Kauṣitaki Brāhmaṇa Upaniṣad
By Swami Harshananda
The Kausitaki Brāhmana Upaniṣad is considered as a very ancient and important Upaniṣad, though not counted among the ten important Upaniṣads popularly called ‘Daśopaniṣads’. Two of its statements have been discussed in the Brahmasutras.
It is also known as Kausitaki or Kausitaka Upaniṣad. It forms chapters 3 to 6 of the 15 chapters of the Kausitaki Āranyaka which is attached to the Brāhmana of the same name. It is a fairly long work in four adhyāyas or chapters. Each of these contains long prose passages. The total number of such passages is 32. It comprises of 697 sentences.
The Upaniṣad opens with a narration leading to a discussion on eschatology. A king named Citra Gāṅgyāyani invites Āruṇi to be the chief priest of the sacrifice he was going to conduct. Āruṇi deputes his son Śvetaketu for it. However, on seeing the young Śvetaketu, the king questions about the world where he would be placed after death, after the performance of the sacrifice. Since Śvetaketu did not know the answer, he goes back to his father to know the same.
The father is also ignorant of the answer and hence he comes back to the king for being instructed along with his son. Though this is against the normal tradition, that a brāhmaṇa should become a disciple of a kṣattriya, the king accedes to his request. The teachings taught by the king in this chapter is as follows:
- The inferior sādhakas who die here, go to the Candraloka, the world of Moon. It is same as svarga or heaven. After exhausting their puṇya or merit, they return to this world.
- People who have performed niṣkāmakarma or desireless actions and upāsanā or meditation on God go to Brahmaloka by the devayāna path, the path of gods.
- There is a highly poetic description of Brahmaloka in this section.
- The new entrant is received with great pomp by five hundred apsaras or nymphs.
- He then comes to the lake Āra, but crosses it by his mind.
- He later crosses the river Virajā with his mind, shaking off his good and evil deeds.
- Then his journey follows the following path:
- Divine tree called Ilya
- The city Sālajja
- Entering the abode Aparājitā
- Hall Vibhu
- Throne Vicakṣaṇa
- Conch Amitaujas
- These symbolize his gaining greater and greater glory of Brahmā.
This chapter comprise of the following teachings:
- It is concerned mainly with the prāṇa, the vital breath and its upāsanā or meditation.
- Prāṇa, equated to Brahman, is imagined as an emperor being served by the senses and the mind.
- A rite called ‘Ekadhanāvarodhana’ is described to enable the Vānaprastha or the forest recluse to obtain wealth that is necessary for performing any sacrifice.
- The internal Agnihotra and some upāsanās in the form of japa of certain mantras attributed to Pratardana and Sarvajit Kauṣitaki are described next.
- Rites for preventing the death of children or for the long life of sons is described.
- The superiority of the mukhya-prāṇa or chief prāṇa over all the sense-organs and the sampradāna-karma wherein the father on his death-bed transmits his energies to his son are the other items are described here.
It starts with an ancient anecdote. A great king named Pratardana goes to the world of Indra after death. He is offered a boon by Indra. On Pratardana requesting Indra to choose an appropriate boon for himself, Indra starts teaching him about mukhyaprāṇa (the chief prāṇa), which he himself has attained. This mukhyaprāṇa is prajñā, intelligence or consciousness. It itself is Brahman. This chapter ends with a description of the departure of the mukhyaprāṇa from the body along with all the senses.
This chapter starts with a dialogue between the proud Bālāki, a descendant of the sage Garga and the king Ajātaśatru. Though, at first, Bālāki starts teaching the king, he very soon discovers to his dismay that the king is far superior in the knowledge of Brahman. The king then teaches him that it is the ātman, the pure consciousness which is pervading the whole body and which is behind all the senses. One who knows this ātman becomes the sovereign. He attains over lordship.
- Kausitaki Brāhmana Upaniṣad 3.2; 3.8; 4.19
- Brahmasutras 1.1.28-31; 1.4.16-18
- Chāndogya Upanisad 5.3.1-5
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore