Shatprashnopanishad

 
-translated by Prof Pandurangi

 

Introduction

This Upanishad belongs to Pippaladasaka of Atharvana Veda. God Vasudeva is the chief for this Upanishad. Prana etc. are subordinate deities. Pippalada and Katyayana etc., Six others are the sages. The Metres employed in different sections have to be ascertained separately.

Katyayana etc., Six sages put six questions to the sage Pippalada in this Upanishad. Therefore, it is designated as Satprashnopanishad (Six questions). These questions relate to the process of creation, importance of Maukhyaprana, Omkara and Sodasakala Purusa.

Sukesa, son of Bharadvaja; Satyakama, son of Sibi; Gargya, grandson of Surya; Kausalya Asvalayana, son of Asvala;Bhargava, son of Bhrigu, born in Vidarbha country; Kabandhi, son of Katya – these Six sages who had studied the Vedas deeply, who followed the Vedas devotedly, and who were desirous of knowing the highest Brahman approached sage Pippalada carrying the Samit sticks in their hands, with the hope that he would certainly explain the Brahman fully.

 Sage Pippalada told them: You reside here for one year performing again penance and celibacy, having faith. Then you ask the questions you like. If I know I shall tell all that I know.

First Question

 Then, Kabandgi son of Katyayana approached Pippalada and asked: O Revered sage! From whom are these created beings born? Pippalada told them – Prajapati desirous of creating beings, meditated for it.

 He created a couple – male and female – viz. Rayi and Prana (Bharati and Mukhyaprana). He thought that these two would assist him to create many beings. Prana entered Aditya and assumed the name Aditya. Rayi entered Chandramas and assumed the name Chandramas.

 Rayi is all that is Murta. Amurta is Prana. Out of the two Murta and Amurta, Murti is Rayi.

 Now, when the Prana present in the sun rises and enters into the east, then, he places the eastern deities into the rays. When he illumines the southern, the western, the northern, the above, the below, the central and all, then, he places all deities of respective directions into the rays.

 This Prana present in Aditya is Visvarupa – of full form, he is Agni as he takes all in, he is Vaisvanara as he relates to all men. He arises to assist the creation of all.

This is clearly stated in the hymn Visvarupam etc. He is Visvarupa – of full form, he is full of rays, he  knows all that is created, he is the abode of created beings, he is the chief illuminator and the cause of heat.

 He has a thousand rays, he is in hundreds of forms. This  Prana being present in the Sun, arises to assist the creation.

 Prajapati presides over the year. There are two halves of the year viz. Dakshina and Uttara – earlier and the later. Those who perform sacrifices, gifts of food etc. and other activities with  a desire to obtain routine results such as progeny, they get the Daksina path only and go to Chandramas world only. They return to this world again. Rayi presides over this Pitriyana the Dakshina path.

 Those who by penance, celibacy, faith and knowledge enquire about Atma go by the Uttarapatha and obtain Aditya world. Then, they obtain Brahman.

 The Brahman is the abode of deities, immortal, fearless, and the abode of liberated. Those who go to him shall not return. Since Aditya prevents their return he is called Nirodha. 

It has five feet (five seasons), it is protector, it has twelve forms (Twelve months), it is skilful, it is placed on seven horses and six spokes. Some say that the southern half of its rainy heavenly path is their goal, while others say that the northern path is their goal.

 Prajapati presides over the month. The black half of the month is Rayi, bright half of the month is Prana. Therefore, those sages who desire to go by Uttarayanapatha perform the sacrifices in the bright half. Others in the other half.

 Prajapati presides over the day and night. The day is Prana. The night is Rayi. Prajapati presides over the couple. Prana is husband and Rayi is wife. Those who enjoy their wife during the day throw their vitality wastefully. Those who enjoy during the night maintain their celibacy.

 Prajapati is food. Vitality is produced from food. All created beings are produced from vitality. Those who know this act of prajapati get good progeny. They attain Satyaloka. They perform penance and observe celibacy. They are truthful. They attain Vaikuntha which is aprakrita. They have no crookedness, falsehood or deceit.

 Second Question

 Then, Bhargava of Vidarbha country asked Pippalada: Revered sage! How many deities assist the sustenance of created beings? Who, among the deities assist revelation of objects? Who, among these deities, is superior?

Pippalada told Bhargava: The presiding deity of Akasha is the sustainer. The presiding deities of air, fire, water etc. are also sustainers. The presiding deities of the eye, ear, etc. reveal the objects.

 Once these presiding deities thought they would sustain the body, entering into it independently.

Mukhyaprana the superior among the deities, told them: Do not be under the delusion. I have arranged myself into five aspects (prana, apana etc) enter into the body and sustain it. The deities did not believe him. Then, when he moved out of the body, as it were, all other deities moved out. When he returned all others returned.

 Just as when the queen bee moves out all other bees move out, and when she settles down all others settle down, similarly the presiding deities of speech, mind, eye, ear, etc. moved out, and settled down. They were delighted and praised Mukhyaprana that he is Agni, he is surya, he is rain god, he is Indra, he is Vayu, he is Prithvi, he is Rayi, he is Murta and Amurta, he is immortal.

 Just as spokes are fixed in the nave of the chariot, all other deities find their support in Mukhyaprana. The Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, sacrifice, kshatriyas, brahmanas all find their support in Mukhyaprana.

 You are Daksha etc. Prajapati, you move in the womb, you get it born. O Mukhyaprana these created beings are yours. You reside in them with the presiding deities of eye etc and support them.

 You carry the sacrificial offerings to God. You carry the oblations to manes. You are the support for the conduct and truthfulness of sages Atharvangiras.

 O Mukhyaprana! You are Indra, you shine with brilliance, you are Rudra, you are protector, you are the heaven, you are the sun, you are the lord of planets. When you rain, then these created beings are delighted with the thought that they get plenty of food. O Prana! You are Ekarshi the seer of Atharvaveda devoted to his vows. You are the destroyer of all, you are the Lord of all pious people. We offer you food, O Mukhyaprana! You are our father.

 O Mukhyaprana! Your person that is present is speech, ear, and eye, and that is extended in our mind, make that auspicious to us. Do not move out of us. Whatever is in the heaven, that is, under the control of Mukhyaprana. Protect us like mother protecting her children. Bestow on us wealth and wisdom.

 

Third Question

 Then, Asvalayana of Kosala country asked Pippalada : Revered Sir, from whom is the Mukhyaprana born? How he gets into this body? How he distributes himself and settles in it? By what means he moves out of it? How he holds the external objects and how he holds the things in the body.

 Pippalada told him: You are asking extraordinary questions. You have studied the Vedas deeply. Therefore I will tell you. This Mukhyaprana is born from Paramatma. Just as the shadow of a person is entirely dependent upon him all beings are entirely dependent up on Paramatma.

The Mukhyaprana enters by the will of Paramathma.

 Just as a monarch employs the officers saying that you supervise these villages and you supervise these villages, similarly Mukhyaprana places other pranas (separately in the body).

 In his apana form he remains in anus and the organ of generation, as prana himself he remains in eye, ear, tongue and nose. In the middle he remains in his samana form. This samana assimilates the food eaten. Because of this assimilation of food, the seven jnanendriyas function. The self is at the heart.

There are one hundred and one arteries in the body. Each of these have hundred branches. Each branch has again hundred branches. Thus, there are seventy-two thousand arteries in the body. Prana moves in these through his vyana form. Through one of these arteries viz. Susumna, Prana moves above through his Udana form. Through this, he leads Jiva to Svargaloka by his punya, and Narakaloka by his sin. By the two viz. Punya and papa, he leads him to the world of men.

Mukhyaprana being present in the sun outside, assuming the name aditya, arises. He favourably responds to the prana present in the eye. The apana present in the prithvi sustains the apana present in the man. That which sustains akasa is samana. The vyana sustains the air outside. Udana sustains the tejas outside.

 Therefore, when tejas is extinct (in the body) one is dead with his senses getting merged in manas.

 The Jiva goes to Prana with the thought with which he dies. Prana in his udana form, accompanying God, takes jiva to the world as per the last thought of that jiva.

 He who knows Prana in this way, shall have unbroken progeny and attain immortality. This is sung is a verse.

 He who knows the birth, functions, places, fivefold extension, presence in the body and outside, will attain immortality.

 

Fourth Question

Then Gargya, the grandson of Surya, asked Pippalada : Revered Sir! When the man is asleep which of the deities withdraw their functions and which continue to perform? Which deity shows the dreams? Who experiences the happiness during the deep sleep state? In whom all find their support?

 Pippalada told Gargya! O Gargya just as when the sun sets his rays appear like gathered in the orb of Sun, and when he rises, again they appear like spreading , similarly, all deities presiding over Jiva’s body and senses gather near the great God present in manas during the dream state and present at the heart during the deep sleep state.

Therefore, Jiva does not hear, does not see, does not smell, does not taste, does not touch, does not speak, does not take, does not enjoy, does not excrete, does not walk. Therefore, they say he is asleep.

 In this body, during the sleep, pranagnis are awake, Apana is garhapatyagni, Vyana is dakshinagni, ahavaniyagni is Prana. Ahavaniya is made from garhapatya, therefore, it is Prana. Samana is called samana because it provides inbreathing and outbreathing the two offerings regularly. Manas or Jiva is Yajamana. Udana provides the result of the sacrifice. Udana takes the Jiva every day during the deep sleep to the Brahman present in the Susumna nadi.

 During the dream Jiva experiances happiness and sorrow. He sees whatever he had already seen. He hears whatever he had already heard. He experiences what he had experienced in another place and in another direction.

 He sees the seen and not seen, hears the heard and not heard, experiences the experienced and not experienced, the present and not present. He sees all assuming all kinds of forms.

 When Jiva is enveloped with divine lustre, then, being in deep sleep state, does not see the dreams. At that time, Jiva experiences bliss due to his close presence with God.

O dear! Just as the birds find their shelter in the tree of their residence, all find their shelter in the supreme God.

 The gross and subtle earth, the gross and subtle air, the gross and subtle akasa, the eye and its objects, the ear and its objects, the nose and its objects, the tongue and its objects, the sense organ of touch and its objects, the speech and its objects, the hands and the objects to be taken, the feet and the destination to be covered, the anus and excretion, the organ of generation and the joy, manas and the thought, buddhi and the intellect, ahankara and the sense of ego, chitta and remembrance, chetana (tejas) and grasping of objects, prana and all that is to be sustained.

He gives the power to see, to touch, to smell, to taste, to think, to know, and to do. He himself sees, touches and so on. He is omniscient and is infinite.

 He who knows him as not affected by avidya, does not possess prakrita body, has no prakrita form but possesses aprakrita and pure form, he is imperishable, and as the cause of all, attains the infinite.

 The Jiva the indriyas, and their objects together with their presiding deities find their support in Aksara the supreme God. He who knows this Aksara, knows all. He attains the abode of the lord of all.

 

Fifth Question

 Then Satyakama, son of Sibi asked Pippalada – ‘Revered Sir, among men, which world one attains, who meditates upon God designated as ‘Om’ with the hymn ‘Om’ till the end of life?’ Pippalada told him – O Satyakama; both Parabrahman and Apara brahman (Lord Vishnu and Chaturmukha Brahma) are designated as ‘Om’. Therefore, one who meditates with the hymn ‘Om’, through the path of this meditation, attains them.

 He who meditates upon the God as conveyed by one syllable of ‘Om’ will soon be born again on the earth, called as it were, by God. He is carried to human body by the presiding deities of Rigveda. In that human birth he will practise austerity, celibacy, and faith, and enjoy glory of the same.

He who meditates upon God as conveyed by three syllables of ‘Om’, with the hymn ‘Om’ will reach the Sun. He will be freed from his Prarabdhakarma like a snake being freed from its old skin. He will be carried to Satyaloka by the presiding deities of Samaveda. Then, receiving instructions from  Chaturmukha Brahma , the highest among souls, he will see the highest person, i.e., Lord Vasudeva present in the bodies of all souls.

There are these two verses:

The three syllables  of ‘Om’ employed separately , or only with two connected, recited in the high, low, and middle pitches will lead to returnable worlds. But if the three together are well employed, the wise meditator will not move away (He will attain non-returnable world).

 The meditator (with only one syllable) will be led to the earth by the presiding deities of Rigveda, (with two syllables) to the intermediate space by the presiding deities of Yajurveda, and (with three syllables) to the world, which only the wise know, by the presiding deities of Samaveda.

 He who knows (‘Om’ with the three syllables) will attain the Supreme God who is tranquil, unaging, immortal and fearless by the knowledge of ‘Om’ the supporter.

 

Sixth Question

 

Then, Sukesa son of Bharadvaj asked him: Revered Sir! Hiranyanabha a prince of Kosala country approached me and asked this question – Bharadvaja you know Sodasakala Purusa, teach him to me.

I told that prince, I do not know Sodasakala Purusa. If I knew , why should I not tell you. He who speaks untruth will perish completely. Therefore, I cannot speak untruth. On this reply, the prince silently mounted his chariot and left.

 I ask you now, where is that Sodasa Purusa?

 Pippalada told Bharadvaja: Here, within this body that Purusa is present from whom these sixteen kalas arise. The Purusa pondered as to, at whose departure shall I depart, and at whose settling in shall I settle in?. Then, he created prana, From prana he created faith, ether, air, light, water, earth, senses, mind, food, vitality, austerity, hymns, deeds, the places for the senses, and names.

 Just as these rivers flowing towards the ocean, on reaching the ocean, become unobservable but still their names and entity ship are declared as distinctly present in the ocean by the wise, so also, these sixteen kalas of Jiva (being liberated at the time of the liberation of Jiva) moving towards the supreme Purusa and reaching him, become unobservable (for ignorant). But still their names and entity ship are declared to be distinct by the wise, and they remain in supreme Purusa.

Conclusion

Know that Supreme Purusa in whom the presiding deities of KalA find their support, like the spokes in the navel of a chariot wheel, so that the transmigration may not afflict you.

 Pippalada told six sages ‘I know only this much, beyond this I do not know’.

 The six sages honoured him and said you are our father, you enabled us to overcome the ignorance.

Salutations to the great seers; salutations to the great seers.

 

END OF SATPRASHNOPANISHAD

 

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