‘The Self alone is to be meditated upon’ (I. iv. 7); to search after It is to search after everything; and that Self, being dearer than everything else, is to be searched after. The passage, ‘It knew only Itself as, “I am Brahman”’ (I. iv. io), shows that the Self alone is the subject-matter of knowledge. And what is concerned with seeing differences is the subject-matter of ignorance, as indicated in the passage, ‘(He who worships another god thinking), “He is one, and I am another,” does not know’ (Ibid.). ‘It should be realised in one form only’ (IV. iv. 20), ‘He goes from death to death who sees difference, as it were, in It’ (IV, iv. 19; Ka. IV. 10)—in such passages as these all the Upaniṣads differentiate the subject-matter of knowledge from that of ignorance.
Of these the whole subject-matter of ignorance has been explained up to the end of the first chapter, by assigning the differences regarding ends and means to their respective places. And that entire subject-matter of ignorance which has been so explained is of two kinds: Internally it is the vital force, the sustainer and illuminer, and immortal—comparable to the posts etc. of a house. Externally it is denoted by the word ‘truth,’ which is an effect, non-luminous, subject to birth and death, and mortal—corresponding to the straw, Kuśa grass and earth in a house. ‘By that is the vital force (denoted by the word ‘immortality’) covered’—thus it has been concluded. And that same vital force has various ramifications according to the different external media through which it manifests itself. It is said that the vital force is one god. Its one common external body, with the sun etc. as its different parts, is variously designated by such terms denoting the body as Virāj, Vaiśvānara, the self of a human form, Prajāpati, Ka and Hiraṇyagarbha. To think that Brahman, one and manifold, is this much only, that there is nothing more than this, and that he is completely limited by each body, conscious, the agent and experíencer, has obvious reference to the subject-matter of ignorance. A Brāhmaṇa named Gārgya who has accepted this (conditioned) Brahman as his self, is put forward as the speaker; while Ajāta-śatru, who believes in the opposite kind of Brahman as his self, is the listener.
This method is adopted because if a subject is presented in the form of a story comprising a prima facie view and a conclusion, it is easily understood by the listener. If, on the contrary, it is presented only through sentences that convey the bare meaning, as in the case of logic, it is very difficult to understand, because the truth is highly abstruse. As has been elaborately shown in the Kaṭha Upaniṣad, in such passages as, ‘That which is rare for many even to hear of,’ etc. (II. 7), that Brahman is intelligible only to a highly purified divine intellect and unintelligible to an ordinary intellect. So also in the Chhāndogya Upaniṣad, ‘He only knows who has got a teacher’ (VI. xiv. 2), and ‘Knowledge received from the teacher alone (is best)’ (Ch. IV. ix. 3). And in the Gitā, ‘Sages who have realised the truth will instruct you in knowledge’ (IV. 34). Here too the great abstruseness of Brahman will be set forth in elaborate detail in the conversation between Sākalya and Yājñavalkya. Hence the attempt to present the truth in the form of a story comprising a prima facie view and a conclusion is quite reasonable.
Moreover, the story is meant to teach rules of conduct. If the teacher and the student be such and such, then the import underlying the story is understood. The story also forbids the use of mere argumentation, as given out in the following Śruti and Śmṛti passages, ‘This understanding is not to be attained through argument’ (Ka. II. 9), and ‘To one who has been burnt by logic-chopping (this instruction is) not (to be given)’ (Mbh. XII. cclii. 18). That faith is a great factor in the realisation of Brahman is another implication of the story, because in the story Gārgya and Ajātaśatru are seen to have great faith. ‘One who has faith attains knowledge,’ also says the Smṛti (G. IV. 39).
ॐ । दृप्तबालाकिर्हानूचानो गार्ग्य आस, स होवाचाजातशत्रुं काश्यम्, ब्रह्म ते ब्रवाणीति; स होवाचाजातशत्रुः, सहस्रमेतस्यां वाचि दद्मः, जनको जनक इति वै जना धावन्तीति ॥ १ ॥
oṃ | dṛptabālākirhānūcāno gārgya āsa, sa hovācājātaśatruṃ kāśyam, brahma te bravāṇīti; sa hovācājātaśatruḥ, sahasrametasyāṃ vāci dadmaḥ, janako janaka iti vai janā dhāvantīti || 1 ||
1. Om. There was a man of the Garga family called Proud Bālāki, who was a speaker. He said to Ajātaśatru, the King of Benares, ‘I will tell you about Brahman.’ Ajātaśatru said, ‘For this proposal I give you a thousand (cows). People indeed rush saying, “Janaka, Janaka.” (I too have some of his qualities.)’
There was at some past date a man holding the prīma facie view and knowing only the conditioned Brahman which is the subject-matter of ignorance, of the Garga family, descended from Garga, called Proud Bālāki. ‘Proud,’ because of his very ignorance about the real Brahman. ‘Bālāki’—the son of Balākā. The particle ‘ha’ refers to tradition as set forth in the story. Who was a speaker, one skilled in expounding, eloquent. He said to Ajātaśatru, the King of Benares, after approaching him, ‘I will tell you about Brahman,’ Thus accosted, Ajātaśatru said, ‘For this proposal that you have made to me I give you a thousand cows.’ The idea is, that little statement is the reason for the gift of a thousand cows. Why is the instruction about Brahman itself not made the reason for this gift, instead of the mere proposal about it? Because the Śruti itself sets forth the King’s intention. The two sentences, ‘Janaka is benevolent,’ and ‘Janaka loves to hear,’ have been condensed into the two words ‘Janaka, Janaka.’ Indeed signifies a well-known fact. The King means: Janaka is benevolent, and he likes to hear about Brahman; so people who want tc hear or speak about Brahman or want some present rush to him. Therefore (by your proposal) you have given me too a chance to demonstrate all those qualities.