Knowledge of Brahman


The great sage Uddalaka decided to teach the knowledge of Brahman to his son, Svetaketu. He asked Svetaketu to bring a ripe fruit from a banyan tree, outside his hermitage. Svetaketu obeyed. 

“Split the fruit into two,” the sage commanded.

Svetaketu did so.

“What do you see?”

“Innumerable tiny seeds.”

“Take a seed and split it into two.”

Svetaketu did so.

“What do you find now?”

“O nothing father!”

“Nothing? How can a mighty tree grow from nothing? There is a subtle power here, though you do not see it. This power pervades everywhere and everything.”

 Svetaketu asked his father how he could realise the subtle power. Sage Uddalaka asked him to put some salt crystals in a bowl of water before going to sleep and bring the bowl to him in the morning.  Svetaketu did so.

 “Take out the salt,” the sage commanded.

“I possibly cannot, dear father. It’s all dissolved in the water.”

“Alright, then taste the water.”

Svetaketu did so.

“How does the water taste?”

“Saltish. It’s bound to taste so.”

 Sage Uddalaka asked Svetaketu to taste the water from the middle and bottom of the bowl too. Svetaketu did so and found it saltish — as it was bound to be. Then the sage explained, “The subtle power – Spirit – I spoke of, pervades everywhere and everything like the salt in the water.”

 “Now I shall tell you how to realise the Spirit,” continued Uddalaka. “How does a man left blindfolded in a faraway forest reach home?… He removes the blindfold, wanders about making enquires in the nearby villages till someone points out the right way. Similarly to reach the Spirit – your true home — you have to enquire till you find the way, and then walk along it till you reach the destination.” v

Lesson from a Father

Dr. Arun Gandhi was the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. He founded the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Non-violence. He once gave the following lecture at the University of Puerto Rico.

"I was 16 years old. I lived with my parents 18 miles away from the city of Durban in South Africa. Our home was in the middle of a sugarcane farm. We had no neighbours. My two sisters and I loved to go to town to visit friends, or go to the movies. One day, my father asked me to drive him to town for an all-day conference. I was very happy at this chance.

 My mother gave me a list of groceries she wanted from the town market. My father asked me to get the car serviced. I took my father to the conference. He said, ‘I will meet you here at 5.00 p.m., and we will go home together.’

 I gave the car for servicing. Then I went straight to the nearest movie theatre. I got so engrossed in a John Wayne double feature that I forgot the time. I was an hour late to pick up my father.

 My father anxiously asked me, ‘Why are you late?’ I was ashamed of telling him I had been watching a movie. I said, ‘The car wasn’t ready, so I had to wait.’

 My father had already rung up the garage. He knew I was lying. He said, ‘There’s something wrong in the way I brought you up. You did not have the confidence to tell me the truth. I’m going to walk home 18 miles and think about it.’ Dressed in his suit and dress shoes, he began to walk home. It was dark on the unpaved roads. I slowly drove behind him, watching my father suffer for my lie. I took a vow never to tell a lie again.

 If my father had punished me I may not have learnt a lesson. But his non-violent action was so powerful that it is still fresh in my mind. That is the power of non-violence." v