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 I - How to Investigate Brahman

The purpose of the sequel.

Having created the universe from ākāśa down to the physical bodies (annamaya) and then entered into that very universe, Brahman, “the Real, Consciousness, and the Infinite,” manifests Himself in the form of so many individual beings as it were; so that one should know “I am that very Brahman, that Bliss, who is quite distinct from all created objects, who is invisible” and so on; and it is with a view to produce this (knowledge) that He is spoken of as having entered into the very objects which He created. When a person knows thus, good and evil deeds do not lead him to any more births. This is the main drift of the teaching of the Ānanda-vallī.

The Ānanda-vallī has treated of that knowledge which is identical with the inherent Consciousness of Brahman, the Real, Consciousness, the Infinite, the True Inner Self—that inherent knowledge of Brahman which alone, penetrating the mind that has been prepared to receive it by the teaching of the śruti, can eradicate the root of ignorance.—(S).

And there ends the Brahma-vidyā. Now, tīio«, with a view to teach what the means to Brahma-vidyā is, the śruti proceeds in the sequel to treat of devotion (tapas), as also of the upāsanas of the Annamaya and the like.

It is true that in the Sāṃhitī-upaniṣad (śikṣā-vallī) works and contemplation were spoken of as means to Brah-ma-vidyā; but they are comparatively remote and indirect means (bahiranga-sādhana) to Brahma-vidyā. As the vichāra or investigation of Brahman, which is the proximate means to Brahma-vidyā, was not treated of in the Śikṣā-vallī, the present section proceeds to treat of the subject. The process of investigation of Brahman being treated of, the subsidiary processes of manana (reflection), etc, will also have been treated of.


The bearing of legends in the Upaniṣads.

With a view to extol Brahma-vidyā, the śruti starts with a story as follows:

भृगुर्वै वारुणिः । वरुणं पितरमुपससार । अधीहि भगवो ब्रह्मेति ॥ १ ॥

bhṛgurvai vāruṇiḥ | varuṇaṃ pitaramupasasāra | adhīhi bhagavo brahmeti || 1 ||

1. Bhṛgu, that son of Varuṇa, approached Varuṇa, his father, saying “Sir, teach me Brahman”

‘That’ shews that Bhṛgu was a celebrated personage.

There was a Maharshi (great sage), Bhrigu by name, the founder of a family (Gotra-pravartaka). He was a celebrated personage often referred to in the mantra and the brāhmaṇa portions of the Veda. “The descendants of Bhṛgu and Angiras shall consecrate Fire addressing Him ‘I consecrate Thee, O Lord of sacrifices, for the sacrifices of the Bhṛgus and the Angiras.’”[1]

Seeking to know Brahman, He approached Varuṇa, uttering the mantra “adhīhi bhagavo brahma,” which means, “Sir, teach me Brahman.”

He who seeks for the knowledge of the Supreme Brahman should approach the Master, the Guru, with faith and devotion, pure in mind, and uttering the appropriate mantra. With a feeling of revulsion from all pleasures ranging below the bfiss of mokṣa, Bhṛgu asked Varuṇa, “Teach me the Supreme Brahman.”—(S).

The story speaking of the master and his pupil points to the truth that Brahma-vidyā can be acquired only through a master (guru). The śruti says elsewhere,“That knowledge alone which is learnt from a teacher leads to real good.”[2]—(S).

That one should go to a teacher for Brahma-vidyā is taught in the śruti as follows:

“For a knowledge of That One, he should go to a Guru alone.”

The mantra means: Ponder well over Brahman, i. e., Ponder over Brahman in mind and teach me.

The story given here serves to extol Brahma-vidyā, saying that it was imparted by the father to his dear son.

That such stories are intended to extol Vidyā has been established by discussion in the Vedānta-sūtras:—


(Vedānta-sūtras, III. iv. 23 — 24.)

(Question): —During the Aśvamedha or horse-sacrifice, the Adhvaryu, the chief priest, should assemble at nights the king (the sacrificer) and his family and tell them some Vedic legends and other chaste stories. This narration is called the pāriplava. Now a question arises as to whether the legend of Yājñavalkya and his two wives, the legend of Janaka and his assembly of sages, and other such legends occurring in the Upaniṣads, are meant for the pāriplava enjoined in the śruti.

(Prima facie view): —They must have been meant for the pāviplava. If meant for that purpose, the legends in the Upaniṣads w'ould subserve the purposes of ritual; and this is to serve a better purpose than the mere extolling of Vidyā or knowledge.

(Conclusion): —The legends of the Upaniṣads cannot have been meant for the pāviplava, inasmuch as the legends to be so narrated are specified: the legend to be recited on the first day shall be about Manu, the king, son of Vivasvat; on the second day, about Yama, the king, son of Vivasvat; and so on. If the legends in the Upaniṣads are explained as meant to extol the Vidyās with which they are connected, then there will be a unity of purpose running through the legends and the Vidyās, which are treated of together in the same sections, Therefore we conclude that the Upaniṣads legends serve the purpose of extolling the Vidyās.


Gateways to the knowledge of Brahman.

The Śruti proceeds to show how Varuṇa taught his son the way to the knowledge of Brahman.

तस्मा एतत्प्रोवाच । अन्नं प्राणं चक्षुः श्रोत्रं मनो वाचमिति ॥ २ ॥

tasmā etatprovāca । annaṃ prāṇaṃ cakṣuḥ śrotraṃ mano vācamiti ॥ २ ॥

2. To him he said this: Food, life, sight, hearing, mind, speech.

When the son approached the father in due fashion, the father taught the son in the following words: food, life, sight, hearing, mind, speech. That is to say, he referred to the food or the body, to the life within the body, i e., the eater, as also to the organs of perception such as sight, hearing, mind and speech,—he referred to these as the gates to the perception of Brahman.

Food: the upādāna or material cause of the physical body. Life: Prāṇa, the vital air functioning in five different ways. Sight, etc., are the organs of perception.—(S).

Food, life, etc., are mentioned here with a view to point out an easy way to knowledge, namely, the method of anvaya-vyatireka, i. e., of “conjoint presence and absence.” It leads us to this conclusion: the body, etc., are inconstant and cannot therefore be the Self, whereas the Self is constant and must therefore be Brahman.—(S).

Or, it may be that the words “food, life, sight,” etc., serve to define Brahman,—the Infinite, the Unutterable,—as one with our Inner Self, the Pratyagātman. This explanation is also consonant with the śruti which describes Brahman as “the Life of life.” The accusative case, too, in which the words ‘food (anna)’, etc., are used, here, can be better explained when they are regarded as definitions of Brahman.—(S).

To Bhṛgu who approached him uttering the mantra, his father taught the gateway to the knowledge of Brahman. Food, life and mind are the material cause of the Annamaya, the Prāṇamaya, and the Manomaya sheaths. Sight, hearing and speech, too, are, like the mind, gateways to the knowledge. The śruti means to include among these the organs not mentioned here, such as touch and other organs of sensation, as also the hand and other organs of action. When we say “the moon is at the tip of the branch” the tip of the branch pointing to the moon forms an index to the moon, and so serves as a means to the perception of the moon. Similarly, food, life, etc., are means to the perception of Brahman hid in the cave, by way of hinting at Him. That they are means to the knowledge of Brahman is clearly taught in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka as follows:

“They who know the life of life, the sight of the sight, the hearing of hearing, the mind of the mind, they have comprehended the ancient, primeval Brahman.”[3]

It is easy to know Brahman through food, vital air, etc.,— to know Him as the Food, the Life, etc.,—because Brahman is the basic Reality underlying all illusory manifestations such as food, life, etc. That is to say, Brahman should be sought through food, the vital air, etc., which are identified with the Ego.


Brahman defined indirectly.

तं होवाच । यतो वा इमानि भूतानि जायन्ते । येन जातानि जीवन्ति । यत्प्रयन्त्यभिसंविशन्ति । तद्विजिज्ञासस्व । तद्ब्रह्मेति ॥ ३ ॥

taṃ hovāca | yato vā imāni bhūtāni jāyante | yena jātāni jīvanti | yatprayantyabhisaṃviśanti | tadvijijñāsasva | tadbrahmeti || 3 ||

3. To him, verily, he said: Whence indeed these beings are born; whereby, when born, they live; wherein, when departing, they enter; That seek thou to know; That is Brahman.

Having taught that these—food, etc.,—are the gateways, Varuṇa taught Bhṛgu the definition of Brahman.—What is that definition?—The definition of Brahman is this: Brahman is that wherefrom these beings, from Brahmā down to plants, are born; whereby, when born, they live— i. e., they maintain vital functions,—and grow; and wherein, when departing, they enter i. e., wherewith they attain unity at dissolution. That is to say, Brahman is that wherewith no object in the creation can ever cease to remain in unity, (i. e., wherewith they remain one always), at birth, during their stay and also at dissolution.

Be it known that Brahman is that, wherefrom none of the beings, from Brahmā down to unmoving objects, can ever exist apart, at birth, during stay or at dissolution,—(S).

Now the śruti proceeds to give the definition of Brahman and to shew that investigation is the means to the knowledge of Brahman. Seeing that Bhṛgu, on hearing of the gateways to the knowledge of Brahman, was very anxious to know Brahman, Varuṇa, the most friendly and credible teacher as he was, taught Bhṛgu further, without any question on his part. Brahman is that wherefrom are born all these creatures, comprising the live primary elements of matter such as ākāśa, as also all sentient beings possessed of material bodies from the Hiraṇyagarbha down to plants,— the word ‘indeed’ pointing to the well-known teaching of the śruti which elsewhere says “He these worlds did create;”— that One whereby the creatures, when born, are sustained; that One wherein all these beings enter when undergoing destruction; just as foam, waves, bubbles, etc., have their birth, being, and dissolution in the one ocean.


Investigation of Brahman is necessary.

Do thou seek to know particularly that One, viz., Brahman. That is to say, do thou reach Brahman thus defined, through the gateways of food, etc. The śruti elsewhere says that these form the gateways to the knowledge of Brahman:

“They who know the life of life, the sight of sight, the hearing of hearing, the mind of the mind, they have comprehended the ancient, primeval Brahman.”[4]

Do thou seek to know Brahman thus defined, that One who is not born or destroyed when the universe is born or destroyed.—(S).

Do thou investigate that Thing which is the cause of the world’s birth, being and destruction; and this Thing is Brahman, of which thou hast asked.

The necessity for an investigation of Brahman has been discussed as follows in the Vedānta-sutras:


(Vedānta-sūtras I. i. i).

(Question):—“The Ātman, verily, my dear, should be seen; He should be heard, reflected and meditated upon”:[5] in these words the śruti, referring to the perception of Ātman as an end, prescribes ‘hearing’ as the means to that end. ‘Hearing (śravaṇa)’ means that process of investigation which leads to the conviction that Vedāntic texts treat solely of Brahman. Now a doubt arises as to whether there exists a necessity for a science which treats of the principles of investigation into the nature of Brahman.

(Prima facie view):—There exists no necessity for such a science; for, there is nothing to be discussed, and no purpose to be gained. Discussion is necessary where there is room for doubt; but no doubt arises as to the nature of Brahman. If a doubt arises at all, is it, we ask, about His aspect as Brahman or about His aspect as the Self? It cannot be about His aspect as Brahman, for the śruti has determined it as “Real, Consciousness, Infinite.”[6] Neither can it be about the aspect as the Self, for, this too is determined in the consciousness of “I.” Do you say that this consciousness of ‘I’ is an illusion, inasmuch as it refers to the illusory self? It cannot be so, for, the illusoriness of this self cannot be made out. It is not possible to explain how illusion can cause, as in the case of the mother-of-pearl and silver, the notion ofmutual identity of the Self and the body, seeing that they are so entirely opposed to each other like light and darkness, the one being sentient and the other insentient. Thus, since no doubt can arise as to what has been determined by the śruti and our self-consciousness, there is no occasion for any discussion. Neither do we see that any purpose is served by the discussion; for, no liberation is seen to follow even when the nature of Brahman, the Self, is determined as revealed in the śruti and in our Consciousness. Wherefore, Brahman being not worth investigation, there exists no necessity for the science.

