep connection between the soul and brahman.

In subsequent centuries the main theories concerned with the divine essence underlying the world were harmonized and synthetically combined. The tendency of these theories was to extol one god as the supreme lord and originator (Ishvara)—at once Purusha and Prajapati and brahman and the self of all beings. For those who worshipped him, he was the goal of identificatory meditation, which leads to complete cessation of phenomenal existence and becomes the refuge of those who seek eternal peace. The Advaita Vedanta philosopher and theologian Shankara (8th century ce) exercised enormous influence on subsequent Hindu thinking through his elegant synthesis of the nontheistic and theistic aspects of Upanishadic teaching. In his commentaries on several of the Upanishads, he distinguished between nirguna brahman (without attributes) and saguna brahman (with attributes). His was a monistic teaching that stressed that saguna brahman was a lesser, temporary form of nirguna brahman. He taught also that the self (atman) is identical with nirguna brahman and that through knowledge of this unity the cycle of rebirth can be broken.

The Upanishads were composed during a time of much social, political, and economic upheaval. Rural tribal society was disappearing, and the adjustments of the people to urban living under a monarchy probably provoked many psychological and religious responses. During this period many groups of mystics, world renouncers, and forest dwellers appeared in India, among whom were the authors of the Upanishads. The most important practices and doctrines of these world renouncers included asceticism and the concept of rebirth, or transmigration.

The Rigveda contains few examples of asceticism, except among the “silent ones” (munis). The Atharvaveda describes another class of religious adepts, or specialists, the vratyas, particularly associated with the region of Magadha (west-central Bihar). The vratya was a wandering hierophant (one who manifested the holy) who remained outside the system of Vedic religion. He practiced flagellation and other forms of self-mortification and traveled from place to place in a bullock cart with an apprentice and with a woman who appears to have engaged in ritual prostitution. The Brahmans sought to bring the vratyas into the Vedic system by special conversion rituals, and it may be that the vratyas introduced their own beliefs and practices into Vedic religion. At the same time, the more-complex sacrifices of the later Vedic period demanded purificatory rituals, such as fasting and vigil, as part of the preparations for the ceremony. Thus, there was a growing tendency toward the mortification of the flesh.

The origin and development of the belief in transmigration of souls are very obscure. A few passages suggest that this doctrine was known even in the days of the Rigveda, and the Brahmanas often refer to doctrines of re-death and rebirth, but it was first clearly propounded in the earliest Upanishad—the Brihadaranyka. There it is stated that the soul of a Vedic sacrificer returns to earth and is reborn in human or animal form. This doctrine of samsara (reincarnation) is attributed to the sage Uddalaka Aruni, who is said to have learned it from a Kshatriya chief. In the same text, the doctrine of karma (“actions”), according to which the soul achieves a happy or unhappy rebirth according to its works in the previous life, occurs for the first time and is attributed to the theologian Yajnavalkya. Both doctrines seem to have been new, circulating among small groups of ascetics who were disinclined to make them public, perhaps for fear of the orthodox priests. These doctrines must have spread rapidly, for they appear in the later Upanishads and in the earliest Buddhist and Jain scriptures.

Karma (or effects)

The Yoga-Sûtra of Patañjali translated by Chip Hartranft


III-22. Karma (or effects) are of two kinds: immediate karma or future karma. By perfectly concentrated meditation on these, the yogi knows the term of his experience in the three worlds. This knowledge comes also from signs.

This sutra can be somewhat elucidated if read in connection with Sutra 18 of Book III. The karma referred to here deals primarily with the present life of the aspirant or seer. He knows that every event in that life is the effect of a previous cause, initiated by himself in an early incarnation; he knows also that every act of the present life must produce an effect (to be worked [285] out in another life) unless it is done in such a way that:

  1. The effect is immediate and culminates within the scope of the present life time,
  2. The effect involves no Karma, for the act has been done from a selfless motive and carried out with complete detachment. He then produces the effect desired in accordance with the law but it carries no consequences for himself.

When the seer enters into incarnation in a life wherein only a few more effects remain to be worked out, and when all that he initiates is freed from karma, then he can set a term to his life experience and he knows that the day of liberation is at hand. Through meditation and ability to function as the ego {soul} he can arrive at the world of causes, and he knows therefore what acts must be performed to release the few remaining effects. Through strict attention to the motive underlying every act of the present life he obviates the necessity for their effects to tie him in any way to the wheel of rebirth. Thus he consciously and intelligently nears his goal and every deed, act and thought is governed by direct knowledge, and in no way chains him.

