Aitareya Upanishad- Origin of the Universe & Man (Part-2)

atha aitaropaniShadi dvitIyodhyAyaH

Chapter II

The Three Births of the Self 


In this Chapter II the creation of human body is described in order to inculcate a sense of dispassion by showing the impermanence of the body. Creation continues through procreation.  A man is born, he gives birth to a son and he takes rebirth after death. This signifies that a person has really three births. The procreative fluid of a father is said to be the essence of his Self. The mother looks after it during pregnancy as her own Self. After birth, the parents nourish the child so that he can be their substitute for performance of pious deeds. Hence the importance of natal care and oneness of the father and the son are emphasized.

The central theme of creation in Chapter I was the presence of Self in all of us. However, we remain ignorant of its presence due to our preoccupation with desires of the senses. In this Chapter the example of sage Vamadeva, who realized the Self even while he was in the womb, is given. He thereby became immortal after the death of his body. The Upanishad says that the worldly desires are like iron cages preventing the soul from making itself free. Only a Self-realized person like Vamadeva can come out of this stronghold.

The Text

[The sage orders pregnant women to leave for some time].

OM puruShe ha vA ayamAdito garbho bhavati yadetadretaH

.tadetatsarvebhyo.a~NgebhyastejaH saMbhUtamAtmanyeva.a.atmAnaM bibharti

tadyadA striyA.n si~nchatyathainajjanayati tadasya prathama.n janma .. 1..

This person (Jiva) is, at first, the germ in a man. That which is the semen is here called the germ. This semen is the vigor drawn from all the limbs. The man holds this essence of his Self in his own body. When he pours the semen into a woman, he procreates himself. This, indeed, is the first birth of the embodied soul. 
This Jiva in the male body of his father first becomes semen. This semen is the vigor extracted and transformed from all the limbs. First the father holds and nourishes it in his own body and rears it which is not different from him. When he injects this in mother’s body he procreates himself in the form of a foetus. This is his first birth.

tatstriyA AtmabhUya.n gachChati yathA svama~Nga.n tathA . tasmAdenA.n na hinasti .

sA.asyaitamAtmAnamatra gataM bhAvayati .. 2..

That semen becomes one with the woman-just like a limb of her own. That is why it does not hurt her. She nourishes this self of his that has come into her. 

The semen injected into the body of a mother gets assimilated with her body and becomes an indivisible part of her; hence she does not feel hurt or burdensome during pregnancy. The lady nourishes that foetus as the Self of her husband.

sA bhAvayitrI bhAvayitavyA bhavati . ta.n strI garbha bibharti . so.agra

eva kumAra.n janmano.agre.adhibhAvayati .

sa yatkumAra.n janmano.agre.adhibhAvayatyAtmAnameva tadbhAvayatyeSha.n

lokAnA.n santatyA .

eva.n santatA hIme lokAstadasya dvitIya.n janma .. 3..

She, being the nourisher of the child , should be nourished. The woman nourishes the embryo. Immediately after its birth the father nourishes the child. Nourishing the child from birth onward, he thus nourishes himself for the continuation of these worlds. For thus alone are these worlds perpetuated. This is one's second birth. 

The pregnant woman who holds the foetus should therefore be taken care of well by every member of the family.  While the mother protects the unborn child in her womb, the father takes care of the child after delivery till it gets fully grown up and becomes a sound person in the society. This act on his part is for maintaining the continuity of the race. This coming out of the womb and taking birth as a child is his second birth.

so.asyAyamAtmA puNyebhyaH karmabhyaH pratidhIyate . athAsyAyAmitara AtmA

kRitakRityo vayogataH praiti .

sa itaH prayanneva punarjAyate tadasya tRitIya.n janma .. 4..

The child who is the father’s own Self is made his substitute for performing virtuous deeds. Then the Self of the father, having accomplished his duties and reached his age departs. So departing hence, he is born again. This is the third birth. 

The father himself becomes the son in the manner explained in the above Mantras. When the son comes of age, the father entrusts him with all the family duties and responsibilities and feels free from parental debt. Ater this, the life span of the father gets shortened and he departs from the earth. Then according to his karma he is reborn again somewhere else in another womb. This is his third birth. This way the chain of birth and death continues so long as the man does not consider this chain as a bondage and torture and till he does not make effort to get released from it during his birth in the human form.  Therefore the Upanishad stresses the need to try utmost to break this chain. Such examples are given in the next two Mantras.

taduktamRiShiNA garbhe nu sannanveShAmavedamaha.n devAnA.n janimAni

vishvA shataM mA pura AyasIrarakShannadhaH shyeno javasA niradIyamiti

. garbha evaitachChayAno vAmadeva evamuvAcha .. 5..

About this a rishi has said: "While still lying in the womb, I came to know all the births of the gods. A hundred strongholds, as if made of iron, confined me, yet I burst through them all swiftly, like a hawk." Vamadeva spoke, in this way, even while lying in the womb. 

Sage Vamadeva, even while he was in his mother’s womb, obtained the real knowledge. Thus he said at that very stage, “O, what an amazing thing that while living in the womb itself I came to know the reality about these gods i.e. inner senses and their several births. In other words, I knew that it is the inner sense and indriyas which are subjected to birth and death and not the Atman. Before I realized this secret I had to pass through several bodily cages hard like iron. I had such a strong identity with them that it was very difficult for me to get rid of them. Now, like a hawk, by applying the full strength of knowledge I broke all the fetters and became detached and free. I have no relation with the body and understood that I am not the body”.

sa eva.n vidvAnasmAchCharIrabhedAdUrdhva utkramyAmuShmin.h svarge loke

sarvAn.h kAmAnAptvA.amRitaH samabhavat.h samabhavat.h .. 6..

Thus endowed with Knowledge, he, becoming one with the Supreme Self and soaring aloft on the dissolution of the body, obtained all desires in the heavenly world and became immortal-yea, became immortal. 

In this way Sage Vamadeva knew the secret of transmigration while he was in the womb itself. He knew that while a man feels himself identified with the body, he cannot escape the cycles of birth and death. Vamadeva coming through life rose up high from the mundane level and reached the Supreme abode of the Lord. There he found himself with no desires that were to be fulfilled and became immortal. He got released for ever from the wheel of birth and death.

[The sage tells the pregnant women to come back to their seats].

ityaitaropaniShadi dvitIyodhyAyaH

End of Chapter II

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