Click here to load whole tree
NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Upanishads > Mandukya Upanisad

Mandukya Upanishad

 

1.       AUM - this syllable is actually the totality. The explanation: what was, what is, what will be, that is the totality, and it is the syllable AUM, and anything else beyond threefold time, that is also the syllable AUM.

2.       The totality, indeed, is Brahman. This self is Brahman. This same self is four-footed.

3.       The first foot is Vaishvaanarah, (the Common-to-All) whose state is wakefulness, who is aware of external objects, who has seven limbs and nineteen mouths, who enjoys gross objects.

4.       The second foot is Taijas, (Radiance) whose state is dreaming, who is aware of internal objects, who has seven limbs and nineteen mouths, who enjoys subtle objects.

5.       In deep sleep, the sleeper is quite devoid of desire and sees no dream at all. The third foot is Praajsha, (Wisdom) whose state is deep sleep, who has become one, a mass of awareness, entirely blissful, who enjoys bliss, who is the mouth of cognition.

6.       This is the Lord of all, this is the knower of all, this is the controller within, this is the womb of all, this is the origin and end of all things.

7.       Neither that which is aware of the inner, nor that aware of the outer, nor what is aware of both, nor that which is a mass of awareness, neither awareness itself nor absence of awareness - they conceive the fourth foot as unseen, incommunicable, ungraspable, devoid of any distinguishing mark, inconceivable, indescribable, the ground of certainty in the one self, the extinction of all phenomena, peaceful, blissful, non-dual: it is the Self, it is to be discerned!

8.       This same Self is AUM. The word AUM transcends its sound-elements; the feet are the sound-elements, the sound-elements the feet - i.e., the letter "A," the letter "U," and the letter "M."

9.       Vaishvaanarah, whose state is wakefulness, is the letter "A," the first sound-element because it is all-pervading or because it is the initial letter. The one who knows this obtains all desires and becomes the first.

10.     Taijasa, whose state is dreaming, is the letter "U," the second sound-element, because of its elevation or its middle position. One who knows this is elevated in knowledge, and becomes equal to any, none ignorant of Brahman is born in his family.

11.     Praajsha, whose state is deep sleep, is the letter "M,"the third sound-element, from measuring or merging: the one who knows this takes the measure of this all and becomes its merging point.

12.     The Fourth has no sound-element, it is incommunicable, it is the extinction of phenomena, blissful, non-dual. The syllable AUM is indeed the Self. The one who knows this will enter into the Self with his self.

 

COMMENTARY:

Indian philosophical tradition sees the waking state, the dreaming state and the state of deep, dreamless sleep as three distinct states of consciousness. They nonetheless form a unity in relation to the lived unity of personal life. The three states are distinguished by the way in which they acquire (or in the state of deep sleep do not acquire) data, and by the way they relate to each other, as well as by the fundamental mode of consciousness each state has as its specific character.

In the waking state we are aware of the world of material things. In principle these are publicly accessible to any waking perceiver equipped with sense-organs in a working state and a mind-organ to filter and organise the data the senses acquire. It is the Common-to-All state of consciousness where we encounter one another, and where we discourse with one another, referring in our speech and in our writing to the world of the waking state, which in principle a shared world, common to us all.

Waking-state consciousness has, says the Upanishad, "seven limbs and nineteen mouths". Shankaracharya interprets the "seven limbs" as a reference to Chandogya Upanishad, V. 18. 2, itself a difficult text.

"Of this vaishvaanara Self the head is surely heaven (this is Shankara's interpretation of 'sutejaa:' = good light, bright radiance), the eye is the sun (again, Skankara's interpretation; 'vishva-ruupa:'= universal form, or manifold forms, or diverse colours), the life-breath is air (literally, that which surrounds in layers), the trunk is darkness (Shankara says 'sky', 'bahulo' could equally mean the dense), the bladder is wealth (Shankara says 'water', I wonder if the word 'rayii' here means sea or rain ...), the two feet are earth, the chest is the altar of sacrifice, the hair is the kusha grass, the heart is the Household Fire, the mind is the Southern Fire, and the mouth is the Oblation Fire."

The nineteen mouths constitute the perceptual and cognitive apparatus of the person, the five sense organs which enable sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell, the five organs of action which enable speech, manipulation, motion, generation and evacuation, the five life-breaths, the mind-organ, the Ego, the intellect and consciousness. The seven limbs and nineteen mouths relate the self to the material world in the waking state, enabling the acquisition, filtering, ordering, interpretation and contemplation of data, the development of a sense of personal identity, and furnishing the capacity for intelligent, organised, co-ordinated deliberate action. Waking consciousness is orientated to cognition of and interaction with material things, processes and events, and to social intercourse. It is, however, in the waking state that we philosophize and re-orientate our thoughts and intentions to Liberation.

In the dream state the self is equipped with limbs and mouths which resemble those of the waking state, and are their dream counterparts. In dreams I see, hear, touch, taste, smell, I speak, move .... But these things do not occur in the public world of the Common-to-All. If my friend sits watching at my bedside as I dream, and I dream I am standing before the Taj Mahal eating gallon after gallon of strawberry ice-cream, my body does not vanish from the bed, nor do I need to buy an air-ticket to India to enable the dream to take place, nor, when I wake, need my friend call the doctor to treat me for grave gastronomic overindulgence. The world of the dream state is an internal world. My own body is the field of perception in normal dreams, and the sense-organs are directed to the perception of subtle elements, not the gross elements which make up the material things that clutter my house and litter my street, but subtle inobjects, which exist within my own body.

The subtle data accessed in a dream are derived from memory and imagination, they are influenced by my bodily state, my health, my psychological condition. Dreaming is a way of experiencing myself.

Though the maaNDukya upanishad does not discuss it, philosophers generally have recognised an interesting state that exists at the interface of waking and sleeping. It is sometimes called an intermediate state, but it is probably better regarded as a boundary state, where consciousness shifts between waking and sleeping, clear perception and dreaming, and where waking reverie and lucid dreams occur. Interestingly Indian and Eastern Christian traditions converge in taking very seriously insights and realisations which occur in this state.

The state of deep, dreamless sleep is a paradoxical state. Waking and dreaming consciousness, where conscious subject, object of consciousness and act of consciousness can be distinguished, are trinitarian. There is no trinitarian consciousness in deep sleep. Nonetheless the upanishad speaks of the state of deep sleep as Prajsha, Wisdom. In deep sleep, consciousness seeks and is aware of neither the external things experienced in the waking state nor the subtle inobjects experienced in dreaming. Prajsha is a single "mass of awareness" with no object given in consciousness, a blissful state devoid of dicriminating awareness.

Praajsha is the Lord of All in the sense that both dreeaming and waking consciousness are actualisations of the potentialities with which this state is pregnant. This is the womb from which all waking and dreaming experiences are born. It is also the darkness which supervenes when waking and dreaming consciousness fold themselves up into silent nothingness.

Praajsha is omniscient - not, of course, in the sense that Praajsha knows all true propositions to be true, but in the rather more limited and paradoxical sense, that Praajsha is ignorant of absolutely nothing that could be known in the state of deep sleep. All possible information available to Praajsha in the state of deep sleep is Praajsha's inalienable possession.

Neither that which is aware of the inner, nor that aware of the outer, nor what is aware of both, nor that which is a mass of awareness, neither awareness itself nor absence of awareness - they conceive the fourth foot as unseen, incommunicable, ungraspable, devoid of any distinguishing mark, inconceivable, indescribable, the ground of certainty in the one self, the extinction of all phenomena, peaceful, blissful, non-dual: it is the Self, it is to be discerned!

The upanishad now introduces us to the Fourth, Turiya. The description of the Fourth is mainly apophatic; it tells us more of what the Fourth is not than of what it is. It is inconceivable, ineffable, "neither awareness nor the absence of awareness". Like the state of deep sleep, the Fourth is blissful and devoid of the duality of subject and object. There is, however, an important difference between the two states (if the Fourth can really be called a state): if we think of Praajsha as a torpid state beyond dreaming, a state where consciousness is denuded of objects and reduced and simplified until it becomes a mass of potentiality, the Fourth stands at the opposite side of the waking state, a state where consciousness transcends all specific objects, appropriating itself in a blaze of non-reflexive awareness, where subject, object and act of cognition converge beyond all duality. The Fourth is the Self, says the upanishad; in this state where the Self wakes from the waking state and appropriates itself as itself in a timeless act of pure awareness, the Self is itself.

The sacred syllable AUM is interpreted in the upanishad as a symbol of the totality. The letter 'A' represents the waking consciousness and its world of gross material objects; 'U' represents the dreaming state, where the subtle interior inobjects are illuminated by the dreamer's awareness of them, 'M' the state of deep sleep where objects are reduced to the mere resevoir of potentialities and consciousness to dulled-down, torpid simplicity.

The Fourth has no sound-element, it is incommunicable, it is the extinction of phenomena, blissful, non-dual. The syllable AUM is indeed the Self. The one who knows this will enter into the Self with his self.

The three states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep exhaust the three letters of the word AUM. The Fourth, this tells us, is of a diffrent kind to the other three. it is not amerely a fourth state of consciousness co-ordinate with the other three.

The syllable AUM we are told is the Self. We have already been told the syllable AUM is the totality. This licenses the inference that the Self is the toatality.

We have, however, also been told that the Fourth is the Self. This seems to imply that the Fourth is the totality. Perhaps so; just as the state of deep sleep descends below the gross things of common experience and the subtle inobjects of the dream to remain the womb of boundless potentiality, the Fourth transcends all objects, subtle and gross, but at the same time comprehends and embraces them in an actof unitive awareness that appropriates their essence in its absolute reality, that essence converging with the Self's own essence which the Fourth discloses to itself, though without any duality or reflexivity.

The Fourth, then is AUM. It is also that which makes it possible for the syallable AUM to exist as a syllable - the silence in which the syllable is pronounced.