Spirituality Insight

Prashna Upanishad – The Only Goal

(Continued from the last edition…)

Guru Pippalaada continues to explain the essence of matter (rayi) and energy (prana) to the six disciples.

Verse 1.6 All is Prana
Explains the Guru, ‘The Sun first rises in the east, lighting all the pranas in this direction with its rays. Then it embraces the southern, western and northern directions. Then it lights the above, the below, and the intermediary areas. When all these directions are lit, all the pranas are covered by its rays.’

The essence of his teaching is to imagine the Sun’s rays embracing everything in each direction, and thereby to see that it embraces prana and rayi too. It is an exercise in seeing that God is in everything, animate and inanimate. An extension of this exercise helps us see God in every one.

Verse 1.7 Source of Prana and Rayi
Says the Guru, ‘He is Vaiswaanara, who assumes all forms. Prana is the fire that rises daily. The Rig Veda too says this.’

Vaiswaanara is the essence or consciousness of all beings, and the life that arises. It means that every being is identified with the rest of creation, whether the creation is of matter or energy. Further, it is the Vaiswaanara that lives through each being.

Verse 1.8 The Only Light and Goal
The Guru refers to the Rigveda, ‘That which possesses all forms, the radiant, all-knowing one, the goal of all beings, the only light, the one that gives heat, possesses a thousand rays and exists in a hundred forms, he is the Sun that rises, the life of all creation.’
It is a vision of the one being symbolized as the Sun, he who is the only light and goal of all living things, he is the life within all creation.

Verse 1.9 Southern Path
Says the Guru, ‘Prajapati is the year and it is in the southern and the northern paths.


The ones who follow the southern path, the path of desire, performing sacrificial and pious acts, gain the world of the Moon, the material things, and they are reborn. The ones who desire offspring take this path, the path of the forefathers.’

To explain Prajapati, the Guru uses the concept of time, which is divided symbolically into the southern and northern paths. When we engage in acts that bring about our own benefit, or for public good, involving conventional piety and good deeds, and in acts of fulfilment the way our forefathers have, we take the southern path, gaining that which we work for, and we take birth again. This path does not liberate us from the cycle of life and death.

Verse 1.10 Northern Path
Says the Guru, ‘Those who take the northern path, practicing austerity, celibacy, with faith in the Atman and self-knowledge, they seek the Atman and gain the world of the Sun, which is home to all living beings. It is immortal, a place without fear, and the highest goal. These beings do not return for rebirth. That is the end.’
Those who take the northern path, reach the Sun, symbolically speaking, they reach the highest goal, the home of all living beings, which is the source from which we all arise. For those on this path, there is no cycle of birth and death.
This stage is different from jivanmukti, which is attained when one unites with Brahman, the ultimate.
(Continued in the next issue…)


Prashnopanishad is a set of six questions posed by six students to their Guru Pippalaada, beginning with the concept of the macrocosm and proceeding towards the microcosm.


Prashna Upanishad is considered the fourth among the principal Upanishads. Also called Prashnopanishad or Shat Prashna Upanishad, it is part of the Atharva Veda along with the Mundaka Upanishad and the Mandukya Upanishad.
The oldest Upanishad is said to be composed in 800 BC and the principal Upanishads are believed to have been composed by the start of the common era.
In the Prashnopanishad, six questions are asked by six students; Kabandhi, son of Katya; Bhargava, of the gotra of Bhrigu of Vidarbha; Kausalya, son of Asvala; Sauryayani, of the gotra of Garga and grandson of Surya; Satyakama, son of Sibi; and Sukesa, son of Bharadvaja. Starting with the macrocosm, the questions proceed towards the microcosm and Guru Pippalaada gives the answers. The first three are metaphysical questions, the fourth question deals with philosophy, the fifth deals with Om and the sixth with Moksha.
When the six students approach him, Guru Pippalaada tells them to remain with him for a year with austerity, celibacy and faith. At the end of the year, he says, they can ask him the questions they wish to ask and that if he knows the answer, he will explain things to them.

After the year is over, Kabandhi, son of Katya, asks the first question, “From where are all these creatures born?”
Pippalaada replies, “Prajapati, the lord of all beings, decided to perform penance. After performing the penance, he brought about the union of matter and spirit so that many creatures could be produced from the union.”
According to Tattwa Bodha, at the top of the hierarchy is Brahman, or the Supreme Self, the non-dual reality. Maya, or illusion arises below that, leading to Ishwara, the Creator, or consciousness of the causal body. Below that is Hiranyagarbha, the cosmic womb or consciousness with the subtle body. It is that which is manifested, and is also known as Prajapati. This represents consciousness with the mind and it is at this level that austerity is performed.


Prajapati views rayi (matter) and prana (energy or life force) as equal although differences exist between the two.
Matter is gross and visible, it is the object, and it is inert and inanimate. Energy is subtle and invisible, it is the subject, that is, the performer of action, and it is dynamic and can perceive things. To Prajapati, these differences do not matter and both rayi and prana enjoy equal status.
Guru Pippalaada continues, “Sun is the energy or life, and Moon is the matter. Matter is that which has form and the formless. Hence, form is matter.”
Prajapati views both matter and energy, the form and formless, as equal and arising from the subtle elements. The Sun and Moon are not the celestial objects in the sky, but symbolic of energy and matter respectively. From this point of view, everything is matter and there is no difference between the two, although one cannot exist without the other. At the unmanifest level, they are prana, at the manifest level, they are rayi. The idea is that the Supreme Being pervades the Universe whether manifest or not.
(Continued in the next issue…)


The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us who a neighbour is and how to love a neighbour.



Teachings in the form of stories have a way of lasting for centuries. In case of Jesus Christ’s parables, they have lasted for millennia. Comprising a large part of Christ’s teachings, they come to us through the gospels of Mathew, Mark, and Luke and are believed to be in the words of Christ himself, and hence from the Father, God.
The parable of the Good Samaritan is one such story, holding layers of teaching within it. The parable goes beyond the concept of simply helping someone in need.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
A person of law once asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus asked him, “What is written in the law?”
The man replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbour as yourself.” He then asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?”
In answer, Jesus narrated the parable of the good Samaritan. “A man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho when robbers attacked him. They beat him, stripped him of his clothes and left him half-dead. A priest who was passing by saw the man, and walked on the other side of the road without stopping to help him.
So did a Levite.
But a Samaritan took pity on him, poured oil and wine, and bandaged his wounds. He put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day, he gave two denari to the innkeeper, and asked him to look after the man. He also told him that he would reimburse any extra expense that the innkeeper might incur.”
Jesus then asked the man of law, “Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?”
The man answered, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”


Although the story is clear in itself, the social context of the time throws light on Jesus Christ’s teaching.
During the days of Jesus, Jews despised the Samaritans. According to the social structure, the priests came first, then the Levites, then the Jews, then the tax collectors, outcasts and sinners. After these people came the Samaritans, placing them lower than the outcasts. Yet, it is the Samaritan who comes to the man’s rescue.
It is interpreted that the man who was robbed was a Jew. Yet, the Samaritan stops to help him, giving his time, effort and money for the man’s well-being.
With this parable, Jesus teaches that it is one’s actions and not social standing that is important. He also highlights three attitudes which stand in contrast to one another. First, the robber whose attitude is ‘what is yours is mine’. Second, the priest and the Levite’s attitude, ‘what is mine is mine’ and finally the Samaritan’s attitude, ‘what is mine is yours’.

Pancha Brahma – Sadashiva

Lord Shiva in the form of Sadashiva is the five-faced God who ensures creation, protection, destruction, obscuration and revelation


Lord Shiva symbolises moksha, which is liberation from the cycle of life and birth. As the destroyer in the holy trinity – Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh – he gives rise to new creation. Popularly known as the destroyer, he symbolises the death of evil, and of illusion, leading to transformation.
Yet, he is also known as Sadashiva, the five-faced God who represents all these aspects and more, and the five faces are known as Pancha Brahma.
Pancha Brahma
Lord Shiva is said to have five visible faces or forms, and one which remains invisible. Shiva with the five faces is known as Sadashiva and his consort is Gayatri Devi. The five visible and the one invisible face are as follows:

Sadyojata: This is the creative aspect and faces West. It represents the earth element and refers to iccha shakti (power of will).

Vamadeva: This is the protective aspect and faces North. It represents the water element. This aspect is attained through the Sun’s energy and is the life force. It enables souls to work out their karma, allowing them to experience dharma, artha and kama.

Aghora: This is the destructive-rejuvenative aspect and faces South. It represents the fire element. It is attained through jnana shakti (power of knowledge). It is tranquil and enables one to remain aware in consciousness.

Tatpurusha: This is the concealing grace, which leaves people in illusion, and faces East. It represents the air element and is attained through ananda shakti (power of bliss) which enables the individual to merge with the infinite.

Nataraja – Revealing the Sadashiva
The five forms reveal Lord Shiva’s aspects of creation, protection, destruction, the soul’s delusion, and subsequent illumination. Nataraja’s posture depicts these five aspects. His upper-right arm, holding the drum, which gives the primordial sound, causes the cycle of creation (srishti). The lower-right arm in abaya mudra, symbolises protection (sthiti). Fire in the upper-left arm stands for destruction (samhara). The right foot upon a person symbolises the concealing grace (tirodhana), which keeps the truth from souls. The raised left foot and lower left arm, which is held in the position of an elephant trunk, symbolises the revealing grace (anugraha) which allows the soul to see that it is one with the Lord.
Pancha Brahma Mantra
The five verses of the Pancha Brahma mantra are chanted in the reverse order (shlokas 21 to 17) and are given here in this order:
īśānassarva vidyānām īśvaras sarva bhūtānām brahmādhipatir brahmaṇo’dhipatir brahmā śivo me astu sadāśivom
tatpurushāya vidmahe mahādevāya dhīmahi tanno rudraḥ prachodayāt
aghorebhyotha ghorebhyo ghora ghoretarebhyas sarvebhyas sarvasarvebhyo namaste astu rudrarūpebhyaḥ
vāmadevāya namo jyeshṭhāya namaḥ śreshṭhāya namo rudrāya namaḥ kālāya namaḥ kalavikaraṇāya namo balavikaraṇāya namo balāya namo balapramathanāya namas sarvabhūta damanāya namo manonmanāya namaḥ
sadyojātam prapadyāmi sadyojātāya vai namo namaḥ bhave bhavenātibhave bhavasva mām bhavodbhavāya namaḥ
Kṛishṇa Yajurveda, Taittirīya Āraṇyaka 10.17-21
(Courtesy: www.hinduismtoday.com)


Bhagavata Purana lays emphasis on dharma, bhakti and Advaita



Bhagavata Purana also known as Srimad Bhagavatam is a classic Vedic philosophical treatise and includes stories on Lord Krishna. Counted among the 18 Mahapuranas, the date of its composition is around 1800 BC to 5000 BC.
Also called Fifth Veda, it comprises 12 books with 332 chapters; and 16,000 to 18,000 verses. The most popular is the 10th book dealing with Lord Krishna’s life.
Bhagavata Purana stresses on bhakti to God and speaks about Advaita or non-duality of the soul; and jiva or individual soul being part of Brahman (the impersonal one).
The sage poet Veda Vyasa wrote Bhagavata Purana. Before writing Bhagavata, Vyasa codified the Vedas dividing it into 4 parts (in honorific sense Veda Vyasa means “the one who classified the Vedas”); and of course, giving Mahabharata as gift to mankind.
Book One speaks about the dialogue between sages Vyasa and Narada. The two discuss Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads. Narada says, ‘I meditated on “Self in Self through Self and understood what bhakti is.”’
After discussion with Narada, Vyasa wrote Bhagavata Purana which he taught to his son Shuka who as a recluse once saw King Parikshit dying on the banks of Ganges. Parikshit asks Shuka what he should do with death approaching. Shuka tells the King to control the mind and contemplate on AUM


(the vibration that connects the entire universe) so as to merge with supreme universal consciousness. Book Seven is dedicated to Hiranyakasipu and his son Prahlada. It narrates the demon’s death at the hands of Narasimha, incarnation of Vishnu. Prahlada is considered top-notch devotee of Vishnu and personifies bhakti. It also deals with Advaita or non-dualism of the Brahman, the “immutable Self.”
Bhagavatam describes how Yadavas indulged in infighting leading to destruction of Yadava dynasty. The end comes from a brutal internecine war, described as a drunken fight.

Book 10, the longest book of the Bhagavatam, is all about Lord Krishna and his growing up with Yashoda, stealing butter, showing the entire universe within himself, killing the demon Putana, lifting the Goverdhan hill to protect his people, and Raas Leela (dance of divine love) with Gopis.
Gopis were the greatest devotees of Krishna and their transcendental love for the Lord was of highest order. It was divine raas leela of the Lord with the cowherd-maidens of Vrindavan. Krishna, the embodiment of bliss, was their spiritual master who taught them the esoteric science of yoga for being in Communion with God.

Krishna too leaves for Vaikuntha following the carnage.
Bhagavatam emphasises detachment and virtuousness. It gives out the essence of Dharma (universal principle of law, order, harmony, and truth); Advaita (Brahman, the supreme soul); and bhakti (highest expression of spiritual love) as means to attain salvation.


Bhaja Govindam propounds bhakti yoga as a means to salvation


Bhaja Govindam, Adi Shankaracharya’s composition, is also known as Moha Mudgara, meaning, a hammer to shatter illusion. In it, Shankaracharya explains Bhakti Yoga as the means to liberation from the cycle of birth and death. He says that we must renounce our pride and ego and surrender to God.
Shankaracharya was born in Kerala during the 8th century, and had written commentaries on the Brahma Sutras, the Upanishads and the Gita. He had preached Advaita Vedanta, that the soul and the supreme soul are one. Shankaracharya gave importance to Anubhava, which is experiencing for oneself that the self is the same as Brahman, the Supreme Soul.
Of the Bhaja Govindam’s 31 verses, Shankaracharya had composed 12 in addition to the first one, which is the refrain. Hence, these verses are called Dvaadasamanjarika Stotra. His 14 disciples are said to have added a verse each, and these are called Chaturdasa Manjarika Stotra. To these, Shankaracharya added another five, making it a 31-verse composition in addition to the refrain.
Bhaja Govindam tells people to ask themselves the questions, ‘Who am I?’, ‘Why am I here in this life?’, ‘What is the Truth?’, with each verse standing on its own and helping in deep contemplation.

Bhaja Govindam, Bhaja Govindam,
Govindam Bhaja Moodha Mate
Samprapthe sannihite kale
Nahi nahi rakshathi dookran karane.

Worship Govinda, Worship Govinda,
Worship Govinda, you fool!
At the time of your death
Rules of grammar will not save you.

Punarapi jananam punarapi maranam,
Punarapi Janani jatare sayanam
Iha samsaare khalu dusthare
Krupayaa pare pahi murare.

Again and again one is born, again and again one dies
Again and again one sleeps in the mother’s womb
Help me cross this limitless sea of life
Which is uncrossable.

Kasthwam ko aham kutha ayatha
Kaa me Janani ko me thatha.
Ithi paribhavaaya sarvamasaaram
Viswam tyakthwa Swapna vichaaram

Who am I? Where did I come from?
Who is my mother? Who is my father?
Think of these, realise that this world,
Is a meaningless mirage,
And leave this dream-like world.

Kaamam krodham lobham moham
Tyakthwaathmanam bhavaya koham
Atma jnana viheena mooda
Sthepachyanthe naraka nigooda

Leave out your passion,
Leave out your anger,
Leave out your love for money,
Leave out your yearning in life,
Think and think, who you are?
Those who find it not, are but fools,
And are always happy in hell.

When Shankaracharya was walking through Kashi, he came across an aged scholar repeating the rules of grammar. Shankara is believed to have composed the Bhaja Govindam when explaining to the scholar that he must turn his mind to God rather than waste time on grammar.
At Kashi, Shankaracharya after taking bath in Ganga was proceeding towards the temple of Lord Viswanath with his disciples when a Chandala (outcaste) came along with his dogs and brushed one of the disciples who shouted “get away, get away – don’t touch us.”
Chandala countered “when the same Supreme Spirit pervades everywhere how could one contaminate the other”? Shankaracharya was struck speechless and acknowledged this truth. Then the outcaste revealed himself as Lord Shiva. This experience led the seer to compose his immortal poem ‘Manisha Panchakam’ which says even a low caste can enlighten the greatest of all teachers and is the essence of Advaita. In nutshell Advaita is :
Brahma sathyam jagan mithya
Jivo Brahmaiva na parah
(Brahman – the Absolute – is alone real and not this world; jiva – individual ‘ego’ or consciousness – in reality is Brahman itself – being part of Him).