Mundaka Upanishad


English version by Sanderson Beck

1. The Knowledge of God
2. Truth of the Spirit
3. Attaining Soul

God originated before the gods,
the creator of all, the protector of the world.
It taught the knowledge of God, the basis of all knowledge,
to Atharvan the eldest son.
What God taught to Atharvan, the knowledge of God,
Atharvan in the ancient times told to Angir.
He taught it to Bharadvaja Satyavaha,
and Bharadvaja to Angiras---both the higher and the lower.

Saunaka, a great householder, duly approached Angiras
and asked, "By understanding what, venerable sir,
does all this become understood?"

To him he said, "Two kinds of knowledge are to be known.
which the knowers of God speak of, the higher and lower.
Of these the lower is the Vedas: Rig, Yajur, Sama, Atharva,
phonetics, ritual, grammar, definition, metrics, astrology.
The higher is that by which the imperishable is apprehended.

"That which is invisible, intangible,
without family, without class,
without sight or hearing, without hands or feet,
eternal, all-pervading, omnipresent, most subtle,
that is the imperishable
which the wise perceive as the source of creation.

"As the spider puts out and gathers in,
as plants grow on the earth,
as hair on the head and body of a living person,
so from the imperishable arises everything here.

"By discipline God expands.
From that, matter is produced;
from matter, life, mind, reality,
the worlds, and in works immortality.
Whoever is all-knowing and all-wise,
whose discipline consists of knowledge,
from this is produced what is God here,
name and form and matter.
This is that truth.

"The works which the sages saw in the hymns
were variously expressed in the triad.
Perform them constantly, lovers of truth.
This is your path to the world of good works.

"When the flame moves after the fire has been kindled,
then between the two pourings of melted butter
one should throw with faith the offering.
If one's altar fires are empty of the offerings
for the new moon, the full moon, the rains, the harvest,
or without guests or offerings or ceremonies to the gods
or contrary to rule, one loses hope of all the seven worlds.
The black, the terrible, the swift as thought,
the blood-red, the smoke-colored,
the spark-scattering, the all-shaped goddess,
are the seven flickering tongues of fire.

"Whoever performs sacrifices,
making offerings at the proper time when these are shining,
these as rays of the sun lead one
to where the one Lord of the gods lives.
Saying, 'Come, come,' the radiant offerings
carry the sacrificer by the rays of the sun,
praising and honoring one with pleasant words:
'This is your holy world of God attained by good works.'

"Unsafe are the boats of the eighteen sacrificial forms
in which are expressed the lower work.
The deluded who approve them as leading to good
fall again into old age and death.
Remaining in ignorance, thinking themselves learned and wise,
the deluded afflicted with troubles
go about like the blind led by the blind.
Remaining in various forms of ignorance,
thinking immaturely, 'We have accomplished our aim.'
Since those who perform rituals
do not understand because of attachment,
therefore when their rewards are exhausted,
they sink down, wretched.
Thinking sacrifices and works of merit are most important,
the deluded know nothing better.
Having enjoyed the high heaven won by good works,
They enter again this world or even a lower one.

"Those who practice discipline and faith in the forest,
the peaceful knowers who live on charity,
depart without attachment through the door of the sun,
to where lives the immortal Spirit, the imperishable soul.
Having tested the worlds won by works,
let the seeker of God arrive at detachment.
What is not made is not attained by what is done.

"For this knowledge,
let one go with fuel in hand to a teacher
who is learned in the scriptures and established in God.
To the one who has approached properly,
whose mind is calm, who has attained peace,
let the one knowing teach in the truth of reality
that knowledge of God
by which one knows the imperishable Spirit, the true.

"This is the truth:
as from a blazing fire
thousands of flaming sparks come forth,
so from the imperishable, my friend,
various beings come forth and return there also.
Divine and formless is the Spirit,
which is outside and inside, unborn, not breath, not mind,
pure, higher than the high imperishable.

"From this is produced breath, mind, and all the senses,
space, air, light, water, and earth supporting all.
Fire is its head, its eyes the sun and moon,
the regions of space its ears, the revealed Vedas its speech,
air its breath, its heart the world.
The earth is its footstool.

"It is the inner soul of all beings.
From it comes fire whose fuel is the sun,
from the moon, rain, plants on the earth;
the male pours seed in the female;
thus creatures are produced from the Spirit.

"From it come the hymns, the chants,
the formulas, the rites of initiation,
and all the sacrifices, ceremonies, and offerings,
the year too, and the sacrificer,
and the worlds where the moon shines and the sun.

"From it also are born various gods, the celestials,
people, cattle, birds, the in-breath and the out-breath,
rice and barley, discipline,
faith, truth, chastity, and the law.

"From it come forth the seven life-breaths,
the seven flames, their fuel, the seven oblations,
these seven worlds in which move the life-breaths
set within the secret place, seven and seven.

"From it the seas and mountains all;
from it flow the rivers of all kinds;
from it come all plants and the essence
by which the inner soul lives in the elements.

"The Spirit itself is all this here:
works and discipline and God, beyond death.
Whoever knows that which is set in the secret place,
that one here on earth, my friend,
cuts apart the knot of ignorance.
Manifest, hidden, moving in the secret place, the great home.
In it lives all that moves and breathes and sees.

"Know that as being, as non-being, as most to be desired,
beyond understanding, as what is best of all.
That which is luminous, subtler than the subtle,
in which are set all the worlds and their inhabitants---
that is the imperishable God.
It is life; it is speech and mind.
That is the real; it is immortal.

"It is to be known, my friend; know it.
Taking as a bow the great weapons of the Upanishads,
place on it an arrow sharpened by meditation.
Stretching it with thought directed to that,
know that imperishable as the target, my friend.

"The word AUM is the bow; the soul is the arrow.
God is said to be the target.
By the unfaltering it is to be known.
One becomes united with it as the arrow.

"In whom sky, earth, and atmosphere are interwoven,
and also the mind together with all the life breaths,
this alone know as the one soul.
Other words dismiss. This is the bridge to immortality.

"Where the channels are brought together
like the spokes in the hub of a wheel
there it moves and becomes manifold.

"AUM. Thus meditate on the soul.
May you be successful in crossing over
to the farther shore beyond darkness.

"Whoever is all-knowing, all-wise,
whose is this greatness on the earth,
in the divine city of God
and established in heaven is the soul.

"Using the mind, leading the life-breaths and the body,
established in matter one finds peace in the heart.
By this knowledge the wise perceive
the light of blissful immortality.
The knot of the heart is loosened, all doubts vanish,
and one's works cease when it is seen, the lower and higher.

"In the highest golden sheath is God,
without stain or parts.
Radiant is it, the light of lights,
that which the knowers of the soul know.
The sun does not shine there nor the moon nor the stars;
lightning does not shine; how then could this fire?
The whole world is illuminated by its light.
God truly is this immortal.
God in front, God behind, to the right and the left.
Spread out below and above, God is all this great universe.

"Two birds, close companions, cling to the same tree.
Of these two, one eats the sweet fruit,
and the other looks on without eating.
The soul is the one sitting immersed on the same tree,
deluded and sad because helpless.
But seeing the other who is the Lord and beloved,
it realizes its greatness and overcomes the sadness.

"When a seer sees the brilliant creator,
Lord, Spirit, God-source,
then being a knower, shaking off good and evil,
stainless one reaches supreme identity.
Truly it is life that shines forth in all beings.
Understanding this one knows there is nothing else to say.

"Delighting in the soul,
enjoying the soul, doing holy works,
such a one is the best of the knowers of God.
The soul can be attained by truth, by discipline,
by correct knowledge, by studying God.
Within the body, made of light, pure is this
which the ascetics, their faults removed, view.

"Truth alone conquers, not falsehood.
By truth is laid out the path leading to the gods
by which the sages whose desires are satisfied
ascend to where the supreme home of truth is.
Vast, divine, its form unthinkable, subtler than the subtle,
it shines out, farther than the far, yet close-by.
resting in the secret place,
even here it is seen by those with vision.

"It is not grasped by sight nor even by speech
nor by other angels, nor by austerity nor by work.
By the grace of wisdom and mental purity
by meditating one does see the indivisible.
The subtle is to be known by consciousness
in which the five different breaths have centered.
All of human thought is interwoven with the life-breath.
When that is purified, the soul manifests its power.

"Whatever world a person of pure heart
holds clearly in mind,
and whatever desires that one desires,
that world is obtained and those desires.
Therefore whoever desires success
should honor the knower of the self.
That one knows the supreme home of God,
founded on which the whole world shines radiantly.

"The wise who, free from desires, worship the Spirit,
pass beyond the sperm.
Whoever entertains desires, dwelling on them,
is born here and there on account of these desires;
but one whose desire is satisfied, whose soul is perfected,
all desires here on earth vanish away.

"This soul can not be attained by instruction
nor by intellect nor by much learning.
It can be attained only by the one whom it chooses.
To such a one this soul reveals its own nature.

"This soul can not be attained by one lacking strength
nor by carelessness nor by misdirected discipline;
but the one striving by these means who knows,
this soul enters into the home of God.

"Attaining this, the seers, happy with knowledge,
souls perfected, free from emotion, tranquil,
attaining the one who is universally omnipresent,
those wise, united souls enter into the all itself.

"Those who have ascertained
the meaning of the Vedanta knowledge,
ascetics with natures purified by the way of renunciation,
they in the God-worlds at the end of time,
transcending death are all liberated.
The fifteen parts return to their foundations,
and all the angels to their divinities.

"One's actions and the soul composed of wisdom
all become one in the supreme imperishable.
As rivers flowing into the ocean disappear
losing name and form,
so the knower liberated from name and form
reaches the divine Spirit, higher than the highest.

"Whoever knows that supreme God becomes God.
In that family no one is born who does not know God.
This one crosses over sorrow, crosses over sins,
liberated from the knots of the heart, becomes immortal.
This has been declared in the verse:

'Doers of the works, learned in scriptures,
absorbed in God, having faith
make offerings to the one seer,
to those one should declare this knowledge of God,
by whom the rite of the head
has been performed according to rule.'"

This is the truth.
The seer Angiras declared it long ago.
Let no one who has not performed the rite read this.
Salutation to the highest seers!
Salutation to the highest seers!

Copyright 1996 by Sanderson Beck

Aitar Upanishad
Brihad Upanishad
Isha Upanishad
Kasha Upanishad
Kena Upanishad
Mandu Upanishad
Mundaka Upanishad
Shwe Upanishad

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