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Table of Contents:


Place of Upanishads in Vedanta

Central Theme of the Upanishads

Canons of Interpretation

Methodology of the Upanishads

Delineation of a Supreme Lord is the Central Theme

IshAvAsyopanishhad (Available for download.)








The Upanishads have been perennial sources of spiritual knowledge. The word upanishhad means secret and sacred knowledge. This word occurs in the Upanishads themselves in more than a dozen places in this sense. The word also means "Texts incorporating such knowledge." There are ten principal Upanishads. Other than these, a few more like Shvetaashwatara and KaushiTaki are also considered important. Though it is known that even before Sri Shankara, commentaries were written on the Upanishads, these have been lost. Sri Shankara's commentaries on the principal Upanishads are the earliest available. Sri Ramanuja has not written any commentaries on them, but a later disciple Sri Rangaramanuja has written them. Sri Madhvacharya has written commentaries (bhaashya-s) on the ten principal Upanishads. Interpretation of passages from these and other Upanishads is also discussed by him in his Suutra-Bhaashya, which is mainly about the interpretation of Shruti texts and also in his other major works like Anu-vyaakhyaana, Vishnu-tatva-vinirNaya, and Tattvodyota.

Place of Upanishads in Vedanta

Modern thinkers generally hold that the earliest literature of India is the Vedas, of which Rg Veda was the first to be composed. These were hymns in praise of nature gods, which emphasised ritualism and had little philosophic content. Some have even attempted statistical analysis of the number of times individual god names were taken up for praise and concluded that Vishnu , later extolled as the Supreme God, has fewer hymns than the more common Indra, Agni and Varuna. Subsequent compositions called braahmaNa-s and araNyaka-s both in verse and prose contain attempts in explaining philosophical and cosmological questions. Upanishads were composed next in order and contain the highest flights of philosophical speculation in Vedantic thought. While perhaps it is comforting to reduce the entire source material of Vedanta philosophy into a well ordered scheme which the modern mind can easily understand, there are serious discrepancies in this theory. Vedantins who profess the Vedic streams of all hues have traditionally believed that the Vedas and Vedanta literature is apaurushheya, not composed by anyone (including God) and hence beginningless and eternal. Even the name used for the Vedas for thousands of years of human memory -- Shruti indicates this fact, which is also justified by rigorous logic. Far from being a collection of disjointed hymns, which the Vedas are made out to be by people ignorant of them, there is in them a thread of unity of thought, in describing a Supreme Being, who is different and who is the inner controller of all other beings , including the so called nature gods. The artificial division of the mass of Vedic literature into karma kaaNDa (dealing with rituals) and j~nAna kANDa dealing with Philosophy is untenable, in the context of the three fold interpretation of the Vedas, explained for the first time by Sri Madhva, in his Rgbhashya.

According to Madhva, the Brahma Suutra's OM gatisAmAnyAt.h OM clearly indicates the decided position of its author, Veda Vyaasa, that all the Vedas, believed to be infinite in extent, have eka-vaakyata unity in stating the conclusion. Be as that as may, the ten principal Upanishads contain the essence of the philsophical teaching of the entire Vedic religion. The Brahma Suutra, composed by Veda Vyaasa, accepted as the authority for the correct interpretation of the Vedas refers to a number of well known Upanishadic texts and gives clues regarding their correct and consistent interpretation. All the different founders of Vedanta schools have started from the basic position of the infallibility of the Vedas, Upanishads and the Brahma Suutra and have tried to justify the claims that their own conclusions are in accordance with them.

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Central Theme of the Upanishads

Sri Shankaracharya and some of his modern followers take Monism or Atmaikya, and Absolutism or nirguNa-brahmavaada to be the central theme of Upanishads. Consequently, Idealism or the world being merely a projection, which is unreal, is also taken to be a tenet of the Upanishads. Thus upaasanaa (worship) and bhakti (devotion) are relegated to a secondary position, being needed only up to a point in the spiritual evolution of the soul. Liberation, the final goal of spiritual development becomes less attractive, as the seeker loses his own identity in his merger with the Absolute. The entire process of Creation delineated with such great care in the Upanishads is reduced to a mere illusion. Texts describing Brahman, the Supreme Being, as sarvaj~na (all knowing), sarva-shaktimaan (All Powerful) are also relegated to be descriptions of Ishwara or the Saguna Brahman, who is also a product of the universal Avidya, while Brahman is actually nirguNa or without any attributes in absolute reality. Some of the richest material in the Upanishads delineating the glory of God, the process of creation, prescribing different methods of upaasanaa, Eschatology, recommending meditation, devotion etc. have to be relegated to a secondary position, as they are essentially dealing with the machinations of the unreal Avidya, which vanishes into "nothing," when the soul is liberated and discovers its identity with the formless and attributeless Brahman. In other words, much of Upanishadic texts are worthless and untrue in the domain of the final reality. On the other hand, a few passages are elevated to decisive importance, as they can be interpreted, in a limited sense, to convey Monism. Anyone who has an acquaintance with the deep and mystical atmosphere conjured up by the Upanishads can not accept this position. The central theme of the Upanishads is not Monism but Monotheism, the concept of an all pervasive, immanent supreme being. He is not nirguNa (attributeless), but is guNaparipuurNa -- full of all possible auspicious qualities. The very word brahma indicates this basic delineation of the Supreme Lord. Such a theme brings all the rest of the passages in the Upanishads into proper focus and makes them fully meaningful and essential for the aspirant. All of them will contribute in one way or the other to the development of this central theme and none of them will look secondary or suprefluous. In the larger context of the Vedanta, as a whole, the Vedas, Brahmana-s, Aranyakas, Upanishads and the great Epics which include the other Prasthaana texts -- Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Suutra are woven into a glorious tapestry of the indescribable but realizable, fathomless but understandable glory of the Supreme Person, who has been extolled by great devotees in all Bhakti compositions. The artificial concept of two Brahmans, Saguna and Nirguna simultaneously existing, though totally different in essence, created by Monism to explain away the wealth of texts describing the glory of the Lord is done away with, with a simple explanation of nirguNa being One who completely transcends the three guNa-s -- sattva, rajas and tamas constituting prak.rti, which is responsible for the world as we know it.

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Canons of Interpretation

It is not very difficult to decide between guNaparipuurNa and nirguNa Brahman being accepted as the purport of the Upanishads. There are well-known canons of interpretations, priority and preference laid down for the purpose, which are accepted as valid by all schools. These are:

  1. upakrama, upasamhaara, etc. -- 6 determinatives of purport.
  2. Shruti, Linga, etc. -- 6 aids for fixing the meanings.
  3. saavakaasha and niravakaasha position of Shruti-s.
  4. upajiivya and upajiivaka position of pramaaNa-s, to accord preference.

However, the Niravakaashatva and Upajiivyatva criteria are not strictly followed in the Advaita tradition, leading to undue priority being accorded therein to Monistic-looking texts or passages, and the relegating of others to secondary positions. This has led to another criteria being evolved by the Advaita school, viz., tatvaavedaka and atatvaavedaka. These are defined as passages which expound the final truth or a tentative position, which is shown to be incorrect after due examination. Such a basis would have to be primarily arbitrary, as it seperates the innately valid Shruti-s into two groups depending on whether they appear to support Advaita or otherwise. There is nothing available in the Shruti-s themselves to determine this, and to decide on the classification on the basis of the purport of the Shrutis, which is yet to be determined is admittedly invalid. Another basis relied upon by Advaita, to relegate a group of Shruti-s to a secondary position is that they are anuvaadaka. Any Shruti text which appears to speak of something that can be known from some other valid means such as pratyaksha (direct cognition) is given this handicap and considered as inferior in value to one, which can be known only by Shruti pramANa. In fact, this is the exact opposite of even the modern concept of evidence, which considers corroboration as a factor which strengthens the evidentiary value, particularly when each source has independently concluded the same. In view of these adverse features, these criteria peculiar to Advaita are not accepted by other commentators.

Sri Madhva has shown in his compositions, especially in his Brahma Suutra Bhaashya, Anu-vyaakhyaana and other Suutra-prasthaana compositions that application of these principals de novo, without any bias, to the Upanishads yields only a guNaparipUrNa Brahman and not the attributeless nirguNa Brahman of Advaita.

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Methodology Of The Upanishads

The Upanishads have their own unique style. Their exposition is in four different ways:

  1. Dialogue with questions and answers.
  2. Narration and episodes.
  3. Similes, metaphors and illustrations.
  4. Symbolism.

Normally, it is not difficult to ascertain the purport of the texts in the first two types. In some cases, the questions and answers are of the reductio-ad-absurdum type and the correct conclusion has to be drawn. In the cases 3 and 4, it is more difficult to ascertain the purport, as which aspect or shade of meaning of the simile or illustration is being used to illustrate the meaning. However, clues are available in the wording of similes etc and also in the following passages. These have been exploited effectively by Sri Madhva in his interpretations. Symbolisms employed by the Upanishads are essentially of 3 types -- Nature symbolism, sacrifices and sacrificial items used as symbols, and mystic sound syllables such as Aum being used as symbols. These need careful study. Many symbols, similies, illustrations, and episodes are repeated in different Upanishads, sometimes with slight changes. A good many verses are also repeated. The correct meaning can be derived by applying the supreme test of consistency to the different occurences, in addition to the other criteria mentioned earlier.

The Brahma Suutra indicates three main guidelines to understand the purport of the Upanishads:

  1. tattu samanvayaat.h -- The total material available on the point of study in the entire Shruti literature has to be taken into account and interpreted correctly by applying the canons of interpretation.

  2. gati samaanyaat.h -- All the Shruti literature have the same purport and apparent contradictions are resolved by proper study and interpretation.

  3. sarvavedaantapratyayam.h -- The underlying purport of the Upanishads is found to be one consistent truth, which when understood fully will lead to God-realization.

It is only the lack of utilisation of the guidelines fully and properly that has led many commentators to derive Monism and Absolutism out of Vedanta. Traditional monistic commentators had a committed approach towards "proving" their school irrespective of the actual correct meanings derived from Vedanta texts. Modern neo-Vedantic scholars have very limited equipment in terms of knowledge and intelligence with which to exhaustively use the critical apparatus, and have hence made a thorough mess in their interpretations, which often conflict with or misinterpret the positions adopted by the senior scholars whose lead they are supposed to be following.

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Delineation Of A Supreme Lord Is The Central Theme

The central theme of Upanishads is Monotheism or the delineation of a Supreme Being as the cardinal principle of the universe. This is designated as Brahman, Atman, Akshara, Akaasha, PraaNa, etc. In the Upanishads, Akaasha and PraaNa can also mean the element Akaasha, the deity Vayu etc. The meaning applicable in a particular text has to be derived with the help of attributes mentioned therein. The Supreme Principle is described as the Creator, Sustainer, Regulator, Destroyer, Enlightener and Liberator of all. It is also the one and only Independent Principle upon which all other entities are dependent. It is Immanent and Transcendent. It admits of contradictory features of everyday experience being present in it simultaneously -- aNu (atomic) and mahat.h (infinite), etc. Being Infinite in all respects, it cannot be comprehended by anyone completely. It has no drawbacks or blemishes of any kind. It directs all and is not directed or constrained by anyone. It is absolutely independent in its very nature and essence, functions and comprehension and innate unlimited bliss, none of which need any element external to it for its completeness. All others derive their limited qualities and capacities from it. It is thus described as Sat, Chit and Ananda in its essential nature. The features of the Supreme Lord are described almost in all the Upanishads. PraaNa occupies an important place in the Upanishads next only to the Supreme being. The Chhaandogya and ShaTprashna Upanishads, in particular, bring out the role of PraaNa, who is His chief aide and is superior to all other deities. He is however eternally and completely subservient to Lord Vishnu, the Supreme being. Upanishads clearly distinguish between the Supreme Being and other souls. Their basic differences which are in their essential nature itself are contrasted in several texts. The metaphor of the two birds, one reaping the fruits of its past deeds and the other not doing so is found more than once. The Causus-belli of the Upanishads -- to enable the souls to attain liberation by the grace of God, would be totally incongruent and lost, if they have no locus standi in their essential nature as distinct fron the world and the Lord. Upanishads are also clear about the reality of the external world (other than the souls) and state it clearly more than once. prakrti or primordial Nature is the material cause of the world, while God is the efficient cause. The text eka vij~nAnena sarvavij~nAna does not support the Vivarta theory of Advaita, which reduces the external world to an unreal state in essence. A number of upaasana-s are described. The importance of shravana, manana etc. Is stressed. The need of vairaagya (detachment from material entities), bhakti (devotion towards the Lord), etc., for the aspirant in his efforts to achieve salvation is delineated. The doctrine of prasaada (God's grace) is mentioned more than once. Eschatology is described through texts explaining devaayaNa and pitraayaNa. Thus all that is necessary to pursue the spiritual path is covered in the Upanishads. With a view to give a more detailed picture of the contents of each of these Upanishads, a summary of the subjects dealt with along with essential points in each is now given under separate headings.

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This Upanishad belongs to the Vaajaseneyi Samhita of the Shukla (White) Yajur Veda and forms the last chapter of this Samhita. It is also called a Mantropanishad, as it forms a part of a Samhitâ.

Central Theme

The IshAvAsya has the central theme of extolling the sarva-vyaapakatva (all pervasiveness) and sarva-niyaamakatva (all regulating) nature of the Supreme Lord. These are mentioned in the very first expression used in the Upanishad -- IshAvAsyam, which not only conveys His all-pervasiveness but also that He controls all. The next phrase used -- yat.h kincha jagatyAM jagat.h -- makes this more clear. This phrase tells us that all the things in the world are in Prakrti and dependent upon it. Prakrti itself is dependent upon Him. Hence the Lord alone is independent and all others are dependent upon Him. This point is stressed in verses 6 and 7, where in the Lord's presence and control in all things is brought out. In order to bring home these two characteristics of the Lord, the Upanishad gives a full exposition of the concepts. Two requirements for a seeker to know the Lord are also mentioned -- vairaagya, brought out by the phrase "tena tyaktena bhunjiitha" -- accept with equanimity what ever is given by Him, and vihita karmanushhThaana, brought out by kurvanneveha karmaaNi.

Nature of God

The Unique nature of the Supreme is explained in the verses anejadekam ...," etc. (verses 4 to 8). He is everywhere. He is near and yet also far away. He is within and without. He moves but does not move. These apparently contradictory attributes reveal his achintya shakti -- unthinkable ability. He has no praak.rta body, either subtle or gross. He is eternal, free from defects. He is a "sarvaj~na" (knows everything). He regulates all. He has truly created this real world.

Vidya & Avidya

Those who do not know correctly the nature of the Lord will go down to the worlds of misery. One has to have the right knowledge (vidyA) and not only avoid wrong knowledge (avidyA), but should also condemn and refute it. Not condemning knowledge known to be wrong is more sinful than not having right knowledge. Both acquiring vidyA and condemning avidyA serve their respective purposes in leading to Liberation. Similarly, it is also necessary to know that He is a Creator and Destroyer. Knowing Him as Creator only is sinful.


At its end, the Upanishad contains a beautiful prayer -- hiraNmayena patreNa -- wherein the devotee appeals to the Supreme to reveal His nature to him. A number of pratiika-s (symbols) are also mentioned -- Suurya maNDala, Yama, Prajaapati, etc. Each devotee is expected to meditate upon Lord in a pratiika suitable to him. The passage yo asau asau purushhaH teaches the most important doctrine that the Supreme Lord present in all the pratiika-s and in the devotee himself is one and the same. Both from the context and the words used in the prayer, it is apparent that no Identity between the devotee and Lord is intended. The word ahaM is used in the sense of asmadantaryAmi -- the Lord immanent in my heart. The second asau refers also to Mukhya PraaNa -- it means Mukhya PraaNa, in whom Lord is specially present. The words ahaM and asmi refer to the Lord with special meanings. ahaM means aheyaM -- that which is never capable of being separated, while asmi means being always present and to be known. Upanishads use a code language to convey special meanings. Thus, both by way of normal construction of language and the special construction, the phrase yo asau asau describes His everywhere, which is the main theme of the Upanishad. Finally the devotee appeals to the Deity to remove the contamination of bandhaka karma (results of past deeds which bind him to the world) and to provide him with svarUpa j~nAna (innate knowledge) to reveal his true nature. This is one of the best prayers found in the Upanishads, deep in its spiritual content and exciting in its poetic appeal.

This Upanishad has three special features.

  1. The Referent described here is fully Theistic.

  2. Reality of the world is expressly mentioned.

  3. An active life with performance of prescribed Karmas is given importance. Escape from one's duty is not accepted.

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This belongs to the Talavakara Brahmana of the Saama Veda and is also called Talavakaropanishad.

Central Theme

This Upanishad which is in the form of a dialogue between Chaturmukha Brahma and Sadashiva, and brings out the sarva-prerakatva (controller of all others), sarvottamatva (superiority over all else) and sakalyena avedyatva (Unknowable in its entirety) of the Supreme Person.

Who Directs Us?

The Upanishad asks three questions at the outset:

  1. Who directs the mind towards its good or bad objects?

  2. Who directs Mukhya PraaNa to discharge his duties?

  3. Who directs the senses -- eye, ear, etc., towards the respective objects?

All these questions have but a single answer. He who gives the power of seeing to the eye, hearing to the ear, thinking to the mind and power to move to PraaNa directs their respective activities. He is evidently the Supreme God. Those who realise that He is the director of the mind, senses and even of Mukhya PraaNa, will attain liberation. This takes us to the question of the nature of God.

The Supreme Is Infinite And Therefore Cannot Be Fully Comprehended

God is beyond the reach of the senses, beyond words and even beyond the mind. Being Infinite, He cannot be brought within the compass of limited knowledge. One cannot know how He directs the senses, mind, etc. However, He does not remain altogether unknown, but is not completely known because of His infinite nature. He is unique, distinct from and Superior to all known things manifest or unmanifest. He cannot be known through speech, mind, eyes, etc., but knows all that is known through these and regulates them. He is immanent in all the jiiva-s and directs them, but He is not identical to them.

Those who think that they know Him fully do not really know Him, as they have not comprehended His Infinite nature. On the other hand, those who think that they do not know Him fully, know Him, as they have realised His Infinite nature. The knowledge of God to the best of one's ability is adequate for one's salvation. The presence of God as the Inner resident and controller of all is brought out by an interesting story of ahaMkaarakhaNDana (humbling the pride) of Agni, Nasikya Vayu and Indra in this Upanishad.

Tapas, Dama And Karma -- Means Of Spiritual Progress

The Upanishad concludes its teaching by stating that tapas (penance), dama (subduing the senses) and karma (prescribed action) are the means to obtain spiritual knowledge. The Vedas, Vedangas and Mimamsa constitute the source Literature of philosophical inquiry.

The exposition of the sarva-prerakatva and the sarvottamatva of the Supreme Lord is the key note of this Upanishad.

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This belongs to Taittiriiya Shaakhaa of the Krishna Yajur Veda and is in the form of a dialogue between Yama and Nachiketas.

Central Theme

The Upanishad explains that God regulates the souls even after death and Liberation. Though the Kena also states that God regulates all the souls, the question whether He does so during Transmigration or even after Liberation is not specifically raised. In the KaThaka, it is answered in the affirmative.

Yama offers Nachiketas three boons as a compensation for having kept him waiting for three days at his door. Nachiketas asks for the following three boons:

Three Boons Asked by Nachiketas:

  1. Let my father be freed from anger towards me, let his calm be restored and let him recognize me when I return.

  2. Teach me the nature of the Supreme God Hari, also bearing the name of Agni (Agninaamaka Paramaatma), who can bestow the immortal world to those who worship Him by performing the Nachiketas sacrifice.

  3. Teach me the nature of the Supreme God, who controls the souls after death and Liberation.

The first boon was simple and readily granted by Yama. He also granted the second boon being pleased with Nachiketa's wisdom and devotion and also taught Nachiketas the practice of sacrifice through Nachiketaagni. In fact, this Agni, earlier known as svargya agni (Agni who leads the soul to the immortal world) was renamed on account of Yama's boon. Even the Sacrifice was renamed after Nachiketas.

The discussion around the third and most important boon granted by Yama is the central theme of this Upanishad. Yama tries at first to dissuade Nachiketas from asking this question, by offering him many temptations such as wealth, progeny, kingship, etc. Nachiketas steadfastly refused all these offers and insisted on knowing whether God regulates the souls even after death and Liberation.

Nature Of The Third Boon

Some commentators have interpreted the third question of Nachiketas as: Is there a soul after death? This interpretation in obviously incorrect. Nachiketas, having already died and arrived at the doors of the god of death, cannot have a doubt whether a soul exists after death, when his own experience is available. Though there can be a doubt in this context whether Nachiketas reached Yamaloka dead or alive, it is clearly stated in the Taittiriiya BraahmaNa, where the full story is given, that he was dead and reached Yamaloka. Other circumstances such as Nachiketas father performing Visvajid yaaga to attain heaven, etc., also show that continuity of the soul after death is not being questioned here. Even the second boon of Nachiketas leading to the renaming of Svargya Agni confirms the same belief. Therefore, the third question cannot be "Is there a soul after death," but "Are the souls regulated by God after death and Liberation?"

This question is specially relevant for the period after Liberation, as some systems do not accept even the separate existence of souls after Liberation, while some accept equality of the souls with God after it.

shreyas and preyas

Yama congratulates Nachiketas on his steadfastness in obtaining sacred knowledge and sets the distinction between shreyas and preyas -- the Good and the Pleasant. Normal worldly interests such as family, property, etc., constitute the second category, while interest in God is the first. Yama expresses his happiness that Nachiketas has chosen shreyas.

Theism Of The Upanishad

Yama makes it clear that God knowledge cannot be obtained only by logic or learning the scriptures. It is God who chooses the deserving and gives them His vision. The statement yameva eshha vR^iNute, embodying this principle of God choosing His devotee for revealing Himself, is the cornerstone of Theism and Bhakti. It is clear from this that the Upanishads do not profess Absolutism, but support Theism. The reference to prasaada (grace) in the expression prasiidati may be noted in this connection.

The rest of the Upanishad is an excellent exposition of the nature of God, the fact of His being a regulator after death and Liberation, necessity of controlling the senses and the methodology of Yoga.

Nature Of God

God's unique nature is aptly explained -- anyatra dharmAt.h anyatra adharmAt.h, etc. The verses asino dUraM vrajati and aNoraNiiyan.h mahato mahiiyAn.h bring out His nature of possessing simultaneous attributes like Movement without moving, Atomicity and being Bigger than the biggest, etc., which are contradictory to each other. ashabdaM asparshaM, etc., brings out His special nature of not possessing prAk.rta attributes and of His being beyond the reach of the Senses like the Eye, Ear, etc. nityo nityAnAM, brings out that He is eternal, and chetanaH chetanAnAM shows that He is the only independent Chetana (Svatantra Chetana). R^itaM pibantau, etc., mentions that He is in the heart of all living creatures in two forms -- AtmA and AntarAtmA, and accepts the fruits of auspicious deeds -- shubha karmaphala. There is no difference between the Muula (original) and Avatara (incarnation) rUpa-s or forms of the Lord. His attributes are not different in essence from Him.

God Regulates Souls At All States

svapnAntaM jagaritantaM, etc., states that He regulates the souls during waking and deep sleep. yathA cha maraNaM prApya states that bhayadasya agniH tApati, etc., shows that the Sun, Moon, Wind, Fire, etc., all function under His direction. UrdhvaM prANaM unnayati, etc., states that He regulates our breathing. He is resident in our hearts with the dimension of an angushhTha (thumb) and regulates us always -- past, present and future.

He is called Hamsa as He is free from all defects and is the essence of every thing. His presence in Mukhya PraaNa is special, for various reasons. He is present in all men, prak.rti, Sky, antariksha, in the senses and everywhere. He regulates all these entities in all states.

Metaphor Of Ashwattha Tree, Fire And Spark, Chariot

The beautiful metaphor of the Ashwattha tree is used to show that God is the foundation of all. The metaphors of the Fire and Sparks, the Wind and its various manifestations are used to show the Bimba-pratibimba (Object and Image) relation between God and the souls. This emphasizes the total dependence of the soul on God, like an image on the object, but does not preach identity between the two. The metaphor of the Charioteer, Chariot and Horses is employed to stress the need for regulating the senses.

Devataa Taaratamya, Yoga, And Moral Purity

Devataa Taaratamya or the Hierarchy of gods is explained to bring out the supremacy (Sarvottamatva) of the Lord. The Yoga methodology of controlling the breath and the senses is explained. The importance of securing the teaching from a good teacher is also stressed. The KaThaka also particularly stresses the need for moral probity for spiritual pursuits in the verse navirato dushcharitAt.h, etc.

A number of adhikaraNa-s in the Brahma Suutra such as guhAdhikaraNa, vAmanAdhikaraNa, etc., derive their name and subject matter from KaThakopanishhad. A number of passages from this Upanishad are referred to in the Suutra-s. These are shown in the khaNDaartha of Sri Raghavendra Swami in the respective places.

The main teachings of the KaThakopanishhad may be summed up as follows:

  1. A full exposition of the concept of God.

  2. God is the regulator of all even after death or Liberation.

  3. The distinction between shreyas and preyas.

  4. The importance of moral purity, controlling of senses and certain details of Yoga methodology.

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This Upanishad is in four sections. In each, there is a portion in prose, followed by verses which explain and support the points made in prose earlier. Some verses which are considered part and parcel of the Upanishad by Sri Madhva, are considered as part of the Gaudapada-karika, in the Advaita tradition. B N K Sharma has discussed the controversy whether they form part of the Upanishad in detail in several papers, and has conclusively proved that they are indeed a part. The main points to be noted in this context are:

  1. Sri Ramanuja also quotes some of these verses as Shruti and interprets them.

  2. A number of Advaita commentators such as Anandagiri, Brahmananda, and Appayya Dixita, etc., also quote these texts as Shruti.

  3. Sri Shankara himself quotes these as Shruti elsewhere.

It is clear that these form part of the Upanishad text. Gaudapada must have considered these as his source texts and put them together as Agama-prakaraNa at the commencement of his Karika. The very description of these as Agama-prakaraNa also shows that these were not his compositions, but were verses revealed to Chaturmukha Brahma (Brahma d.rshhTa). It is noteworthy, that some of these appear to be supportive of Advaita, and the Dvaita tradition would not have taken the trouble to elevate them to the impregnable status of the Shruti and interpret them in a different manner, unless they were indeed a part of the Upanishad.

