Om. Bṛhaspati asked Yājñavalkya: “That which is called Kurukshetra is the place of the sacrifice of the Devas and the spiritual seat of all beings. Therefore where should one go in order that he may cognize Kurukshetra, the place of the sacrifice of the Devas and the spiritual seat of all beings?” (To which Yājñavalkya replied:) “Avimukta2 is Kurukshetra, the place of the sacrifice of the Devas and of the study of Brahman, because it is there that Rudra initiates one into the Tāraka3 Brahman when prāna (life) goes out. Through this, one becomes immortal and the enjoyer of moksha. Therefore one should always be in the midst of that place avimukta, and should never leave, O reverend sir, avimukta.” Thus said Yājñavalkya.
Then Bhāradvāja asked Yājñavalkya: “What is tāraka? what is that which causes one to cross (this mundane existence).” To which Yājñavalkya replied: “Om-Namō-Nārāyanāya is the tāraka. It should be worshipped as Chidātma. Om is a single syllable and of the nature of Ātmā. N amah is of two syllables and is of the nature of prakṛti (matter). Nārāyarnāya is of five syllables and is of the nature of Parabrahman. He who knows this becomes immortal. Through Om, is Brahma produced; through Na is Vishnu produced; through Ma is Rudra produced; through Nā is Īśvara produced; through Rā is the Anda-Virāt (or Virāt of the universe) produced; through Ya is Purusha produced; through Nā is Bhagavān (Lord) produced; and through Ya is Paramātmā produced. This Ashtākshara (eight syllables) of Nārāyana is the supreme and the highest Purusha. Thus is the Ṛgveda with the first foot (or half). That which is Om is the indestructible, the supreme, and Brahman. That alone should be worshipped. It is this that is of the eight subtle syllables. And this becomes eight, being of eight forms. A is the first letter; U is the second; M is the third; Bindu is the fourth; Nāda is the fifth; Kalā is the sixth; Kalātīta (that beyond kalā) is the seventh; and that which is beyond these is the eighth. It is called Tāraka, because it enables one to cross this mundane existence. Know that Tāraka alone is Brahman and it alone should be worshipped.” The (following) verses may be quoted here: “From the letter A came Brahmā named Jāmbavān (the bear4). From the letter U came Upendra,5 named Hari. From the letter M came Śiva, known as Hanumān.6 Bindu is named Īśvara and is Śatrughna, the Lord of the discus itself. Nāda should be known as the great Lord named Bharata and the sound of the conch itself. From Kalā came the Purusha himself as Lakshmana and the bearer of the earth. Kalātīta is known as the goddess Sītā Herself. That which is beyond is the Paramātmā named Śrī-Rāma and is the highest Purusha. All this is the explanation of the letter Om, which is the past, the present, and future, and which is other than these (viz.,) tattva, mantra, varna, (colour), devatā (deity), chhandas (metre), ṛk, kāla, śakti, and sṛshti (creation). He who knows this becomes immortal. (Thus is) Yajurveda with the second foot.”
Then Bhāradvāja asked Yājñavalkya: “Through what mantra is Paramātmā pleased and shows his own Ātmā (to persons)? Please tell this.” Yājñavalkya replied:
“(1st Mantra:) Om. He who is Śrī-Paramātmā, Nārāyana, and the Lord described by (the letter) A and is Jāmbavān (the bear) and Bhūḥ, Bhuvaḥ, and Suvaḥ: Salutation to Him.”
“(2nd Mantra:) He who is Paramātmā, Nārāyana, and the Lord described by (the letter) U and is Upendra (or) Hari and Bhūḥ, Bhuvaḥ, and Suvaḥ: Salutation to Him.
“(3rd Mantra:) Om. He who is Śri-Paramātmā, Nārāyana, and the Lord described by (the letter) M and is of the form of Śiva (or), Hanumān and Bhūḥ, Bhuvaḥ, and Suvaḥ: Salutation to Him.
“(4th Mantra:) Om. He who is Śri-Paramātmā, Nārāyana, the Lord of Śatrughna of the form of Bindu and the Bhūḥ, Bhuvaḥ, and Suvaḥ: Salutation to Him.
“(5th Mantra:) Om. He who is Śri-Paramātmā, Nārāyana, and the Lord, and is Bharata7 of the form of Nāda and the Bhūḥ Bhuvaḥ, and Suvaḥ: Salutation to Him.
“(6th Mantra:) Om. He who is Śri-Paramātmā, Nārāyana, and the Lord, and is Lakshmana of the form of Kalā and the Bhūḥ, Bhuvaḥ, and Suvaḥ: Salutation to Him.
“(7th Mantra:) Om. He who is Śri-Paramātmā, Nārāyana, and the Lord, and is Kalātīta, the Goddess Sīta, of the form of Chit and the Bhūḥ, Bhuvaḥ, and Suvaḥ: Salutation to Him.
“(8th Mantra:) Om. He who is Śri-Paramātmā, Nārāyana, and the Lord that is beyond that (Kalātīta), is the supreme Purusha, and is the ancient Purushottama, the eternal, the immaculate, the enlightened, the emancipated, the true, the highest bliss, the endless, the secondless, and the all-full—that Brahman is myself. I am Rāma and the Bhūḥ, Bhuvaḥ, and Suvaḥ: Salutation to Him.”
He who has mastered this eightfold mantra is purified by Agni; he is purified by Vāyu; he is purified by the sun; he is purified by Śiva; he is known by all the Devas. He attains the fruit of reciting Itihāsas, Purānas, Rudra (Mantras), a hundred thousand times. He who repeatedly remembers (or recites) the Ashtākshara (the eight-syllabled mantra) of Nārāyana gains the fruit of the recitation of Gāyatrī a hundred thousand times or of Pranava (Om) a myriad of times. He purifies (his ancestors) ten (degrees) above and (his descendants) ten (degrees) below. He attains the state of Nārāyana. He who knows this (attains the state of Nārāyana).
Like the eye (which sees without any obstacle) the things spread (in the sky), the wise ever see this supreme seat of Vishnu. Brāhmanas who are spiritually awake praise in diverse ways and illuminate the supreme abode of Vishnu. Thus is the Upanishad. (Thus is) the Sāmaveda with the third foot.
1. This Upanishad treats of the sāra (essence) for tāra (crossing).
2. It is one of the many names given to Benares.
3. Tāraka is Om—from tṛ, to cross.
4. As the bear, Brahmā, incarnated according to the ‘Rāmāyana’.
5. As Upendra, Vishnu incarnates in the lower tala as well in the legs in man.
6. Hanumān is the incarnation of vāyu, one of the elements of Śiva.
7. Bharata is rather the incarnation of discus or consciousness and Satrughna, that of conch—via., ākāsic sound.