Front Page Titles (by Subject) PRAŚNA UPANISHAD 1 - The Thirteen Principal Upanishads
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PRAŚNA UPANISHAD 1 - Misc (Upanishads), The Thirteen Principal Upanishads 
The Thirteen Principal Upanishads, translated from the Sanskrit with an outline of the philosophy of the Upanishads and an annotated bibliography, by Robert Ernest Hume (Oxford University Press, 1921).
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Six questioners seek the highest Brahma from a teacher
1. Sukeśan Bhāradvāja, and Śaibya Satyakāma, and Sauryāyaṇin Gārgya, and Kauśalya Āśvalāyana, and Bhārgava Vaidarbhi, and Kabandhin Kātyāyana—these, indeed, were devoted to Brahma, intent upon Brahma, in search of the highest Brahma. Thinking ‘He, verily, will tell it all,’ with fuel in hand2 they approached the honorable Pippalāda.
2. To them then that seer (rṣi) said: ‘Dwell with me (samvatsyatha) a year (samvatsara) more, with austerity (tapas), chastity (brahmacarya), and faith (śraddhā). Then ask what questions you will. If we know, we will tell you all.’
Question: Concerning the source of creatures on earth
3. Then Kabandhin Kātyāyana came up and asked: ‘Sir, whence, verily, are creatures here born?’
The Lord of Creation created matter and life for dual parentage of creatures
4. To him then he said: ‘The Lord of Creation (Prajāpati), verily, was desirous of creatures (offspring, prajā). He performed austerity. Having performed austerity, he produces a pair, matter (rayi, fem.) and life (prāṇa, masc.), thinking “These two will make creatures for me in manifold ways.”
The sun and moon, such a pair
5. The sun, verily, is life; matter, indeed, is the moon.
Matter identified with every form of existence
Matter, verily, is everything here, both what is formed and what is formless. Therefore material form (mūrti) indeed is matter.
The sun, identified with the life of creatures
6. Now the sun, when it rises, enters the eastern quarter. Thereby it collects the living beings (prāṇa) of the east in its rays. When it illumines the southern, the western, the northern, the lower, the upper, the intervening quarters, when it illumines everything—thereby it collects all living beings in its rays.
7. That fire rises as the universal, all-formed life. This very [doctrine] has been declared in the verse:—
The year identified with the Lord of Creation; the two paths: of reincarnation and of non-reincarnation
9. The year, verily, is Lord of Creation (Prajāpati). This has two paths, the Southern and the Northern.3
Now, those, verily, indeed, who worship, thinking “Sacrifice and merit are our work (krta)!”—they win only the lunar world. They, indeed, return hither again.4 Therefore those seers (ṛṣi) who are desirous of offspring go the Southern course. This matter (rayi) verily it is, that leads to the fathers (pitṛyāṇa).
10. But they who seek the Soul (Ātman) by austerity, chastity, faith, and knowledge—they by the Northern course win the sun. That, verily, is the support of life-breaths. That is the immortal, the fearless. That is the final goal. From that they do not return—as they say (iti). That is the stopping [of rebirth]. As to that there is this verse (śloka):—
Two old Vedic interpretations of the year
11. They speak of a father, five-footed, twelve-formed,1
Rich in moisture, as in the higher half of heaven.
But others here speak of a sage2 in the lower half,
The twofold month, identified with the Lord of Creation; to be properly observed in sacrifice
12. The month, verily, is the Lord of Creation (Prajāpati), Its dark half, indeed, is matter; its bright half, life. Therefore these seers (ṛṣi) perform sacrifice in the bright half; other people, in the other half.
Day and night, identified with the Lord of Creation; to be properly observed in procreation
13. Day and night, verily, are the Lord of Creation (Prajāpati). Of this, day indeed is life; the night, matter. Verily, they waste their life who join in sexual enjoyment by day; it is chastity that they join in sexual enjoyment by night.
Food, the direct source of creatures
14. Food, verily, is Lord of Creation (Prajāpati). From this, verily, is semen. From this creatures here are born.
16. To them belongs you stainless Brahma-world,
In whom there is no crookedness and falsehood, nor trickery (māyā).’
Concerning the several personal powers and their chiefest
1. Then Bhārgava Vaidarbhi asked him [i. e. Pippalāda]:
[a] ‘Sir, how many powers (deva) support a creature?
[b] How many illumine this [body]?
[c] Which one again is the chiefest of them?’
[a] and [b] The supporting and illumining powers
2. To him then he said: ‘Space (ākāśa), verily, is such a power (deva)—wind, fire, water, earth, speech, mind, sight, and hearing, too.1 These, having illumined it, declare: “We uphold and support this trunk (bāṇa)!”
[c] Life, the essential and chiefest
3. To them Life (prāṇa, the life-breath), the chiefest, said: “Fall not into delusion! I indeed, dividing myself (ātmānam) fivefold, support and sustain this body!”
4. They were incredulous. He, from pride, as it were, rises up aloft. Now when he rises up, then all the others also rise up; and when he settles down, they all settle down with him.
Now, as all the bees rise up after the king bee when he rises up, and all settle down when he settles down, even so speech, mind, sight, and hearing. They, being satisfied, praise Life (prāṇa, the life-breath).
The universal Life
5. As fire (Agni), he warms. He is the sun (Sūrya).
He is the bountiful2 rain (Parjanya). He is the wind (Vāyu).
6. Like the spokes on the hub of a wheel,
Everything is established on Life (prāṇa):—
The Rig verses, the Yajus formulas, the Sāman chants,
The sacrifice, the nobility (ksatra) and the priesthood (brahman)!
7. As the Lord of Creation (Prajāpati), thou movest in the womb.
’Tis thou thyself that art born again.
To thee, O Life, creatures here bring tribute—1
Thou, who dwellest with living beings!
8. Thou art the chief bearer [of oblations] to the gods!
Thou art the first offering to the fathers!
Thou art the true practice of the seers,
Descendants of Atharvan and Aṅgiras!
9. Indra art thou, O Life, with thy brilliance!
Rudra art thou as a protector!
Thou movest in the atmosphere
As the sun (Sūrya), thou Lord of lights!
10. When thou rainest upon them,
Then these creatures of thine, O Life,
Are blissful, thinking:
“There will be food for all desire!”
11. A Vrātya2 art thou, O Life, the only seer,
An eater, the real lord of all!
We are the givers of thy food!
Thou art the father of the wind (Mātariśvan).
12. That form of thine which abides in speech,
Which abides in hearing, which abides in sight,
And which is extended in the mind,
Make propitious! Go not away!
13. This whole world is in the control of Life—
E’en what is established in the third heaven!
As a mother her son, do thou protect [us]!
Grant to us prosperity (śrī) and wisdom (prajñā)!’
Six questions concerning a person’s life
1. Then Kausalya Āśvalāyana asked him [i. e. Pippalāda]:
[a] ‘Whence, Sir, is this life (prāṇa) born?
[b] How does it come into this body?
[c] And how does it distribute itself (ātmānam), and establish itself?
[d] Through what does it depart?
[e] How does it relate itself to the external?
[f] How with reference to the self?’
2. To him then he said: ‘You are asking questions excessively. But you are pre-eminently a Brahman1 —methinks (iti). Therefore I tell you.
[a] The source of a person’s life
3. This life (prāṇa) is born from the Spirit (Ātman, Self).
[b] Its embodiment
As in the case of a person there is this shadow extended, so it is in this case. By the action of the mind [in one’s previous existence2 ] it comes into this body.
[c] Its establishment and distribution in the body
4. As an overlord commands his overseers, saying: “Superintend such and such villages,” even so this life (prāṇa) controls the other life-breaths one by one.
5. The out-breath (apāna) is in the organs of excretion and generation. The life-breath (prāṇa) as such (svayam) establishes itself in the eye and ear, together with the mouth and nose. While in the middle is the equalizing breath (samāna), for it is this [breath] that equalizes [in distribution] whatever has been offered as food.1 From this arise the seven flames.2
6. In the heart, truly, is the self (ātman). Here there are those hundred and one arteries.3 To each one of these belong a hundred smaller arteries. To each of these belong seventy-two thousand4 branching arteries (hitā). Within them moves the diffused breath (vyāna).
