The Isa Upanishad is last part of the Sukla Yajur Veda, given to us by Yajnavalkya, received by him from Surya.
Krishna gave us the Bhagavad Gita which is the essence of all the upanishads.
Sankaracharya has written a commentary on the Isa Upanishad as well as on the Bhagavad Gita.
He advocated the Advaita Philosophy, based on how he interpreted the prasthana traya. He defended his view very well and got a lot of followers. At later points in time the leaders of the Dwaita and Visishtadwaita Philosophy critiqued his work and created their own following.
Today’s Hindus absorb a few words and ideas from each school of thought and end up with an easy dictum “be good and kind, and God will be pleased” kind of philosophy which is both nebulous and practical at the same time. Thus Indian Hindus were far more easy to reform constitutionally than other groups.
However I like to know things exactly. This post discusses the first three mantras of the Isa Vasya Upanishad only, and what I understand about them, ie my interpretation and defence in relation to the Gita.
The first mantra says ”All this is to be covered by Isa, all that moves in the moving world. Be protected by giving it up, don’t covet, for whose his wealth?”
The second mantra says, “Karmas must be done only. (Life) is to be lived for a 100 years. Other than this there is no other way by which Karma does not stick to men.”
Sankara says that the first mantra is for the gnyanis and mumukhsus who want salvation. And that the second is for the ordinary people.
But I think that the first 2 slokas taken together give us Karma Yoga.. as Krishna said.
Live Long. See Isa in all. Do Karma (that which should be done). Give up everything (the results). Thus protect yourself from the karma that you do from sticking to you.
The third mantra says “Indeed, covered with blinding darkness are those “asurya” worlds, having been sent, there go those “self-destructive (atmahanah) people”.
Now there is scope for definitions and interpretations.
I could interpret this as “People who commit suicide go to dark worlds (hell)”. And I have heard this theory float around.
Sankara says that the asurya worlds are those states/places other where the non-duality of the paramatama is neglected (left).
He says not educating oneself it self is atmahani. Who can argue with this? So people who don’t strive for gnyana (avidvansah) go to those blinding states of ignorance. Of Duality. And after remaining stationary in these states of devas and asuras, they return to karma according to Sankara.
But Krishna says in chapter 2 of the Gita, that atma is eternal and cannot be hurt killed and so on. So where is the question of atmahani?
My Veda Guru, Kunda Miss says that aatma here refers to atma-sanghaatam. Atma plus body plus mind. The union. That can be hurt. Physically with blows and mentally by lack of learning, thinking and other ways.
Krishna then says in Gita chapter 2, that IF you think the atma can be killed, then know that it will be reborn. That’s not what He thinks.
Is he referring to the likes of Yajnyavalkya who used the word atmahani? (Clearly Arjuna had no opinion of his own on these matters.) We have to see what the rest of the study reveals.
If you accept Sankara’s premises and definitions, you can’t fault his crystal clear logic.
He is my kula guru. So I am an advaitin. And even otherwise my own reasoning leads to advaita.
My question in my own mind, for me to answer over time, is did Sankara correctly deduce the original intent of the mantras?
See Also :
- Purusharthas – Human Goals
Authorship and Copyright Notice : All Rights Reserved : Satya Sarada Kandula