Prasna Upanishad
Category: Hindu
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The Prashnopanishad (Sanskrit: प्रश्नोपनिषद्, Praśnopaniṣad) is an ancient Sanskrit text, embedded inside Atharva Veda.


First Question

Adoration to the Highest Self! Hariḥ, Om!

Sukeśas Bhāradvāja, and Śaivya Satyakāma, and Sauryāyaṇin Gārgya, and Kausalya Āśvalāyana, and Bhārgava Vaidarbhi, and Kabandhin Kātyāyana, these were devoted to Brahman, firm in Brahman, seeking for the Highest Brahman. They thought that the venerable Pippalāda could tell them all that, and they therefore took fuel in their hands (like pupils), and approached him.

That Ṛshi said to them: ‘Stay here a year longer, with penance, abstinence, and faith; then you may ask questions according to your pleasure, and if we know them, we shall tell you all.’

Then Kabandhin Kātyāyana approached him and asked: ‘Sir, from whence may these creatures be born?’

He replied: ‘Prajāpati (the lord of creatures) was desirous of creatures (prajāḥ). He performed penance’, and having performed penance, he produces a pair, matter (rayi) and spirit (prāṇa), thinking that they together should produce creatures for him in many ways.

The sun is spirit, matter is the moon. All this, what has body and what has no body, is matter, and therefore body indeed is matter.

Now Āditya, the sun, when he rises, goes toward the East, and thus receives the Eastern spirits into his rays. And when he illuminates the South, the West, the North, the Zenith, the Nadir, the intermediate quarters, and everything, he thus receives all spirits into his rays.

Thus he rises, as Vaiśvānara, (belonging to all men,) assuming all forms, as spirit, as fire. This has been said in the following verse:

(They knew) him who assumes all forms, the golden, who knows all things, who ascends highest, alone in his splendour, and warms us; the thousand-rayed, who abides in a hundred places, the spirit of all creatures, the Sun, rises.

The year indeed is Prajāpati, and there are two paths thereof, the Southern and the Northern. Now those who here believe in sacrifices and pious gifts as work done, gain the moon only as their pg 273 world, and return again. Therefore the Ṛshis who desire offspring, go to the South, and that path of the Fathers is matter (rayi).

But those who have sought the Self by penance, abstinence, faith, and knowledge, gain by the Northern path Āditya, the sun. This is the home of the spirits, the immortal, free from danger, the highest. From thence they do not return, for it is the end. Thus says the Śloka:

Some call him the father with five feet (the five seasons), and with twelve shapes (the twelve months), the giver of rain in the highest half of heaven; others again say that the sage is placed in the lower half, in the chariot with seven wheels and six spokes.

The month is Prajāpati; its dark half is matter, its bright half spirit. Therefore some Ṛshis perform sacrifice in the bright half, others in the other half.

Day and Night are Prajāpati; its day is spirit, its night matter. Those who unite in love by day waste their spirit, but to unite in love by night is right.

Food is Prajāpati. Hence proceeds seed, and from it these creatures are born.

Those therefore who observe this rule of Prajāpati (as laid down in § 13), produce a pair, and to them belongs this Brahma-world here. But those in whom dwell penance, abstinence, and truth,

To them belongs that pure Brahma-world, to them, namely, in whom there is nothing crooked, nothing false, and no guile.’

Second Question

Then Bhārgava Vaidarbhi asked him: ‘Sir, How many gods keep what has thus been created, how many manifest this, and who is the best of them?’

He replied: ‘The ether is that god, the wind, fire, water, earth, speech, mind, eye, and ear. These, when they have manifested (their power), contend and say: We (each of us) support this body and keep it.

Then Prāṇa (breath, spirit, life), as the best, said to them: Be not deceived, I alone, dividing myself fivefold, support this body and keep it.

They were incredulous; so he, from pride, did as if he were going out from above. Thereupon, as he went out, all the others went out, and as he returned, all the others returned. As bees go out when their queen goes out, and return when she returns, thus (did) speech, mind, eye, and ear; and, being satisfied, they praise Prāṇa, saying:

He is Agni (fire), he shines as Sūrya (sun), he is Parjanya (rain), the powerful (Indra), he is Vāyu, (wind), he is the earth, he is matter, he is God—he is what is and what is not, and what is immortal.

As spokes in the nave of a wheel, everything is fixed in Prāṇa, the verses of the Ṛg-veda, Yajur-veda, Sāma-veda, the sacrifice, the Kshatriyas, and the Brāhmans.

As Prajāpati (lord of creatures) thou movest about in the womb, thou indeed art born again. To thee, the Prāṇa, these creatures bring offerings, to thee who dwellest with the other prāṇas (the organs of sense).

Thou art the best carrier for the Gods, thou art the first offering to the Fathers. Thou art the true work of the Rishis, of the Atharvāṅgiras.

O Prāṇa, thou art Indra by thy light, thou art Rudra, as a protector; thou movest in the sky, thou art the sun, the lord of lights.

When thou showerest down rain, then, O Prāṇa, these creatures of thine are delighted, hoping that there will be food, as much as they desire.

Thou art a Vrātya, O Prāṇa, the only Ṛshi, the consumer of everything, the good lord. We are the givers of what thou hast to consume, thou, O Mātariśva, art our father.

Make propitious that body of thine which dwells in speech, in the ear, in the eye, and which pervades the mind; do not go away!

All this is in the power of Prāṇa, whatever exists in the three heavens. Protect us like a mother her sons, and give us happiness and wisdom.’

Third Question

Then Kausalya Āśvalāyana asked: ‘Sir, whence is that Prāṇa (spirit) born? How does it come into this body? And how does it abide, after it has divided itself? How does it go out? How does it support what is without, and how what is within?’

He replied: ‘You ask questions more difficult, but you are very fond of Brahman, therefore I shall tell it you.

This Prāṇa (spirit) is born of the Self. Like the shadow thrown on a man, this (the prāṇa) is spread out over it (the Brahman). By the work of the mind does it come into this body.

As a king commands officials, saying to them: Rule these villages or those, so does that Prāṇa (spirit) dispose the other prāṇas, each for their separate work.

The Apāna (the down-breathing) in the organs of excretion and generation; the Prāṇa himself dwells in eye and ear, passing through mouth and nose. In the middle is the Samāna (the on-breathing); it carries what has been sacrificed as food equally (over the body), and the seven lights proceed from it.

The Self is in the heart. There are the 101 arteries, and in each of them there are a hundred (smaller veins), and for each of these branches there are 72,000. In these the Vyāna (the back-breathing) moves.

Through one of them, the Udāna (the out-breathing) leads (us) upwards to the good world by good work, to the bad world by bad work, to the world of men by both.

The sun rises as the external Prāṇa, for it assists the Prāṇa in the eye. The deity that exists in the earth, is there in support of man’s Apāna (down-breathing). The ether between (sun and earth) is the Samāna (on-breathing), the air is Vyāna (back-breathing).

Light is the Udāna (out-breathing), and therefore he whose light has gone out comes to a new birth with his senses absorbed in the mind.

Whatever his thought (at the time of death) with that he goes back to Prāṇa, and the Prāṇa, united with light, together with the self (the jīvātmā) leads on to the world, as deserved.

He who, thus knowing, knows Prāṇa, his offspring does not perish, and he becomes immortal. Thus says the Śloka:

He who has known the origin, the entry, the place, the fivefold distribution, and the internal state of the Prāṇa, obtains immortality, yes, obtains immortality.’

Fourth Question

Then Sauryāyaṇin Gārgya asked: ‘Sir, What are they that sleep in this man, and what are they that are awake in him? What power (deva) is it that sees dreams? Whose is the happiness? On what do all these depend?’

He replied: ‘O Gārgya, As all the rays of the sun, when it sets, are gathered up in that disc of light, and as they, when the sun rises again and again, come forth, so is all this (all the senses) gathered up in the highest faculty (deva), the mind. Therefore at that time that man does not hear, see, smell, taste, touch, he does not speak, he does not take, does not enjoy, does not evacuate, does not move about. He sleeps, that is what people say.

The fires of the prāṇas are, as it were, awake in that town (the body). The Apāna is the Gārhapatya fire, the Vyāna the Anvāhāryapacana fire; and because it is taken out of the Gārhapatya fire, which is fire for taking out, therefore the Prāṇa is the Āhavanīya fire.

Now the Apāna is identified with the Gārhapatya fire, no reason being given except afterwards, when it is said that the Prāṇa is the Āhavanīya fire, being taken out of the Gārhapatya, here called praṇayana, in the same manner as the prāṇa proceeds in sleep from the apāna. The Vyāna is identified with the Dakshiṇāgni, the Southern fire, because it issues from the heart through an aperture on the right.

Because it carries equally these two oblations, the out-breathing and the in-breathing, the Samāna is he (the Hotṛ priest). The mind is the sacrificer, the Udāna is the reward of the sacrifice, and it leads the sacrificer every day (in deep sleep) to Brahman.

There that god (the mind) enjoys in sleep greatness. What has been seen, he sees again; what has been heard, he hears again; what has been enjoyed in different countries and quarters, he enjoys again; what has been seen and not seen, heard and not heard, enjoyed and not enjoyed, he sees it all; he, being all, sees.

And when he is overpowered by light, then that god sees no dreams, and at that time that happiness arises in his body.

And, O friend, as birds go to a tree to roost, thus all this rests in the Highest Ātman,—

The earth and its subtile elements, the water and its subtile elements, the light and its subtile elements, the air and its subtile elements, the ether and its subtile elements; the eye and what can be seen, the ear and what can be heard, the nose and what can be smelled, the taste and what can be tasted, the skin and what can be touched, the voice and what can be spoken, the hands and what can be grasped, the feet and what can be walked, the mind and what can be perceived, intellect (buddhi) and what can be conceived, personality and what can be personified, thought and what can be thought, light and what can be lighted up, the Prāṇa and what is to be supported by it.

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