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 XII - The Unconditioned Brahman

Brahman is beyond speech and thought.

तदप्येष श्लोको भवति ॥ १६ ॥
                        ॥ इत्यष्टमोऽनुवाकः ॥

tadapyeṣa śloko bhavati ||  16 ||

16. On that, too, there is this verse.

Here is a verse which also teaches that on realising— by knowledge, in the manner described above— that One, the Unconditioned Self, one is not afraid of any thing whatever, i. e., attains a fearless permanent stay. This verse serves also as a brief summary of the whole teaching of the present section, the Ānanda-Vallī.

This verse is quoted for the purpose of explaining the view that Brahman is beyond the scope of speech and thought.

                        || atha navako'nuvākaḥ ||
yato vāco nivartante | aprāpya manasā saha | ānandaṃ brahmaṇo vidvān | na bibheti kutaścaneti || 1 || 

                        ॥ अथ नवकोऽनुवाकः ॥
यतो वाचो निवर्तन्ते । अप्राप्य मनसा सह । आनन्दं ब्रह्मणो विद्वान् । न बिभेति कुतश्चनेति ॥ १ ॥


[Anuvaka IX]

1. He who knows the bliss of Brahman, whence (all) words recede, as well as mind, without reaching, he is not afraid of any one whatsoever.

From the Unconditioned Non-dual Bliss-Self defined above, all words—all designations which can denote only conditioned things such as substances (dravya), but which are employed by authors to denote the Unconditioned Non-dual Brahman alike, because of the fact that He is also an existent thing—recede without reaching Him; i. e., failing to denote Brahman, they show themselves powerless. Mind (manas) means thought, cognition. And whatever thing speech is employed to denote,—and it is employed to denote even the supersensuous,—thought also proceeds to comprehend that thing. And wherever cognition acts, there speech also acts. Thus everywhere speech and thought, word and cognition, act together.

[1] Be it known that Brahman lies beyond the reach of speech. Because of the absence in the Paramātman of the features—such as relation with another thing, attributes, action, genus, popular usage, etc.,—which may occasion the application of words, the śruti studiedly asserts, in the words “without reaching,” that Brahman cannot be denoted by words. We have therefore said before (Vide p. 237 et seq.) that the words “Real,” etc., merely define the nature of Brahman by denying the applicability to Him of substantives and attributives which are applicable only to the five sheaths. We hold that the Self is Brahman devoid of the ideas of ‘I, Fgo’ and ‘mined Therefore, words which are applicable to substantives &c. recede from Brahman because of the absence of the necessary features mentioned above. As well as mind: All cognitions which are transformations of mind (buddhi) are incapable of reaching Him who is the Witness of the mind and its functions. Therefore, as cognitions fail to reach Him, words which generate cognitions ‘recede, as well as mind,’ i. e., as well as the cognitions produced by the words.

(Question):—Then how is it that Brahman is said to be known through the śāstras or scriptures?

(Answer):—All the words which are used to impart a true knowledge of Brahman only give us to understand Him indirectly, by implication; they fail to denote Him directly.

The mental cognition which is generated by a word has a form, and so fails to reach the self-conscious Brahman; thus cognitions recede from Him along with the words.


The Word removes our ignorance of Brahman without denoting Him.

(Question);—If Brahman be beyond speech, and beyond the thought generated by speech, how can speech (Revelation) remove the ignorance concerning Him?

(Answer) Speech, such as “That, Thou art,” has that peculiar power in it in virtue of which it removes the ignorance concerning Ātman without directly designating Him, just as, in the case of a man who is asleep, his sleep is removed by such words as “O Devadatta, arise” which are used to awake him, but which do not designate him who awakes. And ignorance disappears because it has a weak basis as compared with knowledge. Knowledge is the very essential form of the Self, and therefore ignorance can hardly exist in the Self. Moreover, speech has an inconceivable power, as seen in the case of spell-chants used for curing bites of poisonous animals; and accordingly we know Brahman through words, which, without directly denoting Him, can produce a knowledge of Him and thereby dispel our ignorance. When men who are asleep are awakened by means of words, they give up sleep and awake without having grasped the relation between the words and what is denoted by them; for, in sleep no one grasps words as he grasps them in the waking state. Thus in the case of a man who is asleep the knowledge caused by speech is effective though there is no grasp of the relation between the words and their respective meanings. So when ignorance is despelled by speech, there can arise the knowledge ‘I am Brahman/ Though the words ‘that’ and' thou’ in the sentence “That, Thou art,” can in themselves denote only the conditioned consciousness, the sentence as a whole generates by implication the idea of the One Invisible Essence,—of Brahman as identical with the Inner Self, though this last is not directly denoted by the words; and this knowledge of the oneness destroying the ignorance of it, we realise in experience our identity with Brahman.

The two occurrences, namely, the rise of knowledge and the disappearance of ignorance, are not identical and simultaneous; they are related as cause and effect, the one preceding the other. There is therefore no room for any such question as “which of them precedes the other?” The word which dispels ignorance (avidyā) gives rise to the knowledge 'I am Brahman'; and this knowledge disappears along with ignorance after destroying it, just as the medicinal drug itself disappears after removing the disease. Then there remains that One who is ever self-conscious, pure, and free.


The doctrine of the injunction of Brahma-jñana refuted.

Thus Brahman being eternal and ever free, no necessity exists either for operation (bhāvanā) of any kind or for evidence (māna) of any other sort.

