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Essence of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

by Swami Sivananda

1. The whole is all That. The whole is all this. The whole was born of the whole. Taking the whole from the whole, what remains is the whole.

Om Peace, Peace, Peace!

Yajnavalkya-Maitreyi Samvada

2. Maitreyi, said Yajnavalkya, Verily, I am going away from this house into the forest, to enter another order of life; therefore, let me divide my property between you and Katyayani.

3. Maitreyi asked: My venerable Lord, if this whole world, with all its wealth, belonged to me, tell me, could I become immortal?

4. No, replied Yajnavalkya, Like the life of rich people will be your life. But there is no hope of obtaining immortality by wealth.

5. Maitreyi said: Of what use, then, would wealth be to me, if I did not become, thereby, immortal? Tell me, O venerable Lord, any means of attaining immortality, of which thou knowest.

6. Yajnavalkya replied: Thou art dear to me; thou speakest dear words. Come, sit down; I will explain it to thee.

7. Verily, not for the sake of the husband, is the husband dear; but for the sake of the Self is the husband dear.

8. Verily, not for the sake of the universe, the universe is dear; but for the sake of the Self is the universe dear.

9. Verily, the Self (Atman) is to be seen, heard, reflected and meditated upon. When one sees, hears, reflects and knows the Self, all this is known.

10. The Brahmin would abandon a person who regards the Brahmin-class as something different from the Self; the world would abandon a person who regards the world as something different from the Self. The Brahmin-class, Kshatriya-class, these worlds, these gods, these elements, everything is that Self alone.

11. When a drum is beaten, you cannot distinguish its various particular notes, but they are included in the general note of the drum or in the general sound produced by different kinds of strokes. The notes of the drum have no existence apart from the general note of the drum. Even so, nothing particular is cognised apart from the Pure, Intelligent, Self. The Supreme Self is the essence. There is inherence of Pure Intelligence in everything. Hence everything is the Self only. Everything should be regarded as non-existent apart from the Self or Pure Intelligence.

12. When a conch is blown or when a lute is played, you cannot distinguish its various particular notes, but they are included in the general note of the conch or the lute, or any kind of musical instrument. The notes of the conch or lute have no existence apart from the general note of the conch or the lute. Even so, nothing particular is perceived apart from the Pure, Intelligent Self. A drum, a conch, or a lute have distinct general and particular notes of their own, which are included in the sound in general. Similarly, all objects are unified in the Absolute or Brahman as the varieties of genus and particulars are not different from It.

13. As a lump of salt, when thrown into water, becomes dissolved into mere water, and could not be taken out again (or perceived), but wherever we taste the water, it would have the taste of salt; thus, verily, does this great Being, Infinite, Independent, consisting of nothing but Consciousness, rise from out of these elements and vanish again in them. After death, no knowledge remains. (There is no objective consciousness when there is no individuality.)

14. Maitreyi said: Thou hast bewildered me by saying: 'After death, no knowledge remains.' Yajnavalkya replied: I say nothing that is bewildering. For where there is, as it were, duality, the one sees the other, one smells the other, one tastes the other, one salutes the other, one speaks to the other, one hears the other, one thinks of the other, one knows the other.

15. But, when the Self alone is all this, how should one see another, how should one smell another, how should one taste another, how should one salute another, how should one speak to another, how should one hear another, how should one know another?

16. How should one know Him, by whom one knows all this?

17. That Self is to be described as Not this, not this.

18. He is incomprehensible, imperishable, unattached, free, and not subject to pain or destruction.

How should one know the Knower?

The Inner Ruler

19. Gautama asked: O Yajnavalkya, tell me who is the Inner Ruler?

20. Yajnavalkya said: He who dwells in the earth, and within the earth, whom the earth does not know, whose body is the earth, who from within rules the earth, is thy Self, the Inner Ruler, the Immortal.

21. He who dwells in water, fire, sky, air, heaven, sun, the quarters, the moon and stars, the ether, darkness, and the light; whose body are these; and who from within rules them, but whom they do not knowthat is thy Self, the Inner Ruler, Immortal.

22. He who dwells in all beings and within all beings, whom all beings do not know, whose body are all beings, and who from within rules all beings, is thy Self, the Inner Ruler, Immortal.

23. He who dwells in the breath, speech, eye, ear, mind, skin, Knowledge, and the seed; whom they do not know; whose body they are; who from within rules themis thy Self, the Inner Ruler, the Immortal.

24. Unseen He sees; unheard He hears; unthought, He thinks; unknown He knows.

25. There is no other seer but He; there is no other hearer but He; there is no other knower but He.

26. That is thy Self, the Inner Ruler, the Immortal.

27. Whatever is different from Him is perishable.

The Indestructible Being

28. Gargi said: O Yajnavalkya, that of which they say it is above the heavens, beneath the earth, embracing heaven and earth, past, present and future, tell me in what is it woven like warp and woof?

29. Yajnavalkya replied: In ether (Akasa).

30. Gargi said: In what then is the ether woven, like warp and woof?

31. Yajnavalkya said: O Gargi, the Brahmanas call this the Akshara (the imperishable).

32. It is neither coarse nor subtle, neither short nor long, neither red nor white; it is not shadow, not darkness, not air, not ether, without adhesion, without smell, without eyes, without ears, without speech, without mind, without light, without breath, without a mouth or door, without measure, having no within and no without. It does not consume anything, nor does anyone consume it.

33. By the command of that Indestructible Being, the sun and the moon stand apart.

34. By the command of that Being, heaven and earth stand upheld in their places.

35. By the command of that Being, minutes, hours, days, and nights, half-months, months, seasons, years, all stand apart.

36. By the command of that Being, some rivers flow to the East from the snowy mountains, others to the West, and others to the quarters ordained for them.

37. By the command of that Being, men praise those who give, the gods follow the sacrifices, and forefathers the oblation.

38. Whosoever, ignorant of this Indestructible Being, offers oblations in this world, sacrifices, adores the gods and practises austerities even for a thousand years, his work will have an end.

39. Whosoever, without knowing this Indestructible, departs from this world, becomes wretched.

40. But he who departs from this world, knowing this Indestructible Being, is a true Brahmana.

The Guiding Light

41. Janaka said: Yajnavalkya, what is the light of this Purusha?

42. Yajnavalkya replied: The sun, O king; for by the light of the sun man sits down, moves about and does his work and returns home.

43. When the sun has set, what, then, is the light of a man?

44. The moon indeed is the light; for by the light of the moon man sits down, moves about, does his work and returns home.

45. When the sun has set and the moon has set, what is the light of man?

46. Fire indeed is his light; for by the light of fire man sits down, moves about, does his work and returns home.

47. When the sun has set, and the moon has set, and the fire is gone out, what is then the light of man?

48. Sound (speech) indeed is his light; for by the light of speech he sits down, moves about, does his work and returns home. Therefore, when one cannot see even one's own hand, yet he resorts there, whence sound proceeds.

49. When the sun has set and the moon has set, and the fire has gone out and sound is hushed, what is then the light of man?

50. The Self indeed is his light; for by the light of the Self he sits down, walks about, does his work and returns home.

51. What is that Self?

52. He who is within the heart, surrounded by the Pranas, the Purusha who is light, who is of the nature of Knowledge.

53. He, remaining the same, wanders in the two worlds.

54. He, as it were, thinks; he, as it were, moves; in dream he quits this world and the forms of death; i.e., all that is perishable.

55. This Purusha, when born, takes a body, gets united with all evils; when he departs and dies, he leaves all evils behind.

Waking and Dreaming

56. There are two states for that person; the one here in this world, the other in the other world, and as a third, an intermediate state, the state of dreaming.

57. When he sleeps, then, after taking with him the material from his world, destroying and building it up again, by his own light, he dreams. In that state, this Purusha is self-illuminated.

58. No chariots are there, nor horses, no roads, but he himself creates chariots, horses and roads. He indeed is the creator.

59. His pleasure-grounds can be seen; but he is visible to none. Therefore it is said: Let no one wake a man suddenly; for it is difficult to cure, if he does not get back rightly to his body.

60. That person, having enjoyed himself in that state of bliss (Samprasada, deep sleep), having wandered about and seen what is holy and what is sinful, hastens back again, as he came, to the place from which he started. Whatever he may have seen there, he is not affected by it, because that person is not attached to anything.

61. That person, having enjoyed bliss in the waking state, wandered about and seen what is good and evil, hastens back again, as he came, to the state of dream.

62. As a large fish moves along the two banks of a river, the right and the left, so does that person moves along these two states, the state of sleeping and the state of waking.

Deep Sleep

63. As an eagle, after it has roamed about in the sky, gets fatigued, folds its wings, and is drawn to its nest, so does that person hasten to that state where, when asleep, he desires not any desire, and dreams no more dreams.

64. There are in his body the veins called Hita, which are as small as a hair divided a thousandfold, full of white, blue, yellow, green and red juice.

65. This is his true nature, which is free from desire, sin and fear. When embraced by the intelligent Self (Prajna), he knows nothing that is without or within. This is his true nature, in which all desires are satisfied, in which the Self is his only desire, in which there is no desire, no grief.

66. Then the father is no father, the mother is no mother, the worlds no worlds.

67. He is not followed by good or evil; for he is beyond all sorrows of the heart.

68. When in deep sleep he does not know, yet he is knowing, because knowing is inseparable from the Knower, because it is indestructible. But there is, then, no second thing, nothing else different from him that he could know.

69. Like an ocean is that one Seer, without any duality. This is the Brahma-world.

70. This is his highest goal, his highest success, his highest world, his highest happiness. Of this happiness, all other beings enjoy only a part.

71. When the body becomes weak on account of old age or illness, at that time that person, after separating himself from his members, hastens back again, as he came, to the place from which he started, to new life (for obtaining a new body).

The Phenomenon of Death

72. When the soul, having come to a state of weakness, sinks into a state of unconsciousness, as it were, then the organs go to meet him.

73. Having fully seized those organs which are resplendent with light, the soul descends into the heart.

74. When the Purusha in the eye altogether returns, then the soul is unconscious of colour (any form). He has become one, they say, he does not see. (Similarly with the other senses.)

75. The entrance to the heart becomes luminous; and by that light the Self departs, either through the eye or through the skull or through other places of the body.

76. When he thus departs, life departs after him, and when life thus departs, all the organs depart after it.

77. He is conscious, and being conscious, he follows and departs. Then both his knowledge and work, and the knowledge of his former life take hold of him.

78. As a caterpillar, after having gained another blade, draws itself together towards it, thus does this self, after having thrown off this body, and after obtaining another body, draw himself together towards it.

79. As a goldsmith, taking a piece of gold, turns it into another, newer and more beautiful shape, so does this self, after having thrown off this body and obtaining that state of Knowledge, make for himself another, newer and more beautiful shape, either suited to the world of the forefathers, or of the Gandharvas, or of the Devas, or of Prajapati, or of Brahma or of other beings.

80. That Self is indeed Brahman, consisting of knowledge, mind, life, eye, ear, earth, water, air, ether, light and no-light, desire and no-desire, anger and no-anger, virtue and no-virtue, and all things.

81. Now as a man is, like this or like that, in accordance with his acts or behaviour, so will he be; a man of good works will become good, a man of evil works will become evil.

82. As is his desire, so is his resolve; as his will, so his action; as his action, so is his reward.

83. He whose mind is attached to worldly objects, obtains by actions the objects to which his mind is attached. And having obtained the results, whatever deed he does here on earth he comes back again from that world to this world of action.

84. Thus he who desires wanders from world to world. But as regards the man who does not desire, who has no desires, who is beyond desires, whose desires are satisfied, or who desires the Self only, his vital spirits do not depart elsewhere. Being Brahman, he goes to Brahman.

85. As the slough of a snake, as something dead, is abandoned on an ant-hill, so lies the body; but that disembodied, immortal spirit is even Brahman, is only light.

86. If one understands the Supreme Self and knows It as his own Self, then for what desire or for whose sake should he undergo the sufferings of the body?

87. He, who has found and understood the Self that has entered this body, is verily the creator, for he is the Lord of all, his is the world, nay, he is the world itself.

88. While we are here we must know Brahman. If we do not know Him, then there is great loss. Those who know Him become immortal, but all others verily undergo pain.

89. When a person clearly beholds his own Self as God, as the true Lord of all that is and will be then he is no more afraid.

90. In Him there is no diversity. Whoever sees diversity in Him, goes from death to death.

91. Let the wise Brahmana, after he has discovered Him, practise wisdom. Let him not seek after many words, for words are embarrassing.

92. One who thus knows, who has subdued his senses, who is calm, free from all desires, enduring, and composed in mind, beholds the Self in the Self, sees all as the Self.

93. Sin does not overcome Him; he overcomes all sin. Free from sin, free from impurity, free from doubt, he becomes a true Brahmana.

94. This Self is great, unborn, the strong, the river of wealth. He who knows this obtains wealth.

95. Brahman is verily fearless, and he who knows this becomes verily the fearless Brahman.

DA, DA, DA

96. The threefold offspring of Prajapati; Devas, Men and Asuras dwelt as Brahmacharins with their father, Prajapati.

97. The Devas, having finished their studentship, said to Prajapati: Tell us our duty. Prajapati told them the syllable Da. Then he said: Did you understand? They replied: We do understand: You told us: Damyata be self-controlled.

98. Then the men said to Him: Tell us our duty. Prajapati told them the syllable 'Da'. Then he said: Did you understand? They replied: We do understand. You told us Datta give.

99. Then the Asuras said to him: Tell us our duty. Prajapati told them the syllable 'Da'. Then he said: Did you understand? They replied: We do understand. You told us Dayadhvam be merciful.

Deep Sleep

100. The same is repeated by a divine voice with the force of thunder, viz., the syllables Da, Da, Da, meaning be self-controlled, give, be merciful.

101. Therefore, let one learn the triad of restraint, liberality and mercy.


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