THE GLORY OF EDUCATION
Where there is education, there is progress and upliftment. Where there is no education, there is no progress; there is degradation, and society has to confront misery. That is why, since Vedic times, we have been continually inspired to study. This is evident in this Upanishad. The words of the mantra are: ‘ऋतं च स्वाध्यायप्रवचने च। सत्यं च स्वाध्यायप्रवचने च। तपश्र्च स्वाध्यायप्रवचने च। दमश्र्च स्वाध्यायप्रवचने च।’ – ‘Rutam cha svãdhyãyapravachane cha; satyam cha svãdhyãyapravachane cha; tapashcha svãdhyãyapravachane cha; damashcha svãdhyãyapravachane cha’ (Taittireeya Upanishad: 1/17). Svãdhyãya means the act of learning, to study; pravachana means to teach. Thus, the shastras command us to teach and to learn. We should ever preserve this heritage of ours.
THE CONVOCATION SPEECH
The tradition of convocation ceremonies has been with us since Vedic times. One notices this in the 11th chapter (anuvãka) of the Shikshãvalli. According to our Vedic educational traditions, a student lives in an ashram. For a number of years, the students learn from teachers experienced in various subjects and attain proficiency in a variety of fields. When their education is over, a convocation ceremony is held. The teacher himself ceremoniously announces the degrees of the students. This convocation ceremony is the students’ final class. From that day on, these profound young men will leave the ashram and take their first steps in society for the good of all. They will start a new life. Therefore, the teacher fondly gives them his last words of advice. These precepts are themselves the convocation ceremony. They encompass the essence of all education. Let us see what this uplifting convocation ceremony contains.
‘वेदमनूत्व्याचार्योऽन्तेवासिनमनुशास्ति’ – ‘Vedamanoochyãchãryo’ntevãsinamanushãsti’ – ‘The teacher instructs the students who have completed their study of the Vedas’ (Taittireeya Upanishad: 1/11). He instructs them, ‘सत्यं वद। घर्मं चर। स्वाध्यायान् मा प्रमदः।’ ‘Satyam vada; dharmam chara; svãdhyãyãn mã pramadaha’ – ‘Speak the truth. Abide by your dharma. Never be idle in your studies’ (Taittireeya Upanishad: 1/11). ‘मातृदेवो भव। पितृदेवो भव। आचार्यदेवो भव। अतिथिदेवो भव।’ – ‘Matruvedo bhava, pitrudevo bhava, atithidevo bhava’ – ‘Know your mother to be like a goddess (i.e. serve her and please her as if she were a goddess), know your father to be like a god, know your teacher to be like a god, know a guest to be like a god’ (Taittireeya Upanishad: 1/11). ‘यान्यनवद्यानि कर्माणि। तानि सेवितव्यानि। नो इतराणि।’ – ‘Yãnyanavadyãni karmãni, tãni sevitavyãni, no itarãni’ – ‘O disciples! Only do those actions which are in accordance with the shastras and society. Do not perform actions that oppose this’ (Taittireeya Upanishad: 1/11). ‘यान्यस्माकं सुचरितानि तानि त्वयोपास्यानि। नो इतराणि। ये के चास्मत्व्छ्रेयांसो ब्राह्मणाः। तेषां त्वयाऽऽसनेन प्रश्वसितव्यम्।’ – ‘Yãnyasmãkam sucharitãni tãni tvayopãsyãni, no itarãni, ye ke chãsmachchhreyãnso brãhmanãhã, teshãm tvayã’’sanena prashvasitavyam’ – ‘Moreover, only adopt our good conduct, nothing else. After leaving here, if you find a teacher better than us, then respect him, pay homage to him by offering him a seat’ (Taittireeya Upanishad: 1/11). In this way, having given a priceless lesson, the teacher finally says: ‘एष आदेशः। एष उपदेशः। एतदनुशासनम्। एवमुपासितव्यम्।’ – ‘Esha ãdeshaha, esha upadeshaha, etadanushãsanam, evamupãsitavyam’ – ‘This is our final command. This is the teaching. Go forth, live according to this’ (Taittireeya Upanishad: 1/11).
On completion of the convocation speech, the Shikshãvalli ends with a further prayer for peace.
Thus, in the Shikshãvalli, we see the noble outlook on life and rich philosophical thought in our Sanatana Vedic tradition.
In this Upanishad, after the Shikshãvalli, we find the precepts of spirituality – brahmavidyã – in the Ãnandavalli. Let us take a glimpse.
A Promise: Who Knows Brahman Attains Parabrahman
As the Ãnandavalli begins, the first words herald the Akshar-Purushottam principle. The Taittireeya Upanishad commences trumpeting the words of the Shikshãvalli: ‘ॐ ब्रह्मविद् आप्नोति परम्’ – ‘Aum Brahmavid ãpnoti Param’ – ‘One who knows Brahman, i.e., Aksharbrahman, attains Param, i.e., Parabrahman’ (Taittireeya Upanishad: 2/1). Knowing Aksharbrahman does not mean just information, but realization. We must become brahmarup or aksharrup. This is a pledge to the attainment of Parabrahman for one who becomes brahmarup. The same point was explained to Arjuna: ‘ब्रह्मभूतः प्रसन्नात्मा न शोचति न काङ्क्षति। समः सर्वेषु भूतेषु मद्भक्तिं लभते पराम्॥’ – ‘Brahmabhootaha prasannãtmã na shochati na kãnkshati, samaha sarveshu bhooteshu madbhaktim labhate parãm’ (Gitã: 18/74). For this very reason, Bhagwan Swaminarayan reaffirms this point saying that only one who becomes brahmarup has the right to offer devotion to Paramãtmã. (Vachanãmrutam Loya 7). Moreover, Aksharbrahman Gunatitanand Swami has explained the supreme goal of life with the same principle: “We are born to accomplish two things. One, to become aksharrup; and two, to join with Paramãtmã” (Swamini Vãto: 4/101).
Thus, in this way, by saying ‘Brahmavid ãpnoti Param’ (Taittireeya Upanishad: 2/1) it is as though brahmavidyã in its entirety has been given here concisely.
Acquaintance with Brahman
The Upanishad does not just stop after saying that it is necessary to know Aksharbrahman in order to attain Parabrahman. So that Aksharbahman can be known easily, it also acquaints us with the divine form of Aksharbrahman. The Upanishad says: ‘सत्यं ज्ञानम् अनन्तं ब्रह्म’ – ‘Satyam jnãnam anantam Brahma’ (Taittireeya Upanishad: 2/1). Aksharbrahman is satyam, i.e., its form and characterisitics remain in existence forever, with no change whatsoever. Aksharbrahman is jnãnam, i.e., it is the form of knowledge, ever undefiled by mãyã. This is why the Aitareya Upanishad sings the glory of Aksharbrahman with the words ‘प्रज्ञानं ब्रह्म’ ‘Pragnãnam Brahma’ (Aitareya Upanishad: 2/1). Aksharbrahman is anantam. Anta means end, that without an end is ananta, i.e., indestructible. Anta also means boundary, ananta means without a boundary. Aksharbrahman pervades everything by its omniscience and is therefore ananta.
Experiencing the Bliss of Parabrahman with Aksharbrahman
‘सोऽश्नुते सर्वान् कामान् सह ब्रह्मणा विपश्र्चितेति’ – ‘So’shnute sarvãn kãmãn saha Brahmanã vipashchiteti’ (Taittireeya Upanishad: 2/1). The gist of this mantra is that just like Aksharbrahman experiences the supreme bliss of Paramãtmã, so does the brahmarup devotee who has realized that Aksharbrahman.
This Upanishad also informs us of what happens if one does not know that Aksharbrahman. ‘असन्नेव स भवति। असद् ब्रह्मेति वेद चेत्’ – ‘Asanneva sa bhavati; asad brahmeti veda chet’ (Taittireeya Upanishad: 2/6). Meaning, he who believes Aksharbrahman to be non-existent, he who does not know the existence of Aksharbrahman, loses the purpose of his own existence.
In this way, the Aksharbrahman entity, necessary for gaining the brahmajnãn required to attain Parabrahman, is described.
The glory of Paramãtmã has been sung here as blissful. ‘तस्माद्वा एतस्माद् विज्ञानमयाद्। अन्योऽन्तर आत्मा आनन्दमयः’ – ‘Tasmãdvã etasmãd vijnãnamayãd’ (Taittireeya Upanishad: 2/5). In this mantra, the word vijnãnmaya refers to the ãtmã. Paramãtmã Parabrahman, who omnisciently resides within the ãtmã and is the ãtmã of all ãtmãs, is full of bliss. ‘रसो वै सः’ – ‘Raso vai saha’ – That Paramãtmã is blissful. (Taittireeya Upanishad: 2/7). Not only that, with the words ‘रसं ह्येव लब्ध्वाऽऽनन्दी भवति। एष ह्येवाऽऽनन्दयाति’ – ‘Rasam hyeva labdhvã’’nandee bhavati, esha hyevã’’nandayati’ (Taittireeya Upanishad: 2/7). This blissful Paramãtmã is the cause of the bliss of all. Bliss is only experienced by attaining him. He is the one who makes everyone blissful.
Can the bliss of Paramãtmã, who is ever blissful and the cause of the bliss of all, be described? What is that bliss like? To what extent? This has also been contemplated on here.
Sadhu Bhadreshdas, Ph. D., D.Litt.
Translated by: Sadhu Paramvivekdas