This Preview is summarized in the following table.



Muni-kanda or Yajnavalkya-kanda


Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter  VI

brahmanas or
Sections  6

brahmanas or
Sections  6

brahmanas or
Sections  9

brahmanas or
Sections  6

brahmanas or
Sections  15

brahmanas or
Sections  5

kandikas or mantras

kandikas or mantras

kandikas or mantras


In preparing these essays the following books have been extensively referred to for guidance.

1. The Principal Upanishads by Dr. S.Radhakrishnan
2. The Call of the Upanishads by Rohit Mehta
3. The Upanishads – a New Translation (Vol. 3) by Swami Nikhilananda
4. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad under Upanishad Series published by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai
5. The Message of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad by Swami Ranganathananda
6. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad by Swami Sivananda
7. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad by Swami Mdhavananda
8. The Philosophy of Sage Yajnavalkya by Swami Brahmananda and
9. Upanishads Retold (Vol. 1) by V.H.Date

With these introductory remarks we shall now make an attempt to knock at the doors of this Upanishad to have a look at its contents as sharply as our ability allows.


It is customary to recite a Santi Mantra or a Peace Chant at the beginning and end of the study of the Upanishads. The Peace Invocation appearing at the start of this Upanishad appears for the Isavasya Upanishad also. It reads:

Om. purnam adah purnam idam puranat purnam udachyate purnasya purnam adaya purnam evavasishyate ||

Om santih! santih!! santih!!!

Om. That (Absolute) is infinite; this (universe) is infinite. (This) infinite emanates from the infinite (the Absolute). Then taking the infinitude of the infinite (universe), the infinite (Absolute) alone remains.

Om. Peace! Peace! Peace!

Even modern scientists are fascinated by this wonderful mantra. They are not a play of words but a mathematical fact defining the nature of the Infinity (Brahman). It says purnam adah – That Brahman is infinite; purnam idam – This universe is infinite; puranat purnam udachyate – From the infinite Brahman has come this infinite universe; purnasya purnam adaya – Having taken the infinitude of the infinite universe; what remains? purnam eva avasishyatePurna or infinite alone remains. There is no fraction in the Purna. Brahman is purnam. This universe has come from that purnam, therefore this universe is also purnam. From that purnam this purnam has come. Having taken out purnam from the purnam, purnam alone remains.

This can be better understood with the concept of zero. If one zero is added to another zero or if one zero is deducted from another zero or if one zero is multiplied with another zero or if one zero is divided by another zero what we get is nothing but zero. So too, are this universe and the Brahman in the language of the Upanishad.

This mantra establishes the non-difference of Brahman and the world including the jivas. Brahman is essentially infinite, the supreme fullness. As the phenomenal world has come out of the Absolute, it is also full. Our perception of the world as a separate entity and external to oneself is on account of avidya or ignorance. When this state of ignorance is destroyed we reach the state of enlightenment, Liberation. It is therefore said that microcosm is the effect and the macrocosm is the cause, both being of the nature of infinite. The principle of cause and effect says that 1. The effect is not different from the cause 2. The effect is merely a different form of the cause 3. The cause does not undergo any change because it created the effect and thus 4. The cause and effect are of the same nature.

Because infinity is partless and indivisible, whatever is said to emanate from infinite must also be infinite as there cannot be two infinities. Therefore the conclusion is that nothing has really emanated from the Infinite; the universe is essentially the same Infinite or Brahman; the individual also is essentially the Infinite for the reason that there is no possibility of a part emanating from the Infinite.

The mantra speaks of the Whole, remaining forever the Whole, even when divided or multiplied. The Whole is Brahman. It suffers no diminution, even when manifested, for the quality of things suffer no loss even when split into many bits. That which is indivisible even in the midst of division, must surely be transcendent, even while it is immanent. Such is the nature of the Brahman, and such is the nature of the Atman. Immanent and yet Transcendent, manifest and yet unmanifest, this is Brahman and this is the subject matter of this majestic Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.

Before we go the text of the Upanishad here are some of its highlights covering many important subjects, memorable maxims and famous dialogues.

• The popular prayer ‘Lead me from darkness to light… ‘
• Definition of Brahman as Truth of truths, Light of lights, Inner Controller etc.,
• A dialogue between a husband and wife on what creates and sustains love.
• At death what dies and what does not die?
• Doctrine of transmigration.
• Oneness of God and universe, as also God and man.
• Meditation on the famous Gayatri Mantra.


[To be continued]

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