The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
by Swami Krishnananda


Chapter V

Thirteenth Brahmana: Meditation on the Life-Breath

  1. uktham: prāṇo vā uktham, prāṇo hīdaṁ sarvam utthāpayati. uddhāsmād uktha-vid vīras tiṣṭhati, ukthasya sāyujyaṁ salokātaṁ jayati, ya evaṁ veda.

Now the Upaniṣhad tells us that we can meditate on Om, or Prāṇava, or a particular chant of the Sāma Veda called the Uktha. This is a ritualistic interpretation of the employment of Om in certain sacrifices. Uktha means Om or also a particular chant of the Sāma Veda. Uktham prano: 'The Prāṇa is Uktha.' Every chant is made possible by the operation of the Prāṇa, or energy within us. Contemplate the Prāṇa as Om or the chant of Sāma. Now again, here we have a meditation prescribed on the symbolic meaning of the letters of the word Uktha. Utthāpayati uddhāsmād uktha-vid vīras tiṣṭhati, ukthasya sāyujyaṁ salokātaṁ jayati, ya evaṁ veda: 'One who meditates on Uktha or this mystical chant rises above all others.' The meaning that one rises above all others is to be drawn out from the etymological meaning of the components of the word Uktha. Utthāpayati means 'rise above', stand above or even raise someone else above the present position. So, one who contemplates on the etymological meaning of the word Uktha, which signifies rising above or standing above, raises oneself above the present condition of life, stands above others in every respect, causes others also to rise above themselves into a higher position, and 'ultimately reaches union with the Cosmic Reality which is Uktha, or Om, a universal vibration with which one becomes united, having been able to meditate on it in this manner'.

  1. yajuh: prāṇo vai yajuh, prāṇe hīmāni sarvāṇi bhūtāni yujyante; yujyante hāsmai sarvāṇi bhūtāni śraiṣṭhyāya. yajuṣaḥ sāyujyaṁ salokatāṁ jayati, ya evaṁ veda.

Similarly we are asked to 'meditate on Prāṇa as Yajus'. Here again we are given a purely linguistic meaning. 'The Prāṇa unites things, and where Prāṇa is absent there is disintegration.' Prāṇe hīmāni sarvāṇi bhūtāni yujyante: 'Whoever contemplates Prāṇa as Yajus, one of the Vedas, gets united with all things.' Not only that; he unites everything that is discrete and particular; he becomes a harmonising element in society; he becomes a peacemaker. One who has united himself with Reality becomes capable of uniting others also with Reality. Yujyante hāsmai sarvāṇi bhūtāni śraiṣṭhyāya. yajuṣaḥ sāyujyaṁ salokatāṁ jayati, ya evaṁ veda: 'He who is able to meditate on Prāṇa as Yajus, that which unites things, attains pre-eminence. And, after casting off this body, attains that realm of the divinities which is hymned by the Mantras of the Yajur Veda.' He becomes one with the gods, the realm which is indicated by the Yajus, a celestial realm, far superior to the physical and the atmospheric regions. This is the consequence of meditation on Prāṇa as Yajus, a uniter, a combiner, or a harmoniser of everything, a meaning that is drawn out from the etymological significance of the word Yajus.

Raising the minds of ritual-ridden people to higher realms superior to the realm of the rites or the rituals of sacrifice in religion, instead of suddenly giving them a philosophic concept for meditation and drawing them gradually from the ritual realm to the philosophical realm through the realm of the ritual alone – this seems to be the purpose of the Upaniṣhad in this meditation.

  1. sāma: prāṇo vai sāma, prāṇe hīmāni sarvāṇi bhūtāni samyañci; samyañci hāsmai sarvāṇi bhūtāni śraisthyāya kalpante. sāmnaḥ sāyujyaṁ salokatāṁ jayati, ya evaṁ veda.

Likewise, we are asked to contemplate on Prāṇa as Sāman. 'That which unites things' is also the meaning of Sāman. In the same way as one is enabled to attain to the realm of the deities of the Yajus by the contemplation on the Prāṇa as the uniter of all things and an harmoniser of principles, similarly is the effect that follows by meditation on Prāṇa as the Sāman. To unite, is the meaning that is drawn out from the word Yajus. 'To harmonise, is the meaning that is drawn out of the word Sāman. Everything comes together for him who contemplates Prāṇa as Sāman, and one who thus meditates throughout one's life attains the realm of ultimate harmony of things after the casting off of the body. This is the result of this meditation.'

  1. kṣatram: prāṇo vai kṣatram, prāṇo hi vai kṣatram: trāyate hainaṁ prāṇaḥ kṣanitoḥ. pra kṣatram atram āpnoti, kṣatrasya sāyujyaṁ salokatāṁ jayati, ya evaṁ veda.

Kṣatram prāṇo: 'Prāṇa is to be meditated upon as Kṣatra.' This again is a peculiarity in Sanskrit. Kṣatram prāṇo trāyate hainaṁ prāṇaḥ kṣanitoḥ: The word Kṣatra is taken as an occasion to contemplate on Prāṇa as 'that which saves people from all kinds of sufferings', a protector of all people, a saviour par excellence and a guide in life, one who provides the necessities of life. All these meanings are to be drawn from the word Kṣatra as united with Prāṇa, which is the symbol here for meditation. 'One who thus meditates on Prāṇa, as Kṣatra, the saviour, the protector and one who frees people from every kind of sorrow or suffering, reaches realms which are well-protected, which are free from sorrow of every kind, and attains to a salvation which is equivalent to freedom from all turmoil of physical life.'

Fourteenth Brahmana: The Sacred Gayatri Prayer

Now, we enter into a new subject altogether, a meditation on the mystical, and to a certain extent linguistic, meaning of the Gāyatrī Mantra in the Veda.

  1. bhūmir antarikṣaṁ dyauḥ ity aṣṭāv akṣarāni; aṣṭākṣaraṁ ha vā ekaṁ gāyatryai padam. etad u haivāsyā etat, sa yāvad eṣu triṣu lokeṣu, tāvaddha jayati, yo’syā etad evaṁ padaṁ veda.

The Gāyatrī is a Mantra well-known to people. Gāyantam trayati gāyatrī: One who protects that devotee who by singing, chanting or reciting, resorts to this Mantra is Gāyatrī. This is a Mantra with twenty-four letters, three feet and three quarters. The fourth quarter is a mystical one about which the Upaniṣhad will be mentioning something very special towards the end. Now, how do we contemplate the feet of Gāyatrī? It is a Mantra – you must remember this. It is a chant of the Veda which has twenty-four letters. Particular methods of meditation on the correspondence between the letters of the different feet of Gāyatrī with certain other visible phenomena in life are prescribed here. Here again we are in the realm of poor language. Bhūmir antarikṣaṁ dyauḥ: Bhūmi is earth; Antariksa is atmosphere; Dyau is heaven. Dyau is supposed to be a two-lettered word. It is a compound and not a single word. Bhūmi, Antarikṣa, Dyau – earth, atmosphere and heaven – are designated by three words, three appellations, epithets or names, and these names are constituted of eight letters. Similar is the case with the first foot of the Gāyatrī Mantra, which is of eight letters. So a correspondence is established in meditation between the eight letters of the first foot of Gāyatrī and the earth, atmosphere and heaven, so that the first foot of Gāyatrī is made equivalent to the entire visible world. These three worlds – the physical, the atmospheric and the celestial – are supposed to be designated again by what is called the Vyahritis. Vyahritis is what precedes the chant of Gāyatrī. Bhur, Bhuva, Svah – these are the three words which are called Vyahritis. They correspond to the three worlds – the physical, the atmospheric and the celestial. So is the first foot of Gāyatrī, which is formed of eight letters. So, here a symbolic meditation is prescribed. What is the meditation? Contemplation on the first foot of Gāyatrī Mantra as all the three worlds themselves. 'One who meditates on the first foot of Gāyatrī, in this manner, by identifying its letters with the three worlds, attains to the three worlds. He attains to the Supernal status of Mastery over the earth, atmosphere and celestial realms.' Sa yāvad eṣu triṣu lokeṣu, tāvaddha jayati: Whatever is there in these three worlds, that this person will get. Who will get? One who meditates in this manner on the first foot of Gāyatrī by conscious identification of this foot of Gāyatrī with the three worlds. How is this correspondence established? 'By the thought that the eight letters of the first foot of the Gāyatrī are the same as the eight letters of the three words, Bhūmi, Antarikṣa and Dyau, meaning earth, atmosphere and heaven.'

It is very difficult to conceive all this, but these are the ways in which some of the Rishis in ancient times practiced contemplation. It does not mean that we are to take each and every prescription as intended for ourselves. The Upaniṣhad is not a single teaching. It is a body of varieties of teachings. Various types of meditations are prescribed, and when an initiation is given in a particular method of meditation, a particular chosen technique only is taken up, not the entire body. But we are studying the Upaniṣhad for the purpose of information and edification of our own mind, so that the mind may get purified and become fit for any type of meditation as would be conducive to our temperament. They are very hard things to imagine. You cannot imagine even one of them when you actually sit for meditation, but they are very effective techniques. The confidence with which the sage of the Upaniṣhad tells us that mere contemplation on this correspondence between the letters of the first foot of Gāyatrī and the letters in the three words, Bhūmi, Antarikṣa, Dyau, will cause the meditator to go to the realm where he becomes a master of the three worlds, is indeed miraculous. You can imagine what mystery is hidden behind these meditations!

  1. ṛco yajūmṣi sāmāni, ity aṣṭāv akṣarāṇi; aṣṭākṣaraṁ ha vā ekaṁ gāyatrai padam. etad u haivāsyā etat. sa yāvadīyaṁ trayī vidyā, tāvad ha jayati. yo'syā etad evaṁ padaṁ veda.

Ṛco yajūmṣi sāmāni: There are three Vedas – Ṛg, Yajur and Sāma. The plural of these is given here as ṛco yajūmṣi sāmāni. 'The Ṛco, Yajus and the Sāmān – here again you have eight letters.' These have to be set in correspondence with the eight letters of the second foot of the Gāyatrī. This is another kind of meditation. 'What happens to the one who meditates in this manner, concentrating his mind on the correspondence between eight letters of the second foot of Gāyatrī with the three Vedas? He becomes a Master of the three Vedas, and attains to realms which are accessible to anyone who is a Master of the three Vedas.' Whatever is capable of being achieved through the three Vedas, that one achieves through this contemplation on the second foot of the Gāyatrī Mantra alone, just as one attains to mastery over the three worlds by contemplation merely on the first foot of the Gāyatrī.

