Taitreya Upanishad, Class 4


Greetings All,

Chapter 1,Shikshavalli.

Paragraph # 1:

Continuing his teaching of the Upanishad, Swami Paramarthananda said, Taittiriya Upanishad is written in prose. The first chapter that we are getting into is called Shikshavalli and it has 12 anuvakaha’s. Anuvakaha means a paragraph. It can also sometimes mean a chapter. Shikshavalli’s first and the last or twelfth anuvakaha’s are both shantipatha’s.

The content of Shikshavalli occurs between these two shanitipatha’s. The entire chapter # 1 is Sadhana pradhana and relates to preparation of the seeker. It does not have any Vedantic teaching. Many Sadhanas are mentioned for preparation. The Sadhanas are:

  1. Kayika Karmani: Here the physical body plays a role. It is also called Karma Yoga or Pancha Maha Yagnaha. All these are required to purify our mind and beat Tamoguna or laziness. Tamoguna exists at the intellectual as well, however, physical activity makes one alert.
  2. Vachika Karmani: Many karmas are prescribed at the verbal level. They include: Japam, Parayanam, etc. Parayanam is chanting of shlokas. It can be performed knowing the meaning or not knowing the meaning of the shloka. Chanting, knowing the meaning, is considered more effective. Japa is repetition of a mantra several times. Some mantras are chanted even 108 times. In Parayanam, however, one does not repeat the mantra.

There are two types of Japas.

  1. Gyana Yogyatha Sidhi Japas and
  2. Gyana Sidhi Japa.
  3. Manas Karmani: These are mental activities. The organs of speech and organs of body are not involved in this activity. It is a purely mental activity or Upasana. Five Upasanas are mentioned in Shikshavalli. They are, however, not practiced anymore as such they are only of a theoretical interest to us.

Thus, the three karmani’s, two Japas and five Upasanas are all part of Shikshavalli.

Paragraph # 2:

The second paragraph starts with the word Shiksha, which gives the name to the chapter. Mere chanting or parayanam of scriptures is sacred. During chanting we are in touch with the Mahatmas who created them. Among parayanams, Veda parayanam is considered the highest. All others are smrithi’s. Vedas come from God. In this paragraph Veda parayanam is glorified. It is very important to chant the Veda parayanam correctly. There are rules established on how one should chant. There are sign rules used for chanting. This science of chanting is called Shiksha Shastram or science of phonetics or proper pronunciation. Mundaka Upanishad talks about 6 Vedangas. They are Shiksha (Phonetics), Vyakarana (grammar), Chandas (Prosody), Nirukta (Etymology), Jyotisa (astronomy) and Kalpa( sacrificial lore). The rules for pronunciation described in Shiksha shastram are six in number. They are: 1) Varna, 2) Swara, 3) Matra,4)Balam, 5) Sama and 6) Santanaha.

Varnaha: It tells us how every letter of the alphabet is pronounced. It describes from which part of the body the pronunciation comes out. Eight parts of the body are recognized. Based on this the alphabets are categorized as vowels (swaras) and consonants (vyanjan). Consonants are categorized according to source of body part from which sound emanates. Thus we have: Kanta, Talu, Murdha, Danta, Oshta, Nasika, etc.

Swaraha: This describes the accent or intonation or pitch of sound usually as high, medium or low. The pitch is very important in Vedic chanting and is usually marked in the text. The pronunciation is very important as the wrong pronunciation can change the meaning of the word.

Narrating a story in this context, there was a Devapurohita named Vishwarupa. Secretly he liked asuras. Indra got angry with him because of this and killed him. Vishwarupa’s father Twashta wanted to revenge his son. He wanted a son who would kill Indra. He performed a Yaga and got a son named Vitrasura, an Indra Shatru. Instead of him killing Indra, Indra killed him. The father was very upset about this. He learnt that the chanting of Indra Shatru was performed in wrong manner. It was chanted as a Bahuvrihi Samas. The difference between Tatpurush and Bahuvrihi samas is the pronunciation. Here Tatpurush became Bahuvrihi and came out, as “I want a son for whom Indra is the killer”. Thus, due to a wrong pronunciation his son was killed. It is for this reason that Veda mantras are not chanted en masse or even from a book. These situations can lead to wrong chanting of Vedas resulting in results that may be different from the originally intended one. In mass chanting errors are covered up by others. Such errors are acceptable for Nish Kama Karma mantras but not for Kami kama mantras.

 Matra: The measure or length of a vowel. Consonants are uniform and are of ardha matra. For Swaras (vowels) there are three measures: Short (hrishwa), Long (dirgha) and very Long (plutha). A Plutha can be three or more matras long.

Balam: The stress or effort involved in uttering a letter. Some require more emphasis such as the difference between Ka and Kha. Effort comes from two sources, the mouth (abhyantra praythna) and throat ( bahya Prayathna). Abyantras are of five types while Bahya antra are of eleven types.

Sama: The pace or speed of chanting. It should not be slow or fast, usually medium pace is suggested. Sama is governed by certain rules.  It is considered Chanting only when one can chant from memory. One has to learn the chant from a Guru. To memorize one must chant regularly. While performing Brahma Yagya, a part of Pancha Maha Yagya, one can chant fast. However, in a ritual chanting one has to chant the letters clearly and at a medium pace. When teaching some one to chant it should be done at a slow pace.

Santanaha: Continuity of words. This is a combination of words and letters. Chanting rules do not allow splitting and joining as one likes. Compound words can’t be split. During teaching one may split but later, it must be compounded. When you combine, the word can change.

Thus: Sham Naha Mitra becomes Shannomitra. These rules for combining are called Sandhi rules and are very important.

Usually one learns chanting from a Guru by imitating him. The above are the six factors to be followed in chanting Vedas. One should avoid Veda chanting, as wrong chanting may give adverse results. For Chitta Shudhi non-Vedic mantras can be chanted as well.

 With Best Wishes,

Ram Ramaswamy