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The Chandogya Upanishad is one of the "primary" (mukhya) Upanishads. Together with the Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana and the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad it ranks among the oldest Upanishads, dating to the Vedic Brahmana period (probably before mid-first millennium BCE).
It is associated with the Samaveda. It figures as number 9 in the Muktika canon of 108 Upanishads. It is part of the Chandogya Brahmana, which has ten chapters. The first two chapters of the Brahmana deal with sacrifices and other forms of worship. The other eight constitute the Chandogya Upanishad. Though there are more than two hundred Upanishads, ten are principal. These are called the Dashopanishads and are known for their philosophical depth, having become popular through the commentaries of Adi Shankara and Madhvacharya. Along with Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, the Chandogyopanishad is an ancient source of principal fundamentals of Vedanta philosophy. A number of references made to this Upanishad in Brahma sutras indicate the special importance of this Upanishad in Vedantic philosophy. Important Upasana's such as Dahara vidya and Shandilya vidya are its speciality.
Of the available commentaries, the oldest was written by Adi Shankara. Adi Shankara stated that his commentary is a brief book for those who want a summary of this Upanishad. Ananda Giri mentioned in his commentary that a Dramidacharya wrote an elaborate and detailed commentary well before Adi Shakara, but little is known about this Dramidacharya and his work is now lost. Brahmanandi Tankacharya wrote a brief explanation for this upanishad and Dramidacharya wrote an elaborate and detailed commentary on the work of Brahmanandi Tankacharya. Sri Ramanuja makes many references to these two scholars in his commentaries, Vedanta Sangraha and Sri Bhasya.
The Chandogya Upanishad contains eight chapters, with each chapter divided into subchapters called Khandas.
The first chapter contains thirteen khanda's.
The first khanda ordains the Upasana of UdGeetha (or holy syllable OM). The syllable OM is called by the term UdGeetha since a priest designated as Udgata starts his singing of Sama's with OM in Vedic yajnas.
The second khanda ordains that Udgeetha should be meditated as Vital Life Force or Prana, and tells a story to explain the Holiness of Prana describing how it remained untouched by evil while all other five senses got tainted by evil.
Third khanda says that Udgeetha should be meditated as sun god.
Fourth khanda continues telling one more method ( Upasana )for meditating upon OM as the Eternal and Ultimate Refuge ( Amritam, Abhayam) and tells that one who mediatates this way becomes himself an Eternal and Ultimate Refuge.
Fifth khanda tells that one who meditates on the Sun and its rays as separate from each other or Prana and its functions such as speech etc. as separate from each other would beget many children.
One more Upasana of Udgeetha is told in Sixth khanda for obtaining all round wealth.
Seventh khanda ordains that OM (or UdGeetha) should be meditated as Purusha (Divine Person) present in the right eye who is nothing but another manifestation of Sun (Aditya)who in turn another manifestation of OM. Hence describes the equality of OM, Devine Person present in the Right Eye and Sun.
Another Upasana of UdGeetha is told in ninth and tenth khanda's which is said to result in a Superior Divine Essence ( Parovareeya Satva ) in the practitioner. This is told in the form of a story of Three Scholars of Sama.
Tenth and Eleventh khandas describe three parts of Sama called Prastava, UdGeetha and Pratihaara which are sung by priests in vedic Rituals and their respective gods through a Story of Priest Ushasti Chakrayana.
Twelfth khanda tells about the UdGeetha Sama revealed by gods in the form of Dogs. The result of singing this Sama is availability of food.
Thirteenth khanda describes the various Upasana's of Sthobha-Akshara's.
There are 24 khanda's in the second chapter. After having elaborated on different Upasana's of various organs of Sama, the second chapter elaborates many Upasana's of full Sama as a whole (that is, combined Sama with all Sama organs or parts). In other words, it can be said that if first chapter describes the Upasana of different body parts separately, the second chapter describes the Upasana's of whole body (Full Sama). Worshipping Full Sama or Whole Sama is described to be yielding good character (Saadhu Dharma) to worshipper in first khanda.
Second khanda describes Five-Fold Sama or Sama with Five Organs (Pancha Vidha Sama). HIM-Kara, Prastava, UdGeetha, Pratihara and Nidhana are the names of Five organs of Sama.
In second to seventh khanda's this Five-Fold Sama is ordained to be conceptualized or viewed as different worlds such as earth, heaven etc. in worldview, as wind, lightning etc. in view of process of raining, as cloud, rain, ocean etc. in water view, as different seasons like spring etc. in seasons view, as sheep etc. in animal view and finally as vital airs (Prana).
Each of these conceptualizations or views of FiveFold Sama is a separate Upasana of Fivefold Sama and described to be having definite fruit or result for the practitioner.
Eighth khanda ordains Seven-Fold Sama. Two more organs Adi and Upadrava are added to Five organs described in second khanda to make Sama Seven Fold. This Seven Fold Sama is ordained to be seen or viewed in the speech in eighth khanda. Fruit of this Upasana is worshipper never faces scarcity of food and will have enough food to provide for others.
Next Upasana is to meditate or view sevenfold sama in the movement of sun in the sky. Fruit of this upasana is worshipper attains Sun's form ( Aditya Swarupa ). This is the content of ninth khanda.
Tenth khanda ordains Upasana of syllables of seven organs of Seven Fold Sama (Sapta Vidha Sama Namakshara Upasana).
Khanda's 11-21 describe how some famous Samas or ( Sama Mantras ) to viewed.
Gayatra Sama is ordained to be viewed as Mind, Speech, Eye, etc.
Rathantara Sama is ordained to be viewed as process of generating fire by rubbing two wood pieces.
Vaamya Devya Sama is ordained to be viewed as mating process between male and female human beings.
Brihat Sama is ordained to be viewed as world activity as per of movement of sun across the horizon.
Vairupa Sama is ordained to be viewed as process of raining.
Shakvaree Sama is ordained to be viewed as different worlds.
Revati Sama is ordained to be viewed as grazing animals.
Yagnya-Yagneeya Sama is ordained to be viewed as hair, skin, meat, etc.
Rajana Sama is ordained to be viewed as Fire, Wind, Stars, etc.
Each of these Upasana's are mentioned along with a distinct fruit or result to the worshipper.
Later khandas of this chapter describe various modes of singing Sama, upasana on holy syllable OM, three Savana's, their respective gods and Sama's to them.
This chapter has 19 khanda's. First 11 khanda's deal with Upasana of Sun and this Upasana is known as Madhu Vidya. Khandas 12 and 13 teach Brahman through Gayatri. 14th Khanda elaborates famous meditation Shandilya Vidya, known after its revealer the seer Shandilya. 15th Khanda describes Kosha Vidya for begetting long life and valour for one's son. 16th and 17th Khandas detail Purusha Vidya which results in increased life span of practitioner. It is told that seer Mahidasa Aitareya lived for 116 years by practicing Purusha Vidya. 18th Khanda ordains that Mind should be meditated as Brahman.
A story of king Janushruti Pautrayana and Self realized seer Raikva is told in this chapter. A meditational practice called Samvarga Vidya is described.
An esoteric knowledge of Five Fires ( Panchangi Vidya ) is described in this chapter.
This chapter contains the most important message of this Upanishad. It establishes the principle of oneness of Atman with all beings and non beings. In this chapter, the famous story of Uddalaka and his son Shvetaketu is told and the dialogue between them establishes the principle of oneness of Atman. The Mahavakya "That art Thou" (Tatvamasi) is found in this chapter.
A meditation technique of concentrating in the cave of heart about Brahman (Dahara Vidya) is told in this chapter
- S. Radhakrishnan, The Principal Upanishads
- Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads . Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. 1972.
- Introduction by Sri Adidevananda: Chhandyogapanishads (Kannada translation)
- Chhandogya Upanishad - A translation by swami Nikhilananda
- Translation of Chandogya Upanishad at Celextel's Online Spiritual Library
- Swami Krishnananda Speaks on The Chhandogya Upanishad - Contains audios