Analysis of Isha Upanishad, Second Movement, Part 1

Sri Aurobindo categorizes verses 4 – 7 as a second movement of the Isha Upanishad.  In this section, the issues raised in the first movement are examined more closely and the process of the universal manifestation is described.

Verse 4:  “One unmoving that is swifter than Mind, That the Gods reach not, for It progresses ever in front.  That, standing passes beyond others as they run.  In That the Master of Life establishes the Waters.”

There is a lot to consider in this verse.  The “One without a Second”, the eternal Brahman is the “unmoving” as it is constant, and the “container” of all.  The mind is a projection of that unmoving consciousness into Time, Space and Circumstance and subject therefore to the limitations of the manifestation.  The Gods represent the forces of the creation and again are limited.  The “Master of Life” establishing the “Waters” represents the process of the creation, going back to the Vedic imagery.

Sri Aurobindo explains:  “God is the one stable and eternal Reality.  He is One because there is nothing else, since all existence and non-existence are He.  He is stable or unmoving, because motion implies change in Space and change in Time, and He, being beyond Time and Space, is immutable.”

“… mental consciousness is not the Power that creates the universe.  That is something infinitely more puissant, swift and unfettered than the mind.  It is the pure omnipotent self-awareness of the Absolute unbound by any law of the relativity.  The laws of the relativity, upheld by the gods, are Its temporary creations.  Their apparent eternity is only the duration, immeasurable to us, of the world which they govern.  They are laws regularising motion and change, not laws binding the Lord of the movement.  The gods, therefore, are described as continually running in their course.  But the Lord is free and unaffected by His own movement. … The Gods are Brahman representing Itself in cosmic Personalities expressive of the one Godhead who, in their impersonal action, appear as the various play of the principles of Nature.”

The Master of Life “…seems to mean ‘he who extends himself in the Mother or the container’ whether that be the containing mother element, Ether, or the material energy called Earth in the Veda and spoken of there as the Mother.  It is a Vedic epithet of the God Vayu, who, representing the divine principle in the life-energy, Prana, extends himself in Matter and vivifies its forms.  Here it signifies the divine Life-power that presides in all forms of cosmic activity.”

“…the Waters, otherwise called the seven streams or the seven fostering Cows, are the Vedic symbol for the seven cosmic principles and their activities, three inferior, the physical, vital and mental, four superior, the divine Truth, the divine Bliss, the divine Will and Consciousness, and the divine Being. … These seven powers of Chit are spoken of by the Vedic Rishis as the Waters, they are imaged as currents flowing into or rising out of the general sea of Consciousness in the human being.  They are all co-existent in the universe eternally and inseparably, but capable of being involved and remanifested in each other.  They are actually involved in physical Nature and must necessarily evolve out of it.  They can be withdrawn into pure infinite Being and can again be manifested out of it.  The infolding and unfolding of the One in the Man and the Many in the One is therefore the law of the eternally recurrent cosmic Cycles.”

“The Upanishad teaches us how to perceive Brahman in the universe and in our self-existence.  We have to perceive Brahman comprehensively as both the Stable and the Moving.  We must see It in eternal and immutable Spirit and in all the changing manifestations of universe and relativity. … This is the transcendental, universal and individual Brahman, Lord, Continent and Indwelling Spirit, which is the object of all knowledge.  Its realisation is the condition of perfection and the way of Immortality.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Isha Upanishad and analysis, pg. 20, 28 & 34-50