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object:2.01 - Isha Upanishad All that is world in the Universe
book class:Isha Upanishad
author class:Sri Aurobindo

Isha Upanishad All that is world in the Universe

The Sanscrit word jgt^ is in origin a reduplicated & therefore
frequentative participle from the root gm^ to go. It signifies "that
which is in perpetual motion", and implies in its neuter form
the world, universe, and in its feminine form the earth. World
therefore is that which eternally vibrates, and the Hindu idea
of the cosmos reduces itself to a harmony of eternal vibrations;
form as we see it is simply the varying combination of different
vibrations as they affect us through our perceptions & establish
themselves to the concept. So far then Hinduism has reached
by analysis to the last & simplest material expression of this
complex universe. The question then arises, "Does anything lie
beyond? If matter is all, then this is the last & there is no beyond.
But is matter all?"
Our first verse is the answer of the Upanishad to this question. "All that is world in the Universe by the Lord must be
pervaded." The very object of our existence is to pierce beyond
this last & thinnest veil of matter to Spirit, the Lord who is
behind every manifestation of matter, even the simplest & therefore is he the Lord, he is the Self of all things, matter being
merely the body. When we have realised that all this universe of
vibration is full of the Spirit, we have set our feet on the right
road that will lead us to the goal of existence. This is what we
"must" do, in other words to realise God in the universe is the
object of our existence. But why does the Upanishad say "must
be pervaded"; why does it not say simply "is pervaded"? Is this
pervasion then not a fact, but a possibility which each individual
soul has to turn into a fact for itself? In what sense is it said that
the object of the individual soul is to pervade the Universe with
the Lord? We must remember that according to the Upanishad
there are only two entities in existence which are not phenomena or manifestations, but eternal facts, and these two are in


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

reality not two but one, the illimitable & infinite Self behind
phenomena, and the finite self which perceives phenomena. The
Adwaita or Monistic Vedanta affirms the entire unity of these
two & explains their apparent separation by Maya, Illusion
or Ignorance, in other words by the theory that the Indivisible
Eternal has deliberately imagined himself as divisible (I speak in
metaphors, the only way of approaching such subtle inquiries)
& hence created an illusion of multiplicity where the only real
fact is Unity. We may take the metaphor of a sea & its waves; if
each wave were to imagine itself separate from all other waves
& from the sea of which it is a part, that would be an illusion
similar to that of the finite self when it imagines itself as different
from other finite selves and from the Infinite. The wave is not
really different from the sea but is sea (not the sea) and the next
moment will be indistinguishable from sea; in fact the word
"wave" merely expresses a momentary perception, an idea of
change or modification which the next moment we perceive not
to exist, and not a real object; the only real object is the sea.
The Visishta Adwaita or modified-Monistic Vedanta on the
other hand recognises that the infinite Self & the finite Self are
eventually One, but still there is a distinction, a certain limitation
of the Oneness. The finite Self is of & in the infinite Self & therefore one with it but it does not coincide with it or disappear into
it; the goal of its existence is the delight of feeling its oneness
with the Eternal, but still the very feeling of delight implies a
limitation, a difference, & this limitation is not temporary but
eternal. An image may be taken from the phenomenon of Light
& its vibrations; it is all light, there is no real difference, & yet
each of the vibrations is in a sense separate & continues its own
existence on its own line for ever through infinity. Lastly the
Dwaita or Dualistic Vedanta affirms, on the contrary, that the
finite selves & the Infinite are for ever different & the whole
riddle of the world lies in their difference & in their attraction
to each other. To become one with the Eternal is here also the
goal of the finite but the oneness is emotional & not essential; it
is Union & not fusion. It is difficult to find a close image here,
but for want of a better we may take that of a river & the sea to

Isha Upanishad: All that is world


which it is hasting. It is water hasting to water & the whole aim
of the river is to fling itself into the sea & towards that it strives
with all its might & with all its soul; & finally it reaches the sea &
mixes with it. And yet there it is still, a river & not the sea. So the
two live in a perpetual embrace, ever united & yet ever different
& feeling their separate existence. Now these three philosophies
really image three different states of soul & three different roads
to the realisation of God. There is the intellectual state of soul
which reaches God through knowledge; this naturally attaches
itself to Monism, for it seeks only the knowledge of its identity
with God & its tendency is to discourage all action & emotion
which interfere with this aim. Then there is the actional state of
soul which reaches God through action leading to knowledge &
inspired by emotion; this aims at the knowledge of its identity
with God, but its actional state requires a certain sense of difference from God without which action becomes meaningless;
its tendency therefore, if the knowledge-impulse predominates
over the emotional, is to rest for a time in modified Monism,
though it recognises pure Monism as a far goal beyond; but
if the emotional impulse predominates over the intellectual, its
tendency is to adopt modified Monism as a final solution. Lastly
there is the emotional state of soul which reaches God through
divine love; this naturally attaches itself to Dualism; for the only
desire of love is to attain the loved one & go on loving for
ever; an impossibility unless the feeling of difference in Union
goes on for ever. The three philosophies are therefore simply
three different standpoints from which we envisage one single
truth, that nothing eventually matters in the world except God
& the goal of existence is to attain Him. And I may add my own
conviction that all three are necessary soul-stages. By pausing
too long in Dualism or even in modified Monism, we debar ourselves too long from our final emancipation; but by leaping too
quickly to Monism we fall into a dangerous tendency towards
the premature dissolution of phenomena which if largely followed upsets the fine balance of the world. The right progress of
the soul is first to realise its difference from God, so that we may
feel attracted towards Him, then to realise that that difference


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

is a temporary or at least not an entire difference, that there is
unity beyond, so that we may advance towards Him by the right
road & under the laws of that phenomenal existence through
which he reveals himself to us, and finally to perceive that we
and God are One & all phenomena temporary & illusory, so that
escaping from name & form we may lose ourselves in Him and
attain our soul's salvation. Well then, here are three standpoints;
which is the standpoint of the Upanishads? They do not, in fact,
confine themselves to any, but regarding them as three necessary
stages, speak now from one, now from another, now from a
third. Here it is speaking in a spirit of very slightly modified
Monism. There are two nonphenomenal existences, the Infinite
Self & the Finite Self; from the point of view of the Infinite,
Eternal Self, the universe is already pervaded with God; but we
must also consider the point of view of the Finite Self, - which
is really Infinite but considers itself to be Finite. To this Finite
Self the Universe is only the mass of its own perceptions. If it
perceives the Universe as mere matter, then for its purposes the
Universe is Matter & not pervaded by the Lord; if I consider
yonder tree as so much wood & pith & sap & leaves, such it is
& no more so far as I am concerned; if I look within & perceive
God there then it is I who have put him there; for the moment
before He was not there for me & now He is. In more Monistic
language the Self at first imagines itself to be confined within
its own body, but as it grows in thought it looks into object
after object & perceives itself there & so it goes on putting itself
into everything until it has pervaded all that is in the world
with itself; it then realises that there is no self or non-self but
all is God. We see that it is merely a difference of language, of
outlook, of perception; but these are the things through which
human thought proceeds & they must be given their due place.
To recognize the differences they involve & yet to perceive the
unity into which they merge, is the law & goal of all Hindu
But whatever the standpoint we take, for dualist, monist
or semimonist the Vedanta lays this down as the great essential
step to realise that when we have resolved this universe of forms

Isha Upanishad: All that is world


& names into a great harmony of vibrations, we must still go
beyond & perceive that the whole is but the material expression
of one pervading Spirit. And when we have realised this, what is
the practical result; for it must be remembered that the Vedanta
is always profoundly practical[.]

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