The translations and explanatory notes of the Mantras given here are meant not so much to provide a word-to-word translation and a commentary of every word thereof, but to given the essential purport of the Mantras and the central meaning they convey to the spiritual aspirant. The notes given here are mainly intended for the Sadhaka who is not very particular about a theological, ritualistic or formal traditional explanation of the Upanishads, but is interested in knowing their philosophical implications directly bearing upon the practice of the Yoga of Knowledge.
Swami Krishnananda was born on the 25th of April, 1922 into a highly religious and orthodox Brahmin family, and was given the name Subbaraya. At an early age, he had become very well-versed in the Sanskrit language and its sacred texts. The longing for seclusion pulled him to Rishikesh, where he arrived in the summer of 1944 and met Swami Sivananda, who initiated the young Subbaraya into Sannyasa on the sacred day of Makara Sankranti, the 14th of January, 1946, and gave him the name Swami Krishnananda.
Gurudev Swami Sivananda found that the young disciple, Swami Krishnananda, was well-suited to general writing takes, the compiling and editing of books, and other sorts of literary work. Eventually Gurudev asked him to do more serious scholarly work. Swami Krishnananda’s first book, The Realisation of the Absolute, was written in a matter of weeks when he was still only a young man in his early twenties.
Swami Sivananda nominated Swami Krishnananda as General Secretary of the Divine Life Society in 1959, which position he held unit his resignation in 2001 due to poor health. Swamiji is the author of over forty works, and these books cover a wide variety of subjects.
Swami Krishnananda was a rare blend of Karma yoga and Jnana yoga and a living example of the teachings of the Gita. He was a master of practically every system of Indian thought and western philosophy. “Many Sankaras are rolled into one Krishnananda,” Swami Sivananda would say of him. Swamiji continued his service to the Ashram for forty years as it grew from a relatively small organisation into a spiritual institution widely known and respected throughout the world. Swami Krishnananda attained Mahasamadhi on the 23rd of November, 2001.
Among the Upanishads, the Mundaka Upanishad is regarded as one the most important. It throws a flood of light on the Jnana Marga (the path of Knowledge) and leads the aspirant to the highest rung in the ladder of Jnana - Brahmavid Brahmaiva Bhavati.
That this Upanishad was meant for the Sannyasin (and hence the significant name Mundaka Upanishad) is itself the highest tribute that can be paid to its sacredness. The truth that this Supreme Knowledge which the Upanishad imparts is to be had through inspirational initiation direct from a Guru who is well versed in the Brahma Vidya and who has at the same time had the Brahma Anubhava, is brought out very clearly in this Upanishad.
At the very commencement, the Upanishad throws out a challenge to all finite (and therefore imperfect) sciences. Real Knowledge does not consist in the mastery of cartloads of mere verbiage, but in the immediate experience of the Self. Without this Self-Knowledge, it is futile to try to know anything else Man's knowledge of an object is clouded by the ignorance that shrouds his own Self; and minus this unifying force of conjecture and, therefore, it is arbitrary Knowledge of the Self instantly means true knowledge of everything.
How is this Knowledge to be attained? While yet engaged in the performance of his daily duties, the aspirant should carefully and minutely analyse the nature of the world, and grasp the transience of all objects. If everything is transient, what, then, is Eternal and, therefore, worth aspiring for? This question cannot be answered by the aspirants' intellect, for the intellect itself is a finite and frail instrument and one amongst the transient objects in this evanescent world. But the emergence in the aspirants' mind of such a Query is itself the signal that the heart-strands that bound him to Samsara have got loosened, and that with the sword of Jnana, he can easily cut them asunder. This sword is in the Guru's sheath and has to be acquired by direct personal initiation. In the Guru's holy presence, the disciple's intellect ceases to function. Like the gushing waters of a mountain torrent when the obstructing dam is broken, Divine Wisdom floods the heart of the aspirant: he knows. He realizes that in essence he is that Knowledge Itself That is the Supreme Knowledge in which the distinction between knowledge, the knower and the known vanishes. And, that is the reason why the Upanishad alludes to It with a series of negations.
The Upanishad gives graphic descriptions of the effects of desire-prompted actions and shows how the wrong performance of these actions how the wring performance of these actions brings on evil consequences and even the correct performance, while conferring temporary affluence and happiness, terminates in the reincarnation of the Jiva in even lower births. Desire is condemned in unequivocal terms.
Practice of truth is one of the foremost Sadhanas for the purpose of Self-realisation. And the powerfully reassuring Mantra Satyameva Jayate Na Anritam Occurs in this Upanishad. Practice of Truth, penance, Brahmacharya and the acquirement of correct knowledge are the practices that bestow strength on the aspirant-physical, mental, moral, intellectual and spiritual strength; and an aspirant endowed with this strength alone can reach the Goal-not a weakling, says the Upanishad.
These are all preparatory practices. These are excellent aids for self-purification. But these 'actions' cannot by themselves, achieve That which is not the product of any action-the Supreme Brahman. Utter annihilation of the ego is called for; and the Upanishad again and again stresses the Truth that the Atman is all-pervading and is the Self of all. Failure to perceive this Truth alone results in egocentric personality. The Upanishad forbids one from talking of anything other than this all-pervading Self. The austerity of speech (and of the inner Bhava that prompts speech itself) is hidden in this Just reflect for a moment. If you really and sincerely recognise the presence of the Atman in every being, on contemptuous expression would escape from our lips, no falsehood will be uttered by you; your speech would be sweet, truthful and loving. Universal love will reside in your heart; and cosmic love is synonymous with supreme self-sacrifice, or egolessness. That cosmic love is the threshold to the limitless domain of Brahmic Bliss.
The Upanishad has given very apt and illuminating illustrations to make clear the subtle Truth propounded in it. And, Swami Krishnanandaji, in his commentary, has thrown a the inner meaning most lucidly. Flashes of the Swami's intuitive wisdom illumine obstruse corners of metaphysical statements inevitable in such a text which treats of the Highest and Subtlest of topics.
Swami Krishnanandaji's commentary on the Mundakopanishad is a most valuable aid to all students of Yoga and Vedanta. In others, even in worldly persons, it will induce Vairagya, a distaste for worldly life and taste for the Higher Life that is the gateway to Liberation from the painful bondage of birth and death.
May God bless Sri Swami Krishnanandaji with health, long life, peace, prosperity and Kaivalya Moksha May all the earnest readers attain the highest goal of Self-Knowledge or Atma-sakshatkara.
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