Akṣi Upaniṣad is one of the minor Upaniṣads belonging to the Krsna Yajurveda. It starts with the visit of the sage Sāṅkṛti to Ādityaloka, and pleasing him with a laudatory hymn. This hymn is named ‘cākṣuṣmatī-vidyā.’ The Sun-god who is the deity presiding over light in the external world and the power of sight in the bodies of living beings, declares that whosoever recites this hymn regularly everyday will not be affected by diseases of the eye. Since this Upanisad begins with a hymn connected with the ‘akṣi’ or the eye.
The sage Sāṅkṛti then beseeches Lord Āditya to teach him Brahmavidyā or knowledge of Brahman. This question leads to discourse by Āditya on Vedāntic doctrines. A major part of this is devoted to a description of the seven bhumis or the planes of yogic state.
- In the first state, the yogi looks upon everything as the one, the unborn, indestructible and eternal Principle. This gradually leads to a natural dissolution of the mind wherein nothing except that one, is experienced. This is yoga. Trying to remain in that state, the yogi performs all the actions. He is detached from all the internal mental impressions. He performs all good actions, actions which will not cause agitation in others’ minds. He loves all and speaks words suitable according to the time and place. He serves the holy ones in all the ways. He is interested in reflecting upon the holy scriptures.
- In the second state, the yogi approaches people well-versed in the scriptures and learns from them about śrutis (Vedas), smṛtis (secondary scriptures), sadācāra (good conduct) and yogic practices like dhāraṇā (attention) and dhyāna (meditation). He tries to transcend from the six evils like pride and greed.
- In the third state he fixes his mind on the truths of the scriptures after hearing about them from the rṣis in the Vānaprastha stage of life. He observes hard austerities like lying on a bed of stone and roaming in the forests, to develop non-attachment. He develops great detachment to all the things of life. He takes his life either due to the previous karma or as the will of God.
- In the fourth state, the yogi has transcended duality, is established in the advaita or non-dual state of consciousness and hence perceives the world only as a dream.
- In the fifth state, even this perception of the world as a dream disappears.
- In the sixth state, his mind gets attenuated further, advaitic consciousness becomes stronger, and doubts and bonds disappear. He is, for all practical purposes, a jīvanmukta or 'the one who is liberated even while living.’
- In the seventh state, which the Upaniṣad calls as ‘videhamukti’ is characterized by total freedom from all the bonds, rules and regulations and deep constant experience of the highest identity with Paramātman or Vāsudeva, the Supreme God.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore