Reflecting on Mandukya Upanisad in a seemingly transient world

In light of this weekend’s false alarm of eminent nuclear attack, it makes one contemplate our brief existence in this embodiment and in this time. For serious yoga practitioners, the purusha, one’s soul is seen as permanent. Everything else is prakriti, or transient nature. The lila and maya, our dance with this illusion plays itself out every day.

I saw a funny meme on Facebook the other day. It said “maybe actually plants are farming us, giving us oxygen until we eventually decompose and they can consume us.” I am finding it funny that people differentiate between vegetarian and meat eaters. With my brief experience in gardening, I am realizing that plants are perhaps the most voracious meat eaters around. Browse any garden section and you see “bone meal” “fish meal” “chicken manure” etc. used as fertilizers. All fertilizers have three numbers that correspond to the percentage of nitogren, phosphorous, and potassium. There are also specialized fertilizers with trace minerals and other elements.

One realizes that we are made of the same elements of all that which surrounds us. Yoga philosophy gives us the panchamahabhutas (five gross elements) of Earth, water, fire, air, and space. As simplistic as that sounds for the scientific mind, the ancient texts state that the same elements in us are the same elements throughout the cosmos. Not so simple after all, but rather complex and mind expanding.

The main idea I have taken from the Mandukya Upanisad, is that OM is the Alpha and the Omega of the Universe. It is all pervasive and timeless. Since the Upanisad is so short, I will share it here. In 12 terse verses, The Mandukya Upanishad defines the Pranava, or sacred syllable OM:

1. OM! This Imperishable Word is the whole of this visible universe. Its explanation is as follows: What has become, what is becoming, what will become – verily, all of this is OM. And what is beyond these three states of the world of time – that too, verily, is OM.

2. All this, verily, is Brahman. The Self is Brahman. This Self has four quarters.

3. The first quarter is Vaiśvānara. Its field is the waking state. Its consciousness is outward-turned. It is seven- limbed and nineteen-mouthed. It enjoys gross objects.

4. The second quarter is taijasa. Its field is the dream state. Its consciousness is inward-turned. It is seven-limbed and nineteen-mouthed. It enjoys subtle objects.

5. The third quarter is prājña, where one asleep neither desires anything nor beholds any dream: that is deep sleep. In this field of dreamless sleep, one becomes undivided, an undifferentiated mass of consciousness, consisting of bliss and feeding on bliss. His mouth is consciousness.

6. This is the Lord of All; the Omniscient; the Indwelling Controller; the Source of All. This is the beginning and end of all beings.

7. That is known as the fourth quarter: neither inward- turned nor outward-turned consciousness, nor the two together; not an indifferentiated mass of consciousness; neither knowing, nor unknowing; invisible, ineffable, intangible, devoid of characteristics, inconceivable, indefinable, its sole essence being the consciousness of its own Self; the coming to rest of all relative existence; utterly quiet; peaceful; blissful: without a second: this is the Ātman, the Self; this is to be realised.

8. This identical Ātman, or Self, in the realm of sound is the syllable OM, the above described four quarters of the Self being identical with the components of the syllable, and the components of the syllable being identical with the four quarters of the Self. The components of the Syllable are A, U, M.

9. Vaiśvānara, whose field is the waking state, is the first sound, A, because this encompasses all, and because it is the first. He who knows thus, encompasses all desirable objects; he becomes the first.

10. Taijasa, whose field is the dream state, is the second sound, U, because this is an excellence, and contains the qualities of the other two. He who knows thus, exalts the flow of knowledge and becomes equalised; in his family there will be born no one ignorant of Brahman.

11. Prājña, whose field is deep sleep, is the third sound, M, because this is the measure, and that into which all enters. He who knows thus, measures all and becomes all.

12. The fourth is soundless: unutterable, a quieting down of all relative manifestations, blissful, peaceful, non-dual. Thus, OM is the Ātman, verily. He who knows thus, merges his self in the Self – yea, he who knows thus.

Om śantih; śantih; śantih




9 thoughts on “Reflecting on Mandukya Upanisad in a seemingly transient world

  1. accidental goddess

    I love the thought that plants are eating us. Did you mean trace minerals instead of trance minerals? Maybe not and that is why plants are so magical? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. ambfoxx

    I like the way you organized this and developed your theme, connecting the earthly process of gardening with the spiritual aspects of reality. And the trance elements made me smile, too.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. swtspontaneous

    Not to mention venus fly traps… I tried to suggest to my fellow yogis that ahimsa doesn’t just mean non-harm. It also means non-interference (with the natural order). The vegans were a bit taken aback and disagreed vehemently.
    I love that silence is also a sound in your list. Sometimes we forget that silence is also a sacred sound, not just all of the other sounds we hear or utter.
    Thank you for your enlightening post, as always!
    How did it feel to see the false alarms? How did you respond to the alarm and your fellow Hawaiians?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yogibattle Post author

      Read my last post before this. Regarding ahimsa, the Bhagavad Gita goes in this at length about going to battle and staying true to the teachings. Dilemmas we face daily…



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