Mundaka Upanishad with Shankara’s Commentary

by S. Sitarama Sastri | 1905 | 19,662 words

The Mundaka Upanishad is a collection of philosophical poems used to teach meditation and spiritual knowledge regarding the true nature of Brahma and the Self (Atman). It is composed of the three main parts (mundakas): 1) The first of three parts expounds the science of higher and lower knowledge. 2) The second part describes the true nature of t...

Verse 1.2.12

परीक्ष्य लोकान्कर्मचितान्ब्राह्मणो निर्वेदमायान्नास्त्यकृतः कृतेन ।
तद्विज्ञानार्थं स गुरुमेवाभिगच्छेत्समित्पाणिः श्रोत्रियं ब्रह्मनिष्ठम् ॥ १२ ॥

parīkṣya lokānkarmacitānbrāhmaṇo nirvedamāyānnāstyakṛtaḥ kṛtena |
tadvijñānārthaṃ sa gurumevābhigacchetsamitpāṇiḥ śrotriyaṃ brahmaniṣṭham || 12 ||

12. Let a Brahmin having examined the worlds produced by karma be free from desires, thinking, ‘there is nothing eternal produced by karma?; and in order to acquire the knowledge of the eternal, let him Samid (sacrificial fuel) in hand, approach a perceptor (preceptor?) alone, who is versed in the Vedas and centered in the Brahman.


Shankara’s Commentary:

Com.—Now, this is said for the purpose of showing that only the person thoroughly disgusted with all samsara which is in the nature of ends and means, is entitled to acquire the para vidya. ‘Parikshya,’ well knowing that the subject of apara vidya consisting of the Rig, and other Vedas, performable by a person tainted with the defects of natural ignorance, desires and karma has been intended for a person possessed of such defects and after examining those worlds which are the fruits of such karma performed, attainable by the northern and southern routes and these others such as Hell, the world of beasts and the world of departed spirits, which are the result of the vices of not performing the prescribed karma and performing the forbidden karma; after having examined these worlds with the aid of experience, inference, analogies and agamas, i.e.. determined the true nature of all these worlds attainable by one, within the pale of samsara, beginning from the avyakta down to the immovable, manifested and unmanifested in their nature, productive of each other like the seed and its sprout, agitated by a hundred thousand troubles, fragile like the womb of the plantain, similar in kind to illusion, the waters of the mirage, the shape of cities formed by the clouds in the sky, dreams, water-bubbles and foam and destroyed every moment and discarding all these as being produced by good and bad deeds and acquired by karma induced by the faults of ignorance and desire.

The word ‘Brahmana’ is here used because the Brahmin is specially competent to acquire the knowledge of Brahman through wholesale renunciation. What he should do after examining these worlds is explained. ‘Nirvedam,’ the root vid with the prefix nih is here used in the sense of freedom from desires. The meaning is that he will get disgusted. The mode of disgust is thus shown: ‘Here,’ in samsara there is nothing which is not made; for, all worlds produced by karma are transitory. The meaning is: there is nothing eternal; for all karma is help to what is merely transitory. All that is produced by karma is one of four kinds, that which is produced, that which is reached, that which is refined and that which is modified; beyond this nothing can be done by karma. Hut I am a seeker after that consummation which is eternal, immortal, fearless, changeless, immovable and constant; but not after one of a contrary nature; of what use therefore is karma which is full of trouble and which leads to misery? Thus disgusted, the Brahmin should, for knowing that abode which is fearless, full of bliss, not made, and eternal, only approach a preceptor, possessing attributes such as control of mind, control of the external senses and mercy, etc., (the force of the word ‘alone’ is to show that even one versed in the recital of the sastras should not independently by himself seek the knowledge of the Brahman) with a load of Samid in his hand.

Srotriyam,’ versed in the recital of the Vedas and the knowledge of its import. ‘Brahmanishtham’; like japanishtha and taponishtha, this word means ‘one who is centred in the Brahman devoid of attributes and without a second, after renouncing all karma; for, one performing karma cannot be centred in the Brahman on account of the antagonism between karma and the knowledge of the Atman. Having duly approached the guru, let the Brahmin propitiate him and question him about the true and immortal Pursha.

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