Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Isa Upanisad : An Attempt at Interpretation In the Light of the Gita and the Bhagavata


An Attempt at Interpretation

Arunava Gupta

The Isa Upanisad appears to be an abstruse text, with many terms and concepts difficult to pierceTP[1]PT and commentators varying considerably in their interpretations. In this paper, an attempt is made to decipher the meaning of the Isa drawing from the ‘resources’ – ideas and teachings - of the other seminal texts of Hinduism such as the Bhagavad-Gita and the Srimad-Bhagavata which may, besides aiding in our understanding of the text, also facilitate a more constructive engagement with it. [For the PDF of this paper, click here]

The passage beginning īśā vāsyam ida sarva to kurvann eveha karmāiTP[2]PT

In the very first verse of the Isa itself (right after the santi-patha or the peace invocation) is encountered a ‘difficult’ term. Some scholars seem to opine that ‘īśā vāsyam ida sarva’ means ‘all this is enveloped by the Lord’ while others feel that ‘dwelt in’ might be more appropriate[3]PT. While admitting that these two meanings need not be mutually exclusive- surely they are not, as lines such as sarvāi bhūtāny ātmany, ‘all beings within the Self (IsUp_6) quite clearly demonstrate - one feels that, as is the general consensus, the latter reading is more apposite in the context of the work in question. The maturest products of the Hindu spiritual mind have always laid more stress on the immanent aspect of GodTP[4]PT. Krishna, for instance, in the Bhagavata, exhorts Uddhava to seek sole-refuge (Eka-Sarana) in Him who is ‘sarva dehinam’, the ‘Soul of all embodied beingsTP[5]PT’. The great preachers of the devotional Bhakti movements are also no exception to this. Sankaradeva, illustrating the all-pervasive immanence of the Lord, says, “In Thy sva-rupa as Isa, O Hari, Thou art seated in all containers (bodies), just as the sky is contained within all pitchers[6]PT”. Therefore, rather than ‘all this is enveloped by the Lord’, the more appropriate translation would be ‘all this is dwelt in by the Lord’ or ‘within all beings, the Lord resides’. That would bring out the immanence of God more clearly. The Lord, the atman (Self) of the world, is present (as the supreme consciousness) within ‘whatever living being there is in the world’. He is not merely a transcendent God but also an immanent Lord.

It is at this point that one feels that, although not considered (in certain editions) to be an integral part of the mula text of the Isa, the santi-patha (purnamadah) or ‘peace-invocation’ prepended to it, seems to determine the ‘agenda’, so to speak, of this Upanishad. The first verse’s īśā vāsyam ida sarva follows beautifully from it. The higher wisdom, we get an inkling, is set to be revealed within the ‘frame of reference’ of an immanent Self. It is likely that purnam here is an epithet of the Lord. As regards meaning, it seems to have a great connection with the famous catuhsloki contained in the Srimad-BhagavataTP[7]PT. That the (complete) Lord alone existed in the beginning (pre-creation), that it is only He who is to be perceived within the entire creation, the transcendent God becoming immanent, fully or immutably, within His creation[8]PT and that, at the end, ‘when the full is subtracted from the full’ – when He withdraws His own creation – it is He alone who remains, immutably again, as the ‘resultant’ (avasisyate), as it were – this seems to be the eternal truth conveyed by these verses.

But, our seer seems to be more concerned with the ‘middle stage’ implied in the invocation. This is understandable as for the embodied beings, the immediate concern is not so much with things occurring pre-creation or post-creation, but rather with the path one ought to tread presently. What is the ‘good path to the felicity’ – the supathā in the final stanza - for man to follow in this world that will lead to the Highest Good?

Now, the Isa is a short Upanisad. Therefore, it comes straight to the point or, at least, that is what the reader is led to think. A view is immediately put forth that ‘as all this is permeated by the Lord’ (in continuation of the line of thinking in the santi-patha), therefore, men should ‘enjoy leading a life of renunciation’, doing only ‘niskama karma’, desireless (ritual) action according to some traditional commentators, and should not ‘aspire for others’ wealth’. This is, without doubt, advice practical and sound, especially for the man of the world, but, to the critical ‘connoisseur’ of the Upanisad, it still does not quite taste of the higher wisdom one expects from the ‘End of the Vedas’. Which leads one to suspect if it is a view put forward simply for demolishing.

