Shankara's commentary on the Gita is, without doubt, one of the greatest examples of Indian scholarship. This translation is particularly important in that the translator has been faithful to the original without in any way losing its spirit and clarity. In the Introduction the translator discusses various topics such as the Mahabharata War, which provided the background for the Gita; the historicity of Krishna; the importance and influence of the Gita; and the date of Shankara A Sanskrit 'Word Index' to the Gita included at the end, is an invaluable addition to the work.
This new edition of the Prasna Upanisad has been thoroughly revised by the author himself. In the matter of printing, to facilitate things for the reader, more space is given between the translation of the text and the translation of the bhasya. In the references, where only the figures without the name of any book occur, they refer to the sloka of this particular Upanisad.
The Prasna Upanisad is fourth in the series of Upanisads being published separately, taking each of them in its entirety from the earlier two-volume edition, Eight Upanisad; published by us. This has been preceded by the Aitareya Upanisad, the Mundaka Upanisad, and the Mandukya Upanisad with the Karika, thus completing the publication of the four Upanisads in the second volume of Eight Upanisads.
In the translation of the commentary, the words quoted from the text by Sri Sankaracarya are given in italics. These are followed by commas and the English equivalents. Informative explanatory footnotes have been added wherever necessary.
This Upanisad derives its name from the six prasnas or questions it contains. It belongs to the Atharva Veda, and very probably is of the Pippalada sakha. Sri Sankara refers to it as a Brahmana, complementary to the Mantra Upanisad, i.e. the Mundaka Upanisad, which also belongs to the same Veda.
As the very name implies, the Prasna Upanisad discusses philosophical problems through the medium of questions and answers between six students and a sage, Pippalada. The students approach him in accordance with the Vedic tradition, with sacrificial fuel in hand, in all humility, and with a desire to know the ultimate Truth. They are genuine seekers after Truth. They ask him various questions relating to the source of all beings, the number of deities, and the chief among them, the nature and function of Prana, the vital force, the nature of waking, dream, and sleep states and the function of the senses in each of the states, meditation on the sacred syllable Om, and what it leads to, and finally the nature of the Supreme Persons, the conscious Being in man, Brahman, higher than whom there is nothing to be known. And to each of these questions, the sage gives a suitable answer, making it intelligible and easy of comprehension by means of interesting analogies and similes.
Like, the Taittiriya Upanisad, it leads the aspirant gradually from the gross to the subtle principles of life and eventually points to the acme of spiritual perfection. It is our hope that the Prasna Upanisad in this form will be welcomed by all lovers of our philosophical and spiritual lore.
Of Related Interest:
Life of Shankaracharya - The Adventures of a Poet Philosopher
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