Mundaka Upanishad I & II

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Mundaka Upanishad

‘U’ is pronounced short as in ‘full’. ‘n’ is pronounced as Venu; d as in dog.

The Upanishad is meant for study by monks or sannyasis. The level of the debate is higher than in others. It is said to be “arrestingly sublime and direct in teaching”.

The Mahaavaakya of this Upanishad is Satyameva jayate (naanrtam). (III, i, 6) It has been put on the national masthead along with the Ashoka’s lions. It is commonly interpreted as “Truth alone triumphs”.

There is a fallacy in this understanding. Sanskrit has two words to describe what is known as ‘truth’ in English. Satya refers to the absolute reality. It has no opposite. Asatya has no meaning. Rta is the human perception of Satya. Rta has a subjective element and is a limited view of the Reality. Anrta is a wrong perception or delusion. The axiom means “Reality prevails over delusions.”

A Sannyasi is advised to avoid all delusions.

This defines the qualities required of a Sannyasi. Sannyasa is to be looked on more as dedication than as renunciation. The dedication comes out of objective realization of the existential constraints and transcending them. ‘Renunciation’ or absence of an intellectual locus is a natural consequence of this dedication. A locus is binding and limiting.

The Shanti patha is as follows: (It was earlier cited in the Mandukya Upanishad).


Om! Oh Gods! Grant us the most auspicious words,

May we see the most auspicious sights

As we praise the Gods with steady limbs

Grant us a blessed life that serves the Gods.


We pray for our welfare

To  Indra of ancient lore

To Pusha God of Earth

To Garuda the destroyer of evil

To Brhaspati to bless us.


Om Shantih Shantih Shantih.


  1. Om! Brahmaa was the first to become manifest. He was the creator of the world and its protector. He instructed his eldest son Atharva in knowledge of Brahman. That knowledge is the foundation of all other knowledge.

    Brahmaa is the four-headed creator. Brahman is the Ultimate Reality. Brahmaa is a lower form.
  2. That knowledge was transmitted by Atharva to Angira.  He instructed Satyavaaha of Bhaaradwaaja line. He then instructed Angiras and from then on to lower ones.
  3. Saunaka the great householder asked Angiras, “Adorable one! which is that knowledge that includes every other branch of knowledge?
  4. He replied, “There are two kinds of knowledge. Those who know Brahman describe one as higher and the other as lower”.
  5. The Vedas, science of pronunciation, the knowledge of rituals, grammar, etymology, metre, and astrology fall under lower category. The knowledge by which one comprehends the immutable is the higher knowledge.

    I would include science and all secular (worldly) knowledge.
  6. The wise ones comprehend that which cannot be seen or grasped.  It is without eyes or ears and also without hands or legs. It is eternal. It could become many forms and is pervasive. It is extremely subtle. It is the origin of all and it is beyond decay.
  7. The universe issues out of the immutable as thread spun out by the spider, or as trees grow out of the earth and as hair grows on the body. The immutable has the power to draw everything back like the spider.
  8. As one prays to Brahman, food-based (anaerobic) life emerges. From food-based comes aerobic form of life. Thence the intelligent form of life comes. After that come the elemental forms. Evolution to the final merging in the eternal takes place based on duties.

    I had dealt with these steps in the article on Hindu evolution. I have taken some liberty with this shloka in describing the final stage.
  9. Brahman is omniscient. He is the ultimate knowledge of all that is known. From him the universe characterized by name, form and food emerges.

    The last shloka sums up this chapter. Brahman is omniscient. The universe is his creation. Life evolves from his will.

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