Brhadaranyaka Upanishad:

The Great Forest Teaching:

Book Three Part III


III.7

1. Then Uddalaka Aruni questioned him. 'Yajnavalkya,' he said, 'we were living among the Madras, in the house of Patancala Kapya, studying the sacrifice. He had a wife who was possessed by a gandharva. We asked the gandharva, "Who are you?" He said, "Kabandha Atharvana." He asked Patancala Kapya and us students of the sacrifice, "Do you know, Kapya, the thread on which this world, the other world, and all beings are strung together? Patancala Kapya said, "I do not know, blessed one." He asked Patancala Kapya and us students of the sacrifice, "Do you know, Kapya, the inner controller (antaryamin) who controls this world, the other world, and all beings from within?" Patancala Kapya said, "I do not know, blessed one." He told Patancala Kapya and us students of the sacrifice, "Kapya, whoever knows the thread and the inner controller (as it is called) is a knower of brahman, a knower of the worlds, a knower of the gods, a knower of the Vedas, a knower of beings, a knower of the self, a knower of everything." 'He told us, and I know it. If you, Yajnavalkya, take those brahman-cows without knowing the thread, without knowing the inner controller, your head will split apart.' He said, 'Gautama, I know the thread and the inner controller.'

'Anyone could say, "I know, I know." Tell us what you know.'

2. He said, 'Air, Gautama, is the thread. On air as the thread, this world, the other world, and all beings are strung together. That is why, Gautama, they say of a person who has died, "His limbs are loosed, for they are strung together on air as the thread.'

'So it is, Yajnaavalkya. Tell us of the inner controller.'

3. 'That which, resting in the earth, is other than the earth; which the earth does not know; of which the earth is the body; which controls the earth from within: this is your self, the inner controller, the immortal.

4. 'That which, resting in the waters, is other than the waters; which the waters do not know; of which the waters are the body; which controls the waters from within: this is your self, the inner controller, the immortal.

5. 'That which, resting in fire, is other than fire; which fire does not know; of which fire is the body; which controls fire from within: this is your self, the inner controller, the immortal. 6. 'That which, resting in middle-air, is other than middle-air; which middle-air does not know; of which middle-air is the body; which controls middle-air from within: this is your self, the inner controller, the immortal.

7. 'That which, resting in air, is other than air; which air does not know; of which air is the body; which controls air from within: this is your self, the inner controller, the immortal.

8. 'That which, resting in the sky, is other than the sky; which the sky does not know; of which the sky is the body; which controls the sky from within: this is your self, the inner controller, the immortal.

9. 'That which, resting in the sun, is other than the sun; which the sun does not know; of which the sun is the body; which controls the sun from within: this is your self, the inner controller, the immortal.

10. 'That which, resting in the directions, is other than the directions: which the directions do not know-: of which the directions are the body; which controls the directions from within: this is your self, the inner controller, the immortal.

11. 'That which, resting in the moon and stars, is other than the moon and stars; which the moon and stars do not know; of which the moon and stars are the body; which controls the moon and stars from within: this is your self, the inner controller, the immortal.

12. 'That which, resting in space, is other than space; which space does not know; of which space is the body; which controls space from within: this is your self, the inner controller, the immortal.

13. 'That which, resting in darkness, is other than darkness; which darkness does not know; of which darkness is the body; which controls darkness from within: this is your self, the inner controller, the immortal.

14. 'That which, resting in light, is other than light; which light does not know; of which light is the body; which controls light from within: this is your self, the inner controller, the immortal.

'So much regarding deities: now regarding beings:

15. 'That which, resting in all beings, is other than all beings; which all beings do not know; of which all beings are the body; which controls all beings from within: this is your self, the inner controller, the immortal.

'So much regarding beings: now regarding oneself:

16. 'That which, resting in the breath, is other than the breath; which the breath does not know; of which the breath is the body; which controls the breath from within: this is your self, the inner controller, the immortal.

17. 'That which, resting in speech, is other than speech; which speech does not know; of which speech is the body; which controls speech from within: this is your self, the inner controller, the immortal.

18. 'That which, resting in the eye, is other than the eye; which the eye does not know; of which the eye is the body; which controls the eye from within: this is your self, the inner controller, the immortal.

19. 'That which, resting in the ear, is other than the ear; which the ear does not know; of which the ear is the body; which controls the ear from within: this is your self, the inner controller, the immortal.

20. 'That which, resting in the mind, is other than the mind; which the mind does not know; of which the mind is the body; which controls the mind from within: this is your self, the inner controller, the immortal.

