The Prashna Upanishad with Shankara’s Commentary
अथ हैनं सुकेशा भारद्वाजः पप्रच्छ । भगवन्हिरण्यनाभः कौसल्यो राजपुत्रो मामुपेत्यैतं प्रश्नमपृच्छत । षोडशकलं भारद्वाज पुरुषं वेत्थ तमहं कुमारम्ब्रुवं नाहमिमं वेद यध्यहमिममवेदिषं कथं ते नावक्श्यमिति समूलो वा एष परिशुष्यति योऽनृतमभिवदति तस्मान्नार्हम्यनृतं वक्तुम् स तूष्णीं रथमारुह्य प्रवव्राज । तं त्वा पृच्छामि क्वासौ पुरुष इति ॥ १ ॥
atha hainaṃ sukeśā bhāradvājaḥ papraccha | bhagavanhiraṇyanābhaḥ kausalyo rājaputro māmupetyaitaṃ praśnamapṛcchata | ṣoḍaśakalaṃ bhāradvāja puruṣaṃ vettha tamahaṃ kumārambruvaṃ nāhamimaṃ veda yadhyahamimamavediṣaṃ kathaṃ te nāvakśyamiti samūlo vā eṣa pariśuṣyati yo'nṛtamabhivadati tasmānnārhamyanṛtaṃ vaktum sa tūṣṇīṃ rathamāruhya pravavrāja | taṃ tvā pṛcchāmi kvāsau puruṣa iti || 1 ||
1. Then Sukêsa, son of Bhâradvâja questioned him “Oh Bhagavan, Hiranyagarbha of Kôsala, son of a king, approached me and asked me this question ‘Oh Bhâradvâja, knowest thou the Purusha of sixteen kalâs (parts)?’ I replied to the lad ‘I know this not, if I knew him, how should I not tell thee? He who utters a falsehood is certainly dried up, root and all; therefore, I dare not utter falsehood.’ He got into the chariot and went away in silence. That I ask you. Where is that Purusha?” (1)
Com.—Then Sukêsa, son of Bhâradvâja questioned him:
“It has been stated that all the universe in the nature of effects and causes, together with the knowing self, enters into the supreme, undecaying self, during sleep. It will be clear by necessary implication that the whole universe enters into that undecaying âtman alone, even in pralaya and that it is produced from thence. For, the absorption an effect into what is not its cause is inappropriate. It has also been said that this Prâna is born of the âtman. The settled meaning of all the Upanishads is that the highest consummation results from the knowledge of that which is the cause of the universe. It has also been subsequently said ‘he, all-knowing, becomes all.’ It should be stated where then that undecaying, true âtman, known as Purusha, is to be known; for that purpose, this question is asked.”
The recital of the anecdote is for the purpose of stimulating those, who wish for emancipation, to special activity, in attaining knowledge by proclaiming the difficulty of attaining it.
“Oh Bhagavan! the son of a king, warrior by caste, born in Kôsala, and named Hiranyagarbha approached me and asked me the following questions: ‘Oh Bhâradvâja, do you know the Purusha of sixteen kalâs, that is the Purusha in whom, the kalâs, i.e., parts as it were, sixteen in number, are superposed by ignorance.”
I told the prince who questioned me ‘I know not him of whom you ask.’ I told him the reason of my ignorance as he did not believe that I was ignorant, though I had thus replied. ‘If at all I knew the Purusha, whom you ask about, how should I not tell it to you, a supplicant, eminently possessing the qualities of a true disciple?’ Seeing again that he did not appear to believe, I said to make him believe, ‘he who making his âtman what it is not, speaks what is not true, is dried up, root and all, i.e., is destroyed both in this world and in the next. As I know this, I dare not, like an ignorant man, speak an untruth.’ The prince thus made to believe, silently touched with shame, got into the chariot and went back the way he came. Therefore, it is established that knowledge should be imparted by the knower to one who has approached him duly and is worthy of it (knowledge); and that falsehood should not be uttered under any circumstances. I ask you about that Purusha who is in my heart, as a knowable, i.e., (being unknown) like a shaft. Where is this Purusha who should be known?