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Atharvana Upanishad

Atharvana Upanishad was taught by Chaturmukha (Brahma Deva) to his son Atharva. The Upanishad, part of Atharva Veda, reflects on the Supreme designated name akshara (imperishable). Contextually, it throws light on para and apara vidya, too. It is said that Bhagavan Brahma taught this Brahma Vidya to his eldest son Atharva. Atharva in turn taught to Angira. Angira taught to Satyavaha – the son of Bharadwaja. Satyavaha taught to Angirasa. Sage Shaunaka learnt this from Sage Angirasa taught this Upanishad in reply to Sage Shaunaka’s query – On knowing what one can realize the benefit of knowing everything else? This Upanishad is popularly known as Mundaka Upanishad.

The entire Hindu literature, consisting of Veda, Vedanga, Arsa, Smriti, Puranas and allied literature, constitutes fourteen seats of knowledge. The same group of literature serves a dual purpose. When the supreme God, akshara, is understood through this literature, the knowledge is termed para vidya; when karma yajna (rituals) is understood, it is called apara vidya. The nature of akshara is so special that it is omnipresent and omniscient. It is the cause of all.

Atharvana Upanishad prescribes the performance of rituals and sacrifices (karma-anusthana) with dedication to God. The spiritual discipline so gained serves as a means of acquiring the knowledge of God (brahmajnana).

Atharvana Upanishad explains the methodology of meditation with an apt simile. Think of Pranava or the omkar as the bow, mind as the arrow, and akshara (Brahman) as the aim. Like a skilled bowman, a devotee has to fix his mind on akshara.

Within our body there are 72, 101 nadis (astral tubes) which are controlled by Him. When God is realized in the eight-petalled louts (heart) of the Brahmanadi, the bondage of avidya gets loosened.

The two birds, viz., jiva and paramatman, are dwelling on the same branch of a tree (body). Jiva experiences the karma phala (rewards of deeds) as tasty fruit and Parabrahma is an onlooker. Worship, truthfulness, knowledge, devotion, meditation, etc., are some of the means to realize Him. Above all, His choice and grace are the most important factors.

Paramatma’s most loving abode is mukhyaprana (vayu). Meditation on Paramatman present in mukhyaprana would bring peace and liberation. All jivanmuktas will finally get liberated with Chaturmukha Brahma when he completes one hundred years. The liberated become one with Brahman and yet retain their identity and individuality.

Atharvana Upanishad concludes with a salutation to the sages.