[d] Its departure
7. Now, rising upward through one of these [arteries],5 the up-breath (udāna) leads in consequence of good [work] (puṇya) to the good world; in consequence of evil (pāpa), to the evil world; in consequence of both, to the world of men.
[e and f] Its cosmic and personal relations6
8. The sun, verily, rises externally as life7 ; for it is that which helps the life-breath in the eye. The divinity which is in the earth supports a person’s out-breath (apāna). What is between [the sun and the earth], namely space (ākāśa), is the equalizing breath (samāna). The wind (Vāyu) is the diffused breath (vyāna).
9. Heat (tejas), verily, is the up-breath (udāna). Therefore one whose heat has ceased goes to rebirth, with his senses (indriya) sunk in mind (manas).
One’s thinking determines life and destiny
10. Whatever is one’s thinking (citta), therewith he enters into life (prāṇa). His life joined with his heat, together with the self (ātman), leads to whatever world has been fashioned [in thought].8
11. The knower who knows life (prāṇa) thus—his offspring truly is not lost; he becomes immortal. As to this there is this verse (śloka):—
Concerning sleep and the ultimate basis of things
1. Then Sauryāyaṇin Gārgya asked him [i.e. Pippalāda]:—
[a] ‘Sir, what are they that sleep in a person here?
[b] What are they that remain awake in him?
[c] Which is the god (deva) that sees the dreams?
[d] Whose is the happiness?
[e] In whom, pray, are all things established?’
[a] All sense-functions unified in the mind during sleep
2. To him then he said: ‘O Gārgya, as the rays of the setting sun all become one in that orb of brilliance and go forth again and again when it rises, even so, verily, everything here becomes one in mind (manas), the highest god.
Therefore in that condition (tarhi) the person hears not, sees not, smells not, tastes not, touches not, speaks not, takes not, enjoys not, emits not, moves not about. “He sleeps!” they say.
[b] The five life-functions, like sacrificial fires, slumber not
3. Life’s fires, in truth, remain awake in this city.
The out-breath (apāna) is the Gārhapatya (Householder’s) fire. The diffused breath (vyāna) is the Anvāhāryapacana (Southern Sacrificial) fire. The in-breath (prāṇa) is the Āhavanīya (Oblation) fire, from “being taken” (praṇayana), since it is taken (praṇīyate) from the Gārhapatya fire.1
4. The equalizing breath (samāna) is so called because it “equalizes” (samain nayati) the two oblations: the in-breathing and the out-breathing (ucchvāsa-niḥśvāsa). The mind, verily, indeed, is the sacrificer. The fruit of the sacrifice is the up-breath (udāna). It leads the sacrificer to Brahma day by day.
[c] The universal mind, the beholder of dreams
5. There, in sleep, that god experiences greatness. Whatever object has been seen, he sees again; whatever has been heard, he hears again. That which has been severally experienced in different places and regions, he severally experiences again and again. Both what has been seen and what has not been seen, both what has been heard and what has not been heard, both what has been experienced and what has not been experienced, both the real (sat) and the unreal (a-sat)—he sees all. He sees it, himself being all.
[d] The brilliant happiness of dreamless sleep, in the mind’s non-action
6. When he is overcome with brilliance (tejas), then that god sees no dreams; then here in this body arises this happiness (sukha).
[e] The Supreme Soul the ultimate basis of the manifold world and of the individual
7. As birds resort to a tree for a resting-place, even so, O friend, it is to the supreme Soul (Ātman) that everything here resorts1 :—
8. Earth and the elements (mātra) of earth, water and the elements of water, heat (tejas) and the elements of heat, wind and the elements of wind, space and the elements of space, sight and what can be seen, hearing and what can be heard, smell and what can be smelled, taste and what can be tasted, the skin and what can be touched, speech and what can be spoken, the hands and what can be taken, the organ of generation and what can be enjoyed, the anus and what can be excreted, the feet and what can be walked, mind (manas) and what can be perceived, intellect (buddhi) and what can be conceived, egoism (ahaṁkāra) and what can be connected with “me,” thought (citta) and what can be thought, brilliance (tejas) and what can be illumined, life-breath (prāṇa) and what can be supported.
9. Truly, this seer, toucher, hearer, smeller, taster, thinker (mantr), conceiver (boddhṛ), doer, the conscious self (vijñānātman), the person—his resort is in the supreme imperishable Soul (Ātman, Self).
