Mundaka Upanishad (Madhva commentary)

by Srisa Chandra Vasu | 1909 | 25,279 words | ISBN-13: 9789332869165

The English translation of the Mundaka Upanishad (Mundakopanishad) including the commentary of Madhva called the Bhasya. It is associated with the Atharva Veda and contains three parts having two section each. The text discusses the science of knowledge, the knowledge of Brahman, the self and the soul. The Mundaka Upanishad is also known as: Muṇḍa...

Introduction to the Mundaka Upanishad

The Upaniṣads when first presented to the scholars of the West, through the Latin translations of M. Anquetil Duperron evoked an amount of enthusiasm perhaps second to none. But the aspect of the Upaniṣads that the West learnt, was the Philosophical side of them—the side whose ablest exponent in India was the great Śaṅkarācārya. The religious and devotional aspects of these Revelations were never brought into prominence before the Western scholars, and many forget that they have any such side. The great Vaiṣṇava teachers like Rāmānuja and Ānanda Tīrtha (Madhva) were exponents of the religious and devotional sides of these heirlooms of humanity. The masses of India are saturated with these Upaniṣad teachings in that aspect only.

There are scarcely however any translations of these Upaniṣads in English in this light. Therefore we need not make any apology in presenting to the readers of the Sacred Books of the Hindus with a translation of these books from the religious and devotional points of view, according to the school of Madhva Ācārya. Our attempt covers a different field altogether—a field not much known to the public either in the East or the West.

Madhva was the great teacher of the dualistic Vedānta. He was born according to Mr. Krishna Swami Tver, in 1199 A.D., but according to Mr. Krishna Sastry, 1238 A.D.[1] His death is shrouded in mystery. He is said to have been touring in his last years (that is towards the close of the 13th or beginning of the 14th century) in the Sub-Himalayan regions from which he never returned. During the Middle Ages, Sanskrit learning took shelter in the Southern India—all the great Reformers and Founders of the different schools of thought, generally hailed from the South. Śaṅkara, Rāmānuja, Madhva, Sāyana [Sāyaṇa?], etc., were all Southern Brahmins. Madhvācārya appears to have received a liberal education. Tn those days a knowledge of Persian was considered to be a sine qua non of an enlightened scholar. It is surmised that Madhva knew Persian and held discussions in that language. The horizon of view of Madhva was consequently wider than that of purely Sanskrit Scholars.

The Upaniṣads were employed by Śaṅkara as a weapon to fight the Buddhists. He, therefore, naturally ignored or kept in the background the doctrines of faith and devotion and prominently laid stress on those texts which afforded an answer to the rationalistic atheism or agnosticism of the heterodox sects passing under the name of Buddhism, Jainism, etc.. When Brahmanism was again established in India—the time came to revive these peculiar doctrines—essential features of every devotional religion. Madhva had not therefore far to go for them. The doctrine of Monotheism is in the Vedas, but later innovations had thrown it into the background.

All religions, if they are religions and not merely man-made medley of morality, ethics, philosophy and rhapsody—are from God; as all poetry is from the Higher Self, if it is not a mere versification. All religions therefore, must have all the elements of truth, more or less well defined. Some religions, in the course of their development lay more stress on one aspect or element of Truth, and put the others in the background, while other religions bring forward some other element. Thus arise all their differences. But as all living creatures—vegetables or animals—have one protoplasm for their bodies so with all religions. They have one basic body of Truth called the Veda in India

The words Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad” literally mean “the Secret Doctrine (Upaniṣad) for the Shaved ones (Muṇḍaka).” Was the total shaving of the head, the mark of a monk among the Atharvanas and is this which is referred to in the last verse of this Upaniṣad by the phrase Śiro-vrata “vow of the head”?

It gives me great pleasure to acknowledge here the help I have received from the translations of Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Prof. Max Muller, and Dr. Roer.

The notes are generally from the Sanskrit Ṭikā [Ṭīkā?] of Kṛṣṇācārya Sūri, son of Tirmalacarya [Tirmalācārya?] Sūri, who has written a lucid commentary on the Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad, published by the enterprising proprietors of the Madhva Vilasa Press of Kumbakonam


Prayag, July, 1909.

Footnotes and references:


Sri Madhva and Madhvaism by C. N. Krishna Swami Aiyer, M. A, D. 15.

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