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 IX - On the Offensive

The second pāda (quarter) of the second Adhyāya of the Vedānta-sūtras establishes in eight articles (adhikaraṇas) the theory that Brahman is the cause of the universe, by way of condemning all other theories.

The Vedānta versus the Sāṅkhya.
(Vedānta-sūtras II. ii. 1—10)

(Sāṅkhya):—Pradhāna which is composed of pleasure, and pain and ignorance is the prakṛti or material cause of the universe, inasmuch as we find the universe made up of objects of pleasure, pain and ignorance. To explain:—A pot, a cloth, and the like produce pleasure when they are obtained, since they serve the purpose of fetching water, covering the body, and so on. For this very reason, when a person is robbed of them by others, they form a source of pain. When, again, no water has to be fetched, then the pot is not a source of pleasure or pain; it remains an object of indifference. Ignorance (moha) concerning the pot consists in its being thus an object of indifference. Moha (ignorance) is derived from the root ‘muḥ’—to be unconscious; and with reference to objects of indifference no chitta-vṛtti or state of consciousness is seen to arise. Since pleasure, pain and ignorance thus run through the whole universe, Pradhāna is the cause of the universe.

(Vedāntin):—Pradhāna is not the cause of the universe, because, insentient as it is, it cannot have the power of designing and building the universe composed of such a variety of things as the bodies, the senses, mountains, and so on, each with a peculiar form and structure of its own. In the world we see that complex structures such as palaces, of which each part serves a distinct purpose of its own, are all the work of very highly intelligent authors. This incapacity for designing the structure of the universe apart, we cannot conceive how the insentient Pradhāna can ever so act as to bring the universe into existence; for, we see no carriages or other insentient things acting when not acted on by intelligent beings. If, then, to avoid this difficulty, the Sāṅkhya should admit that the sentient spirit (Puruṣa) acts upon Pradhāna, the admission runs counter to his postulate that Puruṣa is unattached. As to the assertion that pleasure, pain and ignorance run through pots and other things in the universe, we say that the proposition cannot de maintained, because pleasure, pain and ignorance are internal (subjective states) whereas pots and other things are external objects. Therefore, Pradhāna cannot be the cause of the universe.


The Vedānta versus the Vaiśeṣika.

In the last chapter, when answering the Sāṅkhya’s objection against the theory that from the sentient Brahman is evolved the universe which is insentient and is therefore of quite a different nature from its cause, the Vedāntin illustrated his theory by the observed fact of the birth of a scorpion from the cow-dung. Thereby the Sāṅkhya’s objection was answered, and the Vedānta theory was so far maintained.

In the present chapter the Vedāntin has attempted a refutation of rival theories and has overthrown, in the first article the Sāṅkhya doctrine of cause. He has now to refute the Vaiśeṣika theory.


How far the Vaiśeṣika theory supports the Brahmavada.
(Vedānta-sūtra II. ii. n.)

The Vaiśeṣika theory having been worked out in great detail, a person who has been thoroughly impressed with that theory, would pay no regard to the theory that Brahman is the cause, unless he is furnished with an illustration—of a cause producing an effect differing in its nature from that cause,—taken from his own system. Now, we shall proceed to enquire whether the Vaiśeṣika system furnishes an instance of a cause producing a dissimilar effect. It may at first sight appear that the system furnishes no instance; for, according to that system, a white cloth is produced out of white threads only, not out of threads of red colour. The Vedāntin maintains that the system does furnish instances of causes producing dissimilar effects. To explain: a paramāṇu (ultimate infinitesimal particle) is, according to the Vaiśeṣika, of the size spoken of as all-round-ness, (pārimāṇḍalya). A combination of two paramāṇus—as opposed to atoms—which cannot be measured in terms of atoms produces a dvi-aṇuka (a molecule of two atoms) which can be measured in terms of an atom. This is one instance. Similarly, a dvi-aṇuka is short (hrasva) in measure, and has therefore no length; and a combination of three such molecules produces a tri-aṇuka (three-atomed) molecule having the measure of length, and so far immeasurable in terms of atoms. This is another instance. So also other instances can be cited from the Vaiśeṣika system.


