The muNDakopaniShat – Part 4
Continuing the exposition of the mantra 1.2.1, we see that the actions are ‘real’ in the sense that they are certain to yield their fruit to the person who performs them duly. These actions are ordained in the veda, having revealed to the RRiShi-s, as being three-fold, that is, comprising of the hotR, adhvaryu, udgAtR, specific officiating agents belonging to the RRig, yajus and sAma veda-s. These actions are many in number, having a lot of variety and in vogue. Or it could mean that these karma-s enjoyed following/adherence in the tretA yuga, Age.
Therefore you, those who desire to have the fruits of the actions, engage in these actions faithfully. This will be the means for you to attain those worlds where the fruits could be enjoyed. These works such as the agnihotra, enjoined in the three veda-s constitute the means to attain the fruits desired.
Now, the agnihotra itself is being taken up in the beginning as it is the foremost among vedic rituals:
यदा लेलायते ह्यर्चिः समिद्धे हव्यवाहने ।
तदाज्यभागावन्तरेणाहुतीः प्रतिपादयेत् ॥ २ ॥
यदा when लेलायते हि flicker अर्चिः flames समिद्धे well lighted हव्यवाहने fire तदा then आज्यभागौ two portions अन्तरेण between आहुतीः oblations प्रतिपादयेत् offer
When the fire is well lighted and the flames flicker, let a man offer his oblations in the space between the two portions.
When the fire is well blazing and flickering being fed by fuel, then in the midst of the two places where oblations are poured, one has to offer the oblations intended to the deity. Since the ritual is done on several days the plural ‘oblations’ is used in the mantra.
The above kind of actions that are verily characterized by rituals involving pouring of oblations is difficult to follow/perform accurately without violating the strict rules of performance. There are several obstacles, lapses, which are being indicated here:
मचातुर्मास्यमनाग्रयणमतिथिवर्जितं च ।
मासप्तमांस्तस्य लोकान्हिनस्ति ॥ ३ ॥
यस्य अग्निहोत्रम् (He) whose agnihotra अदर्शमपौर्णमासम् unaccompanied by darsha and paurNa sacrifice अचातुर्मास्यम् four-month’s sacrifice अनाग्रयणम् autumnal sacrifice अतिथिवर्जितं without feeding guest च also अहुतम् timely oblations not offered अवैश्वदेवम् bereft of vaishvadeva ceremony अविधिना improperly हुतम् performed आसप्तमान् seven तस्य of his लोकान् worlds हिनस्ति destroys
If a man’s agnihotra sacrifice is not accompanied by the darsha and the paurNamAsa sacrifice, by the Four Months’ sacrifice and the Autumnal sacrifice; if it is unattended by hospitality to guests or if the oblations are not offered at the right time; or if the sacrifice is unaccompanied by the vaishvadeva ceremony or is improperly performed—then it destroys his seven worlds.
An agnihotrI (the householder who engages in the performance of the agnihotra ritual) has to perform that ritual accompanied by several other auxiliary rituals. These are: the ‘darsha’, the paurNamAsa, the chAturmAsa, the AgrayaNa (autumnal), daily propitiating the guest with food, giving of oblations, vaishvadeva ritual, strict adherence to the method of offering oblations, etc. Here we see that the mantra is specifying errors of omission and commission that could occur when a man is engaged in the ritual of agnihotra. What would happen to such a man? When a ritual is performed accurately one attains to the seven loka-s, worlds, listed as bhUH up to satya. In the absence of accurate performance, however, all these loka-s are denied to him. Since he will not be attaining to these loka-s they are as good as having been destroyed. The entire effort is just labour wasted and nothing more.
An alternative interpretation for the ‘destruction of the seven worlds’ is: When the ritual-performer offers the balls of rice, etc. to the manes, the seven generations get connected: father, grandfather, great grandfather, son, grandson and great grandson and the offeror himself. Such a favourable connection does not happen when the agnihotra is tainted by the above mentioned defects.
काली कराली मनोजवा च
सुलोहिता या च सुधूम्रवर्णा ।
स्फुलिङ्गिनी विश्वरुची च देवी
लेलायमाना इति सप्त जिह्वाः ॥ ४ ॥
काली the black कराली the terrific मनोजवा the swift as thought च सुलोहिता and the very red या च she who is सुधूम्रवर्णा of the colour of white smoke स्फुलिङ्गिनी the scintillating विश्वरुची all gleaming च देवी and the deity लेलायमाना flickering about इति सप्त जिह्वाः are the seven tongues of fire.
kAlI (the Black), karAlI (the Terrific), manojavA (the Swift as thought), sulohitA (the Very red), sudhUmravarNA (of the colour of bright smoke; purple), sphulinginI (the Scintillating) and the luminous vishvaruchI (the All-gleaming, al- formed)—these seven, flickering about, form the seven tongues of the fire.
The above named feminine deities are the one’s featured as the ‘tongues’ of the fire into which oblations are offered, which swallow up the offerings.
एतेषु यश्चरते भ्राजमानेषु
यथाकालं चाहुतयो ह्याददायन् ।
तं नयन्त्येताः सूर्यस्य रश्मयो
यत्र देवानां पतिरेकोऽधिवासः ॥ ५ ॥
एतेषु while these fires यः he who चरते performs भ्राजमानेषु when well ablaze यथाकालं at appropriate times च आहुतयः oblations हि आददायन् offering तं him नयन्ति lead एताः these सूर्यस्य sun’s रश्मयः rays यत्र where देवानां पतिः the Head of gods एकः one अधिवासः dwells
A man who performs the sacrifices when these flames are shining and offers oblations at the right time, is carried by these oblations on the rays of the sun to where dwells the sole sovereign of the gods.
When an agnihotrI, the performer of that ritual, offers the oblations into the above mentioned fires, when the fire is well lighted and in flames, at the appropriate times (with unbroken regularity), he is led by these very offerings which take the form of the sun’s rays. Where is this sacrificer led to? To heaven, the abode of the gods, where their Lord indra, reigns over. How is he led by the sun’s rays? That is being stated in the sequel.
एह्येहीति तमाहुतयः सुवर्चसः
सूर्यस्य रश्मिभिर्यजमानं वहन्ति ।
एष वः पुण्यः सुकृतो ब्रह्मलोकः ॥ ६ ॥
एहि एहि ‘Come thither’ इति thus तम् him आहुतयः these flames सुवर्चसः bright ones सूर्यस्य sun’s रश्मिभिः by rays यजमानं the sacrificer वहन्ति carry प्रियां pleasant वाचम् words अभिवदन्त्यः speaking अर्चयन्त्यःworshiping एष this वः your पुण्यः meritorious सुकृतः deed ब्रह्मलोकः abode of brahmA
The luminous oblations say to the sacrifier: ’Come hither! Come hither!’ And lead him on the rays of the sun, worshiping him all the while and greeting him with the pleasant words ’This is the holy heaven of brahmA, earned by your good deeds’
By welcoming the sacrificer with pleasing words that are also accompanied by praises, these shining flame-deities also worship him. ‘This abode of brahmA is the result of your meritorious deeds. Thus they lead the sacrifier through the sun’s rays. Contextually, the term ‘brahma loka’ (‘abode of brahmA’) is to mean svarga, heaven. For, brahmaloka is attained only by superior contemplations accompanied or not by works too.
This above stated ritual is bereft of contemplation, upAsana, and therefore the fruit of it too is just the heavenly world. And this fruit, evidently, is the effect, product, of avidyA (ignorance), kAma (desire) and karma (work/ritual) and therefore not substantial and hence is to be avoided/shunned.
प्लवा ह्येते अदृढा यज्ञरूपा
अष्टादशोक्तमवरं येषु कर्म ।
एतच्छ्रेयो येऽभिनन्दन्ति मूढा
जरामृत्युं ते पुनरेवापि यन्ति ॥ ७ ॥
प्लवाः rafts हि indeed एते are these अदृढाः frail यज्ञरूपाः sacrifices अष्टादशोक्तम् with eighteen members अवरं lowly येषु in which कर्म ritual एतत् this श्रेयः highest good ये those अभिनन्दन्ति gleeful मूढाः fools जरामृत्युं old age and death ते they पुनः again एव surely अपि यन्ति also attain.
But frail indeed are those rafts of sacrifices, conducted by eighteen persons, upon whom rests the inferior work; therefore they are destructible. Fools who rejoice in them as the Highest Good fall victims again and again to old age and death.
The vedic rituals are being characterized as frail rafts since the fruit derived therefrom is not any substantial. They have a beginning and end and are founded on ignorance, desire and works. The components involved in the works are many in number: eighteen in the agnihotra ritual, consisting of sixteen vedic priests and the sacrificer and his wife who will have to perform the rituals as a couple. These rituals do not involve contemplation, upAsana, and are mere works. Therefore these lower order karma-s perish along with their fruits. Just as when a pot is destroyed, the milk or curds contained therein too gets destroyed.
Since those indulged in these works ignorantly think, out of delusion, these are means to great happiness, they end up remaining in the wheel of transmigration called saMsAra characterized by old age and death after a short stay in svarga, heaven.
स्वयं धीराः पण्डितं मन्यमानाः ।
जङ्घन्यमानाः परियन्ति मूढाः
अन्धेनैव नीयमाना यथान्धाः ॥ ८ ॥
अविद्यायाम् अन्तरे within the fold of ignorance वर्तमानाः remaining स्वयं ourselves धीराः wise पण्डितं and learned मन्यमानाः thinking जङ्घन्यमानाः buffeted परियन्ति ramble about मूढाः fools अन्धेन by the blind एव alone नीयमानाः led यथा just as अन्धाः the blind
Remaining within the fold of ignorance and thinking, ‘We are ourselves wise and learned’, the fools, while being buffeted very much, ramble about like the blind led by the blind alone.
Bereft of discrimination these people remain in ignorance alone thinking ‘We are indeed wise ones and learned in the scriptural methods of works’. They gloat in such thinking. As a result of this, they are buffeted by the various pangs of saMsAra such as old age and disease repeatedly. Devoid of the vision of discrimination, viveka, these fools are like blind ones led by others without sight for whom the pain of falling in ditches or walking on thorns is unavoidable.
The upaniShad goes on to say more on the plight of these people.