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...

verse 18

अग्ने नय सुपथा राये अस्मान्विश्वानि देव वयुनानि विद्वान् ।
युयोध्यस्मज्जुहुराणमेनो भूयिष्ठां ते नम उक्तिं विधेम ॥ १८ ॥

agne naya supathā rāye asmānviśvāni deva vayunāni vidvān |
yuyodhyasmajjuhurāṇameno bhūyiṣṭhāṃ te nama uktiṃ vidhema || 18 ||

18. O Agni, lead us by the good path to the enjoyment of the fruits of our deeds, knowing O God, all our deeds. Remove the sin of deceit from within us. We offer thee many prostrations by word of mouth. (18).


Shankara’s Commentary:

Com.—He requests passage again by another mantra. Naya means ‘lead.’ ‘Supatha’ means ‘by good path.’ The attribute in Supatha is used for the purpose of avoiding the southern route. The suppliant seems to say “I have been afflicted by going to and for, by the southern route by which one goes only to return. I therefore entreat you to take me by the good road through which there is no going and returning.” ‘Raye’ means ‘to wealth; i.e.. to the enjoyment of the fruits of our Karma.’ ‘Asman means ‘us,’ possessed of the fruits of the virtue aforesaid. ‘Visvani’ means ‘all.’ O God, ‘Vayunani’ means ‘deeds or knowledge.’ ‘Vidvan’ means ‘Knowing.’ Besides do this: ‘Yuyodhi’ means ‘destroy.’ ‘Asmat’ means ‘from us.’ ‘Juhuranam’ means ‘consisting in deceit.’ ‘Enah’ means ‘sin.’ ‘The meaning is:—Thus purified they could attain what they wish for. “But we are now unable to do you active service. We have to content ourselves by offering you many prostrations.”

Now a doubt is raised by some about the construction of the latter halves of mantras 11 and 14. We shall therefore enter into a brief discussion to solve the doubt. What the question is due to shall first he stated. It is, why not understand the term Vidya in those passages in its primary sense of ‘the knowledge of the Paramatmam,’ and so Amritatvam? They argue thus: granted that the knowledge of the Paramatman and the performance of Karma are mutually antagonistic and cannot therefore co-exist, this antagonism is not perceivable; for agreement and antagonism rest alike on the authority of the Sastras. Just as the performance of Karma and the acquisition of Knowledge are matters exclusively based on the Sastras, so also must be the question of their agreement or opposition. Thus we find that the prohibitory injunction ‘Do not kill any liv ing thing is overridden by another Sastraic injunction ‘Kill a sheep in a sacrifice.’ The same may apply to Karma and Knowledge. If from the text “They are opposed and travel different roads. Knowledge and Karma.” it is urged that they cannot co-exist, we say that from the text “He who follows both Knowledge and Karma, etc,” there is no antagonism between them. We answer that cannot he; for. they are opposed to each other in regard to their causes, nature and results. But if it he urged that from the impossibility of Knowledge and Karma being opposed and not opposed to each other and from the injunction to combine them there is no antagonism between them, that is unsound; for their co-existence is impossible. If it he argued that they may gradually grow to coexist. it is untenable; for when Knowledge arises. Karma cannot exist in the individual to whom Knowledge adheres. It is well known that when one knows that fire is hot and bright, he cannot at the same time think that fire is neither hot nor bright; or even entertain a doubt as to whether fire is bright or hot; for, according to the text “When to the knower all living things become one with his own Atman, where is grief or perplexity to one who sees this unity,” grief or perplexity is out of the question. We have already said that where ignorance ceases, its result, Karma, also ceases. The immortality in ‘attains immortality’ (in the passage under contemplation) means relative immortality and not absolute immortality. If the word Vidya in those texts meant the knowledge of the Paramatman, then the entreaty to the Sun for allowing a passage would become inappropriate. We therefore conclude w ith observing that our interpretation, i.e., that the combination desired is of Karma with the worship of the deities and not with the Knowledge of the Paramatman, is the purport of the mantras as commented upon by us.


Here ends the Commentary of Sankara Bhavatpada on the Vajasaneya Samhitopanishad or Isavasyopanishad.

Om! Peace! Peace!! Peace!!!

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