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Aitareya Upanishad

Translated by Charles Johnston

Aitareya Upanishad

I

ATMA, verily, Universal Self, alone was this in the beginning, nor was aught else with opening and closing eyes.

He beholding said: Let me now put forth worlds.

He put forth these worlds: the Great Deep, the Rays, the Mortal, the Waters. The Great Deep is the Heaven beyond the heavens, the Foundation; the Rays are the mid-world; the Mortal is the world; the Waters are beneath.

He beholding said: Here are worlds for me; let me now put forth Guardians of the worlds.

From the Waters, verily, drawing forth Purusha. the Heavenly Man, He moulded him.

He brooded over him with fervour. Of him, brooded over with fervour, the face was formed, as it were an egg. From the mouth, the voice; from the voice, the Fire-lord. The two nostrils were formed; from the two nostrils the breath; from the breath, the Wind-lord. The two eyes were formed; from the two eyes, vision; from vision, the Sun-lord. The two ears were formed; from the two ears, hearing; from hearing, the Spaces. The skin, with the power of touch, was formed; from the skin, the hairs; from the hairs, the plants and the lords of the forest. The heart was formed; from the heart, the mind; from the mind, the Lunar Lord. The navel was formed; from the navel, the downward-breath; from the downward-breath, Death. The procreative power was formed; from the procreative power, the seed; from the seed, the Waters.

II

They, these Bright Powers, thus put forth, fell forward into the tossing ocean. He visited it with hunger and thirst. To Him they said: Prepare for us an abode, wherein established we may eat the food.

To them He brought a cow. They said: This, verily, is not enough for us! To them He brought a horse. They said: This, verily, is not enough for us! To them He brought man. They said: Well done, in truth! For man is a thing well made.

He said to them: Enter ye according to your abodes!

The Fire-lord, becoming voice, entered the mouth. The Wind-lord, becoming breath, entered the two nostrils. The Sun-lord, becoming vision, entered the two eyes. Space, becoming hearing, entered the two ears. The plants and the lords of the forest, becoming hairs, entered the skin. The Lunar Lord, becoming mind, entered the heart. Death, becoming the downward-breath, entered the navel. The Waters, becoming the seed, entered the procreative power.

To Him hunger and thirst said: Make provision for us two!

To those two He said: Among these Bright Powers, verily, I give you two a place; I make you partakers among them!

Therefore, to whichever of the Bright Powers an offering is made, hunger and thirst are partakers in it.

III

He beholding said: Here now are worlds and Guardians of the worlds. Let me put forth food for them!

He brooded with fervour upon the Waters. From the Waters, brooded upon with fervour, form was born. The form which was born, that, verily, is food.

Then this, put forth, sought to retreat and escape. He sought to grasp it by voice. He was not able to grasp it by voice. If he had grasped it by voice, uttering food, verily, he would be satisfied.

He tried to grasp it by breath. He was not able to grasp it by breath. If he had grasped it by breath, breathing upon food, verily, he would be satisfied.

He tried to grasp it by vision. He was not able to grasp it by vision. If he had grasped it by vision, seeing food, verily, he would be satisfied.

He tried to grasp it by hearing. He was not able to grasp it by hearing. If he had grasped it by hearing, hearing food, verily, he would be satisfied.

He tried to grasp it by touch. He was not able to grasp it by touch. If he had grasped it by touch, touching food, verily, he would be satisfied.

He tried to grasp it by mind. He was not able to grasp it by mind. If he had grasped it by mind, thinking of food, verily, he would be satisfied.

He tried to grasp it by procreative power. He was not able to grasp it by procreative power. If he had grasped it by procreative power, putting forth food, verily, he would be satisfied.

He tried to grasp it by the downward-breath. He consumed it. He, verily, who grasps food, is the Wind-lord.

He, the Self, beholding said: How may this be now, without me? By which do I enter?

He beholding said: If by voice it be uttered, if by breath it be breathed, if by vision it be seen, if by touch it be touched, if by mind it be thought, if by the downward-breath it be breathed downward, if by the procreative power it be put forth, who am I?

He, opening the head, verily, at the parting of the hair, entered by this door. This is the door, the opening, by name. This is the cause of joy.

Of this, there are three abodes, three dreams. This is an abode. This is an abode. This is an abode.

He, thus entered into birth, considered beings: What being, verily, would wish to speak of any other?

He beheld this man as the essence of the Eternal. I have seen the Eternal! said He. Therefore, His name is I-have-seen. I-have-seen, verily, is His name. He who is I-have-seen, Idan-dra, they call the Lord, Indra, in a mystery; for lovers of mystery, as it were, are the Bright Powers; lovers of mystery, as it were, are the Bright Powers.

IV

In the man, verily, is this germ from the beginning. This is the seed, the fiery energy, brought into being from all the members. He bears a self within himself. When this is conceived in the woman, he engenders it. This is his first birth.

This becomes a part of the woman’s own being, a member of herself . Therefore, this injures her not.

She nourishes this self, thus entering her. As nourisher, she is to be nourished. He, in the beginning, from birth onward, provides nourishment for the young child.

As from birth onward he provides nourishment for the young child, so he provides nourishment for himself, for the continuity of these worlds. For these worlds are thus continued. This is his second birth.

This, as his self, takes his place for holy works. As his other self, having done what should be done, completing his life-span, he goes forth. Going forth verily, from this world, he is born again. This is his third birth.

Thus by a Seer it was declared:

Being yet in the germ, I already knew all the births of these Bright Powers. A hundred dwellings as of iron have guarded me. Downward like a falcon swiftly I descended.

While yet resting in the germ, verily, Vamadeva spoke thus.

He who has gained this knowledge, ascending after the parting from the body, in that heavenly world gaining all desires, has become immortal. He has become immortal.

V

Who is this Self to whom we draw near? Which of the two is the Self? He, whereby, verily, he beholds form; whereby, verily, he hears sound; whereby, verily, he smells odours; whereby, verily, he utters speech; whereby, verily, he discerns what is sweet and what is not sweet.

That which is the heart and the mind, is consciousness, spiritual perception, discernment, understanding, wisdom, vision, firmness, thought, knowledge, energy, memory, imagination, will, life, desire, power; these are all names of spiritual perception.

This is the Eternal, this is the Ruler, this is the Lord of beings, this is all the Bright Powers, the five great elements, earth, air, ether, the waters, the lights, and those which are mingled of the fine elements; these and these seeds, the egg-born, the womb-born, the sweat-born, the fission-born; horses, cows, men, elephants; whatever possesses the breath of life, whatever moves, or flies, or remains stable.

All this is guided by spiritual perception; in spiritual perception it is established. The world is guided by spiritual perception. Spiritual perception is the foundation. Spiritual perception is the Eternal.

He, through this spiritual perception, through the Self, ascending from this world, in that heavenly world gaining all desires, has become immortal. He has become immortal.

See Also


Macrocosm and Microcosm

Aitareya Upanishad

Translated by Charles Johnston

Full Text Online (PDF)

Translated by Swāmi Nikhilānanda

Aitareya Upanishad

Part One

Chapter I: The Creation of Virāt

1

In the beginning [all] this verily was Ātman only, one and without a second. There was nothing else that winked. He bethought Himself: “Let Me now create the worlds.”

2

He created these worlds: Ambhah (the world of water-bearing clouds), Marichi (the world of the solar rays), Mara (the world of mortals), and Ap (the world of waters). Yon is ambhah, above heaven; heaven is its support. The Marichis are the interspace. Mara is the earth. What is underneath is Ap.

3

He bethought Himself: “Here now are the worlds. Let Me now create world-guardians.” right from the waters He drew forth the Person [in the form of a lump] and gave Him a shape.

4

He Brooded over Him (the lump). From Him, so brooded over, the mouth was separated out, as with an egg; from the mouth, [the organ of] speech; from speech, fire (the controlling deity of the organ).

Then the nostrils were separated out; from the nostrils, [the organ of] breath (prāna); from breath, air (the controlling deity of the organ).

Then the eyes were separated out; from the eyes, [the organ of] sight (chakshu); from sight, the sun (the controlling deity of the organ).

Then the ears were separated out; from the ears, [the organ of] hearing (śrotra); from hearing, the quarters of space (the controlling deity of the organ).

Then the skin was separated out; from the skin, hairs (i.e. the organ of touch); from the hairs, plants and trees (i.e. air, the controlling deity of the organ).

Then the heart was separated out; from the heart, [the organ of] the mind (manas); from the mind, the moon (the controlling deity of the organ).

Then the navel was separated out; from the navel, the [organ of] the apāna; from the apāna, Death (i.e. Varuna, the controlling deity of the organ).

Then the virile member was separated out; from the virile member, semen (the organ of generation); from semen, the waters (the controlling deity of the organ).

Chapter II: Cosmic Powers in the Human Body

1

These Deities, thus created, fell into this great ocean. He (the Creator) subjected that Person (i.e. Virāt in the form of a lump) to hunger and thirst. They (the deities) said to Him (the Creator): “Find out for us an abode wherein being established we may eat food.”

2-3

He (the Creator) brought them a cow. They said: “But this is not enough for us.” He brought them a horse. They said: “This, too, is not enough for us.”

He brought them a person. The deities said: “Ah, this is well done, indeed.” Therefore a person is verily something well done.

He said to the deities: “Now enter your respective abodes.”

4

[The deity] fire became [the organ of] speech and entered the mouth. Air became breath and entered the nostrils. The sun became sight and entered the eyes. The quarters of space became hearing and entered the ears. Plants and trees (i.e. the deity air) became hairs and entered the skin. The moon became the mind and entered the heart. Death became the apāna and entered the navel. The waters became semen and entered the virile member.

5

Hunger and thirst said to the Creator: “For the two of us find an abode also.” He said to them: “I assign the two of you to these deities; I make you co-sharers with them.”

Therefore to whatsoever deity an oblation is made, hunger and thirst become sharers in it.

Chapter III: The Embodiment of the Supreme Self

1

He (the Creator) bethought Himself: “Here now are the worlds and the world-guardians. Let Me create food for them.”

2

He brooded over the waters. From the waters, thus brooded over, there emerged a [condensed] form. The form that so emerged is indeed food.

3

The food so created wished to flee away. He sought to grasp it with speech. But He was not able to grasp it with speech. If, indeed, He had grasped it with speech, one would then have been satisfied by merely uttering [the word] food.

4-10

[The Creator] sought to grasp it with the breath. But He was not able to gasp it with the breath. If, indeed, He had grasped it with the breath, one would then have been satisfied by merely smelling food.

He sought to grasp it with the eye. But He was not able to grasp it with the eye. If, indeed, He had grasped it with the eye, one would then have been satisfied by merely seeing food.

He sought to grasp it with the ear. But He was not able to grasp it with the ear. If, indeed, He had grasped it with the ear, one would then have been satisfied by merely hearing of food.

He sought to grasp it with the skin. But He was not able to grasp it with the skin. If, indeed, He had grasped it with the skin, one would then have been satisfied by merely touching food.

He sought to grasp it with the mind. But He was not able to grasp it with the mind. If, indeed, He had grasped it with the mind, one would then have been satisfied by merely thinking of food.

He sought to grasp it with the virile member. But He was not able to grasp it with the virile member. If, indeed, He had grasped it with the virile member, one would then have been satisfied by merely emitting food.

He sought to grasp it with the apāna and He grasped it. This grasper of food is what vāyu (air, or prāna) is. This vāyu is what lives on food.

11

He (the Creator) bethought Himself: “How could this [aggregate of body and organs] exist without Me?” Then He said to Himself: “Which way shall I enter it?” He said to Himself further: “If speech is uttered by the organ of speech, if smelling is done by the breath (prāna), seeing by the eyes, hearing by the ears, touching by the skin, thinking by the mind, eating by the apāna, and the emission [of semen] by the virile member, then who am I?”

12

So, piercing the end (i.e. the place where the parting of the hair ends), the Lord entered through that door. That door is known as the vidriti, the cleft. This is the place of bliss.

Ātman [thus embodied] has three abodes, three conditions of sleep. This is one abode, this is another, this is the third.

13

Having been born as the jiva, He realized the elements (bhutas) as one with Himself [and expressed this in words]. What else here would one desire to speak about?

He perceived this very person as the all-pervading Brahman. He said: “Ah, I have seen It.”

14

Therefore He (the Supreme Self) is called Idandra. Idandra, indeed, is His name. Him who is Idandra they call indirectly Indra. For the gods appear to be fond of cryptic epithets; yea, the gods appear to be fond of cryptic epithets.

Part Two

Chapter I: The Three Births of the Self

1

This [person] is, at first, the germ in a man. That which is the semen is here called the germ. This semen is the vigour (tejas) drawn from all limbs. The man bears the self (i.e. the semen) in the self (i.e. the body). When he pours the semen into a woman, he gives it a birth. This, indeed, if the first birth of the embodied soul.

2

That semen becomes one with the woman—just like a limb of her own. That is why it does not hurt her. She nourishes this self of his that has come into her.

3

She, being the nourisher, should be nourished [by her husband]. The woman nourishes the embryo. Immediately after its birth he (the father) nourishes [with natal ceremonies] the child, which in the beginning was already born [as the embryo]. Nourishing the child from birth onward, he thus nourishes himself for the continuation of these worlds. For thus alone are these worlds perpetuated. This is one’s second birth.

4

He (the son) who is the one self (body) of his [father's] is made his [father's] substitute for [performing] virtuous deeds. Then the other self (body) of his [father's], having accomplished his duties and reached his age departs [from this world]. So departing hence, he is born again. This is his third birth.

5

About this a rishi has said:

“While still lying in the womb, I came to know all the births of the gods. A hundred strongholds, as if made of iron, confined me, yet I burst through them all swiftly, like a hawk.”

Vāmadeva spoke, in this wise, even while lying in the womb.

6

Thus endowed with Knowledge, he, becoming one with the Supreme Self and soaring aloft on the dissolution of the body, obtained all desires in the heavenly world and became immortal—yea, became immortal.

Part Three

Chapter I: Concerning the Self

1

Who is he whom we worship, thinking: “This is the Self (Ātman)”? [Of the two mentioned in the scriptures,] which one is the Self? Is it He by whom one sees forms, by whom one hears sound, and by whom one tastes the sweet and the unsweet?

2

It is the heart and the mind. It is [known, in accordance with its different functions, as] consciousness, lordship, knowledge [of arts], wisdom, retentive power of mind, sense knowledge, steadfastness, thought, thoughtfulness, sorrow, memory, concepts, purpose, life, desire, longing [for sense-objects]: all these are but various names of Consciousness (Prajnānam).

3

He is Brahman, He is Indra, He is Prajāpati; He is all these gods; He is the five great elements—earth, air, ākāśa, water, light; He is all these small creatures and the others which are mixed [with them]; He is the origin [of the moving and the unmoving]—those born of an egg, of a womb, of sweat, and of a sprout; He is horse, cows, human beings, elephants—whatever breathes here, whether moving on legs of flying in the air or unmoving. All this is guided by Consciousness (Prajnānam), is supported by Consciousness. The basis [of the universe] is Consciousness. Consciousness Is Brahman.

4

He, [having realized oneness with Pure Consciousness,] soared from this world, and having obtained all desires in yonder heavenly world, became immortal—yea, became immortal.

See Also


The Upanishads

Aitareya and Brihadāranyaka

Translated from the Sanskrit with detailed Introductions and with Notes and Explanations based on the Commentary of Śri Śankaricharya, the great Eighth-century Philosopher and Saint of India.

By Swami Nikhilananda

Full Text Online (PDF)

Translated by Swami Gambhirananda

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