In the sixth chapter of the ChU Uddālaka teaches his son Śvetaketu several doctrines. Hanefeld (1976, 142) rightly emphasizes the lack of unity of this chapter. Formally 6, 1–7 and 6, 8–16 already represent two independent chapters, since both end with the repetition of the last two words. On the other hand the last sentence of both parts is identical (tad dhāsya vijajñāv iti vijajñāv iti), which may be due to a secondary attempt to combine these parts in one chapter. Hanefeld also assumes several interpolations in both parts, for which the evidence is less striking. The endings of most sections in 6, 1–6 and 6, 8–15 are identical. Again an attempt at unification?
In this short article I will concentrate on the second part (6, 8–16), which has the refrain
sa ya eṣo ’ṇimaitadātmyam idaṁ sarvam / tat satyam / sa ātmā / tat tvam asi śvetaketo iti
near the end of all sections (with a small variation in 6, 16, 3). Looking at the contents of these sections we have to admit that the refrain sometimes does not suit the preceding passage. We may translate it as follows:
What is this subtle essence, of that (same) nature is this universe.1 That is the reality. That is the ātman. That you are, Śvetaketu.
The aṇiman indicated with the pronoun eṣa only plays a real role in 6, 12 and 13, where it refers to something which is so subtle that one cannot see it. See Hanefeld (1976, 162; with references to other scholars), who, however, even includes 6, 11. This aṇiman is interpreted by him as a “feinen, nicht unmittelbar sichtbaren Lebens-Ātman, den man als Lebenskraft oder als ‘Leben’ schlechthin auffassen kann” (163). This qualification seems to be mainly based on 6, 11, where jīva and jīvātman play a role, but nothing subtle is found. The vital juice of a tree leaves this “body,” the tree dies, but life itself does not die. So the refrain only suits 6, 12 and 13, which are also connected by the turn of phrase na nibhālayase “you do not see.” The subtleness is explicitly mentioned only in 6, 12, where a banyan fruit is split in which seeds are found which are denoted as aṇu. The splitting of such a seed results into something which is no more visible. We might say that this is “more subtle than subtle” (aṇor aṇīyas), the well-known qualification of the ātman.2
The relation of this aṇiman to idaṁ sarvam is problematic in most translations. On account of the interpretation of etadātmya/aitadātmya/etadātmaka one takes this aṇiman as the soul of either the universe or of every being here (see n. 1). However, idaṁ sarvam does not denote every living being; at most it may refer to everything here in the world and then it becomes doubtful whether everything has a soul. It is more probable that it denotes the universe. The aṇiman of ChU 6, 12 and 13 can hardly be interpreted as the soul of the universe. Therefore I take ātman in the compound etadātmya in a more general sense. This makes the implicit equation of the soul (sa ātmā) and the whole universe (idaṁ sarvam) easier in this passage.
The qualification “smaller than the smallest” (aṇor aṇīyas or similar expressions) of the ātman often is followed by a reference to cosmic dimensions.3 So we may assume that the subject of the refrain is the ātman (smaller than the smallest) which is at the same time the universe (greater than the greatest) and that the adjective etadātmya “having this (same) nature” underlines this identity.
As observed above the invisibility of the subtle (aṇu) or more than subtle (aṇor aṇīyas) ātman actually only refers to the teaching in 6, 12 and 13. In both sections Uddālaka’s teaching is illustrated with experiments. In 6, 12 Śvetaketu has to admit that after his splitting of the smallest essence of the banyan no more essence is visible. In 6, 13 salt becomes dissolved in water overnight and again Śvetaketu has to state that he does not see what his father is asking for. The parallelism of the two sections is evident. Admittedly there are also some differences. In 6, 13 the problem of the invisibility is solved by a second experiment. The salty water is poured out and due to high temperature and sunshine salt reappears.4 Moreover the aṇiman of 6, 12 may also be considered as the creative germ of a living entity, an aspect missing in the experiments of 6, 13. However, subtleness associated with invisibility forms the connecting element of these two sections. In 6, 13 the additional item is the making visible of the invisible “material.” Salt dissolved in water is as invisible as the aṇiman inside the seed of the banyan fruit.
On Uddālaka’s experiment(s) with salt in ChU 6, 13 much has been published (see n. 4). The most recent contribution is by Slaje (2001). Slaje’s paper is more focused on parallels of this passage in BĀU 2, 4 and 4, 5, in which the dissolution of salt forms the illustration of a doctrine, but is not connected with an experiment. Slaje gives an interesting exposition on the true nature of salt and knowledge about this in Ancient India. From salty water salt is produced; in water salt becomes dissolved. Salt and water are strictly speaking not two different entities. The illustration of salt and water therefore should be based on identity.
I will not enter into a discussion of the doctrine of BĀU 2, 4 and 4, 5 and its illustration by means of salt and water, but concentrate on the teaching of ChU 6, 13 and its associated section 6, 12 and on the nature of the experiment.
According to Slaje the basic identity of water and salt should imply that salt was poured into salty water. The water of the experiment in ChU 6, 13 therefore should be regarded as brine. Into this brine Śvetaketu then throws a lump of salt. Slaje (2001, 40 f.) observes “udaka can indeed mean ‘brine’ (= water tasting extremely salty) … With the salt-dṛṣṭānta in the ChU, a comparatively high degree of probability for the assumption that udaka was ‘brine’ can be reached.”
Against this conclusion several arguments can be adduced. First of all udaka almost always means non-salty water. This appears e.g. from all the compounds in which jars of water and the sipping of water or the libation of water for the ancestors play a role. Indeed, udaka may also denote the water of the ocean, but there the context is clear and this salty water is not used inland. The very scanty evidence of udaka meaning “brine” or “lye” for which Slaje only refers to secondary literature and does not provide any text place, hardly justifies the assumption that in every context udaka could mean brine.
However, even if we are forced to assume that udaka should mean “brine” in ChU 6, 13 without any specification in the context, then the problem is not solved. If we are to assume that Uddālaka said to Śvetaketu: “Put this lump of salt in a pot of brine,” this information about the original contents of the pot was also known to Śvetaketu,5 who, as a young man who had just finished his studies and was called mahāmanā anūcānamānī stabdhaḥ by his own father in ChU 6, 1, 3, may have been surprised about the silly order to throw salt into salty water. His surprise (to say the least) may even have increased the next day, when his father asks him to taste the water, in which the added salt has dissolved and only the salty taste has remained. Can a father fool a proud son with this sort of evidence? Of course the salty taste of brine will not have disappeared after the addition of salt. It was already present.
One might even wonder whether Śvetaketu, who like we is supposed to know that udaka is brine, would be willing to sip this “water” consisting of brine to which a lump of salt had been added.
In 1889 Böhtlingk was too soft, when he made his assumed reading abhiprāśya in ChU 6, 13, 2 refer to eating (something sweet) in addition (to the salt in order to remove the bad taste). Hamm (1968–1969, 157, n. 71) makes Uddālaka give some additional salt to eat “sozusagen als Gegenprobe,” which is too cruel and hardly makes sense. Slaje here beats Hamm in both respects. Lye as well as brine (with or without the addition of a lump of salt) are undrinkable. The experiment is meaningless and presupposes the combination of a stupid son and an almost criminal father.
According to Slaje, the aim of the experiment was misunderstood by everybody. It would not deal with the hidden and still present ātman (2001, 27). He holds that “we should rather assume that a demonstration was carried out in order to show how the primordial substance changes in form only and thus manifests itself individually, limited in space and time. By repetition, Uddālaka may have proved to Śvetaketu how individuality (= the salt crystal) appears and disappears, and how substantial identity, perceptible by the identical (= salty) taste, nevertheless remains the same: limited individuality may repeatedly appear out of one and the same single substance” (p. 41).
