Translation by Dr. Radhakrishnan

Prepared by Veeraswamy Krishnaraj


The Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad belongs to the Atharva Veda and contains twelve verses. It is an exposition of the principle of aum as consisting of three elements, a, u, m, which refer to the three states of waking, dream and dreamless sleep. The Supreme Self is manifested in the universe in its gross, subtle and causal aspects. Answering to the four states of consciousness, wake­

fulness, dream, dreamless sleep, transcendental consciousness1 there are aspects of the Godhead, the last alone being all­ inclusive and ultimately real. The Absolute of mystic consciousness is the reality of the God of religion. The Upaniṣad by itself, it is said, is enough to lead one to liberation.2 Gauḍapāda, Saṁkara’s teacher's teacher wrote his famous Kārikā on the Upaniṣad, which is the first systematic exposition of Advaita Vedanta which has come down to us. Saṁkara has commented on both the Upaniṣad and the Kārikā.

1See Nṛasiṁha-Pūrva-tāpanīya U. IV. I.

2māṇḍūkyam ekaṁ evālam mumukṣūṇāṁ vimuktaye Muktikā U 1.27·


I. 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.

The syllable aum, which is the symbol of Brahman, stands for the manifested world, the past, the present and the future, as well as the unmanifested Absolute.

2. All this is, verily, Brahman. This self is Brahman. This same self has four quarters.

four quarters = Which are Viśva, the waking state, Taijasa, the dream state, Prājña, the state of dreamless sleep and turīya which is the state of spiritual consciousness. 'The knowledge of the fourth is attained by merging the (previous) three such as Viśva, etc. In the order of the previous one in the succeeding one.'

3. The first quarter is Vaiśvānara, whose sphere (of activity) is the waking state, who cognizes external objects, who has

seven limbs and nineteen mouths and who enjoys (experiences) gross (material) objects.

who has seven limbs: refers to the list mentioned in C U V 18 2. Nineteen mouths: are the five organs of sense (hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell), the five organs of action (speech, handling, loco­ motion, generation and excretion], the five Vital breaths, the mind (manas). and the Intellect (buddhi), the self-sense (ahaṁ-kāra) and thought (citta).

Vaiśvānara = He is called Vaiśvānara because he leads all creatures of the universe In diverse ways to the enjoyment of various objects, or because he comprises all beings. The waking state is the normal condition of the natural man, who without reflection accepts the universe as he finds it. The same physical universe bound by uniform laws presents itself to all such men.

4. The second quarter is taijasa, whose sphere (of activity) is the dream state, who cognizes internal objects, who has

seven limbs and nineteen mouths, and who enjoys (experiences) the subtle objects.

The taijasa is conscious of the internal, i.e mental states. While the viśva, which is the subject of the waking state, cognizes material

objects in the waking experience, the taijasa expenerices mental states dependent on the predispositions left by the waking experi­ences. In this state the soul fashions its own world in the imagining of the dreams. 'The spirit serves as light for Itself.' B U IV 3 9.

Here also the basis of duality operates, the one that knows and the object that is known. Though from the standpoint of the dream, the dream objects are experienced as external, they are said to be subtle because they are different from the objects of the waking state which are external.

The Upaniṣad makes a clear distinction between waking and dream experiences.

5. 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.


While the first condition is the waking life of outward-moving consciousness, and the second is the dream life of inward-moving consciousness, the third is the state of deep sleep where the consciousness enjoys peace and has no perception of either external or internal objects. Cp the Psalmist who says: 'God gives truth to his beloved in sleep' (CxxVII 2) The transitory character of sleep shows that it is not the ultimate state. The name given to this state is Prājña. It is a state of knowledge, though the external and internal states are held in abeyance It is the conceptual self while the two previous selves are the imaginative and the perceptual ones.

ekī-bhūtaḥ = the manifold object series, external and internal, lapses even 'as at night, owing to the indiscrimination produced by darkness, all percepts become a mass of darkness, as it were, so also in the state of deep sleep, all (objects) of consciousness, verily become a mass (of consciousness)' ―Śaṁkara. In deep sleep no desire, no thought is left, all impressions have become one, only knowledge and bliss remain.

The apparent absence of duality has led to the view that it is the final state of union with Brahman See BU. IV 3; CU. VIII.II.I.

ceto-mukhaḥ = because it is the doorway to the cognition of the two other states of consciousness known as dream and waking.

Prājñaḥ = It is called Prājña consciousness or knower as it is not aware of any variety as in the two other states

ānanda-mayaḥ = full of bliss.

ānanda-bhuk = who enjoys bliss. It is not bliss but the enjoyer of bliss. In the waking state we are bound by the fetters of sense-perception and desire, in the dream state we have a greater freedom as the self makes a world of its own, out of the materials of the waking world. Though, in the dream state, we take the dream Images of delight and oppression as real, we produce them out of ourselves. In dreamless sleep the self is liberated from the empirical world, indeed from the person as a self-contained unit.

6. 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.

Gauḍapāda says that 'It is the one alone who is known in the three states,' eka eva tridhā smṛtaḥ. Śaṁkara urges that 'that which is designated as Prājña (when it is viewed as the cause of the world) will be described as turīya separately when It is not viewed as the cause, and when it is free from all phenomenal relationship, i.e. in its absolute real aspect. It is the first time in the history of thought that the distinction between Absolute and God, Brahman and Īśvara, turīya and Prājña is elaborated. Cp with this the Christian view of the Son as 'the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible …all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together.' Colossians I.15. The son is the Demiurge, the heavenly architect, not the God but the image of the God For Philo 'the Sun itself unaffected and undiminished by its radiance, yet all the earth is dependent on it; so God although in His being He is completely self-contained and Self-sufficient shoots forth a great stream of radiation, immaterial yet on that account all the more real. This stream is God in extension, God in relation, the son of God, not God.' By Light, Light, p 243, Goudenough’s E.T.

7· (Turīya is) not that which cognizes the internal (objects), not that which cognizes the external (objects), not what cognizes 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.


l Here we get to a reality which is beyond the distinction of subject and object and yet it is above and not below this distinction. It is super-theism and not atheism or anti-theism. We cannot use here terms like all-knowing; all-powerful Brahman cannot be treated as having objects of knowledge or powers. It is pure being. In many passages, the Upaniṣads make out that Brahman is pure being beyond all word and thought. He becomes Īśvara or personal God with the quality of Prajña or pure wisdom. He is all-knowing, the lord of the principle of mūla-prakṛti the unmanifested, the inner guide of all souls. From him proceeds Hiraṇya-garbha who, as Demiurge, fashions the world. From the last develops Virāt or the totality of all existents. The last two are sometimes mixed up.

lGauḍapāda says that this Brahman is 'birthless, free from sleep and dream, without name and form, ever effulgent, all thought, no form is necessary for it.'

lThough objective consciousness is absent in both the Prājña and turīya consciousness, the seed of it is present m the state of deep sleep while it is absent in the transcendent consciousness. Empirica1 consciousness is present though in an unmanifested condition in the state of deep sleep while the transcendent state is the non­ empirical beyond the three states and free from their interruptions and alternations. It is present, even when we are immersed in the activities of the waking world or lost in the unconsciousness of sleep. Man's highest good consists in entering into this, the self, making it the center of one's life, instead of dwelling on the surface.

lDeep sleep terminates and the self  returns to the dream and the waking states. In turīya there is a permanent union with Brahman. The metaphysical reality is cognized in turīya, if such an expression can be used for the transcendent state.

lPlotinus portrays a gradual ascent from the world-soul to the spirit (nous) and finally from spirit to the One. The goal of spiritual ascent is a mystical ecstatic union with the Absolute .He writes 'Let us suppose the same rest in the body that surrounds the soul, that its movement is stilled, and that the entire surroundings are also at rest, the earth, the sea, the heaven itself above the other elements.' In words that are echoes of Plotinus, Augustine in his Confessions describes the ascent from the changeable apprehensions and objects of sense through the intelligible world of conceptual truth to the Absolute Truth.' If the tumult of the flesh were hushed, hushed the Images of earth, and the waters and air, hushed also the poles of heaven' man turns his spiritual vision godward to receive the light, then he attains the absolute object of mystical union 'the light unchangeable above the mind' with the flash of one trembling glance.

8. 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.

This is the self:  It is the deepest essence of the soul, the Image of Godhead. The world and the world-soul are both producers and produced. The Supreme God is only the producer, Brahman is above the distinction of producer and produced.

Visva and taijasa are conditioned by cause and effect. But Prājña is conditioned by cause alone. These two (cause and effect) do not exist in turīya. Primal being unfolds itself as a subject-object relation. The unmeasured and undefined becomes the measured and the defined, a Universe of logical discourse. Prājña or wisdom and the element 'm' both indicate that the function of measuring is that of logical mind. All distinctions are within the Supreme Brahman. God is the logical being the defined reality. It is not we that define Brahman but Brahman defines itself. The Supreme logical idea is God who is the true, the good and the beautiful. Defined reality is not divided reality. The real in itself is Brahman; the real as logically defined is Īśvara who rests in Brahman who does not cease to be Brahman in becoming Īśvara.

9. 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  is he who has the universe for his body.

10. 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.

11. 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).


In deep sleep, all waking and dream experiences disappear Īśvara is the cause of the universe as well as that of Its dissolution. As the name Prājña implies, the condition is one of intellection. In it we have a thinker and a thought. If this difference did not exist, it would be a silent oneness.

