The Taittiriya Upanishad

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 IX - Upāsaka’s Duties

(Ninth Anuvāka)

As it has been taught that one becomes an independent Lord by mere knowlèdge (vijñāna), one may think that works enjoined in the śruti and in the smṛti are of no use. As a safeguard against this possible error, the Upaniṣad here proceeds to treat of works with a view to shew that they[1] are means of attaining the end of man.

In the Eighth Lesson it has been taught that Brahman should be contemplated by means of Praṇava, which designates the Unconditioned Brahman. This may lead one to think that, because by mere upāsana the end of man,— namely, liberation attainable in due course,—can be accomplished, no purpose of an upāsaka is served by the obligatory duties enjoined in the śruti and the smṛti. To prevent this supposition, the Upaniṣad teaches in the Ninth Lesson that performance of the obligatory duties should be conjoined with the upāsana.


The works incumbent on an Upāsaka.

ऋतं च स्वाध्यायप्रवचने च । सत्यं च स्वाध्यायप्रवचने च । तपश्च स्वाध्यायप्रवचने च । दमश्च स्वाध्यायप्रवचने च । शमश्च स्वाध्यायप्रवचने च । अग्नयश्च स्वाध्यायप्रवचने च । अग्निहोत्रं च स्वाध्यायप्रवचने च । अतिथयश्च स्वाध्यायप्रवचने च । मानुषं च स्वाध्यायप्रवचने च । प्रजा च स्वाध्यायप्रवचने च । प्रजनश्च स्वाध्यायप्रवचने च । प्रजातिश्च स्वाध्यायप्रवचने च ॥ १ ॥

ṛtaṃ ca svādhyāyapravacane ca | satyaṃ ca svādhyāyapravacane ca | tapaśca svādhyāyapravacane ca | damaśca svādhyāyapravacane ca | śamaśca svādhyāyapravacane ca | agnayaśca svādhyāyapravacane ca | agnihotraṃ ca svādhyāyapravacane ca | atithayaśca svādhyāyapravacane ca | mānuṣaṃ ca svādhyāyapravacane ca | prajā ca svādhyāyapravacane ca | prajanaśca svādhyāyapravacane ca | prajātiśca svādhyāyapravacane ca || 1 ||

1. The right, as well as study and teaching; the true, as well as study and teaching; penance, as well as study and teaching; restraint, as well as study and teaching; peace, as well as study and teaching; the fires, as well as study and teaching; offering to fires, as well as study and teaching; guests, as well as study and teaching; the human, as well as study and teaching; the offspring, as well as study and teaching; begetting, as well as study and teaching; propagation of the race, as well as study and teaching.

What ‘the right’ is has been already explained.[2] The right and the other duties to be mentioned below should be practised, as well as Svādhyāya, the learning of one’s own Veda, and Pravachana, which means either Adhyāpana, the teaching of it, or Brahma-Yajña, a daily solemn recitation of it. The meaning of ‘the true’ has been already explained along with ‘the right.’ Or ‘the true’ may mean truth-speaking. Penance (tapas): bodily mortification. Restraint (dama): calmness of the organs of external sensation. Tranquillity (Śama): calmness of manas, the internal organ. While practising these, fires should be consecrated, and oblations offered to them; guests should be honored; the human,—that is to say, social duties[3]—should be discharged as occasions arise; offspring should be begotten by having intercourse with wife in season,— at periods favourable for conception; the race should be propagated through children’s children, by getting the sons married. While engaged in all these acts, one should pay special attention to the studying and the teaching of the Veda. It is to impress this truth that study and teaching are repeated along with every one of the other duties. Indeed, a knowledge of the Vedic teaching can only be acquired by learning the Vedic text, and on that knowledge the highest good depends; while the teaching or recitation of the Veda is intended for retention of the text in memory as well as for increase of merit (Dharma). Special regard should therefore be paid to the study and teaching of the Veda.

