Just as the Kathopanishad belongs to the Krishna (Black) Yajurveda, even so the Taittiriya Upanishad also belongs to the same Veda. Both these Upanishads have internal connection. In particular, the knowledge of the soul, which we find in the Kathopanishad, is confirmed and elucidated in the Taittiriya Upanishad. And it is to this aspect that we may turn at once.
The Kathopanishad speaks of three fires and five fires, indicating that the soul that is fire is to be found at three levels, the level of the body, the level of the vital being, and the level of the mental being. The Kathopanishad also tells us that the mental being is not the highest, since the faculty of knowledge is even higher than the mind. It further tells us that there is even a greater self higher than the faculty of knowledge. Both these higher levels are accessible to the ascending fire of the soul, and when the soul ascends to these two, the fire of the soul does no more remain three-fold but becomes five-fold.
In the Taittiriya Upanishad we have a more explicit statement of the ascension of the soul on all the five planes. There are, according to this Upanishad, five sheaths, koshas, and our soul is encaged in these koshas. The first is called the
annamaya, which refers to the physical sheath; the second is called the prāṇamaya, which refers to the vital sheath; the third is called, the manomaya, which refers to the mental sheath. These three are familiar to all of us who have risen above the animal level of existence and have even gone above the level of passions and desires so as to lead the life of reflections, reasoning and understanding. But these three levels belong to the plane of Ignorance, because while living on these levels we grope blindly in search of knowledge. Knowledge, even when achieved, is only mental in character; it is besieged by error and is uncertain. We are always in need to verify our conclusions in various ways; and even verified knowledge does not give us the total sense of certainty.
But when the soul ascends to a higher sheath, knowledge is found to be its very natural characteristic. Here knowledge is not only jnana, realisation of the essence, but also vijnāna, realisation of the entire manifestation. This level is, therefore, called by the Upanishad the level of vijnānamaya, which refers to the sheath of holistic knowledge. But higher than this is the ānaṇdamaya kosha, which refers to the sheath of the blissful, which is described at length as that of inexpressible delight from which all creations burst out.
Let us go to the original text of this Upanishad and listen to the relevant words of it on this important subject.¹
"Food is the eldest of created things and therefore they name it the Green Stuff of the universe. [...] From food all creatures are born and being born they grow² by food. Lo, it is eaten and it eats; yea, it devours the
creatures that feed upon it, therefore it is called food from the eating.ˮ
"Now there is a second and inner Self which is other
¹. All translations in this chapter are from Sri Aurobindo's The Upanishads, Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library, Volume 12, 1972.
². Or, increase, (foot-note from original text)
than this that is of the substance of food; and it is made of the vital stuff called Prana. And the Self of Prana fills the Self of food. Now the Self of Prana is made in the image of a man; according as is the human image of the other, [...] Prana is the life of created things and therefore they name it the Life-Stuff of the All. And this Self of Prana is the soul in the body of the former one which was of food,ˮ
"Now there is yet a second and inner Self which is other than this that is of Prana, and it is made of Mind. And the Self of Mind fills the Self of Prana. Now the Self of Mind is made in the image of a man; according as is the human image of the other, so is it in the image of the man. [...] And this Self of Mind is the soul in the body to the former one which was of Prana.ˮ
"Now there is yet a second and inner self which is other than this which is of Mind and it is made of Know/edge. And the Self of Know/edge fills the Self of Mind. Now the Knowledge Self is made in the image of a man; according as is the human image of the other, so is it in the image of the man. [...] And this Self of Knowledge is the soul in the body to the former one which was of Mind.ˮ
"Now there is yet a second and inner self which is other than this which is of Knowledge and it is fashioned out of Bliss. And the Self of Bliss fills the Self of Knowledge. Now the Bliss Self is made in the image of a man; according as is the human image of the other, so is it made in the image of the man. [...] And this Self of Bliss is the soul in the body to the former one which was of Knowledge.ˮ
The Upanishad then proceeds to describe the experience of bliss.
