The Upanishads ( Post 3 )….. By Reader

Chapter II

Article 4

About the Absolute Identity of Brahma

This article is a dialogue between the sage Yadnyavalkya and his wife Maitreyi when Yadnyavalkya tells her that he is renouncing married life and stepping into the next phase that is vaana prasthashram . Maitreyi was also a scholar and a sage.

Note: The word Bhagwan is a composite of Bhaagya-waan. Bhaagya means Good Destiny. One who is blessed with good destiny is called Bhaagya-waan. Bhagwan is used commonly like the English word ‘Lord’. Husbands and wives often addressed each other as Bhagwan and Bhaagwaan respectively. Etymologically there is no difference.

Maitreyi asks a pointed question in the beginning of the dialogue.

“The earth is full of wealth as it is, my lord. Is it ever-lasting though?”

“No,” says Yadnyavalkya, “Permanence is not a quality of wealth. Life anchored to wealth is like the life of the affluent. It’s transient.”

“What will I do with the transient, my lord? Tell me of that which you know.”

Thus begins an interesting conversation about the permanence of knowing and living.

Says Yadnyavalkya:

A husband is loved for the realization of the Self, not for a desire;

A wife is loved for the realization of the Self, not for a desire;

A son is loved for the realization of the Self, not for a desire;

Wealth is loved for the realization of the Self, not for a desire;

Wisdom is loved for the realization of the Self, not for a desire;

Dominion is loved for the realization of the Self, not for a desire;

People are loved for the realization of the Self, not for a desire;

Deities are loved for the realization of the Self, not for a desire;

World is loved for the realization of the Self, not for a desire;

Everything is loved for the realization of the Self, not for a desire;

It is the Self, the Brahma, that is desired, witnessed, dwelt upon and realized.

Maitreyi protests at the transient nature of these efforts. If Brahma is pure intelligence, how is knowledge and acquisition impermanent?

The answer to this last one defines the Absolute Identity of Brahma.

Says Yadnyavalkya:

When you see disparate qualities in all that you witness, you will hear one thing, see another, feel something else, say something else and understand something different.

However, once you are experiencing the singularity of the Self, there is no means of distinguishing its nature by senses or thoughts. How does one know the knower?

In other words, the Self, or Brahma, is not an object or predicate.

As I have said earlier, “I am.” is a complete expression.

Chapter II

Article 5

About the relationship between the Universal and the Individual

The Earth, Nature and all that exists in it are individual. They are impermanent, inter-dependent and transient. The Life, the Brahma, the Atma, the Soul is Universal.

The Earth and all of Nature is metaphorically called ‘Honey’, as life giving, preserving and sustaining.


Article 6

This article traces and lists the names of all the teachers and their disciples through 72 generations prior to this Upanishad –  from Hrishi Paramesthi to Hrishi Pautimaasya. The first teacher’s name is Paramesthi who acquires this knowledge from Brahma – the Swayambhu, which means by himself.

Note: The knowledge is gained and cascaded through generations. It is not declared by a supernatural power.


Chapter III

Article 1

About Worship,  Offerings, Sacrifices and Forfeitures

This article is in a story format. King Janaka declares that he would reward the wisest sage in his court with a thousand cows. While those present are hesitant, Yadnyavalkya claims his eligibility for the reward. The rest challenge him with several questions that he successfully answers.

Q1: If everything alive is subject to death, if death prevails over life, how does an offering liberate   a person from it’s bondage?

A1: By igniting the flare of The Word. Thought, and thus speech, is the flame that liberates. This is mukti.

Q2: If everything alive is overcome by Time, if Time prevails over life, how does an offering liberate a person from it’s bondage?

A2: With a constant, diligent vision. Beyond the eye is the glory of the Sun that liberates. This is mukti.

Q3: If everything alive is influenced by the waxing and waning fortnights, how does an offering liberate a person from its bondage?

A3: By a steadfast, unwavering life. The vital breath and a pure air is that which liberates. This is mukti.

Q4: The space above is boundless and all-encompassing. How does one who sacrifice find a way to reach divinity?

A4: By the exertion (yadnya) of the mind (manas). The one that is influenced by the moon. This is mukti. Beyond mukti is moksha.

Q5: How many divinities are required to protect a sacrifice?

A5: One. The Mind. The faculties of the mind are countless. These are the Vishvedeva – the deities of the world.

Q6: What are the three rituals of worship that a priest conduct? What is their significance?

A6: The spiritual worship, the offering and sacrifice and the benedictory rituals.  Spiritual worship liberates one from earthly subjugation, the offering and sacrifice liberates one from space, and the benedictory renders access to the paradise of divinity.


Chapter III

Article 2

Of human bondage, and death

The question-answer mode from the previous article continues.

Q7: How many and what are the means of perception?

A7: There are 8 means of perception and eight drivers to these perceptions.

The 8 means of perceptions are breathing in, expression as in speech, tongue, eye, ear, mind, hands and the skin while their drivers are breathing out (because breathing registers an odor), language, taste, form, sound, desire, action and touch respectively.

Q8: If everything alive is food for death, what is that divinity which consumes death?

A8: Fire is death. Water consumes fire. Water is the source of life and devours death.

Q9: What happens to the vital breathing in the body after death?

A9: They remain still in the body. The body inflates in the middle and lies in state.

Q10: What remains of a person with the body after death?

A10: The persons name and the countless faculties of the mind – the vishvedevas.

Q11: When a body is cremated the body’s speech is consumed by the fire, breath merges with the air, the energy of the eyes joins the brightness of Sun, the faculties of the mind in the moonlight, hearing is dispersed in all directions, hair join the herbs, blood dissolves in water. What becomes of the Purusha, the person?

Yadnyavalkya does not reply to this question in the public forum. He takes the questioner away and answers him. They discuss the supremacy of Karma – the effects of punya (good deeds) and paapa (the bad deeds).


Chapter III

Article 3

About deliverance…

A questioner, Bhujya Laakhyaani, asks Yadnya Valkya where the souls of those who have died in the past are. To this, Yadnya Valkya describes the Universe thus:

3200 times the space covered by the Sun is the size of this universe. In this two paces are occupied by earth. On the earth two paces are occupied by the ocean. Between the earth and the rest is an air that is as thin as a mosquito’s wing. The souls are delivered to the air.


Article 4

About a self evident Soul…

One cannot see the seer, one cannot hear the hearer, one cannot think of thinking, one cannot understand understanding, The Soul is self evident.


Article 5

About Renunciation…

A learned person discovers the causes of sorrow, temptations, aging and death. He overcomes the desires for children, wealth and the worlds. He lives like a child while learning. He withdraws into contemplation after his learning his done. This is all there is to renunciation.


Article 6

About the Origin of the Universe

This one is a child-like chain of queries. A person named, Gargi Vaachaknavi, keeps asking ‘where does that arise from?’ after every answer, till Yadny Valkya runs out of answers!

Water arises from the worlds in Space; Space from the worlds of Angels; Angels from the Worlds of Suns; Suns from the World of Moons; Moons from the worlds of Constellations; Constellations from the world of Gods, Gods from the worlds of Indra; Indra from the worlds of Brahma.

“Where does the world of Brahma come from?”

“You ask too many questions, Gargi!” says Yadny Valkya, “Don’t ask too many questions!”

This is interesting, in that, Yadnya Valkya does not answer the question. The article does not say if he  had any answer or not. We can only say that he did not hypothesize on The Creator’s identity.


To be continued


78 Responses to “The Upanishads ( Post 3 )….. By Reader”

  1. Thank you Sharmila,

    Please see mail.

  2. I may have to ponder over this one more, back shortly with questions. Fascinating to say the least.

    • What amazes me is that the older the texts are, more simple and transparent they are.

      Through years so much of masala has got added that the original simplicity has got mixed up.

      These days, words like Bhagwan, pramaatma, deva, brahma all are used like synonyms in a thesaurus!

      • Reader,
        Are you in possession of old original copies of the scriptures…? How did yu find out about added materials..?

      • Added materials are those that were built into customs and rituals. I don’t have to read them. I was following those customs till my parents were alive.

        Now there’s no one to be disappointed if I don’t.

  3. Amazing….! Never knew there is a thin gap between two worlds…and souls travel through after death of body….How did they find out..!? Why did Yajnavalkya avoid to adress certain questions in and for public..?!
    Too heavy though for the beginners…
    What shall one start with….before reaching to the stage…ready for Brihad Aranyaka…
    How many worlds are there according to scriptures..?

    • Try my way. Read and remember like a child. Think about it when the opportunity arises. If it makes sense, then test it. If it doesn’t then drop it. The opportunity is when you need it as a reference to think about something.

      There is only one Universe. Worlds are the conditions we live in. Yours is yours, mine is mine.

      In the Vedas, hell or heaven are not defined places of residence. They are a state of the Mind. In this Upanishad, The Mind is everything. the faculties, abilities of the mind, are the visvedevas and the abode of both the divinities and the demons.

  4. MonaLisa,

    There is a reply to you in the post II of this series. About Raam’s birthdate and Valmiki.

    • Thanks Reader,
      I couldn’t copy it though… is there anyway I can store it for future reference..?

      • Yes you can… give me your phone number and address, I’ll deliver the package and bill in person… 🙂

        Kidding… I’ll mail the whole literature including the published version… I am sure you’ll trust a jewish edition of Amazon or Borders… under the name of mark or adam or scott or jerry…


      • Sent. Check mail.

      • Wrong…! I would trust some’Ananda’ or some ‘ Acharya’ for this subject matter than any Scott, Jerry, Adam, Mark or Bloom or whatever…..

      • MonaLisa,

        I am glad I am wrong.

        For this moment please trust acharya Reader-anand. I will do my best to be rational and un-mystic. I do not do ecstacy!


  5. Reader,

    The Universal Self created ‘I’ the Identity. (Chapter 1:4)

    If Brahma is the Self/Life/Intelligence and Purusha is the Individual/Person/Identity/’I’, what does ‘Identity of the Brahma’ mean?

    The QA 11 is in concurrence with the sacrificial horse described in Chapter 1:1. The sun – eye, wind – breath, water (rivers) – blood, herbs – hair, fire – mouth (speech). The mind is, however, not mentioned in the sacrificial horse.

    What I find fascinating is the importance given to the moon here.
    The moon influences the mind. (QA 4)
    The Suns arise from the world of the Moons.

    We would ordinarily think of the moons as satellites of the planets. Whereas the Sun is a star and to be from the ‘World’ of Constellations or a group of stars, not from the World of the Moons…

    In measurement here, what would a pace be?
    A ‘step’ in our language. But, whose step here?

    Another interesting point is that smell is not one of the drivers. I was wondering what the seven seers are. I remember you mentioning that speech is the eighth seer.

    The Nature and celestial bodies are compared to a sacrificial horse. Why sacrificial? I have heard of the Purusha medha and the Ashvamedha. Do the Upanishads justify sacrifice?

    I suppose to stop sacrifice, we should remove the word ‘for’ from the English language.



  6. Reader,

    In QA 10, it says that after death, the faculties of the mind remain with the person.
    But, Q11 says that after cremation, the faculties of the mind merges with the moonlight.

    • Aish,

      The visvedevas are different things that the mind is capable of doing. Its this giant micro-processor chip with countless functions.

      What I feel he means is simply that, after death, the hardware is cremated with the body, while the content of the mind, the software merges with the moonlight!

      • However, Yadnya Valkya never says cleerly that the Mind dies!

        EIther he was not sure, or he knew something that he has not stated in this book.

        Yadnya Valkya’s books on Logic, Ethics and Shastras is another gem of a collection. I saw them in Chamraj peth last time but my credit cards had run out of gas… next time surely!

