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Durable Link to this BlogSaturday, August 09, 2008

The Ishavasya Upanishad

The Ishavasya Upanishad

It is usually believed that essence of Hinduism as revealed in theVedas lies in the Upanishads. There are more than a hundred Upanishads. All these deal with knowledge regarding Brahman or Brahmvidya. Sage Shankaracharya wrote commentary on the ten most important Upanishads. These are Isha or Ishavsya, Kena, Katha, Prashna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittiriya, Chhandogya Aitareya and Brihadaranyaka.

Study of these ten Upanishads was part of basic education in ancient Indian spiritual lore and many learned people wrote commentaries on them besides the three Acharyas, to support their school of thought.

Ishavasya is the smallest among these Upanishads, consisting of only 18 verses. But due to archaic language and cryptic phrases it is a difficult piece. The real meaning gets elusive. But it throws light on nature of God, duty of average individuals in this world and the virtues one has to cultivate till the end, towards realization of God

The very first verse (or mantra to the pious people) declares that the whole world belongs to God.

All that exists in the world is covered by God. There is nothing which an individual can call his or her own. Hence do not aspire for other's money, the Upanishad says. Money here means worldly belongings or personal attachments. “Do your duties (Karma) without any attachment and live for a hundred years. Such a life makes you free of all external and impure traits," says the second verse. The ignorant ones go on repeating external rituals, which lead them only towards further darkness.

Self realization being the motto of all Upanishads some spiritual traits are to be developed by those who aim to attain it. The main discipline is detachment. One has to do all work without attachment. This discipline is called Karmayoga. Fruit of all our activities are to be surrendered at the feet of God.

Next comes freedom from hatred. The ideal of a spiritual aspirant should be to remain unaffected by attachment or hatred. He must have compassion towards one and all. This is possible only when a person sees the Self in all people and all people in the Self.

When the wise man perceives all is not distinct from his own Self, he would not hate any one, and the mind gets purified through detachment and self surrender. The Atman (Self) within, begins to shine, by and by.

God is the great purifier, self resplendent, formless, and untainted by evil.

Lokamanya Tilak advocated Karmayoga (selfless action) earliest traits of which before Bhagavadgita are found in this Upanishad. Mahatma Gandhi was very fond of this Upanishad and the first verse formed part of his daily evening prayer. Actually the Upanishad includes a prayer in the end that, this mortal body must turn into ashes, doing one’s duties, all the while and concentrating on God (here he is in the form of Agni) only.

Masti Venkatesh Iyengar (1891-1986) the great short story writer has written a beautiful story Mantrodaya on the life of a sage who worked hard using his hands, poured his love and affection on all living creatures and spoke very little all his life. His last utterances on the day he completed one hundred years, poured out in the form of mantras of Ishopanishad as depicted by Masti.

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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