"When he has got him this delight, then it is that this creation becomes a thing of bliss; for who could labour to draw in the breath or who could have strength to breathe it out, if there were not that Bliss in the heaven of his heart, the ether within his being? It is He that is the fountain of bliss; for when the Spirit that is within us finds the Invisible, Bodiless, Undefinable and Unhoused Eternal his refuge and firm foundation, then he has passed beyond the reach of Fear. But when the Spirit that is within us makes for himself even a little difference in the Eternal, then he has fear, yea, the Eternal himself becomes a terror to such a knower who thinks not.ˮ
We now come to the full exposition of Bliss. Says the Upanishad;
"Behold this exposition of the Bliss to which ye shall hearken. Let there be a young man, excellent and lovely in his youth, a great student; let him have fair miners, and a most firm heart and great strength of body, and let all this wide earth be full of wealth for his enjoying. That is the measure of bliss of one human being. Now a hundred and a hundredfold of the human measure of bliss, is the one bliss of men that have become angels in heaven. And this is the bliss of the Vedawise whose soul the blight of desire touches not. A hundred and a hundredfold of this measure of angelic bliss is one bliss of Gods that are angels in heaven. And this is the bliss of the Vedawise whose soul the blight of desire touches not. A hundred and hundredfold of this measure of divine angelic bliss is one bliss of the Fathers whose world of heaven is their world for ever. And this is the bliss of the Vedawise whose soul the blight of desire touches not. A
hundred and a hundredfold of this measure of bliss of the Fathers whose worlds are for ever, is one bliss of the Gods who are born as Gods in heaven. And this is the bliss of the Vedawise whose soul the blight of desire touches not. A hundred and a hundredfold of this measure of bliss of the firstborn in heaven, is one bliss of the Gods of work who are Gods, for by their strength of their deeds they depart and are Gods in heaven. And this is the bliss of the Vedawise whose soul the blight of desire touches not. A hundred and a hundredfold of this measure of bliss of the Gods of work, is one bliss of the great Gods who are Gods for ever. And this is the bliss of the Vedawise whose soul the blight of desire touches not. A hundred and a hundredfold of this measure of divine bliss, is one bliss of Indra, the King in Heaven. And this is the bliss of the Vedawise whose soul the blight of desire touches not. A hundred and a hundredfold of this measure of Indra's bliss is one bliss of Brihaspati, who taught the Gods in heaven. And this is the bliss of the Vedawise whose soul the blight of desire touches not. A hundred and a hundredfold of this measure of Brihaspati's bliss, is one bliss of Prajapati, the Almighty Father. And this is the bliss of the Vedawise whose soul the blight of desire touches not. A hundred and a hundredfold of this measure of Prajapati's bliss, is one bliss of the Eternal Spirit. And this is the bliss of the Vedawise whose soul the blight of desire touches not.ˮ
"The Spirit who is here in a man and the Spirit who is there in the Sun, it is one Spirit and there is no other. He who knows this, when he has gone away from this world, passes to this Self, which is of food; he passes to this Self which is of Prana; he passes to this Self which is of Mind, he passes to this Self which is of Knowledge; he passes to this Self which is of Bliss. [...]ˮ
''The Bliss of the Eternal from which words turn back without attaining and mind also returns baffled: who knows the Bliss of the Eternal, he fears not for aught in this world or elsewhere. Verily, to him comes not remorse and her torment saying, "Why have I left undone the good and why have I done that which was evil?ˮ For he who knows the Eternal, knows these¹ and delivers from them his Spirit; yea, he knows both evil and good for what they are and delivers his Spirit, who knows the Eternal. And this is Upanishad, the secret of the Veda.ˮ
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 Brahmānandavalli, 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 Bhṛguvalli, 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 show how the Upanishadic teachers used to teach their pupils, — not by giving discourses, but by suggesting a few key words and leaving the pupils to meditate thereon and to explore by thought and askesis.
"Bhrigu, Varunaʼs son, came unto his father Varuna and said, "Lord, teach me the Eternal.ˮ And his father declared it unto him thus, "Food and Prana and Eye
¹. Or, knows that they are alike, (foot-note from original text)
and Ear and Mind — even these.ˮ 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.ˮ And Bhrigu concentrated himself in thought and by the askesis of his broodingˮ.
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, a 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 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.ˮ
"annam brahmaˮ — 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.ˮ But the teacher gave only an enigmatic answer: "By askesis do thou seek to know the Eternal, for askesis is the Eternal.ˮ
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 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 Vijnāna, 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 Vijnāna. As the Upanishad states:
"He knew Knowledge for the Eternalˮ (vijnānam brahma iti vyajānāt).
But even beyond vijnāna, 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 who hath his firm base in the highest heaven. Who knows, 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.ˮ
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.ˮ
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.
We have briefly touched upon two parts of this Upanishad. One more part remains yet to be studied. This part is called Śikṣāvalli. In fact, the Taittiriya Upanishad begins with this Śikṣāvalli, although we are only approaching it now.
Śikṣāvalli 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 pf teaching-learning. There are twelve Anuvaks (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 I will declare thee. I will declare Righteousness! I will declare Truth!ˮ
And then comes the prayer again:
"May that protect me! May that protect the speaker! Yea, may it protect me! Nay it protect the speaker. OM! Peace! Peace! Peace!ˮ
2. The second lesson is an extremely short statement of the elements of Śikṣā: 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.ˮ
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 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 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 unto 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 wealthy! Swaha!
O Glorious Lord, into that which is thou may I enter. Swaha!
Do thou also enter into me, O shining One. Swaha!
Thou art a river with a hundred branching streams, O 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, O Lord that cherisheth, so may the Brahmacharins come to me from all the regions. Swaha!
O 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.
7. The seventh lesson describes the "Earth, sky, heaven, the quarters and the lesser quartersˮ . 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;
ii) 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 thy 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:
"/ am He that moves the Tree of the Universe and my glory is like the shoulders of a high-mountain. I am lofty and 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.ˮ
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 Veda, When thou hast brought to thy Master the wealth that he desires, thou shalt not cut short the long thread of thy race. Thou shall not be negligent of truth; thou shalt not be negligent of
thy duty, thou shalt not be negligent of welfare; thou shall not be negligent towards thy increase and thy thriving; thou shalt not be negligent of the study and teaching of 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 shaft give with faith and reverence; with- out 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 to whatsoever Brahmins be there who are careful thinkers, devout, not moved by others, lovers of virtue, not severe or 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 religion yea, verily, in such wise do ever religiously.ˮ
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 is 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 full to us of light and power. May we never hate. OM! Peace! Peace! Peace!ˮ