Kathopanishad (Madhva commentary)

by Srisa Chandra Vasu | 1909 | 21,449 words | ISBN-13: 9789332869165

The English translation of the Kathopanishad (Katha-upanishad) including the commentary of Madhva called the Bhasya. It is an important text associated with the Krishna Yajurveda and discusses topics such as the nature of Atman, karma, rebirth and the soul The Kathopanishad is also known as: Kaṭhopaniṣad (कठोपनिषद्, kathopanisad), Kaṭha-paniṣad (क...

Chapter 6 - Sixth Valli

Mantra 6.1.

1. Grounded in the Highest, with lower devas as its branches, is this beginningless Aśvattha tree (the universe). He alone is free from sorrow: He alone is full and absolute. He alone is said to be the eternally free, hi Him are all worlds sheltered. Beyond Him verily no one can go. This is verily that.—103.

Note.—With roots above and branches below, this (manifested Brahma) is as an ancient aśvattha tree, that indeed is the bright one, that is Brahma, that indeed is called immortal. In him all worlds are contained, Him verily nothing goes beyond. This is that.

Madhva’s commentary called the Bhāṣya:

As the earth is the soil in which all trees have their roots, so the Lord Viṣṇu, the highest of all, is the root-soil of this tree called the universe: whose branches are the devas all being lower than that root-soil. The goddess Ramā is the root. This tree is called aśvattha. [The word aśvattha is thus derived “āśu” quick + “^” to go + “ka” affix = “quick moving”. The elision of “u” and the shortening of “ā” into are Vaidic anomalies. “aśva + tva” (aśva asmin tiṣṭthati that in which the aśva, the swift moving, dwells)=“aśvatthaḥ” or food (“ya”=food) of Hari called aśva.]

Lord Hari is called aśva because of His quick motion. As this universe is pervaded by Hari, and as it is the food (“tha”=food) of Had, it is called aśvattha. This universe is beginningless as an eternal current of existence, but the highest eternal and immortal is the Lord Hari. (This aśvattha or universe is called Sanātana or eternal in the sense that there is no beginning of it. It is a pravāha or current—changing but ceaseless and eternal. But Lord is the true eternal, for He is both changeless and eternal.)

He alone is the one and true eternal, the world is eternal only as a phenomenal current.

Mantra 6.2.

2. This whole world trembles through (fear of this) Prāṇa because it has come" out of Him. He is a great terror like an uplifted thunderbolt. They who know Him verily become immortal.—104.

(Another reading is that from whom has come out Prāṇa, as well as all this universe, in whom they aU tremble or carry on their functions. Or that from whom the whole world has come out, and on whom that Prāṇa (Brahman) re-acts.)

Notes.—Whatever is in this world, the whole moves in the Prāṇa and comes from it. It is like a mighty reverence, like an uplifted thunder-bolt, they who know this, they verily become immortal.

Madhva’s commentary called the Bhāṣya:

The whole world trembles through fear of this Hari called Prāṇa, because it has come out of Him. To those who transgress His law, He is a terror like a raised thunderbolt.

Mantra 6.3.

3. From fear of Him, Agni burns, from fear of Him, Sūrya shines, from fear of Him, Indra (rains), Vāyu (blows), and Mṛtyu runs (to work) as the fifth [one].—105.

Mantra 6.4.

4. If a man here is able to understand Him (Hari), before the disintegration of the body, then in the lokas of the self-effulgent One he obtains an (a-prakritic) form.—106.

Note.—This shows that God must be known before dying. If He is so known, then the knower obtains a spiritual body in Vaikuṇṭha and other Lokas.

Mantra 6.5.

5. As a reflection in the mirror, so in the Ātman is Brahman fully seen, as one sees in dream so in the Pitṛ-loka, as in waters a little more fully visible, so in the Gandharva-loka; in the Brahma-loka, the Lord is seen as in the day, when there is proper light and shade.—107.

Note.—This shows that the beatific vision of the muktas is not of a uniform nature. It differs according to the class to which the Released belongs. In one’s self (Buddhic and ātmic body) the God is fully seen, in the astral and lower mental body He is dimly seen, as in dream; in the higher mental body (Gandharva plane) He is seen better: but in the Brahmic body, He is seen in full relief, with harmonious light and shade.

So also it is said The Lord dwelling in the Jīva is seen by the Ṛṣis through their sights of wisdom, as fully as one sees his own face in a mirror. But He is not seen so distinctly by the dwellers of the Pitṛ-loka. A little more distinct than this is the form of the Lord as seen in the Gandharva-loka. As in the morning, day-light, when there is neither too much glare (of noon) nor too much darkness (of evening) but when it is both light and darkness, an object is seen distinctly, so the Supreme Person is seen in the Brahma-Loka.”

Mantra 6.6.

6. Knowing the difference between the devas of the senses, their origin and destruction, of things and the difference in their modes of origin, the wise does not grieve.—108.

Note.—This shows that not only the knowledge of the Lord is the cause of Mukti, but that the knowledge of the difference between the various orders and grades of the Devas is also necessary.

Mantras 6.7 and 6.8.

7-8. Higher than sensation is Manas, Higher than Manas is Buddhi, higher than Buddhi is the Mahat-ātmā. Higher than the Mahat is the Unmanifested. Beyond the Unmanifested is Puruṣa, the all-pervading, one having no attributes, whom having comprehended the man is liberated and goes to the state of deathlessness.—109 and 110.

Note.—How does the knowledge of the different grades of Devas lead to Ṛelease is shown in these verses.

Madhva’s commentary called the Bhāṣya:

This gradation was shown in Mantra 10 of the Third Valli also. There it was stated merely as a fact of nature. Here it is repeated in order to show that the knowledge of this gradation is necessary for Release: and that the Highest Esoteric object of all scriptures is to impart knowledge of the Lord as the highest of all Devas, and to distinguish and differentiate Him from the rest. [All the Vedas describe many Devas with the object of showing the superiority of the Lord over them all. As says the following:—] “The highest aim of all the scriptures is to establish the pre-eminence of the Lord, and to show that Hari is the best of all Devas: and this is effected by showing the gradation of Devas inter se and their being all under the Lord.”

Mantra 6.9.

[The knowledge of the Lord is never obtained through the exertion of physical senses, but through mind strengthened by śravana and manana, &c.]

9. His form is not an object of perception to any one, nor by the eye does any one see him; but by mind endowed with love and knowledge is He made known. Who thus know Him, become verily immortal.—111.

[This asserts that the form of the Lord is not perceptible by senses. Is it not rather a too wide assertion? For when the Lord incarnates, He certainly becomes visible to all. This doubt is next answered by the commentator ]

Madhva’s commentary called the Bhāṣya:

No one can see the form of Viṣṇu through his senses, except when He assumes a body and incarnates; and even the mere seeing of incarnation-forms of the Lord does not lead to Release, unless the person seeing realises the Lord in that Form through Jñāna Dṛsti. The Yogin gets release only when he sees the Lord through wisdom-vision, never by physical sight of the senses.

Mantra 6.10.

10. When the five organs of perception along with emotions are at rest and apart from their objects, and the Intellect even does not exert itself, that state they call the highest road (to God-Vision),—112.

[In the last verse it was said that the Lord is to be seen by the loving and knowing mind—hṛdā maṇīṣā manasā—that is through Bhakti illumined by Jñāna—Devotion plus wisdom. This can only be when one is calm and tranquil and not a dancing dervish.] The senses must be quietened. The emotions must be at rest: and Reason cease to exert.

Mantra 6.11.

11. That they hold to be Yoga, which is the firm restraint of the senses. Then one becomes not heedless. Yoga should be performed with regard to the Lord, from whom is the origin and destruction (of all things.)—113.

[The state described in the last verse is called Yoga. This Yoga is the highest Path—parama gatiḥ—because it leads to the Lord, the Creator and Destroyer of the world. Yoga should be performed with regard to this Lord from whom proceed this origin and destruction of the worlds].

Madhva’s commentary called the Bhāṣya:

The phrase Yogaḥ hi prabhava-apyayau does not mean “the Yoga is the origin and destruction or that Yoga creates and destroys things,” but that Yoga should be made with regard to the origin and passing away of objects, and that the coming and going away of objects is from the Lord.

Mantra 6.12.

12. Not by Speech or Mind is one able to know Him, nor by the eye, how then is He to be obtained from any, save the one (Guru) who knows that the Lord is “the Great He Is.”—114.

[In mantra 9 it was said that the Lord can not be seen by the eye which being taken as a representative for all the senses. This idea is expressed here. If the Lord cannot be known by speech, by mind, or by the eye, how is he to be known? He is known only through instruction imparted by a Sad Guru: who knows that the Lord is called Asti “He is”—or “a”=great “sti”=existence: “Great Existence.” Like “asmi” “I AM” of the Īśā Upaniṣad, “HE IS” is also a name of the Lord.]

