The Mandukya Upanishad
(Introduction to The Mandukya Upanishad)
(Please leave your suggestions for improvement or comments at the bottom of this page)
The Mandukya Upanishad is a discussion of the Mystic Syllable ‘Om’, with a view to training the mind in meditation, for the purpose of achieving freedom of mind in a systematic way so that the individual soul is understands ultimate reality of Life as they know it.
The basis of this meditation is explained in the secret of the knowledge of the Universal Being, referred to as Vaisvanara. It is an understanding of the human attributes and relating them to our Divine Existence. When this approach is used in meditation, one sees the Cosmos as his Body. For example, if a person contemplates one’s individual body, one simultaneously is conscious of his entire body, of the the left and right eye, the right and left hand, the right and left left leg, his head, heart, stomach, and all the limbs of his body at the same time! He does not see them as separate and different but connected and linked to a single personality! So when used in this meditation, the consciousness is focused on the Universal Being.
Instead of one identifying oneself as the individual body, one sees himself as the Universal Body. Instead of the right eye, there is sun. Instead of the left eye, there is moon. Instead of the feet, there is earth. Instead of the head, there is heaven, etc.
So, in this way he identifies his limbs with cosmic elements, and vice versa, and that there is nothing in the cosmos which does not form an organic part of the Body of the Virat, or Vaisvanara. When we see the vast universe before us, we behold a part of our own Body. And when you look at the sun, you behold your own eye. When you look above into the heavens, you are seeing your own head.
When you see all people moving about, you behold the various parts of your own personality as you identify yourself as one with them too! The vast wind is your breath. All your actions are cosmic movements. Anything that moves, does so on account of your movement. Your breath is the Cosmic Vital Force. Your intelligence is the Cosmic Intelligence. Ycur existence is Cosmic Existence. Your happiness is Cosmic Bliss.
In short, Maanduka (Sanskrit: माण्डूक) which literally is “a Vedic school” or means “a teacher” – from whom you learn. It consists of twelve sutras, or threads of knowledge, and they discuss the word ‘Aum’ or ‘Om’. It teaches us about the four states of consciousness, and shows that by understanding these four states which also is present in ‘Aum’ we can discover the true nature of the soul, Aatman or Self. And through the understanding of the teaching of this Upanishad, eventually the understanding comes that Atman and Brahman are one and the same, which is also called Yoga.
Our Guruji Swami Veda Bharati taught of Oneness with Universe, Oneness with Nature and Oneness with God! Understanding the Mandukya Upanishad and practicing meditation using the thought processes learned from the Mandukya Upanishad guides a person to achieve the true feeling of Oneness with Universe, Oneness with Nature and Oneness with God!
(The Mantras of the Mandukya Upanishad are presented here with my short & simple explanation, in an effort to simplify and connect them to the reality of our everyday lives – Pt. Jag B Mahadeo)
Om bhadram karnebhih shrinuyama devah, bhadram pashyema-akshabhir-yajatrah, Sthirai-rangais tushtuvamsa-stanubhir, vyashema devahitam yadayuh.
Om Swasti na indro vriddha shravaah, swasti nah pooshaa vishva vedaah, swasti nas taar-kshyo arishtane-mih, swasti no brihas-patir dadhaatu. Om Shanti, Om Shanti, Om Shanti, Om
O Gods, may we hear with ‘karnebhih – with ears’ what is auspicious ‘bhadram – good (words), truth’. May we ‘pashyema – see’ with ‘akshabhi – with eyes’ what is auspicious. While praising the Gods with perfect health may we enjoy a life that is beneficial to ourselves and to others. O Gods! Let us hear promising things from our ears. O respectful Gods! Let us see propitious things from our eyes, let our organs and body be stable, healthy and strong. Let us do what is pleasing to gods in the life span allotted to us.
May we possess within, bravery and strength to protect us from anti-social elements, and ensure our safety – brihaspatih nah swasti dadhaatu – almighty protector may protect us all! May God nah swasti dadhaatu – bless us all – we possess within, whom, as owner of abundant wealth supports the economic system, and bring us prosperity. May we have that within, who is swift in performing his duties, with unimpeded speed, provide comfort. And may we possess within, he who is filled with religious and secular learning, to motivate us for our intellectual growth – May he bless us with vishwa vedaah –great knowledge! May all the divine powers of the universe contribute to our welfare and happiness!
