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Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad, verse 7

Introductory Remarks by Śaṅkara

The fourth1 quarter which now comes in order (for explanation) has to be described. This is done in the words of the text: “Not conscious of the internal object.” It (Turīya) does not admit of description or indication by means of words, for all uses (affirmative or negative) of language fail to express it. Therefore Turīya is sought2 to be indicated by the negation of all attributes (characteristics).

(Objection)—Then it becomes mere void or Śūnya.

(Reply)—No,3 because it is impossible for imagination to exist without4 a substratum. The illusion of silver, a snake, a man or mirage, etc., cannot be conceived as existing without the (corresponding) substratum of the mother-of-pearl, rope, stump or desert, etc.

(Objection)—If that be the case, Turīya ought to be indicatable by words and not by the negation of all attributes. For, it is the substratum of all imaginations such as, Prāṇa, etc., in the same way as jars, etc., which being the substratum of water, etc., are indicated as such by words.

(Reply)—The idea of Prāṇa, etc., (supposed to exist in Turīya) is unreal like the false idea of silver, etc., in the mother-of-pearl, etc. A relation6 between the real and the unreal cannot be expressed by words because such relation is, itself, non-existent. Turīya cannot be the object of any other instrument of knowledge (such as direct perception) like the cow, etc., because of its unique nature, owing to the absence of Upādhis. Ātman cannot have anything like a generic property, like the cow, etc., because it is devoid of all Upādhis or attributes; it has neither generic nor specific characteristics because it is one, without a second. It cannot be known by any activity (proceeding from it) as in the case of a cook; because it is devoid of all actions. It cannot be described by attributes such as blue, etc., because it is without any attribute. Therefore it follows that Turīya cannot be indicated by any name.

(Objection)—Then it (Turīya) would be like the “horns of a hare” and hence one’s pursuit of it must be futile.6

(Reply)—No, the knowledge of Turīya as identical with Self (Ātman) destroys the hankering after objects7 which are non-self just as the knowledge of mother-of-pearls (mistaken for silver) removes the desire for (illusory) silver. For, once the identity of Turīya and Self is realised there is no possibility of one’s being deluded8 by ignorance, desire and the like misapprehensions (which are the effects of ignorance) and there is no reason for Turīya not being known as identical with the Self. For all the Upaniṣads point to this end only as is evident from the following: “That thou art”, “This Ātman is Brahman”, “That is real and that is Ātman”, “The Brahman which is directly and immediately cognized”, “He is both without and within, as well as causeless”, “All this is verily Ātman”, etc. This very Ātman has been described as constituting the Highest Reality and its opposite9 (the unreal) and as having four quarters. Its unreal (illusory) aspect has been described as due to ignorance, like the illusion of snake in the rope, having for its characteristics the three quarters and being of the same nature as the seed10 and the sprout. Now is described (in the following Śruti) Turīya which is not of the nature of cause but which is of the nature of the Highest Reality corresponding to the rope—by negating11 the three states, enumerated above, which correspond to the snake,12 etc.


Ānandagiri’s Ṭīkā (glossary):

1 Fourth quarter—The “fourth” is not the fourth state or condition in which Ātman is to be viewed. Turīya which is indicated here as the “fourth” comes in only for consideration after the three states have been considered. Ātman itself does not admit of any condition or state. Waking, dream and deep sleep are its three states or quarters and Turīya, as will be seen later on, is present in all these three. Turīya is designated here as the fourth because in the preceding texts, three quarters of Ātman have been explained. It has occupied the “fourth” place in respect of explanations.

2 Sought to be, etc.—It is because it cannot be directly pointed out like other objects of perception.

3 No, etc.—The contention of the opponent is this: You say that Turīya is not void (śūnya) as the illusion (vikalpa) of Prāṇa, etc., cannot subsist without a substratum which is Turīya. In that case Turīya is not non-indicatable as it can be indicated as the substratum of Prāṇa, etc. Therefore it must be such as can be indicated. But you say that it is arrived at by mere negation and therefore non-indicatable by words. If Turīya is indicatable as a substratum, then it becomes indicatable by that which is superimposed upon it as is the case with a pot which is indicatable by the water in it. In that case you contradict yourself as you have already said that Brahma is unindicatable by any word.

