Posted by: adbhutam | May 5, 2010


श्रीगुरुभ्यो नमः

The prAj~naH of the Mandukya Upanishad

A close look at Mandukya Karika 1.11

In the Agama prakaraNa of the MAndukya Upanishad / kArikA, Acharya Gaudapada says in verse 11:

कार्यकारणबद्धौ ताविष्येते विश्वतैजसौ ।

प्राज्ञः कारणबद्धस्तु द्वौ तौ तुर्ये न सिध्यतः ॥

[Those two, viz Vishva (V) and Taijasa (T), are held to be conditioned by cause and effect.  PrAjna (P) is conditioned by cause.  But both these do not exist in Turiya.]

Acharya Shankara Bhagavatpada introduces this verse by saying:

विश्वादीनां सामान्यविशेषभावो निरूप्यते, तुर्ययाथात्म्यावधारणार्थम् ।

// For determining the true nature of Turiya, the generic and specific characteristics of Vishva and the rest are being ascertained.//

The Bhashyam for this verse is:

कार्यं – क्रियते इति – फलभावः ।  कारणं – करोतीति – बीजभावः । तत्त्वाग्रहण-अन्यथाग्रहणाभ्यां बीज-फलभावाभ्यां तौ यथोक्तौ विश्वतैजसौ बद्धौ संगृहीताविष्येते । प्राज्ञस्तु बीजभावेनैव बद्धः । तत्त्वाप्रतिबोधमात्रमेव हि बीजं प्राज्ञत्वे निमित्तम् । ततो द्वौ तौ बीजफलभावौ तत्त्वाग्रहण-अन्यथाग्रहणे तुर्ये न सिध्यतः, न विद्येते न संभवत इत्यर्थ: ।

[’kArya’, derived in the sense of anything produced, means the state of being the effect. ’KAraNa’, derived in the sense of anything that acts, means the causal state.  Those two, viz Vishva and Taijasa, as described earlier, are held to be bound by, conditioned by, the states of seed and fruit, consisting in the non-apprehension and misapprehension of Reality.  But PrAjna is bound by the causal state alone.  The non-apprehension of Reality alone is the cause of bringing about the state of Praajna.  Therefore, both these two, the causal and the resultant conditions, the  non-apprehension and misapprehension of Reality, respectively, do not exist, that is to say, are not possible, in Turiya.//

Shankaracharya provides some more information on the PrAjna in the bhashyam to the subsequent verses – 1.12:  Since unlike Vishva and Taijasa, Praajna does not apprehend anything, any external duality that is different from the Self and is born of the seed of ignorance, therefore he is conditioned by the darkness of non-perception of Reality, which is the seed of false perception. 1.13: ‘The non-perception of duality being similar, why should Praajna alone be conditioned by causality and not Turiya?’ – this doubt that may arise is being refuted: The reason is that PrAjna is बीजनिद्रायुतः – sleep, consists in the non-perception of Reality, and that itself is the bIja, seed of the birth of the cognition of varieties and PrAjna is endued by this bIjanidrA, sleep that is the causal state. That sleep, consisting in the non-perception of Reality does not exist in Tiriya.

From the above, we can say that PrAjna is the cause and Vishva and Taijasa are the effects.  What is the nature and role of the PrAjna? His nature is that of ignorance, non-apprehension of the Truth.  From the fact that P has been shown as the cause of V and T (the states where explicit duality, variety of objects is experienced), we can determine that P has the ‘potential’ to bring forth variety.  That means, the ‘beeja’ has the potential sprout/plant/tree contained in it.  In other words, ‘material’ for the variety, duality, is contained, embedded, in the P.  Thus, the cause-effect relationship between P and T/V is of the nature of upAdaana – upAdeya.

It is important to note that Shankara uses the word ‘भावः’ four times in the bhashya on 1.11.  Is the P a passive cause? No. Shankara says:  कारणं – करोतीति – बीजभावः. That means P ‘does’ something to bring forth the variety.  That means, again, P has the material, upAdaana, for the V / T and also is the ‘actor’, ‘doer’, nimitta, for the V /T.  Shankara by giving that derivation for कारणम् of the kArikA teaches us that P is the efficient cause. By making the further comment on P, प्राज्ञस्तु बीजभावेनैव बद्धः । तत्त्वाप्रतिबोधमात्रमेव हि बीजं प्राज्ञत्वे निमित्तम्, Shankara confirms that P is the material cause as well of V / T.  By merely being ignorant of the Reality, P is serving as the seed for perceivable duality.  That means, P has the unperceivable, avyakta, dvaita in it.  This is the material that manifests as vyakta dvaita in V and T.  Thus, the kArikA and the Bhashya together establish the Vedanta siddhAnta that P is the अभिन्न-निमित्त-उपादान-कारणम् for the world.

Now, what is the basis for the Karika and the Bhashya to do so?  In reply, we must remember that this Karikaa has come to elucidate the Mandukya Upanishad 6th mantra on the third paada:

एष सर्वेश्वर एष सर्वज्ञ एषोऽन्तर्याम्येष योनिः सर्वस्य प्रभवाप्ययौ हि भूतानाम् । ६

[This one is the Lord of all; this one is Omniscient, this one is the inner Director (of all); this one is the Source of all; this one is verily the place of origin and dissolution of all beings.]

It would be most beneficial for our study to note the bhashya of Bhagavatpada for this mantra:

एष हि स्वरूपावस्थः सर्वेश्वरः साधिदैविकस्य भेदजातस्य सर्वस्य ईशिता, न एतस्मात् जात्यन्तरभूतोऽन्येषामिव ।  ’प्राणबन्धनं हि सोम्य मनः’ इति श्रुतेः ।

//This one (this P who was defined in the previous 5th mantra) when in his natural state, is surely the Lord of all, of all diversity inclusive of the heavenly world; and contrary to what others (other schools) believe in, He (the Lord of all) is not something intrinsically different from this one (that is the P), as is borne out by the Vedic text: ‘….the mind (jiva) is tethered to (that is to say, has for its goal) the PrANa (Brahman) Chandogya Up. 6.8.2).//

In this crucial passage of the Bhashyam Bhagavatpada teaches us that P is not different from Ishwara, the Jagatkartaa, kaaraNam.  One more crucial point for our study in the Bhashyam:  अत एव यथोक्तं सभेदं जगत्प्रसूयत इत्येष योनिः सर्वस्य । यत एवं प्रभवश्च अप्ययश्च ..हि भूतानामेष एव । // For the same reason (that P is not different from Ishwara, the Jagatkartaa, kaaraNam) he gives birth to the universe together with its diversities, as described before; and hence this one is the Source of all. And since this is so, therefore this very one, is certainly the place of origin and dissolution of all beings.//

Now, coming back to our kArika and bhashya for 1.11, we can see the tight connection with mantra 6 –

  • P is actually Ishwara
  • P is the creator of V and T diversity
  • P is the nimitta kAraNa for V and T
  • P is the upAdAna kAraNa for V and T

How is P’s upAdaana kAraNatva established?  He is the Source, yoniH, and also the place of origin and dissolution, the ‘laya-sthAnam’ and the ‘utpatti sthAnam’.  This establishes the upAdAnakAraNatva of PrAjna for the world of duality.  The word ‘बीजभावः’ of the Bhashya is the corresponding word for the mantra word योनिः. In fact Shankara’s beautiful, skillful, expression:  कारणं – करोतीति – बीजभावः in one go captures the Vedantic concept of अभिन्न-निमित्त-उपादान-कारणत्वम् for the world. In this expression, the segment ‘करोतीति’ caters to the nimitta kAraNam, spoken of by the mantra through the words: सर्वेश्वर एष सर्वज्ञ एषोऽन्तर्याम्येष..The upAdAna kAraNam is brought out by the kArikAbhAshya expression बीजभावः, corresponding to the mantra words: योनिः सर्वस्य प्रभवाप्ययौ हि भूतानाम्.

Thus, the kArikA 1.11, along with the BhAshya is a virtual mirror-image of the Upanishadic mantra 6.  And that is how it has to be. That is the aim of the kArikA.

BhAvarUpa kArya and kAraNa :

In the bhashya to kaarikA 1.11 Shankaracharya derives the etymological meaning of the terms कार्यम् , कारणम् thus: कार्यं – क्रियते इति – फलभावः । कारणं – करोतीति – बीजभावः.  We have provided the translation for these in the foregoing. What, however, we must notice here is that the Acharya is specifying the कर्तृ-कारकम् and the कर्म-कारकम्.  In any endeavour there are several elements like the doer, the object of action, the instrument of action, the locus, etc. These are called ‘kAraka-s’.  In our kArikA, the कारणम् is the P. The Acharya denotes this as ‘the one who does, initiates, produces, transforms’.  P is the individual jiva, in the vyaShTi, micro realm.  He is associated with the deep sleep state.  He, being ignorant of the Reality, has the potential, avyakta, of wrong-perception of Reality as the world of duality.  This is the vyakta samsAra.  This is experienced in both the waking and dream states.  The ultimate teaching of the Upanishad is that ‘one consciousness alone dons different roles in different states’.  So, P transforms into V and T.  This is exactly the micro-version of the macro scenario of Ishwara appearing as the entire world, vishvarUpa.  Ishvara, Brahman in association with avidya/maya, is both the nimitta and upAdAna kAraNa of the world.  In the micro level, P is the nimitta and upAdana kArana for the waking and dream.  P is in association with ignorance, avidya, tattva-agrahaNa.  The basis for this delineation is the way in which the Upanishad, in mantras 5 and 6 teaches the Third PAda by clubbing the vyaShTi and samaShTi.

The Acharya, after specifying the कर्तृ-कारकम् in respect of P, goes on to state that the V and T are the ‘objects’ of this action of creation, कर्म-कारकम् of P.  That which is created is the phalam, kAryam.  In both the terms we find the Acharya using the word ‘bhAvaH’.  That is to show that according to the Acharya the prapancha/samsara kAraNam is a bhAvarUpa mAyA/avidyA and the prapancha/samsara as kArya too is a bhAvarUpa vastu.  The Acharya is adhering to the principle, the universal rule ‘A bhAva vastu cannot originate from an abhAva kAraNa’ that He has consciously invoked in innumerable instances across His bhAshya literature.

In this expression of the Bhashya, प्राज्ञस्तु बीजभावेनैव बद्धः, the Acharya is specifying that the characteristic of P is causehood – material as well as efficient.  Again the word ‘bhAva’ is significant here.  A non-existent ‘entity’ cannot have any status assigned to it and does not qualify for the suffix ‘bhAva’; it is ‘a-bhAva’.

In this analysis we see that there is a ‘sambandha’ between P and V and T as kArya-kAraNa.  It must be obvious to the student of this analysis that no ‘sambandha’ is possible to be specified between one abhAva and another bhAva entity.

What is the ‘material’ with which P creates V and T?  We have the answer for this  in the bhashya for the mantra 5:

…तथारूप-अपरित्यागेन अविवेकापन्नं नैशतमोग्रस्तमिवाहः सप्रपञ्चकमेकीभूतमित्युच्यते ।  [The whole host of duality, that are diversified as the two states (of waking and dream) and are but modifications of the mind, become non-discernible (in the deep sleep state) without losing their aforesaid characteristics, just as the day together with the phenomenal world becomes non-discernible under the cover of nocturnal darkness.]

…प्रज्ञानानि घनीभूतानीव सेयमवस्था अविवेकरूपत्वात् प्रज्ञानघन उच्यते । [As such conscious experiences, that are but vibrations of the mind in the waking and dream states, become solidified, as it were. This state is called ‘prajnAnaghanaH’, a mass of consciousness, since it is characterized by the absence of discrimination.]

The expression अविवेकरूपत्वात् ‘absence of discrimination’ means this: In the state of deep sleep the residue/samskara of the variety of experiences, knowledge, etc. of the waking and dream states will have become one mass.  One will not be able to distinguish between one experience/knowledge and another in that state.  Thus, a man endowed with the knowledge of several  skills like music, sculpture, painting, computer programming, etc. will not be able to access these in the state of deep sleep.  This is the meaning of the term ‘अविवेकरूपत्वात्.’

It is this mass of various knowledges/experiences, prajnaana-ghana, that forms the material for  P to create V and T.  P cannot be conceived of being without this material; it is its characteristic.  Without this material, in the indistinguishable mass form, P can never be P.  P can never be a ‘cause’ of V and T.  This is what is specified by the kArikA as ‘प्राज्ञः कारणबद्धस्तु’ , P is ‘bound’ by being the kAraNa of V and T.

While this is the vyaShTi scenario, the samaShTi scenario is not very much different.  For P, the material is the ‘ghana prajnAna-s’ for creating V and T.  For Brahman (Iswara), the material to create the world is the ‘avyAkRta nAma-rUpa’.  In the larger picture of Vedanta, as this very Mandukya Upanishad teaches through the mantras 5 and 6, by clubbing together the Ishwara aspect and the P-jiva aspect, creation of the world by Iswara is no different from creation of samsara, characterized by the triad of states, by the jiva.  In the case of Iswara, the ‘sleep’ state is MahApraLaya; for the jiva, it is the daily deep sleep state.

Since this अभिन्न-निमित्त-उपादान-कारणम् status of Ishwara and P is not something that is assigned at any point of time, this kaaraNatva, causehood, is called ‘anAdi’.  The material, whether it is ‘ghana prajnaana’ or ‘avyAkRta nAma rUpa’, it is anAdi.  And since no description of the material content can be made, it is called ‘anirvAchya’.  This characteristic of ‘anAdi anirvAchya’ is specified for Ishwara’s Maya and jiva’s avidya/tattva apratibodha/ agrahaNa.

Another noteworthy feature of the Bhashya is this sentence: तत्त्वाप्रतिबोधमात्रमेव हि बीजं प्राज्ञत्वे निमित्तम्.  Here, the Acharya is giving the reason why P has got this status:  As the kArikA teaches, P has only one ‘characteristic’ – not knowing the Reality.  V and T are characterized by: 1. Not knowing the Reality and 2. Apprehending the duality. If P were also endowed with both these, P would not have been designated as P.  Since only ‘tattva apratibodha’ alone is there for P, it is designated so.  This is brought out by the bhashya word ‘mAtram’.  This word enables us to compare P with T and V and conclude that P has ‘only’ one ‘trait’ whereas T and V have this one trait plus the other one of ‘seeing duality’.

From the above analysis it becomes easy to determine that the ‘nimitta-naimittika’ bhAva proposed by SSS between jnAnaabhAva and samsAra, with the example of ‘when the sun shines/rises, I wake up’ is completely at variance with the teaching of the Upanishad, Gaudapada and Bhagavatpada. While SSS admits of just a passive role for P in creating V and T, the scriptural (and bhashya) teaching is an active, material cause-endowed role for P.  While there is no basis for denying the ‘anAdi anirvAchya’ characteristic of avidya/mAya as the material, upAdAna, of jagat/samsara, the scripture and the Bhashya provide the firm basis for this characteristic.  This has been elaborately stated and established in the foregoing analysis.

A synopsis:

  • P is the efficient and material cause for V and T
  • The material for P is the samskaras of the waking/dream experiences
  • The Bhashyam clearly specifies the efficient causehood by the word ‘करोति’ and the material causehood by the word ‘बीजम्’
  • The Upanishad too, in the mantra 6 specifies these by the words सर्वेश्वरः, अन्तर्यामि and योनिः, प्रभव-अप्ययौ respectively.
  • The P has the Ghana-prajnaana-s as the viShaya.This makes P the viShayi, thereby making P a ‘bhAvarUpa kAraNa.’
  • The Bhashyam uses the word ‘bhaava’ several times to confirm that the ‘tattva apratibodha’ is a bhAvarUpa entity that goes into the creation of V and T (vyakta samsara)
  • There is no place in the Upanishad, KArikA and the Bhashya for SSS’s proposition of a passive nimitta-naimittika relationship.




  1. Sir, In the below link the commentary of Madhvacharya is there on the Upanishads.

    In page no.80, Mandukya Upanishad’s commentary is given out.

    Madhva attributes the original 12 mantras of the Upanishad to Varuna
    as the seer and Vishnu as the presiding deity and explanations, here are the verse to Brahma having given them to Varuna, who received them assuming the form of a frog – Manduka. For this conclusion, he relies on Harivamsha, Padma and Garuda Puranas.

    It is said that Puranas contain references where Varuna in the form of a frog receives the mantras from Lord Vishnu. Madhvacharya has also quoted them. Have you heard of these references Sir. I thought Mandukya was a Rishi. Are there any references where Mandukya Rishi is associated with Lord Shiva in the puranas?

    • I am aware of that Madhva reference. I have not come across any Shiva-Manduka Rishi connection. If I find some reference I shall let you know.

  2. Sir, Please reply to my above question, when you get a chance.

  3. Thank you Sir. That would really help

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