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Kaivalya Upanishad - By Anantha Krishna Sastry


It is not well understood that the word 'Upanishad' really means the same thing as the word 'Yoga'. Yoga means the sadana required for bringing the soul and God in union; and Upanishad is also the teaching of the Sadana whereby man can come nearer and nearer God by destroying the bonds that bind him. The root meaning (Upa-near, ni-quite, sad-to perish) is hit off to a nicety in the famous line in Tiruvachakam, வாய்த்தேய்ந்து தேய்ந்து ஒன்றும், "nearer and nearer to Thee I drew, wearing away atom by atom, Till I was One with thee."

And in the passage we quote below, and in several others, the Upanishad is used as a synonym for yoga. And this derivation really explains the scope of an Upanishad, a misunderstanding of which has led to no end of confusion. The Siddhanti takes the Upanishad as the text book of the Yoga-pada or school. And the other padas are Sariya-pada, Kriya-pada, and Gnana-pada. And the bavana or sadana is peculiar to each. The bavana in the Sariya pada (Dasamarga) is that of master and servant; in the Kriya-pada (Satputra-marga) that of Father and son; in the Yoga-pada, (Saha-soham marga), that of friend and friend (or equal and equal) and in all these bavana, there is duality (consciousness of duality); and in the gnana-pada, there is no duality (consciousness of duality). Whatever, there is complete blending as that of lover and loved; though love is also the requisite in the other bavanas. In Yoga, the soul by lovingly contemplating that God and himself area saha, equals, or identical, (Soham) approaches the truth nearer and nearer, and as its fruition, it reaches a stage the Sannyasa Yoga, when it can hardly recognize any individuality of its own (நான்கெட்டு) blends itself so well into the Bliss that it dedicates (as Arpana, Sivarpana) all its acts to God, then its bonds are sundered, and it is exalted into the Highest Bliss. Perhaps there is just a little consciousness as the Yogi passes into the gnani, and it is during this moment, the Yogi breaks out into that paean of Triumph, "I am all; I am Brahman, the secondless" (mantras 18 to 22). In the preceding mantra, (17), the Yogi is actually practising "Soham Bavana" and carrying out what he was taught to do by his Guru (mantra 16). 16th mantra is further identical with 8 sutra of Sivagnanabotha, 17th mantra with 9th sutra 18 to 22 with 10 sutra. And Yoga pada or Upanishad stops so gar; and does not go further. And seeing that these Upanishads, almost every one of them, end with this "Soham" doctrine, we identify Vedanta with Yoga-pada, and distinguish it from Siddhanta or Gnana- whose postulate is contained, not in the Upanishads but in the Agama, 11 sutra of Sivagnanabotha (see sutra) And it is one of the principles of sound teaching, that in the various lower stages though we deal only with symbols (bavana) of Truth, and not with absolute truth, the learner cannot be told that that is only a symbol and not the Truth, and he has to be taught to believe in the teacher who puts its forward as absolute Truth; though a caution now and then is absolutely essential, so as not to lead the learner altogether astray. And it is the form in which the teachings of the respective Pada have been set forth that have misled people into mistaking the symbol (bavana or sadana) for the Truth. In the Madhwa system, the bavana of master and servant have become petrified or dogmatic; in Christianity, the sat-putra Marga, (Father-hood of God and brother hood of man) has become petrified (dogmatic); in the Maya-vada, the saha (soham) Marga has become petrified; People will care to understand the difference we have here attempted to draw between the true Vedanata (not the petrified or dogmatic Vedanta of the Maya Vadis) who really understand the difference between Yoga and Gnana. Dogmatism has entered even among Saivas; and we have among them the School of Siva-Sama Vadis, to which Srikanta (the true Vedanti) belongs; and two such eminent persons asa Gnanapragasa Swamigal and Sivagnana Swamigal have crossed their lances in this fight.

A genuine scholar and aspirant after Yoga like the late learned Editor of the Saddarshana Chintanika has just a fair perception of the differences we have above explained; and in his Commentary on the Vedanta Sutras, he expresses himself to the following effect. He points out that the main body of the sutras of Vyasa, and texts of Veda support and maintain the doctrine of the essential difference of the Human spirit and the Supreme spirit and in following them, he says Madhwacharya and Ramanujacharya are right; but there are other clear texts also which affirm as positively "That Thou art', "Tattwam Asi,' I am God,". "Aham Brahmasmi" &c., one for each Veda; and he says that the last two Acharya attempt no explanation of these texts; whereas Sankaracharya simply adopts them. But Sankara does not himself explain the previous sets of sutras and texts. "All these four interpreters find it equally easy to graft their systems on the Brahma Sutra, the general style of which seems at first sight to admit of different interpretations. But all these Acharyas find it hard to offer consistent interpretation of some Sutras. Under these circumstances, they are compelled to over strain and to propose farfetched interpretations, for making Badarayna conform to their doctrines." (p.206). He however thinks that this is no case for despair and that there must be consistent explanation forthcoming; and the following explanation he gives as his own, though the real truth has been with the Siddhanta School ever so long.

"What is to be done? There are doubtless a few texts in the Veda which support Pantheistic views. Most, however, support the Theistic principles. But so long as Pantheistic texts are not explained, the proposition that the Vedas do not teach Pantheism cannot be accepted. Again, the adjustment and interpretation of these proposed by the Theists cannot be accepted, because of their being far-fetched and forced. But we do not see how the few Pantheistic texts come in the way of Theism, because we believe that though they be interpreted as the Pantheists do, yet they support Theism. How can this be? The essence of the Dualistic doctrine is adoration (bhakti). While engaged in adoration, the mind discovers two states-the one consisting in being intent upon serving the Lord, in doing that which He approves, in offering to Him the best things one has, and in obeying His commands. Thus as good parents are to be served by a child in the same manner God is to be served and worshipped by his servants. This kind of worship includes all the nine sorts of adoration mentioned in the Bhagavata Purana. 1. Exclusively listening to the praises of God, 2. exclusively singing His praises, 3. remembering and constantly thinking of them, 4. falling at His feet, 5. worshipping him, 6. His adoartion, 7. exclusive devotion to Him, 8. constant association with Him, 9. laying one's sorrow or happiness before Him, 9. laying one's sorrow or happiness before Him. But there is a special feature of such adoration - a feature not included in any of these. It is the ecstatic condition of the spirit - a condition which can neither be explained nor understood without an illustration. Let the reader realise the love a mother has for her child. A mother or her child sometimes experiences a state of mind - an indescribable state. That which either of them expresses can alone convey an idea of their feelings when they are in the ecstatic condition. The mother directly addresses the child thus: - "Oh my piece of gold - oh, my soul, oh, my life - can I eat you up?" Under these circumstances, the mother forgets that her body is different from that of her child which experiences the same feeling. Such an identity is the form of the ecstatic condition of the mind. This is a special feature of adoration. This sort of ecstatic identity the Yogis feel. Hence there are such worshippers. The life of Jesus Christ can be referred to in this place as described in (14-20) of the Gospel of John. It is this: "At that day ye shall know that I am in my father, and he in me, and I in you." * [* Our Christian friend showed us how he had noted against this text, the reference in Pattinattar's Hymns. Saint Thayumanavar thus reverently speaks of this famous text also.

    "எணக்குண்ணீயென்று மியங்கையாப்பின்னு
    முனக்குணானென்று வுறுதிகொள்வதென்னாளோ."

Though a thorough Dualist or Dvaita, Jesus expressed himself in this way. His utterances can be easily explained when this ecstatic condition of mind is understood. Hence in the Vedas and in the Upanisads, the Pantheistic doctrine of the identity of the human and Supreme Spirits if enunciated is enunciated in this way. Again the Brahmasutra of Badarayana does not inculcate it."

And he states below that the Yoga is the backbone of the Vedanta. And it must be clear to everybody, that in the ordinary yoga, in soham bavana, and even when the perfect Yogi bursts forth into the paean, "I am all," there is thought, consciousness dualism, and it is only when this consciousness ceases, there is perfect Nirvana and Advaita Bliss. And so it is, that a true saint like Thayumanavar, says that Sariya, Kriya, and Yoga was enough for him, as this will lead to Gnana. And does not the excellence of the Siddhanta system consist in that it embraces all the four-fold path of Sariya, Kriya, Yoga and Gnana ("சன்மார்க்கமுதலாம் தாதமார்க்கத்தளவும் தன்மார்க்கமான வெங்கள் சம்பந்தன்.") and the Four Geat Teachers, Appar, Sambanthar, Sundarar and Manickavachaka acted out the Four Paths for our guidance and following, though they were the greatest Gnanis; and the Siddhanti could without the least hesitation kneel before his maker and say, "O my master show mercy to thy slave. ஆண்டவனே* அடியேனுக்கருள் செய்"; [* The Tamil Mahomedans invariably use the word "ஆண்டவன்," when speaking of God, and the Tamil Christians, "பிதா."] O my Father, my Mother," O my Life, My Self, My Love," And this Four-fold path, in what books do they find mention and full exposition? And in this fact of Broad Universalism, lies the reason of our attitude towards all other religions and if we criticize at all, it is not in any carping and fault-finding spirit; but simply because we equally accept the Kantian dictum, that "the greatest and perhaps the sole use of all philosophy of Pure Reason is after all mostly negative, since it serves not as an organ on for the enlargement of knowledge, but as a discipline for its delineation, and instead of discovering truth, has only the modest merit of preventing error;" and we have already pointed out how useless it is to refer to one's own experience, when we theorize and philosophize and proceed to condemn as unsound another's doctrine whether it be dualism, or non dualism, materialism or spiritualism.

We began by saying that Upanishad and Yoga means the same thing; and this Kaivalya Upanishad may be said to be the Upanishad of the Yoga School and it well sets forth the nature of Dhyeyah, (God) Dhyatah (soul) and Dhyana or mode of contemplation, and the fruit of such contemplation. And Sri Nilakantacharya quotes mantras 5 and following as the illusttative text under. 4-1-7 (Brahma sutras), ('Asinnasambhavat') and this upanishad will as such be older than Badarayana's sutras. This is also ranked as one of the Pancha Rudram, the others being Swetaswatara, Atharva sikha, Atharvasiras and Kalagni rudram. Atharva sikha will appear in our next.




1. Then A's'valayana approached Lord Parameshthi and addressed him thus:

1. Narayana's commentary - 'Parameshthi': Brahma: so called because he occupies the highest place in creation.

Sankaranada's commentary - Like a mother who wishes to give something good to her children, this s'ruti introduces the story of one A's valayana in order to instil into the minds of students faith in the authenticity of Brahmavidya.

'Then': Atha; this is an auspicious term with which a treatise is begun as a benedicton; 'then' means after attaining the four fold qualifications (Sadana chatushtaya) which are Sine qua non for initiation into the Vedanta Sastras. 'A's'valayana' is the Acharya of the Rig-veda.

2. "Please teach me, O Lord, that Brahmavidya which is the highest of (sciences), which is always practised by the wise, and is concealed, knowing which the learned soon get rid of all sins and reach the Person who is beyond (Param).

2. Sankaranada's commentary - 'Lord': Bhagavan; one who possesses Aishwaryam, Viryam, Yasas, Sri, Gnanam, Vairagyam. 'Brahmavidya': Brahman is beyond time and space, and is not attached to things of the world. It is beyond argument and illustration. 'Vidya' : science which develops Buddhi, the cause of the direct realization of Brahman. 'The wise' are those that do not identify their selves with their bodies - those that are free from Dehatma abhimana. They always practise Brahmavidya; ever retain it in their hearts. 'Concealed': A'tman exists in all beings, and yet is veiled from the creatures by Avidya.

'All sins': the effects of ignorance and impressions of past karma. Ignorance and Samsara are the sources of misery and all pains. 'Beyond Para': Para is the unmanifested cause of the universe. Brahman is even beyond that Para.

3. To him the Pitamaha replied:

3. Sankaranada's commentary - 'To him': to the student who is at thirst to be initiated in Brahmavidya; here it is A's'valayana. 'Pitamaha' : grandfather; Brama the lotus-seated, is so called because he is the father of Daksha and other Rajapatis who are the progenitors of the human race.

