The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
by Swami Krishnananda


Chapter III

First Brahmana: Sacrificial Worship and Its Rewards

The central portion of the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣhad is what we are now entering into. The context of the discussion in these two chapters is the court of King Janaka who was a great knower of the Self. We are told that there were about sixty-four Janakas. Janaka is not the name of a person. It is a designation, say, the title like Collector, which is not the name of a man but the name of an office that he holds. According to the Bhāgavata and other Purāṇas we are told that all these sixty-four were famous knowers of the Self. They were ātmā-jñānis. One Janaka, out of these sixty-four, was the father of Sīta of the Rāmāyana.

Now, we are going to discuss the conversation between the first Janaka, and the Master, Yājñavalkya. It occurred to the mind of King Janaka that he should know who was the most learned in his country. There were many learned people and sages, but 'who was the foremost'? He wanted to be initiated by the best among them. But how to find out the best? There were hundreds and thousands in the country. So, he thought of a plan. He arranged a huge sacrifice in his palace, and all great people, sages, saints and learned men were invited to participate in that great sacrifice, where he gave charities in plenty. This sacrifice was called Bahu-Dakṣiṇa, as much was given in philanthropy, charity and gift. It was an occasion of great rejoicing for all people. Many people, thousands in number, came from all countries. The intention of the Emperor was that in this group of people who come in thousands to the sacrifice, the greatest of them also may be present. Now he thought, "I should find out some means of discovering the presence of the greatest of men in the court." After much thought, he announced in the open court of the palace, before all the thousands that had assembled there for the sacrifice, "Here are one thousand cows, great and beautiful to look at, milk-giving and very rich in their appearance, to the horns of each of which I will tie ten gold coins." Ten gold coins were tied to the horns of each cow and there were one thousand cows. He made the announcement; "The best among you may take all these cows. It is up to you to find out who is the best among you. Anyone who is best among you may stand up and take these thousand cows with so much of gold coins tied to their horns." Now, who can say 'I am the best'. It was a very delicate matter.

  1. janako ha vaideho bahu-dakṣiṇena yajñeneje. tatra ha kurupāñcālānām brāhmaṇā abhisametā babhūvuḥ. tasya ha janakasya vaidehasya vijijñāsā babhūva: kaḥ svid eṣām brāhmaṇānām anūcānatama iti. sa ha gavāṁ sahasram avarurodha. daśa daśa pādā ekaikasyāḥ śṛṅgayor ābaddhā babhūvuḥ.

Janako ha vaideho bahu-dakṣiṇena yajñeneje: By means of a great sacrifice known as Bahu-daksina where much is given in gift, King Janaka performed a great Yajña. Tatra ha kurupāñcālānām brāhmaṇā abhisametā babhūvuḥ: In that sacrifice, many great men came from the Kuru and Pāñchāla countries. Tasya ha janakasya vaidehasya vijijñāsā babhūva: Janaka thought in his mind, he had a desire to know something. What was that desire? Kaḥ svid eṣām brāhmaṇānām anūcānatama iti: Who is the best knower of the Truth among these people in this assembly was what Janaka wanted to know. Sa ha gavam sahasram avarurodha: One thousand cows he brought in front. Daśa daśa pādā ekaikasyāḥ śṛṅgayor ābaddhā babhūvuḥ: Ten gold coins were tied to the horns of every cow.

  1. tān hovāca: brāhmaṇā bhagavantaḥ, yo vo brahmiṣṭhaḥ, sa etā gā udajatām iti. te ha brāhmaṇā na dadhṛṣuḥ. atha ha yājñavalkyaḥ svam eva brahmacāriṇam uvāca: etāḥ, saumya, udaja, sāmaśravā iti. tā hodācakāra, te ha brāhmaṇāś cukrudhuḥ: kathaṁ nu no brahmiṣṭho bruvīteti. atha ha janakasya vaidehasya hotāśvalo babhūva: sa hainam papraccha, tvaṁ nu khalu naḥ, yājñavalkya, brahmiṣṭho'sīti. sa hovāca: namo vayaṁ brahmiṣṭhāya kurmaḥ; gokāmā eva vayaṁ sma iti. taṁ ha tata eva praṣṭuṁ dadhre hotāśvalaḥ.

Tān hovāca: He speaks now. Brāhmaṇā bhagavantaḥ: "Great men, learned people. Yo vo brahmiṣṭhaḥ, sa etā gā udajatām iti: Who is the greatest knower of Truth among you?" Te ha brāhmaṇā na dadhṛṣuḥ: None of them was bold enough to say: "I am the best of the knowers of Truth." Everybody kept quiet. Atha ha yājñavalkyaḥ svam eva brahmacāriṇam uvāca: etāḥ, saumya, udaja, sāmaśravā iti. Yājñavalkya, the great Master, was in that assembly. He told his disciple, a Brahmāchāri (celibate), known as Sāmaśravas: "Take these cows to my house." Very strange it was! Everybody was surprised. How was this man talking like this? He simply called the Brahmāchāri and said "take them to my house". Sāmaśravas was the name of the Brahmāchāri. "You take them," he said. Tā hodācakāra, te ha brāhmaṇāś cukrudhuḥ: Everybody was in a huff and raged in anger. All the Brahmins seated there were mumbling among themselves. Who is this man? How does he claim that he is the greatest? How does he think that he is the most learned amongst us? He has insulted us in public by taking these cows like this. How unceremoniously he drives the cows shamelessly away. Kathaṁ nu no brahmiṣṭho bruvīteti. atha ha janakasya vaidehasya hotāśvalo babhūva: Janaka's chief priest of the Ṛg vedic type, one known as Aśvala, decided to solve this problem. "How is it possible for this man to regard himself, in the presence of people like us, as the best knower of Truth," he thought. Sa hainam papraccha: He decided to put questions and see what answers would come from Yājñavalkya and how he could answer such difficult questions which could not easily be answered. Tvaṁ nu khalu naḥ, yājñavalkya, brahmiṣṭho'sīti:  Aśvala, the chief priest of King Janaka stood up and told Yājñavalkya: "Yājñavalkya! You regard yourself as the best knower of Truth among us? Is it not so? Well, then answer my question." Sa hovāca: Yājñavalkya says, Namo vayaṁ brahmiṣṭhāya kurmaḥ: "I prostrate myself before the greatest knower of Truth, but I am desirous of the cows. I have taken the cows because I wanted the cows, that is all! – gokāmā eva vayaṁ sma iti. And as far as the knower of Truth especially is concerned, I prostrate myself before him." Taṁ ha tata eva praṣṭuṁ dadhre hotāśvalaḥ: Then immediately there was a volley of questions from Aśvala to Yājñavalkya.

  1. yājñavalkya, iti hovāca. yad idaṁ sarvaṁ mṛtyunāptam, sarvaṁ mṛtyunābhipannam, kena yajamāno mṛtyor āptim atimucyata iti: hotrā ṛtvijā, agninā, vācā: vāg vai yājñasya hotā, tad yeyaṁ vāk. so'yam agniḥ, sa hotā, sā muktiḥ, sātimuktiḥ.

"Yājñavalkya! Now answer my questions. Yad idaṁ sarvaṁ mṛtyunāptam, sarvaṁ mṛtyunābhipannam, kena yajamāno mṛtyor āptim atimucyata iti: You know Yājñavalkya, that everything is subject to death. Everyone is capable of being destroyed by death, one day or the other. Not one among us can escape death. The sacrifice also will die. The one who causes the sacrifice to be performed will die. The materials used in a sacrifice are perishable. Therefore, the results that accrue from the sacrifice will also be subject to destruction. How can one escape death under these circumstances? How is it possible for the Yajamāna – the one who conducts a sacrifice – to free himself from this death that envelops everything and swallows everything? No one can escape death. Is there a way of escaping it? Now answer this question."

