Translation by Jayaram V
The Prasna Upanishad, as the name suggests, is a Upanishad of
six questions, put forward by six seekers of truth to their master, sage Pippalapada
on subjects concerning the origin of creation, who are the supporting and
illuminating powers of manifest creation, from where does life come to the
physical body, which powers are awake and which are dormant when a person is
asleep, the benefits of chanting the sacred mantra Aum and the sixteen
tattvas or principles of creation. From the Upanishad we learn that an
enlightened master would not reveal the secrets of the higher knowledge unless
he was satisfied that the recipients were qualified and disciplined. Pippalapada
insisted that his disciples stayed with him for a year before he would answer
them any questions they asked. The following translation is incomplete. I hope
to complete it sometime in the near future.
1. Aum, O gods, may we hear with our ears what is auspicious. O those who are qualified for worship, may we see with our eyes what is auspicious. May we enjoy the life given to us by gods, with bodies of strong limb, living for the sake of gods.
2. May Indra, of ever increasing vigor, bestow upon us prosperity. May Pusan, the knower of all, bring to us prosperity. May Tarksya, the obstructer of misfortune, grant us prosperity. May Brihaspati, give us prosperity. Aum, peace, peace, peace.
1. Once Sukesa, son of Bharadvaja, Satyakama son of Sibi, Gargya grandson of Surya, Kausalya son of Asvala, Bhargava of the Vidarbha country, Kabandhi son of Katya, these, devoted to Brahman, their minds concentrated on Brahman, seeking the highest Brahman, approached the revered Pippalada with sacrificial fuel in their hands, thinking that he would explain all knowledge to them.
2. The seer addressed them thus, "Live with me for one year, practicing austerity, chastity and faith. Then ask us whatever questions you desire to ask and if we know, we shall, indeed, give you the replies."
3. Then Kabandhi, son of Katya, approached him and asked, "Venerable sir, from where have all these creatures come?"
4. To him he gave this reply, "God, desirous of offspring, performed austerity, and having performed austerity, produced the pair of matter and life, thinking that they would produce manifold beings for him.
5. The sun is, indeed, the life. Matter is the moon. Whether formed or formless, all this is verily matter. Therefore, all that is formed is but a part of this matter only.
6. Now, after the dawn, the sun enters this world from the eastern side. There he bathes in his rays all life that is in the east. He spreads his radiance in other directions also, namely the south, the west, the north, all that is below, above and in between, and bathes in his rays all living beings that are in these quarters.
7. This is he, the Vaisvanara fire of innumerable forms, (verily) life and fire, who rises from the east . This is what is expressed in a verse of the Rg Veda.
8. Of innumerable forms, golden colored, the knower of all, the goal (of all), the one light, the producer of heat, with a thousand rays, of a hundred forms - thus rises the sun, the life force of all creation.
9. The year is indeed Lord Himself. It has two paths, the southern and the nothern. Now those, who perform works according to their desires or for some fulfillment, win only material gains and the human world. They certainly return again. The sages, who desire of offspring, take the southern route. This which is called the path of ancestors, is verily a material path.
10. But the seekers of Self who practice austerity, chastity, faith and knowledge, reach the sun through the northern route. That is the support of all life. That is eternal and fearless - the final goal, the obstructer (of rebirth). No one ever returns from it. About it, we have this verse:
11. He is described by some as the father of five feet and twelve forms, who is seated in the upper half of the heavens, full of water, and by others as as the omniscient who rides (a chariot of ) seven wheels and six spokes.
12 The month, verily, is God himself. Of this the dark half is matter and the bright half is life. That is why, the seers perform sacrifices in the bright half while others perform them in the other half.
13. Day and night are, indeed, God himself. Of this, day is life and the night is matter. They who join in sexual intercourse during the day waste their life force while those who do it during the night remain chaste indeed.
14. Food, indeed, is Lord himself; from it, verily, comes semen and from the semen are born all creatures of this world.
15. Thus, those who practice sexual intercourse and produce children, following the rule of God, gain the right to enter the world of Brahman, with austerity, chastity and truth firmly established in them.
16. To them belongs that spotless world of Brahman, to those without any trace of crookedness, falsehood or delusion.
Suggested Further Reading