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Young Svetaketu: a literary study of an upanisadic story.

Of the many interesting individuals we encounter in the vedic literature, Svetaketu, the son of Uddalaka Aruni,(1) comes across as one of the most colorful and true-to-life characters, not least because he is frequently depicted as the vedic equivalent of a spoiled little brat. Although he appears with some frequency in vedic and later literature both as a young man and as a mature adult, his character is most fully developed and exploited for literary-cum-theological purposes in the story of young Svetaketu's(2) encounter with a king, a story that has become famous because it contains the important doctrines of "five fires" and the two paths along which the dead travel.


We have three versions of the Svetaketu story in the upanisads: Brhadaranyaka 6.2. 1-8 ([B.sup.*]), Chandogya 5.3 ([C.sup.*]), and Kausitaki 1 ([K.sup.*]).(3) The aim of this paper is to examine the divergent ways in which the authors of these versions develop the character of young Svetaketu and to explore the possible theological and/or literary reasons for those divergences.

Of the three versions, [B.sup.*] and [C.sup.*] follow each other rather closely, while [K.sup.*] represents a distinctly different redaction. The king's name in the first two is Pravahana Jaivali and, in the latter, Citra Gangyayani (or Gargyayani). These versions have been studied repeatedly by scholars, whose principal, if not sole, aim has been either to establish which of the versions is the oldest and may have served as the archetype for the others, or to reconstruct a hypothetical archetype underlying all the versions.(4) Renou (1955) has rightly cast doubt on whether the priority of any of the existing versions can be established; indeed, it is highly doubtful that an analysis of these versions will ever provide us with a single clear archetype. Such archetypes are most easily constructed when, as in the case of manuscript transmissions, the changes introduced into the versions are unconscious and accidental, disclosing the genealogy of the manuscripts. The versions of the Svetaketu story, I will argue in this paper, are not accidental creations but deliberate literary inventions.

Although the archeology of texts has become somewhat unfashionable lately, my objection has less to do with its merits than with the fact that, as a result, a much more significant, interesting, and (most importantly) feasible project - namely, the literary study of these texts - has been ignored. Biblical scholars have taken a leadership role in exploiting the literary study of sacred texts; they have asked different types of questions and thereby obtained new insights into the literary and theological motives underlying the composition of biblical texts.(5) Close attention to language, style, narrative strategy, and choice of words helps us understand what the author is aiming to do, what message, subtle or otherwise, he is attempting to impart to his readers or listeners.(6) Scholars whose main goal is to uncover the most ancient versions of texts often tend to ignore later versions, even though it is these versions that provide insights into the religious, intellectual, and social history behind the texts. The story is told not just in the oldest but in the changes we can see from the older to the newer. Likewise, the literary study of texts can also become historically significant when we know the material the authors were working with. Historical and literary study of texts, therefore, need not be antagonistic to each other; they are interdependent and complementary.(7)


We have to address two issues at the outset. First, what were the sources at the disposal of the authors of [B.sup.*], [C.sup.*], and [K.sup.*] in composing their respective narratives? Second, what is the literary context within which these narratives are to be located and studied and which may shed light on the authors' theological and literary objectives? The second is related to the first in that a considerable part of the immediate context of the narratives is shared by [B.sup.*], [C.sup.*], and [K.sup.*] and is found also in other vedic texts (Jaiminiya Brahmana and Sankhayana Aranyaka), raising the possibility of tracing at least some of the source material (as opposed to a single archetype) used by the authors. The following is a schematic view of the literary context:

I Contest between faculties BU 6.1, CU 5.1.1 - 2.3, SA 9.1-7

II Mantha rite BU 6.3, CU 5.2.4-9, SA 9.8

III Svetaketu story BU 6.2.1-8, CU 5.3, KsU 1

IV Five fires BU 6.2.9-14, CU 5.4-9, JB 1.45-46 (first part), SB

V Paths after death: two versions

V.1 JB 1.46 (second part), 49-50, KsU 2-7

V.2 BU 6.2.15-16, CU 5.10

Since BU and CU follow each other closely, we are fortunate to have for each of these sections at least one other independent parallel which can serve as a check in uncovering possible sources. So, for example, in I, CU and SA list only five faculties and place II immediately after I, whereas BU lists semen as the sixth faculty and places II after V. We can, therefore, assume that these two features are innovations introduced by the author of BU, and we can ask what may have motivated him to do this (see below, [section]2.1.1). Likewise, the omission of IV by the author of KsU can be seen as an innovation, since IV is found in JB, as well as in BU and CU. It is, moreover, likely, as both Bodewitz (1973:113) and Schmithausen (1994) have noted, that the JB provides clues to the sources that may have been used by BU and CU, permitting us to see what innovations may have been introduced by the respective authors. It is also likely that V.2, the doctrine of the two paths, to gods and to ancestors - an innovation shared by BU and CU - goes back to a source they shared, while V. 1, the passage to heaven of JB, later recast in KsU, was probably the older sequel to the doctrine of five fires (Bodewitz 1973:113-14).

This leaves us with III, the story of Svetaketu, which forms the preamble to IV and V. 2 in BU and CU, and to V.1 in KsU, but which is missing in the parallel passage of JB. In her pioneering and detailed study of this episode, Sohnen (1981) has analyzed all three versions, paying close attention to the language, style, and selection of words. Hers is in some ways a literary study of this story, but her analysis is aimed at discovering the historical priority of the respective versions. That aim sometimes biases her judgments, as when she takes brevity or "logical consistency" as an indicator of historical priority (1981: 199). Sohnen takes [K.sup.*] to be the oldest version and the probable source of [B.sup.*] and [C.sup.*], and in many areas she thinks [C.sup.*] has preserved an older version than [B.sup.*]. When a passage of [B.sup.*] or [C.sup.*] is in agreement with [K.sup.*] we can readily accept that it probably goes back to an original source and that the author of the other version has introduced something new and ask why he may have done so. I am, however, not convinced that there is compelling evidence to claim that [K.sup.*] is either the oldest version or the model for [B.sup.*] and [C.sup.*]. Sohnen has shown that [K.sup.*] is brief and its narrative structure is logical and simple. But does that necessarily make it older? Simplicity and logic can be imposed on a rambling story by a narrator just as, or even more, easily than a simple and logical narrative can be turned into a disjointed one. If, as seems likely, the author of KsU omitted IV, though found in his sources, then he might well have made other drastic changes to the narrative sequence that he deemed necessary for his own literary or theological purposes. What I propose to show is that each version has its own narrative logic from the viewpoint of the respective author, and the additions, subtractions, and modifications can be viewed as part of the narrative strategy of each author.(8)

It appears likely that of the five text fragments I have isolated above, the fragments I and II existed as a separate unit (which I will call [I-II.sup.*]) as evidenced by SA, and likewise the fragments IV and V form a unit (which I will call IV-[V.sup.*]) as evidenced by JB, a unit which may have contained other material.(9) It also seems likely that in this unit the path after death was at first represented by V.1, since it is found in both JB and KsU. At some point IV-[V.sub.*] was recast with an introductory story containing three protagonists: a royal person, Svetaketu, and his father.(10) This recast unit (which I will call III-[V.sup.*]) was the source of the KsU version. The recast unit appears to have been further modified by replacing V.1 with V.2 and by combining it with [I-II.sup.*]. Now, it is possible that this last version (which I will call [I-V.sup.*]) was the work of the author of either BU or CU,(11) in which case we must assume that the one borrowed this version from the other. Given the discrepancies between the two versions, and the partial agreement of each with other versions of these fragments, especially with [K.sup.*] in fragment III, it appears more probable that the BU and CU versions are modeled on a version of I-[V.sup.*] that is now lost. Let me present this hypothetical relationship and derivations of the five text fragments:

[Unknown Text Omitted]

2.1 Theological and Literary Intent

In analyzing their theology and the narrative strategy, I find that the author of BU intends to teach a theology of sexual intercourse as a fire sacrifice, while the author of CU pursues a theology of the fire sacrifice offered to one's breath (pranagnihotra). The clue to the literary intents of these authors, I believe, is found in the concluding sections that they have appended to I-[V.sup.*], sections that deal with sexuality and offering food to the breaths, respectively. The intent of the author of the KsU is more difficult to determine; it appears that his purpose was somewhat narrow and limited to recasting the path after death of V.I into a narrative of an epic or puranic type describing a man's journey to the world of Brahman.

Bodewitz (1973: 250-51,269-75) has objected vigorously, and I think rightly, to Varenne's (1960) indiscriminate attempt to trace the pranagnihotra in all these upanisadic texts. Bodewitz, however, is principally interested in examining the "original" intent of these passages, an intent that he discovers by comparing their different versions. Within that context, clearly not all the passages of the fifth chapter of the CU deal with the pranagnihotra. Bodewitz, and before him Frauwallner (1953: 49f.), likewise, find a "water doctrine" (Wasserlehre) as the underlying teaching of the five fires and the path to heaven. This may well be true with regard to the possible original intent and context of these doctrines.

Clearly not all the text fragments comprising the sixth chapter of the BU were intended in their original contexts to teach the theology of sex as a sacrifice. The literary study of these texts, however, aims at discovering not an "original" meaning but the literary intent of the author who brought these diverse passages into a narrative unity. Further, it is not necessary that each passage directly espouse the theology; but, together, they are building blocks in the overall literary strategy. Thus, for example, Bodewitz (1973: 269-70) correctly observes that the contest of breaths has nothing directly to do with pranagnihotra; nevertheless, the supremacy of breath that it establishes sets the scene in the CU for the detailed exposition of the theology of pranagnihotra in the final section of the fifth chapter. It is within this specifically literary context that I claim that the authors of the BU and the CU intend to teach the theology of sex as sacrifice and the theology of the pranagnihotra, respectively.

2.1.1 Brhadaranyaka Upanisad

We know that the author of BU has drastically modified [I-II.sup.*]. For the most part, the structure and content of I-II are identical in SA and CU, and we can assume that they present more or less the original [I-II.sup.*].(12) I will ignore the numerous minor differences between the BU and SA/CU versions and concentrate here on a few that provide an insight into the author's aims in constructing his narrative. The author of BU places the mantha rite, which is longer and more complex here than in the parallel versions, after the teaching on the five fires and the two paths (III-V), breaking thereby the natural continuity between the two in [I-II.sup.*]; adds a sixth faculty, semen (retas), together with its power, fecundity or procreation (prajati), both in the contest and in the mantha rite; adds a sentence containing "when a man knows this . . ." (ya evam veda) to each statement (BU 6.1.1-6) about the powers of the faculties; combines into a single question the query by breath about his food and clothing (and recasts this segment of the narrative); and, lastly, transfers the saying ascribed to Satyakama Jabala from the end of the contest to the end of the mantha rite, and ascribes that saying to a series of teachers and pupils.

These changes, I believe, reveal the author's deliberate strategy to recast the series of text fragments I-V in order to present a theology and (in the final section of chapter 6) rituals relating to sex and sexual intercourse.(13) His theology presents sexual intercourse as a sacrifice. The centerpiece of this theology is given at the beginning of BU 6.4.1, which presents semen as the quintessence of all reality:

Of these beings here, the essence is clearly the earth; of the earth, the waters; of the waters, the plants; of the plants, the flowers; of the flowers, the fruits; of the fruits, man; of man, semen.

esam vai bhutanam prthivi rasah prthivya apa apam osadhaya osadhinam puspani puspanam phalani phalanam purusah purusasya retah.

Then Prajapati, the creator, sought to prepare a base (pratistha) for the semen and produced the woman. Prajapati himself provides the primordial divine model for sex; after creating the woman, he stretched out from himself the elongated stone for pressing Soma and impregnated her with it (BU 6.4.2). The Soma stone functions as a penis, establishing a clear link between intercourse and the Soma sacrifice. The author (BU 6.4.3) elaborates his sexual theology by drawing a parallel between the sexual organ of a woman and a sacrificial altar:

Her vulva is the sacrificial ground; her pubic hair is the sacred grass; her labia majora are the Soma-press; and her labia majora are the fire blazing at the center. A man who engages in sexual intercourse with this knowledge obtains as great a world as a man who performs a Soma sacrifice.

tasya vedir upastho lomani barhis carmadhisavane samiddho madhyastas tau muskau | sa yavan ha vai vajapeyena yajamanasya loko bhavati tavan asya loko bhavati ya evam vidvan adhopahasam carati.

In the light of this sexual theology, we can see the reason why the author of BU introduces semen as the sixth and last human faculty in the contest among faculties and in the mantha rite, setting the scene at the very outset for the elaboration of that theology.(14)

At the end of his narrative of the contest, he uses a phonetic-cum-etymological argument to establish the identity of breath, ana (the greatest of the faculties), with food, anna. This identity is also given in the CU narrative, but because the CU separates the two questions regarding food and clothing, the section ends with the drinking of water and the saying ascribed to Satyakama. The BU, on the other hand, ends on a high note: etam eva tad anam anagnam kurvanto manyante ("they think that they are thus making the breath not naked"). With the repetition of ana (= anna) and the alliterated anagna, the author uses a subtle strategy to recall to the listener's mind that breath is the same as food.

By placing the narrative of the five fires immediately after this, he is able to produce a further identification: in the fourth fire food is converted into semen, meaning that semen is the essential form of food (BU 6.2.12). When it rains (third fire), food (anna) is produced; the listener is bound to think here of plants (osadhi) because plants grow when it rains and then, through the medium of flowers and fruit, become human food, as described in the above passage on the essences. Food is eaten by a man, i.e., within the sacrificial metaphor used, offered in the mouth of the man (fourth fire). In his body the essence of the food is extracted as semen, which he deposits in a woman (fifth fire). Note that in a man the mouth acts as the sacrificial fire, whereas in a woman it is the vagina. The author has subtly taken us from breath, through food, to semen and sexual intercourse.

I want to argue further that the author of the BU may have visualized not just the offering in the fifth fire but the offerings in all five fires as a kind of sexual intercourse. A significant passage in the Aitareya Aranyaka (2.1.3) presents a sequence similar to that of the five fires where each subsequent element of the sequence is considered the semen of each preceding:

Next, the creation of semen. The semen of Prajapati is the gods; the semen of the gods is rain; the semen of rain is plants; the semen of plants is food; the semen of food is semen; the semen of semen is the creatures.

athato retasah srstih | prajapate reto deva devanam reto varsam varsasya reta osadhaya osadhinam reto 'nnam annasya reto reto retaso retah prajah.

Thus, for example, in the first fire we can visualize rain as the product of the offering by gods, on the one hand, and as the ejaculated semen of the gods, on the other. This is not far-fetched, because in the description of the path to the fathers from which people return back to this earth (BU 6.2.16), the crucial element is the moon. People reach the moon making it swell, thereby becoming food. Gods feed on that food and emit them once again. Although in the BU description the ejection (ejaculation) of the food/people by the gods in the form of rain is mediated by their passage through the sky and the wind, the Aitareya Aranyaka version makes a direct connection between the gods' seed and rain.

In placing the mantha rite (II) after the fire doctrine (IV-V), the author has made another transition, this time from "knowing" to "doing," from knowledge to ritual. I noted above that BU adds a statement containing the phrase ya evam veda ("who knows thus") to each description of the faculties, and the section on the contest ends with the statement that "when a man knows in this way that breath is food, nothing he eats becomes an improper food, nothing he accepts becomes an improper food" (na ha va asyanannam jagdham bhavati nanannam pratigrhitam ya evam etad anasyannam veda). Likewise, the section about the five fires and the two paths deals with knowledge. It begins with Svetaketu's ignorance and the request by his father Aruni for the knowledge (vidya) that brahmins have never had. The narrative of the two paths begins with what happens to people who know the fire doctrine (re ya evam etad viduh), and ends with what happens to those who do not know these two paths (atha ya etau panthanau na viduh). The mantha rite (BU 6.3), on the contrary, introduces the listener to the ritual side of this knowledge: rites performed with knowledge become productive.

The BU description of this rite is the longest. It begins with gathering the necessary ritual items, including "every type of herb and fruit" (sarvausadham phalaniti) and a bowl made of udumbara (fig) wood. Fruit and the udumbara bowl are not mentioned in SA or CU. The introduction of herbs or plants and fruits both connects this rite to the food that is breath and to the food that is offered in the mouth of the man in the previous sections, and anticipates the next section (BU 6.4.1), in which the author presents the sequence of plants, flowers, fruits, man, and semen. Udumbara is connected with vitality, food, and strength, especially in the SB.(15) Udumbara is said to be the sap (rasa) and to represent all trees.(16) The connection between rasa and semen is common in the vedic literature,(17) and udumbara points to fecundity and fertility. The crushing and squeezing of the herbs in the mantha rite recalls the crushing of Soma and its sexual symbolism. The herbal juice is mixed with ghee (another symbol of semen) by offering a portion of a spoonful of ghee in the fire and pouring the remainder into the juice. Finally, the mixture is sipped while reciting the Savitri verse. We have here a nice parallel between the offering of ghee in the sacrificial fire and the offering of the juice mixture in the mouth, as in the fourth fire of the preceding section. The fertility aspect of the mixture is highlighted by the saying attributed to a series of teachers and pupils: "Even if one were to pour this mixture on a withered stump, it would sprout new branches and grow new leaves." As we saw, the author of the BU has moved this statement from the end of the contest to the end of the mantha rite. The wording is also changed from "saying this to a withered stump" of the other versions to "pouting the mixture on a withered stump." Knowledge and saying are replaced by a rite, and the fertility aspect of the mixture is highlighted.

Finally, the BU inserts this concluding statement: "There are four things made of udumbara wood: udumbara spoon, udumbara cup, udumbara kindling stick, and the two udumbara stirring sticks. There are ten types of cultivated grains: rice, barley, sesame, bean, millet, mustard, wheat, lentil, pea, and legume. After grinding these, he pours curd, honey, and ghee on them, and offers an oblation of ghee." The rite intended here is unclear; is it an allusion to a new rite or a summation of the rite just concluded? Are the ten types of grain a gloss on "every type of herb"? In any case, the mention of grain is a good opening to the next section (6.4.1, cited earlier) that presents semen as the essence of plants/flowers/fruits.

After the statement about sex as a Soma sacrifice (BU 6.4.1-3), the chapter concludes with a series of six rites, all connected with sex: rite when one spills semen (BU 6.4.4-5);(18) rite at seeing one's reflection in water (BU 6.4.6);(19) rites for intercourse with women (6.4.6-11); rite against a wife's lover (BU 6.4.12); rite during intercourse with one's wife (6.4.13-22); and rites at pregnancy and birth (BU 6.4.23-28).(20)

An interesting sub-text running through these rites is the fear of losing virility and merit by engaging in sexual activity. Women are said to appropriate to themselves the merits of a man who engages in sex without knowing its nature as a Soma sacrifice (BU 6.4.3). And Uddalaka Aruni is said to have exclaimed: "Many are the mortals of brahmin descent who, engaging in sexual intercourse without this knowledge, depart this world drained of virility and deprived of merit" (BU 6.4.4). The theology of sex as sacrifice is intended to safeguard against the dangers of sex, an ancient Indian way of practicing "safe sex."

Finally, there is the repeated mention of Uddalaka Aruni. In the mantha rite the author of BU places Uddalaka at the head of a series of teachers and pupils who repeated the saying about the potency of the mixture: Yajnavalkya,(21) Madhuka Paingya, Cula Bhagavitti, Janaki Ayasthuna, and Satyakama Jabala. The SA and CU mention only the last. Again the statement about many brahmins departing drained of their virility (BU 6.4.3) is ascribed to Uddalaka. The same Uddalaka is the brahmin whom the author presents earlier as having received the knowledge of the five fires from Pravahana Jaivali. Although the evidence is not compelling, I wonder whether the author is, on the one hand, interpreting the five fires as a theology of sexual intercourse as a sacrifice, a theology that was known at first only to ksatriyas, and, on the other, presenting Uddalaka as the first brahmin to learn this secret and to teach it to other brahmins. If this is right, then we can see the "logic" of the author of BU in his rearrangement of the early sections of this chapter.

2.1.2 Chandogya Upanisad

In chapter 5 the author of CU pursues, I believe, a theology of the fire sacrifice as an offering to one's breaths (pranagnihotra). The arrangement of material of sections I and II, we saw, is identical in SA and CU, an arrangement that is probably original to [I-II.sup.*]. The author of CU had a much easier time than his BU counterpart and did not have to recast this section because it fitted nicely into his literary structure. It starts with the assertion of the supremacy of breath over all other vital functions. He does not introduce the sixth function, semen; indeed, he is quite happy with the number five, both here and in the five fires. It permits him to lead naturally to the grand finale in CU 5.19-23 where mouthfuls of food are offered to the five breaths: out-breath, inter-breath, in-breath, link-breath, and up-breath (prana, vyana, apana, samana, udana).

In the section on the contest (I), the major new element is the addition that follows immediately after the faculties offer their own powers to breath (CU 5.1. 13-14):

Surely, people do not call these "speeches," or "sights," or "hearings," or "minds." They call them only "breaths," for only breath becomes all these.

na vai vaco na caksumsi na srotrani na manamsity acaksate | prana ity evacaksate | prano hy evaitani sarvani bhavanti. (CU 5.1.15; cf. BU 1.5.21)

Alluding to the common vedic practice of calling all vital faculties prana, the author asserts the absolute supremacy of breath. The section on the contest ends with a saying ascribed to Satyakama Jabala: "Even if one were to say this to a withered stump, it would sprout new branches and grow new leaves" (CU 5.2.3). The antecedent of enat "this" is unclear, but the power of the saying is undoubtedly related to the acknowledgment of the supremacy of the breath over the other faculties.

The mantha rite is brief both in SA and CU. This rite is also the weakest point in my argument for taking the pranagnihotra as providing an overarching structure to the CU narrative. The author of the CU has not adapted the mantha narrative to further his literary-cum-theological purpose; perhaps he did not see the need for such adaptation because the rite itself shows the power of making offerings to the five faculties that had earlier been identified with breath. The connection between the contest and the mantha rite, on the one hand, and the internal fire offering consisting of eating, on the other, is established also in the SA where the latter (SA 10) immediately follows the former (SA 9). Unlike in the CU, however, the offerings are made here not to the five breaths but to the six faculties (with the addition of semen), relating the offerings directly to the contest between and the mantha offerings to these faculties.

The next two sections of the CU, containing two sets of instructions by two ksatriyas, Jaivali (CU 5.3-10) and Asvapati (5.11-24), are interesting in that they present these teachings as ksatriya secrets unknown to brahmins. There is no dispute that the latter contains a clear enunciation of the theology of pranagnihotra.(22) The former does not teach this doctrine directly, but I think that the author is using the doctrine of the five fires to set the scene for the doctrine of offering food to the five breaths. Besides the obvious refrain of the number five - five faculties, five fires, five breaths - the central element of the five offerings is the offering of food in the mouth of the man (fourth fire). This is clearly not the same as pranagnihotra, but the author, I think, is drawing a parallel between this and the offering to breaths in the concluding section.(23) Both involve putting food in the mouth, and in both the mouth is the sacrificial fire; the CU (5.18.2) explicitly equates the mouth with the ahavaniya fire, in which oblations to gods are offered. One must realize that the pranagnihotra is not an offering in breaths conceived of as fires, although the breaths are often homologized with fires, but the oblations to the breaths (conceived of as the deities to whom the oblations are intended) offered in the fire of the mouth. This is apparent in the mantras used at these offerings: "To out-breath, svaha!" etc. The author is here drawing a parallel between the fire doctrine and the pranagnihotra, without equating the one with the other. Such parallelisms, sometimes based on much slimmer connections, such as phonetic similarity of words (for example, ana "breath" and anna "food" that we encountered earlier), abound in the upanisads (Olivelle 1996a: liii-liv).

The author appears to be drawing the attention of the reader to this parallelism in the concluding statements of the two sections. He is the only one to propose a rider to the two-path model, making moral conduct a factor in the after-death condition of a man:

Now, people here whose behavior is pleasant can expect to enter a pleasant womb, like that of a woman of the brahmin, the ksatriya, or the vaisya class. But people of foul behavior can expect to enter a foul womb, like that of a dog, a pig, or an outcaste woman. (CU 5.10.7)

He cites a verse on the five great sins that cause a man to fall, the last of which is association with a person who commits such a sin (CU 5.10.9). The concluding statement of the section is:

A man who knows these five fires in this way, however, is not tainted with evil even if he associates with such people. Anyone who knows this becomes pure and clean and attains a good world. (CU 5.10.10)

At the conclusion of Asvapati's discourse on the offerings to breaths, the author likewise picks up the theme of immunity from sin and stain in the case of a person who performs those offerings:

When someone offers the daily sacrifice with this knowledge, all the bad things in him are burnt up like the tip of a reed stuck into a fire. Therefore, even if a man who has this knowledge were to give his leftovers to an outcaste, thereby he would have made an offering in that self of his which is common to all men. (CU 5.24.3-4)


I now turn to the Svetaketu story and present below a concordance of parallel passages in the three versions, divided for convenience into narrative units. I have separated each unit of the narrative sequence and numbered them sequentially. Sohnen (1981: 179) has conveniently divided the story into three narrative components contained in all three versions: A) dialogue between Svetaketu and Jaivali or Citra; B) dialogue between Svetaketu and his father, Uddalaka; and C) dialogue between Uddalaka and Jaivali or Citra. There is a clear structure to these three units, each opening with the arrival of a person into the presence of another: Svetaketu to Jaivali or Citra; Svetaketu to Uddalaka; and Uddalaka to Jaivali or Citra.


3.1 Svetaketu in [B.sup.*]

In this first section of my analysis I focus on [B.sup.*] because the author through a finely nuanced narrative has put into sharp focus the character traits of the three individuals: the impolite, ignorant, and arrogant Svetaketu; the fatherly and magnanimous Pravahana Jaivali; and the loving, patient, and humble Uddalaka Aruni. Not all aspects of my analysis of the narrative dynamic and the author's use of the language are equally compelling; some are speculative. But together they reveal the author's clear and deliberate literary strategy to contrast the arrogance of Svetaketu with the fatherly solicitude of Jaivali.

A) Svetaketu and Jaivali. Svetaketu comes(24) into the audience hall(25) of the Pancalas (1).(26) Unlike [K.sup.*], neither [B.sup.*] nor the parallel in [C.sup.*] gives an explicit reason for the visit.(27) The narrative sequence of [B.sup.*] leading up to Jaivali's question as to whether Svetaketu has been educated by his father is absent in [C.sup.*] and provides an insight into the literary strategy of [B.sup.*]. In [C.sup.*] Jaivali is not directly introduced (we must assume that he was present in the assembly and that it was to visit him that Svetaketu came there) and questions the young man abruptly, even haughtily. In [B.sup.*], on the other hand, the questioning is preceded by three narrative units: Svetaketu comes up to Pravahana Jaivali(28) while the latter was being waited upon (2); Jaivali notices him and greets him (3); Svetaketu returns the greeting (4).

In [B.sup.*] Svetaketu not only enters the audience hall but goes directly up to Jaivali, and he does so while Jaivali is "being waited upon" (paricarayamanam; 2). This grammatical form, the middle present participle of the causative of [Unknown Text Omitted], is not found elsewhere in the vedic literature. The non-causative forms of the verb are used regularly, especially with reference to the service of, that is, putting firewood into, the ritual fire.(29) which is equivalent at the human level to serving food. A clearly sexual meaning is attached to the term in the only other occurrence of a causative form. In the Katha Upanisad (1.1.25), Death promises Naciketas lovely girls of a sort unobtainable by men: "I'll give them to you; you'll have them wait on you (paricarayasva)." At CU 4.4.4, moreover, the mother of Satyakama Jabala tells the boy that she had him when she was a maid and had many relationships: bahv aham caranti paricarini, where the latter term assumes a sexual connotation at least by association. What the author of [B.sup.*] is trying to signal here, I think, is that Svetaketu did not know his manners and barged into the presence of Jaivali during an inappropriate moment, either because he was being entertained by women or because he was being served his meal, or both.

Jaivali notices him (udiksya), but instead of having him thrown out, the king in a fatherly and respectful manner greets (abhyuvada) him, saying "Young man" (kumara; 3). The term abhyuvada can connote respect and/or affection,(30) as does kumara, the term also for the son of a king. Svetaketu responds to this greeting with a simple bho(h) (4). This term may not necessarily indicate disrespect,(31) but two factors make me think that the author is once again signaling the incivility of the young man. First, it comes after the discourteous intrusion into Jaivali's private space. Second, I think that in ancient India, as in modern America or Europe, good upbringing required a younger person to use a "sir" or "madam" equivalent in addressing an older and respectable person. You don't simply say "yes" or "no" to a superior. It is remarkable that throughout [B.sup.*] (4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16) Svetaketu replies to questions with a curt "yes" or "no," whereas in the parallel passages of [C.sup.*] he uses the honorific bhagavah ("lord" or "sir"). The term bhoh here may, therefore, mean something like the colloquial "hey!"(32)

This brief exchange sets the scene for Jaivali's opening question (5). Comparing the wording of this question in [B.sup.*] and [C.sup.*], Sohnen (1981: 187) notes the older anu tvasisat (aorist, in tmesis) of [C.sup.*] in contrast to the younger past participial construction anusisto nv asi of [B.sup.*]. I doubt that these constructions warrant her conclusion that [C.sup.*] is older than [B.sup.*]; aorist forms are indeed found elsewhere in the [B.sup.*] narrative: avocah (20),(33) apraksit (22). In my view, the author's use of anusista is deliberate; it evokes in the listener's mind the related word sista, which means not just a learned man, but a man who is a paragon of deep learning, correct speech, good behavior, and proper etiquette.(34) On a listener who probably knew some version of the episode already these subtle points would not have been lost: Jaivali is posing for young Svetaketu a double-entendre and putting a double-edged questions: did your father impart to you learning and did he train you in basic norms of etiquette and good behavior?

The subtle irony of the question is, as expected, lost on the brash Svetaketu, who replies with a curt "yes" (om; 6), again without any honorific title. Parpola (1981) has shown the widespread use of o.m as a particle of assent even outside the ritual context. I am not sure whether in normal usage o.m was used to say "yes" by an inferior to a superior.(35) The use of om, however, is quite rare in conversations, in contrast to the ubiquitous tatha. Given its rarity, its usage was possibly "marked" and carried a particular connotation.(36) In any case, this curt answer stands in sharp contrast to the obsequious anu hi bhagavah of [C.sup.*].

Jaivali then asks Svetaketu five questions, all beginning with vettha ("do you know"). Starting with the second question, Jaivali adds the emphatic u (vettho),(37) which may convey something like "do you at least know." To each question Svetaketu answers with a curt "no." Paralleling the emphatic u of the questions, answers two to four have the additional eva (haivovaca), possibly conveying something like "just" or "simply." The final answer is longer, but still without an honorific title. With each impolite answer, the author instills in his listeners the image of Svetaketu as "not educated"; he is neither an anusista nor a sista.

The sequel to this exchange is significant. In contrast to the cutting words of Jaivali in [C.sup.*], the author of [B.sup.*] presents the king as solicitous of Svetaketu's welfare and inviting the young man to stay (17). "Staying" (vasati) here probably refers to a student's residence with a teacher.(38) Jaivali in effect tells him to stay so he can teach him - teach him the answers to the questions and proper manners. But the haughty young man spurns the kind invitation, the term anadrtya again suggesting lack of politeness and humility. And he runs away.

B) Svetaketu and Uddalaka. The section opens with Svetaketu coming back to his father (19) and blurting out this rather testy and sarcastic accusation: iti vava kila no bhavan puranusistan avocah (20). The expression vava kila(39) is found in both [B.sup.*] and [C.sup.*]. The iti at the beginning of [B.sup.*] stands in contrast to the explicit, but prosaic, ananusisya ("without teaching me") of [C.sup.*] and, I think, means something like "this is the way," referring perhaps to the father's former boast (to his friends and family?) about how learned his son was. Svetaketu uses the same word that Jaivali had used earlier (5), anusista, and in using it reveals that he had not grasped the full implication of the term. The listener by now knows what Svetaketu should have known; he clearly is no anusista. As in the question of Jaivali, so here [C.sup.*] uses the verbal forms that do not have quite the resonance of the past participle. Sohnen (1981: 189), mistakenly I believe, thinks that the use of the plural (nah and anusistan) in [B.sup.*] indicates that Svetaketu is here speaking also on behalf of his classmates. This is in all likelihood a majestic plural, and the author uses it possibly to signal the arrogance of Svetaketu in using such a pompous form especially in talking to his father.(40)

The father is baffled by this outburst and cannot quite follow the point. He tries to soothe the angry young man, calling him sumedha (literally, "[a man] with a fine understanding"!). The irony in this choice of words will not be lost on the listener. This repartee is absent in [C.sup.*], which goes directly from Svetaketu's initial accusation to his report about the five questions he could not answer. The report is almost identical in both versions, except for the final veda, "I did (not) know," in [B.sup.*],(41) compared with asakam vivaktum, "I could (not) explain" in [C.sup.*] (22). In both texts Svetaketu uses what Samkara(42) and Sohnen (1981: 188) have correctly recognized as a disparaging epithet, rajanyabandhu, to refer to Jaivali. In [C.sup.*], however, it is a reflection of his justifiable anger, whereas in [B.sup.*] it is a reflection of his arrogance. The version of [B.sup.*] continues with the father asking what the questions were and Svetaketu enumerating them briefly (23-24).

Uddalaka's answer differs substantially in the two versions (Sohnen 1981: 189-90). In [B.sup.*] the father does not address directly the issue of the questions his son had failed to answer; his reply is directed at Svetaketu's implied accusation that his father had withheld information from him. The father, in effect, says that he is not the type of man to withhold information from his own son. The author of [B.sup.*] paints the picture of a father deeply hurt by his son's cutting words and unfair accusations, further strengthening the listeners' perception of Svetaketu as not only haughty and impolite, but also without feeling or filial piety.

After that [B.sup.*] has a narrative unit (26-27) absent in [C.sup.*] and only partially found in [K.sup.*]. In both [B.sup.*] and [K.sup.*] the father asks the son to come along to visit the king and receive instruction from him. [B.sup.*] uses the term brahmacarya signaling that Uddalaka formally intended to become a student of Jaivali. Svetaketu's reply (found only in [B.sup.*]) is in character; he tells the father to go on his own. The proud young brahmin is perhaps unwilling to be a pupil of a ksatriya. With this final refusal Svetaketu exits the narrative.

C) Uddalaka and Jaivali. The last section of the narrative opens with Uddalaka going to Jaivali (28), who receives him with great respect (29). While [C.sup.*] states briefly that Jaivali paid his respects (arham cakara),(43) [B.sup.*] carefully notes each act of homage: Jaivali first offers him a seat, then gets his servants to bring water for the guest, and finally offers him the arghya water. These three items are part of the traditional rite of receiving honored guests.(44) The mention of arghya would evoke in the listener the elaborate ritual associated with it.

Jaivali, in the typical manner of a generous king, then declares that he will grant a wish to his guest (31). Uddalaka uses this promise to ask what the king had said to his son (32). The wording of the request, which is nearly identical in both [B.sup.*] and [C.sup.*] is somewhat unclear (Sohnen 1981: 191-97): is he asking Jaivali to repeat the questions he posed to Svetaketu, or to repeat the entire conversation he had with Svetaketu, or to teach him the answers to the questions, or to teach him the full doctrine pertaining to those questions? Repeating the questions would have been pointless, because he knew them already. In the context of [C.sup.*], the second option may imply that Uddalaka is defending his son and putting the king on the spot for having been so arrogant with the young man (Sohnen 1981: 191-92); but as [B.sup.*] narrates the incident, Jaivali had nothing to be ashamed of, and it would be out of character for Uddalaka to be combative. Furthermore, in the subsequent conversation both Jaivali and Uddalaka understand the question as a request for instruction (34-39). Since the subsequent conversation does not answer the questions point by point (especially in [B.sup.*]), the likelihood is that this is an oblique request to tell him the doctrine underlying the questions, what Jaivali would have told Svetaketu had he been modest and prudent enough to accept Jaivali's invitation to stay.

In the pattern of most upanisadic teachers,(45) Jaivali hesitates and tries to wiggle out: "That, Gautama, is in the category of divine wishes. Mention (one) from among human (wishes)" (33). Uddalaka humbly begs Jaivali not to begrudge him the higher boon, the knowledge Jaivali possesses (34). He tells Jaivali that he already has quite enough wealth, and characterizes the knowledge that he is seeking as "more," "unending," and "uncircumscribed" (bahu, ananta, aparyanta). The exchange between Jaivali and Uddalaka is quite different in [C.sup.*] and projects quite different images of both individuals (see below, [section]3.2).

The narrative in [B.sup.*] continues with Jaivali telling Uddalaka that if he wants knowledge he should request it in the proper manner (tirthena, 35).(46) I do not think the author is hinting here at Jaivali's arrogance; he is simply asking that the imparting of instruction be done in the proper way, that is, by Uddalaka formally becoming a student of Jaivali; this certainly is the way Uddalaka understands the statement and I think it echoes the general belief that only the knowledge imparted by one's teacher is productive.(47) Uddalaka immediately says, "I come to you, sir, as a pupil," using the technical term upaimi (36).(48) The narrator continues with an explanation of this ritual for becoming a student: "with words alone did the people of old come as pupils" (37). Sohnen (1981: 195) thinks that this is a later gloss that found its way into the text. That is clearly possible, but it could equally well have been introduced by the author of [B.sup.*] who felt the need to explain a procedure that his listeners may have found somewhat odd.(49) The narrator then emphasizes that Uddalaka lived with Jaivali openly as his student (38). This entire section (35-38) is missing in [C.sup.*], which has in its place Jaivali's command that Uddalaka stay longer (35). Clearly the intentions of the two authors diverge widely on this point, the former highlighting Uddalaka's studentship and the latter ignoring it completely.

The final narrative unit consists of Jaivali's response (39). Here also there are significant differences between [B.sup.*] and [C.sup.*], and the use of the correlatives yatha/tatha in [B.sup.*] and yatha/yatha in [C.sup.*] makes the syntax unclear. Sohnen (1981: 196) provides the best interpretation, which I have followed. Both versions state that the knowledge Jaivali is about to impart has not been known before to brahmins. In [B.sup.*] Jaivali foresees an angry curse by the brahmin Uddalaka or one of his deceased ancestors and uses the above statement to forestall it. In [C.sup.*] Jaivali says that he is repeating what Uddalaka himself had said. The author of [B.sup.*] concludes with a rhetorical question by Jaivali: "for who can refuse you when you speak like that." Sohnen (1981: 196) thinks that this is a reference to the magical power of Uddalaka's request. It may also refer, however, to the humility that Uddalaka exhibited in sharp contrast to his son, a humility explicitly recognized in [K.sup.*].

3.2 Svetaketu in [C.sup.*]

I turn now to the version in [C.sup.*]. I will be brief here because I have already noted many of its differences from [B.sup.*] in the preceding section. The author of [C.sup.*] presents the three main characters of the narrative in a quite different light. The sharp edge given to Svetaketu's character in [B.sup.*] is blunted here; Svetaketu's anger, for example, is not the result of his own arrogance but an understandable reaction to the haughty demeanor and the cutting words of Jaivali.(50) The latter appears as a haughty king picking on a young boy and ordering around an older brahmin. Uddalaka's humility is not stressed, and, although he wants to get the knowledge from the king, he does not stoop to becoming his student.

A) Svetaketu and Jaivali. When Svetaketu comes to the assembly of the Pancalas, Jaivali abruptly asks him: "Young man, did your father educate you?" (5).(51) Svetaketu replies politely: "He did, your honor" (6). I have remarked already on the use of bhagavah by Svetaketu in [C.sup.*]. It is impossible to determine whether the author of [C.sup.*] introduced this honorific title into Svetaketu's answers or whether it was the author of [B.sup.*] who deleted it. The title, however, is used commonly throughout the CU in similar contexts.(52) In the long instruction by his father (CU 6), moreover, Svetaketu always prefaces his answers and questions with bhagavah. Irrespective of whether the author of [C.sup.*] introduced this title into the narrative or found it in his sources, the effect is to make Svetaketu a polite young man instead of the spoiled brat of [B.sup.*].

The most significant difference between [B.sup.*] and [C.sup.*] is in the narration of the events that took place after Jaivali had asked the five questions. In place of the kind invitation of [B.sup.*], Jaivali is here presented as humiliating the boy: athanu kim anu sisto 'vocatha yo himani na vidyat (17). The repetition of the tmesis (anu) with atha and the interrogative particle kim at the beginning adds intensity to the question: Jaivali is twisting the knife. The author uses the past participle anu sista here, but its meaning is clearly restricted to learning; the relative clause makes it plain that the reason why Svetaketu cannot call himself anu sista is because he does not know the answers to Jaivali's questions.

Svetaketu is hurt, crestfallen, and enraged - all of which emotions can be contained in the term ayasta (19). Svetaketu's emotional state is caused by the humiliating words of Jaivali. In the eyes of the author of [C.sup.*], these words, as Sohnen (1981: 191) has noted, justify the young man's anger. Svetaketu then comes to his father, with nothing said about his rejection of Jaivali's invitation.(53) Sohnen (1981: 188) remarks: "Die Erregung Svetaketus scheint mir allerdings in der ChU-Fassung nach dem Tadel des Konigs wesentlich besser motiviert als in der BrU-Fassung nach der Einladung." One may ask how one knows which narrative contains the better motivation for Svetaketu's anger, except by using the questionable strategy, "if I were Svetaketu. . . ." This remark reveals the difference in method and goals between Sohnen's study and mine. The question I would ask is not whether the one or the other narrative gives a "better motive" for Svetaketu's anger, but why the two authors provide two different motives for his anger. The very fact that, as Sohnen says, in [C.sup.*] Svetaketu had better reason to be angry makes his anger understandable and excusable. The author of [B.sup.*], on the other hand, shows that Svetaketu not only had no reason to be angry but in fact spurned the kind invitation of a gentle king. In [B.sup.*] Svetaketu was angry because he was a spoiled brat!

B) Svetaketu and Uddalaka. Svetaketu accuses his father of having told him a lie: without teaching him fully, the father had told him that he had so taught him (20). Without stopping for the father's response, Svetaketu tells why he thinks so: he was unable to answer five questions (22).

Uddalaka then tells his son that, "as you report them to me,"(54) he himself does not know any of them; and he concludes with the rhetorical questions: "if I had known them, how could I have not told them to you?" (25).(55) In both [B.sup.*] and [C.sup.*] the father gently rebukes the son; he should know better than to accuse the father of lying or cheating. So ends the encounter between father and son in [C.sup.*] - unlike [B.sup.*], there is no hint of what the father intends to do, no invitation to the son to come with him and visit Jaivali. From a purely narrative perspective the dialogue in [C.sup.*] is disappointing, because the participants are insufficiently characterized. I think the changes in [C.sup.*], especially the omission of the invitation that they both go to Jaivali, are deliberate modifications introduced by the author. The invitation was in all likelihood present in his sources, because it is found also in [K.sup.*] (26). His motive, I think, was to make Svetaketu, who will appear again as a model student in the very next chapter of CU, not appear in too bad a light.

C) Uddalaka and Jaivali. When Uddalaka arrives, Jaivali receives him with respect (arham cakara; 29); unlike [B.sup.*], there are no details of his reception. The narrative then moves to the next morning; we have to assume that Uddalaka spent the night there (30).56 "In the morning, when he was in the assembly hall, he got up" (sa ha pratah sabhaga udeyaya; 30): now it is unclear what the antecedent of the pronoun "he" (sah) is. Is it Uddalaka or Jaivali? A similar lack of clarity is found in the subsequent statement, "he became distressed" (sa ha krcchri babhuva; 33). I think that in both cases the pronoun refers to Uddalaka. In the entire [C.sup.*] an initial pronoun, both the nominative (sah) and the accusative (tam), is always followed by the enclitic particle ha, placing some stress on the pronoun.(57) In the first section, the pronoun (irrespective of whether it is the subject or the object of the sentence) always refers to Svetaketu (3, 19).(58) From the time the father is introduced (30), however, the pronoun invariably refers to the father. It is most likely, therefore, that in the two doubtful cases also this pattern is applicable.

Jaivali then asks him to choose a wish consisting of "human riches" (31), eliminating the verbal contest about human and divine wishes of [B.sup.*] (31-36). Uddalaka's reply (32) is derisive of the king's offer: "keep your human riches to yourself." Instead of the humble and obsequious individual of [B.sup.*], Uddalaka is presented here as a spirited brahmin willing to confront a king. He wants Jaivali instead to tell him exactly what he told Svetaketu. The same ambiguity that I pointed out in the parallel passage of [B.sup.*] exists here also. The next statement, however, puts a further wrinkle in [C.sup.*]. It states that "He became distressed" (sa ha krcchri babhuva; 33). Sohnen (1981: 192), as almost all translators,(59) takes the pronoun here, mistakenly I think, as referring to Jaivali. Not only do all other pronouns in this section refer to Uddalaka, we also have in 33-34 an exact parallel to 28-29, and 30-31. In all these the first sentence begins with sa ha (subject) and the second with tam ha or tasmai ha (direct or indirect object), and both pronouns refer to the same individual - Uddalaka. The only difference here is that two sentences (32, 33) begin with sa ha, with tam ha following both. I think that all three pronouns refer to Uddalaka: he blurts out his angry retort to the king (32) and became distressed (33).(60) The reason for both was his perception that Jaivali was not going to reveal his secret knowledge. Here, unlike in [B.sup.*], Uddalaka's humility is not given prominence.

Jaivali, according to [C.sup.*], then commands Uddalaka to stay longer (35). The wording here parallels that of Jaivali's invitation to Svetaketu in [B.sup.*] (17), but here there is an imperative (ciram vasa, "stay longer") and ajnapayam cakara ("he commanded") replaces upamantrayam cakre ("he invited") of [B.sup.*]. As before, the author of [C.sup.*] presents Jaivali as a haughty king ordering about a brahmin. The motif of a teacher delaying the instruction of a pupil is a common one and is found frequently in the CU itself.(61)

Another unique feature of [C.sup.*] is the omission of Uddalaka's becoming a student of Jaivali found in both [B.sup.*] and [K.sup.*]. It appears that the author of [C.sup.*] did not like brahmins formally becoming students of non-brahmins, a feature found also in other narratives of the CU. At CU 1.8.8, for example, the same Pravahana Jaivali instructs two brahmins without initiating them. At CU 5.11.7 a group of brahmins comes to Asvapati with firewood in hand, a sure sign of seeking to be students. The author says explicitly, however, that Asvapati instructed them without initiating them.(62)

This section of the narrative concludes with Jaivali telling Uddalaka that the knowledge he is about to impart was never before known to brahmins (39). The final phrase of this speech, I think, hints once again at the pride of Jaivali: he says that government has always belonged to ksatriyas because they alone possessed this secret knowledge.

3.3 Svetaketu in [K.sup.*]

In contrast to [B.sup.*] and [C.sup.*], Svetaketu plays a minor role in [K.sup.*]. Its narrative is brief and the characters are not well developed. The author uses the introductory story as a peg on which to hang his teaching about the way to heaven.

A) Svetaketu and Citra. [K.sup.*] is the only version that sets the scene and gives the reason for Svetaketu's visit. Citra is about to perform a sacrifice and has chosen Aruni (i.e., Uddalaka) to officiate. Uddalaka, however, sends his son instead (1). It is unclear whether this was perceived as a snub by Citra; but when Svetaketu arrives Citra questions the young man. The reading here is undoubtedly corrupt, and there are numerous variants.(63) Broadly, however, the question pertains to Svetaketu's knowledge of the diverse ways people go after death.

Svetaketu replies: "I do not know it" (8). Note that here, as in [B.sup.*], the honorific title bhagavah is missing. He adds, "but let me ask my teacher," who in this case also happens to be his father. No mention is made of Svetaketu's emotional state, but there is no indication that he was offended by the question.

The emphasis in [K.sup.*] is on the ignorance of Uddalaka, the representative of brahmins, rather than on the arrogance of Svetaketu. The author plays on the rivalry for knowledge between brahmins and ksatriyas. The "inversion of the norm" that requires ksatriyas to be instructed by brahmins is a theme we find also in another episode of the KsU (4. l-19) where the proud brahmin Balaki is defeated and then instructed by Ajatasatru.

B) Svetaketu and Uddalaka. Svetaketu then goes to his father and tells him in a matter-of-fact way: "He asked me this. How should I answer him?" (22). He expresses no anger at his father for not having taught him this point or chagrin at his own ignorance. Svetaketu wants to know how to answer Citra so he can get on with the business of the sacrifice.

The father tells him, however, that he himself does not know it (25) and invites the son to come along with him to Citra (26). The wording here is somewhat unclear. Why the two should perform their private vedic recitation (svadhyaya) within the sacrificial enclosure (sadas)(64) beforehand is not explained. Is there sarcasm in the statement "let us gather what others may give us"? And does pare mean not just others but outsiders, that is, non-brahmins? The final sentence, however, is clear: "Come, we shall both go."

Svetaketu's reaction to this invitation is left unstated, but the next section begins with only Uddalaka going to Citra. Svetaketu drops out of the narrative silently; his refusal, which is given prominence in [B.sup.*], is also passed over in silence.

C) Uddalaka and Citra. The opening of this section finds Uddalaka coming to Citra carrying firewood in his hands, a clear signal in this literature that one is placing himself as a pupil under a teacher (28). He says only one word to Citra: upayani, a technical expression we have already encountered in [B.sup.*]: "Let me come to you as a pupil" (36).

Citra's response is also brief (39). He says that Uddalaka has proved himself worthy of brahman (that is, the formulation of truth contained in the subsequent teaching),(65) because he has "not succumbed to pride" (yo na manam upagah). Sohnen (1981: 182, n. 18) prefers the reading yo main upagah ("who has come to me") because it parallels Uddalaka's upayani ("I come to you").(66) I agree with Bohtlingk's (1898: 84) assessment that this is probably a gloss aimed at improving the text. The reference to Uddalaka not succumbing to pride recalls the parallel statement of Jaivali in [B.sup.*]: "for who can refuse you when you speak like that" (39). The allusion to the humility of Uddalaka in [K.sup.*], coupled with the fact that Svetaketu did not accompany his father to receive instruction from Citra, is further evidence that the sources of the three versions must have contained some reference to Svetaketu's pride.


What conclusions can we draw from this literary study of the Svetaketu story? At the most obvious level, we gain an insight into and an appreciation of these upanisadic authors as creative writers; and that is important in itself. The upanisads have been generally studied for their philosophical insights. A study such as this, hopefully, will encourage us to read these wonderful documents also as works of literature. This study also throws some light into the literary structure and theological intent of the BU and CU. Within the compass of this already lengthy paper, it is not possible to examine these issues in detail. Here I will only sketch briefly some that merit further study. I want to guard, however, against sweeping judgments or conclusions; the ones I propose are tentative at best and need to be confirmed and supported by further studies.

4.1 Brhadgranyaka Upanisad

The BU consists of three distinct sections comprising chapters 1-2, 3-4, and 5-6, each section concluding with a genealogy of teachers. Given the likelihood that these sections were composed by different authors and the uncertainty about the types of textual changes that may have been introduced by the editor(s) who brought these sections together, it is difficult to speak about the literary structure or theological intent of the BU as a whole. Nevertheless, some common features emerge, and it is useful to examine them.

The BU is dominated by the larger-than-life figure of Yajnavalkya; this is especially true of the second section, appropriately called Yajhavalkyakanda. Yajnavalkya is associated closely with Janaka, the great king of Videha, and Witzel (1987: 198-99) has shown that the BU originated probably in the frontier region of Videha. A motif evident throughout the text is the humiliation of proud brahmins, especially the learned brahmins from Kuru-Pancala, the ancient center of brahmanical culture. Clearly there is a literary effort to establish Videha as a rival center of theological learning, with Yajnavalkya leading theologian. In the first section eight brahmins from Kuru-Pancala are defeated and humiliated in debate by Yajnavalkya. Then in a conversation with Janaka, he dismisses derisively the opinions of six other prominent theologians. In the first section, moreover, a brahmin with the appropriate name Drpta Balaki (Balaki the Proud) is humiliated as an ignorant babbler by King Ajatasatru (BU 2.1); and in the story we have just examined, the ignorance of Uddalaka and his son, Svetaketu, is revealed by another king, Pravahana Jaivali. The contribution of ksatriyas to upanisadic lore has been a much debated topic (Olivelle 1996: xxxiv), and the BU, more than any other upanisad, uses numerous literary strategies to proclaim the victory of the Yajnavalkya-Janaka alliance over the Kuru-Pancala establishment. To some degree, I think, the narrative strategy of the Svetaketu story is linked to that strategy.

The authors of the BU, moreover, are better story tellers than those of the CU; they are better at creating their characters and at using humor, irony, and sarcasm to good effect. Balaki the Proud, who comes to Ajatasatru boasting, "let me tell you brahman," is forced to eat humble pie and to come to him with firewood in hand to become his pupil (BU 2.1). Note Ajatasatru's sarcastic comment each time Balaki attempts to define brahman again: ma maitasmin samvadisthah - which may roughly translate into today's vernacular: "Give me a break! Don't bring me that nonsense!" Likewise, in the Yajnavalkya episode (BU 3.1.1-2) we see humor and sarcasm when he tells his pupil to drive the cattle away; to the complaint of the other brahmins: "how dare he claim to be the most learned?," Yajnavalkya replies derisively that all they are after are the cows! The penchant for the dramatic is also evident in the way this encounter between Yajnavalkya and the Kuru-Pancala brahmins ends: their leader is cursed by Yajnavalkya and his "head burst asunder"! This, according to Insler (1989-90), appears to have been a literary innovation that left its mark on later literature. The Svetaketu story we have examined further corroborates this assessment of the literary ability of the author(s) of BU.

Within the context of the literary structure and theological intent of the entire BU. there may have been a further reason for the author to depict Svetaketu and his father, Uddalaka Aruni, in the worst possible light. Uddalaka appears first among the group of eight Kuru-Pancala brahmins who were defeated by Yajnavalkya. Within that group he does not appear as the leader, but he was probably perceived by the author of BU as a leading theologian.(67) More importantly, the author considered him to be the teacher of his hero Yajnavalkya.(68) Defeating his teacher was one way to establish the supremacy of Yajnavalkya.(69) Svetaketu, as the son of his teacher, was not only a contemporary and possibly a classmate of Yajnavalkya, but also, according to general brahmanical practice, a person to whom the latter owed respect and obedience.(70) This may be one reason why the author is keen to portray these two individuals in a very unflattering way in the story of young Svetaketu.

4.2 Chandogya Upanisad

Unlike the BU, the CU contains no genealogy of teachers(71) that would indicate an independent section. Yet, I think that chapters 1-3 form a separate section,(72) as do chapters 4-5, which establish the preeminence of wind/breath, and 6-7, which present three episodes of instruction, at the human (Uddalaka to his son) and the divine (Narada to Sanatkumara) levels, and finally the creator god Prajapati's own instruction to the leaders of gods and demons, Indra and Virocana. Here too, then, we may have multiple authors and it is difficult to speak about the literary structure or theological intent of the CU as a whole.

As in the BU, however, certain common features emerge. A central theme in the entire upanisad is the importance of vedic studentship (brahmacarya), which is highlighted in the very last passage about the return of the student from the teacher's house, his marriage, and his obligation to father children and to live a virtuous life (CU 8.15). The CU has more dialogues between teachers and pupils than any other upanisad, including the BU.

Two other motifs run through the document. The first is that teachers are usually brusque and reluctant to reveal what they know; most often they will give half-answers containing half-truths, as illustrated in the long instruction of Indra and Virocana by Prajapati (CU 8.712). The burden falls on the student to get around these obstacles, to be persistent, and, most importantly, to ask the right questions. A student needs humility, persistence, and basic intelligence to detect a half-truth and to press the teacher to reveal the truth more fully.

The second is that knowledge can come from unexpected and unlikely places. So, the great humanitarian Janasruti has to beg the comic character Raikva of uncertain ancestry to instruct him (CU 4.1-2); Jabala is taught by bulls and birds (CU 4.4-9) and Upakosala by the sacred fires (CU 4.10-15); Baka is taught by a dog (CU 1.12), and, of course, brahmins are taught by kings (CU 1.8-9; 5.11-24).

In spite of all this, however, the authors of the CU prove to be a rather conservative lot. They take care to inform the listeners that even though brahmins may from time to time receive knowledge from ksatriyas, they are never formally initiated as their students. The CU is willing to go only so far in "inverting the norm" that brahmins are the teachers within society. Pravahana Jaivali teaches his two brahmin friends without initiating them as pupils (CU 1.8.8). In the story of King Asvapati, the author states explicitly that the king did not initiate them: "So the next morning they returned to him carrying firewood in their hand. Without even initiating them as students, he said this to them" (CU 5.11.7). This pattern is repeated in the encounter between Uddalaka and Jaivali: CU omits the initiatory words of Uddalaka, whereas both BU and KsU include them (see [B.sup.*] 35-36). Bodewitz (1996: 52) has drawn attention to the fact that in the JB, which like the CU belongs to the Samaveda, the account of the two paths lacks the ksatriya motif. Further research would be needed before we can say whether this is a feature common to Samavedic schools.

It would have been out of character for the authors of CU to ridicule Svetaketu. Unlike the authors of BU, moreover, they had no reason to do so. For them, Uddalaka was a great teacher, as evidenced by the long and elaborate teaching ascribed to him in chapter six. Svetaketu clearly made a mistake in not perceiving that Jaivali possessed a secret knowledge; he was not smart enough to understand that knowledge is found in unlikely places and not humble enough to seek it from an arrogant king. Svetaketu is here an example of a "stupid student," in contrast to the good students portrayed by Satyakama Jabala and Upakosala; but he is not a bad kid and knows how to be polite to the king. It is his father, however, who is presented as the exemplar of the good student, willing to go even to a ksatriya to obtain knowledge.

In the very next chapter (CU 6.1.1-7) we have a very different scene. Here too, Svetaketu is said to have studied for twelve years and come back with a swollen head. His father wants to teach him humility and exposes his ignorance. Instead of acting like the spoiled brat of the earlier story, here Svetaketu becomes a "good student," able to confess his ignorance and to learn from his teacher.

We might have been able to draw wider and more significant conclusions from the differences in the telling of the Svetaketu story in BU and CU if we had more and better information about their authors and the circumstances of their composition. For ancient India, however, we have to be thankful for small mercies.



The image of young Svetaketu as proud and impetuous is found in stories outside the episode we have examined. Indeed, in a story appearing in the very next chapter of the CU, Svetaketu and his father are the central figures. The story opens with the father sending Svetaketu to a teacher for his studies (CU 6.1.1). The young man was twelve years old when he goes away and "after learning all the Vedas, returned when he was twenty-four, swell-headed, thinking himself to be learned, and arrogant" (caturvimsativarsah sarvan vedan adhitya mahamana anacanamani stabdha eyaya; CU 6.1.2). In the rest of the story, however, nothing further is said about his arrogance.(73)

In the Jaiminiya Brahmana (2.329) and the Sankhayana Srautasutra (16.29.6-11) there are brief and somewhat unclear references to a story that must have been current at the time. A man named Jala, the son of Jatukarna,(74) performed a sacrifice and obtained the office of royal chaplain (purohita) among the kings of Kasi, Videha, and Kosala. In the JB version it was Aruni (probably the father of Svetaketu) who gets Jala to perform the sacrifice. Svetaketu becomes jealous of Jala and furious with his father, whom he reproaches for not having any ambition himself and for working to make others prosperous.

Young Svetaketu also makes an appearance in the story about Astavakra recorded in the Mahabharata (3.132-34). Uddalaka has a son, Svetaketu, and a daughter, Sujata, as well as a brilliant student named Kahoda. Uddalaka bestows on Kahod a all his learning and his daughter. Sujata becomes pregnant and the child, Svetaketu's nephew, is arrogant while still in the womb and tells his father: "you have spent all night studying but still haven't got it right!" Kahoda is furious and curses the child to be born "crooked in eight ways" (hence the name astavakra). Sujata prods her husband to go to King Janaka to obtain wealth, but his minister, Bandin, belonging to the suta (bard) class, defeats Kahoda in debate and has him drowned in the sea. Uddalaka asks his daughter not to tell the child about his father's death, and Astavakra grows up believing that Uddalaka is his father and that Svetaketu is his brother. When the child is twelve and was sitting one day on Uddalaka's lap, Svetaketu, true to character, becomes jealous and in a rage "grabbed his hand and pulled the crying Astavakra away, yelling, 'this is not your father's lap'" (MBh 3.132.16).

Outside the brahmanical texts, young Svetaketu (Setaketu) appears in a Pali Jataka tale (Jataka 377; see Luders 1914). Once upon a time the future Buddha was a famous teacher with five hundred pupils. The senior-most of his pupils was Setaketu born of a brahmin family from the north and very proud of his caste. One day an outcaste (candala) happened to cross his path. Setaketu cursed the man, ordering him to stand leeward so the wind would not blow from the outcaste to him. The candala quickly moved to the windward making Setaketu even more irate. The candala then challenges Setaketu: if he cannot answer the outcaste's question, he will put Setaketu between his feet. The young brahmin is unable to answer the question and is put between the outcaste's feet. The other pupils tell their teacher, the future Buddha, about the incident. Questioned by the teacher, Setaketu admits it and once again vents his anger at the outcaste. The teacher admonishes him not to be angry with that wise man, and teaches him humility by saying that what Setaketu has not seen or heard or understood is far greater than what he has. In spite of this, Setaketu is chagrined by the fact that he had been put between the feet of a candala and in a huff leaves the teacher. The character of young Setaketu of this Jataka story matches that of Svetaketu drawn by the author of [B.sup.*].

The brashness of young Svetaketu comes across also in a few brief anecdotes scattered in the vedic literature. As opposed to the general opinion that students should not eat honey, Svetaketu ate honey while he was a student, saying that honey is the residue of the triple Veda (SB In another episode Svetaketu says that he is going to get himself initiated for a whole year. His father asks, "do you know the fording footholds of the year?" And the son replies confidently, "I know" (SB; GoB 1.3.3).

Another adventurous young man appearing in the upanisads is Naciketas. The story of his running foul of his irascible father sets the scene for the instruction of Naciketas by the god of death in the Katha Upanisad. This story was originally part of the Kathaka Brahmana and a fragment of it is preserved in the Taittiriya Brahmana ( During a sacrifice at which all the father's possessions are given as gifts to the priests, the son irritates the father by pestering him with the question: "to whom will you give me?" The father in exasperation says "to Death." So Naciketas goes to the house of Death. The Taittriya Brahmana, as well as the opening of the KaU (1.1) identifies the father of Naciketas as Usan Vajasravasa. It appears, however, that the characters of this father-son pair became associated with Svetaketu and Uddalaka. In making his wish that when he returns home his father be well disposed and without anger, for example, Naciketas refers to his father as Gautama (KaU 1.10), which is the lineage name of Uddalaka. Death then addresses Naciketas as the son of Uddalaka Aruni (KaU 1.11).

In this study I have used the expression "young Svetaketu"; the sources present quite a different image of the mature Svetaketu. He is frequently cited as an authority in ritual matters.(75) He also appears among a group of learned brahmins, including the famous Yajnvalkya, a group that King Janaka questions about the daily fire sacrifice (agnihotra; SB Yajnavalkya's connection to Svetaketu is interesting. In the genealogy of teachers at BU 6.5.3 and at BU 6.4.3 Svetaketu's father Uddalaka is said to have been the teacher of Yajnavalkya. If true, Svetaketu and Yajnavalkya would not only be contemporaries but possibly classmates.

The Apastamba Dharmasutra (1.13.19-20) gives Svetaketu's view (rejected by Apastamba) that a householder may spend two months each year as a student with his former teacher, with the added boast, "for by this method I learned more than during the earlier period of studentship." In another passage (1.5.4-6), after saying that among people of later times (avaresu) seers are not born, Apastamba states that some become seers on account of their learning (srutarsi) and gives Svetaketu as an example.(76) In the Mahabharata also the mature Svetaketu appears as a learned brahmin: as a priest, together with his father Uddalaka, at Janamejaya's snake sacrifice (MBh 1.48.7), and visiting the palace of the god Sakra (MBh 2.7.10).

The image of Svetaketu as an arrogant and irrascible young man puffed up by a little learning has endured in the Sanskrit literary tradition. Samkara's commentary on the BU shows that he understood the literary intent of the author accurately. According to Samkara, the unstated reason for Svetaketu's visit to the king was his desire to defeat the learned assembly (parisad) of the king, and Samkara finds the root of this impetuous desire in Svetaketu's arrogance (garva). And it is anger, Samkara observes, that makes Svetaketu give impolite answers to the gentle king.

This image of Svetaketu is also reflected in the writings of the fourteenth-century polymath Madhava/Vidyaranya. He gives Svetaketu as an example of a man who becomes proud (darpa) of his learning, citing not his encounter with the king but his treatment of his father in CU 6.1.2-3: "Svetaketu learnt all the Vedas in a very short time and in his arrogance did not behave properly even in the presence of his father."(77) In contrast to the mature Svetaketu, considered almost a seer by Apastamba, the young Svetaketu has remained the quintessential "spoiled little brat" of ancient Indian literature.

I want to thank James Ackerman and Richard Lariviere for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

1 MBh 1.3.20 identifies Aruni as a student of the seer Dhaumya Ayoda. Aruni got the name Uddalaka because Ayoda sent him to stop the break in a dike. Unable to close the breach he put his body into it and managed to stop the leakage. He got up when his teacher called him and the breach was renewed. Ayoda gave him the name Uddalaka, "Puller-of-the-Stop." In the Uddalaka Jataka (Jataka 487) he is said to have got his name because his mother gave birth to him near an Uddala tree.

2 I have called him "young Svetaketu" to distinguish his character as a youth from that of the mature Svetaketu (see below, [section]4).

3 For ease of reference I shall name these versions, as well as their putative authors, [B.sup.*], [C.sup.*], and [K.sup.*]. respectively. I skirt the issue of whether these authors are the same as the authors of the respective upanisads, especially because these documents are probably composite works with a series of authors and editors. I deal later ([sections]2.1.1-3) with the literary contexts within which the authors developed these versions, the contexts within which they should be examined. [B.sup.*] includes both the Kanva and the Madhyandina recensions, whose differences are minimal and will not affect our study. The doctrine of the five fires and the path to the gods are recorded also in the JB I.45-46, 49-50 (see Bodewitz 1973:110-23; Schmithausen 1994).

4 Renou (1955), in a balanced study of [B.sup.*] and [C.sup.*], finds that with regard to the listing of the five questions and the final answer (CU 5.9) "la tradition de Ch. [= CU] est indiscutablement plus sure" (p. 97), while "l'itihasa est mieux articule dans BA," but is forced to conclude: "La conclusion qui semble simposer est que ni l'une ni l'autre version n'ont conserve le texte primitif" (p. 100). Bodewitz (1973: 110-14) and Schmithausen (1994) have focused on the versions of the doctrine of five fires, including the one in JB 1.45-46, again with the intention of discovering mutual influences and ultimately the archetype behind all. Sohnen (1981) has focused on the story involving Svetaketu, his father, Uddalaka Aruni, and the king, a story that forms the preamble to the doctrine of the fires. Her conclusion is that [K.sup.*] is the source of the other two versions, and that [B.sup.*] frequently uses [C.sup.*] as the model. More recently, Bronkhorst (1996), focusing again on the question of historical priority, has also come down in favor of the priority of [C.sup.*] vis-a-vis [B.sup.*].

5 See, for example, Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York: Basic Books, 1981).

6 Given the oral nature of the vedic texts. I have regularly referred to the audience of the upanisads as "listeners."

7 If we can determine with some certainty the chronology of [B.sup.*], [C.sup.*], and [K.sup.*] and whether the later authors were aware of the prior versions, we would be able to give an intertextual dimension to our literary study, casting considerable light on the theological and literary history of these texts. Unlike their biblical counterparts, however, it is impossible to establish a definite chronology of upanisadic passages.

8 In explaining these upanisadic passages, Bodewitz (1973: 275) notes: "One should bear in mind that several disconnected passages have been brought together in these upanisads." That may well be true as far as the origin and the original meanings of the text fragments are concerned, but what I propose to show is that they were not put together haphazardly as an anthology but woven into a literary composition with clear literary and theological motives.

9 In the JB, for example, between the path of those who return (JB 46, first part) and the path of those who do not return (JB 49, second part, and 50), there is the funeral rite (JB 46, second part, 47-48, 49, first part). Another peculiar feature of the JB version is that the doctrine is not ascribed to the ksatriyas: see Bodewitz 1973:110-49; 1996, 52.

10 Section IV, the five fires, is also given within the story of the encounter between King Janaka and Yajnavalkya in SB

11 To be precise, I am speaking here only of the authors of chapter 6 of the BU and chapter 5 of the CU, even though I think that the same author/editor was responsible also for chapter 5 of the BU and for at least chapter 6 of the CU.

12 For an examination of I-II as it occurs in SA, BU, and CU, see Bodewitz 1973: 269-75. He observes (pp. 274-75): "Note how the myth on the pranah and the deities forms the introduction to the magic rite and how (mythical) speculations on the pranah are applied to practical purposes in this aranyaka [SA] text . . . ChU. 5.1-2 forms a unity and deals with the mantha rite. . . . The parallel SankhA. 11 [probably a typo for 9] agrees with ChU. The version of BAU. has inserted the pancagnividya, which in ChU. comes after the mantha and is omitted in SankhA." Bodewitz (1973: 273-74) is right in rejecting Deussen's (1897: 132) view that the contest between the breaths is a later interpolation. Bodewitz (n. 33 on p. 286) concludes that the BU version is less original and that "the whole mantha passage in BAU. makes the impression of a later elaboration."

13 The BU is a document belonging to the White Yajurveda. In the context of the term ananda, I have noted elsewhere (Olivelle 1997: 172) that the sexual meaning of ananda is most prominent in the literature of the Yajurveda, including the BU. Theological speculation about sex and the use of sexual terminology in theological discourse appear to have been a special feature of the Yajurvedic tradition.

14 There are precedents for this. The account of the internal agnihotra in SA 10 mentions six faculties, including semen. In the BU itself semen is frequently enumerated among the faculties and bodily parts: 2.5.2-7, 3.2.13, 3.7.16-23.

15 "It is of udumbara wood, for him to obtain food and strength, - the udumbara means food and strength: therefore it is of udumbara wood." SB (tr. Eggeling). This type of statement is frequent in the SB:,,,,,, etc.

16 See SB "Then they together lay hold of an udumbara (branch) saying, 'Sap and strength I lay hold of'. The udumbara is strength and food. In that the gods distributed sap and strength, then the udumbara came into being. Therefore thrice a year it ripens." AB 5.24 (tr. Keith, modified).

17 See Olivelle 1997: 166.

18 This rite is naturally connected with the statement at 6.4.2 that Prajapati created the woman to be the proper receptacle for semen. Depositing semen anywhere else, either through masturbation or emission in sleep, is viewed as a depletion of one's virility which has to be ritually recaptured.

19 This rite is out of place in this series. The text reads: atha yady udake atmanam pasyet tad abhimantrayeta mayi teja indriyam yaso dravinam sukrtam iti ("If, moreover, he sees himself in water, let him address it thus: 'May vigor, virility. fame, wealth, and merit remain in me'"). I wonder whether atmanam here stands for retas, in which case this rite concerns ejaculating semen in water. This equation is not unprecedented. At AU 2.1 we read: puruse ha va ayam adito garbho bhavati yad etad retah | tad etat sarvebhyo 'ngebhyas tejah sambhutam atmany evamanam bibharti ("At the outset, this embryo comes into being within a man as semen. This radiance gathered from all the bodily parts he bears in himself as himself"). Here one's semen is viewed as one's self that a man deposits in a woman. The placing of the semen in the woman in sexual intercourse is taken as a man's first birth, while the birth of the son is his second birth. For an examination of this passage and the related statement at Taittiriya Upanisad 2.7, see Olivelle 1997: 165.

20 I think the author here intends to distinguish sex with one's wife from sex with other women. The latter is dealt with in the third set of rites (BU 6.4.6-11), where the question is how to deal with a woman who refuses to have sex (including bribing and beating), how to ensure that the woman loves you, and how to make sure that she does not become pregnant or does become pregnant. The former deals with sex with one's own wife and includes rites to ensure different types of sons and daughters (on this, see Wezler 1993), rite of intercourse, rites at delivery, and birth rites.

21 It is significant that in the sixth chapter of the BU Uddalaka is presented both here and in the genealogy (BU 6.5.3) as the teacher of Yajnavalkya, who looms large as the teacher par excellence in the earlier chapters. In the third chapter Uddalaka (BU 3.7) is among a series of prominent theologians that Yajnavalkya defeats in a series of debates. Uddalaka Aruni appears in the genealogy of SA 15 and in all likelihood belonged to a Rgvedic sakha, whereas Yajnavalkya is credited with the composition of the White Yajurveda (BU 6.5.3).

22 For an examination of this passage and parallels in other vedic texts, see Bodewitz 1973: 263-69.

23 In the SB ( the doctrine of the five fires are actually introduced as a secret teaching (the secret essence) of the fire sacrifice (agnihotra).

24 [B.sup.*] always uses the verb [Unknown Text Omitted] (1, 2, 19, 28; also gacchatu at 27), while [C.sup.*] always uses [Unknown Text Omitted] (1, 19, 28). I am not sure what to make of these different choices. The CU (5.1.7-11) appears to prefer the compounds of [Unknown Text Omitted] also in the passage on the contest between faculties (where BU [6.1.7-12] always uses compounds of [Unknown Text Omitted]) and at CU 6.1.2. But in the Asvapati story CU uses [Unknown Text Omitted]) (5.11.2, 4).

25 [B.sup.*] uses the term parisad, while [C.sup.*] has samiti and [K.sup.*] sadas. 1 have not been able to ascertain a mason for their choice of different words or whether they reflect regional differences. The term parisad, however, acquired a technical meaning in the legal literature, where it refers to a conclave of normally ten brahmins that would decide points of law and prescribe penances (Gautama Dharmasutra, 9.49; Baudhayana Dharmasutra, 1.1.7-8). Samkara (on BU 6.3.1) interprets this term in its technical sense (see note 27).

26 My references to [B.sup.*], [C.sup.*], and [K.sup.*] are to numbers given in the above concordance of the narrative units.

27 Samkara, commenting on the BU, says that Svetaketu out of arrogance came with the intention of defeating the parisad of the Pancalas, as well as the parisad of the king. He is, however, silent on this point in his commentary on the parallel passage of the CU.

28 [B.sup.*] calls him Jaivali Pravahana, and [C.sup.*] Pravahana Jaivali. No special significance, I think, can be ascribed to this difference; [B.sup.*] calls him Pravahana Jaivali at 28.

29 Samavidhana Brahmana 3.6.2; Gopatha Brahmana, 1.2.3, 7; CU 4.10.1,2,4; TA 1.32.1. The term is used with reference to bodily and cosmic powers (conceived of as children) serving some other power (regarded their parents) in AA 2.1.7. The terms paricarita and paricaran at CU 7.8.1 also probably refer to a student's duty to serve the fire or the teacher. At CU 8.8.4 Virocana, satisifed with the partial definition of the Self (atman), tells the other demons that it is the body (atman) that should be extolled (mahayya) and cared for (paricarya). See also TS

30 Respect is indicated, for example, at CU 4.1.8, 4.2.1,4.2.14. Frequently, however, the term is used merely with reference to one person talking to or greeting another: BU 2.4.14, 3.2.3, 3.8.8, 4.5.15; CU 4.5.1, 4.6.2, 4.7.2, 4.8.2; KeU 3.4; PU 6.1, 4.2, 2.2. Sometime this term is used when a teacher calls a pupil (CU 4.1.2, 4.9.1, 4.14.1), or when a father greets a son (KaU 1.10), where affection is probably implied.

31 Samkara himself notes that bhoh was an inappropriate form of address uttered in anger: bho3 ity apratirupam api ksatriyam pratyuktavan kruddhah san. The meaning of apratirupa is not altogether clear. Anandagiri is off the mark. I think, when he explains that bhoh is said to a teacher and not to a ksatriya, because the latter is lower in status: bho3 iti prativacanam acaryam praty ucitam na ksatriyam prati tasya hinatvat. Why would a man in anger respond with a greeting of reverence? The Mahabharata (3.186.33), however, appears to indicate that bhoh was used in a disrespectful manner, as opposed to the obsequious arya. In describing the social upheavals in the Kaliyuga, it says: bhovadinas tatha sudra brahmanas caryavadinah, which van Buitenen translates: "The serfs [= Sudras] will say 'Hey you!', the brahmins will say 'Pray, sir!'" I think van Buitenen has captured well the subtle nuances of bhoh (Hey you!) and arya (Pray, sir!).

32 I am not sure whether Svetaketu's use of bhoh/bhavan elsewhere in [B.sup.*] (20, 27) in place of bhagavah/bhagavan (6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 20) of [C.sup.*] is intended to make a similar point. Although the latter is more respectful, the former normally does not carry disrespectful overtones. Sohnen (1981: 198), in presenting the parallel versions, has ignored the difference in [B.sup.*] and [C.sup.*] with respect to the honorific title.

33 Sohnen (1981: 188) reads avocad, but this reading, though grammatically "correct," has no basis in either the Kanva or the Madhyandina recensions. The anomaly of a third person subject (bhavan) with the second person verb was already noted by Whitney (1890: 417).

34 In the Taittiriya Upanisad (1.11) anusasti is used with reference to the teacher's final admonition to a student about how he should behave after he returns home and clearly refers to points of good behavior and etiquette. On the practice of the sista as the standard for both the correct use of language and the correct modes of behavior, see M. Deshpande, "Historical Change and the Theology of Eternal (Nitya) Sanskrit," in his Sanskrit and Prakrit: Sociolinguistic Issues (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1993), 53-74.

35 I have not been able to research this point. One of its rare uses with this meaning in the upanisads occurs at BU 3.9.1 (and in the parallel at SB where Sakalya says "om" to Yajnavalkya's answers, but in a dismissive way because the answers are only superficially true, and he goes on to repeat the same question. In my own native Sinhala, however, the parallel term ow is used mostly among intimates and friends, while other more respectful terms, such as ehey, are used when addressing superiors.

36 I am grateful to Stephanie Jamison for these observations.

37 This particle, however, is lacking in the Madhyandina version.

38 Samkara, however, interprets the word to mean that the king was going to perform the customary hospitality rites such as giving water to wash the feet.

39 For the meaning of kila as referring to something the listener should know or is generally known, see Emeneau 1968-69; Daalen 1988.

40 It is possible that the use of the plural in [B.sup.*] is merely stylistic, because this author uses the same expression with reference to the father at 25, where [C.sup.*] uses the singular.

41 This word is used in [C.sup.*] when the father tells the son that he too does not know the answer to these questions (25).42 paribhavavacanam etad rajanyabandhur iti.

43 With minor variations, the same expression is used when Asvapati receives the brahmins: CU 5.11.5.

44 See, for example, Asvalayana Grhyasutra 1.24.7 and parallels in other grhyasutras. The Paraskara Grhyasutra (1.3.1) specifies six persons to whom the arghya reception is due: teacher, officiating priest, father-in-law, king, friend, and snataka, and goes on to describe (1.3.4f) the hospitality rite in detail. The arghya is perfumed water containing rice grains, flower petals, and the like.

45 See, for example, Naciketas and Death in KaU 1.12-29, Raikva and Janasruti in CU 4.1-3, stories of Satyakama Jabala and Upakosala in CU 4.4-15, Prajapati and Indra/Virocana in CU 8.7-12, Yajnavalkya and Janaka in BU 4.3.1.

46 The term tirthena is used at TS with a similar meaning.

47 Note, for example, Satyakama's plea to his teacher (CU 4.9.3): "I have heard from people of your eminence that knowledge leads one most securely to the goal only when it is learnt from a teacher."

48 The verb [Unknown Text Omitted] is used in the formula uttered by a student at BU 2.1.14-15, CU 4.4.3, KsU 1.1.

49 Bronkhorst (1996: 592-95), arguing against Boris Oguibenine (Three Studies in Vedic and Indo-European Religion and Linguistics [Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1990]), who uses this passage quite inappropriately to draw historical conclusions regarding the rite of initiation, thinks that both the words Uddalaka is supposed to have spoken and the explanation have been inserted by the author of [B.sup.*] because they are absent in [C.sup.*] (note, however, that a similar initiation with similar words but without firewood is found at BU 2.1.14, whereas in the parallel passage at KsU 4.19 firewood is introduced). Indeed, the fact that he felt compelled to offer an explanation of this formula argues in favor of its antiquity; the author of [B.sup.*] found it in his source and felt compelled to explain it. Surely, it is implausible that the author inserted the formula and then went on to explain a difficulty that he himself had created! It is easier to assume that the author of [C.sup.*] omitted it for his own theological or literary reasons. The fact that [K.sup.*] has the standard samitpanih ("firewood in hand" [28], appearing also at KsU 4.19) may indicate that that was the way its author dealt with the problem rather than that this expression was found in the original and was omitted by the author of [B.sup.*]. The differences in the narratives of these three versions, however, have to be seen not as peepholes into ancient history but as windows into the literary and theological motives of the narrators.

50 In this I fully concur with Sohnen's (1981:191) assessment.

51 The opening word of Jaivali's remarks is the same in [B.sup.*] and [C.sup.*]: kumara. In [B.sup.*], however, this is a greeting, while in [C.sup.*] it is the beginning of the question. This makes it likely that one of the authors, probably [B.sup.*], has changed the wording of his source, which probably began with the initial kumara. In [K.sup.*] also the king's question begins with the vocative gautamasya putra.

52 The student Satyakama Jabala's response to various creatures who instruct him and to his own teacher (CU 4.4-9: a total of twelve times); Upakosala to his teacher Satyakama Jabala (CU 4.14.2-3); a king to Usasti (CU 1.11.1-2); Janasruti to Raikva (CU 4.2.2, 4); Narada to Sanatkumara (CU 7.1.1-25); Indra and Virocana to Prajapati (CU 8.7-12).

53 Sohnen (1981:188) is not entirely accurate in saying, "Die Reaktion Svetaketus ist freilich die gleiche wie die in der ChU-Fassung: er nimmt die Einladung nicht an, sondern lauft (argerlich) zu seinem Vater." In fact, [C.sup.*] does not contain any invitation that Svetaketu could have refused.

54 Both Deussen (1897: 141) and Renou (1955: 97) detect a lacuna in the [C.sup.*] version. Sohnen (1981: 189, n. 23) thinks that the reference is to the five questions that Svetaketu had mentioned and suggests (following her view that [C.sup.*] is prior to [B.sup.*]) that the elaboration in [B.sup.*] may have been intended precisely to fill such a perceived lacuna.

55 A nearly identical expression is found in a similar context in PU 4.1. Svetaketu, too, uses a nearly identical expression with reference to his teachers, who, he assumes, did not know what his father had just told him, "for had they known, how could they have not told it to me?" yad dhy etad avedisyan katham me navaksyan (CU 6.1.7).

56 In the story of King Asvapati's instruction of a group of brahmins also, a story that follows the Jaivali episode, the king tells the brahmins to wait until tomorrow (CU 5.11.7).

57 "This position [of ha] near the opening of a new passage is likely to draw attention to the first word of a paragraph or sentence" (Hartman 1966: 82; cited in Bronkhorst 1996: 592).

58 The particle ha in the very first sentence also draws attention to Svetaketu (1).

59 So Max Muller, Deussen, Bohtlingk, Geldner (1928: 133), Hume, I myself in my 1996 translation, and also Samkara. Geldner (1928: 133, n. 139) explains that the king was embarrassed because he did not really want to teach his secret doctrine to Uddalaka.

60 Both Geldner (1928: 133) and Sohnen (1981: 192) take krcchri babhuva to mean "became embarrassed," possibly under the influence of Bohtlingk's (1889) translation: "Der Furst gerieth in Verlegenheit." So also Monier-Williams' dictionary, citing this CU passage, while Bohtlingk and Roth's Worterbuch gives the meaning "ungehalten." Sohnen goes on to propose that the reason for Jaivali's embarrassment is Uddalaka's request that he repeat what he had said to Svetaketu. He was embarrassed to repeat the haughty and cutting words he had said earlier. I am not convinced by this interpretation.

61 See above note 45.

62 This attitude stands in sharp contrast to that of BU where brahmins are initiated by ksatriyas on two occasions (BU 2.1.14-15; 6.2.7).

63 For the variants, see Frenz 1968-69; Olivelle 1998. I follow Frenz in reading maloke dhasyasi ("So you won't place me in a false world"). The term aloka means more than a false world; it is a "non-world," i.e., where a person cannot exist. For a detailed study of the concept loka, see J. Gonda, Loka: World and Heaven in the Veda (Amsterdam: N.V. Noord-Hollandsche Uitgevers Maatschappij, 1966).

64 Given the sacrificial context of Svetaketu's journey, this term has generally been translated as the sacrificial enclosure. Sohnen (1981: 182, n. 16) suggests a more general meaning of assembly (parallel to parisad and samiti of [B.sup.*] and [C.sup.*]). The term svadhyaya here may also be an oblique reference to studentship.

65 For the meaning of brahman as "formulation of truth," see P. Thieme, "Brahman," ZDMG 102 (1952): 91-129.

66 Although Sohnen does not identify the source of her variant reading, Bohtlingk (1898: 84) ascribed it to the "Bombay Edition" without further details. The Venkateshwar Press edition of thirty-eight upanisads (1910) also has this reading.

67 At CU 5.11.2-3 five eminent theologians decide to consult Uddalaka Aruni regarding the nature of atman and brahman, indicating that he had an established reputation as an eminent theologian.

68 See above, note 21.

69 This motif is found elsewhere in Indian literature. The Buddha himself wanted to convert his former teachers first. In medieval times, Ramanuja is viewed as defeating and the converting his former Advaita teacher, Yadava Prakasa.

70 A student was required to obey and respect his teacher's son just as the teacher himself: see Gautama Dharmasutra 2.31; 3.7.

71 Except the brief one at 8.15: "All this Brahma told to Prajapati, Prajapati to Manu, and Manu to his children."

72 For arguments, including the lack of the key terms udgitha and saman in the rest of the upanisad, see Olivelle 1996b: 212-13.

73 The motif of the arrogant son proud of his meager learning is found also in the famous story of Bhrgu, son of Varuna. Bhrgu is sent to the realm of death by his father to receive wisdom and humility: JB 1.42-44 (see Bodewitz 1973: 102-9); SB

74 The Kausitaki Brahmana (26.4), in presenting views about how to rectify a ritual flaw, gives those of Aruni and Svetaketu, and in the very next paragraph the view of Jatukarna.

75 See KsB 26.4; SB,; JB 1.249. Svetaketu also makes an appearance at SB, where his father poses a riddle to the officiating priest Svetaketu has selected for a sacrifice.

76 For a discussion of the problems created by this statement, see G. Buhler, The Sacred Laws of the Aryas, Sacred Books of the East, II (Oxford, 1879), xl-xlii. I am, however, skeptical about drawing historical conclusions, such as the date of the Apastamba Dharmasutra, from this sort of literary reference.

77 svetaketur alpenaiva kalena sarvan vedan adhitya darpena pitur api purato vinayam na cakara (Vidyaranya, Jivanmuktiviveka, ed. S. S. Sastri and T. R. S. Ayyangar [Adyar: Adyar Library and Research Center, 1978], 60).


AA Aitareya Aranyaka AB Aitareya Brahmana AU Aitareya Upanisad [B.supp.*] BU version of the Svetaketu story BU Brhadaranyaka Upanisad [C.sup.*] CU version of the Svetaketu story CU Chandogya Upanisad GoB Gopatha Brahmana JB Jaiminiya Brahmana [K.sup.*] KsU version of the Svetaketu story KaU Katha Upanisad KeU Kena Upanisad KsB Kausitaki Brahmana KsU Kausitaki Upanisad MBh Mahabharata PU Prasna Upanisad SA Sankhayana Aranyaka SB Satapatha Brahmana TS Taittriya Samhita


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The editor raised a couple of issues after the paper was in press that deserve special comment. In [section]3.1.A, it is not my intention to suggest that the presence of tmesis and the consistent use of the aorist are not indicators of a more archaic language. My view is that their presence in the Chandogya version is not sufficient to prove that version earlier than the Brhadaranyaka version. The author of the Chandogya version may not have thought it necessary to change the grammar of his source, whereas the author of the Brhadaranyaka did. In any case, the relative age of the versions is not central to my argument. In [section]3.2.C, I do recognize that the pronoun sah is normally anaphoric, and that, as Renou puts it, "sah designe en rant que pronom un objet dont il a ete question avant tel autre (ainsi couramment, dans le dialogue, l'interlocuteur qui n'a pas immediatement parle)" (Grammaire sanskrite, [section]260). My point is rather that here, the "natural way" of reading this section of the originally oral narrative supports taking sah as referring consistently to Uddalaka.
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Date:Jan 1, 1999
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