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The Upanisads present an integral view of the world and life. The
universe with all its diversities is not, in reality, different from Brahman.
The five elements come out of Brahman which is not only transcendent
but also immanent in the world. In fact, both these manners of conceiving
Brahman are found in the Upanisads. Transcendence and immanence are
but two views of the same Reality. The negative method, the method of
neti neti (not this, not this) is not in opposition to the all-inclusive view of
Brahman, since both are equally upheld by the sages of the Upanisads.
While in maitreyi brahmana of BU (BU, 2.4 and BU, 4-5) the former
method is emphasised, madhu brahmana (B.U., 2.5) gives stress on the
all-inclusive vision. While the former method seeks to prove that this
world of difference and diversities are nothing but illusory which has its
basis, the one unconditioned Reality, Brahman, the latter method seeks to
comprehend the world of diversities as the manifestation of the one
Reality. For the upholders of the former view the world is the vivarta of
its Real ground, while for the upholders of the latter view it is the
unmesa, unfolding or manifestation.
Advaita Vedanta as interpreted by Sankara and his followers is the
final point of extension of the former view, where as the ultimate result of
the latter view is the latter Tantric Philosophy, especially the Pratya-
bhijha school1 of Kashmir. Both these trends as they are seen in the
Upanisads and also both the latter schools mentioned above, have
Advaita as their ultimate view, only the methods of approach have been
different. Madhu vidya is a sort of vision that perceives the intimate
connection between the subjective and the objective as well as their basic

unity, their essential oneness. It is a sort of perception as well as a form of
meditation which makes us awake to the mystic honey, the secret
knowledge that has been handed down to us from the early Vedic
According to Sankara, this section is only the re-affirmation of the
statement All this is but the Self (C.U.7, 25,2). This statement is the
pratijna (the first statement of Indian syllogism) which is supported by
this present chapter which supplies arguments (tarka) for its
establishment. Since, the whole universe has its origin, existence, and
dissolution in the Self, it is all but the Self. All the things of the world are
mutually cause and effect to each other, so they are, because of their
mutual helpfulness, the effect of one cause, existent in one and have their
origin and dissolution in the same one Reality.

Bhartrprapanca, another commentator previous to Sankara, whose

view Sankara refers to in his commentaiy, is of opinion that the text
which precedes the illustration of the drum (dundubhi) (BU, 2.4.7) is
meant for sravana (hearing), that prior to madhu brahmana is for manana
(reflection) and this present chapter, viz., madhu brahmana is meant for
meditation. While Sankara rejects the separate enjoining of meditation he
agrees on this point that this present brahmana is the conclusion of the
first two chapters of the Upanisad. Thus, madhu vidya sums up the entire
subjects discussed in the madhu kanda which consists of the first two
chapters of the Brhadaranyaka.

A Plenary Vision :

Ordinary empirical knowledge grasps everything in fragments. It

cannot perceive the underlying unity of all. We grasp the objects such as
ghata (a pot), pata (a cloth), etc. as disconnected from each other. Even

though sometimes, through rationalisation, we may perceive the things in
their mutual connection or relationship such as cause and effect, etc, we
cannot grasp them as the manifestation of one basic principle. Though
discursive reasoning tends us to perceive the objects with their mutual
connections, it cannot grasp the all-pervasive connection underlying all
the objects of the world. But to explain the cosmos, the cosmic order of
the things of the world, it is necessary to posit such a link, without which
the things of the world would have been a mass of confusion. Even
though such a link is indispensable it is not possible to grasp it either
through sense-experience or through reasoning. Though metaphysical
speculation postulates such a link, it is therein more or less a possibility.

But the seers of the Upanisads had discovered and perfected a

method through which they could comprehend this cosmic link directly.
This plenary vision, this trans-empirical and trans-rational knowledge of
the all-pervasive Reality, is madhu-vidya. The purpose of the world is the
attainment of the Self, the honey {madhu) as it is depicted here. Thus, it
presents a teleological view of the world. This madhu, the essence and the
fulfillment of all, is not only inherent in all, it is itself everything, both the
inner and the outer, thus, transcending all differences.

This earth is indeed honey of all beings, and all beings are the
honey of this earth. The shining immortal being that is in this earth and
the shining immortal being who is in this body are the same. This is that
which the Self is. This is immortal, this is Brahman and this is all.4

This is the first passage of the madhu brahmana. Here the earth is
described as the honey of all beings and all beings are said to be the
honey of earth. The word honey is taken as a symbol. It stands for
something which is attained through much labour. As the honeybees

collect honey from hundreds of flowers and deposit there in one place,
likewise through a laborious process of activity something is achieved or
built up. The sweetness of honey shows that the achievement of the
process, the much besought fruit of labour is as sweet as honey. Therefore
honey stands for any final achievement, an effect of a long and
laborious endeavour, which is relishing as well as an accomplishment.

In the lines referred to above, the earth (earth as an element or as

the Earth) is said to be the honey, achieved or made by all the beings
either living in it or connected with it. Why it is their honey? For the
enjoyment of their action, for the fruition of their karma, the earth is
created. So, it is the result or the effect of all beings concerned with it. All
the beings, on the other hand who live in it are created by the earth since
their physical being, their so-called body is nothing more than ail effect of
the earth.

After showing the parallelism, the unity between the physical being
of the individual and the earth, the Upanisad proceeds on to the subtler
level of this relation. Beyond the Physical or the gross level there exists a
subtle level. Even the gross earth is not bereft of the Inner Light. The
Vedic and the Upanisadic worldview does not conceive anything as bereft
of consciousness which not only animates all but is the ground and the
essence of all the things both living and non-living. The non-living things
seem to be inert and devoid of consciousness as life has not manifest in
them, even though the same life-spirit is latent in them.

The seer of the BU goes on to point to the oneness of the radiant

beings which are present inside both the earth and the individual made of
earth. The radiant and immortal being that animates the body of the
individual is essentially one with the radiant being that remains latent in

the earth. Then in a third level of synthesis, both these are identified with
the Self, the principle of immortality, Brahman, that has manifested as all
the world. Parallelism between the individual and the universal, their
unification in another higher level and finding the connectedness of all
the apparently fragmentary things is the basic method of exposition
adopted in the Upanisads. Sankaras argument regarding the mutual
dependence of all the things of the world and their final identification is
worth-noting : Because there is mutual helpfulness among the parts of
the universe beginning with the earth, and because it is noticed from
common experience that those things which are mutually helpful come
out of the same cause, belong to the same unity and dissolve into the
same cause, therefore this universe consisting of the earth and others, on
account of this mutual helpfulness, must be like their first cause.5

Thus, the four principles, the earth, the individual body made up of
earth, the radiant being, the adhidevata of the earth, the inner principle,
the radiant being which means consciousness that animates the body and
the Cosmic Consciousness termed as atman or Brahman are essentially
one. The mutual causal relation, the inter connectedness of the things
make it clear that the entire universe is a system, an organic whole,
animated and sustained by the same principle, the Reality of all life and

Then the Upanisad proceeds on, describing this mutual cause-

effect relationship among other things of the universe in other levels.
Thus, water which is said to be the honey of all beings, all beings
which are the honey of water and the radiant being latent in water and
that who pervades the liquid part of the bodies of all beings are one.
Finally these four are nothing but the Self, Brahman, manifested as
everything is the world. ..

Likewise, fire which is the honey of all and all beings which are
the honey of fire are one. In the individual level, the radiant and
immortal being pervading vak (speech is described as the counterpart of
fire in the individual level) and the radiant deity, adhidevata in fire are
one. Finally these two are one, so all these four are nothing but one with
the ultimate principle, Brahman.

Thus, air, the sun, the moon, lightning, clouds, etc, are described as
the honey, the sweet product of the individuals viewed as physical
bodies, and inversely the individuals (their bodies, both gross and subtle)
are said to be the honey, the sweet product of the cosmic elements and
forces depicted earlier.6 Thus the psycho-physiological beings dwelling
inside the cosmos are said to be the product or creation of the cosmic
counter-parts and vice versa, since the cosmic counterparts are not also
independently existent apart from the individual beings. So they are each
others mutual product, relative to each other for their existence and their
accomplishment. It is noteworthy that the Upanisadic worldview supports
a teleological explanation of the cosmic process. Underlying everything a
purpose tends to manifest. It is the forerunner of the modem scientific
theory that everything in the universe is connected to every other thing
how much remote they may be. The Upanisadic theory holds that not
only the individuals are the product of the cosmic elements and forces
they, in turn, are the product of the individuals, since, they are created by
the combined latent karmas of all beings for their enjoyment. Had there
been no karma of the individuals, there would be no world. The world is
not really a congregation; it is a system with a purpose working inherent
in it.

It is noteworthy that madhu vidya not only shows the

complementarity and the interdependence of all the individuals and the
world outside, it also intends to make us aware of a deeper truth, the
inlaying identity of all the fragments of the universe. Thus, after showing
the mutual dependence and relative existence of the gross and manifest
realm, it points to the inner realities of the things unperceived so far by
sense-experience or discursive reasoning. It shows that in every elemental
force of nature there remains hidden an inner and immortal being that
sustains and controls its nature. Likewise, in the individual counterpart,
the gross and subtle bodies are also controlled by an inner principle which
is radiant and immortal. Both the objective and subjective counterparts
are thus controlled by a supreme force, which makes them compatible to
each other. This supreme force is, on the other hand, no other than the
Absolute, the all-pervasive Consciousness that is termed as atman from
the individual point of view and Brahman from the cosmic stand point.
The BU is emphatic in all these passages in declaring this identity -
Whatever is the radiant immortal being in the universe and the radiant
immortal being in the individual, it is but one and identical.7

It is to be noted that the three levels of realities in the Upanisadic

framework is a fundamental scheme of interpretation found in the
Upanisads. The first is the reality of the individual side, his psycho-
physiological being, consisting of the body, mind, vital air and the senses,
termed as the bodies (gross, subtle and causal) of him. It is known as the
adhyatma or pertaining to the psycho-physiological individual. The
second is the adhibhautika, pertaining to the cosmic elements and the
forces, such as the earth, water, fire, air, the sun, the sky, etc, which make
the activities of the senses, mind and limbs of the individual beings
possible. Thus, without the light from the sun the eyes cannot see; so it is
the complementary cosmic counterpart of the eye. Without air from
outside the breathing activity in the individual is impossible, so it is said

to be the cosmic counterpart of breath. Here, the sun, air, etc, are the
adhibhautika aspect of the 2dhydtmika eye, breath, etc. in the individuals.
Apart from these two there is the adhidaivika aspect, the inner controlling
spiritual forces of the apparently inert elemental principles and forces.
They are termed as gods in the Vedic and Upanisadic texts. According to
this, nothing in the world is bereft of some conscious controlling force.
The earth, the waters, the sun, etc, are not inert forces of nature, they are
also presided by radiant living forces termed as gods, who on the other
hand, are the manifestation of the Supreme Consciousness termed as God
from the saguna aspect of view. This vision of the universe as manifest in
three aspects, viz.adhyatmika, adhibhautika and adhidaivika, mutually
creating and fulfilling each other, is well depicted by Suresvara in his
Vartika - The entire universe consisting of the adhyatma, adhidaiva and
adhibhuta (in its infinite proliferations) exists as for each others
enjoyment, wherein everybody or everything is the effect of every other
being and everybody is the enjoyer of everything other, this is, thus,
established, as has been stated earlier.8

Madhu Vidya : The Mystic Honey :

Madhu vidya, is thus the all-pervasive vision of honey in all things

and all things as non-different from the all-inclusive Reality, the Self.
What is viewed from the individual point as the essence of all selves is
the Self, which is the same as Brahman, the Absolute. From, the
humanistic stand point, as cast in the vision of a relationship, it is God,
the Ruler of the universe, as Brahman is described as sarvesam bhiitdnam
adhipati, sarvesam bhutanam raja in this passage in madhu vidya in BU.
But the vision culminates in a higher consciousness, a perception of a
higher order where the entire universe is seen as contained within a vast
unbound reality. This is the description of the wheel: Just as the spokes

are fixed in the nave and rim of a chariot-wheel, so are all things, all
gods, all worlds, all vital forces and all individual beings fixed in the Self

Commenting on this passage, Sankara says: The import of the

scriptures has been indicated briefly for which the chapter began. An
example is being given as to how on this knower who is the Self of all
and has realized this truth, the whole universe rests; this is famous in the
example where the spokes are fixed within the nave and the rim of a
wheel........It has been stated that Vamadeva (BU, 1.4.10) who was the
knower of Brahman realised that he had been Manu and the sun earlier.
This identification with all is thus explained.10 It is to be noted that this
line refers to the famous mantra of RV ascribed to the sage Vamadeva
quoted in the BU.

It is to be borne in mind that the example of the wheel is given to

show that as the spokes of a wheel cannot be operative or exist as such
without being fixed in the nave inside and in the rim outside of a wheel,
likewise the entire ranges of the things and beings of the universe cannot
exist outside of this Cosmic Self. The Self is both the inner and the outer
support as the nave and the rim of a wheel. Actually there is nothing
outside or inside in the Reality as the empirical conception of space and
time does not hold good there. It is only given as an example. If at all
anything exists inside and outside, it is nothing but the all-pervasive Self,
which supports the entire universe as the inner and the outer basis of all.

It is to be noted that the linear, circular or the spherical conceptions

of space which influence our perception of the universe are variously
conceived and held by the scientists and the philosophers. We cannot say
which one among them is the correct one. Some thinkers are even

presenting a holographic conception of the universe, according to which
the world appear to be different from different angles of vision. The
Advaita Vedanta view of space is not confined to any special conception,
as according it, space and time are nothing but false appearances, which
can present themselves in myriad forms and conceptions. Since, the
ultimate Reality is beyond all conceptions, beyond space and time, such
examples are only given to make one understand the basic truth.

This all-encompassing vision is termed as madhu-vidya, the vision


of the mystic honey, where not only the things are conceived as honey,
the mutual products and fulfillments for each other, the Self is also
grasped as the sweetest of all, since it is the ultimate honey, the Bliss
or Ananda that fulfills all seeking, endeavours and knowledge.

Madhu Vidya and Asvins :

Madhu vidya is closely associated with Asvins, the twin gods of

healing and illumination and alludes to the Vedic anecdote how they got
the secret knowledge from the sage Dadhyanc Atharvana. Madhu vidya
which has a gross meaning as well as a subtle meaning is depicted as a
great secret, which was diligently guarded by Indra lest anybody gets the
secret. The BU alludes to the Vedic upakhyana by quoting a mantra from
RV (1.116.12): This is indeed that honey (the sweet secret knowledge)
that Dadhync Atharvana spoke to Asvins. Perceiving this the seer said O.
Asvins in human form, that terrible deed you committed, I am disclosing
as a cloud does rain; it is the honey (the secret knowledge) which
Dadhyanc instructed you with the head of a horse.11

The next mantra quoted from the RV (1.117.22) runs like this : O
Asvins, you set head of a horse on Dadhyanc Atharvana - keeping his
words he taught you the honey {madhu vidya Pertaining to the sacrifice)
concerning Tvasta and also that (madhu vidya, the esoteric knowledge)
which was to be kept in secrecy.12 it is to be noted that the first honey
is the gross one and the second one is the esoteric vidya dealt with in the
Upanisad. The first is termed as tvastra, concerned with tvasta,, the god
of light, colour and forms, and the second is termed as kaksya, to be kept
in secrecy.
In the previous chapters of Satapatha Brahmana where the
pravargya karma is described this madhu vidya of the gross form was
depicted. So Sankara says that there in the previous chapters the secret
vidya was indicated but not explained in details, where as in this portion
of BU it is explicitly dealt with.13

The story runs like this. The secret knowledge of honey was
guarded by Indra with great efforts. The seer Dadhyanc knew the secrets.
'But Indra had warned him not to disclose it to anybody. Otherwise he
would cut the seers head. However, the Asvins besought him to instruct
the secrets. Knowing that Indra would cut the head of the sage, they set
the head of a horse on his shoulder and heard him telling the vidya when
Indra, infuriated by this, cut his head, they again joined the original head
in his body. This Vedic episode is referred to in the BU In relation to the
description of madhu vidya.

Tvasta is a Vedic god related to the sun, the moon and fire. He is
known as the revealer of forms (rupa-vikarta), the keeper of the divine
honey. The honey that he guards is nothing other than light that gets
reflected on the moon, which delights the gods and soothes the mortals.
The Brahaddevata thus explains the concept - The one of the thousand
parts of the solar rays that gets reflected on the moon and that which
resides in the earth in fire is the honey (madhu) that rests on tvasta
*> *

it is clear that the gross meaning of honey that rests on tvasta, thus known
as tvastram madhu is nothing other than the solar light that reveals and
delights, being reflected on the moon, and reveals as light in fire oh the
earth. It is well known that the light of the moon is nothing other then the
rays of the sun reflected on its surface, and the energy that gets converted
into fire on earth is the transformation of the solar energy, giving light
and heat on the earth. From the external stand point, it is the cosmic
madhu' that enlivens and sustains life on earth.

The Asvins, the twin gods of healing and light are sometimes
identified with the sun and the moon, the day and the night or the earth
and the heaven.15 Their time is said to be between dawn and sunrise. Thus
they are the forerunners of light. They may be taken as the revealing,
enlivening and healing forces pervading the earth and heaven, the sun and
the moon, the day and night, all that covers the entire world in dual
forms. Their covetousness of light (the cosmic honey) that reveals and
enlivens is well understood from the fact that they are said to precede the
sunrise, the cosmic event of illumination. It is noteworthy that these
natural events were not taken in their face-vaiue by the Vedic seers; they
wanted to penetrate into the mysteiy and beauty of every event or thing
that they confronted. Thus, the gross form of madhu is the cosmic light #
that reveals in the form of the solar rays, got converted also into moon
beams and the energy of fire.
, . ' S'.

Coming to the honey that is contextual to Self-knowledge depicted

in the Upanisads, we see that it is nothing other than the Self, which is
the same as Brahman, the interminable source of bliss and knowledge.
Madhu vidya is the intuitive knowledge of that madhu, which is thus
described in the Upanisad - This is indeed this madhu that Dadhyahc
Atharvana taught Asvins. Perceiving this the sage said: He made
'' 79 '
dwelling (bodies) with two feet and with four feet. That Supreme Being,
the Purusa, assuming the form of a bird, entered'these bodies. He is
called Purusa, as he sleeps (dwells) in all the puras (houses, bodies).
There is nothing not covered by him, nothing not covered by him.16

Madhu vidya concludes with a famous mantra quoted from the RV

(6.47.18) - He assumed one form and the other, thus becoming every
form; Indra (Paramesvara), on account of his mdyas (mysterious

powers, his powers of knowledge or through superimposition as Sankara

explains), is perceived as manifold, for to him are yoked tens and
thousands of horses (infinite senses of the infinite living beings). The
BU explains the cryptic meaning of the mantra - He himself is the
horses (the sense organs). He is verily the tens and the thousands,
many and infinite. This is Brahman, without prior or posterior, without
interior or exterior. This is the Self, Brahman, the perceiver of
everything. This is the (sum of the) teaching of the Upanisads.18

Madhu vidya is the all-inclusive vision of honey a form of


upasana through which one perceives the multitude of things within a

cosmic unity which is pervaded by Madhu, the Bliss and Beauty that
gives meaning and value to all the things of the world.


1. Pratyabhijna-hrdayam, Sutra 2, svecchaya sva-bhittau visvam unmilayati

2. Sankaras introduction to Madhu Brahmana of B.U. (2.5)

3. ibid,

4. ibid, 2.5.1

5. ibid, Sankaras comm. PP. 580-581

6. B.U, 2.5.4-14

7. ibid, 2.5.14

8. B.U.B.V, 2.5 28-29

9. B.U, 2.5.15

10. Sankaras Comm, on B.U. P.597

11. B.U, 2.5.16

R.V. 1, 116.12 quoted in B.U

12. B.U, 2.5.17

R.V, 1.117-22 quoted in B.U

13. Sankaras Comm. B.U, PP 603-604

14. Brhaddevata, 3.17

15. Vaidika Safcitya Aur Samsktfi (Hindi)

Baladev Upadhyaya, PP. 492-493

16. B.U, 2.5.18

17. B.U, 2.5,19, R.V, 6.47.18

18 B.U, 2.5.19