CHAPTER 3 SECTION 4
Thibaut translates the opening statement (3-4-1) of this section as The purpose of man (is effected) thence (i.e. through the mere knowledge of Brahman), thus Badarayana opines. It is not sound to introduce the concept, Brahman, here. The term, Purusha, is not to be translated as man. The interpretation, The editor of the Sutra at present enters on an enquiry whether the knowledge of the Self which is derived from the Upanishads is connected with works through him who is entitled to perform the works, or is an independent means to accomplish the purpose of man is not tenable.
The editor of Brahmasutra says that Badarayana then gives his views on the concept of Purushartha as presented in the Vedas and their annexures. The commentators draw attention to several references in the Upanishads to the concept of Purusha. These contexts have to be explained in a rational manner.
In Chhandogya Upanishad, Uddalaka tells his son, Svetaketu that this entire society has as its soul (atma) an invisible minute atom, the spirit that is indestructible and self-regenerating. This was the principle behind the Vedic social codes that were based on satya. Uddalaka expected Svetaketu to conduct himself as a rejuvenating force and inspiring intellectual when the society faces a major threat to its continued existence. That intellect and spirit expected of an ideal intellectual Svetaketu had. That art thou, Tat tvam asi. Uddalaka encouraged him. (Vide Ch.42 of this work for a critical appreciation of this highly significant exhortation.)
Uddalaka pointed out to him that though the latter could not identify the salt separate from the water in which it was dissolved, it was present throughout the water. He implied that the essential trait of a social sector or of the society as a whole is present in all its members whether they are at its bottom level or the highest level or in the middle level and in the same proportion. It may not be taken away and may not be obvious but it is present uniformly. This was the stand of the laws based on the principle of satya (truth). Svetaketu was expected to infer the traits of the cadre as a whole by identifying that of an individual member of that cadre.
The entire stratum (and even the entire larger society) has for its identity (atma) a common minute trait (anima). This was the principle, which the laws based on satya followed. Hence all men were equal in the eyes of those laws. Svetaketu was asked not to conduct himself as different from others in his high intellectual cadre. That art thou, Tat tvam asi, Uddalaka said driving home this aspect of social laws. Svetaketu wanted to be instructed further on this issue of essential commonness of the identifiable traits of a social cadre or stratum. (C.U.6-13-1to3). Svetaketu was expected to recognise the potential in him that would enable him to rise to the highest level that he was capable of.
Uddalaka then explained to him the role of a teacher. He would only tell his student the direction in which he was to go. He would not personally escort the latter along to the goal that he had to reach. In this connection he referred to the person (purusha) who wanted to go to the land of the Gandharas. His companion bandaged his eyes, took him to an uninhabited place and released him there and asked him to find out by himself the direction in which he was to go. That person (purusha) turned towards all directions and cried aloud that he was unable to see as he had been brought and left with his eyes bandaged (6-14-1). Some one removed the bandage and pointed out the direction in which he was to go to reach the Gandharas.
That learned person (pandita) and scholar (medhavi) then went to the land of the Gandharas asking his way from village to village. The final goal might have been pointed out to him but for every step towards that goal he had to seek guidance. He was following the method that was the norm in that land. The Gandharas (Gandharvas) did not have a system of formal schooling (teacher and student). The blind (ignorant) had to find out their way by themselves inquiring from others the step to be taken next. Similarly here (where Uddalaka has his school) a person (purusha, one who is expected to have the talents needed to lead others) who has a teacher (acharya) knows that he would be there only as long as he is not discharged (from the school). He also knows that he will attain perfection (sampad) only after that (C.U.6-14-2).
The laws based on satya that prevailed during the later Vedic era were based on this principle. Hence none in a given stratum or sector may expected to be treated as being different from its other members. Svetaketu realized the implications of this hint that he could not be expected to be taught more than what other students were taught. Uddalaka asked him to realize that he was at a stage when one who was expected to be a leader was allowed to find out the steps to his goal by oneself. That art thou, Tat tvam asi, Uddalaka said. But Svetaketu felt that he was not yet ready to chart his own course and asked to be further instructed and Uddalaka agreed to do so (CU.6-14-3).
One absorbs in his personality what he has learnt from the brilliant persons (tejas) in the society. The latter have the status and traits of devatas. These are chiefs marginally lower than the cultural aristocrats (devas, nobles). The purusha is on the threshold of this aristocracy and if he is unwell those whom he has led are disturbed.
It may be borne in mind that the terms, manushya, nara, purusha and manava should not all be translated as man. The distinctions among them have to be kept in mind at every stage. The term, manushya, referred ro a commoner who was bound by the codes of his clan and community. A nara, was a free man who had contractual relations with the economic body that controlled his vocation and the state of the land where he resided and plied that vocation.
A manava was a citizen of the world and did not deem himself to be bound to any clan or community or corporation or state. He exercised the rights and duties of the transregional socio-economic class to which he belonged. None of these three were of the same status as the purusha who was a trained social leader and was on the threshold of the cultural aristocracy.
In Taittiriya Upanishad the teacher presents the social leader, purusha, as consisting of the essence of food (anna-rasa-maya). He draws the attention of his audience to the statuette (a la the effigy of the Purusha described in the famous hymn, Purusha-sukta), to its head, its southern side, its northern side, its heart (atma) in the centre and to its lower portion and the pedestal on which it was placed. He did not describe the head as signifying the class of Brahmans, the two arms to the class of Kshatriyas, the central heart to the ruler, the lower portion to the class of Vaisyas and Shudras. (T.U.2-1)
The teacher had taken pains (tapas) to prepare the statuettes (srja) to explain his views. He had to exert again, be engaged in tapas and make them, and enter into them as it were to give those statuettes (of purusha) animation. The spectators could witness both the manifest features (nirukta) of the statuette of the purusha and the non-manifest but innate traits (anirukta) of the personage that it represented.
They could also witness how the statuettes stood stable (nilaya) when placed on the pedestals and became unstable when removed from the pedestal (anilaya) concerned. He dealt with what constituted rational knowledge (vijnanam) and what was not such rational knowledge (avijnanam).
The commentators of the medieval times and the modern scholars who have followed them uncritically are seen to have treated Purusha and Brahman as concepts indicating the highest soul, Paramatma or God, Purusha as God personified and Brahman as Pure Knowledge. The interpretation that Badarayana is of opinion that through the independent knowledge of Brahman enjoined in the Vedanta texts, the purpose of man is effected, is untenable. We do not find this approach endorsed by the Upanishads.
While a social leader, Purusha, who rose from the commonalty could occupy some of the high positions that were earlier the exclusive privilege of the aristocrats, without being accepted as a member of that aristocracy, even one who belonged to the subaltern of the mass society could acquire the right knowledge and wisdom and rise to become the supreme intellectual and judge, Brahma.
The judiciary was superior to the executive and all the ranks of the larger society including the aristocracy. Devas were nobles and not gods. Neither concept, Purusha and Brahma, signified God. What did Badarayana, a pragmatist have to say about the concept of Purusha and what are to be the pursuits of this dynamic individual? (purushartha sabdadi iti Badarayana B.S.3-4-1)
Thibaut interprets the next statement (3-4-2) as, 0n account of (the Self) standing in a supplementary relation (to action the statements as to the fruits of the knowledge of the Self) are arthavadas, as in other cases, thus Jaimini opines. The ability to realise ones full potentials is present in every one and this realising is possible through following the rules pertaining to those activities which do not fall under the category of duties common to all or under the category of duties specific to the class or cadre to which one belongs. These rules are brought under the category, others or remaining duties (seshatva).
These are governed by clauses pertaining to extraordinary circumstances or to special considerations. Not every one can realise his potentials. One can realise them only when there is a challenge or when he enjoys special privileges. This was the argument about the concept of purushartha advanced by Jaimini. To be precise, Jaimini was a deuteragonist who helped Badarayana to set at rest all the doubts voiced against his postulates and put forth his own views in unambiguous terms. Jaimini was not a detractor. (Seshatvat purusharthavadi yatha anyeshviti Jaimini BS.3-4-2)
Thibaut translates the epigram (3-4-3), as On account of scripture showing (certain lines of) conduct. Every individual has to abide by the code of conduct prescribed for him and hence he cannot recognise and realise all his potentials. This argument has been advanced against the claim of Badarayana that his code did not suppress mans longing to rise above the level of the commonalty. Jaimini had argued that only by resorting to the subsidiary provisions in the code one could so rise. The commentators of the medieval times have referred to Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (3-1-1) and Chhandogya Upanishad (5-11-5) in connection with this cryptogram. What did these Upanishads say?
Janaka, the ruler of Videha performed a sacrifice at which he offered many presents to the Brahmans, scholars and priests. A group of Brahmans from the Kuru and Panchala lands had come there to collect the presents. (Br. Up. 3-1-1).. It was a discussion intended to establish a judiciary with definite duties and powers and on selection of judges who were most competent to take their places on it.
Yajnavalkya points out to Kahola and other scholars in Janakas court that having completed both stages, that of a sociable person, who talked with and taught all, and that of a silent meditator, one becomes fit to adorn the position of a jurist, Brahmana. A jurist must have no need to earn wealth or long for power. Persons who had no sons were not eligible to be heads of families or have wealth or occupy posts of power.
But for the post of a jurist only one who had no need for wealth and power as he had no sons was eligible. He will not be impelled by desire and will not be partial to any one. Kahola wanted to know how the Brahmana (jurist as described by Yajnavalkya) behaved. Yajnavalkya said that one should not pay attention to that jurists conduct as long as he had proved that he had no personal desires and was highly educated. Every other qualification prescribed for the position of a jurist or judge is defective (arta). This explanation silenced the doubts that Kahola had entertained. (B.U.3-5-1)
Gargi, daughter of Vachaknu, drew attention to the metaphor, which treated the entire earth being like a design woven (otam protam, warp and woof) in a carpet of water. She wanted to know if the larger social world stands on this carpet, on what does this carpet of water stand, that is, what sustains water (apa). Yajnavalkya told her that air (vayu) sustains this carpet or sheet of water (apa) and that this (invisible) air (vayu) is sustained by the social world (loka) of the frontier society (antariksham).
Here Yajnavalkya presents the picture of an agrarian economy being sustained by water that is necessary for irrigation and in which the seeds are cast and evokes the picture of a pastoral society surrounding the core agrarian society and an industrial frontier society dependent on forests and mountains surrounding this pastoral ring. The discussion between Gargi and Yajnavalkya was on his social theorem.
According to Yajnavalkya the carpet of this larger economy (of forests and mountains, pastoral and agrarian) was sustained by the social world of Gandharvas. Yajnavalkya presented the social hierarchy by which the Adityas, the cadre of administrators (of the core society) belonging to the patriciate, were superior to the Gandharvas, and the cadre of intellectuals who were stationed in the forests and who respected Chandra (Soma) were superior to the cadre of Adityas (Aditya-loka).
The non-kshatriyas (nakshatras), the rich (from among whom the Visvedevas rose) ranked higher than these intellectuals (who needed the economic support given by the rich Vaisyas). The aristocrats (devas) ranked superior to these visvedevas (nakshatras) and the Devas themselves had to abide by the directions which Indra and his assembly of (thirty-three) nobles gave them. In the Upanishadic social polity, Indra and his house of nobles was subordinate to the chief of the people (Prajapati) and his council of elders. But still higher was Brahma-loka, the social world or academy of jurists who were well versed in Atharvaveda.
When Gargi wanted to know whom these jurists of Brahma-loka should obey, Yajnavalkya warned her against allowing her curiosity, unbridled flight. She was trying to know who appointed Manu (who had the status of Brahma earlier and) who had been a member of a council of ten peers. That Manu had the status of a Devata and it was not wise to question the claim that he had risen to that high status on his own merit (Svayambhu). This warning silenced Gargi (B.U.3-6-1).
Every social polity had a judiciary at its head and the chiefs of the people were answerable to it. Gargi wanted to know whether the verdicts of that judiciary could be overruled by any higher authority. Yajnavalkya did not want them to be overruled. The political machinery including its head should be answerable to the judiciary.
Even as Janaka was conducting a seminar where the functions of the judiciary, Brahma, would be settled and the traits expected of a jurist would be determined, Asvapati of Kekaya was conducting a seminar where it would be determined how an individual who was not a member of any social body could become a vaisvanara, a representative of the entire large society and rise to become such a jurist, Brahma.
In Chhandogya Upanishad we find Uddalaka referring the rich and great scholars like Prachinasala to another teacher, as he would not be able to tell them all (about the relationship between the two concepts, atma and vaisvanara). He took them to Asvapati, son of the ruler of Kekaya, who was then studying the issues pertaining to the above concepts. (C.U.5-11-1 to 4)
Asvapati gathered all the six scholars and gave them an advice common to all. He pointed out that that each of them was eating his own food (enjoying the benefits of his status as a counsellor) under the impression that the individual members (atma) (who were not attached to any social body) of the universal society of free men (vaisvanara) were all different (prthag) from one another. Such a person cannot represent the entire society that is, all the social worlds (lokas), all the individuals (bhutas) of the social periphery and all the individuals (atmas, who were not attached to social bodies).
One should deem and revere atma as a concept denoting all the members of the universal society of free men (vaisvanara). He should deem it as a measure that reduces the size of the macro-society to a very great extent, pradesamatram, (on the map) and enhances to a great level (abhivimanam) the individual who is a society in microcosm. This realization will enable one to share food (feelings and orientations) with all social groups and individuals (.5-18-1). In short one should see the entire macro-society as not different from oneself.
Asvapati as a prince was concerned with establishing a social system and principles of jurisprudence that would encourage every individual to identify oneself with every other individual and with the entire society, especially of the region where he lived. He corrected the wrong notions that his students had about the traits of Vaisvanara, the ideal representative of the universal society of free men. The head of this society (about whom Prachinasala spoke) would be one who was renowned (sutejas) for his influence over all.
He would perceive (chakshu) it as having a form (about which Satyayajna asked) comprising that entire large society (Visvarupa). Its basic members (pranas) would be following diverse careers (as Indradyumna noticed). Its unified body would reflect the mega society (bahula) as Jana expected. It would treat wealth as an unwanted accretion as pointed out to Budila. It would be firmly established in the commonalty as desired by Uddalaka.
Asvapati compared the three fires, garhapatya, anvaharyapachana and ahavaniya (which Gandharvas cherished as they gave up wandering and settled in sanctified homes) to the heart, the mind and the mouth of Visvarupa, the (anthropomorphised) form of the universal society of free men, vaisvanara. (C.U.5-18-2)
The teacher advises that the first bit of food that one consumes, should be an offering (homiyam) to the prana, the individual at the bare subsistence level. When the latter is asked to accept it and thereby consecrate the food being eaten by the former, that individual at the bare subsistence level (prana) is satisfied. (He has no other expectations.) When this individual is satisfied, the official designated as chakshu, the observer (an intellectual who adopts empirical approach to collect authentic information about the social and physical environment), is satisfied (that the host has not committed any errors).
When this observer (chakshu) expresses his satisfaction, the administrator who was nominated by the nobility and designated as Aditya (sun, in common parlance), feels satisfied. When Aditya expresses his satisfaction that the laws (that required priority be given to the basic needs of all individuals) have been followed, the governing body of nobles (divam) feels satisfied. When the nobility (dyau) and the official (Aditya) nominated by them are satisfied, the officers subordinate to them (that is, the members of the executive machinery) are satisfied.
Asvapati was addressing Prachinasala and others who belonged to rich families of the commonalty and called upon them to ensure that the needs of the individuals at the bare subsistence level were first met. Otherwise the governing council would take them to task for causing unrest among the weaker sections of the population.
With the nobles and the head of the administrative machinery being satisfied, the host who performed the sacrifice is bestowed with subjects (prajas) and cattle (pasu) and is thus declared to be eligible to possess needs and comforts (annadhi) other than the bare subsistence (anna). Such a rich person would be deemed to be an enlightened charismatic figure (tejas) and to have the traits prescribed by the socio-political constitution (brahma-varchas) to hold the position of a judge (C.U.5-19-1,2). Uddalaka and others had approached Asvapati to learn from him who was to be considered as having these traits.
Only scholars who belonged to the higher social stratum and who were not guilty of exploiting or ignoring the weaker sections and who attended to the needs of the latter first before securing for themselves, comforts and luxuries could be appointed to the judiciary. They knew who was entitled to be called Vaisvanara and would treat all members of the larger society as equals, and as entitled to rights equal to the ones they themselves enjoyed and hence could be appointed to the judiciary.
The teacher then drew the attention of Uddalaka and his companions to what the second bit of food that was offered as vyana (diffused breath, as often translated) was. It was meant to please the members of the society who were spread over wide areas and were under the jurisdiction of the Vedic official, designated as Vayu.
The members of the core society who were under the direct governance of the nobility (divam) had only heard about them through the reporter (srotra). This official was pleased when the unorganized individuals of the wide areas were satisfied with their minimum needs (anna) met.
When this official was pleased, Chandra (Soma) (the head of the sober intelligentsia of the larger society) was satisfied. If Soma was satisfied the chiefs of the distant regions in the different directions (disa) were satisfied. When these chiefs and Chandra were satisfied the officials functioning under them were satisfied.
The host who has offered these people of the wider areas the bit of food and met their minimum needs then becomes eligible to gain their support and have jurisdiction over them (as prajas) and their cattle-wealth. The liberal and altruistic approach of this host helps him to gain popularity and respect (tejas) among the people of the periphery; and he becomes entitled to function as a judge (brahma-varchas). (C.U.5-20-1,2) A rational interpretation of the verses of the different Upanishads to which attention has bee drawn by the annotators of the medieval times is imperative to interpret Brahmasutra correctly.
The teacher advised Uddalaka and others that they should offer the third bit of food to apana, the out-breath. It was meant to satisfy the needs of those persons who had been earlier but were not then members of the social group of the host (that is, had left his family or clan or community). When they were satisfied, the host would have adhered to the rules of social conduct implicit in the then extant literature (vak, to be precise, in the Vedas). Such adherence would please Agni, the Vedic official in charge of the agro-pastoral commonalty (prthvi).
If Agni, the civil judge, was convinced that the rules of social conduct had not been breached and good social relations had been restored with the host exhibiting altruism, the politico-economic administrative machinery of the commonalty as a whole was satisfied.
Thereafter all officials functioning under prthvi and agni, the two officials connected with civil administration (prthvi) and civil law (agni) would be satisfied and would not raise objection to any act of the host. Thereupon, the host would have succeeded in his objective of governing his subjects (prajas) and owning cattle (pasu). He would have been declared to be having the traits necessary to become a member of the judiciary (brahma). (C.U.5-21-1,2)
Asvapati then described the implications of the fourth bit of offering which was an invocation to samana (the balancing breath, as often translated). It was intended to maintain social equity and keep out dysfunction in social relations. If samana, that is, the principle of egalitarianism is upheld in administration, the host who aspired for a position in the highest judiciary would have met the expectations of the thinkers (manas) who were members of the planning council of the larger society.
If these thinkers were satisfied, Parjanya (according to some, Indra), the Vedic official who headed the liberal aristocracy would be satisfied. If the latter was satisfied the higher intelligentsia noted for enlightenment (vidyut) would be satisfied with the approach adopted by the host.
Thereafter all the officials functioning under Parjanya and under the enlightened intelligentsia would be satisfied with the merits of this aspirant. [It is not sound to hold that the term, parjanya, stood for the god of rain worshipped by the agriculturists.] He was a rich householder having influence over his subjects (prajas) and owning cattle (pasu). He would be deemed to have the traits expected of a member of the highest judiciary (brahma-varchas). (C.U.5-22-1,2)
The fifth offering was to be made to udana (the upward breath, as often described), those sections of the population who aspired to enter the higher strata of the larger society. The host, who performed sacrificial acts to become eligible for appointment to the position of a judge (brahma) had to meet the expectations of the higher strata. If the host satisfied their expectations, he would have secured the approval of those individuals who had given up all worldly attachments and moved about with only their skin (tvak) as clothes and who honoured those who did not fear any physical harm. If these monks on their path to final liberation were satisfied, Vayu, the Vedic official in charge of the open areas would have been satisfied.
And if Vayu were satisfied, the people of these higher open areas (akasa) would have been satisfied. If both these people and their spokesman, Vayu, were satisfied, those officials who functioned under them would be satisfied. Thereupon they would honour him by coming under his judicial jurisdiction. They and their cattle would be at his disposal. He would be deemed to have acquired the traits expected of a judge (brahma-varchas). (C.U. 5-23-1,2) Allegories have to be explained using sociological theorems and not allowed to stand as inexplicable mysticism.
If one offers tributes to Agni, the head of the intelligentsia of the commonalty (performs agnihotra sacrifice, in common parlance), without knowing the purpose behind such an act, it would be a waste of energy and wealth. But if he offers tributes to Agni, knowing well that purpose, he would be pleasing all the organized social worlds (lokas), all the individuals on the social periphery (bhutas) and all the individuals who are not attached to social bodies (atmas). He would be deemed to be, indeed, one performing an act of sacrifice. (C.U.5-24-1to3)
A ruler or wealthy person who knows the purpose of this sacrifice may offer what remains after meeting the needs of the organized social worlds, the individuals on the periphery and the unattached persons, to those who have been expelled from the society for serious crimes (to Chandalas). He would be treated as one offering sacrifice to the unattached individual (atma) who represents the universal society of free men (vaisvanara) (C.U.5-24-4).
As all hungry children sit around their mother to be fed, all individuals (bhutas) sit round the sacrifice offered in front of the official designated as Agni. He represents all members of the larger commonalty, it is implied (5-24-5). Agni, as Vaisvanara, meets the needs of all sections of the larger society including the Chandalas, the outcasts. Attention has been drawn to this elaborate interpretation of the implications of the two sacrifices as both medieval and modern commentators have failed to recognize their purposes. (Acara darsanat B.S.3-4-3)
Thibaut translates the next epigram (3-4-4), as Because scripture directly states that. The commentator draws attention to the statement in Chhandogya Upanishad (1-1-10) and translates it as, What a man does with knowledge, faith and the Upanishad is more powerful than knowledge (virya). This translation is imprecise and does not give a correct picture of the views of the sage.
The teacher asserts that by this syllable, Aum, one proceeds to master the three disciplines of study (vidyas) (the three Vedas, economics or Varta and science of polity or Dandaniti). Uttering this syllable one complies with the direction given. One gives the order as he utters this word. [In other words, neither the order nor intention of obedience is said to be legally binding when this syllable is not uttered.] He utters this syllable aloud (udgitha) knowing this implication, its greatness (mahima) and its implication or essence (rasa) (C.U.1-1-9). [It may be stated here that it is not rational to consider chanting of this monosyllable in the prescribed manner as a mere wholesome physical exercise or as involvement in a mystic trance.]
The sage says that utterance of this syllable is obligatory for all whether they realize its implication or not while performing a duty. This rule was applicable not only while performing religious rites but also while performing any deed like entering a contract, but only to those who were educated and had mastered the disciplines of study (vidya) (which pertained to social and cultural duties, economic transactions and political rights and obligations).
Of course those who had received only informal education (avidya) might be treated differently. One who performs a duty according to the rules prescribed in the sciences (vidya) knowing fully well its implications (that is, of this syllable) (upanishad) with devotion (sraddha) becomes more potent (virya) than others. Thus the sage explains the meaning and importance of this syllable (C.U.1-1-10).
The interpretation that mere knowledge cannot carry out the purpose of work fails to bring out the significance of the orientation behind the loud utterance of the syllable, aum. This orientation is backed by the Vedas. Thus Jaimini cautions against promoting any new orientation in the garb of Vaisvanara, the representative of the entire larger society, visva, as the unattached intellectual and jurist, Brahma. (tat srute B.S.3-4-4)
Thibaut transliterates the next epigram (3-4-5), as On account of the taking hold together. The commentator was not able to grasp the implications of the discussion in Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (Bk.4) when he translated the passage (4-4-2) as Then both his knowledge and his work take hold of him and interpreted that knowledge and work begin together to manifest their fruits and hence it follows that knowledge is not independent.
Yajnavalkya was briefing Janaka of Videha on the constitution of an independent judiciary that would be superior to all the authorities of the state and the selection of the jurists and their tenure.
The teacher asks his listeners to visualise the last moments of such a learned jurist. When such an intellectual who has adorned the chair of the jurist, Brahma, dies and when his life departs from his body, all the living persons(pranas) who have gathered round him too leave the scene. He then becomes one identified with vijnana, the knowledge which he has discovered and contributed (to the treasury of knowledge). What leaves is the individual who has this knowledge (and not the knowledge itself).
The mastery he had acquired over the various disciplines of study (vidyas) and the duties (karmas) he was performing at the time of his death are recorded and so too his earlier status of awareness (prajna) (from which he rose up to become the scholar-jurist). (B.U.4-4-2) Yajnavalkya wants the contributions of the learned jurist to be remembered.
Was Yajnavalkya drawing attention to what the soul takes along with it when it leaves one body and enters another? The sage suggests the picture of a leech, which has come to the end of a blade of grass and moves to another. Like that leech the soul leaves this body and also ignorance (avidya) and moves to another drawing to itself all the knowledge and experiences it has gained (B.U.4-4-3). [This comparison must have been later interpolated.]
Yajnavalkya was dealing with social ascent of the learned jurist and his retirement to his earliest level of awareness and his last moments. Was it possible for one who had completed his tenure as a judge or had retired as he found that he had yet to learn much, to shift to other social positions? He has been faulted for his ignorance (avidya) of certain fields of knowledge. But Jaimini did not endorse the stand taken by Badarayana that the ideal intellectual too could be one who had mastered only some fields and not all fields and that he should yet be assessed on the basis of whatever he knew and whatever he had done. (samanva arambhanat B.S.3-4-5)
Thibaut translates the next epigram (3-4-6), as And because scripture enjoins (works) for such (only as we understand the purport of the Veda). The commentator draws attention to Chhandogya Upanishad (8-15) and says that according to Jaimini who stood by the concept of dharma only those who knew the purport of the whole Veda are qualified to perform sacrificial actions.
The teacher tells the students that what Manu told his subjects (prajas) was what he was told by the Prajapati. In other words, Manu (Vaivasvata) as recommended by the Prajapati (Kashyapa who headed his council of seven sages) directed the subjects of the new enlarged polity to follow the principles of dharma as outlined by Brahma, the head of the academy. Brahma the head of the acaademy was also the head of the judiciary. Then the teacher advised his students on how they were to become ideal students.
This passage is a later addendum. What was prescribed in the constitution that drew its validity from the Vedas is the above rule of a holistic attitude in assessing ones contributions while appointing him to the judiciary and while honouring him on his death or when accepting his retirement for purpose of pursuit of further knowledge while being in the midst of his family or in solitude. Jaimini was more liberal than Badarayana was. (tadvato vidhanat B.S.3-4-6)
Thibaut translates the next expression (3-4-7) as And on account of definite rules. Jaimini would not permit any one who was required to be engaged in the performance of his duty to his family and other social bodies to opt for a course of pursuit of knowledge of the Absolute as the only objective. In this connection, the commentator refers to Isopanishad and translates the passage (I.U.2) as, Performing works here (i.e. in this life) let a man wish to live a hundred years; thus work will not cling to thee, man; there is no other way than that.
The rules in the new code that was legislated (vidhana) specifically called upon every individual to perform his duty by his social polity, Jaimini pointed out. What did Isopanishad say and whom did it bring under this rule?
In the social universe (jagat), that is, in the mobile populations of the Vedic and Upanishadic times there were no permanent attachments or vocations or possessions. Even marriages were not permanent and families had not come into existence. Consequently there was no need to have socio-economic codes and courts to regulate the activities of its members.
But the individuals who were the constituents of this jagat had to look up to the charismatic chief, Isa, for protection of their lives and property if any. There was no personal property but there could be collective property that was guarded by this Isa. If any individual had acquired personal wealth he had to renounce it in favour of the social universe. He is warned against coveting wealth whether that of another person or of the collective and holding to wealth as personal property.
The teacher discouraged formation of economic communities and creation of personal property. Renunciation of personal interests and accruals was advocated. The claim that this verse refers to the Highest Knowledge and prescribes the discipline of complete renunciation cannot be upheld.
The teacher counsels, Always performing duties (karma) here one should wish to live a hundred years. In other words he should not seek to retire from his duties or to become a monk (sanyasi). Only if one lived so, performing his duty and not seeking wealth, the effects of his deeds (karma) would not adhere (lipyata) to him. That is, an individual who performs his duty without seeking rewards and wealth will not be hauled up for any errors in his actions even as he cannot hope to gain personal wealth by performing that duty. This advice is given to the free man, nara and not to a commoner, manushya.
Manushyas were attached to families and communities and these had property and it belonged to the commonalty. They followed the vocations that their families were assigned traditionally. A nara was one who had walked out of such families and had chalked out a course of action and life of his own. This verse refuses to permit him to acquire wealth. The naras were required to serve the state and were assured immunity against any punishment for faults in performance of duties in return for the loyal service that they rendered to the society.
The commentators of the medieval times and their modern adherents have failed to recognize the import of the term, nara, and its distinction from the term, manushya, even as they have not understood the distinction between jagat and loka. The remark, The importance of work is stressed in this verse. We must do works and not refrain from them. Embodied man cannot refrain from action. He cannot escape the life imposed on him by his embodiment. The way of true freedom is not abstention from action but conversion of spirit, requires to be rejected as a futile attempt to defend spiritualism against the theme of Karmayoga. (Vide Ch.48 of this work for a critical appreciation of Isa Upanishad.) Jaimini, the deuteragonist of Badarayana, draws the attention of the scholars to the rule that refused permission to workers and others to abstain from duties while discouraging accumulation of wealth. (niyamat ca B.S.3-4-7)
Thibaut translates the next formula (3-4-8) as But on account of (scripture teaching) the additional one (i.e. the Lord), the view of Badarayana (is valid); as that is seen thus (in scriptural passages). The arguments advanced by Jaimini that pursuit of knowledge or liberation from worldly life cannot be permitted to override the rule that every one must perform his assigned duties whether he is permitted to amass wealth or not are not accepted by the supporters of Badarayana.
The commentators so interpret certain passages in the Upanishads as to put forth the view that the counsel given by him aim at securing for the individual some benefits that are more than what accrue from performance of duty. Badarayana and his school were not advocating as the only purpose of the Brahma code the ensuring of every one performing his duty. This is indicated in different Upanishads.
In Isopanishad the teacher called for a sane solution to the issue of social and cultural (including intellectual) distance between the champions of conformity which most members of native groups (jana) were and the individuals whether of the native community or of the periphery or of distant areas or of mobile groups. [He seems to follow the line suggested by the author of the Bhagavad-Gita,] He who sees all beings or individuals (of the periphery) (sarva bhutas) in himself (atma) and himself (atma) in all beings does not feel revulsion by reason of such a view. (6)
The teacher counselled that every individual whether he was a member of an organized native group or not should try to identify himself with all the individuals of the social periphery who lacked an organized society. Both the isolated individual (atma) of the core society and the resident of the periphery who had no identity (bhuta) were free individuals and both were kept away from by the organized society.
The non-conformist individual in the society who asserts his individual identity is not different from the members of the social periphery (bhutas) who have been accustomed to live as individuals with no right to move to any area under the control of organized communities (lokas). The bhutas did not have the immunity that the punya-jana, blessed people, who constituted the social universe, jagat, had. The non-conformist individual and thinker, a Vratya, is able to identify himself with the individuals, bhutas, of the social periphery.
It may be noted that only a very small portion of the human society functioned as organized settled groups (lokas) or as organized but non-settled groups (jagats). Even within them there were non-conformist individuals, but they were not as preponderant as the individuals of the unorganized social periphery were. This verse does not speak of the equality, samatva, of all beings. Of course the statement that one identifies oneself with all beings suggests and lauds the concept of egalitarianism. The teacher could not have espoused the concept of submersion of all individual wills in a general will to the extent of erasing all individual wills.
The teacher asks: When an individual (atma) who knows (vijanata, through application of the knowledge that he has gained from formal education) that all the individuals (sarva bhuta, of the periphery) have become one with him, that is, there is no distinction between their ways of thinking and living and his, what delusion (moham) and grief (soka) can be for one who has observed the way of life of a loner (ekatvam)? The teacher advises the lone pioneer that he need not continue to be attached to his erstwhile group and the pleasures that it gave him for he has observed and understood the lives of all individuals. (Vide Ch.48 of this work for a critical appreciation of the theme of Isa Upanishad,)
They have not regretted their loneliness in the loose populace of the social periphery. He too need not regret that he is alone though located in an organized happy social group and yet kept away from its joyous ways. This was a recommendation that could be availed of to permit a loner to pursue his personal and spiritual goals while yet performing his social duties to the larger society. (Isa. Up. 7)
Accordng to Mundaka Upanishad which describes the salient features of the new constitution, Brahma, to the trainees who had given up all worldly attachments (and had shaven their heads), the scope of the concept, Brahma, that is, the principles of valid socio-political constitution, expand as its adherents engage in creative endeavour (tapas). As a result food (anna), the minimum need of men of the larger society, is produced.
The new constitution, which met the above minimum need of men especially those at the subsistence level (prana), also encouraged the thinkers (mana) and by that the influence of the code based on truth (satya) and the jurists who were members of satyaloka. It also instituted the vocations and duties (karma) and the (new) cultural and intellectual aristocracy (amrtam). (Mu.U.1-1-8) (Vide Ch.25 of this work for a critical analysis of the message of the monks on Brahma-vidya and the socio-political constitution of the Vedic times.)
This constitution called Brahma, which has a definite structure and which ensures the livelihood (anna) of all the members of the larger society (visva) was prepared by a scholar who had studied all disciplines and who knew everything and whose endeavour (tapas) was marked totally by jnana (knowledge of the past experiences of men as recorded in the Vedas and other studies and of the contemporary socio-physical environment through direct empirical observations). (Mu.U.1-1-9)
The commentator is not to the mark when he says, What the Vedanta-texts really teach as the object of knowledge is something different from the embodied Self, viz. the non-transmigrating Lord who is free from all attributes of transmigratory existence such as agency and is distinguished by freedom from sin. The main objective in this chapter is to explain the concept of Purushartha. In Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, Yajnavalkya was pointing out to Gargi and his other detractors the jurisdiction of the new state as presented by Atharvaveda. (Vide Ch.19 of this work for critical analysis of the debate at the court of Janaka, ruler of Videha.)
