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PRAŚNA UPANISHAD

THE PRAŚNA UPANISHAD
OF THE ATHARVA VĒDA

First Praśna

1. Sukesan, the soil of Bharadvāja, Satyakāma, the son of Śiva, Gārgya (a descendant from the Garga family), the grandson of Sūrya, Kauśalya, the son of Aśvala, Bhārgava (a descendant of the Bhrigu family), the son of Vidarbhi, and Kavandhin, the son of Katya, all these, devoted to Brahma and firm in his worship, being searching for the supreme Brahma, approached, sacred wood in their hands, the adorable Pippalāda, (thinking:-) he will verily explain all this.

2. The Rishi spoke to them:-Pass another year with austerity, the duties of a Brahma-student (and) faith, (and then) ask any questions which you like. If we know, we will explain all to you.

3. Then (after the expiration of a year) Kavandhin, the son of Katya, approached (him) asking, whence are these creatures produced?

4. He said to him:-Prajāpati was desirous of offspring (Prajākāma). He performed austerity. Having performed austerity, he produced a couple, matter and life (with the intention): They shall in manifold ways produce offspring for me.

5. Āditya (the sun) is verily life, matter even the moon; matter is this all, viz., what has form, and what is without form. Hence (from this division) what is possessed of form is even matter.

6. Then Āditya rising penetrates the eastern quarter; therefore he takes up into his rays the creatures in the east. Because he penetrates the southern, the western and the northern quarters, because (he penetrates) below, above, because (he penetrates) the intermediate quarters, because he manifests all, therefore he takes up into his rays all creatures.

7. This life, the soul of all creatures (Vaiśvānara), the nature of  all, the life, rises as fire (every day making the quarters like himself). This is recorded in the following Mantra of the Rig Vēda:-

8. " He (whom the wise know) as the nature of all, as the taker (of all), as omniscient (jātavēda), as the supreme support, as the one light, as the performer of austerity, he who sheds a thousand rays, the life, dwelling a hundred-fold (in the creatures), the sun rises."

9. The year (time) is verily Prajāpati. It (the year) has two paths, the one to the south, the other to the north. Therefore those who worship it under the idea of work (that is to say, as finite) as oblations, and pious gifts, obtain even the sphere of the moon; they return again. Therefore those who are desirous of heaven, and those who are desirous of offspring, obtain the southern path (the moon). This food is verily the path of the forefathers.

10. Again, those who, through austerity, by the performance of the duties of a Brahma-student, by faith, (and) knowledge, comprehend themselves, obtain the sphere of Āditya, by the northern path. This is verily the support of the creatures, this is immortal, this is without fear. this is the supreme path. From thence none ever returns, for there is this exclusion. Here the following śloka is recorded:-

11. "Some call him the father, moving with five feet, possessed of twelve-fold form, who has abundance of rain, in the place higher than heaven. Others call him all-wise, upon whom, like a chariot, drawn by seven horses, whose wheels have six spokes, (the whole world) is founded."

12. The month is Prajāpati, its dark half is even matter, its light half, life (Āditya, the consumer, fire). Therefore these Rishis offer oblations in the light half, others in the other. 

13. Day and night are Prajāpati; his day is even life, his night even food. Those verily dry up life who by day enjoy love; those who enjoy love by night are considered as fulfilling the duties of a Brahma-student.

14. Food is verily Prajāpati; hence the seed; hence are created the creatures.

15. Therefore all (the house-holders) who follow that vow of Prajāpati produce a pair (son and daughter). This world of Brahma will be obtained by those who practise austerity, the duties of a Brahma-student, (and) in whom truth dwells.

16. That world of Brahma, which is free from dust (decay), will be the share of them in whom there is no crookedness, no lie, no delusion

Second Praśna

1. Then Bhārgava, the son of Vidarbhi, asked him: -O venerable, how many deities (organs) uphold the creature (the body)? How many (of them) manifest that (greatness of their own)? Who again is among them the greatest?

2. He answered him:- Those deities verily are the ether, the wind, the fire, the water, the earth, speech, mind, eye, and ear (upholding the body). They manifesting (their power), disputed among each other, (saying :-) I, even I, uphold this body by my support.

3. To them spoke the principal life:-Be not lost in delusion.  I even, five-fold dividing myself, uphold this body by my support.

4. They did not believe. It (the principal life) through pride went out (of the body), as it were, from above. When it went out, all the others (the senses) went out, and when it remained, all the others remained. As all the bees go out, when their king goes out, and as all remain, when he remains, so also speech, mind, eye, and ear. Satisfied (thereby) they praise life:

5. "This (life) as fire burns, as the sun it (shines), as Parjanya (it rains), as Maghavān (Indra it reigns) ; it is the wind, it is the earth, the food, the god (of all the world), all that is and is not, and immortal."

6. As the spokes on the nave, so all (the whole body) is founded on life; (it is) the Mantras of the Rig, of the Yajus, and of the Sāma Vēdas, the oblations, the Kshatra and the Brahma.

