Chandogya Upanishad (Shankara Bhashya)

by Ganganatha Jha | 1942 | 149,749 words | ISBN-10: 8170842840 | ISBN-13: 9788170842842

This is the English translation of the Chandogya Upanishad, an ancient philosophical text originally written in Sanksrit and dating to at least the 8th century BCE. Having eight chapters (adhyayas) and many sub-sections (khandas), this text is counted among the largest of it's kind. The Chandogya Upanishad, being connected to the Samaveda, represen...

Section 1.1 (first khaṇḍa) (ten texts)

Upaniṣad text:

One should meditate upon the syllable ‘Om’, the Udgītha; because one sings (beginning) with ‘Om’; of this now (follows) the expounding. (1)

Commentary (Śaṅkara Bhāṣya):

One should meditate upon the syllable ‘Om’.—The syllable ‘Om’ is the most nearly appropriate name for the Supreme Self; when that syllable is pronounced, the Supreme Self becomes pleased, just as an ordinary person is pleased when addressed by the name he likes best.—This syllable ‘Om’ is followed in the text by the particle ‘iti’ in order to show that the syllable is not expressive of (does not connote) the Supreme Self, and what is meant is that this verbal form is what is to be meditated upon as Self: thus what is meant is that the syllable ‘Om is a representation of the Supreme SELF, just like the image and other things (that people set up for worship). Thus what is learnt from all the Vedānta texts is that the syllable, being the name and the image of the Supreme SELF, is the best basis for meditating upon that SELF. It is a well-known fact that this syllable is largely used in Japa, at rites and in the beginning and at the end of Vedic study; which clearly indicates its superiority.—It is for these reasons that one should meditate upon this syllable, in the verbal form, which is spoken of as ‘Udgītha’, on the ground of its forming a constituent part of this name (‘Udgītha’); which means that one should firmly cultivate concentrated attention upon the syllable ‘Om’ which represents the Supreme SELF and which is an essential part of all sacrificial acts.

The Text itself provides the reason for the syllable ‘Om’ being spoken of as ‘Udgītha’: because one sings (beginning) with ‘Om’; inasmuch as one begins singing with ‘Om’, this syllable is called ‘Udgītha’.

Of this follows the expounding.—The ‘expounding’ of the said syllable constitutes ‘meditation’ upon it; this ‘expounding’ consists in describing its potencies, the results it brings about and so forth.—The term ‘follows’ (‘pravartate’) has to be supplied.—(1)

Upaniṣad text:

The Earth is the essence of all beings; Water is the essence of the Earth; Herbs are the essence of Water; Man is the essence of Herbs; Speech is the essence of Man; Ṛk is the essence of Speech; Sāman is the essence of Ṛk; Udgītha is the essence of Sāman.—(2)

Commentary (Śaṅkara Bhāṣya):

Of all beings,—animate and inanimate;—Earth is the essence,—i.e. origin, substratum and ultimate solvent.—Of Earth, Water is the essence; it is in Water that Earth is interwoven like warp and woof; hence Water is the essence of Earth.—Of Water, Herbs are the essence; as Herbs are modifications of Water.—Of these (Herbs) Man is the essence; as Man is developed through the food (he eats).—Of Man, Speech is the essence; because of all the constituent parts of the Man’s body. Speech is the most essential, therefore, Speech is called the ‘essence’ of Man.—Of Speech, Ṛk is the essence.—i.e. the most essential and important part.—Of Ṛk, Sāman is the essence.—i.e. the most essential part.—Of Sāman, the essence is Udgītha,—i.e.. in the present context, the syllable ‘OM’ is the most essential.

Upaniṣad text:

This Udgītha is the best essence of the essences, the eighth, supreme and deserving of the highest position.—(3)

Commentary (Śaṅkara Bhāṣya):

Thus then, the syllable ‘Om’, named the Udgītha, is the best essence among all the essences, Earth and the rest, which have been mentioned (in the preceding text) in the Ascending order of their ‘essentiality’.—It is the ‘supreme’,— because it represents the Supreme SELF.—It is ‘deserving of the highest position’, ‘ardha’ is position; ‘para’ is highest; hence ‘parardha’ is that which is deserving of the highest position; that is, deserving of the same position as the Supreme SELF; the sense is that it is so because it deserves to be meditated upon and worshipped as the Supreme SELF.—It is the eighth,—in the numbering of Earth and the other essences.—‘Yad udgīthaḥ’ should be construed as ‘Yaḥ udgīthaḥ.’—(3)

Upaniṣad text:

What, what is Ṛk? What, what is Sāman ? What, what is Udgītha ?—this is (now) considered.—(4)

Commentary (Śaṅkara Bhāṣya):

It has been asserted that ‘Ṛk is the essence of Speech’. Now the question arises—What is ‘Ṛk’? What is ‘Sāman’? What is the said ‘Udgītha’?

