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प्रश्नोपनिषत्: Prsnopanisat (With Four Commentaries)

Prasnopanisat belongs to the Pippaladagakha of the Atharva Veda. The style of Pranopanisat is a combination of prose and poetry. The subject unravels itself in the form of questions and answers between the teacher and the taught. That is why this Upanishad is called as Prasnopanisat.

This Upanishad speaks about the fundamental principles of creation. It raises the question "what are the basic ingredients of existence"? And answers that, it is the life force (Mukhyaprana) and the individual soul or the Jiva that sustains this life force.

The individual soul has three states. They are waking, dream and deep sleep. In the waking state the instigator of the senses is the Jiva. In the dream state it is the Jiva who dreams. In deep sleep the Jiva merges with the supreme (Paramatman). Thus the Supreme Reality is the fundamental source and means of creation. To attain this Supreme the only way is by doing upasana on the syllable 'Om'. Thus we find the foundational principles of Indian philosophy, namely the source, course and goal of creation being discussed in this Upanishad.

The other subject that is discussed in this Upanishad is the Societal kalapurusa or the person, which consists of sixteen outstanding qualities. This Personality is none other than the Supreme himself. To gain maximum benefit we are advised to upasana on this aspect of the Supreme. This type of message of declaring the specific form of the Paramatman as a means to salvation is not seen in any other Upanishad.

The usage of the words Praia and Ray shows the sophistication of expression. Even topics, which can 6j] considered as uncouth, are handled in a very sophisticated and cultured way here. Rise Pippalada venerated by his disciples as Thagavan' is very apt and befitting the master teacher for his answers to the profound questions asked by his disciples, are simple in expression but profound in import.

I commend Vivian Sri Narayana and his team for having done an excellent job in bringing out this critical edition of the Prasnopanisat with its FOUR commentaries. I am grateful to Pundit Ratnam Sri K.S. Varadacharya for his able guidance in bringing out this work. I will be failing in my duty if I do not express my deep gratitude to Sri M.A.S. Rajan, President of the Academy who has been the guiding spirit and an abiding source of inspiration to all of us and Sri L.K. Ateeq, Secretary of the Academy for his inordinate interest and constant support in all our endeavors.

Preamble Prasnopanisad belongs to the Atharvaveda of Pippalada rescission Sakha. It must be noted that although the ten principal Upanishads are derived from all the four Vedas, three of them - including the present one, the other two being Munclaka and Malaya oTra-170 - are derived from the Atharvaveda itself. This is particularly noteworthy when an erroneous view still prevails that the Atharvaveda is less sacred and less spiritual than the other three! When our elders referred to the Vedas as one body - as Try - they only meant, as Eurobond rightly points out, that it is one body of knowledge with three levels of meanings, the Adhyatmika, the Aitihasika, or Adhidaivika and Adhiyajnika -i.e., the spiritual, historical (mythical) and the ritualistic. This is more or less on the lines of Yaks’ interpretation in the Nirukta. The ritualistic meanings for various Vedic Samhitas, Brahmanas and Aranyakas are what Bhatta Bhaskara, Sayana, Venkatamadhava, Mahidhara, Uvvata and a host of other commentators have made out in their works as meanings obvious to the casual eye. The mythical explanations involve teaching through symbolic stories -such as the slaying of Vrtra by Indra, Visnu's conquest of the three worlds by His three strides, the controversial struggles between Vasistha and Vigvamitra, and so on all the functional aspects of one Supreme All-pervading God. The meaning of the Vedas become more obvious through such mythical stories, symbolically meaningful for all times, than through the superficial ritualistic language involving liturgical littanies; for, deciphering the spiritual meanings of the latter is possible only for a genius! The rises of the past were such great men that such codification caused them no problems. But as time went on, there arose a need for a clearer and simpler summary of those complex teachings. The disciples departing from the gurukulas - the forest hermitages located in vast natural surroundings - were given such final instructions by way of summary in what came to be called the Upanishads, the essence of the Vedic teachings in a spiritual language. Not that there was a rigid tripartite separation of the three levels of meaning in any particular portion of the Vedas; they did overlap always, yet there was no confusion about their meanings as the Veda was considered one unified body of complete teachings glorifying this life as a bridge to that other, and giving us guidelines to make life perfect, both here and hereafter!

Therefore there is no contempt for any Veda, any aspect of its teachings, or for its style or language, for a truly orthodox student of the Veda. The inclusion of the three Atharva Upanishads among the Dagopanisads, which have been accepted and honored by all Vardakas till date, is proof enough for it, if any is needed at all.

The beauty of the present Upanishad is that it is entirely in the form of questions and answers - a set of six questions and six answers - and hence the appropriateness of the title. The noteworthy and salient features of the Upanishad are highlighted briefly in the following sections.

Vidya as the true goal of learning What was 'learning' like in ancient India of the times of which this Upanishad gives us a glimpse?

It was not education in the modern sense of bringing up the young 'systematically by instruction, by intellectual or moral training'; nor did it mean 'bringing out or developing the latent potential' of the concerned pupil (from the root educe or eduet) nor even the 'training of a particular faculty' of the candidate. (Oxford dictionary). What comes to be called education today is really 'training' or 'schooling' undergone in order to qualify for some political, social, commercial or military service. The educating authority having specified the target and evolved a method for such training, what remains is only its application in the case of individual candidates. Even when we talk of 'liberal education' this sense of undergoing training for a specified purpose is not altered; for since the times of European Renaissance, it has only meant training for the masses. Education has not been made liberal in terms of the goals themselves but in terms of their universal application to the larger masses so that the varying concept of 'gentlemanliness' would be applied to more and more people in society, who were willing to come under the sway of this idea of 'evolution of the individual'. All this process is mere 'training' - gymkhana - with no real motive of the evolution of the individual into perfection as a goal in itself, with spiritual 'probing' (and not merely 'instruction' which means the ready application of ideas or ideals already evolved) and free exploration into the ultimate mysteries of life, God being the chief among them. It was no 'God-instruction' as is done in the closed seminaries of today but God-exploration to which the teacher and the taught were dual parties, and shared joint responsibility. The prayer was :

Let our probing or intuitive learning protect us together; let us enjoy those fruits together; let us also make ventures together; let that learning grow into resplendence, and let us not come into mutual hatred in the course of its progress'. saga ndvavatu etc., the famous benediction of the Taittiriya branch of the Vedas] This was the common prayer of the teacher and the pupil; and one wonders whether anywhere in the world such a prayer as meaningful or as practical as the one cited here is heard in any of the present educational institutions including modern India which has unfortunately been turned into a counterpart of the European civilization.

Book's Contents and Sample Pages

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