THIS IS THE SHORTEST major Upanishad and the one that sets forth the famous Vedantin theory of the states of consciousness: waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and the fourth state (turiya), which is the Self.
Sankara said that this Upanishad, together with Gaudapada’s commentary on it, “contains the epitome of the substance of the import of Vedanta.”
You will find below ten translations of this Upanishad. In each case we’ve included the entire text of the Upanishad itself but omitted notes and commentary.
In case you’ve come to this page looking for recommendations about which translation is best, we’ll briefly state our opinion. The super-short version is that you should get both Swami Gambhirananda’s translation and Olivelle’s and read them side by side. In order to really understand the Upanishads you need the whole books, not just the portions reprinted below, because the notes and commentary are essential. Here’s the longer version of our opinion:
First you must decide which kind of translation you want. There are three kinds:
1. Traditional translations. These books include commentaries and explanations that are usually longer than the Upanishads themselves. These books interpret the Upanishads as they have been traditionally understood in India, usually through the lens of Advaita Vedanta. In our opinion, the best translation of this type is Swami Gambhirananda’s. Swami Nikhilananda’s is also good. Both include Gaudapada’s Karika and Shankara’s commentary.
2. Academic translations. These books attempt to uncover the original meaning of the text as it was understood at the time when it was composed. They do not assume that the commentaries are correct. They do not defer to Shankara or Advaita Vedanta or any other tradition. The best translation of this kind is Olivelle’s. Hume’s is second, but scholars learned so much in the 75 years that separate the two men that Olivelle’s is much better.
3. Idiosyncratic translations that do not attempt to convey traditional Vedanta or modern academic scholarship. Sometimes a translation in this category can be spectacularly good — Byrom’s translation of the Ashtavakra Gita comes to mind — but in the case of the Mandukya Upanishad we don’t see anything we can recommend. Easwaran’s translation is the most popular one in this category on Amazon.
“Om” this is immortal. Its explanation is this all; what was, what is, and what will be, all is verily the word “Om;” and everything else which is beyond the threefold time is also verily the word “Om.”
OM is this imperishable Word, OM is the Universe, and this is the exposition of OM. The past, the present and the future, all that was, all that is, all that will be, is OM. Likewise all else that may exist beyond the bounds of Time, that too is OM.
Om! — This syllable is this whole world.
Its further explanation is:—
The past, the present, the future — everything is just the word Om.
And whatever else that transcends threefold time — that, too, is just the word Om.
The word Ôm is the Imperishable; all this its manifestation. Past, present, future — everything is Ôm. Whatever transcends the three divisions of time, that too is Ôm.
Harih Aum! AUM, the word, is all this, [i.e. the whole universe]. A clear explanation of it is as follows: All that is past, present and future is, indeed, AUM. And whatever else there is, beyond the threefold division of time — that also is truly AUM.
Aum, this syllable is all this. An explanation of that (is the following). All that is the past, the present and the future, all this is only the syllable aum. And whatever else there is beyond the threefold time, that too is only the syllable aum.
This letter that is Om is all this. Of this a clear exposition (is started with): All that is past, present, or future is verily Om. And whatever is beyond the three periods of time is also verily Om.
OM. This eternal Word is all: what was, what is and what shall be, and what beyond is in eternity. All is OM.
AUM stands for the supreme Reality.
It is a symbol for what was, what is,
And what shall be. AUM represents also
What lies beyond past, present, and future.
OṂ — this whole world is that syllable! Here is a further explanation of it. The past, the present, and the future — all that is simply OṂ; and whatever else that is beyond the three times, that also is simply OṂ —
For this all (represented by “Om”) is Brahma; this soul is Brahma. This soul has four conditions.
All this Universe is the Eternal Brahman, this Self is the Eternal, and the Self is fourfold.
For truly, everything here is Brahma; this self (ātman) is Brahma. This same self has four fourths.
There is nothing that is not Spirit. The personal self is the impersonal Spirit. It has four conditions.
All this is, indeed, Brahman. This Ātman is Brahman. This same Ātman has four quarters (pādas).
All this is, verily, Brahman. This self is Brahman. This same self has four quarters.
All this is surely Brahman. This Self is Brahman. The Self, such as It is, is possessed of four quarters.
Brahman is all and Atman is Brahman. Atman, the Self, has four conditions.
Brahman is all, and the Self is Brahman.
This Self has four states of consciousness.
— for this brahman is the Whole. Brahman is this self (ātman); that [brahman] is this self (ātman) consisting of four quarters.
The first condition is Vaisvánara, whose place is in the waking state, whose knowledge are external objects, who has seven members, who has nineteen mouths, (and) who enjoys the gross (objects).
He whose place is the wakefulness, who is wise of the outward, who has seven limbs, to whom there are nineteen doors, who feeleth and enjoyeth gross objects, Vaiswanor, the Universal Male, He is the first.
The waking state (jāgarita-sthāna), outwardly cognitive, having seven limbs, having nineteen mouths, enjoying the gross (sthūla-bhuj), the Common-to-all-men (vaiśvānara), is the first fourth.
First comes the material condition — common to all — perception turned outward, seven agents, nineteen agencies, wherein the Self enjoys coarse matter. This is known as the waking condition.
The first quarter (pāda) is called Vaiśvānara, whose sphere of activity is the waking state, who is conscious of external objects, who has seven limbs and nineteen mouths and who is the experiencer of gross objects.
The first quarter is Vaiśvānara, whose sphere (of activity) is the waking state, who cognises external objects, who has seven limbs and nineteen mouths and who enjoys (experiences) gross (material) objects.
The first quarter is Vaiśvānara whose sphere (of action) is the waking state, whose consciousness relates to things external, who is possessed of seven limbs and nineteen mouths, and who enjoys gross things.
The first condition is the waking life of outward-moving consciousness, enjoying the seven outer gross elements.
The first is called Vaishvanara, in which
One lives with all the senses turned outward,
Aware only of the external world.
The first quarter is Vaiśvānara — the Universal One — situated in the waking state, perceiving what is outside, possessing seven limbs and nineteen mouths, and enjoying gross things.
His second condition is Taijasa, whose place is in dream whose knowledge are the internal objects [sic], who has seven members, nineteen mouths (and) enjoys the subtle (objects).
He whose place is the dream, who is wise of the inward, who has seven limbs, to whom there are nineteen doors, who feeleth and enjoyeth subtle objects, Taijasa, the Inhabitant in Luminous Mind, He is the second.
The dreaming state (svapna-sthāna), inwardly cognitive, having seven limbs, having nineteen mouths, enjoying the exquisite (pravivikta-bhuj), the Brilliant (taijasa), is the second fourth.
The second is the mental condition, perception turned inward, seven agents, nineteen agencies, wherein the Self enjoys subtle matter. This is known as the dreaming condition.
The second quarter (pāda) is Taijasa, whose sphere of activity is the dream state, who is conscious of internal objects, who is endowed with seven limbs and nineteen mouths, and who is the experiencer of subtle objects.
The second quarter is taijasa, whose sphere (of activity) is the dream state, who cognises internal objects, who has seven limbs and nineteen mouths, and who enjoys (experiences) the subtle objects.
Taijasa is the second quarter, whose sphere (of activity) is the dream state, whose consciousness is internal, who is possessed of seven limbs and nineteen mouths, and who enjoys subtle objects.
The second condition is the dreaming life of inner-moving consciousness, enjoying the seven subtle inner elements in its own light and solitude.
Taijasa is the name of the second,
The dreaming state in which, with the senses
Turned inward, one enacts the impressions
Of past deeds and present desires.
The second quarter is Taijasa — the Brilliant One — situated in the state of dream, perceiving what is inside, possessing seven limbs and nineteen mouths, and enjoying refined things.
When the sleeper desires no desires, sees no dream, this is sound sleep. His third condition is Prájna (who completely knows) who has become one, whose knowledge is uniform alone, whose nature is like bliss, who enjoys bliss, and whose mouth is knowledge.
When one sleepeth and yearneth not with any desire, nor seeth any dream, that is the perfect slumber. He whose place is the perfect slumber, who is become Oneness, who is wisdom gathered into itself, who is made of mere delight, who enjoyeth delight unrelated, to whom conscious mind is the door, Prajna, the Lord of Wisdom, He is the third.
If one asleep desires no desire whatsoever, sees no dream whatsoever, that is deep sleep (suṣupta).
The deep-sleep state (suṣupta-sthāna), unified (ekī-bhūta), just (eva) a cognition-mass (prajñāna-ghana), consisting of bliss (ānanda-maya), enjoying bliss (ānanda-bhuj), whose mouth is thought (cetas-), the cognitional (prājña), is the third fourth.
In deep sleep man feels no desire, creates no dream. This undreaming sleep is the third condition, the intellectual condition. Because of his union with the Self and his unbroken knowledge of it, he is filled with joy, he knows his joy; his mind is illuminated.
That is the state of deep sleep wherein one asleep neither desires any object nor sees any dream. The third quarter is Prājña, whose sphere is deep sleep, in whom all experiences become unified, who is, verily, a mass of consciousness, who is full of bliss and experiences bliss and who is the door leading to the knowledge [of dreaming and waking].
Where one, being fast asleep, does not desire any desire whatsoever and does not see any dream whatsoever, that is deep sleep. The third quarter is prājña, whose sphere (of activity) is the state of deep sleep, who has become one, who is verily, a mass of cognition, who is full of bliss and who enjoys (experiences) bliss, whose face is thought.
That state is deep sleep where the sleeper does not desire any enjoyable thing and does not see any dream. The third quarter is Prājña who has deep sleep as his sphere, in whom everything becomes undifferentiated, who is a mass of mere consciousness, who abounds in bliss, who is surely an enjoyer of bliss, and who is the doorway to the experience (of the dream and waking states).
The third condition is the sleeping life of silent consciousness when a person has no desires and beholds no dreams. That condition of deep sleep is one of oneness, a mass of silent consciousness made of peace and enjoying peace.
The third state is called Prajna, of deep sleep,
In which one neither dreams nor desires.
There is no mind in Prajna, there is no
Separateness; but the sleeper is not
Conscious of this. Let him become conscious
In Prajna and it will open the door
To the state of abiding joy.
The third quarter is Prājña — the Intelligent One — situated in the state of deep sleep — deep sleep is when a sleeping man entertains no desires or sees no dreams —; became one, and thus being a single mass of perception; consisting of bliss, and thus enjoying bliss; and having thought as his mouth.
He (the Prájna) is the lord of all; he is omniscient, he is the internal ruler; he is the source of all; for he is the origin and destruction of (all) beings.
This is the Almighty, this is the Omniscient, this is the Inner Soul, this is the Womb of the Universe, this is the Birth and Destruction of creatures.
This is the lord of all (sarveśvara). This is the all-knowing (sarva-jña). This is the inner controller (antar-yāmin). This is the source (yoni) of all, for this is the origin and the end (prabhavāpyayau) of beings.
The Self is the lord of all; inhabitant of the hearts of all. He is the source of all; creator and dissolver of beings. There is nothing He does not know.
He is the Lord of all. He is the knower of all. He is the inner controller. He is the source of all; for from him all beings originate and in him they finally disappear.
This is the lord of all, this is the knower of all, this is the inner controller; this is the source of all; this is the beginning and the end of beings.
This one is the Lord of all; this one is Omniscient; this one is the inner Director (of all); this one is the Source of all; this one is verily the place of origin and dissolution of all beings.
This silent consciousness is all-powerful, all-knowing, the inner ruler, the source of all, the beginning and end of all beings.
Prajna, all-powerful and all-knowing,
Dwells in the hearts of all as the ruler.
Prajna is the source and end of all.
He is the Lord of all; he is the knower of all; he is the inner controller; he is the womb of all — for he is the origin and the dissolution of beings.
They think the fourth him, whose knowledge are not internal objects, nor internal, nor both, who has not uniform knowledge, who is not intelligent and not unintelligent, who is invisible, imperceptible, unseizable, incapable of proof, beyond thought, not to be defined, whose only proof is the belief in the soul, in whom all the spheres have ceased, who is tranquil, blissful, and without duality.
