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…)