To this our reply is:—We would like to ask you if (i) your idea of indicatability of Brahman as the substratum is that of illusory superimposition, or (ii) is that of real superimposition.

It cannot be thereby illusory superimposition because the superimposition, in that case, would not appear as existing as it does. From the standpoint of the empirical reality of the appearance which is experienced by the ignorant persons, we say that Turīya is indicatable by the illusory ideas that are superimposed upon it. And if you admit the ideas (vikalpa) of Prāṇa, etc., as unreal, then there is no disagreement between us.

Again this indicatability of Turīya as a substratum cannot be (due to) real superimposition or the superimposition of reality. For, as the idea of silver that is superimposed upon the mother-of-pearl is unreal, so also the idea of Prāṇa, etc., that is superimposed upon Turīya is equally unreal. There cannot be any relationship between a real substratum and the unreal form superimposed on it.

Therefore the conclusion is that if one takes his stand upon the causal or relative plane, then Turīya may be indicated as a substratum of the illusory ideas of Prāṇa, etc. But from the standpoint of Truth, Turīya cannot be indicated by any word which implies relationship. And Śruti also denies all relationship in Brahman.

4 Without, etc.—No illusion can be dissociated from the idea of existence. The first impression that one gets of an illusion is that it exists and later on its existence is traced to a positive substratum.

5 Relation—Indicatability by words is possible in the following instances only: (i) Possessive case, (ii) conventional meaning of a word, (iii) generic or specific property, (iv) activity, (v) attribute and substance. But none of these applies to Turīya because it is one without a second and also it is without any attribute. Hence Turīya cannot be indicated by any word.

6 Futile—It is because no benefit can accrue from the knowledge of something which is as unreal as the “mare’s nest

7 Objects—Such as the illusory worldly objects to which the ignorant are attached.

8 Deluded— Delusion is the cause of all human misery.

9 Its oppositei.e., the illusory objects. As a matter of fact, only Brahman exists and He is the One and All. Nothing called unreal ever exists. What appears to the ignorant as unreal or illusory is also Brahman from the highest Advaitic standpoint. Therefore Brahman comprises everything.

10 Seed and sprout—The three states are characterised by the relation of cause and effect as the seed and the sprout are.

11 Negating, etc.—The student, at first, by the process of negation separates Brahman from the superimposition and then realises that what has been negated as superimposition is, in fact, the very nature of Brahman. This is the highest Advaitic realisation.

12 Snake, etc.—The rope is often mistaken for a snake or a garland or a stick or a streak of water or a fissure in the ground.



Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad, seventh verse:

नान्तःप्रज्ञं न बहिःप्रज्ञं नोभयतःप्रज्ञं न प्रज्ञानघनं न प्रज्ञं नाप्रज्ञम् | अदृश्यमव्यवहार्यमग्राह्यमलक्षणमचिन्त्यमव्यपदेश्यमेकात्मप्रत्ययसारं प्रपञ्चोपशमं शान्तं शिवमद्वैतं चतुर्थं मन्यन्ते स आत्मा स विज्ञेयः || 7 ||

nāntaḥprajñaṃ na bahiḥprajñaṃ nobhayataḥprajñaṃ na prajñānaghanaṃ na prajñaṃ nāprajñam | adṛśyamavyavahāryamagrāhyamalakṣaṇamacintyamavyapadeśyamekātmapratyayasāraṃ prapañcopaśamaṃ śāntaṃ śivamadvaitaṃ caturthaṃ manyante sa ātmā sa vijñeyaḥ || 7 ||

7. Turīya is not that which is conscious of the internal (subjective) world, nor that which is conscious of the external (objective) world, nor that which is conscious of both, nor that which is a mass all sentiency, nor that which is simple consciousness, nor that which is insentient. (It is) unseen (by any sense organ), not related to anything, incomprehensible (by the mind), uninferable, unthinkable, indescribable, essentially of the nature of Consciousness constituting the Self alone, negation of all phenomena, the Peaceful, all Bliss and the Non-dual. This is what is known as the fourth (Turīya). This is the Ātman and it has to be realised.

      (‘Consciousness’ as the nearest English word is used.)


Śaṅkara’s Commentary

(Objection)—The object was to describe Ātman as having four quarters. By the very descriptions of the three quarters, the fourth is established as being other than the three characterised by the “conscious of the subjective”, etc. Therefore the negation (of attributes relating to the three quarters) for the purpose of indicating Turīya implied in the statement, “Turīya is that which is not conscious of the subjective”, etc., is futile.

(Reply)—No. As the nature of the rope is1 realised by the negation of the (illusory) appearances of the snake, etc., so also it is intended to establish the very Self, which subsists in the three states, as Turīya. This2 is done in the same way as (the great Vedic statement) “Thou art that”. If Turīya were, in fact, anything different3 from Ātman subsisting in the three states, then, the teachings of the Scriptures would have no meaning on4 account of the absence of any instrument of knowledge (regarding Turīya). Or the other (inevitable alternative would be to declare absolute nihilism ( śūnya) to be the ultimate Truth. Like the (same) rope mistaken as snake, garland, etc., when the same Ātman is mistaken as Antaḥprajña (conscious of the subjective) etc., in the three states associated with different characteristics, the knowledge, resulting from the negation of such attributes as the conscious of the subjective, etc., is the means of establishing the absolute absence of the unreal phenomena of the world (imagined) in Ātman. As a matter of fact, the two5 results, namely, the negation of (superimposed) attributes and the disappearance of the unreal phenomena happen at the same time. Therefore no additional6 instrument of knowledge or no other7 effort is to be made or sought after for the realisation of Turīya. With the cessation of the idea of the snake, etc., in the rope, the real nature of the rope becomes revealed and this happens simultaneously with the knowledge of the distinction between the rope and the snake. But those who say that the knowledge, in addition to the removal of the darkness (that envelopes the jar), enables8 one to know the jar, may as well affirm9 that the act of cutting (a tree), in addition to its undoing the relation of the members of the body intended to be cut, also functions (in other ways) in other parts of the body. As the act of cutting intended to divide the tree into two is said to be complete with the severance of the parts (of the tree) so also the knowledge employed to perceive the jar covered by the darkness (that envelopes it) attains its purpose when it results in removing the darkness, though that is not the object intended to be produced. In such case the knowledge of the jar, which is invariably10 connected with the removal of the darkness, is not the result accomplished by the instrument of knowledge. Likewise, the knowledge, which is (here) the same as that which results from the negation of predicates, directed towards the discrimination of such attributes as “the conscious of the subjective” etc., superimposed upon Ātman, cannot11 function with regard to Turīya in addition to its act of negating of such attributes as “the conscious of the subjective” which is not the object intended to be produced. For, with the negation of the attributes such as “conscious of the subjective,” etc., is12 accomplished simultaneously the cessation of the distinction between the knower, the known and the knowledge. Thus it will be said later on, “Duality cannot exist when Gnosis, the highest Truth (non-duality), is realised.” The knowledge of duality cannot exist even for a moment immediately after the moment of the cessation of duality. If it should remain, there would13; follow what is known as regressus ad infinitum; and consequently duality will never cease. Therefore it is established that the cessation of such unreal attributes as “conscious of the subjective” etc., superimposed upon Ātman is14 simultaneous with the manifestation of the Knowledge which, in itself, is the means (pramāṇa) for the negation of duality.

By the statement that it (Turīya) is “not conscious of the subjective” is indicated that it is not “Taijasa”. Similarly by the statement that it is “not conscious of the objective,” it is denied that it (Turīya) is Viśva. By saying that it is “not conscious of either”, it is denied that Turīya is any intermediate state between15 the waking and the dream states. By the statement that Turīya is “not a mass all sentiency”, it is denied that it is the condition of deep sleep—which is held to be a causal16 condition on account of one’s inability to distinguish the truth from error (in deep sleep). By saying that it is “not simple consciousness”, it is implied that Turīya cannot17 simultaneously cognize the entire world of consciousness (by a single act of consciousness). And lastly by the statement that it is “not unconsciousness” it is implied that Turīya is not insentient or of the nature of matter.

(Objection)—How,18 again, do such attributes as “conscious of the subjective,” etc., which are (directly) perceived to subsist in Ātman become non-existent only by an act of negation as the snake, etc. (perceived) in the rope, etc., become non-existent (by means of an act of negation)?

(Reply)—Though19 the states (waking and dream) are really of the essence of consciousness itself, and as such are non-different from each other (from the point of view of the substratum), yet one state is seen to change20 into another as do the appearances of the snake, water-line, etc., having for their substratum the rope, etc. But the consciousness itself is real because it never changes.

(Objection)—Consciousness is seen to change (disappear) in deep sleep.

(Reply)—No, the state of deep sleep is a matter of experience.21 For the Śruti says, “Knowledge of the Knower is never absent.”

Hence it (Turīya) is “unseen”22; and because it is unseen therefore it is “incomprehensible”.23 Turīya cannot be apprehended by the organs of action. Alakṣanam means “uninferable”,24 because there is no Liṅga (common characteristic) for its inference. Therefore Turīya is “unthinkable”25 and hence “indescribable”26 (by words). It is “essentially27 of the nature of consciousness consisting of Self”. Turīya should be known by spotting that consciousness that never changes in the three states, viz., waking, etc., and whose nature is that of a Unitary Self. Or,28 the phrase may signify that the knowledge of the one Ātman alone is the means for realising Turīya, and therefore Turīya is the essence of this consciousness or Self or Ātman. The Śruti also says, “It should be meditated upon as Ātman.” Several attributes, such as the “conscious of the subjective” etc., associated with the manifestation (such as, Viśva, etc.) in each of the states have already been negated. Now by describing Turīya as “the cessation of illusion”, the attributes which characterise the-three states, viz., waking, etc., are negated. Hence it is “ever29 Peaceful”, i.e., without any manifestation of change—and “all30 bliss”. As it is non-dual, i.e., devoid of illusory ideas of distinction, therefore it is called “Turīya”, the “Fourth”,31 because it is totally distinct (in character) from the three quarters which' are mere appearances. “This, indeed, is the Ātman and it should be known,” is intended to show that the meaning of the Vedic statement, “That thou art”, points to the relationless Ātman (Turīya) which is like the rope (in the illustration) different from the snake, line on the ground, stick, etc,, which are mere appearances. That Ātman which has been described in such Śruti passages as “unseen, but the seer”, “the consciousness of the seer is never absent”, etc., should be known. (The incomprehensible) Turīya “should be known”, and this32 is said so only from the standpoint of the previously unknown condition, for duality cannot exist when the Highest Truth is known.


Ānandagiri’s Ṭīkā (glossary):

1 Is realised—The rope did not cease to be the rope when it appeared as the snake. The rope, again, is seen in its true nature when the snake idea is removed. Similarly, Ātman appears as Viśva, Taijasa and Prājña in the three states. And the same Ātman is realised as Turīya when the upādhis, namely the states, are negated. Turīya is not a separate entity nor is it a fourth state succeeding the three other states. The real nature of Turīya cannot be realised without the negation of the upādhis of the three states.

2 This is, etc.—The real significance of “That thou art”, is Turīya and it is realised when the contrary qualities, known as the upādhis, indicated by the words “That” and “thou” are eliminated. Similarly, the Scripture by the negative process, removes the upādhis of the Ātman when associated with the three states and this reveals its eternal identity with Turīya.

3 Different—From the relative or causal standpoint, the Ātman associated with any of the three states, is, no doubt, different from Turīya. But from the standpoint of Turīya there is no difference whatsoever between it and the Ātman associated with the three states. As a matter of fact, it is Turīya as the witness (sākṣi) that is revealed out by the three states.

