A Glimpse of Ethical Values in Ishopanisad: VPBhatia
तेन त्यक्तेन भुञ्जिथाः मा गृधः कस्य स्विद् धनम् ॥1॥
îsHâ vâsyamidaM sarvaM yat kiñca jagatyâM jagat,
tena tyaktena bhuñjîthâ mâ gRidhaH kasya sviddhanam. 1.
“All this, whatever moves in this universe, including the universe itself moving is indwelt or pervaded or enveloped or clothed by the Lord.. That renounced thou shouldst enjoy. Covet not anybody’s wealth.”
The Isa Upanisad begins with this bold statement that whatever exists in this world is enveloped by the Supreme and that it is by renunciation and absence of possessiveness that the soul is saved. Isha Upanishad is one of the principal Upanishads consisting of only eighteen verses, but of immense significance. It contains a concentrated view of the essential Vedic/vedantic philosophy and the choicest Ethical Values. The subject matter of the Upanishad is spiritual, profound, and all comprehensive. It highlights the divinity of man, as well as all His manifestations in nature. It conveys to us the knowledge conveying the spiritual solidarity and unity of all existence.
Oneness of ‘the Soul and God’, and the value of both ‘faith and works’ as means of ultimate attainment are the leading themes of this Upanishad. It embodies that works alone, even the highest, can bring only temporary happiness and must inevitably bind a man unless through them he gains knowledge of his real Self. To help him acquire this knowledge is the aim of this Upanishad. It shows in a marvellous way the nonmaterial aspects of the Supreme Being, when it describes Him as ‘One who walks but does not walk’. It is a way of relating how the Lord has no material qualities, but has all spiritual qualities and characteristics, leading the seeker to perceive the spiritual truths. The general impression that the Upanisads require world- denial is not quite correct. Isha Upanishad insists on a spirit of detachment (tyagten bhunjitha), which is not indifference to the world and not abandonment of objects but non-attachment to them. We do not raise ourselves above the world by contempt for the world. It is the spirit of equanimity which is insisted upon. To be tranquil is to envy no man, to have no possessions that another can take from us, to fear none. Again, Spirit of renunciation does not mean neglect of social duties. Rare fruits of spirit ripen on the soil of detachment. We should release ourselves from selfish likes and dislikes. The Divine cannot use our mind and body, so long as we wish to use them for our own ends. Detachment is opposed to attachment, not to enjoyment. Enjoy through renunciation (‘ tyagten bhunjitha’ ) is the advice of the Isa Upanisad.
Good and evil do not depend on the acts one does or does not, but on the frame of mind one has. The good man is he who concurs with the divine purpose, and the bad man is he who resists it. If one’s mind is good, one’s acts will be good. Our attempts should not be so much external conformity as inward cleansing. From goodness of being good -will and good- works flow. When the soul is at peace, the greatest sorrows are borne lightly. Life becomes more natural and confident. Changes in outer conditions do not disturb. We let our life flow of its own as the sea leaves or the flower blooms.
Balanced Attitude towards Wealth
The Isha Upanishad presents a balanced view towards wealth like all other social and ethical values. In its very first verse ‘tyagten bhunjitha’ it warns against coveting wealth. It rather explains the real status of wealth in life, suggesting that wealth, being external to life, is not a real value,. We treat wealth as our possessions, but in reality it is not our own, as it remains external to our being. Its value is only an instrumental value as a means to higher ends of life. It can serve as a valuable resource only when it is integrated with a spiritual attitude towards life. Thus, spiritualisation of wealth and other means of life is the opening gospel of Isha Upanishad. Common happiness being the objective test of spiritualisation of wealth, such an attitude of economic value can be construed as economic socialism, which alone can ensure social justice. There is no place for greed and personal aggrandisement in such an economic view. Hence, the Isha Upanishad advises economic contentment with the rider of abandonment of greed. Moreover, verse 15 towards the end of Isha Upanishad indicates the likely illusion if the opening gospel is not followed:
“ The face of Truth is covered with a brilliant golden lid,
that do thou remove O Fosterer, for the law of truth, for sight.”(Isha -15)
Amassing of wealth makes a man vain and deludes him away from truth. Infatuation of wealth blinds one’s vision of truth. It is only vision of spiritual reality or grace of God, which can remove this golden covering and can help a truth-loving man to see the truth. This can be possible only when one visualises the world as a kingdom of God and enjoys things with contentment but without greed, as a sacred gift from God, with full understanding that the wealth of the world is not his property and it is also not his integral being. After all, whose wealth it is all this? None, except His.
This balanced economic view enshrined in the Isha Upanishad first presents this principle of right economic adjustment, which can also be conducive to spiritual salvation, and then in the end it also indicates the delusion which results from lust/infatuation of wealth and also the need of dispelling this delusion for realisation of truth in life. Thus, this view of Isha reconciles material life with spiritual salvation of man. All this proves the moderate economic view of the Upanishadic sages, which is ‘tyagten bhunjitha’ i.e. enjoy with contentment but abjuring greed. Such a view presents a restricted and qualified recognition of economic value, which is, ultimately, in consonance with the spiritual view of life.
Īsha’s Resolution of the Opposites:
In Īsha Upanishad, there are certain pairs of OPPOSITES intermingled in its eighteen verses, which need resolution, in tune with the basic principle of the Upanishad. The principle followed throughout is the uncompromising reconciliation of uncompromising extremes. We are confronted with the terms like the World, Enjoyment, Renunciation Action, Knowledge , the One and the Many, Birth, Death, the Knowlesge and the Ignorance,etc. and in later verses , a more secondary position has been given, exalting the opposite series, God, Renunciation, Quietism, the One, Cessation of Birth, the Knowledge until this trend of thought culminated in Illusionism and the idea of existence in the world as a snare and a meaningless burden imposed inexplicably on the soul by itself, which must be cast aside as soon as possible. This Upanishad tries instead to get hold of the extreme ends of the knots, disengage and place them alongside of each other in a right placing and relation. It will not qualify or subordinate unduly any of the extremes, although it recognizes a dependence of one on the other. Renunciation is to go to the extreme, but also enjoyment is to be equally integral; Action has to be complete and ungrudging, but also freedom of the soul from its works must be absolute; Unity, utter and absolute, is the goal, but this absoluteness has to be brought to its highest term by including in it the whole infinite multiplicity of things.
So great is this scruple in the Upanishad that having so expressed itself in the formula “By the ignorance having crossed over death, by the knowledge one enjoys Immortality”(Verse 11) that life in the world might be interpreted as only a preliminary to an existence beyond, it at once rights the balance by reversing the order in the parallel formula “By dissolution having crossed over death by birth one enjoys immortality”, and thus makes life itself the field of the immortal existence which is the goal and aspiration of all life. This is in consonance with the early Vedic thought which believed all the worlds and existence and non-existence and death and life and immortality to be here in the embodied human being, there evolvement, being realizable and to be possessed and enjoyed, not dependent either for acquisition or enjoyment on the renunciation of life and bodily existence. The enjoyment of the infinite delight of existence free from ego, founded on oneness of all in the Lord, is (probably) what is meant by the enjoyment of immortality. Actions are not inconsistent with the soul’s freedom. Man is not bound by works, but only seems to be bound. He has to recover the consciousness of his inalienable freedom by recovering the consciousness of unity in the Lord, unity in himself, unity with all existence. This done, life and works can and should be accepted in their fullness; for the manifestation of the Lord in life and works is the law of our being and the object of our world-existence. Only, we must see knowledge and not with ignorance. We have to realize our true self as the one unchangeable, indivisible Atman. All the movement, all energies, all forms, all happenings we must see as those of our one and real self in many existences, as the play of the Will and Knowledge and Delight of the Lord in His world-existence.
Path of Karma (Righteous Deeds)
कुर्वन्नेवेह कर्माणि जिजीविषेच्छत समाः।
एवं त्वयि नान्यथेतो स्ति न कर्म लिप्यते नरे ॥2॥
kûrvan-neveha karmâni jijîviSec-chatagM samâH,
evaM tvayi nânya-theto’sti na karma lipyate nare.( Isha 2)
“Performing verily, work in this world should one desire to live a full hundred years. This alone is right, for there is no other right path. Action never clings to a man following this path” (Isha.2).
For the coveted goal, the pilgrim needs a lot of mental and intellectual calibre, a man of renunciation, with discriminating capabilities, a strong will and an indomitable faith in himself. However, many among us have ample desire for wealth, for relationships, and for glory and recognition. The Scripture says that such persons are to practise sincerely and diligently, the life of Action. If we study the history of mankind with detachment, we observe that noble and eternal values of life, when negated and flouted, the generation tumbles down into wreckage, and their revival is almost always directly proportional to the sincerity, intensity and strength with which the rising generation adopts the nobler and enduring values of philosophical and religious perfection.
Thus, we have to analyse the result of action, inaction and unaction. The ‘Inaction’ is external and internal morbidity, inertia and sloth(tamas), which activity kills the generation. Action is the dynamic and conscious work, either to fulfil a given and known desire, or to enjoy the very activity itself as its own goal(rajas ). Thus, we should immediately take to a dynamic and conscious program of activity and should steadily walk the ‘Path of Action’, and be dedicated to the ‘Path of Karma’. In the words of Swami Chinmayananda, ‘In case you are not able to live the life of God-vision achieved through renunciation, then do certainly desire to live a full hundred years of productive selfless work. ‘He has opined, ‘Here is a stanza, which declares that he, who cannot afford to live the noblest life of (total)renunciation and self-restraint, must unavoidably live a life of intense activity, striving his best to fulfil all his desires through sweat and toil, and must teach himself to live in appetising enthusiasm all his life- ‘a full hundred years’ in the service of mankind and in the glorification of the Lord.”The Isha Upanisad repeats: ‘Thus, it is right for thee and not otherwise than this.’ The one who thus intensively plunges into life – eager and anxious to meet daily challenges, and at every turn doing his best to meet each challenge with truth and purity as his standard of values – to such a one, actions do not cling. Bhagavad Gita also exhorts :’Therefore, engage yourself in doing Karma only'(BG IV-15). ‘Na karma lipyate nare’(Action never taints such aman) signifies that our actions cannot affect us, if the work is done with a spirit of detachment, coupled with the joy of dedication to our work. In fact, the whole Ishavasya Upanisad is a loud message to the humanity at large to desist from becoming merely self-centered, to the utter neglect of his life in the outer world, and his relationships with the comity of nations and happening around him.
Yastu syarvani bhutani atmanye…
यस्तु सर्वाणि भूतान्यात्मनेवानुपश्यति।
Yastu syaarvâni bhûtâni âtmanye-vânupasHyati,
सर्वभूतेषु चात्मानं ततो न विजुगुप्सते ॥6॥
Sarva-bhûteSu câtmânam tato na viju-gupsate.(Isha. 6).
“He who constantly sees everywhere all existence in the Self and the Self in all beings and forms, thereafter feels no hatred for anything.” (Swami Chinmayananda).
This verse, widely quoted, explains quite vividly the state of perfect tranquility gained by a Self-realized soul, the benefit accrued to an individual by realising this uniform and all-pervading Reality behind the multiplicity and plurality that we cognise around and us. Swami Chinmayananda has advised that ” I would suggest that even those who do not know much of Samskrta would somehow or other memorise this stanza, maintaining an association of the meaning with the sounds, and would keep it as a ready antidote for all their inner poisons of mental agitations and intellectual unrest.”. How can the multiplicity of life delude the one who sees itsall-pervading unity? “Self-realisation is never complete by a mere recognition of the intrinsic divinity or perfection in the Self, within which includes the Self expressing in the pluralistic world. To realise one’s own Self is to realise at once its oneness with the All-Self. To realise the nature of a wave is to realise not only the nature of all waves, but the very nature of the ocean. Life being one and unbroken, to experience the Life-centre within us, is to experience at once the Life-centre everywhere.” The one who has thus realised the core of all beings as the core of in himself , and his own Self as the Self in every name and form ,he is a sage, a prophet, a God-man, a true leader of the people, and a guiding power in the universe.” (ibid).
In realising thus, the individual gets permanently divorced from all his mental ideas of repulsion, shrinking , dislike, fear, hatred and such other perversions of feelings, which arise from the sense of division and plurality. When all the hatred(jugapsa) has dried away from the mind, the individual experiences an unbroken state of tranquility, thereafter, in all types of circumstances, favourable or unfavourable, in his/her worldly existence. Sri Aurobindo has explained this idea vividly: “jugupsa is the feeling of repulsion caused by a sense of of want of harmony, between one’s own limited self-formation, and the contacts of external, with consequent recoil of grief, fear, hatred, discomfort, and suffering. It is the opposite of attraction which is the source of desire and attachment. Repulsion and attraction removed, we have samatava.” A tranquil mind is as potent as God; the more we gain this inward tranquillity (samatva), the more joyous and effective our lives become.
A Self-realised Atman
यस्मिन्सर्वाणि भूतानि आत्मैवाभूद विजानतः।
तत्र को मोहः कः शोकः एकत्वमनुपश्यतः ॥7॥
tatra ko mohah kah soka ekatva-manu-pasyatah(7)
“When, to the knower,all beings have become one in his own Self(Atman),how shall he feel deluded thereafter? What grief can there be to him who sees oneness everywhere?”(7) (Swami Chinmayananda)
A man of Self-relisation, who has understood in his own vital experience that he is not a separate individual living as opposed to others, but in his/her essential nature, he/she is nothing but the harmony or unity, that underlines all seeming discord or plurality(which are considered as a scum upon the Reality). He, who has thus realised his oneness with the entire, can no longer have the ordinary tossings of the mind arising out of the ordinary psychological tensions created through delusion (moha)or grief(soka).According to Swami Chinmayananda, “grief is the language of delusion. The amount of grief in an individual’s life is directly proportional to the amount of delusion in him/her. In his essential nature, he is All-Bliss. Unity or Harmony is Bliss. But in delusion, when he cognizes plurality and discord, there arises in him, the experience of grief. This delusion creates grief, and more the delusion, more the grief. To get away from grief is the goal of life sought by every living creature, whether man or animal. Moksha or liberation is the transcendence of the individual beyond the frontiers of sorrow. This Mantra exhorts that beyond the shores of sighs and sobs, lies the land of realisation whence the Knower experiences in his own Self, the entire universe to be one, which is nothing but his own Real Nature.
The pot-space can disard all his sense of limitations, imperfections and sorrows Thus, to conclude, such a man/woman( Saint )of Realisation, experiencing his own Self shining out through every name and form, expressing Its own dynamism through every circumstance, happy or sorrowful, is eternally in unison with harmony and rhythm amidst the discordant noise of life. To him are the greatest potencies, the greatest joys, and the amplest successes in life. Even the heaviest sorrow cannot shake him even a wee-bit.(Cf. Yasmin sthito na duhkhena gurunapi vicalyate(wherein established,he is notshakenevenby the heaviest sorrow- Bhagvad Gita VI-22).
Lead us on to’wealth’ by a good Path
अग्ने नय सुपथा राये अस्मान विश्वानी देव वयुनानि विद्वान्।
युयोध्यस्म ज्जुहुराणमेनो भूयिष्ठां ते नम उक्तिं विधेम ॥१८॥
Agne naya supatha raye asman Visvani deva vayunani vidvan,
yuyo-dhyas-majjuhu-rana-meno bhuyistham te nama uktim vidhema (18)
“O Agni!Lead us on to’wealth’ by a good path, as Thou knowest, O God, all the many ways. Remove the crooked attraction of sin from us. We offerThee our best salutations.(SwamiChinmayananda)
O Adorable God(Agni),may Thee lead us along the wholesome path for our prosperity, since O Lord, Thou art in the knowledge of all our actions. May Thee cleanse us of the sin that forces us astray. With humility, we offer thee our most reverential homage.
In this last Mantra of Isha the Vedic heritage man has to seek the support of God even after doing his best efforts. The Upanisad, which started from the first wave ‘tyagten bhunjitha ma gridah kasya -savidhnam‘ concludes with this last wave with a beautiful prayer ‘to lead us to the right path to prosperity, abjuring treading wrong path of sin’. The devotee(sadhak) having done his best efforts takes refuge in Him for raye i.e.wealth, prosperity, including ‘the riches of a spiritual seeker’ for attainment of the supreme felicity. It is, thus, an active dynamic spiritual giving up to Him and a becoming into the new awareness.
It will be seen that there are many gems of ethical values in Ishopanisad, which are still relevant in modern times. It begins with the statement ‘whatever exists in this world is enveloped by the Supreme and by renunciation and absence of possessiveness , we should enjoy the bounties provided by Him, without coveting what does not belong to us. Balanced view of wealth, signifying non-accumulation and sharing of God-given resources is a significant concept in the prevailing social order with wide-spread inequalities existing in the society and the world at large. The Isha is also of immense significance, as it contains a concentrated view of the essential and the choicest Ethical Values. It highlights the divinity of man, as well as all His manifestations in nature. Oneness of the Soul and God, and the value of both faith and works(Action) as means of ultimate attainment are the leading themes of this Upanishad, emphasising that works alone, even the highest, can bring only temporary happiness and must inevitably bind a man unless through them he gains knowledge of his real Self. May i conclude with the hope that all of us shall endeavour to cultivate the significant ethical values stated in Isha Upanisad, to lead a more contented and spiritual life, leading to intimate and intense awareness of Self. With my Best wishes for the onward Spiritual journey.