Introduction: This Upanishad is an integral part of Pippaladashakiya Brahmana of the Atharvaveda. In this Upanishad, Pippalada Rishi has answered 6 questions of 6 sages one after another. That is why this Upanishad is referred as Prashnopanishada.


O Gods! May we worship the Lord and listen to auspicious words, see all that is only auspicious, praise thy Lord with a strong body and utilize this life to perform all deeds which are good and sublime and which are bestowed upon us by God.
May Indra, whose glory and greatness is known by all and everywhere, nurture and nourish us. May Pusha, who knows everything about the world, do good to us and nourish us. May Garuda, who is equal in strength to the wheel and is the destroyer of all enemies, nourish us. May the Lord of intellect Brihaspati do good to us and pave the way towards welfare. May all our Adhibhautik, Adhidaivik and Adhyatamik worries cease to exist.
BACKGROUND: In the beginning of the Upanishad, Bharadwaj's son Sukesha, Shivkumar, Satyakam and Suryayani, of Garga Gotra, Aashwalayan of Kosal desha, Bhargav of Vidharbha and Katya's grandson Kabandhi, these 6 people were conversant with the Vedas and were realized souls. Once all these 6 sages got out with a desire to realize the Divine Cosmic soul. They had heard that Pippalad Rishi knew about the supreme soul and truth. So out of curiosity these 6 sages approached Maharshi Pippalada.
Seeing these 6 sages and realizing the intention behind their arrival, Maharshi Pippalada said- You all are sages. You have all practiced celibacy and have understood the Vedas in depth. That is why, you all once again practice celibacy with total devotion and start practicing penance again. After this, if I know the answer to your questions I shall definitely give it to you. Listening to this, all these 6 sages decided to practice penance, staying in the ashram. After the period of their celibacy and penance was over, they approached Maharshi Pippalad and expressed their curiosity.
Katya's grandson Kabandhi asked the first question with devotion: "Where do all the creatures take birth from?"
O Lord! Who is he, from whom all these inanimate things and creatures have taken birth and who is the ultimate and eternal reason behind their existence.
Solution- Maharshi Pippalad said- O Katyayana, the Lord is the master of all the creatures. He is the one who created all subjects at the time of creating universe and nature. With a firm resolution of doing this, he practiced penance. As a result of the penance, 'Rayi' and 'Prana' came into existence. The main objective behind creating these 2 elements was to cause their fusion and create the nature and pave the way for all creations.
The characteristic of Rayi and Prana: The Rayi and the Prana united to create this universe. This Sun is actually 'prana' which possesses the energy that can infuse life into one and all. Similarly the Moon is 'Rayi' because it contains such atoms and molecules that nourish all the material and concrete things.
When the Sun rises in the east after a dark night, it beholds in itself the life of all lives on earth. The Sun bestows life and energy to everything, wherever its light reaches. So the Sun is the 'prana' or life of all the lives on earth. The fire (Vaishvanar) that is inside the human body and which facilitates digestion of food, is a fraction of that energy. Hence, this radiant Sun is at the centre of all forms. All creatures evolve from the Sun (Savita) and the Sun helps us to accomplish all our activities as we desire. The Sun accomplishes all the duties such as giving light, giving life to one and all, change in seasons etc.
PENANCE BY THE AID OF 'RAYI': Throwing light on the worship of God and its benefits, Maharshi Pippalada said: " O Katyayana! The twelve months of a year itself are like God, the Lord of the universe. There are 2 dimensions- North and South. The North dimension is the 'prana' which is omniscient form of God and the South dimension 'Rayi' is the external material form.
