A father’s advice to a son eager for spiritual mastery

The following is a translation of the Chandogya Upanishad’s chapter seven, from The Principal Upanishads by S. Radhakrishnan. This Upanishad belongs to the Samaveda. Chapter Seven contains a dialogue between Uddalaka Aruni and his son Shvetaketu. The following verses have been edited for clarity.  

17. Uddalaka Aruni: “When one understands, then he speaks the truth. One who does not understand does not speak the truth. Only he who understands speaks the truth. But one must desire to understand understanding.” “Father, I desire to understand understanding,” said  Shvetaketu.

18. “When one thinks, then he understands, one who does not think does not understand. Only he who thinks understands. But one must desire to understand thinking.” “Father, I desire to understand thinking.”

19. “When one has faith, then he thinks. One who has not faith does not think. Only he who has faith thinks. But one must desire to understand faith.” “Father, I desire to understand faith.”

20. “When one has steadfastness, then one has faith. One who has not steadfastness does not have faith. Only he who has steadfastness has faith. But one must desire to understand steadfastness.” “Father, I desire to understand stead­fastness.”

21. “When one is active, one has steadfastness. Without being active, one has not steadfastness. Only by activity does one have steadfastness. But one must desire to understand activity.” “Father, I desire to understand activity.”

22. “When one obtains happiness, then one is active. One who does not obtain happiness is not active. Only he who obtains happiness is active. But one must desire to understand happiness.” “Father, I desire to understand happiness.”

23. “The infinite is happiness. There is no happiness in any­thing small or finite. But one must desire to understand the infinite.” “Father, I desire to understand the infinite.”

24.1. “Where one sees nothing else, hears nothing else, under­stands nothing else, that is the infinite. But where one sees something else, hears something else, understands something else, that is the small, the finite. Verily, the infinite is the same as the immortal, the finite is the same as the mortal.” “Father, on what is the infinite established?” Uddalaka: “On its own greatness or not even on greatness.”

24.2. “Here on Earth men call cows and horses, elephants and gold, slaves and wives, fields and houses ‘greatness.’ I do not speak thus,” he said, “for in that case each thing is established in another.

25.1. “That infinite indeed is below. It is above. It is behind. It is in front. It is to the south, it is to the north. It is indeed all this world. In regards to the experience of one’s true Self, I indeed, am below. I am above, I am behind, I am in front. I am to the south, I am to the north; I am all this world.”

25.2. “Now further instruction in regard to the Self. The Self indeed is below, is above, is behind, is in front, is to the south, and is to the north. The Self, indeed, is all this world. Those who see this, who think this, who understand this—They have pleasure in the Self. They can delight in the Self. They have union in the Self. They experience joy in the Self. They are their own, an independent self-ruler. They have unlimited freedom in all worlds. But those who think differently from this are dependent on others, they have others for their rulers. They exist in perishable worlds between which they cannot travel.”

26.1. “For one who under­stands this, life-breath springs from the Self, hope from the Self, memory from the Self, ether from the Self, heat from the Self, water from the Self, appearance and disappearance from the Self, food from the Self, strength from the Self, understanding from the Self, meditation from the Self, thought from the Self, determination from the Self, mind from the Self, speech from the Self, name from the Self, sacred hymns from the Self, sacred works from the Self, indeed, all existence from the Self.”

26.2. “On this there is the following verse: ‘He who sees this does not see death nor illness nor any sorrow. He who sees this sees everything and obtains everything everywhere. He is one, becomes threefold, fivefold, sevenfold and also ninefold. Then again he is called the elevenfold, also a hundred and elevenfold and also twenty thousandfold. When nourishment is pure, nature is pure. When nature is pure, memory becomes firm. When memory remains firm, there is release from all knots of the heart. To such a one who has his stains wiped away, the venerable Sanatkumara shows the further shore of darkness. Him they call Skanda.’”

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888-1975) was an Indian philosopher and statesman, India’s first vice president (1952–1962) and second president (1962–1967)