Taittiriya Upaniṣad

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Taittiriya Upanisad, Taittiriya UpaniSad, Taittiriya Upanishad


Sections of Yajurveda

The Yajurveda is primarily a handbook of Vedic rituals. It has two branches:

  1. The Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda
  2. The Śukla Yajurveda

Significance of Kṛṣna Yajurveda

The Krsna Yajurveda is also known as the Taittiriya. Just like the other scriptures it has Vedas, the Samhitā, the Brāhmaṇa and the Āraṇyaka sections. The Taittiriya Upaniṣad comprises of the three chapters, 7 to 9, of the Āraṇyaka section. The 10th is the well-known as Māhānārāyana or Yājñik Upaniṣad. These three chapters are also called as Śiksāvalli, Brahmānandavalli and Bhrguvallī respectively.

Sikṣāvalli

It has 12 anuvākas or subsections. It begins with the often repeated and well-known śāntimantra[1] śarh no mitrah. The topics covered in this section is denoted as follows:

  • There is a reference to Sikṣā or Sīkṣā, the science of phonetics.
  • Since the meaning of Vedic mantras is closely dependent on their correct pronunciation and intonation, a knowledge of this science is very necessary.
  • The Upaniṣad then describes five kinds of meditation, relating the letters of the Vedic mantras to things like pṛthvī or earth, agni or fire, ācārya or teacher, mātā or mother and so on.
  • It also gives the special fruits accruing from such meditations.
  • To achieve anything worthwhile in life, a sound mind and a sound body are necessary.
  • Hence, in the next anuvāka, certain japas of mantras and homas in consecrated fires are prescribed for the benefit of those desirous of wealth, learning, intelligence and wisdom.
  • Towards the end, the teacher of the Vedic gurukula prays that a large number of students come to him for education, since it is through them that knowledge and culture will spread in the society later on.
  • Then there is a description of the meditation on the four vyāhṛtis as identified with the earth, the fire, the sky, the air, the sun, the Vedic mantras, the vital prāṇas in the body and so on, along with their fruits. These vyāhṛtis are :
  1. Bhuh
  2. Bhuvah
  3. Suvah
  4. Mahah
  • The fourth vyāhṛti, mahah, was discovered by the sage Māhācamasya, as identical with Brahman/Ātman.
  • The Vedic meter paṅkti has five lines.
  • A Vedic sacrifice also has five parts.
  • By considering the worlds such as the earth, the deities such as Āditya, the elemental objects such as water, the vital airs such as prāṇa and so on as five-fold (‘pāṅkta’), the contemplation gets elevated to the level of a Vedic sacrifice and results in the meditator getting identified with Hiraṇyagarbha.[2] This is the gist of the seventh anuvāka.
  • The next anuvāka describes meditation on Orii in various ways and the fruits thereof.
  • Even after returning home and settling down as a householder, the Vedic student is expected to continue svādhyāya[3] and pravacana.[4] This helps in preserving and spreading dharma for the good of the society. This is the main purport of the ninth anuvāka.
  • The tenth anuvāka is a mantra[5] discovered by or attributed to the sage Triśaṅku. It gives a description of the experience of the spiritual oneness with creation.
  • The next anuvāka, practically the last in this Sīksāvallī, contains the famous advice of the ācārya[6] to a disciple who has completed his training and is about to depart for home. The gist of this convocation address may be given as follows:
    Speak the truth and follow dharma in your life. Treat your parents, the teacher and the guests that come to you, as if they are gods. Practice the good and abhor the evil. Imitate only the good conduct even from me. Treat the sagacious brāhmaṇas with respect and honor them properly. Give gifts to the needy, considering it as a sacred duty. When in doubt about actions or behaviors seek the guidance of the wise elders. Treat the transgressors of dharma with a balanced attitude of firmness and kindness. This is the command.</ref>

Brahmānandavalli

It has 9 Anuvākas. This chapter starts with the two well- known śāntimantras or peace invocations, "śaih no mitrah and saha nāvavatu" as part of the Upaniṣadic text. The primary teaching of this chapter is
‘Brahmavid āpnoti param,’ ‘One who knows Brahman attains the Supreme’

