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Thirty Minor Upanishads, tr. by K. Narayanasvami Aiyar, [1914], at

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Harih-Om. I shall relate in the form of a catechism whatever should be known for the removal of all miseries that befall these ignorant creatures [men].

What is Brahman? Who is Īśwara? Who is Jīva? What is Prakṛṭi? Who is Paramāṭmā? Who is Brahmā? Who is Vishṇu? Who is Ruḍra? Who is Inḍra? Who is Yama? Who is Sūrya? Who is Chanḍra? Who are Ḍevas? Who are Rākshasas? Who are Piśāchas? Who are Manushyas? Who are Women? Who are Paśus, etc.? What is Sṭhāvara? Who are Brahmans and others? What is Jāṭi (caste)? What is Karma? What is Akarma? What is Jñāna? What is Ajñāna? What is Sukha? What is Ḍuḥkha? What is Swarga? What is Naraka? What is Banḍha? What is Moksha? Who is Upāsya? Who is Viḍwān? Who is Mūdha? What is Āsura? What is Ṭapas? What is Paramapaḍa? What is Grāhya? What is Agrāhya? Who is Sannyāsi? Thus are the questions.

1. What is Brahman?

It is the Chaiṭanya that appears, through the aspects of Karma and Jñāna, as this vast mundane egg composed of Mahaṭ, Ahaṅkāra and the five elements, earth, water, fire, Vāyu and Ākāś—that is secondless—that is devoid of all Upāḍhis [vehicles], that is full of all Śakṭis [potencies], that is without beginning and end, that is described as pure, beneficial, peaceful, and Guṇa-less and that is indescribable.

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2. Who is Īśwara? and what are His characteristics?

Brahman itself, having through His Śakṭi called Prakṛṭi (matter) created the worlds and being latent in them, becomes the ruler of Buḍḍhi and Inḍriyas (organs of sense and action) as well as Brahma (the creator) and others. Hence he is named Īśwara.

3. Who is Jīva?

Īśwara Himself, subject to the false superimposition upon Himself [of the idea] "I am the gross" through the [assumption of the] names and forms of Brahmā, Vishṇu, Ruḍra, Inḍra, and others is Jīva. Though one, he appears as many Jīvas, through the force of the different Karmas originating the bodies.

4. What is Prakṛṭi (matter)?

It is nothing else but the Śakṭi [potency] of Brahman which is of the nature of Buḍḍhi that is able to produce the many motley worlds by virtue of the mere presence of Brahman.

5. What is Paramāṭmā?

The supreme Āṭmā or soul. It is Brahman alone that is Paramāṭmā as it (the former) is far superior to bodies and others.

6. Who is Brahmā [the creator]?
7. Who is Vishṇu [the preserver]?
8. Who is Ruḍra [the destroyer]?
9. Who is Inḍra?
10. Who is Yama [the angel of death]?
11. Who is Sūrya [the Sun]?
12. Who is Chanḍra [the Moon]?
13. Who are Ḍevas [the Angels]?
14. Who are Asuras [the Demons]?
15. Who are Piśāchas [the evil spirits]?
16. Who are Manushyas [the men]?
17. Who are Women?
18. What are beasts, etc.?
19. What are the Sṭhāvaras [fixed ones]?
20. Who are Brahmans and others?

That Brahman is Brahmā, Vishṇu, Ruḍra and Inḍra, Yama, Sun and Moon, Ḍevas, Asuras, Piśāchas, men, women, beasts, etc., the fixed ones, Brahmans and others. Here there is no manyness in the least degree: all this is verily Brahman.

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21. What is Jāṭi (caste)

It cannot refer to the skin, the blood, the flesh or the bone. There is no caste for Āṭmā; caste is only conventional.

22. What is Karma?

Karma is that action alone which is performed by the organs and ascribed to Āṭmā as "I do" (viz., agency being attributed to Āṭmā).

23. What is Akarma [or non-Karma]?

Akarma is the performance, without any desire for the fruits, of the daily and occasional rites, sacrifices, vows, austerities, gifts and other actions that are associated with the egoism of the actor and the enjoyer, and that are productive of bondage, rebirth, etc.

24. What is Jñāna?

It is the realisation by direct cognition of the fact that in this changing universe there is nothing but Chaiṭanya [the one life] that is Consciousness, that is of the form of the seer and the seen, pervading all things, that is the same in all, and that is not subject to changes like pot, cloth, etc. This realisation is brought about by means of the subjugation of the body and the senses, the serving of a good Guru (teacher), the hearing of the exposition of Veḍānṭic doctrines and constant meditation thereon.

25. What is Ajñāna?

It is the illusory attribution, like the snake in the rope, of many Āṭmās (souls) through the diverse Upāḍhis [or vehicles] of the angels, beasts, men, the fixed ones, females, males, castes and orders of life, bondage and emancipation, etc., to Brahman that is secondless, all-permeating and of the nature of all.

26. What is Sukha (happiness)?

It is a state of being of the nature of bliss, having cognized through experience the Reality of Sachchiḍānanḍa [or that which is be-ness, consciousness and bliss].

27. What is Ḍuḥkha (pains)?

It is the mere Saṅkalpa [or the thinking] of the objects of mundane existence [or of not-Self according to the Bombay Edition].

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28. What is Swarga (heaven)?

It is the association with Saṭ [either good men or Brahman which is Saṭ, the true].

29. What is Naraka (hell)?

It is the association with that which brings about this mundane existence which is Asaṭ [the false].

30. What is Banḍha [bondage]?

Such Saṅkalpas [thoughts] as "I was born," etc., arising from the affinities of beginningless Ajñāna form bondage.

The thought obscuration [or mental ignorance] of the mundane existence of "mine" in such as father, mother, brother, wife, child, house, gardens, lands, etc., forms bondage.

The thoughts of I-ness as actor, etc., are bondage.

The thought of the development in oneself of the eight Siḍḍhis (higher psychical powers) as Anima and others 1 is bondage.

The thought of propitiating the angels, men, etc., is bondage. The thought of going through the eight means of Yoga 2 practice, Yama, etc., is bondage.

The thought of performing the duties of one's own caste and order of life is bondage.

The thought that command, fear and doubt are the attributes of [or pertain to] Āṭmā is bondage.

The thought of knowing the rules of performing sacrifices, vows, austerity and gift is bondage. Even the mere thought of desire for Moksha (emancipation) is bondage. By the very act of thought, bondage is caused.

31. What is Moksha [emancipation]?

Moksha is the (state of) the annihilation, through the discrimination of the eternal from the non-eternal, of all thoughts of bondage, like those of "mine" in objects of pleasure and pain, lands, etc., in this transitory mundane existence.

32. Who is Upāsya [or fit to be worshipped]?

That Guru (or spiritual instructor) who enables (the disciple) to attain to Brahman, the Consciousness that is in all bodies.

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33. Who is Śishya (the disciple)?

The disciple is that Brahman alone that remains after the consciousness of the universe has been lost (in him) through Brāhmic wisdom.

34. Who is Viḍwān (the learned)?

It is he who has cognized the true form (or reality) of his own consciousness that is latent in all.

35. Who is Mūdha [the ignorant]?

He who has the egoistic conception of the body, caste, orders of life, actor, enjoyer and others.

36. What is Āsura [the demoniacal]?

It is the Ṭapas [austerity] practised by one inflicting trouble on the Āṭmā within through Japa [or inaudible muttering of Manṭras], abstinence from food, Agnihoṭra [the performance of the worship of fire], etc., attended with cruel desire, hatred, pain, hypocrisy and the rest for the purpose of acquiring the powers of Vishṇu, Brahma, Ruḍra, Inḍra and others.

37. What is Ṭapas?

Ṭapas is the act of burning—through the fire of direct cognition of the knowledge that Brahman is the truth and the universe, a myth—the seed of the deep-rooted desire to attain the powers of Brahma, etc.

38. What is Paramapaḍa [the supreme abode]?

It is the seat of the eternal and emancipated Brahman which is far superior to Prāṇas (the vital airs), the organs of sense and actions, the internal organs (of thought), the Guṇas and others, which is of the nature of Sachchiḍānanḍa and which is the witness to all.

39. What is Grāhya [or fit to be taken in]?

Only that Reality of Absolute Consciousness which is not conditioned by space, time or substance.

40. What is Agrāhya?

The thought that this universe is truth—this universe which is different from one's Self and which being subject to Māyā (or illusion) forms the object of (cognition of) Buḍḍhi and the organs.

41. Who is the Sannyāsi [ascetic]?

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A Sannyāsi is an ascetic who having given up all the duties of caste and orders of life, good and bad actions, etc., being freed from [the conceptions of] "I" and "mine" and having taken his refuge in Brahman alone, roams at large practising Nirvikalpa Samāḍhi and being firmly convinced of "I am Brahman" through the realisation of the meaning of such sacred (Vedic) sentences as "Thou art That" "All this is verily Brahman" and "Here there is no manyness in the least". He only is an emancipated person. He only is fit to be adored. He only is a Yogin. He only is a Paramahamsa. He only is an Avaḍhūṭa. He only is a Brahman. Whoever studies the Nirālamba-Upanishaḍ becomes, through the grace of Guru, pure like fire. Ho becomes pure like Vāyu (air). He does not return. He is not born again: nay he is not born again.

Such is the Upanishaḍ.


18:1 Lit.—without support.

21:1 There are 18 Siḍḍhis, 8 higher and 10 lower.

21:2 They are Yama, Niyama, etc.

Next: 4. Maiṭreya-Upanishaḍ of Sāmaveḍa