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...

Chapter 1 - First Prashna

Madhva’s Salutation:

Om! Salutation to the Lord who is the origin of Life (Prāṇa) and the rest, who is the ocean of pure bliss, the Omniscient, all-pervading Vāsudeva.

Mantra 1.1.

1. Sukeśā by name also Bhāradvāja, Satyakāma also called Śaibya, Gārgya Sauryāyanī, Kausalya called Āśvalāyana, Bhārgava of Vidarbha, and Kabandhī of Kātyāyana gotra, who were verily firm in Brahma-jñāna and understood it, seeking the Supreme Brahman, once approached with sacrificial fuel in their hands, the reverend teacher Pippalāda, thinking he would tell all this to them.—1.

Mantra 1.2.

2. To them the sage said. “Live here one year more, performing penance and celibacy, with earnestness and faith; then ask the questions, that you wish to put, according as we know, we shall explain it all to you.—2.

Note.—This word “if” indicates the modesty and want of conceit of the teacher, and not that he did not know the subject. “If I know those things, I shall tell you all without withholding anything. But if you doubt my knowledge and think it hard to pass another year in probation, then you are free to go.” The pupil must approach the Guru without questioning His power to teach and must serve him. The Guru also must love his pupil.

Mantra 1.3.

3. Then Kabandhī of the clan Kātyāyana having approached him said. O Master, from whom indeed these creatures are produced.—3.

Note.—The two particles “ha” and “vai” indicate the well-known fact that creatures are born -the fact of the production of beings is well-known: one being reproduces another. There is no instance to the contrary, i.e., one being produces another similar to itself. The cause cannot be an insentient thing; for an insentient object is not seen to work unless moved by some sentient being. The Jīva cannot be the Supreme Ruler, because he is not independent. Nor is Īśvara, as He is not an object of perception or apprehension. This is then the doubt. Pippalāda removes this doubt, by showing that though the Lord does not create beings in the presence of aU, like a potter making his pot, yet He has produced Prāṇa and the Rayi, and has entered into them and though these are the direct causes of creation, they are, however, the instruments used by the Lord, and with them He creates all these creatures. Though Kabandhī is enumerated last among these six Seekers and questioners, yet he opens the discourse, because his question is the most comprehensive of all. They become more and more specialised as we proceed further. The occult teaching proceeds from the most general to the particular.

Mantra 1.4.

4. He said to him, “the Lord of beings wishing to create, performed meditation: He then produced the two, Prāṇa and Rayi (thinking) these two would form for him the manifold creation.—4.

Madhva’s commentary called the Bhāṣya:

Viṣṇu is called the Prajāpati because He protects (pati) all creatures (prajā). He, the Supreme Spirit, the Highest Person sends out, in the beginning of every Kalpa, Vāyu called also the Sūrya (the sun) and Sarasvatī called also the moon. He makes these Vāyu and Sarasvatī take their abode in the Sun and the Moon. Then entering these two, Viṣṇu Himself the Unborn creates all this Universe. He dwelling in Vāyu, is formless (amūrta.) He dwelling in Sarasvatī is with form.

Note.—He (Pippalāda) then said to him (Kabandhī) “The Lord of creatures once more desired to have creatures (in the beginning of a kalpa). He revolved over the plan. Having settled the plan, He produced a couple—the Rayi and the Prāṇa: (and said) “these two will produce manifold creatures for me.”

Mantra 1.5.

5. The Prāṇa verily entered the Sun and the Rayi entered the Moon. All this verily is well-known as matter (Rayi) whether it is subtle or dense. Among these, (the dense) is the form (and) is alone called matter; (while the subtle acts as the indwelling life of the dense.)—5.

[Note.—Tasmāt, therefore, the material cause of the whole universe is thus two-fold, subtle and dense. Amongst these two, the dense or form is matter, the subtle acts as life. The subtle kind of matter always animates the visible dense form: “from that”—other than that called or classified as subtle, namely the gross is called matter, because it alone has a form]

Note.—This verse is differently interpreted by Śaṅkara and Rāmānuja schools. These are given below Prāṇa entered into Adītya [Āditya?], the Sun, hence sun itself is called the Prāṇa. The Lord created the Sun, and the Prāṇa entered into it. Or Āditya literally means “created in the beginning”—ādi, beginning. The “first creation.” Prāṇa is the first creation of the Lord, and hence called Āditya.

The enjoyer is verily the Spirit and the matter alone is the (joy-giver). Matter verily is this all, whatever is gross or subtle. Out of these (two) the form alone is generally called matter, the subtle is not so termed (Ramanuja School.)

The Sun is verily the Prāṇa, and Moon is the Rayi. The Rayi certainly is this all—whatever is visible or invisible. (Different) from that classified as (invisible), the form, (or the visible) alone is (however generally called) Rayi (Śaṅkara).

Mantra 1.6.

6. Now (when the Prāṇa in the) Sun on rising illumines the eastern quarter, it upholds in its rays the wardens of the eastern quarter (Agni and Indra with their consorts), when it enters the south, then it upholds the wardens of the south (Yama and Nirṛti with their respective consorts), when it enters the west, it upholds the wardens of the west (Varuṇa and Vāyu and their respective consorts), when it enters the north, then it upholds the wardens of the North (Soma and Īśāna with their respective consorts), when it enters the nadir, it upholds the wardens of the nether world (Śeṣa and Mitra and their consorts), when it enters the zenith it upholds the wardens of the upper world (Vīndra, and Kāma and their consorts); when it enters the middle quarters (the intermediate between the above) then it upholds the Prāṇas of those quarters. It upholds all Prāṇas in its rays.—6.

Note.—Because the Sun, on rising, enters the eastern quarter, therefore by that pervasion he draws up into (his) rays the eastern Prāṇas, because he illumines the south, because west, because north, because above, because middle, because all quarters he illumines, therefore, by that (illumination) he draws into his rays all Prāṇas (Śaṅkara.)

Now because the Soul, on awaking, enters the frontal sense organs (eyes, etc.) thereby (it) directs or brings into activity, these senses (that perceive the objects) in front (of one) through its rays (of consciousness); because it enters the senses on the right side, thereby it directs those senses to apprehend objects on one’s right hand, because it enters the organs in the back, on the left, in the down, on the above, the middle, in all parts, thereby, it brings into activity through its rays (of life) the various organs (Rāmānuja school).

For when the sun on rising enters the eastern quarter then he supports by his rays the creatures in the east, when he enters the south, the west, the north, the upper and the middle quarters, he illumines thereby all portions and supports by his rays, all life.

Mantra 1.7.

7. He, called, Vaiśvānara, tbe All-form, the Life, arises as Fire: this is described in the following verse.—7.

Note.—That (Invisible) is this (Visible) sun, the Self or totality of all jīvas and of all forms; the life, the death. He arises. He by this hymn has been described (Śaṅkara).

He (Prajāpati) is tins Leader of all men, pervades all bodies, is the Prāṇa and the Agni. He arises. He is described by this (following) hymn. (Rāmānuja School.)

That (Invisible) is this (Visible) Sun, the Self or totality of all jīvas and of all forms: the life, the death. He arises. He by this hymn has been described. (Śaṅkara.)

He (Prājāpati [Prajāpati?]) is this Leader of all men, pervades all bodies, is the Prāṇa and the Agni. He rises. He is described by this (following) hymn. (Rāmānuja School).

The sun illumines the whole world and thus, is in a way, the Lord of creatures, a Prajāpati. Moreover the Sun is the abode of the All-form, the great Agni, namely, the Prāṇa. The Sun is called Vaiśvanara, because he is connected with the activities of all men—all the activities such as heating, cooking, drying, etc., are possible, because of the Sun. He verily is the Life of the world.

Mantra 1.8.

8. He, this Sun, arises, the Self of all forms, full of rays, the omniscient, the final end, the light, the one, the heat-giver, the thousand-rayed, the life of all beings, existing in a hundred ways.—8.

Madhva’s commentary called the Bhāṣya:

The Vāyu dwelling in the Sun takes up all the spirits of various Quarters and makes them enter into his rays. The spirits or the Prāṇas of the East are Indra and the rest, of the South, are the Yama and the rest, of the West, are the Varuṇa, and the rest, of the North, are the Soma, and the rest: Śeṣa and Mitra are the prāṇas of the Nadir, Vīndra and Kāma of the Zenith. Four are in each quarter, counting their consorts and the intermediate quarters.

(Note.—Thus Indra and his consort, and the ruler of the Intermediate quarter and his consort are in the east. So on with other quarters).

The All-form, the radiant, the omniscient, the highest goal, the one-light, the heat-giver, the thousand-rayed, existing in hundred ways, the life of (all) creatures, (behold!) this Sun arises. (Rāmanuja School).

In obedience to Hari, the Omnipresent, the Omniscient, the Supremely desired, the Light, the Second-less, the all-nourisher, (behold) this (jīva) the (real) life in all creatures of hundreds of kinds, having thousand rays (of intelligence) arises (from its Suṣupti or Pralayic sleep) (like another) Sun. (Rāmānuja School).

Mantra 1.9.

9. The Year is as the Lord of Beings. Of it there are two Paths, the northern and the southern: they who perform acts, desiring fulfilment, reach the path of the moon, and return again: those knowing ones desirous of offspring, obtain the southern path; this Path is that of Pravṛtti and is called the Pitṛyāna.—9.

Note.—The Great Year verily is the Lord of creatures, of it, there are two Halves—the downward arc and the upward. Among them the egos who think “that the fulfilment of Desires is their work” they only enter into the downward sweep or the lunar world, they alone again come back to acquire experience, being new souls. Therefore these souls because desiring to procreate, enter the Downward Path of evolution. This Path is verily Rayi, Matter, which is called Pitṛ-yāna.

Among the aspirants, those who desire offspring, desire fruit other than the mokṣa, who perform sacrifices, and make gifts—namely who are devoted to Karma, go by Pitṛ-yāna, the southern Path. They reach the Lunar World. When the reward of the Karma is enjoyed, they come back for re-incarnation. As Rayi is the presiding deity of the moon, they are under the moon. Thus Rayi is the Pitṛyāna.

Mantra 1.10.

10. Others again by tapas, by Brahmacarya, by earnestness, by knowledge, having known the Self, obtain the Sun by the northern path: this verily is the container of all beings, this is the Indestructible, this is the Fearless, (or, this is the Supreme path;: from this they return not, for it is cessation. Of that there is this verse.—10.

Note.—Next (after acquiring the experiences of the downward sweep, these egos) through the upward arc, through austerity, celibacy, faith, knowledge, seeking the Self, enter the Sun. This verily is the reservoir of all Prāṇas. That is Immortal, Fearless, the goal of the Great ones, from this they do not come back. This is the Nirodha or cessation. About it is this verse.

Mantra 1.11.

11. Some (performers of Kāmya works) say (that the place they reach is that presided over by the God of Rain)—Purīṣin (situated somewhat towards the) south of the Heaven, which the Sun, the five-footed, twelve-faced Protector, crosses over in his southern course, seated in his seven-horsed, six-spoked (car). But the others (the jñānins) say that (their place is) on the other side of Heaven (which the Sun crosses when in the north).—11.

Some (karma-vadins) call him the five-footed Father with twelve-faces (or forms), dwelling in Purīṣa, in a high place beyond the Dyu (Heaven). But while these others call him the omniscient, seated in an excellent seven-wheeled, and six-spoked (chariot).

Some call Him “Purīṣin” the Father, having five feet and twelve forms, dwelling beyond the Heaven, in a high place; whilst these other excellent (people) call Him “Vicakṣaṇa” seated in a seven-horsed, six-spoked chariot. (Rāmānuja School).

Some call him (the Year) the father: moving with five-feet, twelve-faced, living beyond and in the higher place, with water. Others (again call) him all wise, set with seven wheels, having six spokes.