This verse affirms what Parmenides, Plato and Hegel assumed that the opposition of being and not-being is the original duality the ontological standpoint. Being is a priori to non-being. The negation presupposes what it negates. Though being is a Priori to non-being being itself cannot be conceived without an opposite. Being could never be being without being opposed to not-being.

But there is something which is a priori to the opposition of being and non-being and that is the unity which transcends both. Thought cannot grasp and determine this spirit beyond the opposition. There is no concept or substance that could be thought of as being the unity without any opposition whatsoever. We cannot even call it unity for it suggests the opposite category of diversity. But we are in the sphere of oppositions, dualities and yet the positive side of the opposition brings out the content of the spirit. We have to seek the ultimate truth, goodness and beauty in its direction.

Plotinus says, 'Before the two there is the one and the unit must precede the Dyad coming later than the one, the Dyad has the One as the standard of its differentiation that without which it Could not be the separate differentiated thing It is. ' Enneads V 1 5

'As long as we have duality, we must go still higher until we reach what transcends the Dyad.' Ibid III 8. 8

12.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.

●In turīya, the mind is not simply withdrawn from the objects but becomes one with Brahman who is free from fear, who is all­

round illumination, according to Gauḍapāda

●In both deep sleep and transcendental consciousness there is no consciousness of objects but this objective consciousness is present

in an unmanifested 'seed' form In deep sleep, while it is completely transcended in the turīya consciousness. Gauḍapāda says: The

non-cognition of duality is common to both Prājña and turīya but Prājña is associated  with the seed (consciousness) in sleep while this

does not exist in turīya.

Śaṁkara opens his commentary on the B G., with the verse that 'Nārāyaṇa is beyond the unmanifested principle and from this

unmanifested arises the mundane egg or Hiraṇya-garbha.' 'nārāyaṇaḥ paro'vyaktād aṇḍam avyakta-sambhavam. There is first the pure

Brahman beyond subject and object and then Nārāyaṇa or God confronted by the object but superior to it and then the world-soul.


●Lao Tze looks upon the Tao as the ultimate Reality which can be defined only in negative terms as 'colorless,' 'soundless,' 'non­

material ' His conception of creation was that out of Tao, the eternal ultimate principle came the one, the great monad or the material

cause of the universe. The one produced the two primary essences, the Yang and the Yin, positive and negative, male and female,

light ad shade, which gave birth to the three powers of nature, heaven, earth and man, which in their combination  produced all creatures.

Lao Tze's follower Chuang-tze regarded T'ien or God as the first great cause.


●Plotinus says: 'Standing transcendent above all things that follow It, existing In Itself, not mixing or to be mixed with any emanation

from Itself, veritably the one, not merely possessing Oneness as an attribute of Its essence-for that would be a false oneness―a

Principle overpassing all reasoning, all knowing-a principle standing over all Essence and Existence… only when It is simplex

and First, apart from all, can it be perfectly self-sufficing 'Enneads,V.4.1.


●This soundless, partless, supreme Reality JS the very self in the state of deep sleep, It becomes the subject confronting the

object which is yet unmanifested, We infer the presence of the object, as its developments take place on getting out of sleep. In the dream state, the object is manifested in the form of mental states, in the waking state, the object is manifested in material states The subject- object duality is present in different forms in the states of waking, dream and dreamless sleep. It is transcended altogether In the state of turīya, while we have a pure consciousness of Self or Absolute.

No object can be set in opposition to the Spirit and so the question of validity or otherwise does not arise. It is self-validating, self-

authenticating experience. The question of validity arises when the object appears as alien and impenetrable but in spiritual experience there is no alien object. There is knowledge of identity, by possession, by the absorption of the object at the deepest levels In the ex­ perience of turīya, there is neither subject nor object. neither the perception nor the idea of God. It does not reflect or explain any other reality than Itself . It is reality, spirit In Its inner life. Those who know the truth become the truth. It is not a state in which objects are extrinsically opposed to one another. It is the immersion of the self in reality, Its participation In primary being. It is illumined life. It is pure consciousness. without any trace of duality, it is unfailing light. When the real is known there is no world of duality.


●When analogically we transfer this idea from the microcosm t0 the macrocosm, from the individual to the world, since there is a

co-relation between intelligibility and being, we have answering  in waking state, Virāt ,to the dream state, Hiraṇya-garbha, to

the dreamless sleep state, Īśvara. All these three are on the plane of duality, Īśvara has facing him mūla-prakṛti, though in an unmani­

fested (avyākṛta) condition, as the self has the object in an unmanifested condition in the state of dreamless sleep.


●Plotinus who adopts a similar view puts the case thus: 'If, then, the Divine thought-forms (The Ideas) are many, there must of

necessity be something common to all and something peculiar to each to differentiate them this particn1arity or specific difference

is the individual shape, but if there is shape there must be something that has taken the shape, that is to say there is a foundation,

substratum, a matter. Further, if there is an Intellectual kosmos of which our kosmos is an image, and if ours is compound and includes matter, there must be a matter in the Intellectual kosmos as well.' Enneads II 4· 4.