He who is neither inward-wise, nor outward-wise, nor both inward and outward wise, nor wisdom self-gathered, nor possessed of wisdom, nor unpossessed of wisdom, He Who is unseen and incommunicable, unseizable, featureless, unthinkable, and unnameable, Whose essentiality is awareness of the Self in its single existence, in Whom all phenomena dissolve, Who is Calm, Who is Good, Who is the One than Whom there is no other, Him they deem the fourth; He is the Self, He is the object of Knowledge.
Not inwardly cognitive (antaḥ-prajña), not outwardly cognitive (bahiḥ-prajña), not both-wise cognitive (ubhayatah-prajña), not a cognition-mass (prajñāna-ghana, not cognitive (prajña), not non-cognitive (a‑prajña), unseen (a‑dṛṣṭa), with which there can be no dealing (a‑vyavahārya), ungraspable (a‑grāhya), having no distinctive mark (a‑lakṣaṇa), non-thinkable (a‑cintya), that cannot be designated (a‑vyapadeśya), the essence of the assurance of which is the state of being one with the Self (ekātmya-pratyaya-sāra), the cessation of development (prapañcopaśama), tranquil (śanta), benign (śiva), without a second (a‑dvaita) — [such] they think is the fourth. He is the Self (Ātman). He should be discerned.
He is not knowable by perception, turned inward or outward, nor by both combined. He is neither that which is known, nor that which is not known, nor is He the sum of all that might be known. He cannot be seen, grasped, bargained with. He is undefinable, unthinkable, indescribable.
The only proof of His existence is union with Him. The world disappears in Him. He is the peaceful, the good, the one without a second. This is the fourth condition of the Self — the most worthy of all.
Turiya is not that which is conscious of the inner (subjective) world, nor that which is conscious of the outer (objective) world, nor that which is conscious of both, nor that which is a mass of consciousness. It is not simple consciousness nor is It unconsciousness. It is unperceived, unrelated, incomprehensible, uninferable, unthinkable, and indescribable. The essence of the Consciousness manifesting as the self [in the three states], It is the cessation of all phenomena; It is all peace, all bliss, and non-dual. This is what is known as the Fourth (Turiya). This is Ātman, and this has to be realized.
(Turīya is) not that which cognises the internal (objects), not that which cognises the external (objects), not what cognises both of them, not a mass of cognition, not cognitive, not non-cognitive. (It is) unseen, incapable of being spoken of, ungraspable, without any distinctive marks, unthinkable, unnameable, the essence of the knowledge of the one self, that into which the world is resolved, the peaceful, the benign, the non-dual, such, they think, is the fourth quarter. He is the self; He is to be known.
They consider the Fourth to be that which is not conscious of the internal world, nor conscious of the external world, nor conscious of both the worlds, nor a mass of consciousness, nor conscious, nor unconscious; which is unseen, beyond empirical dealings, beyond the grasp (of the organs of action), uninferable, unthinkable, indescribable; whose valid proof consists in the single belief in the Self; in which all phenomena cease; and which is unchanging, auspicious, and non-dual. That is the Self, and That is to be known.
The fourth condition is Atman in his own pure state: the awakened life of supreme consciousness. It is neither outer nor inner consciousness, neither semi-consciousness, nor sleeping-consciousness, neither consciousness nor unconsciousness. He is Atman, the Spirit himself, that cannot be seen or touched, that is above all distinction, beyond thought and ineffable. In the union with him is the supreme proof of his reality. He is the end of evolution and non-duality. He is peace and love.
The fourth is the superconscious state called
Turiya, neither inward nor outward,
Beyond the senses and the intellect,
In which there is none other than the Lord.
He is the supreme goal of life. He is
Infinite peace and love. Realize him!
They consider the fourth quarter as perceiving neither what is inside nor what is outside, nor even both together; not as a mass of perception, neither as perceiving nor as not perceiving; as unseen; as beyond the reach of ordinary transaction; as ungraspable; as without distinguishing marks; as unthinkable; as indescribable; as one whose essence is the perception of itself alone; as the cessation of the visible world; as tranquil; as auspicious; as without a second. That is the self (ātman), and it is that which should be perceived.
This soul depends upon the word “Om,” which depends upon its parts. The conditions (of the soul) are parts (of the “Om”), these parts conditions. (Those parts are) the letters A, U, and M.
Now this the Self, as to the imperishable Word, is OM; and as to the letters, His parts are the letters and the letters are His parts, namely, A U M.
This is the Self with regard to the word Om, with regard to its elements. The elements (mātra), are the fourths; the fourths, the elements: the letter a, the letter u, the letter m.
This Self, though beyond words, is that supreme word Om; though indivisible, it can be divided in three letters corresponding to the three conditions of the Self, the letter A, the letter U, and the letter M.
The same Ātman [explained before as being endowed with four quarters] is now described from the standpoint of the syllable AUM. AUM, too, divided into parts, is viewed from the standpoint of letters. The quarters [of Ātman] are the same as the letters of AUM and the letters are the same as the quarters. The letters are A, U and M.
This is the self, which is of the nature of the syllable aum, in regard to its elements. The quarters are the elements, the elements are the quarters, namely the letter a, the letter u and the letter m.
That very Self, considered from the standpoint of the syllable (denoting It) is Om. Considered from the standpoint of the letters (constituting Om), the quarters (of the Self) are the letters (of Om), and the letters are the quarters. (The letters are): a, u, and m.
This Atman is the eternal Word OM. Its three sounds, A, U, and M, are the first three states of consciousness, and these three states are the three sounds.
Turiya is represented by AUM.
Though indivisible, it has three sounds.
With respect to syllables, OṂ is this very self (ātman); whereas with respect to the constituent phonemes of a syllable, it is as follows. The constituent phonemes are the quarters, and the quarters are the constituent phonemes, namely, ‘a’, ‘u’, and ‘m’.
Vaiśvánara, who abides in the waking state, is the letter A, the first part, (either) from pervading (aptéh), or from its being the first (letter). He verily obtains all desires and is the first who thus knows.
The Waker, Vaiswanor, the Universal Male, He is A, the first letter, because of Initiality and Pervasiveness; he that knoweth Him for such pervadeth and attaineth all his desires; he becometh the source and first.
The waking state, the Common-to-all-men, is the letter a, the first element, from āpti (‘obtaining’) or from ādimatvā (‘being first’).
He obtains, verily, indeed, all desires, he becomes first — he who knows this.
The waking condition, called the material condition, corresponds to the letter A, which leads the alphabet and breathes in all the other letters. He who understands, gets all he wants; becomes a leader among men.
Vaiśvānara Ātman, whose sphere of activity is the waking state, is A, the first letter of AUM, on account of his all-pervasiveness or on account of his being the first. He who knows this obtains all desires and becomes first [among the great].
Vaiśvānara, whose sphere (of activity) is the waking state, is the letter a, the first element, either from the root ap to obtain or from being the first. He who knows this, obtains, verily, all desires, also, he becomes first.
Vaiśvānara, having the waking state as his sphere, is the first letter a, because of the (the similarity of) pervasiveness or being the first. He who knows thus, does verily attain all desirable things, and becomes the foremost.
The first sound A is the first state of waking consciousness, cOMmon to all men. It is found in the words Apti, ‘attaining’, and Adimatvam, ‘being first’. Who knows this attains in truth all his desires, and in all things becOMes first.
A stands for Vaishvanara. Those who know this,
Through mastery of the senses, obtain
The fruit of their desires and attain greatness.
The first constituent phoneme — ‘a’ — is Vaiśvānara situated in the waking state, so designated either because of obtaining (āpti) or because of being first (ādimattva). Anyone who knows this is sure to obtain all his desires and to become the first.
Taijasa who abides in dream, is the letter U, the second part, from its being more elevated or from its being in the midst. He verily elevates the continuance of knowledge, and becomes the like (to friend and foe) and has no descendant ignorant of Brahma who thus knows.
The Dreamer, Taijasa, the Inhabitant in Luminous Mind, He is U, the second letter, because of Advance and Centrality; he that knoweth Him for such, advanceth the bounds of his knowledge and riseth above difference; nor of his seed is any born that knoweth not the Eternal.
The sleeping state, the Brilliant, is the letter u, the second element, from utkarṣa (‘exaltation’) or from ubhayatvā (intermediateness).
He exalts, verily, indeed, the continuity of knowledge; and he becomes equal (samāna); no one ignorant of Brahman is born in the family of him who knows this.
