Isavasya Upanishad for Beginners
Half hour talks in Hindi translated into English
by Swami Krishnananda
अनेजदेकं मनसो जवीयो नैनद्देवा आप्नुवन्पूर्वमर्षत् ।
तद्धावतोऽन्यानत्येति तिष्ठत्तस्मिन्नपो मातरिश्वा दधाति ॥ ४॥
तदेजति तन्नैजति तद्दूरे तद्वन्तिके ।
तदन्तरस्य सर्वस्य तदु सर्वस्यास्य बाह्यतः ॥ ५॥
anejad ekaṁ manaso javīyo nainad devā āpnuvan pūrvamarṣat,
tad dhāvato’nyān-atyeti tiṣṭhat tasminn apo mātariśvā dadhāti (4)
tad ejati tan naijati tad dūre tad vad antike,
tad antarasya sarvasya tad u sarvasyāsya bāhyataḥ (5)
These two verses explain to whom we are to dedicate our actions. It is to tat, i.e., īśvara. Where is He? What does He do? Īśvara has no motion, no activity, and no vibration. He is just Existence which has no action. Sattā sāmānya, parama sattā are Its nomenclatures. “He is the unmoved mover”—says Aristotle. He moves everything, Himself remaining unmoved. Īśvara will not move, for He is paramārtha sattā. He is ekam, one. He is advītīyam, without a second; He is indivisible, immeasurable, of illimitable prowess, and has nothing to do with time and space. There is nothing beyond or other than Him.
The mind reaches even the brahmaloka in no time. Such is the speed of the mind. But the speed of the ātman is faster. When the mind reaches brahmaloka, the ātman is already there! What does this mean? It does not move and yet it is faster in speed than even the mind. This can be explained in this way. Very intense activity looks like no activity at all, like the stars though moving with great velocity appear to be stationary in the sky; it is highest dynamism and not the inertness of a stone. This is what is meant by the statement, It moves not. Īśvara is full of speed. He moves so fast that neither Garuda, nor air Hānuman, nor the great, strong-winged beings like devatas, nor air-borne beings can speed faster than He. The word devatas in this context also means the indriyas even which cannot beat Him in speed, for, He reaches much earlier than they. Know that the ātman’s speed is greater than that of the mind, It being in fact the pre-supposition of even the thought. This is so because It pervades all. While devas are running to reach their destination, the ātman sitting and without motion or any effort, reaches there, for It is already there.
The ātman, this śloka says, is mātariśva, Air. The root meaning of this word is that which moves in space. Some interpret this word to mean the same as hiraṇyagarbha, also as māhapraṇa. Hiraṇyagarbha does all activities founded on the law of the ātman. Everything works in strict accordance with this law. Creation, sustenance and destruction are all meant by work or activity and whatever be the form of creation, mātariśva works in all these three modes and allots their activities. We see that everything in creation works systematically, with mathematical accuracy. “For fear of Him the wind blows” states another scripture. This is so in the whole universe. What is the cause behind such systematic working? The reason is that the great māha-sattā is working it. All the separate individual objects seen in the world are founded in this indivisible sattā—Existence, the universal essence. Under the multiplicity and divisibility lies the one, non-dual indivisible sattāsāmānyā, the pure-Essence as their substratum. Look at the human body. How many different and complicated mechanisms work in wonderful co-ordination! There is the circulatory system of the heart, the respiratory system, the digestive system, the nervous system, the bones, the muscles and the thousands of cells, all working in perfect unison. The human body is a most wonderful system, continuously working, without stop, from birth to death. What controls this grand systematic working? It is the indivisible caitanya, the pure-Consciousness.
It is this pure-Consciouness alone that can work this wonder. If It were of a divisible nature, this system could not have worked thus. Everything is founded on this aklumdet caitanya, and therefore such a working is made possible. What works in the macrocosm or the universe works in the microcosm or the individual. Hiraṇyagarbha is the creator, the sṛṣti-kartā, the mahat-tatva or the Ego principle which is the foundation which keeps everything in its place and does all work in the microcosm as well as in the macrocosm. Mahat-tatva is like the Central Government working in the Local Government. If the former is weak, the latter also is weak. A strong Central Government is the cause behind a strong Local Government. The mahat-tatva stands apart in majestic aloofness. It does not speak and appears to do nothing and yet It is responsible for doership in all. All this is the great Inner Controller’s grand work. Never forget this—īśvara’s sattā or Existence and kriya or action are one. In the case of man, existence and action are two different things. Based on His existence and action alone everything in creation exists and works: for, such is īśvara.
He is the innermost existence, the wonder of wonders. He acts and is at the same time actionless. He moves and yet moves not. He is inside and outside. All these contradictions are reconciled in God. All that is good and all that is bad, ugly and beautiful, everything looks resplendent in God. In Him there is nothing contradictory and there is no argument or quarrel. Everything is beautiful. Nothing dies; everything is eternal. It is near and It is at the same time far also—tad dūre tadvanike. All contradictory factors, let us repeat, lie in unison in God. It is a synthesis of all thesis and anti-thesis, tad antarasya sarvasya tad u sarvasyāsya bāhyataḥ. It is within and outside and everywhere. Who can understand this! Unless all contradictions are merged into unison no one can know it. It moves and moves not. It is like the ether. It is there wherever it wants to be. If you are already there where you want to move to, how can you move? Hence, It moves not. Yet, from the empirical point of view, it is said that It moves and It does not move. In the transcendental sense none of these verbs that It is inside, It is outside, It is near and far away, can apply to that Supreme Being. From the objects and the senses and the thinking faculty of the mind, It is far off. This is what these expressions mean to say. It is the nearest of all things, because It is the Self of every being. In yoga vāsiṣta sage vāsiṣta explains this point through a story. Agni (Fire God) wished to measure the length and breadth of the universe of the Creator. Agni went up soaring higher and higher but could not, beyond the region of the Sun. Defeated Agni falls back and gives up the attempt. [It is said that Sanaka and his brothers, the mind-born sons of Brahma, are still walking the universe in the attempt to measure it.] Therefore, It is far off and yet It is the nearest of all, and It is your best friend. Who is this friend? It is the atman also. Hence it is inside everything in creation, even inside the electron of the atom. But it is beyond even the macrocosm and therefore, outside everything. All this is only exemplification. The purport of all this is that there is nothing else besides It. By separately and severally enumerating such a large number of contradictions, what is sought is to teach the mind the truth about the ātman. The puruṣa sūkta declares the same idea: sa bhūmim viśvato vṛtvaatyatiṣtat daśāngulam—after pervading the whole universe He extends further still. He is bigger than the biggest, smaller than the smallest, best of the best, speedier than speed, brighter than the brightest. He is also the ātman. Whatever is perceived by the ear, eyes or the mind is only His form. He is the one sattā-īśvara. Therefore, there can be none of the three kinds of differentiation, sajātiya, vijātīya, svagata. i. e., there is no differentiation, as between one man and another, nor any differentiation as in the case of a tree being different from a man, nor yet the differences that exist among the limbs of man. None of these types of differences exist in Him. Neither internal distinction, nor external variety is permissible in the Supreme Being.
Thus we come to the end of the three verses 3, 4 & 5. The next two verses, 6 & 7, go on to further enlarge upon the explanations about the ātman; they tell us of the nature of a jīvanmukta or the liberated soul, who continuing to live in the world like ordinary people, is ever established in brahman, in the Absolute.