Knowing, and reaching, the world-ground
10. Verily, O friend! he who recognizes that shadowless, bodiless, bloodless, pure Imperishable, arrives at the Imperishable itself. He, knowing all, becomes the All. On this there is the verse (śloka):—
Concerning the value of meditation on ‘Om’
1. Then Śaibya Satyakāma asked him [i.e. Pippalāda]: ‘Verily, Sir, if some one among men here should meditate on the syllable Om until the end of his life, which world, verily, does he win thereby?’
Partial or complete comprehension of ‘Om’ and of Brahma affords temporary or final cessation of rebirth
2. To him then he said: ‘Verily, O Satyakāma, that which is the syllable Om is both the higher and the lower Brahma.1
Therefore with this support, in truth, a knower reaches one or the other.
3. If he meditates on one element [namely a], having been instructed by that alone he quickly comes into the earth [after death]. The Rig verses lead him to the world of men. There, united with austerity, chastity, and faith, he experiences greatness.
4. Now, if he is united in mind with two elements [namely a + u], he is led by the Yajus formulas to the intermediate space, to the world of the moon. Having experienced greatness in the world of the moon, he returns hither again.
5. Again, he who meditates on the highest Person (Purusha) with the three elements of the syllable Om [namely a + u + m], is united with brilliance (tejas) in the sun. As a snake is freed from its skin, even so, verily, is he freed from sin (pāpman). He is led by the Sāman chants to the world of Brahma. He beholds the Person that dwells in the body and that is higher than the highest living complex. As to this there are these two verses (śloka):—
6. The three elements are deadly when employed
One after the other, separately.
In actions external, internal, or intermediate
When they are properly employed, the knower trembles not.
7. With the Rig verses, to this world; with the Sāman chants, to the intermediate space;
With the Yajus formulas, to that which sages (kavi) recognize;
With the syllable Om in truth as a support, the knower reaches That
Which is peaceful, unaging, immortal, fearless, and supreme!’
Concerning the Person with sixteen parts1
1. Then Sukeśan Bhāradvāja asked him [i.e. Pippalāda]: ‘Sir, Hiraṇyanābha, a prince of the Kośalas, came to me and asked this question: “Bhāradvāja, do you know the Person with the sixteen parts?” I said to the youth: “I know him not. If I had known him, would I not have told you? Verily, he dries up even to the roots, who speaks untruth. Therefore it is not proper that I should speak untruth.” In silence he mounted his chariot and departed.
I ask it of you: “Where is that Person?” ’
2. To him he then said: ‘Even here within the body, O friend, is that Person in whom they say the sixteen parts arise.
3. He [i.e. the Person] thought to himself: “In whose departure shall I be departing? In whose resting firm, verily, shall I be resting firm?”
4. He created life (prāṇa); from life, faith (śraddhā), space (kha), wind, light, water, earth, sense-faculty (indriya), mind, food; from food, virility, austerity, sacred sayings (mantra), sacrifice, the worlds; and in the worlds, name [i. e. the individual].
5. As these flowing rivers that tend toward the ocean, on reaching the ocean, disappear, their name and form (nāma-rūpa) are destroyed, and it is called simply “the ocean”—even so of this spectator these sixteen parts that tend toward the Person, on reaching the Person, disappear, their name and form are destroyed, and it is called simply “the Person.” That one continues without parts, immortal! As to that there is this verse:—
Conclusion of the instruction
7. To them then he [i.e. Pippalāda] said: ‘Thus far, in truth, I know that supreme Brahma. There is naught higher than It.’
8. They praised him and said: ‘You truly are our father—you who lead us across to the shore beyond ignorance.’
Adoration to the supreme seers!
Adoration to the supreme seers!
[1 ]That is, Question Upanishad.
[2 ]The ancient token with which a person presented himself as a pupil unto a teacher whose instruction he desired.
[1 ]Or, according to a different exegests, the word jātavedasam may mean ‘all-finding.’
[2 ]This stanza occurs again in Maitri 6. 8, as the conclusion of a section which expounds the unity of Prāṇa (life) and Āditya (the sun).