Meaning of Omkaara

This Upanishad makes the opening statement that OM means Akshara. Three important points are mentioned about OM or Akshara. It is guNapUrNa (full of auspicious attributes), trikAlAtIta (beyond the three modes of time) and Atma or sarvaniyAmaka (controller of all else). The expressions sarva and brahma convey guNapUrnatva, and the term akshara conveys trikAlAtItatva. AtmA conveys sarvaniyAmakatva. The implication of trikAlAtItatva is that it does not undergo any modification or change at any time (shAshvadekaprakAra). shrItatva or Lakshmi also has the same characteristic by the grace of God.

ayaM AtmA brahma

This expression in the second passage means that the guNapUrNa Brahman conveyed by Om and AtmA present in all entities who regulates and controls, is one and the same. The word AtmA does not refer to the individual souls, but to God who is immanent in them. akshara or Brahman conveyed by OM, and AtmA present in all as their inner controller is the same. Thus, God's characteristic of sarvaniyAmakatva is brought out here. The context of giving an exposition of the meaning of Om and the purpose of the statement ayaM AtmA brahma show that the identity of the jiiva and God is not plausible. On the other hand, three important characteristics of God, guNapUrNatva, trikAlAtItatva and sarvaniyAmakatva are conveyed with the minimum of words. The Upanishad also clearly explains the correct interpretation of the words OM, AtmA, Brahman, and akshara, all of which denote Brahman by describing Him with His special attributes.

Four Forms Of God (conveyed by the syllables of Omkaara)

After explaining OM as a whole, the Upanishad proceeds to explain the meaning of each syllable constituting Om. These are a, u, ma, and nAda, each of which convey one form of God. a conveys Vishva or Vaishvanara form of God, which regulates the jiiva, being present in his right eye and enables the Jiva to cognize external objects. This form has the face of an elephant at the centre and nine human faces on either side -- nineteen in all. With 4 arms, 2 legs, and one trunk (of the elephant face), he has 7 limbs (saptAN^ga). u conveys the taijasa form, which is present in the neck and controls the dream state. He enables the jiiva to cognize dream objects. This form also has nineteen faces and seven limbs like the Vishva form. ma conveys Praaj~na form, present in the heart (h.rtkarNika) and regulates deep sleep. This form enables the jiiva to cognize its own svarUpa (essence) , aj~nAna (primordial ignorance) , kAla (efflux of time) and sushupti sukha (bliss associated with deep sleep). This form also has 19 faces and seven limbs.

Turiya is not Nirguna Brahman

The fourth form of God, called Turiya Rupa is described in the Upanishad in a sort of a code language. One has to go beyond the literal meaning to grasp the full significance of the terms used with reference to Turiya. This form present in the centre of the head described by the word nantaHpraj~nA, is contrasted with the other three. He does not control waking, dream or deep sleep. He does not control the cognition of external objects, dream objects, jiivaswarUpa, aj~nAna, etc. This does not mean that He is neutral or indifferent. He controls the Liberated. The Unliberated souls in samsAra therefore cannot realize, describe, grasp, or otherwise deal with Him in any way. He removes mithyAj~nana or erroneous knowledge and helps to put an end to the transmigration of the jiiva. He is called Advaita in this context, as He puts an end to Dvaita (mithyAj~nAna). The negative attributes given here have two implications --

  1. To contrast Turiya form of the Lord with the other three Vishva, Taijasa and Praaj~na.

  2. To bring out the distinction between comprehension of the Liberated and Unliberated.

In view of these facts, the efforts of some commentators to equate Turiya form with Nirguna Brahman do not appear to be correct.

Theories of Creation

At the end of the first section, different theories of creation are postulated and the final view is stated. These are:

  1. brahma vibhUti -- creation is a modification or manifestation of Brahman.

  2. vivarta -- It is merely a projection of an illusion like a dream or magic.

  3. kAla -- Time is the substratum for all creation.

  4. sR^ishhTi -- Creation is the outcome of God's will to create.

The Upanishad rejects the first three views and affirms the last. The Upanishad also rejects the views that creation by God has the objectives of bhogArtha (for enjoyment) or krIDArtha (for sport). The Upanishad holds that it is the very nature of God (svabhAva). God's will to create is because it is His nature to do so.

jaganmithyatva Is Not the Purport

Two verses of this Upanishad have given rise to much controversy in their interpretation. This controversy is discussed in several contexts and the untenability of the Advaita interpretation has been shown in detail. Hence, without going into details, the correct interpretation will be noted here.

I. prapaJNcho yadi vidyeta This verse is interpreted as follows --

  • The erroneous knowledge leading to bondage in the form of attachment to the body, material wealth, etc. (Called Dvaita here) is not natural to the soul and independent of God. It can be overcome with the grace of God. God, who removes it and is understood as such is called Advaita.

  • The fivefold differences between inert world, souls and God would have been destroyed, if they were created (not natural and eternal). These are not destroyed, but are observed by God, who alone is supreme.

    II. vikalpo vinivarteta, etc. This verse is also interpreted as follows --

  • The attachment to the body, material wealth etc. even were it to be natural, could be removed by instructions by a proper teacher. When one knows the supremacy of God, his erroneous knowledge leading to attachment will be removed.

  • The fivefold differences would have been withdrawn, were they to be the projections (unreal) of some one else. It is only the ignorant who fail to see Difference. One has to understand the supremacy of God and reality of difference, by receiving proper instructions.

    These interpretations will remove the erroneous notion that these two verses state jaganmithyatva. This subject is discussed threadbare in the Vishnu-tattva-vinirNaya and other texts.

    The main teachings of the MaaNDuukyopanishad can be summed up as:

    1. Exposition of the meaning of Omkaara.

    2. Explanation of the four forms of God viz. Visva, Taijasa, Praajna and Turiya. Theories of creation.

    The explanation of the nature of Turiya and verses like prapaJNcho yadi vidyeta, etc., offer some interpretational issues.

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    This belongs to Atharvaveda. The central theme of this Upanishad is to give an exposition of Akshara. Before this is given, it also gives an idea of Paravidya and Aparavidya.

    parAvidyA And aparAvidyA

    The sacred literature consisting of Vedas, Vedaanga, Itihaasa, PuraaNa, etc., known as 14 vidyasthaana-s constitute both parAvidyA and aparAvidyA. The classification of Paravidya or otherwise is not a division of texts, but a classification based on view points. When Akshara or God is understood with the help of the same literature, it is called parAvidyA, while when one uses these texts to understand rituals, other deities etc., it is aparAvidyA. Therefore, the contention of some schools that only Upanishads constitute parAvidyA, while Samhita-s, etc., aparAvidyA is incorrect.

    Nature of Akshara

    The Akshara has no beginning, no end. It is all-pervasive, subtle. It has no sense organs of Prakrta type and is beyond the senses and the mind. It can never be fully comprehended. It is not subject to any modification, but is the cause of all.

    Process And Purpose Of Creation

    The process of creation by Akshara is explained with three beautiful illustrations. An UrNanAbhi (spider) creating its web threads and taking them back, plants growing from earth, and hairs growing on the body are the three examples of creation of all things by Akshara. The illustrations make the the nature of creation very clear. An UrNanAbhi does not convert itself into thread, but functions as an efficient cause for the material taken in by it to be so converted. Similarly, God takes Prakrti into His womb during laya (universal dissolution) and creates mahat.h and other constituents of the world during srshhTi. This illustration clearly rules out both the pariNAma (transformation of God Himself into the world) or vivarta (projection of an unreal world) theories of creation. It is clear that God is described as the Efficient and Prakrti, the material cause of creation. The second example of plants being born out of different seeds on the earth shows that things and beings are born with a variety of natures and different capacities, based on their intrinsic natures and past karmas. The differences cannot be attributed to God, who is thus free of the blemishes of vaishamya (discrimination) and nairgh.rNya (cruelty). The third example of hairs growing out of a body, indicates that for Akshara, creation is spontaneous and without exertion.

    The three illustrations thus show that:

    1. God is the efficient cause of creation and not its material cause.

    2. No discrimination or cruelty can be attributed to God, based on the endless variety in creation.

    3. His creation is spontaneous and effortless.

    It is noteworthy that not only do none of the examples support pariNAma or vivarta theory. It is also impossible to explain why there are three different examples conveying three different aspects, if the purpose was to convey the single theory of pariNAma or vivarta.

    Purpose Of karmaanushhThaana

    An important question raised in the Upanishad is as to what is the purpose of performance of prescribed rituals and sacrifices. The answer given is that these have to be performed with dedication to God, for purification of mind for acquiring knowledge of God. The final objective of bhagavadj~nAna or God-knowledge is of utmost importance and the other steps as well as knowledge of other deities and rituals find their fulfilment with it. Performance of rituals with this awareness and in total dedication to God will not function as an obstacle to higher knowledge. Performance without such awareness is like trying to cross the sea with a leaking boat. The essential point to note here is that Karmas are to be performed as prescribed with the right perspective and are not to be rejected.

    The Upanishad also explains tatvas.rishhTi, yaj~nas.rshhTi, etc. In this context, an important point stated here is that there is no difference between God and His s.rshhTikaarya (act of creation), j~naana (universal all encompassing knowledge), bala (strength, capacity), etc. This is especially brought out in the passage purushha eva idaM vishvaM karma, tapo, brahma, etc. The Upanishad thus rejects any difference between God and His attributes. The same doctrine is also stated in the passages ekameva advitiyaM and neha nAnAsti kiJNchana, etc. All these texts state the abheda (non-difference) between God and His Attributes, and not the abheda of Advaita (Identity of God with the souls).

    Methodology Of Meditation

    A beautiful simile of the bow and arrow is given to explain the methodology of meditation. Pranava or Omkara is the bow, mind is the arrow and Akshara or Brahman is the aim. The devotee should carefully aim at hitting the target. Akshara controls not only p.rthivii (earth), dyau (heavens), antariksha (space), prANa (life), etc., but also all the nADi-s (control centres) within our body. When He is realized, the bondage due to avidyA etc is loosened, and the past deeds (karma) are destroyed. The Supreme being to be realized is at the heart itself, in sUryamaNDala (solar orb), in front and behind, above and below, and everywhere. The parable of the two birds sitting on the same tree is given here. One of them, jiiva or the soul enjoys the fruits of his deeds, while the other only watches without eating any fruits. The jiiva is released from bondage only when he realizes the glory of God. The Upanishad also states emphatically that God cannot be realized by merely studying the scriptures, or by stretching the efforts of one9s intelligence to the utmost. He will be realised only by those who are chosen by Him.

    The Liberated Discovers Similarity But Not Identity With God

    Two important statements describing the liberated state in the Upanishad merit special attention. These are:

    1. niraJNjanaH paramaM sAmyaM upaiti, and

    2. pare avyave sarve ekibhavanti.

    The first statement brings out the fact that the liberated soul being free from aj~nAna or avidyAdoshha attains similarity with God in respect of being free from sorrow, enjoying bliss etc. God and the soul are similar to each other as they are Bimba and Pratibimba. This similarity has been eclipsed by avidyA, etc., earlier and is made manifest in the liberated state. This fact brought out in this text leaves no room for jiiva-brahmaikya or identity. The second text states that the liberated souls stand together with God and in tune with His will. In the context of this passage, there is a reference to the deities of 15 Kalas, the deity controlling the Karma and the liberated soul. All these stand in tune with His will. It is therefore incorrect to take this text in isolation and read identity between the liberated soul and Brahman. The illustration of rivers joining the sea, in the next passage indicates attainment of God and not Identity with Him. It is also stated that the liberated soul casts away his prAk.rta form, name, etc., and attains his svarUpabhUta form and name. The reference to parAtpara purushha is a reference to Sarvottama (greater than all) God. Therefore, there is no scope for interpreting any texts in this context as favoring Identity.

    The main teachings of the Atharvanopanishad may be summed up as follows:

    1. Nature of Akshara.
    2. Para and Apara Vidya.
    3. Purpose of karmAnushhThaana.
    4. Purpose and process of creation (with three illustrations).
    5. Status of the liberated soul.

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    This Upanishad belongs to the Pippalaadashakha of Atharva Veda where six sages ask six questions to Sage Pippalaada. The answers given deal with some aspects of Vedanta which have also been dealt with elsewhere, but clarify and elaborate the points. The questions and answers are given briefly here.

    I. Who Creates Living Beings And Nonliving Matter?

    Kaatyaayana asks the first question.

    Pippalaada elaborates the process of creation as follows:

    Prajapati desired to create beings and thought about it. He created at first Rayi and PraaNa (Bharati and Mukhya PraaNa) as the first couple. He then entered into them and created the Sun and Moon. The first couple also entered into the Sun and the Moon, through whom Prajapati created all other things. Tejas (energy), Ap (water) and Anna (food) are mUrta (having a physical body). Prakrti, etc., are a-mUrta. Rayi entered mUrta and PraaNa into amUrta. They activated the utpAdana shakti (ability to cause transformation) and assisted the process of creation. Rayi and PraaNa are also the presiding deities of dakshiNAyana (Southern solstice) and uttarAyaNa (Northern solstice), k.rshhNapaksha (fortnight ending in new moon day) and shukla paksha. (ending in full moon day), etc., and assist the process of creation. Finally Rayi in the wife and PraaNa in the husband also assist procreation.

    Prajapati, the Supreme God, is the Creator of all at all stages. Rayi and PraaNa assist Him at all stages for creating deities and other sentient beings, non-living matter or entities, both mUrta and amUrta, the time spans of dakshiNAyana, uttarAyaNa, etc. Prajapati's role of creation extends from the first divine couple of Rayi and PraaNa, to the normal wife and husband, and to all parents. Thus Prajapati, the Supreme God is the Creator of all.

    II. Who Is Superior Among The Deities?

    Bhargava asks the next question: Which deities take care of the created beings and enable them to understand things? Who is the leader of the deities?

