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Mandukya Upanisad with Gaudapada’s Karika
The Mandukya Upanishad belongs to the Atharvaveda and may be placed in a much later period of Vedic Sanskrit literature. It is the shortest of the Vedic Upanishads, consisting of twelve verses. It is concerned with showing the relationship between the elements “a”, “u”, and “m” of the syllable AUM or Om and the three states of ordinary human consciousness: waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep. These three states are referred to in this Upanishad as Vishva, Taijasa, and Prajna respectively.
The Mandukya Upanishad is also concerned with describing the nature of Atman which is discerned in the fourth state—the turiya. This state is related to the word Om from which all states and all syllables (or elements) emerge. Just as all possible vocal sounds—from velars to labials, vowels to consonants—are potentially present in Om, likewise are all states of consciousness potentially present in (and emerge from) the turiya, the Fourth.
Along with showing the relationship of the word Om and its components to the four states of consciousness, the Mandukya Upanishad also appears to expound the doctrine of non-duality (advaita) of the Brahman-Atman. Hence, it holds a central place in Advaita Vedanta philosophy and is regarded by the Muktika Upanishad (I:27) as being sufficient by itself to lead one to liberation. Its description of advaita doctrine is further expanded upon by Gaudapada (Shankara’s grand-teacher) who is responsible for writing a Karika on this upanishad. This Karika is, according to S. Radhakrishnan, “the first systematic exposition of Advaita Vedanta” (_The Principal Upanishads_. Edited and translated by S. Radhakrishnan. Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press, 1992. p. 693).
I have included both a transliteration of the original text (based on the Classical Sanskrit (CS) Standard) and my translation which came about from a fifth semester Sanskrit course. My translation is more literal than the one by Swami Gabhirananda (published by the Shri Ramakrishna Math, India) which I find to be more of an interpretation than a strict translation. (Besides the translation done by Swami Gabhirananda, the only other translation that I am aware of is one done in French: Mandukya upanisad et Karika de Gaudapada. Edited and translated by Emile Lesimple. Paris: Adrien-Maisonneuve, 1944). I hope that the literalness of my translation, however, does not greatly hinder the clarity and readability of the text.
In providing this text to other scholars and Sanskrit enthusiasts, I would like to thank Brad Gaylord for his insights and Professor Susan Tripp for helping me through the text and proofreading my translation. Any errors, misrepresentations, and inaccuracies that remain in this translation are solely the responsibility of the author.
Please feel free to distribute the text and my translation provided that the files are not changed and that no fees are charged.
N.B. On the Roman Sanskrit version of the Mandukya Upanishad and Karika, I have, in keeping with the standards of transliteration, used the apostrophe sign for the avagraha.
University of Colorado