Chandogya Upanishad (english Translation)

by Swami Lokeswarananda | 165,421 words | ISBN-10: 8185843910 | ISBN-13: 9788185843919

This is the English translation of the Chandogya-upanishad, including a commentary based on Swami Lokeswarananda’s weekly discourses; incorporating extracts from Shankara’s bhasya. The Chandogya Upanishad is a major Hindu philosophical text incorporated in the Sama Veda, and dealing with meditation and Brahman. This edition includes the Sanskrit t...

Verse 6.7.6

एवं सोम्य ते षोडशानां कलानामेका कलातिशिष्टाभूत्सान्नेनोपसमाहिता प्राज्वाली तयैतर्हि वेदाननुभवस्यन्नमयंहि सोम्य मन आपोमयः प्राणस्तेजोमयी वागिति तद्धास्य विजज्ञाविति विजज्ञाविति ॥ ६.७.६ ॥
॥ इति सप्तमः खण्डः ॥

evaṃ somya te ṣoḍaśānāṃ kalānāmekā kalātiśiṣṭābhūtsānnenopasamāhitā prājvālī tayaitarhi vedānanubhavasyannamayaṃhi somya mana āpomayaḥ prāṇastejomayī vāgiti taddhāsya vijajñāviti vijajñāviti || 6.7.6 ||
|| iti saptamaḥ khaṇḍaḥ ||

6. ‘In the same way, O Somya, of your sixteen parts, only one remained. But that, when nourished by food, has revived, and by that you are now able to follow the Vedas. O Somya, this is why I said that the mind was nourished by food, prāṇa was nourished by water, and speech was nourished by fire.’ Śvetaketu now understood what his father was saying.

Word-for-word explanation:

Evam, in the same way; somya, O Somya; ekā kalā, one part; te ṣoḍaśānām kalānām, of your sixteen parts; atiśiṣṭā abhūt, remained; , it; upasamāhitā annena, nourished by food; prājvālī, has revived; etarhi, now; tayā, by that [remaining part]; vedān, the Vedas; anubhavasi, you can understand; somya, O Somya; hi, this is why [I said]; manaḥ annamayam, the mind is nourished by food; prāṇaḥ āpomayaḥ, prāṇa is nourished by water; vāk tejomayī iti, speech is nourished by fire; asya, of that [what his father had said]; tat ha vijajñau iti, he understood it; vijajñau iti, he understood. Iti saptamaḥ khaṇḍaḥ, here ends the seventh section.


Just as a fire will go out if fuel is not added to it, so also the mind will cease to function if you do not eat. After fasting for fifteen days, Śvetaketu still had a small portion of his mind left working. It was reduced to a fragment, as it were. But after eating, his memory returned and his mind was again active and vigorous.

The idea is, this human body is a very powerful instrument. The mind is powerful; speech is powerful; life itself is powerful. But it is all dependent on food (i.e., earth), water, and energy (i.e., fire). Yet even these gross elements are not independent. As we have seen earlier, earth is a mixture of water and fire with earth. Water also is a mixture of earth and fire with water. Similarly, fire is a mixture of earth and water with fire. This process is called trivṛta, or triplication. It is the permutation and combination of the three elements. Vedānta says, we cannot see these elements in their pure form, because that pure form is Existence, sat.

What the Upaniṣad is saying is suggestive: That which we do not see in its pure form, but in a form which is a by-product of a combination of other things, really does not exist. This is the argument Buddhism also advances. They say: ‘You talk about a chariot, but where is the chariot? Is it a reality? No, it can’t be a reality, because a chariot is a combination of different things put together. Where is the chariot? Is it the wheels? The platform? The canopy? No. When you speak of an object which is not independent, which is dependent on factors combining together, then it is not real.’

Here is the same argument. All objects are dependent. What exists then? Vedānta says it is sat, Existence. That Existence is our own Self, the real Self, the essence, the real being, pure Spirit. When the Upaniṣad refers to our mind, our life force, and our speech, it is referring to this phenomenal world.

We have to look at these things from two levels: From the cosmic level there is one Reality, one Existence. From the individual level we owe our mind, life force, and speech to these elements. But in reality all these elements, all these manifestations of creation, are pure Spirit. One Reality, pure Spirit, has assumed diverse forms. The whole manifestation of this universe is dependent. Even the mind.

Where does the mind come from? Science has not yet been able to answer this question. According to Vedānta, the mind is nothing but matter; yet consciousness, which is pure Spirit, is the source. Vedānta does not make any distinction between matter and consciousness. We say it is one and the same. Consciousness is the source, and out of that one source, all that exists—call it matter, call it energy, call it mind—has come.

Science has its own terms. They may call the source of life DNA or something else. Vedānta says it is tat, That. Or it is sat, Existence. From Existence, everything has emerged. In essence there is one—the same thing appearing in different forms.

You may ask, how did the. One became manifest as many? Why did it happen? The fact that we can ask this question shows that that One is conscious. Only a conscious being can think, plan, and wish. Because that one Reality is consciousness it can say, ‘I will be many.’ If it were inert, it could not wish to become many. So Vedānta says, that one Reality, pure Spirit, is consciousness.

Yet, that consciousness can also take the form of something inert. Matter and consciousness are not different. For instance, if you break a paperweight into atoms, and then smash even those atoms, you will find so much energy—so much motion. So, whether the manifestations of this creation are conscious or unconscious, intelligent or unintelligent, they all have their source in that one conscious Reality.