SYNOPSIS OF ISAVASYA UPANISHAD
Upanishads have been interpreted by many noblemen in different ways. Here, I have tried to interpret it in a very simple manner so that everyone can understand and practice it. Well, interest in the subject and understanding certain basics are expected from the reader. These are the extracts of the speeches made during a period of six months, explaining the Upanishads to the close disciples. Hence you will notice that it is in the format of speeches and the reader is not expected to look for literary perfection.
The thought of explaining it in speeches form is mainly to create an impact of listening to me, even while reading, which has been found very effective. Moreover, it has been seen that when the same is transcribed into another format, it loses its impact of expression, sometimes taking the reader into various thoughts. Hence, decided to have this humble submission. Hope you will like it. SHAMBHO MAHADEV!
In the Isavasya Upanishad, the Maharishi first explains about Shivoham, aham is Shiva, Shiva is aham, the Shiva is within you. The scripture of Upanishads is meant for understanding and identifying the aham, the Shiva in the aham, understanding the truth. The journey to understand the truth, is the process of going through the Upanishads. These noble documents lead us to reach the path where we understand ourselves as complete, Purnam. The Vedas and Upanishads have got the importance because these are the ultimate truth.
Upanishad has been split into Upa - ni - shad. Upasana is to sit by the knowledge. Bifurcation of the main is called Upa, it is not two, it is a fraction of something, something that has come from the knowledge - the Guru is called the Upanishad. Sitting by the side of the Guru or the asana is upasana. Through upasana only you reach the truth, the knowledge. There is no question of doubt, that means you release your body, you be one with the Guru, merge with the Guru, then only you can understand the Guru. When you merge with the knowledge, only then you can understand the knowledge.
Ni: Nishkaaya : means total leaving of the body. We are conscious about the body. Not to be conscious about the body is Nishkaaya. It is the status of the thought, status of the aathma. Only when the aathma recognizes that the body and mind exist, then only these should be felt. Otherwise it is Nishkaaya. We always practice nishkaaya. While sleeping, we do not know where we are sleeping, whether we have a cover or not, thirsty or hungry, we do not know, what problems we had or what enjoyment we had, we are not aware of anything. This is nishkaaya avasthaa. Ni also means no questions, even if it is no, it is yes. Whatever Guru, the knowledge, says is absolutely true.
Shad : to remove all false values and perceptions from you is shad. To do this, you have to unquestioningly surrender yourself totally to that knowledge, the Guru. This is upasana, and then you acquire the knowledge. This is how the Upanishad begins.
In order to have upasana, there should be a shrotha and a waktha. A shrotha is one who listens to shruthi. Only when there is shruthi, a shrotha can listen to it. First of all shruthi has to be there, only then a shrotha and waktha can be there. What is Shruthi? Shruthi in a common term is known as vani. Shruthi is an information, shruthi is a vibration, shruthi is a bifurcation of knowledge, shruthi is one, shruthi is knowledge. In most of the classes and spiritual discourses, the shruthi will start vibrating only at a certain frequency. Whoever comes in that frequency can only hear that shruthi. Knowledge will not come to us, we have to go to that knowledge and acquire it. Many times during spiritual discourses, you find people sleeping, which means that they have not reached that frequency and cannot acquire the knowledge.
What are sorrows ? Sorrows are the hidden behavioral pattern of the mana. The subject, the object and the relationship between the two (Mana and Aathman), this is the cause of all the problems in the mana. The pancha praanas or the pancha koshas as they are called have been divided into five parts :
the food sheath, which is outermost, or the Annamaya Kosha
the vital-air sheath - lining it internally or the Praanamaya Kosha
the Mental sheath, within and still interior or the Manomaya Kosha
the intellectual sheath, or the Vijnanmaya Kosha and lastly
the bliss sheath, the subtlest of all or the Anandamaya Kosha.
These five sheaths keep the body alive, not allowing us to reach the subtle body, and they have to be crossed. What is a subtle body? Pranmaya Kosha is the subtle body of the Annamaya Kosha, manomaya kosha is the subtle body of the Praanamaya Kosha and so on. Ultimately, we come to the Vijnanmaya Kosha. The subtlest of these is the biggest of all. Like when you see a set of utensils, the biggest one at the bottom contains all the smaller ones and if the biggest one breaks, all break. Similarly, the Anandamaya Kosha, is the biggest or subtlest of all, that is the praana. That has to be understood first.
For understanding the self, a lot of methods have been identified : sathyam, brahmacharya, ahimsa.
What is truthfulness? Truthfulness need not be learnt, you remove the untruth, and the truth is existing. The truthfulness is understanding the aham, the self, and then one goes into Brahmacharya, the self restrained. Brahmacharya is one who knows and follows the Brahma, the brahma tathwa, and who goes into self-control. The one who imposes austerity into the self is a Brahmachary. Austerity of luxury. Without luxury also one can survive; luxury is an addition for the physical and mental pleasures. Reducing the expenses for unwanted things is called austerity measure. Only then one can reach Brahmacharya. Do only what is necessary for the aathman. This is self-restraint, refraining the self (the AATHMAN), from others is called Brahmacharya.
Then comes ahimsa - non-injury. A cowardice action is called himsa. Killing your good thoughts is called himsa. A person who kills thousands of people in his mind everyday, kills thousands of good thoughts everyday, is a bigger culprit than a person killing an animal or a human being. This is himsa. There should only be ahimsa at the thought level. Some people are unable to kill physically because of the fear of their own sharira, but their thoughts are not good. A man who actually kills, may do so only once in his lifetime, and once he realizes his mistake, he may never repeat it. But a person who kills mentally, gets no punishment, does not realize what he is doing and cannot cleanse himself. Even a small scratch should not appear on your inner sheath, that is ahimsa. One has to change the internal robe, the internal ahimsik vichhaara, the ahimsik thoughts. Elimination of the wicked and protection of the good has to be done. Non-injury is ahimsa.
After this we reach the sathyam of the self. There are different paths in order to understand the self: path of renunciation or thyaaga, path of action or karma, the path of knowledge or dharma, the jnana, and then comes the bhakthi marga. These are the various paths through which a person can reach the purnatha, reach the prajapathi.
Everything is complete in itself - the inner self, the outer self, are all Purnam. When pots are made out of mud in different shapes, the space outside and inside is different. When the pot breaks, the inner space gets mingled with the outer space and becomes one. The inner space has been created from the outer space. Whatever is visible is perishable. You are able to identify the inner space only because of the mud-pot. The one which can be seen or identified is perishable, and the one which cannot be seen is imperishable. Imperishable can create the perishable, but perishable cannot create the imperishable. The inner space cannot create the outer space, but the outer space can create hundreds of inner spaces. The shanthi patha is chanted thrice : for aathma shanthi, mana shanthi and sharira shanthi. Once he identifies that the pot is only temporary, the pot can break and the inner self will join with the outer self, the total shanthi comes to him. Shanthi reaches all the three levels : the external, the internal and the subtlest level. A person who does not understand this, does not get peace.
We all look for peace and happiness, that peace and happiness is all-pervading, it is within us, outside us, all around us, we only have to identify it as peace. Otherwise we remain in the dark, we only see the matter, not the inside of the matter. We identify that the happiness is beyond the pot and we are unable to break the pot to reach that happiness. We do not know that the pot cannot contain water. The moment it is left, it flows away, you can guide it the way you want. You hold it in a small pot or in a big vessel, you hold it all over the world as an ocean, every where there is water. This is the truth. Truth may look small, but it is only the reflection of the truth. When you have a reflection, there has to be a substance to create that reflection, believe in that substance, and not in the reflection which can be destroyed. The shadow or the reflection of a man on the river water can be seen, but the moment a child throws a stone in it, the figure gets distorted, it is no more the truth. So go to the reality, the absolute infinity. Only then you can reach the goal of life : Tat Twam Asi. The first stanza in this Upanishad goes thus :
The Lord is all over. Life is only a veil, a matter, the matter is covered by a cloth. I have to remove the clothing to see the inside of it, to reveal that life which is veiled by the matter. For that one has to do : thena thaykthena. There are two meanings in it. Release something, do the thyaaga of the unwanted, what remains is the wanted - thyaaga of what is not necessary for the aathman. If you remember that you did thyaaga, then it is attachment. After knowing and realizing it, if you still do not want it, then it is thyaaga. Secondly, if we split the word thena : into te and na, which means do not release it, that means do not do the thyaaga of the aathman. One is to release all that is not required for the aathman, and the second is not to do the thyaaga of the aathman (of what is needed). Both ultimately mean the same. There is something under the veil, the cover, you have to reveal or unveil that self in order to realize this. Then, if you cannot unveil that self even with a lot of trouble and strength, veil that matter so that you unveil that automatically. If you do not like to do the thyaaga, be with your aathman, otherwise do thyaaga of everything. Importance has been given to renunciation. When you renounce, then only you can announce - announce that this is aham. To introduce yourself, you have to remove all the unwanted things within you. Then only we understand : Isavasyamidam sarvam : God, the Supreme is everywhere.
Bhunjithaa : never enjoy that what is forbidden by God, like desires, the thoughts creating those desires, the moha and ahankara. Release all these. Only then you reach the path of knowledge, through the path of renunciation and then through the path of knowledge, you reach the path of karma yoga. First you have to acquire the knowledge to do anything, whether it is karma, dhyana or bhakthi. After that you come to the meditative state. After renouncing the non-self, or anaathmaa, you reach the karma yoga.
Karma is the path of action. Karma is again classified in three ways : saathwik, rajasic and tamasic or unaction, action and inaction. Doing anything is an action, with tamasik vichaara, tamasik prakriya, it is not only the food. Without knowledge, doing an action is tamasik. An action which is done for attaining a goal, with expectation of a result, is called rajasic. Rajasic may be good or bad, depends on the action which is indwelling in you. Unaction is that which is done with knowledge and through the path of renunciation.
We have to do nishkaama karma. Sakaama karma is a rajasic activity, the one which is done with expectation or a desire. Unaction is nishkaama, and only with nishkaama karma, can one attain the Supreme, and the path of meditation and then the path of awareness. In sakaama karma, you do a karma, you get paid for it and forget about it and you feel happy about it. Nishkaama karma remains with you through a number of janmas. Listening to Pauranic stories is not to be taken as entertainment; it is not manoranjan, it is manomanthan. While executing the karmas, you come across a lot of negativities in life, and through these, you can release the ego and moha. Each negativity has an ego center, ego of anger, ego of sadness, ego of hatred. If a person goes straight into the dhyana or the bhakthi marg, he may be having these active ego centers in the sub-conscious mind, which he is unable to release. We are born as human beings to cleanse ourselves, to expose all the negativities which may have been accumulated from a number of janmas. We are blessed to have the human birth. The human being is next to God, he is God. We are manushyaathma, the aathma which is next to the parmaathmaa. All others are known as jivaathmaa, because only jiva is important -- they have both life and death. We have no death, only life. Human beings have been given enough opportunities to understand all these that is why the manushya janma is sarvopari. From the inner self when all the vaasanaas are released, then you reach the nishkaama karma.
The ashrama dharma has to be known. Ritualistic actions are only to know the ashrama dharma. Wherever one feels the aashraya, is the ashrama and the dharma of the ashrama is the truth. In the rituals we are taught the different puja vidhis for different deities, or to chant mantras in a particular way, perform puja at a certain temple. After this one enters the ashrama dharma. Wherever there is ashram, wherever there is knowledge, there is aashraya. That knowledge has to be learnt by rituals. An Upaasak has only to do upaasanaa to the knowledge, the Guru. He need not see where he has to do this, his goal is final : aashraya to the Guru. Reaching this state means renouncing the rituals too gradually. Bhagwad Gita also says that Nara and Narayana did tapas in Badrinath. Arjuna and Krishna have been identified as Nara and Narayana, as Man and God. In upasana also the disciple is the Nara and the total surrender to the Narayana, working in a spirit of selfless service is the burning theme of this Upanishad. Na lipyate Nara : do not get stuck with the Nara, be a Narayana. With this we come to the 3rd stanza
The person who works and thinks as an asura, goes into the dark world where there is no sunshine, no knowledge, no enlightenment. A person with aasurik pravrithi will always go into the darkness in life. Such a person is said to be doing aathma-hana, hathya of the principles of the aathma. Aathma cannot be killed, that is why it is known as aathma-hana. Release the body, because it is the sharira and mana which make you think like this. The mana creates all the problems. These people are called the slayers of the soul or aathma-hana. In such people's life there will be blinding darkness. The life is darkness even for a knowledgeable person but he finds out the light in the darkness. A person who is of aasurik pravrithi is andhena tamasa, that means he himself has become blind because of his aasurik pravrithi. As it is there is darkness, and he has also become blind. He never reaches the light so it is called blinding darkness. The people or the jana destroy themselves, which is known as aathma-hana. The people who have lost the jnana are called jana, keeping on rolling in the cycle of life and death.
The self is the one which travels the fastest. The self is motionless, the self is the whole universe, the self is all-pervading. The self need not travel so it is identified as motionless. The one who is trying to find out the self, travels from one corner of the universe to the other and finds that the self is there also, faster than anyone else, because it is all pervading. Everyone travels through the medium of the self to find out the end of the self. The people who worship their sense organs will never reach the knowledge. The next stanza clarifies the quality of the aathman :
It does not move, it moves, it is far, it is near, it contains, it is everywhere like the space inside and outside the pot, it is only an identification, there is nothing called this and that. That is why it is known as Tat Twam Asi. The you can only be closest to you. Anything can claim to be closer to you, but between you and me there is a space. When I say it is only me, there is no you, that means there is no space, the aathman is the closest and it is the fastest. Even though it is the closest. people spend not only one life but a number of janmas looking for the aathman. Because they are looking for it, it is called the farthest. The ultimate truth is that aathman is all-pervasive.
After a lot of struggle and travelling for a number of years, he discovers that Tat Twam Asi the all-pervading praana, the aathma is ME, the closest to me. Once he realizes this, he realizes that the aathma is all-pervasive, and it is in everyone and in everything, once he sees that everything and everyone is me, the aham, then there is no hatred, then comes the samatwa, the equality. The a-samatwa comes only when you identify yourself separate from others. He says bring the samatwa, samatwa is only one, the other thing should be as good as you, as equal as you, then only the samatwa can come. Even a minute difference will cause a-samatwa. Samatwa has to be 100%. Remove the feeling of repulsion, as explained in the samhita. When one sees samatwa everywhere, there is no grief, no moha and no shoka.
Moha is the cause of grief, desires and delusion are the cause of dukha. Moha will multiply the air, the vaayu thathwa, agni thathwa (jealousy), the agni will grow more, fear of not getting anything, jala thathwa, bhu thathwa (attachment to the prithvi) -- multiplies in a number of folds. In order to understand the naked truth, the truth has to be understood. The dress covering the truth is moha and dukha. The veil of the moha should be removed from the aathman, then automatically you can reveal the aathman. The more you have the moha, the more you have the covering, the more you protect the aathman with all the emotions, the more you block the light which comes from the aathman. There can be no grief, no moha, no shoka when he sees everywhere samatwa, ekam, only such a person who realizes this, can attain moksha.
He is the self, a-kaayam, the bodyless, there is no kaaya. When there is no body, there are no muscles. The aathman is always pure, it does not have any causal body, aathman is not created, there is no cause for the aathman and hence no qualities, no classification. When there is a cause, then only the question of shuddha or a-shuddha arises. Aathman is swayambhu. Aathman need not be identified. Swayambhu is created by its own qualities, it has its own characteristics, a sin cannot create a swayambhu. It is the mana and sharira which creat the paapa and punya, and the result also comes only to them. The aathman keeps on striving, only takes the experience of punya from there. The paapa has to be undergone, suffered, that is why it is said that when you do something wrong, you have to suffer. The suffering is only because of avidya. How to qualify or call something swayambhu? The aham, the self is akaayam, avarnam, asnaaviram, shuddha and apaapvidham. It is pure, it is bodyless, it is luminous, it is incorporeal, it is immaculate, it is Brahman, because shuddha is Brahman and eternal reality.
Many qualities have been given to classify the aathman. Vidya and avidya are going together. A person having avidya is in dark and a person in vidya is in even greater darkness. A person who knows and does not do it, is in vidya but greater darkness. So you have to identify that vidya and avidya are not separate, they are complimentary to each other. If there is no vidya, there cannot be avidya. Avidya of the karma, avidya of the pitraloka leads a man to blindness.
Only by avidya one reaches death; by vidya he reaches the immortality. A man who does not know that the aathman is aham, the one who identifies that the sharira is aham, is in avidya. When that same person comes into vidya he realizes that the aathman is aham, that man never dies, he reaches immortality. A man in avidya, because he thinks that the sharira is the aham, always has the fear of death. A person in vidya, once he gets something, keeps on contemplating.
The aathman is further qualified as andham tamaha. Those who devote themselves to the unmanifest, the hiranyagarbha, enter into greater darkness. In Vedic times, vaayu, agni were all present : praying to the Impersonal Gods is not wrong, but one should not get stuck there. Through the Impersonal God we try to reach the Personal God; through asambhoothi, we reach the sambhoothi, and then through sambhoothi we reach the pitraloka. This is also not the ultimate, even hiranyagarbha is not the ultimate. We have to reach the prajapathi. The jnana is required. Only then you are eligible to do bhakthi. If you are praying to impersonal Gods, you are not a bhaktha. You have to reach the personal God manifested by you.
Jnana and bhakthi have to go together then only they grow stronger. To devote is to completely surrender yourself. From shraddha comes bhakthi. First fix up the shraddha, go to the manifest, identify for whom you feel the shraddha, then only the bhakthi comes. Even though the mind is pervasive, but at one point of time, it can think only one thing. You have to elongate that capacity, the mind jumps from one to another. It has to be in one at one time, it cannot be with two. Once you elongate this, then only you can have shraddha through the mana, it is then called devotion. After this you go into love and this is called bhakthi. Then like Shri Ramkrishna Paramhansa, he reaches the sambhoothi through asambhoothi.
There is again a veil between jnana and bhakthi. Through jnana only bhakthi can be progressed. When bhakthi progresses, jnana automatically goes along, then the birth of a new spiritual life takes place. Destruction of entire existing vasanas takes place during this process, because the shraddha is only for one, the bhakthi is only at one, jnana qualifies this bhakthi at that point of time nothing else interferes. They get nirvaana and reach the supreme.
These three stanzas are read only to those who have come to the state of jnana and bhakthi, others may not understand it. Adi Shankaracharya said that when these stanzas are read to the dying man, when they pray like this, through this bhakthi they can attain the supreme.
These three shlokas reach us to the truth of life. The truth is always pervasive. Please remove the golden lid which is covering the truth and let me be with the truth, because I am the practitioner of truth. Do not defy me, do not cheat me with this golden lid, do not show me the riches, do not show me mercy, please remove the lid and reach me to Thee. Reach me to the truth, reach me to you, to enlightenment, to the light. I am suffocating under the heap of golden lid. People looking at me think that I have gold all around me, but they do not know that I am not able to get the praana inside the golden lid. I do not want this life, this sharira, this mana, this mercy from you, please just show me the truth. Remove this external veil when I am taking the last breath.
At one point of time, when I was crying, I told the Surya, the controller of all, the son of prajapathya, to remove the golden lid from me. I behold Thee, I am holding you in me, give me the rays of burning light, he is asking to disperse the rays, the burning light is the enlightenment. I behold the light in me and I would like to become YOU. That desire is there in me even at the time of death. After removing the lid he gains this light from the Supreme Power, the 'I' in him has got the moha of attaining the Supreme Power. MahaPrabhu refuses to come because you still have the 'I' in you. Remove the ultimate ego center from you, then only you can know yourself, that is savikalpa samadhi.
He was unable to get the enlightenment, so he said so-ham-asmi. Shivoham is Sohamasmi, Shiva is me, He am I, I proclaim myself as a person who can contain you, I behold Thee, Tat Twam Asi, YOU are ME. I would like to be you, fill me with you, fill me with that enlightenment, fill me with that knowledge, with that Supreme Powers within me. Through the Bhakthi and jnana, when he started looking at it, he saw 'he' as separate and 'I' as separate. "I" is still there, "I" cannot behold Thee. Do I have the capacity to contain this Supreme Power, this Knowledge? The realization has come that I cannot contain that Supreme Power, my capacity is limited. That is savikalpa samadhi. Immediately after this he goes into nirvikalpa samadhi, he then becomes aware of the Brahman, when he becomes aware of the Brahman, he becomes the Brahman, and then there is no more fear of death. After death they say : Raam naam sathya hai. He becomes Raam, he becomes the sathya. He joins himself with the truth, then only Raam naam becomes auspicious. He is not identified by you, you are identified by him, so you have to join him, He cannot join you. One who understands this thathwa, such a person after renunciation, after aathma-hana, with karma, thena thyakthena, with Isavasyamidam sarvam knowledge and with the knowledge of andham tamaha, asuraloka and purusha aham asmi, when these three shlokas are read to him, he understands the ultimate of it. He understands and experiences the Godhood in himself, the immortal God and he proclaims himself as immortal. He then says :
Then the praana becomes the vaayu. The he says please take away the vaayu, I do not want to hold it because I do not have the capacity to hold it. Let this vaayu mix with that vaayu, let this sharira burn into ashes. Without burning the jala and agni cannot come into this and the bhu-thathwa cannot go into the bhu-thathwa. So you have to burn it immediately. Release this sharira, take away the praana, break the pot, let the inner space and outer space mix together, let this praana merge into you, let this sharira burn and mix with the mud and go to the cause of it. I do not have the capacity to hold the cause, I cannot maintain it. I am helpless.
Whatever you have done all this while, keep on remembering till these thathwa. If you do not constantly remind me, if there is even the minutest gap, something else will penetrate into me, and spoil me, please do not allow that. Only have the smrithi of that Supreme Power : YOU are ME, YOU are ME. Ultimately, according to the Hindu dharma, we pray to the agni, because agni alone has the powers to burn everything to ashes; agni alone has the capacity to burn and destroy the negativities in us. Whatever is not wanted by me, I put in Thee, the agni, the Maheshwara, he takes all the burdens of others, burns it and purifies it. That is why agni is called a purifier. During yajna, we put everything into the agni and say : swaahaa, means swa aha that is one spoon of ghee representing one negativity of mine.
Please give me the riches of spiritual growth. Ultimately he prays to the agni and burns away everything.
Release me from everything, let me not get another birth till shatsamwatsaram, give me deerghaayu. With the best salutations to the agni, he surrenders and goes to shatsamwatsaram and when he reaches there he says :
The above are the highlights of the book. A set of 28 cassettes recorded live is also available.