Isha Upanishad: Summary and Conclusions, Part 2

The Isha Upanishad is not philosophy, but a detailed and practical guide to achieving a transformation of consciousness.  It starts with an explanation of the divine standpoint, the truth of existence.  The ego-centric viewpoint is an illusion, founded on an exclusive concentration on a particular individualisation of what is in reality a universal consciousness that is at all times One while expressing itself as Many.  From this new viewpoint, human motives and action are taken up.  The shift in standpoint impacts the way we respond to everything.  All the oppositions that have vexed our minds are resolved when they can be seen as complementary aspects of one existence.  The Upanishad counsels us to integrate and include, rather than separate and exclude.  Once it works through these points, it provides practical guidance on how to undertake the change of consciousness and action that is indicated.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “Phenomenal nature is a movement of the conscious Lord.  The object of the movement is to create forms of His consciousness in motion in which He as the one soul in many bodies can take up his habitation and enjoy the multiplicity and the movement with all their relations.  Real integral enjoyment of all this movement and multiplicity in its truth and in its infinity depends upon an absolute renunciation; but the renunciation intended is an absolute renunciation of the principle of desire founded on the principle of egoism and not a renunciation of world-existence.  … The enjoyment of the infinite delight of existence free from ego, founded on oneness of all in the Lord, is 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.”

“We have to be consciously, in all our relations with this world, what we really are, — this one self becoming everything that we observe.  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.  We shall then be delivered from egoism and desire and the sense of separate existence and therefore from all grief and delusion and shrinking …  The knowledge of the One and the knowledge of the Many are a result of the movement of the one consciousness, which sees all things as One in their truth-Idea but differentiates them in their mentality and formal becoming. … The opposition between works and knowledge exists as long as works and knowledge are only of the egoistic mental character.  Mental knowledge is not true knowledge; true knowledge is that which is based on the true sight, the sight of the Seer…. when we have the sight and live in the Truth-Consciousness, our will becomes the spontaneous law of the truth in us and, knowing all its acts and their sense and objective, leads straight to the human goal, which was always the enjoyment of the Ananda, the Lord’s delight in self-being, the state of Immortality.  In our acts also we become one with all beings and our life grows into a representation of oneness, truth and divine joy and no longer proceeds on the crooked path of egoism full of division, error and stumbling.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Isha Upanishad and analysis, pp. 90-97

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Isha Upanishad: Summary and Conclusions, Part 1

The Isha Upanishad confronts the contradictions of human life and thought directly.  It is the normal process of the mental consciousness to try to analyze, divide and set up oppositions, and humanity tends to embrace one aspect to the exclusion of another one which contradicts it.  We have a hard time holding two seemingly contradictory ideas in our minds simultaneously and recognising the validity and importance of each.  There are a number of such “either/or” concepts which the Isha Upanishad addresses with the response “both/and”.  The apparent contradictions are simply the limitations of the mental consciousness and as we undergo the development to a new standpoint of consciousness, we are able to see how they are complementary, not hostile, to one another.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “The pairs of opposites successively taken up by the Upanishad and resolved are, in the order of their succession:  1.  The Conscious Lord and phenomenal Nature.  2.  Renunciation and Enjoyment.  3.  Action in Nature and Freedom in the Soul.  4.  The One stable Brahman and the multiple Movement.  5.  Being and Becoming.  6.  The Active Lord and the indifferent Akshara Brahman.  7.  Vidya and Avidya.  8.  Birth and Non-Birth.  9.  Works and Knowledge.”

“The principle it follows throughout is the uncompromising reconciliation of uncompromising extremes.  Later thought took one series of terms, — the World, Enjoyment, Action, the Many, Birth, the Ignorance, — and gave them a more and more secondary position, 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.  It ended in a violent cutting of the knot of the great enigma.  This Upanishad tries instead to get hold of the extreme ends of the knots, disengage and place them alongside of each other in a release that will be at the same time a right placing and relation.  It will not qualify or subordinate unduly any of the extremes, although it recognises 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.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Isha Upanishad and analysis, pp. 90-97

Isha Upanishad: the Methods of Realisation, Part 6, the Action of the Divine Will

The final, 18th verse of the Isha Upanishad is an invocation of the divine Will to act in the life of the seeker, to overcome the pull of the egoistic consciousness and move the individual to a level of action that flows from the divine consciousness.

