Sankara Bhagavatpada selected ten out of the numerous Upanisads to
comment upon from the non-dualistic point of view. Ramanuja, Madhva and
others who came after him wrote commentaries on the same based on their
own philosophical points of view. These ten Upanisads are listed in the
following stanza for the names to be easily remembered.
Aitareyan ca Chandogyam Brhadranyakam dasa
Sankara has followed the same order in his Bhasya (commentary).
"Isa" is Isavasya Upanisad (Isavasyopanishad). It occurs towards
the end of the Samhita of Sukla-Yajurveda. The name of this Upanisad is
derived from its very first word, "Isavasya". The next, "Kena", is
Kenopanisad. The Isavasyopanisad proclaims that the entire world is
pervaded by Isvara and that we must dedicate all our works to him and
attain the Paramatman.
An elephant made of wood looks real to a child. Grown-ups realise
that, though it resembles an elephant in shape, it is really wood. To
the child the wood is concealed, revealing the elephant; to the grown-up
the animal is hidden revealing the wood. Similarly, all this world and
the five elements are made of the timber called the Paramatman. We must
learn to look upon all this as the Supreme Godhead.
Marattai maraittadu mamada yanai
Marattil maraindadu mamada yanai
Parattai maraittadu parmudal bhutam
Parattil maraindadu parmudal bhutam
Tirumalar says in this stanza that, because of our being accustomed
to seeing the five elements all the time, we must not forget that the
Paramatman is hidden in them. We must recognise that it is indeed he who
pervades them and learn to see that everything is instinct with Isvara.
Sankara expresses exactly the same idea in his Bhasya when he speaks of
"dantini daru vikare". I don't wish to enter into a debate as to who
came first, Tirumular or Sankara. Great men think alike.
The Kenopanisad is also called the Talavakara Upanisad since it
occurs in the Talavakara Brahmana of the Jaimini Sakha of the Samaveda.
This Upanisad contains a story about the devas. The celestials in their
arrogance failed to recognise the Supreme Being whose crown and feet are
unknown. Ambika then appeared to give instruction in jnana to Indra, the
king of the devas. She explained to him that all our power emanated from
the one Great Power, from the one Mahasakti.
The Acarya has written two types of commentaries for this Upanisad,
the first word by word as in the case of the other Upanisads and the
second sentence by sentence. In his Saundaryalahari he has the
Kenopanisad in mind when he prays to Amba: "Place your feet on my head,
the feet that are held by Mother Veda. " The Upanisads (Vedanta) are
also called "Veda-siras", "Sruti-siras", the "head" or "crown" of the
Vedas - the Upanisads which are the "end" of the Vedas (Vedanta) are
also their crown. To say that Amba's feet are placed on the head of
Mother Veda means that they are held by the Upanisads. It is in the
Kenopanisad that we see Amba appearing as Jnanambika (the goddess of
jnana). "Samaganapriya" is one of her names in the Lalitasahasranama
(The One Thousand Names of Lalita): this is in keeping with the fact
that Amba's glory is specially revealed in an Upanisad belonging to the
What we see is the object and who see it are the subject: the seen
is the object, the seer is the subject. We can see our body as an
object, we can know about it, know whether it is well or ill. It follows
that there is an entity other than it that sees it, the subject called
"we". That which sees is the Atman. The subject called the Atman cannot
be known by anything else. If it can be known, it also becomes an object
and it would further mean that there is another entity that sees: and
that will be the true "we". The Atman that is the true "we" can only be
the subject and never the object. We may keep aside objects like the
body and experience ourselves, the subject called "we", but we cannot
know the "we". "To know" means that there is something other than
ourselves to be known. It would be absurd to regard the Atman as
something other than ourselves. The true "we" is the Atman, the Self.
"Knowing " it implies that that which knows it("we") is different from
that which is known (the Self). What can be there that is different in
us from our true Self? What is it that is other than the Self that can
know the Self? Nothing. We say "Atmajnana" which literally means
"knowing the Atman". But is the phrase, "knowing the Atman", used in the
sense of a subject knowing an object? No. "Atmajnana" means the Self
experiencing itself, and that is how "jnana" or "knowing" is to be
understood. This is the reason why the Kenopanisad says that "he who
says that he knows the Atman does not know it". It goes on:"He who says
that he does not know knows. He who thinks that he knows does not know
and he who thinks he does not know knows. "
The Kathopanisad comes next. It occurs in the Katha Sakha of the
Krsna Yajurveda. this Upanisad contains the teachings imparted by Yama
to the brahmacarin Naciketas. It begins as a story and leads up to the
exposition of profound philosophical truths. The Gita contains
quotations from this Upanisad.