In this world, those people who desire children, desire heaven and are involved in sensual pleasures, perform religious sacrifices and worship God. With the intention of enjoying worldly and transcendental happiness, they perform all their duties according to the scriptures. This is the veneration of the South dimension of God who is the embodiment of all the twelve months together. By doing this one attains bliss and those worshippers who are desirous come back to earth. This path is known as 'Pitra yaana'.
WORSHIP OF PRANA: Unlike the desirous worshippers, the worshippers who yearn for welfare of one and all, detach themselves from the allurements of worldly and celestial pleasures and devotedly practice celibacy and lead a life of renunciation. They practice spirituality and worship the omniscient Lord selflessly.
This is the worship of North dimension of the Lord who is the embodiment of the twelve months together. In this way all attain 'Suryaloka'. They are liberated from this world and never return to earth again.
The visible embodiment of the Supreme Lord is Lord Surya Narayan. Many philosophers say about Lord Surya Narayan that it has 5 legs that is by fusing Shishir and Hemant there are 5 seasons. There are 5 feet (Panch charan) of this and scholars also say that the twelve months also represent twelve figures. They are all the more nobler and higher than heaven. Even the heaven is illuminated by the light of the Sun. The water or rain that showers on earth is created from here itself. As the Sun gives water i.e. life to all, it is like a father to one and all. Other scholars have said that in this milky way, which is illuminated by the Sun, which comprises of 7 colours and 6 seasons, the only thing worth veneration is the omniscient Lord. The solar system which is visible to the naked eye is infact, the body of that supreme truth. This itself shows his greatness.
Every month is the embodiment of that Lord. In them, the fifteen days of the Krishna Paksha (waning moon) is God's right side, which should be understood as Rayi (cause of all material things). This is the form of the almighty God. The fifteen days of the Shukla Paksha (waxing moon) is the North dimension of the Lord. This itself is the Prana which infuses life into one and all and is the omniscient form of the Lord. Those who desire welfare of all and detach themselves from all the worldly things and perform all the auspicious deeds in the Shukla Paksha (waxing moon) and surrender all their deeds performed at the feet of the Lord 'prana swarupa'. They do not desire anything out of it unlike the people who indulge in sensual pleasures and perform all their deeds during the Krishna Paksha to beget worldly gains. The entire day including night and day together is the complete form of that supreme Lord. The day is the 'prana rupa' (giver of life to all), radiant, pure form and the night is the desirous 'Rayi' form.
Hence those people, who indulge in sensual pleasures during the day and simultaneously tread on the path of realization, never reach their goal and their entire life is a wasteful expenditure. On the contrary, those who desire worldly pleasures, indulge in sensual pleasures at night according to the seasons as written in the scriptures. Such people who strictly observe all the rules are like Brahmacharis (celibates)
Food can be considered a form of Prajapati because it is the nourisher of one and all and gives life. All creatures take birth from it sustain their lives on it.
Those people, who to beget progeny, adhere and follow the Prajapati Vrata, that is, indulge in sensual pleasures, follow all the rules and regulations while performing karma to attain state of bliss or heaven, help in perpetuation. Unlike these people, those who lead austere and pious lives and practice penance, speak the truth, see that divinity residing in one and all can attain Brahmaloka and dwell in bliss eternally.
Those, who are not at all wicked and those who don't even lie in their dreams, stay away from all kinds of misconduct and only those who are devoid of all demerits and flaws attain Brahmaloka (bliss)
Bhargava Rishi asked Maharshi Pippalada three questions.

