PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES AND BLISS, ANANDA
The Happy Disciplined Youth of the Commonalty, Manushyas
The students were eager to know what privileges and immunities (the bliss, ananda) the supreme judge and head of the constitution bench and his colleagues enjoyed. The teacher asked them to visualize the happiness that a youth who was pious, educated, disciplined, mentally steady and physically strong, and had the entire agrarian terrain (prthvi) full of wealth. This youth was an ideal commoner, manushya, who had to earn his wealth through hard work. But he was not yet laden with cares of life that follow marriage and responsibility for the maintenance of the family. The students who would be soon graduating from the academy would be like this youth.
The Happiness of Manushya-Gandharva, Free Man, Nara
The happiness that a Gandharva who belonged to the commonalty, manushyas, like this youth, but was not engaged in economic activities or bound by its discipline could enjoy was a hundred times that of the above ideal youth. Such a Gandharva was a free man, nara. He did not belong to the intelligentsia or to the ruling class though he did assist the latter and consequently had several privileges that were denied even to the capable commoner.
Not all Gandharvas of the Vedic times had access to the nobles, devas. Many Gandharvas were expert archers or were cavaliers. Some Gandharvas were interested in fine arts, like painting and music. Some Gandharvas were interested in metaphysics and some in diplomacy. But the Gandharvas were not initiated as dvijas, twiceborn, when the scheme of four classes was introduced.
The Gandharvas had special privileges and were not subordinate to any state. The lower ranks of this free class were known as naras. Naraloka was superior to manushyaloka. Its members, manushya-gandharvas were closer to the commonalty, manushyas, than to the nobility, devas. The teacher says that the teachers of Vedas (srotris) who had no desires and ambitions were on par with these manushya-gandharvas with respect to privileges and immunities and independence and the bliss (ananda) they obtained thereby.
It is wrong and shows gross ignorance of the features of the Vedic social polity to translate the term, manushya-gandharvas as human fairies. Such ignorance on the part of western Indologists may be pardoned but not on the part of Indian scholars.
The Privileges of the Deva-Gandharvas
The Gandharvas who had access to the nobles, devas, were far superior to the manushya-gandharvas mentioned above. They were more sophisticated and could act on their own unlike the manushya-gandharvas, naras who were subordinate to the state though not to social groupings like kulas and jatis, clans and communities.
The deva-gandharvas could visit any area and could not be proceeded against by any state or social group. The privileges and immunities and the consequent happiness (ananda) they enjoyed were hundred times more than what the free men or manushya-gandharvas enjoyed. [It is wrong to describe the deva-gandharvas as divine fairies. They were not fictitious creatures.]
The gandharvas constituted a social universe and there were perceptible strata and sectors among them. They were not part of the populace engaged in productive economy, whether agrarian or pastoral or industrial or in commercial economy. They were educated and followed pursuits that were closer to their hearts. They were masters of aesthetics and sensuousness but were not hedonists. (The refrain, srotriyasya ca akamahatasya must have been interpolated later.)
The Privileges of the Elders, Pitrs
The privileges and immunities and consequent bliss, ananda, that the elders (pitrs) who were a non-economic social cadre (loka) and who constituted a permanent social world (chira-loka) were hundred times more than what the deva-gandharvas (who were not members of any social world and had to be constantly on the move though they had access to the nobles) had.
[The elders who had retired to their abodes in the forests or mountain-caves had cut themselves off from the economic society and lived there permanently. They were known as chiranjivis.]
The pitrs, elders, had no property and no earnings but were maintained by the younger generation among the commoners, manushyas. They were not part of the socio-economic community of commoners, manushyas and their welfare and security were assured by the orientation that had been imparted to the earning members even while the latter were getting educated in formal schools (jnana) or through the informal education (pravacana) that was available through the roving scholars (vipras).
The state too was required to meet their needs from its own sources. The students some of whom belonged to the royal family and would soon become administrators were being briefed about the privileges and immunities (bliss, ananda), which the retired senior citizens, pitrs, enjoyed.
The Privileges of the Born Aristocrats
But the privileges and immunities and consequent bliss that the born aristocrats (ajanaja devas) enjoyed were a hundred times more than what the protected elders, pitrs, enjoyed. The description of the pitrs as denizens of a higher world which they have attained as a result of performing certain rites, while they lived on earth for the satisfaction of the souls of their ancestors, defies rationalism. It has to be noted that Devas were not gods.
[The concept that God has neither birth nor death, is aja and amara, needs to be kept out while tracing the rights, privileges and statuses of the different social ranks.]
A commoner (manushya) who is born in the janapada has far less rights and freedom and happiness than one belonging to the same janapada but born in an aristocratic family.
[There is no place called ajana heaven. The remark that this heaven or Devaloka or dwelling place of the gods lies above the plane of the Manes, pitrs and that souls are born in this heaven as a reward for the performance of the social duties prescribed by the Smrti indicates an irrational approach and failure to comprehend the features of the social polity.]
The teacher did not accept that all who were bracketed in the class of devas, nobles, and granted privileges and immunities that were not available to commoners (manushyas), or to gandharvas or to elders (pitrs) should be treated on par and granted the same privileges.
The children born in aristocratic families have everywhere been treated as different from and superior to those born in the families of commoners who had to perform physical work to earn their livelihood or were (as gandharvas) free to be engaged in arts of their taste and choice.
The born aristocrats were not required to earn their livelihood and they could not be subordinated to the state. But they were not all part of the ruling elite. The latter enjoyed more rights and privileges than them.
Privileges of the Nobles as Executives
There were some nobles (devas) who were associated with social and political administration and held executive posts. Some of them might have risen directly from the commonalty even as some of the aristocrats had risen from the upper crust of the commonalty. (These were known as Visvedevas.) These karma-devas enjoyed more privileges and immunities than the born aristocrats who had no specific duties did.
[The remark that these were they who had attained the status of gods through the performance of the Vedic rituals and that they did not possess the knowledge of Brahman, shows a gross ignorance of the features of the Vedic social polity. The translation of the expression, karma-devas as gods by work or as sacrificial gods is simplistic and deserves to be rejected.]
The Vedic social polity had a large administrative cadre (karma-devas) drawn from among the members of the aristocratic families (born aristocrats) who themselves had earlier belonged to the upper crust of the commonalty (vis). They were happier and had more privileges and immunities than those born in noble families but were not part of the administrative machinery.
Privileges of the Members of the House of Nobles and Indra
Above these administrators ranked the members of the house of the nobles (devas). They enjoyed more privileges and immunities (bliss, ananda) than what the members of the executive did. In other words, the house of nobles, Sabha or Divam, which was the main body of legislature until the Samiti, the council of scholars, was recognized as equal to the former, was superior to the social and political executive that the karma-devas were.
As Yajnavalkya has pointed out, the Visvedevas were three thousand and three or three hundred and three in number while the Devas were only thirty-three in number. These nobles were drawn from the four groups, Adityas, Vasus, Rudras and Maruts.
The Vedic social polity had a vast aristocracy from which the members of its executive (karmadevas) and legislators (devas) were drawn. The last enjoyed more powers and immunities than the ordinary aristocrats.
Indra was the head of this house of nobles. He enjoyed more powers and privileges and immunities and hence happiness (ananda) than what its other members did. It may be kept in mind that the Vedic social polity was dominated by a liberal, cultural aristocracy.
Privileges of Brhaspati vis--vis Indra in the Constitution
During the later Vedic times, in some regions, the powers of Indra were restrained by the creation of the post of Brhaspati who was the watchdog of the constitution as incorporated in the Atharvaveda. Brhaspati controlled civil polity and economy. The treasury and the armoury were in his charge and the aristocracy headed by Indra could not act independently.The privileges and immunities that Brhaspati enjoyed were more than what Indra enjoyed.
