Sarvasara Upanishad of Krishna-Yajurveda

by K. Narayanasvami Aiyar | 1914 | 1,524 words | ISBN-10: 8120815653

This is the English translation of the Sarvasara Upanishad (belonging to the Shukla-Yajurveda): a minor treatise selected amongst a collection 108 extant upanishads, dating to at least the 1st millennium BC. The Sarvasara-upanishad represents a glossary of some of the terms of Vedanta (a major branch of Hindu philosophy). The term sarva-sara is th...

Contents of the Sarvasāra Upaniṣad

[In the text, all the questions are given first and then the answers follow. But the following arrangement is adopted to facilitate reference.]

1. What is Bandha (bondage).

Ātmā [the Self] falsely superimposing the body and others which are not-Self upon Himself, and identifying Himself with them—this identification forms the bondage of the Self.

2. What is Mokṣa [emancipation]?

The freedom from that [identification] is Mokṣa.

3. What is Avidyā (Nescience)?

That which causes this identification—that indeed is Avidyā.

4. What is Vidyā (knovledge)?

That which removes this identification is Vidyā.

5. What are (meant by) the states of Jāgrat [the waking], Svapna [the dreaming], Suṣupti [the dreamless sleeping] and Turīya [the fourth]?

Jāgrat is that [state] during which Ātmā enjoys the gross objects of senses as sound, etc., through the 14 organs[1] as Manas, etc., having the sun and the rest as their presiding deities.

Svapna is that [state] during which Ātmā experiences, through the 14 organs associated with the Vāsanās [affinities], of the waking condition, sound and other objects which are of the form of the Vāsanās created for the time being, even in the absence of [the gross] sound and the others. Ātmā experiences Suṣupti when it does not experience sound and other objects of sense from the cessation of the functions of the 14 organs, there being no special enjoying consciousness on account of the absence of these organs.

Turīya is that state during which Ātmā is a witness to the existence of the above-mentioned three states, though it is in itself without (their) existence and non-existence and during which it is one uninterrupted Caitanya (consciousness) alone. And that Caitanya is that which is connected with the three states, which is without the three states, and which is pare.

6. What are the Annamaya, Prāṇamaya, Manomaya, Vijñānamaya and Ānandamaya Kośas (sheaths)?

Annamaya sheath is the aggregate of the materials formed by food. When the ten Vāyus (Vital airs), Prāṇas and others, flow through the Annamaya sheath, then it is called the Prāṇamaya sheath. When Ātmā connected with the above two sheaths performs the functions of hearing, etc., through the 14 organs of Man as and others, then it is called Manomaya sheath.

When in the (Antaḥ-karaṇa) internal organs connected with the above three sheaths, there arise the modifications of contemplation, meditation, etc., about the peculiarities of the sheaths, then it is called Vijñānamaya sheath.

When the self-cause Jñāna is in its Self-bliss like the banyan tree in its seed, though associated with these four sheaths caused by Ajñāna, then it is called Ānandamaya sheath. Ātmā which is associated with the Upādhi [vehicle] of these sheaths is figuratively called Kośa.

7. What is meant by Kartā (actor), Jīva, Pañcavarga [the five groups], Kṣetrajña (the lord of the place), Sākṣi [the witness], Kūtastha and Antaryāmin (the latent guide)?

Kartā (the actor) is the one who possesses the body and the internal organs through their respective desires proceeding from the idea of pleasure and pain. The idea of pleasure is that modification of the mind known as love. The idea of pain is that modification of the mind known as hate. The cause of pleasure and pain are sound, touch, form, taste and odour.

Jīva is that Adhyāsi [deluded one] that thinks that this body, which is obtained through the effects of good and bad Karmas, is one not so obtained.

Pañcavarga (the five groups) are (1) Manas, viz., Manas, Buddhi, Citta and Ahaṅkāra (creating uncertainty, certitude, flitting thought and egoism), (2) Prāṇa, i.e., Prāṇa, Apāna, Vyāna Samāna and Udāna, (3) Sattva, i.e., Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. (4) the [five] elements: earth, water, fire, Vāyu and Ākāś and (5) Dharma and its opposite Adharma.

The original Avidyā which has the characteristics of the above 5 groups, which does not perish without Ātmā-Jñāna, which appears eternal through the presence of Ātmā and which is the vehicle for [the manifestation of] Ātmā, is the seed of the Liṅga [subtle] body. It is also called Hṛdaya-granthi [the heart-knot].

The Caitanya [consciousness] which is reflected and shines in it is Kṣetrajña.

Sākṣi [the witness] is that conscious one that is aware of the appearance and disappearance [of the three states] of the knower, the knowledge and the known, who is himself without [or not affected by] this appearance and disappearance, and who is self-radiant.

Kūtastha is he who is found without exception in the Buddhi of all creatures from Brahma down to ants, and who is shining as Ātmā and dwells as witness to the Buddhi of all creatures.

Antaryāmin is the Ātmā that shines as the ordainer, being within all bodies like the thread [on which] beads [are strung] and serving to know the cause of the several differences of Kūtastha and others associated with him.

8. Who is Pratyagātmā?

He is of the nature of truth, wisdom, eternity and bliss. He has no vehicles of body. He is abstract wisdom itself, like a mass of pure gold that is devoid of the changes of bracelet, crovn, etc. He is of the nature of mere consciousness. He is that which shines as Caitanya and Brahman. When He is subject to the vehicle of Avidyā and is the meaning of the word "Tvam" ('Thou' in "Tattvamasi"), then He is Pratyagātmā.

9. Who is Paramātmā?

It is He who is associated with truth, wisdom, eternity, bliss, omniscience, etc., who is subject to the vehicle of Māyā and who is the meaning of the word "Tat" (or 'That' in "Tattvamasi").

10. What is Brahman?

Brahman is that which is free from all vehicles, which is the Absolute Consciousness devoid of particularities, which is Sat (Be-ness), which is without a second, which is bliss and which is Māyā-less. It is different from characteristics of that expressed by the word "Tvam" (Thou) subject to Upādhis (vehicles), or the characteristics of 'That' expressed by the word "Tat" subject to Upādhis. It is itself differenceless and is seen as the Seat of everything. It is the pure, the noumenal, the true and the indestructible.

And what is Satya (the true)?

It is the Sat (Be-ness) which is the aim pointed out by the Vedas. It is that which cannot be said to be Asat (not-Be-ness). It is that which is not affected by the three periods of time. It is that which continues to exist during the three periods of time. It is that which is. It is one without a second. It has not the differences of similarity or dissimilarity; or it is that which is the source of all ideas. It is that which does not perish even though space, time, matter, cause, etc., perish.

And what is Jñāna (wisdom)?

It is self-light. It is that which illuminates all. It is that Absolute Consciousness which is without any obscuration. It is that Consciousness which has no beginning or end, which is perpetual and which is the witness to all modifications and their opposites.

And what is Ananta (the eternal)?

It is that which is without origin and destruction. It is that which is not subject to the six changes (viz., birth, growth, manhood, decay, old age and death). It is free from all Upādhis. It is that Consciousness which, being all full and without destruction, permeates the created universe composed of Avyakta and others, like the earth in the modifications of clay, the gold in the modifications of gold, and thread in the modifications of thread.

And what is Ānanda (bliss)?

It is the seat of all sentient beings, like the ocean of the water, is eternal, pure, partless and non-dual, and is the sole essence of Cidānanda (consciousness-bliss).

11. Of how many kinds are substances?

There are three kinds, Sat (Be-ness), Asat (not-Be-ness) and Mithyā (Illusion).

Sat alone is Brahman. Asat is that which is not. Mithyā is the illusory ascription to Brahman of the universe that is not.

What is fit to be known is Brahman, the Ātmā alone.

Brahma-Jñāna is the rooting out of all—bodies and such like—that are not Self, and the merging in Brahman, the Sat. The universe of Ākāś and others including Jīva is not-Ātmā.

12. What is Māyā?

The root of this not-Ātmā is Māyā. She appears in Brahman like clouds, etc., in the sky. She has no beginning but has an end. She is subject to proof and not-proof. She neither is; nor is not; nor is she a combination of both (Sat and Asat). Her seat is indescribable. She has the varieties of differences as extolled by the wise. It is she that truly is not. Her nature is Ajñāna. She appears as Mūlaprakṛti, Guṇa-Sāmya (a state where the three Guṇas are found in equilibrium),[2] Avidyā (Nescience) and other forms, transforming herself into the form of the universe. Thus does a knower of Brahman cognize her.

Footnotes and references:


They are the 5 organs of sense, the 5 organs of action and the 4 of Antaḥ-karaṇa (the internal organ), viz., Manas, Buddhi, China and Ahaṅkāra. Each is animated by a Devatā or intelligential principle.


This refers to that slumbering or latent state of the universe—called also Mahā-Suṣupti when the Guṇas are in equilibrium; on re-awakening into activity when the Guṇas are disturbed, Mūlaprakṛti is called by the different names of Māyā, Avidyā, Tamas, etc.