Analysis of Isha Upanishad, Third Movement, Part 1

Sri Aurobindo groups verses 8-14 of the Isha Upanishad into what he refers to as a third movement.  This movement has as its overarching focus the explication of the Divine in manifestation and the results of an integrated knowledge that encompasses both the manifest world and the unmanifest.

Verse 8:  “It is He that has gone abroad — That which is bright, bodiless, without scar of imperfection, without sinews, pure, unpierced by evil.  The Seer, the Thinker, the One who becomes everywhere, the Self-Existent has ordered objects perfectly according to their nature from years sempiternal.”

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “In the third movement there is a return to the justification of life and works … and an indication of their divine fulfilment.  The degrees of the Lord’s self-manifestation in the universe of motion and in the becomings of the one Being are set forth and the inner law of all existences declared to be by His conception and determination (Verse 8).  Vidya and Avidya, Becoming and Non-becoming are reconciled by their mutual utility to the progressive self-realisation which proceeds from the state of mortality to the state of Immortality. (Verses 9-14).

“The Isha Upanishad, having declared the Brahman as the sole reality manifesting itself in many aspects and forms, having presented this Brahman subjectively as the
Self, the one Being of whom all existences are Becomings, and as that which we have to realise in ourselves and in all things and beyond all things, now proceeds to assert the same Brahman more objectively as the Lord, the Purusha who both contains and inhabits the universe.  It is He that went abroad. … It is He who has become all things and beings, — a conscious Being, the sole Existent and Self-existent, who is Master and Enjoyer of all He becomes.”

“The Vedantic idea of God, ‘He’, Deva or Ishwara, must not be confused with the ordinary notions attached to the conception of a Personal God.  Personality is generally conceived as identical with individuality and the vulgar idea of a Personal God is a magnified individual like man in His nature but yet different, greater, more vast and all-overpowering.”

“It is He that has extended Himself in the relative consciousness whose totality of finite and changeable circumstances dependent on an equal, immutable and eternal Infinity is what we call the Universe. … In this extension we have, therefore, two aspects, one of pure infinite relationless immutability, another of a totality of objects in Time and Space working out their relations through causality.  Both are different and mutually complementary expressions of the same unknowable ‘He’.  To express the infinite Immutability the Upanishad uses a series of neuter adjectives, ‘Bright, bodiless, without scar, without sinews, pure, unpierced by evil.’  To express the same Absolute as cause, continent and governing Inhabitant of the totality of objects and of each object in the totality … it uses four masculine epithets, ‘The Seer, the Thinker, the One who becomes everywhere, the Self-existent’ or ‘the Self-Becoming.’   The Immutable is the still and secret foundation of the play and the movement, extended equally, impartially in all things, … lending its support to all without choice or active participation.  Secure and free in His eternal immutability the Lord projects Himself into the play and the movement, becoming there in His self-existence all that the Seer in Him visualises and the Thinker in Him conceives.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Isha Upanishad and analysis, pp. 21-23, 28 & 51-73

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