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 7.1 (first khaṇḍa) (five texts)

Upaniṣad text:

‘Teach me, Revered Sir,’—(saying this) Nārada approached Sanatkumāra.—He said to him—‘What thou already knowest, come to me with that; then I shall teach thee beyond that.’ He said:—(1)

Commentary (Śaṅkara Bhāṣya):

Discourse VI has been devoted mainly to the expounding of the Highest Truth, and it has been used to determine the unity of Being, Self. (This teaching is meant for the Disciple of the highest grade). It has not dealt with things lower than the Being, in the form of products (worldly things); (and yet an account of these also is needed for the disciple of the middle grade, who is unable to grasp the Highest Truth); hence, the Seventh Discourse now begins, for the purpose of expounding just those things,—beginning with Name and ending with Life-Breath (Prāṇa);—and then, through these, step by step, leading up to the Highest Truth, under the name of the ‘Bhūma’, ‘Infinite’.—just when pointing out the moon to some one, he first points out to him the branch of a tree, and then, through it, to the moon beyond.—Or, these other lower things are expounded now in order to preclude the notion that people might have to the effect that there may be other things yet known,—if the text had not described these lower things and had ended with the expounding of Being alone—or, thirdly, it may be that the text proceeds to describe these lower things—Name and the rest,—with the idea that, in the manner of ascending by series of steps, I shall begin with the grossest things,

367 and then rising, step by step, to subtler and subtler things, make these amenable to cognition, and lead on to what lies beyond them, in the form of ‘self-sovereignty’ wherein I shall install him (the disciple).—Or, fourthly, what is meant is that—‘these things, Name and the rest, are, mentioned in the ascending scale of importance (the following one being more important than the preceding), and higher than all these stands that Entity called ‘Infinite’; so that it is for the eulogising of this Infinite that Name and the rest have been introduced in a definite order (of importance).

As for the story, it has been introduced for the purpose of eulogising the Highest Philosophy.

“In what way?”

Nārada is a Divine Sage, who has fulfilled all his responsibilities, and had attained all knowledge and, yet, as he did not know the Self, he was sorry;—what to say, then, of any ordinary creature with little knowledge, who has not acquired any particular kind of merit, and who is still one whose purposes have not been accomplished—Or, with a view to show that, apart from knowledge of Self, there is nothing that can accomplish the Highest Good,—the text proceeds with the story of Sanatkumāra and Nārada, The sense is that though Nārada, a Divine sage, was equipped with the faculty of acquiring all knowledge, yet he did not attain the Highest Good,—to such an extent that, renouncing all pride of unsurpassed percentage, deep learning, excellent character, and the possession of the power of accomplishing (his aim),—he approached Sanatkumāra, like an ordinary man, for the purpose of acquiring the means of attaining the Highest Good; and it becomes indicated by this story that Self knowledge is the means of attaining the Highest Good.

Teach me, Revered Sir’—thus did Nārada approach Sanatkumāra. The words ‘teach me, Revered Sir’ constitute a mantra, a formula, with which Nārada approached Sanatkumāra, the chief of mystics (yogīndra), who stood firm in Brahman.

To Nārada, who had approached him in the proper form, he said—‘What thou already knowest—regarding Self, —come to me with that, i.e. come and give me an account of that,—saying ‘this much I know’; then I shall teach thee beyond that, i.e. beyond what thou knowest already.

When he had said this, Nārada said as follows:—(1)

Upaniṣad text:

‘Revered Sir, I know the Ṛgveda, the Yajurveda, the Sāmaveda, and the fourth Atharvaṇa, the Itihāsa-Purāṇa, as the fifth of the Vedas,—Grammar, the Science of Śrāddha-Rituals, Mathematics, the Science of Portents, the Science of Treasures, Logic, the Science of Ethics, the Science of Philology, the Vedic Science, the Physical Science, the Science of War, the Science of the Stars, the Science of Snakes, the Science of Celestials (Fine Arts).—All this, I know, Revered Sir’.—(2)

Commentary (Śaṅkara Bhāṣya):

Revered sir, I know-remember—the Ṛgveda; that such is the meaning is clear from the question ‘tell me what you know’;—similarly, Yajurveda, Sāmaveda and Atharvaṇa, the fourth—i.e. the fourth Veda, as it is the Veda that is the subject-matter of the context;—also Itihāsa-Purāṇa, the fifth of the Vedas; which are spoken as ‘having the Mahābhārata for their fifth’;—Grammar;— grammar has been called ‘Veda’ because, it is with the help of grammar that the Ṛgveda and other Vedas are understood through the various divisions into ‘Pada’ and the rest; —‘Pitṛya’ stands for the Science of the Śrāddha-Rituals;—‘Rāśi’ stands for Mathematics; ‘Daivata for the Science of Portents’; ‘Nidhi’ for the Science of Treasures as propounded by Mahākāla and others;—‘Vākovākya’ for logic—the Science of the Reasoning;—‘Ekāyana’ for the Science of Ethics; ‘Deva-Vidyā’, for Nirukta, the Science of Philology;—‘Brahma-vidyā’ stands for the Vedic Science in the shape of Śikṣā (Phonetics), Kalpa (Rituals) and Chandas (Prosody);—‘Bhūtavidyā’ is the Science of material substances, Physical Science; ‘Kṣattra-Vidyā’ is the Science of War, Archery;—the Science of Stars, Astronomy;—the Science of Snakes—as Propounded by Garuḍa;—the Science of Celestials,—i.e. Perfumery, Dancing, Singing, Instrumental Music,—Arts and Crafts.—All this, Revered Sir, I know’.—(2)

