Explanation to Chandogya Upanisad, again

Avinash Sathaye sohum at MS.UKY.EDU
Sat Jul 3 13:05:31 UTC 1999

Toke Lindegaard Knudsen wrote:

> Dear list-members,
> I found one passage in Datta and Singh's History of Hindu
> Mathematics (Part I, page 3-4):
> Skip...
> Narada approached the sage Sanatkumara and
> begged of him the Brahma-vidya or the supreme knowledge.
> Skip...
> 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
> knowledge")."
> 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.
> Skip...
> 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?

      Vidyasankar Sundaresan has already answered partly. Let me quote
from Shankara's commentary:
1. The raashividyaa is simply translated as gaNitam. This, in modern times
is often used as the term for Mathematics in general, but before
systematic development of other branches of mathematics, it was reduced to
Arithmetic - as opposed to geometry!
2. As far as brahmavidyaa is concerned, Shankara says:
brahmaNaH R^ig-yajuH-saamaakhyasya vidyaaM brahmavidyaaM
shixaakalpachchhandashcitayaH |

This roughly means that "brahmas" means the mantras of the three vedas, so
brahmavidyaa is their science, explicitly this is the collection of
shixaa, kalpa, chhanda etc.
Narada goes on to explain that he knows only the meaning of the words, but
does not know aatmaa, or what they describe.  Shankara goes on to
illustrate by an example. You see a big army and  all the royal entourage
and assert "here is the king" even though you don't actually see or know
the king. The detailed discussion is quite interesting and should be read
from the original.

With best regards,
Avinash Sathaye sohum at ms.uky.edu Web Page: www.ms.uky.edu/~sohum

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