What is Brahman?
Akhand Gyan - English|March 2021
The Taittiriya Upanishad includes an insightful Tdialogue between Bhrigu, the inquisitive student, and his father, Varuna, the enlightened teacher. Bhrigu approaches his father Varuna with a sincere urge to know about Brahman and requests him to teach Brahmavidya. Varuna replies, “Food, the vital breath, the mind, the intellect...– That from which all are born, That by which all sustain, and, That into which all finally merge– seek to know That. That is Brahman.”

The teacher asks his disciple to concentrate all his energies towards understanding the subtlety of the various levels or sheaths (food: annamaya; the vital breath: pranamaya; the mind: manomaya; the intellect: vigyanamaya; soul/Lord: Anandmaya) and reach the answer. He gives him the hint about Brahman as That from which everything is born, by which everything is sustained, and into which everything merges in the end. Just like several pots of clay– they come from clay, remain in clay, and in the end go back into clay. The teacher thus keeps a puzzle before his student and asks him to contemplate in order to solve it.

Bhrigu was truly keen to know about Brahman, and so he diligently followed his father-cum-teacher's advice. He contemplated deeply. After a thorough analysis, he found that all hints which his father gave to him regarding Brahman are fulfilled by food (earth or matter). It is from food (earth) that we are born; food only keeps us alive, and finally our bodies disintegrate after death and go back into earth. He, thus, went to his father and said:

Annam brahmeti vyajaanaat; annaaddhyeva
khalvimaani bhutaani jaayante…
tapo brahmeti; sa tapo atapyata; sa tapastaptva

After a thorough contemplation, I have come to understand that anna (food) is Brahman; because, from food all beings are born; with the help of food only the living beings sustain; and, into food (earth) they finally merge.

CONCLUSION 1: THE MATTER/FOOD IS BRAHMAN

Varuna could see that the analysis of his son was restricted to the grosser planes and that he needed to think more on subtler grounds. He therefore asked him to contemplate more.

Abiding by his father's advice, Bhrigu contemplated more intensely. He then realised that food cannot be Brahman. Reason being that food or matter has both origin and end. Body is born, it dies, and it changes; whereas Brahman is imperishable and unchangeable. Brahman is eternal. He then tried to go deeper than the annamaya sheath (pertaining to food) and found that it is prana (the vital force) which supersedes the body. Prana controls the body. Prana makes the body active. The moment prana leaves the body, the body gets disintegrated. Everything– all the insects and even atoms, though they are made up of matter, but, there is something other than the matter which makes them active. A vital energy pervades all forms of matter. Bhrigu, therefore, reached to another conclusion:

praano brahmeti vyajaanaat; praanaaddhyeva
khalvimaani bhutaani jaayante...
tapo brahmeti; sa tapo atapyata; sa tapastaptva

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