Next: Preface


The Isavasya Upanisad belongs to the Vajasaneyi Samhita of the Shukla Yajurveda, and forms its last chapter. The Upanisad extols the all-pervasiveness and all-controlling nature of the Supreme Being. The very word isavasyam (verse 1) conveys both these meanings, and the next phrase yatkinca jagatyam jagat clarifies that nothing is excluded from the scope of His pervasiveness and control. All of us are dependent on the Prakrti, and the Prakrti itself is dependent on God, who is the only independent being. The unique nature of God -- that He pervades everywhere -- is explained by the use of phrases such as ``He is near and also very far'' (yaddure yadvantike); ``He is within and without'' (tadantarasya sarvasya tadu sarvasya bahyatah); ``He moves and yet does not move'' (taddhavato'nyanatyeti tisthat) &c.

The Upanisad spells out that not only are the right knowledge about God and the world and the soul's relation to them necessary, but that this right knowledge must be accompanied by clear rejection and negation of wrong knowledge (verses 9-14). Thus, total clarity in understanding is emphasized.

The Upanisad contains a beautiful prayer at the end (verse 15, et seq.) appealing to God to reveal His nature to us.

Acarya Madhva gives a unique explanation for the word aham (verse 17) used as the inner controller of oneself; asmin also refers to God in a special sense. Thus, the phrase so'hamasmi should not be interpreted to mean identity with the Supreme Being but to indicate the immanence of God everywhere including in the devotee reciting the Upanisad.

Though attempts have been made to explain this Upanisad to support concepts of identity between the soul and the Supreme Being, it should be seen that with the (alleged) exception of one phrase, the entire Upanisad is clearly dualistic, Theistic, and consists of an ardent prayer of the devotee to the Supreme Being. Both the reality of the world in the absolute sense, and the leading of an active life in performance of prescribed duties (described as niskama karma in the Bhagavad Gita) only with the intention of pleasing the Supreme Being and accepting His dispensation without question, are proclaimed in this Upanisad.

D. Prahladacharya
Vice Chancellor
Rastriya Samskrta Vidyapitha, Tirupati

August 17, 2000
Sri Raghavendra Swami Aradhana