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Two Traditions of India - Truth and Silence
Prof. Alex Wayman

In an earlier article I cited the Laws of Manu: manuaat satya.m vi`si.syate ("Truth is superior to silence") and turned the citation to my own purpose with the implication, "Now is the time to speak out, because truth is superior to silence."(l) However, the Indian law book had something else in mind with this intriguing maxim. In this I shall attempt to clarify the two traditions called "truth" and "silence" and to show that they borrow from each other but maintain sufficient contrast to allow the later philosophical schools to treat them as though distinct.

It should be acknowledged that the findings of this article differ rather from the generality of the surveys of Indian philosophy and religion. Also, the juxtaposition of materials from diverse traditions of India requires a reorganization from the original discovery order for communication purposes. To justify that these traditions of truth and silence can be treated in contrast, I have prepared individual sections devoted first to the silence and then to the truth which the Laws of Manu takes to be superior. As a consequence of these main findings, it turns out that there are two Upani.sadic traditions, although not in terms of truth and silence; and that some later philosophical formulations, such as "conventional truth" and "absolute truth," take their inceptions in the old Upani.sads. This shows a sense in which later Indian philosophy develops from the early religion and mythology.


For "silence" the word used was mauna (Paali, mona), related to the word muni (one who has the vow of silence), used in the. Rg-veda hymn X, 136: "The munis, girdled with the wind, wear garments soiled of yellow hue. They, following the wind's swift course, go where the gods have gone before." The word muni is important in Buddhism, where the founder has the title ‘saakyamuni (muni of the `saakya clan). The Buddha is called "great muni," and he adopted for his order (the Sa^ngha) the soiled yellow hue of dress that was eluded to in the Vedic hymn. (2)

The Chaandogya Upani.sad, VIII, 5, 2, in the course of its progressive explanation of brahmacarya (the pure practice of the student), says: "Now, what they call `silent asceticsm' (mauna) is really the pure practice (brahmacarya), for only after finding the self by the pure practice, does one think about it."(3) This passage apparently explains mauna (ascetic silence) as athinking about, or contemplation of, the higher self.

The Udaanavarga, which is the northern Buddhist expansion of the Dhammapada, has an important muni verse in Nirvaa.na chapter (XXVI, 27): "According as the Muni, with the state of being a muni(4) derived

from himself, understands in this place (i.e., in Nirvaa.na), then is he freed from form and formless, from all suffering."(5) Along the same lines, but not using the words muni or mauna, AAryadeva states in his Catu.h`saataka, as cited in the Prasannapadaa: "He who knows how to ward off at first sin, then to ward off the self, and finally to ward off everything, he is the sage (buddhimat)."(6) Also, it appears that the ubiquitous Buddhist terminology of body, speech, and mind, stems from the muni tradition. The Recital Sermon (Sangiiti- Suttanta, of the Diigha-nikaaya, III) allows me to use the word "muted" in the sense "rendered mute, silent, muffled" in his entry among the threefold items: "There are three states of being a muni (Paali: tii.ni moneyyaani): muted body, muted speech, muted mind." Elsewhere I cited Vasubandhu's commentary on the Da`sabhuumika-suutra on how to classify the five supernormal faculties (abhij~naa) by their respective purification of the acts of body, speech, and mind. The one called magical ability (.rddhi) purifies the acts of body; the divine hearing and knowing the makeup of others' mind, those of speech; the memory of former lives and the vision of the passing away and rebirth, those of mind.(7) Therefore, this is the theory of supernormal faculties consistent with the muni tradition.

As to how a muni describes himself, the Udaanavarga has these verses in its Tathaagata chapter (XXI, l-4) the words attributed to the Buddha immediately upon his enlightenment (my translation):

I know all, have overcome all, am forever unstained by the dharmas, have eliminated everything, am free from all fear; having come to fully understand by myself, who can teach me!

I am the Tathaagata, teacher of gods and men; have comprehended enlightenment as a revealer by myself; having reached omniscience, am endowed with the powers; incomparable and unequalled, who can teach me!

I am the Arhat in the worlds; I am incomparable in the worlds; and in the worlds with their gods I am the Victor (jina), the conqueror of the Maaras.

As there is no one like me, none can be my instructor (aacaarya); alone in this world, I am fully awakened, have attained the ultimate, complete enlightenment.

W. Woodville Rockhill, in the appendix to his translation from Tibetan of the Udaanavarga, cites the commentary preserved in the Tibetan Tanjur. He says: " I translate the following lines to show how very nearly the Commentator follows the received Paali version of the events that occurred shortly after Gautama had become a Buddha. "When he (Bhagavat) had obtained perfect enlightenment, Brahmaa the lord of the universe, humbly begged of him to teach the dharma. Then the great Muni thought, ‘To whom shall I first teach the law?’ Rudraka had died seven days before that moment, Araa.la Kalaama had also passed away. Then he thought, ‘I will teach the five.’ So Bhagavat started for Varaa.nasi, and on his way, an Ajiivaka saw Bhagavat, and said to him, ‘Ayu.smat Gautama, your senses (appear) composed, your complexion is clear, your garments clean; who is your master (upaadhyaya)?

