Mundaka Upanishad (Sanskri Text, Transliteration, Word-to-Word Meaning, English Translation and Detailed Notes) - A Most Useful Edition for Self Study


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There are sixty-four verses or Mantras in this Upanisad, divided into three chapters each comprising two Sections or Khaç1as. The whole book as well as each chapter is called Mundaka, a word etymologically denoting a shaving razor and a person with a shaven head, namely, a Sannyasin or a monk. A probable explanation for naming the Upanisad thus is made out from these two senses of the word by some who say (1) that Parã-vidyä or the higher wisdom so lucidly and directly taught herein removes the superimposed veil of ignorance obscuring the Atman just as a razor shaves off the hair covering the head; and (2) that the Upanisad is pre-eminently intended for the Sannyasin, emphasizing as it does the necessity of Sannyasa for the attainment of the Eternal and the Imperishable. It belongs to the Atharva-veda, and presumably to the Saunakiyasakha, since its contents were taught to Saunaka by Angiras, who in his turn had learned it from Bharadvaja Satyavaha, the disciple of Atharvan the eldest son and pupil of Brahma. The authoritativeness of the instruction imparted is brought out by this genealogical table.

“By knowing which, inquires Saunaka of Angiras, with due ceremony and reverence, “is all this- the entire phenomena experienced through the mind and the senses—really understood?” To this essential question of all sciences and philosophy Angiras gives a proper and elaborate reply, covering the remaining part of the Upanisad, and answering all possible questions implied in the original inquiry At the outset a logical scheme of the entire province of knowledge is drawn up, which subordinates all practical and theoretical learning available then (and even now) to the, realization of the particular items Imperishable (Para-vidya), where all of knowledge converge surva- vidya-pratishta The Upaniadic knowledge that is helpful to this realization is also called Parä-vidya. In the first section of the first chapter the nature of the Imperishable is hinted ‘at in an early verse and this is fittingly followed by the description, with the aid of vivid similes, of how the universe, so different from It, has sprung into existence “out of” It alone. The second section gives a realistic account of the grand mechanism of Vedic ritualism in a few quick and arresting verses. That there is no desire to disparage Vedic rituals is evident from the special care the Upanisad takes to emphasize the need or their devout and flawless performance and the great evil resulting from carelessness in this regard. The object, on the other hand, is to bring home to the wise and discriminating the fact that the immeasurable universe with its exalted heavenly regions accessible and enjoyable in virtue of the merit acquired by the scrupulous performance of Vedic sacrifices, is but perishable, and thereby to exhort the true spiritual aspirant to cultivate knowledge, dispassion, austerity, concentration, faith and love of solitude, for the attainment of the Immortal and the Imperishable.

The first section of the second chapter gives the Upaniadic cosmology in sublime and picturesque language, the last verse beautifully disclosing that Purusa’ the Supreme Being, is all — the universe, Karma, Tapas and immortality — by realizing whom in one’s heart one breaks the shackles of ignorance. The second section speaks mainly of the means of knowing Him in one’s Self, namely, meditation with the aid of the sound symbol Om. To facilitate this meditation the Supreme Being is here again described as the illuminator of the cosmic luminaries, and as the blissful, immortal, omnipresent Brahman who encompasses all, above, below and around, and reigns with all splendor in the heart of man. This leads to a statement of the relation between the Paramatman and the Jivatman; and the third chapter therefore opens with the charmingly vivid and well-known allegory of the two “birds of golden plumage” seated on the self-same tree. The Upanisad then proceeds to lay down in clear and trenchant language the ethical virtues and spiritual practices which enable the spiritual aspirant to know the Supreme “by knowing whom one understands the meaning of all existence’‘ The discipline needed for rendering One competent to gain the Knowledge is given in sufficient detail in this chapter.

We see that there is thus a logical development and unity in this clear-cut beautiful, short Upanisad Along with the katha and the Svetavatara it forms a soul-stirring Mantropanisad (the Word “Mantra” in this context does not denote more than “a sacred verse”, Since the contents clearly reveal that these Mantras are not intended to be used as invocations in sacrificial rituals) — varied and charming in metre and diction, exalted in its spiritual strain and Uniform in its sublimity. I may be likened also to the bhagavad Gita as it forms in a miniature compass a practical text of Jnana, Yoga and Bhakti (emphasized here as “Sraddha’) in their pristine purity. These sixty four stanzas, if mastered by long and constant meditation upon their deep significance Would undoubtedly instill into the student the spirit of holiness, dispassion and knowledge, which they breathe through every word, and help him to realize the Supreme Purusa the omnipresent and immortal Bliss anandarupam amrtam yad vidhati .




Key to Transliteration and Prounciation IV
Introduction V
Peace Invocation 1
First Mundaka  
Section 1 4
Section 2 5
Second Mundaka  
Section 1 30
Section 2 40
Third Mundaka  
Section 1 54
Section 2 67
Index to slokas 81s

Sample Pages

Item Code: NAE787
Cover: Paperback
Edition: 2014
Publisher: Sri Ramakrishna Math
ISBN: 9788171201594
Language: Sanskrit Text With English Translation
Size: 7.0 inch X 5.0 inch
Pages: 89
Other Details: Weight of the Book: 70 gms