      • Reader,
        What are the contents of mind which merges with the moonlight..?
        If so then the soul becomes completely free and van merge into Thee…or not..?
        As far as I have heard uptil now…Desires(vasana) and previous Karma desides next birth….
        How exactly all these things work…?

      • MonaLisa,

        In chaper 5 article 10, he answers this question exactly the way you have said:

        The Person, the soul, the purushah, departs and lives for an eternity (one life of Hiranya garbha) without grief or attachments.

        In chapter 6, art 2, he says: there is no return!

        So, this idea of re-birth has come from some other source.

      • Reader,

        That would be a great buy! These books are priceless.

      • Reader,
        There has been some cases reported and documented. It has been scientifically proven that there is something like ‘Rebirth’ that exist.
        Probably Bhagwat or some other scripture also mention about it…some 8.4 million or something…!!! From microbes to human…! Hmmm…hell of a journey…!
        Your Bollywood movies support that rebirth theory too… 🙂

      • MonaLisa,

        I was going to say that about the movies. The arts and aesthetics do not always represent ‘what is’, they are often into what they would like it to be. It is a sort of romanticised version of a wish.

  7. Sharmila, Reader,

    These are my ramblings, musings, thoughts and doubts…
    I hope you all understand that I mean no offence or hurt to anyone or anything.


  8. Aish,

    The term ‘Identity’ is probably giving the impression that we are speaking of the same concept in different ways.

    In the Universal Self creating an ‘I’, the original Sanskrit word used is ‘Naam’ or Noun as in the name of an object. The title ‘Identity of the Brahma’ for the means definition or recognition as an entity. I think it is easier to find words closer to the Sanskrit meanings in Russian than in English.

    Caution: Identity is not used as ‘Aham’ in either usages that you have mentioned. I know you didn’t take it that way, but thought I’d mention it just if it occurs.

    You have made a good observation about the mind not being considered a part of the list of sacrifices or perishables. I noticed that after 3 or 4 readings!

    The means of perceptions are divided into sense organs and their associated memories that help us to perceive what we do.

    The Mind is not considered one of the means of perception of senses. It is the ‘Sixth’ one which ‘Thinks’.

    In the Gita, Krishna says: (Ch 15: 7 and 9)

    Mamaiy vaansho jeeva loke jeeva bhootah sanaatanah |
    Manah shashthaani indriyaani prakruti sthaani karshati ||

    … … … I am the soul of life in this timeless living world |
    … … … The Mind and the senses establish my nature ||

    Shrotram chakshuh sparshanam cha rasanam ghranam eva cha |
    Adhisthaaya manah cha aayam vishayaanu upasevate ||

    … … … I perceive with the ears, eyes, touch, taste and smell |
    … … … And the powerful Mind to contemplate on the subject ||

    Gita, Ch 15:7 and 9

    (Translation mine)

    If you notice, Yadnya Valkya does not answer what happens to the mind after death and cremation! He speaks of Karma and that too in an aside to the questioner.

    I feel, the term ‘Sacrifice’ as used in the vedas and Upanishads is different than what it has now become.

    Notice that everything in the world is a food. One things eats another! Food is called a sacrifice.

    The ‘ashvamedha’ is a metaphor used by the poet to describe the nature of the worlds to the students. And the term sacrifice is further emphasized to say that everything is used by everything else.

    The size of a ‘Pace’ is difficult to judge. Remember Bali’s story? Three and a half steps and nothing was left for him!


    • Reader,

      That is beautifully explained. Sacrifice emphasized as everything used by everything else. It makes it positive and essential. Unlike the meaning it has now become.

  9. Aishwarya,

    One more thing.

    This discussion is with those who have left active social life and retired into the forest.

    It is sensible in that context. When one is mentally preparing to die, it is appropriate to think of what is going to happen after death.

