Glimpses of Vedic Literature - Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd.)

THERE are five sheaths of our being, beginning with the material and culminating in the blissful. This was the main substance of the Taittiriya Upanishad's section "Brahmavalli," which was summarised in the last note.

Corresponding to these five sheaths, there are five cosmic planes of the manifestation of the Eternal. This is the main substance of "Bhriguvalli," which is the last section of the Taittiriya Upanishad. It consists of a dialogue between Bhrigu, Varuna's son, with his father.

Let us see how the dialogue begins. It will also show how the Upanishadic teachers used to teach their pupils,— not by giving discourses, but by suggesting a few key words 3nd leaving the pupils to meditate thereon and to explore by thought and askesis.

"Bhrigu, Varuna's son, came unto his father, Varuna and said, 'Lord, teach me the Eternal.' And his father declared

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

it unto him thus, 'Food and Prana and Eye and Ear and Mind—even these.' Verily, he said unto him, 'Seek thou to know that from which these creatures are born, whereby being born they live and to which they go hence and enter again; for that is the Eternal.' And Bhrigu concentrated himself in thought and by the askesis of his brooding."

There is, we might say, a psychological law of development. According to this law, there are two approaches to the seeking of the Highest. The first is synthetic, which is spontaneous in the intuitive consciousness. In this consciousness, there is inherent harmony, stability and delight. But often this consciousness in our infancy is not self-conscious. It operates rhythmically in our mind and there is no questioning. The being is luminously self-absorbed in a state of harmony and the play of life is guided spontaneously by that harmony. But in the course of evolution of our mind, there is the inevitable urge for self-consciousness. And this urge tends in mental consciousness to manifest by breaking the original spontaneous harmony. Once this harmony is broken, there comes into operation the second law, the law of ascending from below upwards, which builds up in our psychology knowledge of all terms of existence, one by one, one adding upon another, from the lowest to the highest. This law operates not by intuitive consciousness of the totality, but by concentration and by askesis, a process of laborious ascent. There is in this process of development a questioning and strenuous gathering of knowledge step by step.

The teacher, aware of this process which was valid for the development of Bhrigu, places before the pupil the ascending terms of existence. Food, that is Matter, Prana, that is Life and Eye and Ear, which represent the senses, the first appearances of the operation of consciousness, and

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

next the Mind. The teacher then asks the pupil to find out which of them, if any, is more fundamental and therefore the Eternal.

The pupil is thus given a programme of search. Evidently, the teacher does not want to give the answer, but wants the pupil to find out the answer through his own effort. The teacher has only given a riddle and a hint. The rest is for the pupil to work out.

The first answer that Bhrigu arrived at was that Food, that is Matter, is the Eternal. Indeed, matter is so pervasive and so directly seizeable by our senses that the easiest position to take for the sense-bound consciousness is that Matter is the only Reality. As Bhrigu declares to his teacher:

"From food alone, it appears, are these creatures born and being born they live by food, and into food they depart and enter again."

"annam brahma"—”Matter is Brahman,—this is the first formulation of thought in its ascent. This is materialism.

But Bhrigu did not stop here. He came back to his father and said, "Lord, teach me the Eternal." But the teacher gave only an enigmatic answer: "By askesis do thou seek to know the Eternal, for askesis is the Eternal."

Bhrigu went back to concentrate in thought and by energy of his brooding he ascended to the next step in the hierarchy of planes of Existence. He discovered that Prana, Life, is the Eternal. This is the position of vitalism, which finds that the whole world is pulsation of Life-Force, as is declared, in our modern times, by the French philosopher, Bergson.

But Bhrigu did not stop here. He made a further ascent. And he declared that mind is the Eternal. In our times, philosophies which regard mind to be the original principle

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

of existence are called variations of idealism, since they all regard Idea to be the formative and creative principle of universe.

In the history of thought, most of the philosophies have moved between materialism, vitalism and idealism.Certain religious or spiritual philosophies have gone one step farther and have conceived of the Spirit as the Eternal. But often Spirit is conceived as static and not dynamic. Spirit, therefore, is regarded not as a creative principle, but only as a state of ultimate peace and release from all dynamic creativity.

