Printable version
Related Pages
Font Size    

Vidyas from the Upanishads

by Swami Sivananda

1. Sat-Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Chhandogyopanishad, VI. 2. 1 & 2, where Uddalaka instructs Svetaketu on the nature of Existence.

In the beginning O son, this was mere Exis­tence, one only without a second. Regarding this some others sayat first this was mere non-exis­tence, one alone without a second. From that non-existence proceeds existence. But verily, O son, how can this be? How can existence come from non-existence? Hence, O son, this was existence only in the beginning, one alone without a second.

From non-existence existence cannot come out, for, even non-existence is an existence, a being. As regards the sentence in the Taittiriyopanishad which says that existence came from non-existence, it is explained that here non-existence refers to the state of Avyaktam where the manifold world does not exist and from which the existence of the world is evolved. Meditation on Sat-Vidya enables one to assert the reality of the Sat aspect of the Absolute whose essential nature is Chit and Ananda. In con­tinuation of this, Uddalaka asserts the great dictum of identity, Tat Tvam Asi, That thou art.

2. Bhuma Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Chhandogyopani­shad, VII. 24, where Sanatkumara instructs Narada in the nature of the Unconditioned Infinite Plenum or the Fullness of Being.

Where one sees nothing else, hears nothing else, understands nothing else, that is called the Infinite Plenum. But where one sees something else, hears something else, understands something else, that is called the little finite. That which is Infinite is Immortal, and that which is finite is mortal

This is perhaps the greatest of all the Upanishadic Vidyas, for it sums up the entire result of all philosophies and Vedantic enquiries. It treats of the most exalted Absolute State of unlimited bliss and immortal life after attaining which one returns not to mortal existence. In continuation of this, Sanatku­mara mentions that the Infinite, the Self, the I are all identical and that this One Being alone is the Truth. The knower of this Vidya becomes the Self-Emperor and exists as the Infinite whole.

3. Maitreyi Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Brihadaranyakopani­shad, II. 4 and IV. 5. Sage Yajnavalkya instructs his Brahmavadini wife, Maitreyi, on the nature of the Highest Self.

O Dear, not for the love of this all, this all is dear, but for the love of the Self, this all is dear. This Atman (Self), O Maitreyi, is to be seen, heard of, reflected upon and meditated upon. O dear, through the seeing of hearing of reflecting upon and knowledge of this Self, all this becomes known. Where there is duality as it were, there one sees the other, smells the other, hears the other, speaks to the other, thinks of the other, understands the other. But where one's Self alone exists everywhere, then through what can one see what, through what can one smell what, through what can one hear what, through what can one speak to what, through what can one think of what, through what can one understand what? Through what can one under­stand that by which everything else is understood? O dear, through what can one understand the understander?

The Bhuma Vidya and the Maitreyi Vidya form the culmination of the entire philosophy of the Upanishads. The Absolute Reality is affirmed and declared in boldest terms in these two Vidyas. The non-existence or the illusory nature of the world-phenomenon and the truth of the One Indivisible Essence is asserted. When cause and effect are di­fferent from one another there arises the concept of duality. When cause and effect are blended into one, everything becomes One without a second. These two Vidyas are useful for the highest Advaitic Medita­tion on the unconditioned Absolute.

4. Sandilya Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Chhandogyopanishad, III, 1. This Vidya is ascribed to the sage Sandilya.

Verily all this is Brahman; Tranquil, one must worship it as that from which this comes forth, as that into which this will be dissolved, as that in which this lives. This, the Soul of mine within the heart, is Brahman. Into Him I shall enter on departing hence.

This Vidya further extends its form of meditation by conceiving of the Self as smaller than an atom and bigger than the universe, containing all works, desires, mind, life, odours, tastes, as being unspeaking and unconcerned, etc. Thus the Vidya is suited to Saguna Meditation, though by divesting it of such particular attributes it may be used for Nirguna Advaita Meditation also.

5. Dahara Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Chhandogyopanishad, VIII. 1.

This abode, the small lotus that is here within this city of Brahman, and the small space within that lotuswhat is there within this space, that is to be searched out, that certainly is to be known. Verily, as extensive as the external Akasa, is this eternal Akasa. Within it are contained the hea­ven and the earth, both fire and wind, both Sun and moon, lightning and stars, both what exists here and what does not exist; everything here is contain­ed within it.

This is one of the greatest of the Vidyas. The all-pervading and all-inclusive nature of the Self is stressed upon in this Vidya. In this meditation, the meditator feels the whole universe as his Self and excludes nothing from the One Self. This Vidya further explains the identity of the external and the internal, the objective and the subjective, the macrocosmic and the microcosmic, the universal and the individual. Brahman and Atman.

6. Vaisvanara Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Chhandogyopanishad, V. 12 to 18. Asvapati Kaikeya describes the Vaisvanara Vidya to Uddalaka and five other seekers after knowledge of the Vaisvanara Self.

Its head is heaven, its eye Surya, its breath Vayu, its trunk Akasa, the Apas its bladder, its feet the earth, its breast the sacrificial altar, its hand the sacrificial grass, its heart the Garhapatya fire, its mind the Anvaharyapachana fire (Dakshinagni), its mouth the Ahavaniya fire.

Thus the Vaisvanara Self is described as pervading the three worlds. The attainment of ex­cellence effected through this Vidya is proportional to the extensiveness or the inclusiveness of the con­ception of the body of the Vaisvanara Self that is meditated upon. A limited conception will bring li­mited results and a wider conception will bring grea­ter results, and an absolute conception will bring im­mediate salvation.

7. Panchagni Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Chhandogyopani­shad, V. 3 to 10, and Brihadaranyakopanishad, VI. 2, and also in Kausitaki briefly. In this Vidya of five fires five acts of the universe are conceived of as sa­crifices with their fire, fuel, smoke, flame, coals and sparks. Thus are the respective sacrifices repre­sented:




























Intermediate Quarters
















The soul on its journey from heaven to be born again in a body has to pass through these five fires in order to acquire its fresh body. Fire disintegra­tes as well as integrates the body, it destroys and creates the body during death and birth respecti­vely. The soul acquires new and new bodies as it de­scends and ascends through these fires. Each time the soul takes a body in each of these five planes an Agnihotra is performed in order to get a body in each world. The organs of the body in their rela­tion to the soul are here the officiating priests of the Agnihotra sacrifices. Each preceding sacrificial ob­lation has the succeeding one produced as the food. One who has got the knowledge of the fires ascends to Saguna Brahman through Devayana Path.

8. Udgitha Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Chhandogyopanishad, I, II.

OM! Thus one should meditate on the Udgitha, for, one sings the loud chant with OM! The essence of all things is the earth. The essence of earth is water. The essence of water is plants. The essence of plants is the person. The essence of the person is speech. The essence of speech is the Rik (hymn). The essence of Rik is Sama. The essence of Sama is Udgitha. This is the best essence of all essences, the highest, the supreme, the eighth, the Udgitha.

This meditation on Udgitha-Omkara is one of the best methods of Upanishadic Sadhana. OM is the supreme essence of Sabda or Sound, and Sound is the source of the entire universe. Hence OM is all the three worlds, past, present and future and even what is beyond the threefold time. During chanting and meditation on Udgitha-Omkara the processes of sound as determined by the Sama-Veda and explained in the Chhandogyopanishad have to be adhered to. OM is the highest symbol of Brah­man, the Sabda-Brahman, from which proceed the Vedas and the worlds. This meditation can be used both for Saguna and Nirguna Realisations.

9. Purusha Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Chhandogyopanishad, III. 16. Here a Person is described as a sacrifice.

Verily, a person is a sacrifice. His first twenty-four years the morning oblation, the next forty-four years are the midday oblation, the third forty-eight years (i. e. until the age of 116) are the third oblation.

One who knows this Vidya lives for 116 years without sickness or disease. The Upanishad says that Mahidasa Aitareya who knew this Vidya said, Oh! Why do you afflict me with sickness? I cannot be destroyed by thee. And he lived for 116 years. Even so any one who knows this.

The details of this Vidya are given in the Man­tras 1 to 7 of the sixteenth section of this Prapatha­ka. This is a method of meditation on one's own life as a sacrifice in order to live a healthy long life.

The first part of the life is devoted to study, the second to household life and the third to spiritual practices. The universalisation of one's conception of life leads to immediate liberation.

10. Paryanka Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Kausitaki Upanishad, I. This describes the Vidya called Paryanka or the couch of Hiranyagarbha or Brahma. Chitra Gargya­yani instructs Uddalaka and Svetaketu on this be­autiful Vidya.

The soul, when it becomes desireless, passes beyond the moon. Then it goes to the world of lightning. Then the Guru meets him. To him the disciple should say, ‘I am thyself'. Then he is allow­ed to move further. Then the soul passes through worlds of Agni, Vayu, Varuna, Indra, Prajapati and lastly Brahma. In the last world, the world of Hi­ranyagarbha, there in the centre of the Hall is sea­ted on his couch Brahma. And to Him he should say, ‘you are everything, and I am yourself', and then he is allowed in and meets Brahma.

Before Brahma is reached the soul passes through various stages of consciousness which are described in detail in the Upanishads. The throne of Brahma called Vichakshana in the Hall called Vibhu-Pramita is described as of immeasurable radiance and splendour. One who reaches this, becomes filled with infinite power and glory. In the Brahma-Sutras it is said that one who goes to this place gets even the power of creating, preserving and destroy­ing the worlds if he gets in tune with the one who is seated on the throne. This meditation leads to Saguna-Brahman.

11. Akshara Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Brihadaranyakopanishad III. 8. Yajnavalka instructs Gargi on the Akshara-Vidya or the Knowledge of the Imperishable Being.

That, O Gargi, Brahmanas call the Imperish­able. It is not coarse, not fine, not short, not long, not glowing, not adhesive, not shadowy, not dark, not airy, not space, not sticky, odourless, tasteless, without eye, without ear, without voice, without wind, without energy, without breath, without mouth, without measure, without inside, without outside. It eats nothing. No one eats it.

This Vidya is the corollary of the neti-neti me­thod of Vedantic Meditation. All phenomenality and relatedness are denied their validity and after nega­ting every conceptual attribute, what remains is That which is, the Eternal, Akshara.

12. Samvarga Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Chhandogyopani­shad, IV. 2, 3. Sage Raikva initiates Janasruti on this Vidya.

Cosmically, Vayu is the ultimatum of all. Fire, Sun, Moon, Parjanya, merge into Vayu only. Indi­vidually, Prana is the ultimatum of all. In sleep, speech, eye, ear, mind merge into Prana only. Vayu and Prana are the two Samvargas or absorbents. Earth, water and fire merge in Vayu.

This is one of the most important Vidyas which elucidates the supremacy of the Prana or the Vital Air both in its cosmical and individual aspects. The atonement of the Prana and the Vayu enables one to reach the Maha-Prana or Hiranyagarbha, the Life-Principle of the universe. This process of Meditation on the Life-Principle lies through the harmonising of the Prana and concentration on the unity of the phychic beings of the individual and the universe. It is told in this Vidya that denying food to a guest at the door is denying food to the Cosmic Life-Prin­ciple for it exists in all equally. To one who knows this, all this world comes to light and he becomes the cosmic consumer of food, the Hiranyagarbha.

13. Madhu Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Chhandogyopanishad, III. 1 to 11.

Verily, the Sun is the honey of the gods. The cross-beam for it is the Sky. The atmosphere is the honey-comb. The light-rays are the eggs. The eas­tern rays are the eastern honey-cells. The Rig ver­ses are the bees. Rig-veda is the flower. Honey is produced thus:

The Rig-verses, brooded upon the Rig-veda. From it, when it had been brooded upon, there was produced as its essence, splendour, brightness, power vigour and food. It flowed forth. It rested in the Sun. That is the red appearance of the Sun.

The Sun is described here in this Vidya as mo­tionless and remaining alone with neither rising nor setting. From the standpoint of the Sun the sky is described as a cross-beam of the honey-comb because the three worlds are like eggs, the higher expand­ing beyond the lower, and from the second world (atmosphere) which is between the Sun and the earth, the third world would appear like a cross-beam. The Sun is the honey or the Self of the se­cond world, even as the Soul is the honey of the body. The Devas or the gods have this honey which they do not drink but are satisfied at the mere sight of it. The metaphorical meditation on the Sun as the honey implies the meditation on the world-soul which is the centre of the worlds and the planes of consciousness existing external to it. This medi­tation leads to Saguna Brahman and to reach the Nirguna Brahman one has to transcend the central essence of the Sun where Brahman is said to be with His Mayaic splendour. One who knows this Vidya, to him the Sun does never set. It is always day for him, the Light of the essential Soul. The Upanishad says that the whole earth with its trea­sures is nothing before this Vidya.

14. Prana Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Chhandogyopanishad, I. 11, and Kausitaki Upanishad, II, III.

Verily, all beings here enter into Prana and depart from it.

In this Kausitaki Upanishad Prana is called the Paryanka of Brahma with indescribable splen­dour. And here Prana is identified with Brahman itself. Prana is Mukhya, the most supreme. Mind is its messenger, ear its door-keeper, speech the true woman, the wife of Prana, the deity of deities. The meditator should rise to the meditation on Brahman from this Mukhya-Prana, which is the starting point of superphysical life.

15. Upakosala Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Chhandogyopanishad, IV. 10-15. Upakosala, the disciple of Satyakama Ja­bala instructed on this Vidya by the three fires.

Prana is Brahman. Happiness is Brahman. Ether is Brahman. Happiness and Ether are one.

The Garhapatya, Dakshinagni and Ahavaniya fires instruct Upakosala on their being the Purushas in the Sun, moon and lightning respectively. Those who meditate upon these pass beyond the world of Agni to which the soul passing through the Devayana is led by the Amanava Purusha. Collective me­ditation on these leads the Upasaka to Prana and Akasa which reflect the bliss of Brahman. The meditator on these three goes beyond earth, fire, food, Sun, water, quarters, stars, moon, breath, space, sky, lightning, which are the bodies of the fires, and reaches the Centre of Joy through the Devayana Path, when these are conceived of as subjective and not objective.

16. Akshi Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Chhandogyopanishad, IV. 15. Satyakama instructs Upakosala.

That person who is seen in the eye, He is the Self. That is Immortal, Fearless. That is Brahman. If anyone pours ghee or water on that, it passes away.

Here meditation in an internal process and not objective. Hence sacrificial oblations with ghee, water, etc., are fruitless in this case. The meditation is not on the eye but the Purusha within it which is the essential Soul functioning in the waking con­dition. A meditator on this goes beyond the wa­king state and is led to the Saguna Brahman. The knower of this Vidya accrues all that is excellent and becomes effulgent. One who reaches this Brah­man returns not to mortal coil.

17. Antaraditya Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Brihadaranyakopani­shad, V. 5. 2.

This Sun is the same as that Real. The person who is there in that orb and the Person who is here in the right eye, these two abide in each other. Through his rays that one abides in this one; through his vital airs this one in that. When one is about to quit the body, he sees that pure orb. The rays do not come to him again.

This is the counterpart of the Akshi Vidya, the cosmic representation of the same, through the com­bination of which two the meditation becomes complete or integral; and there is effected the con­scious revelation of the Real through the merging together of the subjective and the objective manifes­tations of the Purusha.

18. Aditya Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Chhandogyopani­shad, I. 6. 6. 7.

Sa is the white shining of the Sun. Ama is the dark, the ultra-black. This is Sama. That gol­den person who is seen within the Sun has a golden moustache and golden hair and is golden even to the fingernail tips. His eyes are even as Kapisa-lotus. His Name is ‘the High'. He is above all evil and sin. He who knows this goes beyond all evil.

One who realises the Aditya-Purusha through this Vidya goes above sin and reaches Saguna Brah­man. The golden Purusha within the Sun is the shining Self adorned with attributes and hence the Highest Brahman itself conceived of qualitatively.

19. Satyakama Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Chhandogyopanishad, IV. 4. 9. Sage Haridrumata's disciple, Satyakama Ja­bala is instructed by a Bull, Fire, a Swam and a Bird.

The four quarters are the first Pada of Brah­man called ‘shining'. The earth, the atmosphere, the sky, the ocean, are the second Pada of Brahman called ‘Endless'. Fire, Sun, Moon, Lightning are the third Pada of Brahman called ‘Dazzling'. The breath, the eye, the ear, the mind, are the fourth Pada of Brahman called Having-Abode.

This Vidya makes one shining, endless, dazz­ling and with an abode or support. The meditator reaches the Saguna Brahman by passing beyond the quarters and reaching the Whole consisting of four quarters through gradual transcending of the Padas in the process of meditation on the symbols that re­present the manifestations of the one Brahman.

20. Akasa Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Chhandogyopanishad, I. 9, 1-2.

Verily, all things here arise out of space. They disappear back into space, for space alone is grea­ter than all these. It is the great goal. This is the most excellent Udgitha. This is endless. The most excellent belongs to him, the most excellent worlds does he win who, knowing it thus, meditates on the most excellent Udgitha. Verily, what is called space is the accomplisher of name and form. That within which they are is Brahman. That is Immor­tal. That is the Self. I shall attain the abode and assembly-hall of Prajapati.

Akasa is the highest of all Tattvas and is the great receptacle. Vayu is the great consumer. The Akasa is Udgitha for sound is the Tanmatra of Akasa. Space or ether is the producer of the name-and-form-world and Brahman is beyond the two. This Brahman is Saguna Brahman. Ether is the highest and subtlest principle and hence nearest to Brahman.

21. Bhrigu-Varuni Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Taittiriyopanishad, third Valli.

He realised that Bliss is Brahman. From Bliss, indeed, are all beings born, in Bliss, when born, they live, into Bliss, in the end, they enter.

Whoever transcends the five Kosas and realises that Bliss is Brahman gets established in Brahman. He becomes great in splendour, great in Knowledge great in fame, one who knows this.

This Vidya aims at the innermost seat of Bliss, on a small part of which other creatures are living.

22. Anandamaya Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Taittiriyopanishad, se­cond Valli, eighth Anuvaka.

The Bliss of one good youth well versed in the Vedas, firm, strong, healthy, quick, to whom the whole earth with all its wealth belongs, is one kind of bliss. Hundredfold and hundredfold greater in bliss in the order of succession are the states of Manushya-Gandharvas, Deva-Gandharvas, Pitris, Ajnanaja-Devas, Karma-Devas, Devas, Indra, Brihaspati, Prajapati, Brahman.

The bliss of Brahman is not to be considered as equal to a result mathematically arrived at by multiplying human joy by many hundredfolds but it is the Bliss that is indescribable and infinite, the eternal the only existence. Every time it is asserted that the Veda-knower enjoys all these degrees of Bliss pro­vided he is untainted by desire and passion.

23. Ushasta-Kahola Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Brihadaranyakopanish­ad, III, 4. 5. Rishi Yajnavalkya instructs Ushasta and Kahola.

He (Brahman) is your Soul, which is in all things, breathes in with your breathing in is the Soul of yours, which is in all things. He who breathes out with your breathing, out is the Soul of yours, which is in all things. He who breathes about with your breathing about is the Soul of yours, which is in all things. He who breathes up with your breathing up is that Soul of yours, which is in all things. He is your Soul which is in all things. You cannot see the Seer of seeing. You cannot hear the hearer of hearing. You cannot think the Thinker of thinking. You cannot understand the Understander of under­standing. He is your Soul, which is in all things. Everything else than Him is wretched.

He who is beyond hunger and thirst, beyond sorrow and delusion, beyond old age and death, know­ing Him who is the Soul, Brahmanas renounce the desire for sons, desire for wealth, desire for worlds, and live the life of mendicants. Let a Brahmana, therefore, become disgusted with learning and desire to live like a child. When he has become disgusted both with the childlike state and learning, then he becomes silent. When he has become disgusted both with the silent (Mouna) state and the non-silent (Amouna) state, then he becomes a Brahmana.

