Those who depart from the world without knowing who they are or what they truly desire have no freedom here or hereafter.

But those who leave here knowing who they are and what they truly desire have freedom everywhere, both in this world and in the next.

[VIII.I.6]

The universe is founded on two princples. One is rita, law, order, or regularity. Without it no scientific discovery would be possible; more importantly, no moral discovery would be possible. Human experience would have no meaning, for we would have no way to learn from our experiences.

The second principle is yajna, sacrifice. The universe, [the sages] tell us, runs on renunciation.  The most significant human action is the sacrifice of personal gain for the sake of something higher and holier.

If rita is the moral law, yajna is the human response to live in accordance with that law, taking nothing from life for oneself but everywhere seeking to give of oneself to life. Jesus was essentially describing rita when he said, “By the same measure you mete out to others, by that measure shal lit be meted out to you,” and yajna when he said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth. . . . But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

We can use things, but to be in harmony with the underlying laws of life we should never feel that they are really ours: as the Isha Upanishad so simply puts it, “Everything belongs to the Lord.”

This awareness leads to a profound peace, which the Chandogya conveys in one of the Upanishads’ most poignant images: “As a tethered bird flies this way and that, and comes to rest at last on its own perch, so the mind, tired of wandering about . . . settles down in the Self” (VI.8.2).

– Michael N. Nagler

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