But the Veda and the Upanishads had discovered between the Spirit and the world of Matter, besides Life and Mind, an intermediate creative principle, which they called "vijmna"', comprehensive knowledge (as distinguished from Mind, which is the principle of piecemeal, analytical and partial knowledge.)

Therefore, we find Bhrigu making a further ascent from the Mind and discovering Vijnana. As the Upanishad states:"He knew vijnana (knowledge) for the Eternal." (vijnanam brahma iti vyajanat.)

But even beyond vijnana, there is a greater and higher principle of creativity to which Bhrigu ascended and came to know that Bliss is the Eternal. This is how the Taittiriya Upanishad describes the discovery of Bhrigu:

"He knew Bliss for the Eternal. For from Bliss alone, it appears, are these creatures born and being born they live by Bliss and to Bliss they go hence and return. This is the lore of Bhrigu, the lore of Varuna. He who hath his firm base in the highest heaven, he who knows and gets his firm base, he becomes the master of food and its eater, great in progeny, great in cattle, great in the splendour of holiness, great in glory."

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

Discovery of the ascending series of existence does not end in annulling the lower principles of existence. Discovery of Bliss is not the rejection of Matter, as the Upanishad declares:

"Thou shalt not reject food; for that too is the vow of thy labour."

It may, indeed, be said that the Taittiriya Upanishad is the foundation of the philosophy of total affirmation and synthesis,—synthesis of the Divine Bliss and Matter, what may properly be called Divine Materialism.

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

WE have briefly touched upon two parts of this Upanishad. One more part remains yet to be studied. This part is called "shikshavalli". In fact, the Taittiriya Upanishad begins with this "shikshavalli" although we are approaching it now.

Shikshavalli means, literally, that portion which is connected with the process of teaching learning. It aims at summarising the essential points that are to be the content of that process of teaching learning. There are twelve Anuvakas (lessons) in this part.

1. The first lesson contains the prayer and vow of the teacher, which may be for the whole course of instruction or for separate hours of instruction or lessons. This prayer is addressed to Mitra, Varuna, Indra, Brihaspati, Vishnu, Aryaman, Vayu and Brahman. Then the teacher takes a vow:

"Thou, thou art the visible Eternal and as the visible Eternal,

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

I will declare thee. I will declare Righteousness! I will declare Truth!"

And then is the prayer again:

"May that protect me! May that protect the speaker! Yea, may it protect me! May it protect the speaker! OM! Peace! Peace! Peace!"

2. The second lesson is an extremely short statement of the elements of Shiksha: Syllable and Accent; Pitch and Effort; Even Tone and Continuity.

3. The third lesson begins with a prayer, where the teacher prays for both himself and the pupil taken together. The prayer is:

"Together may we attain glory, together to the radiance of holiness."

Next comes the exposition of the secret meaning of Samhita whereof there are five subjects:

(i) concerning the Worlds;

(ii) concerning the shining Fires;

(iii) concerning the Knowledge;

(iv) concerning Progeny;

(v) concerning Self.

The brief exposition is quite symbolic and would need a long effort of interpretation.

4. The fourth lesson begins with the short description of the Supreme Reality that is referred to symbolically as the bull in the hymn of the Veda. A prayer is offered to Indra, which makes it clear that Indra is the lord of luminous intelligence and intellect, who can grant strength. Next is the aspiration to attain to immortality and energy in the body and sweetness in expression and speech, as also the

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

power to receive inspirations of all kinds of knowledge. Then is the prayer to Indra who is described as the sheath of the Eternal and the Veil that covers the Eternal by means of the workings of the brain. The prayer calls upon him to preserve the whole of the knowledge studied by the teacher.

Next is the prayer of the teacher who aspires to teach. He says:

"May the Brahmacharins come unto me, Swaha! From here

and there may the Brahmacharins come vnto me. Swaha!

May the Brahmacharins set forth unto me. Swaha! May the Brahmacharins attain self mastery. Swaha! May the Brahmacharins attain to peace of soul. Swaha!

May I be a name among the folk. Swaha! May I be the first of the wealth. Swaha!

