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object:2.02 - The Ishavasyopanishad with a commentary in English
book class:Isha Upanishad
author class:Sri Aurobindo

The Ishavasyopanishad with a commentary in English

With God all this must be invested, even all that is world in this
moving universe; abandon therefore desire and enjoy and covet
no man's possession.
The Upanishad sets forth by pronouncing as the indispensable basis of its revelations the universal nature of God. This
universal nature of Brahman the Eternal is the beginning and
end of the Vedanta and if it is not accepted, nothing the Vedanta
says can have any value, as all its propositions either proceed
from it or at least presuppose it; deprived of this central and
highest truth, the Upanishads become what Mleccha scholars &
philosophers think them to be, - a mass of incoherent though
often sublime speculations; with this truth in your hand as a
lamp to shed light on all the obscurest sayings of the Scriptures,
you soon come to realise that the Upanishads are a grand harmonious and perfectly luminous whole, expressing in its various
aspects the single and universal Truth; for under the myriad
contradictions of phenomena (prapancha) there is one Truth
and one only. All the Smritis, the Puranas, the Darshanas, the
Dharmashastras, the writings of Shaktas, Shaivas, Vaishnavas,
Sauras, as well as the whole of Buddhism and its Scriptures
are merely so many explanations, comments and interpretations
from different sides, of these various aspects of the one and only
Truth. This Truth is the sole foundation on which all religions
can rest as on a sure and impregnable rock; - and more than a
rock, for a rock may perish but this endures for ever. Therefore
is the religion of the Aryas called the Sanatana Dharma, the Law
Sempiternal. Nor are the Hindus in error when they declare the
Sruti to be eternal and without beginning and the Rishis who


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

composed the hymns to be only the witnesses who saw the truth
and put it in human language; for this seeing was not mental
sight, but spiritual. Therefore the Vedas are justly called Sruti
or revelation. Of these the Rig, Yajur, Sama & Atharvan are the
fertilising rain which gave the plant of the Truth nourishment
and made it grow, the Brahmanas are the forest in which the
plant is found, the Aranyakas are the soil in which it grows,
the Upanishads are the plant itself, roots, stalk, leaves, calix and
petals, and the flower which manifests itself once and for ever is
the great saying SO AHAM - I AM HE which is the culmination
of the Upanishads. Salutation to the SO AHAM. Salutation to the
Eternal who is without place, time, cause or limit, Salutation to
my Self who am the Eternal.
I salute the Eternal and my Self who am the Eternal. Swaha!
The Upanishad therefore begins by saying that all this must
be clothed or invested with the Lord. By this expression it is
meant that the individual Jivatman or human soul in order to
attain salvation must cover up all this universe with the Lord, as
one might cover the body with a garment. By the Lord we mean
obviously not the Unknowable Parabrahman, for of the Unknowable we cannot speak in terms of place, time or difference,
but the Brahman knowable by Yoga, the luminous shadow of the
One put forth by the Shakti of the One, which by dividing itself
into the Male and Female, Purusha and Prakriti, has created this
world of innumerable forms and names. Brahman is spoken of
as the Lord; that is, we best think of Him as the Ruler & Sovran
of the Universe. He is the still ocean of spiritual force, its mere
presence sets working the creative, preservative, and destructive
Shakti or Will of the Eternal Parabrahman. By her means he
forms the Ocean of Prakriti, which is the substratum of all form
or matter. Of these two, the Ocean of spiritual force and the
Ocean of material form, the latter is contained in the other &
could not be without it. It may be said to be surrounded by it or

The Ishavasyopanishad


clothed by it. The Lord himself is present on the Ocean in various
forms, Prajna, Hiranyagarbha & Virat, or Vishnu, Brahma and
Maheshwara. This is what the Puranas represent as Vishnu on
the Serpent of Time & Space in the Causal Ocean & Brahma
growing out of the lotus in his navel etc. This is the Lord, the
King & Ruler. We must therefore realise all things in this universe
to be the creation of that ocean of Brahman or spiritual force
which surrounds them as a robe surrounds its wearer.
Surely all things [are] Brahman himself; why then should he
be said to surround all things as if he were different from them?
It is meant by this expression that the universal & undivided consciousness which we call Brahman, surrounds and
includes all the limited individual consciousnesses which present
themselves to us in the shape of things.
Still I do not understand. How can the one indivisible consciousness be divided, or if it is divided how can it at the same
time remain one and surround its own parts? A thing cannot
be at the same time one and indivisible and yet divisible and
On the contrary this is precisely the nature of consciousness
to be eternally one & indivisible, & yet always divisible at will.
A man's consciousness has often been split up into two states,
each with its own history and memory, so that when he is in
one state, he does not know what he has been thinking and
doing in the other. Persons ignorant of the Truth imagine from
this circumstance that a man's consciousness must be not single
and homogeneous but a bundle of different personalities, just
as the Sankhyas & others imagine that there must be an infinite
number of Purushas, souls & not One, for otherwise, they say,


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

all would have the same knowledge, the same pleasure & pain
etc. (This is so in a sense, as his present personality contains also
in a submerged state the personalities of his previous births, and
an unwise hypnosis may throw him back into a bygone state of
personality.) But this is merely Avidya, Ignorance, & when the
apparently individual Purusha puts himself into the complete
state of Yoga with the Eternal he discovers that all the time there
was only One Purusha who was cognizant of & contained the
others, in the sense that they were simply projections (s
E.s) from
him. These states of split consciousness are only different states
of one personality and not separate personalities. This will at
once be clear if a skilful and careful hypnotiser put the man in the
right state of sleep; for then a third state of personality will often
evolve which has known all along what the other two were doing
and saying & is in itself sufficient proof that all along the unity
of consciousness was there, submerged indeed but constant and
subliminally active. The division of this one consciousness into
two separate states results from a particular & unusual action
of Avidya, the same universal Nescience which in its general
& normal action makes men imagine that they are a different
self from the Universal Consciousness and not merely states or
conditions projected (s
.) of that consciousness. We see here then
an established example of the one and indivisible consciousness
becoming divided and multifold, yet remaining one and indivisible all the time. This single consciousness itself, the I of the
waking man, is only a division or rather a state of a still wider
consciousness more independent of gross matter which gets
some play in the condition of dream (and of dream hypnosis is
only a particular and capricious form), but is more permanently
& coherently liberated from the gross body at or after death.
This wider consciousness is called the Dream Condition and
the body or upadhi in which it works is called the Subtle Body.
The Dream Consciousness may be said to surround the waking
consciousness and its body as a robe surrounds its wearer, for
it is wider & less trammelled in its nature & range; it is the
selecting agency from which & by which a part is selected for
waking purposes in the material life. The Dream Consciousness

The Ishavasyopanishad


is itself [surrounded] by a still wider consciousness which we
call the Sleep Condition or the Causal Body and from this &
by this it is selected for life before birth & after death. This
Sleep Condition is again surrounded by Brahman from whom
& by whom it is selected for causal purposes, - just as a robe
surrounds its wearer. Thus you will realise that Brahman is a
wide eternally one & indivisible Consciousness which yet limits
itself at will and yet remains illimitable surrounding like a robe
all its various states or illusory limitations.
True but that which surrounds is always a separate thing
from that which is surrounded, the robe is different from its
Let us consider a nut with the kernel in it, we see that ether
in the form or upadhi of the nut, surrounds ether in the upadhi
of the kernel as a robe surrounds its wearer; but the two are the
same; there is one ether, not two.
Now I understand.
Consider next what the Upanishad goes on to indicate more
definitely as the thing to be clothed or invested - whatever is
jagat in jagati, or literally whatever is moving thing in her that
moves. Now jagati, she who moves, is an old name for Earth,
Prithivi, and afterwards for the whole wide universe, of which
the Earth with which alone we human beings are at present
concerned, is the type. Why then is the universe called jagati,
she that moveth? Because it is a form of Prakriti whose essential
characteristic is motion; for by motion she creates this material
world, and indeed all object-matter is only a form, that is to
say a visible, audible or sensible result of motion; every material
object is jagat, full of infinite motion, - even the stone, even the


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

clod. This material world, our senses tell us, is the only existing
reality; but the Upanishad warns us against the false evidence of
our senses and bids us realise in our hearts and minds Brahman
the Ocean of spiritual force, drawing him in our imaginations
like a robe round each sensible thing.
But the Upanishad does not say that the material world is
itself Brahman.
It will yet say that. It tells us next by abandonment of this (all
that is in the world) to enjoy and not covet any man's wealth. We
are to enjoy the whole world, but not to covet the possessions of
others. How is this possible? If I, Devadatta, am told to enjoy all
that is in the world, but find that I have very little to enjoy while
my neighbour Harischandra has untold riches, how can I fail to
envy him his wealth and why should I not try to get it for my
own enjoyment, if I safely can? I shall not try, because I cannot,
because I have realized that there is nothing in this world but
Brahman manifesting the universe by his Shakti, and that there
is no Devadatta, no Harischandra, but only Brahman in various
states of consciousness to which these names are given. If therefore Harischandra enjoys his riches, then it is I who am enjoying
them, for Harischandra is myself, - not my body in which I am
imprisoned or my desires by which my body is made miserable,
but my true self, the Purusha within me who is the witness &
enjoyer of all this sweet, bitter, tender, grand, beautiful, terrible,
pleasant, horrible and wholly wonderful and enjoyable drama
of the world which Prakriti enacts for his delectation. Now if
as the Sankhyas and other philosophies and the Christians and
other religions declare, there are innumerable Purushas and not
one, there would be no ground for the Christian injunction to
love others as oneself or for the description by the Sruti & Smriti
of the perfect sage as svBtEhtrt,, busied with and delighting in
the good of all creatures; for then Harischandra would be in no
way connected with me and there would be no point of contact

The Ishavasyopanishad


between us except the material, from which hatred & envy are
far more ready to arise than love and sympathy. How then could
I prefer him to myself? But from the point of view of Vedanta,
such preference is natural, right and in the end inevitable.
That is a large view.
And a true view.
How is the preference of others to myself inevitable, natural,
It is inevitable because as I have risen from the beast to the
man, so must I rise from the man to the God & of Godhead this
preference is the perennial well & fountain, evolution meaning
simply the wider and wider revelation of Brahman, the universal
spirit, the progress from the falsehood of matter to the truth
of spirit; - and this progress, however slow, is inevitable. It is
natural because I am not really preferring another to myself, but
my true self to my false, God who is in all to my single body
and mind, myself in Devadatta and Harischandra, to myself in
Devadatta alone. It is right because it is better for me to enjoy
the enjoyment of Harischandra than to enjoy my own, since in
this way I shall make my knowledge of Brahman a reality and
not a mere intellectual conception or assent; I shall turn it into
an experience - anubhav, and anubhav, the Smritis tell us, is the
essence of true Jnana. For this reason perfect love, by which I
do not mean the mere sensual impulse of man towards woman,
is a great and ennobling thing, for by its means two separated
conditions of the Universal Consciousness come together and
become one. Still nobler and more ennobling is the love of the
patriot who lives & dies for his country, for in this way he


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

becomes one with millions of divine units and still greater, nobler, more exalting the soul of the philanthropist, who without
forgetting family or country lives and dies for mankind or for all
creatures. He is the wisest Muni, the greatest Yogi, who not only
reaches Brahman by the way of Jnana, not only soars to Him
on the wings of Bhakti, but becomes He through God-devoted
Karma, who gives himself up utterly for his family and friends,
for his country, for all humanity, for the world, yes & when he
can, the solar system & systems upon systems, - for the whole
Therefore the Upanishad tells us that we must enjoy by
abandonment, by tyaga or renunciation. This is a curious expression, t
n (y4
n B;5FTA,; it is a curious thing to tell a man
that he must abandon & what he has abandoned enjoy by the
very sacrifice. The natural man shrinks from the statement as a
dangerous paradox. Yet the seer of the Upanishad is wiser than
we, for his statement is literally true. Think what it means. It
means that we give up our own petty personal joy and pleasure,
to bathe up to the eyes in the joys of others; and the joys of one
man may be as great as you please, the united joys of a hundred
must needs be greater. By renunciation you can increase your
enjoyments a hundredfold; if you are a true patriot, you will feel
the joys, not of one man, but of three hundred millions; if you
are a true philanthropist, all the joys of the countless millions
of the earth will flow through your soul like an ocean of nectar.
But, you say, their sorrows will flow there too? That too is an
agony of sweetness which exalts the soul to Paradise, that you
can turn into joy, the unparalleled joy of relieving and turning
into bliss the woes of the nation for which you sacrifice yourself
or of the humanity in whom you are trying to realise God. Even
the mere continuous patient resolute effort to do this is a joy
unspeakable; even defeat in such a cause is a stern pleasure
when it strengthens the soul for new and ceaseless endeavour.
And the souls worthy of the sacrifice, derive equal strength from
defeat & victory. Remember that [it] is not the weak in spirit to
whom the Eternal gives himself wholly; it is the strong heroic
soul that reaches God. Others can only touch His shadow from

The Ishavasyopanishad


afar. In this way the man who renounces the little he can call his
own for the good of others, gets in return and can utterly enjoy
all that is world in this moving universe.
If you cannot rise so high, still the words of the Upanishad
are true in other ways. You are not asked necessarily to give up
the objects of your enjoyments physically; it is enough if you give
them up in your heart, if you enjoy them in such spirit that you
will neither be overjoyed by gain nor cast down by loss. That
enjoyment is clear, deep and calm; fate cannot break it, robbers
cannot take it away, enemies cannot overwhelm it. Otherwise
your enjoyment is chequered and broken with fear, sorrow,
trouble & passion, the passion for its increase, the trouble of
keeping it, the sorrow of diminution, the fear of its utter loss.
It is far better by abandoning to enjoy. If you wish to abandon
physically, that too is well, so long as you take care that you are
not cherishing the thought of the enjoyment in your mind. Nay,
it will often be a quicker road to enjoyment. Wealth and fame
and success naturally flee from the man who pursues them; he
breaks his heart or perishes without gaining them; or if he gains
them, it is often after a very hell of difficulty, a very mountain
of toil. But when a man turns his back on wealth & glory,
then, unless his past actions forbid, they come crowding to lay
themselves at his feet. And if they come, will he enjoy or reject
them? He may reject them - that is a great path & the way of
innumerable saintly sages - but you need not reject them, you
may take & enjoy them. How will you enjoy them then? Not
for your personal pleasure, certainly not for your false self; for
you have already abandoned that kind of enjoyment in your
heart; but you may enjoy God in them and them for God. As a
king merely touching the nuzzerana, passes it on into the public
treasury, so you may, merely touching the wealth that comes
to you, pour it out for those around you, for the country, for
humanity, seeing Brahman in these. Glory again he may conceal
with humility, but use the influence it gives him in order to lead
men upwards to the divine. Such a man will quickly rise above
joy & sorrow, victory & defeat; for in sorrow as in joy he will
feel himself to be near God, with God, like God and finally God


