य आत्मापहतपाप्मा विजरो विमृत्युर्विशोको विजिघत्सोऽपिपासः सत्यकामः सत्यसंकल्पः सोऽन्वेष्टव्यः स विजिज्ञासितव्यः स सर्वांश्च लोकानाप्नोति सर्वांश्च कामान्यस्तमात्मानमनुविद्य विजानातीति ह प्रजापतिरुवाच ॥ ८.७.१ ॥
ya ātmāpahatapāpmā vijaro vimṛtyurviśoko vijighatso’pipāsaḥ satyakāmaḥ satyasaṃkalpaḥ so’nveṣṭavyaḥ sa vijijñāsitavyaḥ sa sarvāṃśca lokānāpnoti sarvāṃśca kāmānyastamātmānamanuvidya vijānātīti ha prajāpatiruvāca || 8.7.1 ||
1. Prajāpati once said: ‘The Self is free from sin, free from old age, free from death, free from sorrow, and free from hunger and thirst. It is the cause of desire for Truth and for commitment to Truth. This Self has to be sought for and thoroughly known. The person who has sought for and known the Self attains all worlds and all desires’.
Yaḥ ātmā apahatapāpmā, the Self is free from sin; vijaraḥ, free from the effects of age; vimṛtyuḥ, free from death; viśokaḥ, free from sorrow; vijighatsaḥ, free from hunger; apipāsaḥ, free from thirst; satyakāmaḥ, is the cause of desire for Truth; satyasaṅkalpaḥ, is the cause of commitment to Truth; saḥ, that; anveṣṭavyaḥ, has to be sought; saḥ vijijñāsitavyaḥ, that has to be thoroughly investigated; saḥ, a person; sarvān ca lokān āpnoti, attains all worlds; sarvān ca kāmān, and all desires; yaḥ, who; tam ātmānam, that Self; anuvidya, having learned; vijānāti, [and] knows it; prajāpatiḥ iti ha uvāca, Prajāpati once said.
Again and again the Upaniṣads glorify Self-knowledge, but what is the nature of the Self, and how do we attain that knowledge? Here the Upaniṣad begins a story to answer this. Once Prajāpati, the creator, decided to teach people about the Self. He described the Self as apahata-pāpmā, free from sins, or blemishes (pāpa)—that is to say, it is pure. Vijara—it never ages, or decays. Vimṛtyu—it is free from death.
The body, of course, is subject to decay and it perishes. When you look at an old person you can tell at once that the body has decayed. It has become weak, and there are wrinkles and grey hair, and so on. Then gradually it must perish. That which has birth also has death. No matter when the body was born, it will eventually begin to fall apart and die. But the Self will never die.
Then Prajāpati says, the Self is viśoka, without sorrow, vijighatsa, not subject to hunger, and apipāsa, not subject to thirst. Besides this, the Self is satyakāma and satyasaṅkalpa—seeking the Truth and always rooted in Truth. That is to say, it is Truth itself. It is always one with Truth, so it can never deviate from Truth.
“Saḥ anveṣṭavyaḥ”—that has to be known. This is the purpose of life. Sri Ramakrishna used to say, ‘To realize God is the goal of life.’ The goal is not money, not power, not scholarship. It is nothing but God. Saḥ vijijñāsitavyaḥ—it has to be enquired about. You cannot sit back and wait for it to reveal itself to you. You must go and find someone to teach you about it. And when you have found a capable teacher, you must fall at his feet and beg him to teach you. Then you must ask again and again until your doubts are removed: ‘Is it like this? Is it like that?’ But you must go to someone who knows the Self. Can a blind man lead another blind man? If the teacher does not know the Self, how will you learn?
When you fulfil these conditions, what happens? You get everything you want. You become supreme. The Upaniṣad says, you conquer the whole universe. How? Because you realize you are the Self. And that Self is the Self of all that exists. You are everything. In this way too, all your desires are fulfilled.
Self-knowledge gives you the highest. You may have everything else—friends, relatives, great political power, money, scholarship, a high social standing—but if you do not have Self-knowledge, everything is useless.
Prajāpati has declared: ‘This is the nature of the Self. And if you know the Self, you attain everything.’ He has sent out an invitation, as it were: ‘Come and learn from me.’ Here, in order to teach the nature of the Self, and also to emphasize the need for self-discipline to attain Self-knowledge, the Upani-