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

atha aitaropaniShadi tRitIyodhyAyaH

Chapter III

Consciousness is Supreme Oneness


It all started with Consciousness, Atman. Atman projected the universe and entered into it thereafter. When it looked around, it found that everything is pervaded by it. As Atman is Brahman, Brahman is nothing but Consciousness – prjnanam brahma. This is the Mahavakya or the Great Saying of this Upanishad contained in 3.1.3.

This chapter begins with a question as to what should be meditated upon as Atman. It says that this sort of doubt has no relevance because everything that exists – mind, senses, cosmic powers, living beings and material objects - has Consciousness as its fundamental basis as well as its inner power.

The text concludes that the whole universe is guided by Consciousness. So Consciousness must be the Ultimate Reality, the Transcendental Power, the Absolute Truth, and the Supreme God. Thus the importance of the Aitareya Upanishad lies in its statement that Consciousness is Brahman, the Absolute – Prajnanam Brahma as well as for the concept of three births of the man.

The Text

OM ko.ayamAtmeti vayamupAsmahe kataraH sa AtmA . yena vA pashyati yena

vA shRiNoti yena vA ga.ndhAnAjighrati yena vA vAcha.n vyAkaroti yena

vA svAdu chAsvAdu cha vijAnAti .. 1..

Who is He upon whom we meditate thinking: "This is the Self"? Which one is the Self? Is it He by whom one sees form, by whom one hears sound and by whom one tastes the sweet and the unsweet? 

The purport of the Mantra is with whose co-operation the man visualizes all objects through his eyes; hears sounds through the ears; smells through the nostrils; speaks through the speech organ; distinguishes the tasty from the non-tasty through the tongue? Who is that Atma to be worshipped?

yadetaddhRidayaM manashchaitat.h . sa.nj~nAnamAj~nAna.n vij~nAnaM

praj~nAnaM medhA

dRiShTidhRi.rtimatirmanIShA jUtiH smRitiH sa.nkalpaH kraturasuH kAmo

vasha iti .

sarvANyevaitAni praj~nAnasya nAmadheyAni bhava.nti .. 2..

Is it the heart (intellect) and the mind? It is consciousness, lordship, knowledge, wisdom, retentive power of mind, sense knowledge, steadfastness, though, thoughtfulness, sorrow, memory, concepts, purpose, life, desire, longing: all these are but various names of Consciousness (Prajnanam).

The question raised was answered by concluding that Consciousness is that Atma which has to be meditated upon. This entity – Consciousness – has several names as stated in the Mantra. 

eSha brahmaiSha indra eSha prajApatirete sarve devA imAni cha

pa~nchamahAbhUtAni pRithivI vAyurAkAsha Apo

jyotI.nShItyetAnImAni cha kShudramishrANIva .

bIjAnItarANi chetarANi chANDajAni cha jArujAni cha svedajAni chodbhijjAni

chAshvA gAvaH puruShA hastino yatki~nchedaM prANi ja~Ngama.n cha patatri

cha yachcha sthAvara.n sarva.n tatpraj~nAnetraM praj~nAne pratiShThitaM

praj~nAnetro lokaH praj~nA pratiShThA praj~nAnaM brahma .. 3..

He is Brahma, He is Indra, He is Prajapati; He is all these gods; He is the five great elements—earth, air, akasa, water, light; He is all these small creatures and the others which are mixed; He is the origin—those born of an egg, of a womb, of sweat and of a sprout; He is horses, cows, human beings, elephants—whatever breathes here, whether moving on legs or flying in the air or unmoving. All this is guided by Consciousness, is supported by Consciousness. The basis of the universe is Consciousness. Consciousness is Brahman (Prajnanam Brahma). 

Having so thought they came to the conclusion that Brahman himself is the creator of all and it is He who provided multifaceted powers to all. He is alone worthy of being worshipped by everybody. He himself is Brahma, Indra and Prajapati. The gods such as Indra, the five elements and creatures born of egg, uterus, sweat, and erupting from the earth, horses, kine, elephants, and humans- all collectively referred to as world, moving and non-moving creatures, all derive power from Brahman who is the Knowledge itself. Only due to His power all are capable of functioning and they all are seated in Him alone. The entire universe is sentient or animated only due to this Supreme Power who is their base. He is the Paramatman, Consciousness, and Knowledge who alone is to be worshipped. That Consciousness is Brahman who is described in several ways by different thinkers as it is conceived in their minds. This is the Mahavakya (Great Saying) of this Upanishad.

sa etena prAj~nenA.a.atmanA.asmAllokAdutkramyAmuShminsvarge loke sarvAn.h

kAmAnAptvA.amRitaH samabhavat.h samabhavat.h .. 4..

He, having realized oneness with Pure Consciousness, soared from this world and having obtained all desires in yonder heavenly world, became immortal-yea, became immortal. 

The Upanishad concludes with an assertion that the one who has this knowledge (that the substratum of everything in the universe is Brahman) transcends beyond this world after death and reaches the Supreme Abode of beatitude. He joins the Supreme Absolute and attains everlasting bliss. He becomes immortal – gets rid of the cycles of birth and death.

ityaitaropaniShadi tRitIyodhyAyaH

End of Chapter III

OM vA~N me manasi pratiShThitA mano me vAchi pratiShThitamAvirAvIrma

edhi vedasya ma ANIsthaH shrutaM me mA prahAsIranenAdhItenAhorAtrAn.h

sa.ndadhAmyRita.n vadiShyAmi satya.n vadiShyAmi tanmAmavatu

tadvaktAramavatvavatu mAmavatu vaktAramavatu vaktAram.h ..

OM shAntiH shAntiH shAntiH.

The Peace Chant
May my speech be fixed in my mind, may my mind be fixed in my speech!
O self-luminous Brahman, reveal yourself to me.
O mind and speech enable me to grasp the truth which the scriptures teach.
Let me not forget what I learnt. Let me study day and night.
May I think truth? May I speak truth?
May truth protect me? May truth protect the teacher?
Protect me. Protect the teacher. Protect the teacher.
Aum. Peace! Peace! Peace! 
End of Aitareya Upanishad 

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