Sri Aurobindo translates Taittiriya Upanishad, Bhriguvalli, Chapter 2: “He knew food for the Eternal. For from food alone, it appeareth, are these creatures born and being born they live by food, and into food they depart and enter again. And when he had known this, he came again to Varuna his father and said, ‘Lord, teach me the Eternal.’ And his father said to him, ‘By askesis do thou seek to know the Eternal, for askesis (Or, concentration in thought.) is the Eternal.’ He concentrated himself in though and by the energy of his brooding.”
The one thing that all human beings seem to agree on, before they apply logic or spiritual insight to it, is the fundamental nature and basis of Matter as a foundation of our existence. Annam, “food”, stands for the material basis. The past history of Western science and its vast achievements has been based on the idea that Matter is the reality that needs to be focused on, understood and controlled. Religions tell us that we were created out of “dust” and to “dust” we return. We see here, therefore, the natural first result of an intelligent and motivated human individual, who wants to understand his existence and his relationship to the Eternal, the Brahman, when he is asked to concentrate on the source of his existence, the sustenance of his existence and the end result at the end of the life of the body.
It is interesting to note that the student did not take this first insight as final. Rather, he returned to the teacher, not with the pride of complete knowledge, but with the sense that he still needed to know more. His deep focus on the material basis led him to the point where he could not explain some things, such as the source of Matter or the energizing of Matter by Life, nor the operation of Mind.
Western science has itself reached such a stage of further questioning over the last 100 or more years, and recognized that Matter is not itself the original source of all creation, but a secondary result.
The teacher, following the principle of the student learning from within, not through facts or ideas being crammed into him, once again suggests that the disciple go back and do further concentration in thought, tapasya, to achieve further realisation.