[The remark that Indra was the lord of the gods and that Brhaspati was the teacher of Indra reveals non-acquaintance with the features of the later Atharvan polity.]
In the later Vedic polity the scholars who were members of the Samiti headed by the official, Agni had lost their importance and civil administration headed by the economist Brhaspati came to the fore.
In the normative Vedic polity, while Indra headed the Sabha, the house of nobles, Agni was the head of Samiti, the council of scholars. The two houses of the Vedic legislature were to be convened by Prajapati, the chief of the people.
Indra-Brhaspati agreement, which came into force during the later Vedic period to wipe out the recalcitrant elements among the feudal lords, asuras, virtually subordinated the nobility to the civil polity dominated by the bourgeoisie and their representative, Brhaspati. In this process the intelligentsia headed by the civil judge, Agni, lost its social power.
Privileges of Prajapati, Chief of the People
In the modified set-up, the two officials, Indra and Brhaspati, had both to acknowledge the superiority of Prajapati who was a highly charismatic personage and represented all sections of the population. Indra represented and headed the patriciate while Brhaspati headed civil polity and the commonalty.
The new politico-economic code that Brhaspati operated subordinated the aristocracy to its provisions and virtually made it a toothless, unarmed leisure class surviving at the pleasure of the rich bourgeoisie and the hard-working commonalty.
But Brhaspati himself had to respect the opinion and will of the masses that were reflected in the directives issued by the Prajapati. The privileges and immunities and the consequent bliss that the chief of the people, Prajapati had, were more than what the civilian authority, Brhaspati, enjoyed. The interpretation that the word, Prajapati, here means Virat, whose body is the aggregate of all physical bodies, is incorrect.
In the typical Atharvan polity, Viraj was the head of the federal social polity and Prajapati, the chief of the people ranked next to him. Aditi (the benevolent mother figure who directed the eight-member executive and ensured that all adhered to the ten prescriptions issued by her) ranked next to Prajapati. Indra was the head of this executive and Agni ranked next to him. The Upanishadic polity did not provide for the posts of Viraj and Aditi. The Prajapati was its highest authority.
The sages of the Upanishad dealt with the polity of the core society which had four classes, devas, pitrs, gandharvas and manushyas, nobles, elders, free men and commoners. They also identified three strata among the nobles (devas) and two among the gandharvas.
The larger Atharvan social polity, on the other hand, dealt with eight social sectors, devas, asuras, rshis, pitrs, manushyas, yakshas and rakshas, gandharvas and apsaras, nagas and sarpas and Viraj headed this federal polity. It assured the autonomy of every unit and union without uniformity.
[The class of pitrs mentioned above included all retired heads of families and the retired and reformed feudal lords, asuras, who consented to occupy a place next to the nobles.]
Privileges of Brahma vis--vis Prajapati
According to the teacher, the head of the constitution bench who was designated as Brahma was superior to the Prajapati, the charismatic leader of the people of the expanded state. The privileges and immunities and the consequent bliss (ananda) that Brahma enjoyed were more than what Prajapati enjoyed.
[It may be noted here that it is not correct to hold that the two terms, Brahma and Prajapati, denoted the same god, the God of Creation who was hence the Father of all classes, races and species. The description of Brahma as Hiranyagarbha, the first of embodied beings, the cosmic mind who pervades the whole universe and in whom culminate all the different measures of bliss is unacceptable.]
The Prajapati enjoyed charismatic and rational legitimacy and could admit new members to the populace of the state, which was not confined to the jana, the sons of the soil. He presided over the combined meetings of the sabha and the samiti. The chief judge, Brahma ranked far above the chief of the people, the Prajapati.
The New Political Hierarchy
Brahma headed the judiciary. Its verdict was superior to the will of the larger populace that was voiced by the charismatic chief of the people, Prajapati. The voice of the Prajapati who was the head of the democratic social polity could override the directives issued by Brhaspati, the head of the civil administration who controlled armoury, treasury and economy and ensured that the nobles did not ride roughshod over the needs of the commonalty.
Brhaspati, spokesman of the Atharva-Angirasa constitution and an ideologue-cum-activist, a Brahmavadi, ranked higher than Indra, the head of the patriciate, devas, who directed the executive, karma-devas.
Limits of Ascent in the Social Polity for a Commoner
The teacher tells his students that the individual who is a social leader, purusha, and is on the threshold of the aristocracy, is the same person who is performing the role of Aditya, the head of the executive wing of the governing elite. A commoner who has developed his talents can reach the level of Aditya.
It is implicit that he cannot become a member of that ruling elite. He cannot attain the level of Indra or Brhaspati or Prajapati or Brahma. These positions required higher talents than the ones, which the Purusha was endowed with or had developed.
Even as it is not sound to treat the concept, Prajapati, as identical with the concept, Brahma, it is not sound to treat the concepts, Purusha and Brahma, as being identical. The Purusha ranked far lower than Brahma, the supreme judge and interpreter of the socio-political constitution. None of the three terms, Purusha, Prajapati and Brahma indicated the status of the omnipresent omniscient, omnipotent God.
The teacher points out that a scholar who is trained in this (royal) academy on his departure (pretya) from it becomes an individual (atma) heading the (mundane) economy that provides food (anna) for all. As the trainee assumes his position as the head of the state or of its judiciary, he becomes the head of all the living beings (prana) whether they are members of organized (social) groups or not.
This individual (atma) will not stay constrained by his membership of a social or economic group. He will after leaving the academy become a member of the group of (social) thinkers (manas). He will rise from that level of thinkers to become one who has gained knowledge of the yet unknown (vijnana). This needs extrapolation of the knowledge (jnana) already gained by him. He could thereby become a member of the (council of) planners (for the future).
Finally he will rise to become a member of the highest judiciary and enjoy the unlimited privileges and immunities (ananda, bliss) open to its members. The members of the high judiciary ought to have earlier functioned as members of the council of social planners (manas).
Manu or Thinker was a status lower than that of Brahma, the highest judge and impartial arbiter who assessed and determined the merits and demerits of the deeds of every one and pronounced what he deserved as reward or punishment.
Failure is not penalized
When a scholar (vacha) who is also a thinker (manas) returns to his basic position as a teacher without having succeeded in attaining his goal, if he knows what the privileges and immunities that constitute the bliss (ananda) that a Brahmana, a member of the high judiciary is eligible to enjoy, he need not fear being hauled up for any fault.
All Brahmanas or members of the judiciary did not rise to become Brahma, the head of the judiciary. Not all trainees could succeed in their effort to join the judiciary. Many were Brahmavadis or Brahmarshis but did not get recognized as Brahmanas. One could become Brahmanaspati, the head of a bench of jurists, Brahmanas, but might not be able to rise to the highest level, that of Brahma. It is no fault that one has tried to achieve the highest position but has failed.
He need not feel that he has failed in his striving (tapa) to be a pious person (sadhu) and suspect that he might have committed some sin that had resulted in his exclusion from the ranks of the great intellectuals. A scholar who knows this saves himself from such feeling of self-blame. This is the secret advice (upanishad) that the teacher gives his students when they are about to leave his academy. (9)
BHRGU AND VARUNA ON THE CONCEPT, BRAHMA
All strata had equal privileges, according to Varuna
Bhrgu whose father had held the post of Varuna in the Vedic polity, requested his father to teach him what the concept, Brahma, meant. Varuna was the designation of the Vedic official of the western regions, which were noted for formless state, vairajyam and vairupam, bordering on anarchism. He was also regent during interregna and could take into custody any official or individual who failed to discharge his duties. He was an important official of the eight-member ministry of the Vedic times and generally worked in collaboration with Mitra who vouched for the correctness of his action. This Bhrgu was the same as the chief editor of Manava Dharmasastra.
Varuna explained that anna, prana, chakshu, srotra, manas and vacha were born of Brahma. [The translation of the above terms as matter, life, sight, hearing, mind and speech does not bring out the import of the statement.] In other words all those who are at the bare subsistence level (anna) and all persons who just breathe (prana) are recognized as eligible for the privileges sanctioned in the constitution, Brahma.
These privileges are the same as those granted to the scholars (chakshus) who observe the socio-physical environment and point out the manifest trends in it and the scholars (srotras) who hear and report about what cannot be observed directly. [The Vedas or Srutis contain the knowledge of what had happened in the past and conveyed orally, heard and followed.] The thinkers (manas) and the teachers (vacha) too have the same privileges as the above four sections, according to Varuna.
Reorganisation of the discrete individuals (bhutas)
Bhrgu's father had retired from his post of Varuna and was stationed in his forest abode on the periphery as a pitara. He drew the attention of Bhrgu to the life of the discrete individuals, bhutas, of that social periphery. The individuals (bhutas) of the social periphery are constituted into separate cadres and ranks in accordance with the provisions of that constitution, Brahma. It makes available to them when they come into existence (jata), the provisions for their livelihood (jiva). (It is implied that the constitution guaranteed protection of life and the minimum needs of life.)
The protectors of that constitution, that is, members of the judiciary (Brahma) enable them to enter their (high) fold (abhisamvisanti) when they leave that stage of unorganized commonalty of the periphery (and go ahead to become a class of intellectuals). The new entrants seek to know (vijijnasa) in detail about the provisions of that constitution (Brahma).
[The translation of this passage as: That, verily, from which these beings are born, that, by which, when born they live, that into which, when departing, they enter; that seek to know; that is Brahman, is not satisfactory.]
As directed by his father and teacher, Bhrgu made strenuous effort (performed tapas) to learn the implications of the provisions of this constitution, Brahma.
[The interpretation the fundamental definition of Brahman as that from which the origin, continuance and dissolution of the world comes is of Isvara who is the world-creating, world-sustaining and world-dissolving God is inappropriate here. The theme is totally different from this note and is a continuation of the theme of ascent in social polity discussed in the previous section. The attempt to introduce here the concept of the attribute-less Brahman or that of maya or Saguna Brahman is unwarranted.] (3-1)
Dilemma caused by social ascent
Bhrgu realized the importance of food (anna) as the minimum need assured by the constitution, Brahma. [The translation, he knew that matter is Brahman fails to notice this aspect.] He also found that the individuals of the social periphery (bhutas) had come into being (jayanta) because they had been able to secure not only food but also other needs (annadhi). In other words they were not at the bare subsistence level. The constitution, Brahma, had elevated them economically. But there was a dilemma.
They had been born in a stratum that was at the bare subsistence level (anna) earlier. But their present economic comforts, security and status, those of domiciles (prajas) admitted to the organized society (janapada), a higher one than their earlier one, would not last long. And they would in the highest stratum that they seek to enter, once again be required to deny themselves all comforts and be satisfied with only the minimum food required for survival.
[The translation, For truly, beings here are born from matter, when born, they live by matter, and into matter when departing they enter fails to be rational.]
Having realized this aspect, Bhrgu once again approached his father and teacher who held the post of Varuna and asked him to teach the implications of the concept, Brahma. Did this stage, which was presented to be the highest in making one happy, require one to deny oneself all pleasures?
Varuna advised him to exert himself (perform tapas) and learn (vijijnasa) about Brahma, for that position called for performance of tapas, strenuous endeavour to know the not-yet known.
[The statement, Through austerity seek to know Brahman. Brahman is austerity fails to bring out the implication of the directive given by Varuna. The comment that the first suggested explanation of the universe is that everything can be explained from matter and motion while on second thoughts one may realize that there are phenomena, which require another principle than matter and motion, does not go to the root of the discourse. The issue is not whether matter is the ultimate reality or not.] (3-2)
Social ascent calls for indifference to physical needs
The constitution had guaranteed every one the right to food, the minimum need for living. This leads to the right to live. The individuals of the social periphery (bhutas) had risen from the lower strata of the society that were struggling to live. Prana, in-breath, signifies this level of bare existence. But as the individual from the social periphery enters the high stratum, he learns to hold his position there high even if he does not get food to keep himself alive.
[The translation of this passage as: He knew that life is Brahman. For truly, beings here are born from life, and into life, when departing they enter, does not bring out its import.]
Varuna was dealing with the fringe sections of the social polity that had to learn to exist on bare minimum. Its highest intelligentsia was not concerned with riches and material benefits.
The Atharvan socio-political constitution placed at the top of the social ladder individuals who did not hanker after wealth and who had the resilience needed to survive against all odds. Varuna advised Bhrgu to study more about this spirit of Brahma that made the intellectual totally indifferent to physical needs and to lure of wealth.
[The remark that the prana or vital breath is non-intelligent and therefore cannot be Brahman and hence the pupil was dissatisfied with this solution and approached his teacher for further guidance is unsound. So is the comment that in this passage we go from materialism in emphasis on matter, anna, to vitalism in emphasis on life, prana, and that the principle of life cannot account for conscious objects, off the mark.] (3-3)
Education alone not enough to rise to the level of Brahma
The teacher skips the concepts, chakshu and srotra, seeing and hearing, and takes up the issue of mind (manas). The intellectuals of the social periphery whom Bhrgu took into account were thinkers. They were by birth more intelligent than the lower rungs of that periphery who had been assured the right to live (prana) and to a livelihood (anna). They too could rise only to the high level of independent thinkers (mana prayanti abhisamvisanti).
Bhrgu realized on a perusal of the constitution, Brahma, that it did encourage one to think, that is, to get educated in the true sense. But it did not assure that every educated person would be able to rise to the highest socio-political stratum. He was perplexed and sought the help of his father, Varuna, to get a solution for this enigma. Varuna advised him to resort to tapas to arrive at the knowledge that he needed.
[The argument that the mind creates doubts and that it cannot be Brahman because it is an organ or instrument like the eye, ear etc. is not tenable. The remark that animals possess rudimentary mind but not reason and that even mind cannot account for all aspects of the universe is quite in order.]
The teacher was pointing out that what was needed was an ability to arrive at objective conclusions which only a few had. It is more than the intelligence needed to frame concepts and ideals and to plan means for their realization. (3-4)
Independent intellectual of the social periphery
Bhrgu wondered whether dialectical methods used to gain the knowledge of the not-yet known (vijnana) from what is known (jnana) would help one who was trained to think to reach the highest level.
The Veda, the socio-political constitution or Brahma, did facilitate one to gain such knowledge through extrapolation and through ascertaining the latent trends from the manifest events. Among the people of the social periphery who were independent individuals there were such scientists who were not mere conformists.
This ability too is an innate one and the constitution allowed it to blossom. Bhrgu realized that the independent individual if he was a thinker could become such an independent intellectual.
He was however not satisfied with reaching only that level however high it was. Varuna advised him to study the provisions of the constitution further to ascertain whether such an intellectual was frustrated in his bid to rise above those persons who governed the society.
The term, vijnana, is not to be translated as intelligence or as intellect or as understanding. Of course, intelligence is not the ultimate principle. However the statement that it does not exhaust the possibilities of consciousness and that mans awareness is to be enlarged into super-consciousness with illumination, joy and power leads one to the theory that knowledge is power which has been by some pressed to dangerous limits.
