Om Bless us Mitra; bless us Varuna; bless us Aryaman; bless us Indra, Vrhaspati; bless us wide-stepping Vishnu. Obeisance to the Eternal; obeisance to thee, Breath; thou art verily the manifested Eternal I will declare thee, the manifested Eternal. I will declare the true. I will declare the real. May that guard me; may that guard the Speaker; may it guard me; may it guard the Speaker.

Om. Peace. Peace. Peace.

We shall declare the teaching: Color, sound; the measure, the force; the word, the expansion; this is called the study of the teaching.

With us is radiance; with us, the shining of the Eternal. Then we shall declare the hidden teaching of unions, in its five qualities: for the worlds, the fires, the wisdoms, the births, the body. These they call the great unions.

So, as to the worlds. Earth is the first form; heaven, the last form; shining ether, their uniting; the great Breath joins them. Thus for the worlds.

Then as to the fires. Earthly fire is the first form; the sun, the last form; the waters, their uniting; the electric fire joins them. Thus for the fires.

Then as to wisdoms. The Master is the first form; he who dwells beside him, the last form; the wisdom, their uniting; the declaring of it joins them. Thus for the wisdoms.

Then as to births. Mother is the first form; Father, the second form; what is born, their uniting; the engendering joins them. Thus for births.

Then as to the body. The lower jaw is the first form; the upper jaw, the last form; voice is their uniting; the tongue joins them. Thus for the body.

These are the great unions. He who knows the great unions thus declared is united with offspring, cattle, the shining of the Eternal, the food and the rest, the heaven world.

He who is the ruler of the hymns, born more immortal than the hymns,—may he Indra enkindle me with wisdom. O bright one, may I become the receptacle of immortality. May my body be vitalized. May my tongue be honey-sweet. May I hear well with both ears.

Thou art the veil of the Eternal, endowed with wisdom. Guard well the wisdom heard by me. May the power that makes the garment of the Self, wide extended, bringing my vestures and cattle, guard me, giving me food and drink; may that power bring me wealth of well-clad flocks. That power I invoke.

May they who serve the Eternal come to me. That power I invoke.

May they who serve the Eternal pervade me. That power I invoke.

May they who serve the Eternal shine forth in me. That power I invoke.

May they who serve the Eternal give me self-control. That power I invoke.

May they who serve the Eternal bring me peace. That power I invoke.

May I become the shining in men. That power I invoke.

May I become better than riches. That power I invoke;

May I come onward to thee, divine wealth. That power I invoke.

May that divine wealth come onward to me. That power I invoke.

In this thousand-branched power, divine wealth, in thee shall I become clean.

As the waters, forward flowing,—as the months, enter the consumer of days,—so may they who serve the Eternal come to me, approaching from all sides. That power I invoke. Thou art our dwelling; shine forth in me; come near to me ,Earth, mid-world, heaven,—there are these three names. The son of Mahâchamasa reveals the fourth; it is Mighty, it is Eternal, it is the Self. Its members are the other shining ones.

Earth is this world; the mid-world is the inter-space; heaven is the other world; the Mighty is the Sun. For from this Sun all three worlds draw their might.

Then Earth is fire; the mid-world is the breath; heaven is the sun; the Mighty is the moon. For from the moon the other lights draw their might.

Then Earth is the Rig; the mid-world is the Sama; heaven is the Yajur; the Mighty is the Eternal. For from the Eternal all the Vedas draw their might.

Then earth is the forward-life; the mid-world is the down ward-life; heaven is the distributing-life; the Mighty is the food. For from the food all the lives draw their might.

These verily are these four, fourfold; four names for each of the four. He who knows these, knows the Eternal. All the bright ones bring their offerings to him.

There is this shining ether in the inner being. Therein is this spirit formed of mind, immortal, golden.

Inward, in the palate, the organ that hangs down like a nipple,—this is a birth-place of Indra. And there, where the dividing of the hair turns round, extending upward to the crown of the head.

Earth rests in fire; the mid-world in the breath; heaven in the Sun; the Mighty in the Eternal. He gains royal power over himself, he gains lordship of mind, he is lord of voice, he is lord of the eye, he is lord of hearing, lord of knowledge; then he becomes the Eternal, bodied in shining ether, the real Self, who delights in life, who is mind, who is bliss; whose wealth is immortal peace.

Earth, inter-space, heaven, space, the spaces between; fire, breath, sun, moon, the star-mansions; waters, lesser growths, greater growths, shining ether, the Self,—there in the realm of being.

Then in the realm of the Self. The forward-life, distributing life, downward-life, upward-life, uniting-life; seeing, hearing, mind, voice, touch; skin, flesh, sinew, bone, muscle; having ascertained these divisions, the seer declared: Fivefold, verily, is all this; by the fivefold he enkindles the fivefold.

Om; thus the Eternal is designated. Om; thus is designated the All. Om; thus affirmation is expressed. Command also, they say; thus they command. Om; the Sama hymns sing. Om; thus the hymns of praise proclaim. Om; thus the priest of offerings makes reply. Om; thus the aspiration goes forth in praise. Om; thus he orders the sacrifice of fire. Om; thus says the knower of the Eternal, about to recite the Vedas: May I gain the Eternal. He, verily, gains the Eternal.

Righteousness, study, teaching; truth, study, teaching; fervor, study, teaching; self-control, study, teaching; peacefulness, study, teaching; the fires, study, teaching; the fire-offering, study, teaching; hospitality, study, teaching; humanity, study, teaching; beings, study, teaching; their coming into being, study, teaching; their being, study, teaching.

As to truth, Satyavachas Rathitaras spoke. As to fervor, Taponitya Paurushishti spoke. As to study and teaching, Naka Maudgalya spoke. This is fervor; this, verily, is fervor.

I am as the life of the tree; my glory is like the mountain-top; I am purified in my root; I am immortal, wealth, splendor. I am full of wisdom, immortal, unfading. This is Trishanku’s declaration of wisdom.

Teaching him wisdom, the Master thus instructs him who draws near him: Speak truth; fulfill the law; stray not from earnest study; bringing the wealth dear to the Master, cut not off the thread of being. From truth err not; from the law err not; from well-being err not; from strength err not; from study and teaching err not.

Err not from the works for gods and fathers; take on the divinity of the mother; take on the divinity of the father; take on the divinity of the Master; take on the divinity of the guest.

Whatever deeds are blameless, these are to be followed, not others. Whatever deeds we have done well, these are to be followed by thee, not others.

Whatever knowers of the Eternal are more favored than we, thou shalt honor them by giving a resting-place to them; thou shalt give it with faith; thou shalt not give it without faith; thou shalt give it with grace; thou shalt give it with modesty; thou shalt give it with fear; thou shalt give it with learning. And if thou hast doubts about deeds or doubts about conduct, whatever knowers of the Eternal are of sound judgment, attached, unattached, controlled, lovers of the law,—as they would all in these things, so shalt thou act.

And among designations, whatever knowers of the Eternal are of sound judgment, attached, unattached, controlled, lovers of the law,—as they would act in these things, so shalt thou act.

This is the teaching, this the counsel, this the hidden wisdom, this the instruction, this is what is to be followed; this verily is to be followed.

Om. Bless us Mitra; bless us Varuna; bless us Aryaman; bless us Indra, Vrhaspati; bless us wide-stepping Vishnu. Obeisance to the Eternal; obeisance to thee, Breath, thou art verily the manifested Eternal. I have declared thee the manifested Eternal. I have declared the true, I have declared the real. That has guarded me, that has guarded the Speaker. It has guarded me, it has guarded the Speaker.

Om. Peace. Peace. Peace.

Commentary: First Lessons in the Mysteries

In studying these Books of Hidden Wisdom, one is divided between two opinions: Are the truths and intuitions of life that they convey somewhat carefully hidden, so that only by rather close study one may come to an understanding of what they have to teach; or are they, on the contrary, so openly and frankly expressed that no one having any understanding at all of what they teach can possibly fail to comprehend and assimilate them?

Both opinions are probably true. There are passages so clear, so full of light, so “radiantly shining,” to use the words of the Upanishads themselves, that no one whose mind has become in any degree a mirror for higher things can fail to catch their light. While, on the other hand, there are passages, not so much of deliberately concealed meaning, as of complex and profound nature, whose full significance can only be perceived in the light of many other passages, each of which catches a ray from one side of the light of truth, so that only by the reunion of all the rays can their truth shine in its fulness.

Nor is the different quality of these two classes of passages left to be decided by pure chance. Nothing could be further from the truth. On the contrary, the passages most full of “radiant shining” contain just the truths that must shine to us first out of the darkness, truths like these: Find the true Self behind the habitual self; the true Self is born not, nor dies, but is immortal, immemorial, ancient; the true Self is the Eternal,—that thou art.

When we have taken these truths home, and made them free holders of our spirits, so that we know them inwardly, by their own light, by the light of that very Self that is the Eternal, then the whole of life slowly and gradually takes on another face; everything round us in this complicated, many colored world begins to acquire a new and different value and significance. We begin at first to guess, and then clearly to see that life is not at all what we believed it to be, what we were told it was, but something quite other; something far more full of young, quickening vigor, and sweeping, tremendous power that we had believed; and as this awakening gathers force without and within us, we begin to guess strange secrets of the building of the worlds, and how they lie wrapped in the Self that is the Eternal.

Only after one has begun to see this new face of the world can one understand at all what has been said about it by others to whom this same shining light has appeared. And it is this understanding itself which is the key to all riddles and mysteries; a key that can neither be stolen nor given away, but which each one must make or win for himself to the best of his power. The greatest truth of all is oneness. A truth that can hardly be communicated, or gained any other way than by a dawning intuition within the soul, an awakening sense of real and intimate unity with all that is.

Yet, in spite of this oneness, life and the world seem wonderfully varied and changing, always and ever mutable, in perpetual ebb and flow. The one, the real, is presenting itself to us in many ways, in varied vestures, under different veils, in constantly changing disguises.

But as it is the eternal One that wears these veils and vestures and disguises, there is a clearly visible oneness running through them all; as an actor has the same gait and figure in many parts. So that we may group the vestures and disguises into series of types, and then compare them together, according to their corresponding degrees of nearness to, or farness from, the infinite simplicity of the One.

By this grouping of the types of veil and disguise that the One wears in manifested existence, we shall gradually build up a conception of the form and character of the universe; a sacred science of things as they are—sacred, because nothing is holier than the real. To this science of things as they are, no one can have access but they who have taken the first step towards seeing things as they are, who have divined the oneness between their real self and the Self of all beings. Therefore every record of this science will be a closed book to all who have not divined this first secret; while it will be increasingly plain to all who share the secret, in proportion to the force and luminousness of their insight.

The Taittiriya Upanishad seems to be some such record of the sacred science. Here and there, there are broken sentences, broken thoughts, half developed comparisons, abruptly interrupted and fragmentary teachings, as if the hand of time or some other despoiler had borne heavily upon the pages of the record, destroying much and hiding much from sight. Yet, though much has been destroyed, much remains, making this Book of Hidden Wisdom a series of light-flashes, calling up the hidden memories in our hearts, leading us to an understanding of things as they are.

Much will become plain, in this school-book of the mysteries, by comparison with other records of the sacred sciences, and, more than all, by comparison with other parts of the Upanishads themselves. One intuition in particular we shall find running all through the teaching, as the great Breath runs through the three worlds. This is the teaching of the manifesting of the Self in a graduated harmony of steps or worlds; a teaching of which very much has been said in commenting on other Upanishads. And this teaching illustrates very well the distinction between open and hidden science, the latter only intelligible to those who have in some degree caught the light of the Self. The simplest form of this teaching is that side of it that refers to the fields of consciousness of the Self: waking, dreaming, dreamlessness, and the fourth, which is no state but the Self itself.

Until the reality, independence, self-existence of the Self is in some degree divined, this teaching is unintelligible. For even the first step of it, the idea that the manifold, waking, outward world is the lowest mode of the Self, can only be comprehended after it is known that the Self is. Till this knowledge of the Self is gained, it will be believed that the outward, waking world is real, self-existent, independent; and that the sense of self-hood in us is an accident of the reality. Then of dreaming. When the Self is known, it is seen that dreaming is but another mode of manifesting of the Self, a mode of consciousness freed from the tyranny of space; and that the external “realities” of waking life are only frozen dreams, to be presently thawed by the spirit which stands above space. Then again, dreamlessness. People would describe it as the vanishing of something; the disappearance of the outward things that made up the two other worlds of waking and dream. It is, in fact, a disappearance of something; but that something is a double unreality, so that dreamlessness is two degrees nearer the Real than waking, and one degree nearer than dream. This initial lesson depends, as we have seen, on the preliminary understanding of the reality of the Self; till that reality is known by first-hand knowledge, the teaching that dreamlessness is a far more vivid reality than waking life will seem mere nonsense and incoherency.

With this initial lesson of the three steps to the Self, the three worlds where the Self shines with divided light, the Taittiriya Upanishad is largely engaged; and, though the opening and closing sentences of this chapter are probably of a different origin and period, the same idea runs through them also. We may illustrate this by saying that the initials of Mitra, Varuna, and Aryaman, taken in reverse order, form the sacred syllable; that Indra and Brihaspati are names of the higher Self of dreamless reality, Indra being the lord of the azure sphere of the sky, and thus the ruler; Brihaspati corresponding to the planet Jupiter, and being, besides, the Teacher of the “bright ones”, as Indra is their ruler. Then again “wide-striding” Vishnu, who strides across the firmament in three paces, is the thread-Self who knits the repeated births together, and becomes manifest through the three times and the three worlds. These three steps of Vishnu are, we are told, a myth of the sun; yes, but then the sun is a myth of the Self. Then again it is not hard to discern the meaning of this: “Obeisance to the Eternal; obeisance to thee, Breath; thou art, verily, the manifested Eternal.” Being is manifested as life. The Eternal is Being, the great Breath, “he who sleeps in the Mother,” is life made manifest in space.

The first sentence of the Upanishad itself, following this benediction, is not less clear, once certain broad intuitions of the Upanishads are seized. The life becomes manifest through form; as sound, through color; as force, through measure; as the expansive power of the Evolver, through the Evolver’s “sister and bride,” the feminine, passive Word.

Thus the world and the worlds begin to come into being. Then the five unions or collectivities. In each case, there are the three grades or steps to the Self, pervaded by a power or energy of the Self. First the “union” of the three worlds: earth, or waking life; dreamless life or heaven; and, between these two extremes, the mid-world, the dream-world, the mirror-world, reflecting earth from beneath, and heaven from above; the great Breath,—manifested life,—joins them all three, and knits them together.

Then the three fires. Earthly fire, the energy of vital life; the fire in the waters,—the fire of desire in the waters of emotional life; and the sun, the steady light of intuition. All three, modes of the electric fire, the manifested will of the Self.

Then in exact harmony with these, the Master, who has reached dreamless reality, lit by the fire of intuition, stands above the pupil; the teaching is the link; the declaring of it joins them together. The description of the pupil as “he who dwells beside, on the verge of, the Master” is a very graphic and luminous image. The pupil is he who has already passed over the verge into the circle of light that surrounds the Master, and is to that extent a partaker of his light. Here, as always, the Master is the higher Self, or one in whom the higher Self is luminous, who speaks the language of the higher Self, whose will is the power of the higher Self.

Father, Mother, Child; again an admirable figure. Father is heaven; Mother, earth; the Child is the life engendered between them; the riches of the Self, born of the union of these two powers of the Self.

Then the flocks and herds and offspring that belong to him who knows this union; here, as elsewhere, flocks and herds, the wealth of a pastoral people, are mystically used for the mystical wealth of the awakened Self, the “fruits of the spirit.” The “children” are new births; blameless “sons” are new births spent in the gaining of wisdom.

Indra who is to enkindle with wisdom, to make us receptacles of immortality, is again the Sky-lord, the higher Self. It is not difficult to divine the meaning of what follows, in the prayer to Indra: “May my body be vitalized, may my tongue be sweet as honey; may I hear well with both ears.” This is the tongue that speaks, the ears that hear, in the presence of the Masters, the ministers of new life ruled by the higher Self.

Then follows the long invocation to the higher Self,—the “veil of the Eternal”—who brings the new vestures and the “flocks and herds” of mystic power; this changes to an invocation of those in whom the higher Self is manifest, the “servants of the Eternal.”

Exactly such an invocation must be made by the intuition and will; by the will, as motive power and executive force, guided by the intuition as leader and light; or rather by the single power which is at once will and intuition. There must be a steady, selfless determination to become consciously and completely that higher Self which we divine that we really are; to open our windows to the light, our hearts to the power, of that Self; to make the personal self fade away before, and disappear into, the higher Self. The understanding of this we have already; it remains to make it a living reality by the victories of the will; victories to be gained by steady, unrelaxed aspiration and determination. The tyrannous obstacles in time and space must be melted away and overcome; no mere lapse of time can accomplish this, for the illusion of time is one of the very obstacles in the path, and must fade away into the eternal now of the timeless, ever-living Self.

The invocation is again followed by the teaching of three worlds, the three steps to the Self, in another form.

Then comes a very curious and remarkable passage:

“There is this shining ether in the inner being. Therein is this spirit formed of mind, immortal, golden.
“Inward, in the palate, the organ that hangs down like a nipple,—this is the birthplace of Indra.
“And there, where the dividing of the hair turns round, extending upwards to the crown of the head . . .”

To make this quite clear, we should have to touch on the question of the higher vestures of the Self, their intimate connection with the outermost vesture, and the centres or organs in the head through which the higher vestures come into actual relation with the outer, physical vesture; one organ being thus the outer doorway to the mid-world; the other, to the divine world of the causal, intuitional Self. Both doors must be opened from within; after the unity of the Self has been realized. Till this is done, till unity, the supreme talisman of safety, is won, any study of the “doors” is worse than useless.

The rest of the chapter is a series of finger-points along the path of right understanding, toward the comprehension of unity.

Part II of Taittiriya Upanishad