1). Ishavasya Upanishad – Path of wisdom – Jnana Yoga (Renunciation)


Q1-1). What is the essence of first sloka of Ishavasya Upanishad ?

There are two paths for Self realization. As per Sri Krishna in Bhagavad-Gita 3.3, (Loke asmin dvividha nishta)  – Path of wisdom (Jnana yoga) also called path of renunciation and path of action (karma yoga).  Through the path of jnana or karma one transcends the mind to establish in the eternal peace of inner Self.

First sloka of Ishavasya Upanishad is about path wisdom (jnana yoga).

The first sloka of Ishavasya Upanishad is about path of wisdom (jnana marga) – renunciation.

ॐ ईशा वास्यमिदँ सर्वं यत्किञ्च जगत्यां जगत् ।
तेन त्यक्तेन भुञ्जीथा मा गृधः कस्यस्विद्धनम् ।। १ ।।

Isavasyamidam sarvam yatkincha jagatyam jagat Tena tyaktena bunjitaha ma gradhaha kasyaswit dhanam.||
Isa = Lord, God, vasyamidam = indwelling/clothed, idam = this, sarvam = all, yatkincha = whatsoever, jagatyam = in this world, jagat = which moves, tena tyaktena = renouncing it, bunjithaha = enjoy, ma=don’t, gradhaha=covet/desire, kasyasvit=anybody’s, dhanam = wealth.
All this, whatsoever moves in the universe (animate, inanimate) including the universe, is indwelt or pervaded or clothed by Lord. Do not covet anybody’s wealth. Renouncing that (which is not yours), enjoy what is yours.
Q1-2 ) Who is Isha ?
Isha or Ishwara is the Lord. Isha is the creator of the universe. Creation requires a substance. The substance of creation is called Brahman. Brahman is the cause. Universe is the effect. Brahman is the karana and universe is the karya. Let us understand what happens in the process of creation taking an analogy of a pot maker – potter.
A potter makes the pot with clay. Potter is the creator of pot. What did the potter do? Did he create clay? Clay was already there. He did not create. He gave a shape to the clay. Pot is nothing but clay with a form and a name for function. Potter only gave the shape. Where was the shape? Clay had all the possible shapes in potential form. Clay is the material cause of pot. Material cause is called upadana karana. What is the role of the potter ? Potter is the intelligent cause of form making pot or nimitta karana. Pot is called karya or result. In reality potter did not create anything. Nobody can create anything. He only helped to shape the unmanifest pot present in clay to manifest form. Previously there was clay. Now also there is clay only in the form of pot. Only a name and form is given to clay to create pot. Potter only helped
Likewise gold + name and form (nama, rupam) is called ornament. Ornament is nothing but gold only. Wood + name and form ( nama, rupam) is called furniture. Rupam is the form. Nama is the name. Name is given to a function in the form. Nama is nothing but function of rupam.
Similar to the clay, Brahman is the basic substance of universe – upadana karana. Nature of Brahman is existence-consciousness-bliss or sat-chit-ananda. Brahman is pure existence, pure consciousness which is limitless.

Universe (jagat) = manifest nama, rupa + Brahman. =
Brahman + unmanifest nama, rupa is the cause. Unmanifest nama, rupa is called maya. Brahman + unmanifest nama, rupa maya is called Ishwara or Isa. Brahman + manifest nama, rupa maya is called universe. Brahman continues to be present without any change all the time. Brahman is the nimitta karana or intelligent cause. As intelligent cause Brahman is called Ishwara or Isa. Creation is unmanifest to manifest. Dissolution is from manifest to unmanifest. There is only Brahman. In one condition Brahman is called Ishwara and another condition is called Jagat (universe). Brahman+nama, rupam is called individual called jiva. Universe is the effect – karya. Brahman is the intelligent cause of the universe – nimitta karana also. Universe was in unmanifest name and form (nama, rupa) in Brahman. Maya Shakti has two aspects – vikshepa and avarana. Vikshepa means projecting power. Vikshepa Shakti operates as thoughts. Creation is the manifestation of nama , rupa by vikshepa. Avarana means forgetfulness. Jiva who is manifest forgets that he is Brahman due to power of avarana Shakti.
Q1-3). How jiva, jagat and Isa are related ?
Jiva – individual consciousness, jagat – universe, Isa – Lord are all the name and form of Brahman only. All are Brahman.
. Brahman is our SELF – Atma. We identify our self as “I”. However we associate “I” with personal identity of body, mind and intellect. Impersonal “I” is Brahman – supreme reality basic substance of all creation.
Jiva = Brahman (I) + nama, rupa ( body, mind, intellect)
Jagat = Braham + manifest nama, rupa (maya)
Ishwara = Brahman + unmanifest nama, rupa (maya)
Q1-4). How to understand Tat twam asi?
Tatwamasi – “You are That “ is a great teaching – mahavakya from Chandogya Upanishads. In this mahavakya, Tat stands for Ishwara – Lord. Twam stands for yourself. Tatwamasi means yourself is Ishwara. At the outset, this equation appears to be unbelievable. How can an individual jiva be equal to Lord. But once we understand the essential meaning, the purport of the equation becomes clear.
Ishwara = Brahman + Unmanifest maya (nama, rupa)
Jiva = Brahman + manifest body, mind, intellect.
Ishwara is all powerful creator omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. Jiva is limited being. The equation can only be satisfied when we understand that both Ishwara and Jiva are Brahman in essence.
I know I exist, I know I am conscious.
I exist is called – sat. I am conscious is called chit.
This is my essential nature. I experience my fullest nature of existence-consciousness-bliss nature during deep sleep. In other words, my essential nature is sat-chit-ananda Brahman.

Jiva =  Brahman + body mind and intellect =  “I” + body, mind and Intellect.

Ishwara = Brahman + maya =  Brahman + 5 elements (pancha bhutas) = “I”+ maya.

Jiva is Ishwara when upadhis are removed.  Jiva and Ishwara both are Brahman

Q1-5). What is Ishwara srasthi and what is jiva srushti ?
Ishwara is Brahman + unmanifest maya (nama, rupa). Universe is manifest form of Brahman. As part of manifestation, individual bodies manifest. Bodies are material in nature while Brahman is of the nature of consciousness. Matter and consciousness belong to different order of reality. There cannot be anything in common between matter and consciousness. However, a I thought called ego appears in consciousness connecting body and consciousness. Due to ego, there is superimposition of body-mind-intellect leading to the feeling of being limited.
Individual body mind complex is product of previous karmic impressions called prarabdha karma. Individual cannot experience the effect of prarabdha karma and reacts to situations. These reactions lead to further impressions. Objective reality consisting of five elements, living and non living beings forms the Ishwara Srusthi. Ishwara srasthi is beautiful in nature. On the other hand jiva ends up with many impressions called jiva srasthi.
Q1-6). If Isa is omnipresent why I am not able to perceive the Lord?
Sense organs can perceive only the material world through five sensations – sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. We experience the world (jagat) of plurality consisting of sentient and insentient, moving and non moving objects through these sense organs. The material world is like a cloth which covers the indwelling SELF – I. The world of matter is like a movie projected on movie screen. While we experience and enjoy the movie audio visuals (sight and sound), we cannot see the background screen. While movie keeps changing, the screen does not change at all. Isa the Lord is like the screen. Lord is not seen but the world (jagat) is seen.
Isavasya Upanishad gives beautiful analogy of clothing of the SELF. Like cloth covers a body, the material world covers the SELF.

At the individual level – Material Body, Mind and Intellect cover the indwelling spirit – Atma (I) While our perception of the world – 5 elements – space, wind, fire, water, earth covers the –SELF also called Brahman.
Presence of Isa can be recognized not by physical sense organs but by “eye of wisdom’ called Jnana chakshu. Contemplating on the great teachings of Upanishads, the ignorance covering the intellect gets dropped and eye of wisdom – Jnana chakshu opens up revealing the omnipresent Lord – Isa (SELF).
Q3). How to recognize Isha in the world (jagatyam)?
Isavasya Upanishad uses the term Idam for the world. Idam means this. Idam include “me” and the world perceived by me. When we say me here – it means the body, mind, intellect complex. The “me” is the perceiver and the world is perceived through five sense organs. As we discussed earlier Isa is the Lord whose nature is existence – consciousness – bliss (sat-chit-ananda).
Recognition of Sat aspect of Isa
The existence aspect of Lord we can recognize by the presence of “is ness”. For example the “tree is”, “sun is”, “ moon is”, “river is” etc.
The existence aspect in myself is recognized by “am ness”. For example I say – “ I am” which means I exist. Am ness stands for existence.
Lord is present as all that exists – “is ness” and “am ness”.
Recognition of Chit aspect of Isa
We cognize the world in the light of consciousness (Atmajyothi) – awareness. Without awareness there is no world. This is chit aspect of the Isa.
I know I am conscious. When I say “I am” – the I refers to consciousness (awareness) aspect.
This is how we recognize the Chit aspect of Lord.
Recognition of Ananda aspect of Isa
Ananda means bliss. Ananda comes from the root word – ananta – infinity. Infinity has no boundary – neither inside nor outside. But the world which we perceive has multiplicity and variety. There is infinite number of objects. Each object is it big like sun or small like ant have boundaries. Every object in the world is nothing but thought in the mind. World is nothing but appearance in the mind as thoughts. Same applies to our body also. Our body also is a thought in the mind. Mind is nothing but bundle of thoughts. Each thought is a thing (object). When a thought arises the consciousness contracts as objects of cognition.
Due to perception of the objects in the form of thoughts, ananda aspect of Isa is not recognized. However we can recognize the ananda aspect of Isa fully in deep sleep while we miss the awareness aspect.
Our sense organs superimpose the form – sight, sound, touch, smell and taste on the existence aspect of Isa. Mind gives a name to the form perceived by sense organs. For example when I see a tree, I see the form of the tree presented by the eye sight to which name “tree” is given by the mind. Thus a thought of “tree” appears in my awareness.
To recognize the ananda aspect of SELF, the superimposition of thoughts on the SELF has to be removed. Mind has to be made silent through contemplation and meditation (Nidhidhyasa). In the deep silence – my inner SELF is recognized as Isa – sat-chit-ananda. Not only that SELF is recognized as the SELF of the perceived world. In this manner, the cloth of matter covering Isa is removed to recognize Isa.

Q1-7). What is the meaning of “pervaded by”?
Another meaning of vasyam is “pervaded by”. A person gets terrified by seeing snake in the forest. On closer examination, it turns out that there is no snake but just a rope mistaken for snake. In this case the rope is mistaken for snake. Once the error in perception is understood, the fear disappears. After that even though poor lighting condition, rope may still appear as snake, the person does not get terrified. He recognizes it as rope not as snake.
In this analogy, rope is Isa – the Lord whose nature is existence consciousness and bliss. Snake is the – jagat – world. There was never a snake but only rope. Due to error is perception snake is seen not the rope. Similarly due to superimposition of name and form on the existence, world is seen. On closer examination rope is seen not the snake. Similarly with clear understanding, world itself appears as Isa.

Water alone appears as ocean, waves and foam. Water takes the name and form of ocean, wave and foam. Similarly Lord alone takes the form of the world. All that is there is consciousness. While name and form keep changing, existence never changes. Name and form is superimposed on existence. Isa is pervading the world as all names and forms. All names are HIS names. All forms are HIS forms. He is the sole reality – Satyam. Every appearance is a error in perception – seeing snake in the rope. Isa is within and without. Space pervades entire universe. All objects in the universe appear in space. Objects are created and destroyed in space. However nothing happens to Space. So is Lord – Isa. World appears and disappears – but Isa is unaffected.
Lord is the independent reality while the world is an appearance.


Q1-8). What is the meaning of   “that renounced – tena tyaktena “ ?

Entire world is pervaded by Lord – Isha.  But we do not perceive the Lord due to covering  by the matter ( maya) in the form of name and form.  The world is nothing but cover for Isha – Lord.  The world of objects is nothing but thoughts. All thoughts are dependent on “I” thought.  Tracing the root of “I” thought to the source, “I” thought vanishes. One gets established in source of “I” thought – pure consciousness – Brahman. Renunciation means renouncing the “I” thought by tracing its source.  It is like saying, waves rise and fall in ocean.  Tracing the wave to the source we reach ocean and tracing further we reach water. Wave is nothing but water.

Another example is when we read news paper we are focused on printed news. We forget about the paper in the background. Similarly when we see the world, we forget the consciousness -Brahman.

One more example is when a person sees beautiful sculpture he/she gets captivated by beauty. On closer examination, the sculpture is found to be metallic. Now when he/she sees the sculpture, he/she sees metallic sculpture.

Thus once Brahman is recognized as pure “I” – existence-consciousness-bliss, we see the world as form of Lord – Isha only.

Shri Madhwacharya gives another meaning for this.  Tena means – Lord. Whatever has Lord given to us is  for us to enjoy.

Q1-9). What is meant by enjoy – bhunjithah ?

All our life we seek happiness.  Source of happiness is our inner Self “I” – Brahman. Once we recognize Brahman as our Self, we see Brahman all pervading in the universe as Isa.  One who has renounced “I” thought and recognized Self, experiences eternal bliss even when he is interacting with the world. This is called “jagadananda”. He/she is blissful all the time. This is called real enjoyment.

Another way of understanding is there for this. We have concept of ownership and trusteeship. In this world everything belongs to Lord -nothing belongs to us. We don’t have ownership. We have to renounce mentally ownership  -for body, mind, intellect and possessions. However, we have to live like trustees. This is the real secret of enjoyment. Everything belongs to Lord – I am here to perform my duties as trustee.

Another meaning for this sloka is like this. A person is sitting in the train but carrying his luggage on the head. He fears that the luggage may not reach destination.  In reality train will carry both to the destination. We have to renounce our stress and worries and trust Lord.  We relax and enjoy journey of life.

Another way of looking at this.  A man goes to the cricket match.  He identifies with one of the teams. He feels bad when his team loses. However another man who has gone to watch the match only for sports, not identifying the with any team, enjoys the game thoroughly.  Similarly, our life will be joyful when we do not identify anything in the world as “ours”. Enjoy life by renouncing.

Q1-10). What is meant by do not covet any bodys  wealth ?

We have concept of ownership. First level concept is this is my body, my mind – this is called ahamkara.  This leads to mamakara – this is mine, that is mine etc.  In this world nothing belongs to us – everything belongs to “Lord” – Isha.  Body is given to us for a limited period – it does not belong to us. So is every other possession we have. We have trusteeship for a limited period. No ownership of anything.  This understanding makes our life joyful.

Q1-11). How is the sloka related to renunciation ? 

There are two types of renunciation – formal renunciation is called sanyasa. A sanyasi lives on what he gets as bhiksha.  He has no possessions of his own.  On the other hand jnana karma sanyasa is living a life with understanding the  all pervading SELF. I am Brahman – SELF of all. With this jnana a person lives life contended with what he has received  from Ishvara.





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