The Mundaka Upanishad
by Swami Krishnananda
Among the Upanishads, the Mundaka Upanishad is regarded as one the most important. It throws a flood of light on the Jnana Marga (the path of Knowledge) and leads the aspirant to the highest rung in the ladder of Jnana—Brahmavid brahmaiva bhavati.
That this Upanishad was meant for the Sannyasin (and hence the significant name Mundaka Upanishad) is itself the highest tribute that can be paid to its sacredness. The truth that this Supreme Knowledge which the Upanishad imparts is to be had through inspirational initiation direct from a Guru who is well versed in the Brahma Vidya and who has at the same time had the Brahma Anubhava, is brought out very clearly in this Upanishad.
At the very commencement, the Upanishad throws out a challenge to all finite (and therefore imperfect) sciences. Real Knowledge does not consist in the mastery of cartloads of mere verbiage, but in the immediate experience of the Self. Without this Self-Knowledge, it is futile to try to know anything else! Man’s knowledge of an object is clouded by the ignorance that shrouds his own Self; and minus this unifying force of Self-Knowledge, all knowledge is reduced to mere conjecture and, therefore, it is arbitrary. Knowledge of the Self instantly means true knowledge of everything.
How is this Knowledge to be attained? While yet engaged in the performance of his daily duties, the aspirant should carefully and minutely analyse the nature of the world, and grasp the transience of all objects. If everything is transient, what, then, is Eternal and, therefore, worth aspiring for? This question cannot be answered by the aspirants’ intellect, for the intellect itself is a finite and frail instrument and one amongst the transient objects in this evanescent world. But the emergence in the aspirants’ mind of such a Query is itself the signal that the heart-strands that bound him to Samsara have got loosened, and that with the sword of Jnana he can easily cut them asunder. This sword is in the Guru’s sheath and has to be acquired by direct personal initiation. In the Guru’s holy presence, the disciple’s intellect ceases to function. Like the gushing waters of a mountain torrent, when the obstructing dam is broken, Divine Wisdom floods the heart of the aspirant: he knows. He realises that in essence he is that Knowledge Itself! That is the Supreme Knowledge in which the distinction between knowledge, the knower and the known vanishes. And, that is the reason why the Upanishad alludes to It with a series of negations.
The Upanishad gives graphic descriptions of the effects of desire-prompted actions and shows how the wrong performance of these actions brings on evil consequences and even the correct performance, while conferring temporary affluence and happiness, terminates in the reincarnation of the Jiva in even lower births. Desire is condemned in unequivocal terms.
Practice of truth is one of the foremost Sadhanas for the purpose of Self-realisation. And the powerfully reassuring Mantra Satyameva jayate na anritam occurs in this Upanishad. Practice of Truth, penance, Brahm- acharya and the acquirement of correct knowledge are the practices that bestow strength on the aspirant—physical, mental, moral, intellectual and spiritual strength; and an aspirant endowed with this strength alone can reach the Goal—not a weakling, says the Upanishad.
These are all preparatory practices. These are excellent aids for self-purification. But these ‘actions’ cannot by themselves achieve That which is not the product of any action—the Supreme Brahman. Utter annihilation of the ego is called for; and the Upanishad again and again stresses the Truth that the Atman is all-pervading and is the Self of all. Failure to perceive this Truth alone results in egocentric personality. The Upanishad forbids one from talking of anything other than this all-pervading Self. The austerity of speech (and of the inner Bhava that prompts speech itself) is hidden in this! Just reflect for a moment. If you really and sincerely recognise the presence of the Atman in every being, no contemptuous expression would escape from your lips, no falsehood will be uttered by you; your speech would be sweet, truthful and loving. Universal love will reside in your heart; and cosmic love is synonymous with supreme self-sacrifice, or egolessness. That cosmic love is the threshold to the limitless domain of Brahmic Bliss.
The Upanishad has given very apt and illuminating illustrations to make clear the subtle Truth propounded in it. And, Swami Krishnanandaji, in his commentary, has thrown a flood of light on these analogies and brought out the inner meaning most lucidly. Flashes of the Swami’s intuitive wisdom illumine obstruse corners of metaphysical statements inevitable in such a text which treats the Highest and Subtlest of topics.
Swami Krishnanandaji’s commentary on the Mundakopanishad is a most valuable aid to all students of Yoga and Vedanta. In others, even in worldly persons, it will induce Vairagya, a distaste for worldly life and taste for the Higher Life that is the gateway to Liberation from the painful bondage of birth and death.
May God bless Sri Swami Krishnanandaji with health, long life, peace, prosperity and Kaivalya Moksha! May all the earnest readers attain the highest goal of Self-Knowledge or Atma-Sakshatkara.
First Mundaka: First Khanda
brahmā devānām prathamaḥ sambabhūva viśvasya kartā bhuvanasya goptā, sa brahma-vidyāṁ sarva-vidyā-pratiṣṭham arthavāya jyeṣṭha-putrāya prāha.
artharvaṇe yām pravadeta brahmātharvā tām purovācāṅgire brahma-vidyam, sa bhāradvājaya satyavāhāya prāha bhāradvājo’ngirase parāvarām.
yadā paśyaḥ paśyate rukma-varṇaṁ kartāram īśam puruṣam brahma-yonim, tadā vidvān puṇya-pāpe vidhūya nirañjanaḥ paramaṁ sāmyam upaiti.
prāṇo hy eṣa yaḥ sarva-bhūtair vibhāti vijānan vidvān bhavate nātivādī, ātma-krīḍa ātma-ratiḥ kriyāvān eṣa brahma-vidāṁ viriṣṭhah.
satyena labhyas tapasā hy eṣa ātmā samyag-jñānena brahmacharyeṇa nityam, antaḥ-śarīre jyotir-mayo hi śubhro yam paśyanti yatayaḥ kṣīṇadoṣāḥ.
satyam eva jayate nānṛtam, satyena panthā vitato deva-yānaḥ, yenākramanty ṛṣayo hy āpta-kāmā yatra tat satyasya paramaṁ nidhānam.
bṛhac ca tad divyam acintya-rūpaṁ sūkṣmāc ca tat sūkṣma-taraṁ vibhati, dūrāt sudūre tad ihāntike ca paśyatsv ihaiva nihitam guhāyām.
na cakṣuṣā gṛhyate nāpi vācā nānyair devaiḥ tapasā karmaṇā vā, jñāna-prasādena viśuddha-sattvas tatas tu taṁ pasyate niṣkalaṁ dhyāyamānaḥ.
eṣo’ṇur ātmā cetasā veditavyo yasmin prāṇaḥ pañcadhā saṁviveśa, prāṇaiś cittaṁ sarvaṁ otam prajānām, yasmin viśuddhe vibhavaty eṣa ātmā.
yam yaṁ lokam manasā saṁvibhātiviśuddha-sattvaḥ kāmayate yāṁś ca kāmān, taṁ taṁ lokaṁ jāyate tāṁś ca kāmāṁs tasmād ātmajñaṁ hy arcayed bhūti-kāmaḥ.
First Mundaka: Second Khanda
tad etat satyam: mantreṣu karmāṇi kavayo yāny apaśyams tāni tretāyāṁ bahudhā santatāni, tāny ācaratha niyatam, satyakāmā, eṣa vaḥ panthāḥ sukṛtasya loke.
yathā lelāyate hy arcis samiddhe havya-vāhane, tad ājya-bhāvāv antareṇāhutiḥ pratipādayec chraddhayā-hutam.
yasyāgnihotram adarśam apaurṇamāsam acāturmāsyam anāgrayaṇam atithivarjitam ca ahutam avaiśvadevam avidhinā hutam ā-saptamāṁs tasya lokān hinasti.
kālī karalī ca mano-javā ca sulhoitā yā ca sudhūmravarṇā, sphuliṅginī viśva-rūpi ca devī lelāyamānā iti sapta-jiḥvāḥ.
eteṣu yaś carate bhrājamāneṣu yathā-kālaṁ cā hutayo hy ādadāyan, taṁ nayanty etās sūryasya raśmayo yatra devānām patir eko’dhivāsaḥ.
ehy ehīti tam āhutayas suvarcasaḥ sūryasya raśmibhir yajamānaṁ vahanti, priyāṁ vācam abhivadantyo’rcayantya, eṣa vaḥ puṇyas sukṛto brahma-lokaḥ.
plavā hy ete adṛḍhā yajña-rūpā aṣṭādaśoktam avaram yeṣu karmā: etac chreyo ye’bhinandanti mūḍhāḥ jarā-mṛtyuṁ te punar evāpiyanti.
avidyāyām antare vartamānāḥ svayaṁ dhīrāḥ paṇḍitam manyamānāḥ, janghanyamānāḥ pariyanti mūḍhāḥ, andhenaiva nīyamānā yathāndhāḥ.
avidyāyām bahudhā vartamānā vayaṁ kṛtārthā ity abhi-manyanti bālāh: yat karmiṇo na pravedayanti rāgāt tenāturāḥ kṣīṇalokāś cyavante.
iṣṭapūrtam manyamānā variṣṭhaṁ nānyac chreyo vedayante pramūḍhāḥ, nāksaya pṛṣṭhe te sukṛte’nubhūtvemaṁ lokaṁ hīnataraṁ vā viśanti.
tapaḥ śraddhe ye hy upavasanty araṇye śāntā vidvāṁso bhaikṣācaryaṁ carantaḥ, sūrya-dvāreṇa te virajāḥ prayānti yatrāmṛtaḥ sa puruṣo hy avyayātmā.
parīkṣya lokān karmancitān brāhmaṇo nirvedam āyān nāsty akṛtah kṛtena, tad vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet samit-pāṇiḥ śrotriyam brahma-niṣṭham.
tasmai sa vidvān upasannāya samyak praśānta-cittāya śamānvitāya, yenākṣaram puruṣaṁ veda satyam provāca tāṁ tattvato brahma-vidyam.
Second Mundaka: First Khanda
tad etat satyam:
yathā sudīptāt pāvakād visphuliṅgāḥ sahasraśaḥ prabhavante sarūpāḥ,
tathākṣarād vividhāḥ, saumya, bhāvāḥ prajāyante tatra caivāpi yanti.
divyo hy amūrtaḥ puruṣah sa bāhyābhyantaro hy ajaḥ,
aprāṇo hy amanāḥ śubhro akṣarāt paratah paraḥ.
etasmāj jāyate prāṇo manaḥ sarvendriyāṇi ca,
khaṁ vāyur jyotir āpaḥ pṛthivī viśvasya dhāriṇī.
aginr mūrdhā, cakṣuṣī candra-sūryau, diśaḥ śrotre, vāg vivṛtāś ca vedāḥ,
vāyuḥ prāṇo hṛdayaṁ viśvam, asaya padbhyām pṛthivī hy eṣa sarva-bhūtāntarātmā.
tasmād agnis samidho yasa sūryaḥ somāt parjanya oṣadhayaḥ pṛthivyām,
putmān retas siñcati yoṣitāyām bahvīḥ prajāḥ puruṣāt samprasūtāḥ.
tasmād ṛcaḥ sāma yajūṁṣi dīkṣā yajñaś ca sarve kratavo dakṣiṇāś ca,
saṁvatsaraś ca yajamānaś ca lokāḥ somo yatra pavate yara sūryaḥ.
tasmāc ca devā bhaudhā samprasūtāḥ sādhyā manuṣyāḥ paśavo vayāṁsi,
prāṇāpānau vrīhi-yavau tapaś ca śraddhā satyam brahma-caryaṁ vidhiś ca.
sapta-prāṇāḥ prabhavanti tasmāt saptārciṣas samidhas sapta-homāḥ,
sapta ime lokā yeṣu caranti prāṇā guhāśayā nihitās sapta sapta.
ataḥ samudrā girayaś ca sarve asmāt syandante sindhavas sarva-rūpāḥ,
atas ca sarvā oṣadhayo rasaś ca yenaiṣa bhūtais tiṣṭhate hy antar-ātmā.
puruṣa evedaṁ viśvaṁ karma tapo brahma parāmṛtam,
etad yo veda nihitaṁ guhāyāṁ so’vidyā-granthiṁ vikiratīha, saumya.
