Translation by Dr. Radhakrishnan

INVOCATION   Page 566.

That is full; this is full. The full comes out of the full. Taking the full from the full the full itself remains. Aum, peace, peace, peace. Brahman is both transcendent and immanent.

The birth or the creation of the universe does not in any manner affect the integrity of Brahman.  


I. (Know that) all this, whatever moves in this moving world, is enveloped by God Therefore find your enjoyment in renunciation, do not covet what belongs to others.

All things which move and change derive their significance from their relation to the one eternal truth. 'The invisible always continuing the same, but the visible never the same.' Plato;

Phaedo 64.

Īśāvāsyam: enveloped by God. The world does not stand apart from God, but is pervaded by Him. Cp. the Psalmist 'The earth is the lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and they that dwell

Therein.' The Supreme is viewed not as the Absolute Brahman but as the cosmic Lord.

Īśā: Īśitā parameśvaraḥ.  vaśyam, nivāsanīyam, vyāpyam Kūranārayana. The world is steeped in God. It is the 'household of God.' God dwells in the heart of all things, īśvarātmakam eva sarvam,

brāntyā yad anīśvara.-rūpeṇa gṛhītam. A

Jagt: The universe is a becoming, not a thing It is a series of changeful happenings.

tyaktena bhuñjīthaāḥ: enjoy through tyāga, or renunciation of self-will. Enjoy all things by renouncing the idea of a personal proprietary relationship to them. If we recognize that the world in which we live is not ours, we enjoy it When we know that the one Real indwells all,

We will1get rid of the craving for acquisition, enjoy by giving up the sense of attachment. When the individual is subject to ignorance, he is not conscious of the unity and identity behind the multiplicity, and so cannot enter into harmony and oneness with the universe and thus fails to enjoy the world. When, however, he realizes his true existence which is centered in the Divine, he becomes free from selfish desire and possesses, enjoys the world, being in a state of non­

attachment: Self-denial is at the root of spiritual Me.' If anyone wish to come after me, let him deny himself." Matthew XVI.24.

Sometimes this passage is interpreted as meaning enjoy what is allotted to you by God (tena) Do not ask for more than what is given.

Mā-gṛdhaḥ: covet not. Do not be greedy. When we realize that God inhabits each object, when we rise to that cosmic consciousness, covetousness disappears. Cp. Wotton's Paraphrase of Horace which is found in Palgrave's Golden Treasury:

This man is freed from servile bonds

Of hope to rise, or fear to fall,

Lord of himself, though not of lands

And having nothing, yet hath all.

568 The Principal Upaniṣads

kasyasvid dhanam: This is taken independently. Whose indeed is wealth?  It belongs to the Lord. 'What hast thou that thou hast not received.' I Cor IV.7. If we have craving for wealth, we are not

true believers.

Paramasuhṛdi bandave kalatre suta-tanayā-pitṛ-mātr-bhṛtyavarge śaṭhamatir upayāti

yorthatṛṣṇām puruṣa-paśur na vāsudeva bhaktaḥ.

puruṣa-paśu: the animal man who is governed by hunger and thirst and not the true human being with foresight and understanding. See Aitareya Ᾱraṇyaka II 3 2. 

By contemplating the fact that the giver of all is the Supreme Lord, we cultivate the quality of detachment, vairāgya. For, the meaning of this verse is to encourage all those who wish to understand the self, to devote themselves to final release and give up all worldly desires. The exterior sacrifice is representative of the interior, whereby the human soul offers itself to God. 

Gandhi’s comment on this verse is interesting.' The mantra describes God as the Creator, the Ruler and the Lord. The seer to whom this mantra or verse was revealed was not satisfied with the very frequent statement that God was to be found everywhere. But he went further and said "Since God pervades everything and nothing belongs to you, not even your own body. God is the undis­

puted unchallengeable Master of everything you possess. If It is universal brotherhood of all human beings—not only brotherhood of all beings, but also of all living things—I find it in this mantra. If It is unshakable faith in the Lord and Master-and all the adjectives you can think of –I find it in this mantra.  If It is the idea of complete surrender to God and of the faith that he will supply all that I need, then again I say I find it in this mantra. Since lie pervades every fiber of my being and of all of you, I derive from it the doctrine of equality of all creatures on earth and it should satisfy the cravings of all philosophical communists. This mantra tells me I cannot hold of mine anything that belongs to God and that, if my life and that of all who believe in this mantra has to be a life of perfect dedication. It follows that it will have to be a life of continual service of fellow creatures.’ Address at Kottayam, Harijan, 1937.

Indifference to the pains of the world, to the suffering of the living creatures is due to either callousness or thoughtlessness. But when we realize that we are all the concern of the same Creator, the objects of His care, we feel within ourselves an unburdening, a release, a sense that everyone has a right to his own place in the same universe. When we envisage all that exists as having its being in the great first principle of all beings, we rush forward to help all those who come within our reach.

 Page 569  WORK AND WISDOM 2 Īśa Upaniṣad



2 Always performing works here one should wish to live a hundred years. If you live thus as a man, there is no way other than this by which karman (or deed) does not adhere to you.

Kurvann eva: performing works and without desiring their fruits.

The first verse tells us that we win our way to inward freedom, by renunciation, by the withdrawal from the fortunes and misfortunes that shape the outward side of our existence. We are called upon to withdraw from the world's work not in body but in mind, in intention, in spirit.' Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.'

jijīviṣet: should wish to live jivitam icchet.

na karma lipyate nare: by which karma does not adhere to you. When we act by merging the individual in the cosmic purpose and by dedicating all action to God, our action does not bind, since we are no more entangled m selfish desire.

Saṁkara argues that this and the following verses refer to those who are not competent to know the self and who are called upon to perform works enjoined in the Vedas. He makes out that the way of knowledge is for saṁnyāsins and the way of action for others.  

The purport of this verse, is, however, that salvation is attained by the purification of the heart resulting from the performance of works done with the notion that these are all for the sake of the Lord and dedicated to Him. Works done in this spirit do not bind the soul.

According to Sarṁkarānanda, this verse is addressed to those who desire salvation, but cannot renounce the world.

The importance of work is stressed m this verse. We must do works and not refrain from them. Embodied man cannot refrain from action, he cannot escape the life imposed on him by his embodiment. The way of true freedom is not abstention from action but conversion of spirit.

Wisdom is beautiful but barren without works. St James: 'Faith, apart from works, is dead ' II. 26.

The author points out that action is not incompatible with wisdom. There is a general tendency to regard contemplation as superior to action. This judgment is not peculiar to India. In the New Testament, Martha chose the good part and Mary the better. What Martha chose, ministering to the hungry, the thirsty and the homeless will pass away, but Mary chose to contemplate, see the vision of God, and it shall not be taken away from her. The Upaniṣad says that it is not necessary to withdraw from active life to give oneself up to the contemplative. Besides, no one can come to contemplation without having exercised the works of the active life.


570 The Principal Upaniṣads 4

St Gregory says, 'We ascend to the heights of contemplation by the steps of the active life ' Morals on  job, XXXI 102.


3. Demoniac, verily, are those worlds enveloped m blinding darkness, and to them go after death, those people who are the slayers of the self.

Asuryā: appertaining to the Asuras, those who delight only in physical life (asu), those who are devoted to the nourishing of their lives, and addicted to sensual pleasures.

aśūryā: sunless.

Siddhānta kaumudī: gives two derivations for the word sūrya.

He is the lord who makes men work From him are derived all incentives to work.

For S asuras are those who are not the knowers of the Self. The term includes all persons, from men to the highest gods, who have not the knowledge of the Supreme Self.

For Sarṁkarānanda those who desire riches are asuras as, by so doing they slay (forget) the all-pervading Self.

andhena tamasā: ignorance which consists in the inability to see one's self.

ātmahano janaḥ: Those who neglect the spirit. Such souls are destined for the joyless, demoniac regions, enveloped in darkness. See B U IV 4 II Ᾱ says that the reference is to those who do not know the Self and thus attribute to it agency, etc.



4. (The spirit) is unmoving, one, swifter than the mind. The senses do not reach It as It is ever ahead of them. Though Itself standing still It outstrips those who run. In It the all-pervading air supports the activities of beings.  

5 Isa Upaniṣad 571 

devāḥ: senses. dyotanād devāḥ Caksur ādīnīndriyāṇi. S.

apaḥ: activities-karmāṇi. S.  

mātariśvan: air because it moves, śvasiti, in the sky, antankṣe.