It is cautioned that the statement that the crown of evolution is this deified consciousness overlooks this danger. The concept of Brahma that Varuna expected Bhrgu to recognize was distinct from such consciousness.
The intellectual however high he may be in the socio-political hierarchy by virtue of his knowledge of the latent trends cannot be granted unlimited privileges and immunities.
The constitution, Brahma, restrained his powers to put that knowledge into use as he liked. Such intellectuals are generally amoral and hold that they are superior to the rest of the society as most of the commoners seek but to live. These intellectuals disdain the latter. The Brahmavadi did not do so. He was on a mission of service.
The mission of the intellectual to make everyone happy
As Bhrgu probed further he discovered that the constitution, Brahma, upheld the need to make every one happy (ananda). All the individuals of the social periphery were born free and happy. Unlike the members of the organized sections of the society they were not under obligation to others. They were not bound by the codes of any clan or community or state.
The natural rights that they enjoyed aided them to reach the highest level in the socio-political hierarchy by discovering and developing their potentiality. When they reached that highest level, there too they enjoyed those rights and could be happy, as those rights did not allow others to coerce them nor allow them to coerce others into deeds that would deprive them of any of their natural rights.
Bhrgu and his guide Varuna pronounced this standpoint in their science (vidya) on the provisions of the socio-political constitution (Brahma). It was established (pratishthita) as applicable to the highest stratum (parama vyoma) of free intelligentsia. One who knows this feature tries to follow this constitution and be rooted in it.
The member of this independent judiciary is eligible according to this constitution to be an independent owner of lands that yielded him his basic requirement, food (anna). He would not starve. The Vedic official, Varuna, was not subordinate to the state and held his post intact even during interregna.
As ombudsman he could pronounce whether the decisions taken by the constitutional bodies, sabha and samiti were in order and whether the incumbents were duly installed in their posts and whether they functioned according to rules. This section cannot be interpreted correctly without a proper appraisal of the status and role of Varuna in the Vedic social polity.
Extension of jurisdiction of the core society
Bhrgu, one of the contributors to the Atharvaveda had received training from an incumbent to the position of Varuna. Bhrgu accepted his pronouncement and became eligible to head the cadre of social legislators (maha). One who was endowed with the eligibility to be a member of the highest constitution bench (brahma-varchas) could admit to the fold of the society over which this bench presided, men as domiciles (praja) and cattle (pasu). This bench could extend the jurisdiction of the social polity to men and animals not originally belonging to its area.
(The concepts, Civil Liberties and Human Rights, do not take into account the claim of the animals and birds to the natural resources on par with human beings and hence cannot be conceived as in tune with principles of humanitarianism.)
The open areas may be brought under the jurisdiction of the core society if the legislators (maha) so decided. This would add to their fame.
[The translation of this passage as: The wisdom of Bhrgu and Varuna, established in the highest heaven (vyoma), he knows this becomes established. He becomes possessor of food and eater of food. He becomes great in offspring and cattle and in the splendour of sacred wisdom (brahma-varchas); great in fame fails to bring out its import.]
[The interpretation that this Upanishad suggests an analogy between the macrocosm, nature, and the microcosm, man, and an equation between intelligibility and being, is irrelevant. The comment that the ascent of reality from matter to God as one of increasing likeness to God is brought out here indicates the failure to grasp the dynamics of the social and intellectual ascent made possible by the Atharvan constitution. The claim that while man has in his being all the five elements, the material, the vital, the mental, the intellectual and the spiritual (anna, prana, manas, vijnana and ananda), he may stress only one or the other of them and that only one who harmonizes all these is the complete man does not accord with the import of the theme of social ascent. The view that it is ananda, the truth behind matter, life, mind and intelligence, which controls them all by exceeding them, is irrelevant. The claim that the Upanishad suggests here an epic of the universe is extravagant.] (3-6)
Right to life (prana) implies right to livelihood (anna)
The teacher then expounds the implication of the dialogue between Bhrgu and his teacher, Varuna. He asks his students to take the pledge not to speak ill of food (anna). The two terms, prana and anna indicate the same concept. That is, the right to life implies the right to a livelihood. The (physical) body (sarira) consumes food. The body (sarira) is established (pratishthita) in breath (prana). In other words, unless one breathes, the body would be but a corpse.
The life-breath (prana) is located in the body. This syllogism leads to the enigma that food (anna) is established (pratishthita) in food (anna). The right to livelihood (anna) is not contingent on any purpose other than being able to live.
A student who knows the meaning of this axiom is on proper footing (pratishthita). On graduation he becomes the owner of lands that provide food and is able to survive (independently) as an eater of food.
He may become a member of the cadre of social legislators (maha) and be treated as being eligible to become member of the constitution bench that had jurisdiction over all areas whose domiciles consented to be governed by it. The cattle-wealth of those areas too came under its jurisdiction. Thus the teacher reiterates the counsel that Varuna gave Bhrgu. (3-7)
[The remark that the world owes its being to the interaction of an enjoyer and an object enjoyed, that is, subject and object, fails to give a precise solution to the enigma. The remark that this distinction is superseded in the Absolute Brahman is not pertinent to this context.]
Luminaries (jyotis) to be guided by Varuna
The teacher asks the students to take the pledge not to laugh at food (anna), that is, at the people at the bare subsistence level.
[The translation, Even if the food appears to be bad, it should not be abandoned, has to be rejected as irrational.]
Water (apa) and food (anna) are at the same level. Both are bare necessities for living. The luminaries (jyoti) who guide the society too survive on food, which is on par with water as a necessity. This leads to the statement that jyotis, the luminaries, are dependent on water and water is dependent on the luminaries.
[Varuna is equated with rain, water and sea. The officials (jyotis) heading and guiding the different social sectors need to secure the approval of Varuna. Varuna too should be able to secure their trust. This lesson has to be learnt from the statement, Water is food; light is the eater of food; light is established in water; water is established in light. Varuna was trustee of all common property.]
Admission to council of legislators (mahaloka) and recognition as jurist (brahmavarchas)
As in the previous passage this syllogism also leads to the enigma that food is established in food. One (a legislator admitted to mahaloka) who recognizes the implication of this enigma that the right to a livelihood is not contingent on any other factor is eligible to be a member of the cadre of legislators (maha). He is endowed with the benefits and privileges due to one who has the qualifications needed to be a member of the high judiciary (brahma-varchas). (3-8).
The council of scholars which functioned as the legislature was to be brought on par with the highest judiciary if it admitted all (living beings) to the society and guaranteed them the basic needs of livelihood.
Recognition of the importance of food
The teacher calls upon the student who may on graduation become a social administrator to ensure that plenty of food was produced. The teacher was not advocating a subsistence economy though he insisted on ensuring the minimum requirement, food, for all.
[The translation, Make for oneself much food; that shall be the rule, fails to highlight the above directive.]
The plains, prthvi, were concerned with agrarian economy and production of food-grains. But the people of the other society, antariksham, were not engaged in agriculture and they had to be provided the surplus of the grains produced by the commonalty of the plains, prthvi.
Hence the people of the open space including the forests and mountains akasa are dependent on the people of the agrarian plans, prthvi. The people of the plains, prthvi, too are dependent for their other needs on the other society, akasa.
[The translation, The earth is food; ether is the eater of food; in the earth ether is established; in ether the earth is established fails to convey the teaching of this Upanishad, as the translator has not got a correct appreciation of the concepts, prthvi and akasa.]
The scholar who seeks to become a member of the cadre of legislators and rise to become eligible for the privileges of a member of the constitution bench has to realize the importance of the insistence on food, anna is established (pratishthita) on anna. (3-9)
[The explanations that to ordinary eyes the akasa seems to rest on the earth and that the earth abides in the akasa, which lies both above and below it are irrational. The constitution advocated by Varuna was for a surplus agrarian economy and not for a mere subsistence economy.]
The enlarged core society and the new constitution
The teacher who was delivering his convocation address to his students of the royal academy on their graduation and proceeding to take up their positions in the administration of the enlarged social polity was recalling Varunas counsel to Bhrgu. It had a core society whose lower ranks were known as prthvi and pursued agriculture as its main economy.
It was called upon to meet the food needs of the people on the social periphery and in the open areas and of the other society and also of the intellectuals none of whom were engaged in production of food-grains.
The new constitution brought under the jurisdiction of this core society these groups as domiciles (prajas) though they might not have been natives (jana) of the essentially agricultural terrain (janapada). They were all to be extended the right to live and the right to a livelihood, the aphorisms indicate.
Varuna called upon his student, Bhrgu, to note that the administrator was required to take the pledge that none of the subjects (prajas) would be denied the right to reside (anywhere) in the enlarged janapada. He was drawing attention to the provisions of the new constitution whose implementation the independent jurists were required to ensure.
The directive, Do not deny residence to anybody; that shall be the rule, was meant to warn the clans and communities that were engaged in agriculture and were natives of the janapada against resisting the move to ensure that those individuals and groups who were constrained to be on the move constantly being deprived of the right of domicile, were enabled to settle down as organized communities.
In other words, the sections of the population of the larger janapada who were social universes, jagats, with no homesteads or families or clans or communities or economic occupations and who had been during the period of aberration kept out of the rural economy, were required to be settled as organized communities freed from their life of uncertainty that drove many of their members to absolute poverty.
The new constitution converted the unorganized social universes, vague aggregates of insecure but talented individuals, jagats, into organized and settled clans and communities, social worlds, lokas.
Meeting the food requirements of all and surplus economy
The erstwhile policy of food only for the producers of food was amended and with a surplus agricultural economy, every one was enabled to secure the food needed for his survival by any method. He could follow the advantages of the barter system introduced by the then elementary commercial economy and secure his food if he was himself not a producer of food-grains.
The rule that the land could be cultivated only for ones personal needs was amended and the concept of a surplus economy meeting the demands of all consumers of food was introduced. A peasant who fails to produce all that the land is capable of yielding may be put to loss. This is implied in the translation, Therefore in any way whatsoever one should acquire much food. Food is prepared for him, they say.
Who should be fed first from the produce of grains all of which were to be surrendered to the common pool?
The person who heads the commune and who has financed the agricultural operations, that is, the noble should be the first recipient of the surplus produce of food-grains (anna). Of course when there is no surplus, the cultivator could not be expected to part with any portion of the food-grains as the right to live and the right to livelihood cannot be superseded by this recommendation.
The second in priority are those in the middle sector, that is who belong to akasa or antariksham who are not producers of food but can trade other goods for food. Whatever surplus still remains is to be given to the last in the row of recipients, that is, those who are in the lowest rungs of the society and who have contributed almost nothing to production of food-grains.
[The interpretation that the terms first, middle and last must have meant giving to the youth, the middle age and the old age and with great respect, middling courtesy and with disrespect is irrational and deserves to be rejected.] (3-10-1)
Wishes and concerns of the commonalty (manusha)
A scholar who knows the implications of the provisions regarding production, distribution and consumption of food, mans essential need, ensures (kshema) that his utterances (vacha) are in accordance with the wishes of the commonalty (manushi samajna).
As an administrator he would protect the fruits of the works (yoga-kshema) engaged in by those persons who are absorbed in that commonalty and also those who leave it (prana-apana, in-breath and out-breath).
The works done may be what men do by their hands and what are done with the help of animals that move on their legs. Even the removal of the unwanted things (payu) and consequent freedom (vimukta) (from cares and liabilities) comes under concerns pertaining to the commonalty.
The transliteration of this passage as, For him who knows this, as preservation in speech, as acquisition and preservation in the inbreath and outbreath, as work in the hands, as movement in the feet, as evacuation in the anus, these are the human recognitions fails to bring out the finer aspects of the socio-economic policy advocated by Varuna and noticed by Bhrgu.
[The remark that these are the meditations on Brahman through human actions is totally irrelevant and indicates a gross failure to comprehend the note of division of labour between the commoners (manushyas) and the nobles (devas). The comment that speech, hands etc. are symbols of Brahman is irrational.]
Varuna expected the nobles (devas) to look after those sections of the population that had to be content with what was produced on the lands that were dependent only on rain. [It may be noted that the term, Varuna, signifies rain.] The nobles were expected to note that their strength (bala) was in the intelligentsia (vidyut) that was allied with them. [Like the people of the desert the intelligentsia too survived on meagre food.]
The administrators who were in charge of the commonalty were not burdened with the task of looking after these two sections of the population. (3-10-2)
Care of cattle-wealth assigned to the open society (akasa)
Varuna brought under the jurisdiction of the open society (akasa) the care and increase in cattle-wealth. In other words, the commoners (manushyas) of the agrarian society (prthvi) and the nobles (devas) were freed from the duties pertaining to pastoral economy. These were brought under the jurisdiction of the social world known as akasa or antariksham. So also those among the non-kshatriyas (nakshatras) who were highly educated and were social guides or luminaries (jyotis) were brought under this third world.
Varuna called upon the administrators of this region to look after the issues pertaining to the aristocrats (amrtam) among the domiciles in the terrains brought under the core society as prajas. They were to look after the interests of the members of the judiciary who had the highest privileges and immunities (ananda, bliss).
Commoners ned not maintain new domiciles and nobles
The commoners, manushyas, of prthvi, the agrarian tracts, were not burdened with the task of looking after the new domiciles (prajas) of the expanded janapada or of the nobles (paura) who had guided the latter.
[It is unsound to interpret the term, upasthe, as implying in the generative organ. The explanation that one begets children and thus experiences immortality and joy by means of the generative organ indicates an irrational approach.]
Manavas, adherents of the new constitution
The teacher asks the students to deem and honour (upasita) the personage who is thus installed (pratishthita) as the head of this setup and be established in (as adherents of) this arrangement. He asked them to deem (upasita) this arrangement as having been ordained by the legislators (maha) and become members of that body of great legislators, (maha or maharshis).
He called upon them to share their way of thinking (mana) and become (known as) manavas. The manavas voluntarily followed the provisions of varna and asrama codes and retained the right to follow or not the codes of the clans and communities and regions to which they originally belonged.
Varuna encouraged Bhrgu to incorporate this arrangement with respect to the three social worlds in the code that the cadre of legislators (maharshis) was preparing as Manava Dharmasastra.
[The translation of this passage as: Let us contemplate That (Brahman) as the support, one becomes the possessor of support; let one contemplate That (Brahman) as great, one becomes great; let one contemplate That (Brahman) as mind, one becomes possessed of mindfulness fails to bring out the import of the counsel that Varuna gave Bhrgu.] (3-10-3)
Brahmavan, member of the constitution bench
The teacher advises the student to deem that manava, the thinker and legislator who has framed the new code incorporating the rights and duties of and relations among the different social sectors as worthy of respect. All those who have personal interests (kama) honour him (as he has ensured that these would be fulfilled if they are not in conflict with the interests of others).
One should honour that high authority on the social constitution as Brahma. Then he could become one eligible to be a member of the constitution bench, a Brahmavan.
[It has been pointed out that Sayana interprets Brahma as Veda and Brahmavan as one who has perfect command over the Veda. It may be noted here that it was the Atharvaveda in particular that had outlined the socio-political constitution, which was known as Brahma. Its proponents were known as Brahmavadis. The translation of this passage as: Let him contemplate Brahman as adoration, and all desires will fall down before him in adoration; let him contemplate Brahman as the Supreme Lord and he will be endowed with supremacy is off the mark and is unacceptable.]
Brahmadanda to be used against enemies of the constitution, Brahma
The student is asked to deem and worship that constitution as providing the power (weapon) to be wielded by the Brahmana, the member of the high judiciary, to gently put down others (that is, other views, parimara). Those hateful elements (dvishanta) around that judge (brahmana) are destroyed by that and so too the colleagues (bhratr, cousins) on the bench who are not to his liking are put down by it.
[The interpretation that, Rain, lightning, moon, sun and fire are said to be dissolved in Vayu; therefore Vayu is their destructive agent, is untenable. It is wrong to interpret that the ordinary Brahmans were encouraged to scold those who spoke ill of them.]
The supreme judge can wield this weapon, Brahmadanda, against the enemies of this constitution. He can also override the views of the other members of the judiciary and take them to task for violating the spirit of the constitution that it should fulfill the common interests of all and the specific interests of the different cadres.
Aditya had taken over as the role of the supreme judge, Brahma
The teacher pointed out that the personage (purusha) who was the then incumbent to that position was the person who held also the position of Aditya (sun, in common parlance), the head of the governing elite.
[The translation, This who is in this man, and that he who is in yonder sun, both are one is imprecise. The interpretation that the jivatma is identical with Brahman in the sun is unwarranted.]
Varuna was pointing out to his student, Bhrgu that the personage who had taken over the role of the supreme judge and threatened to use his constitutional powers to put down the enemies of the constitution and who overruled the dissenting members of the bench was Aditya and that he had administrative powers and also headed the army. (4)
Social ascent and options before the commoner
An individual who recognizes the implications of these provisions in the social constitution may opt to leave this social world (loka) of commoners and join (upasamkrama) any of the following socio-economic strata.
That stratum may be one whose members may be just self-sufficient as far as their food requirements are concerned and do not have any other objectives than get this met (anna-maya). Or it may be one, which is at the bare subsistence level and is not eager to get this too met (prana-maya).
It may be a cadre of thinkers (mana-maya) who are not worried about food and other mundane requirements. Or it may be a higher cadre of intellectuals who seek to know what has not yet been known (vijnana-maya).
Or it may be a cadre of high judicial officers who have the highest privileges and immunities and are objective, impartial and gentle in their meting out of justice and hence are highly happy (ananda-maya). The teacher says that the individual may go up or down this social ladder according to which stage or social cadre (loka) meets his desires (kama).
[The translation, He goes up and down these worlds, eating the food he desires, assuming the form he desires, needs to be presented with clarity.] (3-10-5)
THE NEW CONSTITUTION AND BRAHMA
As directed by the teacher, the student of the royal academy who has taken over after graduation the role of a ruler prays that all the organs (indriyas) of his body juridical (which is visualized as a man who speaks, breathes, sees and hears and has physical strength, vak, prana, chakshu, srotra, bala) should thrive.
These were aspects connected with authoritativeness of the pronouncements (vak), the identification with the lives of all beings (prana), empirical observation (chakshu) and the value of the reports heard (srotra) of activities not personally observed and the might (bala) needed to enforce the verdict. All these aspects are included in the body juridical, Brahma according to the Upanishads.
The Executive and the Judiciary
The student who would become a part of the executive prays that he should not treat the constitution bench, Brahma, as of no use lest that bench should discard him, an executive, as one whose services are of no use to its purpose.
This would imply that the executive should not be given the power to ignore the judiciary and so too the judiciary should have no power to remove the executive. The rights and duties (dharmas) of the ruler, which are set forth in the Upanishads, are vested in the ruler who is personally (atma) engaged in functioning as such.
He is not a nominal head of the state. There can be no distinction between the personal rights and duties of the ruler and his rights and duties as a king or administrator. All that he does comes under the purview of what is described by some as Rajadharma.
[The translation, May my limbs grow vigorous, my speech, breath, eye, ear as also my strength and all my senses. All is the Brahman of the Upanishads. May I never discard Brahman; may the Brahman never discard me; may there be no discarding; may there be no discarding of me. Let those truths which are (set forth) in the Upanishads live in me dedicated to the self does not bring out the implications of the invocation.]
Constitution, Brahma, is the supreme authority
The student wanted to be enlightened on the first aspect of the invocation connected with vak, prana, chakshu and srotra. He wanted to know what makes the thinker (mana) go down towards the objects of his thought? Which qualified official does make the first commoner who but lives (prana) to move? Whose will makes him utter this speech (vacha)? Who is the (Vedic) official who prompts the observers (chakshu) and reporters (srotra)?
The nobles (devas) formed the ruling elite and the commoners (manushyas, prana) were required to move according to the instruction issued. The thinker suggests what activities should take place. But behind these was the will of a superior authority.
According to the Upanishad, it was the constitution, Brahma, which was supreme. The student wanted to be explained its provisions. The author of this Upanishad implies that the supreme authority was neither the will of the people nor the thinkers nor the Vedic official but the constitution. (1-1)
[The translation, By whom willed and directed does the mind light on its objects? By whom commanded does life the first, move? At whose will do people utter this speech? And what god is it that prompts the eye and the ear? fails to bring out the import of the query. The interpretation that the mind and the rest engage in their respective functions by the mere will of Atma does not answer the query.]
The teacher says that wise men who discriminate between what is right and what is wrong (dhira) get freed from the influence of what is heard by the ear, or thought by the mind, or what is spoken in the speech or what is absorbed by the living (prana) or seen by the eyes (that is outward impressions) and proceed from the (academic) world (loka) to join the nobility (amrta).
[The translation, Because it is that which is the ear of the ear, the mind of the mind, the speech of the speech, the breath of the breath, the eye of the eye, the wise giving up (wrong notions of their self-sufficiency) and departing from this world become immortal is not adequate. The remark that Brahman is not an object subject to mind, speech and the senses and that one who knows it will gain life eternal and not the partial satisfactions of life, is not relevant here.] (1-2)
The teacher is at his wits end to answer the students query. The functions and traits of the intellectual aristocracy of which the judiciary is the apex are beyond appraisal by empirical knowledge (chakshu) and cannot be defined in words and cannot be grasped by the mind (1-3).
Knowledge of the Constitution, Brahma
Brahma, the constitutional machinery of the larger society as envisaged by the Upanishads, was different from what was known. It was above what was not known.
In other words, jnana, knowledge of the past and of the observable present as gained from the Vedas etc. does not help us to understand Brahma. So too, vijnana, knowledge of the trends that are not manifest, but which could be gained by dialectical methods, too does not help to unravel its traits. The teacher says that he and his colleagues had heard so from the earlier teachers.
[The remark that it is above the known and the unknown but it is not unknowable is unwarranted here. The claim the teaching that the Brahman is beyond our apprehension has been transmitted by tradition and that we cannot know it by logic is not relevant here. The passage carries a different note as seen later. The claim that Brahman can be known only by instruction from preceptors, and not by means of argument, exposition, scriptures, intelligence, austerities, sacrifices etc. is unacceptable.] (4)
Brahman, the constitution, is not expressed by speech. In other words its importance is not enhanced by the flowery language in which it is praised or by the rhetoric in which it is couched. On the other hand any utterance gains respect if it is in accordance with the spirit of that social constitution, Brahma.
[The translation, That which is not expressed by speech (vak) but by which speech is expressed (abhyudita) that is Brahman fails to bring out this import.]
The student is advised to know this power and importance of Brahman. It is not what the people here (in the academy) deem and follow it to be (upasate), the teacher says. He was distinguishing the constitution, Brahma, advocated by the Upanishads from the socio-political constitution incorporated in the Atharvaveda, which was known as Brahma.
[The explanation that Brahman is the deepest self in man and is different from the Isvara who is the object of worship is not relevant in this context.] (5)
The New Constitution
The teacher adds that Brahman is not what is thought of (manu) by the mind (manas) but is that by which the thinker is thought (matam). In other words, Brahman, the constitution, is not what is attributed to the school of Manu but is the set of principles by which the views of that school are adjudged.
He cautions that the new constitution as outlined by the school of Upanishad is what is to be honoured and not the one outlined by Atharva and Angirasa to which Manu (the thinker) owed loyalty. (1-6) [The remark that Brahman is the pure subject and should not be confused with any object, however exalted, is irrelevant.]
The teacher adds that the spirit and import of this constitution, Brahma, cannot be perceived by empirical methods, through what is observed (chakshusha). How those methods are seen by the constitution is what is significant. [The commentators have tended to avoid commenting on this and the next two verses.]
The teacher seems to have resorted to a broadside against the school of Manu, especially against Manu Chakshusha who was not held in respect and was asked to retire. The teacher held that the school of empiricism, which followed the Atharvan constitution, did not accord with the concept and principles of Brahma or social constitution upheld by the Upanishads. (1-7) This stand calls for a reexamination of Brahma-sutra.
The teacher says that Brahma is not that which is heard by the ears (the traditional way of transmitting knowledge) but is what the students hear in this academy (idam). He was setting aside the traditional constitution that was described in the Vedas (srutis) in favour of what the Upanishads put forth as Brahman (1-8).
(This interpretation is not to be construed as an attempt to drive a wedge between the Vedas and the Upanishads.)
The teacher says that this social constitution, Brahma does not advocate the way of life as followed by a commoner at the bare subsistence life (prani) but presents a way of life that the living beings ought to follow. The teacher insisted on accepting the constitution as presented in the academy and not the one prescribed in Atharvaveda as Brahman. (1-9)
[The translation, That which is not breathed by life, but by which life breathes; that is Brahman and not what people here adore (upasate), fails to bring out the stand of this Upanishad.]
Unravelling the Inscrutable Constitution, Brahman
The teacher cautioned the student that if the latter thought that he had understood well (from the anthology known as Atharvaveda) the structure (rupa, form) of the constitution, Brahman, with respect to his place or that of the aristocracy, he would be wrong for he had understood very little of it.
The student of that royal academy would be only a member of the executive on his graduation. He would not have gained a correct appreciation of the status, rights and duties of the members of the executive or the privileges of the members of the aristocracy (devas). Therefore he had to find out the import (mimamsa) of the (different) provisions of the (new) constitution, Brahma.
[The translation, If you think that you have understood Brahman well, you know it but slightly, whether it refers to you (the individual self) or to the gods. So then is it to be investigated by you (the pupil) (even though) I think it is known, does not bring out the theme of this verse.]
Of course, the teacher does not declare that the student has failed to grasp the outline of that constitution. (2-1)
[The comment that whatever is human or divine is limited by adjuncts and is thus not different from smallness (dabhram) or finitude is off the mark.]
The pupil was embarrassed for though he thought that he had studied the Brahma constitution he had not understood its import.
The teacher acknowledged that he was not able to help his student, as he neither thought that he knew the provisions of the constitution well nor did he know that he did not know them. He declared that in his academy there might be some one who knew that he was aware of the provisions of that constitution. But he too does not know that he does not know (all) its provisions.
He knows who knows that he knows what he knows and also that he does not know what he does not know. Neither the teacher came up to the level of such a sage nor did any other person in that academy. Therefore the pupil had to find out what he does not know by himself (2-2).
[The interpretation Every one is sure of his self but does not know its nature; so it is not altogether unknown. Therefore one cannot say that one does not know Brahman at all is not to the mark.]
The teacher was dealing with the knowledge gained by the study of the Vedic anthologies. This was different from what the student could learn as the import of the provisions from the point of view of constitutional and civil law as implied by the term, mimamsa, mentioned in the previous verse.
Whoever does not follow the position (matam) taken by the thinker (Manu) with respect to the applicability of the provisions of the Veda attributed to Atharva and Angirasa, has a (mental) view of Brahma, the constitution, as recommended by the Upanishad. Whoever forms this view (matam) does not go by the knowledge available through a study of the anthology (na veda). [It is essential that the term, know is not used to indicate both veda and matam.]
Those persons who have an extensive knowledge (vijanata) do not have knowledge of the unknown, which can be known only by adopting the methods of vijnana, that is, by extrapolating what is known (jnana).
Qualifications and powers of judges not prescribed in Atharvan constitution
Those who have an intensive rather than extensive knowledge (avijana) are able to know this unknown that requires the methods of vijnana. The teacher was concerned with the functions and structure of the institution of the highest judiciary about which little was known to the Atharvan ideologues.
According to this teacher, the Atharvan ideologues outlined a socio-political constitution but did not prescribe the qualifications for the members of the judiciary or define its powers. (2-3)
[The translation, To whomsoever it is not known, to him it is known; to whomsoever it is known he does not know. It is not understood by those who understand it; It is understood by those who do not understand it shows a gross failure to comprehend the message of this verse. The interpretation that this verse brings out how we struggle with the difficulties of human expression, how we confess to ourselves the insufficiency of mental utterance is totally unacceptable.]
The functions of that high judiciary instituted in accordance with the constitution, Brahma, as advocated by the (school of) Upanishads are to be understood (pratibodha), by the scholar, having been taught and learnt in a formal manner on the basis of the prescribed standpoint (viditam matam).
[The translation of the expression, pratibodha-viditam, as through every state of cognition and as knowledge of self by self does not help us to explain the intent of this verse.]
Then the aspirant to a position in that judiciary and intelligentsia will be admitted to the cultural aristocracy (amrtatva).
Such admission to the aristocracy has to precede his elevation to the bench. A commoner or any other intellectual who had not experienced the ways of life of the nobles cannot be admitted directly to the bench.
[The translation, When it is known through every state of cognition, it is rightly known, for by such knowledge one attains life eternal, does not bring out the implications of this verse correctly.]
The teacher tells his student who is a member of the ruling elite (a rajanya) that by developing ones talents an individual (atma) may gain courage and a place in the class of warriors (viryam) but to enter the class of (cultural) aristocracy (amrta) he needs formal education in the (different) disciplines of study (vidya). (2-4)
[The translation, Through ones own self one gains power and through wisdom one gains immortality fails to describe the teaching.]
If in the academy a student learns the non-formal discipline of study, then he masters the codes based on truth (satya). If he fails to learn it, a great destruction awaits him, the teacher warns.
[The translation, If here a person knows it, then there is truth and if here he knows it not, there is great loss needs finesse.]
The academy that was located in the social periphery brought the student in contact with the individuals (bhutas) of that sector. By reflecting on the ways of life of those individuals who differed from one another and had diverse orientations, the scholar who is able to discriminate between good and bad (dhira) would be able to join the intellectual aristocracy (amrta) on his leaving that academy (loka) (2-5).
[The interpretation, If here on earth, in this physical body, we arrive at our true existence and are no longer bound down to the process, to the becoming, we are saved is a distortion of the theme of this verse.]
The Constitution and the victory Of the Nobles
The teacher refers to an episode in which the official designated as Brahma won the battle for the nobles (devas) (against their rivals, the asuras). The nobles gloried themselves in that conquest by the Brahman. They thought that it was their victory and that they were great.
In other words they ignored the fact that it was a judicial verdict given in their favour by the civil authority (Brahmana or Brhaspati) on the basis of the constitution, Brahma. It was not a victory in a battle, it is implied. [The claim that in this allegory we see the supplanting of the Vedic gods by the one Supreme Brahman is irrational.] (3-1)
The teacher adds that the incumbent to the post of Brahma, the highest officer of the judiciary, came to know about this claim of the nobles and appeared before them but they did not recognize who that yaksha was. The incumbent to the post of Brahmanaspati or Brhaspati of the larger society was then a plutocrat (yaksha). He had extended his support to the liberal aristocrats and put down the feudal warlords.
But the aristocrats (devas) failed to recognize that the new alliance between the bourgeoisie of the core society and the plutocracy of the frontier society (who were later given the rank of devatas, almost on par with the devas) had enabled them to survive in the face of the threat from the feudal warlords. (3-2)
[The interpretation that the Supreme by His power appeared before the devas, is irrational.]
The nobles asked the official designated as Agni who was claimed to be a born genius (omniscient), Jatavedas, to find out who that yaksha was. Agni went towards that stranger and introduced himself. When the yaksha asked him what power (virya) he had, Agni answered that he could burn all those who belonged to that commonalty (prthvi). Agni had jurisdiction as civil judge only over the commonalty. The yaksha challenged him to burn a blade of grass but Agni could not burn it.
In other words the people in the lowest rungs of the core society who belong to the pastoral economy are disdained by the higher ranks as of no importance have remarkable resilience, the intellectual-cum-plutocrat pointed out to the proud aristocrat. Agni returned to the nobles to report that he was not able to find out the identity of that yaksha. (3-3 to 6)
Then they deputed the official designated as Vayu (wind, in common parlance) to find out who their visitor was. Vayu introduced himself as Matarisvan and claimed that he could blow off all who were in that social world of commonalty, prthvi. The yaksha made him realize that his claim was hollow and that he could not blow away a blade of grass.
In other words the lower rungs of the core society who were attached to the soil could not be thrown off their feet by that official who had jurisdiction over the open areas and the frontier society of forests, moors and mountains. Vayu too returned to the nobles who formed the upper stratum of the agro-pastoral core society to report that he had failed to gauge the abilities of the yaksha (a chief of the other society dominated by the plutocrats). (3-7 to 10)
Then they asked Indra who headed the nobility (devas) to find out who that yaksha, was. [It is not sound to translate the term, yaksha as the great spirit or describe Indra as the king of gods.] But Indra could not locate him. Indra however came across in that open space (akasa, sky in common parlance) a highly beautiful lady who was Uma, the daughter of the ruler of the mountains of ice (Himavat) and asked her who that yaksha was. (3-11, 12)
[It is not sound to equate Uma, the consort of Mahadeva, with Durga or Sakti. The description of Sakti as the active principle in creation is not warranted here. The claim that Uma revealed the mystic idealism of the Upanishads to the gods is not rational. Nothing more than a poetic description of Uma as a beautiful lady is to be read here. The statement that mere knowledge untouched by divine grace is of no use is irrelevant.]
The teacher was alluding to an episode where Indra, the chief of the nobles, came across Uma in the mountains which were covered by the concepts, akasa and antariksham, and wanted to know from her the identity and whereabouts of the yaksha who was a follower of Mahadeva, a great socio-political leader and organizer.
The Identity of the Brahman
Uma told Indra that the personage who had met them was Brahma and that through the victory of Brahma alone he and other nobles were exulting. Then Indra realized that the yaksha who had teased them and proved them to be weak was indeed Brahmana, the upholder of the new constitution, which assigned the nobles a place higher than that of the feudal lords.
[The interpretation that the object of the episode is to prove the superiority of Brahman to all the manifestations including the divine ones is too simplistic. It is not sound to say that Brahman here is Isvara or personal God who governs the Universe.] (4-1)
As they were the first to come in contact with and become aware of the superior role of Brahman, these Vedic officials, Agni, Vayu and Indra who represented the commonalty (prthvi), the open areas (akasa, antariksham) and the nobility (devas) became superior to other nobles (devas). Among the three it was Indra who was the first to come to know of Brahman (through Uma) (4-2,3).
[It is implied that Indra was superior to the other two Vedic officials.]
The teacher instructs his students (adesa) on the essential aristocrat who represents the honourable lords of all the social worlds (adhidaivatam). This trait of the essential aristocrat, the yaksha, as Brahman for a brief period flashes like lightning (vidyut) like the winking of the eye.
[The translation, This is the instruction about Brahman with regard to the gods. It is like a flash of lightning. It is like a wink of the eye is not satisfactory. The teacher appears to be referring to this trait of the Brahman as the essential aristocrat as the view of the sages of the forest that was raised in a wink of the eye. The remark, The masters of spiritual life tell us that the hidden word comes to them all on a sudden for one brief moment, when all things are hushed in a deep silence is not relevant here.] (4-4)
The teacher is asked to explain the significance of the concept, adhyatma, the essential individual who is not bound by attachment to any social group. [The concept, adhyatmam, is often treated as the antonym of the concept, adhidaivatam.]
The thinker (mind, manas) tends to move faultlessly towards attaining the status of such an individual, which the Brahman is. The thinker remembers this aspect while pursuing relentlessly the desired high goal (abhikshnam) he has resolved on (samkalpa). (4-5)
[It has to be said that the translation, Now the instruction about Brahman with regard to the individual self: The mind, as it were, goes to Brahman. The seeker, by means of the mind, communes with It intimately again and again. This should be the volition of his mind does not bring out the above note. The remark that the mental processes by which we remember, think and will presuppose Brahman is irrelevant. The view that in this passage there is an analogy between the divine spirit, the cosmic world and the individual soul is unsound.]
Uma was explaining to Indra the stand that the school of Mahadeva had taken when it instituted the post of Brahman as one vested with the authority as adhidaivatam, to oversee the functions of all the officials (devatas) of the larger society and to represent as adhyatma, the essential free individual who could not be faulted, and make the thinkers constantly remember their commitment. Hence Brhaspati was superior to Indra. The teacher told his students that the yaksha (the plutocrat) who held the position of Brahman was known and honoured by his name, Tadvana (that mystic abode). All the individuals of the social periphery (bhutas) who knew this desired to be associated with him (4-6).
[The translation, Brahman, the object of all desire is what is called the dearest of all. It is to be meditated upon as such (tadvana). Whoever knows it thus, him, all beings seek is not precise.]
This was the secret counsel about the identity of the Brahman that the teacher gave his pupils (4-7).
The concept of Brahma (the constitution) stands on the pedestal of exertion to know the yet unknown facts of nature (tapas), self-restraint (dama) and performance of duties (karma). The Vedas constitute all its organs (anga). The principle of truth (satya) is compared to the abode where (the statue of) Brahma is kept (4-8). The teacher was dealing with the issue of the relation between the constitution, Brahma and the code based on the principle of truth, satya, which held sway during the later Vedic era.
[The translation, Austerities, self-restraint and sacrificial rites are Its feet; the Vedas are all its limbs. Truth is Its abode is imprecise. The comment that the word, truth, is particularly mentioned because it is the special discipline for the Knowledge of Brahman is off the mark.]
Whoever knows the above basis of the constitution shakes off sins and becomes firmly established (pratitishthati) at the end (anta) in the cultural aristocracy (svarga loka), the teacher asserts. The claim that the expression, svarga loka, denotes Brahman as the Absolute is as off the mark as the popular concept of Heaven is. (4-9)