The signs or portents referred to, relate primarily to the mental world, where the real man dwells. Through an understanding of three things:

  1. Numbers,
  2. Colors,
  3. Vibrations,

the seer becomes aware of the freedom of his [286] aura from “death producing” effects. He knows there is nothing more written, symbolically, in the records which can bring him back to the three worlds, and therefore “by signs” his path is seen to be clear.

This has been expressed for us in the ancient writings found in the Masters’ archives as follows:

“When the star with five points shines with clarity and no forms are seen within its points, the way is clear.

When the triangle encloses naught but light, the path is freed for the passing of the pilgrim.

When within the aura of the pilgrim the many forms die out and colors three are seen, then the road is freed from that which might obstruct.

When thoughts call not to forms and when no shadows are reflected, the thread provides a way direct from the circle to the center.”

From that point of rest, no return is possible. The term of necessary experience in the three worlds is at an end. No karma then can draw the freed spirit back to earth for further lessons, or the working out of prior causes. He may, however, continue or resume his work of service in the three worlds, without ever really leaving his true home in the subtler realms and higher spheres of consciousness.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – Book 3 – Union achieved and its Results

Alice Bailey & Djwhal Khul

Social Conditioning

Whether you like to admit it or not much of what you say, do and believe is very heavily influenced by social conditioning. How you are conditioned will vary according to your background but there is much commonality. If you are brought up in Islam that conditioning differs from a “Christian” upbringing. I have used emphasis because many who deem themselves such are more “old testamentarians” than they are Christian. The notion of vengeance and punishment, for example, being sourced in the older book and not Christ’s teachings. Your social conditioning will vary according to race and class. This whole notion of offence stems from social conditioning, because it is this conditioning which provides some kind of framework and justification for being offended. “How dare they do or say that! I am a venerable Professor of Chemistry!” It is social conditioning which conveys some notion of mundane rank or status.

Alone in the jungle at night a hungry leopard will not give one toss about your status, your house nor what car you have in the drive. You will be just a piece of meat upon which it seeks to dine. That is reality, the rest is made up by “society”. And we are conditioned into compliance. If someone is a stuck-up pompous arsehole, it is not done to point this out to them even if it is true. Such a being would get offended if you highlighted their behaviours. We are conditioned to think that their taking offence is to some extent acceptable. It is rude and perhaps nasty to transgress. The leopard would not understand what all the fuss is about. What it would understand is a quarrel with another leopard over your juicy carcass, once it has torn through your designer clothes.

The extent of your social conditioning will vary according to your length of time on planet and in “society” there. The longer you have been, the greater the extent of conditioning you carry. You will not appreciate the extent of this conditioning. Say you are forty, it would take many years, perhaps a decade or more, to undo this social conditioning with its knee-jerk reactions. I am to a large extent outside of society and this enables a more detached view. I can choose whether to engage in a way consistent with social conditioning or not. This is the big difference, choice. I can have a socially conditioned conversation about the weather, I don’t have to.

Very broadly and with exceptions, if you are raised in a lower socio-economic class you will be more impressed with status, whether that status be educational, professional, authoritative or blue blood. If you did not have status growing up, it will be a big thing for you as you mature. You might even seek out status as a measure of your success. Still the leopard won’t give a shit, that is not true, he will later, and you would be in it.

This social conditioning, the common dream / nightmare is a massive barrier to liberation. To cut through is not easy nor instantaneous. And just when you think you have undone some of this conditioning another layer of it raises its ugly head. How do you know who you are under the tonnes of conditioning? You don’t know what is you, and what is conditioned into you.

 You are not your social conditioning.

If you want to find the real you, the social conditioning must go, and it must go without conditions. You can’t just keep the bits you like. Because that is still conditioning. Even weakening your conditioning a little bit enhances choice, freedom is to break it altogether. The journey to find your own authentic essence is a long one and it is there, in that essence, you will find you, perhaps for the first time in your life.

If you want to begin this journey you will need to unpick and undo this terrible and pervasive conditioning. To start you will need to discriminate between conditioned behaviours and your own authentic ones. This is not as easy as it sounds.

As an exercise:

Monitor your interactions with the world and see if you can spot your conditioned responses.

Which ones are borrowed or learned?

What would a hungry leopard make of it?

Social conditioning gives rise to kerfuffle.

Is this kerfuffle real or some conditioning?

What is your true nature, your authentic essence?

The Spirituality EGO Trip

“Hey man, I am like a truly spiritual being. I am in touch with the oneness of the universe and sit at my guru’s feet. Like I have been on retreat with guru Dev and Nicolai Rinpoche. I do twenty minutes of yoga every morning butt naked under a waterfall. I never eat the flesh of the sacred beings who walk this our Mother Earth with us. No wine passes my lips and I don’t smoke herb. All my clothes are ethnically and renewably sourced. I am surely on my way to enlightenment. I am way more spiritual than you, look at my New Age CV bro’. I am here to save you from your wicked ways.”

Have you ever met one of these? Perhaps I am one?

There is a real EGO trip associated with spiritual endeavour, it is easy to become holier-than-thou. It is easy to imagine that one is already a proto-Arhat and thence bestow your wisdom on lesser beings. One becomes swollen with premature omniscience.

“Like, I am one of the chosen disciples and I know best. You could not possibly teach me because I am already way more enlightened than you are.”

Having cued this up one question:

Do I ever feel this holier-than-thou vibe?   

‘Tis the gift to be simple

This little hymn has had a most profound effect in my life:

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free

‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,

To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,

To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.


Attr. Elder Joseph of the Shaker community in Maine



Permanence and impermanence

Are same thing

Constructs of mind


In absence of mind

There is no per or man

Nor emanation


Thing is not Atma


Mind exists only in matter

And it does not


If can be thought

Then it is not


Thought itself is substance

And must die


Thought is not Atma

Mind is not Atma


The point of

No mind and

No thought


Is close to Atma


Atma is both before thought and mind


… … … Come into being


… … …After they have passed


Progenitor and ineffable

Known but not yet known

Nevertheless aware


Atma is nascence

The urge of nascence

And the awareness of the process of nascence


Being in nascence


Not bliss-full and bearing robes

Or shiny-eyed and haloed

Nor ascended and God like


Atma is creation in the action of manifestation

Peaceful no, dynamic yes

Precursor of the Divine mouse

Clicking being-ness into …

At-one-ment, the Result of Initiation

A point that we need to grasp is that each successive initiation brings about a more complete unification of the personality and the Ego (the Soul), and on higher levels still, with the Monad. The whole evolution of the human spirit is a progressive at-one-ment. In the at-one-ment between the Ego and the personality lies hid the mystery of the Christian doctrine of the At-one-ment. One unification takes place at the moment of individualization, when man becomes a conscious rational entity, in contradistinction to the animals. As evolution proceeds successive at-one-ments occur.

At-one-ment on all levels – emotional, intuitional, spiritual and Divine – consists in conscious, continuous functioning. In all cases it is preceded by a burning, through the medium of the inner fire, and by the destruction, through sacrifice, of all that separates. The approach to unity is through destruction of the lower, and of all that forms a barrier. Take, in illustration, the web that separates the etheric body and the emotional. When that web has been burned away by the inner fire the communication between the bodies of the personality becomes continuous and complete, and the three lower vehicles function as one. You have a somewhat analogous situation on the higher levels, though the parallel cannot be pushed to detail. The intuition corresponds to the emotional, and the four higher levels of the mental plane to the etheric. In the destruction of the causal body at the time of the fourth initiation (called symbolically “the Crucifixion”) you have a process analogous to the burning of the web that leads to the unification of the bodies of the personality. The disintegration that is a part of the arhat initiation leads to unity between the Ego and the Monad, expressing itself in the Triad. It is the perfect at-one-ment.

The whole process is therefore for the purpose of making man consciously one:

  1. With himself, and those in incarnation with him.
  2. With his higher Self, and thus with all selves.
  3. With his Spirit, or “Father in Heaven,” and thus with all Monads.
  4. With the Logos, the Three in One and the One in Three.

Man becomes a conscious human being through the instrumentality of the Lords of the Flame, through Their enduring sacrifice.

Man becomes a conscious Ego, with the consciousness of the higher Self, at the third initiation, through the instrumentality of the Masters and of the Christ, and through Their sacrifice in taking physical incarnation for the helping of the world.

Man unites with the Monad at the fifth initiation, through the instrumentality of the Lord of the World, the Solitary Watcher, the Great Sacrifice.

Man becomes one with the Logos through the instrumentality of One about Whom naught may be said.


Initiation, Human and Solar
Alice Bailey & Djwhal Khul