(The Main Principle of Knowing the Truth)

The main figure in the Upanishads is that of the sage Yajnavalkya. Most of the great teachings of later Hindu and Buddhist philosophy and derived from him. He taught the great doctrine of “neti-neti”, the view that truth can be found only through the negation of all thoughts about it.

Brhadaranyaka Upanishad is the oldest and recognized as the most important of all the Upanishads, Brhadaranyaka derives its name from the “great forest-book”.

The greatest of Upanishadic philosophers, sage Yajnavalkya’s dialogues with his wife, Maitreyi are featured in the Muni Kanda or Yajnavalkya Kanda. The doctrine of “Neti, Neti” in this Upanishad suggests the indescribability of the Brahman, the Absolute. It is possible to describe Brahman as what ‘It’ is not but not as to what ‘It’ is. Yajnavalkaya makes an effort to define Brahman. The three cardinal virtues of self-restraint (DSmana), alms giving (DAna) and compassion (DAya) are also mentioned here (the three ‘DA’s).

Atman is “neither this, nor this” (“Neti, neti”). The Self cannot be described in any way. “Na-iti” – that is “Neti”. It is through this process of “Neti, neti” that you give up everything – the cosmos, the body, the mind and everything – to realise the Self.

After knowing the Atman in this manner, you will develop the attitude that the phenomenal world and all its creatures are made up of the same essence of bliss.

Brahman is infinite, amorphous, colorless, characterless and formless Universal Spirit which is omnipresent and omnipotent, and like cosmic energy, it is pervasive, unseen and indescribable.

1. Neti-neti Meditation: The principle of Neti Neti has been used in meditation involving gnana yoga. Whenever a thought or feeling which is not the goal of the meditation — which is not the soul or the inner self — comes to the mind, the meditator simply has to say, “Not this, not this,” and dismiss the thought, image, concept, sound, or sense distraction. Any thought, any feeling, is discarded — patiently discarded — again and again if necessary, until the mind is clear and the soul/or the self is revealed.

2. Neti Neti and the mind: When you get into the habit of “neti-neti,” you can also discard thoughts of worry, doubt, or fear, and become established in the light of your inner self. You can, then, look back at worries and fears with deep insight and handle them.

3. Neti-Neti and Medical Profession: One of the basic medical teaching is to diagnose a condition by way of excluding other similar conditions. This is called differential diagnosis and this is the main stay of allopathy. This also makes one investigative-oriented but is the only scientific way of knowing the truth.

4. Neti neti and multiple-choice questions: In any modern exam today, the principle of Net Neti is used. A question has about four nearly similar answers and the student has to answer the correct one. He can only answer by the principle of negation.

5. Neti Neti and police investigations: This principle is also used while handling a criminal case. One suspects everyone on the crime and then starts elimination one by one.

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