Mundaka Upanishad

Mundaka Upanishad manuscript page, verses 3.2.8 to 3.2.10, Atharvaveda (Sanskrit, Devanagari script)

The Mundaka Upanishad (Sanskrit: मुण्डक-उपनिषद्, Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad) is an ancient Sanskrit Vedic text, embedded inside Atharva Veda.[1] It is a Mukhya (primary) Upanishad, and is listed as number 5 in the Muktika canon of 108 Upanishads of Hinduism. It is among the most widely translated Upanishads.[1]

It is a poetic verse style Upanishad, with 64 verses, written in the form of mantras. However, these mantras are not used in rituals, rather they are used for teaching and meditation on spiritual knowledge.[1]

The Mundaka Upanishad contains three Mundakams (parts), each with two sections.[2] The first Mundakam, states Roer,[2] defines the science of "Higher Knowledge" and "Lower Knowledge", and then asserts that acts of oblations and pious gifts are foolish, and do nothing to reduce unhappiness in current life or next, rather it is knowledge that frees. The second Mundakam describes the nature of the Brahman, the Self, the relation between the empirical world and the Brahman, and the path to know Brahman. The third Mundakam expands the ideas in the second Mundakam and then asserts that the state of knowing Brahman is one of freedom, fearlessness, complete liberation, self-sufficiency and bliss.[2]

Some scholars[3] suggest that passages in the Mundaka Upanishad present the pantheism theory.

In some historic Indian literature and commentaries, the Mundaka Upanishad is included in the canon of several verse-structured Upanishads that are together called as Mantra Upanishad and Mantropanishad.[4]

Etymology

Mundaka (Sanskrit: मुण्डक) literally means "shaved (as in shaved head), shorn, lopped trunk of a tree". Eduard Roer suggests that this root is unclear, and the word as title of the Upanishad possibly refers to "knowledge that shaves, or liberates, one of errors and ignorance".[5][6] The chapters of the Mundaka Upanishad are also sequentially referred to as "Mundakam" in ancient and medieval texts, for unclear etymological reasons.[1][6]