by F. Max Müller
from public view pending receipt of permission to reprint.)
page contains the introduction to the commentary that
Shankaracarya wrote about the Mundaka Upanishad. He
is the most important philosopher in Indian history,
and his commentaries laid the foundation for the philosophy
of Advaita Vedanta. This text on this page was translated
by Swami Nikhilananda and reproduced under the fair
use provision of the U.S. Copyright Act from The
Upanishads: A New Translation, Volume 1, published
in 1949 by the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, New York.
Mundaka Upanishad, beginning with the text: "Om.
Brahma, the Maker of the universe," belongs to the
modern scholars believe that the Mundaka Upanishad was
an independent document and not part of the Artharva Veda.
Upanishad, for the purpose of extolling its content,
states at the very outset how the Knowledge contained
therein was transmitted by preceptor to disciple. The
great sages made mighty efforts to obtain this Knowledge;
for it is the means of realizing the Highest Good in
life. The Upanishad praises the Knowledge in order to
create a taste for it in the mind of the hearer; for
after the taste is created by the praise, he will eagerly
relationship between the Knowledge and Liberation, as
means to end, will be subsequently stated in the passage
beginning: "The fetters of the heart are broken."
(II. ii. 8.)
Upanishad first states that the knowledge denoted by the
term lower knowledge (apara vidya), discussed in the Rig-Veda,
the Yajur-Veda, and the rest, and consisting of merely
mandatory and prohibitory injunctions, cannot destroy
ignorance (avidya), which is the cause of samsara, or
relative existence. Next it distinguishes the Higher Knowledge
(Para Vidya) from the lower knowledge, in the passage
beginning: "Fools, dwelling in darkness." (I. ii. 8.)
Ultimately, the Upanishad, in the passage beginning: "After
having examined all these worlds which are gained by works"
(I. ii. 12.), describes the Knowledge of Brahman,
which is the means to the attainment of the Absolute and
which can be obtained, by the grace of the preceptor,
only after the aspirant has cultivated dispassion for
all things considered as ends of worldly pursuit and as
means to the realization of such ends. The result of this
Knowledge is repeatedly stated by the Upanishad in such
passages as: "He who knows the Supreme Brahman veriliy
becomes Brahman" (III. ii. 9.) and "Enjoy
here supreme Immortality." (III. ii. 6.)
people belonging to all stages of life (asramas) are
equally entitled to the Knowledge of Brahman, yet the
knowledge culminating to complete renunciation (sannyasa)
becomes the means to Liberation (Moksha), and not the
knowledge combined with action. This is shown by such
passages as: "Who live on the forests on alms"
(I. ii. 11.) and "Having purified their
minds through the practice of sannyasa." (III. ii. 6.)
The Knowledge of Brahman is incompatible with action.
One realizing the identity of Atman and Brahman cannot
perform action even in a dream. Knowledge is independent
of the time factor; it is not the effect of any definite
cause. Therefore it is not reasonable to consider the
Knowledge of Brahman to be conditioned by time.
it be suggested that Knowledge and action are compatible,
as indicated by the fact that the taechers among the
householders handed down the Knowledge of Brahman to
their disciples, it can be said in reply that this mere
indication cannot override a well established truth.
The coexistence of darkness and light cannot be made
possible even by a hundred rules much less by
thus describing the desired end and the result of the
study of the Upanishad, we now proceed to write a short
commentary on it.
Knowledge of Brahman (Brahmavidya) is called Upanishad
because it destroys the whole host of evils, such as
lying in a mother's womb, birth, old age, and disease,
for those who approach it intimately and with reverence
and devotion; or because it enables them to attain the
Supreme Brahman; or because it utterly shatters such
things as ignorance and desires, which are the cause
of samsara, or embodied existence. For such is the etymological
meaning of the word Upanishad.
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
IT FROM AMAZON
This page was published on Realization.org on April 18, 2001.