Hamsa Upanishad of Shukla-Yajurveda

by K. Narayanasvami Aiyar | 1914 | 1,337 words

This is the English translation of the Hamsa Upanishad (belonging to the Shukla-Yajurveda): a minor Sanskrit treatise selected amongst a collection 108 extant upanishads, dating to at least the 1st millennium BC. The Hamsa-upanishad presents itself as a dialogue between Gautama and Sanatkumara and expounds the knowledge of Hamsa-vidya. It further ...

Contents of the Haṃsa Upaniṣad

[note: This word "Haṃsa" is very mysterious and has manifold meanings according to different standpoints. It is composed of Ham (or Aham) and Sa (ha), which mean "I" (am) "that". In its highest sense, it is Kālahaṃsa (or Parabrahman). It is also Brahmā when he has Haṃsa (or swan) as the vehicle or Haṃsa-vāhana. When Haṃsa which is the manifestation of Prāṇa is applied to the human breath, we are said to exhale with Ha and to inhale with Sa. It is also called Ajapā-Gāyatrī.]

Gautama addressed Sanatkumāra thus: "O Lord, thou art the knower of all dharmas and art well versed in all Śāstras, pray tell me the means by which I may obtain a knowledge of Brahmavidyā. Sanatkumāra replied thus:

"Hear, O Gautama, that Tattva as expounded by Pārvatī after inquiring into all dharmas and ascertaining Śiva's opinion. This treatise on the nature of Haṃsa which gives the fruit of bliss and salvation and which is like a treasure to the yogin, is (a) very mystic (science) and should not be revealed (to the public).

"Now we shall explain the true nature of Haṃsa and Paramahaṃsa for the benefit of a brahmacārin (a seeker after Brahman or celibate), who has his desires under control, is devoted to his guru and always contemplates (as) Haṃsa, and realises thus: It (Haṃsa) is permeating all bodies like fire (or heat) in all kinds of wood or oil in all kinds of gingelly seeds. Having known (It) thus, one does not meet with death.

"Having contracted the anus (with the heels pressed against it), having raised the vāyu (breath) from (Mūla)[1] Ādhāra (chakra), having made circuit thrice round Svādhiṣṭhāna, having gone to Maṇipūraka, having crossed Anāhata, having controlled Prāṇa in Viśuddhi and then having reached Ājñā, one contemplates in Brahmarandhra (in the head), and having meditated there always 'I am of three mātrās,' cognises (his Self) and becomes formless. The Śisna[2] (penis) has two sides (left and right from head to foot). This is that Paramahaṃsa (Supreme Haṃsa or Higher Self) having the resplendence of crores of suns and by whom all this world is pervaded.

"It (this Haṃsa which has buddhi as vehicle)[3] has eightfold vṛtti. (When it is) in the eastern[4] petal, there is the inclination (in a person) to virtuous actions; in the south-eastern petal, there arise sleep, laziness, etc.; in the southern, there is the inclination to cruelty; in the south-western, there is the inclination to sins; in the western, there is the inclination to sensual sport; in the north-western, there arise the desire of walking, and others; in the northern, there arises the desire of lust; in the north-eastern, there arises the desire of amassing money; in the middle (or the interspaces between the petals), there is the indifference to material pleasures. In the filament (of the lotus), there arises the waking state; in the pericarp, there arises the svapna (dreaming state); in the bīja (seed of pericarp), there arises the suṣupti (dreamless sleeping state); when leaving the lotus, there is the turya (fourth state). When Haṃsa is absorbed in Nāda (spiritual sound), the state beyond the fourth is reached. Nāda (which is at the end of sound and beyond speech and mind) is like a pure crystal extending from (Mūla) Ādhāra to Brahmarandhra. It is that which is spoken of as Brahma and Paramātmā.

"(Here the performance of Ajapā Gāyatrī is given).

