The 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 IV - Yajnavalkya and Ushasta

It has been stated that a man under the control of the organs and objects (Grahas and Atigrahas), which are themselves directed by his merits and demerits, repeatedly takes up and discards the organs and objects and transmigrates. And the perfection of merits has been explained as being concerned with the manifested universe, collective and individual— being the identification with Hiraṇyagarbha in both those aspects. Now the question arises as to whether the entity that transmigrates under the control of the organs and objects exists or does not exist; and if it exists, what it is like. So it is to teach about the Self as a distinct entity that the question of Uṣasta is introduced. If one knows It as unconditioned, naturally free from action and its factors, one is freed from the above-mentioned bondage together with its stimulating causes. The purpose of the story is already known.

 

Verse 3.4.1:

अथ हैनमूषस्तश्चाक्रायणः पप्रच्छ; याज्ञवल्क्येति होवाच, यत्साक्शादपरोक्शाद्ब्रह्म, य आत्मा सर्वान्तरः, तं मे व्याचक्श्व इति; एष त आत्मा सर्वान्तरः; कतमो याज्ञवल्क्य सर्वान्तरो ? यः प्राणेन प्राणिति स त आत्मा सर्वान्तरः, योऽपानेनापानिति स त आत्मा सर्वान्तरः, यो व्यानेन व्यानिति स त आत्मा सर्वान्तरः, य उदानेनोदानिति स त आत्मा सर्वान्तरः, एष त आत्मा सर्वान्तरः ॥ २ ॥

atha hainamūṣastaścākrāyaṇaḥ papraccha; yājñavalkyeti hovāca, yatsākśādaparokśādbrahma, ya ātmā sarvāntaraḥ, taṃ me vyācakśva iti; eṣa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ; katamo yājñavalkya sarvāntaro ? yaḥ prāṇena prāṇiti sa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ, yo'pānenāpāniti sa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ, yo vyānena vyāniti sa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ, ya udānenodāniti sa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ, eṣa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ || 1 ||

1. Then Uṣasta, the son of Cakra, asked him. ‘Yājñavalkya,’ said he, ‘explain to me the Brahman that is immediate and direct—the self that is within all.’ ‘This is your self that is within all.’ ‘Which is within all, Yājñavalkya?’ ‘That which breathes through the Prāṇa is your self that is within all. That which moves downwards through the Apāna is your, self that is within all. That which pervades through the Vyāna is your self that is within all. That which goes out through the Udāna is your self that is within all. This is your self that is within all.’

Then Uṣasta, the son of Cakra, asked him, Yājñavalkya, who has already been introduced. The Brahman that is immediate, not obstructed from the seer or subject by anything, and direct, not used in a figurative sense, like the ear and so forth, which are considered to be Brahman. What is that? The self that is within all. The word ‘self’ refers to the inner (individual) self, that being the accepted meaning of the term. The words ‘Yat’ and ‘Yah’[1] indicate that the self familiar to all is identical with Brahman. Explain that self to me, tell about it clearly, as one shows a cow by taking hold of its horns, as much as to say,’ ‘This is it.’

Thus addressed, Yājñavalkya replied, ‘This is your self that is within all.’ The qualification ‘that is within all’ is suggestive of all qualifications whatsoever. That which is ‘immediate’ or unobstructed, and ‘direct’ or used in its primary sense, and which is ‘Brahman’ or the vastest, the self of all and within all—all these specifications refer to the self. ‘What is this self of yours?’ ‘That by which your body and organs are ensouled is your self, i.e. the self of the body and organs.’ ‘There is first the body; within it is the subtle body consisting of the organs; and the third is that whose existence is being doubted. Which of these do you mean as my self that is within all?’ Thus spoken to, Yājñavalkya said, ‘That which breathes (lit. does the function of the Prāṇa) through the Prāṇa, which operates in the mouth and nose, in other words, “which makes the Prāṇa breathe” (Ke. L 9), is your self, i.e. the individual self of the body and organs.’ The rest is similar in meaning. That which moves downwards through the Apāna, Which pervades through the Vyāna—the long i in the two verbs is a Vedic licence—by which the body and organs are made to breathe and do other functions, like a wooden puppet. Unless they are operated by an intelligent principle, they cannot do any function such as breathing, as is the case with the wooden puppet. Therefore it is by being operated by the individual self, which is distinct from them, that they breathe and do other functions, as does the puppet. Hence that principle distinct from the body and organs exists which makes them function.

 

Verse 3.4.2:

स होवाचोषस्तश्चाक्रायणः, यथा विब्रूयात्, असौ गौः, असावश्व इति, एवमेवैतद्व्यपदिष्टं भवति; यदेव साक्शादपरोक्शाद्ब्रह्म, य आत्मा सर्वान्तरः, तं मे व्याचक्श्वेति; एष त आत्मा सर्वान्तरः; कतमो याज्ञवल्क्य सर्वान्तरः ? न दृष्टेर्द्रष्टारं पश्येः, न श्रुतेः श्रोतारं शृणुयात्, न मतेर्मन्तारं मन्वीथाः, न विज्ञातेर्विज्ञातारं विजानीयाः । एष त आत्मा सर्वान्तरः, अतोऽन्यदार्तं । ततो होषस्तस्चाक्रायण उपरराम ॥ २ ॥
इति चतुर्थं ब्राह्मणम् ॥

sa hovācoṣastaścākrāyaṇaḥ, yathā vibrūyāt, asau gauḥ, asāvaśva iti, evamevaitadvyapadiṣṭaṃ bhavati; yadeva sākśādaparokśādbrahma, ya ātmā sarvāntaraḥ, taṃ me vyācakśveti; eṣa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ; katamo yājñavalkya sarvāntaraḥ ? na dṛṣṭerdraṣṭāraṃ paśyeḥ, na śruteḥ śrotāraṃ śṛṇuyāt, na matermantāraṃ manvīthāḥ, na vijñātervijñātāraṃ vijānīyāḥ | eṣa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ, ato'nyadārtaṃ | tato hoṣastascākrāyaṇa upararāma || 2 ||
iti caturthaṃ brāhmaṇam ||

2. Uṣasta, the son of Cakra, said, ‘You have indicated it as one may say that a cow is such and such, or a horse is such and such. Explain to me the Brahman that is immediate and direct—the self that is within all.’ ‘This is your self that is within all.’ ‘Which is within all, Yājñavalkya?’ ‘You cannot see that which is the withess of vision; you cannot hear that which is the hearer of hearing; you cannot think that which is the thinker of thought; you cannot know that which is the knower of knowledge. This is your self that is within all; everything else but this is perishable.’ Thereupon Uṣasta, the son of Cakra, kept silent.

Usasta, the son of Cakra, said: As somebody first proposes one thing and then, being in doubt, may say something else—for instance, having proposed to point out a cow or a horse, he merely describes them through certain characteristics of theirs such as walking and says, ‘A cow is that which walks,’ or ‘A horse is that which runs’—so you too have indicated Brahman through certain characteristics such as breathing. To be brief, give up your trick prompted by your hankering after the cows, and explain to me the Brahman that is immediate and direct—the self that is within all. Yājñavalkya replied: I adhere to the proposition that I ñrst made, that your self is such and such; it is exactly as I have describèd it.

You asked me to present the self as one would a jar etc. I do not do so, because it is impossible. Why is it impossible? Owing to the very nature of the thing. What is that? Its being the witness of vision etc., for the self is the witness of vision. Vision is of two kinds, ordinary and real. Ordinary vision is a function of the mind as connected with the eye; it is an act, and as such it has a beginning and an end. But the vision that belongs to the self is like the heat and light of fire; being the very essence of the witness, it has neither beginning nor end. Because it appears to be connected with the ordinary vision, which is produced and is but a limiting adjunct of it, it is spoken of as the witness, and also as differentiated into witness and vision. The ordinary vision, however, is coloured by the objects seen through the eye, and of course has a beginning; it appears to be connected with the eternal vision of the self, and is but its reflection; it originates and ends, pervaded by the other. It is therefore that the eternal vision of the self is metaphorically spoken of as the witness, and although eternally seeing, is spoken of as sometimes seeing and sometimes not seeing. But as a matter of fact the vision of the seer never changes. So it will be said in the fourth chapter, ‘It thinks, as it were, and shakes, as it were’ (IV. iii. 7), and ‘The vision of the witness can never be lost’ (IV. iii. 23).

This is the meaning of the following passage: You cannot see that which is the witness of vision, i.e. which pervades by its eternal vision the act of our ordinary vision. This latter, which is an act, is affected by the objects seen, and reveals only colour (form), but not the inner self that pervades it. Therefore you cannot see that inner self which is the witness of vision. Similarly you cannot hear that which is the hearer of hearing; you cannot think that which pervades thought, the mere function of the mind; you cannot know that which pervades knowledge, the mere function of the intellect. This is the very nature of the thing; therefore it cannot be shown like a cow etc.

Some[2] explain the passage, ‘You cannot see the witness of vision,’ etc. differently. According to them ‘the witness of vision' means ‘that which sees/ the agent or cause of vision in general, without any distinction of kind. In other words, they regard the genitive case in ‘of vision’ as having an objective force. That vision is caused and is an effect, like a jar. The suffix in the word ‘Draṣṭṛ’ (witness) indicates agency. Therefore, these commentators opine, the expression ‘the witness of vision’ means 'the agent of vision.’ But they fail to see that the words ‘of vision’ then become redundant; or even if they see it, they take it as a repetition, or as a faulty reading not worth anything, and pay no attention to it. How are the words redundant? They are redundant, because the word ‘Draṣṭṛ’ itself would be enough to indicate the agency of vision; then one should only say, ‘You cannot see the witness.’ For the text uses the suffix ‘tṛc’ with the verb, and in grammar this always indicates agency of the act denoted by the verb. We only say, ‘One is conducting the traveller or the cutter’; we should not, in the absence of any special meaning, say, ‘the traveller of travelling,’ or ‘the cutter of cutting.’ Nor should the extra words be dismissed as a mere elucidation, if there is any alternative explanation; and it is not a faulty reading, since all[3] unanimously accept it. Therefore it is a defect of the commentators’ understanding and not a mistake on the part of the students.

But the way we have explained it, viz. that the self endowed with eternal vision, as opposed to the ordinary vision, should be pointed out, accounts for the two words ‘witness’ and ‘vision’ (in ‘the witness of vision’) as describing the subject and the object, with a view to defining the nature of the self. It will also agree with the passage, ‘The vision of the witness (can never be lost)’ etc. (IV. iii. 23), occurring elsewhere, as also with the clauses, ‘(Through which) the eyes see’ (Ke. I. 7), ‘(By which) this ear is heard’ (Ke. L 8), occurring in another text. It is also consonant with reason. In other words, the self can be eternal if only it is immutable; it is a contradiction in terms to say that a thing is changeful and yet eternal. Moreover, the Śruti texts, ‘It thinks, as it were, and shakes, as it were’ (IV. iii. 22), ‘The vision of the witness can never be lost,’ and ‘This is the eternal glory of a knower of Brahman’ (IV. iv. 23), would otherwise be inconsistent.

Objection: But such terms as ‘witness,’ ‘hearer,’ ‘thinker’ and ‘knower’ would also be inconsistent if the self is immutable.

Reply: Not so, for they only repeat conventional expressions as people think them. They do not seek to define the truth of the self. Since the expressions ‘the witness of vision’ etc. cannot otherwise be explained, we conclude that they mean what we have indicated. Therefore the opponents’ rejection of the qualifying term ‘of vision’ is due only to ignorance. This is your self specified by all those above-mentioned epithets. Everything else but this self, whether it is the gross body or the subtle body consisting of the organs, is perīshable. This only is imperishable, changeless. Thereupon Uṣasta, the son of Cakra, kept silent.

Footnotes and references:

1.

Neuter and masculine forms of the word meaning ‘that’.

2.

The reference is to Bhartṛprapañca.

3.

Students of both Kāṇva and Mādhyandina recensions.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: