Taittirīya Upaniṣad consists of three discourses of Taittirīya Āraṇyaka which belongs to Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda. The focal areas in this Upaniṣad are rules of conduct and nature of Brahma. Popular instructions like ‘Satyaṃ vada, dharmaṃ cara; mātṛdevo bhava, pitṛdevo bhava; etc. are contributions of this Upaniṣad.

In this article which is ninth in the series ‘The Science of Upaniṣads’, we study the explications on these two topics, namely, the nature of Brahma and the instructions on the rules of conduct. The text of this Upaniṣad is divided into three chapters (Valli) which are again divided into passages (Anuvāka) and verses. A verse is identified by the chapter number, passage, number and verse number. For example, third verse of second passage in the first chapter is written as 1.2.3.


As you know, we are concerned with only the rational thoughts which bear consistency with the spiritual philosophy universally propounded in the Upaniṣads. This takes us directly to verse 1.6.1 which contains a very decisive exposition of the seating of the Puruṣa in the inner Heart. See the extract from the verse below:

स य एषोഽन्तर्हृदय आकाशः तस्मिन्नयं पुरुषो मनोमयः अमृतो हिरण्मयः अन्तरेण तालुके य एष स्तन इवावलंबते सेन्द्रयोनिः यत्रासौ केशान्तो विवर्तते व्यपोह्य शीर्षकपाले …… || 1.6.1 ||

sa ya eṣontarhṛdaya ākāśaḥ tasminnayaṃ puruṣo manomayaḥ amṛto hiraṇmayaḥ antareṇa tāluke ya eṣa stana ivāvalaṃbate sendrayoniḥ yatrāsau keśānto vivartate vyapohya śīrṣakapāle …….. (1.6.1)

Word meaning: sa ya eṣa ākāśaḥ – that which is the Ākāśaḥ (one of the five fundamental elements); antarhṛdaya- antarhṛdaye – within the Heart; tasmin- in it; ayaṃ- that; puruṣaḥ- Puruṣa; manomayaḥ- consisting of mind (not material), incorporeal; amṛtaḥ- immortal; hiraṇmayaḥ- of golden effulgence; antareṇa- within, amidst, in the middle of; tāluke– palate; ya eṣa stana avalaṃbate – that which hangs down as a nipple (Uvula); iva- like, resembling; sa- it; indrayoniḥ- seat of Indra or seat of the Supreme Being; yatra- where; asau- that; keśānto- tuft of hair; vivartate- expand, come forth from; vyapohya- keeping off, not crossing; śīrṣakapāle- in the skull.

Verse meaning: That Puruṣa is in the Ākāśaḥ within the Heart; he is incorporeal, immortal and effulgent. That which resembles ‘palate with Uvula hanging down in the middle’ is the seat of the Supreme Being; from this seat a tuft of hairs comes forth and extends to the skull (without crossing it).

We are familiar with the assertion that Puruṣa is in the Heart and that he is incorporeal, immortal and effulgent. The second part explains what that Heart looks like. The seat of the Supreme Being (or the Heart) is compared here with ‘palate with hanging Uvula’. We have previously seen that the Heart depicted as the seat of Puruṣa is not the heart of blood circulation, but the Thalamus. The comparison made here fits very well with Thalamus which consists of two symmetrical halves joined in the middle by a median. This median is the Uvula in the comparison and the two halves are two parts of the palate on either side of Uvula. Further, the tuft of hairs spreading out to the skull indicates ‘nerve fibres projecting out to cerebral cortex in all directions’. We have already studied about a main nerve originating from the Heart, going upwards and spreading in all directions (vide 8.6.6 of Chāndogya, 6.16 of Kaṭha, 3.7 of Praśna and 2.1.19 of Bṛhadāraṇyaka). Now, this verse of Taittirīya takes our understanding of the inner Heart to further precision.

Let us now move on to the most popular part of this Upaniṣad. It is in the eleventh Anuvāka of the first chapter. Please see the first verse of the Anuvāka below:

वेदमनूच्य आचार्योഽन्तेवासिनं अनुशास्ति | सत्यं वद | धर्मं चर | स्वाध्यायान्मा प्रमदः | आचार्याय प्रियं धनमाहृत्य प्रजातन्तुं मा व्यवच्छेत्सीः | सत्यान्न प्रमदितव्यम् | धर्मान्न प्रमदितव्यम् | कुशलान्न प्रमदितव्यम् | भूत्यै न प्रमदितव्यम् | स्वाध्यायप्रवचनाभ्यां न प्रमदितव्यं || 1.11.1 ||

vedamanūcya ācāryoഽntevāsinaṃ anuśāsti. satyaṃ vada. dharmaṃ cara. svādhyāyānmā pramadaḥ. acāryāya priyaṃ hanamāhṛtya prajātantuṃ mā vyavacchetsīḥ. satyānna pramaditavyam. dharmānna pramaditavyam, kuśalānna pramaditavyam. bhūtyai na pramaditavyam. svādhyāyapravacanābhyāṃ na pramaditavyam (1.11.1).

