My previous posts on the book and its chapters:
- Taittriya Upanishads
- Mundaka Upanishad
- Kena and Katha Upanishads
- Brihadaranyaka and Mandukya Upanishads
The structure of the Prashna Upanishad is quite simple: six illustrious seekers approach the sage Pippalada one buy one and ask him a basic question about Reality. ... But the questions probe progressively deeper into the practical mysteries of human existence.
The Indian concept of the individual self was, of course, closer to energy or an essential vibration than to a form or name...
Prashna, "question", is cognate with the modern German word for question, Frage, as well as with the German for research, Forschung.
The two paths in the cycle of time go back to the Rig Veda. One way of looking at this, for purposes of our Upanishad, is that the moon shines by reflected light (as the intellect, in Indian philosophy, is said to shine by the reflected light of the Self); thus those who die without having realized the Self are in a state of reflected reality, while those who have realized the Self merge in Reality when the body is shed.
The individual with the "fires" of prana burning within is compared to a home with its sacred hearth-fire at the center (and, in the original, with the more common image of a city) whose sacrificial altars are active when the rest sleep. Strkingly, the mind is said to perform the life-sacrifice, or to command it: yajaman is the patron who pays the priests to sacrifice in his behalf. The final sacrifice, Easwaran comments, is that the mind "throws itself onto the fire" (i.e. is stilled, restored into prana), so that "what begins with purified butter is carried on with a purified mind."
2: The sage replied: "The powers are space, air, fire,
Water, earth, speech, mind, vision, and hearing.
All these boasted, 'We support this body.'
3. But prana, vital energy, supreme
Over them all, saidm 'Don't deceive yourselves.
It is I, dividing myself fourfold,
Who hold this body together.'
4. "But they would not believe these words of prana.
To demonstrate the truth, prana arose
And left the body, and all the powers
Knew they had to leave as well. When prana
Returned to the body, they too were back.
1. Then Kausalya approached the sage and asked:
"Master, from what source does this prana come?
How does he enter the body, how live,
After dividing himself into five,
How leave the body at the time of death?
How does he support all that is without
And all that is within?"
2. The sage replied: "You ask searching questions.
Since you are a devoted aspirant
Seeking Brahman, I shall answer them.
3. "Prana is born of the Self. As a man
Casts a shadow, the Self casts prana
Into the body at the time of borth
So that the mind's desires may be fulfilled.
7. At the time of death, through the subtle track
That runs upwards through the spinal channel,
Udana, the fifth force, leads the selfless
Up the long ladder of evolution,
And the selfish down. But those who are both
Selfless and slefish come back to this earth.
10. "Whatever the content of consciousness
At the time of death, that is what unites us
To prana, udana, and the Self,
To be reborn in the plane we have earned.
1. The Gargya approached the sage and asked him:
"Sir, when a man is sleeping, who is it
That sleeps with him? Who sees the dreams he sees?
When he wakes up, who in him is awake?
When he enjoys, who is enjoying?
In whom do all these faculties rest?"
2. The sage replied: "As the rays of the sun,
When night comes, become all one in his disk
Until they spread out again at sunrise,
Even so the senses are gathered up
In the mind, which is master of them all.
Therefore, when a person neither hears, sees, smells,
Tastes, touches, speaks, nor enjoys, we say he sleeps.
5. "The dreaming mind recalls past impressions.
It sees again what has been seen; it hears
Again what has been heard, enjoys again
What has been enjoyed in many places.
Seen and unseen, heard and unheard, enjoyed
And unenjoyed, the real and the unreal,
The mind sees all; the mind sees all.
6. "When the mind is stilled in dreamless sleep,
It brings rest and repose to the body.
7. Just as birds fly to the tree for rest,
All things in life find their rest in the Self.
- Paperback: 311 pages
- Publisher: Nilgiri Press; 1 edition (June 1987)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0915132397
- ISBN-13: 978-0915132393
- Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 4.5 x 1 inches
- Nilgiri Press page on Wikipedia
- Eknath Easwaran entry in Wikipedia
- Nilgiri Press web site
- Michael Nagler's web site