What I said just now about the subject-object relationship is
explained in depth in the concluding part of the Kathopanisad. How do we
remove the ear of grain from the stalk? And how do we draw the pith from
the reed? Similarly, we must draw the subject that is the Self from the
object that is the body, says the Kathopanishad. "Desire, anger, hatred,
fear, all these appertain to the mind, not to the Self. Hunger, thirst
and so on appertain to the body - they are not 'mine'. " By constant
practice we must learn to reject all such things as do not belong to the
Self by "objectifying them". If we do so with concentration, in due
course we will be able to overcome the idea that has taken root in us
that the body and the mind constitute the "we". We can then exist as the
immaculate Self without the impurities tainting the body and the mind.
The Kathopanisad compares the spiritual exercise of separating the
Self from the body and the mind to that of drawing off the pith, bright,
pure and soft, from the reed. Before you is the spadix of a plantain.
When it wilts do you also droop? Think of the body as a lump of flesh
closer to you than this spadix of the plantain. This spadix is not the
subject that is "we", but the object. On the same lines you must become
accustomed to think of the body as an object in relation to the subject
that is the Self. During our life in this world itself - during the time
we seem to exist in our body - we must learn to treat the body as not
"me", not "mine". Moksa or liberation does not necessarily mean
ascending to another world like Kailasa or Vaikuntha. It can be attained
here and now. What is moksa? It is everlasting bliss that comes of being
freed from all burden. He who lives delighting in his Self in this world
itself without any awareness of his body is called a "jivanmukta". The
supreme goal of the Vedas and Vedanta is making a man a jivanmukta.
Krsna Paramatman speaks of the same idea in the Gita. He who, while
yet in this world ("ihaiva"), controls his desire and anger before he is
released from his body ("prak sariravimoksanat") - he will remain
integrated (in yoga) and achieve everlasting bliss. "Ihaiva" = "iha eva",
while yet in this world. If you realise the Self, as an inner
experience, while yet in this world, at the time of your death you will
not be aware that your body is severed from you. The reason is that even
before your death, when you are yet in this world, the body does not
exist for you. So is there any need for what is called death to destroy
it? There is no death for the man who has absolute realisation of his
body being not "he" (when you mention the body the mind is also included
in it). Where is the question of his dying if he knows that the body is
not "me" (that is "he")? The death is only for his body.
The man who has no death thus becomes "amrta" ("immortal"). Hymns
like the Purusasukta which appear in the karmakanda of the Vedas also
speak of such deathlessness. This idea recurs throughout the Upanisads.
The body, and the mind that functions through it, are the cause of
sorrow. All religions are agreed that liberation is a state in which
sorrow gives place to everlasting happiness. However, according to
religious traditions other than Advaita (non-dualism), a man has to go
to some other world for such bliss after his death. Sankara Bhagavatpada
establishes that true liberation can be won in this world itself if one
ceases to identify oneself totally with the body and remains rooted in
"Tadetat asariratvam moksakhyam", so he proclaims in his
Sutrabhasya (1. 1. 4). The word "asariri" is popularly understood as a
voice we hear without knowing its origin (disembodied voice). It means
to be without a body. "Asariratvam", bodylessness (being incorporeal),
is a state in which one is not conscious of the existence of one's body.
This is liberation, says the Acaya. To remain bodyless, disincarnate,
does not mean committing suicide. When we reduce our desires little by
little a stage will be reached when they will be totally rooted out.
When they are thus eradicated, consciousness of the body will naturally
cease too. The Self alone will remain then, shining. To arrive at such a
state is not necessary to voyage to another world. It is this idea that
the Vedas and Vedanta refer to when they say "Ihaiva, ihaiva" (Here
itself, here itself) - the ideal of liberation here and now.
We have two enemies who prevent us from reaching the state of amrta
(deathlessness): according to the Gita they are desire and anger. The
basis for this is the Chandogya Upanisad (8. 12. 1) which is a part of
the Sruti - the passage in which "priya apriya" occurs: the words mean
"what one likes and what one hates". The first is denoted by desire, of Kama, the second by anger. The Chandogya Upanisad says that one
who has no body (that is one who is not conscious of his body) is not
affected either by desire or by anger. That is (it says): "If you wish
to be free from the evils of desire and anger you ought to make ourself
without your body (free yourself of our body) right now when you are yet
in this world".
A jivatman (individual self) is divided into three parts in
association with the ego: "gaunatman", "mithyatman" and mukhyatman".
These are mentioned in Sankara's commentary on the Brahmasutra.
Gauna-mithyatmano'sattve putradehadi badhanat
Sadbrahmatmahamityevam bodhe karyam katham bhavaet
-Sutrabhasya, 1. 1. 4
It is part of human nature to believe that one's children and
friends are the same as oneself and that their joys and sorrows are
one's own. That is what is meant by "gaunatman". "Gauna" denotes what is
ceremonial or what is regarded as a formality. We know that our children
and friends are different from us and yet we want to believe that they
are our own.
The "I-feeling" in relation to the body which is closer to us than
our children and friends is "mithyatman".
There is a state in which the pure Self is seen separate from the
body and identified inwardly with the Brahman: it is called "mukhyatman".
When the first two - gaunatman and mithyatman - are separated from
us we will be freed from attachments to our children, friends and the
body as well as its senses. The realisation will dawn then that "I am
the Brahman". Now there will be nothing for us to "do". This is the
meaning of the Sutrabhasya passage.
Svami Vivekananda who wanted to rouse the people of India chose
a mantra from the Kathopanisad ("Arise, awake", etc) for the Ramakrsna
Mission. This Upanisad is the source of many a popular quote. For
instance, there is the mantra which states that the Self cannot be known
either by learning or by the strength of one's intellect. "Know that the
Self is the Lord of the chariot, that the body is the chariot and that
the intellect is the charioteer", is another.
"In the cavern of the heart the Supreme Being is radiant like a
thumb of light. . . . . . "
Then there is the mantra we recite at the time of the "diparadhana
rite" ("Na tatra suryo bhati. . . "): "The sun does not shine there, nor
the moon, nor the stars. There is no flash of lightning. Agni too does
not shine there. When he (the Paramatman) shines everything shines; all
his shines by his light. " All our knowledge is derived from that Great
Light. With our limited knowledge we cannot shed light on that Reality.
Later, the Kathopanisad mentions what Sir Krsna Paramatman says in
the Gita about the cosmic pipal tree, the symbol of samsara or worldly
existence. If all the desires of the heart are banished a man can become
immortal and realise the Brahman here itself.
After the Kathopanisad comes the Prasnopanisad, the Mundakopanisad
and the Mandukyopanisad, all three being from the Atharvaveda. "Prasna"
means "question". What is the origin of the various creatures? Who are
the deities that sustain them? How does life imbue the body? What is the
truth about wakefulness, sleep and the state of dream? What purpose is
served by being devoted to Om? What is
the relationship between the Supreme Godhead and the individual self?
These questions are answered in the Prasnopanisad.
"Mundana" means "tonsure". Only sannyasins, ascetics with a high
degree of maturity, are qualified to study the Mundakopanisad - that is
how it came to be so called. This Upanisad speaks of the Aksarabrahman,
aksara meaning "imperishable" and also "sound". We speak of "Pancaksara",
"Astaksara"and so on. The source of all sound in "Pranava", or "Omkara".
Pranava is a particularly efficacious means to attain the Aksarabrahman.
One mantra in the Mundakopanisad asks us to string the bow of
Omkara with the arrow of the Atman and hit unperturbed the target called
the Brahman. Like the arrow you must be one with the Brahman. It is also
in this Upanisad that the individual self and the Paramatman are
compared to two birds perched on the body that is the pippala tree. The
jivatman (individual self) alone eats the fruit (of karma) and the
Paramtman bird is merely a witness. This is the basis of the biblical
story of Adam (Atman) and Eve (jiva). Adam does not eat the apple (pippala)
but Eve does.
The motto of the Union of India - "Satyameva Jayate" - is taken
from this Upanisad. .
There is also a mantra which speaks of sannyasins who, after being
jivanmuktas in this world, become "videhamuktas" (liberated without
their body). It is chanted when ascetics are received with honour with a
The Mundakopanisad speaks of the jnanin thus: "Different rivers
with different names lose their names and forms in the ocean. Similarly
the knower (jnanin) freed from name and form unites inseparably with the
Next is the Mandukyopanisad. "Manduka" means "frog". Why the name
"Frog Upanisad"? One reason occurs to me: the frog does not have to go
step by step. It can leap from the first to the fourth step. In the
Mandukyopanisad the way is shown to reach the turiya or fourth state
from the state of wakefulness through the states of sleep and dream. By
devoting oneself to (by intense meditation of) Om (that is
by aksara upasana) 2one can in one bound go up to the fourth state. That
perhaps is the reason why this Upanisad is called "Mandukya". According
to modern research scholars, the Mandukya Upanisad belonged to a group
of people who had the frog as their totem! (It is also said that the
sage associated with the Upanisad is Varuna who took the form of a frog.
