Upadesha Sahasri

ken knight hilken_98 at YAHOO.COM
Sat Sep 14 05:31:56 CDT 2002

--- nanda chandran <vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:

> Infact in my opinion Upadesha Sahasri is a must read
> for all serious
> Advaitins. While Shankara might follow
> Baadaraayana's line of
> Vedaantic exposition in his Shaareeraka Bhaashyam
> and thus restrict himself,
> the Upadesha Saahasri is a work where Shankara has
> full freedom to expound
> Advaita as he wishes. Also while the BSB is
> volumnious, the Upadesha
> Saahasri is short and concise - so much more
> accessible.

Namaste Nanda,

Agree with everything you say except 'short'.  At
nearly 700 verses I rate that as long for my slow

Anyway, here are the first verses of the prose part as
promised. Available typing time is short at the moment
as I will be away from home for the next three weeks
starting tonight. I will post the next verses and pick
up on any discussion next week, if the university
computer systems ar up and running. So apologies for
the rather limited intro. of my own thoughts on these
verses but if you have arrived here without looking at
the prelude posting please have a glance at that.
I hope that there is adequate material here for  those
fresh to advaita as well as those with some long
experience of such study.

Om sri ram

ken Knight

Upadesha Sahasri( a few personal ken thoughts)
Alston begins the first section of the prose part with
ShishyanuShanaM whereas Jaganandanda has
ShishyapratibhodhavidhiprakaranaM.  Hence we could
immediately start by looking at the difference implied
by the words 'teaching' and 'enlightening'.  Maybe
Olivia will be kind enough to let us know how Mayeda
begins this section.

Let us consider though the shishya part that is common
to both. Translated as 'pupil' it is also well known
that it also means 'remainder.'
In the flow of True Knowledge which is all-pervading
and ever fluid, there comes a dualistic moment
crystallised by such statements as 'I Know'.  This is
ignorance and it sets up an encapsulated form of
knowledge which is a remainder, as it were, and this
needs to be destroyed. The English word 'remainder'
comes from  're' and  'manor' so is to do with a
dwelling place.  In our common dualistic vision of
life we seek a place to let our attention dwell on an
object, and before we know where we are we are lost in
the ocean of 'I like' and 'I do not like'.

When teaching a maths class then the pupil…I as a
teacher am just as much a pupil in the play……………….is
the remainder, that is a particle of knowledge that
needs to be destroyed. ie. Thoughts such as  ' I do
not understand fractions'  or 'I do not like Maths' or
'I like Maths' have to go. After a momentary flash of
understanding there will be a claim with the idea, 'I
do understand fractions.' This is also ignorance and
will have to go in due course.  This is why the Kena
Upanishad has this dialogue:
2.1,2( Teacher): If you think, “I have known Brahman
well enough,” then you have known only the very little
expression that It has in the human body and the
little expression that It has among the gods.
Therefore Brahman is still to be deliberated on by
 (Disciple): “I think (Brahman) is known.” “I do not
think, ‘I know (Brahman) well enough’: (ie. I
consider) ‘Not that I do not know; I know and I do not
know as well.’  He among us who understands that
utterance, ‘Not that I do not know: I know and I do
not know as well,’ knows Brahman.’

If we can begin our study, aware of the play of the
mental world, then we can present ourselves before the
teacher as pupils, ready to be destroyed.
When Shankara approached the cave of Govindapada he
was asked 'Who are you?' and he replied, 'Revered Sir,
I am neither the earth, nor water, nor fire, nor air,
nor any of their properties.  I am not the senses and
the mind even.  I am Siva, the divisionless essence of
Consciousness.'  (Swami Tapasyananda, 1996: 47,48)
When we introduce ourselves on this site we correctly,
out of politeness, name ourselves but we hold in mind
that being students of advaita, our real answer is
that of Shankara.

So the first 17 verses of 'UpSa' establish this
approach of the pupil to the teacher, the
characteristics of each and the Self, which they both
I am interested to see that Shankara clearly states
the Gita as sm^Riti is this discourse. There are many
references here for study of Shruti and for myself, as
someone not brought up with this tradition, they are
useful to memorise, to give the mind something useful
to dwell in.