0 Glorious Lord., into that which is thou may I enter. Swaha! Do thou also enter into me, 0 shining One. Swaha!

Thou art a river with a hundred brandling streams, 0 Lord of Grace, in thee may I wash me clean. Swaha!

As the waters of a river pour down the steep, as the months of the year hasten to the old age of days, 0 Lord, so may the Brahmacharins come to me from all the regions. Swaha!

0 Lord, thou art my neighbour, thou dwellest very near me. Come to me, be my light and sun. "

5. The fifth lesson gives an account of the three worlds of Matter, Life and Mind and declares that Rishi Mahachamasya made known the fourth world, which is Mahas, the Vast. This account is again highly symbolic and would need a great deal of interpretation.

6. The sixth lesson reveals the presence of the golden Immortal, who is seated within the cave or inner heart. In a symbolic manner the location of Indra, Agni, Vayu and Surya is indicated.

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

7. The seventh lesson describes the "Earth, Sky, Heaven, the quarters and the lesser quarters." This is a symbolic description of the macrocosm.

This is followed by the statement of senses and parts and elements of the physical body, the microcosm.

8. The eighth lesson expounds the meaning of OM.

9. The ninth lesson gives a list of duties:

(i)Righteousness with the study and teaching of the Veda;

(ii) Truth with the study and teaching of the Veda;

(iii) Askesis with the study and teaching of the Veda;

(iv) Self-mastery with the study and teaching of the Veda;

(v) Peace of Soul with the study and teaching of the Veda;

(vi) The household fires with the study and teaching of the Veda;

(vii) The burnt offering with the study and teaching of the Veda;

(viii) Progeny with the study and teaching of the Veda;

(ix) Joy of child's mother with the study and teaching of the Veda;

(x) Children of the children with the study and teaching of the Veda.

10. In the tenth lesson there is the declaration of self-knowledge pronounced by Trishanku:

"I am He that moves the Tree of the Universe and my glory is like the shoulders of a higher-mountain. I am lofty and

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

pure like sweet nectar in the strong. I am the shining riches of the World. I am the deep thinker, the deathless one who decays not from the beginning."

11. The eleventh lesson contains the commandments of the teacher to his disciple after the Veda has been taught. These commandments are very famous and even today they are remembered often in the Convocation ceremonies of Universities. We may therefore state them in full:

"Speak truth, walk in the way of thy duty, neglect not the study of the Veda. When thou hast brought to thy Master the wealth that he desires, thou shall not cut short the long thread of thy race. Thou shalt not be negligent of truth; thou shalt not be negligent of thy duty; thou shalt not be negligent of welfare; thou shalt not be negligent towards thy increase and thy thriving; thou shalt not be negligent of the study and teaching of the Veda.

"Thou shalt not be negligent of thy works unto the Gods or thy works unto the Fathers. Let thy father be unto thee as thy God and thy mother as thy Goddess whom thou adorest. Serve the Master as a God and as a God the stranger within thy dwelling. The works that are without blame before the people, thou shalt do these with diligence and no others. The deeds we have done that are good and righteous, thou shalt practise these as a religion and no others.

"Whosoever are better and nobler than we among the Brahmins, thou shalt refresh with a seat to honour them. Thou shalt give with faith and reverence; without faith thou shalt not give. Thou shalt give with shame, thou shalt give with fear; thou shall give with fellow-feeling.

"Moreover, if thou doubt of thy course or of thy action, then whatsoever Brahmins be there who are careful thinkers, devout, not moved by others, lovers of virtue, not severe or

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

cruel, even as they do in that thing, so do thou. Then as to men accused and arraigned by their fellows, whatsoever Brahmins be there who are careful thinkers, devout, not moved by others, lovers of virtue, not severe or cruel, even as they are towards these, so be thou.

"This is the law and the teaching. These are the commandments. In such wise shalt thou practise discipline yea, verily, in such wise do ever earnestly."

12. The twelfth lesson is a prayer to Mitra and other gods.

We may end this note with the prayer that occurs in the Taittiriya Upanishad several times and has become very well-known all over the country:

"Hari OM. Together may He protect us, together may He possess us, together may we make unto us strength and virility. May our study be to us full of light and power. May we never hate. OM! Peace! Peace! Peace!"

Taittiriya Upanishad (contd)

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