Ishavasya Upanishad with Shankara Bhashya (Sitarama)

by S. Sitarama Sastri | 1905 | 6,256 words

The Ishavasya Upanishad (or simply Isha) is one of the shortest of its kind, and basically represents a brief philosophical poem discussing the soul/self (Atman). This edition contains the Kanva recension, consisting of 18 verses. The words “Isha vasyam” literally translates to “enveloped by the Lord” and refers to the theory of soul (Atman); a co...

अन्धन्तमः प्रविशन्ति येऽविद्यामुपासते ।
ततो भूय इव ते तमोय उ विद्यायां रताः ॥ ९ ॥

andhantamaḥ praviśanti ye'vidyāmupāsate |
tato bhūya iva te tamoya u vidyāyāṃ ratāḥ || 9 ||

9. They who worship Avidya alone fall into blind darkness; and they who worship Vidya alone fall into even greater darkness.


Shankara’s Commentary:

Com.—The first purport of the Vedas, the acquisition of knowledge of the Brahman by renunciation of all desires has been explained in the first mantra Isavasyam, etc. The second alternative, i.e., the spending of life in continually performing Karma has been explained, for the benefit of the ignorant who are not capable of Gnananishtha, in the second mantra beginning with ‘Kurvanneveha Karmani.’ The bifurcation, i.e., Knowledge and Karma here pointed out by these texts has also been clearly indicated in the Brihadaranya Upanishad, by the text “he wished, let me have a wife, etc.” And from the texts ‘Karma for the ignorant and men having desires’ and ‘the mind is his Atman and speech, bis wife, etc.,’ it is clear that ignorance and desires are the characteristics of one engaged in the performance of Karma. Thus, the result of Karma is the creation of the seven kinds of food and of an indentification of self with them considered, as the Atman. It has also been shown that concentration in the self, i.e., the Atman (as opposed to the performance of Karma) by the renunciation of the three-fold desire of wife, etc., is the only necessary condition for those who know the Atman. Indirectly by condemning the ignorant, the true nature of the Atman has-been disclosed to those sanyasins bent on the acquisition of knowledge by the text beginning with ‘Asurya - nama’ and ending with ‘saparyayat’ etc., so as to show that they alone and not those who have desires are qualified to acquire knowledge. To the same effect says the Svetasvatara Upanishad. “In the midst of a crowd of seers, he taught the greatest and the holiest truth to those who belonged to the highest order of life.” This text “Andhantamah,” etc., is addressed to those who desire to live here continually performing Karma. How is it inferred that this text is addressed to such only and not to all alike?, Because, he who has no desires has got over the false distinction between means and ends, according to the mantraYasmin sarvani bhutani, etc”; for, it is easy to perceive that none who is not a fool will like to associate the knowledge of unity of the Atman with Karma, or with any other piece of knowledge. But here, in view to combining two elements, the ignorant are ridiculed. That which can possibly combine with another, either from logic or from the Sastras, is here pointed out. It is the knowledge of the deities that is here represented as fit to combine with Karma, not the knowledge of the Paramatman; for a distinct result is predicated of the knowledge of the deities by the text by such knowledge, the Devaloka is attained.’ Either of such knowledge and Karma separately pursued is here denounced, not really to condemn but in view to the desirability of their combination; for distinct fruits are said to result from either individually, by the texts “by such knowledge, they climb up to it.” “by such knowledge is Devaloka attained,” “there they do not go who go south” and “by Karma is the abode of the manes attained. It is also well-known that nothing ordained by th e Sastras can ever become unworthy of performance.

Here. They enter into blind darkness. Who? They who follow Avidya. Avidya is something other than Vidya or knowledge, lienee Karma; for Karma is opposed to knowledge. The drift is that those who are continually performing Agnihotra etc., alone, fall into darkness. And they fall even into greater darkness. Who? Those who having given up Karma are always bent upon acquiring the knowledge of the deities. Reason is given for combining Knowledge and Karma each of which separately bears different fruits. If one of the two alone bore fruit and the other not, then by a well-recognised law that which bore no fruit by itself would become a mere appendage to the other.

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