Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

The Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (with the Commentary of Śaṅkarācārya)

by Swāmī Mādhavānanda | 1950 | 272,359 words | ISBN-10: 8175051027

This Upanishad is widely known for its philosophical statements and is ascribed to Yajnavalkya. It looks at reality as being indescribable and its nature to be infinite and consciousness-bliss. Ethics revolve around the five Yajnas or sacrifices. This book includes the english translation of the Bhāṣya of Śaṅkara. The Shankara-Bhashya is the most ...

Section II - The Process of Creation

Verse 1.2.1

नैवेह किंचनाग्र आसीत्, मृत्युनैवेदमावृतमासीदशनायया, अशनाया हि मृत्युः; तन्मनोऽकुरुत, आत्मन्वी स्यामिति । सोऽर्चन्नचरत्, तस्यार्चत आपोऽजायन्त; अर्चते वै मे कमभूदिति, तदेवार्क्यस्यार्कत्वम्; कं ह वा अस्मै भवति य एवमेतदर्क्यस्यार्कत्वं वेद ॥ १ ॥

naiveha kiṃcanāgra āsīt, mṛtyunaivedamāvṛtamāsīdaśanāyayā, aśanāyā hi mṛtyuḥ; tanmano'kuruta, ātmanvī syāmiti | so'rcannacarat, tasyārcata āpo'jāyanta; arcate vai me kamabhūditi, tadevārkyasyārkatvam; kaṃ ha vā asmai bhavati ya evametadarkyasyārkatvaṃ veda || 1 ||

1. There was nothing whatsoever here in the beginning. It was covered only by Death (Hiraṇyagarbha), or Hunger, for hunger is death. He created the mind, thinking, ‘Let me have a mind.’[1] He moved about worshipping (himself). As he was worshipping, water was produced. (Since he thought), ‘As I was worshipping, water sprang up,’ therefore Arka (fire) is so called. Water (or happiness) surely comes to one who knows how Arka (fire) came to have this name of Arka.

Now the origin of the fire that is fit for use in the horse sacrifice is being described. This story of its origin is meant as a eulogy in order to prescribe a meditation concerning it. There was nothing whatsoever differentiated by name and form here, in the universe, in the beginning, i.e. before the manifestation of the mind etc.

Question: Was it altogether void?

Nihilistic view: It must be so, for the Śruti says, ‘There was nothing whatsoever here.’ There was neither cause nor effect. Another reason for this conclusion is the fact of origin. A jar, for instance, is produced. Hence before its origin it must have been non-existent.

The logician objects: But the cause cannot be non-existent, for we see the lump of clay, for instance (before the jar is produced). What is not perceived may well be non-existent, as is the case with the effect here. But not so with regard to the cause, for it is perceived.

The nihilist: No, for before the origin nothing is perceived. If the non-perception of a thing be the ground of its non-existence, before the origin of the whole universe neither cause nor effect is perceived. Hence everything must have been non-existent.

Vedāntin’s reply: Not so, for the Śruti says, ‘It was covered only by Death.’ Had there been absolutely nothing either to cover or to be covered, the Śruti would not have said, ‘It was covered by Death’ For it never happens that a barren woman’s son is covered with flowers springing from the sky. Yet the Śruti says, ‘It was covered only by Death.’ Therefore on the authority of the Śruti we conclude that the cause which covered, and the effect which was covered, were both existent before the origin of the universe. Inference also points to this conclusion. We can infer the existence of the cause and effect[2] before creation. We observe that a positive effect which is produced takes place only when there is a cause and does not take place when there is no cause. From this we infer that the cause of the universe too must have existed before creation, as is the case with the cause of a jar, for instance.

Objection: The cause of a jar also does not preexist, for the jar is not produced without destroying the Jump of clay. And so with other things.

Reply: Not so, for the clay (or other material) is the cause. The clay is the cause of the jar, and the gold of the necklace, and not the particular lump-like form of the material, for they exist without it. We see that effects such as the jar and the necklace are produced simply when their materials, clay and gold, are present, although the lump-like form may be absent. Therefore this particular form is not the cause of the jar and the necklace. But when the clay and the gold are absent, the jar and the necklace are not produced, which shows that these materials, clay and gold, are the cause, and not the roundish form. Whenever a cause produces an effect, it does so by destroying another effect it produced just before, for the same cause cannot produce more than one effect at a time. But the cause, by destroying the previous effect, does not destroy itself. Therefore the fact that an effect is produced by destroying the previous effect, the lump, for instance, is not a valid reason to disprove that the. cause exists before the effect is produced.

Objection: It is not correct, for the clay etc. cannot exist apart from the lump and so on. In other words, you cannot say that the cause, the clay, for example, is not destroyed when its previous effect, the lump or any other form, is destroyed, but that it passes on to some other effect such as the jar. For the cause, the clay or the like, is not perceived apart from the lump or jar, and so on.

Reply: Not so, for we see those causes, the clay etc., persist when the jar and other things have been produced, and the lump or any other form has gone.

Objection: The persistence noticed is due to similarity, not to actual persistence of the cause.

Reply: No. Since the particles of clay or other material which belonged to the lump etc. are perceptible in the jar and other things, it is unreasonable to imagine similarity through a pseudo-inference. Nor is inference valid when it contradicts perception, for it depends on the latter, and the contrary view will result in a general disbelief. That is to say, if everything perceived as ‘This is that’ is momentary, then the notion of ‘that’ would depend on another notion regarding something else, and so on, thus leading to a regressus in infinitum; and the notion of ‘This is like that’ being also falsified thereby, there would be no certainty anywhere. Besides the two notions of this’ and ‘that’ cannot be connected, since there is no abiding subject.

Objection: They would be connected through the similarity between them.

Reply: No, for the notions of ‘this’ and ‘that’ cannot be the object of each other's perception, and (since according to you there is no abiding subject like the Self), there would be no perception of similarity.

Objection: Although there is no similarity, there is the notion of it.

Reply: Then the notions of ‘this’ and ‘that’ would also, like the notion of similarity, be based on nonentities.

Objection (by the Yogācāra school): Let all notions be based on nonentities. (What is the harm?)

Reply: Then your view that everything is an idea would also be based on a nonentity.

Objection (by the nihilist): Let it be.

Reply. If all notions are false, your view that all notions are unreal cannot be established. Therefore it is wrong to say that recognition takes place through similarity. Hence it is proved that the cause exists before the effect is produced.

The effect too exists before it is produced.

Question: How?

Reply: Because its manifestation points out its pre-existence. Manifestation means coming within the range of perception. It is a common occurrence that a thing, a jar for instance, which was hidden by darkness or any other thing and comes within the range of perception when the obstruction is removed by the appearance of light or in some other way, does not preclude its previous existence. Similarly this-universe too, we can understand, existed before its. manifestation. For a jar that is non-existent is not perceived even when the sun rises.

Objection: No, it must be perceived, for you deny its previous non-existence. According to you, any effect, say a jar, is never non-existent. So it must be perceived when the sun rises. Its previous form, the lump of clay, is nowhere near, and obstructions like darkness are absent; so, being existent, it cannot but appear.

Reply: Not so, for obstruction is of two kinds. Every effect such as a jar has two kinds of obstruction. When it has become manifest from its component clay, darkness and the wall etc. are the obstructions; while before its manifestations from the clay the obstruction consists in the particles of clay remaining as some other effect such as a lump. Therefore the effect, the jar, although existent, is not perceived before its manifestation, as it is hidden. The terms and concepts ‘destroyed,’ ‘produced,’ ‘existence’ and ‘non-existence’ depend on this twofold character of manifestation and disappearance.

Objection: This is incorrect, since the obstructions represented by particular forms such as the lump or the two halves of a jar are of a different nature. To be explicit: Such obstructions to the manifestation of a jar as darkness or the wall, we see, do not occupy the same space as the jar, but the lump or the two halves of a jar do. So your statement that the jar, although present in the form of the lump or the two halves, is not perceived because it is hidden, is wrong, for the nature of the obstruction in this case is different.

Reply: No, for we see that water mixed with milk occupies the same space as the milk which conceals it.

Objection: But since the component parts of a jar such as its two halves or pieces are included in the effect, the jar, they should not prove obstructions at all.

Reply: Not so, for being separated from the jar they are so many different effects, and can therefore serve as obstructions.

Objection: Then the effort should be directed solely to the removal of the obstructions. That is to say, if, as you say, the effect, the jar for instance, is actually present in the state of the lump or the two halves, and is not perceived because of an obstruction, then one who wants that effect, the jar, should try to remove the obstruction, and not make the jar. But as a matter of fact, nobody does so. Therefore your statement is wrong.

Reply: No, for there is no hard and fast rule about it. It is not always the case that a jar or any other effect manifests itself if only one tries to remove the obstruction; for when a jar, for instance, is covered with darkness etc., one tries to light a lamp.

Objection: That too is just for destroying the darkness. This effort to light a lamp is also for removing the darkness, which done, the jar is automatically perceived. Nothing is added to the jar.