“O god Agni, knowing all things that are manifested, lead us by the good path to the felicity; remove from us the devious attraction of sin.  To thee completest speech of submission we would dispose.”

Sri Aurobindo explains:  “Sin, the conception of the Veda, from which this verse is taken bodily, is that which excites and hurries the faculties into deviation from the good path.  There is a straight road or road of naturally increasing light and truth … leading over infinite levels and towards infinite vistas …, by which the law of our nature should normally take us towards our fulfilment.  Sin compels it instead to travel with stumblings amid uneven and limited tracts and along crooking windings.”

In this sense, sin is not some subjective moralistic judgment, but an objective description of anything that gets in the way of the focus and dedication needed to achieve the shift from the human, ego-driven, desire-filled consciousness, to the the divine-centred adherence to the larger intention manifested through the development of the universe.

The individual needs to choose the higher, rather than the lower, options, and this involves submission to the divine Will in life rather than grasping at the fulfillment of desires as per the fragmented, divided and separate consciousness of the human standpoint.

“This is the change that happens when, the mental will approximating more and more to the divine, Agni burns out in us.  it is that increasing knowledge and force which carries us finally into the straight or good path out of the crookedness.  It is the divine Will, one with the divine knowledge, which leads us towards felicity, towards the state of Immortality.  All that belongs to the deviations of the ego, all that obscures and drives or draws us into this or that false path with its false lures and stumblings are put away from us by it.  These things fall away from the divinised Will and cease to find lodging in our consciousness.  Therefore the sign of right action is the increasing and finally the complete submission of the individual to the divine Will which the illumination of Surya reveals in him.  Although manifested in his consciousness, this Will is not individual.  It is the will of the Purusha who is in all things and transcends them.  It is the will of the Lord.  Knowledge of the Lord as the One in the fully self-conscious being, submission to the Lord as the universal and transcendent in the fully self-conscious action, are the two keys of the divine gates, the gates of Immortality.”

“Thus the fourth movement indicates psychologically the double process of that attainment of Immortality which is the subject of the third movement, the state of bliss and truth within and the worlds of Light after death culminating in the identity of the self-luminous One.  At the same time it particularises under the cover of Vedic symbols the process of that self-knowledge and identification with the Self and all its becomings which is the subject of the second movement and of that liberated action in the assertion of which the first culminates.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Isha Upanishad and analysis, pg. 23-24, 28 & 84-89

Isha Upanishad: the Methods of Realisation, Part 5, the Role of the Divine Will

The final two verses of the Isha Upanishad apply the divine standpoint to the evolutionary process of growth and spiritual development of the individual through the invocation of Agni, the divine Will.  From the human viewpoint, will is something that we exercise to achieve some specific target or goal in our lives, but it is limited to our individuality.  From the divine standpoint, we can recognise that the entire universal manifestation is conscious and has an intention and will in its development.  By aligning with that, we overcome the limits of birth and death and the individual ego-personality.

Verse 17:  “The Breath of things is an immortal Life, but of this body ashes are the end.  OM!  O Will, remember, that which was done remember!  O Will, remember, that which was done remember.”

Sri Aurobindo comments:  “Vayu, called elsewhere Matarishwan, the Life Energy in the universe.  In the light of Surya he reveals himself as an immortal principle of existence of which birth and death and life in the body are only particular and external processes.”

“The Vedic term kratu means sometimes the action itself, sometimes the effective power behind action represented in mental consciousness by the will.  Agni is this power.  He is divine force which manifests first in matter as heat and light and material energy and then, taking different forms in the other principles of man’s consciousness, leads him by a progressive manifestation upwards to the Truth and the Bliss.”

“… there is in and behind all our errors, sins and stumblings a secret Will, tending towards Love and Harmony, which knows where it is going and prepares and combines our crooked branchings towards the straight path which will be the final result of their toil and seeking. … This Will is Agni.  Agni is in the Rig-veda, from which the closing verse of the Upanishad is taken, the flame of the Divine Will or Force of Consciousness working in the worlds.  He is described as the immortal in mortals, the leader of the journey, the divine Horse that bears us on the road, the ‘son of crookedness’ who himself knows and is the straightness and the Truth.  Concealed and hard to seize in the workings of this world because they are all falsified by desire and egoism, he uses them to transcend them and emerges as the universal in Man or universal Power … who contains in himself all the gods and all the worlds, upholds all the universal workings and finally fulfils the godhead, the immortality.  He is the worker of the divine Work.”