Upaniṣad text:

‘Revered Sir, as I am, I know only the verbal texts, I know not the Self. It has been heard (learnt) by me from persons like your reverence that one who knows the Self passes beyond sorrow;—1 am in sorrow; please, sir, make me pass beyond that sorrow.’—He said to him ‘Whatever you have studied is mere Name.’—(3)

Commentary (Śaṅkara Bhāṣya):

Revered sir, though knowing all this, as I am, I know only the verbal texts,—i.e. I know merely the simple meaning of words; all words are expression of some meaning; so that the meaning also becomes included in the ‘verbal texts’;—thus what he means by saying that ‘I know only the Verbal texts’ is that ‘I know only the Ritualistic Acts’; as it is going to be declared (under VII. iv. 1. below) that ‘Ritualistic Arts are contained in the Mantra-texts’;—I know not the Self;—I have no knowledge of the Self.

Objection:—“As a matter of fact, the Self also is described in the Verbal texts; how there could be a man knowing the text and not know the Self?”

It is not so; because thè very distinction between the denoted (word) and its denotation (what it denotes) is a mere product (of Illusion), and the Self is not such a product.

“But the self also is denoted by the term ‘Self’ (ātman) (so that it would be a Product.)”

Not so; because of the following Vedic declarations—‘wherefrom Speech recoils’ (Taitti-Upa. II. iv. 1.) ‘wherein one sees nothing else’, and so forth (which shows that the Self is beyond words).

“How then do such words as ‘the Self below’, ‘that is Self’ and the like convey the idea of the Self?”

This does not vitiate our position. What actually happens is that the word ‘Ātman’ ‘Self’ is actually applied in usage, to the counter-Self (the ‘Living Self’ born in the body), which is subject to notions of differentiation,—and when the idea of the body and other appertenances being ‘Self’ is, one by one, set aside, then by the process of elimination, it comes to indirectly indicate the Being, even though this latter is not beyond the reach of the word. For instance, when an army with the king is seen marching along, with umbrellas, flags, standards,—even though the king is actually hidden by all this paraphernalia and hence, not visible, yet the expression is used ‘the king is seen’; and when it is asked which is the king? and people come to look for the particular person who is the king,—everyone of the other persons that are actually visible being rejected (as not being the king), there follows (as the result of elimination) that the person who is not visible is the king,—and thus the idea of the ‘king’ is secured;—exactly similar is the case in question.

Thus then what Nārada means is that ‘I know the verbal texts alone,—that is, I know only the Ritualistic Acts; and as all effects of actions are mere products,—I know only products,—and I know not the Self,—i.e., the real character of the Self’.—It is with a view to this that the text has declared that ‘it is only the man with a teacher that knows the Self’. This is also clear from such texts as ‘wherefrom Speech recoils’.

It has been learnt by me,—I have this cognition from a reliable word, verbal authority; since I have learnt from Persons like your Reverence that one who knows the self passes beyond sorrow,—that is, one who knows the Self goes beyond the reach of the mental anguish due to the idea that he has not accomplished his purpose in life.—Thus then, I who know not Self,—am in sorrow, O Revered sir,—i.e. am constantly suffering from a feeling of disappointment at not having accomplished my purpose in life;—please make me pass beyond that sorrow,—carry me across to the other side of this sea of sorrow,—by means of the raft of Self-knowledge,—and make me feel that I have accomplished my purpose in life,—and thus lead me freedom from all fear.’

When Nārada had said this, Sanatkumāra said, ‘Whatever you have studied is mere Name;—study here indicates the understanding of meaning; hence the meaning is that ‘whatever you know is mere Name’; according to the Vedic text—‘all this is a mere product of words, a mere Name.’ (Chā. Upa. vi. i. 4.)—(3)

Upaniṣad text:

‘The Ṛgveda indeed is a Name; so also the Yajurveda, the Sāmadeva, and the fourth, the Atharvaṇa, the Itihāsa-Purāṇa as the fifth of the Vedas,—Grammar, the Science of Śrāddha-Rituals, Mathematics, the Science of Portents, the Science of Treasures, Logic, the Science of Ethics, the Science of Philology, the Vedic Science, the Physical Science, the Science of War, the Science of the Stars, the Science of Snakes, the Science of Celestials,—all this is mere Name, Meditate upon Name.’—(4)

Commentary (Śaṅkara Bhāṣya):

The Ṛgveda indeed is a Name; so also the Yajurveda etc., etc.,—as all this is mere Name.—Meditate upon Name—thinking it to be Brahman; just as people worship the Image, then think it to be Viṣṇu Himself.—(4)

Upaniṣad text:

‘One who meditates upon Name as Brahman becomes free to act as he wishes, in the sphere within reach of Name,—for one who meditates upon Name as Brahman.’—‘Revered sir, is there anything greater than Name?’—Certainly there is something greater than Name—‘Explain that to me. Revered Sir.’—(5)

Commentary (Śaṅkara Bhāṣya):

He who meditates upon Name as Brahman,— to him accrues a certain reward; hear what it is:—‘In the sphere within the reach of Name,—i.e. so far as Name reaches,—in that limited sphere,—the man becomes free to act as he wishes,—just like the king within his own domain; —‘for one who meditates upon Name as Brahman,’—this is by way of recapitulation.—‘Is there anything greater,— larger, higher—than Name, which deserves to be looked upon as Brahman’; such is the purport.—Sanatkumāra answered—‘Certainly, there is something greater than Name.’—Being told this, Nārada said—‘If there is, then please explain that to me, Revered Sir.’—(5)

End of Section (1) of Discourse VII.

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