Brahman being Himself Consciousness, He is above the ordinary run of knowable things; and it is only in the case of the knowable things of our ordinary experience which are known through external means—that is to say, in the case of things which are not self-known like Brahman— that a necessity for external evidence exists. Unlike the fact that “there are fruits on the bank of the river” asserted by a trustworthy person, the fact of Brahman’s non-duality is not amenable to such evidence as sensuous perception (pratyakṣa); how, then, can one say that the śruti speaking of Brahman’s non-duality stands in need of further evidence? What evidence does one need to become conscious of That One, by whose presence alone one becomes conscious of the knower, of the instrument of knowledge, of the object known, and of the resulting knowledge. Unlike the consciousness of a pot, which suffers interruption for want of appropriate conditions—an appropriate time, an appropriate place, an appropriate state of mind,—the consciousness of Brahman never suffers interruption in any State whatever, in jāgrat or svapna or suṣupti; for, He is the witness of the presence or absence of the interrupting causes. The mind which apprehends ‘this should be done thus,’ and ‘this should not be done thus,’ does not exist by itself; it has its being in this One, the Self; what operation or external evidence, therefore does His existence need? What evidence does the One Consciousness need, that One who is wide awake even prior to the operation of the agent, etc.,—that is to say, in suṣupti, etc.,—unassociated with conditions (upādhis) and unconcerned with the not-self?

Though commanded by a Vedic injunction, how can one see that Thing which is not denoted by words and which thought, too, cannot reach? Being eternally existent, Ātman does not stand in need of human effort to bring Him into being; and being beyond the reach of speech and thought, neither can the knowledge of Him form a subject of injunction. If the statements of fact such as “That, Thou art,” should be construed as subsidiary to the injunction of knowledge, “the Ātman should be seen,” then, the identity of the Self and Brahman asserted in such subsidiary propositions will have to be set aside, as lying outside our ordinary experience; for nothing that is said in a subsidiary proposition can be accepted as meant by the Veda to be true if it should run counter to the evidence furnished by sensuous perception and the like. It is true that the Veda sometimes enjoins things which do not exist as facts of our ordinary experience, as, for instance, when it enjoins us to regard the heavens as fire; but it does so only when the several things spoken of, such as the heavens and fire, are, when taken by themselves, facts of our experience. On the contrary, Brahman who is said to be eternally pure and free is never a fact of our ordinary experience and cannot therefore form a subject of an injunction. A Vedic commandment, though lying outside our ordinary experience, can be made out, as formed of a peculiar correlation of several known things brought together; but Brahman is one and indivisible and is not a composite thing which can be spoken of in a sentence as made up of several detached parts correlated together: Brahman cannot therefore form a subject of injunction.

It cannot be urged that such a thing as the Brahman described above cannot possibly exist; for, how can one say that such a Brahman cannot possibly exist, seeing that evidence as well as non-evidence, as also spurious evidence, all do bear testimony to His existence—all of them existing to us only as witnessed by Him who is the Eternal Consciousness?

(Objection):—If the Vedanta does not enjoin knowledge, how can its teaching be authoritative?

(Answer):—Why should not the assertive[2] sentences, such as “That Thou art,” be regarded as authoritative? They do impart knowledge, which removes the ignorance of the Immutable Consciousness as also the pain that results from that ignorance. Even the injunction (niyoga) of knowledge can have no meaning unless this knowledge of the Immutable Consciousness be held as true; and the injunction itself, which is insentient, cannot make itself known in the absence of this Consciousness.

If the Vedanta enjoins the knowledge of Brahman, in the words “He shall see Ātman,” we ask, whence is the existence of the Unconditioned Brahman known? Is it from the sentence of command or from any other sentence? It cannot be from the sentence of command; for the whole meaning of the sentence consists in enjoining on man the duty of acquiring knowledge of Brahman. A sentence of command enjoins a duty on man without reference to the reality or unreality of the things referred to in it, and cannot therefore be an authority as to the real nature of the things it speaks of.

In point of fact, knowledge cannot form a subject of injunction, inasmuch as it cannot be done or undone or otherwise done by a person at will; he cannot therefore undertake the act though he may be enjoined by hundreds of sentences. He can engage only in an act which it is possible for him to do. It cannot be said that the nature of Brahman can be known from such assertive sentences as “That Thou art;” for, these sentences being held as subsidiary to the sentence of command, cannot describe Brahman unconditioned by the subject-matter of the main proposition; and therefore Brahman described in such subsidiary assertive sentences must be one who is concerned with action. Those who are given never to transgress Vedic commands may even eat their own flesh and give up their dear lives, these acts being in their power to do. But one does not undertake the boiling of gold pieces though enjoined. He who, believing that he is enjoined by śruti to know Brahman, blindly undertakes the act without any regard to its possibility, would fail to achieve his purpose and so put himself to unnecessary pain, like the thief among boiler-makers.[3]

Neither can it be said that contemplation (upāsanā) of the Conditioned Brahman, which can form the subject of an injunction, gives rise to the Brahma-jñāna or knowledge of the Unconditioned; for, it is a principle laid down in the śruti and the smṛti that the result of contemplation is the attainment of the Conditioned Brahman in accordance with the contemplation, but not of the knowledge of the Unconditioned.

If the contemplation enjoined does not comprehend the real nature of Brahman, then such a contemplation cannot give rise to Brahma-jñāna; the idea of silver, repeated ever so often, cannot give rise to the idea of the mother-of-pearl mistaken for silver.

