Vedanta implies the highest knowledge, knowing which all other differences disappear, and there is nothing further to be known. Defining and describing the nature of the Self and of the Supreme Brahman is the aim of the Upanishads. When we try to understand many things, especially in the empirical world, we have the attitude, “let me become a knower.” This exercise comprises three entities: the knower, the object to be known and the act of knowing. For instance, when physics or chemistry is understood, the human being is the knower and these become the object of knowledge. But when one tries to understand the Self, the three entities merge since one enters the realm of the esoteric, said Sri Mani Dravid Sastrigal in a lecture. The Upanishads contain Mahavakyas — pithy statements that encapsulate the highest knowledge, while also life here and hereafter is described. The path to liberation through Jnana is also emphasised. But there is the possibility of losing track of the spirit of quest which the Upanishads symbolise when one wades through the maze of theories and interpretations.

The unstated and implied meanings have to be explored and one has to arrive at a correct understanding. In the Aitareya Upanishad is found the axiom Prajnanam Brahma. The meaning is that the eternal and universal consciousness is the Supreme Being which gives existence to the entire universe. The philosophical teaching in this Upanishad helps a spiritual aspirant to gain the true knowledge of the Self. The infinite variety in creation with manifold names, forms, tendencies, etc., would have remained mere toys had not the Self entered to activate each being. The body/mind/complex which functions in human beings is possible because of the indwelling Atma.

All beings thus are created live for a brief period and then die. The fear of death is largely felt in human beings. This fear has to go. Only knowledge of the Self can dispel this fear of birth and death.

The Self (Atma) gives life to the body and remains imperishable. One has to identify with the immortal Atma and not the body that is subject to growth, change, decay and death.