Reaching Immortality According to the First Anuvāka of the Jaiminīya Upaniṣad Brāhmaṇa

in Vedic Cosmology and Ethics

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The Jaiminīya Upaniṣad Brāhmaṇa (JUB) is one of the most interesting Sāmavedic texts edited by dr. Sharma in 1967. Some editions of this text were published earlier.1 It is a pity that the interpretation appears to have stopped since Oertel’s translation. In order to show that Oertel’s rendering (published 110 years ago) cannot be regarded as final, we give an analysis of the first Anuvāka (1, 1–7). Lack of space forbids me to give a complete translation in this Felicitation Volume.

The correct analysis of the text should be based upon a clear conception of the nature and aims of this piece of Jaiminīya literature. There is no agreement on the classification of the JUB. Dr. Sharma takes it to be a Brāhmaṇa. According to Limaye and Vadekar (1958, v) it “shares all the traits of an Upaniṣad.” Most scholars place it in between these two extremes and call it an Āraṇyaka.2 The fact that the JUB is also called Śāṭyāyanī Gāyatrasyopaniṣad3 may support Limaye’s and Vadekar’s view. Renou’s comparison Jaiminīya Brāhmaṇa (JB): JUB = Pañcaviṁśa Brāhmaṇa: Ṣaḍviṁśa Brāhmaṇa is not quite convincing (Renou 1947, 106). He observes that JUB is a Brāhmaṇa rather than an Upaniṣad, that on the other hand it belongs to the sphere of the Upaniṣads in some respects and that it may be regarded as an Āraṇyaka, since it contains an Upaniṣad.

The lack of systematic starting points in classifying Vedic texts is striking. Mostly terms like sphere, atmosphere, use of particular words, relations between texts etc. form the most important arguments. Let it be clear that every Brāhmaṇa (except some unusual types of the Sāmaveda, to which the JUB does not belong) presupposes a systematic treatment of the ritual. Every text that does not suit this description, is not a Brāhmaṇa. Therefore JUB is not a regular Brāhmaṇa. On the other hand a real Upaniṣad (after an opening which clearly shows the connections with the relevant Vedic branch) does not take too much heed of the ritual as such. Therefore the JUB is not an Upaniṣad. This text has too many connections with Sāmavedic ritual. Indeed, an Āraṇyaka it may be.4

In the Anuvāka under discussion there is a distinct relation with the Vedic ritual and especially the participation of the Sāmavedins is of central importance. The subject behind the esoteric treatment of the Sāmans is the Bahiṣpavamāna (“Out-of-doors laud”). The treatment is not systematic or based on a chronological order.

Let us see what are the contents of the Anuvāka to be discussed here. Apart from details the mentioned portion of the JUB deals with the problem of the more or less visible and known worlds and yonder world situated even beyond the sphere of heaven and of the sun. Is the third world, which is characterized by the sun, the place of immortality, or should one try to reach the fourth world?5 The localization of this immortality in the world beyond the sun and (therefore) beyond heaven or the day-time sky is not undisputed. The authors of this text, however, seem to accept the fourth world, at least something beyond the third world (i.e. beyond heaven or the day-time sky and the sun) as the future abode of immortality.

JUB 1, 1 deals with the much-discussed threefoldness of the Veda and the existence of something beyond this triad, i.e. the syllable Om. In a Prajāpati myth, which has many parallels, the creation of this world is described as the extraction of the essence out of the three Vedas. The essence of the three worlds, the next stage of this creation, consists of the well-known triad Agni, Vāyu, Āditya. But the essence of one Vedic syllable could not be obtained by extraction. That was Om, which became, or was, identical with speech (vāc). The essence of speech is breath (prāṇa). Thus a fourth element beyond the cosmic triad must play a role.

It may seem strange that vāc, usually associated with Agni and earth, belongs to the fourth item in this classification. However, sometimes vāc is equated with other representatives of the fourth element, namely the Anuṣṭubh,6 brahman,7 Prajāpati8 and the moon.9 Moreover the combination of Om and vāc is essential in the analysis of the Gāyatra Sāman chanted in the Bahiṣpavamāna, which is discussed in JUB 1, 2. One should also take into account that vāc and prāṇa belong together like Ṛc and Sāman. So the fourth deity (above Agni, Vāyu and Āditya) is prāṇa, the symbol of the Sāmaveda10 as well as of life.

In JUB 1, 2 the dyad Om and vāc is equated with the dyads of the cosmic triad. Om is homologized with the three deities, vāc with the three corresponding worlds. This is based on the concept of the identity of the last item (i.e. the fourth) and the differentiated unity by which it is preceded.11 Thus Om + vāc may substitute the cosmic triad. This idea is now connected with a particular anirukta way of chanting the Gāyatra Sāman practised by the Śailānas. With the Kauthumas,12 the Ṛc upāsmai gāyatā naraḥ pavamānāyendave / abhi devāṁ iyakṣate is represented in the Gāyatra Sāman of the Bahiṣpavamāna Sāman as


upāsmai gāyatā narom


om pāvāmānāyendāvā abhi devāṁ iyā


(hum ā)13





The Udgātṛ, however, sings his part only mentally (manasā). In practice he substitutes his text by the syllable o in the aniruktagāna. So the Udgītha and the Upadrava consist of om o o o o o o o o o o o o o and o o.14 The Jaiminīya aniruktagāna is different:15


o vā o vā o … vā


(hum bhā)13




Now the Śailānas chant o vāc instead of o vā according to JUB 1, 2:


o vā3c o vā3c o vā3c


hum bhā




JUB 1, 2 criticizes this way of chanting, since it would imply desintegration. Therefore JUB 1, 3 prescribes o vā o vā o vā hum bhā o vā. The revolving o vā’s would guarantee the continuity, the cyclical movement. Nevertheless it becomes clear on account of the contents of JUB 1, 1 and 2 that o vā represents om + vāc. The three o vā’s of the Udgītha are the three worlds and the three corresponding deities. The o vā of Upadrava + Nidhana forms the fourth item in the cosmical classification. Just as om is identical with the three Vyāhṛtis bhūr bhuvas svar, this fourth world is identical with the cosmical triad, but still it is separate.16

The three o vā’s of the Udgītha produce a threefold ascension through the universe according to JUB 1, 3. On the way towards immortality, however, death in the form of hunger accompanies the Yajamāna. Therefore the Hiṁkāra is applied in the Pratihāra. The Hiṁkāra is the moon17 and the moon is food.18 Thus one overcomes hunger/death and escapes through the midst of the sun, which is an opening in the sky (1, 3, 5 … etam evādityaṁ samayā ’timucyate / etad eva divaś chidram). The sun is not an opening which gives entrance to dyaus; it is an opening to a world above heaven, to the fourth world. In the ritualistic-cosmic correspondence this is expressed by the words yad gāyatrasyordhvaṁ hiṁkārāt tad amṛtaṁ / tad ātmānaṁ dadhyād atho yajamānam (1, 3, 7). This means that the o vā of Upadrava + Nidhana, which comes after the Hiṁkāra of the Pratihāra, represents the fourth world, immortality. According to Oertel the next sentence atha yad itarat sāmordhvaṁ tasya pratihārāt (1, 3, 7) is obscure. The text is uncertain. Actually yad is Oertel’s reading followed by the later editions, whereas his MSS read tvad and tad. I suggest to read tad and translate: “And this is a second Sāman after its Pratihāra.” Apart from the Prastāva the anirukta Sāman consists of o vā o vā o vā and o vā separated by the Pratihāra. The fourth o vā is on a level with the three o vā’s, just as the fourth world is on a par with the cosmic triad.

After a digression on the Pratihāra Hiṁkāra (1, 4) the text states that a terrible deity drives away the man who tries to reach immortality beyond the sun (1, 5, 1). Only the doer of good deeds is not rejected. This deity, which is obviously the sun itself, should be answered: “You saw what I did, so you are responsible for my deeds” (1, 5, 2). Then this deity, which is truth, realizes that truth has been spoken and invites the one who strives for immortality (1, 5, 3).

An objection to this solution is made by someone who expresses some doubts.19 The sentence utaiṣā khalā devatā ’paseddhum eva dhriyate’syai diśaḥ (1, 5, 4) is not convincingly translated by Oertel: “And this base divinity begins to drive away from this quarter.” I render: “And yet this terrible deity remains firm in his decision to drive him away, namely from this quarter.”

The correct meaning of “this quarter” or “this region” becomes clear in the following sentences. Evidently asyai diśaḥ is one of these cases in which the pronoun has deictic force and should be accompanied by a gesture.20 The quarter where this deity (i.e. the sun) tries to repel the Yajamāna is called the end of heaven: [tad] divo ’ntaḥ (1, 5, 5),21 where heaven and earth meet. The earth is equated with the Vedi22 (not to be translated with “sacrificial hearth”). In this case the Mahāvedi or the Uttaravedi are meant. Just outside the Mahāvedi lies the Cātvāla ditch, which represents the primordial abode of the sun.23 Oertel’s translation of tad yatraitac cātvālaṁ khātaṁ tat samprati sa diva ākāśaḥ (1, 5, 5) is debatable: “And where that ditch (for the northern altar) is dug, precisely there is that space of the sky.” The Uttaravedi is not the “northern altar,” but the “elevated Vedi” (the spot where the new Āhavanīya altar is constructed). I doubt whether the Cātvāla is the “space of the sky.” The diva ākāśaḥ in the form of the Cātvāla is identical with the divaś chidram of JUB 1, 3, 5/6, which is the sun as the opening in the sky or in heaven through which one should penetrate to the fourth world. This meaning of ākāśa (“opening”) is not unusual.24

To the south of the Cātvāla the Bahiṣpavamāna (“Out-of-doors laud”) is chanted. JUB 1, 5, 7 now makes a practical application of the association of Cātvāla and sun (= opening in the sky) and describes how the Yajamāna may be transferred to heaven or rather to immortality. First it should be noted that the Cātvāla, near which the Bahiṣpavamāna is chanted, lies in the North-East. This is meant by asyai diśaḥ. This quarter traditionally represents the entrance to heaven.25 So the place where the Out-of-doors laud is chanted (the āstāva) lies before heaven and its entrance, the sun (= the Cātvāla).

The text of 1, 5, 6 tad bahiṣpavamāne stūyamāne manasodgṛhṇīyāt was misunderstood by Oertel, as appears from his translation “Thus, when the bahiṣpavamāna is being sung, he should take up [the cup] with the mind.” The verb udgṛh denotes the raising of the voice in Sāmavedic singing by lengthening the vowel of a syllable (i.e. by applying a Pluti). In the Udgītha the text of the Sāman is om pāvāmānāyendāvā abhi devāṁ iyā. The syllables , and are “raised” and written 2, 2 and 2.26 This threefold “raising” symbolizes the “raising” of the Yajamāna to immortality.27

An objection is formulated in JUB 1, 6, 1 ff. The passing through the middle of the sun is regarded as uncertain. Therefore a new solution is proposed for those who want to reach immortality. According to Gobala Vārṣṇa one should place the Yajamāna in the realm of immortality by taking him in thought (manasā) and sending him along the so-called Sāman-path beyond the terrible deity, the sun, death. Oertel translates tena vā etam pūrveṇa sāmapathas tad eva manasāhṛtyopariṣṭād etasyaitasminn amṛte nidadhyād iti by “On that account, verily, the sāman-path is before him (?); seizing [him] thus with the mind he should place him above this one in this immortality.” My translation runs: “Therefore the Sāman-path runs before or along (rather than through) this one (etam = etam ādityam in one of the preceding sentences). He should take him up in the mind and place him above (i.e. beyond) this (terrible deity) in immortality.” The terrible deity is the sun itself. He is situated in the North-East, namely in the Cātvāla. One passes along the sun instead of through the sun by walking along its sacrificial symbol, the Cātvāla. In my opinion the Sāman-path refers to the steps made by the Sāmavedic priests after the Bahiṣpavamāna along the Cātvāla to the North. This is described in JB 1, 89 stuttvoddravanti / yajamānam eva tat svargaṁ lokam gamayanti.28 The exact meaning of sāmapatha is uncertain.29 Here at least it seems to be the path of the Sāmavedic singers.

A similar objection against passing through the sun is made by Śāṭyāyani. Howeyer, his main problem is the uncertainty about what is found beyond the sun. Oertel translates JUB 1, 6, 2 samayaivaitad enaṁ kas tad veda / yady etā āpo vā abhito yad vāyuṁ vā eṣa upahvayate raśmīn vā eṣa tad etasmai vyūhatīti by “ ‘Thus through the midst of him,’ who knows that? Truly when he either calls upon these waters round about, or when upon the wind, he then parts the rays for him.” First it should be noted that “either … or” supposes vā … vā, whereas in the text these forms stand for vai in Sandhi. I change the punctuation and connect yady etā āpo … with kas tad veda. Moreover I place a stop before eṣa upahvayate and thereby obtain instead of vai. The first can only be secured by reading vābhito for vā abhito. For vāyuṁ vā I read vāyur vā. My translation runs: “As to this ‘through the midst of him here,’ who knows whether there is water or air on both sides (of the sun). He (the sun), invites30 him (i.e. the one who wants to reach immortality). (Consequently) he then parts the rays for him.” Śāṭyāyani wants to state that the objection against going through the sun, as put forward by Gobala Vārṣṇa (JUB 1, 6, 1 ka etam ādityam arhati samayaitum), is not valid. However, he objects to going through (= beyond) the sun.

The same point is raised by Ulukya Jānaśruteya: “Who knows that which is beyond the sun, beneath this abodeless atmosphere?” (JUB 1, 6, 4, tr. Oertel). He regards the sun itself as the realm of immortality: yatra vā eṣa etat tapaty etad evāmṛtam (1, 6, 3); athaitad evāmṛtam / etad evā māṁ yūyam prāpayiṣyatha (1, 6, 5). He appears to realize that his view is considered to be outdated by others and therefore observes: etad evāhaṁ nātimanye “This I do not despise” (Oertel). For him there is no need to look further and to try to find the obscure fourth world, as others do: “This is good enough for me.” Perhaps, however, nātimanye means: “I do not think about things further than that (i.e. than the sun).”

JUB 1, 6 is concluded with a repetition of 1, 1, 8 tāny etāny aṣṭau … etc. “These same are eight.” This refers to the three + one deities and the three + one worlds. This means that the author of the JUB does not accept the pessimistic and agnostic views about the fourth world and resumes his argumentation. This is done in 1, 7, where ṚV 1, 164, 45 is quoted. The verse deals with the four quarters of speech. Here the fourth quarter, the turīya, is not secret. Probably the author wants to react to the remarks made in 1, 6 about the fourth world (kas tad veda yady etā āpo vābhito yad vāyur vā 1, 6, 2; kas tad veda yat pareṇādityam 1, 6, 4) by referring to a verse in which the quadruplicity is accepted. The three quarters of speech, which are secret (guhā trīṇi nihitā), are equated with these worlds (ima eva te lokāḥ). The fourth part of speech, which is not secret, is spoken by man. Above the three worlds are Om and vāc, the same vāc which is implicitly present in the triad. The reference to ṚV 1, 164, 45 is rather far-fetched and its interpretation is weak. It proves, however, that the quadruplicity of the cosmos forms the theme of this Anuvāka. The fourth world is not entirely unknowable. It is the world of immortality.

First published in Dr B.R. Sharma felicitation volume, 1986, pp. 32–42.

Oertel (1896); Limaye and Vadekar (1958, 377–474).

See e.g. Gonda (1975c, 431); Mylius (1983, 77): “obwohl der Sāmaveda keinen seiner Texte so nennt, ist das aus vier Büchern bestehende Werk seinem Inhalt nach ein Āraṇyaka.”

Parpola (1973, 8, n. 2).

Of course the name Āraṇyaka has no connections with the third Āśrama (the Vānaprasthas), but refers to the esoteric contents. See Gonda (1975c, 423); Sprockhoff (1981, 19–90, esp. 22–31); Bodewitz (1973, 237 and 295).

On this fourth world see Bodewitz (1982; this vol. ch. 4) and (1983; this vol. ch. 5).

AB 1, 28; 3, 15; 6, 36; ŚB 1, 3, 2, 16; 8, 7, 2, 6; 10, 3, 1, 1; ŚāṅkhB 5, 6; 7, 9; 26, 1; 27, 7; TB 1, 8, 8, 2; PB 5, 7, 1. See also Bodewitz (1982, 52, n. 40; this vol. p. 44, n. 38).

AB 2, 15; 4, 21; 6, 3; ŚB 2, 1, 4, 10; 14, 4, 1, 23; JUB 2, 9, 6; 2, 13, 2.

ŚB 1, 6, 3, 27; 5, 1, 5, 6; 13, 4, 1, 15; TB 1, 3, 4, 5.

ŚB 8, 1, 2, 7; JUB 3, 13, 12.

For the equation of prāṇa and Sāmaveda cf. ŚB 9, 1, 2, 32; 14, 4, 3, 12; 14, 8, 14, 3; JUB 1, 25, 10; 3, 1, 18. For the chanting of the Sāmans the regulation of the breath is essential.

On the fourth element which surpasses, summarizes and encompasses the entities of the preceding fixed series see Bodewitz (1973, 87 ff.), (1982, 47; this vol. p. 38 f.) and (1983, 39; this vol. p. 54).

See Caland and Henry (1906–1907, 178 ff.).

The Pratihāra of the first of the nine Bahiṣpavamāna verses is only mentally chanted.

Caland and Henry (1906–1907, 180); Kashikar (1970, 279).

See Staal (1968, 409–429, esp. p. 416); Kashikar (1970, 285).

Cf. the situation of the Viśve Devas, who on the one hand form a separate category (“the All-gods,” the fourth group of gods) and on the other refer to all the gods.

