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 ...
Bondage with its stimulating causes has been spoken of. The existence of that which is bound, as also its distinctness from the body etc., has also been known. Now the knowledge of the Self together with renunciation, which are the means of liberating it from that bondage, have to be described. Hence the question of Kahola is introduced.
अथ हैनं कहोलः कौषीतकेयः पप्रच्छ; याज्ञवल्क्येति होवाच, यदेव साक्शादपरोक्शाद्ब्रह्म, य आत्मा सर्वान्तरः, तं मे व्याचक्श्वेति; एष त आत्मा सर्वान्तरः । कतमो याज्ञवल्क्य सर्वान्तरः ? योऽशनायापिपासे शोकं मोहं जरां मृत्युमत्येति । एतं वै तमात्मानं विदित्वा ब्राह्मणाः पुत्रैषणायाश्च वित्तैषणायाश्च लोकैषणायाश्च व्युत्थायाथ भिक्शाचर्यं चरन्ति; या ह्येव पुत्रैषणा सा वित्तैषणा, या वित्तैषणा सा लोकैषणा, उभे ह्येते एषणे एव भवतः । तस्माद्ब्राह्मणः पाण्डित्यं निर्विद्य बाल्येन तिष्ठासेत् । बाल्यं च पाण्डित्यं च निर्विद्याथ मुनिः, अमौनं च मौनं च निर्विद्याथ ब्राह्मणः; स ब्राह्मणः केन स्यात् ? येन स्यात्तेनेदृश एव, अतोऽन्यदार्तम् । ततो ह कहोलः कौषीतकेय उपरराम ॥ १ ॥
इति पञ्चमं ब्राह्मणम् ॥
atha hainaṃ kaholaḥ kauṣītakeyaḥ papraccha; yājñavalkyeti hovāca, yadeva sākśādaparokśādbrahma, ya ātmā sarvāntaraḥ, taṃ me vyācakśveti; eṣa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ | katamo yājñavalkya sarvāntaraḥ ? yo'śanāyāpipāse śokaṃ mohaṃ jarāṃ mṛtyumatyeti | etaṃ vai tamātmānaṃ viditvā brāhmaṇāḥ putraiṣaṇāyāśca vittaiṣaṇāyāśca lokaiṣaṇāyāśca vyutthāyātha bhikśācaryaṃ caranti; yā hyeva putraiṣaṇā sā vittaiṣaṇā, yā vittaiṣaṇā sā lokaiṣaṇā, ubhe hyete eṣaṇe eva bhavataḥ | tasmādbrāhmaṇaḥ pāṇḍityaṃ nirvidya bālyena tiṣṭhāset | bālyaṃ ca pāṇḍityaṃ ca nirvidyātha muniḥ, amaunaṃ ca maunaṃ ca nirvidyātha brāhmaṇaḥ; sa brāhmaṇaḥ kena syāt ? yena syāttenedṛśa eva, ato'nyadārtam | tato ha kaholaḥ kauṣītakeya upararāma || 1 ||
iti pañcamaṃ brāhmaṇam ||
1. Then Kahola, the son of Kuṣītaka, 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 transcends hunger and thirst, grief, delusion, decay and death. Knowing this very Self the Brāhmaṇas renounce the desire for sons, for wealth and for the worlds, and lead a mendicant life. That which is the desire for sons is the desire for wealth, and that which is the desire for wealth is the desire for the worlds, for both these are but desires. Therefore the knower of Brahman, having known all about scholarship, should try to live upon that strength which comes of knowledge; having known all about this strength as well as scholarship, he becomes meditative; having known all about born meditativeness and its opposite, he becomes a knower of Brahman. How does that knower of Brahman behave? Howsoever he may behave, he is just such. Except this everything is perishable.’ Thereupon Kahola, the son of Kuṣītaka, kept silent.
Then Kahola, the son of asked him, ‘Yājñavalkya,’ said he—to be explained as before—‘explain to me the Brahman that is immediate and direct—the self that is within all,’ knowing which one is freed from bondage. Yājñavalkya said, ‘This is your self.’
