The Kausitaki Upanishad, Chapter One


Translation by Jayaram V

The first chapter of Kausitaki Upanishad contains an important social dimension of the Vedic period. Uddalaka Aruni was a Brahmana, who was wellversed in the Vedas. Citra Gargyayani was a Kshatriya who had the secret knowledge of the Upanishads regarding afterlife, which was unknown to Uddalaka Aruni and his son Svetaketu. References such as these suggest that part of the early knowledge of the Upanishads came to us from Ksahtriyas like Gargyayani, and even prominent Brahmanas approached them as disciples to learn it from them. The knowldge of the Upanishads, as the name suggests, was taught in person. Therefore, it was customary in ancient times for the students to approach their masters with the expression, “May I approach you,” which meant, “May I approach you to learn the secret knowledge in person.” If Brahmanas approached a Kshatriya teacher for learning, the teacher was expected to oblige them as a courtsy. While it was obligatory for students in a gurukula to serve their master, the Brahmana students were exempted from such services if the teacher was not of a Brahmana caste.“

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Chapter 1

The Worlds Where the Souls Go After Death

1. citro ha vai gangyayanir yaksyamana arunim vavre sa ha putram svetaketum prajighaya yajayeti tam habhyagatam papraccha gautamasya putraste samvritam loke yasmin ma dhasyasy anyamaho baddhva tasya loke dhasyasiti sa hovaca naham etad veda hantacaryam pracchaniti: sa ha pitaram asadya papraccha ititi ma praksit katham pratibravaniti; sa hovaca, aham apy etanna veda sadasy eva vayam svadhyayam adhitya haramahe yan nah pare dadaty ehy ubhau gamishyava iti, sa ha samitpanis citram gangyayanim praticakrama upaya-niti tam hovaca brahmarhosi gautama, yo na manam upagah ehi vyeva tva jnapayishyamiti.

1. Citra Gargyayani, verily, possessed of a desire to perform a sacrifice, chose (Uddalaka) Aruni. But he sent (instead) his son Svetaketu saying, "You perform the sacrifice." When he arrived, he asked, "O son of Gautama, is there a hidden place in the world where you can place me, or is there another way and will you place me in that world to which it leads?" He said, "I do not know. I will go and ask my teacher." He approached his father and said, "He asked me thus, how may I answer it?" He said, " I do not know it. Only after practicing the self-study of the Vedas at his residence (under his guidance), we should (perform sacrifices and) accept (fee) from others. Come, together we will both go there." Then, with fuel in his hands, he approached Citra Gangyayani, saying , "May I approach you." He said to him, "You are qualified to know Brahman, O Gautama, because you are not swayed by pride. Come I will help you to know it by heart. "

Notes: Citra Ganyayani (translated in some versions as Gargyayani) was well versed in the Vedas. Since he was a Kshatriya and as per the prescribed duties, he was not allowed to perform sacrifices on his own, he sought the help of Uddalaka Aruni. Uddalaka Aruni, instead, sent his son Svetaketu. It may be recalled that both these seers figure prominently in the Chandogya Upanishad also. While Uddalaka Aruni was well versed in the knowledge of Brahman, Svetaketu was not. When he went to the house of Citra Gangyayani, the latter asked him a question about the merits accruing out of the sacrifice. He wanted to know whether by virtue of the sacrifice, Svetaketu would be able to help him gain an entry into the world of ancestors by the path of ancestors or by the other path to the world of immortals. Svetaketu had no idea and even his father was not aware of the two paths, which we have discussed in the other Upanishads. A priest was required to know the results of a sacrifice. Hence, he told his son honestly that since they both lacked that knowledge, they would not perform sacrifices or accept fee from others until they knew the answer correctly. Hence, they both went to Citra Gangyayani, wishing to know from him. By saying, "May I approach," as per tradition, Aruni, a Brahmana, indicated his willingness to learn the secret knowledge from Gangyayani, who was a Kshatriya, and the latter readily accepted to teach them both.

