Mandukya Upanishad - A Study (An Old and Rare Book)

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Item Code: NAJ828
Author: B.L. Satyanarayana Sastri
Publisher: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
Language: English
Edition: 1979
Pages: 50
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 70 gm
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Book Description

About the Author


Born in the year 1935 at Razole, a village in East Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh, Shri Bulusu Lakshmi- prasanna Satyanarayana Sastri comes from a family of Vedic scholars. His father, the late Bulusu Somanatha Sastri, was a Telugu Pandit and litterateur. He performed several “Ashtavadhanams” before he joined service in the Revenue Department in East Godavari District and later retired as a First Class Magistrate in Andhra Pradesh.


Sri B. L. Satyanarayana Sastri had his education at Kakinada and at Bombay. He is, at present, assisting the Collector, East Godavari District, in matters pertaining to Planning and Development. He is the author of Mandukyageetam, a study of Mandukyopanishad in Telugu, which is under publication. His first novel Vividisha in Telugu was serialised in “Andhra Prabha Illustrated Weekly” in the year 1978.


The present work on Mandukyopanishad directs all thinking men to delve deep into their own conscience to unfathom the mysterious phenomena of life and death to transcend them on to a Limitless Experience.




Among all living creatures, man occupies the top place in evolution. All other creatures can think of things other than themselves, but it is only given to man to think of himself, too. All literature is the result of man’s thoughts. Books give us the experience of others. There are sacred books which directly deal with the secret of life and the world. They teach us what we really are, how we can know ourselves, and how this knowledge, by removing our ignorance, can remove our limitations and sorrows.


Millions of people, all over the world, read books which do not tell them about the ultimate truth of existence. A few thousand people are led to read spiritual works and even they do not pursue the matter till they gain real knowledge. Blessed are those who are fortunate enough to read holy books early in their lives and spend their days in serious pursuit of Truth.


In the entire sacred literature of the world, the Vedas and the Upanisads stand out like the Himalayas, with their unparalleled glory of deepest and highest thoughts. The Mandukyopanisad is a work, the like of which it is vain to search for in any literature of the world. It is given to only a few rare fortunate souls to think of making a serious study of this Upanisad, for a study of this work is the shortest path to self-realisation.


Shri B. L. Satyanarayana Sastri, a young member of the District Collector’s staff, despite being absorbed the whole day in official drudgery, has found time to study this Upanisad, not merely as a philosophical excursion but as a life-and-death question. Not only that, he has chosen t follow it up in his actual day-to-day life. I have several times tried to estimate the level of his understanding of the essence of this Upanisad and have invariably found him achieving some sort of identity with it. By temperament a deeply religious man, wedded to a life of incorruptible moral behaviour in all his dealings, the young author, when we touch him on the subject, goes into a state of inspired fervour, and - to put it in a few words - he conveys to us the quintessence of the Upanisad.


Sri B. L. Satyanarayana Sastri has written this treatise giving an exposition of the message of this Upanisad both in Telugu and in English. It is a delight to go through these pages. He has made it easiest to understand a most difficult work. I asked him why he undertook this unedifying work from the point of view of the modern world; his only answer is, “I cannot help it.” He has succeeded in giving a lucid and correct exposition. He writes, not as a scholar nor as a mere student, but he writes about the Upanisad as if it really and exclusively belongs to him by birth-right.


All the Upanisads contain utterances reflecting direct experience of the Truth, which they call Brahman. The Mandukyopanisad is the shortest of the Upanisads. The central point taken for investigation is the state of deep sleep. What a wonderful thing it is that we can see “God by analysing our sleep! All creatures sleep, but human beings are expected to know the meaning of their sleep. We however take the state of sleep as if it were a routine affair. In fact, whatever state we can analyse closely, in that we can see God.


The very same Jivatma or individual soul goes through the three states of Jagrat, Svapna and Susupti, i.e. the wakeful, dream and the dreamless deep-sleep states. The same person returns to the waking state from the dream and dreamless sleep states. In the first two states, the person has experience of pleasure and pain of happiness and sorrow. But in the deep-sleep state, all creatures enjoy unmixed bliss. The reason is plain. The individual soul finds itself in its original state, shorn of all disturbing adjuncts of body, mind, senses and thought, which are not really part of the soul. These are the outer trappings of the soul, which cover up its natural brilliance, peace and happiness. If one can for ever live in deep sleep, one will never experience sorrow. One will be immersed in eternal bliss. But there is the seed still remaining which brings back the soul to other states. When the seed is destroyed by true knowledge, the individual soul finds its real state, i.e. the state of Brahman or Brahmavastha. That is called the Turiya or the fourth state.


Salvation is liberty or freedom from all bondage and one has to know what binds one before one can disown it. Just as the body, mind and sense complex is obliterated in the deep sleep state, in the Turiya state, the separateness of the individual soul is obliterated and the Brahman, one without a second, shines in its pristine glory. The Karikas (Explanatory Verses) of Gaudapada logically prove all this. It is what is called Ajati-vada or the argument that does not posit the existence of the universe at all. If we admit the universe, we shall be admitting a second besides the secondless Brahman. In a nutshell, the author has given us the exposition of the Upanisad, the Karikas and the great commentary of Sri Samkara.


The book deserves serious study at the hands of all seekers of Truth.




Of all living beings that inhabit this planet, it is given only to man to think of himself. Yet he thinks and thinks of everything except himself. He just functions un- aware of that which makes him function. Generally, man’s thoughts range over past recollections, present problems and future aspirations. His bodily cravings and psychological in-pulls drive him helter-skelter throughout his life, leaving him in the end sans peace.


When man’s search for peace outside of himself re-coils on him, he begins to look inwards into himself, for he is not merely a psycho-physical complex. A deep abiding truth must underlie that complex. The search for Truth stems from a deep spiritual unrest within. As long as one compromises oneself with the embodiment and environment, there is neither spiritual unrest nor search.


The Vedas and the Upanisads which are the repositories of the sublimest thought, take care of such a one who has expressed his deep dissatisfaction with the order of things and the flow of events as they are at present. They present him a number of theories and philosophies which, though they appear to be contradicting one another, slowly and steadily lead him to the Ultimate Reality, through reason and experience.


They ultimately make a true seeker rise above blind belief and make him plunge into himself to unravel the mystery of this puzzling phenomenon-the Universe.


The Rsis of the Vedas rightly direct all thinking men to make a co-ordinated investigation into human experience during the wakeful, dream and deep-sleep states, to have a total picture of human existence and experience. Even though all of us are aware of the three states, most of us, pitiably, do not know the basis of these three states and simply lead mechanical, matter-of-fact lives. The Mandukyopanisad mentions that a fourth one called Turiya is the true nature of the human being and if that is known (realised), all the riddles of human existence, nay the very mystery of existence, is unravelled.


The wakeful state is a contact of consciousness (Caitanya) with the mind and sense-organs. The dream state is a projection of mental confabulations without the aid of the sense-organs. Then what is mind and what is the source of its power? There is no clear definition of mind. Mind is and we have its experiences. We in fact do not know what our own mind is and what constitutes it. We are totally ignorant of the inner alchemy of the mind. Verily, if mind is known, there is nothing else to know.


The Mandukyopanisad directs us to make a thorough investigation into all these and to know what it is, that is awake, that dreams and that goes into deep sleep. The preoccupations of our day-to-day lives cloud us from making a probe into what we really are. Most of our time during our wakeful state, is invariably spent for earning a living and for indulging in pleasures associated with eating and mating. We retire into slumber to get relief from the stress, strain and vexations of the works we perform.


To go beyond, Vedanta (Philosophy of the Upanisads) declares that divinity is inherent in man and that the prime duty of man is to recognise his identity with it. The Upanisads are the expressions of the experiences of those great seers in their communion with the Ultimate Reality. The Vedas can broadly be divided into two parts - ritualistic and philosophical. The Upanisads belong to the second category.


The Vedic scriptures-Rk, Yajus, Sama and Atharva - repeatedly emphasise the need to know the Ultimate Reality to get release from self-imposed bondage, the cause of all sorrow and woe. In the Vedas, at every turn, we have the direction, ‘Ya evam veda’. These words denote that all this is to be known. The Vedas en- join the seeker not to be blindly carried away by any idea other than the Ultimate Truth.


The Mandukyopanisad forms part of the Atharva Veda. The importance of this Upanisad, is underlined by another (Muktikopanisad) which declares that the study of Mandukya is enough for attaining liberation by the seekers. The word Manduka in Sanskrit means ‘frog’. Just as a frog leaps from the submerged state in deep waters on to the shore at will, seekers by devout and intense study and practice, leap-frog to Immortality at will. Hence its name Mandukyopanisad. Sri Gaudapadacarya wrote 215 explanatory verses on this Upanisad in Sanskrit. They are called Gaudapada Karikas. Sri Adi Samkara, the master of Advaita philosophy and a pupil of sri Govindabhagavatpada, himself a student of Sri Gaudapada, declares that this Upanisad together with the Karikias of Sri Gaudapada constitutes the quintessence of Vedanta. Sri samkaracarya wrote an elaborate commentary on the Upanisad as well as on the Karikas. The Mandukyopanisad makes a direct appeal to all those who experience wakeful, dream and deep sleep states to realise that the same consciousness makes all these states exist and makes us experience it.


Human beings are endowed with a well-developed intellect. They occupy a special place among all sentient beings. But generally, the experiences of human beings, whether they pertain to the wakeful, dream or deep sleep state, are only partial. Men who have experienced the Turiya, the fourth state, call upon us to know and realise it. If at all the real meaning of life is to be sought, it is to be done only within and not without. It is only because of the presence of Self or Atman that all is known. All human achievements are possible because of the presence of a conscious self within and not due to any other phenomenon. The sun is a supreme source of light and warmth. But it is the consciousness that is aware of the presence of the sun, the moon, the stars and other planets of the phenomenal Universe. It is only the conscious principle in living beings that can know the light, the source of light and the objects shining in light, and also darkness. The Upanisads, therefore, direct man to know the nature of his own self, the source of real knowledge and eternal bliss. So did the Greek philosophers who said Gnothi Seaution (Know thyself).


In the following explanation of the Mantras of the Mandukyopanisad, an attempt has been made to conduct an enquiry into the inner import of this great Upanisad. The Upanisadic texts are called Mantras. The literal meaning of the word Mantra (Mananat Trayate iti Mantrah) is that by repeated examination of its inner meaning, it protects men (from the cycle of births and deaths).


So, a study of the Upanisad is to be commenced with a clean and open mind as the great sages would enjoin the seekers to approach the Upanisads.


I am profoundly grateful to Professor B. Venkates- warlu, the renowned translator of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan’s Indian Philosophy and Bhagavad Gita into Telugu, for the kind Foreword he has given to my work.


Words fail me to express my gratitude to Sri Vedantam Lakshmayya, an erudite scholar, non-conformist Vedantin and intrepid reformer, who first introduced me to a study of the Mandukyopanisad. The fruit- of my labours is mainly due to the seed he had sown in my mind.


I dedicate my work as a flower-offering at the lotus feet of Mother of Jillellamudi, a great beacon-light, shedding illumination and living the Upanisadic Truth. We are fortunate to have been born as her contemporaries.


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