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WISDOM OF CHINA AND INDIA Contents

PRASHNA UPANISHAD

English version by Sanderson Beck

This has been published in the WISDOM BIBLE as a book. For ordering information, please click here. This text is also available as spoken by Sanderson Beck on CD.

First Question: Creatures
Second Question: Angels
Third Question: Life-breath
Fourth Question: Sleep
Fifth Question: Meditation
Sixth Question: Spirit

First Question

Sukesha Bharadvaja, Shaibya Satyakama, Sauryayani Gargya,
Kaushalya Ashvalayana, Bhargava Vaidarbhi,
and Kabandhi Katyayana were devoted to God,
intent on God, in search of the highest God.
Thinking, "He can tell us all,"
bringing fuel they approached the revered Pippalada.

The seer said to them, "Live with me one more year
in discipline, holiness, and faith.
Then ask what you want.
If I know, I will tell you all."

Then Kabandhi Katyayana came to him and asked,
"Sir, from where are all these creatures born?"

The seer answered him, "The creator desired creatures.
Gathering energy, with this energy
it produced a pair, matter and life,
thinking, 'These two will produce various creatures.'
The sun is life, and the moon is matter.
Matter really is everything here,
both what is formed and what is formless;
thus form is matter.

"When the rising sun enters the east
it absorbs the eastern life-breaths into its rays.
When it illumines the south and west and north,
below and above and all space, it illumines everything;
then it takes all the life-breaths in its rays.
That fire rises as universal life in all its forms.
This has been declared in the Rig Veda:

'This has all forms, the golden one, all-knowing,
the final goal, the one light, heat-giving,
with a thousand rays, a hundred existences;
this sun arises as the life of all creatures.'

"The year is the creator.
This has two paths: the southern and the northern.
Those who worship thinking,
'Sacrifice and merit have perfected us,'
attain only the lunar world;
these return to be born again.
Thus the seers desiring children take the southern course,
which is the path to the ancestors.
This is matter that leads to the ancestors.
Those seeking the soul by discipline,
holiness, faith, and knowledge
by the northern course attain the world of the sun.
There is the resting place of the life-breaths.
There immortality is without fear.
That is the final goal.
From there they do not return; that is the stopping.
As to that a verse states:

'They mention a father five-footed and twelve-formed,
rich in moisture, as in the upper half of heaven,
but others mention a sage
in a chariot of seven wheels and six spokes.'

"The month is the creator.
Its dark period is matter; its bright period life.
Thus these seers perform sacrifice in the bright period,
others in the dark.

"Day and night are the creator.
The day is life, and the night is matter.
They waste their life who join in sexual enjoyment by day;
holy are those who join in sexual enjoyment by night.

"Food is the creator.
From this seeds are produced,
and from them are creatures born.

"Those who follow the rule of the creator produce a pair.
Those have that God-world who have discipline and holiness,
in whom truth is established.
Theirs is the stainless God-world,
in whom there is no deceit nor lying nor illusion."

Second Question

Then Bhargava Vaidarbhi asked him,
"How many angels support a creature?
How many illumine it? And which of them is supreme?"

The seer answered him, "Space is such an angel,
also air, fire, water, earth, speech, mind, sight, hearing.
These, having illumined the creature,
said, 'We support and preserve this being.'
To them the supreme life-breath said, 'Do not be deluded.
I dividing soul fivefold support and preserve this union.'
They did not believe it.
Offended it rose up out.
When it rises up, then all the others rise up;
and when he settles down, they settle down.
As all the bees rise up after the king bee rises,
and all settle down when it settles down,
thus did speech, mind, sight, and hearing.

"They being satisfied praised the life-breath.
'As fire, it burns; it is the sun,
the bountiful rain, the air, the earth, matter,
angels, being and non-being, and immortality.
Like spokes on the hub of a wheel,
so everything is established on the life-breath---
the hymns, the formulas, the chants,
the sacrifice, the nobility, and the priesthood.
As the creator you move in the womb and are born again.

