A Systematic Practice for Developing Knowledge of Brahman: Introduction to the Bhriguvalli of the Taittiriya Upanishad

The Rishis of the Upanishads were seeking, not an intellectual idea of the Brahman, but a knowledge by identity that transcended the structures formulated by the mind.  The Taittiriya Upanishad systematically moves from an overview of categories and the building blocks for knowledge in the Shikshavalli, to an exposition of the nature of the universal manifestation and its underlying basis in the Brahmanandavalli, to a practice and methodology for obtaining direct knowledge in the Bhriguvalli.

Sri Aurobindo observes in The Life Divine (Vol. II, Ch. 17):  “Ancient Indian thought meant by knowledge a consciousness which possesses the highest Truth in a direct perception and in self-experience; to become, to be the Highest that we know is the sign that we really have the knowledge.  For the same reason, to shape our practical life, our actions as far as may be in consonance with our intellectual notions of truth and right or with a successful pragmatic knowledge, — an ethical or vital fulfilment, — is not and cannot be the ultimate aim of our life; our aim must be to grow into our true being, our being of Spirit, the being of the supreme and universal Existence, Consciousness, Delight, Sachchidananda.”

The Bhriguvalli is framed as a seeking by Bhrigu, son of Varuna, for the highest teaching that will provide him the knowledge of the Eternal.  As is the method of the Upanishads, generally, the teacher does not provide a pat answer to satisfy the mind; rather, he provides some hints and asks the disciple to work out the answers by grappling with those hints in a very deep and real sense.  The teacher’s purpose is to spur the disciple to explore and open up his awareness, to work through, on his own, the various positive aspects, and limitations, until he can experience something that answers all questions and denies no fact nor aspect of the truth of existence.

Today we seek “instant solutions” that provide our minds with satisfaction.  Those who believe in an external, anthropomorphic Creator God are satisfied with the idea that God simply shaped and placed everything into existence as is.  Those who don’t believe in such an external actor creating everything “as is”, believe, in many instances, that some kind of random combining of chemical elements created by a “big bang” energy burst has led to the evolution of life as we know it, without need for a Creator God.  In order to accept either belief system, various elements of existence, various facts that we can observe and verify, need to be set aside, in order to develop a coherent belief system.  Eventually, those inconvenient facts, however, need to be addressed.

Thus we come to the method of the Rishis of providing hints and setting the disciple on the path to Truth by having them explore facts, explore life, explore thought, and eventually come to a realisation of the complex and integral Existence that is self-creating the universe for its own enjoyment.  This has been explained in the Brahmanandavalli.  Now the Upanishad goes on to provide a method of realisation as we follow the path of development of Varuna’s son, Bhrigu.

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads,  Taittiriya Upanishad, Bhriguvalli, pp.275-281, M. P. Pandit, Upanishads: Gateways of Knowledge, pp. 169-182