The text of the Mandukyopanisad is very brief and contains only
twelve mantras. But it has acquired a special place among seekers
because it is packed with meaning. It demonstrates the oneness of the
individual self and the Brahman through the four feet (padas) of Pranava.
There is a famous passage occurring towards the end of this Upanisad
which describes the experience of the turiya or fourth state in which
all the cosmos is dissolved in "Siva-Advaita" (Sivo' dvaita). Sankara
Bhagavatpada's guru's guru, Gaudapadacarya, has commented on this
Upanisad (Mandukyopanisad-Karika) and Sankara has written a further
commentary on this work.
Now the Taittriya Upanisad. I had referred earlier to the
misunderstanding that developed between Vaisampayana and his disciple
Yajnavalkya. In his anger the teacher asked his student to eject the
Veda he has taught him. Yajnavalkya did as bidden. Later the sun god
taught him the Sukla-Yajurveda which had until then not been revealed to
It was with the power acquired throught mantras that Yajnavalkya
beceame a gander to throw up the Veda he had first learned from
Vaisampayana. Now that master's other disciples, bidden by him assumed
the form of tittri birds (partridges) and consumed what had been ejected
by Yajnavalkya. Thus this recension of the Yajurveda came to be called "Taittiriya
Sakha". The name "Taittiriya" is also applied to the Samhita, Brahmana
and Aranyaka of this sakha. The Taittiriya Upanisad is part of the
Taittiriya Aranyaka and it is perhaps studied more widely thatn any
other Upanisad. Many mantras employed in rituals are taken from it.
There are three part to it - "Siksavalli", "Anandavalli" and "Bhruguvalli".
Sikshavalli contains matters relating to education rules of the
brahmacaryasrama (the celibate student's stage of life), its importance,
order of Vedic chanting, meditation of Pranava. The "Avahanti homa" is
in Siksavalli. It is performed by the acarya to ensure that disciples
come to learn from him without any let or hindrance. We know from our
own experience that, even today, as a result of performing this
sacrifice, Vedic schools which were in decay have received a new lease
of life with the admission of many new students.
Siksavalli mentions "Atma-svrajya" that is eternal, a state which
treanscends in meaning the "svarajya" we are familiar with in politics.
"Satyam vada, dharmam cara" (Speak the truth, do your duty
according to dharma): such exhortations to students are contained in
this Upanisad. Students are urged not to neglect the study of the Vedas
at any time. They are asked to marry and beget children so that Vedic
learning will be kept up from generation to generation. "Matr-devo bhava,
pirt-devo bhava, acarya-devo bhava, athithi-devo bhava" (Be one to whom
your mother is a god; be one to whom your father is a god; be one to
whom your teacher is a god; be one to whom your guest is a god) - all
such mantras are in this Upanisad. The importance of charity and dharma
is specially stresed here.
Earlier I spoke to you about a "multiplication table" of bliss in
which each successive type of bliss is a hundredfold greater that the
previous one. Anandavalli is the part of the Taittriya Upanisad in which
you see this. The highest form of bliss of ananda in this "table" is
Brahmananda (the blis of realising the Brahman).
Different sheaths (kosas) of man are mentioned in this Upanisad.
The first is the "annamaya-kosa" (the sheath of food), the flesh that
grows with the intake of food. Inside it is the "pranamaya-kosa" (the
sheath of vital breath). Then comes the "manomaya-kosa" (the sheath of
mind) that gives rise to thoughts and felings. The fourth is "vijnanamaya-kosa"
(the sheath of understanding). And, finally, the fifth, the "anandamaya-kosa"
(the sheath of bliss). It is here that the Self dwells in blessedness.
Each sheath is personified as a bird with head, wings, body, belly -
there is a philosophical significance in this. This Upanisad contains
the oft-quoted mantra ("Yato vaco. . . "). It says: "He who knows the
bliss of the Brahman, from which speech and mind turn away unable to
grasp it, such a man does not have to fear anything from anywhere. "
"Bhrguvalli" is the teaching (upadesa) imparted by Varuna to his
son Bhrgu. "Upadesa" here is not to be understood as something dictated
by the guru to his student. Varuna encourages his son to ascend step by
step through his own experiments and experience. Bhrugu performs
austerities and thinks that the sheath of food is the truth. From this
stage he advances gradually through the sheaths of breath, mind and
understanding and arrives at the truth that is the sheath of bliss. He
realises as an experience that the Atman (the nature of bliss) is the
This does not mean that the Taittriya Upanisad rejects the factual
world represented by the sheath of food. Whiule being yet in this world,
taking part in its activities, we must become aware of the supreme
truth. For this we must strive to make life more dharmic, as a means of
Atmic advancement. That is why even those who have attained the sheath
of bliss are admonished. : "Do not speak ill of food. Do not throw it
away. Grow plenty of food". Even the government has used this mantra for
its grow more food campaign. The Taittriya Upanisad concludes with the
mantra which says: "I am food, I am food, the one who eats it. . . ".
The Aitareya Upanisad forms part of the Aitareya Aranyaka of the
Rgveda. the name is dereived from the fact that it was the sage Aitareya
who made is widely known. A jiva (individual self) originating in the
father, says the Upanisad, enters the womb of the mother. He is born in
this world and goes through his life of meritorious and sinful actions.
Then he is born again and again in diferent worlds. Only by knowing the
Atman does he find release from the bondage of phenomenal existence.
The sage called Vamadeva knew about all his previous births when he
was in his mother's womb. He passed through all fortresses and, like an
eagle soaring high in the skies, voyaged seeking liberation. In this
context prajnana, direct perception of the Atman, is spoken of in high
terms. It is not merely that one attains the Brahman through such jnana
(prajnana) - the fact is such prajnana itself is the Brahman. And this
is the mahavakya of the Rgveda: "Prajnanam Brahma".
The Chandyoga and Brhadaranyaka Upanisads are the last two of the
ten major Upanisads and is also the biggest. They are bigger than all
the other eight of the ten put together. The first is part of the
Chandogya Brahmana of the Samaveda. "Chandogya" means relating to "chandoga",
one who sings the Saman. The Tamil Tevaram refers to Paramesvara as "Candogan kan".
The Zoroastrian scripture called the Zend-Avesta could be treaced back
to "Chandoga-Avesta. "
Just as there are passages in the Gita form the Kathopanisad, so
has the Brahmasutra passages from the Chandogya Upanisad. In these two
Upanisads the teachings of a number of sages are put together.
The introductory mantras of the Chandogya Upanisad refer to Omkara
as "udgita" and explains how one is to meditate on it. A number of
vidyas are mentioned like "Aksi", "Akasa", "NMadhu", "Sandilya", "Prana",
and "Pancagni". These help in different ways in knowing the Ultimate
Reality. "Dahara vidya" is the culmination of all these: it means
perceiving the Supreme Being manifested as the transcadent outward sky
in the tiny space in our heart. A number of truths are expounded in this
Upanisad in the form of stories.
From the story of Raikva we learn about the strange outward
behaviour of one who has realised the Brahman. There is then the famous
story of Satyakama who does not know his gotra, but is accepted as a
pupil by Gautama. The guru thinks that Satyakama must be a true Brahmin
since he does not hide the truth about him. Before the pupil is taught
he is made to undergo many tests. The guru's wife, out of concern for
the pupil, speaks to her husband for him. When we read such stories we
have before us a true picture of gurukulavasa in ancient times.
In character Svetaketu was the opposite of Satyakama and was proud
of his learning. His father Uddalaka Aruni teaches him to be humble and
in the end imparts to him the mantra, "Tat tvam asi" (That thou art),
the mantra which proclaims the non-difference between the individual
self and the Brahman. "Tat tvam asi" is the mahavakya of the Samaveda.
Unlike Svetaketu, the sage Narada, who had mastered all branches of
learning, was humble and full of regret that he had remained ignorant of
the Atman. He finds enlightenment in the teachings of Sanatkumara which
are included in the Chandogya Upanisad. In the Taittriya Upanisad Bhrgu
is taught to go step by step to obtain higher knowledge [from the sheath
of food to the sheath of bliss]. Here Sanatkumara teaches Narada to go
from purity of form to purity of the inner organs ("antah-karanas").
That is the time when all ties will snap and bliss reached.
Another story illustrates how different students benefit
differently from the same teaching according to the degree of maturity
of each. Prajapati gives the same instruction to Indra, the king of the
celestials, and to Virocana, the king of the asuras. This is what
Prajapati teaches him: "He who sees with his eyes, he is the Self". He
subtly hints at the object that is behind the eye, knowledge, etc, and
that is the basis of all these. Without understanding this, the two se
themselves in a mirror and take the reflection to be the Self. You see
only the body in the mirror and Virocana comes to the conclusion that
that is the Self. It is from this idea that atheism, materialism and the
Lokayata system developed. Although Indra also took this kind of wrong
view from his reflection, eventually [similar to the story in the
Taittriya Upanisad of Bhrgu advancing from the sheath of food to the
sheath of bliss] he goes in gradual stages from the gross body to the
subtle body of sleep and later to the turiya or fourth state mentioned
in the Mandukyopanisad - the turiya is the Self.
The Brhadaranyaka Upanisad comes last. "Brhad" means "great". It is
indeed a great Upanisad, Brhadaranyaka. Generally, an Upanisad comes
towards the close of the Aranyaka of the sakha concerned. While the
Isavasyopanisad occurs in the Samhita of the Sukla-Yajurveda, the Brhar\daranyaka
Upanisad is in the Aranyaka of the same Veda: as a matter of fact the
entire Aranyaka constitutes this Upanisad. There are two recensions of
it: the Madhyandina Sakha and the Kanva Sakha. Sankara has chosen the
latter for his commentary.
This Upanisad consists of six chapters. The first two are the "Madhukanda",
the next two are the "Muni-kanda" in the name of Yajnavalkya, and the
last two are the "Khila-kanda". NMadhu may be understood as that which
is full of the flavour of bliss. If we have the realisation that all
this world is a personification of the Parabrahman it would be sweet
like nectar to all cretures - and the creatures would be like honey to
the world. The Atman then would be nectar for all. This idea is
expressed in the Madhu-kanda.
It is in this Upanisad that the celebrated statement occurs that
the Atman is "neither this, nor this" ("Neti, neti"). The Self cannot be
described in any way. "Na-iti" - that is "Neti". It is through this
process of "Neti, neti" that you give up everything - the cosmos, the
body, the mind, everything - to realise the Self. After knowing the
Atman in this manner you will develop the attitude that the phenomenal
world and all its creatures are made up the same essence of bliss.
The first kanda contains the teachings received by the Brahmin
Gargya from the Ksatriya Ajatasatru. This shows that kings like
Ajatasatru and Janaka were knowers of the Brahman. We also learn that
women too took part on an equal footing with the sages in the debates in
royal assemblies on the nature of the Brahman. There was, for instance,
Gargi in Janaka's assembly of the learned. The Brhadaranyaka Upanisad
also tells us about Yajnavalkya's two wives: of the two Katyayani was
like any housewife and the second, Maitreyi, was a Brahmavadini (one who
inquires into the Brahman and speaks about it). The instruction given by
Yajnavalkya to Maitreyi occurs both in the Madhukanda and the Muni-kanda.
Here we have a beautiful combination of story-telling and philosophical
When Yajnavalkya is on the point of renouncing the world, he
divides his wealth between his two wives. Katyayani is contented and
does not ask for anything more. Maitreyi, on the other hand, is not
worried about about her share. she tells her husband: "You are leaving
your home, aren't you, because you wil find greater happiness in
sannyasa that from all this wealth? What is that happiness? Won't you
speak about it? "
Yajnavalkya replies: "You have always ben dear to me, Maitreyi.
Now, by asking this question, you have endeared yourself to me more. "
He then proceeds to find out what is meant by the idea of someone being
dear to someone else. His is indeed an inquiry into the concept of love
and affection. He says: "A wife is dear to her husband not for the sake
of his wife but for the sake of his Self. So is a husband dear to his
wife for the sake foor the sake of her Self. The children too are dear
to us not for their sake but for the sake of the Self. So is the case
with our love of wealth. We have affection of a person or an entity
because it pleases our Self. It means that this Self itself is of the
nature of affection, of love, of joy. It is to know this Self
independently of everything else that we forsake all those who are dear
to us and take to sannyasa. When we know It, the Self or the Atman, we
will realise that there is nothing other than It. Everything will become
dear to us. To begin with, when we had affection for certain people or
certain things, we had dislike for certain other people and certain
other things. If we cease to be attached to those people or to those
things that we loved and realise the Atman, then we will become aware
that there is nothing other thatn the Atman. Then, again, we will
dislike none and will love all without any distinction. "
Before renouncing the world, Yajnavalkya held disputations on the
Ultimate Reality with Kahola, Uddalaka Aruni and Gargi in Janaka's royal
assembly. These debates, together with the teachings he imparted to
Janaka, are included in Muni-kanda. The concept of Antaryamin (Inner
Controller) belongs to Visistadvaita (qualified non-dualism). The basis
for this is to be found in Yajnavalkya's answer to a question put to him
by Uddalaka Aruni.
According to non-dualism all this phenomenal world in Maya. The
idea behind the concept of Antaryamin is that if the world is the body,
the Paramatman dwells in it as its very life. Though Yajnavalkya accepts
this concept on a certain level, at all other times his views are
entirely in consonance with non-dualism. In his concluding words to
Maitreyi, the supreme Advaitin that he is, Yajnavalkya remarks: "Even if
you be little dualistic in your outlook, it means that you look at
something other than yourself, smell, taste, touch and hear something
other than yourself. But when you have realised the Self experientially,
all these 'other things' cease to exist. That which is the source of
seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and so on - how can you see, hear,
taste, smell That? " Expounding non-dualism Yajnavalkya tells Janaka (4.
3. 32), "Like water mingled with water all become one in the Paramatman.
" "He who is freed from all desire existes as the Brahman even when he
is in the world (with his body) and when he dies is united with the
The two concluding chapters that form the Khila-kanda of the
Upanisad bring together scattered ideas. (If a thing is broken or
divided it is called "khila". That which is whole and unbroken is "akhila".
A story in the Khila-kanda illustrates how the same teaching is
interpreted differently according to the degree of maturity of the
aspirants. The devas (the celestial race), humans and the demons (asuras)
seek instruction from Prajapati (the Creator). Prajapati utters just one
syllable, "Da", as his teaching. The devas who do not possess enough
control over their senses take it to mean "damyata" ("control your
senses"). Humans who are possessive understand the syllable as "datta"
("give", "be charitable"). The asuras who are cruel by nature take the
same as "dayadhvam" (be compassionate).
A mantra occurring in the concluding part of the Brhadranyaka
Upanisad seems to me not only extremely interesting but also comforting.
What does it say? "If a man suffers from fever it must be taken that he
is practising austerities (tapas). If he recognises illnesses and
afflictions to be tapas, he passes on to a very high world" (5. 11. 1).
[Etadvai paramam tapo yadvyahitastapyate paramam haiva lokam jayati ya
evam veda. . . ]
What is the meaning of this statement and what is interesting about
it? And how is it comforting?
By observing vows, by fasting, by living an austere life and by
suffering physically, we will become less attached to the body, and the
sins accumulated in our past lives will diminish. Tapas is a way of
expiating the sins of past lives. The offences committed with our body
are wiped away by the very body when it undergoes suffering (that is by
That is why the Puranas speak of great men having performed
austerities. Ambika herself - she is the mother of the universe -
performs tapas. Not heeding the word of her husband Paramesvara, she [as
Sati] attends the sacrifice conducted by her father Daksa. Because of
the humiliation she suffers there she immolates herself in the
sacrificial fire and is reborn as the daughter of Himavan. As atonement
for disobeying her husband's command during her past life and for the
purpose of being united with him again, she performs severe austerities.
Kalidasa gives a beautiful and moving account of this. How bitterly cold
it will be during the winter in the Himalaya.
But in that season Parvati (that is Ambika) performs austerities seated
on icy rocks or standing on frozen lakes. In the summer, when the sun is
beating down harshly, she does tapas with fires burning all round her.
Performing austerities with the fires on four sides and with the sun
burning above is called "pancagni-tapas".
Many great men have performed such severe austerities.
How about ourselves? If they, the great men, were guilty of one or
two lapses, we cannot even keep count of our sins. But we have neither
the will nor the strength to perform a fraction of the austerities that
they went through. How then are we going to wipe away our sins?
It is when we are troubled by such thoughts that we find the
foregoing Upanisadic mantra comforting. Since ours is not a disciplined
life we keep suffering from one ailment or another. The Upanisadic
mantra seems to be directed to us: "You must learn to think that the
affliction you are suffering from is tapas. If you do so you will be
freed from your sins and liberated. " Though the message is not given in
such plain terms, such is the meaning of the mantra.
We often speak of "jvara-tapa" or "tapa-jvara" (literally "hot
fever"). "Tapa" means "boiling" or "cooking". The root is "tap" to burn.
"Tapana" is one of the names of the sun. Even if we do not perform the
austerities mentioned in the sastras, we must take it that the fever
contracted by us is the tapas Isvara has awarded us to become free from
When we are down with malaria we keep shivering in spite of
covering ourselves with blankets. Our attitude now must be to suffer the
affliction in lieu of the tapas we ought to perform in the winter months
remaining on snow. Do you feel that your body is being roasted when your
are suffering from typhoid or pneumonia and a running temperature of
105° or 106°F? You must comfort yourself, believing that God has given
you the fever as a substitute for the pancagni-tapas you are unable to
You will in due course learn to take such an attitude and develop
the strength to suffere any illness. Instead of sending for the doctor
or rushing to the medicine chest you may take it easy, telling yourself,
"Let the illness take its course". When we happen to fall ill as a means
of reducing our burden of sin, is it right to seek a cure for it? Also
we save on doctor's fees, medicine, etc. The gain bigger that all the
rest in that of learning to take the high attitude of treating suffering
as not suffering. This is called "titiksa".
All this is briefly indicated in the Upanisadic mantra. When we
keep lamenting that we are unable to expiate our sins - when we are
unable to perform tapas - we may take comfort from the fact that when we
suffer from a disease it is God's way of making us perform austerities.
In the last chapter of the Brhadranyaka Upanisad we have strong
proof of the fact that Vedanta is not opposed to the karmakanda. Here
are mentioned the pancagni-vidya and the rites to be performed to beget
virtuous children (supraja).
33. Why is cow considersd as a holy animal
Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.6.19 Purport
There are so many facilities afforded by cow protection, but people
have forgotten these arts. The importance of protecting cows is
therefore stressed by Krsna in Bhagavad-gita (krsi-go-raksya-vanijyam
vaisya-karma svabhavajam [Bg. 18.44]). Even now in the Indian villages
surrounding Vrndavana, the villagers live happily simply by giving
protection to the cow. They keep cow dung very carefully and dry it to
use as fuel. They keep a sufficient stock of grains, and because of
giving protection to the cows, they have sufficient milk and milk
products to solve all economic problems. Simply by giving protection to
the cow, the villagers live so peacefully. Even the urine and stool of
cows have medicinal value.
Srimad-Bhagavatam 9.15.25 Purport
Jamadagni was more powerful than Kartaviryarjuna because of
performing the agnihotra-yajna with clarified butter received from the
kamadhenu. Not everyone can be expected to possess such a cow.
Nonetheless, an ordinary man may possess an ordinary cow, give
protection to this animal, take sufficient milk from it, and engage the
milk to produce butter and clarified ghee, especially for performing the
agnihotra-yajna. This is possible for everyone. Thus we find that in
Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna advises go-raksya, the protection of cows. This
is essential because if cows are cared for properly they will surely
supply sufficient milk. We have practical experience in America
that in our various ISKCON farms we are giving proper protection to the
cows and receiving more than enough milk. In other farms the cows do not
deliver as much milk as in our farms; because our cows know very well
that we are not going to kill them, they are happy, and they give ample
milk. Therefore this instruction given by Lord Krsna -- go-raksya -- is
extremely meaningful. The whole world must learn from Krsna how to live
happily without scarcity simply by producing food grains (annad bhavanti
bhutani [Bg. 3.14]) and giving protection to the cows (go-raksya).
Krsi-go-raksya-vanijyam vaisya-karma svabhavajam [Bg. 18.44]. Those who
belong to the third level of human society, namely the mercantile
people, must keep land for producing food grains and giving protection
to cows. This is the injunction of Bhagavad-gita. In the matter of
protecting the cows, the meat-eaters will protest, but in answer to them
we may say that since Krsna gives stress to cow protection, those who
are inclined to eat meat may eat the flesh of unimportant animals like
hogs, dogs, goats and sheep, but they should not touch the life of the
cows, for this is destructive to the spiritual advancement of human
Srimad-Bhagavatam 8.6.12 Purport
Although in this age men can live up to one hundred years, their
duration of life is reduced because they do not drink large quantities
of milk. This is a sign of Kali-yuga. In Kali-yuga, instead of drinking
milk, people prefer to slaughter an animal and eat its flesh. The
Supreme Personality of Godhead, in His instructions of Bhagavad-gita,
advises go-raksya, which means cow protection. The cow should be
protected, milk should be drawn from the cows, and this milk should be
prepared in various ways. One should take ample milk, and thus one can
prolong one's life, develop his brain, execute devotional service, and
ultimately attain the favor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As it
is essential to get food grains and water by digging the earth, it is
also essential to give protection to the cows and take nectarine milk
from their milk bags.
Light of the Bhagavata Text 27
Protection and grazing ground for the cows are among the essential
needs for society and the welfare of people in general. The animal fat
required for the human body can be well derived from cow's milk. Cow's
milk is very important for human energy, and the economic development of
society depends on sufficient food grains, sufficient milk, and
sufficient transportation and distribution of these products. Lord Sri
Krsna, by His personal example, taught us the importance of cow
protection, which is meant not only for the Indian climate but for all
human beings all over the universe.
Less intelligent people underestimate the value of cow's milk. Cow's
milk is also called gorasa, or the juice from the body of the cow. Milk
is the most valuable form of gorasa, and from milk we can prepare many
important and valuable foodstuffs for the upkeep of the human body. The
killing of cows by human society is one of the grossest suicidal
policies, and those who are anxious to cultivate the human spirit must
turn their attention first toward the question of cow protection.
Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.6.22-23 Purport
Even in the houses of the cultivators, who were not very advanced
in the modern ways of civilization, the ladies used to know how to chant
mantras to give protection to children with the help of cow dung and cow
urine. This was a simple and practical way to give the greatest
protection from the greatest dangers. People should know how to do this,
for this is a part of Vedic civilization.