Isavasya Upanishad for Beginners
Half hour talks in Hindi translated into English
by Swami Krishnananda
The next mantra enumerates a few of the characteristics of the Self spoken of above, to indicate that Its true nature is really rivara’s own nature.
स पर्यगाच्छुक्रमकायमव्रण मस्नाविरँ शुद्धमपापविद्धम् ।
कविर्मनीषी परिभूः स्वयम्भू र्याथातथ्यतोऽर्थान् व्यदधाच्छाश्वतीभ्यः समाभ्यः ॥ ८॥
sa paryagāc chukram, akāyam, avraṇam, asnāviram, śuddham, apāpaviddham,
kavir manīṣī, paribhūḥ, svayambhūḥ, yāthātathyato’rthān vyadadhāc chāśvatībhyas samābhyaḥ (8)
Wherever there is creation there the Self is; whatever there is, He is that; pervading everywhere there is no place He has to reach; and no place is there where He is not. There is nothing that He needs to possess and nothing that He needs to achieve. He no has need to go anywhere and has no need of any help. Where He is there is perfection, there everything is present. He is the seed, the substratum, the cause of all. He is father, mother and grandmother. He is pure, effulgent, indivisible and bodiless. He has no physical body for he has no need for it. He goes everywhere and He is in everything. He is not limited by time and space; for if it were so, He would become perishable and impermanent. It is only as long as there is body that there is happiness and misery. If there is no body the pleasant and the unpleasant never make their appearance. He has neither fear, nor fatigue of any type. Fatigue is weakness. He is prowess itself. He has plentitude and so has no greed. Where He is, there is no end to anything. In the world, only certain things can be in certain places. As He is in everything everywhere He has them all. He has no flesh, no bone, blood or muscles. Even the physical bodies of avatars like Lord Roma and Lord Krishna, it is said, were non-physical. They were not made of the five great elements, tanmātras ether, air, fire, water and earth principles. He is pure Consciousness and hence has none of the physical characteristics. He is beyond all the three gunas, tamas, rajas and even sattva. Though from tamas to rajas and rajas to sattva there is an increasingly greater transparency and inward penetration, sattva also is a hindrance, for it is as it were, still on the other side of the transparent glass. Īsvara is extremely pure. He is Himself, with no screen separating Him from the three gunas. There is no obstruction, no hindrance in Him. Sattva is purer than rajas which is purer than tamas; He is purer than even sattva. While we can describe in words what is sattva, rajas and tamas, He being none of these, words cannot describe Him who is beyond even the sattva. This transcendental Being is beyond expression through words: this is all we can say of Him. He is free from the results of good and bad deeds. He neither commits sins, nor does virtuous actions. This is so, because all actions of Consciousness are identical with Itself. It is only in the individual man that his existence is different from his actions, because of which he has to enjoy the fruits of his actions. The Lord’s actions do not yield any fruit. His Being itself is His action. Every act of His is a cosmic act and therefore free from sin and virtue. It is only man who commits sin while doing action, for man has a motive, a purpose of his action. But īśvara’s action is causeless and causelessness cannot produce any effect. What is good action? It is doing according to the Law of God, and to sin is to work against God’s laws, even as to work against man’s law is a crime. To do an act against sat is to sin. God’s law is universality of existence. Man is separate from the effect he creates by his action. God is not so, for Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, or sat-cit-ānanda is is one single factor. Hence, there is no question of sin or virtue in Him. And, when neither cause nor effect exists, where is the question of fruits accruing thereof? None. Only in the world of men, the lack of understanding of God’s law brings about the breaking of it; and thus even the wise men commit sin in this sense. What else is He? He is Kavih, He is Himself knowledge. God is all-knowing; He is the past, the present and the future. There is no seer other than He. He is omniscient. Also He is the Master of his mind, manīsī. Mind’s very nature is change, it is not mud. Wisdom, intellect, or knowledge is all but the mind which keeps changing its form. Mind is impermanent and transient, hence mind cannot be taken as sattā; man goes along with his mind and therefore is not the master of his mind. Īśvara is sattā and so there is no change in Him. He is not transient, and therefore, He is the master of the mind.
These are all but tentative, accidental, temporary definitions, to say that He is sarvāntaryāmi, sarvajña, and sarvaśaktimān. These are only to indicate that everything reaches its limit in Him. One may ask if there is no question of space in respect of īśvara, then what is the meaning of saying He is sarvāntaryāmi? The reply is that He is the highest in all qualities, and all these expressions are only indications. While He is the source of all knowledge, what sense does itimake to say that He is all-knowing! Similarly, from Him alone all strength emanates, what is the meaning of calling Him sarvāntaryāmi? All this only means that enveloping everything He yet transcends everything. In that Cosmic Being there is nothing wanting; He is in a state of paripūrṇatva. This is paribhūḥ. Another meaning for paribhūḥ is that He is present in all directions. He is also svaymbūḥ, the self-born and self-existing, the causeless cause, the knower of Himself and the doer of all actions. There is none to teach Him, none to instruct Him, none to influence Him. When from Him everything comes into being, how can anything be a cause for His being? He is His own father and mother; none conceived Him. No one is the cause of His Being. He is all that is transcended and also all that is transcendental. Hence, He is Self-existent.
The upaniṣad here places a beautiful idea before us in this verse: yāthātathya – creation is in that state of being, or everything is, as it ought to be; everything has been placed and done exactly as it should be; this is how it is, even from when He created this universe. Everything in creation has come into being exactly in the way it ought to be and exactly in place. He has put everything in its own place, in a faultless manner. There is no ugliness, nothing bad, nothing wrong in this universe. Therefore, there is no need and no meaning in wanting to effect any change in any manner in this creation. To try to do this is a foolish man’s errand. In this effort, man seems to presume that he is wiser than Gad and that he can do something to set right God’s work! We of the world feel that there exists in His creation defects and incompleteness, mistakes and shortcomings. So we start doing this and that, thinking that we are going to set things right. We find in the world thorns, poison and many similar objects which give us pain, The question arises: where have these come from, and if they have come from God how can these be reconciled with His perfection in creation? The reason is not far to seek. We are responsible for these, the thorns and poison. While all creation is going on in all perfection, we live in a world of names and forms. You may ask, if everything is placed in its right time and place, how comes any suffering? The suffering exists because of our perverted view of the universe. To see two moons is the mistake of the eye, the cause is not that there are two moons but what is known as timira (a disease of the eyes). The world is beautiful, it is perfect, and so, it is as it ought to be.
Such a perfection has been for all eternity. The world was never imperfect in the past, nor is it in a bad state in the present, nor will it go wrong in the future. Out of amṛta, the immortal divine elixir something other than it cannot come. How can anything different come out of that which is satcidānanda, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss-Absolute? There is no question of such a thing ever happening. The universe has come from pūrṇatva, all-fullness, all completeness: pūrṇamadaḥ, pūrṇamidam. Īśvara is eternally pūrṇam, so will the world be eternally pūrṇam. And also all duties have been allotted in the manner they should be.