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 ...

Lesson I - Invocation To God

(First Anuvāka)

Devas place obstacles in men’s way to Brahmavidyā.

There is a popular saying that many are the obstacles which beset the way to a good end. On our way to Brahmavidyā, especially, there are possibly many obstacles placed by Devas. It is therefore necessary to endeavour to remove those obstacles. We learn from the following passage of the Bṛhadāraṇyaka-upaniṣad that Devas throw obstacles in the way to Brahmavidyā:

“Now whoever worships the Devatā as separate, regarding ‘He is separate, I am separate,’ he knoweth not. As a a cow (is to us), so is he to Devas. Just as many cows feed one man, so every one man feeds all Devas. When one cow alone is taken away, it is unpleasant; how much more so if many are taken away! Therefore Devas do not like that men should know.”[1]

The passage maybe explained as follows:—Men are of two classes,—those who know Brahman, and those who resort to works. That he who knows Brahman becomes all has been declared in the preceding passage in the words “He who knows thus etc.”[2] Not even Devas can throw obstacles in the way of a man becoming all when he knows the real nature of Brahman. For the man that knows Brahman becomes the Ātman—the very Self—of those Devas, as declared in the same Upaniṣad in the following words: 

“And Devas cannot, verily, make him powerless; he becomes their very self indeed.”[3]

Having thus spoken of the knower of Brahman attaining the summum bonum, the Upaniṣad proceeds to shew the contrary result in the case of him who has no such knowledge, in the words “now whoever worships Devatā as separate” etc. Now, i.e., after describing the glory of Brahmavidyā, the power of avidyā or ignorance is going to be described. He who worships the Divine Being as distinct from himself, thinking that the Divine Being, the object of worship, is distinct from himself and that the worshipper himself is distinct from the Divine Being,—the worshipper, thus seeing a difference, knows not his own glory of being himself Brahman. Just as an animal,—an elephant or a horse,—not aware of its own superior strength, comes under the control of men who are inferior in strength, so does the ignorant worshipper come under the control of Devas. As many cattle—cows, sheep, horses, bulls, buffaloes etc.—subserve the happiness of a single man, each by an appropriate service such as yielding milk, carrying loads etc., so every individual who is ignorant subserves the happiness of Agni, Sūrya, Indra and other Devas by way of offering to them sacrificial oblations, and so on. Accordingly, with reference to Devas, every individual man stands in the place of all animals. A person, for instance, who owns many cattle will be put to much pain when even a single animal is carried away by a thief or a tiger: how much more so when many are carried away! Therefore Devas are put to much pain when men realise the identity of the Self and Brahman. Since the Veda itself thus declares that it is quite contrary to the wishes of the Devas that men should acquire Brahmavidyā, it is quite possible that Devas may place obstacles in the way of men who wish to acquire Brahmavidyā.

This has been clearly stated in the Vārtikasāra as follows:

“Without knowing the true nature of his own Self, a man works to nouṛṣ external Devas by sacrifices, gifts and other rites, as a bull works for a merchant. A man, though owning many cattle, yet suffers much pain when a single animal is stolen away. When the human animal,—constituting almost the whole property of Devas,—is carried away by the thief of Brahmavidyā, all Devas are put to much pain. Thus it will be painful to Devas if men should know the identity of the Self and Brahman, and therefore they obstruct the growth of wisdom. Accordingly we find even sannyāsins taking to a vicious course of life, being thrown off their guard, with the mind turned towards external objects, bent upon quarrelling,—all this because their hearts are poisoned by Devas.”

Like Devas, even Ṛṣis and others are obstructors. This also has been declared in a passage in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka-upaniṣad, which is briefly explained in the Vārtikasāra as follows:

“Identifying himself with a caste and a religious order, he who knows not the Truth, with his mind turned outward, forms the support of all creatures from Devas down to ants. The householder nouṛṣes all,—nouṛṣes Devas by worshipping and offering oblations to them, nouṛṣes Ṛṣis by studying Vedas, Pitṛs by Śrāddha rites, men by gifts of food and clothing and houses, cattle by grass and water, dogs and birds by the leavings and seeds of grain. Since no one does an act of good who has not been won by karma, the householder must have been acquired by Devas, etc., by their own karma. Devas and others always wish safety as much to the householder, who does good to them, as to their own bodies, acquired as they both alike are by their own karma. Neglect of works is the result of acquiring a knowledge of truth; and it is a great peril to which the householder is subject. This peril, indeed, cannot be averted by Devas and all. Neglect of works from sickness or languor is not a permanent loss, since man may do them afterwards. Accordingly, Devas and others thwart man’s attempts to attain wisdom lest his knowledge of the real nature of Brahman may deprive them of their whole property.”

