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As I discuss in the this question, by far the most popular school of Hindu philosophy is the Vedanta school, which bases its tenets on the doctrines laid out in the Brahma Sutras, a work by the sage Vyasa which summarizes and systematizes the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads. You can read the Brahma Sutras here. In any case, Adhyaya 3 Pada 3 of the Brahma Sutras describes the Brahma Vidyas, 32 lessons found in various Upanishads which can each lead you to Brahman if you meditate on it. You can see the full list of 32 Vidyas here.

Now as I discuss in this question, one of the 32 Brahma Vidyas is known as the Panchagni Vidya, and it's found in the Brihadaranyaka and Chandogya Upanishads. Among other things, it describes the path of souls going to Brahmaloka. Here is how the Brihadaranyaka Upanishads describes this journey:

Those who thus know this, and those who in the forest worship faith and the True, go to light (arkis), from light to day, from day to the increasing half, from the increasing half to the six months when the sun goes to the north, from those six months to the world of the Devas (Devaloka), from the world of the Devas to the sun, from the sun to the place of lightning. When they have thus reached the place of lightning a spirit comes near them, and leads them to the worlds of the (conditioned) Brahman. In these worlds of Brahman they dwell exalted for ages. There is no returning for them.

Now the Sanskrit used to describe this spirit is Manasa, meaning created by the mind. Now the description in the Chandogya Upanishad is virtually identical, except for one significant change:

Those who know this and those who in the forest follow faith and austerities go to light (arkis), from light to day, from day to the light half of the moon, from the light half of the moon to the six months when the sun goes to the north, from the six months when the sun goes to the north to the year, from the year to the sun, from the sun to the moon, from the moon to the lightning. There is a person not human, He leads them to Brahman (the conditioned Brahman).

Here the Sanskrit word used is "Amanava" or not human, instead of "Manasa". So my question is, who is this being that escorts you to Brahmaloka? And is he Amanava or Manasa or both? Is it possible that the manuscripts of one of these Upanishads have an error, where the "va" was replaced by "sa" or vice versa?

The only information I have found on the identity of this being is this book, which describes him as an incarnation of Vishnu who leads souls to Vishnu's highest abode of Paramapadam:

From thence he proceeds to Paramapada through a dark spot in the sun. Supreme wisdom attained by Yoga directs him along the Path and the Ativahikas, bearers in transit, lead him on; they are certain holy souls named Archi, Ahas, Purvapaksha, Uttarayana, Samvatsara, Aditya, Chandra, Vaidyuta, Varuna, Indra, Prajapati, and lastly an incarnation of Vishnu, named Amanava.

But are there any scriptures that describe this being as an incarnation of Vishnu?

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    There are no errors in the vedas, there is only error in understanding. I don't remember where I have seen it, that's why I did a comment and not an answer. I will do some research but not sure how long it will take. – Swami Vishwananda Jul 6 '15 at 14:31
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    @SwamiVishwananda There are certainly no errors in the Vedas themselves, but there can be errors in how the Vedas are passed down by humans. The Upanishads were not passed down in as rigorous a fashion as, say, the Rig Veda Samhita, so it's certainly possible that some scribe recopying a manuscript might have accidentally replaced "va" with "sa" or vice versa. – Keshav Srinivasan Jul 6 '15 at 14:38
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    The Upanishads were passed down as rigorously. Remember that the Upanishads are part of and not separate from the Vedas. Remember that they were passed down orally even after the written word came about. My own guru, before sannyas, was born brahmin and as part of his father's upbringing was taught, starting at about 4 years old, to recite from memory certain parts of the Vedas, including complete Upanishads. His father would beat him if he mispronounced a word. – Swami Vishwananda Jul 9 '15 at 10:54
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    I looked up Sankara's commentary on the Chhandogya verse in question. The words are actually repeated in 2 separate verses. The first time is in IV. 15. 5. In his commentary Sankara gives a completely pure advaitic reading, denying that it could even occur, and giving other upanishad verses as proof. Other modern advaitists, however, have not been so extreme and have acknowledged the verse as true. – Swami Vishwananda Jul 9 '15 at 11:03
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    @SwamiVishwananda Its true that both the Samhitas and Upanishads are part of the Vedas and were passed down by oral tradition, the level of rigor was different. In the case of the Rig Veda Samhita, it was rendered in Padapatha form, where each syllable is seperated, and then the Padapatha sequences were memorized in multiple different orders, so that if a guru accidentally gave an wrong syllable to his student, the next generation could find the error. But the Upanishads werent passed down with such precautions.That's why Rig Veda Samhita manuscripts are more uniform than Upanishad manuscripts – Keshav Srinivasan Jul 9 '15 at 13:38
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The deity Manasa is described in this chapter of Shanti Parva of Mahabharata. If we read the full description there then it is clear that Manasa is none other than Brahman himself:

"Bhrigu said, 'There is a Primeval Being, known to the great Rishis, of the name of Manasa. He is without beginning and without end. That Divine Being is incapable of being penetrated by weapons. He is without decay and is Immortal. He is said to be Unmanifest. He is Eternal, Undecaying, and Unchangeable. Through Him are creatures born and through Him they die. He first created a Divine Being known by the name of Mahat. Mahat created Consciousness. That Divine Being created Space. That puissant Being is the holder of all created objects. From Space was born Water, and from Water were born Fire and Wind. Through the union of Fire and Wind was born the Earth. Self-born Manasa then created a divine Lotus pregnant with Energy. From that Lotus sprang Brahman, that Ocean of Veda. The Srutis say that as soon as born, that divine Being uttered the words, 'I am He!' For this He came to be called by the name of Consciousness. He has all created things for his body and He is their Creator. These five elements that we see are that Brahman of great energy. The mountains are his bones. The earth is his fat and flesh. The oceans are his blood. Space is his stomach. The Wind is his breath. Fire is his energy. The rivers are his arteries and veins. Agni and Soma, otherwise called the Sun and the Moon, are called his eyes. The firmament above is his head. The earth is his two feet. The cardinal and subsidiary points of the horizon are his arms. Without doubt, He is incapable of being known and His Soul is inconceivable by even persons crowned with ascetic success. The Divine Being, who pervades the whole universe, is also known by the name of Ananta (Infinite). He lives in Consciousness, and is incapable of being known by persons of uncleansed souls. Asked by thee I have now told thee of Him who created Consciousness for evoking into existence all created objects, and from whom this universe has sprung.'

As it clearly says "and is incapable of being known by persons of uncleansed souls." so I don't think we can have detailed explanation of Manasa.

As it says "he is without beginning and without end" so it is clear that he is same as Brahman. So, Brahmavãdis may call him just Brahman, Vaishnavas may call he is Vishnu, Shaivas may call he is Shiva and so on...

  • It may be true that Manasa is a name of Brahman, but that doesn't mean that it refers to the same Manasa Purusha who escorts the soul in the Archiradi Marga. – Keshav Srinivasan Jan 17 '17 at 7:35
  • @Keshav Srinivasan I suppose it is the same deity as it says "known to the Great Rishis"... (but it may not be also)... In any case this is a partial answer.. and I'm just dealing with deity named Manasa... – Tejaswee Jan 17 '17 at 7:49
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Sri gurave namah,

Well, the evolution from being a "forgetful" soul called mode of ignorance, "tamas" can be equated to the darkness/night. The mode of passion 'Rajas' is the illumined way, nevertheless it's mixed with serious desires to enjoy the material world. The mode of goodness "sattva" is the path of following the Vedic injunctions to achieve the higher planets esp, punya karma etc., and so can be equated to the light/day.

Now, when we all fall into Maya(illusion), we are ignorant of our original state as the Sacchidaananda atma(an eternal blissful cognizant being). But as we gain experience we move onto choosing to act on ways that bring us the best benefit(usually called selfishness). Slowly as we keep acting in ways beneficial to us, we may (if ordained) realise that there's more better that lays in the punya(most people who do it expect a return from being a helpful pious person)

Now when we accumulate a lot of punya, we may be granted the chance to clear our mind of the illusion of tamas/rajas/sattva. That is when we realise all these three modes are still binding us to be reborn into the janma mrtyu cycle. We start seeking (and in specially blessed cases the divine intervenes in special unexplainable ways) for the truth. We then start the real inquiry. There starts the first aphorism of the Brahma Sutras "Athato Brahma Jignasa", translated as 'so now we look into understanding the real truth into nature of existence'.

While searching for answers that start within, one looks outside. Then the Divine manifests His mercy in the form of a Guru(who is a Guru is a very serious matter and we shall never be able to write properly of him here, but the wise have said, he is more important than the Lord Himself). The guru seeks a true disciple as much and then starts the process that Sri Krushna mentions in the Bhagavad Gita 4.34 "tat viddhi pranipatena pariprashnena sevaya......" The guru imparts the knowledge of the absolute unto the disciple as the disciple may hold qualifications to understand. The Guru trains your body and also mind to tune to the actual truth. That is when the disciple understands that he has two coverings. One the material body (Sthuula shareeram) made of gross senses using the 5 elements (air, water, fire, earth and ether). Beyond this is the second covering (Suukshma deham) of the 3 subtle elements, the mind(manas), intelligence(buddhi) and the false ego(mithyaahankaara). The merciful Guru, reveals to the sincere disciple that it is only after we break this second covering shall we understand the truth of our being one with the Lord (eko Brahma dwitiya naasti - there are serious differences as to understanding the meaning and realising this)

So, the guru imparts knowledge (gyanam) that we shall accept and record in our mind(the manas). The next step is to utilise the mind to act wisely through our intelligence (buddhi). Now what is the right that the wise act? DESTROY THE FALSE EGO(mithyaahankaara chhedanam). Nothing of this is as simple as I write here and you read. The merciful Guru guides the sincere disciple in every small stage of this development. I don't seem myself fit to write more about this.

However, what remains when we start misidentifying ourselves is that we learn and identify our real nature (swaroopam) as sat-chit-ananda. That is what is the basic definition of the atma. Now how we realise our atma is again a very disputed subject (ekam sat, vipraah bahudhaa vadanti) which I shouldn't talk of as I am still not realised.

Sri Sri Radha Gopinatha charanaaravindayor samarpayaami.

PS- So, there's this ambiguity. The person who raised the doubt quoted a second translation where he mentioned few names... How to understand that if it's only this simple that go to a Guru n learn from him! Please remember I said we shall not be able to write enough of the Sadguru, for he manifests us knowledge in various ways and through various sources. The Avaduta avataram Sri Dattatreya Himself mentions that he has many gurus (including many creatures) from whom he learnt the various facets of the truth. I hereby do not ask you to run to everyguy who calls himself a Guru. NO. A Guru is not that easy to be found. Please research thoroughly as to how to understand what a Guru truly is and then look around, the Guru will reveal himself to the real seeker. Cautionary Warning: I DONOT SUPPORT THE BIG CROWD OF BOGUS IMPOSTORS.

There's a verse I wanted to quote from the Bhagavad Gita while I mentioned the process of separating the subtle body from oneself. I don't remember the sanskrutam verse. I ll post it as I find it.

Pranam.

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    You can cite/quote some references/sources. – Paṇḍyā Jan 18 '17 at 5:26
  • If u may ask me what u need references for, I may be able to try to. The veda is so huge and my knowledge is so limited. – HARISH Jan 18 '17 at 15:32

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