Taittiriya Upanishad

by A. Mahadeva Sastri | 1903 | 206,351 words | ISBN-10: 8185208115

The Taittiriya Upanishad is one of the older, "primary" Upanishads, part of the Yajur Veda. It says that the highest goal is to know the Brahman, for that is truth. It is divided into three sections, 1) the Siksha Valli, 2) the Brahmananda Valli and 3) the Bhrigu Valli. 1) The Siksha Valli deals with the discipline of Shiksha (which is ...

The Taittirīya-Upaniṣad is so called because of the recension (śākhā) of the Kṛṣṇa-Yajurveda to which it is appended. It is the most popular and the best-known of all the Upaniṣads in this part of the country, where the majority of the brahmins study the Taittirīya recension of the Yajurveda, and it is also one of the very few Upaniṣads which are still recited with the regulated accent and intonation which the solemnity of the subject therein treated naturally engenders. The Upaniṣad itself has been translated by several scholars including Prof. Max Muller; and the latest translation by Messrs. Mead and J.C. Chattopādhyāya, of the Blavatsky Lodge of the Theosophical Society, London, is the most ‘soulful’ of all, and at the same time the cheapest. A few words, therefore, are needed to explain the object of the present undertaking.

Śaṅkarāchārya and Sureśvarāchārya are writers of highest authority belonging to what has been nowadays marked off as the Advaita school of the Vedanta. Every student of the Vedānta knows that the former has written commentaries on the classical Upaniṣads, on the Bhagavadgītā, and on the Brahmasūtras, besides a number of manuals and tracts treating of the Vedānta Philosophy, while among the works of the latter, which have but recently seen the light, may be mentioned

  1. the Bṛhadāraṇyaka-Upaniṣad-bhāṣya-Vārtika,
  2. the Taittirīya-Upaniṣad-bhāṣya-Vārtika,
  3. the Mānasollāsa,[1]
  4. the Praṇava-Vārtika, 
  5. and the Naiṣkarmya-siddhi.

The first four of these are professedly commentaries on Śaṅkarāchārya’s works, while the last is an independent manual dealing with some fundamental questions of the Vedanta.

As the subject is treated of in the Brihadāraṇyaka-Upaniṣad from different stand-points of view and in great detail, it is the one Upaniṣad, in commenting on which Śaṅkarāchārya evidently seeks to present an exhaustive rational exposition of the Vedic Religion by fully explaining every position as it turns up and examining it from several points of view, whereas in his commentaries on other Upaniṣads he contents himself with merely explaining the meaning of the texts and shewing, only where necessary, how they support his advaita doctrine as against the other doctrines which seek the support of the Upaniṣads. It is certainly for this reason that Sureśvarāchārya, who undertook to explain, improve, amplify and supplement the teachings of Śaṅkarāchārya, thought fit to further expound the latter’s commentary on the Bṛhadāraṇ-yaka-Upaniṣad. This exposition forms the colossal work known as the Brihadāraṇyaka-Upaniṣad-bhāṣya-Vārtika, which is held to be of no less authority than the bhāṣya itself and is more frequently cited by later writers on all knotty points of Advaita, as expounding its philosophy with greater precision. Much need not be said here as to Sureśvarāchārya’s marvellous power of exposition, since the readers of this series have been made familiar with it through the Mānasollāsa, which is only a condensed statement of the first principles of the system as developed in the commentary on the Upaniṣad and of the main lines of argument on which he proceeds to establish them.

Not quite so exhaustive, however, is either Śaṅkarāchārya’s or Sureśvarāchārya’s commentary on the Taittirīya-Upaniṣad. The only reason for the latter’s writing a vārtika on the bhāṣya of the Upaniṣad seems to me to have been the high importance of this classical Upaniṣad as exclusively treating, among other things, of the five Kośas (sheaths of the Self). As the doctrine of the Kośas is the pivotal doctrine of the Vedānta on its theoretical as well as its practical side, students of the Vedānta should be thoroughly familiar with it before proceeding further in their studies. Accordingly, in an attempt to present to the English-reading public the Vedanta Doctrine as expounded by the two great teachers, it is but proper first to take up the Taittirīya-Upaniṣad.

As though to make up for the want of that thoroughness in Śaṅkarāchārya’s and Sureśvarāchārya’s commentaries on the Taittirīya-Upaniṣad which is so characteristic of their commentaries on the Bṛhadāraṇyaka, Sāyaṇa (or Vidyāraṇya, as some would have it), that prolific scholiast on the Vedic literature, has written a commentary on the Taittirīya-Upaniṣad which is at once thorough and lucid. Though in interpreting the original text of the Upaniṣad Sāyaṇa differs slightly here and there from Śaṅkarāchārya, he follows the great teacher very closely on all points of doctrine, and quotes profusely from the writings of the two great leaders of the school. In fact, Sāyaṇa’s Introduction to the study of the Upaniṣads is, as its readers are aware, made up of long extracts from the Vārtikasāra, a lucid digest of Sureśvarāchārya’s Vārtika on the Brihadāraṇyaka-Upaniṣad. Into his exposition of the Taittirīya-Upaniṣad, Sāyawa introduces, in appropriate places and in a concise form, the various discussions embodied in the Vedānta-sūtras, so that by studying this exposition the reader is sure to obtain a comprehensive view of the contents of the Vedānta-sūtras and a fair insight into the true relation between the Sūtras and the Upaniṣads.

The work now presented to the public contains a literal translation of the Taittirīya-Upaniṣad, and of Śaṅkarāchārya’s and Sāyaṇa’s commentaries thereon. Of Sāyana’s commentary, only such portions—and they are very rare—are omitted as are mere repetitions of Śaṅkarāchārya’s commentary. Sureśvarāchārya’s vārtika is in many places—especially in the Śikṣāvallī—a mere repetition of the bhāṣya; and therefore it is only where the vārtika explains the bhāṣya or adds to it something new, that the vārtika has been translated. A few notes have been extracted from Ānandagiri’s (or, more properly, Ānandajñāna’s) glosses on the bhāṣya and on the vārtika. I have also added some notes of my own where they seem most necessary.

The Sanskrit Text of the Upaniṣad is given in Devanāgarī, followed by the English rendering of the Upaniṣad printed in large type (pica). Then follows the English rendering of Śaṅkarāchārya’s commentary printed in a smaller type (small pica). The English translation of Sāyaṇa’s Commentary as well as the notes from Sureśvarāchārya’s Vārtika and Anandagiri’s Tīkā are given in a still smaller type (long primer),  these notes being marked (S.) or (A.) or (S. & A.) as the case may be. Some of the foot-notes which have been taken from the Vanamālā (Achyuta Kṛṣnānanda swāmin’s gloss on the bhāṣya) are marked off as (V).

A. Mahadeva Sastri.

August 1903.

Footnotes and references:


The Mānasollāsa and the Praṇava-Vārtika, the two smallest works of Suresvarāchārya, have been made accessible to the English reading public in the “Minor Upaniṣads” Vol. II. issued in this (the Vedic Religion) Series.

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