Word meaning: vedamanūcya= well-versed in Veda (Scriptures); ācārya- Ācārya, teacher, preceptor; antevāsinaṃ- pupil (who dwells with the teacher for education); anuśāsti- instructs; satyaṃ- Satyam; vada- speak; dharmaṃ- Dharma; cara- adhere to, observe; svādhyāyāt= from self-study (of Scriptures); mā- not; pramadaḥ- stay away; acāryāya- for the teacher; priyaṃ- as desired; dhanam- wealth; āhṛtya- having fetched; prajātantuṃ- succession of progeny; mā- not; vyavacchetsīḥ- cut off; satyāt- from Satyam; na- not; pramaditavyam- to be swerved; dharmāt- from Dharma; kuśalāt- from welfare; bhūtyai- from wealth; svādhyāyapravacanābhyāṃ- from self-study and teaching.

Verse meaning: The Ācārya, who is well-versed in Scriptures, instructs his pupil, “Speak Satyam (that which has Sat – truth), adhere to Dharma, never stay away from self-study (of Scriptures). After securing and presenting the money desired by the Ācārya, engage in ensuring continuance of your race (don’t swerve from having wife and children). Never swerve from Satyam, from Dharma, from welfare, from wealth and also from self-study and teaching”.

The entire Anuvāka, 1.11, constitutes instructions given by the Ācārya to his pupils, probably at the conclusion of the studies; this must therefore be a convocation address. The Ācārya instructs his pupils about how their future conduct should be. The first instruction is to speak Satyam and follow Dharma. We have already seen what Satyam is. It is that which is supported by Sat; this is why Satyam survives (Satyameva jayate – Muṇḍaka 3.1.6). Along with its own survival, Satyam saves its speaker and the person who stands by it from ruin; for, such persons get enriched in internal strength which is an essential factor for successful life. The others naturally face degeneration. Accordingly, Satyam is regarded as an act of Dharma.

What is Dharma? The word Dharma indicates that which maintains, preserves, supports, upholds or possesses. So, any Karma that caters to maintaining, preserving or supporting the universe as a whole is referred to as Dharma. We know that the ultimate energy that maintains, preserves and supports the universe is the Ātmā. So, Dharma must be that Karma which conforms to the principle of Ātmā, namely SAT-CHIT-ĀNANDA. Consequently, Dharma is that Karma that ensures existence, knowing & expression and happiness. A blanket classification of Karmas into Dharma and Adharma is not advisable. We cannot classify Karmas like charity, speaking the truth, respecting elders, abstention from stealing, killing and other violence, etc. as Dharma; similarly, karmas like killing, wounding, saying lies etc. cannot be classified as Adharma. Sometimes, these Karmas may happen to be Dharma. For example, a soldier’s killing of an enemy is Dharma and a doctor operating upon a patient to save his life is also an act of Dharma, though it involves causing pain. A golden rule in this regard is this: ‘whatever we do should bring good to the world’.

In Gīta verses 1.28 to 1.46 we see Arjuna lamenting about infringement of various kinds of Dharma that, he fears, he would commit in the impending war. Citing this apprehension as a reason, this mighty, formidable warrior decides to withdraw from war. The throne and the pleasures attendant to it lure him no more, if securing them involves killing of own relatives, Gurus and patriarchs. Instead of killing them, he prefers to be killed by them, even while being unarmed. Such is his concern for protection of various types of Dharma of his understanding, according to which, killing of relatives, Gurus and patriarchs is an absolute breach of Dharma. Arjuna fears that divine retribution for breach of Dharma would befall on him, if, in the course of war, he kills them. But Kṛṣṇa advises him against this understanding of Dharma. Expostulating against all such misunderstandings, Kṛṣṇa exhorts Arjuna to comply with only his instructions, which would assuredly ward off all feared retributions (Gīta 18.66). And what was the core of Kṛṣṇa’s instructions? One must do Karma for the good of the world, without any attachment, without any selfish designs and without any concern about the nature of the result. A Karma that brings good to the world is what Dharma really is. We cannot therefore blindly brand some acts as Dharma and others as Adharma; all depends upon the context and purpose.

Another important advice is that one should not refrain from having a family, from earning wealth and from securing welfare. Renouncing these things is not seen a virtue here; even the Ācārya wants money. The instruction here is that one may engage in these things, but while doing so, he should not breach Dharma and Satyam.

Now, let us move on to the next verse:

देवपितृकार्याभ्यां न प्रमदितव्यम् | मातृदेवो भव | पितृदेवो भव | अचार्यदेवो भव | अतिथिदेवो भव | यान्यनवद्यानि कर्माणि | तानि सेवितव्यानि | नो इतराणि | यान्यस्माकं सुचरितानि | तानि त्वयोपास्यानि | नो इतराणि || 1.11.2 ||

devapitṛkāryābhyāṃ na pramaditavyam. mātṛdevo bhava. pitṛdevo bhava. ācāryadevo bhava. atithidevo bhava. yānyanavadyāni karmāṇi. tāni sevitavyāni. no itarāṇi. yānyasmākaṃ sucaritāni. tāni tvayopāsyāni. no itarāṇi (1.11.2).

Word meaning: devapitṛkāryābhyāṃ- from the duties to devas and parents; na- not; pramaditavyam- to be swerved; mātṛ- mother; devaḥ- deva; bhava- be (to you); pitṛ- father; ācārya- Ācārya, preceptor; atithi- guest, visitor (to your residence); yānyanavadyāni- whatever faultless, unobjectionable; karmāṇi- Karmas; tāni- they; sevitavyāni- to be practised; no- na u – not on the other hand; itarāṇi- others; yāni- whatever; asmākaṃ- our, ours; sucaritāni- good, virtuous; tāni- they; tvayā- by you; upāsyāni- to be resorted to, to be observed.

Verse meaning: Don’t swerve away from the duties to devas and parents. To you, may your mother, father, Ācārya and guest be devas. You must do only unobjectionable Karmas, not others. You follow only the virtuous acts of ours, not vicious ones.

Devas here are to be understood as beings bestowed with effulgence by way of their superior characteristics and qualities which command adoration. The present advice is to see mother, father, teacher and guest as devas. Another important instruction is that one should not follow his teacher blindly; he has to discern the good deeds of the teacher and consider only such deeds as a model to follow, not others.

The next two verses are connected with each other, in content, and therefore we shall study them together.

ये के चास्मच्छ्रेयांसो ब्राह्मणाः | तेषाम् त्वया आसनेन प्रश्वसितव्यम् | श्रद्धया देयम् | अश्रद्धयाഽदेयम् | श्रिया देयम् | ह्रिया देयम् | भिया देयम् | संविदा देयम् | अथ यदि ते कर्मविचिकित्सा वा | वृत्तविचिकित्सा वा स्यात् || 1.11.3 ||

ye ke cāsmacchreyāṃso brāhmaṇāḥ. teṣām tvayā āsanena praśvasitavyam. śraddhayā deyam. aśraddhayāഽdeyam. śriyā deyam. hriyā deyam. bhiyā deyam. saṃvidā deyam. atha yadi te karmavicikitsā vā. vṛttavicikitsā vā syāt (1.11.3).

Word meaning: ye ke ca – whoever; asmat- from among us; śreyāṃsaḥ- superior, more distinguished; brāhmaṇāḥ- brāhmaṇas, learned ones, scholars; teṣām- of them; tvayā- by you; āsanena- by (giving) seats; praśvasitavyam- breath to be recovered, fatigue to be removed; śraddhayā- willingly; deyam- to be given (by way of charity); aśraddhayā adeyam – not to be given unwillingly; śriyā- according to wealth; hriyā- with modesty, without any pretension; bhiyā- with fear (of being recognised), secretly, in privacy; saṃvidā- from own possession or acquisition; atha- now; yadi- if; te- to you; karmavicikitsā- doubt or uncertainty about Karma; vā- or; vṛttavicikitsā- doubt about conduct; syāt- be

Verse meaning: You should provide for relaxation of the more distinguished scholars among us, by offering seats (and other services). When you give in charity, give it willingly, not unwillingly; give according to your wealth; give without any pretension; give in privacy and from own acquisition. If any doubt about Karma or conduct occurs to you, then, (continued in the next verse)

ये तत्र ब्राह्मणाः संमर्शिनः | युक्ता आयुक्ताः | अलूक्षा धर्मकामाः स्युः | यथा ते तत्र वर्तेरन् | तथा तत्र वर्तेथाः | अथाभ्याख्यातेषु | ये तत्र ब्राह्मणाः संमर्शिनः | युक्ता आयुक्ताः | अलूक्षा धर्मकामाः स्युः | यथा ते तत्र वर्तेरन् | तथा तत्र वर्तेथाः | एष आदेशः | एष उपदेशः | एषा वेदोपनिषत् | एतदनुशासनम् | एवमुपासितव्यम् | एवमु चैतदुपास्यम् || 1.11.4 ||

ye tatra brāhmaṇāḥ saṃmarśinaḥ. yuktā āyuktāḥ. alūkṣā dharmakāmāḥ syuḥ. yathā te tatra varteran. tathā tatra vartethāḥ. athābhyākhyāteṣu. ye tatra brāhmaṇāḥ saṃmarśinaḥ. yuktā āyuktāḥ. alūkṣā dharmakāmāḥ syuḥ. yathā te tatra varteran. tathā tatra vartethāḥ. eṣa ādeśaḥ. eṣa upadeśaḥ. eṣā vedopaniṣat. etadanuśāsanam. evamupāsitavyam. evamu caitadupāsyam (1.11.4).

Word meaning: ye- whoever; tatra- there; brāhmaṇāḥ- learned men; saṃmarśinaḥ- able to judge; yuktā- experienced; āyuktāḥ- connected (with the matter); alūkṣā- soft (easily approachable); dharmakāmāḥ- inclined to follow Dharma, with a disposition for it; syuḥ- be; yathā- how; te- they; tatra- there (in that context) varteran- behave, act; tathā- so, in that manner; tatra- there; vartethāḥ- behave, act; atha- now; abhyākhyāteṣu- in the case of false accusations; eṣa- this; ādeśaḥ- instruction; upadeśaḥ- advice; vedopaniṣat- secret of Vedas; etad- this; anuśāsanam- command; evam- thus; upāsitavyam- to be attended to; to be complied with; evam- thus; u- verily; ca- and; upāsyam- to be performed.

Verse meaning: (continued from the previous verse), If some learned men who are able to judge, experienced and well-versed in the matter and who are easily approachable and with a disposition to follow Dharma are present there, you must act in the way they act in similar context. In the case of false accusations also, you must act in the same way as those learned men act. This is the advice, the secret of Vedas; this is the command and it should be complied with. Perform your acts in accordance with this.

Here, in verses 1.11.3 & 1.11.4, the Ācārya continues his advices on the rules of conduct that his pupils should follow in life. Firstly, he impresses upon them to respect and serve learned men of esteem. Then, he tells them how Dāna (दान – giving charity) should be performed. When we give, we have to do it willingly and according to our resources. We should not give with a sense of self-importance or with much publicity. Most importantly, we should give from what we have earned by our own efforts. These are very important instructions on charity, which are very relevant in all ages. We have, in the present world, umpteen instances wherein charity is given with much fanfare, from ill-earned wealth which is secured from extraneous sources and for publicising own importance. There are also instances wherein the spending on publicity far exceeds the actual value of charity. In this context, we may also refer to Gīta verses 17.20 to 17.22 wherein Dāna is classified in accordance with the Guṇas.

Here ends the first chapter which is predominantly instructive in content; it is verily called Śikṣāvalli (शिक्षावल्लि). The next chapter is similarly known as Brahmavalli, as it deals with the nature of Brahma. Let us go to the first verse of the second chapter. The first part of this verse contains a very important declaration which stands out from the rest; therefore we take it separately.

ब्रह्मविदाप्नोति परम् | तदेषाഽभ्युक्ता | सत्यं ज्ञानं अनन्तं ब्रह्म | यो वेद निहितं गुहायां परमे व्योमन् | सोഽश्नुते सर्वान् कामान् सह ब्रह्मणा विपश्चितेति …… || 2.1.1 ||

brahmavidāpnoti param. tadeṣāഽbhyuktā. satyaṃ jñānaṃ anantaṃ brahma. yo veda nihitaṃ guhāyāṃ parame vyoman. soഽśnute sarvān kāmān saha brahmaṇā vipaściteti. (2.1.1)

Word meaning: brahmavid- the knower of Brahma; āpnoti- attains to; param- the Ultimate; tad- that; eṣā- thus; abhyuktā- declared with reference to; satyaṃ- Satyam; jñānaṃ- knowledge; anantaṃ- infinity; brahma- Brahma; yo- whoever; veda- knows; nihitaṃ- situated, located; parame guhāyāṃ- deep in the cavity; in the depth of the Heart; vyoman- space; saḥ- he; aśnute- realises, attains; sarvān- all; kāmān-desires; saha brahmaṇā – along with Brahma; vipaścit- the Omniscient; eti- approaches.

