From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Nādabindupaniṣad is a minor Upaniṣad in 53 verses and has been assigned to the Ṛgveda. It starts with a description of the Praṇava or Oṅkāra as a bird with the four syllables[1] forming the various parts of its body. Similarly the three guṇas, dharma,[2] and adharma,[3] the seven lokas or worlds from bhuh or earth up to Brahmaloka or the world of Brahmā, are also described as the various parts of this bird. An adept in yoga who rides this haṅsa or swan, will not be affected by the karmic effects of even millions of births. Then comes a description of meditation on the four syllables of the Praṇava or Oṅkāra. They should be considered as related to the deities:

  1. Agni - fire-god
  2. Vāyu - wind-god
  3. Bhānu - sun-god
  4. Varuṇa - god of the oceans and water

Each of the four mātras can be subdivided into three parts either depending on time as past, present and future or the mode of uttering it as udātta,[4] anudātta[5] and svarita.[6] This makes the total twelve. Each of these is given a particular name like ghoṣiṇī, vidyunmātra, pataṅginī and so on.

The next group of verses gives the result of leaving the body at the time of uttering any one of these twelve aspects of Praṇava. For instance, one who dies while contemplating upon the first mātrā is born again as an emperor. If it is on the fourth, he will attain the world of the gandharvas. If on the ninth, he will be reborn in the Maharloka and so on.

Then the Upaniṣad describes the result of getting the mind dissolved in the Supreme Śiva. He is rid of all bondages and attains the ever-blissful Brahman. After this the Upaniṣad discusses whether the jñāni[7] has prārabdhkarma[8] or not. The conclusion is that though it is there, he does not feel it, since the whole life is like a dream to him.

Now comes a description of the yogi sitting in the siddhāsana[9] with vaiṣṇavīmudrā.[10] The yogi is then able to hear the internal sound through the right ear. He should concentrate on this so that he becomes deaf as it were to all the external sounds.

In this sādhanā or practice, he will hear many types of sound similar to those of ocean waves, kettle-drums, bell and horn. Then he may hear the sounds similar to the tinkling of bells, flute, humming of bees and so on. However, he should shift his concentration from gross sounds to subtler sounds. Merging of the mind totally in such sounds gives him the realization of cidākāśa or the pure consciousness in the space of the heart. The Praṇava[11] is Brahman which is full of effulgence.[12] When the mind is dissolved in this, the yogi is fully liberated as if it is dead to the phenomenal world. The Upaniṣad ends with a short description of the mukta-puruṣa[13] which is similar to such descriptions given in the Bhagavadgitā.


  1. These syllables are a, u, m and the ardhamātrā, the un-manifest last half-syllable.
  2. Dharma means righteousness.
  3. Adharma means unrighteousness.
  4. Udātta means medium tone or scale.
  5. Anudātta means one scale below.
  6. Svarita means one scale above.
  7. Jñāni means the realized soul.
  8. Prārabdhkarma means the karma responsible for this birth.
  9. Siddhāsana means a posture specially recommended for meditation.
  10. Vaiṣṇavīmudrā means keeping the eyelids without blinking, the eyes apparently seeing outside, but the mind withdrawn inside.
  11. Praṇava means Oṅkāra.
  12. Effulgence means pure consciousness.
  13. Mukta-puruṣa means the liberated soul.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore