Mahā Nārāyaṇa Upanishad | Section 78

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SECTION 78

satyaṁ paraṁ paraɱ satyaɱ satyena na
suvargāllohāccyavante kadācana
satāɱ hi satyaṁ tasmātsatye ramante || 1||

1. Truthfulness is excellent. What is excellent is truthfulness only. By truthfulness those who have attained to the state of blissfulness never fall from there. What belongs to sat, namely - good people - that is indeed satyam (truthfulness). For this reason seekers of the highest good find delight in truthfulness.

Commentary:

This Section lays down the principles of sannyāsa.

The heart of Sannyāsa is tapas, which includes habits, temperaments and traits of character specified in the scriptures. Each moral quality that should necessarily be cultivated by a sannyāsin is also called tapas.

11 such items are mentioned here:

Nyāsa is placed at the head of all of them, for that transcends the rest—that is the unsurpassed means of attaining Self-illumination.

A person is rendered fit for Sannyāsa by the destruction of his sins and blemishes. Worship habitually performed by one who lives the religious pattern of life described in the preceding Sections help to bring about such purity. Thus a candidate who is to be ordained as a sannyāsin becomes firm in the Supreme Truth.

The first condition laid down here which gives fitness for Sannyāsa is truthfulness.

Truthfulness is certainly high. Granting that one who violates this principle gets heaven through the force of some other virtue, it is stated here that he can never be there for long.

That man, on the other hand, who is always wedded to veracity does not fall from the blissful state at any time. The word Satyam is derived thus: sati sādhuḥ, sate hitam—what is right for the good people, what conduces to the good.

The word Satyam is cognate to sat. This shows that sages (Santaḥ) who tread the right path are always truthful. Truthfulness, therefore, is the unsurpassed means of liberation. Those who have the summum bonum of life in view, therefore, delight in truthfulness always.

 Swami Vivekananda said:

“Stand upon truth and you have got God! Follow truth wherever it may lead! Do not be cowardly and hypocritical!

Those who think that a little sugar coating of untruth will help the spread of truth, are mistaken, and will find in the long run that a single drop of poison poisons the whole mass.” {Complete Works Vol. VIII Page 346)

Evidently moral and intellectual truths are allied.

tapa iti tapo nānaśanātparaṁ yaddhi paraṁ tapastad
durdharṣaṁ tad durādhaṣa tasmāttapasi ramante || 2||

2. Some hold the opinion that austerity is the means of liberation and that there is no austerity higher than religious fast. This excellent austerity is hard to be practised. A person who practises it becomes invincible (or such austerity is unthinkable for the commonalty). Therefore seekers of the highest good delight in austerity.

Commentary:

After truthfulness - austerity comes in the list.

It consists in religious fasts described at length in the scriptures. For a normal man, abstention from food for a long period even on religious ground is a hard practice.

Here austerity implies also other forms of hardships, which one has to encounter in the execution of one’s religious duties enjoined by the scriptures.

Since self-denial in this shape helps purity of mind and fitness for liberation, pious people find delight in it.

This declaration of the superiority of religious fast does not, however, detract from the value of self-control, pilgrimage, japa, oblation and the like, which are also considered forms of austerity.

dama iti niyataṁ brahmacāriṇastasmāddame ramante || 3||

3. Perfect ascetics declare that withdrawal of the senses from the attraction of forbidden objects is the means of liberation. Therefore they delight in it.

Commentary:

The third characteristic of a seeker after liberation is described: A potent means of liberation is the control of the senses which is practised by the Naishthika-Brahmachārins.

śama ityaraṇye munastamācchame ramante || 4||

4. Hermits who dwell in the forest consider that tranquillity of mind is the means of liberation, and therefore they delight in calmness.

Commentary:

The word Śama denotes the attempt to control impulses and emotions and to make the mind calm and tranquil. For facilitating this aspirants resort to the solitude of forests.

According to Bhaṭṭabhāskara Śama means sarvapravittyu-parama or retirement from domestic and social duties in order to devote oneself entirely to meditation and calmness.

dānamiti sarvāṇi bhūtāni praśaɱsanti dānānnātiduṣkaraṁ
tasmāddāne ramante || 5||

5. All creatures praise selfless gift as supreme, for there is nothing more difficult to perform than giving selfless gift. Therefore seekers of the highest good delight in giving selfless gift.

Commentary:

The fifth attribute prescribed as a means of liberation is dāna.

The word dāna is very wide in its application:

The four recognised methods of subduing a foe, according to ancient text books of politics, are sāma, dāna, bheda and daṇḍa. The term dāna in this quadrad has a political motive and therefore is foreign to the field of religion.

A gift, to be religious, must be entirely free from visible or invisible strings of self-interest. It is, therefore, defined technically as complete severance of one’s influence and interest in, or proprietorship in any form over, the gift given, and making it the property of the donee completely and forever.

Gifts are never given by the religious man for establishing domination over the receiver as it happens in the case of political subsidies.

The true religious man does not expect even gratitude and thanks in return for the gift he has made, for he has done an act of utter selflessness merely as a religious duty.

Giving of gifts in such a manner is considered extremely hard to practise. Do we not find men ready to buy wealth at the cost of their lives?

Property is really externalised will and hardly we find one leady to abdicate one’s own will. Wealth is power and the instinctive craving for power in all men stands as the main block in the way of merging their will with that of God.

Hence follow the difficulty and value of religious gift.

dharma iti dharmeṇa sarvamidaṁ parigṛhītaṁ
dharmānnātiduścaraṁ tasmāddharme ramante || 6||

6. Some consider that scriptural duty is the means of liberation. By the performance of scriptural duties all the world is held together. There is nothing more difficult to practise than the duties ordained by the scriptures. Therefore seekers of the highest good find delight in the scriptural duty.

Commentary:

Dharma now gets the honour of being mentioned as the most excellent means of liberation.

According to Bhaṭṭabhāskara, dharma denotes the regular, occasional and optional duties taught by the Śruti and the Smṛti.

Sāyana interprets here dharma as social service, such as construction of wells, tanks and reservoirs, in which kings and ministers are interested. By these works service is done to all creatures.

The context does not warrant this restriction of the meaning in a special manner: Religious righteousness in general is denoted by the word Dharma.

Duties ordained by ancient scriptures, customary practice, exemplary deeds of respected elders, pronouncements of sages, behaviour approved by good people,— all these help to eliminate selfish feelings and passions from the mind of man and confirm him to a life in harmony with his fellow beings and incline him to discharge his duties towards God.

All these come under the term Dharma. Certainly it is difficult for the natural man to practise it.

prajana iti bhūyāɱsastasmāt bhūyiṣṭhāḥ prajāyante
tasmāt bhūyiṣṭhāḥ prajanane ramante || 7||

7. The largest number of people consider that procreation is the means of liberation. For that reason the largest number of offsprings is born. Because procreation is deemed such a means, therefore the largest number of people delight in procreation.

Commentary:

Rich and poor, good and bad, learned and ignorant, all believe that the biological continuity through their own lines of sons and grandsons is the means of immortality. Reproduction, therefore, is a form of tapas.

As a consequence of this faith, the largest number of people find pleasure in the procreation act and the largest number of children are born.

agnaya ityāha tasmādagnaya ādhātavyāḥ || 8||

8. Someone devoted to the Vedic religion says that the Vedic Fires are the means of liberation. Therefore the Vedic Fires must be consecrated.

Commentary:

The concrete part of the Vedic religion centres round worship of the Vedic deities through oblations offered into duly consecrated Fires.

According to the Vedas there are 5 mahāgnis (specially consecrated Fires) called Gārhapatya, Anvāhāryapacana or Dakṣiṇāgni, Agṇidhrīya, Avasathya and Āhavaṇiya.

These Fires are to be kept alive always, according to the ajasrapakṣa view, and according to the uddharanapakṣa view, excepting the Gārhapatya, the rest are kindled, by transference from the Gārhapatya, only when necessity arises for particular rites.

Vedic forms of worship beginning with Agnihotra and ending in Darśapūrṇamāsa— with all the varieties and elaborations—are to be made with the help of these five Fires.

The Vedas declare: “devoted to these five, man elevates himself to safety.” It is the faith of the Vedic worshipper that these sacrificial duties will ultimately lead him to liberation.

Fire worship, therefore, must be kept up by all competent aspirants who seek their own highest good.

agnihotramityāha tasmādagnihotre ramante || 9||

9. Another person devoted to the Vedic religion says that Agnihotra is the means of liberation. Therefore some seekers of the highest good delight in the Agnihotra sacrifice.

Commentary:

According to the scriptural injunction - yāvaj jīvam agnihotram juhuyat—one should perform Agnihotra till the end—a competent person, after consecration of the Fire, must offer daily morning and evening oblations called Agnihotra without fail. Some say this is the means of liberation.

yajña iti yajñena hi devā divaṁ gatāstasmādyajñe ramante ||10||

10. Others devoted to the Vedic religion say that sacrifice is the means of liberation. Verily, gods have attained heaven by their own prior deeds of sacrifice. Therefore seekers of the highest good delight in the performance of sacri­fice.

Commentary:

A sacrifice instituted according to the Vedic rules with all the necessary ingredients and approved order of actions is called a Yajña.

The main varieties of yajñas are three, as determined by the substance of offering—Haviḥ, soma and paśu. A yajña is originated by a Vedic injunction.

Some sacrifices are called primary: They supply the model for others that are developed by addition and omission of details.

By this process of inserting and dropping the ingredients the varieties of sacrifices become very large, and they may extend from a single day to several years:

A single-day sacrifice is called Ahīna. A sacrificial session extending over many days, sometimes years, is called a Sattra. Both are entitled to the name yajña.

Darśapūrṇamāsa and Jyotiṣṭoma are the two well-known archetypes of sacrifices, which give rise to a variety of Yajñas called by various names.

It is believed that the present denizens of heaven have worked their way to that exalted place through the influence of Yajñas, which they performed when they lived on the earth as human beings.

The worship through yajna is really liked by the gods. Those good people who worship gods on the earth by Yajña are as good as gods in heaven.

mānasamiti vidvāɱsastasmādvidvāɱsa eva mānase ramante|| 11||

11. Some wise people consider that inward worship is the means of liberation. Therefore wise people delight only in inward worship.

Commentary:

From the beginning of this Section, it may be observed that one item or other was considered as the highest means of attaining liberation, and that any particular item elevated to that position was declared to be tapas. The term tapas is thus used here in its general sense—the means of attaining the highest good.

As the eleventh of the series inward worship is now prescribed. The term mānasa is interpreted by Sāyana as inward worship or contemplation upon the Supreme and His divine excellences.

There is a general division of the subject matter of the Vedas into karma, upāsanā and jñāna.

Upāsanā means a conscious mental effort which sustains an unbroken current of thought centring on a deity, some divine quality or an object of adoration as prescribed in the scripture and instructed by the preceptor.

Such Upāsanās are found in the Brāhmaṇas, Āraṇyakas and Upaniṣads

According to the ancient teachers, Upāsanā may be performed as part of the sacrificial performance in co-ordination with it, or as an alternative of Yajña-karma.

The Upaniṣadic philosophy has stemmed out of those Upāsanās that were prescribed as a substitute for the performance of karma.

Speaking from the view-point of religious evolution we may say that (a) singleness of purpose, (b) subjugation of lower passions and (c) devotion to duty - are cultivated by the religious seeker through the meticulous performance of overt sacrificial acts continuously for a long time.

When a stage of maturity is reached through this devotion to action, the worshipper delights in meditation co-ordinated with action, technically called jñāna-karma-samuchchaya.

We find references in the Vedas to a still higher stage when karma is substituted by upāsanā, in which case all external religious acts are suppressed by the inner urge of the contemplative mind.

A person who has grown into this state of spiritual maturity is called an Ātmayājin, in the Brāhmaṇas and the Āraṇyakas.

Having described the superiority of Agnyādhana, Agnihotra and Yajña in their natural sequence, the purely contemplative worship of the Ātmayājin is extolled in this passage.

A person who has reached this stage can really find pleasure only in inward worship.

 Bhaṭṭabhāskara takes the word mānasa in a limited sense and explains that it stands here only for mental rejection of pleasure which one feels in attractive external objects.

nyāsa iti brahmā brahmā hi paraḥ paro hi brahmā tāni vā
etānyavarāṇi tapāɱsi nyāsa evātyarecayat ya evaṁ vedetyupaniṣat ||12||

12. Brahma Hiraṇyagarbha considers that sannyāsa is the means of liberation. Hiraṇyagarbha is indeed the Supreme. The Supreme alone is Hiraṇyagarbha (although he is a personality).

Certainly these austerities set forth above are inferior. Sannyāsa alone surpassed all. To him who thus knows the all-transcending excellence of sannyāsa precious knowledge (has been imparted).

Commentary:

This passage contains the climax reached by the trend of opinions expressed by this whole Section.

It is the twelfth and last view Bhaṭṭabhāskara interprets that Nyāsa is sarva- karmaphalatyāga and that it deserves to be honoured as Brahman.

The status of tapas cannot be denied to any of the eleven categories mentioned prior to this passage, because all of them contribute to human welfare. But they have value only when they are genuinely rooted in Nyāsa or surrender of their fruit to God.

According to Sāyana, however, Nyāsa here is the same as sannyāsa-yoga mentioned earlier.

 According to Ārunī, Jabālā and other Sannyāsa Upaniṣads, Nyāsa means the renunciation of all the work, including what is commanded by the Vedas.

Such denial of work is accepted as one’s duty, only when it is necessitated by a whole-hearted devotion to jñāna. Even then, in fact, only those karmas which are prohibited by the scriptures or induced by one's own desires are given up.

A Sannyāsin is one who conforms himself to the code of conduct prescribed for him by the scriptures specifically, and one who is constantly in the condition of spiritual and moral perfection denoted by that term.

Śrī Śaṅkarācārya at Brahmā Sūtra III 4. 20 refers to this passage as the conclusive authority behind the practice of Sannyāsa.

The illustrious ācārya is the most outstanding prototype of a Sannyāsin. His example and teachings on Sannyāsa are considered by millions in India who honour the monastic tradition as the pattern of Sannyāsa to be followed by others entering the path.

A very large section of Hindus believe that Sannyāsa represents the perfection in religious life which is attained through the gradual progress in spirituality, achieved by fulfilment of the condition laid down for the other three stations of life.

Sāyana states that while the qualities and practices of different aspirants described in the eleven clauses from the beginning of the Section were made by human beings—learned and wise though they might be— the transcendence of Sannyāsa over all of them is a pronouncement made by Brahma himself—the first-born—and so it is secretly-guarded precious knowledge—Upaniṣad.