Proponents of the theory of karma (works) are quick to leap on this, however, and, in the next verse, kurvann eveha karmāi (‘verily by doing works alone’). The exponents of the Arya Samaj feel that this highlights the supremacy of the performance of Vedic karmaTP[9]PT. It must be noted that ‘karma’ here is interpreted by many commentators as the religious duties enjoined by the VedaTP[10]PT. And it may well be so. But is this really the verdict, the siddhanta, of the text or merely a tentative thesis (for demolishing) put forward by the seer himself or some purva-paksa? Could it be a ‘lower truth’ - a stepping stone to higher things - or maybe, just a part of the dialogue as in the Gita, for instance?

The answer seems to lie in the scoffing tone of the author. Now, tone is one thing that not all translators try to grasp, but it seems necessary to factor in this important aspect into the translation as, thereby, many subtle shades of (hidden) meaning may be revealed. “Simply perform desireless works and live happily for a hundred years, jijīviecchata samā (is there anything more that you want!)” This scoffing nature of the tone of the preceptor assumes significance in the light of the fact that many prayers in the Vedas were largely petitions for long life, etc. Thus, by this tentative ‘assertion’, the seer seems to be mocking at those who, regarding the Lord as an ordinary deity, may be prone to seeking such material gains from Him. They would be the ones whose minds have not yet been fully soaked in the Glory of the immanent God.

Of course, again, this ‘path’ might also be a way of testing the student-seeker, in the manner of a Yama testing Naciketas, for instance, or Krishna, Arjuna. If the seeker is satisfied with this ‘path’, and goes away (in the manner of a Bali in the Chandogya, for instance), then there is no need for any upward ascent[11]PT.

The passage beginning asuryā nāma te lokā

In this, it appears, there is the censure of ‘all those people who kill the Self’. Although it is not explicitly specified who these people are, it may safely be assumed from the internal evidence afforded by the text (e.g., IsUp_9, 12) that these are the people who have not grasped the correct knowledge of the Reality, perhaps as a result of betaking to false paths. In Muller’s rendering, they are the ones “Twho perform works, without having arrived at a knowledge of the true Self”.T

In any case, they are said to fall after death into worlds ‘demonic’ or ‘sunlessTP[12]PT’ enveloped by ‘blinding darkness’. This is in consequence of their spiritual suicide. In Vedanta, ignorance is always dark and death-like. People who do not follow the true, sun-lit path will most certainly grope in darkness.

‘Killing’ the Self would mean the misidentification of (imperishable) self with (perishable) bodyTP[13]PT, an ‘act’ more sinful than it is fatal for, thereby, Spirit is reduced to matter. The in-dwelling Lord, eternal, undying, unborn, is reduced to lowly impermanence. For this heinous crime against Spirit, the individual self is condemned ultimately to be ensnared in the vicious cycle of births and deaths.

This verse, one feels, is some sort of a link between the ‘lower truth’ pronounced in IsUp_1, 2 and the higher wisdom to follow. Before moving on to illuminate the mind of the aspirant, the seer seems to consider it necessary to alert the seeker to the danger that attends on imperfect knowledge and/or a false path. That may also be his way of repudiating the notion of ‘desireless works’ advanced tentatively in the earlier verses.

The passage beginning anejad eka manaso to tad ejati tan naijati

After negating the theory of works, the positive instruction here begins. These verses seem to be truly Vedantic in character. The inconceivable, inestimable potencies of God are first revealed. These are beyond the grasp of intellect. He is no ordinary person. Even the gods cannot catch Him. He is peerless. He seems to be a transcendental Person. He is both transcendent and immanent. Within Him all causal processes (of the cosmos) go on (‘Matarisvan places the waters’) and yet how supremely amazing it is that He Himself is within this causal process (tad antar asya sarvasya)!

The passage beginning yas tu sarvāi bhūtāny to sa paryagāc chukram

The teaching in verses IsUp_6-8 seems to be more prescriptive in nature. We must see the Lord in all (and all in the Lord). Knowing is not enough; we must see (anupaśyati). Once this oneness is internalized, delusion, sorrow et al simply vanishes. All is the Lord. Whom shall we fear, whom shall we hate.

The Self will then not seek to ‘hide’ from us (na vijugupsate) i.e. following the true path, ignorance is removed; blessed with the seer’s vision, we would then see the Lord seated in our heart (inmost consciousness). ‘It does not hide from him’ seems to be the immediate meaning. But, of course, ‘he does not hate anybody’ is also an excellent interpretation which, however, would follow automatically from the more immediate meaning.

IsUp_8 seems to lay down the ‘benefits’ of following such a path. Perhaps the idea conveyed here is that he who has acquired true knowledge of the Self ‘reaches’ the Self, that ageless, eternal One, that ‘wise sage’ who ‘disposed all things rightly for eternal years’. He realizes that like the Lord, he too is ‘bright, incorporeal, scatheless, pure’. He is really ‘without sinews’, ‘without muscles’. ‘I am not this body’– realization dawns. Body is un-eternal.

The passage beginning andha tama praviśanti to sabhūti ca vināśa ca

This section seems to be concerned with determining the parameters of true worship or upasana. We must exercise discrimination in our process of upasana. The approach of the seer is as discriminating as that of the swan. Equipped with true vidya, only the Lord must be worshipped. Only Spirit, not matter.

True knowledge (vidya) is knowledge of the Self, the Lord (as already taught by the seer in the preceding verses). Similarly, the true unmanifested (asambhūti) is really the Lord, the Self. But, if one were to commit the fatal mistake of (falsely) identifying the real with the unreal, then, again, as in IsUp_3 (asuryā nāma te lokā), one is condemned to fall into the andha tama, the ‘blinding darkness’ of the ‘sunless worlds’.

They who are steeped in rank ignorance ‘make a cult of nescience’. They degrade themselves spiritually by such worship but receiving the counsel of the saints and seers, they would correct themselves. They did not know. In that way, their ignorance holds them in good stead. But the middle category of half-learned persons who have crossed the stage of total ignorance (by possessing imperfect knowledge) yet have not grasped the correct knowledge of Reality (but would never admit it, unlike the totally ignorant,) are irredeemable. Their minds are closed. They plunge, as it were, into greater darkness. The Bhagavata talks of such ‘godless people’ who, shrouding their Self in ignorance, mistake karma for knowledge and fall down deep into hellTP[14]PT.

The following diagram may help us to analyze the ideas contained in these verses with some clarity. The shaded boxes are the ‘rungs’ of a mental ladder corresponding to the upward climb of the intellect through a systemic process of discernment.

The Upward Climb of The Intellect

To obtain the true knowledge, shedding ignorance is not sufficient. We must also come out of false knowledge. Similarly, rejecting matter (in the process of upasana) is not enough; we must also reject the material manifestations, in order to receive the embrace of the Pure Spirit. If we do not endeavor to understand these concepts and entities ‘both together’, then we will fall. If we are stuck in a ‘higher’ stage of ignorance, for instance, we fall harder than the ones below on the ‘lower rung’ of this (mental) ladder. But if we climb ‘both together’ these two ‘rungs’ of avidya and false-vidya, then we attain ‘immortality’, the true knowledge of the Self. Then, truly we transcend ‘avidya’ (the dotted line in the figure above). From this point, there is no fall.  

In other words, in the case of avidya-vidya discernment, first we (1) eliminate total ignorance, climb up, then (2) eliminate false-knowledge, climb up and, finally, True Knowledge is reached.

In the second set of verses, ‘asambhūti’ tends to remind us of the ‘unmanifested prakrti’, the lower, non-eternal avyakta, mentioned by Krishna in the Gita[15]. Emergence and dissolution are the twin-processes of the material realm. Though, from the stand-point of the process of cosmic evolution, unmanifested prakrti may occupy a higher position than the material manifestations of God such as the demi-gods, still, for the process of mental discernment, inverse has to be the case. We do not rise up to (soul-less) matter, rather climb up from it. Therefore, unlike in the analysis of the first pair (avidya and vidya), we first have to invert the ‘ladder’. Then the discernment begins as before: first we (1) reject matter, climb up, then (2) reject ‘matter plus soul’, climb up and finally the non-dual Spirit is reached.

In both cases (avidya-vidya, asambhūti-sambhūti) we must climb ‘both together’ (vedobhaya saha). Otherwise, little learning will prove to be dangerous thing. Multiplicity will be perceived rather than unity. And the consequences in both cases are far more hellish.

In order to bring out the meaning of this abstruse passage more clearly, the following translation is proposed: -

“They who worship ignorance enter into blinding darkness
They who delight in false-knowledge into darkness greater still || IsUp_9 ||

“Quite other[16] is the result obtained from false-knowledge
Other (of course) is the result obtained from ignorance
When we do not know BOTH TOGETHER || IsUp_10 ||

But, if we know BOTH of them– false-knowledge and ignorance –TOGETHER, then
Climbing up from ignorance to false-knowledge, one crosses death
AND climbing up from false-knowledge to True Knowledge, attains to immortality” || IsUp_11 ||

“They who worship prakrti, the false unmanifested, enter into blinding darkness
They who delight in worshiping the material manifestations into darkness greater still || IsUp_12 ||

“Quite other[17] is the result obtained from material manifestations
Other (of course) is the result obtained from prakrti, the false unmanifested
When we do not know BOTH TOGETHER || IsUp_13 ||

But, if we know BOTH of them– material manifestations and matter –TOGETHER, then
Climbing up from matter to manifestation, one crosses death
AND climbing up from manifestation to the True Unmanifested- the Pure Spirit -attains to immortality” || IsUp_14 ||

Upasana, translated rather loosely as ‘worship’, is a subtle but critical process. False, unscientific upasana can degrade the mind towards matter instead of elevating it towards Spirit. Therefore one must first engage in tattva-vicara, a thorough analysis of the ‘eternal’ and the ‘non-eternal’.

The passage beginning hiramayena pātrea toann ekare yama

The teaching now appears to be moving swiftly towards its final climax. There is a sudden acceleration[18]; the tone of the seer seems to be suddenly charged with a new energy. It is one associated with intense emotionalism. The poet-seer’s heart is a-thrill with joy (so 'ham asmi!) Are we seeing the germ of Bhakti in the Isa?

The seer sees the Lord as a (transcendental) person; he sees the ‘face’ of God as being covered, hidden by a ‘golden vessel’. ‘Hidden’ is perhaps more apposite, in tune with vijugupsate in an earlier verse (IsUp_6).  Clearly, this ‘vessel’ is playing an obscuring role for, unless something obscures, one would not entreat tat tvaann apāvṛṇu. As the passage itself says, it is masking (apihita) the face of the True, ‘the nature of the True’ (satyadharmāya).

In the light of what has already been said in the earlier verses, we are almost irresistibly drawn towards the conclusion that in this there is the repudiation of the doctrine of karma or activism. According to the Monier Williams' Sanskrit-English Dictionary, pātrīya means ‘a kind of sacrificial vessel’. In the Brihadaranyaka, there is indeed a reference to a golden sacrificial vessel[19]PT. ‘Works’ (karma-kanda) is blocking true spirituality, the realization of the Self, atma-tattva;hiramayena pātrea’ is the poet-seer’s way, perhaps, of expressing this.

An important conclusion that could be drawn in the light of ‘vijugupsate’ earlier is that the doctrine of the ‘golden vessel’ is incompatible with the realization of the immanent Glory of the Lord, a barrier to viewing the Lord in the heart of beings[20]PT. As soon as that barrier is removed, the realization (of this immanence) dawns – “I am He!TP[21]PT

The passage beginning vāyur anilam amtam to agne naya supathā rāye

In these two climactic verses, we see the ‘final movement’ of the Upanisad (in Sri Aurobindo’s words). The ‘golden vessel’ - the doctrine of works - has now been removed. The death-like ignorance is dying; deha-buddhi, the false identification of the self with body, is disappearing; nitya-anitya vastu-viveka, discrimination between eternal and non-eternal, has dawned.

The seeker will now surrender completely reposing firm faith in the Lord. We can almost hear at this point the preceptor saying, as in the Gita, “The Lord abides in the hearts of all beings. Flee unto Him for shelter with all Thy being, O BharataTP[22]PT”.

Some commentators have pointed out that that these lines are supposed to be uttered by a man in the hour of death. The seer is suddenly seen to be making preparations to leave the mortal coil. This physical interpretation is somewhat surprising considering the fact that in Vedanta, the unreal is verily death, the darkness is verily death and, so, if we pick up this thread of understanding, then it would not be difficult to accept that ignorance is verily death. Assuming that the previous verses, especially IsUp_9-14, were designed to remove the ignorance of the aspirant which indeed they looked like doing, then it is quite apparent that rather than the seer, it is the death-like ignorance of the seeker that is now going. He now identifies himself neither with the gross body nor with the vital air(s) but with the Self.

 ‘Krato’ seems to refer not to ‘deed’ as in some translations but rather to the Lord. In the Gita (9:16), Krishna says, “I am kratu (the ritual action)”. Similarly, ‘kritam’ would refer to the Supreme Truth or God Himself.  Such a belief would be strengthened by Krishna’s ‘Fix thy mind on Me’ (manmana bhava) in the Gita which, like in the Isa, also comes in the final stage of the Teaching.

The words agne naya supathā rāye again look to be the words not of the preceptor but of the pupil. “O God! O Agni! Lead us by the good path to the felicity”. ‘Agni’ here most likely is an epithet used to address the Lord in His capacity as the giver of light or the dispeller of ignorance– the supreme teacher, the Guru. The student-seeker thus appears to have taken sole-refuge in his Preceptor: -

“Lead me from the unreal to the real! Lead me from darkness to light! Lead me from death to immortality![23]

The whole of the Isa, in fact, appears to be structured in the manner of a dialogue. Of course, in texts as pithy and aphoristic as the Isa, the speaker would never be indicated, but a close reading of the text does lead to a feeling that this is not a monologue here; there are two parties necessarily involved in this discourse and these two must inevitably be the pupil and the teacher, for the very etymology of ‘Upanishad’ suggests ‘sitting down near a teacher to receive instruction’. Krishna and Arjuna in the Gita is the best example of such a combination. In Hindu thought, spiritual knowledge is best transmitted through this dialogue between teacher and student. In view of these factors, viewing the Isa as a soliloquy would not be, we feel, doing full justice to this important text.

This last verse again is striking, ‘lead us along the good path to riches […] and the highest song of praise, we shall offer to you’. This seems to be a radical transformation of the traditional Vedic prayer[24]PT seeking material benefits to one that seeks now only spiritual ‘gain’. Hereafter, it seems, prayer is to be the only offering[25]PT.

The Path of the Isa Upanisad

From this discussion, the following may be said to be a rough outline of the Path suggested by the Isa: -

  1. Know the Lord of Infinite Glory as immanent in all beings, seated in the hearts of all – (īśā vāsyam ida sarva, sarvabhūteu cātmāna)
  2. Know the body as destructible (bhasmānta śarīram) and only the Lord, the Self, as eternal (asnāvira, chāśvatībhya)
  3. Finally, surrender oneself completely to the Lord forsaking all karmas (symbolized by hiramayena pātrea); seek sole-refuge (Eka-Sarana in the GitaTP[26]PT and the BhagavataTP[27]PT) in Him.

Such a siddhanta or verdict would be fully consistent with the key utterances and highest teachings of both the Gita and the Bhagavata.

Only when he takes to this supremely beneficial path (supathā rāye) will the Grace of the Lord be bestowed on the seeker; sorrow and delusion then would come to naught (ko moha ka śoka).

Significance of the Isa in Hindu spiritual thought

The Isa Upanisad is certainly a monumental text in so far as it seems to provide the germ for the full development of the path of Bhakti, the maturest phase of which is witnessed in the texts such as the Srimad-Bhagavata, the ‘ripened fruit of the Vedic tree’. The Isa also seems to be the forerunner of the central (Bhaktic) doctrine of Grace of the Lord contained in the Bhagavad Gita. It is in a way the Gita in miniature[28]. Krishna is vedanta-gayaka, the ‘singer of the Vedantic verse’ and He certainly sings many tunes from the Isa.

Profound would be the implications of the Isa at the level of upasana. Worship of prakrti or demi-gods would not find sanction; karma-kanda is sure upbraided.

Hindu spiritual thought, it may be affirmed in the light of this interpretation, is a continuum. The Vedanta teaches that the transcendent and the immanent must be reconciled but the stress is definitely on the Self, the immanent, and this central Vedantic theme persists even in the maturest phases of evolution of Hindu spiritual thought.

TP[1]PT “This Upanishad, though apparently simple and intelligible, is in reality one of the most difficult to understand properly” (Max Muller)

TP[2]PT The transliteration of the verses and the scheme for numbering of the same is from GRETIL etexts
The portions of translations quoted throughout, either in original or in re-phrased form, are mostly from translations of the Isa by Olivelle, Muller and Sri Aurobindo

TP[3]PT Max Muller’s translation, for instance, conveys such a sense in this regard, “All this […] is to be hidden in the Lord” HTU
There also appears to be another reading and that is ‘all this envelops the Lord’. According to Sri Aurobindo, “TThere are three possible senses ofTT TTvasyam, “to be clothed”, “to be worn as garment” and “to be inhabited”. The first is the ordinarily accepted meaning. Shankara explains it in this significance […] The image is of the world either as a garment or as a dwelling-place for the informing and governing Spirit. The latter significance agrees better with the thought of the Upanishad.”

TP[4]PT Radhakrishnan, in his translation of the very first mantra (the ‘peace-invocation’) comments that ‘Brahman is both transcendent and immanent’ (cited in Interpreting the Upanishads, Ananda Wood, 2003, p. 4). But the stress seems to be more on the immanent. If the first few words of the next verse (IsUp_1) were to be read as “The Lord resides in every being of this [creation]”, it would follow quite logically from the earlier verse.
TP[5]PTmamekameva saranamatmanam sarva dehinam’ Srimad-Bhagavata (11.12.15)

TP[6]PTisa svarupe hari sava ghate baithaha jaisana gagana viyapi’. Early History of the Vaisnava Faith and Movement in Assam: Sankaradeva and His Times, Maheswar Neog, Motilal Banarsidass, 1980, p. 180. Translation ours

TP[7]PT aham evāsam evāgre
nānyad yat sad-asat param
paścād ahaḿ yad etac ca
yo 'vaśiṣyeta so 'smy aham (2.9.33)

TP[8]PT It is tempting in this context to bring in the theory of incarnation (avataravada) of God. Reading the Upanishad in a Bhaktic or Bhagavatic light, it would perhaps not be going too far if one were to view the immanent God (purnam idam) residing in all creatures as a kind of avatara. In the Bhagavata (11.4.3), it is found that, When the primeval Lord Nārāyaṇa created His universal body out of the five elements produced from Himself and then entered within that universal body by His own plenary portion, He thus became known as the Puruṣa” [avatara]. HTU
Interestingly, in the Isa also, we find the word ‘purusa’, pyo 'sāv asau purua so 'ham asmi (IsUp_16)

TP[9]PT Isavasyopanisad (along with the commentary of Maharsi Dayananda), p. 36

TP[10]PT The Nine Upanishads, Isa and the others, Hari Krishna Dasa Goyandaka (Int.), Gita Press, Gorakhpur, p. 2

TP[11]PT To digress further, this mocking tone in the second verse apart, there also appears to be a paradoxical tune to the first as well. If indeed “all beings are the Lord”, if all things and properties be, in truth, the Lord’s, then how can one possibly renounce (tyaktena) in the full import of the term? Renunciation, if it were to be true, would assume a person to be really in possession of something but, if, that ‘something’ is in actuality the Lord’s, then how can there be genuine renunciation? Renunciation, therefore, has to be unspiritual, a ‘lower truth’, and tyaktena bhunjitha (interpreted as ‘niskama karma’ by some) cannot be the real path.

TP[12]PT ‘Sunless’ indeed seems to be more apposite, in the context of verses such as IsUp_16. According to Sri Aurobindo, “The third verse is, in the thought structure of the Upanishad, the starting-point for the final movement in the last four verses […] The prayer to the Sun refers back in thought to the sunless worlds and their blind gloom, which are recalled in the ninth and twelfth verses”

TP[13]PT The Bhagavata (11.5.15-17) seems to provide a real clue in this regard.
TP[14]PT “These godless people hate Lord Hari – their very indwelling self who abides in the bodies of others as well (as their Soul); and fixing their attachment to their mortal body….fall down deep into hell.
“Those who have not grasped the correct knowledge of Reality and have crossed the stage of total ignorance (by possessing imperfect knowledge) regard themselves as non-momentary (permanent); […] such persons (who thus follow a suicidal path) ruin themselves.
“Such people shrouding their Self in ignorance and with their desires unrequited, mistake ignorance (karma) for knowledge. Being thwarted in achieving their objects and their hopes and wishes being frustrated by the Time-Spirit they ruin themselves (and suffer misery)”.
The Bhagavata Purana, Translated and Annotated by Dr. GV Tagare, Part V, Motilal Banarsidass, 1978, p. 1923, Slokas 15-17 (11.5). It is striking that the words used to describe such people are ātma-hano 'śāntā. Significantly enough, these were spoken by a ‘master of atmic lore’. The translator (Tagare) makes a note of this connection with the Isa in the footnote. Svami Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada also notes this fact in his commentary on the passage in question. See HTU
[15] “Here the unmanifested [avyakta] is prakrti”, Bhagavad Gita, Radhakrishnan (Tr.), p. 233, ‘Yoga of the Imperishable Absolute’  (8.18)

[16]Quite other’ emphasizes the ‘harder fall’

[17]Quite other’ emphasizes the ‘harder fall’

[18] There is, at this point, a sudden ‘shower’ of exclamation marks in the translations!

TP[19]PT “Verily Day arose after the horse as the (golden) vessel, called Mahiman (greatness), which (at the sacrifice) is placed before the horse”.
“Two vessels, to hold the sacrificial libations, are placed at the Asvamedha before and behind the horse, the former made of gold, the latter made of silver. They are called Mahiman in the technical language of the ceremonial”. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, First Adhyaya, First Brahmana, Max Muller (Tr.)

TP[20]PT The line of reasoning adopted is as follows:-
  1. When a man sees the Self in all beings, He (the Self) does not ‘hide’ from him;
  2. The hiramayena pātrea (theory of karma) is keeping the Self hidden from man; He is, as it were, ‘hiding’ from him;
Therefore, by logic, a probable reason could be that man is not seeing the Self in all beings (not conceiving of the Lord as being immanent in all beings). And, if that be the case, the direct cause would be that hiramayena pātrea (theory of karma). An affirmation of such a view comes from the Srimad-Bhagavata (10.86.47), hrdi-stho 'py_ati-dura-sthah karma-viksipta-cetasam. Also, in 11.12.14 of the same text, Krishna asks Uddhava to renounce both pravrtti and nivrtti types of karmas and then take sole-refuge in Him who is the Soul of all beings,. ‘tasmattvamuddhavotsrjya codanam praticodanam / pravrttinca nivrttinca srotavyam srutameva ca…’

TP[21]PT Rather than ‘I am He!’, the more accurate rendering of so 'ham asmi in this context would perhaps be ‘that (Lord) is (actually) this ‘me’!’ as the supreme truth (purnam adah purnam idam).seems to point inwards rather than outwards.
TP[22]PTisvarah sarvabhutanam hrddese ‘rjuna tisthati […] tam eva saranam gaccha sarvabhavena bharata’, Bhagavad Gita, Radhakrishnan (Tr.), pp. 374-375

[23] Brihadaranyaka (1.3.27)
TP[24]PT “Through Agni man obtaineth wealth, yea, plenty waxing day by day…”, Rig Veda, Hymn I, Book I, RTH Griffith (Tr.)

TP[25]PTThe wordT TvidhemaT Tis used of the ordering of the sacrifice, the disposal of the offerings to the God […] Here the offering is that of completest submission and the self-surrender…”, Sri Aurobindo, op cit

TP[26]PTsarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja’ (Gita, 18.66)

TP[27]PTmamekameva saranamatmanam sarva dehinam / yahi sarvatmabhavena maya syah hyakutobhayah’ Srimad-Bhagavata (11.12.15)

[28] Strikingly enough, the Isa has eighteen verses and the Gita, eighteen chapters. 

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