Prashna Upanishad (Madhva commentary)

by Srisa Chandra Vasu | 1909 | 11,393 words | ISBN-13: 9789332869165

The English translation of the Prashna upanishad (Prashnopanishad) including the commentary of Madhva called the Bhasya. It is one of three classical Upanishads associated with the Atharva Veda and contains six prashnas or ‘questions’ directed to Sage Pippalada. The text discusses topics such as creation, cosmogony and the unity of the microcosm an...

Introduction to the Prashna Upanishad

The Praśna is one of the three classical Atharvan Upaniṣads. The classical Upaniṣads are generally counted as ten and sometimes twelve.

They are:—

  1. Īśa or Īśāvāsya or Vājasaneya Saṃhitā Upaniṣad.
  2. Kena or Talavakāra Upaniṣad.
  3. Kaṭha Upaniṣad.
  4. Praśna Upaniṣad.
  5. Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad.
  6. Māṇḍuka Upaniṣad.
  7. Taittirīya Upaniṣad.
  8. Aittareya Upaniṣad.
  9. Chāndogya Upaniṣad.
  10. Bṛhad Āraṇyaka or Vājasaneya Brāhmaṇa Upaniṣad.
  11. Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad.
  12. Kauśitaki Upaniṣad.

The Praśna, Muṇḍaka and Māṇḍukya Upaniṣads belong to the Atharva Veda. One uniform idea runs through them and they have a family resemblance. All of them lay great stress on the mystic sound AUM or Prāṇava. In fact, the whole of the Māṇḍuka Upaniṣad is an exposition of that syllable: while each of the other two have portions devoted to this.

The Praśna Upaniṣad is also called the Secret Doctrine of the Six Questions. Six searchers of God go to a Sage called Pippalāda and put to him six questions: and these questions and answers form the substance of this Upaniṣad. These questions are arranged in a graduated scale of difficulty, while the first question is the most general, the sixth is the most specific and particular—the first deals with the creation in the Universal sense, or the cosmogony, and the macrocosm, the last deals with the God in man or the microcosm. The great Jaw of Polarity, the law of the Positive and the Negative, the Light and Darkness, the Spirit and Matter, the Life and Energy, the Ahuramazda and the Ahriman is the key note of this Upaniṣad. The first creation of the Lord, or rather His first emanations are the Prāṇa and the Rayi—the Life-Principle or the Consciousness side; and the Rayi or the energy or the Matter or the Form side of creation. It is the intermingling of these two that gives rise to all this

diversity. The one is active, positive and the male principle, the other is the passive, negative and the female principle. The first question and answer mainly deals with this. It shows how Space and Time, and Causation arise and fix the limits of a universe and how the various hierarchies of the Devas begin to take part in administering the so-called Laws of Nature, when the creation starts. The various names given to these Prāṇa and Rayi are the Sun and the Moon, the Day and the Night, the Life and the Form.

The following list shows this duality:—

The Sun—The Moon;
Northern Path—Southern Path;

The Prāṇa plays a very important part in the Hindu systems of Philosophy and Religion—but it occupies perhaps nowhere so pre-eminently high a position as in the system of Śrī Madhva. With him this Prāṇa is the Great Mediator, the Intercessor, the First Begotten, the Anointed, the Light that shines in the Darkness, the Abode of God, the Saviour. Next to God, Prāṇa occupies the highest place of honor. At the time of the final Release, it is He who leads the liberated soul to the presence of the Most High. He is the Great Geometrician of the Universe; as the Rayi may be called the Great Architect of the Universe. These three—Īśvara, Prāṇa and Rayi—the Lord, the Breath, the Wealth—are the Eternal Trinity. The great hymn to Prāṇa in Praśna chapter 2, fully bears out the high estimation put on this principle by Śrī Madhva. This Upanishad is in a way a fuller exposition of some of the points dealt with in the Muṇḍaka.

S. C. V.

Prayag, August, 1909.

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