Ishavasya Upanishad with Shankara’s Commentary

by M. Hiriyanna | 1911 | 8,153 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 2 - Devotion to Karma

Thus the purport of the text is that after renouncing the three-fold desire for offspring etc., the knower of Self should save himself by devotion to true knowledge. And to the rest who not being knowers of Self, are unable to realise it, the (next) verse states as follows—


Īśāvāsyopaniṣad, verse 2

कुर्वन्न् एवेह कर्माणि जिजीविषेच्छतं समाः ।
एवं त्वयि नान्यथेतोऽस्ति न कर्म लिप्यते नरे ॥ २ ॥

kurvann eveha karmāṇi jijīviṣecchataṃ samāḥ |
evaṃ tvayi nānyatheto'sti na karma lipyate nare || 2 ||

2. Always performing karma here, one should desire to live, for a hundred years. So long as thou (seekest to live) a mere man, no other (path) exists (where) activity does not taint thee.


Śaṅkara’s Commentary

Kurvanneva= always performing. iha =(here) karmāni = rites such as agnihotra. jijīviṣet =one should desire to live. śatam =one hundred in number. samāḥ= years. For thus much is known to be the maximum age of man. Since (this is) a (mere) iteration (of an empirically known fact) what should be taken as enjoined (here) is that, if one should desire to live a hundred years, he should live only performing karma. evam= in this manner. in regard to you), nare i.e. when you live content to be a mere man. itaḥ i.e., from this present course of performing karma like agnihotra. different course, na asti =does not exist; in which course evil action does not stain; i.e., you do not get tainted by sin. Wherefore if one should desire for life Tone should live) throughout performing karma such as agnihotra prescribed by the śāstra.

How is it to be understood that the former verse assigns to a sannyāsin devotion to knowledge and the latter, only devotion to karma to one incapable of it (Self-realisation)? We reply—Do you not remember the aforesaid antithesis between jñāna and karma which remains unshakable as a mountain? Here also the same has been expressly stated in verses 1 and 2,—(that he who seeks to live must perform karma and that he who does not, must give up all desire. The same conclusion may be arrived at) from the (following) directions to sannyāsins—“He should desire neither for life, nor for death; he should enter a forest. This is the law.” “He should not thence return”. The difference in result between the two will also be pointed out later on. (Another statement of the like import is) “These two paths only appeared in the beginning—the path of activity and (the path) of withdrawal.” Of these two, renunciation is higher, cf. Taittirīya Āraṇyaka “Renunciation alone excelled”. And Vyāsa, the great Vedic teacher, after much reflection, taught his son definitely as follows—“The Vedas aim at inculcating these two paths—one termed the path of activity and the other, of renunciation.”

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