Isavasya Upanishad for Beginners
Half hour talks in Hindi translated into English
by Swami Krishnananda
यस्तु सर्वाणि भूतान्यात्मन्येवानुपश्यति ।
सर्वभूतेषु चात्मानं ततो न विजुगुप्सते ॥ ६॥
यस्मिन्सर्वाणि भूतान्यात्मैवाभूद्विजानतः ।
तत्र को मोहः कः शोक एकत्वमनुपश्यतः ॥ ७॥
yas tu sarvāṇi bhūtani ātmany evānupaśyati
sarvabhūteṣu catmānaṁ tato na vijugupsate (6)
yasmin sarvāṇi bhūtāny ātmaivābhūd vijānata
tatra ko mohaḥ kaḥ śokaḥ ekatvam anupaśyataḥ (7)
Rāga and dveṣa, i.e , likes and aversions exist in everyone. These are due to the mind which remains in and works from within the body, and what is more, does not wish to go outside the body-consciousness. So man has desire for some things and aversion for some other things. These feelings are subjective and they are not really a part of the objects liked or hated. There is no end to these likes and dislikes. With us there is no question in any way of our satisfying the mind; nor is the mind ever filled with ānanda (Bliss), complete happiness. The mind requires only that which is tentatively needed for the satisfaction of the senses. It does not want the whole world, but only that which is connected with the physical body. If what is not needed for the limited physical existence comes before the mind, it does not want to be with it.
But this is not the attitude of the great sages. To them sarvāṇi bhūtāni ātmā eva—everything in creation is only the ātman. In this view, what is yours and what is not yours? How and on what authority do you call this yours and that, not yours? You cannot give a satisfactory logical answer. So your love and aversion for things is unfounded and unjustifiable. Suppose we hear that a child had a fall and is badly wounded. We do not know whose child it is. So everybody rushes to the spot. When you find that that child is not yours, you say: “Thank God! God is great! He has saved my child. So merciful is He!” If on the other hand you find it is your own child, you shout: “Oh! God, why do you treat me so mercilessly? Have you no heart? Why did you let my child fall and injure itself so grievously?” So for the same God, you have one thing to say at one time and another thing to say at another time! You relate yourself to Him through your limited human mind with such opposite thoughts. When you see different objects, you should perceive their Essence which is the same in all, and not their names and forms. The undersanding you get through such perception is jñāṇa, Knowledge of the Truth behind the objects. You should not, through ajñāṇa-nescience, superimpose love and aversion upon objects. And this is what you did in the example cited above. You should understand that everything is the ātman and nothing is outside yourself. This is the highest stage of mental evolution, the stage of highly advanced yogins and mahātmās. It is very difficult to understand things in the light jñāṇa—i.e. pure knowledge, or wisdom at its highest level, but it is easy to understand what knowledge is at the lowest level, and by this latter type of knowledge we consider everything as outside us. There are three levels of understanding by the human mind.
One is satya-jñāṇa, true Knowledge, the Knowledge that everything is ātman alone. The second is the understanding that, everything is separate by itself; and here arise desires and aversions. The third is the understanding that you are a member of the society living a life of mutual co-operation. This understanding is higher than the previous second one. True Knowledge is the highest in which one feels: “Everything is myself, I am all that is”. This is attained when the injuction to “love thy neighbour as thyself” is carried to its logical limit, because, the neighbour is you yourself. He is non-different from you. Why should you love your neighbour as thyself, and, for what purpose? He is non-different from you and hence how can you avoid loving your own self! Thus, from separation you advance to co-operation, and from co-operation, to complete unity. When you see a thing, you should not feel as though you have not seen that object for years, for it is you yourself and surely you know yourself! Nothing external to you is needed to know about yourself. Hence, what effort is there in order to get this Knowledge!
