Mandukya Upanishad

The Mandukya Upanishad, the shortest of Upanishads is said to be the one upanishad that is sufficient to understand to gain moksha. I find a number of words are just used without really knowing the underlying implications of the meaning in them. Moksha is one such word. In its literal translation, moksha means liberation. Is it liberation from the body, the mind, the manas, the emotions, the world? Who or what is liberated from these things? And when liberated what remains? It is like void. Is void an absence of the “I”? If it is, then how can this “I” know it?  Yet, moksha it is that is claimed to be achieved.

I obviously do not know about moksha. So, I can’t claim or not claim it to be true. In my view, the Mandukya Upanishad provides that germ of thought which helps in peeling off this facade of illusion of reality so that need to find the truth surfaces. We can translate the Dakshinamurthy sthotram or the Mrthyumjayam Mantram and each of them can tell us that this reality around us is just an illusion. Yet, it is a far cry from our brains accepting this as a fact so that the search for the truth can start.

Just as how it is said “Acceptance is the first step to reforming and changing over a new leaf”, so also, the brain has to inherently realize the fact that “what is being lived is just a projection of the truth” rather than this being the truth. Only and only then can the search from truth start. The realization can be a blind belief in some higher being which is hard for me atleast. It can also be a “logical conclusion” based on reasoning which peels away the cocksureness we have for the existence of this world. This is what the Mandukya Upanishad provides. Why? I believe it is so, because it matches studied sciences of the mind and hence provides the required conviction.

The first verse:

OM ityetadaksharam idam sarvam, 
tasyopavyakhyanam bhutam bhavat bhavishyaditi 
sarvam omkara eva.
yacanyat trikalatItam tadapyonkaraeva

om = the vibration iti = this etat = here 
aksharam = unalterable / imperishable / immutable 
idam sarvam = all this
tasya = therefore / then upavyakhyanam = interpretation / explanation 
bhutam = past bhavat = present bhavishyad = future 
iti = this sarvam = all omkara = the vibration eva = only
yat + ca = that and anyat = any 
trikala + atitam = three times + gone by / past 
tad + api = that also omkara + eva = is also OM

So, it seems to be saying:

All this here is the vibration OM is immutable. Therefore, it has to be interpreted that the past, present and future is also this same vibration and any thing beyond these three times is also just this same vibration.

To note here, I have translated akshara as immutable as opposed to syllable as most interpretations do. As far as I have understood OM is not a syllable, it is a vibration. Even the written syllable for it was only added later. So, why would a upanishad have claimed it to be a syllable and that too a syllable is everything?

I think, this verse is a logic of induction. It is telling us, if everything around us here is just a vibration, then it follows that everything that was past, present, future and anything that can be thought of is also just a vibration. A verse that breaks the illusion of time.

sarvam hyetad brahma, 
ayam atma brahma
soyam-atma catuspat

sarvam = all hi + etat = indeed + here brahma = created 
ayam = this atma = self brahma = is created
soyam = that atma = self 
catuspat = cross-way / a place where 4 paths meet

Translates to:

All this here indeed is created, this self is also created. This self is a cross way of 4 states.

To note here, I have translated “brahma” as “create” instead of “Brahman” which is truth. While, the standard interpretation is “Brahman”, all verses only say “Brahma”. While the sentence “Everything is the truth, so also is this self the truth” may also be a correct interpretation, the next line makes no sense in this context. It makes more sense to say, “The self is created as an intersection of 4 paths”, the 4 paths explained in the subsequent verses. Hence, the interpretation as “create”.

Jagarita-sthano bahish-prajnah saptanga 
ekonavimsatimukhah sthula-bhuk 
vaisvanarah prathamah padah.

jagarita = waking sthano = state bahish = outside 
prajna = conscious saptanga = 7 members or parts
ekon + vimshati + mukhah = ninteen faces 
sthula = gross body bhuk = enjoyer
vaisvanarah prathamah = first padah = path

Translates to:

Vaishvanarah is the first path and it is the waking state where the consciousness is outward turned and has 7 parts and 19 faces. The enjoyer of the gross body.

Svapna-sthano'ntah-prajnah saptanga 
praviviktabhuk taijaso dvitiyah padah.

svapna = dream sthano = state antah = inside prajnah = conscious 
saptanga = 7 members or parts
ekonavimsati = ninteed mukhah = faces
pravivikta + bhuk = solitary + bhuk = enjoyer
taijso dvitiyah = second padah = path

Translates to:

Taijaso is the second path and it is the dream state where the consciousness is inward turned and has 7 parts and 19 faces. The enjoyer of solitude.

Yatra supto na kancana kamam kamayate 
na kancana svapnam pasyati tat sushuptam. 
Sushupta-asthāna ekibhutah prajnanaghana 
evanandamayo hyanandabhuk chetomukhah 
prajnastrityah padah.

yatra = where supto = numbed / senseless na = not 
kancana = somebody kamam = actions kamayate = desires
na = not kancana = somebody svapnam = dreams 
pasyati = perceive / see tat = that sushuptam = fast asleep
sushupta astana = that fast asleep state 
ekhibhutah = become one prajnanaghana = conscious
eva + anandamayo = even so / exactly / certainly + pure happiness 
hi + anandamaya + bhuk = indeed + happiness + enjoyer 
chit+mukah = pure thought + face
prajna + trityah = third padah = state

Translates to:

Prajna is the third state, where senses are numbed, where somebody desires not actions nor dreams are perceived, that fast asleep state where somebody becomes one with the consciousness and pure happiness, that enjoyer of happiness, the face of pure thought.

Nantah-prajnam na bahih-prajnam, nobhayatah-prajnam 
na prajnana-ghanam na prajnam naprajnam. 
Adrishtam-avyavaharayam-agrahyam- alakshanam-acintyam-
prapancopasarnam santam sivam-advaitam 
caturtham manyante sa atm sa vijneyah.

na + antah = not + inside prajnam = conscious 
no + bahishyatah = nor + outside 
prajnam = conscious na = not prajnam = conscious 
naprajnam = non-conscious 
adristam = beyond sight avyavaharayam = beyond actions 
agrahyam = beyond grasp alakshanam = beyond recognition 
acintyam = beyond imagination avyapadesyam = beyond + description
ekatma = universal self pratyaya + saram = understanding + the core
prapanca+upasanam = world + being engaged in 
santam = unchanging shivam + advaitam = unmanifest + non-dual 
caturtham = fourth manyante = is considered sa = this 
vijneyah = is known

Translates to:

Neither inside consciousness nor outside consciousness,
neither conscious nor not-conscious
beyond sight, beyond actions, beyond grash, beyond recognition,
beyond imagination, beyond description
knowing the universal core, engaged in unchanging,
unmanifest, non-dual is considered as the fourth path

Now, coming to why this peels away the facade of illusion from the truth. I think it is because of the first three paths that is said here. We have all had dreams that we have thought nearly true, and the deep sleep where there is not thoughts at all is a state a number of us have felt and only after such a sleep do we feel happy. If those can be true, why not the fourth state?

But, scientifically, we know that the brain determines the state that we are in. According to the study the brain waves determines the various states of the brain. This a description of brain waves:

At the root of all our thoughts, emotions and behaviors is the communication between neurons within our brains. Brainwaves are produced by synchronized electrical pulses from masses of neurons communicating with each other.

Our brainwaves change according to what we’re doing and feeling. When slower brainwaves are dominant we can feel tired, slow, sluggish, or dreamy. The higher frequencies are dominant when we feel wired, or hyper-alert.

Infra-Low (<0.5HZ) – Infra-Low brainwaves (also known as Slow Cortical Potentials), are thought to be the basic cortical rhythms that underlie our higher brain functions.
Delta Waves (0.5 TO 3 HZ) – Delta brainwaves are slow, loud brainwaves (low frequency and deeply penetrating, like a drum beat). They are generated in deepest meditation and dreamless sleep.
Theta Waves (3 TO 8 HZ) – Theta brainwaves, occur in sleep and are also dominant in deep meditation.
Alpha Waves (8 TO 12 HZ) – Alpha brainwaves occur during quietly flowing thoughts, but not quite meditation.
Beta Waves (12 TO 38 HZ) – Beta brainwaves are present in our normal waking state of consciousness.
Gamma Waves (38 TO 42 HZ) – Gamma brainwaves are the fastest of brain waves and relate to simultaneous processing of information from different brain areas

So, it must be that the Alpha waves, Beta waves and Gamma waves corresponds to the vaisvanara state that is said here. The point is, I believe the Upanishad says there can be 19 faces to this state, I wonder what they are? The Theta waves is the taijaso, delta the prajna state and the infra-low the last state.

The major question then is, what happens when the brain waves go down to zero? Is that the void that is being talked about, where the brain stops and something else takes over? What remains? Will it be the unmanifested? What happens when we are in the unmanifested state? Isn’t awareness in some form required to know and understand?


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