It is that whose activity sustains all life, on which all causes and effects depend and in which all these inhere, which is called the thread which supports all the worlds (through which it runs).

For Sarṁkarānanda, mātariśvan is sūtrātman.

The whole world has the supreme Self as its basis.

The Supreme is one essence but has two natures, an eternal immutability and an unceasing change. It is stillness and movement. Immovable in Itself, all things are moved from It. The unity and manifoldness are both aspects of the life divine. Unity is the truth and multiplicity is its manifestation. The former is the truth, vidyā, the latter ignorance, avidyā. The latter is not false except when it is viewed in itself, cut off from the eternal unity. Unity constitutes the base of multiplicity and upholds it but multiplicity does not constitute and uphold the unity.  

5. It moves and It moves not; It is far and It is near; It is within all this and It is also outside all this.

These apparently contradictory statements are not suggestive of the mental unbalance of the writer. He is struggling to describe what he experiences through the limitations of human thought and language. The Supreme is beyond the categories of thought. Thought is symbolic and so cannot conceive of the Absolute except through negations, yet the Absolute is not a void. It is all that is in time and yet is beyond time.

It is far because it is not capable of attainment by the ignorant and, It is very near to the knowing for it is their very self.

Vedānta Deśika quotes two verses to show the distance and the intimacy of the Supreme to the undevout and the devout respectively.

These verses indicate the two sides of the Divine, the one and the many, the unmoving and the moving. They do not deny the

 572. The Principal, Upaniṣads 7

reality of either. They see the one in the many. The one is the eternal truth of things; the many its manifestation. The latter is not a figment of the mind. It becomes so when it is divorced from the sense of its eternal background.

All things and beings are the manifestation of the One Supreme which is described through paradoxes. It is swifter than the mind, the senses cannot grasp It, It eludes their hold. Standing, It outstrips all. Rooted in It, all the cosmic forces energize the whole universe. It moves and yet is motionless. It is near, yet distant. It is inside of all and outside of all.

 6 And he who sees all beings in his own self and his own self in all beings, he does not feel any revulsion by reason of such a view.

See BG VI.30

6.30: He who sees Me in all things and who sees all things in Me, I am not lost from his [vision] and he is not lost to Me.

Vijugupsatev. vicikitsate. He has no doubts.

He shrinks from nothing as he knows that the One Self is manifested in the multiple forms.

This verse speaks of the transformation of the soul, its absorption in God in whom is the whole universe. It also points out how unity is the basis of multiplicity and upholds the multiplicity. Therefore the essence of the Supreme is its simple Being. Multiplicity is its becoming.  Brahman is the one self of all and the many are the becomings of the one Being.

 7. When, to one who knows, all beings have, verily, become one with his own self, then what delusion and what sorrow can be to him who has seen the oneness?

Moha: delusion or the veiling of the self, āvaraṇa.

Śoka: sorrow due to vikṣepa or distraction in the manifestation. S.

When the unity is realized by the individual he becomes liberated from sorrow, which is the product of dualities. When the self of the perceiver becomes all things, there can be no source of disturbance or care. The vision of all existences in the Self and of the Self in all existences is the foundation of freedom and joy. The Īśa, the Lord is immanent in all that moves in this world. There is no opposition between the one and the many.

The Upaniṣad opens with the conception of God immanent in the world, asks us to see the creation in God and does not overlook of the fact of a fundamental oneness, ekatvam which alone is Being.

9. Īśa Upaniṣad 573

Eckhart. 'Does the soul know God in the creatures that is merely evening light? Does she know creatures in God that is morning light? But does the soul know God as He who alone is Being, that is the light of midday?' Rudolf Otto: Mysticism· East and West (1932), p52n.  

8. He has filled all; He is radiant, bodiless, invulnerable, devoid of sinews, pure, untouched by evil He, the seer, thinker, all-pervading, self-existent has duly distributed through endless years the objects according to their natures.

Kavih: the seer. He who knows the past, the present and the future. He has intuitive wisdom, while manīṣī is the thinker.

Paribhūḥ: all-pervading. As the cosmic soul He pervades the universe. Saṁkara says that the omniscient Lord allotted different functions to the various and eternal Prajā-patis known popularly as years.


9. Into blinding darkness enter those who worship ignorance and those who delight in knowledge enter into still greater darkness, as it were.

See B.U IV 4-10

S interprets avidyā to mean ceremonial piety and vidyā as knowledge of the deities. The former leads to the world of the manes and the latter to the world of gods. S feels that vidyā cannot refer to the knowledge of Brahman for it cannot lead to greater darkness. If we are lost in the world of birth, becoming, we overlook our pure being. If we concentrate on the latter, we will also be onesided. We must look upon the Absolute as the one and the many, as both the stable and the moving. It is both immanent and transcendent.

The verse refers also to the dichotomy of work and wisdom and suggests that while those who are lost in works without the wisdom of the spirit enter into darkness, those who are exclusively devoted to the pursuit of wisdom, to the neglect of works, enter into still greater darkness. Selfish seekers of spiritual wisdom miss their aim.

574 The Principal Upaniṣads 11.

The Upaniṣad repudiates both schools of thought-those who hold that salvation is attained only by means of works and those who hold that it is to be attained by knowledge alone. It supports Kumārila who advocates a combination of knowledge and works. Kumārila says that even as a bird cannot fly in the heaven by one wing only but only by both the wings, even so man can gain salvation only by the combined pursuit of knowledge and works. Contemplative and active lives should go together 'Faith without works is dead.'  

It is also said that avidyā applies to the selfish people who desire worldly possessions and vidyā. to those who say 'I am Brahman' without the actual realization of this truth. S.  

The state of those who are lost in ignorance and cling to external props is pitiable indeed, but the state of those who are intellectually learned but spiritually poor is worse. The darkness of intellectual conceit is worse than that of ignorance. The writer is here distinguishing between knowledge by description and knowledge by acquaintance or experience.

 10. Distinct, indeed, they say, is the result of knowledge and distinct, they say, is the result of ignorance. Thus have we heard from those wise who have explained to us these.

We cannot grasp the nature of ultimate Reality by either discursive knowledge or lack of it.  

If knowledge and ignorance are both real, it is because consciousness of oneness and consciousness of multiplicity are different sides of the supreme self-awareness. The one Brahman is the basis of numberless manifestations.  

11. Knowledge and ignorance, he who knows the two together crosses death through ignorance and attains life eternal through knowledge.

See Maitrī VII 9.

Vidyā is equated with knowledge of deities and avidyā with karma. S makes out that by the performance of rites we overcome death and by the meditation on deities we attain immortality, which is becoming one with the deity meditated upon.

Vedānta Deśika quotes a verse where it is said that by austerity we destroy sins and by wisdom we attain life eternal.

ubayaṁ saha: the two together. Works though they do not by themselves lead to salvation, are helpful in preparing our hearts for it. If we imagine that we can attain the highest wisdom without such previous preparation, we are mistaken. If we give ourselves to what is not knowledge we are mistaken, if we delight altogether in knowledge despising work we are also mistaken.1 S.  

Avidyā is regarded as an essential prerequisite for spiritual life. Man cannot rise to spiritual enlightenment if he has not first through avidyā become conscious of himself as a separate ego. In spiritual life we transcend this sense of separateness. To reach the higher self we must do battle with the lower. The endowment of intellectuality or avidyā is justified on the ground that it creates the conditions for its own transformation. If we remain at the intellectual level, look upon it not only as a means but as the end in itself, if we deny the reality of life eternal to which we have to rise, then we suffer from intellectual pride and spiritual blindness. The knowledge of discursive reason is essential, but it has to be transcended into the life of spirit. Avidyā must be transcended in vidyā. Avidyā has its place. Without it there is no individual, no bondage, no Iiberation.2  


I2. Into blinding darkness enter those who worship the unmanifest and into still greater darkness, as it were, those who delight in the manifest.

Asambhūti: the unmanifest, the undifferentiated prakṛti. We get our rewards according to our beliefs. 

1Augustine: 'Two virtues are set before the soul of man, the one active, the other contemplative, the one whereby we journey, the other whereby we reach our Journey's end; the one whereby we toil that our heart may be cleansed for the vision of God; the other whereby we repose and see God; the one lies in the precepts for carrying on this temporal life, the other in the doctrine of that life which is eternal. Hence it is that the one toils, and the other reposes; for the former is purgation of sins, the latter in the light (or illumination) of the purgation effected.’