The dreaming condition, called the mental condition, corresponds to the second letter U. It upholds; stands between waking and sleeping. He who understands, upholds the tradition of spiritual knowledge; looks upon everything with an impartial eye. No one ignorant of Spirit is born into his family.
Taijasa Ātman, whose sphere of activity is the dream state, is U, the second letter [of AUM], on account of his superiority or intermediateness. He who knows this attains a superior knowledge, receives equal treatment from all, and finds in his family no one ignorant of Brahman.
Taijasa, whose sphere (of activity) is the dream state, is the letter u, the second element, from exaltation or intermediateness. He who knows this exalts, verily, the continuity of knowledge and he becomes equal; in his family is born no one who does not know Brahman.
He who is Taijasa with the state of dream as his sphere (of activity) is the second letter u (of Om); because of the similarity of excellence and intermediateness. He who knows thus increases the current of knowledge and becomes equal to all. None is born in his line who is not a knower of Brahman.
The second sound U is the second state of dreaming consciousness. It is found in the words Utkarsha, ‘uprising’, and Ubhayatvam, ‘bothness’. Who knows this raises the tradition of knowledge and attains equilibrium. In his famiy is never born any one who knows not Brahman.
U indicates Taijasa. Those who know this,
By mastering even their dreams, become
Established in wisdom. In their family
Everyone leads the spiritual life.
The second constituent phoneme — ‘u’ — is Taijasa situated in the state of dream, so designated either because of heightening (utkarṣa) or because of being intermediate (ubhayatva). Anyone who knows this is sure to heighten the continuity of knowledge and to become common; and a man without the knowledge of brahman will not be born in his lineage.
Prájna (the perfect wise) who abides in deep sleep, is the letter M, the third part, from its being a measure (mitéh), or from its being of one and the same nature. He verily measures this all and becomes of the same nature who thus knows.
The Sleeper, Prajna, the Lord of Wisdom, He is M, the third letter, because of Measure and Finality; he that knoweth Him for such measureth with himself the Universe and becometh the departure into the Eternal.
The deep-sleep state, the cognitional, is the letter m, the third element, from miti (‘erecting’) or from apiti (‘immerging’).
He, verily, indeed, erects (‘minoti’) this whole world, and he becomes its immerging — he who knows this.
Undreaming sleep, called the intellectual condition, corresponds to the third letter, M. It weighs and unites. He who understands, weighs the world; rejects; unites himself with the cause.
Prājña Ātman, whose sphere is deep sleep, is M, the third letter [of AUM], because both are the measure and also because in them all become one. He who knows this is able to measure all and also comprehends all within himself.
Prājña, whose sphere (of activity) is the state of deep sleep is the letter m, the third element, either from the root mi, to measure or because of merging. He who knows this measures (knows) all this and merges also (all this in himself).
Prājña with his sphere of activity in the sleep state is m, the third letter of Om, because of measuring or because of absorption. Anyone who knows thus measures all this, and he becomes the place of absorption.
The third sound M is the third state of sleeping consciousness. It is found in the words Miti, ‘measure’, and in the root Mi, ‘to end’, that gives Apiti, ‘final end’. Who knows ths measures all with his mind and attains the final End.
M corresponds to Prajna. Those who know this,
By stilling the mind, find their true stature
And inspire everyone around to grow.
The third constituent phoneme — ‘m’ — is Prājña situated in the state of deep sleep, so designated either because of construction (miti) or because of destruction (apīti). Anyone who knows this is sure to constuct this whole world and to become also its destruction.
(The “Om”) which is without part is the fourth (condition of Brahma) which is imperceptible in which all the spheres have ceased, which is blissful (and) without duality. The “Om,” thus (meditated upon) is soul alone. He enters with his soul the soul, who thus knows, who thus knows.
Letterless is the fourth, the Incommunicable, the end of phenomena, the Good, the One than Whom there is no other; thus is OM. He that knoweth is the Self and entereth by his self into the Self, he that knoweth, he that knoweth.
The fourth is without an element, with which there can be no dealing, the cessation of development, benign, without a second.
Thus Om is the Self (Ātman) indeed.
He who knows this, with his self enters the Self — yea, he who knows this!
