Chandogya Upanisad, again

Toke Lindegaard Knudsen tlk at MATH.KU.DK
Fri Jul 2 16:46:57 UTC 1999

Dear list-members,

I found one passage in Datta and Singh's History of Hindu
Mathematics (Part I, page 3-4):

"There is a story in the Chandogya Upanisad whose value in
support of our view cannot be over-estimated.  It is said that once
upon a time Narada approached the sage Sanatkumara and
begged of him the Brahma-vidya or the supreme knowledge.
Sanatkumara asked Narada to state what sciences and arts he
had already studied so that he (Sanatkumara) might judge what
still remained to be learnt by him.  Thereupon Narada enumerated
the various sciences and arts studied by him.  This list included
astronomy (naksatra-vidya) and arithmetic (rasi-vidya).  Thus the
culture of the science of mathematics or of any other branch of
secular knowledge, was not considered to be a hindrance to
spiritual knowledge.  In fact, Apara-vidya ("secular knowledge") was
then considered to be a helpful adjunct to Para-vidya ("spiritual

This passage seems interesting as a follow up on my previous
inquiry about the Chandogya Upanisad.  Here Datta and Singh
translate "rasi" as arithmetic rather than as mathematics as
Olivelle do.  This makes sense.  Also, it is strange that Datta and
Singh write that Narada begged from Sanatkumara "Brahma-vidya"
as this is included in the list of sciences Narada presented (Olivelle
translates it as "science of ritual").  It does not seem to make
sense that Narada would beg from Sanatkumara Brahma-vidya only
to subsequently list this as a science he already learnt.  Can
anyone shed some light on this?

Toke Lindegaard Knudsen

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