[3 ]Elaborated in Bṛih. 6. 2. 15-16; Chānd. 4. 15. 5; Chānd. 5. 10; and BhG. 8. 24-26 as the half-year of the sun’s southward course and as the half-year of the sun’s northward course, respectively.
[4 ]This belief in rebirth occurs already in AV. 12. 2. 52 b.
[1 ]Both Śaṅkara here and Sāyaṇa on the Rig-Veda passage explain this as ‘the year,’ ‘with five seasons,’ and ‘with twelve months.’
[2 ]Or ‘one far-shining,’ vicakṣaṇa.
[3 ]‘With seven steeds, and six seasons.’—Com.
[4 ]This stanza = RV. 1. 164. 12.
[5 ]As stated above in § 13.
[6 ]That is, offspring, like Prajāpati himself according to § 4.
[1 ]That is, the five cosmic elements, and with prāṇa (life-breath) the five personal functions.
[2 ]The reference may be to ‘Indra,’ for whom maghavan is a very common Vedic epithet.
[1 ]This line is a reminiscence of AV. 11. 4. 19 a, b, a hymn to Prāṇa, of which there are other reminiscences in this Praśna Upanishad.
[2 ]Śaṅkara explains this word as meaning ‘uninitiated’ because of his being the first born, and there being no one else to initiate him; therefore ‘pure by nature.’ This is a noteworthy characterization; for, later a Vrātya is either a despised, non-Brahmanical low-caste man, or else a man who has lost caste through the non-observance of proper ceremonies! Yet compare the glorification of the Vrātya in AV. 15.
[1 ]Or, ‘most devoted to Brahma,’ brahmistha.
[2 ]Such seems to be the implication of the important preceding word manokṛtena, in accordance with the theory of rebirth which is assumed later in this same Upanishad. That is: a person’s life in this body is the sure and appropriate result of his thoughts in a previous existence, even as a shadow is the similitude unavoidably cast from a person’s body. A different, but not contradictory, interpretation is possible from the reading mano’krtena, ‘without action of the mind’ (which Deussen proposes): i. e. that a person’s life in this body is an involuntary shadow cast from the great Self.
[1 ]Or possibly, as rendered by Deussen, ‘. . . it is this [breath] that brings to sameness [i. e. assimilates, digests] this offered food.’ But cf. Praśna 4. 4.
[2 ]Compare Mund. 2. 1. 8.
[3 ]Mentioned in Chānd. 8. 6. 6.
[4 ]Mentioned in Bṛih. 2. 1. 19.
[5 ]Called the suṣumnā. Cf. Maitri 6. 21.
[6 ]The idea expounded is that the five bodily life functions are correlated with five cosmic powers.
[7 ]As already identified in 1. 5.
[8 ]The destiny-making power of thought, especially as instanced in a person’s last thoughts, is similarly expressed in BhG. 8. 6.
[1 ]Life itself being conceived of as a sacrifice, these three life-breaths are symbolically identified with the three fires which are used in the Vedic sacrificial rites. Compare the identification of the sacrificer’s priest, wife, and son with these same three altar fires at Ait. Br. 8. 24.
[1 ]The following is a noteworthy Sāṅkhya enumeration, including the five cosmic elements, the ten organs (indriya), and manas, buddhi, ahaṁkāra, citta, together with light and life. Cf. p. 391, note 4.
[1 ]Compare Muṇḍ. 1. 1. 4 for the two kinds of sacred knowledge. So here probably brahma may be used in the sense of ‘sacred knowledge’ as well as in a strictly metaphysical sense referring to the nir-guṇa, ‘un-qualified,’ and the saguṇa, ‘qualified,’ Brahma respectively.
[1 ]In VS. 8. 36 Prajāpati, ‘Lord of Creation,’ is addressed as ṣoḍaśin, ‘with sixteen parts.’ In Bṛih. 1. 5. 14 the year is identified with Prajāpati and explained as having sixteen parts because its component half-months each consist of fifteen days and a turning-point. According to Bṛih. 1. 5. 15 the human person who understands this fact becomes similarly characterized. A practical proof of a person’s sixteenfoldness is adduced at Chānd. 6. 7, and an etymological proof at Śat. Br. 10. 4. 1. 17.