Ayu.smat, to what sect do you belong? In what doctrine do you find pleasure?’ Then he answered, ‘I am the Jina who has conquered Maara

(the evil one).’ ‘Then, Ayu.smat Gautama, you say that you are the Jina?’ ‘The Jinas are all like me,’ he answered. ‘Where are you going, Ayu.smat?’ ‘I am going to Varaa.nasi.’"(8) Sir John Woodroffe cites the Hindu tradition about the word muni to the same effect: "As the

Mahaabhaaraata says, ‘The Veda differ, and so do the Smriti. No one is a muni who has no independent opinion of his own (naasau munir yasya mata.m no bhinnam).'"(9) This practically admits that the only person who could start a new religious movement in India must be, or must have been, a muni.

The word muni is understood as "the capable one" in Tibetan translation. According to Buddhaguhya, "The munis are pratyekabuddhas: because they have their own religious practice, pledge, and vow, and are capable by themselves while lacking a master, they are the capable ones (muni)."(10) This explanation is consistent with the account about the

Sanskrit name .R.sipatana (Paali, Isipatana), another name of the Deer Park where the Buddha gave his first sermons:(11)

Formerly when the time approached for the Buddha Kaa`syapa to appear in the world, there lived on that hill five hundred Pratyekabuddhas. They learned from a message given by the devas that the Buddha was to manifest himself. By their magical power they soared up to the sky and equipoised themselves in the element of fire (tejodhaatu). The fire that issued from their own bodies burned their material bodies, and the ashes fell to the earth. It was said, "The .R. sis have fallen," and for this reason the place is called .R. sipatana (the falling of the .R.sis), Hence, in consideration of this silence, there are the silent persons called munis, who are called pratyekabuddhas since they are enlightened by themselves without depending on another teacher, and who are also called .R.sis or seers. The association of the munis with flying, as mentioned in the Vedic hymn, was contained by other names, pratyekabuddha and.r.si.(12) That the association of the munis with the sky or space was not forgotten in later times is apparent in the Sa.mdhivyaakara.na, an explanatory tantra of the Guhyasamaajatantra, in a Sanskrit passage I have edited from the Pradiipoddyotana manuscript:

Thus, the Reality was heard by me on a certain time extraordinary.

The Bhagavat, diamond lord of mysteries, with the supreme pledge of the triple vajra, was dwelling as the Mahaamuni (great silent one) in the pure heart of the world, in this unique self- existence of sky having the modes of omnicient knowledge, in the all Tathaagata gnosis having the inconceivable perfection of merits; beyond existence, non-existence and both, called "place of no location." (13)

While the foregoing has been mainly based on Buddhist sources, it should be observed that the muni tradition is part of the great ascetic non-Vedic tradition that became incorporated into Hinduism with worship of the god `Siva, as R.N. Dandekar has well described,(14) although this `Saivitic incorporation apparently takes place after the advent of Buddhism It is well known that `Sa.mkara, the great AdvaitaVedaantin, was a follower of `Siva and insisted that knowledge (j~naana) is the main thing for liberation(mok.sa). His followers use, among other works, the

A.s.taavakra Sa.mhitaa, in which A.s.taavakra says (chap. XVII, 1): "He has gained the fruit of knowledge as well as the practice of yoga, who, contented and with purified senses, ever enjoys being alone(ekaakii)."(15) All this gives a new complexion to the Hindu opponent's challenge to ‘Sa.mkara that he was a "Buddhist in disguise." This is often misconstrued as having doctrinal implications. In fact, the criticism was a rejection of `Sa.mkara's monastic retreat system, which afforded and still affords individuals an opportunity to leave society for seeking divine knowledge in solitude. There are several forms of the Buddha's silence. First there was his ascetic silence; then upon his enlightenment, when he hesitated to teach, deeming his doctrine too profound for people at large, this was the first withholding type of silence. Later, he sometimes refused to answer certain questions dealing with ultimatums, with a selective silence. A certain Buddhist sect had a tenet "The Buddha never said a word."(l6) Of course, the Hindu opponents of Buddhism would not lose the opportunity to argue cogently that it is a fine thing to know through ascetic silence, but that this does not furnish validity for the Buddha's teachings, since he would have to renounce the ascetic silence in order to teach, and so what proof is there that the teaching itself reflects the omniscience of the silence? Presumably it was through such attacks that Buddhism was forced into its multiple body theory, with the Dharmakaaya remaining silent and omniscient, and another body, such as the Nirmaa.nakaaya of the Buddha, doing the teaching.(17) Also the buddhas were said to help chosen disciples of a progressed nature with adhi.s.thaana (blessing, empowerment, or spiritual support), a kind of silent power. Thus, in Mahaayaana Buddhism, the Buddha came to have a role tantamount to the solar deity.


For "truth" the ancient Indians generally employed two words, satya and .rta, which have respectively a subjective and objective reference. Satya is the truth of men and gods; and .rta is the truth of the universe that the sun will rise and set and that seasonal characteristics will recur.

It is well recognized that in the ancient Vedic tradition the deity Varu.na was in charge of the.rta, the universal order; and it was believed that liars

incurred his punishment in the form of dropsy, presumably because their lies constituted a violation of the world order. In time, Varu.na's supremacy faded, and a new deity named Indra came to the fore,

to be succeeded by Vi.s.nu. The latter two deities were not especially associated with preserving the world order; and in time the supreme spirit was generally called Brahman. With all these changes of terminology for divinity, the prestige of"truth" by the word satya continued unabated.