If the Ātman could be known, then injunction of the knowledge (jñāna) or contemplation (upāsanā) of the Atman would be possible. As the śruti saysthat the Ātman cannot be known, there can be no injunction of the knowledge or contemplation of Ātman who is beyond the reach of knowledge.

The Niyoga-vādins hold that the Upaniṣads give us to know the Reality only in connection with an injunction, believing that a mere assertive sentence of the Veda unconnected with an injunction has no value as evidence of truth. This cannot be; for, it is works that are enjoined in the Vedic injunctions, and a person may be directed by these injunctions to do acts, which he can accomplish with effort. How can he ever be made to undertake what has not to be accomplished by effort and action, namely, the real nature of the Self?

Neither is it the knowledge of the Self that is enjoined here in the Upaniṣad by the sentences of command; for such an injunction is included in the general injunction “Every one shall study his own section of the scriptures.” Just as the knowledge of the injunction of a sacrificial act does not itself require an injunction other than this general injunction, so also the knowledge of Ātman does not require a separate injunction.

Suppose the Niyoga-vādin says as follows:—It may be so, if, even in the absence of an injunction, we find people regarding Self-knowledge as a means to the end of man. On the contrary, we do not find that such is the case. It being only from a Vedic injunction of Self-knowledge that we come to know that Self-knowledge leads to the good of man, neither mere assertive statements nor other sources of knowledge can impart the knowledge of that fact.

(We Answer):—It is not so; for we cannot conceive of any result of knowledge other than a comprehension of the object to be known. Since the knowledge of the Self can arise even in the absence of an injunction other than the general one “Every one shall study his own section of the scriptures,” what purpose is there to be served by an injunction of Self-knowledge?

Suppose the Niyoga-vādin rejoins thus:—It is not the śābda-jñāna, or such knowledge of the Self as can be imparted by the words of the śruti, that is enjoined in the Upaniṣad. On the other hand, the Upaniṣad enjoins quite a different knowledge of the Self. It enjoins the achievement of that transcendental intuitive knowledge of the Supreme Self through the cultivation of perfect self-control, perfect tranquillity, perfect endurance, perfect balance of mind. Indeed it is not possible to comprehend Brahman, like a jar, by such knowledge as can be imparted by words, inasmuch as Brahman is not a thing which can be denoted by a sentence. The import of a sentence, as held by experts in the subject, consists in the correlation of things denoted by the several words in the sentence. We do hold that Vākya or speech is the right source of knowledge regarding Brahman; but, as lying beyond the scope of speech, Brahman’s real nature cannot form the import of a sentence; so that we are forced to admit that Brahman has to be comprehended by some other kind of knowledge than that produced by words.

Against this it may be urged as follows:—If you do not grant that Brahman can be comprehended by such knowledge as can be imparted by a sentence, then Brahman cannot be taught by the Vedas.

The Niyoga-vādin answers:—You cannot say so; for, Brahman does form the subject of Vedic teaching, inasmuch as He is comprehended by that intuitive knowledge (sākṣātkāra) which is achieved by a constant contemplation of such knowledge of Brahman as is pro-duced by the Vedic texts. We cannot admit, on the mere authority of your dictum, that Brahman constitutes the subject of Vedic teaching, and forms the import of a sentence; for, then, knowledge of Brahman would not depend on the effort of man. Unlike Dharma, the Ātman’s nature cannot form the import of a sentence, as He cannot be connoted by any word. Even supposing that He is connoted by a word, He cannot form the import of a sentence; for, single detached words can only connote universals (sāmānya) or generic attributes, whereas a sentence as a whole points to a particular object. Though Brahman may be conceived as a universal (sāmānya), He cannot be regarded as a particular. In point of fact, however, the Vedāntin holds that Brahman does not admit of such distinctions as a universal and a particular; so, how can He be comprehended by speech? Being not denoted by a word, Brahman cannot form the import of a sentence; so that no knowledge of Brahman can be imparted by speech. Therefore the intuitive knowledge that “I am Brahman” is beyond the reach of a sentence; and as this intuitive knowledge is generated by a constant contemplation of that knowledge of Brahman which can be imparted by the Vedas, Brahman may be regarded as forming, in a way, the subject of the Vedic teaching.


The One Self is self-luminous, unconditioned, immutable, non-dual.

(Siddhānta):—A refutation of the theory that the nature of Brahman is taught m the Upaniṣads in association with an injunction is contained in the verse quoted by the Upaniṣad here and explained by us. ‘This is the object known,’ ‘this is knowledge,’ ‘I am the knower,’—being thus always clearly perceived as distinguished from one another, it is not these three categories of things, of which the Ātman is ignorant. Neither can the Ātman, who is the Witness of all cognitions, be of a nature other than that of pure consciousness; that is to say, the Pratyagātman, being the basis of all illusory manifestations, cannot himself be an illusory manifestation. Though of the nature of pure consciousness, the Ātman is not perceived as such owing to ajñāna, illusion, ignorance. He has nothing in Him to cast off and has nothing to acquire. Being the Witness of all that is cast away, and of-all that is acquired, He must in Himself be immutable, subject to no change; and He becomes the Witness of the perceiver, etc., only in virtue of His association with ajñāna which is the cause of the perceiver, etc. It is the ego—the buddhi, the understanding—that takes these forms, “I know,” “I do’not know;” and this ego is only an aspect or function of the mind (antaḥ-karaṇa-vṛtti) and is the seat of pratya-bhijñā, the faculty of the cognition of identity, i. e., the faculty which holds together in association the different cognitions in their sequence. It is the perceiver— i. e., the mind, the antaḥ-karaṇa with a semblance of consciousness —that lacks or comes by knowledge. As the Ātman beyond all the sheaths is indivisible, He cannot put on the different forms referred to, as the mind can. It is the knower—ī. c., the ego, the agent, who puts on different forms, and who has a semblance-consciousness,—who is said to recognise, in the form “this is the thing I saw” or “I am the same person that was”: i. e., at the present moment, when the mind is impressed with an object presented to the senses, he recalls his former experience as the perceiver of an object, having all along carried with himself the impression of the object caused by the experience thereof in a former state of mind. Like this recognition of identity, even ignorance (ajñāna), etc., pertain only to the mind, not to the Immutable Consciousness; and it is by illusion that one thinks that ignorance, etc., pertain to the Self. This is a fault of the mind (buddhi): it is buddhi, the ego, the mind with reflected consciousness, that puts on the forms of external objects, the form of the self or knower, and the appearance of consciousness. Such variety and change of forms cannot pertain to the Self who is Immutable.


