Sacred Books of the East - Volume 1/Introduction to the Upanishads

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The Khândogya-upanishad belongs to the Sâma-veda. Together with the Brihad-âranyaka, which belongs to the Yagur-veda, it has contributed the most important materials to what may be called the orthodox philosophy of India, the Vedânta[1] i. e. the end, the purpose, the highest object of the Veda. It consists of eight adhyâyas or lectures, and formed part of a Khândogya-brâhmana, in which it was preceded by two other adhyâyas. While MSS. of the Khândogya-upanishad and its commentary are frequent, no MSS. of the whole Brâhmana has been met with in Europe. Several scholars had actually doubted its existence, but Rajendralal Mitra[2], in the Introduction to his translation of the Khândogya-upanishad, states that in India "MSS. of the work are easily available, though as yet he has seen no commentary attached to the Brâhmana portion of any one of them." "According to general acceptation," he adds, "the work embraces ten chapters, of which the first two are reckoned to be the Brâhmana, and the rest is known under the name of Khândogya-upanishad. In their arrangement and style the two portions differ greatly, and judged by them they appear to be productions of very different ages, though both are evidently relics of pretty remote antiquity. Of the two chapters of the Khândogya-brâhmana[3], the first includes eight sûktas (hymns) on the ceremony of marriage, and the rites necessary to be observed at the birth of a child. The first sûkta is intended to be recited when offering an oblation to Agni on the occasion of a marriage, and its object is to pray for prosperity in behalf of the married couple. The second prays for long life, kind relatives, and a numerous progeny. The third is the marriage pledge by which the contracting parties bind themselves to each other. Its spirit may be guessed from a single verse. In talking of the unanimity with which they will dwell, the bridegroom addresses his bride, "That heart of thine shall be mine, and this heart of mine shall be thine[4]." The fourth and the fifth invoke Agni, Vâyu, Kandramas, and Sûrya to bless the couple and ensure healthful progeny. The sixth is a mantra for offering an oblation on the birth of a child; and the seventh and the eighth are prayers for its being healthy, wealthy, and powerful, not weak, poor, or mute, and to ensure a profusion of wealth and milch-cows. The first sûkta of the second chapter is addressed to the Earth, Agni, and Indra, with a prayer for wealth, health, and prosperity; the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth are mantras for offering oblations to cattle, the manes, Sûrya, and divers minor deities. The seventh is a curse upon worms, insects, flies, and other nuisances, and the last, the concluding mantra of the marriage ceremony, in which a general blessing is invoked for all concerned."

After this statement there can be but little doubt that this Upanishad originally formed part of a Brâhmana. This may have been called either by a general name, the Brâhmana of the Khandogas, the followers of the Sâma-veda, or, on account of the prominent place occupied in it by the Upanishad, the Upanishad-râhmana[5]. In that case it would be one of the eight Brâhmana of the Sâma-veda, enumerated by Kumârila Bhatta and others[6], and called simply Upanishad, scil. Brâhmana.

The text of the Upanishad with the commentary of Sankara and the gloss of Ânandagiri has been published in the Bibliotheca Indica. The edition can only claim the character of a manuscript, and of a manuscript not always very correctly read.

A translation of the Upanishad was published, likewise in the Bibliotheca Indica, by Rajendralal Mitra.

It is one of the Upanishads that was translated into Persian under the auspices of Dârâ Shukoh[7], and from Persian into French by Anquetil Duperron, in his Oupnekhat, i.e. Secretum Tegendum. Portions of it were translated into English by Colebrooke in his Miscellaneous Essays, into Latin and German by F. W. Windischmann, in his Sankara, seu de theologumenis Vedanticorum (Bonn, 1833), and in a work published by his father, K. J. H. Windischmann, Die Philosophie im Fortgang der Weltgeschichte (Bonn, 1827-34). Professor A. Weber has treated of this Upanishad in his Indische Studien I, 254; likewise M. P. Regnaud in his Matériaux pour servir à l'histoire de la philosophie de l'lnde (Paris, 1876) and Mr. Gough in several articles on "the Philosophy of the Upanishads," in the Calcutta Review, No. CXXXI.

I have consulted my predecessors whenever there was a serious difficulty to solve in the translation of these ancient texts. These difficulties are very numerous, as those know best who have attempted to give complete translations of these ancient texts. It will be seen that my translation differs sometimes very considerably from those of my predecessors. Though I have but seldom entered into any controversy with them, they may rest assured that I have not deviated from them without careful reflection.



This Upanishad is best known by the name of Kena-upanishad, from its first word. The name of brâhmî-upanishad (IV, 7) can hardly be considered as a title. It means "the teaching of Brahman" and is used with reference to other Upanishads also[8]. Sahkara, in his commentary, tells us that this Upanishad forms the ninth adhyâya of a Brâhmana, or, if we take his words quite literally, he says, "the beginning of the ninth adhyâya is "the Upanishad beginning with the words Keneshitam, and treating of the Highest Brahman has to be taught." In the eight preceeding adhyâyas, he tells us, all the sacred rites or sacrifices had been fully explained, and likewise the meditations (upâsana) on the prâna (vital breath) which belongs to all these sacrifices, and those meditations also which have reference to the fivefold and sevenfold Sâmans. After that followed Gâyatra-sâman and the Vamsa, the genealogical list. All this would naturally form the subject of a Sâma-veda-brâhmana, and we find portions corresponding to the description given by Sankara in the Khândogya-upanishad, e.g. the fivefold Sâman, II, 2; the sevenfold Sâman, II, 8; the Gâyatra-sâman, III, 12, 1.

Ânandagñâna tells us that our Upanishad belonged to the Sâkhâ of the Talavakâras.

All this had formerly to be taken on trust, because no Brâhmana was known containing the Upanishad. Dr. Burnell, however, has lately discovered a Brâhmana of the Sâma-veda which comes very near the description given by Sankara. In a letter dated Tanjore, 8th Dec. 1878, he writes: "It appears to me that you would be glad to know the following about the Kena-upanishad, as it occurs in my MS. of the Talavakâra-brâhmana.

The last book but one of this Brâhmana is termed Upanishad-brâhmana. It consists of 145 khandas treating of the Gâyatra-sâman, and the 134th is a Vamsa. The Kena-upanishad comprises the 135-145 khandas, or the tenth anuvâka of a chapter. The 139th section begins: âsâ vâ idam agra âsît, &c.

My MS. of the Talavakâra-brâhmana agrees, as regards the contents, exactly with what Sankara says, but not in the divisions. He says that the Kena-upanishad begins the ninth adhyâya, but that is not so in my MS. Neither the beginning nor the end of this Upanishad is noticed particularly.

The last book of this Brâhmana is the Ârsheya-brâhmana, which I printed last February.

Among the teachers quoted in the Brâhmana I have noticed both Tândya and Sâtyâyani. I should not be surprised to find in it the difficult quotations which are incorrectly given in the MSS. of Sâyana's commentary on the Rig-veda. The story of Apâlâ, quoted by Sâyana in his commentary on the Rig-veda, VIII, 80, as from the Sâtyâyanaka, is found word for word, except some trivial var. lectiones, in sections 220-221 of the Agnishtoma book of the Talavakâra-brâhmana. The Sâtyâyanins seem to be closely connected with the Talavakâra-sâkhâ."

From a communication made by Dr. Burnell to the Academy (1 Feb. 79), I gather that this Talavakâra-brâhmana is called by those who study it "Gaiminîya-brâhmana," after the Sâkhâ of the Sâma-veda which they follow. The account given in the Academy differs on some particulars slightly from that given in Dr. Burnett's letter to me. He writes: "The largest part of the Brâhmana treats of the sacrifices and the Sâmans used at them. The first chapter is on the Agnihotra, and the Agnishtoma and other rites follow at great length. Then comes a book termed Upanishad-râhmana. This contains 145 sections in four chapters. It begins with speculations on the Gâyatra-sâman, followed by a Vamsa; next, some similar matter and another Vamsa. Then (§§135-138) comes the Kena-upanishad (Talavakâra). The last book is the Ârsheya. The Upanishad forms the tenth anuvâka of the fourth chapter, not the beginning of a ninth chapter, as Sankara remarks."

The Kena-upanishad has been frequently published and translated. It forms part of Dârâ Shukoh's Persian, and Anquetil Duperron's Latin translations. It was several times published in English by Rammohun Roy (Translations of Several Principal Books, Passages, and Texts of the Veda, London, 1832, p. 41), in German by Windischmann, Poley, and others. It has been more or less fully discussed by Colebrooke, Windischmann, Poley, Weber, Röer, Gough, and Regnaud in the books mentioned before.

Besides the text of this Upanishad contained in the Brâhmana of the Sâma-veda, there is another text, slightly differing, belonging to the Atharva-veda, and there are commentaries on both texts (Colebrooke, Misc. Essays, 1873, II, p. 80).



In giving a translation of the Aitareya-upanishad, I found it necessary to give at the same time a translation of that portion of the Aitareya-âranyaka which precedes the Upanishad. The Âranyakas seem to have been from the beginning the proper repositories of the ancient Upanishads, though it is difficult at first sight to find out in what relation the Upanishads stood to the Âranyakas. The Âranyakas are to be read and studied, not in the village (grâme), but in the forest, and so are the Upanishads. But the subjects treated in the Upanishads belong to a very different order from those treated in the other portions of the Âranyakas, the former being philosophical, the latter liturgical.

The liturgical chapters of the Âranyakas might quite as well have formed part of the Brâhmanas, and but for the restriction that they are to be read in the forest, it is difficult to distinguish between them and the Brâhmanas. The first chapter of the Aitareya-âranyaka is a mere continuation of the Aitareya-brÂhmana, and gives the description of the Mahâvrata, the last day but one of the Gavâmayana, a sattra or sacrifice which is supposed to last a whole year. The duties which are to be performed by the Hotri priests are described in the Aitareya-âranyaka; not all, however, but those only which are peculiar to the Mahâvrata day. The general rules for the performance of the Mahâvrata are to be taken over from other sacrifices, such as the Visvagit, Katurvimsa, &c, which form the type (prakriti) of the Mahâvrata. Thus the two sastras or recitations, called âgya-praüga, are taken over from the Visvagit, the sastras of the Hotrakas from the Katurvimsa. The Mahâvrata is treated here as belonging to the Gavâmayana sattra, which is described in a different Sâkhâ, see Taittirîya Samhitâ VII, 5, 8, and partly in other Vedas. It is the day preceding the udayanîya, the last day of the sattra. It can be celebrated, however, by itself also, as an ekâha or ahîna sacrifice, and in the latter case it is the tenth day of the Ekadasarâtra (eleven nights sacrifice) called Pundarîka.

Sâyana does not hesitate to speak of the Aitareya-âranyaka as a part of the Brâhmana[9]; and a still earlier authority, Sankara, by calling the Aitareya-upanishad by the name of Bahvrika-brâhmana-upanishad[10], seems to imply that both the Upanishad and the Âranyaka may be classed as Brâhmana.

The Aitareya-âranyaka appears at first sight a miscellaneous work, consisting of liturgical treatises in the first, fourth, and fifth Âranyakas, and of three Upanishads, in the second and third Âranyakas. This, however, is not the case. The first Âranyaka is purely liturgical, giving a description of the Mahâvrata, so far as it concerns the Hotri priest. It is written in the ordinary Brâhmana style. Then follows the first Upanishad, Âranyaka II, 1-3, showing how certain portions of the Mahâvrata, as described in the first Âranyaka, can be made to suggest a deeper meaning, and ought to lead the mind of the sacrificer away from the purely outward ceremonial to meditation on higher subjects. Without a knowledge of the first Âranyaka therefore the first Upanishad would be almost unintelligible, and though its translation was extremely tedious, it could not well have been omitted.

The second and third Upanishads are not connected with the ceremonial of the Mahâvrata, but in the fourth and fifth Âranyakas the Mahâvrata forms again the principal subject, treated, however, not as before in the style of the Brâhmanas, but in the style of Sûtras. The fourth Âranyaka contains nothing but a list of the Mahânâmnî hymns[11], but the fifth describes the Mahâvrata again, so that if the first Âranyaka may be looked upon as a portion of the Aitareya-brâhmanas, the fifth could best be classed with the Sûtras of Âsvalâyana.

To a certain extent this fact, the composite character of the Aitareya-âranyaka, is recognised even by native scholars, who generally do not trouble themselves much on such questions. They look both on the Aitareya-brâhmana and on the greater portion of Aitareya-âranyaka as the works of an inspired Rishi, Mahidâsa Aitareya[12], but they consider the fourth and fifth books of the Âranyaka as contributed by purely human authors, such as Âsvalâyana and Saunaka, who, like other Sûtrakâras, took in verses belonging to other Sâkhâs, and did not confine their rules to their own Sâkhâ only.

There are many legends about Mahidâsa, the reputed author of the Aitareya-brâhmana and Âranyaka. He is quoted several times as Mahidâsa Aitareya in the Aranyaka itself, though not in the Brâhmana. We also meet his name in the Khândogya-upanishad (III, 16, 7), where we are told that he lived to an age of 116 years[13]. All this, however, would only prove that, at the time of the composition or collection of these Âranyakas and Upanishads, a sage was known of the name of Mahidâsa Aitareya, descended possibly from Itara or Itarâ, and that one text of the Brâhmanas and the Âranyakas of the Bahvrikas was handed down in the family of the Aitareyins.

Not content with this apparently very obvious explanation, later theologians tried to discover their own reasons for the name of Aitareya. Thus Sâyana, in his introduction to the Aitareya-brâhmana[14], tells us that there was once a Rishi who had many wives. One of them was called Itarâ, and she had a son called Mahidâsa. His father preferred the sons of his other wives to Mahidâsa, and once he insulted him in the sacrificial hall, by placing his other sons on his lap, but not Mahidâsa. Mahidâsa's mother, seeing her son with tears in his eyes, prayed to her tutelary goddess, the Earth (svîyakuladevatâ Bhûmih), and the goddess in her heavenly form appeared in the midst of the assembly, placed Mahidâsa on a throne, and on account of his learning, gave him the gift of knowing the Brâhmana, consisting of forty adhyâyas, and, as Sâyana calls it, another Brâhmana, "treating of the Âranyaka duties" (âranyakavratarûpam brâhmanam).

Without attaching much value to the legend of Itarâ, we see at all events that Sâyana considered what we call the Aitareyâranyaka as a kind of Brâhmana, not however the whole of it, but only the first, second, and third Âranyakas (atha mahâvratam îtyâdikam âkâryâ âkâryâ ityantam). How easy it was for Hindu theologians to invent such legends we see from another account of Mahidâsa, given by Ânandatîrtha in his notes on the Aitareya-upanishad. He, as Colebrooke was the first to point out, takes Mahidâsa "to be an incarnation of Nârâyana, proceeding from Visâla, son of Abga," and he adds, that on the sudden appearance of this deity at a solemn celebration, the whole assembly of gods and priests (suraviprasangha) fainted, but at the intercession of Brahmâ, they were revived, and after making their obeisance, they were instructed in holy science. This avatâra was called Mahidâsa, because those venerable personages (mahin) declared themselves to be his slaves (dâsa)[15].

In order properly to understand this legend, we must remember that Ânandatîrtha, or rather Visvesvaratîrtha, whose commentary he explains, treated the whole of the Mahaitareya-upanishad from a Vaishnava point of view, and that his object was to identify Mahidâsa with Nârâyana. He therefore represents Nârâyana or Hari as the avatâra of Visâla, the son of Brahman (abgasuta), who appeared at a sacrifice, as described before, who received then and there the name of Mahidâsa (or Mahîdâsa), and who taught this Upanishad. Any other person besides Mahidâsa would have been identified with the same ease by Visvesvaratîrtha with Vishnu or Bhagavat.

A third legend has been made up out of these two by European scholars who represent Mahidâsa as the son of Visâla and Itarâ, two persons who probably never met before, for even the Vaishnava commentator does not attempt to take liberties with the name of Aitareya, but simply states that the Upanishad was called Aitareyî, from Aitareya.

