The Upanishads, Part 1 (SBE01), by Max Müller, , at sacred-texts.com
WITH the second Âranyaka the Upanishad begins. It comprises the second and third Âranyakas, and may be said to consist of three divisions, or three Upanishads. Their general title is Bahvrika-upanishad, sometimes Mahaitareya-upanishad, while the Upanishad generally known as, Aitareya-upanishad comprises the 4th, 5th, and 6th adhyâyas only of the second Âranyaka.
The character of the three component portions of the Upanishad can best be described in Saṅkara's own words (Âr. III, 1, I, Introd. p. 306): 'There are three classes of men who want to acquire knowledge. The highest consists of those who have turned away from the world, whose minds are fixed on one subject and collected, and who yearn to be free at once. For these a knowledge of Brahman is intended, as taught in the Ait. Âr. II, 4-6. The middle class are those who wish to become free gradually by attaining to the world of Hiranyagarbha. For them the knowledge and worship of Prâna (breath and life) is intended, as explained in the Ait. Âr. II, 1-3. The lowest class consists of those who do not care either for immediate or gradual freedom, but who desire nothing but offspring, cattle, &c. For these the meditative worship of the Samhitâ is intended, as explained in the third Âranyaka. They cling too strongly to the letter of the sacred text to be able to surrender it for a knowledge either of Prâna (life) or of Brahman.'
The connexion between the Upanishad or rather the three Upanishads and the first Âranyaka seems at first sight very slight. Still we soon perceive that it would be impossible to understand the first Upanishad, without a previous knowledge of the Mahâvrata ceremony as described in the first Âranyaka.
On this point too there are some pertinent remarks in Saṅkara's commentary on the Âranyaka II, 1, 2. 'Our first duty,' he says, 'consists in performing sacrifices, such as are described in the first portion of the Veda,, the Samhitâs, Brâhmanas, and, to a certain extent, in the Âranyakas also. Afterwards arises a desire for knowledge, which cannot be satisfied except a man has first attained
complete concentration of thought (êkâgratâ). In order to acquire that concentration, the performance of certain upâsanas or meditations is enjoined, such as we find described in our Upanishad, viz. in Âr. II, I-V.'
This meditation or, as it is sometimes translated, worship is of two kinds, either brahmopâsana or pratîkopâsana. Brahmopâsana or meditation on Brahman consists in thinking of him as distinguished by certain qualities. Pratîkopâsana or meditation on symbols consists in looking upon certain worldly objects as if they were Brahman, in order thus to withdraw the mind from the too powerful influence of external objects.
These objects, thus lifted up into symbols of Brahman, are of two kinds, either connected with sacrifice or not. In our Upanishad we have to deal with the former class only, viz. with certain portions of the Mahâvrata, as described in the first Âranyaka. In order that the mind may not be entirely absorbed by the sacrifice, it is lifted up during the performance from the consideration of these sacrificial objects to a meditation on higher objects, leading up at last to Brahman as prâna or life.
This meditation is to be performed by the priests, and while they meditate they may meditate on a hymn or on a single word of it as meaning something else, such as the sun, the earth, or the sky, but not vice versâ. And if in one Sâkhâ, as in that of the Aitareyins, for instance, a certain hymn has been symbolically explained, the same explanation may be adopted by another Sâkhâ also, such as that of the Kaushîtakins. It is not necessary, however, that every part of the sacrifice should be accompanied by meditation, but it is left optional to the priest in what particular meditation he wishes to engage, nor is even the time of the sacrifice the only right time for him to engage in these meditations.
1. This is the path: this sacrifice, and this Brahman. This is the true 1.
2. Let no man swerve from it, let no man transgress it.
3. For the old (sages) did not transgress it, and those who did transgress, became lost.
4. This has been declared by a Rishi (Rv. VIII, 101, 14): 'Three (classes of) people transgressed, others settled down round about the venerable (Agni, fire); the great (sun) stood in the midst of the worlds, the blowing (Vâyu, air) entered the Harits (the dawns, or the ends of the earth).'
5. When he says: 'Three (classes of) people transgressed,' the three (classes of) people who transgressed are what we see here (on earth, born again) as birds, trees, herbs, and serpents 1.
6. When he says: 'Others settled down round about the venerable,' he means those who now sit down to worship Agni (fire).
7. When he says: 'The great stood in the midst of the worlds,' the great one in the midst of the world is meant for this Âditya, the sun.
8. When he says: 'The blowing entered the Harits,' he means that Vâyu, the air, the purifier, entered all the corners of the earth 2.
201:1 Comm. The path is twofold, consisting of works and knowledge. Works or sacrifices have been described in the Samhitâ, the Brâhmana, and the first Âranyaka. Knowledge of Brahman forms the subject of the second and third Âranyakas. The true path is that of knowledge.
202:1 Vaṅgâh is explained by vanagatâ vrikshâh; avagadhâh is explained by vrîhiyavâdyâ oshadhayah; îrapâdâh is explained by urahpâdâh sarpâh. Possibly they are all old ethnic names, like Vaṅga, Kera, &c. In Ânandatîrtha's commentary vayâmsi are explained by Pisâka, Vaṅâvagadhas by Râkshasa, and Îrapâdas by Asuras.
202:2 Three classes of men go to Naraka (hell); the fourth class, full of faith and desirous of reaching the highest world, worships Agni, Vâyu, and other gods. Comm.