The repetition of the word what is meant to indicate the importance attached to the subject.

An objection is raised—“The affix ‘ḍatamacha’ which is present in the term ‘Katama’ (what) has been declared as to be used when a question arises regarding the genus of a large number of things; and in the present instance, there is not a multiplicity of the genus ‘Ṛk’ [as the question relates to the nature of the single genus ‘Ṛk’, the single genus ‘Sāman’, and single syllable ‘Om’]; how is it then that the affix ‘ḍatamach’ has been used?”

This objection has no force. In the grammatical rule referred to there is the term ‘jātiparipraśna’: which is expounded as ‘Jātau paripraśnaḥ’, ‘question relating to the genus’, and there is multiplicity of individuals included under the single genus ‘Ṛk’, and the compound is not to be expounded as ‘question of genus, ‘Jāteḥ paripraśnaḥ’.

The Opponent rejoins—“It is only when the compound ‘jātiparipraśna’ is expounded as ‘jāteḥ paripraśnaḥ’, the question of genus, that the presence of the ‘ḍatamacha-affix’ in the phrase ‘Katamaḥ kathaḥ’, ‘which one is of the Katha-clan, can be justified [as here, the question is of the genus; it could not be justified if the compound were expounded as ‘jātau paripraśnaḥ’ ‘question relating to the genus’”.

Answer—In the instance cited also, the question is in reference to several individuals included under the clan ‘Kaṭha’; so that the objection has no force. If the question raised were one of the genus, then, in that case, it would be necessary to find out some other rule (justifying the term in the present text, which, being Vedic, cannot be rejected as wrong).

This is now considered’; i.e. its consideration is proceeded with.—(4)

Upaniṣad text:

Speech itself is Ṛk; Life-breath is Sāman; the syllable Om is Udgītha. This indeed is a couple: Speech and Life-breath [the source of] Ṛk and Sāman.—(5)

Commentary (Śaṅkara Bhāṣya):

After the consideration has been done, the appropriate answer is stated Speech is Ṛk, Life-breath is Sāman.—Even though Speech and Ṛk are declared here to be one, this can not be regarded as self-contradictory, in view of the eighth position (assigned to the Udgītha in the text 2, above); as this statement is entirely separate from the previous one (which has declared Udgītha to be the eighth among the ‘essences’); the present statement,—that ‘the syllable Om is Udgītha,—is meant only to serve the purpose of indicating the quality of ‘fulfilment’ (as mentioned in the next text). [And its subject-matter and progress therefore are totally different from the statement to the effect that Udgītha is the eighth among the essences.]

In fact, Speech and Life-breath are the sources of Ṛk and Sāman, respectively; and yet Speech itself is declared to be Ṛk and Life-breath itself to be Saman, If the text had mentioned ‘Speech and ‘Life-Breath’ as the sources of Ṛk and Sāman respectively, then, all Ṛks and all Samans would become included; and the inclusion of all Ṛks and all Sāmans implies the inclusion of all those acts (rites) that are accomplished with the help of Ṛks and Sāmans; so that practically all acts become included.

There may be an idea that the expression ‘The syllable Om is ‘Udgītha’ is only figurative; this idea is set aside by what follows in the text.—'This indeed refers to the couple. Question: ‘What is that Couple?’—Answer: ‘Speech and Life-breath’ are the ‘couple, the sources of all Ṛks and all Sāmans. The words ‘Ṛks’ and ‘Sāmans’ that follow are meant to point out that the Speech and Life-breath spoken of are the sources of Ṛk and Sāman; and ‘Ṛk and Sāman’ are not meant to be a separate independent couple. If this were not so, then, ‘Speech and Life-breath would be one ‘couple, and ‘Ṛk and Sāman would be another couple’; so there would be two ‘couples’; and in that case, the singular number in the phrase ‘This indeed is a couple’ would be incompatible ]. Hence what are meant to be spoken of as ‘couple here are only ‘Speech and Life-breath’, as the sources of Ṛk and Sāman respectively.—(5)

Upaniṣad text:

This couple is joined together in the syllable Om. Whenever, verily, a couple is joined together, each fulfils the desire of the other.—(6)

Commentary (Śaṅkara Bhāṣya):

‘This couple’, just described, ‘is joined together in the syllable Om’.—Thus the sense is that the Couple, endowed with the quality of fulfilling all desires, remains ‘joined together in the syllable ‘Om’; and the fact of the syllable ‘Om being endowed with the quality fulfilling all desires is well-known. It is well-known that (a) the syllable ‘Om’ contains within itself the entire literature, (b) that it is brought about (pronounced) through the Life-breath, (c) that it joins within itself the ‘couple’, and (d) that the ‘couple’ fulfil all desires. In order to make this clear, an illustration is cited—In ordinary life, ‘whenever a couple’—i.e. man and woman, with the physical constituents of the couple,—is joined together,—i.e., meet together, in sexual association,—they fulfil each other’s desires. What is meant is that it becomes established in the same manner, the syllable ‘Om becomes the fulfiller of all desires, through the ‘Couple that lies within it.—(6)

The following text declares that the Udgātṛ Priest, who meditates upon the Udgītha, becomes endowed with the Udgītha’s quality (of being the fulfiller of desires).

Upaniṣad text:

He becomes the fulfiller of desires who, knowing this thus, meditates upon this syllable as Udgītha.—(7)

Commentary (Śaṅkara Bhāṣya):

One becomes a fulfiller of the desires of the sacrificer if he meditates upon this syllable itself—which has the character of fulfilment—as Udgītha; to such a one accrues the said result; and this is in accordance with the Vedic text Just in so far as one meditates upon a thing, one becomes that thing itself”.—(7)

Upaniṣad text:

This indeed is the syllable of acquiescence; whatever one acquiesces in, he says Om; acquiescence verily is prosperity; he becomes à prosperer of desires who, knowing this, meditates upon this syllable Om as Udgītha.—(8)

Commentary (Śaṅkara Bhāṣya):

The syllable ‘Om is also endowed with the quality of fulfilment (success, prosperity).—“How?”—This syllable that we are dealing with is the ‘syllable of acquiescence’;— i.e. it is the acquiescent syllable; ‘acquiescence standing for agreement;—this is what the syllable ‘Om’ is.

The text itself explains how the syllable is one of acquiescence:—In common practice, whatever,—idea or property—one acquiesces in,—be he a teacher or a wealthy person,—in expressing his agreement, he says ‘Om’; e.g. in the Veda we find such texts as—‘They are thirty-three; ‘Om’ (yes) he said In ordinary life also, when one says to another person—‘This property is yours, I am taking it’, the person addressed says ‘Om’ (Yes, all right).

For this reason Acquiescence verily is prosperity; that is, what is known as ‘acquiescence’ is Prosperity itself; because acquiescence is based upon prosperity; it is only one who is prosperous (rich) who acquiesces (permits); hence what the text means is that the syllable ‘Om’ is prosperity itself.

Inasmuch as the syllable is endowed with the quality of ‘prosperity’, one who meditates upon that quality, thereby becomes endowed with that quality and thence becomes the prosperer of desires for the sacrificer, when he knows this and meditates upon this syllable, as Udgītha.—(8)

Upaniṣad text:

With this (syllable) does the threefold Science proceed; with Om does one recite, with Om does one direct, with Om does one sing; all this for the adoration of the same syllable;—so also with the Grandeur and the Essence (of this syllable, does the act of Sacrifice proceed).—(9)

Commentary (Śaṅkara Bhāṣya):

Now with a view to attract people to it, the Text proceeds to eulogise the syllable, on the ground of its being a fit object of worship and meditation.—“How?”—With this—said syllable,—the threefold Science—consisting of the Ṛgveda, (Yajurveda and Sāmaveda) proceeds; what thus proceeds is the action prescribed by this threefold Science; because, as for the threefold Science itself, that itself does not proceed with reciting, directing and singing (as mentioned in the Text); it is only the act that is known to proceed with these.

Question:—“In what way does the Act proceed with this syllable?”

Answer:—With ‘Om’ does one recite, with ‘Om’ does one direct and with ‘Om’ does one sing.—This indicates that the Act contemplated by the Text is the Soma-sacrifice (where alone all these, reciting etc., are done).

This act (Sacrifice) is meant for the adoration of this same syllable; as this syllable represents the Supreme SELF; so that the adoration of the syllable would be the adoration of the Supreme SELF itself. To this same effect there is the Smṛti-text: ‘Having adored Him with his action, the man attains success.’

So also with the Grandeur and the Essence:—Further with the ‘grandeur’—greatness—of this same syllable,—i.e. with the life-breaths of the Priests and the Sacrificer;—similarly with the ‘Essence’ of this syllable,—i.e. with the offering made up of the essential portions of Vrīhi, Yava and other grains [ are all Sacrifices performed ].—It is with the syllable ‘Om that all such acts as Sacrifices, Pouring of of Libations and so forth are performed;—the acts thus performed go up to the Sun, and thenceforth does it become developed—through rain and other processes—into the Life-breath and food-grains;—and by means of the Lifebreath and food-grains again are sacrifices performed.—It is for this reason that it has been declared that (acts of Sacrifice proceed) with the Grandeur and the Essence of this syllable.—(9)

Upaniṣad text:

Objection :—“Both kinds of persons perform acts with this, those who know as well as those who do not know.”

[Answer]—But verily, Knowledge and Ignorance are totally distinct; and in fact, what is done with knowledge, faith and due application, that becomes more effective; thus indeed is there the expounding of this syllable itself.—(10)

Commentary (Śaṅkara Bhāṣya):

The conclusion arrived at is that for one who knows the science of the syllable, it is necessary to perform sacrifices.—Against this an objection is raised—“With this— syllable—both kinds of persons, perform acts—one who knows the syllable as described.above, as well as one who knows only the nature of the act to be done and does not know the real character of the syllable;—to both of them the results proceeding from the performance of the Act would accrue in an equal degree;—what then is the need of knowing the real nature of the syllable Om?—In ordinary life, it has been seen that when two persons eat the Harītakī, the purging that follows from the eating comes equally to both,—to him who is cognisant of its purgative properties as also to him who is ignorant of it.”

It is not so, we reply. Because Knowledge and Ignorance are totally distinct; there is a great difference between Knowledge and Ignorance;—The particle ‘tu,’ (Verily) is meant to reject the view put forth by the opponent. The Knowledge of the syllable ‘Om’ being the essence of the 'Essences, its being endowed with the qualities of fulfilment and prosperity does not consist merely in Knowledge of that syllable being a factor of the sacrifice; it is much more than that. What is meant is that, inasmuch as it is so, the result proceeding from the former must be superior to that proceeding from the latter. In ordinary life also, it is found that when a merchant and a forester sell pieces of Ruby and other gems, the former (who knows the real character of the gems) always obtains a higher price than the latter (who is ignorant); and this is due to the superior Knowledge possessed by the merchant.—From this it follows that what is done with Knowledge—by a person fully cognisant—and with faith—by a person imbued with due faith,—and with due application—by a person who is equipped with the faculty of concentration,—that Act becomes more effective,—i.e. more fruitful—than the Act done by the ignorant person.—The assertion that the Act of the man with Knowledge is ‘more effective than that of the ignorant man means that even when done by the ignorant person, the act is effective; so that it does not mean that the ignorant man is not fit to perform the act. In fact in the section dealing with Uṣasti (later on) it is described that even ignorant persons have performed the priestly functions.

The act of meditating upon ‘Om’ as the ‘essence of essences’, as ‘fulfilment and as ‘prosperity’ forms a single act of ‘meditation’ (and worship); as there are no efforts intervening in between these. In fact, the mention of several qualities means that it is to be meditated upon several times. Hence indeed there is expounding of this syllable ‘Om’ the Udgītha.—(10)

End of Section (Khaṇḍa) I, of Discourse (Adhyāya) i.

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