The Mandukya Upanisad

[This is the shortest Upanishad, a mere twelve verses. The bulk of the Upanishad is concerned with showing the parallels between the Self and the primeval sound OM, which are both explicitly equated with the Ultimate Reality, Brahman. Its concise articulation of a specific philosophical position--in this case monism--is a good indication that it is a later Upanishad, since this phhilosophical perspective is so quickly and concisely laid out.  There were many Upanishads with many different sorts of ideas; and two are included under supplementary reading.  The Isa Upanishad, like the Mandukya, also puts forth the idea of monism (i.e., that the highest reality is some sort of impersonal Being).  The Svetasvatara Upanishad, in contrast, stresses the notion of theism (that the highest reality is a personal deity, in this case Rudra), as well as the earliest known mention of yoga.

In the text from the Mandukya Upanishad below, verse 8 is more easily understood when one knows that in classical Sanskrit grammar vowels could combine, and that the vowels A and U combined to form the vowel O.] 

1. HARI OM! This sound OM is the entire universe. Its explication is the past, present, and future, everything [that exists] is nothing but the sound OM.

2. Indeed, this world is Brahman. This Self (atman) is Brahman. This Self has four quarters.

3. The first quarter is the waking state, whose awareness [is directed] externally, seven-limbed, nineteen-mouthed, enjoying the gross [material things], common to all human beings.

4. The second quarter is the sleeping state, whose awareness [is directed] inward, seven-limbed, nineteen-mouthed, enjoying the delicate, the Radiant One.

5. When a sleeper desires no desire and perceives no dreams, that is deep sleep. The state of deep sleep, the unified, a mass of pure awareness, composed of bliss, enjoying bliss, whose mouth is thought, the Conscious, is the third quarter.

6. This is the Lord of all, this is the Omniscient, this is the Inner Controller, this is the womb of everything, the origin and end of all beings.

7. Conscious of neither exterior nor interior, nor of both, not a mass of consciousness, nor non-consciousness, nor a lack of consciousness. Not to be seen, with which there is no commerce, not to be grasped, without characteristics, not to be thought, not to be designated, whose essence is the certainty of oneness with the Self, the cessation of all development, peaceful, auspicious, non-dual--[so] they consider the fourth [quarter]. It is the Self, it is to be discerned.

8. That sound OM is [comparable to] the Self, with regard to its phonetic elements. The quarters are the elements, the elements are the quarters, namely the phonemes A, U, and M.

9. The waking state, common to all human beings, is the phoneme "A," the first element, from apti1 ("obtaining") or adimattva ("being first"). One who knows this becomes first, and obtains all desires.

10. The dreaming state, the Radiant, is the phoneme "U," the second element, from utkarsha ("drawing forth") and ubhayatvad ("bothness"). One who knows this draws forth a lineage of knowledge and becomes equal..

11. The state of deep sleep, the Conscious, is the phoneme "M," the third state, from miti ("measuring out") or apiti ("dissolution"). One who knows this measures out this whole universe, and becomes its dissolution.

12. The fourth is beyond all letters, with it there is no commerce, it is calm, the cessation of development, and without duality. Thus is OM, the Self alone, the one who knows this spontaneously (atmana) merges with the Self, yes, the one who knows this!

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