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 2 - Second Prashna

Mantra 2.1.

1. Then Bhārgava Vaidarbhi asked him, “O Master, how many Divinities support the creatures, how many of them illumine them. And again who amongst them is the highest.”—17.

Note.—The question is three-fold. What energies or devas support the body; what energies or devas illumine it or are involved in the acts of sensation and cognition. Lastly, what is the highest. In the first chapter, it was taught that the Lord created all including Prāṇa and Rayi. After the creation, comes preservation. The questions that now follow relate to this. The Prāṇa has been declared to be the best, that statement would be established now in the subsequent questions and answers.

Mantra 2.2.

2. To him he said: Ether verily, and this always moving the air, fire, water, earth, speech, mind, eye and ear (are the Devas). They the Shining Ones, once loudly disputed with each other saying: We (alone) uphold this body by supporting it—18.

Note.—The dhāraka or the Supporter is Ākāśa or the divinity of ether or space; so also vāyu, fire, etc. These are the substances which support the body—they are the dhāraka devatās. They here refer to the five dense elements and their subtle Tanmātras. The prakāśa devas are the eye, ear, etc., the devas of sight, hearing, etc. The Vāyu of this verse means the elemental air, and not the first-born or the chief Prāṇa.

Madhva’s commentary called the Bhāṣya:

In this verse by Vāyu is meant the elemental air: while Prāṇa denotes the chief air or the first-begotten.

Mantra 2.3.

3. The chief Prāṇa said to them, “Do not fall into (this) error. I indeed, dividing this self (of mine) into five parts, uphold this body by supporting it.” They however, did not believe him—19.

Note.—The chief Prāṇa spoke to them who were thus contending, “Why have you fallen into this error, each thinking that he supports or illumines this body. It is I, who dividing myself five-fold in this body, support it and illumine it.” The other Devas however did not believe him.

Mantra 2.4.

4. They however, did not believe him. He (thereupon) began, as if to go out of the body, moving upwards. As he goes out, all the others indeed begin to go out: on his remaining, all others remain (in the body). As the Queen-bee going out, all bees indeed go out (of the hive), her remaining, all indeed remain, thus (it was with) the speech, mind, eye and ear. They being satisfied praise Prāṇa thus:—

Note.—He then through pride, began as if to go out from the body, moving upwards. By his going out, all these indeed began to go out also, for in him all stand. And as all bees go out when the Queen-bee goes out, and all remain when she remains, thus it is with speech, mind, eye and ear. They being satisfied praised Life thus. (Śaṅkara).

When the devas showed their incredulity at the assertion of the chief Prāṇa, the latter, in order to convince them, began, as if, to go out of the body. Madhva takes the word “abhimāna” to mean “body.” It generally means ‘pride.’ According to Śaṅkara, Prāṇa felt hurt when the Devas disbelieved him, and through wounded pride began to go out of the body. According to Madhva. abhimāna has not this meaning.

Mantra 2.5.

5. This as Agni burns, this as the Sun illumines, this as Parjanya rains, Indra this, Vāyu this, Earth, Rayi, Deva, form and formless, and what is immortal.—21.

Note.—This Prāṇa is all energy, wherever it is found, whether in the sun, or fire, or rain or wind, or gravity, subtle or gross. He is the Released souls also.

Mantra 2.6.

6. As the spokes in the nave of a chariot-wheel, so in Prāṇa are all fixed—the Ṛk, Yajuṣ and Sāma Vedas, the Sacrifice, Power and Wisdom,—22.

Mantra 2.7.

7. As the creator-of-beings thou quickenest (the foetus) in the womb, and thou alone expellest (it from the womb when grown). Thine, O Prāṇa! are these creatures and they bring offering (for thee), who with the (other) life-currents dwellest (in the body).—23.

Note.—In the previous two mantras, the Prāṇa has been eulogised in the third person. Now he is directly addressed. Thou, O Prāṇa! art the Prajāpati such as Dakṣa, etc. Thou movest in the womb and quicknest the foetus: and thou helpest the coming out of the Jīva from the womb. Thine are all these Devas and other creatures, because thou dwellest in the body and supportest it through the subordinate prāṇas, like the Devas of the eyes, etc.

The reading in Madhva’s text is slightly different. In the second line there is “tubhyaṃ prāṇa prajās tvimāḥ yat prāṇaiḥ pratitiṣṭhasi”—“O Prāṇa! these creatures are thine, because thou

dwellest in and supportest the body through the other prāṇas.”

Mantra 2.8.

8. Thou art the best carrier (of havis, oblations) to the Devas (in the Svarga) and of the Svadhā, oblation to the Pitṛs (in the Pitṛloka); thou art the good conduct and the true speech of the Riṣis Atharva-Aṅgiras (on earth)—(or thou art the carrier of true impressions to the senses of the body of the etheric-life-fluid on earth)—24.

Note.—Thou art the best carrier, as the Prāṇic mental atom, the thought-impressions called Svāhā, to the Devas in Devacan, thou art the best carrier as the Prāṇic astral atom the desire impressions called the Primeval Svadhā to the Pitṛs in the astral world, thou art the best carrier of the impressions of the true events on the physical Plane to the astro-etheric senses of man on the earth.

Mantra 2.9.

9. Thou art Indra the great ruler, O Prāṇa in thy splendour. As destroyer, thou art Rudra. Thou art even the All-Preserver. In heaven, thou movest as the Sun, the Lord of all lights—25.

Note.—O Prāṇa! Thou art the powerful Indra in thy splendour. Thou art Rudra—the beneficent All-protector. Thou art Vāyu, the mover in the firmament. Thou art the heat of the sun, and the light that illumines all planets. Thou art the Lord of all lights.

Mantra 2.10.

10. When (as cloud) thou rainest on all sides, then this (whole) creation becomes alive, and dwells full of joy, (thinking) there will be plenteous food—26.

Note.—If the reading be “Prāṇa, te,” the meaning would be “Then these thy creatures, O Prāṇa, rejoice.”

Mantra 2.11.

11.O Prāṇa! thou art the vow-devoted Ekaṛṣi, (the Revealer of all the Vedas). Thou art the destroyer of the universe, and art the Lord of all existence as well. We are offerers of oblation (to thee, as thy worshippers). O Mātariśvan! Thou art our Father!—27.

Note.—An un-initiate thou O Prāṇa! hut the sole revealer (of all Mantras). Destroyer of all this universe, yet protector of the good. We are mere tribute givers of all objects to thee. O Mātariśvan! thou art our father.

Mantra 2.12.

12. What form of thine exists in the speech, what in hearing, and what in the eye and what in the mind is fully spread out, make them auspicious, (and O Prāṇa) do not go out (of this body)—28.

Mantra 2.13.

13. This whole world is under the control of Prāṇa, and even what in Svarga abides. As a mother protects her sons, so protect thou us. Give us bodily and mental vigour—29.

Note.—The Second Question deals with the powers of Prāṇa. It is this Chief Prāṇa that supports the microcosm as well as the macrocosm. He also illumines them, and is thus the best of all. This rivalry between the prāṇas and the Prāṇa is spoken of in other Upaniṣads also. See Bṛ. Up. VI. 1. 7 to 13. and Ch. Up. V. 1. The superiority of Prāṇa is thus a well established fact and to all devotees this only Saviour, this Eka-Ṛṣi mus always be an object of fervent love and gratitude.

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