    I liked the point where Yadnya Valkya refuses to answer instead of saying that there may be some volitional creator with a name and a beard waiting to collect the soul! He neither hypothesized nor mislead his listener to believe something that might cause anxiety.

    Thats why I said, read and remember like a child. This may become meaningful when the opportunity to think about it arises. At that point we can test it by thinking about it and searching for evidences. If it stands the test, accept it. If not reject it. No one can force us to submit to beliefs.

    Virtues and values cannot be sanctioned by a family, community, society or a nation. They are individual accomplishments.

    • Reader,

      I dont think I will ever be ‘prepared’ to die! But these teachings are beautiful and I would like to read, think, learn and test them.

      On a lighter note, I wonder what their active social life was like! I always thought they lived in forests, not retired into it!

      Its also interesting to note that a beard is associated with wisdom.


      • Active social life, if you have noticed the census records, is mostly about farming and parenthood. 🙂

        There was no electricity, and people cannot sleep at sunset.. then what to do? Some of the arabs in the desert have the same problem today. Most have got 15-20 children!

        Beard, yes, I wish I could grow one without losing my job!

      • I think …I never fear Death….what I fear is suffering when I am alive…I would never prefer to live engulfed with some disease depending on others for daily rituals or in a crippled vegetative state….

      • In my case, I am scared of death when I am happy and I want to die when I am sad!

    • Lol Reader,
      You directly take us to ‘Sanyas(yoga)’….the last step first…! Anticlockwise…! 🙂

      • This is my personal favorite and the longest one among them all. The rest, except Chandogya Upanishad, are short ones that I can do in one post.

        We are in the Kaliyuga. We want to see the whole picture before going into the detail. Hence the joruney from the forest to the city! 🙂

  10. MonaLisa,

    I think there is something reasonable about the moksha, release of the soul.

    One life of a hiranya garbha is the time that the contents of the golden core of an egg survive.

    According to the Bhagwatam, all life on the planet becomes extinct after one span of the hiranya garbha. Then the process starts again.

    That is why we see species becoming extinct not re-born in the same hiranya grabha.

    We can clone them as many as we wish, like Saraswati and Brahma did with the birds, mountain rats and medicinal plants. But every so many years there is a flood that swallows all the land. Life starts again.

    That is one of the accepted notions about re-birth.

  11. Reader,

    QA6 says that spiritual worship liberates one from earthly subjugation, and offering and sacrifice liberates one from space.
    In Q1-6, what is ‘offering’ and ‘sacrifice’?

    Why are terms like bondage and subjugation used to describe earthly existence, with the soul entrapped and seeking liberation?

    Life seems like an imprisonment.


  12. Offering and sacrifice are exactly opposite of each other in the present context.

    An offering is voluntary participation. A sacrifice is a ritual.

    There is a major risk in the interpretation of bondage. A winner may interpret it as an association that is worth the time an effort, a loser may feel it is a punishment.

    I do not subscribe to either views. I consider the bondage part as a relationship of interdependent qualities.

    Like, pressure, temperature and volume. If one changes the other two change automatically. It is not bondage. Its an equation consistent with their properties, though all three are different.

    Retirement is a good idea if we have something else to do. It’s a morbid idea if there is nothing to do.

    • Look at me. I am the worst category. I am not retired and I have nothing to do! 🙂

      • 🙂 Reader, You are like a child! Retirement will be…youth! 🙂

      • Tatha aastu…

        I want to grow up without growing old…

      • You know what I think about middle age?

        It’s the time when one is too old to be dishonest but too young to be a loser…

      • Politicians/bureaucrats will have to be exempted from that. I mean, look at them…dishonest losers! Age no bar!

        For the rest of us, I wonder what the middle age is right for?

      • Middle age starts at different times for different people.

        Responsibilities are often mistaken for maturity and aging. Yet, some people who take all the responsibilty in the world are still children at heart. What appears like great moral dilemmas to commoners become fun for these people.