21. 'That which, resting in the skin, is other than the skin; which the skin does not know; of which the skin is the body; which controls the skin from within: this is your self, the inner controller, the immortal.

22. 'That which, resting in knowledge (vijnana), is other than knowledge; which knowledge does not know; of which knowledge is the body; which controls knowledge from within: this is your self, the inner controller, the immortal.

23. 'That which, resting in the seed, is other than the seed; which the seed does not know; of which the seed is the body; which controls the seed from within: this is your self, the inner controller, the immortal.

It is the unseen seer, the unheard hearer, the unthought-of thinker, the unknown knower. Other than this there is no seer; other than this there is no hearer; other than this there is no thinker; other than this there is no knower. This is your self, the inner controller, the immortal: what is other than this is suffering.' Then Uddalaka Aruni fell silent.

III.8

1. Then Vacaknavi said, 'Blessed Brahmanas, listen, I am going to ask him two questions. If he answers them for me, not one of you will defeat him in debate about brahman.' 'Ask, Gargi.'

2. She said, 'Yajnavalkya, as a warrior son of KSiSi or Videha might string his unstrung bow, take in his hand two enemy-piercing arrows, and advance against you, so I have advanced against you, with two questions. Answer them for me’ 'Ask, Gargi.'

3. She said, 'Yajnavalkya, that which is above the sky; that which is below the earth; that which is between sky and earth; that which they call past, present and future: on what is that woven, as warp and weft?'

4. He said, 'Gargi, that which is above the sky; that which is below the earth; that which is between sky and earth; that which they call past, present and future: that is woven on space, as warp and weft.'

5. She said, 'Homage to you, Yajnavalkya, since you have solved this for me. Brace yourself for the other one.' 'Ask, Gargi.'

6. She said, 'Yajnavalkya, that which is above the sky; that which is below the earth; that which is between sky and earth; that which they call past, present and future: on what is that woven, as warp and weft?'

7. He said, 'Gargi, that which is above the sky; that which is below the earth; that which is between sky and earth; that which they call past, present and future: that is woven on space, as warp and weft.'

'On what is space woven, as warp and weft?'

8. He said, 'That, Gargi, is what Brahmanas call the imperishable, not thick, not thin, not short, not long, without blood, without oiliness, without shadow, without darkness, without air, without space, without clinging, without taste, without smell, without eye, without ear, without speech, without mind, without light, without breath, without face, without measure, without inside, without outside. It eats nothing, and nobody eats it.

9. 'Under the rule of the imperishable, Gargi, the sun and moon abide in their separate places. Under the rule of the imperishable, Gargi, sky and earth abide in their separate places. Under the rule of the imperishable, Gargi, moments hours,138 days and nights, half-months, months, seasons and the year abide in their separate places. Under the rule of the imperishable, Gargi, some rivers flow east from the snowy mountains and others flow west, each in its own direction. Under the rule of the imperishable, Gargi, human beings praise those who give, gods are attracted to the patron of the sacrifice, and ancestors to the offering-spoon.

10. 'Gargi, if someone in this world makes offerings performs sacrifices, and practises asceticism for man thousands of years without knowing the imperishable, the work of his comes to an end. Gargi, if someone passes o from this world without knowing the imperishable, he is pitiable. But, Gargi, if someone passes on from this world knowing the imperishable, he is a Brahmana.

11. 'The imperishable, Gargi, is the unseen seer, the unheard hearer, the unthought-of thinker, the unknown knower. Other than this there is no seer; other than this there is no hearer; other than this there is no thinker- other there is no hearer; other than this there is no thinker; other than this there is no knower. On the imperishable, Gargi space is woven, as warp and weft’.

12. She said, 'Blessed Brahmanas, you should think it fine thing if you can escape from him by paying him homage not one of you will defeat him in debate about brahman. Then Vacaknavi fell silent.

III.9

Then Vidagdha Sakalya questioned him: 'How many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?'

He answered with this invocation: 'As many as it says in the invocation of the hymn to the Visvedevas, "three hundred and three and three thousand and three". '

'OM' he said. 'How many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?'

'Thirty-three.'

'OM,' he said. 'How many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?'

'Six.'

'OM,' he said. 'How many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?'

'Three.' 'OM,' he said. 'How many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?'

'Two.'

'OM,' he said. 'How many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?'

'One and a half.'

'OM,' he said. 'How many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?'

'One.'

'OM,' he said. 'Who are the three hundred and three and three thousand and three?'

2. He said, 'They are their powers: there are just thirty-three gods.' 'Who are the thirty-three?'

'The eight Vasus, the eleven Rudras, and the twelve Adityas make thirty-one: Indra and Prajapati make thirty-three.'

3. 'Who are the Vasus?'

'Fire, the earth, the wind, the middle-air, the sun, the sky, the moon, and the constellations. All this is placed in them, so they are called the Vasus. ' 4. 'Who are the Rudras?'

'The ten breaths in a person, with the self as eleventh. When they leave this mortal body, they make folk weep. Since they make folk weep, they are called the Rudras.'

5. 'Who are the Adityas?'

'The twelve months of the year are the Adityas. They go (yanti), taking {a-da-) all this with them. Since they go, taking all this with them, they are called Adityas'

6. 'Who is Indra? Who is Prajapati?' 'Indra is the thunderer. Prajapati is the sacrifice.' 'What is the thunderer?' 'The thunderbolt.' 'What is the sacrifice?' 'The animals (pashu)'

7. 'Who are the six?'

'Fire, the earth, the wind, the middle-air, the sun and the sky are the six: the six are all this.'

8. 'Who are the three gods?'

'They are the three worlds, for all the gods are in them.'

'Who are the two gods?'

'Food and breath.'

'Who is the one and a half?' 'He who purifies.' Vayu, wind, air.

9. 'Some say about this: "He who purifies seems to be just one, so how is he one and a half?" But since all this has grown (adhyardhnot) in him, he is one and a half (adhyardha)' 'Who is the one god?'

'Breath: that is brahman. They call it "the beyond".

10. If someone were to know the person (purusa) whose dwelling is the earth, whose world is fire, and whose light is the mind, the ultimate refuge of every self, he would truly be a knower, Yajnavalkya.'

1 know the person you speak of, the ultimate refuge of every self. He is the person of the body. Tell me, Sakalya, who is his deity?'

'Immortality,' he said.

11. If someone were to know the person whose dwelling is desire, whose world is the heart, and whose light is the mind, the ultimate refuge of every self, he would truly be a knower, Yajnavalkya.'

'I know the person you speak of, the ultimate refuge of every self. He is the person made of desire. Tell me, Sikalya, who is his deity?'

'Women, ' he said.

12. 'If someone were to know the person whose dwelling is forms, whose world is the eye, and whose light is the mind, the ultimate refuge of every self, he would truly be a knower, Yajnavalkya'

1 know the person you speak of, the ultimate refuge of every self. He is the person in the sun. Tell me, Sakalya, who is his deity?'

'Truth,' he said.

13. If someone were to know the person whose dwelling is space, whose world is the ear, and whose light is the mind, the ultimate refuge of every self, he would truly be a knower, Yajnavalkya.'

I know the person you speak of, the ultimate refuge of every self. He is the person of hearing and of the echo. Tell me, Sakalya, who is his deity?'

'The directions,' he said.

14. If someone were to know the person whose dwelling is darkness, whose world is the heart, and whose light is the mind, the ultimate refuge of every self, he would truly be a knower, Yajnavalkya.'

I know the person you speak of, the ultimate refuge of every self. He is the person made of shadow. Tell me, Sakalya, who is his deity?' 'Death,' he said.

15. If someone were to know the person whose dwelling is forms, whose world is the eye, and whose light is the mind, the ultimate refuge of every self, he would truly be a knower, Yajnavalkya.'

I know the person you speak of, the ultimate refuge of every self. He is the person in the mirror. Tell me, Sakalya, who is his deity?'

'Life' he said.

16. 'If someone were to know the person whose dwelling is the waters, whose world is the heart, and whose light is the mind, the ultimate refuge of every self, he would truly be a knower, Yajnavalkya'

"I know the person you speak of, the ultimate refuge of every self. He is the person in the waters. Tell me, Sakalya, who is his deity?' 'Varuna' he said.

17. 'If someone were to know the person whose dwelling is seed, whose world is the heart, and whose light is the mind, the ultimate refuge of every self, he would truly be a knower, Yajnavalkya' 'I know the person you speak of, the ultimate refuge of every self. He is the person made of one's children. Tell me, Sakalya, who is his deity?' 'Prajapati,' he said.

18. 'Sakalya,' cried Yajntavalkya, 'have the Brahmanas made you their tool, to pull coals from the fire for them?'Literally, 'have the Brahmanas made you their remover of burning embers' (perhaps-fire tongs)?' Yajnavalkya is trying to warn Sakalya not to overreach himself. Sakalya's name, Vidagdha, means both 'clever and 'burnt up'. A lengthened vowel at the end of the question suggests that Yajnavalkya has raised his voice, perhaps in exasperation.

