Prasna Upanishad (Part-6)-Where to look for the Cosmic Person




atha hainam sukeshaa bhaaradvaajah paprachchha | bhagavan.h hiranyanaabhah kausalyo raajaputro maamupetyaitam prashnamaprichchhata | shhodashakalam bhaaradvaaja purushham vettha | tamaham kumaarambruvam naahamimam veda | yadhyahamimamavedishham katham te naavakshyamiti | samuulo vaa eshha parishushhyati yo.anritamabhivadati tasmaannaarhamyanritam vaktum.h | sa tuushhniim rathamaaruhya pravavraaja | tam tvaa prichchhaami kvaasau purushha iti || 1||

Then Sukesa, the son of  Bharadvaja, said to Pippalada: Sir, Hiranyabha, the prince of Kosala, once came  to me and asked this question: "O son of Bharadvaja, do you know the  Person with sixteen parts?" I said to the prince: "I do not know Him;  if I knew Him, why should I not tell you? Surely he who speaks what is not true  perishes away completely; therefore I will not speak what I do not know."  Then the prince silently mounted his chariot and went away. Now I ask you, sir:  Where does that Purusha dwell?

Sukesa started the question by narrating an anecdote. This is intended to point out the difficulty involved in acquiring knowledge of the Absolute and to emphasize that he who does not know should not try to teach. The question was where can the Cosmic Person, Purusha, of sixteen parts (kalas), be found?


tasmai sa hovaacha | ihaiivaantahshariire sobhya sa purushho yasminnataah shhodashakalaah prabhavantiiti || 2||

Pippalada replied: That Person  - He from whom these sixteen parts arise - is verily here within the body.

The teacher answered that Purusha  is the inner Self, the pratyagatma, of the living being. Atman dwells in  the space, akasa, within the heart, which is shaped like a lotus bud. It  is to be sought as the first principle within the man himself and not elsewhere.  The sixteen parts will be narrated in the 4th Mantra.

Sankara says that the Purusha,  though without any parts, appears to have parts, which are called upadhis, adjuncts, when conditioned through avidya. Through ignorance alone the  parts are seen to arise from, exist in and disappear into the Purusha. The  Purusha, Brahman, is completely undifferentiated, pure and non-dual. He is  formless and without any parts.


sa iikshaachakre | kasminnahamutkraanta utkraanto bhavishhyaami kasminvaa pratishhtite pratishhtasyaamiiti || 3||

The Purusha reflected: "By  what means shall I depart the body? By what means shall I stay in the body?”

The order in which the parts were  evolved is described next. The parts were said to have originated from the  Purusha, meaning thereby that they are not his limbs but his manifestations or  his limiting adjuncts. They are the means by which he gets himself experienced  in human life. The creation of the parts was mentioned here for the purpose of  revealing the Purusha.


sa praanamasrijata praanaachchhraddhaam kham vaayurjyotiraapah prithiviindriyam manah | annamannaadviiryam tapo mantraah karma lokaa lokeshhu cha naama cha || 4||

He created Prana; from Prana  faith, space, air, fire, water, earth, the organs, mind, food; from food  virility, austerity, the Vedic hymns, sacrifice, the worlds; and in the worlds  He created names.

The sixteen parts or the  manifestations of the Self are as follows: 1. Life Principle, Prana 2.  Faith, Shraddha 3-7. Five Elements, space, air, fire, water and earth 8.  Five senses of perception and five organs of action considered as one 9. Mind  10. Food 11. Vigor 12. Self-discipline, Tapas 13.Worship or prayers, mantra 14.Work, karma 15.Wisdom, or spiritual worlds representing different states  of consciousness and 16.Name or a distinct identity.  

The sixteen parts are created  through avidya. These created entities are unreal, like the objects seen in a  dream. After the destruction of avidya they again merge in the Purusha losing  their names and forms as illustrated in the next Mantra.

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