Aitareya Upanishad



First Section.

Salutation to the supreme soul! Hari, Om!

1. This (world) verily was before (the creation of the world) soul alone, and nothing else whatsoever active (or non-active). He reflected: “Let me create the worlds."

2. He created these worlds, viz., the sphere of water, the sphere of the sunbeams, the sphere of death, and the sphere of the waters. The sphere of water lies above the heavens; the heavens are its resting place the sphere of the sunbeams is the atmosphere ; the earth the world of death ; the worlds, which are beneath it, are the sphere of the waters.

3. He reflected: These worlds indeed (are created). Let me create the protectors of worlds. Taking out from the waters a being of human shape, he formed him. He heated him (by the heat of his meditation). When he was thus heated, the mouth burst out, as the egg (of a bird),-from the mouth speech,-from speech fire (Agni, the presiding deity of speech). The nostrils burst out,-from the nostrils breath,-from breath the wind (Vāju, the presiding deity of breath). The eyes burst out,-from the eyes sight,-from the sight the sun (Āditya, the presiding deity of the eye). The ears burst out,-rom the ears hearing,-from hearing the quarters (the presiding deities of the ear). The skin burst out,-rom the skin the hairs,-from the hairs the annual herbs and the regents of the forest (the trees, the presiding deities of the hairs of the body). The heart burst out,-from the heart the mind,-from the mind the moon (the presiding deity of the mind). The navel burst out,-from the navel the vital air which goes downwards,-rom this death (the presiding deity of the descending vital air). The organ of generation burst out,-from the organ of generation seed, from seed the waters (the presiding deities of seed).

Second Section.

1. When created, those gods fell into this great ocean. Him (the first male, the cause of the different places, organs, and presiding deities) he (the supreme soul) had attacked by hunger and thirst. They (as his parts, assailed by hunger and thirst), spoke to him (the first male, the creator): "Do prepare for us a sphere of rest, wherein abiding we may eat food."

2. He brought the cow to them (after having taken it out of the waters and formed it, as before). They said: "This is verily not sufficient for us."-He brought the horse to them. They said: "This is verily not sufficient for us."

3. He brought to them man. They said: "Well done in truth;" therefore man alone is well formed. He said to them: "Enter him each according to his sphere."

4. Fire, becoming speech, entered the mouth; wind, becoming breath, entered the nostrils; the sun, becoming sight, entered the eyes; the quarters, becoming hearing, entered the ears; the annual herbs and regents of the forest, becoming hairs, entered the skin; the moon, becoming mind, entered the heart; death, becoming the vital air, which goes downwards, entered the navel; the waters, becoming seed, entered the organ of generation.

5. Hunger and thirst spoke to him: "Do thou prepare for us (places)." He said to them: " I will give you a share in those deities, I will make you partakers with them." Therefore, to whatsoever deity clarified butter is offered, hunger and thirst are partakers with him.

Third Section.

1. He reflected: "Those worlds and protectors of the worlds (have been created). Let me (now) create food for them."

2. He heated the waters (with the heat of his reflection). From them, when heated, a being of organised form sprung forth. The form which sprung forth, is verily food.

3. When created, it cried (by fear) and tied to lee. He (the first-born male) desired to seize it by speech. Had he seized it by speech, (all) would be satisfied by pronouncing food.

4. He desired to seize it by breath; he could not seize it by breathing. Had he taken it by breathing, (all) would be satisfied by smelling food.

5. He desired to seize it by the eye; he could not seize it by the eye. Had he seized it by the eye, (all) would be satisfied by seeing food.

6. He desired to seize it by the ear; he could not seize it by the ear. Had he seized it by the ear, (all) would be satisfied by hearing food.

7. He desired to seize it by touch, he could not seize it by touch. Had he seized it by touch, (all) would be satisfied by touching food.

8. He desired to seize it by the mind; he could not seize it by the mind. Had he seized it by the mind, (all) would be satisfied by thinking on food.

9. He desired to seize it by the organ of generation; he could not seize it by the organ of generation. Had he seized it by the organ of generation, (all) would be satisfied by emission.

10. He desired to seize it by the vital air which goes downwards; he seized it. -This is then the taker of food; it is the vital air which has been mentioned, that is the consumer of food.

11. He reflected: "How could this (body) exist without me (its ruler)?" He reflected: "How (by what road) shall I penetrate it (the body)?" He reflected: "If I were pronounced by speech, -if (without me) breath would breathe,-if the eye would see, -if the ear would hear,-if the skin would touch,-if the mind would think, -if the vital air that descends, would carry downwards, -if the organ of generation would emit, -then who am I ?"

12. Making an opening, where the hairs (of the head) divide, he penetrated by that door. This is called the door of division. This is the door of rejoicing, (because it is the road to the Supreme Brahma). It (the individual soul, having entered the body) has three dwelling places, three states resembling dream. This is a dwelling place (the right eye),-this a dwelling place (the internal mind), -this is a dwelling place (the ether of the heart).

13. He, (the individual soul) when born, reflected with reference to the elements. How could he desire to declare any other thing different from him? (that is to say, he found nothing else but the reality of the soul.) He beheld this Brahma, who dwells in the body (Purusha, in accordance with the derivation "Puri Śayanam") who pervades everywhere, (and thought) "I have seen" this (Brahma like me in nature.)

14. Therefore the name (of the supreme soul,) is Idandra, (because it sees this, idaṁ paśyati) for Idandra is indeed his name. (The knowers of Brahma) call him with a name which cannot be recognised (in its true meaning) "Indra," although his name is Idandra; for the gods do not like to be recognised, as it were; for the gods do not like to be recognised, as it were.


Fourth Section.

1. That (individual soul) exists at first as a foetus (in the form of seed) in man. This is the seed which is the essence (of the body) produced from all parts. He bears this self (ātma, the foetus in the form of seed) even in his (own) self (body, ātma). When it (the seed) touches the woman, then he, (the father) produces it.-This is the first birth of him (of the individual soul in the form of seed).

2. It gets the same nature with the woman, in the same manner as her own members; therefore it (the foetus) does not injure her; she (again) nourishes the self of him (her husband) which has entered there (into the womb).

3. She who nourishes is to be nourished (by her husband). The woman bears the foetus. He (the father) nourishes the son even before and after the birth. By nourishing the son before and after the birth, he nourishes even his own self for the sake of the continuation of these worlds; for thus continue these worlds. This is his second birth.

4. This self of him (the son, being the self of the father) is made to take his place for sacred works. Then (after having made over his duties to the son) his (the son's) other self (the father) having accomplished his duties (his duties to the Rishis, gods and forefathers) leaves this world at a high age, and having let it, he is born again. This is his third birth. Thus it is said by the Rishi:

5. "Within the womb, I know well all the births of those gods; hundreds of bodies, strong as iron, kept me; looking downwards, like a falcon, I shall be gone in an instant," thus said Vāmadēva, while dwelling in the womb.

6. Thus knowing, he (Vāmadēva) after the destruction of this body, being elevated (from this world), and having obtained all desires in the place of heaven, became immortal, became immortal.


Fifth Section.

1. Of what nature is the soul which we worship by the words, "this soul?" and which of the two is the soul? (Are the instruments, by which objects are perceived, the soul, or the perceiver? No, not the instruments). Is it that by which it (the soul) sees form, by which it hears sound, by which it apprehends smells, by which it expresses speech, by which it distinguishes what is of good and what is not of good taste?

2. The heart and the mind (here, according to Śankara, one and the same, the internal organ, which is divided into the different senses, and in which the supreme Brahma is manifested), knowledge about one’s self (consciousness), knowledge about one’s power (pride of dominion, Ajnānam), science (the knowledge of the 64 sciences, Vijñānam), knowledge about expedients (the knowledge of what is practicable at this or another time, Prajnānam), understanding (of instruction, medhā), perception (drishti), endurance (of pain), thinking (mati), independence of mind (manīshā), sensibility (of pain, jūti), recollection (smriti), determination (the power to determine any object by general notions), perseverance (kratu), the effort of life (asu), desire, submission (to women),-all these (and other modiications) are names of knowledge (as an attribute of the soul in its modification as life, of the inferior Brahma, not attributes of the supreme Brahma, which is of no form whatsoever).

3. This (soul, which is like knowledge) is Brahma (the inferior Brahma), this is Indra (the king of the gods), this Prajāpati (the first-born male), this all gods (parts of Prajāpati), and the five great elements, viz. the earth, the wind, the ether, the water, and the light, this all those (beings) that are mixed from smaller portions (of the former) the causes of the one kind, and the causes of the other kind (moveable and immoveable), viz. what is born rom eggs, what is born from the womb, what is born from heat, what is born from sprouts, horses, cows, men, elephants; whatsoever has life, viz. what moves on foot, what moves by wing, and all that is immoveable. All this is brought to existence by knowledge (Prajnānētram), is founded on knowledge; the world is brought into existence by knowledge; knowledge (itself) is the foundation, Brahma is knowledge.

4. He, having by that knowledge departed from this world, and in that world of heaven obtained all desires, became immortal, became immortal.

Aitareya Upanishad
English Translation
Translated by E. Röer
Originally published in Bibliotheca Indica