In the ChAndogyopaniShad BhAShyam for the mantra 6.1.4 ‘यथा सोम्यैकेन मृत्पिण्डेन सर्वं मृन्मयं विज्ञातं स्यात् वाचाऽऽरम्भणं विकारो नामधेयं मृत्तिकेत्येव सत्यम्’ Shankara has said for the highlighted portion:
// …कोऽसौ विकारो नामधेयं नामैव नामधेयं स्वार्थे धेयप्रत्ययः । वागालम्बनमात्रं नामैव केवलं, न विकारो नाम वस्त्वस्ति परमार्थतो, मृत्तिकेत्येव तु मृत्तिकैव सत्यं वस्त्वस्ति । //
[…Which is that? It is vikAraH, the transformation; which is nAmadheyam, name only. The suffix dheyat is added after the word to mean the word (nAma) itself. It is only a name dependent merely on speech. (Apart from that) there is no substance called transformation. In reality mRttikA iti, earth as such; eva satyam (is the thing that) truly exists. ]
In the above commentary वागालम्बनमात्रं नामैव केवलं there is the word ‘mAtram’ which is not there in the mantra.
It would be interesting to note how the Upanishad itself endorses the meaning Shankara has given above. In the seventh chapter, we have these words of Sanatkumara addressed to Narada who has approached the former for AtmavidyA:
तँ होवाच यद्वै किंचैतदध्यगीष्ठा नामैवैतत् ॥७.१.३॥
[To nArada, sanatkumAra said: ‘All these, whatsoever you have learned are merely names.’]
While commenting on this portion Shankara quotes the Chandogya 6.1.4 mantra: ’वाचाऽऽरम्भणं विकारो नामधेयम्’ इति श्रुतेः।
That shows that the Chandogya shruti itself, in the seventh chapter mantra confirms what it itself said in the sixth chapter mantra ‘all these are merely names.’ In other words, ‘whatever nArada has learned, adhyagIShThAH, with artha jnAnam, is merely a name.’ We have to notice that nArada has come with great learning, all branches of which pertain to the created world. Even if such extensive knowledge is possessed of the world, it is all still in the realm of anAtmA, not-Self. That is why he himself realizes that he is not an ‘Atma-vit’, a knower of the Self and not free from misery. That is the reason he has come to Sanatkumara, to remove the vacuum he experiences in life, to fulfill the need of Self-knowledge. In this context the Acharya, SanatkumAra, tells him that ‘ ‘all these that you have learned, along with their meaning, are merely names.’ There is no substance in such learning as that which forms the subject matter of all that learning is insubstantial, mere names.
The commentator, अभिनवनारायणानन्देन्द्रसरस्वती makes an interesting observation: ततश्च ….’नाम’ पदेन ऋग्वेदाद्यर्थस्य नामव्यतिरेकेण वस्तुतोऽभावात् मिथ्यात्वं प्रतिपाद्यते वैराग्यार्थम् ।
[Further, ..by the word ‘name’ whatever has been learned from the Rg.veda, etc. (with their subject matter), since all that is nothing apart from mere names (their words), are characterized as unreal, for the sake of engendering dispassion.]
The ‘subject matter’ of any science, any body of knowledge, is the ‘artha’, viShaya, that is sought to be known through that branch of science. When we look at the ‘subject matter’ of all the sciences nArada has studied, we find that it is none other than the created world. In the MundakopaniShat, at the beginning itself, there is a distinction made between ‘parA’ and ‘aparA’ vidyA. The latter consists of Rg.Veda, etc. and their anga-s. All the vidyA-s that nArada has acquired come under the ‘aparA’ vidyA category. ‘parA’ vidyA alone pertains to Brahman with is ‘other’ than the created world. In other words, the kArya prapancha vidyA is aparaa vidyA and the kAraNa Brahma vidyA is parA vidyA. Thus the created world is what the Chandogya upaniShat, both in the sixth and the seventh chapters, says is ‘mere name’, nAmaiva etat.
When one knows that all the worldly knowledge that one possesses ends up as mere words with no real substance behind them, one tends to no longer indulge in them, in their acquisition and enjoying. This is what dispassion is and the serious passion for gaining Self-knowledge surfaces.
It is also pertinent to note that the very next mantra in the seventh chapter contains the word ‘नाम’ and ‘नामैवैतत्’. Shankara does not invoke the ‘vAchArambhaNa’ shruti in these cases as their context is different.
A question could arise: In the Ch.Up.6.1.4 mantra the commentary used the word ‘mAtram’. However the 7.1.3 mantra uses the word ‘eva’. How could this be seen as the upanishad endorsing the usage of the word ‘mAtram’ of Shankara?
To this we reply: The amarakosha gives the meaning for ‘mAtram’ thus:
मात्रं कार्त्स्न्येऽवधारणे (२६९१). In other words, the word ‘mAtram’ is used in the senses of ‘total’ and ’emphasis’. It is well known that ‘eva’ is also used in the sense of ’emphasis’.
Also, the word ‘nAma(dheyam)’ of the Ch.Up.6.1.4 is only an explanation by way of an adjective by the Upanishad itself for the other word ‘vAchArambhaNam’. Shankara explained it as ‘that which has ‘vAk’ for its ‘Alambanam’, support, source. That which originates with speech as support is nothing but a word, a name. Thus there is no defect of the word ‘nAmadheyam’ of the upanishat becoming redundant in the light of Shankara’s commentary.
The word ‘nAmadheyam’ of the sixth chapter and the word ‘naamaivaitat’ of the seventh chapter mean the same.
The above study assumes additional significance in the wake of an objection from the Madhva school saying that Shankara’s use of वागालम्बनमात्रं नामैव केवलं in Ch.Up.Bhashyam 6.1.4 is ‘a-shrutakalpanam’, an interpolation of an extraneous (extra-vedic/supra-vedic) word/meaning while giving out the purport of the mantra:
न च `वाचारम्भण'शब्दोऽपि मिथ्यात्वे प्रसिद्धः|`वाचारम्भणमात्रम्'इति च अश्रुतकल्पनम्| We find that Shankara's usage/explanation is eminently 'shrautam', the usage/explanation being endorsed by the Shruti itself through the word नामैवैतत्. Bhagavan Veda Vyasa too endorses Shankara's commentary: न यत्पुरस्तादुत यन्न पश्चान्मध्ये च तत्तद्व्यपदेशमात्रम् । भूतं प्रसिद्धं च परेण यद्यत्तदेव तत्स्यादिति मे मनीषा ॥२१॥ That which is neither before nor after is also non-existent in the interim. It is a mere name. I am of the opinion that whatever is caused or brought to light by some other thing must be that and nothing else. (srImadbhAgavatam UddhavagItA 13.21) Here Bhagavan Krishna and Veda VyAsa say that all that is created is a 'mere name'. Also, in the second line is the confirmation that the substance of an object is none other the upAdAnakAraNa (material cause) of all objects: 'वाचाऽऽरम्भणं विकारो नामधेयं मृत्तिकेत्येव सत्यम्’. Further, this comment/objection of Sri Madhvacharya : न च `वाचारम्भण'शब्दोऽपि मिथ्यात्वे प्रसिद्धः also stands refuted by the above VyAsavachanam which accounts for 'prasiddhi'. Also, the above verse is an authentication of the Advaitic tent: An object that is revealed by the Observer Consciousness is none other than that Consciousness. Finally, the above verse is also a fine endorsement of the famous GaudapAdakArikaa: 'आदावन्ते च यन्नस्ति वर्तमानेऽपि तत्तथा । वितथैः सदृशा एव, अवितथा इव लक्षिताः ' (२.६) //If a thing is non-existent both in the beginning and in the end, it is necessarily non-existent in the present. The objects that we see are really like illusions; still they are regarded as real. // Again, the above BhAgavatam verse endorses the Advaitic concept of sadasadvilakShaNam. Thus there is prasiddhi for this too. ऒम् तत् सत्