This interpretation of the tenor of this section excludes its connection with ChU 6, 12 and with the refrain discussed above. Moreover it does not take into account that especially in ChU 6, 13 all emphasis is placed on not seeing something which still should be present. Uddālaka does not speak at all about changing forms and remaining taste as the representations of individuality and of the permanent primordial substance. His conclusion (followed by the refrain) only runs
atra vāva kila sat saumya na nibhālayase ’traiva kileti
Here (i.e. in this bowl) apparently (kila) being present (since you tasted it), my son, you did not see it. In the same place (i.e. in the bowl) it must have been (kila) present (since it has reappeared after the water was poured out).6
Among the remaining sections of ChU 6, 8–16 it is especially 6, 16 which is mostly considered as a passage without any relation with the rest.7 The treatment of an ordeal, however, should be interpreted as an illustration or parable (as is the case with other sections of ChU 6, 8–16). The important point is the statement about someone who by truth overcomes the ordeal. As usual here the last sentence before the refrain gives the clue:
sa na dahyate / atha mucyate
He is not burned and then he is released.
With the help of truth mokṣa is obtained.
One may compare this section with ChU 6, 14, which according to Hanefeld (1976, 164) again has no relation with the other sections.8 In the parable a man from Gandhāra is kidnapped, blindfolded and left alone in a desert. After someone has freed (pramucya) him from the blindfold he reaches (upasampad) Gandhāra. Before the refrain Uddālaka gives the explanation by comparing this man with someone who has a Guru and knows:
tasya tāvad eva ciraṁ yāvad na vimokṣye / atha sampatsye
Though the exact meaning of some details is uncertain,9 it is clear that the text states that after some time such a person will become released (probably by his Guru) and then will reach a particular goal. The man who reaches Gandhāra is called wise and someone who asks questions in order to find his goal. Similarly the man who has a Guru may be supposed to reach his goal by wisdom and asking questions. By answering these questions the Guru sets him free. Thus wisdom provides mokṣa. This will probably be reached after death, since the short turn of phrase atha sampatsye seems to refer to dying.
This appears from the following section ChU 6, 15, where the verb sampad occurs several times. Relatives ask a dying man “Do you know me?” When he loses his power of speech this speech enters (sampad) the mind. On losing consciousness thinking enters breath, on dying breath enters heat (i.e. the body remains warm during a short period). The last heat of the body then enters the highest deity. The last sentence before the refrain is atha na jānāti (which in the parable implies that he does not know anymore his relatives, but in the application that dying means losing the memory of one’s past and identity).
So sampad in 6, 14 as well as in 6, 15 refers to dying.
We may also compare ChU 6, 9 where the same verb is used. Parallel to atha na jānāti in ChU 6, 15 we find the conclusion that just as honey from different plants or trees becomes one in the final product honey, the deceased10 become solved (sampadya) in the one sat (the cosmic principle) and have no more knowledge (na vidur) about their background.
The same section then continues with
ta iha vyāghro vā siṁho vā vṛko vā varāho vā kīṭo vā pataṅgo vā daṁśo vā maśako vā yad yad bhavanti tad ābhavanti //
This sentence with an enumeration of all kinds of living beings is concluded with the puzzling statement tad ābhavanti. One may doubt whether this sentence should refer to the sleep of e.g. flies and mosquitos, as seems to be assumed by Hanefeld (1976, 127) who translates: “Was auch immer diese [Geschöpfe] hier sind—Tiger, Löwe …—das sind sie immer noch.” Indeed, nobody will doubt the fact that a sleeping tiger still remains a tiger. Apparently Hanefeld does not exclude the possibility that this sentence would refer to awakening after sleep, since he adds between brackets “(Oder: Zu dem werden sie wieder).” Again one may wonder who will doubt the fact that after sleep a tiger still is a tiger.
