Shaiva Upanishads (A Critical Study)

by Arpita Chakraborty | 2013 | 33,902 words

This page relates ‘‘OM’ Atharvashira Upanishad’ of the study on the Shaiva Upanishads in English, comparing them with other texts dealing with the Shiva cult (besides the Agamas and Puranas). The Upaniṣads are ancient philosophical and theological treatises. Out of the 108 Upanishads mentioned in the Muktikopanishad, 15 are classified as Saiva-Upanisads.

3. ‘OM’ Atharvaśira Upaniṣad

[...] Atharvaśira Upaniṣad verse 43,44

One should transcend the three mātras” (the letters “A” ,“U” and “M” of the Praṇava and their controllers–the Viśva, the Virāj, and the Otṛ.), perpetually abidest in the heart, as the Paramātman non differentiated from the innermost Ātman, bearing testimony to the presence or absence of the thousand and one kinds of functionings of the mind manifest therein and at the same time stands apart from them all. Above that (heart) shines the crest (as the most elevated part of the body), indicated by the syllable “M”, as well as its controller, the Prājñā and others[1]; similarly, as the dependent part of it’s the Pāda (foot), indicated by the letter “A”, its controller, Viśva and others; and in the middle part in the middle of its form, is the letter, “U” indicated by its controller, the Taijasa, and as the topmost part of it, is the Turyā indicated by the controller, the Turyātman, the whole standing for the Oṃkāra. That which is at the elevated part (the crest) is the ‘Oṃkāra’. What is the Oṃkāra is the Praṇava. What is the Praṇava is the Sarvavyāpi or all pervasive One. What is the all pervasive One is the Ananta or endless One. What is the endless One is the Tāra (the Brahman). What is the Tāra is the Sūkṣma or subtle One. What is the subtle One is the Śukla (that is of white colour). What is the Śukla is of the character of Vidyuta or lightning. What is of the character of lightning is the Parabrahman, thus. That is the ‘Eka’ or one absolute existence.

What is the one absolute existence is Rudra, Īśāna, the Bhagavat (the omnipotent lord) the Maheśvara, the Mahādeva.

[...] Atharvaśira Upaniṣad 45

Why is the ‘Oṃkāra’ so called? The answer is: “For the reason that even while it is being pronounced, it elevates, as it were, the entire body, for that reason alone it is known as the “Oṃkāra[2]

1 The Connotation of the term “PRAṆAVA

[...] Atharvaśira Upaniṣad verse 46.

“Why is the Praṇava so called? The answer is: “For the reason that even while it is being pronounced, it causes the Brahman of the four Vedas, Ṛg, Yajus, Sāman and Atharvāṅgirasa (represented by all the Ṛtviks officiating at the sacrifice) to make Praṇāma or obeisance unto the Brāhmaṇas for that reason it is known as the Praṇava.”[3]

2. The meaning of the SARVAVYĀPI

[...] Atharvaśira Upaniṣad verse 47.

Why is Praṇava known as the all-pervasive one? The answer is: “For the reason that even while it is being pronounced, it pervades all the worlds, as their inseparable concomitant, even as oil would pervade the entire mass of pulverized sesamum seed the source from which it has been separated, pervading the mass as intimately as the wrap and the woof in a piece of a cloth, for that reason it is known as the all pervasive.”[4]

3. The meaning of the ANANTA

[...] Atharvaśira Upaniṣad verse 48.

“Why is it known as the endless one? The answer is “For the reason that even while it is being pronounced, neither the beginning nor the end thereof is reached, either in the transverse direction or upwards or downwards, for that reason it is known as endless.”[5]

4. The meaning of the TĀRA

Why is Praṇava known as the Tāra? The answer is:“For the reason that even while it is being pronounced, it helps one to surmount the great fear of swirling in the recurrence of staying in the womb, birth, dotage and death, for that reason it is known as the Tāra (boat)”.[6]

5. The meaning of the term “SŪKṢMA

[...] Atharvaśira Upaniṣad verse 50

Why is Praṇava known as the Subtle one?. The answer is:” For the reason that even while it is being pronounced, it abides in other bodies (as the Viśva-viśva and the like), only after becoming the subtle, innermost Ātman, subtler than the tiniest awn of a grain of wild paddy, for that reason it is known as the subtle one”.

6. The meaning of the term ŚUKLA

[...] Atharvaśira Upaniṣad verse 51

“Why is Praṇava known as the Śukla? The answer is:” For the reason that even while it being pronounced, it manifests itself in its own form (klandate, klāmayate) and reveals other forms apart from itself, for that reason it is known as the Śukla.”[7]

7. The meaning of the term VAIDYUTA

Why is Praṇava known as the Vaidyuta? The answer is: “For the reason that even while it is being pronounced, it (the Ātmatattva) causes all bodies (typical of the state of ignorance of the Ātman) to be revealed (vidyotayati) in their real nature as non-existent apart from itself, in the very thick darkness (of the ignorance of the Ātman), for that reason it is known as the Vaidyuta (the resplendent, self manifest, lightning like Ātman).[8]

8. The meaning of the “PARABRAHMAN

[...] Atharvaśira Upaniṣad verse 53

“Why is Praṇava known as the Parabrahman?” The answer is: For the reason that even while it being pronounced, it increases in volume by grasping everything apart from itself (bṛhati, bṛmhayati) and causes all to be merged in its expansive abundance, itself transcending them all”.

9. The meaning of the term ‘EKA

[...] Atharvaśira Upaniṣad verse 54

“Why is he known as the One?. The answer is: “For the reason that the Parameśvara withdraws once for all at the time of the deluge all the worlds fashioned out of his mind, himself remaining in the attitude, “I alone am all these” creates them once again, in the subtle form at first, then creates them again in the gross form of diverse kinds (in a differential state) and having thus brought into existence all the beings created out of the non–quintuplicated and the quintulicated great elements causes them all perpetually to abide in himself, their only prop and sustains them thus.”[9]

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

Atharvaśira Upaniṣad verse 43, 44. [...]

[2]:

Ibid 45.

[3]:

Ibid verse 46.

[4]:

Ibid verse 47. [...]

[5]:

Ibid verse 48.

[6]:

Ibid verse 49.

[7]:

Ibid verse 51. [...]

[8]:

Ibid verse 52.

[9]:

Ibid verse 54.

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