Reply: No, for the jar is perceived as covered with light when the lamp is lighted. Not so before the-lighting of the lamp. Hence this was not simply for removing the darkness, but for covering the jar with light, for it is since perceived as covered with light. Sometimes the effort is directed to the removal of the obstruction, as when the wall, for instance, is pulled down. Therefore it cannot be laid down as a rule that one who wants the manifestation of something must simply try to remove the obstruction. Besides,, one should take such steps as will cause the manifestation for the efficacy of the established practice regarding it. We have already said that an effect which is patent in the cause serves as an obstruction to the manifestation of other effects. So if one tries only to destroy the previously manifested effect such as the lump or the two halves which stand between it and the jar, one may also have such effects as the potsherds or tiny pieces. These too will conceal the jar and prevent its being perceived; so a fresh attempt will be needed. Hence the necessary operation of the factors of an action has its utility for one who wants the manifestation of a jar or any other thing. Therefore the effect exists even before its manifestation.

From our divergent notions of the past and future also we infer this. Our notions of a jar that was and one that is yet to be cannot, like the notion of the present jar, be entirely independent of objects. For one who desires to have a jar not yet made sets oneself to work for it. We do not see people strive for things, which they know to be non-existent. Another reason for the pre-existence of the effect is the fact that the knowledge of (God and) the Yogins concerning the past and future jar is infallible. Were the future jar nonexistent, His (and their) perception of it would prove false. Nor is this perception a mere figure of speech. As to the reasons for inferring the existence of the jar, we have already stated them.

Another reason for it is that the opposite view involves a self-contradiction. If on seeing a potter, for instance, at work on the production of a jar one is cértain in view of the evidence that the jar will come into existence, then it would be a contradiction in terms to say that the jar is non-existent at the very time with which, it is said, it will come into relation. For to say that the jar that will be is non-existent, is the same thing as to say that it will not be. It would be like saying, ‘This jar does not exist.’ If, however, you say that before its manifestation the jar is nonexistent, meaning thereby that it does not exist exactly as the potter, for instance, exists while he is at work on its production (i.e. as a ready-made jar), then there is no dispute between us.

Objection: Why?

Reply: Because the jar exists in. its own future (potential) form. It should be borne in mind that the present existence of the lump or the two halves is not the same as that of the jar. Nor is the future existence of the jar the same as theirs. Therefore you do not contradict us when you say that the jar is nonexistent before its manifestation while the activity of the potter, for instance, is going on. You will be doing this if you deny to the jar its own future form as an effect. But you do not deny that. Nor do all things undergoing modification have an identical form of existence in the present or in the future.

Moreover, of the four kinds[3] of negation relating to, say, a jar, we observe that what is called mutual exclusion is other than the jar: The negation of a jar

is a cloth or some otfier thing, not the jar itself. But the cloth, although it is the negation of a jar, is not a nonentity, but a positive entity. Similarly the previous non-existence, the non-existence due to destruction, and absolute negation must also be other than the jar; for they are spoken of in terms of it, as in the case of the mutual exclusion relating to it. And these negations must also (like the cloth, for instance) be positive entities. Hence the previous non-existence of a jar does not mean that it does not at all exist as an entity before it comes into being. If, however, you say that the previous non-existence of a jar means the jar itself, then to mention it as being ‘of a jar’ (instead of as ‘the jar itself) is an incongruity. If you use it merely as a fancy, as in the expression, ‘The body of the stone roller,’[4] then the phrase ‘the previous non-existence of a jar’ would only mean that it is the imaginary nonexistence that is mentioned in terms of the jar, and not the jar itself. If, on the other hand, you say that the negation of a jar is something other than it, we have already answered the point. Moreover, if the jar before its manifestation be an absolute nonentity like the proverbial horns of a hare, it cannot be connected either with its cause or with existence (as the logicians hold), for connection requires two positive entities.

Objection: It is all right with things that are inseparable.

Reply: No, for we cannot conceive of an inseparable connection between an existent and a non-existent thing. Separable or inseparable connection is possible between two positive entities only, not between an entity and a nonentity, nor between two nonentities. Therefore we conclude that the effect does exist before it is manifested.

By what sort of Death was the universe covered? This is being answered: By Hunger, or the desire to eat, which is a characteristic of death. How is hunger death? The answer is being given: For hunger is death. The particle ‘hi’ indicates a well-known reason. He who desires to eat kills animals immediately after. Therefore ‘hunger’ refers to death. Hence the use of the expression. ‘Death’ here means Hiraṇyagarbha as identified with the intellect, because hunger is an attribute of that which is so identified. This effect, the universe, was covered by that Death, just as a jar etc. would be covered by clay in the form of a lump. He created the mind. The word ‘Tat’ (that) refers to the mind. That Death of whom we are talking, intending to project the effects which will be presently mentioned, created the inner organ called mind, characterised by deliberation etc. and possessing the power to reflect on those effects. What was his object in creating the mind? This is being stated: Thinking, ‘Let me have a mind—through this mind (Ātman) let me be possessed of a mind.’ This was his object. He, Prajāpati, being possessed of a mind after it was manifested, moved about worshipping himself, thinking he was blessed. As he was worshipping, water, an all-liquid substance forming an accessory of the worship, was produced. Here we must supply the words, 'After the manifestation of the ether, air and fìre,’ for another Śruti (Tai. II. i. i) says so, and there can be no alternative in the order of manifestation. Since Death thought, ‘As I was worshipping, water sprang up.’ therefore Arka, the fire that is fit for use in the horse sacrifice, is so called. This is the derivation of the name ‘Arka’ given to fire. It is a descriptive epithet of fire derived from the performance of worship leading to happiness, and the connection with water. Water or happiness surely comes to one who knows[5] how Arka (fire) came to have this name of Arka. This is due to the similarity of names. The particles ‘ha’ and ‘vai’ are intensive.


Verse 1.2.2

आपो वा अर्कः; तद्यदपां शर आसीत्तत्समहन्यत । सा पृथिव्यभवत्, तस्यामश्राम्यत्; तस्य श्रान्तस्य तप्तस्य तेजो रसो निरवर्तताग्निः  ॥ २ ॥

āpo vā arkaḥ; tadyadapāṃ śara āsīttatsamahanyata | sā pṛthivyabhavat, tasyāmaśrāmyat; tasya śrāntasya taptasya tejo raso niravartatāgniḥ  || 2 ||

2. Water is Arka. What was there (like) froth on the water was solidified and became this earth. When that was produced, he was tired. While he was (thus) tired and distressed, his essence, or lustre, came forth. This was Fire.

What is this Arka? Water, that accessory of worship, is Arka, being the cause of fire. For, it is said, fire rests on water. Water is not directly Arka, for the topic under discussion is not water, but fire. It will be said later on, ‘This fire is Arka’ (I. ii. 7). What was there like froth on the water, like the coagulated state of curds, was solidified, being subjected to heat internally and externally. Or the word ‘Śara’ may be the nominative (instead of a complement), if we change the gender of the pronoun ‘Yad’ (that). That solid thing became this earth. That is to say, out of that water came the embryonic state of the universe, compared to an egg. When that earth was produced, he, Death or Prajāpati, was tired. For everyone is tired after work, and the projection of the earth was a great feat of Prajāpati. What happened to him then? While he was (thus) tired and distressed, his essence, or lustre, came forth from his body. What was that? This was Fire, the first-born Virāj,[6] also called Prajāpati, who sprang up within that cosmic egg, possessed of a body and organs. As the Smṛti says, ‘He is the first embodied being’ (Śi. V. i. 8. 22).


Verse 1.2.3

स त्रेधात्मानं व्यकुरुत, आदित्यं तृतीयम्, वायुं तृतीयम्, स एष
प्राणस्त्रेधा विहितः । तस्य प्राची दिक् शिरः, असौ चासौ चेर्मौ । अथास्य प्रतीची दिक् पुचम्, असौ चासौ च सक्थ्यौ, दक्षिणा चोदीची च पार्श्वे, द्यौः पृष्ठम्, अन्तरिक्षमुदरम्; इयमुरः, स एषोऽप्सु प्रतिष्ठितः; यत्र क्व चैति तदेव प्रतितिष्ठत्येवं विद्वान् ॥ ३ ॥

sa tredhātmānaṃ vyakuruta, ādityaṃ tṛtīyam, vāyuṃ tṛtīyam, sa eṣa
prāṇastredhā vihitaḥ | tasya prācī dik śiraḥ, asau cāsau cermau | athāsya pratīcī dik pucam, asau cāsau ca sakthyau, dakṣiṇā codīcī ca pārśve, dyauḥ pṛṣṭham, antarikṣamudaram; iyamuraḥ, sa eṣo'psu pratiṣṭhitaḥ; yatra kva caiti tadeva pratitiṣṭhatyevaṃ vidvān || 3 ||

3. He (Virāj) differentiated himself in three ways, making the sun the third form, and air the third form. So this Prāṇa (Virāj) is divided in three ways. His head is the east, and his arms that (north-east) and that (south-east). And his hind part is the west, his hip-bones that (north-west) and that (south-west), his sides the south and north, his back heaven, his belly the sky, and his breast, this earth. He rests on water. He who knows (it) thus gets a resting place wherever he goes.

