Brief Synopsis of Isha Upanishad!
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Isha Upanishad discusses life! Read more about Isha Upanishad on Wikipedia
What does life come from? Where does it go? (Beautiful Commentary on Isha Upanishad at Yoganand.com)
What is beyond all of this changing which we see as life?
What is our purpose, and how do we fulfill this purpose?
What are we striving for?
What is there after this life?
These great sutras of the Isha Upanishad are some of the most ancient words of wisdom available to mankind.
From the first verse ‘Isha Avaasyam Idam Sarvam’ this Upanishad discusses the presence of the divine in man and in nature and it tells of the very truth of the spiritual character of the universe.
It goes on to telling us how to live our lives to the fullest, for a long and enjoyable life. It details how to see and understand attachment and detachment and the rewards and consequence each brings to us!
The Isha Upanishad continues on to describe quite poignantly, the nature of the Atman and the fruits of realization of the true self. The warning in Sutra 3 that ‘those who do not live up to their true and divine potential – Atmahana means ‘people who kill themselves’- essentially kills the vast potential of the soul, they waste away their lives.
In beautiful easy to chant sutras, it tells us that the self is one. That It is unmoving, yet faster than the mind and so moving faster, it is beyond the reach of the senses. This suggests that because the true self is above and beyond the senses, it takes spiritual realization to truly identify with this higher presence of the true self!
Isha Upanishad tells us about hate and makes us ask the question of ourselves that since we are a part of everything else and everything else is a part of me, then how can I foster hate, and when I do, who is this hate for?
It goes on to beautifully describe the nature of the Atman as holy and pure, without fault and anything physical. As Jesus also said: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is within you.’
Isha Upanishad tells us of those who choose to immerse themselves in false knowledge – avidya; go into still greater darkness, and those who embrace true knowledge – vidya emerge into light. This revelation of both allows us to clearly see and choose the correct path in our spiritual journey.
It goes on to ask of that Glorious God that he help us understand our true self by removing all that which prevents us from understanding the true self, by truly understanding the real atman. ‘Sah – myself; aham – I; asmi – am’ – ‘Soham – I am that’
In closing, the Isha Upanishad defines what happens to the body when we eventually leave it, and how as a migrating soul, we should be thinking at the end of this part of our universal journey and it eventually closes in prayer which asks God as in ‘Agni’ to lead us on the good path that we may enjoy the wealth – the rewards of good deeds we have done. And as you know all our deeds O Lord we ask that you help us to destroy the bad in us. We salute You with our words again and again.
I encourage you to lose yourself in the chanting of these sutras and expanding your thoughts as you let your mind roam free in the understanding of the Universe, how integral we are as a part of this vast ‘God’s Universe’ and the role each of us play in creating our Karma in this Cosmic dance of our existence.
… Pandit Jag B Mahadeo
To Learn Isha Upanishad, download pdf and audio here:
The Isha Upanishad
(The Mantras of the Isha Upanishad are presented here with my short & simple explanation, in an effort to simplify and connect them to the reality of our everyday lives – Pt. Jag B Mahadeo)
Om purnam-adah purnam-idam, purnaat purnam udachyate, purnasya purnam-adaya, purnam-eva-vashishyate
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
Why Mantras end with Om Shantih
Meaning of Om Shantih Shantih Shantih
That One God is perfect, all-powerful, and almighty! This universe is also visibly perfect and this perfect universe was created from the perfect God. If perfect or full (anything) is taken out of the perfect or full (God), even then, the perfect remains forever full and perfect. He is never broken, truncated or fragmented. He remains forever the unbroken, perfect indivisible entity!
‘That is poorna; this is poorna. poorna is taken from the poorna. Upon taking poorna from the poorna, what remains, too, is poorna.’
(This is full. From full, the full is taken, the full has come. If full is removed from full, the full alone remains)
Om ishaa vaasyam-idam sarvam, yatkincha jagatyaam jagat , tena tyaktena bhunjeethaa, maa gridhah kasya svid-dhanam
O men, all moving beings in this moving universe and the entire universe itself, are pervaded by God!
Enjoy all the gifts of nature as gifts from God with a spirit of renunciation! Do not be attached to them!
Do not covet the wealth of others. This verse says that there is not anyplace place where He is NOT present! He is all pervading.
Thus whatever we enjoy belongs to Him and is provided by Him.
If one wants to realize God, then he should live in this Universe and enjoy but with detached mind and not become greedy for anything. We all want to become one with God. We want ‘God realization ‘. But where is he? He is every where. In everything you see, God is present in living and non-living things. Now even Science has said that the whole Universe is energy. We call that energy God.
Vedas say, “Isha vasya midam sarvam”, Isha – by the Lord aavaasyam – is controlled by idam – this, sarvam – all, yat kinca – whatever, jagatyaam – within the universe and, jagat – all that is animate or inanimate – everything.
Meaning that the entire universe and all that is within the Universe, living or non-living; is pervaded by God. O men, all moving beings and non-moving things in this moving universe and the entire universe itself, are pervaded by God! Enjoy all the gifts of nature as gifts from God with a spirit of renunciation!
Do not be attached to them! ‘tyaktena – meaning with renunciation, bhunjithah – meaning enjoy’ maa – meaning do not, grdhah – endeavor to gain or covet, the ‘dhanam – the wealth’ of kasya svit – of anyone else. ….
This verse says that there is not anyplace place where His presence is NOT! He is all pervading. In other words, God is everything and everything is God. This is the only way of thinking which free us from the bondage of Karma!
Kurvanne-veha karmani, jiji-vishey-chhatam samah, evam twayi nanya-the-tosti, na karma lipyate nare
Only by performing detached and selfless noble deeds should man aspire to live in this world for a hundred years, without getting himself attached to the results of his actions! Let your actions not produce any attachment in you!
May your actions not cling to you! There is not other way to salvation but this! …. The first sloka reminded us that entire Universe is God’s abode and his creation and his property. Only by doing karma indeed should one wish to live here for a hundred years. For a man such as you (who wants to live thus), there is no other way than this, whereby karma may not cling to you. Here this verse from the Isha Upanishad tells us that while we wish, desire and pray to live ‘jijeevishet – one should desire to live’ for
shatam – one hundred; samaah – years or more, to do so while kurvan – doing continuously or performing our righteous duties, “evam tvayi” meaning for you “na-anyathaa – meaning there is no alternative and itah – meaning from this path and asti – there is no other way…. And to perform your duties with a completely detached mind! When we do this we will find that our actions would not bind us to this materialistic world because we will not be attached to the results of our actions.
Asuryaa nama tey loka, andhey na tamasaa-vretah, taamste pretyaa bhi-gacchanti, ye ke chaat mahano janah.
This shloka from the Isha Upanishad talks about the Asuras – who can be loosely described as the demons. Some may explain them to be a group of beings who were considered to be the opponents of God. But we know that God is all powerful and no one can oppose him.
This shloka from the Isha Upanishad refers to ‘aatma-hanah – the killers of the soul’. Saying that some of us are the killer of the soul! But what does this mean?
We also know that the soul cannot die or cannot be destroyed because it is jeeva-atma which is a part of the param-atma. But what this mantra is saying is that the activities, choices and habits which does not use the unlimited potential of the soul.
Those actions which are full of darkness and ignorance are in effect the killers of the soul – or more accurately, killers of the potential of the soul. This mantra describes the destiny of those who indulge in unlawful or prohibited karma and are deliberately unrighteous.
Those who cover themselves ‘aavrtaah – covered ‘tamasaa – by darkness; When the spiritual understanding and vision of the ‘Atma – soul’ is achieved through knowledge, the entire secret of life becomes clear.
The Vedas declares that those who only follow the physical and sensual desires, and bury themselves in the materialistic world to fulfill those desires, are in effect killing the value of the soul, or wasting the preciousness of life and the soul.
So whosoever gives importance only to material things and objects and ignores the divine presence within is an Asuraa. Whosoever among us chooses to lose themselves in the darkness of ignorance is an Asura. And this mantra say that where do they, the Asuras, go after ‘pretya – after death’?
It says that they go to the world where no Sun Rises ‘Asura’ and it is covered with darkness! They go into – ‘asurya nama te loka’, worlds of Asuras (demons) which is completely engulfed in the darkness – ignorance. This does not mean that there is a hell! This means that their own karmas causes them to ‘abhigacchanti – enter into’ enter their life, next life or next lives in situations of darkness and helplessness, of sorrow and misery, of pain and hopelessness – of their own making.
Ane-jadekam manaso javeeyo, nainad deva aap-nuvan purvam arshat, tad dhaa-vato ‘nyan atye-titishthat, tasminn apo maa-tarishva dadhaati
The self is one and unmoving, swifter than the mind. It does not move, yet the senses (the devas) cannot surpass it as it moves before them.
Although in one place, it passes the running ones. He surpasses all in excellence. This Shloka from the Vedas describes the characteristics of Brahma or God within us:
That one ekam – meaning one, ‘Ane’jat‘ means fixed, not vibrating or that it is stationary and not moving. But it is also ‘manaso javiyo, which is the two words manasah – mind and javeeyah – more swift – together meaning faster than mind’.
What does this mean? Faster than mind means that something cannot be perceived by mind and it is also eternal. Without it ‘vaayu – the breath’ cannot stay within the body. This is how we determine a person no longer living! If soul leaves the body the person stops breathing!! This energy which keeps us alive is God’s very presence within each of us.
Tad e-jati tan nai-jati, tad dure tad vantike, tad antar asya sarvasyaa, tad-u sarvasyas-ya bahyatah
That moves, That does not move; That is far off, That is very near; That is inside all, and That is outside all.
This verse from Isha Upanishad tells us about God !
He ‘ejati – walks’ and ‘nai – not – ejati – walks – and He does not walk’, He moves and He does not move. He is ‘doore – far away’ far away, but He is ‘antike – very near’ as well. He is ‘antah – within’ everything, and again He is ‘baahyataḥ – external to’ outside of everything. —– Just as a space.
As the first shloka ‘Isha vaasyam idam sarvam’ of the Isha Upanishad says, God pervades all and everything in the universe.
This verse further explains the nature of God. It says that He moves, and also does not move not, He is close and yet far away, He is within and a part of the self, within and a part of the body. In short He is all pervading. This is the characteristic of Brahman or God. This is the reason it is said God is within us. One will not find Him if searching outside. One should always seek for God within.
Yas tu sarvaani bhutanyaat, manye van-upashyati, sarva-bhuteshu chaat-maanam, tato na viju-gupsate
He who sees all beings in the Self, and the Self in all beings, feels no hatred (by that knowledge and realization). He who understands and beholds all beings ‘bhootaani – living entities’ in his own self and perceives the reflection of his own self in all beings ‘sarva-bhooteshu – in every living being’, never hates another.
He who sees and understands everything in relation to the ‘aatmaanam – the Greater soul’ Omnipresent God, who sees all living entities as a piece of himself and himself as a part of the grander universe, and who sees and understand that the Supreme Lord dwells within everything, never ‘vijugupsate – hates anyone’ hates anything or any being.
The Isha Upanishad says that he who understands and beholds all beings in his own self and perceives the reflection of his own self in all beings ‘sarvaani – all; bhootaani – living entities; aatmani – in relation to the Supreme Lord’, never hates another. We have to think about Hate here in this manner.
It is the beginning of the very thought of hate. A seed-thought of hate or dislike, if you will. Not just the intense and self-destructive feeling of hate but the beginning of the thought itself. Our minds should never open itself to the thought of hate. He who sees and understands everything in relation to the Omnipresent God
‘sarva-bhooteshu – in every living being’, who sees all living entities as a piece of himself and himself as a part of the grander universe, and who sees and understand that the Supreme Lord dwells within everything, never hates anything or any being ‘vijugupsate – hates anyone’.
Yasmin sarvani bhutaany, aatmaiva-bhood vi-janatah, tatra komohaha kaha-shoka, ekat-vam anupash-yatah
When to the man of realisation all beings become the very Self, then what delusion and what sorrow can there be for that seer of oneness?
The person who always sees all ‘bhootaani – living entities’ – this includes all living plants and living animals, in all their forms as ‘aatmaa – the chit-kana, or spiritual spark’ and as part of that divine being and having the inherent qualities of the Glorious God, becomes a true knower of things.
This person indeed sees and he or she sees beyond the ‘mohah – illusion’ of the world. He is ‘anupasyatah – of one who sees through and understands the authority of the Universe’ He knows and understands the truth. What, then, can be illusion or anxiety for him?
This person sees and understands beyond the maya or illusion of the world.
Sa parya-gaa chukram-akaa, yam-avran-nam asnaa, viram shuddham apaapa-aviddham, kavir manooshee pari-bhooh svayam-bhoor, yaathaa-that-yato thaan, vyada-dhaach, chaash-vatee-bhyah, samaa-bhyahah
He is all-pervasive, pure, body-less, without wound, without sinews, taintless, untouched by sin, omniscient, ruler of mind, transcendent, and self-existent; he has duly allotted the (respective) duties to the eternal years (i.e., to the eternal creators called by that name).
When we become an enlightened person ‘paryagaat – a person who must know and is enlightened’ to the fact that the Greatest of all is ‘akaayam – unembodied; avranam – without reproach; asnaaviram – without veins; kavih – omniscient; maneesee – philosopher, paribhooh – the greatest of all; svayambhooh – who is self-sufficient’
When we become knowledgeable and enlightened and realize that God is radiant, formless, flawless and indivisible, beyond reproach, pure and uncontaminated by evil, the self-sufficient, all-knowing, without form and self existent.
This same great Omnipresent being has been granting righteous desires to the souls since ‘saasvateebhyah – immemorial; samaabhyah – time’.
We ask O God that you grant us all our righteous desires which will help us to continue on that path to your abode.
Andhan tamah pravi-shanti, ye ‘vidyaam upaasate, tato bhooya ivaa te tamo, yau vidyaa-yaam rataa-hah
Those who worship avidya, enter into blinded darkness; but into greater darkness than that, enter they who are engaged in vidya.
Those who are engaged in the culture of evil activities and ‘andham – gross ignorance’ blindly devote themselves and worship, ‘upaasate – worship’ these illusions shall ‘pravisanti – enter into’ into the darkest ‘tamah – darkness’ region of ignorance’.
Worse still are those who are engaged in the so-called culture of knowledge, the false knowledge ‘vidyaayaam – in the culture of knowledge; rataah – engaged’!
This verse, the ninth verse in the Isha Upanishad tells us about those who live their lives engaged in the culture of evil activities! It tell us what becomes of those of us who think in inhuman ways, In evil ways!
But what are these evil activities?
1) It is those activities which are not peaceful, loving, kind, tolerant, and helpful to others! This verse says that those of us who engage in hurtful behavior and who find pleasure in inflicting pain and hurt on others! They shall enter into the darkest region of ignorance. ‘tamah – darkness’
2) Those of us who are selfish and uncaring towards the other children of God and our brothers, sisters, our mothers and fathers! They shall enter into the darkest region of ignorance. ‘tamah – darkness’
3) Those of us who abuse women and children! They shall enter into the darkest region of ignorance. ‘tamah – darkness’
4) Those who devote themselves to the illusions of the world and worship these illusions. They shall enter into the darkest region of ignorance. ‘tamah – darkness’
5) And it says that worse still are those who are engaged in the so-called culture of knowledge, the false knowledge! Those who make themselves the slave to their egos and use knowledge not to enlighten themselves but to feed the ego! They shall enter into the darkest region of ignorance. ‘tamah – darkness’
6) Those of us who hate and dislike and engage in gossip and push people apart instead of bringing people together and promoting Love. They shall enter into the darkest region of ignorance. ‘tamah – darkness’
Anya devaa-hur vid-yaya, anyada-ahur-avidya-yaa, iti shu-shruma dheera-naam, ye nas tad vi-cha-chak-shire
“They say that by vidya a really different result is achieved, and by avidya a different result.”
Thus have we heard (the teaching of) those wise men who explained that to us. The wise sages and gurus have chakshire – explained to us that one result is derived from the practice of ‘vid-yayaa – by the true culture of knowledge’, and that a different result is obtained from the culture of ‘avidyayaa – by culture of illusion and ignorance’. Meaning here that we expend energy in the thought and practice of knowledge.
First, it is a waste of effort and energy in following false knowledge and doing things which leads to unrighteous ends and opposes our inner, inherent nature of righteousness. So, let us choose instead to expend our energy of thought and action in performing righteous duties and knowledge.
Vidyaam cha-vidyaam cha, yas tad vedo-bhayam sahah, avidya-yaa mrityum teer-tvaa, vidyaya mritam-ashnute
He who knows these two – vidya and avidya – together, attains immortality through vidya, by crossing over death through avidya.
Only one who can understand enough to be able to differentiate ‘vidyaam – knowledge in fact; and avidyaam – ignorance’.The person who understands the process of illusion and that of true knowledge ‘saha – simultaneously’ side by side!
He who can explain the difference between ignorance and who can use this knowledge of difference between the two will be able to choose the right path in life. Because of this knowledge, this person will transcend the influence of repeated birth and death, and eventually enjoy immortality.
Andhan tamah pravi-shanti, ye ‘sam-bhootim upaa-sate, tato bhooya iva te tamo, yau sam-bhoot-yaam rataah
Those who worship the Un-manifested, enter into blinding darkness; but those who are devoted to the Manifest, enter into greater darkness.
This verse from Isha Upanishad says that those who are engaged in the worship of ‘andham – of ignorance and of false Gods’ will ‘pravishanti – enter into, tamah – darkness’ into the darkest region of ignorance. So too will those who ‘upaasate – worship, asambhootim – demigods’ of the impersonal and false Absolute.
This means that there are those of us who in the weakness of our human-ness, raise others to God-like status and then we worship them. To do this in and of itself is ‘pravishanti – entering into, tamah – darkness of ignorance’ How many times have you heard those who do drugs and smoke all kinds of things say that they feel some sort of ‘peace or meditative’ state? This shloka tells us that those who involves themselves in activities that somehow leads to that false ‘peace of mind’, like drugs and empty recitations of words without focus, which we then continue on to worship also exists in tamah – darkness of ignorance’!
Our Havan, Sandhya and Meditation, when done with true focus on God is the shortest, most direct path to God!
Anya-devaa-huh sam-bha-vaad, anyada-hur asam-bhavaat, iti shu-shru-ma dheeraanaam, ye nas tad vicha-chak-shire
“They spoke of different results from the worship of the Manifested, and they spoke of different results from the worship of the Unmanifested” – thus we have heard (the teaching of those wise men.)
This verse tells us that one result is obtained by worshiping ‘sambhavaat – by worshiping the Supreme Lord, the cause of all causes’, the true and Supreme God and that another and different result is achieved by worshiping ‘asambhavaat – by worshiping what is not the Supreme’, or the false Gods. All this is taught to us by the ‘dheeraanaam – wise ones of clear undisturbed minds who vicha-chakshire – clearly explained it.
Sam-bhoo-tim cha vinaa-sham cha, yas tad vedo-bha-yam sa ha, vinaa-she-na mrityum teerth-tva, sam-bhoot-yaam ritam ash- nutey
He who knows these two – the Unmanifested and Destruction – together, attains immortality through the Unmanifested by crossing death through Destruction.
One should veda – should know perfectly well that sambhootim – God and nature in both the vinaa-aham – the temporary material manifestation and the un-manifested forms, where vinaashena – with everything which not of material, tangible nature.
When one knows these, he surpasses death and the cosmic manifestation with it. This person will find his place in the sam-bhootyaa – the eternal Kingdom of God and he will; ashnute – enjoy his amritam – eternal life of bliss and knowledge. This person enjoys immortality.
Hiran-mayena paatrena, satyas-yaa pihitam mukham, tat tvam pooshann-apaa-vrinu, satya-dharmaa ya-drishtaye
The the face of the Truth (Brahman in the solar orb) is concealed with a golden vessel. Do thou, O Sun, open it so as to be seen by me, who am by nature truthful (or, who am the performer of rightful duties).
The real mukham – face of truth ‘satyasya – of the Supreme Truth’ is ‘apihitam – covered’ ‘paatrena – covered by a brilliant covering! It is covered by ‘hiranmayena – by a dazzling golden brilliance’. O Lord, O ‘pooshan – O sustainer we ask you to please apaavrinu – kindly remove’ that covering and drishtaye – show Yourself to Your ‘satya – pure; dharmaaya – unto the devotee’.
We pray O Lord to help us remove all obstacles, in whatever shape or form, so that we can realize our pure self and the divinity within.
Pooshan-ekar-she-yama soorya, praajaa-patya vyoohar ashmeen-samooha, tejo yat-te roopam kalyana-ta-mam, tat-te pashyaami, yo saav-asau puru-shah soham asmi
O Thou, who art the nourisher, the solitary traveller, the controller, the acquirer, the son of Prajapati, do remove Thy rays, do gather up thy dazzle.
I shall behold that form of Thine, which is the most benign. I am that very person that is yonder (in the sun). O my Lord, you who are the supreme philosopher, and ‘pooshan – the maintainer’ of the universe, You who controls all aspects of the Universe and who is the destination of the pure devotees. O praajaapatya – the well-wisher of the prajaapatis’ the progenitors of mankind and ‘soorya – the destination of the sooris (all great devotees);
I beg of you to please help me remove, to ‘samooha – kindly withdraw’ the brilliance of Your transcendental rays so that I can see Your ‘roopam – form’ of bliss. This does not really mean that God removes his brilliance. This means that may God grant us the intelligence through the knowledge of the Vedas so that we may have the ability to see through the shroud of mystery and become one with God. May we become capable of identifying ourselves as one with God.
Help me O Lord that ‘pashyaami – I may see’ beyond, to understand the teachings of the Vedas and Help me O God to remove any veil of ignorance or false knowledge so that I may understand your true nature and by doing so, that I may understand my own true nature. ‘sah – myself; aham – I; asmi – am’ – ‘Soham – I am that’
You who are the eternal Supreme God, who is called ‘that’ and ‘I am that’.
Vaayur-anilam-amritam-mathedam, bhasmaantam shariram, Om krato smara kritam smara, krato smara kritam smara
Let my vital force, my praana, my vaayuh – my air of life go back to the anilam – the total reservoir of immortal air; and now let this shareeram – this body be bhasmaantam – reduced to ashes. O soul, krato – the enjoyer of sacrifices, – smara – please remember kritam – all that has been done for you. smara – and please remember OM!
We pray for the soul, that life giving vital force that sustains the body and is immaterial and immortal. At death even after the body is finally reduced to ashes, the soul which reaped the karma of that body and cannot die, we pray that you keep your vitality and your success for your future, and that you carry on and remember your past deeds and your errors and is motivated to become ever pure and pure.
Agne naya supathaa raaye asmaan, vishwaani deva vayunaani vidwaan, yuyo-dhyas-mai juhuraanam eno, bhooyish-thaan te nama uktim vidhema
O Agne – brilliant Lord, thou art the knower of all our vayunaani – thoughts and deeds!
And we pray to thee to lead us naya – to lead or guide us to walk along the supathaa – the righteous path for raaye – wealth and wisdom. We ask for your help to eliminate our bad habits and to guide us away from the juhuraanam – perverse crooked path in our lives! O Lord, we vidhema – offer to thee our namah – salutation, deep reverence and devout devotion! O brilliant Lord, O Agne, thou art the knower of all our thoughts and deeds and we pray to thee to lead us along the righteous path for wealth and wisdom. You are the all knowing One, you know all our vices.
Help us eliminate our vices.
We offer to thee our deep reverence and devout devotion.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om