“This journey consists in a series of activities continued from life to life in this world with intervals of life in other states.  The Life-principle maintains them; it supplies their material in the formative energy which takes shape in them.  But their presiding god is not the Life-principle; it is the Will.  Will is the … effective power behind the act.  It is of the nature of consciousness; it is energy of consciousness, and although present in all forms, conscious, subconscious or superconscious, vital, physical or mental, yet comes into its kingdom only when it emerges in Mind.  It uses the mental faculty of memory to link together and direct consciously the activities towards the goal of the individual.”

“The Upanishad solemnly invokes the Will to remember the thing that has been done, so as to contain and be conscious of the becoming, so as to become a power of knowledge and self-possession and not only a power of impulsion and self-formulation.”

 

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Isha Upanishad and analysis, pg. 23-24, 28 & 84-89

Isha Upanishad: the Methods of Realisation, Part 4, the Human Standpoint and the Link to the Divine Standpoint

The description of seven ‘worlds’ or states of consciousness, in the Vedic terminology includes 3 in a higher hemisphere, and 3 in a lower hemisphere, and one that straddles the two and integrates them into a unified awareness.  The three higher ones are known as Sat-Chit-Ananda and have absolute consciousness of unity.  The three in the lower creation, Matter, Life and Mind represent the consciousness of the human standpoint from which we start.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “In the lower creation also there are three principles, Matter, Life and Mind.  Sat or pure existence appears there as extended substance or Matter; Will or Force appears as Life which is in its nature creative or manifesting Force and that Force is in its nature a self-conscient will involved and obscure in the forms of its creation.  It is liberated from the involution and obscurity by delight of being struggling to become conscious of itself in desire and sensation; the result is the emergence of Mind.”

“In the organisation of consciousness to which we belong, Tapas dwells upon Matter as its basis.  Our consciousness is determined by the divisibility of extended substance in its apparent forms.  This is Bhurloka, the material world…”

“But we may conceive of a world in which dynamic Life-force with sensation emergent in it is the basis and determines without the gross obstacle of Matter the forms that it shall take.  This organisation of consciousness has for its field Bhuvarloka, the world of free vital becoming in form.”

“We may conceive also of an organised state of consciousness in which Mind liberates itself from subjection to material sensation and becoming dominant determines its own forms instead of being itself determined by the forms in which it finds itself as a result of life-evolution.  This formation is Swarloka or world of free, pure and luminous mentality.”

“In these lower worlds consciousness is normally broken up and divided.  The light of Surya, the Truth, is imprisoned in the night of the subconscient or appears only reflected in limited centres or with its rays received by those centres and utilised according to their individual nature.”

“Between these two creations, linking them together, is the world or organisation of consciousness of which the infinite Truth of things is the foundation.  There dominant individualisation no longer usurps the all-pervading soul and the foundation of consciousness is its own vast totality arranging in itself individualised movements which never lose the consciousness of their integrality and total oneness with all others. … This world is therefore called Maharloka or world of large consciousness.”

It is in this intermediate state of consciousness, or ‘world’, that the divine standpoint of the higher unified consciousness of Sat-Chit-Ananda is unified with the human standpoint of the lower divided consciousness of Matter-Life-Mind.

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Isha Upanishad and analysis, pg. 23, 28 & 74-83

Isha Upanishad: the Methods of Realisation, Part 3, the Divine Standpoint

When we consider the idea of a ‘world’ from our human standpoint, we tend to think of it as a physical place, like the earth, which exists somewhere in the physical universe.  We consider visiting a world as being a movement through Space and Time.  The Vedic conception of ‘worlds’ however is one of a state of consciousness rather than a physical location.  This is an essential distinction when we try to understand the way the Vedic Rishis look at the process and methods of realisation.  The Vedic conception was of seven worlds that are part of one continuum.