Some say: It ought to be different selves, for then only can the two questions be other than a repetition. Had Uṣasta and Kahola asked about the same self, then one question having dealt with that, the second would have been redundant; and the passage in question is not a mere elucidation. Therefore the two selves must be different, viz. the individual self and the Supreme Self.
Reply: No, because of the use of the word ‘your.’ It has been said in the reply, ‘This is your self’ (III. iv. i-2; this text), and the same aggregate of body and organs cannot have two selves, for each aggregate possesses a single self. Nor can Uṣasta and Kahola mean selves essentially different from each other, since both cannot be primary, and self, and within all. If one of the two be Brahman in a primary sense, the other must be secondary; similarly with selfhood and being within all, for these three terms are contradictory. If one of the two Brahmans be the self, primary, and within all. then the other must be non-self, secondary, and not within all. Therefore one and the same self has been mentioned twice with a view to telling something special about it. That part only of the second question which is common to the first is a repetition of the latter, and the second question is introduced in order to furnish some detail not mentioned before.
Objection: What is this detail?
Reply: It is this. In the first question it has been stated that there is a self distinct from the body, whose bondage together with its stimulating causes has been spoken of; but in the second something more is added, viz. that this self is beyond relative attributes such as hunger—a detail, by knowing which, together with renunciation, one is freed from the bondage above spoken of. Therefore we conclude that in both cases the question and answer, ending with the words. ‘This is your self that is within all,’ have an identical meaning.
Objection: How can the same self possess contradictory attributes such as being beyond hunger etc. and having them?
Reply: The objection is not valid, having already been refuted (p. 306). We have repeatedly said that the relative existence of the self is but a delusion caused by its association with limiting adjuncts such as the body and organs, which are but the modifications of name and form. We have also made this clear while explaining the apparently contradictory passages of the Śrutis (p. 393). For instance, a rope, a mother-of-pearl, or the sky, becomes a snake, silver, or blue respectively, owing to attributes imputed by people, but in themselves they are just a rope, a mother-of-pearl, or the sky. Thus there is no contradiction if things possess contradictory attributes.
Objection: Will not such Upaniṣadic texts as, ‘One only without a second’ (Ch. VI. ii. i), and ‘There is no difference whatsoever in It’ (IV. iv. 19; K. IV. 11), be contradicted if you admit the existence of the limiting adjuncts, name and form?
Reply: No; this has already been refuted by the illustrations of the foam of water and (the modifications of) clay etc. But when name and form are tested from the standpoint of the highest truth in the light of the above Śruti texts, as to whether they arc different from the Supreme Self or not, they cease to be separate entities, like the foam of water, or like the modifications (of clay) such as a jar. It is then that such passages as, ‘One only without a second,’ and ‘There is no difference whatsoever in It,’ have scope from the standpoint of the Supreme Self as referring to the highest realisation. But when on account of our primordial ignorance the reality of Brahman, although remaining as it is, naturally untouched by anything—like the reality of the rope, the mother-of-pearl and the sky—is not discriminated from the limiting adjuncts such as the body and organs, which are created by name and form, and our natural vision of those adjuncts remains, then this phenomenal existence consisting of things different from Brahman has full play. This unreal phenomenal existence created by differentiation is indeed a fact for those who do not believe in things as different from Brahman as well as for those who do believe. But the believers of the highest truth, while discussing in accordance with the Śrutis the actual existence or non-existence of things apart from Brahman, conclude that Brahman alone is the one without a second, beyond all finite relations. So there is no contradiction between the two views. We do not maintain the existence of things different from Brahman in the state when the highest truth has been definitely known, as the Śrutis say, ‘One only without a second,' and ‘Without interior or exterior’ (II. v. 19; III. viii. 8). Nor do we deny the validity, for the ignorant, of actions with their factors and results while the relative world of name and form exists. Therefore scriptural or conventional outlook depends entirely on knowledge or ignorance. Hence there is no apprehension of a contradiction between them. In fact, all schools must admit the existence or non-existence of the phenomenal world according as it is viewed from the relative or the absolute standpoint.
