Biographies | Rishi
Yaagyavalkya-9: What is Taittireeya
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Taking this opportunity to bring forth the deeper meaning behind this legend: Almost every one who are in the study of Ved would know the legend of ‘Tittiree’.
A name in the Vaidik tradition is not merely an identifier; it reveals the contents and power of the object or entity it denotes. This statement is especially true for the names of Ved and Upanishad too. There is an understandable curiosity about the meaning of the word Taittireeya which indicates something connected with Tittiree bird. Clearly there was a Rishi with the name Tittiree who was a disciple of Vaishampaayan. But what is Tittiree? Rendering sacred words in Ved such as Hans as a goose, Param-hans as the supreme goose and Tittiree as a partridge may satisfy the belligerent pedantry of some scholars. Persons who revere the Ved must seek the deeper ( Paroksh or hidden) meaning of the words while studying the texts.
To understand the meaning of the words in Ved, we have to seek the Ved itself, not secondary sources like Puraaņ. The word Tittiree is mentioned along with a legend in TS (2.5.1) (Taittireeya Sanhitaa), whose text and translation appear in the Part III of this book. The word also occurs in Rig Ved (1.36.7). A paraphrase of the legend in TS (2.5.1) is as follows: Twashtaa is the divine architect who creates a variety of forms both according to RV and TS (2.6.10). His son or creation, Vishwaroop (All-form) had three heads; with one head he imbibed Som Ras, the delight of existence; with the second he drank Suraa, the liquor; and with the third head he ate food (Anna). Indra realizing the dangers of Vishwaroop becoming all-powerful separated his three heads. The head, which imbibed Som Ras, became Kapinjal; that which drank Suraa became Kalavingka; and that which ate food became Tittiree.
The text mentions only these names and does not specify that they are birds, means rays of spiritual Sun, (Ka+Pin+Jal = Ka means who; Pin means drinks and Jal means waters); it is synonym of the Chaatak bird which drinks the waters coming directly from the sky before it touches the earth. Kalavingka means (Ka means who; La means destroys; and Vingka means the knowing). To understand Tittiree, note that it occurs in RV (1.36.7) as Titir-vansh. Sri Kapaai Saastry in his Rig Ved Bhaashya translates it as “that which overcomes the foes (such as ignorance)." He gives the Paaninian derivation:
tarate tiratervaa litti kwasuh, anyat sarvam chaandasam.
Now the symbolism behind the legend is easy to understand. The three heads correspond to the three types of beings namely - gods or Dev; demons like Vratraand; and finally humans. The gods made of Light enjoy the Delight or Som; the demons like liquor; humans depend on food. Indra the Lord of Divine Mind foresees that if this All-form (Vishwaroop) should become all-powerful, the demonic head would become all powerful. Hence he separates the three heads even in their formative stages. The form which came from the gods merged or became the rays of spiritual Sun (Kapinjal); the demonic form rejoined the forces of ignorance which hide the knowledge and energies from the humans.
Recall that Tittiree is said to come from the head which eats Anna, ie it represents human beings. Thus Tittiree symbolizes the forces or beings which help human beings in getting the knowledge which overcomes the psychological foes such as ignorance and falsehood. This title gives an excellent clue to the contents of Taittireeya Sanhitaa.
Another important contribution of the legend quoted above is that it makes a clear distinction between the intoxicating liquid (Suraa) and the non-physical delight of existence (Som Ras). Even if we interpret Som as a creeper, there is no mention of the intoxication properties of all the 24 varieties of Som creeper according to classical Aayurvedik texts like Charak Sanhitaa. RV (10.85.3) states clearly that no one can drink that which the wise call Som.
Let us understand the titles of the other rescensions of Yajur Ved. Kapishthal means that whose source is in the Spiritual Sun. Maitraayanee - (Maitra means friendship and Aayanee means vehicle) so Maitraayanee is the vehicle for attaining harmony and friendship. Vaajsaneya Sanhitaa (VS), a rescension of Shukla Yajur Ved, means the conquering (Sana) of the opulence or plenitude (Vaaj).
The Braahman, Aaranyak and Upanishad of the Rig Ved, Aitareya, is derived from Itara which means progressing from here (Ita means here) to the superior psychological planes (ra means movement).