He, the Virāj who was born, himself differentiated or divided himself, his body and organs, in three ways. How? Making the sun the third form, in respect of ñre and air. The verb ‘made’ must be supplied. And air the third form, in respect of fire and the sun. Similarly we must understand, ‘Making fire the third form,’ in respect of air and the sun, for this also can equally make up the number three. So this Prāṇa (Virāj), although the self, as it were, of all beings, is specially divided by himself as Death in three ways as fire, air and the sun, without, however, destroying his own form of Virāj. Now the meditation on this Fire, the first-born Virāj, the Arka fit for use in the horse sacrifice and kindled in it, is being described, like that on the horse. We have already said that the previous account of its origin is all for its eulogy, indicating that it is of such pure birth. His head is the east, both being the most important. And his arṛns that and that, the north-east and south-east. The word Irma’ (arm) is derived from the root ‘ir’ meaning motion. And his hind part is the west, because it points to that direction when he faces the east. His hip-bones that and that, the north-west and south-west, both forming angles with the back. His sides the south and north, both being so related to the east and west. His bach heaven, his belly the sky, as in the case of the horse. And his breast this earth, both being underneath. He, this fire consisting of the worlds, or Prajāpati, rests on water, for the Śruti says, ‘Thus do these worlds lie in water.’ (Ś. X. v. 4. 3). He gets a resting place wherever he goes. Who? Who knows that fire rests on water, thus, as described here. This is a subsidiary result.[7]


Verse 1.2.4

सोऽकामयत, द्वितीयो म आत्मा जायेतेति; स मनसा वाचं मिथुनं समभवदशनाया मृत्युः; तद्यद्रेत आसीत्स संवत्सरोऽभवत् । न ह पुरा ततः संवत्सर आस; तमेतावन्तं कालमबिभः, यावान्संवत्सरः; तमेतावतः कालस्य परस्तादसृजत । तं जातमभिव्याददात्; स भाणकरोत्, सैव वागभवत् ॥ ४ ॥

so'kāmayata, dvitīyo ma ātmā jāyeteti; sa manasā vācaṃ mithunaṃ samabhavadaśanāyā mṛtyuḥ; tadyadreta āsītsa saṃvatsaro'bhavat | na ha purā tataḥ saṃvatsara āsa; tametāvantaṃ kālamabibhaḥ, yāvānsaṃvatsaraḥ; tametāvataḥ kālasya parastādasṛjata | taṃ jātamabhivyādadāt; sa bhāṇakarot, saiva vāgabhavat || 4 ||

4. He desired, ‘Let me have a second form[8] (body).’ He, Death or Hunger, brought about the union of speech (the Vedas) with the mind. What was the seed there became the Year (Virāj). Before him there had been no year. He (Death) reared him for as long as a year, and after this period projected him. When he was born, (Death) opened his mouth (to swallow him). He (the babe) cried ‘Bhāṇ!' That became speech.

It has been stated that Death, in the order of water and the rest, manifested himself in the cosmic egg as the Virāj or Fire possessed of a body and organs, and divided himself in three ways. Now by what process did he manifest himself? This is being answered: He, Death, desired, ‘Let me have a second form or body, through which I may become embodied.’ Having desired thus, he brought about the union of speech, or the Vedas, with the mind that had already appeared. In other words, he reflected on the Vedas, that is, the order of creation enjoined in them, with his mind. Who did it? Death characterised by hunger. It has been said that hunger is death. The text refers to him lest someone else (Virāj) be understood. What was the seed, the cause of the origin of Virāj, the first embodied being, viz. the knowledge and resultant of work accumulated in past lives, which Death visualised in his reflection on the Vedas, there, in that union, became the Year, the Prajāpati of that name who makes the year. Death (Hiraṇyagarbha), absorbed in these thoughts, projected water, entered it as the seed and, transformed into the embryo, the cosmic egg, became the year. Before him, the Virāj who makes the year, there had been no year, no period of that name. Death reared him, this Virāj who was in embryo, for as long as a year, the well-know duration of time among us, i.e. for a year. What did he do after that? And after this period, i.e. a year, projected him, i.e. broke the egg. When he, the babe, Fire, the first embodied being, was born, Death opened his mouth to swallow him, because he was hungry. He, the babe, being frightened, as he was possessed of natural ignorance, cried Bhāṇ’—made this sound. That became speech or word.