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

himself. Therefore the Upanishads go on to say

h kmAEZ EjjFEvq
QCt\ smA,.
Do thy deeds in this world and wish to live thy hundred years. A
hundred years is the full span of man's natural life according to
the Vedas. The Sruti therefore tells us that we must not turn our
backs on life, must not fling it from us untimely or even long for
early release from our body but willingly fill out our term, even
be most ready to prolong it to the full period of man's ordinary
existence so that we may go on doing our deeds in this world.
Mark the emphasis laid on the word k;vn^ by adding to it eva.
Verily we must do our deeds in the world and not avoid doing
them; there is no need to flee to the mountains in order to find
the Self, since He is here, in you and in all around you. And if
you flee there, not to find Him, but to escape from the misery &
misfortune of the world which you are too weak to face, then
you lose the Self for this life and perhaps many to come. I repeat
to you that it is not the weak and the coward who can climb
up to God, but the strong and brave alone. Every individual
Jivatman must become the perfect Kshatriya before he can be
the Brahmin.
All this is opposed to what the wisest men have taught and
those we most delight to revere, still teach and practise.
Are you sure that it is? What do they teach?
That vairagya, disgust with the world is the best way and
its entry into a man's soul is his first call to the way of mukti,
which is not by action but by knowledge.
Vairagya is a big word and it has come to mean many things,
and it is because these are confused and jumbled together by the

The Ishavasyopanishad


men of Aryavarta, that tamas and Anaryan cowardice, weakness
& selfishness have spread over this holy & ancient land, covering
it with a thick pall of darkness. There is one vairagya, the truest
and noblest, of the strong man who having tasted the sweets of
this world finds that there is no permanent and abiding sweetness in them, that they are not the true and immortal joy which
his true and immortal self demands and turns to something in
himself which is deeper, holier and imperishable. Then there is
the vairagya of the weakling who has lusted and panted and
thirsted for the world's sweets but has been pushed & hustled
from the board by fate or by stronger men than himself; and
would use Yoga and Vedanta as the drunkard uses his bottle and
the opium-maniac his pill or his laudanum. Not for such ignoble
uses were these great things meant by the Rishis who disclosed
them to the world. If such a man came to me for initiation, I
would send him back with the fiery rebuke of Srikrishna to the
son of Pritha

k;t-(vA kmlEmd\ Evqm
{Ny\ mA -m gm, pAT n
{tt^ (v6y;pp(t
Truly is such weakness unworthy of one who is no other than
Brahma, the Eternal, the Creator and Destroyer of the worlds.
Yet I would not be understood to decry the true vairagya of sorrow and disappointment; for sometimes when men have tried in
ignorance for ignoble things and failed, not from weakness but
because these things were beneath their true greatness and high
destiny, then their eyes are opened and they seek meditation,
solitude and samadhi not as a dram to drown their sorrow and
still unsated longing, but to realise their divine strength and use
it for divine purposes; sometimes great spirits seek the way of
the Sannyasin, because in the solitude alone with God and the
Guru, they can best develop Brahmatejah. Once attained they
pour it in a stream over the world; such was Shankaracharya;
and sometimes it is the sorrow of others or the misery of the
world that finds them in ease & felicity & drives them out, as
Buddha was driven out, to seek help for sufferers in the depths


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

of their own being. True Sannyasins are the greatest of all men
because they are the strongest unto work, the most mighty in
God to do the works of God.
I repeat that all this is opposed to the teaching of the great
Adwaitavadin Acharyas, Sri Shankara and the rest.
It is not opposed to the teaching of Srikrishna who is the
greatest of all teachers and the best of Jagatgurus. For he tells
Sanjay in the Mahabharata that between the creed of salvation
by works and the creed of salvation by no works, that of salvation by works is the true creed and he condemns the other as the
idle talk of a weakling; and again and again in the Bhagavadgita
he lays stress on the superiority of works.
This is true, but he also says that Jnana is superior to all
things and there is nothing equal to it.
Nor is there; for Jnana is indispensable. Jnana is first &
greatest; works without Jnana will not save a man but only
plunge him deeper and deeper into bondage. The works of which
the Upanishad speaks are to be done after you have invested all
this universe with God; after, that is to say, you have realised that
all is the one Brahman and that your actions are but the dramatic
illusions unrolled by Prakriti for the delight of the Purusha. You
will then do your works t
n (y4
n; or as Srikrishna tells you to do,
after giving up the desire for the fruits of your works and devoting all your actions to Him, - not to your lower not-self which
feels pleasure & pain but to the Brahman in you which works
only loks\g}hAT that instead of the uninstructed multitudes being
bewildered and led astray by your inactivity, the world may
rather be helped, strengthened and maintained by the godlike
nature of your works. This is what the Upanishad goes on to say

The Ishavasyopanishad


"Thus to you there is no other way than this, action clingeth not
to a man." This means that desireless actions, actions performed
after renunciation and devoted to God, - these & these only -
do not cling to a man, do not bind him in their invisible chains
but fall from him as the water from the wings of the swan.
They cannot bind him, because he is freed from the woven net
of causality. Causality springs from the idea of duality, the idea
of sorrow & happiness, love & hate, heat & cold which arises
from Avidya and he, having renounced desire and realised Unity,
is above Avidya and above duality. Bondage has no meaning for
him. It is not in reality he that is doing the actions, but Prakriti
inspired by the presence of the Purusha in him.
Why then does Shankara say that it is necessary to give up
works in order to attain absolute unity? Those who do works,
in his opinion, only reach sAlo7 with Brahman, relative and
not absolute unity.
There was a reason for what Shankara said and it was necessary in his age that Jnana should be exalted at the expense of
works; for the great living force with which he had to struggle,
was not the heresies of later Buddhism - Buddhism decayed
and senescent, but the triumphant doctrines of the Karmakanda
which made the faithful performance of Vedic rites & ceremonies the one path and heaven the only goal. In his continual
anxiety to show that works - of which these rites & ceremonies
were a part, - could not be the one path to heaven, he bent the
bow as far as he could the other way and argued that works were
not the path to the last and greatest mukti at all. Let us however
consider what the depreciation of the Karmamarga means in the
mouths of Shankara and other Jnanamargis. It may mean that
Karma in the sense of Vedic rites & ceremonies are not the way
to Mukti and if this is the meaning, then Shankara has done
his work effectually; for I think no one of authority will now
try to maintain the opposite thesis. We all agree that Swarga,


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

the sole final result of the Karmakanda, is not Mukti, is much
below Mukti and ends as soon as its cause is exhausted. We all
agree also that the only spiritual usefulness of Vedic ceremonies
is to purify the mind and fit it for starting on the true path of
Mukti which lies through Jnana. But if you say that works in
the sense of kt&y km are not a path to Mukti, then I demur;
for I say that Karma is not different from Jnana, but is Jnana, is
the necessary fulfilment and completion of Jnana; that Bhakti,
Karma and Jnana are not three but one and go inseparably
together. Therefore Srikrishna says that Sankhya (Jnanayog) and
Yoga (Bhakti Karma Yoga) are not two but one and only bAlA,,
undeveloped minds, make a difference.
But how can Shankaracharya be called an undeveloped
He was not an undeveloped mind, but he was dealing with
undeveloped minds and had to speak their language. If he had
given his sanction to Karma, however qualified, the general run
of people would not have understood him and would have clung
to their rites and ceremonies; it is indeed to this difficulty of
language, its natural imperfection and the imperfection of the
minds that employ language, to which all the confusion and
sense of difference in religion & philosophy is due, for religion
& philosophy are one & above difference. Nor was Shankara
so entirely opposed to Karma as is ordinarily imagined from
the vehemence of his argument in some places. For what do
you mean when you say that Karma is no path to Mukti? Is
it that Karma prompted by desire is inconsistent with mukti,
because it necessarily leads to bondage and must therefore be
abandoned? On this head there is no dispute. We all agree that
works prompted by desire, lead to nothing but the fulfilment of
desire followed by fresh works in another life. Is it that Karma
without desire is inconsistent with Mukti, prevents mukti by
fresh bondage and must be abandoned? This is not consistent

The Ishavasyopanishad


with reason, for bondage is the result of desire & ignorance
and disappears with desire & ignorance; therefore in nishkam
karma there can be no bondage. It is inconsistent with Sruti
(y sED\ E/kmk
8rEt jmm
(y i(yAEd. It is inconsistent with facts for Srikrishna did works, Janaka and others
did works, but none will say that they fell into the bondage of
their works; for they were jFvm;4. Is it meant that nishkam
karma may be done as a step towards b}9AE: by Jnan but must
be abandoned as soon as Jnan is acquired? This also will not
stand because Janaka and the others did works after they had
acquired Jnan as well as before. For the same reason Shankara's
argument that km must cease as a matter of sheer necessity as
soon as one gains Brahma, because Brahma is aktA, will not
stand; for Janaka gained Brahma, Srikrishna was Brahma, and
yet both did works; nay, Srikrishna in one place speaks of him
as doing works; for indeed Brahman is both aktA as Purusha
and ktA as Prakriti; and if it be said that Parabrahman the
Turiya Atma in whom all bhed disappears is aktA, I answer
Et n
Et, the Unknowable
that he is neither ktA nor aktA, He is n
and the Jivatma does not merge finally in Him while it is in
the body; though it may do so at any time by Yoga. ly takes
hEnpAtAt^, that is to say by the Muktatma after leaving
place aAd
its body, not willing to return to another; the Jivanmukta is
made one with the luminous shadow of Parabrahman which we
call the Sacchidananda. If it be said that this is not Mukti, I
answer that there can be no greater Mukti than becoming the
Sacchidananda, and that laya in the Parabrahman is -v
to the Jivatman when it has ceased to be Jivatman and become
Sacchidananda; for Parabrahman can always & at will draw
Sacchidananda into Itself and Sacchidananda can always and
at will draw into Parabrahman; since the two are in no sense
two but one, in no sense subject to Avidya but on the other side
of Avidya. Then if it be said that En;kAm km can only lead to
Brahmaloka and not mukti, I still answer that in that case we
must suppose that Srikrishna after he left his body, remained
separate from the Supreme and therefore was not Bhagavan at
all but only a great philosopher & devotee, not wise enough to


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

attain Mukti, and that Janak and other Jivanmuktas were falsely
called muktas or only in the sense of the aAp
E"k mukti. This
however would contradict Scripture and the uniform teaching
of Sruti and Smriti, and cannot therefore be upheld by any
Hindu, still less by any Vedantin; for if there is no authority
in Sruti, then there is no truth in Vedanta, and the doctrine
of the Charvakas has as much force as any. Moreover it would
contradict reason, since it would make mukti which is a spiritual
change, dependent on a mere mechanical & material change like
death, which is absurd. Shankara himself therefore admits that
in these cases En;kAm km was not inconsistent with m;E4 or with
being the Brahman; and he would have admitted it still more
unreservedly if he had not been embarrassed by his relations of
intellectual hostility to the Purvamimansa. It is proved therefore
that km is not inconsistent with m;E4 but that on the contrary
both the teaching and practice of the greatest Jivanmuktas and
of Bhagavan himself have combined Jnana and En;kAm km as
one single path to mukti.
One argument, however, remains; it may be said that km
may be not inconsistent with mukti, may be one path to mukti,
but in the last stage it is not necessary to mukti. I readily admit
that particular works are not necessary to mukti; it is not necessary to continue being a householder in order to gain mukti. But
no one who possesses a body, can be free of karma. This is clearly
and incontrovertibly stated by Srikrishna in the Bhagavadgita.
[n Eh kE<("ZmEp jAt; Et(ykmk
 vf, km sv, k
{, ]
And this statement in the Gita is perfectly consistent with reason;
for the man who leaves the world behind him and sits on a
mountaintop or in an asram has not therefore, it is quite clear,
got rid of Karma; if nothing else, he has to maintain his body,
to eat, to walk, to move his limbs or to sit in asan and meditate;
and all this is Karma. If he is not yet mukta, this karma will
moreover bind him and bear its fruits in relation to himself as
well as to others; even if he is mukta, his body & mind are
not free from Karma until his body is dropped off, but go on

The Ishavasyopanishad


under the impulse of prarabdha until the prarabdha & its fruit
are complete. Nay even the greatest Yogi by his mere bodily
presence in the phenomenal world, is pouring out a stream of
spiritual force on all sides, and this action though it does not
bind him, has a stupendous influence on others. He is svBtEht

rt, though he wills it not; he too with regard to his body is
avf, and must let the gunas of prakriti work. Since this is so,
let every man who wishes to throw his kt&y km behind him, see
that he is not merely postponing the completion of his ArND to
a future life and thereby condemning himself to the rebirth he
wishes to avoid.
But how can this be that the jivanmukta is still bound by
his past deeds? Does not mukti burn up one's past deeds as in a
fire? For how can one be at the same time free and yet bound?
Mukti prevents one's future deeds from creating bondage;
but what of the past deeds which have already created bondage?
The Jivanmukta is not indeed bound, for he is one with God and
God is the Master of His prakriti, not its slave; but the Prakriti
attached to this Jivatman has created causes while in the illusion
of bondage and must be allowed to work out its effects, otherwise the chain of causation is snapped and the whole economy
of nature is disturbed and thrown into chaos. u(sFd
etc. In order to maintain the worlds therefore, the Jivanmukta
remains working like a prisoner on parole, not bound indeed
by others, but detained by himself until the period previously
appointed for his captivity shall have elapsed.
This is indeed a new light on the subject.
It is no new light but as old as the sun; for it is clearly laid
down in the Gita and of the teaching of the Gita, Srikrishna


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

says that it was told by him to Vivasvan, the Vishnu of the
solar system and by him to Manou, the original Thinker in
man, and by Manou handed down to the great king-sages, his
descendants. Nay, it plainly arises from the nature of things.
The whole confusion in this matter proceeds from an imperfect
understanding of mukti; for why do men fly from action and
shun their kt&y km in the pursuit of mukti? It is because they
dread to be cast again into bondage, to lose their chance of m;E4.
Yet what is mukti? It is release, - from what? From Avidya,
from the great Nescience, from the belief that you are limited &
bound, who are illimitable Brahman and cannot be bound. The
moment you have realised that Avidya is an illusion, that there
is nothing but Brahman and never was nor will be anything
but Brahman, realised it, I say, had an;Bv of it, not merely
intellectually grasped the idea, from that moment you are free
and always have been free. Avidya consists precisely in this that
the Jivatman thinks there is something beside himself, he himself
being other than Brahman, something which binds him; but in
reality He, being Brahman, is not bound, never was bound nor
could be bound and never will be bound. Once this is realised,
the Jivatman can have no farther fear of karma; for he knows
that there is no such thing as bondage. He will be quite ready
to do his deeds in this world; nay, he will even be ready to be
reborn, as Srikrishna himself has promised to be reborn again
and again; for of rebirth also he has no farther fear, since he
knows he cannot again fall under the dominion of Avidya, unless
he himself deliberately wills it; once free, always free. Even if he
is reborn, he will be reborn with full knowledge of what he
really is, of his past lives and of the whole future and will act as
a Jivanmukta.
But if this statement once free, always free hold, what of the
statements about great Rishis & Yogis falling again under the
dominion of Avidya?

The Ishavasyopanishad


A man may be a great Rishi or Yogi without being Jivanmukta. Yog and spiritual learning are means to Mukti, not
n l
Mukti itself. For the Sruti says nAymA(mA vcn
n bh;nA *;t
Will then the Jivanmukta actually wish to live a hundred
years, as the Sruti says? Can one who is m;4 have a desire?
The Jivanmukta will be perfectly ready to live a hundred
years or more if needs be; but this recommendation is given
not to the Jivanmukta or to any particular class of person but
generally. You should desire to live your allotted term of life,
because you in the body are the Brahman who by the force of
His own Shakti is playing for Himself by Himself this lila of
creation, preservation and destruction; in this view Brahman is
Isha, the Lord, Creator & Destroyer; and you also are Isha,
Creator & Destroyer; only for your own amusement, to use
a violent metaphor, you have imagined yourself limited by a
particular body for the purposes of the play, just as an actor
imagines himself to be Dushyanta or Rama or Ravana; and
often the actor loses himself in the part and really feels himself to be what he is playing, forgetting that he is really not
Dushyanta or Rama, but that Devadatta who plays a hundred
parts besides. Still when he shakes off this illusion & remembers that he is Devadatta, he does not therefore walk off from
the stage and by refusing to act, break up the play but goes
on playing his best till the proper time for the curtain to fall.
And so we should all do, whether as householder or Sannyasi,
as Jivanmukta or as mumukshu, remembering always that the
object of this sansara is creation and that it is our business so
long as we are in this body to create. The only difference is
this, that so long as we forget our Self, we create like servants
under the compulsion of our Prakriti or Nature, and are, as
it were, slaves & bound by her actions which we imagine to


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

be ours; but when we know the Self and experience our true
Self, then we are masters of our Prakriti and not bound by
her creations; our soul becomes the Sakshi, the silent spectator,
of the actions of our Nature; thus are we both spectator &
actor, and yet because we know the whole to be merely the
illusion of an action and not action itself, because we know
that Rama is not really killing Ravana nor Ravana being killed,
for indeed Ravana lives as much after the supposed death as
before; so are we neither actor nor spectator but the Self only
and all we see only visions of the Self - as indeed the Sruti
frequently uses the word e
"d^, saw, in preference to any other
for those conceptions with which the Brahman peoples with
Himself the Universe of Himself. The mumukshu therefore will
not try or wish to leave his life before the time, just as he will
not try or wish to leave actions in this life, but only the desire
for their fruit. For if he breaks impatiently the thread of his
life before it is spun out, he will be no Jivanmukta but a mere
suicide and attain the very opposite result of what he desires.
The Upanishad says

as;yA nAm t
 lokA aD
n tmsAv
(yAEBgQCEt y
 cA(mhno jnA,
Shankara takes this verse in a very peculiar way. He interprets
aA(mhno as slayers of the Self, and since this is obviously an
absurdity, for the Self is eternal and unslayable, he says that it is
a metaphor for casting the Self under the delusion of ignorance
which leads to birth. Now this is a very startling and violent
metaphor and quite uncalled for, since the idea might easily
have been expressed in any other natural way. Still the Sruti
is full of metaphor and we shall therefore not be justified in
rejecting Shankara's interpretation on that ground only. We must
see whether the rest of the verse is in harmony with the interpretation. Now we find that in order to support his view Shankara
is obliged to strain astonishingly the plain meaning of other
words in the sentence also; for he takes lokA as meaning various
kinds of birth, so that as;yA lokA means the various births as
man, animal etc, called aAs;rA because Rajas predominates in

The Ishavasyopanishad


them and they are accompanied with Asuric dispositions.1 All
this is a curious and unparalleled meaning for Asuric worlds.
The expression lokA is never applied to the various kinds of
forms the Jivatman assumes, but to the various surroundings
of the different conditions through which it passes, of which
life in this world is one; we say ihlok or m(ylok, prlok or
-vglok, b}9lok, golok etc, but we do not say pf;lok, pE"lok,
kFVlok. If we say aAs;r lok we can mean nothing but the regions
of Asuric gloom as opposed to the divine loks, Brahmalok,
Golok, Swarga. This is the ordinary meaning when we speak of
going to a world after death, and we must not take it in any
other sense here just to suit our own argument. Moreover the
expression y
 loses its peculiar force if we apply it to all living
beings except the few who obtain mukti partial or complete; it
obviously means some out of many. We must therefore refuse to
follow even Shankara, when his interpretation involves so many
violences to the language of Sruti and so wide a departure from
the recognized meaning of words.
The ordinary sense of the words gives a perfectly clear and
consistent meaning. The Sruti tells us that it is no use taking
refuge in suicide or the shortening of your life, because those
who kill themselves instead of finding freedom, plunge by death
into a worse prison of darkness - the Asuric worlds enveloped
in blind gloom.
Are then worlds of Patala beneath the earth a reality and
do the souls go down there after death? But we know now that
there is no beneath to the earth, which is round & encircled by
nothing worse than air.
1 Another version which duplicates some of the last part of this sentence reads as
follows, beginning after "other words in the sentence also;" -
for he says that as;yA lokA means the various kinds of birth; even the Devas being
considered Asuric births as opposed to the Paratman; but this is a misuse of words
because the Devas cannot be Asura births as opposed to the Daiva birth of Paratman,
Paratman is above birth & above Devahood. Asurya can only mean Asuric as opposed
to Devic.


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

Do not be misled by words. The Asuric worlds are a reality,
the worlds of gloom in the nether depths of your own being. A
world is not a place with hills & trees & stones, but a condition
of the Jivatman, all the rest being only circumstances & details
of a dream; this is clear from the language of the Sruti when it
speaks of the spirit's lok in the next world, am;E;mn^ lok
, as being
good or otherwise. Obviously lok means state or condition.
m(ylok is not essentially this Earth we see, for there may &
must be other abodes of mortal beings but the condition of
mortality in the gross body, Swargalok is the condition of bliss
in the subtle body, Narak the condition of misery in the subtle
body, Brahmalok the condition of being near to Hiranyagarbha
in the causal body. Just as the Jivatman like a dreamer sees the
Earth & all its features when it is in the condition of mortality,
and regards itself as in a particular place, so when it is in a
condition of complete tamas in the subtle body, it believes itself
to be in a place surrounded by thick darkness, a place of misery
unspeakable. This world of darkness is imagined as being beneath the earth, beneath the condition of mortality, because the
side of the earth turned away from the Sun is regarded as the
nether side, while Swarga is above the Earth, because the side of
earth turned to the Sun is considered the upper side, the place of
light & pleasure. So the worlds of utter bliss begin from the Sun
and rise above the Sun to Brahmalok. But these are all words &
dreams, since Hell & Patal & Earth & Paradise & Heaven are
all in the Jivatma itself and not outside it. Nevertheless while we
are still dreamers, we must speak in the language & terms of the
What then are these worlds of nether gloom?
When a man dies in great pain, or in great grief or in great
agitation of mind and his last thoughts are full of fear, rage, pain
or horror, then the Jivatman in the Sukshmasharir is unable to

The Ishavasyopanishad


shake off these impressions from his mind for years, sometimes
for centuries. The reason of this is the law of death; death is a
moment of great concentration when the departing spirit gathers
up the impressions of its mortal life, as a host gathers provender
for its journey, and whatever impressions are predominant at
that moment, govern its condition afterwards. Hence the importance, even apart from Mukti, of living a clean and noble life
and dying a calm & strong death. For if the ideas & impressions
then uppermost are such as associate the self with this gross
body and the vital functions, ie to say, with the lower upadhi,
then the soul remains long in a tamasic condition of darkness
& suffering, which we call Patal or in its worst forms Hell. If
the ideas & impressions uppermost are such as associate the
self with the mind and the higher desires then the soul passes
quickly through a short period of blindness to a rajaso-sattwic
condition of light & pleasure and wider knowledge, which we
call Paradise, Swarga or Behesta, from which it will return to
birth in this world; if the ideas & impressions are such as to
associate the self with the higher understanding & the bliss
of the Self, the soul passes quickly to a sattwic condition of
highest bliss which we call Heaven or Brahmaloka and thence it
does not return. But if we have learned to identify for ever the
self with the Self, then before death we become God and after
death we shall not be other. For there are three states of Maya,
tamasic illusion, rajasic illusion, & sattwic illusion; and each in
succession we must shake off to reach that which is no illusion,
but the one and only truth.
The Sruti says then that those who slay themselves go down
into the nether world of gloom, for they have associated the
Self with body and fancied that by getting rid of this body,
they will be free, but they have died full of impressions of grief,
impatience, disgust and pain. In that state of gloom they are
continually repeating the last scene of their life, its impressions
and its violent disquiet, and until they have worn off these, there
is no possibility of shanti for their minds. Let no man in his folly
or impatience court such a doom.


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

I understand then that these three verses form a clear &
connected exposition. But in the next verse the Upanishad goes
on suddenly to something quite disconnected.
No. It says

k\ mnso jvFyo n
vA aA=n;vn^ pvmqt^.
Et Et8E-mpo mAtEr>A dDAEt
The Sruti has said that you must invest all things with the Lord.
But of course that really means, you must realise how all things
are already invested with Him. It now proceeds to show how this
is and to indicate that the Lord is the Brahman, the One who,
regarded in his creative activity through Purusha & Prakriti, is
called the Lord. Therefore it now uses the neuter form of the
pronoun, speaking of Him as That and This; because Brahman
is above sex & distinction. He is One, yet he is at once unmoving
& swifter than mind. He is both Purusha & Prakriti, and yet at
the same time He is neither, but One and indivisible; Purusha
& Prakriti being merely conceptions in His mind deliberately
raised for the sake of creating multiplicity. As Prakriti, He is
swifter than the mind; for Prakriti is His creative force making
matter & its forms through motion. All creation is motion, all
activity is motion. All this apparently stable universe is really in
a state of multifold motion, everything is whirling with inconceivable rapidity through motion, and even thought which is the
swiftest thing we know, cannot keep pace with the velocity of the
cosmic stir. And all this motion, all this ever evolving Cosmos
& Universe is Brahman. The Gods in their swiftest movements,
the lords of the senses, cannot reach him, for He rushes far in
front. The eye, the ear, the mind, nothing material can reach or
conceive the inconceivable creative activity of the Brahman. We
try to follow Him pouring as light through the solar system and
lo! while we are striving He is whirling universes into being far
beyond the reach of eye or telescope, far beyond the farthest
flights of thought itself. Material senses quail before the thought

The Ishavasyopanishad


of the wondrous stir and stupendous unimaginable activity that
the existence of the Universe implies. And yet all the time He
who outstrips all others, is not running, but standing. While
we are toiling after Him, He is all the time here, at our side,
before, behind us, with us, in us. Really He does not move
at all; all this motion is the result of our own Avidya which
by persuading us to imagine ourselves as limited, subjects our
thoughts to the conditions of Time & Space. Brahman in all his
creative activity is really in one place; He is at the same time in
the Sun & here; but we in order to realise Him have to follow
Him from the Sun to the Earth; and this motion of our thoughts,
this sensitory impression of a space covered & a time spent we
attribute not to our thought, but to Brahman, just as a man
in a railway-train has a sensitory impression that everything is
rushing past, but that the train is still. Vidya, Knowledge tells
him that this is not so. So that the stir of the Cosmos is really the
stir of our own minds - and yet even our own mind does not
really stir. What we call mind is simply the play of conception
sporting with the idea of multiplicity which is in form the idea
of motion. The Purusha is really unmoving; he is the motionless
& silent spectator of a drama of which He himself is the stage,
the theatre, the scenery, the actors and the acting. He is the poet
Shakespeare watching Desdemona & Othello, Hamlet & the
murderous Uncle, Rosalind & Jacques & Viola and all the other
hundred multiplicities of himself acting & talking & rejoicing &
suffering, all Himself & yet not himself, who sits there a silent
witness, their Creator who has no part in their actions and yet
without Him not one of them could exist. This is the mystery
of the world and its paradox, yet its one plain, simple & easy
Now I see. But what is this suddenly thrown in about
Matariswun & the waters? Shankara interprets ap, as actions.
Will not this bring it more into harmony with the rest of the


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

Perhaps; waters is the proper sense of ap, but let us see first
whether by taking it in its proper sense we cannot arrive at a
clear meaning. The Sruti says that this infinitely motionless yet
infinitely moving Brahman is that in which Matariswun setteth
the waters. Now we know the conception which the Scripture gives us of this Universe. Everything that we call creation,
putting forth & Science calls evolution is in reality a limitation,
a srishti, as we say, that is a letting loose of a part from the
whole, or a selection, as the Scientists say, a natural selection
they call it or, as we should put it, selection by the action of
Prakriti, of a small portion from a larger stock, of the particular
from the general. Thus we have seen that the Sleep Condition
or Prajna is a letting loose or let us say selection of one part
of consciousness from the wider Universal Consciousness; the
Dream Consciousness or Hiranyagarbha is a selection from the
wider Sleep Consciousness, and the Waking Consciousness Virat
or Vaisvanor is a selection from the wider Dream Consciousness;
similarly each individual consciousness is only a selection from
the wider Universal Waking Consciousness, each step involving a
narrower & ever narrowing consciousness until we come to that
extremely narrow bit of consciousness which is only conscious
of a bit out of the material & outward world of phenomena.
It is the same with the process of material creation. Out of the
unformed Prakriti which the Sankhya calls Pradhana or primary
idea, substance, plasm or what you will, of matter, one aspect
or force is selected which is called Akash and of which ether is
the visible manifestation; this akash or ether is the substratum
of all form & material being. Out of ether a narrower force
is selected or let loose which is called Vaiou or Matariswun,
the Sleeper in the Mother, because he sleeps or rests directly in
the mother-principle, Ether. This is the great God who in the
Brahman setteth the waters in their place.
You speak of it as a God, I think, metaphorically. Science
has done away with the Gods of the old crude mythology.

The Ishavasyopanishad


The Gods are; - they are the Immortals and cannot be done
away with by Science however vehemently she denies them; only
the knowledge of the One Brahman can do away with them. For
behind every great & elemental natural phenomenon there is a
vast living force which is a manifestation, an aspect of Brahman
and can therefore be called nothing less than a God. Of these
Matariswun is one of the mightiest.
Is Air then a God or Wind a God? But it is only a conglomeration of gases.
That and nothing more in the terms of material analysis,
but look beyond to the synthesis; matter is not everything and
analysis is not everything. By material analysis you can prove
that man is nothing but a conglomeration of animalcules, and
so materialism with an obstinate and learned silliness persists
in asseverating; but man will never consent to regard himself
as a conglomeration of animalcules, because he knows that he
is more. He looks beyond the analysis to the synthesis, beyond
the house to the dweller in the house, beyond the parts to the
force that holds the parts together. So with the Air, which is
only one of the manifestations of Matariswun proper to this
earth, one of the houses in which he dwells; but Matariswun
is in all the worlds and built all the worlds; he has numberless
houses for his dwelling. The principle of his being is motion
materially manifested, and we know that it is by motion creation
becomes possible. Matariswun therefore is the Principle of Life,
the universal and all pervading ocean of Prana, of which the most
important manifestation in man is the force which presides over
that distribution of gases in the body to which we give the name
of Breath.
Still, most people would call this a natural force, not a God.


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

Call him what you like, only realise that Matariswun is a
force of Brahman, nay, Brahman Himself, who in himself setteth the waters to their places. Now just as Matariswun was a
selection from Akasha or ether, so is Agni, Fire, a selection from
Matariswun and the Waters a selection from fire. Now notice
that it is the plural word ap, which is used; just as often you
find the Sruti instead of the name Agni of the presiding principle,
using the plural jyotinshi, lights, splendours, shining things, of
the various manifestations of Agni, so it uses aAp,, all fluidities,
of the various manifestations of Varouna, the presiding force
behind them. You must not think that the waters of the ocean or
of the rain are the only manifestations of this principle, just as
you must not suppose that the fire in yonder brazier or the sun
in heaven is the only manifestation of the fiery principle. All the
phenomena of light and everything from which heat proceeds
have their immediate basis or substratum in Agni. So with the
waters which are selected out of Agni by the operations of heat
etc. So again all earth, all forms of solidity have their basis or
substratum in Prithivi, the earth-force, which is again a selection
out of Jala or Varouna, the fluid principle. Now life proceeds in
this way; it arises on the substratum of ether with Matariswun
or the Air Force as its principle & essential condition, by the
operation of the fiery or light principle through heat, out of the
fluid to solidity which is its body. The material world is therefore
often said in the Sruti to be produced out of the waters, because
so long as it does not emerge from the fluid state, there is as yet no
Cosmos. When Science instead of following the course of Nature
upstream by analysis, resolving the solid into fluid, the fluid into
the fiery, and the fiery into the aerial, shall begin to follow it
downstream, imitating the processes of Prakriti, and especially
studying & utilising critical stages of transition, then the secret
of material creation will be solved, and Science will be able to
create material life and not as now merely destroy it. We can now
understand what the Sruti means when it says that Matariswun
in Brahman setteth the waters to their places. Brahman is the
reality behind all material life, and the operations of creation are

The Ishavasyopanishad


only a limited part of His universal consciousness and cannot
go on without that consciousness as its basis. Shankara is not
perhaps wrong when he reads the meaning "actions" into ap,;
for the purposes of mankind, actions are the most important
of all the various vital operations over which Matariswun presides. Remember therefore that all you do, create, destroy you
are doing, creating & destroying in Brahman, that He is the
condition of all your deeds; the more you realise & intensify in
yourself Brahman as an ocean of spiritual force, the mightier
will be your creation & your destruction, you will approach
nearer and nearer to Godhead. For the Spirit is all & not the
body, of which you should only be careful as a vehicle of the
Spirit, for without the presence of Spirit, which gives Prakriti
the force to act, Prakriti would be inert, nay could not exist.
For what is Prakriti itself but the creation of the mighty Shakti,
who is without end & without beginning, the Shakti of the
Eternal? Without some Jnana, some knowledge & feeling of the
Spirit within you, your work cannot be great; and the deeper
your Jnana the greater your work. All the great creators have
been men who felt powerfully God within them, whether they
were Daivic, of the Olympian type like Shankara, or Asuric, of
the Titanic type like Napoleon; only the Asura, his Jnana being
limited and muddied, is always confusing the Eternal with the
grosser & temporary manifestations of Prakriti such as his own
vital passions of lust & ambition; the Deva, being sattwic & a
child of light, sees clearer. When Napoleon cried out, "What is
the French Revolution? I am the French Revolution," he gave
utterance to that sense of his being more than a mere man, of
his being the very force & power of God in action, which gave
him such a stupendous energy & personality; but his mind being
muddied by rajas, passion & desire, he could not see that the
very fact of his being the French Revolution should have pointed
him to higher & grander ideals than the mere satisfaction of his
vital part in empire & splendour, that it should have spurred him
to be the leader of insurgent humanity, not the trampler down
of the immortal spirit of nationality, which was a yet greater
and more energetic manifestation of the Eternal Shakti than


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

himself. Therefore he fell; therefore the Adyashakti, the mighty
Devi Chandi Ranarangini Nrimundamalini, withdrew from him
her varabhaya and fought against him till she had crushed and
torn him with the claws of her lion. Had he fallen as the leader
of humanity, - he could not have fallen then, but yet if he had
fallen, - his spirit would have conquered after his death and
ruled & guided the nations for centuries to come. Get therefore
Jnana, the pure knowledge of Brahman within you and show
it forth in nishkam karma, in selfless work for your people, for
your country, for humanity, for the world, then will you surely
become Brahman even in this mortal body and by death take
upon yourself eternity.
The Sruti then having set forth the nature of the Lord
& identified Him with the Brahman, proceeds to sum up the
apparent paradoxes attending his twofold aspect as the Unknowable Parabrahman and the Master of the Universe, as the
Self within the Universe and the Self within your body. That
moveth and That moveth not, - as has already been explained;
That is far and the same That is quite near, That is within all
this and the same That is without all this.
There is no difficulty in this statement.
No, there is no difficulty, once you have the key. But try to
realise what it means. Lift your eyes towards the Sun; He is there
in that wonderful heart of life & light and splendour. Watch
at night the innumerable constellations glittering like so many
solemn watchfires of the Eternal in the limitless silence which
is no void but throbs with the presence of a single calm and
tremendous existence; see there Orion with his sword and belt
shining as he shone to the Aryan fathers ten thousand years ago
at the beginning of the Aryan era, Sirius in his splendour, Lyra
sailing billions of miles away in the ocean of space. Remember
that these innumerable worlds, most of them mightier than our
own, are whirling with indescribable speed at the beck of that

The Ishavasyopanishad


Ancient of Days whither none but He knoweth, and yet that
they are a million times more ancient than your Himalaya, more
steady than the roots of your hills and shall so remain until He
at his will shakes them off like withered leaves from the eternal
tree of the Universe. Imagine the endlessness of Time, realise
the boundlessness of Space; and then remember that when these
worlds were not, He was, the Same as now, and when these
are not, He shall be, still the Same; perceive that beyond Lyra
He is and far away in Space where the stars of the Southern
Cross cannot be seen, still He is there. And then come back to
the Earth & realise who this He is. He is quite near to you. See
yonder old man who passes near you crouching & bent, with
his stick. Do you realise that it is God who is passing? There a
child runs laughing in the sunlight. Can you hear Him in that
laughter? Nay, He is nearer still to you. He is in you, He is you.
It is yourself that burns yonder millions of miles away in the
infinite reaches of Space, that walks with confident steps on the
tumbling billows of the ethereal sea; it is you who have set the
stars in their places and woven the necklace of the suns not with
hands but by that Yoga, that silent actionless impersonal Will
which has set you here today listening to yourself in me. Look
up, O child of the ancient Yoga, and be no longer a trembler and
a doubter; fear not, doubt not, grieve not; for in your apparent
body is One who can create & destroy worlds with a breath.
Yes, He is within all this as a limitless ocean of spiritual
force; for if He were not, neither this outer you nor this outer I
nor this Sun nor all these worlds could last for even a millionth
part of the time that is taken by a falling eyelid. But He is outside
it too. Even in His manifestation, He is outside it in the sense
of exceeding it, a(yEt=fA\g;l\, in His unmanifestation, He is
utterly apart from it. This truth is more difficult to grasp than the
other, but it is necessary to grasp it. There is a kind of Pantheism
which sees the Universe as God and not God as the Universe; but
if the Universe is God, then is God material, divisible, changeable, the mere flux & reflux of things; but all these are not God
in Himself, but God in His shadows & appearances; they are,
to repeat our figure, the shadows and figments of Shakespeare's


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

mind, Shakespeare is not only vaster than all his drama-world
put together, he is not only both in it and outside it, but apart
from it and other than it.
Do you mean that these are emanations from His Mind?
I do not. Emanation is a silly word and a silly idea. God is
not a body emitting vapours. If they have emanated from Him,
where, pray, have they emanated to? Which is their locality and
where is their habitation? You cannot go anywhere where you
will be outside God; you cannot go out of your Self. For though
you flee to the uttermost parts of space, He is there. Are Hamlet
& the rest of them emanations from Shakespeare's mind? Will
you tell me then where they have emanated to? Is it on to those
pages, those corruptions of pulp which are made today and destroyed tomorrow? Is it into those combinations of those letters
of the English alphabet with which the pages are covered? Put
them into combinations of any other alphabet, or relate them
in any language to a man who knows not what letters are, and
still Hamlet will live for him. Is it in the sounds that the letters
represent? sounds that are heard this moment and forgotten the
next? But Hamlet is not forgotten - he lives on in your mind
for ever. Is it in the impressions made on the material brain by
the forgotten sounds? Nay the Sleep Self within you, even if you
have never heard or read the play of Hamlet, will, if it is liberated
by any adequate process of Yoga or powerful hypnosis, tell you
about Hamlet. Shakespeare's drama-world never emanated from
Shakespeare's mind, because it was in his mind and is in his mind;
and you can know of Hamlet because your mind is part of the
same universal mind as Shakespeare's - part, I say, in appearance, but in reality that mind is one and indivisible. All knowledge belongs to it by its nature perpetually and from perpetuity,
and the knowledge that we get in the waking condition through
such vehicles as speech & writing are mere fragments created
(let loose) from it & yet within it, just as the worlds are mere

The Ishavasyopanishad


fragments created (let loose) from the Brahman, in the sense
of being consciousness selected & set apart from the Universal
Consciousness, but always within the Brahman. Emanation is a
metaphor, like the metaphor in the Sruti about the spider & his
web, - convenient for certain purposes, but not the truth, very
poor ground therefore on which to build a philosophy.
To realise God in the Universe & in yourself, is true Pantheism and it is the necessary step for approaching the Unknowable,
but to mistake the Universe for God, is a mistaken & inverted
Pantheism. This inverted Pantheism is the outer aspect of the
Rigveda, and it is therefore that the Rigveda unlike the Upanishad may lead either to the continuation of bondage or to
Brahmaloka, while the Upanishad can lead only to Brahmaloka
or to the Brahman Himself.
But the new scholarship tells us that the Rigveda is either
henotheistic or polytheistic, not real Pantheism.
Nay, if you seek the interpretation of your religion from
Christians, atheists and agnostics, you will hear more wonderful
things than that. What do you think of Charvak's interpretation
of Vedic religion as neither pantheistic nor polytheistic but a
plutotheistic invention of the Brahmins? An European or his disciple in scholarship can no more enter into the spirit of the Veda
than the wind can blow freely in a closed room. And pedants
especially can never go beyond the manipulation of words. Men
like Max Muller presume to lecture us on our Veda & Vedanta
because they know something of Sanscrit grammar; but when
we come to them for light, we find them playing marbles on the
doorsteps of the outer court of the temple. They had not the
adhikar to enter, because they came in a spirit of arrogance with
preconceived ideas to teach & not to learn; and their learning
was therefore not helpful towards truth, but only towards grammar. Others ignorant of the very rudiments of Sanscrit, have seen
more deeply than they, - even if some have seen more than there


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

was to see. What for instance is this henotheism, this new word,
the ill begotten of pedantry upon error? If it is meant that various
sections of the Aryas consider different Gods as the God above
all & the others false or comparatively false Gods, there would
have been inevitably violent conflicts between the various sects
and perpetual wars of religion but such there were not. If on the
other hand, it is meant that different worshippers preferred to
worship the Lord of the Universe in different particular forms,
then are we still henotheist; for there is hardly one of us who has
not his ishta-devata, Vishnou, Siva, Ganapati, Maruti, Rama,
Krishna or Shakti; yet we all recognize but one Lord of the Universe behind the form we worship. If on the other hand the same
man worshipped different nature-forces, but each in its turn as
the Lord of the Universe, then is this Pantheism, pure and simple.
And this was indeed the outer aspect of the Vedic religion; but
when the seers of the Veda left their altars to sit in meditation,
they perceived that Brahman was neither the Visvadevas nor the
synthesis of the Visvadevas but something other than they; then
was the revelation made that is given us in the Upanishads. t

@yAnyogAn;gtA apyn^ 
dvA(mfE4\ -vg;Z
{EngYAm^. This is what is
meant by saying that Brahman is outside all this; he is neither
the synthesis of Nature nor anything that the Universe contains,
but himself contains the Universe which is only a shadow of His
own Mind in His own Mind.
I understand.
If you really understand, then are you ready for the next
step which the Sruti takes when it draws from the unity of
the Brahman, the sublimest moral principle to be found in any

y-t; svAEZ BtAyA(my
q; cA(mAn\ tto n Evj;g;=st

To man finding himself in the midst of the paradoxes created

The Ishavasyopanishad


by the twofold nature of the Self, of himself, the Shakti that
knows & the Shakti that plays at not knowing, the Sruti gives an
unfailing guide, a sure staff and a perfect ideal. See all creatures
in thy Self.2 Yes, all; wife, children, friends, enemies, joy, sorrow,
victory, defeat, beauty and ugliness, animation and inanimation
- all these are but moods of One Consciousness and that Consciousness is our own. If you come to think of it, you have
no friends or enemies, no joys or sorrows but of your own
making. Scientists tell you that it is by the will to adapt itself in
a particular way to its surroundings, one species differentiates
itself from another. That is but one application of an universal
principle. The Will is the root of all things; you will to have wife
& children, friends & enemies and they arise. You will to be
sick & sorry and sickness & sorrow seize you; you will to be
strong & beautiful and happy, and the world becomes brighter
with your radiance. This whole Universe is but the result of One
universal Will which having resolved to create multitude in itself
has made itself into all the forms you see within it.
The idea is difficult to grasp, too vast & yet too subtle.
Because Avidya, the sense of difference is your natural condition in the body. Think a little. This body is built by the
protoplasm multiplying itself; it does not divide itself, for by
division it could not grow. It produces another itself out of
itself, the same in appearance, in size, in nature and so it builds
up the body which is only itself multiplied in itself. Take that as
an imperfect example, which may yet help you to understand.
2 Here the following sentences which occur again in a rewritten form twelve pages
later are found in the manuscript, enclosed within parentheses but not cancelled:
If thy mind fails thee, if the anguish of thy coverings still conceals the immortal Spirit
within, dash away tears, ay be they very tears of blood, wipe them from thy eye and
look out on the Universe. There is thy Self, that is Brahman, and all these things, thy
self, thy joy, thy sorrow, thy friends & enemies are in Him. t/ ko moh, k, fok


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

But it multiplies not in itself, but out of itself, as a man &
woman create a son out of themselves.
So it appears to you because it is working in Time & Space,
- for the same reason that there seem to you [to] be many
Jivatmans outside each other, while deeper knowledge shows
you one only, or that you imagine two separate consciousnesses
in one man, while more skilful hypnosis shows you that they are
one consciousness working variously within itself. In one sense
the One seems to us to multiply himself like the protoplasm, because the One Jivatman is the same in all, hence the fundamental
similarity of consciousness in all beings; in one sense He seems
to divide himself like the human consciousness because He is the
unit & all seem to be partial expressions of the comprehensive
unit; again he seems to add pieces of Himself together, because
you the consciousness who are He add yourself to your wife
the consciousness who is again He and become one, and so the
process goes on till of the vyashti, analysis in parts, you get the
samashti or synthesis of all; finally He seems to subtract Himself
from Himself, because as I have told you, each step in creation
is a letting loose or separating of part from a wider entity. All
these are however figures and appearances and whatever He
does, it must be in Himself, because He has nowhere else to
do it in, since He is all Space & all Time. Realise therefore
that all these around you, wife, children, friends, enemies, men,
animals, animate things & inanimate are in you, the Universal
Mind, like actors on a stage, and seem to be outside you only for
appearance' sake, for the convenience of the play. If you realise
this, you will be angry with none, therefore you will hate none
& therefore you will try to injure none. For how can you be
angry with any; if your enemies injure you, it is yourself who
are injuring yourself; whatever they are, you have made them
that; whatever they do, you are the root of their action. Nor will
you injure them, because you will be injuring none but yourself.
Why indeed should you hate them & try to injure them any more

The Ishavasyopanishad


than Shakespeare hated Iago for injuring Othello; do you think
that Shakespeare shared the feelings of [Lodovico] when he condemned the successful villain to death & torture? If Shakespeare
did hate Iago, you would at once say that it was illusion, Avidya,
on the part of Shakespeare - since it is Shakespeare himself who
set Iago there to injure Othello, since indeed there is no Othello
or Iago, but only Shakespeare creating himself in himself. Why
then should you consider your hatred of yourself made enemy
more reasonable than Shakespeare's hatred of his own creation?
No, all things being in yourself, are your own creation, are
yourself, and you cannot hate your own creation, you cannot
loathe yourself. Loathing and hatred are the children of illusion,
of ignorance. This is the negative side of morality; but there is
a positive for which the Sruti next proceeds to lay down the
basis. You must for the purpose of withdrawing yourself from
unrealities see all creatures in the Self; but if you did that only,
you would soon arrive at the Nirvana of all action and ring down
the curtain on an unfinished play. For the purpose of continuing
the play till the proper time for your final exit, you must also
see yourself in all creatures. The nature of the Self in a state of
Vidya is bliss; now the state of Vidya is a state of self-realisation,
the realisation of oneness & universality. The nature of the Self
in the state of Avidya, the false sense of diversity and limitation
is a state not of pure bliss but of pleasure & pain, for pleasure
is different from bliss, as it is limited & involves pain, while the
nature of bliss is illimitable and above duality; it is when pain
itself becomes pleasure, is swallowed up in pleasure, that bliss
is born. Every thing therefore which removes even partially the
sense of difference and helps towards the final unity, brings with
it a touch of bliss by a partial oblivion of pain. But that which
brings you bliss, you cannot help but delight in ecstatically, you
cannot help but love. If therefore you see yourself in another,
you spontaneously love that other; for in yourself you must
delight. If you see yourself in all creatures, you cannot but love
all creatures. Universal love is the inevitable consequence of the
realisation of the One in Many, and with Universal Love how
shall any shred of hate, disgust, dislike, loathing coexist? They


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

dissolve in it like the night mists in the blaze of the risen sun.
Take it in another way and we get a new facet of the one truth.
All hatred & repulsion arises from the one cause, Avidya, which
begot Will, called Desire, which begot Ahankar, which begot
desire called Hunger. From Desire-Hunger are born liking &
dislike, liking for whatever satisfies or helps us to our desire,
dislike for whatever obstructs or diminishes the satisfaction
of desire. This liking in this way created is the liking of the
protoplasmic sheath for whatever gives it sensual gratification,
the liking of the vital sheath for whatever gives it emotional
gratification, the liking of the mind sheath for whatever gives
it aesthetic gratification, the liking of the knowledge sheath
for whatever gives it intellectual gratification. But beyond these
there is something else not so intelligible, beyond my liking for
the beautiful body of a woman or for a fine picture or a pleasant
companion or an exciting play or a clever speaker or a good
poem or an illuminative and well-reasoned argument there is
my liking for somebody which has no justification or apparent
reason. If sensual gratification were all, then it is obvious that I
should have no reason to prefer one woman over another and
after the brute gratification liking would cease; I have seen this
brute impulse given the name of love; perhaps I myself used to
give it that name when the protoplasmic animal predominated in
me. If emotional gratification were all, then I might indeed cling
for a time to the woman who had pleased my body, but only
so long as she gave me emotional pleasure, by her obedience,
her sympathy with my likes & dislikes, her pleasant speech, her
admiration or her answering love. But the moment these cease,
my liking also will begin to fade away. This sort of liking too
is persistently given the great name and celebrated in poetry &
romance. Then if aesthetic gratification were all, my liking for a
woman of great beauty or great charm might well outlast the loss
of all emotional gratification, but when the wrinkles began to
trace the writing of age on her face or when accident marred her
beauty, my liking would fade or vanish since the effect would
lose the nutrition of a present cause. Intellectual gratification
seldom enters into the love of a man for a woman; even if it did

The Ishavasyopanishad


so, more frequently the intellectual gratification to be derived
from a single mind is soon exhausted in daylong and nightlong
companionship. Whence then comes that love which is greater
than life and stronger than death, which survives the loss of
beauty and the loss of charm, which defies the utmost pain &
scorn the object of love can deal out to it, which often pours out
from a great & high intellect on one infinitely below it? What
again is that love of woman which nothing can surpass, which
lives on neglect and thrives on scorn & cruelty, whose flames rise
higher than the red tongues of the funeral pyre, which follows
you into heaven or draws you out of hell? Say not that this
love does not exist and that all here is based on appetite, vanity,
interest or selfish pleasure, that Rama & Sita, Ruru & Savitri
are but dreams & imaginations. Human nature conscious of its
divinity throws back the libel in scorn, and poetry blesses &
history confirms its verdict. That Love is nothing but the Self
recognizing the Self dimly or clearly and therefore seeking to
realise oneness & the bliss of oneness. What again is a friend?
Certainly I do not seek from my friend the pleasure of the body
or choose him for his good looks; nor for that similarity of tastes
& pursuits I would ask in a mere comrade; nor do I love him
because he loves me or admires me, as I would perhaps love
a disciple; nor do I necessarily demand of him a clever brain,
as if he were only an intellectual helper or teacher. All these
feelings exist, but they are not the soul of friendship. No, I love
my friend for the woman's reason, because I love him, because
in the old imperishable phrase, he is my other self. There by
intuition the old Roman hit on the utter secret of Love. Love
is the turning of the Self from its false self in the mind or body
to its true Self in another; I love him because I have discovered
the very Self of me in him, not my body or mind or tastes or
feelings, but my very Self of love & bliss, of the outer aspect
of whom the Sruti has beautifully said "Love is his right side"
etc. So is it with the patriot; he has seen himSelf in his nation &
seeks to lose his lower self in that higher national Self; because
he can do so, we have a Mazzini, a Garibaldi, a Joan of Arc, a
Washington, a Pratap Singh or a Sivaji; the lower material self


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

could not have given us these; you do not manufacture such
men in the workshop of utility, on the forge of Charvaka or
grow them in the garden of Epicurus. So is it with the lover of
humanity, who loses or seeks to lose his lower self in mankind;
no enlightened selfishness could have given us Father Damien or
Jesus or Florence Nightingale. So is it finally with the lover of
the whole world, of whom the mighty type is Buddha, the one
unapproachable ideal of Divine Love in man, he who turned
from perfect divine bliss as he had turned from perfect human
bliss that not he alone but all creatures might be saved.
To see your Self in all creatures and all creatures in your
Self - that is the unshakeable foundation of all religion, love,
patriotism, philanthropy, humanity, of everything which rises
above selfishness and gross utility. For what is selfishness? it
is mistaking the body & the vital impulses for your true self
and seeking their gratification, a gross, narrow and transient
pleasure, instead of the stainless bliss of your true self which
is the whole Universe & more than the Universe. Selfishness
arises from Avidya, from the great fundamental ignorance which
creates Ahankara, the sense of your individual existence, the preoccupation with your own individual existence, which at once
leads to Desire, to Hunger which is Death, death to yourself
and death to others. The sense that this is I and that is you,
and that I must take this or that, or else you will take it, that
is the basis of all selfishness; the sense that this I must eat that
you, in order to live & avoid being eaten, that is the principle of
material existence from which arises strife and hatred. And so
long as the difference between I and you exists, hatred cannot
cease, covetousness cannot cease, war cannot cease, evil & sin
cannot cease, and because sin cannot cease, sorrow & misery
cannot cease. This is the eternal Maya that makes a mock of
all materialistic schemes for a materialistic Paradise upon earth.
Paradise cannot be made upon the basis of food and drink,
upon the equal division of goods or even upon the common
possession of goods, for always the mine & thine, the greed, the
hate, will return again if not between this man & that man, yet
between this community and that community. Christianity hopes

The Ishavasyopanishad


to make men live together like brothers - a happy family, loving
and helping each other; perhaps it still hopes, though there is
little in the state of the modern world to flatter its dreams. But
that millennium too will not come, not though Christ should
descend with all his angels and cut the knot, after banishing the
vast majority of mankind to the outer darkness where there is
wailing and gnashing of teeth, by setting up this united family
of mankind with the meagre remnants of the pure and faithful.
What a mad dream of diseased imaginations that men could
be really and everlastingly happy while mankind was everlastingly suffering! How would the everlasting hatred breathing
out from the innumerably-peopled furnaces of pain blast &
mar with unconquerable smoke of Hell the light & peace of
the saints! And how strangely was the slight, but sweet and
gracious shadow of Buddhism distorted in the sombre & cruel
minds of those fierce Mediterranean races, when they pictured
the saints as drawing added bliss from the contemplation of the
eternal tortures in which those they had lived with and perhaps
loved, were agonizing. Divine love, divine pity, the nature of
the Buddha, that was the message which India sent to Europe
through the lips of Jesus, and this is how the European mind
interpreted divine love & divine pity! The fires of Hell aptly
and piously anticipated on earth by the fires of Smithfield, the
glowing splendours of the Auto-da-fe, the unspeakable reek of
agony that steams up thro' history from the dungeons of the
Holy Office - nay, there are wise men who find an apology for
these pious torturers; it was divine love after all seeking to save
the soul at the cost of the perishable body! But the Aryan spirit
of the East, the spirit of Buddha struggles for ever with European
barbarism and surely in the end it shall conquer. Already Europe
does homage to humanity with her lips and in the gateways of
her mind; perhaps some day she will do so with her heart also.
At any rate the millennium of Tertullian is out of date. But still it
is the Christian ideal, the Syrian interpretation of the truth and
not the truth itself, which dominates the best European thought
and the Christian ideal is the ideal of the united family.


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

Surely it is a noble ideal.
Very noble and we have it among ourselves in a noble cou{v k;V;Mbk\; but everything which implies difference is
plet vs;D
based upon Avidya and the inevitable fruits of Avidya. Have
you ever watched a big united family, a joint-family in Bengal
especially in days when the Aryan discipline is lost? Behind its
outward show of strength and unity, what jarring, what dissensions, what petty malice & hatred, what envy & covetousness!
And then finally one day a crash, a war, a case in the law-courts,
a separation for ever. What the joint-family is on a small scale,
that on a big scale is an united nation, Russia or Austria or
Germany or the United Kingdom. Mankind as an united family
would mean in practice mankind as an united nation. How much
would you gain by it? You would get rid of war, - for a time -
of the mangling of men's bodies by men, but the body though
to be respected as the chosen vehicle or the favourite dress of
Brahman, is not of the first importance. You would not get rid
of the much more cruel mangling of the human Self by hatred,
greed and strife. The Europeans attach too much importance to
the body, shrink too much from physical sin and are far too much
at their ease with mental sin. It is enough for them if a woman
abstain from carrying out her desire in action, if a man abstain
from physical violence, then is the one chaste, the other selfcontrolled. This if not sheer unAryanism or Mlecchahood is at
best the half baked virtue of the semi-Aryanised. Be you who are
born in the Aryan discipline, however maimed by long bondage,
an Aryan indeed, chaste in mind & spirit, & not merely careful in
speech & body, gentle in heart & thought and not merely decent
in words & actions. That is true self-control and real morality.
No Paradise therefore can exist, no Paradise even if it existed,
can last, until that which makes sin and hell is conquered. We
may never have a Paradise on earth, but if it is ever to come, it
will come not when all mankind are as brothers, for brothers jar
and hate as much & often more than mere friends or strangers,

The Ishavasyopanishad


but when all mankind has realised that it is one Self. Nor can
that be until mankind has realised that all existence is oneself,
for if an united humanity tyrannise over bird & beast & insect,
the atmosphere of pain, hatred & fear breathing up from the
lower creation will infect & soil the purity of the upper. The law
of Karma is inexorable, and whatever you deal out to others,
even such shall be the effect on yourself, in this life or in another.
Do you think then that this strange thing will ever come about
that mankind in general, will ever come to see in the dog and
the vulture, nay, in the snake that bites and the scorpion that
stings, their own Self, that they will say unto Death my brother
& to Destruction my sister, nay that they will know these things
as themself? svBt
q; cA(mAn\, the Sruti will not spare you the
meanest insect that crawls or the foulest worm that writhes.
It does not seem possible.
It does not; and yet the impossible repeatedly happens. At
any rate, if you must have an ideal, of the far-off event to which
humanity moves, cherish this. Distrust all Utopias that seek to
destroy sin or scrape away part of the soil in which it grows
while preserving intact the very roots of sin, Ahankar born of
Ignorance & Desire. For once Ahankar is there, likes and dislikes
are born, rAg
qO the primal couple of dualities, liking for what
farthers the satisfaction of desire, dislike for what hinders it,
the sense of possession, the sense of loss, attraction, repulsion,
charm, repugnance, love, hatred, pity, cruelty, kindness, wrath,
- the infinite and eternal procession of the dualities. Admit but
one pair, and all the others come tumbling in in its wake. But the
man who sees himself in all creatures, cannot hate; he shrinks
from none, he has neither repulsion nor fear. tto n Evj;g;=st
Yonder leper whom all men shun - but shall I shun him, who
know that from this strange disguise the Brahman looks out with
smiling eyes? This foeman who comes with a sword to pierce me
through the heart, - I look beyond the sharp threatening sword,


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

beyond the scowling brow and the eyes of hate, and I recognize
the mask of my Self; thereafter I shall neither fear the sword
nor hate the bearer. O myself who foolishly callest thyself mine
enemy, how canst thou be my enemy unless I choose; friend
& enemy are but creations of the Mind that myriad-working
magician, that great dreamer & artist; and if I will not to regard
thee as my enemy, thou canst no more be such than a dream or
shadow can, as indeed thy flashing sword is but a dream and
thy scowling brow but a shadow. But thou wilt divide me with
thy sword, thou wilt slay me, pierce me with bullets, torture
me with fire, blow me from the mouth of thy cannon? Me thou
canst not pierce, for I am unslayable, unpierceable, indivisible,
unburnable, immovable. Thou canst but tear this dress of me,
this foodsheath or multiplied protoplasm which I wear - I am
what I was before. I will not be angry with thee even, for who
would trouble himself to be angry with a child because in its play
or little childish wrath it has torn his dress? Perhaps I valued the
dress and would not so soon have parted with it; I will try then
to save it, if I may, and even punish thee without anger so that
thou mayst not tear more dresses; but if I cannot - well, it was
but a cloth and another can soon be had from the merchant;
nay, have I not already paid the purchase-money? O my judge,
thou who sittest pronouncing that I be hanged by the neck till I
be dead, because I have broken thy laws perchance to give bread
to starving thousands, perchance to help the men of my country
whom thou wouldst keep as slaves for thy pleasure - Me wilt
thou hang? When thou canst shake the sun from heaven or wrap
up the skies like a garment, then shall power be given thee to
hang me. Who or what is this thou deemest will die by hanging?
A bundle of animalculae, no more. This outward thou & I are
but stage masks; behind them is One who neither slayeth nor
is slain. Mask called a judge, play thou thy part; I have played
mine. O son of the ancient Yoga, realise thy Self in all things;
fear nothing, loathe nothing; dread none, hate none, but do thy
part with strength and courage; so shalt thou be what thou truly
art, God in thy victory, God in thy defeat, God in thy very death
& torture, - God who will not be defeated & who cannot die.

The Ishavasyopanishad


Shall God fear any? shall He despair? shall He tremble & shake?
Nay 'tis the insects that form thy body & brain which shake &
tremble; Thou within them sittest looking with calm eyes at their
pain & terror; for they are but shadows that dream of themselves
as a reality. Realise the Self in all creatures, realise all creatures
in the Self; then in the end terror shall flee from thee in terror,
pain shall not touch thee, lest itself be tortured by thy touch;
death shall not dare to come near to thee lest he be slain.

yE-mn^ svAEZ BtAyA(m
t/ ko moh, k, fok ek(vmn;pyt,
He who discerneth, in whom all creatures have become himSelf,
how shall he be deluded, whence shall he have sorrow, in whose
eyes all things are One. That is the realisation of the mighty
ideal, the moral and practical result of perfected Vedanta, that
in us all things will become ourself. There, says the Sruti, in
the man whose Self has become all creatures, what delusion can
there be or what sorrow, for wherever he looks (an;pyt,), he
sees nothing but the great Oneness, nothing but God, nothing
but his own Self of love and bliss. Delusion (moh) is the mistaking
of the appearance for the reality, bewilderment by the force of
Maya. "This house that my fathers had was mine and alas, I
have lost it." "This was my wife whom I loved, and she is lost
to me for ever." "Alas, how has my son disappointed me from
whom I hoped so much." "This office for which I hoped and
schemed, my rival, the man I hated has got it." All these are the
utterances of delusion and the result of delusion is fok, sorrow.
But to one whose Self has become all creatures, there can be no
delusion and therefore no sorrow. He does not say "I, Devadatta,
have lost this house. What a calamity!" He says "I, Devadatta,
have lost this house, but it has gone to me, Harischandra. That is
fortunate." I can lose nothing except to myself. Nor shall I weep
because my wife is dead & lost, who is not lost at all, but as near
to me as ever, since she is still my Self, in my Self, with my Self, as
much after death as when her body was underneath my hands. I
cannot lose my Self. My son has disappointed me? He has taken
his own way & not mine, but he has not disappointed himSelf


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

who is my Self, he has only disappointed the sheath, the case, the
mental cell in which I was imprisoned. The vision of the One Self
dispels all differences; an infinite calm, an infinite love, an infinite
charity, an infinite tolerance, is the very nature of the strong soul
that has seen God. The sin, the stain, the disease, the foulness
of the world cannot pollute his mind nor repel his sympathy;
as he stoops to lift the sinner from the dung heap in which he
wallows, he does not shrink from the ordure that stains his own
hands; his eyes are not bedimmed by tears, when he lifts up the
shrieking sufferer out of his pit of pain; he lifts him as a father
lifts his child who has tumbled in the mire and is crying; the
child chooses to think he is hurt & cries; the father knows he is
not really hurt, therefore he does not grieve, but neither does he
chide him, rather he lifts him up & soothes the wilful imaginary
pain. Such a soul has become God, mighty & loving to help and
save, not weak to weep and increase the ocean of human tears
with his own. Buddha did not weep when he saw the suffering of
the world; he went forth to save. And surely such a soul will not
grieve over the buffets the outward world seems to give to his
outward self; for how can He grieve who is all this Universe? The
pain of his petty personal Self is no more to his consciousness
than the pain of a crushed ant to a king as he walks musing in
his garden bearing on his shoulders the destiny of nations. He
cannot feel sorrow for himself even if he would, for he has the
sorrow of a whole world to relieve; his own joy is nothing to
him, for he has the joy of the whole Universe at his command.
There are two ways of attaining to Jnana, to the Vision. One
is the way of Insight, the other the way of World-Sight. There
are two ways of Bhakti, one by devotion to the Self as Lord of
all concentrated within you, the other by devotion to the Self
as Lord of all extended in the Universe. There are two ways of
Karma, one by Yoga, quiescence of the sheaths & the ineffable
unacting, yet all-enveloping omnipotence of the Self within; the
other by quiescence of desire and selfless activity of the sheaths
for the wider Self in the Universe. For the first you must turn
your eyes within instead of without, put from you the pleasures
of contact & sense, hush the mind & its organs and rising above

The Ishavasyopanishad


the dualities become One in yourself, aA(mt;E.rA(mArAm,. Is this
too difficult for thee? Does thy mind fail thee, the anguish of thy
coverings still conceal the immortal Spirit within? Dash the tears
from thine eyes; though they be tears of blood, still persist in
wiping them away as they ooze out and look out on the Universe.
That is thy self, that is Brahman. Realise all this Cosmic Stir, this
rolling of the suns, this light, this life, this ceaseless activity. It
is thou thyself that art stirring through all this Universe, thou
art this Sun and this moon and these Constellations. The Ocean
rolls in thee, the storm blows in thee, the hills stand firm in thee.
If thou wert not, these things would not be. Canst thou grieve
over the miseries of this little speck in the Brahman, this little
insect-sheath, of whose miseries thou art the maker and thou
canst be the ender? Is the vision too great for thee? Look round
thee then, limit the vision there. These men & women and living
things that are round thee, their numberless joys & sorrows,
amongst which what are thine? they are all thy Self and they are
all in Thee. Thou art their Creator, Disposer & Destroyer. Thou
canst break them if thou wilt and thou canst rescue them from
their griefs and miseries if thou wilt, for power infinite is within
thee. Thou wilt not be the Asura to injure thyself in others? Be
then the Deva to help thy Self in others. Learn the sorrows of
those who live near thee and remove them; thou wilt soon feel
what a joy has been so long lost to thee, a joy in which thy own
sorrows grow like an unsubstantial mist. Wrestle with mighty
wrongdoers, succour the oppressed, free the slave and the bound
and thou shalt soon know something of the joy that is more than
any pleasure, thou shalt soon be initiated into the bliss of the
One who is in all. Even in death thou shalt know that ecstasy
and rejoice in the blood as it flows from thee.
These ideals are too high. Where is the strength to follow
them and the way to find that strength?
The strength is in yourself and the way to find that strength


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

has been laid down from the times of old. But accept that ideal
first or you will have no spur to help you over the obstacles in
the way.
But how many will accept the ideal, when there are so many
easier ideals to give them strength & comfort?
But are those ideals true? Delusions may give you strength
& comfort for a while, but after all they break down & leave
you tumbling through Chaos. Truth alone is a sure & everlasting
rock of rest, an unfailing spear of strength. The whole universe
rests upon Truth, on the Is, not on the Is Not. To be comfortable
in delusion is the nature of man in his tamasic covering of gross
matter-stuff; it is the business of philosophy & religion to dispel
his delusion & force him to face the truth.
But many wise men are of the opinions that these smaller
ideals are the truth, not religion and philosophy which are a
Tell me one of these newborn truths that profess to dispel
the knowledge that is without end & without beginning; for you
know more of the science of the West than I.
There is the doctrine of the greatest good of the greatest
number, which has something finite, certain and attainable about
it - nothing metaphysical, nothing abstract.
We have heard something about it in this country, a system
of morality by arithmetic called utilitarianism which would have
man pass his life with a pair of scales in his hand weighing good

The Ishavasyopanishad


& evil. It did good in its time, but it was not true, and could not
In what is it not true?
It is not true, because it is not in human nature; no human
being ever made or ever will make an arithmetical calculation of
the pain & pleasure to result from an action and the numbers of
the people diversely affected by them, before doing the action.
This sort of ethical algebra, this system of moral accounts needs
a different planet for its development; a qualified accountant has
yet to be born on the human plane. You cannot assess pleasure
& pain, good and evil in so many ounces & pounds; human feelings, abstract emotions are elusive and variable from moment
to moment. Utilitarianism with all its appearance of extreme
practicality and definiteness, is really empty of any definite truth
and impotent to give any sound and helpful guidance; it is in
itself as barren of light as of inspiration, a creed arid, dry and
lifeless, and what is worse, false. Whatever it has of value, it has
copied or rather caricatured from altruism. It gives us standards
of weight & measure which are utterly impossible to fix; and it
fails to provide any philosophical justification for self-sacrifice
nor any ardent inspiration towards it. Utilitarian hedonism -
is not that the phrase - suggests, I think, that by doing good
to others, we really provide a rarer and deeper pleasure for
ourselves than any purely self-limited gratification can give us.
Most true - and a truth we needed not to learn from either
hedonist or utilitarian. The Buddhists knew it 2000 years ago
and the Aryans of India practised it before that; the whole life
of Srikrishna was a busy working for the good of others, of
his friends, his country and the world, and Srikrishna never
knew grief or pain. But there are three kinds of pleasure to
be had from charity and beneficence; there is the satisfaction
of vanity, the vanity of hearing oneself praised, the vanity of
feeling "How very good I am." This, I think, is at the bottom


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

of much charity in India and more in Europe, and it is here that
hedonism comes most into play, but it is a poor spring and will
break down under any strain; it may lead to charity but never
to self-sacrifice. Then there is the joy of having done a good
work and brought oneself nearer to heaven which used to be
and perhaps still is the most common incentive to beneficence
in Aryaland. That is a more powerful spring, but it is narrow
and does not reach the true self; its best value is that it is helpful
towards purification. Then there are the natures born for love &
unselfishness who in the mere joy of helping others, of suffering
for others, of seeing the joy return to tear-worn faces & paindimmed eyes, feel the bliss that comes from the upsurging of
God within. To these hedonism is as vanity and the babbling of
children. The hedonistic element in utilitarianism is an imperfect
& blundering effort to grope for a great truth which it has neither
been able to grasp itself nor set forth with scientific accuracy.
That truth is found only in the clear & luminous teaching of the
Vedanta; it is this, that the compound result we call man is a
compound result and not the single simple homogeneous being
our senses would believe; he is composed of several elements,
corporeal, vital, mental, intellectual and essential; and his true
self is none of these heterogeneous factors of the element the Self
lives in, but something beyond & transcendent. Pain & pleasure,
good & evil are therefore not permanent and definite entities;
the former are a heterogeneous conglomeration, sometimes a
warring agglomeration of the feelings & impulses belonging to
the various husks in which the true Self is wrapped. Good & evil
are relative & depend on the standpoint we take with reference
to the true locality of Self in this little cosmos of man; if we
locate that Self low down our "good" will be a poor thing, of
the earth, earthy, little distinguishable from evil; if we locate it
in its true place, our good will be as high, vast & pure as the
heavens. All pain & pleasure, all good & evil have their birth,
their existence and their end in the Self. It follows therefore
that even the highest love & altruism are bounded by the Self.
Altruism is not the sacrifice of self to others, but the sacrifice of
our false self to our true Self, which unless we are Yogins we

The Ishavasyopanishad


can best see in others. True love is not the love of others but
the love of our Self; for we cannot possibly love what is not
ourself. If we love what is not ourself, it must be as a result of
contact; but we cannot love by -pf, by mere contact; because
contact is temporary in its nature and in its results, and cannot
give rise to a permanent feeling such as love. Yajnavalkya well
said, "We desire the wife, not for the sake of the wife but for
the sake of the Self." Only if we mistake things for the Self
which are not the true Self, we shall, as a result, mistake things
for love which are not real love. If we mistake the food-husk
for Self, we shall desire the wife for corporeal gratification; if
we mistake the vital emotion-husk for Self we shall desire the
wife for emotional gratification; if we mistake the mind husk
for the self we shall desire the wife for aesthetic gratification
& the pleasurable sense of her presence, her voice, looks etc
about the house; if we mistake the intellect husk for the self, we
shall desire the wife for her qualities & virtues, her capacities
& mental gifts, for the gratification of the understanding. If
we see the Self, in the bliss Sheath, where the element of error
reaches the vanishing point, we shall then desire the wife for the
gratification of the true Self, the bliss of the sense of Union, of
becoming One. And if we have seen & understood our true Self
without husk or covering, we shall not desire her at all, because
we shall possess her, we shall know that she is already our Self
and therefore not to be desired in her sheaths, since She is already
possessed. It follows that the more inward the sheath with which
we confuse the Self, the purer the pleasure, the more exalted the
conception of Good, until in the real naked Self we rise beyond
good & evil because we have no longer any need of good or any
temptation to evil. Emotional pleasure is higher than corporeal,
aesthetic than emotional, intellectual than aesthetic, ethical than
intellectual, spiritual than ethical. This is the whole truth and the
whole philosophy of ethics; all else is practical arrangement and
balancing of forces, economising of energies for the purposes of
social stability or some other important but impermanent end.
Utilitarianism gets a partial & confused view of the truth
and being unable properly to correlate it, groping about for some


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

law, some standard and principle of order, thinks it has found it
in utility. But what utility? I, this perfected animal, with desires,
thoughts, sensations and a pressing need for their gratification,
can very well understand what is personal utility; utility for this
vital, sensational, conceptual me. My utility is to get as much
sensual, emotional & intellectual gratification as I may out of
life consistent with my own ease & safety; if utility is to be my
standard of ethics, that is my ethics. But when you ask me in the
name of utility & rationalism to sacrifice these things for some
higher or wider utility, for others, for the greater number, for society, I no longer follow you. So much as is necessary to keep up
government, law & order and a good police, I can understand,
for these things are necessary to my safety & comfort; society has
given me these & I must see to & pay for their maintenance by
myself & others. That is businesslike, both utilitarian & rational.
But beyond this society has not any claim on me; society exists
for me, not I for society. If then I have to sacrifice what I perhaps
most deeply cherish for society, my life, my goods, my domestic peace, my use for society ceases; I regard society then as a
fraudulent depositor who wishes to draw from my ethical bank
more than he has deposited. So might argue the average man
who is neither immoral nor deeply moral but only respectable;
and utilitarianism can give him no satisfactory answer.
Moreover, if I have other instincts than those of the respectable citizen, and ability to carry them out, why should I
refrain? What holds me? If I can earn a huge fortune rapidly by
some safe form of swindling, by gambling, by speculation or by
the merciless methods of the American capitalist, why should
I refrain? The charge of anti-social conduct; but that has no
terrors for an egotist of strong character; he knows well that
he can hush the disapproval of society under a shower of gold
coin. Morality with the vital sensational man becomes in an
utilitarian age merely the fear of social or legal punishment, and
strong men do not fear; nor unless their acts shake the social
framework will an utilitarian society care to condemn them, for
they are breaking no powerful sanctions, outraging no deeprooted sentiments - utilitarianism deliberately parts company

The Ishavasyopanishad


with sentiment and except force & fear it has no sanctions
to replace those of religion & ancient prejudice which it has
destroyed. It is useless to tell these people that they will find a
deeper & truer bliss in good moral conduct and altruism than
in their present selfish and anti-social career. Where is the proof
or even the philosophic justification of what these philosophers
allege? Their own experience? That is not valid for the average
sensational man; his deepest pleasure is necessarily vital and
sensational; it is only valid for the men who make the statement,
they being the intellectual self with an ethical training that has
survived from a dead Christianity. In order for it to be true of
the sensational man, he must cease to be sensational, he must
undergo a process of spiritual regeneration to which utilitarian
philosophy cannot give him either the key or even the motiveimpulse. For in the mouth of the utilitarian, this statement of the
deeper & truer bliss, is a piece of secondhand knowledge; not
his own earning, but part of that store of ethical coin rifled by
rationalism from the coffers of Christianity on which European
civilisation is precariously living at the present day. One trembles
to think of the day when that coin shall be exhausted - already
we see some signs of growing moral vulgarity, coarseness, almost
savagery in the European mind, which, if it increases, if the
open worship of brutal force & unscrupulous strength which is
rampant in politics & in commerce taint, as it must eventually
do, the deeper heart of society, may lead to an orgy of the vital &
sensational impulses such as has not been since the worst days
of the Roman Empire.
But Lecky has proved that the moral improvement of Europe
was due entirely to the rise of rationalism.
My son, there is one great capacity of the learned & cultured
mind both in Europe & Asia which one should admire without
imitating - it is the capacity of dextrous juggling with words.
If you choose to give an extension of meaning to a particular


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

word, a meaning it cannot & ought not to have, you can easily
build on it a very glittering edifice of theory, which will charm
the eye until someone comes by with a more effective word more
effectively extended in meaning and knocks down the old house
to build a newer & more glittering mansion. Thus the old eternal truths are overlaid by trashy superstructures until some day
some salutary earthquake swallows up the building & builders
& reveals the old truth which no change or chance can injure.
Amid the giddy round of ever shifting theories Europe gives
us, there are only two fundamental truths, often misapplied,
but nevertheless true in the sphere of phenomena, - Evolution,
which is taught in different ways by our Sankhya & Vedanta,
and the Law of Invariable Causality, which is implied in our
theories of Kal & Karma. These receive & hold fast to, - for
it is by working them out not always well, but always suggestively that Europe has made her real contribution to the eternal
store of knowledge. But in their isms and schisms trust not -
they contain scant grain of truth hidden in a very bushelful of
Still it seems to me that Lecky is not altogether wrong.
On the contrary he is entirely right, - if we consent to lump
together all enlightenment without regard to its nature & source,
as rationalism; that the moral improvement of Europe was due
to increasing enlightenment is entirely true, for Knowledge, by
which I mean not the schoolmaster's satchelful of information or
even the learning of the Universities, but Jnana, the perception
& realisation of truth, is the eternal enemy and slayer of sin;
for sin is descended of ignorance through her child, egoism. It
is true that the so-called Christian ages in Europe were times
of sin and darkness; Europe had accepted Christ only to crucify him afresh; she had entombed him alive with his pure &
gracious teaching and over that living tomb she had built a
thing called the Church. What we know as Christendom was a

The Ishavasyopanishad


strange mixture of Roman corruption, German barbarism and
fragments of ancient culture all bathed in the pale light that
flowed upward from the enhaloed brows of the entombed and
crucified Christ. The great spiritual hoard he had opened to the
West was kept locked up and unavailable except to individuals
whose souls were too bright to be swallowed up in the general
darkness. All knowledge was under taboo, not because there
was any natural conflict between Religion & Science, but because there was natural & irreconcilable antipathy between the
obscurantism of political ecclesiastics & resurgent knowledge.
Again Asia came to the rescue of Europe and from the liberal
civilisation of the Arabs, Science was reborn into her mediaeval
night, and the light of Science, persecuted & tortured, struggled
up until the darkness was overpowered & wounded to death.
The intellectual history of Europe has outwardly been a struggle
between Science & the Church, with which has been confounded
the Christian religion which the Church professed with its lips &
attempted to strangle with its hands; inwardly it was the ancient
struggle between Deva and Asura, sattwa & tamas. Now Religion is sattwic with a natural impulse towards light, it cannot be
tamasic, it can have no dealings with the enemies of the Devas;
and if something calling itself religion, attempts to suppress light,
you may be sure it is not religion but an impostor masquerading
in her name. Consider what were the ideas under which as under
a banner, the modern spirit overthrew the mediaeval Titan; the
final uprush of those ideas we see in the French revolution. The
motto of the Revolution we know, liberty, equality & fraternity;
the spirit it professed but could not attain we know, humanity.
In liberty the union of the individual moral liberty of Christianity with the civic liberty of Greece; in equality, the democratic
spiritual equality of Christianity applied to society; fraternity,
the aspiration to universal brotherhood, which is the peculiar
and distinguishing idea of Christianity; in humanity, the Buddhistic spirit of mercy, pity, love, of which Europe knew nothing
till Christianity breathed it forth over the Mediterranean and
with greater purity over Ireland, mingled with the sense of the
divinity in man, borrowed from India through the old Gnostics


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

& Platonists, these are the ideas which still profoundly influence
Europe, many of which Scientific materialism has been obliged
to borrow or tolerate, none of which it has as yet availed entirely
to root out. Rationalism did not create these ideas, but found and
adopted them. Rationalism is the spirit which subjects all beliefs
& opinions to the test of logic from observed facts, it is indeed
the intellectual sheath, mostly the lower or merely logical half of
the intellectual sheath attempting to establish itself as the Self.
This is what we call Science and the scientific spirit. Wherever
it has been able to work in the light of pure dry intellect, not
distorted by irruptions of the lower selves in the shape of interest,
vanity, passions, prejudices, it has produced invaluable results; in
the sphere therefore of the passionless observation, classification
and correlation of facts we may follow Science without distrust
or fear of stumbling; but whenever it tries to theorize from what
it has observed about human nature, human affairs & spiritual
development, Science is always tumbling into the pits of the
lower selves; in attempting to range things above the material
level under the law of the material self, it is trying to walk upon
water, to float upon air; it is doing something essentially unscientific. Still more is this the case when it deals with the higher
things of the spirit in the same terms; its theories then become
so amazingly paradoxical, one stands astonished at the wilful
blindness to facts to which prejudice & prepossession can lead
the trained observers of facts. Follow them not there, there are
the blind leading the blind who go round and round battering
themselves like a blind bird at night against the same eternal
walls and never seeing the window open to it for its escape.
But you have said that Evolution is an eternal truth. On
the basis of Evolution the scientists have discovered a moral
sanction, which does replace the old religious sanctions, the
paramount claim of the race upon the individual.
What race? The English or German or Russian or the great

The Ishavasyopanishad


Anglo-Saxon race, which it appears is to inherit the world, God's
Englishmen and, we must now add, God's Americans - or is it
the whole white race? To whom must the individual bow his
head as the head & front of Evolution?
I mean the whole human race. The individual is ephemeral,
the species endures, the genus lasts almost for ever. On this basis
your duty to yourself, your duty to society, your duty to your
country, your duty to mankind, all fall into a beautifully ranged,
orderly & symmetrical arrangement. All morality is shown to be
a historical inevitable evolution, and you have only to recognise
it and farther that evolution by falling into its track instead of
going backward on the track.
And getting called atavistic and degenerate and other terrible names? Still I should like to be better satisfied as to the basis
of this symmetrical and inevitable arrangement; for if I were
convinced that I am an ephemeral animal, I should like to enjoy
myself during my day like other ephemeral animals and cannot
see why I should trouble myself about the eternal future; &
even tho' science should hurl the most formidable polysyllables
in its vocabulary at me, I do not know that I should greatly
care, and I think Messr.s Rockefeller & Jay Gould & millions
more were or are in hearty agreement with me. You say the
genus is eternal? But I believe this is not the teaching of Science.
As I understand it, man is only an animal, a particular sort of
monkey which developed suddenly for some inexplicable reason
& shot forward 10,000 miles ahead of every animal yet born
upon earth. If this is so, there is no reason why some other
animal, say, some particular kind of ant, should not suddenly
for some inexplicable reason develop & shoot forward 100,000
miles ahead and make as short work of man as man made of the
mammoth. Or in some other way the human race will certainly
be replaced. Now what good is it to the mammoth whose bones
science has recently disinterred, that a race has developed which


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

can disinter him and dissertate in numerous polysyllables upon
his remains? And if a scientific mammoth in his days had placed
before him this prospect and bid him give up in the interest of
the mammoth race, his unsocial & selfish ways, would that have
seemed even to the most reasonable tusker a sufficient motive for
his self-sacrifice? Where would his benefit in the affair come in?
It is not precisely a question of personal benefit; it is a question of inevitable law. You would be setting yourself against the
inevitable law.
Verily? and what do I care, if my opposition to the inevitable
brings me no harm, but rather content & prosperity in my day?
After my death nothing can injure me, if I am but clay.
The individual may be immoral, but morality progresses
Truly? I do not think the present state of Europe favourable
to that conception. Why, we had thought that Science would
make the cultured nations dominate & people the earth. And we
find them stationary or absolutely retrograding in population,
degenerating in nerve & hardiness, losing in the true imperial
qualities. We had thought that sacking of cities, massacre, torture & foul rape were blotted by civilisation from the methods
of war. The enlightened peoples of Europe march into China and
there takes place an orgy of filth & blood & cold delight in agony
which all but the most loathsome savages would shrink from
in disgust. Is that the inevitable moral advance or Red Indian
savagery improved upon? We had thought that with increasing
education & intellectuality must come increasing chastity or at
least refinement. In a great American city the police sweeps the
brothels and gathers in its net hundreds of educated, cultured,

The Ishavasyopanishad


gracious & stately women who had carried their education,
beauty and culture there. Is that the inevitable moral advance,
or rather the days of Messalina returned? These are not isolated phenomena but could be multiplied infinitely. Europe is
following in the footsteps of ancient Rome.
There are these periods of retrogression. Evolution advances
in a curve, not in a straight line.
And mark that these retrogressions are most inevitable when
the world, abandoning religion, plunges into philosophic materialism. Not immediately do they come; while the spirit of
the old religion still survives the death of its body, the nations
seem perhaps to gain in strength & power; but very soon the
posthumous force is exhausted. All the old nations perished
because in the pride of intellect they abandoned their dharma,
their religion. India, China still live. What was the force that
enabled India beaten down & trampled by mailed fist & iron
hoof ever to survive immortally, ever to resist, ever to crush down
the conqueror of the hour at last beneath her gigantic foot, ever
to raise her mighty head again to the stars? It is because she
never lost hold of religion, never gave up her faith in the spirit.
Therefore the promise of Srikrishna ever holds good; therefore
the Adyashakti, the mighty Chandi, ever descends when the people turn to her and tramples the Asura to pieces. Times change
and a new kind of outer power rules over India in place of the
Asuras of the East. But woe to India if she cast from her her
eternal dharma. The fate of the old nations shall then overtake
her, her name shall be cast out from the list of nations and
her peoples become a memory and a legend upon the earth.
Let her keep true to her Self, and the Atmashakti, the eternal
Force of the Self shall again strengthen & raise her. Modern
Science has engaged itself deeply in two cardinal errors; it has
built out of the Law of Causation a new and more inexorable
fate than Greek or Hindu or Arab ever imagined. Engrossed