The right (rita): when a man wishes to say something, he first ponders over the thing as it is and then thinks of the word denoting it. Rita is this mānasic act of thinking as to the right word which will accurately describe the thing. Svādhyāya: the necessary study.... It will not do for the seeker of mokṣa to practise contemplation only; he should practise right speech, as also the study and teaching of the Veda. Penance (tapas): Fasting and other kinds of bodily mortification. The Śruti says “there is no higher penance than fasting.”[4] In the Śruti elsewhere—“by yajña, by gift, by tapas, by fasting,"[5]—fasting is mentioned separately from tapas, and this shews that gifts of money and the like are penances intended for those who cannot practise fasting. The Śruti says ‘ It is verily a penance, they say, when one gives away his property.”[6] Restraint: the withdrawing of sight and other organs of external sensation away from forbidden objects. Tranquillity: the restraining of the manas from all forbidden thoughts. Fires (Agnis): consecrated fires known as the Āhavanīya, etc. Agnihotra: the offering of oblation in the consecrated fires in the morning and in the evening. Guests: such as those who go to other’s houses to beg food on odd occasions, not on the new-moon day or any other specially sacred days. The human: the honouring of women and other such acts as are incumbent on people at marriage and on other like occasions. As sanctioned by the custom prevailing among the leaders of society, even these acts should be observed like those which are enjoined in the Śruti and the Smṛti. Offspring, etc: He should also observe the necessary sacramental rites antecedent to the child-bearing. He should have intercourse with wife in proper season with a view to produce children.

Even the upāsaka should perform all acts and ceremonies enjoined in the Śruti and the Smṛti according to the caste and the religious order to which he belongs; otherwise, obstructed by the sin accruing from the neglect of enjoined works, the upāsana cannot produce the desired effect. We cannot, however, extend this principle and say that even a knowledge of the real nature of Brahman requires the aid of works to produce its intended effect; for, he who knows truth has nothing to do with works, inasmuch as all illusion regarding his own Self—i. e., the false idea that he is an agent, that he belongs to a particular caste or to a particular religious order—has ceased. But since, in the case of an upāsaka, the illusion still exists, he has yet some concern with works and it is therefore but proper that his upāsana should be conjoined with works. It may perhaps be urged that, for him who contemplates incessantly, it is not possible to engage in Agnihotra and similar rites which tend to mental distraction and involve a vast amount of labour. Then let him engage in that course of action which will help upāsana: let him practise self-control, controlling the body, the senses and the mind. This is the end the Yoga-Śāstra has in view when treating of yama and niyama,—the several forms of self-control, both of a positive and a negative character. Though performance of Agnihotra and practice of self-control are meant as alternative courses of action according as the person has a wavering or unwavering mind, yet the study and the teaching (or recitation) of scriptures are quite necessary. The Śruti repeats these two duties along with every other duty, with a view to impress the truth that they should be constantly practised in whatever other duties he may be engaged.

The study of scriptures should under no circumstances be neglected, since in case of neglect, one becomes a Śūdra as the Smṛti says:—

“That twice-born man who, without studying the Vedas, turns his attention to other things, soon becomes a śūdra while still alive, as well as his whole family.”

As to the prohibition of the abandoning of the daily recitation, the Śruti declares in the section of Brahma-yajña as follows:—

“Untouched by evil is the study of the Veda. It is, verily, the purifier even of the Devas. He that casteth it aside, is not lucky (even) in speech: no share hath he in heaven. So it is said: ‘He who hath abandoned (the Veda, which is) the friend, aye which knoweth the friend, for him there is no lot even in speech. Much may he hear, but he heareth false. Not indeed doth he know the path of good deeds.’”[7]

As to the sannyāsin who renounces all former works, even he should not abandon the study of the Veda. To the same effect the Smṛti says:—

“Let a man renounce all works, let him not renounce that one thing, the Veda.”

(Objection):—The Āruṇi-Upaniṣad enjoins the abandonment even of the Vedic study (svādhyāya). There the things to be abandoned are enumerated as follows: “sons, brothers, relations, etc., hair-tuft, the sacred cord, the sacrificial rite, the canon, the Vedic study (svādhyaya)” and so on.

(Answer):—This objection does not apply here. For the Śruti enjoins that the ritualistic section of the Veda, which is of no use to the parivrājakas or sannyāsins, should alone be abandoned. A repeated study, however, of the useful portion is necessary, as the same Upaniṣad mentions it as one of the sannyāsin’s duties, in the following words:—

“He shall first take a bath at the three sandhis (connecting periods), he shall hold communion with Ātman in samādhi; he shall often repeat the Āraṇykas of all the Vedas; he shall repeat the Upaniṣad, aye shall he repeat the Upaniṣad.”

That none should give up the study of one’s own scriptures or the teaching and reciting of them,—that is, that special regard should be paid to these duties,—is indicated by the repetition, in the śruti, of the words “study and teaching.”



The most important of the upāsaka’s duties

Now the śruti refers to the different views as to which one of the duties mentioned above is the most important:

सत्यमिति सत्यवचा राथीतरः । तप इति तपोनित्यः पौरुशिष्टिः । स्वाध्यायप्रवचने एवेति नाको मौद्गल्यः । तद्धि तपस्तद्धि तपः ॥ २ ॥

satyamiti satyavacā rāthītaraḥ | tapa iti taponityaḥ pauruśiṣṭiḥ | svādhyāyapravacane eveti nāko maudgalyaḥ | taddhi tapastaddhi tapaḥ || 2 ||

2. The true, as Satya-vachas, the son of Rathītara holds; penance, as Tapo-nitya, the son of Puruśiṣṭa holds; study and teaching alone, as Nāka, the son of Mudgala, holds; that, verly, is penance, aye that is penance.

The teacher named Satyavachas, of the family of Rathītara,—so called because he speaks nothing but truth,—maintains that truth-speaking alone should be practised. The teacher named Tapo-nitya,—so called because of his constant penance,—the son of Puruśiṣṭa, holds that penance alone should be practised. The teacher named Naka, the son of Mudgala, thinks that the study and teaching of the Vedas should alone be practised. Because the study and teaching of the Vedas constitute in themselves a penance, they alone should be practised. Though already mentioned, truthspeaking, the study of the Vedas, and their recitation are again mentioned here with a view to inspire special regard for them.

Nāka is so called because, always contented with the study and recitation of the Vedas, he never felt any sort of anguish. No doubt in the words, “By penance Devas were first to go to God; by penance did Ṛṣis attain svarga,”[8] the śruti declares that penance is the most important. This does not, however, detract from the validity of Maudgalya’s contention that the study and the recitation of the Vedas are the most important. They alone constitute the highest penance, as the repetition of the words shews, and are therefore the most important. It is because they constitute the highest penance, that the Vedic recitation termed Brahma-Yajña should be practised even on those days on which the first learners should not study the Vedas. Accordingly the śruti says:

“He who, thus knowing, studies the Vedas even when it rains and lightens, when it roars and thunders, when the wind is blowing, even on the new' moon day, he only practises penance; study, indeed, is penance.”[9]

Another passage points to the same idea:

“Standing or walking, sitting or lying down, he shall not fail to recite the Veda; then he is a man of penance, he is pure, who, thus knowing, recites the Veda.”[10]

Wherefore, as productive of great fruits, it is a penance higher even than the penance of fasting and giving away wealth, as declared by the śruti in the following words:

“What measure of svarga he wins who gives away this earth full of wealth, that measure of the world he (who studies the Veda) w'ins,

(a world) which is even greater and inexhaustible. He, moreover, conquers death, he attains unity with Brahman.”[11]


Footnotes and references:


They co-operate with the apara-vidyā or lower wisdom, and their purpose is therefore the same as that of the apara-vidyā-(A),


Vide ante page 26.


Such as marriage—(A.)


Yajñiki Up. 78.


Bṛ. Up. 4-4-22.


Taitt. Saṃhitā VI. i. 6.


Taitt. Āraṇyaka 2–15.


Yajñiki-Up. 79.


Tait. Āraṇyaka 2–14,


Ibid. 2–12.


Ibid, 2–14.