Teachings from Taittiriya Upanishad

Categories : Spirituality

Adi Shankaracharya selected ten Upanishads for Bhasya (commentary) among the old Upanishads. Their names appear in the following shloka.

Isa Kena Kathaa Prasna, Munda, Maandukya Taithari

Aitareyam Chaandogyam Brahadaranyakam Dasa.

Among these, the Taittiriya Upanishad has been widely studied and many mantras from this Upanishad are used for rituals on various occasions. Some writers have stated that Vedavyas also utilised this Upanishad extensively for the composition of Brahm sutras.

This Upanishad belongs to the Taittiriya school of the Yajur Veda and has been divided into three sections known as Shiksha Valli, Brahmananda Valli and Bhrigu Valli. The teachings of this Upanishad are relevant for recent times also when the world is facing crises on several fronts. Messages from different sections of the Upanishad have been described below.

Shiksha Valli:

This section describes the duties of students. Those were the days when students came to Gurukuls, and Tapovans for education from their illustrious gurus. Shiksha also appears as the first Vedanga among the six which teach the science of phonetics and pronunciation. The students were taught about many such subjects.

After completing their education, they were required to marry and perform their obligatory duties as a grihastha (householder). The Acharya released them with farewell messages.

These messages must have been given on convocation-like occasions. Such messages for departing students are not found in other Upanishads. Some of them are as follows.

Satyam Vada: Speak the truth

Dharmam Chara: Practice Virtue

Swadhyayanma Pramadah: Let there be no neglect of daily readings

Several other teachings are found in I/II Anuvak. Further, teachings from the same Anuvak are as follows.

Matridevo Bhava: Be one to whom the mother is a God.

Pitridevo Bhava: Be one to whom the father is a God.

Acharya Devo Bhava: Be one to whom the teacher is God.

Atithi Devo Bhava: Be one to whom the guest is God.

Such messages were like commands to departing students.

Esa adesah, esa Upadesah

Esa Vedopanisat etad Anusasnam

Evam Upasitavyam, evam Chaitadupasyam.

(This is the command. This is the teaching. This is the secret doctrine of the Veda. This is the instruction. Thus, should one worship? Thus, indeed should one worship.)

In the book “The Principal Upanishads” by S. Radhakrishnan, a reference to a similar system in Banaras Hindu University has been described. The Vice-chancellor of the University is required to chant the following mantra on the convocation day while addressing students on the occasion.

Etad Attha Katha

Etad Attha Mantana

Etad Attha Upanisa

Etad Attha Satavadhanam Vinaya

(The students are advised not to give up the world. They are advised to lead virtuous lives as householders and promote the welfare of the community.)

Brahmanand Valli:

This is the second section of the Upanishad which describes the constitution of the human body. This narration is quite different from the modern science of human anatomy. However, the conceptualization of the Constitution is so simple and marvellous that it has been repeated in other later-day Upanishads also. The Upanishad describes the human body as constituted by five Koshas (Sheaths) as described below.

  • Annmaya Kosa (the sheath of food) has been nurtured by food and is getting nourishment from food.
  • Pranmaya Kosa (the sheath of life) is breathing inside the material human body and utilizes the five types of Vayu.
  • Manomaya Kosa (the mind sheath) is responsible for the creation of thought.
  • Vigyanmaya Kosa (the sheath of knowledge) is the prime mover of human intelligence.
  • Anandamaya Kosa (the sheath of the Paramatma in bliss)

Bhrigu Valli:

This is the third section of the Upanishad. Bhrigu is the son of Varun. Bhrigu asked his father to teach him about Brahma. Varun directs his son to meditate on Brahma himself and thus find the truth.

The Upanishad sings the glory of food which is the prime necessity of human beings. Food came first and man came afterwards. Modern science also agrees with this dictum. The importance of food has been highlighted as follows.

  • Annam Na Nindayat tad Vratam, prano ma annam (do not speak ill of food. That shall be the rule. Life verily is food).
  • Annam No Parichaksita tad Vratam aapo va annam (Do not despise food. That shall be the rule. Water, verily is food.)
  • Annam Bahu Kurvita tad Vratam Prithvi va Annam

(Make for oneself much food. That shall be the rule. Ether is the eater of food.)

One complete mantra in the concluding part of the Upanishad is devoted to food. The glory of food has been sung asserting its arrival on earth before humans. Grow more food is the message. Food is Brahma is also the message.

We know how food is influencing our lives in modern days. The fundamental truth we find manifested all around is food which has all the regulating capacities.