Concept of Oneness in the Upanishads (study)

by Chandra Shekhar Upadhyaya | 2015 | 52,584 words

This page relates ‘Concept of Oneness in Chandogya Upanishad’ of the study dealing with the Concept of Oneness in the Upanishads—Spiritual teachings of ancient India in the form of Sanskrit literature. The Upanisads teach us the essential oneness of humanity and guide us to the truth that the whole world is a family.This concept of oneness is the very essence of spiritualism, which constitutes the solid structure of Indian culture.

Concept of Oneness in Chāndogya Upaniṣad

There are several Upaniṣads related to the Sāmaveda. Among these, there are only two Upaniṣads of the Sāmaveda where ādiguru Saṃkarācārya has commented and which have been regarded as principal Upaniṣads. These two major Upaniṣads as mentioned by the Muktikopaniṣad are the Chāndogya Upaniṣad and the Kenopaniṣad.[1] Here in this chapter an effort has been made to illustrate the nature of oneness as exposed in these two principal Upaniṣads.

The Chāndagya Upaniṣad, comes after the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad, belongs to the Talavakāra Sākhā of the Sāmaveda in its Tāṇḍya Brāhmaṇa.[2] There are eight chapters in this Upaniṣad. The fundamental teaching of this Upaniṣad is the Brahman, the Absolute Reality, which is identical with the Ātman, the individual self. From first chapter to eight chapter the Upaniṣad describes the concept of Udgītha-vidyā, Madhuvidyā, Gāyatrī-vidyā, Sāṇḍilya-vidyā, Agni-vidyā, Upakośala-Vidyā, Prāṇa-vidyā, Pañcāgni-vidyā, Vaiśvānara-vidyā, Ātma-vidyā, etc. In this way, this Upaniṣad gives stress on the attainment of the immortality, i.e., Parama Brahman through these different vidyās.

The very first chapter of the Chāndogya Upaniṣad narrates the glory of the syllable Om which should be meditated as the udgītha. The Upaniṣad states:

teneyaṃ trayī vidyā vartata omityāśrāvayatyomiti śaṃsatyomityudgāyatyetasyaivākṣarasyāpacityai mahimnā rasena//’[3]

[Trans: By this does the threefold knowledge proceed; saying Aum one recites, saying Aum one orders, and saying Aum one sings aloud–all in honour of that syllable with its greatness and its essence.][4]

According to the Chāndogya Upaniṣad udgītha is the name stands for the syllable Om.[5] Because, this udgītha is understood as praṇava in the Chāndogya Upaniṣad[6] and what praṇava means is nothing but Oṃkāra itself -‘praṇava omiti[7] The term udgītha which indicates the syllable Om has its different meanings as the Chāndogya Upaniṣad mentions in its different mantras. The term udgītha which is derived from ut+gī+tham; here, ut indicates to dyu, indicates to antarīkṣa and tham indicates to pṛthivī.[8] Again in this term ut means prāṇa, gī means vāk, and tham means anna.[9] Again another mantra of the Chāndogya Upaniṣad, the term udgītha is explained in this way where ut means Sāmaveda, means Yajurveda and tham means Ṛgveda.[10] However the term udgītha is applicable to the syllable Om where establish the whole, as these different names are the emblem of Supreme Brahman[11].

This syllable Om is immortality itself as the Chāndogya Upaniṣad declares:

‘..yadetadakṣarametadamṛtamabhayaṃ tatpraviśya devā amṛtā abhayā abhavan/’[12]

[Trans: This akṣara, i.e., Om is immortal and fearless itself after entering in which the Devas (Gods) became immortal and fearless.]

In this way, the Chāndogya Upaniṣad gives stress on meditating this syllable Om, i.e., udgītha, for obtaining the Highest, i.e., the Ultimate Brahman. Because, this syllable Om is all this and nothing apart from It.[13] Everything come from It.

According to the Chāndogya Upaniṣad in Brahmaloka the sun does not shine.[14] In this way, the Ultimate Reality is not depended upon any kind of light for its movement, because, It reveals in its own light. On the other hand without the light of Supreme Brahman, the sun cannot shine. The Supreme Brahman is the source of all lights. No any things or beings exist without Its light, because this is the same light which is within the living beings as Ātman[15] and which is the controlling force of all.

The Chāndogya Upaniṣad states that:

sarvaṃ khalvidaṃ brahma tajjalaniti śānta upāsīta[16]

Here in this mantra, the term ‘tajjalān’ expresses to the eternal Brahman, where from this creation comes, by which they live and into which they return at last. In this term tajjalān, tat indicates the Supreme Brahman and other ja, la and ana carry the meaning origination dissolution and maintenance. Therefore, the Chāndogya Upaniṣad proclaims that one should worship Brahman as tajjalān, i.e., the Ultimate Reality of all beings.

According to the Chāndogya Upaniṣad, Brahman, the Ultimate Reality is monomaya, as it is through the mind a person becomes active or inactive. The power which makes any one active or inactive is the Brahman. The Chāndogya Upaniṣad maintains that Brahman is prāna-śarīra.

He is so called because,

“What is known as the subtle body (liṅgātmā) is made up of strength (śakti) and vijñāna which means prāṇa.”[17]

This Brahman is also prakāśasvarūpa,[18] satyasaṃkalpa,[19] ākāśa-śarīra,[20] sarvakarma,[21] sarvakāma,[22] sarvagandha[23] and sarvarasa,[24] which surrounds the whole, which is without the speech and also the beyond all kinds of desires.[25] This Brahman is jyotisvarūpa as He is the pure-consciousness, revealed in its own jyoti (light). Brahman is the self-illuminating principle that illumines without any external or internal help. Brahman is the satyasaṃkalpa in the sense of ‘whatever is whished becomes immediately materialised’.[26] Brahman is ākāśa-śarīra, i.e., Brahman which is a subtle principle of this universe, at the same time he is big of the bigs like ākāśa. As ākāśa has no limitations in the same way Brahman has no limitations. Brahman is sarvakarmā, i.e., He activates all works. He is sarvakāma, i.e., He contains all desires. He is sarvarasa, i.e., he contains all desires. He is sarvarasa, i.e., He contains all tastes. He is all penetrating Reality but in the sense of silent and unmoved. This Brahman which is smaller than a small seed of rice and is the bigger than this earth, sky and heaven is within our heart.[27]

In the sixth chapter of the Chāndogya Upaniṣad, we find the conversation between Āruṇi and Śvetaketu, where Āruṇi explains the nature of Supreme Brahman to his son Śvetaketu by different beautiful examples. The twenty four years old son Śvetaketu who comes to the guru after completion his teaching, asks his father about that secret, knowing what, what is unknown becomes known, what is not heard becomes heard and what is unthought becomes thought.

When Śvetaketu is not able to answer this question his father explains the nature of that secret very beautifully and says to his son that:

yathā somyaikena mṛtpiṇḍeṇa sarvaṃ mṛṇmayaṃ vijñātaṃ syādvācārambhaṇaṃ vikāro nāmadheyaṃ mṛttiketyeva satyam//’[28]

Here, Āruṇi says to his son Śvetaketu that a person just knowing of one clod of clay knows all the things which are made by the clay. In the same way, by knowing that Immortal Truth one is able to know that which is unknown; able to hear that what is not heard and able to perceive that what is not perceived. The surrounding beings of different names emerge from our speech, but the truth is that reality is one and only, as clay is only the real thing in different articles of clay. In this way, the Upaniṣad establishes that one Spirit which is devoid of duality is behind the all creatures and source of all knowledge (ekavijñānena sarvavijñānam).

This truth is highlighted in another mantra very clearly by Āruṇi when he states that:

yathā somyaikena lohamaṇinā sarvaṃ lohamayaṃ vijñātaṃ syādvācārambhaṇaṃ vikāro nāmadheyaṃ lohamityeva satyam//’[29]

[Trans: Just as, my dear, by one nugget of gold, all that is made of gold becomes known, the modification being only a name arising from speech, while the truth is that it is just gold.][30]

According to Chāndogya Upaniṣad, truth is one and that is secret form of anything else either it is conscious or unconscious. The modification of this one into various objects is the names originated from our speech, but reality is that there is only one secret, the source of all things.

In this regard Rohit Mehta has remarked that,

“When all modifications caused by verbalizations cease, then there remains only the One, the One without a second, the One without any name. When all the names drop away, then what remains is the Nameless Being; the Origin and Source of all things.”[31]

Elaborating the nature of that nameless being Āruṇi affirms to Śvetaketu that:

sattveva somyedamagra āsīdekamevādvitīyam/’[32]

The Chāndogya Upaniṣad proclaims that, before the creation of this universe, there was sat alone, one without a second.

After that one came these manifold beings as perceived by us in different names and forms:

tadaikṣata bahu syāṃ prajāyeyeti tattejo’sṛjat tatteja aikṣata bahu syāṃ prajāyeyeti tadapo’sṛjat//’[33]

Thus, all these creatures have their origin in that Supreme Brahman, who is the support of all.

Our real nature is not different from that Supreme Brahman as the Chāndogya Upaniṣad mentions,

tat satyaṃ sa ātmā tatvamasi.’[34]

Illuminating the nature of that Reality, where from the whole universe and all the names and forms arise, Āruṇi clarifies to Śvetaketu with an example of nyagrodha vṛkṣa. Āruṇi asks Śvetaketu to bring a seed of a nyagrodha vṛkṣa and orders to break it. Śvetaketu does that according to the direction of the guru, but he does not see anything in that seed. Actually he is not able to realise this universal fact that in a small seed of that nyagrodha tree exists the great nyagrodha tree.

Therefore, Āruṇi begins to teach the real fact to his son and says:

taṃ hovāca yaṃ vai somyoitamaṇimānaṃ na nibhālayasa etasya vai somyaiṣo’ṇimna evaṃ mahānyagrodhastiṣṭhati śraddhatsva somyeti//’[35]

Here, Āruṇi has pointed out that subtle essence to his son Śvetaketu and says that in that subtle essence, the great nyagrodha tree exists. That sat which is subtler than the seed of the nyagrodha tree cannot be perceivable by our sense-organs. That is the essence of all, the Reality, and all beings are not separated from Him, all are mingled in that Parama Brahman.

We find in the seventh chapter of Chāndogya Upaniṣad the conversation of Nārada and Sanatkumāra where Nārada requests to Sanatkumāra to teach him the secret nature of Ātman. Nārada who claims himself as the knower of Ṛgveda, Yajurveda, Sāmaveda, Atharvaveda, Itihāsa-puraṇa, Nyāya-Mīmāṃsā, Nitiśāstra and so on and so forth. But, even after gathering lots of knowledge of different subjects, he feels himself as like a child to the knowledge of Ātman which is superior to all kinds of knowledge. Then guru Sanatkumāra replies that the knowledge gathered by him of different subjects are only the varieties of names. Guru asks Nārada to worship these names as the forms of Brahman. At the same time guru Sanatkumāra announces that vāk is greater than nāma. Again manas is greater than vāk, saṃkalpa is greater than manas, citta is greater than saṃkalpa, dhyāna is greater than citta, vijñāna is greater than dhyāna, vala is greater than vijñāna, anna is greater than vala, āpa is greater than anna, teja is greater than āpa, ākāśa is greater than teja, smṛti is greater than ākāśa, āśā is greater than smṛti and ultimately prāṇa is greater than āśā.

The Chāndogya Upaniṣad says:

‘..yathā vā arā nābhau samarpitā evamasmin prāṇe sarvaṃ samarpitaṃ prāṇaḥ prāṇena yāti prāṇaḥ prāṇaṃ dadāti prāṇāya dadāti prāṇo ha pitā prāṇo mātā prāṇo bhrātā prāṇa svasā prāṇa ācāryaḥ prāṇo brāhmaṇaḥ//’[36]

Again,

prāṇo hyevaitāni sarvāṇi bhavati[37]

Explaining the nature of Parama Brahman, which is Ultimate Bliss itself, Sanatkumāra says to Nārada that the happiness, which we want to achieve in this life cannot be gained by other limited things. Only the realisation of Supreme Brahman can give us the real happiness which is referred to here as bhūmā. This bhūmā is surrounding the whole whatever known or unknown, subtle or great, perceivable or not perceivable by our sense organs. Śaṃkarācārya, the great commentator explains this term bhūmā as ‘Mahat and Niratiśaya[38]

Narrating the majesty of the bhūma, the Chāndogya Upaniṣad asserts that:

yatra nānyatpaśyati nānyacchṛṇoti nānyadvijānāti sa bhūmā’tha yatrānyat paśyatyanyacchṛṇotyanyadvijānāti tadalpaṃ yo vai bhūmā tadamṛtamatha yadalpaṃ tanmartyaṃ sa bhagavaḥ kasminpratiṣṭhita iti sve mahimni yadi vā na mahimnīti//’[39]

According to this mantra, where a person sees nothing else, hears nothing else and also understands nothing else, that is the bhūmā, the Ultimate Truth. On the other hand where a person can able to see a thing, can able to hear and also able to understand something else, that is call as finite, the completely opposite from bhūmā.

Explaining the dignity of bhūmā the Upaniṣad says:

sa evādhastātsa upariṣṭātsa paścātsa purastātsa dakṣiṇataḥ sa uttarataḥ sa evedaṃ sarvamiti..//’[40]

According to the Chāndogya Upaniṣad, this bhūmā is below, above, behind, infront, south, north and all. One who understands the nature of this bhūmā, becomes realises the all secret, and nothing remains unknown to him. After realising this truth he becomes free from birth and death, illness, and sorrows and sufferings. That person gets salvation in this life.[41]

Realisation of the nature of Ātman or Brahman is to be declared as perfect knowledge among all kinds of knowledges. So, Satyakāma Jābāla postponed the graduation ceremony of his brilliant disciple Upakośala Kāmalāyana year after year.[42]

Guru Satyakāma did it because Upakośala was a curious one and guru felt it that his graduation ceremony will not be held until he will be free from the desire to know something again and again and to achieve it. A disciple was not declared as snātaka by guru until his realisation of Supreme Brahman. A person comes to the realisation of Brahman, the Ultimate Truth, when he will become free from all kinds of desires even he will be free from the desire to understand the nature of Brahman.

The Brahman is the absolute knowledge where everything is established,

tasmin viśvamidaṃ variṣṭham[43]

The eighth chapter of the Chāndogya Upaniṣad carries the concept of Ātman and the means to realise it.

The Chāndogya Upaniṣad states:

‘..eṣa ātmā’pahata pāpmā vijaro vimṛtyurviśoko vijighatso’pipāsaḥ satyakāmaḥ satyasaṃkalpo..//’[44]

[Trans: This Ātman (soul) is beyond the sin, free from old age, without death, free from sorrow, free from hunger and thirst, satya kāmah, i.e., whose desire is real and satya saṃkalpa, i.e., whose saṃkalpa is real.]

The Chāndogya Upaniṣad announces that this Ātman is the bridge of all, whom day and night, sorrows and sufferings, sukṛtam (well doing), duskṛtam (ill doing) cannot touch. Brahman is free from all evils, as all evils return not having reached Him.

In this eighth chapter we find the conversation of Indra, the king of devas, Virocana, the king of asuras and Prajāpati, where Prajāpati delivers the concept of Ātman to Indra, who again and again approaches to him in this regard.

Prajāpati tells:

maghavanmartyaṃ vā idaṃ sarīramāttaṃ mṛtyunā tadasyāmṛtasyāśarīrasyātmano’dhiṣṭhānamātto…na priyāpriye spṛśataḥ//’[45]

Here Prajāpati tells to Indra that our body which is mortal, i.e., temporary is held by the death. But all the surrounding beings have their existence in this world on account of the presence of body less and deathless Ātman. Our body which is momentary feels pleasure and pain but being the bodyless and immortal element He is free from all kinds of worldly things.

The Chāndogya Upaniṣad proclaims that one should not give up the path of satya or truth. Because, it is the truth by which one can attain the Supreme, i.e., Brahman which is truth of truths -‘brahmaṇo nāma satyamiti.’[46] The term satya which comes from sat, ti and yam,[47] the syllable sat means amṛta (immortal), ti means martya (mortal) and yam indicates the meaning of both immortal and mortal together.

The Chāndogya Upaniṣad conveys the message of abhaya or fearlessness through the understanding the nature of fearless Ātman or Brahman, the Ultimate Truth.

The Chāndogya Upaniṣad declares the Ultimate Reality, i.e., Brahman as eternal and fearless when it states that:

‘..etadakṣarametadamṛtamabhayaṃ tatpraviśya devā amṛtā abhayā abhavan//’[48]

Fear comes to that person who is not free from the fear of death. But Brahman being the endless entity have no fear to death. Therefore, He is abhayam.[49] By the realisation of Brahman, the everlasting truth, one gets abhayam, i.e., becomes free from all kinds of fears. When one is able to know the nature of Brahman which is nothing but one’s own individual self, his fear becomes passes away, i.e., he gets liberation.

The Chāndogya Upaniṣad also gives importance on performing the brahmacarya or continence. According to this Upaniṣad, it is brahmacarya by which man can get the abode of Supreme Truth, i.e., Ātman or Brahman.

The Upaniṣad says:

brahmacaryeṇa hyeveṣṭvātmānamanuvindate[50]

Thus, the Chāndogya Upaniṣad through its concept of oneness as revealed in its different mantras gives the message of universal brotherhood and understanding among the people. The Chāndogya Upaniṣadic concept of oneness shows the way to establish social harmony in the society, where no diversity prevails among the people irrespective of caste creed and religion.

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

Muktikopaniṣad , 30

[2]:

Chowkulkar, Satish Shamrao., Upanishad Kasturi , p.59

[3]:

Chāndogya Upaniṣad , I.1.9

[4]:

English translation from Sarma, D.S., The Upaniṣads an Anthology, pp.115-116

[5]:

Chāndogya Upaniṣad , I.1.5

[6]:

Ibid., I.5.1., I.5.5

[7]:

Ibid., I.5.1

[8]:

Ibid., I,3.7

[9]:

Ibid., I.3.6

[10]:

Ibid.,I.3.7

[11]:

Ibid.,I.1.5

[12]:

Ibid., I. 4.4

[13]:

Chāndogya Upaniṣad , II.23.3

[14]:

Ibid.,III.11.2

[15]:

Ibid.,III.13.7

[16]:

Ibid.,III.14.1

[17]:

C.U.,III.14.2

[18]:

Ibid

[19]:

Ibid

[20]:

Ibid

[21]:

Ibid

[22]:

Ibid

[23]:

Ibid

[24]:

Ibid

[25]:

Ibid

[26]:

Date, V.H., Upaniṣads Retold , p.51

[27]:

Chāndogya Upaniṣad ,III.14.4

[28]:

Chāndogya Upaniṣad ,VI.1.4

[29]:

Ibid.,VI.1.5

[30]:

English translation from Radhakrishnan, S., The Principal Upaniṣads , p.447

[31]:

Mehta, Rohit., The Call of the Upanishads , p.237

[32]:

Chāndogya Upaniṣad , VI.2.2

[33]:

Ibid.,VI.2.3

[34]:

Ibid.,VI.8.7

[35]:

Ibid.,VI.12.2

[36]:

Chāndogya Upaniṣad ,VII.15.1

[37]:

Chāndogya Upaniṣad ,VII.14.4

[38]:

Chowkulkar, Satish Shamrao., Upanishad Kasturi , p.69

[39]:

Chāndogya Upaniṣad ,VII.24.1

[40]:

Ibid.,VII.25.1

[41]:

Chāndogya Upaniṣad ,VII. 26.2

[42]:

Ibid., IV.10.1

[43]:

Ibid.,III.15.1

[44]:

Ibid.,VIII.1.5

[45]:

Chāndogya Upaniṣad ,VIII.12.1

[46]:

Ibid.,VIII.3.4

[47]:

Ibid.,VIII.3.5

[48]:

Chāndogya Upaniṣad , I.4.4

[49]:

Ibid., I.4.5

[50]:

Ibid.,VIII.5.1

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