The same truth is expressed by the Kaṭhas in the following words:

“Of whom the many have no chance to even hear, whom many cannot know though they have heard”[4]

And our Lord has stated the same truth in the following verse:

“Among thousands of men one perchance strives for perfection. Even among those who strive and are perfect, only one perchance knows Me in truth.”[5]


Mantra for the removal of those obstacles.

Since many obstacles lie in the way of man’s highest aspiration, a mantra to be recited for their overthrow is given in the opening section of the Saṃhitā-upaniṣad. But this mantra is not given at the commencement of the karma-kāṇḍa or ritualistic section, because performance of rites is desired even by the Devas and others and therefore no obstacles will lie in the way. It may perhaps be urged that all obstacles to wisdom have been removed by the performance of sacrificial works and gifts enjoined in the former section. We admit that it is true. But there may still exist some other obstacles which are removable by a recitation of this mantra. Want of relish for knowledge is the first obstacle, and this is the result of the great sins accumulated in the past as has been declared in the Purāṇa in the following words:

“Wisdom-worship is not relishing to men of great sins; on the other hand, wisdom-worship even looks very repulsive in itself.”

And those great sins are removed by sacrificial rites and gifts calculated to create a taste for knowledge of Brahman. It is this relish which is spoken of as vividiṣā, desire to know. That it is produced by sacrificial rites, etc., is declared in the following words:

“Him do the Brāhmaṇās seek to know by sacrifice, by gifts, by the austerity of restricted food.”[6]

Though the sacrificial rites, etc., when performed with a view to their immediate specific results lead to enjoyments, to samsāra or mundane life, still it stands to reason that when dedicated to the Lord they remove the great sins which obstruct the growth of wisdom. Hence the words of the Lord:

“He who does actions, placing them in Brahman, abandoning attachment, is not tainted by sin as a lotus-leaf by water.”[7]

And a sign of this extinction of sin is freedom from all attachment. Accordingly it has been said in the Naiṣkarmya-Siddhi,

“The mind getting purer by works dedicated to the Īśvara manifests non-attachment for the region of Brahmā and the like, and then it is perfect in purity.”[8]

In the Śreyomārga, too, it is said:

“Man’s conviction of the worthlessness of all this mundane existence from Brahmā down to plant marks the ripening of his acts dedicated to the Divine Being, the Antaryāmin, the Indwelling Regulator.”

Though the obstacle which has caused a dislike for knowledge has been removed on attaining vairāgya (nonattachment), still many obstacles may lie in the way of upā-sana (contemplation)—otherwise spoken of as yoga—by which the mind becomes one-pointed. They are enumerated by Patañjali as follows:

“Disease, dullness, doubt, carelessness, sloth, worldly-mindedness, misconception, missing the point, and unsteadiness are the causes of the mind’s distraction and they are the obstacles.”[9]

What diseases are is well-known. Dullness consists in the mind being unfit for work. Owing to a preponderance of tamas the mind does sometimes become unfit for work. Doubt is the absence of a determinate knowledge as to the object of contemplation. Carelessness is the occasional neglect of contemplation. Sloth is indifference, a tendency to procrastinate. Worldly-mindedness is the absence of vairāgya or non-attachment. Misconception is the false notion as to the nature of the object of contemplation. Missing the point  is marked by the absence of a continuous progress through higher and higher stages in the concentration of mind.  Unsteadiness consists in engaging in contemplation at one time, in sacrificial rites and gifts at another, in trade or agriculture yet again, and so on.

Here follows the mantra which has to be recited for the removal of obstacles on the path of yoga:

ॐ शं नो मित्रः शं वरुणः । शं नो भवत्वर्यमा । शं न इन्द्रो बृहस्पतिः । शं नो विष्णुरुरुक्रमः ॥ १ ॥

oṃ śaṃ no mitraḥ śaṃ varuṇaḥ | śaṃ no bhavatvaryamā | śaṃ na indro bṛhaspatiḥ | śaṃ no viṣṇururukramaḥ || 1 ||

1. Om. May Mitra be propitious to us, and Varuṇa propitious be; may Aryaman propitious be to us; propitious be Indra and Bṛhaspati to us; to us propitious may Viṣṇu of vast extent be.

Mitra is the Devatātman,[10]—the Shining One, the Intelligence, the Self identifying Himself with, and manifesting Himself as, day and prāṇa or upward current of life-breath. Varuṇa is the Intelligence concerned with night and apāna or downward current of life-breath, Aryaman with the eye and the sun, Indra with strength, Bṛhaspati with speech and buddhi or intellect, Viṣṇu with the feet. These and others are the Devatās working in the individual organism.[11]

May all these Devatās be propitious to us. It is only when these are propitious to us that wisdom can be studied[12], retained in memory and imparted to others without any obstacle. Hence the prayer to them to be propitious.

Viṣṇu is said to be of vast extent because in His incarnation as Trivikrama his feet were very extensive. Or it may be explained thus: Mitra and other Devatās or Intelligences who identify themselves with, and function through, prāna and other detached members of the bodily organism have been mentioned. The Virāj-Puruṣa who identifies Himself with, and functions in, the whole organism has yet to be mentioned. He is said to be of vast extent because He pervades all, having the whole Brahmāṇḍa for his body. Thus the Devas working severally in the whole body and its members have been invoked to bless the student by way of removing all obstacles.

नमो ब्रह्मणे । नमस्ते वायो । त्वमेव प्रत्यक्षं ब्रह्मासि । त्वमेव प्रत्यक्षं ब्रह्म वदिष्यामि । ऋतं वदिष्यामि । सत्यं वदिष्यामि । तन्मामवतु । तद्वक्तारमवतु । अवतु माम् । अवतु वक्तारम् ॥ २ ॥

namo brahmaṇe | namaste vāyo | tvameva pratyakṣaṃ brahmāsi | tvameva pratyakṣaṃ brahma vadiṣyāmi | ṛtaṃ vadiṣyāmi | satyaṃ vadiṣyāmi | tanmāmavatu | tadvaktāramavatu | avatu mām | avatu vaktāram || 2 ||

2. Bow to Brahman! Bow to Thee, Vāyu! Thou art indeed Brahman perceptible. Thee indeed will I declare Brahman perceptible. The right will I declare; and I will declare the true. May That protect me; may That protect the teacher. Me may That protect; may It protect the teacher.

The seeker of Divine Wisdom bows to Vāyu and declares Him as Brahman for the mitigation of all troubles in the way of acquiring Brahmavidyā, since on Him depend the fruits of all actions. To Brahman, i.e., to Vāyu, I make this bow.—Here Vāyu himself is addresed Brahman.—Moreover, since Thou art Brahman immediate, when compared with the external organs of sensation such as the eye, I shall declare Thee Brahman perceptible.

As Sūtra,—or Cosmic Life, Energy and Intelligence,—Prāṇa is no doubt remote. But the individualised Prāṇa or Vitality in the heart is present to everybody’s consciousness and is therefore immediate when compared with the eye etc., whose existence can only be inferred from the fact of colour etc., being perceived and which are therefore remote. Prāṇa is spoken of as Brahman perceptible, since in breathing the body expands (the root ‘bṛh’ means to expand). Though not the very Brahman, Prāṇa is addressed as such just in the same way that the gate-keeper of a king’s palace is addressed as king to get a ready admission. Prāṇa is the gate-keeper as it were of Brahman in the heart. The seeker of liberation who wishes to see Brahman addresses Prāṇa as Brahman with a view to praise the Intelligence func tioning in the vitality.—(A).

Since the right— i.e., that which, by buddhi or intellect, is determined as right, as having been taught in the scriptures, and so constituting our duty—depends upon Thee, I will declare Thee to be the right. The right thing when executed in speech and by the body constitutes the true. Since this execution, too, depends upon Thee, I shall declare Thyself to be the true. May That, that Brahman who is called Vāyu, by me thus praised, protect me, the seeker of wisdom; and may the same Brahman protect the teacher by way of granting him power to teach.—The repetition of “May That protect,” etc., shows earnestness.

Now, he bows to the Supreme Brahman who impels all these Devas,—as their Antaryāmin, as the Ruler indwelling them all,—in the words “Bow to Brahman.” Brahman as the Sūtra, endued with jñāna-śakti and kriyā-śakti, with the powers of intelligence and force, holds in their places all beings of life that put on the body of Vāyu, as declared in the following passage:—

“Vāyu verily, O Gautama, is that Sūtra; by the Sūtra, verily, O Gautama, by Vāyu is this world and all beings are woven.”[13]

Accordingly the student bows to Vāyu also. Now, the Antaryāmin is not addressed in the second person, inasmuch as He is out of sight, being known only through the scriptures and inference. As the Sūtrātman, however,  i.e. as Vāyu, Brahman is known through the sense of touch. This very idea is clearly set forth in the words: “Thou art indeed Brahman perceptible.” Because Brahman, manifested through the upādhi or medium of Vāyu, is perceptible to the senses, the student says: I shall—in the sequel, in the passages treating of upāsana or contemplative worship—declare Thee, indeed, as Brahman fit for Sākṣātkāra or direct perception. It is, indeed, the Conditioned Brahman who after a long practice of contemplation can be directly perceived in the form in which He has been contemplated. Accordingly the Chhandogas read in the Śāṇḍilya-Vidyā as follows:

“(He attains to the Īśvara’s state) who feels certain that ‘departing hence, I shall attain to Him,’ and to whom there is no doubt.”[14]

The Vājasaneyins also declare “Becoming the Deva, he is absorbed in the Devas.”[15] ‘Becoming the Deva’ means, the Sākṣātkāra or immediate realisation of the Deva in this very birth. ‘To be absorbed in the Devas’ means to become the Deva himself after death. Wherefore, there is nothing untrue in what I am going to declare in the sequel. On the other hand, I am declaring a real fact when I say that ‘Thou art Brahman perceptible.’ ‘To declare the right’ is to contemplate in the mind of a real fact indeed to be expressed. To ‘declare the true’ is to give expression to it in speech. May the perceptible Brahman who will be spoken of in the sequel protect both myself, the student and the teacher, by granting to us respectively the power to grasp wisdom and the power to impart wisdom. The same idea is again repeated in the text,

ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥ ३ ॥

oṃ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ || 3 ||

3. Om! Peace! Peace! Peace!

The uttering of the word ‘peace’ three times is intended to ward off the troubles that occur on the path to wisdom owing to causes operating in the individual organism, in the external beings, and in the region of Devas or Cosmic Intelligences.

Having thus prayed to the perceptible Brahman as Vāyu, the student contemplates by means of Praṇava which designates Him—the imperceptible Antaryāmin, the Ruler within, and prays for the removal of obstacles:

There are three kinds of troubles:

  1. theĀdhyātmika, those which arise from causes operating in the student’s own body, namely, fever, pain in the head, and so on;
  2. the Ādhidaivika the troubles from the Devas etc.;
  3. the Ādhibhautika, troubles arising from Yakṣas, Rākṣasas, etc.

For the cessation of these three, the word ‘peace’ is uttered thrice. That the contemplation of Īśvara by Praṇava is meant for the removal of obstacles is formulated by Patañjali in four Sūtras as follows:

“Īśvara is a particular soul untouched by affliction, works, fruition and impressions. His designation is Praṇava. A constant repetition of it and an intense meditation on its meaning should be practised. Thence arises a cognition of the Inner Consciousness and absence of obstacles.”[16]


Footnotes and references:


Bṛ. up 1-4-10,






Kaṭha Upa 2-7.


Bhagavadgītā VII. 3.


Bṛ. up 4-4-22.


Bhag. Gita V. 10.


Op. cit. 1-47.


Yogasūtras, i. 30.


Here it is Brahman, the Sūtrātman, that is invoked as Mitra, etc. (Su. & A.)


Through prāṇa or life and sense-organs.—A.


This study consists in determining the import of the Vedāntic texts by sitting at the feet of a teacher.—(A.)


Bṛ. up 3-7-2.


Chha. Up. 3-4-4.


Bṛ. Up. 4-1-2.


Yogasūtras i.-24-29.

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