    Pippalaada answers that tattvaabhimAni deities of AkAsha, vAyu, etc., take care of the respective things. Mukhya PraaNa is the leader of them all and is superior among them. He quotes an episode to illustrate this. Once, the tatvAbhimAni deities thought that they could manage their respective roles in a living body, without the presence and leadership of Mukhya PraaNa. To show them the error of their thinking, Mukhya PraaNa started moving out of the body. Immediately they were all forced to move out and were no longer able to take care of the respective functions of the body. They realised that Mukhya PraaNa was superior and controlled them also. They also saw that when Mukhya PraaNa returned to the body, they were able to perform their functions as before. The deities then praised Mukhya PraaNa by describing him as one who enables everyone else such as Indra, Surya, Agni, etc., to play their respective roles in controlling the various parts of the body. The senses such as the eye, ear, etc., and their abhimAni deities (controlling deities) function only under the direction of Mukhya PraaNa, who controls life itself. He is the leader of all the other deities and is superior to them. How ever, Mukhya PraaNa also functions under the control of the Supreme Being, Vishnu.

    In answer to the first question, Pippalaada had said that Prajapati creates through Rayi and Mukhya PraaNa, and now in answer to the second question, he is explaining that through Mukhya PraaNa and the tatvAbhimAni deities under his control, Prajapati takes care of all created things and gives them understanding. All these are under the absolute control of Prajapati, the Supreme being.

    III. Who Created Mukhya PraaNa And How Does Mukhya PraaNa Function?

    Ashvalaayana asks the third question: Who created Mukhya PraaNa? How does the latter enter the body and take five forms? How does he come out of the body?

    Pippalaada answers that the Supreme God creates Mukhya PraaNa. The latter has five forms -- PraaNa, Apaana, etc. These forms are of two kinds: The first set are the very forms of Mukhya PraaNa himself, and another set of five -- those who have arisen from these forms. These forms are located in different parts of the body and perform their respective functions. There are one hundred and one chief naaDi-s in the body, all of which have further branches and subbranches. The grand total of all these comes to 72,000. Vyaana functions through these naaDi-s. Mukhya PraaNa takes the soul away at the time of death, in his Udaana form. Thus Mukhya PraaNa plays very vital roles in the functioning of the body. However, he does so under the control of Vishnu.

    IV. Whow Regulates Dream And Deep Sleep?

    Gaargya asks the fourth question: When the soul is asleep, which of the senses and their presiding deities are withdrawn? Who shows dreams to the soul? How does the soul get happiness in deep sleep?

    Pippalaada answers that during the dream state, the ten senses such as the eye, ear, etc., are withdrawn and their presiding deities also withdraw to the Taijasa form of the Supreme Being. The faculty of manas (mind) is not withdrawn. However, during deep sleep, this faculty is also withdrawn. The presiding deities of all ten senses and the mind are withdrawn to the Praajna form of the Lord, during deep sleep. Both during dreams and deep sleep, the five PraaNa-s are active and are not withdrawn. Dreams are shown by God. The soul experiences happiness during deep sleep, as he is close to the Supreme Being at that time. The most important point to be noted is that all the senses and their objects, their controlling deities and even Mukhya PraaNa are always under the control of God and function because of Him. The Supreme Being endows them with their respective capacities and all are eternally dependent on Him. He is Akshara. Those who know Him as such reach Him. The texts -- sarvaM pare Atman.h sampratishhTate and sarvameva avisheshha have to be understood in this light.

    V. With Which Hymn Should One Meditate Upon God?

    Satyakaama asks the fifth question: With which hymn should one meditate upon God and what is its effect?

    Pippalaada answers -- One should meditate upon the Supreme Being with Omkaara, which conveys God. He further elaborates as to how the meditation of each syllable of Omkaara leads to special appropriate results.

    VI. Who Is ShhoDashhakalA Purushha?

    Bharadwaja asks the sixth question: Who is the Purushha (Person) with shhodashhakalA (16 attributes) and what are these?

    Pippalada answers that the Supreme God Himself is that Purushha. The abhimAni devata-s such as PraaNa, ShraddhA, etc. (who are the controlling dieities), are the sixteen kalA-s. These are different from the 16 Kalas which constitute the linga shariira of the soul, which are created by God to enable the soul to get God-knowledge. After Liberation, the abhimAni devatA-s of these kalA-s attain God -- God is called shhoDashhakalA Purushha for this reason.

    Through the six questions and answers, this Upanishad brings out the importance of Mukhya PraaNa, Omkaara and ShhoDashhakalA Purushha.

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    The Taittiriiyopanishad belongs to Krishna (Black) Yajur Veda and forms the 7th - 9th chapters of the Taittiriiya Aranyaka. The Narayana Upanishad is the 10th chapter of this Aranyaka.

    This Upanishad is arranged in three VaLLi-s or sections. The second and third sections discuss Brahmavidya, while the first one discusses certain preliminary matters which are required to assist the study of Brahmavidya.

    The shAntimantra of this Upanishad is quite interesting. It makes a specific reference to Vaayu by namaste vAyo and describes him as pratyaksha (visible) Brahman. These references bring out that the Supreme Being is specially present in Vaayu, who is also called Brahman here to show that he possesses much higher knowldege as compared to the rest of the deities. He is also the abhimAnidevatA of the five Samhita-s mentioned.

    varNa, svara, etc., Convey God

    In the first section, matters connected with shikshA or Vedic phonetics such as varNa, svara, etc., are mentioned at first. This reference is not merely from the point of view of grammar, but more significantly for their spiritual significance. These convey God, as they are the names of God, who is specially present in them. The Upanishad next proceeds to describe five samhita-s in respect of five adhikaraNa-s viz., adhiloka, adhijyotishha, etc. Here again it is not mere enumeration of loka-s, different aspects of jyoti-s etc., but to provide an exposition of the presence of five forms of God -- NaarayaNa, Vaasudeva, SaMkarshaNa, etc. Even the mere enumeration of adhiloka, adhijyotishha, etc., given here makes a fascinating presentation of the cosmos, the realization of the vyUha forms of the Lord in these making it a rich presentation.

    The prayer yachchhandAsaM..., etc., for the necessary intellectual ability to acquire spiritual knowledge, to get appropriate disciples, to use the tongue, ear, etc., for the recitation and listening of the glory of God, etc., is a beautiful prayer, which comes after the samhita-s. Let my tongue be sweet, let my ears listen to great things, let my knowledge be protected from evil, etc., are the points in this prayer that specially merit attention. Appeal to God to secure good students with good conduct, temper, intelligence and coming from many gotra-s (lineages) is very touching. A good teacher prays: like water flowing naturally, let students flow towards me; like months rolling on over the years, let the students roll over to me. The teacher wants to establish a good reputation by teaching such good students.

    Significance Of vyAhR^iti-s And Omkaara

    Next there is an exposition of vyAhR^iti-s -- bhUH, bhuvaH, svaH, and mahaH. The vyUha forms of God -- Aniruddha, Pradyumna, etc., present in them are explained. Omkaara conveys God, while the vyAhR^iti-s further explain His forms. The Gayatri mantra is an exposition of the vyAhR^iti-s and the Purushha Suukta explains the Gayatri. Thus from Omkaara, the entire sacred lore is elaborated stage by stage right up to the three Vedas, to teach about God. The important role of vyAhR^iti-s in explaining God through their meanings conveying the vyUha forms of the Supreme Being is brought out here. The significance of Omkaara conveying guNapUrNabrahma (Brahman with countless auspicious attributes) is especially brought out in the passage -- OM iti brahma. It is also stated that OM conveys not only the mUlarUpa (Original Form), but also all the incarnated forms of the Supreme Being -- OM iti idaM sarvam.h. In this manner, the Upanishad not only shows that Omkaara conveys the Supreme Being in all His forms, but also describes Him in all His forms as guNapUrNa. This interpretation of the Upanishad suits the context perfectly, as the Upanishad is giving an exposition of the various forms of God in vyAhR^iti-s, etc. Identity between God and the soul cannot be deduced here, as the description of such a guNapUrNa God clearly highlights the difference with the soul. The prayers for obtaining good students, etc., also support the same viewpoint.

    The Upanishad also brings out the importance of R^ita, satya, dama, shama, etc., which are essential ingredients for acquiring sacred knowldege. svAdhyAya (self-study) and pravachana (discourse) are specially stressed here.

    Instructions To Students

    The most instructive part of the first VaLLi of the Taittiriiya is the section which gives instructions to students who have completed their education. These commencing with satyaM vada, dharmaM chara..., etc., contain valuable guidelines, which are relevant even today. The first and foremost thing in life is to be honest, which has to be translated in good conduct. Prosperity in both worldly and otherworldly affairs have to be kept in mind. Teaching and study should be continued. Parents, Teachers and Guests have to be attended upon appropriately. Charity commensurate to one's wealth must be practiced with conviction, and with a sense of social involvement and an enlightened attitude to life. In case of doubts with respect to any specific action or a code of conduct, one has to seek guidance from the learned and the wise. Elders should be followed only when they are themselves in the right. These instructions are commands to be followed invariably. Such is the essence of teaching of the Vedas. These instructions have an universal application and are valid today. They are also applicable to all societies. The first section closes with these injunctions.

    Definition Of Brahman

    The second section known as BrahmavaLLi defines Brahman in the famous passage -- satyaM j~nAnaM anantaM brahma. Each expression, satyaM, etc., brings out an important characteristic of Brahman. In fact more than one definition is implied by each of these expressions. satyaM implies creation, sustenance, regulation, and destruction (sR^ishhTi, jagajjiivanapradAtva, jagachcheshhTakatva and saMhartR^itva). j~nAnaM means God's knowledge of all in a general way as well as in detail. ananta conveys the limitless nature of God with respect to space, time and attributes. Thus the entire concept of Brahman is presented in this brief text.

    In the text -- AtmanaH AkAshaH sambhUtaH, etc., the process of Creation is explained. An important point that is worth noting is that God not only initiates Creation, but intervenes at every step. He Creates the first step, enters into it, Creates the next, and so on. Therefore, the expressions AkAsha (space), vAyu (gas), etc., not only refer to these elements, but also to the immanent Brahman, who really does Creation. From AkAsha to Purushha, the whole process is due to His Creative activity.

    annamaya, etc., Five Forms Of God

    The five koshha-s (physical sheaths), viz., annamaya, prANamaya, etc., described here are intended to bring out the implications of the definition of Brahman given in the earlier text satyaM j~nAnaM.... They do not merely refer to the koshha-s (shells), but convey the Brahman immanent in them. It is not correct to conclude that only Anandamaya (Full of Bliss) conveys Brahman, but all the five, as fully explained in the Anandamaya adhikarana of the Brahma Suutra. It is also incorrect to take Anandamaya also as a koshha and to take brahma puchchha only as Brahman. The Upanishad is giving an exposition of the concept of Brahman and explaining its own brief definition given in the earlier text -- satyaM j~nAnaM.... To conclude that it is subsequently content to explain merely the four or five koshha-s of the souls is not coherent. Giving up the concept that Brahman is Anandamaya, by including that also as a koshha and describing Brahman by the expression brahmapuchchha is even less acceptable. It is clear therfore that the whole approach has to be different and pertinent to the context indicated by the text satyaM.... This is done by explaining the five forms of Brahman annamaya, prANamaya, etc., as immanent forms present in the five koshha-s. Thus all these forms mean Brahman only. There is also no difficulty in interpreting brahmapuchchha, when Anandamaya is also taken as referring to Brahman, as there is no difference between avayava and avayavi (Part and the Whole) in Brahman. Another point to be noted here is that the expression yato vAcho nivartante... does not mean that Brahman is totally beyond words. It only states that Brahman being Infinite can not be completely comprehended or explained.

    Bhrigu Discovers God

    The third VaLLi called BhriguvaLLi describes eight forms of God -- five already stated -- annamaya, etc., and three more chakshurmaya, shrotrumaya and vAgmaya. Bhrigu approaches Varuna for instructions and Varuna guides him to discover Brahman step by step. Bhrigu undertakes penance at each step as per instructions and realises the eight forms of God at each step. Certain upAsana-s (methods of worship) such as kshema, yogakshema, etc., and tR^ipti, bala, yashas, etc., are also explained. The manner in which chaturmukha-Brahma realizes these eight koshha-s: annamaya, etc., attains Liberation, and enjoys the Liberated state are described.

    The passage -- satyaM j~nAnaM anantaM that gives the definition of Brahman, the five forms of Brahman -- annamaya, prANamaya..., etc., and the exposition of the process of Creation are the important topics of Taittiriiya, the very first two adhikaraNa-s, and AnandamayAdhikaraNa of the Brahma Suutra derive their subject matter from the Taittiriiya. This Upanishad thus makes very important contributions to Vedanta philosophy.

    From the above brief summary of the seven Upanishads, it is clear that Delineation of the Supreme God is the central theme for all of them. The seeker is advised to follow certain upAsana-s, develop bhakti (devotion), vairAgya (detachment), etc., undertake shravaNa (listening), manana (assimilation), etc., and attain Liberation with the grace of God. Upanishads are not merely documents of speculation for intellectuals, but are fully Theistic texts developing the concept of a Supreme God. They also provide knowledge and Vision of God to the seeker.

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                 yo vipralambhaviparItamatiprabhUtAn.h 
                       vAdAnnirastakR^itavAn.h bhuvi tattvavAdam.h  |
                 sarveshvaro haririti pratipAdayantaM
                       Ana.ndatIrthamunivaryamahaM namAmi  ||
    That doctrine which quells all positions arising out of ignorance and deceit, is Tattvavaada;
    Ananda Tiirtha, the august among saints, who propounded the Supremacy of Hari over all, I salute.
    || bhAratIramaNamukhyaprANA.ntargata shrIkR^ishhNArpaNamastu || || shrI gurubhyo namaH hariH OM ||

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    This section is due to Prof. K.T. Pandurangi. Transcription and web placement by N.A.P.S. Rao and Shrisha Rao respectively.

    Created October 5, 1996; last updated October 5, 1996.