Verse meaning: The knower of Brahma attains to the Ultimate. With reference to that, it is declared thus: ‘Brahma is Satyam-Jñānam-Anantam. He, who knows the space situated in the depth of the Heart, attains all his desires; further, along with Brahma, he attains to the Omniscient.

In Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad 3.2.9 we saw that he who knows Brahma becomes Brahma itself. Here it is stated that the knower of Brahma attains to the Ultimate. We know that the Ultimate is Ātmā; so the assertion here is that the knower of Brahma finally attains to Ātmā. The differentiation between the two is explained in the remaining part. It is stated that Brahma is Satyam-Jñānam-Anantam; in contrast to this, Ātmā is SAT-CHIT-ĀNANDA. There is a clear difference between the two. Satyam is the manifested form or derivative of SAT, as it is Asat sustained by SAT; similarly, Jñānam (Knowledge) is that of CHIT, since it is the result of application of CHIT; and Anandam (infinity) is that of ĀNANDA vide Chāndogya 7.23.1 & 7.24.1. Chāndogya also says in 8.1.1 that in the Brahmapura (city of Brahma, which is simply the Heart) there is a small lotus chamber wherein there is a small space (Ākāśa) and what is there in that Ākāśa is to be sought after and realised. The expression ‘what is there in that Ākāśa’ evidently refers to
Ātmā. This small Ākāśa is such that all that exists outside exists therein too, obviously in an abstract form. This inner Ākāśa and the contents thereof constitute the Brahma. One who knows this Ākāśa goes further and attains to the Ultimate within; thus, after knowing Brahma he proceeds further and attains to the Omniscient Ātmā. This is what Taittirīya says here. We can see the same idea in Gīta 18.54 & 18.55, which assert that one who is absorbed in Brahma gets endowed with devotion to me (Ātmā) and with that devotion he knows Ātmā and finally attains to Ātmā.

Please note the statement that whatever exists in the outer Ākāśa exists in the inner Ākāśa also; it is further stated that the entity within the inner Ākāśa (which is nothing but Ātmā) is to be sought after and realised. The first statement implies the uninterrupted pervasion of the Ākāśa inside and outside, while the second implies the same of Ātmā.

In the remaining part of the verse, it is stated that from this Ātmā originated all the five basic elements, from which food got generated; from food, man came into being. The phrase, ‘from this Ātmā’ is a sufficient indication that what was implied by ‘Ultimate’ and ‘Omniscient’ in the first part was definitely the Ātmā. Now see the second part of the verse below:

तस्माद्वा एतस्मादात्मन आकाशः संभूतः | आकाशाद्वायुः | वायोरग्निः | अग्नेरापः | अद्भ्यः पृथिवी | पृथिव्या ओषधयः | ओषधीभ्योഽन्नम् | अन्नात् पुरुषः | स वा एष पुरुषोഽन्नरसमयः ……. || 2.1.1 ||

tasmādvā etasmādātmana ākāśaḥ saṃbhūtaḥ; ākāśādvāyuḥ; vāyoragniḥ; agnerāpaḥ; adbhyaḥ pṛthivī; pṛthivyā oṣadhayaḥ; oṣadhībhyoഽnnam; annāt puruṣaḥ; sa vā eṣa puruṣoഽnnarasamayaḥ ……. (2.1.1)

Word meaning: tasmādvā etasmātdātmanaḥ – surely, from that which is this Ātmā; ākāśaḥ- Ākāśa; saṃbhūtaḥ- arose; ākāśāt- from Ākāśa; vāyuḥ- Vāyu; vāyoḥ- from Vāyu; agniḥ- Agni; agneḥ- from Agni; āpaḥ- Water; adbhyaḥ- from Water; pṛthivī- Earth; pṛthivyā- from Earth; oṣadhayaḥ- herbs; oṣadhībhyaḥ- from herbs; annam- food; annāt- from food; puruṣaḥ- Man; sa vā eṣa puruṣo – surely, he who is this Man; annarasamayaḥ- consists of the essence of food.

Verse meaning: Surely, from this Ātmā arose the Ākāśa; then Vāyu arose from Ākāśa and subsequently Agni from Vāyu, Water from Agni, Earth from Water, herbs from Earth and food from herbs. From food arose Man and so, Man consists of the essence of food (Annarasamaya).

The idea is very clear; no further explanation is deemed necessary. But, the expression ‘From food arose Man’ requires some clarification to facilitate easy grasping of the true spirit of the verse. It implies the nature of physical constitution of Man. The subtlest form of physical constitution of Man is admittedly a cell and it is from this he evolves into a full-fledged being. This subtlest form and also the grossest form that evolves therefrom are essence of food only; the change in physical constitution, from the subtle to the gross, comes from the essence of food consumed. This is why it is said that Man arose from food.

