Prasna Upaishad, Class 22


Greetings All,

Swamiji continued his talks on Chapter 6 of Prasna Upanishad.

Shloka # 2: The sixth and last student asked for the sixteen part Purusha or Param Brahman. Here the Teacher is going to reveal Brahman through Srishti Prakaranam as Jagat Karanam. The Universe comes out of, exists and goes back into Brahman. This Upadana Karanam is Brahman. In this Lakshanam, the unknown Brahman is revealed through the world, that is known. How does Srishti point Brahman out?

If World is Karyam (the effect) then its Karanam (cause) Brahman is revealed. Karya Prapancha is the tool to describe this phenomenon. Is this world an integral part of Brahman? It is not, as Brahman is Nirvikalpa ( without another). So, Brahman is revealed through something else.

There are two types of Lakshanams.

1)    If I describe a person’s long face, his long nose, etc,. I am revealing a person through his features, an integral part of the person, also called Swaroopa Lakshanam.

2)    If I describe a person through his son, not his integral part, it is called Tatastha Lakshanam.

When Brahman is revealed through Satyam, Chaitanyam, Gyanam etc., it is Swaroopa Lakshanam.  But when Brahman is revealed through this world, not an integral part of it, then it is called Tatastha-lakshanam.  Tatastha-lakshanam is more often used. Srishti Prakriya is through Tatastha-lakshanam. Here, in Prasna Upanishad, the teacher wants to reveal Brahman through Tatastha-lakshanam.

Here Karyam (the effect) Prapancha is divided into sixteen parts. Brahman is revealed through the world, which has sixteen parts. Hence the name Shodashakala Purusha.  It should be noted that the Purusha does not have sixteen parts; rather it is the world that has sixteen parts. Brahman is Nishkala or without parts.

Srishti Prakriya reveals through Tatastha-lakshanam.

In Srishti Prakriya world is revealed as Karyam (effect) and Brahman as its Material cause.

Thus, Jagat (the Karyam or effect) is caused by Brahman (Upadana Karanam, the cause). The clay and pot analogy is used.

(My note: Stage 1. The pot is presented as the effect of clay.

Stage 2. Clay is presented as the cause of the pot.

Stage 3. Now, the teacher asks me to find out if I can see the pot without the clay. I look at the pot on all sides and conclude that everywhere it is clay alone. It is not available as different from clay, its cause. The conclusion: the effect is non-different from the cause.

Stage 4. This much is not enough, for the concept of cause and effect does exist. Now the teacher states that since it was concluded that the effect does not exist apart from the cause, it would be correct to hold that the cause alone really exists. But this still limits the cause as a cause. The vision born of wisdom is: There is no longer any need to call the clay as the cause. As clay alone matters in that wise vision, it would be appropriate to divest the clay of its status of a cause. Thus, divested of this status, clay remains as the one that transcends the cause-effect duality.)

The Jagat or world is nama roopa only. It is not different from Brahman. This is advaita.

Brahman is Upadanam Karanam (Cause). There are two types of Upadana Karanam. One is Parinami and other is Aparinami or Vivartha.

Example of Parinami Upadana Karanam: Milk changing to Curd. Here the cause is one, which changes to produce effects.

Example of Aparinami Upadana Karanam: Rope seems to be Serpent. This is also called changeless cause. The cause has not changed.

Parinami Upadana Karanam will not work here because:

1)    Here Brahman is subject to change and that means Brahman will die.

2)    Also, The world will become the earth and tree. Tree is a modification of the earth. This results in duality. Brahman is then subject to duality.

In Aparinami or Vivartha Upadana Karanam, Brahman does not change. Karyam, the effect, does not enjoy same degree of reality. Snake is not as real as the rope.

Shloka # 2: means, the world of sixteen parts is falsely born out of Brahman.

Shloka # 3:

Before Srishthi, Brahman visualized the whole universe to be created. When we say Brahman is material cause, usually material causes are inert, like gold or Clay. They are all inert or Jada. In that case, Brahman also becomes Jada. However, Upanishad says, it is the Chaitnaya Brahman (infused with Chaitanya), which is not Jada.

The second implication is, even if clay is cause of the pot, another cause has to be involved to create the pot, like a potter. Meaning somebody has to make the pot from the clay. Here Clay is the Upadana Karanam (material cause), while the potter is the Nimitha Karanam (or intelligent cause).

Brahman is both the material and intelligent cause of the world (abhinna nimitta upadana karanam).

Just like a spider is cause of the web, so also Brahman is the cause of the universe. Therefore Brahman’s thought is the cause of the universe.

Process of Creation:

First Brahman wanted to create Prana. He wished,“I want to create such a thing in whom a person’s life or Chaitanya will come and in whose presence also the “I” chaitanya will not be present.” Prana performs this function. Prana allows Chaitanya to come in, giving life and later allows it to go out, causing death.

So he created Prana. It was Samashthi Prana or Hiranyagarbha, where in, manifest consciousness comes into the Prana.