  1. prāṇo'pāno vyānah, ity aṣṭāv akṣarāṇi; aṣṭākṣaraṁ ha vā ekaṁ gāyatrai padam: etad u haivāsyā etat. sa yāvad idam prāṇi, tāvad ha jayati yo'syā etad evam padaṁ veda. athāsya etad eva turīyaṁ darśatam padam parorajā ya eṣa tapati; yad vai caturthaṁ tat turīyam; darśatam padam iti, dadṛśa iva. hy eṣaḥ; parorajā iti, sarvam u hy evaiṣa raja upari upari tapati. evaṁ haiva śriyā, yaśasā tapati, yo'syā etad evam padaṁ veda.

Now the third foot is mentioned. Prāṇo'pāno vyānah:  There are the three essential energies in the system – Prāṇa, Apāna and Vyāna. The letters are eight here, again. 'Prāṇa, Apāna, Vyāna mean three energies in our system and the epithet names of these energies are formed of eight letters.' 'They have to be set in correspondence with the third foot of the epithet which is also constituted of eight letters.' Then what happens? A new miracle takes place.

Ity aṣṭāv akṣarāṇi; aṣṭākṣaraṁ ha vā ekaṁ gāyatrai padam: etad u haivāsyā etat. sa yāvad idam prāṇi, tāvad ha jayati: 'You become a Master of all the worlds constituted of living beings.' Wherever there is Prāṇa operating, there one becomes a ruler, a master, which means to say, in the entire living world one becomes pre-eminent in every respect. One becomes the chief, a lord over all, as it were, among the realms that are living, provided he contemplates on this correspondence between the letters of the third foot of Gāyatrī with the three energies within the system – Prāṇa, Apāna, Vyāna.

Etad evam padaṁ veda. athāsya etad eva turīyaṁ darśatam padam: Generally, people do not know that there is any such thing as the fourth foot of Gāyatrī. Nobody chants the fourth foot. It is a mystical appendix, as it were, to the normal chant. The fourth Pada is not given in its entirety in the original text for some unknown reason. Parorajāsé-sāvadon is the fourth Pada, which is beyond all Rajas. But the Upaniṣhad tells us that this fourth foot is very important. It is something like the Amātra aspect of Prāṇava, the soundless aspect of Om which is spiritual in its nature, which is Consciousness in its essentiality. Some such thing is the character of this fourth foot of Gāyatrī. While the three feet of Gāyatrī may be said to comprehend everything that is temporal, the fourth foot is non-temporal. It represents an absolute state. It is a special feature of this mystical aspect of Gāyatrī recitation into which very few people are initiated. Generally, initiation is not given into the fourth foot, but is only given in the three feet. Turīyaṁ darśatam padam: 'The fourth foot is apparently visible', really not visible. One cannot understand what this fourth foot is. As I mentioned to you earlier, you cannot understand what fourth dimension means. To us it is only a word without any sense, but it conveys every sense and every meaning from its own point of view. Likewise is this fourth foot of the Gāyatrī Mantra which is apparently visible, says the Upaniṣhad, but really not visible to the eyes, which means to say that its meaning is not intelligible to the mind. It is something very mystical. Parorajā parorajāsé-sāvadon is the fourth Pada. 'It is above the dust of the earth. It is superior to all that is manifest as creation. It is not material at all, and therefore it is called Paroraja.' It is super-physical. Ya eṣa tapati: 'The one that shines before us', the Sūrya, or the sun, is the supreme reality, the great superintending power, the deity behind this fourth foot of Gāyatrī. He has to be meditated upon through the recitation of the fourth foot.

Yad vai caturthaṁ tat turīyam; darśatam padam iti, dadṛśa iva. hy eṣaḥ; parorajā iti, sarvam u hy evaiṣa raja upari upari tapati: 'The meditation here is on the sun, on the Puruṣha in the sun, not merely on the physical orb of the sun.' This is a spiritual energy that is resplendent in the sun that is the object of meditation here. The deity, the divinity which is superior to the physical form of the sun, that deity, that Puruṣha, Hiranmaya Puruṣha, is the object of meditation during the chant of the fourth foot of Gāyatrī Mantra. Sūrya is, thus, mystically involved in the chant of the fourth foot of Gāyatrī. 'Such a person who contemplates in this manner on the inward meaning, or the inner significance of this fourth foot, is glorified in this world, endowed with all prosperity, becomes renowned in every respect and shines like the sun himself, as it were. One who knows this becomes that – ya evaṁ veda.'

  1. saiṣā gāyatry etasmiṁs turīye darśate pade parorajasi pratiṣṭhitā, tad vai tat satye pratiṣṭhitam; cakṣur vai satyam, cakṣur hi vai satyam; tasmād yad idānīṁ dvau vivadamānāv eyātām aham adarśam, aham aśurauṣam iti. ya evaṁ brūyāt; aham adarśam iti, tasmā eva śraddadhyāma. tad vai tat satyaṁ bale pratiṣṭhitam; prāṇo vai balam; tat prāṇe pratiṣṭhitam; tasmād āhuḥ: balaṁ satyād ogīya iti. evaṁ veṣā gāyatry adhyātmaṁ. pratiṣṭhitā sā haisā gayāṁs tatre; prāṇā vai gahāḥ; tat prānāṁs tatre; tad yad gayāṁs tatre, tasmād gāyatrī nāma. sa yām evāmūṁ sāvitrīm anvāha, eṣaiva sā. sa yasmā anvāha, tasya prānāṁs trāyate.