Madhva’s commentary called the Bhāṣya:

[Existence is a generic attribute of every thing: why is the Lord called existence? This is answered by the commentator]

The Lord Keśava possesses super-relative existence and reality and goodness, hence He is called asti (a=greater than all; sti=beings; Or sti=goodness or reality or sat). So because His name is Asti; therefore He should be known as such. How can any one know Him who does not realise His Supreme Goodness and Excellence.

Mantra 6.13

13. He is reached when known as Asti (He is), and only when there is the grace of the Giver of reality to both (Matter and Spirit)

To him who knows Him as Asti, the Giver of reality becomes specially gracious.—115.

[In the last mantra it was said that the Lord must be realised as Asti “Greater than (a) all beings (sti).” He who does not realise Him as such, cannot know Him. This verse states the method of acquiring such knowledge, namely trying to get the Grace of God: for finally all depends upon His grace.]

Madhva’s commentary called the Bhāṣya:

[The phrase “tattva-bhāvena cho’bhayoḥ” does not mean “by admitting the reality of both.” The commentator explains it thus:—] Viṣṇu is called tattva-bhāva, because He produces or unfolds distinctly (bhāvayate) the reality or be-ness (tattva) of both (ubhaya) the Prakṛti (matter) and Puruṣa (spirit). His greatness over all is known through His grace, and His grace is obtained through the knowledge of His superiority over all.

[Is it not arguing in a circle that His grace depends upon His knowledge, and that His knowledge is acquired through His Grace? It is not so. The two propositions refer to two different sets of aspirants: namely (1) those who know from beginning the greatness of God: and (2) those who do not so know. In the case of the first class the grace increases their knowledge i.e. knowledge leads to grace; in the ease of the second class the grace produces such knowledge, i.e., grace leads to knowledge.]

Those who know from beginningless time the superiority of Hari over everything else, get increase of their knowledge, through the grace of the Lord, in every successive birth; but those who do not possess from before, this knowledge of the superiority of Hari, get it subsequently through the grace of the Lord: and this knowledge, thus acquired, is never lost again: and the ignorance once conquered is never revived. Hence this knowledge is the highest.

[Thus grace is of two kinds, that which produces knowledge or the general grace, and that which increases knowledge or the special grace].

Mantra 6.14.

14. When all those worldly desires, that cling to the antaḥkarana are entirely given up (and spiritual desires spring up) then the mortal becomes immortal, then he enjoys here Brahman.—116.

[This verse describes the state attained through the special grace of God. It looks very much like a state of physical immortality or Jīvan-mukti].

Madhva’s commentary called the Bhāṣya:

[The giving up of all desires is not meant here, but only of those which appertain to the antaḥkaraṇa, i.e., worldly desires. This the commentator establishes by an authority].

When the desires of the Inner Organ (antaḥkaraṇa) are renounced, and there takes place the manifestation of the desires belonging to the body of intelligence (cidātman), then becoming Released he never dies again.

[The desire belonging to the higher vehicle or cidātman is to be cultivated rather than discarded].

Mantra 6.15.

15. When all the knots of the heart are cut asunder here then the mortal becomes immortal, for the sake of this is all the instructions of the scriptures.—117.

[The worldly desires are renounced only then when the fetters of false knowledge are cut asunder].

Madhva’s commentary called the Bhāṣya:

When a person is fully liberated from the bonds of false knowledge, then he attains to immortality. All instructions have this object in view.

Mantra 6.16.

16. There are a hundred and one vessels of the heart, and the chief of them (proceeding from the heart) pierces through the head. By that one going upwards, he obtains deathlessness. The others are for the purpose of carrying the soul to diverse other lokas.—118.

[It is only when the soul passes out of the Brahma Nāḍī that there is Release].

Mantra 6.17.

17. The Puruṣa of the size of a thumb, the inner Ātmā of all beings, is always seated in the heart of all creatures: one should distinguish Him from the Jiva, as the pith is separate from its covering; with reason not led astray by fallacious arguments. That should be known as the Griefless, the Immortal: that should be known as the Griefless, the Immortal.—119.

[The knowledge that Jīva is separate from Īśvara is the means of getting release. This mantra re-asserts that proposition].