Second Mundaka: Second Khanda
āviḥ saṁnihitaṁ guhācaraṁ nāma mahat padam atraitat samarpitam,
ejat praṇan nimiṣac ca yad eat jānatha sad asad vareṇyam param vijñānād
yad variṣṭham prajānām.
yad arcimad yad aṇubhyo’ṇu ca, yasmin lokā nihitā lokinas ca,
tad etad akṣaram brahma sa prāṇas tad u vāṇ manaḥ,
tad etat satyam, tad amṛtam, tad veddhavyam, saumya, viddhi.
dhanur gṛhīvtā aupaniṣadam mahāstraṁ śaraṁ hy upāsā-niśitaṁ saṁdadhīta,
āyamya tad-bhāvagatena cetasā lakṣyaṁ tad evākṣaraṁ, saumya viddhi.
praṇavo dhanuḥ, śaro hy ātmā, brahma tal lakṣyam ucyate,
apramattena veddhavyam, śaravat tanmayo bhavet.
yasmin dyauḥ pṛthivī cāntrikṣam otam manaḥ saha prāṇaiś ca sarvaiḥ,
tam evaikaṁ jānatha ātmānam, anya vāco vimuñcatha, amṛtasyaiṣa setuḥ.
arā iva ratha-nābhau saṁhatā yatra nāḍyaḥ sa eṣo’ntaś carate bahudhā jāyamānaḥ,
aum iti eveṁ dhyāyathātmānam, svasti vaḥ pārāya tamasaḥ parastāt.
yah sarvajñaḥ sarva-vid yasyaiṣa mahimā bhuvi,
divye brahma-pure hy eṣa vyomny ātmā pratiṣṭhitaḥ.
bhidyate hṛdaya-granthiś chidyante sarva-saṁśayāḥ,
kṣīyante cāsya karmāṇi tasmin dṛṣṭe parāvare.
hiraṇmaye pare kośe virajaṁ brahma niṣkaram,
tac chubhraṁ jyotiṣāṁ jyotiḥ tad yad ātma-vido viduḥ.
na tatra sūryo bhāti, na candra-tārakam, nemā vidyuto bhānti, kuto’yam agniḥ,
tam eva bhāntam anubhāti sarvam, tasya bhāsā sarvam, idaṁ vibhāti.
brahmaivedam amṛtam purastād brahma, paścad brahma, dakṣinataś cottareṇa,
adhaścordhvaṁ ca prasṛtam brahmaivedaṁ viśvam idaṁ variṣṭham.
Third Mundaka: First Section
dvā suparṇā sayujā sakhāyā samānaṁ vṛkṣam pariṣasvajāte
tayor anyaḥ pippalaṁ svādv attyanaśnann anyo’bhicakaśīti.
samāne vṛkṣe puruṣo nimagno’nīśayā śocati muhyamānaḥ,
juṣṭam yadā paśyaty anyam īśam asya mahimānam iti, vīta-śokah.
yadā paśyaḥ paśyate rukma-varṇaṁ kartāram īśam puruṣam brahma-yonim,
tadā vidvān puṇya-pāpe vidhūya nirañjanaḥ paramaṁ sāmyam upaiti.
prāṇo hy eṣa yaḥ sarva-bhūtair vibhāti vijānan vidvān bhavate nātivādī,
ātma-krīḍa ātma-ratiḥ kriyāvān eṣa brahma-vidāṁ viriṣṭhah.
satyena labhyas tapasā hy eṣa ātmā samyag-jñānena brahmacharyeṇa nityam,
antaḥ-śarīre jyotir-mayo hi śubhro yam paśyanti yatayaḥ kṣīṇadoṣāḥ.
satyam eva jayate nānṛtam, satyena panthā vitato deva-yānaḥ,
yenākramanty ṛṣayo hy āpta-kāmā yatra tat satyasya paramaṁ nidhānam.
bṛhac ca tad divyam acintya-rūpaṁ sūkṣmāc ca tat sūkṣma-taraṁ vibhati,
dūrāt sudūre tad ihāntike ca paśyatsv ihaiva nihitam guhāyām.
na cakṣuṣā gṛhyate nāpi vācā nānyair devaiḥ tapasā karmaṇā vā,
jñāna-prasādena viśuddha-sattvas tatas tu taṁ pasyate niṣkalaṁ dhyāyamānaḥ.
eṣo’ṇur ātmā cetasā veditavyo yasmin prāṇaḥ pañcadhā saṁviveśa,
āṇaiś cittaṁ sarvaṁ otam prajānām, yasmin viśuddhe vibhavaty eṣa ātmā.
yam yaṁ lokam manasā saṁvibhātiviśuddha-sattvaḥ kāmayate yāṁś ca kāmān,
taṁ taṁ lokaṁ jāyate tāṁś ca kāmāṁs tasmād ātmajñaṁ hy arcayed bhūti-kāmaḥ.
Third Mundaka: Second Section
sa vedaitat paramam brahma dhāma yatra viśvaṁ nihitam bhāti śubhram,
upāste puruṣam ye hy akāmās te śukram etad ativartanti dhīrāḥ.
kāmān yah kāmayate manyamānaḥ sa kāmabhir jāyate tatra tatra,
paryāpta-kāmasya kṛtāmanas tu ihaiva sarve pravilīyanti kāmāḥ.
nāyam ātmā pravacanena labhyo na medhayā, na bahunā śrutena,
yam evaiṣa vṛṇute tena labhyas tasyaiṣa ātmā vivṛṇute tanūṁ svām.
nāyam ātmā bala-hīnena labhyo na ca pramādāt tapso vāpy aliṅgāt,
etair upāyair yatate yas tu vidvāṁs tasyaiṣa ātmā viśate brahma-dhāma.
samprāpyainam ṛṣayo jñāna-tṛptāḥ kṛtātmāno vīta-rāgāḥ praśāntāḥ,
te sarvagaṁ sarvataḥ prāpya dhīrā yuktātmānas sarvam evāviśanti.
vedāntā-vijñāna-suniścitārthāḥ saṁnyāsa-yogād yatayaḥ śuddhasttvāḥ,
te brahma-lokeṣu parāntakāle parāṁṛtāḥ parimucyanti sarve.
gatāḥ kalāḥ pañcadaśa pratiṣṭhā devāś ca sarve prati-devatāsu,
karmāñi vijñānamayaś ca ātmā pare’vyaye sarve ekī-bhavanti.
yathā nadyas syandamānās samudre astam gacchanti nāma-rūpe vihāya,
tathā vidvān nāma-rūpād vimuktaḥ parāt-param puruṣam upaiti divyam.
sa yo ha vai tat paramam brahma veda brahmaiva bhavati,
nāsyābrahma-vit kule bhavati,
tarati śokaṁ tarati pāpmānaṁ guhā-granthibhyo vimukto’mṛto bhavati.
tad etat ṛcābhyuktam:
kriyāvantas śrotriyā brahmaniṣṭhās svayaṁ juhvata ekaṛṣim śraddhayantaḥ,
teṣam evaitām brahma-vidyāṁ vadeta śirovrataṁ vidhivad yais tu cīrṇam.
tad etat satyam ṛṣir aṅgirāḥ purovāca, naitad a-cīrṇa-vrato’dhīte,
namaḥ parama-ṛṣibhyo namaḥ parma-rṣibhyaḥ.
The First Mundaka: First Khanda
The Glory of Knowledge
Knowledge is attained not so much by the effort of the individual as through the Sages who hand down this Knowledge. The characteristics of the ancient disciples were very marked. The aspiration, the sincere perseverance and the devotion they had to the ideal of Knowledge was exceptional. They attained the Knowledge with much difficulty, undergoing many hardships in the forms of austerity, service of the preceptor and practice of meditation. Knowledge is the ripe fruit of the fine flower of virtue. Righteousness practised without exceptions, to the very law, gives rise to the state of introversion and contemplation of consciousness. It is absolutely necessary that the aspirant or the disciple should be a contemplative so that he may be receptive to the Knowledge imparted to him. Knowledge is received by the internal nature and, hence, it is not properly received by extroverts.
In this Upanishad it is said that Knowledge was originally imparted by the Creator Himself to the representatives of Knowledge, the Sages and the Divine Beings.
Though everyone has the right for Knowledge, it is Knowledge that is connected with renunciation that becomes the means to liberation. Renunciation is the necessary implication of the attempt at an expansion into universality of nature. Knowledge cannot be expected to be co-existent with worldly activity. Love for the world is not consistent with love for the Absolute. Therefore, true spiritual Knowledge is found only in those who find no value in anything that is objective.
Mantra No. 1:
Brahma was the first among the divine beings. This Lord of all, the protector of all, imparted to his eldest son Atharva this Brahma-Vidya which is the basis of all sciences.
Brahma-Vidya is the fundamental science because it is the explanation and the very substance of all knowledge, the different aspects and branches of which are all lower forms of knowledge.
Mantra No. 2:
What Atharva was told by Brahma, Atharva told to Angi. Angi transmitted Brahma-Vidya to Satyavaha, the son of Bharadvaja, who gave this great science to Angiras.
Mantra No. 3:
Saunaka, the great sacrificer, approached Angiras duly and with respect and asked: “What is that, O Bhagavan, through the knowledge of which everything becomes known?”
The knowledge of everything through the knowledge of one thing means that everything is made up of that same thing. Ordinarily the knowledge of one thing does not imply the knowledge of another thing. But Brahma-Vidya is not a knowledge which excludes other kinds of knowledge, but that which transmutes into itself all kinds of knowledge. Spiritual knowledge means the direct experience arrived at through the fusion of the essence of the object of knowledge into the essence of the subject of knowledge. Hence spiritual knowledge is indivisible experience, not divisible like intellectual knowledge. It is intuition which does not function on the basis of duality, but is essentially a self-identical, integral experience. Spiritual Knowledge means the essence of the knowledge of everything that exists in generality as well as in particularity. It is the Knowledge of the highest cause, the knowledge of which means the knowledge of all its effects also.
Mantra No. 4:
To him he said: “Two kinds of knowledge have to be acquired: thus the Knowers of Brahman have declared. These are (i) the lower and (ii) the higher.”
Mantra No. 5:
Of these the lower one consists of the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda, the Atharva Veda, phonetics, rituals, grammar, etymology, prosody and astronomy. But the higher one is that through which the Imperishable is attained.
Angiras tries to explain the lower Vidya in the beginning, though the question of Saunaka is regarding the higher Vidya. There may be a general doubt in the mind of the aspirant as to whether the lower Vidya has got any value or not. Angiras anticipates such doubts likely to be experienced by the disciple and says that the lower one is an insufficient means to the realisation of Brahman. The lower Vidya pertains to the divinities, their worship and the different methods of attaining excellent regions through the performance of meritorious deeds, like prayer, sacrifice, etc., offered to the divinities concerned. The prima facie view is rejected and the final judgment, viz., that the Imperishable Being is reached through another kind of knowledge, is established.
The great difference between the lower and the higher Vidyas is that in the former case knowledge gives rise to the performance of actions, whereas, in the latter case, all action ceases before the attainment of Knowledge. In the lower Vidya, when the knowledge of a divinity is gained, efforts should be put forth afterwards in order to attain that divinity. But in the higher Vidya, Knowledge does not mean the knowledge of any particular divinity and it is not knowledge in the ordinary sense at all. Higher Knowledge means not the connection between the knower and the known, but the knowledge of the Knower himself without any relation or medium between the knower and the known in the form of cognition or awareness. Further, the attainment of a divinity means the taking of a special form by an individual, befitting the nature of that particular divinity. But higher Knowledge means the renunciation of all forms of experience and existing as an absolutely attributeless being which is not in relation to any thing external.
The higher Vidya is the Knowledge propounded in the Upanishads. ‘Upanishat’ means the Knowledge that destroys ignorance or that which leads to perfection or the means of attuning oneself with the true Existence. Brahma-Vidya is the technique or the science enabling one to reach Absolute Experience. This Knowledge is attained through great effort in the forms of Viveka, Vichara, Vairagya and Abhyasa.
Dharma and Jnana are different in their natures. Virtuous actions no doubt conform to Dharma. But, the nature of Dharma is to goad one to action. When there is a knowledge of Dharma which is the same as lower Vidya, a person is incited to perform actions in terms of Dharma. Knowledge of merely Dharma does not mean perfection, because it is the sense of imperfection involved in it that prompts a person to do further action. But the higher Knowledge is self-sufficient and does not require one to perform anything after the attainment of It.
Mantra No. 6:
That which is imperceptible, ungraspable, without lineage, colourless, eyeless and earless, handless and footless, eternal and all-pervading, existing in the heart of all, very subtle, imperishable and the source of all beings, is beheld by men of wisdom.
This indestructible being does not come within the purview of the powers and the functions of the body, the vital energy, the senses of knowledge and action, the mind, the subconscious, the intellect, and the ego, whatever be the form into which their functions are modified. The relative values and the ideas of connections or relations that are seen in the world of experience hold good only when there is cognition and perception of the external. Attributes do not inhere in this Ultimate Substance, and they are neither identical with It nor different from It. If they are different, they have no connection with It; if they are identical, they do not exist at all. Hence, all attributes are denied in the transcendental Being. The negation of the functions of hearing and seeing imply the non-existence of name and form which are connected with these two functions. Name and form do not mean the ordinary name and form which are understood by the mind. Name means the potentiality of form and form is the materialisation of name. Name is the subtle power which is the factor working as the principle or constitution of individuality which expresses itself as a form situated in space. Thus name stands for that individualistic principle which does not change until the attainment of the highest knowledge. But the form changes itself at the time of death and at the beginning of birth. Hence, Nama and Rupa are not valid in the Absolute.
Further, the senses and the other organs are necessary only when there is the need for the knowledge of anything or for doing anything. Absoluteness does not stand in the need of either knowing anything or doing anything, because of its secondlessness. It is able to know more and do more without any functional organ, as these organs are not helps but real obstructions to the consciousness of the perfection of spirit. This Spirit does not suffer diminution either in the form of decay of organs or loss of possessions or change of attributes, because it has neither organs, nor properties, nor qualities which are subject to change; nor is it affected by increase as in it everything is included. The Spirit is experienced as existent everywhere, without distinctions, by those who have risen to the level of spiritual consciousness. This is the object of higher knowledge, or Para Vidya.
Mantra No. 7:
As a spider projects forth and absorbs back (the threads), as plants grow on earth, as hairs grow on the body, the universe emerges from the Imperishable Being.
The first example shows that even the material cause of the universe is the Divine Being Itself, i.e., the Universe is non-different in nature from its cause. The second illustration shows that what is manifested is only an appearance of the form of the original cause. The third example shows that even apparently inanimate beings also find their origin in the conscious cause. In short, whatever is, similar or dissimilar—everything is essentially the highest causeless Cause, viz., the Divine Principle.
Mantra No. 8:
Brahman distends through austerity; then the primordial matter is produced; from that the Prana, the mind, truth, the regions and the effects of actions.
The austerity of Brahman consists in Knowledge. It is not a means to purification as in the case of the individual, but it is the metaphorical explanation of the nature of the Primal Wish which is considered to exist as the background of the appearance of the universe. The cause of the world is described here as the general potentiality which dilates in order to give rise to appearances. This cause accounts for the existence of the original essence of matter which is in the state fit for manifestation. This matter is called here as Anna or food, because it is the object of experience by the spirit internally as well as externally. The co-existence of matter and spirit makes possible the appearance of the cosmic life, or Hiranyagarbha. Prana, objectively and enlivened by consciousness, is the same as the Creator, Hiranyagarbha, but, subjectively, the energy that vibrates the body and influences the mind. This Hiranyagarbha is the peculiar combination of all- knowledge and all-power. He is all-knowledge because he is based on the Absolute and he is all-power because he is the cause of the world. The mind, which is of the nature of the thought and doubt together with the intellect with a capacity to discriminate and determine, is produced as an effect from this primordial matter itself. From this the mind comes out. Satyam, or truth, is the continuity or existence of the different forms of experience. Truth means the truth of experience. The experiences of the mind are considered as true, because the mind gives rise to the expression of its own forms. These forms, though they are not continuous or truly existent, appear to be continuous and true because the mind reflects through itself the consciousness which is continuous and true. The creation of the mind implies also the projection of the external fields or regions which provide the necessary atmosphere for the experiences of the mind. The moment the mind is ejected, the impulse to action, which is the nature of the mind, is also produced. The impulse to action results in the performance of action. As every action has got its own reaction or result, the fruits of action always exist as inseparable from their causes. The fruit of action is called here as Amrita, or indestructible, because these fruits of actions can never be destroyed until the attainment of Self-Knowledge.
Mantra No. 9:
Who is Omniscient and all-Knowing, whose penance consists in knowledge, from Him do proceed Hiranyagarbha, name, form and matter.
Omniscience stands for the knowledge of the general essence of everything. All-knowingness is the knowledge of everything in particular also. His power consists in knowledge. Wherever there is knowledge, there is power also. Power is the form taken by knowledge. True power cannot be had as long as one’s knowledge is imperfect. The greater the knowledge, the greater is the power. Hence, Omniscience is Omnipotence also. Power is not actually the idea of superiority and control over another, but the result of becoming the Self of another. One cannot have power over another as long as one is different from another, because the relation between two things is always artificial. Genuine relationship is identity of nature, which is the same as true power. Real power is not the effect of effort or toil, but a spontaneous experience of Self-perfection which does not depend upon anything external. This Supreme Perfection, whose power is knowledge, manifests as the Cosmic Creator, who becomes the cause of the names and the forms of the universe and also the matter of names and forms.
The First Mundaka: Second Khanda
The object of the lower Vidya is connected with the doer, the instrument of doing, the action, and the result thereof. The path of the lower Vidya is one of Samsara, whose beginning and end cannot be known. It is of the form of pain and, therefore, it has to be rejected by all intelligent beings. The experience of Samsara is continuous like the flow of waters in a river. The cessation of this flow is called emancipation which is the object of the higher Knowledge, which is beginningless and endless, decayless, deathless, immortal, fearless, pure and calm, of the nature of establishment in the Self, non-dual and Supreme Bliss. The experience of Samsara is not a constant or steady experience but a constant movement or a free flow of mental experiences. It is not existence, but change. Change is another name for Samsara. This change is the involuntary urge caused by the sense of imperfection and desire for perfection. It is this great discontent present in life that never allows anything to be what it is for more than a moment. Everything has to transform itself, for nothing is perfect. Whatever is in space or in time comes under the law of causation and, therefore, is bound to be imperfect. This section of the Upanishad deals with the nature of lower Vidya and its criticism is intended to make one conscious of the imperfect state and then go beyond it. Vairagya is the result of the perception of defects and the consciousness of perfection. It is necessary that there should be a consciousness of suffering so that one can know what he actually is through the sense of limitation and the aspiration given rise to by this consciousness.
Mantra No. 1
The effects of Karmas which were glorified in the Mantras of the Vedas and which were known by the sages were diversely explained and put into practice in the Treta Yuga. (Treta may also mean the threefold Veda consisting of the Rik, the Yajus and the Saman.) O men! Observe these always, having the desire for the fruits of actions based on truth or righteousness. This is your path of good action in this world.
Mantra No. 2:
When in the flaming-fire the flames begin to shake, then oblations of ghee should be offered in the middle of the two previous oblations of Darsa and Paurnamasa.
Mantra No. 3:
Whose performance of Agnihotra is without the Darsa and the Paurnamasa, without the sacrifice of Chaturmasya, without the offering of the autumnal season, without feeding and worshipping the guest, without proper performance, without the Vaishva-Deva offering and which is not done according to rules—that Agnihotra shall destroy the seven worlds of the performer.
Mantra No. 4:
The seven flames of fire are Kaali, Karali, Manojava, Sulohita, Sudhumravarna, Sphulingini and Vishvaruchi.
Mantra No. 5:
Who performs the sacrifice when these flames are brilliant, offering oblations at the right time, him the rays of the sun guide and take to where the ruler of the gods reigns supreme.
Mantra No. 6:
The oblations offered appear in conscious forms and invite the sacrificer, saying “Come, Come”. They speak to him in sweet words and worship him and through the passage of the rays of the sun lead him up to the celestial region and say, “This is your auspicious heavenly world, the effect of meritorious deeds.”
Actions performed without knowledge bind the performer to the particular results of those actions. These actions are infected by ignorance, desire and the impulse to act and, therefore, they are essenceless and the source of sorrow. Hence, such actions are criticised in the following Mantras.
Mantra No. 7:
All the sacrifices performed by the eighteen people connected with them are transient and unsafe boats in crossing this Samsara. These actions are inferior. Those ignorant ones who glorify and consider as good these actions go to birth and death again and again.
‘Plava’ is boat or a floating bubble. These actions are called bubbles, because their effects break like bubbles together with the potencies of actions. No action leads a person to something which is not conditioned by space or time, because all actions are in space and time.
Mantra No. 8:
Drowned in the midst of ignorance, but thinking themselves great and learned, the deluded ones, attacked from all sides by decay, disease and death and several other miseries, turn round and round in the wheel of Samsara like blind men guided by blind men.
Mantra No. 9:
Controlled by the diverse forms of ignorance, children without intelligence arrogantly feel: “We have achieved our purpose”. Because of the desires present within their minds, these performers of selfish actions fall down miserably to the field of action and sorrow from the region of enjoyment on the exhaustion of the effects of their meritorious deeds.
Actions, good or bad, give rise to limited results and, therefore, there is an end of the experience of the fruits of all actions. Though a person is really ignorant, he is made to feel that he is wise because of the semblance of consciousness that is reflected through his intellect. The fruits of actions are not powerful enough to give the performer of the actions lasting happiness. There is a threefold defect in the experience of the fruits of actions. An action is generally performed with the expectation that it will bring the desired end. But inasmuch as desires do not have connections with anything permanently and because they shift their centres quickly, at the time of experience of the fruit of the previous action it is no more the desired end. Not only this, it becomes a source of sorrow. This is one defect. Secondly, the experience of happiness through the fruits of actions is not real happiness, but only an excitement of the mind temporarily caused by the desired contact with the object which appeared to give the promise of true happiness. Hence, it is more a deluded state of the mind than an experience of real happiness. Thirdly, because it may not be possible always to fulfil all desires and reap the fruits of all actions in one birth, the individual may have to take several more births for the sake of experiencing them. Thus, all desires and actions lead to bondage. It is sheer ignorance and delusion that make one believe that one can become perfect and happy through his intellect, mind and the senses, as all these instruments of knowledge and action function in the relative plane alone.
For the sake of acting according to his own interests, man takes the advice of only such other people as are conducive to the fulfilment of those personal interests. This is illustrated by the saying of blind men being led by the blind. People full of desires cannot appreciate the advice given by men of wisdom, as wisdom is contrary to desire. Rejecting the precepts of wisdom, people take to their own methods of action and through self-conceit and vanity think that they have achieved their ends. Their experiences, however, shall result in intense grief and they will be made to repent for their actions. Because of heedlessness and pride they constantly fall back into the experiences of phenomenal suffering and never really attain to what they actually longed for, inasmuch as what is really desired is unrestricted happiness and as this cannot be had through desires and actions.
Mantra No. 10:
Thinking that external sacrifices and charities are all, i.e., the best, these deluded ones do not know of anything better. Enjoying in heaven the fruits of meritorious deeds, at the end of it, they fall down to this world or even to a lower world.
Because of the lack of proper knowledge, ordinary people do not have the consciousness of the fact that there is a higher state of emancipation. Their lot is suffering alone because wherever there is lack of knowledge, there pain is the experience. A meritorious deed temporarily raises an individual to a region of enjoyment, because the effect of a deed is temporary. At the end of the momentum of the meritorious deed, the individual reverts to his native condition of imperfection and desire for action, i.e., he once again becomes what he was previously. No deed can permanently raise an individual to a high and glorious state, as every deed is only a phenomenon. And, further, due to the presence of passion and greed, the individual may even fall down to lower regions.
Mantra No. 11
Those people who have faith and practise austerity, who live in forests with calmness of mind and full with knowledge, living on alms, being freed from all desires, pass through the passage of the sun to where is that immortal and imperishable Purusha.
The Mantra refers to Krama-Mukti, or gradual liberation, attained by the Upasakas of Saguna Brahman. These Upasakas are the Vanaprasthas living in forests a life of austerity and devotion.
Mantra No. 12:
Examining the nature of the regions attained through action and finding out their worthlessness, a wise person should get totally disgusted with them, because that which is not made cannot be attained through what is made or done. For the sake of the knowledge of that (which is not made), one should approach, with Samit in his hand, a preceptor who is well-versed in scriptures and also established in Brahman.
The efforts of an individual are generally stained by ignorance, selfish desires and actions connected with those desires. Karmas are enjoined only on such people as cannot extricate themselves from the clutches of these fetters. The different regions and experiences which are accessible to these people, are also of the same nature as their causes. They give rise to such unpleasant experiences as rise and fall in different states. They are also dependent on and affected by the defects consequent upon the non-performance of what is enjoined and the performance of what is prohibited. People who revel in mere phenomenal selfish actions alone, get such births as those of beasts, demons, etc. These experiences should be properly analysed with the help of such proofs of knowledge as perception, inference, verbal testimony and comparison. The true nature of these experiences in the different worlds should be known in its essential form. These experiences are the different roads to Samsara. They extend from the unmanifest potentiality of beings to the lowest inanimate matter. They are either manifested or unmanifested, physical, astral or mental, objective or subjective. They are interdependent like the seed and the tree. They are the sources of extreme misery and are absolutely essenceless. They are illusory like a juggler’s trick or water in the mirage or a city in the clouds or like objects in dream or like a breaking bubble. They are now seen and now not seen. Such experiences should be known to be the results of desires and actions belonging to the mind and senses. An aspirant should turn his back to all these and should come to the conclusion that the whole universe is produced by nescience and its undesirable consequences. The network of this universe is kept intact in the forms of pleasure and pain, virtue and vice, good and evil, etc.
A wise aspirant, therefore, should get disgusted with all these experiences beginning from Brahman down to a blade of grass. That which is not produced or created, is not attained through that which is produced or created. There can be relationship only between similar things, and not between two dissimilar things. A product has got non-eternal characteristics and, therefore, it will not be able to know the eternal as long as it is bound to such lower characteristics. Moreover, all effects or produced things can relate themselves to another thing only through a change or modification or an action. It is obvious that self-transformation is not the way of attaining true knowledge of any object. Since a transformation is transitory in nature, the knowledge that is effected by it would also be transitory. In this universe of manifestation, there is nothing that is not produced. Brahman is not something that is produced. Hence, the attainment of the knowledge of Brahman is not possible through a transitory process, which is the characteristic of produced things alone. Everything that is done leads only to what is done or produced. That which is eternal and not produced, is attained only through pure Knowledge which is not non-eternal or produced. Brahman is not subject to either producing or creating or obtaining or purifying or modifying in any way.
The highest Bliss which an aspirant seeks is found only in the immutable eternal Being. In the aspirant there is a consciousness of the difference between all non-eternal appearances and the eternal Being. This consciousness is called Viveka, which gives rise to Vairagya or the abandonment of the non-eternal. The aspirant begins to perceive the worthless nature of things and the possibility of the existence of a higher glorious being. For the sake of the knowledge of the Supreme Being, he approaches a spiritual preceptor who is rooted in the consciousness of Brahman. This Mantra points out that one will not be able to have intuitive knowledge without the help of an experienced teacher, even though one may be a very learned person.
Mantra No. 13:
To him who has duly approached (the Preceptor), who is of tranquil mind, whose mind is completely controlled, the wise Preceptor duly imparts the knowledge of Truth, the Brahma-Vidya, through which one is enabled to know the Imperishable Being.
The disciple should approach the teacher in a manner suited to the reception of the Knowledge of Brahman. The most important of all qualifications required of the disciple is thorough desirelessness. The forms of desires, whatever their nature or condition be, cover the purity of the mind and prevent the reception of the knowledge which is the opposite of any kind of desire. Even desire for life in the body should be got rid of when one approaches a preceptor for the sake of Knowledge. The disciple should have intelligently combined in himself the qualities of the head and the heart. He should have purity of feeling within coupled with subtle intelligence. The nature of Knowledge is first understood through the purified intellect and then felt within the purified heart. Viveka and Vairagya are respectively the qualities of the head and the heart, i.e., of the intellect and feeling. The preparations which an aspirant should make before receiving spiritual knowledge consist in the practice of the canons laid down in the Sadhana-Chatushtaya.
The Second Mundaka: First Khanda
The objects and the natures of lower Vidya have been explained. They end in the experience of Samsara. In this Section of the Upanishad, all experiences are traced back to their ultimate cause from which they proceed, in which they subsist and into which they return. The knowledge of this ultimate Cause means the knowledge of everything that exists. This ultimate Cause is the object of higher Knowledge, Para Vidya or Brahma Vidya, which is the subject matter of the following Mantras.
Mantra No. 1:
This is the truth: Even as from a blazing fire countless sparks of various kinds but similar form are shot forth, similarly, from the Imperishable Being, various kinds of beings emerge forth, and return to it later on.
The individuals that emerge out of the Supreme partake of the nature of the Supreme in addition to their own special individualities. In every individual, there is a special nature of existence and permanency which are eternal values, and there are also such relative values as experiences of qualities. That which is real in every individual is of the same nature in all, but that which is special to the individual is peculiar to itself alone. The illustration of sparks shooting forth from fire is not meant to show that individuals exist independent of their cause, as sparks are separate from their cause which is fire, but to prove that effects have got a nature which is identical with that of the cause. All are one in their essential Selfhood, but all are different in their modes of thinking. Even as the roots of all trees are in the earth and the trees are fed by the earth alone and all trees live upon the same essence of food extracted from the earth, but the branches do not touch the earth, and the trees differ from one another in their forms or external growth, the different individuals are rooted in the common essence of the universal Self, but their superficial natures are peculiar to their individualities which are the effects of their different ways of thinking. The freedom of the individual, therefore, consists in the absorption of the consciousness of the nature peculiar to itself into the consciousness of the general essence underlying all individualities. It is only the breaking of the barrier of limited consciousness that constitutes the movement towards perfection. Even as the air that is in different vessels may give different smells, different minds have different natures; but, even as the space within different vessels is not affected by the odour which is in the air within the vessel, the Absolute Self in all individuals is unaffected by the modes of thinking in different individuals. The factors which create distinction are the vessel and the odour. Without these two, there is no distinction at all. Similarly, it is the body and the mind that create differences in existence and without them there is no experience of difference. Moksha, therefore, is the removal of the mind and the consequent transcending of the body-consciousness. All individuals proceed from, subsist in, and return to the one Cause of all causes, viz., the one Self in all. Life is made possible because of the dependence of individuals on this Self. It is this Self that gives the very existence which is the main value necessary for every individual; without it individuals have no existence, even as without space there is no universe at all. As all created objects ultimately vanish into space, all individuals finally return to their source, viz., the Self. All are distinctionless in that Source of all beings. All special characteristics of the individuals are cast off and everyone is reduced to a uniform state, even as in deep sleep everyone experiences the same condition. Nama and Rupa, or name and form, constitute the universe of appearance, whereas Satchidananda constitutes Reality. Names and forms appear to be real because of the reflection of Satchidananda in them. The whole value of things is, therefore, Satchidananda, and without it they are nothing.
Mantra No. 2:
The Purusha is Divine, formless, existing inside and outside, unborn, free from Prana and mind, pure, and greater than the great unmanifest.
Purusha is one who fills all space or who resides in the cavity of the heart. The Purusha is immaterial and, therefore, divine in nature. For the same reason, it is inside and outside. It is unborn because it is causeless. It does not undergo any process such as of life and its experiences.
The Universal Self knows without the ordinary Pramanas, or proofs of knowledge. Its knowledge does not consist in perception, inference, verbal testimony or any kind of commonly known proof. Worldly knowledge is relative and mediate. There is no necessity for the cognitive or perceptive organs in the highest Self, because in it knowledge consists in Self-realisation, or realisation of Itself. Even the distinction which is ordinarily made between the sheaths of a person cannot be made in the true Self. Virat, Hiranyagarbha and Isvara are of the nature of Pure Consciousness. The apparent distinction which is seen to exist among these three aspects of the Divine Being is more the result of a convention or habit of the mind to find objectively what it experiences in itself. Logically this distinction cannot be proved, though it is simply believed in. Hence, the Upanishad says that the Divine Being is without Prana or mind. The Pranas and the mind are limiting factors and, therefore, they have no basis in the unlimited Divine Being. The Mantras of the Vedas and the declarations of the Upanishads which describe the Divine Being as having heads, eyes, feet, etc., are only figurative, meant to convey its universal nature. There is neither the vibration of Iccha Sakti nor of Kriya Sakti in the Divine Being; therefore, there are no sense-organs also. In short, there is nothing in It which belongs to the special characteristic of the individual.
This Purusha is superior to the unmanifested being which is the source of the possibility of all causes and effects which constitute the very pith of phenomena. In this Divinity of the Purusha, the mind, the Pranas, etc., are said to come to a complete cessation as they are simply modes of relative existence, i.e., the manner in which the relations between the subject and the object are kept up. These functions of the mind, etc., are not self-existent, because they are the special forms manifested by the consciousness for a definite purpose. Their value is, therefore, only in relation to the passing modes of consciousness. As there is no mode in the Divine Being, there are no functional organs in It.
Mantra No. 3:
From this Being proceed the vital energy, the mind, the senses, ether, air, fire, water and the all-supporting earth.
All the appearances are based on the different phases of consciousness, or Vishaya-Chaitanya. Appearances are possible only on the reality of consciousness. That which is real in all forms of experience, is common to both the experiences and the experiencer. Matter is not a substance but a condition of experience differing in the various stages of evolution. Hence, all forms of matter, gross or subtle, external or internal, are certain states which are peculiar to the respective modes of the experiencing consciousness. Therefore, the universe, including all subjects and all objects, is only a condition supported by the Absolute, on the basis of which appearances are experienced by the cognising individual and without which the universe has no reality. In fact, what is real in the universe is nothing more and nothing less than Existence-Consciousness-Bliss. The names and the forms are not existent substances.
Mantra No. 4: The Nature of the Virat-Purusha and the Universe
The Virat is the Chaitanya, or the Consciousness, which animates the universe of gross experience. The following Mantra describes the universal character of the Virat, which is the name given to the materialised state of the subtle, universal, creative power called Hiranyagarbha. Even this Virat has one character belonging to the Absolute, which makes the Virat the centre of all-knowledge and all-power. This character is universality of nature. No distinction can be made between Hiranyagarbha and Virat except in the sense that the latter is the way in which the former exists as the universe of objective experience. In other words, Virat is Chaitanyamaya. The ascription of certain characters and forms to the Virat is only to facilitate the clear understanding of the universal nature which an individual will not be able to understand with his limited knowledge and his impotent sense-organs.
This is the universal Self, the Virat; his head is the shining region of the heavens; his eyes are the sun and the moon; his ears are the quarters of space, his speech is the Veda full of knowledge; his vital energy is the universal air; the whole universe is his heart; his feet are the lowest earth.
The description of the form of Virat as extending from the highest region to the lowest, to the right and to the left and to every quarter of space, is a metaphorical illustration of the all-inclusive nature of this universal being. In this Mantra, all objects and states of experience are unified with the subject of all experience, whereby duality is denied. The whole mass of experience is understood by an individual only in terms of the manner in which it is presented to it. The same universal vibration, which has no special character at all, is experienced as sound by the ear, as touch by the skin, as form by the eye, as taste by the tongue and as smell by the nose. The very same universal vibration is subjectively experienced by the Pranas as heat and cold, hunger and thirst. The psychological organs experience this universal nature as the respective counterparts of their own individual conditions. Thus, the whole universe is ideal in its nature.
This ideal nature is conceived of and experienced in relation to the subject. Subjectively, all experiences are explained as manifestations or expressions of the forms of the mind within. The necessity for the explanation of the objective reality of experiences is demanded by the fact that the individual seems to have no control over the objective nature. Thus, experience is explained as being the result of the interaction of the subject and the object. But, this explanation gives rise to the question as to how consciousness of experience, if it is only the result of an interaction, is produced at all when it is only a factor different from both the subject and the object. Consciousness cannot simply hang in the air without belonging either to the subject or the object. If it belongs to the subject, it means that a conscious subject is capable of knowing an unconscious object. If, on the other hand, consciousness belongs to the object, the subject would be controlled by the object. No complete knowledge of anything would be possible if the subject is entirely dependent on the object. If complete knowledge is a possibility at all, the object of knowledge should be ingrained in the essential constitution of the subject itself. The experience of Self-realisation, where infinitude becomes the centre of reality, denies all possibilities of any value of any object distinct from the subject. Thus also the ideal nature of the universe is established.
Moreover, the Absolute, which includes all subjects and all objects, cannot be said to give rise to either itself or something other than itself. Both hypotheses would frustrate the very meaning of Absoluteness. Hence, experience is essentially limitless. The distinctions in experiences are only the different stages in and the different ways of the knowledge of the Absolute by Itself in the forms of individual natures.
This, in essence, is the meaning of the explanation of the appearance of the Virat as the universe of experience. This Virat-Consciousness is the real seer, hearer, thinker and understander in all beings. All functions are made possible by this general consciousness in all beings.
Mantras No. 5 to 9:
From Him, the heavenly region which is illuminated by the sun, the moon, the showers of rain, all vegetation on earth, do proceed. Earth is the essence of food. Food produces energy, and from energy all beings are produced. From Him come forth the Rig Veda, the Sama Veda, the Yajurveda, the austerities connected with sacrifices, the sacrifices themselves with and without offering of animals, the gifts to the priests, the proper time of the sacrifice, the sacrificer, and the worlds presided over by the moon and the sun, to be reached by the sacrificers. All these are determined by the law of the Virat. From Him again proceed the forms of and the rules connected with the celestial beings who are of diverse nature, the semi-gods, the human beings, animals, birds, inhalation and exhalation, corns and grains, penance, faith, truth, continence and restraint. By Him are determined the functions of the different senses with their different forms of knowledge connected with their respective objects giving rise to various kinds of experiences, the different seeds of the functionl organs actuated by the Pranas within, in accordance with the constitution of the different individuals. In Him are found the oceans and the mountains; all rivers flow in Him in their various forms. Plants and the various tastes connected with food—all form the different parts of this Cosmic Body in which resides the Universal Self or the Virat-Purusha.
Mantra No. 10:
The whole universe is the Purusha alone. Actions and penances also are this Immortal Supreme alone. One who knows this which is seated within the secret cave, breaks open the knot of ignorance.
Because all is the Purusha alone, it follows that differences are unreal. Hence, modification is described as merely a play of speech consisting only in name and, therefore, false. What is true is the Purusha alone. Other than this Purusha, there is nothing. This is the reply given by the preceptor to the disciple’s question regarding that the knowledge of which means the knowledge of everything. When the Purusha is known, all is known. In fact there is no such thing as all, except this one Purusha. The Knowledge of the Purusha, therefore, means the absence of duality which is the same as the destruction of ignorance and attainment of Immortality and Absoluteness.
The Second Mundaka: Second Khanda
Mantra No. 1:
This Supreme Being is revealed as seated within, very near to oneself (really, it is not near but the very Self itself). It moves in the cave and is the great support on which everything rests. (On it is based) whatever moves, whatever lives and whatever winks. Know this which is existence as well as non-existence, which is adorable, the best of all beings, superior to the intellects of people.
The Self is not really experienced by any individual as it really is. Only its effects are experienced. The existence of the Self is inferred from the fact that the effects which are experienced, manifest the natures of existence, consciousness, bliss and indivisibility. The external experiences of the sense of being, intelligence, happiness, love and power show that there must be an ever-enduring Being in which are found all these characteristics in their perfected state. The functions of the sense-organs as well as those of the psychological instruments constantly reflect the nature of an eternally perfect Being. This Self should be known as the only reality and as identical with the central core of everything. It is described as existence, non-existence, and that which is beyond both. It is, therefore, called transcendental Existence or Super-Being, beyond the ordinary conception of existence or being.
Mantra No. 2:
On that which is self-luminous, subtler than the subtle, all the worlds and their inhabitants are supported. That is the imperishable Absolute. That manifests itself as life, speech and mind; that is truth; that is immortal; that should be meditated upon. O disciple! meditate on it.
Mantra No. 3:
Taking hold of the great weapon of the bow consisting of the theme of the Upanishads, fixing the arrow which is rendered sharp through constant contemplation, drawing back the bow-string with the power of the conscious affirmation of that, O disciple, hit that mark, the Imperishable.
Mantra No. 4:
Om is the bow; the individual self is the arrow; Brahman is the target to be hit. It should be hit with great vigilance. Then, one shall merge in Brahman, even as the arrow enters into the target.
Constant meditation on Om allows the individual consciousness to take the form of Om itself which is unlimited in its nature. The meditator becomes ultimately the object of meditation itself. Om is the symbol of Brahman and, therefore, meditation on Om leads to the realisation of Brahman. When one meditates on Om, the mind gets purified. It is freed from its distractive nature and, consequently, it rests in the tranquil condition of the Absolute Om.
The individual self is compared to the arrow which hits the target, because the individual which is a limited reflection gets dissolved in the original through intense concentration and meditation, even as the arrow that is shot by pulling the bow-string gets unified with its target. But, in the case of the individual, the arrow does not move towards an external object but is turned within. The individual, therefore, does not move towards Brahman and then get identified with it. It is inwardly extinguished through the transcendence of its own personal existence. It is more a process of Self-centredness than objective meditation. Brahman is compared to a target, not because it is away from the arrow which can hit it, but it is the ultimate experience which is gained when the personality of the self is lost. Even objective meditation finally leads to self-dissolution, because intense concentration on an object continuously and for a long time makes the mind take the form of that object. As the mind perceives only the form which it has taken, it begins to perceive the same form everywhere. Since, however, it is not possible for the mind to exist contemplating on one thing alone and at the same time maintain its individuality, it itself ceases to exist the moment there is perception of the same form everywhere. Therefore, continuous meditation on any form leads to the same result of ultimate self-extinction and Self-recovery in the Absolute.
Meditation should be practised not with heedlessness and non-discrimination, but with the power consequent upon complete renunciation of all objects and states, giving rise to absolute passionlessness through concentration of mind. One thing can become identical with another thing only when that one thing partakes of the nature of the other thing. Desires of all kinds, potential or manifested, are detrimental to the consciousness of oneness and, hence, the realisation of Oneness, or Brahman, follows the practice of absolute desirelessness. All the factors that go to make up one’s individual existence have to be cast off through meditation on the universal Being, which transcends all planes of phenomenal existence.
Mantra No. 5:
On which the heaven, the earth, the sky and the mind, together with all the Pranas, are based—know that one Atman alone. Leave off all other speech; this is the bridge to Immortality.
This Atman should be known not as any kind of object of knowledge, but as the substance of one’s own Self as well as the Self of everybody else. As a subject can never become an object at any time, the Self cannot be known through any means related to objective knowledge. But it is known in the form of Self-awareness freed from the objective faculties pertaining to the five material sheaths. This is achieved through a total abstraction of oneself, i.e, refusal to abide by the laws of relative thinking and understanding. This, again, is possible only after sense-abstraction, which is signified by discipline and control of speech. Speech is a means of relating oneself to external objects by means of spending energy. This energy is spent out, really, through thinking alone. Every thought sends out energy to the object that is thought. In this process, the mind gets transformed. As this transformation is a change of the mind itself, there is absence of equilibrium in the mind. This disturbed state of the mind transmits its transformation to the senses, which connect themselves accordingly with the forms of objects determined by this previous transformation. The cessation of speech means the stoppage of connections with persons external to oneself, though subtle connections are kept up by the mind, independent of the senses. Therefore, the gross and subtle relationships are stopped respectively through cessation of sense-functions and of mental modifications. This practice is reinforced by continuous meditation on the nature of the Atman. The Atman is figuratively described as the bridge to Immortality, meaning, thereby, that its experience is Immortal. The Sruti has said that the knowledge of That alone leads one to Immortality and that there is no other way of attaining it.
Mantra No. 6:
Like spokes centred in the hub of a wheel, all nerve-centres are centred in consciousness. This one consciousness of the Atman seems to appear in various forms. Meditate on this Atman as OM. May there be blessedness to you all on your way across darkness.
When a person appears to have a certain quality, it must be understood that this quality is of the mind and not of the Atman. When it is said that a person is happy or sorry, pleased or displeased, it means that the mind of the person has taken certain forms. As all forms are changes felt within, they cannot belong to the nature of the Atman. Every experience is a fluctuation of the mind, good, bad or otherwise, in relation to the individual. Because of the intimate relationship that is between the Atman and the mind, it appears as though the whole person changes when the mind changes itself. This is the reason why a person says, “I am happy”, “I am sorry”, etc., though in essencet these conditions do not belong to the person at all. This Atman, which is distinct from the functions of the mind, should be meditated upon through the symbol of Om. The meditators, as it was already described, are those who have withdrawn themselves from the impulse for desire and action through an intense yearning for the attainment of Absolute Knowledge. So that obstacles may not impede the free progress of the disciple, the preceptor blesses them with auspiciousness for the sake of reaching the other shore of darkness, i.e., the attainment of the light of the Self.
Mantra No. 7:
He who is Omniscient and all-knowing, whose glory extends even to the earth, is established in the ether of the heart, or the divine city of Brahman. The guider of the mind and the Pranas and the mover of the body is seated in the core of every individual. Through the knowledge of that Supreme Principle, the great heroes behold that which shines as Bliss and Immortality.
The glory of this Atman extends to the earth, because even the individuals inhabiting the earth reflect certain characteristics belonging to the Atman. The main characteristics of the Atman are indivisibility, absoluteness, eternity, immortality and pure existence. The special natures which characterise the aforesaid essential, self-identical qualities of the Atman are consciousness and the freedom of perfection. All these natures are reflected in the individual in one way or the other.
The indivisible nature of the Atman is reflected in the individual in the form of the urge for perfection, preceded by a sense of imperfection. The inner essence of the individual always points to the possibility of and necessity for an undivided state of existence. The universe manifests itself as an organic whole and has got the characteristics of harmony and synthesis among its contents. The character of indivisibility implies that of infinitude or Absoluteness, as that which is divisible is conditioned by space, time and motion. Perfection cannot be spatiality. The non-spatial nature of perfection means its non-temporal nature also. It is not divided by past, present and future because of non-objectiveness. Absoluteness can have neither origin nor phenomenal continuance nor cessation. Hence it is eternal, which explains everything, but which itself is not explained by anything. Non-temporality is the same as immortality, which again is the nature of perfection or existence without change. The inability of the individual to rest continuously in any form of phenomenal life, and the constant urge from within to transcend oneself ever felt by the individual, are the harbingers of the knowledge of the fact that the individual is in essence a non-individual or impersonal unlimited being. The diversities of life can be explained only by absoluteness of nature.
Such is the glory of Brahman as reflected on earth and in the individuals. This relentless Law of the Absolute is the supreme controller of the systematic functions of everything in this universe. Even as one cannot go behind one’s own self, one cannot in any way transgress the law of the Absolute, as the Absolute is the very basis of every individual. The glory of Brahman is reflected through the individual functions, psychological as well as physical. The characteristics of existence, consciousness, freedom, etc., which belong to the Absolute, are manifested in different degrees in the different stages of evolution in conformity with the knowing capacity of the individual in a particular state of experience. Everyone in this world wants freedom and perfection, which sense is not limited by any conception, possibility or existence. Everyone hankers after unlimited freedom. Freedom would not be possible for anyone if it lay as something remote from the one who seeks it. That freedom is necessary proves that it is possible to have it, and this possibility again shows that it cannot be remote but should be an element in one’s own consciousness. Therefore, perfection is the essential nature of all beings, the lack of the experience of which ends in the various struggles of life.
In thinking individuals, Brahman manifests as existence and consciousness, but in inanimate beings only the aspect of existence is revealed. Bliss, however, is experienced in addition to the experience of existence and consciousness only in the higher class of beings in whom the quality of Sattva is predominant. In Tamas, Rajas and Sattva respectively, existence, consciousness and bliss are experienced in succession, the succeeding one including the preceding natures of reality. Therefore, all individuals belonging to all degrees of manifestation reflect in different degrees the reality of the Self.
This all-pervading Self is said to be situated in the centre of the individual. This, however, does not mean that the Atman is situated anywhere in space, but it means that it is felt as existence by the individual through the mind which defines one’s personality. Because it is the mind that reflects the Atman, the presence of the Atman is felt only where the mind manifests itself. There is neither going nor coming nor establishment in space with reference to the Atman. Wherever a positive value is experienced, it must be understood that the Atman is manifest there. It is realised as existent in an indivisible nature, i.e., as the Absolute, by Sages full of Wisdom, in the form of the experience of positive bliss and immortality.
Mantra No. 8:
The knot of the heart is broken, all doubts are cleared and all actions perish when the Greatest Supreme Being is beheld.
The knots of the heart are Avidya, Kama and Karma, or ignorance, desire and action. Avidya is the cause, Kama is the medium and Karma is the effect. These three binding factors confine experience to an individual personality. Because ignorance is the cause of all troubles, Knowledge, which is the opposite of ignorance, is able to break open the fort of ignorance, desire and action. When the cause is removed, all the effects also are removed. Since an effect cannot remove its cause, no mental act or physical act can remove the cause of these two, viz., the absence of knowledge. A condition is contradicted only by an opposite condition and not by an object or state which is subservient to the condition to be contradicted. Hence, knowledge which is the sole power which is directly opposite to the cause of all troubles, is able to put an end to the entirety of phenomenal experience.
Doubts which trouble the minds of the individuals are ultimately solved because of the knowledge of Existence itself. Doubt is a function of the mind, which is an effect of nescience. When its cause is removed, it is itself removed. When the mind, the cause of actions, is removed by the removal of ignorance, all actions perish. Actions are threefold in nature: Sanchita, Agami and Prarabdha. Sanchita Karma is the store of the effects or the impressions of all the actions performed by an individual in his countless previous births. All these effects of actions have to be experienced by the individual in different bodies. An action or a group of actions out of the Sanchita Karma, which can be experienced only under some particular conditions, is allotted to a particular body for the sake of experience in those conditions demanded by this special effect or group of effects of an action or actions. This allotted portion is called Prarabdha. The Agami Karma consists of actions performed by the individual through a particular body or the mind which will bear fruit in future.
It is sometimes held that the Prarabdha Karma of a Jnani is not destroyed. Sometimes it is suggested that even the Prarabdha is destroyed when Knowledge rises. The portion of the effects of actions to be worked out through a particular body is separated from the Sanchita Karma and allotted for experience even before the birth of the body. Hence, the momentum with which the Prarabdha starts actuating the body is exhausted only on the death of the body and not before. Knowledge is not concerned with this active momentum at all. Even when the individual is resolved into the Absolute Consciousness, the body, as long as the Prarabdha is not exhausted, will continue to move as directed by the Prarabdha, though this movement of the body does not become the object of the Knowledge of the Self-realised person. In this sense, the Prarabdha is not destroyed even when Knowledge dawns.
But, it must be remembered that the Prarabdha is seen to be working in the Jnani only by other individuals who have not got Self-knowledge. The value of a thing is completely negated and is also reduced to non-existence when there is no consciousness of that thing or when the thing is resolved into the subject itself. The state of the consciousness of the Absolute is not something which is separated from the movement of the Prarabdha. In it all movements are realised as an infinite unity. The Jnani has no special connection with his particular body. All other bodies also are equally his. He is the centre of the Consciousness of all individuals and, therefore, there is no meaning in holding that Prarabdha works in him. He is the witness of universal activity, or rather, the very Self of the Universe itself. Appearances are meaningful only to separated individuals and not to the unified consciousness. The movement of the body of the Jnani is compared to the movement of a leaf in the wind; such a movement is not a conscious activity at all.
For these reasons, it should be known that Prarabdha is not a substantial something which is co-existent with consciousness, but it is only a negative force which operates only in the individual but not in the Absolute. All relative values are transcended the moment Absolute Knowledge is realised. The Knowledge of the Supreme Being, which is Omniscient and free from the attributes of Samsara, in the form of the identity of oneself with it, removes the fetters caused by ignorance, desire and action. Having uprooted these causes of Samsara, the individual merges into the Absolute.
Mantra No. 9:
The pure, partless Brahman is encased, as it were, in the great golden sheath (of the intellect). This Pure Being is the Light of lights. It is known by those who have realised the Self.
The intellect is the seed of the highest empirical knowledge and, therefore, it is nearest to the consciousness of Brahman. It is the sheath which manifests Brahma-Chaitanya in the greatest degree. It is characterised by Sattva-Guna and, therefore, its colour is said to be golden. Because of this Sattva present in it, the human being has consciousness in him, even in his individualised condition. But, the intellect is characterised by Rajas also and, hence, its consciousness is always objective. Objectivity belongs to the Rajas in the intellect, and the consciousness in it belongs to Brahman which is behind the intellect. However, the intellect is the pointer to the existence of Brahman. Meditation is practised through the aid of the function of the intellect. Meditation is made possible because of the consciousness or Sattva that is in it, and meditation is made necessary because of the Rajas that is in it which dissipates energy and impedes real knowledge. The Atman is realised through the intellect by transcending the intellect. Hence, Brahman is said to be manifest in the intellect.
This Atman is known by those who follow the course of the natural essential consciousness within through the withdrawal of the senses and the mind. But, those who follow the course of the mind and the senses, enter into the world of sorrow. The mind and the senses constitute the world of darkness which is illuminated by the light of the Atman. The whole universe appears to have consciousness and light because the universe which is truly the region of darkness reflects the consciousness and the light of Brahman. Even the greatest light of the universe and the greatest consciousness manifest in it are only a borrowed reflection of Brahman. Brahman is not known by them who are busy with the universe of darkness in which roam the mind and the senses.
Mantra No. 10:
There the sun does not shine, nor the moon and the stars; nor even these lightnings; what to speak of this fire; everything shines after Him who shines. By His light this whole universe is illuminated.
Mantra No. 11:
This immortal Brahman alone is before. Brahman is behind. Brahman is to the right and to the left. Brahman alone is spread above and below. This whole universe is the supreme Brahman alone.
This Mantra shows that what is real is indivisible and that all divided manifestations are false appearances. This is the conclusion of the subject-matter of the Srutis. It appears to be spread in all directions, or existent everywhere, only from the point of view of the individual perceiving or conceiving It in terms of space and time. The experience of Itself in Itself is free from the idea or notion of extension or magnitude. Its true nature is summed up in the word ‘Absolute’, which is neither a subject nor an object of Knowledge. All conceptions and perceptions are based on the idea of cause and effect, which has no meaning for Brahman. In truth, that which appears as various names and forms is only Brahman, which is without names and forms. All are in It but It is not in them in its completeness, as It is not fully manifest in any name or form. True Knowledge is therefore divisionless, without reference to the knower or the known or the relation between the two. The Upanishads conclude that Brahman alone is the Absolute Reality.
The Third Mundaka: First Khanda
Mantra No. 1:
Two birds living together, each the friend of the other, perch upon the same tree. Of these two, one eats the sweet fruit of the tree, but the other simply looks on without eating.
The two birds are the Jiva and Isvara, both existing in an individual compared to a tree. They exist together as the reflection and the original. They both manifest themselves in different ways in every individual. From the characteristics of the Jiva it is possible to infer the nature of Isvara, and from the nature of Isvara it is possible to determine the potentialities of the Jiva. Both the Jiva and Isvara have a common substratum which is Brahman and which is the reality of both. The body is compared to a tree because it can be cut down like a tree. This tree is also called the Kshetra or the field of manifestation and action of the Kshetrajna or the knower of the field. The body is the field of action and experience and it is the fruit of actions done already.
