Posted by: adbhutam | November 29, 2009

The Gita ‘comments’ on a Mundaka mantra

श्रीगुरुभ्यो नमः

In the Mundakopanishat we have the famous mantra:

द्वा सुपर्णा सयुजा सखाया

समानं वृक्षं परिषस्वजाते ।

तयोरन्यः पिप्पलं स्वाद्वत्त्य-

नश्नन्नन्योऽभिचाकशीति ॥ 3.1.1

Here, the two-bird imagery is used to show the Ishwara-jiva pair residing in the body-tree.  While the jiva bird is busy tasting the fruits of samsara, the Ishwara bird is a mere witness to this.  Eventually, the jiva bird turns to the Ishwara bird, notices the latter’s passive and therefore blissful nature and ultimately knows its own nature to be non-different from the Ishwara bird’s a-samsaaric one.  This knowledge of identity frees the jiva of its jivatva, resulting in freedom from bondage.

Now, in the Bhagavadgita we have this verse:

उत्क्रामन्तं स्थितं वापि भुञ्जानं वा गुणान्वितम् ।

विमूढा नानुपश्यन्ति …..(15.10)

Here, the Lord says that he who fails to realize the ‘one’ that is experiencing samsara variedly like transmigrating, enjoying the fruits of karma, being associated with the three guNa-s, etc. is an ignorant one, a wretched one.  On the contrary, those who purify their mind by the appropriate sAdhana get to realize this ‘one’.

It would be interesting to study the ‘connection’ between the Mundaka mantra and the Gita verse.  While the former presents ‘two’ entities, jiva and Ishwara, the latter speaks of only ‘one’ entity whose knowledge alone results in liberation.  How are we to reconcile these two positions?

The answer is not very difficult:  While the Mundaka mantra says that the jiva is the karma-phala bhokta, the enjoyer of the fruits of karma, the Gita says it is the knowledge of the ‘One’ that appears to be the karma-phala bhokta that leads to liberation.  In the subsequent verse the Lord says:

यतन्तो योगिनश्चैनं पश्यन्त्यात्मन्यवस्थितम् ।

यतन्तोऽप्यकृतात्मानो नैनं पश्यन्त्यचेतसः ॥ (15.11)

[Those who strive with a pure heart succeed in beholding, realizing, the One seated in the cave of their heart. On the contrary, those who have not purified their intellect, even though striving, do not realize the Truth.]

This word ‘Atmanyavasthitam’ means: The One seated in the cave of the intellect.  It is this One who appears to be enjoying the karma-phala.  It is this One ‘who is seated in everyone’s heart’ says the Lord in this chapter itself:

सर्वस्य चाहं हृदि सन्निविष्टो….

वेदैश्च सर्वैरहमेव वेद्यो …..(15.15)

// I am seated in everyone’s heart…I am the One to be known by the means of all the Veda-s..//

Thus, in the Gita 15th chapter itself we get the complete solution to the apparent problem of reconciling the Mundaka ‘dvaa suparNaa’ mantra and the Gita 15.10 verse.  Of course, in the Mundaka mantra itself, the subsequent two mantras settle the issue by the use of the words ‘परमं साम्यमुपैति’ – the jiva bird, after sadhana, realizes its absolute identity with the Ishwara bird.  Thus, according to the Mundaka mantra and the Bhagavadgita it is the Ishwara, ParamAtma, Brahman, that appears as the many jiva-s experiencing samsara.  It is this ParamAtma alone, as a result of sadhana, realizes His true asAmsAric nature and appears to get liberated. ब्रह्मैव स्वाविद्यया संसरतीव, स्वविद्यया मुच्यत इव – Brahman Itself, owing to ignorance of self-knowledge appears to be bound and due to acquiring self-knowledge appears to become liberated.

A question arises as to how do we account for the ‘many’ jiva-s that experience samsara? That the Lord residing in every being is One only and not many is also taught by the Bhagavadgita alone:

In the Gita, 18.20, the Lord teaches the Knowledge that constitutes Saattvic Jnanam:

सर्वभूतेषु येन एकम् भावं अव्ययं ईक्षते ।

अविभक्तं विभक्तेषु तज्ज्ञानं विद्धि सात्त्विकम् ॥

sarvabhUteShu yena ekam bhAvam avyayam IkShate

avibhaktam vibhakteShu taj jnAnam viddhi saattvikam.

[That by which a man sees the One Indestructible Reality in all beings, inseparate in the separated, that knowledge know thou as Sattvic.]

Sri Shankara comments: …That Reality, the Self, is not different in different bodies; like the AkAsha, the Self admits of no division.  Know thou this direct and right perception of the non-dual Self as sAttvic.

In the subsequent two verses, 18. 21 and 22, the Lord mentions, as that which has to be given up, the Rajasic and Tamasic knowledge where the vision of difference in Atman is the characteristic.  Evidently, the Saattvic knowledge alone is conducive for Liberation.

Again, in Gita 13.16 we have:

अविभक्तं विभक्तेषु विभक्तमिव च स्थितम्

avibhaktam cha bhUteShu vibhaktamiva cha sthitam..

[And undivided, yet remaining divided as it were in beings; … too is That, the Knowable…] Note the particle ‘iva’ used by the Shruti to denote that the mani-ness is only an appearance; not real.

Here again, Sri Shankara comments: It is undivided in the different bodies, It is one like the AkAsha.  Still, It appears to be different in all the different bodies, inasmuch as It manifests only in the bodies.

In the Kathopanishad 1.2.22 the Guru, Yama, teaches:

अशरीरं शरीरेषु अनवस्थेषु अवस्थितम् ।

महान्तं विभुमात्मानं मत्वा धीरो न शोचति ॥

[The Self is Bodiless in the midst of bodies, is Permanent in the midst of the impermanent ..]

A Synopsys:

  • The Mundaka mantra 3.1.1 द्वा सुपर्णा mentions two entities in the body-upAdhi, one the jiva and the other, the Ishwara.
  • The Bhagavadgita 15.10 says the One (only) entity experiences samsara and those who fail to question and realize this entity do not get liberated.
  • By considering the subsequent verses herein we conclude that the one ParamAtma alone appears as the bound jiva-s in various bodies.
  • The Brihadaranyaka Mantra: इन्द्रो मायाभिः पुरु रूप ईयते (Brihadaranyaka Up.2.5.19) [The Ishwara, owing to maayaa, takes up multifarious bodies/forms] is the scriptural proof for this.
  • The Kathopanishad 1.3.1 mantra ऋतं पिबन्तौ सुकृतस्य लोके also conveys the same meaning of the Mundaka mantra cited above.
  • The Purusha sUkta mantra: अजायमानो बहुधा विजायते ‘The Birthless One takes birth as many forms’ is another Vedic proof of Brahman Itself appearing as the world and the jiva-s.
  • The famous episode in the Srimadbhaagavatam is another instance: //Thus expanding Himself as the boys and calves in their individual capacities, and surrounded by such expansions of Himself, Krsna entered the village of Vrndavana. The residents had no knowledge of what had happened. After entering the village, Vrndavana, all the calves entered their respective cowsheds, and the boys also went to their respective mothers and homes.//

  • Hear a song of Purandara dasa that captures the above idea: That the ‘jiva is Brahman alone’ and the ‘world is Brahman alone’ and ‘Brahman alone appears as the jivas and the world’ are all graphically demonstrated by Sri Purandara Dasa in his composition: ‘alli nODalu Rama…’ .  In this song he describes how Brahman ‘felt’ like being the world and living a human life ‘became’ the entire world and donned the roles of the jiva-s.  He says: avanige iva Rama, ivanige ava Rama..For X, Y is Rama and for Y, X is Rama.  Hear this song here (second song in the album) and read the lyrics here.  Another song of his with similar import is: Govinda, ninna nAmave chanda.
  • The Gita teaches that the one who appears to be the experiencer of the karma-phala is the One that is seated in every one’s heart.
  • By considering all these we arrive at the conclusion that there is only one ever-liberated sentient Being that appears to be bound.
  • The Gita itself and the other Upanishads teach unequivocally that only the body-mind upAdhis are many but the inhering Consciousness in all the body-mind apparatus is Brahman alone.
  • The Gita specifically teaches in 18.20 that this knowledge of the One Unchanging, Undivided Entity alone is sAttvic knowledge.
  • The subsequent verses teach that a knowledge, verily ignorance, differing from the above is unsuitable for realization.



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