Taittiriya Upanishad


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Born on the 8th September, 1887, in the illustrious family of Sage Appayya Dikshitar and several other renowned saints and savants, Sri Swami Sivananda had a natural flair for a life devoted to the study and practice of Vedanta. Added to this was an inborn eagerness to serve all and an innate feeling of unity with all mankind.

His passion for service drew him to the medical career; and soon he gravitated to where he thought that his service was most needed. Malaya claimed him. He had earlier been editing a health journal and wrote extensively on health problems. He discovered that people needed right knowledge most of all; dissemination of that knowledge he espoused as his own mission.

It was divine dispensation and the blessing of God upon mankind that the doctor of body and mind renounced his career and took to a life of renunciation to qualify for ministering to the soul of man. He settled down at Rishikesh in 1924, practised intense austerities and shone as a great Yogi, saint, sage and Jivanmukta.

In 1932 Swami Sivananda started the Sivanandashram. In 1936 was born The Divine Life Society. In 1948 the Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy was organised. Dissemination of spiritual knowledge and training of people in Yoga and Vedanta were their aim and object. In 1950 Swamiji undertook a lightning tour of India and Ceylon. In 1953 Swamiji convened a 'World Parliament of Religions'. Swamiji is the author of over 300 volumes and has disciples all over the world, belonging to all nationalities, religions and creeds. To read Swamiji's works is to drink at the Fountain of Wisdom Supreme. On 14th July, 1963 Swamiji entered Mahasamadhi.


This Upanishad belongs to the Krishna Yajurveda, forming part of the Taittiriya Aranyaka. The seventh, eighth and ninth Prapathakas of the Aranyaka make this Upanishad.

This is one of the important Upanishads. It enunciates some doctrines of Vedanta in an elementary form. Its texts are often quoted in the later philosophical works. The Taittiriya Upanishad contains the tenets of the Vedanta system. The notion of Brahman as the Supreme Self, and as entirely distinct from the world, is clearly defined. He is described as the source for everything. The ideas of this Upanishad are those of the other Upanishads, but they are systematically arranged here. Hindu philosophers hold this Upanishad in high estimation.

There is a wonderful tradition about the epithet, or name, Taittiriya. The great sage Yajnavalkya quarrelled with his preceptor Vaisampayana. He was asked by his Guru to return the Veda which Yajnavalkya had studied under him. Yajnavalkya vomited the Yajurveda he had learnt. The other Rishis, the pupils of Vaisampayana, assumed the forms of Tittiris (birds, partridges), and swallowed the Veda thus thrown out or vomited. Therefore, it came to be known as Taittiriya Samhita.

It is divided into three sections called Vallis-(l) Siksha Valli, or the instruction section, (2) Brahmananda Valli, or the Brahman-bliss section, and (3) Bhrigu Valli, or the Bhrigu section. These names are given from the first word of each, rather than from any signification. Sayana divides the chapters as (1) Samhiti, (2) Varuni and (3) Yajniki, according to the subject matter treated therein. (Valli literally means a creeper.)

The First Section deals with some mystic problems connected with the text, and the study of the Vedas. The preceptor gives clear instructions to the young Brahmacharins on character-building. He imparts to them rules of right conduct and right living. He places before them the moral virtues they should try to possess and develop, and the ideals of life they should cherish in order to prepare themselves for the attainment of Brahma Jnana, or the knowledge of the Self.

It describes the course of instruction, and of the moral and mental training, preparatory to the initiation of the student in the science of Brahman. In short, it is the daily study of Vedas, the practice of sacred rites, and the leading of a virtuous and pious life in accordance with the precepts of the sacred scriptures, which prepare the student for the reception of the knowledge of Brahman. Though the first Valli has no connection with the other Vallis, though the first part is not necessary for the clear understanding of the doctrine, yet it is a very useful section. A preparatory course of study is needed for the aspirant. In this section alone, it is more systematically inculcated than in any other Upanishad.

The Second Section deals with the bliss of Brahman. It contains the doctrine of the Taittiriya Upanishad itself. It commences with the following memorial verse of the Rig-Veda, which contains the sum total of the whole Upanishad: “Whoever knows Brahman, who is Existence, Knowledge and Infinite, as dwelling within the cavity of the heart in the infinite ether, enjoys all desires at once, together, with the omniscient Brahman”.

The order of creation is described in-this Valli: “From the Soul (Brahman) verily sprung forth the ether, from the ether the air, from the air fire, from the fire water, from the water earth, from the earth annual herbs, from the annual herbs food, from food seed, from seed man; for man is verily the essence of food”. This Valli describes that Brahman is Anandamaya, or Supreme Bliss. It deals with the knowledge of Brahman.

The Third Valli deals with the story of Bhrigu, son of Varuna, who under instructions from his father understood Bliss as Brahman, after undergoing the penance. It gives a narrative in confirmation of the doctrine taught in the preceding Vallis. It is evident that the knowledge of Brahman is not acquired at once. There are different stages by which the aspirant approaches a clearer and clearer idea of Brahman. The means of obtaining the knowledge is the practice of Tapas or meditation. In this section only, the description of the five Kosas or sheaths is clearly given. The Vedantic doctrine of three bodies and five sheaths is directly based upon the teachings of this Upanishad.

In Arundhati Nyaya, one big star is shown first to the man, then a small star, then a smaller star, and finally, the smallest star. Even so, the instructions given in this Valli or section, take the mind from the gross to the subtle, from the subtle to the subtler, and eventually, from the subtler to the subtlest of all-the Atman or the Self, which is encased within the five sheaths.