Let us now reflect a little upon its meaning.
tasmādomityudāhṛtya yajñadānatapaḥkriyāḥ |
pravartante vidhānoktāḥ satatam brahmavādinām ||
"The votaries of Brahma perform yajña, dāna and tapas after uttering Om".
We have discussed the meaning of Om in the eighth chapter under "Omityekākṣaraṃ Brahma." Om has three constituent units of a + u + m. When considered separately, they can be construed as representing either the trinity of Brahma-Viṣṇu-Maheśvara or the triad of sattva-rājas-tāmas or the waking-dream-sleep states or earth-atmosphere-sky or svarga-martya-pātāla or energy-water-food or masculine-feminine-neuter genders or day-night-twilight, thereby bringing to mind all the aspects and qualities of the universe organised into triads. With Om - that is the culmination of the three units - we can not only bring the world to mind but also that which is beyond the world. Thus Om is a complete and all-encompassing symbol of the worldly and supra-worldly, the expressed and unexpressed energies, as well as the visible and invisible aspects of truth.
tadity-anabhisandhāya phalaṃ yajña-tapaḥ-kriyāḥ |
dāna-kriyāśca vividhāḥ kriyante mokṣa-kāṅkṣibhiḥ ||
"After uttering the syllable tat, those desirous of mokṣa perform yajña, dāna and tapas without wanting anything else."
Tat refers to "that" or "it" in English. We use "it" and "that" to refer to something familiar. For example - "That man" or "at that time". Though Brahma is well-known, it is not directly perceived. Hence, the use of the word tat is appropriate here. There is yet another interesting reason. Any object that has no established name or whose nature is unexplainable by human language is also referred to by "that". In traditional families, a wife did not address her husband by name, choosing instead to address him by words such as avaru. The husband too would not call his wife by name and would use the words - "she" or "her". Similarly, it is an established tradition that the knowers of Brahma use the word tat to refer to Brahma.
Tattva can be resolved as tat+tva - "a thing being itself." The state of an object devoid of all its external attributes like its form or colours, its activities - as just itself - unrelated to anything other than itself, without any other adjuncts is tat+tva. Brahma is such.
sadbhāve sādhubhāve ca sat+ityetat prayujyate
praśaste karmaṇi tathā sat+śabdaḥ pārtha yujyate৷৷
yajñe tapasi dāne ca sthitiḥ sat+iti cocyate.
karma caiva tadarthīyaṃsat+ityevābhidhīyate৷
The word sat has two meanings.
1. Sat is that something that has eternal existence. Sat is existence - in one state for all time. That indeed is the truth. Supreme Brahma is the supreme truth - satyasya satyam - the truth of the truth.
2. Whatever is fit or good is also denoted by sat. For example, sat+jana, sat+karma etc.,. This second meaning comes from the first. It is the truth that is good. Untruth cannot be good. Only whatever is eternal is good; not transient objects. Paramātmā is the truth, and eternal. Hence any action or object or event related to him is good and is the most excellent. Whatever takes us towards the truth, whatever gets us divine grace is sat. That is the absolute good. All auspiciousness and good come to us from that truth. Brahma is the repository of all auspiciousness, it is the source of all that is good. Therefore, the worship of Brahma is sat+karma.
The word sat thus indicates eternal existence as well as something that is good and right. Any worthy endeavour deserves the prefix sat as well. Therefore all actions of yajna, dāna and tapas offered to Bhagavān befit the prefix sat.
It is instructive to examine the similarities between the Saṃskṛta word sat and the Kannada word uḻ. In Kannada, the word uḻ refers to something “that is”, from which is derived the word uṇṭu (present). The Kannada word for good - oḻḻeyadu - also comes from the root uḻ. Whatever is related to or can take us closer to the ever present (uṇṭu), is also good (oḻ, oḻḻeyadu).
Thus the word "Om tat sat" is worthy of reverence from all perspectives. It designates the entire universe, all the devatās, all the jīvas, and in fact everything! Therefore these three words are used to reference any devatā or dharma. The meaning of this word-triad declares that it is a happy obligation for anyone devoted to truth to have śraddhā in it. Śraddhā in such a great mantra is life-redeeming.
Placing śraddhā in any one object ensures an easier path towards progress. Whatever is done without śraddhā is waste, for without it, there is neither worldly nor other worldly achievement.
A collection of Kannada verses in the sāṅgatya metre
ನಿತ್ಯಾಭ್ಯಾಸದೆ ಮಿಶ್ರಸತ್ತ್ವಾಂಶದಿಂ ಶುದ್ಧ-
ಸತ್ತ್ವಕ್ಕೇರಲು ಅದು ಮುಕ್ತಿ ।।
nityābhyāsadè miśrasattvāṃśadiṃ śuddha-
sattvakkeralu adu mukti ।।
Knowing that the imbalance of sattva, rājas and tāmas
impedes the jīva’s progress towards well-being,
ascending to pure sattva from mixed sattva
through constant practice is mukti.
ತ್ರಿಗುಣವ ಮೀರ್ದನು ಜಗವನೆ ಮೀರ್ವನು
ಪ್ರಕೃತಿಗೆ ಸೋಲದನವನು ।
ಪಗೆಯಿಲ್ಲ ದಿಗಿಲಿಲ್ಲ ದುಗುಡವಿಲ್ಲಾತಂಗೆ
triguṇava mīrdanu jagavanè mīrvanu
prakṛtigè soladanavanu ।
pagèyilla digililla duguḍavillātaṃgè
He who crosses the three guņas exceeds the world,
and is undefeated by prakrti.
He has neither enmity nor fear or sorrow, (for)
he sees Bhagavān’s līlā everywhere.
ಉದ್ಧರಿಕುಂ ಶ್ರದ್ಧೆ ಶುದ್ಧಮ್
uddharikuṃ śraddhè śuddham
As is his śraddhā, so is the man;
elevated śraddhā makes him pure.
Meditating on om,tat,sat with śraddhā,
he performs dhārmic activities.
ವಿಶ್ವ-ವಿಶ್ವಾತೀತ ಬ್ರಹ್ಮಂ ।
ತತ್ ಪದಂ ನುಡಿಗೊಳಪಡದ ವಸ್ತುವ ತೋರ್ಪ
ಗುರುತದು ಅದು ತಾನೆ ತತ್ತ್ವಂ ।।
viśva-viśvātīta brahmaṃ ।
tat padaṃ nuḍigoḻa-paḍada vastuva torpa
gurutadu adu tān tattvaṃ ।।
The word Om denotes Brahma that is
beyond the manifest and unmanifest,
the moving and unmoving, and is the world as well as that beyond it.
The word tat is the symbol that shows
the principle beyond words and is itself the principle.
ಸತ್ ಪದಂ ಸತ್ಯಮನಂತಮವಿಕ್ರಿಯ-
ಈ ತ್ರಿಪದಾರ್ಥದ ಸ್ವಾನುಭೂತಿಯನ್ ಎಲ್ಲ
ಕರ್ತವ್ಯವೆಸಪುದೆ ಸತ್ತ್ವಂ ।।
sat padaṃ satyam-anantama-vikriya-
ī tripadārthada svānubhūtiyan ಎlla
kartavyavsapudè sattvaṃ ।।
The word sat denotes the truth that is infinite,
eternal, non-dual and is the self of all.
It is sattva is that gives the experience
of the meaning of these three words.
ಶ್ರದ್ಧೆ ಬುದ್ಧಿಗೆ ಸ್ಫೂರ್ತಿ ಬುದ್ಧಿ ಶ್ರದ್ಧೆಗೆ ಶಕ್ತಿ
ಶ್ರದ್ಧಾಬುದ್ಧ್ಯೈಕ್ಯದೆ ಸಿದ್ಧಿ ।।
śraddhè buddhigè sphūrti buddhi śraddhgè śakti
śraddhābuddhyaikyadè siddhi ।।
In sāttvika-śraddhā is the elevation of the jīva,
rājas and tāmas take him down.
Śraddhā inspires buddhi; buddhi powers Śraddhā.
In their unity lies siddhi.
ಸಂತತಮಿರ್ಪವನ ಯಜ್ಞದಾನತಪಂಗಳ್ ।
ಸಂತಸವಂ ಕುಡುವುವಿಂತು ಸಪ್ತದಶಾಂಶಮ್ ।।
santatam-irpavana yajña-dāna-tapaṃgaḻ ।
santasavaṃ kuḍuvuviṃtu saptadaśāṃśam ।।
Recalling “Om tat sat” always
During yajña, dāna and tapas
Gives clarity, bliss and strength to one’s manas.
The seventeenth chapter goes thus.
ಕ್ಷಣೋಪಾಯಮಂ ಯೋಗ್ಯತಾಮಾನಮಂ ತಾ-।
ನಂತಸ್ವತಃಪ್ರಜ್ಞೆಯಿಂ ಕಂಡು ಜೀವ-
ಕ್ಕನುಗ್ರಾಹಿಯಪ್ಪಂ ಸದಾ ವಾಸುದೇವಂ ।।
kṣaṇopāyamaṃ yogyatā-mānamaṃ tā-।
nantas-ssvataḥ-prajñèyiṃ kaṃḍu jīva-
kkanugrāhiy-appaṃ sadā vāsudevaṃ ।।
Seeing the ups and downs in man’s manas,
the means to remedy them, and a measure of fitness,
through his inner wisdom, Vāsudeva,
ever bestows his blessings on the jīva.
|| iti śam ||
cidānandākāraṃ jalada-ruci-sāraṃ śruti-girāṃ
vraja-strīṇāṃ hāraṃ bhava-jaladhi-pāraṃ kṛta-dhiyāṃ ॥
vihantuṃ bhūbhāraṃ viddhad-avatāraṃ muhur-aho ।
maho vāraṃ vāraṃ bhajata kuśalāraṃbha-kṛtinaḥ ॥
The one of the form of supreme bliss,
A dark cloud raining words of śruti,
Adorning the necks of the gopa-strīs
The ferryman of saṃsāra for the steady of heart
Him, taking various forms now and again
To rid the Earth of her burdens great
To him you should pray, again and again
The great one, when you start at a new beginning.
To be continued...
The present series is a modern English translation of DVG’s Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award-winning work, Bhagavad-gītā-tātparya or Jīvana-dharma-yoga. The translators wish to express their thanks to Śatāvadhāni R Ganesh for his valuable feedback and to Hari Ravikumar for his astute edits.