●The interaction of the universal subject and object develops the rest of the universe. Hiraṇya-garbha is the sūtrātman and plays

with Ideas, mental states as taijasa does in the dream world. In Ṛg Veda, it is said that Hiraṇya-garbha arose in the beginning, the

lord of all created beings X. 121.I.1.  This whole world is in him in an embryo form.― Vidyāraṇya. When these are projected into space and time, we have Virāt. This answers to the waking state, which is Vaiśvānara's sphere of activity.


●The waking and the dream states answer to the exteriorized existence and interiorized life of the world-spirit. When the world-spirit

externalizes Its attention, we have the manifestation of the cosmos. When it turns its attention inward, the cosmos retreats into latency. When the world-spirit withdraws altogether into undisturbed still­ ness, the object, though present, becomes a mere abstraction. When even that ceases, Īśvara is Brahman.


●Aum thus represents both the unmanifested Absolute and the personal Īśvara. Gauḍapāda writes, 'The sacred syllable aum is

verily the lower Brahman and it is also said to be the higher Brahman. Aum is without beginning, unique, without anything external to

it, unrelated to any effect and imperishable. '


●If we worship Aum as Īśvara, we pass beyond grief: 'Know Aum to be Īśvara, ever present in the hearts of all. The wise man, realizing

aum as all-pervading, does not grieve.'


●While Īśvara, the personal God, is the lord of the world of manifestation, of becoming, the Supreme Brahman is beyond all becoming

in pure being 'One who has known Aum which is (at the same time) devoid of elements and of infinite elements in which all duality is

resolved, the benign, he is the (real) sage and none other.'


●In this Upaniṣad we find the fundamental approach to the attain ment of reality by the road of introversion and ascent from the

sensible and changing, through the mind which dreams through the soul which thinks, to the divine within but above the soul. The

truth of our intellectual knowledge presupposes a light, the Light of the Real above logical truth, the Light which is not itself but that

by which it has been created and by whose illumination it shines. In the Apocryphal wisdom of Solomon, the immanent reason is described thus:

'For she is a breath of the power of God,

And a clear effluence of the glory of the Almighty.' VII 25.


●Wisdom becomes a personality (XVIII I4-16) akin to the word in the Prologue of the Fourth Gospel. Though Wisdom is a potency

outside God it is yet wholly in God. Philo makes a sharp distinction between God In Himself and God revealed, between God who is pure being, unknowable, outside the material universe and God who is immanent in man and the universe, who is all-penetrating all­ filling. The gap between the Infinite God and the finite man was bridged In the Old Testament by God's angels who were regarded as emanations of the divine, offshoots of deity, parts of his very being.' Philo held that the universe was filled with divine potencies while In one sense these are attributes and self-reve1ations of God, in another sense they are personal beings, incorporeal souls who mediate between God and men, who report the injunctions of the father to his children and the necessities of the children to the father.' De Somniis I.22. The unity of all these potencies is constituted by the Logos. Heaven and earth subsisted In the Logos before their material creation. The potencies which are the creators of matter emanate from the Logos God who is the ultimate creator never works directly but through the Logos who again works through the potencies called logi. Prājña, Wisdom, Logos, Intellectual Principle, have a family likeness.


●Plotinus has the transcendent triad of the Absolute One, the Intellectual Principle or God and the WorId-soul 'The one is not

a Being but the source of Being which is its first offspring. The One is perfect that is it has nothing, seeks nothing, needs nothing, but,

as we may say, it overflows and this overflowing is creative, the engendered entity looks towards the One and becomes the Intel­

lectual Principle, resting within itself, this offspring of One is Being' Enneads V 2.1. This Intellectual Principle Nous is the image of the One. It is engendered because the One in its self-quest has vision. This seeing is Nous. The third is the soul, the author of all living things. It made the sun, the moon, the stars, and the whole visible world. It is the offspring of the Divine intellect. It is, in Plotinus, of a twofold nature. There is an inner soul intent on Nous and another which faces outward. The latter is associated with a downward movement in which the soul generates its image" which is nature and the world of sense. For Plotinus it is the lowest sphere, something emanating from the soul when it forgets to look upward towards the Nous. We have the One, Nous, Soul and the world answering to the fourfold nature of reality in the Māṇḍūkya U. The last two the world-soul and the world are the subtle and the

gross conditions of the same being. virāt trailokya-śarīraḥ brahmā samaṣṭi-Vyaṣṭi-rūpaḥ~saṁsāra-maṇḍala-vyāpī Śaṁkara on T U II 8.

End MᾹṆḌŪKYA UPANIṢAD December 12, 2013