Om Peace! Peace! Peace!
Om iti etad-aksharam idam sarvam, tasya upavyaa ghyaanam, Bhootam bhavat bhavishyad iti sarvam aumkaara eva, Yat cha anyat trikala-teetam tad api aumkaara eva.
In this first mantra in Mandukya Upanishad, there is this word aksharam! This Sanskrit word aksharam has no English equivalent. Aksharam – a+ksharam. A – not; ksharam – that which perishes. So aksharam means that which does not perish at all – or that which is eternal.
OM! – etad aksharam – This Imperishable Word is this whole or edam sarvam – visible universe. It says that all of what has become, the bhutam – the past, all of bhavat – the present or what is becoming, and eventually all of what will become or bhavisyad – all of this, is OM. Meaning that all of the past, all of the present and all of the future is Om! And yat cha anyat – whatever else trikalatetam – three time devisions – so whatever else that is beyond these three time divisions, – all of that too, is omkara eva – is/are itself OM.
The word meaning of aum is: Otasmin jagat iti om ityuktam. Otaha – sewn. Meaning: because cosmos was sewn by this (Om), it is called Aum.
Or Avanad Om iti. Av – to protect. Meaning: Because it protects it is called Aum.
The first line of this mantra refers to three concepts – this, all, Aum. It then gives us a definition of Aum by connecting these concepts: It says that Om is all this. The Mantra goes on to explain the scope of the word ‘all’ and so makes it clear to us that the word ‘this’ includes even the experiencer or speaker; in this case, the Mantra itself or the writer of the Mantra. So the Mantra invites our attention to a point and from that point extends our attention to the infinite in which even the speaker is included.
Om sarvam hi etad brahmaa, Ayam aatmaa brahma, Saha ayam aatmaa chatush- paat
Sarvam – All this, verily, is Brahman. The atman – Self is Brahman. This verse explains that the self can be divided into chatushpat – four quarters. All this is the Limitless Atman. This Self is the limitless I within! All this is Brahman, This Atman is Brahman, This Atman has four parts.
Jaagarita sthaanah bahihi-prajnahah saptaanga, Eko-navimshati-mukhah sthoola bhuk vaisvaa-naraha, Prathamaha paadaha
This next verse explains the first quarter as Vaishvaanaraha – this describes the one who is awake. It suggests that the scope of the first padaha – quarter is the entire waking state. In our waking state, our consciousness is outward-turned towards the material world; bahihi prajnaha – meaning having awareness in external objects. It is our physical awareness of the universe around us. It is seven-limbed and nineteen-mouthed or seven organs and nineteen faces which sthula bhuk – consumes external things; meaning that we use these senses to enjoy gross objects. These 19 are Nineteen mouths mean five sense-organs (hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell), five organs of action (speech, handling, locomotion, generation and excretion), five aspects of our vital breath (prana, apana, vyana, udana and samana), mind, intellect, mind-stuff – storehouse of thoughts, and ego – sense of self (manas, buddhi, chitta, ahankara).
Svapna-sthanaha ataha-prajnaha saptangaha ekonavimshati-mukhaha, Pravivikta-bhuk taijasaha dweetiyaha paadaha
The second quarter is taijasaha. Its field is the dream state. It is that consciousness which is antahaprajnaha – is turned inwards. It is seven-limbed and nineteen-mouthed with which praviviktabhuk – consumes or enjoys the subtle things dwelling inside, meaning that we may dream and in a way experience and enjoy that dream. This is the dwitiyaha padaha – second quarter.
Yatra suptaha na kamchana kamam kamayate, Na kamchana svapnam pashyati tat sush-uptam, Sush upta-sthanaha ekee-bhootaha prajnaanaa-ghana eva ananda-mayaha, Hi-ananda-bhuk cheto-mukhaha praajnaha striteeyaha paadaha.