Part 1 (Prose)



1.      We shall now explain a method of teaching the means
to liberation for the benefit of those aspirants who
deeply desire liberation, who have asked for this
teaching and are possessed of faith (in it).
2.      That means to liberation, Knowledge, should be
explained again and again until it is firmly grasped,
to a pure Brahmana disciple, ( Alston notes:this
should not be interpreted in a purely caste sense. At
BS comm.. 3.4.38 Sankara quotes Manu SmR^iti 2.87
'Whoever practices universal benelovence and
friendliness is a brahmana ),  who is indifferent to
everything that is transitory and achievable through
certain means, who has given up the desire for a son,
for wealth, and for this world’ and the next, (Br.U.
1.5.16) who has adopted the life of a wandering monk
and is endowed with control over the mind and senses,
with compassion etc., as well as with the qualities of
a disciple well-known in the scriptures, and who has
approached the teacher in the prescribed manner, and
has been examined in respect of his caste, profession,
conduct, learning and parentage.
3.      The  Shruti (Mu.U 1.2.12,13) also says, “A Brahmana
after examining those worlds which are the result of
Vedic actions should be indifferent to them seeing
that nothing eternal can be achieved by means of those
actions. Then, with fuel in his hands he should
approach a teacher versed in the Vedas and established
in Brahman in order to know the Eternal. The learned
teacher should correctly explain to that disciple who
has self-control and a tranquil mind, and has
approached him in the prescribed manner, the knowledge
of Brahman revealing the imperishable and the eternal
Being.” For only when knowledge is firmly grasped, it
conduces to one’s own good and is capable of
transmission. This transmission of knowledge is
helpful to people, like a boat to one who wants to
cross a river. The scriptures too say, “Although one
may give to the teacher this world surrounded by
oceans and full of riches, this knowledge is even
greater than that.” Otherwise (if it were not taught
by a teacher) there would be no attainment of
knowledge. For the srutis say, “A man (Chh.U. 6.14.2)
having a teacher can know Brahman,” “Knowledge
(ChhU.4.9.3) received from a teacher alone (becomes
perfect),” “The teacher is the pilot,” “Right
Knowledge is called in this world a raft,”
(Mahabharata 12.313.23)etc. The smR^iti (Bh.G. 4.34)
also says, “Know this through long prostration,
through enquiry and through service, those men of
wisdom who have realized the truth," will be impart it
to you.
4.      When the teacher finds from signs that knowledge
has not been grasped (or has been wrongly grasped) by
the disciple he should remove the causes of
non-comprehension which are: failure to observe the
spiritual law, (dharma), carelessness with regard to
worldly activities, want of previous firm knowledge of
what constitutes the subjects of discrimination
between the eternal and the non-eternal, courting
popular esteem, vanity of caste etc., and so on,
through means contrary to those causes, enjoined by
the Shruti and smR^iti, viz., avoidance of anger etc.,
and the vows (yama:  harmlessness, truthfulness,
non-stealing, continence and non-acceptance of gifts)
also the rules of conduct that are not inconsistent
with knowledge.
      5.   He should also thoroughly impress upon the
disciple qualities like humility, which are the means
to knowledge.
     6. What is the nature of the teacher. The teacher
is one who is endowed with the power of furnishing
arguments pro and con, of understanding questions and
remembering them, who possesses tranquillity,
self-control, compassion and a desire to help others,
who is versed (through the tradition handed down) in
the scriptures and unattached to enjoyments both seen
and unseen,who has renounced the means to all kinds of
actions (ritualistic etc.), who is a knower of Brahman
(brahmavit) and is established in it, who is never a
transgressor of the rules of conduct, and who is
devoid of shortcomings such as ostentation, pride,
deceit, cunning, jugglery, jealousy, falsehood,
egotism and attachment. He has the sole aim of helping
others and a desire to impart the knowledge of Brahman
only. He should first of all teach the Shruti texts
establishing the oneness of the self with Brahman such
as, “My child, in the beginning it (the universe) was
Existence only, one alone without a second,”ChhU
6.2.1) “Where one sees nothing else" ChhU 7.24.1. “
All this is but the Self,” (ChhU 7.25.2) “ In the
beginning all this was but the one Self”(ChhU
Ai.U.1.1.1) and “All this is verily Brahman.” (ChhU.
7, 8. After teaching these he should teach the
definition of Brahman through such Shruti texts as
“The self, devoid of sins,” (ChhU 8.7.1)  “The Brahman
that is immediate and direct,”(BrU 3.4.1) “That which
is beyond hunger and thirst,” (BrU3.5.1) “Not-this,
not-this,” BrU 2.3.6) “ Neither gross nor subtle,”
(BrU 3.8.8) “ This Self is not— this,” (BrU3.9.26) “
It is the Seer Itself unseen,”( BrU 3.8.11) “
Knowledge-Bliss,”(BrU 3.9.27ff)
“Existence-Knowledge-Infinite,” (Tai.U. 2.1)
“Imperceptible, bodiless,”(Tai.U. 2.7) “That great
unborn Self,” (BrU 4.4.22) “ Without the vital force
and the mind,” (Mu.U 2.1.2) “Unborn, comprising the
interior and exterior,” ((MuU2.1.2) “ Consisting of
knowledge only,” (BrU 2.4.12) “ Without interior or
exterior,”(BrU2.5.19) “It is verily beyond what is
known as also what is unknown” (Ke.U. 1.3) and “Called
 AkASha (the self-effulgent One) " (ChhU 8.14.1) and
also through such smR^iti texts. as the following: “It
is neither born nor dies,” (BhG 2.20) “ It is not
affected by anybody’s sins,,” (BhG 5.15) “Just as air
is always in. the ether,” (BhG. 9.6) “The individual
Self should be regarded as the universal one,” (BhG
13.2) “It is called neither existent nor nonexistent,”
(BhG BhG 13.12) “As the Self is beginningless and
devoid of qualities,”(BhG 13.31) “The same in all
beings” (BhG 13.27) and “The Supreme Being is
different" (BhG 15.17)—all these support the
definition given by the Shruti and prove that the
innermost Self is beyond transmigratory existence and
that it is not different from Brahman, the
all-comprehensive principle.
  9.    The disciple who has thus learnt the definition
of the inner Self from the Shruti and the smR^iti and
is eager to cross the ocean of transmigratory
existence is asked, “Who are you, my child?”
10, 11. If he says, “I am the son of a Brahmana
belonging to such and such a lineage; I was a student
or a householder, and am now a wandering monk anxious
to cross the ocean of transmigratory existence
infested with the terrible sharks of birth and death,”
the teacher should say, “My child, how do you desire
to go beyond transmigratory existence as your body
will be eaten up by birds or will turn into earth even
here when you die? For, burnt to ashes on this side of
the river, you cannot cross to the other side.”
12, 13. If he says, “I am different from the body. The
body is born and it dies; it is eaten up by birds, is
destroyed by weapons, fire etc., and suffers from
diseases and the like. I have entered it, like a bird
its nest, on account of merit and demerit accruing
from acts done by myself, and like a bird going to
another nest when the previous one is destroyed I
shall enter into different bodies again and again as a
result of merits and demerits when the present body is
gone. Thus in this beginningless world on account of
my own actions I have been giving up successive bodies
assumed among gods, men, animals and the denizens of
hell and assuming ever new ones. I have in this way
been made to go round and round in the cycle of
endless births and deaths, as in a Persian wheel by my
past actions, and having in the course of time
obtained the present body I have got tired of this
going round and round in the wheel of transmigration,
I have come to you, Sir, to put an end to this
rotation. I am, therefore, always different from the
body. It is bodies that come and go, like clothes on a
person." The teacher would reply,"You have spoken
well, you see aright. Why then did you wrongly say,' I
am the son of a Brahmana belonging to such and such a
lineage; I was a student or a householder, and am now
a wandering monk'?"
 14, 15. If the disciple says, “How did I speak
wrongly, Sir?,” the teacher would reply, “Because by
your statement, ‘I am the son of a Brahmana belonging
to such and such a lineage etc.’ you identified with
the Self devoid of birth, lineage and purificatory
ceremonies, the body possessed of them that are
different’ (from the Self).”

16, 17. If he asks, “How is the body possessed of the
diversities of birth, lineage and purificatory
ceremonies. (different from the Self) and how am I
devoid of them?” The teacher would say, “Listen, my
child, how this body is. different from you and is
possessed of birth, lineage and sanctifying ceremonies
and how you are free from these.” Speaking thus he
will remind the disciple saying, “You. should
remember, my child, you have been told about the
innermost Self which is the Self of all, with its
characteristics. as described by the Shruti such as
‘This  was existence, my child’ (ChhU. 6.2.1) etc., as
also the smR^iti, and you should remember these
characteristics also.”

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