Then he created the sixteen Kala’s. They are:

  • Prana
  • Shradha
  • The five elements: earth, water, fire, air and space.
  • The five indriyani: vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch.
  • Manaha-Mind
  • Annam-Food
  • Viryam-Energy
  • Tapaha-Prayaschitha or penance for one’s wrong karmas.
  • Mantraha: Sacred prayer
  • Karma: All types, including Upasana.
  • Lokas: All Lokas
  • Nama Karanam: Naming. You need a name for everything.

The above are the Sixteen Kalas or limbs of Srishti Prakranam. With this the Adhya-Roopa-Prakaranam is completed. Srishti is over.

Shloka # 5: Now Apavada Prakaranam starts.

River, coming out of ocean, merges back into ocean. In between, there is nama roopa. All rivers are flowing down to the ocean. They reach the ocean and disappear. River’s water has not disappeared, as matter cannot be created or destroyed. Only their name and form is gone. The Ganga name is gone once it merges into the ocean. The Ganga has lost its nama and roopa and is now called Samudra.

Swamiji says, we alone give names as well as remove names.  Human life is just adding a name and removing a name.

From this Purusha, the sixteen Kalas arose. They all go towards the Purusha. They reach the same Purusha and disappear. Their nama and roopa is completely destroyed. Thus, the Prapancha becomes Purusha.  In Pralayam, there is dissolution, however, it is not permanent. Only with Gyanam does permanent dissolution occur. This is the Apavada Prakaranam.

The question can come: Since Kalas come out of Brahman, does Brahman have Kalas? Upanishad says Brahman does not have even potentiality for Kalas. Kalas are Mithya. In potential form they are Maya. In dynamic form they are Jagat.

Shloka # 6:

Brahmana Upanishad’s always have a shloka.

“The whole Prapancha is born out of Brahman and resolves in Brahman.”

The example of a wheel is used. The spoke of a wheel is sustained by its central part. The spokes and rims cause action, however, the motionless central hub holds the wheel. Like spokes in a wheel, all sixteen Kalas are based upon Purusha. If a person knows that Vedyam Purusha (which is worth knowing), mortality will not torment him. Amrithatvam is the phalam. This shloka is also the Phala Shruthi.

Shloka # 7:

After answering the Sixth student Pipillada says: About Param Brahma, I know only this much. Hearing this students are confused. Is there more to know?

Guru says there is nothing more to be known.

Shloka # 8:

The students then worshipped their teacher.

They said: You are our father (a father who has given them Brahma Shariram or the immortal I). You have taken us to the supreme, the other shore of the ocean of ignorance or Samsara Sagaram. I prostrate to the entire Guru Parampara, and all previous Gurus as well.

With this the Sixth question has been answered and the Upanishad also concludes.

My Notes: The spider designs its web. So it is the intelligent cause of the web. Raw material is also produced by the spider itself (normally any raw material is different from the maker). So here spider is the intelligent as well as the material cause of the web. In many cases like furniture, ornaments etc, the carpenter,who is the intelligent cause is different from wood,which is the material cause.Goldsmith is different from gold. Intelligent cause is called Nimitta Karanam. Material cause is called Upadana Karanam. So spider is Abhinna Nimitta Upadana Karanam. So is Brahman. It alone visualizes the creation; it alone is also the material. So he is the cosmic architect. Other than him there is nothing; no time, no space, so there is no question of searching for material cause.

My Notes: Till now shrI shaMkara has described that knowledge gives liberation and supporting sAdhanA-s only give us the readiness for knowledge. He also described that the root cause of our problems is ignorance and karma being unopposed to ignorance can’t remove it. Knowledge is the only antidote for ignorance. Now he talks about the problems ignorance gives. There are two kinds of problems faced due to ignorance. Firstly, I superimpose something else as reality and this causes misery. Apart from superimposing and projecting, I take the unreal world as real; this is the second mistake.

How come the world is unreal when I experience is it rock solid? This is a technical topic in vedAnta. Let us first briefly look at this topic before entering the next verse. There are essentially two natures (prakRRiti) viz. the lower nature (aparA prakRRiti) consisting of material world and body and Higher nature (parA PrakRRiti) which is Atma, the self. aparA prakRRiti includes the whole cosmos and laws of nature. Atma is also known as brahman in the scriptures. brahman is the cause of everything. The entire aparA prakRRiti has its basis in parA PrakRRiti. I, the Atma (brahman) am the cause from which everything manifests and everything resolves into. In other words aparA prakRRiti has no existence apart from me.

It is seen commonly that any cause undergoes a change to become an effect. A seed modifies to become a tree. Milk modifies to become yogurt. So does Atma undergo change to become the world?

No. We know that Atma is nirvikAra– changeless. So how is the world emerging without changing the Atma. That is possible if and only if the world is mithyA, meaning, seemingly existent. This can be supported by the example of a magician. He appears to slit the throat of a lady. The audience stare in disbelief as the body is separated into two parts. But there is no change in the lady; she comes back in one piece. It was just an apparent cutting. I see a rope as snake in darkness. Upon using a flashlight I realize that it is a rope. So do I need to run away from any snake, or is it going to bite me. No because the snake was ‘as though’ existent. The basis of the ‘as though’ existent snake is the rope.

Then what is the world? World does not have any existence apart from Me the Atma. World is just seemingly apparent (mithyA). Everything I see in this world carries a name and form which can be traced to its cause which in turn is also a name and form. E.g. – the cause hunting for furniture would be -> wood ->tree -> seed -> earth -> water -> fire -> air -> space -> brahman.

The next question could be how the world can be mithyA. Anything can be categorized as seemingly existent (mithyA) only on apprehending the reality (satyam); e.g. snake can be dismissed as mithyA only after knowing the rope. What is the definition of mithyA? Anything that has a dependent existence is mithyA. Pot is only a pot for a person who knows not the clay. But for a person who knows that pot is made of nothing but clay, for him the pot becomes name and form while clay is the only truth.

brahman has mAyA as its upAdhi to create the world. For creation to manifest, two types of causes are required, material cause (upAdAna kAraNam) and Intelligent cause (nimitta kAraNam). Applying this to the furniture example; wood is the material for furniture, so it is the material cause. Wood need to be cut , shaped and assembled together. Wood being insentient by itself, a sentient cause is required to turn wood to furniture. The carpenter who has this skill is the intelligent cause. We see that material and intelligent cause are different for furniture (wood and carpenter respectively).

Atma is both the material and intelligent cause of the world (abhinna nimitta upAdAna kAraNam). Abhinna means non different. There are no two different causes because there are no two things, there is only Atma. Atma uses mAyA as the limiting adjunct for manifestation of creation. It must be noted that mAyA is as much mithyA as the world because it depends on brahman for its existence. mAyA undergoes change to create the world hence it is called the pariNAmi upAdAna kAraNam; meaning a cause which changes to produce effects.  Atma does not undergo any change to manifest the world and hence is called vivarta upAdAna kAraNam; meaning a cause that does not undergo change to produce effect.

With reference to brahman I say the Lord (Ishvara) is the changeless cause of creation (i.e in this context Lord means brahman). When we talk of the world as non separate from the Lord, we are talking about Lord from the standpoint of mAyA which undergoes change to produce the elements. So based on the context the word Lord (Ishvara) has to be interpreted differently.

mAyA has three guna-s; satva, rajas and tamas. From these aspects of mAyA the elementals are produced. These elementals mix in different ways to produce the elements which in turn form the gross  world. So clearly, mAyA which is mithyA, undergoes change to produce world while Atma is the changeless cause of the world.  The world is created, sustained and resolved in Atma.

The world appears to be true till brahman, the nondual, the support of all is not recognized. It is like the illusion of silver on the pearl.

In my dream, I project a dream world and become a part of it as a dream individual. The whole dream time and dream space is supported by me, the waker. Once I wake up everything pertaining to the dream is negated. So, the dream world was created, sustained and resolved in the waker. The waker was the truth, basis for the dream. The waker is the reality while the dream is the projection.

So also, when I wake to my own higher nature as consciousness, the world is negated as mithyA. The basis, satya for the world is brahman. The basis for the cloth is the thread, the fibre is the basis for the thread and so on. Hence cloth is just name and form. It has dependent existence, meaning it cannot exist without the very thing from which it is deriving existence from. One independent basis for all utensils made of clay is clay alone. The wave, froth, wavelets, spray everything derive their existence from water alone. They are all nothing but water. So also all the jagat we see.  Due to ignorance we pay importance to name and form. We pay more heed to the form- ‘ring’ than the gold. Once we realize the world to be name and form and the come to realize Atma itself to be the basis of creation, till then the world with names, forms and events will victimize us. If the truth, the basis of all this is known as Atma then the world is dismissed as mithyA.

shrI shaMkara uses the example of shell silver. One can mistake a shell for silver due to the sunlight reflecting off it. But on going near, one realizes that there is no silver, it was just an illusion. The shell is apprehended as the only truth. Similarly, due to non apprehension of reality, one misapprehends the world to be something else and consequently faces misery. Due to misapprehensions, he either runs away from certain things (like snake example) or gets attracted to certain things (like shell silver example). This is how the whole life is spent without recognizing the satya, the basis of this entire creation. Clay is present everywhere in the pot. It is not present partially in the top and partially in the bottom. It is in fact nothing but clay. Clay is inherent throughout the pot. So also brahman is the warp and woof of this entire creation, the basis of all names and forms, the substratum of all objects, sentient or non sentient. On recognition of this brahman i.e. Atma as my own self, I dismiss the world as mithyA. It does NOT mean I will not interact with the world. It only means that one stops depending on the world for happiness. He finds the infinite repository of happiness within himself. This infinite Atma is within and pervading everywhere else also. shrI shaMkara has used the word sarvAdhiShThAnam to explain this. He quickly uses the word advayam to reiterate that there is one and only one basis Atma.

Just as we do not mistake a sparkling shell for silver on having known it, similarly on having discovered my own true nature, the world will never be taken as real or as separate from the Atma. I, the Atma am in and through the world and all pervasive.

References: Teachings of svAmi paramArthAnanda

With best wishes,

Ram Ramaswamy