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Copyright 2001 Realization.org.



Mundaka Upanishad
Translated by F. Max Müller


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Third Mundaka


Two birds, inseparable friends, cling to the same tree. One of them eats the sweet fruit, the other looks on without eating.




On the same tree man sits grieving, immersed, bewildered by his own impotence (an-isa). But when he sees the other lord (isa) contented and knows his glory, then his grief passes away.


Olivelle has:

Stuck on the very same tree, one person grieves, deluded by her [one of the birds] who is not the Lord. But when he sees the other, contented Lord — and the Lord's majesty — his grief disappears.

According to Shankaracarya, the bird who eats is the jiva, the individual deluded self; the bird that watches is the Atman, the real Self; the man's grief passes when he stops identifying with the jiva and recognizes the Atman.


When the seer sees the brilliant maker and lord (of the world) as the Person who has his source in Brahman, then he is wise, and shaking off good and evil, he reaches the highest oneness, free from passions;

  Shaking off good and evil: a man who knows Brahman is freed from the law of karma, from the continuing moral consequences of his actions.


For he is the Breath shining forth in all beings, and he who understands this becomes truly wise, not a talker only. He revels in the Self, he delights in the Self, and having performed his works (truthfulness, penance, meditation, &c.) he rests, firmly established in Brahman, the best of those who know Brahman.

  Breath = Prana.


By truthfulness, indeed, by penance, right knowledge, and abstinence must that Self be gained; the Self whom spotless anchorites gain is pure, and like a light within the body.

  anchorites = sannyasins.


The true prevails, not the untrue; by the true the path is laid out, the way of the gods (devayanah), on which the old sages, satisfied in their desires, proceed to where there is that highest place of the True One.


Purohit and Yeats put it:

Falsehood turns from the way; truth goes all the way; the end of the way is truth; the way is paved with truth. The sage travels there without desire.


That (true Brahman) shines forth grand, divine, inconceivable, smaller than small; it is far beyond what is far and yet near here, it is hidden in the cave (of the heart) among those who see it even. here.



He is not apprehended by the eye, nor by speech, nor by the other senses, not by penance or good works. When a man's nature has become purified by the serene light of knowledge, then he sees him, meditating on him as without parts.



That subtle Self is to be known by thought (ketas) there where breath has entered fivefold; for every thought of men is interwoven with the senses, and when thought is purified, then the Self arises.


breath = prana.

fivefold: there are five types of prana.


Whatever state a man whose nature is purified imagines, and whatever desires he desires (for himself or for others), that state he conquers and those desires he obtains. Therefore let every man who desires happiness worship the man who knows the Self.



  Due to copyright restrictions we can't always publish the best existing translations. The clearest and most accurate English version of the Mundaka Upanishad is contained in this Oxford University Press edition translated by Patrick Olivelle. The book is cheap and we recommend it very highly.


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This page was published on Realization.org on April 18, 2001.

Copyright 2001 Realization.org. All rights reserved.