Sri Aurobindo explains:  “All conscious being is one and indivisible in itself, but in manifestation it becomes a complex rhythm, a scale of harmonies, a hierarchy of states or movements.  For what we call a state is only the organisation of a complex movement.  This hierarchy is composed by a descending or involutive and an ascending or evolutive movement of which Spirit and Matter are the highest and lowest terms.  Spirit is Sat or pure existence, pure in self-awareness (Chit), pure in self-delight (Ananda).  Therefore Spirit can be regarded as a triune basis of all conscious being.  There are three terms, but they are really one.  For all pure existence is in its essence pure self-conscience and all pure self-conscience is in its essence pure self-delight.”

“An integral intuition into the nature of conscious being shows us that it is indeed one in essence, but also that it is capable of an infinite potential complexity and multiplicity in self-experience.  The working of this potential complexity and multiplicity in the One is what we call from our point of view manifestation or creation or world or becoming. … Without it no world-existence is possible.”

“All organisation of self-conscient being which takes as its basis the unity of pure existence belongs to the world of the highest creation, … the worlds of the Spirit.  We can conceive three principal formations.  When tapas or energy of self-conscience dwells upon sat or pure existence as its basis, the result is satyaloka or world of true existence.  The soul in satyaloka is one with all its manifestations by oneness of essence and therefore one in self-conscience and in energy of self-conscience and one also in bliss.”

Similarly, the focus may be upon the aspect of consciousness, or the aspect of creative Delight of existence.  “All these are states of consciousness in which unity and multiplicity have not yet been separated from each other.  All is in all, each in all and all in each, inherently, by the very nature of conscious being and without effort of conception or travail of perception.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Isha Upanishad and analysis, pg. 23, 28 & 74-83

Isha Upanishad: the Methods of Realisation, Part 2, the Significance of Surya

The human mind operates through analysis and through a fragmented view of reality.  We tend to believe and act as if we are separate beings from the rest of the creation, without a recognition of the oneness that underlies and supports all existence.  This leads to a distorted view of reality and a concomitant modus of action which is harmful to the balance and harmony of life.  The realisation of the inherent oneness of creation is an essential aspect of the transformation required to live in the Truth of existence.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “For this it is necessary that the law and action of the Truth should be manifested in us.  We must learn to see things as they are, see ourselves as we are.  Our present action is one in which self-knowledge and will are divided.  We start with a fundamental falsehood, that we have a separate existence from others and we try to know the relations of separate beings in their separateness and act on the knowledge so formed for an individual utility.  The law of the Truth would work in us if we saw the totality of our existence containing all others, its forms created by the action of the totality, its powers working in and by the action of the totality.  Our internal and external action would then well naturally and directly out of our self-existence, out of the very truth of things and not in obedience to an intermediate principle which is in its nature a falsifying reflection.”

“Behind every act and perception there is an intuition, a truth which, if it is continually falsified in the form, yet preserves itself in the essence and works to lead us by increasing light and largeness to truth in the manifestation.  Behind all this travail of differentiation and division there is an insistent unifying tendency which is also continually falsified in the separate result, but yet leads persistently towards our eventual integrality in knowledge, in being and in will.”

“Surya is Pushan, fosterer or increaser.  His work must be to effect this enlargement of the divided self-perception and action of will into the integral will and knowledge.  He is sole seer and replacing other forms of knowledge by his unifying vision enables us to arrive finally at oneness.  That intuitive vision of the totality, of one in All and All in one, becomes the ordainer of the right law of action in us, the law of the Truth.  For Surya is Yama, the Ordainer or Controller who assures the law, the Dharma.  Thsu we arrive at the fullness of action of the Illuminer in us, accomplish the entirety of the Truth-Consciousness.”

“In this formation the Upanishad indicates two successive actions.  First, there is an arrangement or marshalling of the rays of Surya, that is to say, the truths concealed behind our concepts and percepts are brought out by separate intuitions of the image and the essence of the image and arranged in their true relations to each other.  So we arrive at totalities of intuitive knowledge and can finally go beyond to unity.  This is the drawing together of the light of Surya.”

“Thus by the action of Surya we arrive at that light of the supreme super-conscient in which even the intuitive knowledge of the truth of things based upon the total vision passes into the self-luminous self-vision of the one existent, one in all infinite complexities of a self-experience which never loses its unity or its self-luminousness.  This is Surya’s goodliest form of all.  For it is the supreme Light, the supreme Will, the supreme Delight of existence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Isha Upanishad and analysis, pg. 23, 28 & 74-83