Translated by Charles Johnston
See also: The Mukhya Upanishads, by C. Johnston
Sukeshan son of Bharadvaja, Satyakama son of Shiva, Gargya grandson of Surya, Kaushalya son of Ashvala, Bhargava of Vidarbha, Kabandhin son of Katya: these, verily, devoted to the Eternal, set firm in the Eternal, seeking after the supreme Eternal, drew near to the Master Pippalada, with kindling-wood in their hands, saying, He will declare it all.
To them, verily, the Seer said, Dwell together with me for a year more, with fervour, service of the Eternal and faith; then ask questions according to your desire. If we know, we shall declare everything to you.
And so Kabandhin son of Katya approaching asked:
Master, whence, verily do these beings come forth in birth?
To him he said:
The Lord of beings was desirous of offspring. He brooded with fervour. Brooding with fervour, he produces a pair, Matter and Life. These two will make beings manifold for me, said he.
The sun, verily, is Life, and Matter, the moon; Matter, verily, is everything here, the formed and the unformed; therefore form, verily, is Matter.
And so the sun, rising, enters the eastern space; thereby it gathers up the eastern lives among its rays. As it illumines the southern, the western, the northern, the lower, the upper, the intermediate spaces, as it illumines all, thereby it gathers up all the lives among its rays.
Thus, verily, the Fire-lord, the universal, all-formed Life arises.
It is this that is declared in the Vedic verse:
The all-formed, the golden, the all-knowing,
The final goal, the one light, fervent.
Thousand-rayed, hundredfold turning,
The Life of beings, rises this sun.
The circling year, verily, is a Lord of beings. Of it there are two courses, the southern and the northern. Therefore they who worship, saying, “Offerings and rewards are our work!” win for themselves the lunar world. They, verily, return again. Therefore those seers who desire offspring follow the southern course. Matter, verily, is this Path of the Fathers.
And so by the northern, by fervour, by service of the Eternal, by faith, by wisdom seeking the Divine Self, they win the sun. This is the home of lives, this is the immortal, the fearless, this is the higher way; from this, they return not again. This is the resting place. And so there is this verse:
The five-footed father, twelve-faced, they declare,
In the upper half of heaven, a giver of sustenance.
But these others call him the far-shining one in the upper heaven,
Set in a seven-wheeled chariot of six spokes.
The month, verily, is a Lord of beings. Its dark half is Matter, and the bright, Life. Therefore these seers offer sacrifice in the bright half, but the others, in the other.
Day and night, verily, is a Lord of beings. Of this, verily, day is Life, and night is Matter. They waste their life who find love in the outward, but service of the Eternal finds love in the hidden.
Food, verily, is a Lord of beings. From it, verily, is the seed of life, from which these beings are born forth. Therefore they who fulfil the vow of the Lord of beings, produce a pair.
Theirs, verily is the world of the Eternal,
Whose are fervour and service of the Eternal,
In whom truth is set firm.
Theirs is the stainless world of the Eternal; not theirs, in whom are crookedness, untruth, or glamour.
And so Bhargava of Vidarbha asked him:
Master, how many bright powers uphold a being? How many cause this to shine forth? Which of them is the chiefest?
To him he said:
Radiant ether is a bright power, air, fire, water, earth; voice, mind, sight and hearing also. They, shining forth , declare, We uphold this frame, establishing it. To them the chiefest Life said: Fall not into delusion. I, verily, dividing myself fivefold, uphold this frame, establishing it.
They were incredulous. He, from pride, ascends as it were above. As he departs upward, the lesser lives all, verily, depart; and as he returns, all, verily, return. Like as the bees all follow the honeymakers’ king when he departs, and all return when he returns, so did voice, mind, sight and hearing. They, rejoicing, praise the Life:
This burns as the Fire-lord, this is the sun,
This is the Rain-lord, this the Wind-lord,
This is the Earth, Matter, the bright one,
Being, non-being and what is immortal.
As the spokes in the nave of a wheel,
In the Life all is established;
Verses and formulas and chants,
Sacrifice and weapon and prayer.
As Lord of beings thou movest in the germ,
Thou, verily, art born forth;
To thee, Life, these beings bring the offering,
Thou, who standest firm through the lives.
Thou art chief bringer of offerings to the bright powers,
Of the Fathers, thou art the first oblation;
Thou art righteousness and truth of seers,
Of the line of Atharvan and Angiras.
Thou art Indra, Life, by thy radiance,
Thou art Rudra the preserver;
Thou movest in the sky as the sun,
Thou art the Master of the stars.
When thou descendest as rain,
These thy beings, Life,
Stand rejoicing, for they say,
We shall have food according to our desire.
Thou art the Exile, Life, the one Seer,
Thou art the consumer, the good Lord of all;
We are the givers of thy food,
Thou art our Father, the great Breath.
That form of thine which dwells in speech,
That form of thine in hearing and sight,
That which is spread forth in mind,
Make it auspicious! Go not forth!
All this is under Life’s sway,
Whatever is set firm in the three heavens;
Guard us as a mother her sons,
Grant us grace and understanding!
And so Kaushalya son of Ashvala asked him:
Master, whence is this Life born? How does it come into this body? Or dividing itself, how is it established? Through what does it depart? How does it lay hold of what is outside? How is it with reference to the Self?
To him he said:
Many questions thou askest! Thou art bent on the Eternal, therefore I tell it to thee.
From the Divine Self, verily, this Life is born. As the shadow extended beside a man, so is it with this. Through the power of mind it comes into this body.
Like as a king, verily, enjoins his lords, saying, Rule over these villages and these villages! thus, verily, the Life disposes hither and thither the lesser lives: in the lower powers, the downward-life; in sight, in hearing, in the mouth and nostrils, as the forward-life it establishes itself; but in the midst, the binding-life, for this binds together the food which has been offered, and from this these seven flames arise.
In the heart is the Self. Here are the hundred and one channels; from each of these, a hundred; from each of these, two and seventy thousand branch channels. In these, the distributing-life moves.
And by one, the upward-life ascends; it leads through holiness to a holy world, through evil to an evil world, through both to the world of men.
As the sun, verily, the Life rises outwardly, and it links itself with this forward life in the power of sight; and the power that is in earth, supports the downward-life; what is between, the shining ether, is the binding-life; the wind is the distributing-life.
The radiance is the upward-life. Therefore, when his radiance has become quiescent, he goes to rebirth through the powers dwelling in mind.
According to his thinking, he comes to life; his life being linked by the radiance with the Self, leads him to the world that he has moulded for himself.
Whosoever, thus knowing, knows the Life, his offspring fails not; he becomes immortal. There is this verse:
He who knows the origin, the entrance, the dwelling and the lordship of Life fivefold, he reaches the immortal; knowing this, he reaches the immortal.
And so Gargya, grandson of Surya, asked him:
Master, in the man here, which powers sleep, and which wake in him? Which is the bright one who beholds dreams? Whose is this happiness? In what are all these bright powers set firm?
To him he said:
As, Gargya, the rays of the sun going to his setting all become one in his radiant circle, and again, when he rises again, they go forth, thus, verily, all this becomes one in the higher bright power, Mind. Because of this then the man hears not, sees not, smells not, tastes not, speaks not, handles not, enjoys not, puts not forth, walks not; he sleeps, they say.
The life-fires, verily, wake in this dwelling; the household fire, verily, is the downward-life; the sacrificial fire is the distributing-life; because it is brought forward from the household fire, from being brought forward, the fire of oblation is the forward-life. The binding-life is so called because it binds together the up-breathing and the down-breathing, the two oblations. Mind, verily, is the sacrificer. The fruit of the sacrifice is the upward-life. Day by day it brings the sacrificer to the Eternal. Here this bright power in dream experiences greatness; what was seen, as seen he beholds again; what was heard, he hears again, verily, as an object heard; what has been experienced by the different powers in their regions, he again perceives according to each power, the seen and unseen, the heard and unheard, the experienced and unexperienced, the real and unreal; all he perceives, as the All he perceives.
When he is enveloped by the radiance, the bright power then beholds no dreams; and so then in this body that happiness arises. As, dear, the birds come home to the tree to rest, so, verily, all this comes to rest in the Higher Self: earth and forms of earth, water and forms of water, fire and forms of fire, air and forms of air, radiant ether and forms of radiant ether, sight and what is to be seen, hearing and what is to be heard, the power of smell and what is to be smelled, taste and what is to be tasted, touch and what is to be touched, voice and what is to be spoken, the two hands and what is to be handled, the formative power and what is to be formed, the power which puts forth and what is to be put forth, the two feet and the power of going, the mind and what is to be thought, the intelligence and what is to be understood, self-reference and what is referred to self, imagination and what can be imagined, the radiance and what can be illumined, the life-breath and what can be supported.
For it is he who sees, touches, hears, smells, tastes, thinks, understands, acts, the Self of understanding, the spiritual man; he is set firm in the higher, imperishable Self.
He reaches the higher imperishable, who, verily, knows that shadowless, bodiless, colourless, radiant, imperishable; he, dear, knowing all, becomes All. And there is this verse:
The Self of understanding with all the bright powers,
All lives and beings are set firm in this;
He, dear, who knows this imperishable,
He, knowing all, has entered the All.
And so Satyakama, son of Shiva, asked him:
Master, he who among the sons of men should meditate on Om until his life’s end, which of the worlds does he thereby win?
To him he said:
Om, Satyakama, is the higher and lower Eternal. Therefore he who knows, resting in this, comes to one of these worlds.
If he meditate on one measure, thereby illumined he quickly returns to this world. The Rig verses lead him to the world of men; there endowed with fervour, service of the Eternal, faith, he experiences greatness.
And so if he be possessed of two measures in his mind, he is led by the Yajur verses to the mid-world, the lunar world. Having enjoyed expansion in the lunar world he returns again.
Again, he who meditates on this Om with three measures, and, through this Om, on the higher spiritual man, enveloped in the radiance, in the sun, like as a serpent is released from its slough, so is he released from the darkness of sin; he is led up by the Sama verses to the world of the Eternal; he perceives the Spiritual Man, who is above the highest assembly of lives. As to this, there are these verses:
The three measures, subject to death, are united, joined together, not disunited.
When the outer, inner and middle are perfectly joined together in acts of meditation, the knower is not shaken.
By the Rig to this world, by the Yajur to the mid-world, by the Sama to the world the seers know; to that world, resting in Om, goes he who knows, to that which is full of peace, ageless, immortal, fearless.
And so Sukeshan, son of Bharadvaja, asked him:
Master, Hiranyanabha of the Koshalas, the Rajput, coming to me, asked me this question: Son of Bharadvaja, knowest thou the Man of sixteen parts? I said to the prince, I know him not; if I knew him, how should I not tell him to thee? He dries up, root and all, who speaks untruth, therefore I deign not to speak untruth. Ascending his chariot in silence, he departed. I ask thee this:
Where is that Man?
To him he said:
Here, verily, within the body, dear, is the Man in whom the sixteen parts are manifested.
He, beholding, thought: In what going forth shall I go forth? Or in what set firm shall I be set firm?
He put forth the Life; from the Life, faith, ether, air, fire, the waters, the earth, the powers, mind, food, also came forth; from food, valour, fervour, the sacred verses, works, the worlds; and name also in the worlds.
As these rolling rivers, flowing oceanward, reaching the ocean, find there their setting; their name and form are lost and they are called ocean; so of this seer, the sixteen parts, moving toward the Spiritual Man, on reaching the Spiritual Man, find their setting; their name and form are lost and they are called the Spiritual Man: so he becomes partless, immortal. As to this, there is this verse:
In whom the parts are set firm, like the spokes in the wheel’s nave, him I know as the Spiritual Man to be known, therefore let not death perturb you.
To them he said:
Thus far know I this supreme Eternal; there is naught beyond.
Praising him, they said:
Thou art our father, who hast caused us to cross over to unwisdom’s further shore. Obeisance to the supreme Seers! Obeisance to the supreme Seers!
A Vedic Master
Translated from the Sanskrit with an Interpretation
By Charles Johnston
Translated by Swāmi Nikhilānanda
OM. Sukeśā, the son of Bharadvāja, and Satyakāma, the son of Śibi, and Sauryāyani, belonging to the family of Garga, and Kausalya, the son of Aśvala, and Vaidarbhi, belonging to the family of Bhrigu, and Kabandhi, the son of Katya—all these, devoted to Brahman and firm in Brahman, and seeking the Supreme Brahman, approached, fuel in hand, the venerable Pippalāda with the thought that he would tell them everything about Brahman.
The rishi said to them: Stay with me a year more, practising austerities, chastity, and faith. Then you may ask questions according to your desire. If we know we shall tell you all.
Then Kabandhi, the son of Katya, came to him and asked: Sir, whence are these creatures [including human beings of all castes and classes] born?
To him the teacher said: Prajāpati, the Creator, was desirous of progeny. He performed austerities, and having performed austerities, created the pair, the moon (rayi) and the sun (prāna). He said to Himself: “These two should produce creatures for Me in manifold ways.”
The sun is, indeed, prāna, life; the moon is rayi, food. Food is, indeed, all this—what has form and what is formless. Therefore everything having form is, indeed, food.
Now the sun, when it rises, enters the eastern quarter and thereby enfolds the living beings of the east in its rays. And when it illuminates the southern, the western, the northern, the lower, the upper, and the intermediate quarters—when it illuminates everything—it thus enfolds all living beings in its rays.
That sun rises every day—the sun, which is the soul of all creatures, the soul of all forms, which is life and fire. This has been described by the following rik:
[The wise know him who] is in all forms, full of rays, all-knowing, non-dual, the support of all life, the eye of all beings, the giver of heat. There rises the sun, the thousand-rayed, existing in a hundred forms, the life of all creatures.
The year, verily, is Prajāpati, and there are two paths thereof: the Southern and the Northern. Those who perform sacrifices and engage in pious actions, as duties to be done, win only the World of the Moon; verily they return hither again. Therefore the rishis who desire offspring travel by the Southern Path. This Path of the Fathers is rayi, food.
But those who seek the Self through austerity, chastity, faith, and knowledge travel by the Northern Path and win the Sun. The Sun, verily, is the support of all lives. He is immortal and fearless; He is the final goal. Thence they do not return. This path is blocked [for the ignorant]. Concerning it there is the following verse:
Some call Him the father with five feet and with twelve forms, the giver of rain, and the dweller in the region above the sky. Others, again, say that the world is fixed in the omniscient Sun, endowed with seven wheels and six spokes.
The month, verily, is Prajāpati. Its dark half, verily, is food, rayi; its bright half, the eater, prāna. Therefore some rishis perform sacrifice in the bright half, some in the other half.
Day and night, verily, are Prajāpati. Of these, day is the eater, prāna, and night, the food, rayi. Those who join in sexual enjoyment by day verily dissipate life; but to join in sexual enjoyment by night is, verily, chastity [for the householder].
Food, verily, is Prajāpati. From that comes semen; from semen are all these creatures born.
Those, therefore, who practise this rule of Prajāpati beget a pair. But Brahmaloka belongs to those who observe austerity and chastity and in whom truth is firmly established.
The stainless World of Brahmā belongs to those in whom there is no crookedness, no falsehood, no deception.
Then Vaidarbhi, belonging to the family of Bhrigu, asked him: Sir, how many gods support the body of the created being? How many of these manifest their power through it? And which one, furthermore, is paramount?
To the disciple he said: Space, ākāśa, verily is that god—the wind, fire, water, earth, speech, mind, eye, and ear, as well. These, having manifested their glory, said boastfully: “We [each of us] support this body and uphold it.”
To them prāna, the chiefmost said: “Do not fall into delusion. I alone, dividing myself into five parts, support this body and uphold it.” But they were incredulous.
Prāna, out of pride, rose upward, as it were, from the body. Now, when it rose upward all the others rose upward also, and when it settled down they all settled down with it. As bees go out when their queen goes out and return when she returns, even so did speech, mind, eye, and ear. They, being satisfied, praised prāna.
It burns as fire, it is the sun, it is the rain; it is Indra, it is the wind, it is the earth, it is food. It is the luminous god. It is being and non-being; it is immortality.
As spokes in the hub of a wheel, all are fixed in prāna, including the Rig-Veda, the Yajur-Veda, the Sama-Veda, the kshattriyas, and the brāhmins.
As Prajāpati thou movest about in the womb; it is thou, indeed, who art born again. To thee, O Prāna, creatures bring offerings, to thee who dwellest in the body with the organs.
Thou art the chief bearer of oblations to the gods and the first offering to the departed fathers; thou art the true activities of the rishis, of the Atharvāngiras.
Indra thou art, O Prāna, and Rudra, too, in prowess. Thou art the Protector. Thou movest in the sky; thou art the sun, the lord of lights.
When, O prāna, thou showerest down rain, these creatures of thine are delighted, thinking there will be as much food as they desire.
Thou art vrātya, O Prāna, and the Ekarshi Fire that devours the butter. Thou art the Supreme Lord of all. We are the givers of the butter that thou consumest, O Mātariśva! Thou art our father.
That form of thine which abides in speech, which abides in the ear, which abides in the eye, and which pervades the mind, make propitious. Go not away!
All that exists here is under the control of prāna, and also what exists in heaven. Protect us as a mother her sons; bestow upon us prosperity and wisdom.
Then Kausalya, the son of Aśvala, asked Pippalāda: Sir, whence is this prāna born? How does it come into this body? How does it abide in the body after it has divided itself? How does it depart? How does it support the external and how the internal?
To him the teacher replied: You are asking difficult questions; you must be exceedingly devoted to Brahman. Therefore I will answer you.
This prāna is born of Ātman. As a shadow is cast by a person, so this prāna is, by Ātman. Through the activity of the mind it comes into this body.
As an emperor commands his officials, saying: “Rule these villages or those,” so this prāna employs the other prānas, each in its separate place.
Prāna engages apāna in the organs of excretion and generation; he himself moves through the mouth and nose and dwells in the eye and ear. In the middle is samāna; it distributes equally what has been offered as food [in the fire in the stomach]. From this prāna fire arise the seven flames.
The ātman dwells in the heart, where there are one hundred and one arteries (nāḍi); for each of these there are one hundred branches, and for each of these branches, again, there are seventy-two thousand subsidiary vessels. Vyāna moves in these.
And then udāna, ascending upward through one of them, conducts the departing soul to the virtuous world, for its virtuous deeds; to the sinful world, for its sinful deeds; and to the world of men, for both.
The sun, verily, is the external prāna; for it rises, favouring the prāna in the eye. The deity that exists in the earth controls the apāna of man. The space, ākāśa, between heaven and earth is samāna. The air is vyāna.
Fire, verily, is udāna; therefore he whose fire has been extinguished goes out for rebirth, with the senses absorbed in the mind.
Whatever one’s thinking [at the time of death], with that one enters into prāna. Prāna joined with fire, together with the soul, leads to whatever world has been fashioned by thought.
The wise man who thus knows prāna does not lose his offspring and becomes immortal. As to this there is the following verse:
He who knows the origin of prāna, its entry, its place, its fivefold distribution, its internal aspect and also its external, obtains immortality; yea, he obtains immortality.
Next Sauryāyani, belonging to the family of Garga, asked: Sir, what are they that sleep in man, and what are they that remain awake in him? Which deity is it that sees dreams? Whose is the happiness [of deep sleep]? In whom, again, are all these gathered together?
To him Pippalāda replied: O Gārgya, as the rays of the sun, when it sets, are gathered in that luminous orb, and again go forth when it rises, even so, verily, all these—the objects and the senses—become one in the superior god, the mind. Therefore at that time a man hears not, sees not, smells not, tastes not, touches not, speaks not, grasps not, enjoys not, emits not, and does not move about. He sleeps—that is what people say.
The prāna fires remain awake in this city. Apāna is the Gārhapatya Fire, and vyāna, the Anvahāryapachana Fire. And prāna is the Āhavaniya Fire, so called from being taken—since it is taken from the Gārhapatya Fire.
Samāna is so called because it distributes equally the two oblations, namely, the out-breathing and the in-breathing; it is the priest. The mind, verily, is the sacrificer. Udāna is the fruit of the sacrifice, because it leads the sacrificer every day, in deep sleep, to Brahman.
There, in dreams, that god, the mind, experiences glory. Whatever has been seen he sees again; whatever has been heard he hears again; whatever has been experienced in different countries and quarters, he experiences again. Whatever has been seen or not seen, heard or not heard, and whatever is real or not real—he sees it all. He sees all, himself being all.
When the jiva is overcome by light he sees no dreams; at that time, in this body, arises this happiness.
As a bird goes to a tree to roost, even so, O friend, all this rests in the Supreme Ātman:
Earth and its subtle counterpart, water and its subtle counterpart, fire and its subtle counterpart, air and its subtle counterpart, ākāśa and its subtle counterpart, the eye and what can be seen, the ear and what can be heard, the nose and what can be smelt, the taste (tongue) and what can be tasted, the skin and what can be touched, the organ of speech and what can be spoken, the hands and what can be grasped, the organ of generation and what can be enjoyed, the organ of excretion and what can be excreted, the feet and what is their destination, the mind (manas) and what can be thought, the intellect (buddhi) and what can be comprehended, the ego (ahamkāra) and the object of egoism, the memory (chitta) and its object, knowledge (tejah) and its object, prāna and what is to be supported.
He, verily, it is who sees, feels, hears, smells, tastes, thinks, and knows. He is the doer, the intelligent self, the purusha. He is established in the Highest, the imperishable Ātman.
He who knows that imperishable Being, bright, without shadow, without body, without colour, verily attains the Supreme, the undecaying Purusha. O my good friend, he who knows Ātman becomes all-knowing, becomes all. About it there is the following verse:
He, O friend, who knows that imperishable Being wherein rests the intelligent self, together with the gods, the prānas, and the elements—he becomes all-knowing and enters into all.
Then Satyakāma, the son of Śibi, asked Pippalāda: Sir, if among men someone should here meditate on the syllable AUM until death, which world, verily, would he win thereby?
He replied: O Satyakāma, the syllable AUM is the Supreme Brahman and also the other Brahman. Therefore he who knows it attains, with its support, the one or the other.
If he meditates on one letter (mātrā), then, being enlightened by that alone, he quickly comes back to earth after death. The rik verses lead him to the world of men. By practising austerity, chastity, and faith he enjoys greatness.
If, again, he meditates on the second letter, he attains the mind and is led up by the yajur verses to the intermediate space, to the Plane of the Moon. Having enjoyed greatness in the Plane of the Moon, he returns hither again.
Again, he who meditates on the Highest Person through this syllable AUM consisting of three letters, becomes united with the effulgent sun. As a snake is freed from its skin, even so he is freed from sin.
The three letters of AUM [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 wise man, meditating on AUM, attains this world by means of the rik verses; the intermediate world by means of the yajur verses; and that which is known to the seers by means of the sama verses. And also through the syllable AUM he realizes that which is tranquil, free from decay, death, and fear, and which is the Highest.
Then Sukeśā, the son of Bharadvāja, said to Pippalāda: Sir, Hiranyābha, 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?
Pippalāda said to him: That Person—He from whom these sixteen parts arise—is verily here within the body.
The Purusha reflected: “What is it by whose departure I shall depart, and by whose staying I shall stay?”
He created prāna; from prāna faith, space, air, fire, water, earth, the organs, mind, food; from food virility, austerity, the Vedic hymns, sacrifice, the worlds; and in the worlds He created names.
As these flowing rivers, bound for the ocean, disappear into the ocean after having reached it, their names and forms being destroyed, and are called simply the ocean—even so, these sixteen parts of the seer, whose goal is the Purusha, disappear into the Purusha after having reached Him, their names and forms being destroyed, and are called simply the Purusha. He becomes free of parts and immortal.
On this there is the following verse:
Know Him, the Purusha, who alone is to be known and in whom the parts rest firm, like the spokes in the nave of a wheel, that death may not affect you.
Pippalāda said to them: Thus far, indeed, I know the Supreme Brahman; there is nothing higher than this.
And they, worshipping him, said: Thou, indeed, art our father—thou who hast taken us across our ignorance to the other shore. Adoration to the supreme rishis! Adoration to the supreme rishis!
Śvetāśvatara, Praśna and Māndukya with Gauḍapāda’s Kārikā
Translated from the Sanskrit with an Introduction embodying a study of Hindu Ethics, and with Notes and Explanations based on the Commentary of Sri Sankaracharya, the great Eighth-century Philosopher and Saint of India.
By Swami Nikhilananda