The gist of the teachings of this chapter is as follows:

  • This Brahman is satya,[7] jñāna[8] and ananta.[9]
  • One who realizes it in his own heart, will become omniscient and will get all his desires fulfilled.
  • There is a description of the evolution of this world from the Ātman[10] through the five elements, food and up to the human being.
  • In the anuvākas 2 to 5, there is a description of the five types of ātmās or puruṣas (individual beings) called as:
  1. Annamaya
  2. Prāṇamaya
  3. Manomaya
  4. Vijñānamaya
  5. Ānandamaya[11]
  • They are actually the five aspects of the jīvātman[12] associated with the five kośas or sheaths, viz.:
  1. The physical body
  2. The vital airs and sense organs
  3. The mind
  4. The intellect
  5. Ajñāna[13]
  • One has to transcend them to realize one’s true nature, i.e., Brahman/Atman.
  • The Ātman, according to the sixth anuvāka, created this world out of himself and also entered into it as its inner Self. Hence, all that exists here is he, the Ātman or Brahman.
  • Therefore, one who gets established in Brahman as his own Self, attains fearlessness.
  • He enjoys bliss since Brahman is bliss. This is the main purport of the seventh anuvāka.
  • The next anuvāka describes that all the activities in this created world, like the sun rising or the wind blowing, take place by being strictly regulated by Brahman of whom even the god of death is afraid.
  • Then in the eighth anuvāka, a very interesting calculation of brahmānanda[14] by taking the mānuṣa-ānanda[15] as the base.
  • According to this, brahmānanda is 1020 times that of ideal human happiness.
  • In effect it just means that the bliss of attaining Brahman is infinite.
  • The last anuvāka of this chapter declares how the knower of Brahman is freed from all fears and apprehensions. Nor is he subject to regrets and self-condemnation.

Bhrguvallī

This section has 10 anuvākas. The gist of this section is as follows:

  • This chapter starts with the request of Bhṛgu-Vāruṇi to his father Varuṇa to teach him Brahman stating that Brahman is that from which all beings are born, in which they live, and to which they ultimately return.
  • Varuṇa advises his son to find it out through tapas.[16]
  • Every time Bhṛgu returns, after a brief period of tapas, with a solution, he is sent back by Varuṇa, since what he has discovered is only the lower truth.
  • After thus eliminating anna,[17] prāṇa,[18] manas[19] and vijñāna,[20] he finally arrives at ānanda (bliss) as Brahman, the ultimate cause of the world.
  • The text then expatiates upon the importance of anna or food. It must not be derided.
  • Food should not be refused when offered.
  • It should be increased so that it can be offered to the hungry souls.
  • Similarly when someone asks for shelter, it must not be denied.
  • This is followed by some more meditations on the internal organs like the hands and feet or the external objects like rain or animals, as Brahman, which results in the acquisition of fame or intellectual faculties or even objects of luxury and enjoyment.
  • The Upaniṣad closes with a beautiful description of a knower of Brahman freely roaming about the worlds and bursting with joyous songs.


References

  1. Śāntimantra means invocation for peace.
  2. Hiraṇyagarbha is the World-soul, an aspect of Brahman.
  3. Svādhyāya means self study.
  4. Pravacana means teaching the Vedas to worthy students.
  5. Mantra is a sacred text meant for meditation.
  6. Ācārya is the Vedic teacher of the gurukula.
  7. Satya means truth.
  8. Jñāna means knowledge.
  9. Ananta means infinite.
  10. Ātman means Brahman.
  11. Ānandamaya means ātmās or puruṣas.
  12. Jīvātman means the individual Self in bondage.
  13. Ajñāna means nescience, responsible for bondage and transmigration.
  14. Brahmānanda means the bliss of attaining Brahman.
  15. Mānuṣa-ānanda means ideal happiness of an ideal human being.
  16. Tapas is inner peace and concentration of mind.
  17. Anna means food.
  18. Prāṇa means life-force.
  19. Manas means mind.
  20. Vijñāna means intellect
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore