9

This chapter of the Chandogya Upanishad makes a rather curious statement:

taddhaitadghor āṅgirasaḥ kṛṣṇāya
devakīputrāyoktvovācāpipāsa eva sa babhūva
so'ntavelāyāmetattrayaṃ pratipadyetākṣitamasyacyutamasi
prāṇasam̐śitamasīti tatraite dve ṛcau bhavataḥ ॥

Ghora Âṅgirasa, after having communicated this (view of the sacrifice) to Krishna, the son of Devăkî -- and he never thirsted again (after other knowledge)--said: 'Let a man, when his end approaches, take refuge with this Triad: "Thou art the imperishable," "Thou art the unchangeable," "Thou art the edge of Prâna."'

Now it's common knowledge that Vishnu's incarnation Krishna was the son of Vasudeva and Devaki. So my question is, is the "Krishna Devakiputra" mentioned in the Chandogya Upanishad the same as the famous incarnation of Vishnu, or is this just some bizarre coincidence?

The translator claims no Hindu work has ever noted this coincidence:

The curious coincidence between Krishna Devakîputra, here mentioned as a pupil of Ghora Âṅgirasa, and the famous Krishna, the son of Devakî, was first pointed out by Colebrooke, Miscell. Essays, II, 177. Whether it is more than a coincidence, is difficult to say. Certainly we can build no other conclusions on it than those indicated by Colebrooke, that new fables may have been constructed elevating this personage to the rank of a god. We know absolutely nothing of the old Krishna Devakîputra except his having been a pupil of Ghora Âṅgirasa, nor does there seem to have been any attempt made by later Brahmans to connect their divine Krishna, the son of Vasudeva, with the Krishna Devakîputra of our Upanishad. This is all the more remarkable because the author of the Sândilya-sûtras, for instance, who is very anxious to find a srauta authority for the worship of Krishna Vâsudeva as the supreme deity, had to be satisfied with quoting such modern compilations as the Nârâyanopanishad[.]

And indeed, Adi Shankaracharya's commentary on this verse doesn't point out anything noteworthy about Krishna Devakiputra:

This - Philosophy of the Sacrifice, - the sage Ghora - by name Angirasa - by Gotra - having expounded to Krishna, the son of Devaki - his disciple, said to him... Krishna, on listening to this philosophy, became thirstless... By this the text means to eulogize the Philosophy of the Sacrifice-Man as being so effective as to have relieved Krishna-Devakiputra of thirst for all other sciences.

Madhvacharya doesn't discuss who Krishna Devakiputra is in his commentary either. So did these Acharyas somehow not notice the coincidence, or did they find the fact that it referred to Krishna to be too obvious to note, or did they find it too obvious to note that they're different people?

And assuming it's the same Krishna, who is this "Ghora Angirasa" who would be Krishna's guru. Krishna had gurus like Sandipani and Garga, but I don't know of any guru of his named Ghora. In any case, this Wikipedia page says that some Jains believe that Ghora Angirasa is another name for their Tirthankara Neminatha, whom they claim Krishna studied under:

In the Chandogya Upanishads, the sage Ghora Angirasa relates the life of a man to the Soma sacrifice, and the daksina (alms) to austerity, liberality, simplicity, non-violence and truthfulness. In the process, he contributes the first recorded mention of ahimsa in the sense of non-violent behaviour. These values are common to Jainism and some claim Ghora Angirasa as a Jain sadhu instructing Krishna. The word Ghora Angirasa seems to be an epithet given to him because of the extreme austerities he undertook. It may be possible to suggest that Neminatha was his early name and when he had obtained Moksha after hard austerities, he might have been given the name of Ghora Angirasa.

But is there any basis for that in Hindu scripture? And does anyone know of any work by any Hindu Acharya or writer discussing the identity of this Krishna Devakiputra of the Chandogya Upanishad?

  • it could be Upamanyu (although according to Wiki, he is himself a Rigveda Rishi. Is Upamanyu a descendent of Angiras? – Surya Nov 25 '15 at 16:54
  • @Surya No, Upamanyu was the son of Vasishta's descendant Vyaghrapada; see the Rig Veda Anukramani for book 9 hymn 97 in my answer here: hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/2430/36 – Keshav Srinivasan Nov 25 '15 at 17:31
  • There isn't a book 9 hymn 97. And there is no Upamanyu in the rest of book 9. – Surya Nov 26 '15 at 0:26
  • @Surya Sorry, book 9 hymn 97 must have gotten cut off when I was creating the PDF for book 9. But here is the relevant image file that contains the missing portion: i.imgur.com/K6dPPXK.png By the way, here is the actual hymn from the Rig Veda: sacred-texts.com/hin/rigveda/rv09097.htm – Keshav Srinivasan Nov 26 '15 at 1:14
  • @Surya By the way, it's interesting to note that Vyasa's father Parashara was the seer of some Vedic hymns, but Vyasa himself wasn't. – Keshav Srinivasan Nov 26 '15 at 14:57
7

Chandogya Upanishad declaration on Ghora Angirasa and Devaki Putra Krishna:

taddhaitadghor āṅgirasaḥ kṛṣṇāya devakīputrāyoktvovācāpipāsa eva sa babhūva so'ntavelāyāmetattrayaṃ pratipadyetākṣitamasyacyutamasi prāṇasam̐śitamasīti tatraite dve ṛcau bhavataḥ ॥

The meaning of this mantra as given by shrI shankara and shrI madhva differs from that of shrI rAmAnuja. shrI shankara says:

"Ghora Angirasa, after having communicated this (view of the sacrifice) to Krishna, the son of Devaki -- and he never thirsted again (after other knowledge)--said: 'Let a man, when his end approaches, take refuge with this Triad: "Thou art the imperishable," "Thou art the unchangeable," "Thou art the edge of Prâna."' (source: net translation of shankara bhAshya)

Note that here, "Krishna, the Son of Devaki" is considered a student of Ghora Angirasa according to this interpretation. shrI madhva gives the same interpretation and he adds, "Vasudeva’s son, Krishna was the resplendent Lord himself, while there was some one else who was the son of one named Devaki, with the same name who was an ascetic. " (Source: Sonde's publication of mAdhva bhAshya).

While shrI shankara does not identify who "devaki putra krishNa" is, it is possible he regarded him as saguNa brahman krishNa himself. Because krishNa being a student does not reduce his brahmatva. Or, maybe shankara thought he was someone else. The fact that he didn't comment shows the acharya's lack of interest in the issue anyway. madhva sampradaya strongly hold the view that it was some rishi of the same name as bhagavAn.

Now, shrI ranga rAmAnuja muni, who belongs to the vishishtadvaita school and who has faithfully adhered to the view of shrI rAmAnuja, disagrees with both the interpretation of the upanishad by the other two gurus and also the idea that "devaki putra krishNa" is someone other than bhagavAn. There is really no need to take it as any other person considering that the theme of the upanishad is "upAsaNa" and the reference to "devaki putra" could easily be interpreted as an indication of the auspicious guNas like sousIlya, saulabhya, etc of the Lord which are important for upAsaNa.

srI ranga rAmAnuja muni derives the meaning another way as follows:

"The rishi Ghora Angirasa practiced this Purusha Yajna with the dedication as "This is sub-servient to Krishna, the Son of Devaki". That Ghora Angirasa had not thirst, as he came upon BrahmavidyA through this. At the last moment of his life, he said to Brahman, "you are eternal, you are full of auspicious qualities, you are the subtle truth enlivening this universe".

The acharyan explains "KrishnAya" as "KrishnaseshabhUta" - for the sake of Krishna (the essential nature of the jIvAtmAn is seshatva or servitude to devaki putra krishNa).

One must note that even in mantrAs, the "Aya" shabda denotes "for the sake of-", or service performed for the deity.

ityuktvA means anusandhAna, which is upAsaNa. Constant meditation on devaki putra krishNa and oneself as being his dAsabhUta by nature is thus recommended. Jiva Goswami also alludes to this interpretation in his commentary on Brahma Samhita.

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    @SuryaKantaBoseChowdhury Vishwanath Chakravarthy Thakur also interprets it in same way in commentary to SB 1.3.28. "Thus in the Chandogya Upanishad it is said jyayams ca purushah: the purusha is greater than that; sarvam khalv idam brahma: everything is brahman; yat prana aditya: the pranas are the Adityas. Having said this, everything is summarized by saying krishnaya devaki-putraya: this purusha sacrifice is subservient to Krishna, the son of Devaki. (Chandogya Upanishad 3.17.6) By this it is understood that Krishna is superior to the purusha. – user16618 Dec 31 '18 at 13:50
2

In the 16th century Gaudiya Vaishnava acarya Jiva Gosvami said in his Krishna Sandarbha, Anuccheda 57, Text 5:

samopanishadi ca krishnaya devakinandanaya iti

sama-upanishadi-in the Upanishad of the Sama Veda (Chandogya Upanishad); krishnaya devakinandanaya-I offer my respectful obeisances to Shri Krishna, the son of Devaki; iti-thus

The name Krishna is also mentioned in the Chandogya Upanishad of the Sama Veda, which says:

"I offer my respectful obeisances to Shri Krishna, the son of Devaki."

So it seems that per the opinion of Jiva Gosvami Lord Krishna has been referred to in the Chandogya Upanishad as the son of Devaki.

Update:
Asker said:

Now it is common knowledge that Vishnu's incarnation Krishna was the son of Vasudeva and Devaki. So my question is, is the "Krishna Devakiputra" mentioned in the Chandogya Upanishad the same as the famous incarnation of Vishnu, or is this just some bizarre coincidence?
...
...
Madhvacharya doesn't discuss who Krishna Devakiputra is in his commentary either. So did these Acharyas somehow not notice the coincidence, or did they find the fact that it referred to Krishna to be too obvious to note, or did they find it too obvious to note that they're different people?

And assuming it's the same Krishna, who is this "Ghora Angirasa" who would be Krishna's guru. Krishna had gurus like Sandipani and Garga, but I don't know of any guru of his named Ghora.

I do not believe that Jiva Gosvami thought that the person referred to in the verse actually is Lord Krishna! He was just an ordinary man named "Krishna Devakiputra", ie "Krishna, the son of Devaki". Even today in India you can find people by the name "Krishna". But the point is that he was called after the Lord Krishna, thus "Krishna, the son of Devaki". Now, the important thing to understand is that he as an ordinary human is not Lord Krishna, but his name "Krishna, the son of Devaki" is clear reference to the Lord Krishna. That's the point here.

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    It is a direct reference to Lord Krishna himself. Jiva Goswami just mentions and doesn't comment. This needs commentary. Vishwanath chakravarty thakur in his commentary to 1.3.28 says this "Thus in the Chändogya it is said jyäyäàç ca püruñaù: the puruña is greater than that; sarvaà khalv idaà brahma: everything is brahman; yat präëä ädityä: the präëas are the Ädityas. Having said this, everything is summarized by saying kåñëäya devaké-puträya: this puruña sacrifice is subservient to Kåñëa, the son of Devaké. (Ch U 3.17.6) By this it is understood that Kåñëa is superior to the puruña." – user16618 Dec 3 '18 at 15:24
  • @RaRe I think it is not quite clear whether Jiva G thought that Ch Upan verse is a direct reference to Lord Krishna or not. You just assume he believed it to be a direct reference. What if he believed it to be indirect reference as I explained in my answer? – brahma jijnasa Jan 16 at 19:36
0

There is a Chandogya Upanishad mantra 3.17.6 which says:

Ghora Angirasa expounded this well known doctrine to Devaki's son Krishna and said , 'Such a knower should at the time of death repeat this triad - "Thou art the imperishable, Thou art the unchangeable, Thou art the subtle essence of Prana." (on hearing the above) Krishna became thirstless. There are two Rk stanzas in regard to this.

Swami Swahananda's comment on this shloka is given below:

That is, Devaki's son Krishna. Sri Sankaracharya states that the mention of Krishna is only for the purpose of bringing out the excellence of this Vidya (sacrifice). He says that the desire for Vidyas was quenched in the mind of Krishna after listening to the instruction of Gora Angirasa. The Mimamsakas whose central dogma is that every syllable of the Sruti is beginningless and eternal would consider the reference to Krishna as Arthavada and not an allusion to the historical personality. Students of historical thought, however, find a definite reference to the teacher of the Gita in the epithet Devakiputra. This conclusion is rendered probable by the identification of man and sacrifice (corresponding to the Gita ideal of the dedication of every activity of life to the Divine) and by the long life of Sri Krishna extending to 128 years described in the Bhagavata while a period of 116 years is considered normal in this Vidya. In this passage historians find the earliest reference to Sri Krishna which can not be dismissed as legendary.

Ref: Chandogya Upanishad translated by Swami Swahananda

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    It says "students of historical thought" identify him as the famous Krishna, but I'm more interested in what Hindu scriptures or Acharyas identify him as. – Keshav Srinivasan Nov 25 '15 at 17:26

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