        Gandhi is a classic example. He smiled like a toothless child at apparently seriously threatening situations. Once, an englishman (Cripps or Simon?) was coming to deliberate on another devious English plan. The INC and the nation filled the streets with protests and panic.

        Gandhi met the diplomat with his usual cold arguments that you cannot rule a nation that does not cooperate. The mission was withdrawn by the government.

        Gandhi came out smiling and consoling the disappointed englishman.

        In the photograph I noted, Gandhi had no dentures! His smile was like an infant, and no dentures!

        By middle age most people realize that honesty and integrity lie in moral strength – in attitudes, not behaviors.

      • To find happiness in the simple things in life and smile, and to not break down in the face of adversity, hardships and failure takes a lot.

        I see resilient children, frustrated middle-aged people and nonchalant old… perhaps its not about age…

        The strength lies in thinking positively, finding a solution, and making the best out of a given situation – irrespective of age. Like the Havells Cable ad. Never a time I could watch it dry-eyed…

      • You are right.

        All I am saying is the cause is not in the psychology of the individual.

        It is in the code of morality that prevails on the individual.

      • 🙂 Old age is another childhood…! 🙂

      • Who is the oldest amongst us? I am only 9…

      • I am yet to be born..

      • Then you are the purest!

  13. Where is Sharmila?

    • 🙂 Reader,
      You are …! Who else…!? Me just 1…don’t know about others…so… 🙂
      Besides 9 is a single natural largest Digit among all…
      After that to make ten you have to consider 1 again and combine it with Zero…
      9 is the number assigned to Mars…The warrior…The Knight…
      Besides in knowledge you are the Oldest among us… imperative of physical age.. 🙂

      • Aaaarrrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhhh… I am NOT old… I don’t want to be old… I will NEVER be old… I refuse to age… I will be eight next year… yes… I am going to count backward… lets see who can stop me… I will be eight next year, seven after that, six in the next and so on till 1 and in 2018 I will start again… 😛

      • lol…Reader…!
        Don’t forget to go forward again after reaching 1 or it will be ‘0’…one can perish in oblivion then…. 🙂
        And yaa…! we will meet somewhere …halfway… 🙂

  14. Havells Cable ad

  15. Lakshmi Jag Says:


    “When you see disparate qualities in all that you witness, you will hear one thing, see another, feel something else, say something else and understand something different.

    However, once you are experiencing the singularity of the Self, there is no means of distinguishing its nature by senses or thoughts. How does one know the knower?”

    The all important does one know the knower? As a therapist, I see this struggle within us every day. I find it fascinating that they say that mind is influenced by the moon. Scientifically, it is proven that moon does influence our thoughts and women bleed more during delivery if it is on a full moon day..interesting


    • Lakshmi,

      You are spot on.

      Aristotle, Nietzsche and Ayn Rand have this common in their philosophies.

      They uphold the singularity of the person, the sanctity of the individual. The undivided individual is their primary unit of philosophy. The family, community, society and nations are secondary fall-outs.

      In Article 4, above, Yadnya Valkya says:

      About a self evident Soul…

      One cannot see the seer, one cannot hear the hearer, one cannot think of thinking, one cannot understand understanding, The Soul is self evident.


      Something that is singular and self-evident cannot be divided and defined in parts!

      Once a person experiences that individuality, he can protect his peace of mind more easily.


      I am a moon-sign! I know!

  16. I had to rush to BLR,my father in law passed away…

  17. Sharmila,
    Sorry for your loss…May God bless the soul to rest in peace…
    our you and your family

  18. Sharmila,

    Please see blog mail.

  19. Sharmila,

    Thats the purpose I was speaking of in the beginning of this series of Reader’s Digest. The role of death in our lives is what it is. The aim of philosophy is to give us good reasons to respect the living.

  20. Thank you all, most touched. Your prayers mean much.

  21. Back on board. Thank you all yet again. Reader, sorry, not got any mail??

  22. This is most fascinating…I too ask the last question, where does the world of Brahma come from? Where is this world? Can this world even be perceived by our senses?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: