Introduction to Gopala Tapani Upanishad

[This was lying around and should have been on-line somewhere. Footnote references were stripped and will have to be added. Also the numbering of references appears to not match with the numbers of the critical edition, which was completed after the writing of the introduction. Babaji has agreed to publish this full translation from Jiva Institute in the near future. Then we will revise this intro a bit.]

Traditionally, there are said to be 108 upaniṣads. This is the number found in the Muktikopaniṣad, but there are numerous other lists and compilations of Upaniṣads, all of which have different contents. In his massive verse index, Upaniṣad-vākya-mahā-kośa, Sadhale has drawn on 223 different extant texts that call themselves by this name. The most important of these works, which have been commented on by Śaṅkara and other Vedāntists and are considered to be the basis of the Vedānta-sūtra of Bādarāyaṇa, are the eleven earliest texts that are connected to Vedic śākhās and carry their names. The Chāndogya is a Sāmaveda Upaniṣad, along with Kena; Aitareya and Kauśitakī belong to Ṛg-veda; the rest of the eleven principal Upaniṣads belong to Yajur. According to Deussen, all the supplementary Upaniṣads claim to be connected to the Atharvan, whose founders are Śaunaka and Pippalāda: ‘…the names of the Atharva Upaniṣads (apart from a few doubtful exceptions, such as Māṇḍūkya, Jābāla, Paiṅgala, etc.) are no longer, as is the case with the Upaniṣads of the three older Vedas, formed on the model of the names of the Śākhās, but are derived partly from the contents and partly from any accidental circumstances.’ These later Upaniṣads “…met with no recognition from the leading theologians of the Vedānta.”

As with most of the late Upaniṣads, the Gopāla-tāpanī is said to be attached to the Atharva-veda. Indeed, the Gauḍīya commentators say it was preserved by the Pippalāda clan, traditional guardians of the Atharva-veda, in Gujarat.

In the Muktikā, the distribution of the upaniṣads between the Ṛk, Śukla-yajus, Kṛṣṇa-yajus, Sāma and Atharvan is rather more complicated. Nevertheless, all four Tāpinī Upaniṣads (Nṛsiṁha, Rāma, Tripurā and Gopāla) are also listed there as belonging to the Atharvan.

Analysts have divided the later Upaniṣads into several categories according to their philosophical tendencies: pure Vedānta, Sannyāsa, Yoga, or sectarian, i.e., Śaiva, Vaiṣṇava or Śākta. It is generally agreed that the Śvetāśvatara is the earliest theistic Upaniṣad and that it is Śaiva in flavor. Of the 108 Upaniṣads commented on by Upaniṣad Brahmayogin, eight are Śākta, fifteen Śaiva, and fourteen Vaiṣṇava. The Vaiṣṇava Upaniṣads are Kṛṣṇopaniṣad, Mahā-nārāyaṇa, Rāma-tāpanī (Pūrva and Uttara), Nṛsiṁha-tāpanī (NTU, Pūrva and Uttara), and Gopāla-tāpanī (GTU, Pūrva and Uttara), Ātma-bodha, Nārāyaṇa, Rāma-rahasya, Vāsudeva, Hayagrīva, Kali-santarana, Garuḍa and Dattatreya. Although the NTU appears to be one of the earliest of the Vaiṣṇava Upaniṣads, neither it nor any of the others has achieved the kind of special status with later Vaiṣṇava schools that the Gopāla-tāpanī has.

Dating the Gopāla-tāpanīya Upaniṣad

There are many problems in trying to date the GTU, as none of the reference points that we have are very solid. The Muktikopaniṣad, which lists GTU as one of the 108 upaniṣads, is itself undated and is thus not of much help. The Gauḍīyas also quote the Gautamīya-tantra at the beginning of the GTU in order to establish that this upaniṣad is śruteḥ śiraḥ, the topmost text of the Śruti literature. The quote does indeed seem to be a reference to GTU, but unfortunately we have no firm dates for the Gautamīya-tantra, so this too is of little help. Keśava Bhaṭṭa’s Krama-dīpikā may or may not have borrowed elements from GTU, but it is more likely that they have a common source as Keśava does not quote or refer to GTU anywhere. Gopāla-tāpanī, Gautamīya-tantra and Krama-dīpikā all show the influence of a Kṛṣṇa-centred Pāñcarātrika school, which is generically called the Nārada-pañcarātra.

The first of the Tāpanīya Upaniṣads is in all probability the Nṛsiṁha, which served as the model for the others that took this name. The NTU has a commentary attributed to either Gauḍapāda or Śaṅkara, but these seem to be spurious ascriptions. Other than these, the earliest reference to this work is the 14th century Mādhva scholar Vidyāraṇya’s Anubhūti-prakāśa, in which there is a chapter on the Nṛsiṁha Uttara-tāpanī Upaniṣad. It is thus concluded that Nṛsiṁha-tāpanī Upaniṣad must at least be older than the 14th century. Since there are no earlier references to the work, however, it is not likely that it is much older. Taking all these things into consideration, the earliest possible date for Gopāla-tāpanī would appear to be somewhere in the 13th or 14th centuries. This concords with the opinions of other scholars.

The meaning of tāpanīya

The meaning of the word tāpanīya in the context of these Upaniṣads is not altogether clear. The word is found in four different forms: tapanīya, tāpanīya, tāpanī and tāpinī. Tāpanī is the most common form used in titles and references, but this appears to be an abbreviated form of the more correct tāpanīya, which appears in the texts themselves. This is Monier-Williams verdict also. He takes tāpanīya ("gold") to be the name of a school of the Vājaseyani Saṁhitā that produced the four Upaniṣads bearing this name, but I am personally not convinced that they come from a common source. It would seem rather that the three other works were written on the model of the NTU as a result of the success enjoyed by that work in bringing legitimacy to the worship of Nṛsiṁha and his mantra.

Deussen reads tapanīya, which means “that which must be heated” or “gold.” It also has the meaning of "self-mortification." The process of self-purification is often compared to smelting gold, which is heated repeatedly in fire to remove any impurities. Deussen thus explains the term is as follows:
Tapanam is burning pain-suffering or ascetic self-sacrifice; Nṛsiṁha-tapanam thus means ascetic self-surrender to Nṛsiṁha. Therefore Nṛsiṁha-tapanīya Upaniṣad is “the esoteric doctrine concerning the ascetic surrender to Nṛsiṁha.”
Śrīmad Bhakti-śrīrūpa Siddhāntī Mahārāja suggests interpreting the root tap as “light.” Therefore the scripture that sheds light on all the truths about Gopāla is called Gopāla-tāpanī.

Characteristics of the Tāpanī Upaniṣads

As stated above, it is impossible to say whether there was a specific school which was the source of the four upaniṣads that have the name tāpanīya. Three of them are Vaiṣṇava (Nṛsiṁha, RāmaGopāla, one is Śākta (Tripura). There is also a much later Rādhā-tāpanī Upaniṣads that was not examined in this research.

It seems that all of them were produced by an Advaita school with some sectarian leanings. Of the four, the Gopāla-tāpanī, even while preserving many of the advaita features found in the other three, nevertheless lends itself more clearly to a devotional interpretation.

Some of the common features of the Tāpanīya Upaniṣads are:

  • Structurally, they are divided into Purva and Uttara parts. The Pūrva-tāpanī in each of them is further subdivided into five parts.
  • They have each, to varying degrees, quoted portions of earlier upaniṣads, particularly the Śvetāśvatara and Kaṭha. (NTU has also quoted the Ṛg-veda-saṁhitā several times.)
  • They all describe a specific mantra glorifying the deity named in the text;
  • This mantra is explained as the source of creation;
  • They all include a description of a yantra connected to the above mantra;
  • They all have a section explaining the praṇava;
  • They all contain the haṁsa mantra (so’ham) and identification with the respective deity (e.g., rāmo'ham, gopālo'ham, etc.);

Some of the above characteristics are to be found in many other upaniṣads also. Numerous elements in the Nṛsiṁha-tāpanī show the influence of the Śaiva Upaniṣads Atharva-śira and Atharva-śikhā. The hymn in the former to Rudra has been converted to one on Nṛsiṁha. The explanation of names of Rudra has been converted to one on Narasiṁha. The phala-śruti also tries to make out that this  upaniṣad is better than the Atharva-śiras and Atharva-śikhā. It quotes a number of verses from prior Upaniṣadic sources, mostly from Śvetāśvatara, verses that are also found in Taittirīya. The influence of the Māṇḍūkya, which has been quoted in full in both the Nṛsiṁha and Rāma-tāpanīs, can also be felt in the Gopāla. The concern for ritual is common to the Saṁhitā tradition found in the South Indian Pañcarātra school. Thus though some say that the NTU has done nothing more than borrow from Atharva-śikhā, it differs quite extensively in both mood and content.

The Śaiva influence is also felt in the use of the haṁsa-mantra. First, there is a similar occurrence in the Śaiva Kaivalya Upaniṣad, an early text quoted by Râmānuja. Further, the formula śivo'ham is to be found in the Śaiva Āgamas, which have been definitely dated to around CE 400-500. Thus, a reworking of these Śaiva concepts into Advaitic Vaiṣṇavism is apparent in gopālo'ham, etc.

Deussen proposes that the distinction between the Pūrva and Uttara portions of the Nṛsiṁha-tāpanī Upaniṣad is one of exoteric and esoteric portions of the teaching. Specifically, “…in the first part, the Upaniṣadic doctrine is put in the service of the Nṛsiṁha faith (philosophia ancillatur theologiae), in the second part the Nṛsiṁha faith is put in the service of the Upaniṣadic doctrine (theologia ancillatur philosophiae).”

How far this same distinction can be drawn with the Gopāla-tāpanī is debatable. Indeed, the attraction of the GTU for the followers of Caitanya was precisely that it kept the philosophical doctrines subordinate to their faith in Gopāla. Thus, Baladeva uses the GTU to show that even the most overt proclamations of identity with the deity (gopālo’ham) were ultimately subordinated to devotion. It would seem, rather, that the Gopāla Uttara-tāpanī gives theological support for the ritual described in the Pūrva-tāpanī.

There is no specific correspondence of content in each of the subdivisions of the Pūrva-tāpanī. But the same material is covered: the mantra; creation of the universe from the mantra, the yantra. The Uttara-tāpanī dissects the component parts of the praṇava, which is ultimately identified with the Kṛṣṇa bija, klīm. There is also the glorification of the land of Mathurā (which is similar to the RāmaTU and Atharva-śikhā, which glorify Benares). Both the Pūrva and Uttara portions have dhyānas: on Kṛṣṇa in the former, on Nārāyaṇa and the viśva-rūpa in the latter, at the end of which the gopīs return to their homes satisfied that Kṛṣṇa is something more than an ordinary cowherd.

Thus Siddhāntī Mahārāja's suggestion that the Uttara-tāpanī of the Gopāla-tāpanī gives a description of God's glories (aiśvarya) seems to have some validity. The identification so’ham comes in Uttara of GTU, but in the Pūrva of RTU.

Contents of GTU

The GTU starts with some sages asking five questions of Brahmā, which lead to an explanation of the eighteen-syllable mantra, also named here as the “five-sectioned” or pañca-padī mantra. This is done by giving an etymology of the names. Instruction is given in three activities: meditation (dhyāna), chanting the deity’s mantra (rasana) and worship (bhajana). A meditation on the form of Gopāla is given in texts 8-11. This is the end of the first of the five sub-upaniṣads of the Pūrva-tāpanī.

A further description of the mantra is given in 12-13. Section fourteen identifies bhajana with devotion which is defined as a type of mental activity directed towards Gopāla and identified with liberation (naiṣkarmya). This is followed by two series of verses based on the Śvetāśvatara and Kaṭha Upaniṣads glorifying the mantra (15-16). In text 17, the sages ask Brahmā to explain upāsanā, the nature of Gopāla’s worship. This is answered by a description of the yantra used in the worship of the mantra.

This is followed by another series of Upaniṣadic pastiche verses, based once again on the Kaṭha and Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣads (19-24). These verses begin from a general theistic premise to the specifics of the pañca-padī mantra. Texts 25-26 start with another set of questions for more information about the meaning of the mantra. These are answered by a description of Brahmā’s creation out of the elements contained within the mantra (27-31). The conclusion is that the mantra is identical with Vāsudeva (32). This is followed by a panegyric (33-45) to Gopāla. This stuti is mixed between themes related to his cowherd form and others related to his identity as Nārāyaṇa. Brahmā’s discourse concludes with exhortations to worship Gopāla through the five-sectioned mantra and the customary phala-śruti (46-8).
The Uttara-tāpanī begins with a story of the gopīs being sent with food for Durvāsas who is living on the opposite bank of the Yamunā. The chief gopī, Gāndharvī, asks a number of questions of Durvāsas (12), specifically about how Kṛṣṇa and Durvāsas appear to be engaged in sensual activity and yet they claim that it is not so, with miraculous results. Durvāsas answers (13-19) that the self is distinct from matter and this dissimilarity makes it impossible for the soul to truly enjoy matter. It is only the mind that succumbs to the illusion of being an enjoyer. Though this is true of both Durvāsas and Kṛṣṇa, the latter is special (20-21). In section 22, there are more questions as Gāndharvī asks for more specifics about the Gopāla's nature. Once again, this is answered by an account of creation and the questions Brahmā asked of Nārāyaṇa on that occasion (23-24). These questions are answered with a description of Gopāla’s abode, Mathurā, and its special status among holy places. The twelve forests are described and the deities found in these forests, a theme that is repeated later (25-31). Special attention is paid to the Catur-vyūha (32-36), which is identified with the praṇava (37). The following section (37-49) continues the discussion of the praṇava and the Catur-vyūha, but with the added perspective of the abhedopāsana in which the devotee considers himself to be one with the object of his devotion.

The next set of questions posed by Brahmā (50) inquire into the problem of a single truth and the multiplicity of forms. Again, there is a discussion of praṇava. The conclusion is that the praṇava is identical with the klīm-bīja. This is followed by another dhyāna of Nārāyaṇa, concluding with a single verse describing Gopāla (59-62). This description of Nārāyaṇa is repeated as a metaphor for the universal form (63-73). A question about the upāsanā of the universal form is followed by a large number of mantras (79-95) that contain elements of the Gāyatrī (oṁ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ).

This is followed by a concluding verse quoted from the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad (96), another short group of mantras to the various deities connected to the twelve forests. The Uttara-tāpanī concludes with a description of the termination of Brahmā and Nārāyaṇa’s conversation (98) and then Durvāsas sending the gopīs home (99).

The commentaries

From the commentaries available to us, it is clear that there was an early Gauḍīya commentary to which certain additions were made by later scholars. The same commentary, with very minor differences, is attributed to three major Gauḍīya scholars: Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī, Jīva Gosvāmin, and Viśvanātha Cakravarti Ṭhākura. Throughout this volume, we have designated this commentary by the letters PJ. The commentary said to be authored by Prabodhānanda is longer and contains more original additions than the one attributed to Jīva. Where the commentaries differ, the letters P or J are used to distinguish between the two. However, as the following discussion will show, we have good reasons for believing that the original or Ur-commentary was probably authored by Prabodhānanda and the one ascribed to Prabodhānanda written by someone else.

Viśveśvara Paṇḍita’s commentary

The earliest commentary (VV) to the Gopāla-tāpanī seems to be that attributed to a certain Viśveśvara, about whom no biographical information can be found. His commentary has been borrowed from extensively by the Gauḍīya ācāryas, though they differ from him philosophically in many respects. Viśveśvara seems to subscribe to a type of devotional Advaita-vāda, but without the dogmatic stance of Upaniṣad Brahmayogī, another later commentator on GTU (see below). Jīva calls Viśveśvara vaidikācārya.

Viśveśvara’s commentary accompanied the two first printed editions of GTU that appeared in the 1880’s in Devanagarī and Bengali. The colophon attributes the commentary to Viśveśvara, but a verse preceding the colophon states that the author is a certain Janārdana Bhaṭṭa.

bhava-santāpa-santāna-śātinī tāpinī śrutiḥ
tad-artha-bodhinī ṭīkā janārdana-vinirmitā

The Gopāla-tāpinī Śruti destroys the endless sufferings of material existence. The commentary explaining its meaning was written by Janārdana.

The Gauḍīya authors mention Viśveśvara’s name several times when refering to this commentary. Both Janārdana Bhaṭṭa and Viśveśvara’s names are mentioned as earlier commentators in the concluding words to these ṭīkās (See Jīva’s commentary below). There are several instances of such common borrowing, most notably at text 1.19, where numerous quotes from Pañcarātra Saṁhitā literature are given in the description of the yantra (maṇḍala) to be used with the pañcapadī mantra, the subject of much of the Pūrva-tāpanī. Since the Krama-dīpikā (end 15th century) is also cited there, it does not seem that Viśveśvara antedated the Gauḍīya ācāryas by much.

Prabodhānanda’s commentary (P)

Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī’s edition contains the commentary Kṛṣṇa-vallabhā attributed to Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī (d. ca. 1580). In his introduction, Kṛṣṇadāsa says that this work has never been published elsewhere, nor has any other handwritten manuscript of it ever been seen. His manuscript came from the library of Nīlamaṇi Gosvāmī of Rādharamaṇa Ghera in Vrindaban.

The commentary attributed to Prabodhānanda ends with a single verse:

gāndharvī-vara-gāndharva-gandha-bandhura-śarmaṇe |
vṛndāvanāvanī-vṛnda-nandine nandatān manaḥ ||

May my mind find pleasure in him who rejoices in the lands of Vṛndāvana, who finds crooked delight in even a hint of the wonderful songs of Gāndharvī Rādhā.

This verse, which shows a flash of Prabodhānanda’s poetic art, is followed by a colophon and two verses which read as follows:

iti śrī-paramahaṁsa-parivrājakācārya-śrī-śrī-prabodhānanda-sarasvatī-prakāśitāyāṁ śrī-gopāla-tāpanīyopaniṣaṭ-ṭīkāyāṁ śrī-kṛṣṇa-vallabhākhyāyām uttara-bhāga-ṭīkā samāptā. śubham astu.

gopāla-tāpanī-ṭīkā prabodha-svāminā kṛtā |
rāma-bhadra-pater eṣā bhakti-mukti-prakāśikā ||
nārāyaṇa hare rāma kṛṣṇa viṣṇo janārdana |
govinda mādhavānanda vāsudeva namo’stu te || śrī kṛṣṇa.

Translation: [Colophon] The most venerable Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī, who had attained the highest stages of the sannyāsa āśrama, wrote this commentary on the Gopāla-tāpanīyopaniṣad named Kṛṣṇa-vallabhā; here ends the commentary to the second part of that work. May auspiciousness come to all. [Verse 1] This commentary on the Gopāla-tāpanī written by Prabodha Svāmin shows the path of devotion and liberation to Rāmabhadrapati. [Verse 2] Obeisances to you, Nārāyaṇa, Hari, Rāma, Viṣṇu, Janārdana, Govinda, Mādhavānanda, Vāsudeva.

From this we learn that the scribe who copied the manuscript was named Rāmabhadrapati and that he believed that Prabodhānanda was its author. Unfortunately, his MS was not dated and so we cannot judge his proximity to the original authorship and his reliability as a witness.

The P commentary also has two verses and a paragraph at the beginning which give no information about authorship. However, these verses are notably absent from the other editions. It is difficult to believe that this portion of text, which has a personal note from the author (about finding the manuscript and “discovering its hidden meaning”) were a fabrication of the scribe. The second verse contains a dedication to Caitanya Mahāprabhu which is characteristic of many of Prabodhānanda’s writings.

There are also two supplementary verses found at the beginning of the Uttara-vibhāga, which are somewhat more interesting:

śāntaṁ mano nigama-saṁyamanāya nityaṁ
kā vā kṛtā vividha-yoga-vidhau na vārtā |
prāptaṁ paraṁ padam aho mahimā tadīyaḥ ||

Though my mind was peaceful through constant efforts to master the scriptures and there was nothing about the yoga system that I did not know, I attained the supreme situation of Vṛndāvana through the glories of meditation on Prabodha’s lotus feet.

vṛndāvana madhuvane bahulāvane ca
bhāṇḍīra-bhadra-kumude ca mahāvane ca |
govardhane ca parivardhita-citra-modaṁ
śrīmat-prabodham aravinda-mukhaṁ smarāmi ||

I remember the lotus face of Śrīmat Prabodha, increasingly decorated with joy in Vṛndāvana, Madhuvana, Bahulāvana, Bhāṇḍīravana, Bhadravana, Mahāvana and Govardhana.

If we consider these lines to have been written by Prabodhānanda, then they must be interpreted as a panegyric to Kṛṣṇa with the epithet Śrīmat Prabodha. This is unusual, but would explain Prabodhānanda’s Vaiṣṇava understanding of his own name, which is unique in Vaiṣṇava circles and arises out of his sannyāsa days. However, in view of the non-use of such an epithet for Kṛṣṇa in any Vaiṣṇava sampradāya, It seems easier to think that these are obeisances to someone called Prabodha, a name by which Prabodhānanda was sometimes known. The description in the second verse also fits that of a sādhaka such as Prabodhānanda who was known to wander through the forests of Vṛndāvana, whose spirit was not one of meditation on the mood of separation. If these are indeed obeisances to Prabodhānanda, it would appear that this commentary is not Prabodhānanda’s but one written by a disciple or follower. By comparing it with the commentary attributed to Jīva Gosvāmī, it seems possible that the two authors added their own notes to a previously written Ur-commentary from which they both borrowed extensively. Though much is common to both, it is fairly clear that the P commentary did not borrow from J.

The P commentary as published is corrupt in many places and often shows a misunderstanding of those portions which are shared with J commentary below. These errors are no doubt the result of scribal error and I have corrected it, where possible, from the critical edition of J. In some places, however, the additions of P have a flavor and flair of the rasa-śāstra that evoke Prabodhānanda's style.

Jīva Gosvāmin’s commentary (J)

Jīva Gosvāmin (d. 1608) is attributed authorship of a commentary to the Gopāla-tāpanī Upaniṣad in lists of his works, such as that found in Bhakti-ratnākara (1.846). The commentary attributed to Jīva in this edition was first published by Rāmanārāyaṇa Vidyāratna in the famous Berhampore editions, but there named Bhakta-harṣiṇī and attributed to Viśvanātha Cakravartin. Since I had no access to this edition, I cannot analyze the reasons for such an attribution. The Berhampore edition was included as one of the sources for Puridāsa’s critical edition of Jīva Gosvāmin’s commentary, which is named Sukha-bodhinī. Purīdāsa presents a verse found at the end of the other MSS of the commentary as clear evidence of Jīva’s authorship. The verse in question is:

śrī-sanātana-rūpasya caraṇābja-sudhepsunā |
pūritā ṭippaṇī ceyaṁ jīvena sukha-bodhinī ||

This commentary named Sukha-bodhinī (“Making for easy understanding”) has been completed by that soul (or, “Jīva”), who desires the nectar at the lotus feet of the one who has an eternally auspicious form (or, “of Rūpa and Sanātana”).

This verse is written in Jīva’s style, with the typical double meaning in which he includes his own name and those of his gurus. The key word here would be pūritā, which means completed. It could indicate that he has added to or “rounded out” someone else’s commentary rather than written an original work.

In the J commentary to 2.56, a portion not found in the Ur ṭīkā, the author states that he has explained the term yogamāyā as cic-chakti in his notes to BhP 3.15.26. Since this is true of Jīva, we have further confirmation that he is the author of this commentary.

Jīva gave credit to Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī for instructing him in the subject matter which went into writing the Ṣaṭ-sandarbha. As such, we expect him to give recognition to previous authors and, indeed, at the end of the critical edition of the commentary we find two other verses preceding the colophon. The first is the above-cited gāndharvī-vara-gāndharva śloka, which was no doubt in the Ur-commentary. The second is of great interest:

viśveśvaraka-janārdana-bhaṭṭābhyāṁ vaidikāgryābhyām
tadvat prabodha-yatinā likhitaṁ racitam atra tāratamyena

Just as Viśveśvara and Janārdana Bhaṭṭa, the foremost scholars of the Veda, did previously, Prabodha Yati also wrote; [this] has been composed after making comparative evaluations of these commentaries.

Since Jīva would have written after Prabodhānanda, we would indeed expect to see him acknowledge his commentary had he used it. This he does in the above verse, which has the terseness typical to him. However, if the P commentary were indeed the one from which Jīva had borrowed, we would expect to see more of its insights in the J commentary, which does not seem to be the case. Indeed, there is more material in the P commentary than in J. In particular, the author of P seems to add certain rasika remarks that are missing from J. If we take everything that is common to P and J as being the Ur commentary, then J’s contributions seem quite limited and his debt to his predecessor becomes accentuated. We have already stated above that Jīva took a great deal of instruction from Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī, who was Prabodhānanda’s disciple. Many of the arguments which we see throughout Jīva’s writings on the status of Vṛndāvana as the holiest of abodes, the svakīyā-vāda, etc., are found in that Ur commentary that we should now attribute to Prabodhānanda.

Prabodhānanda has been known to adhere to the svakīyā position from his writings and from his close association with Hita Harivaṁśa who took a strong stand on the subject. Prabodhānanda’s disciple Gopāla Bhaṭṭa left no writings by which his understanding can be analyzed, but those who maintain his tradition in Vṛndāvana are to this day staunch defenders of the svakīyā position.

If indeed it is the case that the Ur-commentary is the work of Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī, then this is a find of some historical significance. We already know that Prabodhānanda is the spiritual master of Gopāla Bhaṭṭa, and according to many, his uncle. Though his name has been mentioned in Gopāla’s Hari-bhakti-vilāsa, there is little else that directly connects Prabodhānanda directly to the Gauḍīya school, despite his many writings. I have argued elsewhere that this is likely due to his connection with the Rādhā-vallabhī founder Harivaṁsa. In this case, however, we see Jīva Gosvāmī recognizing a debt to Prabodhānanda. Furthermore, the arguments presented by Prabodhānanda in this commentary show the basis for Jīva’s argumentation in many later books, including the Sandarbhas./

Other commentaries

Hariśaṅkara Śāstrī published an edition of Gopāla-pūrva-tāpinī in 1928, with two learned commentaries, Brahmāmṛta-bhāṣya and Pīyūṣa-laharī, written by Aniruddha Gosvāmī, a descendant of Vallabhācārya. From the little bit that I have available to me, which I photocopied while in London, the commentary looks useful for Gauḍīyas, using many quotes from Vedānta-sūtra, Bhagavad-gītā, etc. The first commentary is brief, the second expands on the first. I would estimate that this is a very valuable commentary, with a lot of insight into Vedānta from the Vallabha-bhāṣya, but unfortunately I do not know whether it was ever published in full. It appears that Vallabhācārya’s son and successor Biṭṭhalanātha made frequent use of GTU in his writings, but apparently Vallabha himself did not. Biṭṭhaladeva (exact dates) was a junior contemporary of Prabodhānanda and a senior contemporary of Jīva, while Mahāprabhu’s contemporary Vallabha (1475-1531) was likely dead when these two personalities came to live in Vṛndāvana. The strong base of the Vallabha-sampradāya in Gujarat may indicate that this school knew of this scripture

Another edition of the Gopāla-tāpanī Upaniṣad has been published by the Adyar Oriental Society. It is accompanied by the comments of the late 18th century Advaita sannyāsī, Upaniṣad Brahmayogin. These are obviously of a lesser attractiveness for Vaiṣṇavas, but nevertheless has provided alternative readings, etc. It is clear that Upaniṣad Brahmayogin also made use of Viśveśvara’s commentary though he makes no reference to him.

Editions published by the Gauḍīya Maṭh

The first Gauḍīya Maṭh edition of Gopāla-tāpanī Upaniṣad was published in 1975 by Śrī Bhaktiśrīrūpa Siddhāntī Mahārāja, a senior disciple of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda and late ācārya of the Gauḍīya Sārasvatāsana. This pubication contains the two commentaries by Viśveśvara and Viśvanātha Cakravartī along with translations by the scholar Nṛtyagopāla Śāstrī. Siddhāntī Mahārāja added his own commentary, Tattva-kaṇā, to these. He indicates in his introduction that the text of Viśveśvara’s commentary was taken from the abovementioned edition of Maheśacandra Pāl while that of Viśvanātha came from the earlier Berhampore edition. As shown above, this is in fact the commentary of Jīva Gosvāmī.

Disciple of Śrī Bhaktivilāsa Tīrtha Mahārāja and longtime president of the Madras Gauḍīya Maṭh, Śrī Bhakti-prajñāna Yati Mahārāj has produced a number of pioneering English translations of texts in the Gauḍīya tradition. In this case, it is quite clear that he was using Siddhāntī Mahārāja’s edition though he makes no mention of it. Both Gauḍīya Maṭh editions have quoted extensively from Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī’s commentaries on Brahma-saṁhitā to expand on elements of the text itself.

The last edition of Gopāla-tāpanī to which I had the occasion to make reference was that of Śrī Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda disciple Śrī Kuśakratha dāsa. Kuśakratha indicates that he used the commentaries of Viśvanātha (Gopāla-tāpanī-vivṛtti) and 18th century Gauḍīya ācārya Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa (Śrī-Gopāla-tāpanī-bhāṣya). The maṅgala verses from these two works do not have anything in common with the commentaries we have seen, and so appear to be different, even though many of the verses quoted are also found in PJ. This likely means that these later authors made use of the original Gauḍīya commentaries on GTU.

[When I wrote this I had not had access to the Baladeva and Viśvanātha commentaries. I also found a commentary by the Nimbarki Ranachoda Das. Some updating of this introduction will therefore be necessary before going to publication.]

Translating commentaries

Translating a Sanskrit commentary presents challenges unique to the genre. The reader should understand that the manuscript of the upaniṣad would have been unnumbered, poorly punctuated and without any spaces between the words. The commentary would likely not be included along with the original text in the same manuscript. So the student of the text would have had two manuscripts side by side, one the original text, the other containing the commentary. Thus he would find the commentary to a verse by finding a marker which includes the first words of the verse or phrase and ending with iti. Generally speaking, it is repetitive and thus superfluous to translate these markers.
The first function of the commentary was to elucidate any difficulties with the original in terms of syntax and vocabulary. Thus frequently the commentary does nothing more than paraphrase the original, sorting out archaisms, etc., in the Upaniṣad. Since this is a sort of translation in itself, such comments are often redundant and thus superfluous.

The most interesting portions are those concerning more difficult problems of meaning, wherein the commentator explains philosophical points and gives theological clarification and reference to other śāstras.

Here, in order to show more fully the workings of the commentary, I have given a minimalist translation of the original text, as far as possible not allowing myself to be influenced by the flavoring of the commentaries.



[1] divyaṁ sahasrābdam amogha-darśano
jitānilātmā vijitobhayendriyaḥ
atapyata smākhila-loka-tāpanaṁ
tapas tapīyāṁs tapatāṁ samāhitaḥ

[2]S. Gajanan Shambhu Sadhale, Sri Garibdass Oriental Series, no. 44. (Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1987).

[3]Paul Deussen, The Philosophy of the Upaniṣads, trans. A. S. Geden, N.Y.: Dover, 1966. Original edition, 1906. 7.

[4]Ibid, 26.

[5]Muktikopaniṣad 1.2.5. in (ed.) Pandit A. Mahadeva Sastri, The Sāmānya Vedānta Upanishads with the commentary of Śrī Upaniṣad Brahma Yogin. Madras: The Adyar Library, 1921. 354. In the Kṛṣṇa-sandarbha (page 51), Jīva Gosvāmī quotes from the Kṛṣṇopaniṣad (2.9), refering to it as the Kṛṣṇa-tāpanī Upaniṣad, but no internal evidence seems to justify this.

[6]In the Vana-vāsa-prakaraṇam of his Jīvanmukti-viveka, Vidyāraṇya says tathā ca śrutiḥ and quotes from the Kaṭha Up. Then he says anyatrāpy uktam and quotes two verses from the Muktikā. Then he quotes one verse from the Chāndogya and says iti cchāndogyā adhīyate. Unfortunately, he does not mention the Muktikā by name in the middle quotation, but it does appear that he is quoting from some upaniṣad by the fact he says anyatrāpy uktam. Even if was refering to the Muktikā, however, there is no guarantee that he knew it in the same form as it exists now.

[7]Deussen's Sixty Upaniṣads of the Veda, Vol II, pp. 809‑888. He has translated the Rāma Pūrva and Uttara-tāpinī and the Nṛsiṁha Pūrva and Uttara-tāpinī Upaniṣads.

[8]See the critical edition of the Anubhūtiprakāśa, by Godabarisa Mishra, University of Madras.

[9]J. N. Farquhar, An Outline of the Religious Literature of India. Oxford University Press, 1920, 266.

[10]A Sanskrit Dictionary, sui verbis. I have been unable to find any further information about this school.


[12]Op. cit., 2.

[13]G. Sundara Ramaiah, "The Philosophy of Religion as embodied in the Tāpanī Upaniṣads" in (ed.) K. C. Mishra, Studies in the Cult of Jagannath. Bhubaneswar: Institute of Orissan Culture, 1991. pp. 154-161.

[14]The Tripurā-tāpanī Upaniṣad to which I have access seems to only contain a Pūrva Upaniṣad, though its editor talks of a second part. (Ed.) A. G. Krishna Warrier, The Śākta Upaniṣads. Madras: The Adyar Library and Research Centre, 1967. Warrier states (page vi) that Farquhar lists a Pūrva and Uttara Tripurā-tāpanī. These five subdivisions are not explicitly pointed out in the numbering of any of the printed editions of the work, but Viśveśvara has pointed them out in his commentary. They are marked by the repetition of words: brahma sampadyate (12), akhilaṁ bhavati (18), idaṁ sakalam (26), nityam abhyaset (28) and the end of the Pūrva-tāpanī. An analysis of these subdivisions in GTU does not convince me that these are natural and directly related to the subject matter. However, if the one considers that new sections naturally begin with questions; five such divisions can be found starting with texts 2, 17, 25, and 29.

[15]Op. cit., 809.

[16]A history of this mantra has yet to be written. How did it come to be the mantra of the Gauḍīya sampradāya? It is found particularly in the Gautamīya-tantra, Nārada-pañcarātra.

[17]The following abbreviations are used in the text: P indicates the commentary attributed to Prabodhānanda, KS refers to Kusuma Sarovarawala Kṛṣṇadāsa’s edition of GTU in which that commentary is published (KS is only used for comments on the text of the Upaniṣad itself). J = the commentary attributed to Jīva. VV = Viśvanātha’s commentary, BY = Upaniṣad Brahmayogī’s commentary. SM = Siddhāntī Mahārāja’s edition and comments; NG = Nṛtyagopāla’s Bengali translations of text and commentaries found in the SM edition. YM = Yati Mahārāja’s English translation. KK = Kuśakratha dāsa’s English translation. Publication details for these various editions can be found in this introduction.

[18]In Devanagari, (ed.) Navacandra Śriromaṇi. Calcutta: Bhuvanacandra Basāk, 1883. This exact same edition appears to have been reprinted: (ed.) Kṛpārāma Śarmā. Kāśī: Timiranāśaka Yantrālaya, 1946. Published with Rāma-tāpanī Upaniṣad in Bengali letters, with Bengali translation. (Ed.) Mahesh Chandra Pal. Calcutta, 1888.