Yājñavalkya gives the answer: Hotrā ṛtvijā, agninā, vācā: vāg vai yājñasya hotā, tad yeyaṁ vāk. so'yam so' yam agniḥ, sa hotā, sā muktiḥ, sātimuktiḥ: "This answer is very difficult. It is not possible to escape death as long as the sacrificer considers himself as an individual. As long as he thinks that he is a human being; as long as he knows that he has verily enough to perform or conduct a sacrifice; that he has many priests whom he can employ in the sacrifice; that he can go to the other world and enjoy the pleasures of heaven – if these are the ideas in the mind of the conductor of a sacrifice, naturally he cannot escape death. But, there is a way of escaping death by knowing the cause of death. If you know the cause of death, you can escape death. Why do people die? Because they are inharmonious with Truth, that is all. There is nothing more secret about it. It is the law of Truth that compels you to undergo certain disciplines for the purpose of putting yourself in harmony with its nature. And this process of discipline that is imposed upon you is called birth and death. It is a tremendous discipline that is compelled upon us by the law of Truth. We are irreconcilable; we cannot agree with anyone; we always disagree; we are independent; we each have a personality of our own; we assert ourself in everything. As long as this assertion of individuality is there and the Truth behind this individuality is not known, one cannot escape death. But, if you know the principles that govern the very existence and function of the individual, then you can, by a harmony with that Truth, escape death. What is this harmony that we are speaking of?

"There should be, simultaneously, together with the sacrifice, a meditation. A meditation should be there, coupled with the performance of the sacrifice. It is not enough if you merely offer oblations into the sacred fire. It is not enough if you give material objects in charity. It is already known that these are not the ways of escaping death. All things shall be swallowed by death. You must also have a simultaneous meditation performed together with the performance of the sacrifice, so that the sacrifice becomes an external symbol of an internal contemplation that is necessarily to be associated with the sacrifice. If the meditation is not there, the sacrifice is as good as nothing. What is the meditation?

"The chants by means of the Veda, which are effected through speech by the priest called Hotā who is the presiding authority of the Ṛg Vedic Mantras, have to be identified with the deity of speech. This identification can be done only in meditation. It cannot be done by any kind of action. Speech is controlled, superintended over and presided over by a deity that is the Fire Principle. If the Fire Principle which is the Agnī Tattva-Vaiśvānara, can be identified with him, then he, the Hotā, the priest, absolves himself from Mṛityu or death.

"There are four priests in a sacrifice. They are Hotā, Adhvaryu, Udgātr and Brahma. Hotā is the name of the priest who chants the Ṛg Vedic Mantras in a sacrifice. Adhvaryu is the one who performs the sacrifice, and he is connected with the Yajur Veda Mantras which are recited in the sacrifice. Udgātr is one who speaks the Sāma Veda Mantras in the very same sacrifice. And Brahma – the word Brahma does not mean the Absolute here – is the name of the priest who is the superintending authority over the Atharva Veda Mantras, whose function is to see that no mistake is committed by the other priests in the performance of the sacrifice, unwittingly. Now, none of these priests can escape death, and therefore the conductor of the sacrifice, the Yajamana, also cannot escape death – unless they perform a meditation inside. All these four priests should meditate, then only they can free themselves from death and also free the Yajamanā, the performer of the sacrifice, from death.

"The first meditation is the identification of all the hymns of the Ṛg Vedic Mantras with the principle of Agnī, together with the identification of one's own self as one with Agnī – Hotrā ṛtvijā, agninā, vācā: vāg vai yājñasya hotā. Ultimately, it is not a human being that performs a sacrifice. That is what Yājñavalkya tells us. It is not a priest that conducts a sacrifice. It is not a person; it is the principle of speech which is responsible for the recitation of the Mantra that gives meaning to the Yajña or the sacrifice. And therefore, you may say that this sacred speech called the Ṛg Veda is really the performance – yājñasya hotā, tad yeyaṁ vāk. so'yam so' yam agniḥ: This speech, which is sacred, and is this Veda, is conducted also by the horse-principle, the Universal Being, Vaiśvānara. Sa hotā: He is the real conductor of the sacrifice. If you do not know Him, you will die. Sa muktiḥ, sātimuktiḥ: This knowledge is liberation. This is called Mokṣha. This is freedom from the trammels of death."

Aśvala, the priest, does not leave Yājñavalkya at that. "You have answered one question. I have seven more questions. Answer all of them if you want to take the cows like this, otherwise you bring the cows back."

  1. yājñavalkya, iti hovāca. yad idaṁ sarvam ahorātrābhyām āptam, sarvam ahorātrābhyām abhipannam, kena yajamāno'horātrayor āptim atimucyata iti. adhvaryuṇā ṛtvijā, cakṣuṣā ādityena, cakṣur vai yājñasya adhvaryuḥ, tad yad idaṁ cakṣuḥ, so'sāv ādityaḥ; so'dhvaryuḥ, sa muktiḥ, sātimuktiḥ.

"You have answered one question; I ask you another question. Yad idaṁ sarvam ahorātrābhyām āptam:  Everything is conditioned by the revolution of days and nights. Time appears as day and night. Sarvam ahoratrabhyam abhipannam: No one can escape this limitation imposed upon one by the movement of time in the form of day and night. Kena yajamāno'horātrayor āptim atimucyata iti:  How can the conductor of the sacrifice free himself from this condition imposed upon him by the movement of time in the form of day and night? What is the way?"

Then, Yājñavalkya gives the reply. "This can be done by the Adhvaryu, the other priest. Adhvaryuṇā ṛtvijā, cakṣuṣā ādityena: Just as the Hotṛ or the priest of the Ṛg Veda can free himself from death by identifying himself with the Mantras of the Ṛg Veda as again identified with the principle of Fire, the Adhvaryu or the second priest can overcome this limitation imposed upon him and others by finding the process of days and nights. How? By another kind of meditation which has to be performed. What is that meditation? He has to identify himself with the ultimate principle of perception which is the Sun – Sūrya; and it is the Sun – Sūrya who is the divine principle superintending over the eye. Then comes the great connection between the actual visible performance of the Yajña by means of the Yajur Veda Mantras and the eye that sees the performance. This eye cannot function unless the Sun functions. This performance, the visible sacrifice, the Yajña in front of you is nothing but an operation through the eye, and it is nothing if it is not properly superintended or presided over by the Sun. If the Sun principle withdraws itself from the eye, there is no perception, no Yajña, no sacrifice. So, let the Adhvaryu identify himself with the eye, not the physical eye but the very element of perception, and that again is to be identified with the Sūrya-Tattva – the ultimate presiding deity over the eyes – Cakṣur vai yājñasya. After all, what is sacrifice? It is a process of visualisation, and this visualisation itself is to be regarded as a sacrifice. All perceptions are Yajñas that you perform through the senses, in the mystical Yajña. Cakṣur vai yājñasya adhvaryuḥ, tad yad idaṁ cakṣuḥ, so'sāv ādityaḥ: This is the Adhvaryu, ultimately. The performer of the sacrifice is Adhvaryu and he is the Cakṣu or the seeing principle, which in turn is ultimately the Sun. So, the Sun is the performer of the sacrifice. Then you become one with him. The moment you become one with him, you are freed from death. And the time factor in the process of days and nights will not work there. In the sun, there is no day or night. This is how freedom from the operation of days and nights and the time element is achieved. This is freedom from the trammels of death."

"Well; it is so. Then I ask you a third question."

  1. yājñavalkya, iti hovāca, yad idaṁ sarvaṁ pūrva-pakṣa-apara-pakṣābhyām  āptam, sarvam pūrvapakṣa-aparapakṣābhyām abhipannam. kena yajamānaḥ pūrvapakṣa-aparapakṣayor āptim atimucyata iti: udgātrā ṛtvijā, vāyunā, prāṇena, prāṇo vai yajñasya udgātā, tad yo'yam prāṇaḥ. sa vāyuḥ, sa udgātā, sa muktiḥ sātimuktiḥ.

Yājñavalkya, iti hovāca, yad idaṁ sarvaṁ pūrva-pakṣa-apara-pakṣābhyām  āptam: "There is a difference of the bright fortnight and the dark fortnight in the lunar month, and everything is involved in the movement of the moon causing the distinction between the bright half and the dark half of the month. How can one free oneself from this involvement? Answer this question. Can we be free from the connection with the moon?" "Yes, you can. You can free yourself with the meditation that you have to conduct together with the sacrifice." "And who is to conduct this meditation?" Kena yajamānaḥ pūrvapakṣa-aparapakṣayor āptim atimucyata iti: "Udgatṛ, the Sāma Vedic priest should conduct the meditation. The Sāma is, in a very esoteric way, connected with Soma, the divine element that is invoked, as connected with the moon. And when you conduct the meditation in the context of this sacrifice, for the purpose of overcoming the limitations imposed by the movement of the moon, the Udgatṛ should practise a kind of retention of breath. Vāyunā, prāṇena, prāṇo vai yajñasya udgātā, tad yo'yam prāṇaḥ. sa vāyuḥ, sa udgātā, sa muktiḥ sātimuktiḥ. The breath, the vital force, with the operation of which the chant of the Sāma is made possible, should be regarded as the real chanter of the Sāma. It is not a person or a priest that chants the Sāma; it is the breath that chants. And if the breath is not to be there, there will be no chant also. So, if the Udgatṛ, or the reciter of the Sāma Veda, can identify himself with the principle of breath and vital energy inside, and that vital energy be identified with the Cosmic Vital Force, Sūtra-ātman which is called Vāyu here, in other words, if the meditation on Hiraṇyagarbha be conducted simultaneously with the sacrifice, then the Udgatṛ can be freed from Mṛityu. This would be also the simultaneous freedom from death of the Yajamana or the conductor of the sacrifice."

It is not possible to absolve the performance of sacrifice from the limitations caused by death unless all the four priests are freed from death. So the fourth one, Brahma also is to be freed. So, Aśvala puts a fourth question.

  1. yājñavalkya, iti hovāca, yad idam antarikṣam anārambaṇam iva kenākrameṇa yajamānaḥ svargaṁ lokam ākramata iti: brahmaṇā ṛtvijā, manasā, caṇdreṇa; mano vai yajñasya brahmā, tad yad idam manaḥ, so'sau candraḥ, sa brahmā, sa muktiḥ, sātimuktiḥ ity atimokṣāḥ, atha sampadaḥ.

"How can the last one, Brahma, be free from death? He has another difficulty. What is that?" Yad idam antarikṣam anārambaṇam iva kenākrameṇa yajamānaḥ svargaṁ lokam ākramata iti: "How can the performer of the sacrifice go to heaven when there is no ladder from the earth to the heaven? There is an unsupported sky or space between the earth and the heaven. How can you jump through the skies to the heaven? What is the means by which the soul of the Yajamāna, or the performer of the sacrifice, goes to Svarga?" Brahmaṇā ṛtvijā, manasā, caṇdreṇa: "It is done by a meditation conducted by the fourth priest called Brahma." "And what is the meditation he should conduct?" "His work is merely to observe through the mind. He does not chant anything. It is the mind of the Brahma, or the fourth priest, that works in the sacrifice. This mind is presided over by the moon. So, he should identify himself merely with the psychological principle of the mind, and the mind with its presiding deity." "Then what happens?" "Then he would cease to be an individual. He becomes the mind only, and the mind becomes its deity, so that the deity or the divine principle which is the ultimate factor involved in the performance of the sacrifice, alone becomes the recipient of the fruits of the Yajña. The individual should not imagine that he is the recipient of the fruits. Mano vai yajñasya brahmā: It is the mind that performs the sacrifice as the Brahma or the fourth priest. Tad yad idam manaḥ, so'sau candraḥ:  Whatever is the mind, that is the moon. They are interconnected." Sa brahmā, sa muktiḥ, sātimuktiḥ ity atimokṣāḥ, atha sampadaḥ: So, Yājñavalkya tells Asvala; "I have answered four of your questions, by which I have told you how it is possible for these important conductors of the sacrifice to free themselves from death, which otherwise would be impossible. If a sacrifice is merely a performance without a meditation, death cannot be escaped. But if the meditation is done simultaneously with the performance of the sacrifice by which the performers get identified with the deities at once, there would be a final harmonious adjustment of all the four conductors, in a unity of purpose which will culminate in the realisation of the one Divinity, which is the aim of the sacrifice, and then, there will be no death."

So, these are four questions which Aśvala puts to Yājñavalkya and the answers which Yājñavalkya gives to the four questions. But there are further questions. The man does not leave Yājñavalkya so easily. So he says, "I will ask you some more questions," and we shall now see what they are.

Four more questions are asked. In all he puts eight questions. Four have been answered; four more remain.

  1. yājñavalkya, iti hovāca, katibhir ayam adya ṛgbhir hotāsmin yajñe kariṣyatīti: tisṛbhir iti: katamās tās tisra iti. puro'nuvākyā ca yājyā ca śasyaiva tṛtīyā. kiṁ tābhir jayatīti: yat kiṁ cedam prāṇabhṛd iti.

"In this sacrifice, how many Ṛg verses are used, and what types of verses are used? Can you tell me?" Yājñavalkya, iti hovāca, katibhir ayam adya ṛgbhir hotāsmin yajñe kariṣyatīti: "The Hotr, the Ṛg Vedic priest, performs the sacrifice by the recitation of a set of Ṛg Vedic Mantras." "What are those Mantras? Can you tell?" Tisṛbhir iti: "Three types are there," says Yājñavalkya. "These are used by the Hotr, the Ṛg Vedic priest." Katamas tas tisra iti: "Which are those three?" again Aśvala asks. Puro'nuvākyā ca yājyā ca śasyaiva tṛtīyā:  "The introductory verses which precede the principal chant, the Mantras that are connected directly with the offering of the oblations called Yājyā, and the Mantras which are having their concern with the extollation of the consequences or results of the sacrifice, the glorification of the deity of the sacrifice called Śasya – these are the verses that he chants." Kiṁ tābhir jayatīti: "What is the purpose of this chant? What does he gain by it." "Do you know what he will gain by the recitation of these Mantras which are of a very comprehensive nature?" Yat kiṁ cedam prāṇabhṛd iti: "He can gain control over everything," says Yājñavalkya. "These Mantras are forces which he releases by a method of recitation, and these forces are directed to all those objects which can be regarded as living or non-living. So it is an all-powerful chant which can exercise a control over all beings. So, what does he gain? Everything – yat kiṁ cedam prāṇabhṛd iti."

  1. yājñavalkya, iti hovāca, katy ayam adyādhvaryur asmin yajña āhutīr hoṣyatīti: tisra iti: katamās tās tisra iti: yā hutā ujjvalanti, yā hutā atinedante, yā hutā adhiśerate: kiṁ tābhir jayatīti: yā hutā ujjvalanti deva-lokam eva tābhir jayati, dīpyata iva hi deva-lokaḥ; yā hutā atinedante, pitṛ-lokam eva tābhir jayati, atīva hi pitṛ-lokaḥ; yā hutā adhiśerate, manuṣya-lokam eva tābhir jayati, adha iva hi manuṣya-lokaḥ.

"Well Yājñavalkya! I put you another question. What are those Mantras which the Adhvaryu, the Yajurvedic priest uses in this sacrifice, and what is the connection between these Yajurvedic Mantras that he chants and the results that he expects from the performance of the sacrifice?" Yājñavalkya, iti hovāca, katy ayam adyādhvaryur asmin yajña āhutīr hoṣyatīti:  "How many oblations are offered in this sacrifice? Tell me." Tisra iti: "Three are offered." Katamās tās tisra iti:  "What are those three?" Yā hutā ujjvalanti: "There are certain Yajurvedic Mantras which, when they are recited at the time of the offering of the oblations, cause the flames to flare up vertically in the direction of the sky or the heaven. That is one set of Mantras which he chants. The moment you pour āhuti, by recitation of those Mantras the fire will flare up vertically. Yā hutā adhiśerate: There are other Mantras in the Yajur Veda which, when they are chanted at the time of the oblations, will cause the flames to make a roaring noise and they rush upwards as if a lion is opening his mouth. They are the second type of Mantras. Yā hutā adhiśerate: There is a third set of Yajurvedic Mantras, which when they are chanted at the time of the offering of the oblations, will make the flames go down and bury themselves in the Yajña Kunda." Kiṁ tābhir jayatīti: "What is the purpose of these chants? What does he gain out of these recitations and stirring of the flames in this manner?" Yā hutā adhiśerate, manuṣya-lokam eva tābhir jayati: "When he recites Mantras which are capable of flaring up the flames vertically, they will produce a force which will take him to the celestial region. This is what he gains. Dīpyata iva hi deva-lokaḥ: The celestial region shines like the flames that go upto the sky, deva-lokaḥ; Yā hutā adhiśerate, manuṣya-lokam eva: When he chants Mantras which will make the flames roar with gusto, they will produce a strength and a force and potential by which he will gain the Pitṛ Loka, or the world of the ancestors. Yā hutā adhiśerate, manuṣya-lokam: When he chants Mantras which will make the flames go down and bury themselves in the pit, they will produce another kind of vibration which will make him a good human being in the next birth-adha iva hi manuṣya-lokaḥ. So, there are three types of Mantras which will produce three kinds of effects. This is the result that follows from these recitations of the Yajurveda."

  1. yājñavalkya, iti hovāca, katibhir ayam adya brahmā yajñam dakṣiṇato devatābhir gopāyatīti: ekayeti: katamā saiketi: mana eveti, anantaṁ vai manaḥ anantā viśve-devāḥ, anantam eva sa tena lokaṁ jayati.

Yājñavalkya, iti hovāca: "Yājñavalkya, I put you another question," he said. Katibhir ayam adya brahmā yajñam dakṣiṇato devatābhir gopāyatīti:  "Which is the deity, by the power of which Brahma, the Atharva Vedic priest protects this sacrifice? Tell me which deity it is? How many gods are there whom he resorts to for the protection of this Yajña that is being performed here?" Yājñavalkya says, ekayeti. "Only one God is there. He resorts to one God." Katamā saiketi: "Which is that one God?" "The mind of the Brahma, the priest, itself is the God. He conducts his mind in such a manner in respect of the purpose of the sacrifice that it becomes a force by itself. There is no other god there except his own mind. Mana eveti, anantaṁ vai manaḥ anantā viśve-devāḥ: The mind can assume infinite forms through the functions that it performs. So the mind is identical with what is known as a group of celestials called the Viśve-devāḥs. The Viśve-devāḥs are the protectors of the sacrifice. The mind itself stands for Viśve-devāḥs here. All the gods are comprehended in the mind, and as a matter of fact, every god is nothing but one function of the mind. So, his mind is all the gods." "What does he gain by resorting to this psychic god which he has generated in his mind?" Anantam eva sa tena lokaṁ jayati: "Infinite is the result that follows. There is nothing which the mind cannot gain if it properly conducts itself in contemplation. So Brahma, the Atharva Vedic priest, raises himself to the status of an all-comprehensive force, the Viśve-devāḥs, by the very concentration that he practises."

  1. yājñavalkya, iti hovāca, katy ayam adyodgātāsmin yajñe śtotriyāḥ stoṣyatīti: tisra iti: katamās tās tisra iti: puro'nuvākyā ca yājyā ca śasyaiva tṛtīyā: katamās tā yā adhyātmam iti: prāṇa eva puro'nuvākyā, apāno yājyā, vyānaḥ śasyā: kiṁ tābhir jayatīti: pṛthivī-lokam eva puro'nuvākyayā jayati, antarikṣa-lokam yājyayā, dyu-lokaṁ śasyayā. tato ha hotāśvala upararāma.

"Yājñavalkya, I ask you another question. Answer that – Yājñavalkya, iti hovāca, katy ayam adyodgātāsmin yajñe śtotriyāḥ stoṣyatīti: What are the set of Mantras which the Udgatri, the Sāma Vedic priest chants here?" Tisra iti: "There are three chants." Katamās tā yā adhyātmam iti: "What are those?" Puro' nuvākyā ca yājyā ca śasyaiva tṛtīyā: "The same are the Mantras as they are mentioned in connection with the Ṛg Veda – the introductory, the oblationary and the laudatory." Katamās tās tisra iti: "Which (Mantras) are the inner ones among these?" "The Prāṇa within is identifiable in this context with the introductory verses, the Apāna is identifiable with the oblational chants, and Vyāna is identifiable with the laudatory verses. Prāṇa eva puro'nuvākyā, apāno yājyā, vyānaḥ śasyā:  The Puronuvākkya is Prāṇa; the Yajyā, or the middle one, is the Apāna; whereas the last one, the Śasya or laudatory Mantras, the praise that he offers to the gods through the third type of recitation, is identifiable with Vyāna. So, Prāṇa, Apāna, Vyāna are the real sources of these Sāma Vedic chants. He must meditate in a manner by which the vital breath within becomes the deity of the Sāmaveda." Kiṁ tābhir jayatīti: "What is the purpose of this meditation and what does he gain by these three chants through the Sāma Veda?" Pṛthivī-lokam eva puro'nuvākyayā jayati: "The whole earth can be governed by him, by the force generated by the introductory chant. Antarikṣa-lokam yājyayā: The atmospheric world can be controlled by him by the recitation of the middle one, the oblational chant. Dyu-lokaṁ śasyayā: The heavenly world can be gained and controlled by him by the recitation of the third chant, namely, the laudatory one." Aśvala felt that every question was answered and that he could not put any further questions to this man. He kept quiet and occupied his seat – tato ha hotāśvala upararāma. The chief priest Aśvala who put all these questions, the principal priest of the sacrifice performed by Janaka in his court, was defeated in the argument, because to every question which was so difficult to answer, Yājñavalkya gave an immediate answer on the very spot, without any hesitation whatsoever. Aśvala kept quiet. But though Aśvala, the priest, kept quiet, there were some others who wanted to put further questions to Yājñavalkya.

Second Brahmana: Man in Bondage and His Future at Death

  1. atha hainaṁ jāratkārava ārtabhāgaḥ papraccha:. yājñavalkya iti hovāca, kati grahāḥ katy atigrahā iti. aṣṭau grahāḥ aṣṭāv atigrahā iti. ye te'ṣṭau grahāḥ aṣṭāv atigrahāḥ, katame ta iti.

Another sage now got up. "O Yājñavalkya, I have also got questions because you have carried away my cows." Atha hainaṁ jāratkārava ārtabhāgaḥ papraccha: Another great sage was sitting there who was a descendant of Jaratkaru and his name was ārthabhāga. ārthabhāga puts a question: "Yājñavalkya! I put you this question." Yājñavalkya iti hovāca, kati grahāḥ katy atigrahā iti: "How many Grahas are there, how many Atigrahas are there?" Even the words 'Graha' and 'Atigraha' are unintelligible; we cannot make out their meaning. What do you mean by 'Graha' and 'Atigraha'? He simply puts a question: "You tell us how many Grahas are there, how many Atigrahas are there?" Yājñavalkya is not in any way deterred by these fantastic questions. He knows the answers to all these. Aṣṭau grahāḥ aṣṭāv atigrahā iti: "There are eight Grahas and eight Atigrahas," was the answer of Yājñavalkya. Ye te'ṣṭau grahāḥ aṣṭāv atigrahāḥ, katame ta iti: "Yājñavalkya! Tell me, exactly what are these eight Grahas that you are speaking of and what are the eight Atigrahas?"

Here, in this section of the Upaniṣhad, we are dealing with a very important subject in the answer Yājñavalkya gives to ārthabhāga, the questioner. It is important from the point of view of Yoga practice and spiritual meditation. It is not merely a fantastic question. It is a highly philosophical question and of great spiritual import from the point of view of actual practice. Graha means the senses and Atigraha is the object of sense. It is called Graha because it grasps the object. Anything that grasps is called the Graha. In Sanskrit, the root Grah signifies the action of grasping, grabbing, holding, controlling etc. As the senses grasp objects, catch hold of them and make them their own, as they hold tightly upon the object of sense, the senses are called the Grahas. But the objects are called Atigrahas. They are greater graspers than the grasper, the sense itself. Why? If the sense can grasp the object, the object also can grasp the sense. They are like two fighters in a duel. One is catching hold of the other. 'A' does not leave 'B'; 'B'  does not leave 'A'. The senses will not leave the objects and the object also will not leave the senses. The more the sense grasps the object, the more does the object stir the sense. So there is a mutual action and reaction between the senses and the objects. The senses flare up more and more, irritated, angered and strengthened by their catching hold of the object. The strength of the sense increases when it catches hold of the object, and the object, inasmuch as it is capable of energising the sense further and further on account of its coming in contact with it is called a greater grasper. It grasps sense itself. So, the 'Graha' is the sense, the organ of action and sensation; and the object thereof is the 'Atigraha'. "How many are there?" "Eight are there," says Yājñavalkya.

  1. prāṇo vai grahāḥ, so'pānenātigrāheṇa gṛhītaḥ, apānena hi gandhān jighrati.

Prāṇo vai grahāḥ: The Prāṇa grasps. So'pānenātigrāheṇagṛhītaḥ, apānena higandhān jighrati: The Prāṇa here does not mean merely the process of breathing. It is that vital principle or activity inside, by which smell is made possible by the nostrils. The Prāṇa functions in an active manner through the nostrils and compels the nose to ask for more and more of odour as it's own diet, or food. And the Apāna, which is another function of the vital breath, is the source of the variety of smell which we have in the outer world. It acts like the feelers, as it were, for the varieties of odours in the external world. And so the Prāṇa and the Apāna, jointly, can be regarded as the Graha and the Atigraha. Prāṇa acts upon Apāna; Apāna acts upon Prāṇa. And it is on account of this mutual action and reaction of Prāṇa and Apāna that we are able to smell and want more and more of smell.

  1. vāg vai grahāḥ, sa nāmnātigrāheṇa gṛihītaḥ, gṛhītaḥ, vācā hi nāmāny abhivadati.

Vāg vai grahāḥ: Speech is another Graha. It is also a very simple principle but very active in its modus operandi in the set of objects – vāg vai grahāḥ: sa nāmnātigrāheṇa gṛihītaḥ, gṛhītaḥ, vācā hi nāmāny abhivadati: Speech is the repository of all language, all words, all designation, definition, meaning, etc. So, the principle of speech is the Graha which catches hold of all meaning through language, and language is that which stirs the speech by correlative action. So speech and the words that we utter through speech, which means to say, everything that we speak, every meaning that we convey through any type of language spoken by word of mouth, may be regarded as Atigraha, or the counterpart of the Graha which is speech. And likewise, all other senses are Grahas, and they have their own objects or their Atigrahas which stir them into action.

  1. jihvā vai grahaḥ, sa rasenātigrāheṇa gṛhītaḥ, jīhvayā hi rasān vijānāti.

Jihvā vai grahaḥ, sa rasenātigrāheṇa gṛhītaḥ: The palate, the tongue which is the instrument of taste, is a Graha. It catches hold of all taste; and taste is itself an Atigraha because the activity of the palate is increased by the presence of a variety of taste. It is caught hold of by the taste. If the tongue asks for taste, the presence of taste increases the vitality and energy of the palate, so that it gets caught more and more – jīhvayā hi rasān vijānāti – because by the palate it is that we are able to taste all delicious things in the world.

  1. cakṣur vai grahaḥ, sa rūpeṇātigrāheṇa gṛhītaḥ, cakṣuṣā hi rūpāṇi paśyati.

Cakṣur vai grahaḥ? The eye also is a Graha which catches hold of colours and forms. Sa rūpeṇātigrāheṇa gṛhītaḥ: All forms have an impact upon the eye so that the eye asks for more and more perception of colours and forms. And so the eyes are never satisfied with perception. Cakṣuṣā hi rūpāṇi paśyati: It is by the eyes that we perceive forms, and so the eyes and the forms connected with the eyes are the Graha and the Atigraha.

  1. śrotraṁ vai grahaḥ, sa śabdenātigrāheṇa gṛhītaḥ, śroteṇa hi śabdān śṛṇoti.

The ears are the Graha. They catch hold of the sounds and the sounds stir up the activity of the ears, so that they like to hear more and more variety of sound. Because of this fact the ears wish to hear sounds, and in turn sounds stimulate the activity of the ears. They act as Graha and Atigraha.

  1. mano vai grahaḥ, sa kāmenātigrāheṇa gṛhītaḥ, manasā hi kāmān kāmayate.

The mind is the Graha because it catches hold of all objects of desire, and every fulfilment of desire stirs up the activity of the mind more and more. So, the mind and the object of desire act as Graha and Atigraha.

  1. hastau vai grahaḥ, sa karmaṇātigrāheṇa gṛhītaḥ, hastābhyāṁ hi karma karoti.

Hastau vai grahaḥ: The hand is also a Graha. It catches hold of things. Sa karmanatigrahena grihitah: It is fond of action. It does something or the other. It does not keep quiet. So, the urge to act, or to perform Karma or work, is the Atigraha, the counterpart of this very urge itself which is communicated through the hands that are the instruments of action. So these are the Graha.

  1. tvag vai grahaḥ, sa sparśenātigrāheṇa gṛhītaḥ, tvacā hi sparśān vedayate: ity ete'ṣṭau grahāḥ, aṣṭāv atigrahāḥ.

Tvag vai grahaḥ: The skin also is a Graha. It asks for soft touches, etc. Sa sparśenātigrāheṇa gṛhītaḥ: All touches stimulate the skin and the skin asks for touches. Tvacā hi sparśān vedayate: ity ete'ṣṭau grahāḥ, aṣṭāv atigrahāḥ: These are the eight forms of perceptional activity, cognitional activity, the activity of the senses, and the eight kinds of effect that their objects correspondingly have upon them.

  1. yājñavalkya iti hovāca, yad idaṁ sarvam mṛtyor annam, kā svit sā devatā, yasyā mṛtyur annam iti: agnir vai mṛtyuḥ, so' pām annam, apa punar mṛtyuṁ jayati.

Yājñavalkya iti hovāca, yad idaṁ sarvam mṛtyor annam, kā svit sā devatā: Yājñavalkya! This activity of the senses is, veritably, death for them. It is very well known. It is not a good thing for the senses to work in this manner, because they fight with each other. The senses fight with their objects and the objects fight with the senses. They finally kill each other, one day or the other. Everything is destructible; everything is subject to death. Nothing can be free from the jaws of death. Now, ārthabhāga asked Yājñavalkya: "Inasmuch as everything here is a 'food' for death which is the Devata, for whom death itself the food?" There is no escape from death. Death swallows everybody as if it is food. But is there a death of death? Is there anything of which death itself is the food? Can you tell me who is death to death itself? What is death? Which Devata, which deity, which god can eat death in the same way as death eats everything, so to say? Sarvam mṛtyor annam, kā svit sā devatā, yasyā mṛtyur annam iti: agnir vai mṛtyuḥ, so' pām annam, apa punar mṛtyuṁ jayati: Yājñavalkya says: "My dear friend! You know that there is a death for everything, and one thing can be swallowed by another thing. Fire is an eater of everybody. It can burn and swallow and destroy anything. But fire can be eaten up by water. If you pour a particular quantity of water, fire gets extinguished. So, in the same way as water can be regarded as an eater of death in the form of fire which is the eater of other things, there is an eater of that eater too. The meaning implied herein is that the eater of death is the Supreme Being – mṛityuryasyā upase-canam." We are told this in the Katha Upaniṣhad. The Supreme Being is the swallower of death. That means to say, one cannot overcome death unless one resorts to the Supreme Being. Not before that can you escape transmigration. There cannot be freedom from birth and death, there cannot be therefore freedom from the consequent sorrow of life, until and unless the great Reality is realised. So, who is the death of death? Who is the eater of death? The Supreme Being, the Eternal, the Absolute, He is the eater of death, and no one else can eat death.

  1. janako ha vaidehaḥ kūrcād upāvasarpann uvāca: namas te'stu yājñavalkya, anu mā śādhīti. sa hovāca: yathā vai, samrāt, mahāntam adhvānam eṣyan rathaṁ vā nāvaṁ vā samādadīta, evaṁ evaitābhir upaniṣadbhiḥ samāhitātmāsi, evam bṛndāraka āḍhyaḥ sann adhīta-veda ukta-upaniṣatkaḥ ito vimucyamānaḥ kva gamiṣyasīti. nāhaṁ tad, bhagavan, veda, yatra, gamiṣyāmīti; atha vai te'haṁ tad vakṣyāmi, yatra gamiṣyasīti, bravītu, bhagavān, iti.

