mANDUkya upaniShad Part 4

Mantra 3

*** Read Part 3 ***

जाग्रितस्थानो भिष्प्रज्ञः सप्ताङ्ग एकोन्विंश्तिमुखः स्थूलभुग्वैश्वानरः प्रथमः पादः॥ ३॥

jAgaritasthAno bahiShpraj~naH saptA~Nga ekonaviMshatimukhaH sthUlabhugvaishvAnaraH prathamaH pAdaH || 3 ||

prathamaH pAdaH – The first aspect (of the Self)
vaishvAnara – is vaishvAnara (or vishva)
jAgaritasthAna – (This is) the waking state
praj~na – (and it is one in which one’s) knowing awareness
bahis – (is) turned outwards
sapta a~Nga (a~Nga literally means ‘limb’) – (This aspect has) seven divisions  ekonaviMshatimukhaH – and nineteen interfaces (with the outside world) (viMshati is ‘twenty’ and ekona is ‘one less than’; mukha literally means ‘mouth’ or ‘opening’)
sthUlabhugvaishvAnaraH  – vaishvAnara (is) the enjoyer (bhug = bhuj = bhoktA; experiencer, enjoyer) of the gross world.

The first aspect of the Self is vaishvAnara. This is the waking state in which one’s awareness is turned outwards to the external world. vaishvAnara has seven parts and experiences the universe via 19 interfaces.

Mantras 3 – 7 carry out an investigation into the nature of the Self (Atma vichAra) and 3 – 6 look specifically at the waker, dreamer and deep sleeper, while 7 is the mantra which ‘describes’ turIya, our true Self. The reality is that I am the unassociated Atman but in the several states (avasthA-s), I associate myself with gross, subtle and causal name and form and believe myself to be the waker, dreamer and deep-sleeper, respectively. These states are all mithyA.

Before explaining the detail of this mantra, I want to highlight the possible confusion regarding the use of the term vaishvAnara. I haven’t encountered anyone suggesting that there is confusion but it certainly seems that way to me! The more usual term for the individual waker is vishva, while the term normally used for the macrocosmic or universal aspect is virAT. Now, of course, ‘I’ am all of these in reality. In the case of the waking world, ‘I’ as Consciousness, Atman, am the waking observer and knower of the external world. But I am also the known universe of objects – sarvaM khalvidam brahma, as it is said in the Chandogya Upanishad (All this, verily, is brahman). Accordingly, it is true that I am the waker, vishva, but it is also true that I am the macrocosmic virAT.

However, you might think that at this stage in the Upanishad, it would be unreasonable to suppose that the disciple understands all this. And if he does, there would seem to be no point in analyzing the states in the first place. Furthermore, the next mantra speaks of the second pada being taijasa and the fifth and sixth mantra describe the third pada as praj~nA. These are the dreamer and deep-sleeper ‘I’ from the individual point of view.

Accordingly, it might seem to be more than a little incongruous to speak of the individual dreamer and sleeper but of a universal waker. And Swami Sivananda is quite unambiguous in his commentary:

The text here gives a description of vaishvAnara or vishva and not the virAT. virAT is the universal or the macrocosmic aspect of Ishvara and vishva is the individual or microcosmic aspect. The sum total of all vishva-s is virAT. jIva is a microcosm of the great macrocosm. (Ref. 22)

But some commentators point to the word in its universal sense. Prof. J. H. Dave (Ref. 21) says:

vishva, who is called saptA~Nga is now explained as described in prashna Upanishad and this vishva (Atma in the waking state) is identified with vaishvAnara, the Atma of the universe, in the manner explained hereafter.

 And later:

vaishvAnara means one who leads all creatures in various ways, or he is all beings (the different creatures experience pleasure or pain according to their meritorious or evil acts and this vaishvAnara is the giver of the rewards of their acts – that is why he is called vaishvAnara)… he is the Atma of all the beings as seen in the aggregate in the sense of samaShTi and also called virAT.

It seems that the allusion to the seven limbs etc, which is taken from the Chandogya Upanishad (and described below) is perhaps to blame. Swami Krishnananda’s commentary on this ‘vaishvAnara vidyA’ portion of Chandogya actually has headings of ‘Air as the breath of the Universal Self’, ‘Space as the body of the Universal Self’ etc. clearly indicating that the term vaishvAnara is used in its macrocosmic sense.

Swami Sharvananda reconciles this to some degree when he says (Ref. 6):

The gross macrocosmic aspect of the Universal Soul is called virAT and the microcosmic is known as vaishvAnara. The Upanishad describes here only the vishva or the vaishvAnara and not the virAT. Thereby it tacitly alludes to the fact that the same Atman who is viewed from the individual standpoint as the individual soul is also the Universal Soul.

But if you read Shankara’s commentary carefully, it becomes clear that the apparent confusion is quite deliberate. vishva is definitely the individual and virAT is definitely the samaShTi. vaishvAnara therefore makes us think and hopefully realize that I am both. It is intentionally pointing to the apparent duality by speaking of the individual but referencing the Chandogya description of the cosmic and therefore saying that the reality is non-dual.

Professor Dave’s commentary also draws on the notes from kUranArAyan of the vishiShTAdvaita school, madhva and shrinivAsa of the dvaita school and puruShottama gosvAmi of the shuddhAdvaita school, as well as Shankara’s, but it is not always obvious whose comments are whose! At any rate, it is explained there (by someone!) that:

The intention is to state that there is no bheda (difference) between adhyAtma (individual) and adhidaiva (relating to gods). Thus the first quarter mentioned in connection with vishva is also of virAT, the totality of the gross universe.

And Shankara’s comment clarifies:

And in this way alone the non-duality can be established by the cessation of the entire illusory phenomenal multiplicity; and further that one AtmA is realized as abiding in all beings as also all beings are seen as abiding in AtmA.

If we dealt with only the individual waker, we would have an assumed separate world and hence no possibility of non-duality. So it is as well to establish from the outset that, when we speak of whichever state – gross, subtle or causal – we are intending to refer to the individual, subjective aspect and the universal, objective aspect also. jIvo brahmaiva nAparah – I am not other than brahman.

The Sanskrit derivation of vaishvAnara is from the words vishva, meaning ‘all, whole, entire, universal’ and nara, meaning ‘man, humanity’. The idea is that we (in the waking state) are continually looking ‘outwards’ towards enjoyment of external things, turning away from an investigation into the inner self. We go after things because we mistakenly assume that they will satisfy our desires. In fact, the only thing that will bring realization of the truth of the already-existing limitlessness nature of ourselves is Self-knowledge.

vishva is identified as the ‘first aspect’ because the waking state is the one in which we begin and carry out our investigations. We think that it is the waking state that is primary and the others are merely supportive, allowing the mind and body to recuperate so as to allow us to return to the fray. It is only later that we realize that the waking world is only the gross aspect.

At the macrocosmic or samaShTi level, I am the known world of gross objects, while at the microcosmic or vyaShTi level I am the individual knower of this world. This is analogous to the way in which, in my dreams, I divide myself as it were into the dreamer and the dreamed universe. But, whereas the dream world is constituted from my own mind, the waking world is made up of the five elements (pa~nchabhUta-s) – ether, AkAsha; air, vAyu; fire, tejas; water, ap; earth, pRRithivI. Therefore who-I-really-am, the Atman, seemingly divides into the subjective vyaShTi knower and the objective samaShTi known, in the gross waking state.

This knower experiences the known universe via nineteen interfaces, There are five sense organs, or organs for acquiring knowledge – j~nAnendriya-s, through which data enters from the outside: sight, chakShus; hearing, shrotra; taste, rasana; smell, ghrANa;  touch, tvak. There are five organs of action – karmendriya-s – via which we interact with and impact upon the outside world: speech, vAk; grasping, pANi; movement, pAda; excretion, pAyu; generation, upastha. There are five aspects to the vital force – prANa – that maintain the body in a functional state: the air itself in the lungs etc, prANa; that associated with excretion, apAna; that which governs the circulation of blood in the body, vyAna; that controlling digestion, samAna; that directing the vital force upwards, udAna. Finally, there are the organs of mind: manas is responsible for managing data input/output and the emotions; buddhi controls the intellectual and discriminatory functions; chitta refers to the subconscious and memory aspects; ahaMkAra is the ego element. 5 + 5 +5 + 4 = 19.

The reference to ‘seven limbs’ derives from Chandogya Upanishad 5.18.2. “Of that very vaishvAnara-self who is such, heaven indeed is the head, sun is the eye, air is the vital force, sky is the middle-part of the body, water is the bladder, earth indeed is the two feet, sacrificial alter is the chest, kusha-grass is the hair, gArhaptaya-fire is the heart, anvAhArya-pachana-fire is the mind, AhavanIya-fire is the mouth.” (Swami Gambhirananda translation)

Precisely how this maps onto seven limbs is a bit unclear (Swami Lokeswarananda in Ref. 20 even finds ‘nose’ from somewhere!) but the consensus seems to be that these seven are:

  • heaven – the word used in the text is sutejas, which means ‘very bright, splendid’. This represents the head.
  • sun – the word used is vishvarUpa, which means ‘manifold, various or multicolored’ or literally ‘form of everything’. This represents the eye.
  • The remaining five limbs are the five elements. Air, vAyu (the breath);
  • space or ether, AkAsha (the body); 
  • fire, tejas (the mouth – fire is traditionally associated with vAk, speech);
  • water, ap (the lower belly or bladder);
  • earth, pRRithivI (the feet).  

*** to be continued ***