[Advaita-l] त्र्यम्बकं यजामहे

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Wed Mar 15 15:10:46 EDT 2017

On Tue, 28 Feb 2017, girish girish via Advaita-l wrote:

> Vasistha Maharshi was the द्रष्ट (Person who first saw/heard this mantra) 
> of this mantra.  So anyone who wishes to know anything about this mantra 
> should first offer respects to him. – वसिष्ठ महर्षये नमः

I would translate it like this based on the madhyandina shuklayajurveda 
tradition taught to me by guruji many years ago and the commentaries on 
Vajasaneyi Samhita by Uvatacharya and Mahidharacharya (Sayanacharya did 
not comment on this shakha.)

First a little bit about the context in which the mantra occurs.  A 
shrauti has to for atleast one year or some say every year perform a cycle 
of four yajnas called chaturmasya.  They are called this because the first
three of them are performed every four months over the course of a year 
(the last is free-floating.)  The third of these is called Sakamedha and 
it takes place on Kartika Shukla 14/Purnima.  A subsidiary rite (anga) of 
the Sakamedha yajna is called Tryambakeshti.  In this Ishti, the yajamana 
makes offerings to Rudra Tryambaka according to the number of his sons and 
grandsons and they do pradakshina of agni as the rtwiks say this mantra.

"We sacrifice[1] to Tryambaka[2] the sweet-smelling, the promotor of 
prosperity[3]. Like the Urvaruka[4] may we be released from the bondage of 
death not from imortality

[1] There are two verbs used in Sanskrit to mean "to sacrifice" yaj 
(yajati) and ju (juhoti)  They are often used interchangeably but there is 
technically a difference.  In a yajna the offering is made standing up 
with the vashatkara and in a havan the offering is made sitting down with 
svaha.  The Katyayana Shrauta Sutra (5.10.5) therefore specifically 
notes that these offerings are to be made with svahakara even though the 
verb is yaj.

[2] The popular interpretation of Tryambaka is "the one who has three 
eyes" and the commentators agree.  However it could also mean "the one who 
is associated with the triple-Amba." where Amba refers to Devi.  We can 
think of many instances where Shakti is referred to in triple form as e.g 
para-apara-parapara, Tripurasundari or Mahakali-Mahalakshmi-Mahasarasvati 
etc.  Now one may ask is this an anachronistic interpretation foisting 
later-day concepts onto the Vedic text?  No, it is plausible.  Just a 
couple of mantras earlier in this sukta (Va. Sa. 3.57 "esha te rudra...") 
Rudra is requested to take the offerings along with "Ambika your sister." 
And elsewhere there is the mantra "amba ambika ambalika..." which also 
refers to a Goddess with a triple form.

[3] or abundance.  In Gujarati, a polite way to say someone is fat is that 
they are "pushta."

[4]  Melon is not correct.  In English translations I have also seen 
cucumber which is not right either.  I was told that urvaruka is what in 
Gujarati we call dudhi (squash? gourd?)  In any case it is a vegetable of 
some sort whose salient property is that it does not need to be harvested 
but falls off the vine when ripe.  The yajamana thereby wishes that when 
death comes (which is inescapable to all things which are created.) it 
should be an easy seperation like this and without pain and suffering.  We 
can see from this why the yajamanas children are involved.  To have 
numerous progeny is true prosperity.  It is by continuing the family line 
and its traditions that we achieve immortality.

It should also be noted that this kandika has two anushtubha rks in it. 
The second is similar to the first but instead of "promoter of prosperity" 
Tryambaka bhagavan is called "knower [or finder] of husbands" and the last 
pada says instead "may we be released from here and not there."  After the 
men, the kanyas of the household do the agni pradakshina to the 
accompaniment of this second rk to pray for good husbands.  The 
commentators explain "here" to mean the native place and "there" to mean 
the in-laws home.  In other words thare should not be sadness leaving 
"here" or friction "there."

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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