Janako ha vaidehaḥ kūrcād upāvasarpann uvāca: namas te'stu yājñavalkya: Now, another occasion is mentioned here when Janaka was seated on his gorgeous seat. Yājñavalkya comes, and the King gets up from his seat, offers his homage and requests the great Master to instruct him. The King seeks illumination. Namas te'stu yājñavalkya:  "Salutations to you, sage Yājñavalkya. Anu mā śādhīti: Please advise me, instruct me, teach me, give me lessons." Sa hovāca: yathā vai, samrāt, mahāntam adhvānam eṣyan rathaṁ vā nāvaṁ vā samādadīta, evaṁ evaitābhir upaniṣadbhiḥ samāhitātmāsi, evam bṛndāraka āḍhyaḥ sann adhīta-veda ukta-upaniṣatkaḥ ito vimucyamānaḥ kva gamiṣyasīti: Yājñavalkya says: "Your Highness, you want me to give you instructions, to teach you, to provide you with lessons. You are indeed a great person. You are a king; you are an emperor. And just as a person who is to go on a pilgrimage, or a tour, prepares himself very well with all the equipment necessary, so that he may be safe in the journey; likewise Your Highness has equipped yourself with the knowledge of the Vedas and the wisdom of the Upaniṣhads. Having studied them all very well, you have become a very honoured person in this country. You are a very rich person; you are the richest person in the whole country because you are a king and you are respected as such. But I ask you one question. Being so honoured and respected in this whole land of yours, being so rich and well-placed in society, having learnt so much of the Vedas and the Upaniṣhads, do you know what will happen to you after you leave this body? Do you know where you will go?" This, Janaka did not know. "Where will I go after I leave this body?" "If you do not know this, what is the use of your wealth; what is the use of your learning; what is the use of your kingship; what is the benefit you gain with the honour that you have from society? People may respect you, honour you, keep you on a high pedestal, but if you die the next moment, what happens to you? You do not know this. What then is the good of all this knowledge?" Kva gamiṣyasīti. nāhaṁ tad, bhagavan, veda: "Master! I do not know; I cannot answer this question. You please tell me. This is a very serious matter indeed. What will happen to me after death? I do not know? Please tell me, give me this secret knowledge as to what happens to an individual when he casts off the body" – nāhaṁ tad, bhagavan, veda, yatra, gamiṣyāmīti; atha vai te'haṁ tad vakṣyāmi, yatra gamiṣyasīti, bravītu, bhagavān, iti. Yājñavalkya says: "Well, I shall tell you." "Please tell me," requests Janaka.

Now starts a series of studies in this Upaniṣhad which is of great importance from the point of view of the analysis of the self. It has some connection with the theme of the Māndūkya Upaniṣhad, but it is dealt with in a different manner altogether, not in the way in which the Māndūkya Upaniṣhad treats the subject. We cannot understand what will happen to us in the future or after we die unless we know what we are at present, because our future is connected with our present, just as our present is connected with the past. What is the state in which we are in at this moment? What is our condition? If this is clear to us, it may also be possible to have an idea as to what will happen to us in the future. But we have, unfortunately, a very very wrong notion about ourselves, even in the present moment. It is obvious because of the fact that we consider that we are social entities, men and women, coming from various countries, living in various lands, nationals of various places, with physical needs, social requirements and desire for comforts, all based on an erroneous concept of what we are. If we live a socially acceptable well-placed life, that would be a worthwhile life indeed, we believe. Is this our definition of a good life? If so, it is a thorough misrepresentation of facts. The seeming fact that we are individuals is only a phenomenon. It cannot be regarded really as a fact. It is not a fact as such. Our individuality, our personality, our desires and our relationship with people and things – all these are certain conditions through which we are passing temporarily. They are only certain circumstances that have come upon us in the passage of time due to certain associations and various factors which lie mostly beyond the ken of our understanding. Even the existence of our personality, this body of ours, is something very inscrutable. It is positioned by the operation of various forces. To give you only a very gross example, without going deep into philosophical themes, you know very well how much we are influenced by the movement of the planets around the sun, a fact which is physically demonstrable, yet a fact which does not come before the vision of any individual. We do not know how much we depend on the movement of the earth round the sun. Suppose the earth moves in the opposite direction from tomorrow, you can imagine what difference it will make to our life. The various other planets which move around the sun also have a tremendous influence upon us. Not merely astronomers of ancient times, but even modern scientists have come to the conclusion that even our physical personality, this bodily individuality can be regarded as nothing but a condensation of cosmic stuff which has been projected by the forces of Nature, and which emanated from the interstellar space, and that the body can be reduced to an ethereal substance so that it loses its substantiality and solidity, a concept to which we cling so much. This is a finding of modern physics, corroborating ancient astronomical discoveries, so that it is just stupidity on our part to imagine that even this physical body is independent and can stand on its own legs. It cannot. It has been controlled over the eons by the movement of planets, and not merely that, ultimately it is only constituted of a small amount of nebular energies that have combined in a particular shape, or form, for certain purposes under certain conditions. So our concept of ourselves, our concept of body and individuality and personality, our notion of society, our notion of the aim of life itself is topsy-turvy. Everything is upside down. Under these conditions of ignorance, how is it possible for any one of us to know what will happen to us after death? That was the condition of Janaka, and that is the state of the mind of most of us.

Yājñavalkya takes the mind of Janaka gradually, stage by stage, first by an analysis of the waking state, then going deeper into the implications of human experience.  

  1. indho ha vai nāmaiṣa yo'yaṁ dakṣiṇe'kṣan puruṣaḥ: taṁ vā etam indhaṁ santam indra ity ācakṣate parokṣeṇaiva, parokṣa-priyā iva hi devāḥ, pratyakṣa-dviṣaḥ.

Indho ha vai nāmaiṣa yo'yaṁ dakṣiṇe'kṣan puruṣaḥ: It is the belief of the ancient Masters that in the waking state our self is concentrated in the eye, maybe because of the reason that our mind predominantly acts through the eyes in this state. It is also opined by the Upaniṣhads that the right eye is predominantly active, something which has not been understood properly by people. The activity of the right eye is supposed to be a little more emphasised and a greater stress is laid upon the right eye than on the left one. The left one also will be mentioned subsequently, but presently for the purpose of explaining the collaborative action of the right eye and the left eye, the Upaniṣhads mention that the self is pointedly manifest in the right eye in the waking state, and we call him Indha. The Upaniṣhads call this Puruṣha, this self which is active in the right eye in the waking state, as Indha, meaning illumined or illuminating, or lustrous. Why is this self in the eye called Indha, or radiant, or lustrous? Firstly, the reason may be that the self does not directly operate through the eye. It operates through the mind only, and the mind acts through the senses in respect of objects outside. There is a series maintained, as it were, in the activity of the personality in connection with the objects outside. The deepest, innermost propelling energy is the Self, or the ātman, of course. It gets entangled, connected with the personality, and then becomes the individual soul, Jīva. This Jīva-consciousness is the basis for the activity of the mind, and the mind, borrowing the consciousness of the ātman through the manifested form of it as Jīva, acts through the sense-organs, particularly the eye in the waking state, because it is the eye that is mostly active in the waking condition, as we all very well know. It is very eager to contact objects, very enthusiastic always. It is very curious to see various things, to find out what are the objects which it can desire and obtain, and because of the enthusiasm that is charged through the eye, it is supposed to be illumined with the activity of desire. For that reason also, it can be called Indha. The other reason is that the presence of an object outside is necessary for the activity of the senses. If the objects do not exist, the senses cannot act. The light of the senses, particularly of the eye, depends upon the connection of the eye with the object, and so it is lustrous, or radiant on account of the presence of the object in front of it, the proximity of its corresponding object. So this Puruṣha in the right eye, the Self manifest in the right eye is called Indha, which means radiant.

Dakṣiṇe'kṣan puruṣaḥ: taṁ vā etam indhaṁ santam indra ity ācakṣate parokṣeṇaiva, parokṣa-priyā iva hi devāḥ, pratyakṣa-dviṣaḥ:  This Indha is called Indra by a change of accent. The Upaniṣhad says that gods do not like to be called directly by their names. No respectable person likes to be called by his or her own name. So it is said that the celestials do not like to be directly accosted by their own personal names. They dislike immediacy of approach. They always like indirect approach, maybe because of their impersonality. They do not like any personal approach directly. Therefore, Indha, who is radiant, is designated as Indra.

  1. athaitad vāme'kṣaṇi puruṣa-rūpam, eṣāsya patnī virāṭ, tayor eṣa saṁstāvo ya eso'ntar-hṛdaya ākāśaḥ, athainayor etad annam ya eṣo'ntar-hṛdaye lohita-piṇḍaḥ, athainayor etat prāvaraṇam yad etad antar-hṛdaye jālakam iva; athainayor eṣā sṛtiḥ saṁcaraṇī yaiṣā hṛdayād ūrdhvā nāḍy uccarati. yathā keśaḥ sahasradhā bhinnaḥ evam asyaitā hitā nāma nādyo'ntar-hṛdaye pratiṣṭhitā bhavanti; etābhir vā etad āsravad āsravati; tasmād eṣa praviviktāhāratara ivaiva bhavaty asmāc cārīrād ātmanaḥ.

In the left eye also, the same activity is taking place. The right eye and the left eye join together, in a single activity of perception. And symbolically, the functions of the right eye and the left eye are regarded as something which can be compared with the joint activity in a family of husband and wife. They join together in a single focus of attention. Likewise, the principle in the right eye and the left eye join together in activity of perception, and the Upaniṣhad says that they are like symbols of Virāt and His Śakti. The Virāt and His Force are manifest in the right eye and the left eye, respectively. Athaitad vāme'kṣaṇi puruṣa-rūpam, eṣāsya patnī virāṭ, tayor eṣa saṁstāvo ya eso'ntar-hṛdaya ākāśaḥ: The propulsion for the activity of this twofold consciousness, Virāt and His Śakti, manifest through the right eye and the left eye, comes from the heart. It is the heart that is the root of this perception, and so, when the activity of perception is withdrawn, the mental sensation goes back to its abode, its own source. The mind returns to its source. The mind it is that is active through the right eye and the left eye in the waking state, and when that activity ceases for any reason whatsoever, the mind goes back to its source. So this joint activity of the right eye and the left eye gets absorbed into the heart, in the ether of the heart – hṛdaya ākāśaḥ.

Third Brahmana: The Resort of the Performers of the Horse Sacrifice

Now the great sage known as Bhujyuh rose from the audience. He was a descendant in the line of the sage Lahya.

  1. atha hainaṁ bhujyur lāhyāyaniḥ papraccha: yājñavalkya, iti hovāca, madreṣu carakāḥ paryavrajāma, te patañcalasya kāpyasya gṛhān aima; tasyāsīd duhitā gandharvagṛhītā; tam aprcchāma ko'sīti, so'bravīt sudhanvāṅgirasa iti, taṁ yadā lokānām antān apṛcchāma, athainam abrūma, kva pārikṣitā abhavann iti, kva pārikṣitā abhavan, sa tvā pṛechāmi, yājñavalkya, kva pārikṣitā abhavann iti..

Atha hainaṁ bhujyur lāhyāyaniḥ papraccha: yājñavalkya, iti hovāca: "Now listen, Yājñavalkya." Madreṣu carakāḥ paryavrajāma, te patañcalasya kāpyasya gṛhān aima: "In the country of the Madra's (Not Madras; it is another country called Madra), we were observing some vow and wandering about from place to place. We came to the house of a great Master by name Patañcala, of the line of Kapi (not Patanjali Maharishi of Yoga. He is also called Kāpya). Now, in the house of this Patañcala, we stayed for the night. In this house some peculiar thing happened in the night. The daughter of that Master was possessed by a spirit, the spirit of a Gandharva, and so she was speaking in a peculiar language, not her language but the language of the one who possessed her. We were wondering who was it that was possessing this lady. We then queried the spirit – 'Who are you? Who is it that is speaking?' Tasyāsīd duhitā gandharvagṛhītā; tam aprcchāma ko'sīti, so'bravīt: So, that person, that spirit answered. Sudhanvāṅgirasa iti: 'I am a Gandharva by the name Sudhanvan of the line of Aṅgiras.' 'Oh, I see! You are a Gandharva of a superphysical world. So, you should be possessing superphysical knowledge.' It was not an ordinary spirit of a dead person, but a celestial being possessing this human being. So, we put a question to that Gandharva. Taṁ yadā lokānām antān apṛcchāma, athainam abrūma, kva pārikṣitā abhavann iti: We asked: 'What is the dimension of this whole creation, the whole world? Where are the Pārikṣitas, the descendants of Pārikṣit who performed the Aśvamedha Sacrifice? A person who performs an Aśvamedha Sacrifice reaches a very lofty region. Now, these Pārikṣitas were performers of that Sacrifice. Where are they at present? After the passing away from this world they must have gone to some region. What is that region?' Now answer this Yājñavalkya; I put you now the same question. I am not going to tell you what I heard from that Gandharva. Now I repeat the question to you. Tell me the dimensions of the world, and tell me where are the Pārikṣitas, the performers of the Aśvamedha Sacrifice, today. Kva pārikṣitā abhavan, sa tvā pṛechāmi, yājñavalkya: I ask you the same question now. You answer me. Kva pārikṣitā abhavann iti: Where are the Pariksitas?"

This is a discussion about what may be called cosmic geography, something very peculiar, not easy to understand, because in Indian cosmological descriptions especially, enumerations are made such as may look very fantastic to the modern investigating mind, world in world and world to extensions incalculable by arithmetical numbers. Some of these descriptions you will find in the Fifth Skanda of the Śrimad Bhāgavata and in some of the other Purānas. The descriptions look fantastic because they cannot be comprehended by an ordinary calculating intellect which takes as reality only what is observable through empirical instruments, telescope, etc. So, a question of that kind was put and an answer of a similar type is given by Yājñavalkya.

  1. sa hovāca, uvāca vai saḥ agacchan vai te tad yatrāśva-medha-yājino gacchantīti. kva nv aśva-medha-yājino gacchantīti. dvātriṁśataṁ vai deva-ratha-ahnyāny ayaṁ lokaḥ, taṁ samantaṁ pṛthivī dvis tāvat paryeti; tāṁ samantam pṛthivīm dvis tāvat samudraḥ paryeti, tad yāvati kṣurasya dhārā, yāvad vā makṣikāyāḥ pattram, tāvān antareṇākāśaḥ; tān indraḥ suparṇo bhūtvā vāyave prāyacchat, tān vāyur ātmani dhitvā tatrāgamayad, yatrāśva-medha-yājino'bhavann iti; evam iva vai sa vāyum eva praśaśaṁsa, tasmād vāyur eva vyaṣṭiḥ, vāyuḥ samaṣṭiḥ: apa punar mṛtyuṁ jayati, ya evaṁ veda. tato ha bhujyur lāhyāyanir upararāma.

Sa hovāca, uvāca vai saḥ vai saḥ agacchan vai te tad yatrāśva-medha-yājino gacchantīti: "Hear Bhujyu," answers Yājñavalkya. "You ask me where the Pārikṣitas, the descendants of Pārikṣit have gone. I tell you, they have reached those regions which are to be reached by the performers of the Aśvamedha Sacrifice. That is the region they have gone to. This is what the Gandharva must have told you." Kva nv aśva-medha-yājino gacchantīti: "But where do these Aśvamedha Yajins go? You are saying that they have gone to those regions which are to be reached by the performers of the sacrifice – Aśvamedha, but where is that place? Can you give a description of that area, of the terminus which they have reached?" Now, something comes which is not easy to understand. Dvātriṁśataṁ vai deva-ratha-ahnyāny ayaṁ lokaḥ, taṁ samantaṁ pṛthivī dvis tāvat paryeti: "This world is of the extent of thirty-two times of the dimension which is covered by the chariot of the sun." What is the area which is influenced by the movement of the sun? That region is what can be regarded as this world. It is some very vast extent, indeed. You cannot imagine what is that area which is influenced by the movement of the sun, because it is an astronomical feat to think even of such an extent which covers up all the physical areas connected with the influence of the sun. Dvātriṁśataṁ vai deva-ratha-ahnyāny ayaṁ lokaḥ: "This world which I am speaking of and about which I am going to tell you is thirty-two times larger than this area which is covered by the movement of the chariot of the sun. And that earth portion which is thirty-two times larger than the location of the jurisdiction of the sun's movement is covered by the earth principle – taṁ samantaṁ pṛthivī dvis tāvat paryeti." Double that extent is covered by the principle of the earth. So the earth, according to him, does not mean only this little globe on which we are living. It is a very vast area covered by the earth element itself. Tāṁ samantam pṛthivīm dvis tāvat samudraḥ paryeti: "There is a cosmic ocean, which extends beyond this earth principle, and the extent of that ocean is double the extent of that earth principle which I have described to you earlier, which in turn is double the extent referred to as that belonging to the sun." Now, this is perhaps going almost to the borderland of the cosmos. We have gone so far. It is so wide – dvis tāvat samudraḥ paryeti, tad yāvati kṣurasya dhārā, yāvad vā makṣikāyāḥ pattram, tāvān antareṇākāśaḥ; tān indraḥ suparṇo bhūtvā vāyave prāyacchat: "After reaching that tremendous distance, you will reach what can be called the borderland of the cosmos. The two halves of the Brahmanda, or the Cosmic Egg join, as it were, at that particular part." The juncture is so subtle that you will not be able to know where it is. It is stated here in the Upaniṣhad, "It is so fine as to be compared to the edge of a fine razor or the thickness of the wing of a fly." Very thin indeed. You cannot even know that it is there. When the soul reaches that borderland of the cosmos, Agnī takes possession of it. It is difficult to reach such a noble height. According to some interpretators of this passage, (here the word Indra is used, not Agnī. And Indra does not really mean Agnī) it is God Himself appearing in one form and not as Agnī – suparṇo bhūtvā vāyave prāyacchat. God Himself takes one particular shape and transfers the soul to a higher region which is called Vāyu here. And the commentators say that here Vāyu means the Cosmic Vāyu – Hiraṇyagarbha Prāṇa. That region of Hiraṇyagarbha is reached by the help of this Supernormal being called Indra who takes possession of the soul at that particular spot. Some such discussion occurs in the Chhāndogya Upaniṣhad also where we are told that some superhuman being (Atimānava Puruṣha) comes and guides the soul along the path to liberation. Tān vāyur ātmani dhitvā tatrāgamayad, yatrāśva-medha-yājino'bhavann iti. Now Hiraṇyagarbha Prāṇa holds the soul within itself, and then transfers it to the higher region of Īshvara Himself. Evam iva vai sa vāyum eva praśaśaṁsa: Yājñavalkya says: "Is this the answer you received from that Gandharva who possessed the daughter of Patañcala?" "Yes; this is the answer I received. You are telling me the same thing." Sa vāyum eva praśaśaṁsa, tasmād vāyur eva vyaṣṭiḥ, vāyuḥ samaṣṭiḥ:  "This Vāyu that we are speaking of here, the Divine Vital Force, is individual as well as cosmic. Vyaṣti is individual; Samaṣti is cosmic. It is both. It is working through an individual and also operating in the universe as Hiraṇyagarbha, Sūtra-ātman, or Cosmic Prāṇa. Apa punar mṛtyuṁ jayati, ya evaṁ veda. If you know this secret, you will cross over mortality. If this Vāyu that is the topmost region reached by the performers of the Aśvamedha Sacrifice and which has been reached by the Pārikṣitas the descendants of Pārikṣit; if this Supreme Universal energy is realised and known, one transcends death – apa punar mṛtyuṁ jayati, ya evaṁ veda. If this realisation could come to anybody, one would reach the same destination which the Pārikṣitas reached." When this answer was given by Yājñavalkya, the questioner Bhujyuh kept quiet and occupied his seat – tato ha bhujyur lāhyāyanir upararāma.

If you want to know more about this kind of geography, read the Fifth Skanda of Śrimad Bhāgavata Purāṇa. In the Fifth Skanda of Śrimad Bhāgavata Purāṇa, you will find more interesting details connected with this subject.

Fourth Brahmana: The Unknowability of Brahman

  1. atha hainam uṣastas cākrāyaṇah papraccha: yājñavalkya, iti hovāca, yat sākṣād aparokṣād brahma, ya ātmā sarvāntaraḥ, tam me vyācakṣveti. eṣa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ. katamah yājñavalkya, sarvāntaraḥ. yaḥ prāṇena prāṇiti, sa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ, yo'pānenāpāniti sa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ, yo vyānena vyānīti sa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ; ya udānena udāniti, sa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ, eṣa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ.   

Atha hainam uṣastas cākrāyaṇah papraccha: yājñavalkya, iti hovāca, yat sākṣād aparokṣād brahma, ya ātmā sarvāntaraḥ, tam me vyācakṣveti: When the preceding question was answered, another great Master called Uṣasta, the descendant of Cākrāyaṇa put another question: "Yājñavalkya, answer this. There is an eternal Being which is immediately presented into experience and directly observed; which is the Self of all beings and internal to everything. Explain it to me. What is that which is innermost to all beings, which is internal to everything, which is non-immediate experience – not immediately experienced as through the senses when they perceive objects, and which is direct, not indirect experience?" Tam me vyācakṣveti: "Explain that to me." Eṣa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ. katamah yājñavalkya, sarvāntaraḥ:  "This very Being in you is your internal Self." This is what Yājñavalkya said. "But what is this internal Being you are speaking of? Tell me that again," Uṣasta said. Yaḥ prāṇena prāṇiti, sa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ, yo'pānenāpāniti sa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ, yo vyānena vyānīti sa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ; ya udānena udāniti, sa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ, eṣa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ: "He who breathes in through the Prāṇa is your inner Self. He who performs the function of expiration is your own Self that is working in the form of this outward breath, the Apāna. That which pervades your whole body, known as Vyāna, again, is the operation of your own Self. That which works as Udāna, whose activity consists of lifting the body at the time of death and performing certain other functions of that nature, that which is called Udāna in ordinary language, is really your own Self that is working. There is no such thing as Prāṇa, Apāna, Vyāna, Udāna, Samāna. They are only names that we give to the functions of the inner Self that is yours. So, Uṣasta, I tell you that this is really the inner Self of yours which appears as the various functions." "Oh, you should not speak like this to me. You must explain it in a greater detail." So, the question is not finished. He tells Yājñavalkya:

  1. sa hovāca uṣastas cākrāyaṇaḥ: yathā vibrūyād, asau gauḥ, asāv aśva iti, evaṁ evaitad vyapadiṣṭam bhavati, yad eva sākṣād aparokṣād brahma ya ātmā sarvāntaraḥ tam me vyācakṣva iti: eṣa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ. katamah yājñavalkya, sarvāntaraḥ. na dṛṣṭer draṣṭāram paśyeḥ, na śruter śrotāraṁ śṛṇuyāḥ, na mater mantāraṁ manvīthāḥ, na vijñāter vijñātāraṁ vijānīyāḥ, eṣa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ, ato'nyad ārtam. tato ha uṣastas cākrāyaṇa upararāma

Sa hovāca uṣastas cākrāyaṇaḥ: yathā vibrūyād, asau gauḥ, asāv aśva iti, evaṁ evaitad vyapadiṣṭam bhavati, yad eva sākṣād aparokṣād brahma ya ātmā sarvāntaraḥ tam me vyācakṣva iti: This passage has two meanings. It may mean: "Tell me directly – 'this is the ātman' – just as you say 'this is a cow, this is a horse'.  Do not give an indirect definition of it as you have just done." Or, it may mean: "You have only told me, this is your inner Self in the same way as people would say, 'this is a cow, this is a horse', etc. That is not a real definition. Merely saying, 'this is that' is not a definition. I want an actual description of what this internal Self is. Please give that description and do not simply say, 'this is that' – tam me vyācakṣva iti." Ya ātmā sarvāntaraḥ tam me vyācakṣva iti: eṣa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ. katamah yājñavalkya, sarvāntaraḥ. na dṛṣṭer draṣṭāram paśyeḥ: Yājñavalkya says: "You tell me that I have to point out the Self as if it is a cow or a horse. Not possible! It is not an object like a horse or a cow. I cannot say, 'here is the ātman; here is the Self'. It is not possible because – na dṛṣṭer draṣṭāram paśyeḥ – you cannot see the seer of seeing. The seer can see that which is other than the Seer, or the act of seeing. An object outside the seer can be beheld by the seer. How can the seer see himself? How is it possible? Na dṛṣṭer draṣṭāram paśyeḥ: You cannot see the seer of seeing. Na śruter śrotāraṁ śṛṇuyāḥ: You cannot hear the hearer of hearing. Na mater mantāraṁ manvīthāḥ: You cannot think the Thinker of thinking. Na vijñāter vijñātāraṁ vijānīyāḥ: You cannot understand the Understander of understanding. Eṣa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ: That is the ātman."

Nobody can know the ātman inasmuch as the ātman is the Knower of all things. So, no question regarding the ātman can be put, such as "What is the ātman?' 'Show it to me', etc. You cannot show the ātman because the Shower is the ātman; the Experiencer is the ātman; the Seer is the ātman; the Functioner in every respect through the senses or the mind or the intellect is the ātman. As the basic Residue of Reality in every individual is the ātman, how can we go behind It and say, 'This is the ātman?' Therefore, the question is impertinent and inadmissible. The reason is clear. It is the Self. It is not an object-na vijñāter vijñātāraṁ vijānīyāḥ, eṣa ta ātmā sarvāntaraḥ.

Ato'nyad ārtam: "Everything other than the ātman is stupid; it is useless; it is good for nothing; it has no value; it is lifeless. Everything assumes a meaning because of the operation of this ātman in everything. Minus that, nothing has any sense – ato'nyad ārtam." Tato ha uṣastas cākrāyaṇa upararāma. Then Uṣasta Cākrāyana, the questioner kept quiet. He understood the point and did not speak further.