The cumulative assertion of this verse is that Annarasamaya Puruṣa is the physical expression of Ātmā. In the next verse (2.1.2) it is declared that within this physical expression, there is another expression of Ātmā, subtler than the physical and it is verily Prāṇamaya (consisting of Prāṇa). It pervades the Annarasamaya Puruṣa and therefore, it is Puruṣavidha (in the form of Puruṣa). See the relevant portion of the verse below:

… तस्माद्वा एतस्मादन्नरसमयात् | अन्योഽन्तर आत्मा प्राणमयः | तेनैष पूर्णः | स वा एष पुरुषविध एव ….|| 2.1.2||

… tasmādvā etasmādannarasamayāt; anyaoഽntara ātmā prāṇamayaḥ; tenaiṣa pūrṇaḥ; sa vā eṣa puruṣavidha eva

Word meaning: tasmādvā etasmādannarasamayāt – from this Annarasamaya (expression); anyaḥ- other; antara- within (subtler); ātmā- Ātmā; prāṇamayaḥ- Prāṇamaya (expression); tena- by that (by Prāṇamaya); eṣa- this (Annarasamaya); pūrṇaḥ- is filled; sa- he; vā- indeed; eṣa- this; puruṣavidha- in the form of Puruṣa; eva- surely.

Verse meaning: As given above.

It is a fact that Prāṇa acts in all parts of the body constituting Annarasamaya and is subtler in nature. Therefore Prāṇamaya expression is said to pervade Annarasamaya.

Within the Prāṇamaya expression, there exists another expression of Ātmā called Monomaya (consisting of Manas), vide verse 2.1.3. Manomaya expression is said to be subtler than Prāṇamaya, since Manas acts within the domain provided by the activity of Prāṇa. Similarly, since the activity of Manas extends to the entire expanse of that domain, Manomaya expression is said to pervade Prāṇamaya. For the same reason Manomaya expression too is Puruṣavidha (in the form of Puruṣa) like Prāṇamaya expression. The next verse (2.1.4) similarly says about Vijñānamaya expression of Ātmā, which is subtler than Manomaya; it pervades the Manomaya expression and is consequently Puruṣavidha too. Vijñāna refers to Buddhi which is said to hold the rein of Manas. Obviously, its activity extends to areas where Manas is active. These are the reasons why Vijñānamaya expression is said to pervade Manomaya and to be subtler than it.

The subtlest expression of Ātmā is Ānandamaya (consisting of Ānanda or Bliss) (verse 2.1.5). It pervades the Vijñānamaya expression. Consequently, this expression too is declared to be Puruṣavidha. Buddhi is the discerning faculty of Antaḥkaraṇa; without it, pain or pleasure is not distinguished. That means Ānanda is experienced, exclusively where Buddhi is active. It is for this reason that Ānandamaya expression is said to pervade Vijñānamaya; for the same reason it is subtler also.

It may be noted that only the Annarasamaya expression, which is purely physical in nature, is called Puruṣa here. All other expressions, progressively increasing in subtlety, are Puruṣavidha (in the form of Puruṣa) only. This is because all these subsequent expressions of Ātmā are confined within the physical expression of Annarasamaya, that is, within Puruṣa. This implies that the physical expression (the Annarasamaya expression) of Ātmā determines the basic individuality of a being; all others constitute a build-up thereon. When the physical expression is withdrawn, all the subtler ones existing thereupon are dissolved into their common source, the Ātmā. This is what is declared in Chāndogya 6.8.6 also. Bṛhadāraṇyaka verse 2.4.12 asserts that individuality is lost on dissolution of the body.

It may be noted that, in the present verse, even if each of the subtle expressions is said to be within the previous ones, its area of expression is in no way reduced progressively on account of it, since it pervades all the previous ones. Each of these various expressions of Ātmā is known as sheath or kośa (कोश). Remember that each subtler kośa pervades the previous one; therefore kośas are not exclusive layers, not one interior or exterior to the other, contrary to what is conventionally understood by interpreters and depicted by means of concentric circles or ovals. The word ‘antara’ in the verse only indicates subtlety, not interiority, since it is specifically stated, in the case of each subtler kośa, that it pervades the previous one (tenaiṣa pūrṇaḥ).