[I have given above the meaning generally ascribed to this verse by the commentators. But may not the five-footed father mean the Prāṇa having five feet or modes of motion, namely, prāṇa, apāna, vyāna, samāna and udāna—the sensory, the assimilative, the circulatory, the respiratory and the hypnotic functions. See Chapter IL v. 3. The six spokes are also mentioned in that chapter further on in verse 6; namely Ṛk, Yajuṣ, Saman, Yajña, Kṣattra, and Brahma. The twelve faces are the twelve aspects of Prāṇa in the twelve kinds of souls or Jīvas. The seven wheels are the seven laya centres through which the Prāṇa passes. If it be applied to the year metaphorically, then the year should mean Brahma’s year, one Cyclic period of manifestation. This manifestation takes place on five planes; it has twelve aspects and seven incarnations of the wheels and spokes.]

Mantra 1.12.

12. The month is verily the Lord of creatures; its dark half indeed is Rayi, its bright half is Prāṇa. Therefore these seers perforin all auspicious works in the bright half; the ignorant others, in the dark other half.—12.

Note.— The Lord of Beings is as the month: the dark fortnight of it is as Prakṛti, the light fortnight is as Puruṣa. Hence wise ones perform sacrifices in the light half, others in the other half.

Madhva’s commentary called the Bhāṣya:

The Lord dwells in the year: in the winter half dwells His Sarasvatī aspect, in the northern or summer half, His Prāṇa aspect. The Lord dwells in the month. In the Bright fortnight is His Prāṇa aspect, in the Dark fortnight, is His Sarasvatī aspect. The Lord dwells in the day and night. His Prāṇa aspect is in the day, His Sarasvatī aspect is in the night.

Mantra 1.13.

13. Day-and-Night is verily the Lord of creatures. Its day (portion is) Prāṇa indeed, and night is Rayi. Verily those waste their vitality who enjoy love by day. Indeed it is celibacy who enjoy love by night.—13. Note.—To complete the context we must insert after “night is Rayi,” the following. “The husband-and-wife is Lord of creatures. The husband is Prāṇa, the wife is Rayi.”

Mantra 1.14.

14. Food verily is Lord of creatures, from it verily is produced the seed, from it all these creatures are produced.—14.

Mantra 1.15.

15.Among them verily, those indeed, who know the abovementioned works of God (Prajāpati), become fathers of good children; by them alone (is attainable) this Satya-loka,—by them, who practise austerity and celibacy, in whom truth is fixed as a law—15.

Note.—Here verily who follow the above law of Prajāpati (law of procreation) they alone produce pairs. Theirs indeed is this Moon-world. Theirs is that Brahma-world—theirs in whom no crookedness or falsehood or deceit doth, reside and who practise austerity and celibacy, and in whom truth is firmly established.

Madhva’s commentary called the Bhāṣya:

The Lord Viṣṇu dwells in the husband and wife—Vāyu dwells in the husband, Sarasvatī in the wife. He who knows thus gets Release. Thus we find in the Prajāpati Saṃhitā.

Mantra 1.i6.

16.Theirs is that pure Brahma-loka—theirs in whom there is no crookedness, nor falsehood, nor any dissimulation.—16.

Note.—Thus the First Praśna describes the Seven Prajāpatis or Creative Logoi arranged in a descending order, and each giving rise to a pair.

These seven Prajāpatis and the pairs belonging to them are shown below:—

Prajāpatis Name. Pair.
First Prajāpati The Great Cause The Prāṇa The Rayi
Second Prajāpati The Great Space The Sun The Moon
Third Prajāpati The Great Time The Ascending Arc The Descending Arc
Fourth Prajāpati The Manu or Month The Bright half The Dark half
Fifth Prajāpati The Day-Night or Deva The Day The Night
Sixth Prajāpati The Husband-Wife or Man The Husband The Wife
Seventh Prajāpati The Food or Mineral, etc. The Sperm The Germ

The above hierarchy of seven shows how these Prajāpatis have each their respective spheres: from the guardian angels of the Physical plane and of the human and the Deva, planes, and then the plane of the Manus or Ṛṣis, the plane of the Year or the Great Time or the Planetary Logoi, the plane of the Great Space or Ādityas the sons of Infinity or the Solar Logoi of different solar systems, and the last plane of the Most High or the Absolute or Viṣṇu.

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