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By U. Ve. , MahAmahOpAdhyaya, Dr. Sriman Srirangam Nallan Chakravarthy Raghunathacharya Swami: Translated into English by Sriman K.S. Rajaji I.A.S.,
Khanda -1,
Dear AastikAs, we begin the Mundakopanishat with the 1st mantra in this posting.

Preamble for the 1st Mantra
In this Upanishad, the Supreme God-head is identified with the word “Akshara”. The form of meditation to attain that Supreme God-Head is specified. This method of meditation is called “akshara VidyA”. To impress that this science of meditation is the best to achieve the Supreme Godhead for the seekers; and to make it known that this science is obtained from a good lineage, a story is being narrated in the beginning of the Upanishad.
Mantra -1

brahmA devAnAm prathhamah sambabhUva
vis’vasya karthA bhuvanasya gOpthA
sa brahmavidyAm sarvavidyAprathishThAm
adharvAya jyeshThaputhrAya prAha

Word meanings
vis’vasya bhuvanasya = for the entire universe
karthA gOpthA (cha) =the creator and the saviour
brahmA =the four faced
devAnAm prathhamah =the first among Gods
sambabhUva = arose (from the lotus navel of nArAyaNa)
sah =that Brahma
prAha = taught
brahmavidyAm =the Akshara VidyA,
sarvavidyAprathishThAm = that which is the main source of all Vidyas
jyeshThaputhrAya = to his first son
adharvAya = sage Atharva
The explanation of the Mantra -1

As the s’ruthi authoritatively tells us “yo brahmANam vidadhAthi pUrvam, yo vai vedAmscha prahiNOthi thasmai” – in every BrahmANda the four faced-Brahma is created first by the Supreme God-head. This Brahma in turn is the creator of gods, humans and other objects in this Great shell BrahmANda. Being the conferrer of the boons sought by them, he is their saviour. By the grace of the Lord, he obtained all the vEdas. The PramANa VAkyas confirming this like “yannAbhijAthAth aravindakos’Ath; brahmA AvirAseeth; yathah esha lOkah” etc., are the references in this instance.
Such Brahma, the creator of that world and a scholar of the vEdas, taught his first son sage Atharva, the Akshara VidyA. This akshara VidyA is the base of all other Brahma Vidyas.
It is clarified by S’ankara that this Atharva is the first son of Brahma (the four-faced) in one of the kalpas (one of the cycles of creation).
How does this Brahma VidyA become the main source for all the Vidyas? Since Brahman the supreme God-head, is the cause for everything, if we learn about Him (the source for all the things) it means that we learn everything about all His creations in the worlds of the Universe; since there is nothing other than His creations.

This is what was told by the S’ruthis.  yathA Somya ekena mrithpiNdena sarvam mriNmayam vijnAtham bhavathi –

Oh! Somya, by knowing about a lump of mud, one can know about the various articles made from the mud like a pot, pan etc., rather about everything made out of mud. With the same analogy, by knowing about the Lord of the universe, who is the cause of the whole creation; there is none other than His creation; and which creation ultimately merges with Him; one can know about everything in the universe. In this akshara Brahma VidyA, which is about Him only, all knowledge ought to be acquired is a part of this. According to S’ruthaprakAs’ikAcharya, it is quite appropriate to state that this science- Akshara Brahma VidyA is the main source of all the sciences of meditations because of the above reason.

Mantra -2

adharvaNe yAm pravadEtha brahmA
adharvA thAm purovAchAngirE brahmavidyAm
sa bhAradvAjAya sathyavAhAya prAha
bhAradvAjongirasE parAvarAm

Word meaning-

purA : In the ancient times
brahmA : the four-faced
adharvaNe : to sage adharva
yAm pravadEtha : the Brahma VidyA, which was taught;
parAvarAm : that was propagated by the succession of acharyas
or that was stated in the Para and apara Vidyas
thAm brahmavidyAm : such Brahma VidyA
angirE uvAcha : was taught to his disciple sage Angir.
Sah : that sage Angir,
prAha : taught to
sathyavAhAya : sage SathyavAha,
bhAradvAjAya : belonging to the lineage of sage BharadvAja.
bhAradvAjah : That sage SathyavAha of family of sage BharadvAja,
angirasE prAha : taught the same Brahma VidyA to Angiras, the son of sage  Angir.
Substance of the Mantra – In the ancient times, the four-faced Brahma taught this akshara Brahma VidyA to sage adharva, Alternately, it could be said that the chathurmukha Brahma taught the Para Vidyas and apara Vidyas – the Brahma Vidyas and the six subsidiaries of Vedas, viz., the grammar, etymology, astronomy and astrology etc., to sage adharva. In turn he taught the akshara Brahmavidya to his disciple sage anger. This Angir subsequently taught sage SathyavAha, belonging to the lineage of sage BharadvAja. He in succession taught this Brahmavidya to his disciple Angiras.

The word “parAvara” according to the etymology – the science of evolution a word – “parasmAth avarENa prAptheyam vidyA parAvara” which means – that science which was propagated by succession, which means that one person taught to another person and this another person taught to the next person. Alternatively, that which is established through the other Brahma Vidyas which are termed “Para Vidyas” and the apara Vidyas – the six subsidiary sciences to the vEdas – Siksha, vyAkaraNa, Chhandas etc., and then conveyed both directly and indirectly through succession.

….to be continued
Courtesy–  Srinivasa Ramanuja Dasan

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