In both of these meditations the Self is to be medi­tated upon as identical with Brahman.

24. Uddalaka-Aruni Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Brihadaranyakopani­shad, III. 7. Yajnavalkya instructs Uddalaka Aruni.

Wind, O Gautama, is the thread that ties to­gether this world and the other world and all things. Therefore, O Gautama, they say of a deceased person, ‘his limbs become united (because the Prana-Vayu has departed)'.

He who dwells in all beings, and yet, who is other than all beings, who controls all beings from within, He is your Soul, the Inner Ruler, the Im­mortal. There is no other seer but He, there is no other hearer but He, there is no other thinker but He, there is no other understander but He; He is your Soul, the Inner Ruler, the Immortal! All else than Him is wretched.

In this Vidya meditation is to be practised on the absolute identity of the Self and Brahman which is One Fullness of Existence.

25. Svetaketu Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Chhandogyopanishad, VI. 8. Uddalaka instructs Svetaketu on the identity of the Atman and the Brahman.

That which is the finest Essence, the whole uni­verse has That as its Self. That is the Reality. That is the Atman. That thou art, O Svetaketu!

This is called the Abheda-Bodha-Vakya or the Brahma-Upadesa-Vakya which asserts the one Unity of Existence, the Unity of the subjective Self and the Infinite Brahman. This is understood through its right and direct meaning or Lakshyartha which conveys the truth of one's being the Highest Brahman Itself. The Lakshyarthas of That and Thou are Brah­man and the Kutastha-Chaitanya and the word Art signifies the oneness of these two forms of Pure Consciousness.

26. Jyotisham Jyotir-Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Brihadaranyakopani­shad, IV. 16.

This is the Vidya of the Light of Lights.

That before which the year revolves with its days, That the Devas worship as the Light of Lights and Life Immortal.

Here the meditator is to contemplate on Brah­man as the Light of Lights, the Brilliant, Dazzling Consciousness. Thereby the meditator, being already the Light of Consciousness, becomes the light of the Brahman-Consciousness.

27. Satya-Jnana-Ananta Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Taittiryopanishad, II. 1.

Brahman is Truth, Knowledge, Infinity.

This is the Svarupa-Lakshana or the essential nature of Brahman. Infinity is Bliss, Brahman is Consciousness-Bliss these are the declarations of the Chhandogya and the Brihadaranyaka Upanishads regarding the nature of Brahman. Hence Truth-Know­ledge-Infinity means Existence-Knowledge-Bliss or Satchidananda.

28. Shodasakala Vidya

This Vidya occurs in the Prasna Upanishad, VI. 4, 5.

He (Purusha) created Prana; from Prana, faith, space, wind, light, water, earth, sense-faculty, mind, food; from food virility, austerity, Mantras, sacrifice, the worlds; and in the worlds, name (indi­viduality). As these flowing rivers that tend towards the ocean disappear, their names and forms are des­troyed, and it is called simply ‘the ocean. ‘Even so of this seer these sixteen parts that tend towards the Person, on reaching the Person, disappear, their names and forms destroyed, and it is called simply ‘the Person.' That One exists without parts, Im­mortal!

This is a meditation on the process of the high­est Salvation of the self through merging in the high­est Imperishable Purusha, whereby the meditator gets immediate Liberation.


All the Vidyas lead one from the unreal to the Real, from darkness to Light, from mortality to Immortality. They lead the soul from the Moola-Ajnana to the highest Brahman either through Krama-Mukti or Sadyo-Mukti. Sri Sankaracharya says in his Brahma-Sutra-Bhashya that even those who go to Saguna-Brahman (through Vidya-Upasanas) will ultimately go to Nirguna-Brahman.

It is a settled matter that those who through Perfect Knowledge have dispelled all mental darkness and are devoted to the Eternally perfect Nirvana do not return. And as those also who rely on the knowledge of the Saguna-Brahman in the end have recourse to that Nirvana, it follows that they also do not return. (Brahma-Sutra-Bhashya: IV. 4. 22).

copyright © 2020 the divine life society. All rights reserved.