Verse 1.2.5

स अइक्षत, यदि वा इममभिमंस्ये, कनीयोऽन्नं करिष्य इति; स तया वाचा तेनात्मनेदं सर्वमसृजत यदिदं किंच— ऋचो यजूंषि सामानि छन्दांसि यज्ञान् प्रजाः पशून् । स यद्यदेवासृजत तत्तदत्तुमध्रियत; सर्वं वा अत्तीति तददितेरदितित्वम्; सर्वस्यात्ता भवति, सर्वमस्यान्नम् भवति, य एवमेतददितेरदितित्वं वेद  ॥ ५ ॥

sa aikṣata, yadi vā imamabhimaṃsye, kanīyo'nnaṃ kariṣya iti; sa tayā vācā tenātmanedaṃ sarvamasṛjata yadidaṃ kiṃca— ṛco yajūṃṣi sāmāni chandāṃsi yajñān prajāḥ paśūn | sa yadyadevāsṛjata tattadattumadhriyata; sarvaṃ vā attīti tadaditeradititvam; sarvasyāttā bhavati, sarvamasyānnam bhavati, ya evametadaditeradititvaṃ veda  || 5 ||

5. He thought, ‘If I kill him, I shall be making very little food.’ Through that speech and that mind he projected all this, whatever there is—the Vedas Ṛc, Yajus and Sāman, the metres, the sacrifices, men and animals. Whatever he projected, he resolved to eat. Because he eats everything, therefore Aditi (Death) is so called. He who knows how Aditi came to have this name of Aditi, becomes the eater of all this, and everything becomes his food.

Seeing the babe frightened and crying, he, Death, thought, although he was hungry, ‘If I kill him, this babe, I shall be making very little food.’—The root ‘man’ with the prefix ‘abhi’ means to injure or kill.—Thinking thus he desisted from eating him, for he must make not a little food, but a great quantity of it, so that he might eat it for a long time; and if he ate the babe, he would make very little food as there is no crop if the seeds are eaten up. Thinking of the large quantity of food necessary for his purpose, through that speech, the Vedas already mentioned, and that mind, uniting them, that is, reflecting on the Vedas again and again, he projected all this, the movable and immovable (animals, plants, etc. etc.), whatever there is. What is it? The Vedas Ṛc, Yajus and Sāman, the seven metres, viz. Gāyatri and the rest, i.e. the three kinds of Mantras (sacred formulæ) forming part of a ceremony, viz. the hymns (Stotra), the praises (Śastra)[9] and the rest, composed in Gāyatri and other metres, the sacrifices, which are performed with the help of those Mantras, men, who perform these, and animals, domestic and wild, which are a part of the rites.

Objection: It has already been said that Death projected Virāj through the union of speech (the Vedas) with the mind. So how can it now be said that he projected the Vedas?

Reply: It is all right, for the previous union of the mind was with the Vedas in an unmanifested state, whereas the creation spoken of here is the manifestation of the already existing Vedas so that they may be applied to the ceremonies. Understanding that now the food had increased, whatever he, Prajāpati, projected, whether it was action, its means or its results, he resolved to eat. Because he eats everything, therefore Aditi or Death is so called. So the Śruti says, ‘Aditi is heaven, Aditi is the sky, Aditi is the mother, and he is the father,’ etc. (Ṛ. I. lix. 10). He who knows how Aditi, Prajāpati or Death, came to have this name of Aditi, because of eating everything, becomes the eater of all this universe, which becomes his food—that is, as identified with the universe, otherwise it would involve a contradiction; for nobody, we see, is the sole eater of everything. Therefore the meaning is that he becomes identified with everything. And for this very reason everything becomes his food, for it stands to reason that everything is the food of an eater who is identified with everything.


Verse 1.2.6

सोऽकामयत, भूयसा यज्ञेन भूयो यजेयेति । सोऽश्राम्यत्, स तपोऽतप्यत; तस्य श्रान्तस्य तप्तस्य यशो वीर्यमुदक्रामत् । प्राणा वै यशो वीर्यम्; तत्प्राणेषूत्क्रान्तेषु शरीरं श्वयितुमध्रियत; तस्य शरीर एव मन आसीत् ॥ ६ ॥

so'kāmayata, bhūyasā yajñena bhūyo yajeyeti | so'śrāmyat, sa tapo'tapyata; tasya śrāntasya taptasya yaśo vīryamudakrāmat | prāṇā vai yaśo vīryam; tatprāṇeṣūtkrānteṣu śarīraṃ śvayitumadhriyata; tasya śarīra eva mana āsīt || 6 ||

6. He desired, ‘Let me sacrifice again with the great sacrifice.’ He was tired, and he was distressed. While he was (thus) tired and distressed, his reputation and strength departed. The organs are reputation and strength. When the organs departed, the body began to swell, (but) his mind was set on the body.

