mANDUkya upaniShad Part 10

*** Read Part 9 ***

Mantra 9 (and kArikA K1.19)

जागरितस्थानो वैश्वानरोऽकारः प्रथमा मात्रऽऽप्तेरादिमत्त्वाद्वाऽऽप्नोति ह वै सर्वान् कामानादिश्च भवति य एवं वेद ॥ ९ ।

jAgaritasthAno vaishvAnaro.akAraH prathamA mAtra.a.apteraadimattvaadvA.a.apnoti ha vai sarvAn kAmAnAdishcha bhavati ya evaM veda || 9 ||

prathamA mAtra – The first mAtra (of OM)
akAraH – the letter ‘a’
vaishvAnara – is vaishvAnara
jAgarita sthAno – the waking state
ApteH – (because of both having the characteristics of) being all-pervasive
va – or
AdimatvatvAt – being the first.

ya evam veda – Whoever knows this
ha vai Apnoti –  certainly obtains
sarvan kAmAn – all desirable objects
cha – and
AdiH bhavati – becomes the first.

The letter ‘a’, the first mAtra of OM, is vaishvAnara, the waking state, because both are first in their respective series and have the characteristic of all-pervasiveness. Whoever knows this will fulfill all their desires and be the foremost in their field of endeavor.

It was explained in the introductory Sanskrit section that a is the fundamental sound. We cannot speak any word without opening the mouth and, when we simply do this and allow the vocal cord to operate, a is the sound which emerges. (Note that this is the basic sound, as in the word ‘that’, and not the letter as pronounced when reciting the alphabet.) Thus, a must be regarded as the first, or primary sound.  Furthermore, if this sound is made and allowed to continue sounding, it can be discovered that every other sound is essentially a modification of this original sound. The modifications are made by altering the shape of the mouth and the position of the tongue and lips. Thus, it is also apparent that we can regard this sound as pervading every other sound.

Similarly, we normally regard the waking state as having primacy. We only ‘know’ of the existence of the dream and deep-sleep states from the vantage point of waking. We have to be awake in order to pursue this enquiry and attain enlightenment. We always consider that we go to sleep and maybe dream; we would never think of our basic state as being in deep sleep or dreaming and that we sometimes wake up.

Also, in the scriptures, vaishvAnara is said to pervade the whole of the universe. Krishna, in the Bhagavad Gita (10.33), describing himself (as Ishvara) says that ‘of all the letters, I am the letter a‘.

This mantra, then, is advocating meditation on OM, with specific attention to the first letter, a. Whilst repeating the mantra mentally, one should be aware of the association with the waking state by virtue of the aspects of similarity, namely that both the letter and the state are the ‘first’ and are ‘all-pervasive’. The value of this practice (upAsana) for the meditator will be to satisfy his or her desires and to become the ‘first’ in whatever worldly pursuits are followed.

Swami Chinmayananda points out in Ref. 3 that it is common practice in the Upanishads to promise significant worldly benefits to beginning students in order to persuade them to take up the related sAdhana, knowing that the hidden benefits will help them progress on the spiritual path also.

Swami Muni Narayana Prasad (Ref. 38) has a different view of the meaning here, which is also plausible. He points out that it is never possible to satisfy all worldly desires. As soon as one is satisfied another arises. (The scriptures use the metaphor of ‘feeding’ a fire.) He suggests that the equating of vaishvAnara and a enables one to intuit the glory of Atman and thereby become detached from pleasurable objects rather than infatuated with them. The mantra’s reference to ‘obtaining all desired objects’ may therefore mean ‘attaining the desire-less state’, which is effectively equivalent to satisfying all desires.

His view of ‘becoming the first’ also differs from the most obvious interpretation. He suggests that the fame comes because they are wise men (i.e. j~nAnI-s) rather than through any sort of worldly attainment. This does not seem likely since these meditations are provided for those who are not yet ready for Atma vichAra so that they are unlikely to become j~nAnI-s as a result.

Mahadevan (Ref. 54) points out that, in meditation on OM, a is also a mnemonic for Adi and Apti, the two characteristics highlighted in this mantra. Similarly, u in the next mantra is a mnemonic for utkarSha and ubhayatva. And finally m in the 11th mantra is a mnemonic for miti.

*** Read Part 11 ***