Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad (1.3)

Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad (1.3)
Translation by
Shukavak N Dasa
Copyright©Sanskrit Religions Institute, 2016

1. Prajāpati became the father of both the gods and demons.1 The gods were younger, the demons were older, and they both competed for dominance in the world. The gods considered, “With the main chant2, let us overcome the demons in the sacrifice.”

2. They approached speech and said, “Sing the main chant for us!”

“So be it!” Thereupon speech sang for them.

Whatever pleasure there is in singing, it procured that for the gods. Whatever beauty there is in language it procured that for the soul.3

The demons then realized, “Using speech as the main chanter, the gods will surely overcome us.” So they rushed towards it and pierced it with evil. Whatever falsehoods a person speaks comes from this evil. Indeed, it makes one evil.

3. The gods then spoke to the nose4, “Sing the main chant for us.”

“So be it!” Thereupon the nose sang for them.

Whatever pleasure there is in smelling it procured that for the gods. Whatever beauty there is in fragrance it procured that for the soul.

The demons then realized, “Using the nose as the main chanter, the gods will surely overcome us.” So they rushed towards it and pierced it with evil. Whatever disagreeable thing a person smells comes from this evil. Indeed, it makes one evil.

4. The gods then spoke to the eye, “Sing the main chant for us.” “So be it!” Thereupon the eye sang for them.

Whatever pleasure there is in the eye it procured that for the gods. Whatever beauty there is in seeing it procured that for the soul.

The demons then realized, “Using the eye as the main chanter, the gods will surely overcome us.” So they rushed towards it and pierced it with evil. Whatever impure things a person sees comes from this evil. Indeed, it makes one evil.

5. The gods then spoke to the ear, “Sing the main chant for us.” “So be it! Thereupon the ear sang for them.

Whatever pleasure there is in the ear it procured that for the gods. Whatever beauty there is in hearing it procured that for the soul.

The demons then realized, “Using the ear as the main chanter, the gods will surely overcome us.”

So they rushed towards it and pierced it with evil. Whatever falsehoods a person hears come from this evil. Indeed, it makes one evil.

6. The gods then spoke to the mind, “Sing the main chant for us.” “So be it! “Thereupon the mind sang for them.

Whatever pleasure there is in the mind it procured that for the gods. Whatever beauty there is in imagination it procured that for the soul.

The demons then realized, “Using the mind as the main chanter, the gods will surely overcome us.”

So they rushed towards it and pierced it with evil. Whatever bad things a person thinks comes from this evil. Indeed, it makes one evil.

In this way, the gods were attacked and pierced with evil.

7. The gods then spoke to the inner breath5, “Sing the main chant for us!”

“So be it.” Thereupon the inner breath sang for them.

The demons then realized, “Using this inner breath as the main chanter, the gods will surely overcome us.” So they rushed towards it to pierce it with evil. But like a clod of earth thrown against a rock they were smashed and scattered in all directions. Thereupon the gods prospered and the demons declined. One who knows this will prosper while his rivals, who are full of envy, will be ruined.

8. The gods then asked, “Where did that inner breath go? He was close to us.”

“He is in the mouth! He is the Ayāsya Āńgirasa6 and he is the essence of the body.7

9. “And because death stays far away from him, he is also called Dūr8.” Therefore death stays away from one who understands this.

10. Indeed this god pushed back the evil of death from the other gods and chased it to the outer limits where it deposited its evil. Therefore, one should not travel to the foreign lands where one may find evil and death.

11. Having protected the gods from this deathly evil, Dūr carried them all away from death.

12. Speech was the first to be carried from death. Being freed from death speech became fire. Transcending death fire burns brightly in this world.

13. It then carried the nose. Being freed from death the nose became wind. Transcending death the wind blows9 and purifies this world.

14. It then carried the eye. Being freed from death the eye became the sun. Transcending death the sun blazes forth.

15. It then carried the ear. Being freed from death the ear became the directions. Indeed they too transcended death.

16. It then carried the mind. Being freed from death the mind became the moon. Transcending death the moon shines in this world. Similarly, this deity Dūr carries anyone away from death who understands this.

17. It then sang to gain food. Indeed, whatever is eaten in this world is eaten by this One. It stands firm here.10

18. The gods then spoke, “Whatever exists in this world is but food, and you have acquired it by singing. Share with us.”

He called them, “Gather around me.”11

“Indeed!” And they gathered around Him from all sides. Whatever food He ate satisfied them all.12

Thus, one who understands this principle gathers around this One as the leader, the master, the lord, and the supreme eater of food. But in spite of knowing this, a person who wants to rival Him, will never be able to support even his own dependents. On the other hand, the person who follows this One, even while wishing to support his own dependents, will easily be able to do so.

19. This Breath is the Ayāsya Ańgirasa13, the essence of all parts of the body. Indeed breath is the essence of the body. Say it again: Breath is the essence of the body. So, from whatever part of the body breath steps away, that part withers. Breath, indeed, is the essence of the body!

20. This breath is Brihaspati14, the Great Lord. Speech15 is Brihatī16. Therefore, the lord of this speech is Brihaspati.

21. This breath is Brahmanaspati for speech is also Brahma. He is her lord, therefore he is known as Brahmanaspati.17

22. This breath is the Sāman. Sāma is ‘she plus he’.18 Or because it is equal to all things: a gnat, a mosquito, an elephant, the three worlds, or even the entire universe, it is called Sāman.19 One who understands this gains intimacy with and dwells in the same world as the Sāman.

23. This breath is also the high chant, the udgītha, and because it is both high (ut) and a chant (gīthā) it is called the udgītha.

24. While drinking king soma,20 Brahmadatta Caikitāneya has said, “If Ayāsya Ańgirasa sang by any other means, may king soma shatter my head.” Only with speech and breath did he sing the udgītha.

25. One who understands the best quality of the Sāman comes to possess that quality. Indeed tone21 is that best quality. Therefore, when one chants one should wish for a tone in his voice. Possessing that tone, let him chant. During a sacrifice people want to hear a priest who possesses that quality alone. Therefore, one who knows this quality of Sāman comes to possess this quality.

26. This is the wealth of Sāman, and one who knows this comes to possess this wealth. Indeed, tone is that wealth. One who understands will gain gold.

27. One who understands the foundation of Sāman, himself gains a foundation. Voice is that foundation. Breath, being established in voice, sings. Others, say that food is that foundation.

28. Next begins the recitation of the pavamāna hymn. As the priest chants, the patrons should silently recite:

From the unreal take me to the Real, From darkness take me to light,
From death take me to immortality.

When it says, asato mā sad gamaya, “from the unreal lead me to the Real”, death is the unreal, immortality is the Real. “From death take me to immortality” means make me immortal. When it says “From darkness take me to light” death is darkness, immortality is light. In the expression, mrityor māmritam gamaya, “from death take me to immortality”, there is nothing obscure in these words.

Therefore let him chant the other verses to obtain a living for himself. Let him choose a boon, whatever he desires. By chanting verses a priest may obtain for himself or this patron whatever he wishes. This indeed is world conquest! In this way for one who knows the sāma there is never a fear of being without a conquered realm.

Here ends the third Brāhmaṇa of the first Adhyāya

1 The organs of the body, the eyes, the ears, the tongue, etc., along with the organs of action, the hands, the feet, the anus, etc., as well as breath and mind are all considered gods and demons. When these organs are disciplined they become gods and when they are undisciplined and left to their own devices they become demons. Compare this to BG 6.5-6 where the mind is considered both a friend and an enemy. Here the words for gods and demons are devas and asuras.

2 The word is udgītha, which is the main chanting portion of a Vedic Yagna, fire-ritual. The fire- ritual generally has three main priests – a Hotar who chants hymns from the Rig Veda, an Adhvaryu who chants hymns from the Yajur Veda, and an Udgatri who chants hymns from the Sama Veda. The Sama Veda priest was called an Udgatri because the udgītha is the name for that portion of the Sama Veda, which is often the main chant of the ritual.

3 In verses 2 through 6 the words bhoga and kalyāna reoccur. Bhoga is sensual pleasure. Kalyāna is beauty. Sensual pleasure was obtained for the bodily organs, the gods, and beauty was obtained for the ātman, which is here translated as soul. Ātman, however, could be translated with other meanings.

4 Here the word is prāṇa, which is literally breath. However, the use of the verb ghrā to smell in subsequent sentences suggest the actual meaning is the organ of smell, nose. Verse 7 is where the actual prāṇa, breath, is used.

5 Literally the breath within the mouth.

6 Ayāsya Āńgirasa is the name of a Vedic ṛṣi cited in Rig Veda 10.67. He was a son of Ańgirasa and Svarāj, and was a famous Udgīthā or main chanter. He is associated metaphorically with breath, prāńa, because breath is the most important bodily constituent, and with breath one recites the Vedas.

7 The expression is ańgānām hi rasaḥ, the essence of the body. This is the Ayāsya Āńgirasa who is mentioned later below (BU 3.19) as the breath, which maintains all parts of the body.

8 Dūr, personified as a deity, is used as a name for breath. The word dūr is derived from dūra, which means “distance or remote”. In other words the deity Dūr can put death and evil at a distance.

9 Literally purifies from pav

10 The Sanskrit is iha pratitiṣṭhati, which has here been translated literally. The implied meaning is that food is the foundation of this world and the ultimate eater of food is this One. This basic principle is fixed in this world.

11 The verb is abhi-saṃ-viś, which can also mean ‘enter into’.

12 This one in the mouth, breath, ate and all the gods were nourished. In other words, feed the whole all the parts are automatically included.

13 This is like saying breath is the Himalayas of mountains, the best of the best.

14 The word brihat means great and pati means lord.

15 The word is vāk, which mean speech and she is seen as a goddess.

16 Brihatī is literally the ‘great goddess’.

17 Pati means lord.

18 The feminine pronoun ‘sā’ and the masculine pronoun ‘ama’ combine to make the word
sāman. The word suggests that the Sāman encompasses both male and female, i.e. all things.

19 The word sāma can also be derived from sama. Sama means ‘equal’, so that which is based on sama is sāma, ie sameness or equality. Here the idea is that brahman is both the tiniest of things as well as the biggest of things. Again the idea is that brahma is all things.

20 The text simply says rāja, king. Commentators suggest it means king soma, the elixir pressed from the soma plant. The verse is obscure.

21 The word is svara.

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