Madhva’s commentary called the Bhāṣya:

[The third question of Naciketas and answer to it, do not relate to the Lord, but to the human soul—thus says the Pūrva Pakṣin—the opponent. And he quotes this verse as his authority: for it says that the soul must be realised as separate from one’s own body, svāt śarīrāt. Thus this concluding verse also establishes the proposition that the immortality of the human soul is the main topic of this Upaniṣad. This argument of the opponent is met by the commentator by saying that the phrase svāt śārīrat does not mean “from one’s own body” at all: but that the words sva and sārīra have a peculiar meaning here.]

The Jīva is the body of Viṣṇu and therefore it is called sārīra or body. But Viṣṇu has a body of His own, how is it then that the Jīva is said to be the body of Viṣṇu. It is called His body because it is under His control (just as the human organism is under the control of the Jīva; so the Jīva organism is under the control of the Lord).

[Sārīra therefore means Jīva.] Let one realise that the Lord presides over the Jīva and is separate from it (just as the Jīva presides over the physical organism but is separate from it. The Unchangeable Viṣṇu should be distinguished from the Jīva called sva; and the difference between the Jīva and Brahman should be thus realised. [That Jīva is the body of the Lord, is proved by the following Scriptural text]:—“He whose body is the Jīvatmā” “He who controls the Jīvātman from within” (Br. Up.). Moreover the phrase “in the hearts of the creatures” of this verse shows that Hari is separate from the Jīvas [—for the container and the contents are always different. The word janānām hṛdaye may mean either (1) in the heart of the Jīvas, or (2) in the heart of the bodies: for jana means both the Jīva and the body. In the first case, the meaning is “in the heart of the soul,” i.e., in the soul which is itself the heart. In the second case, the meaning would be “in the heart of the body”—i.e., in the physical heart. The first would apply to the Lord and the second to the Jīva. The “thumb-size” must also interpreted in a two-fold sense. When the physical body is concerned then the size of the physical thumb; when the soul-body is taken, then the size of the thumb of the soul. But the soul is atomic in size, what can be the size of its thumb? smaller than the atom—] In the heart of the physical body, the size is of the thumb of the physical hand; in the heart of the soul (Jīva), the size is of the thumb of the sould. Thus should the Lord be understood as separate from the Jīva, in order to attain Release.

[But may not the words svāt sārīrāt be taken in their primary sense “from his own body” and not in the metaphorical sense “from the Jīva which is the body of the Lord?”. To this the commentator answers]:—No school of thinkers say that the Lord is identical with the physical body of man: [and so the verse cannot be translated “the Lord must be understood as separate from one’s body” for there was no necessity of teaching this truism]. No one among the un-informed (loka) even say that the Lord is identical with human body. (The advaita theory is that the Brahman is identical with the Jīva, but they even do not say that It is identical with the human body). Moreover the very phrase “the Lord is in the hearts of men” shows that the Lord is not identica lwith the bodies of men: (for He is in the heart).

[But may not svāt śārirāt “from his own body” be interpreted as teaching the distinction of the soul from the body? For the materialists like Cārvākas, &c., hold that there is no soul distinct from the body. But there are objections to this view also. The words of the mantra are tam svāt śārirāt pravrihet, let one distinguish that from sva-sarīra. The word “That” must refer to some antecedent noun mentioned before in the first line of this mantra. Now Jīva is not mentioned before in the first half of this stanza, a being of thumb-size being cannot be the Jīva, for the soul is atomic in size. So it cannot be of the size of the thumb—whether that thumb be physical or psychic. Therefore, the commentator says:—] The Jīva is not of the size of the thumb. Therefore, this mantra teaches the difference between the Jīva and Viṣṇu. Thus it is conclusively proved that Viṣṇu is the Best of all.

Mantra 6.18.

18.Naciketas having then obtained all this knowledge and practice imparted by Yama attained Brahman became free from rajas and beyond death; another who thus knows the Spirit certainly becomes so.—120.

Madhva’s commentary called the Bhāṣya:

Reverence be to that Lord Viṣṇu who is ever-victorious: whose beloved and elect (āpta) I am, and who is most beloved (āpta-tama) of all beloved One’s (āptebhyaḥ) to me.

Peace chant.

Om! May He protect us both (teacher and pupil). May He cause us both to enjoy the bliss of Mukti. May we both exert together to find out the true meaning of the scriptures. May our studies be fruitful. May we never quarrel with each other! Om! Peace! peace! peace!

Peace be to all.

The end

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