Cf. JUB 1, 33, 5. The Hiṁkāra is also equated with other fourth items that are often associated with the moon like manas and Prajāpati. See PB 9, 8, 5 prajāpatir vai hiṁkāraḥ and JUB 1, 13, 5 sa (prajāpatir) mana eva hiṁkāram akarot. It is the undefined.

The moon is the food of the gods, who drink it as soma. See ŚB 4, 6, 7, 12; 8, 3, 3, 11; 10, 4, 1, 22; ŚāṅkhB 4, 4; 7, 10.

Probably the speaker doubts whether one can be sure that the terrible deity is really persuaded in the discussion with the deceased. He wants to have certainty already in this life and therefore proposes a ritualistic solution, by which the Yajamāna is transferred beyond the sun i.e. beyond the ritualistic representation of the sun. Cf. JB 1, 15, which deals with the separation of good and evil. The text states that evil clings to the body, which is left behind at death. Thus one rises to heaven with the effect of the good deeds. Someone, however, remarks that this hypothesis is difficult to be verified (durviditaṁ vai tad). In order to be sure that no risks are run he proposes to get rid of the evil deeds already during lifetime and with ritualistic means (i.e. the Agnihotra).

For further literature on these traces of oral tradition in connection with diś (asyāṁ diśi, imāṁ diśam etc), see Bodewitz (1973, 143, n. 9). For other cases of oral transmission see Bodewitz (1976, 19, n. 4; 49, n. 42; 111, n. 8).

Cf. TB 3, 9, 5, 5 vedir vai paro’ntaḥ pṛthivyāḥ. I.e. leaving the Vedi means leaving the earth, going to “this region” (iyaṁ diś) means passing the boundaries of heaven.

For this equation cf. AB 5, 28; TB 3, 2, 9, 12; 3, 3, 6, 2; 3, 3, 6, 8; ŚB 1, 2, 5, 7; 3, 7, 2, 1; 7, 3, 1, 15; 7, 5, 2, 31.

See Krick (1982, 116), “… der Cātvāla gilt als Urmeer-Schoss, der ursprünglich die Sonne enthalten hat.” See also JB 1, 87 (Caland 1919, 17) ādityo vā etad atrāgra asid tatraitac cātvālam.

See Bodewitz (1973, 56, n. 5).

See Gonda (1965b, 138) on the North-East as the gate of heaven (ŚB 6, 6, 2, 4), the quarter to which the hermits go in order to die (Manu 6, 31).

See Caland and Henry (1906–1907, 178, n. 35; 467); Bollee (1956, 43 translation of ṢaḍvB 2, 1, 2) “Three times he must lengthen by pluti” (in a note referring JUB 1, 5, 6 and correcting Oertel’s interpretation). This raising is performed in thought, since this part of the Sāman replaces the actual text by o-kāras. Cf. n. 13.

The Bahiṣpavamāna stresses the threefold rising to heaven of the Yajamāna. Mostly the threefoldness is connected with the Trivṛt structure. See JB 1, 87 sa yam kāmayeta yajamānaṁ svargalokaḥ syād iti cātvālam evainam ākhyāpyodgāyet. tam atas tisṛbhir evādadate tisṛbhir antarikṣāt tisṛbhir divaṁ gamayanti. See also Krick (1982, 472, n. 1285) “vgl. das Bahiṣpavamānastotra, mit dem eine Himmelsreise (der aus dem unterirdischen Meer/Cātvāla-Grube aufsteigenden Sonne sowie der Sänger) symbolisiert wird” (not entirely correct). In the present passage the three syllables 2, 2 and 2 of the Udgītha (of the first verse) symbolize the three worlds.

See Caland (1919, 19): “Nach Ablauf des (Bahiṣpavamāna)-lobes schreiten sie herauf (note: D.h. wohl, ‘sie machen einige Schritte in nördlicher Richtung,’ vgl. Drāhy. IV. 1. 9, CH. § 134. h, S. 181); dadurch bringen sie den Opferherrn zum Himmelsraum.”

For references see Renou (1935, s.v.).

Cf. JUB 1, 5, 3 … satyaṁ haiṣā devatā / sā ha tasya neśe yad enam apasedhet satyam upaiva hvayate.

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Vedic Cosmology and Ethics

Selected Studies


Table of Contents

Index Card


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  • Bodewitz Henk W. 1973. Jaiminīya Brāhmaṇa I 1–65 translation and commentary with a study: Agnihotra and Prāṇāgnihotra. Leiden: Brill (Orientalia Rheno-Traiectina 17).

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