Saiṣā gāyatry etasmiṁs turīye darśate pade parorajasi pratiṣṭhitā:  'The entire Gāyatrī Mantra is really rooted in the fourth foot.' It is the Prāṇa Śakti, it is the essence, as it were, of the whole Gāyatrī. It is the ocean into which the river of the Gāyatrī Mantra enters. It is the ultimate meaning of the Gāyatrī. Just as the non-temporal, or the meta-empirical, or the spiritual includes within itself all that is temporal and manifest, so is the fourth foot inclusive of all the meaning that is contained in the first three feet – satye pratiṣṭhitam.

Cakṣur vai satyam, cakṣur hi vai satyam: Here again we are brought back to the old type of meditation which was mentioned earlier in a different context. 'Satya is truth, and one has to contemplate the fourth foot of Gāyatrī as ultimate truth', the truth that is symbolically represented by 'actual perception of values through the eyes which are presided over by the sun', which again is the deity of the fourth foot of the Gāyatrī Mantra. One can meditate on strength. The more you move towards reality, the more also you become strong, the more also you are able to perceive things clearly. The capacity to visualise things in their truth is coincident with increased energy and power or capacity. So, one is expected to meditate on Śakti, or Bala, or power, or energy, which follows automatically in the wake of this meditation. Gāyatrī also is called Sāvitri. Sometimes people call the Gāyatrī Mantra, Sāvitri Mantra. The Upaniṣhad says both mean one and the same thing. What you call Gāyatrī is the same as Sāvitri. It is Sāvitri because it is connected with Sāvitri, or the sun. It is Gāyatrī because it protects whoever chants it. Gyatrī nāma. sa yām evāmūṁ sāvitrīm anvāha, eṣaiva sā. sa yasmā anvāha, tasya prānāṁs trāyate: 'Your Pranas are protected by this Mantra. Therefore it is called Sāvitri; therefore also it is called Gāyatrī.'

  1. tām haitām eke sāvritrīm anuṣṭubham anvāhuḥ: vāg anuṣṭup; etad vācam anubrūma iti. na tathā kuryāt. gāyatrīm eva sāvitrīm anubrūyāt. yadi ha vā apy evaṁ-vid bahv iva pratigṛhṇāti, na haivatad gāyatryā ekaṁ cana padam prati.

There is another Gāyatrī Mantra of Anustubh metre, not the Gāyatrī metre that occurs in the Veda. Gāyatrī is a Mantra; it is a deity; it is also a metre. Now, Gāyatrī is a particular metre in the Veda, and this metre is of twenty-four letters. But Anuṣṭubh is another metre which has thirty-two letters. So, there is another Gāyatrī Mantra mentioned somewhere else which is constituted of thirty-two letters and is chanted in the Anuṣṭubh metre. The Upaniṣhad says, 'That is not the proper Gāyatrī.' The proper Gāyatrī is the one which is in the Veda, not the Anuṣṭubh one. Tām haitām eke sāvritrīm anuṣṭubham anvāhuḥ: 'There are some people who think that the Anuṣṭubh Mantra (Gāyatrī) is the real one.' Vāg anuṣṭup; etad vācam anubrūma iti. na tathā: 'It is not so,' says the Upaniṣhad. Na tatha kuryat: 'You should not chant the other one.' Gāyatrīm eva sāvitrīm anubrūyāt: 'Only the Gāyatrī Sāvitri which is in the Vedas should be chanted', not the Anuṣṭubh one which is of thirty-two letters. Yadi ha vā apy evaṁ-vid bahv iva pratigṛhṇāti, na haivatad gāyatryā ekaṁ cana padam prati: 'What is the glory of this Gāyatrī? If you are to accept as gift everything that is available anywhere; if you can receive such a gift, that altogether cannot be regarded as equivalent even to one foot of Gāyatrī.' Apy evaṁ-vid bahv iva pratigṛhṇāti, na haivatad gāyatryā ekaṁ cana padam prati: Even one single foot of Gāyatrī, when it is recited properly, will take you to such realms of glory and magnificence, which transcend in magnitude anything that you can receive as a gift in this world.

  1. sa ya imāṁs trīn lokān pūrṇān pratigṛhnīyāt, so’syā etat prathamam padam āpnuyāt; atha yāvatīyaṁ trayī vidyā, yas tāvat pratigṛhnīyāt, so’syā etad dvitīyam padam āpnuyāt; atha yāvad idam prāṇi, yas tāvat  pratigṛhnīyāt, so’syā etat tṛtīyam padam āpnuyāt, athāsyā etad eva turīyaṁ darśataṁ padam, parorajā ya eṣa tapati, naiva kenacanāpyam; kuta u etāvat pratigṛhṇīyāt.

Sa ya imāṁs trīn lokān pūrṇān pratigṛhnīyāt, so'syā etat prathamam padam: 'When you chant the first Pada, first foot of the Gāyatrī Mantra, you become endowed with mastery over the three worlds.' āpnuyāt; atha yāvatīyaṁ trayī vidyā, yas tāvat pratigṛhnīyāt, so'syā etad dvitīyam padam āpnuyāt: 'If you can chant correctly even the second foot merely, you become endowed with all the glory that comes to one by study of the three Vedas.' Atha yāvad idam prāṇi, yas tāvat  pratigṛhnīyāt, so'syā etat tṛtīyam padam āpnuyāt: 'If you recite the third foot of the Gāyatrī Mantra, you become capacitated to rule over every living being anywhere.' Athāsyā etad eva turīyaṁ darśataṁ padam, parorajā ya eṣa tapati, naiva kenacanāpyam: 'If you are to meditate on the fourth foot of Gāyatrī, what can I tell you,' says the Upaniṣhad. 'How can I explain to you the glory that will come to you? Nothing of this world can equal that. No gift of the three worlds can equal this fourth foot.' Not the three Vedas, not all beings put together, 'nothing mentioned up to this time can equal the glory that comes to one who meditates on this fourth foot of Gāyatrī'. Parorajā ya eṣa tapati, naiva kenacanāpyam; kuta u etāvat pratigṛhṇīyāt: 'How can you describe the glory that comes through the meditation on the fourth foot? It is inexpressible; it is transcendent; it is superior to everything which is material or visible.'

  1. tasyā upasthānam: gāyatri, asy eka-padī dvi-padī tri-padī catuṣ-pady a-pad asi, na hi padyase. namas te turīyāya darśatāya padāya parorajase; asāv ado mā prāpad iti; yaṁ dviṣyāt, asāv asmai kāmo mā samṛddhīti vā; na haivāsmaī sa kāmaḥ  samṛddhyate yasmā evam upatiṣṭhate; aham adaḥ prāpam iti vā.

Tasyā upasthānam gāyatri: You have to pray to Gāyatrī, meditate on Gāyatrī by certain methods. One of the methods is a verbal chant, a prayer offered to the great deity of the Gāyatrī. A particular chant is given here. Tasyā upasthānam:  'A holy devout worship or adoration is called Upasthāna.' What is it? Gāyatrī ity: 'O Gāyatrī, the great one! You are one-footed, two-footed, three-footed and you possess the fourth foot also.' Eka-padī dvi-padī tri-padī catuṣ-pady: You are one-footed, two-footed, three footed or four-footed as the case may be. 'You are everything, but really you have no feet. That is also true.' A-pad asi: Who can say that you have feet. These feet are only concepts in our mind. You are universal, all-comprehensive. So, you are A-pad, 'without any feet whatsoever'. Na hi padyase: 'You never move anywhere', therefore why should you have any feet? You are the immovable all-pervading being. Therefore you never move like the four-footed animals or four-footed beings-na hi padyase. Namas te turīyāya: 'Prostration to you, the fourth reality indicated by the Supreme Consciousness.' Darśatāya padāya: 'That Reality which appears to be there in front of us, yet we cannot recognise through our intelligence.' Parorajase; asāv ado: 'That Being which is above all manifestation in the form of Sattva, Rajas, Tamas, the material form.' Mā prāpad iti; yaṁ dviṣyāt, asāv asmai kāmo mā samṛddhīti vā; na haivāsmaī sa kāmaḥ  samṛddhyate yasmā evam upatiṣṭhate; aham adaḥ prāpam iti vā: 'Whatever you wish in your mind at the time of the chant of the Gāyatrī Mantra, that materialises itself. That becomes your property. Not only that; nobody can get what you can get. You stand above all people. You may prevent someone from getting by the chant of the Gāyatrī, and you may get everything that you require by the chant of the Gāyatrī.' Both things are possible. The positive and the negative aspects of the power that accrues to one by the chant of Gāyatrī are mentioned here. The positive aspect is that you are capable of acquiring everything. The negative aspect is that you are able to prevent anything, if it is necessary to do so. You can oppose and prevent anything from taking place if it is not supposed to take place at all according to your will; or if it is to take place, it can take place also by your positive will. So, if you wish it should take place, it will; and if you wish it shall not, it will not.

  1. etadd ha vai taj janako vaideho buḍilam āśvatarāśvim uvāca: yan nu ho tad  gāyatrī-vid abrūthāḥ, atha kathaṁ hastī bhūto vahasīti. mukhaṁ hy asyāḥ, samrāṭ, na vidām cakāra, iti hovāca; tasyā agnir eva mukham: yadi ha vā api bahu ivāgnau abhyādadhati, sarvam eva tat saṁdahati; evaṁ haivaivaṁ-vid yady api bahv iva pāpaṁ kurute, sarvam eva tat sampsāya śuddhaḥ pūto'jaro’mṛtaḥ sambhavati.

Etadd ha vai taj janako vaideho buḍilam āśvatarāśvim uvāca: This is a peculiar anecdote here. It appears, there was a sage called Buḍila Aśvatarāṣvi. Perhaps, he was a reciter of the Gāyatrī Mantra. He became an elephant in his next birth by the chant of the Gāyatrī. Janaka was riding that elephant, and due to Purvavāsanā the elephant could speak. It said that it was a reciter of the Gāyatrī Mantra. Yan nu ho tad  gāyatrī-vid abrūthāḥ, atha kathaṁ hastī bhūto vahasīti: Janaka says: "You say you are a meditator on Gāyatrī. How have you become an elephant upon which I am sitting and riding?" What is the secret? How can a Gāyatrī Upāsaka become an elephant in the next birth? Mukhaṁ hy asyāḥ, samrāṭ, na vidām cakāra: The elephant said: "King, I did not know the face of Gāyatrī. I made a mistake in the chant. I did not know some aspect of it. I knew everything except something. That something has brought me to an elephant's birth." "I see," said Janaka. "This is the case." Iti hovāca; tasyā agnir eva mukham:  "Fire is her mouth. This you did not understand," says Janaka. Here fire can mean anything; one does not know what actually the Upaniṣhad intends. Perhaps it is to be identified with the Sun himself. He is symbolic of the fire-principle. Also in the ritual of the chant of the Gāyatrī there are certain Nyasas, as they are called, placements which invoke Agnī and other deities as the various limbs of the conceived body of the deity of Gāyatrī.

Yadi ha vā api bahu ivāgnau abhyādadhati, sarvam eva tat saṁdahati; evaṁ haivaivaṁ-vid yady api bahv iva pāpaṁ kurute, sarvam eva tat sampsāya śuddhaḥ pūto'jaro'mṛtaḥ sambhavati: 'Just as anything that is thrown into fire is burnt to ashes, whatever it be, so does one burn to ashes every sin that one might have committed in the earlier births, provided one knows the secret of Gāyatrī in its entire form.' Agnī as the Mukha and the fourth foot, particularly, must be understood. We must meditate on Gāyatrī in its entirety and not part by part, and must also be able to identify the deity of the Gāyatrī as one with one's own being, united with one's own being, and with the chant which is Gāyatrī Mantra. All three should become one. The Sādhanā which is the Gāyatrī, the Sādhaka who is the meditator, and the deity, should all be contemplated as a single being. This is the intention of the Upaniṣhad. By this one attains to supernal regions.

Fifteenth Brahmana: Prayer to the Sun by a Dying Person

All these meditations that are described in the Fifth Chapter of this Upaniṣhad are qualitative in their nature. They are called Saguna-Upāsanās, which means to say, meditations on the Supreme Being as defined by certain supreme qualities, or characteristics, such as All-pervadingness, Creatorship, Preservership, Destroyership, Internal Rulership, the character of being a luminous Light within, being as vast as Space, and so on. Whatever be the definitions of the Ultimate Reality as pointed out in this section, they have always been associated with certain attributes. These meditations with qualities, or Saguna-Upāsanās, are supposed to lead the soul to liberation, gradually, through an orderly ascent, known as Krama-Mukti. This passage of Krama-Mukti, the gradual liberation of the soul attained by Saguna-Upāsanās, or qualitative meditations, is always traversed through the sun. The sun is regarded as a very important place, a halting point of the soul in the gradual ascent to the Absolute. Of all the deities who are supposed to direct the soul onwards in its passage upwards, the sun is considered the most important. It is a very prominent location, where the soul is not only purified in an intensive manner, but is landed in the realm of light as it finds itself in the region of the sun.

The soul that is to depart the body, after having completed its career of life through meditation in this manner, prays to the sun for opening a passage. The immediate experience after the body is cast off is one of ascent to the sun. Many types of description are given in the different scriptures as to how the sun receives the soul. Romantic explanations and stimulating experiences are associated with the event of the soul's reaching the land of light, and the soul is glorified in its divine form. The following is part of the prayer of the soul on the verge of leaving the body, having completed the course of its life through meditation. The prayer to the sun and the different feelings which the soul undergoes at the time of its leaving this world for a higher one are mentioned herein.

  1. hiraṇmayena pātrena satyasyāpihitam muktam: tat tvam, pūṣan, apāvṛṇu, satya-dharmāya dṛṣṭaye.

'Great Abode of life!' Thus is addressed the resplendent sun. The face of truth is covered with a golden vessel, and so I cannot see the truth behind. I can see only the glare of the vessel of gold that is covering the light of truth. O glorious one! Lift this lid of gold with which you have covered the glory of truth inside, so that I may behold your inner reality, which is my own essence, also. The essence in you is my essence. So, I have a great privilege, a prerogative of beholding your true nature which is not the radiance of the beaming rays that you are projecting to baffle the eyes of people. You have an inner being which is hidden behind the rays. Withdraw your rays; uncover this lid and enable me to behold you as you are in essence, so that I may commune myself with your being.' Thus is the soul's prayer to the sun.

The stages of the ascent of the soul through Krama-Mukti are the levels of identification of the self with the deities concerned. It is not analogous to confronting some person, as you see a friend in a hotel or an inn when you are on a journey, who is there to receive you and make arrangements for your stay, lodging, boarding, etc. This is not the kind of arrangement which we are expecting from the deities or the service which the deities are rendering to the soul. At every particular stage there is a communion of the soul with the corresponding deity, so that it is a regular transcendence, and not merely a contract of one individual with another superior. No transcendence is possible unless there is communion. The absorption of the soul in a particular state is the precondition of the transcendence of that state for the purpose of realising a higher, or a better one. So, the soul gets identified with the being of the sun, becomes one with the sun and absorbs itself into the reality of the sun. It does not merely receive a hospitality from the sun as a guest receives from a friend or a well-wisher. So the prayer is: May I be able to absorb myself in your being. May I not merely behold you as an outsider as I have been looking upon you earlier. For this purpose, enable me to see you through my being, rather than through my eyes, as I have been doing before. For this purpose, again, lift the lid of the golden vessel with which you have been covering the essence of truth that you really are.

The golden vessel is the orb of the sun which we are beholding, seeing every day, but we cannot see the reality behind the sun. That energising centre which is the divine source in the sun cannot be seen with the physical eyes. The glory that is behind the sun is non-physical, super-relative, and it is divine. It is something inscrutable. One of the great miracles of creation is the sun. You cannot understand what it is. It is not merely light; it is not merely energy; it is something more than all these that our experiments can reveal to us. The outward mode through which the sun's reality is manifest to our eyes is to be lifted, as if it is a lid, and the true basis of truth which is behind has to be beheld.

The whole universe may be regarded as a golden vessel which covers the Absolute, so that we cannot see that it is there at all. We see only the world outside. We see objects; we see people; we see activities; we see colours; we hear sounds, but we cannot see the basic reality. The waves are so many in number in the ocean that the bottom is not visible. There is only a perception of the relative manifestation of certain characteristics of reality, but it itself is not seen. The object of perception which is this vast universe of colours and sounds is the lid, as it were, which is golden because it is attractive. We are attracted by the world; we see meaning in the world and we feel that there is a tremendous significance for us in all the objects of sense. As is gold, so is this world. It does not allow us to go deeper into what is behind it. There is a substratum of this universe of particulars which is the uniform reality. So the prayer to the divine being is: Lift this phenomenon, the universe, the object-world which is preventing me from entering into the being which is the ultimate truth.

I am not merely begging of you to do a favour. In fact, I have a privilege to know this because my essential nature is inseparable from the essential nature of all creation. In the same way as the universe outside is the lid that covers the Absolute, this body is the lid that covers the soul within. The body also is a glittering gold which is attractive, of which we are enamoured and which we like very much, as do we like everything else in this world, also. Personally, this body, this psychophysical individuality, this so-called 'me' which we like so much, is the golden vessel that prevents us from visualising the true light that we are essentially. Outwardly, again, there is this multifaceted universe of particular objects which will not enable us to probe into the reality of Brahman. We cannot see the ātman within on account of the body here; we cannot see Brahman, the All-Being, because of the universe outside. So, this lid which is inside as well as outside in the form of this bodily individuality here and the universe there – may this lid be lifted so that I may behold the Absolute Truth.

This is a prayer offered to the Master of all luminaries, the sun himself, as a passage to liberation.

  1. pūṣann, ekarṣe, yama, sūrya, prājā-patya, vyūha raśmīn samūha, tejaḥ yat te rūpaṁ kalyāṇatamam, tat te paśyāmi yo sāv asau puruṣas, so’ham asmi.

Pūṣann: O creator of all! Ekarṣe: Single solitary traveller, unbefriended in this world! Yama: Controller of all beings! Sūrya: Who projects rays of light, energy! Praja-patya: Born of the Creator Brahma! Vyūha raśmīn samūha: Collect your rays and dazzle not my eyes! What for? Tejaḥ yat te rūpaṁ kalyāṇatamam, tat te paśyāmi yo sāv asau puruṣas, so'ham asmi: You hide a very attractive reality within you, which is your real Being. The most blessed auspicious Being that you really are, may I behold that Being. The Puruṣha within you is also the Puruṣha within me. This is the similarity between us; this is the affiliation that I have with you; this is the common characteristic that we both have between ourselves; and this is the privilege that I also have to exercise, because the Puruṣha within me is the Puruṣha within you. Therefore, O Sūrya, Sun-God! Do me this favour, if you would like to call it one, of absorbing me into your bosom, so that I may rise high, onwards, on the path of the realisation of the great Goal of life.

  1. vāyur anilam amṛtam athedam bhasmāntam śarīram: aum krato smara, kṛtaṁ smara, krato smara, kṛtaṁ smara.

Well, I go. It is true; and what happens to this body which I have been loving so much, which I have been regarding as my own self, with which I have become one practically in my daily life? This body is made up of the five elements – earth, water, fire, air, ether. It is an effect of these five elements. Therefore, naturally, the constituents of this body should go back to their sources. What I have borrowed from other sources, I return to them because I have fulfilled the purpose that I have to achieve through this body.

Vāyur anilam amṛtam: The air-principle within me, the Prāṇa that is inside me becomes one with the cosmic immortal Prāṇa. The so-called limited Prāṇa within me is a part of the Cosmic Prāṇa which is Hiraṇyagarbha, who is immortal. I look mortal and finite because of my limitation to this body. Now the limitation-consciousness is gone, and the material which has been utilised by me for finite purposes is returned to the Cosmic Source from where it has been taken over. The immortal Vāyu, the immortal Prāṇa, the Sūtra-ātman, Hiraṇyagarbha – to that my Prāṇa goes. I become one with Hiraṇyagarbha. Athedam bhasmāntam śarīram: This body is reduced to ashes when it goes to the cremation ground. It becomes one with the earth. The physical aspect, the material part of this body is formed of the earth element; it goes to the earth. The wind element, or the air element, the Prāṇa element, goes to the Prāṇa and the Vāyu, the Wind. And the water element goes to Water. The fire principle goes to the Fire. And what else is there in this body except the five elements. They go back to their original sources.

There is a self-investigative prayer, a prayer to one's own mind, as it were, to oneself. May I be able to remember what I have done in this life. This is what an intelligent self-conscious being would recollect at the time of departure from this body. The time has come to depart from this world, and I have now to enter a new realm of new functions altogether, a new set of experiences. 'O myself, my mind, my understanding, my conscious being, remember what you have done in this life.' Krato smara, kṛtaṁ smara, krato smara, kṛtaṁ smara: Twice is it said: remember, remember what you have done in this life, because a sincere repentance also does good. Perhaps, repentance is a potent means of destroying all evil. It has a peculiar psychological role to perform in one's career. If the heart really repents from the bottom, then all the mistakes that it might have committed earlier can be wiped off. Naturally, the future is left open. It is clean and is not filled with further activities or functions or wills or determinations, and the past, of course, is now repented over. So, a kind of repentance is brought upon the mind at the time of the death of the person, and all possible memories of the past are brought to the surface of consciousness for the purpose of this contemplation which is a last thought bestowed upon the actions that one performed throughout one's life.

It is one of the practices of Sādhakas to do this kind of contemplation every day, in the night. What is the manner in which I have spent the day today, from morning to night? What is the good that I have done, and what is the objective fulfilled, in what manner, etc., for what purpose, in what capacity? This kind of contemplation keeps the mind calm and consoled at the time of going to sleep. If there is such a recapitulation of one's deeds throughout the day, then, of course, the last thought would be nothing but the cumulative effect of these thoughts. Else, that would be a difficult thing to consider at the end of life when everything gets forgotten. But, we are here considering the case of a special individual, not the ordinary one, the layman of the world. We are here studying the course of the soul of a person who has been regularly engaged in meditation. Naturally, in the case of such a person, there may not be the usual difficulty felt by people at the time of death – neither any sorrow in connection with the deeds that one performed, nor any kind of depression of spirit, for life has been spent well in meditation.

  1. agne naya supathā, rāye asmān; viśvāni, deva, vayunāni vidvān; yuyodhy asmaj juharāṇam eno: bhūyiṣṭhāṁ te nama-uktiṁ vidhema.

The stages of the ascent of the soul by Krama-Mukti have been mentioned. The first stage is supposed to be that of Agnī, or the god of Fire. He is the one who will face you first, and everyone comes afterwards. So there is a prayer offered to Agnī, the deity of the divine Fire. Agne naya supathā, rāye asmān: O Divine Fire! Lead us along the right path for the purpose of higher prosperity that we are to achieve. Viśvāni, deva, vayunāni vidvān: O Cosmic Fire, who is the representative of the Universal Vaisvanara Himself! You know everything, you are omniscient, there is nothing hidden from your view, and so you know what is best for us. You know the right path which we have to tread. So, show us that path, O Agnī! Yuyodhy asmaj juharanam eno: If we have done any mistake, please destroy these errors. Anything that is inimical to the path, anything that is of an obstructive character in our ascent onwards, anything that one may regard as evil or undesirable, may that be destroyed by the force of your Fire. Bhūyiṣṭhāṁ te nama-uktiṁ vidhema: We prostrate ourselves before you, again and again, sincerely from the depths of our hearts.

With this prayer, the soul leaves the body and then it is taken over to the realm of Agnī, or Flame, or the god of Fire. Then, upwards, through the passage of the Sun, it reaches Brahma-loka, or Prajāpati-loka, the realm of the Creator, through several further stages, and then it attains the Supreme Absolute.

The opinion is generally held that the soul will be in Brahma-loka till the end of the universe. When the universe is dissolved, Hiraṇyagarbha, Brahma, also gets back to the Source. At the end of the cosmic dissolution, the soul, with Brahma, the Creator, goes back to the Absolute. Until that time, it remains there. This is the belief of some teachers of the Upaniṣhads.

Here we come to the close of the Fifth Chapter of the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣhad. Now we may go back to the point where we left out in the First Chapter because of the necessity to maintain a connection of thought or subject. We left out some portion and went on to the Second Chapter, towards the end of it, because those portions we left out are of a similar nature as the ones that we have been studying from the Fifth Chapter onwards. They are certain Upāsanās of a symbolic nature, qualitative character. So, one of them is in the First Chapter and a little of it in the beginning of the Second Chapter. These meditations which we have studied in the Fifth Chapter are practically continued in their essentiality in the themes of these passages which we are going to study, but they occur in the First Chapter itself. They are also meditations – how we can contemplate or concentrate our minds in such a way that whatever we are individually and whatever things are outwardly are brought together into unison, so that there is no rift between ourselves and the outer world. That is the purpose of the meditations. The world outside, the various realms of existence in the external creation and our own self, individually, are to be set in tune with each other. They have to be harmonised. This is the function of meditation. We are not to sit outside the world as if we are independent of it; we are a part of it, you know. But this has to be emphasised and it has to be realised in our experience.