Knowledge of the one Self imparted by Revelation.

By the process of manana, i.e., by following what is called the method of ‘conjoint presence and absence’ (anvaya-vyatireka) as indicated by the śruti, the aspirant of mokṣa sets aside as foreign to the True Self, all that is the not-self,—which is perceived by the mind, and whose form is reproduced in the mind at the time of perception,—seeing that the not-self is not always present in the jāgrat, s vapna, and suṣupti states; and, seeing that pure consciousness is always present in all states, he holds on in the mind to that pure Consciousness, the Self, the ‘Thou’, the mind being then thrown into the form of the pure consciousness, which is not a thing that can be described in a sentence; that is to say, which does not admit of that correlation of things which is necessarily comprehended in the import of a sentence. Then the sentence “That, Thou art” or the like, shewing the unreality of what is inconstant produces the knowledge “I am Brahman,” a state of the mind (buddhi-vṛtti) which, at the very next moment after its rise, burns away the ignorance of the Self and all its effects and gives the student to know that the Self is Brahman and that Brahman is the Self,—to know the Unconditioned One. Just as in virtue of the agreement in case (sāmānādhikaraṇya) of the two terms in the sentence “The ākāśa in the jar is the mighty expanse of ākāśa,” we set aside the limitations of the two ākāśas as incompatible with their unity and comprehend the one ākāśa underlying the two limited ones spoken of as identical, so also, in virtue of the agreement in case of the two words ‘That’ and ‘Thou' in “That, Thou art,” which shows the things directly denoted by the two words are related as substantive and attributive, we set aside all the limitations denoted by the two words as incompatible with the unity here implied and intuitively comprehend the One, not forming the direct import of the sentence; and inasmuch as the words of the sentence have thus served to indicate the One Reality, the knowledge of the One may be considered to have been directly imparted by the sentence,— the sentence being by itself capable of imparting the knowledge of the One who does not form the import of a sentence.


No external evidence is necessary to prove the Self.

The assertion that another kind of knowledge has yet to be achieved is like threshing the husk of the grain. Nonconception, misconception and doubt are found to arise only with reference to a jar and the like, but not with reference to the cogniser’s cognition and the Witness-consciousness. As to cognition there can be no non-cognition, misconception or doubt; for, being immediately present before consciousness it does not need an external evidence. (To explain):—A cognition, whether it is in the form of certainty or of doubt, presents itself to the cogniser without any medium; wherefore it does not need an external proof. Nor does even the cogniser admit of non-cognition, misconception or doubt, inasmuch as he is immediatly present before the Witness-consciousness. Such being the case, it needs no saying that the Unconditioned Self whose never-failing consciousness bears a constant testimony to the existence of the cogniser, cognition, etc., require no external evidence at all.

Therefore no knowledge other than that imparted by the words of the Upaniṣad has to be achieved for further enlightenment. Moreover, this Unconditioned non-dual Self, admitting of no such relations as are implied in the direct import of any sentence, is experienced in suṣupti; and this experience cannot be an illusion, as it is supported by the authority of the śruti which says “As to the view that there (in the suṣupti) he does not see, (we say), though seeing, he does not see.”[4] The very inherent consciousness of the Brahman-Self manifesting itself in that state of mind which results from a proper understanding of the final teaching of the Upaniṣads, constitutes the knowledge which can remove the nescience, that knowledge being as constant as the Self whereas the not-self is but a temporary manifestation. This Self cannot be regarded as the known or the unknown, as knowledge or ignorance, as one who knows or one who knows not; for such things exist to us as witnessed by the Self; and even His witnessship is not absolutely real. Wherefore no further knowledge is called for with a view to an elimination of these elements from the Self.


Knowledge of Brahman cannot be enjoined.

An injunction (niyoga), moreover, can command a person to do what lies in his power; but knowledge of things as they are, depends, not on the will of a person, but upon things themselves. If the knowledge ‘it is to be done thus’ and ‘it is to be done not thus’ can be derived from the ritualistic section of the Veda, without that knowledge being separately enjoined, why can a person not derive a knowledge of truth from an assertive sentence such as “That, Thou art” without a separate injunction. An injunction can command an action to be done; the agent, &c., do not form the subject of an injunction, because they already exist; and it is further held that an identical sentence cannot point to two things, i. e., (in the present instance) cannot both command an act and impart a knowledge of the true nature of things referred to in the sentence.