The Vaiśeṣika theory of creation overthrown.
(Vedānta-sūtras II. ii. 12—17)

(The Vaiśeṣika):—The universe of the last cycle is dissolved at the time of Pralaya; and again, when a desire to create arises in the Great Lord, then, in virtue of the karma of sentient beings, activity springs up for the first time in the unmoving paramāṇus (ultimate particles). As a result of this activity, one paramāṇu combines with another, and out of this combination a dvi-aṇuka is formed, and out of a combination of three dvi-aṇukas, a tri-aṇuka is formed. In this way the whole universe is produced. In the absence of all contradiction to this theory, we maintain that paramāṇus combine together and produce the universe.

(The Vedāntin):—It has been said that activity first springs up in the paramāṇus. We ask: Has this activity a cause or not? If it has no cause, it may spring up at all times, since there is nothing to restrict it to a particular occasion; and then there can be no dissolution (pralaya). If it has a cause, then, again, we ask: Is that cause seen or unseen? Is it something suggested by our ordinary experience or something transcendental? In the first place the cause cannot be something seen or what our ordinary experience can suggest; for, no action or reaction (pra-yatna or pratighāta) is possible prior to the creation of the bodily organism. As to Īśvara’s action (prayatna), it is eternal and cannot therefore be an in variable antecedent of the first activity which is occasional. In the next place, the cause of the first activity cannot be something unseen or transcendental; for, the transcendental or supersensu-ous cause (adṛṣṭa or the latent force of the past karma) is said to inhere in the Ātman and cannot, therefore, be related to paramāṇus. Being placed in such dilemmas as these, the Vaiśeṣika’s explanation of the first activity in the paramāṇus cannot be accepted, and no combination of paramāṇus as a result of that activity is therefore possible. Thus the theory that the universe arose out of the paramāṇus combined together is for ever cast away.


The Vedānta versus Buddhist Realist.
(Vedānta-sūtras II. ii. 18 — 27.)

(The Buddhists):—There are some Buddhists who maintain that external objects exist as such, and they hold as follows: There are two aggregates, the external and the internal. The external aggregate comprises the objects such as earth, rivers, oceans, and so on; and the internal group is made up of the mind and its modes. The whole universe consists of these two aggregates and no more. The paramāṇus are the cause of the external aggregate. They are of four classes; some of them are hard and are spoken of as the atoms of earth. Some are viscid and are spoken of as the atoms of water. The atoms of a third class are hot and are spoken of as the atoms of fire. The atoms of the fourth class are mobile and are spoken of as the atoms of the air. Out of the ultimate atoms (paramāṇus) of these four classes combining together simultaneously is formed the external aggregate. The cause of the internal aggregate is made up of five skandhas (groups).

These groups are

  1. Rūpa-skandha, the group of forms, composed of sounds, touch, etc., which are perceived through the mind;
  2. Vijñāna-skandha, the group of knowledge, which consists of cognitions of these forms;
  3. Vedanā-skandha, the group of feeling, which consists of pleasure and pain caused by the cognitions;
  4. Saṃjñā-skandha, the group of designations, which is made up of names such as Devadatta;
  5. Saṃskāra-skandha, the group of tendencies, made up of the latent impressions left by the four groups mentioned above.

Out of these five groups (skandhas) combined together is evolved the internal aggregate. Thus the two aggregates admit of an explanation.[1]

(The Vedāntin):—We ask: Is there an Intelligence external to these two aggregates and bringing about aggregations of atoms and skandhas? Or do they themselves aggregate together? Suppose the answer to the former question is in the affirmative; then we ask again, is that Intelligence an abiding entity or a momentary existence? To say that the Intelligence is an abiding entity is to contradict the fundamental doctrine of the Buddhists that everything is momentary. Suppose the Intelligence is momentary; then it is impossible to explain how, having not itself existed at one moment, it can bring about the aggregation at the next instant. If the Buddhist should say that there exists no Intelligence external to the aggregates and bringing about their aggregation, we then ask, how can the insentient skandhas and atoms aggregate together into their respective forms, of their own accord without a governing Intelligence. Thus the Buddhistic doctrine of the two aggregates does not accord with reason.


The Vedānta versus Buddhistic Idealism
(Vedānta-sūtras, II. ii. 28 — 32).

(The Buddhist):—Some Buddhists maintain that external objects do not really exist as such. They say that Vijñāna-skandha (group of cognitions)is alone real. It cannot be urged, they say, that this proposition is opposed to our ordinary experience (vyavahāra). For, in svapna (dream) experience of external objects is possible although at the time the mind alone really exists while the external objects do not really exist. So our experience of external objects is possible in the waking state, though they do not really exist at the time. Thus it stands to reason that Vijñāna-skandha alone is real.

(The Vedāntin):—As against the foregoing we hold as follows: The illustration of svapna or dream state does not apply to the case; for, our dream experience proves false in the waking state; whereas our experience of the waking state never proves false. Neither can it be said that there is no evidence for the existence of external objects; for it is witnessed by our consciousness. Pots, etc, are indeed experienced in consciousness as things existing in the external world. Perhaps it may be urged on the other side that it is our own mind (buddhi) that manifests itself as pots and other external objects, and that this idea is expressed in the words, “the reality that is knowable within manifests itself as if it were something external.” If so, we reply that these very words constitute the evidence for the existence of the external world. If external objects nowhere exist at all, no idea of external objects is possible, and the words “as if it were something external” would have no meaning at all. Therefore, as external objects do exist, it cannot be maintained that Vijñāna alone is real.


The Vedāntin versus the Arhats.
(Vedānta-sūtras, II. ii. 33 — 36)

(The Arhat):—There are in the main two padārthas (categories), Jīva and a-Jīva. Jīva, the soul, is intelligent, is of the size of the body in which it dwells, and is made up of parts. A Jīva, the non-soul, is of six classes: one class comprises mountains and the like, and the other five are:

  1. āsrava, the aggregate of the senses, so called because it is through these senses that the soul moves among the sense-objects;
  2. saṃvara, (non-discrimination, etc.,) which enshrouds the discriminating faculty;
  3. nirjara (austerity)—such as plucking of the hair, sitting upon a heated stone—the means of causing the decay of desire, anger, and other passions;
  4. bandha (bondage), the series of births and deaths brought about by the eight kinds of karma, four of them being injurious acts and constituting the four kinds of sins, and the four others being non-injurious acts and constituting the four kinds of meritorious action;
  5. mokṣa (release) which consists in the soul constantly rising upward when, by the means pointed out in the scriptures, it has risen above the eight kinds of karma.

[In the Sarvadarśana-sangraha, Sāyaṇa explains this point further as follows:

If a thing absolutely exists, it exists altogether, always, everywhere, and with every-body, and no one at any time or place would ever make an effort to obtain or avoid it, as it would be absurd to treat what is already present as an object to be obtained or avoided. But if it be relative (or indefinite), the wise will concede that at certain times and in certain places any one may seek or avoid it. Moreover, suppose that the question to be asked is this: “Is being or non-being the real nature of the thing.?” The real nature of the thing cannot be being, for then you could not properly use the pharse, “It is a pot” (ghaṭo’sti), as the two words “is” and “pot” would be tautological; nor ought you to say, “It is not a pot,” as the words thus used would imply a direct contradiction; and the same argument is to be used in other questions. As it has been declared,

“It must not be said ‘It is a pot,’ since the word ‘pot’ implies ‘is’; nor may you say ‘it is not a pot,’ for existence and non-existence are mutually exclusive,” &c.

Thus said the teacher in the Syādvāda-mañjarī

“A thing of an entirely indeterminate nature is the object only of the Omniscient; a thing partly determined is held to be the true object of scientific investigation. When our reasonings based on one point proceed in the revealed way, it is called the revealed Syād-vāda, which ascertains the entire meaning of all things.”

“All other systems are full of jealousy from their mutual propositions and counter-propositions; it is only the doctrine of the Arhat which with no partiality equally favours all sects.” [2]]

The nature of these seven categories is determined on the principle known as the saptabhaṅgī-nyāya, ‘the system of seven paralogisms.’ This principle is stated as follows:

  1. “May be, it is,”
  2. “May be, it is not,”
  3. “May be, it is and it is not,”
  4. “May be, it is indefinable,”
  5. “May be, it is and yet indefinable,
  6. “May be, it is not and indefinable,”
  7. “May be, it is and it is not and indefinable.”

