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Article LXVII: The Way and the Goal

We contemplate upon the meaning of the Upanishads to gain knowledge, improve discrimination by the intellect, and approach enlightenment. However, the Katha Upanishad describes that, "This Atman cannot be attained by the study of Vedas, nor by intellect, nor even by much learning." How can this paradox be reconciled? The body and mind are sheaths of maya upon the Atman, the eternal, infinite Self, which is no different than Brahman, ultimate existence-consciousness-bliss. Hence, the maya of the body and the mind must be transcended in order to achieve realization of the Self (Atman). Although the mind can be used as a tool to study Vedas and gain knowledge, even the mind must be transcended in order to truly reach enlightenment. Therefore, the scriptures, rituals, prayers, devotion, love, wisdom, selfless action, etc. are all guides to orient oneself with the Divine. Each allow one to approach enlightenment, but enlightenment itself is beyond the tools and the guides, which are still part of maya. Enlightenment is the removal of all bondage and the transcendence of maya, which allows infinite freedom and bliss (moksha).


Katha Upanishad

The context of this scripture is a dialogue between Naciketas, a spiritual aspirant, and Yama, the god of death:

II.21: Though sitting still, He travels far; though lying down, He goes everywhere. Who can know, besides me [capable souls like me], that effulgent Being who rejoices and rejoices not?
II.22: The wise one does not grieve, having known the bodiless, all-pervading supreme Atman who dwells in (all) impermanent bodies.
II.23: This Atman cannot be attained by the study of Vedas, nor by intellect, nor even by much learning; by him it is attained whom it chooses, -- this, his (own) Atman, reveals its own (real) form.
II.24: Neither those who have not refrained from wickedness, nor the unrestrained, nor the unmeditative, nor one with unpacified mind, can attain this even by knowledge.
II.25: (Otherwise), who thus knows where He is? -- He whose food is the Brahmana and the Ksatriya, and whose condiment is Death.

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