The beginning of Parãvidyã
‘Atha parã.’ – ‘Shaunak! Now I will explain what parã vidyã is’ (Mundaka Upanishad: 1/1/5). Angirã pledges to explain parã vidyã, i.e. brahmavidyã. Everything, from here on, till the end of this Upanishad, is in fact an expanded explanation of this brahmavidyã.
Akshar – the first to be announced
In this brahmavidyã, rather than starting with the teachings of Purushottam, Maharshi Angirã first starts with the announcement of Akshar. ‘त्व्यया तदक्षरमघिगम्यते’ – ‘Yayã tadaksharamadhigamyate’ (Mundaka Upanishad: 1/1/5). That by which Akshar, i.e. Aksharbrahman, is acquired, i.e. known in its entirety and realized. ‘Known in its entirety’ – Maharshi Angirã does not stop here. So that Aksharbrahman can be known completely, he also describes the divine form of Akshar. He says, ‘O disciple! What is that Akshar like?’ Well, ‘त्व्यत् तदद्रेश्यमग्राह्यमगोत्रमवर्णमचक्षुःश्रोत्रं तदपाणिपादम्। नित्यं विभुं सर्वगतं सुसूक्ष्मं तदव्ययं यद्भूतयोनिं परिपश्यन्ति घीराः॥’ – ‘Yat tadadreshyamagrãhyamagotramavarnamachakshuhushrotram tadapãnipãdam. Nityam vibhum sarvagatam susookshmam tadavyayam yabhootayonim paripashyanti dheerãhã’ (Mundaka Upanishad: 1/1/6). This Akshar cannot be comprehended by worldly organs. It has no worldly ancestors, cast, limbs or organs, etc. It is eternal. It is capable of doing everything. It is all-pervading. It is extremely subtle. It is indestructible. It is the cause of all. The wise who have attained the liberated state can see it. This is what Aksharbrahman is like.
Having described the form of Akshar briefly, now he explains it in great detail.
Akshar – The Cause of Creation
Paramãtmã is independently the cause of the whole world. This is an eternal principle. Nevertheless, by that Paramãtmã’s eternal desire, Akshar, whilst being under the control of and dependent on Paramãtmã, is also the cause of the whole world. This is also an eternal principle! This has been explained here very simply with three examples.
Giving the first example Angirã says, ‘यथोर्णनाभिः सृजते गृह्णते च’ – ‘Yathornanãbhihi srujate gruhnate cha’ (Mundaka Upanishad: 1/1/7). Urnanãbhi means a spider. O disciple! Just like a spider creates threads and makes a web, and when it desires it swallows it back, in the same way creation is made from Akshar.
From this example, Angirã means to tell us that like a spider can easily create a web and retrieve it without itself changing, Akshar can similarly create the world.
He then gives a second example. ‘त्व्यथा पृथिव्यामोषघयः सम्भवन्ति’ – ‘Yathã pruthivyãmoshadhayaha sambhavanti’ (Mundaka Upanishad: 1/1/7). This is an example regarding the herbs and plants that sprout on the earth. Just like countless herbs and plants grow on this earth according to their seeds, similarly this world is created from Akshar. On the earth, some trees have thorns, some are lush with fragrant flowers, some abound with sweet fruits whereas others may be bitter, astringent or pungent. The root cause of this variety is their seeds, not the earth. The earth produces and nourishes all, it is not biased or pitiless. Similarly, with regards to variety in the world, Akshar represents the earth. The differences we see in the world are due to the seeds in the form of the previous karmas of each ãtmã. In this way, although being the cause of this extremely diverse creation, Akshar has no faults like pitilessness and prejudice. Akshar is nothing but divine. This has been explained by this example.
He then gives a third example. ‘त्व्यथा सतः पुरुषात्केशलोमानि तथाऽक्षरात्सम्भवतीह विश्वम्॥’ – ‘Yathã sataha purushãtkeshalomãni tathã’ksharãtsambhavateeha vishvam’(Mundaka Upanishad: 1/1/7). Here, the example of hair that grows on the body has been given. Hair and nails grow naturally on the body. No effort has to be made. Similarly, the creation of this universe is no effort for Akshar. Akshar creates the universe effortlessly.
In this way, the manner in which Akshar, by the divine wish of Purushottam, becomes the cause of creation has been explained through these three examples. It then also explains how destruction takes place within Akshar. ‘सोम्य भावाः प्रजायन्ते तत्र चैवाऽपियन्ति’ – ‘Aksharãd vividhãhã somya bhãvãhã prajãyante tatra chaivã’piyanti’ (Mundaka Upanishad: 2/1/1). O Somya! This varied creation is created from Akshar, and at the time of destruction it dissolves into a small region of Akshar.
Translated by: Sadhu Paramvivekdas