mANDUkya upaniShad Part 12

*** Read Part 11 ***

Mantra 11 (and kArikA K1.21)

सुषुप्तस्थानः प्राज्ञो मकारस्तृतीया मात्र मितेरपीतेवर
मिनोति ह वा इदं सर्वमपीतिश्च भव्ति य एवं वेद॥ ११॥

suShuptasthAnaH prAj~no makArastRRitIyA mAtra miterapItervA
minoti ha vA idaM sarvamapItishcha bhavati ya evaM veda || 11 ||

tRRitIyA mAtra – The third mAtra (of OM)
makAra – the letter ‘m
prAj~na – (is) prAj~na
suShupta sthAnaH – the deep-sleep state
miteH – because (it is like) a ‘measure’
va – or
apIteH – on account of absorption.

ya evaM veda – Whosoever knows this
ha vai – verily
minoti sarvam – measures everything
cha bhavati – and becomes
apItiH – (one who) understands.

The letter m, the third mAtra of OM, is prAj~na, the deep-sleep state because both have the characteristic of a measure and are as though absorbed into the final part. Whoever knows this will be able to assimilate and comprehend everything.

miti means a measure, and (according to Shankara) specifically refers to a utensil called a prastha, which is used for measuring quantities of (usually) barley or rice. The idea is that the grain is visible in, for example, a sack. You pour the grain into the measure and it (the grain) disappears from view. You take the measure over to the cooking pot and empty it in. The grain then ‘reappears’ in the pot.

Similarly, at the level of the individual (vyaShTi), the waking and dream states as though disappear into the deep-sleep state, prAj~na or laya (the measure) and emerge once again at some later time. In the deep-sleep state, all the waking or dream state attributes are resolved and we know nothing. We no longer believe ourselves to be a man or a woman, happy or sad, employed or unemployed, etc. But all the relevant characteristics reappear again when we wake up so that they did not actually disappear but were simply rendered unmanifest.

At the macrocosmic (samaShTi) level, the gross and subtle worlds (virAT and hiraNyagarbha) disappear at the end of creation (pralaya) into the causal state (antaryAmin or Ishvara) and reappear at the next creation.  Obviously we have to take the scripture’s word for this aspect! m thus represents the universe in its causal or potential state (i.e. prior to the Big Bang or after the Big Crunch).

In an analogous manner, the sounds a and u, when chanting OM, disappear when we close the mouth and only the m sounds. But they re-appear when the mouth is opened again and the mantra is next sounded.

The word apIti means ‘becoming one’ and refers to the aspect whereby the waking and dream states are both effectively absorbed into deep sleep. It means ‘getting merged or united in’. They become an amorphous ‘mass of consciousness’ (the prAjnAnaghana of mantra 4). Similarly, all sounds become the single sound m when the mouth is closed.

When this is known and understood, we also are better able to ‘measure’ or discriminate and ascertain the value of things. Shankara says that we realize ourselves as Ishvara, the cause of the universe.

Swami Muni Narayana Prasad points out (Ref. 38) that the benefit of understanding this mantra can be explained as ‘seeing oneself in everything and everything in the Self’. Atman is the ‘measure’ of everything (in both the gross and subtle worlds). I.e. one can see everything as non-different from oneself. Everything merges into the Self in prAj~na and there is then only the Self.

*** Read Part 13 ***