It cannot be maintained that all speech implies injunction; for, there is a difference perceived by the ear in the very wording of the two kinds of sentences, those which express an injunction and those which assert. If it be held that sensuous perception cannot always be relied upon, then the definition of sensuous perception—that it is the knowledge arising in the ego from contact of the senses with what then exists—as given by the omniscient sage, Jaimini, would go in vain.

An agent can exercise his independent will with regard to an act. His will has no sway over the nature of things as they are. Mukti, in our view, is the state of Ātman as He is; if it could be secured by action, then it would be impermanent.

We hold that knowledge alone as true which comprehends a thing as it is. The knowledge which has its origin solely in man’s effort can be no true knowledge any more than that of silver (arising when the mother-of-pearl is mistaken for silver). As right knowledge comprehends things as they are, it is impossible for the Yedānta to teach the real nature of the Thing as it is in connection with an injunction.

What is the reason for saying that the Upaniṣad teaches Brahman as related to an injunction? Does every sentence or every pramāṇa (source of knowledge) convey knowledge of things as subsidiary to an injunction? Unless some such invariable association is adduced as a reason, we cannot admit that the Vedāntic texts impart knowledge of Brahman only as related to an injunction. We hold quite a different view: we hold that the texts of the Upaniṣad which are not connected with any injunction constitute the authority as to the true nature of the Inner Self as He is, though we admit that such texts of the Upaniṣad as are connected with injunctions enjoin acts such as śravaṇa, the study of the scriptures, and so on. Moreover, all effort on the part of man enjoined by the śruti in connection with the knowledge of Brahman, be it the knowledge imparted by the very texts or the knowledge which is alleged to result from a repeated practice thereof, presupposes that Brahman forms the subject of treatment in the Upaniṣads. If this be not admitted, then the injunction of the knowledge of Brahman would be impossible. The theory that the Reality is taught only as associated with an injunction runs counter to the fact that such passages as “Brahman is not gross,”[5] “Brahman is beyond words”[6], &c., treat of Brahman as He is. These passages should not be rendered unauthoritative concerning the nature of Brahman by being made subsidiary to an injunction. It cannot be urged that, if unassociated with an injunction, these passages, like the speech of an untrustworthy person, would have no authority. For, if such passages be not authoritative as treating of Brahman, then the injunction would have no scope at all. Even though enjoined to know Brahman, who is in fact unknowable, one cannot do it; none has power to make a thing what it is not. If it be said that the Vedic injunction •would impel him to the act, then he would do it like the thief among the boiler-makers.[7]

Moreover, the injunction of knowledge runs counter to the texts which, in a commanding tone, assert that Brahman is other than what is known and other than what is unknown. The śruti denies Brahman’s knowability, in sentences of command such as “whereby shall one know the knower?”[8] “Thou shalt not see the seer of sight.”[9] Brahman being the Eternal self-luminous Consciousness illumining all luminaries, to know Him is impossible.

(Objection):—It is Ātman that sees the visible universe. So, how can it be said that Ātman is not the object directly perceived?

(Answer):—If so, in the act of knowing the Atman, the agent and the object of the action would be identical, namely, the Ātman. In fact, being unseen, He cannot be the object; and being immutable (kūṭastha) he cannot be the agent in the act of seeing. Thus alone, can we explain the denial—with reference to Ātman—of the six changes of state such as birth. It is such distinguishable forms as the cogniser, cognition and the cognised, that are said to be the objects of perception, being themselves not luminous. If, as the Witness-Consciousness, the cogniser be also the object cognised, then the cognition and the instrument of cognition would also be nothing more than the Witness-Consciousness, and the terms ‘the cogniser,’ ‘the cognised’ &c., would not denote what are ordinarily meant by such terms. So the Witness-Consciousness cannot be the object of cognition.


The authority of the ‘anuvādas.’

If the anuvāda—repetition of a single notion or of a proposition, in a word or a sentence, in connection with an injunction—convey no evidence as to what it signifies in itself, it would not be possible to connect the substance of milk with the act of offering.[10] It is no reply to say that milk may be connected with svarga; for the substance of milk by itself cannot be connected with svarga except through an act. Moreover, when the śruti enjoins (in connection with Darśa and Pūrṇamāsa) “He shall obtain cattle by milk-pafi”[11] instead of by a pan (chamasa), it is held that partly the śruti intends a repetition of what is already taught,—namely that water should be poured into a vessel, and that the pouring of water into a vessel is a means to the svarga—and that it teaches a new truth in so far as it enjoins that instead of a pan (chamasa) a milk-pail should be used by him who seeks to secure cattle. Thus even here it is through its relation with the pouring of water—during the performance of the sacrificial rites of Darśa and Pūrṇamāsa which are said to be the means to svarga—that the substance of the milk-pail can bring about the intended fruit, namely, cattle. This would be impossible if the repetitions (anuvādas) should convey no authority as to what they signify. Perhaps it may be urged that, on account of the use of the milk-pail, which is different from pan (chamasa), the two acts of pouring are altogether different and that therefore there is no repetition of what is already taught. If this be true, then, it would also follow that the two acts are different as being enjoined in connection with different fruits, namely, svarga and cattle respectively; in which case all injunctions prescribing the use of particular substances for particular fruits in connection with acts already prescribed would have no scope at all.


The authority of assertive sentences.

(Objection):—The assertive sentences which do not teach either that something should be given up or that something should be acquired can convey no authority as to what they signify; so that, the sentence imparting the knowledge “I am Brahman” conveys no authority with it.

(Answer):—As Brahman is our very Self, we need not put forth a fresh effort to secure Brahman. Being none other than one’s Self, Brahman cannot be given up either. Since the assertive passage such as “That, Thou art” imparts the knowledge of Brahman which leads to the highest bliss, what more is left here for an injunction to do? Without an injunction, the passage is a self-sufficient authority. Similarly, it cannot but be admitted by the crows (of mīmāṃsakas) that anuvādas are authorities as regards what they signify. It is when we seek to know the purpose of anuvādas that we have to connect them with an injunction. Thus in no case can it be shewn that a sentence can convey authority as to what it signifies only when viewed in relation to an injunction. Whence then the necessity that from an injunction alone is authoritative knowledge derived?

If the original teaching and its repetition (vāda and anuvāda) convey different meanings, then the repetition should convey authority with it, as imparting the knowledge of what has been not known. And it is a fact of our experience that the two do convey two different meanings; the former is looked upon as teaching what is not already known and the latter as repeating what is already known.

If it be held that the repetitions convey ideas of things which are as illusory as the mirage-water, then injunction can have no scope anywhere. Every single term in a sentence (which is of the nature of an anuvāda) can give us to know what it designates, without presupposing anything else: If it should lack power to give us to know even that much independently, then its utterance would be altogether futile.

We ask, whence have you come to know that a term is an anuvāda or repeats what has been otherwise known, and that it is sākāṅkṣa or presupposes its connection with something else? It cannot be from the term itself having those attributes; for, terms are looked upon as conveying no authority with them. And as to the injunction itself? its signification has been exhausted by giving us to know the thing enjoined. When a term presupposes anything, what is presupposed must be something else which is not designated by the term itself; if it should convey no authority with it as to what it signifies, how can the meaning of a sentence be construed?

We may further ask, whence do you know that a term has no authority? Certainly pratyakṣa (immediate perception) and other pramāṇas (instruments of knowledge) give us to know what exists, but not what does not exist, a mere abhāva or non-existence.

And the śruti will, in the sequel (Bhṛgu-Vallī), give us to know the real nature of the Self by shewing that the Self is not of the nature of the physical body, or of the vital air, or of the mind; and it is therefore hard to shew that an injunction teaches it. The śruti does not teach that the Self is distinct (bhinna) from the physical body, etc., as though these latter really exist. Such a thing as distinction cannot be apprehended by any of the pramāṇas; for, distinction between one thing and another should mean absence (abhāva) of the one in the other, and this absence being a mere negation cannot come in contact with the senses. As other pramāṇas are based upon sensuous perception (pratyakṣa), they, too, cannot apprehend distinction. The opponents may urge that distinction is an abhāva and can be apprehended through the absence of the other parmāṇas, which is also an abhāva. Then, an abhāva of pramāṇa is considered to be a pramāṇa, which is absurd. In the absence of consciousness manifested in the mind as the result of the operation of a pramāṇa, nothing can manifest itself to us. Even the opponents, however, hold that the absence of pramāṇas is not altogether an abhāva; which is quite inconsistent with the contention that an abhāva of pramāṇas gives us to know distinction which is an abhāva. Wherefore the śruti does not teach that the Self is distinct from the physical body, etc., The assertive sentences in the śruti give us to know the nature of the Self as He is, by denying the nature of the physical body, etc., falsely ascribed to Him.

It cannot be urged that the knowledge generated by an assertive sentence derives its authority from an injunction. How can a knowledge which has no authority in itself derive authority from an injunction? Akāśa, for instance, cannot be converted into trays, however skilfully a potter may operate upon it.

If knowledge of the Ātman be already made out, why should it need an injunction, any more than one injunction needs another injunction? If it be not already made out, how can it be enjoined?

If it be urged that from an injunction alone can one learn that knowledge leads to liberation, then one would have to look out for another injunction teaching that a Vedic injunction subserves human good; so that we understand that the knowledge imparted by the texts such as “That, Thou art” yields its fruit by itself, just as eating produces satisfaction by itself.

Just as we understand the meaning of the injunction, “Every one shall study his own portion of the scriptures,” without another injunction, so also we understand the meaning of the assertive sentence without any injunction. If, in the absence of an injunction, the knowledge imparted by the assertive sentence is false, then the meaning of the injunction “Every one shall study his own portion of the scriptures” must also be false.

Either the injunction should be held subservient to the assertion, or the assertion should be held subservient to the injunction. The result would be this:—If the assertion be subservient to the injunction, then, the knowledge imparted would be like the knowledge that “the heavens is fire,” calculated to produce some invisible results in future; it would not impart right knowledge, knowledge of the Thing as it is. If, on the other hand, the injunction be held subservient to the assertion, then, no injunction of knowledge can be made out.


The scope of injunction in the Vedānta.

Prior, however, to the attainment of the knowledge of the truth as a whole, taught in the assertive sentences such as “That, Thou art,” injunction is possible, enjoining that it is incumbent on a student to discriminate the nature of the things spoken of in the main assertive texts, by the application of the method of anvaya-vyatireka, of “conjoint presence and absence.” This investigation is necessary, because ignorance of the true nature of the things spoken of in the passages referred to is an obstacle in the way of the understanding of the truth a,s a whole taught in those propositions,

If what is taught by a Vedic text is a thing which has yet to be done and stands in need of operative factors, that, then, is a thing which can be enjoined. When one of quite a different nature, the Eternal One who is not concerned with action, is known from a Vedic text, He cannot be made the subject of an injunction. Since the knowledge “That, Thou art,” on its very rise can bring about the removal of ignorance without any extraneous aid, the knowledge is not meant for nididhyāsana or deep contemplation. If the knowledge that has been attained cannot bring about its own result, namely, the removal of ignorance, it cannot do so wyhen it is made subservient to the injunction of nididhyāsana.


Wisdom eradicates fear.

[12] He who knows the inherent, eternal, partless, supreme Bliss of Brahman,—that incomprehensible, unutterable, invisible Bliss of Brahman, which words, employed to denote Brahman by authors in ever so many ways, as well as the understanding that is capable of comprehending all, fail to reveal; which is very Self of the man of spiritual enlightenment who is free from sin and unassailed by desires of all kinds; which is above all contact of the subject and the object;—he who has realised the Brahman-Bliss as described above, has no fear from any quarter, as there is no cause of fear. Certainly, there exists nothing apart from the wise one, nothing distinct from him, of which he has to fear. For, it has been said that, when one makes even the smallest difference, there is fear for him. And since, in the case of the wise man, all cause of fear which is the creature of avidyā has disappeared like the second moon seen by the ṭīṃīṛā-diseased eye, it is but proper to say he has no fear from any quarter.

He who knows Brahman’s Bliss—the Immutable Consciousness, wherein there is no duality of any kind,—has no fear from anything whatsoever.—(S).

The duality signified by the expression “Brahman’s Bliss,” as also by the expression “the bliss of the brāhmaṇa (śrotriya)”—of him who has known Brahman and thereby become Brahman,—is figurative, like “the duality signified by “Rāhu’s head”; there being actually no such duality, inasmuch as Brahman is unconditioned (nirguṇa). This grandeur of the brāhmaṇa, of him who has known Brahman, admits of no increase or decrease, as it is his inherent nature. On knowing this, he has no fear from any quarter. In the wrords “He who knows Brahman-Bliss is not afraid of any one whatsoever,” the śruti teaches that the fruit of the knowledge is coeval with the knowledge, as the satisfaction resulting from eating food is coeval with the eating: it is unlike svarga, which has to be attained at some future time. Since there is no other obstacle in the way of mokṣa except avidyā, the śruti says that mokṣa is coeval with knowledge, it is duality which is the source of fear; and duality has its origin in avidyā; so that when avidyā has been consumed by the fire of vidyā, fear can arise from no quarter whatsoever. That is to say, when avidyā has been removed by the knowledge that our pure Inner Self is the very Paramātman, the Supreme-Self, there is no fear from anything whatsoever.—(S).

In the words “Whence all words recede,” the śruti gives us to understand that Brahman cannot be signified by a word or a sentence; and the śruti which teaches absolute truth uses the words “as well as manas” with a view to deny in the Supreme Ātman all the differentiations that can be imagined by mind. Accordingly the śruti denies all extraneous knowledge of the Self and speaks of Brahman as unconscious of anything other than Himself:

“This Self is not obtainable by explanation, nor yet by mental grasp, nor hearing many times; by him whornso He chooses, by him is He obtained. For him the Self His proper form reveals.”[13]—(S).

This verse (mantra) was quoted in the section treating of the Manomaya-kośa, inasmuch as manas is the organ of Brahma-jñāna. There the Manomaya is by courtesy regarded as Brahman: and with a view to extol it, mere fear was denied in the words “fears not at any time.” But here, in the verse treating of the non-dual Brahman, the very cause of fear is denied in the words “is not afraid of any one whatsoever.”

Because all duality terminates in Brahman, the Inner Self,_i. e., because the five sheaths do not exist apart from the Self—as the serpent terminates finally in the rope, this verse was quoted by the śruti in the section treating of the Manomaya-kośa.

The wise man is himself the Supreme Brahman. He sees in Himself the non-dual Self. One alone, without a second, he has no fear, as there exists no cause of fear.


Sayana’s explanation of the verse.

The explanation of this verse in the chapter on the Manomaya kośa should be here referred to. We explain the verse further as follows:—Words can denote only conditioned things; they are nevertheless used by authors to denote even the Unconditioned Brahman simply because He is an existent being; but then they recede without denoting Him: their power of denoting fails altogether. And the mind grasps all supersensuous truths only in the wake of the words, but not independently by themselves; so that when words recede, the mind also recedes along with words. Accordingly, Brahman’s Bliss being superior to that of the Hiraṇyagarbha, it is impossible to speak or think of its extent. Whoever understands the Bliss which constitutes the very inherent nature of Brahman, which the words can merely hint at by suggestion (lakṣaṇā-vṛtti), and which the mind can grasp at in the same way, that person is not afraid of anything whatsoever.

As quoted in the chapter on the Manomaya-kośa, the verse reads “fears not at any time.'’ Considering the context of the verse as quoted there, we explain it as follows: He who contemplates Brahman as conditioned by the Manomaya is not afraid at any time either in this birth or in a future birth, since he can ward off any fear that may ever arise. But here in the case of the one who knows, through proper instruments of knowledge, the non-dual bliss of Brahman, the very cause of fear does not exist: hence the words “is not afraid of any one whatsoever.” As the śruti says “from a second thing, verily, does fear arise,”[14] the cause of fear is the thing which lies outside the Self; and such a thing has no place in the non-dual Brahman.


Positive and negative definitions of Brahman.