For the meaning of saatya, the adjective, I follow the late H. D. Velankar of the University of Bombay who explained the word in the introduction to his retranslation of Ma.n.dala Seven of the Rg-veda.(18) This satya is the undeniable, after being said, thought, or done by someone; that is, bound to happen.(19) We shall observe that this meaning continues into the Chaandogya (below). Accordingly, one should reject the frequent translation of satyakaamaa.h in this Upani.sad as "real desires," as though the word satya meant the "genuine," what is simply a fact. Instead, it means a fact that is productive.

The B.rhadaara.nyaka Upani.sad (III, 5, 1) provides the first answer to what the Laws of Manu meant by saying, "Truth is superior to silence":

Therefore, let a braahma.na, after being satiated with learning, live as a child. After being satiated with childhood as well as with learning, let him be a muni (one vowed to silence). After being satiated with non-silence (amauna) as well as with silence (mauna), let him be a braahma.na." "In what manner (kena) is that braahma.na?" "In whatever manner he be, he is just the same in that manner; every thing else is afflicted." Thereupon, Kahola Kau.siitakeya held his peace (upararaama).

That is, the state of a braahma.na, who is as he is, is claimed to be superior to the state of a muni. The whole verse of the Manusm.rti (Laws of Manu, II, 83) runs: "The monosyllable (i.e., O.m) is the highest Brahman. Suppressions of the breath are the best austerity. But nothing surpasses the Saavitrii. Truth is superior to silence." My commentarial edition does not help much. It observes that "truth" is verbal, but this is the obvious part. However, it is easy to see the structure of the verse. When the breath is suppressed, one does not speak--and this is the best austerity. But superior to this is the Saavitrii, another name of the Gaayatrii, the celebrated mantra recited by the Brahmans at their morning and evening devotionals; and this mantra is designated as "truth," namely as we have observed the undeniable that is not in vain. And so truth is superior to silence. At the same time, the verse shows the preference for the Brahmans who recite the Gaayatrii over the munis and other ascetics who engage in such austerities as suppressing the breath. The Gaayatrii (.Rg-veda, III, 62, 10) is translated approximately as follows: "We meditate on or may we attain, the great glory, of the god Savitaa, that he may inspire or who inspires, our thoughts or works." It is preceded by the mantra O.m in the later editions.

That remark in the Laws of Manu would equally apply to what is often called the "Act of Truth." This truth act is well known from the Hindu epic Raamaaya.na and from Buddhist sources. It has a traditional form: the performer announces, if such and such be true, then let this or that happen. "Such-and-such" is, according to W. Norman Brown's helpful explanation, the superlative performance of the person's duty (dharma), and "this or that" is what the gods are commanded to bring about as a miraculous intervention. (20) In an earlier article I pointed out that it was not sufficient for the person to have been extraordinary in fulfilling his duty, but it was also necessary for the person to verbalize this fact; and so this is a verbal truth that is superior to silence. (21) In short, that a person deserves to be aided by the gods is not sufficient; this person must in addition command the aid.

The preceding makes one issue quite clear. The tradition of "truth" is followed by those who would be inspired by or would command the deity, especially the solar deity. The tradition of "silence" is followed by those who, out of their own resources, would rise to a status beyond ordinary mankind. And certainly these routes are distinct and in vivid contrast, and so command divergent allegiance. The Manusm.rti definitely insists that the Brahmans who appeal to the sun deity at dawn are superior to the silent ascetics who try, like the Buddha, to be enlightened just prior to dawn.

One complication comes, for example, in the development of Buddhism, where the Buddha began on the muni side, the Tathaagata who became enlightened without reliance on another teacher. Then he moved to the other side as the Teacher who inspires the disciples. But when the Buddha did decide to teach and gave his first sermon, what he talked about was satya. The Buddha mentioned four kinds of satya of the aaryas, meaning the persons who hearkened to his doctrine and became disciples in contrast to ordinary people (the p.rthagjana) who do not hearken. The satyas, as was already exposed, are the "undeniables" that there is suffering, there is the origin of suffering, there is the cessation of the origin, and there is the path leading to the cessation. And sort of analogous to the Vedic and Upani.sadic usage of the word, there is more to it. So the Buddha in the first sermon (Setting into Motion the Wheel of the Law) made explicit this something more. Suffering is not only undeniable; it is also to be fully known; likewise, its origin is to be eliminated; the cessation of the origin is to be directly experienced; the path is to be cultivated or contemplated.

In the case of the Laws of Manu, as a legalistic text, "truth" means the verbal kind; and this kind was observed above as intended in the magical function of truth, illustrated in the "Act of Truth." This amounts to what is often called the karma-kaa.n.da (section of rites). Indeed, this is the Buddhist sense of the Four Noble Truths, which are the announced truths of Buddhism establishing the norms of conduct, even though early Buddhism opposed the old Vedic ritual.

This is not to insist, however, that "truth" (satya) was employed in the old Upani.sads solely with this verbal sense when, as though by magic, if was undeniable. That it was already used in the more philosophical sense of truths that are understood or realized, and are sometimes inexpressible (anirvacaniya), is clear enough in the celebrated Puu.san verse. This frequently cited verse about truth is the first of four verses that appear both in the B.rhadaara.nyaka (V, 15, 1-4) and the brief II ‘sa Upani.sad (15-18), and which constitute the prayer to the sun god by a dying person; S. Radhakrishnan mentions, "Even to-day they are used by the Hindus in their funeral rites."(22) The first verse can be translated: "The face of truth is covered by a golden bowl. Unveil it, O Puu.san, so that I who have truth as my duty (satyadharma) may see it!"

This verse foreshadows, on the one hand, the later terminology of absolute and conventional truth (paramaartha and sa.mv.rti satya); and on the other hand, the distinction between direct view (pratyak.sa) and the out-of-sight (parok.sa). In Buddhist literature, both approaches are explainable in terms of the Four NobleTruths. Thus the Maadhyamika commentator Candrakiirti in chapter 5 of his Madhyamakaavataara explains why the truths of Suffering, Source, and Path are conventional truth, while the Truth of Cessation is supreme truth.(23) In the case of the Upani.sadic verse, the "face of truth" would represent absolute truth; and "truth as duty," conventional practice of a distinguished type.

The later formulation of view distinction is found, for example, in Dharmakiirti's Pramaa.nvarttika (II, 132): "The compassionate one

applies himself in the means so as to destroy suffering. When the goal (=cessation of suffering) and its cause (=the means) are out of sight, to explain them is difficult."(24) The eminent Tibetan commentator of Buddhist logic, Rygal-tshab-rje, expands this verse in his brief work "Guidance on the path of authority" (pramaa.na-maarga):(25)

As to the perfection of application: the person possessed of great compassion at first himself comprehends directly the ultimate condition of the four truths; and in conclusion properly strives in the application. But when the two truths of the causal means and the two truths of the fruitional goal are out of sight or are not earlier clear to the intellect, there is no capacity to explain them completely and in errorless manner to others.

Here, the two truths of the causal means must be the truths of suffering and source of suffering; while the two of the fruitional goal must be the cessation of suffering and the path leading to the cessation. Interpreting the Puu.san verse along the same lines, only when a person first has truth as duty can he subsequently command the exposure of the face of truth.


In setting forth two traditions of India, as has been done with truth and silence, it is tempting to list various sects under one or another column. One can, for example, place the Brahmanical lineage faithful to the four stages of life in the "truth" column, and the ascetic groups (muni or `srama.na) in the "silence" column. This runs into the immediate

difficulty that the Buddha, who is called "greatsilent one" (mahaamuni) and "great ascetic" (mahaa`srama.na), announces the four aarya truths and is held to be the teacher of gods and men. His followers never depart from this, eventually although centuries later making much of two truths, conventional and absolute. And again, the Brahmanical lineage has its emphatic visionaryside; and all sects have their silence, even when merely exclusiveness. Indeed, it may be principally the opponents who classify one or another school under a particular heading, thus to attribute a limitation of action or view to an adversary.

However, it should have already become apparent that the two traditions called "truth" and "silence" are roughly equivalent to the Vedaanta classification, the karma-kaa.n.da and the j~naana-kaa.n.da, where "truth" in its sense of the magical verbal truth amounts to the karma-kaa.n.da, and "silence" as the attainment of the withdrawn ascetic amounts to the j~naana-kaa.n.da. Expounding the a.mkara position, Surendranath Dasgupta says:

The teachings of the other parts of the Vedas, the karmakaa.n.da (those dealing with the injunctions relating to the performance of duties and actions), were intended for inferior types of aspirants, whereas the teachings of the Upani.sads, the j~naanakaa.n.da (those which declare the nature of ultimate truth and reality), were intended only for superior aspirants who had transcended the limits of sacrificial duties and actions, and who had no desire for any earthly blessing or for any heavenly joy.(26)

But the Laws of Manu takes the opposite point of view, declaring that the ritual performance of the Saavitrii at dawn is superior to the silence with whatever its knowledge (j~naana) of the yogi meditating during the night. The celebrated law book is forced into this position by its defense of dharma, the Hindu code of duty.

It has been called to my attention that Kumaarila-bha.t.ta (the seventh-century A.D. commentator on the Miimaa.msaa), when discussing the nonorthodox systems as authority (pramaa.na) for dharma (ad Jaimini-suutra I 3.11-14), asks whether the Buddhist dharma, being as it is a prayoga- aastra (statement of norms for proper performance), is authoritative; and thus deals with the Buddhist dharma as an alternative to the braahmanical karma-kaa.n.da and not as an alternative to the Upani.sads.(27) Naturally, this observation is quite consistent with what has been presented, namely, that one can indeed separate the two traditions, especially from how commentators treat the opponent. Consequently, there is a competition as to what properly constitutes the verbal truth (=kama-kaa.n.da) as well as to the content of silence (=j~naana-kaa.n.da). In illustration, Buddhism not only presents an alternative dharma, but an alternative enlightened person (the Buddha as the Mahaamuni). At the same time, it is comprehensible that these Indian systems would not and do not treat themselves in the manner that the opponents do. Therefore, Buddhism does not separate itself into two traditions, the dharma and the Buddha; rather it insists that the dharma comes from the Buddha and has its authority (pramaa~na) accordingly.


While my main purpose has been to expose two traditions in terms of "truth" and "silence," I must acknowledge that such a classification may imprison the mind in categories and lead to a kind of game in which different schools and sects are mechanically placed within this and that category, irrespective of how those schools are constituted in reality. Categories should not be formulated just for the sake of making them. The importance of a classification is what one learns or brings forward in the course of making it. Now, while collecting materials, as previously organized, on this topic, there was no intention of bringing the B.rhadaara.nyaka and Chaandogya into conflict but this is exactly what happened. According to the Chaandogya, when one finds the self, he finds and achieves all desires which that text qualifies as "true"; according to the B.rhadaara.nyaka, when one finds the self, he overcomes all desires.

Indeed, my analysis agrees with Dasgupta's advice: "It will be better that a modern interpreter should not agree to the claims of the ancients that all the Upani.sads represent a connected system, but take the texts independently and separately and determine their meanings, though keeping an attentive eye on the context in which they appear."(28) Adisagreement between the B.rhadaara.nyaka and the Chaandogya was long ago noticed by Paul Deussen: "Between the two great Upanishads, B.rhadaara.nyaka, which serves as text book for the students of the (white) Yajur-veda, and Chaandogya, which serves for the students of the Saamaveda, are to be observed many, often verbal agreements, but side by side with these, certain traces of a thorough going polemic, which is shown, among other things, by the fact that teachers, who appear in the one Upanishad as the highest authorities, occupy only a subordinate position in the other. Thus, for example, Ushasta...."(29) The present essay defines the polemic in terms of the attitude toward the desires (kaama) that are "true" (satya).

The meaning of the word satya as the undeniable is continued into the wellknown chapter 7 on the "City of Brahman" in the Chaandogya. Within this city of Brahman is contained all creatures (bhuuta) and all desires (kaama); and the Upani.sad says, "Those who depart hence, having found here the self (aatman) and those desires (kaama) that are satya for them in all worlds there is engagement with the desires." That is, their desires are undeniable (satya), as illustrated in section 2 of the chapter 7, "If he desires the world of the fathers, by his very conception, fathers arise." Likewise, the world of the mothers, the world of brothers, the world of sisters, and so with the world of friends, of perfumes and garlands, of food and drink, of song and music, and finally the world of women. His desires, being satya, upon being thought, are bound to happen. Then, in section 3, the Upani.sad continues, "These same are true (i.e. undeniable) desires, with a covering of the false (an.rta, the negation of.rta)." And it goes on to illustrate what is meant by the false: "Just as those who do not know the field walk again and again over the hidden treasure of gold and do not find it, even so all creatures here go day after day into the Brahman world and yet do not find it, for they are carried away by untruth." This shows that the creatures are carried away by disorder, since an.rta is the negation of the objective truth of regularity and universal order.

This Chaandogya position was not forgotten in subsequent Upani.sadic literature. The Mu.n.daka Upani.sad (III, 1, 6), coming after the rise of Buddhism, furnishes modern India's motto "Truth alone conquers" (satyam eva jayate). This has political overtones and rich slogan connotation when taken out of its context: "Truth (i.e., the undeniable) alone is victorious, not untruth (an.rta, i.e., disorder). By truth is laid out the path leading to the gods by which the seers (.r.si) who have their desires fulfilled proceed to where is that supreme treasure." This treasure, according to the Chaandogya, is in the Brahman world.

But the B.rhadara.nyaka (III, 5, 1), when setting forth progressive renunciation as the way to know Brahman, has a significant opposition to the Chaandogya's and the Mu.n.daka's emphasis on realizing desires:

Now Kahola Kau.siitakeya asked him, "Yaaj~navalkya," said he, "explain to me the Brahman that is directly experienced and not indirectly experienced, which is the self (aatman) within everything." "This is yourself which is within everything." "Yaaj~navalkya, which one is within everything?" "The one which transcends hunger and thirst, sorrow and delusion, old age and death. The braahma.nas, having recognized

(viditvaa) that Self, having overcome the desire for sons, the desire for wealth, and the desire for worlds (loka), live the life of mendicants (bhik`sa). A desire for sons amounts to a desire for wealth; a desire for wealth amounts to a desire for worlds; for both of these amount only to desires.(30)

And if that passage did not sufficiently castigate desires, B.rhadaara.nyaka, IV, 4, 6-7, drives home the point. After mentioning forcefully that the man who desires (kaamayamaana.h) is simply reborn, it gives this verse for the man who does not desire: "When all the desires (kaama) that abide in his heart are renounced, then the mortal becomes immortal; he here attains Brahman."

But the question immediately arises: What is in back of this disagreement, the B.rhadaara.nyaka eschewing all desires, and the Chaandogya pushing for true desires. The answer appears to be, their creation myths. The two positions of those Upani.sads probably both have in their background the.Rg vedic "Hymn of Creation" (X, 129), where it was said, "Desire entered the One in the beginning: it was the earliest seed...the bond of being in non-being." Then the question arises: Does one attain the highest state by reverting to the beginning condition? The B.rhadaara.nyaka, and Buddhism as well, answers, No. The Chaandogya, and inferentially any other treatise that lines up with it, answers, Yes.