19. 'Yajnavalkya,' said Sakalya, 'what is the brahman that you know, that you have out-debated the Brahmanas of the Kurus and Pancalas?' I know the directions with the gods and their supports.' If you know the directions with their gods and their supports,

20. 'What deity have you in the eastern direction?' I1 have Aditya as deity there.' 'On what is Aditya supported?' 'On the eye.'

'On what is the eye supported?'

'On forms: for one sees forms with the eye.'

'On what are forms supported?'

'On the heart,' he said, 'for one knows forms with the heart, so forms are supported on the heart.'

'So it is, Yajnavalkya.

21. 'What deity have you in the southern direction?'

I have Yama as deity there.'

'On what is Yama supported?'

'On the sacrifice.'

'On what is the sacrifice supported?'

'On the gift to the priests (dakshina)'

'On what is the gift supported?'

'On faith (shraddha), for when one has faith one gives the gift: so the gift is supported on faith.'

'On what is faith supported?'

'On the heart,' he said, 'for one knows faith with the heart, so faith is supported on the heart.'

'So it is, Yajnavalkya.

22. 'What deity have you in the western direction?'

I have Varuna as deity there.'

'On what is Varuna supported?'

'On the waters.'

'On what are the waters supported?'

'On seed.'

'On what is seed supported?'

'On the heart,' he said.

'That is why, when a baby is born who looks like his father, they say, "He seems to have crept out of his father's heart; he seems to have beer fashioned out of his heart".

'So it is, Yajnavalkya.

23. 'What deity have you in the northern direction?'

I have Soma as deity there.'

'On what is Soma supported?' 'On initiation (diksa)'

'On what is initiation supported?'

'On truth. That is why, when someone is initiated, the tell him, "Speak truth": for initiation is supported on truth.

'On what is truth supported?'

'On the heart,' he said, 'for one knows truth with the heart, so truth is supported on the heart.'

'So it is, Yajnavalkya.

24. 'What deity have you in the centre?' Dhruva dis, literally, 'the fixed direction'.

I have Agni as deity there.'

'On what is Agni supported?'

'On speech.'

'On what is speech supported?'

'On the heart.'

'On what is the heart supported?'

25. 'You fool,' said Yajiiavalkya, 'for thinking it might be anywhere else but in us! If it were anywhere else but in us, dogs might eat it or birds tear it apart.'

26. 'On what are both you and your self supported?'

'On the breath {pram).'

'On what is the breath supported?'

'On the lower breath (apana)'

'On what is the lower breath supported?'

'On the diffused breath (vyana)'

'On what is the diffused breath supported?'

'On the up-breath (udana)'

'On what is the up-breath supported?'

'On the central breath (samana). The self is "not this, not this". Un-seizable, it is not seized; indestructible, it is not destroyed; without clinging, it is not clung to; unbound, it does not suffer, does not come to harm.

'There are eight dwellings, eight worlds, eight gods, eight persons. I ask you about the person of the secret teaching, who takes apart and puts together those persons and goes beyond them. If you do not explain him to me, your head will split apart.'

Sakalya did not know about him, and his head split apart. Indeed, robbers stole his bones, thinking they were something else.

27. Then Yajnavalkya said, 'Blessed Brahmanas, let whoever of you wishes to, question me; or let all of you question me; or I will question whoever of you wishes me to; or I will question all of you.' But the Brahmanas dared not.

28. He questioned them with these verses:

'Just like a tree, a lord of the forest, Truly, is a man (purusa). The hairs of his body are the leaves, His skin the outer bark.

'Blood flows out from his skin Like sap from the skin of the tree: When he is wounded, it flows out of him Like sap from a tree that has been struck.

'His flesh is the outer wood; The fibres, so strong, his sinews; His bones the hard wood within;

His marrow made in the likeness of the pith.

'Since a tree, cut down, grows up again In a newer form, from its root, From what root does a mortal man, Cut down by death, grow up again?

'Do not say, "From the seed", For that comes from the living. A tree, too, springing up from seed,

Is reborn directly, without having died.

'When a tree has been pulled up

With its root, it cannot grow again. From what root does a mortal man, Cut down by death, grow up again?

'Though born, he is not born again, For who could beget him again? Brahman-knowledge, joy, and grace- Is the final refuge of the giver,

'The one who abides in it, the one who knows it'




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