Regarding the nature of the self as it is in reality once more the question is asked: ‘Which is within all, Yājñvalkya?’ The other replied, ‘That which transcends hunger and thirst.’—The word ‘which’ in the text should be construed with ‘transcends’ coming shortly after.—As the sky, fancied by the ignorant as being concave and blue, is really without these qualities, being naturally untouched by them, similarly Brahman, although fancied as being subject to hunger, thirst, etc., by the ignorant, who think that they are hungry or thirsty, really transcends these qualities, being naturally untouched by them, for the Śruti says, ‘It is not affected by human misery, being beyond it’ (Ka. V. 11)—i.e. by misery attributed by ignorant people. Hunger and thirst have been compounded in the text, as both are vital functions.
Grief is desire. The discomfort that one feels as one reflects on some covetable thing is the seed of desire for one afflicted with a hankering, because it kindles desire; while delusion is a mistake, a confusion, arising from a false notion; it is ignorance, the fruitful source of all troubles. The two words are not compounded, as grief and delusion produce different results. They have their seat in the mind. (The self also transcends) decay and death, which centre in the body. ‘Decay’ is that modification of the body and organs which is marked by wrinkles, grey hair, etc. ‘Death’ is the fall of the body, the last modification to overtake it. These, the hunger and the rest, which centre in the vital force, mind and body, and are present in beings in an unbroken succession like days and nights, etc., and like the waves of an ocean, are called the relative or transmigratory existence with regard to them. But that which is described as the witness of vision and so forth, is immediate or unobstructed and direct or used in a primary sense, which is within all, and is the self of all beings from Hiraṇyagarbha down to a clump of grass, is ever untouched by such relative attributes as hunger and thirst, as the sky is untouched by impurities like the clouds etc.
Knowing this very Self, their own reality, as ‘I am this, the Supreme Brahman, eternally devoid of relative attributes, and ever satisfied,’ the Brāhmaṇas —they are mentioned because they alone are qualified for renunciation—renounce, lit. rise up in an opposite direction to—what?—the desire for sons, as means to winning this world, thinking, ‘We will win this world through sons,’ in other words, marriage; hence the meaning is, they do not marry. (The desire) for wealth: procuring cattle etc., which are the means of rites, in order that one may perform rites through them and win the world of the Manes, or that one may win the world of the gods either by combining rites with meditation, which is divine wealth, or solely through meditation on Hiraṇyagarbha. Some say that one cannot renounce divine wealth, since it is through this that renunciation is possible. But this view is wrong, for divine wealth also falls within the category of desires, as we know from the Śruti passage, ‘This much indeed is desire’ (I. iv. 17). It is the meditation on the gods such as Hiraṇyagarbha which is spoken of as wealth, because it leads to the world of the gods. The knowledge of Brahman, which concerns the unconditioned Pure Intelligence, cannot certainly be the means of attaining the world of the gods. Witness the Śruti texts. ‘Therefore It became all’ (I. iv. 10), and ‘For he becomes their self’ (Ibid.). It is through the knowledge of Brahman that renunciation takes place, for there is the specific statement, ‘Knowing this very Self.’ Therefore they renounce all these three objects of desire which lead to worlds that are not the Self.—‘Eṣaṇā’ means desire, for the Śruti says, ‘This much indeed is desire.’—That is to say, they cease to hanker after all this threefold means of attaining worlds that are not the Self.
Every desire for means is a desire for results; therefore the text says that desire is one. How? That which is the desire for sons is the desire for wealth, for both are alike means to tangible results. And that which is the desire for wealth is the desire for the worlds, for it is directed towards results. People adopt different means, actuated by the desire for results. Hence desire is one, because the desire for the worlds cannot be attained without the requisite means, for both these are but desires, one being but a means to the other. Therefore the knower of Brahman has nothing to do with rites or their accessories.—‘Brāhmaṇas’ in the text means those of past times.—The rites and their accessories here spoken of refer to the holy thread etc., which are means to the performance of rites pertaining to the gods, the Manes and men, for through them these rites are performed. Compare the Śruti, ‘The holy thread that hangs straight down from the neck is for rites pertaining to men’ (Tai. S. II. v. 11. 1). Therefore the ancient Brāhmaṇas—knowers of Brahman—renouncing rites and their accessories such as the holy thread, embrace the life of a monk (of the highest class) known as the Paramahamsa, and lead a mendicant life, live upon begging—giving up the insignia of a monk’s life prescribed by the Smṛtis, which are the means of livelihood for those who have merely taken recourse to that life. Witness the Smṛtis: ‘The knower of Brahman wears no signs,’ ‘Therefore the knower of religion, who wears no signs, (should practise its principles)’ (cf. Mbh. XIV. xlvi. 51), and ‘His signs are not manifest, nor his behaviour' (cf. Va. X.). And the Śruti: 'Then he becomes a monk, wears the ochre robe, shaves his head, and does not accept (superfluous) gifts,’ etc. (Jā. 5); also, ‘Having cut off his hair together with the tuft and giving up the holy thread,’ etc. (Ká. I., II. 3).
