The Praśnopaniṣat – Part 12
The Mantra 5.5 is now being explained:
He who meditates on the syllable ‘Om’ as containing the knowledge pertaining to the three letters, as a symbol, as also qualified as the Supreme Being abiding in the Sun, Sūrya, attains to a certain fruit. The meditation has the syllable ‘Om’ as a support, a symbol, for both the lower (para) and the higher (apara) Brahman. The fruit of such a meditation is: he becomes unified with the Sun. Even upon death, he will not return from Sūrya as one would return from Chandra. Just as a snake sheds its worn out skin, this meditator is freed from sins and reaches the Hiraṇyagarbha loka. There, he gains the direct realization of the Supreme Brahman that is beyond all creation and becomes liberated from samsāra. This is called ‘krama mukti’, liberation in stages, in Advaita. The gaining of Self-knowledge in one’s human life, in this world itself, before death, is called ‘sadyo mukti’ or ‘liberation here itself.’ When a person performs meditation on the syllable ‘Om’ or any other method taught in the Veda, as a result of the strength of the meditation, he attains to an exalted loka, the brahma loka, after death. There he gains the Self-knowledge taught by Hiraṇyagarbha/Brahmā, the Lord of the Brahma loka. When the Brahma loka perishes during the cosmic dissolution, all the residents of that loka, along with Brahmā, attain to the final liberation and never to return to samsāra.
The upāsaka attaining liberation is restated in the next two mantras.
तिस्रो मात्रा मृत्युमत्यः प्रयुक्ता अन्योन्यसक्ता अनविप्रयुक्ताः ।
क्रियासु बाह्याभ्यन्तरमध्यमासु सम्यक्प्रयुक्तासु न कम्पते ज्ञः ॥ ६ ॥
तिस्रः three मात्राः letters मृत्युमत्यः mortal प्रयुक्ताः joined अन्योन्यसक्ताः together अनविप्रयुक्ताः properly क्रियासु activities बाह्याभ्यन्तरमध्यमासु external, internal and intermediate सम्यक्प्रयुक्तासु well accomplished न does not कम्पते tremble ज्ञः the knower
The three letters of ‘Om’ if employed separately, are mortal; but when joined together in meditation on the total Reality and used properly on the activities of the external, internal and intermediate states, the knower trembles not.
The three letters of the syllable ‘Om’ are ‘a’, ‘u’ and ‘ma’. Individually these letters are within the realm of death. That is, when meditated upon individually, the letters do not free one from death; they do not result in liberating the individual. The letters are also connected with each other. Also, they are specifically aimed at distinct results. However, when they are properly meditated upon by applying oneself ardently to the three states of waking, dream and deep sleep, the result is that the meditator is not affected by any worldly happenings. He has seen, realized, his self that is what is underlying the three states. He has meditated on the three Puruṣas who are associated with the three states of waking, etc. The aspirant has, experientially realized that there is this connection between the three states and the three letters of Om. He has nothing in the world to be afraid of. Nothing can affect him. All that is there in the three states is this Ātman.
ऋग्भिरेतं यजुर्भिरन्तरिक्षं सामभिर्यत्तत्कवयो वेदयन्ते ।
तमोंकारेणैवायतनेनान्वेति विद्वान्यत्तच्छान्तमजरममृतमभयं परं चेति ॥ ७ ॥
ऋग्भिः by Ṛk mantras एतं this यजुर्भिः by Yajur mantras अन्तरिक्षं intermidiary सामभिः by Sāma mantras यत् which तत् that कवयः knowers वेदयन्ते know तम् that ओंकारेण by Omkāra एव alone आयतनेन support अन्वेति attains विद्वान् the Knower यत् which तत् that शान्तम् tranquil अजरम् free of old age अमृतम् free of death अभयं fearless परं Supreme च too इति thus
The wise man, meditating on ‘Om’, attains this world by means of the ṛk verses; the intermediate world by means of the yajur verses; and that which is known to the seers by means of the sāma verses. And also through the syllable ‘Om’ he realizes that which is tranquil, free from decay, death and fear and which is the Highest.
The above mantra gives a summary of all that has been said before. By meditating on just the ‘a’ letter of the syllable ‘Om’, one attains through the Ṛks, this, world of humans. By meditating on the ‘u’ letter one gains, through the Yajur mantras, the world presided over by Soma. What one attains by meditating on all the three letters together is the world of Brahmā, brahmaloka, is known to the enlightened alone and not others. This three-fold attainment of lower Brahman, a knower accomplishes through the meditation on the syllable ‘Om’. By this very syllable ‘Om’ one realizes even the Supreme, Higher, Brahman, the Imperishable, the Supreme Reality, the Puruṣa, the Tranquil, that is characterized by freedom from the three states of waking, dream and deep sleep, and totally devoid of the manifest and unmanifest world. Hence alone that Supreme Brahman is free of old age and hence alone free of death. Since that Brahman is devoid of transformations such as old age (disease, decrepitude, etc.) It is Fearless. The idea is that only when old age, disease and death are present there is constant fear of the pain of these maladies of life. These are not avoidable as long as one is embodied. The state one attains through self-realization is free of embodiment and hence alone free of fear. Since It is Fearless, It is the Highest, surpassed by no other state or entity. This state too is accomplished by the meditation on the syllable ‘Om’, the symbol, which enables one to reach the Brahmaloka and from there, through self-realization.
From the description above, one is reminded of the structure of the Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad, especially the seventh mantra. This mantra teaches the Supreme, Turiya, as that transcending the triad of states of waking, etc. where alone one has an embodied life and the travails connected with it. Freedom from the triad of states is freedom from bondage.
Here ends the Fifth Question and reply.
The Sixth Question
अथ हैनं सुकेशा भारद्वाजः पप्रच्छ । भगवन्हिरण्यनाभः कौसल्यो राजपुत्रो मामुपेत्यैतं प्रश्नमपृच्छत षोडशकलं भारद्वाज पुरुषं वेत्थ । तमहं कुमारमब्रवं नाहमिमं वेद यद्यहमिममवेदिषं कथं ते नावक्ष्यमिति, समूलो वा एष परिशुष्यति योऽनृतमभिवदति तस्मान्नार्हाम्यनृतं वक्तुम् । स तूष्णीं रथमारुह्य प्रवव्राज । तं त्वा पृच्छामि क्वासौ पुरुष इति ॥ १ ॥
अथ then ह indeed एनं him, Sage Pippalāda सुकेशाः Sukeśāḥ भारद्वाजः son of Bharadvāja पप्रच्छ asked भगवन् Respected Sir, हिरण्यनाभः Hiraṇyanābha कौसल्यः of Kosala राजपुत्रः prince माम् me उपेत्य approached एतं this प्रश्नम् question अपृच्छत asked षोडशकलं the sixteen-part भारद्वाज Bhāradvaja पुरुषं Puruṣa वेत्थ know? तम् him अहं I कुमारम् youth अब्रवं replied न not अहम् I इमं this Puruṣa वेद know यदि if अहम् I इमम् this अवेदिषं knew कथं why ते you न not अवक्ष्यम् inform about इति thus, समूलः completely वै indeed एषः this person परिशुष्यति destroyed यः whoever अनृतम् untruth अभिवदति utters तस्मात् hence न not अर्हामि fit अनृतं lie वक्तुम् to utter स he तूष्णीं quietly रथम् chariot आरुह्य mounted प्रवव्राज departed तं him त्वा Thou पृच्छामि ask of क्व where असौ that पुरुषः Puruṣa इति thus
Then Sukeśā, the son of Bharadvāja, said to Pippalāda: Sir, Hiraṇyanābha, the prince of Kosala, once came to me and asked this question: “O son of Bharadvāja, do you know the Person with sixteen parts?” I said to the prince: “I do not know Him; if I knew Him, why should I not tell you? Surely he who speaks what is not true withers away to the very root; therefore I should not speak untruth.” Then he silently mounted his chariot and went away. Now I ask you: Where does that Person dwell?
After the fifth question was asked and replied, Sukeśā, son of Bharadvāja, posed his question to the revered Sage Pippalāda. It has been stated before that the entire world of cause and effects, along with the jīva, rests in the Supreme Akṣara during deep sleep. From this it also becomes clear that even in the pralaya, dissolution, the world rests in that Supreme Akśara alone. It is quite reasonable to hold that the effect (world) is established in its cause (Akṣara) alone. It has been stated in this very Upaniṣad ‘From the Ātman arises the prāṇa’ (Pra.up. 3.3). It is also the considered conclusion of all the Upaniṣads that by knowing the source of the world one would attain the Supreme purpose of life, liberation. In other words, the liberating knowledge is had from knowing the fundamental cause of creation. By knowing this One Cause, everything stands known. It is also stated subsequently that ‘He, the all-knower is verily the all’ (Pra.up. 4.10). What is required to be stated clearly is ‘Where indeed is that Akṣara, the Cause, Satyam, known by the name ‘Puruṣa’, to be realized?’ The Sixth Question is posed with a view to delineate on this. The narrating of a background story is to bring out the rarity of this Knowledge and through this, the immense effort needed on the part of the aspirants to secure it.