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

with this predestination, Science has come to believe that the
human will is a mere servant, nay, a mere creation of eternal
inanimate forces. Science is mistaken & unless it widen its view
it may easily be convinced of its mistake in a very ugly fashion
before long. The Will is mightier than any law, fate or force.
The Will is eternal, omnipotent, it has created the law of causation and governs it; it has made the laws of matter and it can
override them; it is itself all the forces which seem to govern
and bind it. There is no compulsion on the human will to evolve
towards progression; if it chooses to regress, back it will go and
all the world reeling and shrieking with it into barbarism and
chaos; if it chooses to go forward, no force can stop it. The
other mistake Science has made, it borrows from Christianity;
it is that action and emotion can be directed towards beings
distinct from oneself; all action and emotion are for the self,
in the self. But if Science teaches men to regard themselves as
distinct and purely corporeal beings, with no connection with
others except such as may be created by physical contact and
the communication of the senses, it is obvious that the human
Will under the obsession of this belief, will inevitably shape its
action & thought in accordance passing over the more shadowy moral generalities of evolutionary theorists or play with
them only as intellectual marbles. And that spells in the end
a colossal selfishness, an increasing sensuality, lust of power,
riches, comfort & dominion, a monstrous & egoistic brutality
like that of a hundred-armed Titan wielding all the arms of
the Gods in those hundred hands. If man believes himself to
be an animal he will act like an animal & exalt the animal
impulse into his guide. That Europe does not approach more
swiftly to this condition is due to the obstinate refusal of Jnana,
Religion, true enlightenment, maimed & wounded tho' it be, to
perish and make an end; it will not allow the human Will to
believe that it is no more than nerve & flesh & body, animal
& transitory. It persists & takes a hundred forms to elude the
pursuit of materialistic Science, calling upon the Eternal Mother
to come down and save; and surely before long she shall come.
All bases of morality which do not go back to the original divine

The Ishavasyopanishad


and sempiternal nature of man, must be erroneous and fleeting.
Not from the instincts & customs of the ape & savage did the
glories of religion & virtue arise, - they are the perennial light
of the concealed godhead revealing themselves ever with clearer
lines, with floods of more beautiful rainbow lustre, to culminate
at last in the pure white light of the supreme realisation, when
all creatures have become our Self and our Self realises its own

yE-mn^ svAEZ BtAyA(m
t/ ko moh, k, fok ek(vmn;pyt,
The Upanishad having posited this Unity which is at once
the justification of all religion & morality and the culmination
in which religion & morality disappear into something higher
than either, proceeds again to sum up and describe the Eternal
under this new light. In the fourth verse He has been described
only as the mighty Force which creates & surrounds all this
universe; He is now to be described as the mighty Unity which
in its unmanifestation is the source of all existence and in its
manifestation governs these innumerable worlds.

s pygAQC;"mkAymv}Zm-nAEvr\ f;$mpApEv$m^.
kEvmnFqF pErB, -vy\ByATAtLyto_TA&ydDAQCA>tF
This is He that went round, the brightness, unbodied, unscarred,
without sinews, pure, untouched by sin; He is the Seer, the
Thinker, the Selfborn that pervadeth; He from years sempiternal
hath ordered perfectly all things.
The verse begins by repeating a position already taken, of the
Lord surrounding all things as a robe surrounds its wearer, creating all things by the appearance of motion, which is however
an appearance, a phenomenon and not a reality of the Eternal.
"This is He that went round." In other words the whirl of motion
which the manifested Eternal set at work created the worlds; he
poured forth from himself as Prajna the Eternal Wisdom and
entered & encompassed each thing as he created it. But who is
this He? In answering this question the Sruti immediately reverts


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

to the neuter gender, because it has to go back to the luminous
Parabrahman who is beyond the idea of sex or characteristic.
He the Creator of the Worlds is in reality That Brightness, the
luminous shadow of the Unknowable of which we can only
speak in negatives. That has not a body or form, form being
created by Him and therefore this side of Him; He has no scars
or imperfections, but is one faultless & perfect light; He has no
sinews or muscles; ie He is that side of matter and creation is
produced from him not by physical means or physical strength
& skill, but by the mere flowing forth of his Shakti or Will.
Finally He is not only that side of Matter, but He is that side of
Mind also, for He is pure and untouched by evil. It is mind that
creates impurity & evil, by desire which produces duality; but
the Eternal is not subject to desire. What is evil or Sin? It is merely
the preference of the more gross to the more subtle, of tamas to
rajas and of rajas to sattwa; it operates therefore in the sphere
of the gunas and the Eternal being above the gunas cannot be
touched by Sin. Having established the identity of the Lord who
creates & rules, with the pure luminous Parabrahman, who is
neither lord nor subject, the Sruti describes the Lord in his capacity of the All-wise Governor; he is the Seer & Poet, who by his
illumined inspirations creates as Hiranyagarbha the whole world
in His own infinite Mind, He is the Thinker, Prajna, the Wise
One, from whose essential mass of equipoised consciousness all
existence and its laws draw their perennial strength and being
and flow forth to their works, and He is also that which flows
forth, Virat, the pervading spirit which enters into all things and
encompasses. In all these capacities He is selfborn; for He is
Prajna who came forth by His own strength from the luminous
Parabrahman & is Parabrahman, He is Hiranyagarbha who
comes forth by His own strength from Prajna & is Prajna; He is
Virat who comes forth by His own strength from Hiranyagarbha
& is Hiranyagarbha. He is the Self born out of the Self by the
Self. In other words all these are merely names of the One Spirit
in different aspects or states of universal & infinite consciousness. Why then is the Lord spoken of, unlike Parabrahman,
in the masculine gender? Because he is now considered in His

The Ishavasyopanishad


capacity as the great ruler & ordainer, not in His capacity as
the source from which all things flow. As the source, substratum
& container of things He is the Trinity, Prajna-HiranyagarbhaVirat, in whom the Male & Female, Spirit & Matter, the Soul
& its Shakti are still one & undivided. He is therefore best
spoken of in the neuter. But when we see Him as the Ruler
& Ordainer, the Manifested Brahman dealing with a world of
phenomena already created, then division has taken place, the
Shakti has gone forth to its works, and the great male Trinity,
Brahma-Vishnu-Maheshwara, filled with the force of that Shakti
are creating, preserving & destroying the countless worlds and
the innumerable myriads of their inhabiting forms. Both these
Trinities are in reality one Trinity, it is only the point of view
that makes the difference. From this standpoint the Sruti goes
on then to describe the Lord. He is kavi, the great seer & poet in
the true sense of the word poet; the kavi is he who divines things
luminously & distinctly by sheer intuition and whose divinations
become, by their own overflow, creations. Paramatman as SatBrahma-Hiranyagarbha has this divine quality of poethood, -
which men call the power of creation and it is therefore that his
Shakti is described as Saraswati. Then the Lord is described as
manishi, the Thinker. It is the thought of the Lord that is the
basis or substratum of all this creation; it is therefore that the
inanimate object forms faultlessly, that the tree grows unerringly,
that the animal acts with infallible instinct towards his dominant
needs, that the star moves in its course & the mountain holds to
its base. All the creations of the great Kavi would be inconstant
in their relations and clash & collide till they destroyed each
other if there were not this imperative Wisdom, with stability &
equipoise as its characteristic, underlying all things & keeping
them to their places, actions & nature. This Wisdom, be it noted,
is the very nature of things; it is no deliberate invention, no thing
of afterthoughts, adjustments & alterations, but unchangeable
& the essential basis of existence from the beginning. Whatever
form it take, of gravitation, or of attraction and repulsion, or
of evolution, it is an eternal presence & the very nature of the
world, ?An\ b}9. This power of divine instinctive thought is


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

one capacity of Paramatman as Chit-Mahadev-Prajna (Tamas,
Sthanu). His other capacity is that of destruction, for He is the
Spirit of immobility to whom the deep sleep of perfect unconditioned thought is the culmination (Chit) and if it were not for the
activity of the Kavi in the Eternal, if the Thinker in Him were to
blot out the Poet, all this pulsating world of phenomena would
be stilled & resolve by inaction into the womb of undetermined
condensed existence. Then again He is paribhu, He who exists all
round, the great pervading Bliss of existence (Ananda). For the
works of the Poet even though upheld by the Thinker, could not
last, if it were not that the bliss of existence [is] poured through
all created things like a stream of heavenly nectar & makes life,
being, their first imperative need. This is that Will to Live of
the German philosopher, which because like all Europeans, he
could see Truth only in one of her limbs and not as a divine
whole, gave so pessimistic a note to his thought. All things are
supported & eternalized by this Bliss, for it is the unchanging
& eternal Paramatman. Manifesting as the will to live finitely,
it must be broadened into the will to live infinitely in order to
fulfil itself & recover its own deepest & essential nature. We will
first to live as individuals, then to live in the family, then to live
in the tribe or clan, then to live in the race or nation, then to
live in mankind, then to live in the Universe, then to live in God,
the one Eternal; this is the natural evolution of humanity & its
course is determined by the very nature of the Self. Science the
Apara Vidya traces for us the course & byelaws of evolution,
but it is only the Para Vidya that bases it for us, gives us its
reason, source, law & culmination. This Bliss is the capacity of
Vishnu-Virat who is Ananda. By his very existence in all beings
the Lord preserves & saves. Remember that, though you cry
out to the Heavens for help in your misery, it is not the blue
sky that hears, it is nothing outside you that comes to save, but
He within you alone can protect. Art thou oppressed, O man,
by ogre & giant, by fiend & foeman? Seek His mighty Shakti,
Bhavani Mahishamardini, in yourself and She will externalize
armed with sword & trident to crush the triumphing Asura. This
is the law & the gospel. The Poet, the Thinker, the Pervading

The Ishavasyopanishad


Presence, these three are the Swayambhu, the eternal Selfborn
who is born by HimSelf out of HimSelf into HimSelf. The Gods
are not different from each other, for they are all one God, &
there is no other. This is He who has ordered from eternal years
perfectly all things. yATAtLyt,, each duly as it should be & must
be because of its own nature, for the nature of a thing is its
origin, its law, its destiny, its end; and harmony with its nature
is its perfection. All this mighty universe where various things
acting according to their various natures harmonise & melt into
a perfect unity, all this wonderful Kingdom of a single Law in
its manifold aspects He has ordered, &ydDAt^, he has arranged
diversely; he has set each thing in its own place, working in its
own orbit & according to its own overmastering & inexorable
nature. All this He has done from years eternal, not in time, not
at a particular date & season, but eternally, before Time was.
The Law did not spring into being, but was, is & for ever shall
be. The forms of objects, it is true, vary in Time, but the law of
their nature is of eternal origin. In the act you do today, you are
obeying a Law which has existed during the whole of eternity.
Try to realise it, and you will see Time & Space vanishing into
Infinity, you will hear the boom of the eternal waters & the
great voice crying for ever on the waters "Tapas, tapas", and
feel yourself in the presence of the One unchangeable & eternal
God. Maya & her works have no ending, because they had no
beginning, but the soul of Man can rise above Maya and her
works & stand over her & free from her watching her as her
master for whose joy she labours unto all eternity. For verily
Man is God and as by his own Will he has cast himself into the
illusory bonds of the Enchantress, so by His own will He can
shake off the bonds & rule her. The play of the Soul with the
Maya is the play of the lover & his beloved, one feigning to be
the slave of the other, rejoicing in her favour or weeping at her
feet in her anger, and now resuming his rightful role of lord &
master, yea, turning away from her at will to a fairer & more
wonderful face; and now Krishna wears the blue dress & shining
jewels, and now Radha the yellow cloth & fragrant garlands of
the green wood and the brilliant feather of the peacock; for He


Isha Upanishad: Part Two

is She, and She is He; they are only playing at difference, for in
real truth they have been and are one to all Eternity.
Here then the first part of the Upanishad seems to be ended
and some very obscure & disconnected utterances follow.
The utterances of the Upanishad are never disconnected,
but the connection is usually beneath the surface, not openly
declared by explicit statement or grammatical construction. The
Upanishad has said that the Eternal has arranged all objects
of the Universe perfectly from years eternal. Maya therefore is
eternal, Avidya is eternal. The question will at once be put, what
then of Vidya & Avidya? the Eternal and the Transient? the Is &
the Seems to Be? If Avidya is eternal, let us rejoice in her wonders
& glories & never strive to escape from her bonds. But if Vidya
alone be eternal, then is Avidya a curse and a bondage, what have
we to do with it, but shake it off with disgust as soon as possible? These are the extremes of the Materialist and Nihilist, the
Charvak & the Sunyavadin; but the Vedanta gives its sanction to
neither. The Unconditioned Brahman is, but of the Conditioned
also we cannot say that He is not and the Conditioned Brahman
is what we call Maya. Brahman is eternal & Maya therefore
is eternal; but the Conditioned Brahman obviously rests on the
Unconditioned and cannot be except in Him. As are the reverse
& obverse of a coin, so are the Conditioned and Unconditioned,
and the aspirant to Knowledge must know both and not one only
or he will know but little indeed of the true nature of the Eternal.
The followers of Adwaita will call this rank heresy. Maya is
illusion, unreality and is slain by knowledge, it cannot therefore
be eternal.
You cannot slay Maya; you can only slay Moha, the illusion

The Ishavasyopanishad


of Maya; her you can only conquer and put her under your feet.
You remember that Shankara after conquering Ubhayabharati,
made her living body his asan of meditation; that is the symbol
of the Yogi and the wonderful twofold Maya of the Eternal.
He has conquered her & put her beneath him, but it is still
upon her that his asan is based even when he is unconscious of
Her and in union with the Eternal. If this were not so, then the
whole of phenomena would cease the moment a man becomes
a Buddha and enters into Nirvana; for He & the Eternal are
One. If Parabrahman therefore were limited either to Vidya or
Avidya, obviously Avidya would cease the moment Vidya began
and the salvation of one Jivatma would bring about the end of
the world for all; just as the Christians say that the crucifixion of
Christ saved the world. But this is not so. The power of Shakti
of Brahman is twofold & simultaneous; He is able to exercise
Vidya & Avidya at the same moment; he eternally realises His
own transcendental nature; and at the very same time He realises
this wonderful universe of His imagination. He is like a great
poet who shadows forth a world of his own creation made
in himself and of himself and yet knows that He is different
from it & independent of it. It is for this reason only that the
salvation of a particular Jivatman does not bring the world to
an end. Nor does Shankara really say anything different; for he
does not assert that Maya is unreal; he says it is a mysterious
something of which you cannot say that it is and yet you cannot
say that it is not. This indeed is the only description that the
finite mind can make of this mysterious Shakti of the Illimitable,
Unconditioned, Unknowable Brahman. Maya in its forms may
be unreal & transitory but Maya in its essence as a Shakti of the
Eternal, must itself be eternal, from of old & for ever.

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