We should see the virāt as our own ātman. There should neither be rāga nor dveṣa, nor feelings of exhilaration nor grieving. This is how the Sage who looks at everything as his own self feels. Such a man is not an individual but the universal. He is the &man that sees everything in itself and itself in everything. Is it not true that you are in the limbs of your body and your limbs are in your body! This is how you should relate your individual self with that of virat. Foi the average man this is certainly something very difficult to digest, and indeed a very hard nut to crack. Those that are well established in the import of the upniṣads are alone capable of undertaking this supreme task. To understand this intellectually and then to put this understanding in one’s practical life—such a thing is almost beyond the capacity of ordinary human beings. We are not quite fit for suddenly entering into this superhuman task. With all this, we cannot bypass this inescapable fact. For, this is exactly our dharma, the great law of life. This is the summum bonum of all puruṣārthas, the end and aim of all desires, whether it is dharma, artha, kama or mokṣa. All objects are the Supreme, and the Supreme is all objects. The waves are in the ocean and the ocean is in the waves without either difference or separateness. Neither should anyone dislike you, nor should you entertain hatred for anyone. In either case, it is only forgetfulness of the true nature of the world. Therefore, you must look at everything in the light of the Self.
You should have that attitude towards others, which you expect of others towards yourself. Such should be your attitude towards the animal kingdom also. Nothing is inferior to you nor anything there is to make another take you for his servant. It is only your thinking of another as your inferior and yourself as superior and feeling proud that your status is higher than his that makes the other take you for his servant; for he also feels as much as you that he is superior. The sage disconnects his self from everything, and even from himself ultimately. This is the nature of a jīvanmukta, the Self-realised soul continuing to live in the physical body. This is also one way of reaching the Absolute. On this knowledge one should meditate. The more you meditate on this, the more will be your internal ātmik bliss. You will always be happy whether you are walking, talking or doing anything else. Is there any unfulfilled need of water for the fish living in the ocean! You are in the ocean of Bliss. What then have you not got! What can you lack! Where is the need to feel depressed or grieved over anything? None; you feel no need, you feel no emptiness. This is the true knowledge with which you have to cover everything here, that is referred to in the first mantra of this upaniṣad. And it is in this knowledge that you should live. So, these two ślokas (6 & 7) instruct you to meditate on this knowledge. Another sacred text also enjoins us to consider the objects, those heard, those touched, etc., as the & ātman alone. It is only the erroneous attitude of the mind that causes delusion. Poverty and other miseries are only creations of our thinking. We can in a minute become the owner of all the wealth of this world, if only we can change our present mode of thinking and the wrong attitude of the mind. Why are you so poor as not to be able even to think properly? Poverty of thought is the only real poverty. It is like King Lavana who was put to sleep for a split second by Siddha Sambarika with a touch of his peacock feathers, a bundle of which the siddhas carry in their hands. The king had a dream in which he found himself as a dog-eating out-caste candāla unable even to procure water to drink. He was shaken awake by the siddha who said, “How can you think you are a candāla, you are a king.” It did not take time and effort on the part of Lavana to change from the candala condition to that of a king. The very second he woke up, he was King Lavava and no more the candāla. Even so, the very second you realise that you are in the Absolute, you are liberated. To become the Absolute, you have only to wake up from this dream of feeling that you are different from it. To one who has thus woken up to the knowledge, that he ‘himself’ is in everything and everything is in ‘himself’, what delusion and what sorrow can there be! We as the men of the world have fallen into an error and that error has been committed by us, and because of this error we are in great grief. The mistake is that we do not have the correct undesrtanding viz. that life is Truth. We are born in ignorance and being in ignorance all along, we take it for granted that this is our real state, and continue to behave in tune with this state. Our condition is a fallen condition. The primary question now is, where are we to find this Bliss and Freedom, our birth-right? Both the learned and the ordinary consider that what is existing outside is the cause of our happiness and grief. And because of this reason we are incessantly engaged in the efforts to attain happiness and to get rid of grief. Day and night we are meeting and seeking help from people, and making all such efforts to this ends. To us this alone forms life. We wish to connect ourselves with the objects outside us, and connect ourselves in such a way that we get Bliss and Freedom-our birth-right. Sloka No. 7 says that all these we can get only through the knowledge that all is in the ātman and the ātman is in all. The trouble is, our education has become such that even the best teachers tell us that knowledge is to be obtained only through connection with objects outside us, and that life has nothing to do with jfiiina, for this cannot give us what we want. Jñana as we understand it is separate from life; and because of this wrong understanding, despite all our learning, no matter how much our knowledge is, it does not help us to get the Bliss and Freedom we aspire for. This is the natural result as already seen of our having accepted that jñana is outside us and that we have no use for it in our empirical life. The truth is just the reverse. In reality these two, jñana and life are one and the same; what is more, they are inseparable factors. For as jñana increases, life becomes enlarged. The increase of real knowledge is the same as the extension of the Self. Jñana and Self are the same. The ātman and jñana are not capable of being separated from one another. It is usually thought that jñana is very vast and ātman is comparatively small. This is wrong thinking. Both jñana and the ātman are unlimited. The ātman is not a small tiny thing sitting within us crying and weeping. Jñana is the light of the ātman; it is the atmaprakasa; it is this light that goes by the name Aka. This does not come from outside. Even as your jñana increases, so also your knowledge of the ātman grows in proportion with it. This is to say that when our jñana becomes all-enveloping, the individual ātman becomes the viśātman, the ātman of the universe which shines through all the worlds. Such jñana has reached its culmination.
There are many steps or stages in this process of jñana reaching its end in the viśātman. The first stage is the body-consciousness which is present even in the animal kingdom. The animal has no knowledge beyond its body. To the animal there is nothing beyond the body and to maintain its body, it harasses and kills other bodies. It has no mercy; nor has it the sense that the others also must live. The lion, the tiger, the bird of prey—all behave in this manner. “I must live and it matters not to me who pays for it or how I get what I want”—this is the philosophy of animals. Man, if he also behaves thus, is but an animal, even though he has the form of a human being. He who thinks only of his body, identifying himself with the body alone, and for the sake of which does anything, irrespective of the fitness of what he does, or the justice of it, unmindful of the crime of depriving another of his rights and share in life, such a man is an animal-man. This animal-man is at the lowest rung of the ladder in the rise of the individual consciousness to that of the viśātman. Slightly of higher and wider vision, is the man who is engaged in the well-being of others closely connected with him, as for instance his own wife, children and other members of his own family. At the next higher stage is the man who includes all his kith and kin, the neighbours and society around him in his thinking. Higher than this is the social worker who works for a group of people, higher still the nationalist whose concern is for the Nation; these wish that the society and the Nation should live in brotherhood. Further up stands the man who takes the whole of mankind as one single unit, for his acts are international, for the benefit of the world as a whole, and his concern is for the welfare of the whole of mankind. Thus stage by stage, the life of man expands to greater and greater dimensions. But, for all that, it will be seen that even though he works for international welfare, everything is not in his hands and he cannot work it according to his will and plan. His acts are but tiny samples of good work, for despite the maximum you can do for the welfare of mankind, you can never fulfil all the needs, for all times, of the whole of mankind. And who are you to undertake this stupendous task! What is the magnitude of the work on hand and what is your capacity to accomplish it! Your life-span is three days, four days—so to say, compared to the infinite life of the world. After you, who is to carry on the work? He who can think of the universe which is above the international level, is still higher. Because nations are only parts, even though they are large and to think of a part here and a part there, has not much relevance for one who is aiming at the universe. And, even if you take the whole of the earth, it is not the universal which you have in view. Besides mankind, there are higher manifestations, which are beyond the ken of our knowledge and which have to be taken into consideration in order to bring good to all creation in the universe as a whole. “Sarve bhavantu sukhinaḥ” means, let the whole universe be happy and not that it is enough if just this or that section of humanity on earth, or on any other planet alone lives in happiness. The whole creation should be included in the matter of well-being. The vision of one who can think thus, is universal. Mankind is only a part within the universe, which is the whole, and to him who sees thus, what is a national or international achievement? And what is the place of this earth, our world in, this context! This is the knowledge possessed by a viśātmā. And this knowledge or wisdom is jñana. If the universe were to shake and totter in chaos, of what use is the good given to humanity whether at the national or international level! Now, our fears are caused by that which we consider is outside and separate from us. We are afraid of the tiger. But the tiger-cubs even bite the mother-tiger’s ears, pull them playfully, and walk over its head. The tiger never snarls at the cubs, nor attacks them. Why? Because, the tiger considers that the cubs are a part of itself, members of its own family, and not outside it. To us, the tiger is outside us and we do not consider that we are a part of its family. So, we fear the tiger and dare not go even near it, leave alone pulling and biting its ears! Our thinking and actions should be similar to those of viśātman to whom the whole universe is one homogeneous unit. When we can think and act as viśātmās, where is the need to think and act for oneself as an individual! There is no more delusion, or pain, or sorrow for him as an individual, for he is included in the good that he brings to all creation in the whole universe. In the Kenopanisad we find this idea expressed in its mantra IV—5: yadetad gacchatīva ca manaḥ: the mind seems to go to brahman. In its next verse it says: taddha tadvanam nāma—brahman is to be adored by all beings. All creation is an indivisible whole, and not made up of parts or bits. The whole universe is one family. What happens to you as an individual is connected with the whole universe. The man whose thinking is on these lines is a universal citizen. It is this great man who is described in these two verses. In the Self of that Self-realised man, the jīvanmukta, all beings, all creation becomes the Self alone. As a result of the realisation of the Supreme Self, he the jīvanmukta understands the Truth. And what is that Truth? It is this: that everything is within you, and that you include everything in creation and that there is nothing outside you. These are the truths complementary to one another. You fear that man who abuses you, because you take him to be outside you. Now, you see your own hand also outside you (not inside you), you see it as an object. Are you afraid of your own hand? No. Because, you consider your hand as your own, a part of you. Even the little finger is a part of yourself. If all creation is thus understood to be within you, as part of yourself, of whom will you be afraid? You do not harm your own self. This never happcns. There is no ragadvesa concerning what is your own, like your hand, for example. That which is part of you does not create these opposing passions of likes and dislikes. Only with objects outside you, this pair of opposites come into play. When you consider that the universe is within you, there is none to be afraid of, for none dare to touch even a hair of yours. It is not only that none can harm you, it is much more, the whole universe will start loving you. What you think the universe is, even that it will be to you. If you think the universe is yours, then it also will consider you to be its own and will look after you, feed you and protect you. Everything will come to you of its own accord from the world. For, in this stand that you have taken, you do not feel that the world is other than you, an object outside you. That which you consider as outside you will only run away from you, for it is afraid of you. In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Yajnavalkya says: “Whichever individual thinks that such and such objects are outside him, separate from him, those objects will run away from him. Wife and children also will run away from that individual who considers that they are separate from him.” If, on the other hand, with equal vision, you realise that you are indivisible from the rest of the creation, the world also will look after you as non-separate from itself. This is what is conveyed in the Bhagavadgita also in the verse ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāḥ paryupāsate, teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yogakṣemaṁ vahāmyaham: ‘To those men who worship me alone thinking of no other, of those ever-united, I secure what is not already possessed by them and preserve what they already possess.” When you include the whole creation within you, you are that alak niranjan masth; the independent, non-related Bliss-Supreme. Because, it is the Self within you which is of this nature. You are the Self which has no fear of anything or anyone. You are full of ānanda, Bliss. Then for whom, is fear? For whom, is delusion, grief or sorrow? Not for this alakniranjan. Because, such a man has become one with everything; he is himself everything. This is the meaning of these above two mantras.