Verse 2.6.1 opens with the declaration that he who knows Brahma as Asat (not existing), becomes so himself. The implication is that he goes after the physical pleasures and possessions. On the other hand, he who knows Brahma as SAT (existing) becomes known as SAT. But, to both of them, Brahma is the same; there is no difference except in the perception of individuals. Since Brahma is thus declared as the same for both of them, a question naturally arises as to where each of them go after leaving from here. Do they go to different destinations? The answer is an indirect one; see it below:

… सोഽकामयत | बहु स्यां प्रजायेयेति | स तपोഽतप्यत | स तपस्तप्त्वा | इदं सर्वमसृजत | यदिदं किंच | तत्सृष्ट्वा तदेवानुप्रविशत् | तदनुप्रविश्य | सच्च त्यच्चाभवत् | निरुक्तं चानिरुक्तं च | निलयनं चानिलयनं च | विज्ञानं चाविज्ञानं च | सत्यं चानृतं च | सत्यमभवत् यदिदं किंच| तत् सत्यमित्याचक्षते | …… || 2.6.1 ||

… soഽkāmayata; bahu syāṃ prajāyeyeti, sa tapoഽtapyata; sa tapastaptvā; idaṃ sarvamasṛjata; yadidaṃ kiṃca; tatsṛṣṭvā tadevānupraviśat; tadanupraviśya; sacca tyaccābhavat; niruktaṃ cāniruktaṃ ca; nilayanaṃ cānilayanaṃ ca; vijñānaṃ cāvijñānaṃ ca; satyaṃ cānṛtaṃ ca; satyamabhavat yadidaṃ kiṃca; tat satyamityācakṣate ……. (2.6.1)

Word meaning: saḥ- he (Ātmā); akāmayata- willed; bahu syāṃ prajāyeyeti – may I become many through prajas; tapotapyata – did tapas; tapastaptvā by doing tapas; idaṃ sarvamasṛjata – brought forth all that is here; yadidaṃ kiṃca – whatever is here; tat- that; sṛṣṭvā- having brought forth; eva- verily; ānupraviśat- entered; tadanupraviśya – having entered that; sat- SAT; ca- and; tyat; Asat; abhavat- became; niruktaṃ- defined; aniruktaṃ- undefined; nilayanaṃ- abode; anilayanaṃ- abiding; vijñānaṃ- knowledge; avijñānaṃ- nescience; satyaṃ- virtuous; anṛtaṃ- vicious; satyam- Satyam; abhavat- became; yadidaṃ kiṃca – whatever here; tat satyamityācakṣate – it is called Satyam.

Verse meaning: He (Ātmā) willed to become many by having prajas. He did tapas and by tapas he brought forth all that is here. Then he entered them all; thus everything became consisted of SAT and Asat, defined and undefined, abode and abiding, knowledge and nescience and virtuous and vicious. Whatever exists here thus became Satyam and therefore it is called Satyam.

Note that this is the answer to the question where those who really know Brahma and those who do not know so, go after leaving from here. It is clarified here that knowledge and nescience come from the same source and therefore, both should go to that very same source, the Ātmā. The ‘going’ mentioned here happens only when one gets rid of his body at the end (ie. after leaving here). But, while still being in body, only those who know Brahma can attain to Brahma. Such an enlightened person gives up his body-consciousness, so says Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad (5.14).

In verse 2.3.1 of Bṛhadāraṇyaka, we saw that Brahma has two forms and they are same as stated in the present verse above. Moreover, Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad says in verses 1.1.8 and 1.1.9 how Brahma evolved from Ātmā and how the universe consequently came into being, through the tapas of Ātmā. It is the same thing now being described above. Why Brahma and, vicariously, the whole universe are called Satyam is explained in Chāndogya 8.3.4 & 8.3.5 and also in Bṛhadāraṇyaka 5.5.1, which we have already seen.

The next verse (2.7.1) states that it was verily Asat which existed in the beginning. This may seem confusing. But, it must be understood as a reference to the invoking of Prakṛti by Ātmā, made in tune with the narration of manifestation in the previous verse; therein it was stated that Ātmā brought forth everything first and then he entered them all. This implies existence of Asat in the beginning, which we see here. But, such presentation of seemingly objectionable ideas is only a tool to facilitate easy comprehension; actually, Ātmā and Prakṛti are inseparable.

Verse 2.8.1 declares that it is out of fear of Ātmā that wind blows, sun rises and Agni, Indra and Mṛtyu act. The idea is that all devas function under his control. The same idea is seen in Bṛhadāraṇyaka 3.8.9 and Kaṭha 6.3, which we have already studied.

