By Swami Harshananda
Mudgala Upaniṣad is one of the minor Upaniṣads assigned to the Ṛgveda. It is like a brief commentary on the Puruṣasukta. There are four khaṇḍas or sections with 30 mantras in all. Only the first section is in verses in the anuṣṭubh metre. The rest are in prose. The contents of this literature section-wise has been delineated belows:
The first section gives a brief explanation of the various verses of the Puruṣasukta. For instance, the word ‘sahasra śīrṣā’ indicates that the Puruṣa is infinite. The second verse describes him as the giver of mokṣa or liberation. The verses 16 and 17 describe the greatness of Hari.
The second section says that Bhagavān Vāsudeva gave this teaching of the Puruṣasukta to Indra, the king of gods. Nārāyaṇa, the Paramapuruṣa, though beyond names and forms or even ordinary knowledge, assumed this form of the thousand-headed Puruṣa for the benefit of ordinary mortals, so that they could attain liberation just by looking at him. This Puruṣa also called as ‘Mahāpuruṣa’ here that divided himself into four forms, out of which only one is here manifested as this world, the rest being beyond creation and comprehension.
It is him, who has manifested himself in various forms, that the adhvaryu priests worship as the threefold Agni. He is even identified with the three Vedas. He is inferred with rayi, delusive power or with the mantra ‘svadhā’ used in sacrifices. This is the gist of the third section.
The last section describes that Brahman is without the six kośas or sheaths like skin and blood beyond the six urmis or infirmities like hunger and thirst and also the six bhāvas or changes like birth and death. But the Supreme Puruṣa somehow accepts these and becomes the jīva voluntarily.
Fruits of this Upaniṣad
One who studies this Upaniṣad becomes pure in every way. He is liberated from all sins of all types. However, being an esoteric knowledge of the highest, it should never be imparted to unworthy persons who have not studied the Vedas or who have not performed sacrifices or who are harsh of speech and ever discontented. The guru who gives this knowledge to worthy disciples must follow some sacred rules like choosing a clean place, an auspicious time and meditation on the Puruṣa. He should impart it secretly in the ear of the disciple. Then, both the teacher and the disciple become identified with the Puruṣa himself.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore