The Mandukya Upanishad


Being a Summary of Consciousness & Its Phases

Note: In this Upanishad, the terms “Vaishvanara,” “Taijasa,” and “Prajna” (pronounced “Pragna”) are used as synonyms in place of “Jagrat,” “Svapna,” and “Sushupti.”

AUM Symbol of Hinduism

1. AUM means Akshara, the Indestructible and Imperishable. It stands for the Supreme Reality. It is a symbol for what was, what is, and what shall be. AUM represents also what lies beyond past, present, and future. All this is nothing but AUM. All that is also nothing but AUM.

2. Brahman is all, and the Self is Brahman. This Self has four states of consciousness.

3. The first is called Vaishvanara, the waking state, in which one lives with all the senses turned outward, aware only of the external world.

4. Taijasa is the name of the second, the dreaming state in which, with the senses turned inward, one enacts the impressions of past deeds and present desires.

5. The third state is called Pragna, deep or dreamless sleep, in which one neither dreams nor desires. There is no mind in Pragna, there is no separateness; but the sleeper is not conscious of this. Let him become conscious in Pragna and it will open the door to the state of abiding joy, the Turiya state.

6. Pragna, all-powerful and all-knowing, dwells in the hearts of all as the ruler. Pragna is the source and end of all.

7. The fourth is the superconscious state called Turiya, neither inward nor outward, neither conscious nor unconscious, beyond the senses and the intellect. It is the stateless state, in which there is none other than Brahman – One, without a second. Brahman is the supreme goal of life. It is infinite peace and love. Realize Brahman!

8. Turiya is represented by AUM. Though indivisible, it has three sounds. Though the Self is indivisible, it has three states of manifesting consciousness.

9. A stands for Vaishvanara. Those who know this, through mastery of the senses, obtain the fruit of their desires and attain greatness.

10. U indicates Taijasa. Those who know this, by mastering even their dreams, become established in wisdom. In their family everyone leads the spiritual life and no-one is born who does not know Brahman.

11. M corresponds to Pragna. Those who know this, by stilling the mind, are unified with Brahman and, finding their true stature, they inspire everyone around them to grow.

12. The mantra AUM in its completeness is without aspects or sounds and stands for the supreme state of Turiya, the blissful Silence which is beyond birth and death, and without a second. Those who know AUM as the Self become the Self; truly, they become the Self.


SOME RELATED ARTICLES: Atman – The Higher Self, The Impersonal Divine, 12 Things Theosophy Teaches, The Sevenfold Nature of Man, Gandhi on Blavatsky and Theosophy, The Life & Times of Adi Shankaracharya, The Theosophy of the Bhagavad Gita, The Three Gunas, Tat Tvam Asi – “Thou art That!”, Theosophy on Kundalini: The Serpent Power and Mystic Fire, Ramalingam Pillai and the Theosophical Movement, Our Mother India, A Yogi’s Meeting with a Himalayan Mahatma, Who are you, Madame Blavatsky?, and Is Theosophy Hinduism, Buddhism, or Something Else?

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“Those who search for the highest must go to the right source of study, the teachings of the Upanishads, and must go in the right spirit.”
~ H.P. Blavatsky, The Doctrine of Avataras ~

4 thoughts on “The Mandukya Upanishad

  1. I have been looking for a good translation of the Upanishads. Is the Charles Johnston translation and commentary from Kshetra Books a good one?

    1. It’s always advisable to have two or more translations of any great scripture – whether it be the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Dhammapada, or whatever – as it’s very rare that a single translation can bring about the full depth and scope of the text.

      In my view, the Charles Johnston translation is actually one of the worst of all the English translations of the Upanishads, being frequently vague and often inaccurate. That’s of course only a personal opinion though.

      The rendition of the Mandukya Upanishad in the above article is the result of blending the Eknath Easwaran translation (one of the very best but still not perfect) and the S. Tattvabhushan translation of this particular Upanishad. The translations by Swami Sivananda and Sri Aurobindo also seem to be very good from what I’ve seen.

      1. Thanks for the insight about Charles Johnston’s translation of the Upanishads. I was interested because I found his commentary from a theosophical perspective helpful. In fact, Johnston was asked by W.Q Judge to undergo translations of key Indian texts as part of the oriental department started by Judge; so, are any of Johnston’s other translations like the works attributed to Shankaracharya such as the “Crest Jewel of Wisdom and “Atma Bodha etc any good?

        1. Unlike his Upanishad translations, I don’t actually own a copy of his translations of Shankaracharya’s works but from the few brief excerpts I’ve seen of them in online previews from Kshetra Books I didn’t think particularly highly of them. But again, this is only a personal opinion and shouldn’t carry any weight with anyone, since different things suit different people. Thank you for your comments and questions!

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