Maitrāyaṇa-Brāhmaṇa Upanishad
1:29 h
The Maitrayaniya Upanishad, also known as the Maitri Upanishad, is found in the black Yajurveda. It consists of seven Prapathakas (lessons). The first Prapathaka is introductory, the next three are structured in a question-answer style and discuss metaphysical questions relating to Atman (Self, Soul), while the fifth to seventh Prapathaka are supplements. However, several manuscripts discovered in different parts of India contain lesser number of Prapathakas, with a Telugu language version showing just four. The common kernel of the Maitri Upanishad across different recensions, states Max Muller, is a reverence for soul, that can be summarized in a few words as, “(Man) is the Self – the immortal, the fearless, the Brahman”. The Maitrayaniya Upanishad is notable for its references to theories also found in Buddhism, elements of the Samkhya and Yoga schools of Hinduism, as well as the Ashrama system.


First Prapāthaka.

The laying of the formerly-described sacrificial fires is indeed the sacrifice of Brahman. Therefore let the sacrificer, after he has laid those fires, meditate on the Self. Thus only does the sacrificer become complete and faultless.

But who is to be meditated on? He who is called Prāṇa (breath). Of him there is this story:

A King, named Bṛhadratha, having established his son in his sovereignty, went into the forest, because he considered this body as transient, and had obtained freedom from all desires. Having performed the highest penance, he stands there, with uplifted arms, looking up to the sun. At the end of a thousand (days), the Saint Sākāyanya, who knew the Self, came near, burning with splendour, like a fire without smoke. He said to the King: ‘Rise, rise! Choose a boon!’

The King, bowing before him, said: ‘O Saint, I know not the Self, thou knowest the essence (of the Self). We have heard so. Teach it us.’

Śākāyanya replied: ‘This was achieved of yore; but what thou askest is difficult to obtain. O Aikshvāka, choose other pleasures.’

The King, touching the Saint’s feet with his head, recited this Gāthā:

‘O Saint, What is the use of the enjoyment of pleasures in this offensive, pithless body—a mere mass of bones, skin, sinews, marrow, flesh, seed, blood, mucus, tears, phlegm, ordure, water, bile, and slime! What is the use of the enjoyment of pleasures in this body which is assailed by lust, hatred, greed, delusion, fear, anguish, jealousy, separation from what is loved, union with what is not loved, hunger, thirst, old age, death, illness, grief, and other evils!

And we see that all this is perishable, as these flies, gnats, and other insects, as herbs and trees, growing and decaying. And what of these? There are other great ones, mighty wielders of bows, rulers of empires, Sudyumna, Bhūridyumna, Indradyumna, Kuvalayāśva, Yauvanāśva, Vadhryaśva, Aśvapati, Śaśabindu, Hariścandra, Ambarīsha, Nahusha, Anānata, Śaryāti, Yayāti, Anaraṇya, Ukshasena,&c., and kings such as Marutta, Bharata (Daushyanti), and others, who before the eyes of their whole family surrendered the greatest happiness, and passed on from this world to that. And what of these? There are other great ones. We see the destruction of Gandharvas, Asuras, Yakshas, Rākshasas, Bhūtas, Gaṇas, Piśācas, snakes, and vampires. And what of these? There is the drying up of other great oceans, the falling of mountains, the moving of the pole-star, the cutting of the wind-ropes (that hold the stars), the submergence of the earth, and the departure of the gods (suras) from their place. In such a world as this, what is the use of the enjoyment of pleasures, if he who has fed on them is seen to return (to this world) again and again! Deign therefore to take me out! In this world I am like a frog in a dry well. O Saint, thou art my way, thou art my way.’

Second Prapāthaka.

Then the Saint Śākāyanya, well pleased, said to the King: ‘Great King Bṛhadratha, thou banner of the race of Ikshvāku, quickly obtaining a knowledge of Self, thou art happy, and art renowned by the name of Marut, the wind. This indeed is thy Self.’

‘Which, O Saint,’ said the King.

Then the Saint said to him:

‘He who, without stopping the out-breathing, proceeds upwards (from the sthūla to the sūkshma śarīra), and who, modified (by impressions), and yet not modified, drives away the darkness (of error), he is the Self. Thus said the Saint Maitri.’ And Śākāyanya said to the King Bṛhadratha: ‘He who in perfect rest, rising from this body (both from the sthūla and sūkshma), and reaching the highest light, comes forth in his own form, he is the Self (thus said Śākāyanya); this is the immortal, the fearless, this is Brahman.’

‘Now then this is the science of Brahman, and the science of all Upanishads, O King, which was told us by the Saint Maitri. I shall tell it to thee:

‘We hear (in the sacred records) that there were once the Vālakhilyas, who had left off all evil, who were vigorous and passionless. They said to the Prajāpati Kratu: “O Saint, this body is without intelligence, like a cart. To what supernatural being belongs this great power by which such a body has been made intelligent? Or who is the driver? What thou knowest, O Saint, tell us that.”’ Prajāpati answered and said:

‘He who in the Sruti is called “Standing above,” like passionless ascetics amidst the objects of the world, he, indeed, the pure, clean, undeveloped, tranquil, breathless, bodiless, endless, imperishable, firm, everlasting, unborn, independent one, stands in his own greatness, and by him has this body been made intelligent, and he is also the driver of it.’ They said: ‘O Saint, How has this been made intelligent by such a being as this which has no desires, and how is he its driver?’ He answered them and said:

‘That Self which is very small, invisible, incomprehensible, called Purusha, dwells of his own will here in part; just as a man who is fast asleep awakes of his own will. And this part (of the Self) which is entirely intelligent, reflected in man (as the sun in different vessels of water), knowing the body (kshetrajña), attested by his conceiving, willing, and believing, is Prajāpati (lord of creatures), called Viśva. By him, the intelligent, is this body made intelligent, and he is the driver thereof.’