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The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

by

CHAPTER III

Eighth Brahmana: The Unqualified Brahman

Then Gārgi gets up once again – the same lady who put questions and was asked to keep quiet and not ask further questions. She is not yet satisfied and again gets up. Now she puts more serious questions than the ones she put earlier.

  1. atha ha vācaknavy uvāca, brāhmaṇā bhagavantaḥ, hanta, aham imaṁ dvau praśnau prakṣyāmi; tau cen me vakṣyati, na vai jātu yuṣmākam imaṁ kaś cid brahmodyaṁ jeteti. pṛccha gārgīti..

Atha ha vācaknavy uvāca, brāhmaṇā bhagavantaḥ, hanta, aham imaṁ dvau praśnau prakṣyāmi: á"Learned men, now I am going to put two questions to this sage. If he is able to answer these two questions of mine, none of you is going to defeat him in argument – tau cen me vakṣyati, na vai jātu yuṣmākam imaṁ kaś cid brahmodyaṁ jeteti. There is no use arguing with him afterwards, if he is capable of answering these two questions that I am going to put now." Pṛccha gārgīti: "Ask, Gārgi," says Yāj˝avalkya.

  1. sa hovāca: ahaṁ vai tvā, yāj˝avalkya, yathā kāśyo vā vaideho vā ugra-putraḥ, ujjyaṁ dhanur adhijyaṁ kṛtvā, dvau bāṇavantau sapatna-ativyādhinau haste kṛtvā upottiṣṭhet, evam evāham tvā dvābhyām praśnābhyām upodasthām, tau me brῡhīti. pṛccha, gārgi, iti.

Now, she addresses Yāj˝avalkya directly, and says: "Yāj˝avalkya; now I cast two questions upon you, as if they are piercing arrows. As if a learned archer, an expert warrior come from Benaras or some kingdom of Videha may string his bow and tie two arrows, pointed and pain-giving, likewise I dart two pointed arrows of questions upon you, just now. Be prepared for them – dvau bāṇavantau sapatna-ativyādhinau haste kṛtvā upottiṣṭhet, evam evāham tvā dvābhyām praśnābhyām upodasthām, tau me brūhīti." Pṛccha gārgi, iti: Yāj˝avalkya says: "What are these two piercing questions?"

  1. sa hovāca: yad ῡrdhvam, yāj˝avalkya, divaḥ, yad avāk pṛthivyāḥ, yad antarā dyāvāpṛthivī ime, yad bhῡtaṁ ca bhavac ca bhaviṣyac cety ācakṣate; kasmiṁs tad otaṁ ca protaṁ ceti.

Now, Gārgi takes up this point and speaks – sa hovāca: yad ūrdhvam, yāj˝avalkya: "Yāj˝avalkya; that which is above the heaven; yad avāk pṛthivyāḥ: that which is below the earth; yad antarā dyāvāpṛthivī: that which is between the earth and the heaven; ime, yad bhῡtaṁ ca bhavac ca bhaviṣyac cety ācakṣate: that which is identical with whatever was, identical with whatever is and also identical with whatever will be; kasmiṁs tad otaṁ ca protaṁ ceti: in what is this peculiar thing rooted and founded? Is there a basis or a foundation or a support or a substratum for this peculiar thing I am speaking of? This strange something which is above, as well as below, as well as between things; that which was in the past, that which is in the present, and shall be in the future, there is something like that; if there is something like that, on what is it founded as if there is a support?"

  1. sa hovāca: yad ῡrdhvam, gārgi, divaḥ, yad avāk pṛthivyāḥ, yad antarā dyāvāpṛthivī ime, yad bhῡtaṁ ca bhavac ca bhaviṣyac cety ācakṣate; ākāśe tad otaṁ ca protaṁ ceti.

Then Yāj˝avalkya says: "Gārgi! This is strung in a subtle ethereal principle. You cannot call it by any other name. That ethereal principle has not the distinction of pervasion of objects. It is subtler than that which pervades. And that which you are speaking of as what is above and what is below and what is between and what is the past, present and future, that is rooted in some undifferentiated something. That undifferentiated reality can be designated as ether. It is not the physical ether; it is an unmanifest ether – avyākrita ākāṣa."

  1. sa hovāca: namas te'stu, yāj˝avalkya, yo ma etaṁ vyavocaḥ: aparasmai dhārayasveti. pṛccha, gārgi, iti.

  2. sa hovāca: yad ῡrdhvam, yāj˝avalkya, divaḥ, yad avāk pṛthivyāḥ, yad antarā dyāvā-pṛthivī ime, yad bhῡtaṁ ca bhavac ca bhaviṣyac cety ācakṣate: kasmiṁs tad otaṁ ca protaṁ ceti.

"Well; very true! What is this Avyākrita Ākāsa? That also must have some basis. Yāj˝avalkya, I am very much satisfied with your answer," says Gārgi – namas te'stu, yāj˝avalkya, yo ma etaṁ vyavocaḥ: aparasmai dhārayasveti. pṛccha, gārgi, iti: "Now I put you a further question, consequent upon this answer of yours."

  1. sa hovāca: yad ῡrdhvam, gārgī, divaḥ, yad avāk pṛthivyāḥ,á yad antarā dyāvāpṛthivī ime, yad bhῡtaṁ ca bhavac ca bhaviṣyac cety ācakṣateá ākāśā eva tad otaṁ ca protaṁ ceti; kasmin nu khalv ākāśā otaś ca protaś ceti.

"This principle which you call unmanifest ether, the undifferentiated background of that which is everywhere, (as a matter of fact, Gārgi is referring to the very same 'Sūtra' of which Uddālaka spoke earlier. This 'Sūtra', or the thread in which everything is strung, is that which is above and below and between and it is the past, present and future. It is rooted in something. That something is an indescribable, unmodified and homogeneous substance, they call it Avyākrita) in what is that rooted? Has it also some foundation?"

  1. sa hovāca: etad vai tad akṣaram, gārgī, brāhmaṇāá abhivadanti, asthῡlam, anaṇu, ahrasvam, adīrgham, alohitam, asneham, acchāyam, atamaḥ, avāyv anākāśam, asaṅgam, arasam, agandham, acakṣuṣkam, aśrotram, avāk, amanaḥ, atejaskam, aprāṇam, amukham, amātram, anantaram, abāhyam; na tad aśnāti kiṁ cana, na tad aśnāti kaś cana.

"This foundation is nothing but the Absolute. Beyond that, there can be nothing. That is the immaculate Absolute," says Yāj˝avalkya. Etad vai tad akṣaram: "It is imperishable. You cannot go on answering questions like this indefinitely, until you get exhausted of description. The final point of all answers to every question is the imperishable Reality. That is the last resort of all thought, all speech and all definition. The great ones say, this is Akṣara – etad vai tad akṣaram, gārgī, brāhmaṇāá abhivadanti, asthῡlam: It is not gross, therefore, it cannot be visualised. It is not subtle, because to call it subtle would be to distinguish it from the gross. It is inseparable from that which is called the gross. Therefore, I cannot call it subtle also. It is not gross because it is not visible as an object; it is not subtle because it is not different from the gross. So it is not gross, not subtle – asthῡlam, anaṇu. Ahrasvam, adīrgham: You cannot call it long; you cannot call it short, because it is not in space. When it is not in space, how can you measure it and call it of this length, of this measure and that length, etc.? So I cannot call it of this measure or that measure. Neither it is short nor long. It has no distance, no dimensions. Alohitam: It cannot be called as possessed of any colour, because colour is the perception of the eyes. It is an object. And it is already ruled out as being an object of any kind. So it has no colour. It has no connection with anything – asneham. It cannot be associated with anything; it cannot be related to anything. It stands by itself. It cannot be regarded as the cause of anything, also. It does not cast a shadow. It is not the light, as we generally speak of. It is not sunlight, because sunlight casts a shadow. It does not cast a shadow. It is light by itself – acchāyam. Atamah: It is not darkness also, because it sees everything. It is the utmost brilliance that you can think of. It is not space; it is not air; it is not water; it is not earth; it is not an object; it is not individual; it is not you; it is not me – avāyv anākāśam. Asaṅgam: It stands by itself. It has no space. You cannot grasp it through the senses of taste, sight, hearing, etc. – arasam. Agandham, acakṣuṣkam aśrotram: It has no eyes; it sees everything. It has no ears; it hears everything. Avāk: It has no speech, but it speaks, and all the languages are known to it. Amanah: It has no mind; it thinks all things. Atejaskam: It cannot be called brilliance also, ultimately. You call it Light of lights. The ultimate conception of Reality is light. It is not even Light if you designate it as the light which you think of in your mind. It is not a light that shines upon something; it is a Light that stands by its own Self. Aprāṇam: It has no Prāṇa; it does not breathe. It is not an individual being. Amukham: It has no mouth. It has no organs. It has no measure of any kind, sensory or psychological – amātram. It is not inside; it is not outside – anantaram abāhyam. If you say 'inside', it means that it is not 'outside'. If you say 'outside', it means that it is not 'inside'. So, neither is this definition applicable to it, nor that. It has no inside and outside, merely because it is not in space and not in time. It does not consume anything – and it is not consumed by anyone. na tad aśnāti kiṁ cana, na tad aśnāti kaś cana: Neither it wants anything, not is wanted by anybody. Nothing is an object to it, and it is not an object to anyone. Such a mysterious thing is the ultimate Reality of even that foundation, unmanifested substratum of the all-pervading principle. This is the Para Brahman; this is the Absolute; this is All."

  1. etasya vā akṣarasya praśāsane, gārgi, sῡryācandramasau vidhṛtau tiṣṭhataḥ; etasya vā akṣarasya praśāsane, gārgi, dyāvāpṛithivyau vidhṛte tiṣṭhataḥ; etasya vā akṣarasya praṣāsane, gārgi, nimeṣā, muhῡrtā, ahorātraṇy, ardhamāsā, māsā, ṛtavaḥ, saṁvatsara iti. vidhṛtās tiṣṭhanti; etasya vā akṣarasya praśāsane, gārgi, prācyo'nyā nadyaḥ syandante śvetebhyaḥ parvatebhyaḥ, pratīcyo'nyāḥ, yām yāṁ cā diśam anu; etasya vā akṣarasya praśāsane, gārgi, dadato manuṣyāḥ praśaṁsanti; yajamānaṁ devāḥ, darvīṁ pitaro 'nvāyattāḥ.

"By the command of this Being, everything functions in this world, O Gārgi. It is not a command like that of a boss, by word of mouth, or even by gesture. Its command is merely its Existence. It merely is, and orders by the very Being that it is. It does not act in the way in which others act. Its action and its Being are identical, so we cannot use such epithets as action, thinking, speaking, etc. in regard to it. We do not know how to describe it. Etasya vā akṣarasya praśāsane, gārgi, sῡryācandramasau vidhṛtau: If the sun does not fall on your head, and if the moon is following its own course in orbit, if these stellar regions are held together in their proper positions, it is because of the Existence of this Being. Etasya vā akṣarasya praśāsane, gārgi, dyāvāpṛithivyau vidhṛte tiṣṭhataḥ: The earth and the heaven and the intermediary atmosphere are held together in position on account of the Existence of this Being. Etasya vā akṣarasya praṣāsane, gārgi, nimeṣā, muhῡrtā, ahorātraṇy, ardhamāsā, māsā, ṛtavaḥ, saṁvatsara iti. vidhṛtās tiṣṭhanti: All this distinction that you call in time, as year and month and day and night, etc. and hours and minutes and what not – all these distinctions assume a meaning on account of the operation of this Being in a very subtle manner. Etasya vā akṣarasya praśāsane, gārgi, prācyo'nyā nadyaḥ syandante: The rivers flow in different directions because of the operation of this Being only. Everything conducts itself in its proper course, in harmony with the law of this Being, and if that were not to be, there would be complete chaos. Śvetebhyaḥ parvatebhyaḥ, pratīcyo'nyāḥ, yām yāṁ cā diśam anu; etasya vā akṣarasya praśāsane, gārgi, dadato manuṣyāḥ praśaṁsanti; yajamānaṁ devāḥ, darvīṁ pitaro 'nvāyattāḥ: When you do a charitable act, it is said that it is a good act. Why is a charitable act, a good act? Because of the law of this Being that operates. Otherwise, there can be nothing called goodness. When you worship divine beings, celestials, we say it is a devotional act. Why is it a devotional act? Because of the law of this Being that acts. When you offer libations to ancestors, it is regarded as an auspicious rite because of the reward that comes out of it. And the reward of any action is possible only because of the inexorable Law of this Being that is the Supreme Absolute."