4. It is by the unity of faith, (sraddha) devotion (bhakti) and meditation (Dhyana Yoga) that thou knowest. Not by Karma, nor by progeny, nor by wealth; but by renunciation, (tyaga), some attained immortality.

4. Sankaranada's commentary - 'Meditation' : continuous flow of particular thoughts uninterrupted by extraneous or contrary ones. 'Karma' : actions enjoined in s'ruti (the Vedas) and in the Smritis (Dharma Sastras). 'Wealth': possessions either celestial or terrestrial. 'By renunciation' by giving up all actions whether ordained by S'ruti or by Smriti; by rising above Karma to the Paromahamsa stage which is the highest order of Sannyasa. 'Some': some Mahatmas versed in the traditional lore.

5. That which is dwelling in the cave of the supreme Akasa and is radiant, that the Yatis enter who are possessed of a firm conviction resulting from a knowledge of the Vedanta and whose minds are purified by Sanniyasa-yoga. All these go to the world of Brahma (Supreme Being) at the end of Para's life and they are liberated from all bonds and become immortal.

5. 'Go first to the world of Brahma': notwithstanding their qualifications to attain Brahmna itself, supposing they do not reach Brahman while in this body, they go first to the plane of manifested Brahma (Karya Brahma) and remain there till the end of that Kalpa and then reach Suprem Brahman.

6. Retired to a lonely place, seated (there) in a comfortable posture, pure, with his neck, head and trunk erect;

7. Observing Atyasrama-Vrata, with all his senses under restraint, prostrating himself with devotion (in reverence) to his Guru, directing his attention to the lotus of his heart which is devoid of passion and highly purr; (thus) is the self-effulgent (centred) without sorrow.

8. (Who is) unthinkable and unmanifested; (whose) forms are infinite; who is (S'iva) peaceful, immortal and all-pervading, and who is the cause (of all); and, who has no beginning, nor middle nor end; who is one and omnipresent; who is chit and Ananda; who is without forms and wonderful.

8. Sankaranada's commentary - 'S'iva': the form of beneficance. 'Peaceful, devoid of the fault of Avidya.

9. Uma's spouse, (Umasahaya) the supreme Lord (Parameshwara) who is powerful (Prahbhu); the three-eyed and beneficent Nilakantha; by meditation, a Muni reaches Him who is the origin of all beings, the witness of all and passes beyond Tamas.

10. He is Brahma, He is S'iva, He is Indra, He is imperishable, supreme and self-luminous. He is Himself Vishnu. He is Prana, He is Kalagni, He is the moon.

11. He is all, - what is past and what is to pass, and eternal Knowing Him one crosses death. There is no other path to liberation.

12. He who sees the Supreme being (as residing) in all beings, and all beings in the Supreme reaches the supreme Brahaman. There is no other method (than the above).

13. With the soul for Arani (a wood) and Pranava for the churning rod, by the continual churning of knowledge, the wise sunder the noose.

14. 'It is He,'* (Jivatma and not the Supreme soul) with his self bewildered by Maya, that takes hold of a body and does everything; and it is he that enjoys the diverse objects, women, food, drink, &c., - in the waking condition.

14. Sankaranada's commentary - 'It is He': although unattached to worldly objects, it is He (Jivatma) and none but Him. 'Maya': Avidya, possessing the two-fold functions of A'varana (veiling) and Vikshepa (producing modification of mind). 'Enjoys': feels the pleasure and pain.

[* Our sastry and those whom he follows would take this 'He' as identical with the supreme Soul; but how they could reconcile Brahman who gets his senses bewildered by maya, ('dargged and constrained' as the Gita puts it) it is difficult to conceive. But it is more reasonable to hold that the mantra above having stated how the wise man sundered his noose, the next mantra and mantras 15 and 16 should proceed to describe the nature of man and his bond. Mantra 17 shows whence the material bodies evolve and resolve the next mantra prescribes the Tatvamasi Sadana or Bavana. 19th mantra, the Palan of following the sadana, and the following mantras the condition of the freed soul, who could say like Vamadeva, I am all, which is interpreted by Sri Nilakanta as follows. "Or thus: When, by the contemplation of the harmonious nature of Brahman and A'tman brought about by Vedantic knowledge, Vamadeva attained to the state of Brahman and was freed from all the imaginary limitations due to the identifying of himself with the human body and so on, and his mighty ego expanded so as to embrace the whole universe, he saw that he was present everywhere and accordingly spoke of himself as one with the whole universe including Manu and Surya. So. it may be concluded, it was in the case of Indra. In the passage "I am Prana, the consicious Atman," Prana refers to Para-Brahman, in as much as He, blissful by nature, is the cause of all life, as said in the s'ruti "Prana is the conscious self, the Bliss, undecaying and immortal." Accordingly it is from the standpoint of Brahman that Indra taught " I am Brahman," "Me do thou worship" So, too, Krishna taught to Arjuna, and so several others."]

15. In the dreaming condition, the state in which everything is created by his own Maya, the same Jiva enjoys pleasure and pain. During sleep when everything is immersed in sushupti, he (the Soul) is blissful being overpowered by Tamas.

15. Sankaranada's commentary - 'Dreaming condition': the svapna state when all the senses retire. In the waking state the senses perceive the external objects, while in dream Jiva himself creates the objects by his own Maya, in his own mind. 'Sleep': in sushupti i.e., during sound sleep Jiva perceive nothing - neither the external objects of the world as in jakrata nor the creations of his own mind as in svapna. The difference between Sushupti and Moksha is in the former he is veiled by Avidya, while in Moksha there is no such impediment.

16. The same Jiva again returns to the dreaming state (from sushupti) as he is entangled in his previous actions, and then to the waking state.

16. Sankaranada's commentary - 'Three cities': gross, subtle and causal (here ajnana) bodies.

17. He is the support, is Bliss itself, the fountainhead of knowledge, in whom the three cities are merged. From Him originate Prana, Manas and all the senses, ether, air, light, water and earth which is the support of all.

17. Narayana's and Sankaranada's commentary - 'The Support' : the Turiya or the fourth state is here referred to. 'From Him' : from the Turiya, the seer of Buddhi. Prana : energy : Kriyasakti. 'Manas' ; stands for Jnanasakti.

18. That which is Supreme Brahman, the soul of all, the support of everything; (that which is ) great, subtler than the subtlest, and eternal is) indeed yourself, (soul) and yourself (soul) is that Supreme soul.

19. That which appears as the universe consisting of waking, dreaming and sleeping states, &c., - recognising it to be (in the light of) 'I am Brahman' one is freed from all bondages.

20. Object of enjoyment, enjoyer, and enjoyment in the three states, - from these I am different; (I am) the witness, Consciousness; and I am Sadas'iva.

21. In Me everything originated; in Me everything established; and in Me everything merges. That non-dual Brahman am I.

22. I am subtler than the subtle, likewise big; I am the various worlds; I am the ancient. the Spirit, the Lord; I am golden, I am S'iva.

23. I am without hands and without feet, and possess unthinkable energies. Without eyes I see, without ears hear. (Everything) I know distinctly. Independent of me there is no knower. Ever I am Consciousness.

24. It is by the many Vedas that I am to be known. I am the author of the Vedas and I alone know them. To Me there is neither Punya (merit) nor Papa (demerit), neither impermanency nor birth; nor do I have body, senses and mind.

25. No Earth and Water to me, no Fire, no Wind; nor ether. Thus knowing the nature of Paramatman who resides in the cavity, who is without parts and non-dual, who is the witness of (all) and is above Sat and Asat - such knowledge) leads one to pure Paramatman.

26. He who reads the S'atarudriya become purified form fire, from spirituous liquors and from Brahmanicide; becmoes purified from all sins committed intentionally or otherwise. By (reading) this he takes rest in S'iva. He who has risen above the A's'rama (rules) should read always, - or (at least) once. By (reading) this, knowledge is got which is the cause of the destruction of the ocean of Sams'ara. Therefore knowing Him thus, the result of Kaivalya is attained, Kaivalya is attained.

26. Sankaranada's commentary - 'Satrudriya' is a chapter in Yajur-Veda in praise of Siva. 'Purified from fire by repeating this he will attain all the virtues which result from a performance of Vedic and Smarta ceremonies (relating to the sacrificial fire).


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