The Prashna Upanishad with Shankara’s Commentary
अथ हैनं सौर्यायणि गार्ग्यः पप्रच्छ । भगवन्नेतस्मिन्पुरुषे कानि स्वपन्ति कान्यस्मिञ्जाग्रति कतर एष देवः स्वप्नान्पश्यति कस्यैतत्सुखं भवति कस्मिन्नु सर्वे संप्रतिष्टिता भवन्तीति ॥ १ ॥
atha hainaṃ sauryāyaṇi gārgyaḥ papraccha | bhagavannetasminpuruṣe kāni svapanti kānyasmiñjāgrati katara eṣa devaḥ svapnānpaśyati kasyaitatsukhaṃ bhavati kasminnu sarve saṃpratiṣṭitā bhavantīti || 1 ||
1. Next Sauryâyani Gârgya questioned him ‘Oh Bhagavan! What in the man sleep? What wake in him? Which is the Dêvâ who sees dreams? Whose is this bliss? In which of them again are all of them fixed?’
Cow.—Next Sauryâyani Gârgya questioned him: Having thus exhausted by these three questions, all about Samsâra, the subject of Apara (lower) Vidyâ subject to modification, partaking of the nature of causes and effects and of ephemeral existence, the next three questions are asked in order that the Brahman, not partaking of the nature of causes and effects devoid of prâna, not perceivable by the mind, beyond the shot of the senses, bliss in its nature, free from misery, not subject to modification, undecaying, true, knowable by Para Vidyâ (higher knowledge), known as purusha, without and within all and unborn, may be known. Now, it was stated in the second Mundaka, that everything known to exist, proceeded from the undecaying Brahman, as sparks from the flaming fire, and that everything is absorbed into Brahman. What are all those existences which diverge from the Brahman? How again, thus existing in divergence are absorbed into it (Brahman) alone? What again are the characteristics of that Brahman? Now, in order to explain, these questions are imagined to be raised: ‘Oh Bhagavan, in this man, having head, hands, etc., what senses sleep, i.e., cease to perform their functions? What again in this man wake, i.e., do not sleep, i.e., perform their functions? Of these distinguishable as effects and instruments, which Dêvâ sees dreams? Dream is seeing within the body, as if he were awake, by one who has turned away from waking consciousness. The drift is whether, that is accomplished by any Dêvâ, in the nature of an effect, or any in the nature of an instrument. And who enjoys the bliss (arising when the activity of the waking and the dreaming state ceases) clear, i.e., free from the stain of contact with the objects of the senses, consisting in the absence of all trouble (distraction) and unobstructed? Then, where are all these, their waking and dreaming activities having ceased, centred? i.e., where do these blend indistinguishably, like juice in honey and like rivers entering the ocean. It is but reasonable that these turned away from their own activities, like the scythe and other instruments, which have ceased to do their work, should separately rest, each in its own place. Whence does the supposition then arise, that the senses of man in sleep become all blended in one. The supposition of the questioner is certainly reasonable. As all the senses together, during waking, act on behalf of some lord and are dependent (on him), therefore their coalition in one is reasonable even in sleep, because of their dependence and acting together. Therefore, this question is certainly consistent with the supposition. Here the question ‘in which are all these centred?’ is asked by the questioner who wishes to know him, in whom all this bundle of effects and instruments is absorbed during sleep and Pralaya.