4 On account of— Ignorant person, for whom Scripture is prescribed for the attainment of Knowledge, moves in the relative plane of the three states. To him the Scripture suggests the examination of the three states in order to arrive at the Knowledge of Turīya. If Turīya were something totally separate from and essentially unconnected with the three states and if the three states were not the means of realising Turīya, then no other instrument of Knowledge would be left for the realisation of Turīya. It cannot be contended that one can get the Knowledge of Turīya from the Scripture. Because the Scripture also teaches about Turīya by the method of repudiation (apavāda) of the superimposed attributes (adhyāropa) by negating the upādhis which were superimposed upon Turīya. If Turīya were something totally different from the three states, then no scriptural teaching would be effective in establishing it. If Turīya cannot be established through the examination of the Ātman qualified by the three states, by following the scriptural method of negation, then one is faced with the only alternative that the Ultimate Reality is total non-existence (śūnya) because no other reality remains after the negation of the upādhis of the three states if the existence of Turīya be denied.

5 Two results—The instrument of Knowledge (pramāṇa) by means of which we become aware of the result of the negation of the upādhis, namely, the three states, reveals the relationless Turīya. It is like the seeing of the real rope (which is never absent) with the cessation of the illusory idea of the snake. It must be carefully noted that the realisation of Turīya is not the result of the Pramāṇa by means of which we become aware of the negation of the attributes of Ātman, viz., the three states. The two results are simultaneous—and not successive in time as the language seems to imply. It is because no new entity known as Turīya is discovered (or comes into existence) after the negation of upādhis. Turīya is always present. Therefore there īs no possibility of taking Turīya as the result of the negation of the upādhis, viz., the three states. Turīya b eing characterised by non-duality there is no subject-object relationship m Turīya in which case alone an instrument of Knowledge would have a meaning.

6 Additional instrument, etc.—No instrument of Knowledge can establish Turīya on account of its non-relation and non-dual nature. Even the function of the Śruti which indicates Turīya is only to negate what is unreal, relative and non-Brahman.

7 Other effort—Even contemplation, etc., which are the essential features of Yoga cannot establish Turīya, because it cannot be proved that Yogic contemplation can yield such Knowledge. Therefore the realisation of Turīya cannot be characterised as the result of any particular instrument of Knowledge or of any Yogic practice.

8 Enables, etc.—This means that the instrument of Knowledge, besides removing the darkness enveloping the Jar, also yields another positive result that is the manifestation of the Jar.

9 Affirm—This means that the act of cutting besides severing the parts to which it is directed also functions in other ways. But this is absurd because we have no knowledge of any other effect op the tree produced by the act of cutting.

10 Invariably, etc.—It is because the Jar always exists even when it is enveloped in darkness.

11 Cannot function.— It is because Turīya is Knowledge itself. Hence no instrument of Knowledge can act upon it. Turīya does not stand in need of any demonstration or proof because it is ever-existent. The instrument of Knowledge only removed the super-impositions falsely attributed to Ātman. The instrument of Knowledge (perception) continues to act upon an object till the object is revealed (as Brahman).

12 Is accomplished— The instrument of Knowledge, invariably connected with its employer and an object, can act only in the plane of duality. With the negation of duality, the instrument of Knowledge itself becomes ineffective, for it cannot function the next moment. The idea of time is also annihilated with the destruction of duality. When the non-dual Turīya is realised, all ideas of the instrument of Knowledge, the employer and the object with their distinction are destroyed. Only Brahman is.

13 Would follow, etc—It is because a second instrument of Knowledge would be required to negate the residual Knowledge or instrument and a third would be necessary to negate the second and so on ad infinitum. An argument ending in a regressus is not allowed in logical discussion.

14 Is simultaneous—Here Pramāṇa is the Jñānam that results from the negation of attributes. And through this instrument of Knowledge alone we know that all relative ideas have been negated.. Simultaneously with this assurance, Turīya is realised.

15 intermediate, etc.—It is the state when one experiences something like a “day dream” that is, he half sees the one and half sees the other.

16 Causal condition—By seeing the manifestation in the waking state one naturally infers that the preceding state, that is Suṣupti, is the cause of both the waking and dream experiences. In Suṣupti, specific states of consciousness, which manifest themselves as different objects in dream and waking states, remain in a state of indistinguiṣability. In deep sleep, no distinctions are perceived.

17 Cannot, etc.—By this are denied such attributes as omniscience, etc., associated with Īśvara.

18 How, etc.—The contention of the objector is this: That the idea of the snake, etc., in the rope is an illusion is a matter of' common experience. When the error is pointed out, the idea of the snake disappears. Therefore the idea of such a snake can be said to be non-existent. But this is not the case with the attributes of Ātman which are sought to be negated. Such attributes are directly perceived by everyone and do not vanish even though they are negated. Therefore the phenomena of the three states cannot be said to be non-existent on the analogy of the rope and the snake.