The B.rhadaara.nyaka would not recommend getting back to the original state because (chap. 1, sec. 2) it says: "There was no particular thing here in the beginning. Only by death was this covered, or by hunger, for hunger is death." The Chaandogya (chap. 3, sec. 19) has a different story, called "The Cosmic Egg."

The Sun is Brahman so it is taught. This has an explanation: In the beginning this (world) was non-existent (asat). It became existent (sat). It grew. It changed into an egg. It lay for the extent of a year. It burst open. In the eggshell there were the silver and the gold. What was the silver, that is this earth. What was the gold that is the sky. What was the outer member (i.e. the chorion) is the mountains. What was the inner membrane (i.e. the amnion) is the mist with the clouds. What were the veins are the rivers. What was the fluid of the membranous sac is the ocean. And that which was born, it is yonder sun. As he was being born, shouts and cries were directed toward him, as were also all creatures and all desires. Therefore, at his rise and at his every return, shouts and cries are directed toward him, as are also all creatures and all desires. He who knowing it in this way, repeatedly meditates on the sun as Brahman, is one to whom well-disposed shouts would be directed, and they would gratify him, yea, gratify him.

Therefore, in the Chaandogya lineage, it is an appropriate aim to return to the original condition, namely, to find in the City of Brahman all creatures and all desires, to be as the sun when it was being born.

About the true desires, the Bhagavadgiitaa (III, 10) says in apparent agreement: "Of yore when the Lord of Creatures created men with sacrifice, he said: `By this may you bring forth, and may this be for you the cow which grants desires (i.s.takaamadhuk).'" There were other words in Indian literature: cintaama.ni (the fabulous gem which grants all desires to its possessor), kalpav.rk.sa (the wishing tree in Indra's paradise). However, K. N. Upadhyaya regards "disinterested action" (ni.skaama-karma) as the "crux" of the Bhagavadgitaa's message. (31) Therefore, it might be the case that the Bhagavadgiitaa was attempting to reconcile the Upani.sadic dispute exposed earlier with a formula that nonattachment to the desirable is eventually rewarded by all desires. If this possibility has not hitherto been recognized by interpreters of the Bhagavadgiitaa, it may be simply due to the fact that they failed to acknowledge an Upani.sadic dispute which the Bhagavadgiitaa might try to bridge.

As to schools affiliated to the B.rhadaara.nyaka, I make bold to point to Buddhism, because the Buddhist goal of nirvaa.na is also beyond desire. And Buddhism heads its formula of Dependent Origination with nescience (aviidyaa) a word which is not found at all in the Bhagavadgiitaa.(32) At least once Buddhism says nescience is the father, and craving (t.r.s.naa) is the mother (per La.nkaavataara-suutra); (33) but the commentary on the Udaanavarga says nescience is the mother.(34) The Buddhist genesis myth in the Paali and other scriptures starts out with the sentient beings inbodies made of mind that are wherever they wish to be, and who feed onjoy compare Vedic creation hymn). Their fall begins with greed stemming from delusion; next there is lust arising from eating; and finally hatred due to stealing.(35) Buddhism not only has negative procedures removal of defiling conditions for reversion to a superio plane of consciousness, but also a positive requirement for adding knowledge arrived at in samaadhi attainment. The Vedaantic currents that stress knowledge (j~naana) as the main requirement for liberation (mok.sa;) thereby agree on this particular point that one does not simply return to a primordial condition. Consequently, our previous observation that Buddhism and the Upani.sads have a rival j~naana-kaa.n.da should be modified to admit the possibility that Buddhism shares to some extent the j~naana-kaa.n.da of the B.rhadaara.nyaka. At least this is a partial breakthrough in the mystery of the Buddhist relation, if any, to the Upani.sads.

However, it should be noticed that the categorizing of the old Upani.sads as the j~naana-kaa.n.da in contrast to the preceding Braahma.na ritual literature categorized as the karma-kaa.n.da is again an oversimplification that becomes strained when one examines the facts. The Chaandogya naturally exemplifies the previously exposed connotation of "truth," because it is an appendage to the Saama Veda (meaning the collection of Vedic hymns to be changed), and the word "Chandogya" means singer of these chants. This Upani.sad is therefore concerned in part with the Vedic meters which, by their proper utterance, would satisfy the Laws of Manu use of the word "truth" (satya); but this belongs to the karma-kaa.n.da. The B.rhadaara.nyaka has a mantra section and many other topics that are not easily subsumed under a single rubric, so it is by no means to be thoroughly qualified as a j~naana-kaa.n.da. Presumably, the over all inclusion of the Upani.sads in the jnnaanakaa.n.da intends the emphasis or principal object of the Upani.sads; and, in particular, the part of the Upani.sads which most interests the Advaita Vedaanta.

The subsequent Tantric currents mainly of ‘Saivitic or of Buddhist character also have their two sides. As van Gulik writes: "Above all, they enumerate what desires can be granted by reciting this dhaara.nii and how many times it should be recited. Certain rites are required to accompany the reciting in order to obtain the fulfillment of certain desires."(36) But this recitation of dhaara.nis, whether incantations or spells, is in the ample category of ritual utterances, including the Saavitrii, which the Laws of Manu plainly counts as "truth.''

D. L. Snellgrove, in the introduction to his work, The Hevajra Tantra, says, "To dislike the tantras, is but to dislike the worst tendencies in

man, and of the terrible existence of these tendencies we have ample experience in every generation. The tantras claimed to remove like by like, and so of what else should they tell?"(37) By removing like by like, Snellgrove refers to such lines as the citation in the Dohaa commentary, "By passion the world is bound; and precisely by passion

it is released" (raage.na badhyate loko raage.naiva hi mucyate). His remark about disliking the tantras is consistent with what I consider to have been a serious cleavage between the B.rhadaara.nyaka and the

Chaandagya following. Because even if modern scholars do not transfer their dislike of the tantras to the Chaandogya Upani.sad the fact still remains that the Chaandogya theory of desires in the heart could be paraphrased, "By false desire the world is bound; and precisely by true desire it is released." So, as often happens, people do not know what they dislike.


In the foregoing I have attempted to set forth a rivalry of two traditions, "truth" and "silence," while admitting that the traditions become distinguished especially by the opponent to a sect, who finds it easier to mount a "refutation" by retreating somewhat artificially, a single aspect of an opposing sect. Then, while acknowledging that the Upani.sads themselves are not distinguished by the two traditions, the same investigation shows that the Upani.sads are indeed distinguished by the attitude to "true desires." The traditions thus made salient appear more fascinating than what T. R. V. Murti sets forth in The Central Philosophy of Buddhism as the "two traditions in Indian philosophy" the acceptance or rejection of the permanent aatman or self of the Upani.sads. Therein Buddhism is characterized as rejecting this permanent aatman in favor of a changing, impermanent self. Of course, Buddhism does have its positive disagreements with the Upani.sadic position, especially as concerns this theory of aatman. The Upani.sads do agree on stressing a Self, even though obviously disagreeing about some matters, such as the role of desire. Murti's classification is faithful to the usual commentarial style of

distinguishing the orthodox and the nonorthodox among the Indian schools.

A value of exposing the Indian traditions in the manner of the present article is the readiness of the classification for problem solving, that is, for explaining in contrast to simple portrayal. For example, one can immediately find a plausible solution for the term satyagraaha in the modern movement associated with Gandhi.(38) In the light of the rich connotation of such words as satya and an.rta, Gandhi did not really have to deliver a learned exposition of his term satyagraaha (adherence

to the truth). In fact, the power of the term depends in part on its not being rationalized or intellectually explained. It insinuated that the produce of the spinning wheel was satya, to wit, undeniable and not in vain, and therefore victorious, while the British stuff was an.rta, to wit, disordered and a lie, and therefore the sure loser to satya. The women doing the spinning for the most part illiterate would not have read the Upani.sads. They were raised in a culturesteeped in the connotation of the word satya.

Further, the meaning of satya as explained by Velankar is its usage in ritual and politics, while the meaning in the Puu.san verse turns out to be its philosophical usage in subsequent centuries.

Finally, the precious book by Max Picard, The World of Silence, reminds us of the spiritual resources that develop in silence, consistent with the Tibetans' translating the word muni by the"capable one" (thub Pa). Picard also writes, in agreement with the Laws of Manu, "Language is more than silence because truth is manifested in language."


  1. "Observations on Translation from the Classical Tibetan Language into European Languages," in Indo-lranian Journal 14, nos. 3-4 (1972): 192.
  2. The Sanskrit word muni, according to Manfred Mayrhofer (Kurzgefasstes etymologisches Worterbuch des Altindischen Heidelberg: Carl Winter, Universitats-verlag, 1963) volume 2, pp. 654-655) is cognate with our word "mute" through Greek words, and this cannot be doubted. It has been argued but the matter is not settled that it is related to the Creek maentis, our word "mantic" (gifted with prophetic powers), this being in the group of words including "mania," from the weak grade of the Indo-Germanic root men, which the Oxford English Dictionary says is represented in many words referring to mental states, emotions, etc. In Sanskrit this would be man, the verb meaning"to think, to deem," etc. The Indian grammarians affiliated the word muni with the verb man, but a solution cannot be found within the Indian context alone, for it requires a justification of this vowel change in the early Indo-European languages.

3. / atha yan maunam ity aacak.sate brahmacaryam eve tat / brahmacarye.na by evaa 'tmaanam anuvidya manute /.

4. "State of being a muni" translates mauneya following Franklin Edgerton, Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Grammar and Dictionary (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1953), p. 441.

5. Franz Bernhard, Udaanavarga, Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Gottingen Philologisch-Historische Klasse, Third Series, Nr. 54 (Gottingen, 1965).

6. Louis de La Vallee Poussin, ed., Muula-Madhyamaka-v.rtti-prasannapadaa, p. 359.

7. Alex Wayman, "The Buddhist Theory of Vision," in A~njali, Wijesekera Felicitation Volume (Peradeniya, Ceylon: University of Ceylon, 1970), pp. 27-28.

8. Udaanavarga: A Collection of Verses from the Buddhist Canon (London, 1892), pp. 209-210.

9. Introduction to Tantra Shastra(Madras: Ganesh & Co., 1952), p. 30.


10. Alex Wayman, "Buddhism, " Historia Religionum (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1971), vol. 2, p. 397. Buddhaguhya's passage is from his commentary on the Sarvadurgatipari`sodhana-tantra in the Tibetan Tanjur.

11. Wayman, "Buddhism," pp. 397-398.

12. This flight of the ascetic is shown in later Indian art by beings called vidyaadhara (holders of the mystic science). Also, the Buddhist Tantra had heroes called .daaka or khecaarin (sky-walkers).

13. / evam mayaa `sruta.m tattvam ekasmin samaye sphu.te /

bhagavaan guhyavajre`sas trivajrasamayottama(.h) //

sarvatathaagate j~naane acintyagu.nasampadi /

sadasadubhayaatiite asthaanasthitisa.mj~nini //

aakaa`saikasvabhaave 'smin sarvaj~naj~naaabhaavini/

jagaddh.rdi vi`suddhaakhye vijahaara mahaamuni.h //

14. "Hinduism," in Historia Religionum vol. 2, see especially p. 247.

15. Swami Nityaswarupananda, trans., A.s.taavakra Sa.mhitaa, 3d ed. (Calcutta: Aduaita Ashrama, 1969), p. 114.

16. Cf., A. Bareau, Les sectes bouddhiques du Petit Vehicule (Saigon: Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient, 1955), p. 60, among the theories of the Mahaasaa^nghikas: The Buddhas never say a word, because they remain eternally in contemplation; but beings, thinking they have pronounced words, leap from joy.

17. This matter is set forth at length, of course with Buddhist defense, in the Tattvasa.mgraha of ‘Saantarak.sita with the Pa~njikaa commentary of Kamala ‘siila, chap. 31, "Examination observing the entity that transcends the senses" (atiindriyaarthadar`si-pariik.saa), which is the last chapter. The text has been reedited by Dwarikadas Shastri in two volumes (Varanasi: Bauddha Bharati, 1968). The English translation by G. Jha is not available to me at present.

18. .Rgveda Man.n.dala VII (Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1963), iv-x.

19. It is of interest that a different way of expressing the adjective "true," to wit, by the Sanskrit word a-vitatha "not untrue" (that is,"not contrary to the fact"), has a secondary meaning "not vain or futile"; and so, like the word satya, indicates that what is true is not in vain. In contrast,for lying, a prohibition of the ancient five Buddhist layman vows, the expression m.r.saavaada was used, rather than a negation of the word satya.

20. "The Basis for the Hindu Act of Truth," in Review, of Religion (Nov. 1940): 36-45. His latest article on the subject is "Duty as Truth in Ancient India," in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 116, no. 3 (June 1972): 252-268.

21. "The Hindu-Buddhist Rite of Truth an Interpretation, " in Studies in Indian Linguistics; Emeneau Sixtieth Birthday Volume (Poona, 1968), pp, 365-369,

22. The Principal Upani.sads (New York: Harper and Bros., 1953), p. 577.

23. Wayman, "Buddhism," pp. 423-424.

24. / dayaavaan du.hkhahaanaartham upaaye.svabhiyujyate /

parok.sopeyataddhetos tadaakhyaana.m hi du.skara.m //

25. Tshad ma'i lam khrid (Varanasi reprint) pp. 36-37: / sbyor ba phun tshogs la snin rje chen po dan ldan pa'i gan zag gi thog mar ran nid

bden bzi'i gnas lugs mnon sum du rtogs pa mtharthug pa la m^non par sbyor ba'i brtson 'grus mdzad rigs te / thabs rgyu'i bden pa g~nis da^n thabs byu^n 'bras bu'i bden pa g~nis lkog tu gyur pa'am s^non du gyur kya^n blo mi gsal ba'i lhag ma lus na gzan la phyin ci ma log par 'chad mi nus zes pa /.

26. History of Indian Philosophy 5 vols.(Cambridge: at the University Press, 1932), 1:436.

27. Communication from Fred Morgan, lecturer in Asian Religions, University of Bristol, in connection with my article, "The Buddhist 'Not This, Not This'," Philosophy East and West, 21, no. 4 (Oct., 1961): 99-114.

28. History of lndian Philosophy, 1, p. 42.

29. The System of the Vedaanta, trans. Charles Johnston (Delhi: Motilal Barnasidass, 1972), pp.146-147.

30. This passage immediately precedes the previous citation of B.rhadaara^nyaka III, 5, 1.

31. Early Buddhism and the Bhagavadgiitaa (Delhi, 1971), p. 146.

32. Surendranath Dasgupta, History of Indian Philosophy, vol. 2, p. 498.

33. Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, trans., The Lankavatara Sutra (London, 1932), p. 121.

34. Cf., note 8 herein, pp. 210-211.

35. Wayman, "Buddhism," pp. 428-430.

36. R. H. van Gulik, Siddham; An Essay on the History of Sanskrit Studies in China and Japan (Nagpur International Academy of Indian Culture, 1956), p. 77.

37. The Hevajra Tantra: A Critical Study (London: Oxford University Press, 1959), part I, p. 42.

38. Gandhi: An Autobiography: The Story of MyExperiments with Truth (Boston-Beacon Press, 1965), pp. 318-319.

Transcribed for Buddhism Today by Bhikkhuni Lien Hoa


Updated: 1-11-2000

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