Objection: Because of the use of the present tense in it, the passage, ‘The Brāhmaṇas renounce .... and live a mendicant life,’ should be taken as a mere eulogy; it has none of the three suffixes denoting an injunction. Therefore on the strength of a mere eulogy the abandonment of the holy thread and other such accessories of rites prescribed by the Śrutis and Smṛtis cannot be urged. ‘He only who wears the holy thread may study the Vedas, officiate in sacrifices, or perform them’ (Tai. Ā. II. i. 1). In the first place, the study of the Vedas is enjoined in the mendicant life: ‘By giving up the study of the Vedas one becomes a Śūdra; therefore one must not do it’ (Quoted in Va. X). Also Āpastamba: ‘Uttering speech only when studying the Vedas’ (Āp. II. xxi. 10, 21). The scriptures condemn giving up the study of the Vedas in the verse, ‘Quitting the study of the Vedas, condemning the Vedas, deceitful evidence, murder of a friend, and eating forbidden or uneatable food—these six acts are equivalent to drinking’ (M. XI. 56). Secondly, the passage, ‘One should wear the holy thread while serving the preceptors, old people and guests, performing sacrifices, repeating sacred formulae, eating, rinsing one’s mouth and studying the Vedas' (Āp. I. xv. 1), enjoins the holy thread as an accessory of those acts, and the Śrutis and Smṛtis prescribe such acts as the attending on the preceptors, study of the Vedas, eating and rinsing one’s mouth among the duties of a monk; therefore we cannot understand the passage in question as advocating the giving up of the holy thread. Although the renunciation of desires is enjoined, yet it means the renunciation of only the three desires, viz. those concerning sons and so forth, and not of all rites and their means. If all rites are abandoned, it will be doing something not enjoined by the Śrutis, and discarding the holy thread etc., actually enjoined by them. This omission of acts enjoined and performance of those forbidden would be a grave offence. Therefore the assumption that the insignia such as the holy thread should be abandoned is merely an instance of the blind following the blind (thoughtless procedure).
Reply: No, for the Śruti says, ‘The monk should give up the holy thread, the study of the Vedas, and all such things’ (Kś. 4; Kr. 2). Moreover the ultimate aim of the Upaniṣads is to teach Self-knowledge. It has already been stated, ‘The Self is to be realised— to be heard of, reflected on,’ etc. (II. iv. 5); and it is common knowledge that that very Self is to be known as immediate and direct, as being within all, and devoid of the relative attributes of hunger etc. Since this entire Upaniṣad sets itself to bringing this out, the passage in question cannot form a part of some other (ritualistic) injunction, and is therefore not a eulogy. For Self-knowledge is to be attained, and the Self, being devoid of the attributes of hunger etc., is to be known as different from the means and results of an action. To know the Self as identified with these is ignorance. Witness the Śrutis: ‘He (who worships another god thinking), “He is one, and I am another,” does not know’ (I. iv. 10), ‘He goes from death to death who sees difference, as it were, in.It’ (IV. iv. 19; Ka. IV. 10), ‘It should be realised in one form only’ (IV. iv. 20), ‘One only without a second’ (Ch. VI. ii. 1), ‘Thou art That’ (Ch. VI. viii. 7), etc. The means and results of an action are different from the Self that is beyond the relative attributes such as hunger, and fall within the category of ignorance, as is proved by hundreds of texts like the following: ‘When there is duality, as it were’ (II. iv. 14; IV. v. 15), ‘He who worships another god thinking, “He is one, and I am another,” does not know,’ ‘While those who know It as otherwise (become dependent and attain perishable worlds),’ etc. (Ch. VII. xxv. 2).