The third quarter is praajna, where one who is suptaha – asleep neither desires anything nor beholds kamchana swapnam – dream any dream kamchana kamam na kamayate – meaning that you do not desire any desire in this state of being! This is the state of sushuptam – or deep sleep. In this field of dreamless sleep, one becomes undivided or ekebhutaha – unified. In this state a person is an undifferentiated mass of consciousness; his prajna akhanaha eva – his awareness is frozen in bliss and feeding on bliss, he is Ananda mayaha – blissful or who is full of bliss even though he chetomukhaha – has the face of consciousness. In this state, this person dwells in this trteyaha padaha – third quarter. Essentially, in this state the person is restful and blissful, his senses at peace in and out! This state is the gateway to the waking and dream states. In the deep sleep state the sleeper neither sees nor desires subtle or gross objects.
Esha sarvesh-varah esha sarva-yajnaha, esha antaaryami, Esha yonihi sarvasya prabha vaapyayau hi bhootaanaam.
This is the Lord of All; He is sarvajnaha – the Omniscient; He is sarveswaraha – is the omnipotent the One who dwells within yet controls all; the Source of All. This is the beginning and end of all beings. He is the omnipotent, He is the omniscient, and He is antaryami – the unmoved mover and yonihi sarvasya – the womb of all bhutanam – all that has taken birth, prabha vapyayau hi – the beginning & end of all. Now the Upanishad describes Esha – God himself and I believe that this suggests that this is the state of mind which we try to achieve while awake to consciously communicate with God. In this blissful state, yet awake and not asleep. This is where meditation takes us!
This is the Lord of All; the Omniscient; the One who dwells within yet controls all; the Source of All. This is the beginning and end of all beings. He is the omnipotent, He is the omniscient, He is the unmoved mover, He is the womb of all, The beginning & end of all. He is The omnipotent:
Na antaha-prajnam, na bahihi prajnam, na bhayataha-prajnam, Na prajnanaa-khanam, na prajnam, na-prajnam; Adrishtam, avya-vaharyam, agrahyam, alakshanam, Achintyam, avyapa-deshyam, eka atma-pratyaya-saaram, Prapancho-pashamam, shaantam, shivam, advaitam, Chaturtham manyante, saha aatmaa, saha vijne-yaha.
That is known as the fourth quarter: neither inward-turned nor outward-turned consciousness, nor the two together; not an undifferentiated mass of consciousness; neither knowing, nor unknowing; invisible, ineffable, intangible, devoid of characteristics, inconceivable, indefinable, its sole essence being the consciousness of its own Self; the coming to rest of all relative existence; utterly quiet; peaceful; blissful: without a second: this is the Aatman, the Self; this is to be realized.
This sutra guides us unto the path of understanding the true self! Where is it! What is it! And how do we identify its very presence within!
It says that when there is Na anthaha prajnam – no awareness inside; na bahihi prajnam – no awareness outside; na ubhayataha prajnam – In this state one has no awareness inside or outside! It is not an awareness that is frozen; In this state a person is na prajnam – is not aware; na aprajnam – is not unaware! One is just not aware; We’re neither visible nor invisible; A person is agrahyam – is not graspable or tangible; He alakshanam – has no characteristic; Not thinkable; Not nameable; is known only by the intuitive awareness that Atman is unique; it is the control of the cosmos; He is santam – is tranquil, is shivam – pure; is advaitam – without two or an equal; is considered the chaturtham – fourth or presence of God within by the scholars and sages) He is Atman – the soul; He is the one that should be first realized or known. Only by realizing this true self can a person be aware of the presence of the divine within himself.
In a way, the true Self is known as “the forth” and is to be realized. It is neither conscious of the external or internal worlds, nor is it a mass of consciousness. It is not simple consciousness, nor is it unconscious. It cannot be seen by the senses, it is unrelated to anything, incomprehensible to the mind, un-inferable, unthinkable, and indescribable. Its very nature is pure consciousness, the negation of all phenomena, non-dual, blissful, and peaceful.
Saha ayam aatma adhyak-sharam aumkara adhimaatram paadaha maatraa, Maatraha cha paadaha akaara-ukaara makaara iti.
Saha ayam – that/this identical Aatman, or Self, in the realm of sound adhyaksharam – meaning is based on word is the matraha – is the syllable OM! This Upanishad tells us of the four quarters of the Self being identical with the components of this syllable Om! The very word OM should lead us; should motivate us to understand that the Atman is evidence of OM itself! These four components of the syllable are compared as being identical with the four quarters of the Self. They are akaraha – the letter ‘A’; ukaraha – the letter ‘U’; makaraha – the letter ‘M’; The sounds the Self is A, U, M!
This identical Aatman, or Self, in the realm of sound is the syllable OM! The four quarters described above of the Self being identical with the components of this syllable Om! These four components of the syllable are compared as being identical with the four quarters of the Self.
Jaagarita-sthanaha vaishvaa-naraha-kaaraha prathamaa, Maatraa teraa adimattvaad vaa apnoti havai, Sarvaan kaamaan aadihi cha bhavati ya evam veda.
Now this sutra breaks down the sound of Om and compares it to the individual parts of our consciousness! Vaishvaanara, whose field is the waking state, is the first sound; Jagaritasthanaha – having wakefulness as the base! The first part of the sound AUM ‘A’, encompasses all, all of the material-ness of the world, and because it is the first; it is prathama matra – is the first syllable. The vaiswanaraha – the cosmic man who is in the state of wakefulness; he who understands himself to be not only of here and now, and material, but as a universal being; he who veda – who knows this truth, encompasses, apnoti ha vai – fulfills and rises above sarvam – all kaman – desires or desirable objects; and bhavati cha and he becomes adihi – the leader. The one who meditates on the waking state as “A,” the first and most pervasive, fulfills all desires and becomes a leader.
Svapna-sthanaha taijasaha ukaaro dweeteeyaa, Maatra ukarshati ubhaya-tvaadwot-karshati ha vai, Jnaana-samtatim samaanash cha bhavati, Naasyaa-brahma-vit-kule bhavati ya evam veda.
Svapna sthanaha – having dream as the base Taijasa, whose field is the inner dream state, is the dviteya matra – second syllable U, because this is an excellence, and contains the qualities of the other two. Here the second state of dream is compared to the U in AUM. He who veda – knows this, exalts the flow of knowledge, becomes a jnanasanthatim – scholar and he finds balance in his life and is honored by all; He is blessed and in his kule – his family there abrahmavit na bhavati – will be no one born ignorant of Brahman, without the knowledge of the absolute.
The one who meditates on the dream state as “U” because it is between and superior, attains superior knowledge and is treated fairly by all. In his line of descendants everyone attains Self-knowledge.
Sush-uptasthanaha prajnaha makaaras triteeya maatraa, Miteha apeeteha vaa minoti ha vai idam, Sarvam apeetihi cha bhavati ya evam veda.
Sushupta-sthanaha – having deep sleep as the base the Prajnaha – the divinity in man whose field is the silent deep sleep state, is the triteya matra – third syllable of AUM or ‘M’! Because this is that into which all enters. The person who veda – knows this, minoti ha vai – surely measure and understands all and saha – he becomes idam sarvam – all this, he apetihi cha bhavati – becomes unified with Atman; he understands the nature of the true self.
The one who meditates on the sleep state as “M” as the measure and that wherein all things become one is able to realize the nature of things and beings and understand all things within himself.
Amaatraha chaturthaha avyavahaar-yaha prapancho-pashamaha shiva adwaitah, Evam aumkaara aatma eva, samvishati atmanaa atmaanam ya evam, Veda ya evam veda.
The fourth is amatraha – without syllable or is soundless: You cannot utter it for it is a quieting down of all relative manifestations! It is turiya – or pure consciousness. In this turiya there exists silence! It is the background that underlies and transcends the three common states of consciousness. It is blissful; it is peaceful, and singular and there is nothing in comparison. That which has no syllable that which cannot be translated and which is prapanjopa-samaha – the control of the cosmos! That which is Shivaha – pure! That which is advaitaha – without two! This is described as the chaturthaha padaha – the fourth quarter. So, here OM is described as the Aatman. And he who knows this, merges his self into the greater Self! He who veda – knows thus, Atmanam samvishati – enters Atman by Atman.
That which is part-less, soundless, incomprehensible, beyond the senses, blissful, non-dual and that wherein all phenomena are resolved is the “forth,” the Self. The one who knows It dissolves the self in It.
Om Shantih; Shantih; Shantih Om
Om Peace! Peace! Peace!