‘Syāt’ (may be) is here an indeclinable particle meaning ‘a little.’ Now there are four classes of opponents (to the Jain doctrine) who severally hold the doctrine of existence, the doctrine of non-existence, the doctrine of existence and non-existence successively, and the doctrine that everything is indefinable (anirvachanīya). And again there are three other classes holding one or another of the three first theories in conjunction with the fourth. As against these seven classes of opponents, the seven kinds of reasoning should be employed. When, for example, the holder of the doctrine of existence comes up and scornfully asks the Ārhata, “Does mokṣa exist in your system?” then the Ārhata answers “It exists a little.” Similarly, as against other schools, he answers “It does not exist a little,’, and so on. Thereby all opponents are abashed to silence. Thus, by the all-sufficient principle of saptabhaṅgīnyāya, the nature of jīva and other categories is made out, and so far there is nothing anomalous in the system.

(The Vedāntin): —This reasoning on the so-called principle of saptabhaṅgī is illogical, inasmuch as it predicates existence of soul when answering the question of the holder of the doctrine of existence, and it predicates non-existence of the same soul when answering the question of the holder of the doctrine of non-existence. The Ārhat predicates two quite opposite attributes of one and the same subject. And it is not right to maintain that the soul is made up of parts; for, then it would be non-eternal. If the soul be non-eternal who is there to seek for mokṣa as an end? Wherefore, the nature of the soul and other categories cannot be determined by the illogical reasoning called the sapta-bhaṅgī.


The Vedānta versus Theism.
(Vedānta-sūtras, II. ii. 37—41)

It has already[3] been shewn, on the mere strength of scriptures, that Īśvara is both the efficient and the material cause of the universe. The Tārkikas, Śaivas and other theists do not assent to this doctrine and maintain on the contrary that Īśvara is the mere efficient cause of the universe. In support thereof, they resort to the following course of empirical reasoning: The potter is not the material cause of the pot which he makes; he is only the efficient cause, as the controlling agent operating upon the rod, wheel and other things. Like the potter, Īśvara only stands beside the universe of which he is the efficient cause.

(The Vedāntin):—It is not right to maintain that Īśvara is the mere efficient cause; for, then, it will be difficult to acquit Him of partiality, cruelty and other faults. It may be asked, how does the Vedāntin acquit Him of those faults? We reply that Īśvara creates the universe in accordance with the karma of living beings; and we say so on the authority of Revelation (Āgama). If the thiest should seek refuge with Āgama as the last resort, then he should abandon the doctrine of extra-cosmic God, inasmuch as in the words “Manifold may I become”[4] the śruti declares-that Īśvara is the material cause. Hence the unsoundness of the theory of extra-cosmic God.”


The Vedānta versus the Pāncharātra.
(Vedānta-sūtras, II. ii. 42 — 45)

(The Pāncharātra):—The Bhāgavatas of the Pāncharātra school hold as follows: The One Lord, Vāsudeva, is the material as well as the efficient cause of the universe. The breaking of the bondage of mundane existence is effected by worshipping Him, by knowing Him and by meditating on Him. From Vāsudeva, jīva who is spoken of as Sankarshaṇa is born; from jīva is born manas spoken of as Pradyumna; from manas is born egoism (ahaṃkāra) spoken of as Aniruddha. The whole universe is arrayed in the four forms of Vāsudeva, Saṃkarṣaṇa, Pradyumna and Aniruddha.

(The Vedāntin):—As not opposed to the teaching of the śruti, the teaching of the Pāncharātra regarding Vāsudeva and His worship, etc., may be accepted. But the assertion that jīva is born is wrong and cannot be maintained. for, if jīva were born it would lead us to the conclusion that a man will not reap what he has sown and that he reaps what he has not sown. To explain: since the jīva of a former creation had a birth at the beginning of that creation, he must have been destroyed at the end of it, so that the acts of dharma and adharma done by him could not bear fruit, and it would therefore follow that they were destroyed. And the new jīva that is born at the beginning of this creation comes by pleasure and pain here, though he has not already done acts of dharma and adhrma, and thus reaps what he has not sown. Thus the birth of the soul as taught in the Pāncharātra is unsound.


Footnotes and references:


Vide Minor Up. Vol II. pp. 89–90.


Translated by Prof. Cowell.


Vide ante pp. 335–336.


Tai. Up. 2—6.

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