THE MUṆḌAKA UPANISHAD
OF THE ATHARVA VĒDA.
1. Brahmā, the creator of the universe, the preserver of the world, was first produced among the gods. He taught the science of Brahma, the foundation of all sciences, to Atharva, his eldest son.
2. Atharvan revealed of old the science of Brahma, which Brahma had explained to him, to Angis; he explained it to Satyāvaha of the family of Bharadvāja, who revealed the science, traditionally obtained by the succession of teachers, to Angiras.
3. The son of Śanaka, the great house-holder, approached, according to the rite, Angiras, asking him:-Who is it, O venerable, by the knowledge of whom this all becomes known?
4. He said to him:-Two sciences must be known, thus tell us the knowers of Brahma, the highest and the lesser.
5. The lesser comprehends the Rik, the Yajus, the Sāma and the Atharva Vēdas, accentuation, ritual, grammar, glossary, prosody and astronomy. Again the highest is the science, by which that indestructible (Brahma) is comprehended.
6. He is the invisible, unseizable being, without origin, without distinction, without eye or ear, without hand or foot, the eternal, pervading, omnipresent, subtle, inexhaustible being, whom the sages behold as the source of the elements.
7. As the spider casts out and draws in (its web), as on the earth the annual herbs are produced, as from living man the hairs of the head and body spring forth, so is produced the universe rom the indestructible (Brahma).
8. By devotion is Brahma concentrated, hence food produced, from food life, mind, existence, the worlds, (works and) from works immortality.
9. From him who is all-wise, omniscient, whose devotion (tapas) has the nature of knowledge, are produced this Brahmā, name, forms and food.
1. This is the truth: The works which the wise beheld (revealed) in the Mantras were in the Trētā Yuga performed in manifold ways. (Therefore) you that desire the proper fruit (of your works) practise them (now) always.-This is your road for (obtaining) the world of your actions.
2. When the bearer of the sacrifice (the fire) is kindled, when the lame lickers, then let (the sacrificer) throw the offerings between the two portions of melted butter. With faith must be offered.
3. By a sacrifice,-which is not accompanied with the rites on the day of the new-moon, or on the day of the full-moon, or every four months, or in the autumnal season, or where no guests are invited, or which is not done in proper time, or which is performed without the rite to the Visvadēvas, or against the regulations,-a person is robbed of the seven worlds.
4. The seven flickering tongues of the fire are :-Kālī (the black one), Karālī (the terrific one), Manojavā, (swift as the mind), Sulohitā (the very red one), Sudhūmravarṇā (of purple colour, Sphulinginī (emitting sparks), and the Viśvarupī (all-shaped) goddess.
5. Whoever performs works, when those (tongues) are shining, and (performs them) in due time, is taken by the offerings in the form of the rays of the sun, and carried to that (world), where the one lord of the gods abides.
6. "Come, come," thus saying, the resplendent offerings carry the sacrificer by the rays of the sun, honouring him and saluting him with the welcome word : "This is your holy Brahma-world, obtained by your desert."
7. Perishable (and) transient, are verily the eighteen supporters of the sacrifice, on whom, it is said, the inferior work depends. The fools, who consider this (work) as the highest (object of man), undergo again even decay and death.
8. In the midst of ignorance, fools, fancying themselves wise and learned, go round and round, oppressed by misery, as blind people led by a blind.
9. Living in various ways in ignorance, youths imagine, we have obtained our end. Because the performers of work from attachment (to the world) are not wise, therefore, suffering unhappiness, they lose heaven, when the fruit of their works has become nought.
10. Fancying oblations and pious gifts (to lead to) the highest (object of man), fools do not know anything (as the cause of the) good. Having enjoyed (the fruit of their works) on the high place of heaven, which (high place) they gained by their actions, they enter (again) this world or one that is lower.
11. Those again who, with subdued senses, with knowledge and the practice of the duties of a mendicant, in the forest follow austerity and faith, go, freed from sin, through (the grace of) the sun (to the place), where abides that immortal spirit of inexhaustible nature.
12. Let the Brāhmaṇa after he has examined the worlds, gained by works, renounce the world, (by the reflection that) there is nothing that is not created, because it is the effect of work. For the purpose of knowing that (which is not created), he approaches, sacred wood in his hand, a teacher, who knows the Vēdas and who is solely devoted to Brahma.
13. Let then the wise (teacher) explain to that (pupil) who approached him according to the rite, whose mind is at rest and whose senses are subdued, according to the truth the science of Brahma, by which he knows the indestructible true spirit.
1. This is the truth : 'As from a blazing fire in thousand ways similar sparks proceed, so, O beloved are produced living souls of various kinds from the indestructible (Brahma), and they also return to him.
2. He is verily luminous, without form, a spirit, he is without and within, without origin, without life, without mind, he is pure and greater than the great indestructible one.
3. From this (Brahma) are produced life, mind, and all the organs, ether, air, light, the water (and) the earth, the support of all.
4. He, whose head is the fire, whose eyes are the moon and the sun, whose ears the quarters, whose revealed word the Vēdas, whose vital air the mind, whose heart the universe, from whose feet the earth (sprang forth), is the inner soul of all beings.
5. From him* is produced the fire whose fuel is the sun; from the moon Parjanya, (from him) the annual herbs on the earth (nourished by them) man emits seed upon the wife; (thus) many creatures are produced from the spirit.
6. From him (emanated) the Mantras of the Rik, the Sāma and the Yajur Vedas, the initiatory rites, the burnt offerings, all the sacrifices) the donations, the year and also the sacrificer (and) the worlds in which the sun and moon purify.
7. From him also were produced in many ways the gods, the Sādhyas, men, quadrupeds, birds, the vital airs that go forward and descend, rice and barley, devotion, faith, truth, the duties of a Brahma-student and observance.
8. From him proceed the seven senses, the seven flames, the seven kinds of fuel, the seven sacrifices, these seven places in which the vital airs move that sleep in the cavity (of the heart) and that, always seven, are ordained (for every living being).
9. Thence (proceed) all the seas and mountains; rom him proceed the rivers of every kind, thence all the annual herbs, the juice by which, together with the elements, the inner body is upheld.
10. Spirit alone is this all, the works, austerity. Whoever knows this supreme, immortal Brahma as dwelling in the cavity (of the heart), breaks, O gentle youth, the bonds of ignorance.
1. (This Brahma is) manifest, near, dwelling verily in the cave, (is) the great goal; on him is founded all that moves, breathes and closes the eyes. This you know as what exists and not exists, as what is to be adored, § as what is beyond the knowledge of the creatures, as the greatest.
2. As luminous, as more subtle than what is subtle, on which the worlds are founded and their inhabitants. This (is) the indestructible Brahma, this life, this speech and mind. This is true, this is immortal, this, O gentle one, know as (the aim) to be pierced (by thee).
3. Seizing as his bow the great weapon of the Upanishad, (let man) put (on it) the arrow, sharpened by devotion, attracting with the mind whose thought is fixed upon that (Brahma). Know, O beloved, that indestructible (Brahma) as the aim.
4. f The sacred word (" Om") is called the bow, the arrow the soul, and Brahma its aim; he shall be pierced by him whose attention does not swerve. Then he will be of the same nature with him (Brahma), as the arrow (becomes one with the aim when it has pierced it).
5. On him are based the heavens, the earth, the atmosphere, the mind with all the organs. Him ye know as the one soul alone. Dismiss (all) other words; he is the bridge to immortality.
6. Within (the heart), which the arteries enter as the spokes the nave of the wheel, he moves-becoming manifold. You meditate on him by the word "Om." Be welfare to you that you may cross over the sea of darkness.
7. The soul which is all-wise, omniscient, whose glory (is manifested) in the world, is placed in the divine town of Brahma, in the ether (of the heart) ; it is of the nature of the mind, the ruler of life and of the body, placed in food. The wise, concentrating the heart, behold by the knowledge of him (Brahma) that whose nature appears as bliss, is immortal.
8. The bond of the heart is broken all doubts disappear, and his works cease (to bear fruit), when (the being) who is supreme and not supreme, is seen.
9. In the golden (luminous) highest sheath the knowers of the soul know the Brahma who is without spot, without part, who is pure, who is the light of lights.
10. There (as to Brahma) the sun does not manifest, nor the moon and stars, there do not manifest those lightnings, how then should manifest this fire? When he is manifest, all is manifested after him; by his manifestation this whole (world) becomes manifest.
11. This immortal Brahma is before, Brahma behind, Brahma to the right and to the left, below and above, all-pervading, Brahma is this all, is this infinite (world).
1. Two birds, always united, of equal name, dwell upon one and the same tree. The one of them enjoys the sweet fruit of the fig tree, the other looks round as a witness.
2. Dwelling on the same tree (with the supreme soul) the deluded soul (the individual soul), immersed (in the relations of the world), is grieved by the want of power; but when it sees the other, the (long) worshipped ruler as different (from all worldly relations) and his glory, then its grief ceases.
3. When the beholder beholds the golden-coloured author? (of the world), the lord, the spirit, the source of Brahma, then, shaking of virtue and vice, without spot, he obtains the highest identity.
4. "This life shines forth as all the beings" the wise who thus knows, does not speak of anything else; his sport is in the soul, his love and action are in the soul; he is the greatest among the knowers of Brahma.
5. The soul must verily be obtained by the constant (practice) of truth, of devotion, of perfect knowledge, (and) of the duty of a Brahma-student. He whom the sinless devotees behold, is verily in the midst of the body, of the nature of light, is pure.
6. Truth conquers alone, not falsehood. By truth is opened the road of the gods, by which the Rishis whose desires are satisfied, proceed, (and) where the supreme abode of real truth (is found).
7. This (being of Brahma) is great, divine, of a nature not to be conceived by thinking, more subtle than what is subtle, it shines in various ways, it is more distant than what is distant, and also near in this body; for the beholders it dwells even here in the cave.
8. It is not apprehended by the eye, not by speech, not by the other senses, not by devotion or rites; but he, whose intellect is purified by the light of knowledge, beholds him who is without parts, through meditation.
9. This subtle soul is to be known by thinking, into which life, five-fold divided, entered. The organ of thinking of every creature is pervaded by the senses ; that (organ) purified, the soul manifests itself.
10. Purified in intellect, (man) gains that world and those desires which he imagines in his mind. Therefore let a man who is desirous of prosperity worship him who knows the soul.
1. He knows this supreme Brahma, the place, founded on which the whole world shines in glory. The wise who, free from desires, adore the man (who thus knows the soul) will not be born again.
2. Whoever fancying forms desires, is by his desires born here and there; (but) for him whose desires are satisfied, and who has recognised the soul, vanish even here all desires.
3. The soul cannot be gained by knowledge (of the Veda,) not by understanding it, not by manifold science. It can be obtained by the soul by which it is desired. His soul reveals its own truth.
4. The soul cannot be obtained by a man without strength, nor by carelessness, nor by devotion, nor by knowledge which is unattended by devotion; but if the wise strives with those supports, then enters the soul the abode of Brahma.
5. When the Rishis who are satisfied with knowledge, who have acquired (the knowledge of) the soul, who are without passion and placid in mind, have obtained him, then wise and with concentrated mind, everywhere comprehending the all-pervading (soul), they enter it wholly.
6. Those who have ascertained the meaning of the knowledge derived from the Vedanta, who by the Yoga which renounces all worldly concerns, are striving (for emancipation) and whose intellects are purified, all those at the time of their final death enjoying the highest immortality in the worlds of Brahma become fully liberated.
7. (Then) the fifteen parts (of the body) enter into their elements, and all the organs into their presiding deities; (then) the actions and the soul, which resembles knowledge, become one in the (being which is) great, inexhaustible (and) all.
8. As the flowing rivers come to their end in the sea, losing name and form, so, liberated from name and form, proceeds the wise to the divine soul, which is greater than the great.
9. Whoever knows this supreme Brahma, becomes even Brahma. In his family there will be none ignorant of Brahma; he overcomes grief, he overcomes sin, he becomes immortal, liberated from the bonds of the cave (heart).
10. This is recorded in the following Rik:-Let (the teacher) communicate this science of Brahma to those who are performers of ceremonies, versed in the Vēdas and devoted to Brahma, who themselves offer with faith oblations to the one Rishi (the fire), and by whom the observance to bear fire on their heads has been performed according to prescribed rite.
11. The Rishi Angiras communicated this truth before (to the son of Śunaka). Let none read this who has not performed the (fire) rite. Salutation to the great Rishis, salutation to the great Rishis.
Translated by E. Röer
Originally published in Bibliotheca Indica