19 Though, etc.—The reply is that the attributes, viz., the three-states, can be demonstrated to be non-existent (unreal) by the act of negation. The illustration of the snake and the rope is quite-apposite. The ideas of the snake, the water-line, etc., for which the rope is mistaken are first pointed out to be illusion because, they are subject to change. Therefore, such objects as are indicated by the ideas are non-existent. Similarly it is a matter or common experience that the states of Jāgrat, Svapna and Suṣupti are subject to change. Therefore they are negatable. In any one state the two other states are negated. Besides, in the state of waking one can realise the three states as following one another. Therefore the three states partake of the nature of unreality as distinguished from Reality which is never subject to any change. Now, what is Reality? From the examination of the three states it becomes clear that though the states are changing and negatable the consciousness which is present therein is constant and invariable. Change of one state to another cannot affect the unchanging nature of Consciousness itself. Therefore pure Consciousness is real. Hence it follows that by constantly examining the changeable and negatable character of the attributes, viz., the three states, one can realise their non-existent or unreal nature. The fallacy of the contention of the objector is due to the partial examination of Reality in only one state in which case the changeable nature of the attributes cannot be realized. But the examination of the three states at once demonstrates their changeable and negatable nature and points out that consciousness itself which is the sub* stratum of the changing attributes is the only Reality.

20 Change—That is, no one is aware of consciousness in deep sleep.

21 Experience—Consciousness cannot be dissociated from the state of deep sleep. Suṣupti is experienced from the Jāgrat state, that is to say, Turīya in Jāgrat state knows that it experienced deep sleep. Otherwise Suṣupti would have never been known to exist at all.

22 Unseen—It cannot be recognised by any organ of perception. It is because Turīya is the negation of all the attributes. It cannot be made the object of any sense-organ.

23 incomprehensible—It cannot come within the cognizance of the senses: therefore Turīya cannot serve any purpose (arthakiyā??).

24 Uninferable—“Existence, Knowledge and Infinity,” by which Brahman is described in the Taittirīya Upaniṣad are not to be considered to be real and positive attributes for the purpose of drawing an inference about Brahman. They only serve a negative purpose indicating that Brahman is other than non-truth, nonconsciousness and non-infinity. Besides, inference requires a common feature which always presupposes more objects than one. But Brahman is one and without a second. Therefore no inference is possible regarding Brahmān.

26 Unthinkable—It is because the predicates by which we can think about an entity have been totally eliminated from Turīya.

28 Indescribable—Turīya cannot be described by words because it is unthinkable. That which one thinks in mind, is expressed by words.

27 Essentially, etc.—The elimination of all the attributes may make Turīya appear as a void to the unwary student. Therefore it is described as a positive existence which can be realised by spotting it as the changeless and the constant factor in the three states. The states, no doubt, do change but there is a unity of the subject implied in the conscious experience of “I am that perceiver” common to all the three states.

28 Or—The alternative meaning is that through consciousness-of Self alone, which forms the basis of the three states, we can demonstrate Turīya which transcends all the states, or in other words, because there is Pure Consciousness, changeless and constant, known as Turīya, therefore we are aware of self-consciousness in the three states.

29 Ever-peaceful—Free from attachment of love and hate, i.e., changeless and immutable.

30 All Bliss—Pure and embodiment of the highest Bliss.

31 Fourth—This does not signify any numerical relationship-with the three other states narrated previously. Turīya is called the “fourth” because it occupies the “fourth” place in order of explanation of Brahman of which the three states have previously been dealt with.

32 This is, etc—The statement that “It should be known cannot be properly made with regard to the non-dual Ātman which is incomprehensible, etc. This objection is, no doubt, valid from, the standpoint of Turīya where there cannot be a separate knower of Ātman. But Turīya is certainly unknown from the standpoint of any of the three states, and from that dual standpoint it is perfectly legitimate to speak of Brahman as something “to be known

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