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 XIII - Beyond Works

The enlightened one is not afflicted by anxiety about good and evil.

(The opponent):—There do exist causes of fear, namely omission of righteous acts, and commission of sinful ones.

It is wrong to say that he who knows Brahman has no fear from anything whatsoever; for, there exists a cause of fear in the form of anxiety relating to dharma and adharma.

(Answer):—Not so.


The śruti says:—

एतं ह वाव न तपति । किमहं साधु नाकरवम् । किमहं पापमकरवमिति ॥ २ ॥

etaṃ ha vāva na tapati | kimahaṃ sādhu nākaravam | kimahaṃ pāpamakaravamiti || 2 ||

2. Him, verily, burns not the thought, “Why have I not done the right? Why have I done sin?”

He who knows (Brahman) as described above does not feel afflicted at heart.—Now, it may be asked, in what way do the omission of righteousness and commission of sin not afflict him?—We answer: At the approach of death a man feels an after-compunction at heart, thinking ‘why have I not done the right act?’ Similarly, he may feel afflicted, fearing that he may fall into the hell and the like, and thinking ‘Why have I done the forbidden act?’ These two, the omission of the right and the commission of sin, do not afflict him (who knows Brahman) as they afflict him who knows not Brahman.

Him who knows the Self as the non-agent, omission of the right act and the commission of sin do not afflict, inasmuch as all fruit of action goes to the agent. “An accursed being I am who while alive have never done a good act; I have always done sin so that fear has overtaken me!” It is such thoughts as these that cause fear, at the approach of death, in those whose mind is invested with avidyā, when fatal hiccoughs have overpowered them. It is in the very nature of the fruit of an action that it accrues to the doer of the act. Good and evil, which have their origin in him who knows not, do not therefore afflict him who knows himself as the non-agent.—(S).

At the approach of death all sentient beings feel anxious in mind on the rush of such reflections as the following: Formerly in youth, when the body and the senses were strong, when there w’as plenty of wealth and other resources, why did I not do sacrificial acts, acts of gift, and such other meritorious acts which are the means of attaining svarga and other regions of the kind; and why did I do acts of sin, such as the robbing of other men’s wealth, which will take me to the hell? Such thoughts, though causing anxiety to all others, do not assail that man who has known Brahman.


The enlightened one derives strength from good and evil.

(Question):—For what reason do they not afflict the wise man?

(Answev):—Being one with the immutable and non-dual Self, he consumes dharma and adharma, good and evil, as well as avidyā, by the fire of knowledge, and dwells in his own Self.—(S).

The śruti says:

 स य एवं विद्वानेते आत्मानं स्पृणुते ॥ ३ ॥

sa ya evaṃ vidvānete ātmānaṃ spṛṇute || 3 ||

3. Whoso knows thus, these two as the Self does he chers.

He who knows Brahman as described above cherishes these,—good and evil,—as the Self; he regards them both as the Supreme Self.

Good and evil exist and manifest themselves to consciousness. These two factors in their being, existence and manifestation, are derived from the Self; and whatever else is associated with them as causes of good and evil,—their specific names and forms,—are not real, as they are dissociated from existence and manifestation. The Self was originally regarded as virtue and sin owing to avidyā; but now, the wise man thinks that the things which were regarded as sources of good and evil are identical with the Self, and by this knowledge he cherishes the Self the more, and rejoices at the sight of what to the worldly people appears as good and evil, without ever chersing the least fear.—(A).

He who knows Brahman as his own Inner Self at once burns away good and evil generated by avidyā in the fire of the knowledge that he is the non-agent. Having thus annihilated good and evil without any remnant, he strengthens the Selfthe more. Though strong in Himself, the Ātman is weakened by the disease of avidyā. When the terrible disease of avidyā is reduced by Vidyā, the latter is saidĀo make the Ātman strong. When a man is wakened from sleep, the objects seen in his dream-perception are found to have no existence outside the wakened soul. So here good and evil remain only as the One Self and no more.—(S).

The śruti gives the reason why the knower of Brahman feels no anxiety. The person who has learnt from the scriptures and reason that good and evil acts are the source of anxiety cherishes the Self with a view to avoid the anxiety caused by the acts. He feels happy in the conviction that this Self is merely the Witness, but not the doer of good and evil acts. As the conviction that “I am Brahman” has altogether destroyed even the avidyā which is the cause of the whole saṃsāra comprising dharma and adharma and . their fruits, he grows very strong; that is to say, he is never overtaken by dharma and adharma.

(Objection):—Though it has been known that the Self is Brahman and non-agent, good and evil acts are necessarily brought about by the activities of the sense-organs and the body which still continue to be active: and there remain also some good and evil acts done in former births.

(Answer):—The śruti explains as follows:

उभे ह्येवैष एते आत्मानं स्पृणुते ॥ ४ ॥

ubhe hyevaiṣa ete ātmānaṃ spṛṇute || 4 ||

4. Both these, verily, as the Self does he chers who thus knows.

The wise man regards virtue and- sin as identical with the Self, divesting them of their specific forms, and thus cherishes the Self.—Who is it that cherishes the Self thus?—He who knows thus, i. e., who knows the non-dual Bliss-Brahman. Virtue and sin, looked upon by him as the Self, become weak and harmless, and do not lead him to any more births.

Because the wise man who has become the Real Invisible Brahman makes out, by his right knowledge, that good and evil are both one with Brahman, therefore he only cherishes the Self the more through good and evil; so that these can no longer disturb his peace. It is to the subtle body that weakness pertains, and this is due to karma. Karma again has its origin in the agent, etc., and these are set up by the ignorance of the Self. And when the ignorance which is the cause of weakness is destroyed by the knowledge that “I, the True Inner Self, am Brahman,” he remains as one alone and grows all the stronger. Such, it is said, is the fruit accruing to him who knows his own Inner Self as described above,—as inherently wise, as inherently pure and inherently free.—(S).

He who has known that good and evil acts cause anxiety and that knowledge of the Self removes the anxiety, looks upon good and evil acts as the very Self. That is to say, following the teaching of the scriptures, he regards good and evil acts in their aspects as the Supreme Self. He never regards them in their aspects as good and evil which are mere creatures of Māyā. It is a fact known to all sages who see the reality. To the knower of Brahman, good and evil acts—whether it be those which were done in the past births or those which are done in the present birth—do not exist as such, as distinct from his own Self. When such is the case, it needs no saying that he suffers no pain arising from anxiety about them.


Conclusion of the Ānandavalli.

य एवं वेद ॥ ५ ॥

ya evaṃ veda || 5 ||

5. Such is the Sacred Wisdom.

Thus has been revealed, in this vallī, this Brahmavidya, this sacred wisdom, this supremely secret science among all sciences, the science wherein lies imbedded the HighestGood.

This vallī is spoken of as the Upaniṣad because it directly leads to the knowledge of the non-dual Brahman. But ‘Upaniṣad’ means wisdom itself; and wisdom is so called because it is by wisdom that a person approaches (upa+etya) the non-dual Brahman and attains (nip+sad) his fearless Self; whereas this sacred Vallī, as meant to impart that wisdom, is called Upaniṣad, only for courtesy’s sake, by those who know Brahman and have abandoned all desires.—(3).


The enlightened one is above sin.
(Vedānta-sūtras IV. i. 13).

(Question):—Is the enlightened man affected or not by the taint of sin?

(Prima facie view):—“No karma is exhausted even in hundreds of crores of eons (kalpas) without its fruit being reaped by the doer:” in these terms the scriptures declare that no sin is exhausted without its fruit being reaped; so that even he who has acquired knowledge of Brahman is affected by the taint of sin.

(Conclusion):—As against the foregoing we hold as follows: In the case of him who has realised the Unconditioned (nirguṇa) Brahman, one cannot so much as suspect that he will be affected by sin; for he is firmly convinced that he is Brahman, the non-agent, in all the three periods of time, past, present and future; he feels “I never acted, I do not act, I shall never act.” Certainly, not even the dull-witted would ever think that he who is not the doer of an act is affected by the results of the act. Neither is the knower of the Conditioned Brahman affected by sin, inasmuch as the śruti teaches that he is not tainted by sins and that all his sins peṛṣ. That he is not, after attaining an intuitive realisation (sākṣātkāra) of Brahman, affected by the sins which may be supposed to arise from his continued outward activities through the body and the senses, the śruti teaches in the following words:

“And as water does not cling to a lotus leaf,
so no evil deed clings to one who knows it.”[1]

And the śruti speaks also of the destruction of all the sins which accumulated, prior to the realisation of (Conditioned) Brahman, both here in this birth and in the past births:

“As the soft fibres of the iṣīkā reed, when thrown into the fire, are burnt, thus all his sins are burnt.”[2]

As to the assertion that no karma peṛṣes without yielding its fruit, it applies only to those persons who possess neither the knowledge of the Unconditioned Brahman nor that of the Conditioned Brahman. Wherefore we conclude that he who possesses a knowledge of Brahman is untainted by sin.


The enlightened one is above good deeds.
(Vedānta-sūtras. IV. i. 14)

(Question):—Is the enlightened one affected or not by good deeds (puṇya)?

(Prima facie view):—Though unaffected by sins, he may be affected by good deeds. As the good deeds are enjoined by the Vedas, they cannot be opposed to the Brahma-jñāna which is derived from the same source.

(Conclusion):—As against the foregoingwe hold as follows: The Self is not an agent, and, as such, He cannot be tainted by good deeds any more than by evil deeds. As to him who knows only the Conditioned Brahman, the śruti says in the Dahara-Vidyā that “all sins recede from him.”[3] The śruti here regards as sins all the good deeds other than the Contemplation of Brahman, inasmuch as the good deeds belonging to the category of interested acts give rise, like evil deeds, to inferior births and bodies; and it teaches that all good and evil deeds as well as their results (referred to in the passage preceding the one here quoted) are all evil and recede from the devotee of Brahman. “Both these, verily, does he cross beyond”:[4] in these words the śruti declares that the enlightened one crosses beyond good and evil deeds alike. Wherefore, we conclude that he is untainted by good deeds in the same way as he is untainted by evil ones.


The indestructibility of the prārabdha-karma.
(Vedānta-sūtras, IV. i. 15)

(Question):—Of the acts done prior to enlightenment, some have not begun to yield their fruits while others have given rise to the present birth. The question is, Is this latter portion of the acts liable to destruction on the rise of knowledge?

(Prima facie view):—With reference to both the classes of acts alike, the Self is not the agent, and therefore they prove false, both alike. From this it would follow that, like the good and evil acts which have not begun to yield their fruits, those which have begun to yield their fruits are liable to destruction on the very dawn of knowledge.

(Conclusion):—The śruti, experience (anubhava), and analogy, (yukti), all point to the indestructibility of the good and evil acts which have already begun to yield their fruits. The śruti says: “For him, there is only delay so

long as he is not delivered (from the body); then he will be perfect.”[5] This passage may be explained as follows: The Liberation of him who has known the Real, though delayed, is not delayed very long. It is delayed only so long as the vitalities (prāṇas) do not depart from the body; and this is because the span of life which has been fixed at the time of impregnation (garbhādhāna) cannot be shortened. And when the body and the vitality part with each other, then he becomes one with Brahman. Thus the śruti teaches in this passage that the enlightened one is subject to saṃśāra till the close of the present body. The experience of the enlightened ones clearly confirms the truth of this teaching. Now, as to analogy from ordinary experience: Though an archer is free to discharge or withhold an arrow so long as it remains in the quiver, still, once the arrow is discharged, he becomes helpless; and the discharged arrow drops down of itself on the exhaustion of the force imparted to it. We may also adduce the analogy of the revolving motion of the potter’s wheel. So, in the present case, too, the Brahma-jñāna may have power to destroy anārabdha-karma, i.e., the acts which have not yet begun to yield their fruits; but it has no power to destroy the ārabdha-karma, the acts which have already begun to yield their fruits. If the śruti, etc., do not admit the indestructibility of the ārabdha-karma, then, for want of a teacher, the wisdom-tradition (vidyā-sampradāya) would cease altogether. Certainly, it cannot be held that the unenlightened one would teach wisdom; and if the enlightened one were liberated at the very moment that he came by knowledge, who would be the teacher then? Hence the indestructibility of the good and evil deeds which have already begun their effects.


The indestructibility and use of obligatory acts.
(Vedānta-sūtras, IV. i. 16 - 17).

(Question):—Are the Agnihotra (fire-worship) and the like acts, which are enjoined as obligatory duties (nitya-karma), liable to destruction on the dawn of knowledge?

(Prima facie view):—It must be admitted that the Agnihotra and other obligatory acts done in this birth prior to the attainment of knowledge, or in previous births, are liable to destruction, equally with the interested (kāmya) acts, in virtue of the knowledge that Atman is not the agent.