Leaving these legends for what they are worth, we may at all events retain the fact that, whoever was the author of the Aitareya-brâhmana and the first three books of the Aitareya-âranyaka, was not the author of the two concluding Âranyakas. And this is confirmed in different ways. Sâyana, when quoting in his commentary on the Rig-veda from the last books, constantly calls it a Sûtra of Saunaka, while the fourth Âranyaka is specially ascribed Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 1.djvu/106 Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 1.djvu/107 Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 1.djvu/108 Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 1.djvu/109 Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 1.djvu/110 Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 1.djvu/111

  1. Vedânta, as a technical term, did not mean originally the last portions of the Veda, or chapters placed, as it were, at the end of a volume of Vedic literature, but the end, i.e. the object, the highest purpose of the Veda. There are, of course, passages, like the one in the Taittirîya-âranyaka (ed. Rajendralal Mitra, p. 820), which have been misunderstood both by native and European scholars, and where vedânta means simply the end of the Veda:—yo vedâdau svarah prokto vedânte ka pratishtkitah, "the Om which is pronounced at the beginning of the Veda, and has its place also at the end of the Veda." Here vedânta stands simply in opposition to vedâdau, and it is impossible to translate it, as Sâyana does, by Vedânta or Upanishad. Vedânta, in the sense of philosophy, occurs in the Taittirîya-âranyaka (p. 817), in a verse of the Nârâyanîya-upanishad, repeated in the Mundaka-upanishad III, 2, 6, and elsewhere, vedântavignânasuniskitârthâh, "those who have well understood the object of the knowledge arising from the Vedânta," not "from the last books of the Veda;" and Svetâsvatara-up. VI, 22, vedânte paramam guhyam, "the highest mystery in the Vedânta." Afterwards it is used in the plural also, e. g. Kshurikopanishad, 10 (Bibl. Ind. p. 210), pundarîketi vedânteshu nigadyate, "it is called pundarîka in the Vedântas," i. e. in the Khândogya and other Upanishads, as the commentator says, but not in the last books of each Veda. A curious passage is found in the Gautama-sûtras XIX, 12, where a distinction seems to be made between Upanishad and Vedânta. Sacred Books, vol. ii, p. 272.
  2. Khândogya-upanishad, translated by Rajendralal Mitra, Calcutta, 1862, Introduction, p. 17.
  3. It begins, Om, deva savitah, pra suva yagñam pra suva yagñapatim bhagâya. The second begins, yak prâkm disi sarparâga esha te balik.
  4. Yad etad dhridayam tava tad astu hridayam mama, Yad idam hridayam mama tad astu hridayam tava.
  5. The same name seems, however, to be given to the adhyâya of the Talavakâra-brâhmana, which contains the Kena-upanishad.
  6. M. M., History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, p. 348. Most valuable information on the literature of the Sâma-veda may be found in Dr. Burnell's editions of the smaller Brâhmanas of that Veda.
  7. M. M., History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, p. 335.
  8. See before, p. lxxxiii.
  9. Aitareyabrâhmane 'sti kândam âranyakâbhidham (introduction), a remark which he repeats in the fifth Âranyaka. He also speaks of the Âranyaka-vratarûpam brâhmanam; see p. cxiv, 1. 24.
  10. In the same manner the Kaushîtaki-upanishad is properly called Kaushîtaki-brâhmana-upanishad, though occurring in the Âranyaka; see Kaushîtaki-brâhmana-upanishad, ed. Cowell, p. 30
  11. See Boehtlingk and Roth, s.v. "Neun Vedische Verse die in ihrem vollständigen Wortlaut aber noch nicht nachgewiesen sind." Weber, Indische Stadien VIII, 68. How these hymns are to be employed we learn from the Âsvalâyana-sûtras VII, 12, 10, where we are told that if the Udgâtris sing the Sâkvara Sâman as the Prishthastotra, the nine verses beginning with Vidâ maghavan, and known by the name of Mahânâmnî, are to be joined in a peculiar manner. The only excuse given, why these Mahânâmnîs are mentioned here, and not in the Brahmana, is that they are to be studied in the forest.
  12. M. M., History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, pp. 177, 335.
  13. Not 1600 years, as I printed by mistake; for 24 + 44 + 48 make 116 years. Rajendralal Mitra should not have corrected his right rendering 116 into 1600. Ait. Âr. Introduction, p. 3.
  14. M. M., History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, p. 336.
  15. Colebrooke, Miscellaneous Essays, 1873, II, p. 42.