The fourth condition of the Self corresponds to Ôm as One, indivisible Word. He is whole; beyond bargain. The world disappears in Him. He is the good; the one without a second. Thus Ôm is nothing but Self. He who understands, with the help of his personal Self, merges himself into the impersonal Self; He who understands.
The Fourth (Turiya) is without parts and without relationship; It is the cessation of phenomena; It is all good and non-dual. This AUM is verily Ātman. He who knows this merges his self in Ātman — yea, he who knows this.
The fourth is that which has no elements, which cannot be spoken of, into which the world is resolved, benign, non-dual. Thus the syllable aum is the very self. He who knows it thus enters the self with his self.
The partless Om is Turīya — beyond all conventional dealings, the limit of the negation of the phenomenal world, the aupicious, and the non-dual. Om is thus the Self to be sure. He who knows thus enters the Self through his self.
The word OM as one sound is the fourth state of supreme consciousness. It is beyond the senses and is the end of evolution. It is non-duality and love. He goes with his self to the supreme Self who knows this, who knows this.
The mantram AUM stands for the supreme state
Of turiya, without parts, beyond birth
And death, symbol of everlasting joy.
Those who know AUM as the Self become the Self;
Truly they become the Self.
OM shanti shanti shanti
The fourth, on the other hand, is without constituent phonemes; beyond the reach of ordinary transaction; the cessation of the visible world; auspicious; and unique.
Accordingly, the very self (ātman) is OṂ. Anyone who knows this enters the self (ātman) by himself (ātman).
© 1921 Robert Ernest Hume; © 1937 Purohit and Yeats and/or Faber & Faber Limited; © 1952 Swami Nikhilananda; © 1953 Harper & Brothers; © 1965 Juan Mascaró; © 1987 The Blue Mountain Center of Meditation; © 1996 Patrick Olivelle.
Translated by Swami Gambhirananda
This two-volume set is the translation we most highly recommend if you are a serious seeker who wants to understand the Upanishads as they have been traditionally understood in India. Sankara’s commentaries are included. The prose is straightforward and easy to read.
Swami Nikhilananda’s four-volume edition is also good but it’s more expensive.
Please note that this book is manufactured in India, and Indian books are a bit different from Western ones. If you want an edition manufactured in the US, get Swami Nikhilananda’s instead. It’s made with library bindings and high-quality paper.
Translated by Patrick Olivelle
This is the best Western academic translation of the Upanishads that has ever been made for a general audience. The translator, a professor at an American university, incorporates the full body of Western scholarship in his translated texts and notes.
Olivelle, like most Western scholars (he was born in Sri Lanka but educated in the West), is mainly concerned with uncovering the original meaning of texts as they were understood when they were composed, before the commentaries were written. Therefore he doesn’t assume the traditional commentaries on the Upanishads are correct. This is a very different approach than the one taken, for example, by Swamis Nikhilananda and Gambhirananda, who present the Upanishads and their interpretation by influential commentators as a single unified whole.
Olivelle alludes to this issue in his introduction:
“Even though this equation [Atman = Brahman] played a significant role in later developments of religion and theology in India and is the cornerstone of one of its major theological traditions, the Advaita Vedanta, it is incorrect to think that the single aim of all the Upanisads is to enunicate this simple truth.”
If you want a traditional, Vedantin translation, this book is not for you. But if you want to see how academic scholars interpret the Upanishads, this is one of the best books you can buy.
This book is available only in paperback. Digital and hardcover editions are not available. If you want a hardcover edition you have to buy a much more expensive book called The Early Upaniṣads which contains the same translations by Olivelle plus the Sanskrit text and more extensive notes. This second book is much more substantial, with a library-quality binding and thicker paper, but it costs ten times as much. We strongly recommend this second book but it’s too expensive for the average reader.
Translated by Shree Purohit Swami and W.B. Yeats
There are translations for the heart and for the head; those that recreate the poetic, literary greatness of the original, and those that aim at academic fidelity. This may be the best English translation of the first type that has ever been made of the Upanishads. Shri Purohit Swami was an enormously talented yogi who came to London in 1930, and W.B. Yeats was one of the greatest English poets of the twentieth century.
This page was published on January 19, 2000 and last revised on January 4, 2018.