[Translation]

Three, verily, were skilled in the up-singing Shilaka Shalavatya, Chaikitayana Dalbhya, Pravahana Jaivala. They said: In the up-singing, indeed, are we skilled; let us relate the meaning in the up-singing.

Let it be so; said they.

So they took their places together. Then Pravahana Jaivala said:

Let your honors speak first. I shall listen to the word of you two Brahmans speaking.

So Shilaka Shalavatya said to Chaikitayana Dalbhya:

Let me question you.

Question me; said he.

What is the path of the chant? said he.

The tone; said he.

What is the path of the tone? said he.

Vital breath; said he.

What is the path of vital breath? said he.

Food; said he.

What is the path of food? said he.

The waters; said he.

What is the path of the waters? said he.

The other world; said he.

What is the path of the other world? said he.

Let it not lead beyond the heaven world, said he; we shall stop at the heaven world for the chant; for the chant is the praising of the heaven world.

To him, to Chaikitayana Dalbhya, Shilaka Shalavatya said:

Not firmly formed, verily, is your chant, Dalbhya; for if anyone were to say now: Your head will fall off!—your head would fall off.

Let me then learn it from your honor; said he.

Learn! said he.

What is the path of the other world? said he.

This world; said he.

What is the path of this world? said he.

Let it not lead beyond the world, the foundation; said he.

We stop at the world, the foundation, for the chant. For the chant is the praise of the world.

Then Pravahana Jaivala said to him: This chant of yours has its end, indeed, Shalavatya; if anyone were to say now: Your head will fall off!—your head would fall off.

Let me then learn it from your honor; said he.

Learn! said he.

What is the path of this world? said he.

The shining-ether, said he. For all these beings come forth into being from the shining-ether; to the shining-ether they go to their setting; for the shining-ether is older than these two; the shining-ether is the supreme dwelling-place. This up-singing, in truth, is better than the highest; this is the endless; better than the highest is his, he wins worlds better than the highest, who, thus knowing, draws near to the up-singing that is better than the highest.

After telling this to Udarashandilya, Atidhanvan Shaunaka said to him: As long as they shall know this, for your offspring, their life in this world will be better than the highest, and so in the other world. So he who, thus knowing, draws near to this, his life in this world becomes better than the highest, and so in the other world.

When the Kurus were devastated by locusts, Ushasti Chakrayana, with his virgin wife, dwelt destitute in the village of Ibhya. He begged food of Ibhya, who was eating wild beans.

To him he said:

I have no more besides these; and what is here has been set before me.

Give some of them to me! said he.

He gave them over to him.

But I drink not the liquor, for it would be impure leavings if I were to drink it; said he.

Are not these also leavings? said he.

No, for I could not live without eating these; said he. But I can get water when I will.

He then, after eating, took what was still left to his wife. But she had already begged successfully, so, taking them, she laid them by.

And he, rising early in the morning, said: If we could get food, we could get wealth; the king there is going to offer a sacrifice, and he would choose me before all the priests.

His wife said to him: here, my lord, take these wild beans!

Having, eaten them, he went to that extensive sacrifice. There he went on up to the up-singers who were to chant the opening song. He said to an up-singer:

Singer of the opening song, whatever bright power follows on the opening song, if you sing the opening song without knowing this bright power, your head will fall off!

In just the same way he said to the up-singer:

Up-singer, whatever bright power follows on the up-singing, if you sing the up-singing without knowing this bright power, your head will fall off!

In just the same way he said to the singer of the response: Singer of the response, whatever bright power follows on the singing of the response, if you sing the response without knowing this bright power, your head will fall off!

They all, verily, ceased together, and sat there silent.

Thereupon he who was offering the sacrifice said:

I desire to know your honor!

I am Ushasti Chakrayana; said he.

And he said: I have sought your honor beyond all these sacrifices, but not finding you I chose others. But let your honor be mine for all the sacrifices.

Be it so; said he. Then let these sing the chant under my direction. But as much wealth as you give to them, so much also give to me.

Then the singer of the opening song came up to him, saying: Your honor spoke to me saying—Singer of the opening song, whatever bright power follows on the opening song, if you sing the opening song without knowing this bright power, your head will fall off!—What is that bright power?

Life is that bright power, said he; for all these beings, verily, enter together into Life, and go forth to Life; this is that bright power. And if you had sung the opening song without knowing this bright power your head would have fallen off, as I said.

Then the up-singer came up to him, saying: Your honor spoke to me, saying—Up-singer, whatever bright power follows on the up-singing, if you sing the up-singing without knowing this bright power your head will fall off!—What is this bright power?

The sun-power; said he; for all these bright powers sing the sun-power when it is on high; this is the bright power which follows on the up-singing. And if you had sung the up-singing without knowing this bright power your head would have fallen off, as I said.

Then the singer of the response came up to him:

Your honor spoke to me, saying—Singer of the response, whatever bright power follows on the singing of the response, if you sing the response without knowing this bright power your head will fall off!—What is this bright power?

The world-food; said he; for all these beings live responsive to the world-food. This is the bright power that follows on the singing of the response. And if you had sung the response without knowing this bright power your head would have fallen off, as I said.

Then, after this, the up-singing of the dogs, Vaka Dalbhya or Glava Maitreya wandered about, studying the teachings. To him a white dog appeared. Other dogs coming up together said to him:

Let your honor sing food for us, for we are hungry.

He said to them:

Come to me here in the morning.

Then Vaka Dalbhya, whose other name was Glava Maitreya, took them under his protection. Then, as those who, here, about to sing the song after outward purification, wind onwards, holding together, so they wound onwards. Then, coming together, they uttered the sound: hing!

Hing! Om, let us eat! Om, let us drink! Om, oh bright one, Varuna, lord of the waters, Prajapati, lord of beings, Savitar, lord of light, bring food hither! oh lord of food, bring food hither!

This world, verily, is the sound—u.

The great breath, verily, is the sound—i.

The moon is the sound—atha, thus.

The self is the sound—iha, here.

The fire-lord is the sound—î.

The sun is the sound—û.

The pervading deities are the sounds—âu, o, i.

The lord of beings is the sound—hing.

The life is the tone.

The world-food is the Word, the Splendor.

The thirteenth division of the chants without derivations, the end, is the sound—hung. In milking for this, the Word gives the milk, which is the milk of the Word. He becomes possessor of the world-food, an eater of the world-food, who knows thus this secret teaching of the chants, who knows this secret teaching.

The drawing near to the All by the chant, truly, is good. What, truly, is good, that, they say, is the chant; what is not good, that, they say, is not the chant.

Then they have declared this also: He approached him in song by the chant,—he approached him in song by the good. And, verily, they have also said: He approached him not in song by the chant,—he approached him not in song by the good.

And so they have also declared: What is good is as the chant for us, it is good for us. And, verily, they have also said: What is not good is not as the chant for us,—it is not good for us.

He, verily, who, knowing this thus, draws near to the good as the chant, it will constantly happen that the good laws will come near to him and bow down before him.

Among the worlds, let a man draw near to the chant as fivefold.

Earth is the preparatory sound.
Fire is the opening song.
The Mid-world is the up-singing.
The Sun is the response.
Heaven is the cessation.

Thus for the upward. Then for the returning:

Heaven is the preparatory sound.
The Sun is the opening song.
The Mid-world is the up-singing.
Fire is the response.
Earth is the cessation.

The worlds build for him, both the upward and the returning, who, thus knowing, draws near to the fivefold chant among the worlds.

In the rain, let a man draw near to the chant as fivefold.

The first wind is the preparatory sound.
Cloud is born, this is the opening song.
Rain falls,—this is the up-singing.
It lightens, it thunders,—this is the response.
It clears, —this is the cessation.

It rains for him, it makes rain for him, who, thus knowing, draws near to the fivefold chant in the rain.

In all waters, let a man draw near to the chant as fivefold.

The cloud that floats together is the preparatory sound.
What rains, this is the opening song.
Those that roll eastward, are the up-singing.
Those that roll westward, are the response.
The ocean is the cessation.

He goes not forth among the waters, but becomes lord of the waters, who, thus knowing, draws near to the fivefold chant in all waters.

In the seasons, let a man draw near to the chant as fivefold.

The spring is the preparatory sound.
The hot season is the opening song.
The rainy season is the up-singing.
The autumn is the response.
The cold season is the cessation.

The seasons build for him, he becomes lord of the seasons, who, thus knowing, draws near to the fivefold chant in the seasons.

Among animals, let a man draw near to the chant as fivefold.

Goats are the preparatory sound.
Sheep are the opening song.
Cows are the up-singing.
Horses are the response.
Man is the cessation.

Animals are his, he becomes a lord of animals, who, thus knowing, draws near to the fivefold chant among animals.

Among the lives, let a man draw near the fivefold chant as better than the highest.

The forward-life is the preparatory sound.
Formative-voice is the opening song.
Sight-power is the up-singing.
Hearing-power is the response.
Mind is the cessation.

These are better than the highest. What is better than the highest becomes his, he wins worlds better than the highest, who, thus knowing, draws near to the fivefold chant as better than the highest, in the lives. Thus far for the fivefold division.

Now for the sevenfold division. Let a man draw near to the chant as sevenfold, in the Word.

Whatever, in the Word, is the sound—”hung,” is the preparatory sound.
Whatever is “pra” is the opening song, prastava.
Whatever is “a” is the onward movement, adi.
Whatever is “ut” is the up-singing, udgitha.
Whatever is “prati”is the response, pratihara.
Whatever is “upa” is the return, upadrava.
Whatever is “ni” is the cessation, nidhana.

In what is milked, the Word gives the milk for him, which is the milk of the Word; a possessor of food, an eater of food he becomes, who, knowing thus, draws near to the sevenfold chant in the Word.

And so, verily, let a man draw near to that sun as the sevenfold chant. Through that which is ever the all, the chant comes towards me; towards me, through the completely perfect one. Therein all these beings find their places; thus let a man know.

What is before the sunrise is the preparatory sound; to this cattle are joined; therefore they utter a preparatory sound, for they are sharers in the preparatory sound of this chant.

What is in the first rising of the sun, is the opening song of praise; to this men are joined. Therefore they are desirous of praise, desirous of fame, for they are sharers in the opening song of this chant.

What is at the time the cattle gather is the onward movement; to this winged ones are joined. Therefore they in the mid-world betaking themselves, unsupported, fly hither and thither. For they are sharers in the onward movement of this chant.

What is present at midday is the up-singing; to it the bright powers are joined; therefore they are the best of the sons of the lords of being, for they are sharers in the up-singing of this chant.

What is above in the former part of the afternoon is the response; to this beings yet unborn are joined; therefore they are held back, and do not descend, for they are sharers in the response of this chant.

What is above in the latter part of the afternoon, before the sunset, is the return; to it those of the forest are joined; therefore, on seeing a man, they return back to a cave, a place of shelter; for they are sharers in the return of this chant.

What is in the first sunset is the cessation; to it the fathers are joined; therefore they place the offering of cessation for them, for they are sharers in the cessation of this chant.

Thus, indeed, he draws near to the sevenfold sun as the chant.

So let a man draw near to the sevenfold chant, which is self-commensurate, beyond death.

The preparatory sound, hinkara, three syllables.

The opening song, prastava, three syllables, equal to it.

The onward movement, adi, two syllables.

The response, pratihara, four syllables; one from this makes it equal.

The up-singing, udgitha, three syllabus.

The return, upadrava, four syllables. Here there is equality by threes and threes, and one syllable is left over. The three syllables are equal.

The cessation, nidhana, three syllables, equal in number.

These, verily, these make up twenty-two syllables. Twenty-one gets to the sun, for that sun is twenty-first. By the twenty-second he Wins what is beyond the sun, the paradise where there is no sorrow. Even here he gets the victory of the sun, and there is a victory beyond the victory of the sun for him who, knowing this thus, draws near to the self-commensurate sevenfold chant which is beyond death.

This is the singing woven through the lives:

Mind is the preparatory sound.
Voice is the opening song.
Sight-power is the up-singing.
Hearing-power is the response.
Life is the cessation.

He who knows thus the singing woven through the lives, becomes a lord of life, he lives his full age, he lives brilliantly, and becomes great in his offspring and cattle, great in glory.; let him be great-minded—this is the vow.

This is the ceremonial chant woven through fire:

He turns the fire-stick, this is the preparatory sound.
Smoke is generated, this is the opening song.
Sparks come, this is the up-singing.
Red embers glow, this is the response.
It becomes quiescent, this is the cessation.

He who knows thus the ceremonial chant woven through fire, becomes an eater of food in the brightness of the eternal, lives his full age, lives brilliantly, becomes great in his offspring and cattle, great in glory; let him not spit towards the fire, let him not befoul it,—this is the vow.

This is the great chant woven in the sun:

When rising, it is the preparatory sound.
When risen, it is the opening song.
At midday, it is the up-singing.
Afternoon is the response.
Sunset is the cessation.

He who thus knows the great chant woven in the sun, radiant, an eater of food he becomes, he lives his full age, lives brilliantly, becomes great in offspring and cattle, great in glory; let him not speak evil of the fervent glowing one—this is the vow.

This is the greatness of form woven in the rain:

Clouds float together, this is the preparatory sound.
The storm-cloud is born, this is the opening song.
Rain falls, this is the up-singing.
It lightens, it thunders, this is the response.
It lifts up again, this is the cessation.

He who thus knows this greatness of form woven in rain, his form becomes great, his form becomes fair, he gathers his cattle together, be lives his full age, he becomes great through offspring and cattle, and great in fame; let him not speak evil of the power that brings rain—this is the vow.

This is the splendor woven in the seasons:

The spring is the preparatory sound.
The hot-season is the opening song.
The rainy-season is the up-singing.
The autumn is the response.
The cold-season is the cessation.

He who thus knows the splendor woven in the seasons, becomes resplendent through offspring and cattle, and brightness of the Eternal, reaches his full age, lives brilliantly, becomes great in offspring and cattle, great in glory. Let him not speak evil of the seasons.

These are the metres, or zones, woven through the worlds:

The earth is the preparatory sound.
The mid-world is the opening song.
The heaven is the up-singing.
The spaces are the response.
The ocean is the cessation.

He who thus knows the metres, or zones, woven through the worlds, becomes lord of the worlds, lives the full age, lives brilliantly, becomes great in offspring and cattle, great in glory; let him not speak evil of cattle—this is the vow.

This is the offering to be offered among the members:

Hair is the preparatory sound.
Skin is the opening song.
Flesh is the up-singing.
Bone is the response.
Marrow is the cessation.

He who thus knows the offering to be offered among the members, becomes lord of the members, his members are not deformed, he reaches the full age, and becomes great in offspring and cattle, great in glory. Let him not eat marrow throughout the year—this is the vow.

This is the sovereignty woven in the bright powers:

Fire is the preparatory sound.
Breath is opening sound.
Sun is the up-singing.
The divisions of the sky are the response.
The moon is the cessation.

He who thus knows the sovereignty woven in the bright powers, reaches unison, union, unity with these bright powers, lives the full age, lives brilliantly, becomes great in offspring and cattle, great in glory. Let him not speak evil of the followers of the Eternal,—this is the vow.

This is the chant that is woven in the All.

The threefold wisdom is the preparatory sound.

These three worlds are the opening song.

Fire, the Breath, the Sun, this is the up-singing.

The divisions, the Winged ones, the Rays, this is the response.

The Serpents, the Singers, the Fathers, this is the cessation.

He who thus knows the chant that is woven in the All, becomes the All. And there is the verse that goes thus:

The fivefold three, than these no other is older. He who knows this, knows all. All spaces bring offerings to him. Let a man draw near, saying: I am the All. This is the vow; this the vow.


Commentary: Three, Five, Seven

The second part of the Mysteries of Sound, from the Chhandogya Upanishad, which we have just translated, fully bears out and strengthens what we have already said about the first part. To begin with, its outward character is so strange as to be almost exasperating, even to the elect; then, further, we cannot, even after we have studied the whole in the light of all similar passages of the Books of Wisdom, perfectly satisfy ourselves as to how much meaning we are to find in these allegories of the fivefold and sevenfold chant, or say quite certainly what that meaning is; or, to put the same thing another way: these particular passages on the chant form the chapters which join this Upanishad to the theological treatise which belongs to the Veda of the chants, the Brahmana of the Chhandogyas; and we cannot say with perfect assurance that they belong to the Upanishad,—in which case we should expect them to mean a great deal,—rather than to the Brahmana,—in which case we should expect them to mean considerably less, to be traditional rather than intuitional, theological rather than theosophical.

But the truth seems to be that the position of these chapters, as transitional, between the theology of the Brahmana and the theosophy of the Upanishad, is not accidental; but rather the result, as well as the type, of the transition which actually took place in the minds of the pupils, who passed out from the theology of the old priesthood to the deeper wisdom of the warrior-kings, their initiators.

This very transition is the subject of the story with which this second part of the Mysteries of Sound opens. The three characters in this story are the famous king-sage Pravahana, son of Jivala,—the lord of the Panchala nation,—and two Brahman priests. We shall have much to say, later on, of the kingly sage Pravahana, when we come to the most remarkable narrative in the whole of the Upanishads, wherein is related how this great teacher first disclosed to the Brahmans the twin doctrines of reincarnation and the causality of works, of Karma, and the teaching of liberation from works and from rebirth, which was the head of the threefold wisdom of the warrior race.

We see Pravahana, in the present story, trying to open the minds of the Brahmans to the reality of the inner worlds, lying behind the outer pictorial worlds; and this effort of his is shown in the form of a debate, of question and answer in which the two Brahman priests, and afterwards the king, engaged.

The king very courteously, if somewhat ironically, gives precedence in speech to the two priests who are presently to become his pupils; and this precedence they quite unhesitatingly accept, with an assurance quite out of proportion to their wisdom. The talk was of the “up-singing,” something of the theory and teaching of which we have already given; and the question was raised as to what the path, or resting-place, or source, of the mystic chant is.

The mystic chant is conceived to be a sound or series of sounds, having an inherent force or power, which can be made effectual and active towards other forces and powers, to the production of results which, for the most part, in the aspiration of the Brahmans, referred to very concrete, tangible objects,—the feasts of this world and the next. The theory was that they used the powers of sound, as we use the powers of heat, for practical ends and purposes. Now what is the source or home of this admitted energy in the mystic chant? The tone; replies the priest. The latent sound, that is, or rather its quality and character; the sound being considered to be eternal, as the energy underlying it undoubtedly is. And the source or home of the tone is the voice that utters it. The source and home of the voice is the vital breath, or life, of the priest who sings the chant; this vital breath of his depends on food, that is, on his physical body; food again depends on the waters, the rains, which produce food upon the earth; and, lastly, the rains depend on the sky of heaven,—for there is nothing to show that the heaven-world meant more than the sky for the priest who asked, and the priest who answered the question, in spite of the pious desire of the latter to stop at the heaven-world and not go beyond it. That it meant the sky is clear from the answer of the first querent, that this earth is the home and resting-place of the sky; this shows that we are dealing with a world-concept of outward appearances only, which has nothing at all to do with the hidden wisdom.

When the knowledge of the two priests has thus come to a speedy end, we are gratified by finding in them a combination rare enough,—willingness to learn, following after convicted ignorance. Then Pravahana tries to expand their narrow teaching to a better and deeper knowledge of the universe. This he does by telling them a little about the invisible radiant world, which he calls the “shining-ether,” or, more literally, the “forth-shining,” â-kâsha, from which all beings come forth, and to which they return again. The “shining-ether” is older than these two, the world and the visible heaven. He wins worlds better than the highest that his priestly pupils knew, who, knowing this hidden, radiant world, draws towards it, by strong aspiration.