"Now Haṃsa is the ṛṣi; the metre is Avyaktā Gāyatrī; Paramahaṃsa is the devatā (or presiding deity) 'Ham' is the bīja; 'Sa' is the śaktī; So’ham is the kīlaka.[5] Thus there are six. There are 21, 600 Haṃsas (or breaths)[6] in a day and night. (Salutation[7] to) Surya, Soma, Nirañjana (the stainless) and Nirābhāsa (the universeless). Ajapā mantra. (May) the bodiless and subtle one guide[8] (or illuminate my understanding). Vauṣat to Agni-Soma. Then Aṅganyāsas and Karanyāsas occur (or should be performed after the mantras as they are performed before the mantras) in the heart and other (seats). Having done so, one should contemplate upon Haṃsa as the Ātmā in his heart. Agni and Soma are its wings (right and left sides); Omkāra is its head; Ukāra and bindu are the three eyes[9] and face respectively; Rudra and Rudrāṇī (or Rudra's wife) are the feet kanthata (or the realisation of the oneness of jīvātmā or Haṃsa, the lower self with Paramātmā or Paramahaṃsa, the Higher Self) is done in two ways, (samprajñāta[10] and asamprajñāta).

"After that, Unmanī[11] is the end of the Ajapā (mantra). Having thus reflected upon manas by means of this (Haṃsa), one hears Nāda after the uttering of this japa (mantra) a crore of times. It (Nāda) is (begun to be heard as) of ten kinds. The first is chini (like the sound of that word); the second is chini-chini; the third is the sound of bell; the fourth is that of conch; the fifth is that of tantri (lute); the sixth is that sound of tāla (cymbals); the seventh is that of flute; the eighth is that of bheri (drum); the ninth is that of mṛdaṅga (double drum); and the tenth is that of clouds (viz., thunder). He may experience the tenth without the first nine sounds (through the initiation of a guru). In the first stage, his body becomes chini-chini; in the second, there is the (bhañjana) breaking (or affecting) in the body; in the third, there is the (bhedana) piercing; in the fourth, the head shakes; in the fifth, the palate produces saliva; in the sixth, nectar is attained; in the seventh, the knowledge of the hidden (things in the world) arises; in the eighth, Parāvāk is heard; in the ninth, the body becomes invisible and the pure divine eye is developed; in the tenth, he attains Parabrahman in the presence of (or with) Ātmā which is Brahman. After that, when manas is destroyed, when it which is the source of saṅkalpa and vikalpa disappears, owing to the destruction of these two, and when virtues and sins are burnt away, then he shines as Sadāśiva of the nature of Śakti pervading everywhere, being effulgence in its very essence, the immaculate, the eternal, the stainless and the most quiescent Om. Thus is the teaching of the Vedas; and thus is the Upaniṣad."

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

The different chakras of those that are above the anus, in the genitals, navel, heart, and throat, between the eyebrows and in the head.

[2]:

This is omitted in the Calcutta edition and seemingly makes no sense here.

[3]:

This is how a commentator explains.

[4]:

This refers to the different petals in the heart. Vide the same in Nārada-Parivrājaka and Dhyānabindu Upaniṣads.

[5]:

Kīlaka means wedge. In the Ajapā manṭra 'Haṃsa-so’ham', So’ham is the wedge to which the whole mantra is fastened.

[6]:

One commentator gives the table for 21,600 thus: 60 breaths make one Prāṇa; 6 Prāṇas, one nādi; and 60 nādis, one day and night.

[7]:

The words are: Sūryāya, Somāya, Nirañjanāya, Nirabhāsāya. It is with the pronunciation of these words that the different places in the body are touched, viz., Aṅganyāsas and Karanyāsas are performed. The first word is pointed to the heart with the thumb; the second, to the head, and the third, to the hair of the head. With the last, a kavacha (armour) is made by circling the fingers round the head and then circling one hand over another. This process is carried on again after the pronunciation of Ajapā mantra which follows. Here Soma (moon) is that which is united with Thai or the emblem of the union of the lower and higher Selves. Sūrya or Sun is the causer of the state of one-ness.

[8]:

As it stands, it means "the bodiless, the subtle and the guide." The original is Atanu Sukṣmam Pracodayāt.

[9]:

The three eyes are the two eyes commonly now in use with the Divine eye.

[10]:

Contemplation with an object as seed and the seedless one.

[11]:

A state above manas or when manas is transcended.

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