(Conclusion):—There does exist a necessity for the science, because there is a subject worth discussion and a purpose served by it. Brahman, the Self, is a thing which admits of doubt, owing to the mutual contradiction between the śruti and the consciousness of ‘I.’ In the words “This one, the Self, is Brahman,”[7] the śruti teaches that Brahman who is without any attachment whatever is identical with the Self, whereas the consciousness of ego in such forms as “I am a man,” comprehends the Self as one with the body. And the inexplicability of the illusion only proves the existence of the illusion. Therefore there is a subject of doubt here, and it forms the subject of discussion. That liberation results from a determinate knowledge of the subject can be clearly made out both from the śruti and from the experience of the wise. Therefore, inasmuch as we have to investigate Brahman by way of investigating the meaning of Vedāntic texts, there exists a necessity for the science.


Brahman can be defined.

The investigation of a thing has for its end the ascertainment of the real nature of the thing through definition and proper evidence. The definition of Brahman is thus discussed:


(Vedānta-sūtras. I. i. 2).

(Question):—The definition of Brahman is given by the śruti here in the following passages:

“Whence indeed these beings are born; whereby, when born, they live; whither, when departing, they enter: That, seek thou to know; That is Brahman.”

“Real, Consciousness, Infinite is Brahman.”

Here a doubt arises as to whether this definition of Brahman holds good.

(Prima facie view):—It does not hold good. We ask, what are the defining marks of Brahman? Is it the birth See., or the reality, etc., that constitute the definition? Birth, &c., cannot be the defining marks of Brahman, for, they inhere in the universe and do not pertain to Brahman. Neither can reality, &c., be the defining marks of Brahman; for, such reality and consciousness, etc., as our experience knows of have distinct meanings and relate to distinct things, and so cannot lead to a knowledge of the one indivisible Brahman. And it does not stand to reason to say that such reality and consciousness as our experience does not know of are the defining marks of Brahman. It is not therefore possible to define Brahman either directly or indirectly.

(Conclusion):—As against the foregoing we hold as follows: Though birth, &c., inhere elsewhere, Brahman may be defined indirectly as the cause of the birth, etc., this causality being falsely ascribed to Brahman. We say, for instance, “(what appeared to be) the serpent is this garland.” So it is possible to define Brahman through what is ascribed to Him, thus: Brahman is that which is the cause of the universe. Just as it is not incompatible that one single person, Devadatta, should be spoken of as father, son, brother, son-in-law, etc., though these words have quite distinct meanings, so also the words “Real, Consciousness” etc., which, as understood in their ordinary sense, convey distinct meanings and refer to distinct things, may point to the indivisible non-dual Brahman and thus constitute the direct definition (svarūpa-lakṣaṇa as opposed to taṭastha-lakṣaṇa) of Brahman.


Brahman is the source of the Veda.

By way of justifying this definition, it has been determined in the Vedānta-sūtras that Brahman is the author of the Vedas:


(Vedānta-sūtras, I. i. 3).

(Question):—The Upaniṣad says:

“From this Great Being has been breathed forth what we have as Āig-Veda, Yajur-Veda, Sāma-Veda,” etc.[8]

That is to say, all this Veda has come forth from the ever-existent Brahman, without any effort, like breath. Here a doubt arises as to whether Brahman is the author of the Veda or not.

(Prima facie view):—Brahman is not the author of the Veda, for, the Veda is eternal. In one of the Vedic verses, a sage prays to his God for inspiration to praise Him with the Eternal Speech; and the Eternal Speech is none other than the Veda. The smṛti says:

“In the beginning was projected by the Self-born (Brahmā) the Veda, the Eternal Divine Word, whence all this evolution proceeds.”

Therefore Brahman is not the author of the Veda.

(Conclusion):—As against the foregoing we hold as follows: It is meet that Brahman is the author of the

Veda; for, we are given to understand that the Veda came forth without any effort, like breath. “From that Adorable One (Yajña), who is worshipped by all, the Aik and Sāman were born:”[9] thus the śruti clearly teaches that the Veda was born of Brahman,—here called Yajña or the Adorable One, who is worshipped in all sacrifices. Having come forth from Brahman without any effort on His part, it is distinguished from the productions of such authors as Kalidasa who first conceived of the things to be treated of in their works and then composed those works; and so far, it is unlike any work produced by a person. Being reproduced at each creation exactly as it was in the preceding creation, it is eternal, as running in one continuous stream. When it is made out that Brahman is the author of the Veda which treats of the whole scheme of the universe, it is also made out that He is Omniscient.


The Veda is the sole authority regarding Brahman.

Having thus justified the definition, the discussion in the same section of the Vedānta-sūtras proceeds to determine that Revelation (Āgama) is the sole authority regarding Brahman.

(Question):—“Of that Vupaniṣadic Being, verily, I ask:”[10] these words addressed by Yājñavalkya to Śākalya give us to understand that the Supreme Brahman is a being knowable through the Upaniṣads. Now a doubt arises as to whether Brahman can be known through sensuous perception, &c.

(Prima facie view):—As an objective reality, Brahman must, like all objects such as a pot, come within the ken of sensuous perception, etc.

(Conclusion):—Being devoid of colour, taste, etc., Brahman does not come within the scope of sensuous perception; and being devoid of invariably associated attributes, He cannot be known through inference (anumāna); being not similar to any thing known, He cannot be known through comparison (upamāna). fie can be known only through the Vedas; for ‘Aupaniṣada’ means ‘knowable only through the Upaniṣads’; and the śruti expressly denies other sources of knowledge in the words “He who knows not the Veda, knows not Him, the Great One.”

(Objection):—According to the Bhāṣyakāra (Śaṅkarā-chārya), who, in his commentary on the Vedānta-sūtras, I. i. 2., says “Śruti, etc., and also experience, etc., are authorities here, each in its way,” Brahman is also known through other sources of knowledge.

(Answer):—It is true: Brahman is primarily ascertained solely through the Vedas, and then experience and inference are let in as corroborative evidence, in explaining the teaching of the śruti. Wherefore Brahman is known solely through the Veda.


The Upaniṣad is the authority regarding Brahman.
(Vedānta-sūtras. I. i. 4.)

(Question):—Do the Vedāntic texts (Upaniṣads) treat mainly of Brahman, or do they treat only of the agent, the Devatā, &c., connected with the ritual?

(Prima facie view):—The texts that treat of jīva mainly refer to the nature of the agent concerned with the rituals; those that treat of Brahman mainly refer to the Devatā to be worshipped through the rituals; and those that treat of creation mainly refer to the things employed in the rituals. Thus, the Vedāntic texts will subserve the performance of the ritual. If they treat of Brahman in the main, then they would not subserve the ritual and would therefore be of no use. Wherefore the main aim of the Vedāntic texts is to throwr light on the nature of the agent, the Devatā, and other accessories connected with the ritual.

(Conclusion):—The Vedāntic texts treat mainly of Brahman; for, as occurring in an entirely different section, it cannot be held that they are subsidiary to the ritual by way of describing the agent and other factors connected with the ritual, while the six marks which go to determine what the main theme of a section is show that the Vedāntic texts treat mainly of Brahman.

The six marks (liṇgas) by which the main theme of a section can be determined, are enumerated by teachers of old as follows:

  1. {Upakrama, commencement.
    {Upasamhāra, conclusion.
  2. Abhyāsa, reiteration.
  3. Apūrvatā, unprecedentedness.
  4. Phala, fruit.
  5. Arthavāda, explanatory statement.
  6. Upapatti, illustration.

1. The śruti begins, “In the beginning there was Existence alone, one only without a second”,[11] and concludes as follows: “All this has its being in It; It is the True; It is the Self; and That Thou art.”[12] The agreement between the commencement and conclusion of a section, both of which alike refer to Brahman, constitutes one mark.

2. Reiteration is the frequent repetition of “That, Thou art.”

3. Unprecedentedness consists in Brahman being inaccessible to any other pramāṇa or instrument of knowledge.

4. The specific fruit is the knowledge of all, resulting from the knowledge of the One.

5. The explanatory statements are those which speak of Brahman as creating, sustaining, destroying, entering into, and governing the universe.

6. Illustration consists in adducing such analogical instances as clay.

By these marks we have to conclude that Brahman is the main theme of the Upaniṣads. It cannot be contended that this knowledge is of no use, as not subserving the ritual; for, it is possible that cessation of evil may follow knowledge, as in the case of the knowledge “this is not a serpent, it is only a rope.”


Injunction is not the main theme of the Upaniṣads.
(Vedānta-sūtras I. i. 4).

(Question):—Do the Upaniṣads mainly enjoin knowledge? or do they treat mainly of Brahman?

(Prima facie view):—Some Vedāntins maintain as follows: Though the Vedāntic texts treat of Brahman, they do not end there alone. On the other hand, they first treat of the true nature of Brahman without producing immediate consciousness of Brahman, and then enjoin the achievement of immediate cognition of Brahman. Thus alone, as ordaining action, the Vedāntic texts may well be spoken of as Sāstra, commandment. Moreover, after enjoining śravaṇa or knowledge acquired by a study of the texts, the Upaniṣads clearly enjoin the realisation of Brahman in one’s own experience by means of reflection and meditation. Wherefore the main purpose of the Vedānta is to enjoin’ knowledge.

(Conclusion):—As against the foregoing we hold as follows: Knowledge cannot form the subject of an injunction; for, knowledge cannot be done or undone or otherwise done, and does not therefore depend on man’s will. And the Śāstra is so called not necessarily because it commands (śās = to command) duties; but it may be so called also because it expounds (śaṃs — to relate) the nature of what exists in nature. It cannot, moreover, be maintained that, an indirect knowledge of Brahman having been first acquired through the Vedāntic texts, the Vedanta then enjoins the realisation of Brahman in experience by means of reflection and meditation. Like the words “Thou art the tenth man,” the texts can, by themselves, give rise to an immediate knowledge; and it is only prior to the acquiring of the immediate knowledge of Brahman through the Vedāntic texts that reflection and meditation, which are forms of activity dependent on man’s will, are enjoined, with a view to check the rise of false notions and to remove the idea that absolute unity is an impossibility. Wherefore the Vedāntic texts, such as “That, Thou art,” end by treating of Brahman.


The threefold process of investigation.

This investigation into the meaning of the Vedāntic texts with a view to determine the real nature of Brahman is enjoined here in this Upaniṣad in the words “That, seek thou to know.” The same injunction occurs in another Upaniṣad which reads, “The Self should be heard, reflected and meditated upon.”[14] The meaning of this passage is given in a passage of the smṛti:

“He should be heard through the words of the śruti, and reflected upon by reasoning; and when reflected upon, He should be meditated constantly. These are the means to the perception of the Self.”

The Purāṇa also says:

“Now, O eminent sages, Śravaṇa is the mere determination of the main drift of all the Vedāntic texts as shewn by such marks as upakrama,[13] &c., under the guidance of a beloved teacher. Manana means the act of reflecting upon that teaching by applying to it such course of reasoning as will go to support the teaching. Nididhyāsana means one-pointedness of mind in Sravana and Manana. Sravana, O sages, is the direct cause of the rise of knowledge, whereas reflection and meditation, which are calculated to eliminate foreign elements, are indirect causes, while the control of the mind and the senses, and the like, constitute the necessary conditions of investigation.

These three processes of study, reflection and meditation are enjoined under the designations of learning (pāṇḍitya), childhood (bālya) and saintliness (mauna), in the Kahola-Brāhmaṇa which reads:

“Let a Brāhmaṇa, after having fully attained learning, seek to abide in childhood; and having fully attained learning and childhood, he then becomes a saint; and after having fully understood saintliness and unsaintliness, he becomes a Brāhmaṇa.”[15]

That is to say, on completing the three processes, his true nature as one with Brahman manifests itself in him, and he becomes a Brāhmana in the literal and primary sense of the word. Here the word ‘childhood,’ as implying purity of mind which is one of the essential conditions of the process of reflection, stands for manana.


Necessity of mental purity.
(Vedānta-sūtras, III. iv. 50).

(Question):—The Upaniṣad says ‘Let a Brāhmaṇa..... seek to abide in childhood.’ Does ‘childhood’ here mean the period of life so-called, or an unregulated course of life, or purity of mind?

(Prima facie view):—The word ordinarily means a particular period of life; but then it cannot form the subject of an injunction. Then let us understand it in the sense of unregulated course of action and speech. But, ‘childhood’ can never mean purity of mind.

(Conclusion):—As against the foregoing we hold as follows: ‘Learning’ and ‘saintliness’ stand for śravaṇa or study of the scriptures and nididhyāsana or deep meditation on the Vedāntic teaching. As occurring between these two, ‘childhood’ must stand for manana or reflection. And purity of mind is an essential condition of this process, since, when influenced by feelings of attachment and hatred or by sense of honor and disgrace, or by such other passions, a person is unable to reflect and check the outward course of the mind. If ‘childhood’ is understood in the sense of ‘behaviour of a child,’ it may as well mean purity of mind as unrestricted course of action and speech,—both alike being associated with a child. But the child-age and unrestricted life are of no use in the process of reflection; on the other hand, they are quite inimical to it, inasmuch as the mind which is quite uncultured or engrossed in external activities makes reflection altogether impossible. Wherefore ‘childhood’ is here used in the sense of purity of mind, not in the other two senses.


Necessity of Meditation.
(Vedānta-Sūtras, III. iv. 47—49).

In the Kahola-Brāhmaṇa it is said:

“Let a Brāhmaṇa, after having fully attained learning, seek to abide in childhood; and having fully attained learning and childhood, he then becomes a saint; and after having fully understood saintliness and unsaintliness, he becomes a Brahman.”[16]

The meaning of this passage may be explained as follows: Since the highest end of man is to be Brahman, a person seeks to attain to that state. To this end, he should first attain full learning by way of determining the main drift of the teaching of the Upaniṣads; and then, remaining like a child, without such feelings as attachment and hatred, he should strive to remain constantly brooding over the arguments with a view to dispel all idea of impossibility as to the teaching of the Upaniṣads. Then having completed learning and reflection he becomes ci saint (muni).—Now, the question arises as to whether saintliness (manna) is enjoined here as an essential step.

(Prima facie view): —It is not an essential step, inasmuch as the words of the śruti do not convey an injunction. Neither can we make out that the śruti means an injunction here; for, being comprehended in pānditya, manna is not a thing to be freshly enjoined. The word ‘ pānditya’ means knowledge as also ‘ mauna' (from man—to know). So mauna is not enjoined in this connection.

(Conclusion): —As against the foregoing we hold as follows: As a repetition through the word ‘mauna,’ of learning or knowledge (pāṇḍitya) already mentioned serves no purpose, the word means here constant devotion to knowledge, which has not been already taught; and by understanding in this connection the words “seek to abide” occurring in the previous clause, we can make out an injunction; and constant devotion to knowledge serves a definite purpose, as it conduces to the removal of strong dualistic tendencies (vāsanās) which are ingrained in the mind. Wherefore saintliness (mauna) which means the same as deep meditation (nididhyāsana) is enjoined in this connection..


Investigation to be continued till intuition is attained.
(Vedānta-sūtras, IV. i. 1-2)

(Question):—Are the several steps—such as śravaṇa—in the process of investigation to be carried on once only, or are they to be repeated as often as necessary?

(Prima facie view): —“Once observed the command of the scriptures has been obeyed.” This is the principle laid down in regard to the sacrificial rites, such as Prayāja, enjoined in the Vedas. On the same principle, it will be enough if the several steps in the process of investigation have been once gone through.

(Conclusion):—As against the foregoing contention we argue as follows. The principle enunciated above applies to those acts whose ultimate fruits lie beyond our ken; whereas here we can make out the result of the investigation to be the attainment of the sākṣātkāra or an intuitive knowledge of Brahman, which is a visible result. On the principle that it is unreasonable to imagine an invisible result, when a visible result can be made out, we hold that Śravaṇa, etc., should be repeated till the result is attained, just as it is held that rice should be threshed till the husk is removed.


Brahman as the cause of the universe.

Frequent repetition of the process of investigation comprising the study of texts, etc., leads to an intuitive knowledge of Brahman defined above in the words “Whence all these beings are born,”etc. The word “whence” here

refers to the cause of the birth, etc., of all beings, namely Brahman, and shews that Brahman is both the material (upādāna) and the efficient (nimitta) cause. Brahman is here defined as the cause, not only of the birth of the universe, but also of the sustenance and dissolution of the universe. He is described as the cause of the sustenance of beings with a view to shew that He is not a mere efficient cause like the weaver of a cloth. To shew that He is not a mere accidental cause (asamavāyi-kāraṇa) like the union of threads, He is described as the cause of dissolution. To describe that He is the cause of the birth, sustenance and dissolution of the universe, is tantamount to saying that He is the efficient, the accidental, as well as the material cause of the universe,—all in one.

(Objection): —It is nowhere taught that the bhūtas or root-elements of matter have a birth; and as all material beings are born of the elements of matter, Brahman cannot be the material cause of the universe.

(Answer):— Not so; for, the śruti teaches that the root-elements of matter have had birth. We are conscious that earth exists, that water exists, and so on, and thus we see that the idea of existence runs through all elements of matter as we perceive them; so that, existence is the material cause of the elements of matter. And this existence is Brahman. The elements of matter are only the forms through which Brahman constitutes the cause of material objects, just as, in the form of a clod, clay becomes the cause of a pot. But it is existence which is the material cause of the universe as clay is of the pot, inasmuch as we find existence running through all material things as experienced by us.—The unenlightened, for instance, regard that the material cause of a cloth consists of several threads,'even though it is one long thread of which the cloth is woven.

As against the theory that ākāśa, time, etc., are eternal, we hold that, like pots and trays, they must have had a birth since they are conceived as distinct from other objects of our experience (and belong as such to the world of duality and phenomena).


Brahman as omniscient and omnipotent.

The universe that has been created is of utmost variety, and we cannot explain this except by supposing that Brahman, its Creator, is omniscient and omnipotent. Certainly no person other than one who possesses requisite knowledge and power can build mansions of wonderful designs.— Though Brahman, who is without sense-organs, does not possess such instruments of knowledge as sensuous perception through which all things are cognised, still, having regard to the śruti and reasoning, we should admit that Brahman is all-knowing. The śruti speaks of Brahman as one “who is all-knowing and all-wise.”[17] The same thing may be made out by reasoning as follows: The con

sciousness (chaitanya)which is reflected in all transformations of Māyā as objects of cognition constitutes what we call the experience of those objects. As Brahman’s consciousness is the basic reality underlying all those phenomenal manifestations which are called objects of cognition, it may be readily seen that Brahman possesses knowledge of all the things of the present moment. Though the objects of the past as well as the modifications of Māyā corresponding to them disappeared, impressions of these latter are retained, as in our own case, as memories of the objects of past experi-rience, which are also transformations of Māyā; and through His consciousness being reflected in them, He possesses knowledge of all the things in the past. Similarly, as a potter has a clear conception of the pot even prior to making it, so Brahman possesses a knowledge of all that is to happen in future, as the transformations of His māyā. Wherefore from the stand-point of reasoning, we can make out that Brahman is omniscient.

That He possesses all powers is taught both in the śruti and in the smṛti. The śrujti says: “His Supreme Power is many-sided;”[18] and the smṛti also says:

“There are in all things potentialities which are unthinkable, but of whose existence there is ample proof. So, there are potentialities, such as those of creation, inherent in Brahman, as heat is in fire.”[19]


To define Brahman as the cause is to define Him indirectly.

This omnipotent Brahman is defined as the cause of the birth, etc., of the universe. Though birth, etc., pertain to the universe, the causality connected therewith pertains to Brahman, and therefore the definition given above holds good. It should not be urged that if causality, which means association with an act, should, as the defining mark, constitute an inherent attribute of Brahman like the luminosity of the moon, it would detract from the immutability of Brahman. Causality—we say— pertains to Brahman through His upādhi, and, as such, constitutes an indirect definition of Brahman. When, for instance, Devadatta’s house, is defined as the one on which a crow is perched, this feature of being perched upon by a crow does not constitute an inherent attribute of the house, inasmuch as, on the departure of the crow, there is no idea that the house is wanting in any of its parts; so that the feature of being perched upon by the crow is a purely accidental attribute of the house and constitutes but an indirect definition of Devadatta’s house. So also here; causality is a feature of Brahman due to His accidental connection with the birth, etc., of the universe, and constitutes but an indirect definition of Brahman.


This definition is not incompatible with Brahman’s non-duality.

This feature of Brahman is illusory and does not detract from Brahman’s non-duality. In such cases as ‘the serpent is a rope,’ ‘the silver is the mother-of-pearl’, the illusory features, such as serpent and silver, are used as the defining marks of the rope and the mother-of-pearl, because of an illusory association between the two; so can causality be a defining mark of Brahman.


Maya as Brahman’s coefficient.

Brahman is regarded as the cause, only in so far as He is the basis of illusion, while it is Māyā which is directly concerned with the change (vikāra); and this sort of Brahman’s causality does not detract from His unconcernedness. As Existence and Consciousness, Brahman is present throughout the whole universe; and as the basic changing principle, Māyā is also present throughout the universe; so that both together constitute the material cause of the universe. It we are to determine which of the two is the prominent factor in the causality, it would depend upon the stand-point of view from which the matter is considered. We may view them as two cords entwined together into one string, or as a being and his potentiality, or as illusion and the basic reality underlying it. In a rope made up of two strings, the two strings are the material cause of the rope, and are equally prominent; on this analogy some regard Brahman and Māyā as of equal prominence as the material cause of the universe. There are Others who, on the analogy of fire and its burning power, regard Brahman as the more prominent factor. When we say that fire burns, it is,the burning power of the fire that achieves the act of burning; still, inasmuch as the power depends for its being on its possessor, prominence is given to fire; so also, Māyā, as a mere potentiality, is regarded as secondary in reference to Brahman who, as the possessor of Māyā, is regarded as the primary cause. Some others, again, assign prominence to Māyā on the analogy of a rope mistaken for a serpent. Though the serpent has no form apart from that of the rope, still, at the time of illusion, the rope is altogether ignored and the serpent is prominently present in consciousness. On all hands, the declaration of the śruti that Brahman is the cause of the universe applies to Brahman conditioned by Māyā.


Devotion is the essential condition of Brahmavidya.

स तपोऽतप्यत ॥ ४ ॥

sa tapo'tapyata || 4 ||

4. He resorted to devotion.

Having learned from his father the gateways to the perception of Brahman as well as the definition of Brahman, Bhṛgu betook himself to devotion, tapas, as the means to the perception of Brahman.

(Question):—Whence, then, this belief of Bhṛgu, that devotion is the means to the perception of Brahman?

(Answer):—Because of the incomplete teaching. Varuṇa taught the gateways to the perception of Brahman, such as food, as also the definition of Brahman, “whence these beings...”. This teaching indeed is incomplete; for, Brahman has not been described as He is in Himself. Differently indeed should Vajruṇa have taught Brahman to his son who was so anxious to know: he should have taught what Brahman was

in Himself, ‘ Brahman is this, He is so and so/ But he did not describe Brahman in that way; on the contrary the teaching was incomplete. So, Bhṛgu understood that his father had certainly in view yet another means to the knowledge of Brahman. And he hit upon devotion as the particular one in view because it is the most effective means of all. It is indeed a well-known truth that of all specific means to the respective specific ends, devotion (tapas) is the most effective means.

Even after teaching what Brahman was in Himself—that food, life &c., is Brahman,—the father gave an indirect definition of Brahman in the words £< whence all these beings are born,” etc. If the father had regarded that his teaching of Brahman was complete when he had taught that Brahman was one with one’s own Inner Self, he would not have given subsequently the indirect definition of Brahman. Accordingly, seeing that Brahman was not completely taught, and believing therefore that his father had certainly in view some appropriate means to the end, Bhṛgu betook himself to devotion, though not taught by the father to do so. And, of all means, he resorted to tapas, inasmuch as it is the most effective means, as the smṛti says,

“Whatever is hard to be traversed, whatever is hard to be attained, whatever is hard to be reached, whatever is hard to be performed, all this may be achieved by devotion (tapas); for devotion possesses a power which it is difficult to surpass.”[20]— (S).

Therefore Bhṛgu hit upon tapas as the means to the knowledge of Brahman, though not taught by his father.

And the particular mode of tapas here meant is the composure or concentration (samādhāna) of the external and internal organs of knowledge, inasmuch as that forms the doorway to the realisation of Brahman.

“And one-pointedness of the mind and the sense-organs is indeed the highest devotion. It is superior to all dharmas and it is the Supreme Dharma, they say.”

This is the subjective or internal (ādhyātmika) tapas, one which is appropriate to the end here in view. But even such kinds of tapas as are generally known to people, comprising acts of self-mortification in body and mind, are helpful though as a remote means to the end in view.— (S).

Or, the tapas here meant is the meditating upon the subject by the method of anvaya-vyatireka, of agreement and difference, since this can lead to the knowledge “I am Brahman.” Vyāsa has said:

“Who am I? Whose or whence? What will one become and how? Thus should the aspirant of liberation ever enquire, seeking to achieve the purpose of life.”

Accordingly, for a seeker of mokṣa, this is the appropriate tapas, as it is conducive to salvation. Even the definition of Brahman given here in the words “whence verily, these beings are born” etc., shews that this kind of tapas is the one meant here: for, in these words, the śruti directs attention to the application of the method of anvaya-vyati-rfeka thus: the creatures have birth, &c., and are therefore not the Ātman, whereas Brahman is devoid of birth, &c., and is therefore the Ātman.—(S).

Devotion (tapas) means the duty of the fourfold āśrama or religious life, which is the means to Brahma-jñāna. It has no doubt been shewn in the Vedānta-sūtras III. iv. 36—38 that even those acts—such as japa or mere recitation of sacred formulas, fasting (upavāsa), divine worship, and such other acts of piety to which any man may resort —which lie outside the duties of the four recognised āśramas, lead to Brahmajñāna; but in III. iv. 39, it has been settled that devotion in one of the four recognised orders of religious life is superior to devotion outside the four recognised orders. The word tapas (devotion) is applied, in the śruti and the smṛti, to the observance of the duties prescribed for the four recognised orders. Of the duty of a brahmachārin it is said, “study of one’s scriptures is tapas indeed”; of the duty of a gṛhastha or householder, “It is, verily, tapas, they say, that one gives away one’s property”; of the duty of a Vānaprastha or forest-dweller, “there is no higher tapas than fasting”; and the duty of a saṃnyāsin is thus spoken of:

“And one-pointedness of mind and the senses is indeed the highest tapas.”

The study of scriptures supplies the authoritative source of the knowledge of Brahman; by acts of charity and gift, one attains vividiṣā or a desire for knowledge, as the śruti says, “they attain a desire for knowledge, by sacrifice and gift;” fasting, as is well known, acts as a check upon the imperiousness of the senses, and the śruti declares that concentration is the direct means to knowledge: “But He is seen through sharp intelligence.”[21] Accordingly Bhṛgu betook himself to devotion in the fourth order of life, as a saṇmyāsin, having renounced all concern with ritual, and engaged in the concentration of the mind and the senses.


The sruti recognises the order of celibates.

In the Vedānta-sūtras III. iv. 1-17, it is settled that Self-knowledge is the independent means to mokṣa. And this Self-knowledge is easy of acquisition in the case of him who belongs to the order of celibates. The next section of the Vedānta-sūtras establishes that celebates form a recognised āśrama or order of religious life.


(Vedānta-sūtras, III. iv. 18—20).

(Question):—Is there a recognised order of celibates or no?

(Prima facie view):—There is no recognised order of religious life; for, no such order is enjoined in the śruti. The Chhāndogya-upaniṣad says, “There are three branches of Law: sacrifice, study and charity are the first, austerity the second, and to dwell as a religious student in the house of a tutor is the third.”[22] Here the Upaniṣad merely mentions three orders of life, namely, the order of householders (by referring to their duties such as sacrifice), the order of forest-hermits (by referring to their duty of austerity), and the order of life-long religious students; no injunction is expressly conveyed by the words of the śruti. Neither can we argue that, as being otherwise unknown, these three orders of life are here enjoined; for, the śruti censures the abandonment of the householder’s duty of fire-worship, in the words “The murderer of a son indeed is he who allows the sacred fire to become extinct.”[23] When the smṛti speaks of four stages of religious life, it has in view the blind and the lame who are not qualified for the householder’s duty. Certainly, a blind man is not qualified for a rite which involves the act of seeing the clarified butter and other such acts; nor is a lame man qualified for a rite involving jumping and other such motions. Therefore it will not do for one whose sight and other organs are sound, to resort to a life of celibacy, as a means to Self-knowledge.

(Conclusion):—The life of celibacy is a recognised order of religious life. Though it is not expressly enjoined, it is possible to make out that it is enjoined, inasmuch as it is mentioned there as a thing not already known. It cannot be urged that it involves the sin of a child-murder; for, it is only a householder who incurs the sin when he abandons the sacred fire. Further, it is wrong to say that the life of celibacy is intended for the lame and the blind; for, those who are not meant to lead the householder’s life are mentioned separately elsewhere, and the life of celibacy is enjoined on them: “Then, again, whether a man is engaged in vows or is not engaged in vows, whether a man has abandoned sacred fire or has kept no fires at all, on whatever day he becomes disgusted with the world, that self-same day should he wander out Neither is it by mere implication that we learn that the life of celibacy also is meant for those whose organs of sight, etc., are sound; for the Jābāla śruti expressly says: “Having completed the stu dent-life, he should become a householder; from the household, he should become a forest-dweller, and then wander out.” Wherefore the order of celibates is a recognised one.


No descent from a higher to a lower stage is permitted. [24]
(Vedānta-sūtras, III. iv. 40).

(Question):—Is descent from a higher to a lower stage of religious life allowed?

(Prima facie view):—Just as one may ascend from a lower to a higher stage at will, so also a man may descend from a higher to a lower stage,—from the fourth to the third, and so on,—either on account of attachment or on accouut of his greater faith in a former stage of life.

(Conclusion):—As against the foregoing we hold as follows: In the first place, attachment should not be allowed any sway, since it has its root in illusion. Neither should one be led by faith in the duties of a former stage of life; for such duties are not enjoined with reference to a man belonging to a higher order, and do not therefore constitute ‘duties’ at all with reference to him. Certainly a man’s duty is not determined merely by his capacity and faith; on the other hand, his duty consists in what is enjoined on him. Moreover, in the words “thence he should not return” the śruti insists on ascent to a higher stage by way of forbidding descent to a lower one. And the custom of the wise does not sanction descent, as it sanctions ascent. Wherefore no descent is allowable.


Penance for deviation from the path of celibacy.
(Vedānta-sūtras, III. iv. 41 - 42).

(Question):—Is there a penance for the purification of one who deviates from the path of celibacy?

(Prima facie view):—No penance can purify a man, who, having taken a vow of life-long studentship and celibacy deviates from the path of celibacy by intercourse with a woman; for the scriptures say:

“As to the man who, having ascended to the path of life-long chastity, again strays from it, I do not see by what penance he can be purified.”

It cannot be urged that the śruti prescribes a penance in the words, “when a student of Veda has had intercourse with a woman let him sacrifice an ass for, this penance is prescribed in the case of an upakurvāna-brahinachārin, one who takes a temporary vow of chastity as a condition of the Vedic study. Wherefore in the case of the Naiṣṭhika-brahmachārin, i.e., in the case of him who strays from the vow of perpetual celibacy, there can be no penance.

(Conclusion):—As against the foregoing, we hold as follows:—Just as, in the case of one who takes a temporary vow of chastity, the tasting of flesh and intoxicating liquor constitutes a minor sin (upa-pātaka), so also in the case of one who treads the path of life-long celibacy, intercourse with a woman other than his tutor’s wife constitutes only a minor sin, not a major sin (mahā-pātaka); so that, through penance and reformatory sacraments, purification is attainable. If penance be allowed for deviation from celibacy, on the ground that it is a minor sin, as not enumerated among the major ones, it may be asked, how are we to explain the text quoted above, which says “I do not see by what penance he can be purified”? We answer that it merely inculcates the necessity of great care in the observance of the vow; hence the words “I do not see,” but not that there exists no penance. And the penance for the sin is none other than the sacrifice of an ass, it being the violation of chastity which has to be atoned for, in this case as in the other. Similarly, a penance is prescribed when a forest-dweller (vānaprastha) or a wanderer (parivrājaka) deviates from his path:

“The forest-dweller, when he has violated his vow, shall undergo the Kṛchchhra penance of twelve days, and grow a large grove of plants; the mendicant shall proceed like the forest-dweller, except that he shall not grow the soma plant.”


Penance ensures purity only in future life.
(Vedānta-sūtras, III. iv. 43).

(Question)Is the one so purified by penance to be admitted into the society of the orthodox? Or is he to be excommunicated?

(Prima facie view):—Since his sin has been washed away by penance, he may be admitted into the society of the orthodox; otherwise, the purification is of no avail.

(Conclusion):—It may be that he is purified for the future life; but, as the scriptures say “I do not see by what penance he can be purified” he is not purified ' for the present life: and consequently the orthodox shall avoid all intercourse with him.


Devotion to Brahman is incompatible with works.

Since devotion to works in the several stages of religiou s life leads the devotee to superior worlds and does not constitute the means to knowledge, it follows that devotion through concentration and the like, accompan’ed by cessation of all works, is alone the means to knowledge, as established in the Vedānta-sūtras.


(Vedānta-sūtras, III. iv. 18 - 20).

(Question):—The śruti, having spoken of “three branches of the Law,” says that all those who duly observe the duties of the several stages of life attain to purer and happier worlds, and then teaches that devotion to Brahman is the means to mokṣa, in the words “whoso dwells firmly in Brahman attain immortality.”[25] Now the question arises as to whether this Brahma-niṣṭhā or devotion to Brahman is possible for him who treads the path of works leading to happier worlds.

(Prima fade view):—Devotion to Brahman is possible even for him who treads the path of works with a view to attain to happier worlds; for, it is possible for one to devote himself to Brahman at spare moments after performing the acts pertaining to the order to which he belongs. Certainly, there is no injunction to the effect that he who desires to attain worlds shall not know Brahman. Wherefore devotion to Brahman is possible for all āśramas, orders of religious life.

(Conclusion):—As against the foregoing we hold as follows:—Brahma-niṣṭhā or devotion to Brahman consists in steadily devoting oneself to Brahman, abandoning all external activities and directing the whole thought to Brahman, to the exclusion of all else. This is not possible for him who is ardently devoted to works. Abandonment of works and performance of works are opposed to each other. Thus devotion to Brahman is possible for him alone who has abandoned works.

Taittiriya 1

Footnotes and references:


Tai. Brāh. 1-1-4.


Chhā. Up. 4-9-3,


Bṛ. Up. 4-4-18.


Bṛ. 4-4-18.


Bṛ. Up. 2-4-5.


Tait. Up. 2-1.


Māṇḍūkya. Up.


Bṛ. Up. 2-4-10.




Bṛ. Up. 3-9-26.


Chhā. Up. 6-2-1.


Chhā. Up. 6-8-7.


Vide ante p. 7171.


Bṛ. Up. 2-4-5


Bṛ. Up. 3-5-1.


Bṛ. Up. 3-5-1.


Muṇḍ. 1–1–9.


Śve. Up. 6–8.


Viṣṇupurāṇa 1–3–2.


Manu. XI. 239.


Kaṭha. 3-12.


Op. Cit. 2-23-1.


Tait. Saṃ. 2-2-5.


Jābāla Up. 4.


Chhā. Up. 2-23-2.

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