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 VI - Yajnavalkya and Gargi (I)

Verse 3.6.1:

अथ हैनं गार्गी वाचक्नवी पप्रच्छ; याज्ञवल्क्येति होवाच, यदिदं सर्वमप्स्वोतं च प्रोतं च, कस्मिन्नु खल्वाप ओताश्च प्रोताश्चेति; वायौ गार्गीति; कस्मिन्नु खलु वायुरोतश्च प्रोतश्चेति; अन्तरिक्शलोकेषु गार्गीति; कस्मिन्नु खल्वन्तरिक्शलोका ओताश्च प्रोताश्चेति; गन्धर्वलोकेषु गार्गीति; कस्मिन्नु खलु गन्धर्वलोका ओताश्च प्रोताश्चेति; आदित्यलोकेषु गार्गीति; कस्मिन्नु खल्वादित्यलोका ओताश्च प्रोताश्चेति; चन्द्रलोकेषु गार्गीति; कस्मिन्नु खलु चन्द्रलोका ओताश्च प्रोताश्चेति; नक्शत्रलोकेषु गार्गीति; कस्मिन्नु खलु नक्शत्रलोका ओताश्च प्रोताश्चेति; देवलोकेषु गार्गीति; कस्मिन्नु खलु देवलोका ओताश्च प्रोताश्चेति; इन्द्रलोकेषु गार्गीति; कस्मिन्नु खल्विन्द्रलोका ओताश्च प्रोताश्चेति; प्रजापतिलोकेषु गार्गीति; कस्मिन्नु खलु प्रजापतिलोका ओताश्च प्रोताश्चेति; ब्रह्मलोकेषु गार्गीति; कस्मिन्नु खलु ब्रह्मलोका ओताश्च प्रोताश्चेति; स होवाच, गार्गि मातिप्राक्शीः, मा ते मूर्धा व्यपप्तत्, अनतिप्रश्न्यां वै देवतामतिपृच्छसि गार्गि, मातिप्राक्शीरिति; ततो ह गार्गी वाचक्नव्युपरराम ॥ १ ॥
इति षष्ठं ब्राह्मणम् ॥

atha hainaṃ gārgī vācaknavī papraccha; yājñavalkyeti hovāca, yadidaṃ sarvamapsvotaṃ ca protaṃ ca, kasminnu khalvāpa otāśca protāśceti; vāyau gārgīti; kasminnu khalu vāyurotaśca protaśceti; antarikśalokeṣu gārgīti; kasminnu khalvantarikśalokā otāśca protāśceti; gandharvalokeṣu gārgīti; kasminnu khalu gandharvalokā otāśca protāśceti; ādityalokeṣu gārgīti; kasminnu khalvādityalokā otāśca protāśceti; candralokeṣu gārgīti; kasminnu khalu candralokā otāśca protāśceti; nakśatralokeṣu gārgīti; kasminnu khalu nakśatralokā otāśca protāśceti; devalokeṣu gārgīti; kasminnu khalu devalokā otāśca protāśceti; indralokeṣu gārgīti; kasminnu khalvindralokā otāśca protāśceti; prajāpatilokeṣu gārgīti; kasminnu khalu prajāpatilokā otāśca protāśceti; brahmalokeṣu gārgīti; kasminnu khalu brahmalokā otāśca protāśceti; sa hovāca, gārgi mātiprākśīḥ, mā te mūrdhā vyapaptat, anatipraśnyāṃ vai devatāmatipṛcchasi gārgi, mātiprākśīriti; tato ha gārgī vācaknavyupararāma || 1 ||
iti ṣaṣṭhaṃ brāhmaṇam ||

1. Then Gārgī, the daughter of Vacaknu, asked him. ‘Yājñavalkya,’ she said,

‘if all this is pervaded by water, by what is water pervaded?’ ‘By air, O Gārgi.’
‘By what is air pervaded?’ ‘By the sky, O Gārgī.’
‘By what is the sky pervaded?’ ‘By the world of the Gandharvas,[1] O Gārgī.’
‘By what is the world of the Gandharvas pervaded?’ ‘By the sun, O Gārgī.’
‘By what is the sun pervaded?’ ‘By the moon, O Gārgī.’
‘By what is the moon pervaded?’ ‘By the stars, O Gārgī.’
‘By what are the stars pervaded?’ ‘By the world of the gods, O Gārgī.’
‘By what is the world of the gods pervaded?’ ‘By the world of Indra, O Gārgī.’
‘By what is the world of Indra pervaded?’ ‘By the world of Virāj, O Gārgī.’
‘By what is the world of Virāj pervaded?’ ‘By the world of Hiraṇyagarbha, O Gārgī.’
‘By what is the world of Hiraṇyagarbha pervaded?’

He said, ‘Do not, O Gārgī, push your inquiry too far, lest your head should fall off. You are questioning about a deity that should not be reasoned about. Do not, O Gārgī; push your inquiry too far.’ Thereupon Gārgī, the daughter of Vacaknu, kept silent.

To describe the nature of that which has been stated to be the immediate and direct Brahman—the self that is within all, the three sections up to that dealing with the story of Śākalya are being introduced. The elements from earth up to the ether are arranged one within the other. The idea is to show how an aspirant—the subject or seer—can realise his own self, which is immediate and direct, is within all, and beyond all relative attributes, by taking up each relatively external element and eliminating it. Then Gārgī, the daughter of Vacaknu, asked him. ‘Yājñavalkya,’ she said, ‘if all this, all that is composed of earth, is pervaded within and without (lit. placed like the warp and woof—or woof and warp—in a cloth) by water.’ Otherwise it would be scattered like a handful of fried barley flour. The following inference is suggested: We observe that whatever is an effect, limited and gross is respectively pervaded by that which is the cause, unlimited and subtle, as earth is pervaded by water. Similarly (in the series from earth to the ether) each preceding element must be pervaded by the succeeding one, till we come to the self that is within all. This is the import of the question.

Now these five elements are so arranged that each preceding one is held together by the succeeding element, which is its cause and is more subtle and pervasive. And there is nothing below the Supreme Self which is different from the elements,[2] for the Śruti says, ‘The Truth of truth’ (II. i. 20; II. iii. 6). The truth is the five elements, and the Truth of truth is the Supreme Self. ‘By what is water pervaded?’ Since it too is an effect, gross and limited, it must be pervaded by something; and what is that? All the subsequent questions are to be construed in this way. ‘By air, O Gārgī.’ One may object that the answer should be fire; to which we reply that the answer is all right. Fire cannot independently manifest itself like the other elements; it must take the help of particles of earth or water; hence it is not mentioned as pervading water. ‘By what is air pervaded?’By the sky, O Gārgī.’ The same elements combining with one another form the sky; this is pervaded by the world of the Gandharvas, this again by the sun, the sun by the moon, the moon by the stars, the stars by the world of the gods, this by the world of Indra, this again by the world of Virāj, i.e. by the elements composing the body of Virāj; the world of Virāj is pervaded by the world of Hiraṇyagarbha, i.e. by the elements composing the universe. The plural is used in the text (‘worlds’ instead of ‘world’) because these worlds, arranged in an ascending order of subtlety, are each composed of the same five elements transformed so as to become fit abodes for the enjoyment of beings. ‘By what is the world of Hiraṇyagarbha pervaded?’ Yājñavalkya said, ‘Do not, O Gārgī, push your inquiry too far—disregarding the proper method of inquiry into the nature of the deity[3]; that is, do not try to know through inference about a deity that must be approached only through oral instruction (Āgama), lest by so doing your head should fall off.’ The nature of the deity is to be known from the scriptures alone, and Gārgī’s question, being inferential, disregarded this particular means of approach. ‘You are questioning about a deity that should not be reasoned about, but known only through its special means of approach, the scriptures. Therefore do not, O Gārgī, push your inquiry too jar, unless you wish to die.’ Thereupon Gārgī, the daughter of Vacaknu, kept silent.

Footnotes and references:


Celestial minstrels.


So the different worlds enumerated in this paragraph are included in them.


The Sūtra, which is described in the next section.

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