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A Question on a verse from Mundakopanishad

From: Harini Raghavan (
Date: Thu Oct 12 2000 - 16:02:48 PDT


This is a question from Harikumar L ( who is no longer 
subscribed to the list. I am forwarding it on his behalf.


>From HariKumar:-

Sri Sita Ramachandra Parabrahmane namah.

My humble namaskarams to all the bhagavathas of the forum. I got a doubt
when I was reading the Mundakopanishad translated and commented by Dr.
N.S.Anantha  Rangachar. I'm giving the mantrA and its translation below.

kalAh panchadasaprathishta devasca
pratidevatAsu karmAni vijnAnamayasca
pare avyayae eki bhavanti.(3.2.7)
"The fifteen constituents merge in their own respective sources. The
indriyas become one with the respective deities presiding over them. The
karmas and the jIvAtman qualified by consciousness, all become unified
in that Supreme immutable Atman."

This verse is taken by the advaitins to convey the identity of jIvAtman
with ParamAtman. THe term 'eki bhavanti' as per them conveys identity.
But this argument is untenable because the mantrA states that karma and
the jIvAtman becomes one with the Supreme. As per advaita, karma does
not become identical with Brahman. So what does the term 'eki bhavanti'

This term ‘eki bhavanti’ is used in the Subala Upanishad while
explaining the universal dissolution.

                                                 Prthivyapsu pralIyate
Apastejasi lIyante tejo vayau liyate

                                                  bhUtadir mahati lIyate
mahAn avyakte lIyate. Avyaktam
                                                 akshare lIyate aksharam
tamasi lIyate tamah pare deve eki bhavati

During universal devastation, earth merges into water, water merges into
fire, fire merges into air, air merges into ether(sky) etc. then tamas
becomes one with the Supreme Divinity.
Here every entity is said to undergo layA(merge) in its antecedent
entity, starting from prithvi upto tamas. But tamas is said to “become
one with” (eki bhavanti) Brahman and there it is not said to be laya.
When earth completely leaves its form and becomes water, then it is
laya. In this state, the element earth no more exists as an individual
element. Similarly when water completely gives up its form and becomes
fire, then it is layA. After this layA, the element water no more exists
individually. This laya goes on for each entity upto tamas. But tamas is
not said to undergo laya but it is said to “become one with” (eki
bhavanti) Brahman. This means that it enters the transcendental body of
the Lord and remains in a very subtle state in him. Because of this, it
is indistinguishable from him, but it is not totally dissolved in him.

In this context, the term 'eki bhavati' is meant to be  'becoming
indistinguishable' from Brahman. Cane the same meaning be taken to
understand the above mantrA from Mundakopanishad? i.e. the jIvAtman
becomes indistinguishable from Brahman by attaining the same status as
him, but not identical with him.If we take so, then the following
difficulty arises:What happens to karma which is mentioned in the
mantrA?.Does it also become indistiguishable from Brahman?

I humbly request you to enlighten me by giving the explanation of this

With namaskArams,

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