  1. In all how many gods reside in the human body?
  2. How many of them are the embodiments or epitomes of that divine soul?
  3. Who is the noblest amongst all of them?

SOLUTION: Maharshi Pippalada answered- "The only support of all the gods is the 'God' who is as infinite as the length of the sky. But Vayu, Agni, Jala and Prithvi, which have taken birth from Him (Mahabhutas) also support the earth. This body comprises of these four elements, that is why it is supported by all the Gods. The fourteen gods that reside in the body mainly are- speech, 5 senses, eyes, nose etc., 5 Jnana Indriyas and the four levels of the mind."
These gods reside in the body and hence they represent the divinity of the supreme soul. If all these gods start fighting with each other and say with pride it is they that have supported the body, they would be no more than the 'queen bee'. Whenever the queen bee flies, all the other bees also fly and whenever she sits, all the other bees sit. This was the same state with gods such as Vaga (speech) etc. Seeing this, the gods which rule eyes, ears and all the senses, the four levels of the mind and the various impulses of the mind believed that amongst them, Prana is the noblest.
Maharshi Pippalada said that other than the bodies of all the creatures the element that is all pervasive, inside out is space. The four elements-air, fire, water and earth are supplementary to the body and the various organs.
The ten senses and the mind illuminate it and make the body active. The thing that is greater to all is 'prana'. It is 'prana' that is the foundation of this body. There is no energy that can support the body.
Inadvertently, one sees in this chapter the praises of the 'prana'.
Aswalayan Muni asked Maharshi Pippalada the third question.

  1. Where does the prana take birth from whose greatness you sing so vociferously?
  2. How does this prana enter the human body?
  3. How does it separate and divide itself and reside in the body?
  4. When transcending from one body to another, how does it come out of the first body?
  5. How does the prana support the 5 elements of the body?
  6. How does the prana support the mind, the senses and spiritual plane?

SOLUTION: Answering the first 2 questions of Ashwalayan, Maharshi Pippalada said-
"The noblest prana has emerged and taken birth from the Divine Cosmic soul. He is the creator and preserver of the prana. The prana and its condition depends on the supreme God's wishes. The answer to the second question is that, the prana enters the body by the resolution taken by the mind. Thus, according to the resolution taken which accrue from the deeds performed, the soul assumes the desired body or form."
Answering the third question, Maharshi Pippalada said that "Like an emperor who appoints different officers in charge and authorities in villages and different parts so that they can do their work independently and delegates duty to them differently, the prana also, similarly along with its different organs Apaana, Vyaana etc. resides at different places in the body to perform different duties assigned to them."
The prana itself moves about the mouth, the nose and finally resides in the eyes and ears. The Apaana resides in the rectum and the Upastha. The work of Apaana is excretion of urine, faeces and other undigested matter. The other functions include removal of semen, fluids (menstrual) and the foetus. The Samana resides near the navel. The Samana Vayu sends all the energy created out of food in the stomach to each and every organ approximately. Nourished by this energy the eyes, ears, nose, tongue become strong and energetic to work properly.
THE VYANA: Basically in the heart of a human body, there are hundred nerves each and every branch of the nerves has 2 crore sub nadis (sub nerves) each. Cumulatively in the body, there are 2 crore nerves. The Vyana Vayu passes through all the nerves throughout the body.
Other than these 2 crore nerves, there is another nerve known as 'Sushumna' which begins from the heart and goes right up to the head. It is through this that the 'Udaana Vayu' circulates in the upper part of the body. In the person, who is virtuous and enjoys all the good fruits accrued from good deeds, Udaana Vayu along with the prana and the senses, takes the soul to the state of bliss or heaven. A person who engages in bad deeds takes birth in inferior yonis like dogs, pigs etc. Those people, whose deeds are mixed, are liable to assume the human body which can bear the mixed results.
The Sun itself is everyone's external prana. This main prana takes birth or rises as the Sun and nourishes the external body. It illuminates the spiritual plane of the body by strengthening the eyes and the senses. The energy of Apaana Vayu, that is, in the earth takes care of the human body and nourishes it.
This energy of Apaana Vayu helps in the excretory functions and helps in supporting the external form. The space that is interspersed between the Swarga (heaven) and the earth itself is the external form of the Samana Vayu. It gives relaxation to the external organs and protects the body. It also facilitates the circulation of the Samana Vayu throughout the body. It is because of this that the ears can hear sounds and the senses can perceive.
The Vayu that roams freely in the space is the external form of Vyana. It is this that makes the body active from outside and inside and bestows it with peace and calmness. It also helps in circulation of Vyan in the Vyana nerves which in turn facilitate the functions of the skin (senses).
The heat of the Sun and fire is the external form of Udaana. It saves the body from becoming cold and it also maintains the heat within the body. A body from which the Udaana Vayu dissipates can no longer remain warm. As a result, the heat within the body also dissipates. All the senses of such a body fuse into the mind along with Udaana Vayu and enter into another body.
The scholars who understand in totality the concept of the prana, take care of their prana at all costs. They do not neglect it and as a result are never devoid of progeny. If the person understands the spiritual truth behind the science of prana and makes his life successful on the basis of it, he instantly enjoys the beauty of God and is liberated from the vicious cycle of life and death. He attains the Supreme Cosmic Divine Soul.
Garygya Muni asked Maharshi Pippalada the fourth question

  1. Which of the gods in the body go to sleep or are inactive while sleeping?
  2. Which of them are active during sleep?
  3. Which of these gods see and witness the dream in the dream state ?
  4. Who, in the real sense, experiences happiness in the state of sleep?
  5. Whom do all these gods depend upon?

SOLUTION- Maharshi Pippalada replied- "While sleeping all the gods (all the senses) fuse and are absorbed by the mind which is the noblest God. All the ten senses remain dormant while sleeping."
"When a person is sleeping, all the 5 pranas are awake and are activte. In the dream state, a human being experiences divinity through his mind and senses. In his dreams, he sees all that he had heard and seen in the past. He experiences all that he has undergone in the past by being a part of it as an onlooker. He also sees that which is false and not in existence at all. At that time, there is nothing other than the living being."
Who experiences happiness in sleep? Answering this question, Maharshi replied- "In the state of sleep, the mind comes in control of the Udaana Vayu. The Udaana Vayu reaches the heart and entices it. At that time, the living being ceases to see anything in the dream state and experiences the happiness of sleep."
Answering the last question, Maharshi Pippalada said: " All the elements from earth to the prana take refuge in the divine supreme soul which is itself the soul. The living being, who enjoys sensual pleasures finally comes in the refuge of the divine Cosmic soul. By attaining this, the person experiences real happiness."
Satyakama asked the fifth question related to the worship of 'Omkar'. He asked- " What does one attain by worshipping and propitiating the 'Omkar'?"
SOLUTION: Maharshi Pippalada replied- "Satyakama! This 'OM' is not separate from the Divine Cosmic soul."
"Those who are attached to heaven and related pleasures and propitiate the 'Omkar' to accomplish and enjoy all the pleasures takes birth on earth."
"Those who are not attached to worldly objects and on the contrary strive selflessly to attain the divine Cosmic soul attain the 'Omkar'. This 'Omkar' or 'Cosmic Soul' is free from flaws, is fearless and noblest."
Sukesha Rishi asked Maharshi Pippalada the 6th question- O Revered One! Tell me what are the elements of a person who is omnipresent and omniscient? Where is he and what is his form?
SOLUTION: Maharshi Pippalada replied: " God's divine form is itself the omnipresent and omniscient form of God.
When a human desires to attain God in his heart, he attains Him in his heart itself. The Divine Cosmic soul embellished this universe with all sixteen qualities and he pervaded this universe along with the living being. That is why he is known as the one embellished with 6teen qualities.
Similar to the concept that God resides in this universe, God also resides in the body and there are 6teen qualities in the body. We have to realize this Cosmic soul with 6teen qualities in the heart.
During the time of final annihilation the sixteen qualities finally merge into the Divine Cosmic Soul. Prana is dependent on the God or Cosmic soul embellished by sixteen qualities. By realizing this, one does not even fear death."
Thus answering the 6 questions, Maharshi Pippalada said that there is nothing greater than God.
Attaining the knowledge of Divine Cosmic soul from Maharshi the 6 sages worshipped him and said: "You are our father. There is no one greater than a Guru who will help one to cross the ocean of material life. We thus prostrate before you with respect and honour."