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The Bruhadaranyaka Upanishad
Spiritual Tunes in the Forest (Part 2)


Therefore, O Maitreyi, 'आत्मा वा अरे द्रष्टव्यः श्रोतव्यो मन्तव्यो निदिध्यासितव्यः' ‘Ãtmã vã are drashtavyaha shrotavyo mantavyo nididhyãsitavyaha’ (Bruhadãranyaka Upanishad: 2/4/5). Meaning, one must endeavour to realize that Paramãtmã; and in order to do that, ‘one must listen to his glory, his divine actions and incidents, his divine attributes, his divine powers, etc.’. Here, shrotavyaha (श्रोतव्यः) not only deals with listening, but also implies using one’s eyes, nose, etc. to understand Parmãtmã’s greatness. Just like we hear his greatness with our ears, we should see him to be pure with our eyes, we should reveal his greatness with our speech, etc. In short, we should engage all of our senses in Paramãtmã’s form.
Yet this is not enough for complete realization. This is just the first step. The second step is 'मन्तव्यः' ‘Mantavyaha’ – ‘Contemplation’. Whatever we have heard about Paramãtmã, wherever and in whatever way we have seen or served him, should all be contemplated on. Even if something has been seen or heard repeatedly, if one does not contemplate on it, it is as if it has not been seen or heard at all. However, if something has been seen or heard once and thereafter contemplated on just once, it remains steadfast as if it has been seen or heard a hundred times over. Then what is to be said of something that is contemplated on repeatedly? Thus, the power of contemplation is not ordinary. Therefore, we should contemplate on whatever first hand experience we have had of Paramãtmã.
We then move one step further. 'निदिध्यासितव्यः'‘Nididhyãsitavyaha’. Nididhyãsan means to practically imbibe the appropriate thoughts that one has heard or seen and contemplated. If one does shravan, manan, and nididhyãsan in this way, one attains sãkshãtkãr – realization. In this way, Yãgnavalkya has revealed the best way of realizing Paramãtmã.
Yãgnavalkya then explains the priceless benefit gained by one who attains realization in this way, 'मैत्रेय्यात्मनो वा अरे दर्शनेन श्रवणेन मत्या विज्ञानेनेदं सर्वं विदितम्‌' ‘Maitreyyãtmano vã are darshanena shravanena matyã vignãnenedam sarvam viditam’ (Bruhadãranyakaa Upanishad: 2/4/5). Meaning, O Maitrayi! One who has done shravan, manan, and nididhyãsan on Paramãtmã properly and attained realization has known everything. There is nothing else for him to see, hear, know, or contemplate. Maitrayi! This is the knowledge to attain immortality. I have explained it to you and am myself eager to attain that realization. I have resolved to go to the forest so that I may peacefully do manan and nididhyãsan of Paramãtmã.
Maitrayi felt grateful to her husband for having disclosed these precepts to her.
This spiritual discussion between a husband and wife has great philosophical significance.
'जनको ह वैदेहो बहुदक्षिणेन यज्ञेनेजे' – ‘Janako ha vaideho bahudakshinena yagneneje’ (Bruhadãranyaka Upanishad: 3/1/1). There was a king named Janak of a region called Videha. He once performed a Bahudakshinãk Yagna. A great number of Brahmins and scholars from the surrounding regions had gathered to attend this yagna. 'तस्य ह जनकस्य वैदेहस्य विजिज्ञासा बभूव' ‘Tasya ha Janakasya vaidehasya vijignãsã babhuva’ (Bruhadãranyaka Upanishad: 3/1/1). Seeing so many Brahmins and scholars the king became curious. 'कःस्विदेषां ब्राह्मणानामनूचानतम इति' ‘Kahasvideshãm brãhmanãnãmanoochãnatama iti’ (Bruhadãranyaka Upanishad: 3/1/1). Janak asked, “Who is the wisest among all of these Brahmin scholars?” How should this be decided? The king had an idea 'स ह गवां सहस्रमवरुरोघ' – ‘Sa ha gavãm sahasramavarurodha’ (Bruhadãranyaka Upanishad: 3/1/1). He called for a thousand cows. These cows had ten gold coins on each horn – 'दश दश पादा एकैकस्याः श्रृङ्‌गयोराबद्धा बभूवुः' ‘Dasha dasha pãdã ekaiksyãhã shrungayorãbaddhã babhoovuhu’ (Bruhadãranyaka Upanishad: 3/1/1). The Brahmins were delighted to see this. The king challenged, 'ब्राह्मणा भगवन्तो यो वो ब्रह्मिष्ठः स एता गा उदजतामिति' Brãhmanã bhagavanto yo vo brahmishthaha sa etã gã udajatãmiti’ – ‘O respected Brahmins, whichever one of you knows brahmavidyã can take these cows’ (Bruhadãranyaka Upanishad: 3/1/2). The challenge left the Brahmins speechless. Since they had not attained brahmavidyã, they were unable to take the cows. Just then, 'याज्ञवल्क्यः स्वयमेव ब्रह्मचारिणमुवाचैताः सो योदज सामश्रवा इति' – ‘Yãgnavalkyaha svayameva brahmachãrinamuvãchaitãhã somyodaja sãmashravã iti’ – ‘A Brahmin named Yãgnavalkya said to his disciple, “O Sãmashravã! Take the cows,” and Sãmashravã began to lead the cows away. When the other Brahmins saw this they became jealous and burned with anger – 'ते ह ब्राह्मणाश्र्चुक्रुघुः'‘Te ha brãhmanãshchukrudhuhu’ (Bruhadãranyaka Upanishad: 3/1/2). They objected, 'कथं नो ब्रह्मिष्ठो ब्रुवीतेति'‘Katham no brahmishtho bruveeteti’ – ‘How can Yãgnavalkya decide on his own that he knows brahmavidyã the most amongst all of us? He should be tested’ (Bruhadãranyaka Upanishad: 3/1/2). A Brahmin named Ashval, who had been performing the rituals in King Janak’s yagna asked Yãgnavalkya, “Are you really the best brahmagnãni amongst us all?” Yãgnavalkya calmly replied, 'नमो वयं ब्रह्मिष्ठाय कुर्मो गोकामा एव वयं स्म इति' ‘Namo vayam brahmishthãya kurmo gokãmã eva vayam sma iti’ (Bruhadãranyaka Upanishad: 3/1/2) – ‘O Brahmins! Even I bow to the great brahmagnãnis. I just wanted the cows.’ Yãgnavalkya had a big ashram, and as a result, needed the cows so that arrangements could be made for guests and those who lived there. Because his need was genuine, he felt it was appropriate to take the cows. Morevoer, as per the king’s announcement he was a knower of Brahman. Therefore, there was nothing wrong in him doing so. Yet the other Brahmins could not accept this. They said, “If you want to take the cows, then you must give clear answers to the questions we ask in the presence of the king in this public assembly. If you do not know an answer, then the cows will be returned to their pen.” Yãgnavalkya accepted the challenge. Ashval made the first challenge. He asked eight questions, one after another, and Yãgnavalkya immediately answered them clearly. Hearing this, 'होताऽश्वल उपरराम' ‘Hotã’shvala upararãma’ (Bruhadãranyaka Upanishad: 3/1/10). Meaning, Ashval became silent and could not think of what to ask next.
'अथ हैनं जारत्कारव आर्तभागः पप्रत्व्छ'‘Atha hainam Jãratkãrava ãrtabhãgaha papraccha’ (Bruhadãranyaka Upanishad: 3/2/1). Meaning: Seeing this, Ãrtabhãg, born in the Jaratkãru lineage, took on the task of asking questions. He too asked many questions, and Yãgnavalkya satisfactorily answered them all. As a result, 'जारत्कारव आर्तभाग उपरराम' ‘Ãrtabhãg also became silent’(Bruhadãranyaka Upanishad: 3/2/13).
'अथ हैनं भुज्युर्लाह्यायनिः पप्रत्व्छ' ‘Atha hainam Bhujyurlãhyãyanihi papraccha’ (Bruhadãranyaka Upanishad: 3/3/1). Thereafter, Bhujyu, the son of a Brahmin named Lãhya, asked questions. Yãgnavalkya answered these too. Therefore Lãhya too became silent.
'अथ हैनमुषस्तश्र्चाक्रायणः पप्रत्व्छ' ‘Atha hainamushastashchãkrãyanaha papraccha’ (Bruhadãranyaka Upanishad: 3/3/1). Thereafter, Ushast, a Brahmin born in the Chakra lineage, took on the task of asking questions, but on getting answers, he too became quiet and returned to his seat.
'अथ हैनं कहोलः कौषीतकेयः पप्रत्व्छ' ‘Atha hainam kaholaha kausheetakeyaha papraccha’ (Bruhadãranyaka Upanishad: 3/5/1). Thereafter, it was Kahol’s, the son of a Brahmin named Kushitak, turn. He asked, 'य आत्मा सर्वान्तरस्तं मे व्याचक्षष्वेति' ‘Ya ãtmã sarvãntarastam me vyãchakshashveti’ – ‘Who is the ãtmã that resides within all?’ (Bruhadãranyaka Upanishad: 3/5/1). Yãgnavalkya replied, ‘That is Paramãtmã. He resides within all by pervading all.’ That is why, 'तमात्मानं विदित्वा ब्राह्मणाः पुत्रैषणायाश्र्च वित्तैषणायाश्र्च लोकैषणायाश्र्च व्युत्थाय भिक्षाचर्यं चरन्ति' – ‘Tamãtmãnam viditvã brãhmanãhã putraishanãyãshcha vittaishanãyãshcha lokaishanãyãshcha vyutthãya bhikshãcharyam charanti’ (Bruhadãranyaka Upanishad: 3/5/1). Brahmins who realize Paramãtmã, renounce their desires for children, wealth, and the world and live only on what they receive so that they can immerse themselves in Paramãtmã’s meditation. Hearing this answer, even Kahol became silent.

Sadhu Bhadreshdas, Ph. D., D.Litt.
Translated by: Sadhu Paramvivekdas

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