Tree of knowledge

The Tree of knowledge

Introduction to the Ishopanishad  

The Ishopanishad (Isa Upanishad) is considered as the foundation stone of upanishadic knowledge. There are eighteen mantras (brief verses) in this short Upanishad. The study of these mantras reveals that this is complete in itself, though other Upanishads describe Vedanta philosophy in detail. The Ishopanishad forms the 40th chapter of the Kanva Shakha of the Yajurveda. After the initial invocation of peace we have four portions, or padas, for the sake of the sadhakas. The first pada of the Ishopanishad consists of the first three mantras. They throw light on Brahmavidya, the knowledge of Brahman, and the ways to obtain it. The first and second mantras are so profound that the Gita seems only an elaboration of their message. This first pada gives the key to the art of living and the means to understand the mysteries of life and death. Sincere and faithful observance of the instructions given in the first portion of this Upanishad gives one a glimpse of Brahma­vidya. From a practical point of view these instructions may be expressed in the following manner:

1. God is omnipresent.

2. Enjoying all the objects of the world with discrimina­tion, we should have the feeling that all the things of the world belong to God alone and that we are given the right only to use them.

 3. We should not cast a greedy eye on the wealth of anyone. We should not deprive anyone of his rights and possessions.

4. We should long to live only with the determination of performing our duties to the end of our lives. A man who remains unattached and perform duties without desire for rewards will not be bound to his actions.

5. All the duties of life are to be performed in the spirit of non-attachment. It is essential for man thus to perform his duties. Such performance of duties is the foremost means of gaining knowledge, and the first rung in the ladder of spiritual joy. Without it man cannot move forward another step.

6. We should never act against the dictates of our pure conscience.

7. One who acts against his conscience has to suffer in this world and other worlds after this life. 

The second pada of this Upanishad begins with the fourth mantra and ends with the eighth mantra. These five mantras have described those principles of Brahma­vidya, the sacred knowledge which establishes the sadhaka (aspirant) in his own true self and makes him free from all evils and impurities.

The third pada of the Ishopanishad begins with the ninth mantra and ends with the sixteenth mantra. For those worthy of upanishadic knowledge, it sets out methods to obtain knowledge of Brahman. The fourth portion of this Upanishad consists of mantras seventeen and eighteen. These two mantras concern the art and science of death. They contain the secret of the prayers and petition of the sadhaka quitting this world, as we all must do. This brief outline can only suggest the value of the important instructions and deep secrets contained in the Ishopanishad. The answer to all the important questions of life are to be found in this short Upanishad. It is an ideal book of Vedanta philosophy. Every sadhaka can succeed in obtaining his end by studying it and by follow­ing its ideals.

I sing silently to myself in reverent memory of those great men who initiated me in the knowledge of Upanishads. I bow to them with all my heart. Whenever I listen to the call of my conscience, I receive new energy and new power. All this is the result of the great kindness of the teachers. The study of Vedanta has given me great peace. Let us stop and rest today and bathe in the ocean of nectar contained in the Ishopanishad.

Whatever moves in this world is enveloped by Isha. Enjoy it with renunciation; do not covet any man’s wealth.

Only through doing actions here, and in this way, one should desire to live a hundred years. There is no other way karma will not taint a man.

The Self is one and unmoving, swifter than the mind; the devas (the senses) cannot overtake It as It darts before them. Remaining motionless It passes the running ones. Through It the wind carries the clouds.

It moves and moves not. Far away, It is near. Within all, It is yet outside.

But he who sees all being in the Self and the Self in all beings ceases hatred.

When one realizes that all beings have become the Self, what further delusion and sorrow can there be for him who sees that oneness?

Pervading all, It is radiant and formless, flawless and indivisible, pure and unpierced by evil, all-seeing and all-knowing, transcendent, and self-existent. It over­sees the karmas of all jivas forever.

Those devoted to illusion enter blind darkness. Into greater darkness enter those who are solely attached to knowledge.

One thing is obtained through knowledge, another from illusion. Thus we have heard from the wise who have taught us.

Knowledge and illusion, he who knows both overcomes death through illusion and through knowledge enjoys immortality.

Those devoted to manifest nature enter blind darkness. Into greater darkness enter those attached to unmani­fest nature (prakrti).

One thing is obtained from manifest nature, another from unmanifest nature. Thus we have heard from the wise who have taught us.

The face of truth is covered with a golden veil. Uncover that reality, Pushan, to the glance of one devoted to truth.

O Nourisher; One Rishi, Controller, Sun, Progenitor, gather your rays, restrain your splendour, so that I may see that aspect of yours which is most holy. The person who is called “That,” “That” he I am.

Now let my breath return to immortal prana, and my body to ashes. Remember, O mind, remember Om, and remember my deeds. Remember my deeds.

Agni, lead me by the good path to the fruits of my actions. Deva, you know all deeds. Remove me from the fault of deceit. I offer myriad words of devotion to you.


Source: ‘Book of Wisdom: Ishopanishad’ by Swami Rama 

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