"'To you, life, creatures bring offerings,
who by the breath live.
You are the chief bearer of gifts to the gods.
You are the first offering to the ancestors.
You are the truth of the seers,
the descendants of Atharvan and Angiras.
You are Indra, life, with your brilliance.
You are Rudra for protection.
You move in the atmosphere as the sun, the Lord of lights.
When you rain upon them, life,
then all your creatures are happy,
because there will be food for all desires.

"'You are uninitiated, life, the only seer,
a consumer of all, and Lord of reality.
We are the givers for your consuming.
You are the parent of the wind.
Your form which is established in speech, sight, and hearing,
and is extended in the mind, make favorable; do not go away.
All this universe is in your power,
even what is established in the third heaven.
As a mother her child, protect us,
give us prosperity and wisdom.'"

Third Question

Then Kaushalya Ashvalayana asked him, "Sir,
from where is this life-breath born?
How does it come into this body?
How does it dividing the soul become established?
By what does it depart?
How does it relate to the external and to the soul inside?"

The seer answered him, "You are asking much,
but because you are very holy, I will tell you.
The life-breath is born from the soul.
As a shadow is cast by a person,
so is this life-breath extended by the soul,
and for the perfection of the mind it comes into this body.
As a ruler commands the officials,
saying, 'Govern these villages,'
so this life-breath rules the other breaths.
The out-breath is in the organs of excretion and generation;
the life-breath itself is in the eyes, ears, mouth and nose;
while the equalizing breath is in the middle,
for it equally distributes the offering of food.
From this arise the seven flames.

"The soul lives in the heart.
Here there are one hundred and one channels.
Each of these has one hundred smaller channels.
Each of these has seventy-two thousand branching channels.
Within these moves the diffused breath.
Rising upward through one of these,
the up-breath leads by virtue to the heaven of virtue,
by sin to the hell of sin,
and by both back to the human world.

"The sun rises externally as the life-breath,
for it helps the life-breath in the eye.
The goddess of the earth supports a person's outbreath.
What is between, namely space, is the equalizing breath.
Air is the diffused breath.
Heat is the up-breath.
Therefore one whose heat has ceased goes to rebirth
with the senses sunk in the mind.

"Whatever is one's consciousness,
with that one enters into the life-breath.
The life-breath joined to the heat together with the soul
lead to whatever world has been imagined.
The wise who know the life-breath thus
do not lose their offspring and become immortal.
As to this there is this verse:

'The source, its coming, its staying,
its fivefold division,
and the relation of the soul to the life-breath---
by knowing these one enjoys immortality.
By knowing these one enjoys immortality.'"

Fourth Question

Then Sauryayani Gargya asked him, "Sir,
what are those that sleep in a person here?
What are those that remain awake?
What is the angel who sees dreams and who enjoys them?
In whom are all these things resolved?"

The seer answered him, "Gargya,
as the rays of the setting sun
all become one in a circle of brilliance,
and again when it rises,
so all the human becomes one in the mind, the highest god.
In that condition people do not see, hear, smell, taste,
touch, speak, take, give, nor move.
It is said, 'They sleep.'

"The fires of the life-breath remain awake in this city.
The out-breath is the householder's fire.
The diffused breath is the southern fire.
The life-breath is the sacrifice fire,
and as the eastern fire takes its fuel from the western,
so in sleep the life-breath takes from the lower.
The equalizing breath is called this,
because it equalizes the two offerings:
the in-breath and the out-breath.
The mind is the sacrificer;
the upper breath is the fruit of the sacrifice,
for it leads the sacrificer day by day to God.

"The mind in sleep experiences its greatness.
Whatever it has seen it sees again.
Whatever it has heard it hears again.
Whatever it has felt and thought and known
in many regions and various places
it experiences these again.
What has been seen and not seen, heard and not heard,
experienced and not experienced, both real and unreal,
one sees it all, for the mind is all.

"When one is overcome with light,
then the god dreams no longer.
Then in this body arises happiness.
As birds return to their nesting tree, friend,
so do all these return to the supreme soul.
Earth and elements of earth, water and elements of water,
light and elements of light, air and elements of air,
space and elements of space,
sight and what is seen, hearing and what is heard,
smell and what is smelled, taste and what is tasted,
the skin and what is touched, speech and what is spoken,
the hands and what is taken,
the genitals and what is enjoyed,
the anus and what is excreted,
the feet and what is walked on,
mind and what is thought,
intuition and what is understood,
ego and what is identified with,
consciousness and what it is aware of,
light and what is enlightened,
life-breath and what is sustained;
for the seer, toucher, hearer, smeller, taster,
thinker, understander, actor, knowing soul---
this human soul returns to the supreme imperishable soul.

"Whoever knows that shadowless, bodiless, colorless,
bright imperishable, friend, attains the imperishable.
Knowing all, one becomes all.
On this there is the verse:

'Friend, whoever knows the imperishable
wherein the consciousness with all its angels
and the life-breaths and the elements do rest,
knowing the all has entered the all.'"

Fifth Question

Then Shaibya Satyakama asked him, "Sir,
if someone here should meditate on the word AUM
until the end of one's life, then which world is won?"

The seer answered him, "Satyakama,
the word AUM is the higher God and also the lower.
Thus with this support the wise attain one or the other.

"Whoever meditates on one letter,
quickly returns to earth.
The Rig Veda leads one to the human world.
There endowed with discipline, holiness, and faith
one experiences greatness.

"Whoever is united in mind with two letters
is led by the Yajur Veda to the regions of the moon,
then returns here again.

"Whoever meditates on the supreme Spirit
with the three letters of AUM
is united in brilliance with the sun.
As a snake is freed from its skin, so is one freed from sin,
and is led by the Sama Veda to the world of God,
where one can see the Spirit
that lives in the city of the human body
and is above the highest life.
As to this there are these two verses:

'Using the three letters separately leads to death.
When they are used correctly
for outward, inward, and intermediate actions,
the wise do not fear.
With the Rig hymns leading to this world,
the Yajur formulas to the intermediate world,
and the Sama chants to the heaven of the wise,
with the support of the word AUM
the wise attain to that which is
peaceful, unaging, immortal, fearless, and supreme.'"

Sixth Question

Then Sukesha Bharadvaja asked him, "Sir,
Hiranyanabha, a prince of Koshala, came to me
and asked this question, 'Bharadvaja,
do you know the Spirit with the sixteen parts?'
I answered the youth, 'I do not.
If I knew it, how could I say I did not know it?
Whoever lies dries up to the roots. Thus I will not lie.'
In silence he mounted his chariot and departed.
Now I ask you. Where is that Spirit?"

The seer answered him, "Even here in the body, friend,
is that Spirit in whom they say arise the sixteen parts.
It thought to itself, 'In whose departure shall I depart,
and in whose staying shall I stay?'
It created the life-breath, from the life-breath faith,
space, air, light, water, earth, senses, mind, food;
from food, virility, discipline, affirmations, actions,
the world; and in the worlds, naming.

"As these flowing rivers move toward the ocean,
and on reaching the ocean are lost,
their name and form destroyed,
and all are called merely ocean,
so all the sixteen parts of the witness move towards Spirit,
and reaching the Spirit are lost,
their name and form destroyed,
and all are called merely the Spirit.
That one continues without parts, immortal.
As to this there is the verse:

'In whom the parts rest
as the spokes in the hub of a wheel,
know that as the Spirit to be known
so that death shall not disturb you.'"

Then he said to them, "Thus far I know the supreme God.
There is nothing higher than it."

They praised him saying, "You are our father
who has carried us over to the shore beyond ignorance.
Salutation to the supreme seers!
Salutation to the supreme seers!"

Copyright 1996, 2002 by Sanderson Beck

This has been published in the WISDOM BIBLE as a book. For ordering information, please click here. This text is also available as spoken by Sanderson Beck on CD.

WISDOM OF CHINA AND INDIA Contents
UPANISHADS Introduction
KENA UPANISHAD
KATHA UPANISHAD
ISHA UPANISHAD
MUNDAKA UPANISHAD
PRASHNA UPANISHAD
MANDUKYA UPANISHAD
SHVETASHVATARA UPANISHAD
Vedas and Upanishads ETHICS OF CIVILIZATION

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