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 4 - Fourth Prashna

Mantra 4.1.

1. Next Sauryāyanī Gārgya asked him: “O Master! when this person sleeps, what Devas cease functioning and what continue to function. What deva out of these causes dreams to be dreamt? Whose is the experiencing of bliss in a dreamless sleep? In whom are all firmly established?—42.

Note.—The word “sleep” includes both the ‘dream’ and deep dreamless sleep. The question relates to both states. Through the mediation of what deva of the senses does the Jīva dream, and whose is the happiness enjoyed in dreamless sleep: for then the Jīva is not in contact with any one of the organs of sensation, how does he feel happiness. The dream and the deep sleep are independent of the Jīva: nor are they subordinate to the Chief Prāṇa, for He also is a Jīva. On whom then do these states depend? The Devas, of course, never sleep. The question “What Deva dreams dream?” therefore, means ‘What deva causes the Jīva to dream dream,’ for the devas never dream. Though there are many devas in the human body, they are not independent of each other, but act in co-ordination.

In the previous praśnas, the entire universe has been proved to be under the Lord. All beings are under Him, not only in their waking state, but in the dreaming and sleeping states also. This chapter enunciates this truth. It is the Jīva that goes to sleep, that dreams dreams or enjoys the rest of the dreamless sleep. The Devas that carry on the functions of the body, never sleep -they only cease to function. Some, however, never cease to function even,

Mantra 4.2.

2. He said to him “As, O Gārgya! all the rays of the sun when going to set, become one in that orb of light, and on his rising again they again spread out in all directions, so verily these all devas become one in that High Divinity that dwelleth in the mind and then the Jīva is made to dream dreams; therefore that person, (when dreaming has no cognisance of the external) he hears not, sees not, smells not, tastes not, feels not, speaks not, grasps not, procreates not, excretes not, walks not, men say “He sleeps, i.e., he has attained the Independent” (Viṣṇu as Tejasa).—43.

Madhva’s commentary called the Bhāṣya:

The rays of the sun really never are withdrawn into the solar orb. It is only a conventional mode of speaking that the sun sets and the rays are withdrawn, for when the sun sets in one place, he is visible in another place. Therefore, by the phrase ‘the rays enter the sun when he sets,’ it is meant that the sun becomes invisible in that particu-lar locality. Similarly all the devas of the senses and the Jīva gone to sleep are said to become one in Viṣṇu, in the sense that they cease to function.

Note.—Though the rays of the sun are never withdrawn into the solar-orb and the sun never sets or rises, yet in relation to a particular place he is said to set and rise and people mistakenly assert that the rays have been withdrawn, or have come back again. The whole thing is an illusion or “bhrānti”. This verse shows the great bhrānti into which the people fall with regard to dream and sleep. Becoming one with Viṣṇu in sleep really means coming to the same place as Viṣṇu, just as we say at night time all cows become one in the cowpen, i.e., they congregate in one place, while at day time they roam about in the pasture land. In the dream state they approach Viṣṇu, in the manas; in Suṣupti or dreamless sleep, they approach Him in the hollow of the heart, and as the sense-Devas stop their activities then, the state of sleep arises. In dream, all sense-Devas cease functioning except the manas.

Mantra 4.3.

3. The Prāṇa-fires alone are awake in this town. The Apāna is the Gārhapatya fire. The Vyāna is the Dakṣināgni [Dakṣiṇāgni?]. The Prāṇa by reason of its Praṇayana is the Āhavaniya fire, because it is obtained (praṇīyate) from the Gārhapatya.—44.

[Note.—Apānaḥ, the Apāna. The similarity between the Apāna and Gārhapatya is that both are situated west, as Gārthapatya fire is lighted on the western hearth of the house, so the Apāna is the west or downward going function, the excretory function.]

[Note.—Anvāhārya pacana Dakṣiṇāgni (south or right-hand fire). The similarity consists in the both burn up oblations or homa.]

Note.—The western gate of the human body is the alimentary canal and as the Apāna has its seat in it, it is analogically said to be the Gārhapatya fire. Perhaps it is also so called because it cooks all food—all food is digested in the alimentary canal, beginning with the saliva of the mouth and ending with the large intestines. Gārhapatya is the fire of the household, the kitchen fire. The food when digested goes to nourish the organs by becoming blood, so Prāṇa, by which blood also is meant, is extracted from the Apāna. The arterial circulation is Vyāna.

Mantra 4.4.

4. Because he equally distributes these two oblations—the expiration and inspiration, therefore, he is called Samāna. The mind alone verily is the sacrificer. The fruit of the sacrifice is indeed the Udāna. He carries this sacrificer daily to Brahman that dwelleth in the Suṣumnā—45.

Note.—The Samāna or the same-maker is thus connected with the Respiratory function also. It constantly establishes the equipoise between expiration and inspiration. It would correspond to the priest in a fire-sacrifice, while manas is the yajamāna for whom the sacrifice is made—and Udāna or hypnotic function is like the fruit of the action—that manifests in some future time. It is the upward carrying function—the function by which the Jīva is separated from one vehicle after another: by which the self projects himself. The joy of the dreamless sleep depends upon Udāna.

Mantra 4.5.

5. Then this shining one in dream experiences the greatness of the Lord, whatever was seen (in the waking state), he perceives it again as a picture; whatever was heard, he hears it again as a sound object: whatever was experienced in different countries and quarters, he experiences that again and again—whether seen or not seen, heard or not heard, experienced or not experienced, true or false, he sees all; being all, he sees all.—46.

Note.—In dream one sees the glory of the Lord. When objects perceived in this life or the past lives, seen in this locality or another, are all brought together, losing all coherence of time and space, and the dreamer mistakes them for the present, then arises the bhrānti or the illusion of dream. It is the vivifying of the mental impressions.

Mantra 4.6.

6. When he even is embraced by the Light, then this shining one does not dream dreams; therefore then in this body is produced this suṣupti happiness.—47.

Madhva’s commentary called the Bhāṣya:

The happiness wells up in the Jīva, when it loses all its activities and makes itself a body of the Lord. The question asked was “who enjoys the happiness in the dreamless sleep.” The reply is: the soul or the Jīva enjoys happiness, and not the non-intelligent body. Moreover there is a Śruti which declares that the human soul is the body of the Lord (Bṛ. Up.) When, therefore, the Jīva converts himself into the body of Viṣṇu, then, he enjoys the divine happiness. The Lord brings on sleep, in order to give happiness to the Jīva.

Note.—The word śarīra ordinarily means a body ‘a vehicle’: but here it is used in a very peculiar sense. It means the Jīva himself. When the Jīva, losing his personality, converts himself into the vehicle of God, then he is called the vehicle or Śarīra par excellence for there is no higher vehicle, than the soul itself, as the channel of God. In the state of deep sleep, even the tamasic soul experiences happiness, because the Lord gives happiness to all. The true happiness of self-realization is however for the wise only. In suṣupti, the manas also ceases its activity. The only “organ” then active is the svarūpa indriya (the causal body.) This svarūpa indriya or the causal body is the organ through which happiness of suṣupti is perceived. The Jīva is to God, what the body is to the soul; and because of this correspondence, the Jīva is termed Śarīra or body hero, and it is said “happiness is in the body.” This Svarūpa-Indriya or “the sense or organ of self-perception” is not organised as yet in ordinary persons. The Manas is the highest sense as yet developed. With the unfolding of Svarūpa-Indriya, the sense of intuition, knowing a thing as it is, will develop.

Mantra 4.7.

7. As, O dear! birds go to their roosting tree and remain there for the night, so verily this all repairs to the Supreme Self in deep sleep.—48.

Mantra 4.8.

8. The earth and the earth measure, water and the water measure, fire and the fire measure, air and the air measure, ākāśa and the ākāśa measure, the seeing and the form, the hearing and the sound, the smelling and the scent, the tasting and the taste, the touching and the touch, the speech and what is uttered, the hand and what is handled, the organ and what is enjoyed, the lower apertures and what is excreted (from them), the feet and the place to go to, the mind and the thought; the intellect and what is understood, the I-ness and what is posited as I, the memory and the object remembered, the perceptive faculty in general and all objects of preception, the Prāṇa (the great support) and all objects that are supported upon.—49.

Note.—The analysis of this verse will show the various tattvas so well known in the subsequent Indian literature. They are the five STATES or mahā-bhūtas, the earth, water, fire, air and ether, the five RATES of vibration, named after these, the ten Indriyas or sense-organs, the ten Viṣayas or objects of those sense-organs, the five-fold mind, namely, manas (lower mind), buddhi (Reason), citta (memory), ahaṃkāra (self-consciousness) and cetanā or consciousness or 35 in all. Manas is that which cogitates, should I do this or should I not do this. The Buddhi or Reason determines, I must do this. Egoism or Ahaṃkāra is the idea of I-ness in a vehicle which is not the true I. (asvarupe svarupatva [asvarūpe svarūpatva?] buddhiḥ). In other words, the false notion of freedom and independence. The real ‘I’ always feels and knows its entire dependence on God. The Citta is evanescent, unstable memory. While cetanā or Tejas is the pervasion into the objects of citta—consciousness thereof. The cetanā always deals with multitudes of notions. These are secondary objects or controlled or supported ones under the Īśvara—they are controlled by Him but indirectly. The principal Subject or controlled one is the Prāṇa, the Life principle, the Great support of all the other principles like the earth, etc.; while he himself is supported directly by Īśvara alone.

Mantra 4.9.

9. Verily he is the beholder, the toucher, the hearer, the smeller, the taster, the thinker, the determiner, the doer, the Vijñānātmā, the Puruṣa. [He (who knows this Puruṣa) becomes established in the Highest Self.]—50.

Mantra 4.10.

10. He indeed obtains the Highest Imperishable (one). Who indeed knows that shadow-less, colour-less, pure, Imperishable—he truly, O Initiate, becomes the knower of the All, and a Great one. Therefore there is this verse.—51.

Mantra 4.11.

11. The Vijñānātmā (Jīva) along with all the Devas, the Prāṇas and the Great Elements are all firmly established in Him. He who knows that Imperishable is called the knower of the Absolute, he enters indeed into the Absolute.—52.

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