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Para-Brahma Upanishad

Translated by Prof. A. A. Ramanathan
Published by The Theosophical Publishing House, Chennai

Om ! O Devas, may we hear with our ears what is auspicious;

May we see with our eyes what is auspicious, O ye worthy of worship !

May we enjoy the term of life allotted by the Devas,

Praising them with our body and limbs steady !

May the glorious Indra bless us !


May the all-knowing Sun bless us !

May Garuda, the thunderbolt for evil, bless us !

May Brihaspati grant us well-being !

Om ! Let there be Peace in me !

Let there be Peace in my environment !

Let there be Peace in the forces that act on me !

1. Now then Saunaka, the great householder (mahashala) approached in due form the revered sage Pippalada of Angiras family and asked him: (All created things) were surely present in the divine ether of the heart of Brahman (the Hiranyagarbha). How did the great lord create them out of himself in different species and who is this great and powerful lore ? To him (Pippalada) said: The most excellent lore of Brahman which I now expound, (Brahman of that alone) is true. It shines brilliantly in the city of the transcendent Brahman, being beyond Rajas (and the other gunas), partless, pure, indestructible and sustaining the power of the senses and the vital airs. He is the creator of the group of bees (in the form of individual souls) and restrains (their outward vision). Remaining in the city of his Self, doing no worldly work (as an ascetic) (he realizes oneness with Brahman). (But) as a doer of action he reaps the fruit (of repeated births and deaths), like a farmer. The knower of the true nature of action does action, (without attachment). Knowing the secret of action, that unattached action leads to liberation (the ascetic) shall do action. Which person (possessing discrimination) will throw the net (of motivated action) on the one (Brahman, screening it) ? (Motiveless action) will not drag him (to worldliness), will not drag him.

2. The deities presiding over the vital breath are four (Vishva, Viraj, Otir and Turya). All the nadis (where the vital breath and the deities remain are also four). (The former two active in Rama and Arama get fatigued in the waking and dreaming states and rest
during) deep sleep as a hawk flying in the sky. Just as a hawk flying in the sky goes (when fatigued) into its abode, the nest, so the speaker (the Self) after remaining in this (waking) and the other (dreaming state, rests in deep sleep). This Self (while resting) in the golden transcendent sheath (of the ether of the heart) and being immortal is active in the three nadis (Rama, etc.,). (The first pada of this being avidya) it remains in the state of Brahman in the three quarters. The remaining pada (the Jiva) attains (its natural state) and then follows (i.e. attains liberation). Hence the speaker of elsewhere (the Jiva in the avidya) and the other (the Tripada Brahman are fancied to be different and thereby the Jiva wanders in bondage.

(Although) the Jiva remains in the golden transcendent sheath (of the ether of the heart, yet it experiences the states of waking, etc., due to avidya). Just as Devadatta (i.e. any person) awakened from sleep when prodded with a stick does not go back (to sleep immediately, so also the Jiva getting wisdom from the Vedanta does not have the delusion of the three states of waking, etc.,); and it is not tainted by good or bad acts (such as the optional) charitable deeds. It is similar to a small boy who experiences joy without specific desires (in whatever thing that comes to him). Just as the luminous being (Jiva), (after getting fatigued in the waking and dreaming states) welcomes the joy of deep sleep, so it experiences bliss by realizing (its oneness with) the supreme effulgence (Brahman), which gives all round lustre to luminaries (such as the sun). Thus the heart (chitta) merges itself in the highest (Brahman) and thus realizing the Paramatman enjoys bliss. The pure colour (i.e. the state of non-distinction) arises from the (grace of) Ishvara. Again by the same path of turya-svapna (dreaming in the fourth state) he gives rest to the Self. Just as a leech moves from one position to another (the Jiva moves from the waking state of the turya to the dreaming state of the turya); this desire (to move from one state to another in the turya) arises due to (the grace of) Ishvara. By this the Jiva enjoys itself (by means of the distinctionful and distinctionless deep meditation, Savikalpa and Nirvikalpa Samadhi).

The juncture of the individual and supreme consciousness is rejected as there is a tinge of distinction involved in it. (When distinctionlessness alone exists) it is the highest (i.e. Brahman) and there is nothing other than that. (When Self-realization does not result by the study, etc., of the scripture) then one shall resort to the eight-limbed Yoga; this like a flower of a plantain tree (ever rubbing against the stem and attaining the state of a blossom) succeeds (in attaining perfection). That which remains as the source of Indra (Ishvara) is ever awake there, as the source of the Veda (as Parameshvara). Beyond (the bonds of) good and bad, he (the ascetic) is not tainted by (accidental) good or bad actions. This effulgent Being is the (bestower of) favour on other gods (like the god Brahma), the ‘internal check’ of the form of unattached pure consciousness, the Purusha, the Hamsa of the Pranava, the supreme Brahman. It is not the chief Prana (vital breath). The Pranava is the Self (Jiva). (This state of the Jiva) remains as the first effulgent being. How can he who knows thus (the true nature of the Pranava) set forth difference (between the Jiva and Brahman) ? He realizes that the Jiva is Brahman (alone).

3. Then to this realized person reality (i.e. true wisdom) constitutes the inner tuft and sacred thread. To the Brahmana desirous of liberation is (allowed) the state of the inward tuft and sacred thread. The wearing of externally visible tuft and sacred thread (is necessary) for the householders engaged in rituals. The characteristic of the inward sacred thread is not clearly visible like external thread; it is the union with reality inwardly.

4. It (avidya) is not existent (as the cause is not visible), nor non-existent (as the effect is visible as the phenomenal world), nor both (existent and non-existent part, as the two are incompatible). It is not different (from Brahman as it has no independent
existence), nor non-different (as it is not a substance), nor of both (different and non-different, as it is an impossibility). It is not possessed of parts (as the parts are absent in the cause), nor partless (as the effect is seen possessed of parts), nor a combination of both. (Thus avidya is indescribable). It is to be discarded by the realization of oneness of Brahman and the Self; for it is the cause of illusion. Thus (it is to be understood).

5. There is nothing other than Brahman of the five padas (i.e. the turyatita). There are four places for realizing the inward Jiva-Brahman who consists of four padas inside the body. (The vyasti’s four padas are: Vishva, Taijasa, Prajna and Turiya. The samasti’s four padas are: Viraj, Sutra, Bija and Turiya). In the eyes, throat, heart and head there are (the four) states of waking, dreaming, deep sleep and turya. (Moreover the Atman is to be conceived as) the Ahavaniya, Garhapatya, Dakshina and Sabhya fires. In the waking state (the presiding deity is) the god Brahma, in dreaming state Vishnu, in deep sleep Rudra and the fourth state is the indestructible one, consisting of consciousness. Hence the four states (waking, etc.,) are to be considered as a covering by four fingers and just as the sacred thread is of ninety-six four-finger breadths (in extent) so the inward brahma-sutra consists of ninety-six categories (tattvas). As the sacred thread consists of three threads so the inward brahma-sutra is brought to the state of thirty two categories in each of the three gunas.

This state of the triad purified by wisdom is to be known separately as the three gods (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva). This is known as the nine Brahman-s possessed of nine attributes. These counted as nine, being rendered into three each having three attributes, are to be identified with the digits of the sun, moon and fire. The first and last (of the triad) are to be turned thrice in the middle and are to be considered as Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshvara. The first and last are to be joined and the knot of non-duality is to be made in the knot of consciousness. Then this which extends from the navel to the Brahmarandhra and connected with the twenty-seven tattvas separately and possessing the three gunas is to be considered as one though they are seen with the characteristics of the Trinity. This (inward) brahma-sutra is to be considered as hanging from the left shoulder reaching up to the right hip. The meeting together of the first and last is to be understood as having one foundation. Things made of clay are considered real (but) it is verbosity (born of ignorance); the transformation is a (mere) name; that it is clay alone is the truth. (As there is no pot
without clay, so the primary cause, Brahman alone is real).

With the two letters of the Hamsa (i.e. I am the Hamsa, Brahman) he should be convinced of the internal tuft and sacred thread. The state of a Brahmana is the state deserving meditation on Brahman. The state of being a sage has the absence of visible tuft and sacred thread. Thus the householder has visible tuft for performing ritual and the sacred thread for acquiring wisdom. To the state of the semblance of a Brahmana there is the tuft consisting of a mass of hair and sacred thread made of cotton threads. (The brahma-sutra is one alone); it is four (as Vishva, Viraj, etc.,) by quadruplication. The twenty-four tattvas constitute the threads. The nine tattvas constitute the one transcendent Brahman, (but people) provide many paths (such as Sankhya, Yoga, etc.,) due to difference in approach. Liberation is one alone to all, whether they are Brahma and the other gods, divine sages or human beings. Brahman is one alone. The state of the Brahmana is one alone. Castes, stages of life and special duties are divergent. The tuft is the same to the castes and stages of life. To the ascetic seeking salvation the basis of tuft and sacred thread, (the wise) declare, is the Pranava alone. The Hamsa is the tuft, the Pranava is the sacred thread and the Nada is the connecting link. This is the dharma and no other is the dharma. How is that ? The Pranava, Hamsa and Nada constitute the three fold thread and this remains in consciousness in one’s heart. Know this to be the three fold Brahman. (The ascetic) shall discard the worldly tuft and sacred thread.

6. Having had a shave removing the tuft, a wise person shall discard the external sacred thread. He shall have as the sacred thread the transcendent Brahman which is indestructible.

7. For avoiding rebirth he shall ever long for liberation. The sutra is so called as it indicates (liberation); the sutra indeed is the highest position.

8. He knows the sutra who has become a seeker after liberation, a mendicant monk. He is the knower of the Veda, having unimpeachable conduct. He is the learned Brahmana who sanctifies by his presence the persons who sit in the same row to dine with him.

9. The Yogin, who is the knower of Yoga, a Brahmana and an ascetic shall wear that sutra by which all this (phenomenal world) is joined together (as a unity) just as gems are strung together in a thread.

10. A learned Brahmana who is deeply intent on Yoga and spiritual wisdom shall discard the external sacred thread. He who wears the sutra consisting of devotion to Brahman attains salvation. There is neither impurity nor the state of eating the leavings of others when one possesses that sutra.

11. Those who, having the sacred thread of spiritual wisdom, possess the sutra inwardly are the knowers of the sutra in the world and they are the (true) wearers of the sacred thread.

12. Their tuft and sacred thread consist of spiritual wisdom (Jnana), they are established in Jnana; to them Jnana alone is supreme and this Jnana is declared to be sanctifying.

13. The wise one whose tuft consists of Jnana and no other, like the flame emanating from fire, is said to possess the (true) tuft; not the others who wear (a mass of) hair.

14. Those who are immersed in activities, whether Vedic (ritual) or worldly actions live as Brahmanas in name only, filling their bellies. They come to grief and have rebirth again and again.

15. The sacred thread hanging from the left shoulder to the right hip is contrariwise (to liberation). The wise shall wear (i.e. possess) true knowledge which is rooted in consciousness, having threads in the form of true principles (tattvas) and extending from the navel to the tip of the aperture in the crown of the head (Brahmarandhra).

16. This sacred thread which forms part of ritual and made of (cotton) threads is to be worn by them (i.e. the ignorant). He whose tuft consists of wisdom as also his sacred thread has all the (true) characteristics of a Brahmana; others have none at all.

17. It is this sacred thread which is the supreme panacea. The wise one who wears this sacred thread attains liberation.

18. That learned Brahmana is entitled to renunciation who has the sacred thread both within and without; but the one having one (i.e. the external one) alone is never entitled to renunciation.

19. Hence by all effort the ascetic shall long for liberation. Discarding the external thread he shall wear the internal sutra within himself.

20. Disregarding the external phenomenal world, tuft and sacred thread he shall hold on to the tuft and sacred thread in the form of the sacred syllable (Pranava) and Brahman (Hamsa) and thus equip himself for liberation. Thus declared the revered sage Saunaka. Thus (ends) the Upanishad.

Om ! O Devas, may we hear with our ears what is auspicious;

May we see with our eyes what is auspicious, O ye worthy of worship !

May we enjoy the term of life allotted by the Devas,

Praising them with our body and limbs steady !

May the glorious Indra bless us !

May the all-knowing Sun bless us !

May Garuda, the thunderbolt for evil, bless us !

May Brihaspati grant us well-being !

Om ! Let there be Peace in me !

Let there be Peace in my environment !

Let there be Peace in the forces that act on me !

Here ends the Parabrahmopanishad, included in the Atharva-Veda.

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