ॐ । यो ह वै ज्येष्ठं च श्रेष्ठं च वेद ज्येष्ठश्च श्रेष्ठश्च स्वानां भवति; प्राणो वै ज्येष्ठश्च श्रेष्ठश्च; ज्येष्ठश्च श्रेष्ठश्च स्वानां भवति, अपि च येषां बुभूषति, य एवं वेद ॥ १ ॥
oṃ | yo ha vai jyeṣṭhaṃ ca śreṣṭhaṃ ca veda jyeṣṭhaśca śreṣṭhaśca svānāṃ bhavati; prāṇo vai jyeṣṭhaśca śreṣṭhaśca; jyeṣṭhaśca śreṣṭhaśca svānāṃ bhavati, api ca yeṣāṃ bubhūṣati, ya evaṃ veda || 1 ||
1. Om. He who knows that which is the oldest and greatest, becomes the oldest and greatest among his relatives. The vital force is indeed the oldest and greatest. He who knows it to be such becomes the oldest and greatest among his relatives as well as among those of whom he wants to be such.
It has been stated that Gāyatrī is the vital force. But why is Gāyatrī the vital force, and not the organs such as that of speech? Because the vital force is the oldest and greatest, which the organs are not. How is it the oldest and greatest? The present section is introduced to settle this point. Or, meditation on the vital force alone as the ‘Uktha,’ ‘Yajus,’ ‘Sāman,’ ‘Kṣatra,’ etc., has been described, although there are other things such as the eye. The present section gives only the reason, which is its connection with the preceding chapter, on account of its immediate sequence. But this section is not a part of that chapter. These two chapters being of the nature of a supplement, such meditations on the vital force, with specific results of their own, as have not been mentioned before, have to be described; this is what the Śruti intends to do.
He who knows that which is the oldest and greatest, i.e. has the attributes of priority in age and greatness—what it is will be presently mentioned—surely becomes the oldest and greatest among his relatives. The particles ‘ha’ and ‘vai’ are emphatic. The pupil, tempted by this mention of the result, is eager to put his question, when the teacher says to him: The vital force is indeed the oldest, and greatest. But how is one to know that it is such, since at conception all the organs (of the embryo) are equally connected with the formative elements contributed by the parents? The answer is that nevertheless the seed, if lifeless, will not develop; which means that the vital force begins to function earlier than the eye and other organs; hence it is the oldest in age. Besides, the vital force goes on fostering the embryo from the moment of conception, and it.is only after it (the vital force) has begun to function that the eye and other organs begin their work. Hence the vital force is legitimately the oldest of the organs. But one may be the oldest member in a family without being the greatest, because of his lack of good qualities; and the second, or the youngest member may be the greatest by reason of his superior qualities, but not the oldest. Not so, however, with the vital force. It is indeed the oldest and greatest. How is it known to be the greatest? It will be shown through the ensuing conversation. In any case, he who knows, or meditates upon, the vital force as the oldest and greatest, becomes the oldest and greatest among his relatives, by virtue of meditation on a thing that is oldest and greatest, as well as among those other than his relatives, of whom he wants to be the oldest and greatest. The man who meditates upon the vital force as the oldest and greatest attains this result. It may be questioned how a person can be the oldest at will, since it depends on age. But the answer is that there is nothing wrong in it, since ‘being the oldest’ here means functioning (before the rest) as the vital force does.