He desired, etc. This and part of the next paragraph are introduced to give the derivation of the words ‘Aśva’ (horse) and ‘Aśvamedha’ (horse sacrifice). ‘Let me sacrifice again with the great sacrifice.’ The word ‘again’ has reference to his performance in the previous life. Prajāpati had performed a horse sacrifice in his previous life, and was born at the beginning of the cycle imbued with those thoughts. Having been born as identified with the act of horse sacrifice, its factors and its results, he desired, ‘Let me sacrifice again with the great sacrifice.’ Having desired this great undertaking, he was tired, like other men, and he was distressed. While he was (thus) tired and distressed —these words have already been explained (in par. 2)—his reputation and strength departed. The Śruti itself explains the words: The organs are reputation, being the cause of it, for one is held in repute as long as the organs are in the body; likewise, strength in the body. No one can be reputed or strong when the organs have left the body. Hence these are the reputation and strength in this body. So the reputation and strength consisting of the organs departed. When the organs forming reputation and strength departed, the body of Prajāpati began to swell, and became impure or unfit for a sacrifice. (But) although Prajāpati had left it, his mind was set on the body, just as one longs for a favourite object even when one is away.


Verse 1.2.7

सोऽकामयत, मेध्यं म इदं स्यात्, आत्मन्व्यनेन स्यामिति । ततोऽश्वः समभवत्, यदश्वत्; तन्मेध्यमभूदिति, तदेवाश्वमेधस्याश्वमेधत्वम् । एष ह वा अश्वमेधं वेद य एनमेवं वेद । तमनवरुध्यैवामन्यत । तं संवत्सरस्य परस्तादात्मन आलभत । पशून्देवताभ्यः प्रत्यौहत् । तसमात्सर्वदेवत्यम् प्रोक्षितं प्राजापत्यमालभन्ते । एष ह वा अश्वमेधो य एष तपति, तस्य संवत्सर आत्मा; अयमग्निरर्कः, तस्येमे लोका आत्मानः । तावेतावर्कामेधौ । सो पुनरेकैव देवता भवति मृत्युरेव; अप पुनर्मृत्युं जयति, नैनम् मृत्युराप्नोति, मृत्युरस्यात्मा भवति, एतासां देवतानामेको भवति ॥ ७ ॥
इति द्वितीयं ब्राह्मणम् ॥ ७ ॥

so'kāmayata, medhyaṃ ma idaṃ syāt, ātmanvyanena syāmiti | tato'śvaḥ samabhavat, yadaśvat; tanmedhyamabhūditi, tadevāśvamedhasyāśvamedhatvam | eṣa ha vā aśvamedhaṃ veda ya enamevaṃ veda | tamanavarudhyaivāmanyata | taṃ saṃvatsarasya parastādātmana ālabhata | paśūndevatābhyaḥ pratyauhat | tasamātsarvadevatyam prokṣitaṃ prājāpatyamālabhante | eṣa ha vā aśvamedho ya eṣa tapati, tasya saṃvatsara ātmā; ayamagnirarkaḥ, tasyeme lokā ātmānaḥ | tāvetāvarkāmedhau | so punarekaiva devatā bhavati mṛtyureva; apa punarmṛtyuṃ jayati, nainam mṛtyurāpnoti, mṛtyurasyātmā bhavati, etāsāṃ devatānāmeko bhavati || 7 ||
iti dvitīyaṃ brāhmaṇam || 7 ||

7. He desired, ‘Let this body of mine be fit for a sacrifice, and let me be embodied through this,’ (and entered it). Because that body swelled (Aśvat), therefore it came to be called Aśva (horse). And because it became fit for a sacrifice, therefore the horse sacrifice came to be known as Aśvamedha. He who knows it thus indeed knows the horse sacrifice. (Imagining himself as the horse and) letting it remain free, he reflected (on it). After a year he sacrificed it to himself, and dispatched the (other) animals to the gods. Therefore (priests to this day) sacrifice to Prajāpati the sanctified (horse) that is dedicated to all the gods. He who shines yonder is the horse sacrifice; his body is the year. This fire is Arka; its limbs are these worlds. So these two (fire and the sun) are Arka and the horse sacrifice. These two again become the same god, Death. He (who knows thus) conquers further death, death cannot overtake him, it becomes his self, and he becomes one with these deities.

What did he (Hiraṇyagarbha) do with his mind attached to that body? He desired. How? ‘Let this body of mine be fit for a sacrifice, and let me be embodied through this.’ And he entered it. Because that body, bereft in his absence of its reputation and strength, swelled (Aśvat), therefore it came to be called Aśva (horse). Hence Prajāpati[10] himself is named Aśva. This is a eulogy on the horse. And because on account of his entering it. the body, although it had become unfit for a sacrifice by having lost its reputation and strength, again became fit for a sacrificetherefore the horse sacrifice came to be known as Aśvamedha. For a sacrifice consists of an action, its factors and its results. And that it is no other than Prajāpati is a tribute to the sacrifice.

