Isavasya Upanishad for Beginners
Half hour talks in Hindi translated into English
by Swami Krishnananda
हिरण्मयेन पात्रेण सत्यस्यापिहितं मुखम् ।
तत्त्वं पूषन्नपावृणु सत्यधर्माय दृष्टये ॥ १५॥
पूषन्नेकर्षे यम सूर्य प्राजापत्य
व्यूह रश्मीन् समूह तेजः ।
यत्ते रूपं कल्याणतमं तत्ते पश्यामि योऽसावसौ पुरुषः सोऽहमस्मि ॥ १६॥
वायुरनिलममृतमथेदं भस्मांतꣳ शरीरम् ।
ॐ क्रतो स्मर कृतꣳ स्मर क्रतो स्मर कृतꣳ स्मर ॥ १७॥
अग्ने नय सुपथा राये अस्मान्
विश्वानि देव वयुनानि विद्वान् ।
युयोध्यस्मज्जुहुराणमेनो भूयिष्ठां ते नमौक्तिं विधेम ॥ १८॥
hiraṇmayena pātreṇa satyasyāpihitam mukham,
tat tvaṁ pūṣan āpāvṛṇu satyadharmāya dṛṣṭaye (15)
pūṣann ekarṣe yama sūrya prājāpatya vyūha raśmīn samūha tejaḥ,
yat te rūpaṁ kalyāṇatamaṁ tat te paśyāmi yo sāv asau puruṣaḥ,
so’ham asmi (16)
vāyur anilam amṛtam athedam bhasmāntaṁ śarīram,
aum krato smara kṛtaṁ smara krato smara kṛtaṁ smara (17)
agne naya supathā rāye asmān viśvāni deva vayunāni vidvān,
yuyodhyasmaj juharāṇam eno bhūyiṣṭhāṁ te nama-uktim vidhema (18)
Vereses 15-18 are prayers to the sun-god and fire-god. The prayer is for liberation. According to our ancients we regard the sun-god as the best visible manifestation of the Absolute. In the sun, there is śakti which is beyond the ken of human understanding, and from the time of the Vedas till to-day we regard the sun as a representation of īśvara. This is a great spiritual secret, which out ordinary mind cannot understand. According to astrology, the sun is conjoined with the ātman, and the moon with the mind. These are facts of experience by the sages and saints. In our present condition, we cannot realise these truths. Therefore, these are said to be secrets. Further, the period of the movement of the sun towards the north, the Uttarayatta is considered auspicious and it is believed that even a sinner dying during this period attains to heavenly regions. Based on this secret, this upanisad contains a prayer to the sun-god for giving us liberation: “O! Sun, we have to realise the Truth hidden in you. With our eyes, we cannot have the true vision of you. All we see is only a brilliant light, a tejo bindu. We are unable to see the Reality hidden within this great light. What is within you! O Lord, you have covered your real self with the rays of your light which appear like a golden vessel. You have covered your real form. Because of the brilliance of the brilliance of the light, we are unable to see the truth within this light. Your body is of golden hue, and your real self is hidden because of this golden vessel. Remove this golden vessel; do not cover yourself: Remove the veil you have covered yourself with, so that I can see you well. Who am I? Let me see through you. I am supported, dependent on you (the Truth). My life is according to dharma. [Here satya (Truth) and dharma (cosmic law) are shown as identical.] Truth is my dharma. So let me know who I am, by seeing your real self. [Living the life in accordance with the Truth is what is referred to as dharma. Satyam is that which is within you]. Even as my life is lived in dharma, you are the foundation of that dharma evolving out of you. My life of dharma befits me to realise the truth which can be effected by having your vision. For, you are that Truth in which dharma is to culminate. Therefore, there is similarity between us. You are the form of Truth and I want to see you. As I am also founded on Truth, I have a right to have your vision, the vision of Truth. If it were not so, how can I look at you and become the Truth Itself ! My dharma is Truth. Your principle also is truth.”
(N. B. So far the matter is from the recorded tapes. What follows and up to the end is what has been amplified from the notes taken, in main, by myself during these half-hour talks on the upanishads mentioned in the preface. The help of Vishnu Chaitanya’s notes, also taken during these classes and in English, has been taken to counter-check my notes.)
There is ādhyātmik connection and not just a mānasik or mental one between you (the sun) and me. For, the principle of existence that is in you, is in me also. Satya and dharma are one, for the latter is the law of the former. I follow this law and therefore you who are satya should reveal your sat to me. So, remove this golden vessel with which you are covering yourself, for I want to see satya.
Besides this upanisad, other scriptures also say that the Truth behind the sun and the Truth within everyone, are the same. The sun’s rays take us to Truth. Another scripture says: ‘From sun, a person effulgent with light came and conducted him up.’
“So, O, Sun, you must be behind the rays. Remove the cover, I must see the Truth within you.” This Truth is the hidden Self. The Mundaka Upanisad says that by the light of the sun, the jīva ascends higher and higher to the heavenly planes. These planes are not lifeless worlds but full of consciousness. Man has got ādhyātmik relation with the sun.
Hiraṇya-pātra refers to the objects in front of us, which glitter like gold. But “all that glitters is not gold”. We only see our projection in the objects. “Withdraw these projected rays that illumine the objects and thereby make me realise the Truth. What I took to be the world of objects is but an illusion due to delusion. Remove this wrong notion that the world is outside me. Then I can see Truth.”
This prayer to the Sun is also a prayer addressed to the mind. Withdraw the mind from objects varied and different. Disconnected from the objects, your judgement will be dispassionate and so more accurate. With this withdrawn mind look at the world.
“O! Sun-god, who travels alone in the sky, you are the one who lays down yama and niyama, the internal and external disciplines. You are Prajapati’s son; O god, let me learn your secret which brings all auspiciousness. In you and in me resides the same puruṣa. I am at my death-bed; I see before me the vision of death. May I not look at the world only as your creation or as your sport. Let me see you as you are.”—this is the prayer implied here.
“Let me go by the northern path and attain liberation. Let all that for which and because of which all these years I lived in this physical body, go back to their respective sourcess. Let this effect, my physical body, go back to hiraṇyagarbha. Let the fruits of my karmas also reach their respective places. And through them may I live in such worlds. Let my physical body be reduced to ashes and thus be purified.”
Now comes the prayer to the mind: “O mind, recollect and remember all the karmas you have done in this life-time. Ponder over the way in which you have lived this life; for only the fruits of your karmas will go with you. Nothing else of this manifested world will follow you.”
This prayer is reminiscent of the words of Lord Jesus: “Repent ye for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” And in this mantra this is repeated deliberately twice in succession to emphasise its purport: “O Man, repent now because you are on your death-bed. Repent, now is the time for it. Om, O mind, remember all that has been done by me in this life-time, all your thoughts and all your work. O God of Fire (i.e. Brahma who is identified with the mind) remember; remember all that has been done through all of this life in this body; remember, thou of restless nature motivating incessant action, every bit of what in this physical body, in this life has been ithought and done. Remember all that has been worked throughout this life in this body.” This stern, persisting, compelling command is given to the mind because, repentance is itself a very great form of tapas or austere discipline. Real repentance is like the mahāvratas which are disciplines for all time and never relaxed as Sage Patanjali explains in his yoga aphorisms. Once the vow is taken not to repeat that which is repentance for, it has to be observed for ever. It is the sword of Damocles hanging over your head to fall on it the minute this vow is forgotten.
So far, the prayer has been addressed to the mind. Then comes the prayer to the Fire Principle: “O, Lord of Fire, take me (who am on my death-bed) through the correct path.
You are the all-knowing Lord. Forgive me all my sips. Not only forgive, but also burn up and destroy all my sins. Do but that which is for my good. Salutations to thee by crores and crores. Burn up all my sins committed unknowingly and in my ignorance, in my perverseness.” By these prayers the jīva asks to be led by the sun to īśvara, the Absolute.
Because the jīva attains to the sattā of īśvara this upanisad goes by the name Isavasya Upanisad. The Upanisad ends with the same mantra with which it starts, the meaning of which has already been explained.
ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पूर्णमुदच्यते ।
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥
ॐ शांतिः शांतिः शांतिः ॥
om pūrṇam adaḥ, pūrṇam idam, pūrṇāt pūrṇam udacyate,
pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya pūrṇam evāvaśiṣyate.
om śāntih, śāntih, śāntih.