by Swami Krishnananda
Yᾱj˝avalkya, iti hovᾱca, yad idaṁ sarvaṁ pῡrva-pakṣa-apara-pakṣᾱbhyᾱmá ᾱptam: "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 yajamᾱnaḥ pῡrvapakṣa-aparapakṣayor ᾱptim 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. Vᾱyunᾱ, prᾱṇena, prᾱṇo vai yaj˝asya udgᾱtᾱ, tad yo'yam prᾱṇaḥ. sa vᾱyuḥ, sa udgᾱtᾱ, sa muktiḥ sᾱtimuktiḥ. 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.
"How can the last one, Brahma, be free from death? He has another difficulty. What is that?" Yad idam antarikṣam anᾱrambaṇam iva kenᾱkrameṇa yajamᾱnaḥ svargaṁ lokam ᾱkramata 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?" Brahmaṇᾱ ṛtvijᾱ, manasᾱ, 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 Yaj˝a. The individual should not imagine that he is the recipient of the fruits. Mano vai yaj˝asya brahmᾱ: It is the mind that performs the sacrifice as the Brahma or the fourth priest. Tad yad idam manaḥ, so'sau candraḥ: áWhatever is the mind, that is the moon. They are interconnected." Sa brahmᾱ, sa muktiḥ, sᾱtimuktiḥ ity atimokṣᾱḥ, atha sampadaḥ: So, Yāj˝avalkya 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 Yāj˝avalkya and the answers which Yāj˝avalkya gives to the four questions. But there are further questions. The man does not leave Yāj˝avalkya 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.
"In this sacrifice, how many Ṛg verses are used, and what types of verses are used? Can you tell me?" Yāj˝avalkya, iti hovᾱca, katibhir ayam adya ṛgbhir hotᾱsmin yaj˝e 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 Yāj˝avalkya. "These are used by the Hotr, the Ṛg Vedic priest." Katamas tas tisra iti: "Which are those three?" again Aśvala asks. Puro'nuvᾱkyᾱ ca yᾱjyᾱ ca śasyaiva tṛtīyᾱ: á"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 tᾱbhir 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 prᾱṇabhṛd iti: "He can gain control over everything," says Yāj˝avalkya. "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 prᾱṇabhṛd iti."
"Well Yāj˝avalkya! 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?" Yᾱj˝avalkya, iti hovᾱca, katy ayam adyᾱdhvaryur asmin yaj˝a ᾱhutīr hoṣyatīti:á "How many oblations are offered in this sacrifice? Tell me." Tisra iti: "Three are offered." Katamᾱs tᾱs tisra iti:á "What are those three?" Yᾱ hutᾱ 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. Yᾱ hutᾱ 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. Yᾱ hutᾱ 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 Yaj˝a Kunda." Kiṁ tᾱbhir jayatīti: "What is the purpose of these chants? What does he gain out of these recitations and stirring of the flames in this manner?" Yᾱ hutᾱ adhiśerate, manuṣya-lokam eva tᾱbhir 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; Yᾱ hutᾱ 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. Yᾱ hutᾱ 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."
Yᾱj˝avalkya, iti hovᾱca: "Yāj˝avalkya, I put you another question," he said. Katibhir ayam adya brahmᾱ yaj˝am dakṣiṇato devatᾱbhir gopᾱyatīti:á "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 Yaj˝a that is being performed here?" Yāj˝avalkya says, ekayeti. "Only one God is there. He resorts to one God." Katamᾱ 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 anantᾱ viśve-devᾱḥ: 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-devᾱḥs. The Viśve-devᾱḥs are the protectors of the sacrifice. The mind itself stands for Viśve-devᾱḥs 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-devᾱḥs, by the very concentration that he practises."
"Yāj˝avalkya, I ask you another question. Answer that – Yᾱj˝avalkya, iti hovᾱca, katy ayam adyodgᾱtᾱsmin yaj˝e śtotriyᾱḥ stoṣyatīti: What are the set of Mantras which the Udgatri, the Sāma Vedic priest chants here?" Tisra iti: "There are three chants." Katamᾱs tᾱ yᾱ adhyᾱtmam iti: "What are those?" Puro' nuvᾱkyᾱ ca yᾱjyᾱ ca śasyaiva tṛtīyᾱ: "The same are the Mantras as they are mentioned in connection with the Ṛg Veda – the introductory, the oblationary and the laudatory." Katamᾱs tᾱs 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. Prᾱṇa eva puro'nuvᾱkyᾱ, apᾱno yᾱjyᾱ, vyᾱnaḥ śasyᾱ:á 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 tᾱbhir 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'nuvᾱkyayᾱ jayati: "The whole earth can be governed by him, by the force generated by the introductory chant. Antarikṣa-lokam yᾱjyayᾱ: The atmospheric world can be controlled by him by the recitation of the middle one, the oblational chant. Dyu-lokaṁ śasyayᾱ: 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 hotᾱśvala upararᾱma. 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, Yāj˝avalkya 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 Yāj˝avalkya.