The author of the Vākyavṛtti has said, “Having thus determined the meaning of ‘Thou,’ the student should reflect upon the meaning of ‘That’ as defined by the śruti in both the negative and positive aspects.” The śruti has defined Brahman in His positive aspect as “Real, Consciousness, Infinite is Brahman.” It has been said above[15] that, in thinking of this positive aspect of Brahman, one should assemble in one array all such definitions as ‘Brahman is Bliss,’ ‘Brahman is self-luminous,’ and so on. In the words “whence all words recede,” Brahman is defined in his negative aspect. In reflecting upon this aspect, the student should bear in mind all such negative definitions as “not gross, not small, not short,” as has been determined in the Vedānta-sūtras.


(Vedānta-sūtras, III. iii. 33).

(Question):—In the Gārgī-Brāhmaṇa, Brahman is defined by certain negations such as “not gross, not small, not short.”[16] So also in the Kaṭha-Upaniṣad: “without sound,without touch, without colour, without peṛṣing.”[17] Similar definitions are found in other Upaniṣads. The question is: Is it necessary or not that the student of one

Upaniṣad should note all negative definitions given in other Upaniṣads?

(Prima facie view):—It is not necessary: for, unlike the attributes such as reality and bliss, these negations do not constitute the inherent nature of Ātman, and therefore no purpose is served by noting all the negative definitions.

(Conclusion):—As against the foregoing we hold as follows: Just as the negations contained in one Upaniṣad

serve to indicate the nature of Ātman though they do not constitute the very nature of Ātman, so also, those negations collected from other Upaniṣads serve the same purpose. It should not be urged that, since those negations alone which are contained in one’s own Upaniṣad serve to indicate the nature of Ātman, it is useless to note the negations contained in other Upaniṣads; for, these latter serve to strengthen the knowledge. Otherwise, even in the case of one’s own Upaniṣad, it would be useless to note all the negations contained therein when two or three alone might serve the purpose. Therefore all negations should be collected together.


Brahman is not denied.
(Vedānta-sūtras, III. ii. 22 — 30).

As regards the negations thus collected together, there remains a particular point to be discussed.

(Question):—In the section of the Bṛhadāraṇyaka-Upaniṣad treating of the two kinds of matter,—the matter having form and the formless matter,—the śruti, after describing at great length the matter with form comprising earth, water and fire, as well as the formless matter comprising air and ether, proceeds to describe Brahman in the words “Now then is the instruction ‘not thus, not thus.’” The question is, Does Brahman also come or not come within the sweep of this negation?

(Prima facie view):—After treating of the two kinds of matter, which are manifestations of Brahman, it is necessary to treat of Brahman who manifests Himself in those forms; and with this view the śruti says, ‘not thus, not thus.’ The universe being denied by one of the two negations, the other would be meaningless if Brahman be not denied by the second negation. So that, Brahman also comes within the sweep of the negation.

(Conclusion):—As against the foregoing we hold as follows: The second negation is not useless, since it serves

to strengthen the same idea by repetition. By this repetition, the śruti teaches that nothing which can be perceived, i. e., nothing which can be indicated by the word ‘thus,’ can be Brahman. Suppose we do not understand such a repetition here; then, since by one negation alone are denied the two kinds of matter—matter having form and matter having no form—which are the subject of treatment here and which can be indicated by ‘thus,’ we would have to regard as Brahman what remains undenied, namely, the abhāva or absence of the two kinds of matter as well as the primary avidyā.

(Objection):—Though we understand repetition here, the difficulty will still remain unexplained: for, repetition has unrestricted scope and may include Brahman within its sweep.

(Answer):—No; for, Brahman is not an object of perception and cannot therefore be indicated by the word ‘thus,’ which represents the things to be denied. Moreover, if the śruti which has proposed to teach Brahman with much effort,in the words “Now then follows the instruction,” were to deny the self-same Brahman, it would be a mere self-contradiction. The sequel, too, goes against the denial of Brahman. In the sequel the śruti speaks of Brahman as “the Real of the real,” meaning thereby that Brahman is pre-eminently and absolutely real as compared with what are commonly regarded as real, namely, mountains, rivers, oceans, etc. All this would go in vain if all is denied including Brahman. Wherefore Brahman does not come within the sweep of the negation.

Taittiriya 1

Footnotes and references:


The comments running from this paragraph onwards up to where Śaṅkarāchārya’s Commentary is resumed are taken from Sureśvarāchārya’s Vārtika and Ānandajñāna’s gloss thereon.—(Tr).


as opposed to sentences implying command or injunction.


A thief, with a view to prevent the discovery of his theft, took shelter in the house of a boiler-maker close by. The master of the house ordered him to make a boiler. He could not help undertaking it; but, not having been trained to it, be was doing tbe task very awkwardly. Meanwhile, the city police, who were in search of the thief, soon appeared there, and, seeing how awkwardly he was doing the work, they thought he was the thief and arrested him.


Bṛ. Up. 4-3-23.


Bṛ. Up. 3-8-8.


Kaṭha. Up. 3-15.


Vide note on p. 658.


Bṛ. 2-4-14.


Ibid. 3-4-2.


The reference here is to the injunction “He shall offer milk,” where the act denoted by the word “offer” is a repetition of what was already enjoined in a separate sentence.


In this injunction the śruti seems at first sight to connect the substance of the milk-pail with the result directly, without the intervention of an act.


Here we resume Śaṅkarāchārya’s Comment once more. (Vide ante p. 652, note.).


Kaṭha Up. 2-23.


Bṛ. Up. 1-4-2.


Vide ante pp. 271–273.


Bṛ. Up. 3-8-8.


Op. cit. 3-15

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