From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Mahāvākyopaniṣad is one of the minor Upaniṣads and is assigned to the Atharvaveda. There are only twelve mantras mostly in prose. Parts of this Upaniṣad are identical with the Purusasukta and the Nārāyanopanisad.

The four faced Brahmā, the creator, is the teacher of this Upaniṣad. Having found a worthy disciple, he starts teaching this secret and sacred knowledge to him. He advises him to give it only to the pure soul who is introvert in nature and who pleases the teacher by devoted service.

There are two types of people in this world:

  1. Those who consider this world to be real - They while entertaining desires and ambitions take to the pravṛttimārga, the path of Vedic sacrifices and get into bondage.
  2. Those who know that it is not real - They are endowed with the eye of wisdom. They take to the nivṛttimārga or the path of renunciation and seek mokṣa or liberation. They realize Brahman and become free even here and now.

The ātman (inside) which is the same as Brahman is not dark but brilliant light. This is realized by the repetition of the Hamsamantra (hamsah so’ham) by identifying the spirit in the sun with one’s own Self. This realization of the most brilliant ātman/Brahman cannot be compared to samādhi,[1] yoga-siddhi[2] or manolaya.[3] It is actually an experience of oneness with Brahman.

Verses 8 to 10 are identical with the verses 16 to 18 of the Puruṣasukta. They describe the God-vision of the perfected sage. The eleventh verse describes the identity of the light of the sun and the light of the ātman inside brought about through meditation with Praṇava or Om.

The last section (12th mantra or verse) gives the phalaśruti, the benefits and results of studying this Upanisad. It is the same as the total destruction of sins and dissolution into Lord Viṣṇu.


  1. Samādhi means perfect concentration.
  2. Yoga-siddhi means perfection in yoga.
  3. Manolaya means dissolution of the mind.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore