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 II - The Three Great Disciplines

Verse 5.2.1:

त्रयाः प्राजापत्याः प्रजापतौ पितरि ब्रह्मचर्यमूषुः—देवा मनुष्या असुराः; उषित्वा ब्रह्मचर्यं देवा ऊचुः, ब्रवीतु नो भवानिति; तेभ्यो हैतदक्शरमुवाच द इति; व्यज्ञासिष्टा3 इति; व्यज्ञासिष्मेति होचुः, दाम्यतेति न आत्थेति; ओमिति होवाच, व्यज्ञासिष्टेति ॥ १ ॥

trayāḥ prājāpatyāḥ prajāpatau pitari brahmacaryamūṣuḥ—devā manuṣyā asurāḥ; uṣitvā brahmacaryaṃ devā ūcuḥ, bravītu no bhavāniti; tebhyo haitadakśaramuvāca da iti; vyajñāsiṣṭā3 iti; vyajñāsiṣmeti hocuḥ, dāmyateti na āttheti; omiti hovāca, vyajñāsiṣṭeti || 1 ||

1. Three classes of Prajāpati’s sons lived a life of continence with their father, Prajāpati (Virāj)—the gods, men and Asuras. The gods, on the completion of their term, said, ‘Please instruct us.’ He told them the syllable ‘Da' (and asked), ‘Have you understood?’ (They) said, ‘We have. You tell us: Control yourselves.’ (He) said, 'Yes, you have understood.'

The present section is introduced to prescribe the three disciplines of self-control etc. Three classes of Prajāpati’s sons lived a life of continence, i.e. lived as students, since continence is the most important part of a student’s life, with their father, Prajāpati. Who were they? The gods, men and Asuras, in particular. Of them, the gods, on the completion of their term—what did they do?—said to their father, Prajāpati, ‘Please instruct us.’ When they thus sought his instruction, he told them only the syllable ‘Da’; and saying it the father asked them,’ you understood the meaning of the syllable I told you by way of instruction, or not?’ The gods said, ‘We have.’ ‘If so, tell me what I said.’ The gods said, ‘You tell us: Control yourselves, for you are naturally unruly.’ The other said, ‘Yes, you have understood rightly.’

 

Verse 5.2.2:

अथ हैनं मनुष्या ऊचुः, ब्रवीतु नो भवानिति; तेभ्यो हैतदेवाक्शरमुवाच द इति; व्यज्ञासिष्टा3 इति; व्यज्ञासिष्मेति होचुः, दत्तेति न आत्थेति; ओमिति होवाच, व्यज्ञासिष्टेति ॥ ३ ॥

atha hainaṃ manuṣyā ūcuḥ, bravītu no bhavāniti; tebhyo haitadevākśaramuvāca da iti; vyajñāsiṣṭā3 iti; vyajñāsiṣmeti hocuḥ, datteti na āttheti; omiti hovāca, vyajñāsiṣṭeti || 2 ||

2. Then the men said to him, ‘Please instruct us.’ He told them the same syllable ‘Da’ (and asked), ‘Have you understood?’ (They) said, ‘We have. You tell us: Give.’ (He) said, ‘Yes, you have understood.’

The common portions are to be explained as before. ‘You tell us: Give—distribute your wealth to the best of your might, for you are naturally avaricious. What else would you say for our benefit?’—so said the men.

 

Verse 5.2.3:

अथ हैनमसुरा ऊचुः, ब्रवीतु नो भवानिति; तेभ्यो हैतदेवाक्शरमुवाच द इति; व्यज्ञासिष्टा3 इति; व्यज्ञासिष्मेति होचुः, दयध्वमिति न आत्थेति; ओमिति होवाच, व्यज्ञासिष्टेति; तदेतदेवैषा दैवी वागनुवदति स्तनयित्नुर् द द द इति—दाम्यत दत्त दयध्वमिति; तदेतत्त्रयं शिक्शेत्—दमं दानं दयामिति ॥ ३ ॥
इति द्वितीयं ब्राह्मणम् ॥

atha hainamasurā ūcuḥ, bravītu no bhavāniti; tebhyo haitadevākśaramuvāca da iti; vyajñāsiṣṭā3 iti; vyajñāsiṣmeti hocuḥ, dayadhvamiti na āttheti; omiti hovāca, vyajñāsiṣṭeti; tadetadevaiṣā daivī vāganuvadati stanayitnur da da da iti—dāmyata datta dayadhvamiti; tadetattrayaṃ śikśet—damaṃ dānaṃ dayāmiti || 3 ||
iti dvitīyaṃ brāhmaṇam ||

3. Then the Asuras said to him, ‘Please instruct us.’ He told them the same syllable ‘Da' (and asked), ‘Have you understood?’ (They) said, ‘We have. You tell us: ‘Have compassion.’ (He) said, ‘Yes, you have understood.’ That very thing is repeated by the heavenly voice, the cloud, as ‘Da,’ ‘Da,’ ‘Da’: ‘Control yourselves,’ ‘Give,’ and ‘Have compassion.’ Therefore one should leam these three—self-control, charity and compassion.

Similarly the Asuras took it as, ‘Have compassion, be kind to all, for you are cruel, given to injuring others, and so on.’ That very instruction of Prajāpati continues to this day. Prajāpati, who formerly taught the gods and others, teaches us even to-day through the heavenly voice of the cloud. How? Here is the heavenly voice heard. Which is it? The cloud. As ‘Da,’ ‘Da,’ ‘Da’: ‘Control yourselves,’ ‘Give,’ and ‘Have compassion.’ The syllable ‘Da’ is repeated thrice to represent in imitation the above three terms, not that a cloud produces three notes only, for we know of no such limitation as to number. Because to this day Prajāpati gives the same instructions, ‘Control yourselves,’ ‘Give’ and ‘Have Compassion,’ therefore one should learn these three of Prajāpati. What are they? Self-control, charity and compassion. Men should think, ‘We must carry out the instructions of Prajāpati.’ The Smṛti too says, ‘Lust, anger and greed—these are the three gateways to hell, destructive to the self; therefore one should renounce these three’ (G. XVI. 21). The preceding portion is but a part of this injunction, ‘One should learn,’ etc. Still those who can guess the motives of others hold different views on why Prajāpati spoke the same syllable ‘Da’ thrice to the gods etc., who wanted separate instructions, and how they too discriminatingly understood his intention from the same syllable ‘Da.’

Regarding this some say: The gods, men and Asuras, considering themselves guilty of a lack of self-control, charitableness and compassion respectively, lived as students with Prajāpati, apprehensive of what he might say to them; and as soon as they heard the syllable ‘Da,’ their own fears led them to understand its meaning. It is a well-known principle in life that sons and pupils are to be dissuaded from evil through instruction. Hence Prajāpati was right in uttering just the syllable ‘Da,’ and so too were the gods etc. in understanding it differently according to their respective defects, for the syllable ‘Da’ occurs in all the three words denoting ‘self-control’ etc. From this it is clear that when one is conscious of one’s faults, one can be weaned from them through the briefest advice, as the gods etc. were through the mere syllable ‘Da.’

Objection: Well, this instruction was for the three classes, the gods and the rest, and even they were to adopt only one instruction apiece. It is not that even to-day men should learn all the three.

Reply: In ancient times these three were practised by the gods etc.—distinguished people. So men indeed should practise all of them.

Objection: But should not compassion be excluded from the list, because it was practised by the Asuras—very undesirable people?

Reply: No, for all the three are equally good instructions. Hence there is some other meaning to it. All the three classes, the gods and the rest, were Prajāpati's sons, and a father would teach his sons only what is good for them; so Prajāpati, who knew what was good for them, would not teach them otherwise. Therefore this instruction of his to his sons is exceedingly beneficent. Hence men indeed should learn all the three.

Or, there are no gods or Asuras other than men. Those among men who are wanting in self-control, but are otherwise endowed with many good qualities, are the gods; those who are particularly greedy are men; while those who are cruel and given to injuring others are the Asuras. So the same species, men, according to their lack of self-control and the other two defects, as well as to their tendencies of balance, activity and inertia, are given the titles of gods etc. Hence it is men who should learn all the three instructions, for Prajāpati meant his advice for them alone; because men are observed to be wild, greedy and cruel. The Smṛti too says, ‘Lust, anger and greed (are the three gateways to hell);... therefore one should renounce them’ (G. XVI. 21).

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