The muNDakopaniShat – Part 17
Continuing on Mantra 3.2.6:
The self-realized person does not take any path to ‘attain’ Brahman since his very self, he verily, is Brahman. The ‘going’ thus is compared: ‘Just as the footprints of birds cannot be traced in space and of aquatics in water, similar is the course of the men of knowledge’ (Mahābhārata Śāntiparva 239.24). Also says the Śruti: ‘Those who are intent upon transcending the transmigratory life do not tread on any path.’ (Itihāsa upaniṣad18). All movements from one abode to another is within samsāra, bondage, and are therefore limited, finite. Since Brahman is the ‘All’, there is no need to and it is impossible too to, really physically travel to ‘reach’ Brahman. If Brahman is limited, localized, to some or the other location, then akin to a formed object It will be endowed with a beginning and end, it would be dependent on something else, made of parts and therefore temporal and produced. Brahman can never be of this description. Therefore attaining Brahman is not of any traveling to some other place.
गताः कलाः पञ्चदश प्रतिष्ठा देवाश्च सर्वे प्रतिदेवतासु ।
कर्माणि विज्ञानमयश्च आत्मा परेऽव्यये सर्व एकीभवन्ति ॥ ७ ॥
गताः go back कलाः parts पञ्चदश fifteen प्रतिष्ठाः causes देवाः deities च and सर्वे all senses प्रतिदेवतासु their source-deities कर्माणि actions विज्ञानमयः the jīva च and आत्मा self परे supreme अव्यये imperishable सर्वे all एकीभवन्ति become one
The fifteen parts go back to their causes and all the senses to their deities; the actions and the Atman reflected in the buddhi, become one with the highest imperishable Brahman, which is the Self of all.
The liberation, ‘mokṣa’ admitted by the knowers of Brahman is characterized by the dispelling of the avidyā, ignorance, and the samsāra, bondage, it has caused. It is not certainly an effect of any action. The natural condition, state, of the aspirant is Brahman, is ever-liberated. This state is not any effect of action. At the time of the aspirant attaining the videha, body-free liberation, the various components, kalāḥ, fifteen in number, of the body-organs-mind complex, attain, return, to their respective sources in creation. The fifteen parts are enumerated in the last, sixth, question-answer of the Praśnopaniṣat. All the deva-s that had been stationed in the sense/motor organs by blessing the organs with the power to act, too, obtain to their respective abodes in the cosmos such as the sun. What about the actions of the knower? Those actions that have started yielding their fruit have been lived out and expended during the lifetime of the knower. And those actions that have not fructified will become one with the Supreme Brahman. And the aspirant, the jīva, who is verily Brahman, owing to avidyā, as though entered this body and available there as the reflected consciousness, just as the sun is available in all the water bodies where its reflection appears, too becomes one with Brahman. Thus, there is nothing pertaining to the erstwhile jīva that remains over in the world once he becomes enlightened and finally dies. This death is understood to be the extinction of the upādhi, the limiting adjunct that kept Brahman limited so far, as it were. The final ‘merger’ is in that Supreme, immutable, infinite, imperishable, akin to the space in terms of subtlety and all-pervading nature, the unborn, free of old age and death, fearless, that which is without a cause and effect, without interior and exterior, secondless, auspicious and blissful and tranquil. Thus all actions along with the jīva become one, without any difference, with Brahman. This attaining to oneness, non-difference, with the source, Brahman is akin to the reflections becoming one with the sun when the reflecting media such as water cease to be. It is like the space limited by pots etc. becoming one with the infinite space upon the limiting adjuncts such as the pot are destroyed.
यथा नद्यः स्यन्दमानाः समुद्रेऽस्तं गच्छन्ति नामरूपे विहाय ।
तथा विद्वान्नामरूपाद्विमुक्तः परात्परं पुरुषमुपैति दिव्यम् ॥ ८ ॥
यथा just as नद्यः rivers स्यन्दमानाः flowing समुद्रे in the ocean अस्तं गच्छन्ति disappear नामरूपे name and form विहाय bereft तथा so too विद्वान् the Knower नामरूपात् from the name-form विमुक्तः freed परात्परं greater than the great पुरुषम् Puruṣa उपैति attain दिव्यम् self-effulgent
As flowing rivers disappear in the sea, losing their names and forms, so a wise man, freed from name and form, attains the Purusha, who is greater than the Great.
Further, as the rivers such as Gaṅgā that flow and attain the ocean and become one with the latter by losing their individual identities such as specific names and forms, so too the enlightened jīva, freed from the name-form dual created by avidyā, attains to the Supreme Self-luminous Person, Brahman, that is beyond the imperishable māyā.
स यो ह वै तत्परमं ब्रह्म वेद ब्रह्मैव भवति नास्याब्रह्मवित्कुले भवति ।
तरति शोकं तरति पाप्मानं गुहाग्रन्थिभ्यो विमुक्तोऽमृतो भवति ॥ ९ ॥
स यः he who ह वै indeed तत् that परमं Supreme ब्रह्म Brahman वेद realizes ब्रह्म Brahman एव alone भवति becomes न अस्य not his अब्रह्मवित् ignorant of Brahman कुले family भवति born तरति overcomes शोकं misery तरति overcomes पाप्मानं evil गुहाग्रन्थिभ्यः from the fetters of the heart विमुक्तः freed अमृतः immortal भवति becomes
He who knows the Supreme Brahman verily becomes Brahman. In his family no one is born ignorant of Brahman. He overcomes grief; he overcomes evil; free from the fetters of the heart, he becomes immortal.
Since there are many obstacles to attain a goal, it is possible that the Knower, obstructed by any of the five well-known afflictions (stated in the Yogasūtra 11.3 of Patanjali: ignorance, egotism, desire, aversion and ardent clinging to mundane existence) or hindered by any celestial being, might not merge with Brahman and on the other hand attain to any other world taking a different course.
This possible doubt is answered by this mantra. Since knowledge is the panacea for all ills, there will be no power that hinders the knower’s merger with Brahman. Knowledge of the Self dispels ignorance which is the only obstacle to liberation. This is because the very natural state of everyone is liberation and therefore the only hindrance to that state is ignorance. And since the aspirant has obtained that knowledge there is no way he is denied the state of being Brahman itself. The mantra declares that the knowledge of Brahman confers upon the knower the very state of Brahman. Whoever in the world knows Brahman as ‘I am Brahman’ cannot be associated with any path to any destination whatsoever. Even gods cannot create obstacles for this knower since he is the very self of these divinities as well. Therefore the knower of Brahman is Brahman alone. And in his lineage no one who is not a knower of Brahman is born. Also, he crosses over all mental sorrows resulting from non-fulfillment of any longing during his very lifetime. He goes beyond all sins, that are characterized by dharma and adharma (the idea is that he is not touched by any merit or demerit arising from all actions). He is free from the knot of the heart which means that mark of ignorance that results in the admixture of the Consciousness and the inert body-mind. The notion of ‘I am a human’ completely vanishes as stated by this very Upaniṣad:
‘The fetters of the heart are broken, all doubts are resolved and all works cease to bear fruit, when He is beheld who is both high and low.’ (2.2.9)
The Upaniṣad concludes the discourse by stating the method of transmission and receiving of the Brahmavidyā, the liberating knowledge, in a formal way:
क्रियावन्तः श्रोत्रिया ब्रह्मनिष्ठाः स्वयं जुह्वत एकर्षिं श्रद्धयन्तः ।
तेषामेवैतां ब्रह्मविद्यां वदेत शिरोव्रतं विधिवद्यैस्तु चीर्णम् ॥ १० ॥
क्रियावन्तः performers श्रोत्रियाः learned in veda ब्रह्मनिष्ठाः devoted to Brahman स्वयं themselves जुह्वते offer oblations एकर्षिं Ekaṛṣi श्रद्धयन्तः endowed with faith तेषाम् for them एव alone एतां this ब्रह्मविद्यां Brahman-konwledge वदेत impart शिरोव्रतं head-vow विधिवत् as enjoined यैः by those तु indeed चीर्णम् performed
A Ṛk—verse declares: This Knowledge of Brahman should he told to those only who have performed the necessary duties, who are versed in the Vedas and devoted to Brahman and who, full of faith, have offered oblations in the ‘Ekaṛṣi’ Fire and performed, according to rule, the rite of carrying fire on the head.
