Mundaka Upanishad 

मुण्डक उपनिषद् (Mundaka Upanishad) –Introduction dt. 14/1/2017

Upanishads reveal the truth of the nature of one’s self.  It is important for the pursuit of moksha and for a person pursuing the path.

For the attainment of Moksha, there are 3 scriptures to be studied in one’s lifetime which are called प्रस्तान त्रयं (prastaana trayam):-The Upanishads, The Bhagavad Gita, The Brahma Sutras. There are some topics which upanishads proposes with arguments, counter-arguments, thereby clarifying and removing all doubts.  Among satsanghis we hear many views where there are possibilities of confusion, and therefore the study helps one to be sure about the knowledge gained.  Upanishads are the greatest scriptures available to us.  One can be sure of becoming free from bondage after studying Upanishads. They are part of the vedas.  Veda means knowledge.  Vedanta means the end portion of vedas and these are Upanishads.

There are four parts in every Veda.

  1. Samhita is the first part dealing with performance of rituals and hymns devoted to various gods.

2. Brahmana is the second part and deals Upasana or modes of worship with meditative techniques.

3. Aranyaka, the third part deals with meaning and how upasanas and rituals can be put into effect.

4. The fourth part is Upanishads.  The word Veda is derived from  vid (to know)+ dhiH (intellect)= knowledge available in the intellect.

First three parts of veda deal with the karma kanda portion of vedas.  All the rituals are elaborately discussed giving the method of reciting mantras and performing of rituals.  The pujaris are well trained in this aspect.  However, beyond the mantras these pujaris do may not know the meaning or connection of these mantras with self knowledge.

There are more than 200 upanishads and out of which 10 are well known because Adi Shankaracharya chose to write his bhashyam for them in detail.  These 10 are: Kena Upanishad, Chandogya Upanishad (Sama Veda); Katho Upanishad, Ishavasya Upanishad, Taittiriya Upanishad, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (Yajur Veda); Mundaka Upanishad, Prashna Upanishad, Mandukya Upanishad (Atharva Veda); Aitreya Upanishad (Rig Veda).

Mundaka, being the easiest of all Upanishads are taught first.  Upanishads must be learnt from a teacher who has undergone  training under sampradayam teacher and not from any other.Learning from a non-sampradayam teacher will be like a blind man leading the blind. A student should have learnt from a teacher who is alive in flesh and blood or would have done that when the teacher was alive. You cannot listen to tapes,  audio recordings and claim that you are self taught.  This is not sampradaya method and the Veda shastram cannot and should not be learnt like this.

There is a story in chandogya uppanishad about how Sage Narada also had to learn from a guru for self knowledge. Sage Narada, the great gyani, was unhappy even after studying all available subjects in the universe. Therefore to find a solution to his unhappiness he went to sage Sanatkumara. Narada narrates to him that whatever he has studied is everything that is available in the world , yetis not happy.  Sanatkumara says all tge things or knowledge you have gained  are namarupa and already existing and are of lower knowledge.  They are already in a manifest form.  To know the truth, you have to come to that vastu by which all the things are known and are evolved or higher knowledge.   All the knowledge that you have gained are apara vidya.

Narada being a triloka sanchari saw that everything is changing and are still subject to modifications.  Upon giving Narada the vision of self-knowledge by sage Sanatkumara , Narada becomes happy and found ultimate happiness.

Mundaka Upanishad is the first Upanishad taught and also called colloquially ‘muktika (मुक्तिका) cannon’.  It destroys all doubts and gives freedom from bondage, leading to Mukti.  It is part of Atharva veda, the veda being named after rishi Atharva, who first heard it.  Then comes Kena Upanishad from sama veda which has a chanting based on melodic tunes.  The unfolding pattern in each Upanishad is different although the message conveyed is the same.

The word Upanishad can be broken into 3 parts; upa+ni+shad.  ‘Upa’ is a prefix meaning ‘near’. The jivaH-individual is taken near paramarathma.  You as an individual are seen separately and this is because of the identity crisis.

जीवात्मानं  परमात्मानं  नि  भवति (Jivatmanam paramathmanam ni bhavati)

The 2nd meaning of upaH is also near.  It means coming near the teacher.  Due to geographical distance, the teacher and student may be far away but are committed to studying on a one-on-one basis.  The student worships the teacher and sees the paramatma in his teacher.

Knowledge flows from higher nature to the lower nature.  Information flows from top to bottom.  The reason being guru has to be looked upon by the student as Paramatma is because guru doesn’t teach anything other than self knowledge here.   Para vidya is highest knowledge and apara vidya is a lower form of knowledge.  Upon knowing para vidya, one does not require to know anything else.  Apara vidya are nama rupa or words indicating objects and are limited by time and space.  Apara vidya is part of para vidya.  Narada’s dwaita bhakti was only binding him and made him unhappy.  Narada had dvaita bhakti before and after getting the vision from Sanatkumara , he became an advaita bhakta.

The 2nd meaning of upaH is getting close to the teacher.  Ignorance is dispelled when it is brought to light by the guru.  Gu +ruH means guruH.  Gu denotes darkness and ruH denotes dispelling of darkness.  SadguruH means a person who talks on the truth about reality called as Brahman.  He brings forth the reality – Brahman.  Such a person revealing the truth is sadguruH.

One vastu has multiple nama rupa appearances.  For example, ghee is derived from butter, butter from curd, curd from milk, milk we get from cows, cows eat grass to produce milk, and grass is from earth.  All the nama rupa – objects have their substratum in one of the five elements.So one has to spend time and effort in knowing the truth.

Mundakam means shaved head.  It also means that this Upanishad is like a razor cutting through the darkness.  It is a mantra Upanishad from the shaunaka shakha of atharva veda.  There are two types of Upanishads – Mantra and Brahmana Upanishad.  Brahmana Upanishads are elaborate commentaries on the mantras of a particular Upanishad.  For example, the Brahmana Upanishad of Ishavasya Upanishad is Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.

This Upanishad is studied by a person who has a keen desire to attain moksha – mumukshu.  मोक्षं  इच्छुः (mokshaM icchuH) is a मुमुक्षुः (mumukshu).  He is a seeker of freedom and his desire is natural.

Desires can be natural or cultivated.  A person is born with natural desires like hunger, sleep, procreation, etc.  Cultivated desires are those that are purposefully developed.  They may be like watching a movie, partying, etc.  These can be controlled and managed.  They may not be practical many times.  For example, Lord Hanuman as a child wanted to gobble up Sun.  He tried to take the Sun in his mouth thinking it was a fruit.  This was impractical.  Similarly, a deaf person cannot have a desire to become a telephone operator.  A lame person cannot climb Mt. Everest even if he desires so.  All the impractical cultivated desires need to be dropped.

Ni = NishchayaH with a clear conviction that there are no doubts after studying Upanishads.

Shad/shat = the truth of existence of reality and which is the substratum of everything.

Upanishads can be revealed only by a sampradayam teacher because of its depth and is compared to Ganga.  The river Ganga is revered by one and all.  She has undercurrents and depth varies at different places. If you step into the water without knowing swimming or the depth , you will be sucked into it and can get drowned.  Therefore, in some places, chains are installed, with the help of which a person can step into the water without the danger of drowning.

Similarly, a guru is likened to a chain to hold onto.  The guru takes the student through all the levels from top to the bottom.Ganga flows perennially and cannot be stopped.  Nobody knows the source of Ganga till date.  Some say Gomukh and some Tapovan.  Even if it originates as a trickle from a glacier, the source is still not known.  However it ends in ocean.  Ganga is likened to a gyana pravaH (ज्ञान  प्रवाह).  Veda (वेदः) has neither a beginning nor an end.

Upanishad is a brahma vidya revealing the relationship between the subject and the object, i.e. the knower and the known.Mundaka Upanishad is taught and is connected to a ritual by name ‘ShirovritaH’(शिरोवृतः).  ShirovritaH is a ritual in the karma kanda (कर्म काण्ड) portion where a student shaves his head and goes to the teacher.  He takes a pot of burning coal on his shaved head to gain knowledge.  Burning coal is actually not to be taken literally as it is an expression for a burning desire of the student to know the truth.  Shaving of the head denotes leaving the grahasthashrama (गृहस्थाश्रम ), and all the karmas behind.  He takes a vow to relinquish all rituals.  This Upanishad is also called ‘sanyasi Upanishad’.  Becoming a sanyasi is a state of the mind to be done cognitively.

In the mundaka Upanishad, a student is taught systematically in the sampradayam method.  It has a prayer mantra to ward off the three types of obstacles: daivika, adhyatmika, adibhoutika.  For undertaking any effort(praytna), time(kaalah), and the divine grace (daiva) for the success are required.  The Bhagvan’s grace is invoked to bless us with time, effort and blessings.  For example, if one plants a tree in winter, it will not grow because time factor is unsuitable.  Effort is wasted.

Prayer Mantra

ॐ भद्रं कर्णेभिः शृणुयाम देवाः । भद्रं पश्येमाक्षभिर्यजत्राः । स्तिरै रङैस्तुष्टुवाग्सस्तनुभिः व्यशेम देवहितं यदायूः ।l

Om, O devas! May we hear with our ears what is auspicious,  may we see with our eyes what is auspicious and adorable,  may we be prayerful in life with steadiness in our bodies and minds,  may we offer our lifespan allotted by the devas for the service of god.

Let me be blessed with that capacity and not hear negative or bad things with my ears and this way I am seeking grace of bhagvan to be in the company of good people.

Let me see only auspicious things.  In reality akshibhiH connotes all the organs.

Continues in.(next class)