ஞாயிறு, 19 ஏப்ரல், 2015

Aitareya Upanishad

ராதே கிருஷ்ணா 20-04-2015

Aitareya Upanishad

Part of a series on the
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Bṛhadāraṇyaka  · Īṣa
Taittirīya  · Kaṭha
Chāndogya · Kena
Muṇḍaka ·Māṇḍūkya ·Praśna
Other Major Upanishads
Shvetashvatara ·Kaushitaki ·Maitrayaniya
The Aitareya Upanishad is a Mukhya Upanishad, associated with the Rigveda. It comprises the fourth, fifth and sixth chapters of the second book of Aitareya Aranyaka, which is one of the four layers of Rig vedic text.
Aitareya Upanishad discusses three philosophical themes: first, that the world and man is the creation of the Atman (Soul, Universal Self); second, the theory that the Atman undergoes threefold birth; third, that Consciousness is the essence of Atman.


Aitareya Upanishad is a primary ancient Upanishad, and is listed as number 8 in the Muktika canon of 108 Upanishads. Considered one of the middle Upanishads, the date of composition is not known but has been estimated by scholars to be sometime around 6th or 5th century BCE.
The Aitareya Upanishad is a short prose text, divided into three chapters, containing 33 verses.

First chapter

In the first chapter of the Aitareya Upanishad, Atman is asserted to have existed alone prior to the creation of the universe. It is this Atman, the Soul or the Inner Self, that is then portrayed as the creator of everything from itself and nothing, through heat. The text states that the Atman created the universe in stages. First came four entities: space, maram(earth, stars), maricih (light-atom) and apas (ur-water, cosmic fluid).[2] After these came into existence, came the cosmic self and eight psyches and principles (speech, in-breathing, sight, hearing, skin/hair, mind, out-breathing, reproductivity). Atman then created eight guardians corresponding to these psyches and principles.[2] Then, asserts Aitareya Upanishad, came the connective principles of hunger and thirst, where everything became interdependent on everything else through the principle of apana (digestion). Thereafter came man, who could not exist without a sense of Self and Soul (Atman). But this sense then began cogitating on itself, saying that "I am more than my sensory organs, I am more than my mind, I am more than my reproductive ability", and then asked (abridged),
Who am I?
—Aitareya Upanishad, Chapter 1, Hymn 11[2][4]
Paul Deussen summarizes the first chapter of Aitareya Upanishad as follows,
The world as a creation, the Man as the highest manifestation of the Atman who is also named as the Brahman - this is the basic idea of this section.
Paul Deussen, Aitareya Upanishad, Chapter 1[5]

Second chapter

In the second chapter, Aitareya Upanishad asserts that the Atman in any man is born thrice: first, when a child is born (procreation); second, when the child has been cared for and loved to Selfhood where the child equals the parent; third, when the parent dies and the Atman transmigrates.[2] The overall idea of chapter 2 of Aitareya Upanishad is that it is procreation and nurturing of children that makes a man immortal, and the theory of rebirth, which are the means by which Atman sustainably persists in this universe.[2]

Third Chapter

The third chapter of Aitareya Upanishad discusses the nature of Atman. It declares that consciousness is what defines man, the source of all intellectual and moral theories, all gods, all living beings (man, animals, plants), all that there is. Then the Upanishad asserts that the key to the riddle of the Universe is one's own inner self.[2] To know the universe, know thyself. Become immortal, suggests the Aitareya Upanishad, by being you.[2]
Max Muller translates parts of the chapter as follows (abridged),[6]
Who is he whom we meditate on as the Self? Which is the Self?
Everything are various names only of Knowledge (the true Self)
Everything is led (produced) by knowledge.
It rests on Knowledge. The world is led by Knowledge. Knowledge is its cause.
Knowledge is Brahman.
—Aitareya Upanishad, Chapter 3[6]
Aitareya Upanishad, like other Upanishads of Hinduism, asserts the existence of Consciousness as Atman, the Self or Brahman. It contains one of the most famous expressions of the Vedanta, "Prajnanam Brahma" (Knowledge is Brahman/god/divine/holy),[7] which is one of the Mahāvākyas.

Aitareya Upanishad: Origin of the Universe & Man (Part-1) T.N.Sethumadhavan Preamble Aitareya Upanishad is a common ground for philosophy and physics. It contains the mahavakya, the great aphorism “prajnanam brahma”, Consciousness is Brahman. Aitareya Upanishad identifies Consciousness as the First Cause of creation. This is forerunner of ‘Unified Field Theory’ or a ‘Theory of Everything’ which the modern physicists are trying to discover although the modern science does not recognize Consciousness as a factor in creation of the universe. One of the oldest pastimes of man is to run the search engine of his contemplative and analytical faculties to find out the final answer to the riddle of creation of the universe. This question is not merely academic but it also assumes the colors of religion, philosophy, science and poetry. We have answers to this enigma in every religion. We have scientific theories throwing up endless ever changing conclusions, the most path-breaking of which is Charles Darwin’s “Origin of Species” followed by Stephen Hawking and others. We have philosophers’ speculations and poetic imaginations. But the mystery of creation remains as much unfathomed and unsolved today as in the Vedic days. For a detailed analysis of the subject the reader may refer to my article entitled “Mystery of Creation - Some Vedantic Concepts” under the category ‘Vedanta’ available in this Website. VEDIC PERSPECTIVE ON CREATION Creation is interpreted in the Vedas as a developmental course rather than as bringing into being something not hitherto existent. It was considered as an ongoing-process and not an event. The Purusha Sukta of Rig Veda paints a picture of the ideal Primeval Being existing before any phenomenal existence. He is conceived as a cosmic person with a thousand heads, eyes and feet, who filled the whole universe and extended beyond it. The world form is only a fragment of this divine reality. The first principle which is called Purusha manifested as the whole world by his Tapas. This view gets crystallized into the later Upanishadic doctrine that the spirit or Atman in man (at microcosm) is the same as the spirit which is the cause of the world which goes by the name Brahman or Paramatman (at macrocosm). These theories are discussed in elaborate details in the following Upanishads Viz., Prasna, Aitareya, Mundaka, Taittiriya, Katha, Chandogya, Svetasvatara, Brhadaranyaka, Maitri, Paingala Upanishads besides the Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Vasishtha. Among the latter Acharyas the contributions made by Gaudapada, and Adi Sankara to these thoughts are colossal. 2 A brief quotation from the article “Cosmology in Vedanta” by Swami Tathagatananda published by Vedanta Society of New York given below brings out lucidly the perspectives of both Vedanta and modern science on this subject. Quote--“A perceptive reader will find many striking similarities between the latest findings of Astrophysics and ancient Indian cosmological ideas, of which Swamiji (Vivekananda) says: " . . . you will find how wonderfully they are in accordance with the latest discoveries of modern science; and where there is disharmony, you will find that it is modern science which lacks and not they." Einstein writes that "cosmic expansion may be simply a temporary condition which will be followed at some future epoch of cosmic time by a period of contraction. The universe in this picture is a pulsating balloon in which cycles of expansion and contraction succeed each other through eternity." The modern astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking, writes: "At the big bang itself, the universe is thought to have had zero size, and so to have been infinitely hot . . . The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired." The Vedas also state that creation is ongoing: what has been in the past is being repeated in the new cycle. Stephen Hawking writes, "Thus, when we see the universe, we are seeing it as it was in the past." He further writes, "But how did he [God] choose the initial state or configuration of the universe? One possible answer is to say that God chose the initial configuration of the universe for reasons that we cannot hope to know." It is perhaps enough for the modern mind to know how great is the similarity. Vedanta does not support the "big bang" theory and its mechanistic materialism. We have merely cited certain common ideas to be found in both. Brahman is the ultimate Reality. Brahman is impersonal-personal God. Impersonal God may be called the static aspect and personal God may be called the dynamic aspect of Brahman. The static aspect Anid Avatam - as Rg-Veda puts it, "It existed without any movement." Brahman is truth, Consciousness and Infinitude. Knowledge, will and action are inherent in Brahman. God projects the universe by animating His prakriti (maya). Astrophysics and Advaita Vedanta agree on certain points. Advaita Vedanta upholds the notion of the pulsating or oscillating universe. Creation is followed by dissolution and this process will continue ad infinitum. Science used the term "big bang" for the starting point of creation and "big crunch" for the dissolution of the universe. The "cosmic egg” of Vedanta, which is like a point, is called singularity in astrophysics. The background material of the scientist cannot be accepted as the source of creation. That is the biggest difference between the two systems. Science is still exploring and 3 remains inconclusive but Vedanta has given the final verdict, which is unassailable. Unless there is one changeless Reality, change cannot be perceived at all”.--Unquote We will now attempt to study the Aitareya Upanishad in detail. (We have already covered in full the study of the Prasna and Svetasvatara Upanishads and briefly the Mundaka Upanishad in this website). Introduction to the Aitareya Upanishad The Aitareya Upanishad belongs to the Aitareya Aranyaka and is a part of the Rig Veda. This Upanishad consists of 3 chapters; the first chapter has 3 sections and the remaining two chapters do not have any sections. In the earlier portions of the Aranyaka rituals for the attainment of oneness with Saguna Brahman and their interpretations are dealt with. It is the purpose of the Upanishad to lead the mind of the ritualist away from the outer cermonials to their inner meaning. Sankara points out that there are three classes of men who wish to acquire wisdom. The highest consist of those who have turned away from the world, whose minds are freed and collected, who are eager for freedom. For such seekers this Upanishad is intended. (The other two classes of people are those who want to become free gradually and those who care only for worldly possessions). The first chapter describes the creation. It provides an allegorical description of the creation of the universe - as also of man – from Consciousness. It uses the word ‘Brahman’ for universal Consciousness and ‘Atman’ for individual Consciousness. These two words embrace all possible concepts about God and all known names of God without any contradiction whatsoever. Atman alone exists as the sole Reality prior to the creation of all names and forms of the phenomenal world and during their continuance and after their dissolution as well. It projects the created objects through its wondrous powers of maya. The creation is the spontaneous act of the Creator who is not impelled by any desire or necessity. It is the projection of creator’s thoughts. The stages of creation are as follows: the different worlds, the Virat(representing the totality of the physical bodies)► ►the deities or Devas (who control the various organs) ►►the elements►►the individual bodies►►and the food by which these bodies are sustained. After creation the Creator enters into the bodies as their living self. Thus is projected the universe of diversity. Next the Upanishad deals with the refutation (apavada) of this universe in order to arrive at the Knowledge of Atman. THE TEXT atha aitareyopaniShadi prathamAdhyAye prathamaH khaNDaH

Essence of the Aitareyopanishad

by Swami Sivananda

1. The Aitareya Upanishad forms part of the Aitareya-Aranyaka of the Rig-Veda. It is divided into five sections (Khandas). The Upanishad derives its name from its author Mahidasa Aitareya, the son of Itara.

2. It describes in symbolic knowledge the creation of the universe. It deals with the Atman as the only Reality. It contains the saying of the Rishi Vamadeva who attained immortality through knowledge of the Self.

3. The central teaching of this Upanishad is the unity of the Atman with the Paramatman.

4. Hari Om. My speech is rooted in my mind. My mind is rooted in speech, Brahman, reveal thyself to me. Ye, mind and speech enable me to grasp the truth that the scriptures teach. Let what I have learnt slip not from me. I join day with night in study. I speak the truth. I speak the real. May that protect me. May that protect the teacher. May it protect me. May it protect the teacher. May it protect the teacher.

Om Peace, Peace, Peace!
The Story of Creation
5. In the beginning, all this was, verily, the Atman alone. There was nothing else living. Nothing else, whatsoever, living, existed. There was no other thing that winked at all.

6. He thought: Now, verily, I shall create the worlds.

7. The word Atman is derived from the root which means to obtain, to eat, to enjoy or to pervade all.

8. He created these worlds, viz. water, light-rays, death, waters. The water is above the heavens, its support. The rays are from the sky. The region of death is the earth, and what are below the earth are waters.

9. He reflected, These indeed are the worlds I have created. I shall create the protectors or rulers of the world. Then he raised a Purusha from water and gave him form.

10. Then the Atman brooded over that i.e., the lump. He wished to give it the shape of Man. A hole in the shape of a mouth manifested itself in that man, which was brooded over by him, just as a bird's egg bursts when hatched. From the mouth came out speech and from speech fire. Then his nostrils came forth, from the nostrils the breath, from breath wind.

11. His eyes came forth; from his eyes sight, from sight the sun. His ears came forth; from his ears hearing, and from hearing the quarters. His skin came forth; from the skin the hair, from the hair the herbs and big trees. His heart came forth; from the heart the mind, from the mind, the moon. The navel came forth; from the navel the Apana, and from Apana death. His generative organs came forth; from the generative organs semen, and from semen water.

12. Those gods, thus created, fell into the great ocean of Samsara (world). Then He subjected them to hunger and thirst. They said to Him (the creator), Ordain for us a place in which, being established, we may eat food.

13. He brought a bull to them. They said; It is indeed not sufficient for us. He brought a horse for them. They said: This is not enough for us.

14. He brought a man to them. They said: Well done, indeed; hurrah! Man alone is the master-piece. Man alone is the abode of all good actions. He said to them, Enter now with your respective bodies.

15. Fire, becoming speech, entered the mouth; air, becoming Prana, entered the nostrils; the sun, becoming sight, entered the eyes; the deity of the quarters, becoming sound, entered the ears; the herbs and trees, becoming hairs, entered the skin; the moon, becoming mind, entered the heart; death, becoming Apana, entered the navel; water, becoming semen, entered the generative organ.

16. Hunger and thirst said to Him; Assign a place for us. He told them: I assign you a place in these gods, and make you sharers with them. Therefore, when oblations are offered to any god, hunger and thirst become sharers therein.

17. He (the Lord) thought again: The worlds and the protectors of the worlds have been created. Now let me create food for them.

18. Then He (the Lord) brooded over the water, and from the waters so brooded over, issued a form. The form thus created is, verily, food.

19. Then this food so created wished to run away. He tried to catch it by speech; but he could not catch it by speech. If he had caught it by speech, then one would be satisfied by merely talking of food.

20. He wished to catch it by breath, He could not catch it by breath. If he had caught it by breath, then one would be satisfied by merely smelling food.

21. He wished to catch it by the eye. He could not catch it by the eye. If he had caught it by the eye, then one would be satisfied by merely seeing food.

22. He wished to catch it by the ears. He could not catch it by the ears. If he had caught it by the ears, then one would be satisfied by merely hearing of food.

23. He wished to catch it by touch. He could not catch it by touch. If he had caught it by touch, then one would be satisfied by merely touching food.

24. He wished to catch it by the mind. He could not catch it by the mind. If he had caught it by the mind, then one would be satisfied by merely thinking of food.

25. He wished to catch it by the generative organ. He could not catch it by the generative organ. If he had caught it by the generative organ, then one could be satisfied by mere emission.

26. Then he tried to catch it by Apana, and he caught it. It is this Apana which catches food. This Apana is the giver of life, by food.

27. He (the Lord) thought: How can all these live without me? So He pondered; By which way shall I enter it? He again thought; If speaking be done by speech, smelling by nose, seeing by the eyes, hearing by the ear, touching by the skin, thinking by the mind, eating by Apana and discharge by the generative organ, then who am I?

28. Then He opened the suture of the skull and entered by that door. That door is called the Vidriti or the cleft. It is, verily, the Nandana (the place of bliss). He has three dwelling places in the body and three sleeping states. This is his dwelling place, this is his dwelling place, this is his dwelling place.

29. The right eye is his first abode. The mind is the second. The cavity of the heart or the heart-ether is the third.

30. When born (in the form of the Jivas, i.e., when the highest Self had entered the body), he reflected with reference to all beings. He gazed round upon the creatures, and thought. How should anyone speak of any other? What else besides Me is there for Me to name? There is none. How could He desire to declare any other thing different from Him? He found nothing else but the reality of Himself, as the Purusha, the Brahman, all-pervading. He said to himself: O I have seen this.

31. Therefore, he is called Indandra. Idandram is verily His name. Though He is called Idandram, He is indirectly called Indra. The gods are fond of being called by indirect names, as it were.

The Story of Birth
32. First indeed is the germ in man. That which is the semen is the essence of strength or vigour, drawn from all his limbs. He bears himself within his self alone. When he deposits it in the woman, he causes it to be born. This is its first birth.

33. That seed becomes one with the woman as her own limb, as a part of her own body. Therefore it does not produce any suffering to her. She nourishes his (the husband's) self thus within her.

34. As she becomes the nourisher of his self within her, so also she should be nourished. The woman bears the son in her womb. He (the father) nourishes the child before and also after its birth. In nourishing the child before and after its birth, he really nourishes himself for the continuation of these worlds. Thus are these worlds of progeny perpetuated. This is his second birth.

35. That son who is his very self is made his substitute for the performance of virtuous deeds. This, his other self (the father's self), having discharged his duties, attains old age, and departs from this world. He, while departing hence, is born again. This is his third birth.

Rishi Vamadeva
36. It was declared by the Rishi Vamadeva: While in the womb I knew all the births of the gods. A hundred iron-holds held me down. But I burst through them with speed, like a hawk. Thus spoke Vamadeva even while lying in the womb.

37. Bodies which are like impenetrable iron-houses guard the Jiva from extricating himself from the fetters of Samsara. The bodies are compared to the strong iron-holds as they imprison the Jiva within their folds.

38. He (Rishi Vamadeva) became the knower of the Atman, and became identical with it. He betook himself to his upward path, and after the destruction of the body, attained all desires in the heavenly world, and became immortal.

Consciousness Is Brahman
39. Who is this Atman whom we worship? Which of the two is He, that Atman, the real or the phenomenal, the Nirupadhika or Sopadhika? Whether He by whom one sees, or He by whom one hears, or He by whom one smells the scents, or He by whom one utters the speech, or He by whom one knows what is tasteful and what is not tasteful?

40. This which is known as the heart, this mind, consciousness, mastering knowledge of arts, comprehension, power of retaining import of books, perception, fortitude, reflection, independent power of thinking, distress of mind caused by diseases, etc., memory, volition, application, any pursuit for maintenance of life, desire for the company of women, all these are, indeed, names of Consciousness.

41. This Brahman; this Indra; this creator; all these gods; these five great elements, viz., earth, water, fire, air, ether; all these small creatures; these others; the seeds of creation, these egg-born, the womb-born, sweat-born, sprout-born, horses, cows, men, elephants, whatever else which breathes and moves and flies, or is immovable, all these are guided by Consciousness and are supported by Consciousness. The universe has Consciousness for its guide. Consciousness is the basis or stay of all. Verily, consciousness (Prajnanam) is Brahman.

42. Prajnanam Brahma: Pure Consciousness is Brahman. This is one of the Maha-Vakyas or great sentences of the Upanishads.

43. This is called the Lakshana-Vakya, because it gives a description of the nature of Brahman.

44. He (Vamadeva, or any other sage) was exalted to the state of Brahmanhood on account of his knowledge of the Atman. He left this world and obtained all that he desired in that world of supreme bliss, and attained immortality.

45. A liberated sage does not move to any world. He gets absorbed in the all-pervading Brahman. He realises that the individual soul is identical with Para Brahman.

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