The Upanishads, Part 1 (SBE01), by Max Müller, , at sacred-texts.com
'Those who know this 1 (even though they still be grihasthas, householders) and those who in the forest follow faith and austerities (the vânaprasthas, and of the parivrâgakas those who do not yet know the Highest Brahman) go 2 to light (arkis), from light to day, from day to the light half of the moon, from the light half of the moon to the six months when the sun goes to the north, from the six months when the sun goes to the north to the year, from the year to the sun, from the sun to the moon, from the moon to the lightning. There is a person not human 3,--
2. 'He leads them to Brahman (the conditioned Brahman). This is the path of the Devas.
3. 'But they who living in a village practise (a life of) sacrifices, works of public utility, and alms, they go to the smoke, from smoke to night, from night to the dark half of the moon, from the dark half of the moon to the six months when the sun goes to the south. But they do not reach the year.
4. 'From the months they go to the world of the fathers, from the world of the fathers to the ether, from the ether to the moon. That is Soma, the king. Here they are loved (eaten) by the Devas, yes, the Devas love (eat) them 4.
5. 'Having dwelt there, till their (good) works are consumed, they return again that way as they came 1, to the ether, from the ether to the air. Then the sacrificer, having become air, becomes smoke, having become smoke, he becomes mist,
6. 'Having become mist, he becomes a cloud, having become a cloud, he rains down. Then he is born as rice and corn, herbs and trees, sesamum. and beans. From thence the escape is beset with most difficulties. For whoever the persons may be that eat the food, and beget offspring, he henceforth becomes like unto them.
7. 'Those whose conduct has been good, will quickly attain some good birth, the birth of a Brâhmana, or a Kshatriya, or a Vaisya. But those whose conduct has been evil, will quickly attain an evil birth, the birth of a dog, or a hog, or a Kandâla.
8. 'On neither of these two ways those small creatures (flies, worms, &c.) are continually returning of whom it may be said, Live and die. Theirs is a third place.
'Therefore that world never becomes full 1 (cf. V, 3, 2).
'Hence let a man take care to himself 1! And thus it is said in the following Sloka 2:--
9. 'A man who steals gold, who drinks spirits,
who dishonours his Guru's bed, who kills a Brahman, these four fall, and as a fifth he who associates with them.
10. 'But he who thus knows the five fires is not defiled by sin even though he associates with them. He who knows this, is pure, clean, and obtains the world of the blessed, yea, he obtains the world of the blessed.'
80:1 The doctrine of the five fires, and our being born in them, i. e. in heaven, rain, earth, man, and woman.
80:2 Cf. Kh. Up. IV, 15, 5.
80:3 Instead of mânava, human, or amânava, not human, the Brih. Âr. reads mânasa, mental, or created by manas, mind.
80:4 This passage has been translated, 'They are the food of the gods. The gods do eat it.' And this is indeed the literal meaning of the words. But bhag (to enjoy) and bhaksh (to eat) are often p. 81 used by theosophical writers in India, in the more general sense of cherishing or loving, and anna in the sense of an object of desire, love, and protection. The commentators, however, as the use of bhaksh in this sense is exceptional, or as it has no support in the use of the ancients, warn us here against a possible misunderstanding. If those, they say, who have performed sacrifices enter at last into the essence of Soma, the moon, and are eaten by the Devas, by Indra, &c., what is the use of their good works? No, they reply, they are not really eaten. Food (anna) means only what is helpful and delightful; it is not meant that they are eaten by morsels, but that they form the delight of the Devas. Thus we hear it said that men, women, and cattle are food for kings. And if it is said that women are loved by men, they are, in being loved, themselves loving. Thus these men also, being loved by the Devas, are happy and rejoice with the Devas. Their body, in order to be able to rejoice in the moon, becomes of a watery substance, as it was said before, that the water, called the Sraddha libation, when offered in heaven, as in the fire of the altar, becomes Soma, the king (Kh. Up. V, 4, 1). That water becomes, after various changes, the body of those who have performed good works, and when a man is dead and his body burnt (Kh. Up. V, 9, 2), the water rises from the body upwards with the smoke, and carries him to the moon, where, in that body, he enjoys the fruits of his good works, as long as they last. When they are consumed, like the oil in a lamp, he has to return to a new round of existences.
81:1 But only to a certain point.
82:1 In this manner all the five questions have been answered. First, why in the fifth oblation water is called man; secondly, to what place men go after death, some by the path of the Devas, others by the path of the fathers, others again by neither of these paths; thirdly, how they return, some returning to Brahman, others returning to the earth; fourthly, where the paths of the Devas and the fathers diverge, viz. when from the half-year the path of the Devas goes on to the year, while that of the fathers branches off to the world of the fathers; fifthly, why that world, the other world, does never become full, viz. because men either go on to Brahman or return again to this world.
Many questions are raised among Indian philosophers on the exact meaning of certain passages occurring in the preceding paragraphs. First, as to who is admitted to the path of the Devas? Householders, who know the secret doctrine of the five fires or the five libations of the Agnihotra, as described above, while other householders, who only perform the ordinary sacrifices, without a knowledge of their secret meaning, go by the path of the fathers. Secondly, those who have retired to the forest, and whose worship there consists in faith and austerities, i. e. Vânaprasthas and Parivrâgakas, before they arrive at a knowledge of the true Brahman. The question then arises, whether religious students also enter the path of the Devas? This is affirmed, because Purânas and Smritis assert it, or because our text, if properly understood, does not exclude it. Those, on the contrary, who know not only a conditioned, but the highest unconditioned Brahman, do not proceed on the path of the Devas, but obtain Brahman immediately.
Again, there is much difference of opinion whether, after a man p. 83 has been in the moon, consuming his works, he can be born again. Birth is the result of former works, and if former works are altogether consumed, there can be no new birth. This, however, is shown to be an erroneous view, because, besides the good sacrificial works, the fruits of which are consumed in the moon, there are other works which have to be enjoyed or expiated, as the case may be, in a new existence.
The great difficulty or danger in the round of transmigration arises when the rain has fructified the earth, and passes into herbs and trees, rice, corn, and beans. For, first of all, some of the rain does not fructify at once, but falls into rivers and into the sea, to be swallowed up by fishes and sea monsters. Then, only after these have been dissolved in the sea, and after the sea water has been attracted by the clouds, the rain falls down again, it may be on desert or stony land. Here it may be swallowed by snakes or deer, and these may be swallowed by other animals, so that the round of existence seems endless. Nor is this all. Some rain may dry up, or be absorbed by bodies that cannot be eaten. Then, if the rain is absorbed by rice, corn, &c., and this be eaten, it may be eaten by children or by men who have renounced marriage, and thus again lose the chance of a new birth.. Lastly, there is the danger arising from the nature of the being; in whom the food, such as rice and corn, becomes a new seed, and likewise from the nature of the mother. All these chances have to be met before a new birth as a Brâhmana, Kshatriya, or Vaisya can be secured.
Another curious distinction is here made by Saṅkara in his commentary. There are some, he says, who assume the form of rice, corn, &c., not in their descent from a higher world, as described in the Upanishad, but as a definite punishment for certain evil deeds they have committed. These remain in that state till the results of their evil deeds are over, and assume then a new body, according to their work, like caterpillars. With them there is also a consciousness of these states, and the acts which caused them to p. 84 assume this or that body, leave impressions behind, like dreams. This is not the case with those who in their descent from the moon, pass, as we saw, through an existence as rice, corn, &c. They have no consciousness of such existences, at least not in their descent. In their ascent to the moon, they have consciousness, as a man who climbs up a tree knows what he is about. But in their descent, that consciousness is gone, as it is when a man falls down from a tree. Otherwise a man, who by his good works had deserved rewards in the moon, would, while corn is being ground, suffer tortures, as if he were in hell, and the very object of good works, as taught by the Veda, would be defeated. As we see that a man struck by a hammer can be carried away unconscious, so it is in the descent of souls, till they are born again as men, and gain a new start for the attainment of the Highest Brahman.
83:1 Let him despise it. Comm.
83:2 Evidently an old Trishtubh verse, but irregular in the third line. See Manu XI, 54.