2. sa hovaca ye vai ke casmal lokat prayanti candramasam eva te sarve gacchanti tesham pranaih puurvapaksa apyayate tan aparapakse na prajanayaty etad vai svargasya lokasya dvaram yac candramas tam yat praty aha tam atisrijate: ya enam pratyaha tamiha vrishtir bhuutva varshati sa iha kito va patango va matsyo va sakunir va simho va varaho va parasvan va sardulo va purusho va anyo va tesh tesu sthanesu pratyajayate yathakarmam yathavidyam tam agatam pricchati ko'asiti tam pratibruyat: vicaksanad ritavo reta abhritam pancadasat prasuutat pitryavatah tan ma pumsi kartaryera-yadhvam pumsa kartra matari ma nisinca. sa jayamana upajayamano dvadasa trayodasa upamaso dvadasa trayodasena pitrasam tad videham pratitad videham tan ma ritavo martya va arabhadhvam tena satyena tapasa rtur asmy artavo'asmi ko'asi tvam asmiti tam atisrijate.

2. He said, "Those who depart from this world, they all do verily go to the moon. In the first (bright) half, it (the moon) deals with them with affection. In the second (dark) half, it sends them back to be born (again). The moon, verily, is the door to the heaven. Whoever responds to it rightly (with correct answer), it sets him free (to reach the immortal world). But for him who does not respond to it rightly, becoming rain it rains him down. He is born again as worm, or as an insect, or as a fish, or as a bird, or as a lion, or as a boar, or as a snake, or as a tiger, or as a person or as someone else in different, different places, according to his deeds, and according to his knowledge. When he arrives (he), asks him, "Who are you?"

He should answer, "From the yonder shining (moon), who ordains the seasons. The semen, that is me, is gathered from the moon, the home of our ancestors, during the course of the fifteen days (of the dark half). They sent me here and put me in a man as an agent to be placed in a mother with the man as the active agent. Then, growing up (in the womb) I would be born in the twelfth or thirteenth month so that I may reach the father of twelve or thirteen parts. That (father) I may know or may not know. Therefore, O Father of Seasons, help me to attain immortality. By this truth, by this austerity, I am like a season. I am of the season.

"Who are you?," (he asks).

"I am you," he replies. Then he sets him free.

Notes: Some of the wording in this verse is cryptic and it has been interpreted differently by different commentators in the past. I did took some liberties with the translation to make the symbolism obvious, and I believe it may be the true meaning. The seasons are recurring phenomena. The mortal life, like the seasons, also happens recurrently. The verse refers to the return journey of a soul that has fallen from the moon to the earth through the rain. It is about to become part of a man's semen and enter into the womb of a woman, when he is being tested by Brahma, the creator or the father of the seasons, who is also extolled in many verses as the year itself. The year consisting of 12 or 13 months is a symbol of immortality embodied by Brahma. Therefore, most likely it is Brahma who stops the souls and asks them this question. He asks the liberated soul also a similar question, which is mentioned in a subsequent verse (6). The immortal souls who travel by the path of gods reach the full year (immortality) after crossing the first six months during which the sun travels northwards, where as those who are on their way to the world of ancestors remain stuck in the six months and never reach the full year.

3. sa etam devayanam panthanam asadyagni lokam agacchati sa vayulokam sa varunalokam sa adityalokam sa indralokam sa prajapatilokam sa brahmalokam tasya ha va etasya brahma-lokasyaro hrido muhurta yeshtiha viraja nadilyo vriksah salajyam samsthanam aparajitam ayatanam indraprajapati dvaragopau vibhum pramitam vicaksanasandhy amitaujah prayankah priya ca manasi pratirupa ca caksushi pushpany adayavayato vai ca jagany ambas' cambayavis' capsaraso' ambaya nadyah tam ittham vid agacchati tam brahma habhi-dhavata mama yasasa virajam va yam nadim prapan na va ayam jigishyatiti.

3. He going by the path by which the immortal gods travel reaches the world of Agni (fire), then to the world of Vayu (air), then to the world of Varuna, then to the world of Aditya (sun), then to the world of Indra, then to the world of Prajapati, then to the world of Brahma. In this world of Brahma, verily, is the lake Ara, points of time called Yestiha, the river Viraja, the tree Ilya, the city Salajya, the court of Aparajita, the door keepers Indra and Prajapati, the hall Vibhu, the throne Vicaksana, the couch Amitaujas, the beloved Manasi and her twin Caksusi weaving the worlds with flowers, Ambas (mothers), Ambavayis (nurses), Apsaras (celestial beauties), and the rivers called Ambayas. To this world comes the knower of this. To him Brahma says, "Welcome, you have my glory and you have reached the ageless river Viraja and you will never age."

Notes: This verse contains many names that require explanation. Lake Ara is described as an obstacle river containing enemies such as fear, anger etc. Yesitha means the time spent in subduing desires. Viraja means ageless. Ilya may be another name for Asvattha tree. Salajya is a city that abounds in water with bowstrings on its banks as large as the Sal trees. It has many rivers, lakes, wells, water tanks and warriors. Aparajita means unconquerable, Vibhu means mighty or powerful. Vicaksana means discernment or common sense. Amitaujah means limitless splendor.

4. tam pancasatany apsarasam pratidhavanti satam phalahastah satam anjanahastah satam malyahastah satam vasohastah satam curnahastah tam brahmalankarenalankurvanti sa brahmalankarenalankrito brahma vidvan brahmaivabhipraiti; sa agacchaty aram hridam tan manasatyeti tam ritva samprativido majjanti sa agacchati muhurtan yeshtihan te'smad apadravanti sa agacchati virajam nadim tam manasaivatyeti tat sukritadushkrite dhunute va, tasya priya jnatayah sukritam upayanty apriya dushkritam tad yatha rathena dhavayan rathacakre paryaveksata evam ahoratre paryaveksata evam sukritadu-shkrite sarvani ca dvandvani, sa esa visukrito vidushkrito brahma vidvan brahmaivabhipraiti.

4. Five hundred Apsaras (heavenly beauties) come to him from the other side, one hundred holding fruits in their hands, a hundred with ointments in their hands, a hundred bearing perfumes in their hands, one hundred with garments in their hands, and one hundred with powder in their hands. Then they adorn him just like the way Brahma is adorned. Then, with the adornments of Brahma, goes the knower of Brahma into (the world of ) Brahma. He comes to the lake Ara and crosses it with his mind, coming to which others who know only the present (world) sink. He reaches the points of time called Yestiha and they flee from him. He comes to the lake Viraja and crosses it with his mind. There he washes away his both good and evil deeds. Of those deeds, his beloved ones receive the results of good deeds and his and his unpleasant relations receive the results of bad deeds. Thus just as a man in a chariot looks at the two wheels so does he look at the day and night, at good deeds and bad deeds and all dualities. thus leaving behind both good deeds and bad deeds, the knower of Brahman goes towards Brahman.

5. sa agacchati tilyam vriksam tam brahmagandhah pravisati sa agacchati salajyam samsthanam tam brahmarasa pravisati agacchaty aparajitam ayatanam tam brahmatejah pravisati sa agacchati indraprajapati dvaragopau tav asmad apadravatah sa agacchati vibhupramitam tam brahmayasah pravisati sa agac-chati vicaksanam asandim brihadrathantare samani purvau padau, syaitanaudhase caparau padau vairupavairaje sakvararaivate tirasci sa prajna prajnaya hi vipasyati sa agacchaty amitaujasam paryankam sa pranastasya bhutam ca bhavishyac ca purvau padau sriscera caparau bhadrayajnayajniye sirsanye brihadrathantare anucye ricas ca samani ca pracinatanani yajumshi tirascinani somam sava upastaranam udgitho'pasras' ca ya srir upabarhanam tasmin brahmaste tam ittham vitpadenai-vagra arohati, tam brahmaha prcchati ko'siti tam pratibruyat.