Two misconceptions play a role in some translations. First, some scholars take yad yad bhavanti tad ābhavanti as if the text would read yad yad bhavanti tad tad ābhavanti. The second mistake is that ChU 6, 9 would deal with dreamless sleep instead of death. It is obvious that yad yad bhavanti concludes and summarizes the enumeration of living beings and that tad should refer to something else. Undoubtedly the anaphoric pronoun tad here refers back to sati.11 At death all living beings become merged in the sat. This has nothing to do with mokṣa, a concept found in ChU 6, 14 and 6, 16.
The same sentence is also found in ChU 6, 10, where a comparison is made with rivers entering the ocean and losing their identities. The parallelism of 6, 9 and 6, 10 also appears from the similar formulations
… te yathā tatra na vivekaṁ labhante … evam eva khalu saumyemāḥ sarvāḥ prajāḥ sati sampadya na viduḥ sati sampadyāmaha iti … (6, 9)
… tā yathā tatra na viduḥ iyam aham asmīyam aham asmīti / evam eva khalu saumyemāḥ sarvāḥ prajāḥ sata āgamya na viduḥ sata āgacchāmaha iti … (6, 10)
Apparently a second comparison is made here. However, in 6, 9 sati sampad is found and in 6, 10 sata ā-gam. Especially the difference between the locative sati and the form sata which in Sandhi may stand for the ablative satas, has induced scholars to assume a different situation in these two sections. Hanefeld (1976, 160) makes 6, 10 refer to awakening from sleep, i.e. from the sat, but has to admit that the comparison is problematic.
If 6, 9 would refer to entering the sat in sleep and 6, 10 to leaving the sat when one becomes awake, one may ask why two different comparisons were presented. Indeed the comparison with honey (6, 9) does not work in the situation of becoming awake since honey does not return to the flowers. The particular situation of rivers and the ocean then should be decisive. However, rivers do not leave again the ocean into which they have entered.
Let us have a look at the contents of 6, 10. The text states that western and eastern rivers flow into the (western, resp. eastern)12 ocean. The formulation tāḥ samudrāt samudram evāpiyanti sa samudra eva bhavati indeed contains an ablative samudrāt,13 but all emphasis is laid on the unification in the ocean. The loss of memory concerning an ocean which has been left is not mentioned.
Edgerton (1965, 175, n. 3) and Ickler (1973, 21) take sata as the Sandhi form for the dative sate. They are followed by Olivelle (1996, 153) who translates “… when all these creatures reach the existent.” Indeed, one does not expect an ablative with the verb ā-gam. On the other hand one would like to see any textual support for Edgerton’s assumption of “a dative of goal or aim” with ā-gam, which supposes a locative. I assume an ellipse of the locative and take sata as the genitive satas. For such an elliptical construction with a genitive in which a word denoting a place, abode, house etc. has to be supplied, see Delbrück (1888, 9), who mentions i.a. ŚB 14, 9, 1, 7, where likewise the verb ā-gam occurs: sá ā́ jagāma gautamó yátra pravā́hanasya jáivaler ā́sa. Just as several rivers arrive at the abode of the ocean several living beings arrive at the abode of the sat. They lose their memory about their individuality and whether they are human beings, tigers or mosquitos, they all become this, i.e. the sat (as the sentence ending with tad ābhavanti which occurs in 6, 9 and 6, 10 indicates).
In spite of the confusing impression made by ChU 6, 8–16 there still is some coherence. However, the compilator of these experiments, comparisons and parables has brought together rather different theories (e.g. on dying of all living beings and on mokṣa). The arrangement of the second half of ChU 6 seems to be as follows:
- Sleep is entering (sampad) into the sat14 (6, 8)
- Dying is entering (sampad) into the sat (6, 9)
- Dying is arriving at the abode of the sat (6, 10)
- The jīvātman survives the death of the body (6, 11)
- The ātman (smaller than an atom but as great as the universe) is invisible but present in the body (6, 12–13)
- Dying (sampad) and mokṣa based on knowledge (6, 14)
- Dying is entering (sampad) into the highest (6, 15)
- mokṣa is based on satya (6, 16)