[19]The dates of Krama-dīpikā author Keśava Bhaṭṭa, also known as Keśava Kāśmīrī, are not well known. According to some scholars he was a contemporary of Alāuddīn Khilji who reigned from CE 1296-1320 (Sudhākar Mālavīya, ed., Krama-dīpikā. Varanasi: Krishnadas Academy, 1989. Introduction, 20). Mālavīya himself concludes that Keśava lived in the first half of the 13th century and that Krama-dīpikā was written in the early 13th century. The Gauḍīyas’ Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja suggests that Keśava was still alive and that he visited Bengal in about 1500, at which time he became a Vaiṣṇava. Though this story is likely a fabrication, it does indicate that Keśava was thought to have lived in around that time. Mālavīya also thinks that Keśava Bhaṭṭa borrowed from GTU (ibid., 21).

[20](ed.) Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī, Kusumasarovara, Radha Kund: Gaurahari Press, 1955

[21]For the most complete account of Prabodhānanda’s life, see my article “Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī: From Benares to Braj” in the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies. Vol LV, Part 1, 1992, pages 52-75.

[22]The same text appears to be found in a MS found in the Descriptive Catalogue of Skt MSS in the Calcutta Sanskrit College Library, vol. x, 158-9.

[23]The verses are:

kandarpa-kanda-kṛṣṇāya govindāya namo’stu te
gopī-jana-vallabhāya svānuraktātma-hāriṇe
śrī-gopāla-tāpanīya-śruteṣ ṭīkāṁ śubhāvahām
kurve śrī-kṛṣṇacaitanya-śaktyā śrī-kṛṣṇa-vallabhām

Translations can be found on page 2 of the text.

[24]Jīva’s life has been discussed in many places. Cf. Stuart Elkman, Jīva Gosvāmin’s Tattva-sandarbha (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1986). B. V. Tripurari, Tattva-sandarbha (Eugene: Mandala Media, 1996). In Bengali, Nareśacandra Jānā, Vṛndāvanera Chaya Gosvāmī. (Calcutta: Univeristy of Calcutta, 1970). One may also see my doctoral dissertation, "Jīva Gosvāmin's Gopāla-campū," London: SOAS, 1992. 14-48.

[25](Ed) Rāmnārāyaṇa Vidyāratna.

[26]Calcutta: Narendra Kumar Nāga-Rāy, 1949.

[27]NG has read the last line in the following way: tadvat prabodhayati nālikhitaṁ citra-mantra-tāratamyena. He thus sees prabodhayati as a verb and reads nā with likhitaṁ (na alikhitaṁ). His translation is “These authors have followed a comparative reading of the variegated mantras. As they have not taken anything that was not written, their commentary will bring awareness.”

[28]I have discussed Jīva’s position in my article, “Does Kṛṣṇa marry the gopīs in the end?” in The Journal of Vaisnava Studies, Vol. 5, no. 4. Fall. 49-111. I have also shown the thematic structures of Jīva’s argumentation in my doctoral dissertation, “The Gopāla-campū of Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī,” London, SOAS, 1992. Table 1.1 “Select Quotation Concordance”, page 30. Where these verses have been quoted in this edition, I have given footnotes indicating other places where Jīva has quoted the same verses. See also Shrivatsa Goswami, “Rādhā: The Play and Perfection of Rasa” in The Divine Consort: Rādhā and the Goddesses of India. (Ed) John Stratton Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1984. 74-89.

[29]See the previously mentioned “Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī: From Benares to Braj” and another article, “Prabodhānanda, Hit Harivaṁs and the Rādhārasasudhānidhi” in the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies. Vol LV, Part 3, 1992. 472-497.

[30](ed.) Gopāla-pūrva-tāpiny Upaniṣad, Bombay: News Printers, 1928. San. D.1039(a)  This rare book can be found in the British Library Oriental collections.

[31]I have been unable to confirm this.

[32]The Vaiṣṇava Upaniṣads. Ed. Mahadeva Sastri, Madras: Adyar Oriental Society, 1935.

[33]V. Raghavan, "Upaniṣad Brahma Yogin, his life and works", The Journal of the Music Academy, Vol 27, Madras 1956. pp. 113‑150. Upaniṣad Brahmayogin was a Marathi contemporary and associate of the famous Tyāgarāja’s father.

[34]Twelve Essential Upaniṣads, Vol 4, by Tridandi Sri Bhakti Prajnan Yati, Madras: Sri Gaudiya Math, 1984.

[35]The Kṛṣṇa Library, Vol. 24. Culver City: The Kṛṣṇa Institute, 1988.


त प नी य said…

त (ta), see 3:

प (pa):

नी (nī); see निस् (Nís):

य (ya), see 4:
Unknown said…
THank you for the
The commentaries of Baladeva and Visvanatha are available on Grantha Mandira:

Also on Grantha Mandira is a critical edition of the original text done by Jagadananda Prabhu:
Anonymous said…

Crossing over without (free [from the body]) enveloped in a (pool of [liquid] light of the) womb drinking in (with the eyes).
Anonymous said…

Dear Jagadananda Das,

Can you recommend a fairly reliable English translation of the Gopāla-tāpanī Upanishad for study?

Kind regards,

A reader of your blog (for some years now).
Nṛsiṃhá said…

Nṛsiṃhá, the roaring Man-Lion.


नृ (nṛ[i]):

सिंह (siṃhá):
Jagadananda said…
Tripurari Maharaj used my notes. But I hope that Jiva will publish my full translation with the translation of commentaries by Jiva Goswami and others.
hiraṇya-garbhá said…
Whilst currently translating verse 63 of the śrī-gopāla-tāpanīyopaniṣat; it has come to notice that the Sanskrit compounds must be broken up to the "base pairs" (i.e., one consonant and one vowel combination) that form each word; the resulting translation using this method is a real eye-opener.


candra-sūrya-tviṣo1 divya-dhvajā merur hiraṇmayaḥ |
ātapatraṁ brahma-lokam adhordhvaṁ4 caraṇaṁ smṛtam ||

Verse 63


Critically edited by Jan K. Brzezinski using a variety of printed editions

Sky Clothed said…
Well, its been an hour of so of translating verse 62 breaking up the compounds using the base-pair method, here are the first few words (in brackets) roughly translated:

candra-sūrya-tviṣo divya-dhvajā merur

(Glittering and brilliantly shining) - (I [am] impel[led] [forward] violently, dissolved, melt(ed), become fluid - joining) – (to shine) – (heaven, sky) – (clothed, enveloped one’s self in) – (to change places, exchange; to cause to roar, to make a sound; brightness, splendour)


N.B.* Forward: "to turn towards the door."

Forward (equivalent to fore +‎ -ward), see Latin foris:

From Proto-Indo-European dʰwṓr, from dʰwer- ‎(“door, gate”‎).

Suffix -ward:

From Proto-Indo-European wert ("to turn towards"):
Anonymous said…
So you may know.

Regarding the latin word 'foris' (in this translation), the word 'opening' rather than door is more accurate. The very fabric of space and time opens up; the yogi briefly sees a cloud fringed opening before him as his lucid consciousness (in the vehicle of the light body) is impelled (rushes or rapidly springs forward from the brow) into the shining womb of liquid light .
Here is the rest of the rough translation of §62.1 of the śrī-gopāla-tāpanīyopaniṣat.

candra-sūrya-tviṣo1 divya2-dhvajā merur hiraṇmayaḥ

(Glittering and brilliantly shining) - (I [am] impel[led] [forward] violently, dissolved, melt[ed], become fluid - joining) – (to shine) – ([in the] heaven, sky) – (clothed, enveloped one’s self in) – (to change places, [in the] brightness, splendour) – (hurl[ed], [into the] shining brightness [which is in] motion, identical [the same as the], water [of the], mother[s] womb).


The the bright shining water moves in a rotating motion.

See also:

तापनीय (tāpanīya)

“Crossing over without (free [from the body]) enveloped in a (pool of [liquid] light of the) womb drinking in (with the eyes).”


त (ta), see 3:

प (pa):

नी (nī); see निस् (Nís):

य (ya), see 4:

तापनीय (tāpanīya):

In regard to the previous 'Notes'

"The the bright shining water moves in a rotating motion."

To visualise what the hiraṇya-gárbha is like, see:
mokṣadāyinī said…
Dear Jagadananda Das,

My person was re-reading page 193 of your book ‘Yoga-Taraṅgiṇī: A Rare Commentary on the Gorakṣa-śataka’ this morning.

In relation to the hiraṇya-garbhá, you may appreciate reading this re-translation of verse §44.1 of the Gorakṣaśatakaṁ:

अजपा नाम गायत्री योगिनां मोक्षदायिनी ।

ajapā nāma gāyatrī yogināṁ mokṣadāyinī |

Verse 44.1 of the Gorakṣaśatakaṁ

Word for word translation:

Ajapā ([Oh Viṣṇu] drinking in light with the eyes) nāma ([there is] no poison [of] time) gāyatrī (coming into this state, joining [with the light], protect[s], preserve[s], defend[s] [and] rescue[s] [one] from [time]) yogināṁ (attaining [the] light [of the] womb [one] abides in [this] undying) mokṣadāyinī (lest [the] correspond in [the] measure [of time’s] - destruction of the world) (producing the effect (of cutting off [time]) to flee, to escape, moving away from [the effect of time])

Edited translation:

Oh Viṣṇu, drinking in light through the eyes, there is no poison of time; coming into this state of joining with the light, protects preserves, defends and rescues one from time. Attaining the light of the womb, one abides in an undying state. This state produces the effect of cutting off the effects of time; by which one may escape and move away from the measure of time’s destruction of the world.
Balarāma said…

Dear Jagadananda Das,

If you have time, please try a little experiment; pick one line of Sanskrit from a favourite verse that you have translated in the past.

Then, disassemble each word to find as many ‘root’ or ‘base pairs’ that form each word (i.e., one consonant and one vowel combination).

Then find the English translation of every base pair.

Go on, humour me; and give it a go.

Yours in truth,

Jagadananda said…
Yes, I see you doing that. It is a mantra-shastra thing, but I tend to shy away from that kind of interpretation, which seems artificial to me.

Surely, an artificial construct is that which is skilfully heaped together from more than one base pair. It is the compound (of more than two) which is artificial.

Yes, the compound is a convenient way to allow for such things as 'context' and 'grammar' etc. for the person writing down (what has been spoken); but it is the original base pairs in speech which conveys the message (think about the auxiliary mantra [om hrīṁ śrīṁ klīṁ kusuma-bāṇaḥ śrī-manmathaḥ śrī-govindo māṁ kṛpayatu] given to you many years ago).

Do not forget, that for centuries before being written down, this was an “oral tradition” passed on by word of mouth (writing came much later).

The base pair is natural (Consonant and vowel); it is the compound (of more than two) which is an artificial construct (even within nature itself)

The natural base pair way of reading Sanskrit is “twilight language”.

Think with your heart, not with your head...
Anonymous said…

May one also add; mantra (like rhyme) is a tool employed to easily remember words.
Anonymous said…
By practical experience, my person agrees with Judith Simmer-Brown, “It must be experienced to be understood.”


“For this reason, the literal language of tantric texts is often incomprehensible to the uninitiated. Tantric language is called "twilight language" (sandha-bhasa, gongpe-ke), signaling the same transitional, liminal quality that we described in terms of dakini encounters. It must be experienced to be understood. 16”

16. See the discussion of twilight language in the introduction.

Page 270,

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Mahā-mṛtyuñjaya Mantra

AUM tryambakaṃ yajāmahe
sugandhiṃ puṣṭi vardhanam
urvārukamiva bandhanāt
mṛtyor mukṣīya māmṛtāt

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