V Subrahmanian, Monday, April 14, 2014 8:46 pm

The muNDakopaniShat – Part 4

Part 4

Continuing the exposition of the mantra 1.2.1, we see that the actions are ‘real’ in the sense that they are certain to yield their fruit to the person who performs them duly. These actions are ordained in the veda, having revealed to the RRiShi-s, as being three-fold, that is, comprising of the hotR, adhvaryu, udgAtR, specific officiating agents belonging to the RRig, yajus and sAma veda-s. These actions are many in number, having a lot of variety and in vogue. Or it could mean that these karma-s enjoyed following/adherence in the tretA yuga, Age.

Therefore you, those who desire to have the fruits of the actions, engage in these actions faithfully. This will be the means for you to attain those worlds where the fruits could be enjoyed. These works such as the agnihotra, enjoined in the three veda-s constitute the means to attain the fruits desired.

Now, the agnihotra itself is being taken up in the beginning as it is the foremost among vedic rituals:

Mantra 1.2.2


??? ??????? ???????? ??????? ????????? ?

??????????????????????? ???????????? ? ? ?

??? when ??????? ?? flicker ?????? flames ??????? well lighted ????????? fire ??? then ???????? two portions ??????? between ?????? oblations ???????????? offer

When the fire is well lighted and the flames flicker, let a man offer his oblations in the space between the two portions.

When the fire is well blazing and flickering being fed by fuel, then in the midst of the two places where oblations are poured, one has to offer the oblations intended to the deity. Since the ritual is done on several days the plural ‘oblations’ is used in the mantra.

The above kind of actions that are verily characterized by rituals involving pouring of oblations is difficult to follow/perform accurately without violating the strict rules of performance. There are several obstacles, lapses, which are being indicated here:

Mantra 1.2.3

????????????????????????????-

???????????????????????????????? ? ?

???????????????????? ???-

??????????????? ????????????? ? ? ?

???? ???????????? (He) whose agnihotra ???????????????? unaccompanied by darsha and paurNa sacrifice ?????????????? four-month’s sacrifice ?????????? autumnal sacrifice ???????????? without feeding guest ? also ?????? timely oblations not offered ??????????? bereft of vaishvadeva ceremony ??????? improperly ????? performed ????????? seven ???? of his ?????? worlds ??????? destroys

If a man’s agnihotra sacrifice is not accompanied by the darsha and the paurNamAsa sacrifice, by the Four Months’ sacrifice and the Autumnal sacrifice; if it is unattended by hospitality to guests or if the oblations are not offered at the right time; or if the sacrifice is unaccompanied by the vaishvadeva ceremony or is improperly performed—then it destroys his seven worlds. 

An agnihotrI (the householder who engages in the performance of the agnihotra ritual) has to perform that ritual accompanied by several other auxiliary rituals. These are: the ‘darsha’, the paurNamAsa, the chAturmAsa, the AgrayaNa (autumnal), daily propitiating the guest with food, giving of oblations, vaishvadeva ritual, strict adherence to the method of offering oblations, etc. Here we see that the mantra is specifying errors of omission and commission that could occur when a man is engaged in the ritual of agnihotra. What would happen to such a man? When a ritual is performed accurately one attains to the seven loka-s, worlds, listed as bhUH up to satya. In the absence of accurate performance, however, all these loka-s are denied to him. Since he will not be attaining to these loka-s they are as good as having been destroyed. The entire effort is just labour wasted and nothing more.

An alternative interpretation for the ‘destruction of the seven worlds’ is: When the ritual-performer offers the balls of rice, etc. to the manes, the seven generations get connected: father, grandfather, great grandfather, son, grandson and great grandson and the offeror himself. Such a favourable connection does not happen when the agnihotra is tainted by the above mentioned defects.

Mantra 1.2.4

???? ????? ?????? ?

???????? ?? ? ???????????? ?

???????????? ????????? ? ????

????????? ??? ???? ??????? ? ? ?

???? the black ????? the terrific ?????? the swift as thought ? ???????? and the very red ?? ? she who is ???????????? of the colour of white smoke ???????????? the scintillating ????????? all gleaming ? ???? and the deity ????????? flickering about ??? ???? ??????? are the seven tongues of fire.

kAlI (the Black), karAlI (the Terrific), manojavA (the Swift as thought), sulohitA (the Very red), sudhUmravarNA (of the colour of bright smoke; purple), sphulinginI (the Scintillating) and the luminous vishvaruchI (the All-gleaming, al- formed)—these seven, flickering about, form the seven tongues of the fire. 

The above named feminine deities are the one’s featured as the ‘tongues’ of the fire into which oblations are offered, which swallow up the offerings.

Mantra 1.2.5

????? ??????? ???????????

??????? ??????? ?????????? ?

?? ??????????? ???????? ??????

???? ??????? ?????????????? ? ? ?

????? while these fires ?? he who ???? performs ??????????? when well ablaze ??????? at appropriate times ? ?????? oblations ?? ??????? offering ?? him ?????? lead ???? these ???????? sun’s ?????? rays ???? where ??????? ???? the Head of gods ??? one ??????? dwells

A man who performs the sacrifices when these flames are shining and offers oblations at the right time, is carried by these oblations on the rays of the sun to where dwells the sole sovereign of the gods. 

When an agnihotrI, the performer of that ritual, offers the oblations into the above mentioned fires, when the fire is well lighted and in flames, at the appropriate times (with unbroken regularity), he is led by these very offerings which take the form of the sun’s rays. Where is this sacrificer led to? To heaven, the abode of the gods, where their Lord indra, reigns over. How is he led by the sun’s rays? That is being stated in the sequel.

Mantra 1.2.6

????????? ???????? ????????

???????? ??????????????? ?????? ?

??????? ????????????????????????

?? ?? ?????? ?????? ?????????? ? ? ?


??? ??? ‘Come thither’  ??? thus ??? him ??????  these flames ???????? bright ones ???????? sun’s ???????? by rays ?????? the sacrificer ?????? carry ??????? pleasant ????? words ???????????  speaking  ???????????worshiping  ?? this ?? your ?????? meritorious ?????? deed  ?????????? abode of brahmA

The luminous oblations say to the sacrifier: ’Come hither! Come hither!’ And lead him on the rays of the sun, worshiping him all the while and greeting him with the pleasant words ’This is the holy heaven of brahmA, earned by your good deeds’

By welcoming the sacrificer with pleasing words that are also accompanied by praises, these shining flame-deities also worship him. ‘This abode of brahmA is the result of your meritorious deeds. Thus they lead the sacrifier through the sun’s rays. Contextually, the term ‘brahma loka’ (‘abode of brahmA’) is to mean svarga, heaven. For, brahmaloka is attained only by superior contemplations accompanied or not by works too.

This above stated ritual is bereft of contemplation, upAsana, and therefore the fruit of it too is just the heavenly world. And this fruit, evidently, is the effect, product, of avidyA (ignorance), kAma (desire) and karma (work/ritual) and therefore not substantial and hence is to be avoided/shunned.

Mantra 1.2.7

????? ?????? ????? ????????

??????????????? ???? ???? ?

?????????? ????????????? ????

?????????? ?? ????????? ????? ? ? ?

 ?????? rafts ?? indeed ??? are these ?????? frail ????????? sacrifices ????????????? with eighteen members ???? lowly ???? in which ???? ritual ???? this ?????? highest good ?? those ??????????? gleeful ????? fools ?????????? old age and death ?? they ???? again ?? surely ??? ????? also attain.

But frail indeed are those rafts of sacrifices, conducted by eighteen persons, upon whom rests the inferior work; therefore they are destructible. Fools who rejoice in them as the Highest Good fall victims again and again to old age and death. 

The vedic rituals are being characterized as frail rafts since the fruit derived therefrom is not any substantial. They have a beginning and end and are founded on ignorance, desire and works. The components involved in the works are many in number: eighteen in the agnihotra ritual, consisting of sixteen vedic priests and the sacrificer and his wife who will have to perform the rituals as a couple. These rituals do not involve contemplation, upAsana, and are mere works. Therefore these lower order karma-s perish along with their fruits. Just as when a pot is destroyed, the milk or curds contained therein too gets destroyed.

Since those indulged in these works ignorantly think, out of delusion, these are means to great happiness, they end up remaining in the wheel of transmigration called saMsAra characterized by old age and death after a short stay in svarga, heaven.

Mantra 1.2.8

??????????????? ?????????

????? ????? ??????? ????????? ?

???????????? ???????? ?????

???????? ??????? ???????? ? ? ?

??????????? ?????? within the fold of ignorance ????????? remaining ????? ourselves ????? wise ??????? and learned ????????? thinking ???????????? buffeted ???????? ramble about ????? fools ?????? by the blind ?? alone ???????? led ??? just as ?????? the blind

Remaining within the fold of ignorance and thinking, ‘We are ourselves wise and learned’, the fools, while being buffeted very much, ramble about like the blind led by the blind alone.

Bereft of discrimination these people remain in ignorance alone thinking ‘We are indeed wise ones and learned in the scriptural methods of works’. They gloat in such thinking. As a result of this, they are buffeted by the various pangs of saMsAra such as old age and disease repeatedly. Devoid of the vision of discrimination, viveka, these fools are like blind ones led by others without sight for whom the pain of falling in ditches or walking on thorns is unavoidable.

The upaniShad goes on to say more on the plight of these people.


Part 1
, Part 3, Part 5


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