Prashna Upanishad

The Prashna Upanishad is a 1st-millennium BCE Hindu text. Above: a manuscript page in Sanskrit, Devanagari script.

The Prashnopanishad (Sanskrit: प्रश्नोपनिषद्, Praśnopaniṣad) is an ancient Sanskrit text, embedded inside Atharva Veda, ascribed to Pippalada sakha of Vedic scholars.[1] It is a Mukhya (primary) Upanishad, and is listed as number 4 in the Muktika canon of 108 Upanishads of Hinduism.

The Prashna Upanishad contains six Prashna (questions), and each is a chapter with a discussion of answers.[2] The chapters end with the phrase, prasnaprativakanam, which literally means, "thus ends the answer to the question".[1] In some manuscripts discovered in India, the Upanishad is divided into three Adhyayas (chapters) with a total of six Kandikas (कण्डिका, short sections).[3]

The first three questions are profound metaphysical questions but, states Eduard Roer,[3] do not contain any defined, philosophical answers, are mostly embellished mythology and symbolism. The fourth section, in contrast, contains substantial philosophy. The last two sections discuss the symbol Om and Moksha concept.[3] Roer as well as Weber suggest that the last two Prashnas may be spurious, later age insertion into the original Upanishad.[4]

Prashna Upanishad is notable for its structure and sociological insights into the education process in ancient India.[5] The Upanishad is also known as the Prashnopanishad (Sanskrit: प्रश्नोपनिषद्, Praśnopaniṣad). In some historic Indian literature and commentaries, it is also called Shat Prasna Upanishad.[1]

Etymology

Prashna (प्रश्न) literally means, in modern usage, "question, query, inquiry".[6] In ancient and medieval era Indian texts, the word had two additional context-dependent meanings: "task, lesson" and "short section or paragraph", with former common in Vedic recitations.[6] In Prashna Upanishad, all these contextual roots are relevant. The text consists of questions with lessons, and the sections of the Upanishad are also called prashna.