The horse that is a factor of the sacrifice has been declared to be Prajāpati in the passage, ‘The head of the sacrificial horse is the dawn,' etc. (I. i. 1). The present paragraph is introduced to enjoin a collective meditation on that sacrificial horse which is Prajāpati, and the sacrificial fire which has already been described (as such)—viewing both as the result of the sacrifice. That this is the import of this section we understand from the fact that in the previous section no verb denoting an injunction has been used, and one such is necessary. The words, He who knows it thus indeed knows the horse sacrifice, mean; ‘He only, and none else, knows the horse sacrifice, who knows the horse and the Arka or fire, described above, as possessed of the features, to be presently mentioned, which are here shown collectively.’ Therefore one must know the horse sacrifice thus—this is the meaning. How? First the meditation on the animal is being described. Prajāpati, desiring to sacrifice again with the great sacrifice, imagined himself as the sacrificial animal, and letting it, the consecrated animal, remain free or unbridled, reflected (on it). After a complete year he sacrificed it to himself, i.e. as dedicated to Prajāpati (Hiraṇyagarbha), and dispatched the other animals, domestic and wild, to the gods, their respective deities. And because Prajāpati reflected like this, therefore others also should likewise fancy themselves, in the manner described above, as the sacrificial horse and meditate: ‘While being sanctified (with the Mantras), I am dedicated to all the gods; but while being killed, I am dedicated to myself. The other animals, domestic and wild, are sacrificed to their respective deities, the other gods, who are but a part of myself.’ Therefore priests to this day similarly sacrifice to Prajāpati the sanctified horse that is dedicated to all the gods.

He who shines yonder is the horse sacrifice. The sacrifice which is thus performed with the help of the animal is being directly represented as the result. Who is he? The sun who illumines the universe with his light. His body, the body of the sun, who is the result of the sacrifice, is the year, that period of time. The year is called his body, as it is made by him. Now, since the sun, as the horse sacrifice, is performed with the help of fire, (the latter also is the sun). Here the result of the sacrifice is being mentioned as the sacrifice itself: This terrestrial fire is Arka, the accessory of the sacrifice. Its limbs, the limbs of this Arka, the fire that is kindled at the sacrifice, are these three worlds. So it has been explained in the passage, ‘His head is the east,' etc. (I. ii. 3). So these two, fire and the sun, are Arka and the horse sacrifice, as described above—the sacrifice and its result respectively. Arka, the terrestrial fire, is directly the sacrifice, which is a rite. Since the latter is performed with the help of fire, it is here represented as fire. And the result is achieved through the performance of the sacrifice. Hence it is represented as the sacrifice in the statement that the sun is the horse sacrifice. These two, fire and the sun, the means and the end, the sacrifice and its result, again become the same god. Who is it? Death. There was but one deity before, who later was divided into action, its means and its end. So it has been said, ‘He differentiated himself in three ways’ (I. ii. 3). And after the ceremony is over, he again becomes one deity, Death, the result of the ceremony. He who knows this one deity, horse sacrifice or Death, as, ‘I alone am Death, the horse sacrifice, and there is but one deity identical with myself and attainable through the horse and fire’—conquers further death, i.e. after dying once he is not born to die any more. Even though conquered, death may overtake him again. So it is said, death cannot overtake him. Why? Because it becomes his self, the self of one who knows thus. Further, being Death,[11] the result, he becomes one with these deities. This is the result such a knower attains.

Footnotes and references:


The word used here is ‘Ātman,’ which among other things means the body, Manas, intellect, individual self and Supreme Self. The correct meaning at each place, as here, is to be determined from the context. The word occurs again in paragraph 4, where it means the body.


These will be taken up one by one.


Mutual exclusion, between things of different classes, as, ‘A jar is not cloth’; previous non-existence, as of a jar before it is made; the non-existence pertaining to destruction, as of a jar when it is broken; and absolute negation, as, ‘There is no jar.'


The stone roller has no body, it is the body.


Meditates on the fact till one becomes identified with the idea. So also elsewhere. See pp. 65, 80, 90, etc.


The being identified with the sum total of all bodies.


The main result will be stated in paragraph 7.


The word used is Ätman. It is translated as ‘form’ for convenience. See footnote on p. 15.


The hymns are Rees that are sung by one class of priests, the Udgātṛ etc. The Śastras are those very hymns, but only recited by another class of priests, the Hotṛ etc., not sung. There are other Ṛces too, which are used in a different way by a third class of priests, the Adhvaryu etc., in the sacrifices. These are the third group of Mantras.




Hiraṇyagarbha. See Par. I.

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