Harih-Om. I shall relate in the form of a catechism whatever should be known for the removal of all miseries that befall these ignorant creatures [men].

What is Brahman? Who is Īśwara? Who is Jīva? What is Prakṛti? Who is Paramātmā? Who is Brahmā? Who is Vishnu? Who is Rudra? Who is Indra? Who is Yama? Who is Sūrya? Who is Chandra? Who are Devas? Who are Rākshasas? Who are Piśāchas? Who are Manushyas? Who are Women? Who are Paśus, etc.? What is Sthāvara? Who are Brahmans and others? What is Jāti (caste)? What is Karma? What is Akarma? What is Jñāna? What is Ajñāna? What is Sukha? What is Duḥkha? What is Swarga? What is Naraka? What is Bandha? What is Moksha? Who is Upāsya? Who is Vidwān? Who is Mūdha? What is Āsura? What is Tapas? What is Paramapada? What is Grāhya? What is Agrāhya? Who is Sannyāsi? Thus are the questions.

1. What is Brahman?

It is the Chaitanya that appears, through the aspects of Karma and Jñāna, as this vast mundane egg composed of Mahat, Ahaṅkāra and the five elements, earth, water, fire, Vāyu and Ākāś—that is secondless—that is devoid of all Upādhis [vehicles], that is full of all Śaktis [potencies], that is without beginning and end, that is described as pure, beneficial, peaceful, and Guna-less and that is indescribable.

2. Who is Īśwara? and what are His characteristics?

Brahman itself, having through His Śakti called Prakṛti (matter) created the worlds and being latent in them, becomes the ruler of Buddhi and Indriyas (organs of sense and action) as well as Brahma (the creator) and others. Hence he is named Īśwara.

3. Who is Jīva?

Īśwara Himself, subject to the false superimposition upon Himself [of the idea] “I am the gross” through the [assumption of the] names and forms of Brahmā, Vishnu, Rudra, Indra, and others is Jīva. Though one, he appears as many Jīvas, through the force of the different Karmas originating the bodies.

4. What is Prakṛti (matter)?

It is nothing else but the Śakti [potency] of Brahman which is of the nature of Buddhi that is able to produce the many motley worlds by virtue of the mere presence of Brahman.

5. What is Paramātmā?

The supreme Ātmā or soul. It is Brahman alone that is Paramātmā as it (the former) is far superior to bodies and others.

6. Who is Brahmā [the creator]?

7. Who is Vishnu [the preserver]?

8. Who is Rudra [the destroyer]?

9. Who is Indra?

10. Who is Yama [the angel of death]?

11. Who is Sūrya [the Sun]?

12. Who is Chandra [the Moon]?

13. Who are Devas [the Angels]?

14. Who are Asuras [the Demons]?

15. Who are Piśāchas [the evil spirits]?

16. Who are Manushyas [the men]?

17. Who are Women?

18. What are beasts, etc.?

19. What are the Sthāvaras [fixed ones]?

20. Who are Brahmans and others?

} That Brahman is Brahmā, Vishnu, Rudra and Indra, Yama, Sun and Moon, Devas, Asuras, Piśāchas, men, women, beasts, etc., the fixed ones, Brahmans and others. Here there is no manyness in the least degree: all this is verily Brahman.

21. What is Jāti (caste)

It cannot refer to the skin, the blood, the flesh or the bone. There is no caste for Ātmā; caste is only conventional.

22. What is Karma?

Karma is that action alone which is performed by the organs and ascribed to Ātmā as “I do” (viz., agency being attributed to Ātmā).

23. What is Akarma [or non-Karma]?

Akarma is the performance, without any desire for the fruits, of the daily and occasional rites, sacrifices, vows, austerities, gifts and other actions that are associated with the egoism of the actor and the enjoyer, and that are productive of bondage, rebirth, etc.

24. What is Jñāna?

It is the realisation by direct cognition of the fact that in this changing universe there is nothing but Chaitanya [the one life] that is Consciousness, that is of the form of the seer and the seen, pervading all things, that is the same in all, and that is not subject to changes like pot, cloth, etc. This realisation is brought about by means of the subjugation of the body and the senses, the serving of a good Guru (teacher), the hearing of the exposition of Vedāntic doctrines and constant meditation thereon.

25. What is Ajñāna?

It is the illusory attribution, like the snake in the rope, of many Ātmās (souls) through the diverse Upādhis [or vehicles] of the angels, beasts, men, the fixed ones, females, males, castes and orders of life, bondage and emancipation, etc., to Brahman that is secondless, all-permeating and of the nature of all.

26. What is Sukha (happiness)?

It is a state of being of the nature of bliss, having cognized through experience the Reality of Sachchidānanda [or that which is be-ness, consciousness and bliss].

27. What is Duḥkha (pains)?

It is the mere Saṅkalpa [or the thinking] of the objects of mundane existence [or of not-Self according to the Bombay Edition].

28. What is Swarga (heaven)?

It is the association with Sat [either good men or Brahman which is Sat, the true].

29. What is Naraka (hell)?

It is the association with that which brings about this mundane existence which is Asat [the false].

30. What is Bandha [bondage]?

Such Saṅkalpas [thoughts] as “I was born,” etc., arising from the affinities of beginningless Ajñāna form bondage.

The thought obscuration [or mental ignorance] of the mundane existence of “mine” in such as father, mother, brother, wife, child, house, gardens, lands, etc., forms bondage.

The thoughts of I-ness as actor, etc., are bondage.

The thought of the development in oneself of the eight Siddhis (higher psychical powers) as Anima and others2 is bondage.

The thought of propitiating the angels, men, etc., is bondage. The thought of going through the eight means of Yoga3 practice, Yama, etc., is bondage.

The thought of performing the duties of one’s own caste and order of life is bondage.

The thought that command, fear and doubt are the attributes of [or pertain to] Ātmā is bondage.

The thought of knowing the rules of performing sacrifices, vows, austerity and gift is bondage. Even the mere thought of desire for Moksha (emancipation) is bondage. By the very act of thought, bondage is caused.

31. What is Moksha [emancipation]?

Moksha is the (state of) the annihilation, through the discrimination of the eternal from the non-eternal, of all thoughts of bondage, like those of “mine” in objects of pleasure and pain, lands, etc., in this transitory mundane existence.

32. Who is Upāsya [or fit to be worshipped]?

That Guru (or spiritual instructor) who enables (the disciple) to attain to Brahman, the Consciousness that is in all bodies.

33. Who is Śishya (the disciple)?

The disciple is that Brahman alone that remains after the consciousness of the universe has been lost (in him) through Brāhmic wisdom.

34. Who is Vidwān (the learned)?

It is he who has cognized the true form (or reality) of his own consciousness that is latent in all.

35. Who is Mūdha [the ignorant]?

He who has the egoistic conception of the body, caste, orders of life, actor, enjoyer and others.

36. What is Āsura [the demoniacal]?

It is the Tapas [austerity] practised by one inflicting trouble on the Ātmā within through Japa [or inaudible muttering of Mantras], abstinence from food, Agnihotra [the performance of the worship of fire], etc., attended with cruel desire, hatred, pain, hypocrisy and the rest for the purpose of acquiring the powers of Vishnu, Brahma, Rudra, Indra and others.

37. What is Tapas?

Tapas is the act of burning—through the fire of direct cognition of the knowledge that Brahman is the truth and the universe, a myth—the seed of the deep-rooted desire to attain the powers of Brahma, etc.

38. What is Paramapada [the supreme abode]?

It is the seat of the eternal and emancipated Brahman which is far superior to Prānas (the vital airs), the organs of sense and actions, the internal organs (of thought), the Gunas and others, which is of the nature of Sachchidānanda and which is the witness to all.

39. What is Grāhya [or fit to be taken in]?

Only that Reality of Absolute Consciousness which is not conditioned by space, time or substance.

40. What is Agrāhya?

The thought that this universe is truth—this universe which is different from one’s Self and which being subject to Māyā (or illusion) forms the object of (cognition of) Buddhi and the organs.

41. Who is the Sannyāsi [ascetic]?

A Sannyāsi is an ascetic who having given up all the duties of caste and orders of life, good and bad actions, etc., being freed from [the conceptions of] “I” and “mine” and having taken his refuge in Brahman alone, roams at large practising Nirvikalpa Samādhi and being firmly convinced of “I am Brahman” through the realisation of the meaning of such sacred (Vedic) sentences as “Thou art That” “All this is verily Brahman” and “Here there is no manyness in the least”. He only is an emancipated person. He only is fit to be adored. He only is a Yogin. He only is a Paramahamsa. He only is an Avadhūta. He only is a Brahman. Whoever studies the Nirālamba-Upanishad becomes, through the grace of Guru, pure like fire. Ho becomes pure like Vāyu (air). He does not return. He is not born again: nay he is not born again.

Such is the Upanishad.

1. Lit.—without support.

2. There are 18 Siddhis, 8 higher and 10 lower.

3. They are Yama, Niyama, etc.