Knowledge and ignorance cannot co-exist in the same individual, for they are contradictory like light and darkness. Therefore the knower of the Self must not be supposed to have relations with the sphere of ignorance consisting of actions, their factors and their results, for it has been deprecated in such passages as, ‘He goes from death to death,’ etc. All actions with their factors and results, which fall within the category of ignorance, are meant to be shunned through the help of knowledge, the opposite of ignorance; and such auxiliaries as the holy thread fall within the same category. Therefore desire is different from and associated with things other than the Self, which by Its nature is neither the means nor the result of an action. They, the means and the result of an action, are both desires, and the holy thread etc. and the ceremonies to be performed through them are classed under means. This has been clenched by a reason in the clause, ‘For both these are but desires’ (this text). Since the means such as the holy thread, and the ceremonies to be performed through them are within the range of ignorance, are forms of desires, and are things to be shunned, the renunciation of them is undoubtedly enjoined.
Objection: Since this Upaniṣad seeks to inculcate Self-knowledge, the passage relating to the renunciation of desires is just a eulogy on that, and not an injunction.
Reply: No, for it is to be performed by the same individual on whom Self-knowledge is enjoined. The Vedas can never connect with the same individual something that is enjoined and something that is not enjoined. Just as the Śrutis connect pressing, pouring and drinking (of the Soma juice) with the same individual—that he should press the juice out, pour it into the fire, and drink what is left—because all the three are obligatory, similarly Self-knowledge, renunciation of desires and begging would be connected with the same individual if only these were obligatory.
Objection: Suppose we say that being under the category of ignorance and being (auxiliaries of) desires, the abandonment of the holy thread etc. is a mere corollary of the injunction on Self-knowledge, and not a separate injunction?
Reply: No. Since it is connected with the same individual along with the injunction of Self-knowledge, the obligatory nature of this renuDciation as well as the begging is all the more clearly established; and the objection that it is a mere eulogy because of the use of the present tense does not hold, since it is analogous to such in junctions as that the sacrificial post is made of fig-wood.
Objection: We admit that the passage, ‘(The Brāhmaṇas) renounce desires.... and lead a mendicant life,’ enjoins monasticism. In this life, however, means such as the holy thread and certain insignia are enjoined by the Śrutis and Smṛtis. Therefore the passage in question means that accessories other than these, although the latter are (auxiliaries of) desires, should be renounced.
Reply: Not so, for we know that there is another kind of monasticism different from this one. The latter is connected with the same individual as Self-knowledge, and is characterised by the renunciation of desires. This monasticism is a part of Self-knowledge, because it is the renunciation of desires, which contradict Self-knowledge and are within the province of ignorance. Besides this there is another kind of monasticism, which is an order of life and leads to the attainment of the world of Hiraṇyagarbha and so on; it is about this that means such as the holy thread and particular insignia are enjoined. When there is this other kind of monasticism in which the adoption of means like the (auxiliaries of) desires is just a duty peculiar to that life, it is wrong to contradict Self-knowledge that is enjoined by all the Upaniṣads. If one seeks to adopt means such as the holy thread, which are within the province of ignorance and are (auxiliaries of) desires, it would certainly be contradicting- the knowledge of one’s self—which is neither the means nor the result of an action, and is devoid of such relative attributes as hunger—as identical with Brahman. And it is wrong to contradict this knowledge, for all the Upaniṣads aim at this.
Objection: Does not the Śruti itself contradict this by teaching the adoption of desires in the words, ‘(The Brāhmaṇas) lead a mendicant life’? That is to say, after enjoining the renunciation of desires it teaches in the same breath the adoption of a part of them, viz. begging. Does this not imply the adoption of other connected things as well?
Reply: No, the begging does not imply other things as well, just as the drinking of the remnant (of Soma juice) after the oblation has been offered does not include any additional things; since it relates only to the disposal1 of what is left, it implies nothing else. Moreover, the begging has no purifying effect; the drinking of the juice might purify a person, but not the begging. Though there may be some merit in observing the rules regarding it, yet its application to the knower of Brahman is inadmissible.
