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 6 - Sixth Prashna

Mantra 6.1.

1. Next Sukeśā Bhāradvāja asked him, O Master! Once Hiraṇyanābha, a prince of Kosala, approaching me, asked this question “O Bhāradvāja! knowest thou the Puruṣa who has sixteen parts? Tell that to me.” I replied to that prince “I do not know this. Had I known it, why should not I have told thee? He dries up from the very root who speaks an untruth. Therefore, I dare not tell an untruth.” He in silence went away ascending his chariot. That question I ask thee, where is that (sixteen-membered) Puruṣa.—60.

Note.—In a preceding chapter, it was shown that the Lord rules Prāṇa, etc., and all the Jīvas in their three states of jāgrat (waking), svapna (dreaming), suṣupta (dreamless sleep). The present chapter shows that He rules them even when they are mukta or released. It farther shows how Prāṇa, by His devotion and wisdom, has become the Great Saviour, the Mediator and the Prime Agent. It thus justifies the greatness of Prāṇa.

Mantra 6.2.

2. To him he said: O dear! In this heart, verily indeed, is that Puruṣa, in whom originate and subsist these sixteen parts.—61.

Note.—Viṣṇu is the Puruṣa, from whom arise these sixteen parts, of a Jīva organism, they subsist in Him; and even in the state of mukti, they depend upon Him. That Puruṣa, is always sixteen-membered, in this sense.

O Saumya! that person from whom these sixteen parts of a Jīva’s body originate is here indeed in the body—is indeed in the interior of the body. One need not go out or far to find Him. And as the Jīva with his sixteen parts has his origin from Him, it follows that he can never lose his identity even in the state of mukti: for He is always with him even now, much more so in the state of mukti.

O Saumya! in what person these sixteen parts (of a Jīva’s body) arise (from whom they originate and by whom they are sustained, and in whom they exist and are never dissolved, namely, even in muktas, these 16 kalās exist though in latency, for how can there be the dissolution of this 16 kalās of the Jīva which is its very essence) that Puruṣa is here indeed in the body—is indeed in the interior of the body. One need not go out or far to search Him in order to find Him.

Mantra 6.3.

3. He reflected “what going out, I shall go out, what remaining I shall remain?”—62.

[Note.—Kasmin, in whom (in what Tattva, or agent or body) case absolute; what is that Puruṣa, on whose leaving the body, I shall leave the body, on whose remaining in that body, I shall remain therein, and so on.]

Note.—In the beginning of a new creation, the Lord meditated as to the best agent who would help Him in creation. He thought “Who is that Being who can, by his extreme devotion and love and wisdom, keep me, as if it were, under his control, whom must I make my instrument in this act of creation?” He found that Prāṇa was such an agent, who by his devotion and wisdom, was fitted to be the co-worker with God. He is the Hiraṇya-garbha—the Golden Child, the First-born.

Mantra 6.4.

4. He produced Prāṇa, from Prāṇa came Faith, ether, air, light, waters, earth, sense-organs, mind, and food. From food vigour, austerity, hymns, actions, worlds, and in the worlds, name.—63.

Note.—Thus Prāṇa is the first-begotten. Through Prāṇa, He created Śraddhā or Faith, from Faith the five elements, and the organs of cognition like the eyes, etc., and action like the hands, etc. Manas is the highest among these organs. The Lord creates every succeeding emanation or kalā, with the intermediation of the one preceding it. These kalās are not non-intelligent material substances, but denote here hierarchy of intelligences, presiding over these.

Madhva’s commentary called the Bhāṣya:

Puṣkara presides over karma, the presiding deity of name is Uṣā. Parjanya is the presiding deity of the lokas. Svāhā is the devatā of the mantras. Vahni presides over Tapas, and Varuṇa over vīrya or seed, Soma presides over food, Aniruddhaka over the manas; the Sun, etc., are the Lords of the Indriyas or senses, presiding over the eyes, etc. Rudra, Vīndra, Śeṣa, and Kāma are Devatās of manas, Śraddhā or faith is the consort of Prāṇa—she is the origin and dissolution of all. She controls all the subsequent emanations. Prāṇa is the cause of Śraddhā herself. He is thus superlatively excellent. While the Lord Vāsudeva is the cause of Prāṇa himself—the Supreme, the Changeless. There is no one like unto Him; there is no one Higher than Him. Knowing Him the souls get salvation. He is higher than the high. (Tattva-viveka).

The order in which these hierarchies arise is given in another mantra (Mu. Up. II.1.3.) “From Him arise Prāṇas, Manas, all senses, ākāśa, air, fire, water, earth, the support of all.” The order given in the Praśna Up. is not the standard. Manas does not arise from the senses. (Note:—does not the activity of the mind arise after the senses have supplied the material)? This is also clearly laid down by Bādarāyana in the Vedānta-sūtra II. 4. 3. From Viṣṇu arises (1) Prāṇa: from Him, (2) Śraddhā, from her, (3) Rudra, the Lord of Manas, and otherwise called Manas, from him, (4) Indra, the Devatā of the senses, from him (5) Soma, the devatā of food, from Soma arises, (6) Varuṇa, from him, (7) the Higher Agni, from him arises (8) Vighna, the Devatā of ākāśa, thence arises, (9) Marut, the son of Vāyu, from him arises (10) the Lower Agni called Pāvaka, the sou of first Agni, thence, (11) Parjanya, thence (12) Svāhā, the Devatā of mantra, from her (13) Budha, the Lord of water, thence (14) Uṣā, the goddess of Name, thence (15) Śani the Lord of earth, and (16) Puṣkara, the deity of karma. Each succeeding is lower in order than the one preceding it. They maintain this gradation even when they become free from all guṇas, in the state of Mukti. The eternally free Viṣṇu is higher than Prāṇa even and is the best.

Mantra 6.5.

5. As the rapid ocean-going rivers, on reaching the ocean, go to rest, but do not lose their name and form, and are said “they are in the ocean”; so indeed of the Great Beholder, these sixteen Puruṣa-going Principles, on reaching the Puruṣa, go to rest, without losing their name and form, and men say, “They are in the bosom of the Lord,”—He is this above all Principles, the Immortal. About it is this verse.—64.

[Note.—Akalaḥ, non-part; above all principles. “The Kalā Devas having attained liberation”.]

[Note.—Amṛtaḥ, immortal. Becomes one whose insentient principles are lost, and therefore “deathless:” for the death of the Jīva is caused by the kalās or principles, i.e., the Jīva stands stripped of all principles.]

Madhva’s commentary called the Bhāṣya:

The word is ‘samudre’ in the locative case, and not ‘samudraḥ’ in the nominative case, similarly it is “puruṣe” and not “puruṣaḥ.” If they are taken in the nominative case, then the meaning would be that the rivers and the Jīvas become identical with the ocean and the Puruṣa: and thus would contradict the next sentence which says “they do not lose but retain their name and form.” Though the ignorant do not perceive the names and forms of the rivers, when they rest in the ocean, yet the names and forms persist, so the Released souls, the Muktas, resting in Viṣṇu retain their names and forms intact. The word “bhidyate” comes from the root “bhid,” which nowhere has the sense of ‘to lose;’ ‘to destroy.’ Even when applied to pots, jars, etc., by ‘bheda’ is meant breaking into several parts. That is the primary meaning of ‘bheda’ ‘Division.’ It is only in the secondary sense that we say “the pot is lost,” when it is broken. But in this verse the secondary sense cannot even be taken. The name and form cannot be scattered in different places, like unto the fragments of a pot. Therefore, the word “bhidyate” must mean “remain divided from each other, and from the ocean or Puruṣa, by their names and forms.” These two keep each separate. Moreover in the next verse, it is clearly declared that the kalās are not lost in the Person, but remain steadfast in Him. Therefore, the sense of the whole verse is that in that Puruṣa, every Jīva retains his separate name and form each; and so also the kalā devatās. The setting mentioned here is like the setting of the sun, an illusion to the ignorant, who think that the sun has set, because they do not see him. So also in the Sattatva we read:—“Salutation to Him in whom exist Prāṇa and the other kalās, in Mukti, separate from each other, retaining their name and form.” Moreover in the sentence “nama-rupād vimukhtaḥ” generally translated “free from name and form,” the word vimukta [vi-mukta] dees not mean “freed,” but “not freed” for such is the force of the particle vi, as vipriya [vi-priya]=“not loved,” viyoga [vi-yoga]=not united, i.e., separation. Similarly in the sentence “nama-rūpa vihāya,” the word is not vihāya but avihāya, as we have already explained before. Moreover the Śruti says “Verily the name is eternal, the Viśvedevas are eternal.” (Note: Viśvedevas denote form). So also there are numerous texts showing that identity is not lost in Mukti. Thus the Rig Veda X.90-16 speaks of Devas who had attained Mokṣa (perfection) in the past kalpas and came out of the primeval Puruṣa [puruṣaḥ] in the beginning of this creation co-operate with Him. “The Devas who had worshipped Viṣṇu (Yajña) in the past kalpa, with the yajña consisting of knowledge and action, become the First upholders of the cosmos in this kalpa; they, in that world, where the Perfected Devas of the past Kalpa, like Brahmā and the rest reside, enjoy beatitude and greatness be-fitting them.” The plural number in purve sādhyāḥ shows that the Muktas retain their separate identity. So also in the Chāndogya Upaniṣad VIII.12.3, we find the Muktas retaining their consciousness. “He wanders about there eating, sporting, delighting, etc.” So also the Taitt. Up. II.1-1. declares that the knowers of Brahman enjoy all desirable objects, along with the Omniscient Brahman. So also the Rig Veda X.71.11. shows that even after Mukti, the sages perform certain functions: Some sages devote themselves to the maintenance and preservation of the Ṛcas (Cosmic Physical Laws): other sages similarly maintain and preserve the Yajus (Cosmic Astral Laws); a third class of sages after Mukti, preserve the sciences of humanity and teach them to the mankind, etc.” All this shows that the final Release is not a state of the loss of identity, nor one-ness with Viṣṇu in the sense of identity. He is the best, higher than all the Muktas, the All-full Nārāyaṇa.

Note:—The sentence “nāmarūpe vihāya” is analysed as “nāmarūpe avihāya”. If there be no elided “a”, then the phrase would mean “losing name and form:” Otherwise it would mean “not losing name and form”—a diametrically opposed meaning. But to the elision of “a” there is this objection, that the word nama-rūpe [nāma-rūpe?] is in dual case and no sandhi can take place after a dual case ending in “ī, ū and e” and because it is pragṛhya. (Panini “[??????]” and [?????????] I.1.11 and VI.1.125. This rule of Pragṛhya, however, is not of universal application, “saṃjñāpūrvako vidhiranityaḥ”).

Mantra 6.6.

Mantra 6.6.6. Like the spokes in the nave of the wheel, in whom the kalās are established, know ye Him, the knowable person; so that death may not pain you.—65.


7. To them, he said: Thus far I know this Supreme Brahman. I know not any greater than He.—66.

Note.—None knows Brahman fully: even the great sages like Pippalāda, or the Eternals like Ramā, Brahmā, etc., know only a portion of Him.

Mantra 6.8.

8. They praised him: Thou art our father who carries us over the infinite ocean of our ignorance. Salutation to the Great Ṛṣis, salutations to the Great Ṛṣis.—67.

Madhva’s Salutation.

Reverence again and again to Hari—to Thee who art my dearest and most beloved: Thou art the totality of the highest joy: and Thy body is the most beautiful of all visions and giver of all happiness.


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