7. Although Prajāpati, thou movest in the womb, thou art born. For the sake of thee, O life, who dwelleth together with the senses, those creatures offer oblations (food).

8. Thou art the principal dispenser (of the offerings) among the gods. Thou art the first food of the forefathers; Thou art also the real object of the Rishis, (and) of the vital functions which are the essence of the members.

9. Thou, O life, art Indra (the supreme god) by (thy) power, thou art Rudra, (thou art) the Preserver. Thou movest in the atmosphere as sun, thou (art) the lord of splendours.

10. When thou (as Parjanya) showerest rain, these creatures inhale life, (then) they rejoice, expecting, there will be food according to (our) wish.

11. Thou art a Vrātya, O life, the only Rishi, the consumer, the good lord of the world.  We are the givers of food; thou, O Mātariśva, art our father.

12. Make propitious thy body, which abides in speech, which abides in the ear, which abides in the eye, and which pervades the mind. Do not go out.

13. All that (is here on earth) and all that is in the third heaven, is placed under the sway of life. Like a mother her children, protect us, grant us prosperity and wisdom."

Third Praśna

1. Then Kausalya, the son of Aśvala, asked him O venerable, whence is born this life, (when born) how does it enter this body, (when it has entered) how, dividing itself, does it abide, how does it go out (of the body), how does it maintain (its) external relation, and how its relation to itself (to the soul)?

2. He answered him:-Thou askest difficult questions; thou art a great enquirer after Brahma; therefore I will explain to thee (for what thou hast asked).

3. From the soul is born this life. As a shadow (is cast) by man, so this (life) is expanded upon that (Brahma, the cause). By the action of the mind it enters into this body.

4.  As a king commands his officers: Govern these or those villages, so ordains life the other vital airs to separate and separate work,-

5. The descending air to the organs of excretion and generation. Life itself abides in the eye and ear, in the mouth and nose, but in the midst the equalising air; for it carries (everywhere) equally what has been offered; from this (air) proceed these seven flames.

6. For the (ether of the) heart is verily that soul. There (arise) the hundred and one (principal) arteries j each of them is a hundred times divided; 72,000 are the branches of every branch-artery; within them moves the circulating air.

7. Again, the ascending air (udāna) rising, leads through one of them to the holy place by holy work, by sin to the place of sin, by both to the world of man.

8. Āditya is the external air of respiration; for he rises for the benefit of the air of respiration which is in the eye. The (presiding) deity of the earth arrests the descending air of man. The ether (air) which is between (heaven and earth) is the equalising air. The wind (the common, external air) is the circulating air.

9. The ascending air is splendour; therefore, when his splendour is subdued, (man obtains) another body together with his senses, which have entered the mind.

10. With the understanding (the individual soul) enters life (Prāṇa). Life, united with splendour, together with the soul, leads it (the soul) to its appointed world.

11. The offspring of him who, thus knowing, knows life, does not perish, (and after death) he becomes immortal; here the following memorial verse (is recorded) :-

12. "Whoever knows the origin, the entrance, the locality and the five-fold power of life, enjoys immortality: whoever knows this, enjoys immortality."

Fourth Praśna

1. Then Gārgya, the grandson of Sūrya, asked him: -O venerable, which (organs) sleep in this body? Which are awake therein? Which among them is the god (the organ) who sees the dreams? Whose is that happiness? Upon whom are all (those organs) founded?

2. He answered him: -As all the rays of the sun, when setting, become one in that disc of light, and as they are dispersed, when he again and again rises, so this all (produced by the organs and their objects) becomes one in the highest god (sense), in the mind (at the time of sleep).Therefore, at that time the soul (Purusha) does not hear, nor see, nor smell, nor taste, nor touch ; it does not speak, nor take, nor enjoy itself, nor evacuate, nor move; it even sleeps, it is said.

3. (While the organs are at rest,) the fires of the vital airs are awake in this town. The ascending air is the household ire, because the air of respiration (Prāṇa), which is (like the fire by which is) offered, is taken (praṇīyate) from the (ascending air, as the sacrificial fire is taken from) the household fire, which is therefore called Praṇayana (from which is taken); the circulating air is the (southern) fire, by which the sacrificial food is prepared;

4. Inspiration and expiration are the two oblations, the air which distributes them equally is the equalising air. The mind is the sacrificer; the fruit of the sacrifice is even the ascending air; it leads the sacrificer day by day to Brahma. 

5. Then that god (the mind) enjoys in dream power. Whatever is seen, he sees again, he hears again all the objects that have been heard, he enjoys again and again, what has been enjoyed (by him) in other countries and places. What is visible (in the present birth) and invisible (in another birth), what is heard and not heard, what is enjoyed and not enjoyed, all is beheld, all is beheld by the one who is all.

6. When he becomes overwhelmed with light, then that god (the mind) does not see the dreams; at that time rises that happiness (of deep sleep) in the body.

7. As the birds, O beloved one, repair to a tree to dwell there, so indeed this all repairs to the supreme soul-

8. (Viz.) The earth and the subtle elements (mātrā) of earth, water and the subtle elements of water, the light and the subtle elements of light, the air and the subtle elements of air, the ether and the subtle elements of ether, J the eye and what is visible, the ear and what is audible, the smell and the objects of smell, the taste and what is tastable, the skin and what is touchable, speech and what is speakable, the hands and what is seizable, the organs of generation and what enjoyable, the after and what may be evacuated, the feet and what is moveable, the mind and what is an object of the mind, intellect and what is an object of intellect, self-consciousness and what is an object of self-consciousness, thinking (chitta) and what is an object of thinking, light and all that may be illuminated, life and all that is to be supported.

9. For he is the beholder, the toucher, the hearer, the smeller, the taster, the minder, the intelligent, the agent, the being whose nature is knowledge, the spirit (Purusha). He is founded on the supreme, indestructible soul.

10. The supreme, indestructible (being) is obtained. Whoever, O beloved one, knows this (being) which is without shadow, without body, without colour, which is shining, indestructible,-becomes omniscient, all. Here applies this Śloka: -

11."Whoever, O beloved one, knows the indestructible (soul), on which (the being) whose nature is knowledge, and together with all the gods the vital airs and the elements are founded, gets omniscient, penetrates all."

Fifth Praśna

1. Then asked him Satyakāma, the son of Śiva: -Which of the worlds gains he who among men has unceasingly (tad) meditated on the word "Om" until his departure from life?

2. He said o him:-O Satyakāma, the supreme and the inferior Brahma are both the word "Om." Hence the wise follows by this support one of the two.

3. If he meditates upon one letter, being enlightened thereby, he is quickly born on the earth. Him carry the Mantras of the Rig to the world of man. There, devoted to austerity, the duties of a Brahma-student (and) faith, he enjoys greatness.

4. Again, if he meditates In his mind On two letters (A, U,) he is elevated by the Mantras of the Yajur to the atmosphere; he (obtains) the world of the moon. Having enjoyed power in the world of the moon, he returns again (to the world of man).

5. Who again meditates by three letters, by the word "Om," on the supreme soul, is produced in light, in the sun. As the snake is liberated from the skin, so gets he liberated from sin. He is elevated by the Mantras of the Sāma to the world of Brahma (Hiranyagarbha). (There) he beholds the soul, which is greater than the great totality of the individual souls, and which is pervading (all) bodies. Here the following two memorial verses are recorded,-

6. "There are three letters, (A, U, M), subject to death, designed (for the meditation of the soul), they are designed (either) connected among themselves, (or each) designed for (meditation on) a special object. When the external, internal, and intermediate actions, are fully directed (to their objects), then the wise does not tremble.

7. The wise obtains by the Mantras of the Rig this (world of man), by the Mantras of the Yajur the atmosphere, (the moon) by the Mantras of the Sāma that which the sages know (as the world of Brahma), (he obtains) this (threefold world) by the word "Om" as means (and) even the highest (Brahma) who is without strife, without decay, without death and without fear."

Sixths Praśna

1. Then asked him Sukēś'a, the son of Bharadvāja:-O Venerable, Hiraṇyanābha, a prince of Kosala, came (once) to me and asked this question: Knowest thou, O Bharadvāja, the spirit of sixteen parts? I said to the youth:-I do not know him. If I knew him, why should I not tell thee? Whoever tells what is not true, dries verily up together with his root; therefore I cannot tell what is not true. Having in silence ascended his car, he went away. I ask thee about him, where does abide that spirit?

2. He said to him:-O gentle (youth), in this internal body abides the spirit, in whom these sixteen parts are produced.

3. He reflected:-Who is it, by whose departure (from the body) I shall depart, and by whose staying, I shall stay?

4. He created life, J from life faith§, the ether, the air, the light, the waters, the earth, organ, mind, food, vigour, austerity, Mantras, works, the worlds (the effect of works), and upon the world’s name.

5. As the lowing, sea-going rivers, when they have reached the sea, are annihilated, as their names and forms perish, and only the name of sea remains, so the sixteen parts of the witness (soul) which are going to the soul (as the rivers to the sea), when they have reached the soul, are annihilated, their names and forms perish and only the name of soul remains; it is (then) without parts, it is immortal.
Here follows this memorial verse:-

6. "Let man know the spirit, who ought to be known, in whom the (sixteen) parts abide, as the spokes in the nave (of the wheel), in order that death may not pain you."

7. He (Pippalāda) said to them (to his disciples):-Thus far I know the supreme Brahma, there is nothing higher than him.

8. They honoured him and spoke: -Thou art our father, who caries us over the infinite ocean of our ignorance. -Salutation to the supreme Rishis, salutation to the supreme Rishis.