Mandukya Upanishad, Class 26


Karika # 18

niścitāyāṃ yathā rajjvāṃ vikalpo vinivartate | 
rajjureveti cādvaitaṃ tadvadātmaviniścayaḥ || 18 ||

18. When the real nature of the rope is ascertained all illusions about it disappear and there arises the conviction that it is the one (unchanged) rope and nothing elseeven so is the nature of the conviction regarding Ātman.

Continuing his teaching Swamiji said, Gaudapada pointed out that Jagrat Prapancha is a relative reality or Mithya, as it is valid only in its own time, but disappears with knowledge. Dream world is also real only in dream and upon waking the dream world is lost. Mithya is a relative reality; it does not mean it does not exist or is non-existent.

Thus fatherhood is real only from point of view of a son. Reality in relation to something is known as relative reality. Thus swapna and waking states are also relative realities.

Another example cited by Gaudapada is the example of a rope and snake. Any Mithya is born out of ignorance and exists as such until ignorance is removed. Once ignorance is removed, Mithya goes away; thus rope-snake is negated by rope knowledge.

Thus, Satyam or Adhishtanam is the one that produces Mithya through its ignorance and it is also the knowledge that removes mithya.

As per Vedas the entire world is mithya and it is the Sakshi, the Observer, that is the Satyam.

If object is mithya and subject is satyam, the object must be born out of ignorance of subject the adhishtanam. Subjective (ignorance of Turiya Atma) ignorance is cause of Mithya objects. This mithya object is negated by Knowledge of “I”, the adishtanam. Thus, Drk is Satyam and Drishyam is Mithya.

Turiya Atma knowledge will negate all objects; all that will be left is advaitam.

Karika # 19:

prāṇādibhiranantaiśca bhāvairetairvikalpitaḥ | 
māyaiṣā tasya devasya yayā saṃmohitaḥ svayam || 19 ||

19. The Ātman is imagined as Prāṇa and other endless objects. This is due to Māyā (ignoranceof the luminous (Ātman itself) by which It is (as it were) deluded.

Prana in this verse is Hiranyagarbha, the total prana principle. Prana here refers to any deity of any religion. Considering such a deity as the ultimate reality is the first mistake. When we worship a deity, can we accept this deity as the ultimate truth? Is that deity an object of experience or the subject? Manḍukya Upanishad’s fundamental teaching is that any object of experience cannot exist independent of the observer. Anything that is observed is mithya.

Gaudapada says, once Satyam is lost sight of then Mithya will be wrongly raised to level of Satyam and then relative reality will be seen as Satyam. Once rope reality is lost sight of, snake satyam takes over.

This happens, as Satyam is lost. Once I lose sight of Turiyam the Drishya Prapancha is seen Satyam; this false elevation leads to samsara. We are in search of truth, whatever we discover to be truth is the new truth, as whatever is object you see in dream cannot be real.

All philosophers forget that they seek reality outside and commit blunders; so Gaudapada laments every philosopher misses reality searching for reality.

Fact is no object is real; reality is the subject alone; and all this happens due to power of Maya or Ignorance; the misconception is the glory of maya. Maya is so powerful that we will conclude that the truth is something somewhere. We will never think that we are the truth. Sri Krishna refers to the maya’s power in the Bhagavad Gita. By this maya alone the philosophers are confused. Some of them are religious philosophers believing in God and some others are atheistic Reality is available as “ I” but instead of searching for this sakshi, he looks for truth somewhere far away. Truth is neither near you nor far away from you; it is You the seeker himself.

Citing a story as an example: A man was travelling on train with a lot of money. While counting his cash he noticed another man was looking at him. He was afraid he was a thief. So, when other man went to the toilet, he placed the bag of cash under the thief’s pillow, a place he would never look for. When the man went for lunch, the thief searched all over and could not find the money.

When traveller came back, the frustrated thief asked him where he hid the money. He said I hid it in a place where you will never look for it under your pillow.

Similarly, God has kept Atma hidden within ourselves through power of maya. Maya is power of Turiya Atma. Because of this power no scientist will seek within himself or herself the truth. Scientist will study everything but himself.

This happens everyday. We create dreams and they delude us; Truth is one, confusions are many. Gaudapada says, thus, we commit many mistakes.

First mistake is a religious mistake. Taking an objective god as truth. God is ultimate truth. Vedanta will not answer but will ask the question whether Vishnu is an object of experience or the subject, consciousness principle. Vedanta asks, is God an object of knowledge?

Majority of philosophers say God, as an object is the ultimate reality. Gaudapada says God is also just an object. So universe created by God is also Mithya. Advaitam says God can be reality only when God is recognized as I the Turiyam. If God is an Object it is not Satyam. Any deity, objectified is a relative reality. God as an object is talked about by Nyaya Philosophers. Other confusions also exist.

Then, Gaudapada says, as long as this truth is not known we will continue to mistake the anatma to be satyam. Many people including great philosophers have missed this truth either because they did not come to the Upanishads that alone reveal this truth or they come to the Upanishads but do not know how to extract the truth from the Upanishads. Reality is one but false conclusions can be many. In Karikas 19-28 Gaudapada gives us a list of such false conclusions. Shankaracharya did not comment on these verses but Anandagiri, the sub-commentator pointed out the philosophies that should be avoided. Gaudapada gives a big list of confusions of other people.

Karika # 20:

prāṇa iti prāṇavido bhūtānīti ca tadvidaḥ |
guṇā iti guṇavidastattvānīti ca tadvidaḥ || 20 ||

20. Those1 that know only Prāṇa,2 call It (Ātman), Prāṇa, those3 that know Bhūtas call It Bhūtas,4those5 knowing Guṇas call It Guṇas,those7 knowing Tattvas, call It Tattvas.8

Many religious philosophers consider that God as an object is the ultimate truth. Karma Kanda and Upasana kanda present God as an object. However, beyond a certain level we have to remove God, as an object and God as I have to be accepted. In the fourth level of Bhakti there is no difference between Bhakta and Bhakti. Dvaita is OK to start off, but it can’t be the ultimate goal.

Other philosophers think Pancha Bhutas are ultimate truth.

Sankhya Philosophers say the three Gunas are ultimate reality. These people are not aware of nirguna Chaitanyam.

Other philosphers such as Shaivas worship the Tatva Trayam ( Pashu (Jivas); Pati (Lord of Jivas) ; and Pasam ( String or noose of attachment). All see objects as reality.

Karika # 21:

pādā iti pādavido viṣayā iti tadvidaḥ |
lokā iti lokavido devā iti ca tadvidaḥ || 21 ||

21. Those acquainted with the quarters1 (Pādas) call It quartersthose2 with objects, the objects3;thosewith Lokas, the Lokas5those6 with Devas, the Devas.7

There are philosophers who come to Mandukya and conclude Chatushpada Atma is Satyam. Upanishad, however, negates all three padas except fourth pada or Turiyam that is Satyam; yet another confusion.

Another group of materialists believe in sensory pleasures as they believe philosophies generally confuse us. Thus, Charavaka’s say, enjoy life as long as you live.

Other philosophies believe in Loka Trayam ( Sukshma, Karana, Sthula) as ultimate, according to Puranikas.

Others say Devatas are ultimate reality.

Karika # 22:   

vedā iti vedavido yajñā iti ca tadvidaḥ |
bhokteti ca bhoktṛvido bhojyamiti ca tadvidaḥ || 22 ||

22. Those knowing the Vedas call It the Vedas1; those2 acquainted with the sacrificescall It the sacrifices(Yagna); those4 conversant with the enjoyerdesignate It as the enjoyerand those6with the object of enjoymentcall It such.

Some others say Vedas are ultimate reality called Nada Brahma or Shabda Brahma. So if you chant Vedas, they will transform you as they produce vibrations through mantras. They also take to music or nada upasana; they say nada Brahman will liberate you. Vedanta does not agree with them. So they spend time chanting, but they will never come to ultimate truth.

Some are a little enlightened; they learn Vedas, Veda Purva and Karma kanda as they are enamored by Yagnas. They think rituals will liberate them. Karma can’t remove self-ignorance. Turiya Gyanam can’t come through Yagnas. This was Mandana Mishras discussion with Shankara. He was a great ritualist who became Shankara’s disciple.

People of Sankhya persuasion say Atma is ultimate truth; and they say Atma is a Bhokta and that Atma is not a doer.

Others think eating is the greatest thing, known as Supakara.

Karika# 23:

sūkṣma iti sūkṣmavidaḥ sthūla iti ca tadvidaḥ |
mūrta iti mūrtavido’mūrta iti ca tadvidaḥ || 23 ||

23. The Knowers1 of the subtle designate It as the subtle,2 the Knowers3 of the gross call It the gross,4 Those5 that are familiar with a Personality (having form) call It a person,6 and thosethat do not believe in anything having a form call It a void.8

Other philosophers like Digamabra and Swetambara Jain’s think reality is Sukshma Atma.

Charavaka’s think body is ultimate; they deny all else. They say there is no consciousness other than mind. There is no eternal consciousness; it is a fleeting phenomenon; once mind dies consciousness dies; so body is truth; protect body; eat well. They don’t believe in punyam and papam.

Some others believe that God is ultimate reality situated in some Loka. Vallabha Sampradaya says, Sri Krishna, as a Personal God, is the ultimate truth. They believe in Gita. They believe Shankaracharya’s commentaries are incorrect.

Others believe in Shunyam (not nirguna Brahman) or Shunya vada. They say that the formless, emptiness called shunyam is called the ultimate reality. The shunyavadi says that he is shunyam also.

Karika # 24:

kāla iti kālavido diśa iti ca tadvidaḥ |
vādā iti vādavido bhuvanānīti tadvidaḥ || 24 ||

24. The Knowersof time call It time2the Knowers of space (ether) call It space (ether). Those versed in disputation call It the problem in dispute and the Knowers of the worlds call It the worlds.3

There are people obsessed with time; astrology based thinkers, that believe time determines everything. Here you are controlled by outside force of time; Vedanta, however, believes that I am the controller. So, it is an obstacle to, Aham Brahma Asmi. I am a slave of world seeking moksha.

Take Away:

Any Mithya is born out of ignorance and exists as such until ignorance is removed. Once ignorance is removed, Mithya goes away; thus rope-snake is negated by rope knowledge.

Thus, Satyam or Adhishtanam is the one that produces Mithya through its ignorance and it is also the knowledge that removes mithya.

Reality in relation to something is known as relative reality. Thus, fatherhood is real only from point of view of a son.

With Best Wishes

Ram Ramaswamy