Mahā Nārāyaṇa Upanishad | Section 79

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SECTION 79

prājāpatyo hāruṇiḥ suparṇeyaḥ prajāpatiṁ pitaramupasasāra kiṁ
bhagavantaḥ paramaṁ vadantīti tasmai provāca || 1||

1. Ārunī, the son of Prajāpati and Suparṇa approached his father Prajāpati—thus we have heard—and questioned him, what is that which revered teachers declare as the supreme means of liberation?

To him Prajāpati thus replied —

satyena vāyurāvāti satyenādityo rocate divi satyaṁ vācaḥ
pratiṣṭhā satye sarvaṁ pratiṣṭhitaṁ tasmātsatyaṁ paramaṁ vadanti || 2||

2. By truth the wind blows. By truth the sun shines in the sky. Truth is the foundation of speech. Everything in practical life depends on truth.

Therefore they say truth is the supreme means of liberation.

Commentary:

According to Sāyana, the Wind-god attained the exalted office of regulating the movements of air in the atmosphere by virtue of truthfulness practised by him as a human being in a previous life.

So also it must be a man who was firmly devoted to truth that—on his departure from this world—is appointed to the office of the sun in the sky because of truthfulness practised by him as a man.

Life is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a habitual liar, simply for the reason that his utterances will not be trusted by anybody. The words of a prevaricator are changeable.

Therefore they cannot be the foundation for action. The quibbler also will be rejected as unreliable.

Every exaggeration, every falsification, and every deception tends to undermine mutual trust, block communication, disrupt social co-operation and thus paves the way for frustration, bringing unhappiness to the individual, and the society and the nation.

This being so, any intelligent man can plainly see that all regulation of human relations must depend on true statements. Therefore truth is given the first place of importance.

The legend of the virtuous man regulating cosmic functions such as those exercised by the sun and the wind, under the rigorous law of self-devotion, points out that truthfulness and other virtues are not only rewarded here but also that they pay splendidly hereafter.

tapasā devā devatāmagra āyan tapasārṣayaḥ suvaranvavindan
tapasā sapatnānpraṇudāmārātīstapasi sarvaṁ pratiṣṭhitaṁ
tasmāttapaḥ paramaṁ vadanti || 3||

3. By tapas performed in the beginning gods attained godhood. By tapas seers attained to heaven gradually. By tapas we get rid of our enemies who stand in the way of our acquisitions. Everything is founded in tapas

Therefore they say tapas is the supreme (means of liberation).

Commentary:

This passage is partly the same as Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa III 12 3 1.

Tapas here may be religious fast or painstaking performance of religious duties. Godhood and Ṛṣi-hood are the result of religious penance. Even welfare in the world is not possible without forbearance and painful exertion.

damena dāntāḥ kilbiṣamavadhūnvanti damena brahmacāriṇaḥ
suvaragacchan damo bhūtānāṁ durādharṣaṁ dame sarvaṁ
pratiṣṭhitaṁ tasmāddamaḥ paramaṁ vadanti || 4||

4. Persons who practise sense-control shake off their sin by that. Perfect ascetics reached heaven gradually through sense-control. Sense- control is inaccessible to ordinary creatures. Everything is founded in sense-control.

Therefore they say sense-control is the supreme (means of liberation).

Commentary:

The Kaṭha Upaniṣad II 1 1 informs us that the senses are placed in man by the Supreme as an outgoing current, and so man is usually an extrovert.

Rarely we find one who can call back the senses from external attractions and contemplate the reality of his own Self. For the natural man, conscious practice of sense-control is almost unthinkable.

A man without sense- control is like a river without banks. For, all his thoughts and activities run to waste. Hence all success depends upon sense-control. Therefore Dama is here praised as the supreme means of liberation.

śamena śāntāḥ śivamācaranti śamena nākaṁ munayo'nvavindan
śamo bhūtānāṁ durādharṣaṁ śame sarvaṁ pratiṣṭhitaṁ
tasmācchamaḥ paramaṁ vadanti || 5||

5. Those who are of a tranquil disposition do good merely by calmness. Sages have attained to heaven through calmness of mind. Calmness of mind is inaccessible for the ordinary creatures. Everything is founded on calmness of mind.

Therefore they say that calmness of mind is the supreme means of liberation.

Commentary:

Śama is the calm disposition of mind brought about by the absence of passions.

A person who has cultivated a habitual disposition of calmness can do good to others, because of the atmosphere of tranquillity which he creates around himself. This virtue is the characteristic mark of a muni or sage, and by it he reaches a state where there is no sorrow. Literally the word nāka means a state in which there is no want of happiness.

dānaṁ yajñānāṁ varūthaṁ dakṣiṇā loke dātāraɱ
sarvabhūtānyupajīvanti dānenārātīrapānudanta dānena
dviṣanto mitrā bhavanti dāne sarvaṁ pratiṣṭhitaṁ tasmāddānaṁ
paramaṁ vadanti || 6||

6. Giving of gift in the shape of Dakṣiṇā is the secure abode of the sacrifices. In the world all creatures subsist on a giver. People remove by gifts those who are envious and malignant towards them. By gift the unfriendly become friendly. Everything is established in gift.

Therefore they say that the gift is the supreme means of liberation.

Commentary:

Any single word like reward, fee, gift or present in English cannot be an equivalent for the word Dakṣiṇā.

Dakṣiṇā  is the gifts given to the Ritviks and competent witnesses of a sacrifice at the conclusion of it by the institutor of the sacrifice out of his free will and according to the terms of engagement. Often it exceeds the terms, giving greater satisfaction to the participants and the witnesses.

On such free gifts received depended the teaching and learning of the Vedas as well as the conservation and propagation of Vedic religion, unfettered by any external pressure.

Therefore Dakṣiṇā is considered to be the home of a sacrifice. By this it is meant that the religion of the Vedas would die out without Dakṣiṇā, just as a family will languish without a shelter.

In the Rigveda the term arāti denotes spirits who frustrate good intentions and disturb the happiness of men. These are dispelled by gifts. Proverbially friends are made by gifts.

dharmo viśvasya jagataḥ pratiṣṭhā loke dharmiṣṭha prajā
upasarpanti dharmeṇa pāpamapanudati dharme sarvaṁ pratiṣṭhitaṁ
tasmāddharmaṁ paramaṁ vadanti || 7||

7. Dharma, religious righteousness, is the support of the whole universe. All people draw near a person who is fully devoted to dharma. Through dharma a person chases away sin. All are supported by dharma.

Therefore they say that dharma is the supreme means of liberation.

Commentary:

The word Dharma translated as religious righteousness or religious law is extolled here as the foundation of humanity—nay of all living beings.

When the stronger oppress the weak, for the latter the only protection is an appeal to Dharma. In a society such an appeal becomes successful only when the dharma of that society is guarded by a sovereign who is himself dharmiṣṭha.

Again dharma, in the form of Prāyaśchitta or expiation, cleanses the transgressor of the moral law, and in the shape of daṇḍa or punishment it purifies the guilty who violate the social law.

So Dharma is here praised as the support of all. Here dharma comes close to justice.

prajananaṁ vai pratiṣṭhā loke sādhu prajāyāstantuṁ tanvānaḥ
pitṛṇāmanuṇo bhavati tadeva tasyānṛṇaṁ tasmāt prajananaṁ
paramaṁ vadanti || 8||

8. In this world procreation is certainly the foundation of the race.

A person who extends the continuity of progeny in the right way by rearing offsprings, according to the scriptural rules, discharges his debt towards his departed ancestors. That alone is the way for him to pay off his debts towards his ancestors.

Therefore they say that procreation is the supreme means of liberation.

Commentary:

The Taittirīya Saṁhitā (VI 3 10) contains the famous statement that a man is born with a congenital burden of a threefold debt—towards the gods, the departed ancestors and the seers. This idea is elaborated later in the traditional codes at length:

Manu says that a man should plan to get out of the round of birth and death only after paying off the debts he has contracted naturally by his being born as a link in the chain of worldly existence maintained by biological heredity.

The scripture prescribes three ways of discharging the debt to the three creators mentioned above:

Man’s existence on the earth is at the mercy of gods who guide and control the processes of Nature. Life is impossible without sun and ram and wind and plants and the like.

In return for such favours received from gods for the sustenance of life, man ought to worship gods and get his freedom from indebtedness to them:

The entire human culture proceeds step by step by the momentum of knowledge gained, preserved and transmitted by seers of the past:

Each man owes a burden of intellectual indebtedness to past knowledge which is always much more than he is conscious of or ready to admit.

The ancient seers will always feel happy and will consider their debts discharged, if the successive generations preserve and enlarge the knowledge, which a latter generation has inherited from a past generation, and transmit the same to coming generations.

A man can, therefore, pay back the debt he owes to the seers only by learning the wisdom which they have transmitted to their children by devolution. One’s link in the chain of spiritual and intellectual heredity preserved through the line of teachers and students is kept up only in this way.

Everyone owes a third debt to the biological ancestors culminating in their own parents. The sacrifices which a good father makes in order to raise and rear worthy children are impressively portrayed in legend, fiction, poetry and history.

A worthy son is exonerated from his debt of having received the protection and care of his sire only when he confers the same to his offsprings.

It is, therefore, stated here that procreation is the foundation of society and that only a person who rears children rightly in the way approved by the scriptures and who allows no break in the continuity of his race is absolved from this kind of debt.

The importance of procreation is thus set forth.

The adverb sādhu in the text implies that those who are fit only for parentage, and not for parenthood approved by the scriptures, hardly fulfil the condition.

agnayo vai trayī vidyā devayānaḥ panthā gārhapatya ṛk
pṛthivī rathantaramanvāhāryapacanaḥ yajurantarikṣaṁ
vāmadevyamāhavanīyaḥ sāma suvargo loko bṛhattasmādagnīn
paramaṁ vadanti || 9||

9. The great sacrificial Fires are indeed the three-fold knowledge and the path leading to godhood.

Of them, the Gārhapatya Fire is Rigveda, the earth and the Rāthāntara saman chant; Anvāhāryapacana is Yajurveda mid-region and the Vāmadevya saman chant, Āhavaṇiya is the Sāma-veda, the heavenly worlds and the Brihat saman chant.

Therefore they say that the sacrificial Fires are the supreme means of liberation.

Commentary:

This is a eulogy of the three well-known sacrificial fires mentioned here by name.

The Fires are said to be the Vedas, because without them religious work taught in them cannot be accomplished. They are the path to godhood because Yajña performed with their help leads to godhood.

agnihotraɱ sāyaṁ prātargṛhāṇāṁ niṣkṛtiḥ sviṣṭaɱ
suhutaṁ yajñakratūnāṁ prāyaṇaɱ suvargasya lokasya
jyotistasmādagnihotraṁ paramaṁ vadanti || 10||

10. The performance of Agnihotra at dawn and sunset is expiation for sins incidental to housekeeping. It is a good yajña and a good homa and also it is the commencement of all yajñas and Kratu. It is a beacon to the heavenly world.

Therefore they say Agnihotra is the supreme means of liberation.

Commentary:

Bhaṭṭabhāskara says that sins incidental to housekeeping such as hurt caused to living beings while carrying on cultivation, transportation and preparation of food are removed by the regular performance of Agnihotra.

Sāyana takes the view that failure to perform it will enrage the fire which may consume the house.

The untranslated technical words need explanation:

1. Yāga— offering of suitable substances to deities without any binding string.

2. Homa—oblation of those substances into the properly consecrated Fire.

3. Yajña—the seven sacrifices in which offerings are made to the deities in the fire.

4 Kratu—a soma-yāga in which a Yūpa (sacrificial post) is installed.

yajña iti yajño hi devānāṁ yajñena hi devā divaṁ gatā
yajñenāsurānapānudanta yajñena dviṣanto mitrā bhavanti yajñe
sarvaṁ pratiṣṭhitaṁ tasmādyajñaṁ paramaṁ vadanti || 11||

11. Others devoted to the Vedic religion say that sacrifice is the means of liberation. Sacrifice is indeed dear to gods.

Verily, gods have attained to heaven by their previous deeds of sacrifice. They have driven away demons by sacrifice. By sacrifice those who are hostile become friendly. Everything is supported by sacrifice

Therefore they say sacrifice is the supreme means of liberation.

Commentary:

The Brāhmaṇa portion of the Vedas declare that demons are destroyed by gods through the power of sacrifice.

It is believed that a sacrifice like Jyotiṣṭoma will fulfil any desire entertained by its institution, and that by its power anyone who disliked him may be transformed into a friend of his.

mānasaṁ vai prājāpatyaṁ pavitraṁ mānasena manasā sādhu
paśyati ṛṣayaḥ prajā asṛjanta mānase sarvaṁ pratiṣṭhitaṁ
tasmānmānasaṁ paramaṁ vadanti || 12||

12. Inward worship or mental concentration is indeed the means of attaining to the state of Prajāpati and so that is holy. Those who possess a mind endowed with the power of inward concentration see and realise what is good.

Through mental concentration, seers like Viśvāmitra created subjects by mere wish. All depends upon this power of the mind.

Therefore they say that the power of inward concentration is the supreme means of liberation.

Commentary:

Bhaṭṭabhāskara takes the word mānasa here as tapas in the form of vairāgya engendered in the mind of a person. This belongs to Prajāpati and in the absence of it distractions divert the mind from the goal.

Sāyana takes mānasa in the sense of inward concentration and worship.

The sermon given by Prajāpati to his son Sauparneya Ārunī, reported here in this Section in the form of a tale, is meant to test, one by one, the twelve sādhanas given in the previous section with glorifications appropriate to each.

When each item was described as supreme, perhaps Ārunī was not convinced that it was so, and therefore Prajāpati went on presenting these items one after another in succession until he came to the last one called Nyāsa.

nyāsa ityāhurmanīṣiṇo brahmāṇaṁ brahmā viśvaḥ katamaḥ
svayambhūḥ prajāpatiḥ saṁvatsara iti || 13||

13. Wise seers declare that sannyāsa mentioned as the supreme means of liberation is Brahman, and that Brahman is the Universal Spirit, is supremely blissful, is self-born, is the protector of created beings, is the soul of time, and so forth.

Commentary:

The transcendence of Sannyāsa as a means of liberation over the other eleven items is here emphasised by stating it to be non-different from Brahma, the self-born Universal Being.

 The word katamaḥ, according to Bhaṭṭabhāskara, is He who is indeterminable, Samvatsara is analysed by him as He by whom creatures are properly settled. Taking this meaning, Samvatsara is identified with the sun, because it is the sun that gives light and rain, and help creatures to live.

saṁvatsaro'sāvādityo ya eṣa āditye puruṣaḥ sa parameṣṭhī brahmātmā || 14||

14. The year is the yonder sun. That Person, who is in the sun, is Hiraṇyagarbha, He is Parameṣṭhī (the protector of the universe) and Brahmātman—Supreme Reality that is the inner-most Self of all creatures.

Commentary:

Here again Sannyāsa is praised through association with higher realities.

The word Samvatsara stands for duration of time which determines the origin, continuation and disappearance of objects in the universe. Time is measured by diurnal movement of the sun and the seasons which make the civil year.

Time is identified with the sun because we become cognizant of time by the change brought about in Nature through the influence of the sun and by the demarcation made by his rising and setting.

The Sun again is not merely the visible orb in the sky, but the divine Person contemplated there—the divine Person who is the same as the Supreme in his transcendent and immanent aspects.

yābhirādityastapati raśmibhistābhiḥ parjanyo varṣati
parjanyenauṣadhivanaspatayaḥ prajāyanta oṣadhivanaspatibhirannaṁ
bhavatyannena prāṇāḥ prāṇairbalaṁ balena tapastapasā śraddhā
śraddhayā medhā medhayā manīṣā manīṣayā mano manasā
śāntiḥ śāntyā cittaṁ cittena smṛtiḥ smṛtyā smāraɱ
smāreṇa vijñānaṁ vijñānenātmānaṁ vedayati tasmādannaṁ
dadansarvāṇyetāni dadātyannātprāṇā bhavanti bhūtānāṁ
prāṇairmano manasaśca vijñānaṁ vijñānādānando brahma yoniḥ || 15||

15. Those rays by which the sun gives heat, the same rays transform water into rain-cloud which showers the rain. By the rain-cloud herbs and trees come into existence From-herbs and trees food is produced.

By the use of food the breaths and senses are nourished. When the life- breath is nourished one gets bodily strength. Bodily strength gives the capacity to practise tapas (in the shape of self-control, religious fast, and so forth).

As the result of such tapas, faith in scriptural truths springs into existence. By faith mental power comes. By mental power sense-control is made possible. By sense-control reflection is engendered. From reflection calmness of mind results.

Conclusive experience of Truth follows calmness. By conclusive experience of Truth remembrance of It is engendered. Remembrance produces continuous remembrance. From continuous remembrance results unbroken direct realization of Truth.

By such realization a person knows the Ātman.

For this reason, he who gives food gives all these. For, it is found that the vital breaths and the senses of creatures are from food, that reflection functions with the vital breath and the senses, that unbroken direct realization comes from reflection and that bliss comes from unbroken direct realization of Truth.

Thus having attained bliss one becomes the Supreme which is the source of the universe.

Commentary:

This passage is called Anna-Stuti (praise of food). The translation is based on Sāyana.

According to Bhaṭṭabhāskara, śānti means exclusion of all thoughts from the mind other than what is at the focus of attention, or firmly fixing the mind on the object of concentration.

sa vā eṣa puruṣaḥ pañcadhā pañcātmā yena sarvamidaṁ
protaṁ pṛthivī cāntarikṣaṁ ca dyauśca
diśaścāvāntaradiśāśca sa vai sarvamidaṁ jagatsa
sabhūtaɱ sa bhavyaṁ jijñāsaklṛpta ṛtajā rayiṣṭhāḥ
śraddhā satyo pahasvāntamasopariṣṭāt | jñātvā tamevaṁ
manasā hṛdā ca bhūyo na mṛtyumupayāhi
vidvān | tasmānnyāsameṣāṁ tapasāmatiriktamāhuḥ || 16||

16. He by whom all this universe is pervaded—the earth and the mid-region, the heaven and the quarters and the sub-quarters—that Person is fivefold and is constituted of five substances.

He who has attained supreme knowledge through sannyāsa is, indeed, this Person. He is all that is perceptible at present, was in the past and will be in the future.

Though apparently human, his true nature is that which is settled by the enquiry into the Vedas and what is attained by his new birth in right knowledge.

He is firmly established in the richness of knowledge imparted by his guru, as also in his faith and in Truth. He has become the self-resplendent Being such a one he remains beyond the darkness of ignorance.

O Aruṇī, having become one possessed of knowledge by realizing Him, the Supreme, through sannyāsa, and with your mind fixed in the heart, do not again fall a prey to death.

Because sannyāsa is thus the supreme means of realization, therefore wise men declare that to be above all other means of liberation.

Commentary:

Here in this passage again the person who has attained supreme knowledge is described with a view to praise Sannyāsa. A man of Self-realization identifies himself with the Supreme Person who is the whole universe past, present and future.

The fivefold knowledge of the senses, the five attributes of the elements, the five primordial elements, the five faculties of knowledge, the five faculties of action, the five breaths, and the five sheaths are meant here by the five-foldness of the Puruṣa.

The concluding clause is taken to be an exhortation made by Prajāpati to his son, Ārunī, to go beyond death by realizing the Supreme, adopting Sannyāsa as the means of it.

The last clause affirms the conclusion as already hinted at, namely, that Sannyāsa transcends all other means of liberation.

vasuraṇvo vibhūrasi prāṇe tvamasi sandhātā brahman tvamasi
viśvasṛttejodāstvamasyagnerasi varcodāstvamasi sūryasya
dyumnodāstvamasi candramasa upayāmagṛhīto'si brahmaṇe tvā mahase || 17||

17. O Supreme, Thou art the giver of the wealth of supreme knowledge to us! Thou hast become all! Thou unitest the individual Souls in the Sūtrātman! Thou pervadest the universe! Thou art the giver of the lustre to fire! Thou art the giver of light and heat to the sun! Thou art the bestower of the riches of light to the moon! Thou art taken in the upayāma vessel as soma juice for oblation! We worship Thee, the Supreme who art such for the manifestation of Light!

Commentary:

After Sannyāsa the seeker of the Supreme practises contemplation taking Prāṇava as the aid for focussing his thoughts.

Unbroken thought of the Supreme is beset with many hindrances To remove them the Supreme Being is entreated.

omityātmānaṁ yuñjīta | etadvai mahopaniṣadaṁ devānāṁ guhyam |
ya evaṁ veda brahmaṇo mahimānamāpnoti tasmādbrahmaṇo
mahimānamityupaniṣat || 18||

18. (The sannyasin having meditated upon the Supreme) should concentrate his thoughts on Him uttering the syllable Om.

This, the syllable Om, verily is the substance of many great Upaniṣads and a secret guarded by the gods without imparting to the unfit.

He who practises meditation on the Supreme thus, with the aid of Prāṇava, after sannyāsa attains to the unlimited greatness of the Supreme. By that he attains the greatness of Brahman.

Thus the secret knowledge has been imparted.

Commentary:

Here the Sannyāsin is first enjoined to worship God as the Antaryāmin and Creator to remove the obstacles in the spiritual path and then commanded to focus his inward attention on the Supreme Reality through the symbol and the sound form of Prāṇava.

Prāṇava is then praised as the essence of all Upaniṣads and the secret which gods do not divulge to incompetent aspirants. Of course Prāṇava stands for the Supreme Truth.

The Sannyāsin thus attains to the greatness of the Supreme Reality, the goal of his life.