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A Brief overview of

Mandukya Upanishad
Revelation of the ultimate truth by analyzing the three states

Mandukya Upanishad is an Upanishad found in the Atharvana Veda. It is basically one

of the smallest Upanishad containing only 12 mantras, yet it is one of the most respected
and important Upanishad. Before the advent of Sri Adi Sankara his paramguru Sri
Gaudapadacharya wrote a commentary called Karika on this Upanishad. This Karika has
become so important and famous that today it is seen as a part of the Mandukya Upanishad
itself. Sri Sankara thus wrote his Bhashya on both the Upanishad and Karika shlokas as a
single text.

There are two things extremely famous about this Upanishad. One this Upanishad
reveals the methodology of realizing Brahman as OM. OM is revealed both as the end and
the means. It is verily a commentary on OM. The viveka which is followed to discern the
truth is the 'Awastha-traya-viveka' i.e. discrimination based on the three states of
consciousness. Secondly this Upanishad has in it one of the four Mahavakyas which have
been chosen from the four Vedas. "Ayam Atma Brahma" i.e. This Atma alone is Brahman.
In Muktiko Upanishad we have the briefest and yet the most glorious review on Mandukya
wherein it is said that "Mandukya alone is sufficient for an aspirant to reach liberation"
(Mandukyam ekam kevalam mumukshunaam vimuktaye).

The Upanishad along with Karikas (total of 215 shlokas) is divided into four chapters
called Prakaranas. The Agama Prakarana (has 12 mantras & 29 shlokas of Karika),
Vaithathya Prakarana (has 38 shlokas), Advaita Prakarana (has 48 shlokas), and the
Alatshanti Prakarana (has100 shlokas). The first chapter contains all the twelve original
mantras, and the non-dual reality has been revealed here purely on the basis of the
scripture. From second prakarana onwards we have an independent commentary on these
mantras. In the Vaithathya Prakarana we have Sri Gaudapadacharya revealing the world as
ephemeral. By equating the waking state to the dream state. The approach is purely logical.
In the third i.e. the Advaita Prakarana we have the teacher revealing the non-dual reality
again purely on the basis of logic and then also validating it by appropriate scriptural
statements. In the last chapter called Alata-shanti prakarana, we have not only the
summarisation of the entire book but also some unique things. In this chapter the Theory of
Causality is shattered to pieces, the illusory world is compared to a rotating firebrand who
presents illusions of circles which are not really there, and the Self is thus revealed as the
one non-dual reality itself, free from all cause-effect relationships.
One thing which has become a hallmark of this Upanishad is the Theory of Ajatavada.
Normally some scriptures give some theory of creation, only to later prove the creation to
be ephemeral, while here Gaudapada appears to be very uncompromising. He doesn’t like
going the longer way, he declares right from the beginning itself that there is no creation
whatsoever. He considers the compassionate effort of some to temporarily accept the
creation as a compromise. He thunders the raw truth uncompromisingly.