The mantra itself shows the method of transmitting the Brahmavidyā. Those who have performed the scripture-ordained actions are the ones that are eligible to receive this vidyā. Those who have studied the Veda, who are established in Brahman, those who are engaged in the meditations of the lower, apara, Brahman, while being desirous of knowing the Supreme Brahman, themselves offering oblations to the Fire known by the special name ‘Ekaṛṣi’. They are endowed with great faith. They alone have attained the necessary propensity to receive the Brahmavidyā. They have to be the ones who have performed the ‘head sacrifice’. This vow involves holding fire on the head, in compliance with the exact procedures stated. This is akin to the Vedic vow of those belonging to the Atharva-veda following. Only those who are endowed with the above qualifications are fit to receive the Brahmavidyā taught in the Upaniṣad.
तदेतत्सत्यमृषिरङ्गिराः पुरोवाच नैतदचीर्णव्रतोऽधीते ।
नमः परमऋषिभ्यो नमः परमऋषिभ्यः ॥ ११ ॥
तत् that एतत् this सत्यम् Truth ऋषिः Ṛṣi अङ्गिराः Aṅgirāḥ पुरा yore उवाच said न do not एतत् this अचीर्णव्रतः who has not performed the head-vow अधीते study नमः obeisance परमऋषिभ्यः to the great seers नमः obeisance परमऋषिभ्यः to the great seers.
Thus the seer Aṅgirā declared this truth in olden times. A man who has not performed the vow should not read it. Salutation to the great seers! Salutation to the great seers!
The Ṛṣi named Aṅgirā in the days of yore taught Śounaka who approached him in the formal way and sought the vidyā pertaining to the Imperishable Puruṣa, the Supreme Truth which is Brahman. By saying this the mantra implies that whoever endowed with the necessary qualifications, approaching dutifully and sincerely seeks this liberating knowledge from a true Ācārya, must be given the teaching. He who has not performed the head-vow should not read this text. This is because the vidyā will culminate in the fruit of direct liberating knowledge only in that aspirant who has performed the ordained vow and thereby earned the required samskāra, propensity.
With this the teaching of Brahmavidyā is concluded. Obeisance is offered to those great Ṛṣis who have secured this esoteric knowledge in the unbroken lineage from the initiator, Lord Brahmā, Obeisance also to those great Ācāryas such as Brahmā who have obtained the direct Knowledge of the Supreme Brahman. The mention of the obeisance twice is to convey the ardor and also to signify the completion of the Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad.
Here ends the exposition of the Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad with the commentary of Śṛī Śankarācārya.
ॐ भद्रं कर्णेभिः शृणुयाम देवाः। भद्रं पश्येमाक्षभिर्यजत्राः । स्थिरैरन्ङ्गैस्तुष्टुवाग्ं सस्तनूभिः। व्यशेम देवहितम् यदायुः ॥
स्वस्ति न इन्द्रो वृद्धश्रवाः। स्वस्ति नः पूषा विश्ववेदाः। स्वस्ति नस्तार्क्ष्यो अरिष्टनेमिः। स्वस्ति नो बृहस्पतिर्दधातु !!
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥
oṃ bhadraṃ karṇebhiḥ śṛṇuyāma devāḥ | bhadraṃ paśyemākṣabhiryajatrāḥ | sthirairanṅgaistuṣṭuvāgaṃ sastanūbhiḥ | vyaśema devahitam yadāyuḥ ||
svasti na indro vṛddhaśravāḥ |svasti naḥ pūṣā viśvavedāḥ |
svasti nastārkṣyo ariṣṭanemiḥ | svasti no bṛhaspatirdadhātu ||
Oṃ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ ||
OM O gods! Let us hear good (auspicious) things through our ears! O worshipful ones! Let us see good (auspicious) things with our eyes! May our organs and body be stable, healthy and strong! May we do in the life span allotted to us by gods what pleases them.
May Indra (who is) extolled profusely in the scriptures do good to us! May Pūṣan (who is) knower of world do good to us! May Tārkṣya (who) destroyer of enemies do good to us! May Bṛhaspati establish good in us!
Om Peace, Peace, Peace.
Om Tat Sat