Professor Max Muller has said: “The Upanishads are the sources of the Vedanta philosophy, a system in which human speculation seems to have reached its very pinnacle. They are to me like light of the morning, like the pure air of the mountain – so simple, so true, if once understood”.
Some modern thinkers have said that Vedanta is the only scientific approach to the religion which everybody of this civilization can accept and that in fact it is the future of all religions.
The important point to note is that the words of the Upanishads cannot be understood in terms of their literal meanings or laboratory definitions. We have to discover their meanings hidden in their terse language which inevitably involves repetitions and winding explanations. Then only the purport of the mantras in the Upanishads will be simple to understand as Prof. Max Muller remarked. This policy of secretiveness of the Sruti texts prescribes the Vedanta Sadhana. Every passage of the Sruti is to be reflected upon to get a clear understanding.
This scientific approach of Vedanta is the basis of the Prasna Upanishad where the teacher and the students are engaged in an enquiry into the nature of the universe. This Upanishad leads the inquirer from the known to the unknown, from the manifest to the unmanifest, from the grossly material to the supremely subtle (the Absolute, Brahman). It proves that despite the fact that Brahman pervades the entire universe, we cannot see it because our mind introduces a bias in our very act of perception.
The Prasna Upanishad comes from the Brahmana portion of the Atharva Veda belonging to Pippaladasakha. It has 67 mantras spread over 6 chapters. Since the Upanishad is in the form of prasnas or questions and their answers, it has been named as Prasnopanishad. It discusses more elaborately some topics dealt with briefly in the Mundakopanishad and hence it is considered as a commentary on that Upanishad. Much of the Mundaka is in verse, only a few passages being in prose. The Prasna is just the opposite.
Once upon a time six learned students came to the great teacher Pippalada and after observing the disciplines of student-hood for one year as per the teacher’s instructions they approached him again with the following six questions.
What is the origin of all created beings?
• Who protects and guards created beings and who among them is supreme? This relates to the constituents of human personality.
•How does the Chaitanya (Prana) enter the body and get diverted into five channels? How does it leave the body? How does it sustain the universe without and within? This refers to the nature and origin of Prana.
•Which are the senses that operate in the three stages - the waking, dreaming and sleeping? Who is that in whom all these are established? This is about the psychological aspect of the human personality.
•What is the result of worshipping Omkara throughout one’s life? This is about Pranava Upasana.
•Where is that Supreme Being, the Person of sixteen forms? This relates to the metaphysical principle in man.
The answers provided by Pippalda to these questions form the main body of this text. They take the student gradually from the gross to the subtle principles of life, revealing one by one all the fields of Matter that enwrap the Atman (Spirit). In this Upanishad alone we find a clear mention being made of the creation originating from Matter and Energy. It shows that what is outside is also inside. What is outside is the macrocosm. The same thing within us is the microcosm. We and the Infinite Being are one and the same. That is the conclusion of this Upanishad and that is Non-dualism, Advaita.
Om bhadram karnebhih shrinuyaama devaa
sthirairangaistushhtuvaam sastanuubhirvyashema devahitam yadaayuh
svasti na indro vriddhashravaah
svasti nah puushhaa vishvavedaah .
svasti nastaarkshyo arishhtanemih
svasti no brihaspatirdadhaatu ..
Om shaantih shaantih shaantih..
Om, O Gods, May we hear auspicious words with our ears,
O Worshipful One, May we see auspicious things with our eyes,
May we live our entire life cheerfully in perfect health and strength offering our
praises unto thee,
May Indra, the ancient and the famous, bless us,
May Pushan (Sun), the all-knowing bless us,
May Vayu (Life Pinciple), the Lord of swift motion who protects us
from all harms, bless us,
May Brihaspati, the Lord of wisdom, bless us all.
Om Peace! Peace! Peace!