This is only a little bit of the hidden wisdom; the same teacher tells far more of it to another Brahman pupil, later on; but perhaps this little bit, containing the teaching of eternal spirit, source and home of the worlds, was as much as his scholars were then able to understand.

Then follows another story, which is chiefly interesting for the touches of Indian life it contains; the locusts, the famine, the destitution, the pious though not very wise prince calling the priests together “to sing for rain to relieve the famine” as Shankara suggests. A more important piece of color is the idea that to the different tones or parts of the three voices in the chant were joined or correlated certain “bright powers,” whose activity followed on the singing of the chant. It is interesting that the three priests, while quite ready to chant in order to energize these powers, were equally ready to acknowledge that they knew nothing at all about them. It is also interesting to know that they expected to be well paid for their service. Then comes the mysterious Ushasti with his “virgin wife,” who, if a symbol often used is to be interpreted here also, means a purified inner nature; so that Ushasti is the type of a sage, who will enter the world only for the purpose of dwelling in the world, but remains pure from desire, for this seems to be the meaning of the parable of the beans and the drink.

The very entertaining story of Ushasti terrifying the three priests is too simple to need a commentary; it only remains to say that the three bright powers he teaches them the meaning of,—Life, Sun, World-food—are three aspects of the same radiant hidden world that Pravahana the king opened to his two priestly pupils.

Shankara’s Commentary on all this is very interesting, and, some day, we hope to translate it in full. We need only say here that he points out lucidly and truly that the attempt of these three priests to call forth and use the “bright powers” while ignorant of their spiritual meaning, is just one of those practices which make up “the southern path,” the path of darkness, which the pupils of wisdom are so perpetually warned to shun. This remark of Shankara’s, the truth of which we are fully prepared to recognize, has a far wider application. This sacrifice near the village of Ibhya was not exceptional at all, but quite a common and typical occurrence, the ordinary form of the ecclesiastic worship of Vedic India. Therefore Shankara’s condemnation really covers the whole ecclesiastical system, which is the true “southern path,” the path of darkness.

Then comes the curious episode of the up-singing of the dogs, when the white dog leading, and each dog holding in his mouth, the tail of his predecessor,—as the priests in procession held in their hands the hems of each other’s white robes,— the canine up-singing is raised, “Om, let us eat and drink! Om, may the gods give us food!” This should be framed as a pendant to that other Vedic parable, where the Brahmans at their chants are likened to the green frog and the brown frog croaking round the pond, when the rain softs the mud, and they have their moist delights once more. These little pictures show that the ecclesiastical spirit underwent occasional chastening, which, we cannot doubt, proved of the highest benefit, preventing the loss of many heads, in the manner indicated by Ushasti.

Nearly the whole of what follows these stories is quite clearly a series of exercises for students in the application of fivefold and sevenfold divisions of principles. As being most familiar, the fivefold and sevenfold division of the chant is taken as the type of a series of principles, just as we might take the seven notes of the musical scale, or the seven colors of the rainbow. And among the sevenfold divisions of the Upanishads we do find, among other series of seven, colors, tones and metals arranged in sevenfold groups.

Thus we may easily believe that real correspondences under-lie much that is here suggested; as for instance the seasons, which, in one way, correspond with the centuries; so that the beginning of the fourth quarter of the year, as of the century, is the natural period for the initiation of moral and spiritual tendencies dealing with the hidden worlds. But the chief thought kept in view here is that each series of five or seven is in reality, only one true principle, appearing as five or seven; just as the Self appears as the spiritual self, the personal self and the animal self, but is really only one; or as the real world appears as the celestial world, the mid-world, and the physical world, but is one only. For this reason illustrations like the rain, the year and the like are taken as types of divisions into five or seven principles.