He pointed out that it did not cover certain sections of the population. [The commentators of the medieval times had lost sight of the features of the social polity of the Vedic times and those of the modern times have read only mysticism in these aphorisms.] While not refuting the claim that the Ultimate (Brahman) has no characteristic marks that can help one to identify it, it needs to be stated here that Yajnavalkya and Gargi were not discussing about that Ultimate.
He pointed out that the officials designated as Surya (Aditya) and Chandra (Soma) were in their respective positions as that imperishable ordinance (akshara prasasana) commanded them to be. The former exercised administrative and military control over the population of the new expanded state and the latter guided its integrated intelligentsia. This socio-political constitution established firmly the roles and jurisdictions of the patriciate and the commonalty (divam and prthvi).
The duration for performance of duties, like day and night, fortnights, months, seasons and years were specified. There could be no vagueness about these even as the imperishable (akshara) laws of nature (prasasana) decide which rivers flow to the east and which to the west from the ice-capped mountains.
Yajnavalkya said that the constitution had directed that the commoners (manushyas) should praise the liberal donors and that the nobles (devas) should praise those who performed sacrifices. [These sacrifices benefited the nobles (devas), the sages (rshis) and the elders (pitaras, pitrs), the three sectors that were not engaged in production economy.] These pitaras, retired elders, thank their offspring for this offering.
The constitution had instituted the practice of the rich supporting the commoners who were workers and the practice of rich householders supporting the ruling aristocracy and the sons supporting the retired fathers. All had to honour this arrangement, Yajnavalkya said (B.U.3-8-9). The teachings of the Upanishads have to be interpreted rationally and in the light of the direction gven by Badarayana to the scholars who were engaged in drafting a new social constitution. (adhika upadesat tu Badarayana evam tad darsanat B.S.3-4-8)
Thibaut translates the epigram (3-4-9) as, But the declarations (of scripture) are equal (on the other side). Badarayana denies that the new constitution based on dharma was not so rational and binding as the older one of the Vedic times based on the principles of truth (satya) was. The commentator was not to the mark when he said that there were declarations of equal weight in favour of the view that knowledge is not complementary to action. He cites B.U. 3-5, in this connection. What does this section say?
Kahola wanted Yajnavalkya to state clearly what was within all (persons and beings). The sage said that the feature common to them all was something higher than the needs and experiences common to all, like hunger and thirst, sorrow and allure, aging and death. He pointed out that Brahmanas, having known this aspect of ones individual (atma) needs and experiences overcome the desire for sons (putra), for economic occupations and wealth (vitta) and for control over social worlds (lokas) and live the life of mendicants. Desire for sons is related to desire for wealth and the latter to desire for power.
Hence a Brahmana, after completing the stage of life of a student, should seek to lead the life of an innocent uneducated child. He should not seek wealth and power through his mastery over the disciplines (vidya).
Yajnavalkya decried the desire for sons that impelled a man to marry and earn wealth and gain power. After having completed both stages, that of a sociable person, who talked with and taught all, and that of a silent meditator, one becomes fit to adorn the position of a jurist, Brahmana. A jurist must have no need to earn wealth or long for power.
Persons who had no sons were not eligible to be heads of families or have wealth or occupy posts of power. But for the post of a jurist only one who had no need for wealth and power as he had no sons was eligible. He will not be impelled by desire and will not be partial to any one.
Kahola wanted to know how the Brahmana (jurist as described by Yajnavalkya) behaved. Yajnavalkya said that one should not pay attention to that jurists conduct as long as he had proved that he had no personal desires and was highly educated. Every other qualification prescribed for the position of a jurist or judge is defective (arta). (B.U.3-5-1) Resort to mysticism does not help one to arrive at a proper interpretation of this significant social theorem.
Yajnavalkya tells his consort, Maitreyi that the different Vedas, Rg, Yajur, Sama and Atharva-Angiras, Upanishads, and other disciplines of study (vidyas), this social world (commonalty), the other social world (patriciate) and also all discrete individuals (sarva bhuta) have emanated from the breath of the great individual (maha bhuta) (B.U.4-5-11). Yajnavalkya was not stating that all these were written by the great god. Different individuals of this huge society have contributed to these works and hence there are differences in the stands taken by these.
Yajnavalkya adopts a holistic approach and does not claim any particular work or stand to be the only correct one. He treats all these works as being eligible for the status of Veda. [He was addressing Maitreyi who was an ideologue of the Atharvan school of thought.] All studies (vidyas) go to shape ones inner personality (hrdaya). All deeds (karma) go to strengthen ones hands. Similarly all the Vedas determine what one utters (vak) (to be an authoritative decision). (B.U.4-5-12) (Vide Ch.22 of this work for an analysis of tjis dialogue.) (tulyam tu darsanam B.S.3-4-9)
The translation of the next expression (3-4-10) as, (The direct statement is) non-comprehensive is not satisfactory. Jaimini and others objected that the sages and works that Yajnavalkya had cited, had not enumerated all the fields of knowledge, which one should have mastered to be entitled to be elevated to the position of the best scholar and jurist, Brahma. (asarvatriki B.S.3-4-10)
Thibaut translates the epigram (3-4-11), as There is distribution (of the work and knowledge) as in the case of the hundred. Even as an amount of hundred articles can be distributed in different ways, the extant literature can be distinguished in different ways with one work being more valuable than others. Badarayana would thus explain why the Upanishads had not enumerated all the works that were relevant to different aspects of the social constitution. The last unit of the wealth of knowledge would be acquisition of the knowledge of oneself through introspection, atmavidya. (vibhaga satavat 3-4-11)
Thibaut translates the next epigram (3-4-12), as Of him who has merely read the Veda (there is qualification for works). This formula does not mention the word, Veda.
Badarayana holds that there is a limit to formal education (adhyayana) however intense and discursive it may be. Naradas counsel in Chhandogya Upanishad to the Vipra on how Indra benefited from his training under the Prajapati and not Virocana, a former asura feudal lord, stresses this aspect. The Prajapati pointed out to Indra the benefit that the nobles (devas) who were trained in his academy (Brahma-loka) were enjoying as unattached individuals (atma). As selected and trained intellectuals with no personal interests, they were able to move among all social worlds (lokas) at will and gain their approval.
The student who learns as supplementary knowledge (anuvidya) about this benefit of functioning as an unattached individual (atma) will gain access to all social worlds for all purposes. (Vide Ch.44 of this work for a critical appreciation of the academy of scholars, Brahma-loka). (adhyayana matravata B.S.3-4-12)
Thibaut translates the next epigram (na aviseshat) (3-4-13), as There being no specification (the rule does) not (specially apply to him who knows). The commentators of the medieval and later times have not given their interpretations of this formula, it seems. As long as a particular rule is not said to be applicable to specific classes or cadres it cannot be presumed to be a special rule. In other words it will have to be treated as applicable to all sectors. An instruction has to be either for a special group or for a special purpose or has to be binding on all and valid for all purposes. This was the stand taken by both Badarayana and Jaimini.
Thibaut interprets the next epigram as Or else the permission (of works) is for the glorification (of knowledge). There is no need to state that the hymn has to glorify knowledge. It is meant to laud and seek the permission of the authority concerned. Nothing beyond this is to be read. Badarayana and Jaimini must have agreed to take such a realistic position while interpreting the Vedic hymns. (stutaye anumatirva BS 3-4-14)
The commentator translates the next formula (3-4-15) as Some also by proceeding according to their liking (evince their disregard of anything but knowledge). The two scholars agree that the rules of permission incorporated in the code should recognize that the purpose of a course of ones action is related to what he longs for in the laudatory hymn. This formula deals not with the fruits of ones action but with the desire and purpose that he had before embarking on that action. [The term, purushartha should not be brought in to explain its meaning.] (kamakarena ca eke B.S.3-4-15)
Thibaut interprets the next epigram (3-4-16), as And (scripture teaches) the destruction (of the qualification for works, by knowledge). The claim that the knowledge of ones own soul (jivatma) and its need for union with the ultimate (paramatma) leads to the destruction of the effects of ones deeds and also their purposes that are motivated by worldly desires is upheld by both the scholars. Such destruction is not the objective that the individual had when he praised the official concerned for permission to do certain acts. It is a bi-product of that act under the clauses of permitted acts rather than prescribed duties.
The commentator has referred to Mundaka Upanishad (2-2-8) and drawn attention to the weakening of the benefits gained through knowledge. That passage is not related to the stand taken in this formula. (Vide Ch.25 of this work for a critical appreciation of the Message of the monks on Brahma-vidya and the Socio-political constitution of the Vedic times as presented in this Upanishad.)
It deals with the gradual waning of the calibre of the intellectual who has been admitted to the fold of the cultural aristocracy. The teacher says that the wise persons (dhira) who are able to discriminate between good and bad perceive their (socio-physical) environment (paripasya) through vijnana (the knowledge that is acquired by extrapolating the already gained knowledge, jnanam) like the members of the happy structure (ananda-rupam), the shining (vibha) cultural aristocracy (amrtam) (Mu.U.2-2-8)
The activist-intellectual who occupies the position of Brahma, the jurist, has in fact been a rich and charismatic social leader who is eager to know more than what he has learnt in the formal school. The emotional attachments between the jurist and his erstwhile associates in social life are cut (before he assumes his new position) and he becomes free from all doubts. The effects of his earlier deeds (karma) become less potent (kshiya). He is beheld to be one belonging to the other higher rank (aristocracy, para) as well as to the lower ranks (avara), the commonalty. (Mu.U.2-2-9) He is not attached to either stratum.
Commentators have also referred to Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (4-5-15). This is connected with the instructions given to Maitreyi on how one could learn more afer completing his formal education. This passage too is not relevant to this formula. (Vide Ch.22 of this work for an analysis of the dialogue between Yajnavalkya and his consort, Maitreyi.) (Upamarda ca B.S.3-4-16)
Thibaut interprets the next epigram (3-4-17), as And (knowledge belongs) to those who are bound to chastity; for in scripture (that condition of life is mentioned). It is not necessary to interpret that the religious codes like the Vedas have prescribed that only those persons who practised celibacy were entitled to pursue the study of the different sciences.
It is more sound to hold that those persons who were householders (grhasthas) and were in the reproductive age and were engaged mainly in economic activities were not expected to devote time for studies and that those who were pursuing formal education as brahmacharis and those who had retired to the forest as vanaprasthas and those who had given up worldly activities and were monks (samnyasis) were expected to give priority to acquisition of knowledge.
The issue whether the system of four stages of life, asramas, had come into force as a norm need not be raised here. Badarayana was advocating studying as an important duty of all. But he did not demand that study of Vedas should be made obligatory for all dvijas. (urdhva retasu ca sabde hi 3-4-17)
Thibaut interprets the next statement (3-4-18) as Jaimini (considers that scriptural passages mentioning those stages of life in which chastity is obligatory, contain) a reference (only to those stages); they are not injunctions; for (other scriptural passages) forbid (those stages). While the new code proposed by Badarayana made pursuit of knowledge (and hence practice of celibacy) obligatory for all the three stages other than that of the householder and only recommendatory for that stage, Jaimini refuted that it was recommended by the older code. He would draw attention to references that did not prescribe abstention from sex while being engaged in pursuit of knowledge.
The commentator refers to the famous teaching in Taittiriya Upanishad (1-11-1). This teaching has to be interpreted correctly and rationally. After having taught his student the Vedas formally, the teacher gave him the following instruction. [This has been rightly honoured as an ideal convocation address.] The student is directed to speak the truth (satyam vada). [It requires moral courage to always speak the truth and at all costs and to speak only the truth.]
He was warned against violating the civil laws, which were based on truth, that is, which gave credence to the evidence given by one who always spoke the truth and was conscientious. The graduate is advised to go along the path indicated by the code based on dharma, righteousness (dharmam cara).
It is not sound to state that the suggestion here is that one ought to live according to the law of ones being. It was only under the laws of nature, Rta or Svabhava that such permission was given during the early and middle Vedic times. Rta was supplemented by the code based on Satya during the later Vedic times. The concept of Dharma that came into force by the end of the Vedic times required the individual to abide by what the federal society considered to be the righteous way of life.
The graduate is advised not to treat self-study (sva-adhyaya) as unimportant and as a direction that could be ignored (ma pramada). When the student voluntarily offered fees (wealth, dravya) to his teacher at the conclusion of the course of formal education when he was allowed to study more by himself, the teacher advised him not to treat the relation of father and son that had developed between them as having come to an end and cut off. (Do not cut off the thread of offspring, praja.) He advised the student not to ignore the importance of the code based on truth (satya) and that based on righteousness (dharma). [The sages who composed the Upanishads treated satya and dharma as equally important and refused to distinguish between the two.] The pupil was perhaps a prince who would in all probability proceed to take over his duties as a social administrator.
The teacher exhorts the prince who on completion of his studies was leaving his academy not to neglect the welfare (kusala) of his (new) subjects (prajas). He should not ignore the economic interests of the individuals (bhuti). The commoners who belonged to the organized clans and communities looked after themselves. But, groups and individuals who had consented newly to come under his rule as prajas, had to be attended to. Their welfare and facile livelihood had to be ensured. The interests of the bhutas or individuals of the social periphery needed his special attention. The social administrator (which the graduate is expected to become) should not neglect self-study (svadhyaya) and delivering discourses (pravacana) for educating the people at large. The prince who is graduating from the royal academy is advised not to ignore his duties (karya) to devas (members of the house of nobles, sabha) and to pitrs (members of the council of elders, samiti). (T. Up. 1-11-1)
The translation of this exhortation as: Speak the truth. Practise virtue. Let there be no neglect of your (daily) reading. Having brought to the teacher the wealth that is pleasing (to him), do not cut off the thread of the offspring. Let there be no neglect of truth. Let there be no neglect of virtue. Let there be no neglect of welfare. Let there be no neglect of prosperity. Let there be no neglect of study and teaching. Let there be no neglect of the duties to the gods and teachers fails to underline the fact that the academy had students who would join on graduation any one of the three classes, teachers, administrators and bourgeoisie, later known as Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas. The exhortation was meant for all the three sections.
Then follows the famous counsel asking the graduate to treat his mother, father and teacher as equal to a noble (deva). Matr devo bhava, pitr devo bhava, acharya devo bhava. Similarly one is exhorted to treat the guest too as equivalent to a noble. Atithi devo bhava. He was expected to abide by their wishes. This injunction is often translated as: Treat your mother as God; treat your father as God; treat your teacher as God; treat your guest as God.
The commentators of the medieval times had failed to note that by the time the Upanishads were compiled, the Vedic social structure and social relations had already been eroded. The Vedic society required the householders who were engaged in economic activities to contribute to the maintenance of the three cadres, nobles (devas), sages (rshis) and elders (pitrs or pitaras) who were not engaged in productive economic activities. By the end of the long Vedic era, the cadres of nobles and sages had withered away and only the memory of those cadres continued to grip the minds of the commoners and poets. They were being visualized as denizens of another world high up in the sky enjoying a life without material wants.
During the Vedic times, all social, cultural, economic and political activities had to be performed in the presence of the nobles, sages and elders and be approved by them. Else those deeds would stand unapproved and liable to be struck down as anti-social activities. With the withering away of the Vedic cadres of nobles and sages, it was directed that the parents and the family teachers take over the places of the nobles (devas) and Vedic officials respectively.
The new social orientation too called for the presence of an external witness lest the decisions arrived at within the family circle should for any reason prove later to be unsustainable. The guest was such a witness who would be a valid substitute for the respected member of the aristocracy who earlier condescended to be present and witness the deed. The class of Brahman priests later came into the picture as successors to the Vedic cadre of sages.
The teacher advised the graduates that they might practise (sevita) any vocation (karma) that was faultless and non-blamable (anavadya). He had not given them vocational education. He had only trained them how to follow any vocation perfectly and usefully. He advised them not to follow the vocations other than what he had enumerated as approved ones. In other words they were not to follow the vocations that were practised in the society other than the one to which they belonged. He exhorted the graduate to follow the good practices (sucarita) that were prevalent in the family of his parents and in that of his teacher. (Vide Ch.27 of this work for a critical appreciation of the famous convocation address.)
The commentator refers to Chhandogya Upanishad (5-10-1) but has failed to comprehend its theme. Pravahana, the head of the royal academy of Pancala, told Gautama that the householders of the plains and scholars of the forest who understood the importance of devotion and sincerity and were engaged in tapas, (endeavour to find out the best means for the development of the personality of the individual) should follow the path of positive enlightenment. This is indicated by the concepts, light, day, bright fortnight and the half-year when the sun moves northwards (uttarayana). He was thus emphasizing the value of the answers he had given to the five questions he had put to Svetaketu, student of Gautama (C.U.5-10-1).
The intellectual endeavour (tapas) continues from months to years and from the guidance given by Aditya (the head of the governing elite, devas) to that given by Soma (the head of the intellectuals who had retired to the forest). Then the scholar gets enlightened (vidyut, flash of lightning). He then comes across the social leader (purusha) who is not an ordinary human being (manava) (one following the social code known as Manava Dharmasastra).
This leader (purusha) who is on the threshold of the aristocracy (divam) leads that scholar to Brahma, the head of the judiciary. This is the path leading to the nobles (devas). Pravahana was explaining how a scholar could enter the fold of the intellectual aristocracy. He had to take the assistance of the leader (purusha) who himself was at its threshold. (C.U.5-10-2) (Vide Ch.39 of this work for a critical analysis of Pravahanas counsel to Gautama.)
Some commentators have referred to Mundaka Upanishad. This work, far from advocating the way of life of monks who were seeking union with the ultimate, Brahma, explained how the members of the high independent judiciary, Brahma, were to be trained. The teacher explains that the sages who had ascertained well (given authoritative and good stands on) the meaning of the science (vijnana) of Vedanta and have purified (suddha) their nature (sattva) by striving along the duties and functions (yoga) prescribed for the stage of renunciation (samnyasa) become members of the high academy (Brahmaloka). At the end of their career (anta kala) there, they are constituted into the higher aristocracy (para-amrta). They are all freed from their circumscribing duties (pramucyata) when they reach that stage. (Mu. Up.3-2-6)
The teacher had to explain to his students whether they were expected to go through the four stages of life, brahmacharya when one had to be a celibate, grhastha when one was permitted to get his desires (kama) fulfilled, vanaprastha when he was free from duties to his kith and kin and samnyasa when he would be preparing himself for total separation from duties to himself and his society. (Vide CH.25 of this work for a critical analysis of the message of the monks on Brahma-vidya and the social constitution of the Vedic times.)
The teacher envisages a cultural aristocracy that was superior to the intellectual aristocracy (brahma-loka) which itself was superior to the governing elite of nobles (devas). It was only after they had attained the level of that higher cultural aristocracy the sages most of whom were in the stage of vanaprastha could be freed from their duties to their socio-physical environment. Badarayana agreed partially with this stand of Jaimini. (paramarsa Jaimini acodana ca apavadati hi B.S.3-4-18)
Thibaut translates the next statement (3-4-19) as (The other stage of life) is to be accomplished, (according to) Badarayana; on account of the scriptural statement of equality. According to Badarayana the Vedas hold on par the stages of life when celibacy was to be practised. Persons who were in the three stages, Brahmacharya, Vanaprastha and Samnyasa were required to follow the rules and customs prescribed for the celibates. In other words the rites connected with the three domestic fires could be and should be followed only by the householders and not by those in the other stages of life. Thus he was clarifying a doubt raised by Jaimini. (anushtteyam Badarayana samyasrute B.S.3-4-19)
Thibaut translates the next statement (3-4-20) as Or (the passage rather is) an injunction, as in the case of the carrying (of firewood). Badarayana points out that what Jaimini and his followers were worried about pertained to procedural rules rather than to the main responsibilities that one carried on his shoulders during a particular stage of life on his initiation into it. The concepts of the institution of Brahma (Brahmasamstha), a post-sanyasa stage, and of the institution of the three duties, Dharmas (study, sacrifice and offering gifts) in accordance with the recommendations made in the Vedas and in the Sastras need not be discussed here. Neither Badarayana nor Jaimini objected to these.
The commentator translates Mu. Up. (3-2-6) as, Those anchorites who have well ascertained the object of the Vedanta and have purified their nature by the yoga of renunciation. What the teacher meant by this passage has been explained in the note on formula (18) above. The commentator was off the mark when he held that this formula dealt with knowledge that was independent of works, that is, of samkhya not connected with karma-yoga. (vidhi va dharanavat B.S.3-4-20)
Thibaut interprets the next formula (3-4-21) as If it be said that (texts such as the one about the udgitha are) mere glorification on account of their references (to parts of sacrifices), we deny that, on account of the newness (of what they teach, if viewed as injunctions). There is no need to hold that this statement is connected with the passages that praise the importance of aum which is chanted aloud as udgitha. The Upanishads honour some of the Vedic officials while presenting the features of the traditional sacrifices. These are not mere laudatory hymns. The approach of the Upanishads to the roles of the officials (not deities) like Aditya, Soma, Varuna, Agni and Vaisvanara is different from that of the Vedas and is new, Badarayana explains.
In Chhandogya Upanishad (2-22-5) the teacher was dealing with the situation where the dominant governing elite of nobles had Indra at its head and the Prajapati was the head of the council of elders who were gentle and considerate. Mrtyu rather than Agni controlled the commonalty and the latter were not bold enough to speak out to this official who unlike Agni was not a civil judge and was only a magistrate who handed out punishment to silence the masses. The term, Mrtyu, is not to be interpreted as signifying the God of Death.
Then the teacher draws the attention of the trainee to the three sections or branches of his duty (dharma), sacrifice (yajna), study (adhyayanam) and offering gifts (danam). He points out that performance of tapas (severe exertion to discover or create something new) is correlated to performance of sacrifice, the first of the three duties. In other words, the trainee might officiate as a priest and perform sacrifices, yajna, or be engaged alone in tapas. (This Upanishad does not consider it necessary to introduce performance of tapas as a duty distinct from yajna. Both have the same social, academic and personal goals. This stand has come to stay and the stress placed on tapas by the school of Karmayoga has later been ignored.) (Vide Ch.34 on The Metres and the Social Polity.)
The second duty requires that he should stay in the residence of his teacher as a brahmachari. Married persons were not allowed to stay in the residence of their teachers. The third duty required that when he stayed in the residence of his teacher he should exercise rigorous personal control. By performing these duties (sacrifice, study and generosity) the trainee could join the cadre of the virtuous (punya), especially those who were described as punya-loka (vidyadharas, tapasas, vipras, siddhas etc). One who attains the status of a highly educated and impartial jurist (brahma-samstha) is entitled to become a member of the cultural aristocracy (amrtatvam) (C.U.2-23-1). (stutimatram upadanat iti ca na apurvatvat B.S.3-4-21)
Thibaut translates the next epigram (3-4-22) as And on account of the words expressive of becoming. Badarayana clarifies that his insistence is that the new code is to be adhered to and followed not only literally but also in spirit. Mere lauding of the officials, whether old or new, is not enough. Their directives were to be obeyed. They were officials of the social polity and not gods. (bhava sabdat ca B.S.3-4-22)
Thibaut translates the next formula (3-4-23) as (The stories told in the Upanishads) are for the purpose of the pariplava; we deny this on account of (certain stories only) being specified. Some students objected to the introduction of fables or episodes in order to circumvent or skip over the main line of instruction and presentation of concepts that were not logically sound. Badarayana refuted that this was a major weakness saying that they were used for specific purposes. The status of a Upanishad as an authoritative text is not to be treated as having been undermined by such narrations. (paripla vartha iti ca na viseshitatvat B.S.3-4-23)
Thibaut interprets the next formula (3-4-24) as This follows also from the connexion (of the stories with the vidyas) in one coherent whole. These episodes may be placed in the annexure in order maintain the presentation of a concept in a single coherent sentence. (tatha ca ekavakyata upabandhat 3-4-24)
The commentator translates the statement (3-4-25) as For this very reason there is no need of the lighting of the fire and so on. Returning to the first epigram in this section Badarayana says that to attain the status of a purusha, a perfect social leader who is capable of realising his potentials to the full it is not expected that he would need the sanction of Agni, the civil judge and head of the council of intellectuals (samiti). The Upanishads have not been granted the status of the Vedas whose hymns lauded Agni and sought his permission for every act that the host proposed to embark on. But they help him to realise his powers and his relations with the other members and sectors of the larger society. (ata eva agnimdhanat anapeksha B.S.3-4-25)
Thibaut translates the next formula (3-4-26) as And there is need of all (works), on account of the scriptural statement of sacrifices and the like; as in the case of the horse. Badarayana does not approve the suggestion that performance of the rites like sacrifices mentioned in the Vedas was expected of all. Asvamedha sacrifice was to be performed only by rulers who were eligible to perform it and that too only on occasions meant for it. The commentators have tended to go off this main purpose of assuring the sceptic that the new code has not declared all the rites performed during the Vedic times and under the Vedic code as unnecessary and as not aiding the individual to recognize his personal talents and develop them to their maximum limits to be able to lead the rest of the society.
A discerning scholar (dhira) should practise how to become wise and aware of all fields (prajna) by knowing (vijnaya) the traits and ability of that chief judge (Brahmana). He should not follow others (na anudhya). He should not be carried away by rich rhetoric (bahu sabda) for that is mere exhausting of words (B.U.4-4-21). The translation of this aphorism as: Let a wise Brahmana after knowing him alone, practise (the means to) wisdom. Let him not reflect on many words, for that is mere weariness of speech fails to bring out the advice to Janaka that the chief judge appointed by him should follow the terse Brahma-sutra and not the elaborate commentaries but at the same time should be acquainted well with all fields of knowledge. The remark that the term, vijnaya means knowing by means of the study of the scriptures and logical reflection is significant though there is no need to bring scriptures into focus here.
Yajnavalkya was required to further elucidate and establish his suggestion. He said that that great individual (mahatma) was not born (aja) in the local society or state [over which Janaka presided as the elected representative of its natives]. He knew also about the traits, orientations and aspirations of all the living persons as further knowledge (vijnana) [from the knowledge (jnana) already acquired (through formal education)]. The master (adhipati) of all (sarva) persons, the charismatic chief (isa) of all, the controller (vasi) of all, lived in the internal (hrdaya) vacant space (akasa) of that social polity.
He did not become popular by pious (sadhu) deeds or duties or was belittled by impious acts. He was the charismatic chieftain of all (sarvesvara) (especially in the outskirts of the core society), the master (adhipati) and guardian (pala) of the individuals (bhutas) in the social periphery. He had kept the social worlds (lokas) apart from one another (asambhedaya) even while being a bridge (setu) amongst them. In other words he had not permitted their separate identities to be pulled down though he encouraged interactions amongst them. (Yajnavalkya was explaining to Janaka how to identify the candidate suitable for the position of the chief judge of the federal state. Vide Ch.21 of this work for a critical analysis of Yajnavalkyas discussion with Janaka)
The scholars (Brahmanas) try to define the traits necessary in that great judge by pinpointing (vividishanti) his features. For this they use their knowledge of the Vedas or resort to sacrificial rites (yajna) or offer gifts (dana) or perform tapas or engage in penance of fasting, which are their prescribed duties. On knowing his features, the scholar becomes a silent monk (muni). Desiring to join his cadre (loka) they set forth as recluses (pravraja). Because they knew this, the earlier scholars did not desire offspring. [One who had offspring and personal property could not become a member of the judiciary.]
The individuals who had been admitted to the cadre (loka) of jurists (Brahma) had no use for sons. They had risen above the desire for sons (praja) or subjects, for wealth (vitta) and for peoples and communities (loka). [Yajnavalkya was referring also to the traits of the scholar who had become a ruler-cum-judge.] They had to lead the life of mendicants who lived on alms (bhiksha) and had to be constantly on the move (cara). The sage had the picture of the status and role of the Vipras who assisted the chief judge, Brahmana.
The commentator draws attention also to Naradas counsel in Chhandogya Upanishad (8-5-1). (Vide Ch.44 of this work on the Academy of Scholars, Brahma-loka.) The teacher explains that what people call sacrifice (yajna) is in fact the stage of life known as period of education (brahmacharya) (when one observes celibacy and self-denial). Only by going through this stage of life, a learned person (one who knows, jnata) gets entry into that academy of scholars, Brahma-loka. What people call as ones chosen path of self-denial and sacrifice (that may not be questioned by others) (ishtam), is what is meant as the (disciplined) life of a student (brahmacharya). Only by personally choosing this life (that is, by voluntarily forgoing the other three stages of life) one may enter this academy (C.U.8-5-1). [The remark that continence has been prescribed as a discipline for Self-knowledge and that here the virtue of continence is extolled fails to bring out the intent of the counsel given to the students.] (sarva apeksha ca yajna adi srute asvavat 3-4-26)
Thibaut interprets the next formula (3-4-27) as But all the same he (who is desirous of knowledge) must be possessed of calmness, subjection of the senses etc. since those (states) are enjoined as auxiliaries to that (viz. knowledge) must be (on that account) necessarily be accomplished. These traits have to be acquired by all trainees whether they are interested primarily in theoretical studies or in administration. The term, knowledge, need not be introduced here. These personal duties had to be observed by the official who was in charge of a unit of the social polity. This has been specified in the rules (vidhi) pertaining to that unit (anga). (sama dama adi upeta syat tatha api tu tad vidhestat anga tatha tesham avasya anushteyattvam B.S.3-4-27)
According to the commentator, the next formula (3-4-28) implies, And there is permission of all food, (only) in the case of danger of life; on account of this being shown (by scrioture). The students of the academy are allowed to take any food if it was necessary to stay alive. They were ordinarily expected to live on a simple vegetarian diet. But Badarayana did not impose unnecessary restrictions. Nothing beyond this is to be read here.
In Brhadaranyaka (6-1) the teacher was discussing which organ (indriya, anga) of the state was more important than the other ones. The issue here is how to decide who among all these officials of the social polity and its body politic played the most vital role. (Vide Ch.24 of this work).
It is not enough to be the most authoritative spokesman (vasishtha) of the social constitution or to be an accurate observer of the goings-on in the social environment and ensure social stability (pratishtha) or to be a good reporter on possibilities afar (prosperity, sampada). It is also not adequate to be a good thinker and planner who provides asylum to all (ayatana) or to work for positive development of human and animal resources (prana) or for the continuance of the society itself through procreation.
The highest and the most important official in the body politic was the one who looked after the most fundamental of the needs of all beings, that is, food that is signified by the crops standing in the water in the fields. Water (apa) is more important and more basic a requirement than food (anna), the sage concludes. This theme runs through many statements of the sages of the Upanishadic times. (6-1-14)
In Chhandogya Upanishad this theme is presented in a slightly different manner. (Vide Ch.38 for a critical scrutiny of the views of Gautama on Purusha and Brahma) 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. (C.U.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 (the five) sectors (pranas) of it (prana). (C.U.5-1-13 to 15)
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 deter for their existence and functions in the needs and wills of the commoners who but breathe. [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 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. (C.U.5-2-1,2) [The water that is sprinkled round the plate of food and on it signifies purification of the food and covering the naked body.] (sarva anna anumatisca pranatyaye tad darsanat B.S.3-4-28)
And as there is no restriction on consumption of any item of food, it is left to the individual trainee to choose on what he wants to survive. The commentator was not on the right track when he said that scriptural passages distinguish between lawful and unlawful food. He cites a stand supposed to have been taken by Sanatkumara in his conversation with Narada. Sanatkumara is said to show the other shore of the river of ignorance (tamas) to one who has wiped off his stains. (Vide Ch.43 of this work for a critical appreciation of Sanatkumaras counsel to Narada on social polity.)
When one eats pure food, he becomes gentle (sattva). This trait makes him remain centred (dhruva) in the traditions set down in works called smrti (remembering the past). A scholar who is on the move constantly (vipra) is free from the requirement to adhere to (all) the works (grantha) known as smrti. In other words, he is free to take his decision on any issue. The editors have thus defended the views of Sanatkumara, which were not to be found in the Smrtis. (7-26-2). (Abadhat ca B.S.3-4-29)
Badarayana was not referring to Manusmrti or Smrtis attributed to other authors. He only meant that the ballads, chronicles and fables that contained remembrances of the earlier times (Vedic and pre-Vedic) did not indicate any bar on meat. Krshna in Bhagavad-Gita categorises the types of food, as sattvic, rajasi or tamasic, and the classes on the basis of the food they preferred. This is irrelevant. (api ca smaryate 3-4-30)
Thibaut interprets the next epigram (3-4-31) as And hence a scriptural passage as to non-proceeding according to liking. Badarayana agrees that in the Vedic code there are indications that there were restrictions on the freedom to act including eating any food according to ones like. Men who were constantly on the move, like the Vipras who were Brahmans could not be subordinated to strict diet codes (Ch. Up. 7-16-2). The passage (Ch. Up, 5-10-9) is a later interpolation, I have said. (Sabda ca ata akamakare B.S.3-4-31)
Thibaut interprets the next formula (3-4-32) as The works of the asramas (are incumbent on him) also (who does not desire release); because they are enjoined. Were the Vipras who were mostly young scholars who went about teaching and officiating as priest at sacrifices for any one who entertained them bound by the codes pertaining to the asramas, the four stages of life? Badarayana declares that they were bound by the duties assigned to the particular stage of life that they were in when they were thus on the move.
Some opted for life-long celibacy soon after completing their formal education while some continued to live with their wives even while being on the move as teachers. Some others after completing their domestic duties opted for this life instead of retiring to the forest abode to pursue further education and set up their schools there.
A few withdrew from those forest abodes and went about as monks without seeking or accepting even food but teaching the people. The Vipras were required to perform sacrifices as their personal duty only if they were not monks. They were not exempted from this duty. The Vipras who failed to perform these duties were declared as Vratyas. The postulate that the works enjoined on the asramas are means of knowledge and the arguments advanced to refute it, are irrelevant here. (vihitatvat ca asramakarma api B.S.3-4-32)