5. He reaches the tree Ilya, and the fragrance of Brahma enters into him. He comes to the city Salajya, and the essence of Brahma enters into him. He reaches the palace Aparajita, and the radiance of Brahma enters into him. He comes to the two door-keepers, Indra and Prajapati, and they flee from him. He comes to the hall Vibhu, and the greatness of Brahman enters into him (he thinks, I am Brahman). He comes to the throne Vikaksana. The Brihad and Rathantara Samans are its two front feet towards the east. The Syaita and Naudhasa Samans are its two hind feet towards the west. The Vairupa and Vairaja Samans are its lengthwise sides (to the south and north). The Sakvara and Raivata Samans are its crosswise sides (to the east and west). It is intelligence for one sees by intelligence only. He reaches the couch Amitaujas. That is breath. The past and future are its two fore feet. Wealth and the earth are its hind feet. Bhadra and Yajnayajniya are its head piece and the other (the base). Brihad and Rathantara Samans are its lengthwise covers (south and north). The Riks and Samans are its lengthwise covers (north and south). The Yajus the crosswise covers (east and west). The moon beams are the cushions. The High Chant (Udgita) is the coverlet. Wealth is the pillow. On this couch sits Brahma. He who knows this climbs into it with one feet only. Him Brahma asks, "Who are you?" and he should answer.

6. ritur asmy artavo'asmy akasad yoneh sambhuto bharyayai retah samvatsarasya tejo bhutasya bhutasyatma bhutasya tvam atmasi yas tvam asi soham asmi tam aha ko'aham asmiti satyam iti bruyat kim tad yat satyam iti yad anyad devebhyas ca pranebhyas ca tat sad atha yad devas ca pranas ca tad tyam tad etaya vacabhivyahriyate satyam ity etavad idam sarvam idam sarvam asity evainam tad aha tad etac chlokenapyuktam.

6. "I am the season. I am of the season. I am born in the space of the womb of a wife through the seed, as the light of the year, and as the embodied self of all beings. You are the self of the beings. That which you are, I am also that."

He says, "Who am I?"

He should say, "The True."

"What is that called the True?"

"What is other than the gods and the senses, that is Sat (the true). Now, what is the gods and the breaths, that is Tyam. Therefore, that is spoken as SATYAM, all this here, whatever is there. All this is you are." This is also stated in a hymn of the Rigveda.

7. yajudarah samasira asavrinmurtir avyaya sa brahmeti vijneya risir brahmamayo mahan iti: tam aha kena paumsrani namany apnotiti praneneti bruyat kena napumsakaniti manaseti kena strinamaniti vaceti kena gandhaniti praneneti kena rupaniti caksusheti kena sabdaniti srotreneti kenannarasan iti jihvayeti kena karman iti hastabhyam iti kena sukhaduhkhe iti sarireneti kenanandam ratim prajapatim ity upastheneti kenetya iti padabhyam iti kena dhiyo vijnatavyam kaman iti prajnayeti bruyat tam aha apo vai khalu me loko'yam te'sva iti sa ya brahmano jitir ya vyastis tam jitim jayati tam vyastim vyasnute ya evam veda, ya evam veda.

7. The seer, whose belly is Yaju, head is Saman, and form is Rik, he is to be known as the imperishable great Brahma.

He says to him, "By what means did you obtain my masculine names?"

He should say to him, "By breath."

"By what (did you obtain ) my neutral names?'

"By mind"

"By what, my feminine names"

"By speech."

"By what, the smells?"

"By breath."

"By what, the forms?"

"By the eye."

"By what, the sounds?"

"By the ear."

"By what, the taste in the foods?"

"By the tongue."

"By what, the actions?"

"By the two hands."

"By what, pleasure and pain?"

"By the body."

"By what, the sounds?"

"By the ear."

"By what, happiness, sexual intercourse and procreation?"

"By the female sex organ."

"By what, the movement?"

"By the two feet."

"By what, thinking, knowing and desires?"

"By intelligence," he should say.

To him, he says, "Water, indeed, is my world. It is (now) yours."

Whatever victory is of Brahma, whatever belongs to Brahma, that victory he wins and that belonging becomes his, he who knows this, yes, he who knows this.

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Attribution: Reproduced with permission from the Selected Upanishads, A Collection of 14 Upanishads with Devanagari Script, Translation and Notes, Editor and Translation: Jayaram V, Published by PurelifeVision Books, USA, 2013.