Indian spiritual tradition is a great banyan tree. The Upanisads are the most beautiful flowers blossomed on this tree, according to Dr. Paul Deussen. Flowers are beautiful when they are on the tree. The tree of the Upanisad-flowers is constituted of the Vedas. In other words, the Upanisads are the flowers having the fragrance and beauty of the philosophy of non-dualism, blossomed on the vast banyan tree of the Vedas which in turn are enlaced by the complexities of rituals. The Taittiriya Upanisad is one of the best among such flowers.
This Upanisad begins with a chapter on siksa, a subsidiary Vedic discipline which teaches the art of correct chanting of Vedic hymns with proper intonations. But this discipline is given a new dimension in the Upanisad. It is revalued and sublimated so as to be fully meaningful I the context of the wisdom of Vedanta. Instead of rejecting a Vedic concept, it is accepted in the Vedantic context by giving it a new meaning and a new status. That is to say, the Vedic concept of siksa is subjected to a dialetical revaluation and is made acceptable to Vedanta.
According to the ancient system of Gurukula education, a student has to live with the guru at his residence. he can either continue in the same gurukula after completing the formal education to lead a teacher’s life or return home to live as a householder. The first chapter of the Upanisad ends with a detailed practical instruction given by the guru to the disciple who is about to leave the gurukula after completing his education, which education culminates in Brahmavidya or the science of Brahman. These instructions meant for leading an ideal worldly life, show clearly that Brahmavidya or Vedanta is not merely an escapism. Rather it insists on making the life in this world perfect with the guidance of the wisdom of Vedanta.
Brahmananda Valli, the second chapter, beings with a statement about the ultimate value of the wisdom of Brahman followed by a definition of Brahman. Then it says, this Brahman is to be directly perceived by one in his own being, as the self. The search then is for a real understanding of the Self. That is to say, the enquirer has to find out the causal substance which has become individuated as his personal being. The search goes more and more interiorized. At each stage of interiorization a particular aspect of one’s existence is perceived as the stuff of with Ananda (Bliss or Value). At each stage the previous one is seen as its body, while the latter makes the former perfect. Lastly, when Ananda is seen as the stuff of the Self, the enquirer sees the being of Brahman itself as his own being.
Sankara introduces here the theory of five sheaths (pancakosa). This theory assumes that each stage is a sheath to be removed so as to see the Self seated inside. At least according to us, this Upanisad does not support such an idea. Each stage is perceived as the Self and that status is never denied afterwards. Besides all the stages are so inter-related that each of the preceding one forms that body of the latter while the latter gives perfection to the former. For this reason we had to deviate from Sankara in respect of the way of approach in interpreting this Upanisad. Yet the final conclusion arrived at remains the same as that of Sankara and he has been considered our guide in this commentary.
The remaining part of the second chapter consists of a subsidiary question and its answer. The question is, “Does an ignorant person attain the supreme after death or does the wise one along reach there?” The answer Indicates that the very question is a result of the lack of proper understanding of the Reality. The Guru elaborately describes the nature of life in its global aspect where there is no discrimination between the ignorant and the wise, the wise, the here and the hereafter, life and death, merit and demerit. Man’s sense of value, the range of which extends from ordinary worldly pleasures to Brahmananda (Absolute Happiness of Brahman) is subjected to a critical study, and finally finds that the same value or Ananda runs through the entire gamut. We cannot say where the here ends and the hereafter beings in this range of values. All are but various forms in which the same Ananda expresses itself in a graded fashion.
In the Brahmananda Valli, the Reality is perceived as the Self. The opposite is the way of the Bhrgu Valli, the third chapter. An individual, through his own austere self-discipline, strives to know Brahman. The same gradation of values seen in the case of the Self in the second chapter is visualized as concerning Brahman. Finally all these gradations, from food to Bliss, including the knowledge that enabled the attainment of Brahman, are equated to food (annam), as values. It indicates that all of them have the same place as food in human life.
Such is the structural scheme in which Brahmavidya is presented in the present Upanisad. Though all the Upanisads deal with the same subject, each has its own uniqueness in respect of its overall structure, the main problem solved, general background on which the theme is set, and the Vedic concepts revalued and restated.
The thought behind the present commentary is not merely is not merely of one individual. Each section of the Upanisad was reflected on for a whole day by a group of students and they presented their observations in the next class. The present commentator absorbed all such ideas into his own and gave a final touch and shape. That is how this book was written.
An insight into the overall structure of the Upanisad and its uniqueness was gained from the classes given by Nataraja Guru in various contexts. An attempt to delve deeply into the mystico-philosophical poems of Narayana Guru has also helped a lot in understanding the implications in the Upanisad.
The devotedness with which Mr. Andy Larkin of Portland, Oregon (U.S.A.) edited the entire text of this commentary cannot be recalled without shedding tears. We are very much grateful to M/s. DK Printworld for undertaking the responsibility of publishing the book.
We prostrate before the long, succession of Gurus’ from the unknown rsi of the Upanisad to Sankara, Narayana Guru, and Nataraja Guru, and submit this commentary to all the inquisitive students of the Upanisads.
Back of the Book
The Upanisads capture the quintessence of Indian spiritual wisdom unfolding deep-set, highly perceptive reflections on human existence and how it is related to cosmic mystery. Authored by enlightened seers, at different times, during 1500-200 BC, the Upanisadic message inheres neither a promise of heaven, nor scare of hell. Rather, it is a magnificent vision that raises human consciousness to sublime heights.
The Taittiriya – appended to the Krsna (Black) Yajurveda – is one of best among the principal Upanisads. and, schematically, is offered in three chapters, entitled: (1) Siksa Valli, (2) Brahmananda Valli, and (3) Bhrgu Valli – which each Swami Muni Narayana Prasad treats singly, superbly revealing the invisible thread that goes through all of them.
With original Sanskrit text, its Roman transliteration and easy-to-understand English paraphrase, this stimulating, at once analytical commentary grows from Swami Muni Narayana Prasad’s prolonged reflections on the Taittiriya Upanisad, coupled with the insights he acknowledges to have gained from Nataraja Guru’s discourses on different Upanisadic themes, Narayana Guru’s mystico-philosophical poems, and numerous sessions of intellectual interaction with different groups of scholars.
Swami Muni Narayana Prasad is the Guru and Head of Narayana Gurukula, a guru-disciple foundation open to all, irrespective of caste, creed, gender, religion or nation, aimed at promoting the Science of the Absolute (Brahma-vidya) as restated by Narayana Guru. A disciple of Nataraja Guru and Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yati, he has traveled widely teaching Indian Philosophy. He has authored around seventy books in the Malayalam language. His English books are: commentaries on the Aitareya, Chandogya, Isa, Katha, Kena, Mandukya, Mundaka and Prasna Upanisads, Vedanta Sutras and Darsanamala of Narayana Guru, Vedanta up to Narayana Guru, Karma and Reincarnation, Basic Lessons on India’s Wisdom, The Philosophy of Narayana Guru, Life Pilgrimage Through the Gita, Collected Works of Narayana Guru, and Narayana Smrtih.