Quoted in Dom Cuthbert Butler’s Western Mysticism (1922).

2'Avidyā meaning the normal run of life based upon  the procreative institution of marriage is treated as a means of preventing physical discontinuity, and vidyā meaning the leading of chaste life, the practice of austerities and the pursuit of higher knowledge as a means of realizing  of the immortality of soul.' B.M. Barua: Ceylon Lectures (1945). P.201n 

576   The Principal Upaniṣads   14. 

asambhūti: non-becoming. Those who do not believe in re-birth may be referred to.

sambhūti· the manifest, the lord of the phenomenal world, kāryabrahma Hiraṇya-garbha. S. It is sometimes said that asambhūti means that the world has no creator, that it is produced, preserved and destroyed by its own nature. Those who hold such a view are the naturalists See B G XVI 8, 9, 20

BG16.8:  They say, "this world is unreal, without basis, without Isvara or God, without a primordial cause but born of reciprocal union between man and woman. What other cause can there be except lust-cause [sexual union]?"

BG16.9: Holding this view, the lost souls of meager intelligence and violent actions become strong and harmful causing destruction of the world.

BG16.20:  Fallen into the demonic wombs birth after birth, the fools never reach me, O Kaunteya, and go to the lowest state. Prepared by Veeraswamy Krishnaraj 

The Supreme is neither of these in the sense that he is not also the other. If we identify the Supreme with the manifest, it would be pantheism in the sense that the whole of the Divine nature finds expression in the manifested world, leaving nothing over, and it is a wrong view. Again, if the world of becoming were not there, it would all disappear in what would seem a world of undifferenced abstraction Within the depths of the spirt there is unfolded before us the drama of God's dealings with man and man's with God. Unity and multiplicity are both aspects of the Supreme and therefore the nature of the Supreme is said to be inconceivable.  

I3 Distinct, indeed, they say, is what results from the manifest, and distinct, they say, is what results from the unmanifest. Thus have we heard from those wise who have explained to us these.

Those who worship the Creator Hiraṇya-garbha obtain supernatural powers those who worship the Unmanifested principle of prakṛti get absorbed into it. 

14. He who understands the manifest and the unmanifest both together, crosses death through the unmanifest and attains life eternal through the manifest.

S tells us that sambhūti here means asambhūti vināśa is taken as effect and so sambhūti.

Vedanta Deśika and Kūranārāyaṇa dispute S' interpretation.  

I8. Īśa Upaniṣad 577 

To be absorbed m the world around without turning to the principle at the base of it is one extreme, to be absorbed in the contemplation of the transcendent infinite indifferent to the events of the manifested world because they are likely to disturb inward serenity and self-complacency is another extreme. This verse asks us to lead a life in the manifested world with a spirit of nonattachment, with the mind centered in the unmanifest. We must live in this world without being choked by it. We must center our thoughts in the eternal remembering that the eternal is the soul of the temporal.  


15. The face of truth is covered with a golden disc Unveil it, O Pūṣan, so that I who love the truth may see it.  

See BU V. is 1-3  

16. O Pūṣan, the sole seer, O Controller, O Sun, offspring of Prajā-pati, spread forth your rays and gather up your radiant light that I may behold you of loveliest form. Whosoever is that person (yonder) that also am I.   Prepared by Veeraswamy Krishnaraj 

17. May this life enter into the immortal breath; then may this body end in ashes. O Intelligence, remember, remember what has been done. Remember, O Intelligence, what has been done, Remember.  

18. O Agni, lead us, along the auspicious path to prosperity, O God, who knowest all our deeds. Take away from us deceitful sins. We shall offer many prayers unto thee.  

Verses 15-18 are uttered at the time of death. Even to-day they are used by the Hindus in their funeral rites. We are required to  

578 The Principal Upaniṣads 18 

remember our past deeds as their results accompany the departing soul and determine the nature of the future life.

The Upaniṣad emphasizes the unity of God and the world and the union of the two lives, the contemplative and the active. We cannot have the contemplative life without the active. We must cleanse our souls to ascend the heights of contemplation. The seers of the Upaniṣads, the Buddha, Jesus have set an example not to neglect the work of the world through love of contemplation. They are noted for their stability and poise. Their calm was a vigilant one. They act without selfishness and help without patronizing.