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 ...

Chapter V - Summum Bonum

Having thus explained the nature of Brahman in the first foot (quarter) of the verse which is calculated to unfold the meaning of the aphorism “the knower of Brahman reaches the Supreme,” the śruti proceeds to explain, in the remaining portion of the verse, the nature of the knowledge and of the attainment of the Supreme referred to in the aphorism.

“ .... यो वेद निहितं गुहायां परमे व्योमन् । सोऽश्नुते सर्वान् कामान् सह । ब्रह्मणा विपश्चिता ॥” इति ॥ २ ॥

“ .... yo veda nihitaṃ guhāyāṃ parame vyoman | so'śnute sarvān kāmān saha | brahmaṇā vipaścitā ||” iti || 2 ||

2. “....Whoso knoweth the one hid in the cave in the highest heaven attains all desires together, as Brahman, as the Wise.”

He that knows Brahman—of the nature described above—abiding in the cave in the highest heaven attains all desires without any exception: he enjoys all the pleasures that one may desire, he enjoys them all simultaneously, as one with the Omniscient Brahman.


What it is to know Brahman.

(Objection):—As one with the knower, the Supreme Brahman cannot be a thing that the knower may seek to attain. And since there is no (knower) other than Brahman, how can it be said “whoso knoweth the one hid in the cave,” and so on?—(S).

If Brahman and the Self be identical, there can be no knower, nothing knowable, no knowledge. How can there be a knowing of Brahman at all?

(Answer):—All statements as to the knowing of Brahman, as to the attainment of all desires, and as to mukti, are figurative. The Vārtikakāra says:

The knower attains the one who is (ever) attained, by the mere cessation of nescience on attaining to the consciousness of the absence (in Brahman) of unreality and other such attributes as have been set up by his ignorance of (the true nature of) Brahman as real etc. Thus alone does a person come to know (Brahman) though already known; thus alone does the Self come to be liberated though already liberated; thus alone does nescience cease to exist though really it never existed. I can swear thrice to it.[1] So, with the vision obscured by agency and other attributes ascribed (to the Self) by avidyā, one fails to see Brahman in His true nature as real, etc., though He is one’s own Inner Self. Wherefore, when on the cessation of avidyā the vision is fully open at all times, one devours away all notions of duality such as the knower, and sees the Inner Self (Pratyagātman)—(S)

Just as a person comes to know that he is the tenth man on hearing the statement “thou art the tenth,”[2] though evidently the knower, the thing known, and knowledge are not really different from one another, so also, in pursuance of the teaching of the śruti, a person may come to know also that he is himself Brahman. So long, however, as he does not know that he himself is Brahman, the illusion that he is a jīva does not cease by the mere knowledge of Brahman (the Cause). He should, therefore, know that one’s own Inner Self ‘hid in the cave’ is identical with Brahman.


The Avyākṛta as ‘the highest heaven.’

The cave (guhā, from the root ‘guh’—to hide)—the buddhi (the intellect),—is so called because therein are hidden all things, such as the knower, knowledge, and the knowable; or because the human ends, enjoyment and liberation, are therein hidden. In the buddhi is the highest heaven, i. e., the highest ākāśa (lit., the bright one) known as the Avyākṛta, the Undifferentiated. That (the Avyākṛta),[3] indeed, is the highest[4] ākāśa, because of its nearness to ‘Akṣara’ (the Supreme Brahman) as shown in the following passage:

“Here, O Gārgī in this Indestructible One (Akṣara) the ākāśa (Avyākṛta) is woven like warp and woof.”[5]

In so speaking of Brahman being “hid in the cave in the highest heaven,”[6] the śruti refers to the state of things as they are. For, there is no evidence that any one, other than Brahman defined as real, etc., dwells within the buddhi. The devotee, having then (on hearing the teaching of the śruti) completely withdrawn his mind from all things that are not real, etc., enters into what dwells within the mind and realises the Self (Ātman), the Real—(S).

That is to say, on hearing the teaching of the śruti that Brahman, who is devoid of all conditions of cause and effect, lies hidden in the Avyākṛta, the cause of Buddhi, the devotee who belongs to the highest class of the students of Brahma-Vidyā,—i. e., whose mind is turned away from all unreal, insentient and limited objects (which are painful in themselves) completely (i. e., without cheṛṣing the least doubt or misconception regarding their real nature)—first conceives Brahman as the Cause; and then, seeing that all effects as well as their absence (abhāva) are mere illusions having no real existence apart from Brahman, the Cause, and seeing also that Brahman, the Cause, is not distincīt from Brahman who is neither the cause nor the effect, he comes to the conclusion that the Witness of the buddhi is really none other than Brahman who is the Real, Consciousness, the Infinite, and Bliss.—(A).

Thus, with a view to point out the means of realising the unity of Brahman and the Self, the śruti has taught to us—in the words “hid in the cave, in the highest heaven,”—that Brahman who is beyond all causes and effects, who lies in the Avyākṛta,—in the Brahman that abides in the buddhi—as the cause lies in the effect.—(S. & A).

The ‘cave’ is the five kośas (sheaths of the Self) in their aggregate. So we have elsewhere said:

“Behind the physical body there is prāṇa; behind prāṇa, there is manas; behind that again is the agent (kartṛ); behind this again is the enjoyer (bhoktṛ). This series is the cave.”[7]

The Avyākṛta, the cause of these five kośas, is here spoken of as the ‘highest heaven.’ The nature of the Avyākṛta has been described by those who are acquainted with the tradition as follows:

“The nescience concerning Ātman, with a semblance of consciousness in it, is the Avyākṛta, the cause of the two bodies (the gross and subtle bodies, the sthūla and sūkṣma śarīras).”

And the śruti also shews—in the words “That, verily, the Avyākṛta then this was.”[8]—that, before evolution, this whole universe was the Avyākṛta. To be the Avyākṛta is to be in an unmanifested condition. On account of Its similarity to ākāśa in so far as both are alike incorporeal (amūrta), the Vājasaneyins speak of the Avyākṛta as ākāśa in the Akṣara-Brāhmaṇa, where Gārgī puts a question and Yājñavalkya answers:

(Question):—“In what is the ākāśa (Avyākṛta) woven, like warp and woof?”[9]

(Answer):—“Here, indeed, in the Akṣara, O Gārgī, is the ākāśa woven like warp and woof.”[10]

As the cause of the five elements of matter (including ākāśa commonly so called, the air, and so on) this (Avyākṛta) ākāśa is the highest. The Supreme Brahman abides in this highest ākāśa. It is no doubt true that the universe including the Avyākṛta and the five elements abides in the imperishable Supreme Brahman called Akṣara, since the universe is superimposed upon Him who is the basic reality underlying all. Still, the buddhi (intellect) of the seeker of knowledge (realisation) dismisses from its view all external objects of sense (sound, etc.,) and entering within through the annamaya and other kośas up to the Avyākṛta, it realises the true nature of Brahman as transcending the universe. It is, therefore, from the standpoint of the one who seeks realisation, that Brahman is spoken of as though He were abiding in the Avyākṛta, here spoken of as “the highest heaven.”

Or, [11]the words ‘cave’ and ‘heaven’ may be construed as put in apposition to each other. Then the ‘cave’ is the Avyākṛta-ākāśa itself; and being the Cause and the subtlest, the Avyākṛta, too, has all things contained within It in the three times (past, present, and future). Within this cave of the Avyākṛta, Brahman lies hidden.

Such is the construction put upon this part of the passage by some commentators.—(A).

They construe ‘cave’ and ‘heaven,’ as we have seen, in two ways: (1 ) as vyadhikaraṇa, referring to two distinct things, to buddhi and (Avyākṛta) Brahman respectively, whereof the latter is located as it were in the former, as the cause (such as clay) is located (i. e., is constantly present) in all its effects (such as pot); (2) as samānādhikaraṇa, as referring to one and the same thing, the Avyākṛta Brahman being the cave wherein all things are contained, as the effcets are all contained in the cause.—(Tr).


The akasa of the heart as the ‘highest heaven.’

Now Śaṅkarāchārya proceeds to give what he considers to be a better interpretation:—(A).

But it is proper to understand by “the highest heaven” the heaven or ākāśa[12] of the heart, inasmuch as ‘the heaven’ is intended as vijñāna-anga, as an aid to the realisation or immediate knowledge (of Brahman). That the ‘heaven’ or ākāśa of the heart is the highest is clear from another passage of the śruti which says:

“And the ākāśa which is around us is the same as the ākāśa which is within us; and the ākāśa which is within us, that is the same as the ākāśa which is within the heart.”[13]

The (material) ākāśa in the heart is supreme when compared with the ākāśa outside the heart. It is the ākāśā wherein the buddhi rests.—(S)

The thumb-sized ākāśa which, as all know, exists within the heart-lotus is itself spoken of as ‘the highest heaven.’ It is but proper to speak of the ākāśa in the heart as the highest one when compared with the ākāśa outside the body and the ākāśā within the body, inasmuch as the ākāśa within the heart is the seat of the samādhi and the suṣupti states of consciousness which are free from all pain, whereas the other two are seats of the jāgrat (waking) and svapna (dream) states of consciousness. In that ākāśa lies the ‘cave,’ the buddhi, so called because the triple consciousness—comprising the knower, knowledge and the known,—as well as the jīva’s enjoyment and liberation caused respectively by illusion and discrimination, are located in the buddhi.

In the material ākāśa of the heart lies the buddhi (the understanding); and in the buddhi dwells Brahman; i. e., Brahman is manifested in the buddhi.—This interpretation of the passage stands best to reason. For, then, it amounts to saying that as one with the Seer,—with the Witness, with the Self,—Brahman is the Immediate (aparokṣa). Otherwise, i. e., if the passage be interpreted to mean that Brahman dwells in the Universal Being (Samaṣṭi), i. e., in the Avyākṛta or Māyā, it would follow that Brahman is remote (parokṣa). Then, owing to its remoteness, the knowledge thus imparted cannot remove the illusion of saṃsāra which is a fact of immediate perception. Because the śruti intends to teach that, as one with the Seer or the Immediate Consciousness within, Brahman is immediate, dwelling in every one’s own heart, therefore we should understand that the ākāśa of the heart is the ‘heaven’ here spoken of. Then alone can the śruti impart to us an immediate knowledge of Brahman.—(A)


Brahman ‘hid in the cave’ is one’s own Self.

In this ‘heaven’ of the heart there is the cave, the buddhi or understanding; and there (in the cave) is Brahman hidden; which means that Brahman is clearly perceived through the vṛtti or state of the buddhi. In no other manner,[14] indeed, can Brahman be related to any particular time or place, inasmuch as He is present everywhere and devoid of all conditions.

The Self (Ātman) is spoken of as lying in the buddhi because the idea that the Self is the doer and the enjoyer has arisen from His contact with matter (i. e., with the antaḥ-karaṇa, the inner sense, the buddhi), or because Brahman is perceived through the state (vṛtti) of the buddhi free from Tamas and Rajas, as the śruti elsewhere says “By manas alone can Brahman be seen.”[15] The buddhi is spoken of as a cave because those who have turned their mind inward see Brahman quite hidden in the buddhi, beset with kāma and avidyā.—(S).

Brahman is said to be hidden in the buddhi because it is in the buddhi that Brahman is perceived. It is, indeed, there that Brahman dwells as the Inner Self. Though Brahman is one’s own Self, He is not perceived by those whose minds are directed outward, veiled as He is by kāma, avidyā and so on. But He is perceived by those whose minds are turned inward, since in their case the veil of kāma and avidyā is torn away.

With a view to remove the duality involved in the idea that the Supreme Brahman is knowable by the knower, the śruti here teaches that the Knowable is “in the cave in the highest heaven,” i.e., in the knower.[16]—(S).

(Objection):—If jīva and Brahman, the knower and the Knowable, were identical, then, since jīva is a saṃsārin, it would follow that Brahman also is a saṃsārin, and then nobody would seek to attain Brahman.—(A).

(Answer):—He who has been all along treading the path of ends and means, enters at last, in his own Self, the Supreme, who is altogether unrelated to ends and means.—(S).

That is to say, the jīva, the saṃsārin, who has all along been acting with the hope of attaining svarga and other objects of desire by means of sacrificial rites, realises at last as one with his own Self the Supreme Brahman, who is neither an end nor a means. When even the saṃsārin thus ceases to be a saiṇsārin, where is room for the objection that our interpretation makes Brahman a saṃ-sārin by speaking of His identity with jīva who is a saṃ-sārin.—(A).


Attainment of the Supreme Bliss.

What of him who thus realises Brahman?—He enjoys all desires, i.e., all desirable pleasures, without any exception. Does he enjoy them alternately one after another as we enjoy sons, svarga, and the like? The śruti answers: No; simultaneously he enjoys them all amassed together at one and the same moment in one single consciousness, which, like the sun’s light, is eternal and inseparate from the true nature of Brahman, and which we have described as Real, Consciousness and Infinite. This is the meaning of the words “together, as Brahman.” The enlightened sage becomes Brahman; and, as Brahman Himself, he enjoys all pleasures simultaneously, not like the man of the world who enjoys pleasures one after another,—his true Self being limited by an upādhi and so forming a mere reflection as it were like the sun’s image in water, and partaking of the nature of saṃsāra, while his pleasures are dependent on dharma and other causes, on the eye and other sense-organs.—How then (does he enjoy the pleasures)?—In the manner mentioned above: he enjoys all pleasures simultaneously, as be is identical, in his true essential nature, with Brahman the Omniscient, the Omnipresent, the Universal Being; while his pleasures are not dependent on dharma and other causes, or upon the eye and other sense-organs.—‘ The wise’ means ‘the omniscient.’ Indeed, nothing short of omniscience can be properly called wisdom. Himself being omniscient and Brahman, he enjoys all pleasures. The word ‘iti’ (in the original = thus), added to the mantra at the end, is intended to mark the close of the mantra quoted.

So long as the consciousness of agency remains, there can be no enjoying of all pleasures at one moment. Accordingly the śruti says that he enjoys them all as Brahman. If the śruti be interpreted to mean that he enjoys all the pleasures along with Brahman,—thus implying duality,— then Brahman would not be one with the Inner Self. It is not even possible to think that the Supreme Brahman, defined as “Real, Consciousness, Infinite” is external to the Self. Since the word ‘saha’ is a mere particle,[17] it cannot be contended that the word means ‘along with’ and nothing else. So, the passage means that the sage who has known Brahman enjoys all pleasures simultaneously. When all that is unreal, etc., has been removed by the right knowledge of Brahman, there exists nothing else except the Self (Ātman). Accordingly, as Brahman, the wise, the sage attains all pleasures at one and the same moment. Nothing else besides the Inner Self is found abiding within the cave of the heart. Wherefore, to him who has realised Brahman (defined as Real, Consciousness, Infinite), Brahman is the same as the Inner Self and none other. To shew that there exists none to be known and attained other than the wise man himself, ‘Brahman’ and ‘the wise’ are grammatically put in apposition to each other, thus denoting that the two words refer to one and the same thing. By the one consciousness which admits of no sequence, he comprehends all pleasures occurring in a sequential order, as the śruti elsewhere says:

“But as to the man who does not desire, who, not desiring (and) freed from desires, is satisfied in his desires, or desires the Self only,” etc.[18]

At the beginning, at the end, and in the middle, the minds working in all the innumerable bodies are indeed permeated by the one undifferentiated Consciousness experiencing none separate from the Self. Since the knower of Brahman has attained all desires, which are the stimuli of all kinds of activity, he no longer enters on any pursuit whatever, for want of a motive. Avidyā is the source of all desires, and all activities grow out of desires. Activity gives rise to Dharma and Adharma, and these give rise to the body which is the seat of evil. Therefore, in the case of the wise sage, immediately on the destruction of avidyā follows a complete cessation of all the phenomena (of mind) which are the main-springs of all activity.—(S).

In the words “he attains all pleasures,” etc., the śruti explains what the attainment of the Supreme is which was spoken of in the aphorism. The knower of Brahman attains simultaneously all pleasures experienced by all beings of life. The man without the knowledge puts on, one after another, bodies of different kinds as the result of his own actions (karma); and then, in the form of jīva,—a reflection of his own true Self caused by his connection with the upādhi, like the sun reflected in water,—he enjoys pleasures through the eye and other sense-organs as the Vārtikakāra has explained above.

(Objection):—A mantra in the Muṇḍaka-Upaniṣad declares the existence of two sentient entities in the body, in the following words:

“Two beauteous-winged companions, ever mates, perch on the self-same tree; one of the twain devours the luscious fruit; fasting, the other looks on.”[19]

Of the two, it is the jīva, the enjoyer,—limited by the upādhi and forming as it were a reflection of the true Self, and having only one body—who comes by enjoyment; whereas it is by the Witness, the non-enjoyer, the Absolute Consciousness called Brahman, who, as free from all upādhis, is present everywhere,—it is by Him that the whole world of objects of enjoyment is illumined. This is common to the wise and the ignorant alike. Under such circumstances, we ask, on what special ground is it spoken of as the result attained by the wise man?

(Answer):—We answer: the wise man, realising that Brahman who illumines all objects of enjoyment is one with himself in his true nature, feels quite happy. But the ignorant man does not feel in that way.

(Objection):—Just as the pleasures of all beings are illumined by the consciousness of Brahman, so, too, all the miseries of all beings may be illumined by that consciousness. By this consciousness of the miseries, the wise sage may also feel pain.

(Answer):—No, because of the absence of all taint of misery in Brahman, the Witness. Accordingly, the Kaṭhas read:

“Just as the sun, the eye of all the world, is not besmirched with outer stains seen by the eyes; so, that one inner Self of all creation is never smeared with any pain the world can give, for it standeth apart.”[20]

(Objection):—Neither is Brahman affected by happiness any more than by misery.

(Answer):True. Brahman is not affected by happiness. But bliss is the very nature of Brahman, as the śruti declares:

“Bliss is Brahman, he knew.”[21]

“Consciousness and Bliss is Brahman.”[22]

Though Bliss is the very nature of Brahman, it puts on the form of a sensual pleasure (viṣayānanda) when limited by a state of mind (chitta-vṛtti). In his longing pursuit after an object of desire, a man feels miserable on failing to obtain it; but when at any time that object is obtained in virtue of a past merit (puṇya), his longing for it ceases, and then his mind is turned inward and thrown into a peculiar sāttvic state (vṛtti). The mind in that state comprehends a portion of Brahman’s Bliss within, and this limited Bliss is called viṣayānanda, the sensual pleasure.

This is the meaning of the Bṛhadāraṇyaka when it says:

“This is His highest bliss. All other creatures live on a small portion of that bliss.”[23]

It is these sensual pleasures (viṣayānanda)—those small bits of Brahman’s Bliss snatched by the sāttvic vṛttis and experienced by all living beings from Brahmā (the Fourfaced) down to the plant—which are here referred to by the śruti in the words “he attains all desires”. “Desire” here means that which is desired. It is pleasures, not miseries, that are desired by all beings of life. The Brahmavid, the person who has realised Brahman, disregards, in virtue of his right knowledge, all limitations in these pleasures which are due to the vṛttis or states of mind; and then he realises as Brahman that residual essence which has been thus liberated from all limitation and whose essential nature is Bliss and Bliss alone. Then, he feels happy in the perennial thought that all that is worth achieving has been achieved and that all that is worth attaining has been attained. It is this happiness which distinguishes the wise sage from the ignorant.


Footnotes and references:


i. e., I assert this on the authority of the scriptures which say “One alone without a second” and so on—(A).


Vide ante the note on page 206.


Here follows the reason why ākāśa ṭvyoman) is interpreted to mean the Avyākṛta, not the element of matter known as ākāśa—(A).


The material ākāśa is low in comparison with the Avyākṛta; the latter may, therefore, be spoken of as the highest ākāśa,—(A)


Bṛ. Up. 3-8-U.


i. e., in the Avyākṛta. The Avyākṛta is Brahman unknown (ajñāta). When removed by ignorance from the Self, i. e., when unrecognised as one with the Self, Brahman is called the Avyākṛta and forms the Cause of.tho whole universe.— (A)


Vedānta-Panchadaśī, 3-2,


Bṛ. Up. 1-4-7.


Ibid. 3-8-7,


Bṛ, Up. 3–8–11.


i. e., instead of construing ‘cave’ and ‘heart’as Vyadhikaraṇa, as referring to two distinct things, one being located in the other.—(A.)


i. e., the material (bhūta) ākāśa enclosed in tbe heart.—(A).


Chhā. Up. 3-12-7,8,9.


than as being clearly perceived through the buddhi.— (A)


Bṛ. Up. 4-4-19,


i. e., again, that Brahman is the same as the Witness and no more, and that the Witness is the same as Brahman and no more.— (A).


A particle (nipāta) can have more meanings than one.—(Ā)


Bri. Up. 4–4–6,


Op. cit. 3–1–4.


Kaṭha-Up. 5–11.


Taitt-Up. 3–6.


Bṛ-Up. 3–9–28.


Op. cit. 4–3–32.

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