1 Pratipatti-karma is the disposal of the accessories of a rite after they have served their purpose, to prevent their interfering with other work.
Reply: It is quite in order, because the passage thereby enjoins the rejection of other means of subsistence.
Objection: Still what is the necessity for that?
Reply: None, if his realisation has reached that point of inaction; we accept that view. As to the texts regarding monasticism such as, ‘He only who wears the holy thread may study (the Vedas),’ etc. (Tai Ā. II. i. 1), we have already answered your objection by saying that they concern only the monasticism of those who have not known Brahman: we have pointed out that Self-knowledge would otherwise be contradicted. That the knower of Brahman has no work to do is shown by the following Smṛti passage, ‘The gods consider him a knower of Brahman who has no desires, who undertakes no work, who does not salute or praise anybody, and whose work has been exhausted, but who himself is unchanged’ (Mbh. XII. cclxix. 34). Also, ‘The knower of Brahman wears no signs,’ and ‘Therefore the knower of religion, who wears no signs,’ etc. (cf. Mbh. XIV. xlvi. 51). Therefore the knower of the Self should embrace that vow of the highest order of monks which is characterised by the renunciation of desires and the abandonment of all work together with its means.
Since the ancient Brāhmaṇas, knowing this Self as naturally different from the means and result of an action, renounced all desires, which are such means and results, and led a mendicant life, giving up work producing visible and invisible results, together with its means, therefore to this day the knower of Brahman, having known all about scholarship or this knowledge of the Self from the teacher and the Śrutis—having fully mastered it—should renounce desires. This is the culmination of that scholarship, for it comes with the elimination of desires, and is contradictory to them. Since scholarship regarding the Self cannot come without the elimination of desires, therefore the renunciation of these is automatically enjoined by the knowledge of the Self. This is emphasised by the use of the suffix ‘ktvāc’ in the passage in question, as referring to the same individual who has the knowledge of the Self. Therefore the knower of Brahman, after renouncing desires, should try to live upon that strength which comes of knowledge. Those others who are ignorant of the Self derive their strength from the means and results of actions. The knower of Brahman avoids that and resorts simply to that strength which comes of the knowledge of the Self, which is naturally different from the means and results of an action. When he does this, his organs have no more power to drag him down to the objects of desire. It is only the fool without the strength of knowledge, who is attracted by his organs to desires concerning objects, visible or invisible. Strength is the total elimination of the vision of objects by Self-knowledge; hence the knower of Brahman should try to live upon that strength. As another Śruti puts it, ‘Through the Self one attains strength’ (Ke. II. 4); also, ‘This Self is unattainable by the weak’ (Mu. III. ii. 4).
Having known all about this strength as well as scholarship, he becomes meditative, in other words, a Yogin. What a knower of Brahman should do is to eliminate all ideas of the non-Self; doing this he accomplishes his task and becomes a Yogin. After having known all about scholarship and strength, which respectively mean Self-knowledge and the elimination of ideas of the non-Self, he knows all about meditativeness too—which is the culminating result of the latter—and its opposite, and becomes a knower of Brahman, or accomplishes his task: he attains the conviction that all is Brahman. Because he has reached the goal, therefore he is a Brāhmaṇa, a knower of Brahman; for then his status as a knower of Brahman is literally true. Therefore the text says: How does that knower of Brahman behave? Howsoever he may behave, he is just such—a knower of Brahman as described above. The expression, ‘Howsoever he may behave,’ is intended for a tribute to this state of a knower of Brahman, and does not mean reckless behaviour. Except this state of realisation of Brahman, which is the true state of one’s self which is beyond hunger etc., and is eternally satisfied, everything, i.e. desires, which are within the category of ignorance, is perishable—lit. beset with troubles—unsubstantial like a dream, an illusion, or a mirage; the Self alone is detached and eternally free. Thereupon Kahola, the son of Kusitaka, kept silent.
Footnotes and references:
Bhartṛprapañca is meant.
Here ‘is’ means ‘must be.’
‘Work’ in this connection means ritualistic work.