This verse also gives an interesting description of the measure of bliss (Ānanda) that a person well-versed in Vedas and unaffected by Kāma would attain to. Let there be a noble youth with wisdom and good learning who is resolute and strong; the happiness he would feel if the whole world and wealth therein belongs to him is the measure of human bliss. Hundred times of this measure of human bliss is the bliss of human Gandharvas; hundred times thereof is the bliss of celestial Gandharvas; hundred times thereof is the bliss of the manes who belong to the eternal world; hundred times thereof is the bliss of devas born in the world of devas; hundred times thereof is the bliss of karmadevas; hundred times thereof is the bliss of Devas; hundred times thereof is the bliss of Indra; hundred times thereof is the bliss of Bṛhaspati; hundred times thereof is the bliss of Prajāpati; hundred times thereof is the bliss of Brahma. This is same as the bliss of an enlightened person who is not felled by Kāma. We need not break our heads on the mythological characters mentioned here; the aim of the description is to glorify the bliss that would accrue to a man who is enlightened and who has got rid of all Kāma.

The verse continues to say that he who is in man is same as he who is in the sun. The implication is that this whole universe is ruled by one and only one power. A person who knows thus transcends all the expressions of Ātmā starting from Annamaya kośa. His final destination must obviously be Ātmā, the state described in verse 7 of Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad.

Thus ends the second chapter. Now, we may move on to the last chapter, the third one, named Bhṛguvalli. Bhṛgu, son of Varuṇa, requested his father to teach him about Brahma. Varuṇa enlightens his son with what we have learned in Brahmavalli about kośas. As a prelude thereto, he says that food, Prāṇa, eyes, ears, Manas and speech are all Brahma. Then he elaborates thus:

… यतो वा इमानि भूतानि जायन्ते | येन जातानि जीवन्ति | यत्प्रयन्त्यभिसंविशन्ति | तद्विजिज्ञासस्व तद्ब्रह्मेति ….. || 3.1.1 ||

… yato vā imāni bhūtāni jāyante; yena jātāni jīvanti; yatprayantyabhisaṃviśanti; tadvijijñāsasva tadbrahmeti …. (3.1.1)

Word meaning: yataḥ- from which; vā- vai-verily; imāni- these; bhūtāni- beings; jāyante- originate; yena- by which; jātāni- those which thus originated; jīvanti- live; yat- to which; prayanti- strive to; abhisaṃviśanti- dissolve in; tat- that; vijijñāsasva- aspire to know; brahma- Brahma; iti- thus.

Verse meaning: From which these beings originate, by which they live and to which they strive to dissolve in, you should aspire to know that; that is Brahma.

Varuṇa thus tells his son that all beings emerge from, live in and, at the end, dissolve in Brahma and asks him to know it by own effort. ‘Knowing’ is not simply understanding, it is but experiencing also. When we say sugar is sweet, everybody will understand it; but experiencing that sweetness is what real knowing is. This is what Varuṇa asks his son to do and this is what the scriptures mean by ‘knowing’. This is the real implication of the declarations like ‘one who knows Brahma becomes Brahma’ and ‘one who knows Brahma attains to the Ultimate’.

In obedience to his father’s instructions, Bhṛgu does tapas; but, what he first knows is the Annarasamaya kośa only, which is the grossest and easily attainable expression of the Ultimate. He saw that his father’s definition matches with what he found. But, the father was not satisfied; he sends him back to do tapas again. This time, Bhṛgu came back with his new finding, Prāṇamaya kośa, as Brahma. There was surely progress in his enlightenment, as he could go subtler than earlier. But, his father’s response was the same as before. Bhṛgu again set out for tapas. He gradually crossed over into Manomaya, Vijñānamaya and finally Ānandamaya kośas, to the satisfaction of his father.

At the end, Varuṇa cautions his son against despising or rejecting annam; this is presumably in view of his sending back the son when he reported his first finding of Brahma as Annarasamaya. His intention is to impress upon his son that Annarasamaya kośa is not to be despised of; for, without it, other kośas are irrelevant. Varuṇa tells his son that annam is Prāṇa; this is because, in the absence of annam, Prāṇa cannot be sustained. So far is the philosophy of Varuṇa and his son Bhṛgu.

With this the Upaniṣad concludes the philosophical discourse.

Readers can contact the author by email at: karthiksreedhar@gmail.com

Prior articles in this series:

The Science of the Upanishads – Introduction
The Science of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
The Science of Chandogya Upanishad
The Science of Ishavasya Upanishad
The Science of Katha Upanishad
The Science of Kena Upanishad
The Science of Mandukya Upanishad
The Science of Mundaka Upanishad
The Science of Prashna Upanishad
The Science of Taittiriya Upanishad
The Science of Aitareya Upanishad
The Science of Shvetashvatara Upanishad
The Science of Upanishads – Conclusion