Prajnanam Brahma: The consciousness is Brahman

Prajnanam Brahma: The consciousness is Brahman

Introduction

Prajnanam Brahma is one of the Mahavakyas of Vedanta. The other Mahavakyas are Aham Brahmasmi, Tat Tvam Asi, and Ayam Atma Brahma. Mahavakyas are Identity statements. The identity statement means the identity of Brahman in the Self or Consciousness. Prajnanam Brahma is found in Aitareya Upanishad of Rig Veda.  

Aitareya Upanishad deals with the philosophy of Vedic Religion that includes Atman, Brahman, creation, the cycle of birth, the importance of food, and the path of liberation.  

Prajnanam Brahma gives the answers to the following questions;

  • Who is he whom we meditate upon as Atman?
  • Which is Atman?

It states that everything is the just the other name of consciousness and everything is generated by consciousness only.  

The world is led by consciousness. Consciousness is the cause. Consciousness is Brahman. It is to be noted that the term consciousness is used as the essence and not as the property.

Prajnanam Brahma Meaning

The Sanskrit word Prajna means consciousness. The consciousness is Brahman. This is the meaning of Prajnanam Brahma.

According to Guru Gita, it is Upadesa Vakya, the statement of instruction or guidance. Some call this Mahavakya as Lakshana Vakya, the statement that depicts the nature of Brahman.

Etymologically, Pra means Supreme. Jnana means Knowledge or wisdom or awareness or consciousness. We may also take the meaning as the supreme knowledge is Brahman.

Who am I? I am not the body. I am not the mind. I am not the sense organs. If I go on negating like this, only the consciousness remains. That consciousness is Brahman. This is the meaning of this Mahavakya.

Prajnanam Brahma in Aiteraya Upanishad

Chapter three of the Upanishad contains only four verses. 

Verse 1

Om̃ ko’yamātmeti vayamupāsmahe kataraḥ sa ātmā । yena vā paśyati yena vā śṛṇoti yena vā gaṃdhānājighrati yena vā vācaṃ vyākaroti yena vā svādu cāsvādu ca vijānāti ॥ 1॥

Who is He whom we worship thinking: ‘This is Atman?’ Who is Atman? Is it He by whom one sees the form, by whom one hears the sound, by whom one smells the odor and fragrance, by whom one speaks the speeches and by whom one tastes the sweets and the rest?

Verse 2

yadetaddhṛdayaṃ manaścaitat ।

saṃjñānamājñānaṃ vijñānaṃ prajñānaṃ medhā dṛṣṭir dhṛtimatirmanīṣā jūtiḥ smṛtiḥ saṃkalpaḥ kraturasuḥ kāmo vaśa iti ।


sarvāṇyevaitāni prajñānasya nāmadheyāni bhavaṃti ॥ 2॥

It is that known as heart, mind, consciousness, discrimination, wisdom, inference, perception, firmness, idea, acuteness, quickness, memory, volition, decision, strength, desire and control. All these are indeed the various names of consciousness.

Verse 3

eṣa brahmaiṣa indra eṣa prajāpatirete sarve devā imāni ca pañcamahābhūtāni pṛthivī vāyurākāśa āpo jyotīṃṣītyetānīmāni ca kṣudramiśrāṇīva ।
bījānītarāṇi cetarāṇi cāṇḍajāni ca jārujāni ca svedajāni codbhijjāni
cāśvā gāvaḥ puruṣā hastino yatkiñcedaṃ prāṇi jaṅgamaṃ ca patatri ca
yacca sthāvaraṃ sarvaṃ tatprajñānetraṃ prajñāne pratiṣṭhitaṃ prajñānetro lokaḥ prajñā pratiṣṭhā prajñānaṃ brahma ॥ 3॥

This Brahman, this Indra (the king of the gods), this Prajapati (the creator), all these gods, Pancha Bhutas or five elements namely earth, air, ether, water, and fire, these small beings, these other beings, the seeds of generation, these egg-born, these womb-born, these sweat-born, sprout-born, horses, house, men, elephants , whatever else that breathes, flies, moves, and is immovable; all these are guided by consciousness and supported by consciousness.

The universe has consciousness as its guide. Consciousness is the basis. Consciousness is Brahman.

Verse 4

sa etena prājñenā”tmanā’smāllokādutkramyāmuṣminsvarge loke sarvān
kāmānāptvā’mṛtaḥ samabhavat samabhavat ॥ 4॥

By means of this consciousness, Atman flies from this world, obtains all desires in heaven and becomes immortal and immortal forever.

Suggested Further Readings

  1. Aiteraya Upanishad Sanskrit Text
  2. Aiteraya Upanishad: Sankara Bhashya.Pdf
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