[Advaita-l] Mundakopnishad

Jaldhar H. Vyas via Advaita-l advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
Sat Sep 20 01:02:21 CDT 2014

Thankyou Animesh and Venkatesh for responding.  Sorry for the long delay 
in responding.

On Tue, 26 Aug 2014, Animesh via Advaita-l wrote:

> According to my information and on basis of  kaushika sutra ( commentry 
> of rudrā and bhadrā ) ekarshi is another name for  aupasana agni of 
> atharvans. We posses this special name for aupasana agni and in paddhati 
> texts ( atharvanīya paddhati , prabhā etc ) generally smārta agni is 
> reffered by this name .I will shortly find and reply with reason why 
> it's called so.

Fwiw, Ishopanishad (rk 16) refers to Pushan (the sun as "nourisher") by 
the name Ekarshi.  Shankaracharya explains the meaning as "the one who 
goes alone"  (tathaika eva R^iShati gachchhatItyekarShiH)

  The term shiro vrata  is identical with pashupata vrata 
> vidhi .( you may refer to Pashupata vrata vidhi parishistha ) Since it 
> includes the upadesha of core knowledge ( bramha vidya ) by the guru to 
> performer it is known as shiro vrata. In comparison with yajur vedic 
> tradtion it is combination of upanishad vratam with shaiva elements. 
> Devi bhagavatam ( 12 th skanda ) gives another reason why it is called 
> shiro vrata  " since it is described in shiro bhaga of veda i.e. in 
> aranyaka and upnishad portion. A student optionally performs it before  
> samapavartan . Even a  willing grahasta may perform it and get the 
> upadesha of bramha vidya. In 3rd mantra shaunaka ( mahAshAla term 
> describes him as grahasta ) seeks the upadesha of bramha vidya from 
> AngirA muni. According to my opinion the mention of these two are 
> qualification for upadesha of mundaka upanishad. These qualification 
> includes 1) person should have installed smārta agni 2) have performed 
> shiro vrata during bramhacharya. If he has not performed it he should 
> perform it before upadesha for qualification.
> Your assumption is true the shiro vrata includes shaving of head and
> then guru imparts diksha  but not any reference of agni on head is there
> in actual vidhi.

On Mon, 25 Aug 2014, Venkatesh Murthy via Advaita-l wrote (quoting 
devibhagavata purana):

> Sirovrata is applying ashes to the forehead. It was by Sirovrata that 
> Brahma and the Devas became the Gods they are. Why, the Trimurti have 
> have performed Sirovrata. The vrata of ashes is called Sirovrata in the 
> first part of the Atharva Veda. Elsewhere, it is also called Sivavrata, 
> Pasupatavrata, and by other names.

I read "carrying fire on the head" in Swami Gambhirananda (RK mission)'s 
translation of Mundakopanishad and I have long been mystified as to what 
that could possibly mean.  Your explanation makes much more sense.

On Wed, 27 Aug 2014, Venkatesh Murthy wrote:

> Sirovrata is referred in 3 - 3 -3 Sutra Bhashya

In the adhikarana to which this sutra belongs, there is a discussion about 
the unity or otherwise of the various meditations (vidya, upasana) 
mentioned in the upanishads are one or separate.  The purvapaksha says 
they are separate.  For instance both the brhadaranyakopanishad of the 
shuklayajurveda and the chhandogyopanishad of the samaveda both describe 
the prana vidya (meditation on Brahman as prana or life force.) albeit in 
slightly different ways.   Now in the karmakanda of those two shakhas there
are similar duplications with difference.  For example the Yajurvedis say 
that yajnopavit should be changed yearly on Shravana purnima.  The 
Samavedis also say it should be changed yearly but on Rshi Panchami 
(Bhadrapada shukla 5)  In this case one is obliged the rule of his own 
shakha.  So too, the purvapakshi argues, the yajurvedi should practice 
prana vidya according to Brh. Up. only as the samavedi should according to 
chh. Up only.

The siddhanta is that no all the vidyas are one.  Shankaracharya explains 
that it is only fitting there should be multiplicity in karmas as they are 
based on bheda and have different intentions, outcomes etc.  But all 
vidyas are for the one purpose of knowing the one, nirguna Brahman.  There 
is no bheda so they are all equivalent.  And thus one (who I should add 
is qualified to study upanishads in the first place.) can study all of 
them even if they are not of his svashakha.

It is in this context that the purvapaksha comes up with a rejoinder 
in 3.3.3:

svAdhyAyasya tathAtvena hi samAchAre.adhikArachha savavachcha tanniyamaH

"It [Shirovrata] belongs to self-study [of the atharvaveda by followers of 
the same only] because the samAchara mentions it as providing adhikara 
[for such study] like the case of that rule of the seven offerings"

As we have previously discussed, the mundakopanishad says that it should 
only be learnt by one who has performed the shirovrata and offered into 
the ekarshi fire.  Thus the argument is that this should be taken 
literally and only the followers of the Atharveda who have gone through 
the proper rites are entitled to learn it.  And if as you say all the 
vidyas are equal it means Atharvedis cannot learn _any_ vedanta until they 
have undergone shirovrata etc.  Furthermore this is the same as the rule 
for making seven oblations which everyone agrees is for Atharvavedis only.

Shankaracharyas response is that yes this should indeed be taken 
literally. The requirement for shirovrata etc. is for Atharvavedis 
learning the _reciting_ of Mundakopanishad with pada, krama, upto ghana 
etc.  It cannot be for the vidya therein because as you have now conceded, 
that is the same vidya as is taught everywhere else.  So it is not the 
same case as the seven offerings which are specifically offered into the 
one agni of the Atharvedis as opposed to the three agnis of everyone else.

So some followup questions are:

1.  What is the samAchAra?  It seems to be a text of some kind.  Is it 
another name for the Mundaka Up.?  The Kaushika sutra?  Or is it a 
separate work altogether?  Or perhaps is samAchara being used as synonym 
for shishTAchAra?  (samAchAra in Gujarati means "news" but that can't be 

2.  What are those seven offerings?  Shankaracharya says the seven "from 
saurya to shataudana".  Are these made in the Ekarshi agni you mentioned? 
Is that the one agni of the Atharvavedis? But you said Ekarshi is aupasana 
agni but this seems to be contrasted with the three well-known shrauta 
agnis garhapatya, avahaniya, and dakshina.  Is Shankaracharya implying 
Atharvavedis only have one shrauta agni?  Or none?

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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