That which distinguishes the Jiva from Isvara is the mind only. In fact, the mind itself constitutes the Jiva. It is the Jiva that is affected by Avidya, Kama and Karma. Because of the conjunction of consciousness with these limiting factors, it has to experience the results of its actions; but Isvara, who is not limited to any adjunct, has no actions whatsoever to perform, and so, no experience of the results of actions. The fruits enjoyed by the Jiva are of the nature of pleasure and pain, i.e., they are all relative experiences born of non-discrimination. The experience of Isvara is eternal and is of the nature of purity, knowledge and freedom. Relative experience is the effect of the presence of Rajas, but the character of Isvara is Sattva and, hence, there is no phenomenal experience for Him. He is in fact the director of both the agent of actions and the results of actions. Isvara’s activity consists in His mere existence. The value of His existence is greater than that of the activity of the whole universe. It is His existence that actuates the whole universe of manifestation.
Mantra No. 2:
In the self-same tree the individual (bird) is drowned in grief because of delusion and impotency. When it beholds the other (bird), viz., the adorable Lord, it realises its own glory and gets freed from sorrow.
The grief of the Jiva is the result of its inability to live in conformity with the forms of the effects of unwise actions done in the past. Such thoughtless actions, no doubt, lead to their corresponding results and as they are not in tune with the law of Truth, they torment the individual in the form of unpleasant experiences. Without a relative experience the individual cannot live, and with every relative experience produced by unwisdom, fresh misery is added to the pre-existing lot. Thus, from the highest standpoint, the entirety of the experience of the individual consists of grief alone. Because of its confinement to the forms of its desires and actions, the Jiva feels itself to be impotent, confused and helpless. It is even made to feel that a particular experience to which it is connected is alone real and that there is no reality beyond it. Due to this, it is now and then connected with and separated from the objects of its desire. It is born and it dies, passing through several kinds of wombs in accordance with the kinds of its actions.
The freedom of the individual consists in the vision of the Lord Supreme Who is co-existent with it, in fact inseparable from it as its very Self. The realisation of Isvara is the same as the raising of the individual consciousness to the consciousness of Isvara. The Jiva ceases to exist the moment it realises Isvara. The glory of the real essence of the individual is known only when the veil covering it is removed. This is achieved in the realisation of God. The ultimate realisation is in the form of the identity of the Self with the Supreme Being. Here, the whole universe is realised to be the same as the essence of the spiritual infinite. This realisation puts an end to all kinds of imperfections and sorrows.
Mantra No. 3:
When the knowing individual has the vision of the intelligent creator, the Lord, the Purusha, the Brahman which is the source of all, then it shakes off both merit and demerit, and having become taintless, attains to supreme equality with the Lord.
In this Mantra, the Lord is designated as having a golden hue, which means that His nature of Knowledge is eternally inherent in Him even as the colour of gold is something inherent in it. It points to the self-luminous nature of God, whose characteristics are imperishable, which fact is hinted at by the unaffected colour of gold. It is also said that the individual should have the fit perception, i.e., it should have the ability to perceive the universal Being. To the individual is attributed the quality of knowingness which is the knowledge of the Supreme Being achieved after the acquisition of the power of correct discrimination.
Divine knowledge is free from the conception of good and bad, because this knowledge is non-relative. It is an all-consuming wisdom in which relative natures or conceptions can have no value. Distinctions like virtue, vice, good, bad, high, low, etc., are made only as long as the all-comprehensive knowledge, which underlies all these distinctions, is not realised. The effects of merit and demerit are burnt up by the fire of knowledge, because these effects are only conceptual and not spiritual. They exist only as long as the mind exists. When the mind is transcended, they too are transcended. The whole universe stands transfigured in the Absolute. The Jiva becomes free from blemishes, attachments and sorrows, and gets unified with the Supreme Being. Equality with the Infinite is the same as identity with the Infinite, which is of the nature of non-duality, limitless and unsurpassable. Equality of objects which have different characteristics is only a mental imagination and not a fact. But the equality of identical natures encompassing the whole existence is the experience of an indivisible unified whole.
Mantra No 4:
In all beings this one supreme life manifests itself. Knowing this, the wise one does not speak of anything else. Having his sport in the Self, bliss in the Self, and action in the Self, he is the best among the knowers of Brahman.
One who realises this Supreme Being as one’s own Self, ceases from his natural sense-functions and puts an end to all speech unconnected with the Self. Rather, he does not speak at all. Speech is a manner of connecting one thing with another thing. In Self-realisation, the relationship of the subject with the object is transcended and all things become the Self Itself. Whenever there is a perception of duality, speech has got a value, but in non-duality all such relationships lose their value. Instead of the experiences of the external relationships, the knower has the experience of Self-identity. This experience of the Self is described in the form of finding everything that is found externally, in one’s own Self Itself. The statements regarding sporting in the Self or finding all bliss in the Self make it clear that the highest form of happiness is realised without any contact with any object or any condition. Real bliss is not the effect of either mental or physical contact, but is the result of the absence of all contacts. In short, bliss consists in the resolution of the very sense of objectivity into the conscious subject. The action of the knower consists in the knowledge of the Self. Self-delight itself is action for him. It is a simple mass of bliss that he experiences, unhampered by any function alien to the nature of the Self. Sankara points out that the action of the knower is of the nature of renunciation, meditation and wisdom.
The Mantra does not imply that the knower performs any function. It only glorifies the state of the realisation of the Self by resorting to figurative descriptions of his greatness. The possibility of the combination of action with knowledge is denied by the fact of his being the highest among the knowers of Brahman. The Brahma Varishtha is the one who is in the seventh state of knowledge where his ego is totally merged in the Absolute. It is quite evident that external bodily action with personal consciousness cannot be in conformity with Absolute Knowledge. It is not possible for a person to sport in the Self or have delight in the Self and at the same time concern himself with relative action. Self-Knowledge is possible only after withdrawing oneself from all external functions, physical as well as mental. The consciousness of externality and internality cannot be simultaneous, even as darkness and light do not exist in the same place.
Therefore, the contention that it is possible to combine action with Absolute Knowledge is only the prattle of the ignorant. The Upanishads have constantly declared that true Knowledge is obtained through renunciation of all external functions and through meditation on the Absolute. The Brahma Varishtha, therefore, is one who has realised Brahman and whose action consists in Self-Knowledge preceded by renunciation of external consciousness.
Mantra No. 5:
The Atman is attained through truth, penance, correct knowledge and Brahmacharya (self-control), observed continuously without break. The Atman is beheld within in the form of light and purity by the austere ones who are freed from all kinds of sins.
Truth is adherence to fact, whether absolute or relative. It is proceeding along the way of the unity of existence. Relatively, it takes the form of acting in conformity with facts that are experienced through the process of individual knowledge. Absolutely, it is living in the light of the fact that Existence is absolute and indivisible. Falsehood is the opposite of truth, and is the result of clinging to the falsehood of individuality. Truth is the way of disintegrating the individual personality through presentation of the good and not the pleasant. Truth is that which is universally good, but falsehood, when it is deliberately resorted to for the fulfilment of a definite purpose, appears pleasant only to an individual or certain individuals. Falsehood, therefore, fattens the individuality, whereas truth breaks open the individuality and enables one to realise the Atman.
Tapas, or penance, in its true sense, consists in the withdrawal of senses and concentration of the mind. Austerity, or penance, is only a means to the end and not the end itself. It is a means inasmuch as it disciplines the individual functions and directs them to meditation, which leads to wisdom and realisation. By Tapas what is meant is not merely bodily mortification, because bondage does not consist in the body but the mind that animates the body. The cause of bondage is the mind alone and, therefore, the discipline of the mind is Tapas.
Proper knowledge is equal vision, or perception of the one Atman in all. This is a function deeper than that of speaking truth or practising Tapas. It is a function of the spirit which realises itself in every form of existence.
Brahmacharya is the method of the abstraction of sense-energy from the externals and the conservation of the same for the sake of steadying the mind and giving it the energy necessary for the practice of concentration and meditation, though the popular meaning of Brahmacharya is continence. It really means leading a life befitting the nature of Brahman. It is, in other words, Charya or moving or acting or conducting oneself in accordance with the law of Brahman, which is the unity of existence. Such control is not merely the abandonment of objects but is the absence of the taste for objects. Bondage is not caused by the existence of objects but by the connection of the mind with those objects. In short, self-control is absence of sense-experience, giving rise to mental equilibrium, light, consciousness and joy.
These observances should be practised continuously without exceptions to the rules, and not for sometime alone and with certain exceptions. These should be practised until the realisation of the Self, because the stoppage of such practices may lead to the assertion of individuality and impede the process of Self-realisation. The Upanishad has said that “the Atman is attained by those in whom there is no crookedness, no falsehood and no play of tricks”.
This Atman is realised within oneself and not outside oneself. Though the process of realisation is an inward one, the goal that is attained includes the outward also. Sadhana starts with an introversion of the mind in the beginning, but in the end the result achieved is not simply internal but is infinite. From the point of view of the individual, it is said that this Atman is realised in one’s own heart, in the form of a splendid effulgence, perfectly pure and limitless in its nature, which is realised only by those who are free from attachments and sins, desires and all kinds of greed. This realisation is effected through the practice of virtues like truth, enumerated above. Sankara is of the opinion that only a Sannyasin, i.e., a person of complete renunciation, will be able to achieve this Supreme End which requires of the aspirant a total transcendence of the universe.
Mantra No. 6:
Truth alone triumphs; not falsehood. Through truth the divine path is spread out by which the sages whose desires have been completely fulfilled, reach to where is that supreme treasure of Truth.
Truth is more than truth-speaking. Truth is the symbol of perfection, a representation of the Divine Being. Adherence to truth means embracing the universal nature of the Reality. Therefore, truth wins victory everywhere. Truth is the essence of the Universal movement consisting of evolution and involution. Untruth is negative, whereas truth is positive. Through Truth the consciousness blossoms into more expanded experience, but untruth attempts to stifle consciousness altogether and disallows the expansion of consciousness causing, at the same time, the hardening of individuality.
It is Truth through which the divine way or the life of spiritual striving is spread before the aspiring individuals. The universe as a spiritual organism to be striven for, is brought into the consciousness of the individual through the practice of Truth. Truth is in fact the eye of the individual aspiring for the realisation of its Absolute nature. The sages got a vision of this Truth because they were absolutely free from such defects as deceit, delusion, fraud, pride, vanity and falsehood. They found the consummation of their desires and aspirations in this Absolute Truth. They became first desireless and then sought the Truth. Desire breeds falsehood, and desirelessness gives rise to Truth. Truth enables one to attain the Supreme Treasure which is the Absolute Truth.
Mantra No. 7:
That which is supremely expansive, divine, of unthinkable form, subtler than the subtle, much farther than that which is far, and at the same time very near, shines and is seated in the Central Being of those who have the consciousness of That.
Mantra No. 8:
It is not grasped by the eye, not even by speech, nor by the other senses. It is not possible to know it through mortifications or deeds. He who meditates upon it with absolute purity (Sattva) of mind, as the partless Being, beholds it through the serenity attained in knowledge.
The serenity of knowledge is that state where nothing is experienced other than simple awareness. In ordinary human beings, this knowledge is not manifest, since it is not connected with the tranquillity of mind and also since it is polluted by the defects of love and hatred for external things. As a mirror covered over by dust is not able to reflect an object, knowledge, though it is present within, is not experienced, as the mind is disturbed by objectivity. When the dirt of the mind consisting of love, etc., in connection with the sense-objects, is removed and the mind is rendered calm, pure and peaceful, then one is said to have attained the serenity of knowledge in which condition alone one becomes fit for the experience of Brahman. Further, meditation should be practised on Brahman as the partless indivisible being and not as a partial or limited aspect of the whole. The quality of meditation is dependent upon the character of the object of meditation. When the mind contemplates upon the divisionless Being, it itself becomes divisionless and vanishes into the Absolute. But, for all this, in the beginning, practice of virtues like truth is absolutely necessary, to be followed by the withdrawal of the senses and concentration of mind, leading to Tadatmyata, or absorption in the object of meditation.
Mantra No. 9:
This subtle Atman should be known with the purified mind into which the Prana with its fivefold aspect has entered. The mind is pervaded completely by the functions of the Pranas together with the powers of the senses. In this purified mind this Atman is revealed.
Mantra No. 10:
Whichever region is thought of by the mind and whatever desires the man of purified mind desires, that region and those desires he obtains. Therefore, one who wishes to have prosperity should worship the knower of the Self.
The realisation of the Self is a simultaneous fulfilment of the deepest aspirations together with all the desires, internal or external, unmanifested or manifested, subtle or gross, of the individual. The state of Sattva, or absolute purity of mind, is not an individualistic experience but a universal one. Sattva is free from Rajas and, therefore, the experiences of the individualities are denied in it. Complete fulfilment of all one’s wishes is not possible except in the state of universal Being, which is the same as Suddha-Sattva-Anubhava.
Because of the omniscience and omnipotence of the knower of Self, whoever worships him becomes prosperous. The Sankalpa of the Knower is rooted in Satya or Truth, and his influence upon those who adore and worship him, is great. Wherever this Knower of the Self moves, there he exercises his influence automatically. Whoever comes in contact with him gets completely transformed.
The Third Mundaka: Second Khanda
Mantra No. 1:
Him who knows this Supreme Abode of Brahman in which the whole universe is situated and which is brilliantly shining, those heroes who adore and worship, without any desire in their minds, transcend this seed of birth.
Mantra No. 2:
He who contemplates on objects of desire, having a desire for them, is born here and there due to those desires; but for him whose desires are all fulfilled, whose Self is perfectly contented due to the sense of perfection, all desires dissolve themselves here itself.
An individual is born in that condition of mental experience in which it will be possible for it to fulfil the desires cherished previously. Desires goad an individual towards virtue and vice, the result of performance of actions which leads to birth and death. Birth and death cannot be negated until all desires are fulfilled or destroyed. In fact, there is no such thing as complete fulfilment of phenomenal desires as long as one exists as a phenomenal being having desires for objects of phenomena.
Desires are never fulfilled through acquisition of objects, but they find their fulfilment, which is the same as their destruction, in the source of Consciousness itself, in the knowledge of which they vanish altogether. All the different individuals have their cloaks made up of their own varying desires through which alone they have objective experience which is called birth, life and death. Such experiences cease when these cloaks are cast off and the Absolute Self is realised. The moment the Self is realised, all the desires get dissolved in the menstruum of knowledge. This is the condition in which love merges into experience and the distinction of the subject and the object is abolished. Here it is that the true meaning of all desires and aspirations is found and the complete fulfilment of all these is achieved in its real sense. When the cause of desires is uprooted through knowledge, all its effects too get invalidated at once. The knower transcends the sense of virtue and vice and all such pairs of opposites, whose law binds only the individual living in space and time. Destruction of desires is Moksha.
Mantra No. 3:
This Atman is not to be attained through discourses, through intellect, or through much of hearing. That which one seeks, by that alone it is attained. To such a one this Atman reveals its true nature.
The Self is realised not through an external process of speaking, thinking or hearing but through self-identical knowledge. Whom one wishes to attain, i.e., the Self or the Atman, by him alone is It attained through non-relational experience. The realisation of the Self is actually attained not by the mind, but by consciousness which belongs to the Self and which in fact is the Self Itself. The Mantra indicates that that which is sought is not something different from the seeker but the essential nature of the seeker himself. The condition of realisation is intense aspiration. There is no other way to realise It. The seeker is required to surrender his individual personality so that that which obstructs the experience of himself as the infinite Being may be removed, and not to suggest that surrender means a giving up of oneself to another being. This surrender is actually the abandonment of the false self for the sake of the infinite Self which is non-different from one’s own Self. The Absolute Atman is ever accomplished and is of the nature of Self-experience and, therefore, It cannot be reached through an external process even as one cannot reach one’s own body through any kind of action. To such an aspiring seeker, the true nature of the Self is revealed within himself alone in the form of eternally accomplished knowledge. In short, realisation of the Self is the negation of non-self which consists in the process of thinking.
Mantra No. 4:
This Atman cannot be attained by one who is devoid of strength, not through heedlessness, not even through penance which is devoid of its proper insignia. That wise one who strives hard with these methods, his self enters into the state of Brahman (or the Absolute).
The Mantra sets forth certain pre-requisites of meditation on the Atman. Strength here stands for mental and moral power, or inner toughness, without which concentration is impossible. It may also mean physical stability, inasmuch as physical health is conducive to mental peace. Sankara takes strength in the sense of the power that is generated through devotion to and meditation on the Atman, which paves the way for the higher achievements later on. One should not expect to know the Self through such heedless practices as attachments to worldly objects like son, cattle, etc., nor through works done for the sake of personal gain. Even austerity practised improperly as a sort of mortification without its insignia, viz., Sannyasa or inner renunciation, will not help in the realisation of the Self. Sankara here suggests that Tapas may be taken to mean knowledge which is possessed even by householders, in which case it is useless because of the lack of renunciation. The knowledge of a householder cannot really be Self- knowledge, because of his being bound to his duties connected with his stage of life. True knowledge is the awareness of the non-dual Reality, which a householder cannot be expected to have as long as he has to perform his duties in this world. Therefore, knowledge connected with renunciation alone is true knowledge. Knowledge is necessarily preceded by renunciation, without which it cannot be called real knowledge.
With these methods, viz., strength, carefulness and knowledge connected with renunciation, one who aspires to attain the Supreme Being becomes a Vidvan, or a Knower of the Self, and his Self enters into the essence of the Absolute.
Mantra No. 5:
Having attained this, the heroic Rishis, being satisfied with Knowledge, perfect, desireless and calm, uniting their selves with the Divine Being and attaining everything from every side, enter into Everything Itself, i.e., they become omnipresent through the attainment of the Omnipresent Being.
Knowledge itself is the highest end of life and not simply a means to an end. Knowledge is identical with the highest perfection. The sages who have this knowledge are satisfied with It alone and not with some external means of satisfaction which will simply fatten the body and the ego. One’s highest duty consists in the struggle for the attainment of this knowledge by which one gets unified with the all-pervading Absolute Being. This is the same as Moksha, where the individuality ceases to be and where one exists in all places and at all times, i.e., becomes infinite and eternal.
Mantra No. 6:
Those Yatis who have ascertained the true meaning of the knowledge of Vedanta, who have purified their natures through Sannyasa and Yoga, having attained immortality, get liberated from all sides in the region of Brahma at the end of time.
Sannyasa-Yoga means establishment in the consciousness of Brahman consequent upon the renunciation of desires and actions. The individuals get liberated at the end of time, which means that they are freed from bondage when their experiences of Samsara come to an end. It is not ordinary death that is meant here, because in ordinary physical death time does not come to an end and Samsara also does not cease. What is meant is the Atyantika Marana, or ultimate death, where the subtle body of the individual dies together with its cause, viz., ignorance. The end of time may also mean the time when those who have attained Brahma Loka attain Krama Mukti at the time of the dissolution of cosmos together with Brahma Himself. In that state, all the liberated ones find their individualities vanish into Brahman, even as a lamp which is not fed by oil is extinguished into space. These liberated souls are said to enter into everything, because they become the Soul of the universe through instantaneous experience of the Infinite. Their experience is, therefore, absolutely unconditioned and it is not the result of proceeding towards any plane of consciousness, which is always conditioned because of its being only a degree of Truth. Moksha is not a movement towards any state, but an immutable experience here and now. Knowledge is said to be the means to Moksha because the means should always befit the nature of the end, and knowledge is unconditioned like Moksha. Moksha is not produced as an effect of anything but consists in the mere cessation of the hindrances to such an experience.
Mantra No. 7:
The different parts of individuality get dissolved and all the senses merge in their presiding divinities. Actions, the self consisting of intelligence—all these become unified in the Supreme Imperishable.
The effects of all actions are not experienced because of the rise of knowledge. The intellectual self, viz., the individual self, transcends itself and is unified with its source, viz., Pure Consciousness, which is called here the Supreme Imperishable, which is vast like the ether, which is the same as Brahman, which is unlimited, undecaying, unborn, changeless, immortal, fearless, without a cause and without an effect, without internality and externality, non-dual, blessed and peaceful, existing everywhere, at all times in the same condition. The individual becomes non-different from It, having got rid of all the obstructions in the forms of ignorance, desire and action.
Mantra No. 8:
As rivers flowing into the ocean lose themselves in the ocean, casting off name and form, so the knower, freed from name and form, attains the Divine Purusha who is higher than the high.
Mantra No. 9:
He who knows the Supreme Brahman becomes Brahman Itself. In his family none devoid of the Knowledge of Brahman is born. He crosses over sorrow, he crosses over sin. Freed from the knots of the heart he becomes Immortal.
It may be thought that the knower of Brahman may be obstructed by Devas, etc., from attaining perfection. But, this is not possible in the case of a knower of Brahman or even an aspirant after the knowledge of Brahman. Obstacles are possible only in the case of those whose effort is put forth for the attainment of something which is particularised. Whenever one struggles to obtain something which is not universal but particular, there is a reaction from the other particulars, or rather the other aspects of reality, which resist the onward march of the mind towards its own limited end. The Knower of the Self, on the other hand, becomes the Self of the Devas and, therefore, he cannot have opposition from any side. Knowledge simply consists in the removal of ignorance. The moment ignorance is dispelled or duality is cancelled, Moksha is experienced without any opposition whatsoever. Oppositions are the reactions to selfish desires and not to the aspiration for Brahman as there cannot be reaction to an impersonal being or impersonal thought or aspiration. The Impersonal Being is eternal and is always identical with one’s own Self. In fact, an aspirant after Brahman is helped by the universe in the pursuit of the same, because what he aspires for is the common reality of all. No opposition can be of any avail in his case. He transcends all obstacles, conquers sorrow and sin through the power of Knowledge, frees himself from the pairs of opposites like virtue and vice, purifies his family with his knowledge, breaks the knots of his heart, is liberated ultimately from relative experience and becomes Immortal.
Mantra No. 10:
Those who have performed their duties well, who are learned in scriptures, who intensely aspire for Brahman, who faithfully worship the sacred fire called Ekarshi, who have undergone the vow of the head, to them alone this Brahma-Vidya should be told.
Those who have performed the works prescribed in the previous stages of life, purify themselves through such works and become fit for higher aspirations. Erudition in the sacred lore makes them undeluded and clear-minded. Further, they should have already performed the Upasana of Saguna Brahman, through which alone their minds can rest in the Nirguna Brahman. Ekarshi is a fire worshipped by Atharva Vedins. The meaning is that one should perform the works and the worships enjoined in the section of the Veda of which he forms a member. The vow of the head is either a particular kind of sacrifice in which fire is carried on the head or Sannyasa which is connected with the vow of the head, viz., shaving. The drift of the Mantra is that one should have already performed what he considers as his duty in life and renounced everything later on, so that he may have true aspiration for Brahman. When Brahma Vidya is imparted to such people, it becomes fruitful.
Mantra No. 11:
This highest truth was declared in ancient days by the Rishi Angiras. This Vidya should not be studied by one who has not followed the prescribed rules. Prostration to the great Rishis. Prostration to the great Rishis.
Om Santih, Santih, Santih.