Yaagyavalkya hails supreme among sages of sacred memory. As to his obtaining the Shukla Yajurveda Samhita from Bhagavan Surya, there is the following history.
Yaagyavalkya was the son of the sister of Vaishampaayan Jee, the Vedaacharya of the Taittireeya section of Yajur Ved. He was studying the Taittireeya Sanhitaa from Vaishampaayan Jee who was also his Guru. Vaishampaayan Jee had many other disciples too and they all were students of the Taittireeya Shaakhaa of Yajur Ved.
Once all the Rishi decided to form an association near the Meru mountain and made a rule that any Rishi who absented himself at the appointed hour should incur the sin of Brahm Hatyaa (the sin of killing a Braahman) for seven days. On that appointed day fell the Shraaddha ceremony of Vaishampaayan Jee's father. Vaishampaayan Jee thought, "Somehow I have to perform my father's ceremony. If the sin of Brahm Hatyaa comes to me, my disciples will observe the expiatory penance for me." So Vaishampaayan Jee did not attend the meeting of the Rishi. And accordingly he incurred the sin of Brahm Hatyaa.
Then Vaishampaayan Jee said to his disciples - "Now I have to expiate this great sin of Brahm Hatyaa. Therefore, you all will observe, for my sake, an expiatory penance for seven days." Yaagyavalkya stood up at once and said - "O Guru, All these are poor-spirited young students. They will not be able to undergo such a hard penance. So, instead of all, I myself alone shall observe it in the manner in which nobody else can." Vaishampayana told Yaagyavalkya not to undertake it alone but Yaagyavalkya persisted. The preceptor was offended at this audacious attitude of the disciple and said - "O proud one, you are very conceited. You get away from me. Enough of you who is disposed to despise wise Braahman. Give back to me immediately whatever you have learnt from me."
Upon the order of the Guru, Yaagyavalkya, the son of Devaraat, vomited out the collection of the Yajus in the form of burning coals. The other disciples ate those burning coals taking the form of the Tittiree birds, because they were very eager to receive that knowledge. They then had the direct revelation of those Yajur Ved collections. As the Tittiree birds ate this Ved, it is thenceforth called the Taittireeya Yajur Ved. It is also known as Krishn (black) Yajur Ved on account of its being vomited substance.
After that Yaagyavalkya determined not to have any human Guru thereafter, so he began to propitiate the Sun-God, Soorya Dev. Yaagyavalkya worshipped and extolled the Sun, the master of the Ved, for the purpose of acquiring the fresh Vaidik portions not only known to his preceptor, Vaishampaayan, but to anyone in the world.
Yaagyavalkya said - "Prostration to the glorious Aaditya, who in the form of the Aatmaa, abides in all beings. I bow to Him who surrounds all like Aakaash, who is one and not separated or distanced by limiting conditions. O Great God, O Creator, I contemplate upon that glowing sphere which lights and warms the whole world. O God who burns all miseries wrought by unrighteous activities, who burns ignorance which is the seed of activity! O Lord, I worship Thy lotus-like feet praised and worshipped by the rulers of the three worlds. Give me those portions of the Ved which are not known to others."
The Sun-God, the glorious Lord Hari, pleased with Yaagyavalkya's penance, assumed the form of a horse and taught the sage such fresh portions of the Yajur Ved as were not known to any other. This portion of the Yajur Ved goes by the name of Shukla Yajur Ved. It is also known as Vaajsaneya Yajur Ved, because it was evolved in great rapidity by Soorya in the form of a horse through his manes. Yaagyavalkya divided this Vaajsaneya Yajurveda again into fifteen branches, each branch comprising hundreds of Yaju's Mantra. Maharshi Kanva, Madhyaandin and others learnt those branches.
In a sacrifice performed by King Janak, there was an exchange of words between Yaagyavalkya and Vaishampaayan Jee. But on hearing that Yaagyavalkya had obtained a fresh Ved from the Sun God, Vaishampaayan Jee was much pleased and he requested Yaagyavalkya to teach that Ved to his own disciples also. Yaagyavalkya consented and taught his Shukla Yajur Ved to the disciples of Vaishampaayan Jee.
Created by Sushma Gupta on 5/27/03
Updated on 03/07/14