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 7.24 (twenty-fourth khaṇḍa) (two texts)

Upaniṣad text:

‘Wherein one sees nothing else, hears nothing else and understands nothing else,—that is the Infinite; wherein one sees something else, hears something else, and understands smething else,—that is Finite. That which is Infinite is immortal; that which is Finite is mortal.’ ‘Revered sir, wherein does that rest?’—‘In Its own majesty, or not in majesty.’—(1)

Commentary (Śaṅkara Bhāṣya):

He explains what the distinguishing character of the Infinite is:—Wherein,—in which Infinite, as an entity, the seer does not see anything else—which is to be seen by means of other sense organs, as distinct from the seer himself;—similarly one hears nothing else;—inasmuch as Name and Form alone are meant to be included here, the text mentions only the apprehensions of those alone—in the shape of seeing and hearing; and the others being mentioned as merely illustratives;—but reflection should be understood to be included here by some such expression as ‘when one reflects upon nothing else’ as understanding is almost invariably preceded by reflection;—similarly, when one understands nothing else.—That which has this character is the Infinite.

Objection—Is it the absence of the seeing of other well-known things that is denied in reference to the Infinite, by the expressions ‘one sees nothing else’ and the rest? Or is it meant that ‘he sees himself, nothing else’? (That is, does the sentence mean merely the denial of the seeing of other well-known things? Or the affirmative of the man seeing himself, and nothing else?).

“What difference would that make?”

If what is asserted is only the absence of the seeing of other things, then the sense comes to be that the Infinite is something entirely different in character from all notions involving Duality.—If, on the other hand, what is meant by the denial of the seeing of other is that One sees himself,— then it would mean the admission of the distinction between action (seeing), acting agent (seer) and the result (perception).

What would be the harm, if this were so admitted?

The harm would be that there would be? no cessation of the Cycle of Births and Deaths; as this Cycle consists in the said distinction between Action, Actor and its Result.—

But under the Doctrine of the Unity of the Self, the distinction between Action, Actor and Result is entirely different in character from that involved in the Cycle of Births and Deaths.

Not so; if the Unity of the Self is held to be free from all distinction and diversity, the idea of the distinction between the Action of seeing etc., the Actor and the Result is merely verbal.—Even under the view that what is meant is the negation of the seeing of anything else,—the very distinctions involved in the terms ‘wherein’ and ‘sees nothing else’ would be meaningless.

In the ordinary world, it is found that in an empty room, when it is said that one sees no one else,’ it is not meant that the man’s own self, or the pillars and other things are not seen (it means only that no other person is seen). So would it be in the case in question also.

Not so; inasmuch as absolute unity has been taught in the text ‘That thou art’,—there is no possibility of any such distinction as between the container and the contained (as is involved in the qualifications ‘wherein’ and ‘nothing else’). Further, under Discourse VI, it has been established that Being alone is ‘True, one, without a second’;—and in accordance with the following texts, the perception of self by itself is not possible—(a) ‘Invisible,—not self etc.’ (Taitti. Upa 2. 7. 1.); (b) ‘Its form is not within the range of vision.’ (Katha Upa. 6. 9.); (c) ‘By what could one know the knower?’ (Bṛhadā. Upa. II. iv. 14.)

In that case, the qualifying term ‘wherein’ becomes meaningless.

No; it is in reference to distinctions based upon Nescience (ignorance). In the text ‘Being, one, without a second’, is found that though Being is really incapable of numerical qualification (as expressed by the term ‘one’), yet it is spoken of in that way in reference to these notions of ‘truth’, ‘unity’ and ‘secondless’ as have been dealt with in the context in which the said text (Being, one, secondless) occurs. In the same manner, though the Infinite is one only, yet the qualification of ‘wherein’ has been applied to it (in reference to what is spoken of in the context).—Further, when the text applies to the Infinite the qualification involved in the phrase sees nothing else’ (which implies distinction), what it does is to make a reference to the seeing of otherś during the (normal) state of ignorance, and then to deny that seeing of others in regard to the Infinite.—Thus, the upshot of the whole context is that the process of births and deaths is not applicable to the Infinite (which is beyond the reach of that process).

On the other hand, when, in the sphere of ignorance (Nescience), one sees something else, through something else, —that is Finite; that is, exists only so long as the ignorance lasts; just as things perceived during a dream lasts only till waking, only so long as the dream lasts.—For that same reason, it is mortal,—perishable,—like the thing perceived in a dream. Contrary to all this is the Infinite, which is immortal;—the pronoun ‘tat’ refers to ‘amṛta’ (Hence, in the Neuter form).

Therefore, Nārada said—“This Infinite that you have described—O, Revered sir, wherein does that rest?

Sanatkumāra answered:—In Its own majesty,—i.e. the Infinite rests in its own majesty, greatness, splendour. This is the answer for you if you wish to know the resting place of the Infinite in some cases (to satisfy your intellec-tual curiosity); if however you wish to know the real truth, then the answer is that the Infinite does not rest ever upon Majesty;—it is without a resting-place, without a substratum, anywhere at all.—(1)

Upaniṣad text:

‘In the world, what they call Majesty is cows and horses, elephants and gold, slaves and wives, lands and houses.—I do not say this, he said—‘as in that case, one thing would rest upon another. What I do say is this (what follows):—(2)

Commentary (Śaṅkara Bhāṣya):

Question:—If the Infinite rests upon Its own Majesty, then why is it said that ‘It does not rest upon anything’?”

Answer:—Listen. In this world, what they call Majesty, is cows, horses and the rest:—the compound in ‘go-aśvam’ is made up of ‘Gāvaḥ’ and ‘aśvaḥ’, and it is copulative and hence, in the singular number. It is well-known everywhere that things like cows and horses make up Majesty ( greatness); and when a person like Caitra depends and rests upon that Majesty, he becomes great (majestic).—But I do not say this (it is not my opinion) that the Infinite rests on anything other than Itself, like Caitra; and the reason given for this—is as in that case one thing would rest upon another this has to be connected into the present sentence. What I do say is this: Sa eva etc., etc. (following text).

End of Section (24) of Discourse VII.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: