JANASRUTI AND RAIKVA
ON ADHYATMA AND ADHIDAIVATA
The teacher narrated to his students the conversation between two swans, which the great grandson of JanaSruta overheard.
Janasruti was a pious donor who fed many people and built rest houses everywhere. He was eager to hear (sruta) the people (jana) speak in praise of him. One of the swans was warning the other, which was not aware of the danger ahead and was about to touch a torch (jyoti).
It said that it was the fame of Janasruti that was reaching and spreading among the nobles (divam). The other swan, which was warned to be careful, asked who that youth of whom the former swan spoke as if he were Raikva, the man with the cart. The first swan then wanted to know about Raikva .
Swans (hamsas) were a school of thought and were a branch of gandharvas like Hu-hus and Haha-hahas who spoke in unfamiliar dialectics. They had vast experience in absorbing the best of all cultures even as swans drank the milk leaving behind its water content. Chitras and Asvas too were cafres of gandharvas.
In gambling, the winner who throws the highest number in dice collects all the wealth staked by the others who throw the lower numbers. Similarly, whatever the docile and pious (sadhu) subjects (prajas) do, the credit for them is given to the charismatic person (Raikva) whom the people acclaim. The second swan explained that it was referring to the person who knew what he knew, that is, who was aware of his own abilities.
Janasruti who knew the language of the birds spent the night brooding over the implications of this conversation and told his attendant that the latter was praising him in the same way as Raikva, the man with the cart was being praised. The inquisitive attendant wanted to know who Raikva was (4.5).
Janasruti repeated to him what the second swan had described about the highly meritorious Raikva and asked the attendant to search for that great scholar. The attendant returned and reported that he could not locate Raikva.
Then Janasruti asked him to search for that scholar in the areas where Brahmans were to be searched for (4-1-6,7). The attendant could locate Raikva only under a cart (as Raikva was driver of a cart) and returned to report this to his master, Janasruti (4-1-8).
The rich liberal donor who used a chariot had to go to the area where poor carters lived, to meet and get instructed by Raikva. Janasruti took with him six hundred cows, a gold necklace and a chariot with horses as gifts to Raikva when he went to the latter and requested that he be taught. Janasruti wanted to be introduced to the devata whom Raikva honoured and followed.
Raikva belonged to the social periphery whose members were not under the jurisdiction of the nobles, devas, who constituted the liberal governing elite of the agro-pastoral core society of the plains.
They followed devatas. Unlike devas who were aristocrats, the devatas were either plutocrats or technocrats and were considered to be less gentle and less cultured than the former. (4-2-1, 2)
Janasruti was driving home this point and hinting that Raikva, though he was a Brahman, was not in the company of Brahman scholars and was living in the midst of carters who belonged to the social periphery.
Rathakaras who manufactured carts and chariots and Sutas who were charioteers were required to stay in the social periphery. They were warned against mingling with the Chandalas who had been outcast for moral turpitude and lived by disposing of dead bodies brought to the crematoria.
Rathakaras and Sutas who served the rulers claimed that they deserved to be treated as intellectuals, Brahmans.
Raikva turned down the offer and returned the gifts as they smacked of left-handed compliments, hinting that Janasruti was behaving like a Shudra. Shudras were uneducated and had not been initiated in good conduct (4-2-3).
Then Janasruti came again with his daughter and asked Raikva to accept her as a gift along with the cows, ornament and chariot with horses. He offered Raikva a village to dwell and requested the revered scholar (bhagavan) to teach him (4-2-4). Raikva did not yet change his opinion about Janasruti whom he held to be an educated but uncultured Shudra though he was a rich man.
Raikva pitied Janasruti's daughter and the plea in her face made him consent to teach her father. He took the father and daughter to his hamlets, which were built only of leaves. They were called Raikva-parnas, where the people known as Mahavrshas lived.
[They were later treated as worshippers of bulls (vrshabha) and as the higher ranks of Shudras rather than as Vaisyas or Brahmans or Kshatriyas.]
They were not entitled to wear the sacred thread or to officiate as Vedic priests. They were kept away from the villages where the members of the initiated classes, dvijas, lived. Raikva, though he was highly educated, was treated as a Mahashudra because he was not formally initiated as a dvija (twice born). And Janasruti, though he was very rich, was but a Shudra as he was both uninitiated and uncultured (4-2-5).
Raikva, like the teacher of this Upanishad, must have been a student of the Atharvan ideologue, Ghora Angirasa. Raikva (who belonged to the social periphery) had great regard for Vayu. This Vedic official, according to him, absorbed under his protective charge those sections of the commonalty whom Agni failed to protect.
Similarly Vayu absorbed those members of the patriciate and warriors whom Surya (Aditya) could not aid and those intellectuals of the frontier society as well as of the commonalty whom Chandra (Soma) could not protect.
So too those sections of the population that depended on water (Apa), and failed to get protection moved to the open areas that were under the jurisdiction of the official designated as Vayu.
(Vayu, Agni, Surya, Chandra and Apa have been translated as wind, fire, sun, moon and water. They were in fact designations of some of the officials of the Vedic polity.)
Janasruti had asked which devata Raikva followed. Raikva replied that Vayu who gave protection to all who failed to get succour in other areas of the larger society was the 'highest' or essential noble, adhidaivatam whom he held in esteem. (4-3-1,2)
[It is obvious that scholars have failed to appreciate this aspect of social polity that brought all those sections of the larger society under the category of Mahavrshas or Mahashudras and placed them under the jurisdiction of Vayu. These scholars have hence not been able to provide a rational interpretation of these verses.]
With reference to the essential individual (adhyatma), prana plays the role of bringing together all those who are not physically active, that is those persons who sleep, (svapiti) as wrongly presumed.
In this category the teacher includes those who taught Vedas (vak), the observers who were engaged in empirical studies (chakshus), those who gathered information from different sources (srotra, that is, the compilers and narrators of the Vedic chronicles) and the thinkers who were engaged in mental (manas) planning. The term, prana here covers all these sections of the intelligentsia. [They were not individuals at the existence level.] (4-3-3).
Vayu and prana, representing the two concepts, adhidaivatam and adhyatma, covered the active population of the social periphery and the independent intelligentsia respectively (4-3-4).
Vayu was a deva and not a devata though he had jurisdiction over the moors on the periphery and not over the agro-pastoral plains.
Raikva and the riddle solved by Saunaka
Raikva, then, drew the attention of Janasruti and other students to an episode involving Saunaka of the clan of Kapi and Abhipratari, son of Kakshasena. When they were being served food, a student (brahmachari) asked them for alms but they did not give him anything.
The student posed them a riddle and challenged them to solve it. A noble (deva) who was the guardian of the frontier society (bhuvana) had swallowed up four great persons. The commoners (martya) do not notice him though he lives among the multitude (bahudha). This food has not been offered to the person to whom it belongs. (4-3-5,6).
[Commentators have tended to identify this one god with Prajapati and have suggested that this chief as Vayu had swallowed the other four chiefs, Agni, Surya, Chandra and Apa. These terms are transliterated as fire, sun, moon and water.] It is unsound to interpret that the one god is Prajapati.
Saunaka reflected on this riddle and replied that the one noble (deva) whom that student referred to was the soul of the devas, that is, the conscience of the cadre of aristocrats. He was the person who had brought into being (janita) the class of subjects (prajas). Saunaka referred to him as anasuri, as Surya.
Surya (sun, which is visualized as a god without teeth) represented all the nobles. He had yellow (golden) teeth (that were only for show) and he devoured his food. Saunaka explained that scholars spoke of the magnificence of Surya as being very great and as one who ate what was not (solid) food. Saunaka told the student that they deemed Surya as a great personage and followed him and directed that the student be offered food (4-3-7).
The student was trying to establish that Surya had a status and role that were not to be underestimated while dealing with the roles of Vayu, Agni, Surya, Soma and Apa. These five and the five sectors of prana (prana proper, apana, vyana, samana and udana, in-breath, out-breath, diffused breath, balanced breath and up-breath) were the ten units or dots that were the highest in the pair of dice and constituted the highest throw in the throw of the two cubes.
In all the ten directions (four main, four intermediate, one upward and one downward) this is the highest food. This highest number (in years) denotes the tenure of the Viraj, which represents acquisition of food and other needs (annadi) of men. Through the concept of Viraj all (that is, all the sectors of the larger society) are seen.
One who understands the meaning of this allegory obtains influence over all these ten sectors of adhidaivatam and adhyatmam covering the entire society and all individuals. (4-3-8)
[The interpretation that the first ten referred to air, fire, sun, moon and water and the second five to breath, speech, eye, ear and sound does not take into account the significance of the riddle.]
To Satyakama on the Concept, Brahma
The teacher then narrated to his students an incident pertaining to Satyakama who was said to be an illegitimate son of Jabala. The son asked his mother, Jabala, to tell him what his gotra was, for he wanted to become a student (brahmachari). She told him that she did not know to which paternal lineage (gotra) his father belonged.
When she was young Jabala had worked as a maidservant in many houses when she gave birth to Satyakama. As an attendant she must have yielded to her employers and did not know to whom he was born. So she did not know his gotra. She knew that his name was Satyakama and that her name was Jabala. So he could introduce himself as Satyakama Jabala. This was a directive that he should opt to be proud of his mother rather than seek to know who his father was. (4-4-1,2)
Jabali was a counsellor of Dasaratha. He belonged to the school of Charvaka who defended hedonism and pursuit of personal desires and interests and had no respect for the concept of Satyavrata, the pledge to abide by truth and by ones promise to others. Satyakama and his mother however stood by truth. Satyakama approached Gautama, son of Haridrumata and requested that he be permitted to become his student.
[Drumata might have been a son of a Krshna and dark (hari) in colour. The Haris belonged to the dark social horizon and were not eligible to participate in the social activities of the core society until some of them were raised to the level of the nobles.]
Gautama was the head of an academy and was addressed as Bhagavan Gautama asked him about his gotra. (4-4-3) Satyakama told him what his mother had told him about how he was born and introduced himself as Satyakama Jabala. Gautama was pleased with his frankness and boldness and said that only a Brahman could give such an explanation. He had not departed from the truth and Gautama took him as his student. When Satyakama completed his course of studies under Gautama, the latter gave him four hundred weak and lean cows. Satyakama resolved to return to him a thousand healthy cows (4-4-4).
Rshabha Counsels Satyakama
He got a bull (rshabha) to procreate on these cows and increase their numbers to a thousand. When the task was completed the bull asked him to take them to the teachers house. Before he took them back, the bull instructed him on the four facets of Brahman.
In other words, a teacher of the Rshabha school of thought taught Satyakama the meaning of Brahman. Rshabhas were followers of Siva and Rudra. They were not recognized as Brahmans and they were denied the privilege to wear the sacred thread.
This teacher drew a picture of the bull (or cow) and correlated its four legs with the four directions or regions, east, west, south and north. He presented these as the four segments of the foot of the Brahman (or larger society) and called it the shining (as prakasa).
One, who knows the meaning of this allegory and respects and follows the concept of the Brahman with four aspects as Prakasa, is known in this social world (of intellectuals of the commonalty) as an enlightened person (prakasa). The latter then proceeds to win the approval of the social worlds (lokas) of enlightened persons. (4-5-1 to 3) Thus the teacher who belonged to the Rshabha school of thought gave Satyakama one fourth of the instruction on what a Brahman or intellectual was and what he could achieve.
Agni Counsels Satyakama
Satyakama got the second part of the instruction from Agni, the intellectual, who headed the council of scholars, samiti.
The next morning Satyakama started leading the cows to the teachers abode. In the evening he penned the cows, lit a fire and sat down facing the east and the fire.
Agni told him that the four segments of the larger society visualized as Brahman were the commonalty of the agro-pastoral plains (prthvi), the frontier society of the forests and mountains (antariksham), the patriciate (dyau) and the people dependent on the sea (samudra). He called this picture of the larger society correlated with the Brahman and the four-footed cow (or bull) as one having four segments (pada) as theendless (anantavan).
Agni told Satyakama that a commoner who was also educated and understood the meaning of this allegory and followed its implications would become endless, that is, the commoner would be treated as being on the plane of the nobles (devas who were said to have no death). In other words the intellectual who treats all the four segments of the larger society as having a common base (pada) would be able to win the approval of the cultural aristocracy. (4-6-1 to 4)
Hamsa Counsels Satyakama
The next evening Satyakama received instruction from a swan (hamsa). The teacher who was likened to this gentle bird distinguished four segments among the intellectuals (Brahman). Agni (who spoke for the intellectuals among the agro-pastoral commonalty), Surya (who spoke for the cultural aristocracy) and Chandra or Soma (who represented the intelligentsia of the forests and mountains) led three of these segments.
Vidyut represented those intellectuals who had gained knowledge through sudden flash of insight. These constituted the fourth segment. The intellectual who possesses all these four traits is called Jyoti, a guiding light.
A scholar who recognizes this implication of the allegory of the Brahman becomes a guiding light for this social world of intellectuals. All the cadres of jyotis, social and intellectual guides are under the influence of this Brahman. (4-7-1 to4)
Madgu Counsels Satyakama
A scholar who was likened to a diver-bird (madgu) delivered the fourth part of the instruction. He compared the four legs of the cow (that stood for the concept, Brahman) to breath, eye, ear and mind (prana, chakshu, srotra and manas).
He visualized the intellectual as a representative of all persons who only just live or are able to come to conclusions through empirical observations or are guided by the knowledge that they have gained from various sources or are able to engage in mental planning.
The intellectual, Brahman, who has characteristics of all these four segments, is said to be one who has a stable base (ayatavan). He does not waver. One who recognizes the implications of this allegory of the Brahman as a stable person, gains a stable position in this cadre (loka) of intellectuals. He wins entry into all cadres that have stability (that is, do not waver in their purposes and approaches). (4-8-1 to 4)
Gautama teaches Satyakama
After receiving his instructions from Rshabha, Agni, Hamsa and Madgu, Satyakama returned to the abode of his teacher who noticed that he had received the necessary instruction in the sociopolitical constitution (Brahma). He asked Satyakama who had taught him.
Satyakama replied that his teachers did not belong to the commonalty (manushyas) and expressed his eagerness to be instructed by his teacher, Gautama.
He had heard from persons like Gautama that formal education in the recognized disciplines of study (vidya) received from a qualified teacher (acharya), was the best means to attain ones objective. Gautama then taught him all the disciplines without omitting any portion (4-9-1 to 3). Gautama taught him the four main disciplines of study, Anvikshiki, the three Vedas, Varta and Dandaniti and their branches. Rshabha, Agni, Hamsa and Madgu were spokesmen of distinct schools of thought.
GAUTAMA ON PURUSHA AND BRAHMA
Training of Upakosala by Gautama's Assistants
Upakosala, son of Kamala, was living with Satyakama, son of Jabala. He had been a student for twelve years. The teacher (Gautama) did not allow Upakosala to go home though he allowed his other students to go home after finishing their courses of studies.
He was asked to attend on the priests who were looking after the teachers domestic fires (Agni).
The teacher's wife was solicitous of this student and requested Gautama to give him the necessary instruction and not allow himself to be blamed by the civil judge, Agni, [for wanton neglect of duty and partiality].
But Gautama went away without giving him any training (4-10-1,2). [Upakosala must have been a youth belonging to the province of Kosala and son of Kamala, a student of the famous chronicler, Vaishampayana.]
Upakosala felt hurt and resolved not to eat. When the teacher's wife asked him why he did not eat, he replied that (as) a dynamic leader, purusha (he) had many desires, which pulled him in different directions and that he was filled with many illnesses (that is, unfulfilled desires). So he would not eat (4-10-3).
The priests who were looking after the fires discussed the issue and agreed to train him as he had as a student performed the arduous task (tapas) well and attended on them. The priests taught him that by the term, Brahma, prana, ka and kha were meant (4-10-4) [It is irrational to interpret these three terms as life, joy and ether.]
Upakosala told them that he knew that prana was equivalent to Brahma but did not know what they meant by the concepts, ka and kha. They told him that the two terms meant the same concept. Then they taught him what the relationship between prana and akasa was (4-10-5). [It would appear that they did not identify kha with space or ether.]
The priest in charge of the Garhapatya fire (the essentially domestic fire) instructed Upakosala who among the four officials signified by the concepts, prthvi, agni, anna and aditya, was the person (purusha) seen to be the one performing the functions of Aditya.
This priest was not connected with the agro-pastoral commonalty (prthvi). He was not agni, the head of its intelligentsia nor was he looking after production of grains and supply of food (anna), the basic requirement of all men. He belonged to the governing elite and was as Aditya in charge of their protection as Garhapati. (4-11-1)
[The translation of this passage as: Then the fire instructed him, Earth, Fire, Food and Sun (are form of me), the person that is seen in the Sun, I am he, fails to bring out its import.]
One who realizes the implications of this statement and honours the personage functioning as Aditya does not commit any sin or allow others to commit sin. (He destroys sinful acts.) He becomes identified with his social world (loka). [This must have been a counsel given to Upakosala, a prince of Kosala.]
The rulers, who have full tenures (twenty-four years) as purushas and their successors, do not experience decay of power and wealth. The priests told Upakosala that they honoured and followed such a personage (purusha), during his present tenure as a leader in this social world (loka) of commoners and also during his (next) tenure as a noble, as a member of the other social world, that is, of the patriciate (4-11-2).
The priest in charge of the dakshina (anvaharyapachana) fire (connected with performance of monthly and annual rites performed to please the souls of the ancestors) told him that among the four officials designated after the concepts, apa, disa, nakshatra and chandra, he was the personage (purusha) who performed the functions of Chandra.
That is, among those whose occupations were dependent on rivers and seas (apa), those who lived in the distant provinces (disa), those who were not officials or warriors (nakshatra) and those who were intellectuals of the other society, he was the personage playing the roles of the sober intellectual (of the other society).
This official assured the student who understood the implications of this statement and adhered to his teachings that he would have influence over this social world. And his successors would have a full and bright tenure as leaders (purusha) in this social world of commoners and another as intellectuals in the other social world, that is, the frontier society (4-12-1,2).
The priest in charge of the ancillary (ahavaniya) fire told Upakosala that among those officials who looked after the individuals at the subsistence level (prana, breath), those living in open space (akasa), the patriciate (dyau) and the enlightened (vidyut), he was the person (purusha) who represented the enlightened persons (vidyut). He aspired to be this personage. The priest advised Upakosala to be such a personage.
One who honoured this fire as a representative of the enlightened among those who were not under the laws, which bound the commonalty, would not commit any sins and would not allow others too to perform sinful acts. Such a personage would be able to gain the approval of the cadre (loka) of enlightened persons and have a full and bright tenure as such a leader (purusha). where oblations might be performed for minor purposes
Purusha was the designation of a ruler who had tenure of twenty-four years. In some cases where he had not been able to complete his mission his tenure could be extended for another twenty years and again for another four years, that is, he may be given maximum two tenures of twenty-four years each.
His successors too would not experience decay of reputation, as he would have set up a good tradition in social administration. (4-13-1,2)
It is necessary to note that the three assistants of Gautama were training Upakosala for social leadership.They told him that he had been imparted the knowledge (vidya) that they had gained from being the persons (purushas) functioning as Aditya, Chandra and Vidyut.
Aditya was an administrator belonging to the ruling elite, Chandra was a counsellor attached to the sober intelligentsia of the other society and Vidyut was a teacher who belonged to the cadre of the enlightened.
They told him that he had gained formal knowledge (vidya) about his personal propensities and talents (atma) and that his teacher (acharya) would tell him where he should go next (4-14-1).
[The translation of this passage as: Then the fires said, Upakosala, you have this knowledge of our selves and knowledge of the self. But the teacher will tell you the way is unsatisfactory.]
Gautama on the Role of Brahma, the Highest Intellectual
On his return, Gautama found that Upakosalas face showed that he had received from the scholars-cum-priests knowledge in the role of the highest intellectual (Brahma).
Upakosala told him that the scholars who represented the three fires and who had by then gone away had taught him what they knew. The teacher learnt from him what they had taught him.
Gautama pointed out that they had spoken to him about (the different) social worlds (lokas). Gautama would only say that if Upakosala followed the advice given by the three priests while performing his roles as a social leader (purusha), he would not be guilty of any sinful act even if others in the society where he lived and functioned committed sins.
Gautama gave him the example of the lotus-leaf in the pond. It does not absorb any water though it stands in water and water-drops fall on its surface.
Gautama offered to tell him how to function as a personage who would not be affected by the evils in the society that he had to lead as an enlightened and sedate administrator. (4-14-2,3)
Brahma, an aristocratic personage in temper
Gautama told Upakosala that the personage (purusha) who is seen in the eye (of another) is oneself (atma). This personage as reflected in the popular view of him is aristocratic in temper (amrtam, immortal in common parlance) and is (hence) unafraid of death. Gautama calls him Brahma, the intellectual par excellence.
He points out that this intellectual is unaffected by any harm done to or evil spoken of him even as melted butter or water dropped into the eye goes away by the side and does not go in. Only good medicine gets into the eye and stays in.
Vamani: Straightens the crooked, samyad-vama
This personage who takes in only what is good and discards (vama, vomits) what is not good or necessary is addressed as samyad-vama, one who straightens the crooked. He straightens, brings to order all those who are undesirable elements. So persons who are found to be abnormal go to, that is, are sent to him for disciplining. The latter knows how to carry out this duty.
[The translation that all desirable things or blessings go to him does not bring out the intent of this statement.]
[The commentators of the medieval times had not approached this as an issue pertaining to the role of the highest judge as an officer in charge of establishing social discipline.] (4-15-1,2)
Ensuring social discipline and shining: Bhamani
When the undesirable eccentricities are discarded (vamani) and the rod with ups and downs is straightened, this intellectual guide (Brahma) is said to be adopting a good policy (naya) of disciplining all and maintaining (social) equity (vamani).
One who knows this principle of equity in ensuring social discipline is fit to occupy this highest social position of disciplining all. He who thus discards all the suggestions that are not helpful and ensures social discipline shines (bhati), that is, gains respect, in all social worlds. He is also called bhamani, the shining (3,4).
Brahma,the roles of Vamani and Bhamani: Intellectual empowered to discipline and ensure equity
Then Gautama explains to the prince of Kosala how one can rise to this high position of an intellectual guide, Brahma, vested with powers to discipline all and ensure equity. His sons may perform his last rites or not. They may consider that he is no longer with them and succeed to his wealth or they may continue to hold that he has not parted company with them and do not appropriate to themselves his wealth. In either case he becomes a venerable guide (light).
He may function as such for a day, then for a (bright) fortnight and then for a period of six months (when the sun moves northwards) and then for one year.
Purusha, protector (Aditya), sober guide (Chandra), enlightened guide (vidyut) and non-manava
He then plays the role of Aditya, protector and administrator on behalf of the nobles and then that of Chandra as a sober guide of the intellectuals. Then he plays the role of an enlightened guide, Vidyut. Thereby he becomes a personage (purusha) who leads others unlike the manava (who was governed by the code of Manava Dharmasastra which permitted him to pursue a path of his choice from the permitted ones).
The concept, manava, indicated one who was not eligible to lead others, and did not either allow any one to lead him, it is implied.
The translation of the term, amanava as not human is imprecise.
The manava was a citizen of the world and was not governed by the codes of any clan or community or country but exercised the rights and duties of the cross-regional socio-economic class, varna, that he had opted for as his svadharma. However he lacked the dynamism and social traits that a purusha was expected to have.
Purusha on the threshold of the aristocracy
Path to nobility (deva-patha); Path to judiciary (brahma-patha)
This is a stage when one (as purusha) is on the threshold of the aristocracy (divam). This path to the nobility (deva-patha) leads him to the path to the highest intellect, judiciary (brahma-patha).
Those who go by this path do not return to the status of manavas (commoners who are required to function under the social codes that prescribe the duties and rights of the individuals, svadharma, and who are citizens of the world as it were).
The highest judge on completion of his tenure may become a member of the ruling elite (devas) or remain a social leader (purusha) but he would not be required to remain a common man (manava) with no honour though enjoying freedom to pursue his chosen vocation. These concepts are implicit in the counsel given to Upakosala by Gautama. (4-15-5)
[The interpretation that this verse describes the path followed by a knower of Brahman after death is unsound. Similarly the comment that the followers of the ceremonial code pass along the path known as pitr-yana and return to this world while those who live in the forests and practise austerities go along the path known as deva-yana and do not return to this world is misleading.]
The four member constitution bench headed by the Atharvan whose is the last word
The passage (yana) from the position of a commoner to that of a high jurist, Brahma, may be described as a sacrifice (yajna) meant for purifying (puna) all here. It is compared to the wholesome wind (pava).
The teacher distinguishes two types in this passage; one of them is mental (manas) and the other, oral (vak). The Brahma (Atharvan) priest is a thinker and planner while the Hotr (Rgveda), Adhvaryu (Yajur) and Udgatr (Sama) priests speak aloud the views as expressed in the hymns.
After the morning rites, which the Atharvan priest watches silently, are about to be completed he has to speak. It is implied that the Atharvans is the last word. Gautama was instructing the prince of Kosala on the role of the Atharvan ideologue-cum-activist as the highest judge (Brahma) (4-16-1,2).
It may be noted that the constitution bench that gave rulings on matters pertaining to the validity of social, economic and political actions of the ruler had four members. The head of this constitution bench was called Brahma. He was an expert in Atharvaveda or Brahma, the socio-political constitution of theVedic times.
The other three had the status of Vipras and they represented the three Vedas, Rg, Yajur and Sama. They were his nominees. The head of the bench was expected to pronounce his verdict after silently hearing the views expressed by the other three members of the bench.
If the Brahma priest, that is, the head of the constitution bench acts conjointly (samskara) in a partisan way (in a way other than what is prescribed), the interests of the other side (the one not favoured) would be hurt. He would himself get hurt for his pronouncement would be held invalid.
The teacher compares such unilateral action to the walking of a one-footed man and to the movement of a chariot with one wheel. These would fail.
Gautama was warning Upakosala (who was a prince of Kosala) against governance without assistance. When the performance of a particular act (a beneficial sacrifice, yajna) is injured (held invalid), the performer of that sacrifice (yajaman) is found guilty and suffers.
By performing a sacrifice, which is found to be an act of partisanship, though an act of benevolence he incurs a sin, which is worse than not making any sacrifice at all (4-16-3).
After the morning rites (special pronouncements, anuvak, that follow the main routine declarations calling the attention of all) have begun and before the concluding announcements are made, the Brahma priest had to intervene to correct any deviation from the laws and procedure.
If he does not intervene, the two parties concerned may continue to function together and neither will be restrained. Every proceeding whether judicial or administrative was to be guided by a committee of three members presided over by the chief judge, brahma.
He did not intervene in the discussions between the other two who represented two divergent points of view. The chief judge (or the King) had to intervene to ensure that there was neither collision nor collusion between the two. The final decision had to be given by the presiding officer. Even if the other two agreed his endorsement was imperative.
Gautama was pointing out that the Brahma priest, that is, the head of the constitution bench, might and must intervene to regulate the (deviant) conduct of the officials who function jointly or separately. They are free to function in either way. But he should intervene before the final direction is given. Gautama was dwelling on the role of the high priest, the chief judge as ombudsman. (4-16-4).
[The transliteration, But when the morning litany has begun and before the concluding recitation the Brahma priest does not speak, they perform both ways and neither is injured, reveals that the commentator has failed to bring out the import of the dialogue.]
Gautama is eager to ensure that no official acts alone. One who has two legs walks steadily and a chariot, which has two wheels, does not topple. They have got balance and are well established (pratitishtha).
When an act of sacrifice (social, economic or political act of benevolence) is well established the person who presides over it is well established and he benefits thereby (4-16-5).
[The interpretation that Gautama was dealing with the wisdom of silence, mauna-vijnanam, is not to the mark.]
Gautama was dealing with the role of the judiciary that was expected to intervene at the appropriate time to ensure a balanced approach in administration.
Prajapati hears the views of Agni, Vayu, Aditya, Representatives of the three social worlds, lokas
The chief of the people (prajapati) considered seriously (abhyatapat) the conditions prevalent in the social worlds (lokas) and brought out the import (rasa) of the views of their representatives.
Agni represented the agro-pastoral commonalty (prthvi), Vayu the frontier society of the forests and mountains (antariksham) and Aditya, the patriciate (divam) (4-17-1). They had the status of devatas, a rank marginally lower than that of the devas, members of the cultural aristocracy.
The prajapati thought about their roles and noted that their views and roles were reflected in the three Vedas. Rgvedic hymns gave prominence to the views and roles of Agni, Yajurvedic formula to those of Vayu and Samaveda chants to those of Aditya. [Later, some commentators interpreted that Agni, Vayu and Aditya had composed these Vedas, Rg, Yajur and Sama respectively.]
Rgveda guided the commonalty and Agni, Yajurveda, frontier society and Vayu, Samaveda the nobility and Aditya.
The chief of the people scrutinized this discipline of study (vidya) comprising the three Vedas (trayi). He brought out what they dealt mainly with. He noticed that the Rgvedic verses were concerned mainly with the (agrarian) commonalty (bhu or prthvi), the Yajurvedic verses with the (other and more developed) frontier society (bhuva or antariksham) and the Samaveda with the role and functions of the patriciate (sva or divam) (4-17-2,3).
The teacher advised his students that while officiating at an act of sacrifice by one tending the garhapatya fire to sanctify his household that involved citing from a Rgveda hymn if there should be an error they should utter the word, bhu. This was intended to undo the harm done to the commonalty even as the power (virya) of the juice of medicinal herbs heals the injury caused to a part of the body.
It implies that care should be taken that the harm done to any sector or member of the commonalty should be rectified and its or his health restored and its or his interests protected (4-17-4).
While tending the dakshina fire, he should utter the word, bhuva, and cite the appropriate Yajur formula to restore the status ante if any sector or member of the frontier society has been harmed. Similarly while tending the ahavaniya fire, he should utter the suitable Sama chant to correct the damage caused to any sector or member of the patriciate, sva. (4-17-5,6)
The Judiciary and Rectification of errors
One binds salt with gold, gold with silver, silver with tin, tin with lead, lead with iron, iron with wood and wood with leather.
The different social worlds or cadres (lokas) and their patrons (devatas) and their traditions (as mentioned in the different Vedas) are brought together to heal the injury caused to any aspect of an act of sacrifice.
The act of sacrifice (yajna) gets cured of the injury when the Brahma priest, that is, the presiding officer who knows the provisions of the socio-political constitution as incorporated in Atharvaveda (Brahma) presides over the constitution bench is present.
The teacher impresses on his student who was being trained to become a ruler, the role of the Atharvan ideologue in bringing all the three social worlds and their chiefs and their traditions together for correcting the dysfunction within any of the three. This was not merger resulting in the loss of identity of any of the social worlds or their traditions or of authority or any of their patrons. (7,8)
The role of the chief justice, Atharvan or Brahma
The act of sacrifice, which is an act of rectification of errors pertaining to any of the three social worlds, has to be conducted by a Brahma priest of the north, that is by the head of the constitution bench.
He occupies a place to the north of the fire-pit. The other three members of this bench take their seats on the other three sides.
The head of the bench must be able to precisely locate which aspect or sector or individual has been harmed. That is, he must know all the three social worlds and their traditions as described in the three Vedas and their patrons well to locate who or what has been harmed and also know the corrective steps to be taken.
The teacher draws attention to the saying, Wherever it turns (avarta), the manava goes there.
The manava who followed the Manava Dharmasastra was not attached to any family or clan or community or vocational group or country. He would be willing to be associated with the areas that were protected by the socio-political constitution that rendered justice to all the peoples and cadres of the area concerned.
[The translation of the term, manava, as man is imprecise. He was constantly on the move and was available to all for consultation and help. He was a citizen of the world, as it were.]
The Atharvan ideologue-cum-activist, who held the position of Brahma, the head of the constitution bench, was accessible to all those persons who were victims of social dysfunction. (4-17-9).
[It is not sound to interpret the term, manava, as silence and hold Whenever mistakes are committed, he breaks silence and corrects them. The translation of this passage as: That sacrifice is inclined to the north, in which there is a Brahma priest who knows this. And with regard to such a Brahma priest there is this song. Wherever it falls, thither the man goes is unacceptable.]
Even as the horse (asva) protects its master (in battle) from being harmed, Brahma, the chief officer of the judiciary, functioning as the vigilant controller (Rtvij) of errors, disharmony and dysfunction protects the act of sacrifice (yajna).
[Any project undertaken by the ruler or any official or even an individual, which is benevolent and requires sacrifice of personal interests is yajna.]
He protected the host at the sacrifice and all those officials who took the corrective steps (Rtvijas).
Therefore a king should make only one who knows this function the chief official designated as Brahma. He should not make any one who does not know how to correct the errors of others the chief of the constitution bench (17-10). [Gautama was training Upakosala, the prince of Kosala, who had returned from a successful campaign leading his horse (asva).]
The Most Important Organ of the State
The teacher declares that one who knows which among the functions of the (sense) organs is the eldest (jyeshta) and best (sreshta), gains that status for oneself. In his view this status in social evolution belongs to the person(s) at the primal level who just exist and are said to be ones who breathe.
Prana, the individual who but breathes, is the eldest and the best, it is said (5-1-1).
It may be noted that in ancient Indian polity, the feudal lords (asuras) claimed to be senior (jyeshta) to the nobles (devas). Both these groups belonged to the ruling elite of the core society and they were engaged in a prolonged struggle for power. And the rich chieftains of the frontier society (yakshas) were addressed as sreshtas.
The teacher deems the persons who have neither political power nor economic power as the ones that may be treated as the eldest and the best among all social ranks.
One who knows who is the most valued (vasishta) among the nobles (svas) attains that status. His words (vak) carry weight (in the entire society) (5-1-2).
[It is imprecise to translate in this context the term, svanam as among his own people.]
One who knows correctly what gives him a permanent social status (and strives correctly) gains that permanent status (pratishtham). In the theorems pertaining to social polity, this status belonged to the institution of observers (chakshus, spies in common parlance), which functioned even during prolonged interregnum and in all forms of administration.
The teacher implied that the scholar who depended on empirical findings had a permanent status and influence (1-3). One who knows what may be treated as wealth acquired (sampada) proceeds (padyata) to get his desire (for wealth) fulfilled.
The methods to acquire this wealth are twofold, Daiva and Manusha, those that are recommended by the nobles (devas) and those that are debated on and approved by the commoners (manushyas).
(It is wrong to interpret the two terms, daiva and manushya, as referring to divine and human decisions.)
The ruler hears (srotra) the views of both the strata of the core society. Knowledge acquired from discussions with the representatives of the two classes is treated as valuable wealth (sampada). (5-1-4).
The teacher indirectly agrees that the other society is interested in gaining wealth but does not condemn this pursuit. He however calls for giving equal treatment to the views both of the rich nobles and the commoners.
The features of the social polity of the Vedic times have to be kept in mind for the discussions in the Upanishad involved them. The teacher explains that one who knows how to keep oneself under check (ayata) finds that his assembly of nobles (svanam) stays under him. He implies by this stand that one's thoughts (manas) should be kept under check.
He was explaining the role of the ruler vis--vis the independent nobles. There has to be accord in their thoughts on issues of planning for social progress.(5)
[The translation, He who knows the abode becomes the abode of his people. The mind, indeed, is the abode, does not convey the intent of Gautamas counsel.] .
Gautama pointed out to his student (a prince of Kosala) that the claim of the individual (prana) that he was superior (sreyas) to the other units of the social polity was challengeable.
Vedic teachers (vak) who were intellectuals, scientists who followed empiricism while noticing (chakshu) the social and physical environment, the wealthy of the distant provinces who are only heard of (srotra) and the planners (manas), each put forth their respective claims to superiority.(6)
[The interpretation that the five senses disputed among themselves as to who was superior is unacceptable.]
The representatives of these five sectors (prana, vak, chakshu, srotra and manas) may be correlated with the five types of prana, in-breath (prana), out-breath (apana), diffused breath (vyana), equalizing breath (samana) and upward breath (udana).
They approached the chief of the people (prajapati) who was like a father (pitara) to his offspring, to resolve their dispute. [Some of the pitaras were retired authoritarian feudal lords.]
He pointed out that the sector (organ, type of breath) whose absence would affect the body politic of the society most adversely should be deemed to be the most vital and the greatest (sreya) among the five (5-1-7). Gautama was drawing attention to the views of the senior sage who was then the chief of the people, Prajapati.
Importance of Prana, meeting the needs of the commoners
The social polity could function even without the class of teachers (vak). Similarly it could survive without the observers (chakshu) of the environment if the other sectors were active. It could progress without getting valuable reports (srotra) from distant areas. It could afford even to miss the presence and counsel of the planners (manas).
But the presence of these four sectors would be of no avail if the needs of the common people (prana), the most essential part of the social polity, were ignored. (5-1-8 to 12)
The representatives of these sectors conceded that the (undistinguished) commonalty (prana) by itself played the roles of all of them as sectors (pranas) of it (prana).
The commoners who are considered to be uneducated and are required to subordinate themselves to the different organs of the state including its thinkers are not to be ignored. For these organs have the raison detre for their existence and functions in the needs and wills of the commoners who but breathe. (5-1-13 to 15)
[The commentators of the medieval times and their modern adherents were cut off from the framework of the Vedic social polity. They have tended to go by the postulate that the poet-sages of the Vedic times were worshippers of nature and that Agni, Varuna, Aditya, Soma, Indra etc. were aspects of nature that were deified.]
[They have advanced the postulate that the Upanishads were imbued with mysticism and that they dealt with the relationships between human soul and the great divine soul and their relationships with mans body and the physical environment. They have avoided dwelling on the views that the sages who contributed to the Vedas and Upanishads had about the socio-political contexts these were set in.]
The scholar put forth the importance of prana, that is, the individuals who are at the bare subsistence level are more important for the body politic than the cadres that were engaged in imparting knowledge.
They were more important than the cadres engaged in teaching what had been learnt by the people of the earlier times as recorded in the chronicles known as Vedas or Srutis, or in acquiring knowledge through empirical observations. They were more important than the cadres engaged in mental planning.
These individuals did not consider themselves as superior to the animals (dogs) and birds (sparrows) and were fed only pittance. They had no clothes and were satisfied with drinking water, a bare necessity. (5-2-1,2).
Upakosala, son of Kamala, conveyed this teaching of Gautama to his classmate, Satyakama, son of Jabala and Satyakama conveyed it to Gosruti, son of Vyagrapada.
Upakosala (son of Kamala) claimed that if this knowledge was conveyed to a person who had lost all interest in life, that person would benefit and lead a new life of optimism, even as new leaves sprout in a dried up stump (5-2-3).
Jabali was one of the counselors of Dasaratha, ruler of Kosala. He did not respect the principles behind the laws based on truth (satya) which Vasishta who held the position of Brhaspati (official in charge of economy and implementation of economic laws, vyavahara) advocated.
His son, Satyakama, was being instructed by Gautama who had already instructed a prince of Kosala on the status and role of the judiciary (Brahma).
Status of Agni, head of the civil judiciary
The teacher advises his student that if he desired to become great, he should perform the initiation rites hailing the official designated as Agni as the eldest and greatest. Agni who headed the council (samiti) of scholars and elders was also head of the sixteen member civil judiciary.
The trainee should hail this official, Agni, as the eldest (jyeshta) and greatest (sreshta), as the most honoured (vasishta) and the best-established (pratishta), as the most well organized and hence valuable (sampada) and well-restrained (ayata) official (of the social polity). (5-2-4,5)
The other attributes are not to the mark and should be discarded as residues that are to be cast in the mash.
The teacher advises the trainee to then move a little away from Agni and address the representative of the individuals at the bare subsistence level. He should hold the mash with residues in his hand and utter repeatedly, You are called the anonymous (ama) for all this (all the persons here in this miscellany, mash, masses) rest in you.
The teacher implies that what is called the will of the multitude has no validity or identity or authority (ama).
The trainee to the post of the king has to be aware that he has to instead honour Agni, the Vedic official, who is the eldest (jyeshtha) and the best (sreshtha) of all the officials and holds the status of a king (raja) and is also the overlord (adhipati).
The trainee has to seek the favour of this official to gain control over the state (rajyam) and attain that position, authority, rank and status (which Agni held) so that he might be able to identify himself with this multitude of anonymous individuals at the bare subsistence level (5-2-6).
[Agni was an intellectual who spoke for the commoners, manushyas, who had no individual identity and led a simple life.]
After making the above prayer to the official designated as Agni, the aspirant is required to sanctify (take a sip after) every one of the feet of the Rg verse, We pray to Savita for the fulfillment of our desires . Savita was held to be the best of the nobles (devas).
What the aspirant and his guide, Agni, offered was food that was to be consumed by the nobles as a sign of conceding the prayer made. In other words, the aspirant who had gained the approval of the intellectuals (Agni, the head of the samiti) was able to gain the support of the nobles (devas) whose head was designated as Savita.
The Upanishad refrains from granting the status of the head of the nobility to Indra. The sage treats Savita as the spokesman of the universal cultural aristocracy and Aditya as the head of the political aristocracy.
Savita was also the highly respected (sreshta) authority to grant all prayers (sarvadhata). He was also addressed as the great, discerning patron (bhaga dhimahi). In this state, if he sees his wife (stri), he may infer that his duty (karma) has been fulfilled (5-2-7). He may then retire to sleep (svapna) and enjoy the company of his wife (5-2-8). [This verse must have been a later interpolation.]