पुरुषं सोम्योत हस्तगृहीतमानयन्त्यपहार्षीत्स्तेयमकार्षीत्परशुमस्मै तपतेति स यदि तस्य कर्ता भवति तत एवानृतमात्मानं कुरुते सोऽनृताभिसंधोऽनृतेनात्मानमन्तर्धाय परशुं तप्तं प्रतिगृह्णाति स दह्यतेऽथ हन्यते ॥ ६.१६.१ ॥
puruṣaṃ somyota hastagṛhītamānayantyapahārṣītsteyamakārṣītparaśumasmai tapateti sa yadi tasya kartā bhavati tata evānṛtamātmānaṃ kurute so’nṛtābhisaṃdho’nṛtenātmānamantardhāya paraśuṃ taptaṃ pratigṛhṇāti sa dahyate’tha hanyate || 6.16.1 ||
1. O Somya, suppose a man is brought with his hands tied, and they say: ‘This man has stolen something. He has committed robbery. Heat up an axe for him.’ If he has committed the offence, then surely he will prove himself to be a liar. Being dishonest and trying to hide under the cover of falsehood, he will be burned when he grasps the hot axe, and then he will be killed.
Somya, O Somya; puruṣam, a person; hastagṛhītam, with his hands tied; ānayanti, they bring; apahārṣīt, he has stolen something; steyam akārṣīt, he has committed robbery; paraśum, an axe; asmai, for him; tapata iti, heat; yadi, if; saḥ, he; kartā tasya bhavati, is the one who has done it; tataḥ, then; eva, surely; anṛtam, false [a liar]; ātmānam kurute, proves himself; anṛta-abhisandhaḥ, having a dishonest character; saḥ ātmānam, he himself; anṛtena, by falsehood; antardhāya, under the cover [of falsehood]; paraśum taptam, the hot axe; pratigṛhṇāti, grasps; saḥ dahyate, he gets burned; atha hanyate, then he dies.
What is liberation? Liberation is the state in which I know I am the Self—I know that I am never born and will never die. When I know that I am free, then I am aptakāma, fully satisfied. There is nothing more to achieve, because nothing more exists outside of myself. If there is something outside myself, then I might think, ‘Oh, let me have that.’ But if I am everything, if everything exists within me, what is there to desire? Sarvam khalu idam brahma—all this is Brahman. And I am that Brahman. I am free, immortal. There is no more birth and death for me.
Now here the question arises, what is the test of whether you have Self-knowledge or not? The Upaniṣad gives another illustration: Suppose someone is brought to you and you are told he has committed a theft. You ask him if he has done it and he denies it. But all the evidence seems to point to him as the culprit. What do you do? In ancient days they had a test, a rather cruel test. They put the blade of an axe in fire, and when it was very hot they would put it against the hand of the suspect. If his hand was burnt he was considered guilty, because he was covered, as it were, by falsehood. And if his hand was not burnt he was considered innocent, because he was protected by truth.
Similarly, if we do not have Self-knowledge, we will continue to bum in this world. We will be born again and again. But if we have attained Self-knowledge, we will be liberated. Truth will set us free.
Self-knowledge is not something you can demonstrate or take out and show. The only proof of it is that we do not have to continue in this cycle of birth and death. Nevertheless, when a person attains Self-knowledge, he is not the same any more. His attitude towards others changes. For instance, he can never hurt anyone, because if he hurts someone he hurts himself. Then again, no one is a stranger to him. He accepts everyone. If someone is happy, he is happy. If someone is in pain, he is also in pain. If someone has done well, he feels proud of that person—as if it is his own success. He can never be jealous, because he feels one with everybody.