(Conclusion):—As against the foregoing we hold as follows: An obligatory act is made up of two factors, the

primary factor conducing to the purification of chitta, the organ of thought, and the other, a secondary factor, yielding svarga and other fruits of the kind. We grant that the latter is liable to destruction. But since the other factor which conduces to the purification of chitta has served its purpose by helping the rise of knowledge, it is not possible to conceive it as having been destroyed. Indeed, no one looks upon rice and the like as lost when consumed as food. As to the obligatory acts done after the rise of knowledge, they, like the acts done with a view to reward, do not taint him who possesses knowledge.


All obligatory acts are aids to Wisdom.
(Vedanta-sūtras. IV. i. 18).

(Question):—The obligatory acts which conduce to the rise of knowledge may be classed under two heads, those which combine contemplation (upāsanā) in connection with some of their constituent parts, and those which do not combine it. The question is: Do both classes of obligatory acts alike conduce to the rise of knowledge? Or do those of the former class alone conduce to it?

(Prima facie view):—Those acts which combine contemplation in them are superior, and therefore they alone conduce to the rise of knowledge, not those which are devoid of contemplation.

(Conclusion):—“Whatever one does with Vidyā (knowledge, contemplation), that alone is more powerful.”[6] The śruti which, in these words, teaches that an act associated with contemplation has an increased power, implies that even an act which is unassociated with contemplation has power; otherwise, there would be no occasion for the use of the adjective in the comparative degree. Wherefore the acts which do not combine contemplation in them conduce to knowledge, as well as those which do combine it, but only to a smaller extent than the latter.


Liberation necessarily accrues from right knowledge.
(Vedānta-sūtras. III. iii. 32)

(Question) Does the knowledge of the real nature of Brahman necessarily lead to mokṣa or not?

(Prima facie view):—Those who have attained knowledge of Brahman do not necessarily attain mokṣa. It is said in the Purāṇas that, under the command of Viṣṇu, a Vedic teacher, Apāntaratamas by name, incarnated himself as Kṛṣṇa-Dvaipāyana at the end of the Dvāpara-yuga. Similarly, Sanatkumāra was born of Pārvati and Para-meśvara as Skanda. In the same way, several others, too, such as Vasiṣṭha, who were all possessed of true knowledge, were born here and there in other bodies, under the influence of a curse, or in fulfilment of a promise, or of their own accord.

(Conclusion):—All these persons to whom you have referred are rulers of the world; and having in a former cycle (kalpa) worshipped the Supreme Lord by mighty austerities, they have attained to positions of administrative power which they should hold through several births; and on the exhaustion of the karma whereof the fruits are being thus reaped, they will be liberated. And there being nothing which can prevent the true wisdom from consuming the acts which have not yet begun their effects, liberation accrues as a matter of necessity to him who has attained true wisdom.


Persistence of wisdom through subsequent incarnations.
(Vedānta-sūtras, IV, i. 19).

(Question):—Does or does not liberation accrue to those enlightened souls who will have to pass through several births in virtue of their prārabdha-karma?

(Prima facie view):—There is no liberation to the persons who hold positions of administrative power; for, when many incarnations have to be undertaken with a view to work out the effects of the prārabdha-karma, the true wisdom which was formerly acquired disappears; and, as a result of the acts done subsequently, a series of incarnations becomes inevitable.

(Conclusion):—The karma which has commenced its effect can only yield its own fruits in the form of happiness or misery, inasmuch as it operates only to that end. Indeed, none of the acts which were formerly done conduce to the loss of the true wisdom once acquired; so that it cannot be supposed that wisdom would be lost as a result of the past karma. Neither can it be supposed that loss of wisdom occurs during the interval caused by death; for, we see that wisdom is not lost during the interval caused by sleep. So that, wisdom persists through several births; and as the acts done in ever so many births after the attainment of wisdom do not taint the person, liberation does accrue to the rulers of the world.

Though this point was determined in the third adhyāya of the Vedānta-sūtras, it is again discussed in the fourth adhyāya by way of answering an objection.

Taittiriya 1

Footnotes and references:


Chhā. Up. 4-14-3.


Ibid. 5-24-3.


Chhā. Up. 8-4-1.


Bṛ. Up. 4-4-22.


Chhā. Up. 6–14–2.


Chhā. Up. 1–1–10.

Help me keep this site Ad-Free

For over a decade, this site has never bothered you with ads. I want to keep it that way. But I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased truth, wisdom and knowledge.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: